Seven from ten.

Facebook may have its detractors but I like it.  Recently many of my angling friends have been sharing their top ten fishing memories.  Basically a photo and a few words to tell the story behind it then the author nominates someone else to keep it going on.  At first I didn't want a nomination but when it came I realised I'd enjoyed reading other people's stories so why not contribute?  I enjoyed the writing and reminiscing so I've decided to put some of my contributions on this page.  A few of the stories have already appeared elsewhere on this blog so I haven't bothered to repeat them.

It’s hard to believe now but back in the mid eighties there were no known twenty pound Carp in my part of Suffolk so to be in with a chance my friends and I travelled to some pits in the Waveney Valley.  In those days Carp fishing was still very much a minority sport practiced by the insane. Nowadays there are at least three waters that hold Carp over twenty pounds and at least two that hold thirties within a mile of my home. 

I really enjoyed stalking with floaters and I’d got the hang of catching them in a little tree lined bay. 
I would bait the snags with mixers and gradually draw the fish out and into water where I stood a chance of landing them.  When I hooked one I’d plunge the rod tip underwater and hang on while it went on its first mad run.  I caught lots of Carp doing this which was a novelty in itself at the time but never any big ones.  On this particular day in June 1985 I was watching a couple of fish feeding in the snags, a few mixers had drifted out into open water and these started disappearing inside an enormous pair of lips.

Out went a mixer, attached to a size 8 Au lion D’or hook by a float rubber stretched with forceps (did someone – not me - in Suffolk invent the bait band?) and it was slurped down straight away.  The rod would have been a Daiwa 11 foot glass fibre carp rod and the reel a Mitchell 300.  I can’t remember much more but I must have yelled for help as I know my old mate Carl Warren netted it for me.  The weight was 21.02.

In these parts there are three Reservoirs beginning with the letter A, two of these are very well known but it was the least renowned that I enjoyed fishing the most.  It was big and wild, totally different to the medium sized pits I was used to fishing and I loved it. I was working shifts at the time so was able to fish regularly and I could also fish mid week when no one else was about.  I grew to love fishing in peace and solitude so much that I’ve mostly fished quieter waters ever since, even if it means missing out on more prolific fishing. 

Being on the water regularly had another advantage, it meant I could keep prebaiting a little ‘out of the way’ spot and this gave me a big edge over others fishing the water.  Having seen how effective prebaiting could be it was something I did regularly thereafter.

I fished the water for several seasons from the late eighties through to the early nineties and had the time of my life.  The place was beautiful, the Pike fought as hard as any I’ve caught, anywhere and I managed to catch several over twenty pounds, however they never seemed to get as big as the Pike in the other two A’s.  This was my best from the water and it weighed twenty three pounds.

6/10  No apologies for posting this fish for the umpteenth time as this one is a bit special to me…
2008 and life was … challenging to say the least.  Pressures from other directions had seen me spending far less time on the bank/boat than is healthy.  I wasn’t happy and probably not in a good place.  What little fishing time I had was being spent on the Broads and I’d grown to love the Thurne system above all.  I had a goal to catch a twenty from the system but with the time I had, I didn’t really believe I’d ever do it.

I was 40 that March so to celebrate hired a chalet by the water along with old friends Giles & Rich plus new friends Steve Bown & John Cahill.  I was sharing a boat with Steve on day one when my float slid away and I hooked into something weighty.  It didn’t cross my mind that this could be the one I wanted at any time until Steve lifted the net and said the immortal words “Fookin’ ‘ell Mick!  It’s a fookin’ horse!”  26 pounds and I was totally blown away.

In the months that followed a few necessary life changes were made and things became easier all round.  I re-found my fishing mojo and became addicted to the most challenging, rewarding, exhilarating place I’ve ever been privileged to fish, in good times and bad.

7/10   I am probably the world’s worst Tench angler, despite them being my second favourite fish.  Years ago when I fished for Carp a lot, I caught far more Tench than I ever did Carp.  Nowadays it’s the other way around.  My attempts to catch Tench vary from disaster to farce with the only odd, very rare success, just when I’m on the verge of giving up.  To be fair I do have a bit of an excuse, a decade ago there was some excellent Tench fishing in Suffolk but the disappearance of these fish coincided with a dramatic and unnatural rise in the numbers of Otters.  Say no more.

June 2010 and as it was Father’s day Maddie and Isaac didn’t need much encouragement to spend a night with me bivvied up beside a silty Mere.  In the evening all three of us caught loads of silver fish on maggots or corn but the night and early morning passed by without incident and it looked like another blank was on the cards.  It was about 0830 and the breakfast sausages were sizzling in the pan (the kids favourite part of the trip), when the float dipped again and I actually hooked something that hooped the rod over.  A few minutes later I netted a lovely fat Tench that weighed just over six pounds.

