THE ESSEX LAKE
I fell in love instantly. First introduced to me by a close friend, we knew very little about this amazing Essex lake and soon between us began to call the lake “Chigmire” our little piece of angling heaven. I had always wet my lines close to home and spent most of my days on well established fisheries, continuously chasing a better carp which never seemed to grace the bottom of my landing net. This lake had a much different feel to it compared to my usual water, it had more of a park lake vibe left to its own devices just how nature intended it. The water was crystal clear, weedy, snaggy and very over grown making areas of the 5 acre lake inaccessible to place a rig. This was massively different from my usual easy angling venues where I had spent most of my summers, it would take some deep thought on my part regarding bait and rig presentation. At first I had thought the 20-minute walk with the barrow to get to the lake would be the only downside, but in fact this seemed to be a blessing as most anglers chose rather to fish the closer larger lake.
Fishing here would be a learning curve, a water which I at the time would have called "difficult", I looked forward to the season ahead.
I had very little info regarding the stock at first, as we all know internet research and talking to other anglers on the bank is a good starting point. there are some nice anglers out there willing to give you as much as they know, but also a small percentage who try steer you in a different direction, especially if they are on a mission themselves. I take it all with a pinch of salt as do most.
After a few sessions and putting questions to other anglers I had discovered the stock was around 45-55 carp. I had been told the carp ranged from low double up to 30lb, mostly commons and a handful of mirrors. Two commons in particular were touching the 30lb mark and a mid 20 linear, weights all dependant on the time of year. After a conversation with an older gentleman in his 60s who once caught the carp here at the 10lb mark I knew the carp were old, wise and had seen it all. the lake also held plenty of bream, roach, perch, pike and a few rumours of the odd very large catfish.
As you can imagine I couldn't wait to get stuck in, and the carp were beautiful................
My first session was everything I could ask for, considering being told I should fish the easier larger lake before considering this one. After walking around the lake a few times I had decided to fish a swim where I had seen the only fish show. My method would be to fish just 2 rods, a hinge stiff rig to a break in the weed 50 yards out with a small scattering of boilie around the area, and a snowman rig on in the near margin with around 2kg of particle. Within 20 minutes the margin rod was away and I had landed my first fish...... A BREAM! and they kept coming! I had around 7 bream to follow and quickly realised baiting plenty was not the way forward. A few hours later and not expecting much the right hand rod absolutely melted off and I was in to my first carp. This was great! although nervous to drop it as it came near, there was something magical about playing that carp in such clear water, viewing its every move before finally slipping over the net cord. Happy was an understatement, a high double common with beautiful dark colour.
The hours of darkness soon came and with the thought of packing up in the morning and heading home I had a good night sleep. First light and sat with my brew, the right hand rod sprung into action once again stripping line from the reel, as I landed this carp I couldn't help feeling I had done well. This common was just tipping 20lb, dark and everything I was hoping to catch.
The following session I met up with a good friend, he had already set up at the lake so I decided to fish the peg next door on the opposite side of the lake to where I had fished previous, normally I would be looking to go in a peg I'd prefer but on this occasion I had a late afternoon and a night, to leave the following morning so decided to treat it more of a social. I decided to used the same tactics as the previous session as it seemed to work, my friend had already had a small mirror so things did look promising. After some well cooked grub and few beers I was bivvy bound and before I knew it out for the count. I woke early morning and sat at the edge of my bedchair just as the sun crept up, wondering why I'd not had a take??? staring at the rods the bobbin smashed up against the blank and away tearing line from the spool, this fish head straight for the weed, it knew exactly where he was going! after a good 15 minutes buried, the carp eventually came free and I was happy to get it over the net cord. It was another lovely common just shy of 20lb.
Over the following few sessions I had more captures and every one of them amazed me just like the first, I had caught some nice carp but not yet had anything bigger than a low 20, I knew they were there but it didn't really matter, they were all stunners in my eyes and I was enjoying myself.
One particular session late summer I arrived at the lake with 2 anglers leaving at the same time, as they passed me an angler said "don't bother pal it ain't fishing". He informed me they had been there for 3 days and had one small common around 13lb. No one wants to hear this before a session but I was determined not to take any notice and fish away from the swim they had doubled up in, which was where I had my first carp. I opted to fish at the other end of the lake where the water was deeper but a more narrow length of the lake. I decided to fish the same tactics as it was working well for me. This swim looked carpy, the far margin had trees over growing the water and just oozed carp from an anglers point of view, the near margin was just the same so it made sense to stick a rod on each. Rigs set I fished both rods locked up to try steer any take clear of the overgrown tree lines, and sat on top of the rods to ensure I would not miss any chances. A few hours in whilst scrolling through instagram as many anglers do I had the most savage take on the near margin rod, within seconds the carp had pulled the pod over! This carp was strong and had buried itself in the snags, I had no choice but to set the rod down, loosen the clutch and hope for some line movement. 10 minutes passed.... I had the most gut wrenching feeling I may have possibly lost a potential bigger carp, but just as I hoped the carp finally swam free and line was starting to move from the spool again. Peering in the bottom of the net I was amazed, this carp was bigger than my previous catches. A stunning common of 25.6lb, a perfect hook hold and I couldn't help admiring the strength of the end tackle used for my snowman presentation.
