Still Carp­ing On

“...mys­tery’s all too in­volved, It can’t be un­der­stood, or solved.”

Carpworld - - CONTENTS - - Tim Pais­ley

An­other pot­pourri of an­gling re­lated mat­ters from the ‘god­fa­ther’ of carp fish­ing. As is usu­ally the case, Tim’s fea­ture ad­dresses top­i­cal and var­ied mat­ters that are swirling around in his mind at the mo­ment

So we’re in our thirty-first year! I thought the 30th an­niver­sary is­sue was mag­nif­i­cent, the only glitch from my point of view be­ing that the fea­ture tak­ing an af­fec­tion­ate look back at Hutchy’s writ­ings wasn’t cred­ited to me, other than in the con­tents. The lead shot of Rod check­ing a type­script is one of my favourites of the great man still in his prime, taken prior to his de­tached retina op­er­a­tions, and en­su­ing phys­i­cal prob­lems set­ting in. The shock of his pass­ing is abat­ing. The mem­o­ries get stronger. Thanks again, Rod, and here’s to the next carp­fish­ing gi­ant, and the next 30 years, with con­grats to all in­volved in the con­cep­tion and pro­duc­tion of Carp­world 336.

The bait book, which has been 40 years in the mak­ing, is fi­nally in pro­duc­tion. Here’s a quote from the In­tro­duc­tion which ex­plains how the book came about, and what it’s about.

“Carp were turned on by some amino acids. Were they by heck? It may not be ap­par­ent but I have a very log­i­cal mind. Fred Wil­ton was ad­vo­cat­ing pro­teins. Amino acids are the com­po­nents of pro­teins, and carp were turned on by some ‘free’ amino acids. There had to be some sort of recog­ni­tion fac­tor there, but what? How could carp tell? It was that con­nec­tion, and the later (for me) dis­cov­ery that the most stim­u­la­tory amino acids are hy­dropho­bic, mean­ing they don’t dis­solve in wa­ter, that trig­gered in me a strong urge not just to know about carp baits, but to try to un­der­stand the re­la­tion­ship be­tween carp, their food sources, and baits.”

That was the start­ing point re­ally, go­ing back to the mid-to-late 1970s. I wanted to try and un­der­stand a phe­nom­e­non that no one was try­ing to ex­plain: how do carp know? Life is a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion, so what was the chem­istry – or bio­chem­istry – in­volved in carp’s re­searched and well-doc­u­mented stim­u­la­tion by a hand­ful of amino acids? I haunted the ref­er­ence li­brary, and bought books on nu­tri­tion, fish chemore­cep­tion, bio­physics and bio­chem­istry, but they only took me so far. When you are try­ing to walk a road which has no map you get lost. In terms of try­ing to put to­gether an ex­pla­na­tion of what I re­ferred to as ‘nu­tri­tional recog­ni­tion’ I would get lost for years on end, which is why the book has taken so long to come to fruition. I sup­pose be­ing in a dark tun­nel would be a bet­ter sim­ile than the road with no map. From time to time I’d see a light and think it may be the end of the tun­nel, but it al­ways turned out to be an­other rest­ing point, un­til fi­nally I ar­rived at the end of my tun­nel, if not the tun­nel. Achiev­ing some grasp of the DNA mol­e­cule, and the con­cept of ‘mes­sen­gers’, even­tu­ally took me as far as I can go. ‘As far as I can go’ in­volves hy­poth­e­sis­ing an ex­pla­na­tion, of sorts. It’s even taken me a few years to ar­rive at a ti­tle for the book which I’m fairly com­fort­able with: Carp, Bait and ‘Nu­tri­tional Recog­ni­tion’ (A hy­poth­e­sis). A hy­poth­e­sis is a way of say­ing ‘I think this is how it is, but I can’t prove it.’ I’m not even claim­ing it is a sci­en­tific hy­poth­e­sis be­cause try as I may I can­not get to grips with the equa­tions you need to un­der­stand to fully come to terms with the bio­chem­istry in­volved in hy­dro­gen bond­ing, ion­i­sa­tion, at­trac­tion, or stim­u­la­tion, which has to be the pre­cur­sor to ‘recog­ni­tion’.

