Spend the day with carp legend Chris Yates as he targets specimen fish off the top
A day in the company of Chris Yates take me back to a more leisurely era
IHAVE fished with many famous anglers over the years, but no-one has had more impact on fellow piscators than Chris Yates.
This angling icon in no way disappoints. Meet him in the flesh and he turns grown men into excited schoolboys once again!
Is this down to his record carp? A Passion For Angling? Or perhaps the wonderful words cast through his books? All these play their part, but there’s more. His image isn’t cultivated and there’s nothing false about the man. Chris is a true eccentric living the life many dream of, far from the madding crowd. He’s never happier than in his Wiltshire cottage where days are long and lazy.
His lifestyle is a tonic that few will ever take, but just getting a glimpse of it through Chris’ eyes is special enough. So when he and I auctioned our services in aid of Sue Ryder Hospices and the RNLI, I knew exactly who the bigger draw would be!
Generous bidders Sam and Ben Wakerley were due to arrive early in the morning, but it was a two-hour journey to the pit and I knew Chris to be a stranger to prompt time-keeping! We decided to travel up the afternoon before in preparation for the big day and, proving me wrong, Mr Yates arrived bang on time. We completed our journey before the rush hour, giving me plenty of time to prep the tackle.
Chris was itching to make a cast before our guests arrived, and who could blame him? The unruffled water, baked by the summer sun, was alive with carp and the moment dog biscuits hit the surface, greedy mouths gulped them down. Chris’ trusty Edward Barder Bishop rod was immediately pulled from its bag.
Eleven feet of cane craftsmanship were matched to an equally ancient Abu Cardinal reel, its body scarred from countless battles down the years. The braid
it held was sun-bleached and white, and I hoped it still retained its strength. My doubts were dispelled as Chris gave it a hard tug between both hands. “Of course it’s all right – I’ve only been using it for 30 years,” he said with an impish grin.
What fiendish terminal tackle arrangement came next? In a world of chods and Ronnie rigs, Chris only needed a hook tied on to a 6ft-long 11lb mono hooklength. “Can I borrow a hook please, Martin?’ he asked.
I had to laugh! He was, however, prepared with soaked and softened mixers. A hair to attach them wasn’t on the agenda. Three baits, impaled directly on to the hook so no metal was on show, seemed rather crude to me – but my companion was confident and made his cast with the freelined bait into a melee of mouths.
The Cane quivered in his hand as the excitement built. A mixer engulfed to the left and then the right meant a take just had to come next. The three biscuits began to rotate in a vortex as thick lips sucked on the bait. Braid pulled across the surface as the carp disappeared and I urged Chris to strike.
Patiently, though, he waited until the hookhold was certain. The Bishop flew into action and all hell was let loose. Chris furiously backwound as a mirror carp leapt like a dolphin time after time. My camera went into overdrive as I recorded this classic angling moment, then helped with the net.
A washing line of weed arrived before a carp, initially thrashing the water to a foam, begrudgingly flopped into the net. I scooped with the wooden pole, forcing it into an unhealthy curve, but the fish was ours and we shook hands gleefully. With the fish safely returned there was only one thing to do now – have a cup of tea! Time to rest and be ready for our guests.
Sam and Ben weren’t due to arrive until eight o’clock, but I was up four hours earlier, feeding more krill floating pellets, determined the pair would be treated to a feeding frenzy.
Smoke rose from the woods as the Kelly Kettle once again went into action. Breakfast for Chris was peanut butter on bread!
My only concern was keeping him out of the swim as the first carp surfaced. I needn’t have worried, though. Chris was keen to feed, not fish, and even wielded a blowpipe, last demonstrated in A Passion For Angling. By the time our guests arrived everything was set for instant success.
I had the finest equipment and rigs on offer but I knew this wasn’t what our guests wanted. Time with Chris using traditional tackle and the most basic of techniques was the ordeer of the day and, for a short time, they experienced a taste of his lifestyle. As cane creaked and centrepins whirred, pounds and ounces weren’t important. On a blissful summer’s day, sharing celebratory slices of ginger cake and tea with Chris Yates was absolutely priceless.
Sam Wakerley with his angling hero Chris. and paper as fuel. can brew up using only twigs Time for tea – the Kelly Kettle
Shared delight in the capture of a fine mirror.
Chris’ bait was as simple as it gets.
No hair rigs, just three mixers on the hook.
Cane rod, centrepin reel... classic stuff.
Chris shows how to feed with a blowpipe.