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.


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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


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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.


September 02, 2017

The Perfect Cure


I haven't fished the river for several weeks due to a severe bout of Man Flu.  Frustrated and searching for positives out of a lot of negatives, I set my heart on some carp fishing that may well be the mainstay of my autumn activities. I began plotting and buying the necessary bits and pieces like hooks, line, swivels and other assorted items of end tackle... oh, and three rods. They were second hand but as they are Harrison Ballista's - custom made - and 2.5 TC well, I'm only flesh and blood.

Nicky was constantly telling me I was still 'grounded' and, as I was asleep most of the day and unsteady on my feet due to the virus, I kind of agreed. But come mid-week I felt well enough to go and Neil - bless him - came too and helped carry my gear to the pitch.

Due to one other angler on the lake occupying my preferred spot, I chose to fish a swim I've never really scored in before but it 'felt' right. It's a long chuck swim (for me), all 80 yards of it, but I could pop around the far side and bait accurately. It took me hours and I mean hours to get everything sorted but, at last, two rods were out and I was in relax mode.

Dawn


Neil's voice wafted across the pitch but I realised it was the walkie talkie. He'd landed a fish. I reeled in and drove up to his swim where he displayed a high shouldered brute of 25.8. We were both delighted and I went back and recast.


Early evening and I receive a text saying I have two voicemail messages - that is rarely good news and with my mother quite ill in the nursing home, I went searching for enough signal for a call. Up a long hill I eventually found a minimal single bar and made the call, one was an old message, the other from Les who I was to meet on Friday. Phew!

I rang Les and explained that I may have to cut him off if I lose signal or get a bite, "Highly unlikely" I offered. But a bleep from the remote sounder box and "Ooer" says Les. "Bream" says I. There then followed a single tone run that had me running, or as near as I can get to it, back to my gear and my first fish on the new rods was on.

There followed one of the best scraps I've had from a carp, it was a real battler. Neil arrived to net it and there was my prize - 30.6 Happy days.


Another recent purchase is a Trakker inflatable mattress for the bedchair. What a brilliant device, what a great night's sleep, helped by the distinct lack of fish action. But, come 6am and I was off again. 20.6. I stood looking out over the lake. It was chilly and the wisps of mist raced up and down and all was well in my world. A coffee and a warm in the bag was again disturbed by a 19.6. Isn't that odd? All of them were six ounces over the pound.

Suffice to say, I am planning a return visit very soon.

August 07, 2017

'Orrible August

Funny old month August. Trees full of fledgelings, flowers covered with insects, lakes and rivers looking at their finest and the fishing, well, pretty crap. I've never done very well in this last month of summer and I've never really worked out why. It's just one of those things I guess.

I haven't made it to France for a few years and am absolutely gagging to get back there. Bunny was always a member of the rabble but, now he's no longer with us, it falls to his son Phil, my lad Neil and me to continue the tradition of attempting to surmount the problems and crises that our forays provoke. Paddy, my lifelong angling buddy, wants to join our French carp bash next year and that is fine and dandy,  except for one thing. Paddy has very little carp experience. He just doesn't have the time for it as he works for a living (the poor sod) and his spare time is limited. I offered Paddy the chance of some pre deep end tuition as plonking himself on the banks of a vast foreign lake or river would be like dumping an eskimo in a desert. Plans were made.

With some creeping and a little begging, I gained permission for him to join me on a trip to the syndicate lake. He was not allowed to fish but could watch the 'expert'. All I wanted was for him to see and handle a decent fish as well as get an idea of how and why.

The Condobivvium

We set up camp, my little bivvie on a narrow ledge at water level, Paddy was to erect his on the bank behind me. Now last time I saw Paddy with a bivvy it was an ancient job picked up at a boot sale. It was the shape of a policeman's helmet and had the stability of a jelly and I was expecting to have a laugh at it today. Oh no, Paddy entered a competition in a carp magazine and won a brand new bivvy which came to be known as a condobivvyum. It's huge and would swallow three bed chairs with ease. It was also an absolute bitch to put up in a wind but, at last, we were settled and fishing.

The lake looked wonderful but no fish were showing anywhere. We did see a hobby, doubtless enroute to the aptly named Dragonfly Lake nearby and later an Osprey flew across and probably rested in a tree nearby much to the consternation of the ducks and herons that nest there. It later passed us again, twisted and turned over the lake and was lost to sight behind the full summer greenery. Probably a non-brooding adult reckoned Paddy and he does know his birds.

I hooked and lost a fish in the evening. I retrieved my rig to find the hook buried in a boilie. I later retrieved a rig with no hooklink. I'd opened a quick change swivel to put it on and, yes, well we all make mistakes. In fact, I was fishing like a complete tosser. Attempting to show Paddy how it's done I was showing him what not to do.

The next day was again quiet. A couple of members arrived for the weekend and I learned that tiger nuts had been producing. As it happens I had some defrosted in my bag. I've never had a fish on tigers but figured it was worth a go. I put them out on one rod, lay on my bed to read and fell asleep. I woke a little later and saw that the tiger rod had pulled up a bit but I'd heard nothing on the alarm. I brought it in and punched it back across with a fresh bait. About half an hour later I had a stuttering take - bloody bream I assumed.

Paddy with my fish
Paddy was also enjoying his siesta so I tightened up to the fish and began pumping it back through the weed bed. It had weight but no fight and when it rolled I was certain it was a bream, big but breamy big. Then it kicked and I woke Paddy. The closer it got and as the weed came away from it's face so the carp woke up but it still hit the net quite quickly. It then had loads of energy on the mat and again, I wasn't showing my fish handling skills at my best. It went 26.13 so I guess it was job done. A small common in the evening finished the sport, the last night being silent. No fish turning, not even a bream bite. Most strange. I think the only lesson Paddy learned was that if I can catch then anybody can.

We broke camp and headed for the Wye. An evening session and most of the next day saw Paddy land two chub whilst I didn't have so much as a nibble. Funny old month August.