I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
Thorpedo strikes at Alders Farm
With carp-packed lakes in delightful surroundings, Alders Farm near Milton Keynes draws match, pleasure and specimen anglers from across the south-central Midlands. But whenever the GOT Baits crew are in town, the already busy action reaches fever pitch. Fishing 4 Fun’s Tom Legge joined Gary Thorpe and Mick McMillan for a hauling masterclass…
Despite missing his ninth bite in as many drops, Gary Thorpe doesn’t look like a man with a single worry in the world.
Rather than ranting, raving and frantically adjusting his tackle like so many of us would be doing, the official World five hour match record holder exudes an effortless calm and conviction. That’s a characteristic of so many top-drawer anglers I’ve had the pleasure of watching.”Some days you get proper bites straight away. But pleasure fishing like this, you tend to get too many fish in your peg and there’s not much you can about liners other than keep changing depths until you start getting proper bites,” shrugged Gary, shipping back out then following up noisily with a generous handful of pellets.
Although his World record of 490lb 8oz was smashed at his former regular haunt of Rolf’s Lake in late August, Aylesbury ace Gary doesn’t seem like a man too bothered with fame and recognition.
That said, his almost languid persona conceals a sharp brain with an impressive recall of weights, pegs and occasions.
“The new weight of 530lb at Rolf’s can’t be counted as a World Record because there were fewer than 20 anglers there, and all fish over 8lb have to be weighed and returned these days which means a possibility of the same fish being re-caught. But it’s still a brilliant catch, and well done to John Walker,” he surmised.
Nowadays, Alders Farm is Aylesbury-based Gary’s home water, and he’s still in the record-breaking business. Only the previous week he set a new five hour standard for Alders with 278lb at the very swim he’s on today, Pumphouse Lake peg 4.
“My aim was 20 fish an hour for 300lb, but I ended up with 92 in total. It went a bit tits-up in the last hour,” recounted Gary.
“They were taking it properly right from the word go at full depth. I prefer to catch that way than shallow. I fed 12 pints of pellets that day and caught best on our 6mm liver hookers. Some people say that soft pellets are no good at full depth, but I don’t find any problems,” he added.
Gary reckoned that as important as sorting out whether he’ll catch at depth or shallow is to establish which of his two lines – the margin beside a bush, or straight out in front at around seven metres – to concentrate on from the second hour onwards.
“I do feed aggressively and can’t keep two swims going the way I like to as I’d run out of bait, so I tend to make a decision and drop one line before the midway point,” he said.
Two pints an hour is an amount, rhythm and mantra which Gary has grown used to in the summer months, and is part of the reason why he’s such a master of building big weights. Quite simply, he draws fish from his rivals’ swims. But what happens on venues with a lower bait limit? “I run out, usually,” he laughed.
Mick Mac Pastie Whack
At nearby peg two beside the converted pumphouse where we’d earlier enjoyed a hearty breakfast, Mick McMillan was also experiencing problems with line bites due to the sheer number of carp in his swim.
“This is one of the shallowest pegs on the lake, I’ve got not much more than 18 inches at six metres,” explained up-and-coming Northants matchman Mick, who was pinning his faith in GOT paste boosted and coloured green with some Atomic Cloud Halibut additive, fished over generous helping of dampened 6mm Got Baits pellets.
“The paste is mixed fairly dry, but I keep a container of water on my bait tray and dunk a nugget in this before moulding it around my hook, which is either a size 12 Kamasan B911 or a size 14 Fox Series 2 XS. The latter is larger, size for size, but I’ve been very impressed with my results since switching to these,” he noted.
An arboriculture consultant by trade – in other words, a tree expert – 23-year-old Mick recently branched out onto the open circuit following several years on the club scene around his home town of Wellingborough. He’s enjoyed success at BW Naseby Reservoir, using the bagging waggler with Atomic Cloud on a water where the Method usually dominates, plus at Makins and here at Alders where he first met the GOT Baits lads.
Mick rigged up his Garbolino Margin Manager pole with red Hydrolastic, and had plenty of spare rigs at the ready featuring self-cocking Mick Wilkinson Paste floats on 0.19mm Reflo Powerline. “I find 0.19 fine in open water, but step up to 0.21 in snaggy margins,” he noted.
Gradually, Mick began to find a rhythm and whilst playing a carp – which tend to go berserk in such shallow water – he pointed out that it’s wise to feed when your rig is not in the water in swims such as this. “If you feed after dropping in, there’s more chance of getting liners and the paste coming off your hook. This is caused by the carp creating underwater currents as they move around,” he opined, taking the opportunity to throwing in a handful of pellets as the hooked carp moved well off to the left.
Nature is quick to soften the hard edges of any recently created lake. Many of the first wave of ‘commercials’ which were dug, stocked and landscaped in the 1980s and ‘90s now boast lush reed beds and maturing willows instead of the lunar landscape look. But few could truly be described as ‘scenic’.
Tucked away in the Chiltern Hills, Alders Farm is something else. There’s been a spring-fed lake at the bottom of the valley for almost a century. Each of the three main lakes occupies a different level so the sound of running water gushing through pipes to feed the next one down the valley is ever present.
