A Decade on Pingewood – Chapter 5: The Last Gasp
In the absence of The Brute, some of the other stock made the press in a big way through late 2018, as an observer, seeing this reminded me of how many other great fish I would still like from Pingewood. Ultimately, the call was too strong and I ended up doing a few overnight trips early in the spring of 2019, unfortunately I was not rewarded for my efforts.
Every March I usually visit Germany to celebrate Nowruz, this year was no exception and on my return, I stopped for a night on Pingewood. The fish were in the Tyre Bay but a friend of mine, Dan, was angling on the point and I didn’t want to encroach on him. I settled in the Pier, close to the fish should they venture out of the bay. It was a grey but warm day with a south-westerly wind blowing, during the short breaks in the wind a back could be seen breaking surface in the centre of the lake.
Dan had seen it too and simultaneously our zigs landed in the area, only a few feet apart, Dan didn’t look impressed but at least I had left the bay alone… Only 30 minutes later, I glanced at the rods to see the bobbin inch back to the ground on the zig rod. Because I was fishing a lead clip without a tail rubber, the lead had ejected and the line had fallen slack, franticly taking up the slack I made contact with the fish. It felt small but this would be only the second bite of the year as far as I knew, so I was delighted to land the little dark stocky mirror.
An early capture on black foam
I was having good success in Oxford on my syndicate by this point and didn’t plan to return to Reading, I also had access to another syndicate water in Chichester where I intended to spend a week at the end of May. This spring was a particularly warm one and the fish in the shallow Chichester lake spawned earlier than expected. It was due to reopen on the Friday at the start of my 10-day session, just my luck. Rather than arrive for the draw, I succumbed to the temptation of a social in Reading until Monday.
Arriving at Pingewood I plumped for the Lawns swim, based on no more than Darren being set up in the container to my left, so we could have a nice social. That evening Tom visited and we got a little merry reminiscing about times we had shared on the pit and the bottles we had drained. Darren had also had a result that morning, landing Pearly Lin, which was one of the few left he wanted. Naturally a cause for celebration.
The following day was spent stalking in Weedy Bay and despite seeing plenty of fish, it was to no avail. Later that afternoon Darren spotted some fish in the snags to my left, frustratingly I had checked them repeatedly and seen nothing. Now they were there and feeding greedily on the few peanuts he had dropped them.
I ran back to the swim and using my little pen knife, cleared an old path along the left margin, opening the way for me to lay a trap close to the snags on a small gravel spot which had clearly not been fished for some years. The spot itself looked good. Clean and polished gravel shelving away into deep water under the sanctuary of the main snags. I presented a double balanced tiger nut on an amnesia ‘D’ rig with a 5oz drop off flat pear lead on a clip. I applied a few blobs of putty to the line to keep it pinned to the bottom and a small handful of hemp and tiger completed the trap.
Rod down the left, locked up solid
I recall not being able to sleep that night for anticipation, yet was still confused when a few bleeps awoke me the next morning. Unfortunately I was too slow, the fish had made the snag and was gone… gutted! I re-positioned the rod with the head torch and made a coffee, all the while cursing myself for losing one.
As the sun rose I had a few liners, indicating that something was still out there, Darren came over for a coffee knowing I couldn’t leave the rods. I had only just said ‘that rod is going to go again’, when it wrapped around the snag bar and held at test curve. This time though, I had a plan. Taking the rod from the right side, I used both hands on the blank and my entire torso to turn the fish. What I hadn’t planned for was the fish being strong enough to turn me back again. It was so powerful that even with all my strength, it was able to make ground on me.
I had only just stepped out of the water, having waded up to my chin to cut out the offending branch to stop it from sabotaging me or other anglers in the future, before my open water rod was away with a steady take. This time I made no mistake and despite the fish weeding me for a few minutes, soon I had one of the lakes rarest commons, Marcus’ safely in the net. Zero to hero had never felt so true and we all buzzed off the capture in the morning sun.
One of the lake’s jewels after a terrible morning
Returning from the shop that afternoon to stock up for celebrations, I managed to lose another fish on the snag rod, this time to a hood pull on the take. Although I didn’t feel this one for long, the lack of warning beeps and slow way it pulled the rod to test curve made me think it must have been a good fish.
Four Bites in a season on Pingewood would place you well above average, so to have that in a day was phenomenal (losing three obviously detracted from it somewhat!). I couldn’t bring myself to leave and decided I would stay another day to see if anything further was in store. I had to wait 48 hours until Tuesday morning, when the snag rod produced a further take at around 5 AM. I slipped rushing to get the rod, ending up on my back in the margin and desperately trying to get up knowing one was on the end! Righting myself I managed to turn the fish with relative ease and after an uneventful fight, landed an amazing chestnut 29lb common. This was actually the same fish I had caught at 27 from this swim 2 years previous on my last marathon session.
Amongst the daisies
We photographed him on the lawns amongst the daisies in the spring sun, he looked stunning and I was over the moon to have landed one from the spot after all the disasters. I ended up staying another three nights, hoping for another one without event. The fish passed me every day, but spent their time in another area.
I had managed six bites and three fish in about 10 nights angling which was far beyond my expectations when I first started on this legendary venue. It is a strange fact of life that when you stop thinking too much, things come easier. I have experienced this elsewhere too, on Manor Farm in Oxford, when you spend years on a lake you can just fall in sync with a venue and suddenly it seems to become easy.
I have no plans to return to Pingewood, many of the older stock are on the decline or have already died. With that said, old habits die hard and there is a feeling in the back of my mind that I haven’t quite finished, which makes it hard to walk away fully. Perhaps I’ll take a walk next spring, just to see what’s going on, maybe I’ll see you down there!