December 31, 2011

Freedom!

I picked the lock and snuck out of my prison cell yesterday - I actually went fishing! For the first time in a month I felt able to have a dabble and seized the moment. The river seemed a tad daunting so I went to my syndicate lake for a spot of spinning - well, it seemed appropriate.

I'd love to report on the excellent fighting qualities of the large perch or the dramatic lunges of the angry pike but I failed to move a single fin. I didn't really mind, I only fished for an hour or so when you deduct the time spent cutting out the biggest bird's nest I've ever had on a multiplier.

Catching something would have been nice but just getting out was enough really, I won't pretend that I felt as good at the end of the session as I did at the start but I was fishing rather than staring at my own four walls and I'll be out again very soon.

December 29, 2011

How was it for you?

Christmas is a bit like sex. All that build up and anticipation then pop! In a very short time its over.

(At this point I would just like to dig myself out of my analogy. Obviously, I could have written "its over for another year..." but that may imply a certain lack of energy or ambition on my behalf and I would also like to take issue with the "short time" element of that sentence, again, it is not meant as an accurate description of yours truly .... Shall I start again.)

Anyway, there is was - gone!

As I sit here in the post coital lull between Christmas Day and the effort to get excited about changing the date on the calendar that is the New Year, it is time to reflect on the holiday period. How was yours? Mine was just great. Giddiness aside I had a really good Christmas day with my lovely lady and favourite (only :-) ) son. Neil had spent the night with his girlfriend and her little boy and tasted for the first time the joy of spoiling a youngster on this special day. It was a revelation for him and he knows that it will be the norm for him from now on. Nicky and I also realised that it will be our last Christmas with Neil - singular, it will be the family hereafter.

We spoiled him rotten of course. We do like giving gifts and to see Neil's face when we dumped a sack full of goodies before him was a treat. I'd been to a tackle show and got a tremendous deal on a magazine subscription with £400 worth of gear for a mere pittance, it was just what he wanted Santa to drop by for him, that plus books booze and a pile of odds and ends and the set of Delkims that Santa also brought his dad - joy!

I even surprised Nicky and bought her some things that she wanted - result.

Star of the day was a poor waif that needed some Christmas compassion and was welcomed into our humble abode where he was given food and shelter. It was a juvenile hedgehog, the one we had fed all summer in an attempt to get it up to hibernation weight. It seems we fell short as it weighed a mere 12oz about half what is needed to get it through the winter. We've 'rescued' a few hedgehogs in the past but usually, by the time you find them in distress, they seem to thrive for a couple of days then succumb to the dreaded lung worm or some other parasitical invasion. Branston (Branston Prickle), ate its way through countless mealworms which it would happily take from my hand along with meat, fruit, cat food, cereal and cheese but alas, it has not increased in weight. Yesterday we made the 100 mile round trip to a rescue centre where Branston will join the other 160 rescued hogs and hopefully we shall collect it in the spring and release it back into the garden. Fingers crossed.

You may recall from a previous blog entry that my neighbour found a Manx Shearwater in her garden back in back in September. Well yesterday I learned what the animal rescue hospital staff did to repatriate them. It would seem that, after a good rest and a bit of a feed they were taken to the Severn Bridge where they were thrown off the side! It may sound drastic but Shearwaters cannot take off from land, they take flight from water where they can paddle up some speed into the wind or the drop in from a cliff edge so 300' of bridge is just like home to them. Makes my stomach go over just thinking about it. I've been over, inside, under and up the towers of that bridge, I don't relish the thought of the quick way down though. Incidentally, of those that were taken to the Beckford animal hospital all but one survived.

And finally, my giddiness is on the wane and I even drove for a while yesterday so I shall be up to my old tricks again very soon. About bloody time too.

Happy New Year to everybody that stops by.


December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Weeble

Remember the Weebles? They wobble but they won't fall down - that's me still. As you can guess, I haven't fished for a few weeks and shan't be out for a while yet :-(

I did accompany Neil on a short and unsuccessful pike trip the other day and on the way back to the car I stopped and looked at our footprints across the field. There were Neil's in a direct line and mine veering left and right like a drunk's course home from the pub. Still, it was nice to be out.

Enough of my woe's, I trust that you will all have a great Christmas and hope that 2012 brings you success and contentment. Thank you for looking in and I'll see you again soon.

December 01, 2011

Spinning

No, not throwing bits of flashing metal at pike and perch, something more akin to your youth.

Do you recall those days when you and your friends would stretch out your arms and spin around and around until the world distorted and you fell into a hilarious mess on the floor and enjoyed the sensation that everything around you was animated and wobbly? Or maybe, as an adult, usually at a barbecue, you have played the 'broom game'; spinning - head down- ten times around a broom stick before attempting to run back to a given point only to end up off to the side and led - giggling - in a flower bed.

Yes, the Theme Park in our heads can be great fun and it can cause more hilarity if somebody else has succumbed to its imbalance as a result of alcohol. But, what if you have an involuntary bout of this loss of equilibrium? That's what has happened to me. Its called Labrynthitis, an inflammation of the inner ear canals that effect your balance and what's more, its bloody awful!

It hit me the other day with a bout of mild giddiness as I left the excellent Carp Society show at Sandown Park and I at first assumed it was the effect of having my wallet lightened so rapidly such were the bargains on offer. Within a couple of days I was unable to walk in a straight line, drive or focus on reading matter. I had a day of severe vomiting and felt like death warmed up. The good Doctor brought me some pills but their effect so far, is minimal.

I bring you this news not to ask for sympathy but to explain the lack of current angling tales. Following on from back troubles, a bout of flu and now this, I have been a right 'sick note' of late and I am gagging for a spot of fishy action but I know that I have to be patient. I have booked to fish two particularly wonderful chalk streams at the end of next week, I just hope that I can get around in straight lines as opposed to the stumbling gate of a drunk in a train corridor.

I leave you with my current theme song ;-)



November 25, 2011

A Near Miss



I've had a late afternoon session on the Lugg this week. The river looks so different compared to a couple of months ago - winter is almost here. The trees have shed almost all of their leaves like tears for the summer gone and the countryside is bracing itself for the lowering of temperature which must surely come - eventually. This has the advantage of opening more of the bank to the wandering angler who can drop into swims that were inaccessible before.

I'd made up some cheese paste and had a tin of meat ready cut into strips and flavoured with a special ingredient ;-) Tackle wise, an 11' Avon rod and centre pin is perfect for the little river and, to keep up with the different conditions in each swim, I was using Plasticine as a weight on a free running rig with a size 8 or 10 hook at the end. I was experimenting with a circle hook that I started using in the depths of last winter, my logic being that as bites may be of a premium I wanted to hit any that came my way and circle hooks are excellent hookers. The model I was using are fine wire and although suitable for chub and when worming for perch, I wouldn't usually use them for barbel.

The 'clever' bit of my rig was a bead attached to the hair by one of those V shaped hair stops that buries itself into the hole in a pellet. Using this I could mould paste around it securely and, if I wanted to change to meat, just remove the bead and use the hair stop as normal. Changing weight, bait or method to meet the needs of each swim was simplicity itself and even a lazy angler like me was fishing thoughtfully and diligently.

The Rig but with a better hook

It took a while to find some fish, they were small chub but they helped to keep the enthusiasm up and I was pleased to catch them. I had tugs and pulls from several spots before discovering the culprits when I foul hooked a gudgeon. In one swim a number of small silver fish topped and rolled on the surface, I'd like to have run a spinner through that area - maybe next time.

