Once I had started full time employment in the mid eighties and left my school years behind me my angling days returned to general pleasure days as and when I could but mostly being weekend trips to the nearby Grand Union canal or local River Ouzel upon my bike complete with trailer in tow.
Old school friends had started to spread their wings and make the massive move onto some of the surrounding lakes in my area. Many a first light you would find myself a few others spread a long one side of Tiddenfoot pit, waggler rod in hand, whipping out Golden Rudd by the bucket load with the odd averaged sized Tench,Bream and Crucian Carp thrown in as a bonus.
I remember two old characters that went by the names of Big Bill and Melvyn that are sadly no longer with us that fished the the pit week in week out regardless of the weather. They would float fish but with much bigger baits like corn, meat and bread as apposed to my humble maggot offering. Now these boys knew how to select the Bream, Tench and Crucians and some days their keepnets would be bulging with Kippers! It took a while for us to realise exactly what they were up to but once we did then my mums shopping bill increased a little with extra corn, meat and bread being added to her basket.
Back then the pit seemed huge and deep to us but by today's standards it wasn't as in the last ten years or so she has expanded considerably due to the ever increasing rainfall we all seem to keep getting! Soon our 10ft rods were being replaced with 11ft versions but it would still be coupled with one of my dads hand me downs in the shape of the good old Mitchel match reel.
The evenings before any trips would be spent in the garden with my old mans car washing bucket, mixing a concoction of goodies together that included bread crumb as the base but to this I would add corn,chopped meat,hemp and a big splash of molasses liquid that I ponced off dad while he was still at work, it was months before he realised that the bottle was near on empty!! Maggot tubs would have my chosen hookbaits all separated and at the ready and all this would usually have me excited to the point of not being able to get off to sleep very easily, although most anglers I know now are still like that including myself. By now I was also trusted to have a door key for home so once I was up and ready I would load the bicycle trailer and set off on my way, locking and leaving the "old uns" behind me. I can still remember them saying "make sure you lock that bloody door on your way out and don't be too late home" "whatever" was my usual reply.
One particular day on arrival at the lake, Bill and Melvyn were already in their usual positions, they knew exactly where to sit as their garden chair marks and feet marks were so predominant from all the previous months of sitting in the same old peg, it was like a permanent mold in the bank.I had arrived just in time to see Bill scooping up Tench that must have weighed a good four and a half pounds. Now I was excited and soon enough I was throwing my stuff down the bank and into the nearest peg that I could get away with next to my at the time hero's.
I knew I could learn a thing or two from these boys as they, although basic anglers would catch excessive amounts most weeks without too much of a problem.
At first light I used to love ripping the lid off of my bucket to reveal a bubbling frothy mixture that smelt pure sexy, although I don't think the lads appreciated it too much when ball after ball was hurled into what was once a still and glass like water, especially when they were already bagging fish!
That trip even though the 'old timers' were having their fill, I did manage to hook and land two bream it excited me that much that I nearly melted the tyres on my bike as I couldn't wait to get home (late as usual) to tell ma and pa. The months that past after that trip lead me into purchasing an 11ft quiver rod off some fella that also fished the pit and he was a fisherman that liked to fish with two rods on lead or feeder set ups . Now, Ledger as he was known would catch the same types of species but the slightly bigger specimens it seemed.
Now this ledger fishing lark was a totally new ball game to me really but I had seen it being done not only by 'Ledger' but other anglers that were actually trying to single out the Carp or Catfish that inhabited the water. Soon enough and after plenty of sucking up (yes up, not off!!) I had been shown certain rigs that would hopefully lead me to bigger and better fish?
I would now continue to waggler fish with one rod then the all new but second hand quiver rod would be put out as a sleeper usually with a couple of golden grains on the hook for bait.
I persevered with this attack for as long as I can remember and did manage to catch quite a few good sized Tench with the odd Crucian also pulling at the tip. Bream made up the bulk of my catches in those days, nothing of any size though, probably five or six pounds on average.
The following season I ventured to the lake just for a wander round more than anything and it was whilst doing this that one of those 'Carp boys' had a belting run just as I was passing, intrigued I stopped in my tracks and watched the battle commence. At the time I couldn't quite believe what was involved at getting the said beast to a waiting net but what it did do was leave a burning desire to want to get one for myself!
That sixteen pound Common caused me no end of grief with my dad as it was only him that could help me out due to the fact that he had the gear that I needed to lead me down the Carping path.
Before my actual Carping commenced I did head off with my mates to other waters including Emberton park in search of Tench but I had at least managed to borrow a couple of dads one and three quarter pound test curve Bruce Ashby carp rods that were more used to casting out par boiled potatoes than grains of jolly green. "look after the buggers" was all he said and still to this day they are hanging proud in his garage.
Lovely pair of curtains and a mid double
It wasn't until the late eighties that my carping years got going for real after a change of job and meeting up with a fellow welder and angler Keith (aka The Intrepid Piscator).
Hours were spent in the welding bays knocking up all sorts of contraptions including bank sticks and rod pods. The other added bonus was that being a chair company, every time the arse in my camping bedchair (you know the ones that had either a red or a blue canvas) fell out we would run across the way to see one of the guys for offcuts of material so that we could re cover and keep the buggers going for another season or at least a couple of months more!
Most evenings back then we could usually be found in the kitchen of my then flat, throwing all sorts into a mixing bowl and boiling the arse out of it. Homemade boilies were on the menu back then and our favourite recipe was a 50/50 mix, coloured yellow and flavoured with Richworth butter with a couple of drops of sweetener finishing it off.
We caught loads on these little yellow perils but I have to admit that I was also a little partial to the odd one myself.
It was one of our little yellow butter baits that led to the capture of my first twenty pounder from a local sand pit in the shape of a fish known as the 'Elstow' at 21lbs 8oz. Yellow baits complimented by a yellow tee shirt and bright red ski trousers!! You had none of this modern stuff back then you know "you lot nowadays are bloody spoilt"
A good few years were spent at the sand pit and we soon got to know the certain fish that had names and slowly but surely we worked our way through them, watching them grow as we went.
In mid 1990 things went a little tits up for me on the home front and after a split with my then girlfriend who I had my eldest son Carl with, who is now 23!! I made the decision to flog all of my gear and move to the flat lands of Lincolnshire. This only lasted a couple of years though before home sickness set in and I returned back to my roots.............
................To be continued