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South West Memories.
23 Mar 2019 at 1.45pm
In reply to Post #400
The bait that had done so well on College had not been used to any great extent on other venues so I began slipping a few kilos into the lake on a regular basis and in June '87 I finally got around to fishing there again. Carole and I spent hours making thousands of 8mm boiled baits using the smallest Gardner Rollaball. The bait was as follows:
7oz rennet casein
3oz egg albumin
1oz Davina Body Build
0.5ml N-butyric acid
15ml Liquid Liver
scald for 15 seconds.
I suppose we must have made up about four dozen mixes with which to prebait the lake with the new HNV, which was introduced in just two areas; the Aquarium one of my favourite fish-watching spots, a swim beneath a drooping willow tree, close to the inlet at the opposite end of the lake. By the time I came to fish the lake at the end of June '87 it was clear that the fish were going ape over the baits. It seemed a strong possibility that the biggest fish in the lake would fall to my attack sooner rather than later, and so it proved one glorious summer's morning. This is the story…
I arrived at the lake around noon and I had the lake to myself. There was no one else fishing, but the weed looked to be almost insurmountable. In fact, only the two prebaited swims were still fishable and those only in the margins where you could see that the bait was in the clear. In the prebaited swims the fish had created dinner plates, patches of gravel, scoured clear of silt. These proved that the carp had cleaned up the baits I had been introducing and as I crept into the swim under the willows, I felt pretty confident.
A couple of handfuls of mini boilies went in and I sat back to watch events unfold. Eventually, a few fish came ghosting out of the thickest weed and quickly cleared up the free offerings. I hadn't cast in as yet, but now I got
the float gear ready and dropped it in the margins, the float right up against the bank, almost touching it. The hookbait, a string of mini-baits threaded on to sewing cotton and attached to the eye of the hook, was no more than four or five inches from the edge. There were no further introductions of freebies, all there was left in the swim was the hookbait. As I watched Daddy came into the swim, swam straight up to the hookbait and sucked it in. A hectic fight followed in which the fish snagged me twice. Twice I started to strip off to go in for it and twice the fish came free. Eventually, the fish slipped over the net cord and he was mine. He weighed 26lb l4oz and was at the time, my second heaviest fish.
The year continued to smile on us and a few samples of essential oils arrived from Tim and Bill Cottam, prior to the launch of Nutrabaits. These would produce a string of nice fish from Salamander before the end of the year. 8mm Hi-Nu-Val combined with the essential oils worked a treat and accounted for just about every carp in the lake that summer. Indeed, at one point we had them queuing up for more!
23 Mar 2019 at 1.43pm
In reply to Post #399
In the three to four years that followed, I spent less time at Salamander than before. College had become my number one venue and Salamander was relegated to become simply a water where I might while away the odd hour or two in the evening. College was definitely a session water and I didn't think that Salamander would respond to session fishing. However, it would not be long before I was proved wrong in this assumption.
My occasional forays to Salamander Lake, fitted in between work and two or three day trips to College, were rewarding enough but with disappointing success compared to the early days. A few guys had begun session fishing the lake on a regular basis, among them was Tony Chipman, a committee member of Roche A.C. who very kindly showed me his spots on Rashleigh on my first visit. It was Tony who stirred my interest in the lake again when he caught Daddy at over 24lb during his winter-long campaign. Here's Tony in action.
I had never given too much thought to my presentation. I was convinced that simple, six inch Dacron rigs, using the tag of hooklink material passed through the eye to form the hair were all that was needed.
However, that summer I began a fishing one specific area of the lake where the weed was thickets. Here the best tactic was to fish a single hookbait over a carpet of hemp. The swims I fished were shallow and the water still clear so it was very easy to observe carp and their reactions to baiting situations and to rigs in general. I was shocked when I watched the Salamander carp suck in and then reject my simple Dacron rigs without so much as a bleep or a rattle of the rod tip, I knew I had to put my thinking cap on again.
After a great deal of frustration messing about with tubes and silicone and other rig gizmos I realised that there was no rig better suited to margin fishing than the simple float fishing tactic I had used to fish in the edge on most of my earliest trips to the lake. My reliance on the dominant high-tech aspect of modern carp fishing had blinded me to the fact that simplicity usually brings its own rewards.
In 1987, 1 started using the high protein bait I had been using on College. It was a highly experimental bait, based on the milk protein HNV approach and was, in fact, the prototype of the enzyme-based bait that Tim Paisley had worked on over the years. Carole and I were the only carp anglers in the south west to be on the bait, though other anglers throughout the country were field testing the radical idea in preparation for a commercial launch of the base and the enzymes, along with a range of the then only whispered about essential oils and other enhancers, stimulators and amino acid preparations.
