In June my angling road finally wound up at the famed Cleverly Mere in Essex. This venue has been on my list of destinations for a long time now - home to some amazing looking fish and set in a pleasantly interesting and mature 8 acres. The stock numbers around 100 carp and over the years they have gained a reputation as being rather tricky. It is a highly pressured water that has seen everything from everyone and if you managed 10 fish for a season then you’d done well whilst one or two of the top boys might triple that number for an entire season, fishing most weeks.
I was under no illusion that the fishing was going to be easy but at the same time I resolved not to fall into the trap of fishing predictably. If it really was as simple as slinging out a pineapple chod and firing 30 baits around it, then everyone would be catching and this was far from the case.
I’d done a couple of exploratory trips the previous winter and on my second trip I’d bagged a lovely little fully scaled mirror. That was December 2015 and it wasn’t until June this year that I finally returned. The first couple of trips were spent looking round the lake - I did an awful lot of walking and on one particular day notched up just over 16km! I was searching for opportunities to angle in a style or area that could possibly take the fish off guard and after a lot of looking I found a couple of zones that were of interest.
I started off lightly baiting with Sticky Krill and fishing only where I’d seen the fish show or patrol. Although the first couple of trips refused to give up anything off the bottom, I did manage to catch some lovely fish from the surface. The first of these was a corking 24lb common; dark and perfectly proportioned, it really was something to behold and as it slipped through my fingers, back into the lake, I thought I was going to quite like angling at Cleverly.
In an effort to be different to the other anglers, I’d decided to use Krill in 20mm and to offer exactly the same on the hair. I know, a 20mm bottom bait - I mean how crazy is that! (That was obviously said with a hint of sarcasm, but in all seriousness, how many anglers do you see that do not draw attention to the hook bait?)
With many anglers following the route of some sort of high attract hooker (and usually popped up) there is no doubt in my mind that on most waters it is nowhere near as good as it once was. My principle is offer them what they are already feeding on! It’s so simple and of course it removes giving the fish a choice to make. If you give them something different to what they are eating then you are changing the menu - you are really asking ‘I know you are enjoying eating those lovely boilies, but would you like one of these instead?’
Why not just say ‘I can see you are loving those boilies - here’s another one!’
So that was the plan. I would apply small quantities of Krill to areas that I’d seen fish use and hopefully prebait one or two spots also. Additionally, I intended to use big leads and where possible, tight lines - these were two things that I saw nobody else employing and with the fish clearly avoiding capture more often than not, I believed these two elements might further tip the balance in my favour.
I’d found a little zone that was regularly used by the fish and it just happened to be right in front of the only swim on the lake that never got fished… I started putting a kilo or two into this area a couple of times a week and left it for two weeks before fishing. One of the really great things about the Krill is that the more you apply it, the better it gets. It really does seem like a drug to the fish and my confidence in it is immense.
The first session I fished the area I took two lovely mirrors that went 25lb and 31lbs - I was off and running and, introducing more bait on leaving, I was already planning for the following week.
The next trip exceeded all my expectations with several fish topped by a beast of a common that weighed 38lb 6ozs. It was a wonderful, broad shouldered fish with a big sloping head and a perfect underslung mouth - the sort of common that keeps me awake at night!
After a few more fish the area dried so I began to explore other zones and, luckily, began catching straight away with numbers of fish from several open water swims around the lake.
The floater fishing at Cleverly could be exceptional and I was always looking for opportunities. One warm morning in early July I found a good sized group on the end of a light westerly ripple. Due to the huge number of feathered obstacles I had to patiently feed the swim for several hours before they eventually left me alone and the carp began to show interest.
I watched as the carp started to get more and more confident, large heads appearing in the slick as the floaters were mopped up. It really was exciting and with shaking hands I finally got the surface rod set up. It was now 3pm and I’d been feeding the area since 10am!
The effort and stubborn persistence paid off in some style as over the next couple of hours I managed four fish topped by another incredible big common which went 37lb 10oz! To my amazement this fish was excreting Krill all over the mat so although he’d been dining for free on me, I’d still caught up with him!
As July slipped into August, I kept on with my 1 - 2 night a week campaign and was really starting to get in touch with things. I’d suffered just a single overnight blank during this period and by the end of August I’d fished 25 nights over the three months. During this time I’d managed no less than 35 bites which was massively in advance of my more realistic expectations.
For those interested I used the new fluorocarbon from ProLogic for the entire campaign and it performed brilliantly. End tackle was from the Last Meter range.
As I write I have had to pull off for a while due to extensive work and filming commitments but I do hope to return for another go in the autumn. Cleverly is busy and challenging but the rewards are there - what a lovely place to angle!