At last, myself and Jack have got ourselves back on the Top Lake at Whites Lakes! We booked ourselves on for a 48-hour session over the bank holiday weekend and have been looking forward to this one for a few weeks now. We haven’t had any luck on the Top Lake on our previous trips but with some more knowledge from the current members and from Mike himself we arrived with a slight spring in our step and some confidence within us.
The Weather leading up to the weekend wasn’t great but it was set to be somewhat of a scorcher whilst we were there, once again the Weather doesn’t give us a break, we always book our sessions a few weeks in advance due to family and work commitments so we are forever relying on the weather being nice to us rather than being able to fish on a whim.
Upon arriving to the lake, we were met with a bit of a knock in our confidence with Mike saying the fish are set to start spawning any day now, whilst they hadn’t started yet Mike did say that if they did start then unfortunately, we would be asked to leave as when the fish start spawning, he closes the lakes to let the fish get on with it, this is once again another sign of how much of an awesome fishery Mike runs and he is not in it for the money but for the love of the sport and the welfare of his fish.
With only 2 swims available on the lake, I decided to be the best friend a man could ask for and let Jack fish in his favoured swim (I know honestly, I’m just too nice for my own good.)
After selecting our sports and putting our new approach into place we stumbled across some eggs they were laid randomly on the path between mine and Jack’s swim, although I’m no twitcher, I do really love being amongst the wildlife around me when fishing and so my interests were intrigued and I decided to try and determine which bird these eggs belonged too.
Upon extensive research (Seeing the bird return to the eggs and googling ‘Black and White bird with long Orange beak) it was revealed the eggs belonged to a fascinating bird called an Oystercatcher.
A few hours into our trip Jack had a few single bleeps on one of his rods, whilst standing at his rods waiting for another indication, we saw the line moving but not enough for the bite alarm to detect it, Jack decided to pick up the rod and see what was going on, hey presto he was in! Result! Our first fish/take on the Top Lake, a short battle later he was graced with this chunky Common, all 25lb of it!
With the rest of the day passing uneventfully, we tucked up into our beds and was excited for the night ahead, at 12am I was greeted with a screamer of a run and just likes Jack fish I had a short battle ahead before being greeted with this awesome 23lb Common, my new Common PB! YIIPEEE!
(We do need to work on our night time shots)
With the rest of the night passing with no further fish we were greeted with our worst nightmare, the fish were getting jiggy with it, so we decided to wind the rods in and head off to the shops to contemplate our next move.
Upon returning it didn’t look good at all with the fish seemingly turning up their Barry White music and giving it a right good go.
With our session seemingly over, we had a very hard decision to make…… Come back for our next blog in 2 weeks to see what we done and how/where we ended up!
On a last note, the eggs seemed to start to hatch whilst we were there too! Love all around us!
Hi guys and welcome back to another JT Carpers blog, we hope your all keeping well and getting out onto the bank as much as possible!
This week we have a little recap of a session we done with our children last month when we were allowed to meet up with another household outside, we decided to go to Tylers common fishery for a few hours on their match lake to try and get a few fish for the children, defiantly not for our own benefit whatsoever 🙄. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the fishery all the lakes were booked out for matches apart from the Specimen Lake, with the main aim of our trip to be quantity over quality (size) we decided to give this a miss and go onto Puddledock fishery as we know they have a few lakes on site which are of a high quality and very likely to catch.
Upon arriving at the lake, we decided to jump onto ‘The Snake Lake’. We weren’t going to be fishing all day as our children are still young, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for them to lose interested if we were there all day.
So, upon arriving we decided to have 1 float rod each using simple maggot tactics and then 1 method feeder rod each to target some of the carp. The day started off somewhat slow and we were beginning to worry we would be forever taunted by our children about our lack of fishing skills.
Finally, Jack hooked into the first fish of the day, a lovely little roach that saved both of our blushes and made us look awesome to our children, true fishermen with unbelievable amounts of skills!
With Jack bringing in the roach to no end it started to become apparent that this was very much a one-sided affair and I needed to catch something or forever be reminded by my children and Jack and his son that I was the only one to not catch.
BRRRINGGGGGGGGGGGGGG, my bite alarm screamed from out of nowhere and I was into a carp on the method feeder, after a short scrap and letting the children have a go as much as possible without wanting to lose the fish, we had landed the only carp of the day, Hooray everyone was happy!
