After Garry’s first instalment "An Invite to The Whitehouse" he’s carried on the story of his time on the Deepings syndicate. If you thought his first year on the water was good after catching Black Spot then you better read on…

 

It's safe to say, from an angling perspective, we have good years and bad years, 2009 had been a good year, made all the more special by my September capture of the mighty Black Spot at a whopping 50lb plus! Deepings one had always been known as an absolute grueller of a winter water, so I decided to leave it well alone during the colder months and fished a few local runs waters for a bit of action. My heart wasn't really in it though and I couldn't wait to get back down to Deeps in search of those big Lincolnshire lumps!

2010 started out exceptionally well, during the month of March I managed to bag a 39lb mirror on my first visit, along with a 19lb common, which fired me up no end and a return trip couldn't come soon enough. My next outing was to be a 24-hour session commencing on the first Sunday of April and I counted down the days like a kid waiting for Christmas. By now, things were starting to wake up, buds were beginning to appear on the trees, birds were pairing up to nest and a few fish were starting to come out up and down the country, but when I arrived at the lake around dinner time it was blowing a cold Easterly and things didn't look good at all. There was one other angler present, my good friend Ian, who had arrived shortly before me and was walking the banks looking for signs of encouragement.

One of the unspoken rules on Deepings was “if someone is there before you, they get to choose where they want to go first.” None of this running around the lake planting water carriers and buckets in swims as quickly as possible. Ian informed me that he hadn't seen anything show and couldn't make his mind up where to go, so if I had somewhere in mind, I should get myself in. I fancied a swim known as The Top Corner, as this was where I had caught from on my previous visit, and seeing as there were no signs to suggest I would be better off anywhere else, it seemed like a good place to start.

My rods still had the marker elastic in place from my last trip so the hookbaits were soon in position with a handful of freebies around each one and I was all set. By now Ian had made up his mind and dropped in the car park swim. He had just finished setting up house when one of the other syndicate members, Simon, arrived at the gates. Simon decided on The Point and set about putting up his house, just as Dean arrived - and then there were four!

Dean called around for a brew and we sat chatting for an hour or so, commenting on how bleak our chances would be in the less than favourable conditions, it was safe to say neither of us were exactly brimming with confidence. After much deliberation Dean decided on a swim known as The Windy, which was in the other half of the lake, and so off he went to set up shop.

The rest of the day passed without event, unsurprisingly, so did the night, with none of us registering so much as a bleep for our efforts, no fish had been spotted and nothing had been heard during the hours of darkness, in fact, you would have thought that no fish at all were even present in the lake. I was just enjoying my second cuppa of the day when another syndicate member, Ellie, arrived for a 48-hour session. I hadn't seen Ellie for a good while and we enjoyed chatting while desperately scanning the water for clues, trying to work it all out. After cup of tea number four, Ellie decided on the swim next door to me, known as The Long Cast, and set off to retrieve his gear from the car, leaving me to ponder over the situation. I needed to be away for dinner time and it was fast approaching. I had a two-hour drive to get home and I was working the next day, but I really wanted to stay. I didn't feel confident in any way, shape or form but I was thoroughly enjoying the social side of the session and I also knew that once I left it would be at least three weeks before I could return. Dean wound in his rods and called around for a brew and I told him how I was feeling, the first thing he suggested was that I should throw in a sicky and do another night. At the time I was employed by Bennett's of Sheffield, the fishing tackle dealer, and they were well aware of my trips to Deepings, so Dean's suggestion was a bit of a ‘No-no’ however, I decided to phone in and ask if I could book a holiday for the following day. I knew I was pushing my luck with another member of staff being off on holiday for the week but nothing ventured, nothing gained I suppose. Fortunately, the boss was in a good mood and I managed to convince him that I wouldn't be missed for one more day, so that was that, I could stay another night. I stuck the kettle back on so we could have a celebratory brew while I phoned my wife, Wendy, to pass on the news.

Dean and I sat chatting for the next couple of hours, we discussed all things carpy and more besides. All the while we scanned the lake desperate for a sign, but none were forthcoming. Dean decided it was time he returned to his swim to put the rods out for the night and just as he got to his feet, the alarm on my middle rod suddenly omitted a single bleep. Both our heads snapped around at the first sign of indication in 24-hours and as we stared at the bobbin, willing it to rise, it lifted a couple of inches and the rod tip pulled down. I was on it like a flash and lifted into what felt like a bream, however, there were no bream present in Deepings One, so it could only be a carp. “It's a little ‘un.” I said to Dean, “Better than nothing” was his reply, “It'll be one of those doubles.” I answered and proceeded to pump the fish towards us with practically no resistance at all.

