“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
‘Fishing For Fun”
My son, Mark, has absolutely no interest in pigeon racing, but we do share a great interest in fishing and music. We started him off fishing at a very young age and he caught his first 10lb Pike at 10 years of age. He is the member of several Angling clubs and has caught some really good fish through the years. I’m a ‘fair’ weather angler who enjoys the sunshine and tranquillity on the river bank, but Mark is more ‘hard core’ and has caught some brilliant fish in adverse weather conditions or in the middle of night. Mark has met all the greats of the angling world over the years, including Bob Nudd MBE, Tom Pickering, and Jan Porter, and of cause the late great John Wilson. He has caught big Barracuda and Jack Crevalle in Mexico, big Pike and Carp in Surrey, but says his best fight ever was a his 9lb 9oz Barbel at the Pigeon House Stretch on the River Wey in August 2021. He caught the Barbel in the dark on a ledgered 15mm Pellet and after the rod bent over 4ft, the game fish took him into the reeds and tree roots on the river bottom before get getting it into the landing net. Well done, mate!
Angling has been a great hobby for all our family, especially when the kids were young, as it was something we could all go out and do together at the weekends. On packing up my pigeons, because of the dreaded ‘pigeon fanciers lung’, in the mid 1990’s, we hit the bank every weekend and enjoyed some great success fishing our local River Wey, and local club lakes. If I’m honest, I have to confess that my wife, Betty, is the ‘ace’ fisher person in the Mott family and has shown many an angler we have met on the river bank how to catch good fish on none productive days. Fishing is like pigeon racing, or any other sport come to that, you get good days and you get bad. Betty always seemed to pull something out of the bag! I can recall an evening session on our favourite stretch of the River Wey at Jacobs Wells, called the Swift, and no one was catching a thing. It was as dead as a door knocker! There were many anglers sitting on the bank for several hours, with thousands of pound worth of poles and equipment around them, and they never got a bite. Betty had her beloved Centre Pin reel set up and she trotted down small pieces of sprat, on a 2lb bottom and size 18 hook, and landed several big Chub. On another occasion, I can remember her landing a 10lb Mirror Carp on a 3lb bottom and a size 16 hook, which took her a good while to land it, but she did! She always likes to fish away on her own in a little quiet place on the fishery and hates having fish out of the water for photos and looking at. If she had her way she wouldn’t bother with photos and would release them back, straight out of the landing net. She had been fishing long before she met me 50 years ago, as she went with her late dad, Alf North, when she was a youngster. Alf flew pigeons for many years in the old Chessington and Surbiton clubs, so she knew what to expect when she married me!
My daughter, Caroline, was always a pigeon fancier and never an angler. I remember when she was a kid, I would put a maggot on her hook for her and that would last the whole session if it stayed on. Half a dozen maggots would last her all day! She used to catch little Roach and Rudd, and at the end of the session she would only have the stretch skin of the maggot hanging on the hook. She had been interested in pigeons all her life, being introduced to them when only a little baby and as a toddler she carried them around under her arm. She was my pigeon partner when she was a young girl and won a first with her good mealy hen at the big R.P. Capital Show in London, many years ago. Caz was a good judge of a pigeon and has judged many shows, including twice at the R.P.R.A. Southern Region Show. Mark, my son, is the complete opposite to his sister and is an angler, never a pigeon man, although he did convoyed the London & South East Classic Club birds with me a couple of times. He really enjoyed the work and the travel with the pigeon transporter and was my full time assistant in the 2008 season. He has been a very good angler from a very young age and I can remember when he was ten years of age he caught a 10lb Pike, which was nearly as long as him. His mum took him fishing, as I was working and he landed, unhooked and returned the big Pike on his own. When he was very young, he used to sit on his fishing box ledgering for Chub and hooked some beautiful fish, but lost them at the landing net. That little boy got so frustrated with that, he just sat on his big box and cried! Mark has caught some very nice fish through the years, including double figure Carp and Pike, and some big Chub and Tench. He has been a keen angler all his life.
