December 24, 2014

The Night Before Christmas

I had to get out. The urge to fish is constant just the amount varies and lately I've really felt the need. To add to the general frustration I had a rod to christen, a Sharpe's Scotty Avon that arrived whilst I was less than able to enjoy it. Nicky actually brought it to the ward for me to unwrap - bless her. The looks we drew as I put it together and gave it the customary wiggle were of bemusement.... but nobody said anything.
I dropped into my chub swim confident of a chance but not really too worried either way. The river was well up and thousands of gallons of coloured Wye sped silently past. I snuck into a crease and threw a few free pieces of spice flavoured meat well upstream. This was followed by a small pva containing three or four more bits and one on the hook. I sat back, the weight of the rod on a rest but the handle was in my hand and the line across the tip of my right index finger. 
Less than a minute had passed when I felt a faint tug, tug then a determined pull and I was into a hard fighting fish that ran upstream but stayed deep. The rod hooped over and took on a fighting posture that I hope to see repeated many times as the fish begrudgingly came to the surface. A chub, not a monster by any means but about average for the river. It was soon in the net and released downstream.
I knew that a fish so soon was usually the kiss of death but I went through the motions for an hour or so content to listen to the squabbling starlings looking for a roost. It got quite cold and despite a stab of a bite whilst I texted Neil, I decided to call it a day and go and help with the last minute Christmas preparations. 

Sometimes an hour by the water is more than enough but I'll be back soon for sure.



Have a wonderful Christmas period and thanks for stopping by to look at my humble scrawl. In a world that constantly throws grief and misery our way Christmas is a time for reflection and hope. 

Here's a seldom heard seasonal song for you to enjoy

December 09, 2014

December River Wylye Grayling Trip

I recall the opening to a film or book in which a hardened American Detective described the process of having the third catheter of his life removed, and how he had fallen in love with the girl doing it on each occasion. As I stared deep into the grey eyes of a beautiful young nurse who was about to remove my first, I told her of the tale, she looked a little shocked. I guess I'm no longer supporting the chiselled appearance of a rough - tough cop..... not that I ever did. But when it was removed it was as blissful a release as I can recall and a definite corner was turned. Its been quite a week.

A family weekend followed a day later by a sickness bout that became painful and persistent. A doctor was called for some anti-sickness meds but an ambulance arrived. "Your heart's okay", which, to be honest was initially our main concern. They then invited me to go to Hereford Hospital for some more checks. I declined. 'I'll be alright in the morning'... Teflon Burr, shrug it off.

Next afternoon and a brief recovery is quickly forgotten and I cannot get to the GP quick enough, it is an agony that is hard to describe and the Doc claims it to be 'pancreatitis' and looks sternly at my Units per Week count. Temperance is the watch word at the local surgery and I've held my gaze to these questions before as half a bottle of wine isn't that bad.... is it? By the time I'd been bumped along the cart track roads of the Shire and had reached A&E a life of sobriety seemed an easy course to follow.

Ultra Sound, X Ray and Fingers prodded and probed at many, many places and the Paracetamol was replaced with Morphine and still I felt worse. But the NHS has no room for people that are merely in pain but are yet to receive help so I was sent home to be returned next day for a CT Scan which would probably confirm its Gall stones. Again I had to endure our dreadful roads which, despite Nicky's best efforts, are just a series of jolts and bumps joined by moans and guttural groans.

Scan done, more invasive kneading and I was ready to show a white flag. I was eventually admitted into a small ward that held a man who never moved an inch, another that never quite got the message across to a miserable nurse with an empathy bypass that he was slightly demented and very deaf and a third who was either kicking the curtain between us whilst moaning or was demonstrating his total lack of bowel control. It was a bit like sharing rooms on a fishing weekend really. I was beyond caring.

And so began my first hospital stay. The signs all pointed to a blocked bowel but the Consultant wasn't 100% certain and hung on for it to calm down in order to do more tests. Come Saturday and I had not eaten since Monday afternoon, had not had much of my medication in that time (two of which can have adverse effects on their own after just two days without), and my sense of humour had gone without leaving a forwarding address. But it settled a bit. Despite tubes in and out of everything, I gingerly nibbled a piece of toast and kept it down. Over the next couple of days a colon that had refused to even leak a tiny fart began to do its job and I began to look out of the windows where this morning, there was the most wonderful purple dawn you could ever wish for. And so came Tuesday afternoon and my catheter was finally removed and I knew I was going home.

As I take stock I wonder if its something of a record to have doctors from three different continents shove an arm (well that's what it bloody felt like), up your rectum in two days. Why does hospital television cost £10 a day and the car park cost that about every ten minutes? Why also did the hospital internet connection claim that the Traditional Fishing Forum was not something that it thought appropriate and so blocked it? And why, when sleep is an important part of recovery, don't they keep a stock of ear plugs for us poor sods trying to grab a spot of shut eye in a busy night ward? They didn't even bring me some cotton wool. That said, the vast majority of staff were excellent, they really were.

As I packed to leave there were whispered words between staff members and I could see them mouthing the letters M.R.S.A. A deep clean took place in the cubical to my right and the one two over. The guy left in the middle looked very bad and I was glad that I was going and that I had not been opened up. A sobering experience without yet a conclusion.

The grayling trip? That was supposed to have been tomorrow.  

November 27, 2014

Worth It

Fishing for grayling should be a gentle pursuit with relaxed fishing on a cold day, taking time out to enjoy the countryside. It should not therefore, be attritional. However, my recent trip to magnificent river Frome became just that but through the grief and grind came a moment or two of pure magic.

Day one was full of optimism and wonder at my first chance to fish this hallowed venue. I had been offered free access to a long, private stretch many years ago but, at the time was unable to take them up on it and so a golden opportunity was lost. It has rankled me for ages so here I was redressing the situation.

