I suspect most people will have heard of Godalming Angling Society’s Marsh Farm Fishery and its legendary huge crucians. Nowhere, except possibly the equally famous ‘Summer Pit’ at Yateley, can equal its reputation for producing big crucians. Even those of you who have the pleasure (?) of living ‘Oop North’ will have heard of Marsh Farm, it’s one of those places on a lot of peoples ‘must fish’ list.


My peg on Harris - the margin spot is obvious!I had been meaning to fish there for some time but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally gave it a go but sadly I picked the mini heatwave of April and had to endure a blazing hot flat calm. On that day I managed one moderate tench from Harris Lake but even though I didn’t have a sniff of a crucian I saw enough to want to go back and when Ray Clarke suggested a midweek fish-in at Marsh I was in like a shot.


Marsh Farm is an exceptionally well run fishery with excellent facilities but anybody who thinks MF is easy is in for a shock because it isn’t! There are two main lakes: Richardson’s and Harris both hold big crucians, but it is generally accepted that Harris is where the majority of the biggest crucians live.


Both hold crucians and numbers of tench (to over 10lb) but they also both hold thousands of bait-robbing roach and rudd. Somewhere in amongst that lot are the crucians and they are as cute as only crucians can be. Add to that the fact that both lakes see a lot of angling pressure and you will appreciate that it is no mean feat to be able to find and then catch a big crucian (or indeed any crucian) from Marsh. Some days I’m told they can be ridiculously bold; others you wouldn’t think there was a crucian in there. They can turn up anywhere on either lake at anytime and although the tiny roach and rudd can drive you nuts the next dip or lift of the float could just be the crucian of your dreams. It is by no means all light, delicate work; they can be caught on the method feeder too – though not everybody wants to catch them like that.


Me? I don’t mind. I’d prefer to catch them on a float and pin given the choice but I’ll happily fish a feeder if I have to. But enough of Marsh Farm itself how did the gallant band of FM ‘Monday Marshers’ fare?


To be honest the weather forecast hadn’t looked good all week and right up until Sunday the Met Office was warning of rain of ‘Biblical’ proportions in or around Godalming on the Monday. Fortunately Ray ‘Weather Fairy’ Clarke did his stuff and by Sunday evening the forecast was much improved. Overcast, cooler than of late and breezy but it would probably stay dry until around 4pm when there was the ‘chance of a heavy shower’. How true THAT turned out to be!


Our Marsh Farm mole ‘The Indifferent Crucian’ checked how the lakes had fished over the weekend and the answer was not terribly encouraging. His advice was to feed lightly and hope for the best but I still ended up taking enough gear and bait for to last me two or three days.


I arrived around 8am to find Jerry (Barbelboi) and Simon (Peter Crabtree) already there but no sign of organiser Ray. Andy (Red Creel) turned up shortly after and after a bacon roll and a look round the superb on-site tackle shop, Apollo Angling, I decided to wander off to Harris Lake to see if I could find that legendary FM sheep worrier, Geoff Maynard. It wasn’t hard….Geoff’s headgear is almost as distinctive as the garlic flavoured pellets he was using.


Maynard - apparantely without rod - using Zen to try and psyche them out!I was surprised to see quite a few anglers already on Harris…all lined up along the far side of the central island in an area I understood to be popular for the tench. Geoff was actually sat in the swim I fished in April next to Will Barnard – who was crouched like a little gnome knocking out a roach or rudd a chuck.


‘Hellos’ etc over I headed back to the car park to find Ray had arrived after a nightmare journey of over 2.5 hours all the way round the M25 from Cheshunt. Steve in the tackle shop said Harris was fishing better than Richardson’s so despite having booked Richardson’s we all decided to fish Harris. It was a bit more sheltered from the wind and everybody just fancied Harris more – so off we went.


One thing I do like when I’m fishing is a bit of room so I didn’t fancy squeezing in next to someone I didn’t know around the back of the island. The front of the island was deserted but looked no less fishy so I decided to give that go and settled on a peg near Simon. I had worked out my plan of attack over the weekend – method feeder to the island for the tench whilst gently feeding a margin swim for a crucian or two on the float later. The only trouble was that it didn’t quite work out that way!


I rigged up a feeder rod without really paying attention then just could not get my softened pellets to stick properly to the feeder – largely due to me trying to get a Drennan feeder to fit in a Preston mould…which it will not do I might add! I had a few knocks and bangs – just enough to suggest there were fish there – but I couldn’t get a proper bite despite trying corn, meat, soft pellet, hard pellet and even cockles.


Meanwhile I kept trickling pellet into my margin swim stoking the crucians up (or so I hoped) for later. Simon had a tench on pole fished pellet next door and this prompted me to rest the island and try the margin. It was now nearly midday and I’d been gently feeding all morning so I reckoned there must surely be a shedload of big crucians peacefully feeding under my feet by now…


Guido Fawkes with a small tenchFirst chuck on a bit of corn and the float buried…and I missed it. Second chuck the same thing happened…and on the next cast and the next. This went on for an hour or so no matter what bait I tried. The shoal of big crucians I had envisaged slowly faded away to be replaced by a shoal of tiny roach. It was now nearly 1pm, both Plan A and Plan B had failed and I’d not had a fish yet.


Evan Jones (Windy) had turned up fashionably late, introduced himself, then wandered off to greet a few more people – I swear he still hadn’t started fishing by lunchtime. Ray wandered around to say he was getting a roach or rudd a chuck on caster but had also lost two tench and been ‘towed round the lake’ by something else. I was still enjoying myself because enough was happening to keep me interested and thus far we’d only had the odd spot of rain although when Simon landed a nice crucian and followed it up with another tench I began to get a little frustrated.