Our five grandchildren slept over at our home in Claygate most weekends and they all had their own interests. Sasha, the oldest, spent most of her time in the pigeon loft, Ryan played games on his X Box, Katie likes fishing with her dad, Mark, and the second youngest, Sophia; well she just spends most of her time getting on your nerves. Not really! Our youngest, Connie just loves me and the pigeons, and tells me I’m her favourite! A Saturday in September turn out to be a very special day for our then nine year old granddaughter, Katie, which kicked off at our local fishing tackle shop in Hinchley Wood. The shop had only recently opened and on that Saturday John Wilson, the world’s number one angler and television personality was making an appearance to meet the local fishermen and mark the opening of the new shop. John Wilson was Mark’s boyhood hero, as we use to watch all his ‘Go Fishing’ TV programmes in the 1980’s, so he thought he would take Katie along to the new shop to meet the angling supremo. They had a chat John and then had their photo taken with him, and while in the shop, Mark, purchased two packs of dead bates with the intention of going Pike fishing in the afternoon. They invited me along, so the three of us made off to a Pike ‘hotspot’ at the drains on the River Wey at Old Woking for Katie’s first Pike fishing session. It was a nice warm sunny day and as I’ve said on many occasions, ‘you can’t beat sitting by a river in the country side on a summer’s day. If you catch a fish it is a bonus’. Mark’s first cast in to the river produced a 3lb ‘jack’ Pike, even before I had even put a bait on the hook! A while later on in the session, Katie had a Pike take the Roach dead bait on her rod and she struck into it, starting a tug of war. It nearly pulled her over, but she hung on for dear life to that rod handle and played it to the bank, where her dad netted it. The fight produced her first ever Pike, a 7lb cracker! A great day for our Kate!
In May 2004 Mark went to Cancun in Mexico for a holiday and fished for game fish in the Caribbean. He fished with his friend, Chris, and three other anglers off a boat, ten miles of the coast of Mexico. They fished dead bait and lures static off the side of the boat and trawled, with the best fish of the day being a 100lb Marlin. Mark bagged up with many quality fish, including three Barracuda to 20lb, three Yellow Finned Jacks to 25lb, three Red Jacks and five big Tuna. Mark has always had a big rivalry with his dad over the years, comparing who catches the biggest fish, but I can’t compete with Barracuda and Yellow Finned Jacks! Mark has had the bigger English course fish over the years, but my best catches have been quality, but not world beaters and as I have stated previously, I enjoy sitting on the bank, catch good fish is a bonus. I have had double figured Carp and Pike, 4lb Tench and probably my best fish was my 5lb 9oz Chub caught on the River Mole.
While on holiday in the wonderful county of Hampshire, we have fished the famous Royalty Fisheries on the River Avon at Christchurch several times and have enjoyed some good sport there through the years. The Royalty is very hard to fish with it’s thick weed beds and fast current, but when you catch, you catch big time! It holds specimen fish of most the of species, but is famous for its massive Barbel, which is the quarry of most of the angler who buy a day ticket at Davis Tackle Shop, sited at the entrance to the fishery. The Hampshire Avon was regarded as one of the country’s best coarse fisheries and in its heyday this clear, fast flowing river held many British records. The Royalty has several famous Barbel swims, including ‘the pipes’, ‘waters meet’ and of course ‘the parlour pool’, which the lad used to pay an arm and leg to fish. The parlour pool was right next to the pumping station at the top of the fishery and on summers evening we used to stand on the bridge next to the station, and watch massive double figure Barbel below us, basking in the sunshine. The theory was that the warm water from the station attracted the big fish in to the swim. The parlour pool swim had some very big Carp residing in it too!
