October 04, 2022

The Summer That Never Was

When I last posted, I had finally caught a fish worth a picture. Was this the start of something big? Was it hell.

I struggled and conceded defeat, only to find that the lake had switched on soon after. But no matter, I had my river head on and the search began for some of the plump chub the Boy had caught from the Lugg last year. 

The visits to the river entailed long walks, some very dodgy bridges over ditches and an assortment of characters of the non-fishing variety. One such ensemble consisted of a lad, a young Polish girl wearing jogging shorts that had been sprayed on and a flimsy top (my, how observant I am), and two other young ladies so attached to each other that I feared there had been a Superglue accident. 

I exchanged greetings with the giggly group who were joined by another lad. "Enjoy your picnic," I said, and one of the siamese lovers replied, "We're having KFC". I called back, "From here it smells like you are smoking the secret recipe of herbs and spices". That amused them and I was offered some of the hinted-at weed. I declined, knowing that I would find plenty of 'weed' where I was heading.

Just one of the many swims I blanked in

That was another blank shortly followed by more. Neil, my lad, was fishing harder and more often than me and fairing no better. Time for a new project.

I attempted to up my pb crucian carp last season but bearly passed the pound mark. A couple of trips in the heart of the Midlands saw that pb creep up and stop at 1lb 13oz. I was pleased with the fish and the backup fish on the day and look forward to the next nudge to a 2lb plus fish next summer.

PB crucian and crooked hat

August arrived and a holiday in Pembrokeshire where a morning bothering the goby population was interrupted by a large triggerfish attacking Neil's catch on the way in. That and several decent bass that cruised around, harrying the large shoal of smelt made us realise we had aimed too low. The next outing coincided with a mighty rising tide that we were unprepared for. Maybe next time. As an addendum to this anecdote, I let fellow blogger Ordinary Angler know about the triggers as it was his posts that inspired the holiday fishing in the first place. He went himself and showed just how it should be done. I congratulate his success albeit through gritted teeth.

Goby and Cuckoo Wrasse, good fun on light tackle

Returning from the break both Nicky and I had each brought home a souvenir. Nicky had Shingles,  a painful and debilitating condition and I had badly torn the ligaments in my left shoulder. I could tell you the full tale but, I'd be embarrassed. Suffice to say that I was playing football against the grandbrats and attempted something that I haven't done for fifty years. Apparently, I was younger and fitter back then, I must try to remember this in the future.

As Nicky slowly recovered some energy and I was going mad with the frustration of not being able to fish, so I went down with Covid, followed a few days later by Nicky. And that brings me up to a few days ago. It hit us hard and we are still below par. I was beginning to think that I'd never get a decent fish before my second operation on the errant thumb next month. 

On the spur of the moment yesterday morning, I grabbed a few sticks of tackle, bait and hope and headed for the carp lake. I received a lot of 'those' looks from dearly beloved and she was probably right but when the need is this strong...

The lake looked quiet with the only surface activity being caused by goosanders that soon left as I approached. The Bay, an area I can fish with minimal casting involved, looked pretty dead, it usually produces when you can see cruising fish so, my optimism wasn't exactly peaking. Hey ho, I tied a rig on the car bonnet and got everything sorted. My rod was an unnamed three-piece cane job bought for a pittance at the Redditch Vintage Tackle show, the reel a tarted up Abu Cardinal 155, proper fishing.

I got myself ensconced at the bottom of a steep bank and waded into some chod soup, stiff with dead weed, leaves, silt and sticks. My second cast was perfect and a wafter bait slowly landed on the soft bottom. I tried to catapult some freebies out but the shoulder/thumb combination made it difficult and painful. I found that by holding the 'pult upsidedown and sort of flicking it out, just about found the right spot but suffice to say that baiting was 'light'.

I put my chair up and sat back to eat my lunch, where had the morning gone? Too much faffing about on my behalf. Food eaten I was about to open the flask when I had a couple of bleeps and a buzz from the Abu ratchet, everything had gone tight and I lifted into a heavy weight hell bent on reaching a lily bed. I leaned against it and a swirl showed I had halted its progress. I now had to get into the water to play and land the fish.

Lowering yourself into the water off a tiny ledge whilst maintaining contact with a running fish is not easy. Just last year I ended up doing a face plant into the fetid water so, I took great care and thankfully succeeded. The carp was heading across me and it all got a tad feisty as my cane rod groaned but soaked it all up with aplomb. I had waded a little deeper but the net needed to be at arm's length which I did with gritted teeth. The carp saw the net and headed back across the bay, deep and heavy.

