On May 6th 2017 I finally retired from paid employment of every sort.
I was repeatedly asked “what are you going to do with your time?” and the answer was always the same.
“Go fishing and play my accordeon”.
But it was not as simple as that. The playing of the ‘box” was easy, that can be done anywhere. No travel or car load of gear is involved. It can be mildly antisocial but that is about the limit of it. The fishing was more complicated because I wanted to fish the club’s matches. I had always fished the clubs competitions and some open matches but I was an occasional and non competitive competitor. I made up the numbers. I had no great ambitions for the future, just to fish well enough to be competitive.
Some parts of my fishing repertoire were ok I could chuck lead around with confidence.* I learned that at Twickenham pits and Nazeing but my float fishing had not got much past the rod and reel and was confined to the margins. My most obvious short coming was with the pole. I owned a good pole but was basically clueless about the business end, elastics, float rigs etc. What I did know was gleaned from watching Peter Green, Martin Adams and a few other experts.
My wife knew about my plans and for Christmas 2016 bought me a session with Bob Nudd on a commercial fishery up near Peterborough. That was an extravagant gift and priceless for me. “So that’s how it’s done” especially with the feed, “it’s all in the feed “ Bob was super calm, patient and full of info.
Later I realised that most of the club’s really good pole anglers did much the same as Bob Nudd but I felt that I did not have license to ask them questions. The remainder of 2017 was spent sorting the gear out, a new feeder rod and reel outfit, a seat box, sundries by the ton and pole rig gear. And I fished a few competitions without much success.
At the start of 2018 I diaried in all of the matches I knew I could make and joined in with greater intent to do better.
What follows is a rough record of my take on events. It is not the club’s record. It is my record. I have tried to keep the facts accurate, that is personnel, dates, weights etc. Some of my comments are no more than me thinking aloud. I have also tried to avoid causing offense to anyone and I hope I have succeeded. If anyone is offended, hard luck and tell me why.
This is very much the edited highlights. I have not included outings to local waters around Cambridge etc and other sundry pleasure outings.
I can’t do the cold but April was warm enough so……I took myself off to Taylors and secretly (ha) practised with the pole. I did this several times with varying success. I was helped by Frank Farrington who runs the tackle shop in Cambridge and I am grateful for his advice.
Very slowly I began to make sense of the pole.
19th April. It was warm and the water temp was 11c with a light breeze. I started at noon and finished at six pm.
An ‘informant’ in the car park had been in peg 56 and said that there was a stack of fish to be had there, all on corn. He was right. It was all corn and I had about 10 or 11 small F1s and three small tench roughly ten oz. each. I also had the inevitable crack off from something too big and fast for me to handle. By the time I realised I had hooked it, it was too late!
Saturday 21st April. Weather still warm and pleasant. At Fennes Fishery, a commercial near Braintree.
I was pegged in front of open water with the end of an island about forty yards away. I set up with the pole but had only four foot of water in front of me and I did not fancy it because I could not fish at distance.
Reluctantly I set up my new feeder rod and reel outfit, knocked up some micro pellet feed and when the whistle went chucked out a method feeder with a banded pellet. Before I could reorganise my chair etc. I caught an F1 and then a few more and then some more until about twelve when it went quiet.
This all sounds simple but I had never had a reel with a line clip beforehand and I scattered pellets all over the place and formed a close relationship with a tree on the island before I got the hang of things. I was very patient generally and then caught a few fish in last hour.
In the end I weighed 27lb 5oz and came third. Given the chaos to start with. I was pleased with that.
There is a point to made here. I have always been good with a freeline, the feeder and the bomb. (see App.1) The problem I had was the new gear. I had not even unwrapped the rod until the day itself. I had line on the reel but the cellophane was still on the rod handle. Things got better later in the year.
The next match was on May 19th. This was the royal ‘wedding match’ and was re arranged from Clavering to Taylors.
I drew 53 next to the platform. The day was cool but bright and the water temp was 15c, which is ok.
I fished soft pellet close in and at about eight to ten metres, which was as far as I could then see. Had a good start and caught regularly but when it went quiet I cocked it up by overfeeding and killed it for about an hour.
