A Yateley Copse Lake Adventure- Jase Plumbridge
After the capture of Whiskers from Mill Lane mid-February I found myself at abit of a loss on where to head next, a friend had suggested to take a look over the road at Yateley Copse Lake as there was talk of some special ones swimming around in there. From what I knew the A-team consisted of two large mirrors of which were around the 39/40lb mark. The largest of the two was a deep chestnut coloured mirror named Shoulders, she sat around low 40s, and second in command was a fish called The Orange, she had deep mahogany flanks and a big single scale on her left side, she sat around 39lb. Down the grapevine It was rumoured there was also a good backup stock of around 40 fish up to mid-30s.
It was late one February afternoon when I decided to take my first walk over the Copse Lake, I pulled into the car park and headed across the old iron bridge over the Blackwater and down the footpath alongside match lake towards Copse. The lake itself is steeped in history with small intimate bays, big overhanging trees and chocked in lush green weed and gin clear water; instantly I felt it could be a place I would enjoy spending my time. There were four main islands and some small dot islands which split the lake into smaller sections with a large open water area. The lake averages around 4ft in depth in most places with a couple of deeper holes which made the fishing quite interesting with the rife bird life on there.
After my first walk around the lake a couple of weeks passed and I decided to drop on for my first night which fell on a Saturday at the end of February. I went for a slow lap round, and after not seeing much to go on I decided to set up in a swim called Rowen’s, off to the left there was an entrance to a small sheltered bay which was protected from the cold winds. This area also provided a good view across the main body of the lake. I decided to fish with two zigs as I knew this area of the lake was quite weedy. I stayed up late that night full of anticipation and listening for any signs and drinking tea, the night passed uneventful but just before first light I heard one roll over in the open water just to the right, behind one of the small dot islands.
The following week I dropped on for another overnight session and continued with the zigs out in the open water around the general area of where I heard that one show the week before. The night past, again with no action, but as I would come to learn this was the norm on the Copse, as most of the action would come between 4 & 8am; you could pretty much set your watch to these bite times through the summer months.
I decided to stay on abit that morning and I’m glad I did because alongside the back island they put on a real display, unfortunately that was to be the last session for a good few weeks with coronavirus picking up pace and few days later the country went into a national lockdown.
With lockdown now in full swing and the lakes closed. I spent the time preparing my kit for when restrictions were eased. My first session back fell one Friday in early May, as I pulled up to gate, I could see the lakes looked busy! Grabbing my bucket I went for a slow walk and headed along the causeway between the Match and Nursery Lake, as you come round the corner the first area you come to on copse is Richie’s Bay. I could see the lake was packed out, as I followed the path round past the first open water swim called the Royal Box. I could see the weed growth was now in full bloom covering the surface. As I headed round to the area I fished back in February I could see someone was packing up in a swim called The Stilts. As the lake was busy, I decided to drop in there for the night as it commanded a large chunk of the open water.
I found a gravelly plateau at 30 yards out in line with the birch trees on the far side. I decided to fish two solid bags tight to the back of some fresh weed growth. I went with white CC Moore NS1s Dumbbell Wafters on both with Oily Bag Mix and injected the bags with hemp oil. This is a tactic that has always served me well when trying to grab an early bite whilst learning the topography of a new lake. With the rods out, I settled in for the night full of hope. I popped the kettle on and sat back to watch the evening sun dip behind the trees. The night passed quiet and I was up at first light watching the lake when my left rod went into meltdown; after a very spirited battle I landed my first Yateley Copse lake carp. I steaked the net into the ground and called a friend to do some shots for me, as we laid her on the mat, she looked like she had been carved out of wood chestnut and mahogany in colour with big sovereign scales covering her flank, not a big one but at 22lb I couldn’t care less, after the pictures were done, I slipped her back and enjoyed the morning sun.
The lake was still busy so I kept everything the same for the second night and got the rods out early. Again, the night passed quiet but just like clockwork as the sun was rising the same rod wrapped round and I found myself in battle with another Copse lake carp, after a hairy fight in and out of weedbeds I slipped the net under a lovely looking low 30 Mirror, it was a great start on the Copse Lake.
Over the next few of sessions, the tactics were kept the same, both rods fished with solid bags and small 4” blowback rigs with size 6 Thinking Anglers wide gapes and long shrinktube kickers. I noticed a lot bait was being used around the lake by now but bites seemed to be few and far between so I reasoned they were not on the bait too heavily at this point so sticking with solid bags I managed to keep bites coming fairly consistently over the next few sessions and managed a few fish to mid-20s.
As June approached the fish started spawning, so I decided to have a couple of weeks away from the lake to give them a rest. Throughout this time, I was walking most mornings and evenings and this was to be a turning point for me as I gained a good idea of the areas where the better ones liked to spend their time. I booked some annual leave from work and managed to get down the lake early on a Thursday morning and after a couple of laps I settled in a swim they call (The Dummies or now known as the chair) at the far end of the lake. As I stood there, I could see crusty black backs breaking the surface in the morning sun as the fish pushed through the thick weedbeds.
