Who am I?

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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition, that was until Covid-19 intervened!. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Carp puddle musing

Let me start by making very clear that I am not a carp angler but, instead, an angler who occasionally fishes for them and there is a "massive" difference between the two!. The opinions I hold are purely a result of my time, recently spent, at three, very well run and enjoyable, commercial day-ticket venues. "Carp Puddles"  - a term that Cliff Bunyon introduced me to several seasons ago. With the benefit of hindsight (that gift again!) even when my carp angling was a serious pursuit; it was undertaken at such a venue - Stanborough Lake, Welwyn Garden City, HERTS (September 17th 1983 - October 6th 1984 which included the statutory close season 15th March - 15th June 1984 : yet another demonstration of the value of keeping personal records) - Rob Maylin's "Cracker Factory" Thirty years ago I thought that this was "cutting-edge" carp fishing. We had the hair rig, braided hook links, Richworth and Catchum (Rod Hutchinson) bait ingredients, Bruce and Walker "High Modular Carbon" rods and the first Shimano reels in the UK - plus Kevin Maddocks had blown the lid clean off of the secret society that was the British Carp Study Group with the publishing of his book,  "Carp Fever" (I sometimes wonder if he doesn't regret this? Carp fishing could never be the same again.) and, as a result, caught a number of fish which were very large, for the period.

July 5th 1983 - Bridigo Pond, Cheddington, BUCKS (where the Great Train Robbery was staged)
My first twenty pound carp. Taken on "floating slyme" a Duncan Kay concoction.
Back then  my carp fishing was a very serious business
Back to today - and I find myself way out of my comfort zone. The meteoric changes that occurred during my 18 year break have left me in a sort of time-warp. The fish haven't changed as the "industry", surrounding their capture, has rapidly evolved. I find myself looking at some of these (so called) advances and asking "why and for what reason?" From where I now sit; fishing tackle fashion has caught far more anglers than it has fish! Tackle Tarts - angling's "fashionistas"; the guys who make their statement of ability by what is visible on the bank. If there's a gadget, they've got it and it's on display for all to see. So as it is; with all things fashionable, product brand labels are far more important than the ability of said item to fulfil a particular function? Hey-ho! A sign of the, market driven, times in which we now live and I love it. For once again I have a chance to make a statement, as an individual. Nothing particularly radical, or even that controversial - if the truth is told - no; just a demonstration of an alternative approach. One based upon methods and skills which were learnt, not purchased, in a bygone era.

Stanborough Lake - November 1983
One of three twenties (in three casts) which fell to my
"secret bait" - Semolina and soya flour boilies flavoured with chocolate!

Carp Puddles are the best place to do this, although not unique; there are plenty of other opportunities to display anarchy amidst the ranks of the branded tackle disciples, but commercial carp fisheries provide the most obvious. It is the number one faux pas not to have matched rods and reels, preferably in triplicate, the more expensive, the better! Such are the peer group pressures and values which dominate the modern carp angling scene; it doesn't matter if it is the bite alarm, rod-pod, landing net, un-hooking mat, weigh sling, bivvy or bed chair; each and every item on display allows other, like minded, souls to make an immediate assessment of your angling prowess. There is only one type of item that will not be on show - that will be the anglers' choice of bait. If these guys are actually catching carp the last thing they want to do is show their competitors what bait they're using! Stupid thing is that it will be Mainline "Cell" boilies in 90% of cases or the New Grange in the other 10%. Make no mistake, these baits are probably the best available, yet hardly a secret - manufactured to the very highest specification and developed over many years of field testing by some of the UK's top carp lads. They are superb baits which consistently catch carp - end of conversation - and will cost £12.95/kilo RRP!
When all said and done - "you pays your money and makes your choice!". If you think that the venue is worthy of such effort then who am I to question any individuals approach?  Modern, day-ticket, commercial fisheries exist to cater for a demand that wasn't present during the 1970 - 93 period. I don't recall the price of a day-ticket at Stanborough, whilst I was fishing there, but I know that it wasn't extortionate -  far too many families and pleasure anglers enjoying the facilities; my guess would be in the region of £1.50/day for two rods? And at a venue capable of producing carp in excess of 25lbs in 1983 - so over 40lbs in today's money! I took three twenties in consecutive casts in November 1983 - enough to make the weeklies at the time! Carp fishing has, in less than half a century, lost all the romanticism of the Dick Walker era and become the dominating force in UK freshwater angling 2014. It's a clinical science, with devotees as obsessed with the capture of these magnificent fish, as anything that has occurred in previous generations. Denys Watkins-Pitchford (alias BB) wrote "Confessions of a Carp Fisher" (1950 - Eyre & Spottiswoode) in which he offered the very direct comparison of the desire to go carp angling with an addiction to opium. Some of the stuff that appears on Youtube does nothing to dispel the myth of the obsessional drawing power of these magnificent fish. I suppose I should count myself fortunate for having gotten away from the carp fishing scene when I did?

