Twenty Four Hours - Richard Howland

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Twenty Four Hours - Richard Howland

On Thursday morning I woke up, looked out the window, and saw that it had rained somewhat. My weather app hadn’t predicted that but I wasn’t worried; it had stopped and I had a day planned. I got in contact with my friend Jason, who said that the water in the lake I was planning on fishing has coloured up some, from gin clear to just clear. Due to staff holiday’s this was going to be my last day off for a while and although I had been contemplating where to fish that day I knew I was only kidding myself with other suggestions – I knew where I wanted to be.

So, seeing the good lady off to work, I loaded the car with not only carp gear but with the feeder rods as well. I was hoping that with a bit of colour in the water I could encourage the course fish to come out of the reeds. I drove to the lake hoping that no one had jumped into my favourite swim (number one, I don't like to walk far), knowing that Jason Hodge and Sean Fischer had packed up from there only hours before, after doing an over-nighter in one and two. Having both lost fish in the night I was eager get there then find out where Sean had had the take from the number one swim.

Luck was on my side and, as I pulled up to the gate, I could see that number one was free. Just lately I had been trying to cut down on the amount of gear I always seem to carry (mainly food) but not wanting to lose this swim I grabbed a few bits and walked them down to the swim just in case. The barrow is always lighter once you take the food down first anyway!

Once I had secured my spot, I was on the phone to Sean, gleaning as much information as possible from him. It turned out that he had the take from between the two areas known as the thirties spots, one of which was an old swim and the other a dip in the reeds on the far bank. I knew the dip in the reeds had got weedy but, according to Sean, the area to the left was clear. He had fished about a rod length off the reeds but I decided to go tight as I was fishing in daylight and I thought the fish might hug the reed line as they moved through to the out-of-bounds part of the lake.

The plan was to fish two rods for carp and the third feeder fishing, hoping that there was just enough colour in the water to stop the smaller fish from hiding up in the reeds. I put 1kg of Advanta Bloodworm and Krill Boilies along the reed line and fished a double boilie on one and a 2ft zig on the other, further along to the left close to the reeds. I had been baiting an area in open water with corn and pellets while setting up the carp gear and bivvy and, now that was done, it was time to get the feeder rod out.

As I was mainly here for carp, I only brought the bear essentials as the barrow weighs enough as it is. Out came my Drennan Medium Feeder rod, with a M.A.P reel, loaded with 6lb line. I was using a size 12 hook and loading it with maggots as there is a lot of rudd in this lake and I wanted a few maggots left on the hook by the time it hit the bottom in around 11ft of water. I felt confident of catching a few, as the rudd were topping where I had been putting the free bait in. In weeks gone by I had sat there for hours without so much as a sucked maggot because the water had been gin clear and they would not come out of the reeds until the sun started to dip in the sky.

It was a fairly good day for fishing, as there was a bit of cloud cover but it was still quite warm and there was a nice breeze. As Muskett sat watching me make my first cast, I looked forward to some action on the feeder rod and, looking around towards my carp rods, I wondered if any of the bigger residents were feeding over the far side of my swim. It true to say that the reason I take the feeder rod is because I get bored quite quickly carp fishing once the excitement of casting out and getting them on the spots has worn off. I always think I'm going to get a bite straight away and never do. However, this lake is worth fishing for the other species, too, because very few people fish for them and left alone they have grown.

As I have said, this lake has more rudd than anything else and I was finding it hard to get the bait through the smaller ones and down to the bottom where I hoped a few of the bigger fish were feeding. After catching what were good sized rudd, but not the size I was after, I knew I needed to rethink my tactics. Off came the maggot feeder and on went a small lead weight, as I wanted to get through the layers quicker. I left the maggots on as there was one species I was after that, with no competition from pike, had grown bigger. With a bunch of maggots now getting through I was in with a shout of catching a bigger fish.

Sitting there, enjoying the relaxation of fishing, listening to the radio, and watching the tip of the rod for any movement, I had looked round to see if Muskett was still with me and had not snuck off looking for rabbits when I felt the rod being pulled out of the rest. I grabbed the rod and struck into what felt like a decent fish. About a minute in to the fight the line parted or, if I was a betting man, had been bitten through.

I had a feeling I knew what had taken the bunch of maggots, so with a new rig on, out went another hook full. I was watching the rod like a hawk now, as the bait got through the smaller fish and down to the bottom. After about 10 minutes the tip pulled round and I was into another decent fish and, judging by the way it was fighting, I was convinced it was a perch. In-between the deep channel and me was an area of weed. It wasn’t thick but it was enough for the fish to bury its head into and stop the fight dead. Not wanting to lose another good fish, I had to change my tactics, so walking along to my left and pulling from a different angle I managed to free the fish and make some ground. Before long I was putting the net underneath a good size perch.