The weather was destined to be wet and I had forgotten to bring a brolly. No matter, I'm made of stern stuff and headed off upstream until I found a delicious looking run that screamed fish. The rain started and I chopped and changed floats to try and get perfect presentation and visibility, but never quite achieved it. I decided to move and that is when my butt ring fell off.

After the long walk back to the car, the drive to two garages in the search of insulating tape and the long trudge back to my swim, my sense of humour had taken a bash. The next hour saw it disappear completely. I'd changed reels to make casting and retrieving 'easier' than with my little 3" Hodder but my Speedia decided to fall in love with the line and hugged it tightly to the spool. The wet rod didn't help nor did me leaving out a ring when I set it up but that was soon rectified amidst Anglo Saxon mutterings.

I was aiming for a far bank run that would surely give me a bite but I never managed to trot it effectively. I had a lovely selection of floats gifted by my friend Richard who's guest I was but none of them was capable of bossing the current as the river had come up over the last couple of days. I stumbled from swim to swim getting into all sorts of tangles and mess and angrier and angrier with myself. It was cold and the rain was relentless. I decided to pull my coat zip up further to warm the top of my chest but it stuck. I swore and then swore again when the zipper popped off one side and the coat slowly opened fully leaving me colder and wetter.

I had seen a fish top in the previous swim and another in an unfishable spot but, when I eyed yet another good looking run I saw a grayling take something from the surface right in front of me. This urged me on and I eventually broke my duck with a grayling of about three ounces.

When the phone rang I was unable to answer it as the screen was wet and my fingers too cold to register on the touch screen. But it was Richard calling and as he'd left his phone in the B&B I knew he's long since given up so I quickly followed.

Day two saw us eying each other at breakfast, each waiting for the other to be the first to cast doom over the day's proceedings. But we headed to the river anyway and grimaced at the brown, turbulent and very ungrayling like conditions. "Sod it" I said, "I'm going to keep walking upstream until I find some quiet water". Richard agreed and off we set.

A few yards later we watched an Osprey fly across in front of us and disappear over some trees. It was my first Osprey in the UK and we both agreed that it must be a good omen. A few yards later the confluence between main river and feeder stream that looked bland yesterday suddenly looked perfect. "This spot is calling to me Rich, I'm going to give it half an hour" I declared. He carried on up river whilst I put my tackle together and tried to suss out the movement of the water. There was a fast run on the far bank (albeit much slower than the main river), which hit the main flow and created a long, almost dead section that eventually found its way back upstream in a back eddy.

I cast into the flow and let the float trot down then around the slower water where a gravel bank had formed. I let the float drift it's way, exploring for a fish or two sheltering from the flood. It stabbed under, reappeared then slid across the surface - I struck! I found myself playing a good fish
which I teased gingerly over the net - it was mine.

My hands shook as I slipped it into a plastic bag and onto the scales - two pounds two ounces, a new personal best and my first grayling over the magic two. I was elated and so was Rich when I rang him.

He was soon back we shook hands warmly. I offered him my swim but he politely refused. I rather suspected that there were few places that would produce today and insisted but still he declined. I stopped fishing and sat writing my diary, now Richard decided to maybe have a little go at the bottom end of my spot and, in no time at all, was playing a fish of his own. This one went two pounds three, the cad!

It was a perfect conclusion and although we fished on the river got higher and no more chances came out way. We packed much earlier than intended but were well satisfied with the result and know that in different conditions ....... well, maybe next year.

November 17, 2014

Fishing is a lot like.......

Fishing is a lot like making love to beautiful woman. When you are young you plunge straight into any available water with inadequate tackle and no experience. It doesn’t matter where or when, you just want to catch that first fish and your recklessness and ineptitude means that many desirable specimens are lost.

As your ability grows so you find an obsession for the pastime and will visit any muddy hole just for the chance of a dabble, its quantity not quality that you crave.

Ultimately, as you become accomplished, your desire to specialise comes through and your efforts are likely to be rewarded with much more success. You will be tempted by distant venues and will fish every selection of water from headland streams right down through curvaceous flood plains and even taking the odd dip into the estuary.

A time will come when you will settle on one given venue. It will give you everything you desire pretty much whenever you wish. You will explore its every inch and find certain areas that are either more productive or which are more receptive to your chosen methods. You will happily remain on this venue for many years unless you are affected by poachers or a new, fresher venue becomes easily available.

Of course there will come a time when you will still have a yearning to fish but the ability to do so will be affected by other causes. At such times you can sit back and take solace in the trials and tribulations of your past and know that when the urge is strong enough, you can choose your swim for comfort rather than ambition and just be content with being there.

I went chub fishing yesterday. I have to admit that my choice of swim was, once again, down to comfort but, in my defence, it is a very good winter chub spot. I know I’ve dripped on about my ills and have been inundated by your flood of indifference but it's my blog and I write about my exploits, and this year the ‘ills’ have had more influence on my fishing than anything else. I’ve got a couple of herniated discs and am waiting for a further hospital visit for some sort of injection procedure which ‘should’ help, and a buggered shoulder that will be operated on in the new year. That will put the kibosh on my spring and maybe some of my summer plans but hopefully (and nothing is guaranteed), I’ll then be back to paragraph four. In the meantime I shall probably bitch and moan a bit so please be gentle with me :o)

Back to the chub swim and what a glorious autumn day it was again. Unlike your average weather reporter, my life does not crumble every time a cloud covers the sun. Quite why they are so apologetic when it rains in the winter is beyond me. I think it's all to do with them sending a ‘positive message’ to try and cheer people up, perhaps they could try another way and get rid of the badly dressed anorexics and the effeminate mother’s boys and just tell the truth. 

See, told you I’d be grumpy.

Anyway, it was bleak but mild and in my chosen spot the sounds of the 21st Century rarely encroach, instead you can listen to the birds and be enthralled by the skeins of geese passing overhead in the growing gloom. There is always something happening around you when you fish and I become quite absorbed, how people fish with headphones on is beyond me.

