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.

September 18, 2018


Part 1.   Wye Lea

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

Some of the 'Botherers' with Dave Steuart

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Part 2. Red Lion

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

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

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

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

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

Yet another chub

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

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

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

August 26, 2018

Peak Early And Leave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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