Monday, 23 June 2014

The TFF Board Meeting 2014

It was time for the Annual TFF Board Meeting, which is about as far removed from a board meeting as you could possibly imagine. The only discussion about the forum is usually something along these lines….

“Forum’s doing well….”

And then the tea is poured, the cake is sliced and the fishing commences.

As always it was held at Fernhill Farm in deepest Oxfordshire, a venue central to all of us, with three of us all around 2 hours away it is the fairest way of choosing a location, it just so happens that Nigel is 3 miles away….lucky git.

The venue itself is one of my favourites; my yearly trip there is eagerly anticipated for a number of reasons. The lake itself (There are three but the middle one is my favourite) is just as I would design one, overgrown, weedy, pads everywhere, reed lined banks, islands with great weeping willows and some really beautiful lean, dark and scaly carp. The company is also something I look forward to, Mark, Jeff, Nigel and I get along really well, enjoy our angling equally and have one massive thing in common…the forum.

I woke early that morning, a whole hour before the alarm clock, and with everything ready and the car packed I decided to set off early. It took me just shy of 2 hours to get to Oxfordshire with me pulling into the car park an hour before our meeting time. I took the opportunity to have a quick tiptoe round the lake before the others arrived and was quite surprised how different it looked. It was April when we fished there last, this time around summer was well underway and the lake looked much greener.

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Zoom in (real dimensions: 800 x 450)Image

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The willows were fuller and greener, the pads probably covered half the lake and the reeds were taller than me, it looked just perfect. On every turn I was met with another magnificent view through the dense foliage, bays became visible and each one was just jaw-dropping. On that first walk around I never spotted any carp, but I just knew they were there, and had a good idea where.

I got back to the car park around 7:30 just as Mark arrived. We chatted a while and I informed him he’d better move his car as he was blocking the gate. With that he closed his boot and started to panic as the car had mysteriously locked itself. The keys were locked in the boot, the phone was also inside and we looked at each other and scratched our heads wondering what to do next. Mark used my phone to call his breakdown people who eventually arrived and finally got into the car around 10am. A late start for Mark but we got there in the end.

Meanwhile Jeff and Nigel arrived, ribbed Mark some and whilst he was waiting for the Green Flag man we set off for the top pond to kill an hour whilst waiting for him and to have a go at the few carp that were already showing an interest. Nigel and I were quick to cast our crusts out into the pool and carp swirled at them repeatedly, but it was apparent that they would be trickier to catch than we first thought.

The top lake isn’t quite as picturesque, the fish aren’t as darkly coloured either, but they do run larger than those on the middle pool and they were the first that day to show themselves. With Nigel, Jeff and myself all trying unsuccessfully to trick the carp in front of us, I decided to move to the opposite bank in the hope of using the bankside vegetation to shield me from the fish that were very close to that bank.

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It almost worked too; I hooked a decent mirror carp which ploughed away under the rod tip for quite some time until it found the sanctuary of some hidden snags, perhaps a root system, which resulted in me and the fish parting company. Mark was soon among us and whilst he tackled up I returned to my companions for a chinwag and a bite to eat. The sun grew stronger by the minute; it was set to be a scorcher of a day. Jeff was soon off on his travels and was the first to catch a carp, a lovely common from the middle pool.

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With Jeff back among us and the news that fish were beginning to show on the middle pool it was time to move camp, but not before casting a crust at a common just out from the bank. It only took a few seconds and the crust was gone. As I started to play the fish I noticed my companions leaving the scene and on their way through the tunnel of trees that led to the middle pool, I called out twice that I had a fish on and soon it was being netted by Nigel as the others watched on. Incidentally, I brought the Bishop net along for a run out, which Nigel had great pleasure scooping up my fish with.

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After a couple of snaps I followed the chaps to the new location. A particular grassy knoll at a central point of the middle pool is always our base camp. From here we chat, make tea, slice cake and return for more tea after occasional bouts of angling. It’s quite a good spot to fish from too, but on this occasion the pads and bankside vegetation were rather wild. Whilst Nigel made tea I sliced up a giant pork pie, smothered it in mustard and shared it out. It seemed to be very well received.