As dusk approached I made for the swim that I thought would give me the chance of a decent fish and, as the sun gave up on us for another day, the rod jabbed and I had a chub of about 3lbs. I walked well upstream and released it before lowering another knob of cheese paste to the point where two creases met and walked the seven or eight yards back to my chair where I sat back, holding the rod and feeling for bites with my index finger over the line. When it came it was a beautifully solid pull and it fought deep and hard, I was surprised when the chub rolled into the net that it only looked to be a mere four pounder, it had felt bigger in the fast water.


No matter, duly returned I went through the bait lowering procedure again only this time I had removed the bead from my hair and had slipped a lump of meat on. The bite was soon in coming and quite savage as a barbel felt the weight of my line and bolted. However, the contact was short-lived and everything went slack. Confused, I reeled in and found that the circle hook (that I really should have changed), had snapped!

Certain that the swim would be spoiled and lured by the thought of a hot meal I packed and walked the long walk back to the car. A very pleasant session during which I fished well enough but that one lapse in attention to detail cost me the best fish of the day - but isn't that usually the case?

November 17, 2011

The Pond



Joni Michell's 'Carey' played in my head as I walked, full of optimism, along the mile or so of lanes toward the pond. It would have been late July or August – school holidays. I was staying with my grand parents once more, avoiding the boredom of a family holiday to go and stay with my favourite relatives and indulge in some fishing.

The last turn was made and, from the top of the slope, there it lay before me – heaven.
Emborough Pond or, as everybody referred to it 'The Pond', was an estate lake, large, shallow, weedy and full of tench, roach, perch and pike. I say 'full', I rarely caught anything in those days other than diminutive perch but I acquired a catalogue of 'one that got away' stories as a series of slipping knots, snapped lines and just plain bad luck (okay, angling) made me avoid the capture of a tench for many years. It mattered not. It was a 'proper' lake and was therefore the home of monsters and that kept my imagination fuelled.

Maybe I should first take you back to the little terraced cottage in Gurney Slade where my grand parents lived. By the time I was taking my holidays there the outside toilet (a hole in a bench with a bucket below) had been replaced with an inside lavatory but there still wasn't any electricity in the back bedroom where I slept so the night time assent of the steep staircase was done by candle light and yes, there was a potty under the bed.

Each morning I'd be woken by the commuter train coming up the bank towards the station. The sound of the steam engine working hard against the gradient was a magical alarm clock and I would peer out of the window to see the coaches at rest in Binegar station. Sometimes a freight train would pass and of course, I had to stop and count the wagons. The walk to the pond went under the railway bridge and to have a smoking, gasping monster pass overhead was overwhelming; sometimes the driver waved back. That railway bank produced wild strawberry plants, their fruit as sweet and delicious as any morsel can be but we always had to beware of the adders that shared the sunlight.
The main room of my grand parents home was small and dominated by three things. The fireplace, the heart of the house where Edith, my beloved grandmother, always in her apron, would prepare every meal and all of the hot water in the two enormous black kettles. She seemed to be permanently stoking the coals and moving saucepans and kettles to catch the heat, her leather shoes, like little boots seeming too small for a grown up.

Then there was the television, still bearing its price tag (quite deliberately), loud and usually showing horse racing although I recall watching Top of the Pops and being scorned for liking David Bowie as he sang 'Starman'.

The last feature was the table, adorned with its floral patterned plastic tablecloth. Maybe this wasn't the last dominating feature as, sat behind the table, facing the TV, was my grand father Charlie. He would always be there when you arrived and would have the racing pages of the newspaper open as he checked his results. He never placed bets though, that would be far too extravagant.

Charlie had worked on his knees with pick and shovel for fifty years beneath the Somerset countryside, digging coal. This entitled him to a retirement certificate from the coal board, a pension and free coal for life. Not the good stuff that the coal man delivered to most of his customers but poor quality stuff that was hard as stone and difficult to light. But, it was free and “I didn't work hard all those years to get free coal so that we can waste our money on electricity”. So, if they were brought home late after a visit to our house, you had to wait for 'Mother' to light the fire and get the kettle on rather than plug in the electric one.

But I was too young to be judgmental and, in my eyes, my grand father could do no wrong as he was the only other family member that fished. I would sit next to him at the table and ask question after question. He would show me his entire tackle collection, held in a couple of tins in his old canvas haversack. There were the peacock quills, and the paper floats he'd been given (and that I still have). His cork, wrapped in lead so as to make it sink slowly and rest on a silty bottom, his assorted hooks and split shot in little tins with sliding lids. His rods were better than mine but not much in hindsight.

An 8' solid glass affair and something constructed from a 2nd world war tank aerial that I could barely hold let alone cast. I always remember his reel with its 'camouflaged' line, wiry multi coloured stuff that was supposed to blend into the background but I wasn't convinced.

In the drawer of the sideboard was one of my favourite items, an old 'baccy' packet filled with comic strip cuttings from the Daily Mirror. These were mainly done by none other than Bernard Venables although there were others, each describing a different aspect of angling, each a gem of information to my hungry young mind. The smell of the tobacco added to the magic that they possessed. I loved that smell. I would have a good lung filling sniff of Granddad's tin, a two compartmented device that held tobacco and papers. He would let me roll his cigarettes, chiding me if they were too loose or too thin but, in a short time I was rolling them to his standard. He once offered me a 'drag' when I was about ten. I refused of course, I didn't want him to know that I was already a regular smoker.

He would take me out into the garden, having first put his cap on (I never saw him outside of the house without a cap), to turn the compost heap for red worms. These in turn would be kept in damp moss in a small tin and turned daily to clean and toughen them. They were certainly lively on the hook and attractive to perch.

He accompanied me out to the pond on many occasions. I was always too impatient like every other small boy that's fished but he would try to instil some sort of discipline into my approach. It was frustrating fishing, the float dithering and bobbing for an eternity before sliding away. The strike was usually met with a diminutive perch, deep hooked but bristling with defiance.

We had a favourite swim in the wooded section, a fallen bough made for a perfect bench where we sat, watching the red tips of our quills in the shade of the overhanging tree. I would be lectured on how I should strike in the opposite direction to that which the float was heading and how I should keep calm and apply gentle side strain. Then, at dusk with the lake alive with rolling fish, his float sank and was met with a wild upward sweep of his rod which was then thrashed this way and that as he hurriedly brought a fighting bar of silver to the net. It was a beautiful roach just a few ounces below the magical 2lbs, he was rightly pleased and excited but came back to earth to tell me off when I said “what about the precise strike and gentle side strain”. I had to turn away and laugh discretely up my sleeve.

But it was in that very swim that we shared his last day's fishing. At the end of the day he struggled to stand up and I had to pull his not insignificant weight from the bough. I thought it was funny but then I saw the look on his face and the slight panic in his voice as he declared that “his legs had gone!” It was a mighty effort on both our parts to get him up the little bank to the path and that was the last time he was to put himself in that position, he was too old to fish.

Not that it stopped me. I would still visit and fish with the lads from the village. We were always there, come rain or shine. I'd fish the morning, return for lunch then go back for the afternoon and sometimes for the evening after tea. This was much easier when I could borrow Granddad's bike but I punctured one of the tyres once and was told that it was my job to repair it. I hadn't a clue how to do such a technical job so I walked along the long, narrow and at times quite creepy lane. I'd have all my gear in one hand and a metal rod rest in the other just in case it was the Bogeyman coughing behind the hedge instead of a cow.

