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Extracts from my September Diary

Posted by Shaun Harrison on 4 October 2016 |

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Contemplating after landing a lake record.

After my six month obsession with Paradise Pit which had culminated in me landing another lake record from there, I felt I was ready for a bit of a change of scenery and fresh challenges.

September dawned with me sat on the Mangrove, and in my favourite swim of all time ‘Lightning Tree’, which incidentally had never been hit by lightning at all, but that was a good cover up for an accident with fire that had occurred years before I ever fished there.

I had been a member of the Mangrove Syndicate for many years and it had been more than kind to me. I’d caught the larger known fish as well as well as a un-known (at the time) which was to form half of the Record Mangrove Brace for me. But, that story has been covered elsewhere before and this is a summary of my angling this September and not a delve into the past.

So, how was I to find myself in Lightning Tree almost 10 years after my last session there?

Well, I had agreed to give my time to a ‘Fish with the Stars’ event organised by Tim Paisley. I must admit as well as trying to give back what I can, there was also an element of selfishness on my part in saying yes, simply so as to be back at the natural ancient mere I loved so much. Especially when I was told if I turn up early, I could fish a night before the paying guests arrived.

Everything was sorted and loaded, complete with extras so that the paying guests would all be leaving with goody bags of tackle and bait. All I had to do was wait in for a final courier delivery of something I had to be at home to sign for. Lunch time came and went and I kept looking at my watch. You know how it is when your motor is ready loaded and you’ve completed all you need to do?

3 pm came and went. I’d hoped to be there by 3 and still had a 2 hour drive ahead of me which was now going to have to be in the rush hour. I got onto the people who had sent the parcel and was told it was on the wagon but all they knew was that it would be delivered any time between 8 am and 6 pm. Typical, the one day I really didn’t want to be the last drop of the day. 

6 pm and still no delivery as I started to write out a message to stick on my door. I was fuming, I’d wasted a full day waiting in and now knew I would be arriving and setting up in the dark on this one night I had so looked forward to. I walked out my door and through my gates as the courier turned up. Another 10 minute delay signing for it and putting it safe and the Land Rover bonnet was pointed west. 2 feet on the accelerator didn’t really help as the roads were really busy and then 20 miles away rain! Oh I was not a happy chap. Loading a boat with all the tackle for a few days isn’t much fun in the dark, but when it’s raining…

Eventually I left the road, drove through the farm and trundled down the hill to the majestic mangrove in the valley. I marvelled at the crops, never in all my years there had I seen such a bumper crop as that which greeted me as the sun was falling and darkening the colours of all that I saw. The final few yards and I spotted Tim making his way towards me. His hair certainly never darkens and I was greeted with a real warm welcome, frank Warwick spotted me and came over next insisting on a big ‘man hug’. I was back at the place I loved and back amongst friends. A few people were introduced to me and soon I was making my apologies for fighting against daylight explaining why I’d been delayed and was off to load a boat. Tim and Frank were both in swims accessible by bank. Most of the Mangrove swims have no bank access and are only approachable by boat. It had already been agreed before my arrival that I was happy setting sail to sit on one of the wooden staging islands.

I like this shot of Nicks

Frank Warwick, Tim Paisley, Yours Truly and Nick Burrage. We had plenty to talk about!

Well to cut a long story short I eventually cast out in pitch blackness at 11 pm. The sky had cleared and I decided to not bother with setting the bivvy up in the dark. All I wanted to do was chill and relax and become once again part of the Mangrove. I sat up for hours just soaking in the atmosphere, listening to the owls and watching the silhouette of the bats chasing back and forwards through the swarms of flying critters. Several only missed me by centimeters as their wings were felt moving the air by me. Eventually tiredness came on strongly and I was forced to turn the scene off for a few hours but first light I was back up and watching the day develop the same as it had so many times in the past whilst sat in Lightning Tree.

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My first Mangrove dawn after almost 10 years. Just how it always was.

The only differences were the carp didn’t play the game and at 11 am Tim shouted across from the field…

“BREAKFAST”. So it was wind in time and cross the mere in my boat for a marvelous breakfast and a great social with the other anglers who were there to help. Most I’d met before, but others like Tony Gibson, I felt I had known for years after only a few minutes chat.

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The first morning watching the day unfold.

I won’t give a blow by blow account of the following days but was relieved to have Charlie Barkley-Smith sharing my space. You always worry in case you end up with a ‘nightmare angler’ but Charlie was far from that and had paid the money for all the right reasons. The money being raised was to help in funding a court case involving certain seemingly wrong doings of certain Directors of the Carp Society. Now Charlie had suffered at the hands of the ‘Rent a week at Redmire’ fiasco in the 80’s and the Carp society when they managed to take it over gave Charlie a free week to make amends for the previous lease holders ripping him off. They never had to do this and Charlie knew that and finally he was in a position in his mind to be able to give something back to the carp Society for helping him out back then.

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The tea leaves from a brew I made on the Mangrove looked to me like a sitting dog.

A few good fish were caught including a 38.12 mirror to Tim’s actual next door neighbour ‘Kip’ who really did deserve it after working so hard for everyone and supplying a marquee and the ‘know how’.

The fish that were caught were up the other end of the lake but eventually started to make their way down to us and eventually one found my hook bait amongst a bed of Rahja Spice and I landed my first carp from the Mangrove in years. Charlie had insisted that I fished and had any fish on my rods. Besides, as he pointed out, he fishes left handed so wouldn’t be able to cope with my reel handles on what for him is the wrong side.

