It’s been a while since I wrote an update for this blog, I’ve been enjoying syndicate life this past year so I’ve pretty much had my hands tied as far as updating this site is concerned. I’ve had some cracking fish though, 2009 was one of my best years for numbers of twenties and I managed to bank a couple of northern thirties too. Being in a syndicate is proving to be a good move on my part, I like the peace and quiet and being among like minded anglers sometimes opportunities arise and one such opportunity was offered to me earlier in the year, a week long trip to the famous Acton Burnell carp syndicate water in Shropshire!. I’d seen Acton Burnell on a few of the Matt Hayes fishing programmes on Sky and I’ve seen the place documented many many times, the waters at Acton have been fished by some very famous anglers so when the offer was made I did my sums (it was expensive!) and when I realised I could afford to go I duly accepted!.
Despite what you see on TV, I wasn’t sure what to expect as the Sat Nav took me towards Acton Burnell itself, a few short minutes later I arrived at the lakes and my first impression was that the lower lake was actually quite small. Things always seem to look bigger on TV and the upper lake, although much bigger, still looked a little on the small side compared to the impression you get from the TV. I was going to be fishing Acton Burnell Upper Lake and as I walked around I liked what I saw. The upper lake was stunning, it’s around 18 acres in size, a typical estate lake dammed at one end with an overflow to control the water level similar to Capesthorne Hall.
We’d had a draw for swims and my bad luck at the draw continued, I came out second to last and had to watch as every swim I was interested in disappeared!. In the end I was left with very little choice and I opted for a swim known as the ‘Pot Beds’. My swim was at the dam wall end of the lake and the fish were crashing and rolling up the other end so I knew I was in for a hard time on this trip!.
My bad luck continued after the draw when I managed to lock my keys in the boot of my car within a few hours of being there!, I put them there for safe keeping not realising there was a safety feature on my car whereby it locked after 60 seconds if the keys are in the car!. I couldn’t settle on Saturday night and following a blank night I had the AA out on Sunday morning. If you travel any kind of distance I can’t recommend the AA highly enough, they were with me in 20 minutes and I had my keys back 5 minutes later!.
After my drama with the car keys I was able to settle down to my fishing, I was restless and wanted to move on Sunday but there wasn’t anywhere to move too so I was stuck. I must admit I hadn’t done a lot of preparation for this trip and little did I know that the wind was going to change and push the fish down the lake towards me!. After a blank Sunday the wind whipped up south westerly and I began to see fish in my area. Just because you can see them doesn’t mean you can catch them, these Acton Burnell carp seem to be masters in avoiding anglers and on a typical week long trip, a few anglers would catch 1 carp each with maybe one lucky angler bagging a brace. Facing that kind of odds I was going to have my work cut out tempting one of these Acton carp despite them now being in my swim!.
The pot beds swim is opposite the dam wall at Acton, it’s a short cast to the dam wall and it seems the standard tactics in this swim is to cast a Lead onto the dam wall then go round and tie your rig on and place it with the use of chest waders and a landing net pole, this way you can actually get your rig and bait under the trees and you can bait up with pinpoint accuracy. I’d already done this and despite fish being in the area I couldn’t tempt a carp to pick up my bait on Monday or Tuesday.
Half way through the week and no fish, I had already began to ring the changes in my rigs, one thing that had attracted my eye recently was the Korda Sinkers. I never usually bother pinning down a hook length but these Acton Burnell carp really had me thinking about everything to do with my presentation. I put korda sinkers on my hooklength to pin it down and I ended up using a combination of normal backleads and Flying Backleads to really nail my mainline to the bottom. I wanted everything on the deck and out of the way because these fish were exceptionally cute!.
Wednesday night I finally managed to trip up an Acton Burnell carp. I’d placed a Mainline Cell Boilie under a bush on the dam wall and put a light sprinkling of cell boilies around the rig, I did this early on Wednesday morning to try and avoid any disturbance to my swim, the day had been quiet with just odd fish rolling in open water to my right during the evening. It was 11pm when the left hand Delkim bleeped a couple of times then quickly developed into a full blooded run.
