Simon McCabe’s hibernation is over, as he comes back from a year of lockdown for a day at Ongar’s Stanford Hall Fisheries in search of winter Carp, in an episode entitled ‘Fisherman Returns’. It may be winter, it may be wet, it may be difficult, but it doesn’t matter, we're finally free. Nothing can deter a fisherman denied his passion for so long, especially on a venue like this. Stanford Hall is known for monster Carp with exquisite scale patterns. For all of us who haven’t made it back out for a session yet, this episode is a calling.
Simon has decided to try something new, and has put the Carp rods away this time. Its December and having only caught one Pike before, really fancies having a proper go at it so joins Savage Gear Pro, Robbie Northman on Billingford Lakes in Norfolk for a 24hr tutorial. After picking up the casting pretty quickly, Simon's enjoying this active style of fishing lures, which is in complete contrast to his usual Carp fishing. Robbie teaches Simon how to break down a swim into sections so its easy to cover the water effectively. Robbie then shows how its done as he stealthily creeps down the bank and casts gently into a likely looking spot, and nicks out a 10lb plus fish. Simon has the Carp rods out overnight but to no avail and in the morning, gets in the van and heads to their next location in Cambridgeshire this time, meeting Robbie in Benwick. They start with some dropshotting under a lovely old bridge on the river Nene. Moving downstream they get the lures out and Simon has a follow from a nice Pike, but it refuses his lure. The rain comes at lunchtime which colours the water a little and Robbie thinks this will help their chances. He's proved right as he hooks and lands another nice sized Pike in the afternoon. Its not to be for Simon today but he's learnt a lot and is full of confidence as his visits Heybridge Basin on his own a few weeks later, but will this solo Pike mission prove successful?
Simon heads to Asbury Fisheries near Hatfield Peverel in Essex, for a weekend on the 9 acre Mere lake. There's a good head of big English carp here with the lake being known as the home of Hendrix, a warrior of a fish that sadly died last year. Simon's drawn peg 1 and has clear water in front of him with the water ranging from 6-16 ft and a few Carp already topping. Simon's neighbour catches a clonker, a Mere original, so he heads over to take a look at Swirlytail, a 35lb 10oz Common. Simon patiently sits it out but with no reward, he spends some time with Ash, the lake's owner who gives him the lowdown on the lake and it's impressive stock. Ash explains how he's changed the lake since taking over from a syndicate only to a mix of syndicate and exclusive bookings and how a stealthy approach is key here. Simon visits the stock pond and hears how Ash got some of the spawn from Hendrix's last outing to create a new generation of this famous fish. Returning to his swim, Simon decides to make up a new bait mix but instead of spodding it out which he knows will scare these spooky fish, he gets out his all singing all dancing bait boat to deliver the payload. Evening passes, as does the night and as day 2 gets underway, Simon's staring down the barrel of a blank. It seems the fish have moved to the other end of the lake, but can he salvage something from the session?
Simon takes an early Autumn trip to St Andrews Lake at Halling in the Kent North Downs. Its a stunning lake with crystal clear water and at 75 acres and up 90m deep is probably more akin to venues on the continent. After selecting a swim on a promontory which goves him a good ambush point he gets his 3 rods out in areas that he's been seeing fish, in the open water and on the far bank. With nothing ding early on, Simon decides to have a look a few swims down and finds some fish patrolling in some clear shallow water. Using a popped up sweetcorn on a 360 rig, he manages to catch a small but perfectly formed Common in short time. Returning to his manin swim for the night we pick up with Simon in the morning to see his overnight capture, a lovely little fully scaled Mirror. After meeting Andrew, the head bailiff, Simon decides to alter his tactics a bit as he's worried about his presentation on the steep dropoffs this lake has. The changes pay off as Simon lands, in his words' the most beautiful carp I've ever caught', a stunning Mirror Carp with deep dark scales. A couple more fish follow but its that Mirror Carp that will live long in Simon's thoughts.
