I was fishing at a local lake called Boundary Water Park at the time when I first met an old friendly chap who went by the name of Barry Big Tent. I would spend every hour I could down at the lake fishing or walking round talking to the lads fishing. I was still at school at the time so most of the holidays were spent practically living at the lake. My Gran used to work in the little shop on site at the time so the owner of the lake very rarely used to charge me the £4 a day for the fishing, and the constant free hot pies and fresh sandwiches my Gran would send me on my way with made spending time there a lot easier.
I had come to get to know Barry quite well over a few meetings and he was the sort of bloke who would tell you all kinds of Carpy stories for hours on end and only being fourteen years old and as keen as ever I was more than happy to listen and question him. Some of his tales were about Redesmere and the more he would tell me the more I would get this strange buzz about the place. I had only ever read about the Mere in articles and the thought of fishing there at the time was in a way ‘scary’.
The Mere was regarded as one of the top waters in the North West and with fish such as The Male a onetime Cheshire record Common, the Snub, Single Scale, Ring Tail, Pretty One to name a few swimming around in there, I could see why. I remember reading an article in Carpword written by Martin Alerton and seeing a picture of the Snub Nosed Common for the first time. I suppose that was the first Carp that I ever really saw a picture of and thought instantly “I have got to catch that fish”. The more I thought about getting a ticket the more I thought why not. Barry had talked about going back on there the follow season and had agreed to watch me over night. The rules were that junior anglers were not allowed to night fish unless supervised by another member over the age of eighteen, and not being old enough for an adult ticket and unable to night fish on my own the thought of doing weekends on the Mere with Barry became quite appealing.
As it goes the following season was to be the start of my time on the Mere. I can clearly remember setting up on the meadow bank on the 16th of June for my very first session; the buzz of just being there was something I will never forget. I was well and truly under the Mere’s spell after only a few trips and the hunt for the Snub had begun. There was a good stock of big fish in the Mere at the time with around fifteen over thirty pounds at the right time of the year and although I knew I would be fishing there for years to come and until I had managed to tick most of the A team off the list there was just something special to me about the Snub and I just knew I would be fishing there until I caught her.
That first season on the Mere I only managed to catch one fish and lose a couple but the one I did land was a capture I will never forget. The fish was a classic Mere looking fish with huge Pecs and a big love heart tail. It came at the end of October, so the lake didn’t half make me wait for my first one. The following season I was older enough to night fish on my own and being able to get around the lake more and fish on my own which was a lot better, although Barry was great company I knew it was costing me fish not being able to move and do my own angling. That season I managed to catch five fish with the biggest being a 26.12 mirror, I had learnt a lot in the first two seasons on the Mere as I was fishing amongst some of the best anglers around and soon it was all starting to become much simpler. I suppose you could say I had started to learn the lake and the habits of the Carp.
The third season on there was my best, I had just finished my exams at school and once school was finished I fished the rest of the year full time. I ended up catching twenty nine fish that season ending up top rod by fourteen or so fish as well as catching my first thirty pounder a fish known as The Pretty One at a weight of 32lb 4oz. I was loving the fishing on there and was sure that if I kept at it then the Snub would eventually find its self in the folds of my net.
The first time I was to see my obsession on the bank was when a good friend of mine, Neal caught it. I was sat with him chatting away when I saw a huge common bosh out right out over one of his rods, just after I told him the rod ripped off and soon had a low twenty mirror in the net, “Nice Common that mate” was his reply. After he recast the rod ten minutes went by before the same rod was away again. This time he must of been able to tell it was a goodun as he asked me to get my chesties on and grab the net, as it rolled over the net cord, I couldn’t help but say “told ya I saw a big common”. It turned out to be the Snub and at a weight of 34lb 12oz, she looked as impressive as I had always imagined her to look, a real thick wristed fish with big sovereign like gold scales.
