Friday, 29 January 2016

Chub fishing - Contrasting Trips


Last weekends trips were a rather contrasting affair, where the rivers showed their changeable winter moods. My first trip was spur of the moment, grabbing the gear and heading out around lunchtime there was an itch needing to be scratched, I planned to fish a more static approach, targeting a handful of swims before the water levels would rise once more, aided by the multitude of feeder streams and fields that drain into this waterway.

A spot of swim rotation with the blue krill paste and a light helping of liquidised bread was what I had in mind. On reaching the river it had a nice touch of pea green colour to it and the water level looked perfect. A continual helping of light rainfall accompanied me as I made my way to the first swim, a shallow bend with an undercut bank that had been deeply scoured and is sometimes home to a few too many crayfish. A hearty piece of paste was soon moulded to the shank of the hook and winding its way under the bank. A crayfish free half hour had passed by when I received couple of knocks followed by a good pull and a determined scrap from a well formed chub.

This fish had some wonderful golden tones to it and in the sunlight that had finally decided to make an appearance its brassy flank looked resplendent.

A golden flanked chevin (5lb)

After releasing her away from the area I tried a couple of other debris strewn swims, but aside from a one way discussion with a crayfish that looked like it had been training to become a lobster there were no more bites forthcoming.

At around 4pm I decided to set up the seat and fish the final swim for the last couple of hours.
This I have found to be a most interesting spot, with a smooth flow to it and lack of any turbulence but usually a good few snags along both margins and on some occasions can actually be an absolute nightmare zone for crayfish, but where there is an invasive food source and coverage then sometimes there is a large chub or two hanging around to make the most from it. Starting along the opposite bank margins and allowing the link ledger to roll down to a lop sided tree I settled down to scrutinise the rod tip.

It has taken a while for our rivers down south to have a proper flush through, but the last bouts of heavier rain over the past few weeks have helped and apart from the odd stick or branch bobbing by the flow was relatively clear. Stealing a look at my watch and realising I had an hour left I decided to roll the paste into a spot on my near margin, although this is a bit of a risky manoeuvre given the broken boughs nearby. Twenty five minutes later I received such a faint bite, if I hadn't known better then I would have said that this fish was sampling the cheese on a cracker alongside a bottle of vino, the bites were that leisurely. Finally they became more decisive and with its final tug at my cheese board I was met with a bold resilience and headstrong scrap.

A solidly built chub with the odd battle scar (5-15)

An ounce under 6lb, not that weight matters with such well proportioned fish, she had a circular scarring on her flank and certainly had a bit of history about her, these scars melting into grey and burnished gold scales, I was rather thrilled. My journey home was one of silent contentment and one that looked forward to getting back out after some more chub over the weekend and plans were made to head to the Loddon.

Sunday morning and I was making my way to the Loddon in hope I might bump into some more chub. A few swims into the trip and I was getting that distinct feeling that she was not best pleased with me and perhaps doing a feast of famine routine, very much the latter on this particular occasion. Despite the river looking good if a bit coloured and weather being very mild, each spot I tried did not wish to relinquish any of its gems. I have seen it many times over the years with this waterway and it usually makes it all too evident when it has a cob on.

By late afternoon and having got a good helping of liquidised bread in the eye, the cheese paste had yielded a couple of chublets, probably no more than 6oz's in size, the river either had a mood on or my chub radar was off the boil. I had moved into an area of river I have nicknamed the mangrove due to the coverage on the opposite bank, a mixture of brambles, trees and bushes. A switch to worm was made and I started running the bait close to the features on the opposite bank, by now I had been rubbing my eye with regularity and setting up an uncomfortable infection. On the third roll through the swim I had a good bite and even better scrap from a chub of 4lb.

On closer inspection this fish looked very much worse for wear and I could see what could only best be described as a large blister or wound on the back of its head, the scales round this region were soft to the touch, feeling just like a crayfish that was shedding its shell. It looked immensely sore and inflamed, I could only surmise that it was a predation attempt or some kind of ailment.

