Big Dreams for a Distinctly Average Carper – By Craig Challinor

As with most of us northern carpers a trip in search of monsters involves travelling south on the M6 or A1.  For me, it was the latter.  As usual with these trips we tell ourselves to be realistic, but we all end up dreaming big!  It was my birthday at the end of June so booked 3 days off work planning to go early hours of Monday and do 48hrs in search of a chunk.
The preparation is where the excitement begins.  I’d got my Trigonella from Gav the week previous and on the Saturday I found myself on the M56 heading to Runcorn to pic up my particles from Mark at Cheshire Particle including chilli boosted maize and tares, hemp and the ever important SNAILS this will become clearer later in the story.  Had a fab chat with Mark putting the world’s to rights and talking about all things carpy and could have stayed all day but I had to get back to Bolton to get sorted for the assault on Holme Fen.
Back home I was busy sorting rigs and packing all the gear ….charging the power packs ….charging the camera..sorting the food and a few beers to celebrate my birthday in style ..getting sorted for 48hrs is military precision these days …god help me when I finally go to France ….anyway I digress.  Sunday arrives and I’m a year older and eventually I’m all sorted with my gear.. bedtime …alarm…no idea why I set the alarm as I was too excited to sleep. 3.30am I’m making a brew going through my check sheet as I’m loading the car …anyone else do this??
I’m all loaded and house is locked up ….Sat nav set for Holme Fen …..bring on the giddy shiver down my spine ….mirror check …yep ….smiling like a big kid ….job done.  After a very easy 3 hour drive I pull up outside the fishery gates.
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We’ve arrived!
I get out …touch the gates …and say the words …please be kind to me…..
At Holme Fen you draw for the order you get to choose your peg …I’d been doing my research in the coming weeks and was hoping for a peg called the Dugout…
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Reading the lake details it said there was an abundance of water life which had made the carp pack on weight since there stocking…..especially water snails.  So my plan to speak to Mark about my bait order and get it in place.  The owners came to open up the gates giving me my 1st peek at the lake ….WOW!!!!  What a cracking looking lake all 26 acres of it with 200 big carp to over 60lb residing in its murky depths.
There was only 5 of us booked on this week so we all said are hello’s and set off for a walk around the lake as the draw was at 11am..Talk got round to the pegs we fancied and about what had been reported in the weeks previous and any hotspots we had heard about.
11am ..draw time …the owner held out the draw bag and we all drew a ball each ..No5 for me …Great I thought …I’m last to draw ..not so …it went off the numbers as he had left all the peg numbers in …It actually turned out i was second to choose my swim as everyone else chose higher numbers  …the 1st guy to choose went to the map to pick…I was saying in my head …don’t draw the Dugout …don’t pick the Dugout as the 1st guy said ….’Beeches Double’ …..Ta Da!  Result …Get in ..Mike the owner looked at me ….Dugout please!!!!!!!!!  Two other guys I’d been talking to were brothers ..Darren and Trevor …cracking guys ….they picked the next pegs to the Dugout. ..Darren was in Party Point Double and Trevor was in Party Point Single.
We drove round to our chosen pegs and all of us walked down to the edge of the water in anticipation for what could lay ahead in the next 48hrs.
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Home for 48hrs on Holme Fen, The Dugout
Base camp set up as fast humanly possible.  Time to get the marker rod out.  First off it was very weedy and the way the lead was zooming down to the bottom ….Deep !!!  I’d  done some research and at 13 wraps there was supposed to be a clearer patch ….so the marker hit the bottom to a very soft landing …tighten up …pull back …SOLID …. pulled the marker as hard as possible. …eventually I started to feel less resistance….then felt a very smooth patch …slackened the clutch …and paid out the braid and got 13ft exactly …clipped up at that point ….had a cast about and realised i had a clear spot of around 8ft all at 13 ft depth …..13 wraps and 13ft …hopefully 13 would prove lucky for Me.  I decided to fish Trigonella on this spot so I decided on a critically balanced snowman with a white 12mm Trigonella pop up of about 10″ as it was a bit choddy coupled  with a 3oz flat lead on a simple lead clip system with tungsten tubing of about 1 meter ….oh the joys of threading that amount of tubing 😭.
Anyway I put some nuggets of Pva foam on as I was fishing a longish hair incorporating a Krank Curv hook from Korda and set my trap.  I decided I was going to leave the baiting till later that afternoon and just catapult a few boilies about for the start.
Rod no2 was quickly decided on as I heard a massive splodoosh  in the bay to my left…I got up to the top of the banking but all I could see was a massive swurl….Hmmmm.
