Charity Pays - Craig Runham

One dull Wednesday morning in May, while at work, my day was to be brightened up beyond belief. I had been informed that the bid that my friend, Andrew Smith, and I had places for a forty-eight hour session on an extremely special water in aid of Cancer Research. We had paid very good money for the ticket, as all proceeds went to a extremely good cause. The rest of that day at work passed by with a massive grin across my face. The lake in question is called Cranwells, and it currently holds the biggest living mirror carp in the country and is home to some very special fish. The waiting list is very, very long and it will be many years before I get my place on the syndicate. So, it was worth every penny we had bid to get the short-session ticket.

We hatched a plan to use up our precious forty-eight-hour session later in the year, when the place was quieter and the fish were in their top condition. After a discussion with the fishery manager, Mark Hibbs, we had booked the trip for the tenth of November we just prayed the weather would be right for us. During the few weeks prior to the trip we talked over our plans at work. We were like kids at Christmas; so eager to get down there and have a go after the special carp the reside in Cranwells.

The time finally came and I woke up to the alarm at 06:30 and realised I had a message on my phone from Bernie Loftus, claiming he had The Parrot at over 64lb in the sling. My first thought was that he was taking the mick out of me, as he knew I was down in the morning. He proved me wrong and I was soon clicking away the camera for an elated Bernie. The fish was simply immense and it was a true honour to take the photos of such a incredible creature for such a top bloke such as Bernie. Congratulations again mate, what an experience. After a few celebratory drinks with Bernie, Andrew and I thought it was best to get moving to try and find the whereabouts of some of the lakes inhabitants.

After two laps of the twenty-odd acre lake we were none the wiser as to were the carp were! The place seemed lifeless, the wind was a biting northerly and we both slightly began to worry whether we had picked the right time to use our precious forty-eight-hour ticket. We searched every corner of the lake and had seen very little to go on. We spoke to six or so anglers who had fished all weekend on the lake and they were all without a single bite. Bernie was leaving in the afternoon and he had told us that we should go in behind him for our two nights. We had to fish the same swim as each other as part of the deal of the ticket. The swim Bernie was in commanded a lot of water with two islands and masses of open water. It seemed a good place to start anyway, as we could see a lot of water from this position.

After repositioning one of his rods, Craig was away with this awesome common, which weighed 39lb 8oz.

Pretty soon he was in action again; this was turning into a dream session.

The first night was extremely quiet. We stayed up late into the night hoping to hear or see some signs of fish but unfortunately to no avail. We awoke at just before first light and had a few brews, while watching the water for early morning movements. Just before first light we saw a single show in among the army of coots that were passing through the channel between the two islands. That was all we had seen all morning. It was time to do another lap of the lake by 10am. Unfortunately, once again we arrived back at our plot with nothing to go on. It was extremely frustrating, as usually I can find some signs somewhere. We decided to stay where we were, as we had seen one possible show not too far from our rods, out in the lake.

Around 13:00 I whacked the marker out closer to the island, to see if I could find a new spot nearer to where the fish had showed previously. I found two nice spots not too far from were the fish had showed in the morning. I found a silt gulley behind a raised gravelly area at about ninety yards and tied up two new hinged stiff rigs with size-six Choddy hooks. I changed the boom section from my normal stiffer material to the silt-coloured N-Trap Semi Stiff in 20lb breaking strain. The boom was lengthened to around eight inches. I kept the hook section low and stuck with around one inch in height. I’d found this presentation had worked well for me in the past over similar soft-silt situations. I was using some impressive white Mainline Cell cork-ball pop-ups made by Mark Dean. Both rods were cast out either side of the marker and around two kilos of Mainline Cell and Activ-8 were spread with the use of the Eazi-Stik. The bait was spread over the size of a tennis court or thereabouts. I had been informed previously that these carp can like their food and I simply prayed that they felt hungry.

