As soon as I wrote the words “shortcut to success” I thought of those many articles in American business magazines, offering to show me the way to make millions with little effort, and keep in the boss’s goods books at the same time. Some business buff had a ph in something or other and had the absolute formula for fastracking to cash. It was all there in my mind. Success, envy of colleagues, big house and a Porsche. No, make than an Estate otherwise I couldn’t get the rods inside. Invariably the bubble burst when the plane touched down in a new country and I had no experience of the local fish, or the fishing. But is there really a fastrack to success? In fishing terms it certainly appears so, and I have used guides in foreign climes as they have the knowledge that on holiday, I simply don’t have time to gather. There is little choice but to part with the readies and get straight on to the fishing. In Florida there are thousands of guides, some good, many claiming to be good, and some who really do have an almost guaranteed strike rate. You would think the more you paid the guide the better the fishing gets. Not so, as many times I have listened to the guide spouting bar room blarney that fools only the unknowing client. Tell a good story, fire a few pictures across the bar and you almost have the punters signing up. But I always ask the guide what he caught “yesterday”. And if he hasn’t actually been out for week or so, then I pass right by, as the best guides are only bookable well in advance. In America it is almost a given that you pay for a guide, and that applies to either freshwater or sea. But now, European anglers want to get the personal bests of a particular species. With the wonders of the web it is not difficult to find forums where anglers often tell it as it is on their experiences. You get to know where, when, what tackle, and what bait.
I consider myself to be pretty self-sufficient in catching fish, and have had guides give me exact spots to fish, even drawing maps to help me out. But although I am in the “spot”, there is always scope for not catching, due to slightly wrong location, casting too long/short, or not knowing when to move when conditions change. This latter hunch about something not being right is only gained by a guide through experience. So many times I have not known when to move. They then tell me,”Oh no, when that happens I always do this, this and this”. Great!! Except I only have the one or two days to learn that. So best to stick right with the guide to be getting it right. Now the professional guiding seems to have spread to both British shores and Europe. You can book trips to go barbel fishing in the Severn, Chub trotting trips on the Wye, Grayling fishing on the luxury stretches of the River Itchen, or piking with a predator specialist. In Europe you could take a few twitches on your mouse and locate a Catfish expert on the River Ebro, or if you want a “nifty Fifty” in the Carp department, try the various lakes in France. And if all those don’t get your mouth watering what about a tailor-made trip to Thailand, the land of….well, we won’t go into that too much, but there are giant stingrays, catfish that could eat your bed chair and Paraiba that only take a floating donkey. So, having only fished saltwater guides, I thought it was about time to see what is in my local area of Hampshire/Surrey in the way of guides.
It was on a trout trip to Avington that I bumped into Neil Wayte, from Gardner tackle, and we got chatting about the tackle trade in general before I learned Neil was actually a qualified guide. I was intrigued, and it took me all of five minutes to get round to the subject of a guided trip. I had been making some Porbeagle shark films with sea fishing writer Phil Williams and we were all set up for filming freshwater, but then came the weather. Neil only wanted to get us out on a good day, and we kept in touch until a day arrived. Unfortunately it didn’t slot with Phil’s workload, so I did what all good friends do. I went anyway. Venue was the Cemex stretch of the River Kennet, a frighteningly big fish venue with a reputation for Chub that ate prams and barbel that took Wildebeest drinking in the margins. Excited I certainly was, but as the day approached, my workload resulted in me leaving it too late to get maggots from the tackle shop. The species were chub, so I took a gamble and decided to do the exact opposite of what everyone else would be doing. Most were after the giant barbel, so were legering. Neil was already set up since 6.30am (I arrived about 10!) and legering in his favourite swim.
