NETTING IN PARADISE
Anglers Paradise was created by Zyg Gregorek around forty years ago a man who had a vision to transform a few acres of marshy ground into a fishing paradise. Visiting the complex to attend the annual netting event it is apparent that Zyg’s vision is still going strong.
Each year one of the complexes thirty plus lakes is netted to ensure fish stocks are kept at optimum levels. The netting also signals the start of the venue’s charity week.
This year the float lake was to be netted, a lake of around one acre that holds koi, barbel, golden tench, carp, goldfish and a large population of rudd. The plan was to remove a large number of the rudd, transferring them to the pike lake. The koi, golden tench, ghost carp and barbel would be returned to the lake along with a few new additions including chub and blue orfe.
I arrived at around 9:00am and found the netting party assembling at the side of the lake. I took a walk around the lake capturing a few images of the partially empty lake. Late autumn sunshine illuminated the scene highlighting autumn colours on the trees.
I chatted with Joe and Zenia who between them run the complex that is very much a family business. As the working party slowly gathered one or two were undoubtedly nursing hangovers from a night before in the renowned Safari Bar.
Netting a lake requires a degree of planning and after many years the operation is a well-rehearsed project. The first task being to ensure that the lake is at the right level. Too much water and it becomes dangerous, too little water and there is a risk to the valuable stock.
There is always a sense of anticipation as the net draws together and the contents are slowly revealed. The fish within were sorted with carp, rudd and a selection of koi removed for relocation across the complex.
The enthusiasm of the team for the task at hand was impressive with no one grumbling about the mud and cold water.
The netting day signals the start of a week of events to raise money for charity. This year’s charity is Tackling Minds. Tackling Minds is a charity formed in 2020 that offers support to people from all walks of life who are suffering from a huge range of issues. In 2022 Tackling Minds teamed up with Angling Direct and Anglia Ruskin University to highlight the measurable benefits of angling for both mental and physical health conditions.
I think we can all relate to the massive increase in mental health issues over recent years. I chatted with several present about mental health and how angling provides a valuable link to the natural world that is good for the mind. Speak with young people today and it is frightening how many know of friends they have lost to suicide. This is I believe the largest cause of death for young men. A fact that is often reported in the national media.
Angling provides a vital connection to the natural world that is recognised as being extremely beneficial to mental health. There is of course also a social benefit from mixing with like-minded people who share the passion for angling.
I fear that mental health is going to be increasingly high on the agenda in future years. Elon Musk raised the possibility of AI removing the need to work and that this will result in people searching for meaning in life. As social media continues to polarise opinions and religion becomes less relevant to many mental health will become increasingly challenged.
Fishing and other pastimes will perhaps play a vital role in exercising our minds and ensuring a vital link with the natural world.
Each day of the annual charity and netting week see fund raising activities such as quiz nights and bingo nights. The week culminates in a fireworks bonanza. This year’s event raised an impressive £3000 + for tackling minds.
The complexes thirty odd lakes are now well established and offer rich and diverse habitat where wildlife abounds. Many of the visitors to Anglers Paradise have been visiting for years and as each generation grows they bring their families. Those who first fished as children now returning with children of their own to share the joys of angling.
Report from Zenia below :-
Shuan Thorne enjoyed a succesful session at Anglers Paradises El Dorado Carp and Cat lake 2. Shuan banked six carp in 24 hours including a 29lb 8oz mirror a 26lb common, 19lb 12oz mirror an 11lb fully scaled a 13lb common and 12lb catfish. The venue hold catfish to well over fifty pounds and carp over thirty.
Congratulations to Steve Smart who caught this beast of a Catfish from Day Ticket Nirvana’s Specimen Cat Lake at 60lbs 6oz making it a new personal best.
Caught on double 28mm halibut pellets sandwiched between 2 halves of a big fishy boilie (affectionately known as the dog turd rig, because it looks like a big poo!. He caught it late morning from open water.
Midsummer is a time to savour when the longest day arrives the English countryside is at its luxuriant peak. The foliage is lush and green with an abundance of wild flowers adding both colour and a perfumed aroma to the long days.
I joined my good friends for a third year targeting the catfish that lurk within Anglers Eldorado’s Cat and Carp Lake 2. With rumours of fish stocked to over eighty pounds anticipation of harsh battles with giant fish were on the agenda as we plotted our campaign over breakfast at team cat leader’s house. Swims were chosen with a mixture of choice and a random draw that pleased all present hopefully giving everyone the chance to put their baits into a known hotspot.
