by Dan Leone
The season of 2008 was a bit of a crossroads for me in terms of my carp angling. When Id began targeting big carp back in the nineties my aim had been to catch the big old carp of Norfolk that were on my doorstep, and which Id grown up hearing so much about. As it was Id been lucky enough by now to have caught all those fish that Id wanted and targeted, this left me with a bit of a predicament, what to do now? To me the options were, either hang up the rods, or angle for some fish just for the sake of catching big carp, which isnt really my cup of tea. Neither of those options really appealed which left one more option, Wraysbury.
Like all anglers over a certain age I had grown up reading and hearing a lot about this magical lake and its inhabitants, and it had always appealed to me immensely. To be honest, I had dreamed of one day angling there. Unfortunately over the few years prior to 2008 most of its originals, the fish of which dreams were made, had one by one succumbed to old age. However, there was now a new breed of young bloods coming through, with some of these fish being every bit as stunning as the old originals, King Fungus being the biggest of these.
I thought long and hard about it but finally decided that although the majority of the fish now swimming within its water were not the ones I once dreamed of catching. The water itself was still the same, awesome! Well, as Id never actually laid eyes on the place in the pictures Id seen of the place it still was! Also the more I looked at pictures of Fungus and his friends the more I wanted to catch them.
The next decision I had to make was did I really want to travel 150 miles from Norwich to Berkshire to go fishing? We would find out along the way was my decision.
So as 2008 was to be the first year of a new syndicate I decided to take the plunge.
Now everything you read about Wraysbury will tell you a boat is essential, an absolute must, not just for getting about but also for finding them. This I always wondered about, why was one essential? Surely they show? Surely they come into the edge? Id never needed to use a boat anywhere else to find a carp. Admittedly Id never fished anywhere remotely as big as Wraysbury. As for getting about, man up I thought to myself! I sure as hell wasnt going to cart a boat down there from Norwich. It would take long enough getting there as it was, even at my brake neck speeds, let alone being slowed down trailing a boat behind me, or on a roof rack.
The turn of 2008 was a bit of a nightmare for me, as I managed to put my back out at work. Now anyone who has truly done this will understand the pain I was going through. For around a month I could hardly move without tears forming in my eyes. This unfortunately dragged on into the beginning of Spring and put paid to any plans of starting my campaign at the turn of the new ticket which began in April.
It was around mid April by the time I returned to work so not wanting to risk any further back problems I decided to leave the fishing until a two week break I had planned in May. Anyway I had to be sure my back would be ok carting all my tackle around the banks of Wraysbury, so a little while longer was probably the best thing. What with being out of action with minimal movement I still hadnt even set foot on the banks down there yet. So the weekend before my planned first session I was definitely heading down for a bit of a reconnaissance mission.
On arriving at the Douglas Lane car park for that first look around I was rather shocked to be honest, no joke, the grass in the car park was taller than my car. Ill never get in there I thought, Ill need a bloody four wheel drive! As I wasnt sure where the entrance to the sailing club was I had to phone a friend who had looked around a couple of times previously. When I told him about the car park he was like, yeah, thats what its like these days, no one really uses the Douglas car park anymore because of the local youths. They just put their boats in off the sailing club peninsular and head off from there. Oh, ok I thought, fair enough. I got my directions and headed round to the Welley Road on the other side of the village, a five to ten minute journey.
Almost as soon as you head through these gates you can see the north lake on your left and as I drove down the track I was gobsmacked, it looked awesome! Anyway, I followed the track all the way down to the sailing club and parked up and headed back round to the north lake, stopping first to have a look at Dredger bay and then heading all the way round the north, into the fingers, then onto the Railway Lake and then coming to the mighty South Lake. Hmmm! This is big I thought, but seeing as how I already knew that it didnt really phase me to be honest. I carried on walking down the south, round Bryants Bay and into the swimming pool area. You cant walk from the swimming pool round to No Carp Bay so I had to find my way back to the road and then walk along the road back to the Welley Road gates.
To cut a long story short my first walk round took me about five hours, what with stopping to look for a while everywhere. I did see a couple of fish in the fingers, which with a nice warm south easterly blowing into them didnt really surprise me to be honest. One of them had been big, but I wasnt entirely sure which one it was. On finally arriving back at the car I made my mind up instantly, that I didnt care about any trouble, or long grass in the Douglas Lane car park, I would definitely be using it when necessary. I wasnt going to park up on this side and then cart my kit all the way over to the other side. No way!
Driving down full of excitement and anticipation for my first session my mind was more on big mirrors and where theyd be rather than on the driving. It was a beautiful sunny day with a nice warm north easterly blowing, so I knew the wind would be pushing across the main body of the South Lake and into No Carp Bay. This is where I intended to start looking. As it happens it was the only part of the lake I hadnt checked out on the previous weekends reckie. The journey seemed to take forever! Eventually I arrived, this time heading straight for the Welley Road gates, No Carp Bay being just off the track on the right hand side as you drive down. I parked up, well left my car on the side of the track and headed straight down to see what I could see, if anything!
No Carp Bay is I would estimate eight to ten acres in size and I didnt come across a swim until I was about half way down it. I was pretty sure this was the one they called Round Point. It looks out and across right over to Root Nightmare on the other side, a long way away!
My guess had been correct, the wind was pushing through and right into the bay. It looked absolutely pukka, there had to be some mirrors present! I stood in the round point just watching for a while, there was a lot of yacht activity in and around the bay and I began to wonder whether the carp would be put off by this or not. After about thirty minutes I decided to carry on wandering and check out down in the corner of the bay where the wind was pushing.
Just round from the point I found a huge willow that had obviously been blown in the past year, it was cutting the ripple and creating a nice little calm corner behind the point, which also seemed to be a bit of a sun trap. I started walking out on the trunk of the willow and unbelievably within about three paces I was staring down at a clonking great common, easily mid thirties! It was at that moment I started to get a little excited, I now wasnt just staring at one big common, but a big common and what just had to be Fungus! Shit! and 'Three Scale' ..and another big common .Christ and another ..and theres 'Lucky' .and 'Paw Print' .and 'No Name'....In total at least fifteen fish, they were just milling around in the snag enjoying the sun.
Oh my god! First session and Id found practically all my target fish within an hour.
It was whilst standing on the snag watching them that I happened to notice a bivvy in the trees on the little point further round right in the corner of the bay. Bugger! Surely if hed seen what I had hed have been fishing in the next little swim rather than down there, I thought. I climbed out of the snag and headed round to the corner. As I got round shit hole corner [as I call it] I could see that mateys rods and lines werent pointing towards the snag at all, he appeared to be fishing into the corner .pukka what do I do now? All my carping instincts wanted to get the rods and get straight on the fish but I couldnt really set up to the other chap, and anyway, I didnt know for sure he wasnt fishing for them. I sure as hell wasnt going to ask him and give the game away just in case. I decided to trickle a bit of bait in the snag and fish somewhere else for tonight and hope he was off in the morning. I cant tell you how hard it was to walk away from those fish, but in my mind it was the best thing to do.
Walking back to the car I decided to just grab my kit and head round to the fingers where Id seen the fish on my previous weeks reckie, do a night there and head back to No Carp the following day and hopefully matey would be gone. The walk to the Fingers from the Welley Road entrance isnt exactly a short one and the whole way round I was thinking to myself, am I doing the right thing? I knew it was meant to continue blowing north easterly and stay that hot for a few more days, so kept telling myself yes you are! Let matey bugger off and get on them without anyone else knowing!
The swim in the Fingers I fished wasnt really a swim at all, more just a gap between the trees and could only be fished with one rod, a short rod at that, so out came the 9 stalking rod. First night on Wraysbury and I was only using one 9 rod, and pretty much knowing I was a mile off the fish. I spent that whole night hoping and praying that [a] matey had gone and [b] the fish were still there .oh please still be there! Morning came and unsurprisingly nothing had occurred during the night. I gave it until about elevenish before I packed up and started the long trek back to No Carp Bay. Surely matey boy had done the off. If there was any justice he had.
By the time Id carried all my kit in one go round to No Carp I was knackered. I unloaded in Round Point just in case matey was still there, then walked down to the point to check he was gone. Pukka! No bivvy! Now please let the fish still be about, the conditions were identical so why wouldnt they be? Bosh! Shit! Somethings still about. That was just off the snag. I climbed out onto the snag and just like the day before they were all still about, there was Fungus, Three Scale and several big commons. Yes!
I stood in that snag watching all my targets swim around for about an hour trying to formulate a plan. I could see that every now and then some of them would leave the snag and swim towards an overhanging bush in the opening between the snag and the Little Point, matey had been on in the corner. What they were doing then I couldnt see from in the snag, so I then walked round to the opening and crouched behind a tiny little shrub for cover and watched. It didnt take long before a couple came round. They were coming right up in the edge, pretty much doing a circle and then heading back to the snag. Righto! Plan sorted! Just one rod again, in the edge under the bush had to be the one, with hemp and tigers a no brainer. I went and got my kit out of the Round Point and started to set up well back from the waters edge.
After setting up I went and sat in the snag again for a while and made sure the fish were well in there before running round to my kit and going down to the waters edge with my rod and practically just lowering it into the water under the bush. There was a bit of chod and short weed, but I could pretty much tell everything was sitting correctly so added a couple of handfuls of hemp and tigers, put the rod on the rests and then crouched behind the shrub to watch. It didnt take long before the first of the fish were coming back round to the bush and showing an interest in the bait. Occasionally one would drop down and have a mouthful, then swim back round to the snag. There was only so much of this I could take with the excitement getting more and more, so thinking Id be best sitting back and chilling with less chance of spooking the fish that is what I did. I love watching fish and seeing the take but sometimes find its best to leave them to it and just wait for the rod to rattle off. Id only been sitting back for about ten minutes when a very big fish head and shouldered right over the spot.
Over the course of the afternoon I lost count of how many fish showed over and around my bait, [a tiny amount of hemp and tigs] Something had to happen soon . Surely! By evening time I was beginning to worry that maybe something was up. So many shows like Ive never had in the edge, fish coming right out and crashing feet from the bank. Each one made the excitement and anticipation that little bit greater, I could take no more, I had to check the rig. So crouching behind the little shrub I made sure the coast was clear before quickly lifting the rig out of the water. Bugger! It was perfect! I should have left it alone. I lowered it back onto the spot and put in another handful of hemp. Within minutes, wallop! Another mirror crashed out on the spot! Come on have it please!
Evening turned to night and the shows continued throughout. I hardly slept a wink as you could probably imagine. Everytime I was almost asleep another mirror would bosh and I would be buzzing again.
Eventually,just before first light I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew I was being rudely woken by my alarm absolutely rattling off. I was on the rod in a shot and judging by the bend in the rod, into a good fish. It didnt take long for me to realise something was not right. I could feel my line grating on something and eventually locking up. No! my heart sank. Theres no way she could have reached the snag, there must be something else out there I couldnt see. I tried but I couldnt shift it and I knew the fish was already off but slackened off and left the rod in the rests for a while just in case. Whilst having a couple of brews and rolling myself a rather long roll up. If truth be told, I was sat there almost ready to cry. My second night on Wraysbury with all my targets out there including Fungus and I had just lost one. With no line being taken I decided it was time to give it the bigun, either the snag would come in, or something would give. I gave it some serious teddy and eventually felt something give, my hook was inbedded in a huge branch, which I could clearly see had just snapped. God knows how big it had been!
