The first Elite Carp Masters carp fishing match of 2017 took place on Lake Pepper recently. The popularity of the Elite Carp Masters has gone from strength to strength and there are now more competitors than places. Not a lot of carp matches can say that!! It’s in no small way due to the venue and the superb head of large carp in Lake Pepper. Another factor which we think contributes to the success of the Elite, is the attention to the way in which the lake is pegged for the competition. It is pegged so that no matter where the carp go they are within reach an angler. We've not seen this in any other matches, but its an important detail as it provides everyone with the chance to catch. And it pays, as you'll see...
As usual a get together was arranged by Mango in the Three Horseshoes pub which everyone seems to enjoy. Some remained sober and, erm, some didn’t!!
The morning of the match and everyone was waiting nervously in the onsite Kingfisher Café for the draw to begin. Mike and Barb cooked up a nice breakfast for those that wanted it and also brewed up loads of reviving hot coffee for those who needed it.
Finally to get things underway all the competitors were called together for the dreaded draw. Mango picked the first canister containing the names and first out of the draw was Owen Sayles. With much heckling going on Owen picked peg 10. The draw continued until everyone had picked their swims.
At 12.00pm the Elite Carp Masters began and the baited rigs started hitting the lake.
Its all quiet on the old section of the lake, for now...
Within fifty minutes a competitor was calling for the marshals. It was Owen Sayles who had come out first in the draw. The first carp of the match weighed nineteen pounds and three ounces.
Owen Sales with one of the Mirrors that helped him to a total of 171lbs 8oz
From then on there was a steady flow of carp being caught. The marshals were called to peg eleven where Grant Hambridge, who was new to the Elite competition, was playing a fish into the bank.
Little did they know that something special was on the line ...
Grant’s PB was a twenty one pound Common. On the bank this carp, a Mirror, was considerably bigger than twenty one pounds. It was duly weighed and the dial on the scales stopped at forty one pounds. Grant had beaten his PB by twenty pounds.
Something special for Grant, a 41lbs Mirror and a new pb.
Grant and Kris proudly show off the 41
An hour later Grant had a Common of twenty three pounds and fourteen ounces, which was his PB Common. To say he was happy is an understatement.
Something we haven't done before, but this time Ben streamed a live feed onto facebook as the action happened. It was a massive success and something we'll definitely do again.
Ben recording a live feed to facebook.
Fish came at regular intervals throughout the competition.
Competition regulars Barry and Dean always seem to catch
By the time the match ended, thirty five carp had been caught.
Its another thirty!!
This included one forty, twelve thirties, eleven twenties, ten doubles and one single. A massive catch for a tournament by any standards.
German with a 30lbs 3oz Common
Sean and Karl chipped in with this 37lb 4oz Mirror
There has to be a special mention for Gary Mardle and Stuart Lemon for their sportsmanship. A competitor caught a carp and whilst playing it, the carp managed to get entangled in Gary’s line. The carp was landed and to be fair under the rules could have been disqualified for touching another competitor’s line. Gary and Stuart didn’t want this to happen and allowed the carp to count. Great sportsmanship from two good lads.
The winners were Kris Hillier and Grant Hambridge with fourteen carp for 349lb 06oz.
In second was Owen Sayles, who fished on his own, with six carp for 171lb 8oz.
In third were James Ball and James Weller with four carp for 112lb 14oz.
One of the fish that helped newcomers James and James into 3rd place
In fourth were Gary Mardle and Stuart Lemon with three carp for 56lb 08oz.
The top three, James, James, Kris, Grant and Owen
The Elite has a reputation for being competitive whilst still being fished in a friendly atmosphere, as exemplified by Gary and Stuart, which is how it should be.
Sometimes you get wet if you catch big carp!!
And sometimes you get wet if your Ben!!
Ten of the fourteen competitors caught carp. This has been the best Elite match so far.
Our thanks go to Gary and Darren the owners of Cottington Lakes for allowing us to use Lake Pepper, to Mango for organising the pub get together and to Mike and Barb at the onsite Kingfisher Café for breakfast and the coffee.
The next Elite match is on the 11th, 12th and 13th of August. If you fancy taking part ring Ben on 07737254503 or Barry on 07890143952.
If you want to fish at Cottington Lakes ring the shop on 01304380691 to check availability.
