My fishing isn’t a priority, my day-to-day life revolves around a busy work schedule as well as my family and social life. Fishing is often at the bottom of the list. I manage to string together one weekend a month to get bankside, this limited time, combined with my preferred choice of venue makes things tricky. Thankfully, I have managed to learn an awful lot about my current target venue over the last few seasons. Stoneacres certainly doesn’t throw up its residents too easily, and so with my busy schedule I am happy with this years’ angling efforts, which turned into a year of two halves!

My first session of the year was a quick social at the back end of January, where it was all about staying warm, having a beer, and lighting the BBQ whilst chewing the fat with a friend. The next session was in March, it’s no breaking news that from March to May is mostly all about Zig fishing, something that is not my forte by any means. I gave it a go, but unfortunately my weekends in March and especially April were terrible. The lake had done a few bites before my trip but typically the temperatures dropped to sub-zero, only for them to climb back up to 7-8 degrees the following week and it do bites again. A frustrating trip and a reminder that planning my fishing trips months in advance, although unavoidable, is definitely not the one!

May is by far the busiest month of the year on Stoneacres, there’s buckets everywhere and often a fresh wave of anglers with new tickets keen as mustard with the hopes, like many, of catching one of Oxfordshire’s finest. I’d been watching the weather closely up to my May trip, and I knew where I needed to be, and that was on the end of a fresh new wind front that I just knew they would turn up on. Unfortunately, I got beat to that swim by just a few hours and the lad that dropped in managed 3, or 4 maybe that weekend. I was only in the swim next door but it’s hard enough to get a bite from there when you’re right on them, let alone 100 yards away! They were grouping together that week, we’d had some mild weather and I felt that they were going to spawn early!

Typically, the time I had booked off in June was inevitably when they spawned, it wiped out a long weekend that I had booked, and it looked like the first half of the year was going to be a total write off. In hindsight though, it gave me a couple of days to carry over to July and after a couple of weeks away for spawning, I was back down. By then it was a totally different pond, the weed was up to the surface in most swims. I remember there was a monumental weed bed in front of The Humps, the carp hotel I called it. They spent a lot of time in that bed that summer, they were rocking the weed, tails and dossals poking out randomly here and there, loving life. I managed to get in there on said trip, behind a lad that was leaving as I turned up. The visability had gone by that point in the year, so I managed to find some zones all by feel, hard gravel spots to be precise and the following morning it happened. At 4:30am one of the rods rattled off, with a lovely mid-thirty mirror, one that I’d photographed four times previously for different people, so it was nice to get my turn. After that success I managed to pull another weekend at the back end of July, little did I know this was going to be one of, if not the best trip I’d had to date on “Stonies”.

After a lap or two, I ended up taking a pew in a swim called Shelley’s. I’d been in the swim 30 seconds when one poked its head out just thirty yards from the bank shortly followed by another slightly further out but still in that swim. I headed off and got my meetings out of the way and returned later that afternoon. I managed to find a couple of nice spots close to where I’d seen both shows, one short in a nice silty area and the other long up to a weed bed and the third I put even longer in to no-man’s land.

I was knackered from work that evening, so I got my head down around nine o’clock, but before I’d even nodded off, the short rod burst into life, a very uneventful battle ensued that ended quickly. I knew it was a good ‘un when I looked down into the net, the length was crazy and I just stood in amazement looking at a carp that I never imagined catching, a real Stoneacres piece of history, ‘The Bus’ one that everyone wants, but few are lucky enough to catch. We got a few last light shots, and I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing to be honest, I was mega chuffed!

After a seriously bad night’s sleep, I was left just sat in the swim next to the rods watching the sun come up, when the rod against the weed was away. This battle wasn’t as easy as the first, and it immediately weeded me up.  I took straight to the boat, and after some seriously hairy hand lining, I eventually managed to bundle a mega looking linear into the net; not any linear either, the Upfront Lin! We got some lovely pictures that morning in the summer sunshine, and the atmosphere as it often is on there was electric. Two fish in less than twenty-four hours, how’s your luck? I couldn’t help but feel that this could be a bit of a turning point and I wasn’t wrong!

The next morning, I woke at the crack of dawn and to my amazement they were showing again on the short rod, I couldn’t believe it. Another bite was on the cards! I sat beside that short rod willing it to go but how’s this for a swerve ball, the long rod that had been sat quiet from the start, slammed into life, pulling the tip down into the water and wedging the bobbin into the roller. Another boat battle ensued, and although I didn’t want to be greedy I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that it towed me straight over the top of the short spot ruining any further chance of a bite on that rod. A mega fight broke out, with the culprit being a long, black angry male of a common, it was almost as long as The Bus, with a huge over slung mouth, big pecs; just one of the best commons I’ve ever caught. I certainly went home that day with a smile on my face, three cracking “Stonies” carp with two of them being ones I really wanted to catch; happy days.

The next session in August saw me settle in Big Point, I saw four shows that morning all of them plum over the same spot, sightings like this are gold, huge pieces to the puzzle that can, and do on most occasions result in a bite. I went out in the boat later that day to investigate and they had absolutely trashed a natural larder, it was taken back to fine, clean silt with those tell-tale signs of white snail shell flecks. I got two rods on the spot and sat back seriously confident.

The next morning, I was full of anticipation, but it all came to a holt pretty quickly when I spotted an otter on the lake, not something you ever want to see for obvious reasons, but it killed the lake that day completely, nothing showed, and nothing was caught. I was really gutted as it felt like a prime opportunity had been snatched from me, but that was that session over.

My session in September was filmed for Thinking Anglers, which I am sure will be available to watch soon. Safe to say it was a great session anyway which I am sure people will enjoy watching. October saw my last action of the year, right at the death of a tough session, I packed all of my gear down with just the rods left to go. I wound one in, and on picking up the second, it fizzed off in my hands! It took line aggressively at over 100 yards and was clearly a good one but after some serious issues with some weedbeds, the hook pulled! I was gutted, it was my first loss for over two years, and with the big ones due, I couldn’t help but dwell on what could have been.

The next two trips were uneventful, one thing or another lead me to not being able to get on the fish, and it was just ultimately hard going. The diary however is planned for next year, the dates for my fishing are penned in, and unfortunately the fishing trips were last to go in behind all of life’s other plans, but I’ll take what I can and I’ll go again!