Sam Ruffle Coles

Things wot I done

Elphicks Plantation Lake

A combination of our holiday to Sumners Ponds and the fact that I haven’t been able to go fishing as much as I’d like for the last few years has made me reconsider my opinions on commercial fisheries. The convenience is too great with complexes including secure access and on-site cafes, toilet blocks and tackle shops in case you’ve run out of or forgotten anything.

With this in mind I went for a stroll around Elphicks Fishery in Kent on Sunday 15th May and quickly made the decision to book up and return with my gear the following Saturday to fish the Plantation Lake. The fishery is of a much higher class than the typical commercials I’d visited before, with an emphasis on specimen lakes with a challenge to them, rather than featureless muddy holes stuffed with more fish than water.

Throughout the twenty-four hours fish could be seen stirring up muddy clouds on the bottom and feeding all over the lake, a large grass carp cruised around on the top all day and night with both dorsal and tail fin breaking the surface, but sadly no interest was had on the rods. I’ll be back again a couple more times throughout the year though as I’d love to catch my first thirty.

Sumners Ponds

For the first week of May this year, my wife organised a week’s holiday with my parents at Sumners Ponds staying in Moorhen Lodge. This three bedroom lodge borders the main lake which contains carp to 36lb.

View from Moorhen Lodge, Sumners Ponds.

View from Moorhen Lodge

We arrived at a very busy site during the bank holiday weekend – it is worth remembering that first and foremost the place is a campsite and holiday location, and that the fishing seemed to be a secondary attraction for most of the visitors, so there was quite a bit of noise with radios playing and tent pegs being hammered in.

Shortly after arriving on the Saturday Dad caught a small number of bream on the feeder with double maggot on the hook. We then went over to the Cafe By The Lake for a nice dinner with live music. I would recommend a visit to the cafe if you are looking at staying here as the food was very decently cooked.

Fishing on Sunday was more of the same, although I had my first bream of about 2lb which had somehow managed to gut an 18mm boilie and hang itself on a size 8 – it quite struggled to move the 2.5oz lead it was attached to.

Monday morning came and the place cleared out, most left the lake lodges, un-pitched their tents and drove away in their motorhomes. The noise was gone and we had the lake to ourselves. We also experienced the only bad weather of the week, but this combination of peace and quiet and rain saw my rods roaring away in the late afternoon, and in fairly quick succession I caught carp of 15lb, 18lb 8oz and a new PB of 23lb 8oz.

18lb 8oz Mirror Carp

18lb 8oz Mirror Carp

As most bites seemed to be forthcoming in the early evenings, I spent two days with my wife visiting Petworth House (£15), Bramber Castle and Boxgrove Priory (both free). Since it was also close to her birthday, my parents took us out for dinner at the Michelin-starred Tristan in Horsham, which was a fun meal with reasonable prices for such an establishment.

Later in the week as the water warmed up, the carp were out on the top. During the day, Dad and I would sit back from the edge and wait for them to come in close on their patrols before sniping a free-lined dog biscuit over their heads. This resulted in Dad’s first carp of the week, a PB Cyprinus Carpio for him of 18lb 12oz.

18lb 12oz, Dad's PB

18lb 12oz, Dad’s Carp PB

There was a twenty-plus Ghost Carp among these regular visitors but this fish would prove to be the wariest of all, and would reject the bait if it was anything but perfectly presented. I had one solid chance during the week but struck into nothing as the carp sucked the biscuit down. I was absolutely gutted as I really thought it was mine that time.

However, on the Friday morning I had my surface-caught PB of 19lb 8oz – while still barefoot in my pyjamas, so I can’t complain. A number of other carp were caught during the week with a total of nine for me and three for Dad.

19lb 8oz surface caught

19lb 8oz surface-caught

Come Friday afternoon Sumners started to fill up again. The guy pitching his tent to the left of our lodge started casting out some ridiculous fish-finder the size of a tennis ball complete with accompanying phone app – not sure what this was going to achieve, and the man to the right cast over my line – I reeled it in and snapped his off, fortunately.

With tent pegs galore being banged in, the carp on the surface started to drift toward the centre of the lake and no more action was forthcoming. We decided to bring in the rods for our last night and enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine (or ten), instead of persevering with slim odds.

We really enjoyed ourselves, but the fish seemed quite disinterested during the weekends while the banks were busy and noisy. Overall, I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Sumners – but skip the weekends and go during term time.

Photos by Lara Ruffle Coles.

Redmire 2013

After a failed attempt to get through on the phone for a session in 2012. In January 2013 I managed to book a 5 night week session for September.

As I arrived, Redmire was nothing like I expected. After a lot of rain all year it was a muddy soup bowl rather than a gin clear weed filled pool. In fact, there was so little weed I couldn’t believe it, though I can’t say I was complaining about that!

