Fuelling The Fire | Adam Clewer
For some anglers, catching monster fish is of paramount importance. For others, lying low, never publicising their captures, and barely acknowledging fellow anglers (at best in hushed tones) is the norm. I guess that’s what makes carp angling so interesting – diversity. Carp fishing has changed considerably over the years I’ve been an angler. As a carp angler of 25 years, I have endured the best and the worst times by lake or river. However, I’m still as keen as ever. What follows is not a ‘how to stay motivated’ article; I can think of several anglers better qualified to pen such words. Instead I will give you a glimpse into my fishing of late, and more importantly, the mindset that still maintains the fire in me and keeps me venturing out by the water.
Knowing yourself is something that comes with time. I am comfortable and aware of both my strengths and weaknesses as an angler, and I tailor my decisions accordingly. Self-awareness is a good attribute. I no longer ‘make’ myself go fishing; I choose to go. I have lost several good friends to golf over the years because they burnt out too fast in their carp-fishing endeavours. One angler I knew, who used to write regularly for the magazines, said to me after he stopped writing: “I’m so glad I don't have to go fishing this week.” ‘Have to’ being the key words in his statement. I’ve always said that fishing must remain a hobby. For too many, if it becomes more than that, you lose the enjoyment the hobby brings.
Knowing yourself is a reflection of your individual strengths, abilities and personal desires, which, of course, must be applied in the confines of life circumstance. I have a full-time job (I’m a minister at a large city-centre church), and time is at a premium, with a diverse yet flexible workweek. I’m father to two young children and the husband of a great wife, so family time really is a priority, so my fishing needs to be planned around this. I therefore take great effort to plan my fishing diary, much like I do my work calendar. I like to fish fairly locally (within an hour’s drive of my home), and try to visit a regular home/base water each week, with the occasional longer trip further afield, and one or two ‘adventures’ dropped in for good measure. My fishing has existed in this framework for the last few years now, and whilst it may not be as effective as the angler who fishes the same water 3 days a week, every week of the year, I do enjoy myself along the way.
In recent years, I haven't fished as many overnight sessions during the cooler months as I used to, but have still wet a line on day sessions most weeks. I, like many, also fish for other species. I am in the privileged position of living very near some wonderful rivers which offer a rich array of specimen fish. This winter, at the invitation of a landowner my family knows well, I agreed to form a small coarse syndicate on a beautiful stretch of the Hampshire Test. My family has a long-standing connection with the estate, and I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed trotting a float with 2lb line straight through for specimen grayling, the occasional roach, and the all-too-often mischievous and swim-destroying out-of-season trout. I have continued to fish for carp too, but unlike in the warmer months, have fished no sessions over 24 hours, on waters where, in theory, a bite is never too far away.
Looking back to the latter half of 2015, my carp fishing experienced several changes. For 3 years I was a member of a syndicate that held some beautiful fish; however, I never really gave the lake the time it deserved. ‘Why?’ you might ask. I loved the fish, yet at times despised the ‘scene’. The water had far too many members; a recurring scenario being the lake was so busy that an arriving angler was dictated to where they must fish. I didn’t really like that, and whilst I always found the other members pleasant, I did not enjoy the contrast of emotions of driving to the lake excited to be going fishing, only to become instantly dejected when I arrived at the fishery gates. My response to this was to often fish elsewhere; the ticket was rarely used as I explored other avenues in pursuit of quiet fishing. In the summer of 2015 the membership changed, and the owner increased the syndicate fees beyond what I felt was realistic value – not least given that I wasn’t really using my ticket before the price rise. My decision was easily made; it was time to leave the circus.
I spent the autumn and early winter fishing a mixture of waters, catching several good fish, including a PB mirror of 47lb 15oz, on my first visit to a new water. As the autumn began the transition into early winter, I fished a few nights on Sandhurst Lake, catching several good fish to low-30s. November 1st saw the beginnings of our new river syndicate, which, although apprehensive at first to be in the driving seat of forming the membership, has turned out to be a complete success. My desire was to form a membership of like-minded anglers with good etiquette, which averted the need for rules and bailiffing duties, which I really don’t have time for at all. My view was that if we got the culture right, the values would follow. They did, so thanks guys! In early December, I left the dull English weather behind and headed to Gran Canaria for a few days’ fishing, hosted by the excellent Carpers Paradise guys. What a fun trip we had, with warm temperatures and breathtaking views; the location truly lived up to its name – paradise. The fishing was relatively slow by their standards, with seven fish falling to my rods in 3 days, but sadly none of the scaly monsters which Gran Canaria hides in its underexplored waters. As the year ended, I summarised that I was pleased to see the curtain fall on 2015, believing that 2016 could only be better.
My distaste with last year wasn’t so much to do with my angling, but the premature death of my brother, 3 years my senior (38). I haven’t told many people this story. In the weeks that followed my brother’s death, I found myself enjoying something of an escape in the warm climate of California. I had been in the US attending a conference, and tagged on a few days at the end to enjoy some fishing with the team from CarpPro. The trip, which I wrote about for International Carper last year, was a fantastic success. I did, however, omit to detail something that happened, which almost never happens when I go fishing. Let me explain.
