Jerry Hammond recalls an awesome spring session on Colne Valley water Thorney Weir, where close-quarters fishing was the key to success.
As far as I was concerned I’d had a great start to 2016, when in January I fished my own Brooke Lake and was made up with the capture of a 40lb common, along with four other carp, in freezing conditions.
As March was drawing to an end, I was sensing that the carp were waking up and spring was imminent. My good friend Dave Vaughn runs the Thorney Weir complex, and over the years I have fished Thorney and the other beautiful lake there, The Mets.
A floppy-tailed fully from the narrow channel of Thorney Weir.
Both hold absolutely stunning carp. So my plan was to try and catch one or two of these incredible fish before I moved on to one of my target waters for the new season ahead. On previous early season trips to Thorney, a very good area to concentrate on is the narrow channel that leads into the main bulk of the lake. It’s more or less like fishing a river when your set up, and it takes a little getting used to, but this area can be ever so productive.
A blue rope was across the width of this tree-lined channel 100 yards from a bridge to stop the angling going any further. Aptly named The Blue Rope swim, in years gone by it has made many anglers’ dreams come true with some magnificent captures of some of Colne Valley’s finest carp.
Beyond the blue rope the snags got worse and this area became a safe holding area in the colder months. The fish were left in safety away from the cold winter winds on the main part of the lake. So, as you can imagine, when they wake from their slumber they will start to venture back out along the channel, making it a fantastic ambush area.
Work had been undertaken in the area below The Blue Rope to clear the snags and open up another two swims just before the bridge. This didn’t bother the fish in any way because they simply moved further down the channel under the bridge to more snags.
The new swims had been fished a few times with some nice fish being caught, so I planned to try my luck and get a chance in one of the channel swims. Thorney is a day ticket, so you can’t really predict where you want to fish until you arrive.
As I pulled into the fishery, the swim I fancied was already occupied by two bivvies, with three rods each. All my plans were already slipping away. I noticed someone awake in the swim so I parked up and went to investigate.
The lads were away between 10am and midday, so I left my bucket and headed off to chuck the rods out for a few hours on the main part of the lake.
They left at noon and I was soon set up and thinking about my tactics for my two nights ahead.
The obvious spots to fish were across to the other bank, where there were some overhanging bushes and a few snags; nice little bits of cover for the fish as they moved up and down the channel. While I was setting up I’d seen the coots picking up baits, which told me where the other guys had been fishing. Because the bait was still there, a straightforward boilie approach was not to be my tactic.
I’d around half a gallon of maggots and some corn. I hoped this would get them to drop and feed. I also crumbled up half a kilo of Mad Baits Wicked Whites boilies and added couple of handfuls of 10mm baits for good measure. Rigwise, it was a lead clip and tubing, about nine inches of Avid Pindown hook link, a size 8 Mugga hook tied up blow-back style with a ring on the shank. I had some 12mm Wicked Whites hook baits to go on the hair, capped off with a buoyant piece of plastic maize. This made the hook bait lighter and more effective.
Apart from a few little bubblers during the afternoon, there weren’t any real signs of fish present but I was sure they were around; they had to be. I was able to cross the bridge further down and creep along the opposite bank and bait two spots with a few handfuls of my mixture.
One spot was just under a canopy of branches that overhung the water. From my side there was a little gap that I would hopefully be able to underarm cast my rig into. The other rod was to be placed further left to the other side of the canopy.
To both rods I attached a small PVA bag of maggots. I was worried that if I had a fish on the left rod it would take out my right one, so I decided to fish a back lead under the rod tip of the right-hand rod.
As night-time approached it started to get really cold. I was only under the brolly so I retreated to my old sleeping bag. After an hour or so on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I went out like a light.
The next thing I knew I was being woken in the early hours by the left-hand rod being bent right round to the left. The clutches were tight so I could not afford to give them anything. I swept the rod round to my right and held with a full bend until I felt the fish begrudgingly start to come my way. Once it did I was more in control and soon had the fish ready for netting. I must have attempted to net it three or four times but for some reason I just could not get it in. I began to think I was going lose it and it would be my fault. When I did net it (thankfully) I saw the reason why. There was a fairly big branch on the line that the fish must have swam through and this was stopping me getting it in the net.
