4 October, 2023 |0 Comments
Adam Whittington Catches Charlie’s Mate at 54lb 6oz!
The story behind the capture of Charlie’s Mate – Adam Whittington’s target fish from Frimley…
All the events in this article happened just a few days ago as I write – not only because the good people at Dynamite like things to be fresh and current, but because my memory is never brilliant and I don’t want to miss anything. As weeks go, this one has been memorable.
Let’s start however, with the mundane scene of me rushing to Frimley straight from work in London, car packed and full of that carper’s enthusiasm that powers us forward. I say rushing, more like dawdling in M25 traffic – always the way when you’re itching to get to the lake. Greta wouldn’t like this. Come to think of it, I’ve not heard much about her of late. I’m guessing she’s probably swapped all the tearful protesting for an inappropriate boyfriend with a neck tattoo.
I did eventually make it to the imposing fishery gates and locked them behind me, feeling that familiar cocktail of excitement and peace. A quick chat with Andy Camo in the Dug Out told me the important stuff – carp had been seen rolling out in the open water swims and there had been a few runs shared between the anglers present.
It had been really busy as well, which normally results in the catch reports increasing – this may sound odd, but it seems that if you have just a couple of guys fishing, the carp will quickly move into line-free zones, yet if the whole lake is stitched up someone will be in the right place, and bites will be the result.
I pushed the barrow round to a swim known as Fallen Tree with an imposing view down the central body of the lake. This was an area where Andy had said many of the shows were witnessed and a great starting point.
Three rods were sent out between 70 and 80 yards to firmer spots and a mix of Complex-T boilies, Dynamite Chilli Hemp, buckwheat and corn followed. I felt guilty as my continental bombardment of spombing started, and quietly mouthed the word ‘sorry’ to the anglers on the far bank, who had all been sat in perfect peace until the after-work crew arrived and shattered the calm.
Still, the bait’s got to go in, so two kilos per rod it was, and I completed the painfully noisy process as quickly as I could. It was already going dark by the time all the kit was sorted and a fabulous Autumn moon painted the lake in blues and greens.
There is no doubt carp react to lines, so I tend to slide a back-lead as far out as possible, then add a captive back-lead under the rod tip and finally, slacken off the lines until they are hanging loosely.
Not all swims are suited to this approach, but the vast expanse of Fallen Tree water makes it ideal.
The other advantage is you are rarely bothered by single beeps – it usually goes from silence to a full blown run. At midnight, my right hand rod proved this in some style and I found myself attached to a powerful carp which kited about on a long line, as I tried to shake myself fully awake.
A fine carp it turned out to be as well, at 33lb 6oz, and Andy kindly agreed to pop round for some photos – he’s often up all night, poised like a hairy, vaguely Romanian looking heron. His night photography is excellent as well and he did me proud, as always.
I fell back into an exhausted sleep that was also very brief, as shortly after 2am, the middle rod went into overdrive and I was again scrapping with a heavy feeling carp, somewhere out in the darkness.
Andy had heard the run as well and, once the fish was finally netted and secured in a retainer, he responded to a hopeful WhatsApp message and was en route. I had cast the rod back out to the spot once the fish was dealt with and, just five minutes later, whilst Andy was still plodding round to see me, it ripped off again!
This was a bit daft, three in a night is bloody good going on a lake that can make you feel like a terrible noddy at times. Andy uttered words that were both abusive and encouraging whilst another carp gave me a really hard time, begrudging every inch gained.
Once in close, it fought hard around the rod tips, narrowly avoiding its friend who waited patiently in the retainer. The retained fish weighed 34lb 10oz incidentally, and first view of carp number three told me it was some way bigger.
So it turned out to be, with this much longer fish pulling the scales round to an ounce under thirty nine pounds!
Hell yes, that’s a lovely trio of carp and it was a very happy, but thoroughly knackered carper that sat with a mug of tea the next morning. Not a single show, nor a solitary bubble popping broke the calm surface, which is rare at the lake and felt oddly out of sorts with a chaotic night.
I can only ever do two nights per week and felt unsure whether to stick in Fallen Tree, hoping to nick just one more, or move completely. I was torn between feeling the swim was past its sweet spot and thinking it may do just one more bite…
Apathy won through in the end; I was tired, so reeled in and went for a relaxing morning sat in Andy’s swim, putting the world to rights. What we concluded, amongst other moments of clarity, was that most people who are very aggressive about what pronouns they get called look uncannily like jacket potatoes. And Andy is a vet, so we can conclude that’s science, right there.
