Commercial fisheries are well placed to carry angling’s torch

One of John Bailey's great pals, Bob Anderson, with a cracking Cobbleacre common.

One of John Bailey's great pals, Bob Anderson, with a cracking Cobbleacre common. - Credit: Archant

I'm not exactly sure that commercial fisheries are as new on the angling block as we sometimes think they are.

When I was a short pants angler, I made monthly pilgrimages to a fishery called the Roman Lakes in Greater Manchester. This was my dream location, simply because I could catch fish there which I failed to do along the rock-hard canals of the area. I say catch fish. My first trip there, my float dipped (for the very first time in my life) and I reeled in a struggling frog. Bizarrely, that's the one and only frog I've ever hooked.

Strange days, indeed. They always were so at Roman Lakes and on Sundays it was all picnickers, boaters, Pick of the Pops, yapping dogs, screaming kids and catching roach to my heart's content. Perhaps it was the Roman Lakes that made me the lifelong angler I appear to have become.

Because angling has meant so much to me and because of my involvement in the whole Crabtree Project, the future of fishing burns red-hot within me. As readers of this column know, I'm dedicated in explaining the joys of angling to a wider public and, above all, encouraging kids into the fold. Last week, I talked about the role that tackle shops play in this whole process. They are a vital element but kids, all anglers, must have somewhere where they can use the tackle they are supplied with. Encouraging clubs aren't as common as they should be, but some commercials certainly step up to the mark. You might think that a grey-beard angler like myself would cast a dubious eye on commercials, but I don't. I realise the Roman Lakes did it for me as a kid, just like commercials these days do it for thousands more. And, too, commercials need not be goldfish bowls set within acres of concrete and woodchip.

Over the last year or so, I've made the acquaintance of Bob Anderson, both a great angler and manager of Cobbleacre Fishery, just north of Norwich. Bob amused me by joining the Kingfisher Syndicate back in the spring and walloping out more carp than any of my more established members. What didn't amuse me quite as much was the fact that he walloped me on the tench front just as comprehensively. This man can fish.

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Recently, I thought it was about time I went and had a look at the fishery he had done so much to create. Well, it's lovely. If you haven't been there, then perhaps you should. There are many things that I like about it. First up, Bob does lots of tuition work, both for adults and, of course, for kids. He'll teach you anything you want to know from using a whip to fishing a Zig. He also runs regular courses for numbers of children. They'll camp and they'll fish and they'll fill their faces from his barbecue and, hopefully, they'll go away converted. Okay, it's all money and trade for the fishery, but I don't think that's what Bob is about at all. Like me, it's the sport he cares about, not his pocket.

Cobbleacre, unsurprisingly, hosts lots of matches. The lakes are well-managed, accessible and full of fish. I'm told local heroes like Jimmy Randall make regular trips there, often catching cracking roach from the biggest of the lakes. And for the specialist angler, the place is paradise. The carp grow to nearly 40lbs, or thereabouts, and there are plentiful catfish if you fancy tangling with the ugliest fish that swims. Not that they speak very highly of me either.

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Yes, there's big this, that and everything, but it was the perch that I went there for with a gang of mates just the other day. Well, we didn't break any records and a pretty fish of about two pounds was the best that we managed for dearest pal, John Gilman. I have no doubt that this was not the fault of the water because it's quite evident that there are perch there in plenty. I guess we'd simply fallen foul of their feeding spells. I wrote a perch book back in the 1980s with Roger Miller. We devoted a year to the project and we frequently found that we'd catch the vast majority, if not all our perch, in little more than a half-hour window. I suspect that by arriving at nine o'clock, we'd probably missed perch breakfast time by perhaps 20 minutes or so. As the winter sets in, it's probable these perch feeding times will become even more and more restricted, so be warned.

If it's big perch you want, set the alarm clock a darned sight earlier than we did on our Cobbleacre day.

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