Remember when we had a complete close season? I used to dread the coming of March 15th all those years ago, but luckily Bristol's not too far from Devon where there was no close season. Other than the odd bit of trout fishing most of my trips would be pleasure fishing Upham Farm Carp Lakes near Exeter. I had first fished there when I was 16 and it was my first real taste of commercial carp fishing. You couldn't really call Upham's water holes "lakes", they were more pond like, but back then you always had room to fish.
The first weekend of the close season saw me at Upham; fishing the first pond was favourite as this held thousands of carp mostly 1lb to 3lb. It was all maggot fishing back then, and I used to fish down the edge right next to the weeds on the pole flicking maggots in all the time. On this day I took 21 carp from the edge before it died, a move out 8mtrs and 1ft deep brought another 31 carp. It was so solid, I mean, there aren't many places you can catch a foot deep in March! I was using 2lb 12oz Drennan Double Strength (a bit light methinks!) and a 18 barbless Kamatsu hook.
Two weeks later and I was back again this time for the weekend with some of the lads. On Saturday I had 45 carp on the pole fishing 18" deep at 8mtrs,line and hooks the same. I fished just a single red maggot on the hook, and loose fed a mix of 3 pints of white and red maggots plus a pint of hemp. I guess I got bored and I went on to the speci lake and tried for a lump, but they wouldn't have the maggot!
The following day I had 32 carp on the pole, but the average size was bigger with at least two 5lb+ fish. These were landed on a 20 to 1.7lb (blimey I did fish light!) and I fed 5 pints of maggots. Again fishing shallow was by far the best, I think there were so many fish in the lake they were fighting to get to the bait and naturally came up in the water.
At the end of May a group of us went back to Upham, but we also fished Hogsbrook Lake which was about 2 miles away and a bit hard to find if you didn't know where you were going! Hogsbrook had 2 lakes, and these were decent sized and had a good depth. The water here was always red (from the sandstone bottom) and if it had rained, being stream fed, they were an unbelievable bright red. It was always hard fishing here, I guess because the fish couldn't see the bait and it wasn't as stuffed as Upham. I think this was the weekend when I had borrowed a one man tent from Andy Floyd. On the first night I shared the tent with Paul Benson, whilst others slept in bigger tents or caravans, or in the case of Paul Lumbard his car! At night you could hear carp slurping around the edges of the lake, and if we chucked some bread in that would really get them going.
We had some major sessions in the Cat and Fiddle pub up the road at night, it was a massive pub, and although it did a lot of meals there was a proper bar area with a pool table where we could have a laugh without offending people, as a result we never started fishing too early! On Saturday I had just 1 carp and 2 skimmers at Hogsbrook, but many of us hooked and lost big carp, I recall Mark Bailey losing all the line on his reel on one beast! That night the one man tent held me, Bense and now Lumby. I was piggy in the middle and remained full dressed, when I awoke in the morning my arms and legs were squashed and I had pins and needles for ages. We drove up the road to Exeter services and had a wash and a breakfast (Lumby didn't he had no money, he had a wash later in a swimming pool) and then fished at Upham. On this day I fished shallow to start, but as the wind got up later I went down the edge; I had over 100 carp feeding 6 pints of maggots and realised that down the edge fishing was better done later than earlier!
After this weekend I fished no more in the close season, I spent the remaining time getting my gear ready for a new river season.