Keen to get his angling year started, Jack Brown heads over to Thorpe Lea to sample some prolific day-ticket action.
If there’s one thing to give your angling mind a lift it’s the first signs of spring. It’s a time to look ahead and look forward to some longer, warmer days and generally better conditions for catching carp. I am really excited, mainly because I’ve gained a new ticket for this year and, now that I’m getting my head around the family business, I should actually be able to schedule in some regular trips to this lake.
At this time of year, though, I do like to get my season up and running with a few bites, a bit of action to keep the confidence levels high. In the past, day trips to the canal have done a good job of fulfilling this role, but this year I fancied a change and headed over to a lake I’d heard a lot about, but had yet to visit. Thorpe Lea in Surrey is around 18-acres, rammed full of fish and available on a day-ticket – ideal!
As at any good day-ticket lake, the bailiffs were quick and willing to give me some information: where the other anglers were bivvied up, a rundown on the lake and, most importantly, where the fish had been coming from with a few swim details. You’ve probably heard it said before, but it really does pay to listen to these guys when you bowl up at a lake. They know the score and they want you to catch.
I’d soon learned that the lakebed shelved up from depths of around 13-15ft to a large central plateau of around 5-6 feet at this time of year when the water is highest. This middle shallow area seemed to be where the recent fish captures had been coming from, so after a quick look around, I settled on a swim that had a good outlook on to this part of the lake: peg 51.
The bailiffs weren’t kidding about the bottom shelving-up steeply, and it didn’t take long to find this obvious feature with a few casts of the marker rod. I opted for a spot just on to the plateau at around 80 yards. With a few drags of the lead I could tell that the spot was much cleaner than the surrounding area, although the odd piece of silkweed remained. Bearing this in mind, I tied up my rigs a little longer at around 12 inches. They were pop-up rigs with the counterbalance set to sink the hookbait nice and slowly to ensure they would sit above any of the light weed.
I also like to scale things down a little at this time of year, so I went for the Mini Micro Fluoro pop-ups from Mainline. Bright and 8mm in size, they were perfect for sitting within the small mouthful of PVA-wrapped pellets I nicked on to the hook. It’s a highly visual and highly attractive presentation that’s worked for me at most well stocked venues.
These are typical day-ticket tactics really, just like my baiting approach, a mix of particles, corn, Hybrid Response Pellets, plus some whole and chopped Hybrid boilies. This was all laced with the matching Stick Mix Liquid to give lots of textures and plenty of flavour leakage dispersing through the water to attract and then ideally hold a few fish for multiple bites. That was the plan anyway, as I clipped up both my rods to fish tightly together on the same spot followed by about a dozen Spombs of bait to start with.
Despite not yet seeing any fish, things weren’t looking too bad. I was happy to have got the rods out and baited by the middle of the afternoon, leaving an hour or two for my swim to settle before dark. As darkness fell the first signs of fish activity began with a few line bites. Eventually one of my bobbins held tight and, rather than slowly dropping back, developed into a full blown run! A chunky mirror hit the net soon afterwards and I was off the mark for the session. “Here we go!” I thought, but surprisingly the rest of the night was quiet.
Another run and another landed fish at first light was again followed by a lull in the action. The conditions were fairly mild and favourable, so I was a little bewildered by the stop-start action. I’d still been getting liners, though, so felt there were fish in the area. Maybe I just needed to make some kind of tweak…
Thinking about that silkweed and its ability to mask a rig, I decided to pop my hookbaits up a little higher to three or four inches off the deck. This alteration, plus a change in the weather to warm, bright sunshine really did the trick, with the bites becoming consistent and prolific. I even had one in each of my two nets at one point! By the end of my 48-hour session I’d really enjoyed the action, landing 14 fish – although I’m told you can double or even sometimes treble that catch rate when they’re really having it!
Yep, I’m really impressed by Thorpe Lea and I’ll have to get back there some time. For now, though, I’m just happy to have got my season up and running.