My Quest For The Queen – By Ashley Whitham

Published by on January 3, 2020

My Quest For The Queen – By Ashley Whitham

I first joined the Kingfisher syndicate which is based in Nottingham during the Spring of 2016 due to it been a short driving distance from house and holding a good head of thirty plus carp to fish for, this also meant I wouldn’t have the stress of competing at a weekend on the busy day ticket scene. The lake itself is roughly 14 acre’s in size and made up of islands, snags, bars, bays and alive with naturals, what more could you wish for? I spent a lot of my first season fishing every other weekend for 48 hours, while floating around in the boat with a scope whenever possible after work, searching for anything I could find that would help me start putting together the pieces of the jigsaw. Having the advantage of only living 15 minutes from the lake meant I could get there for at least an hour almost every day and I was quickly able to get a good feel of what area’s the carp liked to spend most of their time in. This soon began to pay off with my first 2 carp from the lake both being old original mirrors of 28lb 8oz & 34lb 9oz, I couldn’t have been happier! The rest of that season went really well for me, I went on to finish the year banking 4 of my main targets from 26 bites. I felt my angling was vastly improving, being around the carp so often in the boat helped give me a better understand of their behaviour and the routes they would take. I had learnt a lot about the lake in a reasonably short amount of time, which set me in good stead for the following season, however, so far the big common was yet to make an appearance.

I started the 2017/18 season in a similar fashion to where I had left off the season before, not having big hits, but slowly working my way through the stock one by one. I found fishing for a bite at a time using small amounts of crushed formula & plum with sprinkles of hemp to be the most productive way of producing bites. I was rowing out and dropping my rigs onto small gravel spots I had found close to the snags while floating around in the boat the year before & it was clearly working. By the end of spring I felt it was all starting to come together, I was definitely catching more regularly, and the bigger resident were slowly starting to turn up. At this point I felt like it was only a matter of time before the big common came along and that summer I went on to catch three more of my target fish. Unfortunately as I found my second season drawing to a close in the autumn, one lost carp on a hot June afternoon still lingered strong in the back of my mind, I was flat rodded at 90 yards and snapped over the back of a gravel bar whilst fishing to an area the big common had come from at least once a year around the sort of time I was in that peg. I knew there was only one carp in the lake capable of doing what that carp did to me, it was her. Feeling deflated, disappointed and annoyed with myself I finished my second season on a real low. Yes, I had caught some beautiful carp, but the one I had really begun to become obsessed with, the one I really wanted more than any other carp in the lake, had got away. With the water being notorious for its poor winter form, I sensed my time on Kingfisher would soon be coming to an end.

After spending a lot of time thinking through the winter period, I realised I needed some time away from the syndicate. I had sacrificed a huge amount of my life over the past 2 years to fishing solely on Kingfisher. Something that had started out as a 48-hour hobby every few weeks had turned into a three night a week fixation; I needed a change! With deep regret I gave up my ticket the following April, took a month off away from fishing to clear my head and eventually moved onto a new water. The quest for the queen had for the second season in a row been a failure. With my ego bruised and my confidence low I spent the summer & autumn on the Bleasby syndicate and although I was gradually starting to enjoy my fishing and catching plenty of fish, there was always something missing, something that was just eating away inside me. I’ve never been the type of angler to start something and not finish it, it’s just not in my nature, so leaving Kingfisher without the big common in my album just didn’t feel right. I made the conscious decision late that autumn to phone the Kingfisher bailiff Peter Johnson and ask if I could have my ticket back the following spring, to which he replied “you know you’re always welcome back Ash”. Perfect!

