What’s the most challenging fishing you’ve done? Well for me catching a big Walthamstow carp is right up there, especially if you fish it the way I do. I have worked hard to scale everything right down to become as mobile as possible. Just the walk from the car park to reservoir 2/3 is a bloody long way when pushing a barrow. If you don’t see anything on that reservoir then you have a few others to wander around but before you know it you’ve walked miles trying to find fish.
My first trip to the Stow was in June 2015. I’ve known about the venue for some time but never looked at it mainly because of the night fishing restriction – what a plonker! These reservoirs are very big and I think the idea of going there and catching a carp in a day only session was mind boggling at the time. Having said that I’d started to follow the Walthamstow Facebook page and these carp did come out – and they were big. I had to have a crack at them.
Above: A map of the 2/3. The amount of research I did online prior to my first visit was quite excessive. By the time I fished my first session I knew the swims, the methods often used and had a number of the big fish copied to my phone.
There was something about the 2/3 reservoir that I liked. Reservoirs of this nature often feel like a hole in the ground but the 2/3 didn’t feel like this. It had an interesting shape with 2 connecting to the 3 via a small channel. It contained several islands and the margins were lined along some of the banks with over hanging trees. So my campaign started on the 2/3. My first few sessions saw me fish a lot of swims as I was getting to know the lake. The first 5 sessions saw me blank and although I was learning all the time I was starting to wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I was working really hard. I was sometimes camping up the road in a little hut the night before, preparing my rigs and bait before walking miles around the lakes sometimes fishing up to 6 swims in a day – I was really having to work for it.
Above: Kipping in a little hut on a campsite up the road to be close to the lakes.
My first bit of action came from a swim I had not fished before called The Secret. It’s a tight little swim tucked away from everyone else but on this day it clearly had a few fish in it. They were showing in open water and so a hinged stiff rig went out to them. This was fished on a helicopter set up as the bottom is pretty silty here and I don’t want to cast around looking for hard spots. The fish are here and the last thing I want to do is scare them off by leading around.
Above: Hard to believe these lakes are situated where they are!
My middle rod is also cast out to a similar range and the left hand rod cast just off the snags to my left. After about 30mins of fishing at around 7:45am the right hand rod rips off! Before I’ve even hit into it my heart is racing. I’ve waited a very long time for this and I can’t quite believe that I’m into my first Walthamstow carp. It powers off into the lake and it’s taking line quite early in the fight – it’s obviously a decent fish. I’m physically shaking as I start to get the fish under control. I know that this could easily be the fish of a lifetime at a venue like this and I’m preying for it to stay on. I’ve now got the fish around 30yards from the bank having hooked it at around 70 yards. Suddenly and for no apparent reason my heart sinks as the hook simply pops out. For a second I stand there in disbelief before dropping the rod and sinking down to the floor. I have my head in my hands and cannot believe what’s just happened. Never have I felt like this about losing a fish. I’m absolutely gutted to say the least. After a few minutes I manage to regain enough composure to get the rod back out on the spot but I am still quite distraught!
Half an hour after losing the fish I notice a number of fish starting to gather in the bottom corner of the lake. They are in the Short Corner swim. It’s a warm day and they are cruising around with the odd fish rolling. Now I know it’s strange to move after having that take but an hour after hooking it has passed and nothing has shown in front of me. Time is precious on the Stow. If you see fish then move on them and so I grabbed my rods and made my way down to the Short Corner.
I cast a couple of bottom baits under the trees to my right and set the third rod up to fish on the surface. To my surprise the fish were straight onto the mixers. I brought in my other two rods as they were simply acting as a distraction and I knew that I had a really good chance to taking one of these fish off the top – a method I’ve used to catch loads of carp over the years. I set up using my Nash Bolt Machine and Kruiser Control hooklength to a size 8 Mixa hook. I send the bolt machine out to where they are feeding at about 45 yards and it’s grabbed almost instantly. The bolt machine had done a great job as the fish almost hooked itself. Having said that it was off as quickly as it was on! Strangely I was not as bothered about this loss. The fish were really having it and I knew that I’d get another chance if I got the rig back out there quickly. I fed a few more mixers and then cast out the rod. Again it was away and after a good scrap I had my first carp from the 2/3, a lovely little mirror. Not a monster but what a relief. As the fish went in the net I couldn’t help but shout and punch the air … get in!
Above: Not big but my first Stow carp. I was delighted!
After putting the fish back I continued to feed the swim and after a further 30 minutes I was into another. The fish went crazy and it was no surprise when I netted a small common. It was a shame that I’d not hooked anything as big as the fish I lost in the morning but I was really pleased to finally be getting amongst them.