So, with a few hours of getting the children out of our partners hair and having some fun fishing we decided it was time to call it a day before the weather took a turn for the worse. All in all a very success day, a few fish under our belts and looking like we actually know what we are doing to our children we went on our merry way.
So once again, thank you so much for reading the blog, we appreciate all the support as does everyone from the Essex Anglers team.
Frant Lakes is a beautiful fishery on the border of Kent and East Sussex. It has eight lakes-two of which are the speci lakes (lakes 7 and 8). It will always have a special place in my heart as it is the first fishing venue my other half took me to.
My last two trips there have resulted in seven fish being caught. We have only ever been out on speci lake 7 where it has a nice couple of features you can fish to-there are snags and lilly pads out in the middle and over to the far right a small island.
I booked a 48hr session over there in April and I was determined to rely on myself to find the fish rather than just cast out to the edge of the snags and hope for the best. Got myself all set up-2 Sonik Vader RS rods, my brand new Sonik SKX bite alarms (a big improvement on my first alarms, Saber) and my Leeda pod. Unfortunately the weather was all over the shop and relatively cold and the fish were not showing. No splashes, hardly any fizzing on the water-nothing.
About 5 hours later we had the lake to ourselves after the other anglers left. An hour after that I saw a fish, splashing away over to my right in the next swim. I thought right you, you’re mine! I reeled in my right hand rod, stuck a fresh 12mm Mainline banoffe pop up on my hair rig and made up a PVA bag using my Crafty Catcher 15mm chocolate and nut boilies and casted out to the swim on my right (having the lake to yourself has some advantages I guess!). Then I sat back and waited. 40 minutes later my bite alarm on the right screamed off and I was on! He took a while to bring in as he decided to take me into the snags but I got him and landed him all by myself. Beautiful common weighing in about 14lb if I remember rightly. That day I felt a bit more like an angler.
With the amount of rain we have had lashing down, it really does put you off Fishing, certainly put me off driving a fairly long way to try and catch some Tench, instead, I stayed at home, warm and dry, and when there was a break in the conditions had the short stroll to my little local pond which has been providing me plenty of fun and bites recently with the numbers of Fish in it, and definetly some true surprises.
My approach for fishing a small pond like this would normally be a light float setup, then fishing over micros with soft expanders or corn on the hook. However, I just used what I was going to go Tench Fishing with, which was a hybrid feeder, with a sweet berry groundbait mixed with micros and corn on the hook. Sure on a small pond, a few fish would fall to this sweet mix.
In the past from this pond, I have had hybrids, Carp to around 5-6lb, and seen even bigger at, a few doubles which is a shock! But these small ponds do throw odd shocks. They do have some crucian/goldfish hybrids too, which are always lovely fish to catch. And I’m sure there is other species in here I have no clue about.
My plan was only to spend an hour, maybe less here just between the rain as a way to get out and catch a few Fish. If I got one, I was happy, I setup, and had a short underarm chuck, and straight away a few fish where there with indications on my feeder straight away. Always a great sign!
From then, the tip went round in my first bite of the day, and I connected to the Fish! A small, perfect condition common carp.
The one thing I so often find with these little ponds, is the the fish are always in such beautiful condition, no damage on them at all, and they have the tendancy to be a bit scrapier than your usual little Carp too! Which really adds to it, especially on a light rod, these little Fish will try and dart into the reeds and snags and really make a go of it. Afterall, a lot of us grew up fishing these little ponds, catching fish like this, and it’s always fun to roll back the years and do it again. Especially if you do have venues like this on your doorstep.
Back to the action, well, it got a bit quiet, clearly the disruption from this guy had caused a few others to back off maybe, and it was a quiet 10-15 minute wait. And then the tip went round again, for another little energetic Carp. And again, another 15 minutes or so, I managed another one.
So, for under an hour, 3 little Carp, I was quite happy, and satisified the fishing bug for the day! And for a day where I was just on a quick run out, I can’t complain. However, next week, onto a change and hunting some more Tench!
It’s safe to say that this year, I’ve been out of the carping game. Over the winter I dedicated my time to some pike and river fishing. Once the weather warmed up, I was overloaded with revision for my A levels and only managed to hit the bank once for a quick overnighter at my local park lake. That session resulted in 3 lovely looking fish, two of which were caught in the last hour out of the 26 hours that I was fishing. Last weekend, I finally managed to catch up with my friend Jack and catch a few carp.