I ended up fishing hard on the Mere for the next three seasons obsessed with catching the Snub but she just eluded me. I saw some of my good mates catch her some more than once – It was as if I wanted to catch her too much. I had caught lots of fish during my five years on the Mere and honestly thought I was never going to catch her. I had known about a small water near Stoke homing a rather large common that I wanted to have a go for, so I decided that if the Snub came out then I would spend a bit of time over there.
In the late summer of 2007 she was to make some angler very happy, and that saw the start of my campaign for the Dale Common. I ended up getting well into the fishing over there and spent the rest of that season trying to catch the tricky common. I renewed my ticket for the Mere in the January as always as I had planned to have another go in the spring. I remember a fish getting caught during mid December out of the Oak swim on the meadow bank and then three getting caught out of the same swim sometime through January.
Winter fish on the Mere are very rare to say the least. Out of all my time on there you could count on one hand how many fish were caught between the months of November through until March. I had started to make a few trips up there just walking about to see who was getting up there and who was having a go etc, I couldn’t believe how quiet the place was, apart from the odd lad having a go over the weekend, mid week the place was often empty. I had put a plan together that I would bait a spot at range out of the Oak swim, as it was clear there were a few fish spending time around that area. I baited the spot three times a week with around two kilos of hemp a pound of whole and chopped ten millers and a few pints of red maggots for two weeks before I did my first session around the second week in February. One of my good friends, Woddo was up for having a go through the winter and we both went on for our first session of the year. I settled in the Oak swim and fished two rods on the baited area, both were on stiff links as the Snubs track record for getting caught on stiffer hook links was too much to ignore, it must of been the shape of her mouth that made it easy for her deal with anglers rigs without making many mistakes. It was rare she would make more than two visits to the bank a year and it was not unknown for her to elude capture all together throughout a whole season.
That first session I managed to catch five Bream, so it was clear the bait was getting eaten. I decided to bait up two days before my next session which was to be the following week, upping the amount of bait to double the usual amount. On my next session down I managed to get back in the Oak swim for a two nighter and once again Woddo joined me and set up in the next swim know as the High Bank. That first night was a cold one with the temperature dropping below zero, another snotter hung its self in the early hours of the morning and the rod was wacked back out the spot in the dark.
At first light I clearly remember checking the lines to see if the recast had fallen on the right line witch it hadn’t, so I wound the rod in, touched the hook point up with the file, tied a fresh hook bait on and recast it back on the spot. I was sitting in Wodos swim drinking tea in a bid to warm up only ten or so minutes after recasting the rod when a few bleeps from that rod caught my attention. As I made my way over to my rods the bobbin was ever so slowly dropping back, my first thoughts before picking the rod up was ‘Bloody Bream’ but as I lifted in to the fish it started kiting quickly to my right on a tight line. It was clear I was into a Carp and Wodo was soon next to me in the water with the net, the hooked fish kept going on powerful lunges close to the net and I clearly remember seeing a huge common roll over on the surface before going on another of its runs. My heart was racing as I had a good ideawhat was on the other end, and every time the line would ping of its pecs my heart would miss a beat. Soon the fish was wallowing in front of the net and Wodo scooped her in first attempt. He looked at me and said, ‘It’s her son, it’s the Snub’.
It was a strange feeling, all them years after her and she was finally mine, I just couldn’t stop staring at her in the net and saying to Wods, “It’s the Snub Iv’e caught the bloody Snub.” She looked awesome on the mat in her winter coat and we soon had her up on the rubons with a recorded weight of thirty seven pounds four ounces. After the pics were done, I carried her to the water for a few more shots and watched her waddle away, punching the air with a big cheer as she did so. All that time the lake made me wait before it was my time to catch her only made the moment the more special, the strange thing was though I caught her two weeks later from the other end of the lake, a pound or so smaller that the first time, but utter madness. Five years trying to catch her and then to go and catch her twice in two weeks in winter, crazy. Single Scale the big mirror in there was another I dearly wanted to catch and once news came that a friend of mine had caught her the following week, I returned to the Dale to try my luck once again at tracking down what was to become another obsession!