Monday, 26 March 2012

The Garage Mind Set

Rob Shallcroft

I’ve knocked around trying to catch bigger than average fish of the fresh water species for a few years now along with a few close friends. With up’s and down's, hard knocks and easy pickings along the way.I know some very successful anglers and have observed what makes them tick so to speak. Each one of the guys has a little edge in one department or another. It’s not just "lady luck" if a friend and fishing partner actually catches consistently more or bigger fish than you over a lengthy period of time on particular water, with time on the bank being fairly equal.
Lady luck doesn’t always have the habit of being even over any distance of time. That said does it really matter?. As long as we are enjoying ourselves and catching a few along the way most of us are contented enough. My fishing buddies and I all have common denominators, busy Mon-Fri jobs, family commitments, follow our different footie teams and none of us are flush with too much spare cash. Sound familiar ?

Without wanting to embarrass my fishing buddies and I hope they take my scribble in good spirits I know their edges and what they are able to do far better than me. Let me if I may give you some examples. Here goes....................

My buddy Secret Dave is fantastic at spotting fish, his eye sight looking through,across and into water is exceptional. On clear water rivers or pits he will spot fish that I simply cannot see and would walk past. Barbel flashing across gravel, tench patrolling in the margins or prey fish topping at distance. This is his edge, he knows it and uses his eye sight to put that extra fish or two on the bank. Dave is at his best on clear water, his eyes brighten and twitch with transparency as it’s his thing, his vibe, his edge. He will often up sticks and move if he’s spotted a little something interesting to his eye. Take the clear water away and he is not as efficient as his edge has gone.

My buddy Steve is a long time all-round piker equally at home on foot, afloat, on rivers,big lakes or pits. Steve is brilliant at getting on new untouched waters, he’ll walk round a water and somehow nearly always bump into the owner and through his bright smile and affable nature will secure a day or two fishing and often for free!. It’s his free-spirit and pioneering vibe and edge,Steve has always got some where fresh and new to have a go at. I can never seem to do this as I get tongue tied, am not a people person and probably look like I am up to no good !. Of course his new spots don’t always come up trumps but out of all my buddies if one of them is going to bump into something extra special one day then my money would be on Steve.

My buddy The Doc Donovan is fantastic on the big wild sheets of water where his heart, theories and vibe as to where the pike will be at different times of the year, at what depth and in different conditions is fascinating. His edge lies in his boat control. Float trolling is his thing. Dropping and dragging baits behind a boat is easy enough but the vital control in wind and wave, speed and boat positioning on these big sheets of water is his vibe and edge. The Docs experience is impossible for me to match. Hand over the bow mounted electrics in rough conditions into my hands and I have ended up snapping rods in the sexy Irish reeds, packing up and going home early !.

My buddy Mr V, is the sociable angler on a mission with a net work of friends across the country. He is always in on the “know” on certain waters and will travel to catch his dreams. His time is more limited than the rest of us, but when onto something he will drop everything and spend several days, bivvied up or sleeping in the car to put him close to his dreams. Mr V will put his time on the right waters, at the right times and when it really matters. I am not so sociable and don’t like being away from home too much, much preferring my fishing to be little more than an hour’s drive from home. I do have a couple of holiday travel type trips thrown in every year to waters I’d like to catch a decent pike from along with the trout ressa trips with friends. These to me are more social occasions I thoroughly enjoy and look forward too. They are not however on waters where my real dreams might come true.

Common denominators

Taking common denominators further, I felt these edges were my friend’s natural mind-sets.When fishing with these guys on waters where their vibe comes alive is an honour and a pleasure and long I hope this will continue. A few years ago, I evaluated just who I am,what I want from my fishing and exactly what gave me the buzz to get out there and catch a few wet fish. The majority of my fishing trips are solo short affairs and I like to get out two or three times a week fishing different stretches of river or dropping in on a pre-baited still water. I am happiest fishing for just 2-6hours at my perceived best times even if this means a couple of hours travelling thrown in, in fact when the winter days are short I’ll often spend more time in the car than with a bait in the water.
When on the bank there’s no time for social chat or mucking around with tackle or baits, everything needs to be organised and prepared to be mobile, to get there before it gets light or at the other end of the day to fish into dark. Any failure in organisation or other social interruption to my fishing on the day drives me nuts and I’ll often pack up and go home if my vibe is disturbed in anyway.

