After watching and re-watching the videos of the Secret Lake, recently seeing Carl and Alex boasting yet more special fish from this marvellous little haven, dreaming about my ideal venue, a place hidden far away from prying eyes where small, perfect commons massively outnumber the few stunning wood carved mirrors that reside there, with reed fringed bays, lily beds, snaggy islands, sheer perfection, I just had to contact them and ask when I could tag along. “How does this Saturday sound?” came the reply.
My palms began to form beads of sweat; my knees trembled, could this be for real? Am I going to visit the lake of my dreams? I took a step back to take it all in, ok it’s the FA Cup final that day, and as an avid Gunner I really should be watching, cheering my team towards a second successive title. But no, this is more special than that, this I simply cannot pass up. A hidden pool finally discovered is usually the downfall of the mystery that surrounds it, but to visit and then to retract, to keep the location undisclosed is to keep that mystery intact.
I tweaked a few engagements and paved the way for my visit. I was told I’d have to make my way to their place, then transfer my stuff the back of their van, including myself, the location of paradise was set to remain a mystery, but I didn’t care, at least I could spend a day there with the guys who opened my eyes to it. And even if I managed to catch or not, I still called it an early birthday present, I Just couldn’t wait. The secret location, the dreamy atmosphere, the chance of one of those mouth-watering carp, these things all add up to create the ideal setting, the elements that make this little piece of water so very special.
I arrived around 10am, the lads had fished the night previous on another water so wouldn’t be back and ready for a dawn start. After a cuppa and a chat we loaded the back of the van leaving enough room for me. We headed off, it was a touch bumpy, I’m sure they took a few wrong turns just to throw me even further off scent, but it mattered not, I never once peered through the windshield, being presented with a secret paradise was the major part of this for me.
The van stopped, I waited a few moments then the van door opened. Alex told me we were close, but not there yet, there were still a couple of fields to traipse across. “Just beyond those trees” said Carl which of course prompted my mind to go into overdrive, there it is, I’m actually here, all I need now is that first glimpse of water through the trees. Through the trees we crossed a little stream and before I knew it we were there, the water was coloured, pads and a small island greeted me first, I wanted to see more, a need for exploration shot through me. It should have been the guys leading me around, but I led the way eager to discover.
We had a tour of the lake and Alex pointed out various spots, features and places where memorable captures occurred. There was even a boathouse; all special lakes have a boathouse. I remembered a lot of it from the videos; it didn’t quite sink in that I was actually walking the banks looking for my own fishing spot, not until I found it. We settled on an area behind some pads with a channel our side and a larger channel between the pads and the large island to our left. Carl began floater fishing the other side of the island, Alex and I free-lined bread using a banded twig as a float/controller close to the pads.
Alex was first into a fish, a glorious little common that pulled him all over the place. It was so exciting to see my first Secret lake fish in the flesh. It was scale perfect and sparkled in the sunlight, as we released the pretty fish I quietly prayed that I too would get to catch one. But before I did Alex was into another fish, but this time it was one of those fabled mirror carp, a fully scaled carp which had the most incredible large scales all over its flanks on either side. A true gem of the lake, and we got to see one so early on. Alex was so pleased, and so was I.
My own swim had fish in it, but they were proving tricky to catch, the twig trembling and darting away a few times but I somehow happened to miss every strike. Next up it was Carl’s turn to catch, he’d got them going on the surface and after missing a few takes connected with what turned out to be yet another bar of gold, a gorgeous scaly mirror. They warned me that due to the sheer numbers of the small commons, the mirrors were few and far between, so if we managed to see one, we’d be doing well, so two on the bank already was really quite something.
Just left of my position I spotted a couple of carp under some foliage on the leading edge of the island. I flicked out a few dog biscuits and after a short while they began to disappear. I moved closer and watched a while, that’s when I spotted the ghost linear, a fish that featured in the guys’ videos. It was a fascinating looking fish, not big but insanely beautiful and very long, a real character. It cruised about among the snags a while before vanishing out of sight. The snags looked very carpy, but not so snaggy that extracting a fish would have been out of the question, it was certainly worth a go.
I made my cast towards some rhododendrons, and as luck had it my cast was inch perfect with my line draping over a weak twig allowing the hook-bait to fall into the water with no trailing line on the surface, perfect. I waited a while for the fish to return, and few minutes later one did. I watched it appear from the right, cruise along the edge of the bush and slow down as it approached the bait. It rose in the water, opened its mouth and sucked in the bait, I struck snapping the weak twig and connected, I’d hooked my first Secret lake carp. The water erupted alerting Carl and Alex and soon they were by my side cheering me on and waiting to net the fish.
There were a few hairy moments and the fish go close to the underwater obstacles, but the Mark IV handled things very well and I managed to steer the fish clear and eventually into awaiting net. For its size it scrapped very well, and that little common meant a lot more than any other small common I’ve caught in the past. The guys congratulated me and took a couple of snaps. I released the fish into the margins, smiled and thanked Carl and Alex for bringing me. I treated us to a Tunnock’s Tea Cake each, which seemed to go down very well indeed.
