For the last ten months i’ve been on tenterhooks in anticipation of returning to RH Fisheries Weston Park. It’s difficult to put into words just how beautiful the lake is but as the gardens were designed by Capability Brown, who also designed the gardens at Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace among others, i’m sure you can imagine just how stunning a place it is.
Once you drive through the gated walls you’re transformed into a different world. You leave civilisation behind and enter a world of peace and tranquility created as far back as the early Georgian period in the early to mid 1700’s. The vast array of plants and tree’s collected from all over the world date back several hundred years and red squirrels abound along with all manor of birds and wildlife.
Myself and Mr C booked the boathouse again only this time we booked the whole lake for just the two of us. It might seem a bit over the top and i’m not saying that we’re anti-social but, well actually we are anti-social and we didn’t want to share it with anyone else. After a leisurely stroll around the lake I settled in to the right hand boat house swim and Mr C fished the African Tree swim both of which we fished last year. There were two reasons for this, one was because they swims are right next to the boat house so we could use the house to cook and make drinks and secondly a lot of the lake was choked with weed. Fishing these swims required a cast to the far margin at a distance of around 90 yards. Baiting up was easy and required a 15 minute leisurely stroll to the other side where you could bait up by hand.
Expectations were high despite the fact that the fishing can be tricky at times. Last year it took a couple of days before I got my first fish so I was really hoping to get off the mark quickly this year. Three rods were cast out to the far margin and I settled back with a cup of tea and a biscuit. The conditions were perfect with a lovely south westerly breeze blowing up the lake towards the shallows but I was aware that the conditions were due to change the following day with the wind swinging around to a cold north easterly.
Saturday turned into Sunday without so much as a blip on the Delks and as expected the wind did change direction and with it came a bit of a chill. I don’t like cold north easterly winds and what made it worse was it was blowing directly into my swim. Checking the forecast it looked like it was going to remain like this for the remainder of our trip. For once I would have liked the fishing gods to have been on our side but when in Rome and all that.
As night time descended on Sunday, I lay in my sleeping bag listening to the rain hitting the bivvy with doubts started to creep into my head about whether I was going to catch. They were quickly dismissed though as we still had another 5 nights to go and last year it was a couple of nights before I got my first fish. I switched the light off in an attempt to get some sleep in the hope that I would be awoken in the night by a screaming run.
At twenty past one in the morning I was awoken by what can only be described as a piercing scream from one of the Delks. I didn’t know what was friggin happening as I fumbled for the zips on the front of the bivvy, the Delkim continued to howl as the fish tore off across the lake. Hop scotching across the wood chippings in my socks I picked up the middle rod and lifted into the satisfying thump of a decent fish. I was conscious of the other two rods and playing a fish at 90 yards in the dark can certainly have it’s moments. Eventually I managed to guide the fish into the net and looking at it with the head torch I knew it was a big twenty or possibly a thirty. The scales settled at 29.10 and Mr C duly did the honours with the camera.
After returning the fish I dried myself off as by now it was tipping it down and hunkered down for the night kind of hoping for another fish but not wanting to get another soaking in the process.
The rain eventually eased about 10am before the sun appeared which was a welcome sight. Unfortunately the cold NE wind came with it. I decided to have a walk around to the other side of the lake and bait up. As I walked round I noticed a lot of fish in the shallows, some of which were only in about eighteen inches of water. These weren’t small fish either, some of them looked well over 20lb. As they mooched around big clouds of silt puffed up in the shallow water. I threw in a few freebies in the hope of getting them on the munch so I could return later with a rod. The baiting up was done as quickly as possible before I returned to my peg to setup a rod, hands quivering with excitement. The plan was to freeline an 18mm boilie with a single 16mm yellow popup to aid visibility. I returned to where i’d seen the fish and there were still several fish mulling around so I carefully crept to the waters edge. I cast the freelined bait out and immediately some of the fish spooked in such shallow water. I crouched, poised like a ninja, ready to strike as I watched a big fish come to inspect the bait. It tilted slightly and and looked at the bait only inches from it’s mouth as it deliberated about whether to take the bait. After what felt like an eternity, but in reality was probably only a few seconds, in backed away before continuing it’s business. I fished for about an hour without success watching a procession of fish come into the little bay and inspect the bait but none of them seemed interested in taking the bait. In hindsight I probably should have fished that area for longer but being impatient I wandered back to my swim to tinker with my setup’s and telling Mr C about what i’d experienced. He wondered whether they might take a more natural bait and the plan was for him to fish a big lobworm under a float the following day if the fish were still there.
