The first time I heard about Fryerning fisheries (Handley Barns Farm in those days) was around in 2000,
I read with interest in Carp Talk all about this lake that wasn’t too far from where I lived. I remember thinking long and hard about it and wanting to fish there. I remember the article saying that it was by no means easy but rewards were there for the thinking, dedicated angler. At the time I had a very time-consuming career and a young family so never done really much more than think about it.
It must have been sometime in 2003 that another article in Carp Talk appeared about two more lakes that had been dug on the complex, namely the Valley and the Car Park Lakes. It was the Valley that interested me most, I still at this point had very little time but it looked more likely that I could get over there and with good location manage a run or two. I made the appropriate phone call to Chris to arrange my appointment for my interview and viewing of the lake.
I was in and the lake that I wanted to fish was empty of anglers. I walked the lake a few times searching for signs of fish. Id been told by Chris that the lake held over 200 fish with about 50 being over the 20lbs mark, with maybe one or two reaching 30lbs.
I was so desperate to get a night in and the opportunity came at the end of January 2004. It was dark when I arrived. I duly blanked that night and didn’t really learn anything from it as it was so windy and rainy I didn’t want to sit out in it so spent the night in the bivvy sheltering but feeling good about the whole thing.
I persevered through the rest of the winter doing an afternoon every week with the odd overnighter but it wasn’t until the buds started showing that I started to get into the bigger fish I was after. I was only there for four hours and left with a low double, a mid double and my first 20-pounder from the lake. Happy days – things were coming together.
I carried on fishing there whenever I could through to the summer, catching consistently along the way but I just wasn’t getting through to the bigger fish that I wanted so much, I decided not to renew my ticket and move on to pastures new in search of what I was after, during that time I never really stopped thinking about Fryerning and knew one day I would be back. It turned out to be one of my better decisions as while I was away the fish grew and grew. Reading another article that Chris had done for Carp Talk, I just knew I had to go back.
It was now early 2008 and things had developed so much. All the bare banks were now reed-lined, the little twiggy trees were 20-30 ft tall, the Hatchery was up and running and all the swims now had names.
The two main areas that I used to fish were now called Newt Corner and The Guvner’s Box. I went straight into The Guvner’s Box as this had now got a big tree reaching over onto the surface of the water with an 8ft deep margin under it.
Once daylight came and the spring sun shone I saw a few fish cruise along the main feature of the lake other than the margins, which was a massive bar/plateau, there is usually 10-12 ft either side of the bar and about 4ft on top but its at least 20ft wide and the fish do like it on top when the sun shines and the sides have always been good for a bite. I’d had a bait there all night but nothing had taken it so with the sun shining, on with the zig.
It hadn’t been out long when the alarm went into overdrive, upon picking up the rod and trying to stop it I soon realized there was a cat on the end, and with a size 10 wide gape and 8lb mono I didn’t really give myself much chance, after about 10-15 minutes I thought I really want to get this in now, but the more line I got the more it took until it got over the bar and I felt it grate and that was the end of that.
I re-tied another zig and cast it out in the hope that my preferred species would swim past and take it. Well, I didn’t have to wait long as I was soon struggling on an 8ft zig to get what looked like a scraper 20 into the net. All was confirmed when it went 21lb 7oz on the scales; all was good in the world of Fryerning again.
It took a while after that to catch a fish off the bottom, with everything coming to the zigs, even at night. But they kept coming and all the time they were much bigger than the first time I was here. In fact, the smallest fish I caught over the summer and autumn was mid-double.
Since then I have caught consistently all through the years at all times. I’m sure one day I will venture up onto the Main Lake to pit my wits against those very big fish, but at the moment I’m more than happy down on the Valley Lake catching those 20s. But I know there are also a few 30s hiding amongst them and I’m going for them.
Happy days indeed!