The Weedy Part 1
One of my memorable times fishing was in the late 80’s/ early 90s when I was a mere teen to early twenties, tackle was limited and my carp fishing exploits where in their juvenile stages. First starting on a local lake in Wigan where I learnt the basics of carp fishing and in those days a double figure carp was the talk of the area and twenties where only seen on the front of the Mail and Times.
If I can remember I think that CarpWorld had only just started being published. To me carp fishing was something different and mysterious and a lot of “secret squirrels” from the few carp anglers that I came across at that time, which were then a minority as was mainly a match oriented area.
While fishing my local water I heard of a lake with big carp that was filtering around the grapevine, a place where the carp where in the twenties… this was exciting to hear at the time, about 1986.
At this time tackle was very simple I had one rod a Silstar Traverse X, 1 ¾lb, 12ft rod, a Silstar match reel loaded with 11lb Sylcast brown and a Riva green fishing basket, luncheon meat was the bait with the hook threaded through the meat with a piece of grass, or spaghetti between the bend of the hook and the meat. This was left in the sun to bake, which was not easy when the gulls tried to nick it or someone walking their dog found it and took the lot, in those days rigs where very simple, running leads and mono hook-links were the norm.
At this period Summers where long and bright, I was still at secondary school and couldn’t wait for the holidays to arrive in July, as June the 16th was the start of the season then. A friend and I made the trek to the lake to have a look round on the 16th. Walking down the canal for a few miles we passed a few waters on the way that we knew held tench, a few rudd and pike, but that’s all we knew as most of these waters where, to say the least, wild-waters with unknown fish stocks, or how or when they were actually stocked.
As I can gather today, these lakes where working shale pits, some still active at the time, one lake in particular, Westwood, had cooling towers for the industry these where blown up not long after by the infamous “Fred Dibnah the Steeple-Jack”.
The water we were interested in was called “The Weedy”. This was situated on the opposite side of the canal, a smallish lake of about 5 acres. We could see the railway line in the distance of the canal and it still seemed miles away, but we eventually could see the lake from the canal side and noticed wrap-over ‘bivvies’ on the banking of The Weedy, so we knew this was the right place.
Crossing over the lines the site of the lake was breath taking, more so as the rumours we had heard of the carp it held. From the picture above you can see what we saw, even though the lake was different then split into two parts through the centre with rushes, and a large bed of pontamagon lilly bed in the bottom corner.
We stood at the top of the hill looking down the lake for a while then eventually I summed up the courage to go down the steep banking to the lake through the trees we got our first glimpse of the water, I was hooked straight away to say the least. Every swim available which was about 14-18 swims where all taken up and on a brief chat as they were very reluctant to give anything away, something I wasn’t accustomed to at the time, the “weedy grunt”.
But I didn’t let this deter my enthusiasm to have a go, the next week I couldn’t wait to get down, but getting someone to make the trek with me was difficult, but every weekend that passed, even though I was back on my local pond, my mind was still embedded with first time I walked on The Weedy.
The first weekend of the summer break I made my way down to the lake on my own, tired and exhausted carrying a basket, rod and landing net in hand on the hour and a half walk it took to get there. Visiting the first swim I came to, opposite the pads, which I walked past and set up on a three-peg swim. The water was gin clear and you could see the bottom. I had never seen so much weed like this before in my life, the whole lake was top to bottom with Canadian weed just with the odd gaps in the margins. I was very green as far as fishing and naïve as how difficult this would be to fish, just casting out willy nilly as you do.
Obviously when changing bait, even though I was only fishing float distance, the rig was covered in this weed no matter where it landed, so hours went by and not a take obviously!
I reeled in and went for a walk a couple of swims down, and got chatting to a guy who had gear I hadn’t seen before being a set of optonic alarms, Northwest Sealy carp rods even a bed-chair, he was fishing the middle of the lake in a swim called “Jimmy’s swim”, and surely enough Jimmy had been sat there for a week already, I can’t thank Jimmy enough as over the years he took me under his wing like I was an orphaned fisherman as I didn’t have anyone to me teach about carp or any type of fishing and I still think I’m the only member of the family who goes fishing still?
