Craig Runham's Cranwells campaign gets off to a good start!

Craig Runham finally got the call that he had been waiting for, telling him that he had secured a place on the Cranwells syndicate, and it didn’t take him long to get amongst a few fish!

The lake, which is part of the Wasing Estate is renowned for its most famous resident, the Parrot, which holds the current British record, and although Craig has yet to bump into anything quite that big, his autumn campaign produced some real crackers and he is expecting more to come.

Craig explained: “The leaves are falling and lake temperatures are plummeting, and it feels as though winter is upon us already and autumn never really happened!

“But this has its pluses as the banks become quieter – possibly as the more sensible anglers hang up their rods and leave the rest of us to sit out in the freezing cold, wet, damp, icy, long dark nights! But one thing I look forward to most is the colours at this time of the year, with so many deep shades of red, yellow, brown and gold hanging from the trees, a truly magical view that so many of us take for granted.

“It was the third week in August when I received the news that I’d been waiting so many years for, and as soon as work finished I drove straight to the office to pay my money and get my ticket before they changed their mind!

“I was like a kid at Christmas as I drove down the track and headed straight to the lake, arriving at what can only be described as paradise, with clear water and weed stretching to the surface all over the lake, and I could even make out some dark shapes. I clambered up a tree at an excited pace, with visions of a four foot mirror in my mind, and peering down I was greeted with a spectacular view, as amongst the underwater forest of weed lay several commons, none larger than mid-20s but still an amazing sight.

“I couldn’t fish there for a few weeks as I had other commitments, and the time really dragged before I was finally able to do my first night, and I was really excited to be getting the rods out at last.

“To cut a long story short, I managed three bites that first trip, with the biggest being an upper-double common, and I was remarkably happy with my start on a new adventure.

“I managed to catch frequently over the next few trips which was great, but the only problem was that I seemed to be a small common specialist, and I figured that a change of tactics was needed from the hemp and tiger approach that I’d started on. I was using Fake Food dumbells over the top of the particle mix, and I’d only lost one or two fish so far on the size 6 Wide Gape Xs, which I was extremely impressed with given how weedy the lake was.

“I decided that to hopefully catch the better fish I would move to a boilie approach and had noticed that the fish in Cranwells tended to have a preferred taste for a creamy, nutty bait over a fishy type one, so I made a call to Key Bait Solutions and soon had some of their new nut bait at my disposal.

“The following week I headed to the lake planning to just use boilies on this trip, and I set up on the point and put a liberal scattering of bait over my three rods. I was on the phone to the missus that evening when the left rod bleeped twice before pulling out of the clip, and as I was fishing at range with tight lines I quickly threw the phone down and picked up the rod.

“I lifted into a solid weight and the fish had found a weedbed, so I piled on the pressure and soon enough I felt the fish pull free and I was back in direct contact. I kept the pressure on, and after about ten minutes the fish was boiling on the inky calm surface in the margins and I scooped it up, then flicked on the headtorch to see my prize.

“A long common lay in the net and I weighed it in at just shy of 28lb, and later the same night I had a 24lb common. The boilie approach was already working with the biggest fish of my campaign so far.

“Before I knew it the weather was on the change, and after the first few frosts the lake had quietened down, so on my next trip I set up in a deeper area thinking the fish might have moved there. I’d now moved onto pop-ups due to the leaf debris on the lake bed, and rig-wise I opted for a soft hinged rig as I was fishing over silt. I tied this using 20lb N-Trap Semi-Stiff as the boom material and 25lb Mouth Trap for the hook section, with a size 6 Choddy hook, and baited with half-a-kilo of boilies over each rig.

“The night was uneventful and I awoke to a cold misty morning, and it wasn’t until 11am that it lifted and I could see the lake. The pressure was 1032mb and I felt like I was wasting my time fishing the deeper area and was just folding my groundsheet up ready for a move when the line pulled tight on the left rod and it began to hoop over.

“Initially it took 30 yards of line before coming to a halt and I knew I was again connected to a better one. Around 20 yards from the bank it came to a halt when it dived into a big weedbed, and it took 15 minutes on continuous pressure to get it moving again, and I could make out a decent common twisting and turning as the sun illuminated the rows of perfect scales on its chestnut flanks.

“I thought it would go over 30lb, but I wasn’t going to grumble when it was a shade under, I certainly won’t forget this one in a hurry, but I’m now hoping that one of the big mirrors ends up in my net soon.”