We’ve all done it. On most, if not all ventures to a new venue we, perhaps subconsciously, set our expectations based on our research and knowledge of our chosen location. Occasionally these subliminal expectations are met, perhaps even exceeded. However all too often we are found guilty of overlooking several key aspects and reality falls far short of our optimistic anticipations.

The Specimen Lake

We recently spent 24 hours on a newly established lake within a commercial complex, marketed as a Specimen ‘Lake’ and boasting Carp to well over 20lbs. These may not be huge by Carp standards but fish of these sizes will dwarf the average commercial Carp north of the border.

Having fished other lakes in this complex in the past and enjoying great success with plenty fish averaging 5-6lbs and a fair few approaching double digits, one can imagine the obvious extend of our somewhat naïve expectations of spending some time on this big fish water.

Specialist Carp tactics were deployed

Big Carp are infamously challenging to catch and our naivety hadn’t quite fallen to a level where we believed otherwise. As always, a significant amount of research and planning went in to this session and we arrived in an air of confidence. However, being fairly inexperienced on the Carp front this would be our first attempt at using specialist Carp tactics, rigs and baits.

Fishing two rods each we adopted two approaches. A specialist rig paired with a PVA bag, fished with either hair rigged 15mm Pellets or Boilies on one rod and a scaled up Method Feeder with Pellets on the other, both of which were to prove incredibly effective at catching possibly the smallest Carp in any of the 6 waters that form the fishery. The one aspect of this ‘big fish water’ that we failed to pre-empt was the sheer number of small fish. Ironic, I hear you say.

Fish of 2-3lbs had no issue inhaling our 15mm baits
Although small, all fish were in perfect condition.

Throughout the session, from the first hour to the last, we were constantly bombarded by small Carp in the 1-3lbs range, interspersed by the odd Bream and Tench. Carp of this size are hugely outnumbered by 4-6lbs fish throughout the fishery, therefore we were confounded as to why there were so many here.

A bit of variety at least kept it fairly interesting
A few nice Bream got in on the action

As our frustrations perpetuated through the hours of darkness and into first light, a hugely inadequate amount of sleep and the appearance of our 42nd 2lb Carp was almost enough to facilitate a huge tantrum. It’s easy, in situations like this and particularly on commercial waters, to look to impose a certain amount of culpability. Accusations of poor fishery management, inadequate stocking densities or poor stocking ratios could all very well be muttered through petted lips. However, we were not willing to drop to such levels quite yet.

The best fish of the session at a mere 5lb 5oz

Positivity is imperative in fishing and a colossal huff isn’t going to benefit anyone. I am a huge believer that commercial waters should imitate natural fish populations and stock densities as closely as possible. There would be little challenge in catching a 20lb fish in a water, highly stocked with only 20lbers. There would be no blame sought if one failed to catch a 3lb Perch on Loch Lomond and instead only managed a net of 8oz – 1lb fish. Therefore I find it interesting how many of us change our outlook on commercials.

That look says it all

On this occasion, what we gained from this session was knowledge and experience, two of the most important attributes an angler can possess. Also important is initiative and perseverance and it is this resourcefulness and determination that will be applied when we return. This time with baits big enough to choke a Goat. I’d like to see the wee blighters get their rubbery lips around that.

There are, without doubt some very nice fish to be caught and the venue is justified in being entitled ‘The Specimen Lake’. The unforeseen presence of small fish, albeit a massive amount of them, is purely another hurdle on the route to success and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

*No Goats were harmed in this session, nor will they be in future (Hopefully).

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  1. Well written Alex, I had initially set my expectations much lower, I did however catch all target species I went for on whip, method and pole and after our short car park hello went on to learn a new technique on the pole, slapping producing 12 hard fighting carp to 9lb 12oz . That then almost spoiled my next day wanting a double. Biggest thing I landed was my unhooking mat that blew away in windy conditions. If you accomplished your target on first visit would it have made you want to return?


    1. Hi Andrew. Thank you. That’s great that you had a good couple of days. I’m not a pole angler but this ‘slapping’ sounds interesting. I usually find myself looking to return to most places, whether I’ve had a great day or less so. There’s always more to learn and one visit is rarely enough. It was nice to chat to you. Maybe bump into you again at some point.


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