January 04, 2018

Taking Leave Of My Senses

Welcome to another year of my angling life.

Looking in my diary it's been well over two months since I last set foot on the banks of the river. That was also the last time I landed a fish as the one other trip after carp also saw me blank and retire into hibernation. Therefore today's outing was long overdue.... well, a day overdue really. I'll explain.

Yesterday saw me checking out the state of the Wye. It was just creeping back inside it's banks and looked spot on for some winter chubbing. I also spotted my mate Paul, a distant silhouette against a bleak landscape, hunched over a rod and too far to walk to for a chat. We emailed one another later and he had just one chub to report.

I figured that the overnight rain should push the river back up and make today perfect but, as I checked the levels, I found I was wrong. The rain did not fall as hard as predicted and the river, having dropped a couple of meters, was running at full pelt. Add to this one of the hardest winds I've ever fished in and it wasn't just my confidence that was taking a battering. I set off with minimal gear and found that I was being pushed by the wind so much I actually broke out into a trot. Such speed is not for me so I leaned against the gale and plodded half a mile to an area that usually produces a holding spot. I watched sixteen goosander and a cormorant take flight and I swear some of them took off backwards.

I found a little bit of bank to get the lower half of my body out of the cold wind and cast some cheese paste around just looking for a bite before attempting to feed in the turbulent water. No matter how I positioned my rod or whatever angle I put it at the wind continually shook it. Gusts would bend it and pull the line tight over my cold fingers only for it to fall slack, for a second or two, then it shook and pulled again. My paste could have been eaten by a clumsy seal and I'd never have spotted it. I moved.

I hate fishing in the wind. You lose much of your senses due to the high wind, the noise and the buffeting you receive, it's a bit like sewing with boxing gloves on. The dog wasn't too pleased to be there either.

The next spot was a very pronounced crease which, I soon found out, was likely to move at any moment as the angry wind shook the water surface and hurried it above the speed of the main current. I didn't last long there either.

I wandered back toward the car and looked hard for a fishable swim. The one I did settle in was the first that had caught my eye on my outward hike. I liked the fact that it was genuinely out of the wind, the current was fairly even and there was a deep hole with little current if I could hold my bait still in it. On the downside, the swim is snag city and it was that which drove me home.

Yes, a tough day spent suffering from a loss of senses, mainly demonstrated by even trying in the first place.

October 12, 2017

Fishing - Solar Power Pack

I've not been out much. Twice in fact, both to the river and both short late afternoon sessions. I had a barbel the first time and a chub on my last visit. Not really exciting is it?

My mind hasn't really been in it you see. Life getting in the way of sport and all that. A man could get pee'd off. But my mind has been on fishing.

However, I am planning for the future and especially for a French trip next year. That in itself is a challenge. Neil and I would love to go back to the rivers for that thrilling challenge of trying to avoid a struggle and maybe get a whacker. But Phil and Paddy want to fish an 'easier' still water and to rack up a few biggies. Either way, plans are being made.

One problem when fishing for a week or so in the middle of nowhere is keeping things like phones, tablets and walkie talkies charged. I have a couple of those phone Power Packs that are supposed to recharge you handset umpteen times but only give you one and a half. I need to crank it up a bit.

I must say at this stage that electricity is pure alchemy. The last thing I wired up was a torch bulb to a battery when I was about ten years old. Unless it's a case of "Put red wire into red socket" I'm out of my depth. So I could either cough up £140 + or hit YouTube and do some research.

After much head scratching and Ebay purchasing I tentatively cut into my first wire. Okay, I put it all together and..... then did more head scratching as I wanted two circuits to operate different bits and it just wasn't doing what I wanted. All the time my lovely lady was saying "You need a blue wire". "But I'm using red and black, why would I need any blue wiring?" I asked. "You need a blue wire", she said and walked off.

4am and I was awake with a little bulb glowing over my head - I'd sorted it. Come daylight and I was fettling with my box when the late night epiphany came back to my conscious mind. I set about using a three pin switch instead of the two pin one. Job done. Then Nicky looked over my shoulder and said "You need a blue wire". "Why?" I sighed. "Because Bruce Willis wears a vest and as the numbers count down, he always cuts the blue wire". And you wonder why I go fishing?