My brother, Phil, owned a holiday caravan at New Milton, about a five miles drive from the Royalty and he was always on the bank there drowning maggots, but caught some brilliant fish. In the 1980’s he caught a wonderful 3lb 11oz Roach on the Royalty and at that time wasn’t too far away from the British record. In fact the British record Roach at that time was caught just up the road on the River Stour! The Roach was Phil’s only fish of the day, fishing the lower reaches of the Royalty, but was more than happy to sacrifice further sport for such a specimen. He told me, ‘the water was fairly high, but not in flood. I put a few feeders full of maggots and casters down the swim and then switched to a straight leger. I had a good pull on the quiver tip, using double caster hooked top and tail, and I thought it was a nice Chub. When it came to the surface my mate was ready with the landing net and we couldn’t believe what we were looking at. It was a magic fish and we didn’t want to put it back! Phil was using 6lb line straight through to a size 12 hook. On other fishing trips to the Avon he has caught some big Bream, Chub and Barbel. My wife, Betty, has hooked some nice Chub at Christchurch and on one occasion she was reeling in a nice Dace, and it was taken by a big Salmon, but in spite of all her good efforts to play it, the Salmon got off.
My favourite angler was the late great John Wilson of Norwich and back in the early 1990’s I have spent many happy hours watching his wonderful old fishing TV show, ‘Go Fishing’. In later years John still made a few programmes for Cable Channels, but the old original ‘Go Fishing’ are the best! He filmed one of the programmes on the Avon at the Royalty and if I remember correctly, they closed down the fishery for a week, so he had the place to himself to film. He caught some nice Barbel trotting down in the fast running water and featured the ‘waters meet’ swim, where he waded out to the middle of the river to fish. From recent reports the fishing isn’t what it used to be there at the Royalty Fishery and I’m told that since they stopped using the pumping station at the top of the fishery, the parlour pool has weeded over and is un-fishable. It’s very sad to hear these adverse reports on such a wonderful fishery!
When you boil it down, I think it is fair to say that I’m 100% coarse fisherman, who loves the rivers and lakes in the English country side. I’ve never been sea fishing, but did try fly fishing for Rainbow in Wales a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience. We had a week’s holiday in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, and stayed at my good mate Peter Taylor’s, daughter’s pub, The Harbour Inn at Solva. The late Jimmy Jones was a premier pigeon fancier in the Haverfordwest Club and it was pre-arranged that we would fly fish his private trout lake on the Thursday morning. With Betty and me being novices with the fly rod, we had a short practice session on the lake, on the Monday evening and Jim’s son, Charlie, gave us some tuition with the casting. The short practice session was very successful and produced five 1lb Rainbow Trout. The lake held a good head of Rainbow and Brown Trout, with the biggest being a double figured Brownie caught by one of Jim’s sons.
The weather on the Thursday was brilliant and full of anticipation for a great days fishing, Betty and I arrived at Jim’s country home nice and early on the arranged day. When we turned in to the car park it was full, as most of Jim’s family were there, as were several pigeon fanciers from Fishguard and Haverfordwest, who were there for the barbecue, to be held on the bank of the lake. The fishing was brilliant, with us catching about 50 Rainbow Trout up to 4lb and the first 15 caught went on to the barbecue with the chicken legs and burgers. The experience of catching the fish and eating them a few minutes later was a bit strange. It turned in to a bit of a pigeon fancier’s ‘do’ on the bank. It was a great day!
Jimmy Jones raced pigeons in partnership with his son Charlie and, although he had been in pigeons all his life, Jimmy had only been racing in the Haverfordwest Club for about five years. The Joneses raced on the natural system and enjoyed all races, short and long distance. The partners flew the Ponderosa / Janssens obtained from their good friend John Davies of Fishguard and they won from any distance. The weekend before our visit, Jimmy and Charlie had a good race from Newport (86 miles) when they recorded 1st, 2nd and 4th club with their young birds.
