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






April 20, 2018

Fish Birds and Rules

I'm eager to get to the 'new' lake but instead took a trip to the 'old' syndicate pool. In fact both lakes are very old - about 400 years or so but without giving names away I haven't decided how to refer to each one as yet.

I opted for a swim that promised to produce and which involved the minimum push of a barrow. It does however involve a steep decent and an equal number of ascents which is bloody knackering when setting up and packing down. I'd planned for a two night stay but with my second Trakker air mattress letting me down again, I had a dodgy night and a bad back next day. I decided to leave early.

I did however, manage a few bites and landed a couple of the newly stocked fish, one of which is an absolute stunner, and a nice mirror a couple ounces over twenty seven pounds - which was nice. Neil joined me and took over the swim where he went on to take a mid-double and a mid twenty. Yup, the lake is waking up.

A glorious mirror.


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


Back home we've been feeding the birds as is the norm and the severe winter has seen some interesting visitors but nothing new. We've had more fieldfares, redwing, brambling and redpolls than usual but it took until a few days ago to clock up a new species - a red legged partridge. Quite what it was doing in a suburban village garden - the front one at that - I have no idea. We've had pheasants wander in from the orchards before but I've only seen partridge a mile or so away up the lanes. Our visitor (quickly named Cassidy which should be understood by anybody of a certain age), was perfectly content nearly all day feeding beneath the seed feeder and on what I threw to it. When it left the garden I heard it's call nearby. Wonderful.

It returned a couple of days later and sat on next door's roof calling at dusk and Nicky thought she heard a reply.

I treated myself to a gizmo recently. I'm a sucker for a gadget and got a Trail Camera from China. It took a few days to sort out the best position to film the hedgehogs at night but last night I got good footage (if a little grainy) of two hedgehogs on the lawn and, in the early morning light a red legged partridge. If you check out the video clip you will see, up and to the right by the pink rhodies, a second partridge. Yes, we have a pair. How cool is that?

Single heggie chomping on peanut butter, cat biscuits and raisins 

A pair of partridge


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

Impatient to get a look at the new lake I 'treated' Nicky to a nice drive and lunch out today. We just happened to drop in at the lake for a bit of a stroll - pure coincidence of course. Now I like a club with well thought out and sensible rules, which this one seems to have. But I was a tad surprised at the following sign at the lake entrance. I don't disagree with it mind and think it should be extended to litter droppers, the noisy and anybody using a bait boat.


It was a lovely walk and we saw a number of small carp in the shallows. I chatted to a chap who showed me a picture of one of the old original stock he'd had last night, a mint, golden common an ounce or two short of twenty pounds. It won't be long before I'm sat poised over my rods plotting a similar fish's downfall.


April 14, 2018

Anticipation

An angler unable to dangle is a very frustrated creature. Of late I have been just that - frustrated to the point of distraction.

I read through some of my old blogs the other day and am amazed at how quickly the time is passing. There are references to a troubled back and a yearning to catch large carp from much farther back than my memory might have had me believe. I am obviously drifting from the fast flowing Wye but have yet to commit to a new obsession. Hang on, I don't like that word - let's say "direction". I concentrated on barbel for many years but in retrospect see it more as part of my development than an overwhelming and uncontrollable urge. Yes, I have found a new direction.

The dream

Some consider it as being 'lost to the dark side' when you concentrate on carp but I find it very satisfying and, at the moment, it's all I can think about. The prospect of waking on a misty dawn surrounded by bird song and the smells of a wood surrounded lake are dragging me away from the exciting rush of clear water. This, of course, comes on the back of a bloody awful season when the river was out of sorts - as was I, and my river fishing felt like hard and often quite tedious work.

This winter has dragged and dragged and I've barely wet a line. On the few occasions that I did venture out I was rewarded with a big fat zero return. The frustration grows. What do we do when we cannot fish? We plan and plot the downfall of our chosen species. I've done a lot of this and it hasn't helped the time pass a single jot - it's made it worse. But the light is starting to shine at the end of the tunnel.

Many months ago Paddy and I decided to have a week in France together. I want to be there when the fish of his dreams slips into the net and hopefully it will. It's a small venue with accommodation (that will not get much use) and fish to around 40lbs. After this particular winter, this trip, that's just a few weeks away, cannot come soon enough.

I've also promised my lad Neil that we can go to France together a bit later on to have another go at some of those enigmatic French river carp. It's a wonder I can sleep at night.

My syndicate lake has refused to produce a single fish all winter (not that it was me trying), but will surely burst into life when the warm south westerlies arrive next week. I'll be there, sat behind my rods just poised for action. I have so many plans for this water I could burst.

But I've been having ideas of spreading myself around and seeing if I can get carp from other waters. Having a lake you know well can stifle the creativity and I've been mulling over a few possibilities. I heard of a syndicate that looked good for the future but where the waiting list was at least two years long. As it has a level surround I figured it could be a lot easier on the joints so was going to meet the guy and have a look around. In August it was all set up and ready for the viewing when domestic issues intervened. I only made that contact last week and feared I may have left it too long.

I received an email that said "There is a vacancy available for this year if you are interested". I was taken aback. I was looking for a different sort of water as opposed to another estate lake but hey, let's give it some thought. The next line said "It is becoming a major water in the area and the waiting list will grow". I gave the obvious reply.

The future

The water is large, beautiful and has a low density of all species due to extreme cormorant damage that has decimated the smaller fish. It was only re-opened last season after a long fallow period but some new stock was recently introduced to bolster the few existing carp. The other fish present are tench - to a very good size and bream - to an even bigger size. Add to this that some of the carp are just mouth watering and maybe you can see why the anticipation is pretty much off the scale.

The possibilities

My season is therefore set and although I shall still visit the river and eagerly anticipate a fish in with some of the reprobates I have skilfully avoided for a few years, it is to still waters and the silent carp that drift through the weed channels that hold my attention.





January 04, 2018

Taking Leave Of My Senses

Welcome to another year of my angling life.

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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



October 12, 2017

Fishing - Solar Power Pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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