Saturday, 29 December 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Xmas Maggotdrowners Fur and Feather held at Monk Lakes was a hugely enjoyable event where I had an opportunity to not only meet up with old friends, but also put faces to names and make new acquaintances. As far as the fishing was concerned I actually managed to catch something – unlike the last Fur and Feather I fished when I DNW-ed!

On this occasion, I managed 9 lbs. of fish on the pole which was a reasonable catch for me, but in match terms, I think the term is……………… “battered like a kipper!”.

Guess who I was pegged next to? Yes, the eventual winner Mike Jameson (Omega Mike)! A constant stream of fish came one after another to his net all through the match – not even my interrupting him while he was landing a fish (to borrow a marker pen for my float) stopped the incessant flow!

Good anglers always seem to catch fish – but it is the mark of a great angler that they make it look so easy. Mike falls into the latter category. It seemed effortless, a display of Waggler fishing at its best. I couldn’t believe the distance Mike was able to not only deliver his waggler rig – but detect bites at such long range and bank the fish so quickly. It was well worth turning up just to be pegged beside him and see just how it should be done.

I must say, Mike fired my enthusiasm. Having spent most of the past forty-odd years sat behind a set of carp rods and bite alarms, I’ve only just got to grips with pole-fishing, a relatively simple way of fishing, but like all fishing, with its own set of skills and disciplines.

I am fairly ashamed to say I have done very little waggler fishing. In the grand scheme of things, it is one of angling’s ‘core skills’. I guess if you went on a 'Fishing Course', one of the first things they’d teach you is how to fish the waggler, a most fundamental and basic form of fishing with rod and line.

My thoughts (at witnessing Mike’s display) were “how can I call myself ‘an angler’ if I lack this most essential and basic skill set?” After the match I made a mental ‘note to self’ to correct this deficiency and in my usual fashion set about investigating waggler fishing and the principles involved – for there are principles in all forms of fishing and it is essential to understand them if progress is to be made. I have never considered blind imitation of successful anglers - to equate to proficiency; finding one’s own path is not only far more rewarding but also gives an understanding, possession, and ownership which is unique to self and self alone.

[Those wishing to skip this bit and just want to read how I got on at Monk Lakes – feel free. It’s probably a load of rubbish anyway; but as I’ve said elsewhere, it helps in organising your thoughts about something to write them down]................

The Principles of Float-Fishing

This in no way is intended to be a definitive treatise on float-fishing; these are merely my initial thoughts on confronting what for me is a different way of fishing. The chances are I am completely wrong about all of it. Yet it is the path of the thought processes which is important – not necessarily where that path ends up.

In fishing, paths of discovery rarely have an end anyway.

I take my starting point from the (limited) experience I have of pole fishing. There, no casting is needed, the rig merely being lowered on top of the fish’s heads; but the principles of bite detection and rig presentation hold true – albeit in a different context.

Bite Detection

The idea of a float rig is that when a fish takes the bait, the float dips or disappears enabling the angler to strike. A fairly simple idea you would have thought but in practice full of complications.

Imagine you are fishing a peg six feet deep. Consider a rig with just a float on the line and a hook six feet down from the float. There are no shots between the hook and the float. What would happen is that the float would lay flat and there would be slack line between hook and float (the baited hook may or may not sink to the bottom depending on its buoyancy), enabling a fish taking the bait to move many feet without anything happening on the float at all. That’s why split shot are involved. Weight is needed to counteract the buoyancy of the float by making it ‘cock’ appropriately, and weight is needed to get the bait down to the fish as some baits have almost neutral buoyancy in water (or will even float). But how is the float to be ‘married’ to the shot and indeed what sort of float is required?

I long since learnt from my years of carp-fishing the necessity of understanding how rigs work, what their uses are, and when you should use them. In carp-fishing, there is no, one, rig which does for all situations, and whilst most of the fancy and bizarre creations called ‘carp-rigs’ are not required, there are a few different rigs which work in different ways and understanding the principles behind them is vital. Basically, the choice is long and supple – or short and stiff. The long supple rig is used when you need to give the fish enough slack to take the bait properly before being hooked; the short stiff rig is intended to hook the fish ‘as soon as’ before the bait is spat out. It all depends how the fish are taking the bait on the day and this depends on factors generally associated with competitive feeding, hunger, and the size and quantity of feed around the hook.

The Principle is the same whether it be a carp-rig – or a float rig and the keyword is STIFFNESS.

In order for a float to register a bite, there has to be a tension (or stiffness) between the hook and the float; if there is any slack at all, tugging on the bait won’t move the float and you won’t see the bite. Ideally, the perfect material for a float-rig is a fine, long, piece of wire. As soon as the hook is moved – movement will be seen on the float. This is completely impractical of course and the tension (or Stiffness) between hook and float must be enabled in other ways.

In pole fishing, this is achieved by split shots either spaced along the length of the rig, or bunched towards the hook-end. The weight pulling on the line creates a tension (or stiffness), the only ‘slack’ in the rig being the distance from the last shot to the hook – by default, about six inches or so, although this shot is moved up and down according to how the fish are taking the bait. If they are feeding confidently the shot can be a long way from the hook; if they are finicky, the shot needs to move closer. This distance thing between hook and shot controls the amount of ‘slack’ there is in the rig. It equates to the length of hook-length a carp angler might have on his carp-rig.

But what sort of weight are we talking about? How much?

I am guided by the ‘rule of thumb’ used in pole fishing, that of “0.1 of a gramme for every foot of depth”, hence six feet of water requires 0.6 grammes of shotting for the float.

I turns out that 0.1 of a gramme equates to a single No.6 split shot, so the float rig should have the same number of No.6s spaced down the rig for every foot of water.
Forget about ‘up-in-the-water-rigs’ for the moment.

Based on this, I tested a number of waggler floats to see how many shots they take with a benchmark of (say) six foot depth of water (which most commercials seem to be). So shotting will be 6 x No.6s plus whatever else is needed to cock the float appropriately. If I knew I was going to fish a water up to nine feet deep I’d test the float with 9 x No.6s plus whatever else is needed to cock the float.

The basic principle is that a number 6 shot must be fixed to the rig at one foot intervals in order to create tension or stiffness to the hook.

Waggler Floats

The waggler float is fixed at the bottom end only. This does two things:
1. It avoids tangles on the cast.
2. It helps sink the line below the surface drift.

The longer the float, the greater its ability to combat surface wind and drift. A technique that must be adopted of course is that several turns of the reel must be made to sink the line near the float, otherwise great bows in the line occur – a problem I discovered when I first tried the rig out...............

Monk Lake, Match Lake 1, Thursday 27th.December

There were matches on lakes two and four on the day so I plumped for lake 1 – where the Fur and Feather had been held; just for the hell of it I decided to fish exactly the same peg I’d drawn in the match to see what I could catch compared to what I’d caught in the match although a fair comparison was out of the question since conditions were much milder than on match day and I had the whole of this side of the lake to myself. Lack of angling pressure aught to have increased my catch-rate.

