27 November, 2023 |3 Comments
Andy Bradnock – Back Bay Frustration at Frimley
Every lake has an unfavoured swim but that doesn’t mean it won’t produce the goods with a bit of work! In his latest tale, Andy Bradnock shares with us his recent adventures in a swim known as the Back Bay at Frimley Pits. Does it produce the goods or does it continue to be a flop? Read on to find out…
Back Bay Frustration
Freedom at last. The four weeks of enforced time away from the lake have been purgatory but finally all cars are working normally and all my extra shifts at work have been completed. My wife is also sick of me mopping around the house and is happy to pack me away for a few nights fishing.
It was therefore on my usual Sunday night, that I arrived at the lake to pit my wits against the Frimley carp. The only wit pitting I have managed in the last four weeks has been against Adam. Andy Mac says that it is like playing chess against a peanut butter sandwich. However we have managed to keep a vape rouse going for a number of weeks which seems to have confused the poor soul and I am sure he still has no idea how he has been duped.
I arrived at the crossing in time to catch the 14.00 ferry and began my usual wander around the pit, which stopped abruptly at the ‘Lawns’. This is a swim that forms part of the fox peninsula, ‘Fox Point’ occupying the tip of the peninsula with ‘Fox Corner’ and the ‘Lawns’ at the base.
What is great about this area is with a move of 20m you can fish three completely separate areas of the lake. The margins of the ‘Lawns’ are very shallow and I was greeted by the sight of a back out of the water almost touching the bank. This belonged to a 20lb common but peering into the slightly turbid margin revealed that as an accompaniment this fish had a 25lb mirror and a 30lb common in tow.
A few minutes watching from behind a tree showed that there was a patch of bottom they were happy to dip down on and appeared to have a little feed before moving off again. Once this was ear-marked, I crept out of the swim and was hightailing back to the car for the kit.
Arriving back at the swim as a sweaty puddle of humanity 20 minutes later, I could see the margin was empty. I therefore wasted no time in getting a bait onto the feeding spot as quickly as possible. The rod was the placed on the floor waiting for the carp to return.
During my time away from the lake I had invested in 3 new line clips, replacing the fairly poor original versions on my Daiwa Infinities. These are a proper sexy red colour and I was looking down at the reel thinking wouldn’t it be cool seeing that red dot start spinning around like a Catherine Wheel.
The Catherine wheel was named after St. Catherine Alexandria who was tortured by Emperor Maxentius on a wheel as she refused to denounce her faith. They used to lash you to the wheel then beat you so your limbs broke between the spokes. However the wheel fell apart as an act of god before they could torture her. They therefore gallantly chopped her head off.
Anyway, as I was picturing the spool spinning the 30lb common made an entrance from stage right. The bait was less than a rod length into the lake and the fish passed directly over it, without even acknowledging its existence. It looked a little unsettled compared with previously so I was unsure if this was because it was on its own or because the rig was in place.
This fish drifted off and nothing returned so an hour later I took the bait out assuming the chance had passed. A couple of fish showed in different areas of the swim and without any other signs to go on this swim became my home for the night.
In the ‘Lawns’, Adam had discovered a great spot down to the right with 4ft of water over the hard gravely bottom. I therefore waded down to the area he had pointed out to me and found the area he was talking about. There was a small amount of low lying weed on the spot so a quick rake with a landing net pole while up to my nipples in pond water prepared the area for a rig and a couple of big handfuls of my usual ground-bait mix.
The other two rods are cast to the far side of the bay then waded down the tree line and to a bay in the lily bed. Both areas are firm 4.5ft deep with a gravely substrate. When placing the pads rod my legs got tangled up in a load of line, I initially thought I had caught the line on my middle rod and did a couple of naughty swears but eventually realised it was some lost tackle rather than mine. I therefore dropped my rig and baited it, then set about sorting the lost tackle.
