With the promise of good skimmer, roach, rudd and crucian sport, we arrived at Chequer Lane Lake. Located in Upholland in West Lancashire, it is a small lake with 12 permanent pegs, and a small island in the centre. The lake is owned and overseen by West Lancs Ranger Service, which has recently completed work by relaying a gravel/stone path around the lake, refurbished the pegs, including two disabled ones, to a standard that would put some commercial venues to shame. This on a venue that is free to fish.
We arrived at the venue at 6.30am, unloaded the cars, made our way onto the bank and selected our pegs for the day. I was geared up for a pole day and selected the third peg from the car park (pegs are not permanently numbered) to fish in open water. Barry was equipped with feeder and waggler setups, along with pole, so settled on the fourth peg to take advantage of the island opposite.
I was to adopt simplicity in my fishing and my rigs and baits reflected this – a deck rig in open water, and a marginal rig that I could fish shallow in open water. Plumbing up, I found a depth of around three feet on the top-two line, and a flat six feet at 10 and 11.5 metres. Rigwise, for my top-two line it consisted of a Commercial-floats.com CF Maggot float on 0.15mm Guru N-Gauge main line to a 0.11mm N-Gauge hooklength and a size 18 B911 F1 hook and shotted shirt-button style. My 10m and 11.5m lines would incorporate a Commercial-floats.com CF Skimmer float, rigged the same as the maggot rig with a bulk 18 inches from the hook with two droppers.
Baits for the day would be red maggots, Bait-Tech 2mm Carp & Coarse pellets dampened down and Bait-tech 4mm Xpand pellets. I split the pumped Xpands into two batches – one plain, the other coated in Stinkystuff Bubblegum Cream spray.
I started off by cupping in a small cup of the dampened 2mm pellets at 10 metres at the 10 o'clock position and 11.5 metres at the 12 o'clock position. While l left the lines to settle I immediately fished the top-two line, encouraged by the signs of fish topping close in. By feeding six to 10 maggots each put-in and fishing single and double red maggot on the hook I was immediately into small roach and rudd. I continued, but all I could muster was small roach and rudd.
After 30 minutes I moved out onto my 11m line with a plain 4mm Xpand on the hook. Again, I was among small roach and rudd, with the pellets being taken as I was lowering it through the water. In an attempt to try and feed the smaller stuff off, I fed a small ball of micros to get the feed straight down on the deck. I started to hit into skimmers among the, now occasional, roach and rudd. As bites dried up, I fed small balls of micros to bring the fish back. To my joy, my float sunk and I had a fish on. It was not the skimmer, roach or rudd I'd been catching, but a small crucian I was hoping for. A couple more graced the net and a few more skimmers before it was time for a switch
As the session was going on, the breeze we had started with had picked up. Due to the lake having zero shelter and the wind blowing right to left and trying to take 11.5 metres of pole with it, I decided to take a section of my pole off and fish slightly shorter at 10 metres. I also went three inches overdepth to keep the rig and bait nice and still.
Noticing that Barry was hooking regular crucians on a small cage feeder filled with groundbait, I looked in my bag and found half a bag of Bait-Tech Special G Green. I mixed this up with brown crumb and a sprinkling of micros. I threw two small balls in and poured a coffee while it settled. Out I went at 10 metres over the groundbait, alternating between single and double Bubblegum Cream-coated Xpand on the hook. Within a minute I had a very positive lift bite and I was into a crucian. I was back out again with Bubblegum Cream-coated Xpand and another lift resulted in another crucian and we'd cracked it. Groundbait and not micros was what the bars of gold wanted. By topping the swim up with a small ball of groundbait when bites slowed I ensured I was able to stay on the crucians for pretty much the rest of the session, as well as some bigger-stamp skimmers and three very unexpected ornamentals, one being a small koi!
It was with some reluctance that because my nosebag was empty and my hunger was calling time, I decided to call it a day, despite still being among the small but stunning crucians.
Back at the car, a local angler was telling us how the lake is also home to some nice carp, golden orfe and tench! Music to my ears and a return visit is very much soon on the cards. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of commercial fisheries, but to have a day were the only carp caught were the crucian variety and I was in golden heaven! Okay, the fish were small in comparison to a lot of commercial fishery fish, but the condition of them proves that they don't have to be big to be beautiful.