Friday, 23 December 2016

Some Christmas Viewing Perhaps?

The weather outside isn't frightful, actually the temperature is quite delightful, so maybe with that in mind some of you chaps will be fishing on Christmas Eve or god forbid even sneaking in a few hours on Christmas day and in doing so risking certain circumcision at the hands of the good woman in your life. However if you are stopping indoors then I have a couple of new fishing vlogs which you may find enjoyable to watch and are posted below. Merry Christmas to all my fellow piscatorial blog authors, stay safe and with a fish or two in the hand.

Kind Regards Mark.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Sergeants of the Minnow shoals

It was a misty morning, water droplets falling in an irregular pattern as its vaporous shroud was slowly lifting and save for the call of Pheasants there was an almost eerie calm about it.
I had made plans to cover two species that I had in mind, chub and perch, in my eyes river perch are one of our most beautifully marked species with their rouge fins, variations of green, black bars and a dragons dorsal, usually giving an angler a cracking scrap especially in their larger sizes.

Despite my thoughts being about river sergeants, I first and foremost wanted to see if I could tempt some of the larger chub and had prepared the garlic, krill and milk powder cheese paste along with a fresh loaf of bread, liquidised bread and of course a tub of lob worms. Upon reaching the river I found much like many of the other waterways it was running very low and around two foot lower than normal, admittedly this wouldn't be so much of a problem on some larger rivers but when specialising in targeting smaller rivers it can be the nail in the coffin as far as action can be concerned, however that said the river still had a nice tinge of colour which was most odd given that we have had very little rain and there were plenty of swims with debris, in fact there was a multitude of inviting options, so there were at least two positive advantages, I must admit that I am a bit of a flotsam floozy and if there is anywhere that a good chub or perca will hold up in low conditions it is the deeper pools and debris strewn battlegrounds.

Link ledger in hand I headed to my first swim, a slack but slightly deeper area of the river with debris reaching out toward the edge of the flow, a quick nip tuck and pinch of fresh bread was cast alongside one of the sunken trees, this was met with a light rattle and followed by disapproval by the occupant who then backed right off, this was to turn into a recurring theme as I spent this particular trip changing bait, bait sizes and hook size in hope of charming a chevin from numerous and rather sumptuous swims, bites were either plucks followed by backing off, or the bites where they whittle your bread or cheese paste down but do not commit, it was tricky going to say the least. Thankfully where my fishing is concerned I seldom have room for pessimism and try to stay optimistic with the thought that you only need one chance to change a challenging trip into a fruitful one.

As late afternoon beckoned and many good looking skulking zones had been tried, the majority either snubbing this angler or simply giving tentative bites without fruition, I had moved to a more uniform area of river, but with nice marginal undercuts and tree roots. As is usually the case with this time of the year and heading toward the winter solstice the days are very short and light was beginning to fade a little when I had my first proper enquiry, my rod plucking solidly twice before I set the hook and was met with a welcome solid kick, instantly line was being taken from the little Symetre 500 reel as a large striped shape surfaced mid channel, at the same time my eyes popped out my head, I fumbled to push them back into their sockets, this was a very large perch and not that well hooked either, I sat playing her, unsure whether to get up and re-adjust my position or not as the hook hold looked as if it was only lightly nipped on the inside of the mouth.

My legs struggled to receive the message from my brain  "move them now or lose this fish" I growled to myself, finally the message was received and I was soon moving into a crouching position with the agility of the Pilsbury dough boy meets a run over badger and none too soon either as she powered off toward the marginal tree roots, you could say she was giving a good account of herself but that would have been a gross understatement and it led to a bit of knit one pearl one, with my rod changing from left to right hand to gain a modicum control.

Finally she was in the net and I was pretty speechless, when the words did eventually tumble out all I could muster was "it's a clonker, an absolute beauty!".

Transfixed by a thick Set Specimen


Probably one of the best looking river perch I have caught, fins looking like they had been coloured in with a felt tip pen, black bars down her flank in the shape of Sabretooth Tiger fangs and the most glorious mixture of lime greens, she was truly perch-fection.

After having slipped her back and just about managing to calm myself I decided to head off upstream to see if I could perhaps pick up a chub or two as they had been a cause for much head scratching to say the least.

