From the moment I drove away from the gates of Weston Park, some 12 months previously I had been imagining driving back down that track to the stunning Weston boathouse. The view did not disappoint! I have experienced some stunning sights in my time carp angling, but the view of that boathouse is right up there. A smile instantly appearing on my face – it was good to be back. A week of relaxation, good food, better company and the hope of a fish or two was there laid out before Bev, Tom and myself and I couldn’t wait to get cracking! These types of sessions form my favourite type of fishing; not necessarily the length, but getting to spend quality time with good people, whilst doing something we all share a passion for, is definitely the best way to do it.
We jumped out of the motors and opened up the boathouse. A quick refresher trip around the old building revealed new decor and an all-round impressive sight. Next up was a quick recce of the swims. The views were as beautiful as I’d remembered. We unloaded the supplies into the fridge and cupboards whilst swim choice was made. After everything had been sorted away, we cracked open a fruit cider to toast the week before heading off to our chosen swims to get prepped for the week’s angling. As a general rule, when I’m on anything more than an overnighter, I like a bit of comfort in my fishing. Even then sometimes when I’m on an overnight flit I do too! I set about making camp first before I got the rods out. With having a full week in front of me the urgency to get the rods out wasn’t there. I had a plan of how I would attack the week and I was going to stick to it.
The plan for the week was to bait regularly and in quite decent amounts. So once the base camp had been set up with all the luxuries possible for the week, I set about sorting some bait out. The plan I had was to base the baiting on plenty of boilies, but bulking everything out with hemp and corn. Boilie-wise I went with the Pacific Tuna, which is an offering from CC Moore that I’ve got the utmost confidence in. I also took some Pacific Tuna pellet with me just in case. I weighed out 2kg of 15mm Pacific Tuna in to a bucket, to that I added a jar of Intense Hemp and four tins of sweetcorn for good measure. This was followed by a good dose of Liquid Tuna Extract. On the far bank in front of my swim there was a gap in the trees that I would target, so it was a simple case of walking around the lake and using a scoop to put the bait in. Having been to the lake previously I knew this would be a good spot. Also, on the far side was a reed bed that met the far bank snags that looked a good place to put a bait. For my third rod I had an idea to look for an open water spot to bait regularly.
Having picked the spots I wanted to fish, I had a cast about to mark up the spots for the week. The added bonus of taking that time meant it allowed the liquid from the corn, hemp and obviously the Tuna Extract to soak in to the boilies ready to leak out attraction once in the lake.
We convened back at the boathouse and then set off for a jaunt around the lake to go and bait up. The tactics were pretty much the same for the three of us, so we all started off in similar fashion putting a fair bit in on the far side. The gin-clear water allowed for me to be able to see the spots and I soon had the first spot, in the gap, laced with a good helping of the bait mix. Two of my rods were to go across to the far side with what was to be the middle rod, a bit further down the tree line. I opted to bait this spot just with boilies. I decided to put the final rod, my left-hander, in the open water down to my left about halfway across, choosing just to scatter boilies over the top of it on a little and often basis.
We laughed and joked on the way back to the swims and Bev and Tom left me in my swim for me to get the rods sorted. With Weston being quite silty I opted to fish Helicopter-rigs, utilising Korda Heli-Safes to ensure I dropped the lead. My hookbaits were Pacific Tuna wafters tipped with a piece of yellow plastic, not only to mimic the mix I was putting out, but also to help retain a bit of buoyancy. These were fished on a Slip-D presentation, a rig that I have plenty of confidence in. There was a little bit of silkweed about, so I knew that by fishing the Helicopters with the beads pushed up the line a little and with the added buoyancy to the hookbaits, I would be fishing effectively.
As much as this was a fishing trip, the aim of the week was for us all to be able to escape reality, relax and enjoy the surroundings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that, does it, Miss Clifford? So, as soon as the rods were sorted, we convened in Bev’s swim to sort out some food for the night and to start the week off in the proper manner. It didn’t take long for Bev to kick off proceedings with the first fish of the week, ironically, in a similar fashion to the previous year, and fairly soon after there was a Weston Park stockie nestled safely in the folds of her net. Tom carried out his primary duties as chief photographer to the splendidly high level we’ve come to expect and the fish was soon put back. It was then my turn to carry my primary duties for the week out, by being head chef!
