November 24, 2020

2020 Urgh!

 My last blog entry began with a reference to an unfinished quest, a long-standing desire to land a personal best crucian carp. That image and that dream have been haunting me now for some four months. I'd love to report that "Hey, I've been so busy with all these fish, I just haven't had to catch up". Far from it.

My initial enthusiasm was sufficient to get me up and out to a new water, one that held some fine specimens. Neil and I arrived on a blistering hot day (cloud had been forecast), and the surface of the pool was alive with carp of varying sizes. Neil lost all interest in crucians and began plotting the downfall of a basking common or two.

My swim was shady, but it also had tantalising, tiny bubbles popping to the surface here and there. Carefully plumbed, my bait stroked the bottom and I hunched over the rod awaiting action. It wasn't long before the almost imperceptible bobs and dips began - proper Cru behaviour. A slightly more determined dip was met by a twist of the wrist and a lively but small fish shuddered against my will. It was a little common carp.

This went on all day, classic crucian carp bites resulting in little carp. Yes, some of them were beautifully fully scaled mirrors but, they were all peas in a pod. I had one screaming bite but contact was brief and it was obviously a larger carp.

No floating baits were allowed at the venue but, my hotdog sausages when cut into slightly thicker slices, 'floated' in the surface film so, I claimed a technicality and let a piece explore the reed edges. The freebies all went and so did three bits with hooks in them but, and I really don't know why, all three failed to get hooked. I must have been fishing like a muppet.

Neil had a scrappy common, somebody fell or got pushed in, and a chap asked if I could sell him some drugs. Having never taken unprescribed medication and, as far as I know, never having given the appearance of one so inclined, I put it down to him being an idiot. He definitely fished like one.

On the advice of regular crucian catchers, I tried Stockton Reservoir. This involved rising at an ungodly hour, driving a long way and arriving at the same time as the local match anglers only to find they had 'pegged' all of the recommended swims. I tried hard and caught just about every species the lake holds apart from.... yes, you've guessed it. I later learned that the very swims I'd been given the tip to fish had not been drawn and I could have..... a pattern is forming.

I fished the river on one of those perfect days, mild, rising river, the swim out of the worse debris... I have had many fish from that spot and was full of confidence. I blanked.

It was all crap. I found myself fishing swims that had either been recommended or where I had a long proven track record and was falling at every hurdle. I hated myself for following others and vowed to plough my own furrow as usual. However, nothing seemed to work and not a single fish of note had visited my landing net. I began to get to me.

I need ambition and a learning curve to climb in order to keep my interest levels up. But I also need the odd hint that I'm heading in the right direction. Maybe that's the 'luck' element of our sport, if so my account was dry.

The second lockdown, crappy weather and a month-long illness that was a bit of a worry at the time, all combined to lower the enthusiasm. But I need something to keep me and my brain active over winter, never more so than this one. My usual winter read fest of fishing books was only going to increase the frustration, so I bought a train set. Go on, get it out of your system, you'd be surprised how many people have them and how many blokes wish they could.

I am now learning. For example, I've learned that my carpentry is below average at best, how modeling looks really easy in an online video but when you try it..... I've learned that getting started with a layout makes fishing look like a cheap pastime and that I am now more reliant on Amazon than I am oxygen. But it is a learning curve to climb and that will be enough to see out the remainder of this bloody awful year and crawl through the mire of 2021 until the vaccine starts doing the rounds.

Roll on next year and renewed hopes and dreams, in the meantime Choo Choo!

July 19, 2020

An Old Challenge Restarted.

9th August 2013 sits accusingly in my fishing diary. That was the last time I caught a crucian carp and, if truth be told, one of the last times I attempted to.

They had been stocked into a one acre pool on the estate where the carp lake is situated. No questions on identification, genuine accredited crucians which the promise of a golden future as they grew on. They did grow and pound plus fish started to appear.I even caught that single fish amongst the numerous roach that abounded. I fished a few more times and saw those little single bubbles around the weeds and the dithering minute dips and lifts of the float that never resulted in a fish.

A lot has happened since 2013. My ability to fish for any length of time was reduced but a couple of  events this year have given me some of my old vim back. I have new pain relief medication and having sold five rejects, I bought a Fox Duralite chair that, along with my couple of cushions, enables me to sit for a while and still be able to stand up again. I've fished every few days and am still in one piece - result.