Time moved forward and both of my Grand Parents had to leave their house and enter retirement homes. Gran succumbed to a stroke and Granddad's memory lapsed as he suffered dementia. He died, ironically, on March 14th, the last day of the season.
But, when I started working in Bristol I again rose early in the morning to fish the Pond. I arrived one day with just a few slices of bread for bait. Two anglers were already in my chosen swim so I fished on the other side of the dam wall but it was weedy and I was not getting on very well. I went to talk to the other guys, one of which had taken a tench. To my surprise, I was invited to join them and even given some maggots by the affable Chris Newton. I later caught my first ever tench and was elated that it should come from the Pond, the location of so many mishaps and lost fish of my youth.

The next time I visited the Pond was almost a year later when Nicky and I happened to be driving by as the season approached. I just had to have a look and who should appear from the undergrowth, camera in hand, than Chris. He'd been photographing fritillary butterflies, another passion we would share in subsequent years and it was also the first time he'd been back since we last met. Such serendipity would follow us through the years as I would walk into a tackle shop for the first time in literally years only to find Chris on a rare visit there too. We were destined to fish together and having arranged to meet up that opening day, have fished together ever since although less so over recent years due to Chris's lust for sea trout and women - but that's another story.

Having broken my duck I found the tench fishing much easier and caught regularly. Chris dropped in on me one day as I had my best catch there of sixteen tench and a couple of roach. Oddly, the next trip saw me catch eight tench and one roach. This day became a very special one as I left the Pond mid morning with Paddy, my lifelong fishing buddy, and we drove to the Bristol Avon where I caught my first ever barbel, what a journey that fish started.

Several years later I returned to the Pond and was horrified by what I saw. It had been taken over by a club obsessed with match fishing and, as I walked through the woods to my special place, huge painted peg numbers scarred the trees and the swims had been made 'comfortable' for those with a mountain of rods and tackle. The lake looked soulless and cheap, I quickly left, choking back my emotion and I have never returned.

November 01, 2011

A hectic weekend



Traditionally, I used to start my pike fishing on October 1st and would target them for much of the winter. Over the last ten years or so this has changed and there have even been years when I haven't lifted a pike rod in anger. This year has been like that so far. Yes, I know where a big girl may be laying up and yes, I have miles of wild river and a large lake to explore but I can't get into pike nowadays. I'm certain that will change when the frosts arrive but, for now......

Anyway, October 30th - normally an early start in the fog or frost was, this year, mild and sunny. It was my birthday and despite ruing the passing of yet another year and being painfully aware that the number left are heavily outweighed by those that have passed, I set off to the river for an afternoon session with Neil.

I knew that he planned to visit the love of his life during the evening and that would effect his concentration, making an early finish likely but I only wanted to have a dabble - a little birthday treat if you like, a fish would just be the candle on the cake.

I dropped into a swim that had potential and Neil dropped downstream into a spot that usually produces as the river is rising as it was on the day. It was an uneventful first hour or so and I wandered down to see how the boy was doing.

As I got to him I could see that he was intently touch legering. He recounted several missed bites when distracted by rolling cigarettes or looking at yet another text message from the little lady. He was now determined to hit the next caller. I strolled a bit farther downstream, checking out the prospects and returned after a few minutes. Neil was rebaiting and muttering under his breath about fishing like a plonker. I left him to it.

Back at my spot I put some feed in, sat back and relaxed. I was disturbed by simultaneous noises in front and behind me. To the front a screeching reel from behind, a dejected Neil dropping his packed gear in disgust. He soon rallied and netted by birthday fish, a small but perfect specimen that had scrapped well. A quick picture and we left, it felt good to be alive.

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Halloween is a fun day. I remember, as a kid, the excitement of hollowing out a suede or mangel wurzel (a field beet grown as cattle feed) to put the candle in. We used marbles for eyes and hung the finished 'heads' by a string, carrying them to hopefully scare the neighbours. I don't remember many treats coming our way but we all had fun especially if we'd been given an old sheet to make us look like ghosts.

Nowadays, Halloween is a much bigger deal and we still enjoy taking part. Nicky and I like to decorate the porch with a variety of skeletons, bats and the obligatory pumpkin etc. The local kids love it and word gets out that someone is up for a spot of 'trick or treating' and we have a succession of callers throughout the evening. This year I rigged a large spider to descend on callers as the door was opened - that caused a laugh or two :-) Neil carved the pumpkin, I think you'll agree he did a good job.


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Today is Nicky's birthday so, quite a busy weekend all round. We've had a day out, a meal and I'm now sipping champagne, like I said earlier, it feels good to be alive.

October 28, 2011

An autumn day


I woke with post concert tinnitus ringing in my ears. Nicky and I had done the 300 mile round trip to see Lenny Kravitz at the 'ammersmiff Apollo - not a bad show (appreciated more by Nick that me), the band all had their instruments set to 11 and everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. A black girl danced in the aisle next to us moving like a hunting snake which I seem to recall noticing momentarily out of my peripheral vision ;-)

The biggest draw back was that it meant setting foot in London a place I abhor. I worked in Bristol for years and visit other cities quite regularly if unenthusiastically but I find London a charmless place and I avoid it like the plague.

What I needed today was to get myself to a quiet place, to redress the balance of my being. So I went fishing.

The river was up but not as high as I'd hoped. Had it been higher I would have adopted my two day flood approach which has produced some big fish in the past but, alas, there was just over 2' on so I had to look for a suitable swim for the conditions.

I fished a long crease that gave me a great feature to fish as well as deflecting some of the debris that the river carried. Out went a big feeder filled with broken boilies and a bit of groundbait to hold it together for the cast. Below that I fished a second rod, something I haven't done during the summer, with a pva bag of 10mm DT Baits Oily Chicken boilies and a couple on the hair. Its an approach that has done me well many times before.

Sitting there in the weak sunlight I was at peace. The air was keen, the sky bright with puffy white clouds (a Simpson's sky), with few birds to be seen as we are between the mass autumn exodus and the winter influx of visitors. The river burbled and gurgled over a sunken log the pitch rising and falling as the river surged, I cannot help but look up toward the sound every time it happens. The only sounds of mankind were of distant traffic and the occasional aircraft, I was content.

I worked at building the swim for a couple of hours, then the phone rang. I was happy to chat with Phil and hear the excitement in his voice as he prepared to make his first trip to his winter carp venue. The call was abruptly halted as I tightened into a fish that pulled hard in the heavy flow. When it surfaced it was just a scamp of a barbel with delusions of grandeur but was welcome on a cold afternoon.


I stuck at it for another hour or so but the sun was getting low and I was wishing I'd put on an extra layer or two of clothing. The rod twitched again and was in my hand as it bent toward the running fish. This one was slightly larger and had a very fat belly (I can talk), but, I noticed, a withered pectoral fin. Other than that It was a fine autumn barbel and was slipped back into the coloured water. That was enough for me. Rather than sit it out for a dusk fish I packed and headed home for a hot meal.

It was then that I noticed that my ears were clear - job done.


October 23, 2011

Ooer!



Now I don't want to cause alarm and I certainly would need to see a little more proof before sending the balloon up but I found something today that has sent a shiver down my spine. On the banks of the river Wye, whilst walking the dog, Nicky picked up an item that could have far reaching repercussions - a claw.


There can be just one possible owner for an appendage such as this - the dreaded Signal Crayfish.


