Scarred Up By Stephen May

With upcoming work commitments dictating that I may be unable to get out on the bank for a few weeks, I knew I needed to squeeze in another session on the mere. With spring beginning to rear it’s head and the banks looking (slightly) greener, it seemed as though the fish had started to respond and wake up from their winter slumber. Having been down every other week, it meant that I’ve been able to keep in touch fairly well with what the fish are doing and although we read it over and over again that you should never have a pre-conceived idea of where you want to set up camp before arriving at the lake, with all of my fish so far this year coming from the same sort of area and the catch reports showing a similar pattern, I knew where I needed to be.
My assumptions were confirmed upon arrival, when doing the compulsory lap of the lake and 2 fish showed in front of The Boathouse – it was all I needed to see, but I was going to have to wait as there were 2 anglers currently occupying the swim. They’d had a great session so far and had just slipped the 4th fish of the session (a lovely mirror know Neave) onto the mat when I went round for a chat. They informed me that they would be vacating later on in the afternoon and so my plans were hatched – set up next door, flick the rods out for the day and move over when I could. As seems to be a recurring theme on all my recent sessions, the weather was against me, with gale-force crosswinds and rain forcing me to put the bivvy up. I just threw everything inside and flicked the rods out onto spots that had served me well before. Knowing I was going to be moving, I just put out a couple of handfuls of bait, not wanting to perhaps draw the fish onto different spots, but just enough to perhaps nick a bonus fish.
After slipping the net under a 5th fish to cap off a great session for them, the lads departed and I was in the swim like a rat up a drainpipe. With the rods clipped up and ready to rock and the fish clearly up for a bit of bait, I spread 1.5kgs of the Pacific Tuna over the area straight away. The weather was making things incredibly difficult. Fishing just over 100yards battling the crosswind, after a few wayward casts, 2 rods were in the zone. As the 3rd rod touched down, and I was stood to the right of the swim attempting to mend the huge bow in the line, the middle rod (which hadn’t even been in the water 10 minutes) ripped off. Taking me completely by surprise, I just dropped the rod in my hands and lifted into the fish, but I now had a problem – the huge bow had drifted over my other 2 rods and I was in a bit of a mess and in the process of trying to sort it out, the fish unfortunately came adrift. Although clearly gutted, it was a very promising sign and I made no hesitation in putting out another kilo of the Tuna straight away.
With the wind dropping slightly into the evening, I took to opportunity to get the rods out with a bit more accuracy and settled in confidently for the first night. As darkness set in, so did the weather, with torrential rain lashing furiously across the mere and when the NXR’s signalled my next opportunity, I was forced to take a soaking. The fish kited hard in the darkness and not knowing it’s precise whereabouts, I was fully expecting to feel things grind to a halt as it made it was around a protruding reed bed down to my left. Fortunately however, my luck held and with my arms at full extension and constant side strain, I soon had what looked like a scraper 20 in the net. With the rain still hammering and dawn approaching, I slipped the fish in the retainer and got out of my saturated clothes. When Dave came to do his morning rounds and asked how big it was, as sense of de ja vu set in when I said “looks like it should go 20″….before the digitalis registered an ironic 19.15.

