Berners Hall Fishery is set in the heart of the Essex countryside. The venue has three different lakes on the complex all with the backdrop of the River Roding valley. The lakes vary from the two newly created carp lakes, to a large 24-acre reservoir. You can find the fishery using the following address: Berners Hall Farm, Ongar, Essex CM5 0TD – and you can contact them on the following phone number: 01245 231746 or, via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The venue also has a dedicated website: www.bernershallfishery.com – which I’d advise any anglers who are wanting to fish the lakes to look at, prior to their session. The fishery keeps its social media platforms accurate and up to date with the most recent catch reports from the fishery. You can follow their Facebook page and Instagram accounts for all the latest news.
The Res, which is where I headed for my session, has 24 designated swims spread evenly around the banks of the 24-acre water. The depth does vary, but is generally around 14-16 feet when the water level is at its correct height. The carp get caught on all tactics such as bottom baits, pop-ups, zigs and off the surface, as well as at short, medium and long-ranges, all depending on the weather conditions. All three lakes operate on a pre-booking only system so please make contact with the fishery or go online to secure your booking.
Prices for the venue are pretty much in line with your average day-ticket charges which start at £20 for the day, and 24hrs will cost you £30.
There are toilets on site, as well as four car parks to choose from, depending on which lake you are fishing. Also, Total Fishing Tackle have their shop situated here, which is a nice touch should you need to replenish any bait or terminal tackle. The gate opening times are between 7am and 7pm. The website covers all the fishery rules, which I’d strongly advise you to look at prior to arriving at the lake.
Time to jump into my session then, and once again it was time to hit the road and make my way ‘darn sarf’ to sunny Essex, to fish the highly popular Berners Hall Fishery. It’s a venue I’d heard a lot about over the past 12 months and it was certainly on my hit list, with us now well and truly out of winter and into the spring it seemed like an ideal time to make my first visit. My fellow Mainline Baits consultant, Greg Ellis, had been fishing at Berners throughout the colder months and although Greg and I had been in contact through social media during this period, we decided to have a long overdue social for the weekend on The Res.
I arrived at the gates of the fishery around 6am to find Mr Ellis with his barrow almost loaded (no surprise). We decided the first port of call would be to do a lap of the lake and hatch a plan of attack while we were doing so. We were fishing over the weekend on a very popular day-ticket venue and so we had to make sure our swim choice was correct. We made our way from the first car park, up onto the hill and continued straight until we came to the first two pegs on the island-side of the lake, which were fortunately both still available. As we stood and looked out across the lake it was clear to see how busy it was, in fact it literally was like a ‘bivvy city’. I remember us both stood there in the morning sunshine looking at each other thinking what do we do now, when all of a sudden a fish showed around 120 yards out and directly in front of our pegs. We both stood there for a second to see who made the first move when another fish stuck its head out. I’m sure you can imagine what we did next…
Once the swims were secured we headed back to the vans to load the gear onto the barrows, if you remember rightly, Mr Ellis already had his loaded – and before I knew it, he was off like whippet! I quickly threw everything out of the van and onto my barrow in a not so pretty state, and set off in hot pursuit, like a dog chasing a bone! Greg had settled for the swim closest to the island and I went into the first peg closest to the car park. What I hadn’t counted on was for him to be casting out by the time I got to the swim, after all, it wasn’t a competition or anything – hmm…
We both came up with a plan of fishing zigs despite the lake holding a fair amount of weed. Weather-wise, we had high pressure, clear skies and it was set to be a warm one. With fish showing and swallows chasing flies around on the surface, the carp were clearly eating a hatch, which made sense, as we had been told the lake had only produced three bites in the last four days prior to our arrival – brilliant!
I made a couple of practice casts with the rods, clipped up at 30 wraps, in the general area of where the fish were showing and I was getting a nice drop on the rod as I felt the lead down. There was quite a lot of weed in between me and the spot so if I was going to have any chance of landing anything then I’d have to fish sensibly and stay strong. I reckon, from feeling the lead down, I had approximately 7-10ft of water infront of me. You could clearly tell the water level was down a considerable amount. That said, I decided to start with 4ft zigs which would be bobbing around enticingly at roughly half-depth.
My set-up was constructed from strong and reliable components that I knew wouldn’t let me down. I tied my main line directly to a QC Hybrid lead clip without a tail-rubber to ensure the heavy 4oz distance lead I was using would drop during the take. To keep the lead in position on the cast I simply wrapped some PVA tape around the arm of the lead-clip. I used the Korda 11lb Zig and Floater line, in conjunction with a super-sharp size-8 barbless choddy hook. I simply slid on a small piece of 0.75mm silicone tubing to ensure the hair was as tight as possible to the hook and added a medium-sized yellow or red kicker. Obviously a choddy hook has an out-turned eye and so by using the kicker you just ensure the line is exiting the hook perfectly straight. To finish off, I add an anti-tangle sleeve which would cover the small overhand loop which was connected to my lead-clip. By doing this it just allows me to change rigs and the depths of my zigs without having to tie any knots.