All said and done I enjoyed the week immensely. Catching six carp of 18lb 8oz, 11lb 6oz, 17lb 8oz, 1oz (!), 22lb 2oz and 16lb 10oz. Comparing this with some peoples’ experiences on the Redmire Pool forums I’d say I did alright! Additionally I had a handful of gudgeon and an eel to complete the Redmire set.

Many thanks to the other chaps I was fishing with that week for helping me out with photos and teaching me a lot about how to hold fish for the camera in the process.

22lb 2oz and a new PB carp!
22lb 2oz and a new PB carp!

16lb 6oz and caught 61 years to the day after Dick Walker’s 44lb record.
16lb 6oz and caught 61 years to the day after Dick Walker’s 44lb record.

Blenheim Palace

Having fished Blenheim Palace on June 16th last year and also this year, a few weeks’ back on June 22nd, I’ve come to the conclusion the fishing there isn’t very good. Particularly for a one off casual day at £36.50.

Last year the weather was pretty awful. Every punt was out and I witnessed only one other catch a couple of fish, myself catching a single tench of about 3lb on red maggot.

This year, aside from a good rain in the morning the weather was much improved. But by about 3pm my Dad and I gave up, having blanked and returned to the boathouse to find that only one other punt was still left out on the lake. Didn’t see anyone else catch.

It’s a lovely lake to row about on, but I won’t be going back any time soon.

Blenheim Palace
22nd June 2013

Blenheim Palace Tench
16th June 2012

Back Again

After my birthday session on the 18th, or rather birthday blank, I just had to get back out to the weir pool again. This time, reacquainted with tying a rig and casting a lead, I felt a lot better prepared. The session was to be from about 4pm until 11pm on Thursday 23rd February.

I opted to fish donkey choker 20mm halibut pellets attached to PVA meshes of smaller 3mm pellets. Along with some halibut hookbait dip for extra attraction. The tidier presentations, the clearer ideas in my mind about what I was doing, and fishing well into the evening rather than a bright morning left me feeling a lot more confident.

Arriving at the nearby car park I noticed a car full of gear next to where I’d parked. Panic set in immediately. Had I been pipped to the post by someone who was checking out the weir pool at this very moment and was going to head back down with his gear just before I could get there? Fortunately, three blokes came round the corner and got into the car ready to drive away. They had been fishing the afternoon for roach and dace on the nearby tributary and my luck was in.

As I caught a first glimpse of the water I noticed it was up an inch or two since the weekend. There had been no real rain to speak of so I can only assume the weirs around the area had been opened up to let more water flow down the Thames. Along with the continuing warm weather I hoped this would all work in my favour.

A couple of hours into the session it dawned on me that I’d not stopped at the shop to purchase a sandwich, but fortunately my Mum and Dad had mentioned they were stopping by to say hello so I sent a quick text to The Mother to ask her to pick me something up. I didn’t anticipate a freshly cooked jacket potato with cheese and sweetcorn, wrapped in foil in a cool bag and delivered to the bank but there you go. Gotta love your Mum. (I was 25 years old last week!!)

Shortly after finishing my dinner I had a take on the rod in the run-off… I lifted into it and connected with a reasonably heavy feeling fish. A few minutes later, my father was slipping the net under what I thought was the most enormous chub I had ever seen. It actually only went 7lb 2oz, which is four ounces short of my PB, but nevertheless I was extremely happy with my third ‘seven’.

No other fish came out to play for the rest of the evening before I had to pack up. However, since I’ll be too busy to get out again for the next couple of weeks, I can’t complain about ending the river season with a fish like this. 🙂

7lb 2oz chub

Birthday Session

I’m currently in the final leg of the final year of a software degree, which means whether I am actually sat at the computer working hard or just sat here watching youtube fishing blogs I don’t really go fishing as much as I’d like. Couple this with the fact that I live in south-east London without ownership of a car, while my tackle and fishing (mentally) is still tied up in Berkshire at my parents’ makes it all quite a bit of effort to just spontaneously nip down the river. That said, I’ve never lived closer to the Thames in my life than now (<500 metres) and if anyone reading this has any experience fishing around Greenwich I would absolutely love to be pushed in the right direction, I’ve no idea how to approach it or what’s even swimming out there.

It’s been a bit cold recently, but the weather thawed up a bit during the week in time for my birthday visit to my folks, so last Saturday morning I got out by sunrise and fished until the afternoon. This was my first trip of the year. Sadly the river was running low and clear as gin which didn’t put me in for a good chance but you probably know the feeling, it was great to finally get out this year and enjoy a bacon sarnie on the river bank. Also tried out a new location that I intend to give some attention next season when I’ve graduated.

Odney Weir

Photo by Lara Ruffle.