Eventually from deep in the pads I recovered a rig with a tench still attached. This I carefully released and I had a gratis lead for my troubles, surely the carping gods would reward such a charitable deed. A good night’s sleep ensued with not a beep for my efforts but at first light I was treated to a display of crashing and bubbling on the opposite side of the peninsula in ‘Fox Corner’.
As nothing was seen in the whole end of the lake visible from the ‘Lawns’, I set about moving around mid-day after all the showing had stopped. We have rarely found in summer that dropping onto feeding fish in here results in success, they are easily spooked and patience is definitely a virtue. I left the rods out in the ‘Lawns’ and had moved the rest of my kit across the base of the peninsula and was sat in my new swim making up a bucket of bait to tempt the Frimley carp.
I had just done a huge order with Dynamite and in exchange for half my bank balance I was in possession of lots of pellet, seed, ground-bait and liquids. The best bit is being able to trawl through their entire bait catalogue, it was in these hallowed pages I discovered something called Belachan Liquid Carp Food and a Squid & Octopus extract. These great smelling liquids were added to my smelly ground-bait concoction.
Halfway through this process while covered up to my elbows in fishy smelling ground-bait the remote sounder sat on top of my bivvy bleeped a few times. A quick trot across the peninsula found me face to face with a bent down right hand rod but not moving, the line still in the clip. First of all I obviously washed all the ground-bait off my hands as standards have to be observed, I then collected the rod from the rests and found the fish had moved a few yards into the edge of the pads from where it was easily extracted.
At this I initially thought I had hooked a tench but a carp’s tail popped out of the water momentarily so it was time to take things seriously. I gracefully tip-toed into my chesties with all the panache and aplomb of an arthritic rhino and waded out to meet the fish on the shelf in front of the swim where the 21lb 15oz carp eventually slipped over the net cord. This fish had a really pretty face and I still consider every capture from this lake as an event.
After this I moved the rods over to my new swim and proceeded to blank for the next 24-hours as not a single fish showed up either over-night or the next morning. Adam had set up on ‘Fox Point’ for the night and had seen nothing in front of him either, but while we were watching from the lawns and I was contemplating packing up, we saw fish crashing at the very top of the lake so he promptly moved. He carefully set up a swim away from the main bulk of shows and was duly rewarded with a 38-pounder the following morning.
The following Sunday I was yet again Frimley bound and had set off earlier than normal so there was no frantic scramble to reach the crossing in time, a relaxed cross country pootle to the accompaniment of ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ saw me arrive at the crossing with 20 minutes to spare.
Between the three of us we had been baiting the Back Bay for months and by this stage in September it had seen a large amount of bait. Before we started this campaign in the spring when no-one was around, I spent a few hours raking off 3 spots. This is because the Back Bay is surrounded by trees and some recent tree felling activity had left the bottom covered in small sticks. Before this, rigs in the area would often result in small sticks impaled on the hook.
We hadn’t fished the swim much between us for a few reasons. Firstly there seemed to be loads going on elsewhere on the pit so we were drawn there and the Back Bay isn’t the most salubrious spot on the lake. It is around half an acre in size with a large island at its entrance that creates two channels, nearside and far side that lead out into the main lake. This means that the view is really restricted and as the fish are often not obvious in front of you, the swim can be really soul destroying.
The bivvy position is an absolute doozie. On your right you have the car-park, behind you, you have the toilet block and the piece-de-la-resistance on the left is the macerator constantly churning away at countless carper’s turds with a low pitched hum as the motor stirs this witch’s brew… This all adds up to a swim that is fairly unappealing to spend time in so it gets left alone a fair bit, hence is a place you can bait up and hope to have to yourself still.
As it is cut off from the main lake, no-one can see you baiting so we were able to get it all done secret squirrel like. Andy was the first to dip his toe in the Back Bay waters and managed to catch a few even when there was nothing obviously in there. Adam then did a single night and winkled out a 27lb common. Therefore my mind was quite focused on the Back Bay while driving over and unless something obvious dictated I should be elsewhere, this session would be spent in there.