At peg 37 the wind was blowing a ‘hooligun’ (although it looks calm enough in the photo). Great gusts were charging down the lake from left to right and I should have thought it would have been a nightmare trying to pole-fish on such a day. I set up my John Wilson Avon/Quiver at thirteen feet and coupled it with a Shakespeare Powerplay loaded with 3 lbs. Line. The float was a Drennan insert peacock quill carrying 3½ AAA – but in fact I had pre-tested it and loaded up with 2 x AAA + 1 x BB + 7 x No.6. the bulk of the shot were grouped around the base of the float and the No.6s spaced at one foot intervals. Plumbing-up was done by pinching an AAA on the loop of the six-inch hooklength so effectively I had six inches of hooklength hard on the bottom. Three cups of red and white maggots were catapulted out in front at the start.

Co-incidentally, the match on Lake 2 kicked off at the same time as I made my first cast so I determined to stop fishing at the final whistle and see how many I’d caught.

My first cast landed with a splosh and on reeling in I was confronted with a tangled mess. Not a good start. Five minutes lost sorting the thing out and trying again. Casting was completely different to what I am used to. Give me a 3 lbs. TC carp rod and a 3 oz lead and I will throw it 100 yards – cast a waggler rig and it’s a different story – it’s essential to ‘feather’ the cast to help straighten things out so the rig settles nicely, the wind having only minimal effect on the float once it settles due to several sharp turns of the reel with the rod-tip sunk beneath the surface to sink the line.

Things were slow to start and I had to introduce several cups of maggots before I had the first bite – the float suddenly disappearing from sight. My strike only succeeded in rasping the clutch. I was quite surprised at how much resistance there is on such light tackle – no doubt due to the long length of sunk line. I adopted my usual practice of setting the clutch of the reel before casting but realised this must be screwed tight in order for an effective strike to be made. Despite this early ‘lesson’ I still forgot to screw the damn thing down at intervals during the day and missed several fish because of it. The protocol is: screw clutch up tight, cast out, hook fish, loosen clutch; and then before casting out again – screw clutch tight again.
Eventually however I got ‘off the mark’ and was amazed at what fun the light tackle was. Fish of between half a pound to two pounds give a more than a respectable account of themselves on fine lines, tiny hooks, and light rods. I’ve had less fun with double-figure carp and ‘heavy gear’ on occasions.

The thing I like about Monk Lakes is that it seems such a ‘fair’ venue. The lakes are absolutely stuffed with fish and I doubt you’d have a complete blank even on the harshest of days – provided of course you fish with a reasonable degree of proficiency, although few can hope to match the skills of Mike Jameson, Peter Morton, and several other Maggotdrowners. On a cold, harsh, winters day, what better than to catch fish at regular intervals throughout? I doubt I had to wait more than ten-fifteen minutes before getting a bite although it is testament to my ineptitude that my conversion rate of around 75% was less than satisfactory – mostly due to not sinking the line properly and striking against a great slack ‘bow’.
I also fed much more than I did in the match. The rise in temperature definitely got the fish feeding and at no stage was I aware of over-feeding, something I’m acutely aware of in the winter.

As you can see, I got a fair selection of what lake 1 has to offer – Bream, carp, F1s, and what I think are Ide. I am not familiar with Ide so I am not certain of their identification but I enclose a picture of one of several I caught. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to how they can be i.d.-ed. These fish looked very much like Roach but weren’t if you know what I mean. As I say I have never seen Ide so I don’t know what they look like.
I had one that was well over the pound and put up a fair old scrap – they were well worth catching.

Curious thing during the day was the pattern of shoal movements.
At the start I caught three or four Bream, followed by a blank spell – then one or two carp, then a blank spell – then it was F1s for a while – then another blank spell as they moved off – then it was Bream again, then something else. The fish definitely shoal together and obviously cruise around with their mates, the interesting thing being you never know which shoal is going to be next. I assume the fact the shoals were here-and-gone meant that I failed to hold them with feed; chances are I could have fed even more and prolonged their stays.

On a match lake like this there is every chance the fish have cotton-ed on to the fact there is free feed if they cruise about the lake for it will be somewhere in every peg that is being fished. In an overstocked venue such as this food is at a premium. Although I could be wrong, I doubt the fish in the match lakes will ever grow very large because there is simply far too many of them for the food available – even given the regular contributions made by anglers.

At the ‘weigh-in’ I’d had 21 fish – far, far less than Mike and most of the Fur and Feather participants had, although I considered the session a learning-curve on what for me was a new method. Averaging between half and three-quarters of a pound each I should think my total was somewhere around ten-and-a-half and fifteen-and-three-quarter pounds; probably nearer 12-13 lbs. Or so. This would have still only put me in 13 th. Place or so! Guess I’ll never make a match angler!

Huge fun. Will certainly be doing it regularly in the winter months when the big carp are ‘asleep’.

Monday, 26 November 2007

The Little wooden reel, father, grandfather, and me

Sunday, 25th.November 2007
The Willow Pool, Faversham, Kent

I have in my possession an old wooden Nottingham ‘Star-Back’ reel which is getting on for 75-80 years old. My father used it – and taught me to fish with it, and his father used it to teach him in the years leading up to the Second World War. To say it has more than a sentimental value to me is an understatement.
For many years my father followed my carp-fishing career and once or twice even came with me – but unfortunately we were never able to catch a carp of which my father had the greatest esteem and respect for in those days. Carp to him (and virtually the rest of the angling world) were thought to be nigh-on impossible to catch up until the mid-nineteen fifties – early sixties or so. It was my dearest wish that one day I would be with him when he caught his first ever carp; sadly this was never to be before he died of lung cancer, two days after retiring from work..........
Every so often I pick up this reel and turn it in my hand. The feeling of knowing my father and my grandfather (whom I never knew) used it to enjoy some of the memorable moments of their lives is both satisfying as well as upsetting in that I was unable to share those moments with them. To have been with my father when he could have used it to catch his first carp would have filled me with utter joy.
I decided therefore that if neither of them could now fulfil this objective – then I would go and do it for them with the very reel that is the everlasting connection between all three of us.

