Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Windy Mishaps - Alone in the dark?

Sunday before last was a windy affair but as mild as I have seen it for mid-November, I had a little think about where I wanted to fish and soon decided that I would spend the afternoon roving along one of my favourite little tributaries, a moody little river but it has some lovely fish that reside in it and is full to the brim with features, in fact you could call it a haven for chub, sunken trees draped in flotsam, undercut banks with eddies and riffles all combine to make the perfect Jekyll and Hide waterway, no two trips are ever the same.

Getting down to the river I could see it had a touch of colour to it, just a slight brown tinge but clarity didn't look too bad, I had brought some cheese and krill cheese paste, worms, maggots and bread, the idea being to travel as lightly as possible and see if I could tempt some of the chub and perch.

There was a steady procession of leaves and debris throughout the day and at times it did make presentation a bit of a nightmare. The first few swims showed signs that they had been fished, a tree on the opposite bank had become the final resting place of an alloy stem float, the wind rocking it back and forth rapidly, looking down at the ground I could see the remains of a rather large crayfish that looked as if it had received the foot treatment and possibly by the same angler who had lost their float.

A light feed of maggot was soon introduced and it was not long before a single lob worm was making its way downstream toward a debris strewn branch, almost instantly the diminutive freshwater piranha that is the minnow made itself apparent, the rod tip vibrating in almost a shivering manner that only this species seem capable of conveying.

A couple of pot bellied minnows later and a couple of swims downstream I found myself on a deeper pool, a change to bread was made, almost instantly a lurching bite occurred and a head first dash to cover was made, some side strain was applied to stop it making for the snags, this felt a decent chub, well for all of 20 or so seconds it did and then the hook pulled, I was left feeling a bit short changed and due to how moody this river can be it is often the case of a single bite every so many swims and then move on, given some of the better stamp of chub that are in this waterway I always get a slight sense of foreboding when I lose a better fish.

By late afternoon I had fished my way further downstream with just minnows and the fish which I had lost to the hook pull to show for it, I now found myself lured toward another pool just past one of my favourite shallow gravel runs, the current swirling back upon itself before breaking off into different eddies. A few casts later and I was playing a lively, perfectly formed perch, this was a plump fish, not a huge perch (1.6) but dare I say picture perfect, however clumsiness seemed to be a running theme with this particular trip and I managed to stand on my camera remote, let's just say that it didn't like having 18 stone of weight put on it and that was the end of that, so I had to settle for the cameras inbuilt ten second timer.

I was quite cheered up by this fish, its colouration resplendent and in what looked uncaught condition, although the thoughts of having to replace the camera remote were quite chastening.

By now time was ticking and daylight was starting to fade, I knew further downstream that there were some very good swims that sometimes produced some better chub and I decided that one of these would be my final port of call before heading home, the swim I had in mind had a large tree with its roots protruding out into the margins, plenty of coverage for a skulking chevin or two.

A change to garlic and krill cheese paste was made (think old socks meets fermented shrimp) and after dropping a few tasters in the swim to lure any apprehensive chub out I lowered the bait in front of the roots. Ten minutes later and the quiver nudged faintly but enough to signal that something was rooting about in a rather tentative manner, another couple of light plucks followed by a slightly less edgy tap, I struck and the fish made an instant dash downstream before heading back toward the tree roots, which I must admit took me partly by surprise. After a good scrap a fighting fit chub was in the net, not one of this rivers larger chub, but nonetheless a healthy fish of 4lb.

After this fish it was time to make my way home, it had been quite a challenging day with the wind and debris but enjoyable with a couple of nice fish from this little river, although whilst waiting to be picked up I had ample time to rue the crushed remote.

The following weekend I decided to try a new bit of river, an area that I have not fished as much and planned to target chub. Unfortunately I was not able to get out early, getting down to the riverbank by 3pm and I then decided to fish into evening time hoping the extra hours would give the chance of a few fish from this rather pretty and rural neck of the woods.

Around 6pm and having tried a few sumptuous swims with just one missed bite which was quite a rod tip puller at that, I found myself in a tree lined section with some beautiful undercut banks and debris, the perfect haunt for a chub or two and sure enough it was not long before I was playing a nicely enamelled chub which had fallen to link ledgered lob worm.

A nicely proportioned but very hollow 4.3

Not wishing to spook the swim I decided to go for some Stockholm syndrome and retain this chub in the landing net in hope of picking up some more of its brothers and sisters.

