July 29, 2013

Another Lost Weekend

The boys were back in town over the weekend, earlier this year 'so that its warmer' and warm it certainly was. The river is at rock bottom level, the fish are nailed to the snags and the fishing was damned hard work - not that it mattered one jot, we all had a laugh or two.

I've spoken about our collective lapse into the advanced middle age before but this year even the normally unstoppable Carl looked a bit jaded come Sunday. To add to this, apart from the usual complaints about a few aches and pains we now have a number of genuine conversation piece illnesses and conditions amongst the throng. I'm serious, we are talking life threatening conditions that were explained, in true northern style, as 'Summet t' deal with but tha' can't let it get yuz down'. Add to this dear ol' Bunny, who couldn't come, was struggling to come out of his anaesthetic after having some bionics implanted. We were all medically aware by the end of the first evening. Thankfully everybody is having treatment and Bunny is on the mend - what a bunch of old farts we are becoming.

I had a stroll around on Friday and chatted to most of the crew explaining that to add an element of competition to the proceedings an award was to be given for the 'Most significant capture' of the weekend. The prize was to be a painting of 'A Typical Wye Scene' and despite nobody getting moist with excitement, I was later informed that the eel that woke Tony from his slumber was 'significant', so I knew there was an edge to everybody's fishing.

Incidentally, Tony managed to join his lie in, siesta and afternoon nap into one long zzzzzz as he slept for about five hours! "It was the antihistamine tablet I took" he proclaimed but those of us that know better think he is either narcoleptic or half dormouse.

Andy Ross sat with a large group of hungry barbel feeding in his swim. This was amazing as its the only place I've seen significant feeding activity all season and the biggest was at least twelve pounds in weight. Despite feeding them all day he blanked - which made them that little bit heavier for the next day when Carl would fish there.

I think that only Ian and Carl caught barbel on day one. I lost one as did one or two others as they were only feeding close to (or right in) the snags. There were quite a few chub though with Richard Walker (honest!) taking some nice fish on the float and a lump to Neil who was wading in trainers and shorts (as were several of us - the water was bath tub warm), but he didn't have scales with him so he let it go and got a soaking from a mighty kick of its tale - significant? we'll see.

Curious clothing was on display as the masculinity of certain members was questioned, Hobby just told us it was a gift from Thailand so we left it at that. I think he looked lovely.

On Saturday most looked pretty spritely so it wasn't too late a night. The fishing was intense and Ian had another couple of barbel. Eelfisher spent the day in his underpants happily fishing the bushes on the far bank which meant any captures wouldn't count due to 1. They were from another fishery and 2. He had upset every canoeist that passed him - hang on, that should go in his favour.

I had a resounding blank and Andy managed only to catch a couple of scales and a barbel hooked in the dorsal fin, he was having something of a mare. Carl mean time had jumped into the swim full of fish and somehow managed to land five of them to 10.02 They must have been lulled into a false sense of security by Andy's heavy feeding the day before.

Bits and bobs taken elsewhere were discussed in the evening but the award committee (me) came to the conclusion that Carl had to win the award if only to underline Andy's short comings. He opened the picture and was moved by the touching scene it displayed.

It has been mooted that maybe the picture should be awarded each year and passed on, this suggestion brought mixed reactions with the overriding opinion being that if there's a chance to win it then perhaps nobody would bother to attend in future - the miserable sods.

On Sunday Andy fed the barbel and chub again whilst Ian caught yet another barbel. He sent a text proclaiming his capture and stating that he was the only person to take barbel on each day - and that he didn't want the picture thank you very much.

July 19, 2013

Back to Basics

The first fish I ever caught was a Scorpion Fish (basically a sea going version of a bullhead), in Weymouth harbour. The first coarse fish, caught with my hands, was a Bullhead from a tiny stream beneath a packhorse bridge on the edge of Taunton. Those captures, made in the early sixties, were the seeds from which my obsession grew and have always had their place etched into my memory.

Come forward to present day and countless fish have thrilled and inspired me over the years and, with each fish caught comes a yearning to get the next one - its just the way of us anglers I suppose, never truly satisfied. But I have a strong sense of nostalgia - a sure sign of ageing I guess - and I still enjoy getting in touch with my past. Just a few weeks ago I spent several happy evenings poking through the weed and stones of rock pools in France and I just know that I will never grow out of that pleasure and why should I? Well, yesterday I was back in a shallow stream and my youthful experiences came flooding back.