As daylight waned I picked up a couple of modest chub, the one pictured below the larger of the two which obliged.

Making my way back to the car park I was quite contented, after all there was always next time for one of the larger chevin to put in an appearance and that one of the very special Sergeant's of the Minnow shoals had obliged was more than reward enough. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Photography - Filming & Equipment

Leading into this particular blog post I want to discuss the equipment I generally use for my filming and photography which includes items that I use for self take photographs whilst fishing and wish to shed some light on why I use them and of what help they can be to another angler, in doing so hopefully impart some  useful information.

Camera: Lumix Gh4

I have been shooting photography and film with the Panasonic Lumix G series for a fair few years now and favour them greatly. I started originally with the G3 and moved to the GH series after the GH3 had been out a while, purchasing mine second hand and eventually moving on to its newer sibling the GH4, (also purchased second hand). The sensor on these are of the micro four thirds variety, smaller than that of an Aspc sensor, however the end results with decent glass (lens) are spot on.

Like many cameras they have a fully articulated screen (flippable,rotatable) which is simply superb for framing self take photography or taking above head height or low down images and also very useful when filming. The frame is constructed from magnesium alloy (same as the GH3) and is dust and splash proof, meaning you need not worry if filming or trying to capture a self take in light rain (lens dependent), many times I have used mine in some heavier downpours and providing it is wiped dry and well cared for afterwards it keeps in perfect condition. Granted if you want the most weatherproof of cameras then I would suggest looking at Pentax, something like the Pentax K-S2, however the video modes on most pentax cameras are not so good, but if video is not needed then pentax make some of the best weatherproof cameras and usually tend to put a lot of bang per £ into their designs, the K-s2 also comes with a fully articulated screen, but I have digressed a little, the GH4 is set apart from most other cameras due to its plethora of video modes and bit rates available to shoot at, from 1080p at 60fps, to 4k at 30fps MOV, MP4, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD formats, with 4K recording in MOV/MP4 at multiple bit rates and with some of the fastest (at the time of its release) contrast detection autofocus with 49 focus points and a touch screen, you find yourself only scratching the tip of the iceberg.

This coupled with a good battery life and very intuitive menu system and you have a very capable mirror-less camera system, that has a plethora of filming modes as well as being a very good stills camera. I suppose you could say it sounds a bit like a sales pitch, or fanboy spiel, but I'm yet to be let down with this range of camera and I have used many other brands in the past, in fact if I was not shooting film footage then I would definitely head in the direction of Pentax, you can probably tell that I really think they offer some great value and well built cameras, as far as menu and sub menus go I would say both Pentax and Panasonic have got that about spot on, without the user having to thumb their way through a myriad of different menus to get to the item they want to use.

If you was looking for the current cream of the crop then the current full frames from Sony are worth a look providing your wallet can stomach the prices, with the likes of the Sony A7 RII, this camera gives some impressive iso performance on the stills and indeed the film front (up to 4k) but body alone retails for over £2000, which is a bit on the steep side and doesn't come with a fully articulate screen, which whilst not a deal breaker I think it would have been nice to see Sony go the fully articulate route as well as have better battery life, frankly the battery life is not exactly stellar on the Sony's, as they opted for a very small battery pack and yes of course you can take more spares with you, but quite frankly I'd rather take a couple of larger batteries instead of multiple packs of small ones, however this doesn't overly detract from what is a very good camera system, but myself like anyone always plays the price to performance percentage game and that is where the likes of the Lumix GH4 come in, body only for the GH3 can be picked up second hand for around £300 and the GH4 for around £600 (sometimes a lot less if you take your time on Ebay) and compared to the Sony A7 that is a lot more palatable, granted it isn't a full frame camera, but what it does it does very well.

One thing I always tell people is that the Panasonic GH4 isn't an iso beast, with the GH4 and a fast lens you can film quite comfortably up to iso 3200 with little to no noise, although personally and when filming in lowlight or in darkness with a camera light I try to keep to around iso 1600 if possible, however many times I have filmed at 3200 and the noise levels have been more than acceptable.

