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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


19/06/2016 - Fenland Fishing

Elliott Symaks Fishery


A couple of weeks after an enjoyable time house sitting where I fished the Secret Pool, we were on the move again despite my problem with shingles, but also a problem now with my colon, I was determined to attend a family get together. The first couple of days were spent in the fens with Tom and Lynne before being taken down to Kent to Len and Julie’s house. Our first stop was deep in the fenland countryside with its many drains and still waters. The Cambridgeshire fens have always been famous for its coarse fishing. The rivers around Whittlesy. The Nene, Morton Leam, the Forty Foot, Bevills & Twenty Foot are all available to be fished with the correct licenses. There are also many enclosed fishing lake including North bank Trout Fisheries, Railway Lakes and Decoy Lakes. Grafham and Rutland Water only a short journey away. I could fish the Old Bedford, Forty Foot, Middle Level, Sixteen Foot, River Delph, the Ouse and various pools, how can one forget the romantic towns of Wisbech, Ely, with its great Cathedral, March Christchurch and other fenland villages where on a Saturday you could enjoy rock and roll music with lots of local girls for company, though some night it was the jazz clubs of Cambridge that beckoned. I shall never forget my time in the village of Welney with its two pubs Three Tuns and the Lamb and Flag, where I had some great widgeon shooting under the moon in the 50’s an 60’s on the Welney Washes, but let’s not forget the wonderful coarse fishing. I got to know to great fenland men, Josh Scott I recommend his book from Guns to Binoculars, Ernie James, also briefly Will Kent, Though I spent time in the Lincolnshire Fens and the Wash. It was the Cambridgeshire Fens where I spent a big chunk of my life fishing, wildfowling and other shooting sports. In the Christchurch area my friends Reg and Margaret farmed potatoes sugar beet and wheat on several thousand acres of prime land. One day Reg said “Can you get me a ticket for the Motor Show on press day”? I answered “The only way Reg is for you to be my assistant” so he carried my large leather camera bag, while looking at the females pinup’s on the various stands. Margaret was the lady who got me into the Pimm’s habit, we were sitting around the swimming pool on a hot July day, when she emerged from the house with some tall glasses filled with pimms topped off with ice, I was hooked from that day on this delightful drink. The fens have many happy memories for me of fishing, shooting and having fun, hidden away all over Fenland there with large and small pools holding variety of coarse fish, often these out of the way places held big rudd and tench as did some of the Fenland drains.


                                                                           Northey Park fishery

Is a coarse fishery with several lakes stocked with big carp, tench to 10lb, bream, roach and rudd all good sizes. The syndicate lake is well stocked with carp to 46lb. Catfish lake fish to 36lb The owner is Elliott Symak who’s delightful book My Water was published in 1989 it’s a great read showing how we carp fished in the 60’s and 70’s, being in the area, I called Elliott to ask if I could come and fish for tench, the immediate answer was yes, its £6-00 a day. These days most anglers fishing for tench, do so with swim feeder rigs or some form of ledgering often with a boily, I wanted to fish float tackle for my tench, there something nice in watching a float dip, fall over at a drunken angle then dip again before sloping over as it slides across the surface submerging as it does so. My favourite writer Hugh T Sheringham suggested when discussing floats “Beyond the float and the watching, you will perceive that a fair appearance has its value here also. But, of course one is best pleased with ones float as it vanishes from sight. Page 119 Open Creel published 1910 I’d read Sheringham's books before my 10th birthday as my grandfather was a great fan of the author, I would urge all readers to sit in a quiet room, then open the pages of Sheringham’s books which are still available, no doubt your public library can get you copies, that’s if the library hasn’t been closed through cuts which in my opinion is a disgrace.

The water I fished had an average depth around 4 feet, with patches of broad leafed pond weed Potamogeton natans, also Curled pondweed Potamogeton crispus. On the far bank were some Norfolk reed, with lots of trees and bushes, the bird life was brilliant, several times during the day a Kingfisher flew low to the water a few feet in front of me, a pair of moorhens with 2 youngsters pottering about on the far bank or at the water’s edge, green woodpeckers wrens robins blackbirds swallows song thrush and many more could be heard singing, there was something to catch my attention all through the day, despite the heavy rain showers which were often of monsoon proportions. The water contained tench, carp and crucians, though I did see a small pike around 2lbs scattering small fish that were piranha like as they attacked bits of bread thrown on the surface.