I now have a 12v lead acid battery powering USB charging, a cigarette lighter port for heavier stuff and some pretty LED's on the front to make it all look pretty. The whole thing is very portable and can be kept fully charged with the solar panel I have to go with it. I have to say I'm rather chuffed with my efforts . All I need to do now it to build a second one for Neil.

I doubt that many will find this blog entry interesting but should anyone reading this want to know how I did it, just ask and I'll email a full description.

September 02, 2017

The Perfect Cure

I haven't fished the river for several weeks due to a severe bout of Man Flu.  Frustrated and searching for positives out of a lot of negatives, I set my heart on some carp fishing that may well be the mainstay of my autumn activities. I began plotting and buying the necessary bits and pieces like hooks, line, swivels and other assorted items of end tackle... oh, and three rods. They were second hand but as they are Harrison Ballista's - custom made - and 2.5 TC well, I'm only flesh and blood.

Nicky was constantly telling me I was still 'grounded' and, as I was asleep most of the day and unsteady on my feet due to the virus, I kind of agreed. But come mid-week I felt well enough to go and Neil - bless him - came too and helped carry my gear to the pitch.

Due to one other angler on the lake occupying my preferred spot, I chose to fish a swim I've never really scored in before but it 'felt' right. It's a long chuck swim (for me), all 80 yards of it, but I could pop around the far side and bait accurately. It took me hours and I mean hours to get everything sorted but, at last, two rods were out and I was in relax mode.


Neil's voice wafted across the pitch but I realised it was the walkie talkie. He'd landed a fish. I reeled in and drove up to his swim where he displayed a high shouldered brute of 25.8. We were both delighted and I went back and recast.

Early evening and I receive a text saying I have two voicemail messages - that is rarely good news and with my mother quite ill in the nursing home, I went searching for enough signal for a call. Up a long hill I eventually found a minimal single bar and made the call, one was an old message, the other from Les who I was to meet on Friday. Phew!

I rang Les and explained that I may have to cut him off if I lose signal or get a bite, "Highly unlikely" I offered. But a bleep from the remote sounder box and "Ooer" says Les. "Bream" says I. There then followed a single tone run that had me running, or as near as I can get to it, back to my gear and my first fish on the new rods was on.

There followed one of the best scraps I've had from a carp, it was a real battler. Neil arrived to net it and there was my prize - 30.6 Happy days.

Another recent purchase is a Trakker inflatable mattress for the bedchair. What a brilliant device, what a great night's sleep, helped by the distinct lack of fish action. But, come 6am and I was off again. 20.6. I stood looking out over the lake. It was chilly and the wisps of mist raced up and down and all was well in my world. A coffee and a warm in the bag was again disturbed by a 19.6. Isn't that odd? All of them were six ounces over the pound.

Suffice to say, I am planning a return visit very soon.

August 07, 2017

'Orrible August

Funny old month August. Trees full of fledgelings, flowers covered with insects, lakes and rivers looking at their finest and the fishing, well, pretty crap. I've never done very well in this last month of summer and I've never really worked out why. It's just one of those things I guess.

I haven't made it to France for a few years and am absolutely gagging to get back there. Bunny was always a member of the rabble but, now he's no longer with us, it falls to his son Phil, my lad Neil and me to continue the tradition of attempting to surmount the problems and crises that our forays provoke. Paddy, my lifelong angling buddy, wants to join our French carp bash next year and that is fine and dandy,  except for one thing. Paddy has very little carp experience. He just doesn't have the time for it as he works for a living (the poor sod) and his spare time is limited. I offered Paddy the chance of some pre deep end tuition as plonking himself on the banks of a vast foreign lake or river would be like dumping an eskimo in a desert. Plans were made.

With some creeping and a little begging, I gained permission for him to join me on a trip to the syndicate lake. He was not allowed to fish but could watch the 'expert'. All I wanted was for him to see and handle a decent fish as well as get an idea of how and why.

The Condobivvium

We set up camp, my little bivvie on a narrow ledge at water level, Paddy was to erect his on the bank behind me. Now last time I saw Paddy with a bivvy it was an ancient job picked up at a boot sale. It was the shape of a policeman's helmet and had the stability of a jelly and I was expecting to have a laugh at it today. Oh no, Paddy entered a competition in a carp magazine and won a brand new bivvy which came to be known as a condobivvyum. It's huge and would swallow three bed chairs with ease. It was also an absolute bitch to put up in a wind but, at last, we were settled and fishing.

