Waters do not need to be famous or mystical to define our angling history. Most of us cut our teeth on average pools, rivers and canals yet amongst them will be waters that hold many, many significant moments in our development and memories. The Wellington Basins are very much in that category. I haven't fished the Basins in years but a recent correspondence with a fellow forum member stopped me in my tracks when I recognised that the road he lived in led straight to that little fishery. A further exchange and Paul sent me some up to date photo's which has set the old nostalgia running.
I'll take you back to June 16th 1977, opening day and Paddy and I were up early to fish the river Tone in Taunton. At that point I was yet to catch a carp due in the main by my fishing time being spent almost entirely on rivers and that the pools I fished had no or very few of the fish that has become the staple diet of many today. But I was to lose my cherry and caught the roundest weirdest carp I have ever seen from the slow water behind the weir. Looking like it must have originated from a small pond this bream like mutant probably weighed in at around a pound or so and, if I am honest, was a slightly disappointing way to break the auspicious carp duck.
Whether the conversation about that fish dictated the day or maybe it was just part of the tapestry that unfolded but Paddy knew of a water where carp could be taken on crust. We packed and headed the short drive to my first visit to the Basins. My wedding was to take place just two days later and I think that this is as close as I got to a stag do. I could not care less, I was going carping!
Two ponds separated by a narrow footpath revealed themselves through the trees as I parked my Ford Cortina and hastily followed Paddy to the hotspot. I followed his lead and tore a lump of crust from one of the loaves we'd bought en route, dunked it in the margins to weight it and promptly cast it off with too hard a swing.
But soon I had a bait on the edge of the weeds and fish were beginning to show. The order of action is blurred by time but the sight of a grey shadow appearing beside my bait, the ripples as it sucked it down and the blur of action as the fish ran and broke me is engraved deep in my memory. What a rush. By day's end I had landed my first proper carp. At a mere 4.8 it may seem insignificant but this was a milestone.
|16/6/77 4.8 carp|
The Basins became a regular haunt for me despite living fifty miles away in Bristol. Nicky would visit her mother in Taunton and I would sneak off for a few hours or, at times I would make a day or night of it such was the excitement of carping. The smaller pool was rectangular, small and stuffed with fish. I once lost an enormous bream on the way to the net yet never heard of one caught.
The larger pool was heavily weeded and had lily beds scattered throughout. It was generally the harder of the two to fish but that gave it a mystique of it's own. There were plenty of species to go for and we all caught plenty of roach, skimmers, eels and even a few crucians.
|Lookout, these crucians are loaded|
One of my little pleasures was to sit and fish both pools at once from the footpath. It was never entirely successful but it made me feel like I was somehow cheating but without the guilt.
The carp soon wised up to the new wave of crust wielding anglers that had descended upon the place and we had to learn to adapt our methods accordingly. The baits became suspended in the margins where the line could be hidden or suspended from overhanging branches all to stop the tell tale line on the water. Our efforts then went to the bottom of the lake and we began fishing corn and meat and sport became lively once again but, a sneak around the edge at dawn and a fish from the top always felt so much more satisfying.
|Chris with the mirror|
I introduced Chris Newton to the place for a taste of carp fishing and he sat it out with me for his first ever night trip. Come the wee hours toward dawn he was jumping at every swirl of a fish or tweet from a bird. Fatigue was really messing with his head but I, being a shift worker, felt fine and well entertained by his jumping up and striking at nothing. But it was Chris that dispelled one myth about the place. We had been lead to believe that the lean, hard fighting fish were all genuine wildies but Chris had a 5.8 mirror that I was also to catch the next season. It was exactly the same shape as the commons so they were just feral to use a 21st Century term.
|A typical basin fish|
Our approach was becoming more accomplished but, like I said, we were all influenced by the folklore of the day and few ventured out during the winter but I had been reading about cold weather carping in the magazines and kept at it. I had also read about 'twitchers' in that pre-hair time and was deeply frustrated by so many tweaks, pulls and tremors on my light bobbins. One cold day I hit a bite that did little more than send a ring around the line as it entered the water, the result was my biggest fish ever from there at 9.3. I was as chuffed as can be.
|9.3.... and a silly hat.|
It wasn't all plain sailing. I arrived predawn on a misty and frosty day intent on fishing the small pool. I set up my gear and cast toward my chosen spot only to hear a 1oz Arlesey bomb tink, tink, tink.... its way across the ice. A move was called for.
It may have been that very day or any other when insanity drove us out in sub-zero conditions but Paddy and I settled in a the corner of the big pool and float fished the only ice free spot. During a long, cold day we caught one roach and one perch between us. But the high spot was the woman that stopped to say hello. Pushing seventy with a tad too much lipstick and a fur coat that had more life in it than my bait box, she was not 'my' kind of gal. However, it soon became apparent that she was... how shall I put this? 'up for it'. Her double en tendres became more and more blunt until she told us about the man who'd come in through her bedroom window the night before but, "... as he'd been with another girl wasn't much good for me!" Being a friendly sort I offered Paddy to take her home and repeatedly nudge, nudged him whilst he spat "Cut it out you...." under his breath.
Suffice to say she grew bored and waddled off and Paddy swore revenge continually until frozen nets and fingers sent us packing.
The last time I visited the Basins it seemed small and insignificant. there were too many kids, too much litter and way too much disturbance. It had been a ledge from which I had climbed higher which is, in some ways quite sad. It did however, show me that my challenges had grown with me. It is also relevant that many of the lessons learned on those little ponds are still catching me fish today.