A Winter to Remember

  • Posted: 3rd April 2020
  • Author: Jason Dowling

My syndicate water near Glastonbury, known as Avalon, generally seems to shut up shop in winter due to it being very weedy. Not having fished it since October, I decided it was time to get back on there and hit it hard, as I knew a fish called the Big Common was due, as it hadn’t been caught in more than eight months.

It was the start of January and I had 24 hours in front of me. I got to the lake and did a few laps before noticing about 20 fish balled up in a swim in the middle of the lake, so that’s where I decided to set up camp.

I knew 95% of the anglers pull off the lake in winter, as it doesn’t do many bites at all, so I thought I’d take advantage and keep the bait going in the same peg to see if I could build a big winter hit. I decided I was going to spod a small area in a clear spot in the weed with 8mm Switch boilies and both Crayfish and Betastim Mini Mix pellets, all soaked in Switch Hydro Spod Syrup and Hydro Wheat. At the business end, I would be offering a salt-cured Switch bottom bait tipped with a 12mm Pink Peril pop-up on a German rig.

I got the rods out and, to my surprise, the middle rod screamed off after only 20 minutes. After a long, hard battle, I finally slipped the net under a fish I’ve been after for a while, a fish called Maniac at 26lb 10oz. I was over the moon!

Maniac at 26lb 10oz

I kept the bait going in, as I knew I should be able to get in the same peg again. I had a few blanks after landing Maniac, but kept up the baiting in the hope it would all come good. About a week later, I did an overnighter before work and landed a small common, which boosted my confidence, and before work I baited heavily, as I knew this could be my last night for a week or so, because my wife was due to give birth to our second child.

My wife had the baby and he settled in really well, so it was time to get the rods out again for another night before work. Speaking to the owner, it hadn’t done a fish since my last fish. I noticed the water temperature had gone from 5.4c to 9.8c in a week and a half. Feeling very confident, I got the rods out and opted for the same baiting approach, with 10 Spombs over the top of the rods. It wasn’t long before I was away with an upper-double ghostie. The bites just kept coming, and after topping the spot up with three Spombs after every fish, I ended up with six in total, the biggest going 26lb 13oz common. I packed up feeling happy, as I felt my plan was starting to come together.

A 26lb 13oz common

A few days later I was back and very surprised to see the swim I was baiting was still free. I got the rods out again for an overnighter and by 8pm had landed an upper-double common. Then about an hour later I had an absolute screamer! I hit the rod and there was no stopping this fish; it took about 60 yards of line from me. I just knew this fish was decent. It weeded me up, so I kept steady pressure on the rod and after about 10 minutes it was moving again. This fish had so much power I couldn’t do anything with it. My knees were shaking, as I knew it was something special, and after about 30 minutes or so, I managed to get its head up. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing, as straight away I knew it was the Big Common – and she was looking bigger than ever! I got her in the sling still shaking was excitement. I got the ‘Queen of the Lake’ out and weighed her at 36lb 15oz. I was over the moon, as it was her biggest weight yet and a new lake record.

Incredibly, just as I was packing up, with everything in the van barring one rod, the same rod was away again with a fish called Tango. What a night! I set off to work grinning from ear to ear, as I’d managed five fish in total, an upper double, three twenties and the Big Common.

The Big Common and a new lake record!

Tango just before I was due to leave

Soon enough, Sunday came around and it was time for another night. Upon arriving at the lake, I discovered the swim I had been baiting was free once again, so out went the rods and within 40 minutes the middle rod was away. After weeding me up and following another long, hard battle, I finally had her in the net, a common that went 26lb on the nose.

That turned out to be the only fish of the session, so some more bait went in before my departure, knowing I would be back in a few days. Sure enough, the swim was vacant upon my return, so out went a few Spombs over the rods and I was fishing again. This session produced a small mirror and a mid-double half linear, which was an absolute stunner.

A 26lb common

A lovely half linear

The next Sunday I returned to the lake to find it was completely empty, so I headed straight to my swim. Out went the usual 10 Spombs over the rods and it wasn’t long before I had landed two fish in quick succession, both of them mid-doubles. It looked like I was in for another busy night, and I wasn’t wrong, as within a short space of time I had bagged a lovely slate grey mirror of 23lb 6oz, followed by another low twenty.

I managed to get my head down for a bit, as I had work in the morning, but I was woken by a screamer! I hit the rod and was immediately into a slow, heavy plodder. Another dog fight ensued, before another of the A-team, a 30lb 11oz common, hit the net. I was over the moon with this session, as I’d managed six fish in total, including a thirty, in a single night.

A slate grey mirror of 23lb 6oz

A 30lb 11oz common that was the highlight of a six-fish catch

I went on to take another five fish to 24lb 7oz before the end of the winter. I was delighted with how things had gone. I had put a plan together and stuck to it, with the reward being 26 fish to 36lb 15oz, this from a lake that didn’t really do many fish in winter. I went through around 70kg of bait in total, proving that if you are prepared to put in the time and effort, the rewards are always there to be bad.

A few more fish before the end of winter…