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.

June 10, 2019

Fishing in France - Plan A never works

A dog barked incessantly and a donkey occasionally joined in with some mighty braying. Yup, I was in France and these are the background noises of most fishing spots in this amazing country.

I booked the lake six months before and the remaining three of the wandering carpers had been plotting, planning and building supplies throughout. It was a thrill to get away again after a five year gap, a period that saw many changes in each of our lives. This was a trip that we needed as much as we wanted.

Being France plan A was rejected within minutes of reaching the lake. The fish were in the process of a long slow spawning in the lily beds. Lake maintenance meant the top shallows were temporarily dammed off (something I hadn't been told), which we think, prevented the circulation of fish and access to shallows for spawning. Instead they hung about in the weeds all day and most of the night. Hey ho, plan B was broken out and I had the end swim in the deepest (under 6') water. Neil to my left in the sexiest swim and Phil flitting from pillar to post searching for fish and trying to avoid ants that seemed to find his sleeping bag, clothes and bodily crevices a comfy place to live.

Night one and Neil had a 31lb mirror. He was so confident of the week he didn't even wake me for photo's. I was tired and aching and didn't even cast out on the first night but was active and successful next day with a 26lb common. Then it got difficult.

We worked hard - well, Neil and Phil did. I was confident that my swim would produce and stuck at it and eventually got number two a mirror of over 37lbs. I let Phil have my pitch and had a strong feeling that he would take a big fish from it. He too was certain his efforts would be rewarded - sometimes you just 'know'.

The evening after my move (into one of Phil's many swims), we sat chatting, swapping stories mainly about Bunny and drinking wine. I was suddenly aware that my pocket was flashing and bleeping and was forced to run or rather do my impression of a fat old bloke waddling a tad quicker than usual. It was the only capture shared by all of us as Phil arrived saying "Are you in.... is he in..... are you in? To which Neil and I shouted "YES". I think the wine may have had something to do with it.

I played and landed my first ever grass carp at a whopping 36lbs. I was over the moon new species, personal best and all that. We all laughed a lot and settled for the night.

A couple of hours later an agitated Phil was outside my bivvy talking about "Huge" and "Monster" before running back to his swim. As I approached he hugged me and said "This one is for Dad". Yes, he had landed the fish we were expecting.

He opened the landing net and there it was - all 48lbs (exactly) of common carp. My god what a specimen. Many pictures - elation and friendly piss taking followed until it was slipped back. Phil then declared that after the absolute shit he had been through over the last few years that saw him amongst other things lose both parents and his sister in less than a year, this was a turning point and he shamelessly wept. He was right, we had all shared difficulties that had affected us jointly and separately over the previous years and Phil had even lost his carp mojo. Here we has a pivotal moment that seemed to expunge the trials of that time and to create a line for the future to run from. It was emotion charged and we all felt eternally bonded by that capture.

And that was it. despite every effort by us, the change of weather from really hot to cloudy but warm and finally rain falling like stair rods and a wind that ripped most of my pegs out and moved my bivvy back by over a foot whilst I hung on for dear life. We were fortunate that it was a fine morning to pack up and cram the mountain of gear into my car.

Looking back at the lake we all felt that we had been victims of circumstance and had not sampled it's true potential. At just five acres it is a beautiful water that contains fish to over fifty pounds but manages to retain an air of secrecy and a demand for a thoughtful approach to the fishing. I think we'd all like to return one day a have another go. Without tempting fate I reckon we would never find it quite so challenging again and that excites me.


May 22, 2019

Lows and Highs

If you've read my last blog you will know that I am on something of a blank run and that, with a trip to France coming up, I am eager to get this monkey off my back. That then is why I turned up at my little slice of heaven yesterday intent on spending a couple of nights rectifying my slump and scraping the last bits of rust off my fishing before the big event.

I chose a spot that required a big chuck (for me), and where I hoped some decent fish would be patrolling. It's done well for me in the past but, with the lengthy spell of easterly winds, would the fish be elsewhere?

