Day-ticket carp fishing is one of the most popular styles of fishing in the UK and seems to be an ever-growing market. These types of day-ticket waters have become the starting point for so many getting into fishing but in recent years also the mecca for some very big fish too. You can’t pick up a magazine without seeing tips and tactics for getting the best out of these waters and I must admit to having ‘a thing’ for this type of fishing for some time now. I’ve been lucky enough to be supported by some amazing brands while fishing some of the top day-ticket waters in the UK. I love the hustle and bustle of day-ticket life, it’s a far cry from my childhood when you might only see a couple of people on your walk around the lake. It’s much more of a challenge these days, not only are you putting your skills and watercraft against the fish, but also against swim availability. It can be tough when you can’t get near the fish, so you are setting traps for when the angling pressure moves the fish about. With the modern trend of social media, it seems lakes are becoming full and being able to move onto fish is near impossible at times, so it can seem like you’re camping for carp. This is acceptable for a number of sessions, but when the average day ticket 24hrs is £20 to £30 a night, sometimes you want to get more out of your weekend.
It’s for this reason last year I found myself a small membership syndicate and some peace and quiet after all fishing is about relaxing and watching the world go by. It’s about warming your soul, watching the sun come up, sharing the day with friends, it’s always been so much more than catching fish. Mind you saying that I’ve shared some wonderful memories and caught some stunning fish this year.
The Gravel Pit
Last year I was invited to do an overnight session by Wychwood on a quiet gravel pit, it’s about 65 acres and I’d not heard much about it, apart from that there were some stunning fish and a number of big fish living in the lake. The drive was just over two hours with full motorways and rush hour traffic. After a long day at work, this wasn’t helping me relax, but the excitement of driving along these back roads and parking up at the gate seemed to make the two hours feel like I’d popped to the shops. With the padlock in hand, moving the dials as each number clicked into place and the gate swung open, it was like a birthday surprise. The anticipation of what to expect as I drove through the trees seeing the lake open out in front of me was breathtaking. Parking the car up and walking to the water’s edge, taking that first deep breath, breathing in the calm surroundings was one I won’t forget in a long while. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch that night but vowed to come back and re-charge my batteries again. The lake had offered me so much time to relax, time to reflect and time to simply enjoy my surroundings.
I think it was my third guest session on a blisteringly hot morning I spotted a few bubbles from feeding carp in a back bay. I was able to get a couple of rods to them by walking out on a gravel bar, as the water was down a little. I was sat back sharing stories, eating a bacon sandwich and drinking coffee, supposedly doing a slow pack up as I should have left, when all of a sudden one of the rods was away. It was a battle in shallow water, avoiding snags and trying to keep the lineup, so as to avoid the gravel bars, followed by a battle in deep water as it came past me and down the ledge. With a little help, I landed a stunning Mirror of 32lb 9oz (14.55 kg). The rest of the morning was uneventful, but I didn’t care, as I’d had a great session.
Roll on a few months and the chance to get a ticket for the lake was gifted to me. I couldn’t say no, as I’d fallen in love with the lake and surroundings. It’s so much more than fishing on there and every session is an adventure. Fast forward a few sessions and I’d been lucky to land a few fish to mid-’20s, but not get close to the special ones. On this day I’d arrived late and the lake was busy, well the weather was warm so everyone clearly had the same idea. I settled in a shallow section of the lake in the hope that as the sun came up in the morning the fish would drift down this part of the lake. I woke with the sunrise warming my face after a quiet night, the only sound was my kettle as the lid rattled away with steam. The best morning start with that view and a coffee.
A few people were leaving the lake, but a good friend came to visit with his family and we enjoyed a little picnic late morning. He’s also a member of the club so he looked after my rods and suggested I take a walk around ready for a move later that afternoon. By the time I’d walked half the lake and stopped at the back of a bay I’d seen nothing, so turned to walk back to the open water swims. As I turned I looked directly at a very large carp break the surface film up to its gill plates. It’s almost as if he was keeping an eye on me and didn’t even leave a ring when he slipped back into depths. This was all I needed to see and an amble turned into a full-blown run as I rushed back to get my gear. Arriving back at my swim I was greeted by my mate’s young son, who asked if he could help me pack my gear up. What a little star he was as he proceeded to pick up a 5-litre water bottle and waddle it to my car.
With the gear in the car and a handshake to say goodbye it was off to the area, I’d seen the fish. I’d been doing something different on the lake and fishing 22mm Addiction boilies by Madbaits, which I’d pre-soaked in a matching food dip. This wasn’t subtle with a size 4 Hybrid Tackle hook, but I wanted to land everything I hooked. With my 10ft rods out of the car, net and unhooking mat, a bucket to sit on, two rods were flicked out and I was fishing. I’d put one rod on the near side of the area and one slightly longer in the hope the fish was still in the area. 20 minutes had passed and I took a risk, picking up my catapult I put eight free 22mm baits out. Within 30 seconds my right-hand alarm gave me a single beep, as I looked down at the alarm the left-hand bobbin slowly started to rise. I must admit I watched it for a while in disbelief only waking out of the trance when the line was lifting out the water as it tightened.
Lifting into the fish, it was a dead weight and I had no choice but to let the fish take the line. No nodding head, no sudden runs, this fish just used its weight. At no point did I feel I had the upper hand and could only guide it slowly towards me in an arc. This went on for 20 minutes followed by the challenges of a deep margin that it used to try and remove the hook at every chance. As it came to the surface for the first time, my knees went weak and my heart skipped a beat. This wasn’t a small fish and too big to land in the shallow ledge before the deep margin. I had no option but to take my boots and socks off, rolling up my trousers I stepped in. Every time I pushed the landing net out the fish simply turned and dropped into the deeper water. This went on time and time again, to the point I questioned if the hook hold was good enough. Not only was the hook hold good, but it was also nailed two inches back. On what seemed like the 10th attempt the fish was in the net. Shaking, I made the phone call to my buddy who had not long left and as I placed this majestic creature into the margin to recover I could already see his car coming round the lake. Was it the big fish I’d seen the show in the bay? who knows, but we were both in awe. At 46lb 5oz (20.88 kg) this was something very special. The crystal clear water showed the fishes flanks to be like night and day, dark across its back and like the sun rising on its belly. I’ve been back a few times since and although I’ve not managed anything this size, I’ve had some stunning fish, but it’s more than the fish. In a world of more, faster and working harder, this is my escape. This is time to recharge my batteries and appreciate, time to reflect and enjoy what fishing is all about – memories and the beauty of nature around me.