A switch to the blue krill paste (as I'm now calling it) was made and half an hour later I was rewarded with another very golden chub, this one smaller than the last (3.9), things were going swimmingly and I was quite content, it was around this time that I thought it would be nice to set up the camera for a night self take of myself fishing and so set about setting the camera up on the new remote and sat back to fish whilst the shutter slowly clicked away.

Just after a the photo was taken I heard a noise on the opposite bank twice, light movement and then slightly louder, now bare in mind it had been blustery earlier during the trip, but by now the wind had calmed a lot, there was no mist, the sky was cloudy but one of those nights where due to cloud you could make out a small area without using a headlight. I'm not the kind of person to find myself edgy or calling out in earnest, but that is what happened I called across "who's there?", there was a more rapid rustle and movement that faded away, I shone my headlight across but there was now nothing there, naturally I put it down to being an animal or similar and went about placing some free offerings of cheese paste downstream in hope of one or two more fish before packing up.

Twenty minutes passed by before a very positive bite, the quiver tip thudding round and holding, you could almost have called it a crayfish bite, this particular fish made its way for some sunken debris before resigning itself to joining its brassy brethren in the landing net (3.12).

Like peas in a pod

A quick group snap and they were soon swimming off to their respective lairs and I was more or less packed up ready for home when I decided to preview some of the images on the camera and this is where I return to that self take.

As I sat on the riverbank to examine it I could clearly see a smudge to the left of the picture, between the trees on the opposite bank, exactly where I had heard the noise as the camera took the single shot, the area I had called out to and only had a response of more rustling that grew fainter.
Now I am going to show the original image here only, as I have tried adjusting the gamma levels and brightness with another copy of the image, this obviously does increase the grain and noise in the image, there was no mist and at the time any light drizzle had abated, the lens and sensor were spotless, no silly smudges, besides I always check whenever I am using the camera.

What I think I can see on the image and what other people may or may not see are two different things, but as I sat there on the bank I found myself drawn toward this transparent blotch, on zooming in and previewing I became uneasy, for myself it looks like a head of something in the shape of a guitar plectrum?

Having spoken to a few friends some have said similar, saying that there is the transparent outline of a head in the shape of a gorilla, conversely I have had a few friends say that they can see nothing and that maybe the sound was that of a deer or fox and just coincidentally in the same place and at the same time as this image. I don't know what others may make of it and perhaps I now sound a few sandwiches short of a picnic (cue the close encounters music etc), I did however make my way home looking over my shoulder.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


It came calling in earnest, yet my mind was focused on chub, still that nagging question nudged its way into my thoughts suggesting that I should be out after barbel, yet try as I might I could not bring myself to fully commit, I found myself fixated, willing to understand this stretch of waterway and just where those elusive grey shadows might be hiding.

So a compromise was made with the inclusion of some hard hook baits should I decide to try for my first barbel from this challenging area, by 2pm I was down on the river and whilst looking at swims I mused over my last four trips targeting the chub, the best of those being my second trip that rewarded me with that nicely conditioned fish over 5lb and along with it some more understanding about this piece of river was garnered. Since then I have had a couple of trips where I have not had a fish larger than 2+  and the river had sent me another curve ball. There are so many likely looking spots for the larger more solitary chub to skulk, so during most trips I have usually covered a few swims and in doing so also rotated and revisited some of them after feeding with a light mixture of liquidised bread and krill.

Over the handful of trips that I have made I get the distinct feeling that the fish like to hold back from some swims and feed more confidently below these, rather than entering the main pressured zones which is understandable, I noticed this in the third swim that I fished it was evident that fish were skirting round swims and not very forthcoming. So a change of plan was made and a little and often feed of maggots introduced along a marginal reed line. If I have noticed one thing over the years when chub fishing is that it is at times important to get them feeding as confidently as possible, that said I can also name numerous times where the fish can be so skittish that anything more intrusive than an opportunistic, single hook bait will signal the death knell. After allowing a good amount of time for the bait to work its way across the reed bed I rolled a single lob worm tipped with maggot across the front of them, the response was almost instant, a hefty bite followed by a head first charge into some unknown snag in mid river, the snag was a firm one and most probably a tree or similar, my only option was to allow some slack and see if the fish would make its way back out,thankfully it did and I soon had a nicely proportioned fish in the net.

Not a large chub (4.7) but after some of the tougher trips I was very happy I can say that, so far each excursion has given me new ideas as well as help to build up a picture of the river, however with so many likely features dotted along this area you could almost expect a large chub to be at home in any one of these, but I also know this will not be the case as it is a fairly low stocked stretch.

