The 35 Year Flame

I'm sat here now in what is the third wave of the national lockdown due to the dreaded coronavirus. For someone who lives for their fishing, it got me thinking about yesteryear and how times have changed.

I was first really bitten by the ‘Carp Bug’ around the age of 11, having spent a few years before fishing for other species like you do, my friend and I would literally read anything we could lay our hands about carp fishing. Obviously, as two young lads, we didn't have access to much money, so the odd bit of pocket money we got was spent on improving the sparsely filled Argos tackle boxes we had. Literature was limited to two or three pieces that we both owned or had asked for birthdays or Christmas’. If memory serves correct, we had two books between us, these being ‘The Anglers Mail Guide to Coarse Fishing’ that had a section on carp, all be it very very basic and then there was ‘The Andy Little Guide to Big Carp Fishing’. Both of us were blissfully unaware of the more specialist magazines at the time and the ever-expanding carp fishing scene around us. We were lucky however, that about a mile up the road was a was a lake called Brookfield Lake, which at the time, was a well-stocked mixed fishery, and importantly, contained a good head of carp.

We used to spend a considerable amount of time there, biking down after school in the summer months and close seasons. Every weekend we were at the lake, like sponges, soaking up as much information as we possibly could. Thinking about it, we must have looked like someone had thrown sand in our eyes we were so out of our depth. But when you’re young, you don’t display fear or that worry of failure, something that as we get older becomes more prevalent I feel.

There was no such thing as YouTube, Instagram or other social media platforms that exist today - All we had were these two books. What’s available nowadays is just incredible, people can Google just about anything or refer to YouTube and learn a new skill by the click of a button. Back then, it was different. I'm not ashamed to admit that the first carp I hooked out of there I lost due to an incredibly crude and dangerous set up, something I’m not proud of but we were young and naive, and we learnt from our mistakes and observation, as young kids do.

On the odd occasion that we received those desired carp bites, we weren’t actually too bad as we’d spent hours in each-others back gardens, practicing playing carp. Full set ups on our mum’s lawns, giving each other screaming runs and playing each other in. We were in our element, and we loved it.

I used to keep that little snippet to myself until recently, as I thought it must have just been me and my mad mate who did this crazy garden activity, but I confessed to a very high profile angler recently who proceeded to tell me how he and his mate done the exact same thing – Brilliant!

That first season we both had fish up to 14lb - To say we were delighted would have been an understatement. The fuel in our bellies started to burn, and two carp anglers were being made. Despite this, we were still a long way off the ball, and more experienced anglers kept things close to their chest, not giving away too much in regard to their tactics. It took us almost 18 months to realise that all around us, other anglers were using boilies, despite the boilie ban, but me and my mate just carried on in our way, hooking luncheon meat and wondering why we couldn't keep bait on the cast more than 30 yards.

Those early teenage years we really only learnt from observation and watching people on the bank. Some of the older anglers had started to accept us more, and if they were having a good trip, we quickly realised that we could ask them certain questions and information would be forthcoming. We did still however do some crazy things - I can remember riding a 27-mile round trip with my mate to stand behind the legendary Ritchie McDonald’s swim, who was fishing Stansted Abbotts at the time just to ask him to ‘caught anything mate?’. Ritchie’s set up was immaculate, and we couldn't get home quick enough to go through the collection of carp books that we now owned to look up exactly what kit he was using.

I'd started working part-time in my local supermarket where I met another guy who was slightly older than me and more experienced in carp fishing, who took me under his wing. That job gave me access to money and with money came tackle! He invited me one year to the Carp Society show in Dunstable. Perhaps, when I was younger, I was more impressed with things than I am now days, but these shows really were something else. You have to remember, there was no YouTube at the time, so there were no ESP Terry Hearn videos, or Korda Masterclasses, if you wanted to see the main men of that generation talk, you had to attend these shows. I can remember Rod Hutchinson giving a talk and the whole of the exhibition area where the stands were just emptied to hear him talk. It was a standing room only in the auditorium where he spoke, and you could literally hear a pin drop as people hung on every word Rod had to say. It was also a great place to purchase products as the internet wasn't really around then, so some of the deals you could get were excellent. I can remember purchasing a set of Shimano 4010’s and getting a third reel free! It was a brilliant time to be angling and not to mention, the socials were legendary!

By the mid 90’s, the magazines were expanding rapidly with a whole host of titles. Tackle shops were increasing, giving larger and larger sections to the carp fishing brands. The scene was just going crazy - Bait was evolving monthly, new tackle was being innovated and over the coming years, the scene just expanded immensely which is no doubt a credit to all those that were involved in its revolution. I look at what's available nowadays and it really is an incredible transition.

We now are in a digital era where pictures can be zoomed in, cropped, edited and such like, go back before the digital years and you had to send your film away to be developed and then wait patiently for the envelope to drop through the letter box with your developed snaps. Depending on who had done your photos could sometimes result in 2/3 useable prints from a 24 film cannister.

I'm often asked would you like to go back to that 11-year-old lad starting out in carp fishing and I would say no, probably not. I think the camaraderie in those days was better but that’s because the fishing wasn’t as advanced, so you were more inclined to share some knowledge to get some back. Nowadays, especially in big carp fishing, there seems to be a lot of individuality, but then I suppose when you're targeting big carp you have to have that single mindedness that leads to success.

When you look at what's available now for anglers, whether it’s the huge online stores, next day delivery, companies giving free content on YouTube, Instagram displaying some of the best photography out there, it really is amazing. I’m glad I evolved and lived through that era, but rather look back and wish for the past, I try to live for the today and enjoy the present.

For me, the fire still burns as strong now in fact stronger than it did 35 years ago. Will that fire ever burn out, what do you think? If you're an angler you're an angler - It’s in your DNA and that flame will never go out.

Be lucky and keep chasing your dreams,