I've been up to Bagwood for a wander 3 or so times over the last year, trying to get a feel for the place and scope out swims. The lake itself is split in two by a bridge that's joined with pipes so the fish can move between the waters. From the evidence, it gets very, very busy at the weekend (but where doesn't?!) but there are some decent fish in there if you're willing to fight it out.
Pulling into the car park at 7 on the nose, the 1st thing I noticed where the amount of cars in the car park... Nightmare, 4 cars, figure 2 people in each, that's 16 rods (24 if they've got 3 rods out) so a load of angling pressure before the day has even begun. Had I made the wrong choice, should I have gone to Longleat? The carp demons where already chatting on my shoulder...
Anyhow, I picked up a ticket (£18 for 24 hours so not too horrific) and headed out to the lakes with a bucket and the rods to bag a swim. The point swim on the golf course was, unsurprisingly, occupied by 2 anglers, the swim on the other side of the bridge was also taken and to really kick me in the nuts, my target swim right in the back corner of the lake had someone setting up in it! Bugger, been beaten to it by minutes.
As I was lamenting my lack of choice, I noticed even more cars arriving in the car park (wtf?!) so I jumped in the swim next to my target swim and headed back to the car to get the last bits and pieces.
But it would appear the fishing gods were smiling on me: the chap in my target swim wandered over for a chat, and although he'd set up, baited up and cast in he was going to move! The blokes in the point swim on the club house side of the lake were moving off at 11 so we made a deal that when he moved, I could dive into his vacated swim. Brilliant, I was going to be where I wanted to be so I spent the next 4 hours really watching the water, getting as much info I could can out of the other anglers and getting my gear sorted for actually starting to fish in the afternoon.
11ish rolled around, the chap upped sticks and I got my gear in and started about the process of getting the rods out. To be honest, I didn't have much expectation of getting a fish out during the day, so although the rods where out the main task was getting everything ready for the early evening and night as I figured these would be the busiest times due to the pressure the fish are under.
I don't get to do a lot of 'big' carp fishing, most of my time is short sessions on day ticket commercial lakes so it was a bit of a new experience for me to employ some of the tactics and approaches I've seen in the magazines and videos. The 1st thing out was the marker float rod to map out the swim and although I'd packed everything and the kitchen sink, the one thing I didn't have was paper and a pen...
A bit of head scratching later and I grabbed a bank stick and 'drew' a map of the lake in the wood chip covering my swim. There was a drainage trench running along the back of my swim which was covered in shingle, which made for perfect counters. Pretty soon I had little piles of stones all over the map marking out the depths - too good ;)
The main thing I learnt was that the bottom was all soft clay - the 2oz lead I had on the marker was getting 'plugged' on each cast, not a hard spot to be found. The margins were around 2ft to 3ft deep and the rest of the water in front of me was around 5ft deep, so pretty uniform and shallow.
The only area it got any deeper was right out in front of me. It started to dip around 10ft from the bank and got down to around 7ft ish. Interesting... The other interesting thing was it was the only area on the lake that I'd seen any sign of fish! A couple had poked their heads up into the margins.
At that point the bailiff wandered round to check tickets and I managed to get out of him that there was a 2nd set of pipes in the deep area that had 'popped' when they stopped them up to drain and re-dig the lake. The force of the water had dug out the deeper area in the clay and was a def holding site for the fish. The thing to watch out for though was the razor mussels which liked to grow on the tubes and the fact the fish would make a dart for the tunnels themselves - resulting in a quick snapped line...
But it meant I was on the right spot!
The marker rod went out again and I got it clipped up to the distance I wanted to fish. Originally, I was going to walk out the line on the bank and get the other rods clipped up to the marker but then another video tip popped into my head: I stuck two bank sticks in the ground at the back of my swim a rod length apart and then wound the line from the marker float around it until I hit the clip. My target spot was 9 and 3/4 rod lengths - sweet!
With both rods clipped up, I started to think about how to get some bait out. Spod was one option, but the fact I could actually get along the bank side to the left of my swim was a real bonus. It meant I could get with in metres of my target area and bait up by hand and catapult. My spod mix consisted of hemp, corn, chickpeas, tuna and pellets all stodged up with a bit of liquidized bread. Around 10 handfuls and a 20 or so boilies went out in an area around 3 metres square over my marker.
By now, it was around 4.30pm and time to actually seriously start fishing! Pretty crazy, on the day sessions I do, I'd have hoped to put a bunch of fish on the bank by now and I'd be starting to think about packing up...
Rod 1 went out to the left of the baited sport with a Mainline Cell boilie topped with a single grain of yellow buoyant corn mounted on a blow back rig and the 2nd rod went out with a Sonubaits Code Red boilie, similarly topped with corn but this time on a kd style rig (one that I'd never fished before). Due to the clay bottom, I'd made up two stick mixes using a little method mix and crumbed up boiles so each rig had a PVA stick with the hook point embedded to make sure the bait was well presented on the soft, claggy bottom.
