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9 July, 2024 | Carp | Angler Blogs | Articles


Andy Bradnock: Winter of Discontent – Part 2

The latest diary entry from Andy Bradnock who covers his exploits over the last 6 months…

Andy Bradnock says…

Winter of Discontent – Part 2

I left off the last article with yet another blank and as April was progressing, I was worried about missing out on when they did finally get their heads down and feed.

I pulled out all the stops I could get my hands on and called in favours to give me the time to be there as often as possible. So, a week after my last session I was queuing at the crossing waiting for the orange clad lady of the gate to smile and let me across.

On entering the car park, I was greeted yet again by numerous fishing wagons so it was going to be another session with limited swim choice.

The spring is busy on most lakes as anglers try to monopolise on the warming weather and the fish being at their best weights prior to spawning. This can be a difficult pill to swallow when you have been blanking all winter and then, just as a chance of a bite is on the cards, the hordes arrive.

Maybe we should look at it along the lines that we are the morons trying to catch carp through the winter.

With little to go on and with the lake busy, I dropped into Fox Corner which is an isolated secluded area that is generally unpopular.

That night a single fish showed just on dark out to my left so I was in with a shout.

Not a beep disturbed my slumbers through the night so at first light, the kettle had been gainfully employed to provide a fish spotting brew and I sat vigilant, scanning for a sign.

What a waste of time that was – not a single thing showed anywhere on the pit.

Then, just as despondency was at its peak at 08.00, fish started to crash and cavort in the triangle of water between Fox Point, Single Boards and the Gravely.

The whole area suddenly seemed to be full of carp so a move was needed. Before I managed this, I was sat huddled under the brolly as a huge hail storm suddenly erupted.

A hailstorm thwarts a move onto fish!

Once it passed, I moved the kit into Fox Point before anyone else managed to beat me to it.

As the morning had progressed the bulk of the shows seemed to be slightly favouring the water covered by this swim. Casting onto showing fish at Frimley can sometimes bring rewards but of the many times I have tried it, in the vast majority of cases it has resulted in the fish leaving the area.

I therefore, waited until early afternoon to sort the rods out and this also meant I didn’t interfere with the angler set up in ‘The Gravely’ who already had baits in play.

He managed three that morning – a 40 and two big 30’s. So, by supper time I had rods out and the area to myself as the angler in The Gravely had finished his session. I was happily sitting expecting a run or two, when someone turned up in Single Boards, creating a bit of disturbance but actually very little so I didn’t feel that this had negatively affected my chances.

It had just gone fully dark and I was standing at the front of the swim looking across the calm surface of the pit, the geese had all migrated back onto the lake for the night and finally quietened down after their normal evening ritual of a fight and a shout.

It is like the goose equivalent of a really rough East-End pub at chucking out time.

When the Egyptian Geese get involved there is a right old racket.  It was to this backdrop it finally happened, the tip of the left-hand rod smacked down and the Delkim yelled at me in what can only be termed as a petulant manner.

After the many months of waiting – wondering if I would remember what to do when I had a run, I picked up the rod and battle was joined.

Straight away it was obviously not a giant and after a bit of splashing and swimming in circles it was all over. There was however, a slight twist as it turned out I hadn’t actually successfully netted the fish, Christ knows how but I had missed it.

The clutch started to tick away as I had put the rod down to grab a head-torch so I had to play it again only this time it didn’t want to give in. Eventually all was well and the fish was this time safely on the desired side of the mesh.

On peering into the net, I could see I had managed to skilfully extract yet another double from a sea of thirties. At around 13lb I think it’s probably the smallest fish in Frimley!

Probably the smallest fish in Frimley.

A quick picture in the net for posterity and back she went.

The rod was easily put back out on the spot followed by a couple of Spombs of bait. Nothing else happened through the night and I was awake at 05.00am waiting for what I thought would be the inevitable show.

Not a thing broke the surface, it was like there wasn’t a fish in the lake. I just cannot work out what the best course of action is on this lake, you have to be able to get there on the random days they decide to feed and also be able to predict where they are going to be and get there before them.

Frimley at times can be relatively kind and over a year you can hope to catch a few however, this period from Christmas to May is so patchy it can be hugely frustrating. It is mentally a really hard lake to blank on because you feel you should be catching; I have fished some mega hard waters in my time so am comfortable blanking but on here I am always pacing wondering why it hasn’t gone usually watching someone else adding to their photo album.

The following week, Adam arrived before me and had so far seen nothing to go on. The lake was even busier than it had been so there were very few free swims available.

He dropped into Double Boards and I slotted in next to him in Fallen Tree – one of the last swims available.

We hadn’t fished together for a good while and it was freezing again so once the baits were out, we set about building a fire to sit around.