This was my edge,getting my buzz from smooth and organised short sessions as I have the
drive and bloody-mindedness to haul myself out of bed or get home after midnight exhausted after fishing and a day’s work thrown in. Total focus when on the bank and fishing with absolutely no interruption to the mind-set. Weather conditions never deter me from going, I like to be out there and in with a chance of a single take that will give me the buzz on the drive home. I get the fishing "tag" of being unsociable and hard work but I know who I am and can live with that!

Maximising the edge
With a busy job and keeping the family balance, fishing two or three short sessions a week can be difficult but I long felt my approach could be improved all round with increased organisation.Thus maximising time available to fish before and after work.

Equally as important would be minimising the time surrounding the preparation of actually going fishing, time spent preparing the tackle and bait needed throughout the season. Less time spent on preparation would mean more time with the family and no late nights or any early morning double checking of the gear prior to any trip.
One of the problems I'd had over the years was a small garage with condensation problems,associated damp and was falling to bits. My garage shared both fishing gear and general home life. I couldn’t swing a cat in there and the general clutter did my head in!. Plans were made to change this. I saved up my pennies and invested in the small fishing garage of my dreams. Luckily for me my mate London piker Stevie T is a chippy and for mates rates, the promise of Guinness , B+B and evening summer barbel fishing, I packed my girls off to the mother–in-laws for a week and we set about converting my garage into my dedicated fishing room.

Steve transformed an old tired damp garage with a wooden floor, insulated plaster boarded walls and ceilings plus new doors with decent locks and we fixed up the leaky roof. I later added an intruder alarm, quality lighting, heating,benches, chest freezer, shelving, rod racks etc. By adding a decent garden shed and outside storage boxes for all the other paraphernalia and clutter of life to be stored I now had a dedicated fishing room with nothing else to distract its purpose of making my fishing time more efficient.

This dedicated space enabled me to remove anything and everything to do with fishing from inside the house, from magazines to photographs, tackle, freezer -bait,clothing etc. I now had a new golden rule, nothing what-so-ever to do with fishing in the house and nothing not to do with fishing inside the garage!. Una the Dream Girl was happy, so was I with a family win/win all-round. Job done!.

With the dedicated room, I took this further with the organisation of the different tackle bags and kit. I added another golden rule, no tackle to be purchased outside the close season when I generally give my fishing a three month break. All spare end tackle, line, hooks, ground-bait, hemp and particles and all the general malarkey that goes with fishing for different species is purchased in the close season and stored in its correct easily found location.

The years of tackle scattered everywhere in and out of the house, bait rotting away in corners of the garage and shed, tackle in boxes to keep it from the elements of a damp garage are now long gone. The regular trips to the tackle shop to stock up with bits needed, probably did not need or couldn’t find in a cluttered unorganised garage are a thing of the past. I added a large stainless steel sink and running water. Yet another golden rule could apply,no cleaning stinking hemp buckets, ground bait bags or dead bait freezer boxes in the kitchen sink. I gained space for a decent dedicated chest freezer for the first time following years of having the bottom couple of drawers in the kitchen upright.

All sea dead baits required for the winters predator fishing are caught during summer bass and tope fishing trips or purchased from Morrison’s or Neville.I now no longer need to make winter trips to shops or pick up any dead bait during the winter. Fresh coarse baits are gathered along the way with the bait snatching kits always in order and ready to go. Everything I can possibly organise to ensure the best baits are available to me throughout the winter have been put in place ensuring near enough that there is not a single week of the winter season that I do not have the necessary baits that I want to use on tap and ready to go.

Preparation of rigs and the gear is now far quicker as it’s organised. Rig making sessions are now exclusive to the garage, heater on, my favourite punky bands at full blast on the CD player, decent bench and lighting make the necessary if laborious task of rig making efficient, quick and easy. If like me you go fishing regularly and fish some snaggy waters with lots of different bait sizes, a lot of different traces are needed to keep going through the winter.
Although I'll leave some trace making kit in the car for an emergency I really do not like making traces or rigs when I’m out fishing and certainly never carry anything other than traces ready to use in my bag. Any-how, the days of rig making in the house with the worry of leaving bits of wire or worse a dropped treble in the carpet are now long gone.
I know there are some interesting developments with longer lasting titanium traces to cut this rig making time down but apart from fixed up-traces I don’t use this material for hook traces.

I don’t like split rings, beads and plastic bits on my traces and as I fish a lot of snaggy water I question the breakdown properties of titanium and plastic/rubber paraphernalia should I snap off and leave a baited trace in the water for a predator to swallow. So it’s still sore hands from tying and pull testing lots of traces for me.