Despite my ineptitude I have managed to catch a few Tench bigger than this one over the years but the company and the circumstances make this the most memorable.

8/10   I’ll try and keep a long story short.  My first trip in the autumn of 2011 was also the first outing for my “new” boat, nothing flash, an Orkney Spinner.  I see loads of lighter, faster, bigger, fancier boats about but I wouldn’t swap my spinner for any of them.  I’d christened it with a jack early on and was planning to fire up the engine and move a couple of miles away.  This plan was changed after a phone call from Rich; he had back trouble and thought he might need a hand launching his boat.  For this reason alone I decided not to go too far and dropped the weights down in a bay I hadn’t ever fished before.  After half an hour I boated a fifteen pounder, happy days the first double in the new boat!
Another forty minutes passed, I’d just twitched a Mackerel back a yard and that float was on the move, I set the hooks into a heavy and powerful fish.  The first time I got it nearly into the net it powered off again, second attempt it was in and I almost relaxed but I swear this obviously big Pike leapt clean out of the net.  Imagine losing it after that?  Third time lucky the fish went in the net and I made sure it stayed in there.
My double hooks came out easily but there was a problem, there was a second trace stitching up the throat.  What should I do?  The trace had to come out which with the help of some cutters it did.  This was obviously a good twenty but I didn’t realise just how big until the scales swung round to 29.01!!!  Afterwards I remember lowering her over the side and holding on to the tail wrist while she recovered.  Looking down on this long fish with a broad back it was only then that I realised just how huge she was!
Back at home a couple of days later we compared photos and realised this was a fish Rich had caught at 30+ 18 months earlier and 2 ½ miles away, as featured in “Extreme Pike”.  Obviously we fished the bay again, both of us caught other big Pike here and mine wasn’t the biggest!  That’s not my story to tell…  Also this Pike was caught at least twice after my lucky day; both times she weighed over 30lbs and made dreams come true.

9/10  I stopped Carp fishing in 1993/94, partly because I got fed up with fishing busy lakes and being surrounded by idiots. And partly because I preferred to spend my summer weekends trying in vain to hit a cricket ball or trying in vain to break the Guinness world record for drinking pints of Guinness.
As the years passed my failing eyesight meant I was a danger to myself in attempting to play cricket and my internal organs could no longer handle the Guinness. 

Meanwhile Carp fishing became the mainstream, I tried to avoid it for as long as possible but this became futile.  In 2013 I realised it was two decades since I’d last caught a twenty pounder so decided to have another go.  I knew the silty Mere held some beautiful scaly Mirrors and I was determined to catch one.  For a couple of months I made all the same stupid mistakes I’d made in the past but eventually started to get my act together. 

I fished a Friday night in early August and woke up with the birds on Saturday morning.  At 0710 a rod cast in front of a reedbed ripped off and I set the hook into something heavy.  I noticed a huge cloud of bubbles had appeared on the spot my bait had been cast to.  I can remember a tug of war in the margins before I pulled a good fish over the net.  It a Common not a Mirror but at 22.04 I didn’t care.  An hour later I had another take which turned out to be one of those horrible ghostie things of about 11 pounds.  Before the end of August, fishing another water I’d caught a load more Carp including three twenties, this one wasn’t the biggest but it is my favourite.

10/10   I’ve enjoyed remembering almost as much as I’ve enjoyed reading other anglers memories but this is the last one from me.
I have just one ambition in angling and that is to one day catch a thirty pounder from Broadland.  At this point in time this is probably as difficult as it ever could be thanks to salt surges, Prymnesium outbreaks and filthy Otters but I’ll keep on trying whatever.

In autumn 2014 I was fishing a favourite spot and caught a double which took a bait I was retrieving.  A while later the penny dropped and I began fishing “sink & draw” style, with half a bluey as bait.  On the third cast the tip rapped and I struck into a heavy weight which took line straight away.  I remember pumping it back to the boat but it took off again, taking about twenty yards of line, the run ended with a big head shake and gill flare on the surface.  I saw all this clearly so knew I was attached to something very special and obviously crapped meself!

Everything went to plan after that and I managed to get the fish in the boat without too much further trouble.  She weighed 29.08 and is as close to the magic Broads 30 as I have managed, was I disappointed?  Not for a second! Rich and Giles were fishing nearby and came over to help with the photos taking some great shots including this one which is definitely one of my all-time favourites.

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