The lake looked wonderful but no fish were showing anywhere. We did see a hobby, doubtless enroute to the aptly named Dragonfly Lake nearby and later an Osprey flew across and probably rested in a tree nearby much to the consternation of the ducks and herons that nest there. It later passed us again, twisted and turned over the lake and was lost to sight behind the full summer greenery. Probably a non-brooding adult reckoned Paddy and he does know his birds.

I hooked and lost a fish in the evening. I retrieved my rig to find the hook buried in a boilie. I later retrieved a rig with no hooklink. I'd opened a quick change swivel to put it on and, yes, well we all make mistakes. In fact, I was fishing like a complete tosser. Attempting to show Paddy how it's done I was showing him what not to do.

The next day was again quiet. A couple of members arrived for the weekend and I learned that tiger nuts had been producing. As it happens I had some defrosted in my bag. I've never had a fish on tigers but figured it was worth a go. I put them out on one rod, lay on my bed to read and fell asleep. I woke a little later and saw that the tiger rod had pulled up a bit but I'd heard nothing on the alarm. I brought it in and punched it back across with a fresh bait. About half an hour later I had a stuttering take - bloody bream I assumed.

Paddy with my fish
Paddy was also enjoying his siesta so I tightened up to the fish and began pumping it back through the weed bed. It had weight but no fight and when it rolled I was certain it was a bream, big but breamy big. Then it kicked and I woke Paddy. The closer it got and as the weed came away from it's face so the carp woke up but it still hit the net quite quickly. It then had loads of energy on the mat and again, I wasn't showing my fish handling skills at my best. It went 26.13 so I guess it was job done. A small common in the evening finished the sport, the last night being silent. No fish turning, not even a bream bite. Most strange. I think the only lesson Paddy learned was that if I can catch then anybody can.

We broke camp and headed for the Wye. An evening session and most of the next day saw Paddy land two chub whilst I didn't have so much as a nibble. Funny old month August.

July 17, 2017

Just Like Old Times

You would not believe the size of the spider that I evicted from my left wader boot. I haven't worn them for ages so my arachnid friend had doubtless considered it her home for life and I'm sure I heard a little spider curse as she hit the porch floor. Hey ho, my need is greater, it's the order of things.

I was heading for the Wye and attempting to lure my first barbel of the summer. It was not my first trip though. That was an evening sat behind a float in some deep, still water that resulted in one missed 'dip'. Stupid place to fish really but I just fancied watching a hypnotic red tip for a while.

Then I went to the Teme and had a chub first cast. This early success was followed by a long hot day searching for barbel that resulted seeing in nothing but chub. I had another out of frustration rather than need and gave up - for now.

On the Wye I had a couple of nice chub on rolled meat followed by a few more sat in a favourite old swim. Seven fish in all, a pleasant evening and much like old times marred only by losing a weighty barbel that simply came adrift from my barbless hook. It was most likely foul hooked or caught around a fin as they normally stick once you've got them. The next visit was one where I wanted comfortable fishing so I returned to the same swim without the effort of roaming and rolling beforehand and, I had another seven chub. I didn't net any of them, just beached them and flicked the hook out before they splashed back to the deeps.

Yesterday was a trotting day. It's quite apparent that the barbel want a moving bait in these low and testing conditions and there's no better way of presenting a bait than below a float. I fed a mixture of hemp, pellet, chopped and whole boilies in a light trickle through my chosen swim. I had a pull on the drop from what felt like a chublet and one suspiciously quick dip of the float but, after an hour and a half, I decided to go for a wander to another run that had looked really good when I passed it on the way up the fishery.

When I got there I found Neil fishing it and he promptly landed a small chub to wave under my nose. Never mind. My shoulder ached so I went looking for somewhere to sit behind a static rod. The barbel will have to take a stationary bait or maybe I'll get another bunch of chub, I didn't mind which.

I eventually settled and fished over the bait I'd been feeding earlier, it seemed common sense and it is a good swim - when they are in residence. Somewhere between going for my wander and my return I had managed to lose my prescription sunglasses. Bugger! I've new lenses on order too. Ah well, there's another set of frames to fork out for as well - bugger again.