Monday night came and went and I awoke to a glorious Tuesday morning to see Mr C in the distance fishing the shallows. It didn’t surprise me he was there so early. I imagine he was laid in his bivvy all night as excited as a child on Christmas Eve as he waited for the sun to come up. It wasn’t long after i’d had my breakfast that he came up and asked me to come and take a photo of a fish he’d just caught on lobworm. It was a lovely fish of twenty three pounds and it wasn’t long before he was asking me to take another of a twenty two pound fish that he caught a short while later. Who says all carp are boilie munchers? As quickly as he caught the fish they soon spooked and disappeared out of the bay into more open water where there were plenty more fish cruising just under the surface.
I decided to make the short trip to the nearest shop to see if I could get any mixer biscuits to see if I could tempt any off the surface. The only thing they had was something called Meaty Meals for dogs. I knew they floated because I remember getting some ages ago but they’re real donkey chokers and I wasn’t sure whether i’d be able to get the fish going on them. Anyway, I bought a box along with several packets of biscuits and bars of chocolate.
Fortunately I’d had the hindsight to pack some controller floats so I setup a rod and headed upto the shallower water. I fired out four of the donkey chokers and out of the weed appeared a number of good fish to investigate. Not only did they investigate but they were taking the dog biscuits without any hesitation. Out went a few more to get the confidence of the fish before I cast out. It never ceases to amaze me how fish know which one is attached to rod and line. A number of fish nudged the hookbait before spooking but I knew if I didn’t make too much commotion then eventually one would slip up and take the bait and so it proved as a lovely Mirror of 23.6 was the first to grace the net.
I let the swim settle for a while before firing out a few more freebies. Again the fish fed confidently on them and another stunning Mirror, this time weighing 18.8 fell to the donkey choker. The fish looked like it had been carved out of a piece of mahogany and I wouldn’t normally photograph a fish of this size but it was truly stunning and I wanted to remember it as I look through my photo’s in years to come.
By now the day really was getting better and better. The weather was absolutely perfect for this type of fishing so I was desperate to make the most of it. I then hit into a fish that tore down the lake through numerous weed beds. I knew it was a good fish but it had got me weeded up. I was desperate to get it and thoughts of stripping down to my budgie smugglers started to enter my head. I didn’t fancy wading through over two hundred years of silt to get to it though so instead just applied gentle pressure before the fish eventually came through the weed. In fact the weed did me a favour because it was matted around the fish which actually calmed it down. In the net it looked a right lump and I wasn’t disappointed at 26.4 and was the biggest fish i’d taken off the surface. Mr C took some more photo’s for me and they turned out to be crackers. After those three fish the rest of the fish in the area turned really skittish. They started to bolt when they investigated the freebies and I knew tempting anymore would be difficult but just as I was down to my last freebie I managed to tempt a lovely little Common weighing 15.4.
By now I was exhausted, I had no bait left and it was tea-time. We sat at the dining table reminiscing how for that short period of time the weather was perfect for fishing on the surface. The previous couple of days we’d had that horrendous wind and yet today we had a small window of opportunity to catch some fish. I was really hoping we’d get some more off the surface tomorrow. We polished off our dinner and setup getting the gear ready for fishing that night. I put out my 3 rods to the far bank and Mr C had moved swim to the other end of the lake in the hope of picking up a fish or two.
At 8pm the middle rod screamed off and I was into a fish that I just couldn’t get control of. It was like a dead weight and every time I gained some line it doggedly took it back. Big patches of bubbles came up and I was thinking I was into something really special. Eventually I got the fish within a rod length of the bank before it tore off again. By now My arm was dropping off and I just wanted the fish in the net. I wanted to get the fish weighed, photographed so I could cast out again before it was dark. Finally I caught sight of the fish and could see it was a mirror but it didn’t look as big as I was expecting. I was hoping the water clarity was playing tricks on me but no, when the fish was in the net it wasn’t the big thirty I was hoping but a fish weighing 27.0. I was disappointed given the scrap but none the less it was still a magnificent fish and it was great to get one so early as normally all the fish come in the middle of the night, generally around 1am.
Then true to form, whilst in the middle of a deep sleep the buzzer came to life and I netted another stunning fish of 26.7. This really was turning into something a bit special. I put on fresh bait and re-cast as best as I could bearing in mind I was casting to trees on the far bank. The thud of the lead hitting the water made me think I was in the right area and just as I was tightening up and setting the bait runner the left hand rod screamed off. What’s going off??? This was all getting a bit mental now and I managed another Mirror of 24.14. I didn’t even bother photographing this one and I slipped her back before rebaiting and casting out the left hand rod.
As I lay in the sleeping back I was trying to get my head around the fishing I’d just experienced. Getting those 4 off the surface was more than enough to make me happy but to get another three in the night was the icing on the cake and it was only 1:30am. I was now concerned that there were a bunch of fish out there and not enough bait. Oh well, not a lot I could do about it now so I tried, in my excited state, to get back to sleep. Just as I was dozing the middle rod was away again. This really was getting crazy now. The fish made run after run and as hard as I tried to avoid it, it crossed the line that was out on the right hand rod. Oh well, I just needed to concentrate on getting it in the net. As it got closer I caught a glimpse of it and I could see it was a big common. I gingerly netted the fish bearing in mind the lines were crossed and I was dragging a load of weed on the line too and I gazed down at an immaculate torpedo shaped common. What a fish!!!! On the scales it went 25.10 and as I returned the fish I checked my watch, it was 2:27am. I now had the un-enviable task of sorted the tangle out with the two rods. I took one look at it and thought “that can wait until the morning.” I was knackered and wanted a bit of sleep so I went to bed leaving just the one rod out. I was seriously expecting a fish on the rod but the next thing to wake me up was the birds as dawn broke. As I sat there with a cup of tea I couldn’t believe how mad the fishing was in the last 24 hours. I was hoping that the fish had switched on and that is how it was going to be for the remainder of the trip. It was only Wednesday morning and we still had another three nights to go. The weather had been perfect during that period.
Now though, that cold wind had started up again. I headed up to the shallows with the donkey chokers and although a few fish were showing the wind was that bit stronger and the chill had obviously knocked them off a bit. I stuck it out though and eventually I had a take. The fish tore off across towards the far bank. Eventually I got some line back and now all I had to think about was getting it through the blanket weed before I could net it although I didn’t need to think about it because at that point the hook pulled. I took that as a sign and packed the floater rod away to concentrate on my normal gear.
Wednesday night I crawled into my sleeping bag early and as I was dreaming about having trouble with homeland security whilst passing through passport control in some American airport, Mr C came and asked me to come and photograph a fish for him. How big? I asked. 30.4 was his response. Sweet baby Jesus. What a fish it was too, an immaculate and stunningly proportioned common. My night remained quiet and I never had a bip on the Delks. In fact I never had a bip until Thursday night just before 11pm when I managed another stunning Common weighing 20.6. Was this going to be another night with multiple fish? The simple answer was no but I was awoken by another run just before 5:30 in the morning. The fish hugged the far bank before the hooklink inexplicably parted. I can only assume it had got nicked on some underwater obstruction. Feeling a bit gutted I put a new hooklink on but I knew my chance had been lost. With the exception of the fish on the floaters, fish in the daytime appear to be a rare thing at Weston and I only had Friday night left to snag another fish or two.
As expected Friday day didn’t produce a single run but as the evening arrived I was full of expectation. I made sure my baits were positioned perfectly as I wanted to maximise my chances. Mr C and I sat chewing the fat while we watched the bats flit about overhead. The fishing had been up and down. We’d had some stunning fish but as our trip to Weston was coming to an end we came to a decision that maybe we should try somewhere different. As lovely as Weston Park is there are so many other places to try and we already have a trip to France to look forward to in 2018.
I got into the bivvy full of expectation again and I desperately wanted another fish or two. I didn’t have to wait long before the right hand rod screamed off for the first time all week. I scrambled out of the bivvy and did the wood chip dance while the fish was still screaming off. I picked the rod up and lifted into thin air. Thinking the fish must have swim towards me I cranked the reel handle but there was nothing there. I can only assume it was the mother of all line bites. Feeling gutted I cast the rod out again. Then a couple of hours later I had another bite on the same rod only this time it wasn’t a screamer, just a few blips. That was the last of the action that we were to have and it was with a heavy heart that I woke up to daylight outside.
We slowly packed up and had breakfast in the sombre mood that can only be experienced when a good trip comes to an end. As I locked the gates behind us and entered civilisation again I couldn’t help but wonder whether that would be the last time I would see that hallowed water again. I can’t recommend the place highly enough and it really is a very special place but it’s time for a new challenge.