May 26, 2020


It's been so long since I had a morning tench fishing. There's just not that many tench waters around here and as my mind spends longer thinking about carp the lovely tench get's lost in the rush for a thirty pounder. But a stocking several years ago has begun to prove fruitful. The little pool was home to some plump roach and perch but they have been brushed aside by age or predation and the fingerling tench are coming on well. Time to try it out.

Apparently these fish are right out of Mr Crabtree's folklore in that they feed very early in the day then switch off and disappear. I didn't fancy a mega-early rise so took the softer option. I gained an hour in bed by bivvying up next to the lake overnight so I could enjoy a lie-in till about 4.45 am. The night was warm, the owls loud and, what I presume to be a juvenile owl left in a tree nearby, whined about it all night.

Cane decided that the first bird song was breakfast time. He was a little put out by the reply and settled for another hour or so until my phone ruined a perfectly good dream. I was quickly out of bed and scanning the baited swim for activity. There wasn't so much as a single bubble.

A coffee had me up and about and a single grain of corn sat below a very old and favoured float. I'd given it a coat of varnish yesterday as so much paint is missing. I sat and gazed at the little red point in the water - absorbed, content and eager.

At last, a slight bob and the rod is trembling in my hand awaiting the next movement. It came in the form of a slight lift and I struck into a solid weight. However, it immediately yielded and I was into the gnarliest male bream ever. It was adorned with spawning tubercles over its entire body and felt like a slice of concrete. However, it was a blank saving fish and was lovingly slipped back.

Soon after - another bite and I am connected to a feisty little fish that, as it rose in the water, looked as if it was made of coal. In came the darkest tench I have ever seen, small but beautifully marked. This was followed by another dark fish with slightly more green on her flanks. I thought it was going to be a busy morning however, despite seeing some bubbles here and there including some that looked very Crucian-like, I didn't get so much as a twitch.

The moment had passed and that 'dead' feeling came over the water. I mused myself by feeding the female Mandarine duck and her four chicks. They were very nervous of me yesterday evening but  now they were content to take seeded bread and corn.

I popped over to the carp lake and had a wander. I found a few fish milling about and the tiger nuts I threw into a corner were soon being truffled up by a carp. But, by the time I had eaten my breakfast, sorted some gear and wandered to a suitable ambush point, the mood on here also changed. The only fish I saw were now basking in thick weed and I got the distinct feeling that they were having a post spawn rest.

I decided they deserved their day in the sun and will return in a week or so - hopefully after some rain.

May 17, 2020

Scraping Off The Rust

I stopped along the track and attacked a few fallen branches with my saw. Path cleared I reached my spot and quietly got out of my car and breathed the fresh, cool air absorbing the vista of greens and blue all enveloped in a myriad of bird song.  I was back.

I'd walked the lake the other day and had spotted a number of fish so I approached today with a plan or two up my sleeve. I decided to forgo the temptation of an overnighter and just reacquaint myself with my dusty tackle, tackle that had lay idle for six months.

I baited a couple of spots with a few boilies and a handful of pellets. There was muddied water on the shallows where feeding had and was taking place - confidence was high.

Fortunately I'd come with reels already loaded with good line and rig tubing already threaded, unusually for me I'd even tied a few rigs. Why is it that whenever I look at my pre-tied rigs they never seem attractive? But I found one that was just about passable and headed off for the distant swim.

One hundred yards away from the car I dropped the gear and returned for a some leads - I knew I'd forget something - and saw a fish bosh out over the first baited spot. 'You be patient', I mused, 'I'll get to you later.'

Swim one is a favourite stalking spot. I've previously had them from just a yard or so off the bank but as most of the feeding was on the opposite bank, I  decided to fish a little further out on a patrol route. In went a pva bag of crushed boilies and a few pellets, the ever effective wafter on the hair. A few freebies scattered about and it was time to sit back.

The breeze picked at the line and gave me a few bleeps but a heavier stick as a makeshift bobbin sorted it all out. Ten minutes later there was something truffling near my bait.

Alas that excitement abated and the water cleared. I knew I was still in with a chance but the head gremlins started questioning if my bait was visible or stuck in some weed, or missing.....? you know the score, always questions. I was almost ready to concede and recast for another half hour.  I'd only been fishing for thirty minutes or so but wanted to get to the other swim for what is usually a productive period of the day.

My doubts dissolved as the water again muddied around my feed, it was apparent that several fish were greedily competing around my bait. Despite being poised and in the starting blocks, the inevitable bite still took me by surprise such was the speed of the taking fish. I saw it's grey back belting off to the left and the stick on the line flying off to the right. I bent into it as it raced past a large, snaggy branch protruding from the water.

