'Best to appreciate and embrace what we have today - carp fishing has never been so good' That line and spirit of positivity is what defines Sam and we've had the pleasure of working really closely with him over the last two years on a major new print project that is set to launch in the near future, a hefty chunk of story book exploring the massively under documented northern scene. A book full of heart and soul and gritty stories about chasing big northern carp, something Sam is massively passionate about and that he knew deserved a place on people's shelves in print, enough to dedicate a serious chunk of his life and a few thousand hours to compile. Sam's become a good friend over the last 18 months and his enthusiasm, passion and drive for carp fishing and music is infectious and impossible not to buzz off. Anyone making the arduous drive down the M6 week after week to fish the likes of Burghfield is also some kind of hero in our book.. Not only is he a successful big fish angler, he's also a music tech and sound engineer and holds down a serious job amidst the chaos of the big carp life. Sam's acoustic guitar cover requests performed on his Insta and Facebook were a highlight of ours during lockdown when it seemed so many others were just complaining and spreading negativity online, Sam was turning something dark into something light - that tells you everything you need to know about his spirit. You know the drill, kettle on, sit back, and enjoy. Here's some northern soul...
'The ‘good old days’ have been and gone, best to appreciate and embrace what we have today and in my opinion, carp fishing has never been so good. This is it, right now - the best times'
Can you introduce yourself please, what is your name, how old are you, and where are you from?
My name is Sam Toro, I’m 35 and I live in Salford.
What do you do for a living, how do you manage to fit your angling in with life and work? How many nights a week do you fish on average?
I work at Salford University as a Music Technician/Live Sound Engineer and I’ve recently started demonstrating live sound practices in seminars for the final year students. I love it there; it’s a wicked job and the hours are quite flexible, which enables me to travel, generally over the summer in the third trimester. I fish locally from October to the end of May but come June after the music performance exams are over, I get to be a right old bank tramp!
Music has always been a big part of your life hasn’t it, tell us a little bit about that?
Oh, massively mate. I once saw this lad walk out of a house holding a guitar, I was 9 at the time. He said he’d just had a guitar lesson and I asked him if he could play any Status Quo, as that’s what I was into back then as my Dad always used to have them on in the car. Anyway, he asked what song I’d like him to play so I requested ‘Caroline’. He blasts out this riff in the street and my head fell off – I knew right there and then that I needed to be able to do what this lad had just done, so I knocked on the door of this house. “Alright, mate, can I have a guitar lesson?” He looked surprised at my question but told me to come back in the morning with a tenner, which I did, then I went back every week for the next 7 years. It was funny because after a few years I asked if I could bring a mate and if it’d be a tenner each. He said as long as he gets a tenner for the hour lesson, he’s not fussed how many mates I brought along. I took it literally and the following week four of us rocked up with our £2.50s! Sometimes we’d be there all afternoon - he used to chip PlayStations, so he’d be getting on with that and we’d be taking it in turns improvising, using the scales he’d showed us. I think he enjoyed teaching us as much as we enjoyed learning.
I put a band together when I was 13 called ‘Tasty Area’ ha-ha and a year later we played our first gig at Salford Rugby Club’s old ground ‘The Willows’. It was exciting being on stage ‘entertaining’ the audience (we were garbage!) and I stayed in various bands right into my early 30s. I always wondered which was more important to me, being in a band or fishing, and I think I got my answer when I decided I wanted to travel again. I needed to string days together and it just wasn’t possible when you throw a few rehearsals and a gig a week into the mix. It was a shame and I still miss it, but carp fishing is life.
'I needed to string days together and it just wasn’t possible when you throw a few rehearsals and a gig a week into the mix. It was a shame and I still miss it, but carp fishing is life'
Are you doing any additional time each week to bait up, walk, look, or socialise at the water?
Obviously, it’s difficult to be there all the time when I’m travelling, as the lake I’m fishing at the moment is over 200 miles away, so unless you’re an absolute head-case with bags of money and time, and your favourite pastime’s sitting on the M6, it’s not possible to be at the lake more than my usual weekly visit. It’s much easier to stay in tune with the lake when fishing locally and I think I fish much more efficiently round our way. I’ll be at the lake most days, whether that’s actually to fish, drop some bait in, have a wander or have a catch up with mates.