The previous night, I had made up some spod mix. It consisted of crushed up God’s Gift economy boilies, whole 11mm regular Baylys Baits God’s Gift boilies, breadcrumb, pellet, and some leftover white rice from dinner. I gave it all a good soaking of Secret Sauce Glug+ to add even more attraction, it’s not only a glug but also a liquid food & Lysine Amino Acid. When adding many boilies to my mixes or crushing them up, the economy boilies are fantastic. They’re affordably priced but still offer lots of attraction. I think that by using them in conjunction with the regular boilies, it can make the regular boilies which I will use on the hook stand out more too. I also made up a stick mix and a few pva bags which consisted of crushed up God’s Gift boilies, pellets, and Glug+.
With my bait and rigs prepared, I was up early and at the lake by 7. Jack had arrived before and picked out a likely looking swim. To our left was a large fallen tree, out in front of us was the island and to our right was a large overhanging weeping willow. Jack had picked the right hand side of the swim which left me with the left hand side which I actually prefer.
I started by throwing a few handfuls of my spod mix about 15 ft out next to the fallen tree. I then prepared my rods. I decided to fish a Ronnie rig with a yellow God’s Gift boilie on my margin spot, and a simple snowman rig with a God’s gift Boilie and 11mm Secret Sauce pop-up towards the island. I fished just a few feet off the island and used one of the pva mesh bags that I had prepared the previous night. Around the island, the bottom is quite firm, so I opted to use a 3oz lead to help drive the hook home.
It took about an hour for the first bite to come. It came from my rod over the baited spot to my left but was rather twitchy, probably because I was fishing slack lines. The fish took me on a short run before shaking the hook, never to be seen again. Although slightly disheartened, I looked at the positives. My rig, bait, and spot were working and the fish were obviously hungry for me to get such a quick bite over quite a bit of bait. I re-cast and threw another couple of handfuls of bait over my spot in the hopes of getting the fish feeding. I’d also brought with me my new spod rod which I was eager to try. After getting the first bite, I decided to spod some bait towards the Island. It didn’t quite go to plan and using the stiffer rod was harder than expected. I think some practice is needed.
While waiting for a bite, Jack and I baited a couple of marginal spots in the swims next to us in case a stalking opportunity arose. We soon noticed lots of swirls coming up along the bank under the willow tree. Armed with sweetcorn, Jack lowered his improvised float setup into place. After a little while, he received a bite from a bream. The bream was covered in spawning tubercles and was oozing milt. We thought that although we had caught a bream, there may be carp feeding on the eggs, so we persevered. Suddenly, a huge sheet of bubbles came up and the massive disturbance patterns came up. We suspected that it was one of the dozen or so catfish in the lake. Jack decided to reel in one of his rods and switch it over to a catfish rig. I’ve never really catfished properly however Jack is quite a competent catfish angler. Unfortunately, nothing came of Jack’s efforts and the fish weren’t playing ball.
I was receiving frequent line bites on my rod to the island and suspected that the fish might be feeding on the bait which I’d spodded just short of my rod. After receiving no indication on my rod in the margin, I decided to move it to just off the island where a few of the spombs landed. I also decided to change the rig on my rod towards the island. I changed to a Ronnie claw rig and used a pink Secret Sauce pop-up as a hook bait.
At around 2 o’clock, I received an absolute screaming take. It was fish on! After a great battle, I had the first fish of the day in the net. It was a beautiful mirror and weighed in at 14 lbs 8 oz. The fish looked familiar and after examining some photos, I realised that it was a fish I’d already caught the previous year. Last year it weighed 12lb 12oz so I was pleased with the increase in weight. I slipped the fish back, and got the rod straight back on the spot.
The fishing around the lake was starting to pick up, Louie who was fishing a couple of swims down managed to catch a nice looking mirror and a couple of other fish were being caught around the lake.
Before long, I was into another fish on my rod towards the Island. It was a very shy drop back bite and at first, I thought that the fish had escaped me. Fortunately, it hadn’t and before long, I had my third fish of the day on the bank. It was a chunky common which we estimated as around 8lb.
Jack was starting to lose confidence in his bait so I offered him some God’s Gift to try. He cast his rig perfectly under the overhanging tree on the island. A fish showed over his spot and a bite was inevitable. Finally, he received the bite he was after. It wasn’t quite the size he was after but it was better than a blank. The action continued all around the lake, Louie who was a couple swims down from us had a bite not long after slipping Jack’s fish back and his rod was almost pulled in.
