Mick Bowers at Gorsty Hall

It’s funny how venues come into fashion. Until a few seasons ago the pool in the grounds of the Gorsty Hall Hotel was enjoyed mainly by local pleasure anglers — most from nearby Crewe. (They might remember the dog.) Now mid-week Opens are held regularly and Mick and his Highfield pals drive down from as far away as Oldham to compete.

fishing at Gorsty Hall

fishing at Gorsty Hall

The pool is popular with the match fraternity for two reasons. First, matches continue when the close season is in operation in other parts of the country. Secondly, it has a good head of mirror and common carp ranging from ounces to low double figures, and plenty of roach, rudd and crucians too. So unlike catches on new, small-carp fisheries, which tend to be made up of fish of the same size, a winning bag at Gorsty might consist of several good carp and/or lots of small fish. Add to this the fact that the winner could come from anywhere and you only visible remnant of summer weed is a single, wave-lapped root, about 20m (22yd) from the bank.

Says Mick: “The idea is to fish just short of the weeds for big fish. Depending on what mood they are in, you should be able to coax them out. If not then you have to go right in, taking a bit of a chance.”

For this reason he uses two swingtip rigs, on two rods: one for staying out and one for going in. A light Style rig and 10m of pole is set to one side for small fish. “The roach aren’t as educated. So you can catch them farther away from the weed.”

Dropping his little block-end feeder next to the root with a gentle plop, Mick tightens up and drags it slowly towards him. In fact the feeder is empty and there’s no bait on the hook. “I like to find a clear area between the pads before putting any bait in,” he explains. Satisfied that his rig isn’t going to get snagged, he settles for a patch just in front and to the left of the root. With the hook baited, he fills the feeder, casts out and tightens up. “I’ve got double maggot on at the moment because I’m hoping for a quick carp. But I can soon scale down to a size 22 for the roach.” (He has a size 19 hook on.) So how big are these carp? “Anything bigger than three pounds is a bonus. There are quite a few run-of-the-mill crucians. Most of the mirrors range from eight ounces to three pounds but there are fish of twelve pound here. In this cold weather you have a better chance of landing them because they are semi-torpid.”

With all that talk of carp, when the tip does fly up we’re all expecting the rod to bend double. In fact it’s a little roach that comes skittering over the surface.

Refilling the feeder, Mick lines up on the elephant slide in the playground opposite and drops the pod by the weed. Picking up his catapult, he then kindles the pole line al 10m with a few pinkies. “The safest time to feed the pole line is as soon as you’ve casl the tip in. In winter you have to wait for the feed to disperse from the feeder before getting bites. So the tip doesn’t usually go straight away.”

Well, it doesn’t seem to be going at all at the moment! The only movement – a sort oi rhythmic bounce – is caused by a cold wind and now a persistent drizzle has started driving into Mick’s face. He winds in primes the feeder and recasts. “At the start I try not to leave it for too long – I like to build up the swim.”

Mick takes care to stress the importance of straightening the hooklength while it is still falling through the water. If you tighten up when it has already settled or the bottom, there’s a much greater chance of the hook catching in weed.

The arrival of a small rudd is not enough to keep Mick on the tip so he picks up the pole. “There’s usually a point in matches where you have to make a decision,” he says, pushing the pole out to 10m and feeding a small pouchful of pinkies. The little black bristle (thickened with paint) if barely visible above the waves but soon it vanishes completely. In comes a small roach. Mick goes out again, misses a bite and the swim goes dead. There’s only on< thing for it — venture into the weed!