This Month’s Guest Feature is by Paul Selman

This Month’s Guest Feature is by Paul Selman

Memorable Moments Part 3 – Harefield Lake July 1993
by Paul Selman















First Harefield session of 1993…..

The first session of a new season on any difficult water is always a test. You go really expecting to blank with the optimistic hope of catching and getting that confidence-boosting first fish under your belt. This year on Harefield was going to be a challenging one as always, as the syndicate contained a lot of well-known and very experienced carp anglers and it was going to be very, very busy!

I’d travelled overnight from Cheshire to arrive early to try to get pole position in the queue at the Harefield syndicate rota changeover on Monday morning – in the hope of securing The Point, a swim which had been fishing well since the start of the season.
I arrived at 7am, only to find the two ‘Gaylords’ and Tony ‘Olly’ Olivo ahead of me – and with ‘the Gaylords’ determined to fish The Point and Olly opting for my second choice swim, the Stick Bar, I had to re-think my options, swim-wise.

It is often said that you should not decide on your choice of swims before you get to the water. Whilst this can useful guidance on the odd occasion, the truth is that on most biggish lakes (and Harefield is forty acres plus) there are a few very good swims, some good swims and a lot of poor ones – with the very good swims always producing carp week in, week out, regardless of conditions. Anyone who ever rejectsThe Point at Harefield – if it is free – is a very foolish man indeed!

The expanse of Harefield.
Looking across to The Causeway.





It was necessary for me to have a good look around to weigh up all the remaining swim options. However, aware that other syndicate members might arrive at any time, I dropped my gear in another of my favourite swims, The Hump on the Causeway Bank. I spent the next hour or so, checking out likely swims with the binoculars. Other than a couple of small fish I spotted in one of the Back Bays, the carp were playing very shy. A moderate south-westerly wind was forecast for the next couple of days and I knew from experience that this would push the odd fish into The Hump, so I gave up on the fish-finding quest and made my way back to my tackle.

As I set-up on The Hump, I kept looking for signs, and scanned the water with my binoculars. It really does amaze me that many carp anglers don’t seem to use binoculars at all – and yet they can be a tremendous aid to fish location.

As I was scanning the little swim to the left of the Hump, known as the Mad, I noticed something moving quite close into the gravel workings on the edge of The Mad which initially with the naked eye I took to be a leaf. Careful scrutiny with the binoculars, however, revealed this to be the tail fin of a feeding carp. Concentrated observation for a couple of minutes also revealed a few other tiny tail portions and the occasional dorsal fin breaking the surface momentarily…. several carp feeding. That’ll do!

The Mad is on the left.
A classic-looking swim!




The Mad is a famous old Harefield swim and acquired its name due to the severe gravel bars which used to predominate in the early 1980’s which resulted in many cut-offs and lost fish – which could make the poor carp angler at the receiving end literally mad. However, over the years as the Harefield gravel works had expanded its operations The Mad had been largely filled in, and all that remained was a foot to eighteen inches of water covering several feet of very soft silt. However, on a warm south westerly wind the carp really did like to move into this small amount of water in the swim.

I was now in a dilemma, for I was torn between moving into The Mad or staying where I was and simply casting across. The danger was someone turning up and dropping into The Mad. I also knew that it was very easy to spook fish out of The Mad, and it could be a couple of days before they returned to the swim once spooked. As the swim was so shallow, a simple cast could spook them and hooking a fish in The Mad could really scare the other carp away from the area. I didn’t want to get marooned in The Mad if the lake got busy.

From experience I knew that because of the gravel features on the bottom and the weed in The Hump, if the fish did move out of The Mad, they would often still hang around The Hump and remain quite catchable., Also, there was always the prospect of new fish working themselves along the Causeway bars and drifting into the swim, especially if the wind remained south-westerly.

Consequently, I took the risk then of staying where I was, and to cast across to The Mad. Due to the deep silt in The Mad, many anglers tended to use a hookbait popped-up straight off the lead so that the hookbait doesn’t disappear into the silt. Martin Clarke has been one such ex-Harefield angler who has enjoyed success from the swim on the method.

However, I was using large bottom baits at that time – of 25mm or bigger – and had absolute confidence in them – even in very deep, soft silt. The carp feed deeply in the silt in The Mad and I wanted them to find the hookbait where they would expect to find it – under several inches of silty soup.

On reflection, most of my silt-caught carp in the last decade or so have been caught on bottom baits sitting in silt. Is there a more natural presentation? I don’t think so, and the carp are less likely to test baits presented exactly where they normally find food, either in the form of baits or natural food such as bloodworm. I often suspect also, that a pop-up is often less clear of the silt than many think, even if fished off the lead or several inches off the bottom. The rig as always with me was pretty simple.

I was a consultant for Premier Baits at that time and was using their brand new bait, Aminos, which had not been introduced into the water. However, I was certain the carp would take an instant interest in it.

