Match held at Sedges Brick Lake and the History of Screech Owl Ponds.

Eleven members of the Watchet Angling gang decided to ply their so called match fishing skills on Brick lake at the Sedges Fishery on Saturday 21st in the year of our lord 2000 and 22. The weather was very accommodating warm with little wind. The atmosphere was jovial and jolly with the usual abundance of banter being dished out and the competitive spirit was very much alive.

Carp basher extraordinaire One Eric Searle managed to occupy top spot from corner peg 11. Eric did not do any thing complicated and caught the majority of his haul on feeder and worm. Eric’s all carp catch came to a tidy total of 86 lb 10 oz. So it is a hearty congrats to him.

Rob Dodd fished straight out in front of him at a comfortable 9 meters on the pole to nab top silvers of 29 lb 02 oz plus a carp weight 49 lb 14 oz for a grand total of 79 lb. The bait was double red which was fished over ground bait. Rob pulled peg 13 out of the hat.

Robs dad Phil got 3rd spot. If there was ever a prize for being Britains most laid back angler surely he should get first prize. It appears that Mr Dodd senior employed his most favoured approach that of feeder and dead maggot. From peg 16 Phil put on the scales 41 lb 03 oz, Phil also got 2nd silvers.

Paul Smith who was next to me on my left had another corner swim, peg 10. Paul fished the feeder and pole at varying distances with mostly pellet. Paul put on the sacles 38 lb 15 oz. Paul vented a slight fustration in the car park before the match started, the reason being was that the match before some one paid in to the pools (which Mr Smith is the guardian of) some american coins instead of proper money and managed to have gotten away with it, this left poor Paul short out of pocket. Hey mate try them on the coffee machine at work.

5th placed was Pawlett ponds bailiff Nigel Coram, Nige on peg 6 bagged a weight of 34 lb 07 oz with pole and corn.

Much beloved match secretary Alan Bland had peg 12 and struggled most of the match but managed to bank three hefty carp and some bits of silvers for an end weight of 31 lb 03 oz. Paste was mostly used to get 6th place.

7th place went to Dave Nash the silvers maestro who used pole and waggler with caster and maggot. Mr Nash obtained a weight of 27 lb from peg 7. Dave got 3rd place in the silvers.

Yours truly on peg 9 got 8th spot. Up until 30 minutes to go I just had one small skimmer and that was it. But the last half hour I got 2 carp and 3 descent sized skimmers just fishing in the margins to my left with meat on the hook. This took my tally up to 25 lb 12 oz. Thanks to the last half hour I managed to ward of utter disaster.

Tony Richards the bee man had an all silvers bag of 21 lb 10 oz. From peg 14 Tony started of on bread but then switched to maggot. Fishing the pole throughout.

In 10th was Alan the tackle shop Jenkins. Alan who drew out peg 8 got a weight of 18 lb 2oz, He had 2 carp, one on tip and pellet and the other was on pole and maggot.

Last but not least and that is for sure is every ones friend Bob Pascoe. This veteran angler had an all silvers catch of 17 lb 12 oz which was tempted on the pole with meat.

The History of Screech Owl Ponds

The history of Screech Owl ponds is difficult to assess. Rumour, and vague stories handed down , suggest that it was a place of consequence for fishing even before Dunwear. The brick works long since been demolished, appeared to have been amongst the older established installations of that kind. There fore many of the ponds must have been dug out very long ago. In spite of the comparative antiquity, excavations for clay continued off and on up until about the 1940’s, and much of the water space was created during the period between the two world wars. The Orchard pond which is on the west side of the venue was dug in the 1920’s.

Some of the stories told by older angler and had since been passed down were about large carp, but how large did not appear. None of these accounts suggested any degree of popularity. Even in the 1920’s there was only a small coterie who held the fishing in great favour. It was possible to visit Screech Owl day after day without meeting another fisherman. When the brick works were in operation the water levels were kept much lower than they are now and there were pathways through all the reed beds. This with the solitude made it a fascinating to explore and find unknown ponds. It was not until the 1970’s that the place became popular.

