In 1997 I finally moved from The Match to The Copse Lake. I remember only catching a couple of small ones that first year, the first one being one of those famous Yateley cricket bat commons. In 1998 again I had a couple of small ones before hitting the jackpot in August. I had fished the night in Oak Tree Bay and moved in the morning to The Birches. In between those two swims it is shallow, weedy and fairly snaggy with little dot islands. Fish were cruising around in the weed there. I remember getting an absolute pukka cast into a hole in the weed down to the right from the Birches towards Oak Tree Bay. I had cast a PVA bag of boilies into the hole and it came down with a thump. As the day went on I would nip out from my swim and climb a tree to my right. Believe it or not I had the whole lake to myself on this occasion but back then Yateley could be like this in the week. On one occasion I was up the tree when a dumpy mirror swam out of the weed and was virtually sitting underneath me! (I’m pretty sure it was “The Piglet”). I was contemplating how I could get a bait to this fish when I heard my buzzer! I quickly scrambled down the tree and got to my rod but all was solid in the mass of Canadian pondweed. It was my own fault for being up the tree. What was I to do? I was on my own, should I swim out to the fish or go and get some help? I gave it the butt instead and slowly everything started to move. As I got it to within 15 or so yards to the bank I still wasn’t certain the fish was on but then I saw an image that will stay with me forever. Directly behind the huge ball of weed I spotted a large mirror carp just letting itself be pulled along. I can’t remember now 10 years later whether I pulled the weed off the line or it came free but I’ll never forget when it did because the fish went mental shooting off across the lake. After a bit of a tight battle I landed her and I absolutely screamed the place down! It still is one of my most memorable captures ever. I had to go and find someone on The Match Lake to do the pictures and he said “I thought I heard someone shouting!” The fish was “The Pretty One” and for the record was 32lb 2oz.
“The Pretty One” 32lb 2oz
That was it for me on that side of the road on Yateley as I made the decision to start over the other side of the road (land of the forties) and The North Lake was where I headed. “Bazil” was and still is in my mind the most famous carp that ever lived and considering all its captures over the years remained a truly stunning looking carp. It has always been a tribute to the calibre of Yateley regulars that the carp in the Yateley Lakes remained in such tip top condition. I think it was also because the captures were so hard to come by that when one came out virtually everyone on the lake reeled in and almost became part of the capture. The term “goalkeepers” (an angler either side of the mat to ensure nothing went wrong when the lucky captor help his prize aloft) was first coined down on Yateley I believe. That first Autumn I fished The North Lake I didn’t catch anything (except Bream!) but I did lose a fish which weeded me up in the middle of the night. I had to get the boat from over on the Car Park Lake and drag it down the path along the back of The Dugout and End Works swims. Derek Rance, bless him must have seen me struggling from over the other side of the lake and he was soon at my side giving me a hand. We set sail from Bazils bush, got my rod from the North Lakes End Works swim and made are way out to where I was weeded up. Alas it was not to be and whatever it was had gone. The following year I started again June (1999) and that month I got my first look at “Bazil” in the flesh. I was actually fishing in the Christmas tree swim when I heard the shout. It was Danny Morris who was shouting “Bazil” and he was fishing in The End Works swim. I was then to go through for the first time the time honoured tradition of reeling in and going around to admire “Bazil” and give any help if possible. Everyone who used to fish The North Lake would do this. I actually did the video for Danny as he didn’t have a video camera and a friend of his was coming up from London that morning and arrived to join in the picture taking and congratulations. His name was John Beecher (or “Taxi John”) and he would go on to become a good friend of mine on the lake. After that it was the other time honoured tradition to observe after a “Bazil” capture and that was to pack up and head for home! For the record “Bazil” was 44lb 9oz for Danny. The lake was closed for a couple of weeks after that as a precaution as there had been some disease in the colne valley that had affected some carp. When it reopened I was down as soon as I could and in that session I witnessed Simon Giblin catch “Bazil” from The Corral. I broke my duck on 11th August which if you remember was that strange day in 1999 when there was an eclipse of the sun during the day. I was fishing in The Corral and had a take on my left hand rod which weeded me up pretty quickly. After a brief scrap in and out of the weed beds I was to land an incredible dark looking mirror which turned out to be one of the famous three “Tels”. This one was “Little Tel” (the others being William and Aqua) and weighed 16lb 11oz.