This was when I was introduced to two things that would change my life for ever one was the “Hair-Rig” the second was “Carp-Fever” by Kevin Maddocks. My horizon had been expanded to infinity, and we still stay good friend even to this day. I learned about the basis of watercraft and the weedy got under my skin to the core, but I didn’t return back to the weedy for a few years as he told me to start on easy waters learn you skills and then when you feel ready come back and give it a proper go.
I knew exactly what he meant as the stocking levels where very low for the size of water 40-50 carp and rumours that they may have been from the “leney” descendants. I had never heard of Redmire until then and started reading every book, magazine I could get my hands on even Jimmy loaned me books to read as he had a big collection from Walker, Maddock’s, Hutchinson, Gibbinson, Macdonald and so on as well as the local library.
I was at college by now and more experienced and better gear ready to tackle the weedy carp, moving on from luncheon meat to boilies, spending a lot of time walking on the lake or up trees watching the carp’s movements and logging times they came to that area best I could. The water hadn’t changed but the people had, basically I had the place to myself for about two months before I saw another angler strangely enough, the walk and the weed must had deterred a lot of people I think. But not me, and I was able to spend longer times on there as college holidays were 7 weeks, so I was spending a week on, then off for a few days and back on for another week and spent all the summer doing this… great!
I set for one swim I saw a lot of carp moving through and my god there were some good shadows under the surface, biggest carp I had ever seen, cruising around doing what carp do – elude capture!
Rigs had advance in the 90’s due to CarpWorld, and I got my first proper rod setup, this will get Lockey thinking back, original thumb-screw stainless buzzers bars and the aerial needle bar system with monkey climbers on the optonic XLs. The rigs were helicopter style with 2 3/4oz ball leads combined with Merlin 15lb hook links to size 2 Drennan boilie hooks set on a aligner rig, roughly 10-12 inches long. The choice of bait was the Hutchinson monster big fish mix which I rolled by hand “Donkey chokers” style as the water was teaming with tench.
All set up on rig tubing, which was a nightmare to thread 15lb big game and ready to go! But the runs where non-existent, but I wasn’t getting tench, which was what I wanted. I was determined to get one for sure, but by day two there were no runs to show for my efforts. I had to “skyline” the rods to keep as much line as possible out of the water, fishing holes in the weed. I had found pre-baited with particles and tigers got the carp to clear the weed an create natural feeding areas.
On my left hand rod I had to hit a 3ft square gap at 40yrds and a 5ft gap at 50yrds on my right under pylons running over the swim. This was a bit hairy as they were fizzing all the time.
When I eventually got my first run a memory I will never forget, the rod tip bounced then bent right over giving a screaming run and suddenly I was connected to a carp with awesome power. Seeing the tail moving as the carp buried itself deep on the take it coming out somewhere else along the rushes, the line cutting as it ploughed through, then nothing, it was all over and the rod went limp.
The line had melted, eventually parting, my legs were shaking like a shi**ing dog, I was in shock for a few hours after that, my first chance in weeks and it was over in seconds feeling gutted was not the word!
At the break of dawn I could see the rushes lying on the water that my line had sawn through on the take. So I decided to tighten up my bait-runners (ShimanoTriton Sea Spins) recast the rods one on boilles to the right, tiger nut on the left, put the stove on sat looking at the rod tips to see any movement ready to pounce, kettle boiled brew in cup a fag in hand for breakfast.
About an hour passed then the right hand rod gave a single bleep then hooped over and screamed off, I took hold of the rod and bent into the fish where upon I was met again with grievous resistance at the other end, playing the carp in a pearl one knit one manor as it tried to bury itself in every weed bed in front of me
Eventually I managed to get it under the rod tip where she wouldn’t subdue for the first five minutes or so surging every opportunity it had with my arm starting to ache, then I could see every turn and twist in the water my heart in my mouth as her bulbous body shimmered her dark side and blue/brown back scales glistening as she turned to go right, net ready I dragged her over I knew this was a good carp.