This area of the lake fishes tight alongside a cigar shaped island off to the right where the shallow gravel bars ran off across the front of the swim. After having a lead about I settled on two small gravel areas at 35 yards out in-between two large weedbeds. Putting 6 spombs over each rod, which consisted of pellets, chopped worms, tiger nuts and a liberal covering of CC Moore LO30. I kept rigs simple which comprised of 8 to 9 inches of Thinking Anglers Camsoft, size 6 widegapes and a 20mm shrink tube kicker set up helicopter style direct to 4 feet of 20lb Fluro Strait through to 15lb sub braid. I fished with a single corked out tiger nut, tipped with a trimmed down white NS1 pop up.
The rods were set and it felt promising for the night ahead. As dawn broke, I watched them fizzing over the spots, I left the rods in place for the day and just as I felt the chance was over suddenly the right hander pulled up tight; after an intense battle in and out of the weedbeds I landed what looked a good sized Common. I lifted her onto the scales she went 31lb 8oz, it turned out to be a fish called “the big common” which was part of the earlier stock. She was slightly down in weight due to spawning but did I care, not one bit. The following morning the session was finished off with a small stockie. All the watching, walking, late nights and early mornings over the past few weeks felt like it started to pay off.
Over the next few sessions, I kept the tactics the same and kept the bait going in lightly over both rods, I managed to keep the bites coming fairly consistently, but the year was passing fast by now and with autumn around the corner, I started thinking about a new area where I could spend some time and try to get something going which can always be hard on these busy club lakes. Locating the carp on the Copse Lake was never too hard as they really did like to put on a display at dawn. An area I use to see them show a lot was a type of a no man’s land this being just to the left of a swim, I spent my first couple of nights back in May in a swim called the Stilts which ended up playing a large part in my campaign.
So, after a lot of walking and watching I made the decision that The Stilts was going to be where I would concentrate my efforts for the coming weeks. I decided to book some leave again from the office to be able to get down on Thursdays to hopefully try and secure my chosen swim.
My first session back with the new plan in mind fell mid-September; the weather conditions looked prime, big winds, low pressure and heavy rain which collided with the peak of a full moon halfway through the session. I done a lap round the lake and as I got round to The Stilts I could see it was free, I dropped my water butt in there and sat watching for a while. There was fizzing coming from a small gravelly area found back in the summer which had done a few bites over the past few weeks. Locating these small gravelly areas in between the weedbeds really did help with nicking extra bites.
I headed back to the car and loaded up the kit as I got back to the swim I got the rods ready for the night. I put the first rod out to the gravel strip to my right and my second rod on the plateau, by now I had changed my baiting approach slightly and took the worms out from my mix and added in 10mm Pacific Tuna boilies but kept with a liberal covering of LO30, nuts and a few pellets.
I got both rods on the spots without too much hassle and baited with 2 kilos over each area, and fished with trimmed down white NS1 wafters as hookbaits tipped with 10 white maggots. The weather came in as promised and I sat listening late into the night.
During that first night I had a bite on the right-hand rod and banked a lovely 29lb mirror, I slipped her into a sack for an hour and got the rod back out on the spot. The next two nights passed quietly but I started to feel close as I heard a big fish roll over out in the waves to my left during the early hours.
The following week I managed a small mirror which I slipped straight back, the rod fishing on the plateau didn’t produce anything so I decided on a new area slightly further out to the left. After spending some time leading around, I found a silty gully between the dying weedbeds.
My next session started at the beginning of October and I managed to secure The Stilts swim again. The rods went out with ease and by now it was just a process, same baiting approach, same spots and same hookbaits, the confidence I have in them little white NS1s was roaring by now. The first half of the night passed quiet but sometime during the small hours the left hand rod in the silt gully melted off and I landed another small stocky, I popped the hook out and slipped her back.
After bite time the next morning, I went for a lap around the lake and got back to the swim just after lunch, I got the rods back out on the spots and topped both areas up with a few spombs and hooked a small mesh bag of crumb on each rod and they set for the night ahead.
I jumped in the bag early that night as the late nights and early mornings were catching up with me, sometime during the early hours, the rod in the silty gully was one noting! I missed my shoes and jumped out, as I lifted into the rod the power of this fish was unbelievable, she kept stripping braid at an insane rate of knots, just as she started to slow somewhere out in the middle she swung hard left and then everything came to a halt! I kept the pressure on and with the rod creaking slowly I started to feel movement. One turn at a time she was coming towards me and by now the young lad who was fishing next door heard the commotion and came round to see what was occurring.
As I flicked the torch on to see where she was a huge ball of weed hit the surface, I dipped the net deep and scooped everything up in one go! I grabbed the folds of the net and started ripping the weed away. As she popped up, I could see by the markings my target, laying there “The Orange” she was finally mine, that moment will stay with me for a very long time.
By now my dad had walked round, so we got her out and laid her on the mat, she looked glorious in her full autumn colours. We weighed her, she went 39lb I slipped her in the sack and at first light everyone turned up to do the photos! I held her up to do the shots and we were all in awe of her length and mahogany colours along her flank. The perfect end to one of the most enjoyable campaigns I have endured.