The mild weather soon passed and through the rest of March and April temperatures never got above mid-double figures. I spent every weekend fishing and walking and baiting areas, with only tench and bream to show for my efforts. Although this period wasn't productive, I didn't consider it a waste of time, in fact the knowledge I gained from plumbing and looking in this time proved very useful in the following months. Typically I'd fish the nights blind on the end of the winds, or in areas I was fortunate enough to spot the odd fish roll or cruise. The days would always be spent looking around, getting to know the massive expanse of water and constantly baiting up areas so that, should I see fish somewhere, I'd have a few spots close by that were clean and presentable. Should I see fish in areas, then these would be spots that I'd pay particular attention to on future 'looking and baiting' trips.
As the temperatures rose in early May, fish were seen more and more frequently. In mid May I had a couple of days fishing mid-week. A two day training course allowed me to fish the evenings and nights, before nipping off for the main part of the day learning some statistical computer package.
I arrived at the lake mid-afternoon and, after a quick look round, I found numbers of fish in and around a large shallow bay to the south of the pit. Walking back into the main swim at the bottom of the bay I bumped into Nigel. He'd also been looking around the bay and after a quick chat we spotted a large fish coming into the margins. Nigel said it was 'cut-off' and after a better look, the fish's characteristics of the chopped tail and distinct waddle became apparent. We quickly started flicking chum around the fish and soon had her feeding confidently on the top. Nigel quickly set up a rod and over the next couple of hours came incredibly close to catching her.
She drifted off and I decided to have a look around so left Nigel to it. A few swims along I found 'cut-off' in the margins with a stockie. They started to cruise back in Nigel's direction so I followed. They were soon joined by another big mirror, a fish I'd not seen before, very long and with a large patch of big scales on one side. I guessed she weighed about mid 30. The fish left the margins and headed off into the open of the bay. Nigel was packing up and leaving the lake, I said farewell and went back to the car to get the tackle.
I set up in the swim where I'd just seen the fish leave the margins, a pleasant place to fish. The rigs were quickly lowered onto the clean gravel shelf in the margins and a couple of broken baits dropped around them. The tench were being particularly hungry at this time so I baited very lightly, not wanting to attract their attention too much. The fish soon returned and all evening the odd one or two would cruise by.
11:30pm and one of the rods screamed off. The fish ran straight into a big weed-bed but soon after came into the margins, ready for netting. I lifted the heavy weight out onto the unhooking mat. Removing the hook I looked at the long fish and quickly recognised it as the mirror I'd seen with 'cut-off' earlier. One flank had a patch of big scales; the fish was a really good-looking original. I weighed her at 33lb 8oz. I was unwilling to sack the fish until morning as it was still before midnight. So, placing the fish in the net in the margins, I set the camera up for a few quick self-portrait shots. I knew the pictures wouldn't do the fish justice, but I just didn't want to cause it any stress.
Through the day, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Rain and strong winds had replaced the previous day's sunshine, and I was fishing blind again for another night.
I'd booked the following week off, so returning at the weekend I had 9 days fishing in front of me to look forward to. The forecast for the week was just what I was hoping for; improving temperatures to reach well over 20 degrees by the end of the week. The first night I lost a fish from the same spot I'd had the 33 from. At 1am a good fish took me through a marginal snag and slipped the hook on a slack line.
Sunday was cooler and no fish visited the bay, I fished out into the deeper open water at the bay's entrance, but didn't see any sign of fish. Monday morning dawned bright and warm, perfect. Walking back into the bay at 7am, I quickly baited a few spots along the margins before driving off to friend's house for a quick shower and some fresh bait. Returning to the lake at about 9am I started looking round the bay and checking a few of the baited spots.
One spot, a short bar that came out from the margins under an overhanging tree, had fish feeding on the introduced hemp and crushed boilies. Two originals, 'Cut-off', a fully scaled mid-20 and a stockie fed hard for the next hour clearing the gravel of bait. The spot was brilliant to fish, climbing the over-hanging tree you could sit directly above the baited gravel and literally drop baits exactly where you wanted them. When they had drifted off I quickly placed two hookbaits on the area and topped the swim up with a few broken baits. All day the weather was good and I watched those 2 originals plus an other 2, a thirty plus linear and a 20lb common, plus a few stockies cruising around the bay. A couple of times fish fed on the spot, but no pick-ups developed.
In the afternoon, no fish visited the spot, preferring to cruise in the open water of the bay. I moved round into the '33' swim for the evening and night, and had a good tench of 6lb 10oz.