On the scales was my first carp from the water and my first Northern 20lb+ carp an old mirror who I would meet again the next year and one I named “Scar-Belly” she went 21lb 10oz and a new PB.
At the time 35mm cameras was the in thing so I had a second hand Olympus OM10 and had to wait till the film was used up and the runs on the weedy where far and few between at times. I knew of anglers to come down the line who could go a full season and not see a carp it wasn’t easy, wasting film on the pet dog or the hoping for a wedding or birthday party was on the cards taking ramdom shots of pointless stuff just to get then back only to find a pic of your dad picking his nose, getting a tan or worse!
This was the norm, unlike the digital age of today, and poloriods where massive cameras in their own right and not that great only able to have black and white film, as colour was expensive then. I had to re-live the moment in my head until they where developed hoping for the trophy shot.
I was still fishing on my own so had a lot of time to observe the best I could eventually I was working out their patrol routes and knew what times fish would move in and out of the area documenting and creating a map and inserting the routes they took and pegs that produced by myself or by other anglers that would come in the months ahead as with any water especially one producing twenties at the time in the north wouldn’t be kept under wraps forever I knew my time was short as the catches started to mount up.
I managed a few smaller carp in the next few weeks to 14lb which I was more than appriatative of the interest but the larger carp where not to been seen just having a few runs were I was completely seen off loosing them in the exstensive weed which was a nightmare at times.
I went home to recharge my batteries make more bait and pack more food, then a pound of bacon, a pack of sausages, 6 eggs and loaf of bread would be a week supply of food occasionly wild duck eggs straight from the nest fishing bear grills style, so you could carry more bait.
I couldn’t wait get back on but at the same time dreaded that walk! Non the less it had to be done and I set off back up the canal rucksack on back, holdal round neck to yomp the miles back to the lake. Every time you got over the railway bridge santuary was waiting settling back in the same swim under the pylons.
That weekend I was joined by a new guy “Gaz” and his mate “Dave” we got chatting as he was up the road from me and we became a friends still to this day, they where fishing for eels which I didn’t take much interest in at the time, one set up in the swim to my left of the pylons the other to my right. This is the thing about fishing you can meet some good people that would do anything for you an you for them and we started to meet up and was nice to have some companionship and for your personal safety as you where basically in the middle of no-mans land.
As you can see from the map the lake was split into two and you could watch the carp cruise in and out the front of the tails and move in certain directions dependant on the wind, full of weed and with a fishing partner Gaz and myself we spent hours talking about fishing the lake and thoughts and ideas on the residents of the weedy and why they were so hard to catch. This was a great period of time bouncing ideas off each other Gaz stopped fishing for eels and started on the carp trail in the hope of getting a carp.
That night I had another take only to lose it in the tails again but this was for the last time as I had my reel set to the tightest they could possibly go on the bait-runners. The next morning I had another take on the right hand rod to the shear shock on Gaz’s face, he had never seen or heard one toners like that either till then. I was in again bent into a hard fighting carp boring its way through the weed trying to throw the hook and escape.
I turned round to ask Gaz to assist in netting and he was already up to his waste with the net as my top eye kept getting jammed with weed. I had to walk backward while he cleared the weed off the line, and wind and walk keeping continual pressure so much so the rod was almost at exploding point then she became free and moveable again.
She was in the net with a scoup plus lots of weed, he dragged the net to the bank and we pulled all the weed back to see another twenty, his first sight of a twenty and a full leather to boot, which we agreed to name “Chocolate Drop” going on the scales she banged the needle round at 20lb 01oz, I was buzzing to say the least we where talking about it for hours after until nightfall.
