It’s easy to forget how strange carp fishing is.
Driving for miles to spend three days in the company of almost 40 strangers off the internet is not, you have to concede, society’s idea of normal.
But sod convention, we’re here for ‘A Social’, and you can’t ignore the lure of one of those in our peculiar pastime.
The concept of like-minded anglers, huddled lakeside to revel in shared experiences, is as popular as ever right now – but it doesn’t always feel accessible to all.
Many of us fish alone or in pairs; many of us fish venues that just aren’t suited to ‘a proper social’; and even if we do know loads of carpers and have access to the perfect lake we often lack the initiative to create a big get-together.
Thankfully in this digital age there are people like Tremayne Sergent, the brains behind Serious Carp Socials.
His group has been running for three years, boasts more than 4,000 Facebook members and has held sold-out weekend socials every month this year across the country.
While the nation watched thousands of tent-dwellers having a great time in the countryside at Glastonbury, Tremayne’s biggest get-together so far was taking place at Mallard Lake on the Bluebell complex in Northamptonshire. And Carpfeed went along.
The group had booked the whole lake exclusively from Friday to Sunday and its central location attracted anglers from all over England.
Pulling into a Road Bank swim on Friday afternoon we found fishing pals Jonathan Haile and Antony Cardwell, from Lancashire, already deep in conversation with Sheffield angler Sean Bell, who’d set up in the peg next door.
Only Sean had already attended one of the previous socials and, like many, was more than happy to come alone and make new friends.
“I’ve never been fishing somewhere and got so much help from everyone else,” he said of the community atmosphere.
“All you have to do is say ‘yeah, I’m coming’ and everything is done for you,” said Jonathan, “You know you’ve got a weekend’s fishing where you’ve definitely got a peg.”
His friend Antony chipped in: “This is our first one but I’ll definitely come again.
“We’ve not fished here before and we could have turned up and not known where to start, but Tremayne has brought down a couple of lads who really know the lake and they’ve been going around giving advice.”
“I’m really looking forward to the barbecue,” added Jonathan, who went on to land a couple of double, “it’ll be a great chance to have a break, reel in and meet the other lads, have a chat and come back to your swim with new ideas.”
“This is the biggest one I’ve done,” said Tremayne, whose long hours of organising were later rewarded with the biggest fish of the weekend at 28lb 12oz.
“People have come from all over the country and they’ll go away having made real friendships.”
Preston-based Tremayne has seen all of this year’s events – at places like Drayton Reservoir, Cromwell Lake and Sandhurst – sell out and has big plans for the group.
Trips abroad to France and Gran Canaria are in the pipeline and there’s even the possibility of regional organisers being appointed to help share the workload and deliver weekly events during the summer.
“This group started in the North West but has spread all over and our next event is in Essex,” added Tremayne.
“Anglers like meeting like-minded people and the lake owners have welcomed us with open arms.
“They can fill their lakes for a weekend and know who we are and that we won’t leave any mess behind or cause any trouble.
“We’ve had a few lads who’ve come to every social and lots who return, but it’s still about 75 per cent new people on each event so it’s still growing.
“I never expected it would grow like this. It’s a real buzz to see.”
Although the fishing over the weekend was tough, more than half a dozen 20s and plenty of doubles were caught.
For most who attended, however, it was about more than just 48 hours' fishing.
“The whole ethos of the weekend was enjoyment,” wrote Paul Critchley on the Facebook group after the event, “Anglers of a varied age group at different levels of ability creates a melting pot of information. I felt I was seeing this on the social and enjoyed the banter that goes with it.”
Terrence West posted: “What a great weekend with the guys on the social. Lads from up and down the country all mixed in together [to] have a good time.
“This was my second social and it won't be [the] last.”
The message, for those who scoff at meeting strangers from the internet, is loud and clear. Don’t be so anti-social!