The Forest of Dean is an intriguing and mysterious place, steeped in history and folklore. We live on the very edges of the district and one of the best local rags is the wonderful Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review – I thought I’d experienced truly local journalism growing up in Suffolk as an avid reader of the Suffolk Free Press, but the Review is in a different league entirely.
The forest towns and villages are fascinating places and some of the quieter high streets are a real throwback – a world away from the identikit, chain store centric town centres found across the UK.
There’s a bit of a pagan subculture that I find really interesting. Okay, so Sling isn’t exactly Summerisle but there are still nods to the ‘old gods’ in many of the traditional celebrations that take place in the area. And it even has a village called Bream.
Scattered around the forest are a number of interesting lakes, ponds and pools, with many available to fish on a day or cheap club book ticket. I paid my first visit to one nestled deep in the forest a couple of weeks ago. It was somewhere I’d earmarked as a venue to try due to the fact it holds some good tench and bream. A wild, clear water, ‘proper’ green tench of five pounds is my target.
Despite the fact that it was t-shirt and shorts weather as I arrived in the late afternoon sun, the dense tree cover that surrounds the lake coupled with its deep, clear water meant proper summer conditions still felt some way off. No sign of the lily pads that are apparently present in great patches over the summer.
As dusk approached, the wind dropped and the atmospheric crunches, hoots and rustling sounds from the woods became more prominent. I’d managed just a few small roach on waggler fished maggot and I decided to go for broke and try corn close in. Almost as soon as the bait had settled the float dithered, and then disappeared.
At first I thought it was a bream that was thumping away in the deep water as the resistance was heavy enough, but without the hair-raising energy of a tench. I was able to move the fish quite easily up from the bottom towards the net. And then it woke up. This was no three pound bream! My Shimano hyperloop float rod whipped around as my little Drennan float reel began to give line at an alarming rate. And so began an interesting battle with an unseen adversary.
As the gloom increased and as the fish went on another devastating run, this time almost reaching the other side of the lake, I began to wonder what had snaffled my bait. I had no idea what snags lay hidden in front of me and with just a four pound line straight through to a little size 14 hook, I knew it really was touch and go as to whether I was going to ever see what I’d hooked.
All of a sudden the fish seemed to allow me to take control and I steered it towards me to within a few yards of the net.
It was then I got a glimpse of a very long, grey shape just below the surface – a pike, and a good one. It seemed to make sense. A little roach had grabbed the corn and immediately been snaffled by a big pike, lurking in the margins awaiting an easy meal. And the fight suggested as much, an initially frightening turn of pace and display of power followed quickly by a minute or so of unspectacular wallowing.
But then, just as I had the pike within netting range, up popped a most peculiar dorsal fin and with a flick of its large, equally un-pike like tail off it went on another thrash across the lake.
I really thought the hook was going to pull or the line part, but for the duration of the ten minutes or so of what had now descended into a rather indifferent sort of stalemate, everything held firm and, finally, I was able to net what turned out to be a good sized grass carp – the first of the species I’ve ever hooked.
It was a suitably surreal end to my first fishing adventure in the forest. The grass carp weighed 14lbs 1oz and, contrary to what I’ve heard in terms of their behaviour on the bank, the fish was as good as gold. After a couple of snaps I slipped it back into the dark, mysterious depths of its forest pool.