A Bit About Me

 

I was lucky enough to have a fishing mad Dad. My Father started taking me fishing from the age of 3 years old. Now being 44 years of age I have been fishing for quite a while. Living in Gants Hill in Essex from being born to 15 years old I was always over Wanstead Ornamental ponds with my Dad and mates catching roach and perch. Also back in the day I sometimes fished the river Roding by Redbridge roundabout. This sometimes produced a few nice chub. During my teenage years I had heard about the famous Walthamstow Reservoirs. I fished there for a good few years and had some lovely chub and a few carp from the Coppermill Stream. I also caught a 3LB 12oz perch in 1987 from Walthamstow Reservoirs which is still my biggest perch to date. A massive perch then and still a specimen sized fish even by today's standards.

 

At the age of 15 our family moved To Romford where I started to fish a venue called Raphael’s Park. Our bungalow backed onto the park, making this very handy for a quick few hours fishing after work. I was hooked on the carping bug sweeping the nation around this era. I had also been fishing over a lake called East Lake near Fairlop waters in Barkingside, Essex. I had a few nice carp from there and was honing my skills.

A friend of mine had told me about a lake just up the road from Fairlop Waters called Hainault Forest. We had heard a lot about this lake in the Angling Times and Anglers Mail with stories of massive elusive carp.

 

These were the type of fish which only get caught once every 5 years if you were lucky. We both started fishing this lake in the late eighties and on one of our sessions my friend hooked one of the monster carp which resided in the lake. This was in the days when a 20Lb carp was considered a monster. After a long fight the fish was going up and down the marginal shelf on the surface, as my other friend tried to net it we realised that the net was way too small. The fish made one last bid for freedom and boom the line snapped. The carp he lost that hot July summer day was a perfect common carp well over 40LB. I will never forget that lost fish as my friend had it on for around half an hour before managing to get it into the margins.All 3 of us were absolutely gutted as well as the large crowd of spectators that had formed behind us.

 

This was in the days of using fairy liquid bottle tops as monkey climbers and injecting small potatoes with Brut aftershave. At the age of I7 I had passed my driving test 2 weeks after my 17th birthday. With my Father being a driving instructor this made the task a lot easier. Getting my first car allowed me to get out exploring fishing locations further afield.

By the age of 21, I had met my now ex-wife Jane and we purchased our first house in a small village called Chadwell St Mary in Essex. By this time I was still well into carping and had caught a few nice carp from a few different fisheries, even using my own home made boilies. My Fishing direction was all about to change.

 

Once I got the house move sorted out I started looking for new venues. I came across a lake called Slough House in a small village called Bulphan near Brentwood in Essex. Slough House is a lovely 4-5 acre horse shoe shaped lake. I had heard this was good runs water which contained lots of carp, but also catfish. This lake would be my main venue for the next 7-8 years. At the time my Father owned a boat at Bradwell near Southend which we had caught quite a few nice Bass from.

 

I had booked a few days off work to go fishing on my Dad’s boat but the weather was way too windy. My Dad had bought lots of lug worm and he said “as we cannot go on the boat give the lugworm a try on the lake”. I arrived about 9am and everyone as usual was fishing the split up the middle of the lake. I had a quick walk round and noticed a lot of small fry jumping out in one of the first swims where no one else was fishing. I said to Pete the bailiff. “There is catfish feeding down there.” He replied “no it’s just the roach spawning.” I quickly got my rods and set up. I lowered my quicksilver braided running rig with the lugworm as bait about one foot from the bank by some rushes. Within 5 minutes I had an almighty run and had hooked into something that was not stopping.

 

This was like no fish I had ever hooked before, taking 80 yards of line on its first run. This was more like hooking an express train. After a 20 minute fight I had my first catfish in the net. Weighing in at bang on 15LB this was an impressive fish at the time as the lake record was only around 23LB. That day I also had another catfish to the same tactics around the 14LB mark. The fight these fish give is like no other. From that moment I was hooked on catching catfish and the carp fishing was a distant memory. During the 7-8 years on Slough House I got to fish all the swims and learnt the lake features inside out. My biggest after around 4 years of trying was 29LB. Still no 30 pounder.

 

I had booked a few days of work during the summer of 2003. I visited Slough House and was confronted with a massive shock to see the bailiff and a few other guys loading absolutely tons of dead catfish and carp into the back of a few flatbed lorries. There had been a big algae bloom on the lake which had resulted in the fish deaths. This was one of saddest days in my angling history which still makes me think how big some of these fish could have got to by now if this hadn’t of happened. As the lake was closed I moved to another venue a few miles away in Rayleigh, called Oak Lodge. A few of you may have heard of this venue as this was the place where Steve Bond had tried to claim a record catfish of 99LB which had been imported. At the time Kevin Maddock’s own venue Withy Pool held the UK record of around 62LB. For someone to then try and claim a record of 99LB made it pretty obvious that the fish had been imported. This was one of the reasons the catfish record was abolished due to the large amounts of imported catfish being introduced to lakes in this country at the time.

