I’ve suffered with persistent and often debilitating mental health problems for as long as I can remember. Coupled with my core personality type, this has made it difficult for me to live a normal life.
About 20 years ago, I discovered fishing when my sister invited me to join her, her partner and son along the canal. We went to a local tackle shop in Newbury called Field and Stream. I bought a float rod, reel and all the end tackle needed.
I remember avidly watching the float, waiting for the slightest indication of a bite. We used maggots that were red and white as bait. I remember the warm sunshine on my face and the cool breeze in my hair. I found myself going every week with my sister’s family. And then, one day, I caught my first carp in a local lake. That was when the true love affair started. In fact over the years it became close to an obsession.
Before I got into carp fishing, I used to enjoy camping at random places in the area. Some people like to fish at night, which involves camping: so this was another alluring thing about it for me.
You may wonder how you go about fishing at night, especially while you were sleeping – well, that’s where the electronic bite alarm comes in. This isn ingenious invention that revolutionised carp fishing. The bite alarm is exactly how it sounds – it makes an electronic sound when a fish gets hooked and starts taking line. The common form of alarm on the market at the moment works by your line touching a roller wheel which sits in a groove inside the mechanism. When a fish gets hooked and swims away the wheels turn and it sounds the alarm. You can change the volume and the pitch of this sound on most alarms nowadays. There is also a type that works through detecting vibrations.
My mental health problems never went away but they were greatly improved by going fishing regularly. It became like a medicine. The peace and tranquillity I felt by being out amongst nature, coupled with the thrill of the anticipation of the bite alarm making that familiar one toner sound. It was a combination I couldn’t get enough of.
It would take a fair bit of preparation for a trip. I’d usually go for around four days at a time. I’d have to pack enough food and water. And I’d need all my tackle like leads and hooks. And all my camping equipment., like my bivvy which is a form of shelter that’s waterproof and is designed to withstand all the elements all year round, including fairly extreme weather like strong winds. You also need a comfortable bedchair and a warm sleeping bag.
Catch and Release
The type of fishing I do is called catch and release. So when reeling in a fish that is ready to be landed we scoop it up with an appropriate size landing net, unhook the fish in the water if you can and when the net is parted from the handle and rolled up, then transfer the fish into a weigh sling or retainer. This reduces the chances of damage to the fish which you then safely carry from the water to an unhooking mat or cradle, making sure the mat/cradle is wet. Then the carp can be checked over for any ulcers, cuts, lost scales and also where you have hooked the fish. All good carp anglers will carry some kind of carp care liquid like propolis which protects against infection.
How and where to fish locally
If you want to fish pay-as-you-go style, you would fish at a day ticket venue for example Frobury Farm in Kingsclere.
Before carp fishing on lakes, I started off with course fishing on canals. If you want to find out about local canal fishing please contact Thatcham Angling Centre on 01635 871450.
I have come to realise how important it is for me to keep going fishing for as long as I’m able. It makes me feel myself to be less like, if you’ll excuse the pun, a fish out of water.
But I’ve also come to realise there is a healthy balance too. If I go just once a week to a local lake I find this much more manageable and it allows me time to concentrate on other things. So I do highly recommend it as a relaxing hobby in the great outdoors but just be mindful it doesn’t take over your life. Too much of a good thing is definitely not good for you…tight lines!