I have spent a majority of the last 16 years of bank time living one big carp fishing dream, chasing big and beautiful historic carp, enjoying every second of the scene that lay around me every time the baits were on the dance floor. To help you paint a picture with the rest of my words, gates open at 4am and close at 10.30pm, apart from the last couple of years of the Cemex Angling regime, there was and is no night fishing. I’m not going to name drop here but I have heard quotes from well-respected big carp anglers such as, “If those Sutton fish were in Wraysbury, they would never get caught,” and, “Life is too short to fish Sutton.”
As you may have guessed from above, the lake in question is D.D.A.P.S Devon Road, formerly known as RMC Angling and then Cemex Angling Sutton Lake 2 syndicate. I have always lovingly known it as Sutton Lake 2 so for this piece I will simply refer to it as Sutton. The complex itself consisted for many years of three lakes but the jewel in the crown is the main lake which is roughly 4 acres of water and is the shape of a triangle. The originals and the desire of many anglers who grace its banks are now pushing 50 years old, however as years have ticked by and with the unfortunate loss of a fish or two every year the lake has been gently stocked every couple of years to keep the numbers around the 80 mark. In terms of membership it is a special lake supplement within the Dartford club umbrella.
I remember first walking round this lake when I was a 12 year old boy, packing up on dusk over on the back lake and carrying my gear around the syndicate to find where my dad was set up. I used to pack up more due to fear of the imaginary werewolf running round the lake and didn’t like being on my own. One day around the age of 15, I decided to wind in at lunch time and take a trip round the syndicate in daylight to see my uncle Phil who was set up on the point. The second I walked into his swim I was hooked. Short of water clarity and weed it had everything, overhanging trees, pads, brambles, islands, bars, snaggy corners, big historic Carp and we even see a huge grey mirror role while I sat with him. When it did the words “Heart Tail” came from Phil’s mouth. As a kid, it sent my mind crazy. Although I enjoyed my apprenticeship years up and down the Darenth Valley, It was the little day only that became a constant dream of mine until I was old enough to join.
Most of the time I like to think I’m a confident / lucky angler (I’ll come back to that), but within the first five days of being a member I managed the 2 biggest fish in the lake at the time. On day two I had a good draw and selected a swim the ‘Big Fully’ had been caught from the two previous seasons, yep you guessed it, I had him at just over 40lb. On day five of the season I arrived after work at around 4pm and had a quick walk round in the searing June sunshine. To my surprise, I found every ‘A Team’ member up in one corner and they were going absolutely potty for old bloated mixers that had been fired in further up the lake and blown in on the wind. In pure stealth mode and after pulling my hook bait away from the Big fully, I selected the biggest fish I could see and it wasted no time in nailing my mixer. After a mental 15 minute battle good old ‘Shaggy’ netted a huge common for me which turned out to be ‘The Big Common’. After weighing her in at 39lb 15oz the head bailiff leant a hand & double checked everything for me, everyone present agreed the weight was in fact 40lb 2oz. Nearly done myself out of the magical 40.
"The Big Common became one of my pets before sadly passing on. Here she is at 40lb 10oz"
With a start to the season like that I was on cloud nine, but after a quick congratulations from my uncle who was laughing down the phone, he was quick to try and ground me. I believe his words were something along the lines of, “Enjoy it but I warn you things are going to get a whole world harder.” I didn’t quite take it in at the time but over the years I have learnt the meaning of his words. I had fourteen fish during my first season, most of which I can put down to being very observant and always making sure I was on them. The fish in this lake were quite often very active, some occasions it would seem as though we were fishing a stock pond and witnessed countless shows up and down the whole lake, but actually catching them was a whole different ball game. Although fourteen fish is a good season, being young and single I did a lot of time consisting of many Friday – Sunday sessions and several week long sessions after booking annual leave at work. Most of this time was spent scratching my head, tired beyond belief, stinking, stung and bitten to hell, sun burnt, frozen to death and absolutely soaked through to the skin. At times it was as if the gods were dead set against us and every set up time and pack up time would be torrential downpours and gale force winds. Combine the weather with lack of sleep and things start to take its toll on both your tackle and your health. When trying to string together several days it meant getting 3 – 4 hours sleep in the car down the road from the lake or in a neighbouring lakes car park before the alarm goes off and you start all over again. I personally always struggled to get some shut eye on Sutton and I’m sure the Sutton regulars from past and present will be reading this and agreeing or laughing but this was for many reasons. By the time you had walked through the gate, set up, cast out and had a cup of tea, you knew that dawn was either with you or fast approaching depending on the time of year of course. Dawn on Sutton is a magical time which left you wondering what the carp were up to during the ‘illegal’ hours and you just had to witness it and take it all in. Over more recent years a local resident who’s back garden is no more than 100 yards from the gate bank, decided it was a good idea to keep chickens & Cockerels. Yes you guessed it, the days you decide to try and get some shut eye straight after setting up, there is the world’s loudest dawn chorus which personally leaves me wishing I had a 12 bore in my car. As I write this I chuckle to myself thinking of another fond but annoying memory. The gate bank also has an alley that runs the full length of the lake directly behind the swims. Before the arrival