The water that makes the lake is clear, very clear. Add to that the fish are wise to our tricks and it can make a rather unsavoury daytime outlook for the dedicated few who sit sentry on it's banks. Certain inhabitants can be incited on cloudy days, but most seem dormant till night fall. This is why evening and night becomes the focus of my attentions.
Upon arrival the sky was blue and as always, when hiking some distance, the sun beat down upon me as I laboured to the lakes edge. However just as I arrived, foreboding black clouds drifted towards me. Shelter became my only concern, with casting a distant intention; spending the entire night damp in the humid mozzie filled air that shrouds the lake does not appeal. Camp struck, the time had come for me to prepare traps and execute plans, as after all I was here not to camp but to fish.
I have grown to quite enjoy using a marker set up the last few years. Unlike some fastidious anglers I have watched diligently making detailed maps of the water in pencil, noting down the topography of the bed, I prefer to just feel around whilst trying to imagine what the underwater scene looks like. Major features and their locations are committed to memory and once I find something I fancy, a few repeat casts just confirms its suitability to my cause.
Certain areas of the lake are at the moment patchy with dense carpets of silk weed covering large areas. The clearer bits in between the swaths of dark green weed are made up of silt covered gravel and sand. The weed in the area where I had just made camp is apparently sparser. Between thirty and fifty yards out there was a band of pretty constant weed which faded out up to the sixty yard mark. Beyond that was totally clear as if a road had been cut through the weed. This was the perfect place for my traps to be set.
It has become evident to me already that fishing on the lake is a waiting game. Depositing liberal amounts of free food seems to always attract attention but inevitably you have to wait. On my first session over a week ago I offered up a large amount of bait which took four hours to mature on a cloudy day. Today a much larger deposit was going to be made as the whole night was mine, and I didn't want a poultry few balls to be ignored.
It takes a fair amount of time to ball up what I was about to chuck out into tennis ball sized globes. It also looks pretty funny sitting there all piled up like apples on a fruit stall - not that you would ever consider eating one - and when it goes in it makes a hell of commotion.
I think all men love playing with catapults. It is a throwback to childhood and I am no different. When I get my whoppa dropper catapult in hand I cannot help but start to form a wry boyish smile as if I am going to do something naughty. I had no intention of trying to be accurate. Instead I purposely loosely fired the balls out around the bright pink float bobbing on the surface, spreading the bait as best I could over a tennis court sized area, which would give a big target zone for blind casting later.
An hour and a half after arriving the traps were set and the waiting began. I had brought a copy of John Steinbeck's 'The Pearl' to pass the time, but the allure of the lake pulled my eyes away constantly, so reading was sidelined in favour of watching. If Jacky saw me doing this I know she would accuse me of just mooning. But I could assure her that my seemingly trance like state would have easily been broken by the slightest disturbance to the water. I had no idea how long I stared transfixed by the lake but eventually I got that strange sensation that everything other than the water was bending slightly too the right.
I knew this was to be a serious waiting game and day faded to dusk, then dark soon followed whilst I patiently waited. Soon enough I crawled into the warmth of my sleeping bag, with only the slightest hint of human left peeping out so as to avoid the mozzies.
Not until seven hours had passed and the lake was shrouded in total black did anything happen. Then a shrill electronic sound cut through the night and woke me from my slumber. It was as if someone had just yanked one of my lines then let go. Half out of bed I stopped still watching the red light a few feet away. Was it just a liner? Then it went off again as something moved slowly off with my bait. Striking into a fish a long way out into the lake in the middle of the night is always exciting. The initial solid resistance yielded quickly and turned into an odd sensation that something was swimming backwards! Straight away I knew it was an eel and this excited me even more as I do love a good eel. It felt a powerful fish and the rod bent in that healthy but not worrying way. When my head light caught a flash of white in the edge I was confused. That was until a pair of whiskers and a massive gob broke the surface.
I had heard rumours that the lake contained a few cats but to bag one on my first night on the lake was amazing. I have wasted plenty of time trying to land my first cat on heavily stocked waters not one hundredth this ones size, and here I was with my first one in hand on a lake I would never have thought would ever produce one for me.
Having never caught one before left me feeling like a kid again. They are essentially just a mouth and stomach attached to a massive tail, and this little moggy had been using that massive mouth to good effect scooping up my bait wholesale. Through its soft skin I could feel my hard packed freebies, boillies and all.
I hadn't even got back into the my sleeping bag when another bobbin dithered up. Another 8lb bream was dragged in from half way across the lake and in under fifteen minutes I had gone from dry and warm to cold and covered in slime.
My sleep for the night was over now because a shoal of bream had moved in and they had their heads down in a big way. Both rods cast on the baited area were constantly going off as the shoal noised around the swim, grubbing up my lines even though they were pinned hard too the bottom. The disco tech going on at the front of my rod pod at first was amusing, but all too soon I got the distinct impression that I was beginning to disturb others over the lake. Even with the volume right down the sound cut through the still night air like a gun shot. I had to turn them to silent and rely on the flashing led lights and the bait runners for indication before I was lynched. A slew of seemingly ever more slimy smaller bream slipped over my net for the next two hours before they just carried on through the swim and the bites stopped as quickly as they started.
Even with a good few hours sleep prior to the fish arriving I was knackered. I made what I now know to be two poor casts towards the spot, turned the alarms back on and crawled back into the warmth of my bed. I awoke naturally just as the sun hinted at it's arrival and the mist began to steam up of the surface of the lake.
Refreshed I got up and recast the rods more accurately onto the spot and it was a good job I did!
At first I thought the line was just settling as the bobbin slacked right off, but then it jerked up before hitting the floor. The strike met a seeming powerful fish that hugged the bottom all the way to the edge before trying to bore into a nearby bed of rushes. This fish felt like a tench until a huge humped back broke the surface.
Lying in the net it didn't look as big as the previous two eights I had landed but when I lifted the net up I got that 'this feels a bit heavier' feeling, and sure enough it's weight laid across it's width. Laid on it's side it looked like a pig of a fish and was easy six inches thick. With a hefty weight of 9.7lb made it the best of the session.
Two more six somethings followed it before the swim died off again. These few fish must have been from a different shoal which arrived late to the party. Even half asleep I had noticed that over the night at least half the bream I landed were two tone. Phil from http://barbelblogger.blogspot.co.uk commented on my previous write up that the two tone colouration is believed to be caused by stress, and I wondered if the presence of cats in the water has anything to do with it.
When it quieted down, I again slipped off into the land of nod only to be woken again. This time however it was the warming and more importantly drying sun which filled up my shelter.
I felt how a cat must when it bathes in the sun contented by whatever mischief it has just perpetrated, satisfied at a good nights work.