Bite Alarming!

I can barely believe it myself but I’m old enough to have witnessed the evolution of the electric bite alarm, though I came onto the scene shortly after the commercial production of Richard Walker’s famous ‘Heron’. As a kid, the very sight of this piece of fishing-wizardry – safely encased within a glass cabinet in my local tackle store – would have me near-salivating in anticipation of owning one when I got older and, hopefully, richer – they weren’t cheap for a lad dependent on pocket-money.

Heron Bite Alarms
With little prospect of securing a Heron for myself, I took to making my own carp bite alarm; an all-consuming and most enjoyable exercise for an 11 year old blessed with few technical skills but bags and bags of enthusiasm. It comprised a plastic darts-case, two 4” lengths of tin pallet-banding and black plastic tape to insulate them from each other, a standard torch bulb…and that was it, apart from the wiring. I don’t remember how I secured my creation to the bank-stick but I do recall – with a smile – the patience, the frustration and the light touch necessary to keep the contacts apart with 8lb PDQ monofil. Thing was, it worked – rather well at that! And unlike the Heron’s sound-box which lit-up intermittently with the uncertainty of a cagey take, MY alarm remained illuminated, allowing me to keep an eye on the dangling cylinder of Baco-foil. Of course, from that point on, bite detection was effectively manual (i.e. visual) and unaided by the bite-alarm, but it had done its job of alerting me to the cyprinoid-enquiry.

Not to be outdone by his youngest, irksome little boy, Dad determined to construct his own bite alarms and locked himself in the garden shed for the whole weekend. Sawing and banging was occasionally heard so it was a fair bet his invention would be wood-based; indeed, being an accomplished amateur carpenter it was a foregone assumption. Now my father was never one to do things by halves; he took pride in doing things ‘as though you mean it’, and even recommended this policy as a way of thwarting school bullies: “Try to avoid trouble, boys” he’d tell me and my elder brother, “but if you can’t, stand your ground, make a tight fist and bop him square on the nose…do it like you mean it, ok? Bang!” We’d recoil at the mock blow and with good cause! The ol’ man could bring his fist to a welcome halt a fag-paper’s width from your nose. We took his advice as gospel and it proved to be a winner on a good few occasions during our school years – and once or twice since.

Anyway, come Sunday evening, Dad was ready to exhibit his rival bite-alarm to the world, a world consisting of me, my brother, Mum and the budgie. It had the appearance of a converted bird-box and I remember my brother’s joyful observation that it was big enough for a pair of tits. Mum frowned, but her displeasure was halted by Dad’s request to help him ‘launch’ his creation. We could clearly see the large red bulb-cover on the front of the box and naively assumed the alarm would be ‘light-only’ like those I’d made in previous weeks but, like I said, Dad didn’t do things half-heartedly. Handing the experimental length of PDQ to Mum, Dad proudly stepped back and ordered his wife to tug it from the grip of the two contacts…she did so, and all Hell broke loose! The bell could have woken the dead or, at the very least, have signalled a break-out from Wormwood Scrubs, and the warning-light flashed red and angry. The budgie panicked and lost half his feathers frantically flailing around his cage; Mum shielded her ears with the oven-glove and me and my brother pleaded with Dad to turn the ruddy thing off. Very much in his own time, Dad brought the mayhem to a halt with a click of the large chrome switch on the back of the Tit Box, as we later dubbed it.

“You’re never going to use that thing over the pit, are you Dad?” I suggested

“Of course! And why not?” he asked

“Think of my reputation!” I cried, “I’M the one who’s always running around the pit telling people to keep quiet…I’ll never be able to show my face again!”

The argument continued for a minute or two before Dad returned to the shed and deposited his own personal Prometheus on his work bench. It was largely forgotten until we decided some days later to do a night session for the wildies of the Main Pool in South Ockendon, Essex. Barry and I knew that Dad was carrying the Tit Box but, I fancy, the full horror of its manifestation had diminished in our minds; we believed, I think, that what had been deafening within the confines of the kitchen would be all but lost in the great outdoors.

At some time in the wee, small hours, a humble grey-pink wild carp of around 3lbs picked up a tasty ball of Canadian Cheddar and caused a riot in so doing. Torches flashed across the lake, shouts went up and the sickening sounds of wellies kicking Thermos flasks to death filled the night air…there’d been a break-out! Barry and I were mortified: fanatical carpers both, reared on stealth and cunning, we adopted the foetal position and gritted our teeth until Dad had landed, unhooked and returned his fish to the lake some months later.

Next morning we faced a Court of Inquiry but avoided a ducking from our fellow Brothers of the Angle by concocting some cock-and-bull story about the “late arrivals” just up from our swim…we’d sent them packing with their bloody alarm and told them never to return!

In the years to come, further attempts at constructing cheap, effective bite alarms were made, though I have particularly fond memories of the Heath Robinson contraptions we made from bits and pieces found on the adjacent land-fill site: innovative? I think me and my fishing pals invented the word!

