May 06, 2017

Spring Carp

Having started earlier on the lake this year I've been able to watch it wake from it's winter sleep. There's always something happening if you look or listen. We now have a resident group of mandarin ducks as well as a few mallards, a pair of tufty and the ubiquitous coots and moorhens. Along, of course, with the ever present Canada geese. Whenever I hear them it takes me back to Clatworthy Reservoir and my early attempts at fly fishing through the cold spring weather. Evocative but an annoying racket.

To see so many water fowl is welcoming as it signals a lack of otters. One year we had just a few coots and I voiced an opinion that brer otter may be at large. The chap I'd spoken to was landing a fish that very night and there, in his torch light as the fish was beaten, an otter's head appeared and watched the proceedings. A benefit from a long dry period is that the little brown horrors stay in the rivers, not that I welcome them there either.

Neil had a trip and performed his usual early season routine of having a right mare. He foul hooked a huge fish that would have beaten his personal best, lost another then landed another fish of around the thirty mark. Alas, his attempts to photograph this beast resulted in his mobile phone going for a swim. The fish (he'd also forgotten to borrow my scales), was quickly returned and the phone eventually recovered.

On our next visit Neil, now with a different phone and a new set of scales, had a point to prove. Being a kind dad I yielded to his puppy dog eyes and he took prime spot whilst I went elsewhere. I quickly felt it was a mistake. I struggled for a couple of recently stocked small commons, and a 24 pounder. I was happy with my catch but I just knew that Neil was in the going spot.

And so it proved to be. He had a humpy backed 27 followed by a sleek beauty of just over 30 and, in the dead of night, a fish that was "Over 20 but under 30", to quote his tired voice yelled across as he wound in and got his head down.

Gagging to get back, I did a couple of nights this week. The wind has been in the east or north all week. Despite the warmth of the spring sunshine there's been a chill in the air and the nights have been bitter. I have to say that the cold really got to me. I'd been doing some manual work in the week as three dumpy bags of gravel refused to move without my help. I used to shovel without ill effect but my, how times have changed. Feeling a bit achy and getting chilled saw me waking up a bit like Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Alas Dorothy and her oil can did not appear.

I actually wound in on both nights as I could not face stumbling about in the cold. I had just popped a couple of Paracetamol into my mouth and the alarm sounded as my bobbin leapt and fell a few times. Grabbing a bottle of drink and swallowing the foul tasting pills was my priority, then it's the scrabble of negotiating a recumbent dog and hitting the fish. It was a bream.

I'm not one for leaving my rods unattended. I've got the obligatory 'sounder box' for my alarms but it's rarely used. However, having nipped up to the car, the dog demanded some attention. I lobbed a stick a few times and had a little wander to see if anything was basking in the sunshine. An invisible cord was pulling me back to my swim but I wanted to check one last sunken tree and to get Cane to fetch a predated duck egg I'd rolled down the bank, and of course, it happened. Bleep, bleep, bleeeeep! I ran. I don't often perambulate above a stroll so this was something of an event and the dog was alongside me, egg shell lightly held in his mouth and enjoying every step. Gasping and on the point of collapse (well it was over a hundred yards), I bent into a heavy weight that was attempting to find security in the newly emerging lily bed. The fight was more ponderous than exciting and a 24 pounder came to the net.

Three fish of note so far, a big 23 and two 24's. I'm not complaining but Neil, fishing with the same gear, bait and swim seems to be getting bigger fish each time. What's that all about? Answers on a postcard please.

Of course, it will balance out and I'll knock the boy of his pedestal before too long....... won't I?

March 13, 2017

At Last

My urge to capture an early Spring carp was gathering pace and intensity. I'd had a day doing a fairly long chuck (for me), with my twelve footers and big reels when Neil caught his common. It all felt cumbersome and heavy. I know that my cane rods are not what you'd call featherweight but at nine to ten feet in length, they feel balanced and somehow 'right'. I've always favoured eleven foot rods for barbel and have never bought into the need for longer so to wield those beasties about again was not for me.