of the world’s most annoying alarm clock we used to have a regular morning dog walker who had a dog called Bailey and boy did he make sure you knew the dog’s name, he would walk his dog up the alley & let it off the lead which immediately resulted in the dog turning from a golden retriever to a greyhound. Before you knew it, you would sub consciously hear a dog go bounding up the alley followed by the owner scaring the s**t out of you shouting full blast, “BAILEY COME, BAILEY, BAILEY………………… COME”. Another Dog walking story made the fisheries manager Lee, the victim. On the last day of a 3 day gate – gate session we fished together on the dreaded gate bank and at around 10am with both of us looking aged and feeling absolutely shocking, we decided to hit our respective sleeping bags and have a doze. After half an hour I realised it just wasn’t going to happen for me and instead opted for a ten minute scroll through social media when all of a sudden I could hear the gentle growl of a dog behind us. Out of nowhere the owner decided it was a good idea to silence the dog but decided to shout at the top of his voice with extreme anger, “SHHHUTUUUP.” I instantly burst into fits of laughter knowing Lee ‘was’ asleep which he confirmed shortly after as I could hear some choice words coming from his oval. There have been certain times over the years where the other two banks, Twins and River respectively, have been quiet & peaceful banks perfect for a snooze, but no, not any more. Along the river bank there is a pipe running from the river into the lake behind which sounds like an evening with Katie Price on full volume. The back lake behind the twin’s bank is now home to 5,000 birds of which a majority are a mix of geese. Basically if you want some shut eye, its hard work.
"The King of the pond, ‘The Big Fully’, bait change justified"
I personally find sleep important, in truth, without at least 7 hours sleep I do not function properly in any walk of life. My attention span is shortened, my choices are poor and generally I am mentally weakened. This may sound a little deep but I am a very strong believer of the mental side of things and how it affects your fishing, I believe confidence breeds results. Without doubt over my time on the pond, the confident anglers are the ones that catch and I like to think I have become a very confident angler. Confident in every aspect of my approach be it rigs, leads, line, hooks, bait & baiting strategies. When I go fishing, I am always in the mindset that I WILL catch whether I’m on a rock hard day only or a densely populated day ticket. Granted anyone can chuck a baited rig into a lake and get lucky but I’m talking about consistently catching from a lake that has seen well respected carp men blank for several seasons. I can’t quite give you scientific reasoning for it, but I’m telling you confidence has a massive relationship with your results. This line of thought came about after I too blanked for a whole calendar year on Sutton. I found myself in a position where I had no trust / belief / confidence in absolutely anything I was doing after such a long fruitless spell. It got to a point where I was changing everything and trying everything, I was basically tying myself up in knots which messed with my mind even more. This period came five years ago and after sitting back watching certain anglers catch while I was blanking, I literally had to tell myself to sort it out. I went back to basics, back to what I knew and had always done ok with while on Sutton, I also went back to using Nutrabaits Enervite Gold, a bait that had produced well for me previously. Before I had even wet a line this new mindset shift changed my confidence & attitude and when two sessions later I had a 32lb mirror on the bank it was like a light switch, my confidence was back through the roof and over the next 6 weeks enjoyed some of the best winter action I have ever experienced. Most of this success was kept under radar using self takes which in itself gave me a little buzz.
I stated earlier that anyone can cast a baited rig and get a bite, what most of us call a pub chuck I guess. Anyone can get lucky, I believe we all need a bit of luck on our side. I also believe you can get a bite on anything especially on a densely stocked lake when competition takes over, I’ve known people to catch on a single grain of fake corn cast out on its own. All that said, bait has played a huge part in my success, especially over more recent times. I find the older I get, the more experience I gain, the more I am interested in bait and the respective ingredients. Something that fascinates me with Sutton, every time it sees a new bait it does fish and more often than not the following year the bait will not produce as well. This may lead to many theories, one being, is it because they have never been caught on it before but once they have they suss it or do not want / need it? From a personal point of view, I’m pretty sure I will never fish another water that raises as many questions as Sutton does. I had a pretty good summer & autumn last year using Nutrabaits Big Fish Mix Krill & Cranberry including a reunion with my old friend the Big Fully, fourteen and a half years after our first meet and at 41lb 8oz he was very welcome. Despite these results, once the temperatures cooled I opted to move over to my trusted Enervite Gold mix, an old winter favourite of mine. It got to the start of March and my winter form wasn’t exactly one to shout about, nor was anyone else’s to be fair. It wasn’t long before I had this niggling thought in my mind to go back over to BFM, it was an itch I just had to scratch. I tied this decision in with a pending storm and planned a 2 day stint with Craig Lyonns, if ever you need a motivational pick me up my god does he offer it. We set up in neighbouring swims in the teeth of a storm force westerly. It looked about as carpy as you can get. At 2pm my left hand rod was away and I was attached to a big heavy plodding Sutton carp which transpired to be the Fully for the second time that season. My change of bait was justified. That evening the wind died down completely to leave a mill pond, this allowed me to spot dozens of shows up the other end of the lake, so I packed away at 10.30pm knowing exactly where I was heading tomorrow.
