Craig's Colourful Catch - Craig Runham

All the heavy rain we’ve had recently put my plans on hold. The lake I was looking at spending my winter on burst its banks and was closed for safety reasons. A new plan and a new lake was on the cards! Luckily, I knew just the place; a local club water, which had a few decent fish within its depths. A ticket was purchased at the local tackle shop and I was soon unlocking the gate and taking my first steps onto pastures new. The lake in question is around five or six acres in size and oval in shape! Many snag bushes littered the margins, stretching out far into the gin-clear margins. I could just imagine the inhabitants spending their lives living within the confines of these many snag bushes.

The first trip was just to be an overnighter with a good friend Michael, and my future brother in law, Sam. With the long hours of darkness in the winter, it was nice to have some company and with freezing temperatures forecast for the night ahead it was no surprise when we woke up from a good night’s sleep to find nothing of note had happened. I knew we weren't on the fish and a quick circuit of the lake was needed to try and locate them. We only had a few hours left before leaving so I figured I would get a feel for the place by doing a few laps and try to work out were the fish were spending there lives. I climbed many trees and hadn't seen a thing through the tap-water-clear margins. I had one more large snag to investigate and it looked to be the largest one on the lake, stretching out over 20ft into the lake. It looked perfect as I neared the edge of the lake for a view. There were loads of branches cutting through the icy depths. It looked to be around 8ft deep off the snag. It looked perfect with the sun cutting through the water, illuminating the clean, polished gravel at the base of the roots. Suddenly, a large common of around the mid thirties swam almost beneath me as I leant against the bow of the tree followed, by a common with strange colouration that looked around the 30lb mark.

They looked so happy in their little snaggy home. A few moments later a pod of other small commons glided across the polished bottom. I felt a big smile growing on my face; I had found their home. Or so I thought anyway. Before leaving I deposited half a kilo of Mainline Hybrid on two likely looking areas within a short distance of the snag! Unfortunately, it was time to head home but I was down for another night the following week, so the game was to be on next time. Anyway the following week proved to be a waste of time as the fish didn’t return to the snag during the 14 or so hours I was there. The weather had turned very cold and wet with a cold, biting northerly stretching its way up the lake. For some reason I was told by other members that the fish never showed, which made locating them very difficult, so unless they were in the snags I had very little to go on.

The following weekend the wind was due to change to a southwesterly and hip hip hooray, no rain was due. I couldn't get down there quickly enough and shot round to the snag bush, expecting them to all be there within the confines of the branches. To my amazement, nothing was anywhere to be seen, I had done two laps and had absolutely nothing to go on. I went with my gut instinct and set up on the front of the ever-increasing southwesterly. It felt warm and something was telling me I was in the right place. The marker revealed ten feet of water and a series of gravel spots close in. It felt perfect and two 14mm Banoffee Dumbells, soaked in Milky Toffee Activ-Ade, in were cast out into the soft silt. The reason I was using plastic baits was that the lake contained a serious amount of crayfish and during the first night on the water I had both hook baits taken off my rig. The plastic baits seemed a good choice and looked really good with my size-eight Wide Gape. I was using around eight inches of silt N-Trap to combat the silt. The setup looked perfect to me and would help combat the crayfish too. Over the top of the rigs I deposited around 50 Hybrid and Cell baits. The traps were set and with the water crashing into the front of the swim it did look ever so carpy.

An early night was on the cards and I soon crashed out. It wasn't until around 5am that the right-hand rod had me scrambling for my boots as an angry fish was tearing away with the rig with the Neville in full-scream mode. As I plucked the bent carbon from the rests the fish decided to take around 20 yards of line on an angry first run. Straight away I felt I was connected with a decent fish. Under the tip after it headed for every snag in the edge. I had it on a short line, which cut up through the water. I flicked on my red LED on my head torch in just time to see a white glow twisting and turning in the clear water.
After a very impressive fight at close quarters I bundled it into the confines of the mesh. I peered down into the mesh and couldn't believe it, the strangely coloured common that I had seen in the snag two weeks before was peering up at me. It looked big as well and at first glance looked to be over the thirty-pound mark. To be fair, the beauty of it blew me away. Upon inspection the mat the hook hold was immense; the size-eight Wide Gape was a good inch back in its lower lip. I couldn't have hoped for a better hook hold. On the scales the fish registered 29lb 8oz. I placed the fish into the floatation sling and waited for first light to do the photos. As I smiled for the camera I knew that I wasn't too far away from the big common either! Hopefully I will meet that one soon! Bag a big ’un!