Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Chance Rendezvous

The prospect was incredible, to visit a very seldom fished pit, to see in the flesh the exquisite Chance cane rods and to meet the man behind them. The day was booked off well in advance, all I had to do was drop Jessica at nursery and I was free for the day. Without seeing the pit before I didn’t quite know what tackle to take with me, although we were there to meet friends new and old and to waggle the new rods, there would still be time for some fishing. I was told that tench and carp would be the order of the day, so a Chapman 500 and a Mark IV were packed, along with an Intrepid Elite, a 300 and a Hardy Altex.
The morning came, thankfully there was more blue than white and grey above me, it felt warm early on and excitement levels were extremely high. I dropped Jessica off at 7:30 and headed towards the venue hoping the traffic would be kind to me. It wasn’t of course, 3 separate jams made the 45 minute journey take closer to 2 hours, frustrating even more so when you are imagining a new lake, a lake draped in early morning sunlight.

I finally arrived a little before 9:30, parked my car and found that the guys were already pitched up and fishing. The first person I came to was Mal, the star of the show, for it was his new roach rod that was being launched. The Chance rod factory had produced 3 rods, number one, number 2 which was in the hands of Bumble, and number 3, the roach rod. Number 3 was designed by Malcolm, tailored to his needs he put his requirement in to Chance rods and the result was quite staggering. Mal was due to receive the finished rod early June, but was in for a bit of a surprise.
As it happened, there was a gathering at Bumble’s place, between him, Matthew, Mr Chance and Malcolm, but little did Mal know, the rod was actually to be presented to him that very evening. I’m told this was a very moving moment, and I can fully understand why. Thankfully, excessive amounts of alcohol weren’t consumed and the crew made the early morning start and arrived at the lake on time with relatively clear heads. It was I who was late for the party
So back to the day, it was a delight to see Mal again; I had the great pleasure of his company a couple of seasons ago, but with the distance between us meetings since have sadly failed to occur. He had a number of his magnificently restored rods standing to attention at the back of his swim, but the ‘pièce de résistance’ was the Chance rod, which looked wonderful. Dark cane, whole cane butt spliced into split cane and a lovely fine taper. Mal was obviously made up with it, and it was a joy to share that childlike enthusiasm he still has. It felt great to hold, well balanced, and reluctantly I gave it back to him after admiring its features.
Once we’d chewed the fat some I continued my tour of the pit, a wonderful looking pit with trees around most of its banks, various bays and one long section of reeds. The margins were gin clear and dropped away into very deep water quite close in, perhaps some 15 feet in places only a couple of rod lengths out. There was plenty of weed present too and it looked perfect for the roving angler to wander around looking for opportunities, which just happens to be my game completely.

