My name is Liam Gray, I am 21 and this is my Essex Big Pit Campaign. Original plans were to finish off something I had started on another water and join Brakes the following year, however, a close friend of mine who had a ticket for the water said I need to get on there as it may be my last opportunity to do so, as the lake was being put up for sale. I managed to secure a 6-month ticket, I knew this was not going to be easy, yet I set myself the challenge of getting a few fish from the lake but most of all a new PB.
Brakes was not a water to take lightly, just the pure size of the place, and the depths below what the eye can see are enough to throw the everyday angler. 20 Acres and pushing 45 feet in places, finding an area where fish were and setting traps was going to be my starting point, as with any lake.
After being told there was a split in the lake I was able to determine a ‘deep side’ and a ‘shallow side’ this made the lake seem half as big as I wasn’t feeling setting a trap in extreme depths without being able to hold a secure baiting plan to keep them there. Therefore, my first few nights were spent mid-way up the shallow side, I was just looking for something to go off really.
I managed to catch the end of Autumn and the days were still pushing a good, warm temperature during the day so setting the alarm for 5 am and getting up early too catch first light was going to be my best bet and seeing the fish. Finding the fish wasn’t a problem as my first morning on the lake I must have seen 8 fish show all over the far margin! However getting across too there was easily 100 yards and with no access round there, being able to comfortably bait an area and fish it with a strong crosswind this was going to be near on impossible. This was the point where I realized I may need some help to present bait and rigs on an area over the far bank, my ‘help’ came in the shape of a bait boat, this would enable me to bait an area consistently and quickly without causing too much disturbance either.
It was probably my fourth visit to the venue before I managed to bag a fish, arriving on a lovely day the sun was high in the sky and I knew the fish would be in the far bays, the water was shallow and they tend to get right back up in them. As soon as the sun came out, and with what felt like a slow start I took the boat to the back bay and dropped the rig with a handful of bait. I had barely even got the boat back too base before it ripped off! I scrambled into the lake and held the fish right as it tried pushing for a snag I had been told about. The fish began kiting into open water and I knew I had him nailed, a strange-looking fish with a bit of a cricked back but I was buzzing too me off the mark.
One thing that struck me from the first session on Brakes was the magnificent backdrop! Sunset and Sunrise are always beautiful on most lakes I’ve fished, however, there was something about sitting back in the middle of nowhere, surrounded but nothing but fields which brakes offered, the colors of red, amber fading too black were beautiful. Waking up and feeling the warmth of the sun on a cold winters morning, hearing the birds and watching the mist across the lake disperse was magnificent on such an expanse of water.
Having got off the mark on The Lake, it became apparent that winter was definitely kicking in, days were becoming shorter and the often shows where dropping to one maybe two a morning, which kept me hopeful that the fish were still lively but obviously feeding up for the colder months. It was at this time I knew I wanted to find an area a get some bait going in on it! I went out for an afternoon on the boat and after searching about with the Polaroid’s I found a particular spot which caught my attention, there weren’t many features on the lake, so a great big pipe with flowing water seemed like an awesome go too! Round the back of the pipe, I found what literally looked like a glowing gravel patch amongst the weed, this was perfect and with bait on the area, I marked two bank sticks in the bank so I had a marker for the bait boat to go too. Whilst rowing back over the spot, I actually see a fish swim straight over the spot…I knew they were about here!
It became apparent why the spot I was now baiting hadn’t seen much action as whilst setting up for the first night I found a Bee’s Nest at the back of swim and Bee’s swarming in and out of it, this may put some anglers off fishing this swim but I knew the fish were here! After being stung multiple times I was finally set up and got the two rods on the area and one just off the other side of the pipe in deeper water, the rods went out perfect and I was sitting confidently something was going to happen! The next morning I was awoken by the left-hand rod pulling up, which to my surprise was actually the rod that wasn’t on the baited area. A tidy little mirror was landed and rod back on the spot. One hour later the middle rod pulled up, this was on the area and immediately felt like a better fish! Plodding about mid-water and diving deep towards the weed beds, after an awesome fight I finally slid the net under a beautiful fully scaled mirror off 26lbs. This was the right result and it proved to me the baiting approach was working! I had two more fish from this area over the course of a couple weekends however winter was beginning to set in fast and slow the lake began too shut up shop.
I expected the winter to be tough on the lake of such proportion but I was not prepared for such a bleak and uneventful few months. Only a few fish came out all winter and with nothing showing on the lake, I was constantly moving about trying to locate where the fish may be held up. A few social evenings with my mates from the lake broke up the pain of the hard blank which we were all experiencing, there was something about having a fire and laugh which kept morals high during the winter months. Every session the track getting down too the lake was getting worse and the van getting stuck in the mud was becoming a regular occurrence which was causing dramas. Many hard frosty mornings on the bank and no signs of fish let alone catching them, along with the van getting stuck was getting demoralising too say the least and with that in mind, I set off and spent a few sessions fishing another lake on a local club membership I have.
I returned to Brakes at the start of February, the lake had changed over the winter and the far bank looked very empty with one of the features being removed, however the addition of what looked like a platform going in from the lake’s edge about 5 metres out into the lake was added, this spot was later to be referred too as ‘The pontoon’.
The Pontoon looked like a likely area for the fish to hold up as the far bank was now so bare, apart from the pipe it was the only other feature on the far bank. My first intentions were to head back for the pipe spot so I did but again this had no joy and the fish clearly weren’t here! Coming into the start of March I was able to get down on a Friday after work again as light levels were getting longer now. This made getting rods out easier and I wasn’t rushing too beat the dark, I had moved off the pipe now and found a few likely looking areas on the pontoon. Again another weekend blank however on my last morning there I did see one top out, this was finally something to go off! Where they here?
I rushed back down the same evening and took a risk by filling up the back of the bait boat with boilies and some crushed tigers, I dropped this on the pontoon area. This was in the hope they’d get there heads down on it and maybe keep them there long enough to maybe snatch a bite next time.
I was excited by the buzz of seeing a fish show I knew I needed to be fishing! I packed my van and work tools and set off for a ‘Quick Overnighter’. The night was uneventful and I was up for work basically on bite time which was annoying but it was nice to be there and there was always a chance throughout the night. That week, I managed 3 overnighters all resulting in nothing but I would still see the odd fish show on the spot as I was leaving! I still wasn’t putting anymore bait out, I knew they were just pecking what I had put on the first day. I managed to crash a job out on a Saturday and with nothing to do, I headed down for one more night on the bank, hoping this would be the chance.
I awoke by the sweet sound of my bite alarm that morning, finally, the pontoon had done a bite! I lifted into the fish and it began kiting left into open water, it plodded and shook its head but it felt like a train the way it was taking line…I shouted for my mate who was fishing next door and he came running over.
“I’m in mate, I’ve got one!”…..“Feels like a chunk”
After an epic battle and one I’ll never forget, the net swooped under this massive mirror and I was ecstatic! The fish looked huge and felt heavy, my PB at the time was 34lbs…I lifted the fish on the scales and my mate just shook my hand, 37lbs on the nose! We sent the images over too the Baliff and he couldn’t believe what fish it was, a fish named ‘Mr. Pinks’ which had been ‘missing’ as such and hadn’t been out for almost 4 years! What a crazy experience and the perfect way too top of a campaign.
I packed up, straight down the pub and had a pint with my mates to tell them the story, Truly Epic!