Jesus, it's April already, quite apt that I should start the month of Easter with a bit of blasphemy. The months are certainly rattling by now. There's so much going on now with the Carp Society, it's pretty much non-stop. Hopefully by now you will be aware we are planning a big weekend of celebration over the 15th-16th of July. There'll be a few trade stands there, I think so far we have got Nash, Pallatrax, Baitworks, West Country Baits, Trakker, Deception Angling, Cygnet Tackle. There will no doubt be one or two others as well so keep your eye on the website and Facebook for further developments. We will also be having an auction of fishing tackle and fishing related items, there's some top top items up for grabs (including a Farriers permit) so the auction alone would be worth coming for. There will be a bar and BBQ and people are allowed to bivvy up overnight in a designated area so no worries about driving home if you're staying for a beer in the evening. There are lots of other things planned but we are still working on them so again, keep a look out. It's promising to be a weekend not to miss so please come along, show your support and enjoy yourselves. We will keep you posted as things develop.
Let's crack on with the fishing at Horseshoe now, April is looking like it's picking up where March left off. Fish galore coming out. One of our bailiffs was away on holiday the other day and I did his round, there was 15 anglers on the lake and 13 of them had caught, most of them had caught quite a few, a guy on 53 had 6, a guy on Boat had 8, swim 11 had done a few, Winter point had done 8. It really is good to see people catching a few, enjoying themselves and generally just being happy to be here, it kind of makes it all worthwhile. Nobody is really interested in how we put it all together so I won't waste your time (for now) with what we do and don't do, but believe me, everything we do we do it for you (hey hey I've turned into Brian Adams) suffice to say we take as much pleasure in you being happy to be here as you do in being here, and to avoid the risk of turning this into some kind of hippy love-in I'll leave it there.
Rob Taylor, 2 from the top and one from the bottom.
Rob Taylor's up first with a couple of proper (that's Yorkshire for pukka) 20lb plus Horseshoe mirrors, not content with that though, he upped the stakes and bagged himself a beautiful Horseshoe common weighing in at 30lb. Good angling Rob and thank you for the photos. Next up we have young Toby Guest with a couple of long lean mirrors and a rather decent Horseshoe Tench. Nice to see Toby mastering the mean moody look that the Tigers covet so much. No street cred in smiling these days, it's not dope Blood, you get me? I am of course just messing about. Young Toby is a thoroughly decent chap who I'd wager has never called anyone Blood in his life but you know what I mean innit?
Enough of that and on with the catches, here we have Steve Smith, who if you remember featured in the last blog with a couple of decent 20's, well here he is again, obviously on a bit of a roll now as he returned and landed another 5, not sure of the weights but there's some bonny fish he's holding, top stuff Steve and just rewards for the winter blanks I'm sure. Well done. Whilst we are talking of people returning and catching, Baz Partington, hot on the success of his last visit came bag and helped himself to another good catch, I think he had 8 or 9 from memory.
Steve Smith with 4 Horseshoe beauties
Alex Woodcock is next with a couple of typical Horseshoe mirrors, I say typical but they couldn't be more different really, one a beautiful leather and the other has more scales than Scales McScaley. That is typical for Horseshoe though, you never know what you're going to land next.
Brownie was back this month and back on the fish, helping himself to two beauties. Jamie Webb got amongst them with four. Manchester Rob was also (not surprisingly) back on the score sheet with another bagful, a big old bream that very rarely sees the bank being amongst his latest catches. Melvin is never too far away from the fish so you won't be surprised to see him here with another.
Gary Lennard with the One Eyed Lin at 31lb
Gary Lennard made his first visit to Horseshoe and casually walked away (metaphorically speaking) with the One Eyed Linear at 31lb to his name. Steve Smith is in great form this year, landing another impressive haul, some proper eye catches amongst them as well if I say so I myself.
Jamie, Ben, Nate
Nate Elliot landed his first Horseshoe fish this month, a nice scaley mirror. Rob Taylor got in to the action with three belters. Young Ben took some down time from his busy workload, Ben produces fishmeal free pellet feed, we've been using it in our stock ponds for a while now and whilst I have to say, much as I try not to advertise other people's business, when somethings good I feel duty bound to let you know, and Bens pellets have certainly impressed me, and judging by the fish in the stock ponds, they are certainly benefitting from it. Check him out at BP Milling, it costs nowt to look.
Rob with a seldom seen Horseshoe Bream
I want to wrap this blog up for now, simply because I have a whole heap of other catches to report including great things from Little Farriers but that's for next time, before I go now though .
