9 November, 2023 |1 Comments
Andy Bradnock: View From the Stick – Frimley Pits
As I write this I am coming towards the end of another 4 week period where I have been unable to fish. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t the most terrible thing to happen but when the lake is not fishing or frozen through the winter, these missed weeks take on more significance.
The first three-week stint of not getting my angling fix was due to either work or trying to fix my wife’s car that’s cooling system decided to start leaking like a sieve from every conceivable part of the engine.
The initial leak was easy enough to fix where the thermostat housing split and is relatively easily replaced. However, a week later the other main leaking spot on a mini, the water pump decided to let go. In contrast to the first fix, this is a miserable job and is in such a tight squeeze there isn’t enough space to get tools in to remove the various pulleys and pumps. I even had to make a small tool to do one particular bit, this took a fair while and it was only with the generosity of Andy Mac in donating a fiat for a few weeks that enabled her to stay mobile while I fixed it between work days.
It was just about the most miserable job I have undertaken on a car, give me a bleeding spleen to remove any day of the week. Anyway, once the car was fixed and I finished a 6 day a week stint at work, I was more than ready to head to Frimley for my usual Sunday/Monday night session.
I am generally a ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ motorist when behind the wheel, unless that is I am lake bound and want to be there yesterday if possible. This is doubly important at Frimley as the rail crossing only opens once an hour so if you are late an excruciating wait of an hour is forced upon you. How the Ether knows you are desperate to get to a lake is beyond me but it seems to go out of its way to put every conceivable obstacle in your path from door to lake margins.
Adam has lamented about being stuck behind his nemesis the Honda Jazz on numerous occasions while on a fishing expedition. For me, it always seems to be a Skoda of some description that I am stuck behind. Why is it that the owners of these cars seek out a fully loaded carp wagon, then proceed to drive at 20 miles an hour while stuck in front of them. The bit that really boils the blood is when stuck behind the inevitably frail old lady behind the wheel (so you cannot get overly angry) on tight country lanes, as soon as the mere hint of a piece of road straight enough to allow an over-take, she immediately seems to be the embodiment of the ghost of Aryton Senna drops down two gears in an expert display of double de-clutching and races away, then potters slowly around the next bend.
Eventually after running this gauntlet of slow-moving obstacles, I finally arrived at the lake a little frazzled but happy in the knowledge that the next 48-hours were all mine to waste in whatever way I thought fit. Andy was already plotted up in ‘The Gravely’ so I dropped my fully loaded barrow in ‘The Stick’ next door to him and as the sky was looking ominously dark, my kit was shrouded by a waterproof cover.
I stupidly didn’t think to extend the same courtesy to my body and halfway around the lake while looking for a suitable spot to angle the heavens opened, within minutes despite trying to shelter behind various trees on my trip to each swim I was soaked through to my pants.
To add insult to a soaking, not a single fish did I spot until I was back where I started in ‘The Stick’. Here, a tentative nose pocked out as I walked back to my barrow, this however was a double-edged sword as I knew that fish had been seen crashing and bubbling in front of this swim all weekend. The resident member for the weekend knows his onions and had failed to elicit a single buzzer beep during all this activity.
As at that stage I had nothing else to go on, I decided to start here and see what developed. I am not sure what possessed me to bait as heavily as I did but in the 30m long strip at 11 wraps that now housed three hook baits, a full bucket of bait was deposited.
The section of water I had decided to bait was purely based on what I had seen while fishing other swims on the lake that look towards The Stick. This small section of water is often frothy with the bubbles of feeding cyprinids, frequently accompanied by aerial displays of wrinkly old leviathans hoodwinking you into a false perception that a bite is but moments away.
As there are generally plenty of carp as well as bream and tench in pit 3 and they move around in pods of multiple fish, a decent hit of bait shouldn’t ever really be too much but as the evening progressed, I did get a little bait angst. There are very few people that bait heavily at Frimley as it is quite a small pit and putting bait in while everyone else is staring at you tutting under their breath usually means after 10 spombs you are too self-conscious to put any more in.
Once the disturbance was over, I sat with Andy putting the world to rights – him with beer me with tea, scanning the top end of the lake from his swim. About an hour before dark, we started to see a few show which were all up towards the Pads Swim. As the light slowly faded, these shows seemed to migrate towards us without any sense of haste.
