Article by Jake Herford
Well, what a crazy journey 2020 was, both in life and angling! Something none of us saw coming, that’s for sure!
After an amazing 2019, I knew it would be difficult to match it, let alone better it! I’d secured a dream ticket on RK leisure’s Wraysbury One and knowing the 160-mile round journey would take its toll on me financially, physically and mentally I did very little fishing after November. A well needed recharge and time to prepare but had I known what was coming I would have got as much angling in as possible but how were we to know the uncertain times on the horizon. Lockdown was tough on us all for different reasons, but I tried to utilise the time as best I could and prepared the kit over and over so as soon as I got the go-ahead I was ready to get out there! I also made the decision that I would research as much as I could about video editing to be used in creating a Youtube channel and vlog which is something I’ve wanted to do for the last couple of years. So the time was a blessing in disguise for me as there is no way I would have had the time to take in all that I needed to start the vlogs and prepare myself for the work they entail.
May arrived and my Wraysbury journey began. I’ve been very fortunate with some good friends I’ve visited the complex previously and fished the South Lake yet the North was always a daunting dream so that first trip down the motorway was a feeling of mixed emotions. Nervous about the task ahead but also huge excitement about what could be achieved and a whole new challenge in a combination of travel, a much bigger pit than I’d ever fished before and known I’d be alongside some very good anglers.
As we all found from the return to angling, there was a fire felt by everybody and the lakes were certainly crowded! I arrived a few days after the re-opening and this seemed to make hardly any difference, a very busy pond and as I made my way along the right-hand bank of the North lake I could see a swim that I took a liking to on my walk round in March known as ‘Runway’ free and almost gleaming in the sunlight of a sticky day! I got round to the swim double-quick and secured it. This was the ideal area to start, bang in the centre of the lake with great scope and access to the centre, also with all the pressure was bound to be some fish out there. I had an idea of what was going on in front of me after previous conversations with friends and knew a raised road like area run out across the central swims of the lake. With rods positioned there and a closer area to my left with a light deposit of bait, I was now fishing and could kick back and take it all in. I’d always seen the North Lake with next to no angling pressure, so to now see it with 20+ anglers on felt very different and made it shrink! Despite the crowds, the atmosphere felt magic. The first night passed wit quietly but I enjoyed a good display of shows that first morning which has become common there now and I was surprised how few other anglers were up and watching at first light to watch the display! This gave me all the confidence I needed that I was in a good zone and was bound to have a few fish pass me.
Again the night passed uneventfully which become common through the warmer months, the fish continued to show at first light and it wasn’t long before James to my right come along to say he’d got one and could I do some snaps for him.
A lovely example of the fisheries future and got me even more fired up to get one myself! Whilst chatting after returning his fish I just had that feeling that I needed to be back on the rods and before I had a chance my receiver started melting, I legged it back to my swim! Unfortunately for me, that first bite wasn’t meant to be and after a few seconds, the hook pulled…The rod was re-positioned, I kept the faith and as the day wore on the shows restarted and my confidence was high of another chance and luckily moving into the evening the same rod was away! This time making good connection with the fish and battle commenced pulling hard on the braided mainline out in the pond, I was desperate to get this one in! The fish kited hard right and with a small bush down the side of the swim it was a little hairy for a few seconds but she was mine! My first Wraysbury North carp, a lovely 23lb common and a huge buzz was felt! The following morning I received another take from the left-hand zone and landed a nice upper double mirror. I couldn’t have asked for a better start with a couple of fish landed on a busy lake and a huge confidence boost going into the year!