I’m go­ing ahead with pub­li­ca­tion of the book be­cause I want it on record, and I’m not get­ting any younger. It in­volves con­tri­bu­tions from Si­mon Hor­ton, Lee Jack­son, Kevin Knight and Rod Hutchin­son, and ac­knowl­edges the great ma­te­rial, and in­flu­ences on the sub­ject of bait, that have been made avail­able to us by such bait lu­mi­nar­ies as Fred Wil­ton, Bill Cot­tam, Gary Bayes, Kevin Nash, Frank War­wick, Shaun Har­ri­son, Mike Will­mott, Char­lie Dally, Harry Haskell, John Baker, Ge­off Kemp, Dun­can Kay, Keith Sykes and nu­mer­ous oth­ers who have all writ­ten ex­ten­sively about bait. In many cases they have made great baits avail­able to us, and long may those who are still with us con­tinue to do so. Some of the ma­te­rial has ap­peared in print pre­vi­ously, and some of it is new. The book is ded­i­cated to Fred Wil­ton and

Rod Hutchin­son, be­cause it was Fred’s writ­ings on pro­tein and nu­tri­tion in The Third Bri­tish Carp Study Group Book (pre­vi­ously pub­lished in The Carp) and Hutchy’s ma­te­rial on amino acids in Rod Hutchin­son’s Carp Book that trig­gered my own ex­haus­tive study of a sub­ject which in­trigued me from the start.

I think some of you al­ready know that I was greatly in­flu­enced by Fred Wil­ton’s trea­tise on a per­sonal level. If that was what carp needed nu­tri­tion­ally, what did we need? In the early 80s I was still a smoker try­ing to give up, and man­aged to do so im­me­di­ately af­ter I first di­gested Fred’s ma­te­rial. I gave up smok­ing, started run­ning, took a greater in­ter­est in what I was eat­ing, and started down the vi­ta­min/min­eral path which I still tread with great en­thu­si­asm af­ter adding nu­mer­ous life-en­hanc­ing, health-pro­tect­ing sup­ple­ments through the years. (Re-brows­ing Derek Strit­ton’s book Too Many Rods re­cently I was in­trigued to be re­minded that Fred made Derek give up smok­ing in the 1970s – Derek be­ing one of Fred’s ‘bait boys’ at the time, and still is I should add. Derek and I also have Big Bol­locks in com­mon, a com­ment which will be smil­ingly un­der­stood by Dar­enth reg­u­lars, and glee­fully mis­un­der­stood by the rest of you!)

The only fur­ther com­ment I will make on the health score is re­gard­ing prostate cancer. I of­ten get PMS on Face­book ask­ing me to help raise aware­ness of prostate cancer, but with­out giv­ing any rec­om­men­da­tion as to what men should do about it. Alarm bells rang for me many years back when I read for­mer MP David Steele de­scrib­ing the warn­ing bells of ‘trot­ting down the land­ing to the loo’ six or seven times per night prior to him be­ing di­ag­nosed with prostate cancer. I was be­com­ing that man and found a prod­uct called Prostease which I take as a safe­guard. I’ve been on it morn­ing and night ever since and my noc­tur­nal ex­cur­sions to the loo have been re­duced to an un­alarm­ing level of once or twice per night.