Premier Aminos Base Mix
6 eggs
6 drops Black Pepper Oil
8ml per egg Hi Vit Oil

Hi Vit Oil was an experimental fish oil blended around halibut oil. The oil was particularly rich in amino acids and vitamins, particularly E and D. It had that ‘carp are gonna love it’ smell. Black Pepper oil I incorporate into many of my fishmeal baits, and it complemented the Hi Vit oil perfectly. As usual, all the freebaits and hookbaits were glugged in Hi Vit oil to provide a thin coating on each bait. Even today, I still glug all my warm water baits, as I really do think it makes a significant difference when competing against other baits on pressured waters.

I had learnt from bitter experience at Harefield not to fire out any free offerings on top of the fish, no matter how enthusiastically they appeared to be feeding. They could be easily spooked by boilies falling in around them and would often vacate a swim very quickly. I knew just a stringer was my best chance, since it would cause minimum disturbance and introduce some free baits around the hookbait – however casts had to be spot-on first time – as the carp didn’t like leads going in around them either!





I put three of my big boilies onto the stringer. One point about PVA string. I have always used the Gardner Original PVA string which is sold in those yellow packets. This is a source of amusement in the tackle shops I frequent today, and Barbara at Bailey’s tackle gets it just for me as no one else buys it nowadays. I like the Gardner string for a few different reasons. Firstly, it is the only PVA string I have used which if you knot, it totally dissolves all year round. Secondly, you can stretch it. Thirdly you can knot it along its length to stop the boilies coming together either on the cast or when melting. Fourthly it is stiff enough to allow looped and clustered presentations. Finally, it can cope with the strongest of casts, which is important when fishing at range. As long as it remains available I’ll continue to favour it over any other type – even though I have to pay for it! Wipes tears from the eyes…

Out went two hookbaits and stringers to where I could still see carp activity, and one well away towards the hump. Luckily, the few carp I could see through the binoculars seemed comparatively undisturbed by the activity. I sat back and awaited events.

I did not have to wait long. The bait nearest the gravel workings was taken and my buzzer screamed out as there was an eruption in the Mad and a fish charged off angrily in the shallow water off towards the Hump and in the process panicking other fish which shot off in all directions.

Enjoying a joke with Frogger after my
‘early bath.’

I had no fears about losing the fish as there was nothing but silt and a few strands of soft weed to contend with, and it wasn’t too long before I bundled an obvious big fish into the net. Peering into the landing net in the margin, I recognised the fish as one of Harefield’s known thirties, a fish we called Bitemark.

I whistled Ollie and he came down with our friends Simon ‘Frogger’ Lavin, Colin “Gaylord” Nash and Geoff Rendell to assist in the weighing and photographing of the fish which was a tad down in weight at just over 31lb. Ollie thought it must weigh more than it appeared and suggested a re-weighing on his scales. However, I was keen to get the fish back as quickly as I could to see if I could catch any further fish out of The Mad, although I thrown out the necessary blind that I’d caught it out of The Hump.

We photographed and videoed Bitemark in the Loftus Road swim on the Causeway, and I ended up swimming briefly with the fish in the margins as I underestimated the depth somewhat for ‘ The Captor Returns’ shot!

One of the commons.
Geoff Rendell managed not to cut off my
head on this shot!

By the time I’d got dried off, changed clothes and generally calmed down, a couple of fish were still in The Mad, although I suspected the majority of the carp had high-tailed it following the capture of Bitemark. Within four hours, I’d captured two twenty-plus commons which Geoff Rendell photographed for me – without cutting my head off completely! After the two commons the fish moved off down the lake and the rest of the session was a blank. There were no promising swims to move into when they did.

I didn’t care. I’d got that first big Harefield carp of a new season under my belt and my confidence was sky-high.

What followed was quite a remarkable Harefield season for me and I have no doubt that getting off the mark so quickly was one of the factors that led to so much success.

About richardhandel

I would like to give a brief snap shot of my life and introduce myself; My name is Richard Handel and was born in 1965 in Suffolk. I have worked as a UK Operation & Intermodule Manager for a shipping company. I live in Hampshire now and am married with 2 young children, both girls so I am a bit outnumbered even the cat is a girl! I have been fishing since I was about 7 years old. I started on small local rivers in Suffolk, then moved onto gravel pits and then carp fishing. My personal best is a 39.08 mirror, over recent years I have started river fishing again, on the Hampshire Avon, this is a nice break from the carp lakes. My life has turned a big corner this year, the company I was working for relocated their Operation centre to Estonia. I was offered a job at the head office in London. This would have meant a 5 day commute and working in Stratford. As a family, we did not fancy this, as I would hardly spend any time with the children (and the Mrs). So after 22.5 years, I was given a nice redundancy package and with my wife is working full time. I became the house husband. This has meant a complete turn around in my fishing, as I can pick and choose when I go. I have found a splendid new syndicate to fish this year, which includes 5 lakes and some 8 miles of river with only 150 members. It's an amazing change to the way I am able to fish. I am now trying to start my own tackle business and make a bit of a name for myself in the world of fishing, as I have retired from real work. Richard
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