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My time on Yateley's Car Park Lake
No bullsh*t, just good solid angling

No-nonsense big fish angler Darrell Peck looks back at his incredibly successful time on Yateley’s Car Park Lake, revealing the key elements which he believes led to said success

O

f all the campaigns I have undertaken, none are quite as vivid in my memory as the time I spent at Yateley. The Car Park Lake was considered by many at the time as the premier league of carp fishing, where only the likes of Richie Mcdonald, Rob Maylin, and Terry Hearn could possibly succeed. Obviously this wasn’t true but that reputation of extreme difficulty and the walking in the footsteps of your angling idols certainly made for a magical experience. I was just 21-years-old and initially too nervous fishing alongside so-called super stars to fish well. What it really taught me in the end though is a carp is just a carp. Yes, some fish are more difficult to catch than others and of course levels of angling ability can vary, but at the end of the day they’ve all been caught by a man, using just hooks, line and sinker. As is always the way, location was the single most important aspect of the campaign and the most difficult to get right on this occasion. Not because I couldn’t find them but because of the level of competition. At the time it was a top circuit water with around 16 carp and to start with it seemed I’d need a baseball bat just to get near a carp…

An aerial view of The Car Park Lake. Pictures courtesy of Gaz Fareham, Subsurface Editor
An aerial view of The Car Park Lake. Pictures courtesy of Gaz Fareham, Subsurface Editor
An aerial view of The Car Park Lake. Pictures courtesy of Gaz Fareham, Subsurface Editor
An aerial view of The Car Park Lake. Pictures courtesy of Gaz Fareham, Subsurface Editor
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Case Study 1: Timing was key

A lake’s difficulty is not simply determined by its size and stock density but by the situation at any given moment. In seasons gone prior to my arrival it had been exceptionally weedy, to the point that the only way to angle was to fish in the edge or to drop baits in small holes in the weed. The two seasons I had my ticket it wasn’t like that; yes, there was weed about in a few areas but there was also lots of clear ground. This was one of the most important factors as to why the lake fished so well during this period. Not only was more of the lakebed open to anglers but also the line lay to these areas was greatly improved.

A Car Park dawn

I don’t recall exactly but I do remember in terms of numbers of fish caught it was supposedly two of the best ever years. For example, I think Heather did seven captures that first season, which, just for the record, I wasn’t one of. “Duffer’s Year” apparently. It obviously must have been, but duffers or not, it had a closed season at that point which meant I didn’t get to fish during the spring ‘silly season’. My ticket arrived around July of 2003 and let’s just say I didn’t hit the ground running.

I remember rocking up in car park for the first time with my good friend tall Ben Connolly and the first thing we saw was Terry Hearn’s BMW with the “CARPY” number plate. We had both drooled over Terry’s exploits here in his book, ‘In Pursuit Of The Largest’, may be even had dreamt of walking in his footprints, but what we hadn’t anticipated was to be fishing alongside him. I think Ben would agree, we were both absolutely bricking it doing a circuit that misty morning and I am sure the sight of those big, old crusty mirrors bobbing around in the weed in front of Trumpton’s are as etched in his mind as mine. We spend a week there blanking our arse’s off, nowhere near a carp and I remember thinking during the drive home that we might have just wasted £400.

A lot of the fish had spent the week around the weedbed in front of Trumpton’s and from the little info we had gleaned, those swims were being rotated – literally Sunday to Friday and then a weekend warrior would get in for two nights before handing it back to the swim’s owner. At the time I had three nights a week at my disposal, either arriving on a Thursday or a Sunday. I gave it a good go and I am guessing here, but I reckon I’d done about 30 nights camping without so much as an opportunity, let alone a bite.

The swim which changed everything: The Bars
Hiding in the snags
“I watched the whole thing unfold from start to finish: Chunky at a personal best 43lbs”
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Case Study 2: Confidence

After 30 nights on the bank without a bite, the confidence can get low and I guess for many reading this, that would equate to more than an entire season’s worth of angling. For some the rig box might have come out after a couple of blanks and the all-singing, all-dancing rigs with bells and whistles would be attached for no other reason than desperation and could be the catalyst to change their fortune. Well, not me, not then, not now, in fact I am still using exactly the same simple rig to this day. What I really needed was an opportunity, the chance to fish a swim not just because it was free but because there were fish feeding in it.

I’ve caught bigger carp since but I remember this particular capture better than any other before or since. I was sat with Ben drinking tea when the sound of a big fish properly boshing out echoed around the small pit. It was one of those moments the hairs on the back of my neck bristled as my eyes zoned in on the ripples spreading from the vacant Bars swim opposite. The cogs started to spin, processing: was it? Wasnt it? Of course it was? ‘There’s a lovely pea gravel spot there…’ when just to make sure it had my full attention, it boshed again.

