October 20, 2018

Some might say 'About Time Too'

I started fishing the Test at Timsbury and latterly at Romsey, with grayling being my main focus. Then I started looking for a big roach and took a few nice pound plus fish and lost, what I am convinced was a monster, at Timsbury.

On Dave Steuart's section I was blinded by the quality and bounty of fish and spent a few years just happily bending my rod without bothering about picking out specimens. That changed on my last visit when, at last, I had a proper roach of 1lb 14oz.

Bread fishing and ducks - never straight forward

Last year I had to cancel my trip at the last minute so, when I headed south on Thursday, I was determined to make the most of my trip. Apart from a few red worms, I was carrying just three loaves of bread, two and a half of which had been blitzed by the soup maker and the remainder left for hookbait.

Pound plus


Right from the off I had a few roach over the pound mark, interspersed with the continual interruption of water foaming trout and a few modest grayling The roach kept my attention until they disappeared and a new swim beckoned.

I sat on an ornate bench at 'The Boards' where the deepest water ran. The level was low so it was a logical choice and, according to Dave, it had produced a couple of two pounders recently. There can be few more desirable swims anywhere. Perfect trotting speed, no need to cast far and full of fish - albeit mainly trout - visible in the clear water. I soon had another pound plus roach.

A couple of 'swingers', some grayling and yet more bloody trout, then my float buried and something throbbed deep. I soon saw it and knew that I had my lifelong ambition on the end of my line. It went two pounds and two ounces and was certainly capable of increasing on that in the future.

Two pound two ounces.

Soon after Dave had done the honours with the camera, I had a trout of over five pounds which refused to play ball and created a lot of disturbance. Time to move again.

This time I went to the Mill Pool where I searched the boiling current for a perch holding area with a bunch of worms.  After yet more trout and grayling elsewhere I found it and went on to take about half a dozen prime river perch to about a pound and a half.

I was starting to feel the strain of my efforts and had a three hour drive home through Friday traffic. It was time to break the rod down and go.

I've had a two and a half pound roach from a pool but a river 'two' was an ambition that began when I wore short trousers so it felt great to realise it. I can't wait to do it again. Happy days.

I was happy - honest.

September 18, 2018

Socialising

Part 1.   Wye Lea

Sunday evening saw me joining the Wye Barbel Botherers in their accommodation near Ross on Wye. I've known Mike Perry and his gathering of reprobates for several years having guided them a few times. I am invited to join them on the banks each time they holiday here but this time I was staying overnight for a social

Some of the 'Botherers' with Dave Steuart

It was a real bonus that Dave Steuart was also their guest.  He fishes the Wye Lea stretch (where they were based for the week), each year as he knows the owner well. I think Dave's about 270 years old now but he still has a mighty passion for fishing.

The evening meal was good, the alcohol flowed, Trevor kept falling asleep, Jerry forgot how to climb stairs and the rest of us laughed a lot.

At 3am, both Dave and I (we were sharing a room), had to visit the little boys room. Dave then started chatting and chatting.... I love Dave and feel honoured to call him a friend but, after half an hour or so, I had to tell him to shut up and go to sleep.

All bar Jerry made breakfast and set off to the river full of optimism. I selected the nearest swim to the car and spent the morning losing tackle in the rocks around the old bridge. It was like casting into a dragon's mouth. Hit the sweet spot and feel the feeder hit bottom, a bite would occur within seconds as the fish swept in to grab it's contents. Leave it any longer and your line fell between the teeth of the mighty beast and a breakage was all but inevitable.



It was full-on fishing and a lot of work. I landed a few chub and a couple of small barbel, I also lost two more barbel when the hooklink parted as they got amongst the rocks. It's one of those suicide swims where you have to risk tackle and fish losses because it's stuffed with fish. There's no way of getting above them and, due to the low conditions, they were reluctant to drop back.


I broke off for lunch and decided it was too much like hard work and I was unhappy about the risk to the fish. I cast below the action area and managed a final chub before leaving the swim and my fishing friends who went on to have a successful week.





