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Roach, Carp & Parenthood

December 9 2008

Any bites Josh?

Josh, you OK?


Josh was asleep.

Well, it was just past midnight and he'd never been up that late before.
How many of you have experienced taking one of your children on their first 'all nighter'? How was it for you? for me it was hugely enjoyable, a mixture of pride and excitement and memories flooding back of how I'd felt on my first nocturnal session.

We arrived at the fishery at about 7pm on a fine July evening to get set up. Josh had been fishing with me before, mostly spectating, and this was to be his first time in control of his own rod and line.
I set him up with an eight food light spinning rod, fixed spool reel, 6lb main line and a 2lb hook length to a 16 hook suspended from a float.
Bait was to be maggot and with a good population of small roach and skimmer bream in the water he was pretty sure to have some sport.
I tackled up an eleven foot rod with a small sliding ledger and maggot and a second rod with a cream flavoured boilie.
I baited up an area between a couple of bushes on my right and put a boilie on the hook!

On the hook? Yes, obviously boilies have been around for a long time and I have never used them before so I just assumed you put them on the hook. I have since been educated in such matters and the beauties of 'hair rigs' et al.
By this time Josh was getting bites and it wasn't long before he caught his first fish. WOW! I doubt that the three inch roach that devoured the single maggot will ever bring such a huge sense of joy and achievement to anybody again, and Josh was pretty pleased too! What is it that we enjoy so much about fishing? Outwitting the fish, the thrill of the fight? Neither would seem to apply in the case of this little shimmer of silver but the joy on Josh's face was as easy to read as a book. It's perhaps a little sad that many anglers lose this basic joy as the capture of such small 'easy' fish becomes a little tedious. We would do well to remember something of that first exciting catch and banish the phrase 'trash fish' from our vocabulary. Whoops, that's enough moralising for now.

By loose feeding with maggots Josh caught several more roach before the light faded and the float vanished into the evening gloom.
I retackled his rod with a sliding ledger and sweetcorn as hookbait and he recast. He actually picked up casting much quicker than I thought he would. The only difficulty he had seemed to be that the reel was physically a bit large for him to handle. When most people cast they hold the line against the spool with their index finger, Josh's isn't long enough so he had to hook the line over his finger which does make it harder to release the line at the right moment.

My usual setup is to use two storm lanterns adjacent to the seats for lighting and then washing up liquid bottle tops, clipped over the line between the first and second rod rings, as bite indicators. A bit Heath Robinson perhaps but it's cheap and it works. The only drawback is, of course, that you have to sit and watch instead of being woken by an alarm but that's no real hardship.
I have to say that Josh was not over impressed by this change in tactics and it wasn't hard to see why, no bites!
I explained that this is the way things were and if he did get a bite it was likely to be a bigger fish and this fuelled his enthusiasm for a bit longer. About two hours in fact which was when I discovered that, beneath copious layers of clothing, he had fallen asleep.

I woke him and suggested we had a midnight snack, good idea. I've got an old Renault Trafic van which makes a superb tent so we retired to the car park and brewed a cup of tea while Josh ate the chocolate, well most of it.
He got in his sleeping bag and went back to sleep and I returned to the water to do some serious 'undisturbed' fishing.

By 5am I'd caught one fish, a roach of about 4oz, well it was a slightly bigger fish. It was getting light now so I went and woke Josh and suggested some breakfast. Bacon eggs and fried bread went down very well, he wolfed it down although I have to say it looked a bit like someone had wolfed it down the previous evening but it tasted great.

Back to the fishing then. Needless to say Josh wanted the float back, I obliged and before long he was back into the small roach and the odd skimmer bream. I was, however,
catching very little so I decided to chuck out a few crusts. This is something I almost always do at first light. I cut half a dozen cubes from a nice crusty loaf and drop them in some likely spots along a nearby bank. On some waters you give up right away as the water boils with fry but on others it's frequently productive. Ideally you can see all the crusts from where you are fishing and spot any activity. Sure enough after about twenty minutes a crust was sucked down by a good fish, followed by another. At this point the boilie rod was re-tackled with a crust and we crept around to the area of activity. I dropped in another 'freebie' which was taken in five minutes so in went another, this time with a size six barbless hook in it.

Ten minutes later the crust was taken and I lifted the rod, waiting for the line to move off. It did, I struck and handed the rod to Josh. Surface hooked Carp usually move off at a rate of knots and this one was certainly no exception. Josh held on tight and looked on in astonishment as the line screamed off the lightly set clutch on reel, I actually grabbed hold of his coat to stop him sliding down the steep bank, after the small stuff he had been catching he had no idea that a fish could actually pull this hard. He made a fair attempt at playing the fish and after 5 minutes or so I netted it for him. Pleased or what? I took a photograph and let Josh gently return the fish to the water.

Now I was really pleased and proud that Josh had caught this fish but was not aware that it might have a downside. The immediate one was "lets catch another". Hmmmm, well it's not quite that easy Josh, we'll have scared them off. And more recently "let's catch some carp, I love catching carp".
To add strength to my argument (it's not always that easy) we recently had another all night session with the express intention of catching a carp for the cover shot of this years Get Hooked! It was at a local fishery, with a good population of large carp, that had been fishing well recently. A local angler was also there all night to 'reduce the odds' and another turned up before light. The sum total of our efforts... three carp anglers nil (one lost ghost carp) Josh about thirty rudd, golden orfe and golden tench to about 8oz. You can imagine the conversation; "have you caught anything Gra?", no, "I have. Has that man over there caught anything?", no. "Has that man caught anything Gra?", no. "I've caught more than anybody haven't I?", yes Josh.
He couldn't really grasp why people should 'deliberately' not catch fish, which were easy, in pursuit of something unseen which was obviously very hard to catch, that's very easy to grasp, isn't it?

Back to our original expedition and it was now about 9am. I was still fishing ledgered corn on one rod and boilie on the other and Josh was back with his floatfished maggot and catching fish again. Suddenly the bottle top on the boilie rig shot up and I struck. I knew right away that this was a good fish as it made off, hugging the bottom and taking line. After a solid fight I slid the net under a mirror of about 91b which was immediately returned.

Well that's about it, we fished on until about 11.30am and I spent most of the time watching and helping Josh who was still catching by generous loose feeding with the remainder of the maggots. He was a bit disappointed when we went to empty the keepnet, which had been kept in an outside shed, as some small rodents had surreptitiously enlarged the mesh sufficiently to allow all but a few of his fish to escape but on the whole he really enjoyed himself. He just about made the twelve mile journey home without falling asleep but wandered around like a zombie for the rest of the day and slept like a log that night.

To conclude this little tale I'd like to offer a few thoughts from my experience. If you need patience to be a fisherman, treble it and then add some if you intend taking your offspring. You'll spend a lot of time undoing tangles and getting hooks out of seats and the like. (pick a swim with no trees nearby) This also means, if you are fishing yourself, you are going to miss fish, I missed at least two 'sucker' runs on the boilies. Be as sure as you can that your subject is actually going to catch fish, he/she will get bored very quickly. Take lots of grub and treats, this is great for staving off the aforementioned boredom. If it gets really bad pick up and go home, don't inflict fishing on your pupil (you can always go again on your own). Six years old, in my experience, is the minimum age if your pupil is going to fish with any degree of independence.
Whatever the drawbacks, with a little extra patience I know you'll find it an extremely rewarding experience.