Swan Valley produces one of its A-Team!

Having had a great start to the season on Swan Valley, banking some of its most treasured prizes, the summer holidays came up and I headed off to Sorrento for some Italian rest and relaxation away from the tree lined banks off this gem in the heart of Yateley.

Upon returning to the lake, having had three weeks away, this session was eagerly anticipated and I could not wait to get a feel for the place again. Prior to my holiday, a couple of my target fish had been banked from areas known as the Back Bay and Match Lake and based on the few previous captures of the two main targets, it would appear that both of these mirrors had a liking for these areas, probably due to the amount of weed and bountiful larder available.

I was fortunate to be able to get in a swim known as End Island and having found three suitable spots, I baited up with a mixture of Deep Blue Particles chilli hemp with corn and 4mm high oil pellets to the tune of around 1.5kgs over each spot. At this point in time I was in between bait companies, having just been offered a place on team Essential Baits, so my bait arsenal was a tad limited until my first order arrived.

I know that the particle combo was a good one and a trusted carp catcher so I opted to fish a Krank Choddy hook multi rig variation with some I.B. corn as the hook bait on one rod and the same bait on the other two rods but with Longshank X blowback rigs with a triple stack of corn counterbalanced with a small shot.

The first night passed without event and the sun bore down hard the following day, making the fishing a waste of time as the carp just laid up in the weed, occasionally breaking the surface with their backs. A joyous respite from the heat came as the solar energy was dissipated and finally the day turned to evening and things were looking promising. The night passed without event and the morning came all too quickly as the sun broke the horizon and the dawn signalled the final couple of hours before another weekend was over.

I was all packed up and whilst sitting watching the water counting the last hour or so before it was time to depart, my pal Dan came up from next door in the Barks and I said “It looks like my first weekend back on the pond will be a blank…” No sooner than I finished the last word, the right hand rod was bucking under a fast take and we looked at each other and I said “I think I will hit that!”

The fight was lively initially, then the 4oz lead fell away from the Helisafe bead and it went in to a wall of weed - it then became a battle of nerves. After much pulling, the carp released its hold and it begrudgingly came forth towards the waiting net, along with a sizeable chunk of aquatic green lawn.

Dan confirmed the fish to be The Long Fish, one I had previously pre-spawning at 41lb 9oz but she went 37lb 8oz this time round, a quality blank saver none the less.
The following weekend I was on the bank again after struggling through the M4, M25 and M3 car parks on the way to the lake and I had a three-night stint this time as it was the bank holiday weekend. As I turned into the car park, the place was pretty busy from the off.

Any thoughts of getting back into the Back Bay area were quickly forgotten and after spending 90 minutes pacing the banks, I settled on one of my choice swims, Island 3. Everything looked good and the rods were back on the money spots but the night passed uneventfully. After bite time in the morning, I strolled round to the Back Bay to see if anything had been out and it was deserted in my three favoured swims. I knew the Barks was worth a shout as it had been producing fairly consistently and the “spot” was not really a spot any more, rather a dinning room table for 10!

I decided that if I was to catch Enoch (43lb+ dark black mirror) or the Korda Fish (37lb+ dark black mirror), I would need to be fishing where they have been caught this year and that was in the weed of the Match Lake or Back Bay. It was with reluctance that I packed up my pitch and shifted it round to the Barks but I had a few hours to get the Tempest up and camp sorted for the next two nights.

During the day the spots were baited with a particle mixture consisting of the awesome chilli hemp as the base with the addition of sweetcorn, ground Himalayan rock salt, 4 mm pellets and a liberal dose of hemp oil. All three rods were fished with helicopter rigs on 5ft Kable Leadcore leaders with Helisafe beads and the rigs themselves were nine-inch 20lb Kamo hooklinks with a sinker midway and a size 6 Longshank X blowback rig with a triple I.B. corn stack weighted with a small shot so it was very slow sinking.

I knew the rigs were going to work over the bottom they were going to be fished over and by late afternoon they were all on their respective spots, primed and ready for the taking. Three more anglers turned up in the bay and with 12 lines in the water in this small area, things were getting congested. I just hope the carp weren’t spooked.

