Iain Macmillan tries to outwit some wily old estate-lake carp by constantly altering his approach. Which method will succeed?
It was my old mate Andy Ellis who had mentioned Wynnstay Lake to me while shooting a feature at Lemington Lakes. He gladly gave me the owner Peter Blake’s phone number and the wheels were set in motion. Wynnstay Hall Fishery is a 250-yearold estate lake set just over the Welsh border near Ruabon. It’s run on a day-ticket/membership basis and, I’ll be honest here, you’ll struggle to find a nicer-looking place that’s an open access venue. The lake is around 10 acres, with one island towards the Hall end. Shane, the bailiff, tells me that the lake is actually very flat underneath. However, it is extremely weedy due to its shallow, clear water.
Stockwise, Peter reckons there are approximately 200 fish, with around 50 being twenties and 12 to 15 thirties to just under the 40lb bracket (which includes the huge grass carp). I must admit to being a tad excited about this feature, not only because of the beauty of the place, but Andy had told me that it could be like taking candy from a baby at times, with a really good chance of a big twenty. Well it didn’t quite pan out like that, in true Ting Tong fashion!
I was going to be at Wynnstay for two nights’ fishing, firstly because it holds some stunning old carp and, secondly, when anybody tells me a venue is easy, I always have a degree of caution. So, to try and make sure that I bagged something for the magazine I would spend a lot longer on the venue than I might normally. I arrived on the Wednesday afternoon and following the drive through the impressive grounds of the Hall, Peter and Shane met me at the impressive lakeside Swedish chalet. I was immediately awestruck by the view of the lake. Its banks were littered with big, old oak trees that were nearly as bloody old as Ian Russell! What a place!
After a quick walk round, and extracting as much information as possible, I settled on Peg 7 up against the island. Shane told me that this swim had good form for producing bites regularly, so that would do for me, and we hadn’t really seen much else on our wander round. The only other area that looked spot-on for a bite was up in pegs 11 and 12. However, these hadn’t had any weedcutting attention and I’m sure that even if I did get a bite I wouldn’t have landed the fish. I won’t fish for bites unless I can realistically land them, so Peg 7 would be home for the night.
The plan was simple, a little cast about with a bare lead, then simply fish choddies over the top with a sprinkling of bait, just enough for a bite. Because you’re only allowed to fish from one side of the lake the fish use the far margin as a natural patrol route, due to its lack of disturbance, so two rods were despatched on that line, while the third was dropped next to an overhanging bush from the island where the fish do get nailed Shane spent a good few hours with me on the Wednesday afternoon and evening and he really couldn’t have been of more use. He told me all about the stock, the history and the main areas that the carp like to frequent. He left me with my head full of images of wily old estate-lake fish and epic battles in the weed.
All too soon the morning light had woken me from the deep sleep that I must have been enjoying. I’d had no bites, although a few liners, but that was all I had to report. I wasn’t surprised about the liners because there was a lot of weed between the spots and me. I had heard some good fish jumping in front of me but the day was now ticking on and Jason Umney had turned up expecting me to catch something! A new southwesterly wind had started to pick up and it was blowing towards the narrow end, down by the chalet. Shane wandered round and said that he’d seen approximately a dozen fi sh that looked pretty catchable. So, I reeled in, in double-quick time and went on the hunt. I found the fi sh not far from where Shane had said they were, and boy did they look catchable. A few were tails up, rooting around in the lake bed, sending clouds of thick brown silt up to the surface – game on! We legged it back to the swim to grab a couple of rods and the necessary bits and bobs and while running back I was thinking that it was going to be an easy task to nick a bite.
I put a couple of 1oz leads on the chods and flicked them out to the area where we’d seen the clouding, slackened the rods off and sat back on a rather large tree stump with Jason, waiting for the clutch to go.
It was like a scene from Broke Back Mountain as the breeze increased and his hair was gently blowing in the wind…
I had just got into this solid-bag revolution and had a fair few ready to go. However, they don’t land in the water with finesse, so I opted to stick with my small crimped chods in order to not spook the few fish that were already here feeding. After a couple of hours with the same fish all over me, it was apparent that they weren’t that impressed with my little yellow pop-ups hovering an inch above the silt. I had to bite the bullet and see how they responded to a couple of solid bags on the same spots. Jason bounded up the tree to see where the fish were; the last thing I wanted to do was land these things right on top of them; they’d ‘run’ a bloody mile. So, after the all clear I gently flicked them the 30 or so yards to where the bulk of the fish wanted to be grubbing around. A couple of hours went by and we were now up and down that tree on a regular basis. My head was mashed, and Jason’s wasn’t far behind. How could they not have picked the chods up? And how could they also have resisted the solid bags? In retrospect, I should have gone with the solid bags from the off and I reckon a bite would have occurred. Bloody stupid fish, why don’t they sing from the same hymn sheet as us? We now had a dilemma, it was after 5pm, I desperately wanted to catch for the cameras and we had run out of ideas. We went for a walk around and, if I’m honest, the top end behind the island just wasn’t doing it for me.
The weed would make landing fish problematic, and by the time we had the rods out I reckon we’d have put every fish in the weed on edge, thus ruining our chances for the night ahead. We checked the weather for the morning and the wind was set to strengthen. As a result, I wasn’t going to stay in Peg 7 again, so we moved down the lodge end into pegs 2 and 3, just up from where we’d been sort of stalking the previous day. The water was three to four feet deep down here and because we were going to do the feature on solid bags it only seemed right to actually fish with them. I was itching to fish my chods because I’m so confident in them but I’d gone to all the trouble of tying loads of solids so it was do-or-die time. I got a nice solid drop feeling the lead down on two out of the three rods, but as everything’s enclosed in the bag it can’t tangle, nor get caught up on any weed en route to the bottom. Peter had mentioned that the fish tend to move out from this end of the lake at night and then venture back in the day. However, from what we had heard, there were several that didn’t make the journey back up the lake, and there were some big fish there too.
We had a heart-wrenching moment in the evening as the buzzer sounded, only to be greeted by a huge bream. Still, onwards and upwards. I’d spliced a load of short leadcore leaders for the solids, so it is simply a case of biting one off and then tying a fresh bag on and you’re fishing immediately. The night passed again with zero carp activity in the net and I was becoming slightly twitchy. We’d started to take the pictures for the couple of features that we had to do and Pete McKenna turned up, only to be subjected to my normal greeting, which generally involves a lot of banter and mickey-taking. It wasn’t long before the bobbin smacked the rod and we were away and surely not another bream with a take like that! We were in, 100 per cent a carp this time and I was ‘papping’ myself, especially when I could feel the line grating on the weed. We’d put in a lot of hard graft the day before and then moved in the evening, so the last thing I wanted to do was lose this baby. I played it in gingerly while trying to hold it together, but I was as nervous as hell. The fish surfaced; it wasn’t huge but I was so, so grateful.
The inline lead had discharged as required and after a few gulps of Welsh air the fish was in the net. GET IN! I did a little carp dance for Pete, who was suitably impressed with my feet of fury.
It turned out to be a stunning upper double, dark, estate-lake common, and even though I don’t do that carpkissing thing, I could have this time; it meant the world to me! I’d earned this one for sure, and after a couple more bream and a tench we finished off the shots and headed our separate ways.
As I said at the beginning, it didn’t pan out the way that I thought it might, which just goes to show that you need to keep an open mind on venues that you’ve never visited before. We definitely had to work our butts off to get a bite this time, but I’d thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
For more details about Wynnstay Lake you can go to its website, www. wynnstaycarpfi shing.co.uk, or call 07753 963149.