After my recent trip to the enchanting River Blackwater in Co Cork, I came across this film, written and directed by Richard Gorodecky which struck a chord and reminded me of my similar experiences, especially of those in ‘our’ fishing hut. Fishing huts are always heavy with atmosphere, the river a constant sound that permeates through the walls leaving the angler with a itch that there is more fishing to be done. For issue 4 of Fallon’s Angler I have captured the fishing hut in our regular ‘Through the Lens’ series, but until its publication watch this short trailer and take in the atmosphere…
This last July something happened to me that although was not significantly life altering has made a change to my angling for the next year, but I will come back to that a little later.
First I must tell you about a discovery on a stretch of river where a group of carp (about twenty or more) live below a weir exploiting the rich oxygen. In this fast moving area of water lie a concrete platform of around 20×20 feet where I have managed to create a dinner table for these resident carp, the size of which are heart stopping, the smaller fish are probably high teens while some easily reach into their twenties possible more. The access to this place can only be achieved when the water level drops below the overflow, this is when you can climb down a high wall and jump onto the base of the overflow structure, this is the style of carp fishing I like, solving problems and accessing carp that only the adventurous will attempt. When the water level is low the oxygen is also low and this drives the carp high up against the weir where they spend the days searching for food and breathing the oxygen rich water, this is a place that I am planning to cast a line.
During the closed season I had been observing these carp, many of which were clearly very big commons, possibly weighing thrirty pounds or more. Throughout the last few months I have been building their confidence, to be honest they were pretty keen from the start, getting their heads down on sweetcorn, maggots or bread. In preparation for the season I had a small Hardy trout bag packed and ready to go on any opportune moment with a bait box, bits of tackle, a tin of sweetcorn, and a folding net suitable for my new found task of bouldering down this wall and jumping onto the concrete overflow with my trusty old carp rod and reel in hand. Soon the sixteenth came and went, but I was just too busy to get down there.
Then in early July a pleasant distraction came in the form of an invite to fish the Blackwater in Co Cork for salmon. Salmon are the polar opposite from carp, they hit a bait in anger, and if hooked run off with haste in their ever transient cycle of life. If the salmon is reactionary then the carp is the cautious cousin, a ponderer, a creature to sum up all the possibilities before they act, exploring the same familiar territory for food, then once found carefully nose the bait sometimes leaving it for days before returning and finally taking the plunge and taking the bait.
Since the beginning of my angling life back in 1980, water has been a place of mystery, wonder, a place where I felt comfortable either with or without a rod. I could not pass any water without sparing a few minutes and consider its possibilities, whether it was a tiny brook or the sea. Now, and for the next few months I have to consider water to be a place of potential danger and take caution as I suffered an epileptic seizure. Thankfully this happened while in the relative safety of a hotel room in Co Cork and with a friend who managed to look over me, this was not a pleasant experience and I came out of it battered, bruised and with a shoulder that even a month on is in dire need of surgery. It could have been worse but I will have to be patient, my angling is now restricted to doing it with friends and using public transport as my driving license has been suspended, the carp of the weir will have to wait until next season.
The Tuesday Swim has been a little quiet for a while and for good reason, I have taken on the role as picture editor for the newly formed publication Fallon’s Angler. For those who haven’t come across this quarterly may I point you in the direction of the website www.fallonsangler.net.
My task along with the editor, Garret is to bring to the reader, original, interesting, and thoughtful writing and photography, a tall order? Well, certainly a challenge but as ‘Fangler’ grows in momentum more opportunities are coming our way to discover new and old writers who have an interesting tale or perspective to share. I have just heard that we may have an old angling legend to grace the pages of issue 4.
My assignment for issue 3 was to visit Jean Williams in Usk and her wonderful traditional tackle shop that is filled with atmosphere and local knowledge. My photo essay and interview in Sweets I hope captures this atmosphere, I think it does.
I believe the term ‘song of the paddle’ orginated from an american writer/artist called Bill Mason who wrote and produced a film of the same name in the post hippy era of the mid seventies, where he explores the ‘wilds’ with his family in two open canoes. In his film he states “the wilderness was only invented by the white men, for the native americans it was always know as home, now modern society has put a distance between man and his creator.” To take up the paddle or to cast a line must surely be part of the re-connection that drives anglers and canoeist to venture out? So while paddle and rod cross swords in this country over their fight for rights to our rivers, it must be both parties that should tread carefully as we have no rights, if we are lucky we have the opportunity to experience, and then we leave, the ‘wilderness’ should not be plundered, nor exploited and certainly not owned.
