Having been to Cromwell Carp Lake for the last two PAAS Forum socials this year we returned to Yateley Sandhurst Lake, a popular southern day ticket water containing numbers of fish that most North West carp anglers can only dream of catching locally. My trip to Sandhurst started with a 3am alarm call, our booking was due to start at 10am on Friday morning and ahead of me was a near 4 hour drive to the lake, allowing for rush hour at Birmingham and London I gave myself plenty of time and left just before 4am. Fortunately the trip down was good, I met up with a few of the other lads at Warwick services on the M42 and from there a convoy of us drove the last 100 miles or so to the lake after a nice breakfast and a cup of coffee to keep me awake!.
We arrived at the lake around 8.30am, a couple of the lads were already there and the news wasn’t good, stories of weed cutting, blue dye going in the lake a few days before, bitterly cold weather and hard fishing were the order of the day, of the anglers already fishing some even questioned if there were any fish in the lake so obviously not much had been showing either. We all had a walk around and I did see a few fish off the back of the wind at the far end of the lake, this was a big help and gave me an idea of where I wanted to be. I kept quiet about the fish I'd seen, my track record at the draw is famous…or is that infamous!, my usual position is last so I wasn’t going to give away the location of the fish I’d seen until after we’d all chosen our swims. As it turned out, everyone else was doing the same and after pegs had been chosen everyone started spilling about the carp they’d seen themselves, all’s fair when it comes to getting a good peg at the draw! (lol).
As it happened karma finally paid me back and I came out second, my highest draw position ever. I chose peg 13, a swim I’ve fished a few times before so I knew it quite well, the fish I’d seen were in front of pegs 13 in the middle, 15 and 16 both about 30 yards out, apart from being familiar to me, my reasoning for picking 13 over the other swims is that the carp wouldn’t stay around 15/16 under pressure, once the rigs went out and there were lines in the water I expected them to move into the main body of the lake and by picking 13 I was perfectly positioned to fish the area I thought they’d move into, if nobody fished either of the other pegs then I could take some day gear down there and try for them myself as we’d booked the whole lake. As it happens 15 and 16 did go because a few of the other lads had seen them too.
I’d not fished overnight since the last social a year ago so I set about putting up my Trakker A-Lite shelter and got myself comfortable before I set the rods up. I was armed with Spod and Marker rods and I had my distance sticks with me too but I was reluctant to start thrashing the water to a foam when there were carp already in the area. I knew my spots anyway so I had a quick lead around and found weed, out in the lake it wasn’t too bad but I was later to find that closer in to my bank it was really bad. I clipped up and worked out the wraps and distance I was fishing at on my distance sticks and I must admit doing this was a massive help when it came to re-casting and getting back on the same spots, how did we ever manage without Cygnet Distance Sticks!.
My bait for this trip was particles, Tiger Nuts and Maize. Sandhurst lake is a busy day ticket water and the vast majority of anglers are using boilies. I’ve done very well on hard fished waters in the past by giving the fish a bait that isn’t round and made with eggs, as soon as you do this you gain an edge.
I fished tigers or maize on long braided hook links and made sure my hook baits were critically balanced so they only just sank very very slowly. I made sure the hook was well covered with a foam nugget and I added a small 2 bait pva mesh bag as well, not your normal mesh bag though, a couple of bottom baits would drag the rig into the weed so my bags had popups in them, by using popups the rig would be held up until the mesh bag and the foam nugget melted and at this point the hook bait would slowly sink down and come to rest on the weed.
After setting up all 3 rods with critically balanced Tiger Nuts or Maize I sat back and watched the water with a brew in hand and I saw quite a few fish as the day unfolded, including a few around my baits too. The wind turned in towards me a little early in the afternoon and I wasn’t happy having a bitterly cold icy blast in my face so I turned my bivvy round so I wasn’t getting the wind in through the door, I’d just finished doing this when the middle rod ripped off out of the blue.
I hit the rod and found myself attached to the first Sandhurst carp of the social. It was here I found out just how bad the weed was. Almost straight away the fish bogged me down in heavy weed. I had difficulty getting it moving again but eventually the steady pressure made the fish shift. I pumped the fish back slowly only for it to find another thick weedbed. This time it was solid and I couldn’t move the fish, I tried standing on the higher step and trying to get more leverage upwards as well as changing angles to see if I could shift it but the fish was solid. I asked my mate Darren to try and find a boat and whilst he was looking for one I tried slackening off and putting the rod back on the rest to see if the carp would move on its own. Eventually this tactic paid off and when I took up the slack and applied the pressure again the fish came free. From here I was able to slowly pump the carp back towards me. Once it was in the edge I realised it had picked up one of the other rods and I’m sure the rig on the other rod had got stuck in weed too, a dangerous situation to be in and one that very nearly cost me the fish. Luck was on my side though and by taking my time I was able to bring the fish close enough to the bank for Darren to slip the Landing Net under it.
First blood to me then, I had a nice long mirror in the landing net, definitely a twenty and judging by the shoulders on it probably over 25lb. I set up my Fox Easy Mat at the back of my swim and after unhooking the fish I weighed it in at 27lb 6oz, not a massive fish by sandhurst standards but back home in the North West that's classed as a big fish.
I was happy with that, I’d only had the rods out for 3 hours or so and the pressure was off already, with a decent fish on the bank I could sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the trip.
It’s just as well I managed to bank that carp because the rest of the trip turned out to be an exercise in camping!, the fish stopped showing in my area and they moved up to the other end of the lake. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t bank another fish so I ended up with just the one carp. Everyone else struggled too and out of 14 anglers on the social only 3 of us caught!. This has been by far the least productive social we’ve had at Sandhurst, the weather was poor with a cold wind and low temps all through the weekend. The ban on zigs has had an effect too, the fish were well up in the water during our stay and if we’d been able to use them I’m sure more fish would have been caught although the weed being so thick I can understand why they were banned in the first place. I'd like to see the owners deal with the weed properly in the first place rather than banning a good method of catching?.
In some ways it was good to go back to Sandhurst again but it's a water we've visited a few times before, next year I hope we can find a new water to visit. If you're reading this and you know of a decent carp water around 15-25 acres in size with a good head of 20's, will take around 15 anglers with some room to spare and is available for a full lake booking please put a suggestion below using the comments, thanks.
Until next time.