Covering 10 acres and with 40 pegs including 21 specifically built for disabled anglers, Puma Lake is shallower than you might think averaging betwen four and five feet in most of the open water, although deeper holes of up to eight feet can be found where the lake narrows at the far end. It has four islands which make it an interesting and attractive water with plenty of fish to match.
The lake has a marginal shelf all the way round which runs about two rod lengths out and which varies in depth between two and four feet. Fishing at the bottom of the shelf is always a good bet and has proved to be consistently more successful than fishing down the sides of the shelf itself.
Although it was only developed in 2004, Puma looks as though it is much older with plenty of bankside trees and shrubs and waterside vegetation which provide plenty of cover for both anglers and the fish. It is said that the water got its name after an angler reportedly saw a big cat roaming around the lake while he was fishing, although the sighting has never been varified.
Whilst Puma is not classed by the fishery as a specimen lake, it is home to a lot of common and mirror carp which are caught to 30lbs and which average into double figures. It also holds good numbers of ghost carp to 20lbs and a few leather carp.
Particularly attractive are the true Old English crucian carp which run to 3lbs and whilst the roach average between 6oz and 8oz they have been weighed to 2lbs with several anglers reporting they have caught much bigger fish. The decent sized roach are particularly prone to sweetcorn or small pieces of luncheon meat fished on light tackle.
Puma also holds plenty of nice perch to 4lbs although these are reasonably untouched because most anglers go for the carp. This is a shame because in the winter months, when the carp are often harder to tempt, the perch can give some great sport on waggler fished worm or maggots.
In winter a 3lb hooklink to a Size 18 hook and bait of casters, maggots or low oil pellets accounts for many good bags of silver fish.
Puma is also home to good heads of skimmer and bronze bream with the latter running to over 6lbs. Anglers are advised to fish the open water for the bigger bream using fishmeal groundbait with 6mm or 8mm shellfish boilies or lighter coloured 6mm to 8mm pellets, pieces of luncheon meat or sweetcorn as bait.
Proving increasingly popular with a growing number of anglers are the shoals of green and golden tench. Although the average size tends to be around the 2lb mark there are plenty of fish to 8lbs which are still growing and give a determined and dogged fight.
Anglers who want to target the tench should head for the river bank swims and fish fairly close in with meat, pellets, sweetcorn or maggots.
Indeed, when fishing Puma it is not surprisingly best to fish to the features - out towards the islands, in the margins or along the beds of reeds making your bait a feature by putting in free offerings and fishing to these. When it comes to baits you can't really go wrong - it is more a point of making sure that whatever you use it is properly presented.
Although much bigger than Puma Lake at 16 acres and with 50 pegs, Bridges Lake is similar to its smaller counterpart with common and mirror carp to over 30lbs and a good mix of silver fish. The lake gets its name because four of the seven islands are connected to the bank, which makes a greater selection of swims available to anglers as well as adding interest and variety to the pegs available, especially for anglers who like to get away from it all and fish in relative seclusion from the islands.
Several of the pegs are big enough for two anglers to share whilst some are closer to their neighbours than others which gives the opportunity for anglers to fish with friends without being too far apart.
Unlike Puma, Bridge Lake is somewhat deeper with most pegs giving access to about eight feet of water. Again it has a shelf which runs around the edge of the lake about two rod lengths out which in the main is some six feet deep.
Once again most anglers fishing Bridges Lake tend to go for the common, mirror, ghost and leather carp which grow slightly bigger than those in Puma. There are a good head of 20lb fish and a great many upper doubles as well as a good stock of fish nudging the 10lb mark.
The silver fish are also in much the same size ranges as those in Puma Lake with roach to 2lbs, perch to 4lbs, bream averaging about 2lbs but running to 6lbs and tench averaging 2lbs but running to 8lbs.
However, Bridges Lake has the added attraction that it is also home to decent heads of stillwater chub and barbel which provide year round sport and provide plenty of variety.
The chub average about 1lb in weight but there are plenty of fish which run to 4lbs whilst the barbel tend to be bigger with an average size of 2lbs and the bigger fish touching 6lbs - which means anglers hooking into these are in for a good scrap.
When fishing for the chub and barbel anglers are recommended to use meat, pellets, maggots, sweetcorn or worm although if targeting the barbel use strong enough tackle to handle these hard fighting fish.