By about 5, the bites were slowing down. I’d lost one which I think must have been foul hooked because I brought back a scale on my hook. Eventually I received another bite and managed to catch my third fish of the day. It was another common, this time slightly bigger than the previous one and around 12lb.
Jack’s dad arrived at around 6 and brought with him some catfish gear. The conditions were apparently perfect for catfish. Unfortunately, the last couple of hours were quiet. All in all it was a good day’s fishing in good company. I’d recommend getting yourself some Bayly’s Baits, the proofs in the pudding. All the fish were caught using Bayly’s Baits.
Click Below to head over to the Baylys Baits Website. Enter code BB10 at checkout to get 10% off your first order.
My first memorable fish was a five pound common carp, caught from Copped Hall syndicate lake in Epping, Essex, adjacent to Rod Stewart’s salubrious gaff, although Rod wasn’t in residence then, I suspect he was shacked up in some sordid sex-den with Britt Ekland, the lucky so and so. I was about thirteen years old, obsessed with fishing, but beginning to walk the rock-strewn path to manhood, where I’d alternate my attention between the Angling Times and the ladies underwear section in mum’s well-thumbed Kay’s Catalogue. My brother in law Steve had fronted the annual £40 membership fee on my behalf because I’d helped him a bit with some DIY and decorating, although if the truth be known I was more of a hindrance than a help, spilling paint and encouraging my two toddler nephews into frenzies of mischievity.
Copped Hall carp lake was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen in all my young days, a gorgeous old estate lake, jewelled with vast beds of yellow and maroon water lilies, amidst a mature woodland that seemed to envelop the lake on all sides; oppressive and foreboding at night but sun-kissed and replete with life during those long summer days.
And it was at night that I caught my carp. I’d tucked myself out of the way in a quiet corner where I’d seen fish cruising during the day, convinced that they’d still be there after dark. I baited up with corn and luncheon meat and fished with my 9ft fibre glass leger rod, rigged with a coffin weight, size 6 hook and a big cube of Spam. Bite detection was state of the art, a Fairy Liquid top, nicked from the bottle on the draining board at home long before its contents had ran out, much to my mum’s annoyance.
I remember the night was sultry and warm, and the close proximity to the woodland’s velvety-black depths and moist, decay-infused scent had me imagining orcs and goblins, vampires and werewolves. Brother in Law Steve was a reassuring fag-glow on the opposite bank, but he was too far away to completely allay my fears.
As is often the case with an adolescent’s mind, my thoughts scuttled from one improbable to another, namely, what it would feel like to be eviscerated by a werewolf to fondling school nymphet Elaine Archer’s prematurely buxom chest.
But in a flash my attention was centred entirely on the fishing as the red bottle top crashed into the rod butt and line zipped from the reel. A few minutes later, after a short but powerful scrap, I was admiring my biggest fish to date, a common carp of around five pounds, scales all shades of bronze and gold in my head-torch’s harsh-white glow.
I fished Copped Hall with Steve a good few times that summer, watching double-figure carp basking in the shallow margins or slurping at bread crust cast to nestle amongst the lily pads. But they were elusive and wise those carp, often favouring and rapidly devouring all of the crusts apart from the piece with the hook in. This frustrated Steve, a man not renown for patience and c’est la vie, and rods would occasionally become javelins as yet another bite was missed.
I never bettered my five pound carp, but I caught many smaller fish and my very first crucian, on my favourite yellow-tipped peacock quill tight against the lilies.
I only enjoyed the one summer at Copped Hall, Steve never renewed my ticket as my dubious DIY skills became obsolete on completion of his home improvements.
So alternative fishing venues were sought.
Around that time my best mate was Gary. Where I had near black hair and brown eyes he was Nordic blonde and blue-eyed with skin that quickly reddened in the sun. He was good at maths, me at English; I could beat him in an arm wrestle, he could out-throw me in a stone chucking contest; he liked a scrap, I’d avoid them. But we had one thing in common: a love of fishing. Our hunting grounds were the forest ponds and lakes of Epping Forest and the River Lee at Waltham Cross, Enfield and Cooks Ferry, Edmonton.