Of course, it could have been carried there from some distant location in the mouth of a bird, it may have been left there by some visiting angler with a warped sense of humour (if it was, I doff my hat to you Sir), or there may be some other perfectly logical reason for the remains of one of our least welcome alien species being on my patch, I just don't know - yet. But take a look again at that picture, the claw is massive! If anybody reading this has any idea what size of beastie a claw of this magnitude would belong to then please, tell me.

I have heard of signals on some of the upper stretches but nothing around Bredwardine due mainly to the bed rock which prevents burrowing, hopefully this is a freak incident - hopefully.

October 13, 2011

Motivation


My season took a sharp nose dive when I screwed my back again, all of my plans were abruptly shelved and my momentum was lost. As one who frequently needs a sharp toe cap in the trousers to attain a modest degree of motivation, this was a serious hiatus and I knew I would need to be jump started back into action.

Mixed metaphors aside, as my mobility improved I found that I wasn't as eager to fish as I should be, I needed a goal. I was reluctant to target barbel for now, the Wye season rapidly comes to a close as the weather chills and I wanted to spend this time of the year after perch and roach. So, that is what I opted for and off I went to my carp lake armed with float gear, feeder rods and a mixture of baits.

Cutting to the chase, I have to say that results have been modest. I've caught dozens of fish but nothing of specimen size and the main lake has seemed almost devoid of life. I did contemplate a carp session but it seemed like a lot of effort - I guess I'm just lazy.

I have tried a couple of times for perch on the river but I'm fast coming to the conclusion that targeting them is quite hard work. Better to be equipped with a standby rod or spinning outfit and grab an opportunity should it arise as each time I've targeted a known perch swim they have been absent or at least they have not been chasing the fry to any degree.

The other day I was given some information about an enormous pike that grabbed a 4lb barbel as it was being played. Now that is motivation but there's more to catching fish like this than just having a clue to its location, but I'll try.

I went to the river today with an open mind. I had a selection of baits with me, left overs from the last lake trip. I was amazed at how warm it was today, hardly predator fishing conditions but I decided to split my attentions between two rods. The first was sent downstream a few yards with a pva bag full of small cream and pineapple boiles, well, conditions were great for a barbel so I would be daft to ignore the fact.

In front of me I fished with a feeder baited with soaked pellets, hemp, maggots and chopped worms, on the hook went a lobworm. My cunning plan was to draw all manner of fish to this smorgasbord which would hopefully mean one of two things. First, loads of small fish would gather around the feeder which, in turn, may attract a good perch or two and if not, then a decent chub or barbel may grab the worm. Second, any fish attracted to the scent would pass the lower rod and the boilies should sort out a fish or two.

I was bothered by tiddlers trying to steal the worm but nothing could get it into it's mouth. The boilie rod was untouched for an hour and a half so I changed to a CSL boilie. Five minutes later I had a bite! The fish fought hard and stayed deep in the strong current. It went about seven and a half, maybe eight pounds and was immaculate, Wye fish are beautiful in the Autumn.

I carried on but slowly, I could feel my back seizing up. I sat back, reluctant to move as conditions just felt right. I knew another fish was coming it was just a matter of when.

In the mean time I watched the changing colours in the sky and listened to and watched the various bird life going about it's business. I saw a sparrow hawk swoop at a kingfisher! The raptor got wet feet and the kingfisher the fright of it's life but tranquility was soon restored.

Light was fading, 'how long shall I give it?' I was asking myself when the downstream rod folded around and line poured from the spool. This fish stayed deep like the first but it felt bigger, there was always a sensation of weight and, for a fish of its size, it had plenty of energy. When it eventually surfaced and slid across the edge of the net I was happy that it would go nine plus and I nearly left it at that and slipped it back but I had a look as I unhooked it and decided to put a number on it. I was glad I did, it went 10.7.


More than satisfied I packed and went home. I still don't know what I shall target on my next trip but that pike is in my thoughts ;-)

October 05, 2011

From the Web


Not much to report of the fishing side of life, I've had a day or two drowning maggots and catching stacks of small fish, a perch of 1.10 was the best of the bunch but it was thin and weighed less than its head suggested.


The news of the day is that Nicky (my lovely wife) was bitten by a False Black Widow spider in the garden at home. Now, I've seen one or two of these around here before especially when turfing out the garage (an annual chore). I looked them up on the Intergoogle then and was aware that they have settled in parts of the UK due to the climate increase. I thought they were harmless but Nicky disagrees with that supposition.

Pulling ivy from the fence she recoiled in severe pain claiming to have been 'stung'. Nicky is allergic to wasp and bee stings but there was no sign of a sting just a tiny drop of blood. I investigated and soon found (after gingerly peeling the leaves back), a small, insignificant spider not much bigger than my index finger nail - including the legs. I recognised it for what it was and took a couple of pictures.

According to the Net the False Black Widow does have a painful bite, one chap spending three days in hospital after a meeting with one. We were the talk of the day at the doctor's surgery where antihistamine and pain killers were prescribed. There was much breathy inhalations through gritted teeth and heavy exhalations accompanied by Anglo Saxon utterings for some time after but, and much to my chagrin, Nicky is showing no signs of developing super spidey senses and has yet to make a web or walk along the ceiling. I remain watchful and will inform you of any change.

September 26, 2011

The Fish-in


Well, I survived another fish-in weekend pretty much unscathed. I certainly avoided any fish but, in my defence, I didn't fish too much (have I told you about my bad back?) but where I did fish didn't produce - even the bit I prebaited!

I started in a swim that has given me barbel on just about every other occasion I've visited it this year but, it was not to be. I only gave it an hour before I had to quit but that's usually long enough to at least get a chub.

I had a mooch around the fishery, visiting the motley crew that had descended. Everybody was optimistic and in high spirits but the river was in dour mood and it was, quite frankly, a bit of a struggle.

Carl landed this perfect little chap

During the evening we mulled over the catches and postulated on the coming day. Saturday is always the day when everybody tries hard so there was much planning and 'bagging' of swims. There was a period of oohs and aahs accompanied by much drooling as Des showed off his new cane rod but, as the evening the evening progressed, the conversation swayed onto other topics and some of the old stories were retold - usually by Carl - and we all had a great laugh. I left at around midnight but Conrad stayed at it until nearly 5am!

Saturday was one of those perfect autumn days, warm and dry with little or no breeze. The river, fining down from a little spate, looked absolutely cock-on for a great day's fishing - alas, it wasn't quite what happened. I met 'Trussers' on one of the syndicate beats where the fish usually gather at this time of year. I'd even pre-fed a pool for a few days and felt confident of action - it didn't come to either of us (sorry Keith)

However, I didn't really give it my best shot. After a few minutes of fishing I had a phone call about some poachers on the day ticket beat. Off I went only to see them just leaving having been given the elbow by Mike Joyce (bless him). Having moved I decided to have a look for casualties i.e. those with the worse hangovers. Last time we had one of these do's I probably saved Eelfishers life with a well timed tin of drink, God he was hanging. Serves him right for drinking so much :-) But this year most of the team looked in fine fettle, even the old night owl himself, Conrad, looked good on two hours sleep as he set about competing with Rich Walker - he failed, of course, but he did catch a few barbel and chub.

