The pit is about 35 acres and contains Well, no one really knew, that was the beauty of it. But from observations and conversations with the other 2 or 3 anglers that fished it, a figure of no more than 20-30 fish seemed to be present. Rumours were rife, fish of huge proportions had been reported from the water, but if these had been caught then surely the captor or their friends would be on the water? This was not the case. All the other anglers had very limited long term experience of the water, no-one seemed to have any definite information on past captures, we were all fishing for the same rumours. You couldn't hope to meet a better bunch of anglers, all better anglers than myself. All with many more years carp fishing behind them than myself, and all with different approaches to the water.
By this, the second year, most of, no, all of last year's crew had fallen by the wayside. Mainly moving on to a different water on the same ticket. The Works Pit. I couldn't blame them. Ash Tree was an incredibly difficult lake, and all our observations hadn't revealed the presence of any monstrous fish. We'd all seen some good-looking mirrors and commons, but with confirmed bigger fish over the road, interest in the lake soon faltered.
The biggest problem with the water was the low stock, and the fish's nomadic nature. Nothing would keep them in one area for long, they just swam about doing massive tours of the lake and refused to stop and feed long enough for them to become catchable.
This year was going to be different. Long term carp ally, Sam, and I were going to really give it all (that was the plan!) and try to come to terms with these irritating fish. We'd learnt a lot in the past year and were sure we'd have the lake almost to ourselves. Bait was purchased and rolled in January, extensive pluming carried out and all the usual plans hatched and extensively discussed in the pub. All was ready for our campaign to begin on the 1st of March. We even went to the expense of getting hold of some two-way radios so that we could be in constant contact during what we knew would turn out to be a very mobile season. We lasted two and a half months. The best laid plans!
This year the fish were more visible than ever. As soon as April arrived, almost every time I fished, I saw fish. We soon built up an even better idea as to what the water contained as the individual fish became familiar and were sighted with increasing regularity. Some were quite stunning. Four or five big commons and a good fish with huge, great, half-moon shaped scales on its shoulders, a long pin-scale linear. Not monstrous, but specimens by anyone's standards, truly magnificent carp.
However watch them was all we could do, they simply refused to feed on bait, no matter how much or how little was in the water, or where you put it. Margin spots went untouched until the bird life found them. You could watch fish head and shoulder on top of the bars all day, right over your baits and then, through binoculars, watch coots picking them up afterwards. Two months of this and being continually hassled by dog walkers, bird watchers and the water sports people took its toll. Our departure was also encouraged when a few fish turned up dead after spawning heavily. Sadly, the low stock was further depleted.
Water sports people? I haven't even mentioned the speedboats and water skiers that would take to the water every Saturday and Sunday, and most sunny evenings during the week. Nightmare! The boats would stir the margins up making spotting fish close in very difficult. However this coloured water would attract the carp in, and even when the boats weren't out, the fish would often be found close in over the very shallow gravel shelf bottom that was disturbed on an almost daily basis.
So the decision was made to cut our losses and look elsewhere. We would still keep an eye on The Ash Tree and, should an opportunity present itself, then it could be acted upon. This takes us up to the start of this series, and every week through the rest of the spring and summer, would see me visit the lake at least once for a look round, usually during nice sunny fish spotting conditions.
After the capture of the Dragonfly fish, I wondered around in a bit of a daze for a couple of weeks, fishing here and there. But I soon realised that with the change of job approaching, I'd best use my remaining time and holiday wisely.
Looking round 'Longreach' one hot morning, half way through a four day session, a number of fish were spotted close in to one bank. There was a gravel-bar running parallel to the bank here at about 10-15 yards range and it was heavily weeded. A few fish were right in the margins, and what's more they were feeding. No speedboats were about for a change, it being a Thursday, and the fish were clouding up a short section of margin. Fish were also present on top of the bar; backs cut the surface as cruising fish swam amongst the thick weed growth. Today was a special day; the fish were not behaving as they normally would. The group of about six or eight fish, some on the bar some in the margin, were very static. Normally you'd watch and follow the cruising fish all the way around the lake, but today their movement was restricted to just a short 30 yard section of bank. The only reason I could see for this was the weed growth in this area being the thickest in the whole lake.
Returning a few minutes later with the tackle, the fish had stopped feeding in the margins, but were still evident over the bar. A good scan of the area with the aid of my polaroids, and I soon found what I was looking for. Out on the bar amongst the weed, was a clean gravel area just a couple of feet across. Every now and then the dark shape of a fish would pass over the spot.
I was travelling particularly light at this point and had all the essentials packed into a small bag, and the bedchair in my hand allowed me to be very mobile. I also had a small sling holding three rods, two of the normal 2 1/2 lb test curve twelve foot Harrisons with large fixed spool reels for bottom-baits, and a light 2lb tc twelve foot Tri-cast coupled with a small baitrunner that doubled as both a plumbing and floater rod.
The Harrisons were quickly baited with 18mm fishmeal boilies and small one once leads clipped on to the rigs to minimise the disturbance of casting.