Of course, my dodgy shoulders have a say in which rods I can and cannot use and I have come to the conclusion that light is sensible for the time being. So I bought a couple of Free Spirit, ten foot carp rods. Quite capable of lobbing 80+ yards but also nice and neat for margin work. I dug out a pair of old Daiwa Regals and was ready to go. Ready that is once I'd sorted my rear rod rests out. My last bite saw me lifting the rod and pod together and by the time I'd untangled one from the other, the fish had gone. Another thirty four quid was spent on a system that allows you to fix your rod in the event of a brutal take yet remove the rod by simply lifting the rest from a recess. Rock Steady Back Rests by Bank Bug if you find yourself so inclined. Just the job.

Duly armed and inspired I looked at the weather and figured it was worth another go. I'd even visited the lake mid week and baited a spot (told you I was keen) and was now casting close to an overhanging tree. I sat back and waited. Eventually Neil arrived and wandered off to drop into a margin swim that was a bit too adventurous for me.

You know those days when you set out full of optimism only for it to disappear within minutes of casting out? That's how it was on this trip. The wind was wrong, the sun stayed behind a grey curtain and it felt dead. I was too far from the action area and no fish was going to come to me and my bait. I should have upped sticks and gone for a walk to fish along from Neil but it just felt like too much effort. I packed and left. Neil hooked a fish but lost it.

Today was different. The sun shone and I just knew that some carp would be on the fin. The roads were frustrating and the dog was sick - again - but I was soon bouncing along the farm track. I didn't recognise the van that betrayed that someone else was fishing but, unconcerned, I headed to the windward end as the freshening breeze was starting to chop the surface,

I had to walk a distance to the swim due to the muddy track and then back around the bay to feed my chosen spots. I was glad to slump in my chair and relax. I just knew a bite was due.

About an hour later (12.30) and the alarm shrieked as a fish tore off. The rod came away with a gentle lift and the short rod bent firmly into the running fish which bore deep and long toward some sunken trees. I dropped the rod tip and gave it some stick. Eventually, the fish yielded and kited off away from me. It fought long and hard, giving more long runs when close in. A great performance and an enjoyable christening for the rods.  Eventually I slipped a lovely orange mirror into the net. Relief! It went 23.14 and I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

Having slipped it back, cooked a cheese toastie and messing up the crossword, I became aware of much banging and revving of an engine. This went on for a while so I reeled the rods in and drove around to the chap in the blue van. He was stuck fast in slippery clay and all his efforts, including a small winch, had failed miserably. My 4x4 Honda soon had him out and my grip strips (plastic plates for just such an emergency), saw him able to three point turn and face the gate again. We had a long chat during which time the wind dropped. I returned to my pitch, packed and headed home - content.

March 06, 2017

The Year So Far

Is it really March already? Where does the time go? I suppose I had better tell you all about my fishing over the winter period.

December saw me trotting the river Wye..... for about an hour and a half or until my arm gave out. That was a blank then.

A few days later and with the river still low and cold, I decided to use up the rest of  maggots with a spot of feeder fishing in one of my favourite winter chub holes.  Twenty minutes in I spotted a disturbance amongst the trees to my side. That'll be a swan, I said to myself and readied for the hissing and snooty stare of our most short tempered bird. I was wrong. A bloody otter rolled not three yards from me and steadily paddled across to the far bank where it hunted either oblivious or nonchalant to my presence. Knowing the effect that an otter tends to have on a swim, my heart sank. But it had only grazed the upper end of my bit of water, I'll stick it out. And I did, for ten minutes. That was when it's cub edged close and stayed under the near bank whistling loudly. This set my dog into a tizzy and the mother into a fast swim back across and back into my swim. The two of them slowly left upstream and my chances of a fish went with them.