Its odd, the river Wye is in desperate form and I have spent way too many fishless hours there. I am at a stage where I am almost ready to concede defeat until the rain comes but, as that may not be for another week or two, I doubt I can stay away for that long. I have begun to question my enthusiasm, my drive and determination for success but I now know that they are still alive and kicking.

Neil and his girlie have gone to the lake for an overnight session so we are looking after her little lad Jaycob (I know, its a modern trend in giving stupid names or mis-spelling old ones and I don't have any say in it) He's four and full of questions, mischief and is a sponge for knowledge. Trying to keep him occupied is full time work so any distraction that I can enjoy as well is seized with alacrity. So it was that we went to the local park which just happens to have the tiny River Arrow running alongside. The ideal environment, slides and swings for burning energy (and hopefully a long sleep), loads of room to tire the dog and a stream for me - err, and Jaycob to explore.

When I was about four five or six I used a small jar to catch the fish. I well remember the excitement of getting my first pair of black Wellington boots which, being knee length as opposed to the silly little red things I'd previously worn, meant I could go out of my depth much farther out than before. Today though, as the heatwave continues the chosen footwear was just a pair of sandals that would dry out quickly enough when I was done. Jake opted to leave his footwear on the bank and slipped and stumbled in his bare feet, he loved it as did Harvey who is never one to miss a paddle.

Unfortunately the fish were thin on the ground, I searched the shallows for sticklebacks and fry, I turned stones looking for bullheads and loach but found nothing. We worked all the likely places and the instincts of this basic form of fishing came flooding back so that when Jaycob just saw it as fun in the water, I was becoming more and more determined to catch. I had with me a net and with such a luxury item I was certain that anything I did find I would land.

At last I turned a stone and felt the flesh of a fish - there are fish here, but the encounter was all too brief. Then I saw a tiny bullhead but it slipped past the end of my net and back between the stones. The next fish was a monster, well, at least four inches - and I missed it. I was now lost in my own world of reliving my childhood, proving a point and just plain having fun. The next fish was encouraged to swim into the net - success! I had my prize and carried it triumphantly to Jake to show him, to inspire him to a world of discovery and pleasure. He had a look and said "Are there any bigger ones in there?"

I was crest fallen but at least he continued searching under the rocks and bricks even though he wasn't sure what he was expected to find. I caught another but he didn't bother to stop and look at it. Ah well, he's still young and there's plenty of time.

When we got home he produced a magnetic fishing game with a short plastic rod and reel and fish with magnetic noses - he sat and played with it with me for ages...... there is hope.

July 14, 2013

Something Hidden Something Seen

Been away for a few days, thought it may give the fish a chance to sort themselves out but the messages that I found when I got home were more like the Samaritan's hot line than fishing reports. Bloody typical eh? After a summer of continual rain we get one which is too bloody hot. I'm beginning to sound like a farmer or a motor cyclist, they always describe the weather as 'too' something. Too hot. too cold, too wet, too windy and so it goes on.

Anyway, the fishing can wait a bit longer, We've been touring and taking in some of the wonderful sights our country can offer. A stay at Buxton followed by a drive around the Lake District and a thrash across country to County Durham just above Darlington for another tour of The Dales and a trip along the coast stopping at Whitby. We really do live in a small country and you can take in much of it in just a few days - unless you own a caravan where our tour would have taken about six weeks.

So, what was hidden? Its this -

Nestling at the back of an anonymous trading estate, reached by following a series of faded signs, a right, left then another right to the back of a warehouse and half a dozen parking spaces allotted for viewers - we were the only ones. How can this be? When I first saw pictures of this fantastic creation I was in awe, to summon an image of billowing smoke and movement in brickwork is pure genius. This sculpture should be on a high plinth and displayed in Darlington's most prominent position instead it is hidden behind a high hedge preventing viewing from a duel carriageway and industrial buildings. I really do not understand it.

But now to things seen. The world is full of beauty, it is in the sky, the earth and everything in between yet it is often the ugly that grabs our attention. We cannot drive past a car crash without looking and feeling disgusted and distressed at what we see, it just draws the eye with invisible force. As does a very fat person. Oh go on, we're all the same, now I'm not anorexic by a long way but those really fat people that can't walk properly.... you have to look. Likewise those women who wear clothes suited to a size ten despite being twice that - and they've always got tattoos. We went to Whitby where there seems to be some sort of an exchange program whereby you get a new tattoo with every lost tooth - and you just have to stare. The chap walking around with a live barn owl on his hat was the same, he seemed quite grumpy that people stood and stared or took photographs. My answer would be 'well leave the bloody bird at home' but I doubt he'd have wanted to hear that - do you?

