Sunday, 18 September 2016

The water witch smiles once again

Since spending some time trying to piece together another waterway recently, I decided on Saturday afternoon to head off for a spot of barbel fishing, the conditions were ideal and the recent rainfalls had topped the rivers up nicely, adding a touch of colour and I guess you could also say that I was hoping to see if my eye was still in after my recent successful barbel trips.

It was around 4pm when I got to the area I had in mind, the plan being to lightly bait a few swims and then fish them on the way back downstream, a nice way to pick off any fish and given that it only requires a rucksack, rod,landing net and tub, it's always a nice opportunistic way to travel.

Compared to my recent trip where the river was low, gin clear and enjoyably challenging in the hot and bright conditions, today was to be in stark contrast, with cloudy skies, a topped up river and a nice pace about many of the swims, it looked in prime condition for a fish and as such I was in no rush to wet a line instead taking my time making a mental note of what areas I fancied trying and others to store in memory for later trips, which included a few very welcoming pools.

Heading upstream to the first swim (pictured in title opener above) I found that a swim had been created adjacent to this and actually worn bare, which was very odd, no grass at all and looked like it had been well fished, despite this I still wanted to give the area a cast or two and see if I might get an enquiry on the gravel run, by fishing close to the foliage on the opposite margin.

Settling down in my swim with the welcome padding of the landing mat as a support to my well endowed derrière I was soon ensconced and watching a bolt of blue in the shape of a Kingfisher on the opposite bank, a couple of powerful dives under the surface and it was gone, call it middle age or what you will, but it never fails to warm my heart to see them, I could be having the quietest days fishing on the fish front and yet that admission to natures theatre is worth the asking price alone.

Despite a couple of rattles in this swim which I felt were chub being a bit cagey it was fairly quiet so I decided to try slightly downstream in hope that fishing off the edge of what had evidently become a well fished spot might entice a bite, but this was not to be the case and Forty five minutes later I decided to move again, heading further downstream to chance my arm in a swim that has some low lying trees with multiple tendrils skipping across the surface providing some good cover, a short underarm cast was all that was required.

It was safe to say that I was in a positive mood especially given such conditions and whilst I don't wish to generalise too much, I feel if you can catch in clear, sunny conditions, then cloudy and coloured water conditions should always be a bit more straight forward (sometimes at least!).

By early evening, daylight had faded away as it tends to do at this time of the year and I was drawn to an inviting pool, this whole area being a solid gravel zone and most tempting, I did however find myself a little torn with the swim adjacent to it at the tail end of this shallow pool, so opted to try both areas as they are within a rod length of each other.

At around 8.30 I was sat doing my own impression of a crayfish whilst devouring my way through a packet of ginger biscuits, when I noticed the isotope pluck twice, before the rod nearly did an impression of an exocet missile launch, followed by the pin clattering off. I was soon playing a spirited little rebel, albeit with half a biscuit still in mouth and looking like a gerbil that had been caught in car headlights, the scrap was an enjoyable one from a rebellious youngster (6-12).

Three on the bounce happy days

Whilst not the largest fish, what it lacked in size it made up for in fighting fit condition. Four hours of fishing and a welcome third fish in as many trips, I could get use to this, although I suspect the water witch may well have other plans, however whilst she continues to smile I am not going to complain!

Back in 2007 I started making a few videos and uploading them to Youtube these usually opened with me sat under my umbrella, talking about the weather and what I was fishing for on that particular trip, followed by showing any fish I caught and wildlife, fast forward nearly a decade and I really can't believe it has been that long, I now have nearly one hundred videos on Youtube and thanks to people taking the time to watch them, some of whom post a comment and regularly view them as well as subscribe to my channel, I have just reached a little milestone in surpassing 2500 subscribers and admittedly compared to some channels this might not seem a great deal, but for a chap whom use to have around 25 subscribers it means a great deal. I would like to say a huge thank you to all of you who watch the videos and take time to also read my piscatorial thoughts herein. I sincerely mean that so thank you.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Stirring up a hornets nest

It was a late and humid evening as I made my way toward the river, sheep calling out in earnest, lambs stood, staring quizzically at the quiet soul whom passed them by, some roughly nudging their mothers undercarriage in search of milk and a sense of security. After a recent trip without reward I felt more focused and with a mindset which I have not had in a while, something had changed, another part of me had awoken as if dormant for so much time, a primeval instinct, an incessant urge to reconnect with the waterway that many years ago had a guiding hand in germinating my love for flowing water.

The river was low, her watery blouse parched, revealing inner charms, snags reaching out to any  angler that might be foolhardy enough to wet a line near them, the evening air was thick with the heady aroma of Balsam merged with that sweet smell you only seem to find by the riverbank, a couple of lusty breaths were savoured, boy did it feel great to be out again! As I settled in my swim owls could already be heard and sure enough a Barn Owl appeared on the opposite bank, swooping low before disappearing over the hedges.

