Gone Fishing !

Whilst on his school summer holiday in 2006, my son Adam (then 12) spent a night at his grans. When I went to collect him he had my fathers old cane fishing rod in his hand and wanted to get a reel and go fishing. I explained to him that the rod is probably more valuable as an antique and probably would not stand up to the strain of catching a small fish let alone a large carp. Anyway, he had £30 doing jobs for his granddad and we stopped off at Argos on the way home and he purchased a Shakespeare starter kit that came with rod, reel, landing net , hooks etc. We spent the next few weeks at the local lake pulling out small perch and fish of no more than a few ounces.

Having been "hooked" on this hobby, we joined several forums and sought advice on better locations. This page covers our experiences and all the different locations we visit


Rockells Farm - Essex

To give Adam something to remember the last day of his school holiday I took him to Rockwell Farm in Essex. Wow what a day. We caught around 20 fish, most of which were 3 - 5 pound, and never having fished before, the rush you get when you have a large fish on the end of the line is really great. The best catch of the day was a Common Carp that was estimated at around 7lb and was caught by Adam. I think that looking at that smile on his face he really enjoyed the day, and will no doubt want to go back again.

For those that wish to know how or what we used, read on.

Both rods are "feeder / waggler" type rods, with standard rear drag fixed spool reels. 4lb line with size 12 barbless hooks and a 2BB waggler. We used "tuti-fruiti" hooker pellets and maggots as bait.

For the fishing, I would recommend a visit as you will not be disappointed. However there are limited swims (24) and they get busy, especially at weekends, so you'll need to get there early. Don't expect too much in the way of facilities like cafe's, tackle shops or toilets as there aren't any (well none that are strikingly obvious)

Day tickets cost £8.00 for adult and £5 for juniors

More info from the Rockells Farm website.


Fairlands Valley - Stevenage

The guy next door happens to be a very serious carp angler and has some really seriously expensive fishing gear ! Anyway, one Sunday afternoon in September 2006 we all went down to Fairlands lake (its within walking distance from our home) and John had set up several rods and was in the process of baiting the swim. First cast and was in.. with the 15lb Mirror Carp shown left.

Just as I was putting that back Adam was in and he too landed a fifteen pounder shown top left - He then went on to land the his personal best, a 20lb 1oz Mirror Carp shown below.

Fairlands is really a boating lake, and thus has a cafe, toilets and large car park. Fishing is on a day ticket from £2.50 for juniors and £5.00 for adults

Tingrith Fishery - Bedfordshire

On a foggy September Saturday morning we set off for Tingrith Fishery in Bedfordshire.

The complex has three lakes, the largest is Orchard Lake which is where we chose to spend our day, taking a swim towards the north end of the lake. By mid morning the fog cleared and the sun came out and so did the fish. We lost count of the number of small perch, roach and rudd that we caught, but the number was well over 40 fish, some of which were really nice sized fish. Adam caught the largest perch either of us had caught, where as I landed the roach, best of which can be seen below.

Tingrith has excellent facilities including a cafe that reportedly does a mean all-day breakfast. Day tickets cost £8.50 for adults and £5 for junior for single rods (extra rods are £2.50 ea) - The rules are enforced well and the staff make regular visits and also check you hooks etc for compliance with the regulations

Whilst we didn't go after the carp, the fishery has some really nice sized fish that are 20lb plus, some of which would make themselves airborne from time to time, closely followed by ledgers from all directions !

More info on Tingrith Fishery can be found on their excellent website here

Standbrough Lakes & River Lea - Hertfordshire

This is our most popular venue, being two junctions up the motorway its easy to get to being just off J4 of the A1(M) at Hatfield. As part of the construction of the motorway the contractors required a fair amount of gravel, and by chance found loads adjacent to the site, and working in conjunction with the local council Standbrough Lakes was formed. They were opened in 1970 and over the years have matured into a very welcoming venue.

The only lake that is open to fishing is the 4.5 hectare South lake. The north lake being a small boating lake and the breeding lake for some excellent carp stock. There are 70 pegs around the South lake, plus the added bonus of being able to fish a small section of the River Lea.

The lake provides a host of water sport activities including sailing, which can cause a bit of a problem when they go out of the area and catch someone lines.