During the 1920’s and up to the 1930’s the only freshwater fish known in these ponds were roach and carp. Both suffered from over population and were numerous with low average size. There were places where the carp might be caught remarkably easily. Catches of over twenty in a day were quite possible but none could be over three pounds-most much less. Most of the roach would have been about two ounces, with a very occasional half pounder from one of the smaller ponds. However it was a very pleasant place to spend a days fishing.

In the 1940’s the drainage authorities seemed to adopt a new policy of linking ponds with rhines. A channel was cut to join the Screech Owl ponds with the rhine running along the south side. This rhine passed under the railway to meet the one following along the canal to wide waters. It contained a remarkable variety of fish. It may be assumed that during the floods these fish found their way in to the ponds because not much later the stocks were greatly augmented by tench, pike, perch and later bream, and some rudd also appeared. The tench multiplied and gave great sport, with fine catches. This was apparent soon after the war and it was then that Screech Owl started getting notice by a small band of anglers which lead to a slow growth to popularity. This invasion of new species had some effect on the carp population. Rapidly they diminished in number, and began to grow larger. Better and better fish were taken until it seemed that a specimen carp water was developing. However, it appears that their place had been taken by bream.

Around about the time of the arrival of the new species a very big shoal of mullet found their way in via one of the rhines which joins the river Parrett. They soon scattered widely over the ponds and were at times clearly visible. They were a great provocation to some of the anglers because they proved uncatchable. They might be seen to be feeding on the small prawns which had also invaded the water but invariably these failed as bait on the hook.

It was not long after the war that the brick works went out of use, and the whole area was sold to become a bird sanctuary. Then Bridgwater angling secured proper fishing rights. It was a satisfactory arrangement lasting until the death of the owner. Afterwards the venue was acquired by the Somerset County Council and was designated a nature reserve in accordance with the appropriate laws. These required priority to be given to conservation of wild life. It had been decided that the region was eminently suited for the purpose. The continuation of fishing was acceptable and it was possible to rent part of the bank space for anglers. but alas continuation of renting bank space was terminated during the mid 2010’s and thus Screech Owl is no longer a venue to fish.

The next match for the Watchet Club is at Trinity Waters on saturday the 4th of June.

Until then tight lines.

Pete C

The History of Dunwear Ponds.

The bricks and tiles was until well in to the mid 20th century an industry of quite traditional significance around Bridgwater and Highbridge. Excavations for the necessary clay created very many ponds in the district. In the earlier stages of the activity when digging was done by hand they tended to be small in the area, but with the coming of more sophisticated machinery they were much larger and latterly some covered as much as 20 acres. Having a favourable depth of about 5 to 7 ft, and a considerable enrichment from the surrounding agriculture land, nearly all became good fisheries. With the exception of a few such as Dunwear and Screech owl they were, for many years, not held in high esteem by the anglers. Most were disregarded, probably because so much other fishing was available and the demand so very modest. It is only with the growth of the popularity of angling that their potentialities were realised. Their value is further increased by their being so much less vulnerable to pollution than the other waters.

The place of the Dunwear ponds in the affairs of the Bridgwater angling Association has in previous post has been asserted. It was here where it all started, and all down the years there have been a panorama of its history. The leading personalities of each decade made their appearance at the ‘ponds’. Over so much of the time Dunwear was the most frequented of all the venues on the Bridgwater license, and the ‘regulars’ could be expected in their favourite places throughout each season. It was accepted that they might monopolise these swims, and it was quite customary to refer to ‘Watkins swim’ or ‘Ran hooks swim’ and so on. It was so for very many years. The main interest centered around the specimen contests, and competition for the capture of the largest carp was often intense.

Of all the ponds at Dunwear, the North and middle ponds must be the oldest. The middle pond is now the overgrown pond located behind the portaloo just after you enter the gate to get to North pond on your left. They were matured waters at the time Bridgwater Angling association was founded. Alas the date at which these were dug is not known, but it is more likely to be some time in the 1800’s.