Now for the price to performance option in the Panasonic G series, personally I would heartily recommend the Lumix G2 which can be purchased second hand sometimes as low as £60, usually averaging £80 to £100 depending on the package offered by a second hand seller.
The reason why I suggest this older model is that for its price it is still a brilliant performer coming with some good options such as microphone input and remote input, flip round screen, decent iso performance and HD video, the one caveat being that it only records 720p video,but frankly the output quality of said video is rather good given this cameras an older model, on top of this it is also possible to use hacked firmware to increase said bit rate of the videos recorded, if you should so wish.

For quite a few years now when night time filming fish captures and when filming playing fish I use an extra led light, this I have always found to be a real advantage when it comes to self take photography, allowing you to use a very low iso and gaining much better results than you would without said item. I currently own two of these which do much the same, however if I was going to suggest one then it would be the Godox Led 64 dimmable panel light.

As the above image shows this light is dimmable, as well if need be of being powered from a regular ac adaptor for say home studio usage and takes 4AA batteries which I find last rather well. The unit itself has a brass thread on the hot shoe base so you could use a bankstick adaptor if you should so wish, it also comes with three modular slots on the outside of the case, which allow you to add more lights clipped together, this allows me to slide on my shotgun microphone to the top. One of the key things with this light is the size and weight ratio vs lighting performance, it is a good balance and takes up very little room in your fishing bag or rucksack.

Moving on to the cabled remote, I use a JJC TM-D Multi-Function Timer Remote .

These retail at around between £18 to £20 and do come in a variety of models to suit different brands and models of camera. I have been using this particular wired remote for around 7 years now and have not been let down in regards to build quality, in fact I would have still been using my last one had I not managed to stand on it.. The remote takes two AAA batteries and the longevity of battery life is superb, you can set time as well as interval between each shot and amount of shots that are to be fired, hit the start button and you're all set, it will focus for every shot taken, so no need for fiddling about for perfect positioning with each self take whilst holding a fish as each shot will re-acquire a new focus lock, however if you want to lock focus then you simply slide the "hold" button into position and it will stay at one fixed focus. The remote like most comes with an audible warning to tell you when it will fire each shot.

For a Microphone I use the SE Electronics SE ProMic .

I spent quite a  while researching microphones and after having initially owned a cheap and cheerful shotgun mic which whilst doing an admirable job had obvious limitations I decided to purchase the above managing to purchase an ex demo model.

The Se Laser Pro mic is not powered from the camera from but instead takes a single AAA battery giving you around 200 hours use. Although this is probably not a known brand compared to the likes of Rode, it compares extremely well and at a cheaper price point compared to a few of Rodes higher end offerings. It produces a nice even sound with no distortion and a very concise crisp pick up, also coming with a -10 db switch and bass cut switch if you should wish to remove certain background noise or minimise it, for example road noise and such. The Panasonic GH4 has decent pre-amps and a decent built in mic, however in reality nothing can compare to using an external mic for sound quality, that said I still do film at times with the onboard microphones on the GH4, especially if I'm not wishing to carry an extra bit of hardware on a fishing trip.That sums up my main camera and equipment I use for filming, photography and lighting.

Moving on now to something for anglers who like to film but are on trips where they might be moving to new swims every twenty to thirty minutes when getting a larger camera out to film can be cumbersome, this is where I favour an action camera, thankfully the market is bursting with a plethora of options and price ranges, nowadays many of the lesser known budget brands provide very good results that compare reasonably favourably, one such would be the GITUP Git2.

This particular action camera comes with a Sony image sensor, a built in viewing screen and comes with the usual adhesive pads and brackets to strap it to say your landing net or similar as well as two batteries and charger, filming up to 2k resolution, that said when I used to use mine I would use 1440 resolution at 30 frames per second or 1080p at 60 frames per second mode. This particular camera features a decent image stabiliser too and was used to shoot quite a bit of my Tench fishing video.

This was used in tandem with the Gh4 for that particular video, specifically in the multi angle side on shots of myself watching the rod as well as baiting the swim up at the beginning and playing some of the fish. the camera itself retails at around £120 to £130.

However there are even cheaper options available that compare very well and shoot at 4k resolution at 25 frames per second, such as the models from SJCAM.