How can mid-April be so cold? The water temperature had dropped again and was reading a chilly 13.4 degrees. However, the usually tea-coloured waters of pit 3 had started to clear after the constant deluge of winter.

We sat and angled for two days for absolutely nothing, very little showed but a couple of fish in our general area gave us some hope right up to the point we reeled in the last rod.

The following week I knew would be my last trip for a few weeks so some grovelling at home and a few chores completed gave me the green-light to be lake bound – waiting for the vision of a crossing lady be-decked in orange to let me across at 14.00pm.

The lake had been extremely busy over the weekend with pretty well every swim taken.

On the plus side though, it had fished its head off and 15 odd bites had been recorded. This was such a turn around and swims all around the lake had produced fish.

The only swim that wasn’t fished on the Saturday night was Daisy Bay so, after a fruitless walk-about it felt like a good option.

I had started to use my heavily liquid infused ground-bait mix again with the Swim-Stim Margin Mix ground-bait, 6mm Marine Halibut and Complex-T pellets, Krill Liquid, Shrimp Extract and Fish Gutz.

The groundbait mix of dreams!

In Daisy Bay this can easily be put in by hand by walking around to the far bank, thus making it far stealthier than the usual Spomb bombardment required to get bait into the lake.

Using the 3-rod trick, it was a simple matter of placing baits onto their respective far margin spots and within an hour all baits were in position, baited and tea made.

The Mallards are right in the middle of what can only be described as ‘duck raping’ season. For most of the year the green headed male is a gentle, sweet creature happily taking bread from small children in park ponds and not ever causing an issue to anglers.

Then come April they metamorphose into knife wielding hoodlums and form small gangs, marauding the countryside trying to molest any poor drab female duck they can get their filthy beaks on.

The bay was full of Mallards crashing about, shouting and squawking as a melee of males were being very over amorous with a poor solitary female trying to escape.

Nothing was seen that evening, the position I had the bivvy in gave a great view down the entire length of the lake.

As the light started to fade, fish started to show and after the first couple of rolls it was like a switch had been thrown and in the gathering gloom, carp after carp were leaving the water – sometimes two or three were in the air at the same time!

This was all happening in-front of Double Boards (the next swim along) and I was stood in the swim at 23.00pm ensuring I was lining up the areas where the majority of the fish were giving their presence away.

Daisy Bay is a great spot for an early morning/day bite so I didn’t want to move until after the potential morning feeding spell.

My plan was to get packed away and move to Double Boards late morning the following day.

Nothing happened in the bay overnight and I was watching a few fish show much further down the lake to the background noise of sexually deviant Mallards cavorting in the bay. I hadn’t really been paying much attention to the ducks which was a mistake as one of the drakes had taken time off from being a sex pest and had begun diving on my left-hand rod in 4 feet of water.

What the hell was going on, Mallards cannot dive down 4 feet! Well, turns out this one could and I was suddenly very aware of this fact as the rod blitzed into action giving a brief moment of exultation only to be crushed as the feathery demon flapped around the bay attached to my rig.

After un-hooking and releasing the little sod, I started to pack away as after all the disturbance I thought the bay would be devoid of carp.

Most of the kit was on the barrow ready to move and I was sat re-doing the trashed mallard rig when the middle rods bobbin slammed into the blank.

The clutch was screwed down tight so no line was given and I had the bucking carbon in hand within a few seconds, leaving a trail of destruction and rig bits behind me.

After the initial few moments of stalemate, the fish that at that point felt quite solid and heavy came back towards me and away from danger.

Once safely in the deep channel of the bay I started a fraught attempt to don chesties with one hand clasped around a reel seat. The fish got stuck down to my left so I waded out to get above it and a small windblown branch lifted out of the water attached to the taught nylon.

Luckily the branch fell off and I was in direct contact again.

The water was as clear as I have ever seen it so when a small common came into view I initially thought it was really deep and far away. Sadly this wasn’t so and the tiny frame of a common came over the net cord, not only was it another 13lber I am fairly sure it’s the same fish I caught a few weeks earlier. There was an angler next door so I got a picture of it as if I catch it again I get to keep it. It has now been named ‘the vets common’.

My second capture of what is now known as ‘The Vet’s Common’

As soon as I put this fish back the remaining rod was reeled in and thrown onto the barrow for the move around to Double Boards, a fair bit earlier than I had anticipated.

‘Enter stage right’, Adam chose this moment to arrive with the intention of going into Double Boards, the look on his little face (well actually it’s a massive great bloated affair).

He was slightly crest fallen as he had been planning on heading there after my descriptions of crashing fish the night before. He did however seem happy enough to drop in Fallen Tree next door to me where there had been plenty of shows in the night.