If I can get away from work a little earlier on a particular day during the week, there are no ifs and buts about being able to go because the gear or baits I need may not ready. Conversely when I get home wet, muddy cold and miserable from a trip I go straight into the garage kick the boots off, hang the clothes up under the heater put the trakki bottoms on , pop into the house grab a beer and am ready for family time.

I really can say that the converting of my garage has been fun and has added a little luxury to my fishing life that I had not enjoyed before. Upping the organisation has added to my mind-set and ability to get out there and enjoy my fishing in the effort to catch a few wet fish along the way.

                                                        Play Up Pompey ! 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Family Fishing Renaissance

Jonathon Myles

Pike fishing became an obsession for me for a few years ,its importance eclipsing all other area‘s of my life and more specifically my desire to capture a pike weighing 30 pounds in weight. It started after the capture of a magnificent river pike of over 28 pounds, unlike many anglers who perhaps slow down after marriage and kids, my fishing intensified. I am not proud to say that the desire for me to make it happen began to distort my perception of life and which aspects of it were most important to me.

As many away trips as I could afford and make time for were ventured upon, to venues such as Blithfield, Mentieth, Chew, various Anglian water reservoirs and Ireland. In addition to weekly dawn till dusk sessions on my home waters. This took its toll on my family life to such an extend that one day quite suddenly I discovered that my marriage was finished. I lost my wife, kids and house, almost everything that I had worked hard for disappeared in in instant. Although there would never be a happy reunion I was forced to re-evaluate my priorities, I love my children dearly and they would now have to come first. With child maintenance to pay and every other weekend taken up spending quality time with them, the costly away days would have to go or at best be drastically reduced in number. My fishing would have to become a much more casual pursuit if it were to survive at all. I am fortunate in that I live in an area with some good pike fishing available for those who look hard enough, but over the years, whilst I had caught doubles readily on my local waters I had always found bigger fish very hard to come by.

(The river 28 that began the obsession)

Not long after the split with my ex wife I had the honour ( as I now consider it) of netting a magnificent personal best of 36lb 6oz for my boat partner, followed very quickly by a 24lb fish. This should have been a very happy joint triumph as I always feel that boat fishing is teamwork. However, instead I became consumed by feelings of envy and jealousy, as I had travelled far and wide to try and catch a fish of that size, at great financial and personal cost. I felt that it should have been me and if I am brutally honest my head was not in the right place. By the end of the following October I had also been ‘unjustly in my opinion’ banned from my local Angling club, their waters I had fished for many years.I'd been physically threatened by a local match angler at my work place and a little while later by another in the pub whilst out on a date in the early stages of a new relationship.
To be honest by this point  fishing had really started to get on top of me, I realised that it was no longer enjoyable for me, the hobby I had enjoyed since childhood was becoming a problem for me in many ways. I had not only lost my family and home but seen my access to my local waterways denied. It was now unpleasant,  involving both work and my social life. With my available time being restricted I felt that my chances of catching that dream fish were further away than ever. That summer after an expensive and unsuccessful trip to the Emerald Isle, I thought seriously about calling it a day, although a couple of good mates did their best to persuade me otherwise. With a couple of days at Chew already paid for the following October I had a couple of half hearted days without any great success and i did  not fish at all for almost the remainder of the season.

Every cloud has a single lining however and during this summer I met a wonderful lady and began an immensely fulfilling relationship. The relationship cracked along at an incredible pace and I felt on top of the world. By the New Year we were living together and pike fishing was the furthest thing from my mind. Rather than the nagging and moaning that I had become accustomed to during  the previous ten years my new partner seemed genuinely interested in my fishing and really pushed me into getting out again, we fished together one morning.I caught a fine river fish of 18lb, I also enjoyed teaching Lynda about pike fishing and she also had her first pike under her belt on that trip. Encouraged a little by the trip I decided that it was time to teach my oldest son Harry and took him to a small Still water that I knew held pike, I thought it safe and easy for him, the trip was a success, alternating runs he was first off the mark with his first pike of 7lb, and I followed up with a fine 21lb 12oz pike expertly netted by my 7 year old son, it was my first twenty from my local waters for quite a long time. As we packed up at lunch time Harry turned to me and declared it the best day of his life! A very rewarding moment as any father will know.