Nothing much happened on cheese paste bar the odd rattle from minnows or gudgeon. It's odd but that’s the second time that paste has failed despite it being a great favourite of mine on the river, I’d usually fish with it with complete confidence. But once again this season, meat has saved the day. I went a few years without even opening a tin as I firmly believe it had become way too spooky for most fish to go near it but not now. Come dusk and chub cannot resist it and when fished over a bed of small pellets, a little piece of meat has been a winner for barbel. It has outfished every other bait I’ve tried.

And so I put on a little ragged lump and had a slight but positive knock and landed a chub of three pounds or so. The swim went very quiet but I was comfortable and happy to sit touch ledgering into dark when a sharp pull had me back in action. This fish scrapped well and was easily over four pounds but I slipped it back rather than faff about with a camera after dark. Like the first, it was plump, scale perfect and a pleasure to catch. I just know there’s a five pounder or two in this area and maybe even a six, but they can wait for now.

I hurt and ache in many places today but my river understands and will doubtless accommodate me again as soon as the urge returns.

November 09, 2014

Six Bloody Weeks?

Is it really six wholes weeks since I last wet a line? Its been a patchy season to say the least but today at last, I was able to get out. I had planed to visit the Vintage Tackle Fair at Redditch to catch up with some mates rather than go bargain hunting but, with a break in the weather, the river at a nice hight and a deep, deep yearning to get to the water's edge, a decision was made.

As I approached the Wye I saw flocks of Fieldfares sweeping over the orchards as a light rain fell through a lifting mist - chub time. I headed for a favoured chub hole whilst Neil went off in search of a barbel. Then the rain got harder. I was well equipped and parked with a minimal walk (quite deliberately), to my swim. Poor Neil had shunned wet weather gear as the sun had earlier shone and arrived after his long trek with wet trousers and a dour attitude to life in general.

I introduced samples of meat and cheese paste and varied my end gear to explore the crease along which I was fishing. I found that allowing the lead to roll merely found slack water full of leaves so settled on a bit more weight and fished on the crease. It was slow going but a few knocks from small stuff kept me alert. I hit one determined pull and landed a gudgeon hooked in the cheek.

The rain came and went then, as the light started to fail and as I spoke to Neil on the phone, I had a solid pull which I managed to completely miss. I cursed and Neil laughed. A couple of minutes he too had a bite only he hit his, a small chub preventing his potential blank.

The jackdaws noisily found their roost whilst the ravens gave a more solemn call as they drifted overhead. It had been a busy afternoon of bird life with long tailed tits, kingfisher, buzzards, flocks of finches and, as time progressed, an owl. Every call vivid in an environment free of the sounds of modern life and amplified by the still conditions.

By now I was using meat as the small fish were getting through the soft paste too easily. Having missed the previous bite I was now fishing it on a hair with a paste bobbin hanging from the line between the first and second rings. The current surged at times, lifting then lowering the bobbin. A swan had the same effect and received a sharp rebuke from yours truly and it eventually left me in piece.

The light was failing and the mist rose bringing a chill with it. Neil had headed for home but I was certain I'd get one eventually and I did. A steady lift of the bobbin, a gentle strike and I said out loud "That'll do". It was only a little one of barely two pounds but it brought me a huge amount of relief and pleasure.

October 07, 2014

Sold For A Farthing

We'd shared a cream tea and had spent some time 'people watching' as a group had entered the sparse cafe. Each wearing a similar red sweater. Their quiet jostling for prime position and the establishing of a pecking order was entertaining to witness as was the consolation prize for the losers who gained solace by claiming to have made a superior choice of cake.

Nicky and I then entered the rear of the property, a labyrinth of rooms and staircases, each festooned with shelves groaning beneath the weight of old books. This is what Hay on Wye used to be, before the Festival and the arrival of the tourists and the raising of the prices. This cafe come bookshelf is just far enough away to retain it's own charm.

As I moved deeper into the rearmost room I had to stop and breath in that special aroma. A musty smell unique to old books that have absorbed something of their lifetime's surroundings. Heady stuff for an avid pair of searchers like us. We smiled at each other. It said everything.

Upstairs I found an eclectic mix of unclassified books that bowed the shelving. I was drawn to some 1950's children's books with imagery that threw me back fifty years to my youth. There were treasures everywhere but I was drawn to one little yellow book in particular.

I do not claim a sixth sense or any superhuman abilities but, for as long as I can remember, I have used a method to make choices. I hold my hand over objects and, when I feel a tingling sensation, I opt for whatever is below it. I know, its ridiculous and I'm probably having little strokes or something rather than any divine intervention but it works for me, sometimes. Anyway, this book just demanded to be looked at, so I flicked through it's pages. then put it back on the shelf.

It may have been the recommendation of 'H is for Hawk' on Monty Dalrymple's excellent blog that was at work in my subconscious but, as I rambled around for a bit, I again passed the book, picked it off the shelf and took it to the tills. "What's it about?" asked Nicky. "I dunno really, something about the life of a sparrow".

Sold For A Farthing is a must for anybody with an interest in ornithology and for anybody seeking a heart warming read. Its a small book and fitted nicely in my fishing bag on one of those days spent trying to bore a barbel or two into submission. Yet it contains so much. The tale is the true story of the author finding an extremely young sparrow, naked and blind and cast from it's nest. By some freak of luck her decision to take it home and nurse it was successful and a handsome if slightly disabled bird develops.

Set against the onset of the second world war and the turmoil and upset to life a conflict causes, the little bird flourishes into a creature with a definite personality. Likes and dislikes are developed and, as is our way when close to nature, tricks are taught. The most remarkable thing about this little sparrow is that it develops a voice, it sings. Not the cheep - cheep of a 'normal' sparrow but a complex song and trill. That the author is a professional musician this phenomenon is studied in depth. It is likely that this bird sang more beautifully than any other sparrow before or since.

The author tells little of herself yet much is learnt between the lines, she too has a great outlook on life and understanding of humanity and wildlife. It is both interesting and touching and just a fine little book. Cheap too.  So go on, spend a couple of quid, find a quiet place and enjoy. But don't read the forward as it gives too much away.

