Diary of a carp angler - Dave Lane

So here we are again, I’ve scored the diary slot once more and I’d like to start by taking a little look back at how I got to where I am right now and, of course, what the future might hold.

A lot has changed since I last wrote a diary, a global pandemic being the obvious thing, and the changes that that brought along, most noticeably the increased number of anglers on the bank nowadays and the lack of availability of tickets for most lakes.

It also brought about a total change in circumstances in my employment status. I had been with TF Gear for over 12 years at that stage but, like a lot of companies, the knee jerk reaction of the pandemic meant that I was unemployed for most of the lockdown period. It was during this time that I started my YouTube channel and, eventually, my private channel, The Inner circle, which is still running today on Patreon.

After the world had gone back to normal I was actually offered my job back but I declined and started to look for new companies to work with; I had a little list of favourites and, as it happened, I managed to secure two of those and now work closely with Solar and Gardner and, as a consequence, I now have the best looking setup and tackle I have ever had in my life. I’m almost a tackle tart nowadays!

At the moment I am fishing on the Island Lake on the RK Leisure complex near Heathrow, a little too near to Heathrow as it happens as the planes are a constant backdrop that you just can’t ignore. I should be used to this by now, however, as I have fished this area, on and off, for many years now.

This season started by accident really, I had fully intended to be on another large pit down in Kent, but it seemed I had jumped the gun a bit as there were no spare tickets available, hopefully I might get on there next season. Anyway, this left a bit of a hole in my plans, and it was a chance message on a WhatsApp group that alerted me to the fact the Island Lake’s new season was due to start in a few days’ time, and that was that, I made the snap decision to return to the shores of Kingsmead and rekindle my love affair with boat fishing once more.

I hadn’t fished there too often during the preceding year, preferring to spend some time on the nearby Kingsmead One Lake, which is only separated from the Island by a bridge and a metal underwater fence to keep the fish where they belong.

I had, however, returned to the Island for one session in late October; I had a winter ticket on Yateley lined up that started the following week at the beginning of November, and I just thought I’d have myself a nice quiet session on one of the Islands before setting off to there for the winter.

Well, I guess my timing must have been spot on because, fishing in one of my favourite swims on the first island, I managed to bag myself three carp as a going away gift.

The first was a lovely fully scaled on the first morning. I would have been happy with just that to be honest, but I was very confident of more bites and, come the second morning, I managed two more fish. The first one of these was a lovely old heavily scaled mirror of 29lb but the second bite produced something twice that size. For a while during the fight, I really thought I had hooked the one huge carp in the lake that I really wanted to catch, a fish known as Mike’s Pet, which would certainly be over 50lb. As it turned out I was actually attached to his big brother, the biggest carp in the lake and a new PB at 58lb and 12oz, a truly huge mirror carp. Unfortunately, this was my second capture of the great beast, which took the shine off a little but still, not a bad result for an impromptu visit.

Strangely enough it was from the same spot I caught it the first time, and on the same bait and rig, a milky toffee pop-up and a size 6 Gardner Mugga on a Ronnie rig.

So, moving forward to this season and, to be honest, a very slow start to the proceeding for yours truly. The carp seemed to be in a strange old mood and, as is often the way in spring, they seemed more interested in hiding away in snags and avoiding any boat traffic at all costs. I regularly set up on fish only to find that they had moved on again by the time I had rigs in the lake.

Because of this, I started to change my approach a little and, whenever possible, I would cast the rigs out rather than use the boat and try and fish with as little disturbance as possible.

As the water warmed up and the fish began to group up a bit more, this approach came to fruition in fine style. I had seen a few fish showing at short range in a swim more known for distance fishing, it was actually the swim that fished out to the bridge that separates the two lakes. Normally the baits would be boated out to the far bank near the bridge but, on this occasion, I was seeing fish at around 30 to 40 yards on a shallow bar.

It was the perfect scenario for casting and, using lighter leads of 2oz and long hook links, I could easily present my baits over the short weed that covered the feature. Baiting up was also easy using a catapult and 16mm Cell boilies – I simply scattered baits over the whole area and fished all three rods fanned out across the bar.

