Sunday, 13 July 2014

When a river smiles

To rove or be static, move and shake as oppose to sit and wait, I considered my options, a change to single rod was made and I decided to head out for the evening and fish a handful of swims hoping to connect with the first barbus of the new season.

The river was alive, the underwater jungle looking fresh and full of life, cabbage patches dotted here and there, juvenile perch playing hide and seek between the dense green folds. I headed to a narrower section of the river, one I fancied but had not fished as much, with good marginal coverage for chub and barbel alike and some deeper gravel runs, perfect for the crayfish to pay my bait too much attention.

It was a glorious evening and I was entertained by deer on the opposite bank bouncing about with their youngsters and two Kingfishers which kept chasing each other up and down the river, one of which stopped in the third swim that I was in and gave me a resounding lesson in catching fish before calling out its success with a shrill chirp and darting back off downstream.

A crayfish with claws like a lobster was all I had to show thus far  but I was sated, at peace with my surroundings and natures theater had put on a splendid show, I could not have asked for more. I decided to mosey on to my final swim, a slower area of the river, a small bait dropper was filled with seed a couple of times and lowered unobtrusively into the margins, thirty minutes later and a whittled down boilie wrapped in paste was lowered into the same spot.

As an angler watches the isotope so his mind can wander a little, I played out various scenarios in my head, how I would play the fish, what snags it might try to make for and many other little things. It was a clear night and by the time the dew began to patter down at regular intervals I had started to wonder if the final roll of the dice may have been just that,it was at this point that he isotope nudged slightly, not a lot but it had moved, I glanced downstream although I am unsure what I expected to see, but in that moment the warmth of hope was kindled and along with it an anglers chance to perhaps dream.

Time passed by, a vixens shriek faded into the distance, the hairs on my neck standing on end as if to acknowledge and salute this lonesome female. The next sound was of the little rod doubling over and clutch trying to keep up, the bite if it could even be called that was savage as the fish steamed off downstream in search of cabbage patches, sure enough she found them and the safety they offered, a steady amount of pressure was applied and slowly but surely it was free again, this time in mid river and heading back upstream.

I knew from the tussle that I was connected to something a bit special and by now I was more or less done in and nervous exhaustion was rapidly taking charge, had this have been intercourse then I would have in all probability climaxed way too soon, leaving a rather frustrated female by my bedside.

Slowly and surely I gained control, finally a broad flank broke the surface and was guided into the waiting net, I peered inside and jabbered something that was barely recognizable as a language, by now I had been reduced to a state of devolution and neanderthal man was beckoning, I could have honestly just pointed into the net in the dark, started muttering and painting on the nearby trees to describe the fish, as try as I might words were not being formed.

I sat down and recovered somewhat before weighing this fighting fit barbus, the scales settled on 15lb a new personal best, the moment was a surreal one and watching her disappear back into the river is a sight I shall not forget.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A nomadic puzzle

My first trip of the new season on the Blackwater had got me wondering about the carp, resident and the  freshly adopted escapees, last season I had caught a couple of them whilst link legering (both commons) and during the close it had been smouldering away on my minds back burner about targeting them.

So on my second trip I decided to take a couple of very compact carp rods along with my feeder rod and link leger setup, if truth be known I planned to fish most of the afternoon on link leger and switch to the beefier tackle into darkness.

It was another pleasantly warm summer day and the fish were very forthcoming on the link leger setup,vividly marked perch and handsome chain mail, adorned chub falling to worm over maggot and casters.


Midway through the trip at around 6pm a wide, bullish looking head appeared in front of my near margin, a common carp no less and proceeded to paddle by like flipper the dolphin, head right out up to its gill covers, before nonchalantly slipping back under the surface film. It was almost as if it was checking that the coast was clear, it is hard for me to describe it in words it but it was rather comical to say the least.

About an hour later I received an inquisitive bite on double lob worms, nothing aggressive just a steady almost chub-esque bite. I struck and this apparent chevin rapidly began to morph into something that was on a mission to head upriver, the clutch on my reel gathering pace, tick tick turning into zip zip, my hand dampening each run as much as I dared, before gaining some line in return, if fishing line was a currency then the exchange rate was very much erring on the fishes side.
Slowly if not too surely I gained control, "ping" the line clipped the dorsal, but all remained well.

Finally a common with a blunt head broke the surface and thankfully slipped into the net.


I was rather happy to have landed this steam train meets battering ram, as battered me it certainly had, I could have sworn that I had aged a good few years during the scrap.

After this I decided to setup the two stalker rods which at 9 foot in length are both perfect for some of these small river spots, these were both placed along the margins, with a light amount of free offerings inside pva mesh stocking. Within a couple of hours I had a slow and steady bite on my right hand rod, I struck and became instantly aware that this felt a larger fish as it bolted off for the weedbeds, perhaps being on the heavier tackle bred an overconfidence within me, or the fish was not so well hooked as I thought, but after a fair battle I saw the flank of what looked a very portly mirror, perhaps a scraper twenty and then the hook flew out behind me, the fish thanking me with a flap of its tail (almost a two finger fish salute) and it was gone. I looked at the rig swinging behind me and back at where the fish had been in disbelief.