Another sight impossible to ignore is a bum crack. There, I've put it out there and I know that you are nodding in agreement. I grew up in a time of short skirts with much thigh and panties on display - oh how I yearn for those days - but we now live in a world where girlies like to wear trousers and despise being ogled at - apparently, but they spend a fortune on making their boobs stick out like a couple of pudding bowls up their jumpers. I never will understand fashion. The other "fashion" I cannot get my head around is the fad that lasted about a fortnight with attractive slim girls of wearing shorts over coloured tights. This has now been adopted and shows no sign of let up, by the short, dumpy girl who really should keep those legs hidden until they can trap somebody too drunk or stupid to mind.

I digress - the bum crack. I think I was put off this display of botty by Benny Hill's impression of Shirley Bassey which has left me traumatised all these years and despite my red-blooded instincts it is not a flash of flesh that shows a girl at her best. The bum crack is just too inviting and I mean inviting for menace and mischief. It is exactly pencil sized which is the classic - should you wish to go that far.

And so it was that on a recent trip to the vet with Harvey (he's fine by the way), that an attractive if homely young veterinary with ample cleavage bent and prodded the mutt as I tried to avert (badly) my eyes. It was as she examined the back half of the dog that she bent to reveal an impressive four to five inches of bum crack. I tried not to look but its just not possible and despite Nicky's tight lipped stare, daring me to behave I could only smile and mime dropping something into the yawning cavern.

As you can see, bum cracks are anti social and trouble making but I have come up with a cure all and recommend you all follow suit. Obtain one of these -

A standard sachet of coffee available at all guest houses or hotels. As you will note it is compact and lightweight and will slip unobtrusively into your pocket for future use. When the offending gorge is presented to you remain calm, slip the sachet from your pocket and rip off the top. Choose your moment well and slip the contents into that gaping valley of darkness then withdraw to a place of safety and observe. The recipient of your deposit will notice the granules but they will quickly begin to melt in the warm and moist surroundings, there will be a moment of unease and as sure as eggs a finger will be sent in exploration. On withdrawal said finger will be covered in.... well, use your imagination. The confused victim will no doubt sniff and maybe even taste the offending .......  all I can say is it is comedy gold just waiting to be unveiled and something to be seen.

July 09, 2013

Sun Dog

I don't like to visit the swims that have been producing for the hotel guests, some cross over is inevitable but I have no interest in chasing anybody else's fish and prefer to find my own in any case. This is not usually that hard to do and I have little favourite spots that few others find let alone fish. So, my quandary is that the fish are proving extremely reluctant to play ball due to, I believe, their numbers being considerably down for some reason and the extreme low river with high temperatures. In short - I can't buy a bite.

I'm working on it though - hard. I had a walk around the fishery, travelling light and looking for fish in all those summer haunts where you can normally spot a fin or two - nothing. I saw a chub eat a pellet in one swim but just one and elsewhere a chub sat under a bush until it spotted me spotting it and it was gone. Not a barbel anywhere. Exhausted and despondent I left.

Fish into dark! I declared to Neil and he joined me and a mate (Pete) who's staying at the pub for an evening assault. I had chosen my spot beforehand but Pete had fished it earlier in the day and wanted to return. 'Fine' I declared, you'll catch there this evening - and he did, two barbel.

Neil and I sat either side of a large bush and fished a noted evening swim. There was much surface activity as the light faded to a backdrop of the chattering call of the sedge warblers. I had a nod on my left rod which I lifted but nothing was there although, at that moment, the downstream rod heaved to a mighty line bite. I was puzzled and wondered what would have caused it, my doubts were later confirmed.

The river died, it all just went 'quiet' at a time you would expect activity. The peace was shattered by a loud Kersploosh! and a volley of Anglo Saxon from Neil as he threw a rock at a dog otter that had the audacity to sit and stare at him having ruined our chances for the evening.

Ah well, back to the drawing board. The evening did have a spectacular sunset though. Earlier the sun had one of those 'Sun Dogs' beside it in the form of a small vertical rainbow. I spent some time playing with the settings on my compact and took a number of shots then, as the sun dipped, there was a spectacular sunset. Little cameras never do sunsets justice so I put my polaroid glassed infront of the lens and got the desired affect, hope you like it.

