An Indian Summer – Part 2
We didn’t have far to travel to our next venue, as Pascale’s is only a two-minute drive from Saussaie. We’d already done the draw at Craig’s place, and with Clive wanting the comfy lodge swim this year, that left Beechy, Bullet and myself to pick a number. Thankfully, my run of good fortune continued and I got second pick from three – not too shabby at all!
I knew where Bullet would pick and he headed straight for the 60s swim, which, in fairness, is where most head due to its name. Bullet, however, opted to fish it from the small swim cut into the road bank which offered a totally different line angle, so this left me with the Gate swim, while Beech had the Middles. I had fished the Gate a couple of times before so knew the script, but what I noticed straight away was the fact the 60s swim some 80 yards to my left had no lines venturing out from the bank. Now, this is a rare occurrence for sure, so I just had a hunch the fish would patrol very close in from corner to corner while mooching between 60s and the Gate.
I was absolutely buzzing for the week ahead, as I love fishing Pascale’s; it’s a tough lake that’s full of weed and there aren’t masses of fish to go at, but what live in there are what make the challenge worth the effort. In fact, I’d been looking forward to this trip since the previous October when I fared particularly well. I also made the decision to go heavier on the bait from the off compared to previous trips there. I had loads of maize in the freezer and even more of the Secret 7 on the boilie front, so if they wanted to eat, I was prepared to give it to them!
I guess the only difference to this week compared to the previous one was I’d be doing everything from a boat, so finding spots, placing rigs and baiting up would all be absolutely perfect. That way I had the confidence to leave my rigs in position for a few days if needed be, thus keeping the boat activity and disturbance in my zones down to the bare minimum.
The first area I needed to explore was down to my left. Now, as soon as I set sail, the first thing I noticed was the normal gin-clear water was really murky. This was a tell-tale sign there had been fish activity in this area for sure, so I didn’t want to be out there messing about too much for fear of scaring the living daylights out of anything. I slowly cruised the margin with the echo-sounder on until I found the bottom of the shelf and a rock-hard gravel area. I dropped a H-block to mark the spot and then ventured out from the H-block until the echo read 9ft, which was the bottom of the lakebed, and then stopped. I’d say I was around 25 yards from the marginal shelf but directly in line with the H-block. This would be perfect for knowing exactly where I needed to go to reset a rig in the dark, and after careful feeling with a lead, I found the perfect spot. Instead of searching for the rock-hard gravel spots that most try to find, I was after some firmer, silty spots this trip. We’d seen cloudy water last year from above and this could only have been caused by fish rooting about in the silt, not the gravel. I mean, not many blatant gravel spots cloud up, do they? I baited in a line from the H-block to the actual spot where I lowered the rig. I felt it down with a resounding thud and something just told me this was going to be the rod.
The middle rod went more or less straight out in front at around 40 yards, again in the softer stuff I’d found. However, despite trying super hard to find a similar drop for the right rod, I couldn’t, but I did find a very obvious hard gravel area which after all the messing about in the boat, I kind of thought, This will do.
With the right-hand rod, I was careful not to put the rig smack bang in the middle of the spot. I spent time to get it just on the edge of the spot as the weed started, then I baited it heavily with maize and S7. All three rods had the same QC rigs on, all baited with matching S7 cork-ball pop-ups. I’ve never used a fluoro on Pascale’s; I just think it’s not that sort of water, or at least it’s not the way I want to tackle it. I was convinced what they wanted was a good-quality bait with a good-quality food bait on the rig. Plus, because the hookbaits were cork-balls, I knew they’d stay in exactly the same position for at least three days and at exactly the same buoyancy.
I got the rods out in what seemed like no time at all. Normally I’m knackered after the early commute to get to the lake, but as we were only down the road, I was well in the zone from the offer, so everything went like clockwork. I was happy with my spots, and with the water already coloured up, I knew fish had been about. I suppose the only niggling thing was I had messed about to the right of the swim a little more than I had liked, but I’d committed to the spots now, so that was that!
We all met for the first feast of the week around in the lodge. One of Clive’s reasons for demanding the lodge was that he was the chef for the week, and also because he’s old (his words). In fairness it works well for him to do the cooking and us to clean up after he’s dirtied almost every bloody utensil in the kitchen. Honestly, it’s like a war zone after he’s finished, but credit where its due, he fed us splendidly.
