Flicking through my daily newspaper I came upon the cartoons - I’m not an F.T reader you understand, - there was this drawing of two monks facing each other. The monk on the far side had a large cigar in his left hand and a tumbler of whisky in his right, behind him stood two dolly birds; the caption had him saying, "It’s all to do with how you interpret the rules..."

This took me back to a hastily organized A.G.M by an East Kent fishing club twenty years earlier as the hair/bolt/boilie boom first hit; t’committee was worried; bleedin’ specimen hunters…

"We have taken a decision to ban all ‘special’ baits," said the chairman, "Any questions?"
"What is a ‘special’ bait then?" a voice yelled from the back.
The chairman thought that given current climes that would be obvious to everyone but would allow the secretary to elaborate.
"Well, it’s baits you can’t eat" he opined, wondering where this question was leading.
"So worms and maggots are out then" the voice from the hall continued.
"Well of course they're okay, it’s more the paste baits" the secretary recoiled defensively now knowing why the chairman had sat down.
"No more bread or cheese then?" the lone voice carried on.
"Obviously they’re alright, perhaps the treasurer could define ‘special’ baits for us, PLEASE!" knowing he was out of his depth.

Needless to say the meeting ended as a farce, amongst much hilarity, as all baits were deemed, in certain circumstances, allowable...probably! The club lake yielded its first ‘twenty’ to Duncan Kay’s ‘Red Slyme’ the following evening.

Now I’m not advocating ‘breaking rules’ here but I do find ‘interpretation’ is a lovely word - and especially if I’m losing at Scrabble!

Without naming names, not for fear of ‘sub judice’, more a fear of getting my tongue nailed to a table, ‘this bloke’ used to regularly fish my local water. It had all the usual rules of engagement, but he would regularly fish with four rods, the radio on, his American pit-bull terrier by his side and a twelve bore shotgun leaning against his ‘bivvy’. No one said anything, bailiff included, due to self-preservation more than anything else but he ended up being ‘top-rod’ that season all the same. Coincidence? Mmmm...

I have fished with Geoff Maynard several times, sometimes successfully, never uneventfully. I’m sure that now he’s a fully-fledged paid up member of the ‘way to do it’ brigade he probably doesn’t want reminding of previous misdemeanours, however...

We fished a reclusive private fishery in the ‘Colne Valley’ once, I was a little jittery due to the exclusivity of the place but I was assured by the great G.M all would be well. The inevitable happened as the local ‘law enforcer’ turned up requiring licences. Geoff exclaimed vehemently "Have you never read the Magna Carte? This bank is declared common land by the Runnymede charter of 1624"
The bailiff looked as baffled as I did.
"Ain’t nuffin said by t’committee" he replied. "Absolutely right, they’re trying to keep it quiet!" Geoff retorted, "You’d have bloody allsorts turning up if it got out".
After ‘the Gestapo’ had left I remarked on Geoff’s amazing knowledge of the ancient land rights.
"It saves me two hundred in cash each year," he said with a gleam in his eye.

There was a pattern developing here. Now call me dumb but encompassing the rules in their full entirety would have definitely robbed me of a couple of ‘doubles’ that afternoon, maybe ‘interpretation’ warranted a closer look!

Twenty years on, the same club but another A.G.M; "No nut baits" declared the ageing voice of authority from top table.
"Hook baits or freebies?" This time my voice amidst the laughter.

Here we go again...

Now, I think rules are always made with the best of intentions, to stop you catching that fish of your dreams mainly but sometimes a little ‘’interpretation’ can work wonders.

A well known venue off of the M25, has a ‘float fishing only' rule on the most carp productive swims but I’ve found a peacock quill tied just behind the four ounce lead has had a considerable effect whilst not breaking any rules!

Similarly, I once enrolled a girlfriend into a syndicate with the sole intention of being able to fish four rods legitimately as she lay on the bed chair sunbathing next to me. It was working really well until she was caught leaving her rods unattended, I think she was at the hairdressers or something; the powers that be slung her out of the club, barred for life. Que sera sera, plenty more fish in the sea!

I think insurance companies, money lenders, estate agents and the legal professions rely on the fact that people don’t generally read the ‘small print’, alternatively they make it all such a confusing hotchpotch of double negatives and contextual obligations that you find yourself with your head stuck somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine. However with angling clubs the opposite seems to be true, the complete lack of any detail in the rulebook, perhaps hoping common sense will prevail, leaves the more dubious anglers amongst us to use our ‘interpretations’.

Rule 4 – No boats. Presumably canoes, kayaks, dinghies, rafts and even ocean going liners are all right then?
Rule 7 – No radios. Oh no, that means I’ll have to bring along a West Indian steel band along to entertain me!

I could go on but I’m sure you can see where I’m going.
The only rule that has no misinterpretation is No litter; that means EXACTLY what it says at all times.
A favourite rule of mine is ‘two rods only’, no mention of how many hooks then? Hehehe.

I first experimented with two hook rigs about five years ago; even I wouldn’t stoop to ‘long lining’. I used an inline set-up with a two foot length of line passed through the swivel with a hook tied either end, a bit of ‘power gum’ holding it all solid in the middle. Apart from the inevitable tangles (tubing ultimately solved that) the results were quite an eye opener. The best memory of the rig was when a particularly officious bailiff ordered me to reel in so that he could make sure the hooks I was using were barbless as specified in ‘rule 14’. I’ll never forget his face as I reeled in the first rod to reveal the hooks were indeed barbless, both of them!
This is the key to it, you can’t break the rules, you just have to work them to your advantage.

The second ‘two hook’ rig I tried consisted of a standard set up with a second hook spliced off of the main line about four foot up from the lead. Results were more impressive than the first attempt but quite inexplicably; to me anyway, I would guess 70% of the takes came to the top hook. This isn’t a coincidence; maybe my subversive rule reading had led me to a new insight into the feeding behaviour of my quarry. Why did they prefer the top bait?

Questioning yourself constantly about why you catch and why you don’t is the key to success, never accept ‘it was too cold’ or ‘the wind was in the wrong direction’ they are always there for the taking if you can unlock the key.

‘Experts’ would have us believe carp do not feed under a certain temperature; carp have led me to believe otherwise. I think consistency is the answer, consistently hot or cold these fish need to feed, sudden temperature change is the only thing that phases them, regardless of which way it is going, but as yet the club have not have not dreamt up a rule against atmospherics, maybe when they do I’ll use them to my advantage and let you know!