However, since 2013 the crucian pond has not fared so well. There was a plague of cormorants and more than enough otters over wintering in the area. The result is that roach are very thin on the ground. What used to be a bite a chuck with the chance of some big fish has become extremely thin pickings. The perch too used to be plentiful and fit but now there's just little ones that I've seen so far.

On the plus side, some tench were introduced and are doing okay and the bream seem to have survived pretty much unharmed - if you count that as a plus. But the crucians? I have heard of one, just one coming out in recent history. It was over two pounds mind so it's well worth having a go.

I did just that last evening and, before I raise any hopes, no I didn't get one. The problem is that the lake has a narrow shelf and it is from this feature that I had my fish. It is also on the shelf that displays the tantalising bubbles but, for the life of me, I cannot now get a bite off it. Just a few inches further out and the drop off is dramatic and attractive to the rest of the fish that live in there. So, do I keep dibbling on the ledge or try and catch as many of the fish in the going spots and hope that a crucian may one day drop by and say hello?

I confess, the quest is a real long shot and when, as it did last evening, the bubbling stops but the bream and tench roll and fizz further out, the temptation to raise the float and have a go is too strong to resist. I guess that something else that's changed in the last six years is my patience and determination. I hedged my bets, fished two lines and didn't give either the attention they deserved.

My evening resulted in a single bream that demonstrated a turn of speed that was well out of character, a brace of diminutive perch and a couple of eels just above the 'bootlace' category. It's possibly  even longer ago that I caught my last eel so I should be grateful. Indeed it is welcoming to see eels nowadays but I do want one of those golden beauties.

July 16, 2020

Four Leaf Clovers...

... they don't work.

When  I was but a lad I was taken, along with my brother and sister, to some hills just off the A303 on the Somerset/Wiltshire boarder. It was sandy ground, short grass and lots of butterflies but the foliage caught our attention. My sister found a four leaf clover.

We scoured the area and soon a mutant patch gave up many of it's oddities. We ended with a haul of a genuine two leafer, lots of fours, a couple of fives I think a six but not a seven although we peaked with an eight leaf clover. None of us have ever seen the like since.

However, I have always kept my eye in and seem to find more than my share of FLC's. It's a knack, as you walk and look down you just have an idea of 'four' in you head and they pop out of the three's waving at you. Have I enjoyed unbridled luck and success as a result? Have I buggery.

One of my earliest fours when I was 12 or 13, was mounted between Sellotape and consigned to my fishing bag. Surely now my trips to the Yeo would be fruitful. Nope, I had a run of blanks and an incident where my trotted bread was heading for a mighty trout well in excess of two pounds. It moved to intercept my offering, I tensed, readying myself when the ground shook. I suspected a minor earth tremor but no, a herd of steers ran full pelt down the bank and into their drinking spot - which happened to contain my trout. The fish left, the air turned blue and a young boy went home disappointed. The clover did not join me again.

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, if fortune depended on the random collection of mutated foliage we'd all be scouring the fields and hedgerows for a talisman to avoid life's drudgery but the consistency of the curse of the clover is baffling.

A week or so ago I joined my son and grandson for a three generation fishing day at a local pool. Jake caught two small carp quickly then got a little bored, as kids do. I'd had a couple of fish too so joined Jake for an adventure walk, warning him that clearings in the woods meant child eating monsters abound - knowing full well there was one up ahead. He's eleven now so my scare story and a few guttural noises and branch shakes failed to have the desired effect. We walked on through a long meadow and skirted the long way back to the fishing spot so that Neil could have a few minutes of rest from the constant questions and demands...... from Jake, not me.

In the field I found a four leaf clover, one of those big clovers which apparently, produce more four's than some other varieties, or are  they just easier to spot??? Back at base we showed off our find. It was then that Jake realised he'd lost his little plastic Kinder Egg toy somewhere on the trek. His belief in FLC luck instantly tainted. Jake has a few 'issues', Neil likens their home schooling sessions as being akin to herding wasps, hence giving up a 'treasured' toy he'd got that afternoon and had yet to play with, didn't sit right and a tantrum ensued. I could feel Neil's stress level rising so I set off with the boy as we back-tracked though dense undergrowth and long grass. We failed to find his toy but I did find another FLC.

On our second return to the swim, Neil had been in a right state as two rods had gone off together and the resultant carnage was one landed but two rods tangled beyond use. I gave him the clover and he hooked immediately into a better fish on the last rod out - then lost it.