A week later on the last weekend of the season Lynda and I were back on a local River together and this time she did me proud by netting a venue best of 24lb 4oz. I felt the passion return instantly at that moment.I was totally fired up and gagging to continue, it was if I had been overcome by a tidal wave of piking enthusiasm, the pike season unfortunately came to a close. I continued to fish sporadically through the Summer either with Lynda or the children on their weekends and we had some great times enjoying success with carp, catfish and towards the end of the summer Perch. A particular highlight being my son Harry following up on his 7lb pike with a superb 3lb+ river perch, which was proudly sent in and printed within one of the weeklies. Although Joseph and Lynda all weighed in with fish over 2lb and I too a 3 pounder.

(Harry’s 3lb river perch)

I now couldn’t wait for the pike season to start, I was extremely excited but had learned , I hoped , from previous mistakes.  I made a decision to fish only two trout water days on a local water and my fenland fishing would be limited to half days at the most  and on the weekends when I didn’t have Harry and Joseph staying with me. Along with the odd trip with them for a few hours when weather conditions suited.  I would not fish weekends when I felt the weather was against me and I would try to pick what I considered to be the peak times to base my short sessions around by only fishing days when I felt the weather was in my favour. I would be forced to forget about some old venues having been banned, so would concentrate primarily on the river I had the 24 from the previous season and fish three different areas on rotation. Although my available time fishing was reduced dramatically if I could catch a good fish over the season with the much reduced hours available I would be more than pleased. Things started well in October with a venue best of 23lb 4oz from the second of the two reservoir days, mission accomplished, but further fired up by this the following weekend I fished a new area of my chosen Fenland river, well away from the scene of the previous seasons 24 and within an hour had a mighty 27lb 4oz pike in the net. My second biggest Fenland fish and one of a size I had waited six years for.

(Fenland 27)

Time was soon to become even more precious, as by now Lynda and I were expecting and my 3rd son Lucas duly arrived in December. Fishing again took a back seat for a good six weeks or so and whilst I could not get out, my closest angling friends were at least enjoying some good fish.With Lucas a month old I managed to sneak out with him and with only an hour available on the bank we were both very pleased to sneak out a mid double !.

  Lucas and Daddy with a mid double

My son Joseph who is six had become very keen to go pike fishing and often asked when I would take him.With our water ways frozen I told him that he would have to wait. We seized our opportunitIies whenever we could together. These days I am really having to squeeze time in when I ever I can and one morning I managed to squeeze in just two hours either side of dawn at a venue close to home I had  selected, I had fished this water a fair bit in the past catching nothing but a few jacks and the odd double. The trip was successful with a fine brace of 18lb 10oz and a real beauty of 21lb 8oz. So with young Joseph in tow at lunchtime having carried out our shopping duties we loaded the car and set of for the water again, a small fenland drain, with an hour he noticed that a sardine in the margin was on the move, I looked up and the float moved across the drain at a fair pace, the run was struck and met with a solid resistance with the rod taking on an alarming battle curve. The fish plodded about hugging the bottom and my initial thoughts of passing the rod to him were abandoned !. I could not move the fish from the bottom and as such could not get a look at her, she ran two or  three times causing me to backwind but soon she was ready for netting. It was a hell of a job for me to slide down the steep bank without entering the water but she went in the net first time with me perched precariously above the water line. I hauled a heavy net up the bank and was astounded at what lay before me on the unhooking mat, here was probably the most beautiful pike I had ever seen, certainly on a par with any trout water pike I had caught or witnessed and from a humble Fenland drain no more than 15’ wide and 3’ deep. She weighed 22lb 4oz but had the length of a mid double.  A phrase that many years ago we used to use at work to describe a nice and very saleable house sprung immediately to mind ‘An Absolute Peach’.

The Drain peach 22lb 4oz

Other good fish were caught during this 12 month renaissance period and I have caught more big pike than ever before whilst fishing less time and I have caught many of them in the company of the people that I love the most. I have even had a marriage proposal accepted on the bank whilst fishing !. It has surely been the most rewarding 12 month period of my pike fishing life. All due to a combination of circumstances I couldn’t possibly have planned, I really should thank those over zealous bailiffs and outdated club rules which forced me on to pastures new. 

I have still managed to find time for the odd short session with my piking buddies. Instead of enviously looking at my friends who have been able to combine family life and fishing, I do seem at last to have the balance about right. This has been helped not least by a good woman and a bit of good fortune. I now value my fishing so,so much and seem to be much more relaxed about it, whether this has had a bearing on results I don’t know?.  But I am amazed at how it has changed in a year. One thing I do know is that I am enjoying it more than ever and if I don’t ever get that 30 I am no longer bothered what-so-ever. If and when it arrives I would be the happiest man in England but until then I just want to continue enjoying it as much as I have been more recently.