'unless you’re an absolute head-case with bags of money and time, and your favourite pastime’s sitting on the M6, it’s not possible to be at the lake more than my usual weekly visit'
How do you manage to find a balance, or don’t you at times?
My ex-wife’s answer to that would probably be much more accurate than mine, mate!
How did you get into angling/carp angling? How long have you been doing it?
My Dad used to take me fishing all the time and from a very young age – he has always been a keen angler and still goes regularly now. We’d travel to Devon several times each year and whilst my mam visited her friends, we’d stay over on a complex of lakes called ‘Salmon Hutch’. He taught me how to catch carp from the surface and how to stalk, then it was my cousin Mark, who introduced me to the world of big carp angling. That was in the spring of 2000 and I jumped straight in at the deep end, joining him on the Manchester Park Lake. I remember my first night on there - we doubled up in the ‘Grassy Swim’. Down to my left was a long run of marginal snags. He advised me where to position my baits and made it quite clear that if that left-hand rod goes, not to mess about, as it’d be a carp. I got an absolute one-toner on the left-hander at 3am and my arse fell out! It was a tench, of course, but I was still well happy with the catch. Mark shouted at me for waking him up to show him! Ha-ha!
Where do your inspirations come from? Who are they, and why do they inspire you?
My long-term angling inspirations are my Dad and Mark - I learned from the best. Then there’s the lads that inspired me in the early days; lads like Tudge and Froggy who were masters of the Manchester Park Lake where I cut my teeth. They had completely different styles of angling, both equally successful and I watched how effortlessly they seemed to work their way through the stock. They had exceptional watercraft and would recognise patterns that would go unnoticed by 99% of the other anglers on there. Then there’s Jim Lomas, who I unfortunately never got to meet, but his writing inspired me massively. His Carpworld article on the Deer Park gave me a much-needed push to go back on there and start fresh. I get inspiration from all over mate, but mainly from anyone that’s fully involved and immersed in whatever it is they’ve set out to achieve.
'I get inspiration from all over mate, but mainly from anyone that’s fully involved and immersed in whatever it is they’ve set out to achieve'
Are there any local anglers in particular you have taken influence from in terms of approach, attitude etc? Tell us a bit about them, and what you’ve taken from them
I was once fishing a lake in South Manchester and had done alright the previous day, catching four. I’d just re-positioned my rods ready for the early afternoon feeding spell when Chris Winstanley wandered into my swim. He asked if I’d had any luck and I told him that bite time was closing in so it might be worth getting his rods out quick time. He thanked me for the heads-up, and dropped in next-door, but he didn’t fish – he waited all afternoon until bite time was well and truly over before he cast in, so he didn’t mess up my chances. It really stuck with me and I already admired him as an angler, now even more so. This is an example I try to follow in many aspects of my fishing but sometimes practicing immaculate etiquette can hinder you massively, especially in big carp fishing. I’d dread to think that something I’d done or somewhere I’d fished had interfered with another angler’s angling. It’s getting harder, especially as the lakes are becoming busier and you’ve been made well aware of which swims people are baiting. I’d much rather not know and be able to fish any swim of my choosing with a clear conscience, knowing that if I catch one it’s because I’ve found them and fished for them, but like I say, it’s getting harder.
You’ve done a lot of fishing in the north, as well as down south, do you think there’s any differences between the two, other than northerners being tight lipped and all the southern waters being easy? Haha
Ha-ha! I don’t necessarily think the southern waters are easier like some northerners suggest mate, far from it, and especially if you’re targeting a particular carp. I think they may appear to be easier as in general, there tends to be more, and larger carp than up north but it’s all venue dependant I suppose. It’s probably slightly easier to be consistent, but to wade through the stock until you catch the one you’re after can take much longer. It took me 9 years to catch the Big Plated - it’s a hard one to target because there’s just so many fish in there but that said, I know a few lads that have turned up and knocked it out on their first trip - that’s just the way it goes sometimes!