Elsewhere, Tony was fast asleep but then he's like that on a good day - poor old sod, he's getting on a bit you know ;-) I woke him up by repeatedly tickling his ear with a piece of grass, hiding behind him as he 'swatted' at it and looked accusingly left and right. I had to bite my finger to stop from laughing - I'm a rotten so and so but I know he'd have done the same to me.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

I got a message from my lad Neil. He'd gone onto the day ticket section and had dropped into a good looking swim. A chap new to the water (not one of the fish-in), asked him for local knowledge so Neil suggested his second choice swim (he was going to try it later but was feeling generous), but felt miffed when, an hour later, his new friend told him he's had three barbel to 9.8. Neil finished biteless.

I made my way back to my tackle and fished for a couple of blank hours, even the chub, usually so plentiful, were absent. My back ached so I headed home for a bath and some stretching.

The evening was slightly more subdued than the one before, Scotty looked particularly sheepish as he'd really gone overboard last night and Conrad was almost sober when he left for an early night. Tales of the day's events were swapped across the room, the best fish being two perch of 3 and a 3.5 taken by two lucky chaps. Monty Dalrymple (Jason Speck) had taken a good nine pounder and Rich Walker had four barbel from the swim next to Conrad. Other than that it was bits and pieces until Paul's dad (I can never think of his name), came in late and related his catch of three barbel to 10.5 - the best of the weekend.

Lincolnshire's finest cocktail, Guinness with a Tia Maria chaser

Specky and Tony - man love is a beautiful thing

Another night of beer and banter followed. I love these get-togethers, the fishing really is ancillary -well, it is when you don't catch anything. We may all be getting that little bit older and bits may be dropping off but we will continue to meet up for some time yet and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

September 18, 2011

Martin


Its been way too long since Martin and I fished together. To be honest, its not something I would recommend to most, certainly not without a safety net as Martin is one of those people that attracts 'events'. His life is a collection of hilarious tales - all of which are true. The one about donning chest waders that had been laying on a red ant's nest then his hopping and dancing moves as he tore off tackle and clothing had me chuckling all afternoon. Between him and the other perennial victim Carl Salter there's a book just waiting to be written.

We arrived at the river early in the afternoon full of fried food and optimism. My choice of swim was all about ease of access but I put Martin nearby where I thought he'd be in with a good chance as that swim gave up several barbel earlier in the week. I put some bait in and hobbled around for a chat.

Back at my spot half an hour later, I lowered a pva bag in place with a long hooklink and one of Dave Mason's latest concoctions on the hair. Barbel baits are a mute subject but I'm always game to try something new and it was quickly accepted by a hard fighting fish. It was a chub with the look of a fish that has circumnavigated the block a fair few times. It was easily over 5lbs but I'd taken the batteries from my scales to replace the dead ones in my radio and, as Arsenal were losing - again, I didn't want to miss the action. I slipped it back and sat there wondering whether to rest the swim or fish on.

I fished on and soon the rod folded again. This time the fish ran upstream at pace and I instantly felt the weight of a good barbel. I bent into it and the rod arched into an impressive curve until eventually it stopped and I could feel the line grating against a sunken branch. I backed off to allow the fish the next move which was instant and I leaned into it again - this time I got the upper hand and the fight moved to open water.

Safely in the net and Martin came to photograph my prize. I was happy to swap the batteries back for this one, it went 10.1 - just over the magic number and I was feeling quite content.

Martin moved into my spot and I went to his. He got the better end of the deal with a smaller barbel later on whilst I sat writing my diary and playing Angry Bird on my phone whilst sheltering from the heavy showers.

Despite him staying for a second day's fishing, I wimped out and left him to it, I don't know if he's caught yet, I certainly hope so.

I doubt I shall get out again until Friday which sees day one of the great annual fish-in. The Northern and the Midlands crew combining to attempt to drink the Red Lion dry whilst catching a fish or two along the way. Being a sober, sensible type I obviously don't approve of such behaviour but I'll go along anyway, just to keep an eye on those naughty boys. ;-)



September 15, 2011

My Mistress


I have a mistress, I am not ashamed to admit it. I fell for her allure many years ago and more will follow. When I first cast eyes upon her I was in awe of her beauty, a beauty that reflected all that was radiant around her. She is a celebrity, famous and familiar. I summoned the courage to ask her a question and, to my surprise, she spoke to me in a brief but knowing way, I was smitten.

Since that day we have met on many occasions and I have learned much of her ways yet, I seem to know so little about her. I will tell you this, she is always in a hurry, frequently aloof and moody yet she sings with a voice like an angel's giggle although it can become a growling bark should she feel the need. She is always, always in control, I forgive her that.

As the weather cools she will don her winter garb and will hide her glamour from the casual eye, yet it remains, you just need to look a little deeper. Then, as she warms, she wears that light, flower patterned cotton dress that clings to her meanders, the one that lets the sun shine through it revealing a little glimpse of what lies beneath. Occasionally, when the light is just right and if you appear indifferent yet watch carefully, she will show you more. Is it a careless lapse or a flirtatious tease? I am never sure but there, deep down, a flash, a peak at her jewel. I am left spellbound and even deeper in love.

Then she is gone, sweeping her way toward her next victim, she may speak to him too and he will no doubt fall for her charms. We are all susceptible. I don't mind sharing her affections but I do have a wish that one day it with that she shares her greatest secret.

My mistress whispers "Goodnight"

September 13, 2011

Tales from a suburban garden


God I'm bored. Nearly five weeks without fishing, crippled (again) with a duff back and as frustrated as a caged tiger. Have you ever seen that Laurel and Hardy film when Ollie has gout - that's what I've been like, I'm not a very good patient.

I've spent a lot of time looking out of the window -Rear Window, Hitchcock, a classic - haven't witnessed any murders but came close. A young squirrel came into the garden but set off at pace as the neighbour's cat sprang from the undergrowth. In police parlance, 'a high-speed pursuit ensued' which ended as the squirrel took refuse at the top of a lamp post where it sat chattering as the cat circled.

Nicky decided to intervene and shoo'd the cat off, at which point the squirrel took a flying leap from the top of the lamp post and with legs spread, 'flew' but landed with a heavy thump on the pavement. It must have hurt but squizzers are as tough as old boots and it ran down the road like it's tail was on fire.


It had been fairly quiet on the bird front, just the usual sparrows, starlings, finches and four types of tits. Late August and early September are doldrums in the bird watchers calendars unless you get a big wind and that is just what has happened. So, when Laura, (my cake making neighbour) knocked the door this morning, it was to see if I could identify the bird she'd found in her garden. It was a Manx Shearwater, a bird that spends most of its life out at sea and has absolutely no right to appear in Weobley some 85 miles from the coast.

I did some ringing around and it seems that this is just one of hundreds of birds that have been found or sighted well inland. Apparently, the wildlife centre at West Hatch in Somerset is currently home to over 70 other Shearwaters. Ours is on it's way to the vet and will probably end up with the others.


The accounts of rare birds has sent some twitchers in a spin and, one for Two Canes to keep an eye out for, there's even been an albatross off Lincolnshire.

Anyway, enough of the wildlife. I'm feeling more mobile so the walking stick can be replaced with a landing net handle and I'm off to the river for an hour or two this afternoon, I'll let you know how I get on.


August 24, 2011

Change

It happened about a week ago around the time of the full moon. One morning the air felt that little bit thinner, cooler. A look up and the sky was bereft of swifts, their three month stint of screeching and zooming aerobatics over for another year as they spend the next nine months in constant flight in warmer skies.