My brother James had something of a compulsion for excitement and adrenaline, with roller coasters and theme parks very much being his happy place. He travelled often, riding on some of the world’s most extreme rides – always smiling and laughing in the photos. However, there was one park he never made it to, and one particular ride he often spoke of. The ride, which goes by the name of ‘X2’, is the world’s first 4D roller coaster, and its seats spin as it drops 200ft+ through ravines, dodging explosions of fire. James would often watch a YouTube video of this ride, and aspired to tick it off his to-do list. Unbeknown to me, the fishing trip I enjoyed in Southern California was only a short drive from Six Flags Magic Mountain, where X2 resides.
On the last day of the trip, David Smith of CarpPro asked me if there was anything I needed before we headed off to LAX airport. I paused for a long moment, and then asked if we could leave slightly earlier, so I could call at Six Flags on the way to the airport. I explained the background, and David kindly agreed. With the car packed, and my passport and return ticket in my back pocket, we made the slight detour and arrived at the gates of Six Flags just before they opened. I paid $70 for my entrance ticket, and asked the attendant where the X2 ride was located in the park. When the gates opened, I set off on a gentle jog, keen to get to the ride before the long queues formed. I made it, and with a hint of tears in my eyes, manoeuvred my way through the queuing rack before boarding the ride. The experience was bizarre -- the ride was truly intense, but the emotion and strange connection with my brother was surreal. I did it for him, knowing he would not have been impressed to learn I was so close yet didn't ride it! After being turned and flipped many times, which resulted in me feeling truly disorientated, the ride pulled back in to the station. I got off and walked out of the park, passing the crowds entering the park, excited for their day ahead. David was waiting for me by the gate, and kindly drove me to the airport to catch my plane home. That moment was hugely special. Words are hard to find, and will remain no doubt etched on my memory. Thank you again, David, for understanding and accommodating what no doubt appeared to be quite a strange request!
Over the Christmas period, I spent many an evening researching possible fishing opportunities. I read by the fire of an evening, and watched some online fishing using my newly acquired Amazon Firestick. I must say that I’m not a fan of many of the online blogs. Too often, the angler seemingly spends more time fishing for sponsors than fish. However, one evening I stumbled on some videos by brothers Carl and Alex. What a breath of fresh air - they’re superb! Their videos are well edited, free from product plugs, and they don't sound like many do, with gangster tones desperately trying to destroy the English language. They really are very good. It’s reminiscent of times gone by, when the enthusiasm of our beloved hobby meant sleeping the night before a fishing trip was nigh on impossible. After a prolonged break, and being much enthused, I was really keen to go fishing again.
My first fishing trip of 2016 was 2nd January, and was spent by the clean running water of the Hampshire Test. My first carp-fishing escapade followed 2 weeks later, in the form of 24 hours on a fairly well-stocked day ticket venue. Upon arrival I learned that the lake was fishing poorly. The mild winter had eventually turned, and for 3 days the previous week, the lake was frozen. I pushed my heavy-laden barrow, slipping and sliding through the muddy banks of the recently thawed countryside. Four or five anglers were also fishing, all huddled under their shelters to shield themselves from the cold wind. As I set up, I really did question my sanity. Eventually, both rods were fishing, and although the conditions were poor, it was good to be out, and I was hopeful of my first carp of the year. To my surprise, as the sun set and darkness covered the water, my bite alarms came to life. I had very little confidence that night, but amazingly landed five fish to low-20s. All my fish were caught using small PVA bags of pellet, with a splash of Cell glug. I spodded a mixture of pellets and particles over a slope on the edge of a bar, and caught all my fish on the same rod. Simple tactics, albeit accurate fishing. Not a bad start to the year.
Inspired by my previous week’s success, the following week I loaded the car with carp-fishing rods once again, and this time set off for the Isle of Wight ferry terminal for a day session on Rookley Country Park. The Isle of Wight could be renamed the ‘Isle of Carp’, such are the phenomenal waters and impressive carp growths the small island now boasts. Much of this success must be credited to Tim Oately, who has worked tirelessly in this pursuit. My day on Rookley was slow, with one small double gracing my net. The water was very cold as I slipped the small mirror back, but I couldn't help but wonder where this small fish might be in a few years’ time. You never know, it’s maybe another island monster in the waiting.
The nature of magazine deadlines means I’m writing these words during the second week of February. I have, therefore, spent more time this year planning my fishing than executing it. Next week I’ll be back on the banks of Sandhurst, a fabulous fishery which really has captured my imagination for the year ahead. Glancing at my diary, I have quite a few fishing adventures planned for the coming months. A trip I’m really looking forward to is a week’s fishing on the St Lawrence in New York during late summer. As is always the case with my fishing and my articles, the approach and tactics vary little. Once again, my car will smell of the creamy aroma of Cell boilies, and simple yet sharp rigs seem to continue to do the job nicely. I have been using more pellets again in recent years, partly for convenience, and partly because on many of the waters I have been fishing, particles have seen something of a mini revival.
Writing this feature, I am brimming with expectancy for the year ahead. My title, ‘Fuelling the Fire’, relates simply to the continued effort and self-motivation required to keep fishing in all seasons. As I trundled through the local park with my dog this morning, the grass crunched underfoot with ice particles, as I exhaled the visibly chilled air. However, the early-morning melodies of birdsong could be heard, the sun climbed into the sky, and the morning frost was quickly burned off and replaced with the early signs of spring. It’s time to go fishing.