Still lots to learn so let’s share our angling knowledge in 2017

John Bailey with a Christmas city centre perch.

John Bailey with a Christmas city centre perch. - Credit: Archant

I look back on the later 1970s and 1980s with huge affection, in large part because of Tom Boulton's tackle shop at Mile Cross in Norwich.

Tom was, and is, a spectacularly good, all-round angler. In those days, he was well-known for being a top-flight match man and it was these skills of his that I regularly tapped into. As I was making my way in the big fish world, over and over, Tom would share his more immediate, match-style tactics with me and provide a solution to my problems. We worked together magnificently, for my benefit I hasten to add. Still, those long ago sessions taught me a valuable lesson. It's wrong to think of angling as a series of separate disciplines. In truth, they overlap and intermingle and it is a foolish fisherman who doesn't appreciate this.

Repeatedly, 2016 reinforced this lesson. I think back to my few days with Richard, an American fly angler, who came over to Norfolk to fish with me and break the world record fly-caught tench. In practice, it was all a bit of a mishmash, but we did it in the end and what the spell with Richard taught me was that you can go lighter and lighter and catch more fish. His will o' the wisp gear caught tench where my heavier float tackle would have landed nowt! A real lesson for me come April.

Fishing with young Robbie Northman has also been an absolute revelation to me. I've never been much of a lure man, but Robbie has completely inspired me. I love watching him fish; his dexterity is amazing. I also admire his inquiring mind, the way he moves from one lure to the next as conditions and his imagination dictate. This is a real skill that I want to nail for myself.

But back to Tom Boulton. A couple of his younger apprentices now run Wensum Valley Angling and Rob and Daniel have taken Tom's role in my life. Rob is a top-flight carp angler, something I haven't been for 30 years, even if I were then. But what Rob has shown me repeatedly through 2016 is that you can take carp tactics, rigs especially, and water them down, if you like, for tench and bream. What Rob has to say about bait, location and pre-baiting sessions set me on the way to unparalleled success last summer and autumn with the so-called lesser species.

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And then, I went out with Daniel, Rob's business partner, a renowned East Anglian match man. It was Daniel who got me back on the pole after 40 years away. Then, in December 1976, I used a pole once and discarded it unceremoniously. A big mistake. Because of Daniel's enthusiasm and advice and insistence, I have been using the pole during the last days of 2016 and enjoying every minute. Above all, I've discovered endless applications for the pole that a running line simply can't match. 2017 could be a revelation for me.

I've talked about fly, lure, carp and match anglers here. Sadly, I haven't mentioned the sea. I look at my fishing diaries for January 1972 when I was working as a professional, albeit poor, lugworm digger. One night, three of us went out onto the beach at Cley in a raging winter gale. Between us, we caught three cod ranging from 10-12lb and then, as midnight approached, we latched into a fish fractionally over 18lb. It was a most exhilarating of angling experiences as the creamy white fish thrashed in the surf. There were stars in the sky and salt in the wind and how I would love the fish of those long ago shore nights back again. I know fishing the sea is a part of my angling education I have never even half completed.

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