It was another of the IAC fund raisers for charity. The Internet Angling Club hold these ‘fish-ins’ as they call them, for the slightest excuse. This occasion was in order to settle an argument on the carp email list about who were the better carp anglers, those from the North or those closer to civilisation. Guess where I am from! Not that that made any difference, the North team was low on attendance and I was sequestered to fill the ranks. Off came the Cockney accent and out came the ‘by ‘eck lass’ etc.

The venue was the delightful Great Linford lakes, home of the Angling Masters championship and therefor well known to an old buddy of mine, former Angling Master, Paul Garner. A short telephone call was all it took and I knew everything that I needed to know - which was the most productive lake, the best method, bait and, most importantly, the best swims. Having all the advantages, I promptly ignored it as soon as I discovered that one lake on the complex had a good stock of catfish. That was the lake for me!

We arrived on the morning of the second day of the fish-in, work having put paid to the first day for me. The other anglers had been almost completely unsuccessful in their quest for the cyprys, ruined only by one guys pair of big doubles. He was on the Northern team too. Came from Maidenhead apparently…?? However, the teams were still fresh and we still had another 24 hours to go.

Maggi chose to join me on one this particular trip, not to fish but just to ‘savour the ambience’ as she put it. (She talks like that all the time, must be the blue blood). Anyway, I knew what she meant. She wanted to sleep. Four kids and a dog will have that effect after a time. And sleep she did, I reckon she had 14 hours on the airbed all told. Meanwhile, outside the tent I was fishing. Or trying to. A howling wind did it’s best to blow everything, including me, into the lake. Behind me, on a much larger expanse of water, the other lads were in the teeth of it. Serve them right for trying to catch big goldfish, I thought. I had this little lake to myself and compared to the others I was in a very sheltered area.

My first task was to catch a livebait. That took care of the first six hours! Not a bite for hour after hour and then, like London buses, I had four come along in successive casts. Only little perch and roach though. I was really hoping for a small tench as my swim absolutely stank of them, lily pads everywhere. Despite the strong wind, I was tackled up with traditional tench float fishing gear, peacock quill and all. I would have done better with a ledger but it seemed sacrilege, with a swim like this, not to fish the lift method. The tench had other ideas and stayed away.

The wind began to ease as the evening set in and I cast out the catfish rigs with a little, though not too much, hope. Wind, it seems to me, is not very conducive to catfish fishing. Mind you, it is supposed to be good for carp fishing, so why the other lads were not bagging up I’m not too sure. Maybe the carp had read different books on fish behavioural science, or whatever it’s called? At eleven p.m. I re-baited and crawled into the sack beside Maggi, who was still pushing out the zeds, and went straight to sleep.

Dawn alarm! Buzzers sounding, Maggi calling my name. Panic! I was at the rods in a trice. The left hand catfish alarm was beeping away merrily, though in a strange stop-start manner. I bent down to pick up the rod thinking that this didn’t sound like a catfish run. Then the other rod went off. This time it was the real thing, a screaming take! I struck the rod in my hand and, feeling no resistance, dropped it and grabbed the other. Thump, thump, then… nothing. I reeled in. The bait was missing. I had struck too soon again. Damn. I can never seem to get it right, I bet that for every catfish that I connect with, there is another that I don’t. That fact that nobody I know has a better hook-up rate than me does little to cheer me up. Ten foot out in the pads I saw a movement. A tortoise? Or terrapin, turtle whatever the things are called. One about a foot long paddled straight past me. That must have been what set off the left hand rod. Hmm. Probably have a hare belt past in a minute as well then…

The sun was up. Daylight had seeped in whilst I was mucking about with the catfish rods. Maggi had gone back to sleep. Hmm. Now I was wide awake and had no live baits. I set up a wobbling rig and wandered the lake flicking it here and there until I lost it in a weed bed. The only thing to do was to go back to bat-cave and catch some more baitfish. Which I did.

The wind had dropped completely during the night and the morning was clear and sunny. The water sparked and the lily pads shouted at me to ‘Put some groundbait in and catch a bloody tench’. So I did. At 4lb 8ozs it was not the biggest I have ever caught, but it was one of the most rewarding. A perfect fish caught on light tackle in a snaggy swim with the lift method. Even got it on sweetcorn too. You can catch a tench when carp fishing and it is a ruddy nuisance, but on the right gear, in the right place, a tench like that is my idea of heaven. Maybe I’m learning what Maggi means about ‘ambience’ after all.

I think that the North team won the match, such as it was. Not that anyone cared as a hefty sum was raised for both Angling Link and Second Chance. Thanks to Andy Lee for organising the trip and to Great Linford Lakes for supplying me with that classic tench. Think I’ll have a bash at some more of those in the coming weeks.