The Green Mile | Ben Poulton
Before Greenacres became a syndicate, I’d fished it a couple of times as a paying guest, and I loved the place. Then, last winter, Dave Mennie rang me and asked if I would like to join the newly-formed River Meadow Fishery, I jumped at the chance, and couldn’t wait for the new season to start. The arrangement was that anglers had access to both Greenacres and the very historic BP Pit, the idea being that if one was busy, you could pop next door. I think it is fair to say that every member thought that Greeny would be packed when it opened for the first time.
Finally, the opening day of the new syndicate arrived, and it was all peace and tranquility, and that’s actually how it has remained right up to now; there are plenty of times when I arrive on a Sunday evening and never see another soul. I should point out that I’m a chef and work very long hours, so my Sunday/Monday sessions are when I get my angling fix.
The first few weeks ticked by and everyone began to get a feel for the swims, and how casting worked in relation to other anglers. To be honest, there was nothing complicated about it. There are a couple of areas that are basically day-only swims; an area known as the Dam Wall, and a swim called the Kamikaze. These two areas are basically at opposite ends of the lake, which gives me the perfect opportunity to flit between the two. There’s also an area behind the island where if you take the swim, you get control of a huge piece of water.
As time went on, I was quickly in sync with the fish. I would bait a few spots, and then walk the green mile, checking each area in turn until I saw activity. It was this up close and personal view of what was happening that saw me refine my baiting. It soon became evident that if I baited with large, almost carp-specific food items, it could take several hours for the carp to start feeding on them confidently. But if I fed micro-pellets, and crushed boilies, the massive head of silver fish soon descended on them, and the carp were never far behind. It was almost like the activity drew the carp in.
During all this time the water had remained pretty clear, and I was watching exactly how the fish were reacting to everything. The next revelation came when I lowered my rig with a tiny lead onto a spot; I sat back in the undergrowth and watched, and actually saw a fish pick up my bait. The rig was physically dangling off its bottom lip, it moved 30cm, upended again, and then the rig fell out. Now this fish wasn’t spooked, and it wasn’t being clever; I just think it didn’t know anything was amiss and carried on feeding.
This preyed on my mind for a while, until I decided I was going to use big leads from then on, regardless of whether I was fishing 5cm out or 100m. The presentation I settled on was 60cm of supple sinking tubing (a fishery rule), lead clip, 5oz lead, and a short hooklink. It wasn’t long before I was getting the odd fish, and managed to target slightly bigger specimens, including a couple of 30s. Then it happened. Greeny originally had two big commons, but unfortunately these fish were really old, and a combination of this and the attention of otters ended their lives (this obviously happened pre-fencing). The fish which took over as top dog was a big deep-bodied mirror.
One day I was in the Kamikaze, which I might add is a tiny little swim with overhanging trees each side, and a wicked, virtually vertical drop from the access path straight down to a very tight flat area. I’d baited the spot carefully, and watched with fascination as a horde of rudd descended on the bait and devoured it with gusto. As the shoal reached a frenzy, the odd carp was drifting by in the background, circling like sharks around a life raft. I waited for a lull, and then gave it another decent dose of bait. This time the carp muscled in on the action and I soon had a couple feeding. Then suddenly, the big ’un waddled into view. It looked huge, and was really loving the Formula crumb. I thought, ‘Sod it,’ and lowered my rig right in the path of the monster, which carried on regardless and just sucked the bait straight in. The lead did its job, the fish shook its head, and then shot out into the lake. When you know what you’ve hooked, the whole fight is much more intense, and as my stalking rod bent to breaking point, my heart really did miss a beat. Eventually I netted the beast, a new PB of 48lb+, and I’d watched it take the bait!
It was about this time that I started using RG Baits The Formula, and during a conversation with Marcus Clark, a fellow user, he explained about his boilie stick approach. Ryan, the boss, sorted me with boilie sticks that I could break up, chop, or just whittle down to create either a perfect hookbait or great carpet feed.
The rest of the summer passed in a blur, and I must say the fishing was absorbing and fascinating. I learned so much by watching those carp regularly at close quarters, and it got to the point that I could almost gauge their reaction to bait just by their body language. I could certainly spot when they were up for a big feed, simply by how aggressive they were. It was interesting that my findings were replicated by the more static anglers, and it was obvious that some invisible trigger had taken place which had sent virtually all the fish into a frenzy. At the opposite end of the spectrum, when the fish were lethargic, it took patience and gentle bait application to tempt just one carp into tripping up.
As autumn approached, my favoured area became the dam wall, an area I fished slightly differently. I actually baited a central area, a large reedbed, and fished it by sitting behind two rods in a more normal fashion, but I also had two options at each end of the dam which I could keep an eye on. On one particular day, I strolled down to my little spot and peered down, and there was a stunning great big mirror. It is one I’d seen often and always wanted to catch, with its distinctive single scale on its flank, and it was feeding hard just a metre from my feet. I quickly backtracked the 5m to my swim and carefully reeled in my rods, before grabbing a mat and my gear. I sneaked up the fence line carefully, and laid my gear on the floor without making any disturbance. I raised my head above the reeds, and watched the fish making its way to a nearby set of pads, which gave me the chance to lower the rig down and add a pinch of bait over the top. I put the rod down and hunkered down to wait. I need not have worried, as the rod shooting forward signalled I’d got a bite. For some reason I thought it was a small common, until it popped up in front of me and I could see it was the one I wanted.
And that’s it so far. I’ve caught some cracking fish on my own terms and in my own way, and loved every minute. In fact, I’m already looking forward to walking the green mile next season.