by Bill and Virginia Rushmer
Article reproduced courtesy of Anglers Mail
Anglers Mail London and South East angling "celebs" check in at the Priory - no not for rehab this time but for some quality crucian action amidst lush Surrey countryside.
Priory Farm Lakes first came to my attention several years ago when summer bag weights topping 300lb were caught. A phone call inviting us to come and fish helped us realise that a visit to this exclusive venue was long overdue.
We met Ian Ford outside the plant centre, complete with toilets and cafe, to be taken on a guided tour of this most unusual and upmarket site. Clearly visible from the car park was Hungerford Lake, our first port of call, where there was plenty of evidence that everyone was into fish - mainly wilde looking commons between 2 and 4lb. It was obvious a lot of effort had gone into keeping the lake in immaculate condition with every swim perfectly spaced put and platformed.
Travelling down the road through woods carpeted in bluebells, we turned down a small lane leading through a locked gate into a car park (plus flush toilet) serving Priory, Hogtrough and Moat Lakes. Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Priory Lake was originally the estate lake serving Nutfield Priory, which still stands at the top of the hill, converted into a luxury hotel with views of the surrounding countryside.
Well matured now, but still much more recent additions are the specimen lake Hogtrough and Moat match lake. Hogtrough with its stock of big bream to double figures, tench to 9lb, carp to 30lb, roach, rudd and crucians has a good number of different depths. On Moat Lake we discovered all the fishing takes place from a central island reached by a small bridge with far banks fishable with an 8m pole. Stopping by the stock pond on the way back, it was amazing to see the carp responding to the vibration and noise of the car expecting to be fed.
On returning to the plant centre, Virginia insisted on a quick loo (yawn, yawn) before a chat over morning coffee when Ian explained that unlike other commercials fishing was by membership only and each member could fish as often as they liked for a year ion the four lakes with security provided by a members-only key to the car park. Judging from what we had seen, this represents excellent value for money.
Upon returning to the car park we met bailiff Ray Smee who confirmed our best plan of action was to split the rest of the day fishing between Priory and Hogtrough Lakes but warned us of the very excited spawning carp triggered by the sudden increase in temperature.
Before we even arrived on Priory Lake, our ears confirmed what we had been told and as we set up, the carp were literally crashing around in the margins by our feet. Although we realised that the increased activity would make for difficult carp fishing, it was interesting to see the stamp of fish which were stunning commons running to upper doubles but known to top 20lb. We therefore decided to target the crucians which are known to weigh in at well over 2lb.
We chose to use a progressive actioned waggler rods with centrepins loaded with 0.15mm line with ultra sensitive insert peacock wagglers holding about three no.4 shot with the bulk of the shot used to hold the float in position with just two no. 8 shot down the line. A 12 in hook length of 0.13mm tied to a size 16 hook banded with a 6mm expander pellet completed the rig.
Fishing no more than two rod lengths out, I baited up with a handful of 4mm pellets, but to my surprise I didn't even have a dip before moving in closer and immediately hitting a bite which tore away at a terrific speed, so typical of the wild carp. Keeping up steady pressure, the fish quickly tired and looking down I thought it was a big common, but as I netted it I could see it was a very long torpedo shaped wilde looking common pushing double figures.
The fish was followed by a smaller mirror and two other commons. Virginia was also having problems getting to the crucians, so we decided to move round to fish an area with tree cover where the carp were not crashing about.
A slight lift on the float resulted in the first crucian - a cracker of about 2lb and Virginia followed shortly after with a slightly smaller specimen. Then I had three good crucians in three consecutive casts before hooking and landing a double-figure wilde looking common. Another crucian followed before I noticed Virginia battling it out with another common.
It was time to move to look at another well kept lake, Hogtrough, which was less than 200yds away. Using the same gear I quickly realised I was in trouble when three skimmers took in consecutive casts fishing halfway to the island.
Whilst changing to a size 12 hook and 11mm expanders with 6mm feed pellets, I looked over to where Virginia was into here first 6lb+ bream, followed shortly by an even bigger fish to her amazement in very close.
It took about 20 minutes before my change of tactics paid off with a tench well over 6lb followed on the next cast by a fin perfect tinca about a pound smaller. By this time we were both into tench and bream of all sizes.
The more we fed the more we caught including those elusive crucians. At one end of the scale roach of about 6oz appeared and at the other extreme carp well into double figures graced out nets. The last hour was hectic with a bite a chuck from a chocolate box assortment of fish. But it wasn't enough for Virginia - she has her eye on a return visit already - though I suspect the plant centre, farm shop and a nice cream tea have something to do with that.