Dan Taylor notched up an incredible three UK fifties in 2015, but with one session of his year remaining, he was surprised by the outcome.


After an incredible spring and summer, it was time to get some winter fishing going. However, due to work commitments and birthday parties I struggled to get out on the bank.

I didn’t get out for six weeks but I was seeing lots of big carp being caught on social media and I knew I had to make the most of the mild weather.

I had three nights booked with a friend to have a little social and enjoy some bank time in good company. Looking at the long-range weather forecast, I knew I had to get down to the Essex Manor. The weather meant that the fish would still be up for a feed, so I grovelled with my mate to let me off the hook, with a view to arranging the social at a later date. I wanted a last-minute whacker before the close of 2015.

PIC 02 ACF March 16
With the spots on the Manor being very localised it paid off to have some areas already marked

I booked a couple of nights from Boxing Day onwards. So once all the festivities were done I got an early night and set my alarm for silly o’clock.

I knew a rough area to target because it had a good track record for winter bites. Carp are creatures of habit, so I knew that I had a good shout fishing this area.

I was on the road by 5am and hoping to pull up in the car park and find it empty.

My hoping and praying was obviously heard because there was just one van at the lake. I grabbed my water bottle and went up the path hoping that the swim I had in my mind wasn’t taken. I was buzzing when I dropped the bottle in The End Pads and I knew I had a good chance.

The Manor is such a busy lake and there are some awesome anglers on there. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves. If you look at rod hours to fish caught you would be very surprised. With every angler being on the ball, you have to up your game and get among them. My friend, Steve Sinclair, coined the phrase: “You’re either first or last” on account of you having to be the angler who makes the effort to move in the early hours to catch.

I loaded up the barrow and pushed it to the swim. The five-minute trip was a warm one and by the time I got there I was down to a T-shirt.

I waited until the light improved before casting out and at around 8am I walked round to a set of reeds that run up the end bank. From here you can see the entire lake and it provides a great vantage point. There was coloured water right in the corner and I reasoned that the lack of nuisance fish in the Manor and the low bird activity meant it could only be one thing – carp.

I went back to the swim, grabbed a couple of handfuls of bait and walked back to the area. There is a little cut-through in the reeds that allows you to go down to the water’s edge. It was from here that I spread the baits one by one along the margin. It was a mixture of The Key and Amber Choc boilies.

PIC 03 ACF March 16
A handful of bait spread up the margins was all that was needed to get a bite

I went back to the swim and rigged up the rods. Having fished the Manor for a few years I have a lot of the spots recorded on my phone and I wrapped the rods with a view to getting the baits on the mark with minimal disturbance. Even though the lake is so small the spots can be very localised, so my groundwork with the marker and lead is invaluable.

I tied up three fresh Nash white Citruz pop-ups on my favourite multi-rig presentation and flicked three rods on spots with good firm drops. It had taken me just 30 minutes from the light peaking over the trees.

PIC 04 ACF March 16
A bright white Citruz pop-up on Dan’s favoured multi rig was the ideal presentation

I was making my first cup of tea and scanning the water for more signs when the rod let out two beeps. I was positioned on a high bank looking down at the rods when I noticed the bobbin had pulled to the top. I walked down to the rod and took a look at the water to check for any birds in the area and when the line pinged out the clip I knew that it was a fish. I bent into the first bite just 45 minutes after casting out. Straightaway I was met with a heavy weight. After a few minutes it tried to kite into the reeds but with gentle persuasion I got the fish away from the area and managed to play it slowly into the bank with it using all its weight to resist. I was happy to have got a bite on Boxing Day. I saw its head roll on the surface and spied the two-tone marking of Stella. It looked huge and I walked straight into the water, boots and all, and engulfed it in the net first time. I had been fishing for an hour – three casts with three fresh baits and I had landed my first carp of the session.

It looked to be in fine condition since its last capture and even looked to have put a little weight on.

I called my mate, Grant, to help with the photos. He had caught another big fish called George’s from the lake a couple of weeks previous and remarked that Stella looked bigger.

PIC 07 ACF March 16
Due to the distinctive ton-tone marking, Stella is easy to identify

I hoisted her up in the sling and with Grant’s help we walked her up the steep bank onto the flat area at the top. We rolled her onto her side and she looked massive and in great condition, having not been caught for six months. We held her up for weighing and Grant read out the weight of 51lb 12oz – a new UK PB mirror and my fourth fifty of the year from two different waters. I was blown away; it was a dream come true.

PIC 06 ACF March 16
A boxing Day brute for Dan, after just 45 minutes of fishing, proof that keen watercraft and observation can lead to quick results

I had another two nights to go so I got the rig back out and baited with another 20 baits and sat back. The weather got really cold after this, so I sat in the swim wrapped up in full winter clothing, a far cry from the hours previous. I still felt like another chance could be had, so I kept the bait going in little and often, walking round to the spot and spreading 10 baits up the margin every few hours.

Twenty-four hours had passed so I recast all my rods with fresh pop-ups. It was around 8am once the recasts were done and I had noticed that a lot of bites had been during the day, so I wanted to get them set for the daylight hours.

At 3.15pm I was alerted to a couple of beeps, so I ran down to the rod as it buckled in the rests. Straightaway it kited into the reeds. Steady pressure helped release it from the confines of the stems and I was soon back in contact with a big carp. Once out in open water its fighting spirit didn’t abate as it repeatedly performed surging runs into deep water. When I finally got it on the surface I noticed the scales and knew again which fish it was as The Northern Linear bobbed up. My legs were shaking as I guided her to the net. What a special moment.

I was ecstatic with the result and I couldn’t have asked for a better two nights’ fishing. On the mat, she looked pristine in her winter colours. At 42lb 12oz I was buzzing but I really wasn’t worried about the weight because it’s a fish I have dearly wanted to catch since I joined the Manor. Four fifties and 10 forties in a season is a figure I could only have dreamed of.

PIC 09 ACF March 16
Baiting little and often paid off 24 hours later with another target. The northern Linear at 42lb 12oz; what a session!

I packed up with my mind absolutely blown. I am now buzzing for 2016 – if it brings a fraction of the success of 2015 I’ll be satisfied.