“What you on?” I asked.

“Worm…with chop in the feeder” came the reply.

“Right” I said “I’ll have some of your worms, thank you – live ones, please”.


Simon seemed to have hit on something so I abandoned my margin swim, swapped my method feeder for a cage feeder and filled it with chop plugged with crumbed pellet. I immediately started to get interest but the bites were finicky and I couldn’t hit them. It was clearly the worm they wanted and I vowed to sit on my hands the next time the tip moved.


Finally the tip pulled round…and held. I lifted into the bite and the rod hooped over and stayed hooped over. Fish on – and a good fish too. I played it for nearly five minutes, it was always under control, but I never made any real impression on it. It tried to get under the trees on the island but I stopped that old nonsense and we ended up in a kind of stalemate – it would not come in and I would not give it any line.


Sod this I thought after a while…let’s have a look at you! I lifted the fish up and got enough of a look to see that it was a huge tench and not the carp I’d dreaded then, for no reason, the hook just fell out. I was NOT a very happy angler.


Neil Maidment turned up to see how we were all doing and I told him of my misfortune and he didn’t make me feel any better by saying that the tench ran to double figures in Harris. I’ve no idea what a 10 lb tench looks like but the fish I lost was a very big tench indeed.


The day was rocketing along and before I knew it was well past 3pm and Clarkey turned up to say goodbye as he planned to try to beat the traffic on the return leg to Cheshunt. He’d lost another tench (that’s 0 from 4 Clarke!) but before he left he informed Neil and Simon to much amusement that despite us fishing together a few times he had “never yet seen Skippy catch a fish”.

Barbelboi in action with a tenchAs he walked away laughing my tip pulled round and I hooked and landed a tench, quite possibly the smallest tench in Harris Lake, but one more than Clarkey caught.


“I didn’t think tench got that small here” said Neil laughing. I ignored him.


Simon had worked out what the few decent fish prepared to feed wanted and we fished worm and chop to the island until it was time to pack up. I did try my margin swim again and had one lovely roach – and one roach so small it was transparent – before I gave that up and went back on the tip.


True to the Met Office’s predictions at approx 4.05pm the rain arrived and boy did it rain! Fortunately for once I got my umbrella to stay upright and this kept most of it off me if not my gear.


The fish fed on in the rain, Simon added another smaller crucian and a couple more tench. I had another small tench and, in another epic downpour, a decent tench of around 3lb plus but I continued to get bites that didn’t develop properly. I subsequently discovered that this was probably due to the strength of tip I was using; on my usual feeder rod the lightest tip is green but I was using a new rod and the green tip on this one was rated 2oz! Simon was on his Garbolino Bomb Rod with a 0.5oz tip.


You don’t need to be a genius to work out why his tip pulled right round and mine didn’t. That’s just bad angling on my part and I’ll not fall for that again. I think Simon finished up with two nice crucian and half a dozen tench which was a pretty good return on a difficult day and I was very grateful for the worms I cadged off him!


Not all Marsh crucians are 4lb plus - Will Barnard with a small one!On the other side of the island Geoff Maynard had a hand-sized crucian, bumped another and missed about 50 bites – claiming they were all little roach.. .Next to him the fish magnet that is Will Barnard stuck at it like only he can and was rewarded with more silver fish than a Spanish trawler plus two small crucians and two tench, the best around 6lb.


Jerry had a tench and a crucian – released another crucian prematurely i.e. before he’d landed it, plus loads of silvers. Andy had a decent tench, some silvers and bumped a crucian. Windy couldn’t buy a bite other than on maggot/caster and then only from tiny roach/rudd despite sticking at it until nearly 9pm gambling that the rain would stop…which it didn’t.


In his own words:

“Over the next half hour as I cowered under my leaking brolly it came down like someone was throwing buckets at me. My peg literally filled up with water behind the buckboard to a depth of four or five inches, I kid you not. I dropped a wee rudd swinging in and the little sod was perfectly happy swimming up and down in the bankside pool at my feet, laughing himself silly at my puerile attempts to grab him and bung him back in the lake. I have never been so wet as when packing up, and my camera has spent the last 48 hours on top of the boiler drying out before daring to turn it on and retrieve the pics!”


Clarkey – as ever – had been in his element catching roach but did develop his own interesting variation on trout fishing’s catch and release called ‘hook and release’. Come to think of it…I don’t think I’ve ever seen you catch a fish either, Ray. Unless you count those eels off the Itchen!


Despite the fishing being hard and the weather less than ideal it was good to meet some new faces, renew some old acquaintances and there is never a dull moment when Ray is around. The banter was, as ever, excellent and, for me, only adds to the enjoyment of a good day out in the company of some very good anglers. It was worth getting up at 5.30am just to see the look on Simon’s face as he tucked into his first ever And finally...just for you, Ray. This is what a Marsh Farm tench looks like!Pot Noodle!


I’ve still not yet broken my Marsh Farm crucian duck but it’s a lovely place to fish and what a refreshing change it makes from your typical carp filled commercial puddle. You have to think and work for your fish at Marsh Farm and that is just the sort of challenge I enjoy. I’ll be back again soon and this time I will check the tip on my feeder rod a bit more carefully and pray for a day when the crucians are ‘on’.


And finally…just for you, Ray, above is what a Marsh Farm tench looks like!