Click here to view.
A few years ago I bought a Canadian canoe, an ex-army friend borrowed it almost immediately and took it on some adventures, from source to sea along the Thames, and the following year the length of the Wye on the Welsh/English border. I was happy that the canoe was getting used but I was envious when his tales were re-told. One story that struck a chord was the night-time paddles (mainly to avoid the boat traffic during the day) on the Thames, to be afloat on the river at night and experience the very first light while drifting with the flow must have been magical, no other soul, just the song of the paddle.
I eventually reclaimed the canoe from a frozen shipyard one January morning out on an estuary in Essex, but to be honest it was nearing the end, damp had got to it, boards were delaminating. So this year I have started to build a new plywood Canadian canoe, twelve feet in length, that should carry two adults and some gear. In the summer I want set out and paddle the length of the River Lea from it’s source in Hertfordshire to Leamouth where it enters the Thames. Like Bill Mason I want this journey to be a connection and not just a recreation, exploring your place, your home and what comes around the corner is a journey that only ends, when it ends.
It’s easy to do when the current carp scene is so unappealing, all good things come to an end? Well not really they just get displaced and a little harder to find, just like special carp waters. When I started to get serious about fishing I got caught by the carp bug, this was just about the same time you could buy a shelf-life pack of boilies, and monkey climbers were all the rage. In truth my success was moderate but I did fish quite difficult waters, (commercial fisheries had yet to plague the country) and I did catch some good carp. Once I came within quarter of a pound of breaking the carp record set in 1952 for Haywards Heath and District Angling Society, if I had broken the record I would have kept it quiet, but that is another story.
Sadly carp fishing is now dismissed by many anglers because of the ugly commercial side, the ‘purists’ turn their noses up and instead talk of the benefits of catching roach, perch, chub and crucians which is all very good, but it is easy to over-look what is still one of the most powerful and magical fish in the British Isles, the common and mirror carp. Puffed up footballs bursting with halibut pellets is not what I am talking about, more the longer, leaner specimens that still swim in mill ponds, lost souls that lurk in canals and rivers or the occasional ‘wildie’ that can still be found all over England and Wales.
So why am I harping on about carping in the middle of winter? Well while I was defrosting from a pike trip the other day I was drawn to my old 1980’s copies of Carp Catcher magazine, to help aid the thawing process. Articles range from interviews with the old establishment such as ‘BB,’ to new ideas discussed like the hair rig from Kevin Maddocks. Carp Catcher always had a pioneering spirit that set a precedent in carp fishing but in a way it was also feeding the end of a magical time, the modern carp scene was gaining popularity and the mystery was being made more transparent and accessible to lazy fishermen.
Those who contributed to Carp Catcher went on to create some of the biggest tackle manufacturers today but equally many did it purely for the love in a manner that was personal and relatively discrete. The editorial content was honest with a real sense of problem solving and watercraft, rather than re-inventing the invented that is now all too apparent in todays angling publications. A more recent read that I have acquired is Carp Hunters a book produced by the Carp Society which has contributions from Julian Cundiff, Jim Gibbinson, Andy Little, Ritchie McDonald, Tim Paisley and Chris Yates, again this captures a real spirit of carp fishing from anglers who approached their fishing in an individual manner. It may be this individuality that made this era such fun to follow? Although many consider the Walker years to be the golden age of carp fishing, I love to read about this latter period simply because I remember it and feel in some way part of that wonderful time in fishing when I was as a teenager and dreamt of owning matching rods and Cardinal 55’s.
Reading these articles again has prematurely ignited a yearning to carp fish, normally this arrives in late spring when the waters warm and the carp appear for another season. So until the sun burns longer I will have to sit on my hands and wait and dream about a place where wildies reside not so far from London and some lonely spots on the Lea. When I eventually make it out with my carp rod there will be no bivvies in sight and it will be personal, I will use the simplest of tackle and possibly I shall write the odd post here on TTS but often not, sometimes just a snap on my phone and a memory. Carp fishing never really changes.
While routing through some old hard drives I discovered a folder labelled ‘East London.’ Being distracted by anything rather than my actual task of finding some new work I went through the images recalling the journey I took on a still, misty spring day in 2007. For those who remember this area before the Olympics will recognise the route I took from where the main Olympic stadium now stands, to the old Lesney Matchbox factory, sadly demolished. Although I have nothing against the Olympic park I do look back with fondness for the more industrial and run down feel of the place, the shear lack of people, where I once fished undisturbed.