The bait I was using would become Hi-Nu-Val, the enzymes and other enhancers would be named the Addits. The bait, the additives and the essential oils Tim and Bill Cottam were playing with were set to change the way carp anglers think about flavour compounds for ever. Nutrabaits was still several years away, but the bait was one that Carole and I used to catch over two hundred College fish in both 1985 and 1986.
The summer of '87 saw me putting in the hours at Salamander for the first time. I'd been on College for the past four years and to be honest I was getting a bit fed up with the place. I felt like a new challenge and Salamander would do nicely.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.47pm
In reply to Post #398
However, there was a bait freak burgeoning inside me bursting to get out, so while we were on a roll, I changed the bait! (Yes, that makes a lot of sense, Ken!). I switched the Nectarblend for another Haith's product, P.T.X. and switched flavour from banana to cinnamon oil, which I bought from a local health food store. Apparently it was used as a calming vapour rub, or some such nonsense. I used it at 2ml per 500g and it reeked! The new bait worked equally as well and it didn't take a genius to figure out that it was the Robin Red and the lower flavour levels that were doing all the damage.
Throughout the year I divided my time between Rashleigh and Salamander, really piling in the Robin Red bait and reaping the rewards, In November, I caught Big Daddy again, this time at 201b 4oz, the first authentic capture of a twenty from the water. The big fish definitely had the taste for the Robin Red bait by now, for I caught him again a few months late, up in weight a fair bit. He obviously liked his boilies.
Most of the fish were growing steadily but were, at the same time, becoming more and more crafty. The next year was definitely The Year of the Floater. The duck problem was nothing like as bad as it is today, so I was able to get away with prebaiting and fishing with free offerings, in my book, virtually indispensable for successful floater fishing. The carp in Salamander quickly wised up to floaters and stopped taking them altogether after a couple of years but to start with they were just silly for them. The bait I favoured was Purina Dairy Dinner, a hoop shaped biscuit, coated in a lovely, sweet smelling, milky powder that the carp adored. Rig? Dead complicated; I threaded four on to the nylon hooklink greased with Mucilin, the stuff in the little round red tin. Here's Daddy (I think) snaffling down floaters, Chum Mixers in this case, a few years later.
At one stage, I thought I had caught every fish in the lake, but a subsequent comparison of photos with Ian showed that I had missed out on three that he had caught but I hadn't. However, as I'd had nineteen different fish we were able to revise upwards slightly our estimate of the number of fish in the pool. Two memorable sessions stand out in my mind. The first was the first day of a week off sick following an operation - the unkindest cut of all! - and with stitches still healing in a tender place, I spent a hectic evening at the pool, taking three fish in an hour off the top. One of the trio proved to be a right mug for floaters as I caught the fish four times during the year, each time on the same bait and presentation. Apologies for the Billingsgate shot.
The other capture that stands out in my memory involves the first ever capture of the fish that came to be known as Carole's Pet. I was building most of my own rods at the time on Sportex and North Western blanks. I had just finished the whippings on a new S.S.5 that I had been building and outside, the weather looked perfect for floater fishing, but I had no suitable light floater rods, having stripped down my entire collection for rebuilding. With the varnish still drying on the SS 5, I took it to Salamander and had The Pet on the bank within five minutes of arriving at the lake. Little did I know that I would not see that fish fall to my rod again for another seven years. In the meantime, Carole caught it over and over again, repeatedly stuffing the capture up my nose and earning the fish its well deserved nickname. My first encounter with the carp soon to become known as Carole's Pet.
More ancient history to come...
19 Mar 2019 at 3.43pm
In reply to Post #397
"I thought you said you were going to use toffee", said John, who had been putting a six egg mix in a day.
"Coffee, you prat!" I replied.
Coffee, Toffee, Schmoffee! They don't seem to care much either way, John joked as his bait was virtually taken on the drop! Soon one of my rods was away to a nice double. It was the first capture of Clover, the lovely near-pure leather with the clover leaf pattern on its flank. The fish weighed just over 18lb.
Unknown to us at the time, another carp man was fishing the lake, a guy called Ian Johnson. Ian lived close to the lake and every lunchtime he would stroll down to the lake and fish freelined bread flake to rest on the top of the weed. In fact, Ian had been fishing the lake since the fish first went in and had probably caught most of the lakes carp when they were mere babies. Now he was catching regularly on the most simple tactics.
We often bumped into each other and were able to compare catches and start building a more precise picture of the lake and its carp in our minds. Ian was keen to try the obviously successful rig and bait John and I had been using but, at the time, the rig was definitely still on the secret list and, much as I liked Ian, I wasn't about to give away my edge. I did give him the recipe for the bait however, and he caught a carp of just over nineteen pounds on a lump of freelined paste.
