May 31, 2012

The rain started as we approached the dam, light drops that barely rippled the surface. I got out of the car and had a look around, Nicky sat still and scoured the surface spotting the first fish roll. She had predicted that I would catch and that was good enough for me, she is rarely wrong in her predictions but I was not happy with this spot even though there was activity. Some fish stirred the mud next to the reeds whilst others cruised in pairs, although there was insufficient activity to declare that spawning was underway, indeed it may have happened ages ago but, I was uneasy about fishing there just in case and should somebody have seen me there and interpreted it as my trying to catch spawning fish - well, perish the thought.

It was only 2pm, plenty of time so we went for a look see. The wind was blowing away from the dam so we followed it until I eventually spotted a couple of cruisers half way across in the 'arm' of the lake. I dropped a pva bag of pellets and crumb on the spot with a pop-up on the hook but before sitting back I couldn't help but feel drawn to the overhanging tree to my left. I rigged up my stalking rod and lobbed a couple of boilies just next to the branch that almost hung in the water, as it hit the surface so a fish spooked and boiled from the same spot. Ah well, at least my instinct was correct and there had been a fish there, maybe it will come back. I spread a little bait around the area and put the second set of banksticks and alarm together and lifted the stalker onto it pulling a little line off as I did so, I had a strange sensation that felt like the line tightening, could it be.....? I pulled a little more off only for it to be snatched from my hand as a carp bolted.

After a really good tussle amongst the overhangs and tree roots Nicky slipped the net under a nice mirror a few ounces short of 24lb. Told you she usually guesses it right.

I'd prepped another swim and had a look there, the water was muddied from fish truffling through the silt to get to the morsals I'd spread there, a move was in order. We sat beneath the shelter of alder trees watching the rain become more determined, the drops pooled in the canopy until they fell heavily on and around us causing leaves to shudder as they were hit. The lake became very quiet, even the bird life had retreated under cover although the swallows and swifts continued to search for insects despite the poor conditions.

I began to suspect that the silt had been disturbed by bream rather than carp as little patches of oily bubbles began to appear and head toward my swim. I took a look with my Polaroids and saw a fresh cloud of brown silt near my bait, it wouldn't be long, then my bobbin made a stuttering climb toward the butt ring. The strike was a failure, the double boilie bait too much of a mouthful for a bream and I came back empty handed.

Despite trying again the magic had passed. The rain had stopped just the last few heavy droplets falling beneath the trees and a skylark heralded the passing of the shower. The air was full of the fresh smells of damp foliage but the rain must have chilled the surface and nothing showed on the lake. It was now 6pm, a short trip with a nice fish and plenty to watch on the water, job done and home we went.

May 28, 2012


I've come across a couple of interesting sights on my ramblings of late, those little moments that turn a mundane stroll into a memorable event. The two young foxes that stopped their romp to stand and stare as we walked along the woodland path. One of them quickly melted into the undergrowth but the second stood and nosed the air as Nicky and I froze and observed from less than thirty yards away. Eventually it became either suspicious or bored and leapt silently into the bushes and vanished. Beautiful creatures in their natural environment, so much softer looking than their often mangy urban cousins.

On our way to that walk we stopped on the dirt track to take a look at a natural phenomenon that I cannot remember seeing before - a bee swarm. Wrapped around a bough this heaving mass of life looked fascinating and I felt an urge to touch it but decided that maybe I should just observe. I remember my mate Carl Salter almost having kittens as I approached a bee's nest in a tree, the whole trunk buzzed as thousands of workers went about their business but I just had to get some pictures with Carl in the background clucking like a nervous old hen. Well, if he'd seen me getting up close and personal with the swarm he'd have pee'd his pants and as the air grew dense with agitated insects I retreated to the car. I'd love to have waited for the swarm to move, now that would be an amazing sight.

Slightly more benign was the mass movement of water snails I found in a Sedgemoor drainage ditch. I've seen snails floating in the past and have read that they will move en mass at times and here they were right in front of me bobbing along just under the surface reaching out with their entire bodies as they tried to grab at weed stems. Quite what promotes this behaviour I have no idea but I suppose it does ensure a good spread of the population. They are prolific breeders water snails, when I had the tadpoles in the tank I found three little snails in with them but by the time the tadpoles had all been sent hopping to freedom the inside of the tank and every surface within was festooned with their eggs.

May 27, 2012

Nightwalk, Daystalk

Great things these blogs, you get to pick up on news, events and the odd book review. Dear old Monty gave Chris Yates' new book 'Nightwalk' a mention, a book which had somehow slipped below my radar. I was straight on to Amazon with the intention of giving it to Neil as a gift but when it arrived I opened page one and have been reading it since. Chris has a wonderful gift of observation and language, to be honest he could write about gardening or decorating (two of the chores I hate most in life), and I'd still be enthralled.

I once borrowed Chris' fountain pen, it was like holding Excalibur or Harry Potter's wand as I wondered what magic had flowed through that nib.