Over the subsequent week I've noticed that the sparrows have formed into busy flocks and the starlings are losing their first brown coats to acquire speckles which will in turn darken and take on that iridescent sheen. They descend upon the feeders like inner city gangs, looting all in their paths and driving the other birds away. Yet I love to watch them, whilst my neighbour bangs her window to scare them off, I enjoy watching their squabbling antics and their communal bath at my garden pond is always entertaining.

Yes, the first signs of autumn are here.

The river is still low and no doubt proving difficult but rain is due - soon. The new water will provoke an urgency amongst the fish as they recognise the change and feed hard to gain the strength and reserves to combat another winter. Next week the fishing will become easier and the barbel will be at their peak of condition.

Autumn is the time to fish. I have plans for chub, barbel, carp, perch and roach fishing, all to be crammed into the next six or eight weeks. I love this time of year. All I have to do is sort my back out again. I am confined to barracks and have been since last Friday, will I never learn? Picking your boy up when he is three is one thing but at thirty! Its my own fault, we mess around - horse play - but if I was a horse I'd be glue by now :-)

One last autumnal thought for now. This time last year I was amazed at the amount of berries on the trees and the portent for a harsh season ahead. Tosh and nonsense say some yet, what followed was the hardest winter for a generation. Look at the hedgerows as you pass, the hawthorn bushes for example, are bowing from the weight of all those red berries - I reckon we could have another cold one.

August 21, 2011

Sticks and Stones


I've always been fascinated by erosion. I love the way that stone steps can be shaped by years of use or the smoothing of a piece of wood, touched lightly by thousands of hands.

I also see shapes in inanimate objects. Our brains are hard wired to recognise faces and it seems that every tree or cloud has a face in it somewhere. Its all subconscious but I have found myself staring at a stain or scratch and can see it as something else, I am always on the lookout for the unusual. Its like a four-leafed clover, you have to look for them to see them and, if you have the shape of those four leaves in your mind, you will find quite a few.

So, as I wander the banks of the river or the sea shore I am constantly scanning the ground for anything of note. Nicky has a large collection of little stones, pebbles and shells that have come from everywhere we have travelled, each a little reminder, each a little bit different from the norm. There are a couple of stones that are almost perfect spheres, a larger, porous stone that actually floats, although that may be an eroded building block but it looks good in the pond.

Here are three of my favourites.

The first is a heavy piece of stone that looks like it has been melted and hardened into its current shape. It was lodged amongst other stones in a fast section of water and appears to have formed naturally. Either way, it is pleasing to look at and handle.


As is number 2. I found this just a few weeks ago on a shingle beach by the river Wye. It is beautifully smooth and must have taken eons to create. Any stone with a hole eroded into it is a good find but this one, this is just wonderful.


My last item of note is an oak tree that stands at the entrance to our fishery. Years ago a large bough fell or was cut from the main trunk. The damage has repaired, softened and has formed the most gorgeous shape. Known locally as 'The Bum Tree', it makes me smile every time I look at it.



Keep your eyes open, there's a world of treasure out there.

August 13, 2011


The promised rain hasn't arrived this week which suits me. I love fishing the Wye when its at rock bottom. Okay, last weekend, when Paddy was here, it was in a dour mood and reluctant to speak to me but, if you find the fish they are very catchable. I've found a few ;-) and, despite just fishing short sessions, sometimes less than an hour, I've caught on each visit.

I went again yesterday fully intending to drop into a little swim that is producing regularly but, on the way down to the river I gave Tommo a ring. I haven't fished with him for ages and we have been trying to catch up with each other for the last few weeks but we seem to live in opposite planes. Well yesterday we aligned.

I set up in a spot that would accommodate both of us but, having stopped for a chat, Tommo opted for a swim that has produced good fish for him in the past. I stuck at it and had a couple of seven pounders along with the inevitable chub. Then I heard a whistle.

I got to Tommo as he netted his prize, "Its a good 'un" he smiled. He was right. Ten pounds four ounces good in fact. I called him a few choice names but I was delighted for him, it was a beautiful fish.


August 07, 2011

Paddy


Last week started well, the fish fed and it was almost easy, then my life-long fishing buddy Paddy arrived. Oh how things changed!

Thursday evening and unable to contain his excitement, I took him down to the river for a couple of hours fishing in one of those dead cert swims that you love to put your mates in just to see them catch a fish. Well, that didn't work. Paddy hooked something but it came adrift after a couple of seconds. Not to worry, plenty of time yet.

Friday - we found stacks of barbel but none that would feed. I had some chub but poor old Paddy managed just one fish - a gudgeon, taken on a size 6 hook and two pellets. Not to worry, plenty of time yet.

Saturday - new day, new ideas. Paddy fished a good low-water swim whilst I went for a mooch. I started getting some nice chub and, eventually, Paddy moved in next to me. I kept catching but..... well, I'm sure you've guessed. It was about then that the first of a flotilla of canoes passed. I don't mind canoeists that slip quietly through your swim but these (and there were lots) were all in fancy dress and out for a jolly. What would people say if you walked through a golf course dressed as Marge Simpson and making a complete racket?

During a lull in the armada I went for a walk and found a good fish in a difficult position off a high bank. Paddy - who caught a chub at long last, came along and, despite the difficulties, got his first cast exactly right and we sat, expectant.

Enter phase two of the happy boaters and the fish responded by departing.

Back at the swim, I tried for another chub but a canoe upturned just ten yards above me and the occupants made a big disturbance getting themselves sorted out. It was only as they passed me that they even acknowledged my presence.

Earlier, we had seen a canoe go into the bank up where Paddy had left some of his tackle. On our return to collect his gear he found that they had stolen his rod rest! Charming!

We moved down river and again, I sat Paddy in a really productive summer swim whilst I went farther to a spot in which I had yet to catch a barbel. I soon had a nice chub not far off of 5lbs and, just as the sun dipped, a barbel of just over eight. Convinced that Paddy would be next, I packed and went up to him, he'd just had two bites but missed them both. He was getting a little down hearted but, plenty of time yet.

Sunday and the rain, that would have improved the river, hadn't arrived - ah well, at least we were dry. We set up in a swim that I thought ......................... It didn't. It also didn't help that another canoe tipped over right in the middle of that swim and that the accompanying canoeists all stopped to 'help', then had an impromptu and very noisy gathering.

So, off I went again, bag of bait and my polarised glasses on, searching. I found some big chub and, as Paddy was comfortable, got my rod. On return to the swim I saw a barbel on the gravel. Twenty minutes later it was in my landing net. After all the effort of the last few days and this capture was as simple as you like.

After resting the swim for a while we returned, this time it was Paddy's go. The simple 'lowering the bait, and feeding the fish to it' routine worked again and, after just ten minutes, Paddy's rod hooped over. Of course, being Paddy, nothing is simple and he found his line snagged just in front of us. The fish was still there and he had no option other than to go 'in' after it. Well, the other option was for me to go in but that wasn't going to happen now was it?

Off came the boots and trousers, in went Paddy and out came the camera - well you do don't you? I managed to record him hand-lining the fish away from the snag, the fight and get some fine images of my good friend's spindly white legs as well. At last, a barbel - I felt enormous relief.


He later took a chub from a nearby swim but the barbel didn't want to come out and play any more. What a gruelling few days but, at least everybody else seems to have been struggling in the same way, we actually did quite well by comparison.

It was great to catch up with Paddy and the banter was, as always, constant and unprintable. Despite the somewhat challenging conditions, its been a good weekend.



