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.

September 05, 2016

Happy Hour

I emptied the shed. Everything came out and was stacked in three piles - to keep, to decide upon and to throw out. This may not sound much but at it's widest points, my shed was 14' x 10' but it narrowed down to fit the bit of land it sat - or rather, leaned on. It was a failed attempt at having a man cave in the garden but it never suited my needs and became a dumping ground for all and sundry.

That done, it was down to my son, me and my trusty chainsaw to reduce said folly to pieces of a manageable size. A hard day's graft saw it piled on the lawn until my mate and his trailer arrived. A trailer as capacious as a large skip apparently, yet we filled it - twice!.

Normally I would collapse at this point but not this time. "Fancy an evening by the river?" I suggested to Nicky. She jumped at the chance and we were away from the house at 7pm. At 7.25 I made my first cast.

I'd opted for an attractive swim that generally produces a few evening chub and within a few minutes I had my first bite. It was no monster but a welcome fish all the same. Nicky was suitably impressed but wished it was a trout as she rather likes the taste.

Not long after and I'd passed the rod across so that it sat in front of Nick. The tip bounced and she was on it in a flash - her first cane caught fish. Another small chub was landed and the evening felt almost complete. But not quite.

I sat behind my lad as he fished here a while back and I noticed two different species of bat flying overhead. The light was fading and out came the Bat Detector. Two, possibly three different calls were picked up with the rapid sonar pulses as a bat homed in on it's prey being the most exciting. It was Nicky's first experience of communing with flying mammals and she was enraptured as they clicked away.

At 8.30 the swim was quiet and most of the bat activity had moved on. One hour on the river, a fish each and a spot of eavesdropping on Pipistrelle and Daubenton's bats made for the perfect end to an energetic day.

Mind you, I was absolutely knackered for the next two.


There's little more to report for August. I had other, larger chub but failed to land a carp despite a couple of day trips where I only managed to spook a couple. 

I did however fulfil a promise and take my mate and his lad for their fist trip. Kim has a day by a lake with his lad, Ben on his bucket list so I was happy to oblige. It's not every day you can say to someone "That is the only first fish you will ever catch". They both loved it and, as it was a commercial, there was plenty of action. I'll let the photo's tell the story.

The only first fish you will ever catch

Another first fish

July 27, 2016

Back On The Banks Of The Wye

The lake held its spell over me a little longer than usual this year. I still have a strong hankering for some stalking but the disjointed weather has stopped me a couple of times and then I succumbed once more to the Siren call of the Wye.

I had a couple of short evening sessions away from the crowds in places I liked the look of. Chub, chub and more chub was the result but each was hard fighting, slim and very fit. I then dropped into an area that I usually frequent in the autumn and again it was the chub that first knocked on the door. Then something significant happened.

The rod bounced a few times  as something swam upstream oblivious of the weight it towed behind it. I struck. The next few minutes saw me feeling undergunned as something plodded along the bottom refusing to comply with my encouragement up through the water. Eventually it ran with some determination, straight through a snag! I heaved and ho'd and could feel it throbbing against my efforts. It soon became solid and I was aware that the rotten thing had transferred the hook into a sunken branch. I was left to pull for a break and see out another trip without a barbel landed. 

In the recent past I've had carp around the thirty pound mark, drop off almost within netting distance. I've shrugged it off with my usual attitude of 'can't win 'em all, I'll get you one day'. Losing fish is a gut wrenching feeling but I thought I had moved on from the angst and could accept the slings and arrows with a new found maturity. But that barbel stuck in my craw like a breeze block. I had to catch a barbel.... and soon.

Two days later and I'm just downstream where I hoped it would be less snaggy. A chub came to the net within minutes of starting and conditions felt just right. I concentrated on the rod for any movement.

At last!

When it came it was another bounce and a twitch or two on the line. I wound down and hit into a barbel that became the first landed of the season. Not long after, my feed of groats and hemp laced with 10ml Questrami boilies induced a rasping take. This one went a little larger at upper six or low seven pounds. I was on a roll and thought I'd cracked it but I soon again felt the force of a strong fish only for it to scream downstream and into yet another snag. This time I broke off on the hooklink.

Only chub played after that but one looked worth putting on the scales as a sighter. I rarely weigh chub but, early season, I put the occasional one on just to get my eye in. I put it down as a decent four but the needle hovered just past the five so I was glad to have taken the effort.


It was a glorious evening and I am now looking forward to my next visit but I haven't quite finished with the carp just yet.

July 09, 2016

Of Carps And Bats

The lake always looks wonderful but from this swim it looks outstanding. I'd never done an overnight session here until now as it's way too far to barrow my gear but, with access to the dirt track around this side of paradise, I am now able to slip my bivvy between the trees onto a little flat spot just big enough to accommodate it. 