At some time or other many carp anglers have experienced red letter days when fishing. Red letter days being one of those sessions where everything goes right and the angler catches several carp. Ben and I have had many red letter days in our years of carp fishing but one that stands out was at Cottington Lakes in Deal. We’ve fished Lake Pepper on the Cottington site for many years now and have caught loads of carp from this most prestigious water. The carp in Lake Pepper don’t give themselves up very easily though. A lot of carp anglers arrive at Cottington believing that they only have to cast a bait into the lake and they will catch. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many go home disappointed simply because they’ve not done their homework. One of the most common mistakes anglers make on Pepper is the belief that it’s easy. With this in mind if the angler hasn’t caught within an hour or so they start to doubt what they are doing. The bait gets changed, the rig gets changed and out comes the spod rod and in goes tons of bait. There’s more casting going on than there is in a casting tournament. This in our opinion is not the way to fish Lake Pepper. It’s all about a waiting game with these wily carp. Not a lot of casting and minimal bait.
This is exactly how Ben and I fished Pepper when we had our red letter day. We arrived to find the lake near deserted except for two anglers. We plotted up in adjacent swims in the middle of the lake which enabled us to control a big area of water. The good thing about Lake Pepper is the swim boundaries are clearly marked and as such no one should be casting into your swim. Generally most anglers stick to their own swims but of course you do get the odd idiot who doesn’t. A quiet word to the bailiffs and this will be dealt with very quickly. The swims we chose had been recently refurbished with boards and wood chippings which would keep us dry under foot if it rained.
All the swims are being refurbished
The owners have got an ongoing programme that will eventually see all the swims built to this standard. Cottington Lakes is undergoing changes which not only include the swims but also how you book on to the lake. Maintenance is also a never ending task.
We got everything ready for our session. The fishing on Pepper is normally pretty straight forward, in the fact once the two baited rods are in position, there’s a lot of waiting around. It never ceases to amaze us the amount of anglers who fish Pepper and don’t use a marker. Ben and I still use a marker when we need to find a specific spot although we do use a bait boat with an echo sounder as well. Without either you’re fishing blind. Even though we know the swims very well on Pepper, we wouldn’t fish without first checking depths and underwater terrain. Lake Pepper has a new section and an old section which are joined by a channel. The bottom on the old section is pretty uniformed with silt and hard spots and depths of between a couple of feet to around eight feet. The channel is much the same. The new section however has much more contours on the bottom and has three islands in it. When it was dug out the mechanical digger left furrows along the bottom in places. These furrows or gullies are used by the carp to get around the lake. A bait placed in one of these gullies is an ideal starting point when visiting Lake Pepper. Hence the importance of using a marker.
The bare minimum
Once our camps were up we set about finding the spots to put our traps in. Over the years, Ben and I have fished in many swims on Pepper and have worked hard to find possible spots to fish on. So for us it’s not difficult to find the spots again. There’s a two rod rule on Lake Pepper so Ben opted to go up against an island with one rod and put the other in a gully he found with the marker. Whereas I had both of mine close to an island. Boilies account for most carp on Pepper and this was the approach we adopted on this session. Now when we say boilies we don’t mean kilos and kilos of them. No, just a bare minimum is all that’s needed. What is a bare minimum? Well for us that amounts to eight boilies around each hookbait. Some will be whole and some will be chops. On Pepper there is no long range fishing. At around seven acres and with three islands it’s easy to catapult baits out.
No long distance casting so no need for big reels
Although the seagulls can be a pain sometimes. A kilo of boilies each will last us for a forty eight hour session on Pepper. We’ll probably bring some home. Most quality boilies will work at Cottington.
First carp to Ben
The first carp of the session came shortly after we began fishing. Ben latched into one of Peppers hard fighting carp. It gave him a right tussle as it kited right and in doing so it took out one of my rods. I opened the bail arm on my reel to let the line run freely so that Ben could get the carp in. Eventually it came to the net with my line in tow. Ben removed the hook from the carp’s mouth and we duly weighed it. We could sort the mess of line out later. The carp was one of the rare to be caught Cottington Pepper Koi.
The first carp, a 28lbs 10oz Koi
The dial on the scales went round to 28.10. What a good start. Now to sort the line out. Cutting it was the better option than unravelling it. Anyway both rods were soon out on the spots again. As I said sometimes we use a bait boat which has an echo sounder on it. It’s amazing what you can see on the receiver. It shows contours on the lake bed, weed and of course fish.
Bait boats with an echo sounder can find the carp, but they won't catch them for you!!
On some sessions we’ve sent a hook bait out in the boat and dropped it on fish that are showing on the echo receiver. Sometimes you get an instant bite other times you don’t. Equally we’ve dropped a hook bait where there are no fish showing and got a bite within minutes. There’s no uniformity to it. The echo also shows what depth the fish are at, which can be helpful, especially if they’re up in the water and you want to set up a zig.
Rig details and bait
Rig wise you don’t need anything special at Cottington. Basic rigs will suffice. Our rigs for this session consisted of size 6 Ashima Heavy Carp hooks tied to a 15lb short hooklink.
