When chatting to Jerry Hammond earlier in the year, Gary and myself mentioned we were looking for somewhere to enjoy our usual Summer carp campaign... and of course Jerry came up with the perfect answer... why not have a go on Brooke?
And so off we go, to one of the two lakes at the Carthagena fishery, in Broxbourne. The main lake is a members only syndicate, and Brooke Lake's a day ticket water that's open all year round.
My scout, alias Gary, gets there a half hour before me, and instead of diving straight into a cuppa, he actually starts walking the lake! Checking likely swims for features, water depth, room for playing in catches, also noting any fish movement, and where we can put the kettle for tea brewing... well, you do have to get your priorities right you know!
Once I've parked up, I stroll down to the lake but can't see Gary, I give him a call to find out where he is, and from not more than five yards around the bank he comes into view... ain't these phone things marvellous!
The choice seems to be between three or four swims around one corner of the lake, with a look in each one, we make our decision, let's hope we've chosen well?
Gary has some overhanging trees to one side of him, and a large swathe of lily pads out in front, that'll give him two good areas to target. The pads stretch out across my swim too, so I'll drop a bait in on the end of them, and my other rod will cover another set of pads on the other side of my swim.
Rig wise it's fairly standard stuff, off my mainline I've got a leadcore leader down to a 2oz lead, with my hooklink just above, coming off helicopter style. The hooklink is around 6" long, tied with a hair, around a size 6 JRC Mbt Connect 360 hook. I'm trying a new bait this time, Berkley's Gulp boilies, one mounted 'snowman' style, and the other, hair rigged and tipped off with a grain of artificial sweetcorn.
We hear a fish jump. It's over by some reeds on the far side of my swim.
Gary's carrying on with the same boilies we had so much success on last season, but only on one of his rods. Trying something different, he's putting out a bed of dead maggots with a spod, then fishing live maggots, on a clip, over the top. His thinking is it might just fool a wary carp, when they usually see boilies day in and day out.
More fish start showing, another by those reeds again, and there's a large swell of water just off of Gary's pads.
Our baits are placed, rods in their rests, and buzzers switched on. Then, of course, the kettle goes on! Not that we're putting our feet up yet, as our 'homes' for the night have to be put up. Gary's had a Fox Oval brolly for a while now, and has always been very happy with it, me on the other hand, I've had an old Nash bivvy for years, and I have to say it's done me proud, but it had to go, and I've now gone for a brolly system, the JRC Stealth, and boy what a bit of kit it is... but I'll give it a good test before I give you guys a full report!
It was a beautiful evening, with the sun slowly setting below the trees as we finished our final brew of the day. Then another splash by the reeds, I turn to Gary and know exactly what he's thinking.. 'I've got to put a bait by those reeds haven't I?', 'Yep' he says, and I know he's right.
Wind in, fresh boilie on, a couple of casts, and I've got a bait out between two sets of pads and just off the reeds. Now we bid each other goodnight and retire to our brolly's, hoping it won't be long before we meet out here again.
On a still night as darkness closed in, I soon slipped away into a restful sleep.
Later, somewhere in the back of my mind, I can hear a beeping sound.. I slowly sit up in my sleeping bag, and looking out I see the latching light on my buzzer is still on.. then in the darkness I hear the faint 'click' as my line tightens and pulls from the line clip, then we're off, as the buzzer bursts into life, and I'm rushing out to the rods as something starts to take line.
It's strike and hold, with all those pads around I need to steer the fish straight towards me. I gain a few yards, but then there's that grating feeling as the fish tries to bury itself in the lily stems, so I keep on the pressure and after a few seconds the fish swims clear. It tries it again, but I'm now in control of this fight, and soon have the carp into open water where I can be more patient.
Off to one side I hear Gary stirring, I ask him to give me a hand, and he's soon kneeling at the edge of the platform with the landing net. It doesn't feel huge, but it's our first fish from Brooke, and in the net it goes!
Nows the time to be organised, get the scales and weigh sling out, adjust our head torches, find the camera, and of course, know where your unhooking mat is! There's no rush, as Gary's holding the net handle, and the fish is resting in the net, and still in the water.
It goes 15lb 4ozs, not a monster but well appreciated, and a very pretty plated mirror it is too. The kettle goes on, and we realise it's only 10pm, there's plenty of night time for catching still.
And 3 hours later it's Gary's turn. I hear movement in the darkness and see Gary's playing a fish from his platform. This is great, we've both caught on first session at Jerry's.. but let's not get ahead of ourselves here, we still have to get this fish in!
I needn't have worried, as Gary knows what he's doing, well that's what he tells me anyway! But by the bend in his rod this looks a good fish, keeping it away from the pads it's not long before it's lying in the net. Same routine, Gary sorts all the gear and I look after the catch... on the mat, and it's easily a 'twenty', into the sling and it notches up 23lb 15ozs, another cracking mirror.
A few more hours kipping, then we're up around 5am, to check all the baits, and recast where needed. Tea is brewed, then it's back to sleep, hoping for a morning run.
Nothing more comes our way, so by mid-morning we're packing up. Once the majority of gear is put away we have a final walk around the lake, and a couple more swims are earmarked for trying. It's been a great start to our campaign at Brooke lake.. so it's thanks Jerry.. and I'm sure there's more monsters to come!