Pleased to eventually land this fish, after all the excitement I noticed that a frost was forming. I grabbed my hoodie and headtorch to check out the fish and saw what looked like a nice old mirror of at least 30lb plus. “Fantastic, that’ll do,” I said to myself. I wet the retainer weigh sling and zeroed the scales. The mirror was a lovely old looking fish and weighed 34lb.
The full moon was beaming down on my swim, and an eerie fog started to rise from the water. I was just about able to recast the rod to the same spot. The mirror was okay all settled in the retainer, so I hopped back in the bag; it was freezing.
I’d barely warmed up, and was just drifting back off, when the same rod signalled another take. Once again I held the rod at its full curve to the right until the fish surrendered and came my way. With no branches attached I landed it at the first attempt.
With not too long until daylight, I slipped a lovely mid-twenty linear into a sack on an extension lead into the deep margin.
A scale-perfect zip linear. Jerry was in his element.
What a good night this was turning out to be. My method of maggots and crumbled bait was definitely getting them to drop and feed.
Unfortunately, I lost a fish not long after recasting that same rod again. It simply fell off, probably just lightly hooked.
Daybreak revealed a very frosty morning. Everything was frozen and my landing net was solid ice.
My concern now was that there were no anglers about to help out with the pics. The fish were fine but I like to get them back as quickly as possible.
I made a well-deserved strong coffee, the sun was out and it was a fine morning indeed. As I sipped the first drop of coffee the same rod was away again. Unbelievable; I was loving it.
After a good tussle under the rod tip I landed a cracking fully scaled mirror and I was able to safely unhook it in the net. I’d just put the rod out of harm’s way when the one remaining rod tip pulled over with another bite.
This was now serious because I would have to land this fish in the same net; what else could I do? Without any trouble I soon had a twenty common sitting alongside the fully. I immediately called the live-in bailiff, Mark, on his mobile to come and assist me because I was in need of some help.
He soon arrived to help sort out the carnage. There were nets, slings and all sorts all about the swim, a sure sign of a good night’s angling.
All the fish were absolutely stunning. There is something about them; they really are unique. They were carefully looked after on the bank and soon set free once again.
Because I still had a night to go I decided to rest the swim during the day. Dave Vaughn came to see me and we went for a walk around The Mets Lake, another water I really like. I wish just there was more time.
Without question, I would use the same tactics as the previous night and hope for more action. I once again crept around the opposite bank and fed my spots and I was soon settled down reading my book.
I woke a couple of times during the night thinking that setting up an extra landing net was being way too optimistic.
Keeping to just two rods ensured disturbance was kept to a minimum.
At around 5am at least one was feeding because the next thing I new I was doing battle once again. This one fought very hard and gave a good scrap. Once safely in the net I shone my headtorch on the most beautiful heavily scaled mirror. I was made up with that one and as far as I was concerned it capped off a fantastic little session.
Dave was on site and said that if I had any more I was to call him at first light and he’d come and do my pics.
I recast the rod and put the kettle on and text Dave. It was beginning to get light and I could not wait to see that scaly mirror again.
True to his word, Dave arrived and we drank more coffee waiting just a little longer for some good light levels. Unbelievably, the left rod pulled round tight again with yet again another fish on. Dave took control of the net and during the fight I was able to see what looked like a zip linear and so it was. Yet again another truly stunning fish was netted. I was standing there with Dave, both admiring this beauty, and, would you believe it, the other rod pulled over on the back lead and the tip pinged back up. I wound down a bit and lifted into another carp. I was laughing to myself; this was great.
So in the end I was right to set up the other net. Another nicely scaled mirror of around mid-twenties was landed and we both stood staring at two nets containing two stunners and one in the retainer. How’s yer luck?
Dave and Mark took some great shots, so thanks to them. What a fantastic session, with eight bites – six twenties and a 34-pounder. I could not have asked for a better trip. Thorney Weir and The Mets are both open as day-ticket waters and both brilliant. Check them out on Facebook and go and catch yourself some Colne Valley beauties.