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Not a monster but nice to once again be cradling a Mangrove carp.

We had a lot of bream action they were never there in the numbers that they now appear to be when I fished it. In fact I remember catching a double on my last session of the season one year and can’t remember ever catching another.

Soon my 5 days donated to the event were over and on our last meal everyone was in high spirits as they had been during all the other meals. It had been suggested turning this into an annual event for whatever cause each year and everyone present had said they would very much like to be involved again so to my mind, it was a massive success.

A week back in the office and a few late nights desperately trying to get caught back up with emails and paperwork that accumulate after a few days away and I was again desperate for some angling for myself and decided upon a trip to Stobbart’s, a place I’d not fished since catching a fish I’d wanted for years. I arrived to find the place pretty busy but whilst standing in the first swim I got to I immediately spotted a fair fish show to my right and almost straight away a much larger fish to my left. I never bothered looking anywhere else.

I’d started off with just hook baits hoping to sneak a quick fish out but it was not to be and with conditions not looking great for feeding I then took advantage of Spombing a good bed of bait out which was a mixture of Rahja Spice and Questrami in 10, 15 and 20 mm as well as halved and crushed baits, so a good old mish mash on the bottom.

My other rod I went to bait with the catapult and the elastic went. Now I don’t know about you but I struggle to ever get the right replacement elastics and now have so many different catapults I tend to make do with what I can buy spares wise. My current heavy baiting pouch model, the elastic isn’t the right one for it and slips off the frame every few pouch loads, if I don’t add a bit of glue when fitting them. This doesn’t totally solve the issue but keeps the catapult lasting longer. Today it pulled free. I got the superglue out for a temporary fix only to find the end all bunged up with dried glue as is usually the case. I cut a bit off and still no good so got a baiting needle and tried forcing the spout open. The needle slipped and penetrated deep into my finger coming to a halt when it hit bone. It hurt!

I did the normal thing and went to pull it out but it wouldn’t budge. I pulled real hard and still it wouldn’t move so an emergency trip to the next swim was called for. My mate Jamie Simpson of Custom Angling solutions was up the bank and I hoped he had a solution to my current angling problem, a baiting needle hanging out of my finger.

“Do us a favour mate and pull this out”. I asked.

I won’t repeat what he said, but he got hold of it and started to pull, he pulled harder and the pain was awful and in the end I had to stop him.

“Have you got a gas camping stove with you? We can drip some gas onto my finger and try and numb it. No way am I going to A & e on a Friday”. We tried this but couldn’t get it to drip enough frozen gas.

I was in a dilemma it was firmly wedged.

“I wonder if I twist it to perhaps free the barb”? I said and then tried. Now it hurt before but the pain I now inflicted upon myself was unbelievable. Had Jamie done it I’d have hit him! I twisted it one way then the other then asked him to pull again. This time it popped out. What a relief that was. All I had to do now was prey that my boilies bits that would have been on the barb were clean so no infection would come. For now, all I could do was let the blood flow and hopefully clean itself.

This is becoming a bit of a ‘War and Peace’ type blog. I’m sorry, I have got a little carried away banging far too many words out. So, to cut a long story short I fed a couple of kilo of Rahja Spice and Questrami 10, 15 and 20 mm’s into my swim and sat back to lick my wounds – literally.

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It hurt, but fortunately there was no infection.

That night I hooked a real good fish which lead me a right merry old dance before the hook pulled. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t lose many through hook pulls but I have been messing around with much larger hook baits to those I usually use and something in the mechanics of my rigs still needed a little more fine tuning.

Music to my ears came along the bank in the morning. Jamie had landed a cracking common of 36.10 a PB English common for him. I was totally made up for him. I’ve known Jamie a lot of years, in fact since he was a school kid coming into the shop. He was the one in ‘the gang’ that seemed to shine through to me.

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10, 15 and 20 mm's with halved baits too.

It had been a quiet day for me since my loss in the night. But un-perturbed I took the gamble of upping my baiting level. If the rigs weren’t 100% then perhaps I had been cleaned out anyway.
This did the trick as the fish moved in and the second morning I seemed to be playing fish all morning and no losses.

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I seemed to be playing fish all morning

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Mirrors and commons were gorging on the bait.

The following week I decided to re-visit Stobbart’s and this time found myself slotting in a very bust pit on the far side and further up the lake to where I’d had my action the previous week. Same tactics with the mixed sizes of 10, 15 and 20 mm Rahja Spice and Questrami once again saw the Shaun the Sheep indicators dancing each time a carp slipped up. Six times they slipped up which gave me confidence in my slightly altered approach and more to think about as the Autumn starts to encroach.

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Six times they slipped up the following week-end in a swim i don't like.

The month was coming to a close and with it my usual slight urgency to fit a little more angling in just in case we get the long drawn out winter this year that I’m expecting. Hopefully I’ll be wrong but a few bonus evening sessions after work are now the order of the day. My first one of these in the last week of September saw me fish for just 1 ½ hours before banking myself a bonus mid week carp whilst most of the nation were probably at home sat in front of the Idiot box.

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A worthwhile 1 1/2 hour evening session after work

I wonder what October will have in store. Bait wise I will be carrying on with the Rahja Spice as my main bait with something else adding a different colour and giving off different signals. For now, that is the Questrami. They fish together really well.

Best fishes
Shaun Harrison


About the Author: Shaun Harrison

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Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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