Just before I was about to cast my first rod into position, Greg was away and after a tense battle the fish unfortunately came off, which obviously I was gutted about – lol. I think his words were “I was going to do a quick Instagram video, saying I’m doing you on my home turf”. That’s karma for you, big man. As I finally got both my rods in the lake I wasn’t happy with how unstable my bank sticks were. I remember trying to get my alarms straight, because I have major OCD issues, when all of a sudden, the line on my right hand rod almost burnt my fingers as I received a savage take. My heart was in my mouth for a few moments as the fish moved from weedbed to weedbed– all the while, all I could feel was the line slowly grating against unseen obstacles. It locked me up solid for a few minutes, but by keeping steady tension on it, I managed to get it moving again. Catching your first fish from a new venue is always nerve wracking, especially when a combination of zigs and weed is involved, however, eventually a lovely, double-figure common rolled over the net cord.
Confidence was now high and it looked like we had both got the tactics correct with regards to the depth and colour of our zigs. Over the course of the next few hours the action was quite hectic, with both of us landing several fish and we decided to set up base camp and remain in these two swims. By lunchtime the sun was at its highest and boy was it warm. I lay on my bedchair struggling to keep my eyes open, I think the 3am wake-up call had finally caught up with me. The next thing I knew I was been awoken to an absolute one toner! I carefully made my way down the bank and hooked into something which definitely felt much bigger. Fortunately, I didn’t have any issues with the fish at range, but just when I thought I was winning, it managed to bury itself in a big weedbed literally just 15 yards from the bank. After keeping constant pressure on the fish for a while it wasn’t going anywhere and in the end I decided to take the risk and lay the rod on the floor whilst I put my chest waders on. I gently made my way into the lake as far as I could just enough to be able to get over directly over the top of the fish, but once again it wouldn’t budge. A few more minutes went by and just as I was thinking I may have lost this battle, something gave, and I was in contact with the fish again. Not wanting any more mistakes, as soon as its head popped up I scooped him into the net. I could see it was a good fish and on the scales it went 28lb and it was proving to be a great start to the session.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, the action continued for both of us, albeit with a smaller stamp of fish, until Greg managed a cracking 27-pounder. Just as the last of the light was going, my right hand rod signalled another take and as I picked up into it I could feel what I thought was a small fish banging its head from side to side. As a consequence I played it in a fairly blasé manner. The fish came in really easily, so much so in fact, I thought it may have even been a bream! It wasn’t until I was just about to slip it into the net when I saw this big, dark shape roll over, it was good ‘un alright. On the scales it went 36lb and was one of the A-Team known as Mr Grey which set a new zig-caught personal best. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was buzzing! I decided with the success to reel in both the rods and get some much needed shut eye. Greg, however, left one rod out and he was also rewarded with a fish known as Bovs at 34lb.
The following morning I set my alarm for 5am and buzzed the zigs out nice and early in the hope the action would continue. I managed a lovely upper-double mirror almost straight away, but for some reason, the next few hours were dead. Between us, we tried everything, swapping and changing between depths and colour, however we still couldn’t buy a bite. In the end another angler on the dam wall bank decided to fish further into the lake almost cutting me off from reaching where I’d been fishing. With that said myself and Greg went for a wander further down the lake to our left hand side past the other side of the island. Straight away we saw fish, they were milling just under the surface with the odd one showing out long into open water. We didn’t need a second invitation and we packed everything down and set back up again in double-quick time, ready for our final night.
We started with the same tactics which were 4ft zigs with black foam at range to where we had seen the fish. Straight away we were both into one, I had a stunning 22lb scaly mirror which to be honest I was hoping for, it also came with another couple of smaller mirrors that were equally as pretty. Throughout the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed some steady action which continued on into the first few hours of darkness. By the time it got light the next morning my bites had dried up, however Greg managed one more off the bottom which was our first one from off the deck. In total we managed 30 bites between us and it was a cracking few days of fishing. Berners Hall is a fantastic day-ticket fishery, not only does it hold plenty of carp, but there are a handful of really special fish to go for too and it’s certainly a venue I’ll return to in the future.
In between my commitments to my tuitions, features and filming, I occasionally get a weekend free to fish my syndicate lake, which is Monks Pit in Godmanchester, Cambs. Unfortunately, I don’t get as much time as I’d like for my personal fishing and I’d only made two trips to Monks since October 2018, and we were now in April 2019. A couple of weeks ago however I did make my return and I managed a couple of lovely mid-twenties. The following weekend I had the Shelton’s of Peterborough open day with Korda and with Monks Pit literally being around the corner, it would have been rude not to fit in a couple of nights. Despite being ninth in the car park, I managed to drop in a swim which had a few fish in front of it and over the course of the weekend I managed six fish, which included three 30s, topped off by a fish known as Charlie’s Mate, which hadn’t seen the bank for almost 12 months – at 47lb! This set a new personal best for me and after losing one of the lake’s biggest residents the previous year this certainly went someway to making up for it. What with not being able to get down there a lot to fish this season, this particular carp has taken all the pressure off and I’m now looking forward to what the rest of the year has in stall.
Be lucky, Loz.