We pulled into the car park shortly after 8:00 and started to offload the ridiculous mountain of gear required for a forty eight hour session. Before going to our swims, we took a group picture for the memory files.
I don’t fish long sessions very often but always relish that anticipation of a couple of days beside the water. The Lakes at Anglers Eldorado day ticket complex have certainly matured since I first visited many years ago. I first looked into the complex whilst driving past when the lakes were still recently dug holes in the ground. At that time characterless waters that I had no desire to fish. The lakes have now matured with nature allowed to weave its magic with the lush green vegetation surrounding the lakes a home to abundant and varied wildlife.
We all set up in our swims and set about deciding where to cast our traps. Each of us having our own slightly different approach. The basic plan being to put out a bed of baits and pellets to bring catfish into the swim. Fishing boilies or bunches of worms on carp style bolt rigs.
It was around 11:00 by the time I had my baits in place close to features on the far bank surrounded by a liberal sprinkling of pellets and boilies. I made a fresh cup of coffee and sat back savouring the hot sun whilst contemplating the prospects of hooking a catfish.
I watched large dragonflies hover and dart above the calm waters, vivid blue damsel flies settled on the rods. A calm anticipation hung in the air as with traps set the wait began.
Set up an waiting, traps set.
The weather forecast predicted the chance of thunderstorms and heavy showers. And as the afternoon passed dark clouds gathered and rain fell. Later afternoon without warning my righthand rod was away the Delkim bleeping and the bobbin dropping back. I grabbed the rod and lifted into a solid feeling fish. After a good tussle I was pleased to secure a light lemony flanked catfish of just over 15lb. Blank avoided at least.
A short time later Tony fishing to my right was in action banking a good catfish of 32lb 7oz.
The session proved to be a successful one with Bruce topping the scoreboard at close of play banking half a dozen or more catfish to 41lb. Bruce’s tactics of heavy baiting contributing to his success along with pinpoint accuracy in putting his bait into hotspots.
John Hughes also enjoyed success with several cats to 27lb 12oz.
Sometimes you wnder if you want a run?
Another battle commences
Not the prettiest but they have a certain allure and pull very hard.
I banked two carp a mirror and a common both giving screaming runs on consecutive nights at around the same time in the fading light.
We had all caught a catfish by the end of the 48 hour session. Several powerful fish escaped along the way adding frustration and increasing the desire for a return trip.
In the longer term it is perhaps the bigger picture that soaks into life’s rich bank of memories. We fished from June 20th until June 22nd absorbed in the natural world.
Hot sunshine, dark clouds, thunder and rain followed by rainbows. The descent of darkness and that wonderful depth of colours and reflections as the day drifts away.
As the light faded from the long day I was still able to scribble a few notes in my notebook long after 10.00pm. At 11.00pm I lay back and listened to the sounds of the summer night. An unfamiliar evocative call drifted in the night air, an almost out of this world alien sound. I recognized it as the call of the nightjar, a bird that had featured on BBC’s Springwatch a few weeks ago.
In the early hours I left the bivvy to answer natures call and gazed up at a night sky of vivid twinkling stars. There was something deeply profound in the vastness of the universe.
Dawn came shortly after 4.00am each morning. The sun climbing slowly its rays cutting across the calm lake as mist lifted from the water. Intricate cobwebs glistening with morning dew and sweet songs of the dawn chorus filling the air. There is far more to this fishing lark than catching fish.
At the end of the session six friends brought together by a love of fishing said warm and cheery goodbyes vowing to do it all again next year if we are spared.
Vivid reflections as the stillness descends
Spring into Fishing – Get into fishing this April, May and June with FREE fishing from the Angling Trust
The Angling Trust’s Spring into Fishing campaign returns for a fourth year with FREE fishing sessions to re-awaken your love of the outdoors
Come and Spring into Fishing at free, fun, outdoor activity events for families around the country that are the perfect way to discover the wonderful world of angling. Everybody is welcome, to come and try fishing – whatever your age, ability or experience level.
Never been fishing before? No problem – tackle, bait, instruction and info on fishing clubs and places to go are all included for everyone at Spring into Fishing events.
Already a beginner? Great – come back and continue your introduction to angling, refresh your basic fishing skills this spring and discover some new fishing tips to help progress your angling to the next-level!