I slipped the fish back and whipped the other 2 rods in as it was time to go and freshen up the dinner plate with another kilo of Tuna. With the rods back out on the spots, the horrendous weather continued and I spent most of the day huddled into the bivvy escaping the elements. Come early afternoon, tiredness had started to get the better of me, having had very little sleep the night before and I tried to catch up on some lost sleep. Just as I was drifting off into the land of nod, I was startled by the right hander buckling in the rest as a fish pulled hard for the sanctuary of the far margin. Slightly dazed, I managed to get one Croc on, before somehow kicking the other 5 feet out of the bivvy. After hopping out of the doorway and a few failed attempts to get my foot in it, I gave up and ran to the rod through the maze of puddles. With a lot of head shaking from the start, I suspected it to be one of the smaller bionic commons and sure enough, a few moments later, a black-as-your-hat little common lay beaten in the landing net. After a quick bit of video footage for the diary, repeating the process; the other 2 rods were retrieved, and another kilo or so of bait was spread across the area and all 3 buzzed back out to the area. Now late afternoon, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about getting myself sorted for the coming night. Clearly up for a feed, I made no hesitation in topping up the area with another kilo of bait, as the bites seemed to be very quick in forthcoming following the bait going in. So far, 2 out of my 3 runs had come to the right hand rod, and so, as evening drew in, my plan was to position the rods as tightly as possible in an attempt to coax the other rods into action. After a few attempts in the strong crosswinds, all 3 rods were now positioned with no more than 3 feet between them at just over 100 yards range and it didn’t take long for my plans to unfold as just as the last moments of daylight began to fade, the left hander which until now had sat motionless, signalled it’s first run. After an initial attempt to to reach the far margin, the fish turned and came in like a dog on a lead. A sense of de ja vu washed over me as I peered down into the net as the light from the headtorch picked out 2 rows of huge appleslice scales…this was a fish I’d had before and had done the exact same thing as last time, just swam straight into the net from 100 yards. You’ll have to wait for the video diary to see this one, as being a recapture, I just got some quick footage and slipped him back, but at just over 16lbs, this is a definite fish for the future and is sure to be one of the main targets in the mere in a few years.
Knowing I was likely to cross my other 2 lines with the recast in the dark as I was fishing so tight, I deliberately repositioned the rod off to the left of the spot, as to not disturb the other 2 rods that were still in the zone. After a quick tea, I climbed into the bag brimming with confidence. After what felt like an age, the right hander signalled it’s next take and I lifted into a fish that was leading me on a merry dance out in the darkness until unfortunately, it picked up my other 2 rods. After a bit of knit one, pearl two and the bobbins furiously slamming into the blanks, I managed to steer it away and slipped the net under another mid double common. I thought it was going to be much later than it was once I’d slipped the fish back and planned to just wait until first light to recast, again, knowing I wasn’t likely to be able to get the rods out so tight again in the dark. However, on checking the phone, it was only 2am, so I couldn’t have my rods out of the water for that long. With all 3 clipped up and armed wth fresh Tuna cork balls, I spread the rods out a little more than before with the intention of recasting as soon as I could see the spot at dawn, and climbed into the bag, now shattered from the lack of sleep. Upon drifting off, I couldn’t help but think that it seemed very strange that having now had 4 fish, that I hadn’t managed to get through to any of the bigger fish, and although not complaining as 4 fish in a session is good going in anyone’s book on here… I just couldn’t help but feel a little hard done by.
As dawn broke, I kept peering out at the rods from under the bag and saying to myself….”just 5 more minutes” as I physically couldn’t bring myself to leave the comfort of the bag. I’d finally convinced myself to get up when the right hander let out a single bleep…..and then furiously wrenched round in the rest. Half asleep and clambering for the rod, I lifted into what was clearly a better fish, pulling HARD for the far margin and stripping line on a tight clutch with ease at over 100 yards and kiting right. Giving it what little line I felt was safe to do so, it showed no signs of stopping, and with my heart beating in my ears, I gingerly grasped the spool and slowly walked backwards, with the fish making furious lunges and flat rodding me. Now some 15 yards to the back of the swim, any time I made any attempt to lower the rod to gain some line, the fish would simply begin tearing line once more. After a few hairy moments, the fish mercifully began to calm down and I began to gain line steadily as it made it’s way into open water and away from danger. Breathing a huge sigh of relief and now back by the waters edge, I could now see my line entering the water about 40yds out and following some more hairy moments where the fish had picked up my left hand rod, it was soon under the rod tip and I could see it was a good fish. The fish surfaced a few times, lulling me into a false sense of security with the net, before taking me completely by surprise and powering straight towards me and burying its head in the reeds under my feet and turning on it’s side, and just lay there. In a state of panic, I frantically grabbed the net and attempted to force it through the reeds to scoop the fish up. However, the net became caught up in the reeds and I couldn’t quite push it beneath the fish, which was by now teetering on the edge of the net cord before angrily powering out of the margins at a rate of knots, turning over a huge amount of water as it went and giving me a soaking in the process. This little episode had clearly made it even more intent on shedding the hook as it stripped line, tearing up and down the margins like a bull in a china shop. What made matters worse is that I now knew exactly what I was attached to and with every twist and turn, I was petrified that it might throw the hook. Thankfully my luck held and as the fish surfaced once more, I bundled it rather ungracefully into the net where it continued to go ballistic. Peering into the folds, I was met with the sight of one angry, scarred-up brute of a mirror, who didn’t look best pleased to see me. I left it in the net for a few moments so that both of us could regain our breath….more so for me to take in what an epic battle it had been. I knew before lifting the scales that it was going to go over 30, just from the sheer width of it’s frame and sure enough, the digitals settled on a score of 30.11…just an ounce short of my PB.



Over the moon, I slipped the fish into the sling to get the camera gear ready and text Dave to give him the good news. He was on his way to France for a weeks fishing and so couldn’t come down to do the shots but luckily one of the regular lads was stationed in the swim next door and happily came round. As we were stood talking, and just about to get the fish out, my left hander dropped back and then tore off. I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I had a 30 in the sling and was now attached to what felt like another decent fish. After a spirited fight which we managed to capture on film, a simply stunning, immaculate common was sulking in the net. I had to borrow a sling with mine being currently occupied and weighed this one in at 19.01, before it posed defiantly, dorsal up, for some trophy shots. It truly was a beautiful common, perfect in every way, apart from a small nick in it’s dorsal and a rather strange eye on one side – a true character fish and most likely another jewel that’s spawned on in the mere.

After photographing the 30, which I later identified as a fish known as Ash, I started to pack my gear down. I didn’t even bother to recast the rod. I was more than content with the session I’d one that I can’t see me beating for a long time to come. I’d gotten through 7.5kgs of the Pacific Tuna in all and it just seemed like the more bait I put in, the more they were having it as all of my bites came after topping up the area. There will be a full video diary to accompany this session once I get round to editing the mountain of footage, but once again, until next time, tight lines and be lucky out there.

If you would like to follow Stephen May “On the beaten track” please check out his facebook page


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