Back in the early 1960’s, I was fishing the Walthamstow Reservoirs. There were few if any carp in those waters at that time. Roach, Bream, Pike and Perch were the quarry and, in respect of this article, I was fishing the Low Maynard for its roach.
At the top end of this water, furthest from the entrance, was a shingle beach known as ‘Cosy Corner’. About twenty yards out into the water was a constant, large ‘boil, about 10’ or 15’ in diameter, caused by water from the Upper Maynard being fed, via a large-bore underground pipe, into the Lower Maynard. It was quite an eerie sight as it was almost silent but every now and again, would erupt a little higher with a ‘whoosh’!
The accepted manner of fishing in this area was to cast a ledger on the single rod allowed in those days, towards this boil. The hook was baited with bread, maggots or a worm. The weight had to be fairly substantial owing to the under water currents caused by the afore mentioned boil. Swim feeders were pretty primitive open-ended affairs as block- ends hadn’t been invented. Bite indication was by means of very crude taped-on fibreglass quiver tips, crude taped-on swing-tips or a form of bobbin. My rod was a three piece split cane job, 10’6” in length and called a ‘Dorset de Luxe”!! My reel would have been an ‘Intrepid Elite’ as I couldn’t afford a ‘Mitchell 300’ which was then the Rolls-Royce of reels.
I turned up on one occasion to find another angler fishing from the beach and, as I tackled up a few yards from him, I saw he was steadily catching some nice roach.
I started fishing but after about an hour, was still biteless whereas this other angler was still catching. Being a pushy sod, I wandered up to him and after the usual pleasantries, asked him what he was using as bait. After swearing me to secrecy, he opened up a small bait box and showed me its contents which were some little fleshy pieces kept in water. Seeing my bemused look, he laughed and said “Watch”.
He picked up a second, made-up rod which was a short, solid fibreglass thing, its reel loaded with pretty heavy line. At the business end was tied on a single large treble hook and a couple of inches above the hook was a piece of lead wrapped round the line. He cast this out towards the boil and let the bare hook and its heavy weight settle. The bail arm was engaged and he slowly started to wind in. All went solid. He then pointed the rod down the line and slowly walked back. The hook came ‘free’ and he rapidly wound in the line. I was amazed to see the hook bringing something in. This something transpired to be a small cluster of zebra mussels. The angler then opened some of these mussels with a penknife and scraped out the contents into the bait box.
He wound in the rod he was fishing with and showed me how he baited the size 10 hook with two or three of the shelled mussels. After re-casting, he told me the whole area near the boil was carpeted with the mussels which he had discovered by accident. The use of them as bait was also found by accident when on one occasion he had left his bait at home and tried a mussel in desperation. He lent me his mussel gathering kit and on returning to my swim, I gathered a few clumps of the mussels from in front of me which I used as directed and caught some ‘goer’ roach.
On future roach trips to that ‘ressie’, I always had with me an abomination of a 7’ solid fibreglass rod that had been sold to me in my novice angler ignorance as a ledger rod but in action was more like an uptide cod rod, made up as described to harvest some mussels before fishing. It certainly cut down on the cost of bait! The downside was the inevitable loss of tackle – both when gathering the mussels for bait and also when fishing them. No armour tubing in those days to protect the line from ‘cut-offs’.
On another occasion, I had the beach to myself and the nearest angler was around to my right, also fishing towards the boil. I heard him call out and could see him stuck into what was obviously a sizeable fish. He didn’t have a landing net so, grabbing my net, I scurried around to give him a hand. He eventually got the fish within netting range and I was amazed to see it was a barbel of about four pounds.
After landing the fish and giving him a hand with the unhooking and returning of the fish, I commented on the strangeness of the capture being as we were fishing a still water. Remember this was years before small still-water commercials were - quite wrongly in my opinion – stocked with barbel. The captor told me this was not an uncommon capture in this area of the ressy. He was of the opinion – probably correct - that small barbel came in from the nearby River Lea when the ressies were topped-up with river water and found the area near the boil with its under surface currents to their liking.
I also noted that this angler’s line had three hooks on it - all tied on dropper style above his lead. All quite illegal of course but, not mentioning the illegality of the set-up, I asked the angler, a pensioner, the reason for this three hook set-up. He stated that unlike a ‘youngster’ like me who was fishing for fun, he was after bream which would be his supper!!