 Part 2. Red Lion

The usual suspects - survivors from many a lost weekend, had not gathered for a full five years. Speckie suggested a re-gathering..... and didn't attend. No further comment on that.

The more stalwart members of the crew duly drifted onto the fishery on Friday and found the going tough.

I sat with Carl on beat 6 and despite our best efforts, I caught the only fish, a chub that took a small piece of meat well away from my feed. I think just one barbel succumbed on the day and prospects looked grim.



The evening went well and we all set off hoping for the best. Carl dropped some bait in a swim, collected his gear from the van and had a barbel first drop. Ian fished over yesterday's bait and also had one within seconds of putting his rod down. Later in the day my lad joined in and he also took a barbel on his first cast, again very quickly. It was very different from the previous day.



I decided (retrospectively) that I was chub fishing. My first swim option was uncomfortable and failed to inspire me so I moved to pastures new and took eight chub - but no barbel.

Yet another chub


We debriefed later and I think everybody else had taken at least one barbel. Carl had three, Ian five! I reckon I have lost my touch. Never mind, it was all good fun.

De-brief
An our last gathering a prestigious prize was awarded for the 'most significant' fish. A tasteful painting of otters was awarded to Carl and he returned it this time hoping sincerely that somebody else would have to find space for it. Mind you, he'd kept it in his garage - the heathen.

Who would take it home this time? Paul for his nine pounder? Ian for his five fish? Tony for his barbel on worm in a snaggy spot? The drums rolled..... decision time loomed.... and the winer is..... Carl! For recapturing the chub he'd lost in the morning and removing both hooks from its mouth. His acceptance speech was a long groan, drowned out by laughter. Well it was always going to be Carl..... but don't tell him ;o)
Five years ago - little changes.








August 26, 2018

Peak Early And Leave

Friday and I was almost ready to go. A two night trip to the lake with Neil was the idea and I was collecting the last item of tackle when my knee gave out. It had been doing this, off and on, for a week or so and I thought it prudent to dig out the knee brace.

I nipped to the bedroom, strapped myself up and took two steps forward. The next minute or so was one of me hobbling toward the front room whilst uttering gutteral noises that were a mix of comments on the pain level and a list of every expletive I know. "What's up?" said dearly beloved, "If you don't say I can't help you". Eventually I was able to breath normally and find my voice, I expressed myself clearly as I slumped into a chair with one last, very loud, curse.

Trip cancelled and off to A&E. I could put no weight on my left leg neither could I straighten the damned thing. The doctor was talking about laughing gas and hitting it back into place but he couldn't find the right pain killers so it was two Paracetamols and a full Velcro leg splint. Getting back into the car was reminiscent of this....


I thought I was in for a long haul of immobility but by the Monday appointment back at the hospital, all had settled in my left knee and I was told to go away. The problem was though, the limping had thrown my back out and the sciatica was making my right knee hurt - a lot.

By the following Sunday I felt it necessary to have a day session and gingerly descended the steep bank to my chosen spot - about five times to get everything in place.

Despite the potential of this swim I failed to get so much as a twitch. I found some fish feeding nearby but it meant shifting tackle and an even steeper climb. I took the blank and left.

Frustrated by my lack of fishing - well, catching, I was back at the lake last Friday. Another two nights planned, again with Neil albeit he'd only be contactable on the walkie talkies as he was as far from me as possible - charming. I got there first and picked an area where I'd seen fish moving on my last visit. It was a long chuck across and it took me a couple of hours to get three rods set up, bait in place and everything ready to go.

I didn't want three rods on the same spot and decided to drop one short. I've had plenty of fish from the margins but in this swim it's very shallow. I found the drop off into deeper water about 20 yards out. It was reached by casting around an overhanging tree from an awkward angle which, I figured, would make it virtually unfished.  I baited lightly over my rig thinking that steady feed over the session may bring a bite there from a cruising fish or two. 

Soon after casting, Neil arrived and collected some bait from me. I had a single 'bream' bleep on one of the distant rods, we both commented on their nuisance value. As we chatted I heard another bleep - bleep but this one became a one toner. It was the inside rod and a powerful fish headed off left with me pretty much helpless to do anything about it. 

