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   Old Thread  #434 24 Jan 2020 at 2.10pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #433
Alongside the joking and banter there was some serious work carried out by the Syndicate. When Tanners was first dug the designer thought it might be a good idea to create a feature on the lake bed between the islands so a circle of breeze blocks was laid and then filled in with gravel. We called it the Magic Roundabout. In theory this was a great idea but in practice it was a pain in the jacksie. We lost fish on the sharp edges of the blocks and the gravel sank without trance into the mud of the lake. It became such a hazard that we decided it must come out. It was tiring and very muddy work!





Tanners was a bleak and dire place in the depths of winter when all the vegetation had died back and the banks were a sea of mud. However, good company and the prospect of an evening beer kept the spirits up. Here me and Nige have a discussion about who drank my pint last night!



This is the lake in the bleak mid-winter.



It could be a real frost trap too.



Compare that with the good old summertime.



Koi snatching was something of a competitive sport when things were slow, cold and tough. An evening or two on a betalight float and sweetcorn would bring steady fun action with the kois, which averaged about 5lb. Pretty as a picture they were too.





Tat and I have some very happy memories of our Clawford days. With the change of ownership from private into corporate hands one wonders what the future will hold. Certainly there are still some big carp in the lakes and as long as the 'suits' understand what they have got then the potential for great carp fishing is there. If the offspring of the originals is anything to go by there will be some lovely carp in there to target.



So it's so long to Clawford and John & Wanda and all the crew. Have a happy retirement.

Here are a few parting shots. H goes in for one!











I'll get the Emperor lake pix scanned soon and we'll head to the South Hams for more reminiscences.
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   Old Thread  #433 24 Jan 2020 at 2.02pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #432
Having described the social side of the Clawford years in (probably) more detail that is strictly necessary in a carp fishing blog you may well be asking yourself, do they ever go fishing? Well, yes, we did a bit here and there and enjoyed ourselves enormously. The 5Cs was a great group of people and there was literally zero competition, no big egos. We shared knowledge, and bait and rigs and beers. It was some of the best fishing of my life. Here are a few happy memories.

Terry Taylor plays a Tanners Lake fish while his daughter stands by with the net. Young Sam (in the cap), a fellow syndicate member watches proceedings.



Here's the result…



Talking of Sam, he was no slouch with a carp rod either.



My mate Nige Britton could catch carp from a raindrop and Clawford was just one of the lakes all over the UK an Europe where he showed his skills to great effect. Having retired and moved to a cottage overlooking the R. Lot in France, no doubt those cunning river carp are also now getting the Nige treatment. Here's the guy with a Clawford biggie.



Steve Churchill, along with Nige and a few other like-minded anglers in Roche AC such as Big Kev, Colin and yours truly were entirely responsible for turning the Club around, creating a brilliant carp-friendly club that attracted membership to such an extent that we had to close the books. A subsequent committee under the leadership of the legendary Gert Louster, and his fellow Cornish carpers, took things on a step further, cementing the Club's finances and setting it on a secure footing that made Roche the envy of the south west carp scene. Sadly the Club today is a far cry from those halcyon days…

…but enough of that. On a brighter note, Steve was another RAC stalwart that found the atmosphere and the carp at Clawford greatly to his liking.



Harry (H) was always a great laugh and when the going got tough he got going. He is another very good angler but of course, being the Fishery Manager at Clawford gave him a huge advantage (only joking, H!) but he too could catch carp from a puddle. In fact I became the Tanners Lake's official photographer as far as H's carp were concerned; I spent more time taking pix of his fish than he did of mine, that's for sure.





There were some right good carp in Tanners back in the day and this common was the first to go over the thirty pound mark. Others followed and for a while Tanners was the 'must have' ticket in the two counties. With so many of the syndicate on good baits - Prems, BFM, the Reservoir Special and Trigga in the main - it was small wonder that the fish put on the pounds.


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   Old Thread  #432 23 Jan 2020 at 5.05pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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…including how to spot Hyakutake's Comet, which filled the night sky over SW France for a brief few hours during our visit. Bill was in his pit that evening and as I knew that the glorious cosmic visitor was due that night I was up and waiting for it to appear. It was fantastic, like a long zip fastener blasting though the Cosmos.

