July 31, 2012


Had a session on the Wye down at Bishopswood at the weekend, it was the Wye Fish-In with the ABF (Association of Barbel Fishers) and a group of us met to raise a few shillings for charity. Typical of this sort of do the fishing was secondary to the overall event so none of us was too bothered by the extremely hot, bright conditions. We were a tad miffed at the actions of some of the canoeists that streamed past during the day, quite why adults, when placed on water, should act like children I don't know. I resorted to bouncing a pellet around the swim and had three chub whilst those either side of me had barbel, funny that but hey, I was chub fishing anyway ............... honest :-)

Having to drive home that evening I avoided the rather thirsty side of the get together but it was good to meet up with some good mates and to put faces to some names of group members.

On Monday I intended to fish all day but really couldn't summon the energy. I went instead during late afternoon and opted to try a pool that has been all but unfishable this season due to the high water. Conditions were just about perfect but I had to go back to the car for a fixed spool reel as it was a mighty chuck to the hot spot and my Wallis Cast falls way short with the pin. As I set my gear up I noticed that the line from the reel spool had come away from the clip and that there were a few yards 'missing'. I started to wind them back expecting it to stretch back from whence I came however, the line came from the direction of the river, then over a grassy bank and eventually pointed to a certain hairy mutt called Harvey. I wound down to him and sorted the mess out. There was line wrapped around three of his legs and he seemed totally oblivious. I know you shouldn't compare but Buddy would stop and step over his lead if it got under his leg and any line wrapped around him would see him stop dead and wait for me to free him, Harvey however, with his thick curly haired legs............... well, it took a while.

I eventually made a cast at about 5.30, sat back and almost immediately everything felt heavy, I tightened to a running fish and landed a lovely mint barbel of about 6lbs. A good start.

The next cast saw me hooked into a snag which turned out to be a length of mono stuck fast at the upstream end and stretching into the pool. It was festooned with twigs and, as I tried to handline my gear in, claimed my end tackle. I sat and quietly mumbled a curse or two as I re-tackled.

My next cast settled and I thought about making a phone call to a mate to check on his progress but the clutch whined and I was straight into a second fish, this one ran hard and I could do nothing with it until it came off! I wound in but found I was again enmeshed with the length of line I'd previously hooked. This time, when I had it within a few yards of the bank, I waded out (alas I wasn't wearing waders) and pulled as much of it as I could but still left too much of it behind.

Tying a new hook I decided to return in a day or two with appropriate gear and footwear and remove the rest.

I obviously did enough to stop fish from seeking its sanctuary as I had three more pristine shoalies before deciding that I shouldn't be greedy and packing up at 7pm. I think I could have caught a fish a chuck for quite some time but, like my last trip down on to my home stretch, such actions seem a bit greedy and ultimately prove nothing.

I'd like to think that more people would fish with a conscience but I'm afraid that there are few with this attitude. There was a large group fishing together on the stretch and they had managed very few fish between them but I didn't feel that I could point anyone to this swim as I know what would happen, it would be hammered for days, possibly weeks as its reputation gets passed from resident to resident and I don't want that to happen through me. Any competent angler would spot it from a mile off anyway.

July 25, 2012

Ups and Downs

Dry weather at last, great, that means I can get on to the field at the carp lake and maybe have a night or two after some carp! Then the temperature rose and I thought 'uh oh', I have a sneaky feeling the carp will be doing some summer lovin'.

But I went anyway just for a look around and with a few baits (mainly floaters) in my bag. I saw plenty of fish, loads of them in fact but, as I suspected they were somewhat preoccupied with procreation. I sat in the shade and flicked dog biscuits out onto the water and watched as he carp trailed around in procession and the bream drifted in mid-water. Then I heard a splash.

Closer investigation revealed a good fish eating the floaters. I fumbled with shaky hands to set up my rod and tie a hook and returned to the scene of the action - where it was all quiet. Over the next hour or so I had one or two fish lazily suck a morsel from the surface film and one scamp of a fish took quite a few as they drifted under an overhanging tree but, each time I introduced a baited hook they simply sank away or swam around it ignoring it with a blatant disregard.

So I took out my camera and took a few shots and some video.

A change of plan was needed and the arrival of a new cane rod was the only provocation I needed. A thought struck me. The second knot most of us learn to tie -after the Granny of course - is the bow. Sat on a step, tongue out in deep concentration as stubby fingers manoeuvre lace ends over and around until success! A loose bow is tied on your shoe only to come undone a few paces farther on and the process starts again. But its a beginning and us anglers certainly become adept at a wide range of magical twists and turns of thread or rope in order to secure our hooks, leads or boats, yet the bow will always have a significant place in our being. The bow becomes the string on a parcel, the ribbon on a gift, the final barrier of sensual clothing.... Untying a bow is like unlocking a chest, it reveals.

