If, like CARPology, you follow Carl King on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll already know how motivated and passionate this likeable guy is. From his mini Vine-style vids of him excitedly travelling to the lake, listening to some huge drum ‘n’ bass track to him sharing a social moment whilst on the bank to doing five work overnighters back-to-back. His work-rate rivals that of a young Julian Cundiff in the 90s.
This is our follow-up interview with Carl, some 12-months further on down the line, and we begin by finding out how his previous campaign came to a close and why this spring has been one of his best yet…
Let’s pick up where we left you around this time last year. You were on The Mere, doing work overnighters, with a good degree of success, so can you talk us through how that ended and why you moved on to The Top Lake?
“It ended because I caught Hendrix and after that there was nothing else to go for; I was just getting recaptures so it was time to move on, and that’s when I decided to move on to The Top Lake and go for a fish called Geezers.”
When did you catch Hendrix – The Mere’s target fish?
“I caught Hendrix in June last year so I finished my ticket on there. I literally fished it right out and had one on the last night. Then, as soon as the ticket started on The Top Lake, that’s when I moved up to there. I think it was the 1st May, but I’m not 100% sure and then I did six nights on The Top Lake for three fish. I blanked the first night, had a fully scaled mirror on the second night and then took that day off work and managed to stalk another one out, a mirror. I followed this with three blank nights and on my sixth night I had Geezers!”
Wow! You certainly didn’t hang about. Can you give us a bit of background on The Top Lake: size, stock, and what was most appealing about the place for you?
“I think it’s roughly eight-acres in size. The stock is around 40 to 45 fish. And obviously Geezers is the one everyone goes for. It’s a 45-48lb fish. The appeal of Geezers and the fact that The Top Lake is literally 30 seconds away from Cleverley Mere meant I didn’t have to change my route, so it just made sense to go for it.”
What’s the actual lake like, is it incredibly pressured?
“It’s a very pressured lake. It does get really, really busy, but where I tend to do midweek sessions it wasn’t too bad, I could get a swim and get to where I wanted to be instead of just slotting in somewhere.”
How did that first visit feel and what happened? Was the approach and tactics similar to those that you’d been using on The Mere?
“Pretty much, I didn’t change too much. The Top Lake is just like a bowl, there’s no little bays or cut-throughs so you can pretty much see the whole lake from standing in one swim. I just tried to find them; I was told if you found them, you’d catch them – the same as everywhere I suppose. I tried not to set-up until I found them and I’d seen one show. That was the plan. And once I had located them, I then just flicked singles at them to start off with, not using much bait – in fact, I think I used a kilo and a half in my six nights – that was it.”
I was going to ask if the approach differed the more you became in-tune with the lake but obviously it was only six nights so I’m guessing not a lot changed?
“Yes, each of those trips was the same: just trying to find them and then fishing for a bite. I didn’t go in mass heavy, just 30 to 40 baits around each one and trying to put them in areas I’d seen fish or they’d shown themselves previously.”
Is there a set sort of tactic on The Top Lake that people seem to follow?
“I saw a lot of people using a Spomb. When I was on there, and the walks I had previously done around the lake before I fished it, a lot of people had a Spomb out but I was just using a catapult or even throwing my baits in by hand. A lot of the time I was just breaking baits up and putting them in the edge and most of my fishing was margin work.”
Where were other people fishing – more at range?
“There were a few people fishing the margins, but most were out into the lake. The Top Lake is surrounded by reeds and there were just fish constantly cruising around the margins. I think the first session on there I walked in to a swim and I saw a common swimming by my feet – he was so close to the edge. So I thought: it’s got to be margins. The margins are quite deep as well, you are looking at 5 to 6ft and it slopes straight down. The deepest part on the lake is 26ft, so it’s quite deep, and what with it starting to warm up, I thought they’d be in the margins, so that’s what I did and when I caught Geezers it was from an underarm flick straight out in front of me, just to where fish were showing.”
Following on from The Mere, was it overnighters between work?
