The Quarry Pits – Iain Fordham

It had been some years since I had found myself wandering around forbidden lakes, my attention had been for the last few years firmly focused on a large gravel pit with very few carp. I had now been settled down for a number of years in the civilian world, and being a rather keen angler, I had met a few decent lads last winter on a water close to home, as the winter rolled on, I got to know one of the guys better and on one of many winter evenings we were sat huddled in my bivvy, with the coleman blaring, exchanging carpy tales from years gone by over mugs of tea, that he first told me of the lakes that were to consume the next season, and prove to be the most difficult and challenging fishing that I think could ever be possible.

The water he spoke of was in fact one of several pieces of water on this complex, it was quite close to home which is a rare bonus for me, although little did I know at the time this advantage would prove to be next to useless.  It did contain some carp, which had found their way into the lake courtesy of a local farmer who had moved them from a nearby pond that was drying up. Im informed this was in the early 1980s. There has never been any fishing allowed on the complex, and rumors that the fish had been moved by the aggregate company that owned the pits, and sold to an expensive syndicate down south, came up numerous times, during any conversation with anyone in the know regarding the place. Despite numerous visits by my friend over the last 2 years he had yet to see any signs of any carp. He had however acquired some good knowledge of the area that would prove to become useful.  I had no real set fishing plans for this coming year, after the hard work of the last few seasons I had planned to just relax a bit on easier waters.  We agreed that come the spring he would take me over, picture paints a thousand words, and from his descriptions this sounded quite unlike anywhere id ever fished before. But no matter how well he tried to describe it, my minds eye imagined something completely different to what it turned out, I mean how do you describe this place, I am myself, trying to find the right word now, so unique was this venue to anywhere I’ve ever seen before or since, or ever will again!

I spent the rest of the winter enjoying my fishing and finding out as much as I could about the lakes. This place literally has nothing on google, not a trace. It’s completely off the radar. Information was scarce and rumors were the order of the day.  My pal being a local lad, knew everyone and anyone that may have known anything, and had for the last 2 years been on a quest for information but it seemed there was no information to be found that was any use. The one thing that kept coming up though, was the supposed netting.  This was said to have happened some 10 years ago.  With no plans and plenty of fishing time it seemed the only way to find out anything was to look myself, so it was the first week of May that found me first setting foot on the complex for my first look around. I also knew that netting, if it ever happened, would never ever get all of them.


Steep banks and deep water

As I mentioned earlier there are numerous challenges to even wetting a line here. The first one was how to actually get anywhere near it. There are no paths to access the lakes, quite obviously we couldn’t use the aggregate companies main gate, and the shortest route that could be taken involved walking across several fields and having to leave your car parked randomly on the side of the road on a narrow country lane. The other route afforded the luxury of relatively safe parking in the shape of an RSPB car park which is not exactly ideal. But this route involved a significantly longer walk, several barbed wire fences to cross, and mostly uphill through tick infested fern that was head height by the Summer.  That first walk up to the lakes was an eye opener to the challenges that lie ahead, for someone who has done some extreme walking over the years, this was almost on a military scale and the old bergans I hung onto have seen some use these last few months. From van to swim would be the best part of an hour trek,mostly uphill too, a steady incline. The last sector involved weaving in and out of giant dunes of sand, stopping every few metres behind some cover, listening for any sounds from the workings, as you entered the business end of the quarry, I found myself making this particular trip more often that next season after what I found further into the complex later this year.

The second challenge to become apparent, and this one is a complete stopper. Is the fact that this place has people working on it 6 days a week almost 365 days of the year. You can’t get on the complex till after 5 pm  and have to be gone by 7am at the very latest. Except Saturdays when they stop working around midday.  That is the only night that you could actually fish through the night and stay on later on Sunday. I had been working both these days for the last year choosing to have time in the week to fish instead! It was becoming a tougher challenge all the time, then I actually saw the place!

I don’t know what I had expected, it had been a few months I had spent waiting to look at the place, and rarely do things ever be how you had imagined, and the pit as il refer to it from now on, was certainly no different.  I would guess it to be somewhere between 15 to 20 acres in size, the first bit I saw was as we sneaked across the main track leading up to the workings, stretching away back across towards the nature reserve. It was windswept and pretty devoid of Bankside foliage, there were virtually no trees and the far side was almost beach like with an untold amount of geese occupying it.  The bank we stood was the most mature and no doubt the oldest part of the lake. It had an almost vertical drop straight to the lake that was a good 15 feet below us. Standing there for the first time I remember thinking how do you even get near the water? Although there were only a few smaller trees here the vegetation was already thick, huge blackberry bushes sat at the bottom of the vertical drop to the lake, we found out a couple of weeks later that it drops straight down to 12 feet just a few yards out too.

