A Decade on Pingewood – Chapter 3: Success at last

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Spurred on by my results in the previous year, I decided to put a similar plan into action for the season ahead. At this point, I had some decent experience under my belt on Pingewood, meaning I had three areas in mind to concentrate on for the first part of the season. Tyre bay and the plateau, which had good form for early bites, and the slip way which had produced The Brute on several occasions.

Having numerous areas to focus on was essential, and I would only bait up when no one was fishing either side or opposite. This made it rare for all three to be baited at the same time, even if it was mid-week in February. I baited from mid Feb through to late March and began to fish around the 20th. My first night was mid-week in the plateau area, I had a couple of liners but sadly the area produced no bites. During the following week the weather took a turn for the better and I recall arriving at the lake to a warm south westerly wind blowing down the lake.

It looked perfect for the slipway, so I dropped my gear and sorted the rods for the evening; I distinctly remember the feeling of my right-hand rod lead landing on the spot I had been baiting. It landed as though it were on concrete, which on reflection was the result of feeding activity. Rods were fished on low pop-ups over crumb and caster, I hadn’t gone overboard on bait, only using only 7-8 midi spombs, as I had to go to work the following day. I didn’t see any shows in the evening but a few fish were evident in the upper layers, so at least they were in the area.

Pingewood’s second in the net

I was awoken before first light by a few quick bleeps from my right hand rod, positioned over the pre-baited area, there was very little resistance and I was sure a bream had hung itself. As the fish drew closer, large inky boils made me think a carp may be responsible after all. I lifted the net around a dark shape; I always avoid using the head torch as it tends to panic the fish and prolongs the fight. Peering down in to the net I was met by the unmistakeable bulk of Big Pecs, the second largest mirror in the lake!

Blown away doesn’t come close to it. Known for her explosive power and arm aching battles, had she have fallen off I would have sworn it was a bream. I woke up Byron who was angling next door and we excitedly chatted and drank tea before it was light enough to take the obligatory photographs. She was an incredible creature, huge drooping fins and thick set shoulders, I felt privileged to have met her. In fact, I had returned her for another angler as part of a double take the year pervious, as I did so I whispered “the next time I see you it’ll be in my net…”.

One of the ones I really wanted

I went off to work for the day, returning straight to the slipway for the weekend. On the Saturday afternoon after several beers with a good friend to celebrate the capture of Pecs, I managed to catch one of the newer stock fish on a single white pop-up cast at a show up my left margin.

I should say here that I didn’t actually see the fish show, but Byron did and suggested that I bait there, 30 minutes later she was in the net. This fish had recently been moved from a nature reserve along with several others. Despite being stocked recently it was a stunner, triple row linear on one side and a perfect zip linear down the other.

Sometimes it only takes a few minutes

​No further action came to the rods, this had clearly been a bit of a ‘purple patch’ and I had to be there. On the Sunday, I saw a big fish show out to my left long in front of the nettles swim, it was either Floppy Tail or The Brute based on its size and grey colour.

At this time there was some concern over the condition of The Brute, she had been caught during the previous autumn at a low weight with significant angler damage endured from the spring. Marcus Howarth had subsequently caught her around November at a better weight and we were all hoping she would go on to make a full recovery.

I left about mid-afternoon, overjoyed with my result and keen to get back. After work on the Monday with the kit still in the car, I couldn’t resist taking a bag of bait and heading back for the night. Someone was installed in the slipway, this was common as you had to be quick to capitalise on any success before others cottoned on, this particular angler stayed in the swim for several weeks without a fish, which goes to show how good my weekend had been!

With the lake busy and the slipway taken, I was a bit lost. After a lap around I decided to fish the nettles, towards the last show I had seen on the Sunday only 24 hours prior.

A scenic shot looking up the lake from the plateau

One rod was fished in the short area (where I had caught the common previously) and the second was a choddie, positioned further out in the area where I had witnessed the show. With only 12 hours at my disposal, I baited lightly with the boilie stick. Shortly after getting the rods out, a fish clattered out to my left in the corner of the lake. It was rare to hear them over the drone of the M4 and this gave the evening an electric feel, I stood peering in to the gloom for a while but nothing further occurred.

By 9:30 I was in bed and at 9:45 the right hand rod pulled up tight and out of the clip, a little confused, I picked it up to be met with a heavy slow weight at the other end. My knees started to go a little. The fish kited right and in the darkness managed to get around the end of a tree growing out in to the lake; it was on the surface, with line passing over the tree and down to the fish on the far side of the tree. I was convinced it was The Brute and I couldn’t lose it, trying desperately to get to it with the net from both sides but the water was far too deep.

I propped the rod against the tree out in the water on a tight line with a slack clutch and stepped off the marginal shelf, pushing the net in front of me. The water was freezing as it was still only the first week of April.

I scooped the fish up and cut the line, but now was in real trouble, I hadn’t bothered to take my waders off but rather swam in them to the fish. In 12’ of water this was foolish and for a few moments I panicked as I tried to reach the margin. Using the net as leverage I gained a foothold and reached safety, alone in the dark with the motorway noise behind me, no one would have heard me call – do not do this, no fish is worth it! I was shaken and it took a couple of minutes before I retrieved the rod and thought to check what exactly my prize was. Running my hand down it’s back I felt it’s tail folded over like a killer whale, Floppy was mine!

I had to ask for help from Ross, one of the other members who offered me dry clothes and took the pictures, something I’m still massively grateful for! She weighed in at 39lb, lower than I expected but she was another of the ones I really wanted and now she was mine.

Floppy Tail: when it’s happening you have to be there

I fished on through the spring, doing as much time as possible. A few weeks later, I had a very close call when The Brute came out from the swim next door to me. In fact, it was on the very same bait and rig that I was using, on a rod cast toward a swim that I was waiting to set up in. She was in great condition and back at a good weight, seemingly recovered. I managed to catch another small common from the Plateau area a couple of weeks later, which was my last of the spring. Four fish was my best yet and I was feeling close.

As is often the way, just as you think you have something sussed out it takes a turn, unfortunately in this instance this was exactly the case. Late in the summer, The Brute was seen on its side, floating on the surface and was seemingly unable to right itself. A couple of anglers tried to net it from a boat, but it charged into the weed below, after this it remained uncaptured or even sighted right through to the autumn. I visited a few times; observing many of the stock in the weedy bay at the south-west corner of the lake but never saw The Brute. Because of this I decided to pull off Pingewood until knew it was still there or not.