Baz back on 'em
I finished the last blog off by telling you I was going fishing. Let me tell you all about it. To say it was bizarre would be like saying Jeri Ryan was quite fit. It started off standard enough, I'd pitched up on the Lagoon swim and managed to get 3 rods out and a decent scattering of bait, the weather was nice, I was back behind the rods and after the dramas of the previous many months, life was good. It got to about 7.30pm and I was just chilling out on the bed chair when my phone started bleeping indicating incoming messages. I looked at them and was intrigued to see a photo of something in some water that quite clearly wasn't a fish. I then read the accompanying message which boldly stated 'There's Otters on Horseshoe'. I looked at the photo again, and while it wasn't a very clear photo my first impression was that it wasn't an otter and I replied saying as much. I then received messages back saying, "I've sent it to my mate and he's an expert on Otters and its definitely 100% an Otter, I then received several more messages and posts people had sent via Social Media along the same lines. To be honest I was unaware that there were that many Otter experts in the world let alone in the Carp angling world but it seem there is and everyone new without a shadow of a doubt there were Otters on Horseshoe. I say Otters because despite there only being one murky picture of ONE creature, the expert word on the street was that Horseshoe was plagued with Otters, no doubt about it. Now forgive me here but let me just leave it there for a minute and take you back to the end of 2016, it is relevant to the story so just bear with me.
Most of you will (or should) know by now that in 2016, changes in the law were made in respect of what you could do if you had an Otter on your water. I won't go into it in too much detail but basically the changes were/are that a person could apply for a licence to trap and release Otters if they adhered to a long list of conditions. One of the conditions being you would have to attend a course. Once you'd attended the course you could then apply for a Licence CL36 which would then allow you to trap an Otter in a fishery if the fishery met certain criteria, one of which being that the fishery is adequately protected with an Otter proof fence (which also has to meet certain criteria) and that you give Natural England 5 days' notice before you even begin to trap, etc etc, I could go on because the granting of the Licence and the carrying out of the trapping is just loaded with conditions. In short you'd have to jump through a million hoops to eventually trap an Otter, not least of all being you would have to go to the West Coast of Scotland to attend the course and pay £400 for the course itself. You still awake? Anyway I thought sod it, that's what you have to do so that's what I'll do, so on a freezing cold morning in January I duly set off for Bonny Scotland and after a nine hour drive and a short ferry crossing I arrived at a place called Acharacle. I've got to say it is a most beautiful place and was actually worth the drive, a place where nature outnumbers people, and that is never a bad thing. The following morning I attended day one of the course which started off with a walk round a few glorious locks looking for Otters and any signs of Otters, this included examining every bit of excrement we came across.
Beautiful West Coast of Scotland
We did eventually see a couple of Otters out in the lock going about their daily business. It was all very nice but I was beginning to wonder when we were going to set about trying to trap one of the pesky things. We then went back to the classroom (the instructors' house) and had a couple of hours power point presentation on all things Otter related, Ecology, History and Biology. All well and good but still no sign of a trap. The next day we were back again and much to my amazement we started off with a 57 question exam. Now this I wasn't expecting. I'd done no studying or research what so ever beforehand, I'd just assumed I was going up there to learn how and where to set a trap, get a tick for attending and await the Licence in the post. I couldn't have been more wrong. I took the exam and knew straight away I wouldn't be passing, like I said, I'd done nothing beforehand. After the exam we then went to another lock and spent the rest of the day watching 3 otters, a mother and 2 young ones. The course then ended and the following morning I did the 500 mile, 9 hour return journey. It's safe to say that although I'd been to a most beautiful part of the world and thoroughly enjoyed being there, I kind of thought I'd wasted my time, I was no wiser on trapping Otters on the way back than I was on the way there. I hadn't been told the exam results but I knew I'd failed, I'd blagged my way through it at best. I was mad at myself for not being prepared, I was mad at the course for being a waste of time but most of all I was mad at wasting the £400 the PAG had kindly paid on my behalf for the course. I was pretty miffed at everything to say the least. It had been a complete disaster. What was I to do? It was a nightmare.