As with Puma Lake, Bridges is ideal for anglers who prefer more natural looking venues and with the hard core track running near many of the pegs accessibility is not a problem even for some of the more remote pegs and swims.
Mallard Specimen Lake
(Over 17s only)
One of the original lakes on the Monk Lakes site, Mallard is a five acre water with an island to one end and a total of 14 well spaced pegs - although only 10 anglers are allowed to fish the water at any one time.
Developed as an out-and-out specimen water for serious big fish anglers, it holds carp to the mid-40s and catfish which are said to be knocking the door of 70lbs - so anglers need to fish with tackle strong enough to hold these monsters.
Fishing on Mallard is by prior booking only and junior anglers under 17 are not allowed to fish the water. All anglers must have a minimum 42-inch landing net, a large padded unhooking mat and fish a minimum of 15lb line with a minimum 2.75lb test curve. Only green bivvies are allowed on Mallard.
As with the other Monk Lakes waters, all nets, mats and weigh slings brought onto the lake must be bone dry; bait boats are not allowed and the carp must not be sacked as all fish must be returned to the water in a net or sling immediately after photographing at mat level. Also, as with the other waters, braided line, fixed lead rigs or lead core should not be used.
Because small fish are removed regularly, Mallard Lake has virtually nothing under 15lbs apart from the odd nuisance fish whilst the average size is in the high 20s with 27lbs said to be the average size.
Mirror carp are the predominant species in the lake with a smattering of common carp and it is believed that there are at least 60 big fish in the water which gives anglers plenty to go at and a good chance of scoring a personal best.
Much the same can be said of the catfish which deceive some anglers by lying flat on the bottom of the lake only to bolt off like a rocket once anglers think they have snagged something on the bottom. Some anglers report that fish they have caught have been so big that they wouldn't fit into their large landing nets and have had to be unhooked in the water.
Although many specimen carp and cat hunters like to employ a range of sophisticated modern techniques and rigs, simple techniques are said to work best on Mallard with a Size 8 hook on a 12 inch or longer hook link tending to work best.
Mallard Lake has an average depth of about six feet althjough there is a 10-feet deep gulley off the middle bank about 30 yards out at the back of which is a bar which rises to about three feet below the surface.
Fishing on the slope of the gulley is said to be very effective whilst in summer anglers are recommended to look for the clear patches between the weeds as good sized fish can be taken anywhere on the water.
No 1 Match Lake
At three acres in size with 44 pegs, No 1 Match Lake is a typical modern match venue with a central penninsula russing down the spine of the lake making it an ideal pole, waggler or feeder venue.
Because of the variety of species stocked, anglers are never quite sure what they are going to catch next as the water holds most stillwater coarse species including carp, bream, roach, tench, barbel and chub.
For match or pleasure anglers after carp, No 1 Match Lake holds a mix of mirrors and commons averaging about 4lbs with some topping double figures, as well as F1s. Silver fish include bream to over 4lbs, tench to a similar size, roach and rudd to about 1lb 8oz.
No 1 Match Lake also holds a good head of barbel which run to about 6lbs and provide lively sport, especially for anglers fishing the pole.
About four feet deep throughout its length, the lake has steeply cut banks which drop vertically to the bottom and is most popular as a pole venue with pellets, meat and corn generally being the most popular bait with maggots, worm and casters being particularly effective in winter.
No 2 Match Lake
To be found at the far end of No 1 Match Lake, No 2 Match Lake is again an out-and-out commercial match water with a spine running down the centre of the lake which can be accessed by a metal bridge. This gives the water a total of 46 pegs.
Uniform and symetrical in shape, it again has steeply cut banks which drop straight down to a fairly uniform bottom about four feet deep although unlike its neighbours the ends of the lake nearest the entrance and shop fall off to about nine feet in depth which can make them decent pegs to pick in the colder months of the year.
No 2 Match lake is particularly popular with anglers because, in addition to carp and other silver fish, it holds a massive head of stillwater barbel which, although they average only about 2lbs run to a pole and rod bending 8lbs. This makes No 2 Match Lake popular with pleasure anglers when it is not being used for matches.
No 2 Match Lake also holds the venue match record at 355lbs - a catch taken by Preston DELAC angler Mike McMillan from Peg 53.
As with No 1 Match Lake the most popular techniques tend to be pole fished pellets, meat and corn in the summer followed by caster, maggots and worm in winter.
