July 17, 2017

Just Like Old Times

You would not believe the size of the spider that I evicted from my left wader boot. I haven't worn them for ages so my arachnid friend had doubtless considered it her home for life and I'm sure I heard a little spider curse as she hit the porch floor. Hey ho, my need is greater, it's the order of things.

I was heading for the Wye and attempting to lure my first barbel of the summer. It was not my first trip though. That was an evening sat behind a float in some deep, still water that resulted in one missed 'dip'. Stupid place to fish really but I just fancied watching a hypnotic red tip for a while.

Then I went to the Teme and had a chub first cast. This early success was followed by a long hot day searching for barbel that resulted seeing in nothing but chub. I had another out of frustration rather than need and gave up - for now.

On the Wye I had a couple of nice chub on rolled meat followed by a few more sat in a favourite old swim. Seven fish in all, a pleasant evening and much like old times marred only by losing a weighty barbel that simply came adrift from my barbless hook. It was most likely foul hooked or caught around a fin as they normally stick once you've got them. The next visit was one where I wanted comfortable fishing so I returned to the same swim without the effort of roaming and rolling beforehand and, I had another seven chub. I didn't net any of them, just beached them and flicked the hook out before they splashed back to the deeps.

Yesterday was a trotting day. It's quite apparent that the barbel want a moving bait in these low and testing conditions and there's no better way of presenting a bait than below a float. I fed a mixture of hemp, pellet, chopped and whole boilies in a light trickle through my chosen swim. I had a pull on the drop from what felt like a chublet and one suspiciously quick dip of the float but, after an hour and a half, I decided to go for a wander to another run that had looked really good when I passed it on the way up the fishery.

When I got there I found Neil fishing it and he promptly landed a small chub to wave under my nose. Never mind. My shoulder ached so I went looking for somewhere to sit behind a static rod. The barbel will have to take a stationary bait or maybe I'll get another bunch of chub, I didn't mind which.

I eventually settled and fished over the bait I'd been feeding earlier, it seemed common sense and it is a good swim - when they are in residence. Somewhere between going for my wander and my return I had managed to lose my prescription sunglasses. Bugger! I've new lenses on order too. Ah well, there's another set of frames to fork out for as well - bugger again.

Out went my feeder with a long combi hooklink and a bit of boilie on a size 12. I sat back for the wait when zzzzzzzz! The clutch screamed and I was promptly into my first barbel. Only a scrapper but it put up a great struggle. Satisfied, I relaxed and tried a different boilie that had been doing the business with the chub. Nothing. Nearly half an hour passed without so much as a knock. Given the early success I figured I'd either spooked the shoal or needed to change something. I changed bait back to the original and within minutes was landing number two.

My boilies are all from Quest Baits and have worked well for both carp and barbel and let's not forget the chub of course. But the winning bait yesterday was a new one to me on the river so I'll experiment a little more before either giving up an edge or sending readers down a blind alley.

I sat back and relaxed. For the first time in a few years, I've been fishing the river quite intently and watching the rod tip like a hawk, getting the old mojo back. Tonight though, anything picking up the bait was going to scream off so I sat and read a bit of Favourite Swims by Fred J Taylor. It's a great book and was chosen for my bankside reading for it's pithy chapters and Fred's solid views on the sport.

Fred was discussing the 'modern trend in barbel baits' with their sausages and cheese. I smiled at the irony of my choices of boilies, pellets et al. The rod went off again and a seven pounder was landed. Fred was then describing a blow by blow account of playing a double figured fish when again, the rod screamed into life and I landed a fish that probably nudged over eight pounds. It was very pleasant - just like old times really.

One point of note. All of the barbel had Argulus or river lice on them, a sure indication that they are not moving about too much in the hot weather and low water conditions. Come the first flood they will all but disappear.

Then it all went quiet. I fed a family of young mallards and even tempted their mother to trust me enough to join in. An egret flew back and forth, it's silent flight almost owl like. I watched yet another glorious sunset, packed up and sat with Neil for the last half hour of light. He had moved and was catching chub regularly and it was a very pleasant place to be.

