December 27, 2015

Lemonade

Season's greetings to you all. Hope you've had a good one.

What is going on with the weather? I went fishing today when it was 12 degrees! Twelve bloody degrees on December 27th Its mental! Yesterday I found Lesser Celandine flowering in the lane. Celandine is my 'look for' flower at the tail end of winter as spotting it generally indicates the first day of spring but December? Madness. Of course, a sting in the tail is inevitable and when it comes we could be building snowmen in June and wondering why the tench bubbles have all frozen on the surface.

Boxing Day Celandine
But, when you are dealt lemons make lemonade. And with that in mind I headed off to Curlew Minor armed with a few dog biscuits and an ancient Hardy fly rod. I did have a peek at the Wye on the way and decided I was wise to avoid it's allure for the sake of my own good health as it certainly looks like heavy going all along the banks and surrounding fields.

At the pool I made a quick and somewhat disappointing discovery - the dog biscuits sank. I'd also put some little Iams food in (stolen from the dog's bowl), which did float but which would never support a hook. Hmmm what to do? A little more experimenting and I found that the disc shaped biscuits in my bag did float - just, so I picked a few out and along with some Iams, lobbed them into the light ripple to float toward the reeds where there would surely be a few small carp. I then turned my bag inside out looking for something that floats. I found a couple of grains of pop-up corn and hooked one on a small hook. It just about gripped the surface but was difficult to see in the water.


By now the first few fish were greedily sucking down free bikkies and, with a spot of light feeding, they were well at it in no time. I made my first couple of casts and soon had my little yellow speck more or less where I wanted it. A pair of lips appeared and I was fighting my first carp on a fly rod. It was soon landed, a little scrapper but I felt like I'd won the big end of the cracker.



The others were back on the feed and I soon hooked something that set off holding deep until the line parted at the hook. I think this was down to getting some Superglue on the fluorocarbon line when I was trying to mount a biscuit - bad angling.

A miss timed strike or two saw them go down so I popped into the little pond over the road where I very quickly landed number two. But the horse in the field where I'd left my tackle was looking menacing so I returned to my original position to keep it at bay.


Unconventionally I fished from my chair and continued to feed them until there was a confident feed underway. However, there were several swirls and refusals at my bait, there was something amiss and I needed a rethink. I re-greased my line with a spot of man grease from behind my ear and, after a bit more bag shuffling I came up with a couple of plastic maggots, one hard the other soft. These would not float but I figured I'd offer this 'wet fly' and watch the fly line for bites. I didn't have to wait long. As it sank among the feeding fish the line soon tightened and number three, the largest and maybe three pounds came begrudgingly to the net.


I could have sat it out with a float rod and had more but trying something new and doing it at a time of year when no fish should be willing to chase floating baits was a novel and thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Have a happy new year.

December 15, 2015

Wellington Basins


Waters do not need to be famous or mystical to define our angling history. Most of us cut our teeth on average pools, rivers and canals yet amongst them will be waters that hold many, many significant moments in our development and memories. The Wellington Basins are very much in that category. I haven't fished the Basins in years but a recent correspondence with a fellow forum member stopped me in my tracks when I recognised that the road he lived in led straight to that little fishery. A further exchange and Paul sent me some up to date photo's which has set the old nostalgia running.

I'll take you back to June 16th 1977, opening day and Paddy and I were up early to fish the river Tone in Taunton. At that point I was yet to catch a carp due in the main by my fishing time being spent almost entirely on rivers and that the pools I fished had no or very few of the fish that has become the staple diet of many today. But I was to lose my cherry and caught the roundest weirdest carp I have ever seen from the slow water behind the weir. Looking like it must have originated from a small pond this bream like mutant probably weighed in at around a pound or so and, if I am honest, was a slightly disappointing way to break the auspicious carp duck.

Whether the conversation about that fish dictated the day or maybe it was just part of the tapestry that unfolded but Paddy knew of a water where carp could be taken on crust. We packed and headed the short drive to my first visit to the Basins. My wedding was to take place just two days later and I think that this is as close as I got to a stag do. I could not care less, I was going carping!

Two ponds separated by a narrow footpath revealed themselves through the trees as I parked my Ford Cortina and hastily followed Paddy to the hotspot. I followed his lead and tore a lump of crust from one of the loaves we'd bought en route, dunked it in the margins to weight it and promptly cast it off with too hard a swing.

But soon I had a bait on the edge of the weeds and fish were beginning to show. The order of action is blurred by time but the sight of a grey shadow appearing beside my bait, the ripples as it sucked it down and the blur of action as the fish ran and broke me is engraved deep in my memory. What a rush. By day's end I had landed my first proper carp. At a mere 4.8 it may seem insignificant but this was a milestone.

16/6/77 4.8 carp

The Basins became a regular haunt for me despite living fifty miles away in Bristol. Nicky would visit her mother in Taunton and I would sneak off for a few hours or, at times I would make a day or night of it such was the excitement of carping. The smaller pool was rectangular, small and stuffed with fish. I once lost an enormous bream on the way to the net yet never heard of one caught.