Sunday – late morning
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Keeping ‘gentleman’s hours’, I arrived late in the morning and set up in Peg 2, starting off with the pole with the intention of going onto the float-rod later. The weather during the week had been very cold with sharp frosts and temperatures hovering at, or below zero in the morning; fortunately, the Saturday was milder and I hoped the rise in temperature would bring the fish on the feed. I firmly believe that in even the harshest weather, fish will be caught from the Willow Pool – it is absolutely stuffed full of fish – far too many in fact, and I expect the club who control it will have to carry out a certain amount of ‘thinning-out’ to create a more ‘balanced’ environment. Although healthy, the fish seemed not to have grown at all since I last fished it almost exactly one year ago.
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I started catching from the off. One cup of pellets were introduced via a ‘feeder-pot’ and a single pellet was fished on a size 18 Tubertini. The pellets I had ‘pumped’ the night before and left them in my bait-box covered with kitchen towel to stop them going soggy. This seemed to work well and a nice rubbery bait was the result.
Peculiarly, it was carp all the way, one after another, each fish burying the float in a most confident and satisfying manner. They were typical of the Willow Pool carp being all shapes and sizes, from little four-inch babies up to fish of a couple of pounds or so. I even had some ornamentals including this koi-like sample.
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By mid-afternoon I’d had enough of this carp-fest ‘fix’ and put up the float outfit.
The rod was a John Wilson Avon (Quiver) rigged at thirteen feet, coupled with the old Wooden reel which was loaded with 5lbs. Bs Maxima. To this I tied a length of 0.1 mm. Preston Powerline using a four-turn water knot, a pole float was fixed waggler-style using a drennan ‘quick-change’ adaptor and a combination of no.8 shot and no.10 Stotz completed the rig.
The reel looks (and feels) like a right old warrior. Damaged at some point in its history, my father had attempted to repair it using some Duralumin on the back – a functional if unappealing replacement to the brass ‘starback’ which had obviously fallen foul of my father’s notorious clumsiness! The reel arbour rotated however – albeit noisily, the steel spindle I suspect having been straightened more than once in its life, but as I screwed it to the rod, I couldn’t help recalling the picture of my grandfather William fishing with it at the Hampton Court Longwater – somewhere around 1930 or so. It is an image which will (and does) remain with me always.
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As I lobbed the single grain of corn a rod-length out and scattered a few grains around the float I imagined my father and granddad William getting as excited as I was............ I didn’t have long to wait. The little float buried, I struck and felt as if I’d hooked the bottom, and steadily the little reel began to revolve as the little carp sped off across the pool. Although the event was entirely unremarkable in its execution, and indeed is something emulated and repeated by millions of anglers up and down the country, the symbolism for me was both poignant and satisfying.
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As I lay the fish on the grass, I secretly hoped that they were pleased that the little reel that we have all used in our time had at last landed the fish for which they held such regard. Certainly, carp are not valued as highly now as they were in my father’s and grandfather’s day – but a carp’s a carp as they say.

I feel chuffed to bits!........

Friday, 22 June 2007

The RIP (River in Picardie) - Trip 4

Ever since my last trip to The River in Picardie (The RIP) in France, I have been champing at the bit, wanting to get back. Not for many, many years have I become so obsessed with my carp-fishing, and since the very first trip with my good friend Phil Baker almost a year ago to the day, I have plotted and schemed the downfall of the river’s residents.

I knew this year would be a very busy year for both Phil and myself. Phil planned to move house, plus, there were family holidays, a planned week on the River Saone way down South after carp and cats, and work commitments crowding his diary. For myself, a trip to Australia, lack of holiday leave, and family commitments preventing me from going. All in all, things have been very difficult. The upshot was, that the earliest I could get out there was mid-June – and this, a ‘solo’ trip on my own since Phil couldn’t make it.


All sorts of schemes and ploys were in the offing, both tactics-wise and equipment-wise. For a start, since I was ‘flying solo’ as it were and travelling and fishing on my own, Chris and I decided ‘Bluetooth’ communications would be a very reassuring piece of technology. Christine was worried about me driving in France unaccompanied as I am a notoriously pathetic navigator. Her declaration I would barely find my way out of Sittingbourne – much less to Dover, on the ferry, and all the way down to the river in Picardie, being less than reassuring! Keeping in touch in the car ‘on the road’ at least enabled us to speak to one another and she would know I was ok. Mind you, the ferry crossing was scheduled for 2.10 a.m. (the cheapest I could get) so I doubted she was going to stay up all night while I made it down there!

I (may) have mentioned before the difficulties of Drive and Survive carp fishing trips, and the problem of toileting opportunities ‘in the field’ with no facilities. Previously, these had at best been rudimentary – a private and secluded spot in the woods beside the river, an unpleasant and often inconvenient arrangement. The SAS may well be happy to defecate into plastic bags and take their waste with them, but I was determined to devise some sort of ‘Porta-Potty’ and a disposal system which would be both more comfortable, as well as convenient. In the end I came up with this:

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I got an old bait bucket and some pipe-lagging, removed the handle from the bucket and cut the lagging so it would fit around the rim. The idea was to fill the bucket with four to six inches of water, deposit the contents within the privacy of the bivvy, dig a hole in some remote location away from camp and empty the contents into the hole, the ‘Potty’ being washed out in the river afterwards. Anti-bacterial soap being an essential part of the sanitation system. Hopefully, the days of constipation and anxiety trying to find somewhere to have a cr@p would be over.

With an improvement in sanitation facilities (nicknamed ‘The Thomas’ after the well-known victorian plumber Thomas Crapper)

I also decided to raise the level of my field-hygiene by including a solar shower on my trips. This is basically a five-gallon plastic bag with a short hose and sprinkler on the end and a tap to turn the thing on and off. The bag is filled with river water and left in the sun for three hours – black side up. The bag absorbs the heat from the sun and heats the water. By hanging from a convenient tree, a refreshing and cleansing shower can be taken – although the box in which it came warned that so efficient is it in absorbing the sun’s rays, the temperature of the water can rise very high indeed!

Shower gel, deodorant, and shaving equipment would now also accompany me on the trips, whereas previously I’d ‘gone dirty’ (apart from one occasion when Phil and I had ritually bathed in the river when temperatures were over 100 degrees!).

A further measure was a mosquito-net. I had been severely bitten by the little blighters last July and had returned home covered in itching bites which had driven me half-mad in the week following. I was determined to at least provide some protection. All my fishing life I had accepted mosquito-bites as part and parcel of carp-fishing beside water; an inevitable result of the location where the activity takes place. These days however, I feel the need to demonstrate my manliness far less and accept anything which makes a fishing trip less stressful. This net would be suspended from the ribs of the bivvy and would completely envelope the sleeping-bag. Evacuation in an emergency (when I had a take in the middle of the night) was an anticipated problem which I would just have to deal with – I anticipated getting out of the thing underneath, although the efficiency of this method had yet to be put to the test!

Bait and Tactics
Phil and two of his friends had a trip to the river in April while Christine and I were away in Australia. The tactics they employed and the results they obtained caused a complete revision of our approach.....

Previously, Phil and I had fished the area of ‘The Beach’ at short range and done very well, taking fish to 31:05. The last trip we had in November last year was the most successful, casting baits further upstream in front of a wooded area – where we decided to concentrate on future trips. Phil and his friends fished this area – but further out, in mid-river, taking several upper twenties and two fish over thirty pounds. Phil’s assessment was that this was where the bigger fish resided.