Last month I com­mented that I had been in­trigued by the chap­ter in the new Carp So­ci­ety book Still For the Love of Carp about ladies’ carp fish­ing and the in­ter­na­tional ex­ploits of the Mi­randa Brown-in­spired Eng­land Ladies’ team, cap­tained by our own Bev Clif­ford. There is also a lovely chap­ter about the Man­grove by my old friend Shaun Har­ri­son in the book. I en­joyed the read, which brought back mem­o­ries of one of my own all-time favourite swims on the Man­grove, Light­ning Tree, and had me scur­ry­ing to the ar­chives search­ing for the ‘un­known’ mir­ror of 38lb 4oz which was one of the fish in the record Man­grove brace landed by Shaun, which the chap­ter cov­ers. The hoped-for com­par­i­son proved to be a tough ask. The prob­lems with com­par­isons of Man­grove mir­rors are three­fold. One is that a lot of the orig­i­nal mir­rors are sim­i­lar lightlyscaled, leath­ery fish and dif­fi­cult to com­pare. The sec­ond is that very of­ten you are look­ing at the ‘wrong’ side of the fish when only one side has been pho­tographed. And the third is that the Man­grove is a nat­u­ral mere and con­tains fish that only get caught very oc­ca­sion­ally. I sup­pose there is a fourth in that the wa­ter has been known as

a carp wa­ter since 1982, when Dave Pre­ston first had it to him­self (!), and the syn­di­cate has been in ex­is­tence since 1989. Chang­ing per­son­nel throws up an­other prob­lem, of course, in that we haven’t al­ways got ac­cess to pic­tures of all the fish that have been caught down the years.

I have hun­dreds of pic­tures of Man­grove fish. Shaun’s com­ment in his chap­ter that this was a lit­tle-known fish had me scur­ry­ing through the files to see if I could match it, and I’m not sure I can. I think it may have been my first 20 from the mere in June 1983, but can’t even be sure of that be­cause the only pic­ture I can find of that fish is a ‘cap­tor re­turns’ shot, which makes com­par­isons dif­fi­cult*.

I spent a great deal of time fish­ing the Man­grove through the late 80s and 90s and at one time had ac­cu­mu­lated shots of over 100 dif­fer­ent 20s. I men­tion that be­cause my friend and neigh­bour, and now Man­grove syn­di­cate mem­ber, Kip, had a lovely 33lb-plus mir­ror in a five-fish catch ear­lier this sea­son, and I was keen to match it. I found it in my book Bivvy Three dur­ing my Oc­to­ber 2014 ses­sion, but there is no pic­ture of it on the syn­di­cate cabin wall, and I can’t find it in ‘ar­chive’ shots of mine and John Lil­ley’s, who was a Man­grove reg­u­lar at one time and caught pro­lif­i­cally from the wa­ter. On Face­book I men­tioned that it is a lit­tle-known fish, and was quickly cor­rected. It has be­come a quite well-known fish and for­mer mem­ber and record­keeper Roger Boocock sent me a num­ber of tro­phy shots of the fish at 30lb-plus in the grate­ful arms of a num­ber of Man­grove mem­bers, past and present. The fish has been named Son of Paw­print, a name I could hap­pily ap­ply to nu­mer­ous mir­rors I’ve caught from the mere. Paw­print is cur­rently the big­gest-know mir­ror in the mere, but I’m in­trigued that Son of Paw­print never turned up in my cap­tures, or those of John Lil­ley, through the 80s and 90s. Mem­ber Sherpa Dave in­sists that all ‘un­known’ fish have man­aged to ne­go­ti­ate the drainage sys­tems to ar­rive in the Man­grove from an­other nearby mere, but my ex­pla­na­tion is more prac­ti­cal: there are some carp which rarely, or never, get caught. The Man­grove is a very nat­u­ral wa­ter in that it is a feed­ing en­vi­ron­ment in its own right, as many wa­ters are, and there are fish in there that don’t ap­pear to recog­nise baits. Cur­rent mem­bers will be sur­prised to learn that in the first few years it wasn’t pos­si­ble to catch from the fringes of the pads, which now pro­duce con­sis­tent re­sults. Back in the day you had to try to iden­tify the nat­u­ral feed­ing spots and fish those if you wanted to achieve con­sis­tent open-wa­ter suc­cess. My ob­ses­sive wa­ter-watch­ing stood me in good stead in terms of iden­ti­fy­ing feed­ing spots, and my win­ter re­sult of 39 open-wa­ter fish from one spot in the mere in 1994 will al­ways re­main one of my out­stand­ing carp fish­ing re­sults. One of my mid-20 mir­rors from that win­ter may just be Shaun’s mir­ror, but I can’t even be sure of that!

