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14 May, 2024 | Carp | Angler Blogs | Articles

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Andy Bradnock: Winter of Discontent

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

Winter of Discontent

Well, that was an awful winter. It seems to have rained constantly for the last 4 months.

We returned from France in October and after a couple of weeks not fishing, I ventured back to the banks of Frimley for my usual 48hrs of solitude, pitting my limited wits against the wily inhabitants of Pit 3. Very little was on show during my initial walkabout, so after an hour the usual guesswork of swim choice was my only option.

I initially plotted up in the ‘Big Noddy’ swim as there had been a fish caught over the weekend at the other end of the exposed bar that runs in front of this swim. I was set up, rods out and baited in about an hour.

On the first evening just as the light was fading, the rod fished on a firm spot back up towards the hut was away. At no point did the fish feel huge but was making life difficult for me as it ploughed up and down the deep margin. Then suddenly it was gone.

I did a couple of rude swears as I reeled in the now fishless rig to find again the hook had snapped at the barb. This is the second of these I have had so when I realised this is what had happened, I was swearing more effusively, mainly aiming my vitriol at the said hooks manufacturer. I therefore binned the rest of that batch of hooks and put the rod back out, really disgruntled at the randomness of the loss.

B******

Not a lot happened for the next 24hrs nothing was seen and no sign of any action on any of the rods. However, again just before last light a Delkim screamed its warning as the bait on the bar in 2.5 feet of water was stolen. I have caught a fair few fish from this spot and this was the first one to kite hard right into one of the numerous lily beds that pepper the area.

Steady pressure usually gets the fish moving again but this time after sitting with compressed rod in hand for a few minutes it felt like the fish started to kick and come free, but sadly the hook pulled under the strain and I reeled in yet another fishless end tackle.

I hung the carp rods up for a few weeks at this point exchanging them for vertical jigging rods. The doc and I spent many pleasant hours floating around a local 300-acre reservoir trying to fool the local zander and perch population into snaffling a bit of rubber resembling God knows what.

The most effective jig we found looked like a condom. I am a complete novice at this style of fishing, luckily though the doc is amazingly proficient at it so I got a crash course in wrist wriggling. The skill he displayed at controlling our drift speed and placing the boat over the scant few features in the reservoir was amazing.

I cannot really claim any real credit for the fish I caught but between us we did manage to catch a huge number of small zander and a few perch to about 2lb 8oz.

Swapping the carp rods for the lure rods!

After this predator fishing interlude, I was more than ready to return to the relatively sedentary pursuit of carp in the glorious Blackwater valley. The next few sessions were uneventful and I started to rack up a few blank nights with little happening buzzer wise and very little to go on with regards to fish sightings.

A few fish were caught by anglers more competent than me but these were very sporadic in nature, where weeks with nothing caught would suddenly be punctuated with a little flurry of bites in very narrow windows of opportunity.

The lake was getting a fair bit of pressure this winter, in previous years my Sunday nights were just me and the Tawny owls but now I was often sharing the lake with half a dozen fellow piscators. The fish that were caught invariably came to zigs, which is a method I just cannot get my head around.

I can see that with Black Headed Gulls swooping on an abundant fly hatch putting a bit of rancid flip-flop in amongst this feeding frenzy could lead to a take. What really bakes my noodle is casting one into the middle of nowhere with not a single sighting to go on.

With depth and position both in play, how anyone gets it right is beyond me, and that’s before you take into account the number of foul hooked fish that result in this method of lure fishing for carp. No matter how you look at it it’s a filthy habit that should be discouraged whenever possible.

At the beginning of February, the traditional Siltexing of Frimley commenced, lorry loads of it were delivered on site and then the dirty job of getting it into the lake began.

I wasn’t stupid enough to get involved with this task but the benefits of doing it are clearly visible as the fish have grown and are in fantastic condition, also the lake’s snail and mussel population has increased in the few years that this has been done.

It was at the end of February, that I was finally lake bound again, some house renovations needed doing which I had been putting off for ages as part of it involved stripping the ornate windows in our spare room, this is just about the most miserable job known to man.

The trip planned had been postponed due to the lake being frozen for a week or so. However, despite a lid being firmly in place the weather had warmed considerably and there were 45mph winds forecast to start on the Saturday night so my arrival on the Sunday afternoon would hopefully see me have some wobbly water to cast into.