Another of the Stanborough trio - 21lbs 3oz
Camo jackets and silly hair were compulsory if you were serious about carp angling in the 80's
I have never found carp to be a particularly difficult species to catch unlike big bream, for instance, which have required extreme efforts to get to my landing net - deliberately, not an accidental hooking of a "nuisance fish!" Carp are a worthy quarry and rarely disappoint when hooked; battles can be of epic scale when recalled in the pub, after the event, the display of a decent photo and no-one will doubt the tale.
As I no longer have the time, or inclination, to spend extended periods after "specimen" sized fish I am now happy to make do with whatever comes my way. I still use techniques that are designed for the capture of large fish, but the requirement to succeed has been replaced by the desire to enjoy. I'm not sure if that makes sense? I know what I mean.
Carp puddles fulfil all the requirements I need. I can turn up, pay my money and be in with a realistic chance of getting a bite or two. What it isn't is serious carp angling! Those guys who are bivvied up, giving it the big 'un are simply kidding themselves. Catching carp in these venues is easy. I deliberately use mis matched rod/reel combos, home made bite indicators and a 24" oval pan net, because none of that stuff matters. My bed chair, brolly, sleeping bag and jacket are emblazoned with the CK emblem of Carpkinetics (AKA Dragoncarp) which to, proper, carp anglers is the sign of the devil! I use "Spicy Pepperami" as hook bait (on offer in Tesco 5/£2) and leave it on display for all to see. If you've got it; flaunt it!
All of these visible signs are capable of sending the message "NODDY" to the fashionistas. Strange thing about it is, I catch carp fairly consistently whilst I am at these venues. My efforts are concentrated, as always, on where and how my baits are presented - not on "do I look the part?"
I do miss the romantic ideal, the world in which Richard Walker and his chums did battle with fabled monsters in mythical pools. I grew up with the notion that carp were intelligent, unreachable fish which required magical skills in order to trick into taking a baited hook. I have some fantastic literature pertaining to the impossibility of catching carp - H.G.C.Claypoole: Introduction to the Art of Coarse fishing 1955. has a wonderful chapter on "summer carp fishing" which is introduced by this quote from Denys Watkins-Pitchford's "Confessions of a Carp Fisher"

"Having laid out your rods (you may just as well have two while you are about it, with a different bait on each), you are at liberty to smoke, meditate, read, and even, sleep, if all goes well. Nothing will happen to disturb you. You and your rods, and floats gradually grow into the landscape and become part of it -...."

Carp angling, angling in general, has come an awful long way since those fanciful times. I can't help but feel that we've lost something from the hobby as the mysteries are unravelled and commercialism begins to exert its' influence? The clock will never stop and these advances will continue to gather pace - not too sure that I have any desire to keep up with them, but will continue to do things in my own way. After all, we're only catching fish for fun, my family will not starve if I fail.

P.S. - This rambling nonsense has been three days in preparation; it is nothing like what I'd intended when I first started writing. Funny how things turn out?


