‘Guesting’ Unravelled – Iain Fordham
I have been asked a few times since being active with my fishing on social media, how I find and also tackle these types of waters that I and others I know, refer to as guesting waters. In simple terms guesting is a less harsh sounding word for poaching. What we do is not poaching, unless the taking of photographs is classed as stealing…so guesting it is. What makes a guesting water? Well anywhere that has no formal club or syndicate with rights to the fishing. Fishing without permission knowingly is not cricket and not part of the guesting etiquette, the guest must ensure this is the case before anymore planning can be made. The water I fish currently, it has taken me a year to be certain that nobody other than the land owner can ask me to leave.
A lot of research is to be done prior to fishing, these types of campaigns often last years. A year of research and networking is common on most waters. I’m currently into the first phase for the next place I want to fish, that won’t be for at least another year from now. I have over the years met and built up a reliable collection of like minded anglers, who are honest don’t have egos and buzz for the captures of each other. We share information freely but this information never gets into the wrong hands. We preserve the lakes we fish for other like minded anglers to enjoy. The internet for me over the last decade has been a god send as an aid to research. When I first started looking for quiet out the way waters it was a case of buying an ordnance survey map of the area and then looking for blue bits then going to find them!
Now not just obviously with the likes off google earth, but all sorts of useful information about a potential venue can be found out at the click of a few keys. Land owners, information on nature reserves, and of course the magic of sneaky little groups formed buried in social media where pictures and information are exchanged between those who have been invited. I have even randomly rung up people to enquire as to who it is that owns a particular water or apiece of land if I can’t be sure.
I didn’t purposely set out to be like this it’s just what fishing is to me and we all have our niches in this wonderful world of angling. until recently I have never given it much thought. I just like getting really out there, the bigger the wilder the better. I feel alive on 100 plus acres. It is normal and expected that I will see nobody when I’m fishing, it’s always been like that. There are a lot of waters of 100 hundred acres and more out there. A lot of them are classed as SSSI ( sights of special scientific interest) therefore most are designated as no fishing. You will find carp in a lot of these places, maybe only a few but they will be in there. How? This has been going on since carp fishing began, there’s always been pioneers, the Colne valley is full of lakes that were never stocked, but have beautiful carp in. The great sir Pete Springate stocked some of the most famous fish into some of the most famous lakes in the country! Of course there are numerous other ways, lakes come and go, an old day ticket fishery 20 years ago that supposedly has been netted would be an ideal place to look at.
So once you find a water you have to them go into the reconnaissance phase, this entails detailed walks, it can often be necessary to be completely de sanitised of any carp fishing type paraphernalia. No cherry carp hoodie and joggers! You will probably not be the first guest, and nature reserves for example will have numerous “grasses” you are hiding from everyone not just the land owners. Any reserve will have loads of bird watchers, that means hides, that means you have to visit the hides as a bird watcher and check to see what they can see! This can be the difference between fishing just nights only or not. I’ve had to look out for when rare birds are due to be nesting because it brings with it a huge influx of bird watchers which can hamper plans. I’ve even got a bluff guide book for birds and binoculars for such trips. It’s my worst nightmare I may get caught in another embarrassing conversation with another fellow birdwatcher again…but that’s another story.
On these recces a decision will need to be made on whether it’s a “hot” venue or not. If it’s hot, then standard practice is to stash a set up on site. It’s way too risky to be seen with tackle. Over the years I’ve accumulated a 3 rod set up with brolly bedchair and all necessary items that sit waiting in my garage for their next hot water! This was necessary on my last adventure but not this one, albeit for a small inflatable in a tree that is, but only for a just in case! Hot means total effort into trying not to look like an angler, especially when your trying to work out how your going to get away with it, I will have already made decisions on where I want to look from google earth, I will identify shallows, and south facing areas, the east bank for big westerly winds and low pressure systems. You can hedge your bets on a big lake into smaller areas if your timing is right. You’ll eventually come to the decision to go for it or not, I’ve not always been able to see myself able to get away with it, you waste time but it’s standard. I have recently on one such water, it’s just so unfishable but is home to some beautiful carp. I have wasted a couple of years on and off here! I’ve tried and tried little campaigns but Some places you just can’t do. Others your hampered by various other factors.
I suppose thinking about it you really do have to have the right mindset, it’s not easy at all. Often uncomfortable, often with no view of the lake, always rods in water and waders ready, sometimes not being able to move freely until cover of darkness. No socials, well me and Martin normally always meet once a day when we were on waters together.This Never bothered me because I was always on lakes where no one fished. Plus many years in the infantry has groomed me well for this type of living, this is an upgrade! There is no luxury, it’s either going to help catch a carp or I’m going to eat it or drink it. Your often bitten to death, all these places have red ant nests everywhere for some reason , I’ve spent nights on islands getting mullered by red ants my ankles were in tatters!
Last year I caught 3 fish, not a 20 pound plus among them, but all beautiful and forgotten unknowns. I fished a lot of nights though. More than most people could tolerate I suppose, but I learnt and saw things that are paying off this year, I loved being in some of these places, I see things you would never see on busier clubs and syndicate waters. Some of the displays from various forms of wildlife I’ve witnessed are amazing, along with those special sunsets and sunrises,
I could have caught a lot more fish had I not fished these types of waters for the last 15 years on and off, without a doubt, but each to their own. I do not consider myself special, nor do I have any intention of becoming a known angler, I don’t want sponsoring and I don’t need to gain gratification from plastering pictures of my fish everywhere, it’s personal to me and it’s what I like to do. Whilst on the subject I will make it clear that I am nothing more than a satisfied customer, although Stuart has become a good friend the last couple of years we have been acquainted. My decision to publicise things and do some writing is simple, I have more time on my hands, and I absolutely LOVE what he is doing to the ridiculous carp scene we have nowadays. Which itself is Another reason I fish the way I do, I bury my head away from all the hype and bitching lying and cheating.
So why fish for 3 fish a year from god knows how many nights when you could pay for a good syndicate and catch 40s all year theoretically anyway. Well, I don’t want to see people really, hear their buzzers, their farts and all that comes with a nice syndicate. That’s not for me. I don’t want to sit around having a beer and a curry and I don’t knock anyone who does but I want to hunt carp. I don’t want to catch a fish that gets caught several times a year and has a name. Don’t want to know about the patch of gravel by the island or the bar, I want to find it all myself. I don’t enjoy attention really, it’s nice with friends occasionally but if I do that I’m not really seriously fishing I’m socialising. I’m not actually interested unless the lake has mystery at all.
The big thing is though, the one massive difference that leads us here as guests and wild water tacklers, is that the unknown exists unlike the well stocked big fish syndicate, well apart from the big common that is, they are in all of them! But not just the unknown, the most beautiful carp can be found, size is irrelevant they are magnificent rare creatures, some almost prehistoric, I have been lucky enough to catch some carp as old or older than me, seldom held. They have grown up in rich environments, abundant in natural food and with no competition and in crystal clear weedy waters, and in my opinion have become the true prizes of the angling world. I want to catch those prizes, il put into it whatever effort needs to be done, that is what sets the guest apart I guess, they are willing to go that extra mile to have the privilege of holding these beautiful fish for a few moments. They will sacrifice the time and effort involved to find these fish. It’s a mindset you either have it or you don’t really, we all want different things from our fishing so whatever makes you happy, it is only fishing after all.
Another Unknown 40 on CherryCarp’s KMT