Return To The Weedy
From 1994 to 2006 I joined the NAC (National Anguilla Club), which was an eel specimen group and the oldest single species group in the UK formed, having been formed in 1962. I spent this period fishing for specimen eels over 3lb, strangely enough I wasn’t the first carp angler amongst its mists. Even Jim Gibbinson was one of the founding members before turning his attention to carp, with other distinguished members like Des Taylor, Mick Brown from days gone by. I stood as an active member for 13 years working on the committee as “Bulletin Editor” for the club magazine.
So, my fishing turned to the Wigan canals in the search of monster eels, which I enjoyed very much. Most of the time they were few and far between, and let’s face it, canals are large waters stretching miles all over the country as the growth of the industrial revolution took over the world in the 18th -19th centuries.
At this point I would have classed myself as a specialist angler and accumulated a good catch rate of big eels from the canals. I did see carp swimming up the canal from time to time, but I was mind set on my targeted species. But in 2006 I decided to leave the NAC and went back to my roots of carp fishing. There were so many things that I wanted to achieve from my enthusiasm to catch good specimen fish, even today I love fishing for big perch and will always spend some of the winter months for them.
By now I was in my mid-thirties and it had been a long time since I went carp fishing, so I started on the “Side Garden” where my fishing began and had now come full circle. The carp ran to mid-twenties and had a large head of doubles and it was literally a stone’s throw from my house. The lake is roughly 4 acres in size and quite picturesque.
To be fair I rarely fished it because it wasn’t looked after properly and had a no-night fishing rule being in the middle of an housing estate, but that has changed now and a chosen syndicate of local lads has the night-turn of 30 members. They have done credit to themselves – all the pegs have been done and it’s a nice walk around.
I only went on after work for a few hours with one rod and a few bits stuffed in my pockets as I stalked the carp. I had just started a new job working in a school as an IT Technician, so in the holidays I would book two days a week off, but where to go? The only suitable place I would do this amount of time was back on the Weedy.
As you know from part 1 of this story, the original stock had demised. I’m not condoning this act, but it was a common occurrence in the 80’s & 90’s. Fish used to go missing and the Weedy was illegally stocked with small carp, not many, and was basically ignored and was still believed to be a “dead water” for a number of years.
The one thing I know was that the Weedy was full of natural food. A survey indicated a large variety of crustaceans from freshwater snails, swan mussels to caddies larva, and the carp would grow on well. iI was also hoping that there wouldn’t be so many tench in as last time, even though it did do big tench, into double figures in its hay day, with an average stamp of 4-5lb.
I went back on the trek down the canal with my staffie for a walk as I hadn’t stepped on the place since the 1994 season, even though I had seen it from the canal while eel fishing. By this time the railway line had been fenced off, so you couldn’t cross the lines, so now you had to walk down to the next bridge to cross over and walk back on yourself. It took 2 1/2 hours to get there without gear and 7 styles to unload and reload the barrow when you did have your gear with you. The other option was to get dropped off at the school and from there it was still a forty minute yomp.
I got to the Weedy and couldn’t believe how much it had changed since I fished it last. It was astonishing in the transformation that had been done. All the rushes had gone from the centre of the lake and some of the swims had been lost to nature taking over and channels had been cut around the back coming into the main lake at four access points. This was for the birds mainly, the Bittens and birds of prey like Goshawks and Kites to hunt. The pads had disappeared totally, it was like a completely different water from the late 80’s-94, and the weed wasn’t anywhere like it had been.
I later discovered that a working boat had been put on the water to remove all this as part of a development project that was going around all the flashes in the area from the Wildlife Trust. The lake seemed smaller as the rushes had grown further into the lake, which originally ran on the out edge of the lake.
Nobody was on so I walked the full length of the lake to the bottom end where the pads used to be to the pylon swim and the three step swim to the right this would be my choice of swim as there was another swim close so I could put one rod in the margins and two on the steps across to where the rushes used to be to an entrance to the channels that ran around the back of the lake like a rail network.
Marker rod in hand I had a cast out and found a slope which wasn’t there before they must have dug this out with the boat and the weed was just clumps here and there just mainly strands. I couldn’t believe the lack of weed compared to what it used to be, I started to climb some spotting trees see what I could see an clocked a few carp cruising around in the mid doubles range mainly commons but a very promising sight.