Strong hooks are required for these hard fighting Cottington Carp
The reel line was Ashima Gangster line which is thinner than most lines on the market. This was passed through 24 inches of tubing. You must now use tubing on Pepper and Christine.
Rig tubing has to be used on the specimen lakes
The line was then passed through a tail rubber and safety clip and tied to a size eight swivel. The swivel is then pulled back into the clip until it clicks. A quick release snap link is then attached to the swivel. The tubing is pushed into the tail rubber. To keep it in place a small dab of rig glue is added to the end before pushing it in the tail rubber. The hooklink has a loop on the end and is placed in the snap link. Sounds difficult but in reality is so easy to set up.
For hook baits we use 15ml boilies and 15ml or 10ml pop ups. Sometimes we use 10ml wafters. We’ve done well using Cell and Tutti Frutti boilies on Pepper. Equally we have done well using bright coloured pop ups. Sometimes the combination of both have worked well too.
Our range of baits
Of late though we’ve been using our own boilies and pop ups and have been having very good results with them. This is a boilie that has a pop up, wafter and a dip to go with it that Ben and I have developed in conjunction with Dave Poxon at Eclipse Baits. The flavour is orange but has other secret additives in it as well. The results we’ve been having are excellent and suggest it’s going to be a winner. We’ve named it “Secret Orange.” There will be more flavours in the range coming out at a later date so keep an eye out for them. Particles have also figured in our baiting strategy. Not loads of it but just enough to keep them interested. Either Spombed out or put in the bait boat but used in moderation. A couple of handfuls is sufficient for us. Whatever we do we always attach a small web type pva bag of chops or ground boilies to the hook before casting or even when using the bait boat. This virtually guarantees a tangle free presentation.
The biggest is over 52 pounds
The next carp came to my left rod on the island not long after Ben’s capture. It came in quite tamely at first. That is until it saw the net and went absolutely berserk. Ben lifted my right hand rod to let the carp pass under the line. It was rolling and turning as it tried to shed the hook but luckily everything held up. Ben did the honours with the net and a slate grey Mirror kissed the spreader block.
33lbs 6oz Slate Grey Mirror
It looked a good one and the scales confirmed it at 33.6. Photos were done and the carp was returned to the water none the worse for its ordeal. The carp in Pepper are really stunning. Some have big plate scales, others have apple slice scales. Some have a mixture of both. Others have no scales at all. Ben and I have caught some absolute stunners from Pepper over the years. The biggest Mirror in Pepper goes over fifty two pounds. There are also Commons in Pepper which go over forty pounds and in particular some silver Commons. One of which is just over forty pounds and another over forty four pounds! They do get caught but not very often.
Another peach of a carp
The lake had now started to fill up. Most of the swims in our part of the lake had been taken. We like it when it’s busy because this tends to move the carp around a bit. Nothing more came our way until the next morning and I was in again. This time it was my right hand rod with a pop up on doing the business.
39lbs 8oz Mirror. What a stunner!!
After a bit of a battle the carp succumbed to the net. Once again it was a stunning Mirror this time weighing 39.8. Ben unhooked the carp for me and while he was dealing with it I recast the rig with the original pop up on it. It went straight on the spot and as I put the rod in the rest it went off. I was now playing another carp while Ben was putting the other one in a recovery sling. The carp in Pepper give a good account of themselves when doing battle and this one was no exception. It was twisting and diving in its attempt for freedom. A low twenty eventually went in to the net.
The weather was being very kind to us. The conditions seemed to scream carp and we weren’t being disappointed. Some breakfast was in order. A bacon sarnie on the bank always go down well. Ben and I were deep in conversation between bites of the bacon sarnies when his remote sounded off. He looked at his rod which was bent double and the bite indicator bobbin was buried in the buzzer. Ben was quickly on it. The bend in his rod told the story of what was happening. The carp was making powerful lunges but Ben was always in control. As it came nearer it rolled a few times and we could see it was a good fish. A few minutes later it was in the net. Ben was relieved to see it in the net after a having a ten minute tussle with it.
39lbs 2oz Mirror. Another Cottington Carp closing in on 40lbs+
Another upper thirty Mirror to add to our tally at 39.2. Ben had another Mirror not long after at 30.2. By the last morning Ben had eight carp and I was on seven. We’d planned to pack up at midday because the bailiffs wanted to do some work on the islands. As we were packing away our gear one of my rods was away. Don’t you just love it when that happens? As I was playing it I heard someone say they’re into another one. Apparently there had only been a couple of carp out around the lake and it was pretty rammed. If I got this one in it would be a total of sixteen fish between us in this forty eight hour session. Well get it in I did and as it was laying in the net we could see it was another twenty. The dial on the scales settled at 23.4. We packed up not long after and headed home.