Despite this the fish swam off strongly, but I can't help feel that such a problem might not bode well for its future. By evening and having suffered from a few crayfish along the way I did wonder about heading for home, however my stubborn side got the better of me and I decided to try a couple of swims into darkness. Despite a few half hearted plucks no more chub were to materialise, although I suspect they were there lurking if unwilling.

It had been a mixed couple of trips, although I wouldn't call the latter of the two trips dispiriting. After all If we didn't have such contrasting trips then I very much doubt the special ones would really feel the same.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Fishing & Friendships That Encompass It

I have thought long and hard whilst composing this blog post and do realise it is not exactly a fishing related one, at least not of the fishing trip kind. However it is related to the friendships I have made via fishing, some of these have been very pleasant and have lasted and there are some that I wish I had never had. The kind where you can be as far from pretence or deceit as possible, only to find out that the person involved simply cannot help running others down behind their back.  I must admit that I don't believe a friendship that is based around a shared passion should feel like the person you are sharing your enjoyment with is constantly laying traps all the time or bartering with your information and selling it on to curry favour with others, only to move on and do the same to those that they have shared things with and I have felt like this has been the case regularly with certain individuals.

I admit that I am far from perfect and come across at times as being rather stilted when socialising and dealing with the intricacies associated with friendship. Although I am finding there seems to be a running theme with some people to be disingenuous with others as well as usually applying a good helping of double standards and duplicity toward their friendships, yet at the same time repeatedly trying to either befriend or re-friend you, wearers of two faces and if a wildlife comparison was drawn then I suppose the term "social Hyena" might be put to use.

Maybe I take friendships too seriously but when spending time on the riverbank it is nice to feel you are sharing it with someone whom has a kindred spirit for our pastime without them being judgemental or allowing other malevolent emotions to manifest themselves, whilst still gladly taking with one hand and silently slipping a knife between your shoulder blades with the other. 

The question I have mulled over the most would be how many second chances do you give another person before you become a doormat and is twice once too many?  Being able to forgive and work through a rocky period of a friendship and giving it a second chance is something that has to come from both parties. They have to be willing to look at each others faults and failings working on understanding each others weaker areas, rather than reviving the friendship only to continue to make snide derogatory remarks to others.

To myself friendship has always been a curious thing, perhaps even more so when it is combined with a passionately shared hobby, does it become more unstable because of that, indeed should it? Surely not, if anything it should give a firm foundation and the building blocks toward an extra cohesion between two anglers, strengthening their friendship and resolve.

Who knows, maybe I am not finding the right people/persons that I click with. Perhaps my friendship radar is askew, the latter would not surprise me, although I can't help feel that part of me no longer wishes to suffer fools gladly, but at the same time something another person said to me also sticks in my mind and that is not allowing one or two friendships to convince you to isolate yourself away from the chances of others which could perhaps flourish.

So blog readers I wish to ask you a straight question as I am interested to hear your replies and in doing so try to use them as a bit of a guiding hand. How many of you anglers have fishing friendships that have stood the test of time through the ups and downs, if so how have you gone about keeping that friendship strong? Have any of you fallen foul of friendships you wish you had distanced yourself from and perhaps felt you had made the mistake of attempting to reignite a friendship with someone whom will never be a sincere friend. Perhaps there were areas where you feel you may have been partly the cause of a loss of a good friendship. I would be very interested to read your views on this topic in the comments section and look forward to doing so.

I also promise to be a bit more back on topic in my future blogs.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Leuciscus Cephalus & The Paste Tinkerer

It was a crisp sunny morning, peering out the kitchen window I could see Blackbirds perched upon frosty roof tiles, these were accompanied by steam being vented with regularity from the neighbours central heating, it was the first proper winters day we have had.

The multitude of different mugs rattled away as I hastily liquidised a loaf of bread before setting about to tinker with my cheese paste mixture, as the rivers were likely to still be coloured I wanted to try to create a slight clouding effect, so whilst mixing a new batch of the blue krill paste I included a liberal helping of powdered milk, the idea being that this would leak off a creamy textured cloud and prove inviting to any inquisitive chub.

