It had been a few years since I had been to the lake in question but since then the carp and catfish had grown significantly and I really fancied pushing up my catfish personal best. Not much had changed on the surface since my last visit, the bank and swims were still well looked after and in the spring sunshine the lake looked a picture. I was surprised how quiet the place was but it was midweek so perhaps I should not have been too surprised.

I wandered slowly around, the swim where I had caught most of my catfish before still looked a good bet with a sweeping line of overhanging trees off to the left, a line of reeds to the right. However I fancied the far side for some reason, admittedly it was sheltered from the wind but that was not the only reason. The water dropped off quickly under the overhanging bushes, I could imagine a catfish or two nosing around under them. Sure enough half hour later I was set up and ready in that swim.

I baited heavily with trout pellets and boilies on both spots and flicked out a three bait rig with a size four hook on both rigs, then sat back and surveyed the scene as the evening drew on. Not much happened until a large swirl appeared out front of me as a small fish was engulfed by a hungry cat Ė itís an awe inspiring site to see a catfish hunt. A huge swirl followed by a glimpse of a big long black tail.

Darkness came with no action but then the right had buzzer bleeped once before a steady run developed. I struck but the expected surging run of a hooked catfish did not occur, instead I connected with nice weight and after a minute I guessed I had hooked one of the lakeís big tench. Sure enough the nod, nod fight under the rod tip showed a nice tench was plodding up and down. In the blackness the big net engulfed the prey. On the mat was a long fit female tench, the three baits were hanging out of its mouth but the size four hook was well embedded. On the scales it went just two ounces short of 8lb, a perfect looking fish probably never hooked before, shame it was caught on catfish tackle, but it was a fish to admire regardless.

The rest of the night was quiet, just the occasional swirl but as the grey light of dawn showed the left hand rod just tore off, the buzzer a single tone. There was no mistake this time; a catfish had taken the bait. I lifted the rod but did not disengage the baitrunner, instead I slowed the rotating spool with my finger, eventually the run slowed enough so I clicked in the gears and let the pre-set clutch do the work. The catfish stopped out in the middle of the lake and in the gloom I looked at the rod, bent well over as I increased pressure to get it to come towards me. Eventually it did so and I began to gain most of the line I had lost.

After a few minutes the fish was just ten yards out but I knew it was still somewhere near the bottom, some fifteen feet down; getting it off the bottom would be no easy task. It hugged down deep, occasionally the line flicked as its tail caught the line making my heart miss a beat. This was exciting stuff and I was enjoying it, but at the same time I was eager to get it in. After ten minutes of it fighting in the edge I saw the first swirl as it neared the surface. It then powered off again, there was nothing I could do to stop it, the clutch just purring away.

The next time it came in close and I could tell it was tiring; finally I forced it on to the surface, it looked a big one, long and broad across its head. The big net was well out and sunk below the surface so I led it in until I guessed its head would be at the spreader block and quickly lifted lowering the rod at the same time. Sure enough the cat dived down into the net as I lifted it around it.
I peered into the net in the edge; indeed it was well over 20lb, near to 30. A great start. I lifted it out on to the big mat on the grass and found the hook nicely in its wide bottom jaw. It came out easily enough and then I had a good look at my catch, a superb looking specimen, perfect in every way, a true British born big catfish, fantastic. After manoeuvring it in to the weigh sling I lifted the scales, the needle hovered around 30 but settled in the end at 27lb 11oz. A right result from my first session back!

Have fun!