As you can imagine I was on a serious downer by this time, I just couldnt believe my bad luck. I decided I needed to sort my head out if I was going to fish properly for the remainder of my time off, so packed up and headed home for a rethink and to sulk for the day. Before leaving I topped the spot up with a little more hemp and stuck a couple of kilos of boilies in the snag. Hopefully that would entice them back. Whilst driving home I came to the conclusion that my mistake [although not knowing this submerged snag was out there] was not fishing completely locked up. Id consciously loosened the clutch for fear of the rod being pulled straight in due to the extreme close proximity of the spot to my tip. If I got another chance there, I would completely lock up, therefore forcing the fish up in the water rather than allowing it to run along the bottom, would this work? Wed see!
Lunchtime next day and Im back on the road driving south. With the conditions still identical I really hoped Id find the fish still in No Carp, so headed straight back round there. On climbing out onto the snag I could see all the bait had gone but no fish. Within a couple of minutes I started to see fish in the snag and they came over from the bush .sweet! I climbed back off the snag and wandered round to the gap. The spot Id fished had obviously been fed on some more because the hemp and tigs were all gone and it looked much cleaner. I got the rod out quick sharpish, baited the hair and dropped it in, followed by another handful of hemp and tigs. As it happens I did this just in time, because as the last grains of hemp hit the bottom the big ol mirrors came cruising in and instantly went down and started rooting about tails up.
Crouching behind the little shrub for about an hour I watched them going mental on the small amount of bait I put out there, they must have been making sure they got every last grain. I decided I was better off sitting back again and leaving them to it. Almost the second I sat down on my chair the rod was off with the fish instantly boiling on the surface.
The plan had worked. The fight was practically over before it had begun with the fish unable to get any head of steam up due to the tight clutch. A couple of hours after turning back up my first Wraysbury carp and obviously not a small one lay in the bottom of my net. On getting her out and onto the unhooking mat I recognised her as a fish called 'No Name'. She went 35.08, to say I was made up was an understatement!
The remainder of that day and the following morning I never saw another fish in the snag, however, come the afternoon I began to see a few fish showing further out, so took a wander round past shit hole corner and up the bank leading to Marys Point. Whilst round there I saw at least three big fish crash right out. This was all the invitation I needed to get the kit.
The only place I could fish to them was from a little gap in the bankside undergrowth, which was ok in itself but wasnt exactly ideal what with some completely exposed back gardens being directly behind me, [hence the calling it the back gardens] Im not sure the home owners appreciated it but sod them, I was on fish! I had no idea what it was like out there and certainly wasnt going to be plumbing or leading about on top of the fish, so decided it was chods on both rods. One slung out to the bouy Id seen a couple crash around, which on the cast felt shallowish, and the other one halfway between the bouy and the snag, which felt deeper on the cast. Both hit home softly so I guessed there was plenty of weed out there .lovely! So baits scattered around each rod .thatll do for me!
That evening there was several shows in the area but nothing happened until the next morning when the left hand rod, [the one in the deeper water] shot off. The fish felt good, taking line and staying deep. It took a while before I had her in close and powering up and down in the deep margins when all of a sudden everything went slack, No! The hook had pulled, gutted or what! I flung the rod on the rest and sat down rather dejected, almost instantly another fish crashed out in the area. This got my head back in gear pretty sharpish and off came the rig and another tied on with fresh pop up and back out she goes.
I didnt have long to sit there stewing on my second loss of the campaign, because within an hour the right hand rod was away. The fish put up a right old tussle with me gaining line on it several times just for it to re take it all again in the blink of an eye. Eventually with me thinking the hard work was done and having her plodding up and down in the deep margins she suddenly decided differently and absolutely tore off, stripping line. I let her go to start with but as she neared the big snag over to the left I had to start clamping down on her and with one almighty kick and lunge on the rod I felt everything go slack once again.
I stood there in the water up to my waist for quite some time in total disbelief. Not only had I lost what would have been a brace of Wraysbury carp in the space of an hour, but I had now lost three out of four carp Id hooked, all within four nights of starting my campaign. I was totally and utterly devastated! Why! kept going through my mind. The first loss I could just about stomach, an unknown submerged snag, fair enough I thought, but these last two hook pulls when all the real hard work was done was another thing altogether.