Their SJ5000X Elite for example shoots a rather decent quality 4k at 25 frames per second as well as the other expected resolutions such as 1080 at 60 frames per second and 720p. footage captured by this camera can be seen "here".

As you can see from the above picture design wise the SJCAM and the Gitup2 are both very similar as well as both sharing that typical go-pro style design. The SJ5000X Elite retails between £90 to £100 and is a very respectable action camera and out of the two cameras the SJ5000 comes with more diverse interchangeable brackets. If you do decide to purchase either then do yourself a favour and be sure to buy a couple of third party batteries as four is a bare minimum for a days fishing, remember you will get more mileage from the batteries with the screen turned on only when you need it.

For the best performance to cost ratio then the likes of the DBpower Ex5000 takes some beating.

Hands down this cam probably has the best bang to £ ratio of any action camera and can be at the time of writing bought for £39 (Amazon) that includes waterproof case, accessories and two batteries. You will be hard pressed to not be reasonably impressed by the footage this little budget box can put out given the price tag and it includes a large 2 inch rear screen, Panasonic image sensor and the fact that the two included batteries last for around three hours, admittedly it does 1080p at only 30 frames per second and 720p at 60 frames per second, but given the price point in question and quality of footage that is pretty good for a budget option.

Obviously there is your more high end action cameras, such as those from Sony and the most well known brand Go-Pro, whilst these are both very good and in my opinion the latter having some of the best video quality and options, it comes with a fairly heavy price tag if you compare it to the above three budget options. That said with all the competition now out there and the fact that newer Go-Pro models and indeed many different iterations are available from said manufacturer then the prices are coming down. I do now film with a Go-Pro 4 and as said above if you want what I feel is some of the best video quality from an action camera then it is the better option I certainly will not hesitate in saying that, however it does not provide the same price to performance ratio of the budget action cameras that I have listed above nowhere near it, however the fact stands that the Go-Pros (silver 4 and black) do provide some of the best image quality however none of the Go-Pro models, even their base line "Hero" can hold a torch to those I have listed above based purely on price to performance, I cannot stress this fact enough.

Moving on to the external microphone I use with my Go-Pro. I use a little stereo golf ball shaped microphone known as the Saramonic G-Mic.

This particular microphone is nice and compact and delivers a very crisp and clear audio on my Go-Pro and I can't for the life of me understand why there is a few negative reviews regarding this item, granted you could of course argue that you may as well use a microphone socket adaptor on the Go-Pro and plug in a normal shotgun microphone, but then you are just going to make your action camera blossom into a bit of a behemoth. I have found with the Go-Pro in particular that whilst this microphone draws its power direct from the action camera batteries I haven't lost much recording capacity per battery at all.

I hope this blog entry may have been of some help, it's just a little insight as to what I use, be that additional equipment for my main camera or as to what budget action cameras that I would personally recommend for anyone interested in purchasing something to record their trips with and especially if not wishing to take up too much fishing bag space, wanting a small action cam to take about during impromptu fishing trips or roving trips to record their outings. If anyone has any queries and I can perhaps help, then please feel free to leave a question in the comments box and I will try to advise as to the best of my knowledge.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Scriptio continua

You will have to excuse the title as I really could not think of anything more appropriate as it has been a while since my last post, you could call it a slight hiatus, but I do sometimes prefer making lump sum style entries.

During what has been a rather dry Autumn, I found myself wishing to get out for a spot of chub chasing on a new stretch of river and at the same time decided that it would be nice to do a bit of filming of this trip. I was most pleased to slip a perfectly formed chub into the landing net, in fact it was a beautifully brassy fish (5-3), although trying to extend a landing net with your teeth is not something I would ever recommend.

I have been wishing to do some more reconnaissance on a waterway that I have enjoyed fishing in the past, every time I wet a line so new pieces are unlocked and for what is in many places a most diminutive waterway, it is one that I feel has quite a few surprises to be uncovered.

During this trip I was kindly offered a lift by Maureen (all round good egg,superb mother and taxi driver to her son ), we have a mutual agreement whereby I do household chores and in return she kindly gives me fishing lifts.