The Art of Angling
Simon finds an old pencil drawing of a Common Carp that was given to him on his wedding day and he thought was lost. It triggers memories of an old friend and he takes a trip to Devon, to Emperor Lakes near Kingsbridge. He's joined for 2 days fishing on this stunning syndicate water with new friend, Frank Warwick and his son Guy who has followed in his father's footsteps and become quite a carp angler himself. Guy had caught a fish the evening before Simon arrived and shows off a proper scaly Mirror Carp that he'd found. Simon meets up with the lake's owner, David Lidstone and talks about the lake's history and his philosophy for managing the water since he took over. Frank then shows Simon how he makes one of his go to rigs which is easy to put together and also deadly. Simon spends some time with Guy and talks to him about his angling journey which was kind of inevitable with such an illustrious father. Guy takes Simon down to an intimate corner of the lake that he's been baiting up and as they stealthily approach, Guy thinks there are fish here so allows Simon the chance to have a go at them. With a delicate little underarm cast Simon hits the spot and it isn't long before his line shoots off and all hell breaks loose. Its a small fish but beautifully proportioned and in perfect nick. Early in the morning and Frank shows his class by landing a stunning 40lber which is over 40 years old and a real warrior of a Carp. With the fishing done, Simon meets up with an old friend Tobes, and his Dad, Micky Loates who inspired Simon to start fishing as well as become a naturalist and artist.
Its Friday afternoon and as Simon finishes his week's work, he takes an unexpected call and an invitation to go and fish with one of his carping heroes. He packs his gear and heads off in the van to Shrewsbury where he meets up with all time legend, Frank Warwick on a syndicate lake. After picking Frank's brain for some local knowledge, Simon sets his traps and settles down for the evening. As dawn comes around, Simon and Frank reveal the 3 stunning fish that they caught overnight. Frank gently slides his fish back in under the lilies whilst Simon manages a slightly comical release which involves a great deal of water being splashed on him. Simon hooks a nice fish takes him into a snag and although Frank helps him get it out by grabbing the line and teasing it out, it immediately gets back in again and its a lost fish. Simon then sits down to have a proper bankside chinwag with Frank and finds out why he loves this syndicate lake so much and how his approach to fishing has changed over the years. Frank also discusses some technical elements to his current Carp fishing including his reasoning behind using a heavier weight than most anglers for improved hooking capability. As the session comes to an end, Simon once again reflects on his journey back into Carp fishing and how this experience with Frank will stand him in good stead in the future.
Simon's return to Carp fishing was a big success but now he's taking on a more challenging water, a 10 acre lake called the Rise and part of the Chelmsford Angling Association's fisheries. The lake boasts some impressive stock with many 20lb and 30lb fish, a sprinkling of 40lbers and 3 over 50lbs. After putting his rods out, Simon uses a throwing stick to put out a few boilies and then sits down and waits. After a while of worrying whether he's doing the right thing, Simon starts spodding his fishing areas. Evening comes around and Simon settles in to sleep, but isn't woken up by the sound of alarms and as he rises the following morning, worries about what to do next to solve the puzzle. A change in wind direction and a chat with the bailiff convinces Simon to move to the other side of the lake but can nick a fish before his 48hrs are up?
Simon has a 24hr session planned on a local day ticket water, so starts getting ready the day before, making some rigs and preparing his baits before packing up the van with all his newly acquired carp gear. He also takes some time to study the lake Google Maps and formulate a plan of attack. Arriving at the Mill, he unpacks his gear onto a barrow and moseys on down to one of the stunning swims on this beautiful 3 acre lake. He's fishing in a corner, so puts 2 baits out along the margins with one straight out into the lake where he saw a fish roll earlier. The rain starts and doesn't let up at all, lasting all night into the next morning. As Simon is fearing the worst, in the morning, his line shoots out and a fish is finally caught. The left hand rod down the margin soon goes too, and more fish follow and its beginning to turn into a red letter day for Simon. Simon's return to carp fishing is a resounding success and he's naturally delighted.
Simon is trying to discover his love of fishing after some time away. After buying all new gear from his local tackle shop, he takes a trip Braxted Lake, one of the Chelmsford Angling Association waters. Simon has some happy memories here, especially helping his son catch his first 20lb fish over 15 years ago. He starts with one rod fishing the margin whilst his second is fishing with floaters further out. Simon's welcome back to fishing is a chunky little Common Carp which eagerly slurped down his floater and Simon seems pleased as punch with it. Another bigger fish follows and Simon seems be enjoying his return to Carp fishing. A couple of smaller fish come along before Simon lands a proper un with a lovely 21lb fish. It caps a brilliant return to fishing and Simon reflects on today whilst looking forward to his next trip
Simon takes a trip to the Mill, a beautiful syndicate Carp lake deep, in the Essex countryside. As he wanders the banks, camera gear in hand and enjoying the lake's wildlife, he reflects on his decision to sell his carp gear a couple of years ago to invest more time in wildlife photography. Being near the water's edge and near these majestic fish, he starts to realise what he's missing and comes to the conclusion that its time to start fishing again.
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