As there's been no pressure on this spot my 'leading' exploration found deep silt over much of the area. Just behind my pitch I dragged my lead over the ground that I've fished many times from the opposite bank and found it quite hard and clean, the result of persistent feeding by many carp. I hope that fairly soon the area where I scattered my bait will be likewise but that will take time. So I added some groundbait mix containing hemp and a few bits and pieces to encourage some truffling from the bream. This will hopefully start the process and entice the curious carp into the zone. It is also, I suspect, along one of their patrol routes.

To pass the time, having got my carp gear ready, I dropped a couple of balls of feed short and scattered corn around it. This was followed by my float gear and within minutes the float was lifting and bobbing before sailing away and the first roach was hooked. A couple of roach later and all went solid on the strike. A deep thumping told me that the bream were quick to seize on a free meal. This went on for a while with the roach being interspersed with heavier bream. I could have caught them all day but that's for another time. I admired the last bream, a male in spawning garb with tubercles on its head and shoulders and the most amazing colouring around its eyes. Quite stunning in close up.

Float rod packed away and my traps were set. As evening saw the light values fade so a Noctule bat did the rounds. Seeing it's size made me suspect it was a noctule but I'm no expert. I do however, have an assistant, a bat detector bought for me on my 60th. The weird boings and dinks that came from the speaker were on a band length used by the species and a Google search on my return confirmed the sighting. Like bird song, all bats have their unique calls and they are very interesting to research and, if you can, to listen to.

http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/listen_to_ ... _bats.html

I had just one take from my new carp spot and a high shouldered, hard fighting 24 pounder made my efforts worth while. No, not worth while. The trip was a success for enough already and to watch the sun set over such a glorious backdrop was reward enough. I enjoyed that carp but it was far from essential on this trip.

June 24, 2016

A Wee Tench

The magpies woke me as they do every day. It was my intention to make this my alarm clock and to rise early but my wife flicked the curtain and they flew off, silence returned and I went back to sleep. Much later I was on the road and eventually I reached the lake. The long walk to my intended swim was no longer necessary as I now have a key to the fishery gate and could drive around it - rejoice! For once I arrived fresh and raring to go. 

The bay is shallow and silty, it is a place where any activity from a feeding fish to a float landing causes bubbles. Last time here it was a veritable Jacuzzi but today not a one. Typical as I was hoping for a tench. Never mind, out went a little groundbait containing hemp and corn followed by an over depth float with a few grains on a size 10. I sat back full of expectation and trying to recall the last time I tench fished in June - it's been a while.

Less than fifteen minutes had passed when my beautiful 'Sussex Micky' goose quill stood up by several inches. I lifted my Chapman 500 and tightened into the fish. The water humped and the fish - a carp - ran full tilt into the nearby weed bed. As soon as it hit the weeds so the 5lb hooklink parted. The tight line had ejected all of the split shot from the line and the float sat amidst the resultant foam, too far for me to rescue. Sorry Micky but it died a warrior.

Plan B. Back to the car and a heavier rod was selected along with a fixed spool that had carp proof line on the spool. I re-rigged a float and tried again. Of course, the next bite produced a roach of about three ounces. I cast again and caught an overhead alder tree. I bloody hate alders. Sure they look nice but every line that finds one becomes irretrievably entwined and I had to set up the full end tackle yet again. But then, I was fishing like a plonker.

A nice roach followed and a few patches of bubbles indicated that some tench were in the bay and on the mooch. I got my float where I wanted it and sat back determined to sit it out until a tench found my bait. Time passed and I was beginning to think my luck was out. Then I remembered the red worms that my lovely lady had collected for me from the compost yesterday evening - bless her. I impaled two on the hook. The smell of red worms on my fingers brought back images of a similar lake from my youth especially a trip spent in a similar bay full of dead twigs and leaves where three of us youngsters all fishing worms from granddad's compost heap and scoured in moss, hooked - and lost - four small pike in a short period of time. It was particularly relevant as locals felt that no pike had survived the big freeze of '63 in fact my grand father refused to believe my story but, for three lads not used to feeling anything very lively on the line, it was an exciting day.

Shrugging off my bout of nostalgia I cast and put the rod on a rest. This is where it get's weird. Due to the overhanging bushes and trees I was stood in the margins - and needed to pee. Thinking nothing of it I removed the ol' toggle and two and began my leak. Diverting from job in hand I looked up and saw my float bury! I grabbed the rod but was well aware that I was beyond the point of no return - so I multi tasked. Avoiding unnecessary wetness I played and landed a beautiful summer tench to the accompanying trickle of a tiny waterfall. There's always something new to accomplish in fishing but I'm not sure I'll be in a hurry to repeat my actions on the river bank especially when an armada of canoes is passing.