A flask of coffee was soon stashed away and I was eventually ready to make my way to the riverbank for a mornings chub searching. It was brilliantly sunny and it did not take long for the rod blank and eyes to start freezing up at regular intervals. Bread flake and lob worm were to be the willing accomplices to cheese paste today and in the first few swims I started with link ledgered bread, it did not take long for minnows to find the bait numerous fibrillated taps soon followed.

The air was fresh and piercing, each breath waking an angler up from the inside out, expelling plumes of warm air, red nostrils begging for the warmth of a jacket collar. Stopping in one swim I was kept company by a couple of wrens, which spent their time moving industriously in and out of the dead vegetation, such loud and lively chatter for a small bird and one which I put on the same level as being a constant companion to the river angler as that of the kingfisher. It was proving tricky and bites were most tentative, even in swims with good coverage and decent helping of structure, sometimes the odd inquiring knock then nothing to follow it, much like a path that shows promise of leading somewhere only to eventually fade away.

By now having tried a good few swims, a pacey area of river beckoned, not the deepest of runs but with a welcome undercut to it, the limbs of an old tree outstretched into the river, its sunken boughs inviting me to run a bait through. A few minutes later and a confident bite was missed, a fault of my own making as digits responded with lethargy and cold clumsiness, they had asked many times for the solace of my jacket pockets but I had resisted lest I miss a bite, ironic that it should backfire.

It was late afternoon when I made my last port of call, as the sun gradually dipped behind the trees you could feel the temperature dropping, a change to touch ledgering  and a switch back to the cheese paste was made, the addition of powdered milk was working better than I expected, providing an added colour and leak off to the mixture a component which I felt it lacked before.

One final cast turned into four more, each one supposedly the last. That final roll of the dice, bail arm open, line paying out as bait and with it hope rolled downstream, there is something wonderfully tactile about feeling a bait move through a swim, as it rolls into place, followed by dislodging it and allowing it to carry on in search of its quarry.

Eventually lowering the rod onto the front rest and popping the lid of the flask for that final cup of coffee I was smiling, sure it had not been a straight forward fishing trip but you seldom learn anything if every trip has a set certainty to it, you can be focused but still enjoy the day for what it is, a chance for escapism and inner peace. Looking over the flask lid I noticed the faintest of plucks, something was playing the harp with the paste, picking up the rod and feeling the line a couple more delicate taps soon followed before the rod tip thudded confidently. Welcome resistance and a sprinting dash for cover, angler fuelled with exuberant adrenaline, a concoction of caffeine and the pulsing sprints of what felt a good Cephalus. Those final moments as broad lips break the surface, thoughts about hook holds tumble from mind and become verbalised, wondering if a final head shake will see the days prize slip from view.

A hard won chub (5-12)

A long brassy flank my reward and a good deed is done, the removal of another anglers hook, a chance to wonder if it had also been their last cast, a final hope and spirited scrap before hook and line parted company, leaving an angler with alluring thoughts of what might have been.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Carry on with your mud pies

Yesterday lunchtime having taken stock of the river levels of the local waterways it was apparent that my angling choices ranged from high but not bad, right to the extremes of coco pops turns the river chocolatey. Me being me of course opted for the latter option, always a good helping of the bloody minded at times and yesterday was not going to break that pattern.

Getting down to the river it was as I expected, over the banks in places but looked like it had finally peaked, a gravy meets rusty tea colour to it, not the most ideal chub hunting conditions and it was evident that visual and smelly baits would be the way to go, thankfully I had brought the krill cheese paste and some bread with me.

It was a beautiful afternoon, sunshine interspersed with showers and a light breeze. The first few swims were a mixture of slacks and flotsam pockets, good skulking zones. Not a touch was to be had on bread, so a change was made to cheese paste. Within a few minutes the rod tip twitched and was followed by a bite with more conviction, I was soon playing what felt a nice fish and one that put the extra flow to very good use, ten seconds later and the hook pulled, I was annoyed with myself as I had perhaps given more side strain than I would have liked but had very little choice given the snags and debris.