September 28, 2014

Easy, Hard? You Choose.

I always feel a little unclean when I fish a commercial. It goes completely against the grain with me as I like quiet, lower stocked waters where the fish are less pressured. However, the fish on some of the allegedly 'harder' waters are actually easier to catch and the fish on a 'seen it all before' venue can provide a suitably rewarding challenge. Funny ol' game innit.

So, when Paddy arrived for a weekend of fishing and with the river struggling to reach the banks, I offered him a day of demanding floater fishing to get us a bend in the rod. He accepted.

The venue is quite lightly fished, over a couple of acres in size and with plenty of tree cover around it which allows the fish a few hidey holes. I just wish there were less fish in the place, were it mine I'd put a few perch and pike in to address the balance. I digress. I opted for the windward end whilst Paddy took a little spit of land that gave him command of a large amount of water. Despite the bag full of floaters ( (Bakers Meaty Meals), I started with a float set up and fired a few pellets over the shelf but kept a trickle of dog biscuits going in and my eyes peeled. Of course, just as I was about to make my first cast a floater, disappeared....... then another... In a pool full of small fish these were respectable with a couple of doubles amongst them and the little group of carp circled the edge of the swim but remained close to an overhanging bush. I kept the feed going and they slowly moved closer but inexplicably spooked despite me not casting. I picked up the float rod.

First cast and the float drifted under and I had a little carp of a pound or two. But the floaters kept going in and more were being taken. This was the theme of the day and I had soon forgotten about the float rod and was intent on the visible fishing with all of the accompanying excitement it brings. Paddy had moved to the opposite corner and was also being frustrated by the fish but got one of about eleven pounds which pleased him no end despite it being quite the ugliest fish I have ever seen.

"Give uth a kith"

As the day progressed I decided to have a kip, but, as I was carp fishing, decided to put a bottom bait out and use an old fashioned bite alarm. The bloody thing was more trouble than it it worth as it would either sound when the wind gently blew the line or, after 'adjustment' would remain silent when the line was pulled taught. I tried fixing a paste bobbin on the line only to have it all go tight and another fish was landed. I tried to settle but the damned alarm just refused to allow me any rest and, as I flicked a few floaters out, a bloody great big mirror drifted through the swim. We are talking upper twenties at least and the colours of a conker fresh from the pod. I was suddenly enthused.

Alas, that was the only glimpse of the big fish but a decent common started mopping up freebies and I stupidly pulled the hook out of its mouth. I had done this to many fish as they seem to have an ability to spot a hook from a good distance or, if there is any doubt, they will mouth the bait in such a way that it appears a classic take yet any strike rips the bait clear of them to an Anglo Saxon accompaniment. A changing breeze was also a hindrance as it would take the line and pull the bait unnaturally. I improvised and made a controller float out of a plant stem which I split, put it on the line then held it in place with a plug of Plasticine at each end which also provided a little casting weight.

My common did another lap and I all but lowered the bait in its path and, shock of shocks, it swallowed the bait and was on! It did a few circles then woke up and fought really well. When it was at last netted it went sixteen pounds exactly. It has a gnarly mouth where it had been caught many times before which was a great shame yet, it had made the fish cautious and the capture felt a worthy one.

I ended the day missing and mistiming bites from an assortment of fish until I ran out bait. The score, Paddy had ten fish whilst I had five, or was it six? and a couple of floater steeling rudd.

The second day saw us on the Wye and looking for somewhere that offered the chance of some action. Its been really tough in this continuing drought but dusk is always full of potential. I gave Paddy the low down on a number of swims and he made a considered choice ....... the easiest to get in and out of. I however, dropped down a steep bank using my rope and Dog Spike and settled into a difficult and snaggy spot. I chose well. The first fish ran me ragged, even tail walking at one point - not your average barbel behaviour, especially from a mite of about three pounds. I had a second of twice the size a little later.

The day then dragged on and on until dusk when number three graced the net. pour old Paddy didn't get a sniff.

Today saw a bright sun breaking through the mist. It made the spider's webs look nice but did not bode well for the prospects. The first swim Paddy fished failed to produce so I went looking for fish.... and found some.

A few barbel and a lot of chub were munching on my feed when Paddy caught up and he took on the swim whilst I fed it...... for three hours. Those fish made the carp look very easy as they drifted in and out of the swim, ignoring Paddy's bait. The rig was tweaked and repositioned a couple of times and, after much work, the fish were fair tearing up the bottom. There were now half a dozen barbel feeding and one suddenly twisted away dragging Paddy with it. He bent hard against the fish that ran straight for a snag. "Don't let it go any farther..." The words had barely left my lips when the rod sprang back, Paddy said a naughty word and the line flew limp in the faint breeze.

It was time for my good friend to hit the road and head back to the edge of Exmoor. I hadn't so much as wetted a line today but felt like I had fished as though my life depended on it. It was a hard day and so close to success but, as I often say, its the ones you don't catch tat bring you back again and Paddy is already checking his diary.

September 21, 2014

Just a Minute

The week started with me investigating the mass calls of birds as I walked the dog to the edge of the village. At first I assumed it was starlings yet they lacked the harshness and, although it sounded like a roosting call to me, the sound was hard to pin point. That was until I reached the edge of a large field and spotted what can only be described as a swarm of swallows.

This is the time of year when they tend to gather on the wires and chatter away, doubtless discussing their long journey ahead but here, above and around me was at the very minimum a thousand swallows, probably considerably more, wheeling in groups then gathering into one enormous flock as they circled the field.

I went back the next day and they were there again. I waited until darkness fell and they eventually fell silent, possibly roosting in a maize field beyond as they certainly didn't appear on the power lines. It was an amazing spectacle, if only I had a camera that could have done it justice.

