The Third Age Angler Posts

After fishing in the starter lake for a while without too much of an audience and having caught my first big carp and lost one I was feeling more confident about moving on to a more popular lake. I had driven past a while ago and knew that there would be people there.

It was sunny with a cold wind when I arrived and as I got out of the car a guy started talking to me. I presumed he knew what he was doing as he had all the gear and a bivvi set up to shelter from the wind. While he gave me the low down I had a good look around at a nice lake and also a smaller one the other side of the car park. After finishing our chat I went to have a look at this one and quickly decided that it would have to wait until another day as it was very exposed to the wind with little shelter. Back to the other lake and a walk round to find a swim.

I decided to fish in a swim on the windward side of the lake, which had a belt of trees behind it to give some shelter and then learnt my first lesson of the day. At the old lake I could just get my stuff out of the car and put it in the swim, here I had to walk fifty yards with my ragtag collection of bags, rods, landing nets, bank sticks etc. There was too much to carry at one time so I had to make two trips leaving my gear at the swim as I went back for the second load, not ideal.

Still, the swim had a nice area around it and was fairly clear of trees overhead so I was able to get my carp rod in the water while I set up my float rod and baited the swim. It was then that I learnt another lesson as a quick phone call to my wife confirmed that I had left my frozen sweet corn in the microwave! Still, I had maggots, pellets and bread so decided to carry on regardless.

After five minutes I still hadn’t had a bite! On my last lake I would have been inundated with bites from baby roach from the start with the slightly bigger fish coming in later, usually on sweet corn. So I began the tinkering, fishing deeper, fishing shallower, changing bait, casting a bit further away, feeding the swim, anything to get a bite!

Then it happened and I pulled in the smallest perch that I have ever seen, followed by one of those tiny roach, which I thought meant the bigger fish were on their way but this time they weren’t.

Then the buzzer on the carp rod sounded and I picked up the rod and started to reel in. However the fish had different ideas and made straight for the fallen tree next to the swim and broke the line. Of course, this all happened just as another angler was passing by on his way to set up at the swim next door. He looked a lot more experienced than me and even had a trolley for all his gear and as he stopped to commiserate I explained that I was still a beginner he gave me some advice on how I should have played the fish!

Carp score in my angling career so far: Hooked three, landed one. I will have to do a bit better than that!

So the day passed, a couple more tiny roach and an even smaller perch, feeling chilly from the wind, having lunch and a cuppa from the flask and casting out every now and again. I was trying something new on the carp rod using PVA mesh for the first time with a mixture of boilies and different size pellets and was pleased that I had a bite so decided to persevere with that method. By now it was mid afternoon and I was feeling peckish so I got a banana out of my bag, opened a packet of crisps and poured myself a cuppa and relaxed, looking out at the scenery. That was when the carp buzzer sounded again! I jumped up, spilling the crisps onto the floor and launching the banana into the lake!

I grabbed the rod and was into a fish. After last time I was a bit more forceful with this one but it wasn’t as lively as the first and soon came in, a mad scramble for the net and the fish was landed, 3-2! Now that I had the right gear I laid the fish on the unhooking mat and easily took the hook out then weighed it on my new scales using the new weighing net, 12lb 5oz! OK, so not a record but a good fish for only my second carp, it looked lovely as well. A quick photo then it was back in the water and I had a moment to sit down. I managed to get most of my crisps back into the bag, gave up on the banana and didn’t fancy the tea as there was something unidentifiable floating on the top!

That was the day really, no more excitement although they guy next door caught a couple and I watched him bring them in. This confirmed that he was more experienced than me, he controlled the fish well, had everything to hand and was calm and collected, everything I wasn’t.

So, what did I learn? Well, quite a bit. I have to be more organised by cutting down on what I bring. One large rucksack would be better than three backpacks and two tackle boxes and leave my hands free for other stuff so it will be back on to ebay to see what I can find. I have to be more organised at the swim and have everything in the right place for when I catch a carp instead of scrabbling around for it at the last minute. I will also have to think about warmer clothing as the winter sets in. I also learnt that I can catch carp and that the first one wasn’t just a fluke, oh yes, and another thing, I must remember to bring my bait!

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The time had come to go fishing in a still water and try out my new carp rod. I chose one of the club’s less popular lakes as I didn’t want a big audience for my first time. When I arrived there were a couple of other anglers but we were well spaced out, which was good for social distancing. I set up the carp rod with a method feeder and cast out then tackled up the float rod. This lake is fairly shallow so the rig wasn’t set too deep, I put some groundbait in and was catching fish immediately. A little roach, followed by another and another and another. I am always pleased when I catch a fish but I moved away from the canal to try and catch something bigger so a change of tactic was in order. I swopped from maggots to sweet corn and at last a chance to re-cast the carp rod and have a sit down. 