I picked up the rod, wound down and struck lightly. Sure enough my rod arched over and my first impression was that I’d hit a brick wall, a sure sign I was into a lump!. My heart was beating out of my chest by this time and I kept muttering ‘don’t blow it’ to myself!. I kept the pressure steady and made slow progress bringing this fish in. Acton Burnell is in the middle of nowhere and with plenty of cloud cover it was a black night, I couldn’t see anything and I was literally relying on the direction the Rod was being pulled to work out where this carp was. Eventually I had the fish under the rod tip but I couldn’t seem to lift it up in the water to net it, for 10 minutes it circled round in front of me and all this time I had to keep talking myself into not applying too much pressure. It’s so easy in a situation like this to just try and apply more pressure and the result is usually a hookpull or a breaking of the main line. I’ve lost a few big carp at the net due to panicking which is why I talk to myself whilst I’m playing a big fish, I find I can keep a level head if I do this and it works for me!.
Eventually I managed to get the fish into a position where I could actually net it, this was a crucial point and as the fish slowly edged into the Net I lifted the mesh around my prize. I didn’t quite breathe a sigh of relief until I’d lifted the net and checked my prize was inside, it was so dark I’d just been going by the disturbance to the water to judge where the carp was. I checked inside the landing net and sure enough, there was my first Acton Burnell carp, a lovely looking common that looked well over 30lb in weight.
I secured my net and left the fish in the water whilst I got to work sorting out the camera and scales so I could weigh and photograph my prize. Acton Burnell supply Unhooking Mats, they are standard in every swim so I used the mat provided rather than my own as their mats are massive!. I placed my carp on the mat and unhooked it quickly, my rig had done its job and the fish was well and truly nailed in the bottom lip. This common was a long fish and it looked massive on the mat, I wondered how big it would go as I zeroed my scales ready for weighing. I hoisted the fish up and the scales gave me a weight of 34lb 2oz. I was delighted with that, my first Acton carp was a 34lb+ common!. Acton Burnell also has buckets for pouring water over the fish and after a quick bucket of water I cracked on with doing the pictures as best as I could in the pitch dark. I kept my Head Torch on for all my pictures simply because it allowed me to see roughly whereabouts both myself and the fish were on my Cameras flip screen. With the pictures done I released my prize back to the lake and the fish swam off strongly.
I couldn’t get my bait back under the bush on the dam wall so I hooked my rig up to the butt ring of my rod and left it on the Rod Pod until the morning. I didn’t mind doing this, I’d managed to achieve my goal of catching an Acton Burnell carp and with my target met I could just chill out and enjoy the last few days of my trip. When the morning came I put my rig back under the same bush on the dam and began the wait for another Acton carp.
I should just point out that if you ever use Chest Waders to place baits or land fish or for any other reason, please wear a life jacket too. You never know what’s on the bottom of a lake, a soft patch, a branch from a tree, literally anything could see you loose your footing and if you fall over and get your waders full of water, you could find yourself in real trouble. I can’t speak for everyone else but I value my life far more than the price of a Lifejacket and I simply won’t go in the water without wearing one, lifejackets aren’t just for boats!.
I was nice and relaxed on Thursday and Friday of my trip, the wind was still pushing straight into my swim and there were fish around but they were proving difficult to tempt. Although I’ve mainly concentrated on the dam wall I was busy all week dropping baits into open water areas where I was seeing fish roll, I even tried another swim for a few hours after I saw a couple of lumps roll there. One thing that quickly became apparent was that a lead weight landing in the area the carp were rolling was a killer, every time I tried casting at rolling fish they’d stop and I wouldn’t see them for the rest of the day. I even took to leaving baits in areas I’d seen most fish, in the hope they would come back the next day but even that tactic failed to produce a result.
As I was packing up on Saturday morning I saw a fish roll and I was straight into my Chest Waders so I could cast to it, I didn’t give up trying to the bitter end but I just couldn’t tempt another Acton carp. I was happy with the one I had though, Acton Burnell is a difficult carp water and my week on there had been enlightening to say the least. It had been a while since I’d chased carp that were this wary of anglers and baits. Acton proved to be a tough water and overall I was happy just to bank a fish. Out of the 8 of us that fished the Upper Lake, one guy had more than one fish, 4 of us had one fish each and 3 blanked, coming out second to last in the draw I’m actually surprised I didn’t blank too so I’m well happy with my result and I believe we had a slightly above average week by Acton Burnell standards!.