At about twelve thirty I chucked a feeder out to edge of the central weed bed and had four fish. Without the weed being up this worked but would not have done a few weeks later.
I finished with a few fish very close in for 22lb 8oz. This was OK but I could and should have done better. I am making steady progress.
The match was won by Nick Farrell with over 45lb fishing close in from fifty six.
On June 3rd we fished the Carrington Cup* at Taylors. This should have been at Nazing but the carp were spawning. The water was 19c and the air was warm with a light variable breeze. This was odd because the fish were cold to the touch so I checked the water at the end but the temperature was the same.
Martin Adams won this with 30lb 11oz from the last peg but one on the high bank which I think was 36. He had some big fish, F1s to two and a half to three pounds and a couple of tench.
I drew 51, the platform and had 28lb 12oz for third which I was pleased with. I fished well with good concentration and got into it. But as always lessons can be learned. I ‘lost’ the depth at one point and also lost time because I didn’t realise what had happened. For some while I inadvertently fished over depth. Too much line out somewhere.
The day was marred by the bottom section of my net handle slipping off the platform and vanishing into the depths. I never got it back despite raking etc. after the whistle.
I fished against the lilies on the right for most of the match and also
tight against the left ledge. Again I only used the 4 and 5 sections of the pole with paste and soft pellets.
This was a very tight match with only a couple of pounds separating the first three.
I will draw a veil over the club match against BSDAS om June 6th and the Paul Sales trophy on the Sunday the 10th, both were at HH.
On both days I was pegged at the shallow end with only small roach for company and both times I weighed in ounces. I did weigh 2oz in one match and beat PG by an ounce which should tell you all you need to know.
However on the Sunday my shallow swim in the trees was as dead as a Dodo, but I was opposite Bob Walmsley who fished for five hours with a variety of baits and caught tiny roach but in the last hour he caught 5 big tench to win with over 20 lb. This was valuable intelligence!
In summary I fished for about eleven hours in the heat and bright sunshine for a total of about 5 oz.
It was a depressed drive back up the motorway to Cambridge.
I went back to HH on Friday 15th June in the afternoon for a pleasure session and fished until the sun went down. It was very tranquil in the evening with the deer drinking at the shallow end and the buzzards and kites circling high overhead.
If I had been better prepared I would have stayed overnight.
I fished the fourth swim along from the dam and just chucked a feeder out about 12 / 14 metres with corn or pellet on the hook. Had 6 bream to about 4lb and 3 big tench.
I suppose it was R&R. (for those of you who know what that is)
Saturday 23rd. BBQ at Taylors. This was also an unhappy event. The very hot weather made life difficult and things would have different if we had fished early or later but it is a social event and a good one at that which I enjoyed. I drew 22. Had high hopes and caught nothing worth having. Food excellent.
Onwards to July 1st at HH. The Proudlove Cup. Another warm and sunny day. The water was at least 20c. and really warm to the touch.
Firstly I drew the swim that BW had won from on the far side June 10 th so I knew what to expect. It was full of small roach and the occasional lump of a carp which ambled through close to the surface. The wind, what there was of it, was from the shallow end.
I poled it close in for bits, using maggots next to the lilies and kept the feeder going from time to time with pellets at about twenty yards. And the same thing happened to me as happened to Bob. After four hours I had sod all apart from about four pounds of small roach and rudd then I hooked Moby Dick on a tiny hook and had a long tussle with the plant life before netting a good tench.
I put a maggot feeder on the tip rod with a stronger line and hook length and flopped it out about twenty feet and had three more in the next hour to weigh 16lb 7oz and ran out winner. Hooray.
In the last hour or so I received a certain amount of technical advice from the sunburnt fishless on the far bank along the lines of what to do with my pole. I understood their frustration, especially as my side was in the shade for most of the day. I also had a grumble from the next peg downwind that some of my feed was floating along to him and encouraging the young ducks to splash about. It had never occurred to me until then that such a thing could happen.
It is clear that the tench patrol up and down the margins in the weeds on the far side and there must be lots of them in that huge weed bed down that side. Small chopped worms would be a better bet and enable a better hook to be used, but would the fish go for it?