"Well, I'll be off then" said Neil, which made me laugh. He did stay and offered encouragement and comments on the fish's strength and cunning as it powered through branches hanging in the water and made powerful long runs all around. Then its back came out of the water and we both gasped at how dark it was, most unusual for this water. Maybe the hot weather and low, clear water has had an effect.

After a memorable fight it went into the net without too much fuss and weighed in at a satisfying 31lbs exactly. 

There you are. A pretty rubbish season so far then a thirty after twenty minutes on a new spot. Fishing eh? Don't you just love it.

I was satisfied but fished on until dusk when I wound in and slept long and happily until my dream about an attractive girl kissing me became my dog licking my face as he wanted his breakfast. 

The forecast for the next day was rain, rain and more rain. I hate packing when it's wet so I decided to call it quits and head home. Neil stuck it out and had seven fish, six of which were over twenty pounds. But hey, I was only fishing for thirties.


August 01, 2018

Loads of Bites

Sat, overlooking the lake in it's summer glory, listening to the tits and robins chattering behind me I am relieved to have at last sorted three rods and cast them to my chosen spots. It had taken some time and I was glad of the sit down. This carping lark seems like very hard work at times.

I took out my diary to begin the entry that would see me hunting carp for the next forty eight hours or so. Looking at the index, a simple list of dates and catches, I could see that I had been beside water jut three times since the end of May and had landed the princely sum of three small roach. No summer has been so bereft of fishing action.... probably in over fifty years of angling. Why?

I have never looked forward to a carping year so much in my life and the inclusion of a shallow estate lake to my available waters had made me giddy with anticipation. However, it all got thrown out of kilter by the weather.

My first trip to the new lake saw me forget my sleeping bag and I froze during the night. From then on the weather (you may recall) has been stupidly hot. I don't do heat and have suffered. Now, I don't mind a spot of suffering for the cause but that particular water demands you sit facing the full glare of the sun and, if there's one thing that put's fish off in a shallow, clear lake it's blazing hot sunshine. The idea of sweltering all day in the hope of a bite in the wee small hours does not turn me on. I put the lake on the back burner and sat back, waiting for a cloud or two to appear.

In the mean time I had a gander at the Wye. Neil and I had a go one evening and both chose seemingly perfect evening swims for the conditions. These spots are always good for a few chub as well as a barbel or two. That neither of us had so much as a tremble on the tip led us to realise it was not the place to be. I will not fish when I feel the fish may suffer from my actions. I have waited for days or weeks until the fish have spawned and recovered enough to be worthy of pursuing and, when the river looks low and sick, it's a no brainer.

I felt that my other carp venue may be suffering and opted to wait for some rain. That wait dragged on and on and with the separation from the routine I guess I just got out of the fishing habit. It seems I have missed some good fishing as the carp have fed well and dealt with the heat admirably. Ah well.

So there I am, eager to get a bite or two and yes, I had six of them in all. On the downside, three came adrift - don't ask, just bad angling I guess. I had one small common at my feet in the early hours. I was deciding where to land it as it was sat between two rods in a decidedly awkward position. As I ummed and aahed it wrapped me around a leg of the pontoon and was gone. I was gob smacked..... but it was, again, bad angling.

I landed a couple, another common of 8-10 pounds and a mirror of 16 -18 pounds. I didn't even weigh or photograph them.

One of my spots was full of snags so I chose to move the rod despite having baited it quite heavily. Where did I see plenty of feeding activity, rolling and crashing fish? Like I said, I won't fish where it's going to cause harm so I sat grinding my teeth. But I may get in the boat and pull that big branch out.

The title mentions "loads of bites", and yes, I have had more than my share this summer but they have been from mosquitos, I've been eaten alive! Anybody else getting mullered by the little bastards? Most years I can go without so much as a lick from a mozzie but 2018 has seen me giving blood on a regular basis. I lay in my bivvy drenched in anti-mozzie spray of oil, citronella candles burned and I wore base layer clothing to cover most of my body. Yet, come morning and the little shits have snuck into my sleeping bag and have made my back and arms polka dot. They itch like nothing else and it's enough for me to wait until winter for my next trip.