"Bill!" I shouted. "Come out and see this. It's amazing!."

What is…?" asked Bill. I told him about the comet's trail that filled the sky.

"Yeah, OK,," he said. "I'll catch it a bit later!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see one of the greatest Cosmic spectacles of his or anyone else's life, that would not return for another 70,000 years! Oh well…!

Now if that had been Chilts it would have been a different story. He, like me, takes great pleasure in star-watching.

This is Bill's first French target fish, a fish that set him on his path to legendary glory…or so he says!



Bill, just in case you don't know, is a fanatical supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and he can bore for England on the subject. Nige is equally fanatical about Nottingham Forest. In consequence whenever the two meet on a football Saturday, money will change hands depending on the result. On this occasion, when Bill came down to do a slide show, Forest won and Bill handed over the tenner through gritted teeth!



As I mentioned just now, Pete Amey will always be close to the heart of Nutrabaits…


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   Old Thread  #431 23 Jan 2020 at 5.02pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #430
Marcus Watts is a very significant figure on the SW carp scene. Once a tackle dealer in Wadebridge, Marcus made a big name for himself by catching many of our region's finest carp, among them the then College record of 34lb.



So great a reputation did Marcus acquire that anglers flocked to his shop to buy his baits. One in particular, which was called the Reservoir Special was rightly feted as one of the best fishmeal baits in the country, and to be fair, it did catch everywhere. Small wonder that he was head-hunted by Dynamite Baits who tasked him with the development of their boiled bait range. Thus the Reservoir Special became The Source…Nuff said!



Marcus was also a regular at Carp Society events, often attending Conference and regional meetings on behalf of Dynamite, usually in the company of one of the big names of our sport such as Terry Hearne or Frank Warwick (seen here). Marcus is the very tall geezer at the back.



Also in picture are two of the nicest people in Cornish carping, Lee and Alison Critcher. They are behind Frank left and right of his bonce! I could write reams about these two. Lee a gentle giant of a man and his missus a lovely lass with a heart of gold. She was a Development Manager for a regional business expansion and development organisation back in the 90s and she worked at developing small businesses in the St Austell area. As such she helped me refurbish my office from the creaking old set up I had at the time to a brand new all- singing all- dancing office suite; new PC, new scanner, new printer, new just about everything, and all as a low cost interest-free grant. Bless you, lass! She was always smiling and was a capable and happy member of the Clawford Syndicate, as was Lee. They both knew how to catch a carp or two as well!





As did her old man…





I did a couple of shows myself but only as a support act, once to Frank and a second time to Bill Cottam. Bill was always great fun. His northern sense of humour kept us in stitches. Bill seems to have nurtured his talent for telling funny stories and he once contributed occasional pieces for Carpworld called 'Carping Allegedly' If you haven't seen them I suggest you look online. There are one or two archived pieces to be found, including one that details Bill's extraordinary talents for biscuit eating, in which he gives us a list of his all-time top ten Favourite Biscuits…only Bill Cottam…!

A truly gifted angler, Bill would not only make us laugh but also make us think. He has always used his own Uber Method, keeping things simple and using the best bait money could buy (Trigga). The Graviers Scar Fish and the Saussaie common are just two of his worthy trophies, however, I think I can claim the fame for sparking the big fella's flame for large continental carp. I took him to Boffins Pool in March 1996 as Bill had set his sights on catching the long forty pound common that Tat had caught the previous year. He accomplished this fairly rapidly, though sadly at a tad under the forty pound mark. Not to worry, said Bill. Mission accomplished. So it was that Bill caught his first French biggie. I taught him all I knew on that trip…
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   Old Thread  #430 23 Jan 2020 at 4.59pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #429
I don't think we could have found a better venue for the meetings. Clawford had everything including free carp fishing; yes, John even agreed to open the carp lakes to Carp Society members who attended the meetings and quite a few guys and gals took him up on the offer. In addition there was B&B accommodation and bivvy space on the lawn in front of the farm house for those who wanted to stay over and indulge! Add to that the comfort of the lounge and the splendid bar and restaurant and you could say that the venue had everything! This is the lawn in front of the farm house…bivvy space galore. We held some terrific meetings there and they only stopped because John fell gravely ill.