Since writing this piece for The Pool I treated myself to a full day out back end, on my own on a local water. It was only my 3rd full days fishing of the season and a long pre dawn walk was rewarded with this fabulous 25lb 8oz pike within minutes of arriving at my destination and it was to be my only take of the day!This  proved to me yet again that I didn’t need to be out all day to catch a decent fish, it was a fantastic way to end the season.With the Pike Gods smiling upon me once more I do feel truly blessed. 

Roll on next season!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Interview with Andy Frost, Broadland Legend

MH: Hi Andy, thanks for talking to the Pike Pool.
Your name and dry sense of humour has been familiar to many of us on the Piking forums over the years, can you start off by telling us how long you’ve been Piking/fishing? Why Pike? And what keeps you going after all these years?

Andy: I caught my first Pike in 1966 when I was nine years old from a local marsh drainage dyke, it was huge, around 5 to 6lbs I reckon. The serious stuff, or shall I say as seriously as I've ever taken it kicked off when I started driving at 17, so that's 38yrs of piking.
I do dibble at a few other forms of fishing, but Pike are the only species that really do it for me. A year after I caught my first Pike, Peter Hancock appeared in the local papers with "that" fish, well that was it for me. I remember crazing my uncles arse to take me to that Horsey Mere place, it was a waste of time asking my Father, he was a dawn 'til dusk worker, needless to say my uncle never took me.
I still go today for the one simple reason....I enjoy it, although the joints play up a bit these days, I do hope to put a few more seasons in yet.

MH: You are well known as a Broadland angler and have seen the various systems come and go as Pike fisheries. What do you think was the best (most exciting or enjoyable) period?

Andy: As for the best period, well for me it was the Yare in the 90s, probably because I was better prepared. When the Thurne was on fire in the early 80s, if I'm honest, I never really gave it my best shot. I was a lot younger and hence relatively inexperienced. At the time I was concentrating on the Trinities, and catching loads of quality fish, but nothing like what was coming out just up the road. Nonetheless, I had my fair share on the Trinities so on that score I have no complaints.
The Yare was always my local water, and we noted an explosion of fish around 1989, it was gradually improving all the time and I could see an opportunity coming. This time around, I was determined to give it my all, as previous experience had by now taught me that nothing lasts forever, so armed with that marvellous quality that is hindsight , I gave it my all. There were times when it was simply mind-blowing, and as time passed the quality fish started to come through. Once again as far as my lifelong ambition of a 30, from my local water was concerned, it seemed to have passed me by, but right at the very end, when fish were thinning out lady luck smiled on me, and on Feb 1st 2004, I had my dream fish of 33.06. Just two years later it was all over, two devastating salt surges put paid to what to me was a thoroughly enjoyable period in my fishing life. But life goes on, so nowadays I have reverted back to fishing all over, basically wherever I fancy according to conditions.

MH: Can you give us some idea of just how good the Yare was at that time?

Andy: Well as I said elsewhere at times it was unreal. I well remember one season when fishing on Nov 5th, me and my mate had to pack in earlier than usual to get to the Firework bash. We'd shared a haul of around 170lbs of fish, taking into account I don't start until October, on that day I caught my 100th double of that season. At that time twenties were still relatively thin on the ground though but as time progressed the numbers dropped off, but the size of fish were certainly improving. I can never envisage it returning to this kind of form, in the areas I was fishing it was unusual to even see another angler but as is always the case word eventually got out. I'm just very thankful, and indeed lucky to have been there from the start. Sometimes in life you need that little bit of fortune and I certainly had mine. I would be the first to admit that at times I had it really easy so my advice to anyone who finds themselves onto some good fishing is, keep it quiet and squeeze as much out of it as you can because it never lasts.

MH: Are you optimistic about the future for the Broads?
Andy: Am I optimistic, well yes, I think things will improve, but only slightly. I don't honestly think we'll ever see two periods in Broadland Pike angling (Thurne in the 80's & Yare in the 90's) like this again. Mainly because there are too many of us about and the "surprise" spring won't happen, there'll be too many of us that remember this. The Broads will always be worth a shout, but in all honesty I feel it is back to reality.