This fish was not Big Daddy but another fish that was destined for local fame and fortune, a fat, yet very pretty carp that we nicknamed Gutbucket. This meant that we now had two fish approaching twenty pounds in the pond and, judging from Ian's catches and those of John and myself, it looked as if there were perhaps eighteen to twenty sizeable fish in the lake.
With hindsight, it is obvious that our rather haphazard attitude to flavours and flavour levels would start to work against us in time, but we were way too inexperienced to realise this at the time. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the carp began to get rather wary of small red balls of food emitting a wide variety of unnatural pongs, and a return to a particle approach was only temporarily successful. It was time to find out more about bait and bait science in order to get more out of the obvious potential of boiled baits.
At the end of 1980, I pulled off Salamander in favour of a local club water, Wheal Rashleigh, belonging to Roche AC and it was on this water that I refined the basic bait and flavour. There was no doubt that Robin Red had considerable long-term pulling power and I enjoyed considerable success on the lake, still using a fairly simple recipe, but with a lower level of just two flavours, cinnamon and banana, both from Rod Hutchinson. The bait was a simple variation of the original with slightly elevated levels of Robin Red. It was 6oz Nectarblend, 2oz Robin Red, 2oz Gluten plus 3ml of the flavour blend and 5ml of Hermesetas. This bait was readily devoured in great quantity by the Rashleigh fish and it accounted for the largest mirror and the largest common in the lake on my first visit, both taken within half and hour of each other! This is the big mirror a fabled old warrior soon to be christened Busted Tail by the growing carp fishing fraternity in the Club.
Reading up about baits suggested that a dollop of a sophisticated milk protein would improve the bait no end, and one of the whispers suggested Casilan, a baby food. This was actually calcium caseinate, a refined variant of rennet casein. In for a penny…I bunged in four ounces of the stuff for good measure! Soon my little red balls became the going bait on both Rashleigh and Salamander.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.42pm
In reply to Post #396
From then on, my love affair with the pool was sealed. The big fish cast its own unique spell on me, a spell that lasts to this day and one that will continue to last while the great carp remains in the pool. Sadly, and I hate to say so, given the sad state of carp fishing in the area at the present time, his days may be numbered and then the pool will be destroyed for ever as far as I am concerned.
(Remember, this was written in about 1995.)
The two fish on particles really stirred me up, so much so, that I even skipped work a few times, much to the anger of the skipper of the trawler I was working on. Then he too became captivated by the carp in the little pond and we both skived off from time to time. We were fishing commercially on the wrecks of the English Channel, off the Cornish coast, but when bad weather put paid to a salt water trip, it was the fresh, bubbling, stream-fed water of Salamander Lake that drew to its banks both me and John Affleck, my skipper and a tench and carp angler of some renown from the early days of Kent and Home Counties carping.
The first boiled bait I used was the brilliant Robin Red/Nectarblend/Wheat Gluten recipe that was being used by many of the more successful up-country anglers. It was flavoured with any of the original Hutchinson flavours such as Scopex, Enigma, Mystere and his original Cinnamon, which was brilliant. We all worked on ten-ounce mixes back then…not sure why! The exact recipe if I remember rightly was 7oz Nectarblend, 2oz Wheat Gluten and 1oz Robin Red. Four size 2 eggs plus 10ml flavour (how much!) and 5ml liquid Hermesetas. Boil for 2 minutes then dry for 24 hours.
It was 1980 and the hair rig was still a well-kept secret, especially in my part of the world. Luckily, I knew all about it, thanks to Speedy, and I was going to make the most of it! Being so new to the whole field of flavours and base mixes, I dived into the complex minefield with a will, and no flavour or combination of flavours was safe in my bait kitchen. Those poor old carp in Salamander didn't know what to expect next, as they were bombarded with a steady stream of red boiled baits flavoured with coffee, banana, toffee, chocolate, Green Zing, and permutations of some, or all, of the above. It says much for their initial naiveté that they gobbled them all up, regardless of the smell or taste.
In the early days, the lake was about eight feet deep at the dam end, and even where the stream entered the lake you could find five or six feet on either side of a prominent bar of silt and gravel, carried down by winter floods and deposited in the lake in a long finger-like feature that drew cam to it like bees to a honey pot. The water over the top of the bar was only some two or three feet deep and, on hot summer evenings, you could see fish clearly as they swirled and bow waved on the bar. It was here that John and I began to fish boilies for the first time.