The larger pool was heavily weeded and had lily beds scattered throughout. It was generally the harder of the two to fish but that gave it a mystique of it's own. There were plenty of species to go for and we all caught plenty of roach, skimmers, eels and even a few crucians.

Lookout, these crucians are loaded

One of my little pleasures was to sit and fish both pools at once from the footpath. It was never entirely successful but it made me feel like I was somehow cheating but without the guilt.

The carp soon wised up to the new wave of crust wielding anglers that had descended upon the place and we had to learn to adapt our methods accordingly. The baits became suspended in the margins where the line could be hidden or suspended from overhanging branches all to stop the tell tale line on the water. Our efforts then went to the bottom of the lake and we began fishing corn and meat and sport became lively once again but, a sneak around the edge at dawn and a fish from the top always felt so much more satisfying.

Chris with the mirror
I introduced Chris Newton to the place for a taste of carp fishing and he sat it out with me for his first ever night trip. Come the wee hours toward dawn he was jumping at every swirl of a fish or tweet from a bird. Fatigue was really messing with his head but I, being a shift worker, felt fine and well entertained by his jumping up and striking at nothing. But it was Chris that dispelled one myth about the place. We had been lead to believe that the lean, hard fighting fish were all genuine wildies but Chris had a 5.8 mirror that I was also to catch the next season. It was exactly the same shape as the commons so they were just feral to use a 21st Century term.

A typical basin fish

Our approach was becoming more accomplished but, like I said, we were all influenced by the folklore of the day and few ventured out during the winter but I had been reading about cold weather carping in the magazines and kept at it. I had also read about 'twitchers' in that pre-hair time and was deeply frustrated by so many tweaks, pulls and tremors on my light bobbins. One cold day I hit a bite that did little more than send a ring around the line as it entered the water, the result was my biggest fish ever from there at 9.3. I was as chuffed as can be.

9.3.... and a silly hat.

It wasn't all plain sailing. I arrived predawn on a misty and frosty day intent on fishing the small pool. I set up my gear and cast toward my chosen spot only to hear a 1oz Arlesey bomb tink, tink, tink.... its way across the ice. A move was called for.

It may have been that very day or any other when insanity drove us out in sub-zero conditions but Paddy and I settled in a the corner of the big pool and float fished the only ice free spot. During a long, cold day we caught one roach and one perch between us. But the high spot was the woman that stopped to say hello. Pushing seventy with a tad too much lipstick and a fur coat that had more life in it than my bait box, she was not 'my' kind of gal. However, it soon became apparent that she was... how shall I put this? 'up for it'. Her double en tendres became more and more blunt until she told us about the man who'd come in through her bedroom window the night before but, "... as he'd been with another girl wasn't much good for me!" Being a friendly sort I offered Paddy to take her home and repeatedly nudge, nudged him whilst he spat "Cut it out you...." under his breath.

Suffice to say she grew bored and waddled off and Paddy swore revenge continually until frozen nets and fingers sent us packing.

The last time I visited the Basins it seemed small and insignificant. there were too many kids, too much litter and way too much disturbance. It had been a ledge from which I had climbed higher which is, in some ways quite sad. It did however, show me that my challenges had grown with me. It is also relevant that many of the lessons learned on those little ponds are still catching me fish today.

December 01, 2015

Plan 'B' and the wonders of cheese paste.

With mild air, little wind and the threat of a downturn in temperatures in the offing I was eager to get some high water fishing done.

Its a wonderful way to spend a few hours, sat next to a raging torrent but fishing those little slacks where an ounce or two of lead is holding nicely and where the fish are packed tight together just queueing up for lumps of meat or cheese paste. Its generally the chub that oblige as the barbel are out in the middle happily feeding as a Generation Game conveyer belt of trees, fence posts and dead sheep pass. In the past I've had chub feeding on the grassy ledges beside me in a foot or so of water and to lift a fish from such a maelstrom is always pleasurable. Let me at it....

Ooer! Letton road was closed, a sign that the river has burst its banks. Never mind, it may have passed and I may have a chance, let's go see.

Any of you that know the entrance to the Red Lion fishery will recognise this gate and the observant amongst you may see that the river is a tad closer than usual.


The view upstream of the bridge underlines the futility of any attempt to fish today...


A wider view..



And so it was that Plan 'B' was hatched. I did the same on my last Wye outing when it was being particularly unobliging. I went to Curlew Minor, a small one acre pool that lies next to one of the carp lakes I visit. I felt certain that I'd get some action there.

As I walked the short distance to my chosen spot I saw a couple of fish topping. Most of the inhabitants are small but they pull hard and when all you want is a throbbing rod that'll do. I was light of a few essentials such as some floats so I plonked a lead out with a lump of meat on the hook. These fish cannot be too discerning, can they?

An hour or so later I'd had a couple of pulls and tweaks that rattled my cheese paste bobbin but nothing to strike at. I whittled down the size of bait but still they would not take it. Maybe it was the paprika that I'd liberally added to it but the bits I'd flicked into the edge had caused some dirty water as fish mopped them up. I tried for them, of course. Lowering my bait in amongst the disturbance but all I 'caught' were a couple of branches.

