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Back to basics

A winter catch of roach from the Kenn Small carp and roach from Bullocks Farm Rudd from a Somerset drain

Earlier in the year I thought I'd try my hand at the type of fishing I first did as a kid. My old float tackle was more than a bit dated, so I purchased a new 13' float road, and a reel to go with it. I still had assorted floats, disgorgers, and other bits and pieces, so after buying a keepnet, and a small landing net I was ready to go.

I used to do this kind of thing on the Bristol Avon, but these days the drains of the Somerset levels are closer for me, and of course there are the many small commercial fisheries that have sprung-up that didn't exist when I started fishing many years ago. The first place I tried was a small drain on the Somerset Levels that runs into the Brue. It was June, and I knew it would be weedy, so took a a stainless steel rake purchased from the garden centre that I tied to a length of rope to clear an area to fish. I wasn't sure exactly what I would catch, but had seen good bream and tench caught here by others in years gone by whilst I'd been pike fishing.

After 20 minutes with the rake, the swim was reasonably clear, and the water coloured a little from the disturbance. That was good, as I hoped it would draw fish in. I put out a bed of hemp and maggots, then tackled up a waggler with a 16 hook, put on a maggot, and let the float slowly pull through the swim.

Unfortunately, I wasn't going to be catching any decent tench or bream. First cast produced a rudd, and from then on it was impossible to get a bait to the bottom before another attached itself. I'd forgot to bring sweetcorn, which would have been too big for most of the rudd, so resigned myself to a rudd-bashing session. It was quite fun, not having done this kind of thing for so long, and I managed getting on for 100 of them. Some weren't too bad, either -- nice hand-sized fish.

Fun as that was, I'd had my fill of rudd fishing for the year. Another spot I tried a few times was the River Kenn. Actually, it's more of a drain than a river, and is situated in North Somerset. I had a couple of brief uneventful summer trips, catching a few small perch, more rudd, and some eels, and didn't fish it again until December. I'd walked the bank of the lower river between the M5 and the sea the day previously, and found a nice eddy that formed on the edge of an area of relatively-fast water that formed as the water ran-off after high tide. I started fishing just before high tide with a waggler, a 20 hook and single maggot, putting a few dozen maggots out as feed every cast. At first, there was very little flow, and the float hardly moved through the swim. First cast, however, and the float shot under and a small perch was swung in.

As the tide out in the Bristol channel dropped, the Kenn stopped backing-up, and the current increased taking the float swiftly down the run, and increasing bites. It was a bite-a-chuck in the more moderate-paced water between the eddy and main current, with perch, roach, skimmers, chub and rudd. The main species was the roach, and some of them were half-decent at around 10oz I'd guess. It was great fun, and reminded me of my winter trips on the Avon as a kid. In fact, the current picked-up so much that when the wind dropped, as it got dark, I put on a 5BB balsa -- just like fishing a real river! This gave me more control, allowing the float to be held back a little, and adding another half-dozen roach to the net.

I packed up at about 4pm, after around 3 hours fishing. I reckon I had about 10lb of fish in the net with the biggest being perch and roach to about 10oz. Most were a lot smaller, though, but good fun on a cold December afternoon. An interesting point is that there were several small chub in the catch. These were stocked recently, I understand, and should be a useful addition to the big bream in the water, once they've had chance to grow.

During the summer I also fished Bullocks Farm a few times. Fishing this type of well-stocked commercial fishery was new to me, but even if the stock-density is high, the tactics you use mean the difference between catching a few pounds of fish, or several tens of pounds. I found my grounding in river fishing helped me build a respectable catch most days I fished, but it was noticeable that the anglers who do this sort of fishing on a regular basis have the edge that sees them put together some impressive bags of fish.

There are several lakes at Bullocks. Most seem to contain the same mix of various carp species, roach and skimmers. There is one lake with bigger carp and a lake with masses of small carp mainly less than the pound mark, as well as goldfish. The latter was the first lake I fished at Bullocks, and was a bit like fishing a canal as far as width and depth was concerned. There the similarity ended, because the fish seemed to be stacked one on the other. I probably had around 40lb of fish in a few hours, and I reckon if I'd spent 6 hours there I could have got 100lb.

The other lakes I fished at Bullocks weren't quite so hectic. Even so, I still managed some reasonable catches, with the odd bigger carp to about 7lb giving some fun on light tackle. After my first experience with one of those on 2lb line, I fished 4lb straight through on subsequent trips. Most of the time I found plain old maggots caught plenty, but a few times I tried sweetcorn, although it wasn't as good at deterring the smaller fish as I hoped.

So, after the various trips to the waters above, it seemed I'd not lost my ability to catch using the methods I first tried as a kid. The tackle has come on some way since then, and although I've been using carbon rods for sea fishing, carp fishing, trout fishing etc, for ages, it was very pleasurable using one to fish a waggler, for the first time. The same goes for the reels, in fact even my carp reels are somewhat dated, being some of the earlier baitrunner models, so the smooth drag on the little shimano reel I'd bought was absolute bliss when playing fish on light tackle. In the old days you'd have to back-wind, as the clutch on most reels was never adequate.

Having got the gear together, I'll probably do some more of this type of fishing, as it's quite convenient if you've only got a few hours spare. If I've longer, I'll probably stick to the bigger stuff like decent carp, trout and sea fishing. Also, I think I'll buy a leger rod, and another reel to go with that before next season, just to cover all eventualities.


A Somerset drain