A frugal helping of bird seed was followed by no more than four free offerings, less always being more, patience and observation the real key, as well as knowledge that the water witch can flatter to deceive an angler. As light fades an anglers hope increases, but it is a hope that is tempered with the seasons of fishing and understanding he has accrued, with it the ever changing moody embrace of this waterway.

I sat listening to the night sounds, each one telling a different story, the light crunch along the path behind me told me that a deer was nearby and sure enough this was followed by the startled bark as  it picked up my scent, in the distance a shrill cry could be heard and one that never fails to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end, dogs cried out in reply to this lustful vixen as its howls faded away as if carried on the light breeze.

I must have nodded off momentarily, my head jerking forward as I looked toward the isotope "crackle" came the reply, the centre pin was startled into action and suddenly clattering off.
A feeling of surging energy was met by the most nightmarish sound of carbon breaking near the reel seat, I looked down dumbfounded, bewildered and more than a little miffed, "why would you break on me now of all times!" Followed by less than eloquent words which tumbled from my lips "fuck it!" I snarled.
A weld was fashioned from rod and hand, eventually the scrap with the occupant at the other end of rod and line was renewed, each lunge gradually weakening my belief that this fish would see the confines of the landing net, after what felt an age and what will probably result in my premature baldness, the most gloriously conditioned barbel was sat in the net.

I felt emotionally spent and sat staring with a mixture of loathing and disgust at the Wychwood Extremis rod that had decided to give up the ghost on me, not once had it been mistreated in the nine or so years of having owned it, in reality I was more annoyed because I loved playing fish on this particular rod.

Having recovered composure, I set about making ready my camera,light and remote control for a photo or two. Having switched the camera light on a whirring sound could be heard, something akin to an Apache helicopter, the sound increased and was joined by three more, Looking at my camera light I could see a rather angry hornet, repeatedly trying to sting this and the camera flash, I didn't need a second invitation to move as rapidly as possible, lifting the fish back into the net and moving out of the swim, resting her in an area without aerial bombardment from what are wasps on steroids.

Heading back to the swim it was obvious that they were now incensed, grabbing my rod rest I took a swipe at the two on the camera knocking them both off and in doing so provoking the wrath of both as they took it in turns to swoop at me, thankfully both swipes with the rod rest proved fruitful and connected with that meaty sound you might expect to hear when timing a well placed shot with a cricket bat. I doused the light, hurriedly grabbed my gear and beat a hasty retreat. 

Thankfully this fish went a very long way to compensating for the faulty rod and the hornet squadron. She was thick set, fighting fit and had a glorious colour and tone to her, I went home a happy angler but not without a few more choice words for the rod, which I scolded like a parent chastising a naughty child.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Thursday, 4 August 2016

A Vlog Selection

I must admit I have not been keeping up with my blog entries since the start of the season, this is because I have been focusing on filming more videos, which I really do enjoy making. However due to this, my written side which I dearly love has taken a bit of a hit. So for the time being I thought I would share a few of the current videos from this season with you chaps.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Farmoor Than I Expected

I am not much of a fly fisherman, in fact the last time I attempted to fly fish would have been around the age of 13 whilst on holiday in France, fishing a small lake and managing to catch a couple of rainbows via a mixture of flapping, yet I seem to remember it with somewhat more rose tinted glasses.

Despite this minuscule foray into fly fishing, it never really grasped me in the same way as other areas of our pastime. Fast forwarding twenty four years and via facebook I met Ian, a very capable fly fisher, someone whom also shared my love for coarse fishing and after a trip chub fishing at the end of last season he suggested about learning to fly fish and that it would be a good way to perhaps extend the season on flowing water.

A month later he brought round one of his rods and we headed off for the local recreation ground in an attempt to teach me how to cast. He spent a good five hours, with the patience of a saint I might add in showing me the ropes, going through what I did wrong with each cast and progressing to asking me what I thought that I was doing wrong. I must say the feeling of achievement when I did make a half decent stab at casting was very nice, however more often than not my wrist was wagging like the tail of an overexcited Jack Russell. Ian kindly left the rod with me to practice with and the next couple of weekends I did attempt a few hours of field casting, although that said it is never the same as having someone experienced by your side to spectate and correct your errors.

One of the following days Ian called me up and kindly suggested we go down to his bit of river for a couple of hours to see if there were any Mayfly showing and perhaps have a cast or two.
It was a warm afternoon and there was not a great hatch on the river, despite this Ian did hook into a couple of fish which were acting rather finicky and then offered me to have a cast. Having watched him cast along this narrow area of river, the thoughts of doing the same I guess you could say filled me with quite a bit of apprehension and I decided on this occasion to just watch Ian and how he approached swims and tackled the variable amounts of drag in each one,which in itself was very interesting.
On the way back to the car he said  "next time it will be your turn!", a mixture of a weak smile and "yes" tumbled from my lips in a rather hesitant manner.