Relating this to my wife she was thrilled by the finding of FLC's as she's never managed it. Next walk with the dog and I found yet another and picked it for her. That was last weekend and since then nothing has gone right. My new bivvy turned up, I set it up in the garden and a pole snapped as I was connecting the tension strap. Nicky had some T shirts arrive from the USA that had been subject to an excess import levy. None of them fitted as US Large, I later found on their all but hidden sizing chart, equates to an adult Asian woman the size of a twelve year old girl. Then today, her long awaited bird bath turned up but was the wrong one. Can you spot a pattern?

I went to the river last evening. I have been chubbed out every time I go so chose a spot that has produced some bigger ones and hoped to exploit my magnetic attraction to them. As I took my already made up rods from the car - ow! A size 10 micro barb curved shank hook sank deep into my thumb. The reel from rod two was entangled with the reel on the rod I was attached to. What made life harder was that it was in my right hand so my manoeuvring was all done cack-handedly. Eventually I had my tackle bag open and some pliers in my hand. It hurt....quite a lot so I opted for pushing the point through and snipping it off. That hurt considerably more so I tried the ghillie method and put a loop around the hook to pull it out from the direction it had gone it. I think I was missing one item, the ghillie as I couldn't get it right without way too much discomfort.

Last option - grab the hook with pliers and give it the ol' heave ho. Surprisingly it didn't bleed much.

I fished till dusk using the method that had worked so well in the past. I had two chub, the biggest about a pound. I drove home and flushed the FLC down the toilet and have vowed never to pick another.

I hope that my fortunes turn and I have something of note to report soon.

As a PS, whilst preparing this blog the heating boiler failed. The FLC is a curse that knows no end....

you have been warned.

June 25, 2020

Raptors Delight

Not the Sugar Hill Gang of course but more of the birds in a bit.

It's been a chubby start to the season. My opening day jaunt saw me trotting corn and catching stacks of small chub up to a couple of pounds. That most were just a few ounces was immaterial, I was more than content stood in the flow and watching a float disappear on almost every trot.

On Tuesday of this week Chris came over for a visit - well you can now can't you. He's been excited at locating a Hobby that found a partner and they are now brooding. A trip over to see them is in the offing. I, in exchange, have been telling Chris about our Red Kite that has taken food off the kitchen roof and, being a very accomplished and eager photographer, Chris wanted to take some shots.

In the mean time Mr Kite has drawn the attention of a number of gulls that try to mug him of his food. One of these seaside interlopers has also learned that the Kite circling our house means a free meal of day-old chicks. My attempts at trail-cam photography has succeeded only in Herring Gull action.

I digress, birds were seen and pictures taken and then we fished. I had a few chub to about 4lb, Chris faffed about for small chub and photographed many things, including me.

Next day I was back and had a few more chub to over 4lbs. It was very pleasant being by the river in the evening and doubly so after so many days stuck in the house.

The birds - well, Chris got some great shots of the Kite which, when you consider they were taken from my back garden, are brilliant. Once they were securely sat on his SSD card, we headed off in search of Peregrine Falcons. Chris became very excited.

There's an area I know of where Peregrines have nested on all but one of the last twenty years. Sightings at this time of year are all but guaranteed but we hit something of a jackpot. As we approached so an adult noisily left the nest, then the second. We set ourselves down for a wait to see if there would be a feeding run in the near future.

As we sat I scanned the rocks and trees above and spotted a juvenile that was almost fully fledged. It was sat sunning itself and doing the occasional wing stretch. A little later I found a second juvenile some way from the first, then an adult returned and perched above the two. Pretty soon they were all asleep. Lunch time.

After a sandwich in the shade of an oak tree, Chris headed back carrying his mega lens that's about the size of a bazooka. I wandered off to another beat to check of the swim I fancied was free. On my return I could see that Chris was getting a display as an adult had coaxed one of the young 'uns off the cliff and was giving it a flying lesson. It was breath taking. I was soon back by his side and we witnessed that bird possibly making its maiden flight. Four peregrines is more than anybody can ask for and Chris must have got blisters on his shutter finger. We even had a group of young Mandarin ducks pass on single file along the far bank and later Ch saw his first Green Sandpiper too, a great day all around.

Okay, it's time to unveil some of his pictures. They're not bad but I recon my camera phone would have done just as well.

