It had been a while since I last fished with Chris Ball, it was at Linear fisheries; we had a good day too. We’d been in contact ever since and finally agreed to do it again. Chris informed me that Linear was very busy, even midweek so a trip to an ancient little neglected water he’d been visiting might be a good idea. The day was arranged and I simply couldn’t wait.
We met at the rendezvous point at 10am and after a quick hello and a hand shake I followed Chris the rest of the way. Through locked gates we entered and along an overgrown path, I just knew it was going to lead somewhere special, and it didn’t disappoint. Before the cars came to a stop I peered smiling into gaps among the trees, flat water, black in appearance due to the clarity and depth, this was extra special.
Chris had nipped down for a look prior to collecting me and fed a few pouchfuls of mixers, and it was apparent from the surface activity that they liked them. Dark shapes cruised before us, some were quite close to the bank and I observed eagerly as dark backs broke the surface and chum mixers were engulfed. Chris and I had a brief catch up, but it was clear that we were both eager to get started and put a fish on the bank, I wanted dearly to see how these fish looked, if they were half as prehistoric as the lake, then we were in for a treat. Incidentally, Chris told me that he’d landed 6 commons on his last visit, with dark fish up to 17lbs.
Just to the left of the cars Chris started fishing, his own classic floater fishing style too with pouchfuls going out into open water followed by a controller float. Chris’s tried and tested method which has caught him countless big carp from all over. Seagulls were thin on the ground too, with just one bird threatening but not actually causing too much of a nuisance. I opted for my usual, trying to tempt them as close to the bank as possible and wanting to see the whites of their eyes before pulling the trigger. It’s my way, it’s where I’m most confident, it’s what I do.
The mixers Chris had been feeding were by now drifting on the gentle breeze into the corner of the lake, a willow hung heavy over the water and carp broke surface every so often to intercept the free offerings. I got myself into position and began angling, Carpathia was the obvious choice every time now, teamed with the Hardy Altex. Two mixers on the size 4 with 6lb Maxima completed the set up, my trusty line, strong as old boots. The carp, although easily spotted weren’t easily tricked, they’d obviously seen it all before at some point and certainly hadn’t forgotten the rules of the game. I like a challenge, and this was certainly going to be that.
In true wary carp fashion I fed loose baits, waited for the carp to start feeding and observed as they fed on all but the hook bait. With the water drifting in a circular motion I found myself leapfrogging swims to keep up with the moving fish, yet they always seemed to stay one step ahead of me. It was three swims up from the corner when I clocked a carp feeding just off the tip of some pads not quite a rod length out, and stopped in my tracks was I when I spotted a near leather with three small scales near the wrist of its tail. It looked deliciously long and so dark and remembering Chris tell me he’d yet to catch a mirror from this pool, or a 20, made me want it even more.
I cast out just beyond yet another fallen willow, drew the hook bait back gently and right into the path of the feeding mirror. It took three mixers in a line then approached mine. It hung a second, then sucked the baits in, I struck and the hook came flying out and landed in a tree behind me. I looked down and noticed that the fish didn’t spook, simply waved its tail and swam off round the willow. It was the one, I was distraught but hopeful, if I could tempt them close enough I could surely bank one, and where there was one mirror, there were bound to be others.
Another swim along and a line of surface scum was visible about 30 yards out. It wasn’t thick stuff, but was it was clearly enough to attract them and there were fish swimming along its length picking of what were probably more of Chris’s drifted mixers, he was fishing quite a way out and the line they drifted on made sense. There were still the odd carp close in, but the more I looked at the 30 yard mark, the more I spotted. I added a lump of Babybell wax to the line to aid casting and made a cast just behind the scum line, drawing it back into position and firing a pouchful of my own mixers out around the homemade controller float.
I was just reaching down to get another pouchful when I noticed the wax take off across the surface and the line tighten up, I struck and connected with my first carp from the Ancient Pool. The pool seemed fathomless, the fish was clearly swimming torwards me, or perhaps down and down, the line cut through the water downwards on and on, it was quite bizarre and quiet unlike anything I’d experienced before, perhaps it really was bottomless. It stopped at the edge of some pads just left of the swim, and although the pads were twisting and turning, the fish was still clearly quite a way down.
Eventually I managed to get the fish to rise and caught sight of it for the first time, it was long fish, quite dark, and then it came to me, it was a mirror, and to my utter astonishment, it had three small scales near the wrist of its tail. That’s when my legs turned to jelly, I reached out with the net, more in preparation than anything else, this fish was still a way off being ready. The hook held well and the 6lb Maxima did me proud, after having her half over the net and falling off twice I finally scooped her up and cheered. Chris shouted well done from across the lake and hurried round with the weighing things and camera.
I had told Chris previously that I’d spotted and almost hooked a mirror, now it was in my net and we were both made up. It was so very long; Chris measured it at 32 inches with a girth of 21.5 inches. She weighed 20lb 12oz and looked absolutely fascinating. These are the carp I seek; I think perhaps the carp everyone hopes to bump into. So dark, such history and I was so very proud to be holding her up whilst Chris took a series of photos. We released her back to those mystical depths and decided now was a good time to break for lunch.
Between the cars was a lovely grassy area, in fact, there was nowhere around the lake that looked trodden down, it really was a little piece of paradise. Chris tucked into his hard boiled eggs and I nibbled on my cheese and pickles whilst getting the Kelly Kettle started up. Soon we had a steaming pot of tea and I sliced up a Manor Farm fruit cake. As Chris told me numerous carpy stories we polished off the pot and left a few cake crumbs for the robin.