August 02, 2011

This 'n that


Since I've been blogging I've had a few emails offering paid links for advertising but have ignored them. So, when Fishtec contacted me about linking to their site I was suspicious and initially said 'No'.

They'd emailed before, some time last autumn, to say that I was one of their 'featured blogs', which was nice. They did the same again a few weeks ago before the email and I was flattered but the idea of a commercial link was not to my liking. However, they made contact yet again and I'm now happy with the arrangement. So, I am now blogging on here as usual but every now and then, I'm re writing a blog or two in a different style which allows links to certain products etc. That's no hardship, I enjoy writing and doing it in a different way will be a challenge and hopefully enjoyable. In return I get some discounts and may be asked to do a few reviews.

If you want to view any of the blogs, articles etc featured on the Fishtec site (and they cover all forms of angling) then have a look on http://www.fishtec.co.uk/blog/

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On the fishing front, I had an evening with Neil the other day. I had a drive around the fishery in the afternoon intending to find a quiet spot and put some bait in. I headed for one of the beats that sees little pressure with a mind to look at a couple of spots there. Of course (and it happens so many times), there was someone on each of them! One of them went on to take ten barbel - another near miss.

Plan B was to find another swim which I did and in went a mixture of boilies and pellets. This we fished for a couple of hours and pretty soon I had a rasping take. I landed a barbel of six pounds or so and immediately, Neil's rod went off. We then had an opportunity to take a 'double shot' with us both holding fish but could I get the damn camera to allow me 10 seconds delay? Could I heck!

Next best thing was a shot of each of us with the two fish, not really what I wanted but it will have to do until we next get a double hook-up.

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I had a couple of hours on the Lugg this morning. I got some fish out of their hidey hole and soon they were chomping away. Then I scared them off with an atrocious cast but eventually they came back. Long story short - my first Lugg barbel for many years and very pleasing it was too.


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My old mate Paddy is coming up for the weekend, I cruelly keep texting him to tell him how well the river's fishing - he gets so excited about fishing I know that he won't get any sleep this week.

I'll let you know how we get on.

July 24, 2011

Chub, chub, more chub and some idiots


I think I may have to wash all my kit a it seems to have become tainted with a chub attractor.

We've had a spate, 5' of water has flushed through the river and it should be red hot for some barbel action. Its also that time of year when the fish should be moving to their summer spots, leaving the post spawning areas and spreading out. Trouble is, nobody has told the barbel.

I've fished a few different spots over the last few days and have only had chub. barbel are being caught by other anglers but I'm trying places where they should be as well as a few spots where I've never caught one. Avoiding the often fished and downright hammered sections means catching less but I don't mind, a barbel from a new swim is always welcome and counts high on my 'achievement' list.


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My club ticket for Hereford and District AA should arrive this week and the challenge of the Lugg awaits. Target? Barbel - obviously and I'd like a good 'un. I'd like a big chub too, 6lbs is a possibility from what I've seen and of course, there's that perch that Conrad saw - he put it at over 3ibs. Can't wait.

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I lost my glasses yesterday. Somewhere between the car and my swim, across 400yards of long grass, they fell from my pocket - bugger!

Today, I decided to at least have a cursory search for them and, after twenty yards of field - there they were, slightly bent but otherwise okay. Finding stuff you think lost for ever is great, I hate the emptiness you feel when the search is in vain.

That done, I had a check around the fishery and found a car parked inside an area fenced off by the farmer. He closes half of this big field for a few weeks each summer for hay making and it is closed off with an electric fence. To stop the anglers that cross the fence (on foot) from getting a shock, we have put some lengths of insulating foam over it. These herberts said "That fence has been there for a year" (Obviously they last came in early summer 2010). Then one of them said, "The farmer closes this half of the field because there's nowhere for the cows to get a drink." I pointed out the cattle drink not 15 yards from them!
Then they said, "We thought that the rubber on the wire (insulation material) was there for us to drive over." I asked him if he had noticed there were no other tyre marks in the field?

I don't know of these guys were stupid or just too plain lazy to walk the 150 yards to the swim they were fishing but I have asked Mike (the guy that owns the fishery) if I can have a cattle prod as some people really, really do need a jolt now and again.

July 18, 2011

Windy

I don't intend including every trip on here but I'll give last evening a mention.

It was windy! Now I hate fishing in a wind. I'd rather sit it out under a brolly in a downpour than contend with a blustery breeze. I am certain that our ancestors stayed in the cave on such days as an unsteady wind destroys our hunting senses - hearing and scent especially.

But we don't use scent when fishing do we?

No, but its a general feeling of being stifled by the buffeting breeze that effects me. Its only air on the move, what has air got to do that requires it to be in such a hurry?

I began, as I have been intending to do all season, at a spot unfishable from the bank. I waded to a shallow gravel bar in mid-stream and threw a few freebies toward the bank into a deep glide. I followed up with a rolling rig, plasticine for a weight and a hair rigged boilie as bait. Due to the windy conditions I lost contact with the weight and the rod felt heavy each time it was hit by a gust.

I increased the amount of weight and tried again but again lost contact. I decided to try something different and tightened to reel in only to find myself playing a nice chub. Oh well, who needs skill when you have luck on your side.

I kept at it, changing the weight to a lead, rolling, static, nothing felt right - so I moved.

I found a spot - an old faithful - and settled down at water level to negate as much wind as possible. Out went the same combination of feed and bait and very soon the first fish was on. Well, it wasn't quite like that. I actually decided to reposition by bait and again, reeled in only this time I felt the fish 'take' as the bait moved. I was convinced it was a perch as they sometimes snap at a moving boilie but no, there was chub number two.

The next three were far more conventional bites and the last was well over 4 pounds in weight. But, despite only fishing for couple of hours, I'd had enough. I could have continued catching chub after chub with an outside chance of a barbel but the wind had rattled me so I left, content with my rewards for a short session and glad to be out of the wind.

July 16, 2011

The Lugg


The Lugg is a small tributary of the Wye. It is a pretty little river with countless features that look 'fishy', unfortunately, very few are inhabited.

I fished the Lugg on my second season over here. At that time I was learning the Wye (a mighty task) and flitting back and forth to the Teme and occasionally the Severn for some easy fishing, so the Lugg was a side dish, a distraction. Had it produced a few more fish I would have spent more time there but....


For a river where fish location can, at times, be quite easy, the fish were extremely difficult to tempt. I once found a shoal of chub just hanging in mid-water below an overhanging bush. I was on a high bank, out of sight and my approach was (for me) quite silent. I flicked a pellet upstream and a modest fish intercepted it. I threw two more above them, they fell, slowly, toward the fish which all parted and let them sink beyond them. Within seconds the fish had drifted away.

How was I to catch fish that were this spooky?

I did, no fish are impossible but these were all a challenge. I had a few barbel, none big. The river record is just over ten pounds although I have spoken to those that claim larger and I tend to believe some of them. I had a good catch of chub one evening but was distracted for a while as I watched two hot air balloons lock together and appear quite stuck (mating?) for some twenty minutes before drifting apart. I scanned the local papers that week - no mention - one of life's mysteries.

It was also on the Lugg where I spent much of the day prepping a swim for the the evening 'hot period'. I crept into position as the light fell, carefully placed my bait and sat back. I had a couple of 'liners', they were in my swim..... just a matter of time when - Spaloooosh!