By the time daylight had been replaced by a very mild evening I had tried a few other swims with just the odd half hearted pluck and these most likely from a combination of minnow and crayfish, there was one final area that I fancied but should it produce then I was most likely going to have a right game on my hands as it was choked with weed and netting would not be easy even with a long landing net pole.

A change of bait was made to a side hooked barrel along with a frugal amount of free offerings, this swim looked too good not to produce, although I will say it was not the most comfortable to perch myself in, even with my well padded rump the odd bramble made itself well known.

As I sat back and had a welcome cup of coffee I found myself pondering about a topic that regularly crosses my mind and that is how many fish we actually pass by without receiving interest from where a static approach might pay dividends with a larger and more wary chub, it is something that always pops into my head especially when roving. I was stealing a glance at my watch and wondering if it was time to give it the "just 20 minutes more" approach when the rod tip swept round in a manic manner and so the sprint began, fish tearing off downstream along the weed beds and toward the reeds, it had no plan on stopping, thankfully the feeder rod bore the brunt off the initial run and dampened each surge, allowing me time to follow the fish downstream with landing net in tow, only to eventually realise that it would be harder to land the fish from this area. After a couple of rather unorthodox attempts at landing were attempted, it rather unceremoniously rolled into the folds of the net, it was around that time that I realised my ankles were caked in mud and I was standing on what I had thought was solid bank when in reality I was actually in very boggy the margins..

My first barbel from a new bit of river (7.3) and unlike me fighting fit with a proud dorsal. Sometimes indecision pays off in funny ways and managing to come to a compromise where bait was concerned had worked out nicely, even if it did leave me looking like I had been part dipped in a pot of nutella.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Play misty for me

I found myself afflicted, but by what? Sure enough during a previous trip targeting chevin this river had rebuffed me in an unceremonious manner and I wanted to respond, accept that challenge and the changeable moods that would come with it.

It was late afternoon with very little breeze and apart from an infrequent trail of autumn leaves the water clarity was very good, so much so that in some swims the gravel runs were most visible, I made a mental note of these areas, taking a few pictures along the way so as to keep in mind the features that would eventually be obscured should we get any heavy rainfall, during this time I had rolled the link ledger through various swims and chopped and changed between a multitude of baits, wax worm, lob worm, maggot, bread and krill cheese paste to name but a few, but barring the odd tap from minnow and crayfish the rod tip was untroubled by the chain mail, clad warriors which I sought. It's always with a great sense of enjoyment, anticipation and dare I say a hint of trepidation when fishing areas of river you have never wet a line on before, that first fish always acting as a catalyst and boosting your confidence.

Come evening time I decided to try a couple more swims, one of which I had avoided during daylight due to it being so shallow, I figured that any of the larger fish would be tight to the snags and overhanging bushes, the small gap between the opposite bank and these features provided enough room to roll some cheese through on the link ledger, by now a dense mist was slowly enveloping me and the gradual patter from its droplets collecting on my rucksack could be heard, a few minutes later and a crayfish that had mistaken my line for a new age guitar string was untangled and dispatched. I sat and contemplated whether to move swims or not, after a slight amount of dithering had taken place a few small pieces of cheese paste were fed along the swim and it was rested before another roll through was made with the same bait.

Despite the low water levels the conditions were not bad, sure there was the usual debris that one associates with this time of the year, but that aside it seemed spot on, however it was eerily quiet on the fish front and in another thirty minutes I would be packing up with a few positive ideas to take with me accompanied with one very thoughtful and dare I say wry smile. In all the years that I have fished this waterway be that either old or new stretches it has never failed to make me sit up and think or bring me down to earth and it wouldn't be the same without it.

As I waited for the isotope to spring to life I thought about how easy it would be to head back to areas of river where an angler might be more sure footed, in the past I have witnessed old friends wishing to do the same, but where is the fun in that? Or least that is what I told myself as I willed one of the better chub to relinquish itself! I was nudged out of my thought process by one of the softest chub bites I have witnessed, not the usual lunging take or even the kind that would tap away before rod tip steadily arches round, no this was clearly mouthing the bait apprehensively, its grey lips at work on the cheese paste like the dexterous hands of a master safe cracker, I slowly slid the butt of the rod across to my knee and waited, hoping that a more committed bite would follow. It certainly didn't disappoint with a more solid thud, setting the hook it felt a reasonable fish as it headed downstream and under the numerous overhangs dotted along this reach, it was a good scrap and a rather tricky one especially with the amount of reed beds that stood between myself and netting my reward, it was quite a relief to slip the net under it.


