I first became a passionate angler as a child. It has enriched my life and taught me many things never taught in any book in school. I had little support from disinterested parents and my fishing progress was very limited when I was young yet these days I am honored to now be able to share my own experiences and knowledge with angling friends such as Frank Warwick, and even my boyhood heroes such as Tim Paisley, in my Crafty Carper magazine Carp Food bait column and many others.
This lack of childhood parental encouragement teamed with scarce funds to buy fishing tackle and pay for fishing permits did not help either but did certainly make me try far harder and become obsessed with fishing! Two of the greatest presents you can actually provide any kid with a growing interest, is to give them attention and encouragement no matter how little you care about the new hobby or sport etc yourself.
Owing to a lack of information and materials to expand and forward my own learning and enable me to further think for myself my catches and development of my passion were hampered. Today if you are a beginner, or even an experienced one, the internet is such an amazing resource for budding anglers. I used to visit libraries and read everything I could to expand my knowledge. As they say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, certainly for the fish it can be. Just one tip about a bait enhancing principle can revolutionise catches for instance.
Often an angler can remain stuck for years in a void where their thinking and understanding and technical approach is very conventional and generally on a par with his or her peers. For instance I remember using soluble polyvinyl alcohol tubes to apply free bait accurately at range, when most anglers around me were ignorant of its existence altogether.
Applying extra pressure on the line where a bobbin, indicator or swinger would be placed today, I used different weight tent pegs and elastic to vary line tension and bounce-back on a fish playing with a baited rig which produced many good results and valuable lessons. This was around the time that hollow cylinders were being used on a stick with the line passing under it as bite indicators in the 70’s and early eighties.
Where everyone is reading the same information (and opinions) this generally creates a situation where a majority will inevitably think the same! This can even make people who do things differently be ridiculed by the conventional and less open minded, which is just crazy, like for example a guy using live bait to catch a big carp in the same way as a perch might be hooked on a single hook using a live bait.
I am not suggesting you do this but the fact is that carp predate on fry and get caught on baits made of fish all the time, and big carp have been known to take spinners and many forms of baits intended for catfish and pike; so there are other options and circumstances to exploit!
So therefore all I am saying is that you need to adapt to the situation and its dynamics instead of slavishly following old paradigms. There was a time when the vast majority of carp anglers fished using half or one ounce leads, but those in the know in the BCSG were using 3 ounce leads realising that self hooking rigs worked better with heavier leads. Nowadays I bet even those guys would be surprised at the use of 5 and 6 ounce leads for carp fishing, but I know from experience that using angular 4 ounce leads in my trial sessions caught more fish that using 3 ounce leads.
There were those on the committee of the Northampton water where Kevin Maddocks was testing the hair rig who thought of the hair rig as unethical! While fishing at Yately Richie McDonald tuned into his surroundings to the degree that when he realised that the big carp he was fishing for were highly selectively predating upon frog spawn in the early spring he simply went with the flow and gave them what they wanted and was successful after having a very hard time doing things very conventionally!
The result was the biggest leather carp in the UK at the time; Heather the leather. Now many young anglers have missed school in order to go fishing without their parents or teachers knowledge. I’m sure Richie did and yours truly also. But this was because no-one close to me neither encouraged nor supported me so I took things into my own hands. My parents simply never went fishing with me (period.) What can we learn from this I wonder?
For me, it only made me even more determined and rebellious, which is not the best thing for any family and cause disruptions, arguments, fall-outs, groundings and cycles of family battles etc. What a waste of effort. If the family helps and supports a child’s passion then this is far more productive and less harmful avoiding all those negative and emotionally-draining life experiences and relationships strife that can so easily be avoided.
I was not a good reader at the age of 6. But by allowing me to do a very detailed school project on fishing at the age of 10, not only did my reading skills (and illustrative skill) improve overnight drastically, but so did my behaviour, my performance in various school subjects and my confidence and improved attitude too. Being free to express yourself through something you are passionate about, (at any age) really can change you and your life (and your family’s) in so many positive ways.
Through my childhood and teen years I gradually gathered more and more information about a very wide and deep range of fishing areas and subjects. Memories of small stepping stone experiences where many major breakthroughs occurred, looking back now really fill those years with colour and fond memories. Like many kids I also had other interests and played guitar and sang (my mother was a music teacher) played many sports and won many cups and medals, loved wildlife and actually rather preferred to be there doing something hands-on than reading about it.