Eventually, I got it over the net and heaved it to me, it felt like a good one. Pulling the net apart, I could see the broad shoulders and the length that told me it was a thirty.

It went 30.11 but felt heavier, mind you, with one thing and another, my arms have lost some strength, I need to build that up and soon. 

During the landing and resting the fish in clear water, I lost my glasses and, by the time I had sorted all my gear out, I was knackered. Time for home, with a detour to the opticians, all after less than half an hour with a bait in the water. 

At last

I'm feeling it today but, at least I've had something decent in this most trying of seasons. I may get a trip or two in before my op, but I am mentally prepared for the layoff and look forward to the future.


June 03, 2022

Remember me?

 It's almost a year since I last posted a blog entry and you may have wondered what I've been up to. Could he be making a film of his life's dreams and accomplishments? Maybe he's been organising the Commonwealth games? Surely, whatever it is that has taken up a full year of Burr's existence must be massive and worthwhile. But no, it's mainly been moaning about getting older, Covid and Boris bloody Johnson. I haven't even had Covid and I am just one year older but my rheumatic pains are genuine and my right thumb has been excruciatingly painful. Who would think that one silly digit could stop you from doing so many things, but, it is the opposable digit that separated us from pretty much all of the animal kingdom so it must be important?

Have I told you about my operation? A sentence guaranteed to see most people looking for a swift way out. Suffice to say, I spent an hour under local anaesthetic, watching a surgeon saw, drill, file and hack at my thumb knuckle as he removed excess bone growth, drilled and screwed the joint thus fusing it and, apparently, finishing any discomfort.

That was two months ago and when he saw me again last week, he took one look at the joint and said "Shit, there's still some movement in the finger". I could have told him that. Hey ho, it would seem that the new bone growth in the void of the knuckle, has failed to appear and, alas, the screw so carefully positioned, has come through the outer edge of the bone, probably as a result of me banging the bloody thing against something solid. Never mind, come and see me again in six to eight weeks and we'll have another look.

Despite the inconvenience of wearing a plastic splint, I have actually managed to fish on three occasions. I visited the Duckpond, as a guest, a couple of times last spring. In two visits I had two bites, both missed. This year my name came to the top of the list and I gained entry to a jolly little gathering of anglers that has existed for quite a long while. When I learned that the list of club rules included one that states, "No larking about", I knew I had found my place.

The first trip involved an early start, ugh, I hate waking up before a sensible hour but needs must. I had a very positive bite on the float and again, missed.

An evening trip passed without the obligatory bite, which struck deep into the confidence banks but, yesterday, as I sorted my gear for this morning's trip, I felt confident that my season would soon start.

En route to the pool, I saw one adult and a couple of young hares not far from home. I do see the occasional hare but this little family group cheered me no end. Just like the rook that's been visiting our bird feeders, anything a little unusual is always welcome.

Duckpond was calm and still as I arrived. A walk around showed one eruption of tench bubbles in an area I had no intention of fishing but, well you do, don't you.  Out went a pva bag with some hemp and bits of prawn in some dry groundbait mix to prevent wetting the bag. A prawn on a hair (not very Crabtree) and I was fishing.

A second rod with a float and maggots went to the other side of my pitch and I regularly trickled bait on that spot. My baiting was all over the place, having little or no grip, a catapult is not an ideal delivery system but, without a servant available, I struggled on.

The morning was pleasant, the swans looked serene as they paraded their brood until one of the two Canada geese popped its head over the parapet. Swans are horrible things and bully the crap out of everything around them. Over a month ago the geese had nested on the bank but rarely dared venture afloat because the swans were brooding. The goose chicks hatched but disappeared soon after. Otter? Maybe but, I would put money on ol' misery guts Mr Cob seeing to them.

Calm returned and I sat back, contemplating a diary entry. I suddenly felt that feeling and thought to myself, I must be due my bite soon. Moments later my float twitched as a fish brushed the line. I hurried to finish my coffee but the float rose slightly, dipped, rose again and finally slid.... I hit it before it sank. Immediately, I recognised the rapid tail beats of a male tench. I quickly gulped my coffee down, tossed the mug to one side and set about the job at hand.

The fish ran hard and deep but I felt my 3lb hooklink was okay as long as it stayed away from the depths of the lily beds. When it did find a lily, it was already tired and I was able to net it, and a leaf and the game was over.

It's a long time since I've had a nice tench but at 4lb 8oz, I know that there are certainly fish three pounds heavier to be caught, maybe a bit more, but they can wait until next time. The swim was devoid of fishy signs and the sun was blazing down. Time to walk around looking for the resident carp, I saw one or two, then home.

It almost feels like I'm a fisherman again.

