And so it was that I had my orders from above to stop telling you all about my latest love or alcohol enhanced evening and try to teach you all how to catch a fish. I could see his point, people don't really click on to a fishing website to find out if the blonde from Minorca spat or swallowed, do they? The only problem I could see with his 'constructive criticism' was that I don't think I know how I catch fish, let alone preach about 'this is the way it should be done'. Never one to shy away from a challenge though, I thought I might give it a go, so here is 'Rod Henton's definitive guide to fill your sacks'as it were.

Firstly I believe all fish are caught in the head, (think about it!). Secondly all fish are stupid then fourthly what happened to thirdly? But most importantly fifthly, there are no miracle baits or rigs.

That should cover all eventualities I think but I know 'he who must be obeyed' will want me to elaborate.

My first point 'all fish are caught in the head', reads 'confidence is paramount'. You must believe you can catch, you must believe in your superior intellect. Man has flown to the moon; he has harnessed nuclear power, he has conquered the logical positivism of particle physics. Man has ruled the earth, not down to his physical prowess but down to his brainpower, outwitting a fish must therefore be a foregone conclusion, not some 'pitting your wits against nature' scenario as some of the more romantic authors suggest. We are clever, fish are not!

This leads on to my second poignancy; all fish are stupid. I don't believe in any kind of God/hereafter or higher plane, I apologise to those who do because I know how important 'He' is to your lives but forgive me, I'm speaking from my own perspective. I'm a big believer in Darwin's theory that all life forms evolved from amoebae. Now, whilst some of us are worrying about our next mortgage payment, others are still swimming around in a pond: you can draw your own conclusions from that. We only reduce our chances of success by the limits we impose on ourselves, by using rods and lines rather than netting, electro-fishing or hand grenades.

This brings me on to point five that there are no miracle rigs or baits. If we decide to impose restrictions upon ourselves, as society dictates, then we must expect hardships in our conquest.

So how do you land a personal best? Easy

Grandmothers and sucking eggs spring to mind here but you must fish an environment that offers you a goal. My goals have differed over the years as to where I'm happy fishing. I fished a lake where I could expect twelve carp a night, all 7-8lbs. Then, after a colossal 10lb. 4oz. mirror graced my net, I moved on, a happy man.

I fished another lake, the record stood at 13lb. 8ozs. It took me a season and a half to bank a specimen of 14lb.4ozs. But once again I retired contented.

I then concentrated my efforts on a pit that offered thirty-pound carp; I did succeed but was that success any greater feeling than the two lake records I'd subsequently overcome? You cannot catch bigger than the biggest in the environment; pond, lake or whatever. Don't be fooled into thinking a seven-pound fish is not a great achievement if you have only ever managed a five-pounder before and don't worry if Rod Hutchinson has caught a dozen twenties in a night. He's got his own goals and you should have yours.

My personal best stands at a 31lb. 4oz. common carp that once swam my way; my father caught a porbeagle shark of 150lbs. But I feel no jealousy because I've never fished an environment when I could of caught that fish. You cannot catch a bigger fish than the biggest one that passes through your chosen swim. Don't set your standards by the 'glossies' because they're not fishing your pool. Incidentally, my personal best is not the capture I'm most proud of; I have worked far harder for smaller fish and have been even more elated by the result. Similarly my biggest tench and bream have come whilst I've been fishing for carp, although huge specimens in their own right I have not got the same feeling of triumph as I've had with smaller fish when I've actually been trying for them. It's all about realising your own dreams, not living up to someone else's.

So on to catching your personal best, my fifth point on 'no miracle baits or rigs' should read 'there is an infinite amount of crap baits and rigs'. For if the truth be told, fish need to eat to stay alive therefore a correctly presented offering will not be refused; fact.

Andrew, my usual staid companion on my fishing adventures, will argue tooth and nail that his superior baits, perfected over months of clinical trials, will win the day but my shop bought boilies or packed lunch give us a constant 50-50 on results. Presentation is the key. Carp love bread and cheese and pedigree chum mixers. They can't resist, why think about it anymore? However, confidence is the biggest factor in bait selection. If, like Andrew, you need a super oily fish meal boilie pre-soaked in an ultra secretive enhancer, told to you in confidence by the 'top rod' under the threat of death should you breathe a word to anyone else, then that is fine, go for it. All I'm saying is, as long as you know it will catch then that is the right bait for you. As an aside I have never caught a fish on a peanut despite many hundreds of hours perseverance, I can only assume it must be a totally useless bait but I do concede I may be in the minority with that thought.

Onto rigs. This will come as no surprise but, confidence is the key! I cannot back-lead, it doesn't work for me. I've never caught a fish like it and never will, bloody useless idea. But I know others who swear by the method and have the results to prove it. I know another angler that will not use P.V.A bags or string - "the carp can smell it and sense the danger" he claims. Yeah right. I've never known Andrew NOT to use them and he doesn't do too badly.

I like to keep rigs simple. Free line if I can get away with it or a simple paternoster if I can't. I can't remember the last time I used more than an ounce of lead. Tubing is another big no-no with me, more resistance and all that, but every book I've ever read on fishing lists reams of complicated, difficult to tie, super rigs that I could not use personally but presumably they must work. I mean, the experts say so for heavens sake!

I get away with my rigs because I don't like to fish more than thirty yards, no, make that feet, from the bank. Others I know are not happy unless they are slinging it all out beyond the horizon. Horses for courses though. I don't like long range fishing and try not to put myself in the position where it is necessary but I wouldn't knock anyone that enjoys that style of fishing. Not that I can't cast a long way. I once entered a casting competition and had my best effort measured at 186yrds. but I get no pleasure from that type of angling. I like to climb trees and see what's going on, a hands-on approach if you like.

Trying to fish from a fish's perspective is the ultimate key to success. I've looked at struggling angler's rigs and baits before now and thought 'if you were a fish, would you accept that?' More often than not the answer is no. We usually all wait a long time for a bite so an extra ten minutes spent in setting up, getting everything spot on, will ultimately save you time hooking (and landing) the fish you've been dreaming of.

Some will argue fishing has changed a great deal over the years but I disagree; save the remarkable invention of the hair rig, evolution doesn't move that fast. I'm great friends with the bait pioneer of the seventies Duncan Kay, who has not fished for carp for over a decade. I asked him how long it would take him to catch up with 'the scene' after such a long lay off, he rubbed his beard playfully then said "about five minutes!" and I wouldn't disagree.

Richard Walker wrote a book forty years ago entitled 'Stillwater Angling'. I've no idea if it is still in print but I'd suggest, despite the probable billion of words written on catching fish since, four words he wrote then stay as true today as ever and that is 'Study to be quiet'. You can capture your own dream.

I said for you to set your own goals. Bob Dylan once wrote ' there's no success like a failure and a failures no success at all' - I hope I made more sense!

Tight lines and bulging sacks,

Rod

(P.S. For those of you that do click on for my sex life, the blonde from Minorca swallowed )!