But I doubt it.





June 01, 2018

Carp Fishing Is Easy - Apparently.

I frequently view and comment on a forum for traditional anglers. I am, in essence, a traditionalist and although I no longer use heavy cane rods due to knackered shoulders, I do stand for an approach to the sport that, to me, encapsulates all that fishing should stand for. However, I am constantly having to come to the defence of carp anglers.

Quotes like "The bivvy brigade" spat with pure venom by somebody who has never fished under more than an Efgeeco brolly whilst sat on a folded army blanket. Or, "It's just a case of casting out boilies and waiting". "I've never seen the need to use an electronic bite alarm especially during daylight" and on and on and on....

Many of those that comment by the way, do their 'traditional fishing' in pools where they seem to catch an enormous amount of fish 'before the nuisance carp moved in' - or commercials/over stocked club waters, hardly Trad is it.

Well, here follows an account of me 'casting boilies and waiting' and what I endure in an average session by my carp lake.

Let me first mention an ailment of some embarrassment that I am currently suffering. I know of several regular readers to this blog that seem to revel in my mishaps and injuries and this one is a doozy. I have a cyst growing on one of a pair of sensitive dangly bits about my person. Whilst you ponder about the location I shall mention that physical work, especially lifting is, shall we say,  uncomfortable. I had it scanned today and it has reached one inch in diameter and may require future surgery - bet you can't wait for that blog update eh Tim?

I emptied the car and gingerly lifted my stuff into the swim and set up. My bivvy is a doddle to erect (no further comment having used that particular term), but when I was trying to fit the pole that holds the peak I found extra pressure was needed. Again, as gently as I could I pushed and was far from my usual Hulk like maximum when the resistance yielded and the pole was engaged in the appropriate slot. Then the bivvy collapsed.

The main rib/pole had snapped at a ferrule rendering the entire frame useless and me without a place to sleep. Having once been a Browny (I lied about my age), I set about a repair with a tent peg and half a mile of insulating tape. It almost worked but needed me to hang the weight of the frame to a tree with a bungy cord before I had a shelter.

All of this lifting, holding and taping would normally be tolerable but, for somebody so encumbered - Ow!

I had chosen one of the widest spots on the venue and was going for the long chuck. Distance fishing is an area of my carping that needs work so what better time to get the bugs out of my technique. I loaded my Spomb up and bashed it out about 85 yards or so. I did first try a new style 'Air Bomb' thing that opens before hitting the water thus giving a wider and quiet baiting up but it was heavy and, with my cack handedness, left bait everywhere from almost my chosen distance to behind me. I relented and got out a little Spomb and set about casting and retrieving copious grains and bait offerings. It was hard work but I felt the conditions needed a bit of bait going in.

My rods followed and I slumped into a chair for a drink crossing my legs and doing something rather painful in the meantime.

I'll summarise the rest of the session by saying that I did not sleep well despite the trappings of modern carp fishing. It was hot, my bits were nagging, the dog let me know If I snored and nudged me or barked and the bream played about with my large baits despite having no chance of eating the damned things. I had some fish but nothing large, I also lost two on a snag that was far larger than I had anticipated.

Neil managed a nice one

I tried to quickly release a small common at night but the hook was lodged and needed the pliers, having sorted that I found it's dorsal entangled in the landing net. I hate it when this happens but it occasionally occurs and requires a spot of scissor action on an expensive net. The biggest problem though was the amount of insect life on the wing. Despite having my head torch on red they came in their droves but when I was sorting the net I had to switch to main beam and I was squinting through a cloud of midges, mozzies and crane flies that went up my nose, in my mouth..... I slumped back onto my bed and dislodged a slug which landed on my right eye and stuck there. Bloody charming.

In the morning the dog had snuck onto my bed and was led lengthways effectively trapping me in. I had a bite and told him to 'Move'. He didn't, I told him again with several expletives and eventually threw him off. He stood groggily in the doorway still attached to his lead - that I promptly tripped over and rolled down to my rods where I found the second snagged fish had 'done' me.