There is a mystery about how these ponds acquired their fish stocks. It is very likely that those of Dunwear came from the river Parrett in the first place. Certainly, there was a rumour that they were taken from the river at Oath, but just who carried out the transportation is lost in obscurity.

Like many other disused clay pits the ‘ponds’ contained a fairly wide variety of fish. What ever the source of the original stocks may have been, much has been planted by the Association over a long time. During the years, carp, tench, roach, rudd, pike, perch, bream and even an occasional chub have been taken. In the early years a few bream were introduced to the North pond. The original fish soon disappeared, but a limited number of skimmers remained for quite 30 seasons.

By and large, carp have been the main attraction. For very long they were all of the original ‘wild’ or indigenous variety. These carp had a very modest average size and there is no recollection of a double figure specimen having appeared in the former days.

In about 1950 Ray Perrett brought about the introduction of some fast growing ‘mirrors or what was known then as continental carp-king carp he called them. As in or other places, this wrought an entirely new conception of what a specimen carp had to be. At Dunwear during the 1970’s carp over 20 lb became quite usual.

There is no idea just when the perch were not present in the ponds, but as so frequently happens with these fish, stocks fluctuated in both quality and quantity. There have been times of abundance, and some very creditable size fish. They have given a volume of pleasure to many people and sometimes come as a welcome relief from the tedium of pursuing unresponsive carp.

It might have been extraordinary if roach and rudd had not been conspicuous, but it would have been equally surprising if they had not suffered the over population which is so usual in enclosed waters of this kind. Only occasionally were fish of worthwhile size seen. The exception was described in a previous post on pollution of Bridgwater waters. This happened in the 1920’s as a consequence of the depopulation arising from a polluted ditch. The surviving roach with out much competition for food grew to over 2 lb and roach fishing in Dunwear at this time entered a golden age. Rudd we know arrived in the ponds in 1924 when they were spreading throughout the district.

Formerly, tench were seen very infrequently, but later they became established and have prospered. Although some good fish have been encountered over the years, the average size have been below that is usual in other waters. On the other hand, their general condition have been more than satisfactory, and they have given excellent sport. They have been a very valuable addition to the stocks.

When the old South pond (which is now the car park) silted up some sea bass must have found their way up the channel or ditch that had been cut to join North and Middle pond. (Bearing in mind that the old South pond was joined to the river Parrett at one stage). Thus North and Middle pond had a sizable population of sea bass for a long time and grew to a fair size. One could be observe in middle pond which was about 7 lb. Eventually they died out. One imagines that they could not breed in the freshwater. On infrequent occasions they did take a bait. When this happened it usually left the surprised angler to survey the wreckage of his tackle. They could move faster than the carp! With these sea fish other estuarine creatures arrived such as flounders, I can testify to this as I have seen one caught in the Railway pit way back in 1976. Another sea invader was a small type of prawn which multiplied in the water and provided a very good bait for perch and carp. Erroneously the anglers called it a shrimp.

Another species of fish which inhabits both North and South pond is a fish which is locally known as the Sun Bass. The real name for this fish is the Pumpkinseed. This small fish often takes up residence in the margin weed and was often targeted by young anglers with dead lines. It is a mystery how these fish got here. It is interesting to note that these fish are classed as an invasive species and imports of these fish are banned by the EU.

The association in 1956 purchased the North and South ponds and this was for a nominal sum. The value of the clay pits had not been realised, and it was a extremely fortunate transaction . The sum paid was little over £100 and now ponds of this kind would cost many many thousands. After the business had been concluded it was to be seen that the conveyancing had been carried out badly. There were errors in the deeds and inconsistencies in the boundaries. In recent years Bridgwater AA has deemed it reasonable to purchase the other 2 ponds that of big pond and the Railway pond. This transaction has paved the way for improvements to be made, mainly with security gates and the introduction of pallets and a restocking of the ponds. The future for Dunwear ponds seems well secured for the time being.

