You may have heard Notts ace and wit Frank Barlow refer to a certain ‘Cyanide Frank’ in his good-humoured weekly column. Frank B. has, on more than one occasion, drawn his reader’s attention to the kiss-of-death effect Cyanide Frank has when visiting his (Frank B’s) peg. And of the tobacco deficit he leaves behind!
In fact Cyanide Frank is none other than Frank Sutton – seasoned bailiff of Long Higgin. He’s been patrolling the Trent here on his bicycle for the last 15 years. According to Jan, anything Frank doesn’t know about Earl Manvers and the adjoining stretches isn’t worth knowing.
Fortunately for visiting pleasure anglers, Frank’s jinx seems to fall only on the chosen few. A week before our visit he watched seven Middlesborough lads bagging-up here. Says Frank: ‘As a pleasure venue it’s brilliant – anyone who comes here goes away with 8-10 lb.’ Well, that might be a bit of a rosy picture. Higgin is like any other water in that it has its good spots and you have to sit on the right pegs.
The chub holes
Jan says that although chub are caught in summer they don’t really show in any numbers until October. (Where they go for the rest of the time is a mystery.) They average out at about l1/2-2 lb (0.7-0.9kg) but fish of 4-5 lb (1.8-2.3kg) are taken. Frank Sutton says that many anglers overestimate the size of their fish, though. ‘When someone tells me the weight of a chub they’ve caught I always halve it and add a bit on,’ he says, ungenerously.
The real hot holes for chub are pegs 11-17. Peg 12, opposite the mouth of the River Leen, regularly seems to yield good weights of chub, perch and roach to the feeder, and it’s worth a closer look.
What makes a good peg?
On a big river like the Trent it isn’t always easy to see what makes a peg good. Overhanging trees or boats on the far side aren’t an infallible guide – plenty of poor swims have both of these and many good ones have neither. On the face of it there’s nothing outstanding about peg 12 but Jan tries to explain what makes it good. Blockbuster Upstream, over on the far bank, there’s a monstrous old concrete British Waterways building, but the sheer wall dips into some of the poorer pegs to the left. It doesn’t seem to affect peg 12 directly. Still, any large structure actually in the water is bound to attract chub into the general area, and maybe after that they settle on certain pegs for other reasons. Leen Slightly to the right there’s the mouth of the Leen. Although it is not directly in line with the angler’s cast, you have to take into account the effect the Trent’s flow has on tackle. By the time the flow has caught the line and feeder, the bait is liable to have settled roughly opposite, or at least only slightly upstream of the Leen. Now you might think this would be the key to the success of this chubby far-side peg— and in the final analysis it may be – but unless there has been a lot of rain then the tributary brings little extra flow into the river.
In fact, compared with water on the inside and middle of the swim, the chub target area – about three-quarters of the way across – is extremely shallow. The depth here is no more than 1.8m (6ft) – odd that this should be so densely populated when you consider nearly all the pegs (including peg 12) have water exceeding 3m (10ft) deep. However, after a good downpour the Leen can discharge a torrential influx – a sight worth seeing. Maybe at times like this it brings in just enough goodies to keep the chub permanently hanging around. Snag pit One feature, which must have a bearing, makes its presence felt rather than seen – it’s a snaggy patch about two-thirds of the way over. In spite of keeping the rod high and cranking hard in a straight line, you inevitably lose a few feeders and fish to the snag. Use a minimum of 2 lb (0.9kg) b.s. line for the hooklength.
Short of sending down a team of divers it’s difficult to say exactly what the snag is. However, a close examination of a feeder that has been cast repeatedly into the area gives a few clues. Typically, the lead strip on the bottom of the feeder comes back severely dented, which would tend to suggest that the snag is something hard and pointed, like a row of stones, for example. Whatever it is, it’s probably this that holds snag-loving chub in the swim.
Long, slow, deep Higgin
Higgin is one of the slowest, deepest stretches on the middle Trent, but there are times when the flow can be slower than usual. About a mile downstream, at the
National Watersports Centre, there’s an Olympic standard canoe slalom course. Above the course is a set of sluices. These are used to build up a large head of water before an event and then a deluge is released, sending the canoeists on their way! When the gates are down, the flow above virtually stops and it’s impossible to run a waggler or stick through. Says Jan: ‘the flow can change noticeably during a match and this is when the pole scores.’
Wind direction can have a marked effect too. A north-easterly tends to blow straight up the Trent valley against the flow. Over several miles, the opposition of wind and flow has a combined effect. It sets up a succession of rolling waves which make a float – fished bait bounce up and down. (Wash from boats can have the same effect.) The unnatural movement really puts the fish off. On days like this a feeder fished on the right kind of peg is often the only answer.
Hoofing a feeder across is not the only way of fishing Higgin. In summer most pegs respond well to float tactics fished up to one-third of the way across. Try loosefeeding hemp and casters and introduce a little groundbait at the start to get the skimmers going. A pole rig or waggler fished on the drop usually does the business. If very small fish are grabbing the bait, try fishing an Olivette rig. You may have to go as heavy as 1.5g to get past the bits. A stick often works well too.
There are all sorts here in summer and although there aren’t enough tench to set out your stall for them, a four-pounder (1.8kg) is a real bonus in a match. There are a few carp too and if you are prepared to put in the time they can be caught on Optonic and boilie gear.
In winter loosefed maggots are usually best, but if small fish are a nuisance try nicking on a caster. Because the flow is so slow it is advisable to feed downstream.
The three sections
Higgin comprises three stretches. Pegs 1-10 in the ‘Little Field’ belong to Notts Police Force. Pegs 11-66 are on the Earl Manvers stretch and pegs 67 back down to 1 at the other end of Higgin are on Parkside. On Little Field and Manvers best pegs for roach are 1-8, for chub 10-14 and for bream 40-50. Bailiff Frank Sutton issues separate day tickets for all three stretches.