June 16, 2021

 Since my last tale of woe I have fished once - and caught a small eel. Nuff said.

Today is the glorious 16th, a date that has had little meaning in my fishing life for several years due to my concentration on carp and the like. But in this brave new world, I have become a changed man and have resorted to type. No, it won't last.

My targets have all been missed by a country mile so I decided to ignore them. No high hopes, no shit or bust attitude, just fishing. To this end I decided to start the new season on the river Lugg.

Neil and I walked for many miles along its banks yesterday and saw - well, bugger all. The river is permanently coloured a sort of cruddy grey due to a large fruit/veg farm extracting water, washing the mud - and chemicals - off their wares then dumping the discoloured stuff back into the river. This discolouration covers much of the river including all of the good fishing area and spreads down the Wye. It used to be a beautiful water where sight fishing was rewarding but now..... How can this be allowed?

Anyway, apart from a handful of chublets, no secrets were revealed. This did not put me off, a few small chub on the float would be enough to get me off the mark - not that I was setting targets you understand, well, I was but I was aiming low.

I arrived before 7am and was surprised to see my chosen beat angler free. The route march to find a shady spot was knackering and, as usual, my 'light' approach was still too heavy. But, after beating through a close approximation of the Burmese jungle, I collapsed into my chair on a shallow run that was covered by shady trees. The bird song was incredible, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap, blackbird, wren, reed bunting, sedge warbler even a distant peregrine falcon. These, along with a couple I couldn't identify, made me feel right at home and grounded. I put an 11ft float rod together.

The main flow produced nothing but, when I allowed my float to slowly drag through the inside line, it dipped. I didn't see the fish as it got off but, I was inspired. I changed my float to a more sensitive Avon and soon had a small chub to kick the season off. Next fish was 3lb plus and looked impressive from the small river but, it killed the action. I tried a few more tricks but, apart from a tiddler, I decided to move.

Next swim was hot but the sun was about to go behind a large tree and I duly enjoyed its cover. I went onto a lead but didn't contact with any of the trembling bites. A return to a waggler across the far side and it's waddling gently under some over hanging branches brought a succession of chublets. My early rise, exercise, the heat and my cack-handedness all combined to tell me I'd had enough but it had been a really enjoyable session. I'm certain that in no time I'll be back to chasing lumps.... or will I?

May 13, 2021

Blankety Blank.

 After a rather unimpressive visit to the river in February a long cold and wet March and April ensued. As many will agree, there has been little to inspire the sap to rise and those heady early summer mornings of bubbling tench, singing birds and fresh new growth seemed to have been stuck on hold.

Eager to spend some time next to the carp lake, I set up one chilly evening quite aware that a cold night was due. Let's face it, every night was cold but, I checked the weather and the next day was forecast to be sunny, warmer and with a gentle breeze that may be enough to send a few carp toward the shallows. I was sat in the perfect interception spot.

I baited lightly and put one rod out on maggots in the hope that a cruising fish may fancy a light supper. It did - but it was a diminutive roach and it had evidently opted to breach Covid legislation and dine with a large party of its peers. I pulled the rod in, led it next to the other next to my bivvy and settled in for the night. The thought of leaving my warm bed for anything fishy on a frosty night has long since lost its lustre.

I awoke to find the pool covered with a heavy mist and the air brittle with frost. I went back to sleep. 

I did eventually lift a little and I cast out leaving the rods for almost two hours before realising the promised weather was not happening and accepting that the long list of blanks that other members had suffered was to continue a little longer. I left.

My mood was lifted when a conversation with Tim led to an invite to join him on a tench water. No, the 'Crabtree dawns' were still miles away but he had caught a few with a six pounder amongst them. I was fired up and we met an another cold morning.

I fished hard and felt I was doing everything right, I even had a definite one-inch lift on my float but struck into thin air. Tim put a worm on his feeder outfit and landed a four pounder. 

Despite my blank I was keen to return and Gary, who runs the lake, invited me for a second go. This time I woke early and, so as not to stare at a float all day, opted for a twin feeder approach that Gary had also adopted. Again, I blanked even though I had one flying run that was somehow missed. What is happening to me. Rubbing salt into my sores, Gary had a three pound tench. 

He has invited me back and I shall take him up on it..... when conditions are a little milder.

Which all leads me to today. Yesterday, with carp in mind I packed my car . Conditions look good and I reckon a fish or two are on the cards but, I've developed a sore throat and head cold with all the trimmings associated with feeling like crap therefore and my blank start to the year will continue.

All together now 'Blankety blank, blankety blank.... blankety blank.