It was now 2019 and with March the 14th around the corner and my ticket paid for it was time to come up with a plan. This time I wasn’t back to play the numbers game and catch whatever carp I could, in fact, I was back for one thing that was missing. The plan was to pre-bait and fish in the swims where I knew she had done previous captures from, whether there were signs of carp in the swim or not. Knowing she liked to spend a lot of time on her own away from the main group of carp I figured it would be the most appropriate way to target her. My first session back started better than I had

expected it to, I couldn’t find any signs of the big common so I settled on dropping into a swim I had baited a few days previous. It was only 20 minutes after putting the last rod out and the first rod was away! After a 4 or 5 minutes of relentless back and forth to and from the snags, with the constant flicker of a dorsal fin ringing through my line, I eventually managed to land a stunning scaly 21lb mirror which hopefully was a sign of things to come. I ended that session with 2 20lb+ mirrors and a 25lb+ common, no big girls yet, but a carp a day was enough to keep me on my toes. With my confidence now through the roof, I couldn’t wait for my next visit! During the following weeks I continued lightly pre-baiting and fishing the same spots in 3 or 4 different swims. I was catching consistently each session, I had even managed to spot the big common from up in the tree’s & out in the boat on 3 or 4 occasions, but to my disappointment never in the swims I had been baiting. I fished for her each time I saw her, feeling agonisingly closer to catching her, but she would eventually move off and my efforts would come to no avail.

With the end of May drawing closer and spawning around the corner, I decided to start adding large chunks of rock salt onto my pre-baited spots as well as curing my hook-baits in fine ground up rock salt in the hope that maybe the carp’s pre-spawn craving would bring the big common into the area’s. After applying the first chunks of salt during the week, I arrived at the lake after work on the Thursday and did my usual lap or two, hoping to locate the big girl from up in the tree’s over one of the spots I had salted. Unfortunately, the grey clouds and low light levels made it almost impossible to spot anything. With no signs of showing fish or bubblers and very little else to go on, I headed for a swim called high-bank. This was the swim I had dropped the most amount of salt in during the week. After a hectic 48 hours I had managed 4 bites, all 4 coming off the salted area using the cured hook-baits, the pick of the bunch being a 31lb 12oz stunning common! Coincidence? Surely there was something in this? In my head I knew exactly why the carp were there. At the end of my session my mind was made up and I dropped three more big rocks of salt around the spot before I left, as I left the lake I drove home smiling to myself thinking I’m onto a winner.

After 4 painful days at work Thursday arrived. We are now in the last week of May, everything around the lake is in full blossom and the kingfisher’s are swooping across the water with the tadpoles covering the margins. To me it’s the perfect time for big carp fishing! I took the day off work with it being bank holiday weekend, knowing the lake would get busy by the afternoon. A quick check of the first few swims when I arrived and I saw nothing but lifeless bodies of water. After 30 minutes of working my way around the lake, I arrived at the swim I was in the week before. Feeling excited, expecting to walk down into the snags and see groups of black backs and upturned tails all over pre-bait & salt, I crept down the bank quietly and got into the tree above the snag in a perfect position, what did I see? Nothing! I was gutted, for almost an hour I sat in the tree waiting without spotting a single sign of a carp, the plan had clearly not worked! Feeling disheartened, I slowly carried on my lap of the lake, seeing nothing in every swim I arrived at. That was until I reached the very last swim on the lake named Stanley’s. For the first few minutes I stood there looking out but still saw nothing, just another lifeless body of water lit up by the midday sun. But after quietly creeping up a small overgrown path to my right where I could get a good view of the marginal snags, to my disbelief, tucked away in a tiny shallow snaggy corner, THERE SHE WAS! The colossal common sat 4ft from the bank. With my heart in my mouth and not believing my luck, I ran back to get two rods from the van, armed with 2 single plum wafters, both on combi rigs with light 2oz leads, I sat patiently and waited for her to move off. 15 minutes later & she was now 20ft further up the margin, so I gently lowered both rigs down either side of the snag she was next too, sunk my line, adjusted my clutches, and I was set. It was the one opportunity I had been waiting for! For the first hour I was on the edge of my seat and biting my nails, anticipating the rod tip smashing round as I watched her drift in and out of the snag, but with every minute that past I felt my chances slowly slipping away. I stayed put for the night hoping she might be back before morning, but this was short lived when I was woken up by geese fighting directly on top of my rigs, it meant one thing, the big common was gone and I wouldn’t be far behind her. A quick pack down and I was off to do another lap.