And so I fought through yards of parcel tape and staples to gain access to the rod tube and there it was - a rod bag secured by two bows. The first one, half way down and less interesting, was dispatched with little thought but the second, the bow that would reveal the rod that lay beneath, this was pulled seductively apart, the moment savoured and the hidden gem revealed. I was not to be disappointed, the rod, beautifully restored was assembled. In the hand it felt light, responsive, arrow straight and simply delightful - I needed to go fishing.

Nicky and Harvey decided to come too but we waited for the temperature to drop for all our sakes, no point in frying after all. So it was 7pm when I swung the first cast across and into the main flow. This was the swim in which I blanked last week but then the river was like cocoa and much wilder, this time it was just about right. I soon lobbed a second feeder full of damp pellets and crushed boilies onto the same spot, I like to get a bit of food in at the start. On the hair were three or four small pellets glued along its length, this subtle approach often out fishes the blatant large bait used by so many. I sat back, the evening air was warm but fresh, the scenery perfection and the mood optimistic. I decided to celebrate the moment with a photo of my new rod and moved it to a better angle for the shot but the butt fell off the rucksack it was leaning on and I wondered why until I saw the tip, it was pointing downstream and bending further by the moment. I quickly tightened into my first barbel just fifteen minutes after I had made the first cast.

The fight was an exciting affair as the fish hugged the bottom then used its fins against the fast current but I am pleased to say that the rod was more than capable and an eight pounder was duly landed. I sat back content with the world, I don't find the river in generous mood that often and a quick fish often signifies a long lull afterward but I was satisfied, I'd christened my rod, what more could I ask.

Well, over the next hour I had two more, the second capture being video'd by Nicky which is a first for me. These last two fish were like peas from a pod at about seven pounds something in weight, it didn't matter, they were great fun on the gear and, as I slipped the last one back to fight another day I felt totally sated and decided to pack up. This may seem strange to some of you especially those with the 'catch at any cost' attitude but I had taken my fill, anything else would have been greedy and would have felt disrespectful in a weird way, so we left.

July 22, 2012


My first memory is of seeing my fingers playing with the coloured beads that slid up and down on a metal pin in a panel on the side of my cot. Red, green, yellow and blue, each faded on the edges from the action of my fingers as well as those of my brother and sister before me and, quite probably of other children before my parents bought it. Conversely, when I  leave this world there shall be "hands and tears on wood" as I once wrote about a close friend's funeral, it is an ever present in our lives and deaths.

As a youngster I would 'play' at fishing in my back garden. Canes from the rows of beans were never satisfying as they would not bend properly and broke as soon as that fighting curve was achieved. No, it was hazel branches that made the best rods, pulled from the hedge and with string attached and a weighty piece of wood to act as the fish, Paddy and I would sit beyond the vegetable patch under the dead tree where the barn owl would sometimes perch and catch pretend roach, chub and maybe even a barbel just as Mr Crabtree did in that Holiest tome from the pen of Bernard Venables. Sometimes we dared to catch a specimen 2lb roach or 5lb chub never believing that it may one day come true.

My first rod was cane, cheap and very nasty and it put me off the stuff for a long time. I 'progressed' to solid fibre glass, surely one of the worst rod materials man has endured, then, because I couldn't afford a hollow glass rod with my savings, another cane rod which became the mainstay of my fishing life for several years.

Having afforded hollow glass rods I turned my back on cane and when carbon fibre became the norm I saw no reason to go back and that's how it stayed ......................... until I read the books and articles of Chris Yates.

If ever a man has influenced the lives of fishermen then Chris is right up there at the top. His beautiful prose about secret carp pools or hard fighting barbel im crystal rivers, all painted against the backdrop of bent cane and screeching centre pins, what man could fail to be moved. I yearned for the feel of cane once more.

It took a time and, having taken the plunge, a number of cane rods have come my way and I have learned to enjoy the feeling of one bucking in my hand as it attempts to straighten itself against the pull of the fish. It is a spiritual thing.

But I have found my rods lacking. Most cane rods are light in their test curve to anything comparable in carbon, who amongst us would contemplate barbel fishing with a 1lb test curve rod? Yet the traditional Avon style cane rod rarely exceeds that. My rods have been under-gunned on the Wye where the fish fight hard and long in a strong, fast river. I need to upgrade. And what of the carp? I want to take a twenty pound plus carp on a cane rod. The weight should be immaterial but it is a self imposed ambition and that is all that fishing is when you get down to it, a series of goals and ambitions that we set ourselves and, once achieved well, we just set another.

So, I now have a heavy Chapman 700 which will not fold and cede to the runs of a stout carp in a weedy estate lake and, should that fish be close to or beyond the immense thirty mark, well it will just roll up its sleeves and do the job. I am also negotiating (with a certain Mr Wood) the acquisition of a Chapman 550 with its pound and a half test curve, much better suited to the barbel and the occasional carp from clearer venues. Add to this Andy Sliwa has promised to return to the 'Lab' and conjure up another magic wand, as identical as possible to the one he made for Neil and that is something that I will have to wait for no matter how impatient I feel.

But I am not a Traditional Angler and nor am I about to go shopping for Edwardian garb and a bloody Kelly Kettle. Unlike many that enjoy the sensation of cane in their hand I have no compunction about fitting an old rod with a brand new reel either a pin or a fixed spool, and most of my rods are fairly new anyway. No, I'll carry on with a mixture of ancient and modern, cane and bait runners, cane and Delkims it matters not a jot to me.

I have the cane bug and am out to enjoy myself, tomorrow I shall head for the lake and a stab at my goal, then, if my new rod arrives in time, I'll be off to the river whilst still looking out for a rod or two to fill the gaps in my arsenal.

Anglers, hopeless romantics or gullible fools?  You decide.

July 15, 2012


I had a few hours on the carp pool the other day, nothing stirred and my bite indicators remained motionless. You can sometimes tell within minutes of setting up that the day's efforts will be in vain, the wind was light and stirred only a small area in the centre of the lake, the small fish didn't show and there was extra colour from the feeder stream, all poor signals. I didn't mind, it was pleasant enough sat taking in the view whilst Nicky played with my new 'Bridge' camera, comparing it with her SLR and she reluctantly agreed that the Canon was a remarkable tool especially with its phenomenal 20X zoom. 

The same story must be told of a trip to the river this afternoon. Despite apparently ideal conditions and sitting in a 'dead cert' swim for three hours I had nothing but a few plucks and pulls from small fish. The only decent pull came as I moved about to improve the reception when Neil rang me, I left it to await the next tug but that was it, another blank.

Again, I wasn't too perturbed, Neil's call was news of his first carp from the lake and I was delighted for him. It was a 23 pounder with near linear markings and I'm pretty sure it is one I saw roll on that very spot back when I had a mid-double common. It is a good looking fish and one that I hope I connect with one day.

So, no fishy pictures for you but I have been snapping away at rod tops (willing them to move), a hairy mutt by the name of Harvey and my good lady wife bringing me a cup of coffee on the bank ahhh luxury :-)

July 07, 2012

Size Matters, or does it?

Over on Gurn's excellent blog he's debating whether or not to include the weight of his fish when he writes about them, the matter has been put to the vote and so far the majority are in favour of the weights being shown. For the record, I voted in favour as well.  In this country its the weight of our fish that we use to gauge our success even though the fish one angler catches on his water bears little relationship to what another catches on a different water. Be that as it may a 2lb roach, 5lb chub, 10lb barbel or 20lb carp are all standards that we recognise and aspire to, its a universal standard by which we compare venues as well as results.

Having said all that, I am aware that as I age and adjust my attitude to life and fishing then the size of fish caught means less than the pleasure that it gives me when I actually catch it. Sure, a big fish is usually exciting just by virtue of its bulk and fighting ability even if its only the effort needed to lift it out of the water. Some of the most pleasurable fish I caught last season were a few modest grayling taken on Tony Rocca's cane rod, not only was the rod highly effective in dealing with their twists and lunges but I was overwhelmed with a flood of memories of fish caught in my youth, so much in fact that I am expecting a cane float rod to arrive at any day.

So, the size of the fish we catch isn't necessarily important but what about the size of those we lose? This is a different ball game and one which was brought home with a bit of a bump this afternoon. Neil and I went to the lake for his first session as a member. I gave him choice of swim and set up nearby casting a rod toward a bed of reeds with a second rod just out in front of me on the line that carp often patrol. The wind was in our face and a few fish were topping and rolling, things looked good.

A carp rolled quite close in to my right and a few minutes later I had a screaming 'take' as it ploughed through my line and bolted out into the lake leaving an enormous bow wave behind it. That was a disturbance I could have done without but I recast and sat back to settle my nerves when the same rod was away again. This time the bite was genuine and I hit a heavy, ponderous weight that reluctantly turned and allowed itself to be slowly pumped toward the bank. Neil, who had only just got his first bait in the water, came over and held the net as a big fish wallowed toward it when .......ping! The hook pulled. I was only saying to him the other day that I haven't lost a fish to a hook pull in ages and here I was swearing through gritted teeth at the sky above. There is a unique sensation when losing a fish, any fish, it pulls at our core and the loss of a big one is just a pummelling of our emotions that seems way beyond the value of a mere fish but trust me, this fish deserved every ounce of that emotion as it had long since passed the magic twenty mark and was somewhere around that next milestone. The size of that fish mattered - a lot - as I licked my wounds.