But then in between doing something I liked doing, I’d track down information and read about it. I liked to try a technique for real; them read more about the subject and try again and keep trying new things and testing results. I never new what might happen which was a really exciting thing.
I remember sitting beside my carp rods on a particular night on the first water I fished with 20 pound carp lurking there. The sudden realisation that I might hook a 20 pound carp scared me, until then I had only landed my previous best, a 13 pound carp, on a roach rod and although I was now using heavier rods used for ledgering using a sinker, how would I myself deal with the fight from a bigger fish?
At the time a 20 pound carp was considered a very good fish and the record of Kevin Maddocks, (of twenty 20 pound carp caught in a season,) had not been achieved yet in the UK at least.
As a kid I had pictures all over my walls of big fish caught by leading anglers of the day mostly members of the dedicated fishing fraternity the British Carp Study Group. The fish in the pictures are not thought of as huge today. I fact I hooked three 40’s in 18 hours in a water in the UK in 2005 and multiple catches of 30 pound fish are common-place in the UK. Fish have benefited from global warming, improved bait nutrition and volume of application and improved availability of natural food too, by growing much bigger on average than in previous decades.
A role model is very important and my heroes were the likes of Rod Hutchinson, Richard Walker, The Taylors, Jack Hilton and others.
These guys really shared their passion and love for fishing, for nature and wildlife and how to appreciate it more, so that their fishing became an integral part of a natural vibrant waterside environment. For example at the famous carp water called Bernithan Pool (Redmire) swims were just gaps in the reeds created upon arriving to fish and bivvy sized swims were definitely not cool even though ridge tents were often used. In fact, the first time I ever night-fished, I used a 2 man ridge tent.
This might seem unimaginable to the extremely commercially conditioned minded anglers of today.
What help and enthusiasm and encouragement I could not get from family came from those writers of articles in the fishing papers of the time and very ground-breaking they were too, although many times the baits and methods talked about had already been used in practice by a range of different creative anglers in the past.
The hair rig for instance was used by anglers in different countries including parts of China and even in the UK well prior to the official publication of the hair rig. It is sometimes easier to invent something by accident that puts you ahead. Using a tangled hook link so that the bait (which had ridden up the line away from the hook) was fished away from the hook was my first use of a hair rig and it solved the twitch bites I had been having most of the time from single figure fish at the time.
Fishing information is all over the place now and it’s a great thing which can quicken the results achieved and raise standards and awareness of fishing by so many years. But one thing that is missing very frequently in new anglers is that ability to think creatively for themselves and also to respect their fishing environment.
Fishing publications often trigger fashions in thinking and behaviour which really have little to do with practical fishing and far more to do with ego and artificially created fashions, such as with instant anglers who buy all the newest tackle available, those camo style hoodies or the smoothest line lay big pit reels.
It is knowing how to use the equipment that really counts and that takes appreciation and understanding of information. It’s like knowing about wind lanes, shaded areas preferences of fish, the way underwater layers and currents move and effects of fly hatches on fish, etc. No camouflaged rucksack ever caught anyone a fish, just like no gun actually killed anyone by itself! Sure the tackle trade is there to make money and I’m sure to keep their livelihoods alive and kicking for the future, but this is not the be all and end all.
Tackle trade information is often skewed as infomercials and tend to give a one-sided picture of things. How do you really know if a reported fish was caught on a particular companies bait, for instance, or if it was, was that bait which is commercially available actually identical to the one used in the adverts or even used by high profile field-testers? Fortunately most companies realise that integrity counts long-term.
If you are thinking of maybe buying something for yourself or a budding angler for Christmas this is an exciting thing but also sometimes an apparently confusing thing. After all, with so many new and fashionable items on sale, how do you choose? Do you go with X company’s recommendation, or Y company’s recommendation?
The best thing to do is actually discover for yourself exactly what the fishing needs and exact requirements really are. So many times a kid gets a rod that is too short and uncontrollable as a gift. The first time he goes to cast out or strike at a fish his float and fine line will easily tangle causing great frustration and tackle wastage and boredom!
