THE NINETIES

Carpworld - - THE F-WORD -

Hav­ing passed my ex­ams and been ap­pointed as a Mag­is­trates Clerk, I re­ally felt able to put more ef­fort into fish­ing once again. I can’t tell you how de­press­ing it was to have to study hard be­tween March and June each year for five years on the trot, whilst my pals were en­joy­ing what they called the ‘club­bing months’ when the carp seemed most catch­able. Bal­anc­ing study­ing with fish­ing (the harder months) I’d still man­aged to build up my pro­file through con­sul­tan­cies with Nu­tra­baits and Daiwa, and with reg­u­lar col­umns in Carp Fisher, Carp­world, Coarse Fish­er­man, etc. I had been suc­cess­ful at a num­ber of wa­ters but, in all hon­esty, couldn’t give the fish­ing side the at­ten­tion it needed. Con­stantly flit­ting be­tween wa­ters, do­ing ev­ery other week­end and odd nights, meant I never milked any one wa­ter but scratched for fish from many. The 90s were not go­ing to be like that, I told my­self, and the graft I’d put in dur­ing the 80s was surely go­ing to pay me back ten­fold. What it did teach me is that you can al­ways find a dif­fer­ent an­gle to look at things, pro­vid­ing you look at the big pic­ture and not just live in the mo­ment. Even to­day when things are not work­ing out on the catch­ing side of things, I just tell my­self that it’s one step closer to the ul­ti­mate suc­cess I am look­ing for. Some­times step­ping back, clear­ing your head and look­ing at the big pic­ture works won­ders.

So, liv­ing at home, hav­ing an un-mad girl­friend, be­ing set­tled at work and hav­ing the time, cash and wa­ters at my dis­posal, led to what can only be de­scribed as the golden years. I’d tar­get one wa­ter a year and rather than fish week­ends, I’d fish two or three overnighters each week from March to Novem­ber. I’d choose one bait and ap­ply it reg­u­larly and milk it as much as I could (get­ting in first with Big Fish Mix, mass bait­ing, the bent hook, etc., also helped). Week­ends would be for fam­ily, fun, writ­ing, con­certs and ev­ery­thing else be­sides. Without bor­ing you too much it re­ally paid off, all those nights spent study­ing at home, be­ing de­rided for catch­ing small fish, be­ing crit­i­cised for want­ing to make a name for my­self, were all worth­while. Three Lakes was turned into a syn­di­cate which I ended up run­ning and, two years in a row, I caught over forty 20s on overnighters only. As it was on my way to work, even if I wasn’t fish­ing, I’d walk round and bait up – which was a mas­sive edge in those days. I took the same ap­proach back to Mo­tor­way, Til­ery and Drax and had equally good re­sults. You sim­ply can’t beat the equa­tion of venue/bait/time and de­ter­mi­na­tion. I had all four and by the sack­ful! Of course, it was tir­ing fish­ing three overnighters a week but when op­por­tu­ni­ties arise you have to milk them. I would usu­ally fish Sun­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day nights but, if the carp were hav­ing it, I’d think noth­ing of fish­ing three con­sec­u­tive nights and go­ing to work the next day.

Not only was the fish­ing go­ing well but I’d had my first book pub­lished by An­gling Pub­li­ca­tions. It was called Carp Wa­ters and John Bai­ley had fur­ther com­mis­sioned me to write an­other for Crowood, af­ter he’d seen how pop­u­lar my work had been in Coarse Fish­er­man.

Although carp fish­ing had started to take off in the 80s it was clear to me that it was go­ing to ex­plode in the 90s as spec­i­men hunters moved into carp fish­ing. More an­glers were start­ing to tar­get in­di­vid­ual, large carp and not serv­ing their ap­pren­tice­ship with the smaller roach, bream and the like. I guess I was lucky enough to be the right per­son at the right time in the right place. Why? Per­haps luck played a part but a lot was down to the sheer graft and plan­ning I’d put in dur­ing the 80s and my self be­lief that it would all come good. Some call it vi­sion, I call it be­ing true to me. The book that Crowood com­mis­sioned was Prac­ti­cal Carp Fish­ing and in many ways things were never the same again. I loved Carp Fever which came out in the early 80s and felt the time was now ripe for an­other in­struc­tional book, but more up to date and aimed at any­body who wanted to catch carp. I fished hard that win­ter but, from March to Au­gust, never wet line as I spent any free time writ­ing it by hand – all 120,000 words of it. Launched in 1993 it was an in­stant hit and to date has sold al­most 13,000 copies which, be­lieve me, is good go­ing. The win­ter it was re­leased I ‘toured’ it to death, do­ing 27 slide shows as far afield as Kent, Scot­land and Wales – and all whilst still work­ing.

