It’s early April, 2016, and Beechwood Team Manager Neil Thomas has arranged a little trip down south for us. The venue is a place I’ve had in my thoughts for some years, and with Neil having some experience of the water under his belt already, ‘giddy’ would be a fair word to use to describe my mood.
The Quarry is a 22 acre gravel pit in Boreham, Essex. Previously It’s been run as a syndicate for nearly twenty years, but now, it’s available for anyone to fish on a day-ticket! The lake is beautifully mature, with an abundance of overhanging trees, weed and lilies, all around the lake at various points. Theres two large islands, channels, deep holes, weedy shallows and all the usual bars and features you’d associate with an old quarry. The crystal clear depths which range from 5-16 feet, are home to some truly stunning carp, pike and large tench. There are currently around 250 carp present which range in size from mid doubles, all the way up to over 40lb’s, and there’s more than a splash of history woven into the scales of the fish too. Lots of the fish are well-known, named, and highly sought after. It really is an outstanding carp water.
When you first set eyes on a water, you instantly get a feel for what its like, its exactly the same as meeting a person for the first time, that first impression you form. When the tree’s surrounding The Quarry first opened their arms and revealed a wonderful slab of open water to me, it instantly felt right. However, just as is the way with meeting exciting new people, the water held some mystery, intrigue and challenge. It very obviously had a cloak drapped across its shoulders, a magnificent jet black cloak, that looked stunning, but back turned and glancing over its shoulder, it gave little away as to what was underneath or what its intentions were.
Neil had been watching the weather forecast like a hawk in the days leading up to the trip, cross referencing everything from wind direction, changing winds, air temps and of course the moon phases. Due to this research he’d spotted a new wind would be pushing into the deepest bay on the lake come Tuesday morning, coupled with a favourable moon, and topped off with previous knowledge of the area, after a quick look around, Neil and I settled into peg’s 1 and 2 respectively.
We’d traveled through the night, so arrived after a super smooth drive down at about 7am. Not only had Neil’s research given us a good starting point, but we also saw a couple of fish show out in the bay whilst watching the water, so we wasted no time in excitedly getting everything geared up and ready. Neil fished to a point at the edge of the snags to his right, and dropped his other two rods more to the center and left position on a nice firm patch he’d found. Over in peg 2, I’d found some weed out to about 50 yards to my front left, stretching further out to 70 yards to my right, towards weedy bay. Beyond this line, was a nice and fairly solid silted area I felt confident fishing on, especially as I’d seen a couple more very sneaky shows by now along this line.
Now both all set up and fishing, Neil introduced me to something I’ll definitely be investing in, the ability to make fresh filtered coffee, on the bank!! He had this little device that sits on top of a flask, and once fitted with a coffee filter we were away, enjoying a lovely clean tasting fresh coffee.
I felt just a tad spoilt, fishing the famous Quarry, enjoying some carpy chat with great company over a cup of fresh coffee, it really doesn’t get much better!
We didn’t know how the first night would pan out, as we were effectively positioned in our spots ahead of the imminent weather change the following day, that said, we didn’t slack off, and we both felt we were fishing effectively. Confidence is massive in any form of fishing, but when chasing specimen carp, its paramount. Any doubts you have about location, bait, or rig should be dealt with straight away. If you’re not confident, you can be pretty sure results wont be great.
As the evening blended into night and we sat chatting, nothing much was happening on the fish front. Shows had become a lot less frequent, though Neil did chat to one of the bailiffs who mentioned that a lot of fish had been in the deep bay the previous night. Confidence soared, and through the evening Neil had a few liners and knocks. Nothing dragging his rod tips round, but enough to frustrate and excite us in equal measure.
Extremely tired from the long journey, we both retired to our bivvy’s for the night. I absolutely love watching the water as the final drop of light ebbs away when the sun sets. Watching night develop over the Quarry, was awesome.
At almost bang on 10pm, my middle rod tore off on a screaming run! Now, that phrase is over used I admit, ‘tore off on a screaming run’, however, it describes the run perfectly!! It was pretty evident early on in the fight that it was a tench, however, it was a pretty angry one and had some power behind it. As I drew the fish closer Neil whipped around to my peg, I commented that I didn’t think it was a carp, but a decent tench, but fighting fish in the inky blackness can be deceiving at times, you never really know until it drops into the net.
A short battle later and Neil slipped the net under a gorgeous Quarry tinca, and with that we were off the mark, and very happy. At 8lb it was a great way to open our account, and probably the biggest tench I’ve ever caught. I’m not overly analytical of weights of fish I catch, I like to know the accurate weight, as most of us do, however when I look back at my catch pictures, it’s the memories they spark that I really enjoy.
