The lake in three places is flanked by three very different woods that certainly effect the areas of water they line. The old rhododendron wood is, as it's name implies, festooned with this rampant alien. Although all of the trees that form the canopy of this wood are truly English; so many are ancient old oaks that Autumn pike fishing under it's cover on a windy day is a dangerous affair, with acorns falling from height like bullets, clonking any unaware anglers out of there essox related day dreams. When dusk comes this is a noisy place to be. The dense foliage crated by the rhododendrons harbours masses of pheasants whose eerie vibrating calls ring out echoing through the silent air. The trees too hide unseen avians that awaken at night. A large amount of little owls seem to roost eyes closed up in those three tops, only to wake at night and begin shrieking back and forth to each other with the regularity of metronome testing faculty. All in all by day it is a quiet spot, bar falling nuts. But by night it is not the place for those afraid of screeches in the night.
On the opposite bank exists the second of the three woodlands which is in a way different from the other two. Where the lake laps at the land a front line of old English trees hang out over the water, slowing reclaiming the wood at their own pace. The hand of man still dots this place with a host of trees which have little to right to exist here. Browns wood is dense and over grown, a dark place with crumbling old buildings hidden under moss deep in its depths. Once in my youth myself and some friends ventured into it's depths and found an old path lined with massive stones that looked like it wouldn't look out of place with fairies buzzing over it. We followed it as far as we could until natures growth cut us off, and retreat from the stifling air and dank was our only option. This wood hangs so far and densely over the lake you can't see out of it, never mind cast from it even in the dead of winter when the trees fall bare.
The brook wood is the final of the three and of all of them this one looks probably as England did thousands of years ago. In the winter it is open and the cold wind courses through it onto your back, chilling you to the bone. Come spring, passage through it becomes difficult, the myriad of brambles that offer cover to all the usual characters serve to keep out humans. It faces Browns wood, only separated from each other by the lake. On the right day the wind deflects off either wood leaving the shallow water still and warm. If the sight of ancient aloof carp cruising through lily pads stimulates, you then an hour spent up a tree in this wood would have you salivating and possibly being tricked into commitment to a fruitless cause.
The latter of the three was where I fancied might be good for a cast. The pad lined base of Browns wood on the other bank is both secure and safe for fish. The shadows of anglers have not been cast over this water in a hundred years. A hefty chuck it is to that far bank, and it is only normally the dedicated carpers who fish this water.
At four in the morning the water was still shrouded in mist and barley visible. The banks were quiet and deserted. I could hear the sudden calls of moorhens along the reed beds as I slipped unseen around the edge of the lake. Not one angler was under the cover of the trees, which was very surprising. Normally hard worn carpers doze in this area with bags under their eyes and nets caked thick in bream slime. To them one proper bite in five days is good, and double figure bream moping up their carefully placed boilies is bad. They are always a font of up to date information; Dave who's on the other bank got done over by the bream last night, or Kev over in the wood is getting plagued by tench. They always hand over that stuff freely. But ask about carp and they close up quicker than a bivalve at a clam bake. If ever I see a jumping carp or cruising zeppelin I always pass on the info to the first interactive carper I see at the lake, as frankly they need any help they can get as one fish per season is considered good by the lake's standards.
My normal casual lead around confirmed the shallow bay in front was peppered with random patches of differing types of weed. The last third of the cast to the far bank seemed clear enough so a few balls of left over ground bait was sent around the marker, followed by a single feeder on this spot. The second was put tight into a weed bed just beginning to break the surface and the third was nailed full tilt onto the far bank lily line at the edge of the wood.
I saw my first fish roll after only half an hour and it was definitely the brown back of a bream. All along the far bank they rolled for a good hour. Then a big common breached full out of the water before making two less spectacular jumps amongst the pads. As the day grew lighter and the mist cleared the lake looked different somehow. It was the water! It was heavily coloured. Like many old lakes this one is feed by an inlet stream and according to other resident anglers it had been spewing dirty sediment laden water in for the latter half of last week. This though had seemingly pushed the majority of the fish population down into the end of the lake I was actually fishing.
A while after the rolling fish disappeared and the liners started. Even with my line pinned down as best I could the active fish seemed to catch them as they passed. As far as I could figure there was weed bed half way between my spots and me and as the lines slumped down over it that was where they kept contacting them.
As I was embroiled in a conversation with another angler heading deep into another wood when the rod I had tight to the far bank first bleeped once then moved off steadily. Much to mine and my companions delight. Immediately I knew this was no bream as my three pound test rod did a very good impression of a hula hoop. Keeping slow and deep it kited left then back right before surging towards me. Desperately trying to keep up I wound down as quick as possible only to feel the numb thump a fish makes when it's head is deep in a weed bed.
After applying as much I thought safe, my only option was to hand the rod around a tree and wade through the chest high foliage into the next swim to try and change the angle. And it worked! the fish was free and the clutch sang one long note as it dived deeper into the weed bed. Tracing back to my swim I again changed angle but this time the thumping was gone and line again was spooled onto to my reel. The pile of weed I landed was massive; an estimate of five pounds of bloodworm riddled weed may be a conservative.
It has been a long time since I felt the loss of a fish so badly and also a long time since I have felt the raw force of something truly massive and uncontrollable. Bream or tench it was not. A carp or cat was definitely responsible for that overpowering fight. Even if I knew it was a massive cat I know I would not feel the pain of loss so badly as what I honestly suspect it was. For those carp are just so special that even when you hook one by pure luck it feels like you have wasted your only chance ever...
By mid morning I had calmed somewhat and the mist was gone. Now the unseasonal sun baked down on the water. The liners had slowed and water grew calmer. A single bleep drew my attention to my bobbins in the hope one might just rise against all odds. Just beyond the bank a sight no angler could ignore suddenly appeared. With no doubt in my mind I knew exactly what it was. Then again tiny fizzing bubbles rose all at once.
One or more tench browsed right under my rods and I could not resist. My spare rod was blindly grabbed . Float, rubber, weight and hook where all attached by feel alone as my eyes would not move away. They were feeding exactly where I tossed any old bait or hookers. I do not think I have ever so gently lowered a bait into place. For the next two hours I watched that float like a hawk willing it to first rise a little before sliding away
It never did slide away attached to a lovely summer tench, but eventually I did slide away to watch someone else on TV waste the wonderful chance he probably won't ever get again.