The above aero picture of Dunwear ponds was taken in 1952. The black arrow points to the newly dug South pond. The green arrow points to North pond with Middle point slightly to the left. The red oval shape encompasses the big pond which as you can see started of as a lot of small pits.

Avalon Match

Saturday just gone May the 7th Watchet Angling had a match at Avalon fisheries, on the road side. The match was blighted by white popular trees sheading the white fluffy bits on to the lake making fishing in certain swims very challenging indeed.

The next match for the Watchet mob will be on Brick lake at the Sedges on Saturday 21st of May.

Tight lines

Pete C.

Match Fished at Landsend Fishery, Also a video entitled Stoned With Hemp.

Owing to some technical issues and the time in sorting it all out and the fact I don’t want to spend more time than necessary this is a rather shorten version of a blog post than what is normally. Instead of having shall we say a format of a newspaper with a fair bit of writing and a few pictures, today’s time constraints has forced the outline to be rather akined to that of the Daily star. A Daily newspaper which has more pictures then writing and which only requires a reading age of six.

That old adage that is often uttered when bites are at a premium and it seems that the fish have gone AWOL (absent with out leave, for people who haven’t quite reached the reading age of six.) “Yea but it still great being out here on the bank than at home” or words similar was definitely applicable to the participants who took part in Watchet’s match fished on the specimen lake at Landsend fishery on Saturday 30th.

Although a commercial with pallets it snuggles in quite well with it’s rustic surroundings, this place is adorned with lush greenery and weeping willows and has the characteristics of a oil painting. So with the sun shinning on this bucolic setting the mood of the match was pleasant and the frame of mood amongst the anglers was jolly. There was a sense as always of competitiveness but the rustic scene added to the mix an element also of chilling out. Results are important but in this respect so was the sense of being. It could be said that regardless of out come a good day was had by all.

The top four

First on the day was our dear beloved NHS hero the one and only Dave Colley. Dave it appeared kept things simple and caught most of his fish with feeder to the island with pellet. From peg 31 Dave also landed the biggest fish of the day a 17 lb 7 oz carp, in total he had 86 lb 13 oz. Nice one mate.

Insecond place was man about the match scene Rob Dodd. Rob had corner swim that of peg 25. Just using pole he fished the margins to his left with corn as bait. Rob’s total weight was a reasonable 69 lb 13 oz. This guy managed 3rd in the slivers table as well.

Eric Searle one of the clubs veterans occuppied third place also from a corner peg. Peg number 33 was Eric home for the match. 48 lb 03 oz was the weight he put on the scales which was obtained mostly by feeder and pellet.

Peg 32 was pulled out the hat by Ian Grabham. A peg which got him 4th spot with a haul of 45 lb 09 oz. Pellet was the bait that was mostly used.

Congratulations must be in order for Mr David Nash who fished peg 39 and had the top silvers bag. Dave fished his much beloved bait that of caster.

The results
The Slivers table

Way back in the late 1990’s a series of VHS videos came out called the compleat angler. One video in the series was the aptly named Stoned With Hemp by local angler Mike Stone who you might see occasionally hanging around Somerset Angling. The venue for this video was the Bridgwater and Taunton canal at a place called Smithies which people who are not au fait with the Bridgwater and Taunton canal is located just the other side of Wide Waters passed the Huntworth bridge going towards Fordgate. I did purchase a copy when it first came out but the usual story emerged I lent it to some one to be never seen again. But last year scouring the internet and ending up on Ebay I came across a copy which I bought. I had it copied to DVD format and with a little technical difficulty which with some effort I managed to download it on to the site. Hence shortened version of blog. But owing to the way it was formatted on the disc it could only be downloaded in four parts, hence a slight niggling problem that it is not a continuous viewing.

The next match for the Watchet mob is this coming Saturday May 7th at Avalon on the road side so until then tight lines.

Pete C