February 27, 2021

Black and White

I went fishing yesterday. Not since what, October? have I wet a line and, truth be told, for much of that period, I've not been too bothered. Therefore, today, I am marking down a long overdue return to action here, in black and white. 

For the record, I float fished the town section of the Wye in Hereford for the first time. I've lived here for 21 years and have just now ventured downstream. The reason is simple, a large percentage of the river's silver fish migrate to the stretch in town for their winter holiday. The water temperature there will be fractionally higher and the presence of humans help to keep predators away. I have no desire to freeze into dusk after chub and barbel but the idea of a few roach and perch has got the juices flowing. 

One of the 'silver' species that enjoy the town is the bleak, lots and lots of bleak. I met quite a few of them yesterday as they chewed every maggot I introduced into the swim and then plucked and pecked at larger worm baits. I even had a sail-away bite from one that managed to impale itself through the tail root with a size 10. But, by laying on in the margins, I did manage a couple of perch. Neil did somewhat better with around ten fish, again nothing large.

It's been a while since I have fished in an urban setting with many dog walkers and joggers and such. The noisy kids in the playground opposite were an entertainment, especially Charlie. His long-suffering mother was constantly calling to the little darling, "Charlie, get off of that". "Charlie, stop fighting". "Charlie, give that back to her". This went on throughout my session. I have to admit that a broad grin crossed my face when the age-old chorus of " Fight - fight - fight..." sparked off. I was transported back to my school days in an instant. I wonder when this ubiquitous chant began? Neil offered a caveman equivalent which is probably closer to the mark than we know.

Today I am suffering from my activities but looking forward to a return.

On the subject of black and white - blackbirds aren't always black. (Can you see what I am doing here? These blogs aren't just thrown together you know).

When I was a lad, I was a regular visitor at the Taunton Museum. Whilst my brother steamed the glass cases of the large collections of military history and we had both gazed at the Taunton Giant's boot. I would be lost in the natural history section. The taxidermy always held my attention with a special interest in the birds. I was fascinated too by a large collection of leucistic (white) birds of many species. There were most of the garden birds along with warblers, finches etc. I wondered just how such a gathering could be brought together when I had never seen a single one. 

At the age of ten, I was rewarded when Paddy and I were fishing on the bridge over French Weir, when a pure white blackbird flew past, hotly pursued by a gathering of mixed songbirds. It sought brief refuse in an alder tree before, once again flying off to a life of torment. For two young birders, it was manna from heaven and the image is still burned in full detail on my mind.

A few years ago, Nicky and I were driving along a narrow lane when a white blackbird flew across in front of us and through the hedge. Brief but spectacular and I feel very lucky to have witnessed such spectacles. 

I am certain that you have seen plenty of blackbirds and indeed jackdaws, with the odd white feather or cluster thereof. At present, there's a jackdaw in the village that looks like it has walked under a painter's ladder and a blackbird with a brilliant white wing flash. But nothing compared to the one I photographed the other day. 

I saw it several weeks ago, for a second. Then a neighbour mentioned it and said it was resident in the same area as my sighting. I headed off to look whilst on my way to check out a barn owl that feeds over a field and orchard near the church. There it was, in the same garden as before, a stunning male blackbird.

For the record, I saw the owl but the battery had run down on the camera. Maybe next time.

February 03, 2021

During Lockdown I Have Been....

So how have you coped? That new language coming along is it? The guitar lessons going well? Maybe you've been practical around the house or exploring your artistic side. No, nor have I.

In my last post I mentioned a train set and boy, did I set my targets high. I bought a pile of 'job lot' track, loco's, rolling stock etc including a pre-laid track. I quickly dismissed this track on the grounds that it was too small and 'busy'. I started building.

Too small
First build

Having made a decent sized base, I poured much of my bank account into 'No More Nails', and bloody fish blades, the little metal bits that you slide track into to join lengths together. They are small - too small, fiddly and, opening them a little with a knife and pushing them on, caused much blood loss.

Of course, when you follow a designed layout plan with all the correct lengths of track with the correct curve radius, it's a doddle. Make your own track with limited knowledge and pieces well, that's a different story. I read again the forums and realised that I was making the same mistakes that most idiots make. Hey ho, up came the track and down it went again with lengths of bendy track for those awkward bends.

It nearly worked but I took it up again, relayed the base with a flat board surface rather than the insulating foam one. This time I got it just about right but, the continual bending, stretching and pulling on bits of track and tacks had taken its toll on my back. Suddenly my enthusiasm waned and the thought of all that modelling work on the scenery looked like a mountain to climb rather than a pleasurable hobby.