As the needle on the scales pulled round and stopped at 3lb 4oz, I was one happy angler. With the photos on the phone done, on went another bunch of maggots and I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat back waiting for another big perch.


I kept the feed going in over the area, to keep the fish there, but the smaller rudd were becoming more of a problem as they were taking the bait on the drop even with a lead on. A change of bait was in order and on went two pieces of sweetcorn. This worked and I started to pick up bigger rudd, with the odd roach as well.

I was engrossed in catching on the feeder when suddenly I had a few bleeps on the carp rod with the zig on it. Having mixed results on the zig I was intrigued to know what was happening so, reeling in the feeder, I stood behind the carp rod and waited.

The bobbin went up, then back down again, then back up. I struck, something was on the end but it wasn't very big and, as I drew it towards the bank, up popped a huge rudd. I know people will say that it doesn't count because it was on a carp rod and I wasn’t fishing for it but I didn't care. I wanted to see this fish in my net as it was the biggest rudd I had ever hooked! Then, while I was trying to grab my feeder net from further up the bank, the hook pulled!

I was gutted. It obviously wasn't hooked well enough, but in fairness it wasn't meant to take the zig in the first place. After casting out I was sat back down next to the feeder rod again and contemplating putting a yellow mini boilie on as yellow was the colour on the zig. I thought it would pick out the bigger ones, as I was still catching smallish rudd on the corn. So a quick change of bait was in order, again! The bites came less frequently, which was what I wanted; knowing the bait was still on there and not being pecked off meant the bigger fish had a chance to find the bait.

And so it was, after a couple of missed bites, that the tip bent round and I connected with a fish that was obviously not a rudd. As it tore down the lake towards the reeds it was as much as I could do to stop it, on a light feeder rod as I was. This lake had been left pretty much untouched for a few years, due to two fish kills. What was left carp wise had bred and I was now playing one of these young fish that in all likelihood had never felt a hook before.

He really wasn't pleased about having one in his lip! After weeding me up a couple of times he came to the surface and I wondered if my net was big enough! He slid into it at the first attempt and there lay a fat common carp of just 7lb that had never been out of its watery home before. With a couple of photos on the phone, I slipped him back so he could go and hide away in the reeds and wonder at what had happened to him.


With the fish back, I was putting on fresh bait when the Delkim alarm on the far rod bleeped twice. As I was fishing tight to reeds, I needed to check this out, as on this lake one or two bleeps could mean a fish had picked the bait up. Looking at the line it was plain to see that the bait had indeed been picked up and what ever was on the other end had moved to the left and was now heading into the old swim and deeper into the reeds. I lifted the rod and struck – fish on!

I had to act quickly or I was going to lose it in the reeds; it was time to test the ESP Syncro line and my knots to their limits. Clamping down on the reel, I let the rod take the strain and hoped that everything held while I started to walk backwards not giving an inch of line. The fish was trying it's very best to bury its head into the reeds but the pressure I was putting on it was working. I could now see the fish on the surface, but I had run out of room walking backwards and it was time to start gaining some line back.

The fish now had a change of plan and decided to head for the reeds to my right on this side of the lake. Winding to keep up with it, I knew what was coming. I've caught a few fish from this lake and the bigger ones seem to know where they need to go when hooked. In-between me and the reeds were a tree and lily pads. I also knew what I needed to do to have any chance of landing this fish.

The only thing that works is to get the tip of the rod as deep into the water as you can and keep pumping the fish towards you. This worked and, after a while, I thought I would lift the rod up to see where the fish was. It was under the tip, another metre and the tubing would have hit the top eye.

I was in shock, firstly because I couldn't believe it was that close to the rod and secondly because of the size of it. I had to quickly let some line out to give me a chance of landing it. Before the fish knew it, I had the net underneath it and pulled it towards me.

In the net lay one of the big commons that live in here. Once it was in the cradle and the hook was out I could have a good look at it. Most commons look much the same, but one of the know commons has a distinct scale along its flank that is around the other way from the others and looks a bit like a bum. Hence the name: The A***hole Common. Lying in my sling was this very fish. This was I very first fish I caught from this lake, at 34lb 8oz, and I also knew that she had dropped a lot weight due to spawning, as Ray Harris had caught her a few weeks ago at 29lb 4oz.

