My love for Manor goes a long way back, in fact, I will go as far as saying Manor is my all time favourite lake I have fished in the years I have been targeting carp. My adventures over here started way back in 2003 and at the time, the lake and the residing fish were a whole lot different. I was 19 years of age and was travelling up the country from Plymouth University to fish, often bringing my Uni work with me to complete when out on the bank. Back then I was fishing on limited funds, for a much smaller stock of Oxfordshire fish that resided in the lake. Back then, I used two rods, but that certainly didn’t stop me from catching numbers of fish in the way that I have honed over so many years.
At the time, they had started re- excavating the lake, working from where the car park is now to add an extra 4/5 acres onto the famous venue. One trip in particular I managed to land 14 fish in 5 nights, which at the time was extremely rewarding. Among the sessions I had over on Manor that autumn and the following spring, I caught an impressive Linear that at the time fishery bailiff Chris didn’t recognise. Three years later a very good friend of mine Cliff Kemp caught the same fish at over 30lbs, which later became known as Kempies Linear. Since then I have fished in and around Oxford for many years, dotting about the lakes on the Linear complex, watching that incredible Linear grow to unthinkable weights.
It was only when I had seen how impressive that this fish had now became that I made the decision to spend the spring fishing on Manor in the hope of banking it. Manor has always held a firm place in my heart, with the numbers of big fish present, the quiet atmosphere and lovely clear depths, I just had to fish the spring on there in the hope of catching her.
It was getting towards May and despite catching every trip, Kempies still hadn’t made an appearance and I was more than convinced that fish would come out very soon. I arrived for my planned trip on the Saturday night, having closely monitored the weather for the coming week, with strong winds and low pressure forecast for the days ahead. The fish had been showing in front of the willows swim on my previous visit and my initial plan was to head into that area of the lake, hoping I could capitalise on the numbers of fish present in that zone of the lake.
Unfortunately, those swims were taken for the following days so I went on a gut decision and made my presence in the car park swim, which commands a good area at range. My fishing generally revolves around one night a week, sometimes less now I have a young daughter, so ensuring that I get out when conditions are prime for bites is vital. I knew that those fish in front of the willows could potentially move out and the spot I had chosen in open water would intercept their movements across the lake. Manor varies in depth throughout, but come the spring, I prefer to target the pronounced shallower areas of the lake, at the back of bars or raised plateaus where the fish often cruise across in the mild temperatures.
I had already prepared a bucket of fresh hemp, roasted nut chops and had a few kilo’s of 10mm Live System at the ready the night before. Like most of my fishing, I base my initial tactics around bringing numbers of fish into an area through heavy baiting. With such a number of big fish present in the lake, I firmly believe a small bed of bait offers no incentive to dip down and feed on, rather preferring to use their energy to graze on a large bed of bait for a prolonged period instead.
I opted to introduce my usual mix tight to the spot before nightfall, hoping the fish would move in and action would come to the rods overnight. My style of fishing is based around efficiency and I had all three rods marked and clipped up to the spot fairly quickly. When you have fished a venue for so long, you build a strong picture of where the best areas are, in what swims and at what range. I always make the effort to take notes of areas I have had great success from in the past, which makes future reference a great deal easier. One important thing that I have noticed, especially on Manor, is that baiting up little and often can go against you, as the fish become clued up to leaving an area alone once bait has been introduced. I now decide to stagger my baiting throughout the day, to the point where if the swim dies off and bites become quiet, I will then look to re- introduce a larger quantity of bait rather than small amounts more often.
I managed a few bites throughout the night, which I did photograph on my tripod with rhino beam. A few hours after first light, a big framed thirty pound mirror made an appearance and from then on I knew that I could well be in with a chance of a few bites throughout the day. I got the rods back out to the spot straight away, my trusty Ronnie Rigs tied with size 6 Cryogen Curve Shank hooks, mounted with the ever faithful 12mm Northern Specials. I have been placing my faith in this rig since the start of the year and it is yet to let me down, I tie up multiple hook sections before my sessions so I am fully prepared on each trip.
The action continued throughout the day, with a couple of smaller fish hitting the landing net as the day progressed. The advantage of fishing three rods tight on a spot means that if the feeding periods are much shorted, you are likely to get more action in that feeding spell with rigs positioned among the bait. I have often had double hook ups on Manor, which is a result of getting a feeding situation on a tight spot.
Getting those rods positioned tightly isn’t all that easy initially and does take some practice, especially at range. I line each rod up with a far bank feature, which for example could be a tip of the tree, with rods then placed directly either side. By fishing tight lines, I can distinguish whether my lines are crossing; I simply put all three-rod tips together and follow the line direction out to the baited spot. Having the right, balanced tackle is also key, rods capable of casting 4oz leads will make the job much easier.
The evening looked good for a few bites, the sun had come out and the spot I was fishing at distance in 6ft of water would no doubt have fish feeding on it in the late afternoon warmth. I was feeling unbelievably confident going into the evening, having had half a dozen fish since my arrival the day before. If I was to trip up one of the big girls, I knew it just had to be now. Sure enough, I heard the cry of the alarm as my right hand rod signalled a fish on. The bites had been quite twitchy up until now, but this fish was peeling line at a rate of knots and on contact, it felt like a good fish.
I can never quite tell with Manor, as there are such a good head of fish present in the lake, but on this occasion something was telling me it was a special one. After a tense battle in open water, I managed to get the fish under control, despite it finding presence in a few of the large weedbeds in the lake. Thankfully, those strong hooks held true and I was soon watching a linear swimming up and down in front of the swim. At first, I didn’t quite clock what it was, but moments later; it was gliding towards the waiting net. Peering down into the deep mesh of the landing net revealed what I had been waiting for, the truly unmistakeable and impressive Kempies linear.
I took a moment to calm myself before phoning Tom who was fishing over on St. Johns to come round and help out with the weighing and photographing of the incredible beast. On the scales she went 48lb 4oz and just looking at the sheer width of her blew me away. It signalled thirteen years since we had last met and it was a dream come true to witness her on the bank once again. She looked magnificent in the afternoon light and I got into the water to release her safely back to the clear depths of Manor.
The action didn’t stop there either, as a lovely 29lb fully scaled mirror made an appearance just before nightfall, rounding off a truly incredible day at Manor. I had accomplished what I set out to do this spring and my long manor adventure has finally come to an end. Thanks for all the great memories!