Next I met Bumble, we shook hands and I thanked him for the invite. He showed me Chance rod number 2, it was stunning; it looked great in the photos we’d been seeing online, but in the flesh even better.  After a brief chat I moved on, he told me that Mr Chance was eager to meet me, yet I still had no idea who Mr Chance actually was. As I turned the corner near where the cars were parked I was met with a familiar face, it was Jakobus from Germany. At first I was taken aback, I never knew he was coming, I’d been looking forward to the day we’d finally meet, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. We shook hands and smiled, and I asked why he was there. He went on to tell me that he was, in fact, Mr Chance. This was to my utter surprise at first, but then after thinking about it, with the wonderful floats, artwork and other things he turns his hand to, it wasn’t actually as shocking as I first thought.
So we spoke a while, I marvelled at Chance rod number 1, yet another beautiful creation and shortly after left to meet Matthew and Ally who were fishing off a little point. Matthew had arranged a BBQ and had brought some delectable delights for us to tuck into at lunchtime, and Ally had brought a lemon drizzle cake, a recipe she is fast becoming famous for, and after tasting it I can see why. Matthew is a delightful chap, we’d never met before but I’m so glad we did, he loves his angling and is one of the friendliest guys I’ve met, one of those ‘Nothing is too much trouble’ types.
After meeting everyone and waggling those wonderful rods it was time to think about angling a while before lunch. I started by wandering the banks, peering into various swims, trying to spot something that might give me some clue as to how to catch something. From the centre of the reed lined bank I spotted a big ghost common, it was easily 20lbs, perhaps even pushing 25 and circled in front of me twice before heading out into open water and out of sight. It was a close encounter that filled me with optimism, although after another half an hour of searching, I never spotted any more carp.
I wasn’t too far from revisiting the spot Mal was fishing when I heard the shout we were all waiting for. I ran around just in time to see the Chance roach rod curving beautifully with an angry tench ploughing away amongst the weed. Mal’s face said it all, the way the rod performed, the arch he kept looking up at, and the beautiful tench Bumble swiftly netted. It was quite a moment, a superb fish caught on the rod’s christening, I was just such a privilege to be there and witness it. I helped with the weighing, which was somewhat over 3lbs, and Jake snapped away with the camera. Mal commented on just how in control he felt throughout the fight, testament as to just how good the rod is.
With the fish returned, the battle recounted and everyone smiling it was time once more for me to get on my travels. Again I circled the lake looking for more signs and apart from a couple of tench up in the water swimming over the weed, it looked fairly quiet. There was once particular swim over in the far corner at the end of the reed bank which had two lovely looking clean spots, one straight out and one slightly to the right. Both were around 2 rod lengths out and both appeared to be around 8 feet deep. I deposited some sweetcorn onto these spots and left them, venturing back every so often to see if we were attracting anything and if any of the yellow grains had been stolen. I heard the call for lunch around midday and made my way around to the point and the BBQ area.
BBQ was great, classic burgers and sausages with mini sausage rolls and even a glass of champers to celebrate the occasion, it was all frightfully civilised. Chance branded cider was unveiled also and after much scoffing and more lemon drizzle it was time to think about returning to the fishing. What was interesting, though, was the congregation of carp just off the right hand BBQ swim, past the pads and seemingly using a large fallen tree as their base. We spotted the big ghost along with other largish looking carp. Matthew was flitting in and out of that swim through the morning, but kindly offered it up to me once he saw my eyes light up at the sight before us. I thanked him, gathered my things and set about thinking up a plan.
The spot was tricky, the carp had obviously thought long and hard about their lair. The first obstacle was the set of pads around ten yards out, then to the right of where the fish were congregating was the sunken tree and its submerged branches. The wind played a role too, blowing into the snags meaning that after casting I’d have a short window of opportunity until the bait drifted too close to danger.  I tackled up a Mark IV with a Mitchell 300 and 10lb line, threaded a piece of crust onto a size 4 and made a cast just beyond the pads. The fish seemed to drift out of casting range pretty much straight away and stayed half way across the lake, after 15 or so minutes I abandoned the idea hoping they might drift back later if left alone.
Once again I was back on my travels, but stopped at my baited tench swim and was thrilled to see a tinca feeding on each spot. I observed a while; they upended tails waving, picked up some grub and levelled themselves whilst chewing, this obviously being how we received those classic lift bites.  I set up a couple of rods, both fishing over depth over shotted floats and with luncheon meat on each I cast onto the spots. At first I could see the hook-baits on the bottom amongst the sweetcorn and chopped up meat, but as the fish fed the areas clouded up and visibility diminished. My attention was then drawn to the float tips only.
I guess it took around half an hour, the float on the right hand rod straightened itself then rose in the water and laid flat on the surface; I struck and felt a pleasant thump on the other end, fish on. The fish ploughed around trying to use the weed to its advantage, but with constant and steady pressure I managed to ensure it never got stuck too deeply. As the gorgeous fish slipped into the net I cheered, it looked a good one. I was just peering into the net admiring my prize when Jake came running up, offered me congratulations and soon we were both marvelling at the stunning beast lying in the bottom of my net.
We hoisted her ashore and weighed her at 5lb 11oz. She was a really deep dark green, not overly long but very thickset and chunky, not something you’d usually call a lady, but she was. Jake expertly snapped away with the camera and afterwards lying flat on my tummy on the platform I released her back into those ultra-clear margins and watched her swim out of sight. We smiled, we shook hands and we recounted the capture, it was sublime. 

I topped up the swim with more bait and went for a walk, the carp were still out from the BBQ area, but with the wind pushing in the direction it was headed, it still looked awkward. It was all quiet for the others too, all enjoying their days immensely, but at the same time willing their respective floats to disappear. I met up with Richard, the chap who looks after the lake, and after a very interesting chat and some pointers I got back on my toes and carried on searching.
I arrived back in my tench swim. The water over the spots looked quite coloured signifying there had been something feeding, but after fishing over the areas for the next hour the floats never moved. With an hour left I decided to cart my stuff back to the car, and to see out the remainder of the session targeting those carp. They were still a way off out towards the middle, roughly 30 or so yards away drifting around, but the odd one ventured towards the snags too. It was well worth one last roll of the dice.
To gain the extra distance I scaled things down a touch, I figured (and hoped) that anything hooked would dart out into open water and the weed beds; it was where they went when I started angling for them and thereafter whenever they were startled. With the Chapman 500 and Altex loaded with 6lbs line I attached a size 4 but also moulded some Babybell wax a metre above to aid casting, this way I could attempt to reach those carp out towards the centre. It worked well at the Old Estate lake last summer, so was a method I had complete confidence in.
After a short while I saw the ghost head towards the snags and into the bay just beyond. I made the cast and drew it back to just off the mouth of the bay. The ghost came out, swirled under the bread and almost gave me a heart attack as it half-heartedly snatched at the bait. It circled, came back and had another swipe, but never took it. As the fish moved back out with the others momentarily I wound in and made another cast with a fresh crust. The ghost headed back my way, made a beeline for the bait and snatched at it, I actually thought he’d taken it so I struck, but he hadn’t and I wound in leaving the hook-bait behind. And yes, you guessed it; seconds later he swallowed the bread and headed back out to open water.
The next cast went way past the same spot, I left it there and awaited events. This time a very wide mirror approached the bay and started to take the few bits of bread that were drifting around out there, bits that had fallen off, it was dolphin feeding and looked so very catchable. I wound back gently until I was level with the fish and it made no hesitation whatsoever in turning and heading straight for the hook, only instead it took the red Babybell wax then spooked and darted back out with its friends. It looked a big mirror too that fish, I was so close!
Bumble and the others agreed I’d come very close, but the chance had passed. For 5 minutes nothing came close and with time ticking I broke down the rod, packed everything into the boot and thanked everyone for a memorable day. I shall look forward to returning for another shot at those carp later in the summer, hopefully they’ll be somewhat less cagey. As for those sublime rods, I wish Mr Chance all the success he deserves, here’s someone who puts the customer’s needs at the forefront of the design, a true artisan.

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