Anyway, to fishing. I didn't do any last week as Nicky and I took the opportunity to take a freebie break in a caravan in Somerset compliments of our dear neighbours. Sitting in one of a million identical caravans is not my usual idea of heaven but I could not question the size or quality of the accommodation and it was an ideal base to explore some of our old haunts which mainly consisted of Clark's Village a retail outlet where Nicky indulged in some serious retail therapy and I got familiar with a number of benches on which I sat and read a newspaper and did the crossword.

But yesterday I escaped and grabbed some gear together for a stalking session at the lake. As I arrived I was surprised to find a stiff breeze pushing against the dam on the Western edge and could see muddied water along one bank - spawning activity?

I am not one that would angle for spawning fish but I had a look in a couple of spots and when I saw a decent fish's tail wafting in the dirty water, I read it as a feeding movement rather than spawning activity so sat there for an hour or so content that I was in the shade as the sun beat down. I dozed in the heat then heard a couple of splashes coming from closer to the dam so I had a look. There the water was thick with silt and the dorsal fin of a large tench waved above the surface as she tried to rid herself of the last few eggs. This continued for fifteen minutes or so during which time a couple of carp head and shouldered in very much 'feeding' action as they were no doubt gorging on the spawn.

I was using my little stalking rod which was quickly cast to the spot where the last fish rolled loaded with a pva bag of crumb and pellets, the hook armed with a DT boilie and mini white pop-up to give it some colour. It didn't take long, off it went and I was into a lively carp that headed for the thick reed beds. My short rod is more than a match for pretty much anything, it gives me so much leverage. I've used it many times for close-quarter fighting with carp and for bullying pike to an ounce under 20lb on wobbled baits so this little scamp had no chance. On the bank an oddly shaped common with a slightly deformed look about its tail weighed in at 14.06, I was happy enough with the result.

Fish continued to roll for the next hour or so but I only had one abortive take and hooked another smaller fish that dropped off near the bank, I have no idea what it was.

I ended up 'stalking', which had been the original plan, and found a couple of upper double mirrors slowly cruising and sipping insects off the surface. I had no surface baits with me and my line was fluoro coated and sinks like a stone so I just watched them for a while and, deciding I was satisfied with my few hours entertainment, I headed home.

May 19, 2012


After our trip to the vet Nicky and I had a couple of bad days to get through. Yes, we could have sat at home constantly reminding each other of our grief or I could go fishing. This may sound like a thinly veiled excuse to wet a line but I just needed my own space and time to gather my thoughts, nowhere would be more therapeutic than the lake. Nicky completely understood and wished me good luck telling me to catch a monster.

I set up in a swim I've not had a fish from before and blasted three rods across to a snag ridden area before  sitting back and chilling. The air was cool with an easterly wind blowing up the length of the pool, I felt chilled and got an early night. My sleep was largely undisturbed apart from a bleep or two from the alarms as bream grubbed about amongst the baits, one such bleep seemed to be the catalyst for the complete dawn chorus, May is such a glorious time of year with new life and growth all around. As I got up a goose cried out from nearby, my hand instinctively reached down to steady Buddy, it brought it all back in an instant but a few minutes inhaling the dawn calmed me.

As I retrieved one of the rods I noticed a fish turn close in. I've taken fish from the near margins before so decided to fish two rods accurately at close range with just one rod put out at range.

The day progressed slowly. I rang Nicky, she was having a bad day but when I offered to return I was told in no uncertain terms to stay put. Then the rain started. It was constant, not heavy but the drips coming off the trees above me sounded like drum beats on the bivvy roof. I began to rue my hasty departure and the lack of reading material, I lay on my bedchair doing sudokus and alphapuzzles, I re-read my diary, I wrote a few words anything to eat up the day. I willed the swifts to become bats and the reflections to become shadows. I'm rarely bored by a lake but this day was trying hard to drag on for ever.

Eventually I turned the light off and lay back waiting for sleep to take over, I began to drift when I was alerted by the glare of bright blue led's and the strident scream of a Delkim. "That's a proper run" I said aloud and went through my much practised routine of reaching for my headtorch (always in my right shoe), shoes on - stumble out of the bivvy, wobble (I still do that occasionally), slip on the wooden staging (narrowly avoiding a dunking), curse the headlight that is upside down and over one eye, grab the rod and heave! It felt heavy and was steaming out into the lake picking up the middle rod's line on the way. I managed to get my light sorted and took control of the fish that had kited right and now had both of my other lines involved as alarms sounded and lights flashed, it was more like a police raid than fishing.

There was a 'ping' on the line and everything came free, it was just me, the carp and the waiting landing net which engulfed it first go. It looked broad across the shoulders - nice one. I rested it in the net whilst I got myself organised. Unhooking mat, weigh sling, scales, camera - try a test shot with the remote..... What is it with me and bloody remotes? I could not get it to take a shot. I think it was just because it was dark for some reason but I've yet to sort out why. There's nothing for it, I'll sack the fish and do it in daylight, but first I decided to pop it on the scales.