Neil did the honours with the camera (he takes an awesome picture by the way!) and I slipped back our first fish of the trip, what is probably my PB tench at 8lb, taken on double 14mm Aurora bottom bait fished on a very simple safety clip lead system, straight bottom bait rig, with 20lb Fluro hook link and size 6 Mozzie Curve. I like this setup for bottom baits, because the Fluro is difficult for the fish to detect, and being stiff it kicks away from the lead and other rig gubbins nicely and pretty much always lays out nice and straight, so you get good reliable presentation. The Curve hooks from Mozzie I really like, they give a super reliable hook hold when fished in this way. I often cast this set up out with a medium-sized PVA bag on around the lead, with the hook link hanging out. I know some like to tuck everything away neatly inside the bag, but I prefer to let it hang loose, and once in the water the fluro kicks the hook bait away from the lead anyway. In my PVA bags I like to use mainly stick mix, matching pellet and a few broken up boilies. This gives me a nice, very instant and active little pile of bait and attraction in exactly the area I want it. Sat just a few inches away, is the hook bait sitting perfectly, poised to do its thing!
Day two broke, and over a fresh coffee Neil and I deliberated our plans. Neil had several knocks through the night, so the plan for him was more of the same. More of his stinky Trigonella spod mix, which included all manner of wonderful stuff was going on his spots! Chilli hemp, boilie, pellet, corn Trigonella glug and loads of other stuff, all of which he’d been fermenting for a good old while. It really had a notable ‘pong’ to it, lovely stuff.
I fancied a similar approach, I hadn’t put much bait in at all on the first day/night, being my first visit I wanted to see what happened first then make a decision on bait application. However, having seen Neil get some indications, the tench I’d had earlier through the night, seeing some fish roll out on the spots again, and the arrival of four anglers across from us, all lead me into cooking a little plan. Carp fishing you really do need to take note of all the information on offer to you, no matter how seemingly insignificant it might seem at the time.
My thoughts were that it looked like they may want a bit of bait, a chap across the lake the day before, had banked three fish off the back of some relatively heavy baiting for a couple of days prior. They’d taken a while to get onto his bait, but when they arrived, he had three in very quick succession. Lovely fish too into mid 20’s, proper old, good-looking carp!
I decided to bait heavily all along the line I was fishing, focusing on the three spots my rods were on. I mixed up about 10L of Partimix, Trigonella Pellet, Aurora Pellet, Musselberry and Trigonella boilies topped off with a 200ml bottle of Trigonella glug. I spodded the lot out, and reeled my rods in for the day. My plan was to let them settle on the bait for as long as I could bear it. With there now some heavy angling pressure down the end of the lake where we were, some extra noise, and an enormous amount of lines crossing the water, I felt this could all push the fish out into the quieter water, near side of the island, passing me and my baited line. I was hoping that finding some spread bait on a nice clear area just beyond some weed cover, with zero lines in the water, could see the fish settle really well in my area. That was my plan, and just on dark I planned to cast all three rods back out again.
Whilst my lines were out of the water, I went for a really good look around the lake, and had a quick chat to any anglers who looked open to a bit of a natter. A couple of guys we’re tucked away in their bivvy’s, so I just strolled on past, no need to disturb someone who doesn’t want disturbing, it’s just a simple matter of respect. On my way round I did stop and have a good chat to a few of the guys on, you meet some great guys fishing, and this occasion was no exception. Most of them on were local, Neil and I had clearly traveled the furthest to the lake my some chalk!
All the way round I had been stopping at points and watching the water for 20-30 minutes, having a good look at all areas of the lake. I saw quite a few fish showing, and talking to the other anglers I was building a picture of where the fish were moving.
So, settled back into my peg, with rods back out I watched the sun finally dip below the horizon and slowly drifted off, head filled with what the night might bring, and piecing together all the pieces of the jigsaw I’d learned through the day.
As it transpired, the angling pressure on our corner of the lake became quite intense through the late evening and into the second night. The higher the number of anglers in an area, the higher the levels of noise, bright light across the water in the darkness and higher levels of disturbance.
Following a fishless night, I had a walk early morning further round to the left of the lake, where there were no anglers fishing for a good stretch of bank. Sure enough it wasnt long before I saw a couple of shows out in a channel between the big island and two pegs, The Pipe and The Dug Out. With that, I wandered over to Neil’s swim to see how he was getting on. It took as all of 2 seconds to both agree a move was in order for the final day and night, and though we would be leaving what appeared to be good spots, with bait on them, we started the move straight away.
It wasnt a difficult decision on where we went, the water between The Pipe and The Dug Out looked just right, and both of us were happy in either swim. In the end, I went in The Dug Out, and Neil moved into The Pipe swim for our final roll of the dice on this trip.
We took our rods out, collapsed our bivvies and moved everything around the lake as quickly as we could, which to be fair, only took us about 30 minutes all told, and by 10am we were set up and fishing in what looked more favourable positions. The weather had also swung around by this point, and though looking a little unsettled, was mild with only a little bit of drizzle to dampen our spirits. Again, we saw fish show in the channel, and that carpy buzz was growing by the second……..
My rods were in, cast on instinct into the channel, one baited with 2 x 14mm Trignoella bottom baits, one with a 16mm Tangz popup and one with my favourite hook bait combo, a 16mm Musselberry Red with a PNBA adjusta plug in to balance it, and ZERO free offerings around any of the rods. I didn’t want to spook fish off if they were already moving away from angling pressure, so no free bait, just pure singles I have ultimate confidence in! With Neil helping me get everything else sorted in my swim, we were about to put my bivvy back up when my left hand alarm let out a constant screech of excitement! I was in! It didnt feel like a big fish if it was a carp, and it felt like it might be another tench. Happy days!
