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Joe Chappell

Slimy Surprises

Last Thursday, my dad joined me on a 24 hour session to Chigborough fisheries in Heybridge, near Maldon. It was my second visit and his first. We were hoping to catch some stunning carp and beat my dads very poor PB of 15lb. I knew there were some stonking bream and tench present too so my dad took his feeder rod in the hope of catching a few of them while waiting for an elusive carp.

I was working Thursday, so we prepared most of the gear Wednesday evening ready to leave at about 6pm on Thursday. My dad picked me up from work at 5 and we loaded up the car and ate some dinner before leaving. We made a pit stop at Sainsburys on the way to buy some essential supplies (bacon, sweets and beer) for the session ahead. We arrived at the fishery at around 7 and after a short walk around decided on a swim. We didn’t see anything on our walk and due to the fading light, we picked our swim based on the advice of one of the friendly regulars. I set the rods up, meanwhile my dad went back to the car to grab the bivvy and bed chairs.

At around half nine, my dad had a screaming run on his right hand rod which had been cast into open water. He lifted into the fish, but it didn’t slow down. It just peeled the line off as if the reel was on freespool. After taking line for at least 5 minutes solid, the fish began to slow down, and my dad started to gain some line back. However, it was short lived and the fish went on another run. This time it was shorter than the first run and eventually my dad started to win this battle of attrition.  In the middle of fighting with the fish, my dad saw a huge owl fly about 5 feet over his head which just made the whole event that bit more special. We were certain that he must have hooked into one of the biggest carp in the lake or at least, a catfish. Whatever it was, it was obviously tired and came in like a sack of spuds after the initial runs, which took at least 100 yards of line. Eventually we saw it surface about ten metres out and it looked gargantuan. I struggled to get the net under it but after a few attempts it was in the net. It weighed in at a whopping 31lb, beating the biggest fish my dad had ever caught which was previously an 18lb conger eel, caught 25 years ago. I took some photos for my dad, but he was struggling to hold it by himself. I gave him a hand and the man in the next swim kindly took some photos of us holding it together. It was a team effort after all.

31lb catfish

We put the rod back out and recast the rest of the rods with fresh pva bags for the last time before trying to get some sleep. It was a restless night, and both of us struggled to get much sleep. As soon as we nodded off one of the alarms would let off a single bleep or a carp would crash in the margins. We were woken at around half four by an aborted take on my dads left hand rod in the margins. He was knackered so I recast for him. By now I was wide awake and the birds were waking up, letting off their morning song. I decided to recast the rest of the rods and I went for a little walk a few swims down to see what was happening. There was a rustle in the bushes and these two animals ran out in front of me, fighting each other. I jumped back in fright before peering forwards for a closer look. I have no idea what they were, but I suspect they were either stoats, weasels, pine martens, polecats or American mink. I still have no idea as they all look the same to me, slender and dark. I returned to our swim and enjoyed the peace while my dad snored. I tied a few rigs and set up his feeder rod ready for when he woke up.

By 6am, the bream had woken up too. My bobbin sort of danced up and down for a few seconds and I lifted into the fish. It put up little fight and came in easy, but it was an absolute slab weighing 5lb 6oz. It was the biggest bream I had ever seen, and we weighed it and took a few photos. We made some bacon sandwiches and enjoyed our breakfast but were soon interrupted again, this time by a nice tench.

5lb 6oz bream

I switched 2 of my rods over to big baits, 18mm boilies topped with fake corn. And I kept one rod with a 12mm sticky baits signature wafter fished on a German rig. This rod didn’t stay in the water long all day. Throughout the day, my dad and I caught numerous bream and tench, most were between 2 and 4lb however the odd one was a bit bigger. Whatever we tried we couldn’t get amongst the carp.

A nice tench of around 4lb

We were debating a move around 12pm, but we were both so tired we ended up sleeping for a couple hours. By the time we woke up, a move would have been pointless so we remained where we were and continued catching bream, tench and one decent size roach. Towards the end of the day my dad managed a lovely bream of 7lb 12oz, it wasn’t a carp however it was still a specimen fish that some people would spend years trying to catch.

The monster bream

It’s safe to say that after 24 hours of catching, catfish bream and tench, we were covered in slime and absolutely stunk, but we loved every second of it.

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