Parklife - Liam Mason

This winter started with hard frost and frozen lakes everywhere and I was getting used to turning up at The Park Lake to see ice and bitter northerly winds. So, when I saw that there were some warmer southwesterlies coming in during February it got me thinking there was some hope for my winter fishing this year.
Living within 15 minutes of The Park allows me to go down regularly. So, I popped down on the Saturday night to see what swims were free and introduce a few Atlantic Heat boilies to ‘pre-heat’ my swim for my day session the next day. It looked so good that evening that I sat up there looking for signs of fish but, with only a few bream rolling, I went home to prepare for a flying start at first light.
Arriving in the morning, I set up with massive waves lapping up against my swim. They were so big that they were sending up spray all over my gear. After positioning two rods on a nice sandy area and the other rod in the silt just off from the area, I got my first of the many essential cups of tea brewing.
As I sat there on the wall behind my swim getting punished by the other park users I nearly exploded with shock and excitement when the right-hand rod tip pulled around hard confirming a definite carp take. The lake is notoriously hard and this winter had been no different with this being the first take since November. All this was going through my head during the entire battle, which was a long one. The carp just stayed low, plodding up and down the margin. The relief when it went in the net was the build up of a lot blank days fishing up on The Park with no reward. Once weighed and photographed the fish was confirmed as a fish called ‘The Map’ and weighed 31lb 8oz – my first February thirty. The rig I was using was the naked chod with as small a lead as I could get away with. I use the mega sharp and strong size 8 Choddy hooks with 20lb Mouth Trap with a 15mm cork-dust Atlantic Heat pop-up. I use the large Korda Sinkers to hold my rubber beads in place on my 15lb fluorocarbon main line and some brown Heli Sleeves to finish it off neatly. The result is a simple setup that allows me to cast at showing fish or bubblers and will be presented regardless of the bottom.
I got the rig back out on the area first time and couldn’t have been more happy, sitting there taking in the capture. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing when my right-hand Delkim was singing again! The fight was equally nerve racking. Like most park lakes the lake bed is littered with all manner of snags and during the fight the line became hooked under something and I could feel the it grating as I put pressure on the fish. After being cut off earlier in the season I decided to just let the line go slack and wade out to free the line, which was snagged only yards from the bank. After getting in and reaching under to free my line of what turned out to be a moped, I got back onto the bank soaking and praying that the fish was still on. I was pleasantly surprised to find her still on the end! I got as much of the damaged line back on the reel as quickly as possible and the fish went into the net with a cheer from the 40-plus members of the public who had gathered behind my swim to see why someone was in the lake in February. The fish was a typical for the lake and looked stunning in its winter colours as I held her up for the camera. She went 29lb 10oz and is known as Big Pecs. I managed one more fish before packing up as dark was setting in, a young 18lb common that was in cracking condition and hopefully a future big ‘un for The Park. It was a cracking day and I was buzzing to get back down there as soon as I could.
I got back down to the park a few days later to find out that the word had got around that I’d caught a few! Consequently, the area that I was fishing was completely stitched up with anglers. I pushed my barrow around to a different area feeling gutted that I couldn’t get anywhere near where I’d caught those fish. I cast all three rods to a deep silty area at around 90 yards and spread around 20 18mm Atlantic Heat boilies over each rod. I sat on the bench behind the swim watching some of the morning joggers. When the middle rod went into meltdown I ran down and hit the rod to find what felt like one of the many big bream that plague the lake on the end. But as the bream got under the rod tip it decided to fight and suddenly I was attached to an angry carp. The fish raced up and down the margins and it was a real nightmare trying to get it in the net. When it eventually went in I looked in to see one of the best-looking carp in the lake. It’s not the biggest carp in The Park and weighed 26lb 4oz, but it was definitely one of the nicest fish I’ve caught and really made me realise why I go fishing up at The Park because most days I question the sanity of going up there. I was blown away with it. As I put the fish back I couldn’t believe the week I was having and started putting a new rig on when another rod signalled a take. As I picked up the rod I knew it was a good ‘un It stripped line off the reel over and over again and stayed deep throughout. As I battled with her the thought of what could be on the end made my legs wobble and I had to keep my cool until it was safely in the net. The fish went in the net without any dramas and it looked amazing once on the bank. At 34lb 4oz it was a cracking fish and a real character that I recognised from Terry Hearn’s book, Still Searching. The fish added to what was a mental couple of winter’s day fishing and was a nice reward for freezing my ass off all winter! I was on top of the world, pushing my barrow back to the van that evening and was quickly brought back down to earth with a bump as my van had been broken into again! “Oh well, gotta love the place” I thought. I’ve since managed a few more crackers from The Park, but that’s a story for another day. Thanks for reading, Liam Mason.