Cane is not happy sharing bank space with otters

It was mild so I sat there for another half an hour or so just enjoying being there. Yes, I could have moved but I felt lazy and the fieldfares, starlings and siskins were busy in the trees, it was really very pleasant in a complete blank sort of way.

I had a fortnight in Devon in January so bird watching took over from fishing for a while. Notable species like black redstart, waxwings and a desert wheatear made it a notable stay along with a lot of sea and wading birds that were new to me and Nicky. We also stopped off in Somerset for a night as we returned. We watched hundreds of thousands of starlings coming in to roost at Ham Farm reserve, a fantastic spectacle that, for anybody with an ounce of interest in birds or wildlife, is well worth an hour freezing your nuts off. No photo's I'm afraid, I only had my phone with me. Maybe next time.

I seem to have lost interest in fishing the Wye at present. I think it's the lack of expectation that has drained my enthusiasm. I just can't get motivated to sit it out in the cold and wet when there is little chance of catching a notable fish. I know that my pb's are far from river records, but the river has been pretty iffy this last year and I have no urge to try and find a solution.

Because of this, I spent a mild February day fishing for a bite on one of the lakes on my syndicate. The main lake had people on it and although a couple of twenties and a thirty two pounder came out, I was satisfied fishing behind a float for far more modest fare. I had my bite and landed a fish between three and four pounds that was blind in one eye. Not quite a monster but fun on a light cane rod.

A one-eyed carp, the limit of my angling abilities.

My next trip was with Neil and we had the big lake to ourselves. My bite didn't materialise but Neil had a mid double common. It was nice to see a proper fish.

I've just returned from my third carp trip of the year. It was colder than I expected but I dressed myself to look like the Michelin man (not difficult with my belly) and put a couple of baits on a route I expected any active fish to follow. I got my bite. An absolute screamer but, on lifting the rod into it, I felt.... nothing.

There we are then, one, one-eyed fish to show for my efforts. But I shall try and improve on that over the next week or two as I'm to have a shoulder operation at the end of the month which will bring any ideas of some spring carp to a grinding halt.

Roll on the summer.

December 31, 2016



In dog terms - let's kick some grass over that shit and move on.

Happy new year.

October 27, 2016

As The Leaves Fall

A British person could be cryogenically frozen for years but, on being woken and put outdoors, could tell you the season and probably guess the month to within a few weeks. The same is extremely doubtful of someone living in a hot climate. Yes, the UK has awful weather but it also has the most amazing seasons.

I flowed along a golden carpet of oak and beech leaves as I approached my chosen swim at the lake. There was little wind but one was promised. This was to push a flotilla of leaves the length of the water and form a carpet over the little bay.

The family of Canada geese has grown to a flock of between twenty and thirty. Their noisy resentment of my arriving soon settled as they found their safe distance. A nuthatch reminded me of summer but the influx of redwings, chattering fieldfares and squabbling jays left one in no doubt that the cold of winter is nigh.

All in all the perfect time to be chasing barbel yet here I was, seeking a carp. The river just doesn't draw at my soul in the way it used to. My barbel fishing has come to resemble the carp approach with it's long waits for action and that just doesn't sit right with me. If I am barbel fishing and the going is slow - which it inevitably has been this year - I feel guilty about reading a book to pass the time. Yet on the lake, I embrace this distraction as I feel it is actually beneficial. I'm convinced that the carp know when you are concentrating on the bobbin, willing it to move. On small waters, no matter how stealthy the angler, his footsteps are felt, his shadow spotted and his intent felt. This determination acts like a siren to warn the fish off. I'm on fifteen acres of lake and it still 'feels' that way, why else would the bites tend to come whenever the angler either falls asleep, cooks a meal or has a whizz? Their mind is elsewhere and the fish are left believing the threat has passed. Reading is my way of fooling fish and it works for me. Not that I don't have a crafty look around from time to time and any splash is investigated - from behind the page.