Having put my Milwards 'swim'master together, I attached a centre pin reel then threaded the 6lb breaking strain line through the guides, choosing a clear plastic Drennan orange tipped float, it should have been red tipped but orange was the nearest colour I had, which was held in place with double rubbers waggler style, then should I want to free line or leger a bait all I had to do was remove the float. I lightly pinched on 1AA with a BB shot two feet from a size 14 barbless hook, having checked the depth I set the float a few inches over depth the pinched on a BB shot some six inches from the hook.

My baits consisted of bread flake and crust, sweet corns along with small bread balls both flavoured with a Lone Angler cheese flavour, I made up some lightly damped Ocean Pride mixed with fine bread crumb, I wanted an attracter, but not something that would feed the fish. Having fed two areas, I put the Jetboiler on for a brew, with coffee for Kate, despite the wind the water surface wasn’t ruffled, some thirty minutes later patches of bubbles appeared in the areas where I’d lightly fed with crumb attracter, occasionally a carp appeared close to the surface, a fish I didn’t want to pick up my bait, after an a hour had passed I made my first cast. Dropping the corn baited hook close to a patch of Potamogeton, gen minutes later the float fell over at a drunken angle then slowly submerged, striking I connected with very big tench or one of the patrolling carp, I soon found it was one of the letter, my cane rod and centre pin reel with 6lb line were equal to the feat of landing this fish and soon I had a nice looking common in the net. In the next few hours I had several mirror and common carp but nothing bigger than the first fish, I also had some tench which liked by bread balls but ignored the corn. There was an hour late in the afternoon when I had several bites which I reckoned were crucians but I couldn’t hook a single fish. As we were having dinner with my brother and his wife they asked what sort of a day we had? Kate said “It was a great day with lots of birds for company including kingfishers” I had to agree. Though we didn’t catch any big fish, to be in this wildlife haven for £6-00 a day was certainly great value for money. Before leaving I hid my rod and reel away in the trees so I didn’t have to tackle up again next day

                                                                                    Day Two

We arrived at the water around 1000hrs during a storm, first thing I had to do was erect the umbrella and put a chair in place for Kate, I suggested she might like to sit in the car until the storm had passed, she told me” What miss all the fun” I then retrieved my rod from the trees which was already too go, I made up a mix as I used the previous day to attract fish into my two chosen spots, I would also use the same hook baits as the previous day, having got everything sorted I made my first cast with bread ball on the hook, within minutes had my first fish a tench which was quickly followed by five more. We then had a hot drink while the rain continued to fall, I’d just finished my drink when the float suddenly disappeared, striking I found myself hooked up to another carp, I cursed under my breath saying to myself “Why do these fish follow me around?. It was a common about 8lbs I then had three more commons around the 5lb mark and several more tench. Then the rain hammered down creating large bubbles on the surface of the pool, the bubbles created by feeding fish disappeared, they had stopped feeding, for an hour I didn’t get a bite. It was probably half an hour after the rain stopped before the fish started to feed again, the rain never stopped me from trying to catch. I had a couple of tench, then the float lifted then fell over before standing upright then dipped slightly these small dips lasted some ten minutes before the float moved long he surface slowly sinking as it did so, striking I felt some movement on the line, then started to wind in a small fish, it was a crucian, probably the smallest on I’ve ever caught but I was happy to see the fish. Within minutes the rain stopped, the dark clouds changed to a light grey. I suggested we should pack up while it was dry, Fifteen minutes later with everything in the car, the rain hammered down once more. It had been another interesting day by a delightful pool. Thank you Elliott Symak for the pleasure of fishing in such delightful surroundings. The next day we travelled to Kent but sadly I couldn’t fish the River Beult there wasn’t room in Tom’s Mercedes sports car, though I did get taken to the river on June 16th, it looked wonderful, I was most upset not being able to use my cane pole to catch some roach but such is life.













Common carp

One of several tench

Waiting for the next bite

River Beult

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Martin James Fishing
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