We had a few weeks of peace after that fishing an then the enevitable happened we had been seen so the secret was out weedy was producing loads of carp on the chinese whispers grapevine even though it wasn’t the case but by now we where slowly becoming hardened carp anglers and used to the suffering of long blanks and making the best of the occasional success because we knew what it meant getting a few fish a season from the water.
I was sat under the brollie one day, as Gaz was in the other eating a bacon butty, when a voice came from behind the wavelock, “You done out?”
We both looked at each other and said well had a few over the month but hit and miss really just saying how it was as you do!
“Hmm gonna get every carp on the bank me” so I looked at Gaz in disbelief and said “Oh ok fair enough” the guy was buffing himself up but at the end of the day I was no super star just a carper trying to catch the carp erelivent of their size we just wanted to see them in the flesh and admire them as they where stunning old warriors.
He was gonna do this and do that, so I asked “So where you fishing know?” he replyed “Orrell Ressie’s”. now I knew this place was a day ticket water double where far and few between and full to the brink with small hungry carp willing to hang themselves, then we went quiet, he was starting to suggest what he caught he was going to move to the ressies.
So we nick-named him “ The Orrell W**ker” which by the time I was coming off the lake everybody knew him as, a guy with all the gear but no idea! That weekend he turned up a barrow with gear on! Amorphous rods this and that a bivi a bedchair and Santa’s little helper is cousin, who spent 4 days sleeping on his floor near the door maybe to put his slipper on or something I don’t know but I tried to be friendly.
I remember him scanning the water talking to his cousin which he sent out twice a day in a dinghy rowing his rods out dropping his rigs off in the gaps in the weed and baiting up, fair play good idea if you got the facilities available. Then he decided to get the brew on as dusk was starting to set in and you could hear him waffling doing the “Charlie Big time!” only to turn to go back into his bivi kicking his stove straight into a rubbish bag, then the side of his bivi was up in flames, I helped him put it out with no thanks! So I thought not to bother again!
He spent the next twelve months blanking had one fish and we never saw him again weedy had done his head in sold his stuff joined a religious cult for all I know? I was continually getting runs so that probably didn’t help seeing him sat there on his chair rocking head in hands muttering “Why am I not catching?”
But eventually we had a good crew of regulars on the weedy, Dave “midgure”, Scouse Tony, Dainty(poridge), two Ste’s, Piggin Rats Stan (terrified of rats spent most of the night twisting round with a torch at anything that moved), Phil “Flukins” Lukins and just a guy who used walk his dog everyday “Down wind Dave” don’t know who smelt worst him or the dog .
I was on one time fishing already bent into a carp when “Down wind Dave” turned up, I had been playing it for a while and was ready for the net under pressure when someone is behind you I was in the middle of a wash all over at the waters edge before this, I had been there a week, this was a fish I was after one Jimmy had at 22lb a few years before called “Sam” she was a sucker for strawberry fossoil from mainline especially when she came to the surface she had a indent on her dorsil fin at the top so I knew it was her and looked huge in the water.
I could see my line grating against the spike she now had and fought hard, eventually she was mine and a new lake record with her peak Wight and another leather at 25lb on the nose. I didn’t get a great picture at the time as the apature had a fault which gutted me but that’s the way it was then hope for the best.
As the months past thinking back I had managed roughly about 8 carp from the water 5 over the twenty mark topped off with a new PB and a season I couldn’t imagine considering my humble beginnings and to be honest I still am just a person who enjoys fishing.
We had some great times on a great water with some great people, I remember one day there was myself, Gaz, Scouse Tony and the Orrell W**ker, talking in length about different things to do with carp and I said I am going to start fishing the margins more than we are and I felt that its an area that was missing out even though they seemed to be showing everywhere else, we knew they where crafty fish in a difficult water as Jimmy used to say “They’ve seen it all bought the T-shirt using it for dusters”.
