Having been to the Stour Valley complex not too long ago, I had already had a good walk around the various lakes on site, so when Dave suggested a day session on the Reed Lake, I was well up for it. He knew the lake well and reckoned we should get a good few fish between us. Unfortunately, the night before our trip we had the first frost of the year, so we weren’t too sure how it would affect the fishing. Nonetheless we were both keen to get down early and make the most of it.

6.30am: I arrived at the lake in darkness to meet Dave, who’d already got set up in the first swim on the causeway bank. Knowing the water well, he was easily able to wrap up his marks and drop a few rigs on some likely spots for the morning; one halfway along the no-fishing bank to his left, one in open water, and one close to the island.

I dropped in next door, and Dave recommended a spot close to the island among a large weed bed – in fact, most of the lake was a weed bed! In the half-light I could just about make out the small hole in the weed that he was referring to, so with a light lead I took a couple of attempts to drop it in the hole, before clipping up and wrapping up to measure the distance. Once clipped up, I looped on a little solid bag of Bloodworm pellets and flicked it back into the hole. Thankfully it fell cleanly and so one rod was fishing.

As the light grew more, I began make out a bit of fizzing taking place in the open water, so I flicked the second rod to that, which landed with a relatively soft drop. Still, it was on feeding fish, so I decided to leave it, even if it was just for half an hour.

By now it was also light enough to see into the margins and so Dave took the opportunity to head along to our right and bait a few likely looking areas for a bit of stalking later in the day.

8am: A few bleeps on the left hand rod fished to the hole in the weed alerted me to something going on. The line had tightened, but with the amount of weed between the bank and the spot, indication was very limited and it was hard to tell if the line had just caught up in the weed or if I’d had a take. Not wanting to take any risks I lifted the rod and as the line snaked through the weed I was met with solid resistance. Things started moving, but just as the fish lifted to the surface, the rig juddered back through the weed. The lead was gone, the hook burred over and my first fish of the session had been lost!

Over on the open water rod, the fizzing had continued and was now directly over the rig. I had toyed with the idea of a recast, however it wasn’t necessary as just 15 minutes later that rod too signalled a slow take! I lifted into the fish, but soon realised that the culprit was not a carp, but a tench around the 5lb mark.

12 noon: Heading back down the bank, Dave was pleased to see that his little baiting mission had paid off. One of the spots had been cleaned right off, and as he stood watching for a while, a few commons drifted passed in the deeper water. He flicked a little handful of pellets back on to the spot and almost immediately the carp headed straight for it and began feeding. Dave quickly got back to his swim and rigged one of his rods up with a simple little Ronnie rig with a little yellow pop-up.

He lowered the rig into position, followed by another handful of pellets and crumbed boilies, and we were expectant of an almost immediate result. However, an hour passed and despite the fish returning and feeding on the spot, he just could not hook one! Occasionally, they would shy away from the rig or bait, so Dave proceeded to try a number of different hook baits and presentations in an attempt to trick one.

2pm: A few more hours passed by relatively quietly; little else happened in my swim and Dave continued to get frustrated at stalking - watching them clear you out just fries your brain, but they do it all the time! Then, out of the blue, the left hand rod fished to the hole in the weed burst into life and this time it was clearly a carp!

Clamping down, I managed to get the fish moving and eased it back through the weed. I’d winched it through the worst of the weed, but once in the margin the fish woke up and proceeded to dart for the reeds to the left of the swim. Stopping the fish in its tracks, I eventually bundled a lovely looking mirror into the net, which went a 16lb.

I clipped up and dropped another bag out into the hole, and it couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes before it was away again! This time however, it was a very twitchy take and shortly after, it came off! On inspection the rig had come back with a gloopy lump of slime on it and so I was sure this was another tench. This also led me to assume the twitchy take first thing in the morning had also been one of the little green blighters!

Having given up on the stalking for a bit, Dave returned to his swim and flicked fresh baits back to his spots. He’d seen a few fish moving up and down his left hand margin, so moved the open water rod and fish it tight to a snaggy little bush just up the margin.

3pm: It didn’t take long before that recast produced a take, and Dave finally hooked into his first carp on the day. The fish tried its utmost to do him in the snags, but after a few hairy moments he managed to win the battle. It wasn’t huge by any means, but it was a carp and so saved a blank! So, with the fish returned, he decided to head back and try to nail one of those commons that had been tormenting him all day!

5pm: After another hour or two of torment, Dave decided enough was enough, giving me the opportunity to have a go for one myself. Having seen his frustration, I was keen to do something a little bit different and I knew exactly what was needed. I grabbed my spare Xtractor and snipped off the old rig, before tying on a large size 4 Carp Spirit CXS hook with a palomar knot. I then passed the tag end back through the eye to form a little hair off the back of the hook and slid a little rubber kicker over the knot. This formed my very simple, but super effective freelining rig, and I baited it with a little 10mm slow sinking game-changer hook bait. I was confident that this little trick would pay off, but I didn’t expect it to happen quite like it did!

I had chucked a few handfuls of micro pellets in the swim next door and when I checked the spot there were four fish tails up, grubbing around on the spot. Two were substantially bigger than the others we’d been seeing, so I took my time to wait for one of them to be in prime position. The biggest of the bunch had just righted up off the spot before beginning to circle the spot. As the fish came back into view, I carefully lowered the freelined boilie into its path, judging the speed of descent to land just a foot or so in front of it.

As the bait slowly dropped through the water, it clearly caught the attention of the fish as it suddenly sped up, beelining toward the hook bait. It hadn’t yet reached the bottom when a cavernous pair of white lips extended forward to engulf the boilie! I waited a microsecond before firmly lifting the rod to set the hook.

In a stunned state, the fish simply backtracked, writhing its body from side to side in an attempt to free itself from whatever had just happened. Confused, it lifted toward the surface and so I quickly scooped with the net, but the fish turned and bolted in an explosive bid for freedom. I knew exactly what I had hooked, and being significantly larger than anything else either of us had seen all day, I was keen to get it in the net!

The fish charged up and down the margin, sending up sheets of fizz and turning the water to chocolate as it buried in the weed. I kept on the pressure and I could feel strands of weed popping free. Slowly I inched the weed bed closer, before Dave grabbed the net and scooped the whole lot up. Neither of us could believe quite what had happened!

I bit the line before we lifted fish out, alongside about a ton of weed! Once on the mat we could see it was a stunning fish indeed; a deep bodied, jet black common with huge rubbery lips and at 22lb it was a great end to the session… or so I thought!

With an hour or so left before heading home I flicked the solid bag back out to the hole in the weed, and as we packed up it ramped off again with a baby common of about 6lb. It had been a tough day’s fishing, but all came good in the end!