The last fish of the session weighing 23lbs 4oz
Red letter days don’t come along on every session but when they do you never forget them. We certainly won’t forget this one. Most of the carp we caught were twenties with a sprinkling of thirties. Lake Pepper on the Cottington Lakes complex has been kind to us over the years and long may it continue to do so. If you would like to fish any of the lakes on the Cottington site please contact the shop on 01304380691 or go to their website at firstname.lastname@example.org a booking system is in place for Lakes Pepper and Christine. If you are interested in purchasing the Secret Orange boilies, wafters and pop ups in the Oconnor Range that we’ve been using then please contact Dave Poxon on 07872449023. He’ll be glad to help.
Ask most anglers fishing these waters and they'll agree that its been a tougher than usual winter, with far fewer fish being landed than in recent previous winters. But that's part of the challenge, to adapt to and fish the conditions and with patience, skill and some luck, hopefully come away happy. Its the same for every angler including our own resident anglers Barry and Ben O'Connor. Despite the conditions, their persistence and expertise have still helped them land some little (or not so little) gems over the winter months. During a session in December Barry and Ben landed these four stunning Mirrors;
Barry O'Connor 32lbs 10oz Mirror
Ben O'Connor 34lbs 8oz Mirror
Ben O'Connor 38lbs 8oz Mirror
Barry O'Connor 36lbs 8oz Mirror
And in January Ben came away with this lovely example;
Ben O'Connor 33lbs 11oz Mirror
The Elite Carp Masters October 2016
By Barry O’Connor
The Elite Carp Masters matches are the brainchild of Ben and Barry O’Connor and have been running for four years now. During that time they have found their natural home at Cottington Lakes, near Deal in Kent. The matches, which are held on Lake Pepper are always sold out which shows just how popular they are, mainly due to the high head of big carp in the lake.
The second Elite Carp Masters match of 2016 took place between 14th - 16th October. One of the trophies on offer for this match is for the biggest carp caught by a competitor. This trophy is in memory of our dear friend Peter Breeze who died so suddenly at a young age one year ago. This will now be an annual trophy to be fished for in the second Elite match of each year.
As ever, the event starts with a social evening held at the Three Horseshoes pub the night before, with food laid on for all the competitors by the pub management. It’s a great evening and good way to bring the competitors together. The main topics of conversation vary but ultimately always return to the forthcoming match.
For this event Paul “Mango” Manderson, one of the Cottington bailiffs, was assisting with Marshalling duties in Ben’s absence, who was competing in the final of another event. I’ll be having words with him about his priorities!!
The draw was held the following morning at the onsite Kingfisher Café, with Mike and Barbara serving up hot tea or coffee, and breakfast for those who wanted it beforehand. Its unusual but on this occasion three of the pairs had been reduced to single anglers for a variety of reasons. The draw began and the first names drawn were Alan Coombes and Laurence Townsend who chose peg 7. You wouldn’t put money on it, but the last three names drawn were all the solo anglers!! The last name out of the draw was Owen Sayles. With the draw done all the competitors went off to their chosen swims.
It was about two hours into the match that the first call came for the marshals. Mango and I went round to peg 14 to weigh the carp. It was a one of the big scaled Mirrors and weighed 31lbs 9oz much to the delight of its captor Kev Smith. This was later followed by three more thirties, albeit to different competitors.
Kev Smith Gets Things Off to a Great Start with his 31lbs 9oz Mirror
When the photos of the carp were taken, the captors had to wear funny hats as is the tradition in The Elite Carp Masters.
Martin - We know its you under there!!
Carp were caught steadily throughout the match. A shout went up that Tommy Onslow in peg 11 had a fish on. Mango and I gathered the tripod and scales and began walking to the truck to drive round and weigh it. But a quick glance back told us that he had lost it. We went round to Tommy and he told us it was a big silver Common that he’d lost at the net. He wasn’t best pleased when we told him there are two big silver Commons in Pepper, one weighs forty pounds and the other forty four pounds. Bad luck Tom!!
The match finished with seventeen carp being caught and here are just a few;
Mark & Toby Dyer Representing Fat Fish Tackle With a Lovely Common
Dean Hernandez and Barry McGuire with their "30"
Dan Hawkes, partnered by Ian Cannon, with Another of the "30s"
First place went to Owen Sayles who was fishing on his own and came out last in the draw. He didn’t fancy the swim he’d got but persevered and with some top angling eventually won.
Owen Sayles with his 31lbs 11oz Mirror
1st place Owen Sayles with seven fish for 157lb 14oz winning £1000.00
2nd place James Mardle and Kerry Pickering with three fish for 79lb 7oz winning £750.00.
3rd place Dan Hawkes and Ian Cannon with two fish for 57lb 14oz winning £450.00
Congratulations to the Winners
The Peter Breeze trophy for the biggest carp went to James Mardle with a 38lb 14oz Mirror.