In the build up to the week, we had put together a shopping list, preparation being key and all that, so the food plan for the week was pretty good to say the least. One of the added bonuses of having the boathouse is that the options food-wise are limitless. The facilities are second to none. There is a full kitchen, a shower and a toilet. In fact there is everything that you could possibly need, a truly stunning place for a base camp.
We had an absolutely bang-on curry to start the week off and this was washed down with a couple more fruit ciders and then a nice slice of princess birthday cake to belatedly celebrate Miss Clifford’s birthday. A quiet night ensued for all of us, which was a little disappointing if the truth be told. I woke up after not having a single bleep. I had thought that the spot across the far side, in the gap, would be a bit of a banker. Shows what I know!
Not being sure what time bite-time was, and thinking the far side rods would be the ones to go, it was a shock when the open water rod ripped off just after seven o’clock on the Sunday morning. In the shallow, gin-clear water, the fish battled like a trooper, but soon enough I had the fish in the net. The fish felt a similar size to the one Bev had landed the previous day, although the short, dumpy mirror I had seen whilst playing it, seemed to grow a little in the net. I called the clan over so I had someone to do some pictures of my first fish of the trip. Tom and Bev, with Kaizer in tow, came round to aid with weighing and picturing.
The 17lb 14oz mirror had its picture taken and it was slipped back to fight another day. It had been nice to get off the mark. It was also nice that the clearer spot I had found midway across had produced the bite. I, at least, knew that one part of the plan was working! After the excitement of catching the first one, I sorted out a full English for our breakfast – there are not many better ways to celebrate I’m sure you can agree. After we had eaten we were all just sitting around chewing the fat, when the fishery manager, Tom Forrester, popped in for a quick chat on his way to a meeting and shortly after he had headed on his way, I was sprinting the short distance, in flip flops, to the water’s edge. The middle rod was away.
Straight away it felt a better fish, stronger, with plodding runs and not as much head shaking. As we had been sitting together, the crew had followed behind, Tom with the camera and Bev with the dog. The lead had popped off on the take which kept the fish clear of my other lines which worked out well as the fish powered from left to right, then right to left, using all of its weight to keep out of the net. After a couple of scares, with the line flicking off the dorsal, a small head broke the surface and with a mouth full of air finally ended up in the waiting mesh. On first glance, having only seen the head and top of the shoulders, I thought maybe the fish had made a mug of me and wasn’t as big as the fight had indicated. Upon further inspection though it soon grew from my initial guess of a stockie!
Breaking down the landing net to transport the fish to the waiting mat also confirmed that it was a fair bit bigger than I had first thought when it went in to the net. I parted the mesh and a deep-bodied, golden common was revealed. We put it into the sling and I hoisted it up for Bev and Tom to read the scales. At 27lb 14oz I was over the moon, it was my biggest fish of the year and exactly the stamp of fish we had come to Weston to catch. We put it back down on the mat, gave it some water to freshen it up and I hoisted it up for the boy wonder to do his magic. Kaizer came in for an inspection and Tom snapped away. I put it back in the sling and transported it back to the water. As I had the chesties on we thought it would be rude not to get some water shots of this magnificent carp. The water shots came out amazingly and truly captured the beauty of the fish. I had now had bites from two spots so I was very happy that I had got the tactics right on both. The fact the ‘banker’ rod still hadn’t gone was a surprise though, surely the next bite would come to that one.
After the excitement of the morning and watching Tom stress out about pretty much everything, it was time to crack on with the Sunday lunch! A full, roast chicken dinner on the bank, it doesn’t get much better than that… Unless of course, you’re topping it off with cherry pie and custard! In went the chicken, followed by a bit of veg-prep from Bev. Just as we were getting in to the swing of the prep, my receiver sounded. Without checking which rod it was I sprinted to the rods to see the left-hand tip bending round.