For this trip I decided to go equipped with as much bait as I could afford. Phil suggested the big fish of the river responded to large amounts of bait and a more-or-less constant stream of feed was required to first get them feeding – then picking up baits. Amounts of ten to twenty kilos minimum for a weekend trip were mentioned! With the cost of boilies being so high I decided to try and economise a bit by using something cheaper. Maize, Tiger Nuts, Peanuts? I eventually decided on Halibut Pellets as a suitable mass feed to:

be heavy enough to not get washed downstream with the wash of the huge barges, and
be big enough and heavy enough to be catapulted at range. What I went with was this:
3 kg. Of 18 mm. Matrix boilies
2 kg. Of mixed boilies (tutti-fruitti, ball pellets and strawberry)
5 kg. Of 20 mm. halibut pellets
1.5 kg. Of ‘Time Bomb’ pellets
1.5 kg. Of 10 mm. halibut pellets
a few kilos of hemp…………………… amounting to about 15 kgs. Of feed altogether!
Frank in ‘Catcherbaits’ in Sittingbourne got me 20 mm.pellets which seemed to be just the job, they were big enough and hard enough to resist the Crayfish which seemed to have been a problem on the April visit – in fact the presence of Crayfish was quite significant.

Huge carp in French waters do not get huge by eating minute food items such as water lice etc. Large organisms rich in protein (such as Crayfish) are what do it for them and where you find the Crays – you will find the big carp. The other water I was familiar with in France – Maison du Lac Bleu held similar populations of these crustaceans and I was convinced they played a significant part in their diet and in the location of where they fed. We had not previously encountered Crayfish in the margins of the river – but it seemed they were present further out and this may well hold the key.

Every day prior to the visit was a torture – I just couldn’t wait to get out there. Daily visits to the Internet Meteo France site to see what the weather was like locally only made me even more eager!


2.15 a.m.

The weather is very kind for the crossing , calm seas and light winds.
There are lots of sports car enthusiasts on their way down to Le Mans for the motor race, although one or two of them notice I have fishing tackle in the car and are interested in where I’m going and what I’m doing.

I had to hand over a 5 Euro note for a cup of coffee and blanched at the meager change I was given! I think I got something like €1.75 back in change! What a rip-off!

It is quiet on board. Several passengers are stretched out on seats trying to sleep although it hardly seems worth it for the short hour-and-twenty-five-minutes crossing. Perhaps they have motored a long way and are knackered.

As always there were the usual last minute panics which seem a feature of these French trips. No matter how much thought I put into the planning and how many lists I make there is always something I’ve forgotten or omitted.

Phil texted me from the river Saone and he has had a very good result in the form of a forty-four pound mirror. Fantastic news! He is chuffed to bits as I am for him.
I’m already very tired and my eyes are sore. Perhaps I just got over-excited about the trip (as usual). I spend the crossing checking out the route down to the river, hoping I don’t get lost. That done, I pace up and down the ship, trying to while away the time. Despite the crossing being short, time seems to be dragging and I have trouble occupying the minutes waiting to cross.

I wish Phil were with me and we could wind each other up about the fish we are going to catch!

There is still half-an-hour to go before we berth in Calais and already I wish the journey were over. I just want to get on the Autoroute and on the way down to the river.

The coffee is foul and leaves a sour taste in my mouth; not only that, it goes through me like a dose of salts and I have to pay a futher visit to the smelly toilets. If this is “The Pride of Dover” I don’t think the citizens of Dover have much to be proud of.

Thursday, 1.20 p.m.

The journey down was without incident and I did manage to find the river – contrary to Christine’s evaluation that I can hardly find my way out of Sittingbourne – much less to a remote location in France!

I was very tired by the time I got to ****** and had a good look at the river before setting-up. It had been months since I had been here and the new Spring growth was as verdant as it was beautiful. First job – find Phil’s swim from where he caught a thirty last time. This was easier said than done because the banks are a veritable ‘jungle’ of undergrowth and it is impossible to even see the river from the path, much less swims where people had been fishing. In fact no-one has fished this bank (as far as we know) for there is no-where from which to fish. Phil and Mark had to cut ‘holes’ in the trees to poke rods through.

After much to-ing and fro-ing up and down the bank, I eventually located the ‘swim’ – a muddy little hole that I think could be quite difficult to cast from because of the presence of overhanging trees. Before moving the gear in however, there was a trip into town I had wanted to make.

I was determined to sample some of the local wine, cheese, and bread, and thought I had espied shops the last time I was here. This proved to be unfounded – all there were, was a ‘cafĂ© de peche’ which was boarded up and had obviously gone out of business. So no wine and no cheese. Disappointing.

I walked back to the car and began the long, arduous process of moving the mountain of equipment down to the swim. This proved to be harder than usual, not because I was dog-tired due to the long journey and lack of sleep, but I had to crash through a seeming impenetrable ‘jungle’ of undergrowth that wrapped its creepers around my legs, placed fallen (and unseen) branches in my path to trip me up, and slashed tree branches across my face and eyes as I desperately tried to force a way through!
In the end , I just had to head-down it into the thicket and force a way through like a mad elephant! Eight times I had to do this, and although the distance was short, I was drenched in sweat, my clothes soaking with the effort. This was an opportunity to try out the new camp shower and I rigged it up from a tree, filling it with river water. I had brought all the accoutrements necessary for taking ablutions and I found the shower both functional as well as cleansing. It delivers only a meager trickle of course – but is a piece of field equipment that should prove reliable as well as effective. The only problem I found with it was I had to kneel down on an unhooking mat as I couldn’t get it high enough to stand under without climbing a tree, but this was a minor problem. A shave and liberal use of anti-perspirent and I felt human again, although the clothes had to be confined to the ‘dirty-bag’. Thus refreshed, I set up about making up the ‘weaponry’ and laying siege to the carp.
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I have a plan – to fish at least 50 yards downstream of an introduced concentration of bait, but have to adapt this because of restrictions imposed by the proximity of bankside trees. There is also a bed of lilies (which Phil had failed to mention) and it seems sensible to focus on these as a feature. Because of restrictions overhead in casting, I can not reach the middle of the river and drop well short. This may or may not be a problem, we shall have to wait and see. I really must get some shut-eye as I am so tired.

2.00 p.m.

An horrendous thunderstorm has struck – right overhead and the rain is torrential! Thunder still booms round and round so we shall be in for a deal more rain yet. This has interrupted my baiting-up and I am not yet ‘settled’ into things as it were. This has been the pattern of previous visits to the river – it takes at least 24 hrs. to ‘tune’ oneself in to the session so to speak. Right at this moment I feel well ‘out of touch’.

3.00 p.m.

Had a chance to bait up following the storm, with hemp, pellets, and boilies to the mid-river and ‘cabbage patch’ areas. My catapulting style is a curious affair – extending the catty-arm to the right and aiming the baits in a kind of ‘round-the-corner’ style to try and circumvent the sticky-out tree branches. Feeling a little more into it now; although my little ‘Mud Hole’ is now a quagmire, the conditions could not be better, warm, overcast, and muggy.

One or two sizeable fish topping although I don’t know what they are. Not happy with my ‘hair’ lengths so I think I’ll make up some new ones and change them.
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3.30 p.m.

Just had a call from Phil to say he’s bagged a 102 lb. catfish! It’s all happening for him at the moment and he can do no wrong!