Some of the best speakers of the day were kind enough to come and do shows for us, donating raffle prizes, signing autographs and the like. All they asked was a bed for the night and to be well fed and watered…Well, John made sure of that! Here Nige gets the round in!



Tim and Mary loved the West Country and would always respond with a happy, "yes" when asked to come down to us to do a show. This is Tim with the guy he called 'The Devon Tench Angler' a title award to our great mate Pete Amey. For a few years Devon man Pete worked in Kent. He was a brickie by trade and he was a bloody hard worker. He'd go where the money was best and that wasn't Devon or Cornwall back in the day. While living and working up country Pete joined Halls (Leisure Sport) and was for a while a bailiff on Darenth. There he had a fearsome reputation as a guy who would stand no nonsense (he represented Britain in the 1960 Olympics as a wrestler so if he said jump you said how high!).

He was also a formidable catcher of specimen tench, though whether this was by accident or design was never made clear! On the right of the shot of Tim and his dad is Pete Amey Junior, an accomplished angler who takes after his Dad. By strange quirk of fate both Petes caught huge Devon carp from the same venue within a week of each other. Dad caught 'Smirk' the well known ELS mirror at 51lb while Junior caught another ELS monster at 44lb! He also had a trial for West Ham but he didn't quite make it! (Lucky escape there, Peter mate!)



Pete Amey was a lifelong Nutrabaits user and in fact he was cherished by the company, as he was the fist guy to buy a job lot of Hi Nu Val and all three Addits, the company's first commercial products. Bill never forgot that and always kept a kindly eye out for Pete over the thirty odd years that he used Nutrabaits. I've got a pic of Pete with a lovely mid thirty from Kent somewhere but at the moment I am buggered if I can find it. Tim did a couple of seasons on Darenth in the early 80s and got to know Pete very well. In fact, it was through Pete that Tim got to meet the Darenth crew that would later take on the testing of the fledgling HERNV (Hi Nu Val) and the amino acids and other powders (the Addit range) that would soon feature on the bait scene. Here's Tim and Pete at a Clawford show.



And this is Tim, trying to explain the complexities of his HERNV bait to a confused attendee at one of the shows. A bemused John Ray looks on.



Surrey all rounder Bill Rushmer and his wife Ginny were frequent visitors to Clawford and Bill came down a couple of times to do a show for us. He was a fascinating speaker and they were both terrific anglers. Ginny in particular could charm them out of Major John's while Bill himself practised quick fire match fishing on JR's Lake.


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   Old Thread  #429 20 Jan 2020 at 3.05pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #428
It all started one weekend when Tat and I were supposedly fishing but got side tracked in the bar. We got talking to John about the Carp Society and reminiscing about our previous meetings under the old regime back in the good old days. I told him we were looking for a venue on the Devon/Cornwall border where we could hold meetings. "Why not have them here?" John asked. "We could do dinners, breakfasts, rooms for those that wanted and there's plenty of bivvy room outside."

In fact it had everything we could possibly wish for so I got cracking on doing a bit of advertising trying to drum up support. I no longer had my list of CS members but a troll around the tackle shops in the two counties son spread the word so once again we were back at it organising some of the best regional meeting anywhere in the country (he said modestly).

By now John had formed a carp syndicate on Clawford which covered the fishing on three lakes, JR's, Major John's and Tanners. The syndicate was called the Five Cs (Clawford's Crafty Carpers Carp Club), a slight dig, perhaps, at another nearby syndicate? Membership was restricted to Devon and Cornwall residents only and I soon managed to part fill it with my friends from Roche AC, Steve, Nige, Lee and Ali, to whom it became a home from home. I imagine the bar/restaurant had a fair part to play in their decision to join!

Many an evening was spent in jovial competition in the game of Spoof. This is lethal and can turn out pretty expensive and intoxicating! The rules, for those that don't know the game, are simple yet complex to the uninitiated.