Regardless, I set up two distance rods and one to fish for anything cruising the near bank - a good bet in May. I deposited some bait over a wide area which I like as it gets the fish mooching around and because it helps with my awful casting. I could never hit a dustbin lid sized spot like some carpers seem to do at twice the distance I was fishing.

The wind dropped, the lake was calm with only birdlife disturbing it's surface. It got dark and I nodded off only to be shocked back into consciousness by an urgent alarm. My popped up bait had been taken and I bent into a very, very ponderous and heavy weight.

I pumped and wound it slowly back towards me. Occasionally there was a kite this way or that but the overwhelming feeling was of weight. I'd dropped the second rod tip into the margin to avoid crossed line and everything was going well until the fish headed for a reed bed. I turned it and felt it coming my way, I was also convinced that it was fairly hooked and not a foul hooked smaller fish. I was celebrating inside - what a way to end my dearth of fish. Then.... the fish rolled and was gone.

I stood there, gutted. I had hooked the second line after all and although the lead of that rod hadn't been disturbed, it seems that the pressure from that line acting upon the bend of the hook was just enough to effectively disgorge it.

I was really shattered by the experience but quickly got myself together and recast both rods to make certain they were a little farther apart. That done I flopped onto my bed and having committed my despair to my diary, dropped off again.

90 minutes or so later and the same rod roared off again. This fish came in like a mouse on a lead. It swam toward me making me wonder if it may be a bream or even that it had gone. Again on reaching the reeds it started to slap about a bit. Now I was happy that it was a carp albeit a modest one and I hurriedly netted it and rested it.

Having wetted the cradle and sorted the scales, camera etc I lifted the fish from the water and felt a sharp pain in my back. I soon realised it was a bit bigger than I'd expected and weighed a 29lb 3oz mirror.

The trouble was, it was so lively now that it would not settle. A selfie was out of the question and it wouldn't even stay still for a quick snap so, I just clicked a bad picture for the record and slipped it back.

That was the last of the action. Come the morning the lake was flat calm and had vast areas covered by tree pollen but, as the morning progressed so the wind came around westerly and will doubtless get the fish on the move for a day or two. I however, was feeling the effects of lifting my prize and decided to retire and rest rather than commit to a move. I can now relax and prepare for the first week of June and a week of immersive carping abroad. I can't wait.

May 17, 2019

Consistent...... unfortunately

Three trips and three blanks. Not my usual May carping story but I seem to have slipped into something of a bad run. Funny, it's usually Neil that makes a hash of the early trips then comes good with a fabulous run of big fish, he's now dreading our up and coming trip to France as it may see him fall flat on his face. Me, I just want to work these bugs out of my game before driving off to the ferry.

Two of my three trips have been very short day visits. The first to a gap in the trees to a spot Neil and I have targeted. He lost a fish there on his first trip and then took a small common from another little creepy crawly hole in the foliage.

A gap big enough for a rod

I followed him to these swims a few days later when it was decidedly cooler and found number one to be void of all finned life and two much the same. Not to worry, trip two was to be a night, maybe two, I'm bound to catch something.

Neil went again and landed a fine 21lb common, I have some catching up to do.

I was suffering with my back which made everything else ache and, with a relative gravely ill, was suitably distracted and lacking any verve or energy to fish intently. I really just went through the motions but at 1:30am I was staggering down the bank to the glare of blue lights and the tone of my  alarm. Having negotiated the dog, his lead, the steep step down and various debris I bent into a fish that had already found a snag. There are a lot of branches around the margins after the winds of winter and this fish had found one I was unaware of. It was immovable and eventually the line parted. My rod landed in a bush and I went back to bed.

The morning came and I was so disheartened that I packed and drove home via a tackle shop where I bought a chair that I hope will be less torturous to sit in.

Today I was back. Neil's doing an overnight but I just wanted to have a poke about and took a single rod and very little else - but still managed to fill my car.

