Sunday, 26 February 2012

57 Year Old Leney Warrior

I woke to the sound of my favourite alarm clock, a sweet singing blackbird outside in the garden, it was seven am and I was going fishing. Unlike previous trips during the height of summer, I was in no rush to get to the pool; an eight am start was early enough. The recent warm weather had woken fish on one of my local waters from their winter slumber, but with clear skies the night before and a light ground frost I had little doubt that the carp wouldn’t show much before the sun had climbed way above the tree line and had begun to warm the surface layers. I was excited just to see the old place again, a premature visit in as much as I’d planned to return when the new season had started, this fleeting visit was just out of curiosity more than anything else. Throughout the whole journey I wondered if they would expose themselves, carp that are tricky enough in during the warmer months, so much went through my mind, I just couldn’t wait to arrive and assess the situation. The journey was a pleasant one, very little traffic, mist hung in the trees, although the closer I got to the venue, the whiter the fields became, near Petersfield the temp read zero degrees, not  ideal but anticipation and enthusiasm soon waved away any doubts.

When I arrived at the Wells it didn’t really look that unfamiliar, I was half expecting this baron land of bare trees and lifeless water, instead there were evergreens, holly and moss to more than enough green to make me feel at home. The one odd thing I did find was the lack of lilies on the top pond, but I soon adjusted to that. I chose the swim judging where I though the sun would shine first, it was apparent as soon as I got there that the carp were still, small fish rippled the surface but the carp were nowhere to be seen. I pitched up at the right hand side of the dam, deep sloping margin which would warm nicely if the sun rose high enough, as it was the surface was still in the shade and tackling up the rods was harsh on the finger tips. Two baited rigs were swung out a couple of rod lengths out and with the rods laid on the floor with the rear drags loosened I sat back against a big tree truck and awaited the first of the dog walkers.

I guess I must have been sat there for about an hour when I saw the first sign of carp, just about where the pads used to be a largish fish surfaced and went back down sending up a plume of bubbles. I wound in and climbed the bank behind the pads swims for a better look. I saw two small carp ghost through, not on the surface but somewhere around half way up. I retrieved my things from my original swim and gently placed myself onto the right hand pads swim. I sat and watched for a while before doing anything, then a group of three fish cruised through the same height around two rod lengths out. Once they were gone I set up 12 inch pop ups on each rod and swung them into the path I through the next crew would take. I clocked the fish coming back but a foot from the roigs they turned out and into the lake, they’d sussed me.

I sprinkled a few pellets on the marginal slope in the swim, the next swim to the left and again at the bottom of the steps. Back up the top of the bank, a high vantage point where visibility for fish spotting is excellent, I wandered up and down watching for something to materialise, looking for that chance, that opportunity, I didn’t want to fish blind, with the sun warming my bank only I felt sure that the fish would visit and an opportunity would present itself.

It was midday, the patch just out from the bottom of the steps had been visited by two or three small carp, the view wasn’t great but they were definitely carp and they looked to be showing an interest in the pellets. I changed the rods to bottom rigs, attached two pellets to each hook and lowered them into position when the fish turned away. I sat quietly waiting for it to happen but it didn’t. They did return but got a foot from the rigs and actually went around them. The water was clear and I was sure in my head that they could see the rigs and line. I didn’t know what to do next, 1pm was upon me and I was no closer to tricking one of these wary carp, but I wasn’t about to give in.

With the rods out of the water the fish began feeding on the spot again, only this time there was a much bigger fish with them, I couldn’t make out how big or which one but it was good enough for plan C to be brought into action. The plan was to fish 5lb line straight through ending in a size 4 hook and a chunk of good old spam. The rod was a 1.75tc barbell rod, I know the tackle was light but the pads were gone and I have had to scale right down here to get a take in the past. With the rod ready I slipped down the bank as gently as I could, lowered the spam off the rod tip and onto the spot and letting out a little slack I retreated to the cover of the ferns and holly. As before I laid the rod on the ground and watched where the line entered the surface. It was still moving, but I put that down to the line sinking, but it kept on moving and gathered in pace, I picked the rod up, tightened down and felt an almighty lunge and line poured from the reel, fish on.

With such light tackle I wasn’t about to start bullying this fish, I didn’t know which one it was, it didn’t matter, I’d hooked a winter Waggoners carp, I just had to land it. As you can imagine, the fish dictated things from the off, if it wanted line I had to give it, I tried to gain back what I could but I wasn’t achieving much.  The brute pulled me all over the place for a good fifteen minutes, with the line pinging off the dorsal a dozen times making my heart stop each time. Eventually it rolled a couple rod lengths out and I caught my first glimpse of it, an original, possibly the big girl, and then my knees really started shaking. Her head came up and she spat out a mouthful of water, ever so gradually I teased her over the cord and as soon as her nose hit the spreader block I lifted for all I was worth and engulfed my prize in mesh.

What a creature was my first thought, I more impressive fish I will struggle to find. The winter colours were amazing, its bulk was also impressive, I just couldn’t believe what was lying in my net. A couple walked past and I asked if they wouldn’t mind taking a few pictures for me, the gentleman kindly agreed and took some lovely shots, chopped my head off of a few but the fish was far more important than my ugly mug.

Not that it really mattered too much but the fish weighed 27lb 4oz. That cap was one of 100 stocked on 24th January 1956 by Donald Leney from the Surrey Trout Farm, so at 56 years old I think the old girl was looking good!!!!

I really didn’t want to let that one go, that capture meant more than me than any other. It wasn’t just the looks, but it was the history behind it, and with me being mad keen on all the history stuff, it made it all the more wonderful to actually touch a massive part of that history. I didn’t fish on after that, I remembered something Chris Yates told me in a letter he sent me, he said that in all his time fishing Waggoners, he only ever caught one fish, then left, never asked for a second as he thought the spirits of the lake wouldn’t take to kindly and may curse him somehow. So with that in mind I left the Wells on a high, buzzing, grinning from ear to ear and every other such superlatives you can think of.

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