The other week I stood in my local newsagents waiting for two nuns to leave before reaching up for my limited edition copy of "Throb in my throat" (Limited to perverts with a fiver in cash!). My eyes were anywhere as far from the top the shelf as they could be when I noticed the vast array of literary delights in the golfing section, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Golf World, Golf-Improve your game, Two for Tee or something equally sad.
Now you may have guessed I'm not a big golf fan, I've never really seen the point to it, I'm a fully paid up member of the 'ruining a nice walk' brigade if you like. Sure, I've had a little dabble at it, I even hit a hole-in-one once at St. Andrewz (the crazy course at Blackpool's pleasure park) but have always enjoyed the most success at the nineteenth hole. Now, I'm a live and let live kind of guy and if playing a round with your balls for hours on end is your bag then more power to your elbow I say, but for the life of me I could not understand how anyone could write, let alone read, page after page of drivel on how to put a pathetic little white ball down a bloody hole! I'm sure golf fanatics think the same about all the fishing magazines but I feel, with all the depth and variations to our sport, our magazines ours are quite justified... or did.
With the birth of the new look website, the editor told me he could now handle all the articles I could write suggesting that I don't limit myself to one a month. "Write one every week" he enthused. I tried to reassure him that there was only so much waffle I could say about catching carp but he was adamant that my "verbal diarrhoea‚ knows no bounds". It was a nice compliment (?) but I wasn't convinced. After further discussions he had the blinding idea of me reviewing the angling weeklies, giving me carte blanche to make intellectual observations or take the mick as I saw fit. In principal it seemed a brilliant idea and I readily agreed.
Now here comes the crunch, I've neither bought nor read a fishing publication for a decade or so and getting the first batch to review was a real eye opener. I can't think of a polite alternative word for "bollocks" but whatever it is, it applies for the current crop of angling tabloids! Every carp is caught on a 'known' ready-made. Every potential record fell to a 'recognised' rod, reel, line and hook; there must be someone out there not using commercial baits surely? Call me cynical, but I don't believe it - but what worries me is that some people obviously do!
Walking around a local lake I chanced upon a young angler, probably in his early teens. I struck up a conversation with him hoping to give him a few pointers. (I'm always keen to help youngsters that pursue a healthy pastime like fishing instead of hanging around street corners smoking and spitting at old ladies and such like.) I was quite dismayed when he told me "he hadn't caught anything but it wasn't really surprising as he didn't own any baitrunners yet". What!
Richard Walker never owned baitrunners when he caught Clarissa at forty-four pounds - and Chris Yates hasn't done too badly, holding the British carp record for some years with a fifty-one and a half pounder without the use of these reels. It's only a guess but I'm sure there must be other fish than those two that were caught without the aid of the free running spool... Oh yes, I remember now, I once caught a thousand plus carp myself without them! Now don't get me wrong, I am not slating the reels, personally I think they are brilliant and own a couple of Shimanos myself but they are not essential for putting a carp on the bank.
Adopting the right approach for each individual challenge is the answer. Centrepin reels are a lovely alternative - but only if you don't mind looking like a 'wrinkly'. Whilst I enjoy the great sensation of playing a fish on a centrepin I accept they have their limitations, just as other reels do in certain situations. It's horses for courses. You will never hit a distant gravel bar with an Allcocks Ariel and ten foot of split cane; in the same fashion you wouldn't want to 'trot' down the Avon with a thirteen foot Armalite and a huge reel loaded up with a million miles of line on it's beautifully tapered spool. The whole 'must have' culture is being rammed down the throats of impressionable young anglers by the angling media because of their need for revenue by their advertisers.
Money makes the world go round it's true. I used to think it was something to do with physics and the gravitational pull of the sun but realise now I was just young and naïve.
As an aside - I always thought people were daft paying good money for bottles of water when it comes free out of a tap until I twigged "Evian" is "naïve" spelt backwards. A marketing man with a warped sense of humour perhaps? I'm straying from the point as usual; what I tried to get over to the lad without the baitrunners is that the fish only get to see one end of your tackle, so concentrate on getting that bit right. To believe the 'glossies' you would think carp patrol the margins sniggering to each other "I wouldn't be seen dead being caught on that set-up, he's using odd rods for crying out loud!"
I used to work in a fishing tackle shop and it would never fail to amaze me how people would shell out hundreds in hard earned cash and then complain at hooks at five quid a packet. That's only 50p each! I would regularly chat to customers telling me of a recent sortie where they had hooked a couple but the hook pulled or straightened or something, denying them of a great memory. I don't lose fish; I tried it once and didn't like it. Once I hook a fish, ninety nine times out of a hundred I land them. This is not luck. It has taken me years of experimenting with hooks and rigs to find ones that stay put.
I have fished with Duncan Kay many times and you would struggle to get an offer at a boot fair for his rods - there are rings missing, others taped on, even the reel was taped on during one memorable trip. Insulation tape was as important as anything else in Duncan's tackle-box. I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet here (twelve years of yoga and I still can't!) I'm just saying, look at your tackle from the carp's perspective rather than from your fellow anglers'.
Hooks, hook lengths and line are all of equal importance, well above any other item of your tackle. Confidence is paramount, when playing a fish you should be giving it one hundred percent concentration - and you can't do that if you're having niggling doubts about whether your line will hold up etc. If in doubt change it! I never use the same hook twice, never use the same hook length twice and change my line regularly whether it appears all right or not. Maybe this is a little over the top but, like I said, I don't lose fish. To me it seems a small price to pay.
My regular fishing buddy, Andrew, employs a flash rod holdall system that allows him to keep all his rods permanently set up. Within two minutes of arriving at a swim he is ready to go; a quick look over of the rig and out it goes - instant fishing. I, on the other hand, am still buggering around tying knots and getting the end tackle to look spot on some twenty minutes later.
I've said before, Andrew and I disagree on just about everything carp related, and this is another example. Now, I don't know if I'm right, but I do know that he loses a fair share of his fish, though I'm not saying this is solely down to his "instant" set up - he uses crap hooks and rigs as well!
There is an age old line (Andrew uses it!) describing fishing as a "jerk on one end of a rod waiting for one on the other". With a little thought you can turn every one of those jerks into a glorious carp for your photograph albums and memories, leaving the other jerks still waiting.
Catching carp ain't rocket science believe me!