Luke Stevenson reveals his tales from the Shallow Pit, where he set out to target the mighty Colin.

Luke Stevenson reveals his tales from the Shallow Pit, where he set out to target the mighty Colin.

I fished the Lagoon on the St Ives complex years before I actually fished for Colin on the Shallow pit. But after the famous Fat Lady passed away, it was a few years before I had to scratch my itch to catch Colin, and I obtained a ticket for the Shallow Pit. The name gives away the nature of the mature old pit; shallow yet as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as a carp lake is likely to be. It had old trees coming out the water, islands, large expanses of open water and an abundance of weed with various snags. It was a proper lake that held a really old and big English mirror carp.

I loved the raw nature of the lake too. You didn’t have work parties, if you couldn’t cast because there was a branch in the way, it was up to you to cut it down. If the paths were overgrown, you either dealt with it or cut it back yourself. It had a real old school feel of fishing, in an era of commercial and ready-made waters.

Colin was the main reason for being there, the lake being beautiful was just a bonus.

Although Colin was the main reason for fishing this lake,I loved the back-up fish too. Not only were they cracking looking carp, a lot of them were rarely seen in the press and to me, that made it a little bit special. I started fishing it in the April and immediately fell in love. I spent the year fishing on one of the best lakes I have had the pleasure of being on, and at the time it wasn’t that busy. I caught quite a lot of carp that year, but it was hard work, more for the fact that the fish were so unpredictable.

I base my fishing on what I see and then learn from it. On most lakes that you fish, you begin to work out a pattern of habits; areas they go in certain weather conditions and pressure, where they enjoy spending the mornings and so on, but the Shallow had no rhyme and the fish were so unpredictable. It fried my brain; every time I took two steps forward, they would chuck me right back to where I started.

If you moved on the fish, they didn’t like it, but predicting where they went next was near on impossible. The only time I felt like I put the odds in my favour was when it came to bait fishing. In the summer and autumn months they did get on the bait a lot and I was able to put things together.

The only common denominator that I found was the type of spots that I fished. I caught from spots that I could feel the lead fall down to the bottom, I didn’t care if it went down soft or hard and very rarely did I get a drag back on the lead. The main thing was that the lead went down without hitting any weed, that way I knew that my chods were presented.

That autumn Colin went over 50lb and the following spring I was in for a shock, as the lake was full of keen anglers. I had also bought a house and being the way I am, I could only focus on one thing and that had to be the house. I had felt close a few times to Colin, catching a lot of the fish that he was known to hang around with. I am convinced I lost him a couple of times, certainly once, when a carp stripped me of 50 odd yards of line before the hook pulled, a typical Colin trait.


I caught around 30 carp from the lake, with most of the back-up fish being amongst them. The biggest was Laney’s, which is one of the real rare ones for the lake. I caught that one from a spot in the middle of the lake, which was actually 10 inches deeper than the surrounding area, which must have been a dug-out crater that the fish made. It was a warm, overcast and drizzly morning, a textbook day in May and I had already caught one during the night, when the rod was away with that one. She is a special fish, with a real over slung mouth, in immaculate condition and over 42lb.

I didn’t know it at the time, but it wouldn’t be until a few years later that I would get back there. I had learnt a lot from the lake, mainly areas that Colin seemed to get caught from. There seemed to be two or three swims that he liked to feed in, a zone that all these swims had access to. It was always clogged up with weed, so extensive lead work and baiting was the way to end up catching it.

I fished elsewhere for a few years and eventually, something clicked, and I had to get back to Cambridge. The longer it had gone on, the more I desperately wanted to catch him. It was back in the April and managed to catch one first trip. Most of the fish, if not all thinking back in that first year were caught on naked chods on the line. It is such a good tactic and one that I have used for years and it suited both the baiting and single hook bait fishing. That spring I used singles, occasionally dotting some baits out with the stick, but single Manilla pop-ups were my go-to. I applied Krill as a food source, but there is something about the colour of the Manilla pop-ups that I really like.

I, amongst others, struggled that spring, with myself only having five fish using the single hookbait approach. I decided something had to be done and reverted to going in heavy with the bait! I chose to go down the boilie only route, taking 10kg of Krill with me and a few tigers. I washed the boilies out in lake water and added some Cloudy Krill Liquid to them. I then pinched a few in my hands, making the baits flat, a few broken up and some into crumb. The idea being that that bait would sit at all levels in the weed and the fish would dig it out, cleaning the areas over time.

That first session I did over the bait I caught one of the really special ones, the Sheffield Linear at 34lb. It was an amazing carp, sadly gone now, but a great start to what I hoped would be an amazing summer.

I really had the bit between my teeth, getting down on a Tuesday just to bait up. I would give them 10kg of straight boilies and a few nuts, on one of two areas. If one was taken, I had the other as a back-up and never once did I turn up and both swims were taken, which was quite lucky really.

It was just textbook angling, the weather was good, the fish were hungry, and I was able to get in the swims each weekend. I caught a few too and as the weeks progressed, the spots began to get cleaner. The bites were always early morning, so by lunchtime we were down the pub having a few beers and a bit of lunch, only to get back in the evening, get the rods and bait out and wait for that morning bite time.

One thing that was for sure is that they loved their Krill on there too. There is something about that bait, or any good quality boilie in the warmer months especially, when you know that they are going to search it out and eat the lot. Having confidence in what you are putting out is huge and with the Krill I have that wherever I go.


I remember one trip where I turned up, got the rods out and put 5kg of bait straight on the spot. Within half an hour I caught a 30lb common, which just told me how much the spot was rocking and how they were searching out that food source.

When I started fishing the spot, the lead would swing down through the water, hit the lakebed and I would get a bit of a thud. I couldn’t pull the lead back, but it was certainly fishable. I was using the naked chods over it and to good success, but the spot was now super-clean, going down with a bang and you could get a drag back on the rod too, with the odd tap of gravel coming through the spot.

The bites were also drying up and something told me I had to change. I find it so hard to do that though; if something is working so well, I always think it is ridiculous to change, but that demon wouldn’t leave me alone and I had to reassess it. The idea of the spot beginning to blow was gone, as I watched a small patch of fizz through the binoculars over the spot, but nothing happened. I knew if something was to blame for the lack of bites, it had to be my presentation.

That afternoon I knocked up a couple of simple bottom baits, Krill Tuff Ones out the tub in 16mm. I didn’t balance them, I just left them as they were and cast them both to the spot. Early the next morning I got a couple of liners, before the right hander melted off. The fish went on a surging run, ripping line off me before coming ground to halt in a weed bed. I managed to be patient and get it out, gaining line but the fish had enough power to do the same again. After an epic battle, I could see some disturbance in the half light and the fish was nearly ready. In my head I knew what it was, which made the whole experience so nerve racking. I slid the net under the carp and a mass of weed and with the aid of the head torch, I was met with a huge set of grey old shoulders, it was him alright, Colin, looking huge!

I made a few phone calls to some mates to come and give me a hand. Elliot Gray was first to be called and he knew the journey I had been through to catch this one and to share it with him meant the world. The guys from Sticky were filming up the road too, so I wasn’t short of a few lads that could take a shot. With the lads on route and the sun coming up across the magical lake, I felt overwhelmed and even a little emotional, which isn’t something I had really experienced before. This fish totally captivated me and I was immersed in the lake and the pursuit of one of the best big mirrors in the country.

The lads arrived and they gave me a hand with the weighing. He went 51lb 4oz, a true giant and clearly an old carp. His wrinkly old skin looked incredible and I was totally blown away! The journey was over and that was to be my last session on the lake.