On checking where the rushes used to be, this was now a deeper channel only a foot or so, but definitely an interesting feature the weed was a bit more prominent here but still acceptable to fish and ran the full length of the old tails that split the lake in two.
As you can see from the maps the transformation the lake has gone through with new problems to overcome alas the carp can basically disappear from the main lake never to be seen, spending a lot of time in the channels that you can’t get access to and an undetermined number of actual carp or to what maximum size they have achieved since 95-96 when the new stock was introduced.
Thank god the days had gone of carrying my kit walking miles like “bravo two zero” and would be barrowing even though it was a pain with unloading-reloading at every style including the extra 2 miles but you got used to it after a while and when the council had been down and left the gates open to cut the canal banking it was like waking up Christmas day with new rods a tenner in the back pocket and the missus in the mood!.
I couldn’t wait get down and start fishing but, patient had to come in and spent the next few weeks just watching and pre-baiting the spots and scattering my bait around the lake to get them used to picking it up and grow in confidence and accepting it as another alternative food source.
I have been making my own bait since I started carp fishing first on the “Richworth 50/50”, monster fish mix and in the past, fishmeal’s have been my favourite all year round bait and with the development in food liquids I started using ingredients like amino, betaine, fenugreek resin and flavouring which was squid and octopus 16 & 18mm, including 16mm pop-ups with Cotswold mix and fishmeal base mix at a 250g pop-up to 100g of base mix using 1 egg and 50ml of preservatives. It’s just something you did as shelf life in the early days had just started and very limited.
I spent the week sorting my rods out rigs and gear ready for the following Saturday and would be setting off at 3am to get there spending over night under the brollie to cut down on weight a little. Seven styles later and a big sweat on finally reaching my destination, with not a soul on I walked down to my chosen swim hoping someone wasn’t as mad as me and done the walk, luckily there wasn’t anyone on so jumped on the 3 steps swim.
Looking over to the entrance in front of me in the rushes, I spotted fish moving. I didn’t know if they were carp or tench, then I saw a large black/brown tail break the surface waving at me, then another as if they were coming out the gap to go in the main lake and go mooching. This was a good sign and a prayer to Poseidon for a good catch was made.
Brollie up next job, then setting up the rods. Two on the steps and the side peg in the margins, setting the brollie back for easy access to the snide rod in between the two peg to my left. My marker rod was previously clipped up on the two markers on the reel. i cast out to the first mark to my left, to the middle of the slope in the channel to find the spot again, just to be sure that weed hadn’t spread. It was fine, just feeling the odd plink of strands before it went solid, then winching it back high on the surface, walked the banking and clipped up the rod to the same distance and then did the same with the other rod, on top of the slope to the right picking the pylons in the distance to get it bang on at night.
The snide rod was slot was more simplified. thigh waders on and pick a clear area amongst the weed beds as the margins is shale then progressing to silt. Presenting the bait just past the trees and slack line with back lead captive style I used these on all rods so not to get a potential fish smashing through the margins under the rod tips wiping me out or to spook patrolling carp that may go up or down the margins.
Due to the lack of weed this time, well not as bad as it used to be, I could fish more lucid with the lines not totally slack, but perfectly presented and opted for a “chod” style but not on a pop-up just using the hybrid hook-link on a snowman setup to a size 6 korda wide gape X.
Fishing on the bobbins set low, and the clutch set hard on the pits, rods pointing down so if a run occurred the carp would pick the slack up then on the clutch bending the tip up making the carp come to the surface, rods were put on the marks and bait was loosely scattered only using 20 boilies at a time and another 10 after every take, that was the plan little and often with as little commotion as possible feathering the cast and feeling it down.
I sat back on the steps looking for signs then my left hand rod started tighten and the bobbin stopped right at the top, the tench had moved in and managed to land 5 tench in the next hour that passed. Things were starting to come together then it stopped, nothing all quiet. I scattered another twenty baits out and most of the day was still with the odd tench showing.
Soon it was getting to dark, Pot Noodle was made a recast of the rods then got in the bag to catch some beauty sleep as the walk had wiped me out. The clicking of bats could be heard as they danced and turned silhouetted against the moonlight and the sound of coots squabbling could be heard in the distance, all was still and the rain came in as a light calming drizzle, a single bleep came out the blue to my left I looked at my phone 11:00 pm and the white light on my alarm lit up the steps and surrounding banking.