We where a pretty close crew and shared our thoughts as we where all in the same boat,except for the Orrell W**ker who said “ No they wont take in the margins ect, ect” not so close as I was suggesting less than a foot from the bank.
Winter was on its way and I think an extra 3 fish had been caught that year besides mine with about 8 regulars putting the time in. Phil had 3 fish out in a weeks session to 24lb and an awesome fish and everyone went down to congratulate. I mean these guys would mind your gear while you went home even only returning the next day, if they where going off and had some food left they would ask who was short or bring you food the next day.
We didn’t have mobiles then so when you where there that was it grin and bare it, or get off home cause you where a big girl they do say, “Its grimm up North” and where men are men and so are some of the women with “love and hat” tatooed on their remaining fingers! That winter I spent 14 days under a brollie sleeping on the floor and my stove had packed in on the 4th day Keith turned up and went an got me a stove so I could eat and that was the last winter I spent on there until I had better protection that was affordable (made own on the sowing machine) and a bedchair but that’s what any carp-nutter would do!!!
Summer couldn’t come quick enough and myself Scouse tony had three rods an used one in the margins close in sometimes dropped right off the rod tip on slack lines this would have been about 93 season if I wasn’t fishing I was walking on for a chat, flicking baits in the margins regular even from inside my pocket when I came to trees about 4-5 boilies and open areas 2 every 5-6ft for about two weeks, then rods where on the spot it got to a stage where I knew which way they where coming and that it would be 11:30pm and in the mornin 3:30-5:00 am.
The day time it very rarely produced for some reason they stayed out the way in the back bay the safe areas crashing about and showing their tails and backs breaching the surface as they milled about occasionally fish would move in the pads about tea time feet from the waters edge but where very cautious in their moments very slow and precise only tilting for a mouthful of natural food and lifting of the bottom to blow out silt and move off majestically they didn’t seem to stay very long literally minutes before moving off only to to return and repeat the process.
It was a great opportunity to develop rigs for this particular feeding habit I was observing in the pads I was still using bottom baits and slowly started using slow slinking pop ups as I noticed on occasions the carp paddling sideways across the bottom wafting the bait up in the water turning round and sucking in boiles that were slowly sinking back to the lake bed as if they where watching for baits that reacted differently or not the same as if they where tethered to a Hook-link I suppose it becomes a natural instinct at some point to them?
I had decided to go light this time and do a dawn session, with the occasional session and go before the times so one morning I set off two rods landing net in hand bedchair stuff inside and I’ll never forget the night before I watched a horror movie classic “The Fog” 1979 classic with a young Jamie Lee Curtis if some of the older generation remember this.
It was about a town that is subjected to a rolling fog and in the fog is the ship full of the dead Lepers that where coming for revenge on the towns 100yrs celebrations as the founders marooned their ship on the rocks to steal the gold they had to buy a close island to make a leper conoly. They come back to kill the decendants of the original founders an reclaim what was theirs the gold think you get the jist.
And yep walking down the canal the mist started to roll in and the screaching bark of a vixen fox to her cubs could be heard in the distance. I bomded down to the weedy looking behind all the way could’t wait get there trust me didn’t want get skewered by a cutlass!
I got over the lines and looked across the lake and got down to the swims where I saw fish straight away heading in and out the pads tailing infront of my normal swim so I set up in the first peg in the pads. Stuck between two over hanging trees I quielty set up my two rods, then set the chair up behind the trees out the way, and waited eagerly for a hopeful take, it just seemed to feel I was in the right time and right place.
I was trying a new hook-link a combi link, previously Gaz and I spent hours tying rigs and testing knot strengths at that time Kryston was on the scene but was too expensive to so we looked at an alternative substitute, dental floss strands broke at 9lb so we decided to tie three together an twist and pull apart and kept repeating the process till we had a hooklink you couldn’t feel when it was fanned out across you lips, tyed to a Brent camo hooklink as shown in the diagram.