The last show we saw was directly between our baits so we went to bed with an air of expectancy that we would have our slumbers disturbed at some stage during the night. This wasn’t to be but eventually at first light Andy’s left rod was away, whereupon he successfully managed to steer a fantastic looking stocky mirror into the waiting net. This was one of a pair of fish stocked a couple of years ago that are going great guns.
Amazingly a few weeks after this session he managed to bag the other one of this stocky brace as well. What is incredible is that despite having had plenty of action this year he has managed to extract more doubles from the lake than Adam and I have caught between us in 2 years of fishing. Why this should be must just be luck of the draw as there are probably more 40’s in the lake than doubles. I did initially feel sorry for him but as he rubbed his bum on my barrow handles that trip I say ‘sod him’ – may he be plagued with bream and doubles all year!
That morning the bubbling over my bait was insane, as a large pod of carp seemed to be ploughing furrows in the bottom through my patch of bait. Still nothing happened rod end and as the feeding stopped around midday I realised yet again I had missed a golden opportunity to add to my photo album.
Later that evening the feeding started again, the intensity of which seemed to have been turned up a notch and was now classed as biblical. Huge patches of fizz were erupting over the baited patch and carp numbering ‘blimey how many’ were lolloping out of the water every few minutes. I was on tenterhooks all evening, then suddenly as if a switch had been thrown, everything stopped not a sign of life was seen over the whole end of the pit.
The night did however appear to be ideal conditions for mouse feeding. The little furry monsters that reside in ‘The Stick’ have a Mafioso style protection racket going on, where anglers are held to ransom by the steely eyed devils. Initially nights in ‘The Stick’ would involve cursing and swearing as after dark a bivvy invasion results in clumping around trying to be rid of the marauding horde.
Anything that is vaguely edible will be chewed and eaten, anything that has ever been in-contact with anything edible will be chewed then covered in various volumes of mouse crap. After discovering a loaf with a hole eaten through its middle, holes in my chesties and 2 bags holed, I decided enough was enough. We found that if you leave piles of bait out around the edge of the swim they would stay out there and exploit this rather bothering with a bivvy raid. You have to get the levels right, not enough and you will be treated to a mouse party in your bivvy at 02.00 in the morning. The issue I feel is not the mice themselves it’s the vole overlords that I am sure run the racket. I have observed the sinister short tailed small eared hoodlums lording it over the piles of sacrificial food and I don’t like the cut of their jib.
So mice occupied, I lay awake well into dark to the accompanying sound of sticks falling on the taught nylon of my tempest from the surrounding trees. Some of the sounds were strange and wetter than you would expect but it had been pouring with rain for days so I thought nothing more of it. Finally at 03.30 I was dragged from my slumber by a few Delkim tweets, the indication stopped pretty well as soon as it started so my normal adrenaline fuelled exodus from the sleeping bag was a much more sedate affair.
Boots were carefully put on the correct feet and my tie was sporting a perfect Winchester knot, if I had enough hair it would have been coiffed perfectly. (As an aside how does Tom Dove always end up with a snapped back baseball cap on in the middle of the night on Monster Carp when he has a take? Does he sleep in it or does he have a minion that puts it on for him before he starts recording? Maybe he has the wherewithal to grab it on the way to the rods? Strange behaviour but at least he doesn’t dye his hair though eh Micky)
Arriving at the rods, righty was pulled up tight with the bobbin stuck in the buzzer. On picking up the rod all was solid and there was no feeling of life through the taught nylon, so donning my big boy pants and swallowing a quick can of spinach I increased the degree of pull I was exerting on the rod and eventually the rod tip moved back an inch with a squeak and a shudder through the line.
This brings me to the practice of playing a carp holding the rod halfway up the blank. This is atrocious unacceptable behaviour and is only permitted when in a state of utter exhaustion after playing a French leviathan for over an hour. A rod should be held as god intended by the handle and don’t get me started on the practice of back winding, the proponents of that should be covered in jam and strapped to a red ant nest.
Anyway, the ‘fight’ progressed slowly as inch by painful inch, line was returned to my spool and the heavy ponderous weight on the end was unceremoniously dragged towards me. Every now and then the sensation of life was transmitted through the taut line and visions of slow moving monsters were filling my mind. Eventually, a huge weed-bed with a 26lb common residing in the middle pretending to be a giant was shuffled into one of the Frimley nets. A few self takes in the half light of dawn were taken and the fish was slipped back.
