After last years social trip to Sandhurst we’d already decided to go somewhere else for this year. After a long look around we decided on Cromwell Lake near Newark, one of the lads made the provisional booking and neither the owner or any of us realised it was Easter weekend until we were into the new year!, I think it must have been the change of calendars at the turn of the year that made the penny drop. For some of the lads it meant a lecture but for me it was a bonus because I didn’t have to book any days off work because it was bank holiday weekend.
I’d never seen Cromwell lake before so I didn’t really know what to expect, I’d started watching the catch updates on facebook to see what was coming out and it certainly seemed to hold some big fish, that was about as far as my homework on the place went and I just figured I’d work the place out when I got there.
I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and had a first look at the lake, by time I’d done one lap prior to the draw I’d come to the conclusion that Cromwell Lake must be one of the best kept lakes in the country, the place was spotless as was the kitchen/lodge and the toilet, I was well impressed, there were albums in the lodge with all the fish in and the stock of big carp was pretty impressive. We were all expecting the fishing to be harder than sandhurst due to less fish per acre and I think this was confirmed by our results from the weekend.
As usual we were having a draw for swims, on the walk around I’d picked out 7 swims that gave access to the middle which is where the fish had been coming from, with 12 in the draw I wasn’t hopeful, if any of you have read the Sandhurst social blogs on here you’ll know my track record in drawing for swims is woeful with last or second to last being my usual trick!, this time I got 6th which I think was my best draw ever. I knew I’d get somewhere half decent but I still had to watch as my top three swims went in the first three balls out. I ended up going for peg 6, it was off the back of the biting north easterly wind that was blowing and the peg was a proper little sun trap, I was sat in a t-shirt sunning myself whilst the guys in 13/14 and 15 opposite were in full winter thermals (lol).
After getting set up I put three Rigs with pva mesh bags out to the middle all baited with nash scopex squid boilies, fish had been coming from the middle and it seemed the best place to start, not having a baited area meant I could move each rod as and when I saw fish. Conditions were pretty rubbish, that cold easterly wind was accompanied by a bright blue sky and as I sat watching the water I had a pretty good idea we’d struggle, looking at the weather forecast I figured it would kick off properly after the conditions changed, which would be after we left!.
Mid afternoon Nathan the owner came round and I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about my swim, the answer I got back was a surprise, ‘great zig swim’ he said, he recommended putting all 3 rods on 10ft yellow Zigs day and night!. I was sceptical about the advice I must admit but around 4pm that afternoon the lads on my bank all began to notice the dark shapes just under the surface at a range of about 70-80 yards. With Nathan’s words fresh in my mind I was first to change, I pulled in two rods and set them up with 10 foot Drennan Double Strength hooklinks and Yellow Rig Foam as bait. I’m a big fan of zigs anyway and after a slow start with them I’ve developed great confidence in them over the last few years. 70-80 yards was a little too far for the adjustable so I had to cast my 10ft hooklengths with the bait on the ground as I cast, to stop tangles I put a couple of pop ups in some PVA Mesh to give the hookbait enough weight not to tangle, this worked well and I dispatched two yellow zigs out to the fish.
I made myself a brew then took my little chair to sit in the nearest shade I could find, by now that sun was getting really hot and I could feel my face starting to burn. I’d only just sat down when one of the Delkims bleeped then went into full warble mode as one of the zigs was away!. I pulled into the fish and sure enough it kicked back then started to go deep. I kept the rod up and slowly made progress bringing the carp in. I must say these Cromwell carp fight really well and the water is gin clear, once you get them close in you can clearly see what you’ve got and watch every twist and turn as they try to escape. My carp didn’t want to give up, every time I got it close to the net it would power off but eventually I won out and I had the privilege of landing the first carp of the social. Cromwell Lake provide Landing Nets, Mats and weigh Slings for you which is handy, I had some help from a few mates on the point swim to my left so we made short work of weighing my first Cromwell carp, a nicely coloured mirror weighing 16lb 4oz.
Not long after I banked the first fish of the social one of my mates on the point to my left was into a fish on a bottom bait from the middle, he landed a 19.04 mirror then promptly followed it up with a lovely 26.12 mirror. This left me with a dilemma, do I got all out on the zigs or keep faith with fishing on the bottom?. I chose to compromise leaving one out on a zig all night with two pva bags in the middle. I blanked that night but I did take note of some carp showing closer in, it looked like I had over cast them and they were closer to me than I realised. In the morning I switched all 3 rods to zigs and left them out all day for no reward. It remained stubbornly cloudy most of the day and although the sun did come out later on Saturday afternoon I had a feeling it was too late to help with the zig fishing. Saturday evening we phoned out for pizza and I went round to the point swim next door were there was a picnic bench, after a 12” peperoni, fries and a coke I was completely stuffed!, during our little social my mate James added to his two fish with a lovely 29.15 mirror, how’s that for honesty!.
