Solar Tackle’s Jake Anderson explains how he landed two of the UK’s biggest fully scaled mirrors in a single weekend, and bagged himself a new UK PB in the process too.
This particular lake used to be part of one big club before it got separated into various syndicate waters, so I had fished it once before, years ago. I was still at school at the time and I lost one. After that all of the anglers that I knew were winding me up saying that the fish I lost was probably a thirty, which was a ‘holy grail’ for us at that time. So even then I knew I’d have to be back at some point, even though I didn’t really know what the stock was back then.
I have a bit of a fascination for big, fully scaled mirrors and I was told about a nice fully in another lake nearby, just the other side of the railway tracks. I was told it went 34lb and I’d never seen a picture of it, but I fished there early last year and did 8 nights before catching it at 31lb. I’d never had a 30lb+ fully before this and seeing it on the bank spurred me on, and I knew where I could target a fish I classed as ‘next level’.
Mid Kent used to have a Facebook page and website, but it wasn’t updated that often until about 3 years ago. After that, there were people posting catch pictures online and that’s where I first saw The Big Fully, it was pushing 38lb at the time. That peaked my interest and I applied for a ticket and was put on the waiting list, at which point I did some more research and came across the Upfront Fully and a few of the others in the lake, and I couldn’t wait to have a go. Thankfully, early last year my ticket came through and I moved onto here after landing the 31lb fully from the lake nearby.
It’s my second season on this particular Mid Kent Fisheries venue, and I started back on here at the end of January, having fished it up until early December the year previous before pulling off to do some piking and river fishing through December and January. With a few shows to work at and a trip to France I was fishing on and off during that time, whenever I could nick a night. Come mid March, when I returned from France I noticed the change in activity around the lake as spring started to make an impact, and that’s when I could start fishing again hard, but only on mid-week overnighters.
Last year I fished with predominantly 14mm pop-ups and a size 6 hook. I ended up with 13 fish to 32lb, which for this lake is not great. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong and I loved catching them, but I mean as a ratio for this venue, it could be better. This year I switched to using bigger baits and hooks, a 20mm bottom bait tipped with half a Corker pop-up and coupled with a size 4 hook. I’ve still used smaller pop-ups on occasions and interestingly, that is what I have caught the smaller commons on. The bigger carp have all come to the bigger baits. I’m not saying that the bigger baits are definitely the reason for catching the bigger carp, but it’s an interesting experiment.
Anyway, it was the first week of April, my second week of ‘fishing hard’, when I started to see results, with being at the lake regularly so I could keep an eye on fish movement and what was going on paying off. Again on two consecutive mid week overnighters I landed my first known fish of the year, a lovely mirror called the Unknown at 38lb, which isn’t a regular visitor to the bank, along with three feisty low 20lb commons.
I had to miss the following 2 weeks, again due to work, and so it was mid April when I could start concentrating again. I was baiting a swim on the High Bank on the Tuesday in preparation for some overnighters later that week. At the time, Solar Tackle’s Martin Locke was working on some tweaks to a few of the bait recipes and working at Solar as I do, I was at the Solar head quarters when one of the new samples arrived on the Thursday, which was the Quench baits. I was due at the lake that night after work and so I took some of the baits to give them a trial.
It may seem crazy to some, but I purposefully avoided my pre-baited swim. I wanted a clean slate for the new baits rather than fish them over other stuff, so that they got a fair testing. Arriving at the lake every swim along that side of the lake, except for my pre-baited swim, was taken, but the entire opposite bank was free. If I get to the lake and it’s busy then I will try and separate my self as much as possible and try to find the quietest area of the lake.
With this lake being relatively small, around 6 acres, pressure affects the fish in here a lot. If there are 3 anglers on the lake for a weekend then you have a chance of a couple of fish, but if 6 or 7 anglers turn up then you’re looking at 1 or 2 fish coming out over the entire lake for a weekend, so pressure plays a huge part. Thankfully, there is now a 2-rod rule on here, and if I fish another small water in the future then I will definitely look at limiting myself to 2 rods even if 3 are allowed, because it definitely helps to have fewer lines in the water on pressured venues.
I barrowed my gear along the free bank, stopping in each swim to have a look. As I looked out from a swim close to the end of the lake I saw a good fish show in front of the swim next door. It head and shouldered about 8 rod lengths out in open water.
Immediately I pushed the barrow into the swim next door and got the rods ready, clipping up to a spot that I knew in that same area. There’s a plateau out there, but rather than fish on top of it I clipped up to fish short of the plateau, on the broken gravel on the sides. The temperature had dropped from the previous week and it was considerably cooler, and so I wanted to fish a little deeper rather than the shallower water on top of the plateau. My second rod, as it’s a 2-rod rule on this venue, was positioned along the left-hand margin, just a rod length out over deep silt. My normal approach is to put 15 to 20 baits over each rod, but I baited heavier than I normally do. I put half a kilo over each rod, partly because the new bait was a seed bait and highly digestible, so I knew it’d pass through the carp quickly when they started feeding on it, and my thinking was that it would break down quicker given its structure than the fishmeal baits I was using previously, and so I wasn’t worried about the bait being sat out there if it went uneaten. I gave each bait a squeeze before putting it out there to break the skin, letting the attraction leech out that bit quicker, and I was breaking the baits that I fed on the margin spot so that they would sit on top of the silt rather than sinking in.
