Big Common Banked - Craig Runham

I took my first step onto a new water around February. The cold, weak winter sun was doing little to improve the dull and cold afternoon. On first impressions it wasn't the sort of place I would like to spend the remainder of my winter angling on. It was a busy water and to be fair, a bit of a mess! But I had very little choice of lakes in the local area due to the flooding that was destroying the lakes and the rivers of the South East.

On my first lap of the new water the first uplifting thing I noticed was the water was so clear and I was able to view down to around 10ft. From atop a tree, halfway along a snaggy margin, I was able to peer down onto the fringes of the snags and there I saw a big, long, dark common of perfect proportions. From that moment it didn’t matter what else the lake contained, or indeed how big the common was, a fire in my belly was lit and I swore to myself that I would catch that fish.

The first few nights on the water saw me land one of the rarer, most sought-after fish, the Big Koi, at a good weight of over 29lb. It was certainly an impressive and different one to say the least and in February it was even more special. Up to the end of April I had only done four nights on the lake due to work and other commitments and sometimes the lake was just simply too busy for me! I had taken a further eight fish through March and April but with the best of the eight being 23lb 8oz. All the fish were stunning examples. But I was yet to see a big common come out that looked like the one I had seen back in February on that cold sunny day.

It was the May bank holiday and unfortunately I couldn't get down the lake until Saturday afternoon, as I was currently working nights that week. So when I pulled into the car park around midday I wasn't surprised to find the car park was full and there was only one spot left to park. The sun was shining and a warm wind was blowing a south easterly into the corner right into the snags I had been trickling bait into. The lake was the busiest It had ever been and I felt like turning around and driving out the gate but I had been getting such limited time on the bank that I just wanted to get the rods out and catch up on some sleep, as working nights certainly takes it out of me.

As I neared the windward end I could see the snags were free. The lake was so full that I couldn't believe my luck I climbed the tree and below I could see fish instantly. There was also some bait on a spot close by, which I was totally gutted to see. There was very little other choice as the lake was so busy. I decided to go and grab the gear and set up on the snag for the night. There were a couple of twenty pound commons within the confines of the snag and within a hour I had a upper double in the net after a extremely lively scrap, which was shortly followed by a 23lb common.

I had another small one during the night and by 8am I was off for a lap of the lake, as I knew a few anglers were leaving shortly. The weather was very warm and I expected to find the fish very easily, but with the lake so busy, maybe I would be wrong. I expected the fish to be out of the edges and in the centre of the lake. After a lap it confirmed my suspicions and I spotted some larger fish moving through the top layers on the central bar. There were two swims coming free within an hour that offered the main bar. I waited a couple of swims down with a couple of mates Simon and Paul until the swims became vacant.

After the anglers vacated the swim I soon had two rods fished on the bar five yards apart with around a kilo of Mainline Cell and Hybrid deposited over both rods. Rigs were kept simple I was using Korda plastic dumbbell hook baits on short four-inch N-Trap Semi Stiff hook links fished blowback style with a 4oz tournament style lead. It was around 2pm and I was having a brew and a catch up with Simon and Paul when the rod belted off the line being taken from the spool at an alarming rate. I was on the rod in seconds snatching it from the rest. The carbon was bent to the limit, as I tried to control a clearly big, powerful fish that was obviously not happy by the way the line was being stripped from the clutch. By now the fish was 40 yards or so away from were I had hooked it.

I turned the fish after its initial run only for it to start kiting right and then taking even more line. The fish I was connected to felt like a zoo creature and visions of that long common were playing on my mind all the time. The fish was still kiting right and I was slightly worried it would come in contact with Simon’s lines, luckily he was back-leaded so to my relief, eventually I led it up the right margin with no issues. The fish still had another three solid 20-yard runs up and down the margin and after a good 10 minutes we finally got the first view of what I had hooked. As it glided past us in the gin-clear water a long, dark common of well over thirty pounds came into view. That's when the nerves started to kick in and after a few more powerful surges the fish was over the cord and lifted in the confines of the net!

A quick breath of air was needed after that battle, for me and the fish. It was one of the best fights I’ve had in a long, long time! There lying in the net was the reason I had joined in February, it was the long, dark-looking common and it looked really full and solid. On the mat the fish was excreting my bait all over the mat. The size-six Wide Gape was a good inch back in the bottom of the mouth; it certainly wasn't coming off that's for certain. On the scales she went 34lb 2oz; the weight really didn't bother me, as the fish was simply stunning. I love dark, old commons and this one has to be my favourite yet. A big thanks to Simon Loader, Paul Kenway and Lewis Scaley for sharing the moment and taking some superb shots. I was driving home with a big smile that day! :)

Good luck… bag a big ’un,

Craig Runham