Each player - there came be as many as want to play - holds in his closed fist up to three coins. One coin, two, three or even no coins at all. Players take it in turn to guess the total number of coins held hidden in the closed fists by the group. For instance, if ten are playing that means there could be a maximum of thirty coins so player 1 might call "twenty". Player 2 might call "seventeen". Player 3 "twenty-six" and so on. Gradually each player makes his choice. (It is best to be the last of the ten to call as that gives you some idea of who is holding what, also bearing in mind what you yourself are holding and who you think is bluffing.) When all ten have called the players open their fists to reveal what they are holding. The winner is the guy or girl that guesses the correct total who then drops out of the game and the next round commences. Now the nine remaining players start again, the first caller being the player to the left of the first round winner…are you following me…?

Here a late night group, some of whom should be fishing, is Spoofing for the last round (which it seldom was!). From left to right, Harry (H), John the boss, Wanda the real boss, Nigel and a mystery player whose fist is all we see of him. I suspect it is Steve. I have already won a call so I am out and thus am doing the pic.



After each round the winner drops out until only two players are left. These two play off against each other until there is a final winner. (This is the best round of all as the two can only be holding a maximum of six or a minimum of none.) The winner drops out leaving the group looser - the last one standing, if you like - to buy the next round!

Now as you can see, Spoof is very much a bluffer's paradise and many a happy Saturday night was spent fishing Spoofing in the bar at Clawford. Often holiday visitors would join in and if I remember rightly this group were from Wales. I think the lass on the right has the hump as she has had to buy the last round! As you can see the Cornios, Steve, Nige and me, are already out. We cheat!



Still, all's well that end well and even if you loose you send up smiling as you'll be as pissed as a pudding, especially if it's a large group of players.



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   Old Thread  #428 20 Jan 2020 at 2.06pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #427
We had great fun at The Shrubbery and many members stayed overnight. The beer ran freely, as did the G &Ts, the humour, the carpy tales and the good natured joshing. Those meetings were always a good laugh, as I am sure anyone who attended one will agree.



The Carp Society was a wonderful vibrant, enthusiastic organisation at the time and this can-do attitude lead eventually to it purchasing outright Horseshoe Lake. Sadly the repercussion of the purchase put the Society in a somewhat vulnerable position and a committee purge meant that all the stalwarts that had formed and supported it from Day One were out on the street and a team of what I called 'city slickers' took over. In time it became clear that the 'new' Carp Society as constructed by the replacement committee was in it for one thing only: Money!

Gradually the regional organisation fell apart. Regions lost membership and the CS didn't seem to care any more. All they wanted to do was protect their nest eggs, the Sandown Show and Horseshoe Lake, while at the same time stripping the CS of any assets they could get their hands on. With the regional structure ripped up Tat and I could no longer be the Regional Organisers for the Devon & Cornwall region so we stepped down. We hated what the Society had become and felt totally adrift from the new structure. We handed over the region's Society funds, which were considerable as we always made a small profit on the meetings, little knowing that the funds would be swallowed up by 'jollies' and 'members' expense'!

It took legal action that went as far as the High Court to prise the sticky fingers of the 'city slickers' away from the Society but eventually they were ousted with the CS's remaining assets still intact. Once again Tim Paisley and his team of Society die-hards from the old days restructured the CS and kept its finances secure. With Tim once again at the helm of the Carp Society (it was, in effect, his baby) we again felt able to try to resurrect the region and by chance found a willing and able host in John and Wanda's Clawford Vineyard. This is how our Society meetings usually ended up!



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   Old Thread  #427 20 Jan 2020 at 12.53pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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Some of my fondest SW memories are of the Carp Society meetings we held all over the area. When the Society was formed in 1981 I knew nothing about it. Then by chance I dropped into Tackle Up, a tackle shop in Ash Vale, and saw on the counter a small pile of Carp Fisher magazines, the first such mag published by the Carp Society. The magazine - the one with Mike Wilson with an amazing Savay mirror on the cover - drew me in an held me in awe. What a carp, what a photo! I got talking to the shop owner, Colin Chandler, who was taking new members on behalf of the Society. I signed up straight away. My number was 1066 (significant or otherwise? I have often asked myself that!).