No 3 Match Lake
Unlike Nos 1 and 2 Match Lanes, No 3 Match Lake is stocked predominantly with mirror and F1 carp with the mirrors going to over 10lbs and a mass of fish in the 4lbs to 8lbs range. It also holds a good stock of bream to 5lbs which can help push up weights.
Although No 3 doesn't hold the match record for Monk Lakes, when Fisheries.co.uk visited the site the match in progress was won with more than 200lbs, which is said not to be uncommon from any of the venue's match lakes in summer with weights of over 100lbs consistently being taken in the winter months.
Once again, No 3 Match Lake has a penninsula which runs down the centre of the lake making it a typical pole venue although fishing the waggler and feeder are also both popular when conditions suit.
As with its two neighbours, No 3 Match Lake has steeply cut banks which drop to a fairly flat and even bottom where four feet of water can be found.
Also like its neighbours, pellets, meat and corn tend to be the most popular baits in the summer followed by caster, maggots and worm in winter, all fished over a bed of feeder pellets, groundbait or free offerings.
Again, because it is such a productive water, No 3 Match Lake is popular with pleasure anglers when not in use for matches because of its potentially high catch rate.
No 4 Match Lake
No 4 Match Lake is different from its neighbours in that it was one of the original waters developed at Monk Lakes and has thereford had longer to mature - which is immediately obvious as you come onto the lake with its abundance of bankside trees, shrubs and water plants.
Also, unlike its three neighbours, No 4 Match Lake doesn't have a penninsula running down its spine. Instead it has a central island with three smaller islands off the bank which separates it from Bridges and Mallard lakes.
It all adds up to an interesting and very attractive match water even if it is less uniform than some out-and-out match anglers would like.
With shelves around part of the edge and depths which vary quite widely from just two feet to six feet, No 4 Match lake is on average between three to four feet deep which makes it an easy water to fish on either pole or waggler.
Being more 'natural' than the other three match lakes it is also popular with small club matches and pleasure anglers looking to get away from it all in pleasant surroundings with plenty of features to fish to.
One of the features of No 4 Match Lake is that the fish are generally smaller than in the other three match waters but there are a lot more of them, which means that bites come thicker and faster than on the other waters leading to bigger bags of smaller fish.
Popular summer baits on No 4 tend to be meat, pellets, sweetcorn and bread with maggots, casters, bread and worm being good baits in colder weather. Fish can also be found anywhere on the water but fishing to the islands and in the margins is always a popular technique.
Monk Lakes has a 2,000-metre stretch of the slow moving River Beult which runs around the far side of the site and can provide some interesting sport for those looking for a change from fishing one of the lakes.
Whilst the stretch is perhaps best known for its catches of pike in the winter months, interesting sport can be had in the early summer months before the vegetation on the banks and in the water gets a hold. When fishing for the pike anglers should use only dead sea baits, lures and immitations.
Because there are several fish farms nearby, the river holds most species of coarse fish although it is as a tench water that it is probably most prolific with fish running to 6lbs being fairly common.
Having said that, the river is also known to hold carp to over 20lbs, many of which have never seen a hook before, as well as good sized bream, roach and perch.
Being slow moving, it is not a very productive chub and barbel water.
The key to fishing the river, which can be accessed through gates on the hard track which runs alongside it, is to stay mobile and keep tackle fairly light - a waggler rod with more natural baits such as maggots and worm giving anglers the best chance of catching, although bread is also a good bait.
For the most part the stretch has steep banks which drop into five feet of water in the main channel and several bays. It is best fished when water levels are dropping as the river reacts quickly to rainfall and there are two pools - one at either end of the length - as well as plenty of features such as reeds and fallen trees.
|Visit Monk Lakes on the Net
Monk Lakes has an expending website which includes a photo gallery of some of the better fish caught at the venue. To be found at www.monklakes.co.uk, it includes further details of the rules, latest match reports, plus information on local places to stay and eat.
How to get there...
From the M20, leave the motorway at Junction 6 and take the A229 for Maidstone Town Centre and then follow the A229 signs through the centre of town for Hastings. At the 'Y' junction with the A274 (Wheatsheaf Public House) take the right fork on the A229 to Hastings.
Follow the A229 for four miles through Loose and Linton and head towards Staplehurst on Staplehurst Road. About a mile past the Stilebridge Inn you will see the entrance to Monks Lake Fishery on your left.
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