Af­ter an early flurry of suc­cess when I first fished the wa­ter in 1983 the fish be­came

very re­luc­tant to get caught, and you got the im­pres­sion that a lot of them sim­ply didn’t recog­nise bait, or didn’t need it. Weather-wise the sum­mer of 83 was sim­i­lar to the one we have just en­joyed: it was a golden sum­mer in ev­ery sense of the word, and Dave and I had the Man­grove to our­selves through­out that sum­mer. It was known to the lo­cals, and I first met John Blum­field, Steve Cor­bett, Tim Clent and Ray Stone that sum­mer – and Fitz (Mark Fitz­patrick), who were all Ere­hwon mem­bers. Fitz had in­tro­duced Dave to the Man­grove but he wasn’t known to me un­til this guy clearly clad in carp gear ap­peared in my swim one morn­ing. Oh dear: where to from here on this closely-guarded-se­cret wa­ter?

“Any good?” he asked, an open­ing gam­bit to many con­ver­sa­tions be­tween carpers.

“Not a sign. I’m fish­ing for bream, and haven’t had a touch.” I said, not know­ing who I was talk­ing to and brazenly ly­ing through my teeth.

“That’s a shame. I’ll go and see Dave then,” he said, and left. I re­alised then that I had just made the ac­quain­tance of the mighty Fitz, or Stig as Dave used to re­fer to his friend in his writ­ing – the guy who had in­tro­duced Dave to the mere. Oh dear again!

A cou­ple of days later Fitz was back. Dave had gone home and I was on my own. Would I go and pho­to­graph a fish for him? Would I ever! That was my in­tro­duc­tion to the hal­lowed banks of ad­ja­cent Ere­hwon, and also turned out to be my in­tro­duc­tion to the in­cred­i­ble Pinky, which weighed 38lb at the time, and went on to fea­ture strongly in the na­tional big fish lists through the 80s. Some­time later, dur­ing one of my cher­ished Ere­hwon ses­sions, I got the op­por­tu­nity to pho­to­graph Pinky for Fitz as a mid-40. Those first two 1983 en­coun­ters with Fitz are trea­sured mem­o­ries of a golden sum­mer when my life dra­mat­i­cally changed di­rec­tion – in my head, if not in re­al­ity for a few more years. It’s a strange co­in­ci­dence that 1975, my first sum­mer on my other life-chang­ing wa­ter, Snow­berry, was also a golden pe­riod weather-wise.

Shaun Har­ri­son’s favourite swim was Light­ning Tree, as it was mine and many other peo­ple’s for many, many years. I spent hun­dreds of hours in Light­ning Tree and Fallen Tree through the 90s and just loved their iso­la­tion, charis­matic beauty and pro­duc­tive­ness. I en­joy bivvy life, and I love to have a big stretch of wa­ter out in front of me, which must be a throw­back to some pre­vi­ous

ex­is­tence. When I went to Lac de Ma­dine for the first World Carp Clas­sic in 1998 I was sur­prised how quickly I took to fish­ing the big wa­ters, and I still en­joy hav­ing an un­in­ter­rupted view to some dis­tant far-bank hori­zon where I can empty my mind (in the­ory) and sit and gaze into noth­ing­ness for days on end.