  1. Turned out very readable and enjoyable! I think I'm (barely...) old enough to look back at my early birding days with a sense of real nostalgia - I had bins and a notebook, tight jeans and dodgy hair, plus a terrific nose for finding good stuff. I travelled light, I was quiet and I knew how to find birds in a landscape.

    Nowadays bloody rabble piss me off. Scopacs, massive lenses, huge scopes, pagers, mobiles, apps, sound recording devices, GPS, the £300 pair of trousers and don't even think about how much the coat costs! Noisy, clueless, honey-potting, tweet-following bunch of imbeciles. And SO BLOODY NOISY and unaware of safe viewing distances! Brand names and gimmicks on legs, that's what I call them. Not a clue of how to read the landscape - following the satnav is more relevant. Grrrrr!

    Obviously there are a lot of very talented birders out there today making massive discoveries. But there are a load more who are just kit-on-legs. It all seems so lacking in romance and characters now. Maybe I'm just growing cynical or missing my youth, who knows?

    I like your blog though mate, and I'm not even an angler. Although I did catch an eel (by hand) two days ago and have seen my first Graylings, Salmon and Bullheads plus had a Ruffe headbut my wellie in the last fortnight. All your fault, Dyl - with your fish talk 'n stuff! :)

  2. Seth;
    There are many parallels between the hobbies of carp angling and twitching (they are the extreme manifestations of involvement in their particular fields). Obviously not all birders go twitching, or nothing would get found. Similarly, not all anglers see carp as the only species worthy of capture, but the industry has "snow-balled" the demand and, having fanned the flames - now caters for an ever expanding demand.
    Where it all goes tits up is when guys who have purchased their experience from a tackle shop and proceeded to catch a few fish from a small commercial venue - start to spout on about how great they are! The angling version of your twitching "noisy, clueless, honey-potting, tweet-following bunch of imbeciles" couldn't have put it better myself.
    Our problem lies with our age - we are from an era when field skills were still an asset; where a period of apprenticeship was required, and tolerated, as we cut our teeth and expanded our knowledge base. There were many characters to whom we could turn when we sought assistance - oh for a return to those times? It won't and can't happen. Instant success - instant info; carp anglers who have caught a 40 but dismiss 10lbs tench as nuisance fish, twitchers with 400+ but have never seen/found a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

    We can lament the passing of time or, as in my case, rejoice in the fact that I was lucky enough to have undergone such a learning experience and feel sadness for those who are now unable to travel that same path - I was very lucky to have the dual interests of angling and birding; so mine was a very enjoyable journey indeed!

    Always good to hear from you - take it easy and enjoy the autumn - Dyl

  3. As I get older I find the list of stuff to reminisce about and lament the passing of just gets longer and longer, and this post brought it home a bit. In the early/mid 70s I was a member of an LAA-affiliated club, and was one of the noisy, snotty juniors on the fortnightly club coach that sallied forth to the Thames, Ouse, Hants Avon (occasionally) and a myriad other LAA venues. Mostly the waters were too big and tricky for me, but I learned stacks and caught a few fish. And I loved it. Now, that whole scene is gone the way of the Dodo.
    Like you I feel very privileged to have served 'apprenticeships' in my hobbies, and also have a lot of treasured memories.
    Keep up the good work!

    PS. My very first Pike was from Tring. Marsworth, about 1972...on maggot! It was pretty small :o)

    PPS. Somewhere I have some B&W photos I took when visiting a mate fishing Wilstone (in '81 I think); they include a series of Tony Chester playing a tench, and Lester Strudwick landing it. I'll have to dig them out and see if you feature!

  4. Gavin,
    Ritchie Francis was a fine angler and would have held the UK Tench record if he were not so honest!
    I wasn't there when those photos were taken - I joined the syndicate a couple of weeks later. Lester Strudwick became a great friend and mentor during my formative years - he was resposible for my travelling to Scotland as well as the carp fishing at Stanborough. Great times - happy memories.
    I am. indeed, very priviledged to have enjoyed such an education.
    All the very best - Dyl