The anticipation of a take was in the air and I stared at the rod waiting for the bobbin to sail to the top, for some time it seemed, then it burst in to life and the line was jutting off the reel I was into my first carp, which fought hard but I knew it wasn’t a lump. it starting to kite to the right, with side strain applied and a steady pressure to lure it towards the net, I could see it was a common in the torch light and she graced my net shortly after. She was a nice double and looked golden in colour at just under 15lb I was more than happy a result, I took the pics in the morning before returning to her back a true wild carp at its best.
I lost a good fish on my right that just ploughed through the gap in the channel at about 3:30am that had thrown the hook so I recast the rod and at 5:30 it went off again then tench after tench I ended up with 17 tench in total on that session plus the carp, and started to wrap up at dinner to walk back in a hot sun taking a look at the lake for a movement.
Even though the fish wasn’t massive I was so glad that it had come together and I knew there should be better carp swimming about in the lake and would be a matter of time, the question was is the weedy coming back to its former glory days? Or did I fish the lake at its prime and would be longer than I thought to produce the fish it did?
I was looking forward to getting down again and the next weekend I was back in the same swim and repeated the same process again as I did the first time why change if it worked last time? The sun was out and the afternoon I spent watching fish moving all over the lake and couldn’t wait till dark for the carp to confidently get their heads down becoming off guard due to the clarity of the water.
I kept bait going in, but didn’t put a line in the water until about 7pm and sat back on the steps just as it was coming to dusk. I heard a large dull thud to my right and turned to a puff of feathers, and a goshawk had hit a sparrow in flight landing on the path some 20yrds away and started to use its beak and talons to tear at its meal and an experience I’ll never forget soon it was time to chill on the chair and the continual buzzing of the pylons was soon drifting me off.
In auto mode I was up and rod in hand with a fish on, fighting hard trying to plough to my right and I could feel the carp going through weed beds as it tried to bury itself. On numerous occasions I had to change my position on the swim and use side strain to my right keeping steady pressure to get it past the trees to my right into a more manageable area in front of me where I could apply better pressure from above and eventually she turned on her side and into my awaiting net a distinctive mirror going 17lb 15oz on the digital-scales and a carp that looked like the original stock happy days!
Eventually I ended up with two carp that night and another common near 15lb which I think was a ghosty, but nonetheless a very nice carp and one I would love to see again over the twenty mark, either of them to be fair. To me personally a water is not just about big fish, in the northwest it can’t be, you see some of the stocking rates of so many thirties, twenties and forties on day-ticket waters further south, these targets are unrealistic we don’t have the facilities. It has to have an atmosphere that reaches in your inner soul a majestic place that I used to read about like “Ashlea Pool” or “Billing Aquadrome”, that’s what this little place felt to me.
But as before my pleasure and seclusion was going to be short lived, and the idiots started to come who had no respect for the water due to its solitude, it was succumbed to as I would class as not real carp anglers, but people who had fires lots of noise and booze to the extreme and leaving litter everywhere, which saddened me and I made the decision to move on to pastures new.
I spent the next few years on a syndicate which was excellent and enjoyed my time on there and met some great people along the way and had some really big carp from the place, but I won’t diverse too much, but things went on there that I wasn’t happy with and for the money it was costing didn’t see the point in staying and the owners decision cost him a lot of reliable members that year.
I went for a walk round the “Side Garden” and bumped into an old mate, who had just got back into fishing after a long illness with arthritis even though he is still young 40s and was in control with his meds, so we got talking about the Weedy and I suggested walking down and having a look I was more concerned if he could do the distance with the barrow.
Rob had always wanted to try the Weedy due to its reputation of being difficult. At times he had no one to go with so I offered to take him down and give it a few sessions. Picking a nice hot day we decided to take the trip after work and stay on for a while spotting fish, carrying Polaroids and a monocular an bit of bait we started the walk down, I knew what kind of grasp the Weedy can have on a person and was chuckling to myself as we got nearer and sure enough it hit Rob like a bolt of lightning and we could see large tail patterns just wafting as they fed on natural feed in the upper layers.