Marker rod in hand ….yep 13 foot but this time at 14 wraps I found a nice clear spot. This was going to be my Musselberry line of attack but again incorporating a snowman…I used the Musselberry Red hook baits, but used a 12mm Tangz pop up using the same terminal tackle as on rod no1….keep it simple and tangle free I heard myself saying.
While I was looking in the bay were I’d heard a fish bosh out I noticed I clear patch in the margin towards the bottom of the bay ….it was going to be difficult to cast to so firstly I set this rod up on my far left of the peg on a single bankstick and grabbed my chestwaders. …carefully walking around the edge of the margin I noticed in my peripheral vision something moving about 4 ft away…I froze….rod ..bait bucket and landing net handle all jangling in the breeze….stealth was not my greatest gift ..😂 it was then that I came face to face with my 1st Holme Fen carp…I can’t write what I thought but what an absolute chunk !!!!  I’d say about upper 20s ..then my bucket slipped ..hit the water and yep ..Mr carp did one ….back to placing my rig…
Got to the spot and I’d guess it was about 5ft deep and as clear as you could dream for .. rig in hand and school boy error time …went to drop my rig on the spot when I realised pva string is not the best thing to tie a pop up on with ….back to the peg all embarrassed. ..new pop up sorted and back to the spot …glowing red but not from a sun tan…rig lowered in to a satisfactory thump from the lead and I dispatched about 2 kilos of  chopped Musselberry and particles over the spot with the idea I wasn’t going to move this rod unless I had a pick up …I gently walked the rod back to my swim and placed it on my Delkim…I just kept paying out line until everything was on the bottom and set my bobbin as slack as possible. Right time for a brew while I formulated my baiting strategy for the next 2 rods.
I had my brew in hand stood on the banking between me and Darren….when from his peg I heard a fox alarm screaming its head off ….I shouted Daz your in…he’d been sorting his bedchair out .well he lifted into it and his rod went solid . Looked at him…walked into his peg and said is that a 2lb test curve rod …to which he burst out laughing. ..he was into his 1st Fen carp and it looked like a good one ..after about 10 mins he was winning the battle and we saw it for the 1st time in the fight …I said do you want me to get your  brother to net it …..bollocks to that  he said will you net it.. I looked round ..no net??  Where is it …oh sh*t he replied.  Quick dash to my swim and I was there with my brand new net ….eventually the angry carp  came to the surface ..he gingerly guided it towards my spreader block and I lifted the net ….GET IN we both shouted together …I looked at Darren he was white …I looked in the net….what’s your PB mate I asked ..32lb …I said it’s not now …I’d say it’s a mid 30..scales out ..sling zeroed and yep I wasn’t far off…36.8oz…we all jumped around …pictures taken and plenty of water shots later a very sulky carp went back to the depths no worse for its experience.
Walking back to my peg I realised how I’d changed as a person ..1st thought in my head was I’ve had a 30 in my net …not can’t believe it wasn’t my capture…I’m looking at my carping in a different way this time round …I’m very lucky to be back doing what I love and sharing the excitement and experience of a fellow carpers success is a truly wonderful experience. . OH I forgot to say this was within the 1st hour of fishing so we were all very excited to say the least.
Back to my peg and time to get the spod rod out .well SPOM rod to be precise. ..never had much luck with these since my return to carping….this trip was going to be no different. ..at this point you should look to the title of this blog….distinctly average carper!!!!  After about and hour of spombing I had as much particles behind my swim as there was in the water …not to mention covering myself. …the Tourette’s kicked in at this point. .at which I could hear giggling from the next peg as Darren walked towards me with a beer ..come on matey drink this before you kill yourself. …to which I burst out laughing. ..ah well it’s in the title and we all have to learn…..I’m still buying a spod next though…old school still rules ..
Beer consumed ..much chat about monster carp and it was round 2 with the spomb..at this point I wish I could say I sussed it but I’d be lying …lmao…Anyway due to exhaustion I’d decided to split my baiting approach. .11 am  2.5 kilo and 4pm 2.5kilo and do that on both days instead of just piling it all in…my thinking was to create a fresh bait trail down to 13ft each time I baited ..Job done and time for another chat and a few beers …after all it was my birthday.
The 1st 24 hrs flew by without a single bleep …but I was confident I was on a known feeding spot and very confident in my bait..Darren had another mid 20 so they were feeding and the carp were showing all around Darren but nothing in my swim .
I kept to my baiting strategy and it was approaching 5pm on the second night ….had a great time talking about carping and what it meant to us when Trevor had a screaming run..he’d struggled to…this one was very welcome but at 16lb well below average for this lake..but we were still acting like men possessed.  They both turned to me and said ….your turn next..I’d tried everything  from altering my rigs to fishing zigs but finally I just put my rig back on my 13 wrap mark towards the island and spommed out another 2.5 kilo of bait…this time I thought stuff it and spread an extra kilo of Trigonella boilies on the area.