What followed was, by far, the most hectic fishing I had ever experienced on that lake. I think the lack of boat work helped a great deal in not spooking the fish off. I made my first cast into the area at a little after four in the morning and, by four in the afternoon, a mere 12 hours later I had hooked 13 carp, landing a dozen of them! It was like fishing a runs water for the day, it was crazy, and I rarely had all three rods in the water.

Obviously, this state of affairs could not last and throughout May and early June the fish were otherwise occupied a lot of the time; it was spawning time and a lot of the lake was closed for various periods of time. When it was all open and the fish had stopped it was often the smaller ones that fed while the larger female fish stayed quite elusive. I continued to stick to the low presence approach wherever possible, but the weed came along and made that very tricky indeed.

When big lakes like the Island get weedy the whole game changes very quickly, the snags and overhangs become less of a feature as the fish can find sanctuary and food in abundance practically anywhere in the lake. Once this happens and most of the lake bed is covered in all types of weed, the boat becomes a necessary item once again and all the associated paraphernalia that goes with it.

The best-case scenario is clear water, which allows the use of a scope or glass bottomed bucket to find clear spots. I love fishing like this and for a short while I was able to on the Island Lake. Unfortunately, this is always short lived as the warmer weather brings the algae and then things get a lot harder.

Echo sounders are the obvious answer but, to be honest, they can be quite inaccurate at times and I wouldn’t really trust them totally; I always like to back up what I think I have found with a prodding stick, this allows me to actually feel the bottom and find areas of sand and gravel that haven’t succumbed to the weed.

There is a lot more to prodding, echo sounding, donking and whatever than meets the eye, it’s an easy part of the equation to get wrong; in fact, it can be far less effective than plumbing from the bank if it isn’t done properly. The main problem is that you are directly above the spots you are investigating and, very often, dropping straight down through the weed stems and not actually feeling them at all. This can lead to lots of ‘false spot’ fishing, and you only realise the following day when you try and wind in again.

It’s easy to assume a nice firm ‘donk’ with a lead is a good spot but weed can grow in abundance on hard spots as well as soft ones, a point that is often overlooked, I think.

I always like to have a plumbing rod on board as well and I spent a lot of time in June finding spots from the bank and then going out to check them, or bait them, from the boat. I found this a great method that led to a few more captures towards the end of the month before the weed got really serious. The fish seemed to come in little bursts for me that month, nothing for a couple of trips and then two or three in a morning, when everything fell into place.

As the weeks have worn on, so the weed has grown to epic proportions and, although not on the surface, most of the lake has been overtaken by the stuff. It is weird as some anglers have remarked how little weed there is this year; I have no idea what they are seeing but it’s certainly not the same as I am.

I have a couple of spots that I’ve kept regularly baited and although they haven’t really repaid me as yet, the fish are stripping them out when I am away and keeping them nice and clean for me. Hopefully it won’t be long before I get the timing right and reap the rewards from these.

With so much weed about now the carp seem to have moved en masse out into the largest bowl section of the lake and can be seen out there most mornings, breaching the surface over the top of the thick Canadian and milfoil weed beds. By careful plumbing, I have manged to cash in a couple of times out there and, most recently, had a great trip taking a twenty, a thirty and a forty in a little burst of action over two morning feeding spells.

Hopefully this year will see that big old mirror, Mike’s Pet, languishing in the bottom of my net at some stage but it is a bit of a numbers game, as there are a lot of carp in there and only really two or three that I am targeting. Because of the style of fishing there is not a lot I can really do to stack the odds in my favour either, it’s not as if you can stalk them or they have definitive feeding areas, it’s just bait, wait and hope really.

Over the next few months, I will be doing all I can to make it happen though. I also have a new water on the horizon, one I have wanted to fish for a while now. It’s another big pit although not a boating lake but it does have a lot of mystery about it. It has lots of islands, bars, bays, humps, and bumps and is fairly quiet by today’s standards so I may well start to visit it during the autumn this year. As for the coming winter well, we will just have to wait and see really although I have been talking about Wraysbury One for a winter campaign lately and maybe this will be the year as there is one particular fish in there I would dearly like to hold. It’s early days to be thinking about winter, however, we still have the very best time of the year to come first and, hopefully, some big old carp to show you so join me next month to see how it’s all panning out.