James Mardle, Winner of the Peter Breeze Trophy, with The Big One
Thanks must go to Gary and Darren at Cottington Lakes for allowing us to use Lake Pepper for the match.
To Mike and Barbara for the use of their onsite café.
To Fat Fish tackle near Canterbury for the prizes.
To Mango for helping to run the event.
Last but not least the bailiffs Ben and Richard for their help.
And here's the winners thanking me!!
The next Elite Carp Masters events will be held in 2017. The dates are 14th/15th/16th April and 11th/12th/13th August. If you fancy taking part in them, ring Ben on 07737254503 or Barry on 07890143952.
Elite Carp Masters
By Barry O’Connor
The first of the two Elite Carp Masters 2016 carp matches, arranged by Ben and Barry O’Connor, took place recently on Cottington’s Pepper Lake.
Thirteen pairs of anglers battled it out to see who would become champion. Most of the competitors arrived the afternoon of the day before the match and took advantage of the get together arranged in the Three Horseshoes pub at Mongeham (https://www.facebook.com/TTH.Deal.Kent). The pub landlord really looks after us and laid on free food for all. Everybody enjoyed themselves playing pool and darts and this seemed to put everyone at ease for the match ahead. There was of course much banter, fuelled by the odd soft drink!! about who was going to win.
But on to the serious stuff!! The venue for the draw was the onsite café and bar, the Kingfisher, courtesy of Mike and Barbara, where many of the competitors had taken advantage of the facilities, having had breakfast in the café, before the draw. The draw itself was made using limited edition pink Spombs, kindly donated by one of the event's sponsors, Spomb owned by Judith and Bryan Houghton (www.spomb.com). Each pair of names were placed into one of these and drawn at random to select the swims. As the names were called out each of the competitors was presented with a pink Spomb. With the draw done all the competitors went off to their chosen swims.
With the amount of carp showing in peg 2 it was no surprise that the first carp came from there. In fact the first four carp were caught from that peg by Craig Anstiss and Ricky Eason. A promising start, but still early days!!
Craig Anstiss and Ricky Eason with the first of their haul
It then went quiet for about three hours before any more carp were caught. Eamon Duff and Ben Banner in peg 7 in the new lake also landed a carp within the first five hours of the match. With plenty of fish showing on the surface, but in challenging conditions, it was then over 22 hours before another carp was caught in that section of the lake.
The only thing showing on the bank for several hours was the anglers themselves!!
The strong south westerly winds that were predicted finally arrived and the carp did a mass exodus from the old lake into “new Pepper”. James Blake and Jay Mungo Cater in Peg 12 were the first to capitalise on this turn of events with a 30lb 12oz Mirror followed quickly by another at 17lbs 15oz.
The eventual winners, Judith and Bryan Houghton, didn’t have their first carp until more than 24 hours after the match had started. This was a carp known as the Carrot because it is bright orange. It weighed in at 13lb 13oz.
Judith and Bryan Houghton with "the Carrot"
They followed this with three thirties and a forty, a first for the Elite Carp Masters (ECM).
Bryan Houghton with his 40lbs 4oz Mirror, the first "40" in an ECM
The carp were now showing in numbers in the new section and although 1st place had a lead of over sixty pounds this was not unassailable. Not on a water like Pepper. And the battle for the runners up spot was far from over as well. Only twelve pounds separated fourth place from second place. A 30lbs Mirror caught by Owen Sayles, helped him and partner James Coleman to third place.
Owen Sayles "30" which helped seal 3rd place for him and partner James Coleman
Peg 2 which had caught all their carp within the first two hours of the match never caught another, but this was still sufficient to give pairing Craig Anstiss and Ricky Eason second spot.
Also worthy of mention is Tom, who despite finishing outside of the top three pairs, still managed to land a new pb with this 34lbs 5oz Mirror.
Tom with his new pb, weighing 34lbs 5oz
Ben and Barry were called out day and night to weigh carp and by the end of the match a total of 26 carp had been caught. This included seven thirtys, nine twenties and the first ever forty caught in an Elite Carp Masters match (caught by Bryan Houghton partnered by his wife Judith).
With the competition at an end it was time for the prize giving.
The prizes waiting to be awarded and claimed
The final scores were as follows.
1st Judith and Bryan Houghton with a weight of 149lbs winning £1000.
2nd Craig Anstiss and Ricky Eason with a weight of 89lbs 1oz winning £600.
3rd Owen Sayles and James Coleman with a weight of 80lbs 3oz winning £300.
The top 3 pairs
4th Gary and James Mardell with a weight of 77lbs 12oz winning £200 of Mainline bait.
The competitors from 2nd to 5th place were given a complete set of Spomb’s courtesy of Spomb Limited.