Good drive home.
July 8th. Burroughs cup. Taylors. Another blisteringly hot day which probably explains why only 6 turned up. For some inexplicable reason we were not all pegged in the shade which would have been easy to do. I was especially aggrieved because I drew 38 which is a great swim, no more than a hole in lilies and about four to five foot deep. It is also in the sun all day.
I fished corn with only a tiny amount of feed including some chopped corn. Used a 0.5 g float on 5lb line straight through.
Alan Fox won this with a stonking 53lb 10 oz from peg 29. I was fourth with 24-10 after PG and Martin who had 27 lb and 26 lb each.
Looking back on this, it was easily my best pole performance of the year mainly because of the difficulty of the swim.
Domestic demands then overtook me for a while and I did not fish at Wrotham Park on 18th July and was away for the Carp match at Nazeing on the 22nd July which is not my scene anyway but I was sorry to miss the Arthur Tully match on the car park lake at Taylors on 5th August. In a perverse way I am pleased that this lake is difficult because it keeps interest in it down! See below.
Saturday 11th August. Taylors. Memorial Match.
The car park lake at Taylors is my favourite venue. It is unpredictable and difficult but has some of the best swims of all of our venues. I especially like pegs 11, 12, and 13 and dislike no 7 which is on the island. Inevitably I drew 7 for this match and nearly went home but decided to be grown up and I got that wrong and just about everything else as well. I viewed being pegged there a conspiracy of the gods. B******s.
Anyhow I am aware that the wisdom is to fish close in and with my eyesight that’s what I did. Close enough to hook roots in the margin and the bush on the left which required a new hook length and a rig and a lot of bad language etc.
I hooked and lost a couple of skimmers and apart from that it was small roach.
The water aerators were on and the one near Peg 26 pumped water between the islands where I was fishing, at a brisk rate. A following wind made matters worse and it was difficult to keep control of the rig and instead of chucking out a feeder and being cool about it all I got increasingly disenchanted.
Eventually I caught a big F1 and a skimmer for 5lb. My mood was further lowered until Willy R produced some beer and saved the day.
Note to self. There is no escape from sound thinking. Instead of having a strop when things were going bad I should have gone to my default feeder method which would at least have calmed everything down and would certainly have got me a few fish. What a mess. More zen needed.
Wednesday 15th August. Taylors. Match v BSDAC. I would call this a match against the dread enemy, but that would not be true. I have a BSDAC ticket and so do several other ACAS members and we know them well. They are good bunch and always have an opinion to offer about fishing during a match especially if someone loses a fish or has a mishap.
I was dismayed to draw peg 40. This is not a dead loss because there are fish there but they tend to be small F1s and I did not rate my chances of getting a good weight. I knew that the way to fish this peg is close in and fine but I was however overtaken by events. After about half an hour I had the start of a migraine and my vision, such as it was, was distorted and my medication was back in the car. I blundered my way to and from the car park and then sat in my chair for several hours feeling like death.
I was also in the centre of a territorial battle between a coot and a moorhen over the ownership of a clump of lillys and they were at it on and off all day. So much for a relaxing day out.
I weighed 2oz.
This is what is known as a bad patch!!! Ha.
Peg 40 is interesting because there is a hornets nest in the stump of the big fallen tree behind the swim. The hornets are harmless unless disturbed but are unsettling because they are big and give every appearance of flying backwards with a lot of noise, but they don’t! Their route into their nest is away from the peg.
They are also protected by law so if you fish there be very respectful.*
Sunday 19th August. Fishpools cup at HH. A warm day with some cloud and a gentle variable breeze. The water was warm, somewhere about 20c I would guess.
I won this with just over 50lb of tench and bream. I was later told that this was a record for a regular match at HH. Given the nature of the fish stock I am sure that will not last for long.
Anyway I drew a flyer, the second swim along the left bank. I used a method feeder with my own mix of 2mm pellets, crushed hemp and crumb with soft pellets and a banded pellet. I caught from the start and I did not even have time to sit down before the rod went round and I had three big tench in the first twenty minutes. And it went on and on. Most of the tench were only about twenty yards out and when they slowed down I went another ten yards or so and caught skimmers of about a pound to a pound and a half. I had set up a pole but never touched it, except to move it up the bank out of the way.