A long, blunt headed, stout fish and a welcome first chub from this area of river. It's always nice to get that first fish of a species you are targeting, especially in new surroundings, it buoys your confidence and fills you with more understanding and expectation for that next trip, after all who knows when the river might just bring you back down to earth with a bump.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Fluffing my lines

Over two weeks without fishing is no good for any angler who enjoys their hobby and I have recently been put on course of cyclizine to combat motion sickness, think feeling you are permanently on board a boat and you would be some of the way there, like all medications it's not without its side effects, one such being drowsiness, although I probably haven't felt this sleepy from an antihistamine since the days of triludan.

Come Sunday and despite the clocks going back I was not fully awake until gone 12pm, it felt like someone had clobbered me over the head, I can understand why such tablets can treat motion sickness because they replace it by knocking the person out instead!

I decided to chance my arm with a spot of link ledgering and when I eventually got down to the river (2pm) I could hear a couple of other anglers walking up the path whilst chatting fervently about football and the sacking of Tim Sherwood, they stopped briefly to ask how I was getting on and told me that they had been fishing since early morning but had managed a couple of chub to just over 4lb on bread and cheese paste.

It was a gloriously sunny afternoon and I planned to fish till 7pm to see if I could perhaps tempt one of the better chub as daylight faded. This particular area of river is quite narrow in places but there is good fish to be found and stealth is very much key. I had hastily packed worms and maggots deciding to use these as my main approach, now I could have taken liquidised bread and cheese paste with me but I wanted to travel as light as possible, preferably without the bait bucket that I usually have in tow.

Some swims are very much hit and hold

The first handful of swims produced the obligatory minnow rattles and taps, followed by a very confident bite which I somehow conspired to miss, little did I know this would be a recurring theme for most of the afternoon. Further downstream I opted to fish a slack created by a fallen birch tree and this looked a prime skulking zone for most species, in fact it looked rather perfect for perch, sure enough a few minutes later and pluck pluck, it seemed like a perch bite and my hand was firmly on the rod, five minutes later the tip swept round, as confident bite as one might expect, in fact more so given the bright conditions, my strike was delayed and dare I say mistimed, I once again connected with thin air, by now I was pretty much miffed to say the least and repeatedly chided myself for having been slow off the mark, thoughts of cremating the new medication and offering it to the fishing gods did also pass through my mind.

Further downstream I found a deep slack, once again not a wide swim but one with a good depth to it and just off the main flow, a light feed of maggot was fed in upstream a good ten minutes before I planned run my bait through. The first trundle produced the one and only bite, once again very confident and I connected with this fish for a few seconds, the resistance felt good, the hook hold however was not and that less than favourable anti climax of a hook pull occurred. I was now wondering if it was going to be one of those trips, you know the kind I mean where you botch up every gilt-edged chance that comes your way.

By evening time and with just over an hour left I was well and truly ruing those missed opportunities  so I headed back upstream to cover a couple of swims that I had yet to try. It turned out to be a case of fortune at the last chance saloon, when the tip thudded round this time I was met with a solid resistance and the surging sprint from what felt a bullish fish, it was bristling with energy as it made for the weed beds and overhangs giving a brilliant account of itself. My reward was a solidly built chub and one which went a long way to banishing those missed bites earlier in the afternoon, after this fish the swim fell quiet, no wonder really given the run around this fish had given me, but boy was I elated, I thought I had expended all my chances

5.06  of small river chevin

My final cast was made in what you might call a pool swim, an area without so much flow to it, this particular spot looked good and had a lot of detritus which had collected, I figured it would be a perfect for any food particles to hold up and also a nice spot for any fish wishing to recuperate from exertions in the main flow.

After a little and often trickle of maggots, I started to receive a few delicate taps, followed by a more confident, slow but steady bite. I knew straight away that this fish was certainly not a chub as it kited out of the pool and headed ponderously downstream, the golden flank of a nicely conditioned bream soon broke the surface.


One thing I have noticed over the seasons on this particular river is that most of these bream tend to have a gorgeous colouration to them and always put up a good a good scrap in my opinion, especially on balanced tackle.

A look at my watch told me it was time to make for home, it had turned out good in the end but I had really fluffed my lines with those other chances.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Catching up - To be or not to be

During early September I found my head turned yet again by the Blackwater and the barbel that inhabit this river, although I must admit these fish do come with their own set of head scratching conundrums, nomadic as they are and can invariably throw a spanner in the works even when you think you have it figured out. During this particular week we had received some welcome rain and the river was fining down nicely (not been able to say that much during this season!), I planned to keep proceedings as simple as possible, after all it can be easy to disappear into a labyrinth of rig adjustments and confidence questioning, I've been there before and torturing your soul over a tactic that you know works well is not wise, that said at times I still manage to do it!