A few mumbled curses later and a move of swims was on the cards, moving upstream I found a marginal area where the river over the years has scoured away the bank, having seen chub laying up along here in summertime I thought it would be worth a trot through with the link ledger. It didn't disappoint and I had my first couple of chub of the new year the larger a fish of 2lb not huge but given the conditions I was buoyed and hopeful that one of the better fish might put in a showing. Near to this area is a swim that at times is choked with too much detritus, however given the recent rain a lot of this had been flushed through, leaving a few planks of wood and other junk in its place but with enough room to run a bait under for any unsuspecting chub. A few small lumps of cheese paste were introduced and these were soon joined by the hook bait. Twenty minutes had passed when I received a confident bite and I was given a good scrap by a better stamp of chevin, a fish that made repeated headstrong sprints for the sunken debris.


I was suitably cheerful with this fish and could have gone home happy, but as you can see from the first photo I decided to fish on into evening in hope of picking up one of the waterways 5 or 6lb fish. Just into evening the rain picked up and changed from light showers to heavy downpours, the swim I was in was a bit of a mud pie to say the least and having somehow conceived to lose one more chub to a hook pull I decided it was time to pack up and head home. Sliding my way out of the swim and back to one of the adjacent paths I somehow managed a combination of tumble, forward roll and head first slide into a ditch that I had not seen, thankfully as I fell I dropped my rod at the top and it was fine, but I was left covered in mud, battered and brambled in the ditch. A check of myself and other belongings found that all was fine and that it had been a good thing that I had not landed on my back. An hour later and an undignified figure that looked akin to a muddy Yeti made its way slowly to the waiting car, mum exclaimed "my god it must have been very muddy today Mark", biting my tongue I nodded silently, there is never a dull moment I can certainly say that.

Monday, 4 January 2016

A game of two halves

Well my first post of 2016 and a rather overdue update at that! I hope everyone had a peaceful non hectic Christmas and has seen in the new year.

A few weekends ago I made piscatorial plans, a mental script of how the day could go, yet knowing full well that it might take a detour by that uncontrollable of factors, that a fish must be willing and despite an anglers water craft, the stark reality that he must still procure some luck, I had decided to spend the morning till late afternoon in search of perch on link ledgered lob worm and a feed of krill maggot, then from evening time change species to chub, bait a few swims with liquidised bread mixed with seed and maggot, changing to the blue krill cheese paste for hook bait.

It was a cloudy morning with an on and off helping of fine rain, the kind that convinces you that it is not making you that wet, but believe me this type of rain lies to an angler and is never to be trusted. My first swim brought me to a smooth bend, pacey but with some nice slack sections, a light feed of maggot was introduced before I rolled a double lob worm through, a few minutes in and the quiver twitched invitingly, a solid fight ensued from a very pretty chub, not my intended morning quarry but a nice looking fish of 3.11.

I considered taking a quick photo as I like to record most of my chub captures, as it helps give me an understanding of fish location and movement. Prior to setting up the camera I was landing my second fish of the trip, a smaller chub and decided it would be just a simple matter of slipping the net under it, that was indeed the case as the larger fish sprinted out as I did so! I must admit I saw the funny side and told myself to stick to the perch plan and move swims with a twenty minute regularity. Numerous good spots were tried and a few inquisitive taps were had as well as the odd trout which were hanging around areas that one would not have expected.

The final hour of daylight found me in a slower area of the river, here the fronds of what were once summer weed beds moved slowly back and forth, unwilling to give up their summer ghosts.
Not wanting to spook this small area I stayed back and fed a little and often trickle of maggots upstream of the swim, my first trundle connected with an adjacent bush instead of water, it was with some chagrin that I reached over and retrieved the link ledger sans one ssg shot, a second cast was attempted, this time the lob worm plopped into place rolling just under the bush and I must say it looked good for a bite. Five minutes later and a couple of tentative, harp like plucks occurred, they certainly had a touch of perch about them.

