November 12, 2019

Test Roach... or not.

Up at 5:30 and a 130 mile drive on a cold morning just for a spot of fishing. Pure madness. Or is it? This was my annual hunt for the river Test roach and a hope of fish that warm the soul whilst freezing the heart with envy from other anglers. This was a big day for both me and my lad Neil.

Dave Steuart was his usual chatty self but we dragged ourselves away as politely as we could. Earlier in the week his appraisal of the river and our chances were good but, on this day, it had risen considerably and the temperature had plummeted. It was just 2 degrees when we started with a piercing wind.

It was those conditions that put the kibosh on our chances. Dave had arranged for a sluice to be opened but the corresponding board (??) had not been altered so the river sped up to a swirling mass and the level dropped a fair bit too.

Undeterred and unaware of what lay ahead I started on a crease that ran under a leaning tree which almost touched the water. My first line was hopeless so I trotted the far side along the tree line and soon had a small chub and a trout. I then got into a rhythm of feeding and trotting and caught four more chub to over 4lb along with a grayling. I then noticed the rise and extra push of the river as it all went quiet.


I went roaming and found more trout and the odd grayling but the roach were nowhere to be seen. Neil was on a small controllable spot in the sluice and had steady grayling and big trout action on his Lucky Strike rod.

We ended the day on a tributary that came in on the far bank. This was beyond my Wallis cast rang but Dave let us borrow a lead rod that we held high to keep the line off the torrent. I caught a roach! Okay, it was about 3oz but you can't win them all.

We ended the day with Neil taking a trout of 3-4 lbs from the roach swim whilst I had a similar fish  from under our feet on his cane rod. It was a knit one purl two but we landed them both and laughing, decided it was time to head home.

October 16, 2019

Deja Vue

My last visit to the lake was a mixture of fortune and it's opposite. I hadn't yet cast the second rod to it's spot when the first one was away, bending in an alarming curve whilst the clutch begrudgingly released line.

Despite my instant response the fish was nosing through umpteen sunken branches and the like but, after a tremendous tussle, it finally succumbed. It went 34.4, a cracking fish by any standards and my day was made.

That I lost the two subsequent takes was more of a downer. One slipped the hook as it found a leverage point under a tree, the other fought hard and long only to let go of the hook as it neared the net. All very frustrating but eventful nonetheless.

That was almost two months ago, I cannot believe it's been so long. In truth, my lad has been taking the piss this year. Like me, when we heard of three big thirties being present we set our plans accordingly. My carping tends to be catastrophe followed by disaster and the biggies were ignoring me whilst Neil had a succession of fish over the magic weight including two of the lumps, one of them twice.

I'm not competitive with The Boy but, due to his results and the fish evidently losing a bit of weight in the summer, I didn't want to be recording second hand fish at lower weights than he'd had them. It all seemed a bit pointless. So I just had that short day trip and another today.

I was going after the barbel yesterday but the river had too little water and the banks too many anglers. My plan B was therefore an easy option.

Due to a lethargic start, my second rod was finally cast at noon. I was using the same rigs in the same spots and with the same baits as last time. I abhor routine but I really do have faith in my approach.

Time for a coffee, some lunch and a stab at the crossword. All was going well until a harsh trill sent me up and out of my seat as spectacles, pen, paper and packet of Rolo's went flying. The choccies were lost but may form part of my future baiting plan for sweet toothed margin carp.

At the rod it was immediately deja vu. A heavy weight edged the far bank, picked up a stick which in turn picked up the second rod and a mighty battle was played out with my 10' Free Spirit bent into an impressive 'C'. It took between ten and fifteen minutes before the fish finally took a gasp of fresh air and I could slide it into the net.

I quickly popped it on the scales and found that it had gained 4 oz since our last meeting. Maybe I should have a go for the A Team..... but it's getting cold and I have other targets in mind.

Anyway, that was it. I sorted out a cats cradle of lines and was soon back fishing again. However, this time I was spared the indignation of losing fish and recorded just the one bite.

October 07, 2019

Some Days.....

...are just a trial. Yesterday was one of them. With the river running from spate to spate for over a week I'd be mad not to wet a line. I didn't fancy a long walk from the car to swim but all the places I fancied were far off.

I'm never quite sure whether it's the actual water and features or the distance that gives a swim the allure. The bottom swim of every fishery is always popular. I guess it's the thought of sending your bait beyond a boarder and into the 'unknown' that thrills us so.

There I was emptying the car of my minimal kit and loading it onto my carp barrow. It had to be better than crippling me before I reached the spot so off I went..... The barrow is heavy when empty and the pushing position designed for a gorilla. I arrived with the usual sore back but at least I was happy with the swim I had chosen.

