Treble Twenty.

Ben's 23lb PB Mirror.

Ben's PB 28lb 08oz Common.

A cold St. Johns morning.

A cold February morning.

Andy's new PB 25lb 08oz Common.

09 February 2009

(The following story is from Ben and Andy Dyson's St. Johns session back in February 2008).

We had been planning a lengthier fishing excursion for some time, giving consideration to numerous options including sturgeon fishing in Canada, a quest for Nile perch in Egypt and the universally popular carp fishing in France. However it soon became apparent that the rather exorbitant costs associated with the former two destinations would prove prohibitive, and we decided that France or perhaps the UK would be more realistic options. After much musing we decided to stay in England and go away for an extended weekend in February as this would allow Andy to pursue a long standing ambition of catching a big winter pike. The venue we had chosen was the well known day ticket fishery near Oxford; Linear Fisheries. The complex of varied lakes has a reputation for producing some big fish of all species throughout the year, and we thought that a few days on the banks of St Johns Pool or Hardwick would give us a good chance of a personal best each.

So with my old faithful Peugeot Estate packed to the nines with fishing tackle, bait, food, and plenty of warm clothing I braved the Friday afternoon traffic and set course for Brighton to pick up Andy. Having added a further 20 stone to my payload and completed a 230 mile round trip, at 9.30pm we eventually pulled into the Linear Fisheries car park. Tired but full of enthusiasm and expectation for the 90 hours of piscatorial indulgence ahead of us, we loaded up my “Super specialist bank butler” (Old Travis Perkins wheel barrow) for the final part of the journey back across the road and around the bank of St Johns Pool in search of a vacant swim to set up camp for the night. After the inevitable faff of setting up in the dark and blasting six rods into the relative unknown it was early Saturday morning before we were kicking back for a well earned night cap and a snooze.

We had set up on the east or “social bank” of the lake and I placed my three different baits at different ranges to keep my options open. When Andy eventually emerged he set about switching all three of his carp rods over to dead baits, as was to be his strategy for the next four days. The day passed without so much as a sniff on any rod, but we kept ringing the changes and I set about baiting a few areas for the night – if we had nothing by morning we would move. A bad omen was England beating France in the Rugby as the last time this happened during the 2007 World Cup we were fishing Yateley South Lake and ended up blanking.

Sunday morning peered under my brolly without any sign of a fish and we discussed our options for moving. When we arrived all the swims on the favoured road bank had been taken apart from the one in the corner as you come through the gate which we neglected assuming that if it was any good it would be occupied on a Friday night. However Andy had been eye balling it all Saturday and as it remained vacant he wandered round with the marker rod for a closer look, and after a cup of coffee I loaded the trusty bank butler and we commenced moving. After five trips the job was done and I chucked out my three baited rods at random whilst I started to set up camp for the second time.

My rods had been in their rests for all of five minutes and I was faffing around trying to get the bivvy up when the totally unexpected happened. In fact it was so unexpected after 36 hours of inactivity that it was Andy that alerted my attention to the fact that my right hand alarm was screaming and the bobbin dancing away as copious amounts of line span off the reel. Startled I grabbed the rod disengaged the bait runner spool and wound down to the reassuring solid plodding of a fish on the other end. At this point in the story it’s worth stating that my current personal best carp was around 16lb and it wasn’t immediately evident that whatever was on the other end was any bigger than that. As it steadily plodded in it felt heavy but didn’t take any line and I stated to my brother and the chap who’d joined us from the neighbouring swim that it might be a very big bream. At that very utterance it came to the surface in direct contradiction to my initial diagnosis and a beautiful long mahogany, chestnut and gold flank rolled just below the surface about thirty yards out. It was definitely a carp much bigger than any I’d caught before and my nerves started to kick in, “Please don’t let it come off” was the prevailing thought in my mind as it plodded around under the rod tip refusing to give up. After five minutes we lifted a long mirror carp onto the unhooking mat that was clearly 20lb plus, in fact 23lb and a new personal best and what a beauty!