Traps set I sat on my chair still very happy to be just in the moment …a family of swans with there little ones all clinging on to their mother  was a welcome distraction from a blank when I heard a bleep..nope for once it wasn’t a swan…bleep no2…I was on my rods..then a very steady noise came from my Delks ….lifted the rod and omg …it went solid ….I knew I was into something very different from the norm….very heavy, very slow….then it decided to try for the bay ..I looked up at my rod when Trevor looked over and said those immortal words …..are you in???? Yeah I said…at which point I’ve got jelly legs and 2 blokes just as nervous as me sprinting to my peg…the carp kept very low and just used its weight to pile on my ever-growing nerves …..then about 10ft out it surfaced….holy sh*t I thought …well it turned out I was thinking out loud…I gently guided the carp to Darren who was holding my net and it rolled straight in …..I screamed GET THE ****IN !!!!! At which point Darren and Trevor said …did your say your PB was 24lb …YEP …It ain’t now …..it’s well into the 30s in fact Trevor commented I think it’s a 40..no way I said….by his time I just couldn’t function and I will owe Darren and Trevor for the rest of my life for helping me out..retention sling weighed and scales zeroed ..slipped my stunning  carp that was looking bigger and bigger went on the scales …36…37..38…39 ….39lb.14oz and one very shocked and very emotional Mr Challinor. ..I’d done it !!!!!!
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39lb 14oz, a new PB, and a very happy carper!
Group hug ….lots of pats on the back and to be honest me  totally gobsmacked ….in fact I felt a bit sick ….lol …loads of pictures and something I’ve always dreamed of me having water shots taken by a mate in the water getting truly great pictures of a stunning fish of a lifetime ..well she behaved herself and after all the pictures she went back to her home with the plenty of carp antiseptic healing her wound….that feeling and that sight of that fish swimming away will last a lifetime just like the smile it brings…Rod back out on the same spot …precisely for once and We all celebrated with a cold beer and it was nearing bedtime ….
Nah !!!!! Time for standing near the water dreaming of just one more ….looked at my phone it was 1am …better go to sleep I thought ….tucked up in my sleeping bag I reflected on my success. .like I say if I can do it anyone can …I just love my carping and will never stop dreaming….just dropping off when I heard a one toner from my sounder …out the bag on the rod in seconds and I was into my second Holme Fen carp. …now this was a totally different beast. …it had me everywhere. ..stripping line like I’d never seen before. .weeded me twice before I finally slipped the net under her …headtorch on and looked in the net …it was another chunk ….fish secured in the retaining sling I set off for help….I gave up on Trevor as he was well away ….but I went to Darren ..he woke straight  away…I said…mate I’ve got another …before I knew it we were weighing my second carp…the needle went straight round to 31lb dead…a brace of 30s ….what a place !!!
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31lb on the nose, making it a brace of 30’s
After all the photos were taken and I’d said goodbye to my second 30 me and Darren chilled out with a brew …I could have
Packed up then …I’d always wanted to catch a 30 …and I’d had 2….one was nearer 40 …but there is my next challenge for the future..the rest of the trip no more carp graced my net and I couldn’t have cared less..time to leave with phone numbers of new friends with the usual adds on Facebook. …this brings me to the next part …not for me …but for my new friends…Trev  moved into my swim as he had only had the one small one ….I left on Wednesday and he caught nothing off the spots I’d shown him….he messaged me to say he’d found 2 new spots …on the back of 2 bars ….I have the details in case anyone reading this fancies a trip ….within 24 hrs he had 5 upper 30s topped off with a 52lb PB …Darren had 2 more tiddlers …well they both went 46lb and 48lb and a guy who came onto the lake later in the week had the lakes biggest carp a bit down in weight at 60lb 8oz, photographed by Darren ….this is not an easy lake by any stretch of the imagination. ..but with the right approach and a lot of luck and quality baits  it can produce a fish of a lifetime…..this is were I have to thank Gav the gaffer at Beechwood Baits, and Mark from Cheshire Particles …it’s very rewarding knowing that I’m fishing with true quality bait ….confidence is the key to fishing …and it can’t be coincidence that after my chat with Gav at the junior fishing event I will remember his words forever ….’you won’t believe your results mate when you get on this bait….and the best bit ….this is gonna be fun’…..well I now have a new personal best but more importantly. …I’m having the angling time of my life….hope you’ve enjoyed the 1st part of my journey as much as I did…looking forward to meeting you all Team Beechwood. …remember. …you get out what you put in….I had 2 30s …GET IN !!!!!!!!
Cheers to many more gracing our matts 😀

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