Alex went on went on to catch two more commons, including a chunky one, very different too the regular commons in appearance, most notably in its shape. These fish had humped backs and long barbules, they were utterly delightful and I wanted one, apparently the mirrors are of the same strain. That is one of the interesting things about the Secret, you never really know what will pull your string next, it keeps things exciting and interesting and makes for a day of wonderment and uncertainty.
Soon it was lunchtime; I asked myself where the morning went. I sat back and tucked into cheese and ham sandwiches and a hot cross bun, my two hosts were far too busy trying to catch fish to worry about a little thing like eating, I remember when I was that keen. It really is infectious how enthusiastic these two are about their angling. It comes across beautifully in their films, that they are just as happy catching minnows on a stream, small commons from the Secret or gudgeon from a river as they are chasing 40lb park lake commons and, more recently, stunning huge reservoir carp. Just as long as they are angling they are happy, and I think the message they put across is inspirational to others, especially the younger generation of anglers.
After lunch I returned to my original position, but this time concentrated more on the large island. There were a series of snags at the tip and it was obvious that this area was not only where the carp liked to hang out, but they also fed confidently here too. It was a tricky cast, to land a free-lined crust close to the snags, not too close, but close enough that they will find it. Couple this with low lying branches from the island trees and you have yourself a difficult cast, but one that, as the day wears on, you simply have to attempt.
The cast started low and ended low, an overhead cast would have only ended up nestled among the branches, and there were no carp up there. It landed perfectly, probably more fluke than skill, but I was happy nonetheless. The carp gathered closer by the second, as they got parallel we all got excited thinking it would happen right away, but they made us wait until finally the bread disappeared and the line tightened. My second fish of the session was hooked and heading for the cover of the snags, I wound down, lifted the rod back over my shoulder and pulled for all I was worth. A swirl a metre our side of the snags made me sigh with relief, the immediate danger had thankfully passed.
I played the fish towards me gently, with the island snags not too far to the left and the pads to the right I wasn’t completely in the clear, and with 5lbs line I knew I couldn’t exert too much pressure if called for so I just kept things coming steady and as central as possible. The fish swam nicely into Carl’s awaiting net, at which point he called out that it looked really big for a common. On the bank we realised that it was another of the chunky ones, beautifully coloured and really quite heavy. Carl snapped away with the camera while the fish and I smiled. It was my second from the lake and a really nice one. After Carl told me that it was quite possibly the largest common he’d seen from the lake, and one he hadn’t seen caught before.
With teatime looming we realised that there was little time left to angle, soon it would be a trek across the fields back to the car, into the boot and back to my own car. But before that I still thought there might just be one more fish in it for me. The area I caught the common from was still showing signs, and if there’s a sign, there’s always a chance. I attached a crust corner to my hook, dipped it once in the water and swung it out. It landed short, I left it for a few seconds but realised I had to get it closer to get a bite. The next attempt landed as sweet as it possibly could, directly under a parallel branch off the island.
Within seconds there were fish around it, but then I lost sight of the crust as it drifted into a patch of bright water. Carl told me he could still see it from his angle and that he’d let me know when it went. I was half trying to regain sight of my bait and half listening for the call when it came. I heard the shout of “He’s got it” then struck and felt an almighty lunge. I wound up the slack as quickly as I could with my 1930’s reel, and pulled hard over my shoulder to ensure the fish stayed away from those submerged branches. It worked too, sure enough I began playing the fish out in open water and at that point I think we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Half way in and Carl revealed that I was, in fact, attached to the ghost linear. That’s when my legs turned to jelly, the ghost lin, a video fish, one of three or four fish I dreamt about catching, there on the end of my line. I hoped the battle would be a smooth one, but it wasn’t, it kited right on what was still a fairly long line and towards the pads. It swam adjacent to 30 or so feet of pads, then just managed to swim into the final clump where it wedged itself and sat there sulking. I was distraught, with 5lb line I didn’t want to pull too hard, that’s when Carl came to the rescue.
With his shoes and socks off and his trouser legs rolled up he jumped in and reached out with the net. I thought for a minute the fish might bolt when it saw him coming and break the line in a final dash for freedom, but Carl reached out gently, slid the net underneath it and scooped up my prize. I was overjoyed, he waded back the short distance to shore, passed me the net and we all cheered as the third mirror of the day was safely landed.
On the bank it looked awesome, every bit as impressive as in all the photos I’d seen of it. This fish boasts wicked colours, a neat row of linear scaling, big head and under slung mouth, a proper character fish. The day couldn’t have ended any better; we finished on an absolute high. I simply could not have been happier. With all the things packed away rods broken down and nets unscrewed we headed back over the stream, through the trees, across the fields and into the van. As I left in my own car I thanked my friends for a marvellous day, a day I’ll remember for a very long day, and sincerely hope I get another invite someday.
Carl and Alex are two incredible lads who deserve all the praise they receive. It baffles me how they manage to fit all that fishing in with their work, school and editing. For those of you who've yet to see their films, grab a cup of tea and check out the link below. Enjoy....I did.