Juvenile 1.
Juvenile 2


Adult and Juvenile 2

May 26, 2020


It's been so long since I had a morning tench fishing. There's just not that many tench waters around here and as my mind spends longer thinking about carp the lovely tench get's lost in the rush for a thirty pounder. But a stocking several years ago has begun to prove fruitful. The little pool was home to some plump roach and perch but they have been brushed aside by age or predation and the fingerling tench are coming on well. Time to try it out.

Apparently these fish are right out of Mr Crabtree's folklore in that they feed very early in the day then switch off and disappear. I didn't fancy a mega-early rise so took the softer option. I gained an hour in bed by bivvying up next to the lake overnight so I could enjoy a lie-in till about 4.45 am. The night was warm, the owls loud and, what I presume to be a juvenile owl left in a tree nearby, whined about it all night.

Cane decided that the first bird song was breakfast time. He was a little put out by the reply and settled for another hour or so until my phone ruined a perfectly good dream. I was quickly out of bed and scanning the baited swim for activity. There wasn't so much as a single bubble.

A coffee had me up and about and a single grain of corn sat below a very old and favoured float. I'd given it a coat of varnish yesterday as so much paint is missing. I sat and gazed at the little red point in the water - absorbed, content and eager.

At last, a slight bob and the rod is trembling in my hand awaiting the next movement. It came in the form of a slight lift and I struck into a solid weight. However, it immediately yielded and I was into the gnarliest male bream ever. It was adorned with spawning tubercles over its entire body and felt like a slice of concrete. However, it was a blank saving fish and was lovingly slipped back.

Soon after - another bite and I am connected to a feisty little fish that, as it rose in the water, looked as if it was made of coal. In came the darkest tench I have ever seen, small but beautifully marked. This was followed by another dark fish with slightly more green on her flanks. I thought it was going to be a busy morning however, despite seeing some bubbles here and there including some that looked very Crucian-like, I didn't get so much as a twitch.

The moment had passed and that 'dead' feeling came over the water. I mused myself by feeding the female Mandarine duck and her four chicks. They were very nervous of me yesterday evening but  now they were content to take seeded bread and corn.

I popped over to the carp lake and had a wander. I found a few fish milling about and the tiger nuts I threw into a corner were soon being truffled up by a carp. But, by the time I had eaten my breakfast, sorted some gear and wandered to a suitable ambush point, the mood on here also changed. The only fish I saw were now basking in thick weed and I got the distinct feeling that they were having a post spawn rest.

I decided they deserved their day in the sun and will return in a week or so - hopefully after some rain.

May 17, 2020

Scraping Off The Rust

I stopped along the track and attacked a few fallen branches with my saw. Path cleared I reached my spot and quietly got out of my car and breathed the fresh, cool air absorbing the vista of greens and blue all enveloped in a myriad of bird song.  I was back.

I'd walked the lake the other day and had spotted a number of fish so I approached today with a plan or two up my sleeve. I decided to forgo the temptation of an overnighter and just reacquaint myself with my dusty tackle, tackle that had lay idle for six months.

I baited a couple of spots with a few boilies and a handful of pellets. There was muddied water on the shallows where feeding had and was taking place - confidence was high.

Fortunately I'd come with reels already loaded with good line and rig tubing already threaded, unusually for me I'd even tied a few rigs. Why is it that whenever I look at my pre-tied rigs they never seem attractive? But I found one that was just about passable and headed off for the distant swim.

One hundred yards away from the car I dropped the gear and returned for a some leads - I knew I'd forget something - and saw a fish bosh out over the first baited spot. 'You be patient', I mused, 'I'll get to you later.'

Swim one is a favourite stalking spot. I've previously had them from just a yard or so off the bank but as most of the feeding was on the opposite bank, I  decided to fish a little further out on a patrol route. In went a pva bag of crushed boilies and a few pellets, the ever effective wafter on the hair. A few freebies scattered about and it was time to sit back.

The breeze picked at the line and gave me a few bleeps but a heavier stick as a makeshift bobbin sorted it all out. Ten minutes later there was something truffling near my bait.

Alas that excitement abated and the water cleared. I knew I was still in with a chance but the head gremlins started questioning if my bait was visible or stuck in some weed, or missing.....? you know the score, always questions. I was almost ready to concede and recast for another half hour.  I'd only been fishing for thirty minutes or so but wanted to get to the other swim for what is usually a productive period of the day.