Positively bursting with features

I had decided to have three hours fishing and at the same time a little scout about, bringing my purist rod and a lighter tip,opting for a spot of link ledgering to get under the many rafts and feature filled swims, a tub of worms, tub of maggot/caster and a few slices of bread was to be all that was needed. The river on this section was very coloured and yet I could not fathom out as to why, there is only a couple of drainage channels and we had not had any rain as such, however it looked as if there had been a spot of rain to say the least, resulting in a slate grey colour.

I was soon engrossed in studying each swim and decided to start in the one you see pictured above, if that doesn't scream fish then I don't know what does, after a steady trickle of caster and maggot I hooked into a spirited chub that had taken to doing what chevin do best, gorging on free offerings! As it rested in the net the casters and maggots tumbled out.

A greedy golden chevin

I was happy to open my account on a new section of river and more so that gut instinct had paid off. Heading downstream I came across a rather interesting swim, replete with a spare tyre for company.

This looked a likely skulking zone for perch so a change to lob worm was made, after a few tentative plucks it became apparent that there was more than a few residing in this location and I soon had some healthy perch awaiting their parole from the confines of the landing net.

The pick of the bunch was to be a beautifully built and marked fish (1-8) my best perch during this short sortie. I plan to return during winter as I fully suspect this little waterway will throw up many wonderful surprises.

Near the end of September Tom Aldous and myself did a fishing trip together on the the Blackwater hoping for a few chub. Arriving at the river we found it to be running low, gin clear and the better chub were to provide us with a stern challenge. A few small perch were taken along with the odd chublet, but it was not until nearer the end of the trip that either of us would connect into a better stamp of fish, Tom taking his from what I like to call the gateway swim (blog title photograph) and indeed he had a few more chances there too, but they were in a skittish mood.

Meanwhile I was fishing downstream and having primed the swim with a few pinches of bread, rolled my flake through and was kindly rewarded with a very lean and mean chub, with a large head to it.

Slim Jim (2-12)

I have to be realistic regarding this trip, I felt neither of us fished particularly well, we were cumbersome in our approach and when bites can be at a premium that is never the greatest of combinations, however in one of the swims I saw a brilliant looking perch with vivid rouge fins which looked all of 3lb,I could not tempt her despite watching her flank a smaller chub that I had hooked.

With those red fins fresh in my mind, plans were made to go back out and have a try for her. This river contains some absolutely gorgeous perch and I had been unlucky to lose a larger fish a few seasons ago to a hook pull on worm, one of those moments you don't forget but can look back on and have a good smile about as it ended in me being left with said fishes incomplete and rather mouldy Bullhead supper in my hands.

Heading back to the river a few days later with lob worms and a healthy helping of dendrobaena from our family wormery, which incidentally is another area I would like to cover in a video as Maureen has gone into special depth and detail with breeding, feeding and keeping these worms in all weather conditions and she knows a lot more on the subject than this son of hers.

I planned to spend a few hours in one swim with the hopeful intention of finding that beautiful  Perca willing. It was a cloudy afternoon with some light drizzle, perfect conditions. I had decided to bait the swim with some chopped dendrobaena and feed this alongside a light amount of maggot. The first bite was from a small chub, this was quickly unhooked and slipped back upstream, followed by a few juvenile perch and a Gudgeon. Now I don't normally use gudgeon as live bait and I have a lot of trouble in doing so as they are such a lovely little fish, but I did end up lip hooking this particular fish and within half an hour I had a perch that I would have estimated at the 1lb mark, thankfully Mr gonk was unscathed and returned to the water alive and well.

I topped up the swim with a light helping of maggot and some more chopped worm, and as I did so noticed a bow wave pass through the swim, the shape of it suggested it was indeed a perch, possibly harassing minnow and had me questioning if releasing the gudgeon was such a wise idea, even if releasing it after having one perch on it did make me feel a bit more morally comfortable.

Around an hour had passed when I had a most affirming bite, as I set the hook there was to be no doubt that I was connected to a better fish, my cheap and cheerful 8 foot Avanti rod had a welcome bend to it as this fish tried to run under the sunken branches, eventually the sight of a broad built, perch broke the water in mid current and I could see from the striking red fins that this just might be the fish I had seen on my last trip. A few nervous moments later and she was finally sat in the net and not one jot happy about any of it with the commotion she was making. I could see she was a nice size and did think she was possibly a 3lb perch, the scales settled at 2-14 and a new personal best for this waterway.