The biggest carp award went to Bryan Houghton for his 40lb 2oz Mirror winning him a Nash Bivvy courtesy of Fat Fish Tackle (www.fatfishtackle.co.uk) at Chartham.
The smallest carp award went to Nick Young for his capture of a 9lb 6oz Mirror winning him a Nash Chair again courtesy of Fat Fish Tackle at Chartham.
Judith and Bryan Houghton have donated much of their winnings to the various charities that they support - a great gesture.
Thanks must go to Gary and Darren the owners of Cottington Lakes for allowing the match to take place on Lake Pepper, to Mike and Barbara in the Kingfisher café, Mango for all his help and arranging the visit to the pub, to Fat Fish Tackle for the prizes, to Spomb for all the Spomb’s and to Mainline Baits for the bait prize.
The next match will take place on Lake Pepper on 14th, 15th and 16th of October 2016. If you fancy having a go then please ring Ben on 07737254503. Places are limited.
And last but by no means least, you can read the winners account of the weekend on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Spomb-Limited-245615852146134/ under the entry dated 21st August.
Resident angler Barry O'Connor landed a new Cottington pb with this 42lbs 8oz Mirror;
An absolute cracker, caught out of Lake Pepper on Mainline Cell.
Day Ticket Hauling
Ben and I have been fishing at Cottington Lakes for about five years now. We’d never seen the place let alone fished it until we entered a match on Lake Pepper all those years ago. We won the match and instantly fell in love with Cottington.
Cottington Court Farm, within which Cottington Lakes is situated, was purchased by the Steed family in 1972. At that time the three to four hundred acre working farm was a mix of arable and permanent pasture. The diversification to a fishery began in the late 1980s and the site now boasts a total of eight lakes.
This way for Big Carp
Pepper and Christine, the fisheries specimen lakes, were the first purpose dug lakes at Cottington. At this time they were stocked with trout for fly fishing. The original section of Lake Pepper converted to specimen carp fishing in 2003. It was initially stocked with approximately ninety carp. The extension to Pepper or as we call it the New Lake, was dug in 2009. A channel was also dug between the new and old lake creating a water of approximately seven acres in size. It’s now estimated that there are around 250 carp in Pepper, with fifteen known to be over 40lbs and a further forty plus estimated to be over 30lbs. Many of these being upper thirties. There are also loads of twenties swimming round in Pepper.
There are three islands in Pepper and depths range from a couple of feet to around ten feet in places. Lake Christine which is about three acres in size has approximately one hundred carp in it. The biggest weighing in at 37lbs. Although we have fished Christine a couple of times it’s Pepper that we spend most of our time on.
The New Section of Pepper
Cottington is an impressive day ticket venue set in forty five acres of woodland, with a phenomenal amount of stunning carp swimming around. It was voted a top ten fishery in Big Carp Magazine. There are sensible rules and the bailiffs are some of the best we’ve ever come across. Ben and I organise two carp matches each year on Pepper which are a great success. There are proper toilets and showers and also a café on site. The fishery is ably run by Gary and Darren Steed, who have been managing the fishery for a little under two years. During this time they’ve made significant improvements to the site although they would be the first to admit that there’s still a lot more that they would like to do and are planning on doing.
A session to remember:
On one of our recent visits to Cottington Ben had a session to remember. It was a visit made on the spur of the moment. We hadn’t made the decision to go until the day before we actually went. You know how it is. Wanting to get out no matter what the conditions are so off we went. We’d been lucky in the fact that there had been a couple of cancellations on Lake Pepper so we knew at least a couple of swims would be free. We arrived to find one swim free and another two being vacated by the anglers. Ben went in the one that was free and I moved my gear behind a swim where the angler was packing up. Eventually both of us were set up and fishing. The weather forecaster had warned us to expect gale force winds and driving rain by the evening. Storm Imogen was going wreak her vengeance on us so we made sure the bivvys were well pegged down with their backs facing the wind to come. Being a highly pressured day ticket water, Lake Pepper carp can often be very temperamental and uncooperative, so a bit of thought is needed in feature finding and bait placement. There are many features in the swims on Pepper, some in plain view and some hidden but you have to work to find them. Over the years that we’ve been visiting Lake Pepper we have found features in most of the swims and recorded them. It takes a long time to get to know any lake but once you do, it can be very rewarding. We can’t stress enough how feature finding will pay dividends to those that take the time to do it.
