Dave Lane became the first angler to bank four UK carp over 50lb when he landed a 52lb 8oz mirror in 2003. This is the exclusive story in which he reveals how he did it…
AFTER my results on a Cambridgeshire pit, when I caught the 36lb mirror, I decided it would be silly not to have at least a few more sessions on there (strike while the iron is hot and all that)!
I had no particular place to go anyway, as the permit for my winter water did not start for another month and the big pit I’d been targeting earlier in the year was still ruined with algae and choked with weed.
I still hadn’t found out very much about the stock in this new pit. I knew that the fish I’d caught was the second biggest in there and that there was one huge mirror – along with rumours of a few more nice looking thirties that seldom got caught.
I’d seen smaller fish on my first trip and had heard that there were about 30 carp in the 30 or so acres that the lake encompassed. In a way this suited me fine as I knew I was targeting a fish that may be around the 48lb mark, with the rest of the stock being a nice mystery.
In the week after I banked the 36-pounder I’d done another two-night session and, unfortunately, blanked. However, I had seen a fish jump in a different area at the northern end of the pit.
It was an encouraging sight and I’d moved up there for my last night, plumbing the area thoroughly before I left in the morning. It was a lot deeper up that end of the lake and, although the weed was very sparse, I could envisage it being a good area as the summer drifted into autumn and the fish started to move around in search of food beyond the weed beds.
Due to various home commitments I had to miss the next two weeks (and thus two sessions) at the Cambridgeshire lake. But seeing as the weather was still red hot, I used any spare time I could manage stalking at my local park lake.
I have only fished at Tilgate very occasionally over the last 20 years. In fact I only bought a ticket this season so we could do shots for my technical feature there, although it’s nice to have somewhere close to home where I can fish for a few hours after work.
Twenty years ago, when I fished there with Keith Jenkins, our personal bests were mid-doubles. The fish were lovely scaly mirrors that were stocked when I was in my final year at school.
Since then the lake has received a new stocking of grey mirrors with a much faster growth rate, but some of those 30-year-old warriors still survive today.
The biggest fish in there during those halcyon years was a beautiful linear carp with big armoured plates all down his flanks. I was never lucky enough to bag him, although Keith twice slipped the net under him. The second time he weighed a staggering 14lb!
Now, 20 years later, he and the rest of his surviving comrades are between 19lb and 25lb, so you can see that they aren’t the fastest-growing fish in the world.
The other more recent stock fish have shot up to the upper twenty mark in a fraction of the time – but the lake is low in natural food and they survive mainly on anglers’ bait and bread meant for the ducks.
I regularly walk the dog around the lake and always have a little look under a certain few overhanging bushes and trees, hoping to see one of the old warriors there. Sometimes I even sprinkle a few baits in likely looking spots.
It was on one such visit in late September that I spotted a couple of the bigger fish under a snaggy tree in the top corner of the lake. They were laying only a few feet from the bank in 18 inches of water, seemingly unaware of the ‘herds’ of dogs and walkers, kids and prams that were trundling past their heads.
I legged it back to the van for some pellets and baited up the branches before shooting home for a rod. The fish were still there on my return, so I baited again and set off on a circuit of the lake to leave them unmolested and hopefully get them feeding confidently.
During the circuit I hooked a fish on a floater, but unfortunately lost it at the net.
Back at the bush the fish were still in there but, judging by the murky colour of the water, they had obviously snuck out and eaten at least some of the bait while I had been gone.
I set up the rod with a small 1.5oz lead and a short hook link, mounting a 12mm pop-up on the hair before swinging it to the edge of the branches. While the fish were tight in the snag I could place the rig easily without fear of spooking them. I then climbed quietly into the tree and baited up just on the outermost branches where my hook bait lay.
I could still see the group of fish and realised that the best way of getting a take would be to gently agitate them and get them to leave the sanctuary of the branches that they were tucked under, hopefully feeding on the bait as they came back in.
I didn’t want to spook them off the area altogether so, one by one, I dropped acorns that I had found nearby, right next to the fish and slowly but surely they drifted out from their refuge. As soon as the carp started moving I ran back and crouched behind the rod.
Acorns are ideal in this situation. They do not spook the carp, just annoy them – perfect for getting fish that would otherwise stay in the snags (and uncatchable) out of the snags, where they can find your bait and trap!
How To Use Laney’s Acorn Trick
Dave doesn’t use much bait at Tilgate when stalking snag trees, a few boilies and some pellets is about it.
Climb up your snag tree to see if there are any carp around. Bait up outside the snags where you can fish safely.
Go back round and cast your hook bait close – but not tight – to the snags. Ensure you can land any fish you hook.
|Bait up outside the snags.|
|Chuck the acorns at the fish.|
Now get some acorns, or any other seed! It must be something natural so it won’t spook the carp too much.
Lob the acorns on the fish. Because they’re used to acorns falling, they won’t spook, but will swim out of the snags.
Get back to your rod! Sit by it. As the fish swim back into the snags, they will probably drop down for a quick feed!
The Old Linear
When fishing up against snags, I always fish with some degree of slack in the line rather than fishing ‘locked-up’. I still have the clutch screwed right down and don’t engage the Baitrunner, but I hover by the rod and hit the very first indication as the line tightens up. This way I can catch the fish off guard and hopefully pull him clear of danger before he knows what hit him.
As if working from this very script I soon had a single bleep on the alarm and saw the line cutting up through the water. I leapt into action and bent into the fish, laying the rod over as far away from the snag as I could and cranking the reel like a madman.
Obligingly the carp swung clear of the branches and, in total shock, wallowed his way straight into the margins at my feet where I unceremoniously scooped him up!