TFF Weekend

And so to a gathering of a few 'Traditional Anglers' from the Traditional Fisherman's Forum. There is a broad definition of 'traditional' but split cane is usually the weapon of choice and, with the river being so low, there was no need for big weights and more sensitive fishing was easily possible.

I began by arriving at the river during a downpour. I slid into a swim and fought gamely with an old brolly to try to release the extending pole which flatly refused to budge. I could have used a decent brolly of even a shelter but I had annoyingly left them behind. Anyway, I opted to thrust the rusted and stuck pole as deep as possible into the moist soil. In doing so the inner pole slid up into the other and that, I am sure, is where it will stay for all eternity.

Ah well, the rain had eased. Next job, put up the landing n et.... bugger! The top part came detached and the head fell to the floor and was covered by a shower of expletives. But Superglue sorted that one.

I reached for my bait....... oh dear! Its in the car.... and so it went on. I was having a mare.

An hour later, tired, moody and broken I went home for some rest. I have bad days when my body makes everything difficult and fatigue addles my brain and no matter how much I wanted to be here for the guys arriving, I just had to have some sleep before I tried again later.

In the evening I had a mooch around then slumped into a swim that despite its previous track record, has failed to produce a barbel to me over the last year or so. I put a shaved boilie (very traditional) and pva bag to the top of the swim with a small piece of meat farther down. I sat back and enjoyed the evening.

The dusk seemed to go on and on. Darkness refused to come and I was quite content waiting and watching the world go by. A modest chub lunged at the meat and eventually, the top rod bounced and I was into a barbel that scrapped hard in the fast water. Nothing massive, just an average seven pounder but a very welcome fish.

We got together in the pub and it was apparent that the fishing had been tough. A week ago ...... well, its the usual tale, but now it was hard work. Not to worry, I gave people contingency plans and tried again the next day. Only I didn't. I drove around the fishery and met up with the guys, all of who'm were struggling, the sloped off for more rest for the evening again.

When I returned at about 3.30, I nipped into a spot where you can sometimes spot a fish or two. Joy of joys there were some barbel and the odd chub in residence and they were straight on to my bait of small pellets and 10mm boilies. It wasn't a place where I could take a guest and, to be honest, I'd have had to cross umpteen fields and negotiate all those gates to have got somebody down to the fish. That seemed like too much effort. I decided to have a go myself.

Brian Clough used to say "It only takes a second to score a goal". Its not entirely accurate but likewise, it only takes a minute to catch a fish, if you ignore the years of knowledge needed, the finding of those fish and the pre-feeding to get them ready.......

I spent maybe fifteen or twenty minutes creeping around the fish to find the best angle of attack. They had a tangle of roots in one direction and a sunken tree in another. It seemed that no matter where I positioned myself, the fish had a damned good chance of snagging me and escape. The bank was high with bushes making movement difficult but I opted for the 'from above' and gently lobbed a little pva bag of goodies into the flow letting the lead come to rest against a bed of streamer weed. I put the rod on a rest, took a handful of pellets and sprinkled them upstream of my bait. Next, I reached for a few boilies but dropped them as the reel clicked and I lifted into a barbel. Cast to strike - maybe thirty seconds? At tops a minute.

The fish was confused by the near vertical resistance and just flapped about for a while. This was perfect for me as it never got up a head of steam in any one direction. When it did finally try to snag me I had the beating of it and it was unceremoniously hauled upstream to where I could scramble to a ledge and net it.

On a day when most were expecting one or two barbel bites in a ten hour session I had fished for a minute and caught one. I felt quite chuffed but also a little guilty. Well - for just a minute.

September 10, 2014

Rivers - Lake - River

I must start with a quick word about the late Joan Rivers who died last week, a death little reported in the mainstream media.

As a comedian she had no peers and cleared a path not only for female performers but, with her acidic wit and bravery when dealing with anything sensitive like sex, death and relationships, she also carved a path for many male comedians to follow. She was a true star.

Joan Rivers 1933 - 2014

And so to Fishing

I nipped out on Monday to make the best of this last flush of summer. I was armed with some stinking dog food by Bakers and some bread, I was going to catch a carp off the top.

The lake was how I had left it and the fish were, as always, quite visible but my, they were also 'enjoying' the sun as nothing seemed to be feeling peckish. There were bubbles in an area where there are always bubbles but yet you never catch and fish cruising up and down the pool whilst all of the bigger specimens were sat just beneath the surface. That was until I snuck up on them and stared them into invisibility. How do carp do that? I was behind cover with a dense backdrop yet, within a couple of minutes of watching these motionless carp, they just drifted out of sight. Uncanny.


I gave up on anything floating as not one single item was touched. I tried bits of flake and dug out some meat but again, zilch. As I sat, munching on the Malt Loaf my wife had kindly steered me toward as my eyes were fixed on the chocolate bars and biscuits, (apparently its better for me), when I thought "why not".

On went a knob of malt loaf and it was flicked out, free lined, to the edge of some weeds. I was using a Speedia reel I've owned for a bit but had yet to use and was impressed at its performance, I really must have a day trotting soon.

I sat back with my rod poking through the willow herb, staring at the bread bobbin indicator. It was hot. The shade I had sought when I entered the swim had disappeared as the sun moved. I was now the carp and felt it time to move to avoid the relentless stare of the sun but, as I was just about to start collecting my scattered bits and pieces, there was a twitch on the line. I crept forward, removed the bobbin and held the rod. The line trembled, twitched, then slid purposefully away and I struck into a small but frisky little carp that fought with a speed that was alarming and even comical, especially when it tail walked.

Small but pretty
It was a very pretty fully scaled fish which disturbed the area I was fishing to a point where I would have to move. But, instead I left for home.


Next day saw me driving to Cirencester to collect my latest rod. I'm hopeless. I recently bought an Avocet which cost a lot and I thought would be an ideal addition to my little collection. It wasn't. It was too light for the Wye and I don't do anything like enough fishing elsewhere to justify it and besides, there was this Allcocks Carp/Avon at an auction and I have wanted one of them for a long time. So, out with one and in with the other. My wife just shakes her head...... and tut's.

