Full House! - Jimmy Hibbard

“Well, it’s been a while but I’m back writing blogs. Thus far this year has been good to me, so let me take you back to the start.

At the beginning of April I joined a new water with a few fish in it that I've wanted in my album for some time. The plus side is that it's only ten minutes from work, meaning I could fit in a few more overnighters. The lake is 18 acres and full to the brim with weed... lovely. So, without a second’s thought, I began my spring campaign on the opening night of the season. All excitable and raring to go, I arrived down the lake after work. This gave me an hour or so to find a few fish and get the rods out before sunset.

Try as I might, I struggled to find any signs of fish activity. Consequently, I dropped into a productive swim that’s usually good for a bite or two. I got the rods out on some clear areas, which proved harder than anticipated, as the lake is ferociously weedy. By dark I was settled for the night, with eyes fixed on the water, hoping one would poke its head out. Sadly, it was a quiet night and the morning soon dawned, with the 5am alarm ringing in my ears. I watched the water, fixated on the expanse before me. I had just enough time to make a brew and begin the arduous task of packing up for work.

The next five overnighters were tough going, the lake was getting a lot of pressure and the fish weren't playing ball. What I needed was to sit back and think about a plan of attack. So, without a further ado, I started to choose areas around the lake, have a good lead about, and find a few secret spots. I wasn’t going to look for the really clear areas, as I was targeting the silty spots with fresh weed on them. I decided to stay away from the clear areas – as the fish got hammered off them and I thought that they had soon wised up to them, associating them with danger. I wanted to be a bit different and set aside from the normal tactics. I found these by firstly casting a bare lead into areas, looking for the softer drops when feeling the lead down. However, I still wanted a slight thud as it hit the bottom and the odd bit of silkweed on the lead after retrieval. Finding a few spots saw the start of me baiting them religiously and ‘priming’ those areas. The next time I was down the lake, I only had a few hours to play with.

The missus wanted me home that night and so when I got down to the lake, I immediately jumped in one of the swims I'd been baiting. The spot itself had a large weedbed close to it. The rig I had chosen to use was a hinged stiff rig on a lead clip setup. I chose this so I could drop the lead on the take. By doing that, it would eliminate any weed problems on the line while playing a fish. Instead of using a stiff boom section on the hinge rig, I replaced it with 30lb N-Trap, as this would enable the rig to take the contours of the bottom better. I also balanced the pop-up so it sank slowly to let it settle on top of any stray weed strands still present after my baiting and then to finish the rig off a Godman PVA Versacast tube to keep it from tangling on the cast.

I soon had the rods out and it wasn't long until the left-hand rod was away. After a short battle, I slipped my first carp from the lake into the net. A stunning 21lb fully scaled was my prize; one of just many carp the lake contained. It was a gorgeous fish for first blood. On the following overnighter, I managed six fish from another area that I had been baiting. The bites came more or less instantly, as when I arrived in the swim the fish were very active. Out of the six, I ended up landing two target fish both 25lb plus. One was known as the Double Row Linear and the other was one of the three original commons. This was then followed with four stunning upper doubles. Finally, things where falling into place nicely. I knew the big ’un was due out soon and it regularly comes from one certain area of the lake. Naturally, I decided to start baiting that area over the next few days. A full moon was due and it coincided with a band of low pressure coming in. It couldn’t have been more carpy and I was dying to get down there. I planned my trip to fit in with the full moon and forecast low-pressure band.

After work, I rushed down the lake, and to my surprise, there was no one else there. Needless to say, I headed straight to the swim I so badly wanted to be in. The rods went out without fault. This was then followed with 2kg of boilies over the area. Luckily, I managed to do this before the heavens opened. Later that evening, I was on the phone to a friend and the conversation soon turned to One Pec, the biggie. We were just talking about it when all of a sudden, the left-hand rod let out a single bleep, soon followed by another. As I put the phone down, it bleeped a couple more times. At that point, I picked the rod up and I leant into something solid. It plodded out in the lake, up and down the reed line on the far side. The wind and rain was awful and blowing straight into my face. I began gradually gaining line and it was soon out in front me, just a rod length away from the net. One last bid for freedom exhausted the fish fully. First attempt, the fish was securely in the bottom of my net – well and truly mine! Before even looking into the net, I already knew it was One Pec. But peering in confirmed all. Chuffed to bits, I made a few phone calls to try and get someone to come help me and take some photos. Sadly, no one was about.

