Imagine that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble are now a couple of old geezers who've given up the golf and ten pin bowling and now like to fish with poles made from of the rib bones of dinosaurs. Rockhead Quarry, where they once worked, has been closed these past thirty years, has become overgrown in the meantine and lately turned into a fishery and it's the place where Fred and Barney like to go catch carp on a sunday afternoon.
That's my first impression of Bishops Bowl Fishery...
It is indeed, if you look at the site as whole, a kind of kidney shaped bowl. A vast hole in the ground filled with spoil heaps and water. All around this bowl there's a low cliff of alternating hard limestones and blue/grey clay sandwiches, one small part of the fossiliferous 'Blue Lias' formations of Jurassic rocks that run under the country all the way from Lyme Regis in the South, to Whitby in the North East.
The quarrymen who excavated the bowl were adept at finding fossil skeletons, like this one of Fred's house pet, Dino...
For this, my first ever excursion to the fishery I had the crackpot idea to fish my own home brew boilies for large carp. I needn't have bothered with such arty farty nonsense, as every single peg on 'Mitre', the complex's 'runs' lake, was well, and of course, truly, bivvied up.
I'll bet a few quid that half of the occupants were on a day ticket...
We decided to fish a small pond with neatly made brand new pegs, by the name of 'Marshes'. Whilst Kev and his dad set up and began fishing I wandered off to explore the unreformed wilderness that is 'Greenhills' lake. This oddly shaped but sizable expanse of water (a good two-thirds of the entire fishery's available water) is not only pretty much unfished and uncharted but on first appearance unnervingly devoid of the normal signs of life one associates with good fishing.
For half an hour I walked the banks and did not see so much as a minnow in depths of such clarity that I could see the bottom in ten feet of water and more. Only when I entered a sheltered and relatively shallow bay did I finally see fish - a shoal of small roach being harried by small gangs of slightly larger perch, and then a further shoal of roach of a size worth fishing for appeared momentarily in the deeper water and vanished into the depths. Not specimens exactly, but large enough to suggest the presence of even larger fish out there, somewhere.
I think I'd like one day to have a crack at this lake, an exploratory session just to see what it contains as even the fishery owners do not seem to have a clue about it, and that's interesting, don't you think? How many lowland lakes can there be that are still a complete mystery?
Back at Marshes, I set up a waggler rod and began to fish for tench, hopefully. Whether or not it actually contained any tench, I hadn't a clue, but it looked 'tenchy' with extensive reed beds, bankside and midwater too. I didn't have to wait for the first bites just a rod length out. The culprits were small carp, lovely looking little miniature things, in their very first season.
Kev had his first carp ever, and the first tench of the day at just under three pounds weight. I got all excited but it was a false dawn - all I had in the couple of hours I spent at Marshes were more small carp.
The fish are so densely packed into this pond that you do not have to feed them anything besides the maggot hook bait, and even that will get you three fish before it is so sucked that you need to rebait. With a pole and half a pint of maggots you could fish for a week solid on this pond and catch a thousand or three. I finished with approaching thirty of them and three tiny, tiny crucians that the owner later explained were all survivors of the water's recent transformation from inch deep bog, to pond.
Kev and I then went and fished another pond, named Walworth. This pond was something of a let down on the day, bites were hard to come by and all we had in a two hour stint there was a single bream to Kev, and a freshly minted one pound common carp to me. Kev's dad, who'd stayed on at Marshes finished with sixty pasty carp to his credit. I suppose I could go back to try for my challenge carp point, but I worked out on the bank that I'd need to catch over two hundred of them at three or four to the pound!
Will I return?
Yes. But only to explore the big unknown lake, the rest of the complex is not my cup of PG tips, I'm afraid. Too many carp, too many carp anglers. My advice to the fishery owners is this, catch all those little crucians out of Marshes and stick them in Greenhills, by way of an experiment. You'll never see them again, probably, but then again, imagine what their offspring might achieve with unlimited growth potential in a lake of unknown growth potential..?