That is the sound that a cow makes as it (Bambi on ice style), loses its footing and falls flat on its side into the river - directly opposite my position. As the tidal wave subsided I packed my gear away and watched as the hapless beast swam - spluttering - to the cattle drink and out of its unexpected bath, all this watched by an audience of silent, chewing cattle. What was going through those bovine brains?

Anyway, after a long leave of absence, I returned to the Lugg yesterday and joined wandering barbel fanatics Conrad, Richard, Steve and Hobby as they experienced the delights of the river in their quest to catch barbel from as many rivers as possible.

As I waited for them to arrive from their travels from the frozen north (I'm sure there was snow on their cars), I had a wander and saw a fish flash over a gravel run, that'll do for me.

The lads all went their merry ways and I set about introducing some feed. Despite my best efforts and keeping low amongst the thistles - ow! I only had a modest chub enter the baited area...... then leave immediately.

I gave up with that swim but put a few visible baits on a spot before I left.

I tried a few more swims without a sign of a fish, stopped for a chat with Rich and Conrad then wandered back downstream to go and find the others. On my way I looked in on the swims I'd been fishing for any signs of feeding fish, there were none until I reached the first spot - the baits had gone.

I put more in and and waited. I saw a puff of silt drift beyond a feeding fish, then - a flash! This continued for a while but still no bites until three swans started feeding in the shallows upstream. This had the effect of sending a 'smoke trail' of coloured water through my swim and, as it passed, my rod bent forwards.

I was taken somewhat by surprise by the size of the fish. I had seen and expected just small barbel, maybe a five or six pounder, this fish was at least two pounds bigger and looked huge in such a tight swim. It fought well but I soon had it over the net, in it went but then - splash! Out it went and the fight started again. Annoyed at myself, I played it back to the net and said to myself, 'you won't do that again'...... it did. This time however, the lead caught in the mesh and the fish snapped me and escaped....... Bugger!

I haven't lost a fish like this for ages, I was not happy, I had that fish all but landed and, either through bad luck or, much more likely bad angling, it was gone.

I quickly recovered my composure, packed my gear and continued downstream to catch up with the others. Hobby - the Ninja Barbeller - had caught but then he always does. He'd also found some more fish and decent chub in another swim.

I'm looking at the Lugg in a different way now. I used to see it as 'not worth the effort' but nowadays I value fish that require a bit of brain power above all others. I shall return.

July 14, 2011

Where else but France


I'll come to the fishing later but that was only a minor part of the trip.

I love France, always have and see no way that my opinion will change any time soon. Despite the, so called, animosity between our two nations I have always found French people to be friendly and obliging and, I think, they seem to like us. Yes, I know that they are useless at fighting and let us down badly during the last war, I know that they help to make Euro laws but then ignore them and their football team are a bunch of cheats but that aside, I love 'em.

I driven around most of France and I always enjoy the countryside, the open spaces and the wonderful architecture be it a beautiful chateau looming out of the wooded landscape or a medieval town so unchanged that it requires minimal imagination to wonder how life was lived there hundreds of years ago. This time we passed hundreds of fields full of sunflowers, like triffids at the electric fence each facing the same way, slaves to the light.


And where else can you be driving along, looking for a particular feature on a river, when you happen across the most wonderful collection of sculpture you could imagine? We did.

Just outside of Saintes in the Charente Maritime we saw a sculpted boat alongside the road. I slowed to look at it and beyond it we saw some standing statues and a number carved into the limestone rock face. There was a car park and that was us for the next hour. It transpires (from talking to one of two woman learning their sculpting techniques in an otherwise empty place), that the sculpting had been going on here for over a decade and that famous artists from around the world are invited to spend three months or so a year to indulge in the special qualities of the stone face. The results are incredible and it must be one of France's greatest secrets as even people living in the area seem oblivious to the place.

Here are a few pictures of some of the works. The scale is difficult to take in but most of the pieces were at least life size and the baby in the womb was about 10' across.

Pretty awesome eh?

You could never do this in the UK. For one thing, it was open and unsecured. At home, I am ashamed to say, the pieces would have been damaged and daubed in graffiti. What is more, it was a work in progress and we walked through a small quarry, under overhanging rocks, through tunnels and around a wobbly wooden scaffold that the artist stands on. What? I hear you scream, without a hard had, fluorescent jacket, torch, and a safety rope? Yup! And neither of us got crushed, fell or died. At home this place would have the 'what if' health and safety loonies running around in a frenzy. Another massive plus about the French - a modicum of common sense.

So our holiday was a success. We camped for the first time in years and, apart from forgetting the air bed! everything went smoothly. It was hot and we were so relaxed, any thought of serious fishing seemed too much like hard work.

But I did a bit. Not in the Loire as I couldn't find it! The drought has hit central France hard and this mighty river is, in parts a trickle......

see?

So we headed south and stayed between Royan and Rochefort where we camped next to a 4 acre lake. I fed the area outside of the tent. It looked very good with about 6 - 8' of water overhanging trees and some fallen ones in the margin.

Next morning I baited again and, when we returned later, I had a cast. Alas my first effort failed as a fish took me straight into a snag despite me hitting the run very early. This had taken about twenty minutes from casting in so, I figured the chance of another take was high and, as I started to sort the end gear again, I lobbed some pieces of bread just out from my position. Two minutes later a fish started to take them. I don't need a second invitation in these circumstances and bit off my rig and tied on a size 6 hook with a big lump of bread on it.

Thirty seconds after lowering the bait it was taken. The fish, a common, gave a really good account of itself and was in mint condition. It went 19.03 - job done. I packed up and opened a bottle of red.


Next day I sneaked down and lobbed some more bread out. It didn't take long and a couple of fish started to suck down the pieces. One was a half decent mirror but, when I lowered my bait, it was slurped down within 5 to 10 seconds but and very athletic thirteen pound common.

I again rested the swim, topped it (and another) up with a few more boilies and relaxed for the evening.

On the next day I decided to go for broke and try for a decent fish. Don't get me wrong, I was more than happy with two off the top but I wanted to see if there was anything else to be had. I'd only seen a few single or low doubles cruising elsewhere on the water. I set up two rods and cast them between the two fallen trees. I hunched over the rods, hot and uncomfortable, waiting..... ready to hit the first sign of a bite. Bites came alright, lot of them and, when I eventually hit one, it was from a diminutive Poisson Chat. To those of you unfamiliar with poisson chat, they are small catfish perhaps better described as three large spines joined by some meat and fins. They are veracious feeders and the bane of all French carp anglers.

I moved back to the front of our pitch and cast a rod under the overhanging trees baited with a (allegedly) chat proof Rosehip boilie. A bite came some half hour later and I had a right old tussle with a powerful fish. It was a mirror (the one I saw before?) and went 22.13. Although it is small by French standards, I was happy with that.


After this capture the lake went quiet. No more fish would rise to bread and the fish that had rolled near the snags stopped doing so. I tried again on a couple of evenings but the lake floor was paved with poisson chat that could reduce 20mm rosehip boilies to the size of a sugar cube in about ten minutes. I think my feeding had drawn them in and driven the carp out.
Not to worry, I was so relaxed I just happily watched the water and listened to the myriad of bird song.

We spent our last couple of days in Honfleur and, as I shut the car boot having packed everything away, it started to rain. Very timely. Our last night was spent in a luxurious chateau before the long drive home.

Sitting overlooking a little port whilst eating moules mariniere and frites, sipping on a cold draft beer and people watching. All just memories now but I'll be back again in September. It will be cooler and my fishing head will well and truly be on.