I was able to turn the fish and saw it, a nice mirror, dark and chunky, as it rolled on the surface. It came obediently toward me but the wrong side of that snag, all went solid. I slackened the line and waited, watched and pondered. Had the fish still been there I would surely have seen movement in the shallow water but no, it had done me. I heaved the branch some way toward the bank before the line parted. Ah well, plan A bust, on to plan B

I flicked two rods out in my second swim, sat back and fully expected some action. I discovered just how long my abstinence had been when I had a head scratch moment wondering how to turn an alarm on. Err, that big silver switch may have something to do with it - numpty.

By now my lad was fishing elsewhere on the lake but all was quiet. I looked in a few regular holding areas and nothing was on show. The desire to land a fish seemed somehow unimportant, I wasn't even annoyed when I lost the one earlier, just a little irked that it had taken off left as opposed to straight out which is the norm. No, this was a day for being there, re-grounding the soul, enjoying freedom and a change of scenery in this most difficult and trying time. The horrors of deadly virus seemed a million miles away - but I wore gloves whilst opening the gates - crazy times.

The lake stopped talking to me, I felt my efforts had run their course and decided to leave it for next time. This left Neil to the peace and quiet of an idyllic world. He had the lake to himself for the time being and, having endured lockdown with kids and home schooling, his agenda was peace and quiet first, fish second.

I shall return soon and maybe I'll get a fish. Do you know what? I really don't mind if I have a few blanks, just being there was enough.

March 25, 2020

Pass the Swear Box

Occasionally my fishing loses momentum and I become frustrated. I decided to make some adjustments last year and chose a few new places to try but, with one thing or another, it didn't happen. I haven't even wet a line since November.

Looking back at 2019, I really enjoyed a hard trip to France that involved determination and a spot of brain power, I wanted more of that. I have fished public and commercial lakes over there along with a few rivers but now I have made the decision to go at it hard. I know, I know, it's been done to death by thousands of other UK, Dutch, German, Belgian....... anglers and not to mention the hoards of French guys that now target the carp. But there are still plenty of fish to be caught and, before I slow down my fishing life, I'd like to land something that makes my jaw drop.

There we are, my new goal and an entire winter to get planning and amassing the essentials. I now have an inflatable boat, an electric outboard, a couple of batteries, a fish finder with more options and gizmo's than I'll ever get to grips with, three new rods and reels and a dustbin brimming with boilies. My bank balance has shrunk but his will be a father and son adventure and we will be searching out some big, unrecognisable fish.

Then Coronavirus came.

I made a decision early in the crisis not to buy any travel tickets, it proved sensible as the situation worsened. I gradually came to realise that I may well not get over there this year, well maybe the autumn? We'll see.

Taking a deep breath and kicking myself into action I have started planning a concerted effort on my syndicate lake. I would never say I was bored with the lake, it's far too beautiful for that but the challenge has definitely levelled out and its' in no way a difficult water. If something else came along to get the juices flowing I'd be well up for it. There is a lake containing some nice commons but logistically it's difficult.

My first walk around the syndicate lake was Monday when the sun shone and a few fish basked in the warmth. The first one I spotted was clearly over 30lbs so I started planning a trip. Nicky has been house bound pretty much since the start of the virus as her underlying health conditions mean that exposure would be very serious. She does though understand my need to escape from time to time and was happy for me to go. Right, let's get that new line on the reels.

That evening the guy that runs the lake rang me. We chatted and I confirmed my place for the next year and so on. Then he let on that he had a new place to fish, a big estate lake with plenty of depth, cover, islands etc and which hadn't been fished for thirty years. Thirty years! and almost virgin water with unknown stock but certainly carp, tench etc. He had secured a lease and was putting together a small group to fish it but, the invites had already gone out. My envy must have drooled down the line and into his ear. "Would you be interested? There may be a place available". We arranged to meet at the water later.

I rang to arrange the meeting with The Man and yippee I am in the syndicate. Okay, it costs a small fortune never mind the extra mileage but I'm only human and chances like this well, they just don't happen, the odds of winning the lottery must be bigger. It may or may not contain monsters but it's be a proper challenge finding out.

Enter Boris and the lock down commenced - pass swear box.

November 12, 2019

Test Roach... or not.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

October 16, 2019

Deja Vue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 07, 2019

Some Days.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, some days.....

September 26, 2019

A Barbel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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