From the way this session started, it’s hard to believe that I would be sitting here writing with a huge grin on my face. Lets go back to Wednesday evening where it all began. Things have been so hectic with the OTBT brand over the last few months that I haven’t even been able to think about my own angling and instead, have pretty much been glued to a Mac screen for 2 months solid. I was happy when I looked at my to-do list on the Wednesday evening to find that I’d actually gotten through more than I thought, and what was left could be pushed back a bit, as if I’m honest with myself, I literally NEEDED to get out as my brain had pretty much turned to mush. Having not planned the session whatsoever, I was sat at 11.00pm tying up a few stiff hinges for the morning. I’d set my alarm for 7.00am, with the view to having a leisurely breakfast, packing the car and being at the mere for around 11.00am. Breakfast done, I opened the garage door for the first time in 2 months and was met to a strange smell. Picking up the Tempest Brolly, I noticed several holes chewed through the bag...RATS! They’d gotten in and been all over everything! Droppings everywhere and everything covered in p*ss! I began to work through all my gear to see what damage had actually been done and luckily, it seemed I’d gotten off fairly lightly, with no damage done to the Tempest itself and they’d payed most of their attention to a bag of bedding where they’d clearly been nesting to keep warm. I sorted the garage out the best I could and got all of my cooking gear out to give it a thorough clean before carrying on with the job in hand. 

With everything but a coat and my camera gear packed, and a quick phone call to Dave to say I was leaving in 5, I stepped out of the door to put my coat in the car and....SLAM! The porch door had slammed shut in the gale-force winds, locking me out of the house, and not only that, but with my camera gear, wallet, phone and of course my keys all inside the house, sat in the doorway on full view. I literally stood there (in the p*ssing down rain of course) without a clue what to do. I couldn’t ring anyone as my phone was in the house and I don’t know anybody’s mobile numbers off by heart even if I did have access to a phone. Luckily, the one set of keys I did have were my car keys, and so I had no other option but to leave everything there, cane it to the girlfriends’ work (an hour round trip in heavy traffic) to get her keys. This was shaping up to be one hell of a morning! Of course, every single set of lights was on red, but luckily, everything was still there when I got back. By this point, my head was banging, I was wetter than an otters pocket and just wanted to go back to bed and start the day again. I was soon on the phone to Dave to say that I wouldn’t be coming down after the morning I’d had, and back came the response, “I think I can almost beat that.” It turns out Dave’s morning had panned out just as badly as mine, with a fallen tree blocking the road outside the fishery, the dam wall collapsing on the stock pond, a broken toe AND to add insult to injury, his fully laden barrow tipping over on the way down to the lake! After a bit of persuasion, and a gentle reminder of the perfect conditions we were experiencing for the next 48hrs, I was soon doing my food shop in Tesco and making my way down the M53, albeit 4hrs later than planned. 

Arriving at the mere, just after 3:30pm, I had a couple of hours left before dark, which gave me enough time to walk round to the far side, deposit a kilo or so of the Pacific Tuna and get set up before dark. That was until I got the rods out to find that the little furry b*stards had chewed through all my leaders and I was sat splicing new ones and it was pitch black before the rods were clipped up and ready to go. With the gale-force winds and rain still relentless, I was struggling to hit the clip at 25 wraps and after far too many attempts and my headache worsening, and wanting nothing more than to just curl up in bed, I just had to ‘make do’ and get my head down for the night, praying that this was the end of my run of bad luck. After a quiet night and a good sleep, I was beginning to feel a bit more human come the morning. After a coffee, I whipped all 3 rods in to find that of course, every single one of them was tangled - testament to ensuring you hit the clip properly every time, and pretty much summing up the day I’d had. 

