I'm currently in the process of writing another article for Martin Mumby's "Catch Cult" magazine and whilst looking through the various diary and blog material, which I've amassed over the years, had an idea that there might be a blogging opportunity as well? Due to the fact that, currently, my angling content is non-existent; a trip down "Memory Lane" might well have a place? At the very least, supply a smidgen of fish related nostalgia in my, of late, moth dominated offerings. So we have to start somewhere and it was a "twitch" that saw my first visit to this historic waterway. A Green Heron, which turned up at West Hythe Dam in October of 2008, was the reason I made the journey. I would imagine I was the only "twitcher" who also noted the incredible amount of pike activity at the site? I would return soon after because an adult Night Heron spent some time in exactly the same location! Again I noticed fish activity although, at the time, hadn't picked up a rod since 1993!
I find it incredible that almost eleven and a half years have now passed since I returned to angling, where does time go? That the digital age allows me to record the events in such a fashion that I can access memories with the simple click of a button, on the keyboard of my laptop, is mad. This post will be very photo heavy because I'd like to keep the bulk of my article content for just that purpose. So here we go. Benno and I spent a very productive winter (2012/13) Pike fishing the Seabrook section of the canal, our best fish weighing in around sixteen pounds if memory serves me correctly (can't be arsed to look it up) but had decided to change focus as that season drew towards a close. It was just six days after my Mum passed away that I landed the first "twenty" since returning to angling. A truly memorable event at so many levels.
Over the following few weeks Benno and I went on to land another four "nineteens" and an eighteen fifteen, truly exceptional Pike fishing for a canal. It wasn't until the 2016 season, however, that anything significant was to next occur. Benno had moved into a property in Sandgate and, as such, was in pole position to embark upon a pre-baiting program. Carp were the target and Benno quickly reaped the rewards of his efforts with a magnificent twenty-four pound Common.
I'd been gifted a 1959 "Dick Walker" Mk IV split cane B. James & Son rod for my sixtieth birthday and it was the canal which provided my first "split cane" twenty a couple of weeks after Benno's success - happy days! These canal Carp are much sought after. There are a select group of, hugely talented, Carp anglers who ply their trade along the banks of the RMC and it is not my intention to spoil their fun because of unnecessary detail. All I will say is that they go carping, not camping and it was one of them who generously gave Ben the info which was to prove so valuable as the campaign evolved. I returned to the section the next year, around the same period, and was blessed by the Carp Gods in the shape of a stunning 23 lbs 5 oz fish which, again, came on the split canes.
It had become a bit of a ritual, a couple of weeks before Christmas, to travel across the county border so we could enjoy a social session at Iden Lock, East Sussex. I haven't fared too well on these occasions but Luke and Benno have both taken Pike in excess of twenty pounds along with some very nice back up fish. Sadly, as with so many other aspects of modern life, things have changed and the section is no longer available for day ticket anglers. We might have lost access, but the memories of good times will always remain.
Gigger's Green and Aldergate Lane have long been associated with Pike fishing along the RMC and, indeed, have provided me with some very enjoyable memories of decent sessions, be that a single specimen or a number of lesser fish. The one downside to these areas is the number of other anglers who are also aware of the potential on offer and, therefore, are effectively competing for the same fish. Obviously, as a Pike angler of a certain vintage, I am able to draw upon a wealth of experience to ensure my bait choices and presentation will give me some type of an edge. However, Pike are pretty dumb fish and can get caught by the most agricultural of methods, on occasion, and this single factor is why I try to avoid the crowds whenever possible.
December 3rd 2020, the day before my sixty-fifth birthday, and I have to use up my holiday entitlement or lose it. With work off the scale, in the run up to the Christmas break, I would spend the whole day on the bank. Using Google maps, I'd chosen an area, way off the beaten track, and was to be rewarded with a superb brace that session. Pike weighing 22 lbs 6 oz & 19 lbs 5 oz graced my landing net and were the best early birthday present I could have wished for. Sadly my self-take efforts didn't do justice to these magnificent fish, but the seeds had been sown for future Pike adventures along this wonderful waterway.
Nothing I now say, or do, will alter the fact that I retired in a manner which was not of my choosing. My time at Fujifilm had been an absolute blast, yet is forever tainted by those final weeks of ill-feeling and stress. With unlimited time now in my armoury, angling projects had a flexibility which I'd never experienced previously. The run up to October 2021 allowed me to formulate a plan and set targets for what I hoped to achieve over the coming five and a half months. That I absolutely smashed it, is an understatement, but the whole experience was about so much more than catching Pike. The people I met, the wildlife encounters and the stunning scenery all combined to provide a campaign, the likes of which, I can never hope to repeat. My recollections of these events are the mainstay of my article, so won't be recalled here. I'll share a few more images just to set the scene.
The Royal Military Canal is a National Treasure and of such historical significance that it remains a draw for visitors from around the world. That I've been able to sample just a snippet of the ambience it creates has been a privilege. I am so lucky to have experienced the venue, it's changing moods as the seasons unfold, and the joyous camaraderie it creates amongst the regular visitors, as well as the superb angling it has to offer. I've been truly blessed. If my writing inspires others to give it a go, then it will have been worth the effort. That Shepway Council and the various land owners, along the waterway, offer very restricted access, away from the main towns, is definitely an increasing issue. However, it is not insurmountable and if you want it bad enough, effort will equal rewards.
I'm still not feeling it for the Stour Barbel project, at present, the water conditions being a massive issue. With the looming break in Kefalonia to look forward to, it might well be October before I return to the bankside. Already there are ideas floating around as to what I'd like to achieve over the course of the next Pike season. I won't be too ambitious, as who knows what's around the corner? First things first - we desperately need some substantial rainfall.