Job done I would have been happy to have gone home on Sunday morning, but we still had two and a half days left so back out went the rods. The weather started to change that afternoon and we had a few hours rain, which eventually cleared early evening to reveal a superb display of stars as Andy cooked up dinner. After eating we sat out listening to the radio drinking a celebratory cider or two as the sky cleared completely and the temperature dropped rapidly. Then out of the blue bleeeeeep and my left hand rod was soon doubled in recognition of the solid resistance at the other end of the line, the bait had been positioned just off what appeared to be the edge of an old weed bed where Andy had seen a decent fish crash out during the day and what ever I’d hooked had swam straight into the remains of it. Fortunately for me the late winter weed had been a long time dead and it didn’t prove to be quite the sanctuary my quarry had hoped, and it was soon moving freely again, with much less resistance than before. The strange knocking sensation and lack of fight made me think that perhaps I’d hooked a big eel, and I wound down hurriedly to bring it to the waiting net, however for the second time that day I was very wrong and my 2.5 test blank begin to regain its test curve as the fish that had been swimming towards me started to kite to my right, and then back across in front of us into the light of Andy’s head torch.

The crystal clear water shelved very rapidly down to 9 or 10 feet in front of our swim and still quite deep in the water we could see a smallish looking carp spiritedly fighting away “Looks like a low double mate!” exclaimed Andy, as it continued to swim to my left and I applied side strain in response. However the battle had only just begun and the fish proceeded to stay deep swimming left and right in front of us, at some points pulling so hard that it took line before I could turn it. I was still under the impression that this was just a very angry low double and after 10 minutes Andy accused me of “milking it”, which in fact was quite the contrary as I was giving it a lot more stick than I would have done had I known the truth about the size of my opponent. When it eventually came to the surface we could see that it was in fact a common of considerably larger proportions than first thought, and as Andy strained to lift the newly occupied landing net, it looked like another personal best was definitely on the cards. We borrowed some accurate scales from the guy fishing two swims along from us and when they eventually settled on 28lb 8oz I was absolutely buzzing!

Monday morning arrived quickly and I opened my eyes and looked out on a beautiful frosty morning, feeling grateful for my four season sleeping bag. The majority of the night had been disturbed by the security alarm at the cement works, which had now been replaced by the chunnering of diesel engines as people arrived for work. Then for the first time in 50 hours one of Andy’s rods screamed off, and this time it was my turn for some netting duty. The culprit was an absolutely pristine almost luminescent tench of around 5lbs which looked fantastic in the early morning sun, and Andy would have to wait a bit longer for an encounter with the lakes larger inhabitants.

The weather on Monday deteriorated rapidly and the wind was proving to be a real challenge for my now firmly battened down brolly. The evening passed without further disturbance and we both hit the sack early feeling duly tired from 3 nights under canvas. I was rudely awakened in the middle of the night by Andy’s bite alarm as the bobbin dropped to the floor, it was pouring with rain and the wind was blowing harder than before. Fortunately for Andy I had gone to bed with my all in one water proof thermal suite and boots on and was able to get to the rod in a matter of seconds. The alarm had now silenced and the bobbin was still flat on the floor as I picked it up and wound down the slack to find firm resistance at the other end. “Is it any good mate?” a voice enquired from within the warm dry interior of Andy’s bivvy, “Reckon so” I responded knowing that this was certainly bigger than his earlier tench. Thirty seconds later Andy was in the driving seat as the wind blasted the rain unsympathetically into our faces, this fish was a lot more compliant than the previous two and was soon in the net. I checked the time and it was 2am so decided not to disturb our neighbour again for his scales and I rummaged in my bag for our old spring balance. This common carp was the opposite in proportions to mine being short, and deep and it was no surprise when it pulled the balance down to 27lb, so allowing 1.5lb for the net Andy had beaten his personal best by 4.5lbs with a creditable 25lb 8oz.

Tuesday morning was again serenaded by Andy’s alarm, and yet another tench graced the unhooking mat. It had almost been forgotten that the primary reason behind this four day campaign was for Andy to catch a big pike, and each day he had studiously fished dead baits of differing size and species using every method in the book, and apart from a mysterious “one toner” that resulted in a strike into fresh air he hadn’t had a touch. So on Tuesday afternoon as we packed up he decided to give his spinning rod an airing and flicked a silver spoon out speculatively into the deep water, reeled back all of a few metres and he was in! A feisty jack pike was soon doing it’s best to tangle the lure, landing net and itself into an inseparable mass. Fortunately when it clamed down we were able to easily free the pretty little predator making a fitting end to a truly memorable fishing trip!

All the best – Ben and Andy Dyson.