“Yup, that’s it. It was all overnighters, just getting down here from work, but this time there was no pre-baiting like I’d previously done on The Mere – this time I just tried to find them each time.”
Why didn’t you follow that approach on The Top Lake?
“Because The Mere was so busy, you were literally just trying to slot in, whereas on The Top Lake, during the week, it wasn’t as busy, so you had time to walk around and try and find them. Instead of giving them loads of bait, I was just trying to nick a bite.”
Was it always boilie fishing?
“Yeah, all I used was boilies, that’s all I took. My plan for further down the line was to find a spot for this coming autumn and give them some bait but I didn’t get the chance to do that! That would have been my plan though: look for a swim that wasn’t getting fished as much as everywhere else and then just bait and bait it.”
With regards to the boilies, (a) what were you using and (b) was it a mixture of sizes/chops?
“It was the same as I’ve been using for years now: Crafty’s King Prawn in 15mm. They are glugged in hemp oil and the Bait Booster that Crafty does in the same flavour. Just 15mm, thrown in by hand or catapulted in, and sometimes I’d break them up if I was feeding in the edge but pretty much just standard.”
Just going back to the midweek overnights, I know we touched on this the last time we met up but what are the little things do you do to squeeze the maximum out of those short sessions and what’s the maximum run of overnighters you’ve done before?
“With regards to the second part of that question, the maximum I’ve done is five nights in a row, back-to-back, getting up and going to work and then coming back. When I was doing that it was during the pre-baiting scenario. Before I’d leave I’d top up the swim and try and get back in there.
“With regards to getting the maximum out of those short sessions, everything is done and prepped before I fish: the number wraps are all stored in my phone, hookbaits tied on, rigs are pre-tied – even on my lunch break I’ll be tying rigs up so when I turn up I can be fishing instantly.”
What’s the reason for putting yourself through all that hard work of overnighters – because you can’t compete at the weekend?
“Yeah. The reason for the overnighters is because the competition at the weekend is just too fierce. You’re just trying to slot in somewhere you don’t really want to be for a 48hr session. You’re just waiting for someone to move and you can’t get on the fish. You’re basically fishing in hope because you can’t get on them. You can catch them on the weekend but I prefer to try and find them midweek and if I’m on them then I’ve got no excuses for blanking: it’s me, I can’t blame anyone else. Also, at the weekend I like to have my time, seeing friends, going out etc. If I can squeeze it in midweek, say two nights, then I’m happy with that.”
Just going back to the areas you were focusing on, the lakebed and depth, obviously you were fishing the margins but is there anything in particular, is the lake very weedy?
“In The Top Lake there’s a lot of silkweed, and if you go a bit further out from the margins there’s a lot. I mean, you can fish in it, if you fish the right way, but around the margins it was mostly clay and a bit of silkweed so you could present a Stiff Hinged Rig in there really well. I always tried to feel for a harder drop each time, and that’s how I caught Geezers.”
Can you just talk us through the rig then and the components you used?
“I always use a Stiff Hinged Rig but tied in a slightly different way to the conventional manner. Instead of having a swivel, I connect the two materials with the Albright Knot. The hooking section is tied from Avid’s Captive Stiff Rig Filament in 25lb and this is connected to their Captive Coated Braid in 15lb so it’s quite supple. And whilst I use a pretty standard sized hook, a size 6 Chod hook, I do like to use the large rig ring on the ‘D’ as opposed to a small one; I feel there’s more movement on the ‘D’ with large rig rings and this gives the hookbait more movement and exposes the hook more when it’s ejected.”
When it comes to lead size, because you’re fishing in the edge, did you opt for something really heavy?
“No, I just stuck with a 2oz pear lead. Not so heavy that it would plug-in but heavy enough for hooking potential.”
It was clearly a very special spring for you – you caught your target fish in six nights, so can you talk us through each of the captures?
