A S(pot) Of Gold
Brad Wegner relives how he caught the jewel in the crown of Elsons #ThrowbackThursday
The culmination of hours walking, watching and baiting has led to this moment; two years later and the jewel in the crown of Elsons is lying defeated in the bottom of Brad Wegner’s net. The relief and excitement of the adventure is over and another chapter comes to a close. Here’s how it all happened…
Brad, when did your adventure on Elsons begin?
“I have always known about Elsons; the small six-acre venue is not too far from my home in the Nene Valley and I had always planned on giving it a good go after hearing of the water on a number of occasions. To put it into context, Elsons is a bit like the Yateley of the Nene Valley. With dense, old foliage scattered about the lake, the venue has a real feel of excitement and history about it. I actually began my quest back in 2015, around May time when things were just starting to come to life.”
What was the draw to the venue in the first place?
“I guess the fact the lake is incredibly clear, with deep margins and areas of dense snags where you can watch the fish. Previously, I had never set out my stall to target particular fish, but with the very nature of the venue, I knew I would have the ability to watch individual fish with the potential of stalking them. With the lake being quite small, I had the ability to do multiple laps of the lake, constantly watch them and get a good idea of where the fish would be. I just fancied a piece of this type of angling, so it was all hands on deck and Elsons all out!”
You spoke about targets, but what were you initially setting your stall out for?
“A lot of the other anglers at the time were fishing for a real old one called Spike. I probably didn’t realise how old this fish was at the time, but later on in my campaign this became number one on my target list, the only original left in the lake. To start with I just wanted to get bites, but following a good run of fish during the spring of 2016, I turned my efforts towards catching the Queen of the pond, The Scar Common. I had seen it on so many occasions in the edge and after hatching a bit of a plan, I had bait regularly going in on areas where the fish had been spending time.”
Did you manage to eventually catch it?
“Yes, and after observing it on a few occasions, a carefully placed Tuna hookbait was the downfall of the old character. At the time I was completely buzzing, I had outwitted the one I set out for in true style, managing to stalk the old common from the edge.”
Awesome result, so up until now, what has been occurring for you over here?
“Throughout 2016 I managed to rack up a good number of fish through stalking, I would probably say 90% of the captures I had were from the edge, staying proactive and checking spots regularly throughout the day. Baiting and timing was key, I was putting in maximum effort, making sure I was down regularly after work trickling in a bit of bait to keep up their interest. The first full year was very kind to me, but in the back of my head, the two I dearly wanted, The Robin and Spike, had eluded me on many occasions. I was beginning to rack up a number of re-captures too, which was mentally draining when putting in huge amounts of prep work on spots.”
For that first year, what was your approach and how did you combat the weed?
“I basically adopted a mobile stalking approach: I would go around the lake and trickle a few handfuls of chopped Tuna baits onto each clear spot. There are quite a few in places where the fish have actively fed no more than a few feet from the bank. Nine times out of ten you could always find a good fish feeding on one of the spots, so being vigilant and checking every nook and cranny would often lead to the downfall of a bite. Over time, I began to get a good idea where the fish would be at certain times, but having seen Spike on a few occasions, the bite from that elusive fish never materialised.”
This year has been different for yourself on Elsons, you have solely been targeting two fish, is that right?
“Yeah, with having had so many fish the previous year, I solely set my sights on targeting Spike and the Robin, two very individual fish. Spike is probably the oldest carp in the Nene Valley, a real long, slate grey mirror that has seen a few years! The Robin is an immaculate, totally unique common, which rarely sees the bank; I knew targeting this fish would open up and altogether different challenge in itself.”
Typically, how do these fish behave, have you seen them on certain occasions?
“Spike is very distinctive; its old slate grey back certainly differentiates it from the majority of the stock in the lake. Elsons, like most of the Nene Valley waters, has always been notorious for big commons, which makes Spike even more special. I have never had this fish feeding on a spot, I have seen it many times, but on every occasion it has bolted off at the sense of even the slightest movement. In terms of the Robin, it is very hard to differentiate it between the other big commons in the lake, especially in 6ft of water. I have just never had the feeling that the Robin visits the edge much; I would have seen it at some point in the edge during my fishing on the small venue. I have always made the effort to take note of areas that the better fish do like to spend time feeding, so certainly this year it has played a big part in my decisions on areas to target.”
You decided to switch up your tactics this year, what did you do?
“The main concern with my angling over on Elsons was fishing the same areas every trip and eventually getting repeat captures of these. Considering the lake is only six-acres, it is incredible how certain fish favour small areas of the lake. I was beginning to realise how much individual fish had their favoured haunts, so I had to really draw a blank canvas again and try to think of areas where these fish would come from. I got my hands on a baiting pole, which I truly believe on a lake like Elsons, would open up many more opportunities in terms of spots that I could access. Previously, I was using a few good handfuls of pellets in the mix I was using, but this year I took those out choosing to fish an out and out boilie-only approach.”
Your first encounter was the Robin, what happened in the lead up to this capture?
