North pond Dunwear , Mysterious Bites and the Clapper.

The North pond at Dunwear can be considered to be the doyen where fishing venues are concerned. Way back in 1905 it was with the Middle pond (now defunct) and the old South pond (which dried up way back and is now the main car park) that this complex became the first place that Bridgwater Angling Association acquired for fishing. North pond has definetly made its mark in history where angling is concerned. Throughout its years its characterics has certainly evolved. One has to bear in mind that way back in its infancy it was a relatively isolated place with only the fore two mentioned ponds for company. This was a time when the nearest main road was the old Bridgwater to Westonzoyland road. There was no big/senior pond or Railway pond. The Smiths and Sydenham estates were 5o years in the future.

A map of the ponds from 1904

Way back nearly a 100 years ago it a venue that was renowned for quaility roach and by that I mean roach of 2lb plus was common. My first encounter with North pond was in 1975 when entry could be gained at the bottom of Alderney Road. Their were 3 of us and we opted to fish what is now called Little Willow. North pond was to me and still is today to some extent something of an enigma. At the time it was the biggest lake we kids had fished added to that was the depth. It was by far the deepest venue we had visited. The depth was roughly 8ft and it was a good job that I had replaced my 6ft spinning rod to a cheapo 12 ft float rod. This was the first of a few visits to the swim. The 1975 season was our first season proper and obiously fishing knowledge back then was minimal and one had gotten used to that when we went fishing catching loads of fish was a situation we had yet to encounter. Thus bites for us was always at a premium.

Little Willow as it is now.

The fishing session started a right real quandry that was to last for a week. We fisherman well know that part of the joy of fishing is that when the float goes under you never know what you will get. Whilst fishing this early July day of 1975 the three of us were glad to be getting bites, if memory served me correctly we were pleasantly surprised to be getting a fair few bites. Say once every 15 to 20 minutes (this was good going for us). But there was a problem, a snag, a hitch. something that turned into right old puzzle. It was the bites themselves, the float would just sail right under, okay there might of been a slight bobbing before hand but all in all the bites were bold and very positive and the float would plunge beneath the surface. That was the good part, the second part (the bad part) was when you struck there was nothing, bugger all, not a sausage. the rod would not even bend. We trio must have had 10 bites each but all suffered the same fate complete and absolute nothing. It was time to go, the other guys who fished with me had just taken our mysterious fishing episode on the chin and appeared to have put it down to experience.

But not me I had something to solve, at school that week I found it difficult to concentrate, be it in English, Maths or standing in the corner with a dunces cap on. I just could not get them bites out of my head. Midweek I had to run an errand for my mun which found me visting the local butchers. The boss man of the shop was a very keen angler indeed and was always interested if I had been fishing or not. I told him about these unhittable bites that we had encountered. “what you want to do me lad is that you want to change to a bigger hook”

The following Saturday came and the other two previous companions decided to watch Saturday morning tv. No not me I had better things to do then oggle at the delectable Sally James on Tiswas, I had a mission to complete. Once again the swim was empty and this time armed with a size 14 hook instead of a 16 I proceeded to fish. Once again it was ground hog day. Every 15 to 20 minutes the float would sink with out trace, but nothing. After a few more bites I decided to swap from a size 14 to a size 12. But no the bites still kept coming but to know avail. Around noon totally dejected I packed up.

The next day, Sunday I set of once again and arrived at my now adpoted swim about 7:30. I was lucky the pond had a few anglers dotted around it but Little Willow was once again vacant. Yep ground hog greeted me once again with the same format. Every time the float went under I struck at a different angle but I just could not connect. I been at it for nearly 3 hours and yet still nowt. “any joy kid” I turned around, It was the angler who had been fishing to my left, he wore a black boiler suit, black rimmed glassses and a camouflage hat. On his feet were a good old pair of hob nailed boots. He also donned his rod holdall and behind him was his trolley,(he had packed up and was on his way home). I say this guy was late 30’s early 40’s. “no you” I repleid “had a few decent roach, my favourite can’t beat them, proper fish” I explained to this advid Roach angler of my predicament. “What hook size you using” “I’ve gone from a 14 to a 12” “what…… what you doing lad trying to gaff um” “well that’s what the butcher said me to do” With that the black boiler suited roach angler smiled, he turn to a pouch on his seat box which was on his trolly and had a rummage, he pulled a out a package and handed it to me. “use them kid” With that he departed trailing his trolly behind him “So long kid good luck” he shouted. That was it he was gone. I looked at the packet, it was a pack of size 20 hooks. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I replaced my so called gaffing hook with a petite size 20. Baited it with 2 maggots and casted in.

10 minutes went by and once again for what was now normal the float plunged under. I picked up the rod but owing to previous experience a spirit of despondency had creeped in I stuck with the feeling of the same old same old. But no there was resistance, the rod top jerked and the line went taut. FISH ON. The fish was not big by any means but was big enough for the landing net to be brought in to play. It was in, the instigator of my bite was in the net. An eel of about 4 ounces was soon unhooked and promptly dropped into the keepnet. 15 minutes later the float dipped under again and another eel about the same size was bagged. In all I had 5 small eels for the session. This may not sound a lot but for a 11 old kid with limited fishing ability this a personnel battle that had been won. I prided myself by being confronted by a mystery, persevering and achieving a creditable outcome. Not bad, Job done.

The unsung heroes taking a well earned break.

The North pond has had its up and downs over the past and throughout its history has had problems with pollution but now in the the modern era problems has emerged with the oxygen content and fish has unfortunately been lost. The blame can be attributed to the fact that North pond has now been encapsulated by a fair number of trees and bushes and by the housing on the north bank. All which has thwarted the wind from oxygenating the pond. So once again it was the unsung heroes of Dunwear (Bill, Matt, Rips and Grant) to take up the challenge and sort the problem. Hence armed with it seems with every type of chain saw the guys went to work felling trees and getting rid of bushes surrounding the pond to let the much needed wind to permeate the lake. Fingers crossed.

The result of the tree felling with the portaloo in the back ground.

In the last month it can be said with a great degree of certainty that we have had our fair share of rain. Not only does excess rain cause problems for the rivers and drains but ponds are affected as well, no more so than Dunwear. Each of the 4 ponds are inter connected to each other through a series of pipes, this is all part of system to control the water level of the ponds. The main element which prevents the whole complex from over flowing is the ditch which is situated at the south western corner of Railway pond which runs parallel to the railway line and in to the river Parrett next to the railway bridge via a pipe with a flap on the end which opens and shuts automatically. This contraption is known as the clapper. The clappers job is to regulate the water level at the ponds in conjuction with the tide on the river Parrett. But in recent weeks the clapper malfunctioned and caused all sorts of problems with the level in the ponds, causing some slight flooding. South pond was particulary hit with an influx of brownish water. But now as I understand it the thing has now been fixed and things have returned to some sort of normality. Fingers crossed once again.

The next match for Watchet angling club will be on Saturday 21st at Trinity Waters on Woodlands lake which is part of the optional winter match series – silvers only.

Thank all folks tight lines.

Pete C

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