After that first trip, it took a couple of visits for things to start to go my way after the fish decided they wanted to spawn, this meant that the lake would close temporarily until the fish got their yearly ritual out the way. With this, I ended up on the South Lake landing some nice fish to low twenties and then on my final night I moved back to the North on its reopening in the famous ‘Rocky Barge’ with big winds crashing into the bank and a big low pressure the fish were going crazy in front, it looked perfect! Three hinges were quickly deployed short where a majority of the shows were. Rods laid down on the deck, the anticipation was high. It took less than an hour before the left-hand rod started ticking away and as quickly as the chance presented itself it was gone, yet another hook pull and that was the last of the action from that trip. Things then started to go my way and on my return decided to go back into the Rocky Barge to seek some redemption and it looked good once again. The reality of fishing any large pit is that weather conditions play a huge part in how you are presented and the wind really can make things difficult. With a big crosswind, I just didn’t feel I was presenting well at all especially on the longer area, I took a gamble and decided to move into a completely different zone down the shallower end of the lake into a swim known as ‘Sunnymead’s’ which was in good form.
This involved fishing along a snaggy margin which I knew would be a real hit and hold fishing as others had warned me. This suited me perfectly with lots of snag fishing experience but I was soon to learn this was a completely different kettle of fish. It was perfect, with minimal disturbance of the wind that had earlier been causing me issues. I could also bait up nicely from the bank to use more of a ground-bait presentation that would break down through the water column.
With the sun rising in the area and a couple of shows my confidence was high. Anybody who has done any snag fishing will know the intensity in anticipation it creates and this was a different level, the rod butts were inside the brolly, waders were worn 24/7, reels locked up with just an inch drop on the bobbin! A couple of hours passed before a single bleep caught my attention and then the tip banged round to the left and a spirited battle followed resulting in a 24lb common, result! The following afternoon after sitting it out all morning I was certain of a take but it never came and I needed to stock up on some bits but before I made my way back I thought I would check on the snags. Approaching the banker area I spotted two smaller fish just mooching around the zone then drifting off, so I put a few more balls of the ground-bait mix out there before dashing back as quick as I could.
There’s nothing more exciting than knowing there’s fish out there as you try to get the rods back in position with as minimal disturbance as possible. Not long after that same banker rod that I’d spotted the fish on was away with zero warning pulling hard! This battle was much more intense with some real violent surges back towards the snag and then swimming left, I had to crank down hard to keep the tension on the fish, it had now swum to a point I knew I was safe. Stood out in the water I could see some big shoulder scales in the clear water, I knew this wasn’t one of the smaller fish I’d seen and a few seconds later a big head popped up gulping into the waiting net and I had my first Wraysbury thirty! What a buzz and a nice feeling to get a couple on the bank, I, unfortunately, lost my next take the following morning after doing the hard part and getting the fish away from the snag the hook pulled, you can’t win them all!
My love affair with a swim known as ‘Springate’s’ began after catching a nice 24lb mirror and lots of leading around revealed some nice spots that would come into play. Certainly an area I felt happy to try to commit some time to. We were now in the peak of summer and after losing the Spring and a busy lake the time had flown by so I was desperate to get a feel for the pit and get some rewards from it. Although my next trip didn’t start as planned it certainly became one to remember!
Finishing work on a Friday afternoon on the hottest day of the year I didn’t let this deter me and with a reading of 38 degrees on the van whilst on route to the lake, I thought I must be mad but luckily for me, I arrived to a fairly quiet lake and decided I wanted to try a swim known as ‘Turf’s’ that hadn’t seen a great deal of pressure but was a known area for some of the bigger residents. The swim was secured and I rushed back to the van eager to get my kit but this is where things started to go downhill and after loading the barrow I started making my way around then BANG! My barrow tyre exploded just a few metres up the track! I couldn’t believe my luck, it was sweltering and I was now left with the task of getting round to the swim and knew I would now be battling the light. I made the tiresome journey in three trips and probably lost an hours time but I managed to find a couple of spots and got the rods out just on dark and could finally relax after a stressful couple of hours! I awoke to motionless rods and the sun was back beaming down on me! By 9 AM it was almost unbearably and was making fish spotting practically impossible! As the morning wore on and the sun made it’s way around I could start to focus on the water, opposite Springate’s was free and the more I looked the more apparent it became where the fish were! The rods come in as quick as possible and I shot round to the other side and secured the swim, whilst chatting to a guy fishing a couple of swims down we see even more shows and I now faced the task of lugging my kit round in the heat once more. After what I’d seen it made it far easier than the night before and I soon was setting up camp. I positioned the right-hand rod further out to a sandy zone where I’d seen most of the shows and settled into the evening brimming with confidence.
