"Suffering", so the Apostle Paul tells us in the Good Book leads to perseverance, which he argues, in turn builds character, and while Paul is talking about a life spent as a follower of Jesus, that much might also be said to be true of the angler. Perseverance, character and a dash of stubborn resilience were certainly attributes that were necessary to carry me through my first two sessions of 2017, a brace of ignominious blanks in temperatures that hovered just above freezing. Yesterday, however, all that changed as the Christian Anglers group held their first fish-in of the year at Furnace Mill fishery- everyone caught, the weather was relatively warm and mostly dry, and "pleasure fishing" really was what it "said on the tin."
Nine anglers had made the journey to Worcestershire, with David (H) travelling the furthest, having driven to the venue on the morning of fishing from somewhere in the "Deep South", David (C) opted to avoid the need for an early start and stayed overnight in a local hotel, while the rest of us trundled across a succession of Midland motorways to arrive at our chosen destination, an extremely well run fishery located in the beautiful Wyre Valley.
I set up with a 14 foot waggler rod teamed with a newly acquired 50 year old Allcocks "Record Breaker" centre pin (a reel that predates the 1966 takeover of Allcocks by Norris Shakespeare) and a small 2BB insert waggler float. Main line was 4 pound bs, with a size 16 hook on a 3 pound bottom. Bait was the humble maggot, with hemp and maggots introduced "little and often" as loose feed. My first fish was a small roach (certainly not the record breaker that the reel promised!), which was followed the next cast by an F1 of around half a pound.
It would give a mistaken impression to say that catching fish is only incidental to Christian Anglers get togethers, but there is certainly far more to the occasion than the mere act of bringing fish to the net. As ever, the conversation and company were of the highest order, and while the fishing was never frantic, somewhere along the row of anglers there was always someone catching, with a pleasingly catholic variety to the range of species caught. Small common carp (along with a few which looked suspiciously like they might be the dreaded F1's or some form of goldfish) were the most frequent visitors to the bank, backed up by bream, perch and roach, with Ben adding a gudgeon, Pete a chub and David (H) a small stillwater barbel. (pictured below) Roger enjoyed the "fight of the day", battling a carp of about 4 pounds for several minutes on centre pin and light line before it saw his side of the argument and succumbed to the folds of the net.
The fish seemed to be travelling up and down the line of anglers, with a flurry of activity in a particular area giving way as the fish explored the variety and choice of loosefeed on offer along the bank. In addition to the ubiquitous commons, a pair of attractively scaled mirrors were landed, one, seen here, to David (C) and one to Pete.
I persisted on the float for the entire five hours and caught around 20 fish, while other anglers opted to switch between pole or float and The Method, which proved to be an efficient, if less purist, means of catching. As well as the expected carp, the lake's skimmers also proved enthusiastically partial to a banded pellet embedded in a ball of groundbait, with the fish held here by Louie being a typical example.
The two youngest members of the party, Jacob and Ben, both applied themselves well, concentrated hard and caught regularly, demonstrating ably that even 21st Century kids are able to enjoy healthy pleasures that predate computer games, phones and other electronic devices and which take them beyond the limiting horizons of the inside of their bedrooms.
Although the majority of the fish were "fun sized" but unremarkable, one fish of outstanding quality made a bankside appearance, when Pete's pole fished maggot proved irresistible to a perch that, if weighed, would probably have threatened the magical 2 pound mark. Plump and beautiful, with its proud dorsal fin and stripy livery and with a cavernous mouth that had doubtless engulfed numerous small roach and bream over the years, this was a fish to savour.
The weather had proved benign and sunny with just one brief shower, which momentarily treated us all to the sight of a rainbow that covered a corner of the treeline with colour and appeared to meet the lake, touch its surface and disappear into the depths. Like the perch, a thing of beauty, a joy forever and a reminder of a day well spent.