One thing I have noticed that doesn’t happen up north is people just bowling into your swim whilst your putting your rods out. Maybe that’s just how it is down here as it’s happened a few times on Flint now. I’ve never had it happen to me up north, people see you’re sorting your rods out and they respect your privacy but then again, anglers seem to be more open on some of the venues I’ve fished down south. Some anglers have even told me the amount of wraps they’re fishing! You never see that up north, ever! Well, not in my experience anyway!
The north has had a history for being (allegedly) a bit cagey and tight lipped, do you think that’s just folklore or is there any truth to it?
It’s true for sure mate, you must be up here if you want to be successful. You’re typically fishing for one target fish and the competition is fierce and standard of angling high. That carp may only get caught once a year at best then when it does, that’s it, it’s game over until next year. Imagine it’d got caught on a tactic you’d let slide, or you’d seen it show and pointed it out to someone - that’s just bad angling in my book. For example, I was fishing on the Manchester Park Lake in early spring of 2004 - I’d clocked a few fish in the middles, just subtle shows, but 100% carp. I wound in, loaded the barrow and headed round to the opposite side to get straight on ‘em before anyone else did. As I swung my barrow into the swim, I noticed another angler hidden amongst the trees on the opposite bank. It was our Mark - he’d also saw them and moved a few swims further up. Whilst chatting to him on the phone I saw a carp roll, only 40 yards out so I wished him luck and started putting a rod together. It was back in the days when you’d be confident of a take soon after casting to a showing fish, and as Mark had three singles amongst the morning show, I decided that a bait on the deck wasn’t the answer - he’d have caught one by now. I flicked a 7-foot zig out to the area where the fish had rolled and as I was tightening up the line, the bobbin kept dropping back to the floor. It took a while for the penny to drop but when it did, I wound down into what was obviously a carp. It came in like a sack of shit and was in the net within a few minutes. I gave it the shout, “Annnngggrrrrryyyy!”
It was well before zigs had become a popular method and I knew we could potentially clean up fishing with this underused tactic. Mark and I fished together a lot back then and he was one of the few people I shared information with - I made him promise me that he wouldn’t tell anyone. The next day I had another take and as I netted it, I saw Roger Bacon drop his barrow down on the top path. I quickly bit the line 9 inches from the hookbait and threw the rod into the water. The lead hadn’t come off and Roger’s a sharp angler, but luckily, he didn’t seem to have noticed. He dropped in next door and I was doing my own head in, continually thinking that he must have clocked that something was untoward by the way I was acting. I had a bucket full of bait with me that was obviously no longer needed and a dingy in the car, so I fetched it, wanged a marker out into no-man’s land and spread the bucket of bait all around the marker, hoping Roger would see and think I’d caught it over a shit-ton of bait. The plan worked, and I politely accepted when he asked if I’d boat his boilie out for him, all 10K of it!
I fished zigs for the rest of that year and had one of my best seasons ever. It wasn’t until the following spring when I had a take and a swim full of anglers that the cat was let out of the bag.
'You’re typically fishing for one target fish and the competition is fierce and standard of angling high. That carp may only get caught once a year at best then when it does, that’s it, it’s game over until next year'
The north has bred a fair few really solid anglers, some really successful lads, why do you think that is?
I think it’s maybe because up north, you’re generally just fishing for that one target fish and you have to throw everything at it. If you snooze, you lose so you really have to be on the ball all of the time as you can bet your life that the next man along is. I don’t think northern anglers are particularly any better than anglers from the south but the northern anglers that travel, and travel well, the likes of Myles Gibson, Robbie Briers, Scott and Baz Lloyd, Tim Bottomley, tend to stand out because they are the lads that take their fishing extremely seriously and make big sacrifices to be able to make time to be able to travel, week in, week out. They fish hard, pay attention and this is reflected in their results.
'the likes of Myles Gibson, Robbie Briers, Scott and Baz Lloyd, Tim Bottomley, tend to stand out because they are the lads that take their fishing extremely seriously and make big sacrifices to be able to make time to be able to travel, week in, week out'
Do you have a social group of friends that fish too? Or do you mainly fish alone?
