Weekend Sport Column – September 1st

Sport 20

This Method Is Completely Quackers

Looking back I reckon the most fun I ever had in fishing was during thosee years when I competed in club matches. This was in an era before dear old Maggie shut the mines and the steelworks so there was a thriving working men’s club, a miners’ institute or a pub on every street corner in South Yorkshire and each one had a thriving fishing section.

Most would organise up to a dozen fishing matches through the summer and autumn months yet demand for seats on the buses frequently exceeded supply. Fleets of coaches headed off to distant venues like the Trent, the Witham, Welland, Nene, Coronation Channel, Middle Level, 40 Foot and 16 Foot Drains on Saturday and Sunday mornings, each packed to the rafters with fishing tackle and anglers.

The Mickey taking would start before you even boarded the coach and would continue throughout the match and all the way home afterwards. If only we could turn back the clock because this, for me, was fishing’s heyday. It was a laugh a minute with jokes and pranks galore being played out on venues far and wide.

Society has changed so much. The clubs are struggling and hardly anyone goes fishing by coach any more – they’re far too expensive. Everyone has a car anyway and the sheer amount of tackle each angler carries means you’d never fit 40 anglers and their gear on a bus like we used to. And the venues have changed. There are still lots of club matches but they tend to be smaller affairs and staged on nearby commercial fisheries rather than on the wild, distant waters of old. Cormorants have put paid to those anyway. Millions of roach have disappeared down the throats of these immigrant birds to the point where you’d struggle to make a decent catch if you tried.

Many of the clubs and pubs have shut down, too. Or they’re struggling to keep the doors open. Matches have become quite serious affairs as well. Many a successful angler has the look of a gun-slinger these days with a cold steely glint in their eyes. It’s all about the winning and the money, although I do get to hear a few funny tales of anglers falling in, breaking poles, leaving their bait at home and so on, but real funny wind-ups don’t seem as prevalent as they used to be.

At least that was my impression until this week when I heard about the antics of one Mark Price, owner of the Stainforth Angling Centre, near Doncaster. I used to fish against Mark when we were both members of Carcroft Village Club nearly a lifetime ago. He was a handful as a teenager and difficult enough to get the better of but nearly 30 years on he’s quite a master of commercial fisheries.

Each summer Mark organises a series of summer evening matches at the local Sykehouse Fisheries for his mates and customers. The pools are deliberately kept low so the prize money on offer is less appealing to those who only want to line their pockets so those who do turn up are mostly there for a bit of fun. On the final match of the series Mark always devises a ridiculous method to use, just for a laugh. This year he invented the duck feeder…

Now picture this, Mark is casting out a plastic duck with a swimfeeder glued to its base. Suspended a foot beneath it is his hook bait. By twitching his line he can make the duck wag its tail but when a fish takes his bait the duck’s head dips forwards as if pecking at the surface before swimming off at high speed to a chorus of quacks from Mark.

During the 3-hour match Mark caught no less than 57 carp from an un-fancied peg using his ridiculous method to finish second, just over a pound short of winning outright. Long before the match ended he had a gallery of spectators sat behind him and each time the duck set off across the surface they all joined in with the quacking!

Anglers trying to compete were laughing so much they were in tears but the more you think about it the more it makes sense. Fish are not afraid of ducks, in fact carp frequently swim behind them because they will actually eat their ‘pre-digested vegetable based droppings’ – urghhh, I know! But that’s nature for you.

There’s talk now of organising a match at Sykehouse where all the competitors have to make their own floating toy, be it a bird, a frog, a fish or maybe even a shark fin, and fish with it. I know this, it won’t matter who wins but everyone who gets involved will have a barrel of laughs and isn’t that what fishing should really be about?

Fishing isn’t life or death and making money, it should be fun. I know this much, I went home with a huge grin on my face after watching Mark demonstrate his ingenious method.

Fishery Of The Week

It would be rude not to make Sykehouse Fisheries my fishery of the week after enjoying my afternoon there. Established 5 years before it opened up to the public, the surroundings are mature and kept in immaculate condition. Head for the stock pond if you fancy catching good sized carp on pellet waggler, the best of which run well into double figures. There’s an astonishing head of silver fish in this lake and winter match weights of roach have topped 70lbs. If you prefer bagging on the pole then the match lake is perfect because the carp are of a more manageable size. Like most commercials you must use the fishery’s own pellets but the good news is they are by far the cheapest in the area – at last, a fishery that isn’t trying to rip us off! Contact owner Ray Lane if you want more details on 01405 785403 or 07885 745538.

Sykehouse Fishery is located on Mawson Green Lane in Sykehouse, near Doncaster. The post code for Sat Nav users is DN14 9AJ.



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