Exhausted, I packed and loaded the car, stopped at the chemist for some Antihistamine and returned home to bathe the many, many itchy bites that covered my body.

A big thumbs up must go to Angling Direct. A quick phone call and a new rib pole will be on it's way to me within a few days. See, that was easy - just like all my carp fishing.


The fruits of my labours






May 24, 2018

Stumbling Into Summer

I was woken by the 'plink' of a bite indicator reluctantly releasing it's grip followed by a light fizz as the bait runner yielded a foot or so of Berkley Connect. I was at the rod in a moment and soon landed a small but scrappy common. The fish was quickly released and the rod put back on the pod - without recasting.

That was at 4am. I lay there wondering how I'd managed to leave the alarm switched off but just put it down to my idiocy and the unusual mood I'd been in the previous day.

It was a trip I'd been looking forward to. The trials of a week in France had only served to fuel my enthusiasm to catch on my home water. A few days in Dorset in the caravan (yes, I'm that old) and freedom was mine but my head wasn't quite right and I was in some sort of a fug of apathy and indecision. Sorting my gear and loading up the car took longer than for my week away and I still managed to forget several semi-important things. I did consider loading my 3lb test rods for the big chuck at the wide end of the lake to a point where I just know is going to produce for me but, in the confusion that is my tackle room, I could not place them so I shrugged and figured the narrows had always done me well at this time of year. Big mistake.

Yet to make double figures but a star of the future
At the lake the wind barely rippled 20% of it's surface but it was heading away from my chosen spot. No matter, something crashed out in the bay at my end so I figured I could still tempt a lump or two my way. Another member had just set up in the area I'd considered and told me of the amount of fish he'd seen cruising about, sowing the seeds of doubt into my addled brain.

I'd mistakenly brought my two-man bivvy but squeezed it onto a one-man ledge. I drove around and baited from the opposite bank as the spod-rod was one of those items sat moping at home having missed it's trip to the outdoors. So too was some of my bait but I figured I had enough.... just.

I sat back on my chair, tired but happy to be fishing. The chair collapsed. A missing nut was lost somewhere in the long grass so I had only the bedchair to rest on. I lay on the bed and promptly fell asleep.

At 10:30 pm I reeled in and slept the night away until 5:30 when I cast my two rods back to their spots. I felt better for the rest and was soon landing a pretty little linear that one day will be one of the stars of the lake.

I spent the day absorbing the warm atmosphere of an early summer in full bloom. A symphony of greens and blue above but with less bird species than usual, where are the warblers?

After my little common I had a very stocky fish of about 16-18lbs. It was hard to guesstimate as it was short, wide and solid. It lay on my unhooking cradle with every fin erect and it's mouth open, it seemed shocked by the entire episode and I guess it hasn't seen the bank very often, if at all. Another common closed the session and I felt purged somehow.

Pure defiance
I reluctantly packed and spoke to the chap fishing where I might well have done. He'd had ten fish with at least six or was it seven going over 20lbs. The best of which I had previously nipped to his pitch to photograph, went 32 and a bit. But it didn't matter. I had a rest and a few bites, he was up all hours weight lifting. I'll be a bit more inclined that way for my next trip..... possibly.


In between my woeful attempts at fishing and soaking up the atmosphere I read a book - Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham. It's breathtaking. A deep revelation into the world of youth, isolation and mental health set against an obsessive interest in wildlife. I recognised my youthful self in the obsession with all things natural but never on this level however, knowing someone with Aspergers I could relate to much of what was happening at the core of the tale and how poorly such conditions were viewed until recent times. It is spell binding, beautifully crafted and has left a deep impression on me.





May 08, 2018

The Carp, The Crack, The Snake Wrangling and the Mouse.

The trip to France with my old mate Paddy finally arrived. His anticipation level was through the roof and I was really looking forward to a week together and a few fish.

With cars laden to the roof we made our way south from Cherbourg and finally arrived at a small but very attractive pool where the fish were putting on a fins display of bubbling and occasionally showing on the top. It was mild and everything looked great. The first night was spent in the gite whilst our loose feed did it's job, all we had to do was get up and fish the next day.

