Specimen Fishing – Not Enough Time in the Year
Yateley complex, one of the finest carp angling venues in the country. A true playground for any carp angler looking to indulge, and a starting point for any specimen hunters to begin their story…
Spring 2018. After spending the winter on Yateley match lake in search of original stock, the sightings of fresh blades of grass and the gorgeous yellows of new daffodils bursting through the ice thawed ground was a warming and exciting sight. The days of packing up at 5 AM in dark, ice-cold conditions just to make it to work on time were gone. I was eager to see out a match lake carp in the opening weeks of spring, but seedlings and new shrubbery weren’t the only things that spring had brought with it. New members and seasonal anglers (I call them butterflies) also flooded the banks of the lake. This unfortunately led to me hitting the road to escape the chaos.
On my many walks around the banks of the match lake, I would nearly always find myself back at the same point, sitting on the bank overlooking Copse Lake. Nestled above the complex through the dense shrubbery of trees, ferns and nettles ‘The Famous Copse’ lake is a hidden gem of the Yateley complex. It’s stained blue water called me. It was safe to say that I had found my new home and the beginning of my spring/summer copse lake campaign.
The famous Copse lake
Copse is no easy water. I spent the opening weeks figuring out my new haunt, clocking carp patrol routes and building up an overall picture of the water. Morning walks were ideal for catching a glimpse of carp feeding, fizzing and the odd roll of the huge lumps of fish that reside there. Once I’d got to grips with my new home I started raking my chosen spots and pre-baiting. I’d have the lake to myself most of the time, so causing disturbances in the water wouldn’t affect others. I liked the look of one particular spot on the stilts, it had a small clear opening in the weeds where I had seen a few fish wiggling their way through. I decided to rake this area, working it until it was just large enough to pass my rigs through.
Before I knew it, April arrived and with all the homework and preparation work completed, I was ready to start. I began on the stilts swim, setting my bed up upon arrival I was excited about the session to come. I carefully wrapped my ‘spod rod’ up and attached the rake to the end, just to ensure that no twigs or stray weeds had drifted back into my spot. Next, I swapped my rake for a ‘Spomb’ and four loads of bait went in, hitting the clip perfectly.
My rods got the same treatment and were wrapped up and primed with two bottom bait blow back rigs made with the upmost precision. A 7mm tail from the boilie to be exact. I’d chosen a bottom bait as I was 100% sure the area I was using was clear of debris and didn’t see the need to pop them up. Out they went, with a click from the reel as the line hit the clip, I feathered my rig down until… crunch. The leads had hit perfectly and I knew both the traps were set.
A beautiful mirror carp caught at Copse lake
Beep, beep, beeeeep. I was awoken by the glorious sound of my ‘nash siren’ as it signalled my first run at 5 AM. My left-hand rod melted away and I found myself attached to my first Copse lake carp. I was shaking as the fish shot from weed bed to weed bed, it was as if nothing could stop it.
I tipped the end of my rod down towards the water in an attempt to tease the fish to the surface and avoid the weeds. CRASH. The lake opened up and I caught the first glimpse of my prize, a lovely mirror carp. She kicked a few more times before slipping over the net. Winner winner. My homework had paid off. That was the only fish of the session but I took so much from that one catch, my had rigs worked, my bait had worked and my spot had produced. My confidence was booming.
Over the next few weekends I attended a few social gatherings, as I had promised a friend I would do so. It did take all of my willpower to stay away from Copse after the recent success, but a promise is a promise. At one of these social gatherings, I met up with an old friend and together we agreed to go fishing at Blue Bell Lakes, a busy day ticket water, not really the kind of venue I would usually fish. The lake was quite weedy and we struggled to get a swim due to angling pressure, however we did manage to get in with the wind in our face, so that was a bonus.