Out came the landing net and I opened it up to reveal a lump of a carp, I just knew I'd done it, my first UK thirty. 30.5 to be exact. Into the sack it went and I went looking for a phone signal to put Nicky on standby for early morning camera duty. I walked up and down that field in the rain and soaking grass but could I get a signal? Could I heck. I got in the car and had a drive about but still, no signal. The ground was slippery and I feared I may not be able to get out of the field in the car so I parked it on a slight downward slope to at least give me a gravity assisted start, then set off for my swim........ but I couldn't find it! It was pitch black, misty and all I had was a small head torch, I could find no landmarks and wandered up and down the tree line looking for the little gap that lead to my pitch, it took ages, I was wringing wet and ready for bed. I wound in the other rods, changed my clothes and got into my sleeping bag.

Morning came and I sorted out the mess that was my kit. I got the camera to work and took a few snaps before throwing everything into the car and slithering my way back to civilisation. I hate the idea of naming fish and do my best to avoid encouraging the practice but, should I ever meet this carp again it will always be known as Buddy's Fish.

May 16, 2012

She's home. Our little hedgehog, underweight and unable to survive the winter has been nurtured by the good people at the Vale wildlife hospital in Tewkesbury. Today we collected her and.....

her boyfriend. Here they are outside of what we hope will become Chez Heggies. They will be given food and water for a few days and, if all goes well, they will establish an area to browse for food and use the box as their resting spot. On the other hand they may just wander off never to be seen, such is life but good luck to them either way.


The day did not finish well though. We took Buddy to the vet and it had been confirmed that he has advanced cancer and will not be with us for much longer. Nicky and I have shed tears along the road to and from the vets before, yesterday was another such drive. The coming weeks or even days will be difficult.

May 13, 2012

Home Again

Advice for life - "Save string, wipe backwards".

Advice for travelling abroad to fish - "Take duct tape and an open mind".

On arriving next to the river Lot at 4.30 am our tired eyes were met with the worse sight we could have imagined, flood! The winter long drought had come to a violent and conclusive end with heavy rain and snow in the hills. Neil and I tried for a few hours before retreating ahead of a storm.

We had a cabin booked for just such eventualities and hunkered down to catch up on much needed sleep.

Next day we were joined by the Bunyans and the reality of our plight was quite apparent, we were not going to be able to fish our chosen river. We set off to find an alternative with plenty of delays for these....

We visited an upland lake that was obviously too cold but it was worth a try. A stunning place with potential but casting into 75' of water is no good when its cold and the 'acceptable' 20-30' zone was quite narrow and in our case, devoid of feeding fish. 

Neil and I sought the aid of Chris Blake. Chris and I used to fish the Bristol Avon together but nowadays he lives in deepest France and catches more than his share of big carp. His local knowledge was invaluable as we had taken half a day just driving in search of a lake advertised in the area's fishing brochure. We never did find it but we saw some stunning scenery along the way.

We eventually settled on a large gravel pit. The advice was to feed heavily as the mass of small (up to 20lb), carp would settle on the bait after a day or so and, if you plugged away, the bigger fish would muscle them out and anything up to 50lb was possible - what could possibly go wrong?

We found some fish rolling in a corner and quickly put a couple of rods out with just a few samples in a pva bag, it was then time to throw the bivvy together as yet another storm threatened. My rig was, shall we say - colourful. I wanted to grab the attention of any passing fish.....

It worked after less than an hour...

30lb 8oz and I was convinced that I'd caught the biggest fish in the area - however, we soon discovered that there had been a very large fish kill and literally tons of small carp had been removed. As it happened I had actually caught one of the smaller residents! Funny how perspective can alter so quickly although I was no less pleased with my fish.

The conditions changed, the lake got busy due to the Public Holiday weekend (all the shops shut which can be a nuisance when you've no food or water), and no more fish appeared. We had gone to France to fish rivers so we moved again, this time to a small tributary where the flow is always manageable and the fish rarely see an angler's bait as they quietly grow to some very large proportions. It seemed a bit like going to the ridiculous after the sublime as we changed tactics from long range baiting and fishing to an underhand lob to the far bank. Altered prospective again.

We met a few friends along the way.....

The large snake that passed between Neil's rods was a shock as was the rotten so and so that sneaked up on him later and hissed loudly as he dozed :-)

We slowly adapted to the pace of the river and the beautiful rural scenery, the days became timeless, we ate when we were hungry, slept when tired and absorbed the sunlight that became hotter day by day. The bird life accepted us as part of their world and we became content. 

There were disasters that tested the patience, Neil had both reel handles break on successive fish and both were lost! He ended up using one of my reels and his centre pin...... and swearing a lot. We also had the cork screw fall apart which made me swear but a little ingenuity overcame that potential disaster - phew! 

And we caught a few, nothing huge, the best fell a few ounces short of 20lbs but each fish was almost certainly given its first view of the bank, all fought like crazy and the big ones? Well, there's always next time.