I got the baits out and the house up fairly quickly as I knew exactly where I wanted them. Two rods were fished on my usual spots but the right hand rod was fished to where the main epicentre of shows had been the night before.

This coincided perfectly with a spot Andy Mackie had told me about from where he had caught a couple back in October.

All the rods had gone in nicely with half a dozen medium Spombs of bait over the top of each and they remained un-molested until the early evening when the middle rod pulled up a few inches really slowly.

I slackened off a little and again very slowly it pulled back towards the blank. In Double Boards the pike are at times a nightmare, going around the margins picking up mainlines. Many anglers have been bitten off in the edge when tightening up to one of these strange takes.

Because of this, I picked the rod up gingerly and the inevitable 2lb pike rolled and thrashed about attached 15m from the rod tip.

Luckily the line seemed to be wrapped around its operculum rather than through its mouth so it fell off without doing any damage. The rod was quickly put back onto its spot and there it remained as did the other baits until I reeled in to leave as obviously there was not a sign of a fish anywhere on the lake again. Despite the lake being busy no-one else saw or caught anything either.

The car was all packed and ready to catch the 15.00pm crossing but I had planned a chore to complete before I left.

The ever unpopular ‘Back Bay’ hadn’t seen an angler yet this year but quite a lot of tree work had been done on the island at the entrance to the bay.

This resulted in plenty of small sticks and branches littering spots we usually fish in the bay. I had therefore brought a weed rake with me to throw about removing sticks from our two most productive areas.

Once finished, I deposited the big bucket of bait that I had brought with me for the job onto the spots. Interestingly, Adam and I had been discussing the lack of bubbling seen on the lake through the winter and early spring. We were thinking that this may be due to the fact the only feeding being done was at mid-water rather than in the sediment.

However, I had noticed a lack of bubbles when drawing leads back in and hardly a bubble hit the surface while raking these spots.

When I had performed the same task in the summer last year, it was a cauldron of bubbles every time the rake hit the bottom. I am not sure why but I now surmise that the lack of bubbling may be due to the lack of gas in the lake bed as the usual fermenting and bacterial breakdown processes don’t really start until the silt is warmer?

After a couple of weeks away I was again desperate to be angling so, after a long walk with my wife and dog in the Surrey Hills, a leisurely breakfast and lots of coffee, it was time to get the car loaded with fishing tackle.

I had forgotten to get the boilies out of the freezer so they were speed defrosted in the sun on the roof of the car. I just had to remember they were there and not drive off scattering them around the countryside.

I use hardened bottom baits that are soaked in a liquid dip and then wrapped in paste so it is important that they were defrosted before I arrived at the lake.

The weather had finally started to be a little more spring like, nice and warm with night-time temperatures of 10 degrees. The pressure was low at 988mb with heavy cloud and some drizzle but, after the miserable cold conditions I had fished through recently I was more than looking forward to a couple of nights not wearing thermals.

I was out the door and heading west by 12.30pm aiming to make the 14.00pm crossing, this was put in jeopardy as I was stuck behind a Honda Jazz for best part of 10 miles of winding country lanes that makes up my route to the lake.

The bodywork on the car suggested she enjoyed the occasional crash and scrape and with constant braking every time a car came towards her from the opposite direction, I kept well back from the bumper of the erratically driven car until she eventually turned off.

This is what a Honda Jazz looks like inside. No wonder they are always blocking our way while struggling to get to the lake.

I made it to the crossing with a minute to spare but due to engineering works, the line was closed and so I just drove straight over.

The lake was quiet and only one other angler was still present from the weekend. There were fish evident in front of the ‘Big Noddy’ swim so I dropped my barrow there to start with, I was then informed that the fish had started to spawn on the other end of the bar that morning so all the bar swims had been closed.

There was no spawning taking place at this stage in the day and only a small amount had occurred that morning, mainly just a few small males.

Mark had decided that he wasn’t going to close the lake at this point as a cold front was coming through with rain so he assumed that the spawning activity would stop again, the main event probably occurring in a few weeks.

It was still early May and it had only been warm for ten minutes-  how could they be spawning already?!

I did take the water temperature later that day and it had jumped up to 18.4 degrees but I have no idea how that could of happened as the air temperature had only been over that for a couple of days.

I turned the barrow around and headed towards Daisy Bay.

A bucket of chopped and whole boilies was mixed with 6mm Complex-T and Marine Halibut pellets, Krill Frenzied Pulses & Particles, Fish Gutz, Shrimp Extract, Garlic Oil, Krill Liquid and Hemp Oil all bound together with plenty of the Swim Stim Match Margin Mix groundbait.

With a few liquids to bind it all together.

This smelly concoction has proved very effective while margin fishing as a small amount of bait seems to have a huge amount of pulling power.

