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Red Letter Day

December 9 2008

Graham Sleeman is the editor of the Get Hooked! Guide
I extracted this editorial from a fishing diary I dug out the other day. It covered 1981, a year when I was single, no responsibilities, and lots of spare time! It details what was a great day, by our standards, on our local pond Dutson Water which has always been pretty difficult. The map, drawn at the time and with all the swims as we named them, helps set the scene. Reading it 20 years later it brought back real memories and I could almost feel the morning mist on my face. Apologies for the picture quality. Oh, and I was right about never improving on that day’s catch.

My alarm did not even have to go off this morning as I woke two minutes before it sounded, a very rare occurence! Martin met me at my place and we set off at 4.30am.

By the time we started fishing it was almost light, a perfect Tench fisher’s dawn and what a date to go Tench fishing. The glorious 16th, the traditional start of the coarse fishing season although in Cornwall there is no close season for coarse fish.

We both started fishing in the same area using very similar tactics, float fishing with the bait on the bottom, 15-20 feet out with size 12 hook. Martin was using sweetcorn as bait and I was trying small dungworms (brandlings). After 15 minutes or so Martin started to get bites so I changed to sweetcorn as well. Before long the float slid away and I was into the first fish of the day, a nice Tench of about 1lb 8oz and a good fighter. Well, I’ve never known such good sport at Dutson and the fish continued to feed fairly consistently until they ‘went off’ at about midday. Our Total so far was: Me 8 Tench Martin 3 Tench and a 2lb Common I was really pleased as my previous best was 5 Tench in a session and we already had about 20lb of fish in the net.

We picked up and went home for some lunch and also got some bread with a view to doing some ‘crusting’ in the afternoon. We returned to the pond at about 3pm to find it predictably quiet. Martin almost immediately went to sleep in the A40 (An Austin A40 was our mode of transport at the time).

A couple of hours earlier I had seen a couple of Carp under the trees in ‘carp corner’ so I wandered off to have a go. I first tried a small bit of crust on a size 12 for the Rudd but they were as frustrating as ever, taking every bit of bread in sight, except for the bit on the hook. I changed to a bigger hook and tried to get a crust under the trees for a Carp but cocked up the first cast and put all the fish down!

I returned to my original swim and threw out a couple of crusts in the area of the pit and one of these was taken quite quickly. Straight away I took the crusting rig to the swim by the reeds just next to the pit and cast out to let the crust drift nicely through the taking area. Two crusts drifted right into the bank undisturbed but I was not paying attention when the third crust was about 4ft from the bank and I heard a loud ‘cloop’.

I grabbed my rod and could still see the crust on the water so after a couple of minutes I decided the fish must have gone and reeled in to re-bait. As I started to retrieve I noticed the line entered the water nowhere near where it should have and as I tightened it became apparent the fish had hooked itself.

My first thoughts were that the fish would have already buried itself under the trees that hang in the water but, by keeping the rod tip well under the water, I managed to get the fish into the open where it put up a fine fight before Martin netted my first Carp of the season, a nice Mirror of 7lb.

That fish took at about 5.40pm and put me back in the mood so I started fishing hard once more. I had a few bites from 6 to 6.30 and as the evening drew on the fish started taking the bait more confidently, in fact by 8pm they were almost taking on the drop!

By 9pm the fish had stopped feeding after two hours of the best Tench fishing I have ever had. My brother turned up to take my photos (this was the only one I found). As I’ve said this was the best day’s Tench fishing I’ve had and I am never likely to improve on it at this water.

I finished up with 15 Tench and that bonus 7lb Carp while Martin had three Tench and a 2lb common. We reckon our total weight for the day was at least 50lb which, on this difficult water of just over an acre, was really excellent.

Why the fish should feed so well today I do not know. I suppose it is early in the season and they have not been ‘hammered’ yet and we’ve had a lot of bad weather keeping the anglers away. Strangely I was the only angler catching fish consistently, in fact I caught seven fish in the evening while Martin (same bait, terminal tackle etc.) was in the next swim and hardly had a bite!

I do feel the brandlings gave me an edge as in the morning the fish went off the sweetcorn only hookbait and the sweetcorn/brandling cocktail really got them going!