MH: What do you think is the biggest development that has helped your Piking over the time you’ve been fishing?
Andy: Improvements, well they're many fold, welfare equipment is now very, very good. I think in general we're fishing with better equipment. If I were to single one thing out, it would be better boats, I now have a folding cuddy and if it were not for this I would pack it in. More modern boats I feel enable us to fish in far more comfort and hence more efficiently, couple this with vastly superior clothing, and really we've never had it so good. Hot food and drink always on tap, it's almost unbelievable to think how things were years back.

MH: Many well-known Pikers have fished the Broads over the years, which ones have inspired you?
Andy: Anglers I respect and who have inspired me, there are several. Obviously the old school, Bill Giles in particular, although I never met him, what he said in his day still holds true today. Out of the latter day anglers , one VERY close friend of mine , he'll know who he is if he reads this, along with Jack Spall, and of course Steve Harper who besides being a very good angler has done tremendous work by compiling books covering the history of this very historic area.
MH: Anyone who has had the pleasure of sharing a boat with you will eat very well. Could you describe your cooking set up and what is your favourite food whilst fishing?
Andy: As I said earlier we are far better equipped these days. I love my cooking on board my boat, I'm a lazy sod at home and very rarely even make a cup of tea but in the boat I love it! It all adds to the enjoyment of the day. My choice of cooker is the Coleman "grill and ring", ideal for getting a good feast going.

MH: You once described to me a very clever shallow water livebait rig, would you share this with the pool siders please?
Andy: With regard to the livebait rig you mentioned, firstly I must say it is only really suitable for tidal waters. By this I mean when there is just enough water to cover the Lily pads that abound down here and by just enough I'm talking of 6" of water and over. We all know that once pike have had a feed up they will retreat to the cover of the lilies but getting a shallow enough presentation with a livebait will still tempt them. It's not complicated; I always try and keep my fishing and rigs as simple as possible. All it consists of is a direct extra-long trace of around 4ft in length, a single treble and the conventional swivel. On this goes an ordinary old fashioned Gazette Bung, set at whatever depth the tide dictates, the remainder of the trace above the Bung acts as the uptrace , which is essential to cover bite offs. Three of those small cork balls spaced evenly along the trace above the float ensures it's kept fully on the surface, so as not to sink into the pads. Simple really but highly effective.

MH: Do you have a pet hate/dislike about modern Pike fishing?

Andy: Dislikes in modern Pike angling?? My number one is I do honestly feel a lot have lost the real reason why we do this; the numbers game seems to have taken over. I'll hold my hands up and fully admit I was guilty of it once, and on my own personal reflection it was pretty sad. I suppose I'm winding down a bit now and only go when I really fancy it. Obviously I don't like to see bad handling but that's a hard nut to crack in that we were all like that once. By that I mean beginners and everyone should remember that. In this field the Pike Angling Club of Great Britian has made great advances in promoting welfare and I sincerely hope they continue to do so.

I'll get slated for this I know, but I can't abide by bait boats, if you haven't made the cast then its fishing and not angling as far as I'm concerned. I'm not overly keen on fishfinders either. I once had one for about a week and then gave it away, I just prefer doing it naturally. I fully realise that nearly everyone has one nowadays, it's a free world and we must all chose which path we take but they're not for me.

MH: What do you think of Derrick Amies recent book about Norfolk Pike fishing?
Andy: With regard to the Derrick Amies book, well there are three camps here; the disbelievers, the believers and those that couldn't give a rats arse. For the record I'm firmly in the former. It's been trawled over time and time again but I say just LOOK at the evidence in the book and work it out for yourselves, I think I'll leave it at that.

MH: Of all the Pike you’ve caught, large & small, which one gave you the most pleasure?
Andy: Out of all the fish I've caught, I’ve enjoyed all of them in a strange kind of way. I never tire of seeing a fish. Obviously my PB gave me immense pleasure, just seeing such a specimen was enough but to have actually caught it was the icing on the cake. Two of my lifelong angling companions have had their PBs when they have been with me which was very pleasing. Only recently watching my very close friend and his young son bagging up gave me as big a buzz as if it had been me doing it.

MH: Can you name two anglers who you'd like to share a boat with for the day? One from the past and one currently fishing.
Andy: Anglers I'd like to share a boat with? tough one to call really, all the old Broadland anglers have now sadly passed on, but I would say that a day with Bill Giles would have probably made my angling life complete, what a true Gent he was. As for present anglers, well there are many, this may seem an odd choice to some but out of anglers still at it today, Denis Moules is my type of man. Immense local knowledge and a very accomplished angler, I sincerely hope that it may happen one day.