It was late summer, another hot and still August evening when we set up one rod each at the inlet end of the lake. The Robin Red boiled bait had been going in for a week or so to get them used to the shape and smell of the bait but, as we found out later, John and I had been baiting up with different flavours, the exercise was probably futile.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.41pm
In reply to Post #395
That summer, I visited my good friend the late, and deeply missed, Trevor Housby. Each summer, Trev and I would spend a week or more, lost among the streams and backwaters of the Test and the Avon, fishing for trout and grayling, or on one of the club lakes near Ringwood, fishing for pike. The river at Christchurch was our Mecca for barbel and chub and we would spend patient hours stalking the few really big fish that inhabited the lower end of the Parlour Pool or The Compound. This odd looking pike took a chunk of luncheon meant ledgered for barbel under the wires of the Parlour Pool's pump hose outlet.
Me and Bill also joined the river syndicate run by Tom Williams on the Longford Estate in Wiltshire (Remember My River in the Angling Times?). What a laugh we had on there. Mile and miles of the R Avon and it's streams and backwaters, two weirpools, a pump house and eel trap, several white water runs with deep pools between. It was bliss. We mainly fished for chub and barbel but the roach fishing was out of this world as was the perch fishing. I think this is a nice chub but it's also a lousy photo.
During one particular visit, I told Trevor about the lake I had discovered and of the carp that I suspected now to weigh close to twenty pounds. I had no proper carp gear of my own, having sold my entire range of tackle in 1973, so Trev gave me a pair of North Westerns - AC7's I think they were - and suggested I give them a try. Bill had shown me the rig; I'd picked up enough about using particles and the basics of boiled baits on our trips to the syndicate water; Trev had given me the rods; I already had a pair of Mitchell 300 reels. I was half way towards becoming a carp angler again, all I needed now was a few carp under my belt.
Our summer days at Ockenham Lake, the syndicate water that Bill and I fished, were very laid back affairs It was predominantly particle fishing there in those days, using flavoured black-eyed beans, free-lined on a size two hook right in the margins. Very exciting fishing and a method that cried out to be tried at Salamander. So armed with a bucket of blackies, one of Trev's North Westerns and a trusty 300 loaded with new eight pound line I arrived at Salamander.
The swans and ducks that would, one day, become a nightmare as the water silted up, had yet to put in an appearance, so I was able to bait up a couple of patches in the margins and, because of the clarity of the water and the bright colour of the bait, could watch the carp as they moved in to sample the scattering of little white beans. The first carp I caught out of Salamander was a pure leather of just over eight pounds. I watched it pick up the bait in just four feet of water, less than a foot off the bank. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my body, so hard was it thumping and racing, its hammer-beat pounding in my ears as the carp first mouthed, then sucked in the bait. The scrap was hectic and equally heart-stopping in the weedy water, but I won in the end.
That little fish grew to become one of a famous trio of leathers in the pool. At the time, I did not know it, but the little eight pounder had a bigger brother so inevitably in time they would become known as Little and Large. There was another leather in there that we later caught and named he Clover thanks to a clover leaf scale grouping on her right flank. Her back and left flank were quite nude so I guess you could say she was an almost-leather.
I returned to the lake three days later and, using identical tactics, caught the now famous Big Daddy at approximately eighteen pounds. I have to say approximately, as I didn't have scales with me nor did I have a sack so the fish was guesstimated.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.39pm
In reply to Post #394
I also spent a lot of my free time on the rivers of Hampshire and Dorset trotting for the most part, for roach and chub, though I also did my fair share of grayling fishing too.
My friend, Bill, had been on at me to get back into the carp fishing game for some time, even going so far as to put me on a lovely little syndicate water in Devon to get my interest going again. In truth, though, I was still not committed to a return to carp fishing. Things had changed so much since I'd left it and I wasn't sure if I wanted to get involved in quite the way that now seemed necessary. In 1979, I fished for just anything that came along, bass, sea trout, reservoir trout, chub and barbel, mullet, pollack, eels, you name it. A return to full time carping? No thanks.
So just what it was that drew me to the banks of the little lake that August day, I'll never know. I was armed with a saggy old glass float rod, a creaky old folding garden chair (you know the sort), a couple of tins of sweetcorn and no particularly high hopes. I had seen rudd in the lake approaching maybe two pounds in weight and I think I told myself, at the time, these were my quarry.
I sat in the shade of the thickening willows, watching a red-tipped float sitting still and lifeless, poking through a slight scum line that was carried towards me on a warm, gentle breeze. The oppressive heat of a full-blown summer high pressure area sitting slap-bang over the south west made me sleepy and I dozed intermittently through the lazy afternoon. When I opened my eyes, after who knows how long, maybe only seconds, maybe minutes or even an hour, the left hand rod tip was just straightening, quivering and shaking from some unseen underwater attention. I started upright in the chair. Where was the float? Over there, under a tree, several yards from the baited swim. I grabbed the butt and struck at nothing. Everything came back, but the hook was bare. Sods Law had struck again and I had dozed off just when I got a bite!