Dean took charge of the landing net and when the fish appeared on the surface he scooped it in at the first attempt and turned to me and said “It might go twenty.” We prepared the mat and weigh sling before lifting the fish from the water, at which point, we got the shock of our lives! It was clearly way over thirty pounds and Dean instantly recognised it as an old character known as Tin Opener, so called because of an old, healed up cut in its tail which resembled, as I'm sure you have guessed, a tin opener. By now the other lads on the lake had noticed all the commotion and gathered in my swim for the weighing and as we lifted the old girl onto the scales the needle settled on 40lb exactly. Not bad for a little ‘un!

What an incredibly lucky capture that was! If I hadn't phoned work and booked a holiday I would have been halfway up the A1, instead, I was cradling forty pounds of mirror carp in front of the camera and the only reason I had booked the holiday was because I was thoroughly enjoying a social with a great set of lads.

My luck didn't run out there and I continued to get among the fish on most of my trips, catching some awesome carp along the way, however, Tin Opener was the biggest I banked that year and l began to wonder why the big five were evading me. This was my third season on Deepings One and so far, I had only managed to nail one of the real biggies, the mighty Black Spot, while the other four target fish remained elusive. The four consisted of a huge common known as “Clarissa,” which could go anything between 47 to 50lb and three big mirrors known as John Hallat’s, Tommy Ted’s and Steve’s Long Lost. John Hallat’s and Tommy Ted’s were both upper forties while Steve’s long lost was usually around 43lb. When I joined Deepings at the start of 2008 there were possibly four fish over forty, but this incredibly rich water saw the stock pile on the pounds and at the start of 2010 there was at least six fish over the big four-zero, with several others getting close, though my main targets were the five fish mentioned.

I recalled a chapter in Rod Hutchinson's superb book “The Carp Strikes Back” where Rod explains that some anglers have a “knack” of catching big fish. He mentions the great Ritchie MacDonald and Chris Yates, and goes on to describe their uncanny ability to trip up the big girls. There were a couple of anglers on Deepings One at the time who seemed to have this “knack” unfortunately I was not one of them and I began to wonder what I could do to try and change this.

I recalled a conversation I had with Ian, he mentioned big fish were, in his opinion, creatures of habit and would often frequent the same areas and feed on the same spots time and time again, with this in mind, I began to look back on past captures and spent some time studying the Deepings log book to see if a pattern emerged. It became clear that two of these target fish, the big common and Black Spot, were very nomadic and were likely to pop up anywhere, but the three other big mirrors definitely seemed to favour certain areas.

My last session of 2010 was in October and I managed to land three fish, however, two of them were repeat captures, one of which was Tin Opener, this time at 39lb 15oz, and I began to rethink my approach.

In November Bennett's of Sheffield went bust - I was devastated! I had thoroughly enjoyed my time there while working in the angling industry with a great set of people, and the prospect of having to go job hunting was very daunting. I tried ringing around all the local businesses to see if there were any vacancies and, incredibly enough, I got lucky when Climax Tackle offered me a position. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to remain in the tackle trade and with such a fantastic company, suddenly things looked a whole lot brighter.

I didn't go fishing at all through the months of November, December and January and by the time February 2011 arrived I was absolutely desperate to get out on the bank. As previously mentioned Deepings had a reputation as a very difficult cold water venue, in fact difficult is probably playing it down a little, impossible was more than likely a better description. I had the chance to get out for 24-hours and couldn't decide what to do, go somewhere with a good chance of a fish? Or go to Deepings for a guaranteed good night's sleep? I decided on the latter, I was desperate for a Deepings fix and I would be more than happy to just “be there.”

I turned up on a bleak Monday morning to find the lake unsurprisingly deserted, and after a good look around I decided to set up pitch in The Point. The Point was sheltered from the cold Northerly wind and captured the winter sun's rays for most of the day. I decided to take advantage of the empty banks and spread my rods all over the place to cover as much of the area as possible. My middle rod was cast straight out in front, just off the tip of an island, my right-hand rod was cast up into the top corner on a smooth spot surrounded by Canadian and my left rod was cast well down the lake in front of a swim known as DD’s. All three rods were equipped with a variation of Terry Hearn’s Stiff Rig and a sprinkling of freebies surrounded each one. Kettle on, feet up, relax.

I had Saffy and Tyke, the two trusty carp dogs, with me and we sat watching the water until sunset when the wind dropped and the lake became flat calm. Not a thing stirred, the trees stood still and it became uncannily quiet. I could feel the temperature dropping as darkness descended and decided to retreat under the cover of the bivvy and put my feet up. I wrapped the dogs in some old sleeping bags and settled them down for the long night ahead before climbing into the sack. It must have been something like 6pm and l was already in bed! I struggled to keep my eyes open, desperate not to fall asleep too early, when suddenly the silence was shattered by my middle rod absolutely melting off. I did a first class impression of a lunatic in a straight jacket before managing to free myself of the sleeping bag and tear out into the night in my stocking feet!