MH: Do you have any fishing ambitions left?
Andy: Ambitions. As I said earlier I’m probably winding down nowadays so I tend not to set myself targets these days. I just want to keep enjoying things as long as I can. I'm the sort who sometimes loads boat and motor the night before and don't always make my mind up where I'm going until I get up the next morning. It probably goes without saying that I would dearly like a Thurne thirty, it certainly won't happen this season, as I haven't bothered to fish it since October.....fed up with all the hassle Natural England are causing up there, I just had to get that one in !!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to the Pool Andy. It’s been a pleasure asking the questions and I’m sure The Pool- Siders will enjoy reading what you have to say.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

One Thing Leads To Another
Chris Hammond

I can recall a fairly typical Monday morning many years ago with a huddle of us boys swapping tales of our weekend exploits in the school yard at break. One lad was offering round for view an Old Holborn tin half filled with cotton wool. Nestling amongst the fluffy white lining was a freshly blown chaffinch’s egg which the owner had procured in a sneaky raid on some nearby gamekeepered land at the weekend. The off grey background of the songbird’s egg  was exquisitely scribed with stunning purple and mauve markings, and the posse of youngsters surrounding the collector were oohing and aaghing in admiration at his find. Negotiations to extract the whereabouts of the nest from the boy with the tin had already ensued and he was listening eagerly to the various offers of laddish booty which were being proffered in return for this information.

Not to be outdone Ricky Roper, a good natured but undeniably dim young thug, began to relay the detail of his day’s fishing on the local drain. Several ears were swayed from the egg owner, fishing was an equally compelling topic, especially that done with rod and line as the majority of the boys had yet to ascend to such lofty heights and were still hounding the loach and sticklebacks populations of the local streams with either jam jars, or shop brought butterfly nets, depending on the angler’s social standing.

Realising he’d got the audience in the palm of his hand now Ricky revved up the detail a bit and informed the expectant crowd that the day had been a huge success and he had finished with a stack of fish including a 2.5 lb Kipper. No, it wasn’t some attempt at wit on Ricky’s behalf, he hadn’t the nowse, it was in fact a genuine attempt to bullshit us. To coin a bit of current football parlance, at that point he lost the dressing room! Ricky shrugged his shoulders and scurried away amidst howls of derision and the crowd dispersed in a disgruntled fashion.

That is one of my earliest fishing related memories. It was long before any of us owned cameras, so Ricky may have (and indeed regularly did) got away with his fibbing if he’d have had any knowledge of the inhabitants of the drain. The truth is Ricky had never owned a rod, nor indeed ever fished the drain, or anywhere else for that matter, and usually relied on his advanced physical build and talent with his fists to ensure that his peers subscribed to his tall tales.

The drain in question was about five miles from the town I‘d recently moved to, and with no bicycle it was out of fishing range for me. Previously I’d lived in a tiny Suffolk village where I’d honed my fishing skills in a tiny brook targeting the aforementioned loach, sticklebacks and gruff looking bullheads that sheltered under the various rocks and half bricks littering the stream bed. At this point my fishing career was largely put on hold, resuming only once I had obtained my first bicycle.

Prior to the move to the town in an unusual stroke of luck,  my errant father, on one of his rare visits to gain access to his son, had gifted me an Allcocks split cane fly rod and cheap fixed spool reel -accompanied by a few bob-floats, a tub of lead shot and a handful of outsized rusty hooks. Around the same time myself and a couple of the other lads from the village had discovered a moat surrounding a ‘big’ house and a soupy coloured farm irrigation pond, both of which contained a batch of stunted rudd. Both were within reasonable walking distance of the village and we spent countless hours harrying their occupants with pinches of bread on outlandishly sized eyed hooks.

Any spare time in which I didn’t find myself fishing at that time would be spent trying to add to my bird’s egg collection. Collecting eggs  -an extremely common pastime amongst country lads in that era-  was my other great passion. It‘s something that I suppose is quite rightly frowned upon in this more enlightened age. Although I often wonder if the introduction it gave the average lad to the ornithological world isn‘t sadly missing among today‘s children.. Hence both of the public speakers in the school yard that day had held my attention.