Once, on a school visit to Tudor hunting lodge in Chingford, allegedly frequented by Elisabeth the First when the forest was an exclusive playground for the well-to-do, Gary and me were drawn to a stuffed fish in a glass case. It was an enormous carp, still majestic and lifelike despite being caught and mounted in the thirties, a testament to the skill of the taxidermist. But what really intrigued us was the location of the capture: Warren Pond, a tiny water right opposite the lodge on the edge of the forest; entirely overlooked by us as it was so choked with tall reeds and overrun with lilies that you could barely see the water. How could such an incredible fish come from that stagnant puddle? We had no concept of the passage of time’s effect on a pond, especially in a woodland where decades worth of autumn leaves and general detritus, plus unchecked vegetation can eventually render it unfishable. Nonetheless it was worth investigating and early one summers day during the school holidays we set off with float rods, bread, worms and maggots in the vain hope that a scaley-backed descendent of that glass-case leviathan loitered somewhere in the ponds silty depths. But all we ever caught were tiny rudd, despite two or three visits, and the odd scuff and bruise after a stone-throwing battle with a couple of other boys bent on disrupting our fishing.
One summer’s afternoon two or three years later, I happened to be walking my dog around Warren Pond. The Conservators of Epping Forest had been busy since my last visit. Large swathes of reeds and lilies had been cleared revealing areas of open water that looked eminently fishable. And tucked away in a quiet corner, someone was indeed fishing: an elderly man with a flat-cap and an old glass fibre rod.
‘Had much?’ I asked. ‘Not yet son, but they’re down there’, he replied. ‘What are?’, I enquired. ‘That’s for me to know and you to find out’, was his tight-lipped response. So I walked off none the wiser. At the time I was mildly offended by the the old boy’s taciturn retort. But now I’m mildly amused by it, and grateful to him for preserving the mystery.
When I started work in Epping Forest as a trainee forester, I discovered many more ponds, large and small, at various locations throughout the forest. Some were bomb-craters where V2 rockets aimed at London missed their mark, others were much larger gravel workings dug out to supply sand and gravel for road construction and building materials.
One such larger water was Wake Valley Pond adjacent to the Epping High Road. As a trainee I was consigned many tasks, and one was litter picking. The pond was a popular site so litter was abundant. I always spent more time than I should of there scanning the water, as an elderly forest keeper called Phil had beguiled me with stories of huge, uncatchable carp roaming the depths. And it was deep too, well over 10ft in places.
I only saw them once, despite many visits. In the reed-lined shallows on a hot summer’s afternoon, seven ancient, black-backed carp basked in the warm, daphnia flecked margins. One or two were well over twenty pounds. I sat and watched them for an age, mesmerised.
And that was the one and only time I met the carp of Wake Valley Pond. I never fished for them, as a local club’s ticket was required. I could have poached it, as some did, but to have any chance of success night fishing was a necessity and I really didn’t fancy chancing my arm with the nutters and deviants who frequented that neck of the woods at night. And that reality eventually put-paid to any chance of a specimen from the ponds and lakes of Epping Forest. A few years ago, and I have to add allegedly before this statement, many fish were removed to discourage fishing, as the incidence of harassment, tackle-theft and mugging had increased to such an extent that the risk posed to anglers was deemed too great. Maybe the risk of litigation by an aggrieved angler against the Corporation of London (who are responsible for the upkeep of the forest) may have also played a part in the decision, but that’s open to speculation.
Thankfully, according to my nephew Tony who fishes an old estate lake within the forest in Woodford Green, Essex, things are looking up. He regularly catches mint-conditioned baby carp that should eventually replace the lost specimens in that particular water. Let’s hope he gets to those big girls before the electro-fishers.
In August 2004 I caught a 44lb carp, the same weight as Richard Walker’s record breaking common back in 1952. He named his fish Ravioli but thankfully someone else decided Clarissa was more flattering. My Clarissa was a common too, but I’m not a carp fisherman, I was after catfish.
Waveney Valley Lakes in Norfolk, a nature reserve and fishery endorsed by the late, great (albeit climate change naysayer) David Bellamy, is a beautiful place to be let alone fish. I booked a week on Marsh Lake, with a view to catch a catfish, beguiled by their uncomely strangeness and brute fighting strength, not to mention their size. Those big slimy tadpoles go to 65lb at Waveney Valley. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the sort of fight a fish of those proportions would give so I hoped I’d start off small and work my way up.