I woke up a little surprised and deflated to have had no action and I watched the water like a hawk and the right-hand area I’d found was very active and over the last few visits I’d seen fish in this zone with very little angling pressure from anybody else and the fish were clearly enjoying it! After a late-night and then rising early I could feel myself nodding off, around 7:30 AM I awoke to the right-hand rod absolutely fizzing and battle commenced from the new zone and at the range, I was a little conscious of the weed between me and the fish but luckily it made its way to my right into some deeper water that wasn’t so weedy and I could net the fish without dramas. A huge sigh of relief after the aggro of the barrow blow out and made the move worth it. A nice 24lb mirror was my reward and I got the rod back out, I knew there was every chance of another one. I couldn’t believe my luck when not even an hour had passed and the same rod was away with another fine example of a Wraysbury stock fish at 28lbs. With no more bait added to the area and only very little put out there the night before I wasn’t sure what the chances of another bite were but the rod went back out and I was chuffed with the morning’s results. I was just having a brew thinking the chance of another had fizzled out when to my amazement the same rod was away and this time a slightly slower take and a lot slower initial run. Again heading right like the others into deeper water I could relax knowing the fish was safe from weed and my other lines. I coaxed the fish towards me, stood out in the water I could make out a scaly carp which I assumed was one of the smaller stockfish and as it neared me I could see the fish twisting in violent circles trying to shake the hook. As it rose to the net I had an idea what it was but it wasn’t until it was safe in the bottom of the net did I realise what I’d caught. One of the most sought after stockfish known as ‘Triple Row’, what a way to finish the trip! The most incredible carp and one of the best I’ve ever witnessed on the bank. At a little under 36lbs a big fish as well with a very bright future!
As you can imagine I was gunning to get back into Springate’s. I had three nights to play with so I was a little disappointed to see somebody in the swim but gained knowledge that they will be moving the following day so decided to fish a swim known as ‘Lawns’ this was only a couple up but also gave me a view of the area I’d been fishing so I would have a good idea if the fish were still there but also if the guy fishing the swim was fishing to this area. I hadn’t fished Lawns before but the spots were fairly obvious with the weed on the surface and a rope line to an out of bounds area off the island. One rod was positioned here and the other two around the weed beds. I didn’t give it much thought as I was so set on the move but there was a few fish in front of me and a chance of a bite or two.
The following morning whilst messing around with the camera the long rod to the rope shot into life and after a few seconds of tussle the hook pulled, I was gutted as I felt this was a real bonus bite before moving to where I wanted to be. I got the rod back out but felt with the sun rising that would more than likely be my only chance. To my luck the lad in Springate’s ended up staying on longer and whilst dragging out my pack up and in the heat of the day the same rod was away and this time the take wasn’t so violent and I managed to manoeuvre the fish away from danger and after a few lunges in the deep margin, I had a nice dark 26lb common sulking in the net, proper bonus fish!
Now I was back in Springate’s, the lad before had caught nothing but I’d seen all I needed to in that same zone and was super confident. So when the following morning I awoke to zero action and not a lot going on I was gutted and felt I’d made a poor decision but just as I was halfway through packing up and looking for a move the trusty right-hand rod was away yet again, this time a cracking 23lb common that was perfect! The rod went back out and I was now stumped but was soon setting camp back up convinced staying was the right thing to do. Just like the last trip no less than an hour later, the same rod was away and I was back on the rod. Initially, the fish not taking too much line so I tightened up which was a big mistake as the rod buckled over violently and I started backwinding as fast as I could as this fish made a huge run, I had just regained control, the fish slowed down and started coming back towards me and the hook pulled, I was gutted and convinced this was a big fish just by its sheer power! That loss was a tough one to take and no more action came my way until the following day. I’d sat out bite time and was convinced it wasn’t going to happen as the sun got higher. I had packed up all but the rods then whilst sat by the left-hand rod presented on a real shallow area amongst some weed burst into life and a lovely battle out in the shallow clear water followed. Walking my way out I could see some real nice scaling and soon landed a pretty twenty-plus mirror which was a nice way to finish the trip and soften the blow of the losses a little!
