On the 2nd of June 1995, I bought a season ticket for a beautiful and picturesque Stillwater on the borderline between Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. This was to prove one of the best things I had done in years. The lake is reasonably large between 10 and 15 acres, and extremely weedy. During the past few decades some large trees have fallen into the lake creating tackle-busting snags. Depths vary between 3ft on the gravel bars, to 15ft in the deeper silty gullies. The lake contains a small number of large (20 – 30lb) extremely wary carp that thrive on the huge amount of natural food found in the water ranging from tiny bloodworm to large 10” Swan mussels. The season was about to start. I had been told that the current season would be hard work, but it just didn’t sink in. I had made friends with the bailiffs son (Adam) on a nearby club water the previous winter. He introduced me to the friendly owners of the lake. As far as bait was concerned, I made little preparation, I introduced a small amount of cranberry flavour readymade boilies, this was done during several fact-finding trips with Adam via the punt. After several long weekends fishing with no success, I was eager for some action. I decided to make a tactical withdrawal for a few weekends easier fishing at a nearby club water. I contacted Mark, a good friend of mine, and we decided to do a long weekend at the lake. We hoped to get some action from the large stock of commons averaging about 4lbs. During the trip we caught well over 100 carp, the largest weighing just over 14lbs. A great weekend’s fishing! After several more weekends I grew weary of being woken in the early hours by four-pound commons. I had regained my confidence, and was ready to return to the challenge of the syndicate water. After several more fishless weekends, I decided that a new strategy was needed. Some of the other much more experienced anglers including the British record holder had been catching very well on the Nutrabaits Big Fish Mix. I decided to join the crowd and invested in a 10kg bucket of the mix, I felt the urge to do a longer session on the lake. The holidays were approaching so I contacted Adam, only to find out he had caught a 20lb 8oz mirror, a 23lb common, and a 24lb mirror while I was away! We decided to do a five-day session together on one of the large double swims on the roadbank. When we arrived I opted for the left-hand side of the swim. As it was a long session I made sure the bivvy was as comfortable as possible and that every item of essential tackle was to hand.
My right hand rod was cast to a lightning shaped gravel bar 30 yards from the bank. Around the hookbait I placed about thirty five 18mm big fish mix boilies. The end tackle was the same as the left hand rod. The left hand rod I cast onto a small silt patch about 20 yards away from the bank. The tackle used was a Daiwa 12ft 2.25lb Powermesh rod, a Shimano 8010 baitrunner reel loaded with 12 Berkley Big Game line. The rig I used was a 3oz inline lead with a short braided hooklink, tied to a size 6 Owner SSW needle point hook. Earlier in the season I had spotted fish in the margins of nearby swims which gave me confidence in putting one rod close in. On the first night Adam had a run from the margins, but the hook slipped near the net. Next night, at about midnight I was woken by a quick succession of beeps on my left hand rod. After a slow, sluggish fight, a pristine 21lb mirror glided into the mouth of the net. It was the same fish Adam had caught a few months before at 20lb 8oz. The fish was carefully put into the sack and placed in the deep margins until first light. After about half an hour my adrenaline levels had returned to normal and I managed to get back to sleep. A few hours later I was awoken by the head ringing sound of Adams buzzer. I climbed out of bed and was greeted by the silhouette of Adam bending in to a good fish. I pulled on my boots and grabbed the net; I stepped carefully into the water. At times the fish was very hard to control and was extremely powerful, but after a long arm aching fight, the immaculate 29lb 8oz near linear carp was safely of the unhooking mat, and then also carefully sacked. The next morning we had the photo shoot, and two very happy anglers smiled for the cameras. Later on that day we went for a walk round a nearby complex of lakes renowned for its pike, leaving a friend, Phil in charge of the rods. Upon are arrival back at the lake Phil was standing at the bottom of the swim with a very smug look on his face, I glanced over and sore a sacked fish in the margins, while we had been away on of Adams had screamed of resulting in a 25lb mirror, he was gutted to say the least, considering one fish a season is considered normal! I learned some useful lessons during the 40 days and nights I spent fishing the lake, these are just a few of them: When approaching a new water, take everyone’s advice into consideration. I should have listened to the advice of others, and now I regret that I didn’t. I should have prepared more for the start of the season instead of going down there and hoping for the best. A good quality boilie including milk proteins and vitamin and mineral compounds, seem to produce more fish. Baiting campaigns seemed to work well for other anglers, however I never bothered to put much bait in. Feature finding via a boat is very useful. Taking all these lessons into consideration, I have prepared much more thoroughly for next season, and I hope to catch some more memorable fish. I have only caught one this season but for this lake that certainly isn’t bad.
Footnote by Adam
He did prepare more for the next season and caught 4 in the first month up to 23lbs, I only managed the one that season, it just goes to show how things can be reversed.