It was then that I noticed the state of my bivvy as it turned out that the collisions from above were not wet leaves and sticks. They were the cloacal evacuations of what looked like goose sized pigeons that had conducted a bombing raid the Luftwaffe would have been proud of. Some of the guano was the thickness of a slice of bread and this has given me an idea of what my next prank on Andy Mac will be. The question is how do I get him to accept an offer of breakfast without arousing suspicion?
As the morning progressed huge volumes of bubbles were erupting in big patches all over the bait but still nothing happened, eventually I admitted defeat and caught the 14.00 ferry for home.
The following week on the Sunday morning while walking the dog with my wife, I found a Barn Owl primary flight feather. The structure of this is amazing as the edges are all softened and fluffy, this disrupts the air flow over the feather allowing the owl to fly almost silently. I decided this was a great luck auspice and a sighting of a pair of magpies later in the walk confirmed that a bumper Frimley session was on the cards.
Once home and breakfasted, I packed the car as quickly as possible, anxious to be on my way. God help any Honda Jazz drivers today. The knowledge that again this was to be my last session for 3 weeks at least (has become 4) as I was back doing 6 day weeks at work and another bloody car needed fixing, I wanted to make the most of every second I had available.
On arriving I spent an hour or so aimlessly drifting around the lake looking for a guiding sign to tell me where to plot up. Not a sign did I see as it appeared that all the residents of the lake were on holiday in the trees probably up in Reading having a whale of a time. Eventually I decided on another go at ‘The Stick’ was required. It was heavily baited by me last week and the fish had been happily feeding there. It was also a thorn in my side that I hadn’t managed to reap the rewards that the amount of feeding activity observed in front of this swim deserved.
I didn’t bait quite as heavily this time and I cracked out the Spomb Dave Short had given me. For those that didn’t meet him, he was truly a legend in our small world of carp fishing. Probably one of the nicest men you could meet, he entertained me for many hours sat in Andy’s old shop drinking tea retelling stories from his time as a Redmire bailiff or seeing giants in Longfield before it was even on the carp fishing map.
He gave me the Spomb from a bag of stuff he was clearing out as he didn’t really use them anymore. He sadly died some months later and left a hole in many lives and a chair in Andy’s shop empty. After a couple of casts with the Spomb, I got the fears as to lose it would be too painful so I packed it back away. I was also fishing at 12 wraps this week to ensure I was behind the band of weed that was present.
Over the next two days I experienced the most excruciating lack of action, as I wasted my last 2 days of angling freedom watching carp that were doing more digging in front of me than an army of allotment owners. Huge sheets of bubbles seemed to be constantly erupting all over me and not a single indication came my way. Rod positions were changed, rigs altered and reel handles were lined up perfectly all to no avail I wouldn’t have been able to hook a fish if my life depended on it.
After 2 days of this mental torment, I took stock of the situation and tried to make sense of what was happening and hopefully learn for the future. When Dave Lane wrote his first iconic book ‘Obsession with Carp’, he talked of a silty bay in Harefield where fish bubbled and fed without being caught with him and other members trying on numerous occasions to outwit the slimy be-scaled head torturers.
Not a single fish was captured from that bay despite the obvious signs of feeding. A similar set of circumstances occurred in ‘The Stick’ where numerous anglers have fished these bubbling marks and caught very little. The swim produces from the more traditional gravely, on top of the bar marks but not in the areas where the majority of the bubbling was taking place. It could be that the shows and bubbling are fish doing something other than feeding. However, it was only happening over my bait so I discounted that, they may have been feeding on a natural of some description but again why then just over my baited spots?
It could be my rigs are atrocious and this is an argument that Adam and Andy are happy to suggest but it’s not just me who has suffered and a wide range of rigs from bottom baits and wafters through to blatant pop-ups, long and short, stiff and soft have all been tried. The lead always lands what I would consider hard enough for any rig to be presentable but maybe the spot is covered in the watery soup like slit I found on some spots while diving in the pit.
Also there is a bit of grass type weed on the spot so maybe rigs get caught up in this. However, with the number of casts and use of PVA bags and nuggets, I cannot believe that one wouldn’t have landed ok. It could be that they weren’t eating the bait just flanking on it as the liquid smells excited them but they refused to eat? Whatever the little b*****ds were doing it certainly wasn’t eating hookbaits. Therefore, after 2 miserable frustrating days I dragged my sorry arse back over the crossing and with my tail firmly between my legs, headed home knowing that at least 3 weeks would pass before I was next to be found on the banks of what is a very addictive gravel pit.