A Decade on Pingewood – Chapter 2: Falling Flat on My Face

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My third proper season on Pingewood was during 2015, at this point I was familiar with the lake, its stock and where the fish could typically be caught at various times. I worked extremely hard to put myself on fish and felt like I was fishing effectively. My reward? Just one loss and this was including a nine-night session! My only bite came on a zig in April from a swim called ‘Goose Sh@t’ on the motorway bank, Zigs were something that many anglers here had great success with and at the time could simply not be ignored.

I had found the fish in numbers, showing at 30 yards out in a small zone; I must have seen 50+ shows and in the end had three rods in the area. After a few liners, a 3’ zig finally tore off with an angry carp on the end, unfortunately the hook fell out on the first run and on reflection it was probably foul hooked. I saw this behaviour on several occasions, with carp launching themselves from the water right in front of you yet getting a bite was seemingly impossible.

Early spring on the zigs​

This was a tough season but two things changed for me, the first was bait. I had switched things up and was now using Oxford Carp Baits, specifically their Garlic Crab bait. Doing so led me to landing a huge number of bream and tench, I knew this was something The Brute liked too, which further boosted my confidence. In addition, I was also using the MC Nut flavour, which was similar to another nut-based bait I had used with good success.

I also better understood the patterns of the fish’s movements, where the early captures had come from and most importantly where The Brute was likely to come from and when. With this in mind I booked a long session leading up to the new moon in May, as The Brute had come from the lawn area of the lake on this moon phase for 3 consecutive years. I was feeling closer.

2016 – First Mirror (Big stocky, Snub and Long Common)

Spring 2016 was a turning point, I had a new job which meant I was travelling the M4 to London most weeks and so could pre-bait. I decided to start in mid-February and focussed on a Plateaued area towards the narrower westward end of the lake. I would arrive in the dark and spread bait over the area before changing into my work clothes and heading off to the office. I was doing this at least every week and more when able.

An early spring trip in the lawns

I first fished around the end of March, unfortunately without success, but in April things started to happen. I arrived mid-afternoon Friday for one night, the lake was busy with several anglers already in situ. Nothing had been out but as I walked past the container swim, a day angler had a take which resulted in him landing a fish called ‘Pearly’ at a good weight of 38lbs, this had come not far from my baited area in the plateau, so I wasted no time in getting set up.

A good fish made for freedom.

One rod was positioned on a hinge rig to a deep clay area at 60 yards and the other was fished on a Choddie with a yellow pop-up in the shallowest part of the plateau, in around 4’ of water. The fish were in the area and a friend of mine, Luke, was positioned on the far side, getting liners all evening. At 11, my plateau rod was away and a good fish made for freedom.

The fight was a blur and I slipped the net under a sizable fish, in the torchlight a bulky mirror lay sulking in the net. At the time I had never seen a picture of this one as it didn’t come out a lot, I later found out it was known as ‘The Big Stocky’ and at 36lbs you can imagine my elation after 120 odd nights, I finally had a mirror in the net!

After 120 odd nights I finally had a mirror in the net!

Frustratingly, I was unable to get back into the swim for several weeks after my inital success, but it continued to produce. It was clear that if the fish fed in an area early on, that area would continue to deliver bites for the weeks to come; this was to be an important lesson. My next chance came in May, when my 10-night session was planned, there was only one area I wanted to be, this was Brute time after all and she was yet to come out!

I arrived on Thursday to find the swim empty and didn’t hesitate to drop my gear. The new moon was over a week away but it was a good area, so I was willing to wait. I was focussing on a silty channel at 60 yards out fringed by tall weed, on the left it felt hard and tapered off to solid weed on the right. I started by fishing two hinged pop-ups over a good amount of the Crab bait, until this point I had been using the nut bait but the water temperature was up due to the spring sun and The Brute was known for liking a brown or red fishmeal boilie.

A good omen for the rest of the session

My first action came on the Friday night when I landed a 27lb common, one of the snub-nosed commons of which there were 3 or 4. I was made up with this, I saw it as a good omen for the rest of the session and was duly excited. The next 7 days past without event in my swim, as the fish were clearly to my right in the container/ plateau area. Several were caught in that area but I hadn’t seen The Brute so decided to stay put and stick to my guns.

On the Saturday morning, with 24 hours left I was at rock bottom, seven nights in one swim without a bite is hard. If you haven’t tried you’ll have to trust me. It was around 11am and I was just saying to a friend how low I was feeling, when the rod positioned on the left side of the spot pulled tight and started ticking off. It was clearly a big fish; she managed to pick up the right hand rod and the whole lot ground to a halt, just short of netting range. Not wanting to risk a loss I brimmed the chest waders and scooped the fish up, peering in to the net I was met with a stunning 32lb common known as the long common, a fitting reward but not The Brute.

Not The Brute, but a stunning common

Tension was high knowing that The Brute was due. This spot had seen her caught for three years running in May on this exact moon phase, plus she had been braced with the long common in the past. She also liked a Sunday capture, which is what makes the next few sentences particularly painful.

I was packing up at around 10am when, just as the day before, the left rod pulled up to the top and held tight. I was by the car at the time, just behind the swim and ran to the rod, striking without hesitation. It had been a liner and there was nothing on the end, I wouldn’t re-cast as my time was up. Was she on the spot? Impossible to say but there was a decent chance.

As usual, I took the summer off, not returning until September. The autumn sport was poor for me, through until November I only had one decent chance to show for my efforts. I had arrived to find work being carried out on the eastward cottage bank, causing mud to colour the water around the motorway corner snags.

I didn’t see any fish but it felt right and the next day they were happily feeding on the maggots I had laced the margin with. I spent a good few hours watching them feeding and rolling over my rods, but was unable to get a pickup. Annoyingly I had used all my maggots and had none left for hook baits, a rooky error and one never to be repeated. It was clear they were pre-occupied and only maggots would have gotten me the bite.

The season closed without further event but 3 ‘proper’ fish for my efforts a huge leap forward and I was excited for the spring ahead.