When I arrived, 90% of the lake was still frozen solid but in front of Fox Corner a little section of ice-free water was available due to the wave action generated by the strengthening SW wind. Unsurprisingly I was the only one stupid enough to be angling so plotted up in the swim and got 3 baits sorted for the night.

The wind continued to increase and 60mph gusts were blowing straight at me so I had set the bivvy facing away from the water. Through the night the noises generated by the ice-sheet were amazing as the wave action, distorted and then broke up the frozen surface of the lake. It sounded like the sirens of ancient Greece were alive and well as the ice sang and whistled before it broke apart.

The wind didn’t let up for the two nights I was there but the 7-degree water temperature was hardly inspiring, so I wasn’t surprised to be packing away fishless but in a better mental state on the Tuesday, having had my fix of solitude behind stationary, but very level rods.

As I was reeling in the final rod it suddenly came alive in my hand. A brief moment of thinking that a carp had been hooked and lying doggo waiting for me to reel it in was replaced with disappointment as a pike of maybe a pound and a half came splashing into the margin hooked neatly in the scissors.

On this trip I also found a video interview by Mike Wilmott where he was discussing his capture of the Black Mirror. It was just him sat on a bedchair talking to camera and was utterly riveting, what a storyteller. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth looking up and is all the inspiration you will need to get out angling.

The following few days at work were challenging. I get up every morning at 5am to get to work avoiding the M25 traffic. This involves me then sweating profusely in a gym near the practice and then after a shower and coffee a short drive in.

This Wednesday started the same as every other day with one important omission, I had forgotten my clean pants. Therefore, that day’s consulting involved me being commando and it turns out the inside of my trousers are quite coarse so every time I bent down to deal with the latest poorly pooch, some quite intense chaffing was experienced.

The following day during lunch I popped into the local Turkish barber to get my head shaved. This seems to take less time every visit as my poor bonce becomes more skin than hair. I don’t know if I am getting clumsier or it’s the lack of hair but I seem to be bashing my head much more often nowadays.

I will have to ask Ian Russell as he has been a snooker ball since birth. To be fair, he had such terrible hair it was probably a relief for his head when it all fell out. (He insists he never reads my stuff I guess now I will find out).

A picture of a picture of my bald spot. This is what it has come to.

 

 

Anyway, at this fateful barber visit they asked me if I wanted my ears and nose waxed which is something I hadn’t had done previously. They assured me it was pretty well painless so I decided to give it a go. All I can say is that they are miserable lying b#$***”ds – it was awful. I am a pretty hairy individual and this, it turns out extends to the inside of my nose.

With both nostrils full of wax the barber gave the first one a hefty yank to dislodge the forest of hair residing in its dark recesses. This was not enough and it required a further two substantial yanks to finally pull everything free. The worst bit was knowing I had to endure the same on the other nostril that was sitting wax filled, ready to be defoliated.

The following Sunday I was lake bound by lunch time with a BBQ and a bag of giant marshmallows to hopefully entice Andy Mackie down to the lake. With nothing showing and hardly a fish caught for weeks I decided to drop into Daisy Bay, a small bay not a huge distance from the car park with snags and marginal drop offs on which to place baits.

Marshmallows never fail to get Andy M out fishing!

The baits can be placed almost by hand using a 3-rod trick and some patience, so I was really happy that the baits were as perfect as I could make them. Surrounding the hook baits was a mix of 6mm Source pellets, Explosive Caster groundbait and a handful of casters mixed with Fish Gutz and Shrimp Extract.

I placed a good dollop of this mix carefully on top of each bait. With my 3 bottom baits in place, I was bucking the recent zig trend but as I would rather suck a tramp’s toe than sit behind 3 bits of flip flop, I was happy.

I then saw a fish slowly enter the bay and make its way towards the far bank snags, this settled the debate of ‘Am I in the right swim’ so I fired up the BBQ and awaited the imminent arrival of Andy. We spent a pleasant evening debating if it was possible to savagely chicken-wing Adam and which female celebrity has the nicest feet.

Heading to the bay!

During the night the middle rod had a few single beeps but the bobbin didn’t move so I ignored it. As the baits couldn’t be placed any better it seemed pointless to re-do them to just drop them back into the same spots, so I just freshened up the spots with a handful of bait.

Nothing occurred on the second night and not a beep emanated from the Delkims. My mistake of leaving the rods did not manifest itself until I reeled in to leave.

