Bagging Brutus - Jon Sissons

Last year’s Korda staff trip saw me spend a very successful week on the Gigantica Road Lake, which proved to be an excellent social with lots of carp coming my way. This year, the luck of the draw gave me a place on Gigantica itself, which would undoubtedly mean fewer bites, but it did give me the chance to angle for the fish of a lifetime!

As our departure date grew nearer, the intense feeling of anticipation was growing, and the very thought of wetting a line in that incredible lake was giving me serious butterflies. My fishing time has been limited this year as my wife and I had a beautiful baby boy in April, so this was the perfect opportunity to spend time with the lads, do some serious fishing and try and catch up on some sleep!

Garth Ethelston and myself arrived early on the Saturday morning. We’d driven through the night having been tasked with driving the bait van down there. With a few hours before the rest of the guys were due down, I took the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere and have a mooch round the lake before getting the full tour later in the day. Having this time to chill out after the journey helped to calm my nerves and I figured that if my name came out in the top six in the draw, I’d be in a great position to get in one of my favoured swims. As it turned out, I came out seventh! Unsurprisingly, the most popular swims were snapped up pretty quickly, but when it came to my turn the choice seemed obvious, it had to be Pole Position. I really liked the look of it and I had seen a couple of fish show in the area around first light, so the decision was made. Plus, Pole is only 40 yards from the lodge and all its facilities, and I would have the pleasure of Jon Mann’s company for the week as he would be fishing next door in the Stock Pond.

Saturday afternoon went by in a flash as the focus turned to getting the camp organised and finding some clear spots on which to place the hook baits. I was getting a reasonable drop at 28 wraps fishing straight out, aiming directly between the Stink and Alamo, and a few Spomb loads of Mainline Hybrid was duly deposited over the top. The rigs were 6 inches of Hybrid Stiff, knotless knotted to size 4 Kranks, and wafter hook baits. A Hybrid Lead Clip, 3.5oz lead and 15 inches of Dark Matter tubing completed the set up. Eventually it was time to sit back, relax and crack open the first of a few beers.

Sunday and Monday came and went, and although the social was superb, I was yet to receive any action. There were a few fish being caught round the lake and I now had serious doubts as to how well my baits were presented. When it came to reeling in, the rigs were locking up very quickly in weed, so I was convinced the area was not as clear as I first thought. I needed to formulate a new plan, and I knew just the man who might be able to help! Danny was fishing in Baxter’s and later that day he popped round with his weed rake to see if we could find any clearer areas. My suspicions were confirmed in terms of my original spots, they were indeed far from clear. The drop I had been getting was a false one as the leads were plummeting straight through the weed. This coupled with my short hook links was definitely not the way forward. Eventually we pinpointed a small, relatively weed-free area at just under 25 wraps. It was barely big enough for three rods, but I thought if I could get some bait on it, and get some fish feeding, it may become bigger and clearer as the week went on. I had some tiger nuts with me, and Danny kindly gave me a bucket of mixed particles to add to my boilies, and with that a new battle plan was formed.

Although I was yet to receive a bite, the following day my confidence was growing. There were fish in the area, and the tactics felt right. I had switched to ten inch IQ D-Rigs, with the same size 4 Kranks and balanced bottom baits. Following a torrential rainstorm earlier in the evening, the middle rod was finally away at 2.30am and I was into my first Gigantica carp. I was fishing locked up to prevent any problems with fish running through weed, and with constant pressure I soon had the fish under control. Although it turned out to be one of the smaller residents at only 19lb, it was one of classic, scaly muscle-bound carp that the lake is famous for. I was absolutely elated! The new tactics were working…

The following evening sleep was hard to come by. I sat up listening to fish crashing around the lake, many of which sounded pretty close by. This time at about 1.30am, the right hand rod received the bite. In a daze I spilled off my bedchair and scuttled across the gravel to the rods. Lifting into the fish I wound down and walked backwards in an attempt to gain the upper hand early on in the fight. This worked a treat and I managed to gain a good fifty yards of line before, somewhere out in the darkness, the fish seem to right itself and began to use its weight against me. With the carbon showing a decent curve against the star lit sky, I knew I was into a bigger carp than the previous evening, so I decided it was time to give Jon a shout. With the fish feeling increasingly heavy, and with the other lines in the water to negotiate, I called across to the Stock Pond but all to no avail – Jon was completely comatose!

Having kited to the right, the fish was now heading left and as I expected, it had gone underneath the other two lines. With the rod tip under the water, I applied more pressure, only to feel it come to a grinding halt as it hit an unseen bank of weed. Keeping the pressure on, I passed the rod under the other two and held the rod high. With no movement on the other end I was going to need a hand. ‘Jon, Jon, Jonny Mann, Jon, Jon, Jonny Boy’ – but still no response! Luckily and unbeknown to me, Dovey had heard my calls as he was dealing with a huge fish of his own over in Big Girls. He put a call in to Darrell and Garth who’d been enjoying a social in Alamo and were on their way back to the Road Lake. A few minutes had passed by this stage, and just as I was beginning to fear the worst, the fish began to slowly lift up and out from the weed just as Garth and Pecky stepped into my swim. An enormous relief on all fronts!

Darrell crouched with the net and Garth did the amazing job of keeping me calm, offering words of encouragement whilst insisting there was no rush and I that I should take my time. Eventually the fish began to rise in the water and although I didn’t get a good look, Garth was sure it was a good one. After a final spirited bid for freedom, a huge mouth appeared, gulping at the surface. Darrell’s advice was to keep it on a long line, walk backwards and he would do the rest – ‘keep it coming, keep it coming, keep it coming. I’ve got ‘im!’. Clutching the rod in my right hand, I tentatively wondered to the front of the swim. Placing my left hand on Darrell’s shoulder, I leaned forward and peered into the net. I’d never seen anything like it. It looked like a cruise ship in harbour! I was completely overwhelmed, but the huge bear hug that followed from Garth and the shout that went up brought home the reality of the situation! What a moment, what a fish and netted for me by the one and only Darrell Peck - I was honestly expecting to wake up at any moment!

The next few minutes were a bit of a blur. Danny and Barty came round, Jon was fully conscious and the process of weighing and photographing began. Dan identified the fish as Brutus, named simply because it’s a brute of a carp, and I could see why. With huge shoulders and a massive frame, the scales pinged round to 63lb 12oz. A PB by a country mile, the fish of a lifetime and a memory that will stay with me forever. After the obligatory soaking from Barty, standing in the water cradling that immense carp as it recovered its strength was a truly magical experience. My week was made.

A big thank you must go to Darrell and Garth for their expert help, and of course to Danny for taking some amazing shots and making it all possible. Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back!

Jonny Sissons