So began a long association with the CS and at the first meeting Tim Paisley asked Tat and I to be the Regional Organisers for the Devon and Cornwall branch. I had started a tentative (pen) friendship with Tim when I wrote to him about bait. Tim's expansive letter drew me deep into the carp bait world, though to date I am still to figure out much of it! However, my connection with Tim, who was the Society's first Secretary, opened doors and getting hold of top flight speakers for our meetings was a piece of cake (I suspect Tim did a lot of arm twisting on our behalf!). You can read more about my naive forays into the bait world in my Haith's Baits Blogs:

Link 1...

Link 2...

So it was the we held our very first regional meeting at the Exeter Court Hotel on the A38 at the foot of Haldon Hill. Tim was once of the speakers, Ritchie the other. Rod was supposed to come down too but in the end he couldn't make it. Ritchie more than made up for Rod's absence. Anyone who has been fortunate to hear one of Ritchie's talks will know what I mean!



And that was just the first of many. In order to attract the very best speakers we decided to hold our meetings a little closer to what many might call civilisation so we moved venues to The Shrubbery Hotel, Ilminster (now a Best Western).



Being that bit closer to the Home Counties meant that we could attract the cream of the top anglers for the area and over the years our guest list read like a Who's Who of carp fishing. We had Tim, Ritchie, Andy Little, Bob Baker, Albert Romp, Chris Yates, Bob James, Clive and Malc, Rod (eventually!), Mike Wilson and many other famous names.

We always tried to do that little bit more for the guests and attendees. We offered good hotel rooms meals, a buffet or two, space to bivvy up if required (it often was!). Thus we always managed to get great attendances for our meeting and we treated our guests like royalty. Another thing: we noticed that many of the regions up country had loads more members than little old Devon and Cornwall and their meetings attracted many members and non-members alike, often well into the hundreds strong. Invariably the meetings held in these highly populated regions took place in the evenings, often in midweek. Me and Tat knew this would not work for us as both members and speakers would have a long trips each end of the meeting. We therefore decided to hold ours on a Saturday afternoon and evening, usually laying on a meal at half time, and a decent raffle at the whistle. This was Tat's brainwave and as a result we always had full houses and eventually the demand was such that we had to restrict numbers, the meetings being ticket-only affairs.
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   Old Thread  #426 17 Jan 2020 at 3.56pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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What neither of us knew was that Bill had other plans for the pre-dig fishmeal for he and Lee Walton were putting together the early trial versions of Trigga. Trigga was eventually launched in the spring of 2001 and it soon became Nutrabaits' top seller. It followed the increasingly popular tendency towards totally natural ingredients and attractors and the base mix contained no artificial ingredients. Key to its success was in my opinion the same blend of hydrolysed marine meals that Bill had sent me to try out on the Big Fish Mix. In addition Trigga contained low fat organic marine proteins, milk and whey proteins and the key secret (yes, truly) ingredient Trigga Powder. The latter had been touted to Bill buy a guy who worked in the cat food industry. The powder was added to tinned feeds to make them more attractive and at the same time easier to digest Knowing a good thing when he saw one Bill bit the guy's hand off but not before gaining an assurance that the Powder would not be touted to any other bait firm. At the time of the launch nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knew what the Powder was or where it came from. This well guarded secret lasted about 18 months before the beans were spilled! In the meanwhile we had a field day.



There's a funny story behind the development of Trigga prior to its release. When I was first given the bait for field testing it came in ready rolled frozen form. I had no idea what the base mix consisted of or what liquid attractors were included. I was simply sent 20kg of 15mm baits and told to get on with it! Little did I know but all the other Nutrabaits field testers had been treated the same way but each one of them had a different version of the bait. As luck would have it I was sent a batch of bait that didn’t work too well. Thinking that all the testers were experiencing similar results I got in touch with Bill and told him I thought the bait was rubbish! A few weeks later Bill told me what he'd been doing. Each of the testers had received a batch of the bait, each one containing a different level of pre-dig and Trigga powder. When the results came in (both good and bad) Bill was able to refine the base mix with the optimum levels of each ingredient. The next batch he sent me took me to another dimension on Tanners!