The walk around resulted in a single sighting at the very far end of the lake but with anglers already up there I felt they would move out fairly rapidly with more pressure. The rest of the lake was really busy so the argument for the Back Bay became more conclusive. None of us had done a full 48-hours in the Back Bay at this point as it is considered a night spot so if I was going in there it was for the long haul, come hell or high water.
The first 24-hours were a complete bust – not a beep. The rods had gone in perfectly, the trickiest was the left rod that was cast to the island marginal shelf in 4ft of water on a sandy plateau. To get this rod in place it’s an awkward cast standing in the water with no back swing. It clipped the twigs on the way in so there was no way I could do that rod any better – it was therefore left for another 24-hours. The far bank rods were both re-done for the following night.
News from around the lake was utterly depressing as everyone had caught pretty well apart from me. Adam arrived and headed up to the top end where the majority of the action had taken place, while I sat miserable in my smelly hovel hole. That night at the un-godly hour of midnight I had a tiny liner on the island rod which woke me up for a while. I was just nodding off again when all hell broke loose and the island rod roared off.
I was in too much of a panic to worry about boots so the socks got a good drenching again, but thankfully this time just rainwater rather than pee. Battle commenced and slowly the fish was drawn towards the out-stretched net. The fight was fairly routine and uneventful until it managed to pick up the middle rod and got tethered just out of netting range. Luckily some swearing and squeaking from me allowed a few extra inches to be gained and a lovely little mirror of 16lb 9oz dropped gratefully into the folds of the net.
Untangling the mess of lines wasn’t much fun and took a while then all the fannying around to get the self-take night shots done and it wasn’t until 02.00am I was ready to re-cast the rod, which in the dark was quite a feat. All this was worth it as despite it being a small fish, a mirror from Frimley is always an event. The re-cast went in reasonably well and eventually I dropped back to sleep.
I wasn’t up at my usual first light the following morning after the night’s events but eventually I had tea in hand and had a catch up with Adam. The fish that had been up at the top end had moved and nothing was caught, this made my decision to stay put feel a little better despite only having the one bite.
Then at 10.30 just as I thought my race was run, the island rod screamed off again. As I had been poised heron like by the rods, I was instantly rod in hand yelling ‘beard on’ and doing battle with my latest foe. Initially it came off the island and was in the middle of the bay doing nothing unexpected but was high up in the water boiling and sending up huge tail patterns. Then the fun started as it realised it was in trouble and headed out of the bay at an alarming speed down the nearside channel which is lined with lilies and bushes and sort of bends away from you.
This was accompanied by a huge vortex on the surface and as there is an overhanging tree to the left of the swim, I had my tip down desperately trying to slow this fish down. The clutch was screaming like it wasn’t there at all, the rod was bent to an alarming angle and the finger pressure on the spool did little to slow the exodus from the bay. Eventually the pressure told and it turned on the surface halfway down the channel – as it came back towards me precious nylon was returned to the spool.
Just as it was coming back into the bay another angry surge resulted in the rod being bent double again as the fish headed back up the nearside channel. The rod was creaking in my hand and the finger I was using to slow the spool was heating up while the rate of line loss seemed to be increasing. However the rapidly revolving red dot of the line clip did look pretty.
The fish refused to even slow down let alone stop and it was ¾ of the way up the channel before it begrudgingly stopped and allowed me to winch it slowly back towards me. After I had been retrieving line for best part of a week, there was a huge boil halfway down the channel as the fish reversed direction again and with an unbelievable surge of power began heading back out towards the main lake.
I was hanging out over the margin as much as possible at a strange angle, with a fully compressed rod in my hand grunting and groaning in what was becoming an unpleasant amount of pain. Just as I was about to wave the white flag the fish decided to finally stop just outside Heathrow and allow me to regain some of the lost line. It was eventually back in the body of the bay close to the surface – half the leader was out of the water.