It was perhaps ten minutes after the kingfisher had flown passed my swim when the quiver tip nudged round with certain conviction, a light strike and nothing, just the feeling of something holding bottom, unwilling to move, at least until it awoken and that was when the clutch started chattering excitedly, I was having to play along with what felt a very good fish, after the initial dashes a proud dorsal and the bloodiest of red fins broke the surface, that was when the salivary glands that had been working fine all day switched off, dry tongue, dry mouth and a healthy helping of tightening throat kicked in as she disappeared back into the shadows to put me to the sword, the cogs of thought churned as did my stomach, was the hook hold a good one? Don't apply to much side strain, let her go a bit, this was fast turning into probably one of my best river perch scraps. After a couple of premature netting attempts she was safe within its confines.

Red finned gem (3.5)

If there were such a thing as perca perfection then she was not far from it with her blood red fins, in fact you may have thought I had taken a colouring pen to them they were so vivid! I was deeply  overjoyed, especially as tracking down the larger perch can at times be quite challenging on this particular waterway. After watching her swim away a sit down and a cold drink were needed, if anything to whet my dry whistle and compose myself.

By now daylight had been replaced by a rather gloomy evening, the wind was calm and it looked perfect for a switch of bait and species, heading to some swims downstream I decided to lightly bait these with some knobs of the blue krill paste and the mixture of liquidised bread, seed and maggot, a few inconspicuous balls placed into each swim, allowing these swims time to settle before fishing them. The first couple of spots produced one very good bite between them and forty minutes later it was becoming all too obvious that this may have been a one off and I had perhaps blown my chances either that or the fish had dropped off further downstream. I decided to move again and made my way to the third spot, a slack with a solid helping of debris and undercut bank. A large piece of cheese paste was soon winding its way toward the debris before settling under the bank.

I suppose it was around half an hour later when the bite occurred, if you can call it a bite, the butt of the rod was nestling against my leg at the time, ready for wary grab and go plucks when the rod  nearly launched off the front rest, savage would be putting it mildly, there was no way I could miss it and I was soon having a real game of soldiers trying to get control as the fish charged along the undercut bank and into the main flow, in doing so I could feel the line clipping the debris, it was a heart in mouth tussle to say the least and there is something special I always feel when you see a good chub break the surface, the broad, blunt looking head,thick set lips and chain mail armour, it was with some relief when I netted her.


I have been lucky to have had my share of nice chub over the years but this was probably one of my favourites, proportionally it had a lovely length and girth with a nice healthy gold enamelling to it. I did consider staying a little longer to try a few more swims but I was beyond content with the day's fishing, it had been a game of two halves where both species had proved most willing.

Just before Christmas I had arranged to meet up with Tom and take him to a waterway that I have made a couple of trips on in the past, one being earlier this season where I put the wax worms to use.


After our cars met bumper to bumper at one of the local car parks and having waited a few minutes for Tom to grab a loaf of Warburtons toastie we were soon on our way, it was evident that we were both looking forward to a days chub worrying and we had a cornucopia of baits with which to tempt them with, as we made our way to the little river I explained how it responded to rainfall rather quickly and at the same time usually dropped pretty fast too, today I expected it to be rather low and clear much like it had been for most of the season.

September panorama of a forgotten waterway

It was a sunny morning but that was to be short lived and eventually replaced by squally showers.
We started in a few earlier swims upstream as I felt it best for us as these areas were as of yet undisturbed, being sure to leave a large gap between Tom and I so that he would have a good area to go at before meeting up with me downstream. Leaving Tom to crack on I headed downstream to chance my arm along some scoured bank replete with tangled tree roots, a few trundles later and I had the first small chevin of the day, picture perfect condition and a feisty little fellow, once safely returned no more bites were forthcoming and it was a case of moving on.

Like all tiny rivers this particular waterway is condensed with features that hold chub, perch, dace and many other species, some of these are great nursery swims for younger year groups of fish however along with these features and the fact that I do consider this waterway a bit of a spate river it also has the uncanny ability to replace an anglers ssg armoury with an empty tub or two along the way, something both Tom and I found throughout this trip.