The fish was heading off down the lake and as soon as I lifted into it, it was clear that it was another stockie. I soon had the fish ready to net and a little tank of a mirror was drawn over the cord. The fish, again of a similar size to Bev’s, was carefully carried to the waiting mat so Tom could take some quick snaps. I soon had the fish back to its watery home and I headed back to wash up to finish off cooking the roast. The roast turned out perfectly and as we toasted the week with bubbles, we filled up on the hearty meal produced. I tend to find on longer sessions with friends, that no matter how well you know them, you find out something new that can surprise, or shock you. This was one of those times when I found out Thomas is anti-fruit pie, in any guise. Strange boy!
No more action came our way on the Sunday evening and/or Monday morning. I really did fancy the chance of a bite, but none had been forthcoming. We had another quality breakfast to start and then followed the script from the previous day, leaving the rods in until lunchtime. Then we trotted off to bait up. I made a bit of a tactical change in my baiting up from the Monday onwards. Having had not so much as a bleep from the alleged ‘banker’ spot, I decided to switch up the strategy. I took the hemp and corn out of the mix and went in with boilies, using both 15mm and 18mm Pacific Tuna with a good helping of matching pellet. I felt that by cutting out the particle maybe I would start to generate a feeding response. I put another 2kg of bait out on the spot and then the same sprinkling over the other two rods that I had done the previous two times.
We went back around to the swims to get the rods out. The casts couldn’t have gone any better for me. The crosswind had been playing havoc with me getting it bang on first time the previous day, probably taking more like ten casts, but today was my lucky day. All three rods went out first time, with the one to the banker spot landing inch-perfect! I commented to Tom and Bev that if that cast didn’t produce a bite I’d no chance!
It’s never nice watching someone stressing to the point of doing their own head in, but that’s what we had to do with Tom. We’d spent the Sunday telling him that it was his turn next, but the only action he had seen resulted in a cut-off. He’d been tying up all manner of rigs and contraptions to try and outwit the Weston carp. I asked him how he would normally go about trying to catch one and just stick to what he knows works. Some people reading this, if anyone actually is, will get the irony in that statement, because I am the worst person in the world for that!
Monday evening finally brought the moment we had waited for, Tom bagged one! Just as the day was drawing to a close, he had a take from an open water spot he had found and baited with the throwing stick. We congregated in his swim and after plenty of back-slapping and congratulations, I was snapping away with his camera taking the trophy shots. The relief was there for all of us and now we could just relax and enjoy the week having broken our ducks.
Not long after dark my banker rod was away, finally! Straight away it felt like a good fish. A long, powerful first run signaled the fish wasn’t a stockie. The fight was fairly uneventful, with the fish generally behaving in the main body of the lake. Soon enough it was beaten and ready for netting. In it went, I checked it was secure and popped off to get Tom to do some night shots. He clicked away as I held up a glorious 21lb Weston common.
Having now had fish off all three rods, I was well chuffed. After spending so long formulating a plan in my head and it coming to fruition it was genuinely satisfying. On top of that, I had set myself a target of seven fish for the week and I was now over half way there after just a couple of days. I was somewhat surprised then, that I woke up on first light to no further action. The rod had gone back out to the spot as well as I could get it. I needn’t have been too concerned though, as not long after first light I was battling another Weston carp, this time off the middle rod. The fish felt heavy from the get-go, with long, powerful runs crossing the other lines and causing all manner of havoc. Lucky after a bit of ‘knit one, pearl one’ I slipped the net under another good common. The fish looked long and lean in the net with a fair bit of width across the back. I secured the fish whilst I went to rally the troops and get some help with the pictures. Tom came across, closely followed by Clifford and Kaizer, the latter extremely interested in the prize laid on the mat. Into the sling went and on the scales the fish weighed 28lb, it was the biggest fish of the week so far and another absolute stunner. As per usual, Thomas was exemplary with the camera, the fish looking glorious in the early morning light.