A few more smaller commons were caught that day from the same spot, I felt I had found an obvious patrol route along this margin, and I had cracked it. After a yet again quiet night I was surprised how the opposite margin had not given up a carp due to it looking so inviting, but morning had come and it was time to start packing the gear away. On doing so I heard a few bleeps on the alarms and noticed the far margin bobbing had dropped to the floor, I ran to the rod and was in to yet another carp. This time the battle was very different, it felt like the carp knew what was going on and decided to give up straight away. As the carp approached the net I noticed from the scale pattern it was the Linear I was told about, getting this carp over the net cord was the most nervous I had been for a good while!
Unfortunately I had made a big school boy error! I had left the camera on from the previous day and killed the battery, my stupidity was so frustrating! My only option was to wait for a passer by to take a few snaps with my phone camera, as helpful as it were the pictures were poor but It was still a memory made. The lin was beautiful at 24lb, the scale pattern was perfection like a stairway to a successful session. I had noticed on social media a well known angler had also caught this beautiful carp that month, a much better picture of the carp of course but I was happy I had caught it and crossed it off my capture list-
THE VERY BAD SESSION
Some time off work was much needed. Having a real bad time, sadly my Mother had recently passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Devastating to the whole family, the plan was to have a good 3 day session on the lake to clear my mind and then meet up with family in Clacton to finish the week. This time round I had brought along our dog who had never been on a fishing session with me so I had a bit of company, unfortunately she barks at anything and everything, it was not going to be quiet this time round. The first day no bites came so hoped I might have a run that night for a change, the alarms sounded at around 11.30pm but unfortunately it was a large bream. After releasing the fish I squatted down to make a fuss of the dog but my right foot was slightly on un level ground. Disaster struck! I had twisted my leg and felt an intense snapping sensation. I knew straight away I had injured myself badly as the pain was unbelievable, I could no longer straighten the leg, put any weight on it or stand. I suddenly started to feel very hot and ill, and spent a good hour laying on the bank in my boxers with dog laying on my chest thinking " what the hell am I going to do, 12am, no anglers on the lake and I can't walk!". Once I Had started to feel better I rolled over to the rods, reeled them in and managed to lay on my bedchair one leg on, one leg off. Im sure looking back now rolling to get around would have looked amusing to other anglers if there was any there. I was actually contemplating carrying on with the session, I had hoped that if I slept for a few hours the pain may ease up. 5am slowly came around and with little sleep I realised I really needed help. I called my wife and explained what had happened, the only thing I could do was call a friend to pick me up and take me to A+E.
My friend arrived around 10am, him being the only person who knew where I would be, packed all my gear up and we both made our way to the car park, I was pushed along on the barrow part of the way and also hobbled along with my net pole as a crutch where I could.
At A&E it was discovered I had severed my ACL (crucial ligament) and torn a ligament known commonly as a bucket handle tear (medial meniscus). I needed surgery and would have to deal with the knee until an operation was available. 14 months passed until the operation took place.
I only managed one more day session on the lake after the injury but still managed a nice 20+ common, to be honest I loved this capture the most, these carp are somewhat special to me at this place even though they are not the biggest of carp. Its tail and pecks were withered away to little stumps and although some anglers would say its not the prettiest of carp, I loved it, what a character! Probably older than I was.
During the time whilst restricted with the knee problem I had been accepted to join a syndicate nearby to the lake. I only managed a handful of trips through out the season unfortunately. The carp were bigger on the syndicate yes but not the same old characters I missed catching, I longed to get back to the day ticket lake and carry on where I had left off and hopefully catch one of the known 30s. It was just a matter of time until the end of March when my syndicate season would expire.
THE SEASON AHEAD
Well things haven't gone quite to plan due to COVID19 but with social distancing in place, we are all now able to return to our angling. Lockdown has shown me what we can all do without in life and of course what we can not. With my knee back in good shape I will continue my angling and hopefully catch a few more stunners in the year ahead, fingers crossed I can report further captures soon- to be continued.......
Adam Smith @carperadam40