I'd scattered a few 10mm boilies about and some pea sized paste balls. I decided to wrap a boilie in cheese paste and immediately had a good pull which I missed. It was bites all the way then on but my were they difficult to make contact with. I'd changed my rig and tried one or two other baits and combinations but cheese paste was what they wanted. I had nothing big but as I was trying out a rod and reel combo for the first time it was fun to see them in action.

Cheese really is a great bait especially during the winter. Over the years I've had minnows, gudgeon, dace, roach, chub, barbel, carp, bream, trout, eels and pike on cheese paste, I think that says it all.






November 25, 2015

Chasers and Chancers - Updated

I've never been one to chase after somebody else's glory. Obviously, as a kid, if somebody gets a fish I'd be in their swim like a shot - we all did that but I like to think that I grew out of it many years ago.

There are however, many anglers that travel hundreds of miles to follow up stories or rumours of big fish taken by others. It is just part of angling in the same way that some like to compete with the man next to him in win matches. Good luck to them I just don't swing that way. Perhaps its the norm. I'm often accused or it is mentioned in my presence with an air of deep suspicion that should anybody catch a big fish from the Red Lion stretch then I'd be in their swim like a shot as soon as they leave. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I fish the river in search of barbel just like anybody else but I gain much more satisfaction from finding a modest fish with an unblemished mouth than from a much larger fish with umpteen previous hook marks in its face. Such captures are inevitable but I do not embrace them. For me, knowing the swim where a big girl was caught means I can avoid it in order that the fish, if its a resident fish, can have time to recover. I will note the time and conditions of the capture and maybe use them in a future session or season.

We have certain 'goer' swims and big fish swims on the river that get hammered on an almost daily basis. When I find such a swim empty I am more likely to walk on by to allow it a rest than to take my turn at a tired shoal of nervous fish. If you want second hand sport its your choice, I just choose to avoid it when possible.

I also dislike the vitriol and spite shown by the modern angler and the barbel angler really does take the biscuit. It is common for so called anglers to claim an enormous or even record fish then produce a photograph of a modest specimen held right out to the lens. These jokers are generally rumbled just after the Weeklies have made themselves look stupid by printing the rubbish and I have also made my feelings known in the past. But occasionally a genuine fish or at least one big enough to allow the benefit of doubt comes along and a bunch of know nothing idiots jump all over it a give the poor chap who caught it a right pasting on Faceless Book and other hidey holes for the emotionally challenged.

Just such a 'discussion' was held recently when this apparent 17.6 fish was caught from the Lower Severn...


Yes, the fingers won't fit up the nostrils of the angler (the golden test) but it is undoubtably a large fish and unworthy of the hammering I am told the gentleman received. Barbel can be very difficult to estimate.

.................................................................................................

I had ended this blog with a tale reported about the fish above and an alleged incident that followed it. I decided to print it in order to hopefully throw some light onto the subject - fishing if you like - but, instead of facts I inevitably got more bile and vitriol and have been accused of cronyism by somebody who probably does not understand the term for he has a chequered past in that area. I have however, decided to remove those comments and to carry on as normal.

One point though was raised by Jeff Hatt. Jeff's a long time and respected angler and stated that were he to claim a record it would be accepted as he is known to be good to his word. He further states that one must earn their reputation with a faultless past. That's all well and good but we all know that fish do not know who's bait they are picking up and a first time angler has almost as much chance of a biggie happening along as a long time pro. It has happened before and shall doubtless happen again. Are we then to treat such people with poisonous words just because they have not 'earned' our respect? Likewise, what of the anonymous angler? I know guys who have far more skill and angling ability than many of the self promoting, fame chasing magazine writers, what if they catch a lump?

I suppose t'was ever thus but with social media its all a bit louder than the past. Were I to catch a Wye record would I claim it? I really don't know..... which is a shame.

November 12, 2015

Testwood

The last pool down the Test is a special place indeed as its also the first obstruction that salmon and sea trout encounter. This then has made it a hallowed venue for those driven by the pursuit of our spotty fish. I however, am far more inclined toward the thoughtful members of the piscine world and set off there to try and tempt a roach or two.

On the way down I stopped off  to see my old mate Dave Steuart. His first words were "Testwood! Huh, they keep all my salmon back..." There followed many, many minutes of ecological enlightenment on the art of sluicing a river.

I love Dave, 87 years young, shrinking steadily down to a scrap over five feet but as feisty and entertaining as ever. During the four hours or so I was there we chatted, went for a meal then chatted some more and I hardly got a word in. Nothing changes.

I left my grotty hotel at just after 7am and soon found the fishery. The pool at Testwood is amazing. Four main sluices create a series of swirling currents that each interact with each other, then, throw the effects of the tide into the mix and its an extremely demanding float venue. I began trotting the edge of a white water outlet which, twenty minutes later and at the top of the tide, became calmer and almost manageable, Half an hour later and its white water confusion again. No two trots were identical and loose feeding bread mash, well, I din't bother too much as it was pure guess work.



Mike Perry, who'd invited me down, was also on the float but Ian stuck to feeder fishing. His method was certainly the most 'effective' but I sit behind a lead rod most days so I stuck to the float. I was however, using a carbon rod for the first time in a couple of seasons as a whole day holding cane was never going to work with my still grumbling shoulder besides which, some of the water was very deep and, when I did give my Lucky strike a go I couldn't pick up the line quick enough to strike at distance.




