A Licentiate of the Royal Society of Chemists and Head of Science at a school in Sunbury, Middlesex, Will is something of an experimenter. It is hardly surprising then that he took up the offer to try something just a bit different…
A bright but breezy mid-April morning sees him on the banks of the Specimen golden orfe and tench pool (SGOT pool). In fact Will has already risen to his first challenge, having spent the previous evening sampling our host’s cordial hospitality in the African Bar. The home-made elderberry wine was so well-received that he is making rather heavy weather of tackling up! Fortunately, Will is setting up only one rod – a simple waggler rig – and that breeze should soon help to blow away the cobwebs.
The nine-pool complex and fish farm at Anglers’ Paradise is the brain-child of owner Zyg Gregorek. An entrepreneur of Polish extraction and a great extrovert, Zyg left London’s rat-race in 1977 and headed west to embark on his dream-project. The result is quite unique.
It’s really a first in designer fishing for the holidaymaker – well-stocked pools containing a variety of unusual species and strains: golden tench, golden orfe, blue orfe, koi carp, golden rudd and goldfish. For the more conservative minded, there are commons, mirrors and crucians too. ‘I’m going to see whether I can get you one of those big orfe,’ says Will. According to Zyg the SGOT pool ‘officially’ holds about 20 golden tench to over 7lb (3.18kg) and 20 golden orfe to 6VaIb (2.94kg), but he says that unofficially there are more.
A star-shaped island towards one end of the pool provides a number of points and inlets, creating individual swims for anglers to explore. Will has the pool to himself today, though, and has opted to fish away from the island at the post end – in the deepest water. He is just about to catapult some maggots out when he notices something. ‘Look,’ he says, in great excitement pointing to a spot somewhere just beyond the marginal pondweed.
Over the shelf the bottom drops sharply away to a depth of about 2.1-2.4m (7-8ft) and although the water has a slight green tinge to it you can still see down to a depth of around 1.5m (5ft). About lm (3ft) below the surface a pair of narrow, pinky-orange backs ghost slowly through the swim. They belong to two large golden orfe! ‘I was just about to put some more bait in when it went,’ says Will, explaining how he missed the bite. ‘The float flew under,’ he continues, baiting up with two more red maggots and recasting. The water is an unknown quantity so he’s playing things by feel. He’s not too sure about the feeding habits of the fish he’s after either.
In fact golden tench are the same species as the familiar green tench (Tinea tinea) -it’s just that they’ve been selectively bred to produce the unusual colour — so you’d expect them to behave in very much the same way, grubbing along the bottom and looking for morsels of food. But orfe, or ide (Leuciscus idus) as they are also known, are a new one on Will. They are like roach in shape – though a little deeper in the body and larger – but according to the text book they have feeding habits similar to those of chub, taking all kinds of insects at all levels. ‘I don’t think you’ll catch them when they are swimming through like that,’ says Will, as another pair melt into the weed. ‘Not on this tackle anyway.’ The problem is that fish swimming near the surface tend to be tackle-shy. Since it is one of the fishery rules that on the SGOT pool you have to use line of at least 3lb (1.36kg) b.s. and hooks no smaller than a size 14, it’s unlikely that you’ll snare a specimen in mid-water. That’s why Will has his bait on the bottom.
A gentle breeze knocks little waves against the waggler’s orange top and in a split second it has gone. This time Will is ready and the rod top bounces under the strain of a good fish. Whatever it is, it’s putting up an athletic fight. Three or four times Will nearly gets it to the net and it surges away again. Then there’s a flash of deep pinky-orange! A golden tail disappears into the landing net and Will draws the fish over the pondweed. The barbless hook is removed with a minimum of fuss and the fish is weighed in a sling. It’s an orfe of 4lb 8oz (2kg) – and an absolute belter!
Will’s aim is to catch a variety of fish. So it’s time for a change of tactics. He’s already fed several pouches of midi size, strawberry cream flavoured boilies into this swim the previous day – roughly where he’s been loosefeedingthe maggots. Now he’s going to hair-rig one of the boilies on his waggler rig and give it a whirl.
