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....