I quickly got my gear set up having introduced a few freebies to the swirling, brown maelstrom. Out went the rod and I settled down for the wait - only to see the rod bend and line pour off the reel. "Bloody debris" I muttered and lifted into a strange, deep but evidently alive resistance. I played it gingerly doing a guessing game of what it could possible be. When it surfaced I saw a small barbel hooked squarely in the dorsal fin.

Obviously it didn't count and it was promptly returned with an invite to summon some older family or friends to the banquet.

Hooking a barbel in the dorsal is unusual so I pinned the rig down with a shot as I guessed it was waving in the current. Next cast found a snag and I had to set up again. Third cast saw a thumping bite and a fish hooked - only for it to come off. I have no idea why but it may have just been holding the pellets that were glued to the hair, as they had slipped.

Then I got everything right, re-cast and nothing happened. I sat chewing my tooth enamel at the performance of my football team, my back ached a lot so I went home.

Like I said, some days.....

September 26, 2019

A Barbel

Tuesday was a difficult day. My barbel senses were in overdrive as the mild, dry weather was accompanied by a rising river which would have seen every barbel in the Wye going nuts for some food. I always advise that anglers should listen to and react when instinct calls, on Tuesday it was shouting.

I've had some memorable individual fish and catches when the 'call' comes and every cell in my body wanted to take me to the Wye, every cell that is but.... BUT... my sodding back. I was very grumpy on Tuesday.

Yesterday was slightly better so I thought 'sod it' and went. Okay, the sign said no vehicles on the field due to wet conditions, but the ground was still firm after such a dry summer and I drove to my spot. It was a sensible if deceitful decision as three hours later I could only just manage the hundred yard walk back to the car.

However, in the mean time I had trickled pellets into the head of a crease and fished more pellets in a feeder into a swim that has previously given me good sport. I was content in a world of rushing and swirling water, distant thunder and the odd shower. Those showers skirted around me in the main but back home, a handful of miles away, my wife's gardening was well and truly rained off.

It took quite a while but eventually I lifted a small chub from the maelstrom. At least I hadn't blanked. I continued whilst listening to the blah, blah, blah from Parliament on my radio and resorted to doing a crossword to pass the time. I then found myself looking around for the source of a strange noise - only to find my rod bent and the bait runner screaming at me. It's been such a long time since I've had a barbel bite I was totally out of tune with it. Good grief.

In the fast water the fish stayed deep and fought well but eventually yielded and a mint fish of 6lbs or so was quickly photographed and returned. After all, I just had to record my first barbel in about a year.

An hour later I seized up and struggled back to the motor. But it was enjoyable none the less.

August 26, 2019

You Only Get One First Fish

The time had come to introduce Grandson number two to the sport. Neil, my son, invited me along and gave me responsibility of helping young Levi to break his duck. To be honest he's wanted to fish for the last year and has dreams of catching a big carp but one step at a time and all that.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

Bored already?

Getting interesting


Now gently slip your roach back.....

The return requires some more tuition..

He got his carp

As did dad and Jake

August 09, 2019

A Day With Chris Newton

My last few stalking sessions have seen me catch one - but I fell headlong into thick silt and leaves in the process. Next trip I lost one and on the next I felt like crap and despite numerous carp feeding in front of me, I did not bother to cast.

The feeling like crap was sorted by a course of Penicillin that came in tablets so large, when I opened the foil and removed the first one, my wife thought I'd bought her a new ironing board. But they've done the trick.

On Wednesday I fished with my old mate Chris Newton. It was great to catch up with all the news and events that have affected both of our lives. The banter was the same as always and the fishing much like we did back in the day. Truly a day to savour.

A decade ago on the Wye
This week
Chris and I have shared bank and boat space since the late seventies and we are drawn to each other by some mystical force. I first met him whilst fishing for but failing to catch tench at Emborough pond. The stale bread I'd scrounged from my landlady was useless but Chris and his mate (fishing the swim I'd wanted), were catching on maggots. I was all for packing up but went along for a chat and Chris invited me to join them and gave me some maggots - I caught my first tench that day.

Nearly a year later I returned on a pre-season look at the lake when who should come through a hedge, camera in hand, but Chris. It was also his first trip there since we'd met and he was photographing marsh fritillary butterflies, a passion I would share with him in the future.

We fished together from then on and Chris became quite an influence as he had knowledge of many waters I had yet to discover, he even caught a barbel from the Bristol Avon, something that eventually shaped my future.