In the year 2000 the lads I looked up to; Lambett, Tony, Gorey, Pastie, H, Pilky, were all mates and I always thought, ‘imagine how good it’d be if all your mates were carp anglers’ and that’s how it is for me now. We all spur each other on, and everybody is mega buzzed up when one of us has a result. Even the few mates I have that don’t carp fish are now getting into it because they’re probably sick to the back teeth of hearing about it! We used to have a big party every year down the Manchester Park Lake – each one was absolute carnage. Some went on well into the following afternoon and the rangers shut the last one down as we were all camped out on the top field, completely wankered and probably not what the early morning dog walkers wanted to see! I do love a good social, but all my fishing is done alone. I much prefer it that way.
'We used to have a big party every year down the Manchester Park Lake – each one was absolute carnage'
What sort of carp and venues do you like to target? Are you interested/excited by the history of the carp in your area/country?
It’s my preference to fish for home-grown, born and bred, English carp and generally the ones that have aged well. I’ll usually see a carp that I like the look of or one that’s known for being tricky to catch then I’ll go and check the venue out. There was a carp I first saw in 2005, a really elusive leather. It was over 45 years old by the time I eventually decided to try and have a go for it in 2016. Dave Mallin had been fishing for it for the last 4/5 years and that kind of put me off for even longer – if he’d been on there for that long and not caught it what chance did I have?! That was the appeal though, and stories of this snaggy, deep pit leather kept filtering back to me over the years, until I eventually manned up and decided to have a crack at it. I do love a challenge, the harder the better and if I’m not absolutely crapping myself when the rod rips, then it’s not worth the time and effort, so I’ll find somewhere else to fish.
Do you feel the northern waters are different from those in the south, in ‘feel’ and atmosphere maybe, or attitudes maybe (or anything else)?
Burghfield has a similar atmosphere to some of the waters I’ve fished up north. Although the stock is ridiculous, ultimately, the majority of anglers are there for the Common and there’s a lot of secrecy, which I love and respect. If you caught the Common, you’d expect to be red carded, same as if you caught one of the target fish up north. The other water I fish in Reading, Farnham Flint, has a completely different vibe to it than the waters in the north. If one of the better fish gets caught, you won’t see everyone instantly packing up to move across to Englefield or Pinge’ - there are lots of other fish that would make you buzz equally as much. I think that’s reflected in the attitudes of the anglers as they tend to be more open with their results and spots. I’d imagine Engy might be have that same competitive edge to it though, as everybody wants Baby Black in the album, so again there’s one carp that stands out above the rest (although I definitely wouldn’t be shaking any of the others off!) so there’s more at stake, which can change the dynamics of a lake massively.
'Although the stock is ridiculous, ultimately, the majority of anglers are there for the Common and there’s a lot of secrecy, which I love and respect'
Do you get many travelling anglers on your local waters? Southerners are used to it I guess, waters full of mancs and scowsers, but I guess it’s not so common the other way around?!
I don’t think I ever recall seeing a travelling southern angler up our end but full respect to anyone that does! It’s not all grim up north you know!
Do you travel much for your fishing, if so why? and where? How do you adapt your approach when you’re travelling?
I spent a lot of time fishing St. John’s and that felt a bit like lottery fishing. It was difficult to get anything going as it was so busy and you just had to fish each session as it unfolded, rather than drop onto any areas you’d been baiting. I learned a lot fishing over there though amongst the crowds and eventually sussed that if I wanted to up my chances of catching the Plated, I needed to stop fishing zigs completely and fish over bait. I did a bit on Willington and that was much quieter which made it possible to drop back into any swims I’d baited heavily before I’d left the week before. It’s a good tactic that has worked well for me over the years but it’s getting increasing harder to do, as the lakes seem to be getting busier each year. It’s also soul destroying when you’ve no idea if someone’s jumped in that swim whilst you’re away, which completely defeats the objective of what you’re trying to achieve in the first place, but it’s just another disadvantage of not being local. I do like to know what’s happening around the areas I’m prepping when I’m not there and a few times, it bugged me so much that I drove the 50-mile round trip to Tabley Mere on my lunch break at work, just to make sure there was nobody fishing anywhere near the bait I’d piled in!
What does carp angling in your region mean to you? What makes it special and unique?
