Our cameras were on hand to capture Gary Denniss in the form of his life on Kingfisher Lake...
There are moments in fishing when everything comes together. If your own red-letter day seems a long time ago, or even tantalisingly imminent, Gary Denniss’s exploits will remind you just how good carp fishing can be when the stars align.
The Tuesday after Easter Monday was scheduled to be a busy but routine day of tackle testing at Bluebell Lakes for this website and photographer Mick Rouse. It was Mick’s final week in the job before retirement, and a howling wind was making the legendary lensman earn every penny of his last pay packet.
While tackle was assembled beside Mallard Lake, across the popular Northamptonshire day-ticket complex Gary Denniss was halfway through the session of his life on the ultra-pressured Kingfisher Lake.
He had arrived on the Sunday of the busiest fishing weekend of the year and almost immediately began picking off 30-pounders. By Tuesday morning, with Mick and his cameras about to arrive, Gary – who had appeared in Angling Times that week with a catch of four Kingfisher carp to 31lb 4oz – invited us over to witness a 36lb 13oz common.
The fish was stunning and Gary’s infectious enthusiasm brightened a chilly day, but the action wasn’t over. Within minutes of our arrival, another one of his rods pulled up tight and another beautiful common of 35lb 15oz was added to his tally.
In under 48 hours he had managed those two commons, plus a 38lb 8oz mirror and two other commons of 34lb 14oz and 36lb 11oz.
Gary’s joy – both at the captures and to have Mick photograph them – was a pleasure to witness. This was a very good angler – the godson of pioneer carper Maurice Ingham, no less – at the top of his game, doing what some of us forget to do; drinking it all in with a mile-wide grin.
“I turned up late afternoon on Easter Sunday and took my chances,” said Gary as he spoke to us in the swim just moments after releasing the last fish. “The lake was surprisingly quiet for the date and I ummed and arred about two different spots, but I was strangely drawn to this particular swim. It had produced for me two weeks ago when I had four fish from it.
“I didn’t need to do any leading around at all. The spots that I’d fished two weeks ago and caught from have increased in size – fish had obviously fed on them.
“To begin with I probably put out about a kilo of boilies over the three rods, which I fished reasonably close together at the same range. I put the bait out with the baby Spomb, the smallest of the three, which I really like as it makes so little disturbance. Yes, you have to make more casts to get a decent amount out but they’re just little plops and I think you get a better spread with more casts and fewer baits. My preferred method is the throwing stick but the seagulls don’t allow it on here!”
Fishing from a swim known as First Point, Gary’s spot was well within casting range even in the taxing conditions, and he was able to keep the bait going in accurately.
He said: “I always introduce more bait after I’ve had a fish. On a previous session I had a fish before I’d leant the spod rod against a tree, so it doesn’t bother me one bit. I don’t think it puts fish off, in fact I think it’s like ringing a dinner bell. They are pressured fish, they’ve become accustomed to the noise of things that happen on here and the sound of that bait going in indicates food. They were taking literally within 30 seconds of the last Spomb hitting the water directly above the hookbait. That hasn’t happened during this session but it’s certainly not done me any harm.
“I use Key Baits Solutions All Season Mix, which has a monster crab additive and stinks to high heaven! I’m just using 15mm boilies, no variant, no particle. I’ve found over the years that’s been the most productive method on here. I’ve had three fish on the foodbait pop-ups which replicate what I’m feeding and I’ve had a couple on a faded washed-out yellow pop-up.
“Rig wise, I’m using stiff hinge rigs with the baits sticking up about an inch and a half. When I first came in this swim earlier this year the spots were very weedy and I did fish chods over them to present the hookbaits, but over the last two or three weeks the spots have become much, much clearer and I’m able to present my preferred stiff hinged rig.”
With his tried-and-tested tactics, in a swim he knew inside out, it didn’t take long for Gary to get among the fish.
He recalled: “I had the third rod in position at 4.30pm and at 5.30pm the left-hand rod produced the 34lb 14oz common. It was very, very instant action for Kingfisher. I’ve never ever had a bite that quickly on here, I’ve always had to wait between six and 12 hours.
“That’s the thing with this place, it can be very unpredictable. You don’t ever quite know whether you’re in for a big hit or not. The conditions can tell you it’s going to go absolutely mad and it doesn’t happen. And at other times you’re not really feeling it, there’s high air pressure and flat-calm conditions, yet it can go absolutely mad as well. It’s a very strange water. My friend Martin Locke from Solar always said it’s the one and only water where he’s not found any pattern whatsoever, and I totally agree with that. I will never replicate an epic session like this.”
Those words proved not entirely accurate just over a week later, but we will return to that in a moment!
Back at the scene, Gary continued: “The air pressure is so unbelievably low. My friend Simon has a barometric app on his phone and he was pinging me texts across the lake during the session showing it was dropping and dropping – I believe it was down to 968 millibars at one point, which is ridiculous.
“The next bite came at 1.30am and the weather was absolutely horrendous. The wind was straight into my face with very heavy rain and it was actually quite painful. It was a big fish, I knew it was a big fish, and it was pulling very hard, and the rain was hitting me in the face like pins and needles. After a 15-minute battle a beautiful mirror rolled into the net, a fish known as Penny Scale I’ve been lucky enough to catch in the past, but now a lot bigger at 38lb 8oz.
“The whole of Easter Monday was very quiet. There was only a small handful of fish showing, no line bites, nothing at all. At around 10am I Spombed out about another kilo of bait because I felt there were fish out there and they did want some bait. I wound all rods in mid-afternoon and freshened up the hookbaits and put out about another kilo of bait.
“I saw a couple of fish on dusk and it became a lovely clear, still night, and again at 1.30am a blinding take and a good battle produced another big common of 36lb 11oz.
“This morning I was up at first light as I always am. I saw one fish and it was nowhere near me, but I was on the phone to Simon when I had a bite producing a 36lb 13oz common. Not an epic fight, but a nice, slow plodding battle and an absolute stunner. It was an honour to have that fish photographed by Mick. As we talked one of the other rods went and that produced a 35lb 15oz common. It has been an unbelievable session!”
An unbelievable session, no doubt, but it wasn’t the end of Gary’s incredible run. Exactly a week later, Gary texts to tell us he’s had two more 30-pounders. “That’s seven bites, seven thirties, in two trips,” he exclaims. The next morning, another message: “Had two more in the last hour, both commons – 37lb 2oz and Patch at 42lb 12oz. Truly the stuff of dreams.” We couldn’t agree more.