Just a stone's throw from the back garden of Izaak Walton's cottage in the rural Staffordshire village of Chebsey is the Izaak Walton Fishery. Surrounded by 43 acres of farmland, it comprises of three main pools which offer a variety of angling to suit everyone from novice to specimen angler.
The bottom of the site is bounded by the River Sow, which Izaak Walton actually used to fish, and a 500 metre length of this is available on the day ticket.
Stu and I arrived there at 8.00am on the wet Saturday morning for a Fish-in over the weekend. Were we mad? It rained from the moment we crossed the Pennines and as we drove down the track to meet the others, it was still raining. Not to be put off though, we said our hellos and headed for the nearest Asda for a breakfast, just until the rain slowed down of course!
By 9.00am we were back, heading for the bottom lake, the largest of the three at 2.5acres. The weather hadn't been kind and the ground was waterlogged just as you would expect in December. The first impressions of this fishery is that it was well kept, the banks were tidy and clean albeit a bit muddy.
It wasn't long before we were both into a Carp. Stu was fishing a legered Carp pellet on one rod and corn on the other. I was using a small bomb with a 4inch link on each rod, one with corn the other with a plug of luncheon meat, both set up on a pod with a pair of buzzers. (Tip: rather than cut a cube of luncheon meat, slice it about 1/2 inch thick and use a piece of tubing such as overflow pipe to punch a plug of meat out. Placed on the hook either hair-rigged or with the hook part buried in, small particles of meat break off whilst in the water providing an added attractant.) But on this occasion it was the sweetcorn that seemed more appealing.
The rain was still coming down and Stu was into another Carp, this time a nice fish around 6lb. This too fell to the corn.
Another angler, aka 'Gaffer' was fishing at the end of the lake in a small cut. He was into something larger. A Common Carp came to the net in pristine condition.
As time went by, the weather started to brighten up, a couple more fish were caught but it was becoming evident that sweetcorn was the bait to use.
Earlier on I had launched several balls of groundbait over towards the island and now was the time to try fishing over them. (Groundbait is generally banned on this fishery but permission had been granted by Paul, the owner, to use it for the weekend). It paid off, several missed bites later and another Carp came to the net.
One thing that was noticeable though was the number of missed bites. Were they smaller fish or was it down to the cold weather and the Carp not feeding as enthusiastically? I decided to shorten my hook-lengths from 12inches to 6 and remove the links so that any bite would register straight away and hopefully appear more positive. Stu was yet again into another fish which was doing its upmost to get into a clump of reeds in the margin.
Very soon after, one of my buzzers burst into life as line was being pulled from the reel. This was a lot more positive and a mirror of around 5lb was shortly landed.
It was now 3.00pm and knowing that we still had to sort the bivvies out for the night, we called it a day and headed back up to the field for a natter with Alan (aka Trogg) the organizer, and a few of the others that had arrived during the day.
The bivvies were soon erected and following a wash and clean down we headed to the nearest pub, The Railway, (01785 760289), for a few pints and to continue the conversations.
During the journey to the pub a major decision was made between Stu and I (confession time for the benefit of those that were there ). The frost was starting to settle already and it looked like a harsh, cold night was to be had; knowing that we would have had to drive back to base and being honest and law-abiding citizens, one of us would have had to limit our drinking so we decided to check the rates for the rooms in the pub and if reasonable, we would make a night of it and head back in the morning, honest!
At £16.00 each, including breakfast and central heating it wasn't to be scoffed at so the car was parked up for the night and to the bar we went. The one thing about Fish-ins is the company that you meet. Anglers arrive from all over and in true form, it's not long before acquaintances are made and you are surrounded by new friends. The conversations ranged from the fishing, the weather, the web, life in general, the Afghanistan situation, you name it we just about covered it.
Even re-enacting the war of the roses with Dave from the wrong side of the Pennines .
The following morning, boy were we glad we stayed in the pub. The frost had lain with a vengeance and it was freezing outside. It was 7.00am and we were met with the landlady's finest breakfast.
Following which we headed back to the fishery to meet up with the rest.
Back down to the bottom lake which by now was starting to fill up with fisherman and we returned to the swims that we had left the day before. A change in tactics was called for. I decided to fish on the side of a ledge, some 3feet from the island in front of me with free running method feeders and 6inch hooklengths, where the previous day I had launched the groundbait. The business ends were size 10 ESP Raptor hooks with hairs that were threaded through 3 pieces of sweetcorn before being looped back onto the hooks creating a mini bunch of corn but leaving the hooks clear. The groundbait was a 'home made' mix consisting of 1part brown crumb, 1 part white crumb, 1 part red crumb, 1 part fishmeal, laced with a good few handfuls of hemp, crushed maize and micro carp pellets. A mix that I have used many a time with some very good results.
The feeders were cast across, placed on the pod and I waited. I didn't have to wait for long, the left buzzer screamed and a Carp around 7lbs came in. A re-cast, tighten the line and the rod nearly got pulled out of my hand as away it went again. This time a nice common around 5lb.
The angler to my left was playing in a Chub when suddenly my right rod flew into life again resulting in a common. Three fish in the first hour, things were looking up.
It went quiet understandably for a while, I wound both rods in, re-baited and recast. Just settling onto my box, the left buzzer again screamed. This time a mirror again in the 5lb range. No sooner had I got it into the landing net when my other buzzer screamed out. Releasing the fish, I grabbed the rod from it's rest and wrestled with another mirror of similar size. Releasing that one, I re-baited the first rod, cast in, tightened the line and reached for my second rod. The first one virtually jumped out of the pod. A third Carp in as many casts and within ten minutes was soon to be in the net. This was to be getting hard work, but enjoyable.
Altogether in the 4 hours that I fished, I landed 12 Carp
between 3-7lb and lost 3 others, not bad for a freezing
December day and one that won't be forgotten in a hurry.