It’s the fish mate - they’re just mega! I remember in 2001, our Mark phoned saying he’d just caught Peter from the Manchester Park Lake. I badly wanted to see this fish in the flesh and as I wasn’t driving at the time (I was 15) I caught the first bus straight up there, begging him not to put it back until I arrived. The carp was incredible, a proper one and I placed an England flag behind him to liven up the backdrop. I decided then that I liked this big carp game, and I was going to try and catch all the fish in that lake. I eventually did, bar a couple that unfortunately died but the originals have been dwindling as the years pass. George and Tudge are doing a fantastic job of re-stocking the lake and I reckon it’s going to go full circle and once again be one of the premier northern waters.
As the years went on, I learned about many of the other carp in our region and made a sort of mental wish list of the ones I liked the look of. They’re all special to me but those big ‘uns even more so. To a southern angler it may just look like another 30lber, but to a northerner, that has knowledge of its history, where it’s lived throughout its life (a few of them got moved around), who’s caught it etc, they are valued so much more than a southern fish of a similar size, and I think I can confidently speak on behalf of the majority of northern lads on that one. A northern 40 is a rare beast indeed and although I couldn’t say it’s the equivalent of a southern 50 (as I’ve never caught one so wouldn’t know!), what I can say, is that it’s a mega, mega achievement to have caught one and most probably hard-earned.
'To a southern angler it may just look like another 30lber, but to a northerner, that has knowledge of its history, where it’s lived throughout its life, who’s caught it etc, they are valued so much more than a southern fish of a similar size, and I think I can confidently speak on behalf of the majority of northern lads on that one'
Then there’s the lads … Although the fishing can be quite competitive, when one of those special ones gets caught, there’s no bitterness or jealousy – everybody knows the amount of work that has gone into that capture and its applauded and celebrated by all the lads. I was 40 miles down the M6 on route to Oxford when my mate Will phoned saying he’d caught Peter. I turned straight round so I could share the moment with him. I remember that occasion much more than I would have remembered the few hours I lost down in Oxford and that’s what it’s all about, good times shared with likeminded people and the lakes round our way are full of ‘em.
'that’s what it’s all about, good times shared with likeminded people and the lakes round our way are full of ‘em'
What are your personal goals and objectives in carp fishing? What drives you on?
The main goal is to enjoy myself mate. It’s your free time, you know, you have the choice to do anything you like with it, so if you find yourself not vibing with the lake for whatever reason, then what are you even still on there for? Move on, find somewhere else that makes you buzz, that’s what we do it for, surely?!
In terms of objectives, I’m always trying to better my best season, but by doing so, I find myself continually trying to squeeze more time in to give myself a better chance, but this has caused problems as I’ve dropped things that were more important than carp fishing. I think having too much time actually ended up hindering me. Despite what many people believe, having lots of lots of time is not the answer to catching more carp - believe me, I had a shit load of time last year and didn’t use it wisely; there was no real urgency about my fishing and I wasn’t really in the right headspace to be fishing effectively anyway. As my mate Jack Broome says – ‘happiness plays a big part in carp fishing’, and I’ve never heard something ring so true. If your life isn’t in order and things aren’t as you’d like them to be, then you may as well go home. The last two years have been horrendous for me after my marriage broke down and it’s no suprise that that is reflected in my results (or lack of them). I feel like I’m well over the other side now as the motivation is back and I’m excited about getting some proper fishing done. There’s also a mega social scene down on Burghfield, everyone I’ve met down there is proper sound – 2021 is going to be a good year all round!
Each year, I print off my favourite pictures from the season, date them all and put them into an album, in the order they happened. When I’m too old to fish anymore I plan to stack ‘em all up in chronological order, eat a special cake and relive it all.
'As my mate Jack Broome says – ‘happiness plays a big part in carp fishing’, and I’ve never heard something ring so true'
People in the UK often talk about the past as the ‘good old days’, would you transport yourself back twenty or thirty years if you could to carp fish in the 80’s, or are you quite happy with 2021?
I’m quite happy with 2021 mate! The ‘good old days’ have been and gone, best to appreciate and embrace what we have today and in my opinion, carp fishing has never been so good. This is it, right now - the best times.