A Dream Session – Mike Salisbury


Leazes Park in Newcastle has always held a real significance for me, as it was the first place I ever fished. Back in 1986, my uncle Peter took me there for my first ever fishing trip, and after spending the day catching numerous roach and perch, it was fair to say I was “hooked”. As I have lived most of my life in the South East of England, my fishing trips to Leazes Park were very sporadic to say the least, and I never was really able to put in any significant time on the bank there. In the summer of 2014 I decided that I was going to catch a carp from there – at the age of 10 I’d seen them leaping out of the water and concluded that they were just impossible to catch, but 29 years later I was equipped with the skills and knowledge to tackle them. This was a successful trip, as I caught my first Leazes Park carp – an amazing 19lbs common. I made a video about this trip for my Youtube channel, and towards the end I commented that I wouldn’t care if I never caught a Leazes Park carp again….but that proved to be a short-lived sentiment.

I was totally fixated on this place and it’s historic lake residents, so in January of 2016 I purchased a membership from Leazes Park Angling Association. This was despite the fact that I live in Essex – five and half hours’ drive away! Nevertheless, I was going to give this a real shot, and my targets were two-fold. One would be to catch a mirror carp as they are definitely in the minority in the carp stocks there. Secondly, I wanted to catch a 20lbs plus carp – something this big from the North East of England is a really significant fish. My first session on the year took place in May, which was unfortunately a blank. That really hurt as I had put a lot of preparation into the trip, and given the distance from home, driving home empty handed was not the one!

When my summer holidays arrived, there was only one thing on my mind – getting the rods out at Leazes Park and trying to achieve my goals. So in the first week of August I found myself doing a lap of the lake, looking for the fish to give me a sign. Predictably enough, I found the majority of them in a bay – which just so happens to be a no-fishing zone which is cordoned off by a floating boom. In 2014 my successful method had been to position my bait just on the other side of the boom and trip up carp as they passing in and out of the no-fishing zone. Therefore I pitched up in exactly the same spot this time, confident that I could repeat the success of 2014.

My baiting approach would be varied, as I planned to fish different baits on each of my rods. Through the local grapevine I had heard that the majority of anglers on the lake were using a nut-based boilie and doing well on it. My other consideration for this rod was that because it was going to be positioned by the no-fishing zone, I needed something irresistible to tempt the fish out. My immediate instinct was to use tiger nuts – carp just can’t seem to resist picking up a tiger even when all else fails. I had a pouch of Growlers at my disposal, so taking a small handful, I created a trail of single tigers leading from inside the no-fishing zone to just outside of it where my hookbait would be positioned. To boost the attraction of the hook bait, I filled a small PVA mesh bag with crushed and dried Growlers, mounted a single Growler on the hair with a small piece of cork stick to lift it up slighty off the bottom, nicked on the PVA bag, and dipped the lot into some Nutty Oil. The Nutty Oil really smells the business, and the oily slick it creates in the water is extensive.

Poloni Pop-ups and Wafters PicFor the second rod, I decided that I’d give these Geordie carp something different to the norm – Poloni boilies. So I baited up a spot close to the island under some overhanging trees with 30 14mm freebies, and mounted a Poloni dumbbell on the hair. I was doing a 48hr session, so I was more than prepared to wait it out, but as it transpired success came very early on! The session was only 90 minutes old when my island rod sprang into life, and I was once again doing battle with the most coveted of prizes for me – a Leazes Park carp! It was the middle of the afternoon, and the park was heaving with locals, a large group of whom had now formed to watch what was going on. Talk about added pressure! I held my nerve and guided the fish to the net – a lovely 15lbs 8oz common was a great start, and it certainly impressed the crowd who were watching! Poloni had done the business, and now I was super-confident.

Things remained quiet and night fell, and by 1am I was in a deep sleep, rudely awoken by a 1-toner from the ATT! The rod by the no-fishing zone had worked, and still half asleep I hauled in another lovely common – this time slightly bigger at 16lbs. Wearily I released the fish, rebaited and got the rod back in position. At 5am it was away again, and the result was a 15lbs common. Three fish already meant I was really pleased with how the session was going…but still no mirror….or a 20. The day then passed uneventfully, and at 11.30pm I was just contemplating getting my head down when the left had rod peeled off again. These Geordie carp were just loving the Growlers!

This one was tantalisingly close – 19lbs! Equal to the fish I’d caught in 2014, but not the real prize I was after. At 6am the following morning I was in again on the same rod, only to suffer the agony of a hook-pull. I only had the fish on briefly so I wasn’t sure if it might have been a big one, or a mirror. I tried to put this to the back of my mind and get on with the task in hand, but my time was running out. LPAA rules state that you can’t do any longer than 48 hours consecutively, and that you mustn’t return within 24 hours. So reluctantly I pulled off later that morning, the plan being to resume the session 24 hours later.

Upon my arrival back at the park,I noticed a strong westerly wind pushing into the dam wall. This was the obvious place to fish, so I baited my rig with a Poloni Dumbell, crushed some 14mm Poloni boilies into a small PVA mesh bag, nicked this on the hook and carefully positioned my trap just a few yards from a drain on the dam wall. I then scattered around 20 Poloni freebies in the area, and set my rod down on the pod with plenty of confidence. About 90 minutes later the rod was away, and after a real battle of attrition with a hard-fighting lump, I couldn’t quite believe what was nestling at the bottom of my net – this was the fish I was after!

Still shaking with excitement and in front of a big group of onlookers who had seen the commotion, I brought my prize ashore to audible gasps from members of the public. Somehow I steadied myself to remove the hook and hoist up a beautiful 20lbs 4oz Leazes Park Common for some trophy shots which were expertly taken by my 9-year-old nephew Oscar who was fishing with me at the time. It’s fair to say we both loved every moment of this capture, and it was great that he was there to see it all – he’s definitely caught the fishing bug now! I couldn’t quite believe my luck, and decided to fish on for a few hours – anything else now would just be a bonus.

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I had noticed some slack water at the corner of the island, so this is where I had positioned my right-hand rod, again opting for the Growlers and Nutty Oil combination on this one. A few hours later I was contemplating packing away when I got a screaming take from the island rod – I was in again! There was an even bigger crowd assembled to watch this one so my heart was in my mouth as it was, and then the fish surfaced. It was a mirror! The rest seems like a blur, and I was soon elated to be holding up a 14lbs 8oz mirror for the cameras. It was a real old character – a typical park lake carp with plenty of scratches and scars it had acquired over the years. When my friend Mark who is an LPAA bailiff arrived, he inspected my pictures and confirmed that it was one of the original residents known as “The Glass Mirror”, which made it even more special realising that I’d caught one of the known fish.

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If I had to summarise this session, I’d have to say it’s my best ever. That might seem daft as I’ve been to other places and caught much bigger fish, but every single carp I catch from Leazes Park is so special to me given the history I have with the place. That’s why I’m reduced to a quivering wreck every time I do battle with one! It might also seem daft to admit that I’m welling up just writing this piece and reliving the experience, but that’s how much it means to me. Leazes Park, or as I call it, “The Park of Dreams” will always be my special place, and I will continue to fish it for as long as I can. You never know, one day I might even break the lake record…….

Mike Salisbury
Carp Team


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