My personal best on this lake was a 12lb 4oz Common Carp caught on the Leeder 2xl rod, and boy did that rod bend ! - Adam caught a good sized Perch of approx 1lB and in mid October 2006 caught a Chub just over 1lb 3 oz from the river Lea. I've also had my personal best bream from this lake with it tipping the scales at just over 6lB

Day ticket is just £5 for up to 2 rods (£2.50 for junior)

New Personal Best - Carp Fishing  

Wanting a change from my normal fishing venue, it was recommended that I try a day ticket water on the Bedfordshire / Hertfordshire border. I spent an hour or so googling on the net before I located a contact number and after a short call agreed to meet the owner on site the next day, and normally weekends are often fully booked. I got there around 9:45am and for a Saturday the day ticket lake was fairly empty, with three guys on one of the larger swims taking their bivvy's down and cooking up some breakfast. I asked how well they did, to which one chap replied, "I've blanked, mate over there had one and he there had two, and that was in the 24 hr session". I thought that maybe the day ahead was going to be a waste of time if the fishing was that hard. Anyway i picked my swim and set up my rods. An hour later Dave (the owner) came round and took my £8 for the day, and after a chat he continued on his way

By midday I hadn't had any bites at all, so I prepaired some lunch and a mug of tea and sat back for an nap in the warm September sunshine. Now I had been throwing out the odd handful of boilies and about 3/4 of a kilo of ground bait in balls all morning, and by 1pm this started to work with my first take of the day. The result was a lovely common carp, at around 9-10lb (didn't have any scales). After putting the fish back I set my rod in the same spot and sat back, and 20 mins later away it went again, and after what seemed an age landed another double, but this time a mirror carp. It was at this point mI noticed I was the only one fishing the day ticket water, it was so peaceful.

Around three pm a couple of guys had arrived with their kids an started erecting the bivvies and setting up "camp" and around 4pm had set their rods. I then had another take which went kiting off down the lake... again some time later I landed this very nice common, and shouted to the guys to see if they had any scales. Two of the lads came running over and we weighed the fish - 15lb and equaled my PB caught on my own gear.

The next bite came about an hour later - and my cry for the scales went out again, especially as this fish was by far the largest I had caught so far. A very deep bodied common tipped the scales at just over 19lb - my new personal best.

I went on to catch a couple more, both doubles, but only just. In all by 6:45pm I had caught 6 stunning fish, with a combined weight probably in the region of 70lb - my best days fishing ever. Adam was gutted when I showed him the pictures, and now wants to come with me the next time I go, which all being well will be very soon.

The venue also offer an annual membership costing £175. Something I'm seriously considering taking up.

19lb Common Carp - My new personal best.

Caught on 14mm Monster Crab boilie,Method feeder with my own special mix of ground bait, with size 10 barbless hook on 8lb line and leader.

Boilies - make your own

Making your own boilies can be a way of saving money, but above all it's fun to do and it's satisfying to think that you caught something on a bait you developed yourself rather than a commercial product. This recipe is one I've used and hopefully will go on to catch lots of carp, and that illusive large tench.

What's a boilie ? Well it's basically a set of dry ingredients that are flavored and bound together using a sticking agent (traditionally eggs) to form a paste which is then rolled into small balls for use on hair rigs. You can roll them using your hands, or for a small investment, a rolling table helps. At the other end of the scale is a purpose built boily maker but you would need to make a seriously huge amount of boilies to recover the investment. The dry ingredients are often called the "base mix". This base mix can be purchased ready made from most good angling shops, however for a fraction of the price you can make your own using ingredients found in your local supermarket, I purchased Whitworths products which were typically 99p for 500g packets, which would make well over 1200 boilies - total outlay for the dry goods was less than £3.30 !


Base Mix: (makes around 225 boilies - 12mm size)

100g ground rice
150g semolina
100g dried skimmed milk powder

Wet ingredients:

2 med eggs
28ml bottle food colouring

Other ingredients

Flavorings and sweeteners (Scopex or tuti-fruiti works well on most waters)

How to make boilies

Basically, take the dry ingredients and mix together in a large mixing bowl. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and lightly whisk with a fork, but do not induce any air. Add half the bottle of food colouring to the eggs and mix well. Add the liquid flavoring and sweetener to the eggs as directed on the bottle, I use Nash products and add around 5ml of flavoring to this mix, and stir in.

Add a small amount of the dry mix to the liquid mix at a time. Mix using a fork until such time as it becomes too difficult, which is when you need to use your hands. Once the mix has taken on the consistency of putty you are ready to start making boilies. Take a saucepan and half fill it with water. If you have an old chip pan basket this helps, and the water should be deep enough to cover 20-30 boilies. Bring the water to the boil.

If you have a boilie making table, lightly oil the groves in both sections so that the mixture doesn't stick. Take a small amount of mixture and roll it into a sausage around the size of the groves in the table. lay across the table and place the top section over the sausage, the slide it back and forth to roll the boilies. When you have around 30 boilies place them in the basket and lower it into the boiling water. Continue to boil for around 60 seconds. If you want harder boilies increase this to 120 seconds. Remove and dry on kitchen paper. Once cooled remove and place on a tray and air dry for a few hours (I make mine in the evenings and let them dry overnight)

Once dry, bag up and either use immediately or place in the freezer for later use.