The next day came and before I knew it I was running my gear down the gate bank into my pre-chosen swim. Again I simply flicked out two snowmen with two bait stringers, lay back and relaxed. When darkness fell later that evening they started to show all over me and my confidence was unreal until the heavens opened and down came huge balls of ice. I remember texting Lee further down the bank stating we may as well go home, no sooner had I sent that text I had a take on my right hand rod. After a hairy battle where I had to stop it running and kiting I had a lovely mid thirty plated mirror in the net called ‘Buttons’ a future king of the pond for sure. Change of bait was definitely justified! Between then and the end of the season I had a quite remarkable run of form, I had many more fish and even managed a brace on two different sessions. Unfortunately I also had the fully again for the third time that season which was unhooked in the net and slipped straight back, on Sutton you can’t choose what picks up your hook bait but he definitely had a liking for BFM. Something else I have come to notice with my fishing, the amount of times I land a big carp and think to myself, if I hadn’t of done that specific thing, made that specific choice I wouldn’t have caught that fish. Sometimes it’s all about those little choices we make and the little tweaks and changes that can make a good season a great one.
Despite catching a large majority of the stock during my time on the pond with many repeat captures, two of the A team always seemed to elude me. A scraper 40 common known as ‘Jacksons’ and a good 40 common known as ‘The Peach’. The last two captures of ‘The Peach’ had been while I was on the pond from anglers fishing directly opposite me so I knew I had been close, but last year I came closer than ever. August came around and I knew I had 2 separate 4 day sessions lined up in the space of two weeks so my mind turned to thinking about how to directly target ‘The Peach’. This fish, although hard to predict, did have little patterns of being caught out of a selection of certain swims at certain times of year and with the previous August bringing an open water capture, I planned to target this area. I also decided another bait change, one of the reasons for this was I hadn’t really used Nutrabaits Trigga a great deal on this lake, but knew it had remarkable form when my uncle used it over a decade ago. Something else that swayed my decision and probably most importantly to me was the fact he caught my target fish twice on the bait. I have often pondered the thought that certain fish want a certain bait, they want specific ingredients and a specific bait make up. Aside from being very cute around a hook, why else would some carp go years without capture? Bringing that idea into my own fishing, why else would I repeat the same A teamers so many times, but fail to catch my target of over a decade? Many people may read this and think I’m giving some carp too much credit, if so, I suggest you stop fishing day tickets & densely stocked club waters, no offence intended. As is so often the case with my fishing, I have so many questions but can never answer them all, maybe that’s what keeps the bug there for me.