“Little Tel” 16lb 11oz
I was getting to know a lot of the other regulars on The North in 1999 by now and one of those was Craig Dunn from Bristol. It was my next capture that was to prove memorable for both myself and Craig. This was the time I believe I came closest to catching “Bazil”. I had set up in The End Works swim and for those of you that fished that swim when “Bazil” was still alive will know that if you fish out into the main lake on your left, away from the islands out in front of you and to your right, you will know that you cannot actually watch that area of water unless you are down by your rods by the waters edge. That night and early morning there was a lot of activity out in the main lake and it came as no real surprise when I had a take in the night and landed “The Fully Scaled” at 20lb 2oz a cracking looking fish.
“The Fully Scaled” 20lb 2oz
Ridiculously as a side note to this, that poor fish now resides in the Pad Lake, put there during the netting after “Bazil” had died. Back to the story though. I now thought I had a really good chance at “Bazil” as “The Fully Scaled” had been caught with “Bazil” before (Dave Mallin I’m led to believe). Craig had been fishing on The End Point but had also heard the fish out in the main lake. He came around and did the pictures for me of “The Fully Scaled” in the morning and then moved into The Main Works swim just down to my left. The fish activity continued that day and it seemed one of us had a great chance and again it was no surprise when a buzzer rand out late that afternoon. It was Craig’s and I went around to help. The fish weeded him up but I helped him into his waders and he went out to get a better angle on the weeded fish. He got it moving and was eventually able to land an obviously big fish but neither of us at that point could quite see which one it was (it could only be “Scale on the Shoulder” an upper thirty or “Bazil” judging by the size of it). Craig peered into the net and the “Bazil” shout he then let out confirmed which one it was! My third look at “Bazil” in a little under two months! I had one other fish that year a stocky common from The Waiting Mans swim and “Bazil” proved a bit more elusive for us all after that in 1999. I know “Bazil” was caught at least a couple more times that year but I wasn’t to witness it myself. I remember the last capture though that autumn when John Claridge caught him as it was into October and was turning cold. I arrived for my usual Tuesday night only to discover John had caught him the day before! The following year I had another three fish but unfortunately not “Bazil”. I only saw him on the bank once that year when “Mad” Martin caught him from The Destiny swim. More regulars were now beginning to fish for “Bazil”. And many would go on to become good friends. The likes of Rick Harrison, Odd, Big Tony, Steve Fudge, Simon Croft, Little Jon Coxhead, Mark Hunter, Dave Miller, Nigel Hodgson, Mark Rosewell, Brummie Jason as well as still me and John Beecher. Apologies to those of you I must have missed out, the memories not what it was! I also met a few people on The Car Park Lake who became mates as well. One of these was Ian Bates and he was to influence my next water after Yateley but more of that later. The next year, 2001, was as it turned out my final one at Yateley. I had two more fish including my best one from The North, “Pit 10 fish” at 28lb 8oz.
Pit 10 fish 28lb 8oz 2001
I went on holiday at the end of that summer to Jamaica and on my return heard the sad news that “Bazil” had been found dead. The end of an era. “Bazil” having made so many anglers dreams come true was given a proper burial and even a headstone. I remember one idiot posting on one of the angling website forums saying how ridiculous that was which just proves to me how little some people value history and heritage. Still I suppose as long as they can get there dome tent in a big enough swim to be able to drink themselves silly catching stockies then they’re out of my way.
The death of “Bazil left me with a dilemma. I wanted to catch a true pukka English “40” and remember this was 2001 before every little puddle seems to have got one in like it seems these days. Should I stay on Yateley and fish The Car Park Lake? I didn’t think that my one night a week would be enough for this busy and demanding water. I looked at a few waters, Vauxhall Lake near my home in Oxfordshire, Bullfield near Radley in Oxfordshire, Twyford B.B.O.N.T. in Berkshire and Barnet and The Causeway the other side of the railway bridge. There was another water I found near my home which was a gravel pit situated on a trout fishing complex. This lake I was able to get permission to fish but it was restricted to days only fishing and the stock was completely unknown. I was very interested in this one so kept it for the future as I wanted that “40” and couldn’t guarantee that one was swimming around in that Pit. Linch Hill down the road from me had “Petals” but was deemed far too busy as a day ticket water. It was Ian Bates as I wrote earlier that finally swung my choice. He lived just down the road from The Elstow complex and as I was interested in Pit 2 he showed me around. My old mate Paul Hathaway had spent a year on Elstow 2 a couple of seasons previous and even back then it seemed it would be a good fit for me. Low stocked, difficult banks but with two proper English forties in it.
Big thanks to Paul Harris again look out for part 6 next week
Some footage of “Bazil” taken from the pursuit of the largest