“Basically, I spent a bit of time investigating an area at the top end of the lake, away from the usual spots that are fished by most anglers from the end peg in the pads. After a bit of wading around in the margin, I came across a group of fish clouding over a polished clean area close to the bank. There was certainly no bait on the spot, so maybe a hatch of naturals were present in some form. Either way, it was hard to access and looked the best bet in the area I wanted to fish. The spot was completely polished off and it would only be like that for one reason alone: fish feeding! It was quite a tricky spot to access, requiring the baiting pole and a scurry through the dense marginal foliage. I left the pole floating over the spot, with the last section resting on the bank. I nipped back round to the swim I had chose to fish the spot from and cast past the pole, ensuring I was over it. After, I nipped back round, shipped in the pole with the lead and attached the rig ready to place by hand.”
Why did you choose to place by hand instead of the pole?
“With the spot being so close to the bank, clearly visible to the eye, I just wanted to ensure the rig was sitting perfect over the clear spot. One end there is a wall of weed, so I didn’t want the main line to sit at a funny angle as it came over this onto the spot. By placing the rig, I could rest assured that the rig was sitting perfectly, with a few handfuls of chopped Tuna baits in close vicinity. I was no longer trying to catch fish by drawing numbers in, more so baiting a stealthy trap with just a few baits. I genuinely believe those bigger, wary residents shy away from the bigger beds of bait, more often choosing to feed over what could potentially be left over bait.”
How did the night unfold?
“I went into the night brimming with confidence, as well as that buzz of fishing a new spot, the anticipation was sky high to say the least. I had the single rod set and baited by 6pm, so I sat back and enjoyed the evening. I had a phenomenal bite at around 3:30am, I literally heard the rod rip round and whack the snag ear storm pole before peeling line off what was basically a tight clutch. I woke in a daze and before I knew it, I was bent into a powerful fish. All I could hear in the dark was an explosion as the fish hit the surface in an attempt to escape. It flat rodded me straight away, moving on a line out towards the main body of the lake. Before long it was solid in a weedbed! I held the rod for 20 minutes, as it was grating in the weed complete stalemate. After a while, I felt something happening as the rod slammed forward as it freed itself from the dense Canadian.
“Eventually I managed to get the fish under control, shaking the whole time with thoughts running through my head. I got in the margins with the net, hoping it would go over first time… how wrong was I! It plodded around for a while in the edge, before eventually gliding over the net cord. I peered down into the net, instantly knowing it was The Robin. I left her in the retainer for half an hour or so and got the photos done at 4:30am as the first light was bursting through. A truly unforgettable experience.”
Wow! Sounds pretty mega! This fish is very nomadic, how do you think it feeds and does it stick with the pack?
“I couldn’t quite believe that the first night of fishing a new spot, I had caught The Robin! Yeah, I genuinely think it avoids the pack, choosing to feed probably on its own.”
I know how much you wanted this capture; did it live up to expectations on the bank?
“Without a doubt, it is like no other common in Elsons for sure, with a golden reddish tinge to its flank, it is certainly one of a kind! The tail of this fish is incredible, which would explain the truly epic battle that I had.”
What changed from catching numbers of fish, to singling out your target from this small, intimate venue?
“Most certainly the spot choice, you learn through your actions and you will only ever know from making changes. First night on a new spot in the same sort of zone I was fishing last year made all the difference.”
Unbelievably, your next bite from this very spot was your second target fish, Spike, it can’t be a coincidence surely?
“If it is, it is very lucky! I turned up to the lake and it was fairly quiet, but I didn’t see any numbers of fish in any particular area. The swim where I had previously caught The Robin was occupied, but having spoken to the guy he informed me that he was leaving soon and yesterday he thought he had seen Spike in the area. This was literally the second night I had chose to fish the new spot, but I was so confident and the lure of catching another elusive fish just had me going. I walked round and checked the spot, it was just as clear as the previous trip, with slightly more weed surrounding it. I got the rod positioned beautifully, identical to before but this time slid a small backlead to pin it all down with the weed now higher.
“Again, in the early hours of the morning, the rod smashed round into the bankstick and was solid in the weed from the start. Out of nowhere, the fish quickly became free and after that the fight was fairly non-existent. I certainly wasn’t complaining after the events of last time though! It came up to the surface and initially I thought it was a small fish, but once it had dropped in the net I knew which one it was: Spike! The shout went out and the moment I had been waiting for was here and now.
“Once again, we got some photos done at first light before watching the old carp swim back into its watery home.”
I know from fishing with you that Spike has been a long-standing dream of yours, how did it feel when it went over the net cord?
“Amazing, simply relieving! The fish is something else on the bank, like an old piece of canvas.”
These fish are old and wise, do you think you’re tapped into a haunt of theirs?
“I must have, there are only two swims down that end of the lake with so many dense overhanging trees to hide in. I just think those old fish prefer the quiet down there, out of the way of the main circus.”
Can you briefly describe the spot you were fishing?
“I would say it was the size of a small groundsheet, completely glowing and polished in the middle but surrounded by a wall of Canadian weed. I can just imagine the fish drifting over the weed then dropping down to feed on the spot.”
How were you presenting your baits and rig in this area?
“I switched over from using braided links this year to fluoro D-Rigs, purely down to the visibility factor. I have always used fluoro leaders in the past, it just made sense to incorporate that into my hooklinks too. I use these in conjunction with a big lead, ensuring it comes off on the take.”
Has your time on Elsons come to an end now and where are you hoping to venture to next?
“I wasn’t actually expecting to catch Spike so soon after The Robin, so in short, yes, it is. I am going to spend the rest of the year fishing a variety of waters, but keeping my eye out for somewhere with another challenge to go at!”