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. The low stocking and rugged bank side kept all but the serious carp anglers off it. In fact a lot of anglers that bought a ticket only did so to get on The Elstow 1 waiting list and hardly ever turned up on Pit 2. That suited me fine. You couldn’t even walk around one part of it unless you had waders on! Paul Hathaway was interested in returning as well but he would be fishing weekends while I would be mid week. The two forties were “The Mother” and “The Twin” and I must admit it was “The Twin” that I thought would be the one to target as “The Mother” could go several seasons without getting caught. I had a tough start on there. I started in late February and by the start of the summer hadn’t had a take and hadn’t seen anyone else have one either! Any thoughts I had that my one night a week would be better spent on here instead of The Car Park Lake were being quickly put to bed! I met some new friends like you seem to on the proper lakes, people I’m still in contact with today. People like Mark Watson and Jamie Clossick who fished mid week like me.
Mark and Jamie Elstow 2 Barbecue
By June not one of us had caught anything. It was to change for Jamie in June when the first one he had believe it or not was “The Mother” at 43lb plus. On the 2nd July I arrived on a Tuesday night for a session I will never forget. With the way the weather was I chose to fish the snags swim with Mark down to my left on The Headland. Jamie wasn’t there that week for some reason and in fact it was just me and Mark. Early in the morning the wind swung around and brought rain with it and started pushing over to the road bank. It was believe it or not a coot that made me aware of this as it was first light that the little blighter picked up my margin hook bait. While I was up I looked across the lake to see the wind picking up and thought about a move. I walked down to Mark but he was dead to the world as he suffers from hay fever and had taken some pills the night before which had obviously knocked him out. It was raining but I thought sod it, I know I’ve got to be over there to be in with a chance as the Pit 2 fish really did seem to follow a new wind. I quickly packed up, walked my gear around to the car, put it all in and drove up the road bank stopping behind the Pipe swim and then watched. I walked up the bank a few times between The Pipe and The Carpet swims and said to myself that the first fish I saw show, I would move on it. It wasn’t long before one topped not far off the reeds to the right of The Carpet. That was good enough for me and I drove the short distance to The Carpet and got my gear out before taking the car back to the car park. The first thing I did when I got back to the swim was cast single hook baits out at varying distances fanned out up to about 35 yards out from the reeds. I could then set up some shelter and make myself a cup of tea as it was still raining. Late morning Mark came around to see what was going on and I filled him in with the coot/new wind story! We were having a cup of tea at lunch time when it happened. As I had the take I’m sure me and Mark just looked at it for a few seconds as we had only just been talking about how it could turn into a seasons blank for us. The fight was pretty unspectacular in the deep water which considering which fish it turned out to be I was quite happy about! For those of you that knew Pit 2 back then will know that the lake was incredibly snaggy around most of the margins. It could be littered with anything from a pallet to an old car (and there were several of them!) The worst snags though were the numerous sunken bushes that littered the place. Luckily the fish didn’t pick anything up on its way in and even though it kitted left again it missed any sunken bushes. Mark was in front of me when it surfaced and said “I know which one it is but I’m not going to tell you” which didn’t help because that could only mean it was one of two fish! Luckily it went in the net not long after this and Mark turned to shake my hand with the words “congratulations mate, you’ve got your first forty it’s the Mother!” I was gob smacked! When you consider that it was only around a month since Jamie had caught her it was even more amazing as like I have said before The Mother had gone years in the past between captures. She went 41lb 14oz.
What a fish “The Mother” 41 lb 14 oz
It was only a few weeks later that I got my second one. It was during a period of high pressure hot weather. I was set up in sunken island but with the temperatures rising I reeled in and went for a walk to see if I could find anything. When I got around to the field above the flat bank several fish were swimming about actually on the flooded bank behind the flat bank. I quickly went around to get a rod as one of the fish was definitely “Scaley” one of the known big thirties. A pit 1 member had come around for a walk as well and he was stood above me when I flicked out my free lined tiger nuts onto the flooded bank. Amazingly it wasn’t long at all before the line tightened and I was playing a carp in less than two feet of water! The fish went around those sunken bushes and became snagged but The Pit 1 member bless him rolled his trousers up and waded out and netted it for me! It was one of the smallest fish in the lake and was “The little Linear” at 12lb 9oz”.
The Little Linear 12 lb 9oz
Mark was getting in on the act as well now and Jamie had had more action so it was turning into a good season for us after an incredibly slow spring. Just a few weeks after I had “The Little Linear” I had another chance. Again it was high pressure and hot weather and this time I got some fish taking floaters by the reeds to the right of the flooded bank close to Pit1. I seemed to be a group of smaller fish that I kept seeing and I spent a really frustrating few hours getting sunburned not being able to hook one! Jamie and Mark had come around to watch (or was it take the piss!) and in the end cleared off to check out another local Pit with the weather being so hot. When they returned I was still at it but must admit thought my chance had gone. They went round to their swims to get sorted and I gave one last cast and just left it. I didn’t even see the take I just saw the line tightening and the reeds moving. The fish when hooked dived right into the middle of the reeds and I thought there was going to be no chance of getting it back through there so began to take my shoes off to get ready to go in. I gave it a tug to see if I could get anything moving and amazingly I got it on the move and it was coming back through the mass of reeds! I couldn’t believe it as it came straight out and after a brief scrap a Pit 1 member who had seen what was going on came and netted it for me. When I got my first brief look at it coming in I could see it was one of the big ones and I saw a small cluster of scales which I mistook as The Mothers again! It was only for a brief second though and it was The Pit 1 member who recognised it as “Lisa” I rang Mark and Jamie and they came around and we did the pictures. She was 31lb 14oz and was the first fish caught off the surface from Pit 2 for several years!
Lisa 31 lb 14 oz
I fished on until the winter but didn’t get anything else myself but both Jamie and Mark had a few more including “The Twin” for Jamie which meant he had both forties that year. If I remember rightly Mark had the most action between us but was unlucky that he didn’t have either of the big ones but his time came as he had more fish the next year including “The Twin” and he was pretty sure he lost “The Mother” as well from the Back Bay. Paul Hathaway caught as well that year and although he didn’t get any of the big ones that year he went on to catch “Epaulettes” at mid thirties. I left Pit 2 after the 2002 season as it was such a pain to get to on the roads from Oxford and I had had what I went there for, a pukka English forty. As things panned out I wish I had stayed on for another year or two because it was such a special place and since The North Lake and Pit 2 I have never settled on anywhere like I did on those two places.