Spring into Fishing beginner sessions are quality assured by the Angling Trust to give the best possible experience of fishing to children, families and anybody who wants to find out what you need and where to go fishing. Funded by the Environment Agency and Sport England, Spring into Fishing gives everyone the chance to get outside, try fishing and learn new skills.
Free fishing events like this let you experience first-hand how fun, inexpensive and accessible fishing is, and how it’s good for your wellbeing to get outside next to water and simply tune-in to the peace and quiet of nature.
Spring into Fishing events are happening all over the country from April right through to June at fishing clubs and venues in partnership with friendly, helpful coaches and volunteers who will show you and your children what fishing is all about.
I arrived at Anglers Paradise’s Eldorado Day Ticket complex shortly after the start of the morning session of the 2023 Spring into fishing event. It was a perfect late Spring morning with warm sunshine and a gentle breeze. Wispy white high clouds drifted across the blue sky with the water of the mixed general lake reflecting the lush green surrounds of the flag Iris and bankside trees.
The vibrancy of the Devon countryside in late May and early June is certainly to be savoured. The lake was surrounded by families sharing in an introduction to the joys and tribulations of fishing. The coaches were certainly in for a busy day as they explained the setting up of tackle to the eager pupils. The brightly coloured wriggling maggots always fascinate children who are often eager to touch and feel the writhing mass within the bait tub.
The coaches set up a selection of tackles some putting out self-hooking leger rigs whilst most opted for the simplicity of pole tackles and float. I always think that the simplicity of float fishing is perfect for beginners. A float offers a point of focus; giving delight in its disappearance and buoyant optimism whilst watched.
I wandered around the lake with my camera chatting with coaches and pupils whilst trying to capture the essence of the day. It is always a joy to witness success as the fish were lifted from the water their jewelled flanks glistening in the sunshine. Beaming smiles abounded as floats dipped frequently during the morning session.
The coaches were kept busy carefully unhooking the fish and explaining the importance of correct handling procedures. The use of unhooking matts, wet hands and correct unhooking tools was explained.
A variety of species were caught including golden rudd, perch, carp and a stunning koi carp of close to 10lb caught by Lewis Jones.
The coaches talked about each fish and pointed out its characteristics, the golden flanks of rudd with scarlet fins, the stripy flanks of perch with their spiky bristling fins and the bronze chain mail flanks of carp.
During my walks around the Lake I caught sight of a bent rod on the cat and carp lake below. I dashed down to witness Paul Hockam land a pleasing catfish. Later in the day his fishing partner Tasha Caunter banked a stunning common carp of 17lb.
The pupils ranged from families who travelled from across the South West to individual anglers rediscovering the joys of angling. I hoped that some of the young would become hooked by the fascination of angling and follow a journey through life enhanced by days in nature that can nurture mental health. It was also good to share the rediscovery of angling with a man who recalled fishing with his Grandad as a child.
Angling is a passion that can be enjoyed in many different ways. I have commented before how an angling journey can often be plotted with beginners wanting to catch fish, they then wish to catch more fish, bigger fish or maybe more than their fellow angler. At some point they perhaps rediscover the simple of joy of just going fishing.
By the end of the morning session most pupils had caught a fish and hopefully most will want to return to the water’s edge again.
During the short dinner break between the two session’s I chatted with Dean Asplin Angling Development Manager for the Angling Trust. Dean works with the trust and its volunteer coaches to organise these valuable events at participating fisheries across the country.
Dean told me that they are very busy at present with many eager to sample fishing. Zenia Gregorek of the Anglers Paradise complex is a passionate supporter of the Angling Trust and thanked Dynamite baits and Shakespeare Tackle for their generous support. Anglers Paradise continues to grow and there are many exciting plans for the future that I will continue to share here on North Devon Angling News
Before the afternoon session commenced I called for a quick group photo as another group of budding anglers converged on the water. After the busy morning the fish seemed less inclined to dine and action was less frantic. With coaches having to explain why it is called fishing and not catching.
Despite the slower fishing there were plenty of smiling faces as I departed for home with a camera full of the days images.
Edward Steward with a fine common carp
I first visited Anglers Paradise over thirty years ago and at the time it was all very new and I wasn’t too impressed with the rather stark collection of large ponds and lakes. At the time I frowned upon the extensive commercialism that was creeping into angling.
