Some of my favourite fishing during the past few years was done at a very old proper English estate lake; Full of stories, wild tales and eerie gossips. The atmosphere at the lake was incredible. Whether that was because of the anticipation due to all of the stories or just the sheer beauty of the water when you were in its presence I don’t know. All I can say is that when you were there you entered another world. Due to certain rules I cannot disclose the name of the venue so it shall remain nameless… Obviously I wasn’t just there for the atmosphere! The carp that this lake held were monumental. Even the ‘newly’ stocked fish were jet black, but it was the older ones I was after. Not even the big fish… Just the oldest.
The lake is shaped and was formed like many other estate lakes around England; it has a narrow shallow end and a wider deep end. The lake was originally dug in the 1700s and then extended in the 1800s. The later extension made the lake into 10acres with the deepest parts reaching 14ft against a dam wall. This also left a small island where the lake used to end.
Under the surface of the water it was a very typical estate lake; the bank went down on one side and up on the other with no real features on the lake bed apart from different types of silt. It sloped down from the shallow end at around 2-3 foot to around 6-7 foot at the island; it then rises up to a bar (which used to be the end of the lake) and then drops to 13-14ft where it continues to the dam wall. The main features of the lake, as with any old estate lake were the overhanging trees and the weed…. And this lake had plenty of weed! Not so much in the deeper end but from the island back to the shallows it was choked with weed which made fishing quite tricky! To be honest I didn’t spend a great deal of time in the thick weed I generally fished in the deeper area which was easier to access simply because my sessions were generally shorter than most!
The deeper end of the lake was quite easy to fish. It was 60 – 70 yards wide and a 13ft bowl with sporadic long fronds of weed. The far margin was lined with over hanging mature trees that covered the shallower margins and dipped the tips of their furthest branches into the surface layers.
You could only fish from the one bank so the far margin was always the first thing you thought of. The rest of the area was mostly void of any features apart from the odd softer silt patch or swan mussel bed. I decided to concentrate with the far margin to start with and figure the rest out from there.
Casting a bare lead around I slowly figured out that the far margin was all pretty much the same; it sloped out from the bank from about 6 inches to a couple of feet and then it dropped right down to around 13ft in the space of a few feet. There was the odd difference where it would drop off a little slower or the shallow margin would come further out but for the most part it was all the same.
I chose an area that dropped off quite quickly and lined up with an overhanging tree. The cast was a nice one as well; 64 yards got you to the bottom of the shelf but you had to clip the overhanging tree on the way in due to the swing back of the rig. I love fishing at this sort of range, it lets me get the throwing stick out and fish over a nice spread of boilies.
Rig wise, as it was silty I went for a helicopter rig with some sort of hinge stiff rig. Most of the time it was a Ronnie with a stiff boom. I did try some wafters and balanced tigers on there at later points, the wafters never really did anything for me and the tigers ended up getting smashed by the huge bream that live in this lake.
The Bream were no joke either! We’re not talking snotty 2lbers here. We are talking about low to mid double slabs that move in a shoal that can turn the area black they are that dark and big! I encountered many of these Bream during my time on the lake; they loved a tiger nut or a bright pop up. I had that many problems with them picking up anything bright that for my hook baits I settled on match the hatch 15mm pop ups that had been soaked and dusted in GLM powder. The bream still liked these, but not as much as the latter for some reason.
My first fish on there was a 1am stocky. It probably weighed about 11lb but it had a promising frame! It must have been a recently stocked fish as it was quite a light coloured fish and fought like hell!
Five weeks passed until my next fish, but this session was a bit different… I had 2 nights, Friday evening through to Sunday morning. I felt a massive buzz for this session, not only was it a very rare ‘two nighter’ but the conditions felt spot on and I was also having a bit of a social with Jack and another friend, Rory.
Jack had kindly taken the next peg down from the area I had been working which gave me water which I was familiar with and no other pressure from anglers. Jack and Rory were only staying for the Friday night which meant I would have the whole bay to myself for the last 24 hours of the session.