This season I have found link ledgering to pay dividends, I am able to cover a few swims and this helps build up a mental image of the topography of the river, as well as picking up a few bonus fish of other species along the way. By late afternoon a single rod was lowered into a narrower area of the river, this particular swim is a bit of a bottleneck with a steady, walking pace current, the river was still tinged with colour but had dropped a good 10 inches and it looked good for a bite.

During the afternoon I was kept company by the aerobatics of a kestrel as it hunted the land behind me, a few pictures were attempted and as twitchers law would dictate it was not the easiest to grab a  photo of, in fact if it had kindly perched for a little longer on one of the posts I may have got a better image but instead made do with a few rapidly fired shots.

Anyone who knows me will know that I am just as happy having some tranquillity and being kept company by nature regardless of catching during fishing trips, natures primeval instinct always makes me ponder a few things about us humans and how we sully so much that we come across, be that the environment or other people.

As afternoon merged into evening I started to receive a few heavy knocks in a stop start fashion, not the usual pull and hold crayfish experience, no these were definitely enquiring knocks and nearly had me reaching for the rod in anticipation, however it fell silent for the next thirty minutes, I usually find such moments the calm before the storm and the full blooded bite that followed did not disappoint as the rod tip wrapped round and I found myself trying to slow down a fish that was making its way for the exit of the bottleneck and head toward a mean looking set of sunken branches.

A little side strain applied and after a few heart in mouth moments it was coaxed back upstream, as it slipped into the net a quick glance at the healthy golden flank and strong paddles told me it was in fighting fit condition.

A perfectly conditioned Blackwater Barbel (9.14)

Another perfectly formed gem from this waterway, I was pretty happy to say the least and went home with a spring in my step.

Warwickshire Avon

Earlier in the year via Groupon we had booked a short October break in a lodge known as a snug at the Stratford caravan park (Tiddington), this worked out exceptional value for money, four nights costing around £50 and doubled up perfectly for any sightseeing but would also give myself and Robert the chance to do a bit of fishing on the Warks Avon.

The snug an appropriate name, sleeps four and comes with heater and fridge
The whole reason I originally created the fishing for memories blog years ago was to share our fishing trips together, it was never meant to be about self promotion or anything of the kind at all, just myself writing about the trips of father and son. However over the years my father (Robert) has seen his health go downhill and as a result has fished less and less, to the point of eventually stopping, many times over the seasons if I have been fishing old areas of river I would glance and look to a spot where he might have favoured and thought about the times we shared together, during the years that have followed we have always chatted about fishing, he always asks how my trips have gone and I guess in a way living those trips through me, during this time I have missed the comradery and mirth that father and son share during fishing trips, I suppose you could say that I have become ensconced in my own company and almost taken on a lone angler aspect and I would be lying if I said this thought did not cross my mind at regular intervals.

The morning of our arrival Robert was not feeling well so we took it steady and I decided to take a good look at the river and pick us some nice looking swims for the following evenings fishing, the plan being to fish late evening (7pm onward) to minimise any boat traffic and pack up around 1am. On reaching the river it was clear that much like my own waterways in Berkshire they had not seen much rain, the river was low and gin clear, in fact the clarity was that good I could have probably mistaken it for any of my local chalk streams and it was fairly evident from the outset that it was going to be challenging due to the combination of high pressure weather conditions and water clarity being crystal clear.

I must say I fell in love with the river instantly, it's hard to explain how different waterways bring out different emotions in an angler but this one made me feel right at home and I was looking forward to us wetting a line together, however there were more areas of this stretch to look at before finally deciding on swims.

Decisions Decisions

After spending the morning and best part of the afternoon looking around I eventually picked us out a couple of  areas which offered us a combination of better depth and some coverage in the shape of dense yet tired looking weed beds, these particular swims had a mixture of sandy bottom giving way to gravel runs, areas interspersed with larger rocks, in fact it reminded me a lot of some areas of the Thames, I must admit some of the areas I had looked at simply cried carp and barbel, not to mention other species.

The following evening after enjoying a family barbecue I set about mixing up a light groundbait mixture, as I had not been able to bring any prepared birdseed with me, it was to be hemp a very light scattering of scolded pellet and liquidised vitalin, mixed with some crumb and krill.

