Auldley McAtee at Chorlton Water Park

10 fishing at Sywell Reservoir in Northamptonshire

A week earlier, Auldley watched a match here. It was won with bream from a peg to the left of the island at the south end of the lake – where he’s going to fish today.

He sets up three rigs: a long pole/short line rig for fishing at 12.5m; a short pole for fishing over the margins; and a quivertip and feeder.

We join Auldley on an overcast morning in mid July at Chorlton-cum-Hardy in south Manchester.

The park was opened in September 1987 as a part of the Mersey Valley Scheme. The aim of the scheme is to encourage the public to use the valley for recreation – such as walking and water sports – while at the same time conserving and improving the environment. Chorlton and nearby Sale Water Park are a great asset to anglers in an area where good fishing is scarce.

The lake has gently sloping grassy banks and its margins are fringed with thick reed beds and rafts of yellow water-lilies. Although it looks rather too lush and mature for a gravel pit, a gravel pit is what it is – flooded excavations made during the building of the M63 motorway. island there are some deeper holes which go down to about 6m/20ft.)

Careful plumbing just over the lilies reveals a depth of about 1.2m (4ft). ‘That’s perfect,’ says Auldley. ‘There should be plenty of perch down there.’ He sets the short pole aside and picks up the long pole. The 12.5m line is to be his main line of attack. It is about 2.5m (8ft) deep here and Auldley sets the float so that the hook just trips the bottom.

Two pints of bloodworm, three pints of neat joker, three pints of squatts, a pint and a half of whites, two pints of casters and a few red worms are more than enough for a day’s fishing, but Auldley wants to make sure that he’s covered all the angles. Says Auldley: ‘You don’t need to spend a lot on bait. You can get more fun out of a pack of bloodworm and a pack of joker than a load of squatts, casters and maggots.’

He makes a dry mix from a quarter of a bag of Superlake, a quarter of a bag of Turbo and a couple of handfuls of brown crumb, then slowly adds water. He then adds VA pints of casters and VA pints of joker to the mix and squeezes together six balls of bait -each one the size of a tennis ball – ready to bombard his long pole line.

It is essential to make sure that the ground-bait and hookbait end up in the same place. So before baiting the swim, Auldley has a dry-run – without any bait on -just to see where the tackle ends up.

With the pole straight out in front of him the float settles about 1.5m (5ft) to the left of the pole tip. He then moves the pole over slightly to the left and uses the end as a marker while he throws in balls of bait with his right hand. When he brings the rig out he knows that his baiting was spot on and his float set to the correct depth. How does he know? – because there on the bend of his hook, as if it had been put there deliberately, is a little red joker.

With two bloodworms on the hook Auldley drops his rig on to the 12.5m line. His float swings round to the left and he holds it back against the wind. Such is his confidence in the pulling power of ‘the worm’ that after only 30 seconds he says: ‘They don’t like it -it should have gone straight away.’ He rebaits with caster and drops in just beyond the feed area.

This time the bristle vanishes almost immediately. Auldley strikes and just for a moment a small fish is on. He slides the pole back behind him, unships at the 4m point and rebaits with a caster. ‘Round here we bury the hook but at one time you didn’t have to,’ says Auldley.

This time he has a lightning fast bite -probably from a small roach – which he misses. He changes back to two bloodworms and pushes the float out again. The bristle goes, Auldley lifts the pole smartly and the white elastic appears from the pole tip. Soon a 4oz (110g) roach is sliding across the surface on its way to the keepnet.

No sign of any skimmers yet but a steady succession of roach ranging from between 2-6oz (50-170g) is keeping Auldley busy. ‘Normally when they are in your peg one worm is just as good as a bunch. Now that’s a terrible hookbait, that,’ he says, holding up a pale specimen of a bloodworm. ‘It’s small, its clear but I bet it goes.’ And he’s quite right too – a second later a small perch is flying towards his hand. Auldley pops it in the net, loosefeeds his swim with a pouchful of casters and throws a little ball of joker over the edge of the lilies. It’s time to see whether the perch have moved in on the inside line.

Auldley baits his short pole rig with a single bloodworm, slaps it down on the water – to uncurl it – and then drops the little dibber float over the lilies. The bristle barely settles before it submerges and a little perch is juddering on the end of the line. In fact there are so many perch down there that Auldley can barely get a bait to the bottom before it is attacked – making bites hard to hit. What is more, the pole and elastic doesn’t seem to be the right combination -fish keep bouncing off the hook. ‘A flick tip with a slightly longer line would do better,’ says Auldley.

Brightening skies bring a few strollers along the banks of Chorlton. One is a pal of Auldley’s – fellow matchman, Auldley Mayer from Stockport. He settles himself in to watch Auldley – who has gone back on to the long pole.

Auldley has just nabbed his first skimmer -a nice fish of about 1lb (0.45kg) – and lost another, so it looks as though the better fish might have arrived at last. He changes to a stronger hook – the same pattern as the one he is using on his perch rig – and, with a caster on the hook, he is soon into a much bigger fish. The elastic is at full stretch as the fish bores down to the gravel lake bed. A youngster comes to watch the action but doesn’t quite realize what’s going on. Auldley unships the pole section by section and, as he gradually coaxes the fish towards the bank, the youngster catches a glimpse of it: ‘It’s like a mermaid’s tail!’ he says in astonishment.

And it is a nice fish too – not quite the 6lb (2.7kg) bream that we thought at first! -but at around 3lb (1.36kg) it has boosted Auldley’s catch quite dramatically.

In spite of a heavy thunderstorm Auldley has been taking big skimmers steadily and estimates his weight to be already into double figures. It seems that constant loose feeding with a few casters every other cast has paid off- encouraging the skimmers to move in and push the roach out of the swim. Earlier Auldley had been worried that his pole rig might be too crude for the water. But now he says: ‘When it’s fishing this well you’re better off being heavy.’

The sun breaks through the cloudy Manchester skies once more and with a swim full of fish, Auldley settles down to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

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