Redmire Pool

The Phone Wars

Today I tried to book a weekend at Redmire Pool for the first time, unfortunately I wasn’t successful. Bookings are taken on just one day of the year and it is extremely popular. I tried calling from 10am until 1:30pm, I made roughly 1750 phone calls and heard the engaged tone each and every time. I clearly wasn’t alone.

Around about that time I checked the forum and found out all sessions had been booked up until November so decided to give it up.

Oh well, maybe next year.

The Pool

If you don’t know about Redmire Pool, it is a small pond of about two acres near Ross-on-Wye and considered to be the birth place of modern carp fishing. Three British record carp were caught from this small pond: The first, a carp of 31lb 4oz caught by Bob Richards on the 3rd of October, 1951. A slightly unpleasant picture from a different era, of a gaffed, dead carp that we’ll skip over…

Richard Walker Ravioli 44lb

The second was Ravioli caught by Richard Walker (The fish was moved to London Zoo where she was renamed Clarissa), caught at a British record weight of 44lb on 13th September 1952.

Richard Walker was the inventor of the Arlesey bomb and the electronic bite alarm.

Chris Yates With The Bishop

Third, The Bishop caught by Chris Yates at a British record weight of 51lb 8oz on 16th June 1980. Yates was initially denied the British record as he only had witness statements and photographs to back up his claim and the records body of the day demanded to physically witness record captures. This eventually led to the formation of a new British record fish committee as many specimen anglers did not want to kill their captures to make a claim.

A Passion For Angling

The best episode of the best angling series ever made is named ‘Redmire Legends’ and this is where I first learnt about the place. If you haven’t seen it I recommend keeping an eye out on the Discovery channels if you have them, or getting hold of the DVDs from the website. Filmed by Hugh Miles and narrated by Bernard Cribbins, starring Chris Yates and Bob James… You couldn’t ask for more.

I guarantee you’ll be on the phone listening to an engaged tone for three and a half hours next year too…

A Passion For Angling - Gudgeon Match at Dawn
The infamous “Gudgeon Match at Dawn”.

A Passion For Angling - Tree Fishing
Chris Yates and Bob James carp fishing from half way up a tree at Redmire pool… As you do.

The Lobworm and The Perch

Perch Cigarette Card
During the school holidays, circa 1996, a number of different elements came together which led to me catching my first coarse fish; my first six, in fact.

In stereotypically traditional-style, all were perch caught on lobworms dug from the garden.

• On a Sunday bike ride with my dad, uncle and cousin to Pinkneys Green I discovered the clay pits and my old man told me that he used to fish them for tench when he was a boy. I remember those bike rides that summer fondly. Occasionally we’d stop at the pub and my dad and uncle even fell off their bikes a few times. Not that I realised at the time, but they were clearly both shit faced.
• I acquired a set of fish cigarette cards. No idea where these came from. Before this I probably didn’t know what coarse fish looked like.
• Whilst my Dad had stopped fishing and sold his all his gear. My friend’s Dad had stopped fishing and had tackle in his garage and lots of it, I can remember digging around the garage and finding all this gear pretty exciting.
• I rediscovered the rod and reel from when my Dad first took me fishing.

Friends were called, my Mum was begged for a lift and one morning we were away. Armed with end tackle half-inched from my Friend’s Dad’s garage, a tin of sweetcorn and some lobworms dug up from the garden the night before, a group of four intrepid young piscators arrived at the pond….

The moment when the float slides off stops your heartbeat every single time and I can recall the first time so well even now. I wasn’t quite sure what the fish was but, fortunately armed with my cigarette cards our group ID’d it as a perch. I caught 5 more that day. Not to be too childishly smug but the other three lads blanked. When my Dad arrived that evening he plumbed the depth and sorted my rig out properly to try for a tench. I cast out into the pond and hooked another small perch, the fish tugged about and I recall seeing it in the clearer upper layers of the water before it was engulfed by an explosion. A pike had taken it and bit off the line in the process. You couldn’t make a more exciting end to the day up.


Dad and I fishing in Swanage
This is the first time I went fishing. We were on holiday in Swanage, Dorset at the time, in our caravan, and I guess my Dad wanted to take me out to catch a fish or two. I can’t remember the exact details, for obvious reasons that can be summed up by the fact that I’m wearing jelly shoes and still have a head of bright blonde hair.

However, I do have some vague memories of that day. Going into the tackle shop to buy the gear (an incredible Aladdin’s cave), the rag worms that were wrapped in newspaper (disgusting) and lastly that I couldn’t quite get down the concept of reeling the fish in without my Dad having to remind me every single time. I preferred trying to launch the fish upwards.

I think I probably caught around 4 or 5 wrasse. But importantly, that weighty fibreglass rod & reel went on to live in our garage where I would rediscover it during the school summer holidays some years later.

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