We planned to fish a single rod each for barbel and carp and I also planned to do a spot of fishing on the quiver tip and isotope into darkness. Our first evening didn't go quite as I had planned for us, sods law the primary spot I had chosen was taken by another angler, who then packed up an hour after we had set up further downstream. Chopping and changing between worm and maggot fished over the groundbait mix  I had a few lovely conditioned roach, not massive fish the largest perhaps 10/12 oz but they were spotless and with that lovely silver sheen, this along with a solitary bream (5lb) as well as a chub over 3lb on the quiver, just before packing up at midnight I heard some pattering coming down the path which lead to the river and sure enough an overly confident otter ran past me before diving into the river, nice to witness them but that enjoyment is always tinged with a slight sense of bemusement with regard to the way their reintroduction to our waterways has been handled.

A nicely conditioned chevin and a rather odd look to myself haha

That first evening it was safe to say that neither of us were troubled by any barbel or carp and part of me was dearly hoping dad would catch his first barbel in a long time. Odd how time changes everything, I can remember as a youngster looking at dad and asking him what his thoughts were on spots and where we planned to fish, learning so much from our trips together, watercraft, patience and humility from his angling guidance, that's something you can't put a price on, however it now felt like role reversal and I was hoping that I wouldn't let him down.

The weather for October was simply beautiful, not an anglers ideal conditions, but boy it was very settled, cool nights and very pleasant days. The following evening the first choice area was available and we made a beeline for it. The first hour was quiet apart from having a barge pass by which was being filmed by a film crew on board a separate boat, however as daylight faded so the river came alive with the sound of chub and bream topping. It was a windless night, calm but with a chill in the air, both myself and Robert were hopeful, I had decided to stay on the quiver tip, the only change made was to a larger hook and a side hooked boilie barrel.

Two hours later I received a very delicate tap, the isotope arching round confidently, what followed was a fish that headed off to the far bank margins at breakneck speed before attempting to continue its journey downstream, followed by me repeatedly saying "this feels a better fish"  "I think can bloody see that!" came the reply. It was evident from the power and pace that this might be a carp and it was testing my metal.

After a lengthy scrap Robert slipped the net under a very frisky ghostie (14lb), apart from a small amount of fin damage it was in cracking condition and had certainly given me a challenging tussle.

Before I could even get this fish on to the landing mat Robert's rod was away and he was soon playing an energetic looking fish, as its flank broke the surface between each surging run I could see that it was indeed a barbel, after a lively scrap it finally nestled in the landing net, a broad smile was etched on my face, a mixture of elation for dad and a palpable sense of relief.

Happy days and proof your angling heart never dies (9.1)

We fished on for two more hours, during this time Robert hooked into another one of the carp and to say it put up a good fight would be an understatement, unfortunately just as it looked beaten it made a headlong dash for the marginal weed and the hook pulled, despite this slight anti climax it was evident that the old guy was overjoyed.

On the final morning as we had breakfast he said to me "thank you", a reply from myself was hard to come by, not from being impolite or ungracious but from the multitude of different emotions that were welling up, after all what do you say to the person that invested their time, kindled the fire and opened a doorway into what has become an integral part of my life and dare I say well being, you never need say thank you dad, that you were happy again was more than enough.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Waxing lyrical

Locally we have had some very heavy rain recently and the rivers have been topped up nicely, almost to the point of localised flooding, a stark contrast to how dry it has been previously, so at the weekend after a bit too much dilly-dallying, trying to choose between barbel fishing or some general roving, the latter was chosen and I decided to take with me what is to myself a fairly new bait and one I have used on three occasions this season, each time they have been nothing less than superb, that bait is wax worms.

These are the plump larvae of the wax moth, think super sized, buoyant, cream coloured maggot and that would lightly sum them up. They can be fished popped up or as a sinking bait and are a very natural looking food, something a fish might expect to see dropping from a bush or tree into the water invitingly. Earlier in the season I put them to use for chub and they worked very well trundled between the weed runs, I tend to fish these in two ways, the first is using an opportunistic approach by casting into a swim with no free offerings and trying to pick off an unsuspecting fish that sees a free meal rolling past, the second is to fish these in conjunction with a light feed of maggots.

The amount of liquid content is akin to a juicy orange, so when nipped on the hook they do give a superb leak off, on larger hooks I prefer to thread one on length ways and then nip one or two on the hook as you would with a normal maggot. They keep very well in the fridge just like maggots and from what I have seen seem to have a better heat tolerance than worms do.

You should be able to purchase these from your local pet shop, however I have been ordering mine from UK Waxworms, you get approximately 270 for £6, now I am unsure as to how that stacks up against the price for these in a pet shop, but baring in mind that the £6 also includes the postage and packaging I would suspect that it is not bad, plus these are mainly used as hook bait only, so 270 tend to go a long way.  I have detoured a little from topic but wanted to explain a bit about them.