Baiting up I cast my rig just inside a gap in the pads slackend the line off and kept very quiet, scattering a small amount of bait to the area where I had seen the carp tailing and moving, Seemed only an hour had passed when a single bleep and the line starting to esculate into a full blown run crashing in the pads, shoes off and I waded in past the marginal trees to get more leaverage, the fight was ememse and felt longer than it probably was shooting down the margins to my left.
I kept the steady pressure on and could see she was a good mirror which I reconised straight away “Scar-Belly” was back in the game trying her best to throw the hook, soon she graced the bottom of my net and she looked a lot different from when I saw her last putting her on the avons she went 23lb 06oz and her biggest weight, she had put on almost 2lbs since the year before.
I didn’t get any more takes as the carp where very quick to realise the area wasn’t safe to browse for food, Weedy was teaming with natural food of all discription and I did see a lot of carp that eluded capture towards the end of the weedy days at its prime.
Two days later I was back on again for an overnighter, and went further down the lake fishing a sloped bank as it was busy further down there where a few of the guys on but nothing had been out only “Scar-Belly”,
I was greeted by Tony congratuating me a with a big hug of elation in my success of having another hard earned twenty and I set up again fishing the margins placing one baited rod on top of a sleeper, the other to the right side of a marginal tree to my left.
For hours I was getting liners first on the right then few minutes later to my left I had a feeling in the air something was going to happen, at 11:30 at night a screaming run erupted off the sleeper log, the fight was short and spirited once I had her under the rod she was banged to rights and in the net going 21lb 10oz another mirror on the scales, little did I know at the time that this would be my last carp from the “Weedy” and especially of the original stock.
I had seen quite a few carp in my time I was on there, a lot where seen but never made the banking I could honestly say either never or when they were smaller probably? Some bigger than what I had already had out I’m positive of that.
I had seen at least two fish one a mirror we called “Soveriegn”, she was a beautifully shaped deep fish with a large scale on one side like a large gold derblune dark on top with a orange under belly awsome looking fish in the water but that’s the only place I saw her and only one or two people actually caught a glance through the water as she cruised around, the other .a large common which was a dark fish this was the only twenty plus common I set my eyes on watching it bask in the pads while “Sam” was wafting the bottom and coming round in circles then would return with a new pal to past the time of day with, I would say they where between going off what I had had and seen since between 27-30lb.
A few weeks later we had a major heatwave and I was just going down for a few hours with a single rod to try and stalk any carp that may be feeding, I got down there and walked the length of the water. It was very low and you could see the large weed beds hanging across the surface something did’t look right but the carp where showing everywhere, I could’nt believe my eyes I thought I defo gonna get something but they were acting strange not there usual selves so to speak.
I carried on walking to the bottom end where it was more narrow than the rest, I walked into a swim and 6 carp where sat no more than 5ft from the bank all commons and all over the twenty mark so I sat back and free lined a boilie to then and sat and waited observing their behavior one of the carp was swaying side to side as if its balance was all to cock, for four hours I sat there nothing they didn’t move or spook?
I eventually got detered and set off home, a few days later I got a phone call from Jimmy with the worst news I could imagine all the weedy carp where dead not only the carp but eels and anything else that was in there, I felt sick! Apparently the E.A had been down took some of the carp alive and some of the dead to see why? Later I found out they where poisoned by sulphar released in the water from under the lake or something but what ever it exactly was the ghosts that never got caught the carp we all knew where all but gone.
I couldn’t bring myself to go down it was too heart breaking after all the time I had lived on there literally and at the time there was only a small amount of waters that had twenties in the North West, what to do know and where to go next?
Strange as it sounds this was the last time I went carp fishing for over a decade turning my attention to other species to fish for, mainly pursuing big eels which I did pretty well over the13 years, spending most of my time on the canals and would be a long time before I eventually moved back for carp and back on the weedy but this will have to wait till the next part when I revisit the Weedy in 2006.
See you then and I hope you enjoyed the first installment?