Hang on. Was that egret wearing my glasses?

June 30, 2017

What happened, what happened?

Remember me? I'm that bloke who was all fired up about his carp fishing during the spring. Well, in usual Burr fashion, it's all gone tits up. Here's why.

I don't mind blanks, in fact I embrace them as a water that becomes too easy quickly loses it's appeal. What I do resent is being able to go and blank or even catch, when I want to and these last few years has seen many forced lay offs. I did it again in May. The dreaded back problems as well as some very painful knee issues with sciatica, saw my fishing curtailed once more. I was up for giving it a go, fish my way through the pain barrier and all that but, with a special holiday approaching, we had an adult conversation, discussed the options openly and fairly and I was told not to be so bloody stupid and that I can fish any time but "not now you plonker".

Recovering enough to actually travel, I eagerly anticipated our three weeks in Florida. It was our 40th wedding anniversary whilst we were away but even so, a travel rod was packed and Internet planning had been done.

Before you think I'm going to go all gooey about my long, long relationship with Mrs B (we met 44 years ago!), I'd like to add that I view long term relationships more as a lack of ambition than an accomplishment - but I don't say it when in mixed company for cowardly reasons.

Please indulge me for a while as I dwell on my childhood. It's the early sixties, we lived in a shoe box in t' middle o' road - okay, not quite but money was short with a capital 'S'. Our pleasures were simple back then with collecting the cards that came in tea packets being a favourite. The smell of a freshly opened packet of loose leaf tea and the search for the hidden card really were exciting especially as (or maybe my interest was sparked by) the subject matters were always so dear to my heart. Butterflies, Fish and Birds were collected and stuck into the little book you could buy to accompany the set. Collecting the full set was generally helped by me being an absolute whizz at flicking cards to get 'nearest the wall' during school playtimes.

The fish were always my favourite but I was interested in birds long before I owned a rod and one set we did complete was the Tropical Birds one. These colourful and weird creatures enthralled me but one in particular stuck deep in my psyche. Much later I saw them on the television and always dreamed that one day I may see one in the flesh but, due to their living deep in the southern hemisphere, I figured I had more chance of seeing a dodo. More of this later....

Roll Models

Another childhood treat was watching the Deputy Dawg Show which, if you've never seen, I heartily recommend a spot of YouTube research. The lead protagonist - Muskie - the muskrat - would often be found with his short sighted friend Vincent Van Gopher, down at the ol' fishin' hole. To a lad newly obsessed with fish and struggling to learn the complexities of upping my catch rate of minnows, this was the stuff of dreams. Bunking school and yanking out a succession of sizeable catfish was to me, simply mouth watering. I have always wanted to catch an American catfish. I've seen plenty, shared an exchange with one whilst snorkelling and tried and failed before but the hankering lingers.

This then was my side issue for the holiday. The Universal Studio's parks, plenty of shopping, wildlife expeditions and some fishing - a proper holiday. It started well in that despite Nicky feeling a little groggy after the flight and developing a dry cough on day 2, we still paid a visit to lake Tohopekaliga or Toho to the locals. I've caught bass there before and decided to start my fishing with a spot of dabbling for pan fish. Canadian Night Crawlers were purchased - lobs to you and me.

Lake Toho

Despite the advice that pieces of worms was the way to go, I could only get bites on whole worms fished paternoster style. I hit just one and landed a blue gill - my first so a pb. I avoided the Wood Storks that surrounded anglers just waiting for the opportunity to steal fish or bait. The bird life was especially good with limpkins hunting apple snails, osprey diving, roseate spoonbills, anhingas..... so many birds..... and a few gators too.

Spoonbill having a wash
Wood Stork 


All was well in the world ........ then Nicky started to look a little peaky, so we found a doctor. Her temperature was 103 - Yup, that'll take the shine off your day. She spent the weekend in the hotel.

