PB Smashed by 32lb! - Steve Lane

“Having visited Abbey for the first time in November 2012, catching mirrors of 56lb 3oz and 45lb 15oz during a hard week, I was full of anticipation for fishing in warmer weather, particularly as the previous two weeks catch results were very promising. I’m in the military and we have a saying about the 7Ps (prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance); unfortunately I failed epically for this trip.

A combination of a family holiday that finished the week before, a full-on week at work in between that and the Abbey trip and the usual family commitments resulted in me running around like a headless chicken on the Friday to collect fresh bait and some terminal tackle. I managed to get all the kit packed away, read the bedtime stories to my three young kids and get on the road for the midnight ‘Chunnel’ crossing, where I was to meet my fishing partner, also named Steve. I boarded the ‘Chunnel’ only to receive a call from Steve saying that he wasn’t able to board, so onto France and Abbey I went, on my own. The rest of the journey was uneventful and I arrived at Abbey early enough to walk around Heron lake at first light.

Unusually for Abbey the whole complex had been booked out for the previous week, so there would be a complete change around of anglers on the Saturday morning. After speaking to a few lads who were finishing and spotting a few fish showing in some fancied areas, I awaited the arrival of my fishing partner. After discussing the predicted weather forecast for the week, the showing fish and last week’s catch results, we decided on our swims and got ourselves checked in with Rupert. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty grim during the first day, which not only made setting up tough task, but the fish had stopped showing. However, I had already noted the areas and was soon leading around and getting rigs tied on, full of anticipation.

One spot that I was really confident for was a hole in the weed that was visible when the sun was out before the weather changed. I started off fishing solid bags, with a drop-off in line lead into this hole, losing a fish in the weed on the first night. My confidence in the solid bags actually making it to the bottom subsided on retrieving my rig the next day, so I double-bagged them. This still didn’t appear to be making the impact that I wanted so I decided to try a method approach, laced with particles from Shoreline baits. The reason I switched to this rig was that (a) I wanted to be confident that my drop-off in line system (I didn’t fish it with a traditional method set-up) and short hook link made it through the weed in the hole and (b) that the amount of particles I was getting in there would get the fish ripping the bottom up and clearing the hole even more.

Fish continued to show occasionally in the weed bed, but they appeared to have moved out of the area, given the weather conditions, which we were expecting. This didn’t deter us though, as our plan was to set traps by baiting areas in the far and near margins, but not fishing them for the first three or four days in preparation for the fish moving back in when the weather warmed up later in the week.

At about 04:45am on the third night I had a single bleep, followed by the longer bleep that you get when fishing locked up. I shot out of my bed just in time to prevent my right-hand (weed-bed) rod from being pulled into Heron lake... phew! I immediately bent into what felt like a decent fish, but I wasn’t sure if this was because it was weeded up or that it was a good ’un. After what felt like about five minutes of steady plodding and battling, the fish managed to get its head into the weed. Thankfully, I managed to keep the pressure on and didn’t give anything and soon had it on the move again. After about another five minutes and a significantly increased heart rate, I managed to slip the net under the head of a fish that you’d associate with a fish of about 30lb - GET IN!

I quickly secured the net using my Wychwood net station and ran the 10 yards to my mate’s bivvy where I gave him the good news that our blank was over. At this stage he asked the question we all ask “How big?” Having not registered anything but the size of the head I replied “A decent thirty” (this is why the Abbey’s FB page comments on my thirty pounder!) in response to which he grudgingly got out of his bed. I was back in my swim looking into the net and said to him, “It’s bigger than I thought mate,” when he arrived. It soon became apparent that breaking the net down and transporting the fish to my unhooking mat was out of the question, as the fish literally grew in weight by 5lb every inch closer it got to us! So she was transferred into my short-term retaining sling in the margin. After I had drained the water out I couldn’t believe the weight of her, but it still hadn’t registered which fish exactly was in my sling. My Reubens properly bottomed out at 60lb, which is when we looked at each other and had a proper look at the fish in the sling. Steve started shouting at me “It’s Shoulders, it’s only ******* Shoulders”, to which I replied “Shut up” in a Vicky Pollard type of way. Still not convinced of my capture, I put my waders on and got her back out into the margin in the sling and ensured she was well and truly secured. I then had to sprint round to the next swim to get Rupert’s mobile number to inform him that I’d got a definitely sixty-plus and it might, just might, be the monster that is Shoulders.

Some 20 minutes or so later, Rupert and an entourage of carpers from Heron and Fox lakes eagerly, despite it being only about 06:00am, descended on my swim to witness a special capture. When Rupert and I got into the lake he had a quick peek inside the STR sling to confirm that it was Shoulders. I looked at Steve in utter disbelief and from here on in I literally was in shock. To prevent unnecessary messing around we drained the STR of water on put her straight onto an acquired set of 120lb Korda Reubens, whose needle settled round at 92lb. Taking 4lb off for the wet weight of my STR, I was now properly lost for words at having smashed by previous French PB of 56lb 3oz by 32lb… unthinkable, for me anyway! The following 15 minutes or so are all a bit of a blur as I was truly in shock, which is evident on one of the video clips I have, at having literally caught the fish of a lifetime. Even a week later it still hasn’t sunk in.

I fished a Mainline Cell dumbbell on a size-four Korda Wide Gape hook, with a short Solar Unleaded hook link to a 5oz inline drop-off style. This was covered with method mix laced with particles from Shoreline baits. A Korda Kable leader to Korda Subline in 15lb was fished on my Basia 45 QDX and 3.25lb ESP Vertex Distance.”