Today when I visit Anglers Paradise I rejoice in the amazing transformation of the complex nestled deep within the heart of Devon the thirty plus lakes have matured along with the extensive woodland and wetlands that now provides a diverse habitat abounding with wildlife and fauna.
At the heart of the complex is of course Anglers Paradise the vision of the colourful character Zyg Gregorek. The luxury holiday destination for thousands of happy families over recent decades and famous for its wealth of fishing opportunities.
On this occasion I was visiting the Nirvana Trout lake with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pierce. Recent reports had hinted at some rather special trout residing in this 2-acre lake including specimen tiger, rainbow, blue, brown, golden trout and artic char. The lake is strictly catch and release with unhooking matts and rubber nets mandatory along with barbless hooks, single fly and minimum line of 10lb b.s.
We met up in the lakes car park at 9:30am and looked out to the lake across the grass meadow that was punctuated with hundreds of pale pink cuckoo flowers commonly known as lady’s smock. Wispy white clouds drifted high in the bright blue sky and bird song resonated all around. I passed Jeff a fresh jam doughnut and poured a coffee. A days fishing ahead life doesn’t get much better than this!
We both set up with light 6 -wt rods with floating lines and walked confidently to the lake. The water was crystal clear with tadpoles swimming in abundance along the margins.
We started fishing on the near bank both of us opting for damsel nymphs. After just a few minutes Jeff called out with his rod well bent and a good trout darting to and fro in the middle of the lake. I rushed over and did the honours with the net, thrilled to share in the moment. A fine tiger trout of close to 3lb was a great start to the day.
We fished on for half an hour but Jeff and I both eyed up the far bank where several fish broke the surface on a regular basis. The water was deeper on this bank. On just the second cast Jeff was again in action his rod hooped over and his reel singing as line was ripped from the spool at an alarming rate. Several anxious moments followed as the fish headed for the concrete overspill monk. Pressure from the rod soon told and a fine rainbow that must have been close to 6lb graced the net.
Being catch and release we had both elected to leave the scales at home and not give the fish a number. A quick release of the trout with an absolute minimum time out of the water is essential to maintain these valuable pristine stock fish.
The day progressed beneath the bright blue spring sky. Swallows swooped over the water and an early brood of mallards navigated the lake. The harsh strum of a woodpecker came from the nearby wood. We both fished hard and I glimpsed a couple of fish close to my flies but nothing actually connected.
The bright sunshine and light easterly breeze gave us an excuse for a slow day. Large numbers of hawthorn flies were blown onto the water and we assumed it was these that the fish were occasionally slurping down from the surface.
The morning drifted past all too soon and I suggested we head back to the cars where I fried up some sausages that were devoured with fresh rolls and ketchup. This wasn’t a healthy eating day!
With the fishing proving hard we discussed tactics and I elected to set up a second rod with a sinking line. I tied on one of Jeffs bead headed damsels and returned to the deeper side of the lake. We both searched the water and I eventually made brief contact with a powerful fish that threw the hook. After six hours without a touch my confidence was given a boost. Jeff had a good take from a fish that he glimpsed in the clear water before it too threw the hook.
It was now late afternoon and the prospect of a blank was starting to loom. I hooked another trout that again came off after a few seconds. Surely persistence would pay off? With very few fish now rising I was convinced that my best chance was to persist with the tactics of a deep damsel.
Suddenly a savage pull came through the line and I lifted the rod to feel a heavy fish pulsing deep down in the clear water. The loose line was quickly stripped through the rod rings and I let the fish run as I carefully applied pressure. After several tense minutes the fish was holding deep beneath the rod tip. I put the rod into a deep curve and we both peered into the dark water for that first glimpse. Jeff exclaimed “wow what a fish !” as the flanks of a large tiger trout appeared. I patiently applied pressure guiding the magnificent fish over the nets rim.
The barbless hook fell easily from its jaws and we admired the fish in the net before lifting it from the water for a quick grip and grin before slipping it carefully back and watching it swim away strongly with a flick of its broad tail.
I could have packed up then but I wanted to savour the moment and after all perhaps the fish had just come on the feed? Five minutes later my line once again zipped tight and another hard fighting tiger was secured and briefly admired.
At two all it seemed a good time to pack away for the day. Memories made and plans made for a return visit to Paradise next spring.
Prior to that I have a trip in search of the catfish of Eldorado during the summer.