I put some 'mature' groats, hemp and a handful of mixed sized boilies out to a spot between two weedbeds. The second rod had my old Hodder pin on it and with the best intention in the world, I wasn't going to reach the loose feed. So this one was put along what I suspect is a patrol route. I didn't even pva bag this rig, just wrapped a 20mm boilie in paste so that it looked like a big pink golf ball and I was fishing.

Acorns plopped in the water or banged onto my car roof with great regularity. A squirrel rustled back and forth securing it's winter sustenance and the expected wind ruffled the surface of the water so that it came toward me. I bided my time, ate my toasted cheese sandwich (The Ridge Monkey is a godsend) and drank coffee. And yes, Mr Clarkson's opinions on cars that are way beyond my budget, was read and enjoyed.

A bleep! Then another and a drop back signal (I've ditched the Delkims in favour of some Fox alarms and I like the drop back feature very much), and I was at the rod. It was on the 'pin and a Hardy rod bought with barbel in mind. This would be a proper test for it.

The fish paddled slowly left and stayed deep. It neared a tree so the rod was buried deep below the surface and a steady pressure applied. This was pretty much all that happened albeit it happened for several minutes. The rod performed well but needed angling so that the butt took most of the pressure. I think I'll just use it for barbel in future.

In the net and up onto the unhooking mat, I was well satisfied with a nicely proportioned fish of twenty two and a half pounds.

I spent the rest of the day cooking, sleeping, reading and taking the occasional piss but those carp, they knew I was there. Bang goes another theory.

October 11, 2016

A Good Day

I've just returned from a trip to the River Test where I had a session on dave Steuart's 'garden' section. What a place. What a man. Dave is slowly shrinking as he ages but he's still as sharp, talkative and cussed as ever he was. To know him is a privilege and to fish his water.... pure joy.

I stopped overnight with Dave and we chatted about the prospects and all things fishing over a meal at the pub. This was a solo trip so I had the entire length to myself. I woke early and looked from the bedroom window at the clear water running past the house. The ducks were already gathering on his lawn for the morning feed and the robins were adding some music to the scene.

On Dave's advice, I opted to try a swim I'd passed on previous trips. He reckoned it was good for roach and, as the bigger one's had previously avoided me, I decided to give it a go. I put a few balls of blitzed bread into the clear area between the weed beds. I learned that if compressed to a small ball, the bread sank quickly but stayed put at the head of the swim where it would slowly break down and the trout would attack it. However, were it scattered in a loose mush, it would all sink slowly and drive the trout mad as they raced around hoovering up all they could find. Finally I tried somewhere in the middle. This sent off a stream of flake whereas the main amount would sink slowly in an enticing lump and be engulfed by a trout.

Spotty nuisance
Yes, trout are an unavoidable nuisance in the pursuit of finer things when fishing the Test. The general rule is to catch the trout (sometimes two or three times), until they get the message and allow
your feed and bait through to better species. Don't get me wrong. On a fly and in the right circumstances, I'd sell a kidney for trout like these but please leave me alone when there's roach around.

First trot and the float ran alongside the weed nicely until it sharply dipped. My rod (Chapman Harvey Torbett copy and an absolute dream to use), bent and I presumed that trout number one had grabbed my flake. But no. A flash of silver and a see-saw shaking of the body became a roach. A good one! I nursed it to the net with my heart in my throat until it slid over the edge of the waiting net. Yes!

Slightly blurred but lovely
At one pound eleven ounces, it was my biggest river roach for more years than I care to recall. I took a couple of quick snaps but later found that the camera lens was misted by the cool start to the day.

Not to worry. Next trot and a grayling of at least one and a quarter pounds came in. There were large trout patrolling up and down the swim and I'd avoided them, what a start. The luck continued when three or four casts later, I again struck into a confident bite and another fine roach was landed. One pound and fourteen ounces! So close to my first river two pounder but big enough to make the long drive more than worth while.