My sulk was soon diverted as Neil cast to a rolling fish and had an immediate take only for that one to come adrift within a few seconds. There was me bemoaning the loss of a fish that was probably short of my personal best from a water that has provided me with plenty of big fish and will no doubt provide more in the future yet Neil had just lost his fish from the lake, a fish that would have lived for ever in his memory. Both of those fish had the potential to make a great day's fishing and both had slipped through our hands - such is life.

The wind dropped after the rain passed and the water became quiet with little surface activity apart from the masses of fry. As the clock approached seven Neil decided that he'd best not use all his Brownie points up and decided that returning to the little lady early would buy him a few hours on the lake later in the week when conditions may be better. We decided on a last half an hour and mid-way through the countdown I had another flyer. This fish fought hard and kited in a wide arc before it plunged into a weed bed. I kept steady pressure on it and it yielded, running along the margin of my bank and into the net held by Neil. It was way below the weight of my first contact but still looked bigger than the 20.01 that the scales recorded. So, another twenty logged and a successful trip, would it have mattered one jot had it been two ounces lighter? What would it have weighed had I lost it? Gurn may be onto something.

July 04, 2012

Technology Fail

The day started with an attractive black girl massaging my buttock with her pointed elbow followed by her placing her hand on my pubis - and mine on hers - as she demonstrated a breathing exercise. I've had worse experiences and, feeling frisky due to the movement in my back and leg (what did you think?) I headed for the river.

I started writing my diary only for the pen my run dry, I'm not sure whether pens count as technology but this was a day when such things were not running well. When I did catch a fish I decided to try out the remote shutter release on my new camera and the test shot went okay, all I needed to do now was to get my position right, hold a slippery fish whilst maintaining the correct position on a greasy slope and use my spare hand ( ! ) to operate the camera. It was a bit like rubbing your tummy with one hand whilst patting your head with the other but done on ice skates. I failed. Certain that I'd taken three or four decent shots I returned the fish only to find just one poor image with half the fish in it.

I rang Neil and we discussed the ongoing saga of his car, the garage and the replacement of a series of engine sensors that were needed to placate a temperamental engine management unit. Guess who'll be settling the bill. He then told me that the screen had broken on his mobile phone again and I decided to turn the conversation around to my fishing story when - phut! My phone died without warning and irrevocably. It was just one of those days when technology was playing up and I was glad I don't have a pacemaker.

For the record I had two chub, one of which was easily five pounds and a barbel of ten pounds five ounces so it wasn't a complete failure.

July 02, 2012

Good Stuff

I felt a deep necessity,  a need to catch a fish. I know that I've nibbled at the edge of the start of the season and that the taste has been quite bitter but suddenly the hunger had become a starvation.

I made my way (gingerly) to a spot where I would be sat on a level area and fishing virtually under my feet, even in my fervent state I wanted a degree of comfort a consideration that, at one time, would never have crossed my mind. The river was holding extra water (as it will for some time yet) but I know this swim and despite the boils and swirls on the surface, the fish will feed on the hard, gravel bottom.

I felt another 'need' and that was to catch on a cane rod, maybe I've been reading too many books by 'traditionalists' but it somehow felt appropriate on this day to give the bamboo an airing. I set up two rods with accompanying pins and sat back confident of action. The surface of the water moved this way and that as the river surged along its confused path, the occasional whooshes and gurgles as a hump of water sought to spread itself between the banks made Harvey sit up and listen and look.

This was Harvey's first proper fishing session and he passed with flying colours. He shares a fascination with water that many dogs seem to have but he avoided swimming - fortunately, and was content to pad up and down the bank sniffing out the new smells and every morsel of dropped bait. He has yet to learn that the rods are a 'no go' area but maybe I need to learn to raise the rests a little to enable him to pass under them. He settled and gave the fish I caught nothing more than a passing look but watched, spell bound as a duck and her chicks swam past. He's coming along just fine.

With a wet landing net and a set in my rod, it was time to leave. Another short session but an important one, I am mobile-ish once more and am off the mark.

Another serendipitous event followed when, after much bowing and tugging or forelock's, I managed to secure a place for Neil on my syndicate lake. Green with envy since I joined Neil has understood that such venues do not come often and I have had to wait some 55 years before my opportunity arose, he begrudgingly accepted the chore of patience so, when I broke the news to him it took a while for it to sink in, he then became rather excited. I am too, I've wanted him to enjoy this lake since I first saw it and I'm really looking forward to joining him on a few sessions in the near future. No doubt you will duly hear about them.