I decided to throw a wild card and do what the Dorset anglers call “Stodging”. It comprises of mashed bread (mixed with maggots that I didn’t have)in a large plastic bucket, a small handful being lobbed in every trot down, followed with a float carrying punched bread. I don’t own a bread punch, so opted for size 10 hook and a chunk of flake squeezed on, making chunky old bait that the Chub might see. But on the way down stream to contact Neil I asked Paul Clack who had travelled down from Croydon if he had any bites. “Just the one Chub, it wasn’t bad, at 6lbs 15ozs “. I nearly fell off the edge of the bank.6-15? And he wasn’t even fishing for them? Small wonder this Cemex stretch of Kennet has a waiting list. As I met up with Neil at the bottom end of the fishery he was biteless, despite the early start, so I thought interrogation might be best done during a quiet period.
48 year old Neil is based in Farnham, Surrey, and started fishing as a nipper on the Basingstoke canal by Woking. As youngsters of that era were prone to do, he was happy enough catching small perch. But he met lads at school who were keen anglers and so joined the fishing fraternity at Britain’s Pond at Guildford, where in 1976 he had his best fish, a Mirror Carp of 11lbs.He then graduated to Woking & District AA at Send where the local club lakes gave him enough targets. In 1977 he was into carp big time, with all the camouflage gear and matt black rods. His biggest fish that year went to an 18-14 mirror on luncheon meat. He moved again, trying the big fish waters of Larkfield,Savay and Kingfisher Lake at Ringwood, home of the British eel record(There are great Roach in there he tells me).He moved to Hastings and fished the River Rother and drains on Romney Marsh. They used to do club matches in summer, so he only targeted the bigger fish in the winter months when there were less anglers about. It was then that he made his name by pioneering river carping, and in the mid 80’s used to get multiple catches of doubles to twenties. It was from these experiences that he wrote the book, “RIVER CARPING”, now a sought after manual for all river carpers.His largest river carp is a 30lb 8oz whopper from the Thames, and be advised he also fishes the Thames for some of the huge Catfish that are now present in certain stretches.
As for the guiding, Neil tailors his sport to target the conditions best suited for each species. He will even advise clients to change species rather than stay in the same swim and get bored. Now to his personal best list, which makes eye-watering reading. Best carp-39lbs, Barbel (gulp) 17lbs! Chub 7lbs 1oz,Tench 9-1,Catfish 25-6(on 4lb line when perch fishing) Bream 15lbs 4ozs,Roach 3-6,Pike 20lb 2oz (on a popup)eel 6-7 and Perch 3-10.As a sideline he will also go dry fly fishing on the upper River Wey for wild brownies, which he gets up to 2lbs in May and June. His introduction to guiding came when Ian Welch of Cemex offered to cover the cost of his fully qualified course, from joint Angling Government bodies, level 2.He recalls his first client was a Turkey farmer from Northamptonshire on the River Lea at Fisher’s Green for Chub and Perch. He also runs an ad in the Cemex guide book, and has his own website. Some of the better fish his clients’ have had are Barbel 15-4, Chub to 6-15 and Carp to 30lbs. Most of his clients want the big Chub and Barbel. He takes a maximum of 2 anglers, but likes one-to-one better. He has run trips on the River Severn, Trent, Warwickshire Avon and Dorset Stour. His services include a full 12-hour trip, including tickets, tackle and bait. Here’s special “bait “for potential clients. He also has permission to take them night fishing as well! These guided trips all have to fit in between his job as area rep for Gardner Tackle, which covers from Bradford south, plus attending the Gardner Tackle stand at UK and foreign angling shows.