Once again we stayed up late, listening for fish. The wind had been strengthening all day and heavy rain was due within the next few hours. The weather had certainly changed for the better. As we sat there, staring out into the darkness, the trees began bending under the pressure of the wind. The water’s ruffled surface shone in the moonlight and something made me feel positive that evening before slipping into the bag for the night. I woke up in a mad panic as the bivvy was filled with the screeching sound coming from the receiver. I ran out into the darkness, following the bright white light coming from the alarm. The bobbin was wedged into the alarm and I could make out the line was out the clip. I plucked the rod from its rested position and was forced to instantly give line from the off. I shouted Andrew for some assistance, as I knew I was connected to a decent fish. He helped me climb into my chesties as the margins were too shallow to net a fish.

I jumped down into the cold margins, dragging the net behind me. I couldn’t believe the power of the fish I was connected to. I knew that I was fighting a very decent fish. The runs were mindblowing each time and I prayed for it to stay on. After what seemed an eternity, I finally had a good common gliding up and down the margin in front of me. The fish was finally tiring and I flicked the red light from my head torch on and out of the depths came a long common. With the net outstretched I scooped up the fish up and let out an elated cry. Peering into the net, I was simply stunned by the length of the fish, instantly thinking it looked over the forty-pound barrier. On the scales, we both settled on 39lb 8oz, a new personal-best common for myself. We carefully slipped her into the margins for a few hours before light. The hook was still sticky-sharp, so after attaching another one of Mark’s special little white Cell pop-ups, the rod was back out into position and another fifty or so baits sprayed over the area.

An hour later and the rod was away again. After a short battle a mid-twenty mirror was in the net. I couldn't believe how lucky I was. I awoke just as it was beginning to get light. The wind and rain was battering the outside world; it did look unbelievably miserable out there from my warmth of my bag. Even though the weather appeared to be rancid, I was over the moon and jumped out of the bag to put the kettle on. Smithy poked his head round the bivvy, mug in hand, “Got the kettle on then?” We decided to get the shots done once the persistent rain had slowed down. I had another good friend, Dan Chappell, coming down to help with the photos and he was around twenty minutes away. As I sipped on that first cup of tea the right-hand rod was away once again, and I ran out into the rather heavy rain and picked up the rod, which was in full battle curve in the rests.

What a fish to bag on a guest session! All 39lb 8oz of Wasing Estate mirror.

I knew I was connected to a very strong and powerful fish once more, and I was forced to give line as the fish headed out into open water. I started to feel like I had it under control from my position on the bank, when suddenly the fish had other ideas. It completely changed direction and began tearing line off the spool and heading down to my right, between the island and the bank. Andy grabbed my chesties and I awkwardly lifted them up, knowing I was in trouble as the fish had now disappeared around the corner of the reeds. I jumped in, wading to my limit and began pulling as much as I dared. I started to gain line quickly, but I knew I was still a long way from safety. The fish must have felt sorry for me, as it then swam out from the safety of the bay and around the sanctuary of the reed line. I breathed a massive sigh of relief, as I knew I had the fish in front of my position. Through the clear water I could make out a rather special creature; I could see a dark, heavily plated long mirror of epic proportions fighting for it’s freedom.

I was a nervous wreck at this point into the fish. I so dearly wanted the scaley carp in the folds of my net. Every time I thought it was getting tired it would then proceed to pull my arm off once again on another powerful run. It seemed like an eternity before the fish was at netting distance. I pushed the net out as far as possible, just as a large mouth popped up out of the water. With a final pull I lifted the net around a truly stunning creature. Dan suddenly appeared from round the corner and was met with what must have seemed like a couple of excited school kids. He couldn't believe what he was looking at in the net. It really was a breathtaking carp. It looked once again over the forty-pound bracket. Strangely, the scales settled on the same weight as the common. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have caught those special carp. It was a true honour to lift them for the camera.
I would like to take this chance to say a big thank you to Wasing Estate and to the fishery manager, Mark Hibbs. Thanks for your kindness."