Thursday, 30 July 2015

Youtube Bloggers Match Video

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Blackwater - Piecing together the skeleton key

This season I had a plan and one I wished to stick to, that was to target barbel on the Blackwater. Time spent watching and building up a mental image of various stretches of the river over the last few seasons whilst targeting other species had helped a lot, that said on the couple of occasions I did try to tempt one during last season I felt that I approached it half heartedly and lacked the single minded focus it required.

So this season I decided to do evening trips, fishing till midnight hoping with the dry weather that the cover of darkness would help combat the low water levels. Three trips in I was beginning to scratch my head and stare at a piscatorial labyrinth with which to become lost in. The barbel were still spawning and that was definitely making it tricky, thoughts about leaving it till a bit later in the season did cross my mind.

During the fourth trip I had settled into a perfect looking swim, dense streamer weed giving way to dinner plate sized gaps where a bait could be gently lowered and presented, it was a lovely warm evening and there was signs of fish on the opposite margin, the tell tale signs as the foliage was being vigorously nudged back and forth, a sure sign that something was engrossed with spawning activity. Around 10pm a fish in my marginal swim spooked and a trail of bubbles was all that could be seen, I was starting to think that things were not going to go as I hoped. Half an hour later and a mink paddled by, not the best sight in your swim and it followed it up by passing by yet again on its way upstream. This scenario was set to repeat itself and in all honesty it could have done a backstroke on its next lap past my rod, it would not have surprised me had that happened!

I really should have moved swims, as I have always found when fishing its larger sibling the Loddon that you may have a good spot which can produce some very special fish, however once the mink become active you are sometimes better off relocating. Alas I stuck it out and this furry critter that seemed like it had overdosed on energy drinks just kept on going (could well have been powered by Duracell).  I headed home with a bee in my bonnet about furry critters that might make nice coats!

On the evening of my fifth trip there had been a welcome sprinkling of rain, conditions were very humid, with plenty of cloud cover and a welcome breeze. It felt right, but would the river agree? As I made my way to a new spot I passed by a few swims that showed obvious signs of angling activity the Himalayan balsam and reeds trodden down, enough room for an opportunistic cast up or downstream. Tempting as they were I had one area in mind and was hoping the extra depth just might give me a chance.

As evening drew in I had placed some birdseed via bait dropper slightly upstream and lowered the rod into position, a scant amount of free offerings were placed round the hook bait, the last thing I wanted to do was over feed fish that seemed to have an abundance of natural food.

Every fishing trip I am a fairly excitable angler but this evening you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife, for some reason I was like a tightly wound, chubby spring sat on a landing mat.

An hour later and the rod nodded once and tapped a couple of times before the clutch started ticking steadily, not the usual manic bite you would associate from a barbel, oh no that was to come when I lifted the rod and boy did she awaken, tearing off downstream and trying to take me for a tour of the weed bed, as I walked to the limit of my swim to gain some control over her I could feel every surge  and with it the attempt to make for the sanctuary of some nearby snags.

My headlight caught her flank as she broke the surface, words tumbled out my mouth regarding her  length and build, along with a slight helping of expletives. The net seemed to take an age to slip under her, but once it had and she lay recuperating I punched the air with joy, daft as it may seem but I don't think I have ever felt such a feeling of contentment.

 A dream realised from one of my favourite Thames tributaries (12.1)

I was over the moon, I don't think there is a much better feeling than adrenaline combined with knowing that groundwork had culminated in such a reward, if only she could have known how much she had gladdened my heart. As I released her it was with an emotionally choked goodbye.

Part of the key had been unearthed, but this waterway has so many more special secrets that it withholds and has fought its way back from the brink of death by pollution in 1995, long may it continue.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

Why do you go fishing?

Such a simple question, yet one which I feel some anglers totally miss the point of and dare I say end up disappearing down a tunnel of blinkered thinking and a necessity to catch.

Let me explain why I enjoy fishing.

I enjoy the escapism and peacefulness, the latter being very much venue dependent admittedly, but that first look at a river or lake as you make your way along it, be it a new venue or one that has been inextricably linked to your childhood memories is akin to fresh wind filling the sails of a boat.

The wildlife alone is joy enough to behold and just being able to witness natures theatre is  wonderful. Treated to the sights and sounds of kingfisher, buzzard, kestrel, kite, owl, deer, fox and badger to name but a few, makes any fishing trip a joy on its own.

Granted we all like to catch the odd fish, after all that is part of the reason we go, but as I look more and more at social media I am seeing anglers comment with "I want big fish" , this along with other comments saddens me in more than one way.

The lack of being able to enjoy what you are catching, because angler A,B or C on facebook, twitter, instagram etc have been out and caught bigger. I am seeing a mentality that this creates amongst some anglers and is very much a seemingly one way ticket to having a certain outlook. I feel  they allow it to then encroach upon their enjoyment of their own angling and dare I say go off on one predetermined path.

I like to catch and target (loathe to use that word too) the odd larger fish, but at the same time still get as much enjoyment catching smaller fish no matter the species. If you cannot find that enjoyable I think you need to question if you really do get the same evocative feelings from this pastime any more.

There is also a lack of thinking outside of the stereotypical venues, this saddens me probably the most of all. Granted one of the rivers I fish is the Loddon and you could very much say that makes my statement a bit hypocritical, as it is an oversubscribed river on some club tickets due to the popularity of barbel angling. But I enjoy fishing other rivers which have had and still do have a tendency to be ignored, in some anglers eyes they are deemed not worthy of any attention.

One of my older articles touched on this very lightly. "more river and peace for yourself Mark"  I hear you say and that may well be true but at the same point the ignorance and one track thinking fills me with a non comparable amount of dismay and it would be nice to see more anglers looking at some of these little places as a goldmine in terms of enjoyable fishing trips and that they do contain some absolute monsters, some of which can rival rivers of a more grand scale.


Where has the enjoyment gone from catching a nice fish for a particular venue or for your geographical location? I think in essence media and other fishing programs have in some ways helped to nurture and feed a bit of a mentality of  "if it isn't big I aint interested".

This is not a rant or me trying to crow from some illusionary moral high ground and I do realise that I obviously enjoy using social media to upload and share my fishing vlogs (youtube & facebook). It is just me simply trying to say go out there and enjoy your fishing, don't read into too much on social media, avoid it skewing your thoughts and sending your angling and with it the essence and reason why you enjoyed it in the first place into a downward spiral.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Hamster wheels & opening day

Opening day of the season beckoned and it was fairly evident that quite a few anglers had commenced with a midnight cast, something which I have never been that fussed about, I have to be honest that most of the time I would probably prefer to skip the 16th and let the dust settle.

One thing I did want was my first barbel on the pin this season and so on opening day when I really should have taken the quiver tip rod I instead headed off to the river with the barbel tackle and Marco Cortesi mk2 in tow.  On reaching the river it was nice to find some swims had not been crushed down by the usual June 16th stampede.

I decided to fish a few swims using a simple link ledger and trundling bait along some likely undercuts and gravel runs. Sure enough it was not long before a group of barbel came into sight  right beneath my feet and all were rather preoccupied with only one thing on their minds. I considered my options. 1) Phone home and try to get the quiver tip, possibly risking a verbal ear battering. 2) Crack on and see if I could tempt some chevin.

The latter won easily, besides hardly fair on mum or my ears. I planned to fish a few swims and started off in a shallow area that gave way to some depth along the opposite bank, a few free offerings of slick sense boilie barrels were placed upstream before trundling finally commenced. It became evident early on that the water clarity combined with sunny conditions would make for a tricky affair, so a change of swims was made and I moved slightly downstream to see if I could perhaps tempt some from under a bush.

A few minutes had past when I received a very confident bite and I was soon playing a chunky summer chub.


The first fish of the season and I was rather cheerful about it, a good scrap considering the barbel tackle. The day was speeding by, the air heavily laced with pollen, it was a hay fever sufferers nightmare, that said the bees were having a jolly good time filling up their pollen baskets.

By evening I had added a few chublets and a couple of greedy brownies that had taken a liking to the bait. I pondered a move back to the shady swim that had produced the larger chub and perhaps another couple of swims further downstream, one of these a rather debris strewn, shallow run with enough cover for a fish to have some welcome respite from the late evening sun.

Making my way back upstream to my first swim I decided to roll the dice and see if there were any more chevin willing to feed, a bite came quite rapidly, the rod tip thudding round and I found myself playing a chub that was putting up a really good tussle in this pacey water. A nicely formed fish with that dappled enamelling that makes them look like they have been given a fresh coat of gilding.


After a light snack and some welcome rehydration I decided to fish a couple more spots, one of these I had planned to leave and head home, after all I was fairly spent, but the allure proved too much and I found myself wetting a line in a deeper swim in hope of a barbel. Forty minutes later and the isotope moved in one direction only, before the pin crackled into life, a lively scrap from a feisty whisker ensued, this fish powering off downstream in an attempt to put me into the nearest reeds and flotsam that it could find.

A perfectly conditioned six pounder and my first barbel on a pin. I must admit I wholeheartedly enjoyed it, that said I am still not a fully converted pin user for them and certainly won't be ditching the fixed spool reels just yet.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A weclome distraction

It is only seven days till the rivers open and whilst I have spent some of the closed season looking at new bits of rivers which I have joined, I have also been enjoying a spot of carp fishing, far away from any crowds, surrounded only by natures harmony.

There is something to be said about lakes that have atmosphere, not all are blessed with it and some can be quite lacking in character, almost soulless. This venue ticks all my boxes, wooded mangrove islands, bays and a plethora of underwater features to place a bait to, the fish are in perfect condition, no damaged mouths to be found, consisting of quite a few Dinkelsbuehl breed, along with tench, perch and rudd, a nice mixture.

My last couple of trips have been in the shape of late evening to early morning sessions, getting down at dusk and usually settling into a swim as the Nightjar begins to call out in earnest. Keeping clutter to a minimum, a couple of four piece stalker rods, small baitrunners all which fit neatly into a compact holdall and along with a small but strong seat that has supported the weight of my derrière rather well over the years, not without a creak or two though.

It was a cool evening despite it being summertime and in the darkness the tell-tale sounds of clooping could be heard near some inaccessible margins, followed by a crash, the ripples eventually caressing my rod tips. The wildlife night shift had begun, deer running along the path, edging slowly closer and closer to my swim in hope of a drink, before realising that this particular spot was taken and running off into the darkness barking in shock, we both jumped believe me. Badgers could be heard tumbling about in the thicket behind me having what sounded like a domestic squabble, I was smiling contented to be in their company, ensconced in this little piece of heaven.

At around 1am my right rod let out a single tone run and I was soon playing a picture perfect mirror of 9lb.

It was soon slipped back and sped off like an angry teenager, I was rather happy as I was also using this trip to test out some baits from West country baits, namely their Lh1 boilies and barbel slick sense range which I also plan to put to use on the rivers once they open.

I know this might seem like a shameless plug and one which most anglers may have heard ad infinitum, but Shaun Hodges who is the main chap behind the company, knows a fair bit regarding bait having been involved with developing most if not all of the Hinders bait range during his time working for them. That on its own is very re-assuring and unlike some bait companies without any credentials that appear overnight and purport to be the best thing since sliced bread, anyway I have digressed somewhat.

Time ticked by far too fast and as the faintest hint of morning was appearing, my left hand rod fished  to a marginal gully let out a single bleep, the bright green led of the delkim reflecting off the water, a prelude to what was to become a bit of a scrap from a lively scamp that had a rather large paddle which it put to good use.

As dawn broke the Tufted ducks landed and they kindly spared me an exhibition of  their normally overenthusiastic bait diving.

"I think the baits are right here, lets do some diving!"

Now there are a few nice tench in this lake, dare I say they would certainly break my pb and it was going through my mind at the time that it was the perfect morning, the water was bath temperature with a nice mist rising from it and a light ripple in the morning breeze. What happened next was all in the blink of an eye, line melting from the spool and rod lifting upward as the fish came up across a gravel bar, as I tried to apply side strain the back of a portly, dark fish appeared. The sudden surfacing threw me off kilter and it did not take long to decide what it planned to do as it powered back down and headed toward some snags, alas it was having none of it and it cut me off on a gravel bar.

I kept mulling over thoughts of the raw power and the chance it could have been a good tench kept popping up in my head, I kept pushing them back, admittedly I was using a pair of carp rods and to some that might not count, but that did not make me feel any the better I can tell you that right now...

By now I had packed one rod up, its lone companion was still waiting for the chance of one more fish and it kindly obliged with a terrific scrap from a  pretty looking mirror (10lb), its middle scales looking akin to a sliced chestnut mushroom. I made my way home in a chipper mood.

These trips were fuelling me with a feeling I have lacked somewhat for still waters over recent years and I looked forward to another trip the following week. This was to be a later start and I had not set up till darkness had fallen. It was a cool night the and sky was crystal clear, the full moon was radiant as if someone had forgotten to turn the lights off. Conditions were perfect for hunters and it was not long before owls could be heard calling out to one and other, a stag called out into the night, its gruff bark filling the peaceful backdrop with a lonely ambience.

On this particular occasion I had taken my jetboil stove with me as you cannot beat a fresh cup of tea and it was not long after the first cup that I slipped a net under the first fish of the night, a small angry mirror which looked a double but scales said otherwise, a few thankful words were said and asked to send some of its older relatives my way.

By now the moon was directly in front of me and the lake was eerily calm, one more fish had  followed its friend to the net, yet despite this it had been rather still and there had been no signs of spawning activity on the lake either.

At 3am my left rod tore off along a deep margin and I was soon playing what felt a better fish, after a nice scrap there was a rather short, plump female sat in the net and it looked a good mid double, at least 15lb was my guesstimate. She had quite a distended belly, in fact it could have matched mine on a lesser scale and she was in perfect condition with a set of proud barbules, weighing less than I had estimated.


Morning broke and along with it a very rich dawn chorus filled the air, I had the feeling of contentment and timelessness. Although in reality it was not long before I had to be packing up.
All of the fish had fallen to my left rod during the night, the right rod which was placed on a gravel bar further out had remained quiet, a look at my watch told me I had forty minutes left and fifteen of which were allotted to packing up, enough time for a morning brew and maybe one last fish.

The stove was starting to steam as the right rod woke up, line zipping off the reel, thud followed by that slack feeling of a hook pull, sure enough the hook was partially burred, "hard lipped" did spring to mind! Compensation in the shape of a steaming cup of tea was soon to hand, I sat absorbing the gloriously sunny morning, part of me partially lost to this place, immersed in its aura, the other half being drawn ever closer to the heartbeat of running water.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Last two trips - Seasons end

A bit late to the end of season party compared to some of you other bloggers, but better late than never, at least I think so.

The end of the season would soon be upon me, where does the time go?  Needless to say that the weather was on the turn and there was without doubt a hint of spring in the air and I an itch that needed scratching. I'll admit now that I can be a bit stubborn with trying new things sometimes and lure fishing has fallen under this category, but a few weeks prior I decided to spend a frugal amount on some Sports direct jigs, total cost £7 for 110 haribo coloured lures and apart from the hooks needing a little sharpening it didn't look such a bad purchase.

Fast forward to a rather sunny day and I quite fancied a foray for perch or pike. The compact exage rod was grabbed along with a selection of jigs and I was soon trying a few swims. Various speeds of retrieve were interspersed with twitching and lifting the rod tip up and back down slightly, although I have to say I think the hardest thing for me was getting use to the retrieve.

It was not until I tried one of the lower beats of this river that I had my first hit, slowly retrieving the jig along a deeper margin until it was more or less parallel with my feet, an eager jack pounced on it and headed off downstream.

1-0 to the fluro orange jig

Later in the day I decided to head back upstream and try my luck at a sumptuous looking slack that I had tried earlier, It looked too good not to produce. Two casts later and there was an explosive eruption from the sunken tree on the opposite bank as a pike came sprinting out from cover,  mouth agape and lunging into the jig with gusto. This was a better fish and sprinted downstream on a couple of energetic runs, the little rod more than ample to cope with it, resulting in a nicely marked esox just over 7lb.


By now I was slowly getting into a modicum of rhythm and beginners luck, well something was working at least and that little voice in my head was starting to chirp away, asking why I didn't lure fish more and this was one example where talking to yourself does not always give you the right answers as there was no way I could deny that I was enjoying this.

On the way upstream I passed by another angler who had set up for a spot of chub fishing, he was rather hopeful that he would get his line tugged. I decided to give a couple more spots a few casts before heading home, it was at this precise moment I realised that I had not changed jigs during this trip, although I had lost one on a bush on the opposite bank earlier on and this gave me good opportunity to try something different, however I still foraged about and replaced it with an identical jig, I felt that if it is not broken don't fix it.

The final spot produced a rattling bite, just as I slowed down the retrieve and could feel the lure clipping the riverbed lightly. A perch was the reward, not a monster, but a finely marked fish that was in perfect condition.

I don't normally do final thoughts regarding a style of fishing, but such was my enjoyment throughout this trip that it has left me wishing that I had done a lot more in the past. Granted this trip like one Swallow does not make a summer, but goodness it was an adrenaline rush to see the fish hit the lure and I certainly won't be denying myself this enjoyment in the future.

The final day of the season had me pondering where to head and if I should perhaps head out again with the lures, but try as I might I could not tear myself away from the urge to end the season doing some link legering for chub.

It was a nice morning but the wind was rather keen to gnaw at my rotund figure, though that was my own fault for not wearing more than a couple of layers. I had decided to take some liquidised bread mixed with a good helping of Parmesan cheese powder, this had been purchased at a reduced price a good few years ago (2008) and is perfect to add a spot of scent trail to the mix, along with this I had krill cheese paste, bread, worms and a pint of maggots for hook baits.

I decided that I would try quite a few swims on worm for instant bites and in the other swims opt to bait with the Parmesan bread mix, fishing these swims in rotation. The first area looked good for a fish or two and had numerous debris strewn features, ranging from sunken branches to an uprooted tree which had created a nice hole off of the main current.

It didn't disappoint and a rattling bite was soon forthcoming from a young, clean looking chevin.

I decided to have another cast, this time tighter to the opposite bank, the water running smoothly here or least that is what I thought, on the retrieve I found that I was snagged solidly and had to slowly pull for a break and if there is one thing I absolutely loathe it is losing ssg shot, especially given how costly it is and how few you get per tub, I sat muttering about this to myself as I set up another link.

Moving downstream I came to a spot where graveled shallows gave way to a deeper depression and I decided to take off one ssg to allow the bait to trundle through the swim more naturally. On the second cast as the worm bobbed underneath the opposite bank and into the deeper water I received a thumping bite.

This felt a better stamp of chevin as it stayed low using the current to its advantage and gave a good account of itself. A portly, brass coloured fish with a glossy sheen to it. The chevins were clearly on the feed, although in some swims it was a case of one bite at the apple and then move on.


I found myself tempted by a swim I have not tried before, although I do question why not considering the amount of features which included a nice slack. This was one of a handful of swims that I had baited with liquidised bread and this can be a bit of a gamble, as sometimes it does spook fish that you might have taken by just dropping into a swim and fishing opportunistically with a single bait. Thirty minutes later and I was wondering if this was the case as worm and cheese paste remained untouched.

The current on the opposite bank was fast moving, not particularly deep but well oxygenated. However I had baited the areas that had extra depth. I wondered if perhaps a fish had visited the area I had baited earlier, fed and moved off or out of the slack water. With this in mind I tried a few trundles into the faster flow, this time the quiver tip bounced abruptly, almost like one of those wary bites where you don't expect to get another, this was not to be the case as the line went slack as the fish picked up the bait and moved toward me.

On setting the hook I was connected to a chub that was convinced it was a distant relative to trout as it attempted to tail walk multiple times. It was obvious this fish had been enjoying the smorgasbord that I had baited with, as once it was on the unhooking mat liquidised bread poured from its thick set mouth.


As darkness began to set in I moved to a new swim, one with bushes either side of the opposite margin, a juicey worm was soon placed between them and whilst waiting to see if this swim might have someone at home I was drawn to thoughts of how quickly this season had sped by and I recounted the enjoyable trips, chuckling about the mishaps that had happened along the way.

By now the wind was easing a little and I could just make out the silhouette of a fox on the opposite bank as it padded its way through the field when the rod thudded twice before springing back into position.

What was to follow was moments of multiple madness, bites coming at regular intervals and it was evident that I had found a shoal of fish that were grouped up around these bushes and willing to feed very confidently, most of these falling to worm with the exception of the 3.12, which took a liking to the krill cheese paste.




The bites were slowly drying up and my eyes had started to fatigue a little, I did consider a move to another swim, but instead of doing this I decided to drop a little bit more Parmesan bread in and rest the swim for thirty minutes, giving me some time to rest my eyes and have a drink, I must admit I was feeling really happy with how the fishing trip was going. A quick look at my watch showed it had gone 10pm, the bait had been in the water for twenty minutes when I received the most delicate of plucks, followed by a real tip rattler, this seemed a very edgy bite,  no surprise given that I had taken a few fish from this swim.

The worm proved too tempting as the rod lurched forward and I was instantly connected to what felt a larger fish, head down, bullish and making a powerful dash for the sanctuary of the bushes, I had no intention of giving any quarter and allowed the rod tip to soak up as much of these sprints as possible whilst slowly coaxing the fish toward me. Once in the net I could see the broad flank of one of the bigger, bush swim inhabitants. 


By now it was pushing on for 11pm and I fancied wetting a line in one last swim, the kind that if you didn't know it was there you might easily pass it by and with just enough room for one rod, it was not so much of a cast as a underarm lowering that was needed to position the bait on the marginal gravel gully.

The river had been extremely generous during this trip and each swim had increased my excitement and expectancy, which was in itself unusual as although I am very optimistic when angling I always set out with a low expectation and like to take something from each trip that is enjoyable or can be used positively in future trips.

During this period I was drawn into deep thoughts about the new friends I had made this season thanks to angling and also those whom I had parted company with due to their lack of integrity. Thoughts of the latter hurt a great deal as we had spent some great trips together which we had both enjoyed, I had shown them swims, shared locations and techniques which apparently meant very little other than them using any venue info as a bartering tool with a well known angler who shall remain nameless, this amongst other issues that came to light unfortunately damaged our friendship.I guess you could allow one or two sour experiences to easily skew your view on friendship, but why let one or two bad experiences ruin the chance of other friendships from flourishing?  Although the cynic in me says that is a lot easier to type than it is to do.

I was brought back from chewing the cud by two very light plucks to the tip, followed by it sweeping round, I was met by what at first felt like a chub as it swam toward me, but the pace soon quickened and if this was a chevin it was most definitely on steroids. Off it surged downstream, the clutch on the little reel clicking away manically whilst I tried to cup the spool every few seconds and halt this fish from making for a snag downstream. Thankfully it decided to change direction and I made the most of this opportunity to gain some control and after more than one attempt slip the net under it.


A healthy boris was my reward, probably one of the best looking barbel I have ever caught for looks and colour, the paddle on it had certainly put me to the sword and nearly got the better.

This was to be final fish of the trip and as I waited for mum to come and pick me up it was with a  thankful gaze fixed on the river and a mind that was filled with evocative emotions, as final days go I could safely say that I was well and truly sated.