Look­ing back there was a les­son to be learnt from my ini­tial Man­grove ‘suc­cess’. It was early in my bait ex­pe­ri­ences but I knew that one of the sci­en­tific study pa­pers on which carp flavours were be­ing based (the 1960 Loeb Re­port) was an Amer­i­can study to find the ar­ti­fi­cial flavour carp re­sponded to quick­est. (The study was to find a flavour carp would re­spond to nat­u­rally so they could poi­son this nui­sance fish!) Maple proved to be the most ef­fec­tive, so I chose maple flavour for my first Man­grove ses­sion. The fact that it worked so ef­fec­tively on my first cou­ple of ses­sions was down to the find­ings of the Loeb Re­port, and the fact that my new-found lo­cal friends John, Steve and Tim had been bait­ing the swim I fished with maple-flavoured baits prior to the start of the sea­son! Lucky me... The mere later re­paid John when he joined the Man­grove syn­di­cate a few years back and caught Paw­print at 40lb-plus, the Man­grove’s first 40. I’ve never asked him if he started on maple-flavoured bait 27 years on from when he in­ad­ver­tently pre-baited my first Man­grove swim for me – which was ac­tu­ally the only swim on the mere at that time. Dave was a bit of an an­i­mal and you wouldn’t read­ily de­scribe the pitches he fished as ‘swims’!

There is a line of thought on flavours aris­ing from the Loeb Re­port and a com­ment Mark Wals­ing­ham made some time back. There are fish which sim­ply do not re­spond to un­nat­u­ral foods, i.e. baits. Tak­ing that fur­ther Mark be­lieves that as fish get older they be­come in­creas­ingly preda­tory. We’re all fa­mil­iar with the syn­drome of carp feed­ing on tad­poles and fry, and much of their diet is based on live crea­tures, which raises a train of thought. Long ago Fred Wil­ton com­mented that the near­est pro­tein to a carp’s re­quire­ment is carp, be­cause it has the same amino acid pro­file. Live food also has ac­tive en­zymes which pre­sum­ably the carp can make use of. I know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that our en­zymes be­come less ef­fi­cient as we get old(er). I used to live on fil­let steak, but can’t di­gest it now, and a num­ber of other foods I used to en­joy fall into that cat­e­gory. To a great ex­tent I’ve be­come un­ad­ven­tur­ous with bait. Find some­thing they feed on and sit on my hands un­til

they feed on it con­fi­dently enough to get caught. That’s not quite true, be­cause dur­ing the pe­riod when I’m start­ing a ses­sion and try­ing to win their con­fi­dence I’ll fish an at­trac­tor bait on one or two rods as a pos­si­ble short­cut to early suc­cess. My goto at­trac­tor is Pineap­ple Juice, but there is a case to be made for ring­ing the changes with a range of at­trac­tor baits on one rod. To my mind flavours work be­cause they imi­tate a carp’s nat­u­ral food sources, so ring­ing the changes may just pro­voke a carp which doesn’t feed on baits to have a go at a new smell out of cu­rios­ity, or mis­taken be­lief. In a re­cent is­sue I men­tioned a spe­cial day when I had six Rain­bow carp in a sin­gle day, in­clud­ing two 60s and a mid-50. What I didn’t men­tion was that in my early hours’ ag­o­nis­ing that morn­ing about what may or may not be hap­pen­ing in front of me I’d stacked a range of at­trac­tor baits on my bivvy ta­ble with a view to mak­ing changes on a cou­ple of rods once it got light. As it hap­pened I got lucky and had a fish just be­fore light, which con­vinced me to hang tough and let my first line of at­tack take its course and come good – which it did.

The ba­sis on which the Man­grove and Birch Grove are run has changed this year. Pip used to ar­range the Birch Grove book­ings, while I ran the Man­grove syn­di­cate and the Birch win­ter syn­di­cate. As you know Pip has moved on in life, An­gling Pub­li­ca­tions is no more, and the Birch sum­mer and au­tumn book­ings in par­tic­u­lar needed an of­fice pres­ence on the end of a phone or email to make and keep track of the book­ings, and ar­range pay­ments. Long-time Man­grove and Birch mem­ber suc­cess­ful carper Steve Guy runs a com­pany in Telford, and he and wife Lisa have taken on the Birch book­ings, and are now in­volved in the ad­min of both wa­ters un­der the Carp Wa­ters’ ban­ner. Con­ti­nu­ity in the run­ning of the wa­ters is es­sen­tial, and while I may yet be around for a few more months, or years even, the du­ra­tion of one’s fu­ture is not a pre­cise sci­ence once you reach 80 and more – not­with­stand­ing the health sup­ple­ments – so Steve and Lisa, with some as­sis­tance from my friends Sherpa Dave and Scott Green, rep­re­sent the fu­ture run­ning of the Shrop­shire wa­ters when I lose any or­gan­i­sa­tional abil­ity I cur­rently still aspire to, or my abil­ity to breathe. Pip used to be the fo­cal point for Birch book­ings and would-be Birch win­ter syn­di­cate and Man­grove mem­bers, and her role has now passed to Lisa and Steve. The postal ad­dress is Carp Wa­ters, c/o KDS So­lu­tions, Hor­ton­wood 66, Telford, Shrop­shire, TF1 7GB. Email ad­dresses are: lisa@carp-wa­ or steve@carp-wa­ The web­site is www.carp-wa­