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Shortly after lunch I crept round opposite camp and started to loose feed dog biscuits along the edge of the pads. A couple of small carp crept out from the pads and started to sniff around the free food. As soon as they started to tuck in I made a cast with two biscuits on a size 6 hook and was as the two feeding fish drew near I made myself ready for the strike. A swift over the shoulder movement set the hook causing the carp to charge off through the pads. Thankfully the carp, a mirror of around 5lb and was easily circumvented out of the lilies and towards the net.

I unhooked the fish in the net and released it without too much disturbance. I was astounded to see it swim from the mesh, along the edge of the pads and resume feeding on the loose dog biscuits. I’ve heard of this behaviour before, but never actually witnessed it. The other fish there was a common of similar size so I left them to it, gathered my things and pushed on it search of something special.

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On my travels, along with trying various spots on the middle pool, I also kept an eye on the top pool. One particular margin I like is the one that backs onto the middle; it has a tree in the water half way along which usually holds a few fish. As I approached I dropped my gear a few metres back, gently moved into position and clocked half a dozen dark shapes to the right of the tree and inches from the bank.

Back with the tackle I attached a crust to the hook, wound up so there was a drop of only a foot between tip ring and hook and poked it through the branches and into position. Three fish came to look, the first two were smallish commons and for each one I lifted the bait clear of the water only dropping it once they'd passed. Then a nice scaly mirror came for a look, I left the bait where it was and as the lips opened and the bread disappeared I gave a gentle strike and lifted the rod high over the marginal bushes so to get a better angle and steer the fish away from the snags.

It didn’t go very far, just plodded round and round staying deep. After that initial viewing when it took the bait it remained out of sight for another good five minutes with the Mark IV arched over and the fish refusing to budge from the bottom. After constant pressure the fish eventually surfaced a few times and went into the net as tired as I was. I called out to Nigel who was in the middle of making another pot of tea and he kindly obliged with a few photographs. A wonderful fish, quite dark and with a lovely scale pattern, just how I like them.

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More wandering was done with frequent bumping into the others which would always result in more chatting about what you’ve seen and the prospects, oh, and how very hot it was. I got back to camp to find Mark sat angling through a gap in the reeds. Further along I saw a few fish moving under a large overhanging tree just off the island. They cruised between the tree and the pads to their right. I threw some mixers out near the pads and watched for a while. The gap to fish through was tight and pads just past the gap would make netting any fish tricky, but, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I made my cast; a small channel in the pads was being visited by a larger carp which through the water looked a tad darker than the rest. My cast landed just in the mouth of the gap and three times I watched that same fish ignore the hook-bait, until on the fourth time of asking it swirled underneath, gently inched forward and in slow motion sucked the mixers in. The battle was mad, but fun.

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It was a little while until I first glimpsed the fish, which immediately turned my legs to jelly. As it rolled I caught sight of those big plated scales and the dark back, the fish I dream of, the ones I always hope to find, and it was rolling around among the pads before me. Mark heard the commotion and came to help out. Seeing the predicament I was in he took the net, squeezed through the opening and expertly scooped up the fish first time. We both cheered once the fish was safe, and some lovely photos were taken by Mark as I smiled.

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It was one of those fish where upon returning you wonder if you’ll ever catch anything so wonderful again. Size is immaterial when they look that way, big fish just don’t do it for me, they have to be pretty. Of course, if they are big AND beautiful, then that’s a different story but it’s not the be all and end all. Shortly after, I was stalking the top pool with Nigel when Mark and Jeff came by to say farewell. It was 3pm and they had to get going. Jeff managed a lovely little mirror before he packed up, a delightful little carp with a bizarre scale pattern.

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Hands were shaken but before they left us for the car park Nigel hooked into a strong fish that tore off across the pool. We thought it might be one of the twenties the way it shot off, but a very powerful common of just over 12lbs was landed and photographed before our companions left. For the next couple of hours we continued to stalk the pools and Nigel landed another common, rather more portly this time.

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At 6pm it was time for me to hit the road. It had been a fantastic day, one of those days that hurry by far too quickly. Perhaps the TFF Board Meeting should be Bi-Annual from now on. I got home around 8pm, retired exhausted at 9 and the sun was still shining. When I woke the following morning it was still shining, perhaps it shone all night too!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely write up of a very pleasant looking day, well done to all, Grazy.