I was eager to do ‘carp stuff’ with it being the first night. It’s normally the way on Pascale’s that the fish tend to put on a bit of a display as the light starts to fade. They use the cover of the weed during daylight, then come out to play through the night; it’s definitely a confidence thing, as I’ve rarely seen a fish when I’ve been out in the boat, yet on other waters I’ve fished some of the fish will actively follow the boat, as they’re that inquisitive.
The bottom line is Pascale’s isn’t an easy water; in fact, all the odds are stacked in the carp’s favour from the off: low stock, heavy weed and loads of natural food. In fact, I’m amazed we even catch what we do from there, but like I said, that’s the challenge of such a lake.
As the evening/night wore on, I was hearing some huge sounds as fish were making their presence known. They were both left and right of me, but pinpointing exactly where was tricky, as it went pitch black very quickly. All I do know is my heart was nearly beating out of my chest with excitement, as I expected one of the rods was going to bust off at any moment.
As is normally the way, when we think we’re going to get a bite, we don’t, and I had to wait until mid-morning on the Sunday before finally the left-hand rod buckled round in the rest and I connected with something that felt very weighty indeed. My normal plan of attack is to try and keep the fish moving through the weed. If it locks up, I will then jump straight in the boat and head after it. This fish, however, just kept moving but at a very slow pace. I thought it must have some weed around it, as the weight was savage. Beechy had seen me doing battle and was soon waiting with the net by my side. The first sighting of the fish had me in bits, as it was clearly very big, and a common too! It plodded about the margins for a few minutes more, then surfaced and gulped a load of air as I was walking backwards. It went straight in the net first time, or at least most of it did – it was bloody massive! We left the fish in the net while we sorted the weighing kit out. Pete came around to see the fish and was genuinely shocked at the size. Now, Beechy and Pete are big lads, but we normally used a trip for these situations, but unfortunately we had forgotten it, so we ended up using Bullet’s weigh crook, which only just did the job! I hate reading the weights of my own fish, and especially big ones like this, so when Beechy muttered 61lb 4oz, I thought he was taking the piss. He wasn’t, though, and amazingly I had a new PB common on my hands, beating my previous best by a pound. What a way to open my account, and so quickly too. I don’t normally expect action for a couple of days on waters like this, so to get such an epic carp after only one night was brilliant for my confidence.
I wasn’t the only one off the mark, as Beechy had nabbed a scale-perfect 31-pounder from his left-hand margin, while Bullet was doing his thing over in the Road swim with a lost fish and a beast of a mirror of 62lb. Bullet is very consistent at Pascale’s; it’s brilliant seeing him tackling it really, especially with all his aches, pains and health issues. Fair play, mate; you do make the weeks worthwhile, even if you do snore like a pig right across the lake on first light.
Clive hadn’t had so much as a bleep! Beechy went out in the boat on the Monday to check his spots with the scope and there was bait all over them, as there was on Clive’s. You can normally tell the fish’s movements from the visibility, or the fact you can’t see the bottom or your bait on the spots, and Clive’s swim was like tap water.
A pattern was emerging between Bullet and me now, though. The fish had started to hang about between our lines in the day, then venture closer in from corner to corner during darkness. I wasn’t going to cast a single hookbait around on this lake, as it would almost certainly land in heavy weed and stand zero chance of being picked up by a carp. I simply had to let the fish move on to me, as spots were limited. Plus, if I had moved my spot to where I had seen a fish show, it was odds on I wouldn’t see another show at all. Honestly, it can mess with your mind at times on this place, but there’s something about my mindset when I fish here. I’m not normally a very patient angler, but when I fish this place, I am; it’s more a mental game than anything else, and I never crack or doubt what I’m doing, which I think is key to being successful.
My next flurry of action came on the Tuesday morning, and this time it was the left-hand rod that burst into life again, only this time there was a lot less plodding in the fight; it was obviously a smaller fish, but it was certainly very welcome. It weighed in at 39lb 8oz, had a small, weathered tail, one eye and some lovely scattered scales down its flank. I’ve since been told it was only its second ever recorded capture, so what it lacked in size or looks, it made up with kudos, I guess.