The sand pit and it’s hundreds of geese

The most obvious place to be able to get anywhere near the lake was the beach like area opposite that was home to as many geese that you could count. But after a walk along the top track there seemed to be no way through to it. The area was completely cut off  by a vast waterlogged reed bed.  We had also been informed, and had also seen signs warning of quicksand. We continued around further into the quarry trying to navigate the lake anti clockwise to see if there was a way in somewhere. After a few hours of exploring we stopped to get a brew on, it seemed the only places you could get anywhere near the water was always away from anywhere that looked good, and gave you any decent sized bit of pond to angle. This beach area was key terrain, we hoped it was firm enough to stand on as we would be back in a few days armed with an inflatable boat, it was the only way we would ever get to look properly it seemed. We made our way the long walk back towards the car. We stopped on the high bank again where we first started. You can see the whole lake from here, over the next few months we were to spend a lot of time sat up here looking out over the windswept moody looking pit for signs of the myths that might lie within its depths.

I was reluctant to wet a line at all until I’d seen a fish, didn’t matter how many but I needed to see one with my own eyes before I invested the effort, so the first couple of months until early summer was spent going over most weeks a couple of times,  and just sitting on the high banks brewing, having a smoke and watching, we saw nothing at all despite our best efforts, we trickled bait into the deep margins below us although unfishable it was a start. The next step was to get a boat on the case and go for a look, it was the only way to get to anywhere near the bottom, which was totally inaccessible despite us wasting many hours In chest waders trying to find a way into the bottom bay.  It was one of boat missions that gave us our first sign of carp. We were drifting into the bay in my inflatable which we had nearly killed ourselves with carrying it over to the pit, when below us the water churned up and bits of weed were left spinning as something spooked and moved off, or several had by the looks of the churn up in the shallow weedy bay…we didn’t see a carp but it can only have been. However getting anywhere near this area was impossible, there was no bank it was like a swamp in the Deep South. I half expected an alligator to emerge at some point! It was impossible to fish. You could maybe get near, but nowhere near if that makes sense, a real challenge. Unlike anything I’ve ever faced since or will probably never again, a truly hostile unknown of a pit.

We became aware of a couple of local lads who had indeed fished the pit in recent years and a small amount of information was gained by my mate including a few pics of some fish, in particular a massive black saddle back common, I mean massive too, maybe 50 plus. With a few other real nice 30 plus fish too. However it was not as full of water a decade earlier so banks could be fished that were now impossible due to the ever changing quarry landscapes. During my time fishing there whole wood blocks disappeared over the course of a week as new digs were started, by the time I stopped fishing here it looked completely different to when I had started, and now probably different again some years on. An ever changing landscape.

As that summer went on and the visits racked up we had still not seen a definite carp, the big churn up in the bay that you couldn’t fish was our only evidence, I was naturally a bit more adventurous than my mate, and before long I was wanting to go and investigate a small little pit that I’d seen on google earth, that was literally next to the front gate, right in the heart of the workings. Shaped like a figure of 8, this small little overgrown sand pit looked the most normal lake on the complex, but nobody had ever spoke of this particular one, there were none of the old rumours like there were surrounding the sand pit further down the quarry. My mate, was a bit apprehensive venturing so far but with a bit of persuasion we were soon by the waters edge, again there were no swims at all, maybe 1 or 2 places that you could effectively fish from, but was there any fish in this one I wondered?  That very first visit as I stood on the high bank, a common drifted right under my feet, paused kicked up a cloud of silt, and meandered off down the margin, an upper 20 no doubt! This changed everything for me, like I said il fish the hardest of lakes, but before I start I have to see them, now I’d seen one! But not where I was supposed too!


An unexpected find

By now it was late summer, I had pretty much instantly decided I was going to fish this little overgrown pit, and I also knew there must be a couple more fish here surely, but I’d seen one, a nice one and that was good enough, so plans were hatched to try and get away somehow with fishing the little pit, it was another long winter waiting for the opportunity to go back again, we did make a couple of trips over to the complex that winter but didn’t fish.

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