Due to the carnage I had to then redo all three rods. The wind was starting to cause a couple of issues with getting the rigs on the spots, but after a couple of attempts I’d got them where I was happy with them. Then once all was fine and dandy I set about sorting another breakfast out. Or at least that that was the plan, until the sounder box let out a screech again! Sprinting back to the rods I was soon playing another fish, the telltale jerky action of a stockie being transmitted through the rod. I landed the fish quickly, unclipped the rig in the net and ‘wrapped’ out the rod and got it back on the spot in case another bite would come quickly. We took some snaps and got the fish back in short order, none the worse for its capture. It was a typical Weston stockie, bearing a huge frame for its size and sure to become a unit in the future.
The quick bite didn’t materialise and with today being the midpoint of the week, we all wound in and headed off to do a restock on supplies. This mainly consisted of meat and fruit ciders and once done, we loaded the car up and headed back. These little jaunts out really add to the week for me. They break up the monotony, giving a different view for a short while and allow a little recharge. Once back at the boathouse we packed the shopping away and then headed round for the daily ritual of piling a bit of bait in. By this point, the wind was really starting to get up now and the rod in the gap, under the tree, was becoming more difficult to hit. I persevered though and after what felt like the one hundredth attempt I finally felt happy with the position. The afternoon passed uneventfully, but with plenty of laughs and good times. I even treated myself to a shower! As the day drew to a close it was once again time for me to don the chef’s apron and cook us up another splendid meal. Kaizer assumed his standard position at the end of the work top whilst I whipped up some chicken and chorizo fajitas. I definitely didn’t need to worry about dropping any scraps over the course of the week as my agile assistant soon cleaned them up. With tea prepared and served, the inevitable happened – the banker spot was away.
I scurried off at a rate of knots and lifted into the fish. Straight away the rod took on a healthy bend as the fished powered off up towards the top end of the lake. Luckily this time I managed to avoid wiping out the other rods, which made a refreshing change. The fish felt heavy and just as I was about to net the fish, Bev and Tom arrived having finished their tea. The battle was the best I’d had of the week, the fish using all its weight and guile to try and make a bid for freedom. Tom slipped the waders on as the fish had gone round the far side of a group of pads. I managed to guide the fish across the front of the pads and as the fish took a gulp of air, Tom slid the net under another dumpy mirror.
We secured the fish in the net whilst Tom went to get the camera and I got the rod back out into position. He came back and we got the fish ready to have its picture taken. The low-twenty mirror behaving impeccably as he snapped away, me with a big smile on my face. The snaps as always came out majestically. I slipped the fish back and I headed back to the boathouse to finish my fajitas. The wind was really starting to build now, the expected carpy conditions coming as predicted, which had again caused a couple of issues getting the rod back out, but a bit of perseverance resulted in finally getting the drop I was after.
We sat back and chatted, laughing and joking for a while until it was time to retire to the respective swims for the night. I laid on my bedchair reflecting on how the week was playing out. I certainly wasn’t complaining. The target I had set at the start of the week had been surpassed by Tuesday night and the plan from the start of the week was also working well. I reset the weekly target in my head for another one, but as long as I kept catching I’d be happy. I really wanted the other two to catch some more to be honest, because as nice as it was to hear my alarms sounding, to share in their success would cap the week off nicely.
Overnight the wind started to build and my alarms remained silent. A decent night’s sleep was had and I woke up, fresh as a daisy, to the sound of my sounder box screeching. I attended to the rod and a steady plod straight away indicated I was not in to a stockie. The carp ran me ragged, the adrenaline of the fight sharpening the senses. I shouted as loud as I could to let the other two know I was in, but alas to no avail. Bev was probably in the middle of a workout, and I gave the carp as much I dared to keep it away from the pads. Eventually I drew the fish over the draw cord of my waiting landing net. Peering in to the net there lay a lovely mirror carp looking back at me. I secured the net whilst I sorted the rod out, attaching another Slip-D and casting back out.
I wandered back to the boathouse to see if my comrades were about. We gathered up and headed back to the swim to sort the pictures. As we walked across to the swim Tom informed us that he had managed a fish during the night. He had decided to do self takes, as he hadn’t deemed the upper-double common worthy of waking us. Despite not getting to see the fish, I was over the moon for him as he had worked really hard on the spot he had the fish from.