It was the right-rod that tightened up very shortly after returning the 39-pounder. Conditions were damp and drizzly – almost perfect conditions – so it was no surprise when it went. Again, the weed didn’t cause me too many problems, so I simply kept on playing the fish like it was a barren lake. When a bulky common surfaced, I knew I’d need some assistance from Beechy. It was a mega carp, this one, scale perfect and black on its back, and at 53lb 8oz, it was another piggy ticked off the list. I caught that fish from the edge of that blatant spot and I did reset the rod on the same spot, but something just didn’t feel right come the Wednesday morning. I could literally see the spot glowing where the water had cleared and nothing was in the vicinity, so it was time to move it to a fresh zone. I’d seen some fizzing in line with the lodge looking out from the Gate swim, and after a bit of careful investigation, I found exactly what they’d been fizzing on, another firm but slightly silty area, so that’s where the rig and copious amounts of bait were deposited. I was out and back in fewer than five minutes, so felt sure a quick (well, quick for Pascale’s) bite could be on the cards.
It wasn’t to be that quick, to be honest, as it was 3am before the rod flew off and had me in a bit of a flap. I was actually in a deep sleep, so it took a few seconds longer than normal to get my bearings and pounce on the rod. In that time it had weeded me solid, which wasn’t ideal in the pitch black! I set sail and ever so gently teased my way towards the weedbed. Once above it I tweaked the line with my fingers, as that way I was in total control and never put too much strain on both the fish or the rod. However, the worst thing possible happened and the line parted. I’d only exerted the slightest bit of pressure on it and it had gone, a clean break. On closer inspection there was no chaffing, shredding or anything; I’d obviously suffered at the hands of some of the sharp mussels that litter the heavy weed. I was devastated; it was the first fish I’d lost in four years at Pascale’s and it hurt me bad. I sulked back to the bank, left the rod against the bivvy and got back into the bag to sulk like you wouldn’t believe. Little did I know I’d go from rock bottom to sky high in a few hours’ time…
I was dog-tired, so decided to carry on sulking and have a little lie in on the Thursday morning. I reckon it was about 8am and I’d just opened my eyes and stuck the kettle on for the first coffee of the day. The kettle hadn’t even started rumbling when the left-hand rod bent round in the rest and stayed there! I was using heavy 6oz leads and knew something had picked the rig up, so I quickly lifted into what felt like an almost immovable object. Ever so slowly it then started to move, ticking line off the clutch as it did. This felt serious from the very beginning! There was no sign of Beechy and obviously Bullet was snoring his head off, so it left me to do battle with something that seemed rather large all on my own! Looking back, I’m glad it was that way, as the very first time I saw it roll I saw a two-tone effect down its flank. I knew there were a couple of huge mirrors in the lake with two-tone shading, but strangely I didn’t shit myself like I did with the common previously. I simply kept talking out loud to myself to treat it like the thousands of carp I’d caught over the past 30-odd years. The fish used all its weight and bulk to work its way slowly around the swim, trying to seek out any sanctuary in which to dump my size 4 hook. However, steady, robust pressure gave me the upper hand throughout until the net came into view, when it went absolutely ape shit, before powering off to my right where it lightly weeded itself. I knew it could only be one of three fish and they were all of biblical proportions! I didn’t need this at that moment of the scrap, but gentle pressure popped him out of the weed first time, from where it swam straight into the net. YES!
Thankfully, all the troops rallied round to help. Even Bullet got out of his chariot and came for a butcher’s – it must have been special! I let them all take control, but deep down I knew it was massive. The way it took two strong men to lift it out the water was enough to tell me it was special, but I literally had no words when Beechy read out 74lb 2oz! Even as I sit here writing this piece weeks after coming home, it’s still not sunk in at all. We got a few shots of the beast, but it was so heavy and we didn’t want to stress the fish out any longer, so got it straight back without too much fuss. That meant a new PB common and PB mirror within a few days of each other, and how fitting they should be from the very same swim that I’d set my previous personal bests. You couldn’t write it, could you?
As you can imagine, I was on cloud 109, not 9, and I still am, but I did eventually stick the rods back out, before being rewarded with a mega dark 47lb 8oz just before reeling in on the Saturday morning. What a two-week session it turned out to be. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d catch what I did from both lakes. I really enjoyed it on Saussaie, but I really loved it on Pascale’s, as I always do. Two totally different styles of angling, but for equally impressive pressured carp.