After a fortnight’s heavy rain, the two pools that comprise Baron’s Ponds are probably the only waters in the South East that aren’t up and coloured. It’s one of the advantages of being spring, rather than stream, fed. Robert chooses to fish in the larger of the two lakes that lie in a sheltered, tree-lined hollow. ‘I’ve been told that this one contains loads of small carp, with a few bigger ones to the mid-twenties. There’s some nice tench in here, as well as plenty of roach and rudd. This peg here should do. It’s about the deepest part of the lake, so the water should be warmest here,’ says Robert, plonking his gear down in his chosen spot.
Robert sets up his trusty 12m pole, fitted with No.6 elastic through the top three sections. His 2/4lb (1.1kg) b.s. line is tied direct to a size 20 Kamasan B510 barbless hook. He starts off with a 0.5g Milo cane bristle still-water float. Plumbing up, Robert finds he has about 2.4m (8ft) of water at the bottom of the inside slope which is under his pole tip, so the string of 8s and 10s start at two-thirds depth. dry and squeeze it HARD, so that it explodes in the water,’ says Robert, as he throws five tangerine-sized balls 25m (27yd) out. This is to be his feeder swim if nothing happens at the drop-off close in.
Robert adds some grey learn to his joker. ‘This separates them and stops them falling in a solid lump,’ he says, ‘so now they’re ready to add to the groundbait.’
Two balls of joker and groundbait go out under his pole tip, speedily followed by two handfuls of casters and a few maggots —
Robert then mixes up his groundbait, a 50/50 blend of Sensas River and fine brown Hovis crumb, to which he adds a handful of red maggots. ‘You must remember to mix it there’s nothing like keeping your options open! Robert puts two bloodworms on the hook and starts fishingjust off the bottom. ‘With this depth and about a metre of line from tip to float, I’m fishing the equivalent of four metres to hand,’ Robert explains, changing his hookbait to a fluoro pinkie.
After a while he changes back to a couple of bloodworms and feeds a walnut-size ball of neat joker. He tries the bait hard on the bottom, he shallows up, he adds another section of pole to fish at 13m, he moves his bait around. But still there’s no interest from any of the lake’s inhabitants.
Robert gives up on the pole for the time being and tries his feeder rod – an lift (3.3m) Normark No.2 quivertip mated with a Daiwa fixed-spool reel loaded with 3lb (1.3kg) line. A Drennan medium block-end feeder is fixed on a short paternoster loop via a double overhand knot in the main line. The 90cm (3ft) tail has a size 20 Kamasan B510 hook tipped with double red maggot on a 2lb (0.9kg) bottom.
The feeder filled with maggots, Robert casts to the exact spot where his groundbait landed earlier. He tightens up, puts the rod in the rest, waits 30 seconds or so to allow the feeder to empty, then winds in a couple of turns on his reel (just enough to ensure his hookbait sits among the escaped feed.
The sun finally appears. Suddenly the tip arcs round, followed by the rest of the rod.
Robert grabs it and after a brief tussle a chunky lHlb (0.7kg) crucian carp slides over the rim of his net. This is followed a few minutes later by a perfect miniature 4oz (115g) tench. Things are lookingup.
Within minutes of recasting Robert gets another positive take on the feeder, but after a few seconds it comes off. Robert isn’t at all pleased at this turn of events. ‘That’s a pity. That was a nice fish. Probably one of the small commons. They are a bit quicker than the crucians,’ he reckons ruefully, ‘I hope that won’t spook the rest of them.’ Naturally, it does. ‘They seem to be feeding properly now,’ says Robert, as he swings in a second small roach on the pole. ‘That bit of sunshine has probably warmed up the water just enough to bring them on feed,’ – and as if to prove him right, his quiver curves to the steady pull of another crucian.
His refilled feeder has only just settled back on the bottom when the tip springs round again and crucian number three finds its way into Robert’s net. ‘Because this isn’t a match and the bites on the feeder aren’t coming regularly, I can get away with using the pole at the same time. It’s not exactly non-stop action, is it?’ says Robert, sliding out his fluoro pinkie-baited pole rig.
The float settles, then it bobs and slides away. This time a small perch splashes its way to the waiting net. ‘I’m fishing the pole hard on the bottom now, I think that’s where they want it,’ explains Robert. And, as if to confirm his theory, a 4oz (113g) roach is hooked, played and drawn to the net.
It’s half an hour since Robert lost the fish and he hasn’t had a bite, so it’s back on the 12m pole. The change pays off when a small roach snaffles up his fluoro pinkie that is just off the bottom. There follows another period of inactivity until suddenly Robert’s float shoots off. This time it’s a Vab (227g) common carp. No sooner is it in the net than his quivertip – which he’s using at the same time – hoops round and another common of about a pound (0.45kg) reluctantly joins it.
Robert’s pessimism is unfounded as a small roach makes off with his floatfished pinkie. With a new hook in place, his reloaded feeder has only just settled on the bottom when a crucian takes a fancy to the bronze maggot he is experimenting with. ‘While they’re not exactly going crazy, they are finally coming in a regular pattern,’ says Robert, swinging in another small roach taken on the pole. ‘I get one on the far swim, recast, let it rest and then pick up one close in, let that rest and so on. Of course, if this was a match I wouldn’t be able to use two
Before Robert has a chance to rebait and push out his float tackle, his quivertip is violently wrenched round and the rod ripped from the rests. Robert grabs it before it disappears into the lake, but after a couple of thumps the fish is off. He retrieves his tackle while demonstrating his knowledge of Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. ‘That was a nice fish, probably a carp. It must have reached a snag of some sort -look how it has parted the line just above the hook.’ says Robert dejectedly. ‘I expect that’ll put them off for half an hour, as it did when I lost the last one.’ rods, so I’d probably concentrate on the feeder since it seems to be producing the bigger fish.’
Robert is getting into a nice, smooth rhythm with fish coming at regular intervals. ‘I think that sunshine may have warmed the water up a bit, but not quite enough to get them feeding in earnest. Because the water’s still so cold they’re only interested in a static bait that’s hard on the bottom. I’ve noticed that all the fish I’ve caught have been really cold to the touch. They’re like little blocks of ice.’
Robert is really enjoying himself now, despite having to wait a while between each fish. ‘It’s a shame none of the bigger fish has put in an appearance. It’s probably just a bit too cold for them to feed properly. They’re more susceptible to the water temperature than the little chaps. ‘I’m not complaining though, I haven’t had a netful of crucians for ages,’ he says, grinning, as his rod bends into yet another one. ‘They are such chunky little fish and are great for boosting your final weight. Unfortunately, not a lot of the match venues I fish contain them.’
The light is fading and the moon is high in the sky when Robert reluctantly decides to call it a day. ‘The fish are still biting, but it’s getting to be a longer wait between each bite. Once the sun sets the water temperature will drop really quickly. I think we’re going to have a bit of a frost tonight,’ he predicts, packing his gear away neatly. ‘Hmm, not a bad haul considering the conditions. Let’s see what we’ve got,’ he says, heaving in his thrashing keepnet to do a quick count before returning the contents to their rightful home. ‘There must be about twenty crucians in here and a similar number of those small roach. There’s three tiny tench, two small perch, a couple of small commons and a solitary rudd. ‘I reckon we’ve probably got about twenty pound altogether, maybe more,’ Robert guesses. The scales reveal 26 1/2 lb (12kg). ‘Must have caught more crucians than I thought. They push the weight up a bit. Still, quite a good day’s work,’ he chuckles. Indeed it was, Robert!