Angie Lawler has been fishing the Linear complex for a number of years, and with great results. Just recently, great turned into outstanding, with the capture of the first fifty on the complex.
We arrived at Linear on the Tuesday just after the bank holiday, and we knew it would be rammed, but hoped that some would be going home. However, as we arrived in the main car park, it was apparent that it was still very busy, so we wasted no time and started walking around St Johns. Everyone we asked told us they were staying until Thursday or Friday, so off we went to Manor, but it was exactly the same story. By this time we were getting a bit despondent. The forecast for the next few days was 50-60mph southwesterly winds and a good drop in air pressure, which would be perfect big-fish weather, so we wanted to be on the waters which normally produce the big girls in those conditions. So, back into the motor and down to Oxlease we went, and as we pulled in the car park we could see that it was also pretty busy, but luckily, the first two swims we fancied were going to pack up in a few hours or so. We arranged to drop in behind them and carried on walking around. The pressure to get a swim was off, so we headed back to Manor and St Johns to ask the anglers who were asleep the first time round of their plans, but as was the case earlier, everyone was staying on. They were waiting for all the good weather to come in, and to be honest, who could blame them? We’d had so much high pressure for so long that everyone was waiting for it to kick off in style.
We had to wait for a few hours for our pegs to come free, so we went down the road for some breakfast. When we got back to Oxlease, the anglers had started packing away, but only just, so off we went for another walk around. Everyone was saying the same; it was fishing slowly and nobody was catching over any bait, but it didn’t bother us because we thought it would all be different over the next few days when the weather changed. As we got to the back of the wind, there were no anglers on the four pegs which backed on to Hunt’s Corner, which, to be honest, was perfectly understandable. It wasn’t where we expected the fish to be, and by this time the wind had started to pick up, but after standing there for 10 minutes it was apparent there were a lot of fish there, so we had a bit of a dilemma. Did we set up on the fish or where we expected them to be in a few hours? We have learned in the past to always go where the fish are at that moment, as on busy day ticket waters they don’t always play to the text book. The pressure on the lake can change the fish’s natural instinct and stop them moving into the area with the most lines, so we decided to fish there, even if only for the day. We would see how it went once the wind really kicked in, and all the time the fish were still showing quite close in, just a couple of rod lengths off the bank.
We got our gear round, just enough to angle there for the day, as we expected the fish to move off at some point and move up to the other end of lake. A few solid bags were flicked out, just to try to entice a bite, and sure enough, after about 20 minutes, I had my first fish of the session. It was a 25lb mirror, so happy days and a good start. Then Chris next door had one, a double, and by this time the wind was proper blowing and the fish were still there. We couldn’t really believe it. I had another take which shot off like a missile, and was obviously a smaller fish by the way it darted about all over the place; it turned out to be a mid-double. The fish were still showing, which was a good thing, but at the same time it surprised us. Chris soon had another double, and by this time the rest of the lake was completely full and the option we had to move was gone, so Chris fetched the rest of the gear to enable us to set up properly. By that time it was blowing a hoolie, but it was quite sheltered where we were, which made setting up pretty easy, but in the back of our minds we still expected the fish to move off at any moment.
After setting up the bivvies it went pretty quiet and the fish stopped showing, and not long after Chris had another one. It turned out to be a 36lb mirror, which put our minds at rest that they were still in the area and having a munch. The night passed with no activity at all. We only heard a couple of fish through the night and started to think that the majority of them had moved out and gone with the wind, but the bailiff told us that no one else was catching either, so perhaps they were still there but not feeding in the strong wind. We decided to give it until noon before making a decision, as we hadn’t seen any fish show since first light, so at midday Chris reeled in and went to look for a move of lake. First port of call was Manor, but as before, no one was moving because a few fish were coming out, so off he went to St Johns. It was exactly the same story on there, and I can’t say I can blame them, because if I was there I wouldn’t move either. As he went back to the motor he popped into the office to see if they knew of anywhere which was fishing or coming free for our last 24 hours, and they told him that Hardwick Smiths was fishing well, with everyone catching. So, he jumped in the motor and went over the road to Hardwick, and stopped on The Conveyer Bank where the wind was really hacking in. There were plenty of fish showing, but not right on the end of the wind. They were all showing in the middle
of the lake, which was covered by other anglers. He sat there for half an hour or so and spoke to some of them who were having a few, and it was apparent there were no fish on the end of the wind; this would have been the area we would have covered from the pegs available. He returned to Oxlease, where I had already packed all the gear away ready for the move (all except the rods), but Chris said there wasn’t anywhere better than where we were, so we stayed put.
No sooner had we decided to stay than a fish showed to my left, which was the first one to pop its head out all day, so I quickly put a solid bag on it and began to set up for the second time. As soon as we finished setting up, the rod was away with a common of about 16lb, by which time a few more fish were starting to show in the same area. My confidence was back up and I decided to put another bag there, and within 5 minutes I had a 30lb 8oz mirror on the bag I had just put out. It was definitely looking like the right decision to stay. Nothing happened for a couple of hours, so I opted to put out a fresh bag, and as soon as it touched bottom, the bobbin on the other rod dropped to the floor. I had to quickly drop the rod I’d just cast and lift into the other, and as soon as I connected with it, it seemed like a dead weight and was plodding. I knew straight away it was a better fish; it very slowly came towards me and didn’t take any line at all, and as it neared the surface, the swirls created were the size of bin lids. It then picked up the slack line off the rod that I had just cast, so as to make things more difficult, but I kept steady pressure on, and as the fish came to the surface ready to net, I knew which one it was and just how big it looked! It was a bit of a struggle getting it in the net because of the other line, but it went in eventually. I then made it safe in the margin and went to fetch Chris. I looked after the fish in the net while Chris got everything ready for weighing and photographing. By this time the two guys around the corner could see what was going on and came to help out with the weighing of the fish. Chris wouldn’t tell me the weight until after the photos. I knew it was big, but he thought that if I knew how big it was, it would have been harder for me to pick up knowing it was over 50lb! I just got on with it and did my best for the photos, but at the end of the photos, disaster struck. Chris had an ‘error on card’ message come up on the camera, so we stopped doing the pictures, put the fish in the retainer, and called Chris Blunt to come and do the pictures, just in case. We also wanted him to see the fish, which for some time everyone thought was dead, because it hadn’t been out in a year. At this point Chris told me the weight of 52lb on the nose – I couldn’t believe it. It was Linear’s first-ever 50-pounder! I was over the moon and on cloud nine. Chris Blunt arrived about 15 minutes later, so we did more pictures just as a storm came over. After going over it all, and the congratulations that were coming in over the phone, which had gone into meltdown, I had to get the rods sorted for the night. We hadn’t caught on bags the night before, so we both decided to spod some bait out and try a baited area for the night, but for my efforts I only had four tench. By morning news had fully got out of the capture to what seemed like everyone, and consequently all the pegs filled up around us, so we called it a day and went home on a high.