I had a nice roach of about a pound which pleased me no end but, try as I might, I couldn't find any more. Moving around I had a very hard fighting bream which was followed not five minutes later by Mike taking a similar fish from the next swim. His however, was the most spectacular looking bream I have ever seen, I'll let the pictures do the talking. These were the only bream taken all day.



There followed brown and sea trout of between two and a half to three pounds but, after a break for lunch, the place became quiet and I failed to add to my catch.

Mike and Ian both caught many more than me but I was content as I'd had the biggest roach. I wimped out a little early and missed the dusk as I was feeling the aches and had a three hour plus drive home to come. All in all a great experience at a wonderful venue, to think there's well over a mile of the main river to fish as well but the lure of the raging weir is always going to call loudest. I shall return.


October 22, 2015

Right Time, Right Place.

A wet Wednesday means an extra water Thursday and that means its time to make the effort to get to the river. Trouble was, when I got there the river was only up by a few inches and running crystal clear. No matter, the level would come up a little more during that afternoon and that may be all I need. I headed for my chosen area and hoped for some room to myself.

As I neared my goal I spotted another angler and stopped for a chat. He and his mate were in a couple of swims I'd have happily fished as they've produced plenty of autumn fish to me before but these guys were biteless. It turned out they were on their first visit to the Wye along with one of their's father who was nearer their car, and had found the learning curve to be very steep. I had a long chat about tactics - which they were pretty close to anyway - and wished them well. Hmmm, it could be a tougher day than I thought.


I dropped into another favoured swim and introduced four feeders full of a mixture of pellets, boilie crumb and optimism. This was followed by a couple of 10mm boilies wrapped in paste. The wait begins.

Just fifteen minutes later the rod nodded. I lifted into a fish that pretended to be a chub and ran close to the bank where it turned and convinced me it was indeed a fit barbel. It fought like a wild cat but eventually waved the white flag and hit the net. Job done - right time, right place, that's all you need for success.... Mind you, finding that time and place can be a tad trying.


A bit of free bait, a cup of coffee and I was casting again. The river was definitely rising slightly but was so clear that the margins were like an aquarium. I fed much of my bait to the minnows - like I always do. Fish have such a hold on me I can't resist watching them no matter what size they may be but my attention was soon drawn back to the rod. Was that a nod? I lifted it and felt the fish moving away and again I was given a right old scrap. Barbel number two was banked.


It was getting cooler and I pulled my coat across me for warmth. A kingfisher peeped loudly as it passed whilst long tailed tits twittered through the hedges. A wren passed in front of me and dipped into some scrub imagining it was as invisible as it was silent and a robin provided the only reminder of summer's bird song. I don't have a favourite season but autumn is certainly atmospheric and seems to have 'cleaner' edges than the manic hurry of spring and the heavy air of summer. Leaves caught on the line apart it's an awesome time to fish.

I checked my watch, 5pm. Two hours since my first cast. I couldn't help but feel I'd done enough and was about to reel in when the rod bounced and I was in to barbel number three, a genuine bonus. I enjoyed the fight as it made some impressive runs for a modest fish but took time out to watch a swan flying noisily overhead. They really do like to announce themselves when aloft compared to the comparatively silent goose. Anyway, barbel rested in the net, hook slipped out and back it went no worse for its adventure.

I stopped and chatted to my new friends downstream and apologetically reported my catch. They shrugged it off as all part of fishing and vowed to be back next season when, I have promised, I shall attempt to put them in the right place and just hope that its at the right time.

September 26, 2015

We Meet Again



I took Nicky for a drive on Wednesday afternoon, the sun was shining and there was the promise of tea and maybe a cake. What she had not spotted was the bag of boilies and a catapult secreted in the rear of the car. I had ulterior motives.

And so our rambling journey happened to take us to my syndicate lake where the obligatory look around brought about a decision - I must fish here and bait was duly introduced into a favoured swim.

I had physio the next morning but talked her out of the usual agonies and hurried home to throw the last few bits and pieces into the car before heading off with a renewed enthusiasm. I was genuinely concerned that somebody may beat me to my prebaited spot but a look across the field as I descended through the woods confirmed that once again, I had the entire pool to myself.



I casually set up and put a couple of rods across to the gully that the fish seem to follow on their amblings. An hour later I had a bite but it was just a small bream that came in with the verve and attitude of a plastic bag. It's brethren spent the next few hours rattling my bobbins without result but doubtless reducing the amount of freebies left in the zone. I rectified this with some replacements, catapulted at the 'pult's extreme range. An arduous task but I couldn't find my throwing stick.

After a meal the sun was soon setting and the temperature plummeted. I read in the bivvy until a mixture of Bill Bryson's description of the Big Bang and BB's account of goose shooting had a soporific effect and I switched the light out for the night. I'd like to say it was restful but the owl that decided to sit about 2" above my head whilst continuously calling for a mate meant otherwise.