Af­ter many years of con­vinc­ing my­self of the va­lid­ity of in­tro­duc­ing new stock to both Birch and the Man­grove we fi­nally achieved a con­firmed mix of Font­fish mir­rors and Man­grove/birch stock in one of our stock ponds over a pe­riod of nearly two years. This con­firmed com­pat­i­bil­ity has en­abled us to in­tro­duce some new blood to both wa­ters, and to achieve a cross-breed­ing of the ‘home’ Isle-

“I think it is scan­dalous that by law we are still not al­lowed to ‘dis­cour­age’ ot­ter pre­da­tion by any means, other than the fenc­ing of those wa­ters that can be fenced”

strain fish and the new blood. The new fish in both the Man­grove and Birch are do­ing well, al­though there was a frus­trat­ing se­quel to the Birch stock­ing last No­vem­ber. I used a pic­ture of the best-look­ing of the new Birch fish to il­lus­trate my fea­ture in Jan­uary’s Carp­world 328, and a cou­ple of months later Sherpa Dave found that very fish ot­tered in the copse at the far end of the pool. Scott Green had three of the new fish in a win­ter ses­sion, two of which showed some ot­ter dam­age, but since then both wa­ters have been turn­ing up some lovely new fish, a cou­ple of which are shown here.

We’ve had a frus­trat­ing time bring­ing our mixed-strain fish to fruition. Two of our stock ponds are like Fort Knox in terms of pro­tec­tion against ot­ters and cormorants, but our third pool is more nat­u­ral, and tree-fringed, and we didn’t think we had a pre­da­tion prob­lem there. Un­known to us the cormorants had found it last win­ter and gorged them­selves on our first-year Font­fish/man­grove crosses, so we have had to start our breed­ing pro­gramme over again this year. Over the Bank Hol­i­day week­end we put pro­tec­tion in place by way of string­ing the pool, and we now know that we have hun­dreds of 2-3 inch crosses from this year’s spawn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Nur­tur­ing some of th­ese fish to adult­hood in one of our Fort Knox ponds will be an ex­cit­ing ven­ture and we are very keen to see if we can push the up­per weight lim­its of our main pools up in the years ahead as the crosses reach ma­tu­rity. We will be adding to the stock of both pools at the back end of this year with dou­ble fig­ure and a few 20lb-plus fish from our proven source.

The men­tion of pre­da­tion war­rants a re­minder of the prob­lems we will all face over the win­ter months. It’s mid-septem­ber as I write this and the cormorants are al­ready show­ing an in­ter­est in our stock ponds, and we are get­ting re­ports of pos­si­ble ot­ter sight­ings on the Man­grove. (Th­ese may be mink as we def­i­nitely have mink present.) I think it is scan­dalous that by law we are still not al­lowed to ‘dis­cour­age’ ot­ter pre­da­tion by any means, other than the fenc­ing of those wa­ters that can be fenced. There was an Ot­ter Work­shop run by the IFM and the An­gling Trust ear­lier in the year which a num­ber of us at­tended on be­half of The Carp So­ci­ety and The Pre­da­tion Ac­tion Group. The PAG has seem­ingly cho­sen not to com­ment pub­licly on the work­shop, but I will.