There was only me and one other fishing Marsh Lake, an unusual looking, elderly gentleman with more than a whiff of Catweazle about him. He had coarse grey hair to his shoulders, wore galoshes and an old waxed cagoule and wouldn’t have looked out of place on Ahab’s Pequod. He had the perplexing habit of exclaiming “who me?”whenever I asked him a question when more often than not it was just me and him talking. I had to suppress the urge to shout “WHO ELSE FOR CHRISSAKE!” a lot during our chats. Despite his archaic appearance, his tackle was top draw, the very latest in carp fishing innovation, and his set up looked like a feature spread for Carp World. He was very proud of it and took great pleasure in cocking a sneer at my mishmash of assorted rods, reels and threadbare brolly camp.
When I hooked my Clarissa her initial run were so powerful that before I could slow her she tore off parallel with the near bank straight through all of Catweazle’s three lines. The bite alarm’s catawaulling and light show alone could have filled an Ibiza dance floor. I felt very guilty at the time, more for the fish than for him but miraculously when I netted her the only terminal tackle visible was mine. He didn’t seen perturbed, however, and was gracious and congratulatory. “That’s the biggest carp in the lake,” he said, quietly. I wasn’t surprised, she was massive, the biggest freshwater fish I’d ever seen. Although saying that I had once caught a pike of similar rare proportions, but the two events couldn’t have been more different.
Being in the presence of Clarissa was a joy, made more special by a fine, late summer morning with sunlight playing on her doubloon-like scales, whereas my pike was caught from a huge pit in the Lee Valley on a frigid, overcast December day and was a mottled, deformed leviathan so battle scarred she looked like she’d been swimming around since the Cretaceous. And to make her appearance all the more frightening, her entire left eye and part of her head was engulfed in an ugly tumorous growth of a ghastly mottled grey/red that looked like her brain was seeping through her eye socket. That December day was a fitting backdrop as it felt almost apocalyptic. I encountered no one else during that session, saw no one, spoke to no one. It was if the world had ended, and all that survived was me and the monster.
It all started with the rat. With a faint rustle, he popped out from the reeds only to immediately spin round and dive back in when he saw me. Next thing there was a plop as he’d apparently opted to travel by water rather than land. As he swam from left to right in the margins creating a little bow wave, a huge dark torpedo shape emerged from nowhere, tracking his progress. It hung motionless below the rat, which appeared oblivious to the threat. I braced myself for the strike, but it never came and the torpedo slid back into the shadows.
It was an eerie sight, that pike. With trembling fingers I gently reeled in my popped up mackerel tail to within three metres of the bank, and waited.
Five minutes later I was staring at a stygian creature on my unhooking mat, laying there in all her deformed glory. She had barely struggled during the fight and came to the net like a wet blanket.
I tried to weigh her with freezing, shaking hands but my scales only went up to 25lb and, with a crash and a rattle, they bottomed-out. At a guess I’d say she was well over 28lb but she could have been a thirty. When I returned her she loitered menacingly in the margins for a moment before slowly vanishing. I had no desire to fish on, because of the dreadful prospect of hooking her again. That was the one and only time I fished the pit with the Frankenpike.
I did manage to catch a catfish at Waveney Valley, and as they usually do it came at night. I didn’t hear or register the bite alarm initially as I was sat up in my brolly camp, struggling to breathe, suffering a hay fever induced asthma attack. They’d been coming on and off for about three days, depriving me of sleep, energy and enthusiasm. As I played the fish, in the dead of night with rattling lungs and crumpled under-crackers, the shocking, lunging power of catfish became all too apparent. Sapped of strength and vital motor skills, I tottered around the swim totally befuddled, head-torch on flash, trying to take control of a fight that was all too one-sided. I could feel the line grate ominously on the lip of a gravelly drop-off about eight metres out and gritted my teeth in anticipation of a break-off. I was still struggling to gain line when, to my tremendous relief, the cat seemed to turn-tail and head straight at me. After thrashing about in the margins for a few seconds, a commotion that drew the attention of Catweazle, the fish was on the bank. “Look at you covered in slime, they stink too don’t they?” This was his commentary on my slithery attempts at weighing my very first catfish, which was a muscular 25lb. In the end I was glad that all I was wearing from the waist down was underpants. For one it makes the photos more of a talking point, and for two it’s easier to wash catfish gunk from bare legs rather than fishing strides.
Out of all these angling escapades I think the capture of my Clarissa was the most special. From the minute the bite alarm announced her presence on that beautiful late summer morning to the bitter sweet moment I watched her great, golden shoulders slide back into the pellucid depths of Marsh Lake, I knew I’d been in the company of one of nature’s rarities, a real gem.