In the blink of an eye I’d jogged round with a water butt to claim my chance. The surface still covered in frothy bubbles, some from the heavy carp crashing but more rising as the carp fed heavily exactly where I knew to be the perfect spot. I bided my time, waiting for the activity to subside and once the carp were basking in the sun away from the spot I set about placing my trap. Within a couple of casts I’d popped the float up over the cleanest part of the gravel and slung out my simple tried and tested tekkers beside it. Previously to this point I had spent literally 100’s of nights fishing and in that time caught my share of good fish. They might not have been as big as what was sitting in the weed just a few yards away, but still they were only carp all the same.

The following morning I caught Chunky at a personal best 43lbs and I’d watched the whole thing unfold from start to finish. I’d even seen the bubbles hit the surface as it hooked itself before the buzzer sounded. From this moment on, I knew I could catch from The Car Park Lake. The confidence gained from that single capture was all I needed; concrete proof my rigs, my baits and angling ability worked at this level.

Rigs and baits can often waste far too much of an angler’s thoughts, I’m not saying they are not important, far from it, because they certainly are, but once I’ve found something that works, if it suits the situation, I use it again. These Yateley fish were as pressured as is possible in any day or age and I’d gone and had one on a simple braided rig that didn’t even flip over… I might have done 30 nights in the run up to this point but for me that was my first chance.

True confidence isn’t just about trust, it’s about being able to recreate something or a situation that consistently works for you. One of the handful of rigs I use to this day is still almost identical to that rig: a sharpened size 6 Wide Gape Knotless Knotted level to the point with seven- to eight-inches of Dark Matter braid and a trusty 18-20mm bait on the end. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask with all the latest bits and pieces available and the answer is: confidence. I am confident that when that chance occurs, my rigs aren’t tangled, my hooks are as sharp as can be, and they have consistently converted opportunities to fish on the bank.

Arfur in September (2003) at 48lb 3oz
The incredible Dustin caught in the October of 2003 at 42lb 2oz
Pearly Tail at 37lb 6oz
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Case Study 3: Spots and baiting

Now a lot has been said over the years about my results at Yateley and in the magazines it was heavily portrayed that I’d caught them simply because I used 20mm boilies and not nuts. Well, if that were the case Darren Miles who battered it wouldn’t have caught and anybody that had put a boilie on the end would have caught what I did, yeah? Well, it certainly wasn’t as clearcut as that as I’ll come to later, but for now let’s CRACK on with the spots.

The unique Ugloe at 33lb

That first capture of Chunky had come from what I’d call pea gravel, typically what I’d found previously on gravel pits where the carp have stripped away all the softer debris, leaving a small, exposed, rock hard sweet spot. Gravel that when drawn across offers almost non-existent resistance and when landed on perfectly cracks down, leaving the rod vibrating like a tuning fork. Although rock hard, the spots here were often surrounded by gassy sediment, possibly even lightly covered in and more often than not had been located after investigating that morning’s bubblers.

All of the spots I caught from were within 80yds but even still they sometimes required a few casts to get that perfect drop that when aligned with a feeding situation seemed to be the recipe for action.

Baiting-wise I just catapulted a few handfuls of 20mms in the general area and although most the others were using bait boats dropping tiny, super accurate traps I don’t believe this was the sole reason why I caught what I did. As I mentioned at the start, Darren Miles caught loads using a bait boat but in the same breath my tactics certainly didn’t hurt me. The thing that stood out about Yateley was how many general coarse fish were in the lake and how hungry it was. There were bream, a population of tench to rival anywhere and masses of roach and perch. The way I saw it, during my time on the lake there was definitely heavy competition for food and despite the low stock of carp, the sight of a 20mm boilie placed on the right spot was more than those big old mirrors could resist.

In the next 30 nights that followed Chunky, I had another eight bites, I lost one and the rest were all the big mirrors, not a single common in sight and that was, without doubt, down to fishing boilies.

My first capture of The Big Orange at 43lb 8oz. I caught her again later that year but didn’t weigh her the second time around

Case Study 4: Making yourself the favourite

Now despite the fact I used boilies, fished simple rigs and cast rather than used a remote boat, the real reason for my success was because of my watercraft and effort. That might sound like an arrogant thing to say, but no one told me I needed to get in the Bars swim before I caught Chunky, no one told me anything that caught me a fish. I fished with my eyes and I was in a position where I had time to fish outside of the weekends. I didn’t just rock up in the middle of the afternoon after I caught Chunky, I always strategically arrived to give myself the best possible chance of getting the swim I wanted, even if that meant arriving in the middle of the night.

When targeting really big carp on a top circuit water, to give yourself the best possible chance of competing, you have to try harder than others either can or are willing to. By watching the water I could see by the bubbling where the carp where feeding and from there it was just a case of going the extra mile to get the swim. Now fishing doesn’t have to be like this and obviously I’d prefer if it wasn’t at times, but to compete at that level you have to ask yourself: how much do you want it?

The Queen of the lake: Heather The Leather at 47lb 6oz
Buzzing!
It was an incredible 13 months on what was crowned the UK’s second hardest venue at the time
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Darrell Peck
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