I have fond memories of fishing from when I was a young girl, having frequently gone camping with my family. Back then, I was unsuccessful in my quest to catch a fish, so when the opportunity arose to have a professional fishing lesson, I was very excited! 8 years on from my last attempt, this was my chance to finally catch a fish!
Willow and I left our hometown on an extremely sunny Tuesday morning, and headed off to Essex. One of my favourite aspects of our internship is that we get to travel to lots of places across the UK that we have never been to before. Essex was one of these places for me, although Willow has family in Chelmsford. After apprehensively driving through the Dartford Tunnel, we saw a sign that read ‘Welcome to Essex’. We drove down country roads until our Sat Nav stated our destination was on the left. The experience was taking place at Tyler’s Common Fishery. This is conveniently on the border of East London, only half an hour from the city. When we got out of our car we were immediately struck by the beautiful views of the lakes, surrounded by trees and fishermen. We were later told that there are four lakes there, one with fish weighing up to 30 pounds! This is where most of the fishermen were set up.
From over the bank, our instructor Steve from the Learn to Fish Carp Academy arrived and introduced himself. He was kind enough to point out the toilet facilities, as we had had a long drive. After powdering our noses, we followed Steve down to our fishing spot for the day! We walked past many fishermen, all set up in their own little areas. The sunshine reflecting off the lakes and seeping through the trees created a peaceful environment, and I immediately understood why people enjoy fishing so much. I couldn’t help but notice as we were walking down that Steve wasn’t holding any rods, only a bucket. But all became clear as we walked around the bend to see a perfect set up, which Steve had obviously put together ahead of our arrival. There were two comfy chairs, with towels and a bottle of water for each of us. Resting on the chairs were two rods, and set back from the lake was a rod pod. I was very intrigued about this.
It wasn’t long before we went straight into the lesson. Steve began by showing us how to attach bait to the rod and tie it to the hook. We were pleased to hear that the hooks weren’t barbed, so they wouldn’t hurt the fish - and we wouldn’t have that typical movie scene when a hook gets stuck in someone’s finger! Next, it was time to learn how to cast. Willow was up first, and Steve showed her how to cast to the side, making sure the bail arm was up so the line would release as she cast. As she made this look easy, Steve wanted me to do an overhead cast. This was the same technique in terms of how you pinch the line whilst putting the bail arm up, then release as you cast. However, there was added adrenaline, as it was going over my head. I made sure the line was only half the length of the rod, so it wouldn’t touch me. After checking Willow wasn’t in harm’s way, I cast, and the line zoomed through the air, landing in the lake with a splash.
Next, Steve showed us how to place our rods in the rod pods on the bank. This had a bite alarm, so once the line was attached and the bait runner switched on, the waiting game began! We sat down for a whole 2 minutes before a beeping noise began. This meant Willow had a fish on her line. We were so excited, I can only compare it to a child on Christmas Eve, eagerly waiting for the sun to rise - or in our case, the fish to bite! Steve guided Willow through the process of switching the bait runner switch off, so the line wouldn’t unravel. Then it was time to real the fish in. We were told to stop reeling when we heard a clicking noise, as this means the fish is pulling back, and continuing to reel would hurt them. When the clicking stops, then you reel! Before long, Willow had brought the fish close enough for Steve to collect it in his net.
If there wasn’t already enough excitement, my rod then started beeping! I mimicked the process I had watched Willow do, and reeled my heavy fish into the bank. This was noticeably bigger, and once both fish were out of the water, Steve gently removed the hooks. He then put them onto a soft surface covered in water so they weren’t uncomfortable. We were told that these were Carp fish, and Steve was able to tell us their weights just by holding them. Willow’s fish was 5 pounds, and mine was a whopper at 8 pounds!
Kneeling next to the unhooking mat, we posed for a picture whilst holding the incredibly slimy fish! Willow’s fish was a lot livelier than mine, leaving me in hysterics, while mine seemed to be a born model. After taking a couple of pictures, we put the fish back in their nets. We then slowly lowered them one at a time into the lake, and watched them swim away. Once our rods were set back up and on the pod, we relaxed in the sun on our camping chairs. After wiping our hands on the towel, Steve handed us a large antibacterial pump. He really had thought of everything! As this was just a taster session for Willow and I, we were only there two and a half hours instead of the full 4. In that time, we caught around 4 fish each! The excitement when the beeper went off never went away. We could have easily stayed longer as the weather was gorgeous, and I could image us having a picnic on the bank whilst we are waiting for the fish to bite.
I want to say a big thank you to Steve for inviting us along to take part in his fishing experience, and for being an excellent instructor! We will 100% be back when we can enjoy the full 4 hours!