On reaching the river this weekend I was met with a pacy, tea coloured scenario and part of me was kicking myself for opting to go quiver tip and link ledger, but there were still plenty of slacks to target and submerged marginal features which would allow fish respite from the burgeoning flow.

As I had not got down till 2pm I decided to concentrate on only a handful of swims, chopping and changing between fishing the wax worms as single baits and using them fished over the top of maggots which were trickled into some swims. The first couple of spots produced a few small perch and gudgeon, moving downstream I found a slack just off a glide and begun to receive some rapier-esque bites hitting the tip, now I have not had that many dace from this waterway in the past, many other species but not lots of dace, at least not from some of the reaches that I fish, well imagine my delight when I started picking up a few of these at regular intervals, not huge fish for the species, the largest was  probably 6oz's, but given this particular waterways thriving ecosystem who knows what sizes that they might go to? Certainly food for thought where a bit of trotting might be concerned, which in my opinion is a more enjoyable way to catch these silver arrows.

It was not long before afternoon was gradually turning to early evening and I was sorely wishing I had commenced fishing earlier, by now the river had risen more and I found myself in the final swim of the trip, a slack near to a sunken tree, this area having plenty of breaks in the flow and a very nice undercut bank next to said tree. Twenty minutes into fishing this swim and I received a slow, almost deliberate bite which I somehow failed to connect with, so a change of hook was made to a heavier gauged size 10 and three wax worms were soon rolling along the undercut bank.

A few trundled casts later and the tip twitched delicately before arching round, I soon realised that I was connected to a better fish as it moved into the pacy current, after a very enjoyable scrap I could see a lovely conditioned bream breaking the surface.

Wax worms, like the American Express advert "never leave home without them"

A perfectly proportioned Abramis from a small Thames tributary, an excellent scrap on the quiver (8.7)

Gold intermingled with a deep, burnished bronze colouration and without doubt one of the nicest river bream that I have had the pleasure to catch, this was the perfect way to end the afternoons fishing and it is safe to say that wax worms have cemented themselves as a firm favourite with me as a welcome addition to an anglers bait armoury. I have not used them trotted as of yet, but I would suspect with delicate presentation by float that they would be the downfall of many a good roach and rudd.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Hour Glass Sand

It's a calm evening as I approach the river, I peer up at the sun as it skips in and out of the clouds, much like I once did in the mornings as a child from beneath the duvet, eyes dilating painfully, urging me to cover my head. The sound of flowing water whets my appetite as does the merry whistle of the electric blue, as it flies by I smile and offer a salute, modest acknowledgement for the king of fishers.

The river is part obscured by balsam and nettle, as I fumble through the vegetation it is with a sense of urgency and yearning, the invitation for me to lose myself is strong almost incessant.

Finally my eyes rest upon the river, its subaquatic jungle beckoning me to wet a line, dense cabbage patch giving way to streamer weed and intimate gravel runs, there is no rush to cast, a deep breath is taken, nostrils fill with the heady aroma of balsam, I rustle about in the rucksack for the small tub of bait that has hidden itself in this Aladdin's cave of piscatorial paraphernalia, sure enough it is to be found at the very bottom where it has secreted itself away, a few minutes later and an underarm cast is made, ripples break the surface film and my connection to the river is complete.

Very few thoughts other than the here and now break into my mind, a chance to wonder what might lurk beneath, I'm excitable as the rod shakes, a faint wing beat can be heard and the culprit soon reveals itself to be a Pipistrelle bat, I watch as it flutters between water and foliage, its balletic movement mesmerising me.

The evening cloud cover slowly disperses and a heavy dew begins to form on the grass, its beads illuminated by an awoken moon, my breath is visible, I shudder a little as night air and expectation meet for the first time.

It is not long before a moonlit hunter can be heard, the wood mice that were chattering so enthusiastically, planning a daring raid on my rucksack fall silent, rustling can be heard as they disperse, lest they become a midnight feast for an owl, its presence given away as leaves fall from the bough above.

A series of staccato taps leave my rod shaking, an odd bite and one that fills me with apprehension and unease, images of crayfish and their shellfish attitude for toying with an anglers bait begin to invade my thoughts, these soon vanish as the rod makes a sudden bid for freedom from the rest.
The lead can be felt tumbling through the cabbage patch as the occupant at the other end gatecrashes its way to safety, the clutch ticking steadily, a splash is heard and a golden bar breaks the surface, I'm more than ready for it to slip into the net but it has other ideas as it disappears under the surface and back downstream. By now my heart beats hard and fast but not from where it should reside, for it has taken a small excursion to keep my dry throat company, the mixture of adrenaline and anticipation creates the oddest of emotional concoctions, but it is one every angler is accustom to and something we willingly repeat.