Come Monday and I was at the car, lobbing our bits and pieces into the back prior to taking Nick back to the docs. There was a loud slap of flesh meeting carpark and Nicky had collapsed whilst climbing into the car - catching her foot in the door jamb as she did so.

Fast forward to the end of the week and Nicky was released from hospital where she had been treated for influenza, pneumonia and a broken foot. We decided to remain and do what we could with the holiday but obviously, this was not going to be as planned and our priorities were altered.

It was near the end of our stay when I next threaded line through my rod rings as I lobbed some stinking shop bought concoction for attracting catfish near some bridge supports. It was over 100 degrees and I was getting burned through my T shirt. The undergrowth around me hid a million snakes and alligators - well, I heard a small gator on the far bank - and..... yes, I had a slow pull on my line. Could this be it? Could I finally get my catfish? No. An airboat - the loudest vehicles in the world - landed right next to me, the wash added nearly a foot of water to my fishing area and, when it subsided, it took with it my tackle box, camera and bait. I got most of it back and yes, the camera still works but I had no usable bait, I was hot and my enthusiasm was....... well, guess.

I'm certain they were here...

And so endeth my catfish hunt. With one thing and another, I cannot see us returning to the States in the foreseeable future so my simple childhood dream must live on and probably die with me. Nicky can now get about with a stick and, I'm not complaining you understand, I shan't be pushing a wheelchair in 100 degrees any more.  Mind you, it did get us to the front of a few queues.

As far as holiday/fishing adventures go it fell below expectations but we still did plenty of cool stuff, saw many interesting bugs and animals, even a horned toad hunting outside the hotel one wet night.
The bird life continued to astound with too many to mention. However, and we need to return to me as a youngster just for a moment and my Brooke Bond set of cards.

We lay on Cocoa Beach awaiting the impending, albeit delayed, flight of the new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, I sat up with my jaw well and truly dropped as a Frigate Bird, the bird I had wanted to see for over fifty years, passed overhead. It's sharp profile and 7' wingspan make it an easy spot but what the hell was it doing there? Turns out there's a small and somewhat fragile colony breeding in Florida and we just happened to get a couple of sightings whilst waiting for every bird for miles to get the shock of their lives. Fantastic!

Frigate Bird - not my photo

The rocket was less impressive. Compared to a shuttle taking off it was like a Learjet next to Concorde but hey, you can't have everything can you.

I'm home now. It feels bloody cold but everybody is saying that after the heatwave and it wasn't just us that flicked the central heating on last evening. But the rivers are low and enticing, the carp lake will be full of weed and equally alluring and I am making yet more plans to visit them all - very soon. I'll let you know how it goes.

May 06, 2017

Spring Carp

Having started earlier on the lake this year I've been able to watch it wake from it's winter sleep. There's always something happening if you look or listen. We now have a resident group of mandarin ducks as well as a few mallards, a pair of tufty and the ubiquitous coots and moorhens. Along, of course, with the ever present Canada geese. Whenever I hear them it takes me back to Clatworthy Reservoir and my early attempts at fly fishing through the cold spring weather. Evocative but an annoying racket.

To see so many water fowl is welcoming as it signals a lack of otters. One year we had just a few coots and I voiced an opinion that brer otter may be at large. The chap I'd spoken to was landing a fish that very night and there, in his torch light as the fish was beaten, an otter's head appeared and watched the proceedings. A benefit from a long dry period is that the little brown horrors stay in the rivers, not that I welcome them there either.

Neil had a trip and performed his usual early season routine of having a right mare. He foul hooked a huge fish that would have beaten his personal best, lost another then landed another fish of around the thirty mark. Alas, his attempts to photograph this beast resulted in his mobile phone going for a swim. The fish (he'd also forgotten to borrow my scales), was quickly returned and the phone eventually recovered.