"Another gem that has passed away over the years, 'The Stitch' at 31lb taken off the surface"
The day finally came and after finding a spot I liked the feel of (I love firm silt) I decided to feed them well with the thought of spending the next 4 days on the area. Once dusk was upon us and in true Sutton fashion, the carp started to show and show well. In fact across the expanse of water in my view they were everywhere and as usual it left me wondering how this place could sometimes be so hard. At 9pm I remember starting to get single bleeps on both rods, I knew they were in the area and I knew they were on the bait but I thought I may have put too much in for a bite the first evening. I was proved very wrong when half an hour later one of the rods was away and after a short plodding fight Lee netted a nice dumpy low 30 common. I couldn’t quite believe I had such an early bite into my four day session over that volume of bait. I’m not going to give specifics here but I have always been one for simply fishing stringers with maybe 20 baits as free offerings if I felt generous, after all being day only, sessions on Sutton are short and you are looking for one bite. So to then catch over what I would call a lot of bait come as a big surprise to me. I wound the other rod in at 10.30pm absolutely buzzing and keen as mustard to get back on the ‘gate’ so I made the short drive to another D.D.A.P.S car park in the valley for a few hours shut eye. The alarm had me awake and ready at 3am and my enthusiasm and excitement grew more when at 4am I was the only angler walking in the gate. Back in my swim I flicked out 2 stringers to the baited area and went about getting some shut eye, but let’s not forget the dreaded gate bank and its alley. Yes you guessed it, I was in the middle of that bank and after 2 hours kip I was awoken by the devil in bird form. God I hate that cockerel. I dragged myself out of the pit and put the kettle on, as I did the right hand rod bobbin held up tight to the rod, I leant into the fish only to be disappointed by a bream. One thing I will say about the Darenth Valley, I have never fished anywhere else that holds so many nuisance fish. After the bream was unhooked I decided on a trip to the local shop to grab some fresh food for the rest of the day but before I left I unloaded another generous helping of bait to the area. I gathered after last night’s carp and a morning bream there wasn’t any bait left out there and it had probably been finished off in the ‘illegal’ hours of the night. To my surprise (not sure why I was surprised as its Sutton) day two finished uneventful despite seeing several shows. Day three I again managed to get back into the area and again on dawn I had a bream. Just like the previous morning the fact I had I had bream told me the bait had been polished off in the night, so I again set about generously baiting the area. This evening turned out to be very different from the last and just after dusk, just like day one the single bleeps started. At 9pm on the dot one of the rods rattled off which resulted in a 30lb mirror, after the photos I slipped him back and went about trying to hang the wet weigh sling and mat against the fence when the other rod absolutely melted. I couldn’t quite believe what was happening, this wasn’t part of the Sutton script, Linear fisheries maybe but definitely not Sutton. After a mental scrap and after a few heart stopping rolls where I could see it was a big common, I had a mid-thirty in the net, what a day this was turning out to be. I’m not going to lie, day four was always planned as a morning only session with me going back home to the family and enjoying a decent night’s sleep before work the next day. But there was no chance I was packing up early after having three thirties in three days, I just had to grow a pair and be brave making that phone call. Yes I’m sure we have all made ‘that’ call, “Babe, can I please do one more night, I’m on the fish and they are having it. Please, I swear I will make it up to you.”….. She wasn’t happy. Obviously in this case it was me asking to fish ‘the late’ one again tomorrow which meant me getting home around 11.30pm. I did the early again and was absolutely disgusted to be woken by a bream again at first light, so I put the kettle on and went about saying all the right things in a good morning text to get her back on my side and agreeing with me fishing late. Same regime again on the last day, bait up and go down the shop to get some food and again like clockwork at 9pm endured single bleeps before a take around the 10pm mark resulted in a 31lb mirror. Four days, four bites, four thirties, that was a first for me on Sutton.
I had a two week gap before my next 4 day stint and this time I made sure she knew it was a solid 4 days. As it usually does my mind started to ask questions about the previous sessions events, one of which I believe I actually had a solid answer to. The question being, why was I catching bream in the morning but carp in the evening? As I stated the Darenth Valley Is murder for bream and this lake was a prime example, put out certain particle, pellet, groundbait, maggots and you are in big trouble. On several occasions I have laughed at well-respected anglers when they turn up thinking they are going to destroy it on maggots, “sorry mate it isn’t happening.” With this in mind my theory was - the carp would move in during the evening and start to feed on the bait, through the course of the night while they dusted off all the bait they would obviously be passing it in the area while they fed. This would make sense as a couple of the fish from the previous session left bait all over my mat. With all this ‘ground bait’ in the area, the bream moved in and fed on the carps sh*t, lovely.
My second four day stint went exactly like the first only better, I made one minor adjustment and decided to introduce a couple of pouchfuls of bait as soon as I turned up in the swim at 4am. I think this helped to fend off the bream and even resulted in me catching the biggest fish of the stint one morning at 5am, a 41lb 12oz mirror known as ‘The half lin’.
"This morning bite wasn’t a bream, ‘The half Lin’ at 41lb 12oz "
The evenings went much the same way as before, liners and then a bite, on two of these evenings I again managed double takes. In total I had eight thirties and one forty in eight day sessions catching several of the A team, it’s safe to say whatever I was doing during this period I had it right. Obviously I wouldn’t introduce bait like I did there all year, but over that period I believe it was the exact right time for them to have a feed up being August and my sessions also fell perfectly during low pressures after we had spent most of July in a high. The fish also seemingly couldn’t get enough of Trigga as my good friend Lee was also getting bites on the bait.
Unfortunately for me, a week after my final fish I went on a trip to the River Stour with my dad for a week and you can probably already guess what I’m about to say, my target fish was caught from that very swim, on that very bait. As disappointed as I was, I was also secretly absolutely over the moon that in theory I had it right and also that if I wanted anyone else to catch it at that time it was a good friend and indeed a good friend it was. I would like to end this piece with a special mention to D.D.A.P.S, more importantly the fisheries manager Lee Symmons and Head Bailiff Keith Wheeler, I believe this treasure of a pond is in very safe hands.