I’ve just noticed how much bubbling is going on out there – some of the patches are really big. There are Bream in the river though and they could be truffling the bait up.


Just changed the hairs on the two left-hand rods and also cast them much further out into the stream. My theory is, that the massive barges stir up the bottom and this encourages the carp to feed on larger food items suspended in the turbulence – mussels, crayfish, and the like.

7.00 p.m.

With tea functions completed (a carbonara with pasta, washed down with Cranberry and Apple juice – I would have preferred a vin blanc but there you are) I set to in ‘working’ the swim again. One thing I have learnt is that there is nothing as important as Feeding. Whether your quarry is 40 ounces or 40 pounds – get it wrong and a good swim can become a bad ‘un.

Really starting to get into the session now. I am concentrating all my boily feed 30-40 yards upstream of the mid-river rod, the closer one is about 10-20 yards downstream to the right of the ‘cabbages’ I am spodding hemp and halibut pellets and although it is at short range I still favour the spod for the little pile of feed delivered to the bottom – unlike catapulting which spreads feed all over the shop.
Although I have anticipated having to wait a minimum of 24 hrs. for the carp to come to the feed, I feel sufficiently confident of getting a take some time tonight.

8.15 p.m.

Not for the first time there’s a fish popped its head out in exactly the same place – very close to my ‘downstream’ rod; this is the rod which is fifty yards downstream of where I have been introducing feed and the spot I anticipate where the feed ends up following the boat wash. It could be complete coincidence of course – it might be nothing at all to do my feeding regime. It certainly gives me confidence though.

9.30 p.m.

Final bait-up and re-cast on all rods as it begins to get dark. All quiet. No sign of any fish.

Friday, 15th.June, 2007
6.30 a.m.

What can I say about last night’s events other than they were some of the most dire I have ever experienced in all the years I have been fishing.

The evening commenced with heavy and persistent rain that fell all night, my ‘mud-hole’ which had been transformed into a quagmire by the thunderstorm, now turned into a pool of liquid, brown, sticky, goo. It is everywhere, clinging to everything in a glutinous slime.

I had a series of peculiar, twitchy lifts and got out of the bivvy to investigate. I don’t know what time this happened, but what I do know is that I must have been asleep or nearly so because I staggered about with my feet stuck in the mud like a drunken oaf. With one foot stuck in the goo, I must have lurched off-balance and struck my left foot against something solid. A searing pain went up my leg as I stubbed my toe – kicking against whatever it was, full-bore. To say it made my eyes water is an understatement and investigation revealed blood soaking through my sock.
It was beyond my means to do anything at that point, other than lay in my bivvy listening to the sound of the rain drumming on the bivvy-canopy. My left big toe hurt like hell and was throbbing rhythmically! A miserable and painful moment in what was turning out to be an extremely challenging session. There was nothing for it but to try and sleep until morning when I would have the opportunity to examine the damage properly and make such repairs as were possible.

At some point in the early hours of the morning, amid throbbing pain and incessant rain, I had a take to the extreme right-hand rod fishing to the ‘cabbages’. Chaos ensued as I simultaneously listened to the drone of the alarm – and desperately tried to get something on my feet so I could get to my rods. The waders had been strategically situated for just such moments, but for some strange reason I just couldn’t get them on my feet!

My left foot was really painful, not to say soaked with mud. I may just as well have paddled my way to the rods with nothing on my feet! Eventually however I managed to pull into the fish which had obligingly stayed attached and a short fight ensued during which I entred the water to effect netting operations. Amazingly this was performed without incident given the rather confined nature of the swim, although a by-product of this procedure was that I went over the top of the waders big style!

It never rains but it pours. Trousers ands socks off and confined to the ‘dirty-bag’. I was now fishing in just shorts and tee-shirt in what was now a cold and damp environment. A hasty snap of the fish (which turned out to be a very plump thirteen-pounder) and back in the water.
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Now if I’d caught this ‘little fatty’ from a commercial fishery, I dare say it would elicit the response from some folks about “artificially pellet-fed fish being a grotesque corruption of what Nature intended”. The truth of the matter is that this was a wild fish from a wild river, not subject to any “artificial” feeding at all. Its only source of food is what Nature and the river has provided. It rather begs the question – “what constitutes a well-conditioned carp and what shape should that be?” fat and chunky, or long and slim?

My own feeling is that a fish’s shape is determined by its DNA and food availability. If it’s meant to be fat it will be (assuming an appropriate food availability). All I know is – I love every single one of ‘em!

One other incident happened during the night. After a series of twitches I lifted into a fish which turned out to be a great big Roach. Indignant at being dragged from the river unceremoniously on carp tackle, it kicked and struggled – embedding the carp hook into my finger well past the barb! Oh my God! A hospital visit this time, and perhaps they could sort out my toe too!
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Thank goodness for microbarbs. After a bit of wheedling, pain, and gritted teeth I managed to get it out although I was now bleeding like a stuck pig – dripping blood everywhere. This involved another trip to the car to make use of the emergency first-aid kit which is compulsory for all motorists to have when traveling in France. Knackered, in pain, and grumpy, I retired to my pit to catch up on some much needed sleep.

9.30 a.m.

It all kicked off with a rip-snorter of a take to the mid-river rod. This fish set off downstream and I let him go before bringing him back in front of the pitch. This time I decided not to go in to net the fish (I couldn’t – the waders were still drying out, hanging up)- so netted a rather pale looking common that looked to be only about 12-14 pounds. On weighing however, I was surprised to see the digital read-out stop at 19:15. despite encouraging ‘bounces’ of the scales, it would not go twenty so I had to content myself with one ounce short. What does it matter anyway? I couldn’t have been happier after recent events and decided to have a complete re-organisation of the camp and to see to my injured toe.
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12.00 midday

After an excellent brunch of fruit juice, scrambled eggs, and bacon, I am a new man. All four rods have been re-cast and repositioned. Three are in a line mid-river, and the fourth, fishing the ‘cabbage patch’ on its own.

I spent a good half-hour or so firing out boilies to the middle of the river, and slightly upstream of the left-hand rod. It will be interesting to see whether the ’50 yard theory’ has any mileage or whether the boilies stay put on the bottom, in which case it should be the left-hand bait which should be the ‘hot one’.

2.30 p.m.

It has become really rather windy – a wind which unfortunately is blowing straight into the bivvy. I hope this is not the indicator of an impending storm (again) for things are just starting to dry out. Toe throbbing.

3.30 p.m.

Just spent another half hour baiting up the mid-river with boilies. I’ve noticed that the two extreme left-hand rods have been towed downstream ten metres or so. I noticed this happening when the huge double-barges came through, so if the current can shift over three ounces of lead, then the boilies will get washed downstream for sure. Does this mean that unless feed is eaten, it will get washed progressively further and further down river – taking the carp with it?

This is a similar situation to when I’ve been fishing Chum Mixers on the surface in a wind. Mixers float away downwind and fish may start taking them quite some way away. What happens though is that the fish follow the bait-stream upwind and eventually will be found in front of you where the feed is going in. this is the opposite of the “wind blows the surface food onto the windward side of the lake and this is the place to fish for them” theory. I hope the same applies to the river.