Things went quiet for a bit, giving me chance to have a cup of tea out of the flask and notice the heron paddling in the margins opposite and briefly glimpse the kingfisher which flew over the top of me and away over the lake like a streak of lightning. Then the float dipped and I was into a bigger roach, still only a few ounces but a proper fish!

I won’t go on about the day because the story is all about what happened at the end, but it is enough to say that I caught more roach, bream and a baby carp and had a good session. Early in the afternoon I had moved the carp rod and was fishing in the margins next to the swim. I was thinking about packing up and going home when the rod started shaking and moving so I grabbed it before it disappeared into the lake! I gave it a yank and could feel something big, my first ever proper carp!

I tell you, I was sweating! I knew all the theory but here I was with a real live fish to play and desperate not to lose it! I had fairly strong gear on and was able to pull the fish in after a few minutes and get it into my landing net. 

Wow! What a feeling! There it was laid out in front of me, the biggest fish I have ever caught! It was hooked nicely in the lower lip and I was able to pull the hook out with my fingers, take a photo and slip it back in. I then had a sit down with a big grin all over my face and an amazing sense of achievement and an understanding of the attraction of carp fishing. Then that was it for the day, nothing could top that so I might as well pack up and go home while I was still on a high. One thing is for sure, I will be back!

My first ever big carp! I didn’t have any scales so don’t know how much it weighed but the diameter of the landing net is 20ins or 51cm. And yes, I now have a proper carp landing net and unhooking mat!

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So, I had been fishing for a few weeks in the canal and river and been catching small fish and it was not enough. If I was going to carry on I wanted to catch something bigger and a bit more interesting and thought about the club’s still waters. I wasn’t feeling confident enough just to rock up and start fishing so I spent a couple of days driving round to find the lakes and chat to anglers there, at a social distance of course!

It was all quite interesting, it was clear that carp fishing was the “in thing.” Every lake I visited had their fair share of carp anglers with their alarms beeping every now and again and I saw some good fish being caught and thought that I would like to have a go at that. I also looked on YouTube and other sites and fishing forums and was getting overwhelmed with information! Let me give a shout out here for Carl and Alex as I spent a lot of time watching their YouTube videos and learnt a lot. In case you don’t know them they are two brothers who have been posting videos since they were kids and now that they have grown up have gone full time. They are well worth a watch.

What I realised was that if I wanted to catch bigger carp then I needed a stronger rod and a suitable reel. I was still not sure at this stage if angling was going to be a permanent thing for me so didn’t want to spend too much money. Normally I would have gone into the local tackle shop to support local business but as we were shielding I decided to buy online. I did some research and it was then that I realised that I was a tackle snob! I could have bought a rod from Sports Direct for under £20 but I didn’t want to be seen on the bank with really cheap gear, I could imagine the pitying looks that I would get from proper anglers! I ordered a 12ft Daiwa Black Widow rod with a 3lb test curve which I thought would be a good allrounder along with some method feeders, hair rigs, boilies, pellets , line and other bits and pieces that I thought I would need and they all arrived within a few days. I also ordered a baitrunner reel, a NGT Dynamic 6000 from Ebay at a reasonable price and when it came I was all set to go.

I had a practice at rigging up in my garden then I was ready. The plan was to go to one of the club’s smaller, less popular waters and catch a carp. Whether I did or not you will have to wait and see in the next blog entry!

I will leave you with a picture of one of the more exotic inhabitants of the canal!

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I was quite pleased with my first fishing trip. I had remembered how to tackle up and managed to catch some fish so I thought that I would carry on for a bit. I tried different techniques on the feeder rod using both quiver and swing tips. I also tried different floats and baits and had a go at breeding maggots as I was still staying away from people and didn’t want to go to the shop.

After a couple more sessions on the canal where I caught small roach and rudd again I thought that I would have a look at the river that the club had the rights to so set out to explore a quite remote location. When I arrived I could see that it was going to be difficult fishing. The river itself was no more than a large stream and as it was by now late summer it was very shallow. It was also very difficult to get to in places as the banks were overgrown with nettles. I managed to find a couple of swims and was soon pulling out small fish again including minnows which seemed to have the habit of swallowing the bait and hook as far down as they could. After this session I had a look on Youtube on how to use the disgorger properly, which helped!

I was a bit disappointed with my efforts as I had heard that there were some decent fish in the river and decided to wait until the nettles had died down and the river had filled up a bit before trying again.

Believe it or not there is a river there somewhere!

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It looked a nice place to start!

While I was waiting for my club membership to come through I thought that I had better update myself on modern methods of fishing and spent hours looking online. One of the best resources was Youtube although sometimes different anglers would say different things about the same subject, which was a bit confusing! Then I found Carl and Alex, for those of you who don’t know them they are a couple of brothers who have been uploading videos since they were kids. They are now young men with a wide range of fishing interests and a good presentation style and I found them easy to watch and learnt a lot.