Out went my feeder with a long combi hooklink and a bit of boilie on a size 12. I sat back for the wait when zzzzzzzz! The clutch screamed and I was promptly into my first barbel. Only a scrapper but it put up a great struggle. Satisfied, I relaxed and tried a different boilie that had been doing the business with the chub. Nothing. Nearly half an hour passed without so much as a knock. Given the early success I figured I'd either spooked the shoal or needed to change something. I changed bait back to the original and within minutes was landing number two.

My boilies are all from Quest Baits and have worked well for both carp and barbel and let's not forget the chub of course. But the winning bait yesterday was a new one to me on the river so I'll experiment a little more before either giving up an edge or sending readers down a blind alley.

I sat back and relaxed. For the first time in a few years, I've been fishing the river quite intently and watching the rod tip like a hawk, getting the old mojo back. Tonight though, anything picking up the bait was going to scream off so I sat and read a bit of Favourite Swims by Fred J Taylor. It's a great book and was chosen for my bankside reading for it's pithy chapters and Fred's solid views on the sport.

Fred was discussing the 'modern trend in barbel baits' with their sausages and cheese. I smiled at the irony of my choices of boilies, pellets et al. The rod went off again and a seven pounder was landed. Fred was then describing a blow by blow account of playing a double figured fish when again, the rod screamed into life and I landed a fish that probably nudged over eight pounds. It was very pleasant - just like old times really.

One point of note. All of the barbel had Argulus or river lice on them, a sure indication that they are not moving about too much in the hot weather and low water conditions. Come the first flood they will all but disappear.

Then it all went quiet. I fed a family of young mallards and even tempted their mother to trust me enough to join in. An egret flew back and forth, it's silent flight almost owl like. I watched yet another glorious sunset, packed up and sat with Neil for the last half hour of light. He had moved and was catching chub regularly and it was a very pleasant place to be.

Hang on. Was that egret wearing my glasses?

June 30, 2017

What happened, what happened?

Remember me? I'm that bloke who was all fired up about his carp fishing during the spring. Well, in usual Burr fashion, it's all gone tits up. Here's why.

I don't mind blanks, in fact I embrace them as a water that becomes too easy quickly loses it's appeal. What I do resent is being able to go and blank or even catch, when I want to and these last few years has seen many forced lay offs. I did it again in May. The dreaded back problems as well as some very painful knee issues with sciatica, saw my fishing curtailed once more. I was up for giving it a go, fish my way through the pain barrier and all that but, with a special holiday approaching, we had an adult conversation, discussed the options openly and fairly and I was told not to be so bloody stupid and that I can fish any time but "not now you plonker".

Recovering enough to actually travel, I eagerly anticipated our three weeks in Florida. It was our 40th wedding anniversary whilst we were away but even so, a travel rod was packed and Internet planning had been done.

Before you think I'm going to go all gooey about my long, long relationship with Mrs B (we met 44 years ago!), I'd like to add that I view long term relationships more as a lack of ambition than an accomplishment - but I don't say it when in mixed company for cowardly reasons.

Please indulge me for a while as I dwell on my childhood. It's the early sixties, we lived in a shoe box in t' middle o' road - okay, not quite but money was short with a capital 'S'. Our pleasures were simple back then with collecting the cards that came in tea packets being a favourite. The smell of a freshly opened packet of loose leaf tea and the search for the hidden card really were exciting especially as (or maybe my interest was sparked by) the subject matters were always so dear to my heart. Butterflies, Fish and Birds were collected and stuck into the little book you could buy to accompany the set. Collecting the full set was generally helped by me being an absolute whizz at flicking cards to get 'nearest the wall' during school playtimes.

The fish were always my favourite but I was interested in birds long before I owned a rod and one set we did complete was the Tropical Birds one. These colourful and weird creatures enthralled me but one in particular stuck deep in my psyche. Much later I saw them on the television and always dreamed that one day I may see one in the flesh but, due to their living deep in the southern hemisphere, I figured I had more chance of seeing a dodo. More of this later....