Fed and watered we set off once again on our separate ways, Chris returning to his open water spot and I opted to explore more of the fallen willow bank. It was odd, whilst we were weighing and photographing the mirror there were still fish feeding off that scum line. Yet now when I returned the scum line had drifted away, broken up and dispersed and so had the fish. I couldn’t see a single one. I stood a while and fired out some mixers, but after 10 minutes or so it was apparent I’d have to get on my toes. That was when I heard a commotion coming from Chris’s swim.
I got to him in time to see him back-winding like mad; whatever he was attached to was very angry and rather powerful. It was quite strange watching him play that fish the other way round, what with him being a left hander, and also preferring to back-wind as opposed to my clutch work. But each to their own, whatever works best for you. This fish, a common, was giving him the right run-around; multiple times he got it close to the net, only for it to take one look at the net and charge off again on another powerful run.
I took the net allowing Chris to concentrate on getting the fish, which was by now growing tired, landed. It was with much cheering and delight when a peach of a common slipped into the net. I muttered that it could well be another 20lber, it was a deep fish. Chris did the measurements and found it to be similar to the mirror, yet slightly deeper. The fish weighed 20lb 8oz, a 20 apiece, we couldn’t have been happier. It was my turn to snap away with the camera, and I did my very best to do Chris proud.
After shaking Chris’s hand I wandered off left this time to explore the other half of the lake. There was a fallen tree with what was quite obviously a fair amount of fish hanging around it, but it was far to treacherous to attempt to angle anywhere near it, its submerged branches twisting and turning under the surface, it would have been a tall order to land one with such underwater obstacles present. I was just peering into the water near the sunken tree when I heard the call from Chris, he was in again. As I got there he was just releasing a mid double common, you simply cannot keep a good man down.
After watching some lovely fish among the flooded jungle I carried on around the snaggy corner bay and settled into a platform opposite the end of the tree. From here I felt I could draw the fish away from danger and once hooked keep them clear and play them out in open water. I fed some mixers and sat and waited. A few minutes passed when a pod of three fish started to chomp the drifting baits. I fired out some more followed by my hook bait. Soon after, the pod moved on and nothing else visited. The carp waited for the mixers to reach the tip of the snags, then proceeded to eat the lot with gusto. They'd sussed me. Typical.
I moved on and found a lovely little swim, if not a little tight, but it screamed carp and was purpose built for me. There was a dense tree type bush to the right hanging out over the water with large pads below it, a large set of reeds to the left and around 20 square feet of those miniature pads directly in front of me with around 12 feet of clear water leading up to my own bank. I watched a while, carp cruised just off the pads from the reeds to the tree and back again, but it was the movement among the pads that really caught my attention.
It was akin to fishing among the weed at Tithe Barn, I flicked out a few mixers and sat back whilst the carp’s mouths came up through the pads sniffing out and munching on the little cubes of tastyness. This is always tricky fishing for me, but immensely enjoyable. I should cast them out and wait for the carp to find them, but I’m far too impatient for that, opting to try and gently plop them on top of a fish’s mouth as it comes up. Time after time I either missed completely, spooked the fish due to plopping it too close or hooked the pads. It was comical but highly addictive.
Finally I got one right; it coincided with the heavier rain coming over. We’d had the odd shower since lunch time, but this was more persistent. The mouth came up and my bait landed soft and gentle right alongside it. It shot past momentarily, then backed up and sucked in the hook bait. I struck and held on whilst the fish charged around. They were soft small pads so posed no problem, the bonus being that carp hooked this way seldom dart off. I had the net in position and as soon as the fish was clear of the pads I scooped it up. It was all like clockwork and just as I’d envisaged in my head.
It was a delightful common, not quite double figures, but still a lovely dark one and quite clearly fairly old. It was apparent that all the fish here were special ones, and not knowing if I’d ever get the chance to revisit, I held on to every moment, cherishing the time spent at such a wonderful place. Chris took a few photos and congratulated me. I slipped her back and sat smiling a while hiding under a tree whilst the worst of the rain shower passed over.
As the drops of rain became smaller and less frequent I hopped out of my hiding place and made my way back to the previous swim. I flicked a few mixers out among the pods once more, some of which landed in the open water just beyond. I looked at the watch and realised that we only had half an hour left. I prayed the fish would return after the disturbance, watching and hoping and all the while conscious of the minutes ticking away. The pads moved, then again, fish began feeding once more, I’d never been so happy to see a pair of carp lips.
I made a few casts but as before, fluffed all of them. A carp cruised through past the pads from the reeds to the tree picking up a few mixers on the way; I made a cast near the tree and waited for the carp to return. It crept out and took two free mixers that had drifted close by, then ventured out further, spotted my hook bait and made no hesitation in taking it.
The fish charged under the tree first off, hurried around some but it seemed fairly clear of roots and branches under there, there was no grating or line getting stuck. With constant pressure I kept the fish moving and gradually got it out from under the tree and under the larger pads. Again it was quite the tussle but suddenly it exited the big pads and made a beeline for the little pads. I never allowed it to get stuck, keeping the pressure on and keeping it moving. Just the same as before I had the net ready and as soon as the fish cleared the pads I scooped it up.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was another mirror and a corker too. I called out to Chris, it was time to get going but we made time for some photos of yet another special and ancient fish. We didn’t weight the fish, size seemed immaterial anyway, this fish meant so much more than numbers. As I hoisted the fish up Chris snapped away. They say that a smile says it all, I like to think this smile shows the absolute joy I had in not only capturing this stunning fish, but the immense pleasure the whole day brought.