Now to his tackle. His favourite rod is a Hardy “Marksman” 12 FOOT quivertip carbon, coupled to a Shimano “Soane” baitrunner reel and Gardner 6lb “Hydra” line. Hooks are Gardner “Talon tip” and “Mugga” in sizes 12 to 6. Then for Chub he uses Drennan Super spades size 18 and 16, with hooks to nylon giving a size 16 to 5lb and size 18 on 3lb 2oz.I noticed in the heavy current of the day in question he used a Gardner flat lead with lobworm bait, which I had never seen before. For running leger rigs he never uses a plastic stop, but stops the lead with a small swivel, and then a hooklink down to his hook. He feels the plastic leger stops are not up to the job he wants. For the big Chub he favours only maggots, mostly reds with a few whites mixed in for contrast. He fires them in with a catapult, with 12 to 18” links from blockend feeders, which he recasts every ten minutes.”There’s not a chub in a river that can resist a trickle of maggots all day” he told me.Uh-Oh….I only had bread! He favours on this Cemex stretch, a single red maggot on a size 18, and reckons not to bump off too many fish as he plays them gently. He only changes to larger baits like pellet, lobworm, and cheese during the last hour or so of light.
So there you have an insight into his tactics and tackle. So what of the day in question? With only one bite from his favourite swim Neil moved upstream to number two. By this time I had done enough writing and wanted to get my “Stodging” going. He sent me upstream, where I fished a light bodied balsa Avon float, a bit light in the heavy current, but I let it run with the pace rather than hold back. Remember I knew nothing of the swims or river, so could only read the swims as best I could. Nothing followed nothing. Eventually, after several hours I got a shout from Neil. He was in on the maggots, and we weighed up a 5-4 chub which spewed his red maggots everywhere. With renewed enthusiasm I made another mix of stodge from the three Morrison’s loaves and this time split open some 2kg packs of Porridge Oats as binder and feed. Ah….see, bet you’ve never thought of that before. All the loaves and 4kg of oats cost me less than four quid so don’t say I’m tight. I moved downstream of Neil. Still nothing. I was enjoying the trotting to be fair, mostly because on a mile of river there wasn’t a float angler to be seen. I came to Neil’s first swim and thought about it. If I truly was a client, then he would want me to catch, and presumably put me in his best swim. Maybe I had better up the ante and give these Kennet Chub a real taste of some Dorset Stour “Stodging”.About fifth trot down the float buried and I was in. A fish bored for the far roots, and after five minutes I slipped the net. Hang on; this wasn’t a halfway bad Chub. A run up to Neil for the scales, and I registered a 5-6.Whoopee. Now I had the “line” to feed Neil’s swim I was away. Stodge was hurled out, some went up the trees, some hit the far bank, and some went over me. The reel and butt were plastered. I had forgotten how sticky Porridge Oats can get. Forty minutes later the float sank. A 3 ½ pounder, which twinned one Neil had taken on his single maggot and feeder combo. The day was a success. More stodge….another chub. Another five. More stodge and an hour later I was running up to Neil with a 5 ½. Boy I was flying. “Never seen many floatfish before “said Neil.”It certainly works”.
As the afternoon wore on I was down to my last scrapings at the bottom of the bucket. My trousers were covered and my rod was a mess. Right at the bottom of the trot the float buries, I’m in again, but this is bigger. Pulsing and surging for the many sunken trees that litter the Cemex stretch I live a charmed life until the nets reveals the quarry. It’s a spanker and I’m risking a coronary on a run up to Neil.”You won’t believe this” said Neil as he steadied the Avons,”It’s going 6lbs 4ozs”. Now I’m going to tell you that’s a P.B. Chub for me and given I had five good chub with a P.B. on a bucket of Dorset “Stodge” I was elated. But in retrospect I had blanked on every swim which I had fished as my own choice of reading the river. It was only when I fished Neil’s first swim that I finally hit pay dirt. Which just goes to show that using a guide really can boost your odds hugely. I can strongly recommend a trip with one, if only to get some tips, and the chance alone to fish that Cemex stretch of the Kennet would surely be worth the outlay on its own. I remember the conversation I finished with in the car park as we loaded up gear ….”EEErrrr Neil, when exactly was it that you were going Barbel fishing again???”…..Well, can you blame me for trying???
If you fancy a trip you can contact Neil on 07854-206845 or 07790-952288 or visit his website-neilwayte.com
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.