For a start an Ot­ter Work­shop is mean­ing­less

with­out the full im­pact of all preda­tors be­ing con­sid­ered. Ot­ter pre­da­tion is more far-reach­ing than it need be be­cause of the ac­tiv­i­ties of a range of preda­tors, three of which (ot­ters, cormorants and goosanders) en­joy what seems to many of us to be an un­nec­es­sary level of pro­tec­tion. Mink are not pro­tected, but are a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor, and the most wor­ry­ing as­pect of all is the spread of sig­nal crayfish through­out our wa­ter sys­tems. Why is that so wor­ry­ing? Be­cause sig­nal crayfish pre­date on eggs and fry and their spread and in­creas­ing pres­ence means that the chances of our wa­ter­ways re­cov­er­ing nat­u­rally are rapidly dis­ap­pear­ing.

The Work­shop should have cov­ered all as­pects of pre­da­tion be­cause there is not enough prey to go round, and no chances of re­cov­ery. The au­thor­i­ties just do not seem to be able to grasp this. Worse than that, from my point of view as one of the voices of carp fish­ing, the tone of some of the del­e­gates at the work­shop was to talk down to the carp-fish­ing ele­ment. Where would the an­gling trade be with­out carp fish­ing? How big is the con­tri­bu­tion of carp and spe­cial­ist an­gling to the econ­omy as whole? How big is its con­tri­bu­tion to fish­ing li­cence in­come? How big is its con­tri­bu­tion to the coun­try­side econ­omy? It’s mas­sive on all counts, and far and away the high­est an­gling-sec­tor con­trib­u­tor to all th­ese as­pects of the econ­omy, other than the tourist trade.

Ah, the an­gling tourist trade... This largely means salmon rivers, and the salmon rivers are in steep de­cline. There are a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant re­search pa­pers dat­ing back to the early 90s lay­ing a large por­tion of the blame for de­clin­ing salmon stocks on pre­da­tion by cormorants, goosanders and ot­ters. The num­ber of smolts mak­ing it back to the ocean is in ir­re­versible de­cline, and is rapidly ap­proach­ing zero on some im­por­tant salmon rivers. The re­search bod­ies say pre­da­tion is a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tory fac­tor. The En­vi­ron­ment Agency chooses to over­look this con­clu­sion in its 2016 rec­om­men­da­tions for the re­in­state­ment of salmon stocks.

The only cur­rent so­lu­tion to pre­da­tion is lim­ited preda­tor con­trol by li­cence, or to fence it! There are an in­creas­ing num­ber of carp wa­ters and RSPB re­serves be­ing fenced, but you can’t fence the big nat­u­ral wa­ters, and you can’t fence rivers and canals. The over-pro­tec­tion of preda­tors makes no sense what­ever. A species is pro­tected when its num­bers are threat­ened, or it is in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion. No one is claim­ing that ot­ters, cormorants and goosanders are threat­ened, or now in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion. The bird lobby pro­tects our feath­ered friends, give or take the odd an­i­mal and bird species that the RSPB culls an­nu­ally. The ot­ter lobby pro­tects ot­ters. That’s as it should be, but who pro­tects an­gling? Ask the An­gling Trust for a so­lu­tion to the ot­ter prob­lem and you are told “The min­is­ters have told us not to go there...” which is a tad pa­thetic. How­ever un­pop­u­lar it makes us in the short term we should be go­ing there to seek a mean­ing­ful end re­sult in the long term. No one said it would be easy.