A lone raven woke me in the morning and I peered out to a cloudy start. I hate leaving the sleeping bag to get going but a coffee or two did the job and I rebaited then changed the 'snowman' set up to have a bright yellow pop-up on the top for better visibility. The other rod was left with 10mm boilies on the bottom.

Around 10 am I had a screaming run and a very hard fighting fish powered off up the lake. It then turned and, with equal strength, went off in the other direction. From bite to net it was a mighty tussle but, at last, I had it on the scales. At 27. 9 I was well pleased. A fit looking fish with muscly flanks.
Ian, a fellow syndicate member turned up and did the business with the camera before heading off for his chosen spot and a night's fishing.



My mid afternoon coffee was disturbed by a single bleep as I reached for the milk in the coolbox. The right hand rod was again bending and, as the clutch let go so a screamer of a run set off. This fish was not a fighter and it lolled about with copious amounts of weed hanging from the line and the fish's head. Despite having lowered the second rod into the water, it still managed to pick up this line and, as it's nose broke surface so the hook popped out. Ah well, I'd had a fish so I wasn't too upset.

The evening was even colder, so much so that I dropped the front flap of the bivvy. As I closed it I looked at the rods and thought "Please don't go off tonight, wait until I've had a good sleep". The owls were less active and despite the chill playing havoc with my bladder, I had a lovely kip.



I woke to a freezing morning and wrapped myself up in the sleeping bag for a bit of a lie in. Bleep! B.b.b.b.leeeep! "I'm coming!" I said as I opened the flap to see the left hand rod bending to the right. I'd switched to a similar snowman with the yellow 'head' on both rods and a carp had nobbled it. It again went fast to the right and I leaned hard against it whilst walking left and holding the rod low.

My efforts had little effect on the fish and it was kiting dangerously towards an overhanging bush where it would have doubtless found sanctuary. Not wanting a paddle on such a cold morning - I was in a T'shirt and a pair of pants at the time - I gave it some more stick and the fish relented and turned. It headed for open water where I let it have a good run about hoping to burn off some of its energy. It became ponderous and I felt I had the beating of it but, as it got within eight or ten yards of me, it turned and ran hard for the far bank. I was starting to realise it was a good fish...... and feel the cold.

Eventually it slipped begrudgingly over the net and was mine.

I rolled it onto it's side in the water to slip the hook out. I immediately recognised a scar on the left pectoral fin and knew that I had recaptured the big fish I'd had in June but had had to discount. A quick lift of the scales and a personal best was confirmed at 36lb 4oz.


I popped it into a sack, dressed and made a hot drink. It was 8am. "Morning dear, you didn't want a lie in did you?"  To be honest, Nicky loves to see my better fish and was happy to make the long drive just to take a few pictures. She really did enjoy being part of it although the dog was far less impressed.

What are the odds, the same big fish from the same swim on the same bait (Quest Baits Rahja Spice), in two trips three months apart? Others have fished this swim and it's produced some good fish, even bigger than mine, in the mean time but my fish showed no signs of hook marks other than the fin scar. There you go, just one of those little mysteries of angling and I for one, have no complaints whatsoever.



September 17, 2015

A Cracking Session

Usually, when I'm not fishing, I would spend a lot of time maintaining my gear, change line on the reels, sort the hooks and shot back into some sort of size order, that kind of thing. However, I just don't seem to have done that of late. This has made me lazy and, for example, I've grabbed a reel just because its got what looks like the right breaking strain line on it rather than its suitability. Most unlike me.

In fact, the only notable kit maintenance I recall was when I was presented with a 'stuck' landing net handle. I'd bought two identical ones and mine was still fine but Neil's had jammed solid. He has less patience than me... or anybody really, so I swapped, heated the twist lock and free'd it up. I did have a small fire but felt happy that I'd done the job to my usual low and sloppy standard.

Using a mixture of kit that came readily to hand, I've had a couple of brief adventures this month that have rewarded me with two modest chub on trotted bread and a blank.

I did have a weekend trip planned on a venue that I've been eager to fish for some time. Its one of those special places that you may only fish once in your life but which fills your thoughts and dreams by an inordinate amount. I shall say no more at this juncture, not until I make it a reality and alas, it won't now be this year. I had a 'test' fish today and it has confirmed that I will have to put Shangri La on hold.

I was a little adventurous in my choice of swim today but felt that I had to test my resolve. The 'special place' would involve a long drive, late night and little sleep followed by a day sat in a fishing chair. Such lengthy activities are still a bit far off which was further underlined by today's effort.

Nonetheless, I picked a swim that I felt was right for the conditions and fed it with a mixture of various soaked pellets and some small Questrami boilies. I spent a few minutes taking the wee-wee out of a couple of mates (like you do), then settled down to fish. My first cast lasted about fifteen minutes.



Neil arrived from his swim downstream asking for the scales. I duly ascended the north face of the Eiger and took a few pics of his nine pounder. Back I trudged, through base camp and a long descent dodging avalanches and angry natives to make cast number two.

Three minutes later and I detected a movement on the line, the strike was pure instinct and, I hoped, not too soon. It was perfect and a powerful fish ran hard downstream. My rod was right around and the old '66 gave line noisily from it's wonderful clutch. I turned it but it was hell bent on reaching Chepstow. But, continual pressure and some dogged heave ho'ing had it in the net and it was my turn to disturb the Boy - which makes a change.