He was like a kid in a sweet shop to say the least and it looked as if the fish had come on in leaps and bounds with their weights. I was going through the stories of the lake when I used to fish the swims the fish and how it had change etc. When we got half way we noticed someone was on and after chatting to him he had been on for a few days but said he hadn’t done anything and explained how frustrating the carp are and he showed me a few successes he had and I spotted one of the fish he had a mirror I had out in 2006 at 17lb 15oz which went just over 26lbs and so many ounces we compared our photos and it was the same fish for sure this surprised even me and this was the clincher for Rob too.
The weed had come up in full force again different from last time and worse than I had ever seen it before no wonder the carp had packed the pounds on, 6yrs had passed since I was on last and nature had clawed her back and she looked like she had been that way for decades, the channels had overgrown more and I could see that time would be short as the weed seemed to take over as the year progressed.
Summer holidays where on their way and time was booked off work a few days a week so we could go on mid-week as it was getting fished by other people, but only a small handful maybe four or five that were crazy enough to do the walk others like before came and went when they couldn’t handle the weed problem even raking swims didn’t work as they stayed away until the weed started to grow back.
So we planned for a trip for 4 days to get started and we both couldn’t wait get down. At this time we were field testers for a local firm JW Baits and discussed in length which type of bait to use. We started working on a bloodworm boilie range to take down and start introducing large quantise at our disposal and using spod mixes so the carp would clear areas themselves, naturally tearing up the lake bed to get every morsel they could find, which would help us in the long run in theory, and it had worked in the past. I knew from previous experience that the weed would be the problem, catching the fish and natural food the lake had in abundance.
We got to the lake which I had stop for Rob but was very impressed with his determination on getting there on the Saturday morning and made our way down to the bottom end, me in the swim where the pads used to be Rob in the pylons fishing the left of the entrance to the gap of to the back channel all I’m concerned about was Rob catching and fulfilling his dream of a weedy carp, both our bivies where set up and we took turns in spodding to the areas we had chosen carefully from climbing trees and our rods where set up and we sat back and chatted for a while on the situation and the best presentation to use and how we would tackle the weed problem.
This gave the opportunity for the swim to rest from the commotion we had made when spodding.
Each swim we were in had a different approach as Rod could fish the chod rig as he was fishing one rod tight up to the sedges on the left side of the gap as in front where the drop off was had a large weed bed all over it which also wiped out the steps pegs I fished in 2006 only being able to fish the margins and fishing one to the side of the tree to his left, were the lake bed slightly sloped away, his third rod placed in the margins under a bush to his right but had the option to put this across to the rushes also if needed.
We knew the carp would come out the gap and it would be left to the gods which way they would go either left to us or right to the opposite end of the lake. My swim was somewhat different fishing to small gaps amongst the weed as shown in the diagram, and a drop-off lead system with a 12 inch hook-link would be the correct choice as Rob’s swim was an open one mine was tight between two over hanging trees but was the deepest part of the lake in the margins positioning my left rod in a gap in the weed which I could wade out and place.
My middle rod was cast to the left in a small hole in the weed about 20yrds out which I had seen fish moving about before tight against some rushes that produced from the water, the small problems I had was one I had a margin rod, a mass of weed beds in front of me and my right hand rod was cast to another gap with the swim tight I opted again to use captive leads to sink the line under the rod tips when playing and landing wading out to put the leads on an pull line off the reel to assist in getting as much out the way as possible.
I knew that presentation would be a case of best you can make it due to the nature of the water with my line running over the weed to the rig in the tight holes in the weed.
On a take the carp would pick up the slack and unclip the captive lead then hit a tight clutch and ejecting the lead almost instantly, rising the carp up in the water this had worked before so why not again?
First morning we were up watching the lake before first light, awaiting to see which way they would come like bats leaving the cave about half a dozen carp came out the gap and started to move left, tails showing gliding through the weed majestically, us sat on our hands in anticipation.
The sun was starting to burn the mist rising from the water and I could see the line start to tighten on one of Rob’s rods his middle would sprang into life and a large boil on the surface erupted near the rushes, he ran to the rod but it was all over before it began he wound the rod back and in disbelief noticed his hook had snapped at the bend of his wide gape X.