PG was in the first swim and he caught steadily as well. There were two other weights over thirty pounds.
I have neglected the feeder in favour of the pole for some years now and also ignored a golden rule for competition of any sort which is always to play to your strengths. It was only because my eyesight was bad that I have had to use the feeder. Funny how thing work out!!!
September 5th at Home Farm v BSDAS. Before the match I had a couple of short outings at this venue and the first time could not get in because, as I later found out, I was at the wrong gate. Plonker. I fished the motorway side and caught a few fish.
On the day I drew Peg 8. There was a stiff breeze blowing diagonally across the lake into. the deep end where I was and although I caught ten pounds or so I never really got to grips with peg.
MA and PG were top with 50lb and 40lb respectively but they were further back on the other side. Both fished the near ledge, which is noted for future reference. BS crew good fun.
September 3rd Taylors for fun.
The usual situation. I had a half turned pint of maggots to dispose of and this usually means a margin session at Taylors but I had felt crap all day, tired and with fierce indigestion so when I arrived I could not be arsed to walk anywhere because that would mean loading up etc and I parked by peg 3 and fished out of the car.
Used the top of a pole plus 4 and 5 section.
Had about 5lb of roach, some goers, on an 18 hook and a peaceful few hours. But nothing else. I expected a tench or at least one F1 but no such luck. Never mind. Very therapeutic but I should have used my 10 ft float rod and a centre pin and fished even closer in.
September 15th and 16th. The Bure / Thurne weekend.
Despite being a major event in the club’s calendar I had never fished the Bure / Thurne weekend before. I was told I was missing out on a good event and Doug Clark persuaded me to go along and he also volunteered to pick me up. Doug booked a B&B for two, near to where the rest of the club were staying and which was within striking distance of both rivers, neither of which I knew.
On the Friday afternoon we went the Bure at Ludham Bridge for a few hours. I did not have stick float heavy enough for the flow so I bought a couple from the tackle shop and we fished the free stretch below the bridge. I used to fish the tidal Thames a lot so I had some idea about how to do it.
We found Graham Cable well installed there and I watched him for a while. He had been fishing for a few hours and had a lot of fish feeding.
Anyhow I found a spot in the rushes and had a good session with a rod and centre pin playing around with shotting patterns and so on. This was difficult to start with, and to think I used to do this all the time.
I finished with a mixed bag of good roach, perch and bits but no bream. Had a few fish on the feeder but the endless procession of boats was a nuisance.
Saturday 15th. Up early and short of sleep. Doug sings in his sleep. Very distracting.
Drew a good peg close to the Abbey which was only a short walk. Fortunately I was on a straight stretch of the river so the boats were in middle but I had to use feeder because of brilliant low sun.
Finished with ±±±± lb of roach, perch to about 8oz and bits but no bream. Had a good day but without bream on the Bure, one is knackered.
The evening meal was ok and I had a drink and some chat with my brother anglers.
Sunday, up early then off to the Thurne at Coldwater Harbour which I loved.
This was a brilliant sunny day with a gale behind us in the depths of the Broads. It was very wild with lots of fish of all sorts. Caught roach and rudd and small skimmers on the pole close in but the river is smaller than the Bure and the boats a slightly bigger nuisance.
After a while I switched to the feeder but only about 30% across and caught bigger skimmers I should have done this earlier and will know for next year. Weighed 4lb 3oz!
20th September at Taylors to try out my top secret open ended hydrostatic feeder rig. I went up to peg 34 which I know but due to the weed my top secret rigs were useless and nothing worked better than my own patented biro tube paternoster invention.
I had a few F1s but finished up fishing tight against the bank for roach with some success. So much for feeder trials (top secret)
I can’t understand why I didn’t fish the car park lake where there is plenty of open water.
Anyhow better than not fishing.
Sunday 30th September at Taylors. Fred Sandilands Cup
Ah yes the Sandilands Cup, which was notable for two reasons.