Now the end of the summer and I felt I’d fished hard and started getting to grips with Wraysbury, which left me feeling like I was bound to get something special moving into the autumn. Through August and September, I’d landed a further seven carp including a nice 29lb common and a 31lb mirror with my girlfriend Sophie but the best was yet to come!
Early October and I had just returned from a trip to the coast and was buzzing to give this month some effort and push for one of those big’uns! I was gutted after a two-week break to arrive at a busy lake with a widespread of anglers, so decided I would spend the night on the South after getting soaked on my walk around and feeling slightly deflated. If I lived closer I probably would have gone home in all honesty. I awoke instantly knowing I was sat by the wrong lake and was soon reeled in and back walking around the North. A fresh south-westerly wind had sprung and I was amazed to see Springate’s was free and the angler to the right had left. Swim secured I sprinted for my kit and was back in position in no time! I knew the spots well but for some reason, I’d decided to move the middle rod to a silty area I had found on my first ever trip in the swim. Feeling much better about the situation I could sit back and relax, I knew I had to be off pretty early which wasn’t ideal. The middle rod I’d repositioned signalled a liner going into the evening which boosted my confidence massively! The rain returned and the wind got up so I decided to get my head down in case of action. Around midnight the receiver signalled some bleeps that woke me and as I looked out I could hear the clutch of the middle rod ticking away. I rushed on the waders and picked up the rod, holding solid out there I was a little worried about an island beyond the spot but the fish slowly plodded round to the left which allowed me to step out into the water and relax a little. I knew this was a better fish and with the waves crashing across the swim it was an awesome moment and in the light of the moon, I see this big head pop up for the waiting net. As soon as I flashed on my head torch I knew what fish it was, one of my main targets, a fish known as ‘Red October’ one of the Redmire strain commons and at over 36lbs I was ecstatic!
I’d made the decision that I would do a week-long trip in October partly because I’d missed a fair amount of September but also because I’d gained knowledge that one of the big mirrors ‘Paw Print’ often does a capture on the October New Moon. The most nights in a swim you can do is three so I had to plan my moves accordingly to where I wanted to be around the moon phase. I arrived to a fairly quiet lake and was informed it had been fishing slowly so I opted to fish Springate’s once again as I knew a fresh south-westerly would be getting up the following day. I did the night feeling hopeful but had a mag shoot the following morning so lost bite time really and didn’t get the rods back out till late afternoon, deciding to stay was a good decision as early evening I had a nice 29lb common, I was off the mark!
The following morning I decided I would move in the Rocky as this is where a lot of the fish were showing. After the first night, I made the first move of my plan, the swim I wanted to spend the last part of my trip in was the ‘Bus Stop’ a known haunt of Paw Print. The swim had been vacant for two nights now so I took a gamble and put a couple of kilos of bait across the swim. I returned to the Rocky and other than an ancient-looking tench in the night all was quiet and I had itchy feet so I got round to the Bus Stop real early and the madness began! Within an hour or so I banked a mid-twenty mirror and I already knew I was onto something good. I see very little but it was evident the fish were present and that night I landed three more mirrors of 24, 27 and 28lbs all beautiful carp!
The following day was surprisingly uneventful and the lake had started to fill up which dented my confidence a little but I got the rods set for the night of the New Moon and had this odd sense of realisation come over me that maybe with more pressure pushing the fish out I would be more likely to catch Paw Print off guard on her own.
Just gone 9 PM and the left-hand rod registered a jittery take and I just knew. Instantly meeting heavy resistance and that unmistakable crashing of a big carp on the surface, a few powerful surges down in front of me and she was mine. A crazy capture that I still can’t quite believe happened but sometimes those little bits of knowledge can go a long way.
I went back for one more trip resulting in an upper double mirror but struggled to get back with work commitments and then the next lockdown occurred. Hopefully ill be back soon chasing some more of those awesome Wraysbury carp!
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