Don't Neglect the Margins
Get Your Tactics Right and You Can Catch Stunners Like This 41lbs 9oz Mirror
There is a two rod rule on Pepper so Ben put his left rod on a gravel patch close to an island and the right rod in a gully not far from the bank. This wasn’t out of sheer speculation on Ben’s part but because he’d caught from these features before after finding them on previous visits. Ben’s set up, as is mine, are not rocket science. We’re not ones for having rigs with bits hanging off them. We can’t see the point in it. Our rigs catch us carp wherever we go, so we see no reason to change. They may be tweaked slightly on occasions but that’s all. We have absolute confidence in our rigs.
They are constructed with Ashima end tackle which has served us well over the past few years. A typical simple set up for us would be five inches of hooklink tied to a size 6 Ashima Anti Eject Hook or Heavy Carp Hook with a small piece of shrink tube formed at an angle over the eye of the hook. That’s it! This hooklink can be used with a safety clip set up or inline set up.
Mainline Cell or New Grange are our preferred baits on Cottington, having caught many stunning carp from Pepper to over forty pounds on both of them. We sometimes use pop ups from the Mainline stable too. A good quality bait will work anywhere. Ben and I have been using Mainline Baits for years now and will never change. As with our rigs we have absolute confidence in our bait choice. The combination of our rigs and Mainline Baits has been paramount in our fishing. After Ben cast out, he catapulted a dozen baits around each hookbait. A small bag of crushed boilies doused in Mainline Fosoil was attached to the hook before casting. During the summer we sometimes Spomb out a few particles.
Just short of forty:
I had set my traps with one tight up against an island and the other on the side of a bar using the same rigs and bait as Ben. This was the start of our proposed forty eight hour session at Cottington. Pepper is not a hauling water by any stretch of the imagination so waiting for a bite is not unusual. Around mid-afternoon we were both in our own bivvys when my phone rang. It was Ben. I answered it with the usual “what”, or words to that effect but got no reply. I kept saying hello but still no answer. It then dawned on me, has Ben got one. I popped my head out of my bivvy and sure enough there was Ben playing a fish. As I approached Ben it was obvious he was into a good fish. Ben told me he’d rung to tell me to put the kettle on and just as he did, his alarm went into melt down. He threw his phone onto his bedchair leaving me wondering what was happening. The carp was giving a good account of itself as it twisted and turned. It finally relented and Ben was able to pull it over the net. It looked a good carp but then they always do when they’re lying in the net in the water. After zeroing the scales with the weigh sling the carp was put into the sling and hoisted up. It went 39lb 8oz, half a pound short of forty. What an excellent start to our session.
An Absolutely Stunning Plated 39lbs 8oz Mirror
The bivvys took a battering:
By the evening nothing more had happened except the promised rain and wind that the forecaster’s had predicted arrived with some force. The bivvys were taking a battering but they held firm. We leave our mobiles on at night just in case one of us gets a run during darkness hours and when mine rang I knew what it meant. We don’t answer it but we know it’s a signal for assistance. As I approached Ben’s swim I could see he was into another fish. It was absolutely pouring with rain. We were both thankful that we’d recently got our new waterproof clothing and boots from Jack Pyke. There’s nothing worse than being wet and cold when playing a fish but the Jack Pyke gear was coping admirably, keeping us warm and dry in the cold driving wind and rain. Nothing short of what you’d expect from a top company. Another battle began and to be fair at first the carp was winning. As I stood there on net duty, Ben began to take control. The carp was doing its best to get rid of the hook by diving into the clay gullies. The hook held firm and Ben was slowly but surely gaining line. In the light of the head torches it looked another good carp. I did the honours with the net and as the carp kissed the spreader block I lifted the net around it. We put it in a retainer to wait for daylight which was about an hour away.
The reel was fizzing!
Ben recast his rod and we then both retired to our bivvys. I was just dozing off and one of my alarms sounded. Back on with my jacket and out into the rain again. In my rush I forgot to ring Ben but he’d seen my head torch come on and he came to help. After a determined fight a Common rolled into the waiting net. Not massive but still most welcome in such dire conditions. The dial on the scales stopped dead on 25lb.
Its Not Just About the Bigguns - This nice 25lbs Common was Most Welcome
By now it was starting to get light so I got the camera ready for some photos. We were having a coffee in Ben’s swim waiting for a bit more light to come through when one of his bite indicators shot up and stayed up. Ben lifted the rod and pulled back slightly. As he did he could feel something pulling the line? All of a sudden the clutch on his reel started fizzing and line was peeling of the spool fast. Controlling the spool with his hand, Ben managed to slow the carp down. Ben had to regain a lot of line before the carp was anywhere near ready for netting. He was keeping up the pressure and carefully pumping it back towards him and eventually it came into sight. Its back broke the surface and we could see it was big and scaly. It was the type of carp we are used to catching on Pepper and Ben certainly didn’t want to lose it. It would get near the net and then decide to tear off again. After a few heart stopping minutes the carp slowly came to the net. As I scooped it into the net I could see the relief on Ben’s face. As we peeled the net away on the unhooking mat there lay a stunner of a carp. It looked way over forty and we weren’t disappointed. The scales went round to 44lb 6oz.