It began well, Paddy had an early fish, a common of 21.11 and his personal best. He'd never quite cracked the twenty mark and here it was at 9.45 on the first morning. Happy days. I followed up almost immediately with a 28.10 mirror. We basked in our morning's success..... and it began to rain.

A stunning common for Paddy

It rained throughout the rest of the day and into the next. I was chilled and aching so I opted for a hot shower and a night indoors whilst Paddy stuck at it taking several more nice fish including a 32lb common next morning.  We celebrated by going to the supermarket for provisions ...... and food.

The rest of the day saw Spangle bollocks take more fish and I fluked a mid-double common and a mirror that looked like it had spawned on the gravel drive. That evening I had another modest common and a low twenty mirror at 11.30pm whilst the lake was shrouded in mist and the temperature plummeted. The coldest night I ever spent in a bivvy was in France many years ago when a freezing fog enveloped us. I got out for a leak just before first light then shivered in my sack and later on the bank until the sun broke through at ten or eleven am. Yet here I was again, waking in the small hours to put socks on (I never sleep with socks on), and wrapping everything I could find around me to stop me from freezing to death.

The sun came out the next day but the wind had turned easterly.  But we still caught and Paddy went stalking. I also had a dabble in a little corner that was peppered by bubbles from feeding fish. After a while I climbed the lower branches of an oak tree. I've fallen out of the last three trees I've climbed so was a tad edgy to say the least. My tenuous foot hold was just holding me and I imagined looking down and seeing my line tighten just before I fell and did horrendous damage to myself. I looked down and yes, the line tightened! I made a safe but ungraceful descent only to find the fish had doubtless been scared off by the commotion.

Paddy hit his nirvana with a 37.08 common but I rallied with a 33.10 common later on. It has to be said that despite his previous misfortunes in the carp world, Paddy was having an absolute beano session and ended up with twice as many fish as me, catching the first, the most, the biggest and even the smallest fish. I am genuinely delighted for the lucky bastard, this break was all about him getting the fish of his dreams and he did that over and over again.

33lb common

37lb common


We had some fun with the wild life too. The bird life was astounding with insomniac nightingales all around us - just when do they eat or sleep? The marsh frogs were loud and entertaining. They'd respond to noises we made and begin their "All right" call - in a very East End accent, which would set the other frogs all around the lake into a cacophony of froggy chat. I initiated a few chorus's by saying "Aw roit" in my best barrow seller voice, only to get a host of froggy "I am" responses. That never got old.

We'd also been told of the local Aesculapian snake population, France's biggest reptile that constricts rather than injects venom into it's hapless victims. We were keen to see one and, one day as we returned from the shops, Andy (who looks after the lake), was leaping around something in the grass and worrying that Max, his dog, might succumb. As it slipped into cover I grabbed the snake for a better look. I've caught loads of grass snakes but they were easy and usually play dead as they poo a horrid repellant all over your hands. But Mr Aesculapian, doubtless peeved by it's ridiculous name, has other ideas and as I moved my hand to grasp it behind it's head, it turned and sank it's not inconsiderable fangs into the back of my hand. I pulled free but it just did the same again. I watched it twisting it's head to maximise the grip whilst it's last couple of feet wrapped firmly around my other wrist. It was fascinating. I've had a mild but fangless bite from brer grass snake but here was a serpent having a right old go at little old me. I quite enjoyed the experience.

At five foot plus, it was a beautiful specimen and I quickly let it go after a picture or three. Andy looked a little unsettled by the event.

Our last day was very hot and the fish took to sunbathing. We had one each but spotted a couple of lumps we'd missed out on and which topped the 40lb mark.

We packed everything away carefully leaving room for a bottle or two. I checked under the bonnet and scratched my head at the torn cover over the battery. "I don't think that was like that before" I mused and later showed Paddy but, as I lifted the bonnet, so I found the culprit - a mouse, sat in his little nest. I think I scared it off but since I've got home the damned car alarm keeps sounding - is it still there? Where's all the Aesculapian snakes when you need one?

Mouse munchies