As we headed well into May we were back on the river and in the company of a better hatch of Mayfly, despite this the fish were once again being very selective, however Ian did get to grips with a few fish, a mixture of wild brownies and the odd rainbow.

It was tricky going and I would have to say that his willing accomplice was not helping matters with a mixture of fluffed casts that at the most fortunate were landing heavily on the water and putting fish down and at worst finding the fly attaching itself to the fencing behind us. I must admit I was pretty self concious by my lack of casting ability and trying to put what I had learnt on the recreation fields into actual practice on flowing water was another game altogether. After a quite a few failed attempts which included missing a fish on one of the wider bends and profusely apologising for putting a few too many knots into Ian's leader, it was time to head home.

As we made our way back to the car he suggested that it might be an idea to head to Farmoor and try a day out on the boat so that I might get to grips with playing the fish as well as casting on somewhere that is more open.

The following Friday we met up at Farmoor, it was cloudy with a light breeze, Ian was confident that the conditions were pretty good and that we would pick up a few fish. A quick unpacking of the tackle and we were soon making our way out on the boat toward one of the water towers.

After mooring up adjacent to this tower it was soon evident that there were quite a few trout rising at regular intervals, Ian mentioned that we were in 80 feet of water and that the fish would put up a good scrap. My first couple of casts were less than stellar, resulting in a fair amount of slack line and not the greatest distance. Ian offered his critique regarding my casting which was very useful and helped a lot, however putting it into practice was once again proving irregular to say the least.

It wasn't long before Ian was playing his first fish of the day and as he slipped the net under it I was suddenly into a cracking fight "two fish at once Mark!" exclaimed Ian. Sadly not long after this mine shed the hook and the line fell limp. I was a little downhearted but at the same time excited to have had my first taste of a Farmoor fish and get a feeling for how well they fight.

Ian with a nicely conditioned Rainbow

After this we chopped and changed between dry fly and nymphs and I conspired to miss a very nice take as a fish surfaced and slurped in one of the flies.

Throughout the day Ian talked about different fly patterns and retrieves as well as casting and I spent a good amount of time absorbing the wealth of information he was willing to share. It was during one his tips regarding my retrieve speed that I had my second bite at the apple, this time I kept a better angle and control. To say they give you a good work out in the deep water is quite the understatement.

Happy days!

Turning to Ian I thanked him for the advice regarding the retrieve as I was sure that this had helped induce a positive take, after a couple of cheerful handshakes we decided to have a cup of coffee and reflect upon how proceedings were going. What I found most helpful was being able to just sit at times and watch Ian cast and retrieve, you can learn always learn a lot by doing so and this helped a great deal.

The master in action

I mentioned to Ian "if I could cast a fly to 25% of your ability I would be over the moon" his reply was concise, "Well I have been fly fishing for over forty years Mark, it will come with practice".

There is something to be said about a good teacher, critique without being overly critical, patience and understanding a virtue, thankfully for this wannabe fly fisher Ian has these qualities in spades.

After mulling a few things over and finding the fishing had fallen silent, Ian decided it would be best if we set the drogue and did some drifting so as to cover a larger amount of water and see if we could run into any seams of fish, before doing so we changed to buzzers and a boobie as the point fly.

On our first drift through Ian latched into a very aggressive fish "I bet that has taken the buzzer" he said excitedly. After a lengthy tussle an angry rainbow broke the surface before speeding off on another long distance dash. After a multitude of hectic runs it was finally ready for the net, a fine looking, chunky fish and sure enough it had taken the buzzer.

A couple of hours had past and by this time I think we had lost about three fish between us and Ian had taken his tally to double figures, we were slowly drifting back toward a couple of the observatory buildings, whilst Ian informed me to keep in touch with the flies and  perhaps speed up the retrieve due to the shallower water. This certainly did the trick and I was connected to a feisty fish that swept in toward the boat, before vanishing under the hull and appearing the other side, turning to Ian I said "I now know what you mean when you say they scrap well here!".

Wrist aching action

By now the cloud was breaking up,blue skies and evening sunshine were beginning to dominate, so we decided to head back out a little way and have one last drift through before calling it a day.

You could see that the activity was falling away a little due to the bright conditions, but we were both keen to have one last fish and as we drifted our way toward the water tower I had the most faintest of plucks as I steadily retrieved the fly and just as Ian suggested it would soon be time to start heading back to the landing stage I had a real thud, lifting into a rather speedy fish which took off as if it was being chased by demons, the pace was utterly manic and it felt a more solid fish.

After one heck of a scrap, by which time my mouth was suitably dry, my reward was sat in the net and looking a tad miffed.

My best of the day taken on the boobie

After this fish we headed for shore, it had been a very enjoyable day spent together, we had shared some good humour and a few fish that seemed as if they were on steroids, Ian had given me an insight into what he enjoys so much and I learnt a lot from him, although it is barely skimming the surface of what is a new discipline for myself. We said our goodbyes and headed home, one things for sure I slept well that evening.