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  • Matt Cotterrell

THE HUNT FOR BIG EARL

Earls view fishery is a tranquil intimate water, deep in the heart of the Shropshire countryside. Everything a carp angler could want from a small day ticket water, islands, reed lined margins, bars and plateaus, true peace and harmony with old oak trees, hedge rows and fields of green all around. The only thing to break the silence is the sound of bird song and the spring lambs in the distance, each swim containing loads of features and massive amounts of room especially for a day ticket water, but most importantly big beautiful carp. All in all, an unbelievably well-run fishery.


I arrived at the fishery Sunday afternoon where I was met with calm conditions, blue clear skies, and sunshine. I loaded my gear on to the barrow and made my way to swim one, this is the only double swim on the lake and has so many options. With all my gear sorted and a few days in front of me, I was in no rush to get the rods out. I sat there and thought about where I was going to position my rods as it is very easy to rush and get these tricky little waters wrong from the start. Small water carp can be some of the trickiest fish to catch as these fish are under pressure all the time, making them very aware of their surroundings and masters at evading capture. A wrong decision can be the difference between a blank session or a very productive one. Eventually I decided to fish the first rod to the island, after seeing a couple of fish show tight into the island margin. I knew the carp travel around this island, inches from the bank where they feel safe, feeding here they never encounter anglers’ rigs. Fishing close would not be close enough, so with the lead landing inches from the island I knew with a little bit of bounce back and swing from a tight line hitting the clip I would be as tight as I could possibly get. This would still be several feet away from the margin, but would be closer than they were used to being fished for. Most people would never dare cast this tight into the island. I also fished a pva stick over the hook point, to stop it catching on the marsh grass on entry. All these little things can make a massive difference when fishing these tricky waters. The second rod was fished in open water to the right of the island, where a bar runs from the island across the lake all the way to the right-hand margin. However, I did not just find the bar and fish to it, I searched around the front of the bar until I found a harder smoother spot. Looking for these spots normally means you are on an area that the fish are happy to feed on, this is what gives you an advantage over other anglers. Fish will normally drop their guard on spots like these. Time spent finding the right spots is seldom wasted. Thinking about your fishing will often pay more times than not, rather than just going through the motions and doing the same thing as everyone else. Being different is often the key to success. After finding my spots I decided on fishing a lead clip setup and my favourite combi rig and snowman hook bait. This consists of a 14mm ‘Spabaits milky fizzbottom bait’ and a 12mm ‘Spabaits autumn harvest yellow popup’. I then attached a pva stick of matching milky fizz stick mix; this helps prevent tangles, protects the hook point, and hones the fish in on your hook bait. After positioning the rigs, I then introduced six to ten large spods of my chosen mix over the top. This was a mixture of hemp, maize, whole and chopped milky fizz boilies and Spabaits spod pellets that had been soaked in ‘Spabaits in house cls liquid’ and ‘hydro liver’.

I then sat back, put the kettle on and enjoyed the last couple of hours of this glorious spring evening taking in the atmosphere and watching the odd carp poke its head through the glassy still water. It was not until the last rays of daylight that my alarm sounded, and I was attached to my first carp of the session. An arm wrenching battle led to slipping the net under a pristine 20lbs plus common.


What a great start! After a few photos the rod went back out on the same spot. It was time for bed and I was soon in the land of nod. The next thing I remember is being suddenly woken by the sound of a one toner. Still half asleep I lifted into what felt like another nice fish. There is something magical about playing an angry carp in the pitch black. This fish was soon in the net at just under twenty pounds, a beautiful scally mirror was more than welcome. Back to bed, it was a couple of hours later that I received the next take. A spirited more frantic carp, knowing this was a smaller fish by the way it was fighting, it was soon in the net. A stunning low double mirror, one that will be sought after in the future. The sun rose and dawn chorus began but the weather had changed massively, low pressure, strong winds, hale and rain. A million miles from the sunny calm conditions of the day before. Proper big carp weather and this weather front was due to remain for the next few days. Later, that morning I was chatting with the owner and as all the other anglers had packed up and were heading home, I had the lake to myself for the next few days. He kindly offered me the option of putting out a third rod as the lake was quiet, obviously I took the opportunity! I looked for another spot, knowing the open water to the left of the swim does not get fished much. I spent some time finding a spot I was happy with and deployed the third rod with the same tactics as the other two. The rest of the day soon came and went. The second and third night pretty much the same as the first, all the bites coming between last light and dawn, with a total of six fish up to 25lbs 4oz.


I was very pleased with the result. I had had some stunning fish but as I sat there, tea in hand, staring across the lake in the early morning light, with only a couple of hours of my session left I could not help feeling I was close to one of the big fish that inhabited this lake. Maybe even the one I came for, and knowing the lake was only doing night-time bites I just had a feeling I was close, very close. The phone call was made, permission was granted from my amazing wife, there I was with another night in front of me to see if this feeling I had would materialise into reality. The same pattern continued through the day with nothing happening, but my confidence remained sky high for some more night-time action. All the rods back on the same spots, fresh hook baits and eight to ten spods over the top. I sat watching the sun go down, contemplating life, like we all do and letting the natural beauty of the great outdoors wash over me. I sat well into darkness, the only sound to break the silence was a boiling kettle and the flutter of the odd passing bat hunting their prey. Suddenly, a bright red flash in the corner of my eye and the sound of the alarm. My heart skipped a beat, it’s a feeling you just can’t explain as you pick up that rod and you are attached to a hard fighting carp somewhere in the darkness. That fish was soon resting in the bottom of the net, another twenty plus. Rod was buzzed back out to the spot, no sooner had I done the photographs and slipped the fish back the same rod was away again! This fish came straight towards me and on first impression it did not feel that big but once in close it began to plod slowly, staying deep, up, and down the margin for what felt like forever. Never surfacing once, just staying deep, the longer this went on the bigger the fish began to grow in my mind and after fifteen possibly twenty minutes I caught the first glimpse of the fish. A big plain flank, in my mind I knew it was a decent fish, but could it be? No, I thought it can’t! One more big swirl then up it popped, as I guided the fish over the net cord a gasp of relief as both of us were tired from that battle. I gathered myself for a few seconds then picked the net up whilst staring inside and as the fish rose in the water safely in the rolls of the landing net, the silence was broken as I let out a loud sharp YES BIG EARL! This long, wide, sparsely scaled, immaculate fighting machine of a carp, KING OF THE POND! What a creature I couldn’t quite believe it, the feeling I had all day and now there he was, in the net! What a moment!


Times like these are why we do what we do. It’s like a drug, they don’t come around too often but I could spend my whole life chasing a handful. On the scales he went 38lbs on the button and a new lake record to boot. With the moment of madness over, photos done and having slipped my target fish back into the lake, I sat in the pitch black taking in the atmosphere. On reflection, this was my second ever visit to Earls View, ten fish previously, just before Christmas and now eight. Earls View had been very kind to me. The morning soon came around with no more action and an early pack up. That was it, session over. But one that will live with me forever!

In summary put the effort in, think outside the box and moments like these can and will happen. The hunt for big Earl is over but what a place, what a memory. Now onto the next target and until next time, thanks for reading

“YES, BIG EARL”


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