Carp or rudd? Which had been the culprit? No way of telling, though I like to think that maybe, just maybe, it was a carp. I fished away the remains of the day without further excitement but then just as the light was going, a couple of gulls, flying low across the surface, spooked one, or maybe two, fish that had been cruising below the surface. As they turned in their panic, they sent huge swirls to the surface. That was my first experience of the carp of Salamander Lake; hard proof that the whispers were not merely rumour.
You'd have thought I'd have been right back there the next day, wouldn't you? But the carp fever had not yet had a chance to infected me again. The next free time I had for fishing took me down west, to The Lizard, fishing the coves and deep rocky gullies for anything that came along. I was after wrasse, but the bass were running hard that summer and the silver dreams held sway for the rest of the summer and most of the autumn months.
Winter was work, work, work and, by the following summer, I had almost forgotten about the carp in the little lake. True, I had enjoyed yet another hectic trip with Bill to our syndicate lake (where he had let me in on the secrets of the hair and of Robin Red and boiled baits), but carp still did not figure greatly in the overall scheme of things.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.37pm
In reply to Post #393
Once upon a time there was a stream, an insignificant little affair, running off low hills, through farmlands and forests towards the distant sea. Where it met softer, flatter ground, the clear waters spread out across the surrounding plain. At its edges, the plain became a marsh, in its middle, a bog. Then came the homes; built to house the workers of local industry. The buildings were of solid stone and granite, warm in winter, cool in summer. In the shelter of the surrounding hills, the little hollow and its plain were a natural sun trap.
For the inhabitants of the little village that sprang up close to the marshy bog it was almost ideal: almost! You see, the only drawback to living in this idyllic little spot was the bog itself as due to the nature of the swampy surroundings, in summer the place was a fetid swamp of pungent, mosquito ridden water. The broken down silt and mud of millennia steamed and bubbled in the heat and the villagers often complained; in the summer about the boggy smell and insect life which played havoc with their everyday lives; or in the winter, when heavy rain ran off the hills and the stream became a torrent, about the flooding of the bog land and the surrounding plain, making roads and footpaths impassable. Something had to be done and, with the usual alacrity shown by councils the length and breadth of the country, it only took a hundred years or so to get around to dealing with the problem.
So it was that in the mid-70s heavy plant moved in, first to divert the stream, then to shore up the bank, dredge out the silt, plant a few willows, build a dam at the other end from the stream entrance, re-route the stream through the eight foot deep hollow left behind by their labours, and depart. As the hollow began to fill, the stream wove a magic spell over the once stagnant area. Where there had been bog, now there was a cool, dark lake, brimming over with natural life carried down from the hills on a bubbling tide of highly oxygenated water.
The lake settled down quickly, the stream carrying its life blood of silt and natural food, soon covered the gravel bottom with a layer of soft mud. Weeds found a hold and began to flourish in the perfect conditions for growth. All that was missing were fish of which there were none, other than a few bold or lost sea trout that had used the lower part of the stream for millennia.
They ventured upstream as far as the lake where they stayed a while before moving on further towards the foothills of the moors. Minnows appeared as if by magic and a few brown trout took up residence but there was no real life to the pond. What it needed was a few carp gliding lazily through the turbid water, grubbing in the bottom to send clouds of mud billowing up towards the surface.
In 1977, the council decided to stock the lake with coarse fish, including a hundred and fifty carp, thousands of rudd, a few tench and some perch. From being almost devoid of aquatic life, now it was full to bursting. The local kids had a field day. Maggots made an awful killing, literally, as hundreds of small fish were carried back to homes in the village to be paraded like trophies, before being fed to the cat.
Though I guess one had to feel for the unfortunate victims, their sacrifice was not in vain. In truth, the lake had been overstocked to the point of lunacy; now the fish that were left found they no longer needed to compete for food and soon, the thirty or so remaining carp began to thrive in the rich water, putting on weight and condition. Whispers of grey, ghostly monsters, glimpsed, or maybe only imagined, gliding through the murky water, began to be heard yet, at the time, I showed only a small spark of interest. My carp fishing life had only recently been renewed after a decade or so of fishing for other species. My return to the ranks was only just reawakening and there was a lot of new tackle and tactics with which I needed to come to terms.
I fished the Salamander for the time in late summer 1979. I had been carefully dipping a hesitant toe into the steamy quagmire that modern carp fishing seemed to have become in the years I had turned my back upon it. I had packed it all in several years earlier in favour of the savage, heart-stopping excitement of barbel fishing.
