We rolled into 2017 and with it, a great deal of work was undertaken and changes aplenty.
The winter months are always the busiest time on a fishery, where all the work is completed in readiness for the forthcoming season. We had just had our third winter of owning the lake and the job list seemed to increase every year. Instead of ticking things off, the list continually grew. At times we began to wonder if we would ever get the chance to sit back, relax and look at what we'd achieved. The fact is, that's a very rare occurrence indeed!
We still had plenty to do, so arranged a week in early April to work and fish. Offering friends BBQ's, beer and fishing was a great way to commandeer some much needed manual help.
A couple of days into the week and we were punished by what became known as the Beast from the East! The weather was evil and went from lovely springtime dawns to bitterly cold northerly winds, hard frosts and daytime temperatures of little more than five degrees! It made the week more difficult on all fronts but progress was made, and despite the conditions, a good time had by all.
We usually worked until mid afternoon before a social feed up and a switch from tools, to rods. It was early one morning when Ashley wandered down in his typically underdressed attire, red nosed, tugging away on a fag and still half asleep to let me know that he and Frank (his 11 year old boy) had a 'lump' in the net! Now this was going to be interesting... I half walked, half jogged to the swim with my mind going into overdrive wondering what he had in the net...
I joined Frank at the front of the swim clutching the net looking frozen solid. 'What ya got mate?' I asked. Frank just looked up at me, nose running and muttered the words 'It's a big one!' I grabbed the mesh, gently pulling it up to roll the fish onto its side so I could get a look. 'I'm not sure', I said while shrugging my shoulders and releasing the mesh to let the fish right itself. But, after rolling the fish onto its other side I immediately knew what they had. Wow!
Now, call me sad or just a bit strange if you like, but I have spent literally hours and hours studying the photographs of our fish, to the point where I generally recognise what fish it is and which stocking it came from instantly, and before its even out of the water.
The fish was one of the 20lbers we'd stocked, and only the second one that had been caught so far. Another friend, 'Barny', had caught the first one at 37lb the month before. But this looked bigger, and indeed it was. All the necessary prep was done and the fish hoisted up onto the Reubens to record a whopping weight of 47lb! To say I was buzzing would be an understatement, we all were! Brothers Lake's first 40lb carp and a PB for Frank as well! Fantastic. The fish had been stocked at around 21lbs just two years and three months earlier.
2017 was also the year we built the swims and marked another great effort from friends flying out or driving from other parts of France to come and lend a hand. I'd spent a long time planning in my head where I wanted the swims to be, marking them out and then doing laps of the lake to get a perspective of their positions from all the other swims on the lake. I didn't want lots of swims as the lake is only five and a half acres, so a handful would allow access to all the water.
We plumped for five swims in the end. With a maximum of four anglers on the lake at once it meant there would always be a swim free to move into if desired.
The banks of the lake are lovely and grassy but with a sharp little slope as you get to the water's edge, so we decided to get a machine in and dig out the swims to create a flattened area. This would also get round the problem of groundsheets leaving unsightly dead grass areas from anglers' bivvys. It was hard graft in thirty degree July sunshine. The sides of the swims were retained with chestnut logs and posts and on the swim fronts we used solid oak. The swim was then gravelled with local grantie chippings. They looked great albeit a little new but they have since weathered and today, they blend into the banks perfectly.