A Decade on Pingewood – Chapter 4: Life After the Brute

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The following year I gained access to another water and decided not to spend much time on Pingewood until she (The Brute) had been caught or at least seen by someone I trusted. By May, she remained uncaptured and I was fearing the worst, but I did make a few trips to look myself, just in case.

At this point in the season, the fish were using the weedy bay a lot for sanctuary and could often be seen there when the sun was out. It was a warm weekend in mid-May and I had a day and night at my disposal, naturally I decided to head to Pingewood, this time with a friend, Darren. We talked excitedly on the phone, making our respective ways to the lake from opposite ends of the country; I was about an hour ahead.

On arrival, I found a few fish on the top in the Tyre and Weedy bays. Weedy looked the better option with a few more fish, amazingly after I flicked a few floaters out they started taking. I say amazingly because in all the time I had fished the lake I knew of no surface captures and I had only ever seen them take anything from the surface a couple of times in nine years.

On this particular day though they were well up for it, consuming everything in their path, they looked to be mainly small but it was my first trip and anything would be a huge result.

One in the net in less than an hour

After clipping the trees twice and having to re-tie my hook length, I finally managed to get the bait out into the area, it was anchored by some floating weed, meaning it would sit in position until disturbed. I was fishing a large Korda controller, size 12 wide gape hook with 6’ of 10lb double strength hook link. Several times fish took the hookbait but I was reluctant to strike as they seemed to only mouth it and I didn’t want to spook them.

After a couple of minutes, it tore off again

At last one took it confidently, I struck and met solid resistance. It kited right, pulling the rod down toward the lakebed as it moved out of the bay. It made safety in a weedy patch to the right of the swim, in the mouth of the bay. Using only light line and a small hook, I laid the rod down with the clutch slackened, hoping the fish would swim out of its own accord. After a couple of minutes, it tore off again and I was back in contact, it fought hard and managed to weed me again before eventually succumbing and allowing me to draw it over the net.

The buzz was immense; I called Darren, greeting him with the words ’Daddy’s home‘. A few minutes later he arrived and we photographed the fish in the long grass behind the swim. Neither of us could quite believe what had happened and how quickly.

A rare surface capture from Pingewood

After a blisteringly fast start, the rest of the trip was un-eventful but the following week I was back for just a day, determined to build on my previously short-lived success. I managed to get the fish feeding on the top, less confidently this time but they were still taking. I positioned a beach caster at the mouth of the bay from the high bank on the opposite side to the previous week’s capture. In case you haven’t seen a beachcaster rig, it involves fishing the rod vertically with a sliding float to keep as much line off the water as possible. The hook length is suspended from the line so nothing touches the surface except the bait. It is a deadly setup in the correct circumstances.

I saw a fish cruise into the bay under my feet

This time around the fish were taking further out and wouldn’t come in to the bay where the rod was positioned. In order to see exactly where the fish were sitting, I climbed a tall tree by the entrance. Whilst perched at the top, I saw a fish cruise into the bay under my feet. It was Floppy looking very big just before spawning, she turned and headed out in to the bay, taking one mixer before the hook bait. It seemed to happen in slow motion, she just hung there with the line in her mouth and the rod tip gently bouncing.

I slid 20’ down the tree, somehow passing the branches en route; she was still attached and had kited into the margin behind some surface weed. As I gently led her free from the weed, the hook popped out and she sunk away. It was over so suddenly and although it would have been a re-capture, a surface 40 is not to be sniffed at, plus it was my second bite in two days of fishing!

The scene of my surface encounter with floppy

The area went on to produce several surface captures that spring. This included Floppy being lost only a week later in the exact same place, by a friend, Tim. It was bizarre as the lake had never done it before or since but for the few anglers who cottoned on quickly, it was a hot spell when the fish gave themselves up easily.

A few weeks later at the start of June I had a full week of angling time available to me. I fished a couple of venues with varying success but ended up on Pingewood for my final night as they had started to spawn on the lake I was only fishing over the road.

The weather was perfect, a big low pressure system with a strong westerly wind that was scheduled to push up the lake towards the cottage bank in the morning; something I wanted to be on the end of. I fished the pier, a swim I knew well, positioning baits on a hard strip 60 yards directly in front of the swim. I baited lightly with seven large spombs of hemp and nut boilie, fishing two low white pop-ups close together on the spot. The wind was brutal, so much so that I had the brolly turned away from the lake.​

A Pingewood brace!

I woke up late as I had been on the bank for almost a week. Peering around the side of the brolly, I quickly saw a fish show right over the rods, standing in the wind I saw several more in quick succession… it had to happen! Forty painful minutes later, as I was on the phone with a friend, the left rod pulled up tight. I was onto it in a flash and a nice dark common rolled in to the net! With the fish retained, I was desperate to maximise this opportunity and re-positioned the rod as they continued to roll over the spot. Two fish showed repeatedly, one a small ‘bat’ common and the other a much larger, thickset common.

I was running out of time and had a flight to Frankfurt mid-afternoon from Heathrow. I looked up from checking my watch to see the same bobbin hit the rod again and another fish made a mistake. Unfortunately, it was the smaller of the two I had seen but another nice common was quickly in the bag. I did re-cast but the fish wouldn’t put up with the pressure for long and had clearly moved off as the shows subsided.

We photographed the fish on the path, the first was a really special old original common with huge drooping fins and a snub face weighing low twenties. The other was a smaller common, longer in shape and probably more recently stocked. I had my moment admiring them and left for Germany, with four bites in two nights of angling that year I was over the moon.

Unfortunately, a little while later my fears for The Brute were confirmed, she had been found floating at the north east corner, probably blown in by the same wind which had brought me my captures. She was badly rotten and looked to have died some time ago, probably the year before having only just floated up from the lake bed with the warmer weather.

Having invested close to 200 nights trying to catch her, this was far from the ending I had hoped for. It’s funny how attached you can become but it was just not to be and shortly after the news I decided to take my angling in a different direction, not getting drawn in to targeting one fish and rather fishing for bites and enjoying myself along the way.

I fished elsewhere for the rest of the year and had no plans to return, but old habits die hard and I couldn’t resist a few odd trips in 2019.