19 Mar 2019 at 3.35pm
In reply to Post #392
THE STORY OF SALAMANDER LAKE 1979 - 1997
Over the past forty years I have written at some length on Salamander lake, not only in this thread, but also in the many articles I have had published in carp fishing mags throughout Europe. Like most if not all of you reading this, I hold a very special place in my heart for the lake that first triggered my interest in carp fishing. For some of you it will be a club lake or maybe a pit in the valley or elsewhere in the country. For me, Salamander will always be that place. So please forgive me for writing about it once again.
This is the lake in about 1978…
Salamander Lake has had a hold on me that is for over forty years. My first article about the lake appeared in 1981 when I wrote a piece for the magazine Coarse Angler called Hooked on Carp, which detailed my early days at the lake. Back when I first started fishing the lake it was clear to me that the lake would be very vulnerable to over-fishing and perish the thought, fish theft, so I thought it judicious to include a few blinds in the Coarse Angler piece to protect the lakes whereabouts and its true identity
There followed a further couple of stories, again for Coarse Angler and there were a blinds in those ones too! Since then, the lake has featured in many of my most memorable carp fishing experiences and stories.
Salamander Lake! What can I say? I adore the place! It was indirectly responsible - along with another lake in Devon - for bringing me back into the carp fishing fold after I'd packed in regular carp fishing in the early
seventies. These days, the lake is a pale shadow if itself with few if any carp left in it. You see, it is a free water, fishable by anyone with a rod license, completely uncontrolled by any club or organisation. The local council own the surrounding marsh and parkland and, from time to time, they pay lip service to the people who use the park as somewhere to walk the dogs and to take the kids but, for the most part, the lake has been left to get on with its life as best it can.
Sadly, the lake is at the mercy of the more unsavory *******s that haunt the fringes of carp fishing and life in general and many fish have been stolen to stock other waters, while others have died from abuse, neglect and downright bad angling. For all that, the lake was once the only water in this part of the country that could offer the carp angler a true challenge, as the carp that were in it were the craftiest I have ever fished for.
I first fished Salamander Lake in 1979 and caught my first carp of any size from the water a year later. In the years that followed, I got to know its inhabitants very well indeed - so much so that I even got around to nicknaming most of them myself. As the story unfolds, I think you will see how and why I have built up such an intimate feeling for the water and I hope you will also forgive me for omitting any hints of its whereabouts. That said most carp anglers who really want to locate the water will not find the process too hard.
Back then Salamander was just another lake on the big fish circuit, one poster boy anglers liked to visit, hammer it for as long as it took to catch the big one, and then depart. They have no soul, these people. They take all and give nothing. On the other hand, a few visiting anglers with a heart and a soul and a feel for the water, gave as well as they took. Their rewards were well deserved and their pleasure usually shared. It is a busy park lake with all that that entails, but on quiet summer morning while the world awakes there is magic to be found on its banks.
So this is its tale, a re-write of the three-part series I did for Carpworld published in 1996.
2 Mar 2019 at 7.52am
In reply to Post #391
Postscript: As it turns out the fish that beat me up so badly thqat night was in all probability one of only two catfish in the Chat. One was an albino that was only ever seen once when the lake was drained for work to be done on the sluice. It was not weighed at the time but those who saw it reckoned it was close to two meters long! That would make it around 250lb.
The other cat was caught many years later by well-known home counties angler Stuart 'Lilo' Gillam, now living the high life in Thailand with Sean his son, both running the hugely successful Gillam's Fishing Resort in Karabi. Tat and I had met the pair in what was, I believe, their final carping trip in Europe when they visited the Chat before heading out east. We shared a great week with them and enjoyed more than a few beers together. Stuart caught the other catfish on a return visit to finalise details of the Resort and while 'home' he found time to fit in a visit to the Chat where he caught this huge fish (Stuart is on the left). He didn't weigh it, but as you can see, it's a beast, probably well over a hundred pounds. Was it this huge creature that had caused me so much grief in the wind and rain of a hideous night marooned on the island?
So ended the trip. It had been hugely successful from both a personal and a commercial point of view (remember, the whole point of the trip was to gather material to publicise the lake). One thing was for sure: I'd be returning to the Château Lake!
2 Mar 2019 at 7.46am
In reply to Post #390
Shivering with cold and drenched to the bone I chucked the rod into the bushes and struggled into the bivvy and after a thorough towel down and a change of clothes plus two cups of brandy-laced coffee I began to feel human again.
Early morning and the wind died down and the rain stopped. Peeping out of the bivvy door I saw a sky ablaze with stars. What a transformation. Were the carp still around? Yes, they were…As the dawn broke I had another take from a carp that fought like crazy all the way to the net. It was one of the strongest carp I’ve ever played taking me over thirty minutes to overcome its powerful struggles. The scales presented me with yet another biggie, a humpty-backed mirror of just over thirty three pounds…Pinch me, someone!