After a hectic, scrappy fight I slid the net under a chunky 17lb common. I was absolutely thrilled, I'd actually managed to bag a winter fish from Deepings! I quickly released it before doing a quick victory dance (still in stocking feet at this point) and returning to the bivvy for a warm. After changing socks and downing a swift celebratory brew, I tied on a fresh pop-up and got it back out on the spot. Two hours later I was more than thrilled, I was completely and utterly ecstatic when a 33lb mirror rolled into the landing net after picking up the bait on my left-hand rod. What an incredible start to the year!

As you can well imagine, I was itching for another session and two weeks later I returned for another 24hr trip. It was incredibly cold and the night time temperature plummeted to minus four. I woke the next morning to find the water in the dog's dish frozen solid and ice forming in the margins. I had once again dropped into The Point swim and all three rods were back on the same spots as my previous visit. Nothing had occurred during the hours of darkness on this occasion though and I was convinced I was well on course for a blank. As the sun climbed above the tree line, the ice began to thaw and it turned into a beautiful, crisp winter's day. Around dinner time I began a slow pack up, reluctant to leave, knowing my next visit would be several weeks away. I decided to have one last cup of tea before putting the brew kit away and just as the kettle began to boil the bobbin on the middle rod smacked against the blank and line peeled off the reel to the tune of a screaming Delkim! I couldn't believe my luck. Five minutes later a lovely mirror of 27lb 8oz slipped over the net cord and I snapped off a few self-takes in the sunshine.

My year had got off to a flyer and it didn't stop there. A few weeks passed before I could return and by now we were well into March and spring was in control. I decided to try my luck in The Top Corner and fish one rod on the same spot in front of the point swim while trying out a couple of new areas with the other two. The same spot came up trumps again, this time in the shape of a 37lb mirror and my incredible run of fortune continued. After each trip I would return to work and give blow by blow accounts of my Deepings adventures to my good friend and work colleague, Sam Cheetham. He was always itching to find out if I'd had one and just as pleased as me if I had. I continued to catch but the big five still evaded me. I was extremely confident in my bait and rigs and was certain neither of these was the issue. I cast my mind back to the previous year when I had spent some time studying the logbook and past captures. The fish known as John Hallat’s seemed to get caught from The Point swim more than any other, while Tommy Ted’s was more prone to slip up in either The Hole or Long Cast. Steve's Long Lost preferred The Top Corner while Black Spot and Clarissa, both being very nomadic, could tip up anywhere. I had often fished The Top Corner and The Point, so I was either fishing the wrong spots in each swim, or I had been unlucky regarding the big girls. I began studying the water more than ever and constantly kept my eyes peeled for signs of these big fish. Time plays a major factor in the pursuit of big fish and anglers who can put in the hours will always be at an advantage, opportunities can be few and far between when waiting for the biggies to trip up and the longer you are lakeside, the more likely you are to be there when it happens. I was at a bit of a disadvantage in this way, but I didn't let it get to me, I would just have to put in more effort while I was there.

It was the last week of April and I had just spent 24-hours blanking like a good ‘un in The Top Corner. Everything was packed away on the barrow and I was just about to set off for the car when a very big fish head and shouldered out in front of The Long Cast. I dropped everything and ran to the back of the swim to get a fix on the spot. Seconds later it showed again. This was, undoubtedly, one of the big mirrors, either John Hallat’s or Tommy Ted’s. I thought back to what my good friend, Ian, had said about big fish being territorial and often feeding on the same spots. I had to leave there and then but I now felt like I had a clue as to where one of these elusive big girls may trip up.

My next opportunity to get out would be the second week of May and I simply couldn't wait. The renewal date for tickets on Deepings was the first of June and, incredibly enough, Phil Gregory contacted me to ask if I could recommend someone for membership as one of the existing syndicate had decided to drop his ticket. I immediately thought of Sam and got in touch to ask if he was interested. Sam relished the thought of fishing for the monsters of the Deeps and couldn't wait to go and see the place for himself. We arranged a visit straight after work on Sunday afternoon and travelled down in Sam's car. There were a couple of anglers fishing when we arrived and we spent a little time chatting to Jamie who was set up in The Point, before continuing our circuit of the lake. Each time we entered a swim we would stop for a while and I would relay some information to Sam and as we strolled into The Long Cast I mentioned my sighting of the big mirror on my previous visit. I went on to say that I thought it could have been a fish known as Tommy Ted’s and how I would dearly love to catch it. Tommy Ted’s was probably the most elusive of the big five and usually only came out once a year, if at all! Sam absolutely loved the place and paid for his ticket there and then and we set off back up the A1, chatting like two excited kids, in anticipation of the summer months ahead.