I just had to use it straight away. I pulled up next to the river and viewed the low water. I know the swim well and, as it has a large upstream snag and a new downstream snag, I reluctantly slipped the Avon tip back into the bag and attached the heavier Carp tip. Let's get a fish or two under its belt before asking too many testing questions about its ability.

I flicked a small piece of meat out to fish over pellets and crushed boilies. I've found the meat to be quite effective again this season but, as I had Cane with me for his first trip, it was a constant battle to retain enough for my use rather than his constant hunger. I'd had another Cortisone injection in my shoulder earlier that day and frequently heaving an inquisitive dog out of the way was doing little for its chances of success. He eventually settled - right between my feet on a narrow ledge above six feet of water. His lead and my gear were entwined but at least he was quiet. We waited.

The reel rasped and the rod took up a delightful curve as a barbel plodded heavily upstream. I encouraged it away from the snag and it obliged by heading out into the main current before kiting down then in toward the bank. I lowered the rod and pulled the fish toward me, its an old trick but works every time however, there was a problem and I felt the grating of the snag I was trying to avoid. All became solid. I swore. I really didn't want to lose this fish, it was the first on my new rod and I just hated the thought of it starting its life with me with a failure. I pulled off some slack and waited.

There was no sign of movement so, after a few minutes I heaved into it again. Solid. More slack, more waiting.

I repeated the manoeuvre only this time I was pulling against fish not branch. It was clear! The battle continued and the barbel was showing the benefit of its little rest as it tore around with renewed vigour. I bullied it up through the water and gave it a gulp of two of fresh air but it came to the net three times only to power off at the last second. When it eventually succumbed to the mesh both it and I sat for a minute of so to get our breath back.

I'm not sure why it is but the Wye fish are all fighting like crazy this year. the lethargic and poorly conditioned chub of old are a thing of the past. We now have fine, scale perfect fish that fight like little carp and the barbel are all trying to pull our arms off. Its great!

I took a couple of snaps, rested the fish again and off it swam. I was very pleased.
Despite the line looking and feeling okay, I pulled off a few feet and retied my rig as a 'just in case'. I then sat back to await the dusk.

I had a few plucks and pulls which I put down to small fish especially as I tightened down to feel the indications and inadvertently moved the light lead and bait a few inches only for something to pull it back again. I missed the strike but smiled at its cheek. The next bite was unmissable and a lively fish made straight for the same snag as before. I leant against the running fish that at first I had put down as a chub but which by now felt like a small but determined barbel. I will never know as the line suddenly parted. Whether it nicked on a snag or there was a weakness in the line farther up than I had expected I don't know, I rather suspect it was the latter and my fault.
A large, deep orange moon was now rising above the tree line, my headtorch batteries were all but dead and there was a pint with my name on it at the Red Lion....


August 17, 2014

Welsh Wildies and things that creep and crawl

Friday afternoon saw me trusting my sanity to the whims of a Sat Nav as it demonstrated its sense of humour by picking the twistiest route imaginable through the badlands to a field near some unpronounceable hamlet.  A couple of sheep greeted me, no comments necessary, but across the field I found the wagons encircled in a defensive formation in case of native attacks. It was the gathering of the Traditional Fishing Forum members intent on bothering the wild carp that inhabit a couple of lakes.

Welsh Wales

As the group assembled there were many introductions and names put to faces. I love this sort of gathering as forum chat to pseudonyms is much better when you have a personality to associate with them, (well, usually). There was much eating of burgers, sausages and chicken as the notion of our 'five a day' was left far behind - unless alcohol counts in which case most of us managed it. 'Loop', okay, Paul did the cooking - well he is a chef, and a great job of it he did too with no pink sausages or blackened, solid burgers at all. Most unlike my barbecues.

Some of the Gathering

We sat beneath a clear sky chatting whilst watching satellites and shooting stars.

At some ungodly hour Stu did his cockerel impression and stirred the camp. He really is a great cock. With much coughing, farting and scratching we drank life infusing coffee and were ready to go when, at 7.15 Stu started making bloody toast. He really is a great......

Sparrow's Fart

We split up into two groups, one quartet going to Pant y llyn the rest of us to Llyn Gwyn which was very picturesque if a tad breezy and quite chilled. It would look much better had the powers that be not erected four of the biggest wooden platforms I have ever seen, you could park your car on them. In a water where the fish come right to the edge in its clear waters, why are they necessary? I refused to fish from one and began my assault.

It was tough going. There is a shallow bay set  aside for carp angling whilst the rest of the sixteen acres is for the fluff flingers. The wind was gusting across the shallows severely cooling them whilst any fish following the wind was hundreds of yards away - a challenging cast with a cane rod.

I laid on with a selection of baits, corn, meat, beans of various sorts, but never felt I had fish in front of me bar an 'S' shaped, emaciated rainbow trout that hoovered the margins. To my left was the edge of the permitted zone. Stu fished there and cast along the margins into the trout area (the cad) and intercepted patrolling fish heading my way. He caught a few one even waking him from a nap. Meanwhile Nigel tussled a couple out of some lilies.

I went over to a lead and cast to the island and anywhere I saw movement, all to no avail so I had a doze. It was then time for a spot of lunch which was nicely enhanced by the other Nigel's catch of four trout taken earlier on the fly. They were hot smoked and very nice they were too.

I moved to the edge of a large bed of some sort of floating plant that has formed an impenetrable mat on the surface. I would never get a fish out were it to find shelter amongst the stems but figured I give anything a heave ho in the opposite direction if I had a take. I fed a trickle of floaters along the outside edge and fished a bait beneath their path. Again nothing worked until I blagged a couple of slices of bread and I began to get bites. I missed one good pull which saw my hook being retrieved from the bracken behind me, then I hooked something small that flapped about on the surface until the hook fell out. I think it was a trout.

