My biggest quandary in this venue toss up though was the crowds. Facebook had been alight for weeks with proclamations of intent as well as statements regarding weeks of pre-baiting, and frankly I wanted no part in this blue cross sale like madness. Before now I cannot deny getting caught up in this fervour, and like many others I have gone out tooled up with half a years worth of bait weighing me down after rising in the middle of the night, to run down to the river or lake and chuck the whole lot in as a fanfare plays in my head! And how often has my June 16th ended up being a rather inglorious phaaaarp. Well the answer to that is far too many times.
So fully expecting my favourite river haunts to have their highest bank side populations of the year, I opted to instead take it a little easy, rose at leisurely hour and drove all of a few miles round the corner to Coombe, with the intention of just squeezing in somewhere and enjoying the day with no real expectations in some seriously beautiful surroundings.
Although I had taken one illicit sneak peak a few weeks earlier and kind of knew what to expect, the sight that met me as I looked down over the meadowland towards the age old lake framed by ancient English woodland was nothing less than resplendent. Hoards of swifts whirled overhead in the blue sky, dropping effortlessly at unimaginable speeds towards the ground before pulling up at the last moment and skimming down the hillside towards the lake. On my slow descent down the narrow mowed, track rabbits of all sizes scattered in every direction. All apart from one cheeky youngster no bigger than my fist who nonchalantly carried on munching on what must of been a very choice tussock of grass.
I left my tackle leaning against the fence while I went to investigate the bank, as on my descent I had spotted many alien olive domes hidden amongst the bank side vegetation. My suspicions that it might be a little popular were correct, though I didn't really care as there was enough spaces for me to squeeze in here or there and try and ply a meagre two rods for a tench or a bream.
In the end I settled not too far from the gate with a massive reed bed to my left and one or two spare swims to my right. Nestled alongside a few trees on a newly mown patch I looked over one of the widest parts of the lake, which shallowed very slowly from the bank. I knew I would not be casting a lot, but the casts I made would have to be long to put me into decent water.
Not long after deciding on my swim I found myself sitting back looking over two rods at the lake on which seemed to sit every possible type of waterfowl, including a gaggle of peeved looking greylag geese whom suspect I may have evicted from the peg upon mu arrivel. A pair of reed warblers busied themselves in the big reed bed as another unseen and much larger bird rooted around deep in the rushes, annoying them.
I hadn't even noticed the time passing quickly as I sat absorbing the atmosphere of being back in this amazing place. Before I even knew it ten o'clock approached, and thoughts of a move began to creep into my head. Another swim that I had seen was free and soon began to seem a better option, for a tench at least. So slowly I tidied up getting ready for an imminent move. The sound of a land rover engine was heard well before I spotted Joe the head honcho slowly drive along the track behind me. I think I must have been the first angler he encountered that wasn't sitting behind three carp rods and he stopped for a chat on our favourite subject, tench.
We had only been chatting for a short while before he quickly pointed out over the water towards a patch of flat water in the ripple where he had just seen a carp roll. Tracking his arm to the area about seventy yards out, I looked just as he said, "...in line with that bushy tree on the other bank." My mind had hardly time to compute the information that it was pretty much in the area of one of my rods when the indicator screamed into to life and the reels spool began spinning.
'It couldn't be!' was all I could think until the I lifted into a far too aggressive fish to be a bream. I'd have loved to think it was a massive tench, but that carp rolling was just too telling. Trying to keep my cool, the drag was quickly eased to cater to the seemingly unstoppable first run. The fish was a long way out which gave me enough time to prepare for its hopeful arrival close to the bank. Joe reeled in my second rod to clear the path, and not long after I realised it might not be an easy job getting a hard fighting carp to cooperate and come down the channel between the reed beds lining either side of my swim. The thought that if it did not play ball I might be going for a paddle soon became a reality as it swung hard to my right. That was it! I began rooting in my pockets and throwing valuables onto my seat. Wallet, car keys and like were all tossed out. By then the carp had made up its mid that the bank was its only chance of escape and in doing so confirmed I was getting wet...