The night got dark quickly and we drank copious amounts of tea whilst scaring each other to death with ghost stories and the rest of the night passed quietly. I woke up at about 6am regretting our decision to bunch up together (Rory had arrived late and set up in my swim with me as it was a double swim). I stuck the kettle on and enjoyed a few moments of silence as everyone else was still asleep.
It was only a few moments as well! I was staring right at my rods wondering what to do when the middle rod leapt into action, the bobbin smacked the rod blank and the alarm let out a relieved unbroken tone. The lake surface was completely covered in a film of pollen, feathers and dead flies and my line was cutting sharply through it picking up the odd feather on its way. The fish was still down deep but putting up a slow fight. It surfaced just out from my margin and flopped into my net. Peering down through the mesh I could see a jet black back and I immediately let out a sigh of relief. After waking the lads up we took my prize to the unhooking mat to get some pictures.
I was so relieved to catch that fish. It was certainly a step in the right direction, the colour was right but it was still a younger fish. I wanted something older, crustier more weathered.
The middle rod went back out on the spot and the throwing stick sent another twenty odd 20mm soaked boilies over the top of it.
A couple of hours passed and we drank more tea. My middle rod let out a single beep followed by a screaming one toner. Another fish was on! The fight felt very similar to the last fish and after five minutes or so a dark body disappeared into the net.
The lads were still here at this point and congratulated me in the usual way….. “Jammy git”, “oh sod off”… you know how it is…
We got it to the unhooking mat and drew back the net mesh to be faced with something I really hoped I would catch… Its flanks were wrinkled and its fins were melted, it had chestnut cheeks and jet black scales on its shoulders. I sat back in awe; my third fish from the venue had blown me away and surpassed all expectations of what this lake had to offer.
I would have been happy with ending the session there, but I knew I had another night to go and my mind was racing with what it had in store for me. The lads went home after taking some epic pics for me and I was left to dwell on the morning activity and prepare for the night ahead.
It got hot that day, when the sun is at its highest on that lake you have no protection at all; you are sat in a shallow valley surrounded by trees with no escape. The rods stayed out on the bottom and I stayed in whatever shade I could find. I could have caught more fish if I went stalking in the weed I am sure but it was far too hot and in my eyes I had won already!
The night arrived and the sun dipped behind the trees. It goes so dark on this lake because of its cover. When it’s dark it’s seriously dark.
I settled in for the night ahead and closed my eyes to dream of what else could possibly swim in this water.
Just before midnight one of my rods woke me up with a strange bite. Thinking it was a bream I certainly was not in a rush to see what was going on. When I lifted the rod I could tell strait away it was not a bream. It was in fact a Carp! A dogged fight passed and it fell over the net chord… A small stocky again; Not dissimilar to my first fish from the lake. But I was happy to know the spot was still working and fish were still in the area.
The night turned out to be even more productive for me with another take at 2am. This one was different, it was from my left hand rod which I had cast to my left hand side to a bumpy area on the far margin (on later inspection it was a bed of rubble from the collapsed old monk’s house). It was a very powerful fight, stripping line on short bursts of speed whist staying very deep. A short time later this one, like the last was over the net cord and safely in my net.
It was a mega fish, I forget the exact weight but it was a low twenty, my biggest fish from here so far, and an absolute belter as well. Not the oldest but one of the prettiest, a fish that almost has a twin in the lake that is a little bigger than this one that I have seen picture of but not caught myself.
The rod went back on the same spot again after getting some self takes and I got back in my bed with a big smile on my face. I wanted to get up at around 6am again as I had to be off by 8am so I wanted to see the morning in one more time.
I didn’t get chance to wake up to birds chirping, instead it was my alarm screaming at ten to!
Another fish, I couldn’t believe it! I could tell it was only small but it was a very welcome bonus! A scrappy little common was safely returned. That rod then stayed out and I enjoyed the rest of the morning in front of the kettle.
A session to remember that’s for sure. From a lake that holds a very special place in my heat.
I do have one more special mention of a fish from a month later, a fish that I caught from another swim but the same spot that the bigger scaly fish came from.
This one was a jet black common, a stocked fish from a couple of year ago that had already changed to match the lake it lived in, and a fish I am sure will grow to be someone’s target one day.
I will re-visit the estate lake but for now it shall just have to be a very nice memory.