Back fish­ing again, I was al­most a vic­tim of my own suc­cess in many ways. Crowood com­mis­sioned me to write a fol­low-up a year later en­ti­tled Suc­cess­ful Carp Fish­ing and Kevin

Mad­docks asked me to do two more – The Beekay Guide To Start­ing Carp Fish­ing was aimed at new­com­ers and The Beekay Guide To Carp Rigs was pro­duced un­der both our names. An­gling Times re­alised that carp fish­ing was the next big thing and for the next six years I wrote a weekly col­umn for them that grew from a quar­ter page, black and white af­fair in 1994, to a dou­ble-page colour fea­ture in 2000. Carp fish­ing re­ally had ex­ploded. Add ed­i­to­rial du­ties for Carp­world, Crafty Carper and Carp Fisher, plus ed­i­to­rial guid­ance for Ad­vanced Carp Fish­ing and it was crazy time for me. Videos (six), ra­dio slots, con­fer­ences, slide shows – the full works. Amaz­ingly the fish­ing did not suf­fer one iota and what­ever I was do­ing cer­tainly seemed to be work­ing. The two or three overnighters were pro­duc­ing the goods, the win­ter trips far and wide were suc­cess­ful, and it truly was a golden era. Heck, I even left home and bought a beau­ti­ful house in the coun­try with Julie, and still fished just as much.

But what goes up must come down as well, and yours truly was no dif­fer­ent to any­one else. Milk it whilst you can they told me be­cause one day those in­di­ca­tors will stop sound­ing, the com­pa­nies will stop ring­ing and the mag­a­zines will stop want­ing. You don’t see it com­ing at the time, but no one is that lucky for that long without a wheel or two com­ing off the wagon. Join me next month when I look back at the 10 hard years that fol­lowed where, at times, I had to dig my­self out of many holes and carp fish­ing kept me sane when it felt that the world around me was col­laps­ing. The 10 golden years of the 90s were fol­lowed by 10 gru­ellers in the noughties but, with light at the end of the tun­nel, I made it through with the last 10 years get­ting me to where I am now. Tales of heart­break, blank months, ter­ri­ble sea­sons, be­ing dropped from mag­a­zines and con­sul­tan­cies but some­how find­ing the strength to see be­yond that and come out smil­ing. And that’s not in­clud­ing many a nutty girl­friend too... See you next month.

TOP LEFT Early Nu­tra­baits days and sat on top of my base mix in­gre­di­ents in the first Nu­tra­baits premises Trips fur­ther afield were made by train. A brace of 80s win­ter carp in the pres­ence of carp­ing roy­alty Chris Ball and Andy Lit­tle The twen­ti­eth 20-pounder that year Win­ter carp fish­ing was hard in those days, with the can­vas over­wrap be­ing state of the art when it came to pro­tec­tion and warmth Ap­ply­ing bait and fish­ing reg­u­larly was the key TOP MID­DLE TOP RIGHT LOWER LEFT LOWER MID­DLE

LEFT Milk­ing it at Three Lakes, one of five fish in­clud­ing a 30 that night

LEFT Over forty 20s – two years in a row

FAR LEFT With my ex­ams over I could fish three overnighters a week. Carp Team Daiwa and Fox bed­chair days Rolling baits in win­ter was a com­mon task un­til I found a pro­fes­sional bait roller LEFT

TOP LEFT The An­gling Times days as a Mick Rouse im­age is shot for my col­umn TOP RIGHT Film­ing for Beekay. James on the cam­era with Liam Dale direct­ing BE­LOW LEFT Til­ery days taught me a lot about lo­ca­tion, de­ter­mi­na­tion and bait ap­pli­ca­tion BE­LOW RIGHT Tough­ing it out all win­ter be­fore I started Prac­ti­cal Carp Fish­ing

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