The Icing on the Cake, this 44lbs 6oz Mirror
I had a little chuckle to myself thinking what a session this is turning out to be for Ben. There were now three carp to be photographed. Two forties and a twenty five. We still had twenty four hours to go but strangely we never had another bite! The weather took a turn for the worse and during the last night the wind was so bad that we were up all night hanging onto our bivvys. I had a rod and an unhooking mat blown into the lake. Luckily we managed to find them in the morning. We didn’t hang around too long and we were soon on our way.
Reflections of our session, more so Ben’s, kept us in dialogue all the way home. A session where Ben had Mirrors of 39lb 8oz, 40lb 8oz and 44lb 6oz in that order. All this from a day ticket water that most anglers pass on their way to France.
The Third of Ben's Fish Caught During the Session, a 40lbs 8oz Mirror
If you would like to fish at Cottington then to avoid disappointment you need to phone the tackle shop and book in. The phone number is 01304380691. There is also a very good up to date website at www.cottingtonlakes.co.uk with more info. Or you can follow the fishery through their Facebook page and on Instagram (both CottingtonLakesfishery).
I bet the title made you look twice but that’s exactly what happened! Ben and I hadn’t been out fishing for a while so we decided to have a session on Lake Pepper here at Cottington.
Pepper Lake from Swim 9
We’ve caught some stunning big carp from Pepper over the years and always look forward to coming here. Christmas had come and gone and the New Year was looming. Nothing was planned party wise so we went on New Year’s Eve. As we arrived a couple of anglers were just packing up in two swims we fancied trying. We both know Lake Pepper quite well and knew of some features in these swims. The gear was barrowed quietly into the swims for the start of our session.
It's two rods only on Lake Pepper
It didn’t take long for us to get sorted and our hookbaits were soon on their spots. End tackle was constructed with Ashima Hooks, hooklink, shrink tube and safety clips. Nothing fancy, just good old simple rigs. They’ve always worked fine for us on Cottington so we didn’t see any need for change.
Ashima Shrink Tube and Hooks
This was the first time we had fished on New Year’s Eve but it didn’t seem any different to any other day to be honest. During the afternoon of New Year’s Eve I had a screaming run. It was a belter. Something had taken a fancy to my Cell hookbait and was away with it. After a rod bending fight I managed to guide it over the net and Ben scooped it up. It was a 26lb 4oz Mirror and was my first ever on New Year’s Eve. I was well pleased with it.
My first New Years Eve fish!!
Nothing more happened except that at midnight there was a barrage of fireworks going off all around us to announce that 2016 had arrived. It was a fantastic display.
The loud noise of the fireworks hadn’t frightened the carp though because just before daylight one of my alarms was telling me to get up. Head torch on and out into the pouring rain with no coat on isn’t fun. Luckily I managed to wake Ben by flashing my head torch at his bivvy. He put a coat over me while I was playing the carp. Nevertheless my trousers were getting soaked. This carp was putting up a more spirited fight than the other one. It eventually surrendered and lazily rolled over the net. Ben did the honours with the net and we could see this was a bigger carp. It was a nice Mirror and took the scales round to 32lb 8oz.
And this makes it a brace, ones session, different years!!
I’d now caught a carp in 2015 and another in 2016 in the same session. That was a first and I was well pleased with it. We put it in a retaining sling and waited for the rain to stop so we could photograph it. We had to change our clothing after because we were both wet through. We take extra clothing with us for this very reason.
The day past by without incident and that night we had a visit from our very good friend Paul who is a bailiff at Cottington. He kindly bought down some Chinese for us. It was very thoughtful of him and it went down a treat. We had a good chinwag over a coffee before he left for home.
On the last morning I could see a light flashing. It was Ben trying to attract my attention. I put my coat on and went to his swim. At least it wasn’t raining. The healthy bend in his rod was a giveaway that he had one on. The carp was staying near the bottom and it was ages before it broke surface. We could see it was a good Mirror. Ben was in control but it wasn’t ready for the net. It made several runs before it would come anywhere near the net. It finally gave in and Ben pulled it towards the waiting net and I was able to pull the net up around it. It was a big one. The dial on scales stopped at 38lb 8oz.
Ben's 38lbs 8oz Mirror
And carefully returned to fight another day
He’d caught it on a Mainline Milky Toffee pop up with a pva web bag attached.
Simple bag and pop up
The bag and hookbait had been liberally dosed in Fosoil for added attraction.
It obviously worked a treat and Ben was well happy with it.
Our session ended all too soon without anymore carp but we’ll be back to Cottington for another session very soon.