I digress, it was the first time I've targeted tench on the lake as the carp are rather distracting but I enjoyed catching this fish as much as anything I've landed in a long while. 
The fish photographed (badly), on my mobile and I recast. But the mood of the bay had changed. I gave it a while longer enjoying the scenery and bird song whilst revelling in a touch more nostalgia. Then it was time to shake a leg and go home.

June 19, 2016

Haggis and Weed

A month has passed between fishing trips. A month - at this time of year! I do have an excuse in that I had to do domestic things like ripping out a kitchen and tearing up old floor tiles, all followed by umpteen trips to the dump with the debris. Plus I had to do a spot of work on the fishery of course. I ended up needing a holiday. Which is exactly what we did. Whilst plasterers, electricians and kitchen fitters created a mushroom cloud of dust which spread evenly about our property, Nicky and I got as far away as possible and made our first proper visit to Scotland.

I'm certain you don't want to hear all my holybob anecdotes and the amount of haggis I managed to consume but I have to say that if you've ever considered a trip to west Scotland - take it. Time and time again we stopped our car to have a look at a view or try to identify a bird and were stunned at the silence. Genuine quiet apart from the sounds created by nature. No cars, people, distant motorways or even a tractor - just quiet. On the Island of Mull it was like it pretty much everywhere and I loved it. I get the impression that some people have never experienced silence and they become unnerved when there is no background hum. This is certainly the case when they get in a canoe and cruise down the river Wye and there is much whooping, hollering and bad singing, they are not just showing off they are overcoming an uneasy fear. The idiots.

Anyway, ten eagle sightings (mainly golden but white tailed fish eagles too), hen harrier, corncrake, grey seals, dolphin and porpoise, all but one eagle in one day. Yes, we'll be back.

Golden Eagle

But the lake was calling and when I returned and I was eager to spend a few days at its side. Neil had blagged a couple days off work and so we could spend some quality time together. Having splashed through the mud I was on firm ground and looking for a swim. The weed is thicker than ever I've seen it but I've pulled carp through it before and figured I'd do it again so I opted to fish a clear run beyond some of the beds. Neil slithered up the track and was disappointed to find a spring overflowing into the spot he'd fancied so he took a comfy spot with a good track record. We were soon set up and fishing.

Just two hours later I had a belting run and tightened into a heavy weight. It soon left the clear water and went headlong into the weed. I kept my cane rod high and applied continuous pressure, steady and constant is the way to go. It moved.... slowly but then all became solid. I did the seesaw trick to no effect and then loosened up to see if the fish might free itself. I was unable to give slack line as the fish was already heading out of the weed so I crammed it on again. It took about ten minutes just to get it through fifteen yards of weed bed but it was now in open water and it had plenty of fight left. Neil was at my side offering good advice and commenting on the strength of this big fish. The net was sunk and it had rolled a few times showing some big scales down its back. A lump of weed was hanging off the lead and it created a fulcrum point. I noticed it but had yet to react when the fish twisted and was gone.

"Ah well, can't win 'em all" I shrugged and Neil just said "Don't call me until the fish is in the net next time", smiled and left me to shake off the disappointment. It had come so early in the session I didn't really mind too much and was soon fishing again.

Another lost fish soon after hooking it at midnight made the gremlin thoughts swirl in my head but I dragged myself on a stalking walk in the morning to try and find feeding fish or two. I found only tench fizzing away in a bay but had no appropriate gear. I made the annual promise to myself that I would target them one day and lobbed a pva bag and boilie through a gap in some bushes.

About forty five minutes later I was crashing through the undergrowth to stand in the margins and 'play' a fish that thought it was a skimmer. I didn't mind, having lost a couple I was glad to land an easy one. It was just over eighteen pounds and despite being just over half the size of the first one I lost, I was glad to have landed it.

18+ and covered in chod.
During the evening and in my home pitch, I had another fish that came through a lighter weeded channel and was in the net without anything more than a spot of heave ho. It was a 'mere' thirteen pounds but had somehow lost a pelvic fin during it's life. It was a tatty wound and I suspect an otter was responsible as opposed to a braid cut or whatever. But it was nice to see some fresh fish coming through, I was actually glad not to have caught big twenties or a low thirty as I'd hate to think it is too easy. I did however, get into a mighty pickle (to use my wife's favourite term for a fuck up). I bit through my leader before taking the fish from the net but, when I reached the unhooking mat, found line still in the net - so I bit it again. Once returned I found that I'd caught my second line and that was one of the one's bitten through yet I had still managed to retrieve that rig into the margins before the tangle of the two lines let it go. I hand lined it out but, due to some incredible knots well up the line, I now had two reels that needed respooling for me to have a chance of reaching the baited spot.

No, I didn't name it Nemo
It was late, dark and it all seemed like a lot of fuss and nonsense so I leaned the rods against a bush and sat with Neil drinking his beer and enjoying the sounds of the night. I slept well not waiting for a bite. the dawn chorus was incredible and the journey home filled with a yearning to return.