Dropping the boilie over the same area, Will sinks the fine, puts the rod in the rest, gives a couple of turns of the reel handle to tighten up the line between the float and rod end – and sits back.
No bites yet, but what’s this – two lively Jack Russells and a spaniel romping up the bank? Following not far behind comes an imposing figure wearing a beltful of cartridges, a leather jacket, African bush hat and carrying a shotgun – it’s Zyg- although jokingly he denies it! ‘There’s this nasty man, you see,’ he says with a grin, ‘who comes round to check people are doing it properly. It’s not me – it’s this other fellow.’ In fact the gun is to keep down mink and rats – essential if you’re running a fish farm. But while Zyg does his rounds he checks that everyone is using barbless hooks and fine of the correct breaking strain and perhaps the figure he cuts helps to make potential rule-breakers think twice.
Delighted to hear of the catch, Zyg uses a little Polish magic to conjure up a nest of golden cups and a bottle of elderberry wine from inside his jacket and proposes a toast to Will’s good fortune!
The lickerish draught is of legendary potency and revives Will’s flagging spirits, inspiring him to offer some advice to all who may follow in his footsteps. ‘Strike the middle float,’ he sings, in hysterics. Actually, when the fine tightens and the reel handle virtually turns of its own accord you don’t need to strike, and that is exactly what happens as something bolts with Will’s boilie.
From the solid, jagging thumps on the rod end there’s no mistaking it – a tench -and on fight tackle it gives Will the run around. He has caught hundreds of tench in his time but plays this one with extra care and patience that says: ‘This fish is special I don’t intend to lose it.’ Eventually he slides it over the net.
It has a deep banana-yellow body colour, orange fins, a few patches of black on the back and is lightly speckled with small spots of a much denser black. The belly is pale lemon yellow and, unlike green tench-which have a little red eye – its eye is jet black. It weighs 4lb 5oz (1.96kg) and in every detail is a perfect golden tench.
It’s time to round off the session on the Tench Lake – so-named because it has in fact been dug in the shape of a tench! Although the lake does indeed hold good sized golden tench, it is also stocked with golden orfe and some blue orfe as well, and it’s the blue ones that Will is especially interested in today.
He’s chosen to fish a spot just in front of the tench’s pelvic fin — where there’s a reed bed—and has changed to a lighter waggler. Regular loosefeeding — about 20 maggots every 30 seconds or so – has already attracted the attentions of some little golden tench weighing in at around 4oz (113g) which have started to come every cast, attracted to the double maggot bait fished on the bottom. ‘I think I’ve seen an orfe flash at the loose feed just under the surface,’ says Will. ‘I’ll try shallowing off.’
He moves the float and locking shot down so that there’s only about lm (3ft) between the hook and the float, and slides one of the dropper shot up to join the locking shot. A light underhand flick drops his bait about 2m (6’/4ft) off the reeds and he also throws in about 30 maggots, timed so that they fall through the water with his hookbait.
Sure enough you can see the occasional flash of silver as orfe dart back and forth -mopping up the free-falling maggots at high speed – including the one with Will’s hook in! ‘It’s a good job I had my rod to the side,’ he says, as the top whangs round. ‘I’d have pulled out otherwise.’
The fight is short but spirited and Will soon guides a fish that looks a little like a bream towards the landing net. Having carefully unhooked it, he admires his first ever blue orfe.
It weighs about l1/2 lb (0.57kg) and its flanks are silver, but along the back are the delicate bluish patches which give the fish its name. In fact, like the golden orfe it’s an ide – its attractive colour the result of very careful selective breeding. With three brand new fish to add to his long list of captures, Will is well satisfied and the session comes to a close.
In fact he spent the rest of the week at Anglers’ Paradise, and highly successfully at that. He went on to catch golden orfe to 5lb 7oz (2.47kg), golden tench to 6lb 3oz (2.8kg) and two koi carp.
His conquest of the African Bar on the final evening was so complete that on returning to his lodge the familiar cry: ‘Me slippers — where are me slippers?’ could be heard ringing out into the night!