 I found a couple of doubles in the margin. One was just hanging but the other was rooting about which was likely to stimulate it's mate. I did not want to aim at smaller fish so baited a little away from them and scattered my broken boilies over a wide area so that should they go on the munch it may draw out one or two of the biggies that live close by.

All went well and my trap was set. I saw the line tremble without moving the bobbin then, as I approached the rod an hour and a half after casting, the line pulled up then released. I felt that the bait and or lead were buried in the thick bed of leaves and crap that cover this spot and, as I reeled in, so it was all clogged in silty debris and hardly presented efficiently.

I cast a little farther toward some lilies where it was a little clearer and again spread some bait over the area. I sat back on my new chair (Trakker RLX Combi) which I have to say is the most comfortable I have used in eons.

A swim?

Soon after the alarm shrieked and I bent into a fish determined to get amongst the weeds. I was quickly in the margins (waders on) and heaved it clear. There followed a fine scrap which saw the fish wrap itself around yet another newly fallen branch but I soon had it tamed and the head and impressive shoulders of a common approached the net. I was making that last heave to secure my catch when the bloody hook hold gave and I was left to watch it slowly turn and swim away. I maybe could have stabbed at it with the net but I don't fish with a net do I? No, rod and line only.

I was gutted as this is always a one chance spot. I packed, had a quick look around for a new target but nothing showed so I went and sat for a while with my lad who had taken a 24 pounder on a long chuck.

I'm not unduly worried by my misfortunes and I shall be back again next week to hopefully make amends. Mind you, if I'm still struggling come June and our holiday.......

March 29, 2019

Glorious Spring

I blew the dust off my gear, re-learned how to tie a hook and checked the map to see where the lake was. I was going fishing.

Today was just about being by the water rather than any numbers game, a time to reflect, to embrace the warmth of a Spring day and to enjoy just being alive. The lake looked beautiful - as ever - and I knew that there would be fish in the spot I was heading for.

I flicked a bait onto the exact spot I was aiming for - a good start. I scattered some baits around it then tightened the line that the gentle breeze had dragged into a bow but it felt like it was caught on something. I retrieved it to recast and it took four casts to get it back on the spot ho hum, up to my usual standard. A second rod went out to the right of the first and I settled back in the sunshine.

All around the birds were in full cry, nuthatch, tits, finches, woodpeckers and even an insomniac owl. I saw orange tip and peacock butterflies and an orange bellied carp come out of the water.

At about 1pm the right hand rod bent and gave a little line. Despite using cushions on my chair, on rising I found my back had seized as I tottered toward the rod muttering and cursing. I tightened into the fish and soon landed quite the most attractive fish this lake has given me to date, a stunning linear with some proper apple slice scales thrown in. I didn't weigh it, just a couple of snaps and back it went. I may have taken more pictures with my decent camera but I found that I had left the newly charged batteries at home - there's always something.

Soon after Cane, my far from obedient mutt, made a growling surge toward a tree close by. This usually indicates a squirrel is in the area but he was heading for a hole at the base of a tree. I thought "Rabbit, maybe a rat?' but wondered why something was still moving near the entrance so went for a look. It was a grass snake which was cowering in a hole with no other exit. Mrs Snake was not happy and I sat and waited for her to clam down after grabbing a quick snap.

She would not settle so I reached in to pull her clear. My intentions were honourable but, as with most females, I was met with a loud hiss and a bite. It's daft, I know they can't hurt yet that primeval instinct took over and I jumped and snatched my hand away - what a wuss. Anyway, I apologised and she shot out of the hole and, at incredible pace, headed down the bank and into the lake and away.
I sat back in my chair and the dog sat close looking very distressed and nervous for ten minutes or so. It was his first serpent .

I had a wander and found plenty of small carp basking and enjoying their share of the sun. Back around my swim all was quiet. I gave it a few hours then packed up and took a leisurely drive home.

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.