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Off The Mark
Iain Macmillan makes a great start on his new venue.
I’d not been so excited about starting on a new lake for a long time; in fact from almost the day I walked around my chosen venue practically all my thoughts were consumed by how to approach it, what rigs, what bait, etc. When the day following the close season on there finally arrived, things had almost reached fever pitch. The lake in question is the Avenue in Shropshire, one of the RH Fisheries venues, and it really is a place to behold. It’s around 10 acres, not deep, holds some immense carp, it’s very manicured (zero mud), and from what I could gather the fish can be more than obliging at times.
There’s a close season from mid-May to the third week of July to give the fish a good rest in the period up to and after spawning, but Rob Hales allows you to visit the venue whenever you like to walk around or prebait. I’d not prebaited any lake for years due to the distance they were from my house, but as the Avenue is only 55 minutes from home this was an ideal opportunity to get something going. It also coincided with a few of the Shimano lads being able to get their grubby paws on copious amounts of the new bait, Complex-T. We certainly weren’t hoping to dominate the water from the off with the Complex-T, but we knew nobody else could get the bait until 2017, so why not give the fish a taster during the weeks the lake was closed? And when I say “taster”, I mean 170kg of the stuff. Now, before you say that’s a massive amount of bait, it was spread out over a nine-week period during a seven-day feeding cycle by three anglers. We made sure there was a constant trickle of the bait going in at all times, as we just wanted to get them used to eating it. We certainly didn’t think it would then be a simple case of slinging out any old rig and reeling in a fifty. There were other anglers baiting too, and Rob regularly feeds his fish on boilies and maize, hence the huge weight gains and amazing stock of big carp in the Avenue.
There are three split bars that run almost straight down the centre of the lake, and one of Rob’s rules is you can’t fish on top of them in case of cut-offs if the fish run over the top of the bar and down the gully the other side. It also kind of segregates the swims opposite each other by stopping people casting too far. All three bars are absolute magnets for the fish and every day you can see carp crashing all over them as they navigate their way around the lake. The bars do produce a hell of a lot of fish, but then a hell of a lot of the anglers bait and fish them, so it goes without saying that that’s where a lot get nailed from. However, I wanted to feel my way into the lake and try to get something going on my own terms, not spin the roulette wheel by having my rigs a rod-length from everybody else’s. I’m not having a pop here, but I get very paranoid about fishing too close to other anglers’ rigs. I’m sure the fish suss the situation immediately, so my plan was to fish well short of the bars and stay as mobile as possible, moving on to signs of fish at every opportunity. They do show well at certain times, but at times adopting this style of angling depends on how busy the lake is and obviously if I can get on the fish.
My first trip I ended up in a swim called the Steps, the only swim where you are allowed to place a rig directly on top of the bar. It’s only a short flick in this swim, but it also gave me the option of fishing short as it was on the end of a south-westerly wind, which conveniently was due to pick up the following morning. In the evening James got off the mark next door in the Point, and I’d seen a couple of big fish show between James and I, so I thought I’d stay put. Looking back, I was on a hiding to nothing really; I’ve waited for forecast winds to come before and nothing’s materialised, and this trip was the same. I got myself boxed in when I knew I should have moved further up the lake on to a few showing fish on the Sunday evening, then another move to the house bank on the Monday morning to another few crashing fish. Other anglers arrived, which left me no move choices. However, I did get a chance to spread my wings on the Tuesday morning and bob about off the barrow, and I did manage to get on a few, but I had to be off so a blank was registered. I was cursing my bad decisions on the way home, almost punishing myself at times. I had a hard word with myself and vowed to get my revenge in the coming trips, and obviously not to pay attention to weather sites which ain’t never accurate!
The following week couldn’t come quickly enough, and it saw me back in the Steps actually on a strong SW wind. The lake was very quiet this time, but that only gave me another conundrum. There were a few showing in the Steps, but there were a few showing and slicking up on old bait from the Rock swim, right on the back of the wind. I was itching to move, but with fish present I’d be crazy to do so, so I reluctantly sat on my hands for the night. I had a few liners, but they soon faded away, so the fish had certainly drifted off me at some point. A 4am wake up and hawk-like scan of the lake saw me move to the Rock on a hunch more than anything; if nothing else it would fire me up for the day. I was packed down and at the other end of the lake in about 15 minutes. I stood in the Rock swim, but it was soon apparent the fish were between the rock and Pete’s Point next door. They were only sticking their noses out, hence why I couldn’t see them from the Steps, so a couple of rods laid on the floor in Pete’s Point was my best shout.
The first coffee of the day tasted sweet, and I felt I was actually angling exactly how I wanted to be, but these Avenue carp are no mugs. They can be very spooky most of the time, and two gentle casts with small leads was enough to push them slightly further out into the Rock swim next door. With the lake being quiet I simply moved the rods next door.
I suppose around an hour or so had ticked by and I was beginning to think my chance had passed, as I wasn’t seeing anything stick its snout up any more, when I received a very slow take on the left-hand rod and I watched the fluorocarbon line pick up from under the rod tip – I was in! The nerves kicked in immediately. It was my first bite from a new water and it felt very heavy; the slow take and slowness of the fight told me all I needed to know; I just knew this was a big fish. There were no fast runs, just the side to side head shaking as whatever was on the end tried to use its mass to shake the hook. The scrap was dogged all the way in, but even when it went over the net I wasn’t quite sure of its actual size. I was just over the moon to land my first fish. Self-takes aren’t allowed, so I gave young Tom a call to assist. He was down at the Monument and would be 10 minutes. The barbless hook had actually fallen out in the net, so a new rig was put on and fuzzed out to the general vicinity before he got down to do the pictures.
He’s keen is Tom, and he’s also super sharp at recognising fish. The first thing he did was peer down into the net. He turned the net slightly and told me what I’d got. It was the fish called Black Scar, one of the A-Team, and certainly 50lb-plus! We went through the weighing and treating hook holds procedure, and then did a few quick snaps, but I was in a bit of a daze to be honest. The fish went 52¼lb – what a way to open my account! I don’t know who was more shocked, Tom or me. A lot of the time I have to wade through a few captures before nailing one of the A-Team, so it was rather nice to fluke a big ’un first fish. As I said to Tom, “It’s better to be lucky than good, mate!”
Let’s just hope my rub of the green continues for the months ahead, but I’m loving my angling on the Avenue at the minute, and as long as I’m enjoying myself then I don’t really mind how big the fish are.