It took me a few brews and a few long roll ups to sort my head out this time. The fish were obviously still in residence because Id seen a couple more shows since the last loss, but I wanted to work out why Id lost the last two fish. The only thing I could come up with was the chods were possibly too short. Up until that point all my chod caught fish on other waters had been on relatively short chods, say one and a half to two inch in length. I had faith in these as I hadnt lost fish previously but something must have been wrong here and now.
I decided to tie the new chod slightly longer than the original two. I still didnt want to go too long so made it roughly two and a half inches. Would this help I thought? Would I even get another chance to find out? During the course of the afternoon I saw a few fish showing so my confidence wasnt exactly rock bottom, but then again it also wasnt exactly soaring either. About sixish in the evening out of the blue my right hand rod pulled up and something big boiled on the surface as I picked the rod up.
The fight was a bit of a blur to be honest because all I can remember thinking is please, please, please stay on! Thankfully this one did and an absolutely beautiful common of 35.06 slipped into the net.
On close examination of the hook hold I could see that it was only just in! 'Thank God' it stayed on I thought to myself. The longer chod was obviously the answer. So the new rig I tied up nearer three inch this time and also brought the other rod back in and did the same to that one.
The night passed by without any action or sightings of showing fish and I woke in the morning thinking that was probably my lot and of what could have been. With the kettle on and first roll up of the day underway I had a few beeps on the left hand rod. As I walked over to check it out off she went. Oh yes, come on!
The fish fought hard as they all had but this one didnt feel as big as the others had and other than trying to get into a marginal bush, nothing of note really happened apart from ending up in the bottom of my landing net. Another common, a bit of a bruiser this one, with the hook set well back. Cool!
The longer chods definitely worked. I weighed her 29.12 and sacked her up so I could get the rod back out and camera sorted for the self takes.
Before I even had the rod ready to go back out, unbelievably, the other rod was away.
Another chance for a brace .let it happen this time .please!
On pulling into the fish an absolutely enormous boil erupted on the surface and I knew instantly that I was into another good fish. It took what seemed like an age to get this fish under control, like one of the lost fish the day before. Everytime I gained on her she would storm off and strip more than I had just gained. The battle lasted at least fifteen minutes with the big powerful runs gradually getting less and less until she was ready for the net. A bloody great long grey common sat in the bottom of my net with another sitting in the sack next to it. There was some justice in this world! On getting her out and weighing her I recognised her as Floppy Tail, with her ginormous fins and big boggley eyes. My first of the Wraysbury original and at 33.02 I was seriously chuffed! She too was nailed well back.
I got both rods sorted and cast back out there quick sharpish, then did the self takes. Fortunately for me the camera battery just had enough power left to do both fish as Id forgotten to charge it and whilst looking back over the pictures after returning the fish, the camera died on me. Not seeing anymore shows that day and now with a flat camera, rightly or wrongly, not wanting to tempt fate, I decided to call it a day that evening, go home, recharge the camera and reflect on what was a session of rather mixed fortunes.
Before I left I scattered a couple of kilos of bait over the entire area and also put another two kilos into the snag. Hopefully the fish would still be in attendance when I returned. As you can imagine, the drive home this time was slightly easier than the last.
On returning a couple of days later, not surprisingly I suppose, I found someone else in the swim with his markers popped up in the exact areas I had been fishing. This seemed to become par for the course with this particular individual, who would always be sitting in whichever area I had baited up on my previous trip.
The following two days went by without any action or any decent sightings until the last morning when I found a couple of chunks tucked away in the Fingers. One being Paw Print and the other being Fungus. Before leaving I filled the snag I found them in with five kilos of boilie and put a further two kilos on a spot just off of another snag overhanging 10 acre island. This I thought would keep them interested until I could return in four days time.