Alas it seemed sods law to land one on the light gear and lose one on the more appropriate tackle and It remained quiet into darkness despite a couple of small chub on the carp tackle that was to be it. Nevertheless it had been a great trip and I had at least managed to locate an area they seem to visit and winkle one out, albeit on the link leger.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Back in the flow

How I have missed your tranquil embrace, cabbage patches and gravel runs looking so sumptuous, but at last the hiatus has finally abated.

Despite enjoying still water fishing, I do feel more of an affinity for flowing water, the sound of  rivers as they makes their way through the landscape is almost a language of its own, plucking at an anglers heartstrings. The heady aroma as mist rises from the rivers on a June morning, deer picking their way through the fields, foxes and their offspring tumbling about together until they rest in a heap on top of mum and dad.

My first trip out of the new season found me heading to the Blackwater in the afternoon replete with feeder rod and link leger in hand, along with a small amount of bait in my bucket (maggots,lob worms, sweetcorn). I was stuck in two minds, fish a few swims or concentrate on one only, the latter was decided upon,I settled down in a rather snug Borneo-esque swim that was alive with the chatter of Dormice and they did take a liking to one of my rucksack straps leaving me with a souvenir in the shape of a tiny nibble hole.

With a reasonably deep margin in front of me I decided to start by lightly feeding a mixture of maggot and corn slightly upstream. Downstream of my near margin there was some perfect coverage that simply screamed chub and it was here that I intended to let the link leger trundle down to.

The first trundle resulted in the first fish of the new season in the shape of a brassy chub (4.4) which gave a good account of itself.

A little and often approach with the feeding and I was soon picking up chublets, gudgeon and perch at regular intervals and a smile was fully cemented on my face. Into the evening the bigger fish started to show and after a very agressive bite and scrap saw a rather short, but deep bodied chub try to ditch me in the marginal foliage, I slipped the net under the first 5lb+ chub of the season, this fish was rather hollow and looked like it would be a good 6 come winter time.

I can assure you I have not knelt in something nasty in this picture, unfortunately my landing net had decided to break, the metal thread coming away from the plastic spreader block, I was not amused to say the least and spent a good hour trying to repair it, in the end I had something that was sturdy enough yet looked akin to a sawn of shotgun meets the mummy from one of those hammer horror films, I was only too glad to get it repaired once home, but I guess that will teach me for buying a cheap net.

I fished on till late evening, switching to sweetcorn in hope of picking up one of the rivers bigger bream. At around 9pm the quiver tip pulled round steadily and I was into what looked a rather wide slab which gave a great account of itself, slipping it into the mummy of all landing nets I could see she was in very nice condition and my first Blackwater bream.

8.9 of healthy river Abramis

Metal thread into plastic what a great idea... not

This was to be my last fish before heading off home,it had been an excellent way to start the new season off on this fabulous little waterway, however back at home a healthy amount of glue was awaiting said spreader block...

Friday, 11 April 2014

Monday, 7 April 2014

A time for reflection

I must admit to being fairly late to the party with this particular blog update, I did intend to do it the first weekend after the rivers closed but some other plans did get in the way.

I say plans but it was more a case of multiple amounts of brownie point building with my rather generous driver (mum) whom I owe a lot regarding my fishing and being able to get to and from venues. Although I have been repeatedly looking at driving lessons and every time I get to the booking pages I end up bottling it, this despite having spoken with a few people who have given a lot of encouragement, I guess time will tell if I can manage it or not.

The last of my remaining river trips found me targeting a few different species and despite the flooded and coloured conditions I did find it very hard to drag myself away from perch fishing and decided to have a couple more short sessions after them, their markings are simply beautiful, some of which were perfection in miniature.

One of the trips  resulted in a very plump fish (3.3) this was an immensely pleasing note to end the perch fishing on. Looking back it had been very enjoyable albeit rather challenging in the mud pie conditions.

I decided to have a trip back to the banks of the Loddon, the best way for me to describe this waterway would be "timeless" and it is one of a handful of waterways that has really attached itself to my emotions along with the many moods it shows an angler during the seasons, it is a lifeblood to me and has calmed and soothed me when I have been far from either sometimes.

Saying the floods had changed the topography of the river somewhat would have been a gross understatement, the waterway was full of new features and snags to relearn next season, with many fallen trees creating new havens for fish and wildlife alike.

It was a pleasant afternoon, just nice to finally have some respite from the rain and some sunny weather, it was chilly as the evening drew in and just one trout falling to my link legered lobworm tipped with maggot.

I decided to switch rod and bait to boilie wrapped in paste, which was then placed out to a nearby depression, quite late on (around 11pm) not too long after I had drained the dregs of coffee from my flask and my cold toes were hinting that it might be time to head for home I received a confident bite and eventually slipped the net under a fighting fit barbus (7lb).

This was a most welcome capture after the floods, especially as I had heard that a friend on another stretch had found a dead barbel a few metres up a tree after the floods had receded.

With the weather coming right and not much of the season left, myself and Tom decided to meet up once again for another roving trip, a mixture of fishing and exploration for both of us.