“Never seen that happen?” I said and Rob still in shock recast another rig bang on the same spot another hour went by and carp started tailing over his rod it had to go surely! Then it was off again this time he was ready another big swirl erupted and Rob picked his rod up and engaged in a typical epic fight. Legs shaking I guided him through, assisting all the way I could see it was a good fish and keeping calm as best you can we managed to slip her in the net Rob’s first Weedy carp and a twenty to boot well in! She came in at 20lb 06oz a lovely mirror an old looking warrior mirror rich in colour to say the least he was elated.
We talked about his capture and fulfilling his dreams and what a start his first fish a twenty, I said to Rob “ This place will learn you a lot about carp and water craft than anywhere else around here you catch from here you can apply it anywhere.”
We spent time up trees something he has never needed to do before and actually work out ambushing points to intercept, spot the slightest sign of a carp especially the sneaky ones that you wouldn’t know where there and so on. It was great for me passing on my experiences and sharing information and Rob coming up with his own ideas and theories changing his rigs to suit etc.
The session didn’t produce any more fish but as they say, “There is always next week!” For me this couldn’t come quick enough for Rob after his last capture it must have been excruciating to bare work that week but we talked in the week and he was still buzzing.
We were back on again in the same swims and another guy was on we had met before, so once the chats were out the way, setting up was the next thing to do rods out bivie up, bait applied in a little but often manner. It was time to just sit back on your hands and let the carp come and mill about and feed confidently on our bait without any lines in the water. We were there for a few days so there was no need go crashing in patience was the key here.
So I got my head down for a while and rested after the big walk with all the gear, had a brew and something to eat I tend to stay awake most of the night just cat napping but always set my alarm for the first light which it seemed to be the most productive time current.
I text Rob switch his radio on so we could have a natter without leaving our swims at “run-time even though we was only some 40ft apart and could see each other just in case one of us needed assistance, I could see the carp moving across the surface weed with their tails fanning in the early morning sun, as they moved like submarines gliding and tilting to take bait trapped in the upper layers of the weed before moving off and repeating the process again and again tight against the far rushes going in and out the gaps at the front of the edges some splitting off to both our directions there must have been at least a dozen decent carp moving about.
Then Rob’s middle rod was off again, and he was in with the carp smashing into the rushes as it went, Rob holding his own coaxing the black shadow back, the rushes flattened over and the fish rolled free and steady pressure was kept on suggesting to walking backwards then reeling forwards in a machined pendulum motion this was the carps demise and begrudgingly a dark common was heading towards me, I waited till she was all but over the cord and in she went I looked at his prize in the net as Rob gave an exhale of sheer relief and I said “This looks close mate but I’m not sure she goes the magic mark?” on the scales she was 18lb on the nose and an awesome typical dark weedy beauty.
I knew my time would come I was just glad Rob was doing the business on our pop-ups and waters, fishing on a few rigs, combi-links fished on “chod style” using mouth-trap and a 4” coated braided hook-link critically balance tied with an Albright-knot fished on a D-rig, or up to 12”when using a lead-clip system. Hooks was a personal choice but wide-gapes and curves seemed to be the right choice for the presentation we needed to present the baits the best we could under the circumstances.
I will hold my hand up and admit I have a carping addiction to rigs most of us do and I love to tinker away making them but I don’t have a rig box full with tied ups, or rigs that never get used just what I need, for that water two or three of no more than 3 different rigs I use confidently and fishing confidently is the most important attribute to being a “sharper carper”
By this time more people started to walk round asking questions even showed one guy a spotting tree to climb up and gave him my glasses to look I think the weed terrified him and we never saw him again but some stayed for a while and it was getting difficult to keep our results on the quiet when they were on the same time as us, because we both had receivers we could be “sneaky Russians”, but with Rob’s alarms at the time even with speaker mufflers they were way to load so we decide to disconnect the speaker wires so he just could use the receiver and the problem was resolved.
Another week passed and walking down the long road Rob’s barrow choked its last breathe and snapped in half so I had to load his stuff with mine on the barrow all knocked kneed and sweating like I don’t know what we finally got down there only for the weed to be moving further and thicker by this time 90% of the lake was unfishable, luckily our swims where free as someone was set up on “Jimmy’s”.