I’d truly love to see other readers’ accounts of their alarming ways.

Dave Lane Carp Fishing Diary

Well, I said last week it was prime time to grab the rods and get out there on the banks and it looks like I have proven myself right.

Luckily nobody else on the syndicate took my advice though because the lake was deserted as I pulled into the car park at first light on Monday morning. I knew exactly where I was headed; back out on to the peninsula where I had landed the six fish from the previous session, the only thing I couldn’t decide was which of the three swims to fish. There is one off the end and one on each side, fishing into totally separate bays. As it turned out I ended up fishing all of them and I’d taken three of the new landing nets with me in case this was the outcome. I started out just fishing off the barrow for the day, spending half an hour looking across one bay and then half an hour in the other. Even though there is only a few yards between the swims I’d made a note of the colour of the carp bite alarms and kept the sounder box in my hand, ready to run in whichever direction I needed should a take occur, which it did and pretty quickly too.

The single rod fished off the end of the point was the first one away, a spot that has been very productive for me over the last few sessions.

I knew it was a big fish straight away as it kept deep and very slowly plodded along bottom of the gully that runs around the point. The water on the near side of the gully is exceptionally shallow so I stripped down to my pants and waded out a few yards until I had enough depth for the net. With the pressure now right above the fish it didn’t take long to coax him up through the water and into the net. As soon as I set eyes on him I knew which one he was, the big Italian, third biggest fish in the lake but, unfortunately, a re-capture for me. That’s the problem though with fishing for only one or two target fish, you are bound to have a few repeats along the way but I was sure I must be getting closer to my goal. This was my thirtieth capture from the lake this year and, with only fifty fish in there, it could only be a matter of time before that big old leather carp rolled into my net.

After weighing him in at thirty seven pounds, I decided to take a couple of quick snaps of him and, just as I was sliding him back into the lake, the blue light lit up and sounder box started howling away. This was the rod I’d placed in the middle bay, an area I’d yet to catch from but somewhere I’d baited and was convinced the fish had started using over the last week or so. Whatever I’d hooked in there decided that it wanted to put as much distance between himself and me as was possible in a short space of time and the rod was almost wrenched from my hands as he tore off through the weed. Eventually he came to a halt as he locked solid in a huge bed of Canadian Pondweed and nothing I tried would persuade to come out again. Eventually the only option was to tighten right up and slowly walk backwards, ripping the entire weed bed free and bringing it slowly across the surface towards the bank. It seemed to take an eternity to get it to within netting range and, just as it was drawing close, the fish bolted out of the side of it and buried in the weed at my feet. I’d got a good look as he went past and I was fairly sure it was a fish known as the ‘Bullet Hole’ common, the second biggest carp in the lake and one I dearly wanted to catch. Although he was only a few yards out it was a full half an hour before I eventually landed him, having had to go in up to my neck in the water and free him using my feet in the weed!

On the bank though it all became worth the effort as I hoisted him up for the camera, also thirty seven pounds in weight but, unlike the Italian, perfectly proportioned and covered in big golden scales.

This was turning into quite a session and with the common ticked off the list, realistically, it now only left the big leather for me to catch.

I was amazed not to get a bite throughout the hours of darkness as there were obviously a few fish about but I did see a very big fish show right over my second middle bay rod, the swim I had eventually decided to set up camp in.

Both the other fish had come in the morning so I was practically hovering over the rods as soon as became light. Typically though, it wasn’t until I was busy re-casting one of the other rods in the margins to my right that the first bite came, and what a bite it was. Total meltdown is about the only description that fits and the spool was a complete blur. Unlike the common though, the fight was a dour affair and, barring the odd roll on the surface, the fish came straight in to the bank like a dog on a lead. It was only at the last moment, as he rose up over a bank of weed, that I realised exactly what I had hooked. There on the surface, not ten yards in front of me, was the most enormous chunk of leathery back just rocking on the surface. Whether I hesitated or whether he just realised what was happening I don’t know but he chose that moment to wake up and he dived straight down into the same weed bed I had had all the trouble with the previous day. Not wanting a repeat performance of that fiasco I just piled on the pressure and lifted him straight back out again, before he could get too entwined. Up he came, out of the weed and, as he hit the surface in bewilderment, I just slid the net straight under him before he could plan his next move.

Wading back out cradling a net full of carp was such a mad feeling, all those nights wondering when and how and, sometimes, if, that big old beast would be mine and now here he was. It was as if I had been working to a script, first the common and now him, all forty five pounds and twelve ounces of him.

My Northants campaign had come to an end and what a way to finish with the three biggest in the lake one after another. Not wanting to break the spell or ruin the story with a little common as well, I wound in the remaining rods and, after a mammoth photo shoot, packed slowly away for the last time, sporting a grin so wide that it almost joined up at the back of my head.

All I have to do know is find somewhere else to setup the carp fishing tackle and target some other large carp!

 

40lb leather fishtec Dave Lane

40lb leather