I got really started out with a toy rod of split cane with a fibreglass tip which was a 10 foot long 2 piece rod with a metal copper coloured furrel and rod end insert which proved its weakest point in the end! I was lucky as this length was much easier to use than the often seem toy fishing rods from China at 5 or 6 feet long. In fact I found it much easier still using a 13 foot rod.
The balance of a rod and its reel are so important to anglers learning skills of holding a rod to cast out, or reel in and land a fish.
Personally I loved getting anything to do with fishing for Christmas. As the years went by my parents found this time that this was no 5 minute wonder soon to be given up, but a completely absorbing all consuming passion, but I still only used the most basic of tackle.
I still remember the smell of the lubricating oil in my first fixed spool reel and marvelled at the varnish, whipping, rings, reel rings and cork handle of my first real fishing rod. It was actually solid glass fibre rod of 10 feet in length with small sea-fishing style rings which were highly robust. In fact this rod successfully lasted me for years and again just shows it’s how you use equipment even when totally out-dated.
You need the correct tools for the job of actually fishing, but they must suit you personally and ideally you need the opportunity to test expensive equipment before buying and in this respect I really like the idea of this approach at the Carp Society water Horseshoe Lake which is a stunning lake in Gloucestershire, UK. I was there back in July when I was a bait consultant speaking with the public about bait for CC Moore.
When testing a rod, its action and fighting test curve you must use line in the rings and preferably test casting it with the weights of sinkers you will use in practice. Over the years I’ve used rods that simply do not feel balanced, do not have the power in the tip, or butt section when really needed, have too much memory in the tip, or are too soft in the middle section, or simply feel awkward when fighting a big fish using a big heavy reel.
Some rods have had too few rings; some have too many, some have the rings at distances which for my purposes were not ideal. In fact many of my big fish (including a 45 pound leather carp) were landed using rod blanks which had been turned into sea bass fishing rods with a test curve of about 3.5 pounds. These rods were a mixture of glass fibre and carbon fibre and I used a total of 6 over a particular period of 10 years for catfish and carp. They gradually lost their memory after the effects of playing big fish took their toll, but they suited me perfectly, despite my having tried leading brand rods previously.
Sometimes it is better to get second-hand gear that was top of the range first before buying brand new so you can use and abuse it and really test it out. I used some brand new Rod Hutchinson rods successfully for a couple of years before I appreciated their ideal use and also their limitations. These rod were 13 foot long 3.5 pound test curve (original) Dream Makers. I found them ideal for playing carp of around 30 to about 50 pounds, (the same for catfish) but above this they were not pokey enough.
I hooked the big girl (at 84 plus pounds) at Rainbow Lake in France on one of these rods, yet even these rods were as much use as a roach rod! Also testing rods in different conditions is great and for example I used to make homemade rods and one of these I made without a cork or rubber handle to make it look cool and it was cool especially when playing a fish in the cold of winter when I discovered an insulating warm handle is vital for comfort!
In order to track down the exact equipment that suits you, you need to list what it is exactly that will give you the solution to your problem. For example, if you need to accurately hit the marginal shelf under a tree on the edge of an island 120 metres away (in a cross-wind) few rods will exactly suit your height, weight, style of casting etc and it takes genuine research and testing and not taking the first distance rod you see in a magazine at face value.
In my opinion, (apart from fish location and behaviour) a genuine understanding of and appreciation of all the natural systems and environment and natural life involved in your fishing bestows great power. Yes consistent fishing success takes experience, but knowledge gives you the greatest personal edges and breakthroughs in fishing, (as with many things in life) because you will be mentally tooled-up to be able to think far more creatively and constructively to solve your fishing problems and challenges which constantly come everyones way.
Learning about why and how baits work and how best exploit them is vitally important, but the average fisherman does not have this deeper information. This is just one of the things that classify him as average. Reading about the latest baits and fishing techniques in magazines can show you current fashions, like bait flavours, boilies, pellets etc and current manufacturers or sponsors thinking but don’t forget the bigger picture.
Things go in cycles and do not merely just progress in a linear direction, so why not think for yourself more; get more inspired and you will dramatically grow and become far more aware and successful as an angler and break those cycles and limitations that have previously held you back. Think about it; a fishing rod is for Christmas, but knowledge is for life. Revealed in my unique readymade bait and homemade bait carp and catfish bait secrets ebooks is far more powerful information look up my unique website (Baitbigfish) and see my biography below for details of my ebooks deals right now!