By the time Andy had headed home, I was back in Fallen Tree, Spombing out just a single kilo per rod this time, as I was just scratching for a final bite. I’m not greedy, just one more, that’s all I was asking the carp gods for…
They didn’t listen, well not just then anyway, and my second and final morning arrived with nothing to show for my efforts. I had until late afternoon at my disposal, so was on my toes by eight, pushing the overloaded barrow round to the picturesque Daisy Bay, where the wind was pushing in nicely and it was an area that had been really kind to me this season, and all with daytime bites.
I’d like to say I snuck in like a wader-clad ninja and stealthily dropped three rigs on the money, but that would be a lie.
I’d spent the previous two nights spombing at range and my muscle memory was playing tricks with my casting, resulting in the first bait up a tree on what should have been a simple, thirty-yard lob.
All was not lost though and I managed to wade out under the offending tree and retrieve the bait, which was then simply dropped by hand in an otherwise unreachable spot under the canopy. A few handfuls of bait were sprinkled on top and all was well with the world.
My second and third rods were deliberately cast in the same manner, up into the branches over both far bank features, with me then walking round, placing the baits by hand and baiting carefully on top with no actual casts into the water and minimum fuss.
It’s more effort than simply casting and hoping for the best, but it’s also better in the same way bacon is better than tofu.
At midday, the first rod in the accidental, yet great spot under the trees bent round and I was into a fish which felt like a dead weight, mainly due to a huge amount of floating, snotty weed that had settled over the line.
I played it out with a green washing line stretching out to a fish which was well behaved and rolled into the net at the first time of asking.
27lb 8oz of typical, but always lovely Frimley common posed for a quick self-take and slipped back. The recast, on this occasion, was perfect and my PVA bag rustled the leaves on the way back under the canopy of late September foliage.
Now I was satisfied, and could reflect and really appreciate the three great carp I’d been fortunate enough to catch on my first night, without it feeling like the session had an anticlimactic ending. A cup of tea was in order, maybe even a bacon butty as a culinary pat on the back.
Then, just two beeps from my right hand rod, fished to a three-foot deep gravel spot, right next to a coots nest on the far bank.
The bobbin lifted slightly, then returned to the same starting position. Classic liner was my immediate thought. The bobbin then dropped by the same amount. This can only happen if the lead moves and I quickly lifted the rod, reeling almost halfway back across the bay before even making contact with a fast moving fish, helpfully heading out of the bay into the relatively snag-free open water beyond.
Once all the slack had been taken, I just got a feeling of weight, and effortless power. The reel ticked away in an undramatic, yet emphatic way. This felt big, although I immediately discounted the absolute giants of the pit, who are so old they rarely fight, quietly wallowing in with a genteel acceptance and a faint whiff of Werther’s Originals.
This fish just didn’t want to get off the bottom. The rod remained hooped over; the area was reasonably deep and weed free, but not a lot happened for at least five minutes. No head shakes, no pinging off the fins, just a period of plodding.
All good, I’ll take this was my thought, right up until the moment a colossal common rolled not ten feet away. Shit the bed, what’s going on, this can only really be one fish and it’s fighting with the power that it’s supposed to have abandoned years ago!
I saw the video of Dave Levy landing Charlie’s Mate from the previous November and the great fish came towards him, white flag flying and making suggestions where would be the best spot for the photos!
Having rolled, this giant then decided to set off again, but faster and even more determined. Twice I felt it was close enough to net and yet it powered off once more, and twice I almost soiled my waders.
The third time, it was mine. I had three two-night guest sessions at Frimley around 1999 and 2000 – fabulous times and I was incredibly lucky to catch some incredible carp, including Charlie’s Mate at a new lake record of over thirty six pounds.
Twenty three years ago it absolutely beat me up, and here, September ’23, it felt the need to do it again! I felt like shouting at the great fish “what about the Werther’s Originals?” and “so you want your picture taken with Dave Levy, but suddenly, with a much less famous northerner, you’re Mike bloody Tyson?!!”.
I didn’t say any of that, of course, I just marvelled at this incredible history fish and took on board what a special, privileged moment I was living through.
The great old carp weighed 54lb 6oz and I shall always treasure our meetings, all those years apart.