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).