Two of the rods were perfect but the middle rod that I had the single beeps on was a good 10ft from where I dropped it and in the edge of the remnants of a lily bed. The fish was long gone and the rig was unceremoniously reeled in. What a waste of an opportunity, the trip home was a miserable ‘what if’ affair. The single beeps I was getting were spaced over a number of hours so the fish must have moved on a perfect arch not taking line then sat in the lilies until it dumped the rig. The Frimley fish have been angled for, for many years and have subsequently become sneaky little buggers.

The following week at work was punctuated by an unexpected appearance on BBC TV. The M25 was being closed for the weekend and as the practice I work at is right in the centre of the disruption, I was interviewed for what was supposed to be a tiny segment on the local news.

They ended up using it on the national morning news so friends from around the country called to say they had been put off their Sugar Puffs as my head appeared on their screens. Some of the less charitable commented on how fat, bald, grey etc I looked. I also saw this week that research has suggested that every time someone catches covid it knocks 5pts off their IQ.

This is really worrying for Adam as he has caught it at least 5 times that we are certain of, so he will be in negative figures by now. He struggles to tie his shoe laces on a good day and has recently been heard saying ‘the big hand is pointing at the……’ when people have asked him the time.

This week’s session was spent back in Daisy Bay trying to right the wrong of the week before. I sadly had to accept that I had made a poor choice of swim again as an aerial display at far end of the lake as I was packing away proved I was miles away from the bulk of the fish.

Carl was set up in the middle of the activity and was justly rewarded with a couple of fish for correct swim selection.

I couldn’t get down for a few weeks and the only carping related thing I did was collect a beautiful glass fronted bookcase that belonged to Dave Ball.

 

Many young anglers will have no idea who he is but he was a significant carper in his day and also a good friend of the three of us.

He was the man who first caught and then named ‘Mary’ the Wraysbury giant that for a while was the British record. He is one of the longest standing members of the BCSG and along with his great friend ‘Sir’ Pete Springate is like royalty in the group.

He has spent less time carp fishing in recent years but turned his hand successfully to catching giant chub from the Thames and monster tench over 13lb.

I photographed an amazing brace of chub for him one evening a few years ago now but at 7lb 10oz and 6lb 8oz (if my memory serves) it was one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen in angling.

Sadly a few years ago Dave suffered a fairly catastrophic stroke and has been in a nursing home for a while now and needed to get rid of some the possessions he no longer has use for. I therefore bought the bookcase from him adding a few quid to his beer and red wine fund and giving me something to cherish.

He seemed to approve of the photo of the bookcase filled with my fishing books. While I was away from the lake, Adam managed a couple of nights and landed a double figure mirror however, other than that the rest of the lake was quiet.

My next trip down wasn’t until the second week of April and prior to this trip I had an overwhelming feeling that I was about to catch Charlie’s Mate. I even sent a message to the other two ‘wrong uns’ stating that this would be so.

Arriving at the lake I was greeted by a smiling Ryan who had just landed the ‘Big Plated’ at just short of 49lb from Daisy Bay.

After hugs and congrats I made my way around the lake looking for inspiration but found very little to go on, apart from a lovely wind blowing up the top end and another angler reporting he had caught a couple at that end of the lake the night before.

I dropped into a swim called Henry’s and snuck two baits into the margins and one rod out towards what we called the Tom Dove spot. This is roughly where Tom placed a bait during a filming session he did at Frimley, he was a guest and as he had to be away from the lake before the rail crossing opened in the morning he was away from his swim moving his van when this rod produced a take.

One of the cameramen then proceeded to land a 27lb fish the only fish caught during the session. That night an astounding number of fish crashed, rolled, boshed and head and shouldered down to my right.

They all seemed to be facing in my direction and were getting slowly closer but failed to come within the boundaries of my swim.

The following morning, the lake was quiet and not the merest dimple was seen on the still surface. The only thing of note that happened to me that morning was a sighting of a pair of Bullfinches in the marginal trees to the right of my swim.

I haven’t seen one for a few years and they are always one of my favourite sightings. The pinkie chested male looking like a toby jug with his chest out and a little black robber cap.

They used to be really common but the Victorians took exception to them damaging the buds of their apple trees so killed them in huge numbers. The population has never recovered.

I moved one swim down the lake into Dead Hedge where the epicentre of the shows seemed to be the night before but yet again the fish failed to turn up two days in a row and not a single fish was seen. In fact, hardly a sighting was reported from around the lake so I wasn’t the only one with a dry net.

I have just looked at my word count and realised that I have waffled on about nothing for a while so will leave it here and continue this next time.

-Andy

 

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