 

That day turned out to be a very memorable one. I landed a 43LB catfish around lunch time which was awesome for me as I hadn’t even had a 30 pounder yet. By now the catfish bug was growing more than ever. That season I did not return to Slough House opting to fish other venues around Essex. I returned to China lane the following year and had my first 30 from there weighing 31LB. This was a great fish for me as it proved there were still catfish in Slough House and reinstated my confidence in the venue. A few seasons went by with no catfish coming out at all to any angler and it showed just how many fish had perished in the algae bloom. By now I had started fishing with my wife’s cousin Christopher having lots of fun at Slough House and other venues catching carp off the surface with floaters.

 

Christopher and I were back over Slough House fishing on the surface and as I hadn’t tried for a catfish for a while I set up a cat rod just to see the response. I sorted Chris’s rods out then cast my catfish rod into a hole I had found quite close in just past the near marginal shelf. Within half an hour I had a screaming run which ripped over 100 yards of line from the reel on the first run. I had the fish on for around 30 minutes and by now every angler on the lake had come round to see what I had hooked into. As I started to win the battle a huge catfish head broke the surface with a tail appearing around 5 foot behind it. Once I landed the fish it was weighed and went 46LB. This fish was the lake record for a number of years. Lots of anglers could not believe I had caught it due to the fish kill a few years prior and the fact that no real big ones had come out for years. For me that was a big achievement in my angling career. I had been fishing on and off at this lake for around 7-8 years and was now well into specimen fishing. Pic of my 46Lb catfish below.

 

46LB Catfish

 

January of 2003 arrived. My attentions were now turning to other countries for bigger catfish. I had read all the stories of massive catfish and carp in Lake Cassien in France and also huge catfish on the river Ebro in Spain. I had read an article in the Anglers mail of a catfish guiding company called Catfish Capers run by a man named Martin Walker. They had landed lots of big catfish and looked a good bet to get my first 100LB fish. I phoned my carping buddy Craig Bernstein and the holiday was booked for July 2003. We had lots of big catfish on this trip some over the 100LB mark. See the link below to an article I penned on my return from this trip. It is a good read which I think you will enjoy.

 

http://www.catfishcapers.co.uk/html/simon_hall.html

 

A year after the catfish trip to the Ebro my son Leon was born in 2004. A very proud day indeed and by now I had a vast array of fishing knowledge I wanted to pass on.

 

Not much fishing was done over the next 2 years. My ex-wife and I decided to up sticks and move to Norfolk as you could get a lot more house for your money. I had been looking around at different venues including the Norfolk broads and local lakes. This was when I found the River Wensum. What an amazing river it is. I started fishing it in 2006 and had caught many chub up to around the 5LB mark. Since then I had been doing a bit more reccy trips trying to find locations with bigger sized fish and also barbel. From the river fishing I used to do on the Walthamstow reservoirs Coppermill Stream all those years ago a new sense of a challenge pursued in trying to catch a barbel.

 

The river bug had been reignited. The next few years were spent barbel fishing on the Wensum at every available opportunity. I knew they were in there and knew a new UK record could come from there as I had seen lots of articles and pictures in the angling press. During this time our second child was born in 2008. A daughter we named Zara. Another very proud moment. I had been taking my son Leon fishing with me to a few local runs waters and he has been picking it up very quickly landing a 12LB carp unassisted when he was only 3 years old.

 

Still the barbel had eluded me on my trips to the Wensum. I found a few new spots to target and my hopes were high. Juggling family life and work around angling time was quite hard during this period. I had a barbel on in 2008 but the hook pulled out after 5 minutes into the fight.

 

The 2009 season was upon us and I was trying a new stretch I had found and just walking back to the car after a day session. This was when I noticed a large fish shaped shadow in a bay as I was passing. I cast a bait out and within 5 minutes the rod hooped over and I had a 5lb barbel in the net. I phoned my Dad and friends to tell of the good news that my 3 year quest for a barbel was finally over. To my amazement my next cast produced a 7.5LB barbel. Unbelievable, fish for barbel for 3 years and nothing then you get 2 in the space of 15 minutes.

The following season produced a few 7 pound barbel, also my biggest to date barbel of 9.5LB. This combined with a few 6LB chub up to 6LB 2oz and many others was a very good season.

 

The 2011 season arrived and was very good to me. I caught 4 barbel from the Wensum that year, biggest being 8Lb but I also caught a 6LB 8oz chub at the start of the August which is my biggest chub to date and a very impressive fish considering the time of year I caught it. See pic below of 6LB 8oz chub.

 

 

 

 

I also caught a 22Lb 4oz common carp from catch 22 during that season.  Not bad when really I have been concentrating more on the river fishing. There were quite a few otters on the Wensum in 2011 and 2012 which really made a big difference to the fishing and sadly a few of the bigger fish were eaten. I would say if you are after your first barbel, don’t try on the Wensum as if you get a single barbel in a season on there you are doing well.

 

I have seen a few big barbel in the Wensum over the years, definitely upper doubles but my quest for one of these monsters still goes on

 

Simon