My early impressions of Salford Park, Birmingham was seeing pictures of fish that had been caught by some of my angling pals. At the time (early 90’s), I didn’t have my own transport, so was content to serve my carp angling apprenticeship on the local canal circuit. When I did finally own a car, in the mid 90’s, I made some brief visits to the concrete bowl underneath Spaghetti Junction, to see what all the fuss was about. This place was not for the faint hearted! It’s hardly picturesque, as it’s all concrete, surrounded by flats & the noise from the nearby motorways rings in your ears all day & night! Despite this, it is home to some stunning fish, most of them double figures with a handful of twenties. Initially, I made some early morning visits, stalking my early captures from close in on peanut hookbaits, but as the spring wore on, the early morning activity slowed, & more & more of the local anglers started appearing, who didn’t make me feel particularly welcome.
15lb 4oz mirror
It was around this time, I met a young lad who had been carp fishing the local canal for a season or so, called Ben Woodhouse. I told him of Salford, & I’d explained to him that there was no way I was going to fish night sessions there on my own! He said that he was willing to come along for a session, so we planned a 24 hour session there the following weekend. I had the only fish – a mirror of 15lb+, but Ben was intrigued enough with the place to want to come back for another go.
Brace of mirrors
During our first few sessions, we found it difficult to get on the fish, as we reasoned that they’d be following the wind, due to the lack of any real features in the lake. Whichever end of the lake the wind was blowing into when we’d arrive for our weekend session, the locals would have it all stitched up. We were managing the odd fish between us, but not enough to satisfy me. I wrestled with the idea that maybe the rigs weren’t working, or the bait was blown, or that we just simply weren’t anywhere near fish. The locals named each end of the lake ‘the round end’ & ‘the square end’, because of the shape of the concrete bowl of the lake, & nine times out of ten, the locals would all be down the round end.
19lb 8oz linear
We arrived one weekend for a session, & I said that maybe we should fish the square end, even though the wind was blowing into the round end where all the locals were again all bivvied up. We would set up on the far bank, but fished the margin area of the near bank. We placed our rigs close in the margins, fed a good handful of peanuts & moth beans around the hookbaits, then walked back round to the far bank & tighten down to the rigs. That night Ben had two fish & I had three. All of the takes were drop-backs, & we realised that there were a lot of fish in the area. We managed to keep most of our captures quiet from the locals, as we knew that if they cottoned onto the fact that we were catching so well, they’d all be fishing the square end the next time we arrived. We knew that we couldn’t stay on the lake for too much longer that year, as there had been one or two tackle thefts on the lake, as well as one guy who was pretty badly beaten up. We decided that our target was to catch a twenty each, then that’d be it. Again, we arrived on Friday evening for our normal weekend session one week to find the locals all spread out along the far bank – from the square end right down to the round end. We opted to fish in the middle of the near bank, & we’d just see what happened. On the Saturday afternoon, I had a take on the middle rod that fought really hard until eventually nutting the spreader block. I knew it had got a good chance of being a twenty, & when it went 20lb 2oz on the scales, I was over the moon! Nothing more happened that day, or the next, & on the Monday morning, I went to check on my car, which I’d parked on the local pub car park. The passenger window had been smashed, & the contents of the glove compartment had been thrown all over the front seat. Nothing had been stolen – just kids looking for money I guess. I shifted the car, & reported the news to Ben. We discussed whether or not it was time for us to get off the lake now, even though we were only half way to our target.
I knew it had a good chance of being a twenty...
We decided that we’d leave at the end of the day & that would be it – & vowed never to go back again. In desperation to catch a fish before we left, Ben reeled in his left hand rod & walked all the way up to the square end to place his rig tight in the corner to a stump, then walked all the way back to his bivvy to put the rod back on his pod. We had decided to leave at 7:00pm, & we joked at 6:00pm that Ben had one hour left to catch a twenty from here. Around 6:30pm, his left hand indicator dropped a couple of inches & he was on it straight away. He played the fish for a long time in open water, before it was ready for the net. We knew straight away that it was a twenty, & at 22lb 8oz, the fairytale was complete. The search for a new water was on.
14lb 12oz mirror