Opening Day on The Serp
Written by Shadyady
I guess this story starts well before June16th. I have only recently started carp fishing in the last 18 months, and it's been a steep learning curve. Last season I was only doing the odd day session on the Serp and whilst I was learning a lot each trip, I always felt there was a lot missing. Just before Christmas last year I was approached by head bailiff Dan about becoming a bailiff for the club on my beloved Serp. I had a long chat with the missus explaining what the job entailed and the time needed on it.
After a bit of arm twisting and a lot of false promises on my behalf, I got the go ahead. I felt that time spent on the bank talking to the lads and watching for signs of fish would greatly improve my chances of a Serp original in my net. I have quickly learnt that effort equals reward and so after a couple of months going up in all weathers, I found a couple of likely spots to begin my prebaiting campaign.
This was by now the end of April so I started to prebait with a couple of handfuls every 3 days to gauge a reaction to my bait. I was going up at different times of day and night around my shifts at work and was getting soaked through on many occasions. A few times I thought about leaving it for a couple of days, but then remembered the effort that had already been put in and did not stop. I should say at this point that I had been looking for a decent bait at a reasonable price to concentrate my efforts on. After speaking to a few of the lads on the forum and reading past threads, I stumbled upon Scotty at SAE Bait Developments. For everyone who uses his bait, enough said. For those thinking about it, get on it quick!!
As we headed into mid May, I had seen signs of fish in my areas, and even spotted them crashing out whilst on the work parties to improve the pegs. I increased my baiting up to half a kilo every 3 days and this continued right up to opening day. They were well and truly on it. Earlier in the new year I had promised my good lady that I would not go fishing until opening day on June 16th. As things turned out, I had to sell all my gear to clear a nasty bill, and then was overwhelmed by the kindness of fellow monkeys who rallied round to get me set up again!
With just 3 weeks to go until the start of the season, my wife could stand it no more. "just go and have a session and get it out of your system" she said.” you are impossible to live with in this mood; go fishing and sort your head out!!"
I didn't need telling twice!
There are half a dozen lakes on my club ticket, so I chose to fish Stinky's; the Cricket Ground Pool. To cut a long story short, I ended up with a new Personal Best in the shape of an 18lb mirror! By now the touch paper was well and truly lit for opening day!
As people may be aware, anyone who does the work parties on the Serp is entitled to a treat at the start of the season. This entails being able to go down the night before to get set up in the daylight and wait for midnight for the start of the new season. Personally, I quite like the fact the Serp has a close season, giving the fish and banksides a good rest, and builds up the excitement for a new season start that is lacking in places that are open all year round.
So at about 7.30pm on the 15th, i could wait no more. The family had been fed and watered and the car was loaded up and ready to go. I must confess to feeling real excitement as I pulled into the car park for my first trip of the year. What would I do, how would I do it, when, where, how, who and why? All the thoughts which had raced through my mind for the last 3 months… and now my time had come!
As I stepped out of the car, my heart was pounding. I made myself sit down for a quick smoke to calm myself down, and allow myself to start to take it all in. Five minutes later I loaded the barrow up and made the long uphill walk to the lake. If you know the lake you will know it’s a git of a walk, but well worth it in my opinion.
As I rounded the corner at the top of the hill for the thousandth time, this time felt different. This time, I would be fishing! I headed round to my swim stopping along the way to speak to young Dan who also could not wait to get started and was already on his peg setting up. Dan has also put in a lot of time in the close season, and was well rewarded on opening day. Hopefully he will do an article to tell you all about it, so we'll leave that one open for the time being.
As I approached my peg, I was sweating from lugging the barrow half way round Staffordshire. All this was forgotten in an instant as I made my way down to the lakeside. Again, I made myself stop to take it all in and was glad I did, as a kingfisher swooped by me in a flash and was gone. I saw kingfisher a total of five times on opening day. I don't know if it was the same one or not, but what a beautiful creature. I quickly got set up in a blur of excitement and butterflies. The time had finally come and I was going to enjoy every second. once set up I got the kettle on and had a brew and a smoke, soaking it all in. As the light began to fade I was invaded by hundreds of bats that were on their way out of the woods for their night time activities, not to return until dawn was breaking.
Leading up to this trip, time appeared to stand still and now here it began to fly by. Why is that?? As midnight approached I attached my bait to my rigs with shaking hands, and then waited for the all important first cast. I remember praying that it would not end up in the trees, and fortunately Izaak and the gods were on my side. First cast and by sheer luck more than anything else, my rig hit the spot perfectly first time! My second rod was sent out, perhaps a couple of yards off the spot, but it was dark and I had to be happy with the casts.
I settled down on my bed chair, just looking and listening for that all important first bite. I didn't have to wait long. A little after 1.30am, my left hand rod screamed off and I was in. From total peace and quiet to absolute chaos in just a couple of seconds… If only you could bottle it.......
I struck into the fish and straight away I could tell this was no stockie. The knees went a bit wobbly as I struggled to locate the fish in the dark. I have a head torch, but prefer to rely on my own vision as it takes my eyes ages to adjust when the torch has been on. Luck was on my side, and the fish quickly appeared at the net. She went in first time and I remember being stood there trying to work out what to do!! I quickly got my head in gear and peered into the net. First cast of the new season had resulted in one of the originals in my net. These fish were stocked in around about1962, so there is a lot of history there, and it wasn’t wasted on me.
I got her onto the mat, and opened up the net to reveal my prize. When I first saw her I thought it was "little lin", and this was later confirmed to me. I got the scales ready and weighed her off. I had zeroed them off against my sling, so when the dial went round to 24lb and a couple of ounces, the old knees went again!!
There was nobody near enough to me for the pics and I did not want anyone having to reel in so soon after casting out, so I took a few snaps on the mat. I must also confess that at the time, I did not want anyone else around to shatter the moment in any way. It was only afterwards that I began to think I should have got someone round, but we live and learn!
I placed her back in the net and walked her back into the lake. She rested for a few seconds to get her breath back, and then with a flick of the tail she was gone. I let out a small but loud yell then went back up the bank for a brew and a smoke to calm me down. I don't ever remember enjoying a brew more than at that moment!!
Soon after all this, dawn began to break and the bats returned. Just on first light proper, the kingfisher returned for its first flypast of the day. A bit later, the alarm was screaming again on another run. I was using simple running leger set ups with tubing and fluorocarbon hooklinks, so all the takes were fliers. This time a lovely 7lb stockie mirror was in the net, and I was just as happy! Two fish in the opening five hours was a very good start.
A couple of hours later, again I was in. This time I was rewarded with a stocky 12lb common in perfect condition; certainly one to look out for in the future. Pinch me, I thought, I’m dreaming. However, Izaak was not yet finished as a couple of hours later again the alarms went off resulting in an original 18lb common. This fish led me a merry old dance and gave my best fight ever before charging into my grateful net. This time I could not let it go without a trophy shot, so I phoned Dan who shot round and did the honours. Many thanks mate; you did very well to concede your disappointment on it only being an 18!
That was my lot for opening day. I wound the rods in at midday for a well deserved kip and woke up 4 hours later still absolutely buzzing!
So if it’s a bit of history you want in your fishing, backed up with a load of smaller stuff to keep you going then the Serpentine just might be the place for you. Hopefully the walk from the car park will continue to put people off, and the Serp will remain as peaceful as it is. I have very limited time to go fishing, as do many, so to find my own little piece of heaven really has been a true blessing.
Thanks to Izaak for all the guidance, and if you're still reading, many thanks and I hope you get at least some of the thoughts and feelings I got from opening day.
All the best,