The Approach Fisheries is a complex of two lakes in Leeds, home to some of the biggest carp in the UK. Labelled the North’s Premier Big Fish Water, the complex is made up of The Trout Lake and Willows (Previously Erics Willows.)
Those who have been carp fishing for some time will know of Willows and it’s stock of large carp. The lake opened to day ticket a few years ago, and the owners recently gained ownership of the neighbouring Trout Lake.
In early 2020, the whole complex was rebranded as The Approach Fisheries, and there was sufficient investment in facilities for Anglers including an onsite cafe, toilets and showers. Meanwhile the original impressive stock of Willow remains, and carp can be caught across both lakes to over 60lb.
About The Approach Fisheries
Tickets: Day tickets for Trout Lake and membership for Willows
How to book: Just turn up and pay for the Trout Lake. To fish Willows you must be a member and book online here.
The Approach Fisheries Prices: Day ticket £10, 25hr £20, 48hr £40
Best bait: Boilies and pellet
Carp size: Up to 60lb+
How busy: Fairly (particularly through summer)
On-site facilities: Public toilets, bait sales, evening meals, cafe, showers
Address: Dunford House, Green Lane, Methley, LS26 9AQ
My experience fishing The Approach Fisheries
I’ve fished both the Trout Lake and Willows on The Approach Fisheries. Whilst I’ve not fished the complex as much as other local anglers, I’ve fished it enough over the past two years to be able to recommend it others in and around Yorkshire. It’s an excellent complex and one of the best for catching a PB in the North.
Most of my fishing is simply Saturday nights, and despite it being the busiest day of the week, I’ve never had a problem getting a peg on either The Trout Lake or Willows. I quite like having the ability to just turn up for The Trout Lake without booking. It means I don’t have to plan a session weeks in advance.
Fishing wise, I’ve found myself tailoring my approach depending on the lakes and areas fished. This can be anything from distance casting and margin fishing off the boards, to testing yourself amongst the weed that can be prevalent on Willows. It really is a good place if you like a bit of variety in your angling.
In terms of amenities, I like how well it is set up for anglers too, with a new cafe serving all sorts of food and drinks. The guys even deliver food to your peg if you don’t fancy cooking yourself. – I’ve made use of that a few times to say the least!
Fish wise, I’ve done OK in terms of numbers from both lakes. I’ve not got into any of the lakes bigger residents yet but I’m sure that will come with time! – And I’ll keep this article updated as and when I get amongst them!
The Trout Lake
The Trout Lake is the 30 acre day ticket lake on The Approach Complex. It’s home to carp to over 50lb, although occasionally some of the larger original Willows fish show their face, having moved into The Trout Lake following the floods.
Aside from the well known residents, there are plenty of 30lb and 40lb+ fish that come out on a regular basis, so it’s a great option for catching a Yorkshire PB.
The Trout Lake is an old gravel pit in form, and as such as you can find clear areas all over the lake. Like most gravel pits, it’s not uniform on the lakebed. There is an old road that runs central through the lake and is accessible at range from the Gravel Peg on the left or the pegs closest to the cafe. These areas regularly produce fish.
Depths vary greatly on The Trout Lake, with the central part of the lake around 20 foot and the shallows closest to Willows only a few feet deep.
As you approach the lake you’ll see a full bank of pegs on the right hand side, sloping down to the water. This area is great for socials and fishing next to mates. On the other hand if you like to be undisturbed, there are some excellent pegs in the tree line on the left hand side of the lake, commanding the same water. Parts of the lake have a real carpy feel to it.
Use bait boats to your advantage
The Trout Lake is a big old pit, and with minimal cover around the edges, it is heavily affected by winds. With that in mind, hitting the central area of the lake where the fish often show can be difficult.
The owners do allow bait boats on the lake and those using them often experience some success, being able to drop rigs and bait effectively on the bars.
Don’t ignore the margins
Despite the deepest part of the lake being in the centre, it’s important not to ignore the margins too. As you approach the Trout Lake you’ll notice the old wooden platforms that stretch out from most of the pegs.
Fish are regularly caught off the end of these and the depths drop off pretty quickly too. It’s not uncommon to see fish travelling along the margins closest to the cafe and then into the bay on the left hand side.
Willows is the original lake on the complex, and home to some of the best big fish carp stock you’re likely to find in the UK. This lake regularly does 50lb+ fish, with it’s biggest resident pushing 62lb.
At 25 acres in size, it’s a little smaller than The Trout Lake, but offers more challenging fishing conditions due to the stock and the prevalence of weed which takes over large parts of the lake through the summer months.
