An Invite To The Whitehouse - Garry Carlton
Northern big carp angler Garry Carlton takes us back ten years to relive his time on, what is now, one of the most well-known and talked about big fish carp waters in the Midlands. Back to a time when all was kept quiet and this prolific home of the giants was not even on the radar of the majority of carp anglers due to the strict ‘no publicity’ rule.
In the summer of 2007 my good friend Dean Lomas contacted me to inform me he had landed a new personal best, a humping great mirror of 43lb! I was really pleased for him. Dean and I had not seen each other for a while and I wasn't sure where he was fishing so, after congratulating him several times over, I asked the big question, “Go on then, where from?” The reply was Whitehouse Fisheries. I'd never heard of it. After further interrogation Dean revealed that Whitehouse had a strict no publicity rule and membership was by invitation only, it was clear that more people probably knew the location of the bat cave than Whitehouse! I bombarded Dean with questions and learned that there were some real lumps to be had, with possibly another four fish over 40lb and several others over 30lb!
This sounded too good to be true and I immediately decided to do my utmost to get myself an invite to Whitehouse Fishery. These days Whitehouse is commonly known as Deepings One, located on the Lincolnshire Fens close to the village of Baston, it is no longer the subject of a complete publicity ban too, In fact it is quite the opposite and catch reports are frequently featured in the angling press but, back in the day, it was all very secret squirrel, just how I liked it. Dean, very kindly, put my name forward to the owner Phil and I was added to the waiting list. I soon learned that regular work parties were carried out during the months of November through to March, so I decided to tag along to as many as possible and get to know the lads on the syndicate and, hopefully, get my foot in the door.
The following June three of the existing members decided to drop their tickets moving on to pastures new and I was lucky enough to be offered a place on Deepings One. This was the summer of 2008 and, at the time, I was working in a factory doing twelve-hour shifts. The only way I could get to go fishing was by tagging holiday days onto my days off, as a consequence I only managed to get down to the lake for six nights that year and as a result of this I didn't learn a great deal. I did manage to catch a couple of fish, an upper-double common and a scraper thirty mirror, but this was more by luck than judgement and, if truth be known, I felt a little out of my depth.
Although Deepings One is not a large lake at around six acres, it was incredibly weedy back then. The average depth was around eight feet and in places, seven feet of this was Canadian pond weed. I hadn't fished anywhere with such prolific weed growth since my Baston Fen days in the nineties. On Baston Fen we would target the clear spots at close range but, on Deepings, most of the fish would show further out and I was struggling to locate any clean areas at this range. In fact, fish would often show over areas where the weed was most dense. I would spend hours with a marker rod, desperately trying to locate clear spots but they seemed few and far between and often, nowhere near where I had seen fish.
The following year I changed jobs and moved into the tackle industry, securing a position at Bennett's of Sheffield. This meant no more twelve-hour day and night shifts and as a result of this I could get down to the lake every other week for a twenty four-hour session.
My first trip was in April and things were just starting to come to life. I had arranged to meet Dean at the lake and a bit of a social was on the cards. It was Sunday afternoon when we arrived, the lake was deserted, the weekend lads had already left and we had the place to ourselves, bonus!
We did a couple of circuits of the lake but nothing showed and a quick look at the log book in the lodge revealed that nothing had been caught over the weekend either. Dean decided to drop in a swim known as “Long cast” and, after yet another circuit of the lake, I decided on a swim known as “The point”, so called because it covered an area off the point of a long island which stretched across three swims. After a good deal of investigation with the marker rod, I decided to fish one rod directly off the point of the island at around fifty yards range, where a clean area of gravel ran down to a dense weed bed. My second rod would be fished down the margin to my right but, as for my third rod, I was struggling to find a spot I was happy with, and darkness was fast approaching. On a whim, I cast under a willow which was overhanging the island margin and left it there, that would have to do for now.
Later that night Dean called around for a brew, which ended up turning into more like twenty brews, as we sat chatting into the early hours. Dean is great company, always full of enthusiasm and positivity, and by the time he left to get his head down he had convinced me we would both catch. The night passed without event though, and neither of us had so much as a liner. I had to be away for 4pm, so I decided to leave everything where it was for the day too, after all, I had seen and heard nothing to suggest that I would be better off recasting or moving. Dean, however, was staying on for another two nights, so he set about repositioning his rods.
