Dipper & the most essential piece of tackle – his alarm clock

A fishers quintessential early morning view

Recently I have been spending some early mornings fishing a lovely old estate lake, and I can think of few places I’d rather be at my favourite time of day’.

I’m not exactly sure when in my life it was, but at some point there came a time when I was not only capable, but also excited to get out of bed and leave the house at some ridiculous hour well before sunrise. In fact it’s funny thinking back because I was rather adept at spending an awful lot of time in the land of nod in my youth, perhaps I got my quota in early? Over the years though I have become good friends with my alarm clock and get a giddy feeling at the thought of setting the alarm before turning in for an early night, even to some degree when it’s to get up for an early shift at work. To me that feeling of getting a head start on the rest of humanity is completely addictive, but of course the sensation and anticipation is hugely amplified and much more powerful if the alarm call is due to the prospect of starting the day beside some water. 

Recently I have been spending some early mornings fishing a lovely old estate lake, and I can think of few places I’d rather be at my favourite time of day. Don’t get me wrong this is a beautiful place at any time, especially when bathed in sunlight accompanied by a light breeze – I can spend quite some time mesmerised by the underside of leaves dancing in reflected light. Though for me the muted colours, scents and quiet tranquility present before the harsh light of day arrives just increase the volume on the whole experience.


Before even reaching the waterside there’s atmosphere, though the fields are still wearing their duvet of cotton wool mist and the giant oak stands overlooking the wooden gate watching on to make sure it’s locked behind you as you disappear into the dense woodland. Walking quietly along the narrow track under the canopy light is at a premium which immediately diverts your sensory focus from your eyes to ears, the rustling of blackbirds turning leaves looking for a tasty bug breakfast and short burst sprints of squirrels busily burying acorns are the soundtrack as you remember to take a dip under a fallen beech, the track then winds its way through the hazel and suddenly opens up to reveal the water, a misty sheet of perfect stillness, fringed with reeds, overhanging willows and heavy with the sense of potential drama.

The carp do like to spend time under the branches

Though I do occasionally fish the middle of the lake opposite the island I tend to favour either end, depending on the wind direction that day. As I do my best to creep along to my chosen spot I more often than not spook a fish or two in the edge, as previously mentioned there are a great number of overhanging willows and the carp do like to spend time under the branches often tight up to the bank, especially before sun up. In fact it’s rare to walk the bank and not see at least one fish near the surface when you arrive, of course being there so early means that even though the lake is never busy with anglers you do have the place to yourself, and as long as you’re quiet the fish are likely to take advantage of a stealthily placed offering.

It’s almost a shame to cast a line, catching a fish will and does momentarily destroy the peace of the scene but the temptation is always too much to bear, and with these fish being so keen on surface baits it only takes a few pieces of crust or a handful of dog biscuits to gain some interest. Swirls and vortexes soon become the sound of slurping as floating baits are plucked and sucked from the film, in the darker water under the trees the fish are invisible, so it seems as if some form of powerful magic pulls the goodies away from sight as large pieces of crust tumble away into darkness before suddenly disappearing completely.

The carp are lean, long and spirited

The fish themselves are not generally monstrous, I’m yet to discover their exact heritage but they are lean, long and very strong. Whether they’re part wild, or king carp reverting to a natural state I’m not sure, I very much like them though and their strength and spirited nature is more than enough to test sensible tackle to its limit.

Tackles & Offerings

On a recent early morning trip I hooked and lost a fish that would without doubt have been my biggest from the lake to date. The fish were enjoying the dog biscuits but one fish in particular was moving much more water as he remained deeper carefully sipping in the meaty treats, I pierced two on the hook and cast out, placing them directly in the fishes path, within seconds I was holding a hooped rod as the fish took a long run, fortunately out into the lake as I wouldn’t have been able to stop him if he’d have shot down the bank and into the trees. The fish stayed out at maybe fifty yards, and although I managed to turn him a couple of times his only movement was sideways, parallel to the bank, I just couldn’t gain an inch, for maybe two minutes we were locked in this stalemate and then the hook pulled free. The fish did have speed but not like the other fish, it was much less flighty and much more determined in its runs. I felt sick to the stomach for a while, but the loss has just added another level to the excitement of the place, even MORE reason to return, a mystery to try and solve.

Cane & golden scales

By mid morning the rest of the world, the walking talking world that is….has decided to get on with their day. I’m brought forward in time a century and detect faint road noise and the rumble of the occasional train through the dense woodland. If the day is a dry one, and especially if the sun is out, one or two other anglers may arrive, usually fishing the first bit of bank they come to, right at the end of the track. This signals my time to leave, which I don’t mind. Generally the fish are now cruising around sunning themselves and ignoring everything anyway.

As I pack up and walk back through the wood I’m already planning my return visit, perhaps I’ll try a different spot, or maybe that wonderbait I’ve dreamt up? The planning and decisions are enough to keep the imagination busy for weeks if need be, but the constant ingredient, the one thing that remains each trip, and one of the most important pieces of fishing tackle for me…………… my alarm clock.

All writing & images Dipper Summer 2021