Reliving fond memories, Rick Hurley talks about the most unique venue he’s ever fished: a river-like lake in the grounds of a palace, where he banked a haul of thirties.

 

I began my quest on a water close to the Thames a couple of years ago, knowing it held a stock of large carp. Somewhat different to the norm and far from the usual deep gravel pits I usually fish, this lake is set in the grounds of a royal palace and is just 20 yards wide but a third of a mile in length – almost like a river, but perfectly straight. It was one of Henry VIII’s first palaces and it’s remarkable that there’s fishing on there at all, albeit confined to daytime sessions and the area is well policed and locked at night.

PIC_01_edited-1.jpg
Rick opened his account with this 22lb common

Fed at one end by the river, at the other, is a set of fountains surrounded by lily pads. It’s probably the most unique venue I’ve ever seen, let alone fished. The water clarity is excellent, and weed growth is abundant. Even when fish were stocked from West Drayton around 10 years ago it didn’t take long for them to adapt to their environment, darken up and become much cleaner, healthier looking fish.

 

“The lake’s cross section is very much like a canal, with shallow ledges on each side with a deeper bowl-shaped channel down the middle – and incredibly uniform along its length.”

 

I actually chose to fish this particular water due to the security – as you can imagine, fishing a park lake in London can be incredibly ‘lively’, but with this lake being on royal grounds it was managed and bailiffed not only by the rangers but the police too. There’s a private golf course on site and it’s surrounded by well-manicured grounds, but with that comes a strict opening and closing time. I’ve nearly been caught out many times due to the fishing being really good the later it got – the man locking the gate was never impressed with the procession of anglers driving out as late as possible, sometimes slightly past the closing time due to fish captures.

ACF_14.jpg
A big old 36lb mirror. Evenings after work proved fruitful for Rick.

I actually chose to fish this particular water due to the security – as you can imagine, fishing a park lake in London can be incredibly ‘lively’, but with this lake being on royal grounds it was managed and bailiffed not only by the rangers but the police too. There’s a private golf course on site and it’s surrounded by well-manicured grounds, but with that comes a strict opening and closing time. I’ve nearly been caught out many times due to the fishing being really good the later it got – the man locking the gate was never impressed with the procession of anglers driving out as late as possible, sometimes slightly past the closing time due to fish captures.

I decided after a few years of dropping on for the odd session to dedicate some proper time to the venue and get a quantity of bait going in regularly. There was an area of reed beds in the centre, which was popular because the fish were often nearby. Choosing to bait with a nice Robin Red fishmeal-based bait, I began feeding an area just away from the reed beds where the fish would almost certainly pass regularly. The June 16th start came round before I knew it and I’d been putting 4kg in every other day for a couple of weeks. Due to the shallow, clear nature of the lake, it was very obvious where I’d been baiting, as the two holes were visible in the weed and notably clear where the fish had been hammering the bait.

At the start of the season, I stayed away, knowing it would be busy. After three months of no anglers, the first few nights were always productive, but I didn’t want the hassle and knew I’d not get near the area I’d baited. Quite a few came out, and some from where I’d been baiting, but that’s the nature of park lakes and something you’ve got to accept.

In July, when I eventually began fishing, the banks were noticeably quieter. I’d get there at 6am and soon discovered that first and last thing were the times to have rods in the water. The gardens became busy with the public in the day and it was almost pointless being there, so I’d fish the evenings until closing. I’d arrive in the afternoon after work and have a good look around. If my rods were in by 6pm I stood a good chance. Bearing in mind that the gates usually closed at 8.30pm, bite times were very localised, and those two-and-a-half hours were all that was needed. The carp seemed very cute too when there were lines in the water but you could take a couple of fish in an evening if you were quiet enough.

PIC_05.jpg
Rick’s target fish, a 40lb chunk, caught through persistent baiting… and the fish kept coming and coming! 

Time and again we were ushered out by security trying to lock the gate, but that late evening window always produced. I wonder how many more we’d have caught if we could have fished on until 10pm. The fish were right on the bait, loving the fishmeal, and it was a tough choice between getting a hit of bait out or packing down in time to leave the car park.

Hooking a fish at 8.15pm was a nightmare – you’d hope not to get locked in as that meant the police coming to ask why you were still there and they were never impressed with your excuses.

I remember one night having a 34lb carp followed by a 33-pounder within 45 minutes. The first one was landed, unhooked in the net, reclipped with a PVA bag attached and back onto the spot. No sooner had the photos been taken than the same rod was off again, resulting in the second fish – it really could be carnage at times.

My pal was 30 yards up the bank sharing much the same success; we’d bait up together quickly, parking between the two spots, split up and rush back to the car to be gone again as soon as possible before getting told off for where we’d parked.

 

Bait For Success

ACF_12.jpg

Consistent baiting after every session established Rick’s bait quickly; as the fish got used to the feed the captures continued to increase.

 

Small mesh bags with little-overweighted pop-ups did the damage for me; as I watched the ferocious feeding of the carp I knew the baits would be lifting and drifting around the swim, I just wanted the pop-up pinned down to make it easier for the fish to locate it. I think the suction power of a carp when it pulls that pop-up in far outweighs the extra weight in the rig. A small gap between the hook and the putty accounted for the slack that allowed the hook to flip and turn inside the carp’s mouth to get better hook-holds.

A 3oz lead set the razor sharp size 8 hook every time and I enjoyed two seasons of very good angling on the lake. In reality, the first season started in July and by the end of October, we’d called it a day. The second season we waited until September and October, knowing that was when it kicked off, but it was a little harder as the lake became much busier, which we hadn’t anticipated. One chap came down with a printed photograph of me holding a fish, and lined it up on the far bank, counting the trees – it was unbelievable, and he even asked my mate if he’d got the right swim and to point the left and right rod spots out.

By the end of the two seasons, I’d banked 18 or 19 different thirties from the lake, which being so close to my home at the time and able to visit for short evening sessions was great. September was definitely the most productive; it really kicked off when they got on the bait and was a very enjoyable place to spend my evenings.

 

“The Carp seemed very cute to when there were lines in the water but you could take a couple of fish in an evening if you were quiet enough”

 

I went on to catch the one I wanted in the second spell, a long, lean 40lb 7oz fish right at the end of my time on there. I did a further few nights banking a few high twenties but called it a day after that. The stockies have all pushed through the ranks now and I’m sure there’d be a lot of big fish in there. The lake opposite, which was always much rougher, less policed and often ‘guested’ overnight, was netted shortly after and plenty of 20lb commons were moved to the long lake in an attempt to stop the illegal fishing over the road, so I can only imagine how good the water is now. Some of the older big, black commons even topped the 30lb mark.

With the nine or 10 originals left, the stockies that adapted to their surroundings and the lovely dark commons from over the road you’re really spoilt for choice and there are three clear stocks of fish to target.

I’d have to say, though, that the highlight of my time on there was that my partner Theresa would sometimes fish with me too. She knows what she’s doing after fishing with me for 10 years, so it was nice to spend time doing what I love with her. She had a couple of the originals out of the venue too, which was great to share with her. We even had a double take once and landed 36lb and 33lb mirrors together. You just can’t buy that.

 

Overweighted Baits

ACF_13.jpg

To account for the heavy feeding and slight flow on the lake, Rick overweighted his hook baits with additional putty to ensure that they stayed stationary, making them much easier to pick up by the fish