At just over nine it was my first barbel of the season! Ah well, its not a bad average I suppose. I lowered it in the net to release it when there was a faint 'snick' and the landing net handle broke just where I'd had the fire.

With Neil's help it was returned safely and the net recovered. And so ended my session.

Nicky was surprised by my early return but was pleased by my capture and amused by the net fiasco. Ah well, looks like I've got to catch up on some tackle maintenance.




August 13, 2015

Not A Lot





Apologies for the dearth of input on my behalf but its been a funny old year. Well, that's using the word 'funny' in an obtuse way but its more polite than saying 'shit'.

I'm still only fishing the occasional short session where the main requirement is a level seating position. This is a major drawback as the river has been low and the fish less than obliging in the more heavily pressured areas. I love the river when its like this and I know plenty of places where, were I able to creep, crawl or climb, then fish by squatting on a ledge or tucked in a bush, I'd be catching regularly. As it is I have yet to catch a barbel this season and have had to 'make do' with chub after chub.


A chub beached and ready to be unhooked


'Make do' sounds dreadfully disrespectful for our most obliging fish and, although there have been times when I've quietly cursed chub for stealing a bait intended for barbel, I love catching them especially when I target them. And target them I have. Well, at least I can catch something rather than sit around waiting for the barbel to serve me up a blank.

A rare bend in the rod

The result

I've been using some Questrami boilies by Quest Baits in 10mm which the fish seem to like very much indeed. They were bought with barbel in mind and my lad Neil, has proved that they work (curse him), but, as I said, the chub love 'em. I've fished a few known chub haunts and have had plenty of 3, 4 and one 5 pounder. Its always a perfect evening to be sat, rod in hand and resting on my knee or foot whilst the line is hooked over my index finger. That urgent pull and the resultant strike are well rehearsed and feel somehow 'natural'.  Give me touch ledgering over rod top watching any day.

The only adventure I've been on was a second trip after Welsh Wildies. It was a gathering of Traditional Fishing Forum members which could sound stuffy to the uninitiated. It is however, far from it. Our group was made up of a recently unemployed bartender, a Fire Brigade enforcement
officer, a teacher and amongst others, a Judge! Despite the broad cross section of society, the banter was pure fishing and lost fish are mocked by all and sundry - especially by me when I watched Scott, the teacher lose one on the Friday. I was less keen on the mocking when I lost two in quick succession on the next morning. But I stand by my decision that his was bad angling whereas mine was bad luck, an opinion shared by ..... well, nobody.

Pant Y Llyn
I only landed one small carp and an even smaller chub from the bleak mountain lake of Pant Y Llyn. I was fishing into the teeth of a cold and often wet wind and the fishing was challenging too. Despite our 'traditional' brief, I had to revert to a spot of hi-tech in order to succeed. I eventually started hitting and staying attached to fish by presenting my bait just above the soft weed that carpeted the pool by using a small grain of pop-up corn attached close to the hook shank.



I didn't stay very long and didn't stay for the second day when I would have had another stab at Llyn Gwyn. Instead I returned home which was fortuitous as my mother, who's been under our care for the last eighteen months or so, had taken a turn for the worse. And that's what has absorbed my time since. Fishing has rarely taken such a back seat in my life.

I know that this run will end one way or another and I shall be back on the banks with renewed vigour and hopefully, a few fish to write about. There is rain forecast and the river will spring back into life. We shall then enter Autumn and the peak of the season. Fingers crossed I'll have the line crooked over my finger as the evenings begin to chill and the fish seek to put on weight.


July 06, 2015

Mysteries


Ggggghosts!




There's no such thing as ghosts! The very notion is absurd isn't it? To suppose that, of all the animal kingdom, we are blessed with a soul or spirit that can somehow outlive our mortal bodies. Oh yeah, when did that first happen? Did cave men have a soul? Did the upright walking apes of the African jungles have souls? Going back farther, did the tiny mammals that took over after the dinosaurs became tantalising fossils have a soul?  If the 'soul' runs in tandem with opposable thumbs then maybe, but we don't read too many tales about people being haunted by tiny monkeys do we? And think for a moment the time in history when a man first acquired this mythical soul, what would the chaps either side of him think? No, we live, we die, we rot. All of our talents and accrued knowledge and experience goes with it - the end

It is no coincidence that most of the alleged ghosts take the form of people that lived around the time of the birth of the printing press. This was the period when the opiate addled minds of the authors of the day used their hallucinogens to conjure up tales to sell the books that were then newly available. Those images became the 'norm' and continue today.

Angling writers for years seem to have dwelled upon tales of eerie lights, sounds and apparitions in the dark around old stately lakes in particular. Why the local canal wouldn't have a spook or two is beyond me, there must be hundreds of wandering, tortured cat spirits for a kick off. We all like a mystery especially if someone gets the crap scared out of them somewhere along the way but I don't buy into ghosts or evil spirits of any kind and I will happily fish at the 'scariest' lake or sleep soundly in the world's most haunted abode should anybody care to invite me....... and pay my bus fare.