Eventually I moved south whilst Chris moved north and our fishing outings became less as time and commitments changed. When I moved to Herefordhsire our lives took separate courses as Chris obsessed in sea trout and I obsessed in barbel. No longer did we have the common interest of old and we drifted apart.

I was in a Bristol tackle shop on a very rare visit when I bumped into Chris who was an occasional shopper there. We chatted, promised to get together but nothing came of it. Some years later I was in a gun shop in Gloucester when Chris walked in. It was my first time there and Chris had not called in to that shop in a year. Like I said, we are linked by some weird force.

After way too long without a proper fishing day we at last got together. We fished near his home on the Gloucester to Sharpness Canal. For the record, Chris caught nothing but rudd whilst my float, rarely more that six feet from his, sank to a single rudd, a tiny roach and a host of skimmer bream which, I hasten to add, were our chosen species. Chris will tell you otherwise.

I recently read Chris' latest book 'Midsummer Night's Stream'. It chronicles his early years, some successes and near disasters along the way and ends with his crowning glory of a magnificent Sea Trout from the river Towy. A very good read it is too - I even get a mention. Mind you, he forgot which of us had the first salmon from that river and who was the first to get a four pound rainbow from Blagdon along with a few other glaring lapses but apart from that....

We have promised to fish together again before another decade passes. I look forward to it.

At last, a bream

July 04, 2019

Getting Back On Track

Let's face it, my last couple of months have been miserable. My sister developed pancreatic cancer and died all in the space of eleven weeks. A few days after her death I was in hospital having a painful operation on a particularly sensitive area (there's two of them and they are very important to us chaps), which meant an overnight stay and an extremely uncomfortable week or two to follow. This was exacerbated by a 400 mile round trip for the funeral - an emotional and agonising day.

But all things improve with time. I am still going through it a bit emotionally but at least my goolies are in the mend. I've even been fishing.

At the start of the week I was on the Wye for the first time since October last year. By all accounts the fishing is again sporadic and we still have a problem with people who think they can buy their fish by putting multi kilo's of bait into a low river where the fish are in relatively small shoals and not really on the feed. Ah well, at least when they blank they know that nobody else will catch from the section for a while. Well, they don't 'know' because they are idiots but you know what I mean.

I somehow managed to lasso a chub of a few ounces in the loop that connected my feeder to the main line. It was a tight fit and looked impossible but there it was. I also had one of a few pounds legitimately. It was the only action of the evening.

Today was a good day. I feel human again and a trip to the lake was called for. I decided I wanted to get one on the float and went armed with an old 2.25 tc 11' rod coupled with my ancient Hodder centre pin. The mixture of old and new was continued with a goose quill float and a modern rig bearing a wafter hookbait.

In the shallows carp showed all over, some sending up plumes of silt whilst other just hung in the water. I crept into position, flicked the float out, did it again a few times to scrape the rust off my abilities then settled back. A few small handfuls of groats mixed with dampened micro pellets followed to entice some feeding action. It didn't take long.
A fish swirled to my left...
Just five minutes later a fish swirled to my left, close to the bank. Immediately after it created a vortex near my float as it either stopped to admire the feed or more likely to baulk at the sight of my line. There were a few bubbles, a bow wave and it took my float under. I struck out of instinct as it was obviously a liner, and I bumped it. Bugger. That would usually kill the sport.

I opted to remain and cast again. Over the next twenty minutes or so my float had drifted out of position. I suspect a bream had it caught over a fin or something as it was slow yet deliberate. I let it be as I watched a pair of carp enter the area and drop to the bottom to feed in earnest. I put them at scraper twenties but had seen a fish that I put at upper thirties further out along with many smaller specimens.

The bubbling and swirling of the feeding fish was extreme but I thought, too far from my bait. I decided to go for it and silently wound in and cast toward the action - damn! I wanted it to go beyond so I could reel back with a modicum of subtlety. But when your luck's in and all that. The float cocked and sank all in one movement. I tightened and a powerful fish shot across the lake which was away from the snags, so I let it go.

I then spent a while giving it the old heave ho as it kited under overhanging trees and toward a big snag. But I found my rod plenty firm enough and steered it clear and again let it go on a long, energy sapping run. After a good scrap I had it in the net and was surprised at it's size. Another long, lean fish of exactly 26lbs. I wonder what the big one weighs?

That was enough. I'd done what I set out to do. I went back to the car and sat overlooking an area with more carp cruising and feeding yet, I had no urge to tackle up again and cast. I wrote my diary, read a paper and ate my sandwiches pausing to watch a treecreeper for a while. It was bliss and, for the first time in too long, I felt relaxed.