This oldest lake, Pumphouse, is a 41 peg water with a large head of carp and rudd and forms the main match lake. The middle lake, Woodside, used to be a put-and-take trout fishery but is now run as a 15-pitch Specimen Lake holding big hump-backed mirrors and long commons to over 30lb. Water clarity is far greater due to a lower head of fish.
The top lake, a designated ‘silver fish’ water with 31 pegs, was only created recently. But the wealth of mature trees on surrounding land gives it that old estate look.
As well as these, there are three smaller pools – Snatch, Wood and Little Pump – which are sometimes used in matches – often to the amazement of visitors given their diminutive size!
GOT Baits founder Trevor Price organises the opens here, plus special events including an annual DEBRA charity match for terminally ill children and an adult-junior pairs event.
Of course, some commercial stillwater visitors don’t care about appearances so long at the float’s diving under or the tip wrapping round regularly. But even a traditional ‘fundamentalist’ in the Chris Yates mould would surely appreciate the beauty of Alders Farm.
The venue, complete with house and 47 acre grounds, is currently for sale with estate agents Fenn Wright with a guide price of £1.45million.
Back at Gary’s peg, the decision had clearly been taken to sack the bush swim and concentrate on open water where he now had the fish lined up shallow and was catching fast.
However, he was still in the process of deciding what was the best hook bait. Although those trusty 6mm liver pellets were catching plenty of fish, Gary had also prepped up some luncheon meat hookers of similar size which he offered up for me to take a sniff. The distinctive aroma of cat meat filled my nasal passages, and I quickly handed the box back!
“This little lot has been flavoured and coloured with the Atomic Cloud Cat Meat powder. On waters which ban cat meat I’m convinced it will be a handy edge,” explained Gary, who also had a tub of unflavoured meat cubes as a further option.
No surprises as to the type of meat he favours: “Nothing but Plumrose, the best,” he confirmed.
Talk turns to Gary’s angling past, and the pre-commercial days when he was a team member with canal team Aylesbury Bits. “Yes, I well remember spending £25 per match on bait then walking three fields to catch 10oz,” he smiled.
“I won my section in a Division 1 National on the Thames, but I got a bit bored of it and switched to specimen fishing. I still go specimen fishing regularly, and I’ve been after a 30lb-plus catfish on a local club water this summer,” added Gary, who had chub to over 8lb and 30lb-plus carp on his big fish list.
Fishing as much as Gary does, you’d be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t work. But he’s kept up his job as a site groundworker, and his current boss is John Haseler who, as a former top-flight matchman with Team Image, is very understanding when it comes to time off!
“I’ve always worked for anglers, funnily enough,” confided Gary. “A bloke called Mick Wells was my captain at Aylesbury Bits. He used to pick me up and drive me everywhere and pay for my bait when I was 13 or 14, then after I left school he gave me a job.
“Not everyone got on with Mick, but he was a true mate to me. When he got ill and started losing his sight I tried to keep him fishing. One of my proudest moments was when he won the Disabled National at Hallcroft with me at his side. He was almost totally blind by then, and now he’s gone but will never be forgotten,” he added.
In Or Off!
As the session moved into its final stages, Mick was also well into his stride and managed to extract a couple of larger commons of around 7lb. It’s a typical occurrence when fishing the paste, as the better fish always seem to love sucking up the big soft bait.
However, he was still suffering lots of missed bites and had already reached the conclusion that he would have fared better using 6mm pellet on the hook for the Pumphouse stocks which average around 2.5-3lb.
Gary continued to lash in the feed. “Stop feeding here and you’ll lose them, simple as that,” he said.
Another thing nobody who has ever watched ‘The Thorpedo’ can fail to notice is how fast he lands fish. Today, a 3lb carp would often be netted in less than 30 seconds. No wonder he catches mega weights on such a regular basis – but still using standard tackle rather than bully-boy kit.
“My motto is ‘In or Off’. I play fish hard but fair, and if it’s foul-hooked I’d rather it came off quickly rather waste time with it charging all around the swim,” he reasoned.
With red Hydrolastic in his Garbolino G-Power pole tip, Gary’s shallow rig featured a small Sconee float with a single No.9 Stotz set mid-depth on 0.18mm Garbo Line. For fishing at full depth he steps up to 0.20mm with a heavier float.
Hook was a size 14 spade end Kamasan B911. “I don’t have any problem with spade end hooks for big weights of carp,” said Gary, who also connects his rigs to elastic with Stonfo-type connectors (the large Drennan versions), and feeds his pellets straight from the bucket without any pre-soaking.
Pellet was proving the best bait in these closing stages, purely because it’s a bit faster than meat to hook and ship out. After five hours, I called out for Mick and Gary to stop fishing and scales were produced for a proper match-style weigh-in.
Gary’s catch went 184lb 8oz while Mick mustered 97lb, and both would certainly have caught more without a wader-clad photographer paddling around their swim for half an hour.
“If I’d known there was going to be a weigh in I’d have tried harder,” said Gary, who confessed to having fed even more than usual – 13.5 pints today! Meanwhile, Mick opined: “I’d have had a lot more if I’d used pellet on the hook. This isn’t really a paste water but at least I’ve proved that it works and you can’t really be too disappointed with one fish short of 100lb.”