I have long had a passion for paste baits, always being aware that they are short term as small fry will readily attack and paste be it a freebie or a hookbait. If you can live with this and accept that you have to rebait frequently then there is no better bait than a nice amino-oozing fish meal paste. I used both the Stage 2 BFM and Trigga in paste form to great effect on Tanners, and while messing about with them one day I came up with an idea for mounting a double paste bait on the hair. This is it:



The stocking mesh-wrapped baits were mounted cross wise through a small bait band…I guess I had inadvertently invented the Bollox Rig some dozen years or so before it became more widely used at Rainbow Lake!
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   Old Thread  #425 17 Jan 2020 at 3.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #424
I didn't take me long to fall in love with Tanners. It was my kind of carp water, small, intimate and very beautiful.



Not easy, though, as I quickly discovered. It was not some sit, bait and wait type of water and I needed to think about my fishing to get the best from the lake. I eventually achieved a modicum of success at the lake over the years but Tanners came under a fair amount of pressure once the word spread about the quality of the fishing and the carp definitely wised up. The Tanners carp were not stupid and they were not fooled for long by what soon became the standard tactics on such a small lake, namely mini baits, light line tiny hookbaits, etc. I had looked at the ‘standard’ approach of most of the regulars on Tanners and found it wanting. True, it had worked for a while but it didn't seem to be doing the business. I felt a bit of a swerve from the tried & trusted was called for.

I was not much of a rig changer back in the day (same as these days in fact) but I had seen most of the rigs others were using at the time and they were invariably long, supple hooklinks and tiny hooks, the thinking being that if they couldn't see of feel the hooklink they (the carp) would trip up. That's all well and good but if the fish are feeding warily, as I was sure the carp in Tanners were, then these ultra long hooklinks also gave the fish plenty of opportunity to spit out the hook and hookbait. I thought if I went to the opposite end of the scale, big leads, stiff hooklink material and big hooks I might get a few on the bank. Thus I came up with this set up which comprises a 4oz lead and four inch 25lb Quicksilver hooklink to a size 2 hook. The hookbait itself was 20-25mm in diameter!



From the mid 90s onwards the trend on the lake had been for a really delicate approach using ultra light running leads, flying back leads, lead core behind the lead, etc. etc. Baits were invariably tiny 8-10mm boilies fished on long critically balanced confidence rigs over a small carpet of pellet or ground bait or simply a PVA bag of the same. Tactics were always to cast to the margins of the islands with a tiny hook bait put as tight to the island as possible. Six inches off was regarded as too far out! I followed this doctrine for a while but it soon became obvious to me that the carp were getting wise to the approach as loads of the anglers were reporting aborted runs, stuttery pick ups and fish bow waving off the bait carpet. Fishing open water seemed to me to be the ideal switch tactic, though I will admit I would always keep one rod tight to the margins.



All in all this switch in tactics worked well for me and continued to do so throughout my years on the complex.



Does anyone remember the heatwave summer of 2003? I went up a few times that summer but the heat was crippling. I remember fishing on the hottest day of the year, when the temperature reached 38.5 degrees. It was impossible to stay in the bivvy after 11.00h; it was like an oven. The sun was relentless that summer but nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely, thanks in no small part to the bar and Wanda's grub. I used to bait the open water quite heavily with freebies and was pretty happy with the sessions as a whole given the conditions. In three 36-hour trips in August I landed eleven fish including seven twenties including a beautiful common. At the same time other guests were struggling. This was my swim on Tanners when the heatwave struck.



I don't want this thread to turn into some boring old 'how to do it' one but if I can give just one piece of advice to anglers who are struggling on their lake it would be to consider the size of their hookbaits and freebies. For instance, go into your local tackle shop or chat to the peeps visiting the conferences. Ask them what size (and shape) baits they are using. I am sure that the consensus would be in favour of medium sized freebies and hookbaits. Ask your tackle dealer which is the most popular size shelfie he sells. I'll take a bet he'll say 15mm! So first off try something different. If everyone’s using 15mm baits why don’t you try larger or smaller than the norm? For Tanners, while everybody was on crumb sized 'bits' I got busy in the kitchen with the bait gun and made up some giant baits of about 25mm. This totally flew in the face of the accepted wisdom at the lake but it worked a treat, and not just on Tanners. It has been a tactic that has worked for me on many waters.