A couple of days after I got home and not much to my surprise I was notified I had failed the course, what was a surprise though was that I had only failed by one question and as such for a £50 re-examination fee I could retake the exam. I paid the fee and for the next 6 weeks an hour didn't go by when I didn't have my nose in an Otter book or on the interweb, reading everything I could and watching every YouTube clip I came across, I proper got my head down and studied like Billy hoe. I was actually dreaming about Otters. I then retook the exam and passed with flying colours (slight exaggeration). I then applied for the CL36 licence to trap and am delighted to tell you that I am now fully licenced to trap and release Otters. Thank the Lord for that.
Right, back to the Friday night on Horseshoe, I apologise for rambling on a bit there but it's integral to what I am about to tell you. As I was saying, I'd received the picture and because I'd studied and been on the course I was certain this thing wasn't an Otter, I did originally think it looked more like a Beaver but kind of dismissed that thought, after all, the only Beaver I'd seen (no smutty comments please) had been a cartoon one that bit a tree down that consequently landed on Wiley Coyotes head has he waited to ambush Roadrunner. At this point Justin (who was fishing on the lake) came to my bivvy and said 'You've got to come and look at this mate'. I went with Justin to a swim called the Lawns and was greeted by something un-fish like swimming about it front of us. The light was fading by this time but the shape of the things head had me convinced it wasn't an Otter, there was a few other people around at the time who clearly thought it was an Otter, though to be fair to them they didn't claim to be experts and to the untrained eye and given all the things you read and see about Otters they can be forgiven for thinking so. The more I looked at it the more I thought it was a Beaver but I didn't want to say that because it just sounded so surreal, a Beaver swimming around in Horseshoe? Are you mad? Just then Justin said to me 'I aren't being funny but do you think it could be a Beaver?' The thing then swam off across Summer Bay and it was then I knew without a shadow of doubt (well, perhaps a wee doubt) that it wasn't an Otter. All the studying and research and watching the Otters live in Scotland came flooding back and I knew, I absolutely knew it wasn't an Otter. I said as much to the people around me but knew my words were falling on deaf ears, I am, after all the fishery Manager so it was clearly in my interest for it not to be an Otter, which to be fair I can understand, but again, fair play to the lads who were there they didn't make a song and dance about it. I actually think they felt quite sorry for me, a couple of them were here when we lost the fish in 2011 and have been here throughout the legal case, they know the shit I've been through down here and were desperately sorry that I now had to put up with bloody Otters on the Lake.
I went back to my bivvy a bit dazed and confused to be honest, I was certain it wasn't an Otter, it didn't look like an Otter, it didn't behave like an Otter and it certainly didn't swim like an Otter but the messages were still coming through 'Loads of Otters on Horseshoe' 'My mates an expert it's 100% otter' 'I've seen hundreds of Otters it's definitely and Otter' and so it went on. It must have been about 2am now and my phone bleeped again. Justin had sent me a video. I can't thank him enough here, he was 4 foot away from a Beaver following it along the Road Bank in Summer Bay. It couldn't have been more obvious it was a Beaver if it had been carrying a sign saying 'I am a Beaver'. I have never been so relieved in my life and bless Justin for capturing it on video. Even though I knew it wasn't an Otter, I just know for a fact that without video evidence the experts would of gone to their grave shouting 'Otters on Horseshoe'. It really peas me off, that people with no knowledge at all and with no other thought than to create damage and make themselves appear important or informed can just so maliciously try and destroy the good work we are trying to do down here just for their own sense of being whatever it is they think they are. I know what they are, most of you know what they are and deep down they know what they are. We don't need it, Let's get back to some sort of civilised behaviour in the pursuit of the thing we all love.
Finally (thank goodness for that I hear you say) the reason I waffled on previously about the course was that I'm not too sanctimonious to eat a bit of humble pie. I was wrong about the course, I thought it was a waste of time when actually it proved invaluable in my being able to identify that the creature wasn't an Otter. I apologise for not fully understanding the why's and wherefores beforehand. I am ever so pleased though that failing the course first time made me mad enough to get my head down and make sure I didn't fail it the second time, I'm glad I've still got that in me and I'm glad I'm man enough to admit I was wrong. Now there are still a few slices of humble pie left so if all the experts who saw and identified an Otter would like a slice, feel free to ask. It would show a demonstration of good character if you could all issue an apology but I won't hold my breath. I genuinely don't have a problem with opinions or thoughts or suggestions but please don't state things as fact when they clearly aren't facts. It's like there's a little group of people who can't wait for the Society to fall on its backside. I don't get it, I really don't.
Oh by the way I did catch a fish.
Jeri Ryan, just incase you wondered
Till next time
Thank you Justin Hawkins for your endeavours, very much appreciated.