Above: Like buses. Another small common.
The fish slowly drifted away through the afternoon. The evening saw me moving around the lake fishing a few swims but without any further success. After a number of blank sessions I finally had a session where I’d caught 2 and lost 2. I felt like I’d turned a corner and couldn’t wait to get back.
I think I blanked on my next session on the 2/3. It had been a couple of months before I could get back and it felt good to be back on the banks of the Stow. I had a typically quiet morning on the 2/3 and was pushing my barrow around the lake looking for fish. Until now I had been obsessed with the 2/3 and had ignored the 1 that sits right next to it however on this day there were fish topping out on the 1 around the island. I couldn’t ignore them and a couple of rods went out to them. A few baits were put out with the throwing stick. The rods were laying on the ground, no buzzers or banksticks needed as I was going to get back on the 2/3 after an hour regardless of what happened. After just 20mins the clutch on the left hand rod was spinning and I was into a decent carp. As I brought the fish over the net I could see that it was a very pretty mirror which looked to be an upper double. I was chuffed. It was tempting to continue fishing that spot but I wasn’t really where I wanted to be. That bonus fish really lifted my spirits but it was time to get back on the 2/3.
Above: An upper double mirror within 20minutes of casting out.
The 2/3 did not give me another fish that day. In fact the next two sessions were blanks before the year kinda ended for me on the Stow. Work had become busy and I was fishing short sessions on other waters closer to home. It felt like I’d put a lot of effort in that first year on the Stow without much of a reward.
June 2016 and my first trip back at the Stow for about 6 months. I take a decent walk around the 2/3 before settling in the Culvert swim. I start fishing at around 7.30am and by 8.30am the day is really warming up. The fish are obviously in the upper layers and so I feed in some mixers. It wasn’t long before the fish were onto them and so I brought in the rods and decided that I would fish with just 1 rod and move onto the fish around the lake if I needed to. The bait was barely in the water for 2 minutes before it was taken. What followed was an epic fight. One of the hardest fighting carp I’d caught in a long time. I was fishing fairly light gear and so it must have taken nearly 25 minutes to land a stunning, chestnut coloured common.
Above: Getting bigger. A low 20 common caught on floaters.
After that capture the fish drifted out in to the lake so I moved around to the Beach swim to try and snatch one from there. They were no longer taking the mixers enthusiastically and it became obvious that I was going to struggle to get another bite from these fish. Everything was loaded onto the barrow and I was off around the lake in search of fish. After a couple of laps around the 2/3 I had only seen a few fish. It was a hot day by late morning and covering this much water pushing a barrow was quite hard work. As I walked down the bank that is shared with reservoir 1 I noticed a group of fish. They were on the 1 and I decided to have a quick go for them. I fired out a few mixers and they were not immediately interested but within about 20 minutes I had a few taking. Out went my trimmed down pop up on my trusty Nash Bolt Machine. They were at reasonable range – maybe 50 / 60 yards. My bait had been in the water for a few minutes when a big fish came towards the bait from the right. It’s shoulders broke the surface as it confidently took the bait – boom, fish on!
From the moment I hooked it I knew it was a decent fish. It kited hard to my left. I had a fairly light hooklength and a small hook so I was very aware of this throughout the fight. The fish used it’s weight to try and stay deep. The water was only knee deep in the margins and so I stepped out into the lake with my landing net. The fish made a number of powerful runs down to my left and then down to the right. There wasn’t much I could do except to try and keep it under control and do just enough to stop the fish reaching a few snags that were either side of me. After about 20minutes or so I pulled a big, fat Walthamstow carp over the net. I was absolutely buzzing….yes, yes, yes….get in! I can’t believe it. I leave it in the net for a minute whilst both the fish and I recover! Love it!
Fortunately a couple of guys from Thames Water walk passed. I ask if they would help me weigh and photograph the fish. “It’s a bit special” I say to them. These guys say that they’ve seen a few decent fish from the lakes over the years but they can’t help but be impressed when I bring a big mirror out of the water. We host it up onto the scales – 35lb 4 oz of Walthamstow mirror carp. The carp has since been recognised as the second biggest fish in the number 1 – a fish called Elvis.
Above: Elvis. The result of all my efforts. Well chuffed! A great Walthamstow carp.
Above: In the water with Elvis at 35lb 4oz.
Finally the Stow paid me back. Almost exactly 1 year after I started my campaign I got my reward. I had probably only managed around a dozen or so trips but all of them have been greulers. The hard work had finally paid off. It’s now August 2016 and I’ve not managed to get back to the Stow again due to joining a syndicate but I will be back that’s for sure. I still want that big Walthamstow carp from the 2/3.