Set within the grounds of a large Norfolk estate lies the lake, created by damning a stream that ran through the middle of the estate the lake was created, for the most part it is very shallow, no more than 2 feet deep, and very silty, it gets slightly deeper down towards the dam, and around the boat house where 5 feet is the deepest point. The 20 acres of water is broken up by 3 islands and there are several small shallow and snaggy bays full of trees that look like they have been in the water for many, many years, the bottom is very weedy throughout the year, and the water is clearer than tap water, the formidable estate house overlooks the lake giving you the sense that you are being watched constantly, rhododendrons grow around most of the lake and cling to the old estate boundary and out houses walls which crumble under the weight of the plants, it is quite simply a wonderful place to be and have the pleasure of fishing.
Surprisingly though it was only March this year that I finally fished it, that’s despite it being no more than 3 miles from my house, all I had ever heard where horror stories of the cormorants wiping out the silverfish stocks and subsequently the pike suffering, now normally I would discount such stories but they came from a friend that was on the syndicate for 10 years but then gave it up as a bad job when he spent a whole season on the water and didn’t even get a run!
The lake then lay pretty much undisturbed from the season he left, for 8 years in total, and the catch report book read pretty much the same thing from the few brave enough to fish it, blank, blank, blank……..
I wasn’t really too interested in fishing the place, having found some good fishing on “The Pit” I wasn’t really prepared to waste March fishing a new water when the fishing on the gravel pit ended at the end of the month, but I was persuaded to by my good friend and regular fishing partner Roger, and I’m glad that he did as the fishing turned out to be quite good, no big fish where caught but the sport was hectic and the fish where in good condition and well fed, though what they were feeding on was beyond us…
Our first trip was mid-March, and the weather was not good, heavy snow was forecast to arrive during the morning and last all day, but us being determined we were going to stick with our plan, and duly arrived just before first light, having never seen the lake before I was far from confident, the water was too shallow and clear for my liking, and I was instantly regretting the decision to fish the place, those thoughts where soon banished to the back of my mind though when Roger had a run after just 10 minutes on his float ledgered smelt cast into just 2 foot of water, thought the fish was only a jack it was a massive confidence boost, not long after the same rod was away again and a low double came to the net, just like the first fish it was in superb condition and well fed, soon the same rod was away again but unfortunately he missed it on the strike, and a few minutes later the smelt was on the move again but the fish dropped the bait.
What a start that was, 4 runs in the first hour on a new water, I was however slightly despondent having not had a run even though I was fishing identical baits and rigs to him, but fishing can be like that sometimes and you just have to get on with it.
Things went quiet after that, and we were contemplating a move, now as I said earlier the majority of the lake is very shallow, and I was expecting the deep water to produce the runs, particularly on such a cold day, but it had been in the shallow water that the fish had come from, and there was a swim directly opposite us that screamed pike so we decided to walk round there, to the left was the entrance to a bay that was full of sunken trees and branches that had fallen into the lake many years ago, directly in front of us was an island about 30 yards out and to the right another island, though this necessitated a cast of 80 yards, luckily the wind was with us and the 80 yard distance was easily covered, unfortunately for me though it was Rogers rod that was away, the long range bait to the island had been taken, and though it was only a jack it proved that the very shallow water near the islands would produce.
That was the only run to come off the island though and soon we were contemplating a move, predictably though it was at this point, when we were in an open position that the winds picked up and the snow started to come down, we decided to pack up and move swiftish to a more sheltered area, where once again Roger got the only run and another jack came twisting through the clear water, I unhooked the fish in the water as by this point I was thoroughly fed up and ready to go home.
We moved once again after this, back to where we started and it was Rogers rod that was away again but again it was only a jack, eventually though, just as the snow really started to build up I received a run and though again it was only a small jack I was more than relieved just to have broken my duck, I then promptly pulled out a low double and another jack in quick succession and then pulled out of another.
It was at this moment that I noticed that a couple of baits that we had discarded by the pontoon had been taken, Roger quickly dropped a bait right next to the pontoon and was rewarded with an immediate response, and the biggest of the day of 15lb slipped into the net, and that was it for the day.
We were unsure what to make of our first trip down there, we hadn’t seen any silver fish topping, and there were a few cormorants present, yet the pike all seemed well fed and in good condition, another trip was in order.
I returned on my own a few days later, the weather was slightly better, though still none the warmer, I only managed two runs from an area we have identified as being the most productive, the first was lost and felt like a good fish, I was gutted, but it didn’t take long for 1 of my other rods to go and a long lean 15lber came to the net, shame she was empty, and was wondering if she was a fish struggling to find a decent meal, apart from being underweight she was in mint condition with some lovely markings.
It was 2 weeks before we returned, we had planned to switch our attention to the carp, but with the weather still being cold for the time of year and the pike still having not spawned we decided to have another go to see if there were any big fish present, to our disappoint though when we turned up the productive deeper are was frozen solid and only the shallower end was clear of ice, we had no choice but to fish there and a dropped run was our only reward.
We were willing the wind to pick up, and to our surprise it did and started to create a nice ripple that soon got rid of the dreaded ice, like rats up a drain pipe we were into the productive area as soon as the ice was gone, but yet again it was Rogers rod which where away again, (im really going to have to stop fishing with him), I wasn’t particularly surprised though, some people just get lucky and instantly get the run of the water, where as some, usually me struggle on new waters for a while, why this is so is beyond me, anyway he managed a couple of jacks and a couple of low doubles and I was still fishless, when his rod was away again on a popped up long ranger mackerel I was really pissed off, but out of sympathy for me ( all say awww) he let me have the run and I managed to bundle a 12lber into the net before the fish even knew what had happened, while we were unhooking the fish my live chub was taken, (caught at the venue, honestly guv), and another low double fell into the net, I was feeling much better by this point, I added a jack for good measure and that was it for day, it had been another hard but ultimately rewarding day.