Though it was still early this called for a beer! Another celebratory 1664 slipped down my throat; what a nice breakfast! And it wasn’t over yet by any means! Mid-morning I caught a small mirror and just as I was thinking about lunch another big carp took a bait off the big hump to the right of the east pontoon. It was yet another thirty and no sooner had I done the pix of that one that the other rod on the east pontoon went off...!
I was due to pack up fishing at midday but the temptation to stay for one more night was nagging at my brain. I was probably overstaying my welcome and pushing my luck to the limit but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave!
At six in the evening I was very glad I stayed! I was sitting on the pontoon as the sun went down, watching the world go by, when the tip of the one of the rods cast into the channel pulled slowly round. The buzzer gave a couple of bleeps, then broke into its full battle cry as a carp took off with the bait. Although the carp had picked up a bait cast well off to the right, all it wanted to do was go left, left, left all the time until it went around the back of the island. I had no choice but to strip off my trousers and T-shirt and go in after it.
What a performance. From snag to snag, tree branch to tree branch. Eventually I managed to get the snag leader onto the reel and I led the carp like a dog on a leash through the snags back to the pontoon. I climbed out onto the boards and eventually landed the fish after about thirty minutes of unarmed combat! Bugger me if it wasn't another thirty. Was I dreaming? I’d never seen such a magnificent fish and after such an amazing fight the memories of that carp will stay with me for a very long time indeed.
The night was quiet until the early hours of the morning. At just after five o’ clock I had yet another run on one of the rods cast to my left into the channel. Another fabulous fight from a very strong fish and yes, you guessed it, another thirty.
Suddenly it was over. The dawn broke over the eastern end of the lake and as it the sun rose the wind once again switched direction back towards the south west. The carp moved with it almost immediately and soon I could see them jumping way off in the bay once again. It was time to go, time to bid farewell to this amazing lake. The sun beamed down on the lake and the tranquillity of the surroundings made me sad that I was leaving but I would be back!
2 Mar 2019 at 7.41am
In reply to Post #389
I fell to with a vengeance that night, re-baiting the swims with three kilos of boilies, tying on new hook links and hooks and generally acting as if it was the start of the trip and not nearly the end of it. Not expecting anything to happen until at least one in the morning, I sat out on the pontoon as the night fell. A fresh wind blew straight into my face as I smoked a cigarette and drank a bottle of beer.
The wind was from the south east, warm and humid, a real carp angler’s wind. I knew I shouldn’t tempt providence, but once again I felt very confident of catching and this time my confidence was well placed. At just after eight o’clock in the evening the right hand rod burst into life, the first time I’d had a take off to the right hand side. After about ten minutes I had managed to get the fish in close. In the fading light I could see great swirls coming up from the bottom as the carp fought for its freedom and this was a prelude for a long struggle under the rod tip. After another ten minutes the fish at last sank into the waiting folds of my net, and I saw straight away that I had captured another good thirty.
I broke out another bottle of beer and tipped the whole lot down my throat to celebrate. The lake looked and felt so completely different that evening and into the dark hours. T-shirt weather towards the end of October in northern France? Unbelievable. With the unseasonably warm weather pushed towards me by a fresh south east wind it felt like carp weather and no mistake. And so it was…yet another thirty came to join me on the island. This was now on the point of stretching the bounds of reality!
The wind started to pick up by mid-afternoon and the fresh south easterly breeze blew straight into the swim, increasing in strength the longer it blew. The new wind brought carp towards me in numbers and they were crashing out all over the place. It just proved what I had been thinking all along, that the fish were following the wind. And the night was young. Plenty of time for more. The wind seemed to be strengthening all the time and it was now looking really carpy. I hope I don’t get any sleep I said greedily to myself.
It was awesomely warm but with 100% cloud cover, the breeze shoving them along at a ferocious rate. It looked like a storm was on it's way. In the gathering gloom I sat out in the freshening wind on the west pontoon drinking a few beers and listening to the carp crashing out in the darkness before heading for the shelter of the bivvy. I lay there listening to the wind as it increased in strength. If I don't get a few tonight, I thought to myself, I never will.
Sure enough and hour or so later, with rain now falling heavily, I had a brace of smaller fish, both commons that were returned un-weighed and un-photographed…I wanted to get out of the rain as I was getting drenched.
The weather conditions were perfect as the wind had really began to blow strongly and by midnight it was near gale force blowing straight into the western pontoon swim: it could only be a matter of time before I had another run.