On our next visit Neil, now with a different phone and a new set of scales, had a point to prove. Being a kind dad I yielded to his puppy dog eyes and he took prime spot whilst I went elsewhere. I quickly felt it was a mistake. I struggled for a couple of recently stocked small commons, and a 24 pounder. I was happy with my catch but I just knew that Neil was in the going spot.

And so it proved to be. He had a humpy backed 27 followed by a sleek beauty of just over 30 and, in the dead of night, a fish that was "Over 20 but under 30", to quote his tired voice yelled across as he wound in and got his head down.

Gagging to get back, I did a couple of nights this week. The wind has been in the east or north all week. Despite the warmth of the spring sunshine there's been a chill in the air and the nights have been bitter. I have to say that the cold really got to me. I'd been doing some manual work in the week as three dumpy bags of gravel refused to move without my help. I used to shovel without ill effect but my, how times have changed. Feeling a bit achy and getting chilled saw me waking up a bit like Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Alas Dorothy and her oil can did not appear.

I actually wound in on both nights as I could not face stumbling about in the cold. I had just popped a couple of Paracetamol into my mouth and the alarm sounded as my bobbin leapt and fell a few times. Grabbing a bottle of drink and swallowing the foul tasting pills was my priority, then it's the scrabble of negotiating a recumbent dog and hitting the fish. It was a bream.

I'm not one for leaving my rods unattended. I've got the obligatory 'sounder box' for my alarms but it's rarely used. However, having nipped up to the car, the dog demanded some attention. I lobbed a stick a few times and had a little wander to see if anything was basking in the sunshine. An invisible cord was pulling me back to my swim but I wanted to check one last sunken tree and to get Cane to fetch a predated duck egg I'd rolled down the bank, and of course, it happened. Bleep, bleep, bleeeeep! I ran. I don't often perambulate above a stroll so this was something of an event and the dog was alongside me, egg shell lightly held in his mouth and enjoying every step. Gasping and on the point of collapse (well it was over a hundred yards), I bent into a heavy weight that was attempting to find security in the newly emerging lily bed. The fight was more ponderous than exciting and a 24 pounder came to the net.

Three fish of note so far, a big 23 and two 24's. I'm not complaining but Neil, fishing with the same gear, bait and swim seems to be getting bigger fish each time. What's that all about? Answers on a postcard please.

Of course, it will balance out and I'll knock the boy of his pedestal before too long....... won't I?

March 13, 2017

At Last

My urge to capture an early Spring carp was gathering pace and intensity. I'd had a day doing a fairly long chuck (for me), with my twelve footers and big reels when Neil caught his common. It all felt cumbersome and heavy. I know that my cane rods are not what you'd call featherweight but at nine to ten feet in length, they feel balanced and somehow 'right'. I've always favoured eleven foot rods for barbel and have never bought into the need for longer so to wield those beasties about again was not for me.

Of course, my dodgy shoulders have a say in which rods I can and cannot use and I have come to the conclusion that light is sensible for the time being. So I bought a couple of Free Spirit, ten foot carp rods. Quite capable of lobbing 80+ yards but also nice and neat for margin work. I dug out a pair of old Daiwa Regals and was ready to go. Ready that is once I'd sorted my rear rod rests out. My last bite saw me lifting the rod and pod together and by the time I'd untangled one from the other, the fish had gone. Another thirty four quid was spent on a system that allows you to fix your rod in the event of a brutal take yet remove the rod by simply lifting the rest from a recess. Rock Steady Back Rests by Bank Bug if you find yourself so inclined. Just the job.

Duly armed and inspired I looked at the weather and figured it was worth another go. I'd even visited the lake mid week and baited a spot (told you I was keen) and was now casting close to an overhanging tree. I sat back and waited. Eventually Neil arrived and wandered off to drop into a margin swim that was a bit too adventurous for me.

You know those days when you set out full of optimism only for it to disappear within minutes of casting out? That's how it was on this trip. The wind was wrong, the sun stayed behind a grey curtain and it felt dead. I was too far from the action area and no fish was going to come to me and my bait. I should have upped sticks and gone for a walk to fish along from Neil but it just felt like too much effort. I packed and left. Neil hooked a fish but lost it.