We have fished together a few times this season, during that time we have got to know each other quite well and both of us enjoy roving on smaller rivers, however on this particular occasion Tom had to be home at 5pm so we was rather limited with both exploration and fishing time, but the river kindly smiled on us, rewarding us with a couple of perfectly formed chub, both falling to link legered lobworm.

A pair of very happy chaps and brassy chevin (3.8 & 4lb)

It was an enjoyable short day spent together and talking nothing but fishing, at least we know that we won't ever be able bore each other eh Tom!

Roving about was how I decided to spend the last trips of the season and I had offered Mark Pilley to meet up and go for a spot of fishing on the Blackwater, he kindly offered to also pick me up on the day in question and when we finally got to the venue his first words were "this looks my kind of river".

It was however a very sunny day and we met a handful of other anglers who had been roving about from earlier in the morning and not had a touch, I must admit I found this odd on a river where you can more or less bank on an enjoyable bit of mixed fishing. 

Both Mark and myself had a good variety of baits with us, ranging from bread, maggots and worms to luncheon meat and the ever faithful cheese paste. I was hopeful that we would get a fish or two between us, more so for Mark than myself as he had traveled from Surrey and I wanted him to get a good impression of this intimate waterway.

We decided to give each swim twenty to thirty minutes before moving on to the next, fishing leapfrog style.  It was around 2pm and after spraying maggots at regular intervals upstream to gain the fishes confidence that I trundled the link leger through a likely looking area of undercut bank, near to some tree roots and was met with a lunging bite and the spirited sprint from a chevin.


A nicely conditioned chub was soon recuperating in the landing net, it was a welcome start but had me wondering about that fishing jinx when you have a guest down and catch yourself, I wanted Mark to connect with a few of this rivers inhabitants but the river was running clear and there was not a cloud in the sky, it has to be one of the mildest March days that I have ever witnessed, in fact I spent the majority of the trip sweating in my windproof jacket.

Not long after another spot and its snags had laid claim to my link leger Mark phoned to tell me that he had his first Blackwater chub in the net, which had fallen to his cheese and garlic paste.


It was in tip top condition and I was very happy and even more relieved to see the river had given up one of its chub to him and I probably did did mention this a few too many times to him.

Being in my comfort zone certainly helps put me more at ease and Mark was very approachable we shared some good chats and a few jokes, he added another chub of 2lb later on in the evening and I picked up a few more chublets and the odd small perch.

The company and weather had been great, the fish could of perhaps been more forthcoming but we finished the day very content and we probably spent  a good thirty minutes chatting infectiously in the car before Mark set off for home and it was a real pleasure to have met up with him.

My last couple of trips were spent  hunting chub. I was looking for a 6+ from a small waterway and having had a few others over 4lb I felt there was perhaps a chance of this.

A chunky fish (4.11)

A chevin that has lived a bit (4.9)

The reason why I enjoy fishing intimate rivers like these is because they fit a mental checklist of mine, they are unsullied and have a certain atmosphere about them that builds to a rather breathless excitement within me, I'm sure you all know what I mean.

On my final trip I headed out late evening and my first cast was met by a new snag,  "snap" ssg's and myself parted company. I absolutely abhor loosing fishing tackle but the cost of a packet of ssg particularly annoys me considering how very few you get in a tub, so I was a tad vexed to
say the least.

Five swims and a few small perch later, I was eventually settling down into the sixth and final swim which I had previously fed with a light amount of breadcrumb laced with krill and mixed with maggots. I decided to go the cheese paste route and one hour later started receiving springboard like bites, lightning fast, the quiver arching round and springing back.

Something was about and it was evidently rather apprehensive, so I decided to introduce a few more small balls of bread & krill and rested the swim before trundling the bait down back down. I also decided to switch back to lobworm tipped with maggot to see if I could perhaps get a more confident bite.

A combination of crayfish, wary bites and a few trundles later, the bait settled just nicely under the near bank margin, I suppose it was there for ten minutes before the rod tip buckled round and I was connected to a bullet train which was heading for the snag populated city of "where the hell it likes".

The current was fairly fast and that added with seeing this fish break the surface with the hook just lightly nipped in its upper lip was the stuff of dry mouth and slow motion netting sequences and just as I slipped the net under her the hook pinged out into the mesh, the relief on a scale of one to ten was probably an eleven, but I had my prize in the net and she looked glorious, a bar of brass replete with a rather plump belly and blunt brutish head.

Small river bullet train (6.12)

She was the perfect send off to a river season that despite the floods had been immensely kind to me and I was deeply overjoyed.

So now the close season hiatus is here, a pause for reflection, what was and what might be, here's to next season and piscatorial friendships old and new, some memories shared and smiles etched firmly on faces.


Unfortunately the Angling Times did make a bit of a hash of things and misreported the capture as a Thames fish, despite me very clearly stating to them that it was from a tributary of the Thames. Ben Miles however did kindly reply and apologize via email for the mistake that one of the staff had made which was good of him, but I can't help feel that such misreporting is at times par for the course with some of the angling media and does not always do them or the angler in question any favours.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014