My doubts dissolved as the water again muddied around my feed, it was apparent that several fish were greedily competing around my bait. Despite being poised and in the starting blocks, the inevitable bite still took me by surprise such was the speed of the taking fish. I saw it's grey back belting off to the left and the stick on the line flying off to the right. I bent into it as it raced past a large, snaggy branch protruding from the water.

I was able to turn the fish and saw it, a nice mirror, dark and chunky, as it rolled on the surface. It came obediently toward me but the wrong side of that snag, all went solid. I slackened the line and waited, watched and pondered. Had the fish still been there I would surely have seen movement in the shallow water but no, it had done me. I heaved the branch some way toward the bank before the line parted. Ah well, plan A bust, on to plan B

I flicked two rods out in my second swim, sat back and fully expected some action. I discovered just how long my abstinence had been when I had a head scratch moment wondering how to turn an alarm on. Err, that big silver switch may have something to do with it - numpty.

By now my lad was fishing elsewhere on the lake but all was quiet. I looked in a few regular holding areas and nothing was on show. The desire to land a fish seemed somehow unimportant, I wasn't even annoyed when I lost the one earlier, just a little irked that it had taken off left as opposed to straight out which is the norm. No, this was a day for being there, re-grounding the soul, enjoying freedom and a change of scenery in this most difficult and trying time. The horrors of deadly virus seemed a million miles away - but I wore gloves whilst opening the gates - crazy times.

The lake stopped talking to me, I felt my efforts had run their course and decided to leave it for next time. This left Neil to the peace and quiet of an idyllic world. He had the lake to himself for the time being and, having endured lockdown with kids and home schooling, his agenda was peace and quiet first, fish second.

I shall return soon and maybe I'll get a fish. Do you know what? I really don't mind if I have a few blanks, just being there was enough.

March 25, 2020

Pass the Swear Box

Occasionally my fishing loses momentum and I become frustrated. I decided to make some adjustments last year and chose a few new places to try but, with one thing or another, it didn't happen. I haven't even wet a line since November.

Looking back at 2019, I really enjoyed a hard trip to France that involved determination and a spot of brain power, I wanted more of that. I have fished public and commercial lakes over there along with a few rivers but now I have made the decision to go at it hard. I know, I know, it's been done to death by thousands of other UK, Dutch, German, Belgian....... anglers and not to mention the hoards of French guys that now target the carp. But there are still plenty of fish to be caught and, before I slow down my fishing life, I'd like to land something that makes my jaw drop.

There we are, my new goal and an entire winter to get planning and amassing the essentials. I now have an inflatable boat, an electric outboard, a couple of batteries, a fish finder with more options and gizmo's than I'll ever get to grips with, three new rods and reels and a dustbin brimming with boilies. My bank balance has shrunk but his will be a father and son adventure and we will be searching out some big, unrecognisable fish.

Then Coronavirus came.

I made a decision early in the crisis not to buy any travel tickets, it proved sensible as the situation worsened. I gradually came to realise that I may well not get over there this year, well maybe the autumn? We'll see.

Taking a deep breath and kicking myself into action I have started planning a concerted effort on my syndicate lake. I would never say I was bored with the lake, it's far too beautiful for that but the challenge has definitely levelled out and its' in no way a difficult water. If something else came along to get the juices flowing I'd be well up for it. There is a lake containing some nice commons but logistically it's difficult.

My first walk around the syndicate lake was Monday when the sun shone and a few fish basked in the warmth. The first one I spotted was clearly over 30lbs so I started planning a trip. Nicky has been house bound pretty much since the start of the virus as her underlying health conditions mean that exposure would be very serious. She does though understand my need to escape from time to time and was happy for me to go. Right, let's get that new line on the reels.

That evening the guy that runs the lake rang me. We chatted and I confirmed my place for the next year and so on. Then he let on that he had a new place to fish, a big estate lake with plenty of depth, cover, islands etc and which hadn't been fished for thirty years. Thirty years! and almost virgin water with unknown stock but certainly carp, tench etc. He had secured a lease and was putting together a small group to fish it but, the invites had already gone out. My envy must have drooled down the line and into his ear. "Would you be interested? There may be a place available". We arranged to meet at the water later.

I rang to arrange the meeting with The Man and yippee I am in the syndicate. Okay, it costs a small fortune never mind the extra mileage but I'm only human and chances like this well, they just don't happen, the odds of winning the lottery must be bigger. It may or may not contain monsters but it's be a proper challenge finding out.

Enter Boris and the lock down commenced - pass swear box.