Time was moving on and I decided to start a slow pack down. It looked like a blank was on the cards when suddenly a fish rolled under the willow where I had positioned my third rod. I stood over my setup willing a take to occur, and ten minutes later it did.
The rod tip pulled around and the bobbin smacked against the blank of the rod - Fish on! The fight was incredible, the fish powered up and down the channel between the island and the near margin and I couldn't get it up near the surface for a look. Dean arrived in the swim and got ready with the landing net but the fish had no plans to visit the bank any time soon. After what seemed an age, the flank of a dark common appeared and Dean expertly netted it at the first attempt. What an awesome looking fish it was, long and powerful, full of attitude with great, bristling fins. It didn't weigh as much as we expected, it was long but lacked the depth, however, at a tad under 27lb I was over the moon with the capture and pleased to be off the mark on my first trip of the year.
I continued to enjoy a certain amount of success through the summer of 2009, but I just couldn't get among the real biggies that resided in the lake. There were a good deal of very accomplished and talented anglers on Deepings one at the time, anglers I looked up to and admired, and I fell into the trap of copying. All the lads on there were using fishmeal baits so I followed suit and most of the successful anglers seemed to be targeting very clean areas, feeling the lead down for a hard “donk” while others enjoyed success with the Chod. At times it could be very frustrating, I recall one trip where I landed three during the night, all doubles, the biggest being a 17lb common, whereas the only other angler on the lake landed one, a mirror of 35lb plus. I did land a couple of thirty plus mirrors, along with a scraper thirty leather, on separate occasions during the summer months, but I could not get anything over 35lb!
I decided to change baits, buck the trend and go with something sweet, creamy and nutty. I also began playing around with rigs at home. I must have tied up, and then scrapped, dozens of them. I really liked the concept of Terry Hearn's stiff hinge rig but the stiff boom section would, I thought, prevent it from sitting right amongst any weed or Chod. I replaced the stiff boom with a length of supple braid and decided to give this a go, along with a slow sinking pop-up hookbait. These days this rig is in common use but, at the time, I had not seen anyone else using it, most people seemed to favour the in-vogue Chod rig! I lengthened the tail on my marker float set up to 12inches and made the supple section of my rigs 14inches long, the idea being that, if the marker would surface the rig would be fishing, even if there was a good ten or twelve inches of weed growth on the bottom. I recall looking at the first finished rig and thinking to myself, “That’s going to do the business!”
I was bursting to get back down to Deepings to see if my change of plan would bear fruit but, due to one thing and another, my next trip was almost a month later, this being the second week of September. I arrived at the lake at around 2pm Sunday afternoon to find three anglers in the process of packing up and a fourth angler, my good friend Ian Bruche, set up in the long cast for another two nights. I had to be away before dinner the next day, so this was to be a quick session. I did a circuit of the lake, stopping for a chat with each angler I came to, and it soon became apparent that the fish were simply not playing ball. Nothing had been out over the weekend and, in fact, nothing had been out for the best part of a fortnight! The lads told me that the fish were showing obvious signs of feeding, crashing regularly, rolling and head and shouldering, but feeding on what? It certainly didn't appear to be anglers baits.
I eventually decided to set myself up in the car park swim, this had been neglected all weekend and as I stood looking across the water a big fish poked his head out for a look around before silently disappearing back below the surface. An investigation with the marker revealed that most of the area in front of me was choked with prolific growths of Canadian, undeterred I continued looking for a clearer spot and, soon enough, I found what I had been looking for. The marker suddenly pulled free of a subsurface weed bed and glided over a smoother patch. I fed off line and the float popped to the surface, registering a depth of 8ft. Casting around the marker with a bare lead revealed that the area was covered in soft silk weed, which was full of tiny black snails resembling hemp, that would do for me. I tied one of my lovingly rolled, cork ball pop-ups on to one of my new rigs and tested it in the margin, it looked amazing! I attached it to the rod, added a piece of foam to the hook and lowered the entire setup onto a patch of marginal weed, just to see how it would sit. The lead and leader vanished into the bottom but, when the foam had melted, the hookbait gently fluttered down and rested tantalizingly on top of the weed. Perfect! Time was drawing on, everyone except myself and Ian had left, so I needed to get my act together. I cast out my rig and it landed perfectly, just two feet behind the marker, and moments later the foam appeared on the surface and was peppered with a couple of pouches full of bait. That was one rod sorted. I placed it on the rest and pulled off plenty of slack before attaching the bobbin and I left the buzzer switched off for the time being while the line settled.