We photographed my fish and headed off for breakfast. Over breakfast Bev told us she was going to have to cut her week short and that she would be leaving the following morning, work had come calling and she had to answer. I hoped that she would manage another fish on her last day, but only time would tell.
No sooner had we finished breakfast than I was away again. All of the fish had fought hard, but this was off down the lake like a train! Tom brought his camera to the swim to snap the battle. Bev and Kaizer acted as the netting party. The fish was stripping line down to the shallow end of the lake, but after a short while I had manage to get it under control. I could see the fish was as big as anything I had caught during the week. Under Kaizer’s tutelage, Bev slipped the net under the Weston bar of gold. I peered in to the net, I was blown away.
The fish looked big. Definitely bigger than anything I had caught. We got the fish on to the mat and weighed it. At 28lb 14oz it was indeed the biggest fish I had caught during the week yet not quite as big as I had thought. Still, I was absolutely buzzing. The fish we’d caught during the week had been in immaculate condition and this common was the pick of the bunch! Tom snapped away and caught some more stunning images. I let the fish go, taking in one last admiring glance as it swam away strongly. That fish being the ninth, I had to reset my goal again as I was fairly sure I’d have another. In the end, I simply took the number out of the equation and decided to just enjoy the rest of the trip for what it was.
I got the rod back out on to the spot, all three had produced an equal number of bites now, so that had been really pleasing. My previous trip I had only been able to get bites from one spot so I was very happy to have got extra areas working. I had been keeping the same baiting pattern going and topping the spots up with good helpings of the bait. The wind was building now in expectancy of the biggest winds of the week on Thursday afternoon. Perseverance was the name of the game and I finally managed to get the two far bank rods out in a way I was happy with.
We all convened at the back of Bev’s swim for some cake and bubbles. As this was the last day as a party of three it only seemed fitting. Just as I’d finished pouring, Tom’s receiver went into meltdown, his open water rod was away again. We bolted after him to assist in anyway we could. This mainly consisted of helping him into his waders whilst the fish hurtled down towards the bottom of the lake. He jumped into the shallow margins to get a better angle on the fish. I passed him his landing net as he negotiated the marginal pads and he guided the fish in to the waiting net.
Tom strolled back to the bank with a big grin on his face. I took the net off him and peered in. I was buzzing that he had got the bite during the early afternoon so we could all be there. I was made up for him. We weighed the fish and it was my turn to be behind the camera. I snapped away as his grin told the story of how made up he was. At 28lb 12oz he had every right to be happy. He slipped the fish back and we made our way back to Bev’s swim whilst Tom got the rod redone.
Soon enough he rejoined us and we finished the cake off. It was at this point that Tom realised that the fish had been a personal best common – but wait, Bev reminded him that his previous personal best had been a common! So, it was a new PB full-stop, yeah, Thomas? We toasted his success but soon there was more! Shortly after the common I had a stockie and then not long after that I was away again. Another spirited battle ensued and I had another mirror in the net. All the hook-holds through the week had been spot on and this was no different. We got the fish sorted and this time I had a guest in the pictures. Kaizer decided he wanted in – and that picture is probably my favourite from the whole week. Eleven fish for the week was way more than I thought I’d have, so I was over the moon with the result.
I really struggled getting the rod back out across to the far bank this time, but I stuck with it until I got on to the spot I wanted. Then it was time to prepare tea, a feat that was interrupted by a shout from Tom who had managed to slip the net under another fish. With a spring in our steps we headed to his swim to get some pictures sorted. At a pound less than the common he had had earlier in the afternoon he definitely had a new PB mirror in his arms! The pictures came out very well. Something I’m decidedly nervous about is taking pictures for a professional photographer. He was happy with them though as he flicked through the back of the camera and so we all headed off to have a celebratory meal and a cider.
