My own experience of petty pool started in April 2002, at the time I’d already graduated from capesthorne hall and the reputation of petty pool just didn’t frighten me in the slightest. 2002 was the year we had a foot and mouth outbreak and with waters closing down everywhere, Northwich AA took the decision to leave petty pool open in the close season. This was just the opportunity me and my mate Barney had been waiting for, a difficult water made easier by close season fishing for the first time!. We could smell a result on the cards and the second week in April we made a start fishing this tough north west carp water.
The first thing you notice about petty pool is the fly life, the ground around the pool was boggy and getting to some swims involved using wooden walk ways the club had put in. Unfortunately the boggy areas were a breeding ground for very small black flies that just loved biting anglers and right from the start they made my life hell. The carp didn’t help either, despite it being close season they still seemed to live their whole lives over on the far side of the pool a million miles away from any angling pressure.
Me and Barney fished the pool 3 days per week, evenings after work on Friday and every Saturday and Sunday daytime. We never turned up very early but we always stayed to the death at 10pm in the hope of picking up a last minute fish. We kept a moderate amount of bait going in too although it was usually into the poorer producing swims as I just didn’t have the time needed to be at the gates early enough to secure famous pegs like the bus stop although if the going pegs were empty we always dropped in there, as I was the driver Barney was stuck to the hours that I could fish.
April soon turned into May, then into June and still no sign of a run to either me or Barney. By now the flies were a nightmare and I was literally going fishing in a thermal suit to keep them from biting me, I had a hat, mozzie net for my head, gloves and a couple of bottles of jungle formula, I even had bicycle clips for the bottom of my jeans to stop them from biting my legs but somehow they always seemed to get me!.
Whilst suffering getting bitten during the summer I still couldn’t seem to get near the fish, day after day we’d watch through binoculars as huge carp would launch themselves out of the water on the out of bounds bank a mere 250-300 yards away!. Time kept moving on and June turned into July then into August with still no sign of a run to either of us. By now I was already beginning to think that life was too short to fish petty pool. Your confidence just ebbs away when you have to sit and watch carp rolling and jumping on the far side when there’s nothing you can do about it.
September came and the nights were beginning to draw in, 3 days a week since April with no sign of a run was just madness but we both thought that the carp might come over from the far side under cover of darkness so we stubbornly stuck it out and carried on fishing.
It was Saturday 7th September 2002 when the unthinkable happened!. We were on for a day session, Barney had taken the bus stop peg as it was empty but there was a big wind blowing into the car park swims and with a bit of rain in the air I just fancied it up that end so I turned left from the car park and dropped into the second to last peg at the car park end. The big wind made the fishing bearable but I still had the thermal suit to keep from getting bitten. We had to be off the pool at 10.00pm so at 9.40pm I started packing my rucksack and gear ready for another glum walk back to the car. It didn’t take too long to pack away, I'd done the brolly and I was just zipping up the side panel on my rucksack when my left hand rod finally ripped off!.
I was actually quite stunned for a minute, 3 days a week for 6 months and finally my line was peeling off the spool at a rate!. I came to my senses pretty quickly and hit the rod, sure enough it whooped over and I was finally into my first petty pool carp. I find it difficult to explain what was going through my mind as I played that fish in. My heart was in my mouth as I played it, I literally kept stepping out of myself and kept talking to myself as I played it in, you know the sort of thing, keep it steady, don’t blow it, take a deep breath and stay calm!. The fish didn’t have that much to offer thankfully, it did try to make some reeds on my left hand side but my setup is strong and I was easily able to guide it away from any potential danger. Roughly 5 minutes after getting the run I slipped the net under my first petty pool carp. I can’t tell you what a moment that was!, all the driving there and back, baiting, biting insects and demoralising trips were forgotten in that magic moment.
I left the fish in the net and packed my rods away whilst I waited for barney to appear from the bus stop. When he did I told him I had a fish in the net and he was as delighted as I was!. I retrieved the fish from the landing net, weighed her and did a few photographs before returning my prize to the water. How big was my petty pool carp I hear you ask? It was 14lb 12oz, possibly the smallest carp in the pool!.
It had taken so long to finally get a bite on this most demanding of venues and when my time came I got myself a 14lb 12oz mirror. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!. I’d literally bled every week for that fish and at the end of the day I caught a mid double. For a while I was gutted but after sitting and reflecting I had after all caught a carp from petty pool and any carp from there is a massive achievement regardless of its size.
We fished on through the rest of September and October before finally calling it a day for the year. I came to the conclusion that life is far to short to fish petty pool, I like my carp fishing and I enjoy getting runs and catching fish, if I’m honest, despite finally catching a carp from petty pool, I felt like the venue had beaten me into submission. I never did go back after our last October session and neither did my mate Barney. He actually blanked right through and I felt for him as he'd put in the same amount of effort as I had and he deserved something for that. When the 2003 season came round I dropped my Northwich AA membership and moved onto more productive waters to begin the slow process of rebuilding my shattered confidence.
I can’t begin to tell you how hard petty pool is as a carp venue, limited bank space and wise carp that happily live well away from any angling pressure, it’s a lovely place to sit when the flies aren’t biting but slowly it chips away at your confidence until eventually you wonder if the effort is worthwhile and give up. I have a lot of respect for the lads who sit it out on there waiting for their fish of a lifetime, it is without doubt the hardest carp water I have ever fished and probably ever will fish. I kind of feel for the lads who have been making the effort to fish there only to find another angler sneaking into the out of bounds and catching those fish with ease because the water itself is just so much harder than that!.