Obviously this makes for more challenging fishing conditions, but the rewards are there if you put the effort in.
The lake does have a more carpy feel to it than the neighbouring Trout Lake. This is due to the mature treelined edges and two islands that sit in the middle of the shallows. The first few pegs on the lake offer some excellent close range fishing to the islands, and you can regularly see the lakes bigger residents moving through this area in the summer months.
The lakebed is not uniform in any way, a bit like an egg box in many areas of the lake. Obviously this makes for interesting fishing as you’ve always got some features to go at in front of you. Depth-wise, it varies from around 2 foot on the central gravel bar down to around 11 foot in the deepest area in front of peg 7.
Becoming a member of Willows
You do need to be a member to be able to fish Willows. It’s a £50 one-off fee, then standard day-ticket prices to fish. To be eligible for membership, you need to have fished the Trout Lake a minimum of five times before the guys can assess your angling competence for Willows.
Find clear spots in amongst the weed
The weed can be overwhelming at times on Willows, so it’s important to spend time finding the clearer areas of your swim to present a bait. The chances of getting weeded up on the take are extremely high but the guys have supplied rowing boats around the lake for landing purposes.
Finding clear spots in the weed in the height of summer is not always easy. Once again, bait boats are a massive advantage in this situation, particularly if you have a good sonar or winch cam.
Watch the distance marker sticks for signs of fish
Looking out across Willows, you’ll easily spot marker poles that run through the centre of the lake. These are designed to be distance markers, giving you an idea of your max range from either side of the lake.
Fish love to get around them as they are on top of the gravel bar that runs through the centre. Keep an eye on these throughout your session as they’ll often give away the presence of carp. Every now and then, you’ll see them violently topple as carp brush against them.
I’ve had success fishing towards them (not directly on them) after seeing carp nudging them.
Use the lake map to your advantage
For anyone fishing Willows, much of the hard work of finding features has been done for you.
Below is the official contour maps for Willows, showing the depths and various features in front of each pegs. I always have this to hand during a session, using a small piece of card to measure the distance to certain features using the scale on the map. – A handy tip shown to me by one of the resident bailiffs.
Just bear in mind that this is an old man, so whilst the majority of it is correct, some of the pegs have changed including number 17 which is now closed.
Rigs for The Approach Fisheries
I’m a big believer of keeping things simple when it comes to carp fishing rigs and that’s no different when fishing the lakes on The Approach Complex.
Solid bags and simple lead clip systems that quickly drop the lead have worked well.
There are times when you may need to tailor your approach to whatever’s in front of you though. That could be a clean gravel bar when you can get a good presentation with a hinge stiff rig, or it could be flicking choddys amongst the holes in the weed on Willows.
Like I’ve already mentioned, the versatile fishing is one of the good things about fishing these lakes, so make sure you’re prepared for plenty of eventualities.
It’s best to be prepared in terms of beefing up your tackle too. As old gravel pits, there are all sorts of sharp edges under the surface, with big gravel bars full of swan mussels and dense weed. Abrasion resistant shock leaders will help save cut offs in this situation.
Bait for The Approach Fisheries
Boilie and pellet are the key to a successful session on both lakes. These large carp have been reared on high-protein boilie and pellet from a young age so it makes sense to stick with what they’ve seen most.
Sticky Baits Manila and Krill are known to produce good hits of fish on willows, but I’m sure most other boilie companies will produce results on their too.
The Approach Fisheries FAQ
Can you drive to the swims?
Yes you can drive to the swims on both of the lakes. However, this is only for drop-off purposes and cars must always be returned to the car parks surrounding the lakes.
Occasionally the guys will close the roads following winter floods, but this is also made clear on their Facebook page. I have had to use a barrow a couple of times so still take it with me just incase.
Is there a shop nearby?
There is a Gulf petrol station 1.7 miles away from the lakes which has a Londis too. You’ll be able to get pretty much everything you need from there. Just bear in mind that the guys close the gates in the evening at about 6PM, so make sure you have everything to hand before they do.
Can you get food delivered to your swim?
Yes, the guys in the cafe do evening meals and will deliver these to your swim. Just check out the menu and let them know what you want when you turn up.
The Approach Fisheries Gallery
You can check out the The Approach Fisheries stock on their Facebook page here.
About the writer
I’m Rob, Carp Squad’s main contributor. I’ve been carp fishing on and off for 15 years, but the bug is well and truly back at the moment. Hopefully the articles I write on here help you put more carp on the bank!