Confidence was high as the light of day gave way to dark, a few fish were heard in the quiet of nightfall so they were in the zone. I was lying on the bed chair listening to the dulcet tones of Classic FM and at around 11.15pm whilst in the early stages of dozing off, the middle Delkim was screaming and I was suffering retinal trauma as the blue LED was flickering rapidly indicating a blistering take.

After it registering mentally with me the rod hooped over under the annoyance of an angry cypry and after several powerful runs and a load of weed, I netted a carp…I think! Pulling back the weed slowly revealed a scraper 20 common and after a few quick snaps the rod was back on the money and some more bait sent into the zone.

Back under the cover, the inside of my eyelids were being examined before I fell in to a deep slumber only to hear the recurring warble of the middle rod once again. Heart pounding and crocs on as the middle rod was lifted and nearly torn from my grasp. The clutch was finely tuned under the pressure of a weighty adversary and I was firmly attached to a formidable leviathan.

It was pulling furiously and as weed was its sanctuary, it tried every possible manoeuvre to cause my heart to palpitate with anxiety as the walls of Canadian and Milfoil were sought with every twist and turn. Several boils later and the weed could not hold up against the relentless pressure of 18lb line and my recently purchased Hi-S ive ER rods. The left hand rod was shifted off the bars to make room for the approach and I finally slipped the net under my prize. Under the white LED of the head torch the dark black shoulders of a big mirror were seen and I knew I had one of two fish.

I secured the net and took a moment to calm down before checking the time and deciding to go and wake up my neighbour Dan Hegan (Captain Sparrow as he is affectionately known): “I have got a special one in the net and it is big and black!” Having seen the Korda fish on the bank previously and having been in awe of its majesty, I knew it had a single scale on its right flank so after a shuffle of the net, the prize was confirmed and the Korda fish was my prize.

It was 5.20am and the light was not right for pictures just yet so I let her calm down after unhooking her in the net and covered her with the spare net as retention slings and sacks are banned. Many pictures were taken and I had one of the really special ones ticked off the list as the Swan Valley A-Team were falling one by one. The final day and night passed without event and packing up in a biblical deluge on the Bank Holiday Monday morning was horrendous but I had that inner glow that you only get when you have had a special one from your venue.

A short week at the day job meant that my Friday session came round quickly and I was lake-bound once again. I normally like a look round on arrival but having seen that the scene of my Korda capture was free, I felt confident enough to drop in there for this weekend.

The same spots were baited with the same particle concoction with the same Longshank X blowback, I.B. corn rigs and it was time for carp fishing to take a back seat for the culinary delights of the bankside café to get the stoves fired up and create yet another gastronomic delight. With a full stomach, bed time came early due to being up at 4.30 that day so by 22.00 I was firmly in the land of slumber and awoke to the sound of coot wars in the bay.

The sun climbed on its path over the tree line and its dappled rays were just breaking over the surface waters of the bay when the middle rod was off again! I was on it in a flash and a truly mad battle commenced as this unseen adversary was hell bent on freedom, flat rodding me on several occasions. I was astounded at the fight and naturally this is what it is all about but times like this make you want to wish it was more sedate and controlled.

After around 15 minutes, the fish came to the net. It was very wide at the shoulder and initial guesstimate was 33-34lb and to my surprise when she was hoisted on the scales, it went 30lb on the nose and it was a mirror known as “The Pig”, a former proper chunk when, a few seasons ago, it has been 40lb-plus.

It’s not about the weights it’s about getting them on the bank and realising that these are old fish that have been swimming in here for many, many years and it is a pleasure to be able say you have caught them.

As we are on the cusp of colder weather now, the effectiveness of the particle approach will begin to wain and my approach will become more boilie-based in the hope of the carp feeding themselves up on a good quality food bait for the winter.

With the arrival of my Essential Shellfish B5 boilies, a proven big fish bait, I am looking forward to hopefully enjoying some autumnal action with the Swan Valley residents before it goes on lock down for the winter.

Swan Valley is a lake in the Blackwater Valley in Hampshire and has been run as a syndicate water since 2006. Search online for membership details.