Quest for a Linear Beast.

Hardwick's "Zip Linear" at 34lb.

A 25lb 08oz St. Johns mirror caught in June 08.

A stunning 33lb 08oz Hardwick mirror.

A lovely 27lb Hardwick linear mirror.

A 25lb 12oz Manor Farm Common.

10 April 2009

My quest for a linear beast began back in November of 2007. I had purchased a winter ticket for what I thought to be the most beautiful and toughest of all the Linear waters, Hardwick and Smiths Lake. I walked around the lake more times than I care to remember, watching the water and flicking a marker float at places that looked good. I wanted to find out as much information about the place as I possibly could.
At first, the fishing was reasonably straight forward, which you may think surprising for such a difficult water. Luckily for me, some 250 small carp had been stocked into the water and it was a case of spotting these new, excited fish, crashing in certain areas of the lake. It was quite normal to find a lot of these fish shoaled up tightly together, so even though winter was setting in, it was still possible to catch a lot of carp and quickly. It was a simple case of spotting them, setting up and then using small bags and my trusted Tails Up OCM dumbbell hook baits to tempt the eager stockies. If I was really on the fish, then I would put more bait out on one of Hardwick's numerous bars or silty areas using the spod. Originally the mix consisted of hemp, pellet and of course some Tails Up OCM, which I chopped into halves and small bits. Later on in the year I added corn and some white or red maggot, for a bit of visual attraction, making it even better!
This success didn't last as long as I had hoped. It was the end of December when I returned to the water, after spending Christmas and New Year with the family, that I really started to struggle. The water temperature had chilled considerably and it had taken a big effect on the fishing. I was still just catching stockies. Being a student, I was only able to get down for one night, maybe a weekend if I was lucky and the better pegs were always taken. Some of the lads on the lake were top quality to spend time with, but did some serious sessions, 14 days was one example! It was whilst spending an overnighter with one of the lads, that I witnessed a capture of a fish, filling me with mixed emotion. The fish was a beautiful common of 36lb and in one aspect, I was overjoyed at a great capture for a fishing friend, but on the other hand the amount of frustration I felt at not being able to fish as much as I wanted. Not being able to get into the bigger specimens was doing me in. I began to question everything, my approach, my rigs, hooks, even lead size and style!
Now there's a relief
Then it happened. I turned up at the lake to find one of the 'going pegs' being emptied by a weekend angler. It was a Sunday morning and I was only there for the day so decided to jump straight in after he'd left. It was 12 noon by the time the angler had left and I was set up. I had landed two stockies when I got a one toned take. Expecting another head shaking feeling vibrate down the rod tip, I was surprised to see the rod hoop round and I had to quickly give line whilst enjoying the feeling of something big being attached to my line. Then it did nothing. I brought the fish all the way into the margins, where 20 yards out it surfaced and I saw a large scaly flank that reassured me this was no stockie. Then it went mad, making me cross every part of my anatomy that it wouldn't come off until finally it was there, over the cord and engulfed in a shaking net. I quickly rang my dad and babbled that I'd caught a good one. She went 32lb 8oz on the Reubens and it was now my turn to have half a dozen cameras on me. It felt great and all the frustration seemed to leave and drift off into the afternoon cold.