5.00 p.m.

A humungous double barge has just come charging upriver and sent a wave so big – it breached the banks, came over the top and into the bivvy!. Needless to say ‘the mud pool’ which was starting to dry out………….hasn’t.
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7.00 p.m.

Another bait-up to both areas – now, it is just a matter of topping-up what is already there.

I had a text from Phil who is getting wet down on the river Saone. He is convinced that things won’t really start to happen for me until the second night. That means it should be tonight!

I’d just like to get through the night without further injury and in moderately good order.

9.00 p.m.

More changes to the rigs. I have decided to fish with very basic “Silkworm” rigs and double-baits, these should give more ‘room’ for a fish to pick them up and suck them in before hitting the lead resistance. I am sure these wild rivers do not demand anything in the way of ‘fancy’ presentations and there is the distinct possibility of over-thinking what is basically a simple and unsophisticated scenario.

Sunday, 16th.June 2007
9.45 a.m.

Late journal entry due to late sleeping and breakfasting. This is not unsurprising considering the events of last night which kicked off just after dark. I began getting a series of snatches and abortive takes which finally resulted in a steady drone of the alarm; as soon as I lifted into it I could tell it was a small fish although it hopped around like the wallabies we’d seen in Australia a few months ago! He was soon in the net and there then followed what has become the inevitable series of snarl-ups – catching the net meshes in tree branches, getting the rod-tip and line caught in the tree branches, and falling over in the darkness (over tree branches). Tree branches should be removed from all trees to avoid such mis-haps forthwith! Hate ‘em!

This small fish (of about 6 lbs.) came to one of the mid-river rods; I feel really confident about putting baits out there now because on previous trips we hadn’t had a thing there.
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Out with the rod again which involved wading up to my thighs in the dark to get far enough out to avoid the overhanging trees (branches). I nearly ‘came to grief’ several times, overbalancing as I struggled to extricate my feet from the soft muddy bottom.

No sooner had I got settled than the close-in rod was away. At first I thought it was a good fish but was disappointed with a fish which although was in pristine condition, was only 13:01.
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no matter, it’s back out with the bait and a change of rig for some of the rods so that I was now fishing twelve inches of 20 lbs. ‘Kryston Silkworm’ and a simple knotless-knot carrying double-boilies; hook is a size eight ‘Korda Hybrid’. No frills. No line-aligner or what-have-you, just plain and simple no-nonsense presentations which are both functional and efficient. Why go for something more sophisticated? At the moment it doesn’t seem to be needed.

After a short lull which seemed only a few minutes but which I suspect was a deal longer, I was away once more. This followed a period of short snatches and pulls which I suspected were small fish. One of them I lifted into and once again I connected with a big Roach – again, a fish approaching two pounds in weight. The Roach out here seem to like their boilies!

A screamer of a take and I was connected into something which felt a lot bigger. I decided to go into the water to land it because it seemed it was all getting too cramped and confined in the swim, and as I waded out with the net – one of the other rods burst into life! I was powerless to do anything other than to try and guide my hooked fish into the net whilst simultaneously watching yard after yard being ripped from the reel spool! This was dire. What to do? Try and play both fish at once? This seemed out of the question as the one I was trying to land was all over the place and I could barely get it in the net – much less a second fish!

Eventually after much panic and getting caught in the trees I got the fish in and on to the unhooking mat. Hastily sorting the fish out I went to the other rod which was still slowly ticking line off the spool, and lifted into it.

At first I managed to gain line on what felt like a very good fish indeed and it seemed I must have made a good 40-50 yards of line on it when all of a sudden everything went solid. It was absolutely stuck. Solid as a rock. I put the rod in the rest to see if the fish would swim out and attended to the fish still lying on the unhooking mat which I hastily took a snap of and returned to the river after weighing – 19:02.
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Line then started ticking off the spool. I’d made sure the common had swum off and then picked up the rod – there was a solid but living resistance and I gained ten yards of line, although I had to heave to the limit of the tackle to get it. Once again however, the fish ‘went to ground’ and there was nothing I could do to shift it. I tried pointing the rod at the fish and hand-lining which has worked for me in the past, but all that happened was that the line parted.

This was a tragic loss as I felt it was a good fish and may even have been ‘The Lump’ I know exists in the river. Oh well, re-rig….

Before I’d got the rod re-tied and re-rigged, there was yet another take – this was a real Linford Christie – it was off, out of the blocks and away downriver like an express train and I knew immediately it was one of the better fish. With slightly more room due to one less rod being out, the netting operations went better than usual and I got him up and onto the bank in good order.

This turned out to be a lovely common of 21:08 which I was really pleased with, and no sooner had I weighed and photographed it and re-cast – than one of the other rods went! This was frantic action indeed and was the sort of spell that if you are a carp angler you can only dream about!
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Andy - featuring the "Startled Rabbit" pose!

I got the fish close to the net and it began thrashing around, charging up and down in front of the swim. It was because I may have been a little over-zealous in trying to ‘horse’ it into the net that the hook and lead suddenly flew out of the water! Bugger! Another fish lost. Still, out with the remaining rods.

This took quite a while as there were new rigs to tie, (I decided my hair-lengths were too long), and going over the top of the waders to cast out to cast out!........

At last I managed to lay on top of the bedchair and get a few moments rest, but in what seemed no time at all, one of the rods was going again! A re-run of past episodes followed with the fish chugging around in the middle of the river until persuaded to come near enough the bank to get the landing-net under it. At this point and for no apparent reason – the hook fell out!....

This made three fish lost, an event which had never happened to me on the river before. To say I was annoyed is an understatement. I was tired due to lack of sleep, and irritable because of the lost fish and went into ‘paddy’ mode – stomping around in the mud, cursing and swearing at everything I could think of!.................................................ok; bad language out of the way. Sit on bed and calm down. Did I feel better for this release of pent-up emotion? Well, sort of; it was back out with the rods and some much needed sleep.

It was just getting light when the alarm was going again, only this time all went well and I managed to get the fish up the bank and onto the unhooking mat in good order. This was one of the ‘golden-y’ commons which are darker than lighter coloured varieties – the edges of the scales have a gold-to-brown colouration, making them very impressive specimens indeed. Some common carp can be rather pale and anaemic-looking. I don’t count the ornamental varieties that are stocked into commercial fisheries in the UK – these river fish are wild and unadulterated, and yet have an inherent variation in scaling, body shape, and colouration which is fascinating. Must be the huge mix of genes going back hundreds of years (or could it be thousands – I don’t know). This fish was weighed at fifteen pounds and gave me an early morning wash as I placed it back in the water. That was that for the night-session.

12.00 midday

My camp has been in what one of my army friends would say was “shit state”! More rain has generated even more mud than before (if that’s possible). I have had to put both unhooking mats and my boots in the river and give them a good wash. I’ve re-ordered the camp as well to give myself more room to move around in although the front of the swim is still a mire. You cannot get out of bed and paddle through that!