Eventually in my teenage years, along with a moped, I purchased my first fishing camera, a Minolta X300. My fishing horizons were massively broadened and bullshitting and exaggeration amongst my fishing mates became largely a thing of the past. Being considerably keener than any of my friends on fishing I frequently found myself fishing alone, so my earliest attempts at photographing my catch featured only the fish, usually with some item laid beside them to give the picture some scale. And a good many of my captures from those first few years are committed solely to memory.

The thought of catching something memorable now and not getting a photo to record the moment is simply unthinkable. Before the advent of the mobile phone, if I’d forgotten  I’d have headed home for the camera rather than fish. I know some readers will baulk at that but I’m making no apologies. Photographs are a key part of my angling and it would simply ruin the moment for me were I to capture a new personal best and not get a picture.

Eventually a tripod was procured and along with the basic self-timer function on my Minolta I began to get reasonable pictures even when fishing alone.

With the vastly more sophisticated equipment I carry nowadays including of course a digital camera, self-take photography is pretty much bomb proof. Before long I began to enjoy photographing my surroundings and the things I saw whilst fishing. Let’s face it, not many hobbies put you in the right place at the right time to the extent that fishing does. Stunning sun rises and haunting sun sets are commonplace to us anglers and it’s easy to forget that such privileged experiences are rarely if ever witnessed by the remainder of the sleepy public. Equally common are those thrilling wildlife encounters. The kind of encounters one can only be privy to if sitting still and quietly in the remotest parts of the countryside. And such practices are the very fabric of angling.

It’s easy to be dismissive of photography and trophy shots, but without them the history of our favourite pastime would be bland and largely based on hearsay. I do know of one mate at least who never takes a camera or scales, and he has caught a few lumps,  but I don't think too many people genuinely don't care what the fish they catch weigh, or whether they get a picture of their better catches.  I often hear the act of photographing a fish being lambasted by a certain sort of angler. They hold up the ideal that just to go and catch should be enough or that we should not be putting the fish under the duress of being momentarily kept from the water. I strongly suspect that the larger part of this faction are people that simply catch bugger all!

I’d go as far as to say that, on a personal note, without a trophy shot to look back on I might as well not have caught the fish in the first place. Of course we all enjoy the act of capturing fish, but, conceited though it may appear, I want to be able to show off my best captures. Sharing pictures on the net or amongst friends with a photo album is key to my fishing experience.

Being often a lone angler, especially in my younger days, I quickly learned the value of self-take photography. Modern tackle allows for mostly incident free retention of fish, so little harm is done whilst carrying out the process. If you are of the opinion that the fish’s welfare should never be compromised then frankly I’d have to question why you bother to hinder the fish by angling for them at all. I make no apology for suspecting that the least successful anglers are often the most vociferous in their protests against fish photography.

Being out in the wildest of places, intentionally striving to keep as quiet and unobtrusive as possible, quite naturally leads us to encounter wildlife to a level which your average red kagouled National Trust member can only dream of. Like many others I’m sure I’ve been privy to some incredible sights while fishing. Last year I can recall with some affection a family of three newly fledged Kingfishers all alighting on one pike rod as it sat idly in the rests. One of the few times I’ve prayed not to get a take. Another time I remember with incredulity a mallard leaping out of the water in full steam attack at a marauding mink, and the mink scampering at a ripe old gallop!

Initially I would take a pointless snap of such wonders with the standard 50mm lens. However before long I found myself increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t share those sights with my mates as I did with my fish photos. Eventually I bit the bullet and invested a fair old wedge on a Sigma zoom lens and began to get more satisfying results. At one point though it became apparent that the ferrying of this kind of kit between waters just wasn’t helping my fishing, and, much as I enjoyed the capture of a great nature shot, I realised it was a separate hobby. So that’s how I began to treat it. I have probably spent nearly as much of the last three or four years stalking wildlife with a camera as I have fishing. I’ve even become a hopelessly soppy lover of wildflowers and butterflies.

To me the link between angling and the natural world is an unbreakable one. Most of us fish for recreation rather than for the table nowadays. We take pleasure in capturing otherwise unseen creatures from our underwater worlds. We want to interact with those magnificent fish. To spend a few brief moments marvelling at their jewelled scaling and eye catching colour before releasing them -hopefully none the worse for their encounter with us. Most of us also like to take a photograph to remind ourselves of particular specimens or especially attractive or unusual captures. For me the same reasoning applies to all the birds, animals and plants that I see. I want to take that picture to look back on. To capture the moment if you like. Just like fishing, I suppose, it is still borne of the oldest of human desires, that of hunting.