We decided after that to give it up for the season, and our thoughts turned to carp fishing, I was desperate for a 20lb carp and Roger had a water in mind for a chance of a 20, on my first trip down there I managed a 17 and two 20s so I was over the moon, I returned a few day later and had 4 more carp to just over 20lb, but my mind was wandering back to piking as the weather was forecast to be cooler with an overnight frost, so a plan was hatched to fish on the Saturday following the frost.
We arrived just before sunrise and fog hung over the lake and totally obscured it from view as we walked down to it, the air was cool but the sky was clear and we knew the temperature would pick up as soon as the sun rose, as we approached the boat house there was almost an eerie atmosphere as we were completely surrounded by fog, and the air was still and silent, anticipation was the word in my mind.
Soon I had 2 rods out and Roger had 2 out and I decided to chuck a lure around, the water was even clearer than usual and a few inches lower, the weed was starting to get a spurt on and was much thicker than a couple of weeks previous, first cast with the lure and half way in it was hit with force and a jack came thrashing to the surface, a good start I thought, not long after my half mackerel was away and a low double was swiftly unhooked and returned, for once it was me getting all the action, Rogers rod was then soon away and a fish of about 13lb was duly unhooked and released, it was clear to us then that the pike had spawned and where obviously in a frantic feeding mode, not long later my smelt next to a sunken tree was taken and another jack was duly landed and returned, it was a terrific start to the day and I was enjoying the fact I had caught more and was rubbing it in just a little, it’s always important to have a bit of banter and not get to caught up with the seriousness of it all.
It all went quiet after the initial burst of activity and the sun climbed higher in the sky and burned off the remaining fog and the temperatures started to rise rapidly, we decided a move was in order and the point swim was calling me, we moved round and instantly disturbed a fish in no more than a foot of water, I was optimistic, and even more so when my half mackerel next to the island was taken immediately after I cast it out, annoyingly the fish dropped the bait.
We thrashed the clear water to a foam with all manner of lures, and luckily we were treated to the awesome sight of a large pike launching itself out of the weed to engulf Rogers spoon in less than a foot of water, it was a sight to behold, the fish was promptly landed and was clearly a fish which before spawning would have weighed more than the 15lb 2oz that the scales recorded, it was then my turn to get a fish as the indicator on my mackerel rod slowly dropped back indicating that my bait next to the island in 2 foot of water had been taken and a low double came tamely to the net.
The day wore on and it got hotter and hotter and we had a move to a new swim, by this point it was midday and the sun was at its hottest and I wasn’t confident of anything happening, I was starting to get sunburnt as I was toying with the idea of packing up and finding some shade, but at that moment a jack went for my float giving us confidence that there were pike around, not long after this my smelt in 2 foot of water was taken, the culprit being a low double, while I was playing this in my long range mackerel was also picked up by a fish, 2 hours of sitting there and nothing happening, then 2 runs at once, the mind boggles, the smaller of the 2 fish was dealt with by Roger, it being a low double while I dealt with the larger fish which tailwalked at long range, she was soon beaten though and a nice mid double was resting in the alongside the low double.
We moved once more after this and a few more jacks and once more a double came my way to make it a very good day, we ended up with 14 fish between us and it was a nice way to finish our pike fishing until next September.
We are going to return at some point this summer after the large head of tench that inhabit the water, and I’m really looking forward to it as the lake has a unique atmosphere which I’m not quite able to describe, I’m just glad a lot of people have forgotten about the place and it only appears to be us fishing it.
Just an added note, I returned twice more on my own in May, the first time was not ideal, there was a vintage car rally taking place on the estates fields and the place was full of people wandering around, not what I wanted, anyway to cut a long story short I managed a jack and a lovely 16lber which showed that there were still some good uncaught fish in there.
I returned 2 days later and I was treated to one of the best days fishing I have had in a long time, the weed had really started to explode and in places it was through the surface.
Anyway about an hour after getting the baits out I got my first run as my float ledgered mackerel next to a fallen tree was away and a low double was landed and duly returned, half an hour later that rod went again and a nice 13lber came to the net, soon after it was away again and I lost the fish unfortunately, I cast the bait back out and it went instantly but again I lost it during the fight, then immediately my rod to the left went as a pike took my long range ledgered pollen and after a good fight, with the fish only being hooked on one point I landed my biggest from the lake with an immaculate and stunningly marked 17lb
I then had a hectic hour of sport where 4 doubles to 15lb and a jack came to my rods, at this point I of course had to ring Roger, just to rub in the fact he was at work while I was out catching fish, it didn’t go down to well, though I quite enjoyed winding him up.
All went quiet for a while until just after midday where in the space of half an hour I managed 3 doubles to 15lb on a surface popper lure, it was great fun, I would wait to see a pike roll and then cast the lure at it.
I went on to add 3 more doubles that day as the pike when feeding crazy, I ended the day with fish of 4lb, 10lb, 13lb 4oz, 17lb, 15lb, 15lb 5oz, 12lb, 10lb 8oz, 11lb, 13lb 10oz, 15lb 12oz, 15lb, 11lb, and 13lb, what a truly fantastic day it was, and one I will never forget.