Firstly I got set up and just as the whistle went my glasses sprung apart and the left lense fell into the water at my feet with a gentle plop and was lost. This was the eye I could see out of so I had to trundle back to the car to get my spare specs but these were an old prescription and of little use. I spent my time squinting myopically at the feeder tip because the pole was hopeless as I could not see the float against the background. In any case I could not see where I was chucking the feeder.
It was also cold.
Weighed 3lb 3oz.
Wednesday 3rd October, at Taylors v BSDAC
Weighed 3-3 and hard work it was.
7th November. Hall Farm versus BSDAC
This was a stressful event. Mainly on account of how busy it was with the wind blowing down the lake and the planes landing very low across the lake every three minutes or so. Headphone next time! I spent most of my time hiding behind my brolly and trying for a few small fish. At least we stayed dry.
Still it was a pleasant day out with some good company.
I weighed 1lb 5oz. Weights were very low with MA barely collecting 6lb and we lost.
9th December Gay Plate
This was also the Xmas Comp and I did not fish. It was very cold so I chickened out but… I went down to Taylors at about twelve for a look around and I found about seventeen frozen souls working hard. The rule was, either you had fish or you did not. The exception was AF who had caught a shed load early on and complained about being knackered.
There were five weights over 20lb which is good going for winter and AFs 38lb was exceptional. The rest had bits.
Sadly I missed the evening event and next year I won’t.
Sunday 16th December. Reg Brayne trophy. Rib match on the Vale fishery side. There were only seven of us and the summary is we caught very little. We were pegged just above the weir. I have fished the Rib all my life* but this was the worst result I can remember. MA won with a fish! A roach I think.
Early on it was very cold and my plastic box of sundries froze. See Pic.
AS and I were fishing off for a semi final place in the Knockout but we tied with nil each!
We agreed to meet up at Taylors for a private fish off>
Wednesday 18th December. Taylors lake. Me V Alan Simms.
We met in the car park and agreed to fish the car park lake for three hours. We tossed a coin to decide the walk off and Alan won and went to 12 and I fished 23.
I had just four pounds of roach including a couple of good perch and Alan had a few ounces more. Well done.
This was a grand day out. It was warm and sunny and I never got cold.
Peg 23 is a belter in winter, as is 12. Fished a pole rig with one gram float to get the single maggot down and found fish about two foot off the bottom. I was also close in with just the 4 and 5 sections on. Bites were slow but steady.
I should fish more often in winter when the weather is ok. I used to wade in the Thames for hours for fun in winter but that was forty years ago.
Page 1. Many years ago I learned to fish the ‘Swim Feeder’ from a member called Squeegy Lockhart. I never knew his Christian name but he was the feeder king and maybe PG or Bill Lamas will remember him. Anyway he had a 10ft cane rod and, the key to his success, a Mitchell three hundred which gave him access to the bream at Twickenham pits and he was for a while very successful in club events. He also used a bobbin type indicator consisting of a cork with a hair clip through it and a length of fine string on the bottom end to which you could fix big shot to suit the venue. This rig is still good when there is no room to get a tip rod at an angle. In real life he was the furniture buyer at the Co Op in Wood Green or was it Edmonton? His name appears on several trophies during the sixties.
Alf Carrington. Page 2. Alf was a little round man who was very cheerful. I fished with him a lot when I was a junior and he had endless patience. After he retired he fished a lot but his wife had health problems and needed ever more care and slowly he fished less and less. I would really like to win his cup.
Page 5. The European Hornet (Vespa Crabro) behind peg 40 are widespread throughout Europe and were very active last year.
It would also be very unwise to upset them because they are slow to rouse but will come at you mob handed if they are upset. The result could be very unpleasant.
River Rib Page 7. I have fished the Rib all my life. I used to bike it from Enfield town centre to Hertford along the Lea towpath and then walk most of the river during the day. Now I would be knackered biking down to Enfield Lock from the town.
I also have a story about being chased by a School Board officer on a bike from outside George Spicer school in Southbury Rd down to the level crossing in Turkey St. But that belongs elsewhere.