It’s been nearly 2 years since I last fished an overnight session but early May finally saw me back on the bank when I paid a 3 night visit to popular day ticket carp water Sandhurst Lake. As we drove down to Sandhurst I was full of trepidation, 2 years was a long time and I wondered if all those sessions at the chiropractor and the daily yoga and pilates exercises I have to do would pay off. I’d given a lot of thought to getting back on the bank for longer than a half day session and I’d bought myself a new Avid Restbite Bedchair to help keep me comfortable and hopefully see me through my first few nights back on the bank.
I’ve been to Sandhurst Lake a few times before and always with the same great bunch of anglers, we’d hired the whole lake again so the first thing we did on arrival was a lap of the lake followed by the draw to see who picked first swim, there were just 13 of us and in keeping with my previous poor draw record I came out 9th. It’s no fun watching all the pegs you’ve mentally arranged in order of preference disappear in front of your eyes, by the time my turn came, all the swims on the wind at the car park end of the lake were gone and we were well into the has-been pegs. I knew it was going to be a struggle. Whatever swim I chose I’d be at the wrong end of the lake because that was all there was left. After deliberating I picked peg 13 on the road bank, unlucky for some perhaps but I knew it was a good area when the fish were up the far end and I figured with 3 nights ahead of me I’d perhaps get a chance if a few carp drifted into the area. I was dropped off at the back of my peg as soon as the draw was done so I set about putting up my Trakker A-Lite first, my A-Lite hadn’t seen the light of day for 2 years but it’s so easy to put up you’d never be likely to forget how to do it. The new Avid Restbite Bedchair went under with loads of room to spare and over the first hour I managed to arrange all my gear and get myself comfy.
I sat down to think about my tactics, my swim and the rigs and baits I was going to use to try and tempt a Sandhurst carp. My preferred hooklength is Kryston Silkworm, I’ve been using this hooklength for the best part of 20 years now and I have complete faith in it but having fished gin clear waters with pressured fish in the past I decided to dye my silkworm green with the use of a permanent marker for this trip, just to make sure my rigs blended in with the weed that was present. In the past I wouldn’t usually bother doing this but last year I found myself tweaking my rigs to make them blend in and one of the best things I found for doing this was a Sharpie Permanent Marker Pen and I wouldn't be without a couple of these in my tackle box these days, I carry these pens in green, brown and black to cover any situation.
The rigs were easy to sort out and for this season I’d opted to use boilies rather than my usual particle baits, my main bait for this season is Nashbait Scopex Squid Red, Scopex Squid is a very famous bait and I’d seen this boilie in action many times before on some of our North West circuit waters, I know it’s a winner and a youtube video from Gary Bayes was enough to convince me that the Nashbait readymades were ideal for me. You may be surprised at me using readymade boilies but there is a reason for this and I’ll cover why I chose these baits in a future blog piece.
I knew peg 13 quite well so picking my first spot was quite easy. My sandhurst tactics were to feed boilies to a spot I knew the fish liked to visit then top up every morning and evening regardless of the action. If no runs came I’d simply leave the Hookbaits and not recast, this was so the hookbaits would wash out and with fresh bait on top a couple of times a day my old hookbaits may be more readily taken when eventually found. Most people seem to be single hookbait,PVA Bag and Zig Rig mad at Sandhurst right now so I figured the bed of boilies approach might just pay off. I baited up with this tactic in mind and placed a slow sinking Scopex Squid snowman on the bed of boilies and a Scopex Squid Pop Up just at the edge of the baited patch. The third rod was baited with a small 12mm Fruit Special popup from the Frank Warwick bait range and this would be fished as a single in random areas or cast at any carp that dared show itself in my swim!.
With the rods out I finally settled down to my first brew late morning. It didn’t take long before the text messages started coming in as the lads got stuck into those Sandhurst carp. Not much happened for me but during the afternoon of the first day a fish did show itself at quite short range so I covered it with the 12mm Fruit Special popup. Despite my best efforts I blanked that first day and the doubts about my swim choice and baiting strategy were coming to the fore as carp after carp started to fall from up the car park end of the lake.