The visibility at Frimley isn’t the best – a foot or two at most, but there circling menacingly below my leader was the considerable bulk of a common. Wide and block like bristling and angry, it looked huge and my knees were having a right old tremble. It must have sensed my weakness and the rod tip slammed down again and this time it headed deeper into the bay where there are a few snaggy branches.
It managed to pick up the right hand line so the buzzer began to scream which didn’t help my nerves but with the bail arm open the reel was comfortably giving line but the mainline was wrapped around the leader. I turned it again and it came back towards me but then decided to make for the channel again. Then suddenly it was gone.
The silicon over the quick link had pulled down the mainline from the right rod and had got stuck in the clip then the pressure just opened the clip up…
That feeling of loss is horrendous, it takes a while for your brain to process that it’s all over, there is nothing that can be done.
I felt sick and this happened over a week ago now and I am still utterly broken, at no point in that fight did I ever think I even had a modicum of control over that fish. Andy had an epic battle with a 29lb common in the same swim and as most of the giants in Frimley are famous for not fighting, it was probably an angry 30 whose mother didn’t love it and spent too much time on street corners mugging grannies. However, the image of it in 2ft of murky pond water will haunt my waking hours for some time to come, it was the right shape for Black Eye and that is a carp you really don’t want falling off.
The following week I was happily pootling towards Frimley for my usual 48-hours on the Sunday afternoon aiming for the 14.00 crossing. The journey was fraught as it appears that the county council had carefully examined my route and all the alternatives from home to lake and strategically put road-works and closures at various points to inconvenience my journey.
I rolled up at 1 minute past 14.00 and as the crossing usually opens at 10 past I thought I had loads of time. However the crossing had taken place early that day so I had to sit and wait an hour until they next opened it. However, by 15.10 I was wandering the banks looking for signs of fish on what turned out to be a really busy lake with me making it 10 bivvys present, the only areas free the top end and the ‘Back Bay’.
I spent loads of time sat at the top end but saw nothing inspiring so decided to drop back onto my pre-baited spots in the Back Bay. I got the rods out and made myself comfortable next to the slowly stirring faecal mixing bowl that is the macerator. I had a quiet night without a beep for my efforts, but while looking over the fence I could see a huge amount of bubbling going on in front of the occupied ‘Fallen Tree’.
Adam arrived after ‘work’ (he does less than hardly a thing) and as ‘Fallen Tree’ had just become free, I relayed the tale of bubbling from this morning. After a fruitless wander around he decided to drop in there for his first night and I stayed put where I was.
Just after it was fully dark, I was chatting on the phone to my wife when the middle rod pulled up tight. Fortunately being suddenly disconnected on the sound of a buzzer is something my wife has got used to along with the plethora of my other horrible habits, she is a very tolerant woman. The phone was launched into the back of the bivvy and I was soon huffing and puffing rod in hand dragging what felt quite a weight to start with across the bay.
It was pitch dark in the bay and I was suddenly aware I had not got my head-torch. I was therefore playing what still felt like quite a ponderous heavy fish unable to see a thing slowly towards the net. In my head I was stupidly thinking, ‘well, this is going to be the perfect ending to this little mini article’ and when the swirls were roughly over the net I lifted and thankfully the fish dropped into the folds.
When I retrieved my head-torch and looked into the net I thought someone had stolen half my fish as ‘only’ 19lb 8oz of carp looked back at me. I had yet again managed to extract a double from a lake of giants. I now knew how Andy Mac felt I was worried I may have caught a dose of Mackie but fortunately I haven’t developed an aversion for salad and my middle tooth is still anchored firmly in my upper jaw.
I did get a good reality check. Any carp is a result no matter its size and you cannot decide what is going to pick up your hook-bait, so stop being an arse and enjoy being fishing.
I felt like that for a full 3-hours until that is Adam had me constantly traveling to his swim to photograph 3 fish for him – 34, 35 and 38.15. He didn’t even make me tea.