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.