Next day I was out again, this time to a spot that always produces and, by the chest high nettles I had to clear, was as yet unfished. Despite staying into dark and becoming encircled by a mighty army of sticky slugs, not a twitch to my line was registered.

I am now officially in crisis. I'm away for a couple of days and will return refreshed and ready for another assault but the river is making life very difficult - well, it is for me anyway.

I shall return!

July 06, 2013

The Camera Sleeps

There are certain tell signs that indicate my mood and my success on the fishing front. Frequent and buoyant posts indicated a light step as I trip my way from fish to fish and those posts will be littered with pictures to set the mood and display my triumph. Then we look at now, the start of the season, the weather is fine, the river looks great, the lake is in full bloom and there's ne'er a pic or post to be seen.

Where to start? During the first week or so I managed a couple of barbel along with some chub albeit slightly smaller than one would expect from the Wye. I did also discover a talent for an early release technique that saw me lose more than I actually landed. I lost, through line breakage either just above the hook or, on one occasion, above the lead, a total of four barbel in a week, as Neil said "You don't normally lose that many in a season", and I don't.

Licking my wounds I retreated to the lake whilst the barbel got down to a belated spawning, it was not the respite I sought. I love the fact that waters are moody and unpredictable, it is a primeval instinct to recognise the signs many of which are impossible to describe, you just know when you look at water that its going to be tough - and it was. Two bream in two nights demonstrates that fact.

I did go stalking and yes, I did find some fish. The point of attack was challenging to say the least, a twelve foot drop to a tiny ledge at water level could only be visited when a fish was hooked, to creep, or in my case to slip, slide and tumble down the precipice before hand would mean no fish coming within a considerable distance. Atop the bank I am on a bridal path, behind me a wooded hill, there is more backdrop and cover than any carp stalker could dream of yet those craft fish know when you are there. I discovered this from my earliest walks around the lake, they just melt away despite the distance and cover from them, plans need to be hatched.

I lobbed a pva bag of freebies and a bit of boilie in the hook into the shallow water, put the rod on a rest  so that the line ran over the sunken branches in the margin and retreated to the cover of a large oak where I hid. Twenty minutes later and the swim was alive with fish. Clouds of silt rose from half a dozen sources and a couple of large mirrors rolled through the melee - I couldn't fail.....

A twitch! was it a liner or a fish dropping the bait? I crept to my rod, squatted next to it in as small a ball as my copious bulk could squeeze in order to look less like a human. I watched the line for movement and the water for telltale signs of the fish. As I stared so the silt gradually cleared, within minutes I was looking at a swim devoid of fish - my moment was gone.

Looking for an antidote to the pressure of trying to catch big fish and failing miserably, I took a ticket on a section of the upper Teme. I was a member there years ago but didn't really bond with the water but this time I have no intention of targeting the sparse population of barbel, I want to try for the chub and especially the grayling. And so it was that I waded through some shallows to fish the bottom of an island and I set about trotting the swirling pool. The depth changes were extreme so fishing accurately was hard but I lost something tiny that dropped off as I brought it through the fast water, then a larger fish that gave a deep, thudding fight but took me around a sunken branch and the hook straightened.

I then went through one of those spells where it all went wrong. I had to change my main line as there was a damaged section about twenty yards down, luckily I had another spool and that was quickly done but in the next swim I somehow managed to get a bunch of loops again about half way through its length. I spent ages sorting it out and thought I'd done so but, of course, there was one small loop left that had pinched the line and it snapped. I swore loudly but having the river to myself it was wasted on the bird life. I trudged back across the river and slipped, cracking my knee on the bedrock. The birds were treated to another outburst.

I went back to swim one and fished a light feeder on my Lucky Strike and a Cardinal fixed spool. The accuracy was effective and in two or three casts I had a plump chub and a grayling of about a pound that was in the peak of condition. I would have photographed it but it needed a disgorger and I'd left that with my gear a short wade away. By the time I'd unhooked it and despite keeping it in the water as much as possible the fish needed tending for a few minutes to revive it. It eventually swam off and I called it a day, limping back to the car.

Other than that its been chub, chub and more average chub. I shall stay later into dark as that's obviously when the fish are coming out to play but, in the mean time and whilst the sun is shining, I'll probably be taking Nicky out instead.