So, having said all of the above, why do I keep hearing those footsteps that come along the bank when I'm fishing by lakes? Not just one lake but several. Crunch, crunch crunch goes the noise with a weight and speed of a human walking and.... just when its close enough.... you look..... and there's bugger all there! Not even a pheasant, squirrel or rat wearing your wellies. Most peculiar.

Just the other day I was sat in glorious sunshine, enjoying all that the world can offer as I fished for carp. A fellow angler pulled up a couple of swims away.... I heard him slam his door (don't get me started). Soon after they began. Crunch, snap! (that was a twig), crunch, crunch... it approached me and the dog was up and waiting at the little gap in the undergrowth he'd already used to go and explore. He stood, slowly, passively wagging his tale.



The noise got closer to the point where I was looking through the undergrowth fully expecting to see the newly arrived door slammer, I'd even formed that benign welcoming grin on my mush and the dog was settling back on his haunches to leap up and slobber all over him......... but the noise stopped.

Cane was straight in to the thicket and searching around for who or whatever it was and seemed very interested in a small gap under some undergrowth. I had a look around but we came up negative and another mystery visitor was logged as 'unsubstantiated'.

If any of you have identified this thing please tell me what it is. I repeat, I'm not frightened, just very very curious.

The Forth Dimension - another mystery to ponder.

My Korum Ruckbag is a portal to the fourth dimension. There, I've said it. No doubt I shall now be called in by scientists for tests and experiments but I doubt they will discover anything as my bag is as cunning as it is mysterious.


It started with a head torch. In a bag full of smaller bags, plastic pots and catapults, a head torch with a long and colourful strap is an easy item to locate. Pull two or three other items apart and there's the strap or that glinting glass lens, its so easy to find I could even do it in the half light of dusk. Except one day I couldn't. So I had a better rummage and still it was not there. The Ruckbag is capacious and has inner pockets and folds in it's fabric that can hide less obvious items but no amount of searching saw my head torch reappear.

I had repeated the search in full daylight before consigning it to the 'lost in action' category that so much of our tackle falls in to. A replacement was purchased and this nice new shiny torch was placed in the central pocket for use later that day and happy that I was now full able to cope in all light scenario's I headed for the river.

The day became the evening and the light levels failed. I opened the Ruckbag, moved one or two things aside and spotted a headband that I knew would be attached to the torch. I lifted it and there it was - my old head torch! The new one was with it of course, but where had the old one been?

More filing was called for and this went under the 'I must be going daft heading'. But the bag was not finished with me.

A sunny day saw me sat on a gravel beach attempting to encourage a chub or two from their lair. I had been scribbling in my diary which I put back into its bag and returned it to the Ruckbag. My intention was to go and visit my mate who was fishing about 75 yards away upstream so, I removed my reading glasses and placed them carefully onto the side of the open Ruckbag. I did this so that on my return they would be obvious to me and unlikely to get sat upon - the perfect plan.

After a brief chat I was back and reached for my glasses...... they were not there! 

Over the next hour both of us walked, bent at the waist, along the bank from my position to his. We each emptied the bag of it's entire contents onto a plastic sheet and probed and delved into every pocket and corner but no glasses were found. I even checked out the local bird population in case one of them was wearing them and taking the piss out of me from a tree top but no, they never turned up.

If that had happened next to an ancient estate lake there'd be books written about the ghost of Dave's bag. Quiet what was going on? Well, you tell me.


One last mystery

Below are three anglers that visited the Red Lion at the weekend. The fine looking gentleman to the left in the first picture is my old mate Andy Sliwa, the man that is responsible for rejuvenating many cane rods that I've dumped on him over recent years and he took three more on when he left. 

Nothing exceptional really - or is it? I visited the gathering on Saturday when most had taken to the shallow waters of a thirsty Wye in order to trot for whatever happened along as opposed to sitting behind static barbel rods.






One of the above waddled slowly to the shore bemoaning an overfull bladder and proceeded to unpeel his chest waders and set the sprinklers off to much groaning and "Aaahing!" with no regard to the passing canoes and their mixed gender crews. He further raised the eyebrows of his colleges by declaring that he thought the return to the bank superfluous and that he wished he'd relieved himself in his waders!

When I entered the pub they were already a beer or two ahead of me and the first topic of conversation was the above but with an addendum.

So, using your skill and knowledge, can you unravel the mystery and tell which of the five pissed in his waders on no less than three occasions whilst fishing and seemed somehow proud of the feat?



I can only give one clue...... he wears glasses :o)


June 25, 2015

Honestly

I cursed the wrestling ability of bedchairs and sleeping bags as I set up my little shelter next to the lake. Its the worst bit of making your temporary home as the bed is heavy, unwieldy and barely fits in it but I scored two falls and won the bout.
 
The lake looked oddly coloured and was flat calm, disturbed only by the many small roach that live there, dimpling the surface hear and there. But the banks and especially this swim looked undisturbed which is what this place is all about - solitude. I was soon baiting the channel on the far side and hoping that a patrolling fish or two might find my bait over the next couple of days.