I was getting desperate, I was feeling quite uncomfortable but didn't want to blank. I was holding the rod and touch legering. I had a determined pull and hit a fish that went from swirling on the surface in front of me to doing the same twenty yards away in about a tenth of a second. Those fish are turbo charged and mental.

It was only a little one but at least it was a job done. I knew I'd over done it so I packed and, after stopping by the camp to take down my bivvy and saying goodbye to the rest of the group, I was home by late evening.

Are there wildies in Llyn Gwyn? Without an autopsy report on one its hard to say but I did detect a distinct hump on the shoulder of my fish and some of the others were the same indicating that they were King Carp yet one caught by Stu that I photographed looks very like a true wildie. The fact is that if you stock any carp into an upland, clear water you will get lean, dark coloured fish that look very 'wild' in nature. There may well have been true wildies here in the past but I reckon that we were fishing for feral carp which is probably as close as you can expect in the UK.

I've only seen pictures of Pant Y Llyn fish which do look more genuine but as they share a lake with a vast amount of chub it begs the question, how did they get there? If the chub illegally were stocked it puts suspicion on the carp stock too and if they were naturally seeded the surly the carp could be also.

Who cares, the look pretty much like and certainly fight like wildies and, with a great bunch of mates it was a very good trip.


I think most of us would like to think they have a degree of animal magnetism. Of course, in reality we rarely do but I think I may be developing something along those lines - insect magnetism.

We leave our toilet light on at night so that my aged and poorly sighted mother can find her way about. All summer long there has been an array of moths resting on the walls and ceiling as they recover from a night of circling a 100 watt bulb. I put a few out in a hope that they manage to do what they are supposed to do with their lives.

The other day I was having my early morning whizz into the bowl when a moth landed on my todger. This was a new experience which rapidly became exceptional when it crawled to the end (its not far), and appeared to be drinking my urine. Now this may be a common practice but one that chaos like to keep quiet about for fear of being pigeon holed as some sort of moth botherer but, for me, this was a first. The tale went down well with the gathering in Wales.

Then, as I chatted on the phone on the banks of Llyn Gwyn I became aware of something crawling up my trouser leg. I'm not one to panic and figured I'd deal with it after the call but, whatever it was, it had ambition and drive and was half way up my thigh when I decided enough was enough and I pinched it through my trousers. It squashed quite easily and left a sizeable squish mark on the material. I finished the call and gave the leg a good shake, nothing appeared. I dropped my trousers, there was nothing there. I even took off my boot in case it had fallen in but still, there was nothing there.

What was it? What was its intent? Had it been chatting with a certain moth and was after its own sample of my liquid? I'm not sure if I am comfortable with insect magnetism, is this how Spiderman started out?

August 12, 2014

Breaking Curfew

The trouble with being grown up is that we tend to do pretty much what we want and when forced to comply with somebody else's rules it rankles with us. If I want to stop drinking for a while then, in theory, I can. But have somebody tell you to stop and out comes the bottom lip and the brain comes up with a thousand reasons why you know better. I didn't fish for a month and was in a sort of in between area. It was 'suggested', albeit firmly, that I shouldn't fish and my body kind of told me it made sense. So I was able to endure my sabbatical in the main but at times it felt like cold turkey. 

With my last physio session out of the way and despite there being a distinct lack of improvement, I said 'Sod it' and went to a little pool for a nice steady few hours after crucian carp. Neil came too and we decided that once we'd had all the crucians we could manage we would retire to the big lake and catch a sack of big carp during the evening. What could possibly go wrong.

Crucians are great, they tease and annoy but when you get a hittable bite you are rewarded with a joyous creature to behold. Alas, neither of us quite got to stage three of that equation and got stuck on the 'tease and annoy' bit. 

Its a lovely pool and there were Crucians in my swim from the off. The little tell tale bubbles are a sure sign being quite unlike those emitted from the bream that hung out in deeper water. I could have moved the float up and tried for those but, I had made plans and stuck to them.

I soon changed to a lighter float and even then the movements were so slight it looked as though the float itself was gently breathing. I went down to a bit of a grain of corn and had a little roach then over to a tiny pinch of flake on an 18. Even with this I only caught roach and they too were biting with uncanny shyness. It was hardly relaxing and leaning forward in anticipation had made my neck seize up.

Okay, so plan A was a failure, there's always plan B to come. But the big lake had coloured by the recent rain and nothing at all moved. It has never produced to either of us in these conditions and quite frankly, it was a struggle neither of us fancied so we went home.

But I have another venture planned. I may grab an evening on the river in the mean time but the weekend is an organised trip with some fellow forum members from the Traditional Fishing group and we are heading into the badlands of Wales in search of true wild carp. Two venues are being fished Pant Y Lynn, a Wye and Usk controlled pool high up in the Brecon Beacons which was stocked centuries ago and Lyngwyn near Rhayader which is a sixteen acre trout lake but where an ancient strain of wild carp live and fishing is permitted for them from one bank. 

Wether there are actually any genuine wild carp left in the UK is a mute point. Kevin Clifford reckons not but that the carp we catch are more feral than wild. It matters not, they are about as wild as you can get in the UK and have a long heritage. They look like a wildie should look and apparently they fight like crazy. I'm really looking forward to it.


The 'Bird Man' has been busy again. Nicky told me that something was 'fluttering' in the kitchen and after moving a pile of garden chair cushions (don't get me started as they drive me up the bloody wall), I found a young Siskin. Quite why it chose to fly into the kitchen in the first place is known only by itself but it was soon caught. I thought it was a good photo opportunity and snapped a quick picture of it in my hand. I could se it was out of focus but thought rather than stress the poor thing I'd take another as it left my hand. As you can see, not my finest photo's. I guess I'll just have to wait for another one to pop in.

July 31, 2014

A Short Stay

July 29th was a day like any other but, when I woke on the morning of the 30th, something had changed.