I would've gone down to just my boxers but never got the chance. Just my trainers were left neatly on the edge of the bank and I stepped in. The water wasn't cold which was nice, the silt however was deep. Six or eight eight inches squelched around my ankles and up my trouser legs, and the stink really made the moment. Years worth of rotten debris and gas bubbling up around me every time I took a step out into the the lake. I must have been twenty feet out from the bank before I got control of the fish and turned it round as it came within feet of the reeds. Of course then it charged straight at me, and I struggled to wind the line back on the spool quick enough. I saw it go past me not far out just before I turned to ask for a net. Joe was well on top of it and the net was already floating towards me. Two little runs and it was over. I had done the impossible and netted a June 16th Coombe Abbey lake carp.
It wasn't a monster but anyone who knows this lake knows that these fish are like rocking horse droppings. Better anglers than I have given years of their lives over to trying to catch one and not succeeded, and here I am on the first day of the new season holding probably a never before caught perfect little mirror carp from one of the hardest carp waters in the Midlands.
That was my first day made in one fish, though I never got to see it swim away as my paddling session has turned the normally rather clear water in a rancid silt soup. It was as we chuckled over the whole farce that I took stock of the disaster zone that was me and my swim. Looking at my chair where were all my valuables now resided and something was missing... Slowly reaching down into my left leg pockets I felt a shape distinctly mobile phone-ish and was about to start cursing when through the wad of now liquid toilet roll I felt the shape was thankfully my little key wallet instead. Luckily my phone had been in my fishing bag when I went for my paddle, thank god.
I think I may have made Joe's day with my little June sixteenth adventure and the capture of the first carp of the season. After shaking my hand he chuckled off back to his Landy and left me soaked from the thighs down standing in a swim peppered with goose shit and oh, what a state I looked.
This might seem totally insane to anyone who reads this but after I settled down and got dried off I decided to make that move after all. The fish I sought were definately not in the area I was fishing, and rather than recast and sit it out again it seemed the better option for me to head off towards that free swim right up at the top of the lake, where I knew I stood a much better chance of coming across patrolling tench.
My journey up the bank was just about as farcical as my little adventure prior to it. The news had already shot down the bank quicker than lighting that a carp had been caught, and carp anglers were all a fluster at the news. Everyone who I spoke to as I passed had heard it and they were flabbergasted that it was me and that I had moved straight out of the sacred spot. No word of a lie I saw at least one chap running off in order to try and drop in the now vacant swim.
Turned out I could not get into the swim I wanted as another anglers line was intersecting it, but I wasn't bothered; the next one along was free so I set up shop in the very first peg on the bank, well away from everyone else, and cast my two method feeders onto a previously productive line a little over half way over the lake where the tench often patrol.
By late afternoon the weather had gone from sunny to overcast and back again. All that had shown interest were two skimmers of a pound each and something that gave me a very promising run that stopped before I could get to the rod. It became what sessions at Coombe are all about as far as I am concerned, waiting! Through into early evening I watched the water like a hawk for all but one hour when I nodded off in the late afternoon sun. As I watched I did spot a tench or two roll out towards the opposite bank but sadly the line in which they were travelling was a bit out of range of my Avon rods.
Although it had not been a busy day bite wise as far as I was concerned it was more than a success with that chance carp capture. To be honest it went pretty well by first day standards and I really enjoyed spending the day on the lake. The fish I feel may of been in a little shock after months of no one on the bank then hundreds of people showing up and smashing a load of bait in hoping to bag a big one straight off. I know it will take a few weeks for the lake to settle down into a new routine and by then the banks will be a more sparsely populated and I will start getting a few nights in. One thing there did seem a lack of however was mozzies. In fact they were conspicuous by their absence! Both of the two swims I fished seemed rather void of any buzzing annoyances. Mind you my new organic insect attractors may have distracted them and drawn them off to their doom, like moths to a flame.