After Sam had dropped me off at home I immediately began preparing my gear for an early start and a return trip to Deepings for 24-hours. I arrived back at the lake shortly after sunrise, just in time to photograph a stunning 40lb common for Jamie. This fish was, rather aptly, known as The Long Common for obvious reasons, and it was a real stunner. A strong South Westerly had sprung up during the night and Jamie informed me that fish had been boshing out in front of the car park swim and, had he not had to leave for work, he would have moved round there himself. This put me in a dilemma, I wanted to go in The Long Cast, to target the spot where I had seen the big mirror show, but The Car Park looked nailed on for a bite, decisions, decisions. I made my way back to the car and began loading the barrow, intending to head for The Long Cast, when what looked easily a mid-twenty mirror hurled itself out of the water in front of The Car Park. Once again Ian's words came back to me, “Big fish are creatures of habit and often stick to the same feeding spots.” I decided that, in order to try and trip up a big girl I was going to have to make some adjustments and I may have to sacrifice catching numbers of fish to catch the fish I wanted. With this in mind, I walked straight past the car park and barrowed my gear around to The Long Cast.

The area I wanted to fish was at 80yards range, in front of an island, but not tight up to it. I began an investigation of the lake bed with the marker set up, but it took me the best part of three hours to find exactly what I was looking for. The marker surfaced in seven foot of water over an area of low lying silk weed, surrounded by tall Canadian and after clipping up one of my rods I peppered the area with a kilo of bait using the throwing stick. I would have liked to put two rods on it, but it was too tight so I left it at that. This would be my middle rod, I positioned another on top of a bar to my right and my third rod on a spot to my left in front of a willow tree. As the day wore on the wind seemed to gain in strength and fish continued to crash out at the other end of the lake, in The Car Park swim, while absolutely nothing showed in front of me.

The night passed without so much as a bleep from any of my alarms and I began to consider moving to The Car Park for the last few hours before home time. Another fish, spectacularly crashed out and made my mind up for me, one last cup of tea and I would throw everything on the barrow and get myself round there. I filled the kettle and was just about to light the stove when the alarm on my middle rod bleeped twice! I stopped dead and stared at it when it suddenly did it again, this time accompanied by a 2ins lift of the bobbin. The rod tip pulled down and I'd seen enough, the kettle was thrown in one direction while the stove got kicked in the other as I frantically scrambled to hit it. I lifted the rod and it just seemed solid, as if I'd snagged something, and for a moment nothing moved, then suddenly, I felt a couple of knocks and whatever I was attached to woke up and decided that it didn't like having a size six in the bottom lip. I can honestly say, I had never experienced anything like the fight that followed, it felt like I had hooked a Ford Escort traveling in the opposite direction as this thing flat rodded me at 80yards and ripped line off a tight clutch at an alarming rate! It suddenly changed direction and came straight at me and I had all on trying to take up the slack quickly enough before it suddenly shot off in another direction, heading straight for the top corner of the lake, past an overhanging willow. I was at full stretch in an attempt to keep the line away from the branches sticking out over the lake, before it changed its mind again and set off back out into open water. It​ surfaced, over the same spot I had hooked it in the first place, and I eventually began to gain the upper hand. Slowly but surely, I pumped line back onto the reel until a huge set of shoulders broke the surface ten yards out and my legs turned to jelly. I sank the net, shaking like a leaf, all the while uttering a prayer, please don't fall off! I coaxed it over the net cord, dropped the rod and collapsed in a heap amid tears of joy!

There in front of me, was Tommy Ted’s, the fish of my dreams. I was completely alone on the lake, so after gaining a little composure, I slipped the beast into the retention sling and set about preparing the scales and setting up the camera for some self-takes.

That done, I phoned Sam at work to pass on the news, while Tommy Ted’s had a breather in the margins.

Sam was ecstatic and asked how I was going to manage on my own, photographing such a bad-tempered brute of a fish. This was a bit of an issue, Tommy Ted’s had a reputation for being a bit lively on the bank and in all honesty I would have desperately liked some help, but, there was nobody around so I would just have to make do!

I was in the process of psyching myself up for a bankside beating when my phone suddenly rang, it was Sam calling back. I answered and he immediately said “Keep it in the retainer, I’m on my way” and with that, he hung up before I could answer.

How on earth Sam managed the 80 mile journey in a little over an hour without triggering every single speed camera on the A1 remains a mystery to me, however, I remain truly grateful that he did and took some cracking shots of an amazing fish! The awesome Tommy Ted’s, all 47lb 12oz of it.