Baitwise back then I was firmly in the Nutrabaits camp (as I had been since the mid-80s, so using their premier mixes was a given. I had been testing a version of Big Fish Mix that contained a pre-digested fishmeal which I called Stage Two Big Fish Mix. This was in the early days of hydrolysed (enzyme treated) feeds and liquids but it became clear to all Bill that there was something in them. I had passed on my theories and ideas to Bill who was also working along the same lines. The BFM Stage 2 was also in use by others in the Nutrabaits came such as Paul Selman, though neither of use knew that the other was working along similar lines!


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   Old Thread  #424 6 Jan 2020 at 4.55pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
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We jump ahead several years and as predicted Clawford became something of a hot spot for the west country's coarse anglers. The two carp lakes, Tanner's and Major John's, had been stocked with some decent carp from several reliable sources and these were now doing well. In addition our mate Harry ('H') had been appointed fishery manager and he told us that the lakes were producing some decent fish up to mid twenties. The complex had also been extended and now there were seven lakes on site. Of these two were designated as specimen carp lakes, the others being mixed species fun lakes. This shot was taken (I am guessing here) in about 2002.



I went up a few times for a few winter sessions and renewed my association with the Clawford bar and restaurant. John and Wanda's hospitality had, if anything, got even more expansive and it was a hard place to leave on a wet and windy winter's night in order to return to a damp, smelly bivvy. But you won't catch anything in the bar, or so the story goes! (Though that assertion was often a bit wide of the mark in 'certain' Home Counties venues...cough!) This is a typical winter scenic on Tanners, icy cold, indicators frozen on their mounts and the line frozen in the rod rings, reels frozen almost solid!







It took me a couple of visits to get to grips with Tanners, the lake I fished almost exclusively throughout the Clawford years. It has to be one of the most challenging and frustrating waters I have ever fished. Whenever I fished it I knew full well that I had fish in front of me but at times I couldn't buy a take. Fish showed over the bait on and off throughout the day and night but pick ups (for me at least) were few and far between. You could see them and hear them at night they were the most elusive of carp.



I really wish I could understand carp…Maybe then I’ll catch a bit better! Mind you, that first winter campaign I did up there was a bitter one, which made leaving the warmth and comfort of the bar and the hotel all the harder. Indeed, I will freely confess to staying a pint too long on the odd occasion and being offered a bed for the night thanks to Wanda's kindness. This is a view of Fletcher's from my bedroom window. Nice innit! (The stakes you can see on the hillside opposite are the supports for the vines after which the complex is named.)




Tanner's had the Indian sign on me and no mistake and my good nature was not improved by having to net several of the lake's biggies for H, who often fished the nights on Tanner's.



Way back in 1981 when the Carp Society was formed, Tat & I took on the job of Regional Organisers for the Devon & Cornwall area. We did two stints as ROs first when Tim was at the helm and again, later, when Tim managed to oust the disastrous committee that had come close to destroying the Society. We had some lively and exciting regional meetings at venues all around the south west, attracting some of the top speakers of the day, however, none were so much fun as those we held at Clawford. There are a couple of famous faces here (and one or two infamous ones too!).



By now quite a few of my mates from Cornwall had joined the Clawford Syndicate, which was rapidly gaining a decent reputation for itself. Nige and Steve (from Roche AC's committee) joined as did a fair few of the Devon Mafia and it soon became a lively and jovial syndicate with much emphasis being put upon time away from the lake, if you get my meaning. Having a pub so nearby can be very distracting.
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   Old Thread  #423 6 Jan 2020 at 4.51pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #422
It was a lovely warm day when I arrived at Clawford. What a venue…78 acres of rolling hills with the River Claw running through the valley. At the time there were only three lakes on the complex, Fletcher's, a small two acre lake in front of the farmhouse, and down the valley JR's Lake and Tanner's. These had just been dug and were not ready to receive fish stocks at that time, however, the latter would become a favourite carp lake for myself and a few of my mates in the coming years. In this shot, taken later that year on a winter visit, Tanners is on the right as you look down the valley.