Today was different. The sun shone and I just knew that some carp would be on the fin. The roads were frustrating and the dog was sick - again - but I was soon bouncing along the farm track. I didn't recognise the van that betrayed that someone else was fishing but, unconcerned, I headed to the windward end as the freshening breeze was starting to chop the surface,

I had to walk a distance to the swim due to the muddy track and then back around the bay to feed my chosen spots. I was glad to slump in my chair and relax. I just knew a bite was due.

About an hour later (12.30) and the alarm shrieked as a fish tore off. The rod came away with a gentle lift and the short rod bent firmly into the running fish which bore deep and long toward some sunken trees. I dropped the rod tip and gave it some stick. Eventually, the fish yielded and kited off away from me. It fought long and hard, giving more long runs when close in. A great performance and an enjoyable christening for the rods.  Eventually I slipped a lovely orange mirror into the net. Relief! It went 23.14 and I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

Having slipped it back, cooked a cheese toastie and messing up the crossword, I became aware of much banging and revving of an engine. This went on for a while so I reeled the rods in and drove around to the chap in the blue van. He was stuck fast in slippery clay and all his efforts, including a small winch, had failed miserably. My 4x4 Honda soon had him out and my grip strips (plastic plates for just such an emergency), saw him able to three point turn and face the gate again. We had a long chat during which time the wind dropped. I returned to my pitch, packed and headed home - content.

March 06, 2017

The Year So Far

Is it really March already? Where does the time go? I suppose I had better tell you all about my fishing over the winter period.

December saw me trotting the river Wye..... for about an hour and a half or until my arm gave out. That was a blank then.

A few days later and with the river still low and cold, I decided to use up the rest of  maggots with a spot of feeder fishing in one of my favourite winter chub holes.  Twenty minutes in I spotted a disturbance amongst the trees to my side. That'll be a swan, I said to myself and readied for the hissing and snooty stare of our most short tempered bird. I was wrong. A bloody otter rolled not three yards from me and steadily paddled across to the far bank where it hunted either oblivious or nonchalant to my presence. Knowing the effect that an otter tends to have on a swim, my heart sank. But it had only grazed the upper end of my bit of water, I'll stick it out. And I did, for ten minutes. That was when it's cub edged close and stayed under the near bank whistling loudly. This set my dog into a tizzy and the mother into a fast swim back across and back into my swim. The two of them slowly left upstream and my chances of a fish went with them.

Cane is not happy sharing bank space with otters

It was mild so I sat there for another half an hour or so just enjoying being there. Yes, I could have moved but I felt lazy and the fieldfares, starlings and siskins were busy in the trees, it was really very pleasant in a complete blank sort of way.

I had a fortnight in Devon in January so bird watching took over from fishing for a while. Notable species like black redstart, waxwings and a desert wheatear made it a notable stay along with a lot of sea and wading birds that were new to me and Nicky. We also stopped off in Somerset for a night as we returned. We watched hundreds of thousands of starlings coming in to roost at Ham Farm reserve, a fantastic spectacle that, for anybody with an ounce of interest in birds or wildlife, is well worth an hour freezing your nuts off. No photo's I'm afraid, I only had my phone with me. Maybe next time.

I seem to have lost interest in fishing the Wye at present. I think it's the lack of expectation that has drained my enthusiasm. I just can't get motivated to sit it out in the cold and wet when there is little chance of catching a notable fish. I know that my pb's are far from river records, but the river has been pretty iffy this last year and I have no urge to try and find a solution.

Because of this, I spent a mild February day fishing for a bite on one of the lakes on my syndicate. The main lake had people on it and although a couple of twenties and a thirty two pounder came out, I was satisfied fishing behind a float for far more modest fare. I had my bite and landed a fish between three and four pounds that was blind in one eye. Not quite a monster but fun on a light cane rod.

A one-eyed carp, the limit of my angling abilities.