You wait for one, and then three come along at once?
Hardwick was to be good to me again soon after, and it was on a Saturday afternoon that I set up with a friend of mine in the Smiths side of the lake for an overnight session. A quite night passed and after a few stockies in the early morning, I was just packing up when my right hand rod burst into life, again signalling a one toner. Once more that electrifying thump of a large fish strained my right arm and the fish immediately kited to the right, straight through my friend’s lines, wiping them out. After opening the bail arms on both rods, he quickly came back round to the peg, grabbing the net just in time to see a sparsely scaled mirror touch the surface. Coming in like a large raft of gold, its nose touched the spreader block and we jumped up and down like idiots. I knew it was a good fish, but at a new PB weight of 35lb 4oz, I was over the moon and felt like things were really starting to come together. All the harsh realities of cold winter mornings seemed ages ago.
Just when things couldn't get better, they did. My dad was down for a 24 hour session and I was back in the same peg I had taken the previous thirty from, having seen a lot of fish show in the area. We had quickly found the small areas I had caught the 35 from and were just settling down for the evening when again my right hand rod signalled a stuttery take. I lifted into the fish and it felt weird. Then I remembered I had left a 12 foot zig rig out, hence the funny, bouncing sensation through the rod. Thank god I did. The small size 10 wide gape was firmly placed an inch back in the bottom lip of a perfect linear. At 34lb I admired its big apple slice scales neatly slotted together. It was my third thirty in as many sessions and I was to find out later that it was the zip linear from Manor, having escaped in the floods.
What goes up must come down.
Lake closed, read the sign in front of me. The floods had hit the lake hard and as a result, the lake had to shut. Although the lake was only shut for two or three months, I turned my attentions to the other waters on the complex. Summer was warming the upper layers and from observing the carp's activity, they seemed up for a floater or two. Manor was my first port of call and it was on a nice sunny afternoon that I walked quietly into the back bay, rod in hand with a box of dog biscuits and sprayed a few over a carps path. It duly gulped them down and I hastily attached a fake dog biscuit to the 4 foot length of double strength hook link and small size 10 hook that was to be cast out in the hope of a surface caught whacker. It settled nicely in the ripples of a couple of free offerings and I sat watching it drift to my right where a large amount of floating weed was sat still against a group of overhanging trees that draped into the water. Suddenly, a group of fish moved out from underneath the safety of the weed and headed straight for the hook bait. I couldn't miss and proceeded to land a beautiful fish of 20lb and a few ounces, definitely a good start to the summer I thought. The summer continued to be as fun as it had started and I adapted my tactics to suit the situation. I had caught a lot fish in very short 2-5 hour sessions after University or work, but it was whilst on a longer day session that I found a lot of the bigger fish in the bay, sitting very still. I was sat silently with two angling friends of mine, wondering at some of the named fish sat above the now thick weed. It was especially good to see some of them sucking down a few floaters, yet it was just a shame that my hook bait seemed so obvious to them. The birthmark linear, which looked magnificent in the water, had the bait tittering on its nose too many times for my heart to take and I nearly had to resuscitate myself when it engulfed the bait for the first time from six attempts. I struck and watched the fish spook out of the bay without my hook attached to it. Gutted, I recast to another group of carp and sat back to await action, but missing chance after chance I nearly gave up. My eyes suddenly spotted a rather nice common coming into view. It drifted peacefully into a small patch of weed and sat there sun bathing, sometimes flicking it's dorsal fin in enjoyment of the summer sun, keeping its balance with its large pectoral fins. I watched it for a while and then realised why I was here and flicked my hook bait just centimetres in front of it and remember feeling silently pleased with the cast. We all sat there motionless and the fish didn't move for a few minutes. I was still fixed on every flick of its tail when it inched forward, tilting a little and poking its head like an arrow directly at the bait. Just a slight contraction in its muscular frame pushed it forward and I could see the pale mouth open and wrap its lips around the mixer. I struck instantly and with a huge explosion of water it powered deep into the weed as I stood up and held the rod aloft. I had hooked the fish 2 metres from the bank and we could all see its powerful tail poking from the weed. I applied pressure and along with a bundle of weed the fish popped up and was duly netted. I lifted the fish onto the mat and marvelled at the perfect rows of symmetrical scales, all 26lb of common carp.

That really signalled the end of my time on Manor and after a single night on St Johns where I was lucky enough to land 4 fish to 26lb, rumours of Hardwick opening back up had me all excited again.
Return to Hardwick
My return started with a bang. I had been walking around the lake during a lunch break and after spotting a group of carp near the surface, decided that I suddenly felt very unwell and sadly, would not be able to return to work! It was the correct move, as in three hours I landed 3 fish to 27lb; all coming off zigs fished 6 inches under the surface. I continued my run of good form catching 3 twenties in one session in September and my thoughts were slowly turning to winter fishing. I had one last autumn session with my dad and a friend of mine at the end of October. The weather was fantastic and even though the summer had gone and leaves were falling, the sun warmed the faces of three eager looking anglers stood up a tree, at the top end of a still, silent Smiths pool. There was fish everywhere, bathing in the sunshine penetrating their watery home. The fish were moving very slowly and even though I tried to tempt a few with a floater for two hours, they were not interested and the sun was starting to touch the tree line behind me. I set up for the first day of our two day stay, where I had seen all the fish and sat expectant of a carp. Although it came, it came a lot later than expected; the next day! After only 3 stockies in my first 24 hours of fishing, I didn’t want to waste my final 24 in the same peg; the fish were far less evident and after walking around the lake, were obviously moving into Hardwick. I set up on the end of one of the unique ‘spits’ that Hardwick has, separating the two lakes. I quickly found an obvious bar I knew of 30 yards in front of the peg and just on dark managed to get all the rods on other selected spots. At 10pm I had a screaming take that had me running to the right hand rod, bent round in the rests. It was the rod placed on the bar and the 1.5kg of Tails Up goodies I had deposited on the top of it had produced the take. The fish powered off and it was 30 minutes later that I had it surfacing in the margins. Every time I had the fish within 15 yards of the bank it would power off leaving my dad and I just stood watching the clutch grudgingly give line, wondering what I had hooked and whether it would ever come in. It was a carp, a big one too and I really thought it was Jordan or a big unknown common. However, it wasn’t and dad finally landed a beautiful 33lb 8oz mirror. Still I was over the moon after such an epic battle and held it aloft for the camera. That same rod went on to produce two twenties and a number of smaller fish that session, without doubt my most memorable on the complex and one that prepared me for the coming winter. To date, using everything I’ve learned and of course my trusted OCM, I have continued catching through the winter and have landed fish to 27lb. I’ve set my sights on one of the big girls from there, before hopefully moving on to one of the other waters on the complex in search of more big linear carp. I’ll keep you posted.

Josh Bennett