John Bailey: The difference a day makes when you’re looking for a bite

John Bailey with Lee and his son Rueben, who broke his carp PB. Picture: John Bailey

John Bailey with Lee and his son Rueben, who broke his carp PB. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

Saturday was one of those days when I prayed fish could speak English.

John Bailey with friend Steve Cradle with a superb double figure tench. Picture: John Bailey

John Bailey with friend Steve Cradle with a superb double figure tench. Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

I had three old mates down from Liverpool to catch some whoppers and generally abuse me as a country bumpkin.

I retaliate by calling them Micky Mousers but it's water off a duck's back, especially with a European Cup final coming up.

Their plan was to catch a hatful, get to the pub and sink a hatful and then watch Liverpool score a hatful. Life never quite works out though, especially in the fishing department.

We began on Lost Lake around 8.30am and caught nothing. Gate Lake looked so dead we never even fished it. I thought Main Lake might throw up some bream but we didn't see one top, never mind take a bait.

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A move to House Lake might produce a carp I thought. It didn't. Last knockings we went to The Island and lost a decent fish, probably a tench but we never saw it. In the pub we wondered how three guys, with a guide, could fish five lakes with five rods for 10 hours, throw in a barrow of bait and get one bite. Then it was the game and after a minute I couldn't stand the Liverpudlian gloating and told them I'd see them next day at dawn, hangover or not.

They were there though, still clapping, cheering and singing. Little did we know the fishing on The Island was even going to eclipse the score.

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The rods went in just after 5.30am and by 2pm, we had 18 tench under our belt, including nine 5s and 6s, seven over 7, one over 8 and a leviathan of 10.2.

We had missed runs, bumped fish and pulled out a clunker at the net. I didn't see a double figure tench in 2018 so that fine fat female was particularly and spectacularly thrilling. The fact that she was immaculate only increased the sense of wonder.

The fish even stopped them going on about the football and the big talking point was how the days had differed and why. I wish I knew.

The wind was certainly stronger on the Sunday, pumping oxygen into the water and perhaps muting the temperatures a little.

The light in the morning at least was rather more diffused, the sun hiding behind a veil of thin cloud. Perhaps the early doors start was key? The tench didn't really switch on until 8am but when they did, a serious carpet of bait was laid and waiting for them.

I reckoned by spod and catapult we had fired out over 60 pounds of the stuff, all laced with goodies like maggots, hemp and corn. Possibly our decision to fish the feeder only rather than the float was a factor. It meant we could attack deeper water at longer range which is always good in heat. And of course we had decided to target the single venue rather than chasing our tails all round the county. Sometimes focus can be crucial. Luck? Greater confidence? Yes, why do fish NOT speak?

We weren't the only ones on The Island to do spectacularly well. Renowned carper Lee Cartwright was just 100 yards away with son Reuben who, as I have said before, is making a name for himself on the angling circuit.

They were fishing surface baits and I was called round to photograph carp of 16, then 23 and finally 27, caught by Rubes himself and a PB to boot. How good does life get on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Here we obviously have this week's Rob Shanks Award winners and if the pair pop into Wensum Valley Angling, Daniel will sort them out a swag bag of bait.

What thrilled me above all was the fact that Reuben's carp was a gorgeous fully scaled common. Mirrors are fine and dandy I suppose but it is commons that do it for me. My first ever carp was a common, five pounds of magnificence, caught over 50 years ago (on a Sunday too) so perhaps that explains my love for them?

My biggest English carp was a common too but I don't think that it is - I'm not generally too fussed about numbers to be honest. No, I think the whole thing is all about my fantasies of the past. I like to think that our commons are closer to old English fully scaled carp that have been swimming hereabouts for centuries. There's something, then, a bit modern and flash about mirror carp for me, so well done Reuben for being so discriminating as well as being so talented for a young 'un.

The European Cup. PBs galore. Whatever the reason, what a difference a day makes.

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