I arrived at Anglers Eldorado’s Day Ticket Catfish lake where I was to join Bruce Elston, John Hughes and crew who had booked the lake for an exclusive three day fishing trip. I could only fish for twenty four hours due to other commitments but hoped I would at least witness the catching of one of these mysterious fish.
My catfish trips are few and far between as they are not abundant in Devon with just a handful of waters legally stocked. Anglers Paradise is undoubtedly the most prolific catfish venue in the county with several lakes holding the species. The Day ticket Lake hold cats to over fifty pounds with a good head of fish between thirty and forty pounds. Catfish are very powerful fish that test the tackle to the limit. They resemble a giant slug crossed with an eel and can grow in excess of 100lb in UK waters.
One of the joys of angling is undoubtedly the friendships that are forged whilst walking the waters edge. I have fished with Bruce on and off for close to forty years and knew John Hughes from my days chasing pike on the Somerset Levels in the early eighties. Angling paths so often converge with years in between yet these friendships seem timeless and are picked up as if no time has passed.
And so, we all six gathered for a walk around the lake chatting enthusiastically about the prospects from each swim and listening intently to Bruce’s intimate knowledge of the venue.
The lakes perimeter was decorated with an abundance of brightly coloured summer flowers with yellow flag iris in full bloom. We discussed the swims in detail and drew straws to see who would fish where.
We all set off with our heavy loads to set up for the vigil ahead. General tactics were to fish boilies over beds of pellets.
It took a couple of hours before all traps were set and the business of waiting began. Coffees and teas were brewed and snacks devoured. Conditions seemed ideal, warm with a light cloud. Birdsong reverberated around the lake mixed with the sound of angler’s chatter. The hours drifted pleasantly past in expectation rods poised, alarms set.
Early evening brought a welcome pizza delivery from Bruce’s wife. Rods were wound in and the meal enjoyed together on the bankside.
As the light levels began to fall so did the expectation as everyone hoped for a run. I was chatting to Pauline on the phone when my alarm screamed as line poured from the reel. I dropped the phone and grabbed the rod to enjoy a short battle with a common carp of around 9lb. Strange to be slightly disappointed when it’s not the target fish. On another day fishing the same tackle I would be delighted with the catch.
I re-positioned both rods before darkness and enjoyed the fading of light from the day until all colour has drained. I placed my crocs beside my bed-chair, rain pattered on the brolly and I drifted off to sleep.
At around 1.00am I awoke. Glancing out I saw lights coming from Bruce’s swim and assumed he had enjoyed success. A walk along the bank with the camera confirmed success and I was thrilled to capture the image of Bruce cradling a 22lb 3oz catfish.
A couple of hours later my alarm woke me from my sleep and I made only brief contact with either a carp or catfish.
An hour later I was again woken by the harsh call of the alarm and line streaming from the reel as the rod tip lurched hard left. Another carp was the culprit, a good looking common of around 12lb.
The summer dawn slowly broke and expectation remained high until I slowly dismantled camp leaving the baits in the water until the last minute as is my custom.
I ended up chatting at length with Bruce, John and Mitch before struggling up to the van with my barrowload of tackle.
Bruce sent me a full report the following day with the catfish playing hard to get on this occasion. The total score being cats of 19lb 3oz and 22lb 3oz to Bruce. An 11lb 7oz cat to John. A carp of 9lb to Tony, a carp of 13lb to Mitch and a 12lb carp for Bruce. Ben had a catfish that was foul-hooked so didn’t count a shame as it would have been his first.
All are eager to return next year and do it all again. When perhaps the cats will be on the munch and weigh even heavier!