01 | Oxfordshire's Finest | Robbie Briers
I’d toyed with the idea of getting a Stoneacres ticket for a few years. It’s a place I’ve wanted to fish since I started fishing down on Linch in 2016, but I never felt like I’ve had the time or money required to commit to a place like that. I live in Manchester and it's a 360-mile round trip so it’s not like it’s round the corner for me.
I managed to sort myself a ticket which was set to start 1st April. It was a funny old Spring that year, April was the coldest on record since 1922 and them carp took a good while to get going on the bottom that’s for sure. I woke up to snow on a few occasions on them early trips and the first carp I caught there was snow on the ground in the backdrop - global warming my ass! It certainly didn’t feel that way huddled under a brolly clutching onto a brew to keep warm anyway.
The Stoneacres carp were never that hard to locate though, they loved a show on there. You’d see them most mornings, but when you drifted over the areas in the dinghy later on that day, you’d find no ground that looked like it had been ripped up or even fed on for that matter. Everytime I tried fishing for them on the deck I’d just get plagued by the tench, hence why the majority of my early bites were caught fishing zigs.
Given how nomadic and flighty them carp were with the boat work and angling pressure it seemed the ideal method for catching them. It wasn’t until mid-May when I managed to catch my first one of the deck. It was on one of Spencer's new mulberry florentine and scopex cork-balls, the Aqua M’s - flicked right on the head of a carp that had stuck its head out the previous morning. It was a lovely, heavily scaled mirror, a classic Stoneacres carp and the exact the reason why I got the ticket in the first place. As the weather warmed up and we started to get some consistent temperatures the carp soon had other ideas, and they started spawning the first week of June. The lake closed for 3 weeks, however I already had a good idea of what the plan of attack was going to be for the coming Summer.
I had in my head that come Summer when the weed got up and the carp started to favour certain areas a bit more that I’d try and get an area rocking with some consistent baiting. I was soon on the phone to Spence stocking the freezer up with Hot Shrimp ready for a Summer on the big pit. We got the nod that the lake was back open in the final week of June, and I was soon bombing it down the M6 Oxford bound. I struggled to get anywhere near the bulk of the carp for the first couple of weeks given how busy the lake was, everyone was keen again after a 3-week break and I don’t blame them. I did manage a nice common from one of the corner swims though, so all was not lost. The pit seemed to quieten right down after that trip, and I was able to operate a bit more. The novelty of the lake re-opening had soon faded as the clarity was poor and the weed had started to really get a grip, particularly up that top end out in-front of the island in a swim called Crows point and the carp were taking full advantage of that. I remember packing up one morning and I must’ve seen 30 shows all in that area. But unfortunately, there was a lad fishing in there, so I wasn’t able to get any prep work done but it was definitely a starting point for the following week.
The next week soon came round and I was pleased to see there was only one other angler on, and he was in the Chow-mein swim. I had a good idea of where I wanted to be from the previous week, but I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing anything elsewhere. They had a tendency of moving so quickly earlier that year so I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision. But I didn’t need to worry, they hadn’t moved far at all, and there was still a good ruck of carp using that weed in-front of Crows. One mark in particular was like a jacuzzi, with the odd carp popping it’s head out amongst the fizz. I did 2 nights in that swim after that, they continued to show on me and fizz on that spot but I couldn’t buy a bite. The carp were clearly pre-occupied on the natural food larders, but I wanted to give them something they simply couldn’t ignore. Before leaving that trip, I got some clips sorted for bang on where they were fizzing, and give it some bait on exit. I found a nice silt area where the bulk of the activity was and it was just to the left of one of the biggest weed beds in the lake at the time. An area the carp had no doubt been using as a safe zone and coming out for a feed in the morning, it looked prime for a bit of bait. I had a load of Hot Shrimp in the van, plus a big bucket of fermented seed and that spot had the lot before I left.
Luckily for me a lot of the lads who were consistent through the Spring had thrown the towel in given how poor the visibility was, and how bad the weed had got especially out in front of Crows point. It became almost impossible to keep rigs in at times without getting wiped out by the drifting weed, and you’d have to start all over again. It can really test your metal when it’s like that, you feel like you're spending more time clearing weed than you are actually fishing. I felt like if I could keep the weed at bay there was a good opportunity to try and get something going out there.
Over the new few weeks, I had some of the most enjoyable and rewarding angling I think I’ll ever have. The first trip back onto the prepped spot I managed a carp called No Name, Stoneacres second in command and one that had been steadily growing for a while. A long half-linear, almost Bazil like to look at - just mega. It went 45lb 2oz, and a new PB at the time. I was buzzing and felt I was properly onto something with the baiting. I had a nightmare with the drifting weed at the back end of that trip, and the tench moved in too making it hard work to keep rods out there fishing. But same again, as I was leaving that trip, I made sure to give them a good hit of bait and decided to go even heavier than the week before. I gave them two big bags of mixed sized Hot Shrimp and a 25l bucket of Fermented Seed.
The following week I turned up and I was lucky to see that Crows Point was free. The wind had been quite strong whilst I’d been away that week and had blown in a load more weed into the area, so I spent the day clearing that out and got the rods sorted for the evening. I ended up having three carp off the prepped spot that that trip - a brace of 30lb mirrors on the first morning. With the finale being the king of the pond the following day. The incredible Kev's linear at 50lb 4oz, again a New PB and bang on the July super moon too. Without a doubt the biggest buzz I’ve experienced and one I think I’ll struggle to ever top. It’s a strange old game big carp fishing, one minute you can be down in the dumps with it all wondering where your next bite is going to come from, especially on them bigger low stocked pits where bites can be few and far between. But one small opportunity and it can all change. There really is no buzz like it, when you’re on a roll and your confidence is sky high. Everything seems to just click into place, and this was one of them scenarios. When your lucks in, dare to dream big!!
Although I haven’t been using Spence’s bait for long, I’ve seen first-hand from my good mate Tetlow just how dangerous it can be once you get them on it especially for them bigger fish. Once they start, they simply can’t stop…
All the best if you’re getting out there, be lucky and always dream big!