After John had filled me in on the lake I was going to fish, Fletcher's, and advised me of the best spot to fish I set up in a quite corner by the inlet stream. John had told me that Fletcher's Lake held mainly ghosties and some golden tench as well as plenty of newly stocked carp between two and ten kilos. This was somewhat disappointing as I had hoped for bigger fish, but lets not run before we can walk. This is Fletcher's Lake as it looked in 1995 (the photo in the previous post shows the lake after it had been extended in about 2010).



I won't linger too much on the fishing that first day: suffice it to say I did not cover myself in glory. Yes, I did catch but my biggest carp, a ghostie, went about 5lb.



A couple of other anglers lake had some slightly bigger carp, including this lively double for a young visitor.





…and this low double for another visiting angler.



John and his Polish wife Wanda were fantastic hosts. Nothing was too much trouble and John's barbeque performed sterling service. This is John and his missus in 1995.



And here Jerry and I enjoy one of Wanda's famous Full English breakfasts on a bench beside the lake.



I left the lake knowing that the future looked really good for Clawford and if John's ambitious plans truly came to fruition this would be a venue to cherish in a few years time and if the hosts continued to enjoy a party with their guests I could think of several mates who would happily make the trip up to North Devon to enjoy this hospitality. Those two really know how to party!


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   Old Thread  #422 6 Jan 2020 at 4.44pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
I doubt if I'll again experience a trip like that first one to the Chateau Lake in 1996, but never say never, eh? I made many trips to the Chat in the years that followed and I will return to some of the most significant as the memories resurface in what remains of my old, decaying brain matter. For the time being let's continue looking at the years in the mid-to late 1990s and past the dawn of the new millennium. This brought not the widely predicted chaos, but instead a widening of my horizons both home and abroad.

In fact my first experience at Clawford Vineyard came in 1995 when I got a phone call from John Ray, owner of the complex. I was writing the regional weekly fishing summary for Devon and Cornwall in Carp Talk at the time and John rang to invite me down to his newly-opened fishery in north Devon. John explained that he had big plans for the venue, with new lakes planned and extensions to the grounds and accommodation were well advanced. It sounded pretty exciting so we arranged that I would come up to Clawford a.s.a.p.



John and Wanda took strong precautions against infection, insisting that all visitor use their net and boot dip.



For anyone who has visited Clawford for a holiday or for a fishing trip in the past decade you may be shocked to see what the accommodation was like back in the mid-90s. Here owner John Ray stands by his beloved barbeque in front of the lovely old farm house that formed the sole B&B aspect of the complex.



Look at it a few years later…And this is just a small part of the overall development of the Vineyard.



In addition to extending the main house to add eight more bedrooms, Clawford also added three self-contained holiday houses on the site of the old car park.



In fact the extensive development now entails 17 fishing lakes, 24 self-catering units, eight B&B rooms, a six-bed farmhouse, as well as large bar and restaurant area. It is situated three miles south of Holsworthy, north-west Devon and the site is set in 78 acres of wonderful, peaceful countryside in the valley of the River Claw.



(2020 Update: Clawford site is now in new hands, John and Wanda having moved on into happy retirement. We wish them well, albeit somewhat wistfully as we and our mates enjoyed some epic times at Clawford, as you will see in later posts.)
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   Old Thread  #421 4 Jan 2020 at 1.06pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
Big thanks to Cam the Mod for tidying this thread...

Moving on I want to stay in the south west at a couple of venues that linger fondly in the memory bank, namely Clawford Vineyard and Emperor Lake Syndicate (ELS) so all you Devon anglers keep an eye out for my next reminiscences.
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   Old Thread  #420 29 Dec 2019 at 4.57pm Login so you can post / reply  Register so you can join in!
In reply to Post #419
I think I have managed to recover all the photos that became unavailable after TinyPic shut down. The thread should now be more or less intact.

I have to be honest, I have not really felt up to the challenge of writing this thread since April 2019 when I last posted to it. But I have realised that there are a lot more happy (and not so happy) memories I could share with you, so I will get around to writing again in the new Year. In the meantime, Tat and I would like to wish you all a Happy and Successful New Year with plenty of these



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