The four days of work dragged something chronic I can tell you! I couldnt wait to get back down the lake and hopefully bag myself another mirror. Thank God! With work done I could manage a quick night session before heading home and back to work again. Did I really want to drive the 150 miles to Wraysbury just for a night, just to drive back to Norwich, get ready for work and then drive the 60 miles to Colchester which is where I work? Too right I did!
It was a steaming hot day and I was sure there would be fish in the Fingers and on my return I wasnt surprised to find there was, and Fungus was amongst them! All my bait was gone from the snag which was a result. I was sure theyd have had it all from the spot off of the island as well, but I couldnt see from the bank if they had or hadnt.
I quickly got the rods sorted and out there. One to the corner of the island, the other in the edge.
I watched Fungus coming in and out of that snag for several hours until the afternoon when the same plank who had been on my bait the week prior decided to come straight through my swim, [which was the narrowest of channels] in his boat with his little terrier yapping the whole way through.
Some people just dont have any fishing etiquette at all! To say I was not happy was an understatement, especially as after that I didnt see Fungus anymore, although at least there was still some fish present later on.
That night was madness! I had liner after liner after liner with fish obviously coming and going checking the snag Id baited heavily. When finally after no sleep at all the rod on the island was away. I could tell it was a big fish but the fight was nothing of note and as I slipped it into the net I could make out the scale pattern of a very big Paw Print. Cool! She looked big and felt big when I lifted her out. I even wondered whether shed top the 40 barrier but that was not to be, 39.10 she went and was I complaining? Not at all! My fifth fish in eight nights angling!
Before leaving I baited up with the same quantities as before then made the long trek back home and to work. A quick night but well worth it.
We were now into June and the water had seriously coloured up making spotting fish from the bank almost impossible. You wouldnt have seen a big olmirror if it was under you tips. This made life very difficult for me and the next couple of sessions were pretty much right offs. I couldnt even tell if my bait was going from the snags.
Mid June I was doing a few nights as a kind of Birthday session, as my birthday fell in the middle. It was scorching hot with a nice warm south westerly blowing. On arrival I took a wander round to the Fingers and almost instantly found a couple bubbling up around the island snag. There was also something in the snag at the end of the channel, because as I entered a big vortex erupted. This was all I needed to go and get the kit.
I was just starting to set up when my phone went, it was a mate who was fishing on Fen Drayton. Straight away he asked was it you? was what me I replied, that had Fungus earlier. was his answer. Bugger! No unfortunately it wasnt me and cheers for killing my session before it had started, I thought. I later found out that it was Phil Bunyan who had caught him at 47lb, not long before Id turned up. The grape vine doesnt half work quick in carp circles.
Anyway, that night was similar to the night Id caught Paw Print, with constant liners all night long but no action. Things quietened off during the day but I thought theres been so many fish moving in and out of this channel Im not going anywhere! That evening I tipped the spots up with a kilo of barrels on each and sat back and waited for the liners to begin again.
Not long after dark they did, another night of hardly any sleep was forthcoming when eventually at first light the right hand rod nearly came flying out of the rests. I grabbed hold of it and a rather dogged but short fight ensued. After not very long a smallish mirror lay in the bottom of the landing net.
This fish was easily the smallest Id had up to then but when I got her out to weigh size was irrelevant, she was a beautiful zip linear the went 24.02.
Unfortunately my remote zapper for my camera had got wet when Id had Paw Print and was now not working so I had to use the timer function on the camera, which meant they didnt really come out the best and do her justice. I found out at a later date that this mirror was called the Little Fungus linear.
The rest of that session was rather uneventful and I found myself packing up a day early to head home and chill with some mates.
Unfortunately, that is where my first season on Wraysbury basically drew to an end. My finances were in a serious state due to the time Id had off sick and funds for travelling backwards and forwards to Wraysbury were now at zero. I would manage to get down a few more times later in the year but other than seeing a few shows nothing of real note occurred. As it happened I couldnt really complain, I had caught six Wraysbury carp in not very many nights angling and although Id lost three, I was happy enough with what Id had for now!
Till my return