I returned to my swim with an hour or two of light left, after nothing on the zigs I was switching back to fishing on the bottom for the last night. The area I focused on was where the carp had showed as it was getting dark the night before, casting was tricky because the sun was right in my eyes as it was going down over the far bank but I managed to cover the area ok, left hand rod was bang on the money, middle rod a few yards further out and the right a few yards further again, I pretty much staggered the rods across this area then got to work with my new Carbon Throwing Stick. I’ve already had a bad case of boilie arm from an old king cobra throwing stick years ago, it was so bad I haven’t used a stick for around 4-5 years now but I borrowed a carbon throwing stick a few weeks back and it was incredibly light and so good I went straight out and bought one!. If you've ever had tennis elbow and been subject to physio or cortisone injections these carbon throwing sticks are just what you need and I'd highly recommend them, if you've had the injury it will help your baiting no end and if you've been lucky enough to avoid the dreaded 'boilie arm' a carbon stick will help stop you getting it. I used mine to put out around 100 baits across all 3 rods so I had a lightly baited area with my 3 scopex squid hookbaits in amongst this scattering of freebies.
As the sun dropped a carp showed over my left hand rod, half an hour later a big fish pushed out vertical on the same spot, that was a biggie and a proper feeding roll if ever there was one!. I was expecting a run but it never came and sunset eventually turned to darkness. I got my head down and was woken around 2am by a run on that left hand rod, I’ve switched reels and I now use shimano ci4 ultegra reels, they don’t have a baitrunner facility so I had to cup the spool to strike then tighten the clutch which I did pretty much in one movement. My rod took on a nice curve and it quickly became clear there was a decent lump on the other end. In the deep water of Cromwell it took me a good 20 minutes to get the fish to the net, most of the time I had no idea where the fish was as it was pitch black, only when it surfaced in front of me did I get my bearings and once I knew where the carp was I had no trouble keeping it under control, a few minutes later I slipped the net under what I thought was a good 20. I switched on my Head Torch to have a quick look and upped my guess to high 20. I was well happy with this fish, in the run up to Cromwell I’d already added a new lake to my list of waters I’ve banked 20lb+ carp from in the UK and Cromwell had just become number 22.
I secured the net with a bankstick and popped round to the point to enlist some help, as an angler who doesn’t night fish very much I thought it would be easier with an extra pair of hands specially as the fish had taken out one of my other rods. Luckily hooky was awake and he made short work of untangling my rig, I’d have struggled on my own as I need glasses to tie and undo knots these days so his help was greatly appreciated. We set up the mat, scales and camera again and weighed my mirror in at 31lb 2oz, what a bonus, my first trip to Cromwell Lake and I managed to bank one of the thirties. I watched hooky do the pics of James’ 29.15 at pizza time earlier so I just gave him my Camera, those who know me will be very surprised about that, I use a flip screen and nobody takes my pics but me normally, I’ve had too many pics ruined in the past by trusting other people but watching someone with a camera in their hand you get a good idea of what they are like and I was happy to cede control of my pics to him as he had a very good eye for the job and bags of experience. I must say he did a cracking job too, thanks mate.
With the pics finished we gave the fish the once over, what looked like a missing scale on one shoulder was an old injury that looked like it was healing and apart from that the fish was mint, there was no mouth damage at all which is a rare thing on a heavily fished day ticket carp fishery these days. In fact all the lads that caught on the social were impressed with the condition of the Cromwell carp myself included. Being pitch black and unable to see much at all, recasting was just a case of a couple of pub chucks to the same area, once the rods were out I went back to bed. I was awake at first light and I thought about recasting them but decided to roll over and go back to sleep, I wasn’t too bothered after banking that 30 so my work ethic went straight out of the window.
No more fish came my way and I packed up just before midday on Sunday. I’d enjoyed my first 48hrs at Cromwell Lake, the lake itself is really nice and very well kept. The stock of fish is second to none with around 250 carp in 18 acres. Around 50 of those carp are thirties with around six or seven forties present. It is certainly one of the premier day ticket carp waters in the country and a credit to its current owner Nathan who keeps the place spotlessly clean. We’ll certainly be going back for another social and I might drop on under a day ticket now and again when I have some time off. Unlike the more heavily stocked and easier Sandhurst, not everyone caught fish this year, out of the 12 of us who went, 11 fish were banked, two were over 30 with the biggest being a cracking 37lb+ mirror to one of my mates who was fishing opposite me, 4 fish were doubles and the rest were decent twenties, we thought that was pretty good considering the biting easterly wind and bright conditions, how does the saying go?, when the winds from the east, the fish bite least?.