All three rods were placed around the far margins of the bay with a big handful of groundbait deposited on-top of each rig.

Getting the rods in position seemed to take ages as there were a few fish milling around the bay so I had to wait until the coast was clear. The best sighting was of a giant tench that was as black as coal and huge at around 14lb I would guess.

I would dearly love to catch that fish but preferably on tench gear. I had also got desperate as it had been a hard old winter for just a couple of bites…

I decided that it was time to invoke the luck of the Doctor so I got the lucky pot noodle fork out that I had stolen from him during our last French trip, gave it a quick Aladdin like polish and stuck it next to the rods.

The lucky pot noodle fork working its mystical magic.

I sent a picture of this to the Doc, he is just grateful that his fork is being used in this manner rather than being employed in the difficult business of probing Andy Mackie’s less salubrious crevices.

That night as the sun faded into the Western sky the air of expectancy increased as a humid night with low pressure and a moderate wind blowing into the bay gave me just about the carpiest conditions possible. There was also the possibility of the Aurora being visible again that night so I was sat up late, I had missed a magnificent display the night before at home while I slept on blissfully unaware of what was manifesting over our house.

Our neighbours showed us some of the pictures they had taken that were incredible. I didn’t want to miss this again but sadly it wasn’t to be and nothing but the landing lights of planes was visible in the night sky.

I had a few liners on the rod towards the entrance of the bay in the early night and at 02.30am I was up and crouched over the right hand rod as another aggressive liner had me bounding towards the rods.

While crouched over rods the left hand rod pulled up tight with the tip bending down to the back lead.

I was soon rod in hand wrestling myself into chesties so I could wade out to meet the fish at the drop off.

After the long winter of inaction, the heavy weight deep down in the channel felt enormous and I had at least two heart attacks, a stroke and a soiling calamity during the early stages of the fight.

It just meant too much to get that fish in, I wanted it too badly, and the sudden appearance of a large mirror in the red glow of my head torch at what turned out to be about halfway through the fight did nothing to calm my fraught nerves.

I now knew I was attached to a real prize, the slow heavy turns and runs became easier to control as the fight neared its climax and then to a scream of elation as she finally dropped into the mesh of the out-stretched net.

The ‘Big Football Fully’ at 40lb 15oz was mine.

All the blanks and the run of doubles were forgotten about in that instant as I peered down at that glorious fish nestled quietly in the Frimley net.

The joy of that moment is almost impossible to translate into words but a screamed text of ‘BEARD ON’ to Adam and Andy pretty well summed it up to me.

I was dithering and shaking like a newly crowned prom queen so I left the fish in the net while I sorted out the lights and camera for a self-take session. It took a while as I was so out of practice I had almost forgotten how the routine went. I had stupidly forgotten to check the batteries in the lights so one of those was playing up and the battery in the camera that hadn’t been out of the bag in some time was all but flat.

Luckily I carry a spare but this was faulty and had discharged fully never to live again so I had very little battery power to get the shots done.

Despite this display of personal moronity, I managed some good shots and got her back in the water with no further mishaps.

I even managed to get the rod back out perfectly in the dark which was worthy of a celebration in itself.

I couldn’t sleep for the next few hours so sat up drinking copious cups of tea and watching the sun come up over the Eastern tree line.

The carp continued with a lack-lustre attempt at spawning on the bar but without any real conviction, the decision to not close the lake continued at this point so I decided to re-do the two rods that hadn’t gone.

This was at around midday and as the left rod which had produced the Big Football Fully had gone in perfectly, I decided to leave it as it was.

I walked back into the swim after dropping the middle rod off on the far bank and was greeted by a ticking clutch and a bent round rod as the left hand rod had been picked up again.

Idiot, idiot, idiot! I had forgotten to take the sounder box with me!

I was luckily already in chesties so at least I didn’t have to battle into those as well. On picking up the rod it became apparent I had been extremely fortunate in that the fish had headed out of the bay but was just entering the edge of a lily bed.

Steady pressure drew the fish straight back out and I waded to the edge of the drop off and played the short fat common out from there.

A small audience congregated behind me but I thankfully made no mistakes and the 30lb 6oz fish was soon mine.

She behaved well for the photos although with the camera battery now dead, I had to rely on the camera phone.

The light was good so it all came out reasonably well and I spent the rest of the day with such a glow of contentment I looked like the Ready Brek kid (anyone born after 1980 probably won’t get that reference).

That night, the lake became busier again as seven other anglers arrived and plotted up on the limited bank space.

Nothing happened – not a beep to anyone, the reason for this became obvious as during the night the carp had decided that it was in fact time to get in on some of the sex and had started spawning with gay abandon on the bar. The lake was therefore closed at this point and we all packed away for at least the next couple of weeks.


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