My next trip was with Neil and we had the big lake to ourselves. My bite didn't materialise but Neil had a mid double common. It was nice to see a proper fish.

I've just returned from my third carp trip of the year. It was colder than I expected but I dressed myself to look like the Michelin man (not difficult with my belly) and put a couple of baits on a route I expected any active fish to follow. I got my bite. An absolute screamer but, on lifting the rod into it, I felt.... nothing.

There we are then, one, one-eyed fish to show for my efforts. But I shall try and improve on that over the next week or two as I'm to have a shoulder operation at the end of the month which will bring any ideas of some spring carp to a grinding halt.

Roll on the summer.

December 31, 2016



In dog terms - let's kick some grass over that shit and move on.

Happy new year.

October 27, 2016

As The Leaves Fall

A British person could be cryogenically frozen for years but, on being woken and put outdoors, could tell you the season and probably guess the month to within a few weeks. The same is extremely doubtful of someone living in a hot climate. Yes, the UK has awful weather but it also has the most amazing seasons.

I flowed along a golden carpet of oak and beech leaves as I approached my chosen swim at the lake. There was little wind but one was promised. This was to push a flotilla of leaves the length of the water and form a carpet over the little bay.

The family of Canada geese has grown to a flock of between twenty and thirty. Their noisy resentment of my arriving soon settled as they found their safe distance. A nuthatch reminded me of summer but the influx of redwings, chattering fieldfares and squabbling jays left one in no doubt that the cold of winter is nigh.

All in all the perfect time to be chasing barbel yet here I was, seeking a carp. The river just doesn't draw at my soul in the way it used to. My barbel fishing has come to resemble the carp approach with it's long waits for action and that just doesn't sit right with me. If I am barbel fishing and the going is slow - which it inevitably has been this year - I feel guilty about reading a book to pass the time. Yet on the lake, I embrace this distraction as I feel it is actually beneficial. I'm convinced that the carp know when you are concentrating on the bobbin, willing it to move. On small waters, no matter how stealthy the angler, his footsteps are felt, his shadow spotted and his intent felt. This determination acts like a siren to warn the fish off. I'm on fifteen acres of lake and it still 'feels' that way, why else would the bites tend to come whenever the angler either falls asleep, cooks a meal or has a whizz? Their mind is elsewhere and the fish are left believing the threat has passed. Reading is my way of fooling fish and it works for me. Not that I don't have a crafty look around from time to time and any splash is investigated - from behind the page.

I put some 'mature' groats, hemp and a handful of mixed sized boilies out to a spot between two weedbeds. The second rod had my old Hodder pin on it and with the best intention in the world, I wasn't going to reach the loose feed. So this one was put along what I suspect is a patrol route. I didn't even pva bag this rig, just wrapped a 20mm boilie in paste so that it looked like a big pink golf ball and I was fishing.

Acorns plopped in the water or banged onto my car roof with great regularity. A squirrel rustled back and forth securing it's winter sustenance and the expected wind ruffled the surface of the water so that it came toward me. I bided my time, ate my toasted cheese sandwich (The Ridge Monkey is a godsend) and drank coffee. And yes, Mr Clarkson's opinions on cars that are way beyond my budget, was read and enjoyed.

A bleep! Then another and a drop back signal (I've ditched the Delkims in favour of some Fox alarms and I like the drop back feature very much), and I was at the rod. It was on the 'pin and a Hardy rod bought with barbel in mind. This would be a proper test for it.

The fish paddled slowly left and stayed deep. It neared a tree so the rod was buried deep below the surface and a steady pressure applied. This was pretty much all that happened albeit it happened for several minutes. The rod performed well but needed angling so that the butt took most of the pressure. I think I'll just use it for barbel in future.

In the net and up onto the unhooking mat, I was well satisfied with a nicely proportioned fish of twenty two and a half pounds.

I spent the rest of the day cooking, sleeping, reading and taking the occasional piss but those carp, they knew I was there. Bang goes another theory.