Roll Models

Another childhood treat was watching the Deputy Dawg Show which, if you've never seen, I heartily recommend a spot of YouTube research. The lead protagonist - Muskie - the muskrat - would often be found with his short sighted friend Vincent Van Gopher, down at the ol' fishin' hole. To a lad newly obsessed with fish and struggling to learn the complexities of upping my catch rate of minnows, this was the stuff of dreams. Bunking school and yanking out a succession of sizeable catfish was to me, simply mouth watering. I have always wanted to catch an American catfish. I've seen plenty, shared an exchange with one whilst snorkelling and tried and failed before but the hankering lingers.

This then was my side issue for the holiday. The Universal Studio's parks, plenty of shopping, wildlife expeditions and some fishing - a proper holiday. It started well in that despite Nicky feeling a little groggy after the flight and developing a dry cough on day 2, we still paid a visit to lake Tohopekaliga or Toho to the locals. I've caught bass there before and decided to start my fishing with a spot of dabbling for pan fish. Canadian Night Crawlers were purchased - lobs to you and me.

Lake Toho

Despite the advice that pieces of worms was the way to go, I could only get bites on whole worms fished paternoster style. I hit just one and landed a blue gill - my first so a pb. I avoided the Wood Storks that surrounded anglers just waiting for the opportunity to steal fish or bait. The bird life was especially good with limpkins hunting apple snails, osprey diving, roseate spoonbills, anhingas..... so many birds..... and a few gators too.

Spoonbill having a wash
Wood Stork 


All was well in the world ........ then Nicky started to look a little peaky, so we found a doctor. Her temperature was 103 - Yup, that'll take the shine off your day. She spent the weekend in the hotel.

Come Monday and I was at the car, lobbing our bits and pieces into the back prior to taking Nick back to the docs. There was a loud slap of flesh meeting carpark and Nicky had collapsed whilst climbing into the car - catching her foot in the door jamb as she did so.

Fast forward to the end of the week and Nicky was released from hospital where she had been treated for influenza, pneumonia and a broken foot. We decided to remain and do what we could with the holiday but obviously, this was not going to be as planned and our priorities were altered.

It was near the end of our stay when I next threaded line through my rod rings as I lobbed some stinking shop bought concoction for attracting catfish near some bridge supports. It was over 100 degrees and I was getting burned through my T shirt. The undergrowth around me hid a million snakes and alligators - well, I heard a small gator on the far bank - and..... yes, I had a slow pull on my line. Could this be it? Could I finally get my catfish? No. An airboat - the loudest vehicles in the world - landed right next to me, the wash added nearly a foot of water to my fishing area and, when it subsided, it took with it my tackle box, camera and bait. I got most of it back and yes, the camera still works but I had no usable bait, I was hot and my enthusiasm was....... well, guess.

I'm certain they were here...

And so endeth my catfish hunt. With one thing and another, I cannot see us returning to the States in the foreseeable future so my simple childhood dream must live on and probably die with me. Nicky can now get about with a stick and, I'm not complaining you understand, I shan't be pushing a wheelchair in 100 degrees any more.  Mind you, it did get us to the front of a few queues.

As far as holiday/fishing adventures go it fell below expectations but we still did plenty of cool stuff, saw many interesting bugs and animals, even a horned toad hunting outside the hotel one wet night.
The bird life continued to astound with too many to mention. However, and we need to return to me as a youngster just for a moment and my Brooke Bond set of cards.

We lay on Cocoa Beach awaiting the impending, albeit delayed, flight of the new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, I sat up with my jaw well and truly dropped as a Frigate Bird, the bird I had wanted to see for over fifty years, passed overhead. It's sharp profile and 7' wingspan make it an easy spot but what the hell was it doing there? Turns out there's a small and somewhat fragile colony breeding in Florida and we just happened to get a couple of sightings whilst waiting for every bird for miles to get the shock of their lives. Fantastic!

Frigate Bird - not my photo

The rocket was less impressive. Compared to a shuttle taking off it was like a Learjet next to Concorde but hey, you can't have everything can you.

I'm home now. It feels bloody cold but everybody is saying that after the heatwave and it wasn't just us that flicked the central heating on last evening. But the rivers are low and enticing, the carp lake will be full of weed and equally alluring and I am making yet more plans to visit them all - very soon. I'll let you know how it goes.

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?