After finding a big group of fish in the Back-bay, one of which being a mid 30 common that was previously on my wanted list, and seeing nothing else anywhere around the lake, I decided to jump in that swim for the night. The big common had never been caught in there so it didn’t give me much hope of having her that night but the mid 30 common certainly looked catchable, so for the first time this year, I’m now not fishing for the one fish I’ve come back for. With my rods rowed out and no carp spooked in the process I knew there was a good chance of a bite or two that night. 11pm on the dot and the right hand rod went into meltdown, a really short angry battle at close range & eventually a

stunning 20lb+ scaly mirror hit the net cord. Not the mid thirty I was after but one I hadn’t previously caught so it was more than welcome. That ended up being the last of the action for that night, but still I went to bed feeling hopeful for the next morning. I was up bright and early at 5.30am, joined shortly by two close friends Callum Munns & Adam Hart who were arriving for a 48hour session, both of which I hadn’t fished with for a while. They said they fancied a bit of a social with it being warm, and that was something I wasn’t going to turn down. So Back-bay for the next 48 hours it was. I saw absolutely nothing in the bay for the following 2 days if I’m honest, I knew I had spooked them out the first night but my focus was purely on having a good time with friends. On my final night, after landing fish for both my friends, I decided in a last ditch effort to temp some carp into the bay, I would walk down into the shallow channel that connects the back-bay to the main lake, drop some large rocks of salt and a small sprinkle of hemp into the mouth of the opening, hoping the strong south westerly wind hacking into it would push the smell and taste of the salt back into the bay, thus bringing the carp in with it.

Just before dark, while stood talking outside Callum’s bivvy in the next swim, we heard a huge crash echo through our ears from down towards the opening of the bay! surely not? Maybe there’s a few finally coming in I thought to myself. For 15 minutes we stood quietly talking and listening for shows, when completely unexpectedly my right-hand rod let out 6 or 7 bleeps, the stow dropped off and the line tightened up. After frantically sprinting the 20 yards back to my swim and hitting my rod, to my horror I thought I was snagged! “I’m going to need the boat!” I yelled. At this point I turned my head-torch on and noticed my line slowly moving through the water to the right of where my rig was placed, clearly, I wasn’t snagged, I was just attached to an absolute donkey! The next 10 minute was somewhat of a blur to be honest, a mixture of pure panic and excitement rolled into one, I knew it was one of the big two, my 12ft 3.25tc Torrix bent over double and the deep plodding made that quite obvious, but which one? For the next 5 or 6 minutes all I was thinking was please don’t come off, please don’t hook pull! After a few sketchy moments of having to play the carp close in under my other rods while it was still stripping line off me, I manged to gradually turn it and bring the fish back to the centre of the swim where it then broke the surface right in front of us. A long, deep bodied, broad shouldered common with a great big hump in its back. “OH MY GOD! ITS HER!” Cal shouted, at this point my legs had now completely turned to jelly! What looks like a double decker bus with fins was sat right there in front of me, with her mouth wide open and my size 6 Mugga hanging from her bottom lip, I knew I couldn’t afford to mess up. With butterflies flickering in my stomach I kept her head up and started slowly walking backwards, telling Cal to sink the net and get ready, four more steps, come on Ash! Three more steps, she’s coming! Two steps left, she’s almost over the net cord… AND SHES IN THE NET!!

What I screamed out in the few seconds after landing her I honestly cannot remember, what I do know is the feeling I felt that night is one I’ve never felt before & one I will certainly never forget, a high no drug could ever replicate. Over 250 nights, over 170 blanks, through all the hard work, the mid week journeys, the family sacrifices, the money constantly spent & the time I will never get back, I can honestly say it was all worth it! I had done it! In that moment, stood in the middle of my swim at 23:30 at night, felling on top of the world, my hand’s and knees were shaking with adrenaline. My heart was beating out of my chest as two of my closest friends jumped up and down celebrating with me. I waited over 3 years to catch that fish and finally she sat there sulking in my net. I now realise why so many anglers around the country campaign for big carp and why it can become such an addiction.