You can't beat a nice river perch caught from home turf (2-14)

During October the family took a break on the Warwickshire Avon, this is fast becoming an annual event for us and something we enjoy, as it gives mum the chance to recharge her batteries and catch up on some reading time, as well as allowing my father and I to do some evening time river fishing together.

En-route to Stratford we made a stop at Shipston, namely to grab a bite to eat at the fish and chip shop which I might add is simply superb price and portion wise, wish our portions were as good locally and as well priced!

The following morning was a sunny affair and Dad and I decided to take a look around the river, we had been informed by a few of the local anglers that the Avon was not fishing so well on the barbel and carp front, some of whom also kindly suggested and offered different stretches to fish, I'd like to say thank you to those chaps whom kindly offered that opportunity, however we decided that we would give this section a good crack much like last year and see what would or would not happen.

I decided to tie this in with doing a spot of lure fishing and had quite a few small perch and a chub which fell to a Yo-zuri Aile Goby,blue shad

We stayed in the snugs/beehives that the caravan park provide for rental, these come with a bunk bed and a sofa that converts to a double bed, as well as a small fridge, there is also a toilet/shower block that is used exclusively by these rentals. I just want to say a big thank you to all the Staff, especially Lynn, who is such a wonderful person, she kindly lent my mother some extra books to read and helped us during our stay no end, you're an absolute star and a very thoughtful kind hearted person.

The following evening my father and I had settled down to fish an old swim that had produced both barbel and carp last year, the river is a little deeper here, but no less clear,our plan being to start late evening on each session and fish till around 1am. We decided on one rod each, myself fishing a multi species approach on the quiver tip and 6lb line, my father would be on boilie wrapped in paste.

The first night went nicely for both of us, no barbel to show but plenty of chub up to 3lb for myself on worm over a light ground bait mix and a couple of better chub for my father.

 Golden enamelling

We packed up that evening happy to have got our eye in and with thoughts regarding the clarity and water level as well as the otter activity which was fairly evident from the off.

The following evening I baited both our swims with a light hemp and crumb ground bait mixture followed by a few broken up boilies over my fathers swim. This particular evening was to be a quiet one with little in the way of any fish movement, indeed the same could be said of the flow and I was finding it very easy to hold bottom on link ledger with just a couple of 2ssg shot.

After a couple of light twitches on the quiver what followed was a bite with more commitment, no less subtle though, upon setting the hook the pace soon quickened and was soon aware that I was into a decent fish, as it kept low and held ground I had an inkling that it perhaps could be my first Warwickshire Avon barbel. By now dad had joined me in the swim and as it broke the surface I couldn't help but state in the most obvious of ways "Barbel and looks a decent one!".

However this fish was not in the mood for fun and games and set off on a powerful run along the margins, tearing its way through the weed beds as it went, it was a good test to say the least and when I did finally attempt to net her some nearby tree roots nearly saw to it that she might slip back out, an elated yelp was to be heard as the prize was finally safe. Leaving her to safely recuperate I made my way up the bank to ready the camera only to trip and fall, dad just seeing a pair of legs flipping up into thin air. "What the hell is happening!?" he shouted, "erm I..I seem to have managed to fall over" I replied sheepishly, "how can you manage that on flat ground?" I didn't really have a reply to this as it was all a bit daft, I suppose the best explanation would be that adrenaline can do some funny things or more to the point I'm about as agile as a feline that has paid a visit to a taxidermist.

Happy as a sand boy (11 lb)

I was deeply overjoyed to have had a barbel from this waterway and a double at that on the light tackle, this fish was in perfect condition, no sign of any otter damage to it whatsoever and in perfect health. I remember saying to my father "if I don't get any more during this vacation I certainly won't be unhappy". Finishing up around 1.30 am we made our way back to the snug and I must admit we both slept pretty well with our confidence and hope buoyed by this capture. 

We had made a decision during this vacation to not fish on the first weekend as it seemed busier with boat traffic and people in general and like anything there has to be some give and take, so we planned to have a family barbecue or two, this also gave my dad time to recuperate from the night fishing as he is not the active angler he once was.

bbq or bonfire? Probably too much pallet wood!