Eventually the folds of the landing net sag and I come to realise that all along it has been fish playing angler.

As I say a final farewell the hourglass is neigh on empty, I spend the last few grains of it watching this muscular beauty swim off and rejoin its brethren.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Abstraction - Waterways thirst for hydration

So far summer has been a rather dry one, although I am sure a few anglers will have set their alarm clock for the heavy downpours predicted this coming weekend and I would say many of our rivers would dearly benefit from a drop of rain, not because it might make any anglers wet dream come true, but for the fact that many rivers are quite painfully low and in need of replenishment.

It does make me wonder how severely abstraction is harming the habitat and species that co-exist along our riverine environments and how easily abstraction licenses are handed out. Going back to 2010 I remember reading the wwf report which stated that a third of river catchments were being threatened by over abstraction, the likes of the Kennet and Itchen amongst others mentioned in this, has much really changed?

From looking at my local network of rivers, nearly if not all of which are feeders and bloodlines to the Thames, I would have to say that no might be the answer to that question. This leads me on to ponder a few other things, such as how much damage to our rivers is caused by Thames water and their malfunctioning, dare I say archaic sewage system/treatment plants.

For example a few seasons ago on the Blackwater I had packed up from an enjoyable fishing trip, the rain had been heavy and constant enough to cause surface flooding, whilst waiting to be picked up I could see two tankers on the road, cleaning up excess water, from the stench it was obvious that it was more than just surface water. On driving by we took the time to stop and ask one of the guys working the tanker, he did not want to answer any questions and asked us to move on, however we did get a response from one of the other chaps further down the road and he admitted that it was indeed sewage that was being cleared up.

Fast forward to this season and a sewage pipe that crossed above ground to an opposite side of  riverbank began to leak raw sewage during the close season. Thankfully it was spotted early on by one of the clubs officials and the environment agency were soon at hand. Meanwhile Thames water called in two tankers and closed the pumping station. Swift action you might think, but weeks went by with Thames water claiming that they could not commence any reparation due to not being able to hire scaffolding, yet there is a scaffold company local to the site of the incident. In the end Thames water chose to replace said pipe and run the new one under the river bed instead, I can't help feel that the term "hear no evil, see no evil" or in this case smell no evil comes to mind.

You might think I have a bit of a dislike for Thames water and you're probably right, but it is fuelled by the fact they have wiped out a few good reaches of rivers and brooks over the years and got away like so many companies do with just a fine and a slap on the wrist, I think that would perhaps peeve most people.

So far this season I have done seven trips on the Loddon mainly for barbel and of those trips it has been a reasonable balance between captures and blanks.

One of my recent trips resulted in a double hook pull, now I like to think that such things balance themselves out, especially having been lucky in past seasons to land fish to mid double on a lot lighter tackle when I probably shouldn't have. I must admit despite thinking this through I did still go home with a rather rueful smile etched on my face.

Getting down to the river late one evening I was greeted by a friend who had journeyed from Swindon to my neck of the woods and was just setting up, we had a chat and ended up fishing fairly close together, he planned to fish till 11pm and just as he was getting ready to pack up had his first Loddon barbel of the season. This was quite surprising given how unsociable their feeding patterns can be. He was very happy and I duly did the honours with the camera.

A smile speaks a thousand words

I decided to stay on for three more hours, thoughts in my head gnawing away about the recent hook pulls, that and wondering if bats could one day be tamed and used as portable anti mosquito devices.  Don't ever say I don't use time on the bank to think pro actively..

At 1am I started receiving a few delicate line bites accompanied by the odd heavier rattle, forty minutes later and the rod departed the front rest, saved by the butt grip and my hand as I lurched forward, it had to be one of the most violent takes I have had in a while and it was evident I was connected to a very powerful fish that was intent on putting the pacey water to good use.

flashbacks of hook pulls had me playing this fish very gingerly, it was a real scrap and everything that could go wrong nearly did which included the ledger weight lodging in the landing net mesh with  fish sliding back out over the lip, thankfully the weight dislodged and the fish slid into the net on the second attempt.

fighting fit torpedo (10lb)

This was a great way to exorcise those hook pull demons. Although if I am honest I can still hear them whispering to me.

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 grander 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.