We chatted in to the night before we headed our separate ways to get some rest. I laid in the dark of the bivvy, listening to the wind howling, reflecting on the week. That was until the rain came! The wind was now pushing rain into the front of the bivvy. I hadn’t used the front of the Tempest all week, but now seemed a good time to batten down the hatches. The rain thrashed the top of bivvy all night making sleep difficult, the wind growing stronger too. I don’t know what time I managed to go over, but it hadn’t felt like I’d had much sleep at all, when I was awakened by Bev to say her goodbyes. It was a low point for the week as we had set out on the adventure together and it would have been nice to finish it as a three, but sadly it wasn’t to be. As Bev went Tom and I decided we would do the remainder of Thursday and then head back Friday morning and it was fortunate we did!
I headed back to try and get some sleep as I was struggling. I felt like a power nap would be the answer. The weather was getting stormy now, with big, big winds and even more rain. As I tried to get back over to sleep the middle rod was away. Out in the storm I battled the fish, not really sure what I was attached to. The fish was spirited, but didn’t feel anything other than a stockie, so I was pleasantly surprised when a stout mirror popped up and in to the waiting net. I secured the net and went to get Tom. He was sat in the boathouse doing some photo editing. Weighing the fish in the wind proved bothersome but we were both surprised when we finally managed to get the scales to settle on a weight. At just over 20lb, it was my eighth fish over the weight for the trip. We got the pictures sorted and the fish safely back then headed to sort some lunch out.
After lunch I headed back to my swim to get everything tidy and sorted, just to try and save a bit of packing up time the following day. I mixed the last remains of my bait I’d taken and topped up the spots for one last time. We spent the afternoon sorting the boathouse so we had the minimum to do the following day. A moat had appeared around the boathouse as the weather continued to build. Then a break in the weather appeared and as if by magic Tom’s banker rod burst in to life. We were both off like a flash to his rods. A healthy bend in his rod, as he lifted into the fish, gave a good indication that he was attached to a decent one. The battle was long and slow, the fish trying all the tricks it could to try and get rid of the hook. As the fish got closer I could see that it was a very good fish. Tom guided the fish into the landing net and scooped it up. I shipped the net back and we peered inside. I straight away flung my arms around him and patted his back as I knew what was there in front of us. He realised soon that it was bigger than anything he had caught that week! We took a little time for Tom to compose himself, a point I had learnt from a good friend a few years back, before bringing the fish out of the water for its picture to be taken.
Tom got the fish on the mat and I got the camera out. The fish look amazing, a stunningly proportioned Weston Park common. I snapped away with the camera before the time came to weigh the fish. As Tom lifted it up, I slid the sling underneath and I prepared to lift the sling. I faced the scales to me just to add to the suspense for him. The needle spun round past the magical 30lb mark and settled on 31lb 10oz. We lowered the fish down and I gave him a celebratory hug again. I was absolutely over the moon for him! We both put on some waders and got some water shots to end the capture in style. The shots came out beautifully and that capture made the week for me. We headed back to the boathouse for a couple of ciders to celebrate.
That capture would have been a perfect way to finish the week, but we still had the night to go. I knocked up our final evening meal of the week and we toasted the week that had been, the only downside to the week was Bev not being there for Tom’s common a few hours previously. After the food we both made the choice to call it an early night due to the pack up the following day, with the rain now back in relentless fashion.
As soon as I got back to the bivvy I packed the final few bits away and drifted off to sleep. What felt like 30 seconds later I was stood out in the rain doing battle in the teeth of the storm that had by now returned. The fish was ploughing up and down in front of the swim, making surging run after surging run. I can’t remember the last time I’d wanted to rush a fish into the net like I did that one, as I was getting battered by the weather! I finally managed to get the fish in to the net.
I got Tom and we did some pictures of the fish, another mid-twenty common, my ninth fish over 20lb and a perfect end to the week for me. That fish had come from the gap in the trees on the far margin and the chance of me hitting that in the crosswind that was now blowing, in the dark, was next to none, so in the interests of safety I decided not to redo the rod. I headed into the bivvy to dry off and get some sleep.
The alarm went the following morning with no more action for either of us. I went over to the boathouse and met up with Tom. We cleaned up and got it in the same condition we had found it. We loaded up the cars and prepared for the trip home. As we took one last look at the amazing surroundings I wondered if I would return again, I certainly hope to. We jumped into the cars and drove out of the gate, leaving behind my own slice of heaven.
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