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13 December, 2022 | Carp | Angler Blogs | Articles


Craig Waddington: Big, Wild Water Success

An incredible tale from carp angler Craig Waddington who shares his summer to autumn campaign fishing a big, wild water in the Nene valley. This is wild water carp fishing at its finest!

Craig says…

The Smallest Signs


It’s funny how the smallest sign or piece of information can lead to something truly special. I had been living down south in Wiltshire working as a carp farmer but the need to earn a better income had seen me heading back up to the Nene valley.

It felt refreshing to be once again surrounded by water and not just the odd little three acre commercial fishery here and there like I’d had locally before.

Pretty much even before fully unpacking I decided to take a walk around a few of the wild pits and stretches of river that used to hold an abundance of carp. Unfortunately years of carp being moved to local syndicates and otter predation meant that the majority of these venues held just odd fish if any at all.

Finding those special ones that still remain has been getting harder by the season but with a lot of searching and a bit of luck there are still odd giants to be found. It was on this walk that I bumped into one of the local anglers that I knew from a few of the lakes in the area.

We stood chatting about how the valley had declined and how it was becoming increasingly difficult to find any numbers of carp worth targeting. We spoke of several waters before he mentioned a friend of his catching a few good fish in the spring from a lake I knew of but had never actually looked at.

That snippet of information was to lead to the best run of big carp I’ve ever experienced in over twenty five years of carp angling…

By this time it was late summer so I knew there wasn’t long left before the seasons would start to change and locating the carp would become increasingly difficult. The lake used to hold a lot of carp but thefts over the years had dwindled the numbers so in a big open pit finding them was first priority.

The next weekend, following that conversation myself and a good friend were being left on babysitting duty so we decided to take little Freddie on an adventure to visit a few lakes, but, we never made it past this venue.

After parking close by, hopping the fence and lifting the pushchair over we set off across the fields for our first look. It’s not a short trek and those fields were going to test me over the next few weeks.

It was a beautiful, warm late summer day and after having a scout about I had seen enough and was buzzing to have a go, my mate was equally keen so we decided instead of looking any further tonight would be Freddie’s first night of fishing experience. We jumped back in the car and shot home to grab the gear.

That night I learned the lake contained bream, and lots of them. By 1am I was fishing double 20mm hookbaits but even that didn’t deter the ravenous shoals.

That first night left me broken, I had no bedchair as there was no space in the car and the relentless bream and mosquitoes meant sleep would have been impossible anyway.  Such a start would have been enough to deter some as a bad sign but just a couple of days later I was back armed with the leading rod to start investigating the lake bed to find a potential area to start applying some bait.

A good few hours of casting revealed the average depth of the lake to be very shallow with few features, so I knew bait was going to play a vital role in catching these carp. Now I knew what was out there I just had to learn where the carp liked to spend most of their time.

Over the next week or so the weather remained warm so the carp were usually quite easy to locate and most of the activity was centred around one area so it was here that I chose to target.

The lake bed in this area was completely uniform and made up of soft silt so the plan was to pick a comfortable casting distance from the bank and bait very heavily to create my own feature. I started spending each evening prepping buckets of particles and making sure the old trusty inflatable was ready for a few more covert baiting operations.

The next two weeks saw me making several back breaking journeys across the fields with my barrow laden with buckets of bait, bags of boilies plus a boat. It didn’t take long to become apparent that the bait was working as the area was alive with huge patches of bubbles and the odd rolling fish.

After a lot of watching and a serious amount of effort baiting it was finally time for the first session on the area. All three rods were clipped up to same distance and spread a rod length apart over the zone.

To combat the bream I was using 26mm CompleX-T bottom baits topped with a Fluro Squid and Octopus pop-up. Once the light dropped and the flying rats were no longer a problem, out came the throwing stick and I scattered 5kg of 20mm CompleX-T freebies over all 3 rods.

No messing around. Craig’s bream-stopping hookbaits featured a 26mm CompleX-T boilie with a 15mm Fluro Squid & Octopus pop-up.

Despite lots of activity even after getting the rods out the first night passed quietly, but at least the big hook baits worked I thought to myself. I decided not to recast the rods for the second night happy with the drops I got the evening before, instead just opting to top up the area with another couple of kilos of bait.

Another surprisingly quiet night followed and I was left wondering had all the bait been getting eaten? Just before lunch time as I was preparing to start packing away the middle rod let out two bleeps and registered a tiny drop on the bobbin, I stared intently but the bobbin remained in place until 30 seconds or so later it pulled up tight and the alarm gave a single bleep.

Great I thought a bream has managed to hang itself, but as I lifted the rod there was no movement on the other end just a bit of weight.

Within less than a minute I’d pumped the dead weight back to the bank and was crouched down at the waters edge ready to unhooking the offending “bream” when a huge set of shoulders popped up right at my feet! In a state of panic I scrambled for the net and scooped up something huge, this was no bream but it fought like it. Even now I’m convinced it never knew it was hooked!

With an enormous common now filling the bottom of my landing net I was stood there in a state of shock. I took a minute to get myself together like you do and called a friend to come down and get some snaps. Despite the bright sunshine we managed to get a few decent water shots before letting her waddle off. I wasn’t carrying scales but we both put her around the 40lb mark.


An incredible start and now brimming with confidence I already couldn’t wait to get back for another go.

The following week at work passed painfully slowly but I kept the buzz alive by visiting the lake whenever I got the chance. A couple more baiting missions in the dingy saw the area kept well baited with Mixed Particles, Frenzied Tigers and 20mm CompleX-T.

