A Day Out With The Lads, Summer Fish-in, 1995, Bluebell Lakes.

A sack of frozen boilies swiftly applied to the back of my neck signalled my departure Southbound towards Bluebell Lakes. “And don’t come back!” Shouted my bitter half as I made a quick life defying exit over the garden fence, followed by a bedchair, rucksack and rod holdall.

“Love you”! I shouted back as I gazed on the girl of my dreams, complete with rollers, fiery eyes and teeth in the bathroom. I knew I should have mentioned the NASA fish-in earlier.

Young Jason had only recently joined our prestigious little group. Having taken his first twenty just days prior to the trip added to this, his car looked more suited to a journey down South than my own; needless to say the lad was quickly invited.

However, huge clouds of black smoke bellowed out behind us as Jason’s car negotiated the death defying climb out of Staybridge, quickly crossing the mighty black hills of Woodhead, down the old M1, round Worksop six times and we were soon on the Southbound A1 carriageway. The rubber sausages at the roadside caravan left a little to be desired, and it was a great relief to finally arrive at the dirt track and indeed the entrance to Bluebell Lakes, our home for the weekend. ETA 22.00 Friday evening.

Its always very exciting arriving at a new water the evening before, the heart skips a few beats as you gaze over the lake with thoughts and anticipation of what the session holds in store. Marsh Pratley’s bivvy was the first sight that greeted us, but no sign of Marsh? In fact old Marshy must have set up in the dark or something as he had erected his bivvy right next to the beer tent. I thought I’d leave young Jason in the car and have a mooch around (old Lancashire term used as an alternative meaning to explore) and have a look for Marsh.

On the Kingfisher Lake I met up with Brian Crawford who was bivvied up in one corner nearest the weir, a lovely looking area. Brian pointed out that some carp had been crashing along the creek bank, so I set my sights on this area. I eventually caught up with Marsh on the Bluebell Lake and was introduced to Tony Bridgefoot the owner of the complex. Tony was a lovely chap, a true gentleman, very hospitable, who is very willing to give help and advice. I grabbed young Jason and we drove round to the creek bank, my first rod was out by midnight and we settled in for a relatively quiet night.

Next morning, me old mate Ron Clay had popped over for the fish-in and it was in no time at all that we had the Coleman’s in action as the morning unfolded. Ron wasn’t actually fishing but came over for the crack and of course to support the NASA fish-in. Marsh Pratley had made some sort of mistake and included me on the guest list; in real terms the event should have been 49 of the country’s leading specialist anglers and me – a legend in my own lunchtime.

By lunchtime I had decided to wind the rods in and do a bit of socialising, which is mainly what these occasions are about. Camera at the ready, I thought I’d take a few slides for the lads back home. The first group I bumped into was Ron Griffiths and the big cat hunters, a great bunch of lads and stalwarts of the Catfish Conservation Group to which I was once a member (I’m quite partial to a bit of pussy). Further round on the top bank, I met one of my angling heroes, Pete Springate. Anyone who is into carp fishing and hasn’t seen one of Pete’s slide shows is in for a big treat. Pete really is a carpman’s carpman.

On the point was Specialist Anglers Conservation Group stalwart, Dunc Fairly, caught chasing a baby grass carp around the weeds. Next to Dunc was Wirralite Ron Abbey of Carp Society political fame. On the Bluebell Lake I met Father Christmas look-alike, the enigmatic Alan Wilson while back on the Kingfisher was Pete Haywood.

The barbecue was an excellent idea. The spare ribs were great; in fact I’d just polished the last one off when Keith Barker appeared in the beer tent, asking for a spare rib (sorry mate, but we are from Manchester). The bar in the marquee helped wash everything down. At 8.30 pm we had a superb fireworks display over the Swan Lake, a nice ending to a fantastic day. After getting a few shots of the fireworks, the rods where back in the water by 9.00 pm and an heavy sleep took over.,,,Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The silence was broken by the sound of Jason’s buzzers at the unearthly time of 4.00 am. Bleary eyed, I netted a lovely conditioned linear mirror of 17lb 9oz. Well done me ole son, I said behind a false smile, like you do. A quick photo session followed and I was soon back in the sack pushing out the zeds again.

At 8.00 young Jason’s buzzers were away again, (bloody annoying or what?). Spladoosh, scoop, and moments later I was landing a 20lb 6oz mirror for the lad (stuffy git, last time he comes fishing with me!). I would point out at this stage that Jason was using my bait, my spare buzzer, rod pod and bedchair. It was the first full night session he had done in his entire three month’s life as a carp angler, and indeed this was his second twenty-pound carp.

“Well done lad”, I said, this time behind gritted teeth and the obligatory false smile, but its not just about catching fish, I said to my self, well maybe that’s what all us failures say? Other captures over the weekend included a carp of 14lb 8oz from the top Nene bank, a 12lb 8oz carp from the corner of the Kingfisher near Brian Crawford, both Keith Barker and Chris Burt took small mirrors, and old Marshy took an 18lb pike from in front of the beer tent on the Swan Lake.

By far the greatest catch came to the rods of National Anguilla Club member and NASA membership secretary, Kevin Stephenson, who caught a magnificent eel of 7lb 1oz. That really was something else! This was the largest eel I have ever had the good fortune to photograph, which meant two breakfast sittings for Ron Clay and me as we walked down to Bluebell with Brian Crawford to take the shots. Well done mate.

On Sunday morning, the SACG meeting was held in the open air, the NASA committee meeting followed this, all of which rounded off a perfect weekend for NASA members. A big well done to Marsh Pratley and all the organisers with a special thanks to Tony Bridgefoot and his good lady wife. The Bluebell Complex is a venue I hope to revisit sometime in the future.

The homeward journey went without event and I arrived home to be greeted by my lovely wife, still smouldering and with those delightful blood curdling eyes. Isn’t love a wonderful thing? Gulp!