At around 8pm I saw another fish show in the same sort of area, a bit further left, but at the same distance, so confidence was high. 32 hours passes though without any action until 4:30am when the right-hand rod picked up, the one on the edge of the plateau. I picked up the rod and the fish pretty much swam straight toward me. Now, I’d been told that I’d lost the Upfront Fully last year, because it’s known for swimming straight at you once hooked. I was fishing in The Pads when I hooked a good fish that swam straight at me and did me in the pads, so I lost it. Before I knew it, the hooked fish was in my own margin and then did all its fighting up and down the deep margin. It was clearly a good fish and at first I thought I saw a common as I saw the small scales on its back as it twisted under the surface. As it came up to the net and just as it went over the net cord I could see that it was a fully scaled mirror. If you see the Upfront Fully on the bank, it’s a weird shape, you can see where its name cam from. It’s three times as wide on the front half than the tail end, and so there was no mistaking it as it lay in the net.
I was over the moon with that, couldn’t believe that it was mine. My phone battery had died in the night, so I couldn’t contact anyone to come and do pictures. So, with the fish safely secured, I reeled my rods in and went and charged my phone up in the car, just enough to make a few phone calls, but I couldn’t get hold of anyone. In the end I had to get one of the other guys on the lake to come and do the pics. We weighed it before doing the pictures, watching the needle settle on 39lb 7oz. It has done 40lb in the past, and if I’d caught it a few weeks previous then it would likely have been just over 40lb then, but I didn’t really care. Not only had I caught my main target fish, but it was a new UK PB as well.
Unusually, with the fish returned, I packed up and left almost immediately. Even though the Big Fully is the one most people want to catch, for me the Upfront Fully is the one I preferred, so that capture pretty much completed my campaign, although there were a few others that I wanted to catch too. There is a 48-hour rule on this venue and I’d been on the lake for about 36 hours at this point, so I could have fished for another 12 hours. With it being the Easter bank holiday, I decided that by leaving immediately it meant I could get back to the lake on Sunday morning, giving me the option of another 48-hour session before starting work again on the Tuesday. If ‘d have stayed then I wouldn’t be able to get back on the lake until Sunday evening, when I knew it would be busy.
Before leaving I put a kilo of bait out over each spot and on Sunday morning, 24-hours later, I was back. I had a look around the lake for about an hour and a half, but ultimately settled back into the same swim. As I did so, a fish showed along the left-hand margin, over the spot I’d baited. Both rods were still ready to go from the previous session, so I walked down the margin and flicked a rig right on top of the show and scattered 5 broken baits over the top.
25 minutes later the left-hand rod melted with a one-toner. I’m using a semi-fixed lead, but set up on a Solar lead clip without the peg securing the hook link swivel into the barrel. When a fish picks the rig up it hits the weight of the lead, but then when the fish shakes its head the swivel pulls out of the clip and it becomes a running rig. I’ve found this to produce some great takes and I’ve lost fewer fish with this set up. The take came out of the blue and I was having a quick lie-down on my bedchair at the time, so I ran straight out into the boggy swim in just my socks and picked up the rod, which was hooped round. This fish fought really hard, stripping line off the reel and fighting all over the lake, from the margins right out into open water.
When this one finally surfaced for the net I saw it was a good common, but I didn’t know which one it was. When I saw the belly on it I though it was one called Odd lip, which is another one I’d like to catch, but on closer inspection it was the One Pelvic Common, which is usually a lot leaner, which I why I was confused slightly. It was in perfect condition and weighed 36lb 8oz. Having it so quickly after arriving I was confident of more action to come.
It was 6pm when the bobbin smashed into the blank on the right-hand rod, placed out off of the plateau. The fish had one initial big run, taking a good amount of line off the reel before plodding slowly into the margin. Once in the edge it started fighting hard, but stayed quite high in the water and wasn’t diving deep.
I saw that it was a fully scaled mirror when it was about 3 rod lengths out and I actually started shaking. It was too big to be The Pretty, and I knew it wasn’t The Upfront again, so that only left The Big Fully. Every time it powered off I’d get a glimpse of its tail and a white line on the tail, which was a give away. I was relieved when this one finally slid into the net. I couldn’t believe it, it was 5 hours after landing the 36lb common and the day after landing The Upfront Fully and now The Big Fully was mine as well.
I got it out and weighed it at 39lb 4oz, a bit down in weight and it has been 40lb on numerous occasions, but again I wasn’t bothered about that. The look and the history of these fish is enough, even if they were half the size they’d still be special.
There are still a few more that I’d like to catch from this water, and so I will keep doing bits on here for the rest of this season, but then I’ve got a lot going on with work and trips to France and so I’m glad I could make the most it when I had the opportunity.