Some very big barges have been coming up and down the river this morning and I have arrived at some conclusions as to how to feed for the fish.

Last night I put most of my bait out after the last barge came through so there wasn’t the great turbulence sending it all off down river towards the sea. Most of the action came on the left-hand rod which is nearest to where most of the bait went in, so my plan is to introduce only a little during the day, and put in the bulk of it after dark after the last barge has come through.

I must go through my maps and make sure I know the route to return to Calais, I must start to pack up at 7.30 a.m. and must be away by 9.00 a.m. latest to get the ferry so there may be no night report in the journal [actually there is – I wrote it up on the ferry].

4.00 p.m.

I have spent all afternoon getting ready for the return journey by shifting unwanted items back to the car, showering, shaving, and cleaning myself up and donned clean clothes. I have also had to contend with what must be a rising river (following, I assume, the recent heavy rains we’ve had). Three or four times, monster barges have been through and thrown up massive tsunamis which have come over the banks and into my camp. The front is now underwater/mud and I have had to make a side exit to the bivvy. There really has been a lot of boat traffic today and most of it has been the ‘heavy’ stuff.
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Running repairs!

I was just thinking about the feeding regime. I haven’t put any bait in today but am saving it for tonight. If it takes 24 hrs. for the fish to come to it – and the barges have cleared it all out, I could get nothing at all. If I blank tonight, it could mean that the feed has to be kept going in all the time regardless. On the other hand, waiting until all the barges have gone means you can end with a lot of bait in a confined area for the fish to discover. We’ll see.

8.00 p.m.

This evening was full of activities. All day I have been engaged in non-fishing stuff or resting; now, I have just got all four rods re-baited and cast out. I’ve also put a bit of bait out upstream, although this is taking a bit of a chance because there is still time for the barges to come through and move it all away downstream. [in the event, there were no more].

All four are fishing the mid-river area and are equipped with identical “Silkworm” rigs.

There has been more ugly weather with further heavy showers. Claps of thunder were heard in the distance. This is quite the worst weather I have ever had for a fishing session in France although I don’t think it is at all unusual for here. Everything is so green and lush - I suppose it doesn’t get so without the rain to go with it!
I am nearly out of water and have one cup of tea left. There is an emergency ration in the car but I don’t really want to deplete it as I want it for the journey home tomorrow.

Sunday, 17th.June 2007
12.15 p.m. – The Pride of Burgundy, Calais

It was another dreadful evening weather-wise with claps of thunder booming up and down the valley. The wind was blowing – as it had since I arrived- straight into the bivvy opening forcing me to erect the big brolly in front of the Daiwa Mission Overnighter.

The expectancy of course was for the fish to start feeding as soon as it got dark as they had on Friday night – either that or my lack of baiting during the day had meant the fish had followed the feed downstream. In the event, there was no action from the rods (all of which were fishing the mid-river area) and I was beginning to think there weren’t many fish about. To compensate for this lack of confidence I fired out the rest of the bait I’d got (which amounted to about three kilos odd).

It was fortunate there was no action in the early part of the night because I would have got very wet indeed going outside to bait up. At least the rain had settled in to a series of showers rather than a continual deluge. I was half hoping I wouldn’t have to get out and deal with fish because a) I was dog-tired and had to drive back to Calais tomorrow, and b) I was heartily fed up to the back teeth with the mud which was now caking everything. It was even making moving around in front of the pitch difficult, every step a grotesque leg-wrenching stomp in imitation of Frankenstein’s monster. I tried to sleep and even managed to doze off for a while.

Suddenly, one of the rods was going and it was a mad scramble to don the waders and get to the rods. I lifted into the fish which immediately made off for the far side of the river and I let him go against moderate pressure from the slipping-clutch. I could tell it was one of the better fish and carefully stepped into the river to effect netting operations. I hadn’t realized how far the river had come up (which must have been with all the heavy rain we’d had) – it was a lot nearer the tops of the waders and I would have to be extra careful with moving around in the river in the dark.

This proved to be a very nice fish of 22:03 which swam off strongly after being returned.
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A certain amount of chaos occurred however with the rod, line, and landing-net all getting caught in the trees and around each other! No matter, out with another bait and three-bait stringer, cast upstream to the left.

Shortly after I had made my way back to the bank, taken off the waders and stashed themn so I knew where they were when needed, and bedded down again, then the rod next to it was going! This turned out to be a scrappy little fish of 12:01 which fought harder on the unhooking mat than it did in the water!
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After this had been returned and I’d had a session scraping mud off myself and my kit, there was a take to the extreme upstream rod again. The same routine of throwing off the covers, putting on the waders, paddling through the mud, and lifting into the fish was repeated. The fish was either very small or wasn’t a carp at all as the fight was a peculiar affair and I began to think it might be a whopping great Chub. This would have been well worth recording so I followed the usual routine of entering the river and scrabbling around for the landing-net.

I got the fish in the net – which turned out to be a Barbel of six pounds,
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and began inching my way back to the bank by releasing first one foot, and then the other from the soft, clinging, bottom mud.

It was pitch dark down in the river under the trees and suddenly and without warning I could sense myself losing my balance. I managed to twist and aim myself towards the bank – but disaster struck for I found myself spreadeagled in the river!

I had to do a complete kit change in the middle of the night, all wet clothes confined to the ‘dirty bag’. This was most inconvenient as the trousers were the only ones I’d got with me on the trip and could not be possibly dried out in time. Spent the rest of night in underwear.

Fortunately, a quiet period followed during which I managed to get things sorted out and I still had my waders on (which had been cleaned and dried) when the next take ensued. A carbon copy of previous captures followed during which a football-fat mirror was landed weighing 14:00
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That was it for most of the night. I resolved to take my kit down rather than re-cast as time was pressing and I’d soon have to pack up and do the tortuous load-shift back to the car.

Most of the latter part of the session was spent in cleaning all the mud off the kit and it was whilst I was at the edge of the river that I had a ripping take to one of the remaining rods. A scrappy fight ensued resulting in a last-ditch fish of 22:08, the final, and biggest of the trip.
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This wasn’t an end to things however because as I was putting the fish back I noticed the rod-tip knocking on the remaining rod. I picked it up and pulled into a very big, powerful fish which I am sure would have dwarfted all the others I had caught. Tragically, it found a very bad snag way downstream and I just couldn’t shift it and sadly reeled in having pulled for the break.

As it was time to go, I vowed to return and try for him again. Both Phil and I are convinced there are veritable monsters in the river. All we have to do is work out how to catch them!

Time to fill the car and go…………….

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Sunday, 20th.May 2007

Bysing Wood, Knicker Island Bar

It had been ages since I last fished Bysing Wood. A trip to Australia, social events, illness to the in-laws (both of them), plus unforeseen disasters, had kept me ‘confined to barracks’; now, having completed my work-party I was at last able to get out and have a go.