I moved the rods back to the bar under the tree at 7am and sat in the tree all morning watching the same fish as yesterday plus a 'new' mirror with a kinky back of about mid-20's. It was cloudier today and the fish didn't come into the bay as quickly, only stockies fed on the spot and after a group of four fish had cleared it I began to get very worried about the presentation. The fish had totally 'done' me, and these were the 'green' stockies, if I couldn't hook them after they had fed so well, what chance did I have with an original? After they had left I brought the rigs back in; no tangles or anything. I cut the already short 6 inch stiff links down to 4 inches and replaced the whole boilie hookbaits with little broken pieces before putting them back out. Up the tree I put out about a pound of chopped baits, really covering the spot.
Ten minutes later the same group of stockies came back and went down on the bait. After a little while I watched one of the fish come off the bottom shaking its head, at the same time the alarm gave a string of bleeps, before it tore off into open water taking line from the clutch. Down from the tree and after a short tussle I netted a nice mid-double mirror. I was now very happy with the rigs and presentation.
I was now building up quite a good picture of the fish's habits; they would only feed on this spot in quite a fine window during the day. Entering the bay as soon as the sun was up, the fish would cruise tight to the margin as long as the sun would hit it. As the day wore on and the sun moved around, the shadow of the bank would increase out into the lake and once it had covered the spot, no fish would visit it. The fish always stayed in the direct sunlight, never leaving it and never straying into the cooler shadow. Also the fish would only feed in the first couple of hours they were in the bay, as soon as the sun had warmed the water for a while, they would stay on the surface and baits on the bottom were ignored. This meant you had a two hour window when you could expect the fish to feed on the spot, on warmer bright mornings this would be say between 8 and 10, and on cooler cloudy mornings between 10 and twelve. But by 1pm everyday the shadow would cover the spot and it was a complete right-off.
It was now Tuesday evening and once the sun started to lower, I watched the fish move out of the bay down its left hand-side. I quickly packed up and followed them, setting up on a point at the bay's mouth. Fishing out into deeper open water overnight I saw no signs of fish and just caught a few bream and tench.
Back in the same swim in the bay at 7am, the weather was a bit cooler and I caught tench after tench all morning. At 9am the 'usual suspects' plus another 'new' fish, a really golden 20lb plus mirror, cruised in. Nothing showed any interest in the bait and all the fish just sat in a weed bed to my right until, at about 10am, out of the corner of my eye I saw a large fish come into the bay. The fish was very dark and looked noticeably larger than 'cut-off'. It just swam straight up to the spot and went down and fed on the gravel. I sat frozen in the tree as I watched the enormous common feed, just feet below me. I didn't really want to hook such a big fish while sat in the tree, but feared that if I tried to climb down I might spook it. I wasn't overly concerned though, as I could see it wasn't feeding on my bait, but on naturals in the bare gravel. It fed for about 10 minutes before lifting up off the bottom and moving over to where one of my little patches of bait was, it picked up a couple of broken baits before moving off the spot into the open water. Twenty feet away it rolled on the surface, pushing its shoulders out of the water, before diving down to the weedy bottom and flapping its flank against the weed. It was definitely the same fish I'd seen pictures of, out last year at over 42lb.
As if a switch had been flicked, all the fish in the bay suddenly became interested in the baited spot. Firstly a couple of stockies moved in, I did not want one of these to mess up the chance of the common, so quickly flicked a few baits at them, moving them off the area. Then a 20 plus original came on to the spot and although I would have loved to have caught it, again I moved it off the spot by dropping bits of boilie on it's head.
Earlier in the morning I had put out a few floaters towards where the fish had been sitting in the weed. Now a few fish were picking off these free baits. I could clearly see the largest mirror in the bay, 'Cut-off' feeding hard on the chum. It was as if I had a choice to try for a 40lb mirror off the top or a 40lb common off the bottom. Crazy stuff !
I had a floater rod set up, but chose to ignore it. The last thing I wanted to be doing was throwing controllers around and possibly spooking a fish. I was sure of a good fish off the bottom and did not want to muck it up as I was already in a panic.
The common returned a few minutes later and again fed on the bare gravel, then once more picked up a few bits of bait from the same little pile it had previously visited, before moving off into open water. 'Cut-off' then came onto the spot and fed on the bottom baits. I was sure I wasn't going to try to scare her off, until seeing the common half an hour beforehand, she had been my target fish and I was happy to let her eat all she could. She moved off the spot for thirty seconds and gave me the ideal opportunity to slowly lower myself down from the tree and go and sit next to the rods. I could still see her from the ground as she returned and fed again.
A few minutes later one of the rods rattled off as I saw her quickly exit the swim. I let her run for a few seconds to make sure she was well clear of the tree before tightening down hard. She took line as I waded out to the end of the bar where I hooked her, making sure she couldn't suddenly run into the over hanging tree. A few minutes later I netted her as another angler walked into the swim. I carried her back to the bank and quickly tried to weigh her, but as I thought, she bottomed out my Avon's. Quickly sacking the fish I ran back to the car to pick up the big scales. A few minutes later two other anglers and myself weighed her at 41lb 1oz, a new personal best and her top weight.