We set up and got ready scattering the bait on the same spots and chilled out for a bit while Rob’s brother decided to come and do a night and take his barrow back to be welded and bring it back a few days later, about tea time he turned up red faced and gasping for air complaining about the hike we just said we were used to it, by the end having calf’s like Popeye’s arms!
And then in shock that we hadn’t cast in as soon as we got there, night came and I lay on the chair got the touchpad out and whacked on a film to pass the time, it was still boiling at night and found it the humidity a bit restless so I went down to Rob and his brother Shane for a short chin-wag as the bacon went on for a late supper we used to take turns in cooking breakfast, tea and supper and brews.
By this time we decided to just fish boilie only scattering 20-30 single baits at a time every 4hrs over each rod me from the left to right and Rob from right to left working as a team and able to cover a wider area this wasn’t a precision tight baiting programme we wanted to get the carp lucid and searching for food, this baiting method was stopped at night so we had a variety of baits out at different stages of washing out, I had made pop-ups to match the colour of an 8hr period of being in the water at 7ml of flavouring compared to 30ml that was added to our liquid food supplement for a kilo of boilie.
So the rods were out to intercept and I lay on the chair in the bivie waiting for something to happen, the green glow of the isotopes twitching and dancing as my eyes tried to adjust to night vision, I put the stove on for a nightcap and stuck the pad on for a while to “Empire Strikes Back”.
Time passed and the call of the Bitten was in the air with its unique booming call, I must have dosed off for a while and my alarm went off at 3am and the grey hunters light was on its way to fading to dawn, sitting up on my chair looking out over the water signs of carp could be seen with their familiar tails raised flashing in the sunlight that was slowing burning the chill away, I moved to the front of my swim and sat on the sleeper that at the front edge on the swim with a morning coffee.
I could see four decent carp moving in front of me pondering maybe if my hook-bait was safe to mouth in or not before turning on a six pence then glide off in circle motion only to tail up again gently caressing the sub surface sending gentle ripples. I concentrated on the slack line from my rod tip on the middle rod and I could see it slightly lift then drop again as the carp went deeper in the hole where my rig was sat waiting to be triggered into a take.
I could feel my breathing deepen in anticipation coiled and ready the water erupted suddenly I looked over to the spot and could see a carp charge off pushing the water over its shoulders then a further two swirls as more carp spooked out towards the rushes for safety, my line started to tighten and the captive unclipped the line went slack then as tight pulling down the rod tip.
I moved into position and picked the rod up already connected to a decent fish she was fighting to her right slowly trying to surge but on a tight clutch I was in control only allowing her to take line to pass the weed bed in front of me, keeping my rod high stood on top of the sleeper I managed to guide her around the back of a weed bed and through the middle of another till she was a few yards out in front of me.
The tree was in the way to my right as she started to go behind it, already in my shorts I slipped my shoes off and climbed in to push my rod pass the marginal trees, by now I was up to my knees and got her under the rod tip with the her spinning upside down and twisting in the clear water when she decided to burst into another run I bowed the rod but didn’t give line this was giving her problems and she couldn’t shake my hook free my net was ready and she rolled on the surface for the first time before diving again trying to get under the tree to the left of my swim, eventually I could see her tiring and admitted she was defeated gracing the net cord to the spreader block lifting the net she was all mine at last.
I knew she was a twenty straight away and went 21lb 06oz on the scales she was already on the bank and I called Rob and Shane over placing her in the floating retention sling, and started to peg her in the next swim. Shane was there first and I quietly said I had one in the sling to his surprise Rob asked the same and I got the camera ready, set my position to take the trophy shot and collected my hard earn reward for her photo shoot, we admired her beauty and noticed her tail so we called her “lop-tail” for recognition in the future,
She reminded of the old carp of the early days and made me feel as if the weedy was back on the road to her former days from teenager to an almost middle aged man this place has been in my heart and will always have a special place in there.
It was a nice poignant ending of my growth as a person and as a carp angler conjoined with the changes the weedy had gone through over time with highs and lows from a disaster to rebirth, a special experience that only I could feel and lived, but as all great things come to an end and surely enough my time had to complete its full circle it was time to pull off and let it settle for another return in the future and hopefully these carp will become legends in their own right as the weedy once again slowly regains its throne and its glory days for the angler of the future.