I took it up again, dismantled the base and am now selling the lot. Do I regret it? Not for a second. Slaving in my room got me through the difficult period up to and beyond Christmas, there is now a hint of an impending Spring and my mind has left the lockdown and plans are in the making for the day that freedom comes.

What I have done is to buy a replacement toy (well you do don't you), and I have a new camera. It's a Nikon Coolpix P950 with incredible zoom capabilities, ideal for my needs. I was switched on to the camera by Gavin Haig's Not Quite Scilly blog. If you have any interest in birds, this is a place worth a visit. Gav feels like a friend now as I eagerly follow his birding adventures around the south Dorset coast, all written in an easy to read light-hearted way. His success in 2020 was little short of astounding and his photographs are pretty darned good too. 

Of course, like everything I touch, just picking up a new camera and expecting National Geographic cover picture shots from the off is a big ask. But, when I have ventured out and when the sun has shone (I think it was for twenty minutes last Friday), it's been..... let's just say, a work in progress. This morning though, the sun beat down on my bird feeders and I sat on my bed for ten minutes with the door open, camera in hand. I was pleased with the outcome and I feel I am coming to terms with the multitude of settings. See what you think...

I'll probably sell it next month.

November 24, 2020

2020 Urgh!

 My last blog entry began with a reference to an unfinished quest, a long-standing desire to land a personal best crucian carp. That image and that dream have been haunting me now for some four months. I'd love to report that "Hey, I've been so busy with all these fish, I just haven't had to catch up". Far from it.

My initial enthusiasm was sufficient to get me up and out to a new water, one that held some fine specimens. Neil and I arrived on a blistering hot day (cloud had been forecast), and the surface of the pool was alive with carp of varying sizes. Neil lost all interest in crucians and began plotting the downfall of a basking common or two.

My swim was shady, but it also had tantalising, tiny bubbles popping to the surface here and there. Carefully plumbed, my bait stroked the bottom and I hunched over the rod awaiting action. It wasn't long before the almost imperceptible bobs and dips began - proper Cru behaviour. A slightly more determined dip was met by a twist of the wrist and a lively but small fish shuddered against my will. It was a little common carp.

This went on all day, classic crucian carp bites resulting in little carp. Yes, some of them were beautifully fully scaled mirrors but, they were all peas in a pod. I had one screaming bite but contact was brief and it was obviously a larger carp.

No floating baits were allowed at the venue but, my hotdog sausages when cut into slightly thicker slices, 'floated' in the surface film so, I claimed a technicality and let a piece explore the reed edges. The freebies all went and so did three bits with hooks in them but, and I really don't know why, all three failed to get hooked. I must have been fishing like a muppet.

Neil had a scrappy common, somebody fell or got pushed in, and a chap asked if I could sell him some drugs. Having never taken unprescribed medication and, as far as I know, never having given the appearance of one so inclined, I put it down to him being an idiot. He definitely fished like one.

On the advice of regular crucian catchers, I tried Stockton Reservoir. This involved rising at an ungodly hour, driving a long way and arriving at the same time as the local match anglers only to find they had 'pegged' all of the recommended swims. I tried hard and caught just about every species the lake holds apart from.... yes, you've guessed it. I later learned that the very swims I'd been given the tip to fish had not been drawn and I could have..... a pattern is forming.

I fished the river on one of those perfect days, mild, rising river, the swim out of the worse debris... I have had many fish from that spot and was full of confidence. I blanked.

It was all crap. I found myself fishing swims that had either been recommended or where I had a long proven track record and was falling at every hurdle. I hated myself for following others and vowed to plough my own furrow as usual. However, nothing seemed to work and not a single fish of note had visited my landing net. I began to get to me.

I need ambition and a learning curve to climb in order to keep my interest levels up. But I also need the odd hint that I'm heading in the right direction. Maybe that's the 'luck' element of our sport, if so my account was dry.

The second lockdown, crappy weather and a month-long illness that was a bit of a worry at the time, all combined to lower the enthusiasm. But I need something to keep me and my brain active over winter, never more so than this one. My usual winter read fest of fishing books was only going to increase the frustration, so I bought a train set. Go on, get it out of your system, you'd be surprised how many people have them and how many blokes wish they could.

I am now learning. For example, I've learned that my carpentry is below average at best, how modeling looks really easy in an online video but when you try it..... I've learned that getting started with a layout makes fishing look like a cheap pastime and that I am now more reliant on Amazon than I am oxygen. But it is a learning curve to climb and that will be enough to see out the remainder of this bloody awful year and crawl through the mire of 2021 until the vaccine starts doing the rounds.

Roll on next year and renewed hopes and dreams, in the meantime Choo Choo!