Liam McEvoy, A Winter Warmer at Stanwick Lakes
Posted on 14th February 2018 at 19:54
On the 1st February '18 it was time to set off on my journey to Stanwick Lakes in Northampton. An historic complex which has fifteen 30’s and two known 40 lb carp lurking in Elsons Lake. The trip had been planned for a few months, myself and good friend Adam Farr deciding that we would embark on a 48hr session. With all the reviews and a good chance of a winter bite, it was a no brainer. Stanwick was a little far from home, but I knew looking at a new bit of water instead of my local syndicate lake would refresh the mind, ready for the up and coming season.
We arrived at around 0900hr after the two and a half hour trip from Salisbury. I was excited to speak to the bailiff to get the local info on where was best for a bite this time of year. I was planning on fishing Elsons lake, which is the bigger day ticket lake on the complex however, after speaking to the bailiff, it was evident with the weather going against us, the best chance for a bite was to get onto Mallard lake which had more stock and was potentially prone to a winter banger. The weather was dull from the start, with a strong north easterly and high pressure. The bailiff said that the lake hadn’t produced much compared to other winters, but that didn’t lower the mood. I was anxious to walk the lake and hope to see some signs of fish. I think confidence is key, especially when times are hard. After walking around Mallard Lake, there weren’t many signs of fish and it was fairly quiet on the complex. I decided to set up in the centre of the lake in peg 8 and Adam in peg 9. With the wind smashing into the swim, I thought if they weren’t on the back of the wind they may have been on the front. I like to stay mobile, especially at this time of year, as with any signs of fish I would be packed up in minutes and on the move; excessive amounts of kit disadvantages your angling and travelling light is the key to success in my eyes.
With the rods now on the spot and the kettle boiled, I decided I would have a quick brew and look for any signs of fish before I put a few spods on the spot to try and get a feeding response. I think single hook baits work well, however I also like to dish out a little bit of bait to encourage some competitive feeding. The wildlife wasn't on my side just as much as the weather, a lot of bird life in the sky was making it hard to get bait on my spots, with every spod I threw out the birds were diving onto it, but I managed eventually. I put 6 spods of maggots and crushed VNX+ over the area just enough to hopefully get a feeding response. As time was passing by my mind was doing circles, I think every angler starts doubting things like “are the rods in the right place” and “I hope my rig is presented right”. You must be confident in your ability; precision and accuracy are second to none. With my military background I think it's just second nature to make sure things are done right. If I have any doubt, whether it takes another hour or another three, I make sure it is done right!
With the light closing down it was time to sit back and relax, I had a few beers with Adam and had a little reminisce on the previous season and the goals for the next one. After having a bite to eat I got into the sleeping bag and settled down for the night, feeling confident of a winter bite. The alarm was set for 0700hrs and I normally would wake up earlier but with the winter weather, it hasn’t being getting light until around 0800hrs. That was it, I was set for the night ahead feeling cold but confident and it was time to get some sleep. As the alarm went off the following morning I looked out the bivvy to motionless bobbins and motionless rods. I was feeling a little bit disheartened but I still had 24hrs left to nick a bite, it was time to get my head back in the game. I boiled the kettle, had a quick coffee then watched the water looking for any signs of fish, just a shimmer or a subtle show and I would be onto it. After sitting and watching the water for around and hour I was debating whether a move was on the cards. I reeled in the rods and had a walk around the lake. There were a few anglers on now who had turned up through the night, so I sat and had a chat with them for a little while, seeing if they saw any signs. Knowledge is power as they say and any little bits of information could make a fruitless trip into a red letter session.
The time had come to pack the gear up and get into the van for the long ride home to Salisbury. A fishless trip at Stanwick, but not the end of the world. With every session I learn something new and I always reminisce on the session on the way home, what if I had done this…what if I had done that…. Carp fishing isn’t an easy game and I think it has helped me in day to day life. The mental robustness to sit on the bank for days on end is not easy, but we still keep going back because nothing that is easy is worth having. I will be back for you Stanwick, but for now, tight lines to you all and I hope you catch some bangers this season.
After I set up and put the kettle on, it was time to get the marker rod out and try and find some spots. I had a lead around for about 5-10 minutes as I didn’t want to start smashing a lead around the swim for hours just in case I moved them from the area. I managed to pick out three good spots at around 12 wraps. There was a little gravel area the size of a dustbin lid which then pulled back into weed, I had a feeling that the fish would have being feeding in there because of how clean it felt. The bottom of the lake was quite flat and there weren’t many features to go at, the depth was around 7 to 8ft.
I managed to get 3 rods on the spot tightly together. My right hand rod was fished in a solid bag with a VNX+ wafter with three maggots attached, using a blow back rig. The middle rod was on a Ronnie rig with a Scoberry pop up and finally, I had a long chord rig with a Scoberry pop up dipped in the VNX+ Activator Liquid. I was ready with all methods just to try and gauge how the fish would react. If I nicked a quick bite, I would then move all three rods onto that method whether it was the Ronnie, choddy or bag method.
After walking the lake and not seeing any signs of fish at all on Mallard, I still thought it would be a good idea to get on the move and try Elsons. The weather was in turmoil, the clouds had opened up and packing my gear away was like living in the river Trent. Everything was wet from my bed chair and sleeping bag to all my clothes. I had a walk around prior to packing up and had seen a show next to a snag at the left hand edge of Elsons lake. When you walk around Mallard at one end you can see both lakes, with Elsons on your left and Mallard on your right, that’s how I caught a glimmer of a show on Elsons. After speaking to a few lads that were walking around, they informed me that they have had some winter success fishing that peg before and gave me some info and spots which had produced for them. Carp fishing is a funny old game, and I know a lot of people would think twice about giving you any information to benefit your angling. However, this was genuine after throwing a lead out for 5-20 minutes the lads were bang on the money, a gravel spot which then pulled back into silt, it was prime for a bite. I went with the same approach that I did on Mallard and the same rigs. The rods were in the spots and it was time to sit back and relax. My eyes were like a hawk looking at the spots and into the snags hoping for the alarms to go into melt down.
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