I see the good part of the year as a bit like watching a hot air balloon being inflated. It starts with a flat, empty pocket full of nothing but potential. Then, with a gust from the gas bottle and a waft or two of the edge of it's canopy, there appear little bubbles and bumps like the first blooms of spring.  Nothing much happens for a while then, with an impatient rush, there is colour and movement and a great rising orb that can carry the souls of many with it as it ascends into a clear sky. It is as beautiful to observe as it is to fly and those on board must look down upon a sea of smiling faces. It is an event.

Then, the fight between the hot air from the tanks and the cooling air outside indicates a point of no return and from that moment, although the flight may continue for some time, it is doomed and classed as a somewhat protracted descent.

That is what happened on July 30th 2014.

It has always happened around this time of year although my memory tries to convince me that it used to be much later. But I keep an eye on such things and come the end of July each year and the swifts depart. One little moment in a world of animal migration and wonderful animal happenings and one that always saddens me.

It may be that from your current location you can still see and as importantly hear swifts as they wheel around the sky in the continual pursuit of food. There will be a number of birds still over the UK for a month or two yet and indeed just last year, with its painfully late Spring, they were here for at least another couple of weeks. But not usually. Not now. They have gone.

Their departure means one thing. Summer is now in free fall and everything is sliding inexorably toward autumn. You can't stop it and goodness knows this has been a very good summer with balmy evenings where I've sat outside absorbing the warm, thick air whilst listening to that exciting high pitched scream as groups of swifts soar effortlessly above. But from now on there will be just that little chill in the air. Air that will begin to feel decidedly thinner during evenings that will feel decidedly shorter.

So a lament to the swift. The bird that never stops flying and even sleeps on the wing. A bird that has to wait two or three years after fledging for its first rest if rest is the right word for nesting. A bird that has been recorded at twenty one years of age would you believe, which means that particular creature would have flown some three million miles.

Hearing the first swifts around the full moon at the end of May is a red letter day in any year, their departure is most certainly a grey one.


By the way, I've made a decision. Its my last physio session tomorrow so win lose or draw I'm going fishing at the weekend. Well I have to, haven't you heard? Autumns coming.

July 22, 2014

Fifty Not Out

Accompanied by his mother, the trip to the tackle shop had been thrilling, a first step into new world. His little eyes peering to see over the counter where, with great determination and an air of knowledge (passed on by Bob, an older boy), he asked for his hooks. Six size 14 and six size 10’s were slipped into a paper envelope and he clutched them in his little hand like they were jewellery. Those together with his very first rod licence made July 18th 1964 a very special day.

The actual date of his first trip have been lost along the way but it followed close to that fateful day just mentioned. Bob, some four maybe five years his senior accompanied him on the mile long trip on their bikes with rods strapped to crossbars to the weir. As they approached the roaring rush of water the silty, ionised air entered his nostrils and engaged with a deep part of the brain, he would never smell such water without a reference to this hallowed place, he was at last born an angler.

Hands shaking with anticipation and with fumbling fit to try the patience of his tutor for the day, somehow a three piece rod, possibly of greenheart or some inferior wood, was put together and the line from a diminutive bakelite centre pin was threaded through the rings. The tutor asked where the float rubbers had gone? He replied, with due embarrassment that they had been discarded as he was sure they were of no use. A remedy was found and the little porcupine quill was attached by threading a loop of line through the eye then passing it over the float and so, with brand new size 14 hook and a little squeeze of bread, his first cast was made into the water below.

Looking on in admiration he saw Bob catch minnows with consummate ease, his words of “There see, its easy”, did little to assuage the boy but eventually and after reducing the bait size by a considerable amount, his float at last slid to one side and he was attached to a living creature. The throbs and pulses of that tiny minnow were transmitted though line and rod, it was the realisation of a dream he’d had for so long in his short life, this is what he had always wanted and he was hooked for ever.

Having moved swims a few times he found himself standing tip toe to reach over the fence rail but it was uncomfortable and his rod pointed up and into the leaves of the Horse Chestnut tree above. The solution came by way of a damaged section of the fence where he could fish through and lean out to gaze down into the shady water below the great tree. Here he watched his bread sink only to take on a life of its own as it popped from side to side as minnow after minnow attacked it until it was small enough for one to swallow and again the shaking, spinning form came alive as it spun up through the water etching an image that remains as vivid today as it was fifty years ago. His keen eyes spotted larger fish, some as much as six inches long and this sent the boy running to find Bob to breathlessly describe the ‘monsters’ he’d nearly caught. Bob shrugged it off, he was talking to some bigger boys who were using one of his minnows as an eels bait. The boy was dispatched to catch more ‘bait’ and, filled with a sense of importance at being entrusted with such a task, he ran back and resumed his fishing with glee.

The next two fish were duly taken to the lads sat hunched over a rod cast under the overhanging trees on the far bank of the backwater section. This water was entirely different to the lively, fresh water of the weir and was dark, deep and foreboding. But the boy felt inflated with the praise and exclamations at his efficiency at catching minnows but felt uneasy that they were being left to expire on the top of the wall. His gaze was observed and they were dispatched by stamping on their heads ‘to release the flavour’. It was a mixture of emotions that the boy had yet to understand and which would crop up time and again though out his angling career.

His confusion was ended though when an urgent call made him run back to those boys and he watched as a mighty beast of the deep waters was reeled to the bank. It was an eel, probably about a pound and half in weight and the little boys eyes grew wider and wider as the older kids dispatched it and set off home with their meal. Any moral debate was dispelled in that instant, at least for the time being, there were monsters here to be caught and one day he too would conjure such leviathans at his bidding.

And you know what, on occasions he did just that. Its fifty years on and the excitement of that first trip is still bubbling away just below the surface like a well shaken bottle of champagne, a bottle that I have uncorked on countless occasions and one who’s taste and head spinning effect never lessens. I doubt I’ll make it a hundred years of fishing so I will celebrate my bicentennial and wish all of you as much pleasure as I have derived from this wonderful fishing life.