I left my baits in place first evening opting not to recast as per my tactics, I just topped up my baited spot with more boilies, I never moved the single I’d cast at that showing fish either and it was this 12mm fruit special popup that was taken at 10am on the second morning. I was a bit shocked for a split second but it doesn’t take long for the adrenalin to kick in and I was onto the rod in a few seconds. These Sandhurst carp fight really hard and this fish was no exception, it took a few yards of line off the clutch before everything went solid, the carp was weeded up. Apparently this had happened to a few lads around the lake, the weed was pretty bad in some areas and it turned out I had a big weed bed in front of me. Experience of fishing in weed has taught me the best way to get a carp out of it is from above and if you can’t get above the carp then at least get the rod as high as possible and try to pressure the fish up in the water, I stood on the step above my pod and with the rod butt against my shoulder blade and my arms raised high I started to increase the pressure on my fish, each time a strand of weed came free it would ping on the line, I did start to gain some line back and the higher I kept the rod the more ground I made, it took me 5 minutes but eventually the fish came free and the fight was back on!. Once I had the fish in the margins it was all over bar the netting as the runs got shorter and shorter, another 5 minutes and I slipped the Landing Net under my first Sandhurst carp of the trip, needless to say I was relieved, not only was I off the mark, netting that fish carried on my perfect run of never having blanked at Sandhurst lake.
I left the fish in the water and secured my net whilst I set up my Camera and prepared to weigh the fish, on the Scales I got 20lb 14oz, not my biggest fish by a long shot but I was happy to have a twenty to my name. One of my mates was on hand to take a few pictures and with some nice shots in the camera I released a nice mirror back to the lake.
It was ‘pressure off’ after that first carp, I dropped the single hookbait back in the same area which is just at the back of the gravel off the road bank about 25 yards out, I thought I might as well leave this bait here unless another carp showed itself and gave me a better option. I’d topped up my bed of bait a couple of times without actually re-casting and at 4pm in the afternoon my left hand Delkim suddenly burst into life as my snowman Scopex Squid hookbait was finally picked up, just like the last fish this one tried to get into the weed too but I’d already learnt from playing that last mirror, rather than just play the carp in and wait for it to find trouble I stood on the step above my rods and played the fish with my rod high from the start with the intention of keeping the fight in the upper layers of the water. It worked, apart from getting weeded for a few seconds on the way in I had no other dramas and once in the margins it didn’t take long to bring the fish to the net, it was a very long fish with not much of a tail and it was easy to see why the fight was much easier than the last one, it just didn’t have any real power. Despite the small tail the carp had a broad back and this signalled my second twenty of the trip. My Scales gave me 21lb 10oz, another mirror and success first time out for the Scopex Squid Red readymades.
The news from further up the lake was all good after day two, a few of the lads had broken pb’s and it turned out that everyone had caught at least one fish. Given that I wasn’t on the main group of fish that was shoaled between the pipe and peg 10, I thought I’d done quite well to pick off a couple of stragglers from the other end and on my last full day I managed to pinch another. Again it came to the built up bed of boilies only this time it was my scopex squid red popup fished on the edge of my bait that produced a run. To be honest this was the rod I’d expected action on as you assume pressured carp will hold back a little when they find a bed of bait, I always think it’s the big ones that hold back and this certainly seemed like the case as my third fish of the trip decided to put as much daylight between us as it could. This carp felt much heavier than the last two and despite my best efforts to keep the rod up and keep the fight in the upper layers there was nothing I could do as it powered off down the lake and eventually found the weedbed both my other fish had gone looking for. I was back to trying to pressure the carp out of the weed again, I’ve used Berkley Big Game Line in 15lb for well over 20 years now, it’s brilliant for weed and snag fishing and being so familiar with this line I knew how far I could push it, with patience and the right application of pressure I got the fish moving again eventually. Even in the margins this fish just wouldn’t give up, I knew it was a common and a decent sized one too, as it circled in front of me I could see a massive tail, it was some paddle the fish had but despite its power I always had the upper hand once the fish had cleared the weed and eventually it succumbed to my waiting net.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this one, it looked to be getting on towards 30 but perhaps a bit short?. My scales confirmed this as I settled on 28lb 8oz, a fine way to complete a hatrick of Sandhurst twenties!.
I fished on through the rest of the day and my last night but no other action came my way, all my fish came in the daylight so I wasn’t really expecting anything on the last night anyway, packing up on Monday morning wasn’t too bad and despite my doubts I came through my 3 day session with no further back problems. My new Avid Bedchair was great, it has a 50mm memory foam mattress on it and it was really solid and comfortable to sleep on, I’ll definitely be doing a few more overnighters on it this summer that’s for sure!.
If you’d told me I’d just catch a twenty before I went I’d have been happy with that so picking up 3 of them was a really nice bonus and a great way for me to get back into night fishing again. The group of lads I was with all did well, when we got back we had a look at the stats from our weekend and after much discussion we decided it was actually a really great trip.
44 Carp were caught between 13 of us
5 x 30lb+ were caught
7 x 25lb+ were caught
19 x 20lb+ were caught
13 x 17lb+ were caught
Everybody had at least one 20lb+ fish, even if it was the only one they caught. All in all a pretty good trip, I just about caught my fair share and I caught them whilst the bulk of the fish were up the other end of the lake, who knows, one day I might actually draw well!.