A roaring success

After the weekend and mum having some time to enjoy herself on the boat taxi, dad and I decided to give the same swims another crack, personally I would have liked to have tried a bit further upstream but at the same time I did agree on giving it another go as we had baited it on the couple of times that we had fished it. That evening was to be quiet for myself save for a few small chub and a couple of skimmer bream. Dad however managed a better fish, in the shape of a stocky chub (4.7), missing another bite late on, which we both felt could well have been a bream.

A stocky chevin and a happy dad (4-7)

During this particular night we both noticed two different otters, one smaller, perhaps a youngster and an adult, the adult actually surfaced in my swim just prior to packing up, as much as I love my wildlife I can't help but feel that an imbalance is being created with the reintroduction of these animals, last time we were on the Warwickshire Avon my fathers barbel exhibited enough ragged marks on the tail to suggest that something had taken a fancy to it and I somehow doubt it was another randy barbel! Meanwhile on my home waterways I have witnessed the odd carp with its throat ripped out and the E.A wanted to suggest it was the doings of mink, really guys?  Not wishing to be too coarse here but do you take anglers for ignoramuses who don't know the difference between otter and mink or perhaps you take us for a word that rhymes with stunts?

Mini rant over, but how about we at least have some transparency regarding how fish stocks are being damaged by the reintroduction agenda?

Both my father and I felt that by fishing the same spot and ground baiting we might perhaps be helping to lure the fish to their own deaths so to speak, as it seemed quite clear that on the last couple of evenings the otters whilst nearby didn't seem to be directly working the swims as they had done during this particular evening, so with this in mind we decided to move.

A nice tree line
The following evening was pleasantly calm with the cloud breaking at irregular intervals, certainly nice conditions for October time, I picked up a few skimmer bream on the quiver tip along with the odd larger bream (4.6) and plenty of smaller chub.

During this particular evening dad had a good bite which he failed to connect with, I must admit he seemed pretty down about that and I can empathise with him, it can't be easy feeling how he does health wise and he did say "I have lost the ability to fish. Now I know you wouldn't expect me to post such a statement up on my blog, but this blog is at times warts and all, the reason I find myself sharing it is because it sticks in my mind most poignantly. Memories of the times when I was younger and forgetting to bring my jumper with me whilst we were carp fishing, dad kindly lending me his and being able to show me how to fish, someone that I looked up to (still do), hearing him make such a statement filled me with a painfully deep remorse that only passing of time has the ability to evoke.

During the coming evenings I was wondering where the carp might be hiding, we had heard some activity which sounded like carp moving along the opposite margin, but that was to be a blank for my father, with a few chub and quite a few roach to myself fishing half worm over maggot and included a very plump red fin (1-5).

A plump roach, I wouldn't mind a few of this stamp on float from this waterway

I was glad to be fishing quite an open ended method where species were concerned, as I have to be realistic this reach of river was being a fickle mistress.

I do wonder if fishing during evening time was really the best idea, as it makes me wonder if otter activity being higher from evening onward could in fact make fishing more tricky, surely there has to be a possibility that any such activity would spook any larger fish away from the area you're fishing, I mean what fish in their right mind wants a pair of sharp teeth sunk into them? I actually wish during our stay that we had tried a couple of daytime trips just to ascertain if there might be some correlation.

Dad waiting patiently on a cool bright night.

We had an enjoyable trip in general with a nice mixture of species for myself, Robert wanted to stick to a boilie and paste approach, which was understandable, I just feel that at times when conditions are transitional and having those first few colder nights with low and clear conditions that fishing a less selective method can be very helpful, such as maggot feeder, worm, caster etc.

A brassy chevin (4-2)

A short dumpy chevin 4-5

Nearer the last couple days of the vacation, Robert did connect with a very good fish and judging by the way it powered off we both felt it was a carp, sadly this eventually ended in a  hook pull as he had to put some side strain on the fish to stop it from going towards some snags upstream, I really felt gutted as I had been hoping throughout the vacation that a barbel or carp would put in an appearance for him just like last year, sometimes despite the effort you don't always get the rub of the green and this was one of those occasions, he really deserved a bit more luck with this fish, especially for his diligence and being so willing to get out on some of the cooler evenings despite his health, there's always next time dad.