There was no real swim opposite the area, just a large reed-bed. So stripping off, I quietly waded to the edge of the reeds and pushed a couple of rod-rests and buzzers in the middle of the reeds, so the rod tips only just emerged, and gently flicked the two baits on to the spot. Buzzers on, lines slackened off, back-leads in place, sorted. Back on dry land I put about twenty free offerings out on top of the rigs.
A third rod was also set up, but this one was to fish floaters. Twelve-pound breaking strain was used as a main line, but the hooklink was to be a really thin and surprisingly tough fly leader of the same strength. A single chum mixer was hair-rigged to the little size six Super-Specialist and I moved down a couple of metres to the nearest real 'swim' to the fish. Slowly I started to drift a few baits over the fish's heads, but nothing wanted to know.
After a bite to eat at lunchtime, out came the floater rod again. Now I could only see one fish. It kept moving to the right along the bar and behind an impenetrable over-grown section of the bank. Every now and then it would come far enough over for me to be able to present a bait to it, and after a few trips down my way, it began taking a few mixers. The fish looked a good size, but stayed out on the bar hiding itself from a close inspection.
Again the fish came down towards me and took a few baits. The fish was taking ever so gently, and hardly left a ripple in its wake after taking the floating baits. All afternoon it kept this up, and not once did I manage to get a hook bait in the right place at the right time. Then horror, the damn water skiers came onto the lake. Looking at my watch I could not believe that it was after five o'clock. A speedboat that wouldn't have looked out of place in the James Bond film Live and Let Die, sped past just a few yards over the other side of the bar.
Convinced that the chance of a take was now very remote, I just sat there and watched. Looking closely, I noticed that the waves produced did have one major advantage. These eighteen-inch high rolling waves had absolutely no glare on their front face, allowing me to look directly into the water over the bar. Soon the fish was back and to my amazement still feeding on a few baits still in the swim. Re-baiting the hook, I used this increased visibility to good effect, judging the fish's direction just right and with a gentle lob, landed the controller and hookbait a few feet past the carp. Slowly dragging the rig back toward the fish, soon the bait was perfectly positioned in its path. Up she comes, and down the hatch.
Sweeping the rod back the hook was set, and immediately the fish was running into the overgrown margin to my right. I ran out into the lake up to my waist, and clamped down hard on the spool. The trees shook as the fish hit them, but the hooklink held true. Back she kited, out into open water, returning to the bar where she was hooked. The fish's speed was surprisingly fast. Running one way, before stopping dead in its tracks and turning tail on itself back the way it had come. The fish was powerful as well but did not feel as heavy as I thought it had looked.
During the fight I was conscious of the speedboat. Luckily it was down at the other end of the pit, and did not return until I had finally netted the fish. Soaked through and totally ecstatic at banking my first carp from the lake, I quickly broke the net down and wrapping the fish in the net's mesh I staggered up the bank. Adam, who had just arrived in the swim after hearing me shouting out, took the net from me and together we walked back to the rest of the tackle and the unhooking mat. Just as we approached the spot where the bottom-bait rods were tucked away in the reeds, one of the buzzers let out a cry.
Dashing past Adam I once again ran straight into the lake, and picked up the offending rod. Round it bent, and the usual struggle with close in snags and dense weedbeds followed. This fish soon found the bottom of the net, Adam having put it back together and dealt with the previous fish.
Looking down at both fish on the mat I was amazed. It was like waiting for a bus!
Both being mirrors, the first fish was incredibly long, thin and unusually scaled, weighing 22lb 10oz. The second was a lightly scaled golden fish of 18lb 12oz. Both bottom-bait rods were repositioned and the gravel spot topped up with another twenty free baits. Adam was dispatched to the off-licence in search of refreshments.
The next morning I awoke before dawn. The usual routine of tea brewing was undertaken but before I'd drained the first cup, one of the rods gave a few bleeps. Looking down in the reeds, the bobbin continued to drop slowly back. I quickly slipped the waders on and went down to it. The line on that rod was very slack, so winding down I pulled into a dead weight stuck in the weed. A heavy kick confirmed that I'd hooked a third fish.
Gradually I eased the fish clear of the weed, where it fought hard and fast in the deep gully at my feet. Slowly I gained control and watched a grey mirror roll a few feet off the net. A couple of short runs later and she was mine, 19lb 14oz.
Over the next few days the weather deteriorated, the fish drifted off and stopped visiting the area for a few days. Once the warm temperatures returned and the sunshine increased, I was back in the same area looking out for Mr Carp. During a brief sunny day a week later I managed another fish from the water, a common of 23lb 8oz, taken on a single pop-up positioned under a marginal bush, after observing the same fish cruise over the spot one morning.
After that session, the weather took a turn for the worse every time I visited the water and I failed to locate any numbers of fish regularly. The last two weekends of my fishing time before moving job were spent around a number of venues and apart from a few fish out of the river, no opportunities presented themselves.
My fishing this year had been some of the best I'd ever had and not only was I really enjoying my time on the bank but I was also catching! From some hard venues too, though the captures had been worked for and justified the effort I'd put in. So, when the winter's over, once more shall I get out and visit some new lakes in the hope of spotting those fish and gaining some insight that might help with their capture. I've got some interesting pits to look at; in fact, the list is too long, as usual.