I also had to find a swim to fish on the canal. Being summer a lot of the banks were overgrown and it was impossible to get to the water but there were a couple of places that were obviously used by anglers as the vegetation was trampled down and there were discarded drink cans, hook packets etc lying around. One of them was opposite another short branch of the canal and made an interesting spot. I decided that I would fish there.

Come the morning of my first fishing trip in years I was nervous. I had read up on it and watched loads of videos but it was all theory, could I really cut it in the real world? I loaded up all my stuff on an old sack barrow and walked down to the canal. I must have looked quite a sight walking through residential streets but hey, that’s another thing about being in the third age, things like that don’t bother you too much!

I arrived at the swim and started to set up my rods. I had decided to float fish with one rod and feeder fish with the other so doubling my chances of catching anything! At this stage I wasn’t sure that I would catch anything at all! I threaded the feeder rod, tied on the feeder and hook length, filled the feeder, baited the hook and got ready to make my first cast. Looking up at the rod I saw that when threading the line I had missed a ring and somehow twisted the line around the rod so I had to do it all over again! They say that you learn from your mistakes but this wasn’t the last time I made that particular mistake although I eventually learnt to be more careful when tackling up. So, a short underhand cast into the canal near some reeds and I was fishing, throw in some groundbait and then it was time for a sit down on my old picnic chair and a short rest before tackling up the float rod.

That went OK and I was getting back the feeling of being on the bank and being a proper fisherman, all I had to do was to catch a fish! Then it happened, the quiver tip bent round, I picked up the rod and was into a fish, only a small one but a fish, it was about the size of my hand and as I held it for a photo it flipped out of my hand and dropped to the floor where it flapped around a bit before I could capture and photograph it. Quickly popping it back into the water I texted the photo to my wife as proof that I was a real angler!

And that was all that I caught on the feeder rod that day but I did have more success with the float, close in I was catching small, and I mean small, roach. They would even take an unbaited hook on its way to the bottom. Catching anything was a novelty so I kept on with that until it became boring then cast out a bit further hoping for a better fish. Nothing much happened for a while but it was nice being on the bank. I poured a cuppa from the flask and had a snack, watched the swans and their cygnets glide past, heard the moorhens splashing and quacking in the reeds and said hello to the occasional kayaker and paddleboarder who passed by. Then the float dipped and I was into a fish. This one was different, the line was shaking and tugging but I was able to reel it in and saw it was an eel about a foot long! Many years ago when I was a lad I had gone fishing a bit further up the canal and caught an eel which squirmed around and I didn’t like it. I still am not very fond of them but brought this one to the bank, wrestled with it to extract the hook and quickly put it back. I cast out again and was thinking about the eel when the float dipped again and I was into another fish, another eel! I was quite pleased that it slipped off the hook before I could land it but was not so pleased later when I caught another one! Three eels in twenty minutes and I had read that they were getting rare. Either that or it was the same eel three times! 

I decided then that I had enough of catching eels and packed up. So, what had I learnt? That I could put my tackle together and catch fish although if it was just going to be eels I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. Apart from the eels they were all small but for a first try it wasn’t too bad, at least I had caught something although it was clear to me that I still had a lot to learn!

Fishing

On the About page I explained why I got back into fishing. This page describes the how, starting with a trip up into the attic and a search in the back of the shed. At this time it could have gone either way, if my gear was all mouldy and manky that would have been it but actually it was all in pretty good condition. So, what did I find? 

In the attic were a couple of rods, the best one was a Diawa Tornado 10ft feeder/quiver rod with a push in quiver tip and a swing tip. To be honest it hardly looked used and in much better condition than the other rod, a 12ft Shakespeare Match rod which would do at a pinch. Also there was a Daiwa angling umbrella which was still in a reasonable condition.

So, I had a couple of rods, what was in that army surplus rucksack at the back of the shed and in that Shakespeare cantilever box next to it? Again I was surprised at what was there and what good condition it was in after what must be twenty five or thirty years. A couple of reels, a Shakespeare one and a nameless brand, both inexpensive in their time but still working, a collection of floats, weights, a disgorger, some hooks, feeders, an old set of scales, a fold up stool, a landing net, a keep net and various other bits and pieces. I had enough to go fishing so where could I go? 

I live just over five minute’s walk from a canal so that seemed the obvious place. A quick look on the Internet showed me that fishing was controlled by the local angling club who sold day tickets but a few seconds working out in my head made me realise that I wouldn’t have to go that often to make the Concessionary OAP joining fee seem like a bargain and there would be other places to go as well. I downloaded the form, found a fairly recent passport style photo and posted off my application. I also found that I could buy a rod licence on line, again at a reduced price – there are some compensations to this third age lark!

Then I took stock and waited. I thought that I had better buy some new line and a few more bits and pieces and although I would have liked to support my local tackle shop we were not going into shops and so I ordered them off the Internet with a solemn promise to myself that when the pandemic was over I would shop locally. I gave everything a bit of a clean and that was it. All I had to do now was wait for the paperwork to come through and I could go fishing!

Fishing