“My first bite was from a fully scaled mirror which I caught on my second night. There were only two people on, me and my friend Adam, he was fishing one side and I was on the other. I woke up at half four and found the rod was arched over and the line was heading in to the reeds. I lifted up the rod and could feel the fish was still on so quickly, with rod in hand, I rang Adam and he came round to help me. We both knew we needed the boat and luckily enough he had his life jacket on him so I ran round and got it whilst he held the rod. After about 10 to 15 minutes on the boat, I put the net under my first fish from The Top Lake: a 31lb fully scaled mirror. I was buzzing!
“That day I had a job cancelled so my boss let me have the day off. I had the whole day to myself and the lake was empty with everyone at work, so I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to go and catch a fish or it would be a waste of a day if I don’t’. I set off, walking round the lake and I found some fish on the end of the wind, about 10 to 15 of them. I had no waders with me, just my net and rod, so I rolled up my trousers and walked in up to my knees and literally just plopped it down. I laid the rod down on the ground and then sat at the back of the swim. I was on the phone to my mate saying how I’d found a few when I suddenly heard the clutch spinning into meltdown! That take did result in my second one from the lake, a fish called Birthmark, a scaly mirror of about 23lb.
“After that, it came to the evening and people started turning up and there were Spombs going out all over the place, so happy with my result I decided to call it a day and head off home.”
You then went for three nights where you didn’t catch, right?
“Yeah, I had three nights where nothing was happening – no signs of fish, I just couldn’t find them. I then came back on the sixth night. I was racing home trying to get there early because I didn’t finish work until late, but fortunately there were no cars in the car park – it was completely empty!
“I walked around the lake to a swim called Fitmans where I had that fully from and said to myself that if I didn’t see anything, that was where I’d go. Literally as I walked in to the swim three just jumped out pretty much synchronised. There was one directly in front of me, one a bit a further out in the middle and one down on the margins where I’d had the fully from. Brilliant, that will do.
“I ran back, got the barrow and put three rods to where I’d seen the fish with about 30 to 40 baits over each one. Luckily enough one, showed where I’d had the fully. I knew the wraps for that one already so that was perfect. The other one was a bit further out in a bit deeper water, it must have been around 13 to 14ft and that went down with a good thud so that was good enough. The rod just out in front of me, no more than 20yds out, is where I caught Geezers from. It was only an underarm flick and that too went down with a really good thud. Perfect.
“Around half two, the rod where I’d put it less than 20yds just went in to absolute meltdown. First of all, when I picked it up, it wasn’t really doing anything, but then as it got closer it just powered and took line off the clutch. It felt heavy and I thought it could be a good one but never did I think it would be Geezers.
“After around 20 minutes of just me, on my own on the lake, in the pitch black, with no head torch, no nothing, it came up and took a big gulp of air. The net went straight under and I dropped the rod thinking that looked quite big. I ran back to the bivvy and got the head torch. ‘Woah! Oh my god, that is so big’ I though. I had to look at a picture to confirm it, and whilst I knew it was Geezers as there’s nothing else close to it, I don’t want to say if it wasn’t and then look stupid. I found a picture, had a look, and yeah, it was Geezers!
“I phoned my friend Joel who was fishing on The Mere and he came round to help with weighing it. By now I’m walking up and down the bank, wanting to tell everyone but was half two in the morning and no one wanted to answer their phone! We weighed it about four times and I think it finished up on 46lb 2oz.
“By then it was quarter past three and the sun would be up in two hours so I popped it in a retainer, had a cup of tea and rang everyone in my phonebook who cares about fishing. I spoke to Tristan and he came up to do some shots for me; he got some really belters for me. That was Cleverley Fisheries done. Six nights. Just crazy.”
Fantastic. Finally then, what’s the plan for the rest of the year as that came to an end quite quickly?!
“I’ve got a little syndicate in Harlow and there’s a fish in here called Purple which I’m now after; it’s around 35lb+. I’m going to see the rest of the year out here and then hopefully try and get one of the tickets that I want which is local and means I can carry on doing my work overnighters. I don’t really want to go too far, travelling down the M25, so if I can get that ticket then that will be ideal. If not, then it looks like I might have to travel a bit further.”