It hadn't been straight forward but dad and I were happy to have had the fish we did, although this stretch of river on some evenings was most fickle and it reminded me of the Loddon for its moods, due to this you could say that over the last two vacations it has struck quite a chord with Robert and myself, hopefully a return visit will be on the cards in 2017.

Over the last couple of months a friend (Mark) and I had arranged and rearranged a trip together, we finally made a date set in stone and that nothing (hopefully) would get in the way of as we had not wet a line together since last season, so this was long overdue and from our numerous phone calls we were both looking forward to hooking up to spend some fishing time together, Mark had mentioned that he would like to come down and spend the day after barbel if possible as they are a species he doesn't target as much and I suggested that would be great and would try to advise and offer suggestions regarding swim selection and such.

The following morning I received a text text "I'll be there within a couple of minutes"  he was punctual to say the least and within two minutes he had pulled up outside the house, after stopping in for a cup of tea and quick chat we were soon on our way to the river.

It was a delightful day, dew lacing the grass, mist gradually lifting to reveal a day filled with promise and sunny intervals, we both chatted a great deal during the trip, stopping off to rest ourselves regularly. Along the way I pointed out quite a few swims, suggesting a light baiting followed by fishing some of these on the way back. Prior to the trip I had made a mental decision to not fish as much as normal and concentrate on some of the swims with Mark, stopping in a few spots along the way and during the evening in hope that one of the better chevin might take a liking to a spot of cheese paste, but no dice on this occasion.

Come early evening and as I was reeling in I could see that Mark had his headlight on and soon my phone was ringing, "I got one mate!" he said, to say I was overjoyed would be an understatement and I was soon in his swim with the kind of elation that you might compare to an overweight and overexcited Labrador, "oh mate well done, well done indeed, I'll go grab the camera!".

One very happy angler! (9-4)
It was a perfect looking fish not a single scale or fin out of place, a few hearty pats on the back were called for, probably too many by myself, but the amount of joy to see that one had shown itself and Mark had winkled one out was a bit too much for my adrenaline levels, I was relieved as when I have any friend come down my neck of the woods I always want them to have a good trip, however Mark did state that he had enjoyed the day anyway but we both agreed this was the icing on the cake, that evening we made our way back to the car chirping away and insisting that we shouldn't have left it for so long and would have to head out together again but in his locality. On the way home he kindly treated me to kebab and chips, thanks for the cracking company throughout the day mucka, it was brilliant to see you so happy with your capture and we must not leave it so long next time.

About six days later and I was pondering where to fish and what species to fish for, I did want to start doing some perch fishing in earnest and perhaps a spot of chevin chasing, that said my barbel itch was starting to tickle me a bit, so I made a decision to head out late afternoon with the words of a certain woman ringing in my ears "if you go today I can only pick you up if you come home early evening". I must admit I didn't get down to the river till 3pm and was then torn in making my mind up where to fish, admittedly having a plethora of features on a river is an enjoyable spanner to have thrown in the works, that said boy can I dither at times, finally making my mind up over a full hour later.

I was soon ensconced in a perfect little spot, with a nice depth and some deep undercuts, preferring to fish this area upstream due to the amount of debris that was flowing by. A whittled down boilie wrapped in some paste, fished alongside a very frugal helping of birdseed was my choice and at around  6:45 I had a lively scrap on my hands from a golden barbel and one that didn't want to take no for an answer, twice making a dash away from the waiting landing net.

A welcome gold bar (7-9)

This fish was a lovely way to end a short fishing trip and I went home very contented.

Recently I have had quite a few people ask me via youtube and email where my intro has gone on most of my recent videos and that they quite enjoyed it as the opening to each episode, I must admit I quite enjoyed what you could call the theme tune for the channel, but at the time of removing my intro I had not thought that it would be missed and suspected that it got in the way of viewers wishing to into the meat of each vlog. Thanks to those of you  whom got in touch, I may reinstate it in due course but with an updated visual.

I guess that brings everything up to date and this will probably go down as one of my largest all in one posts, not sure I'll be planning to allow it to build up in such a way again before posting, as that was a lot to remember!

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. 

A healthy thick set double (11-15)

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.