As I'm still nursing an ailment or two I restricted myself to one rod - a Hardy LRH - and a horrible plastic Daiwa Regal because it was the first one I found in my store of such things that could be switched to right hand drive. Feeling a little disadvantaged should the moment of panic arrive in the night, I went through my bite reaction routine in my mind then got myself some food and sat reading until dusk. Heaven.

I dropped off but was suddenly aware that Cane - on lesson one in being a bivvy dog, the overnighter - was up and growling. He'd had a right go at a couple of swans and the three herons that flew in together but we'd had a chat about that and had been quiet calm. But now he was bristling and started to bark. He leapt forward to go off and chase whatever he'd heard but I grabbed him and sat calming him for a minute or two when I had a bleep!

As I found shoes and head torch I was at the rod as a nice run developed and I lifted into a solid weight. In this swim the fish sit in a gully which takes a bit of persuasion to get them out, then they come begrudgingly through numerous but sparse weed beds and I've found that a steady pump and wind will usually win the day. This fish however, was feeling particularly stubborn and I was twice met with stalemate but, the rod has a lot of power and I just kept the pressure on and slowly but steadily the fish moved again.

Do you know what I mean when you have doubts about your hook hold? I had full confidence in my set up but I was wondering about just how this fish reacted to the pressure... or maybe it was just BIG!

As it approached my bank so it kited right - like they all do. There's an overhanging bush in the water and carp just feel the need to pop over and have a look but I put on plenty of side strain and kept the rod low..... it worked. Then it decided to repeat the manoeuvre but at high speed so we went through the same little routine and back it came but it kept going for the tree on the other side. The rod was now bent to the handle but I don't mess about with fish and this one was coming in.... and it did, right into the waiting net.

I rested it for a few minutes whilst I went through the laying out and wetting of unhooking mat and weigh sling and found the camera. I then lifted my prize from the water and felt the colossal weight in the net. As I climbed the bank to the flat area where everything was laid out my back was telling me that I'd overdone it but I gritted my teeth and gently lowered the fish and unfurled the mesh.

Bugger! There, neatly in the root of the left pectoral fin was my size 8 hook. I gazed in awe at my biggest ever carp and said out loud "You don't count mate". To make it worse the fish had crapped out loads of my bait so it was feeding and I may have simply used too long a hair. I was gutted but went through the vein process of weighing it and took a couple of snaps then slid it back to it's watery home where I promise, I shall do everything I can to remake the acquaintance.



It was only a little after midnight but I didn't recast. I got back into bed and slept well......... eventually.

When I woke I felt a little like someone who'd put their winning lottery ticket through the wash but soon shook off the disappointment, after all, a day that felt pretty fishless had produced one and today the wind was pushing hard up to the narrow end of the lake - stalking time.

I headed for the bay and found a few nice fish basking, only one was stirring up the silt and it was impossible to get a bait to it. Never mind, I know a place. Once there I set a little trap near a lily bed and retired to write my diary and to educate a manic dog that he doesn't need to run everywhere and that not all squirrels need chasing. So he went for a paddle - through the deepest, smelliest marsh mud you could imagine.

Out of the blue the rod was away and I grabbed it - right handed - then fumbled to change hands and struck. There was a weight then nothing - Bugger again! This was followed by a spell when I forgot how to cast and use a catapult. I sat and sulked until the curse lifted but I knew this swim was a bust.

I made the long steamy walk back to the car and headed to the nearby village for an ice cream. This lifted my mood and I was soon back at base and fishing on my first choice spot. I spent the time watching the thousands of midges that formed a little insect tornado in front of me. By following individuals (not easy), you could see that they flew quite steadily up and down an area where the air was evidently warm. Its when they reach the turn point that they appear manic and give the impression of a swirling confusion, its just a trick of the eye.



Such heady observations were interrupted by a run at a little after 2pm. I suspected bream but was soon in the old pump, wind routine as another lump came towards my bank. No drama apart from a late flurry and a 26.7 was soon returned. I was very satisfied.



That evening at about 11.30 I was away again. I leapt out of bed and went into my routine of head torch out of the right shoe, both shoes on, close bait runner, lift into fish... However, a dog, deeply asleep and laying on my shoes failed to help in the dark. I went by the light of a June sky and returned for the light once the dog had sat up and yawned.

This fish came in like a sack full of kittens and was literally wound to the net. I have to say I was unimpressed and, as guide to just how blaze you can get about fish sizes, I considered returning it without so much as a photo. I soon came to my senses and did the deed after all, it was 25.8.


Again I opted for some kip and a rest of my bones rather than face another night time frenzy. My sleep would have been a good one except that Cane decided to jump on the bedchair and sprawl across me taking up most of the room. He's still got a way to go to get his certificate as fishing mutt of the year.



The next morning a bite brought my first tench from the venue. I've seen some nice ones in the past but this was just a small male and it did its best against over-heavy gear. There was drama at the end when I left the fish in the net for a moment and it discovered the hole some wretched rodent had made. I had to land it again with the line running out of the net and back into the top.
I was honestly happier with this fish than the wimp of a carp that I'd had before. Funny thing fishing.




The next couple of fish were small bream and were met with less enthusiasm.

A trip with highs and lows, a test of my honesty (what would you have done?) and a mind boggling struggle with size and values. I can honestly say it was great fun