Then, seconds later, the middle rod tore off!!
Thankfully with Neil being in my swim, he was able to tend to the rod, and we both stood and looked at each other and exchanged what can only be described as ‘anglers grins’.
That move paid off hey!
I landed the fish on my left had rod, which sure enough was an absolutely belting tench, the darkest I’ve seen. With the tench safely in the net, Neil handed me my middle rod, which he’d been expertly playing something in on. This was definitely a carp, and although I commented that I didn’t think it was very big, Neil disagreed. Having felt the full force of its initial runs while I dealt with the tench, may have given him more of an insight into what we’d become attached to.
As it drew nearer, and I gingerly coaxed it away from the near side snags, which it knew the exact locations of, Neil was spot on, it was way bigger than my first thoughts. I’d put it at high teens at first, but closer in it let me know its true size and power, and tore line on a couple of occasions back straight out into open water, staying deep.
The first sighting you make of a fish when your playing it is always special, but to see this one, and receive confirmation that I was attached to my first Quarry carp, felt awesome! Again, we looked at each other and smiled like we’d won the lottery! It was only a glimpse though, and it took some time to finally get the fish to take a gulp of air, submit, and gracefully roll into the net.
Once safe, we removed the hook from both the fish, and with the carp recovering in the net, we tended to the tench first. Weighed her, admired her, and took a couple of pics to record the memory. This really is a stunning fish, one of my all time favourite tench, how angry is she at me for tripping her up, double 14mm Trigonella bottom bait her down fall!
With ‘Mrs Proud’ safely back in her watery home, we turned our attentions to the carp, my first ever Quarry carp. First trip down, two days of some involved angling later, and I had my first Quarry carp in the net, what would be my prize I wondered?
My prize as it turned out, was 30lb 11oz of solid mirror carp, a fish known affectionately as some of the old originals are, as ‘The Dolphin’. I was over the moon, to say the least!
After taking a few moments to admire the fish, and Neil took these stunning shots, we set about slipping the fish back safe.
With both fish now returned back safely, Neil and I steadied ourselves after what had been a manic few minutes, and set about trying to bag a few more fish. After the quick fire move and no bait plan had paid off, I didn’t put a lot of bait in at all. I wanted to hold any fish that were in the area, but at the same time, the tactic clearly worked on the day, so I lightly baited with a spread of boilies only.
Being a bait maker has a clear advantage, I have 100% confidence in the bait I’m using, because I know exactly what goes into all our baits. We make everything in-house at Beechwood baits, right down to seed elements, liquid packages, base mixes of course, the lot! My confidence is so much so I have no fear of casting a single hook bait out, knowing full well its powerful enough to do the job on its own. Those that read my blog regularly, will know I did the exact same thing during our trip to Brie, again using the Musselberry Red and PNBA combo. On that occasion casting it to a showing fish, which brought our only fish that came out in the afternoon sun the entire trip, all our other fish came out at night.
Clearly heavy baiting works at times, and that’s the thing really, you have to be able to read whats going on in front of you, change and adapt. And if you are going to fish a single bait in 24 acres of water, be absolutely sure its in the right location, and capable of doing the job your asking it to do. The Musselberry Red/PNBA plug combo, gives me the confidence to cast it anywhere. Its powerful, so it draws fish to it, almost neutrally buoyant, so it sits nicely over pretty much anything and has the ‘wafter’ hooking benefits, and it looks just that subtle bit different. All wrapped up in a hard hooker format, which certainly isn’t something fish see a lot of! I really do put a lot of faith into it, and if you can find something that gives you that confidence, it’ll leave you free to concentrate on the really important bit, where those fish are!
So once back down a little way off cloud 9, and somewhere near enough back to earth that we could actually concentrate on what we were doing, we decided to have a beer to celebrate. We reeled in, and headed off into town about 2 minutes down the road, pretty happy with the morning we’d enjoyed.
Upon returning, the weather took a serious turn, and literally lifted the left hand side of my bivvy about 10 inches off the floor! It was like a storm building into a tornado in the space of about ten minutes, it was unreal. When it eventually subsided and I could safely venture out of my now zipped up bivvy, which I hadn’t even had the door on thus far, I wandered around to Neil’s swim to see if he’d experienced the same. Sure enough, he was zipped into his bivvy too, with the tiniest gap in the zip to peer out of. Such a surreal experience!
It also seemed to knock the fishing into touch too, and we didn’t have so much as a liner after that. However, it didn’t really matter, and as we packed up the following morning we both felt we’d angled well, and we sure had some amazing pictures to share along with the story.
So, as we load the car and head off up north towards home, we spend the entire journey discussing future fishing trips, and fish we’d like to catch, as you do. More than a few of those discussions revolved around a return trip to the magical Quarry, in Essex………….
Tight lines all, Gav