And now to wait... I'd set my alarm for 40 minutes, my thinking being to recast and swap around the baits till I found something that worked. Nearly an hour passed (I decided to be generous with the 40 mins!) when the left rod ripped off - fish on at last!
Luckily for me, the fish went to the right into open water rather than making for the tunnels. A spirited fight later and my 1st Bagwood carp was in the net - fantastic! On the scales, it weighed in around 15lb so not one of the monsters but a decent fish by any account. I was pretty made up, the 'big carp tactics' had paid off and fingers crossed, this'd be the 1st of many. A bit of video and a couple of snaps later and the carp was back off to find it's mates.
As the fish and taken out my other line, I decided to get both rods in, get some more bait out (all the vids I watch seem to advocate getting bait out after you've had a fish!), re clipped the lines using the bank sticks and then got the baits back out. This time, I switched the rods round but left the same combo of boiles on. The 1st fish fell to the cell, it'd be interesting to see what happened next...
I didn't have to wait long: 20 minutes later, the right hand rod ripped off! Brilliant, I'd hit 'bite o'clock' ;) Similarly to the last fish, it went straight into open water and put up a good scrap. Around the same size, 15lb ish and loadsa fun!
Having had two fish out on the same spot, I decided to bait up again but leave the rods out of the area for a while and plonked them into the margins while I got the bivvy sorted out and some dinner on. Half an hour later and the rods went back out, clipped up and on the spot.
The rods had been out for around an hour when the right hand rod beeped a couple of times... I could see the line curving round to the right in the water and decided to strike into it - only a little one this time, but really, really dark black in colour ;)
By now the light was really fading so I baited up again (again? I know, but if you figure one fish, there'll probably be more out there and they hoover up bait...), got the rods out, had some dinner and watched the darkness descend...
Around an hour into darkness (so 9.30pm? was loosing track of time by now...) a single toner rang out and the left hand rod jumped in the rests! Amazing, off again. This time though, the fish didn't go out into open water...
One of the things that I'd be doing is 'walking' the fish backwards in the swim rather than putting too much pressure on the rod. I'd seen a youtube video with Ian Russell when his argument was if you try and yank the rod and line backwards or apply to much pressure, you'll just end up with a hook pull. By tightening up to the fish and walking backwards, you'll pull or encourage them to come towards you.
It'd worked so far, but not this time - I felt a grating on the line about 10 seconds into the fight and twang, the line snapped. The fish had done me... How bloody annoying!
The rod went back out, my first cast in the dark! The line was clipped up to the 9 3/4 rod lengths and it felt like it was back on the money. And 10 minutes later...
...another one toner! Only this time on the right hand rod. But again, it wasn't meant to be - this time, the hook length snapped. As it was a freshly tied hook link, I've a feeling the razor mussels had got to it.
Pretty annoying one way and another, to have put all that effort in only to get snapped off twice frustrating to say the least. But, that's fishing! I spent the next half hour baiting up again (this time with a spod, another new thing and in the dark...), sorting out the rods out and getting new rigs in place.
The rods went out and I went about getting my head down...
The rest of the night was pretty busy - I had 3 more takes between 11pm and 4am, the biggest being a 17lb mirror:
Amazing! Getting woken up by screaming alarms in the dead of night is a real buzz, I'd forgotten how much fun it is. It seemed like I was up every hour, either recasting, baiting up, tying rigs, sorting out PVA bags...
...so little or no sleep was had. I finally managed to get my head down for an hour or so and woke up around 6.30am too see the lake at it's best: mist rising off the water, completely still and silent, no one moving or making a noise. Great stuff.
I decided to leave the rods out while I packed down, which as it turns out was a bit of a mistake. The right hand rod came in first and was well and truly musseled! God knows how long they'd taken to wrap themselves around my hook bait, but I sure as hell wasn't gonna catch anything with that rig...
The left hand rod came in with a bit of hemp impaled on the hook! Whether or not it'd got stuck on in the stick mix (unlikely as the mixes were boilie crumb and method mix, but I guess it was dark...) or it'd got spiked on the retrieve, who knows? Anyhow, lesson learnt for this lake: cast every hour!
By the time I'd packed up, it must've been 7.30am and I started trekking my gear back to the car. On my way past the 1st swim on the 2nd lake, one of the anglers popped his head out of his bivy and very kindly offered the use of his barrow (which he'd picked up on Gumtree for 20p no less!). The fellas name was Lee and my back is in his debt as it meant one trip rather than 3 back to the car. We had a good chat about this and that, really nice chap, just the kinda angler you want to meet on the bank side.
My original plan was to do another full day at another lake but to be honest, I was knackered! In the end, I headed down to my favourite Bitterwell Lake and spent the next 5 hours catching carp off the surface until I decided it was time to call it a day and head home.
So a brilliant 24 hour+ session! thank you to Lee and the chap (sorry, can't remember your name!) who very kindly gave me the nod about vacating my target swim and thank you the carp gods for getting me onto some fish. Can't wait to get out there again ;)