After a brilliant day’s fishing at the Joneses lake in Haverfordwest, Jimmy presented the fly rod and reel to me as a gift, and that bit of tackle is still in my kit today. About a year after our visit I was told that some poison from a local farm had penetrated the lake and all the fish had been killed. I sincerely hope Jim’s wonderful family have sorted out the problem and the lake is back to its former glory!
One of the best Carp fishermen I know is pigeon fancier, Peter Sharman of Old Woking. I’ve known Peter, through our common interest of pigeon racing, for many years and although he is first class fancier, he is also a brilliant Angler. He has won the Federation many times over the years, with one of his highlights being winning 2nd SMT Combine from Yelverton. Years ago he came close to a sea fishing record with his 4lb 2oz Whitting and in recent years has caught some very big Carp, with his heaviest being a fantastic 33lb 4oz. Mirror from a Surrey lake. Peter told me, he is very lucky to have a very understanding wife, as he has known lots of dedicated Carp fisher men finish up in the divorce courts! Carp fishing can get a hold on you and can become obsessive to the degree that you want to spend every minute in a ‘bivy’ tent on the bank of a lake, waiting for big Carp to pull your string. He used to fish every weekend, from Friday night through to Sunday evening and then again one night during the week, going straight to work next morning from the lake! He did this for five years and tells me he caught eleven fish one year and twelve the next, that’s how hard big Carp fishing is. He says in those days he was nutty! An old friend of Peter’s was the 27lb 8oz. Mirror Carp named ‘Girty’, who resided in a lake near his home in Old Woking and he caught this whopper four times, but she has since died of old age.
When walking around the National pigeon shows in the winter months, we quite often bumped into Colin Carter and win or lose, he always seems cheerful. Being one of the premier Show Racer fanciers in the U.K., more often than not he had pigeons on the winners table, which was great achievement as he was a small team man, with quality and not quantity being the criteria for his pigeon regime. Colin Carter won ‘Best in Show’ for the third time at the 2015 BHW Blackpool ‘Show of the Year’, with his champion silver hen, ‘Cotswold Silver Star’. This hen was bred from Steve Wheatley and Ron McCarthy stock birds and the Blackpool show was her first time in the show pen!
Carter was born in Portchester, Hampshire in 1938 and has been an angler since he was eight year old. As a lad he used to fish in the local stream catching Minnows and Brown Trout on red worms, and later progressed to sea fishing in Portsmouth harbour from a rowing boat, with his elder cousins. He spent several year sea fishing and eventually obtained his own boat, which he purchased from the late Jack Hargreaves of Southern Television’s ‘Out of Town’ fame. Colin tells me he caught most of the common species in and around the harbour and in the Solent, including Flounders, Plaice, Dogfish, Pouting, Dabs, Congers, Rays, Smooth Hounds and Bass. Colin’s best sea fish was a 31lb. Tope! After leaving the south coast to live in Gloucestershire in 1970, Colin says, the fishing had to take a back seat, until one day his children wanted to have a go at drowning a few maggots at the local lake. In his area there are plenty of good course fishing venues, including lakes, reservoirs and two big rivers, so the Carter family started to fish regularly.
Colin has always been interested in fishing with a fly for Trout and Salmon, so that’s pretty well all the type of fishing he has done for the last twenty years. He makes most of his own flies and maintains it makes it more enjoyable when you catch a fish on something you have made up yourself. He says, he is not the best of fly tiers, but even his rubbish flies catch decent fish. It’s not the catching, it’s the fishing he enjoys, although he gets a buzz when playing fish, he told me, to be in the countryside and seeing the wildlife is the best part of the hobby. He is a member of the Ross-on-Wye Angling Club. Colin likes the wide open spaces when he fishes in Alberta, in Canada, where you can fish all day and not see another person, only Eagles, Bears, Beavers and Coyotes. I’ve included two Colin Carter photo’s, the first is of him holding his 4lb. Brown Trout he caught in the Red Deer River in Alberta and the other of two 6lb. Rainbow Trout he caught in the Cotswolds in early 2007.