As I wouldn’t be returning to this lake (at least for a while), my aim was simple – to find a clear, weed-free spot with a good depth that could hold a large head of fish. After an hour or so leading about with my marker rod, I found a deep clear spot at only 8 wraps out that was large enough to place traps in and focus my session around. I left my marker float up on the surface and proceeded to ‘spod’ around 10 kg of bait (chopped boilies, corn, hemp and pellet), this isn’t really my normal approach, but with such a large stock of fish, I thought I’d just go for it. My rig of choice was a very reliant ‘Ronnie rig’ on a stiff hinge. I went for this rig because it can reset itself, which is perfect when fishing an area that has a lot of fish around, plus I wasn’t sure that the spot was totally debris free.
A stunning mirror carp caught a Blue Bell Lakes
Much to my pleasure, I was right on the money and the carp arrived, some real beauties too. Even though it was a social couple of days, I wasn’t prepared to let my foot off the gas. After every capture I re-spoded 6-8 loads back over the swim. It’s safe to say that the fish were loving it and so were we. A weekend to remember, good company, nice food, cold beers and perfect carping.
With the socials out the way, I headed straight back to Copse. On my return the wind had changed direction and was now pushing into ‘Richies bay’, I would be silly not to follow it. The fish nearly always get on the back of a warm wind here, and to make things better it was pushing into one of my prepared areas. I was in the island swim, a swim that the bailiff assured me that not many carp come out of. This cemented my decision to stay, the cherry on top was that the swim backed onto my nemesis lake, ‘the match’, meaning I could also keep an eye on things over there.
The next few weeks were fantastic and I went on to land another three fish from that swim, my stubbornness had paid off. But good things don’t last forever. I believe my exploits were causing quite a stir amongst fellow anglers and it wasn’t long before the Copse lake banks began to fill up. I was gutted, my little gem was now just as busy as the match lake. Unfortunately I had to accept that my solitude had been broken and it was now time to move on.
A great catch at Copse lake
A good friend of mine had suggested I try another lake not so far away, a 50-man syndicate steeped in history and the unknown, an opportunity too good to miss. I put my name down on the waiting list and much to my delight I was offered a spot straight away. The 18th of June was the season opening. As with any new lake, you must be committed and do your homework, for me this involved after work recces and visits. The 30-acre lake was beautiful and virtually untouched, each pitch requiring preparation and raking, plus it was empty of anglers, a real bonus for me. This lake was going to require all my fishing knowledge to get the best of, it’s gigantic size and low stock (only 70 carp present) meant a true campaign was in my midst.
On the opening night, I went for an overnighter after work to try and get a head start on the monumental task that had set myself. Upon arrival, I loaded bait into an area where I had seen a few fish rolling during my recces. The area I had chosen was a very overgrown swim, but I was soon making passageways through the weeds. I managed to get my traps out, 22 wraps to be exact. My rig of choice was the trusty stiff hinge ronnie rig, topped with a bright yellow boilie, due to water clarity being so low.
A fantastic mirror carp caught at the syndicate
At around 2 AM on the first night on an ‘impossible water’, my right-hand rod absolutely melted off in a super violent take, I was into a carp. After a gruelling and nerve-racking fight, a gorgeous, very well-proportioned, almost wild looking mirror was in my net. Boom. I was on an all-time high, Yateley now this, what could be better?
The following day I came up with a plan. I would do something I had never done before, I decided to split my time 50/50 between Yateley and my syndicate lake. After all, I had a ticket for both and didn’t want to waste them. The next few weeks boasted some of the best fishing I have ever experienced. My preparation, determination and tactics all came together nicely and I was able to reap the rewards. I landed four more Copse lake carp, each one a beauty and one of which being from the original (and now very rare) stock. From my Syndicate lake, I was able to pull out a real brute of a mirror carp using my tried and tested rigs. Dispelling the myth that you’ll never catch a second fish so soon after your first, even if the trap had been set for 50+ hours!
As amazing as these captures have been, on truly difficult and demanding waters, none of them were what I’d really set out to get – an original stock fish from Yateley match lake. I didn’t think I would ever say it, but I am looking forward to winter just to get my beloved match lake back. I’m now just one bite away from that fish of a lifetime, the only thing that is against me is time.
Follow @banktramp01 on Instagram to see how my adventure unfolds.
A great read and a fantastic insite into some truly historical waters! I admirer your persistence, Cracking artical.