A Day on the Circuit at Barnstone Lakes

8am: After travelling through Nottinghamshire countryside for what seemed like an eternity, I finally arrived at Barnstone Lakes; Joe’s local day-ticket carp lake. For those who are unaware, Joe’s the latest recruit to the Total Carp team and so it would be great to spend the day on the bank discussing everything about his new role and getting some plans together for upcoming ideas.

Being his debut session as part of the team, it only seemed fair for him to be angling on home turf! It’s also a nice change for me, seeing another new water that I hadn’t even heard of! There are simply so many bodies of water out there and for me that’s one of my favourite parts of the job – getting out and discovering new waters. As it happened, the lake that we’d actually be fishing was the social lake and not the day-ticket lake he normally fishes. The social lake gets rented out to group bookings and actually has a large lodge/shack on the bank for social gatherings, offering somewhere to cook and eat – it had electricity, toilets and even its own shower block! For us though, it would be nice and secluded, giving us a peaceful day’s fishing away from the crowds.

9am: I was quick to wheel my kit out of the van and start getting set up. With the morning’s typical bite time quickly dwindling, I wanted to get rods in the water ASAP! We decided to fish from the lodge area itself, from which the lake is split straight down the middle by a pair of islands, meaning we could easily fish each half of the lake from the one swim – perfect for a social!

I gave Joe first choice of swim and he naturally picked the right-hand side – it featured a huge bank of rushes and did look to be a good choice. I was happy enough with the left but, having not seen a thing as of yet, it was simply a case of flicking single hook baits and bags out to various likely looking areas. Joe did mention that the fishery management regularly fed the lake’s stock in a few select areas around the lake, so we both made sure to get bait on those spots too!

Joe approached the session with very similar tactics to me, fishing a couple of solid bags and a single pop-up on a Ronnie rig. The rods were out and it was now a case of sitting back, watching the water and hoping for a bite or even sign of carp!

10am: Finally, it was our first sign of carp! A fish poked its nose out along the reed-line to Joe’s right, but this was a lot further up the bank than where he had been fishing. Quick to react to what we’d seen, Joe promptly wound in his single hook bait and flicked it straight to where the fish had shown.

It couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes later that the recast rod let out a series of bleeps and Joe was away – RESULT! After a short but spirited battle, zipping back and forth in front of the swim, Joe scooped up his prize in the form of a clean little low double mirror.

12pm: With Joe’s action we’d thought that perhaps things would pick up, but it seemed to come out of the blue with little signs of further progression. I decided to continue fishing my half of the lake up until midday, but after that it was time to venture off and see if I could find a better opportunity elsewhere.

Fishing in a pair can have its benefits, but doubling up can have its drawbacks too, especially on small waters where there is little angling pressure elsewhere on the lake. I’ve seen it far too many times when fishing these pressured little lakes that the carp quickly move off the pressure and find a nice quiet corner to lay up in. Walking up to the far end of the lake, things really did look inviting, with another large bank of reeds, plus a number of little overhangs too.

With little happening on my side in the original swim, I grabbed a couple of rods, a net and bucket, then headed up to the far end of the lake for a couple of hours. It was simply a case of carefully casting a couple of mesh bags of pellets into likely looking areas, getting the baits in place with minimal disturbance. With the rods in place, it was a case of stones on the spools and sitting back to watch.

2pm: After a couple of hours in the new swim, the dream of finding a nice quiet corner that would be full of carp had been dashed. There’s one thing looking at a location and thinking it looks carpy, but sitting there for two hours without a sign of life didn’t fill me with confidence in the slightest! However, on the way back round to my swim I made sure to walk along the margin, carefully donking my lead along the edge, feeling my way through the coloured water hoping for something to go on.

I eventually worked my way up to a big rock in front of which the carp were fed. On one side of the rock, the margin was probably two to three feet deep, but as I moved along, the rod tip suddenly disappeared underwater! Feeding out line until the lead hit the lake bed, I positioned the rod tip at water level – lifting it out revealed a depth of about six feet! It was like a cliff edge and clearly a spot that the carp had dug out as they fed!

I had fished over in this direction all morning, but sometimes close isn’t close enough! Rather than cast from the swim, I cast across on to the bank, then took the spare rod round and lowered the rig directly into the hole having tied it to the spare rod with some PVA! You couldn’t even be more accurate with a baiting pole – THAT’S A BITE!

4pm: The next couple of hours passed by with little activity at all, but come late afternoon it was as though a switch had been flicked. What seemed to have been an empty lake suddenly came alive with shows, rolling and bow waves… at least it was in Joe’s side of the lake! To be fair, Joe was making the most of what he had in front of him and regularly worked the swim with solid bags and by moving his single hook bait around – exactly what I would be doing myself!

5:30pm: Eventually Joe’s efforts paid off and once again one of his rods burst into life. Immediately the fish hit the surface, charging across the lake in an attempt to get around the back of the island. A little side strain soon had things under control, after which the fish proceeded to stay deep, plodding around in the margin. This was beginning to look like a bit of a better one!

Five minutes later and Joe was sliding his second carp of the day across the net cord, this one being a lovely looking plump common. At 18lb it was significantly bigger than the previous and he was an angry one too, tensing his fins and proudly raising his dorsal for the cameras!

6pm: With the fish returned it was time to sort dinner and get on the phone to the local pizza takeaway, who deliver to the gate. With no other anglers booked on until the following day, we took the opportunity to stay on, make use of the facilities and enjoy a few beers that night before heading home early the following morning. Unfortunately, no more fish came our way and once again we woke to a seemingly empty lake! Still it was an enjoyable first session with Joe and there was plenty to take from it. As always, location is fundamentally important and no matter how accurately I fished on that most perfect carp hole… it just wasn’t the perfect spot that day! Joe proved that active fishing and casting to showing fish is always worth giving a go, ultimately landing him his two carp of the session. I’ve just got to make sure that I level the scoreboard next time around!