Over to the left of the swim were two islands which were connected by a small bar, my intention was to fish one rod at the base of the bar and another at the tip of one of the islands. I was busily trying to locate the bottom of the bar with the marker when I heard a loud smack followed by an intense clicking sound. I turned around and suddenly realised, the loud smack was the bobbin hitting the rod and line was peeling off a very tight clutch at an alarming rate! I dropped everything and scrambled to grab the rod as it was almost wrenched from the rest. As I lifted into the fish it gave several great lurches and I had difficulty hanging on then, suddenly, everything went solid. I tried applying steady pressure for something like ten minutes but nothing moved, I tried pressure from several different angles but still nothing moved, so I slackened off and placed the rod back in the rests. I left it there and stood staring at it for the best part of twenty minutes, but still nothing moved, l lifted the rod once again and wound back down, once I had taken up the slack I felt a couple of hefty thumps on the other end then all went solid again. Stalemate!
I took out my phone and rang Ian. Ian was fishing over in the Long cast, totally unaware of my plight because an island blocked our view of each other. I explained my predicament and he agreed to come across in the boat, which was moored up in the swim to his left. I moved everything out of the way and was ready to climb aboard, with rod in one hand and net in the other, when Ian appeared around the side of the island, frantically rowing like Captain Pugwash on speed! Once I had boarded, we set sail in the direction of the weeded fish, Ian gently paddling as I wound in line until we were directly above it. Still, nothing moved. We gazed over the side where my line led down into crystal clear water and disappeared into a jungle of Canadian pond weed. It was truly incredible to see just how much weed there actually was, tall stems of it reaching up, almost to the surface in places, and my line simply disappeared down amongst it! I leaned into the rod as much as I dare but, with my main line singing in the breeze, there was still no sign of movement. I put the rod down and resorted to hand lining, still nothing, I was beginning to give up hope and said as much to Ian, I was wondering if the fish had shed the hook on some submerged snag and decided it was time to try “Shit or bust” tactics. I lifted the rod, planted my feet firmly against the side of the boat, braced myself and heaved with all I'd got. The blank was creaking and I winced and closed my eyes expecting the line to break at any moment when, suddenly, something kicked on the other end. A huge shower of bubbles appeared on the surface and I started to gain line, all of a sudden the weed parted and my heart thundered as I set sight eyes on what appeared from the depths. It was a huge mirror that looked, for all the world, like Moby Dick’s younger brother. Its tail slapped the surface, spraying me with water before it dived in a bid to regain the sanctuary of the weed. I held on for dear life, my arms aching from the exertion and somehow managed to halt its attempt at escape. Slowly, I managed to pump it back toward the boat, all the while praying everything would hold, as it shook its head from side to side in an attempt to shed the hook. It surfaced again and, this time, Ian scooped it into the landing net.
I bit through the line and dropped the rod in the bottom of the boat before taking the net from Ian. We slowly made our way back to dry land, Ian at the oars while I held my prize over the side of the boat, secure in the folds of the net. Once ashore, we kept the fish in the water while the weighing and photography gear was prepared. We began to speculate about the weight and I offered a guess of 44lb but Ian assured me it was bigger! Hoisting it onto the mat it suddenly dawned on me just what an absolute lump this thing was and I was shaking like a leaf as I attempted to unhook it. The rig had certainly done the business, it was absolutely nailed and I was struggling with shaking hands until, thankfully, Ian helped out and expertly popped the hook out. I was thinking in the region of 48lb as we lifted the scales onto the weighing post but the needle passed that number and settled on a weight of 50lb 8oz! I was completely blown away!
We photographed the beastie as the light began to fade and returned it to its watery, weedy home. We had no idea which one of the “big uns" I'd just landed, neither of us having seen this fish on the bank before now and curiosity began to get the better of us. We headed for the lodge and sifted through the log book to try and identify the fish, there were also several photo albums full of pictures of the big girls, which gave a good insight into their progress and growth rate and it soon became clear that I had landed a carp known as “Black Spot” at its biggest weight to date. I was completely and utterly elated.
While I do not know what size Black Spot was stocked into Deepings One, I can confirm that, as Ian and myself were leafing through the photo albums in the lodge, we came across pictures of the fish at a weight of 19lb and other photos recording a capture at 24lb, as well as subsequent snaps logging its growth as it passed thirty pounds and then forty! These were memories I will cherish for as long as I live.