On the scales she went 29lb 10oz which was a good sign, as she was starting to put the weight on again and come the autumn this long fish will be back to 30lb plus. A friend and one of the bailiffs were on there way over, so I sacked the fish in an Advanta retention sling, and put Muskett on guard duty while I sorted out the camera, and a new rig. Thanks to Joe Miller and Josh Scoble for doing the honours with the camera, and stopping for a chat.


With the carp rod back out on the spot, it was back to the feeder rod and a big bunch of maggots on the hook to see if I could get another perch. After catching some decent size rudd, the tip pulled round and I was into what felt like another perch. Knowing what had happened with the last one and the weed, I was giving this one no time to think about where he wanted to go. I got it up and over the weed; before he knew what was happening the net was waiting for him and in he slipped.

In the bag was another perch, at just a smidge over 3lb. I took some photos on the phone then released it back to fight another day. With the smaller fish yet again stripping the hook clean by the time the bait hit the bottom, it was back to the Sonubaits mini boilies to give myself a chance of a bigger fish. As the bites had slowed down, due to the bigger bait, I was able to have a bite to eat and a cup of coffee, but as it always seems, the moment you do something, you get a take. And that's what happened, with a sandwich hanging out of my mouth I struck into a nice bite and was met with something pulling back. After doing its best to get rid of the hook, into the net went a good size rudd. At 1lb 12oz this fish deserved to have a photo, as it was my biggest rudd from this lake and a fine specimen of a fish.


As the afternoon slipped into evening, it was time to think about getting ready for the night head. My friend Jason Hodge was on his way over, to fish the night in number two swim, which is not far up the lake from my swim. As the local kebab company deliver to the gate, tea would not have to be cooked on the RidgeMonkey, so there was less to pack up in the morning.

With the feeder rod put away, all three carp rods were cast out to the spots with fresh Advanta bait on, ready for action in the night. A large chicken kebab on my lap, watching the sun set over the far side of the lake, and only the two of us fishing on this peaceful evening; this is one of the reasons I just love fishing.


After putting the world to rights, Jason left me in order to cast out his rods that were all clipped up ready. One went to a bar around 80yds out, the second toward the reed line around 100yds, and the third to his right along the reed line. We normally retire to our beds early, as we have both got work the following day, and the wildlife lets you know when the sun is coming up. With the dog on his bed and me tucked up in my bag, dreaming of catching a big fish, I was awoken by the phone ringing next to my bed.

It was Jason, and could I give him a hand as his middle rod had a fish on but he needed to get his waders on because the fish had picked the bait up at around 80yds straight out and had kited right. Now when I say right, I mean Jason had two bleeps on the receiver, which he got out of bed to investigate, only to find that the fish had picked the bait and a 4oz lead up and on a tight line gone in an arc, not taking an inch of line off the spool, and was now the same distance down the bank in the over hanging trees with thick reed beds in between him and the fish.

It amazes me how some fish seem to know not to take any line or, for that matter, give any. They must hook themselves, can't get rid of the hook, so just swim against the pressure to the safety of a snag, without any indication our end. This seems to happen quite often on this particular lake and so there I stood, holding the rod to the pressure on, while Jason got his waders on.


After going out as far as he could in the water, which in fairness isn't that far as it drops off quite quickly into deeper water, it was obvious that it was too far down, and the chances of getting it out of the trees and along 70yds of thick reeds were very slim at best. A change of tactics was called for, if we were to have any chance of landing this fish. Back on dry land we walked along the bank, Jason winding as he went over to top of the reeds, passing the rod around trees between us, until he got to a point where he had to get in amongst the reeds and wade out. This would have been bad enough in daylight… but at night!

As Jason pushed his way through the mud and reeds, I with the landing net tried to get through and under the big over hanging tree to where the fish was situated. Jason was coming through the reeds from the left shouting to me that the fish was still on when I heard the sound no fishermen wants to hear. As Jason got nearer to the fish the line had got caught on a branch, the fish had made one final bid for freedom and the hook link snapped about 2inches from the hook.

In the still of the night, I stood in silence wondering what to say. Nothing you can say in moments like this one was going to help! So I got myself out the mud through the tree, and waited with the net for Jason to emerge from the undergrowth. All sorts of things could have weakened the line under that tree and so they were discussed on the walk back to his bivvy – and no doubt in his head while he lay there trying to sleep.

It would have great to end this article with the capture of huge fish, with all the odds against us. But the odds were always stacked in the fishes favour and, so it is in fishing, you win some you lose some.

With the rest of the night passing without incident, we packed up and made our way back to the cars ready for another day.

We will be back for another 24 hours on a lake.

Richard Howland.

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