John Bailey: Northerly winds can cause havoc for anglers

John Bailey with a perfect pond crucian.

John Bailey with a perfect pond crucian. - Credit: Archant

A lot of us still can't quite get our May fishing right. Most of my pals are still moaning that the tench won't come out to play on the bigger waters. The odd colossal carp is playing ball but it seems that many of the other fish are still coy. Until fish speak, we'll never know but I've still got a feeling that this stop start spring is being hampered by the frequent, snipey, north and north-easterly winds that we are not enjoying.

Living in East Anglia as we do, most of us are aware that winds from this direction are the one major drawback to fishing in our region. For many years of my life, I was an estate lake man and once the winds veered north, north-easterly, you could easily think there was not a fish in the place. I've seen shallow estate lakes simply die within minutes.

It's quite extraordinary on these shallow waters how just a hint of a wind with a lick to it can paralyze the place. My gut feeling is that these northerlies do exactly the same thing to even our big, modern-day gravel pits. Fish will be moving and the odd fish will respond to a bait but it's heavy work, heavy going and with a workload like mine a situation best avoided.

You want to get out, though. There are wild primroses appearing and the willows look quite splendid in their mint-fresh shades of green. My answer these last few days has been to head for the ponds.

I know, of course, that ponds in Norfolk aren't what they used to be. So many have dried up or been built over or been encroached until they are little more than a bog.

Fish populations have been predated or simply spiralled down to non-existence. However, if you dig enough and your memory is long enough, you can still find some treats.

One of the pleasures of ponds is the intimacy they bring to your fishing.

Most Read

I'm criticized for being a centrepin dinosaur but there aren't many times you have to fish much further out than your rod tip on waters like this and a centrepin, I truly believe, allows you to fish lighter lines than traditional fixed spools. A pretty red float shotted down until just a centimetre remains and you're in for a visually perfect session. Chances are you will enjoy the birdsong, too, as well as the bubbles that begin to drift to the surface of your swim. For me, this is nicer than sitting in the teeth of a north-easterly gale with rods fishing for themselves at sixty yards range.

The downside, of course, is that you won't be catching records, trophies even. That is if you judge fish by size alone. These pits and ponds still, even in this day and age, hold the most delicious of surprises. There are still a few puddles of water I know that hold crucians, rudd and wild carp.

For me, they are the species of my life in Norfolk. It's these fish that remind me more than any others of my childhood here. Some of my happiest times were catching little golden bundles of fish that could fit even into my palm at seven years of age. Size isn't everything in fishing.

Sadly, this triumvirate of special species is as much under threat as the waters in which they live. Everything has conspired against them.

I won't even begin to list the insults they've suffered over the past fifty years. That's why it's good that someone like Carl Sayer from University College London is bringing his wisdom and skills to bear on the situation. This is only a taster.

You'll hear more about Carl and his team from me in the next few weeks and all I'm doing is preparing the ground.

What I will say is that Carl's researches I find quite gobsmacking. I thought I knew my patch, I thought I knew all the waters around me and how they worked.

Friends, Carl has made me realize I know next to nothing. I could feel humiliated but I feel more humbled.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks but I'm darned well going to try.

I'm hoping to get on some of our rivers soon, possibly with a fly rod in hand.

The mayfly aren't far off and there can't be a better time of the year to be after our wild trout stocks as the rivers burst into teeming life. This is game fishing just a little bit like my pond fishing. On our upper rivers you are not worried about casting at the sun, placing a fly forty yards from you. It's all under the rod tip work once again and that makes it uniquely appealing, exciting and demanding. These little wild browns are as skittish as fish get and if you make one mistake all your approach work is doomed. I occasionally have lunch with the admirable Terry Lawton of Reepham. He's an absolute master on these small streams and I love to see him at work. He does a bit of guiding from time to time and if you're lucky you might entice him to take you out for a day. It will be worth it. (01603 872393) Fishing small, either with bait or fly, is a real skill to have in your locker.

Finally, it looks like we're filming the second series of Mr Crabtree throughout July and August, trying to align with the school holidays so it's easier for the second generation of Peters to get out of the classroom. There's possibly a little more money this time so we might be moving further afield...many of you noticed that much of the action took place at the Kingfisher Lakes at Lyng in the last series. However, that doesn't mean that a lot of footage won't still be filmed here in East Anglia. After all, where better to fish and to film? North-easterlies or not, otters and cormorants or not, we still have waters that are the envy of the fishing world.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter