Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Brassy brace

Saturday lunchtime saw me heading out for a spot of chub hunting on a new reach of river.

I guess you could say I am a bit focused on them at the moment, admittedly I have a very good choice of rivers in my locality when it comes to the species, although some are more overlooked than others, waterways which are verging on almost neglected or ignored altogether and where a bit of homework can lead to some fruitful fishing.

It was a blustery day, but more mild than it has been of recent and without doubt a hint of springtime judging by the bird life activity, there were woodpeckers dotted about in pairs, the sound of them merrily hammering away at trees reverberated around me and at one point I had a Sparrowhawk land on a bough next to me, we shared an impromptu stare, his with a touch of disregard almost looking through me, before swiftly vanishing upstream. I tried to reach for the camera which I always have ready for a wildlife shot but alas it did not hang around. Not too long after this a Male Roe deer and his female companion sauntered into view, they looked content as they picked their way through the grass and had a good feed, she even stopped to poke her tongue out (that is what I like to think).

I had opted for a spot of link legering, chopping and changing between lob worm and a cheese paste recipe that has been catching me a few fish, a mixture of mature cheddar, blue cheese garlic and krill. Three perch later and I decided to make a change to the paste, a healthy piece was squeezed on to a size 8 hook and the bare minimum of free offerings placed downstream, sometimes less really is more and the scent trail this paste leaks off is akin to fermented shrimp combined with a pair of smelly socks!

Late in the afternoon as the drizzle set in I received a confident bite, the tip thudding round, this fish was rather bullish as it headed off toward a sunken branch on the opposite bank, a bit of coaxing and it was eventually back in the swim and ready for the net, a fine fish, long and chunky (5.1).

I pondered my options, I did not wish to release this fish back into the swim lest I spook any other chevin, so decided instead to keep it in the landing net and see if any others would be forthcoming. Twenty minutes later and that question was answered with another confident bite, this fish nearly had me in a snag, the line grating as I tried to stop it from making a headfirst dive into the undercut bank which had a few too many sunken snags for my liking. Sure enough it was a chunky fish, weighing a pleasing 5.10.

A brace of 5's (5.1 held and 5.10 resting on the mat)

Despite a few more inquisitive rattles no more fish were forthcoming and as daylight faded the blustery wind was soon accompanied by heavier rain, this was my cue to head off home. It had been a fine afternoon, the wildlife alone would have been reward enough, but this brassy brace was the perfect way to cap what had been a most enjoyable fishing trip.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

perch-plexed - Dying light fix

Red fins and stripey black markings, angry dorsals and flaring gill plates, the subtle plucks as they tentatively pull the quiver tip round and bold tussle they give, dorsal raised like a freshwater marlin, I don't think there is a finer species that reside in our waterways and I do like a spot of perch fishing for all of these reasons.

A couple of my recent trips found me confronted by pike that were bullying the perch out of the area. Esox that were intent on snaffling up my worm hook bait and putting a bit of a bend in the quiver. It was fairly evident that no perch with an ounce of common sense would be seen hanging around whilst the crocs were on the feed and midway through the second outing a nagging doubt started to seeded itself in my mind, partly due to having a mink pop its head up in the swim.

I thought things over slowly, were the pike dominating this area of the river? Had the perch fallen foul of  predation by mink or otter? Or maybe the fish had not fully moved into the area for spawning yet?

The last idea seemed a reasonably logical one, as did the first and I must admit that I have seen only mink on this waterway no otters as of yet. I decided to try a side channel, an area where small fry are normally harassed by perch. A light scattering of red maggot was placed over link legered lobs and I waited in earnest for any signs of activity, I was thankful it wasn't an overly bright afternoon, light levels were what I would call perfect with a healthy helping of cumulus.

As daylight gradually diminished there was no signs of activity, no plucks not even the faintest of twitches, my first thought was to stick it out, the other to move further afield and try a few other swims, the stay put and "all in or nothing" won out.

Daylight had almost retreated as I began to question my timing, swim selection and wondering if it would be wiser to leave targeting them till nearer the end of season, when I saw the tip move a fraction, the faintest nudge, followed by those guitar style, strumming plucks that seem synonymous with a finicky perch bite. Setting the hook there was a reassuring response, thump thump, followed by a proud dorsal breaking the surface. The perfect lime green flank and blood red fins slid over the net cord.

Last knockings 2lb perca
This solidly built perch had really left it till last knockings, but it was like a shot in the arm and my confidence was fully restored. Perhaps some of its parents will come knocking next time, who knows.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Mixing it up

My last few trips have seen me chopping and changing between species. Perch, pike and chub have  all featured. I am certainly not an angler whom targets pike a lot and that much is very evident on this blog and my vlogs, each season I promise myself to set time aside for said species. Don't get me wrong I do love them, but I get rather sidetracked and before you know it the season is over and promise fallen by the wayside. So a plan was made, a spot of static dead baiting on a diminutive waterway, one that is full of character and has some rather pretty predators.

It was a cold January morning, the breeze a tad chilly, a refreshing wake up call to the mind and soul even if body did not agree. The river level looked good if a bit coloured, I was soon setup and the first roach was cast across the narrow channel toward the opposite margin. Having had them in the freezer for over thirteen months I must admit they were not the freshest of fish but did seem to be holding together reasonably well.

An hour later the line pinged out of the drop back indicator and I was playing a lively, dappled scamp that bolted along the near margins, the first fish of 2015 .

The end result was a fish of 4lb 5oz and a nice way to start the new year. A short rest in the net and It soon sped off to tell any others that it might meet to avoid those less than glossy eyed roach. I can just see an image of two pike sat on the bottom, one checking an imaginary sell by date and claiming to its mate "I am telling you it has a touch of freezer frost!!"

It was an enjoyable day and I was kept company by Jenny Wren, whom kept returning and having a good chatter to me, for such small birds they are filled to the brim with hardy character.

Come late afternoon and not long before it was time to head off home to defrost I had a very confident take, I knew straight away that this was a better fish as it made a forceful sprint for the marginal snags, a quick bit of side strain was applied to halt its progress, the fish came instantly to the surface and proceeded to tail walk three times, it was a high adrenaline but short lived scrap. A lovely looking esox was my reward, not big by some anglers standards but for myself a personal best.


I was overjoyed and at the same time left questioning myself as to why I never allot a sensible portion of the fishing season to target this species.

Just prior to Christmas a neat parcel turned up and I pondered whether to leave unwrapping it till Christmas day, however curiosity got the better of me and the package was soon opened, inside were some very finely crafted floats, the glossy lacquered finishing and attention to detail was superb, I could not thank Philip enough for being so kind.

One float in particular really called out to me, an elegant avon with grey body and black whippings. I could already feel a sentimental friendship growing and if it could perhaps survive some snags, trees and a spot of dodgy wallace casting I was sure it would soon have a few tales to tell.

A few days after my pike trip I decided to put the float and speedia to good use with three hours of lunchtime trotting. Grabbing the nearest landing net, tubs of maggot and worm, I was soon off to chance my arm for a fish or two and perhaps a float caught perca. On reaching the river it looked nice but was in reality far too coloured for perch, I was nonetheless game and trickled in a steady flow of maggots at a little and often pace.

I must say having not trotted for many years it was nice to get back into it, slowly but surely a rhythm was found and as I worked the float along the various currents I was fully immersed, mesmerized by each jostle and nudge. Two hours later I had managed to miss a couple of good bites, both fast affairs and it was apparent that I was rather rusty, the Grey wagtail that had kept me company much of the afternoon would have agreed in earnest.

By now the sun was out and despite its rather watered down appearance it was most pleasant, a brief break was taken to rest my eyes and warm myself with a shot of coffee. A glance at the watch told me a few more trots and I would have to be off home, on about the tenth run through the float buried solidly, I struck and the response was instant as a  healthy dogged sprint followed, if this was a perch it was a darn good one, but I could tell this scrap had the characteristics of a chevin, sure enough the water boiled as a broad, blunt head broke the surface.

As I slid the net under it I could see it was easily my largest float and pin caught chevin. The scales read a very pleasing 6.5, I could not resist a speedia and chub picture.

These off the cuff fishing trips always feel quite wholesome, perhaps due to just grabbing the basics and getting out. I had finally christened the speedia and thanks to Philip's very kind hearted gesture I had got back into trotting, I headed home most content.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Flu is company & freeze a crowd

The usual winter bugs abound and everyone in the family has had a dose of flu, it really has been the gift that has kept on giving!

Earlier in the month I had a chat with a chap whom I have come to know via the youtube bloggers match and we decided to arrange a day spent together on one of my local waterways, the plan being to rove about on a crisp morning and see if we could pick up a few fish into the bargain preferably some chub.

Early the following morning my father mentioned to me  " it's a really hard frost out there mate and should make for an interesting days fishing".

That's the thing though, some little rivers feed very well all year round for the angler that is prepared to root about in search of his quarry and the Blackwater is no exception.

Michael pulled up the drive at 9am, stopping in for a cup of tea and a slice of brioche courtesy of mum, we had a good chat for about half hour before heading off to the river. On reaching the waterway it was as I expected, running lower than the loddon and with a tinge of colour, spot on for a bit of chub worrying. It was a crisp day and we slowly made our way to the upstream reaches, taking time to stop, pointing out swims at frequent intervals. There are so many wonderful little swims dotted along this river, which range from long runs that are perfect for trotting, to those typical debris swims where broken branches lay sunken and covered in flotsam, perfect for rolling a bait under, the choice of where to wet a line is at times quite staggering and you can find yourself skipping swims in order to cram others in during the day's fishing.

Michael targeting some marginal eddies

Not long after setting up, a dog walker who had passed by half an hour earlier with what I must say was a fine pair of ear muffs, no that is not code, I really do mean ear muffs and a vibrant pink pair at that, stopped to ask if we had perhaps lost an item of tackle and produced a top section of what turned out to be Michael's  Daiwa float rod, we was very thankful as this could have been a rather dire start to the trip.

It was a slowish start and took a while before we began to receive a few raps and taps, the first couple of fish being scale perfect chublets, however it was apparent that some of the better chub certainly weren't reading the script yet.

Further upstream fishing a marginal undercut I received some very delicate plucks, certainly not the kind of bites I would normally associate with a chub and at one point I did wonder if it was a perch toying with the lobworm. A light strike and I was into a better stamp of fish which tried to find sanctuary under the flotsam on the opposite bank, Michael kindly did the honours with the netting and a quick picture.

Lean, quite hollow and most welcome, I was a happy chap, if not more so to show Michael a tiny glimpse of the fish that inhabit this river.

On the way back downstream we stopped off in a handful of swims, one of those being a lovely long glide with a marginal bay, a perfect swim for a spot of trotting too, although that said we were both link legering, here I decided to have a sit down next to Michael and watch him fish a bit, not long after the bait was in the water he received a suitably confident bite as the quiver tip lunged round, it soon became evident that he was connected to a much better fish which got its head down in a bullish manner and steamed off downstream taking line as it went, I was overjoyed and soon standing ready with net in hand, then it happened a sight no angler enjoys, a hook pull, words were muttered by both of us some of which  sounded like "bar stewards"  or rhymed with rolex.

Despite this Michael was suitably buoyed to have been connected to one of the larger fish and after some careful consideration decided to feed the swim and give it another try. Ten minutes later and the scenario replayed itself, another very unlucky hook pull and after this no more bites were forthcoming.

By now daylight had faded but the air temperature was milder if tempered by a gnawing breeze, so we made our way back downstream to some of the swims I knew had produced in the past and was dearly hoping that Michael might get another bite at the apple. A few handfuls of mashed bread and maggot were placed into one such swim and it was left to settle before a nice juicey lob worm was presented under the opposite margin, just out of reach of the main flow. About thirty minutes passed before the first inquisitive tap was forthcoming, followed by another rattle and shake, more knocks followed in a more aggressive fashion and Michael was soon connected to a rather determined chub that tried to head off upstream under the near margin, giving a great account of itself as it did so. A few moments later the net was slipped under it and there was some happy words shared between us.


This was a brilliant way to end the trip and as we made our way back to the car it was safe to say we were both a bit knackered but content.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Swollen rivers - It's all gravy

It was a very late afternoon in November, a gloomy day and rather waterlogged affair, each footstep accompanied by muddy slurps and the constant search for balance as I slid my way to the riverbank.

The river swollen, a multitude of currents, debris dancing back and forth as if possessed, forced to dance a savage ballet before disappearing downstream. Swims that were once visible are now submerged and almost unrecognizable save for the landmarks an angler stores at the back of his mind.

Every so often I stop to fixate upon the river and ruminate a while, in some swims this is more protracted than others, I begin to talk to myself, thought processes tumbling from my lips as I reason with choice, taking time to debate my options almost to the point of argument.

Further downstream I find the area I'm looking for, a bottleneck with numerous bits of debris clinging to a tired looking tree, the current weakened by one of natures natural barriers. I slowly take my time to settle in the swim and despite trying to be as silent as possible, I'm still a bit too bearish for my liking. Eventually I'm at peace, listening to the rush of water on a rising river in the darkness, as time passes my mind begins to fill with colourful thoughts of barbel snuggling up under the tree roots in front of me, I savour this thought, lingering on each vivid
detail, for those roots are where my bait is placed and along with it a modicum of hope.

Late evening the rain finally abates, clouds melting away to reveal a blue canvas dappled by numerous stars, my breath now visible, thick plumes rising up, every exhalation illuminated by the light of a lopsided moon. A warming is called for, a short rummage around and the pungent smell of  stewed coffee is wafting invitingly under my nose, I'm soon heated from the core outward.

An owl appears out of nowhere and attempts to land in the tree next to me, pulling up in close proximity above my head, we startle one and other, eventually settling in a tree on the opposite bank. It's safe to say our feathers are equally ruffled, it stays for a while, perhaps to look across enquiringly at the rotund intruder into its world and then vanishes, leaving only the sound of wing-beats in its wake.

By now the rod tip is rocking back and forth in slow agreement almost admitting that it has become something akin to a washing line, debris strewn along its length, another nod soon follows, but this one does not exhibit the same repetition, it lurches forward and springs back into position, my digits twitch uncontrollably, urging me to ready myself, my more verbal half muttering to remain calm and reign in the building adrenaline. The moments that follow all melt into one as the hook is set and that intense connection between angler and fish is made. Powerful runs follow, each one aided by the swollen waterway, I find myself trying to swallow, a few hasty gulps are taken but no saliva is forthcoming. I move further down the bank to gain a better angle, palpitations follow as vibrations from unseen obstacles travel along the rod length, a swirl mid-water reveals a good fish and all types of possible disaster scenarios begin toying with my mind.

After what feels like far too long she slips into the waiting net, my nervous energy is all but expended and I find myself fighting back a rising urge to retch. After much recuperation, needed more for this angler than the fish, I calm myself and peer into the net, it's an old friend, a visitor I had during summer and in fine fettle she looks too.

15.6 personal best
An autumn gift, admittedly a recapture, but such things are quite immaterial, for such is the joy that has been imparted from fish to angler, to see her once again in fighting fit health and up in weight was reward enough. One powerful sweep of the tail and she soon disappears into the murky depths, I smile contentedly wishing her a safe journey.

As I pack up the river is still rising, the colour becoming thicker and like something you might pour over a sunday roast, not to matter though for here it is all gravy.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Autumnal feelings

So the clocks have gone back and it's dark around 5pm. Chestnuts have been picked and are waiting to be roasted.

I must say this season has been an enjoyable one and has found me doing groundwork on new areas of some of the Thames tributaries that I fish, most of these have been spent building up a picture of the features and general topography of certain swims, I often enjoy this part as much as the actual fishing trips and garner a great deal of enjoyment from them, they certainly whet the appetite and help to give you some idea of how swims might develop later in the season.

Mid September I headed to fish some of these new swims, where shallow gravel runs give way to deeper marginal areas, tangled tree roots descending into them like a half submerged octopus that is worried about wetting its tentacles.

A few small bait droppers of bird seed were placed in as quietly as possible and then the swim was left for about an hour before I gently lowered my bait into place.

The evening was peaceful and even though it was only mid September it was evident that the days were beginning to draw in that much earlier, it's hard to say how this makes me feel, on one hand I personally love fishing during autumn and winter, on the other it fills me with sadness to think summer is passing and with it the dense foliage will eventually wither and fall, leaving a bare landscape of woody skeletons, denuded and stark, branches reaching out upward as if to beg for their petticoats to be returned.

The owls began to call out in earnest, a pheasant caught me unawares as it bundled its way through a nearby hedge, its staccato call ringing in my ears as it ran off in abject horror and slowly but surely the mist developed, rising from the river, eventually shrouding rod and angler in its damp embrace.
It was to be a very quiet evening apart from a couple of taps early on, those whom fish this waterway will know what I mean when I say it has three moods, on,off and deadly. However all of these have their own allure and once you're bitten things are never the same, each fish is procured and very much cherished.

At around 3am I was pondering the rarest of things, having another cast when the rod tip thudded round once more, a gap between bites of a good few hours but a very positive sign, one hour later and the reel purred into action, the fish diving for the cover of tree roots and knowing exactly where it wanted to head, some steady side pressure applied and it cruised into the mid-channel before heading off upstream like a well toned athlete. A mixture of nauseous feelings welled up in my stomach as I felt the line grating on an unseen snag upstream, but thankfully the line did not part company and I was rewarded with a handsome double in the net.

It really was the barbus late show and the skyline was gradually showing that dawn would soon be beckoning, a kindly thank you was whispered to the river and I made my way home.


During September and October I met up with Tom once again, the plan was to do a short days roving and for him to hopefully tempt a personal best chub from the river Blackwater. The waterways perch populace were on fine form and I think I lost count of how many were caught, each one finely marked and healthy.

I had headed further upstream and lost what felt like a reasonable chub to a combination of snag and hook pull, so I suggested to Tom to try another swim just below me, one that had proven fruitful to another friend in the past, this nearly paid instant dividends as he hooked into a very good fish which made a powerful dash for some nearby cover, unfortunately it was not going to come back out from this snag and looked a very nice chub, a possible personal best, we were both rather crest fallen.

A few swims later, on a wider bend and after a few casts trundling flake through the swim he hooked into a rather lively fish, it was to turn out to be his largest Blackwater chub (3.12.5). A fish that had certainly been in the wars and had the battle scars to prove it, each mark on its body a worthy tale to tell.

A jubilant Tom

An interesting side note to this, is that on three occasions with friends on this particular river each one of them has had a chub of 3.12, which I find rather uncanny.

Tom was overjoyed and this fish went a good part of the way to making up for losing the larger fish earlier on. Another interesting couple of captures were of some rather nicely conditioned roach that we both caught and it has given me some serious food for thought about targeting the larger red fins that may inhabit this reach of the river.

This was a very enjoyable trip and on the way back to the car we could not help chatting fervently about the fish Tom had lost and both hoped he might see again.

Our next few trips together were alternated between Blackwater and Wey. 

One of these was during Toms birthday, it was a very crisp day, the first frosts of the year laced the ground, it was a brilliantly sunny affair with a good feeling of autumn about it, both Tom and myself had high expectations, some words of appreciation were passed to mum as she handed us a baked slice each and some cake for Tom before dropping us off at the venue.

We planned to fish until 5pm and see if we could winkle out some of this rivers pristine chub. The waterway was gin clear and it was a very still day, Tom said to me he wished to try some of the earlier swims on this particular stretch, an area where there is quite a few undercut margins on the opposite bank, I could understand why he was so enthusiastic to wet a line here.

Within the first twenty minutes Tom received a positive bite and was soon playing a very energetic chub, a fish that was intent on heading upstream to bury itself in some nearby flotsam, like a lot of the chub that inhabit this waterway this was a very bonny fish, immaculate and with a lovely slate grey meets brassy colouring, Tom was very happy, it was the perfect start to our trip and a birthday chub at that.

Welcome birthday chevin (3.8)

We made our way downstream to an area where the river becomes shallow, but has some very clear, deeper pools, a few trundles here resulted in my first couple of fish in the shape of some gatecrashing brownies, it's always a lively affair when you hook them, although the end result is usually a very spooked swim and has in the past cost us a chance at a nice chevin or two.

By now the sun had warmed up pleasantly and it was turning into a very mild day, Tom was just upstream of me and had picked up a couple of trout from an area that really has chub written all over it, a swim with some dense near bank coverage, deeper margins and sunken wood rafts.

As we ventured onward and after a few too many crayfish we decided to take lunch, I always enjoy these parts of the trips, nothing to do with my appetite of that I can assure you but it allows both anglers to gather their thoughts, share ideas and plans of action, although the food trading that takes place during these moments is rather enjoyable that I will certainly admit.  

We both felt confident and were quite positive as we had not had quite as many interruptions from trout as we had expected, that said despite the chub earlier in the day and the trout, we had not seen much activity from anymore chevin or spotted any on likely areas downstream, despite this fact I was confident and mentioned to Tom that I had seen fish that looked a good 5lb earlier in the season along here.

Tom contemplating

By now we had reached a bend in the river, there was some nice weed beds and a sunken tree on the opposite bank, it looked too good to pass up, no loose feed was introduced just in case there might be the odd trout lurking, instead a single lob worm was trundled along here.

A few moments passed and I received an inquisitive tap, followed again by another more determined thud, I struck and was into what felt like a nice stamp of fish, sure enough it headed for the safety of the weed beds downstream, Tom was in my swim and said straight away  "that looks a nice chub Mark!", he did the honours with a sound netting and there was another pristine chub in the net for us.

Tom chatted excitedly, "Looks a good 4 plus, maybe even a venue pb mate!".

At first glance into the net I was not so sure, yet earlier on had guesstimated Tom's fish to the ounce. Tom looked at me and said, "mate if that isn't a good mid 4 I will eat your weigh sling", this brought about a hearty laugh between us as I assured him that the weigh sling really was not that appetizing.

Sure enough he was right and this resplendent fish weighed in at 4.9  a venue pb.

A perfect bar of gold

With only an hour left we decided to try a few more swims and Tom tried to get the chub feeding on the surface with some bread, although there did seem to be a lot of dace that were also interested in this tactic, just upstream of him I had noticed quite a bit of disturbance along my near margin and began to follow this fish about, it turned out to be a chub of perhaps 4lb maybe a little more, very skittish and wary, by now I had adopted my teddy bear style stalking approach, this fish was having none of it and made for a quick exit back downstream.

Time always seems to pass at a rate of knots when fishing and as we made our way back to the car it was clear that today had been no exception to that rule, it had been an interesting days fishing and a good way to celebrate Tom's birthday with a couple of picture perfect chub, we did muse over how the fishing had been and just how many chub we might have passed by, although this is not an easy area of the river it no doubt holds some larger fish and I for one would not be at all surprised to see it produce a 6lb chub.