The friend who joined me on that first look round the pit was to be joining me for the next session. we planned to fish the weekend but I had to reel in at 5am on the Saturday for work leaving him with the gear.

Arriving on the Friday night after work I followed the same procedure as the week before and gave them another hit of bait with the throwing stick. The night was uneventful for both of us but whilst at work I received a call from a very distraught mate who had just lost a mid thirty common at the net.

He was understandably gutted but I assured him it was a good sign. They were in the area and we still had another night to go.

I couldn’t get out of work quick enough and after a quick detour home for a shower I was soon firing the rods back out to the baited zone. Not long after positioning the rods they started to show just beyond the spot.

Up until this point, unless they were cruising on the surface I hadn’t really seen them show except hearing the odd crash at night so this evening felt different and the atmosphere was electric.

Sometime around 3am the middle rod bleeped once before melting off. As soon as I picked up the rod I knew I was attached to something special.

Stood there in the pitch black on a warm summer night playing what was obviously a very large carp, I thought to myself this is what its all about, this makes all the effort worthwhile.

The fight was pretty typical of a big fish in shallow water, kiting wide on a long line eventually tying me up in the marginal reeds. Thankfully I had already slipped into the waders so I jumped in and carefully followed the line through the reeds.

My mate who was fishing just up the bank had heard the run and wandered down to find my swim empty, slightly confused until he heard my cries for a landing net coming from the margins.

I continued to follow my mainline until I came to the top of my leadcore which was wrapped around a few small stems. Running my hand down I came to the top bead followed just below by a huge pair of lips belonging to a clearly a very large carp.

I drove the net under the water and after a few tense moments somehow managed to bundle the carp in. Looking down I was met with the sight of a huge mirror and I simply said to my mate “it’s massive” as I was lost for words.

Once I’d regained some form of composure we secured the carp in a sack as it was just starting to get light and I jumped back into bed.

I has chosen not to recast the rod as I still had two others in the area, this proved a wise decision as just as the sun started to break above the horizon one of the remaining rods was away and line was leaving the spool at a serious rate of knots. A huge bow wave spread across the lake as another clearly very large and extremely angry carp exited the area.

Over the next 20 minutes this carp gave one of the most explosive battles I’ve ever experienced from a carp, with the shallow water forcing it to make long powerful runs across the surface on its bid for freedom.

Eventually I managed to coax the beast closer to the net and amidst the thrashing and charging around I caught a glimpse of white, I was attached a great big ghost carp!

Finally the insane battle was over and I slid the ridiculously long creature into the net making it the biggest and most incredible brace of mirrors I’ve ever caught.

I wasn’t taking any chances with this one and quickly transferred him into a sack whilst I got myself together and prepared the camera equipment.

Despite the sun just rising it was already very bright so getting good shots wasn’t going to be easy but I found the best area I could amongst the dappled light coming through the trees.  I knew the ghosty was going to be a handful on the bank so I chose to hoist that one up first before It had the chance to regain too much energy.

As expected I received a few tail slaps to show the carps displeasure of having been dragged ashore. With that one photographed I waded out and retrieved the first mirror eager for a look in the daylight. Unzipping the sack I was met with the sight of a lovely old carp. Deep bodied, incredibly wide with tiny pea scales on it flanks and a perfect mouth – it was everything a carp should be.

My back was already a little sore from holding up the first one but even through the pain I couldn’t help but smile as I held this amazing beast up for the camera.


With both carp safely returned and my swim in a state of carnage, I began to slowly pack away before the sun rose too high in the sky making the barrow journey back to the van even more of a killer.

The spot had now produced three carp, two upper 30s and an upper 40so my confidence was sky high and even on the drive home I was already planning for my return the following week.

I carried on baiting very heavily to ensure there was always something there to keep the carp visiting even after the bream had been in.

The next few days passed agonisingly slowly but with work finally out the way I was once again painfully pushing my barrow across the fields under the fierce late summer sun. Back in the swim, rods out and BBQ lit, I could once again become immersed in the atmosphere of the lake and forget the stresses of the real world.

Again the first night passed without action but a fast run on the middle rod took me by surprise the following afternoon. Baking hot with not a cloud in the sky, hardly typical big carp conditions.

Like the big mirror the previous week, whatever I was attached too again kited on a long line forcing me to take to the margins to prevent any issues with the reeds that circle most of the lake.

Now with the carp unable to cause me any more issues in the reeds, it wasn’t long before another big common popped up and slid into the net.

At mid thirty I couldn’t believe the size of the carp I was catching from this big, wild pit. That was the only action over that weekend, hardly surprising with the temps reaching over 30 degrees.

Another 30lb common from the big, wild pit

Unfortunately the relentless mozzies were still happy to feed! Plans had already been made elsewhere for the autumn so I knew I had just one session left to see what else the big pit had to offer.

I hoped one more big bait up 48 hours prior to my arrival on the Saturday afternoon would give me the best chance of signing off the campaign in style.

Five kilos of CompleX-T freebies followed the rigs onto the usual spots before lighting the BBQ and enjoying a final sunset before my journey took me elsewhere.

Just after first light the following morning I was gifted a final leaving present…

A carp almost as deep as it was long, a proper character. This was the smallest of the carp I had managed to catch but still well over 30lb.

A proper round specimen this one!

This was big carp fishing like I’d never experienced before. I’ve spent a lifetime searching and that search will continue looking for the next sign or piece of information…

Tight line – Craig

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