With the wind now slightly less hurricane-like, and the conditions looking bang on, I took the opportunity to top up the area with another 2 kilo of the Tuna. With 2 rods back in position and whilst still sinking the line on the 3rd, the rod I’d just put out less than 5 minutes previous was away. Rather taken back, I dropped the rod I had in my hand and bent into what felt like a decent fish, holding it’s own out in open water and kiting right, hard. With a fair amount of side strain, I was able to coax the fish back into open water in front of me. With the fish holding its’ own, and not even surfacing until it was ready for the net, I was surprised to see a mid double pop up, but I didn’t care - I’d almost forgotten what a carp looked like having not put one on the bank since July! I did my usual little piece for the video diary and then it wasn’t until seconds after slipping it back, I realised I’d forgotten to get any shots of it…you can tell I haven’t been out for a while! It was clear they were on the bait. There hadn’t been many anglers on for the last couple of weeks and with the perfect conditions, I knew they’d be hungry, so I wasted no time in depositing another 2.5 kilos along the far margin and repositioned the rods before settling in for the night. 

I hadn’t mentioned it up until this point, but I felt that although completely unplanned, my session had actually fallen at quite a good time, not only conditions wise, but my target fish; Ivy had a track record for doing a trip to the bank in December. Myself and Dave has actually sat talking about this very fish the previous night, and I’d been talking to my mate Bev that very afternoon with the famous last words “My target common usually does a trip in December…I’m a bit early, but you never know” and I went to bed that night hopeful that Ivy had gotten her dates wrong and might just slip up. All 3 rods went out perfect, but I just had a feeling about the middle rod. It was the rod that had done the fish earlier that day and also went down with an absolute ‘crack’…one of those drops where you just can’t help but think…”that’s got to do a fish.”

After a clear and cold start to the night, the cloud cover set in and the temperatures went up a couple of degrees. I awoke some time after 3am to light rain pattering away on the roof of the brolly. I must have dozed off again as I was startled by the middle rod letting out very strange take, starting with a savage drop back before bouncing back up tight. Scrambling for my shoes, it was a few seconds before I got to the rod where the Clinga was now jammed into the alarm. I lifted into what I initially thought was a small fish - constantly banging its’ head throughout the fight and not really feeling very big at all. After a pretty unremarkable fight, with the fish just making the odd bid for freedom under the rod tip, I slipped the net under what looked to be a low 20 common under the light of the head torch through the hazy glow of the mist that now engulfed the mere. I slowly drew the fish back towards me in the net and it was clear that it was much bigger than I first thought. An immaculate common with a huge frame lay beaten in the folds and my first thought was….’Ivy?!’ There was only another 2/3 possible commons of that size that it could of been, but I was 90% sure it was her, but I almost couldn’t believe it to be true having been speaking about this exact fish just hours before and it suddenly sunk in that today was the 1st December. It was almost surreal. I looked at my phone to check the time (6:40am) and had a text from Steve Hall who was on in the Moat. Knowing he was awake, I was on the phone to him seconds later as we tried to narrow down which of the big commons it could have been. I hadn’t weighed it at this point, but I think I knew. 

With daylight just around the corner, I slipped the fish into the retainer, text Dave to say I had one of the big commons in the sling and tried to calm myself down a little with a coffee. I didn’t bother recasting the rod; partly because I still had another rod on the same area and didn’t want to risk spooking any fish that may still be feeding, but more-so because I couldn’t care less what happened after that! After the start of the session just going from bad to worse I couldn’t quite believe how it had turned out. 

Now light and with a gap in the rain, the rest of the lads gathered to determine which fish it was, but now in full daylight, it was undeniably her! The distinct, bulging frame of Ivy lay on the mat. We got her up on 2 sets of scales to double check and both confirmed what I was hoping for - a new PB of 31.13. Four and a half years I’d been after this fish and I’m pretty sure I actually lost here at the net a couple of years back after it did me around some old sunken staging so it had been a long time coming. I was elated - the perfect end to an incredibly frustrating session and what will most likely be my last session of 2018, so the perfect way to round off the year.

With the lads snapping away with the cameras, I proudly held her aloft before slipping her back and packing up one very happy angler. There will be a short video diary to accompany this session once I get round to editing it, so keep your eyes peeled for that, but until then, best of luck if you’re out there doing it over the festive period - keep at it and the rewards will come. All the best. Ste.