It came as the light strengthened with the dawn, a screaming take from a very strong fish that ripped line off at amazing speed. I bent into it as best I could but nothing I could do seemed to have any effect. On and on it ploughed putting many yards between us. Whenever I tried to stop that incredible run the fish pointed me and continued to rip line from the reel. By now I was soaked right through and was loosing my sense of humour. This fish was beating me up and no mistake!
So there I stood, cold, wet and if truth be told pretty fed up. There was only a couple of reasons why I could make no headway against this fish; it was either foul hooked or it was the biggest carp I had ever hooked. I never discovered the answer and frankly I didn't care one way or the other. I was exhausted and about to freeze to death. Thankfully with the fish on a long line - probably by now 200m away - the weight of the wind on the line and the rod conspired to pull the hook free. Thank God for that, I said to myself.
2 Mar 2019 at 7.39am
In reply to Post #388
I baited up the gully area to my left with a further two kilos of bait. and fished two rods onto the same patch of bait that had produced a couple of fish earlier in the week, even while the wind was blowing a hoolie towards the far bay at the time. Hopefully not all the carp moved on the breeze. Maybe they'd learned a trick or two from the College carp that at time stubbornly refused to follow the wind, not matter how many 'experts' told them that was whet they were supposed to do!
The third and fourth rods were cast in the direction of the château bank from the western pontoon but with the wind in my face I was not able to get anywhere near the shallows in front of the boathouse. However, Pete had pointed out to me a quite prominent bar that lay only a dozen or so yards off the west-facing pontoon. It was steep and quite vicious, ripping the leads to pieces. It was easy to find to…You just pulled back until the rod tip started banging away like a good 'un. I put one rod on the top of this feature and chucked the other one as far as I could towards the boathouse and backed up the hookbaits with a kilo of bait on each rod.
So far all the takes had come during the hours of darkness. The buzzers had not uttered a single bleep in daylight, so it was a considerable surprise when, at just after nine thirty in the morning with the sun well up in the sky following another blank night, all hell suddenly broke loose. First of all I had a run on the left hand rod on the eastern pontoon and while I was playing that fish one of the two rods on the western pontoon went off! I didn’t know what to do, so I hung onto the first rod while the other one screamed its head off. There was no way I could play them both at once as the two were at opposite ends of the island about twenty metres apart!
Thankfully fate decided things for me as I pulled out of the first fish so chucked the rod down and then ran across to the other side of the island to hit the run that was still taking line. That fish I managed to land, a strange box-shaped creature. I guess we'd call it an Italian strain carp over here, but maybe it was simply a slightly odd-shaped Royale strain of fish.
So all of a sudden, out of nowhere, two runs had come at along within minutes of each other. The fish had come back to me at last and the weather forecast finally predicted an end, albeit only a temporary one, to the interminable south west wind. I felt sure that once the wind turned to another direction I’d have carp in my swim in big numbers.
The next morning, dawn arrived in the most spectacular fashion. I have never seen such a brilliant red sunrise. Quite the most amazing I natural phenomenon I have seen in all my (too) many years of carp fishing.
The new day brought with it new weather; not a cloud in the sky, the sun came out, it got warm then hot and by mid morning it was an absolutely glorious day. I had two fish by lunchtime, a mid twenty and a double figure common, the smallest carp so far on this trip. Both had fallen to bottom baits fished with just a small stringer to draw attention to the hookbait, no free offerings at all. It didn’t seem to matter whether I baited up with two or three kilos of free offerings or none at all if the fish were there they hung themselves! Both carp were caught on the close-in rods, cast into the gully about fifty meters or so into three metres of water.
I went into the village again that morning and visited the restaurant for another shower and a meal. These left me feeling really invigorated and refreshed. I felt so much better after a good meal, a drop of wine, and a decent shower that I was now ready for anything. Once again I decided to fish only with five bait stringers rather than over a large carpet of boilies and to be honest, I was very confident of my chances of catching now that the wind had stopped blowing away from me.
But I blanked yet again! My brash confidence of the previous night evaporated in a frustrated mist! The lake continued to baffle me. I had been awake for most of the night listening for fish but I never heard a thing. I couldn’t understand it at all. Where had they gone? A change in the weather often gets carp feeding and though the lake was now under the influence of a high pressure system, I felt sure that the new wind from the south east would have brought fish into my area. But that’s carp fishing. Sometimes they defy all reason and you just have to sit it out and hope! But I couldn’t complain. I was happy with what I had caught so far and there were still two more nights to go and now the wind had turned right round and was blowing straight towards the château bank and the island.
20 Feb 2019 at 10.19pm
In reply to Post #387
Excellent Ken, very interesting!!
20 Feb 2019 at 12.55pm
In reply to Post #386
More to follow soon.
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