We are only allowed to fish during the afternoon on Sundays in the club at the moment (the morning given over to work around the lake for members wishing to fish the ‘Close Season’) and when I arrived there was only one other member in residence. The thing was where to start? I hadn’t seen the water in months much less fished it and hadn’t a clue as to the whereabouts of the fish. However, knowledge of the water and an appraisal of the conditions indicated the area of the ‘Knicker Island Bar’ to be the place – the breeze was blowing straight in there and I knew the area would be a good bet.
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From my position, I could see across to the far side and the new swims being created during this Close Season’s work-party activities. I am always in two minds about major groundworks. On the one hand, there is an argument that any sort of mass buggering about with topography destroys the ‘naturalness’ of the place – and I recall Jim Gibbinson saying many years ago he regards the cutting of ‘dug-outs’ as vandalism (a sentiment I broadly agree with). Here at Bysing Wood though I think this sort of radical earth-work is just about justified. For a start, the far side was pretty dangerous to fish, with a steeply sloping bank and very shallow water in front which encouraged members to wade. There was also an extensive area of silt which made fishing impossible until the water level went down to a depth suitable to make fishing possible and safe. There was also the question of bone-headed members!

No matter how many times the club committee appealed to the members to have due regard for other members and not to cross their lines, cast into their water, (and generally be a confounded nuisance), the bone-heads (of which there are many) refused to take any notice and arguments and sometimes even fights arose over who could fish which bit of water. The new swims have been cunningly constructed to force anglers to fish straight out in front of them – the strategic leaving of islands by the earth-moving equipment forcing nothing less than a cast straight in front.

At the moment the far bank looks a real eyesore – but I have high hopes for the future. The next stage of work will be tree-planting and grass-seeding, and if the banks recover anything like as quickly as other areas of the lake treated similarly then the work will have been worthwhile.

It is a sad fact such measures have to be taken for the few idiots that can ruin things for the many. It’s the world we live in I’m afraid. The fact of the matter is, you don’t come to fish Bysing Wood for idyllic surroundings and pristine fish – but it is a place which is close to home and offers carp-fishing which suits me. That’s why I have been fishing the place for more than thirty years.

The fish come down the lake on the wind and strike the margins of Knicker Island; a bait cast close to the island is a good ‘banker’ here. The fish then follow the shallow water around in front of the island until they come to the reeds where they follow the fringes until it thins out, whereupon they swim through the reedbed into the ‘safe haven’ beyond (out of bounds at the moment.
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A bait positioned in ‘The Bay’ on the edge of the reeds is a very reliable spot, the only thing is, it has to be positioned within a metre or two. This requires clipping-up to get the distance without casting into the reeds, or as I do, ‘feathering’ the line on the cast to drop the bait and pva bag just short of the vegetation. I use the latter method for no other reason than I prefer to.

Can we for once and all ban this ‘carp fishing is easy’ rubbish we’ve had on the Forum recently?! Casting close enough to the reeds here without getting tangled in them requires skill and judgment – a skill and judgment beyond any novice (although with practice they’ll get the hang of it eventually).

Proximity to the reeds is vital to get a take. Too short and it’s a blank.

I started off with a stiff fluorocarbon hooklink about six inches long with a braid hair carrying a 15 mm. Cranberry and Shellfish boily. This was partnered with a ‘funnel web’ bag containing ‘Time Bomb’ pellets. No ‘freebies’ of any kind were put out. The other rod was fished off the point of the island with an identical rig and bait.

Action came virtually from the start with a couple of abortive snatches and a drop-back, neither of which I connected with. Now theoretically, a resistance rig should hook a fish every time, since the weight of the bomb and its resistance should pull the hook in. Unfortunately, the carp are unaware of this fact and frequently ‘get away with it’, either managing to shed the hook or not get hooked in the first place. Again, this is where skill and judgment comes in – you have to know what to do in a situation such as this and not fish the same old rig just because you’ve caught fish on it before. I opted to change my setup in favour of an eighteen inch length of Kryston braid to give the fish more of a chance to get the bait into their mouths properly and this once again went out with the bag of pellets.

I should think the bait had been out about twenty minutes, when I had a peculiar up-and-down sort of take and then a drop-back. I struck and was into the fish immediately which contrary to what you’d have thought didn’t make for the reeds behind it – but bolted for the bank and some snags. Winding feverishly to keep in touch, the fish still managed to get behind another bed of reeds and I had to pull hard to get it out before having a ‘slugging match’ at short range in front for ten minutes or so before being netted.
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This turned out to be a common of nineteen-thirteen in fairly reasonable condition. So often are the fish caught at Bysing Wood that mouth damage and poor condition are to be expected. None of us are happy about this and all members take the greatest care to look after the fish when they are in our care. It is a fact however that the stock in the lake are now very old and a certain amount of poor condition is understandable, given the pressure. We would all like to fish for pristine fish – but must take them as they are – or fish elsewhere.

The bait was back out in the same spot – a metre or so short of the line of the reeds with a fresh boily and bag of pellets. Quite clearly the fish were following their normal patrol route as evidence was clearly visible – rolling and reed-shaking by fish moving within a foot or so of the bait. A further twenty minutes elapsed however before there was another take; again this was a strange affair, the bobbin dancing up and down like a jack-in-the-box. I was on it in a flash – but strangely missed the take. Could have been a line-bite or simply the fact the fish managed to eject the rig.

Again a new bait and bag went out to the same spot, the cast being made as a gentle lob, the line ‘feathered’ down to drop the bait just two feet short of the reeds. This time there was a longer wait before the bobbin was doing its cha-cha-cha and I hooked into a lively fish which made straight for the near-bank snags. Despite being slightly smaller than the first fish it was all over the place and led me a merry dance before being netted. A mirror this time of sixteen-five.
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Back out with another bait and bag.

All this time, the bait off the corner of the island had remained untouched. This was usual for this swim, the bait cast against the reeds invariably producing the most fish – but after the mirror had been returned there was a steady take to this rod which drew line from the spool in typical fashion.

At first I thought it was a small fish. I got it coming in reasonably easily without too many histrionics, but when it was near the net it really went beserk and set off on a series of runs which had me all over the place. It was one of those ‘mental’ commons which just did not know when to give up. It was no stranger to the landing-net for it tore off every time it came within reach. I could see it was a big fish – another common, very long and lean. At first I had high hopes it might break my personal best for Bysing of nearly twenty-seven pounds, but when I lifted it out of the water I could see that it was one of the lake’s ‘warriors’, an old fish, bruised and battered with a very poor mouth. On the scales it weighed a creditable 23:08.
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I hate catching fish with such poor mouth-damage. It almost seems a betrayal of the fish themselves – that in return for the pleasure they give – they suffer so. But there it is. The alternative is to not fish for them at all.

This turned out to be the last carp of the afternoon’s fishing. Despite several takes – all of which were Tench between three and five pounds, no more carp did I catch. There was a certain irony in the Tench; I had fished hard previously for them and not caught a single one. Here I’d caught three without even trying!

Such is fishing.