Looking into the net I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There in all his glory lay the Old Linear himself. Thirty years old and still looking terrific, and now, after all these years, we had finally met up with each other. He was a very respectable weight as well for such an ‘old un’, at 25lb 8oz it was probably about as big as he’ll ever get.
Back To Cambridge
My next two-night visit in Cambridgeshire coincided with the first decent bit of fishing weather for an eternity. The high-pressure systems and scorching temperatures had started to falter and I arrived at the lake to find a howling south-westerly wind.
I wasn’t the only angler who’d noticed the change in conditions either, as I turned up to find none other than Terry Hearn standing in my first choice of swim.
Fortunately the bay to his right was free and the wind was absolutely piling into it. It was a small, reed-lined bay with deep water close in and a couple of small gravel seams running from open water right into the actual bay. A sighting of a good fish rolling in the waves made it look even better.
A couple more fish showed as I was firing out my bait. I put in about 3lb of 16mm Maple-8 boilies, scattered all over the bay. Most of the bait went on the gravel seams, but I also found a small silt bed close in and baited it with a mixture of boilie and response pellet.
The pellet, being so light, would sit nicely on top of the silt. The difference of ‘feel’ on the rod tip as I plumbed the area led me to it in the first place and the plume of gassy bubbles that rose every time I pulled across it let me know it was soft silt.
Unfortunately, within an hour of setting up, the wind completely swung around as a massive weather front moved in from the north. The fish immediately stopped showing. There was an absolute deluge for about an hour and my wheelbarrow was about a quarter- full of rainwater at the end of it!
The next morning the wind was still set in the north and I took a wander down to the far end of the lake where the waves were lapping the bank. Although it looked good on first appearance, the temperature was so much lower on the wind than in my little sheltered bay I figured that if I were a carp I knew where I’d rather be!
Any remaining thoughts of a move were further quashed when, on my return, a huge sheet of bubbles appeared from the silt as a fish obviously pushed his way through.
I baited again that night with a further 3lb of Maple-8 boilies and, as dusk fell, two fish topped out over my furthest mark. This was exactly the tonic I needed and my confidence was sky-high as I clambered into bed.
I wasn’t in there long. At 1.30am I had a fast take on the long rod and landed a 19lb 8oz mirror. For some reason I was totally unable to get back to sleep after that fish and I sat up until 3.30am when I heard a good fish crash out in between my two baited areas.
I wound in one rod and plopped it out there in the spreading ripples, only about 25 yards from the bank. Eventually I drifted off to sleep and was surprised to wake at seven o’clock to find I’d had no further action.
Half an hour later though, and halfway through my first cuppa of the day, I had a strange take on the recast rod and hooked into a heavy fish. The fight was a bizarre affair and nothing more than a series of violent lunges. No line was taken at all.
The fish zigzagged about a bit just under the surface and sent up great big vortexes that boiled on the top. After a few minutes, and with no real drama involved, a great big mirror rolled over and swam straight into the waiting net.
|52lb 8oz. Wow!|
Fourth UK Fifty!
I knew instantly which fish it was but I was amazed at the size of it none the less. My unhooking mat had been inadvertently left elsewhere, so I had to drag the sleeping bag and my new JRC three-leg bedchair out of the bivvy to put the fish on.
It was Keith’s nice new bedchair, as I’d lent mine to a friend. Terry had moved from next door the previous day but, luckily, somebody else had quickly taken his place and I shouted him up to give me a hand with the weighing.
Between the two of us we weighed the mirror in at 52lb 8oz, which totally blew me away as I hadn’t been expecting that at all! Ian, the angler next door, seemed less surprised. Apparently this fish had been expected at a big weight for a while, although not quite this big!
I didn’t really set out at this particular venue with a fifty in mind. In fact, I had put all thoughts of another fish of this size out of my head for a while, so it was a double result really to get another whacker.
I really should thank Ian for his help. As it turned out I’d left my mat, sacks and weigh sling outside my tackle cupboard when I left home (no wonder I couldn’t find them) and not only did I have to borrow his gear but I also had to get him to weigh the fish for me, as my old back ain’t what it used to be.
To top it all off, his swim was the best one for wading out and doing the returning shots as well! So thanks a lot mate, I owe you a beer.
Return To Tilgate
Two days after the capture I was booked in to do the photos for this feature with Jim. We had decided on Tilgate again in the hope that I could winkle another one out from under the bush for the camera.
In an almost exact repeat performance of the previous week’s occurrence, I managed to hook a fish within an hour of arriving (the acorn trick doing the business again).
Unfortunately the hook link was cut during the fight on one of the many snags that litter the margins. Being a park lake there are all manner of obstacles that find their way into the edge, let alone the constant supply of old branches that fall in every year.
As I sat there moaning to Jim that our only chance for the day had gone, another fish crashed out further along the bank. It was close in, so I ran around there and marked the spot in my head before the bubbles had cleared before wrapping up the gear and moving.
While we worked at getting a set of photos together for the Getting Technical piece you’ll see elsewhere in this magazine, another fish rolled to my left – so I was soon fishing two rods, both on showing carp.
Halfway through a photo sequence one of them ripped off and a hard fighting carp did his very best to deny me my second chance. I was taking no chances this time and gingerly I coaxed him into the net. Just as we were peering in at another of the old original stock the other rod tore off as well!
This fish fought a lot harder. It was obvious it was one of the younger and fitter stockfish.
I had to quickly dip the net to scoop him up while ensuring that the first one didn’t swim out again. Luckily it all went to plan and a net full of carp hung off the end of the jetty.
The old warhorse weighed 16lb (and probably had done for an eternity) while the young ‘un just broke the 20lb barrier. All in all it was a fitting end to an absolutely incredible week!