If your liveli­hood wholly or partly de­pends on an in­come de­rived from a fish­ery then you should legally be al­lowed to pro­tect that fish­ery from pre­da­tion by what­ever means nec­es­sary. We (the PAG) went to a great deal of trou­ble to spell all this out quite graph­i­cally in our lat­est Fact Sheet pub­li­ca­tion (Some Un­com­fort­able Truths About Pre­da­tion), and now that the ur­gent need to be out fish­ing may be abat­ing per­haps some of you would give more thought to ob­tain­ing and send­ing a copy of the PAG’S Fact Sheet and pre­da­tion film to your MP. I sus­pect we will be hear­ing a great deal more about pre­da­tion in the months ahead un­til mat­ing small mam­mals and ground-nesting birds and nesting wa­ter birds are easy pickings for the ‘ground preda­tors’ again in the spring and early sum­mer. In the mean­time over­win­ter­ing goosanders and cormorants (to­talling 40,000-plus ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures) will be de­vour­ing their daily re­quire­ment of one pound of fish per day, and sig­nal crayfish will be pro­lif­er­at­ing and feed­ing on eggs and fry. And the An­gling Trust think we can solve all our prob­lems by hold­ing a mean­ing­less Ot­ter Work­shop, which I think con­cluded that ot­ters are not as big a prob­lem as they are claimed to be.

Ex­cuse the ex­pres­sion but when it’s too late and the pre­da­tion re­al­ity shit fi­nally hits the fan our un­in­formed or un­see­ing au­thor­i­ties will have a great deal to an­swer for. In the mean­time is your con­science clear about any pos­si­ble con­tri­bu­tion you could be mak­ing in the bat­tle we have on our hands to con­vince the au­thor­i­ties that more needs to be done about pre­da­tion be­fore it is too late? Never mind ‘What are they do­ing’ – what are you do­ing to help, other than chuck­ing a few swear words and some mis­guided ‘shoot them’ ad­vice onto the so­cial me­dia from time to time?

LEFT The lead shot of Rod check­ing a type­script

BE­LOW Draft cover of Tim’s new Bait Book

BE­LOW LEFT & RIGHT The new So­ci­ety book had me scur­ry­ing to the ar­chives search­ing for the ‘un­known’ mir­ror of 38lb 4oz which was one of the fish in the record Man­grove brace landed by Shaun, which the chap­ter cov­ers

ABOVE Derek Strit­ton fish­ing the Man­grove many years ago. We have giv­ing up smok­ing, un­der Fred’s in­flu­ence, and Big Bol­locks in com­mon




BE­LOW My sec­ond en­counter with Fitz turned out to be my in­tro­duc­tion to the in­cred­i­ble Pinky, weigh­ing in at 38lb sum­mer of ’83. This carp fea­tured strongly in the na­tional big fish lists from 1982 to 1991

RIGHT & FAR RIGHT The Land of Make Be­lieve: fish­ing Light­ning Tree win­ter and sum­mer through the mid­dle 90s

LEFT ABOVE I’ll fish an at­trac­tor bait on one or two rods as a pos­si­ble for starters as a pos­si­ble route to early ac­tion

LEFT BOT­TOM I’ll fish an at­trac­tor bait on one or two rods as a pos­si­ble for starters as a pos­si­ble route to early ac­tion

BOTH LEFT I used a pic­ture of the best-look­ing of the newly-stocked Birch fish to il­lus­trate my fea­ture in Jan­uary’s Carp­world 328, and a cou­ple of months later Sherpa Dave found that very same fish ot­tered in the copse at the far end of the pool

ABOVE New Carp Wa­ters’ ad­min­is­tra­tor, long-time Man­grove and Birch mem­ber and suc­cess­ful carper Steve Guy pic­tured in 2007 with the afore­men­tioned Son of Paw­print at a weight of 26lb 7oz – now my ear­li­est record of the fish

RIGHT We have had to start our breed­ing pro­gramme over again this year. Bank Hol­i­day work party time for yours truly, Sherpa Dave (Haughton), Steve Guy and Scott Green. We were tak­ing anti-cor­morant mea­sures and set­ting up the au­to­matic pel­let feeder on the breed­ing pond

TOP AND MID­DLE RIGHT A cou­ple of the new Man­grove fish are shown here: Luke Pegg (a char­ity auc­tion guest in May) and mem­ber Dean Power in Au­gust

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