Up it went on the scales, 33lb on the button. I was ecstatic. My target fish ticked off the list, albeit a little down in weight. Of course, it wasn't the best of weather for the photos, but I still got a couple of self-takes and slipped it back with a get big smile on my face. My overnight sessions still continued. Not to mention, so did the success, landing up to sixteen fish in the month of May.

After leaving the fish to spawn, I returned to the lake a couple of weeks later. The fish weren’t giving away their location, so after a bit of walking up and down the bank I found fish down one end of the lake. With just the afternoon left I put the rods on the fish and was instantly rewarded with a common of 16lb, well and truly spawned out. The next overnighter I planned to do, I had decided to bait an area of the lake I’d fished and had success from before, loading 2kg of boilies onto the spot the day before. Straight from work the next day I headed off down to the lake, hoping I’d get on the spots. The weather was awful to set up in but awesome weather condition for fishing. I managed to get in the swim I wanted and it made me even more exciting the fish where showing over the area in good numbers .

My supple hinge rigs went out to the spots quickly and quietly and I was rubbing my hands, hoping for a take before dark. I didn’t receive any action before dark but just as the light was fading I stuck another 2kg of bait out over the area. First light came and my morning wake-up call was the sound of the Neville screaming out at me. After a short battle I slipped my net under a low-twenty mirror. That was followed by another low-twenty and a upper double.

With the success I had that morning I decided to make the most of the fish activity and fished another night. Bang on cue at first light one of the rods was away again. This felt a little heavier and soon had me locked into a weedbed. I kept the tension on the line the fish soon freed itself from the weed, boiling on the surface it made one last attempt for freedom before I guided the net under it. As I peered into the net I could see that I had another target fish, This one was known as the Drop Tail Linear, another one of the lake’s originals, I was well buzzed. The scales went round to a spawned-out weight of 25lb and ounces but it’s not a weight thing when they’re like this one. After slipping her back I sat down with a brew to take it all in. I now had just two more fish I wanted from the venue, so a bit more effort was needed. It wasn’t long before I was back for another night. I left it over the weekend and then returned on the Monday night, and banked another couple of doubles.

The lake shut up shop and went little moody over the next few nights and I knew it was time to change a few things. I was fishing just off a plateau with two rods and the other was just on the slope. The next time I was down I fished on top of the plateau with all three rods, this time having a change and using three bottom bait rigs with the new Krank hooks from Korda. All three rods were on balanced hook baits; either a double 18mm with a piece of cork drilled into it or 18mm with half a pop-up on top. This was just to make the rig as light as possible so on the cast it would sit nicely on the small layer of silkweed. Sticking with the same baiting technique, I loaded the swim up with 3kg of boilies spread around the plateau. It wasn’t long until the fish were on the bait. I could just make out tails poking through the surface and subtle fizzing as I looked though the binoculars.

I was up most of the night expecting something to happen and I drifted off to sleep just as the sun was rising. I was rudely awoken at ten past six by an absolute steam train of a run. Half asleep I grabbed the rod and began the fight. The fish begin to strip line off the spool before locking me up in weed. Keeping the tension on, the fish made its way towards me slowly, with a great big ball of weed around its head. It took one last dive and the ball of weed freed from the line then the fish was off again on a very powerful run. My knees were like jelly and my forearms in agony. I had not seen the fish but from what I was told there was only one fish in the lake that really went like this.

After a 10-minute fight under the rod tip and I had finally had it ready for the net. Once I’d scooped it up, I looked into the net and was greeted by the one I really wanted more then anything out of the lake… The Sergeant! Its three red stripes on its body gave it away. I placed him in the retainer and gave the missus a call to see if she would come and do a few pictures after she had dropped the kids off at school.

She was five-months pregnant at the time, so a big thank you for to her! For the record, the fish went 26lb 8oz. I had only one more of the originals left to catch but that fish came out a week later to another angler, so on that note I had a week off the fishing and started planning my return.”