And then the trout took over. Fish after fish, all between one and three pounds, all ready to jump, run and generally thrash the river to foam if given half a chance. A couple of delicate but missed bites hinted that a roach or two was still about but they were now shy and it was time to move.

I caught so many trout down that fishery. But more grayling, a few dace and a perch interspersed the mayhem and every fish was fun to land.

Another greedy trout
I intended to return to swim 1 but the river was low, the sky bright and I figured that dusk would be the best time to have another go. It was however, merely two thirty and my back and shoulder were hollering for rest. I had another drink and chin wag with my generous host and headed north west once more, driving toward a deep red sunset that glowed behind Hay Bluff as I reached the last leg.

September 25, 2016

Hunting Monsters In Lilliput

The humble yet beautiful gudgeon

The distinct lack of posts over the last couple of months underlines my mild bout of angling apathy. Oh, I've dabbled. I've caught too. Mainly chub to be honest and, despite a succession of good fours and a five, each fish has been slipped back with barely a second glance. It all seemed a bit routine.

I get this way quite regularly and especially so in August. I need a kick in the seat of my waders to get me going again, and I have, but from an unlikely venue.

I don't think I can remember my first gudgeon but I well recall visiting a certain swim at French Weir where I could target them on those days when the succession of minnow seemed endless. Like the minnows, a larger than average gudgeon was always held in high regard and the discussion of how big a record would look was often held, as a child and as an adult.

The target species
Tales reached me of a special place. A tiny river, a few special pools. A place of monsters. Monster gudgeon! Who would not be interested? A day in search of these wonderful little fish was being arranged by the Traditional Fishing Forum members and I put my name down, immediately.

We met in a farm yard and one, rather wonderful, organiser served me a bacon roll. It's a bit like scratching a dog's back I suppose but such an offering provokes a life long loyalty to anybody the makes such a gesture. That he later provided cake! Well, it's a bit early to talk of marriage but......

Time came to go our separate ways and I joined another Dave at the beat's largest pool. I say large, it was about the size of a Transit van but had overhanging alders, reeds, lilies in the shallow bit and a little riffle at it's tale. I couldn't wait to cast.

Bites were instant but nothing was hooked until a roach the size - and width - of a cigarette paper was swung in. I had a few more then a little gudgeon, that dropped off. A bigger roach of a few ounces and a couple of perch were enough to send me on the prowl.

Even I could wallis cast to the far bank
The next pool was tiny, but a trickle of water spread into a length barely 15" deep. From this spot I had a proper gudgeon. Easily 5" long with high, broad shoulders. My elation quickly faded as it flipped from my hand and back into the stream. But I continued and caught chub, trout, roach, dace and more, albeit smaller, gudgeon.

And so it continued. Any pool, no matter how small, seemed to hold fish. It was a return to a childhood vision of water where anything is possible and expectations are always high. It was a breath of fresh air, a chance to re-centre and re-evaluate my fishing path. It was heaven.

We broke for a lengthy lunch. Food appeared from every angler's box and the spread was way too much for the eight of us. We did our best though, and I had to have just one last piece of tiffin cake.

I left the rest to drive back to their chosen areas and stayed close to the car park. I crept into a little pool and was soon taking little trout until the minnows began to bother me. I scattered a few maggots and suddenly caught sight of a chub, flashing on the gravel ant the end of the pool. I was immediately enthused and determined to tempt this 'monster' that must have weighed all of two pounds. How can this change of perspective be so acute? One day ignoring a five pound fish, the next the single minded in the pursuit of one less then half the size.

I didn't catch it.

I had a few last casts in a shallow pool below a bridge and caught the first fish that demanded the landing net. It was a fine dace and put a cap on my day. Nicky soon returned from her day's National Trusting and we commenced the 153 mile journey home. That's a long way for a monster gudgeon and a very long way when you don't catch one. But it was worth every yard.

For the record, Bernie caught a 'gonk' as long as his hand and looked in a state of shock as he related the tale. I was a little bit jealous.