For want of a deeper analysis I am usually quite a loner, something I am trying to rectify but it has not been without having my fingers burnt in the past. When it comes to my fishing I do generally prefer my own company, I focus better and feel a lot less socially awkward and drained owing to not needing to attempt to read into another persons well meaning or conniving body language during or after this social interaction and I would say this has also helped spur me on in finding places that are often overlooked from a fishing point of view, as I also seek solitude and peace, not only some forgotten fishing venues to wet a line upon. Obviously I am not advocating my social demeanour I'm simply stating how I am, those who don't understand or whom wish to grind their own agendas, cast aspersions openly or behind another's back need not apply.

I hope the above doesn't come across as being impolite or indeed seemingly rude, as I do try to be as forthcoming as I can and at times this has led to other anglers taking me for a bit of a ride due to my lack of ability in reading their intentions.

I guess that I went off at a bit of a tangent there..

Tom and I met up downstream near to a nice section of double bends, an area with plenty of flotsam and coverage. A section where I have had chub in the past and I suggested it would be a good idea to try this area, not that Tom or myself need to be asked twice when it comes to such sumptuous features, after a couple of casts he was soon playing a rather frisky chub that had other ideas as it made several dashes for snags.

A healthy small river chub

Heading on from here we decided to partake in a spot of lunch and fish a swim that you might call a bit of a nursery pool, many bites were had here and numerous chublets were caught, a very healthy sign for the future, Tom also had quite a few enquiring taps and had his first perch from this waterway. Unfortunately by now the little river was rising rapidly and the wind increasing, branches were dropping at random intervals and it was safe to say that it was a bit Russian roulette as to whether a dead branch would perhaps hit one of us, Tom soon found this out in a swim which he had a chub from when a bit of a near miss occurred.

The day had sped by and as daylight changed to a dank grey we found ourselves in the final downstream swims, leaving Tom to explore another set of inviting bends I headed down to another  area of the river, a smooth steady flow with a nice slack at the opposite end, a few minutes later and I had a very confident bite from a healthy, slate grey chevin.

Just as I was about to slip this fish back Tom came to inform me that he had caught a better fish, on reaching his swim I could see a plump chub sulking in the net, a quick guesstimate was made between us as we weighed her, I had said 3.8 to 3.12, the scales settled at 3.7, she was rather hollow  and given her frame could have been a 4lb fish, a most satisfying capture for Tom from a waterway which I am sure has larger fish hiding along its concourse waiting for us to seek out.

A happy Tom

Now some anglers might think to themselves, why fish an unknown venue when either of you could be targeting the likes of Avon, Stour and Loddon to name but a few good rivers for large chub, but the fact is that there are many unknown smaller rivers out there and overlooked brooks which have the capacity to produce some excellent fish, so why not? Granted in such rivers the populace of larger fish may not be as high and you do indeed need to do your groundwork to locate them, but the feeling of appreciation and reward when you do so is incomparable.

Come evening time and as we made our way back to the car we chatted tiredly, happy even if a tad windblown.

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Fishing For Memories

A couple of days after boxing day I decided to make my way to the Loddon and see if I could perhaps pick up an end of year barbel, taking with me a frugal mixture of birdseed, krill powder and liquidised bread as well as a small amount of slick sense barbel boilie barrels, I can't say it was without some head scratching as a couple of trips before the festive period had given me a sound lesson in humility and despite the mild conditions a couple of barbel blanks.

It was another mild afternoon, not quite as breezy as it had been, the river level was up with a nice tinge of colour to it with the odd weed raft and branch floating by, this factor tempered my choice of swim and I decided to fish an area that had some nice marginal features as well as a slack just off the main flow, a perfect place for food to accumulate and fish to move into to rest away from the main current. A light helping of liquidised bread and seed was placed into the edge of this slack along with no more than five free offerings of the boilie barrels. By around 4pm I had received a few jerky taps which I suspected were chub fiddling with the bait, however that was not to be the case as the clawed and whittled bait told a different story of crayfish claws, after not having a single bite from a crayfish or indeed a barbel on the prior trips I did wonder if a change of swim might be in order, after a good chat with my other friend also oddly called Mark (ok I admit I talk to myself) I decided to change baits to a harder hook bait and stay put.

At about 7pm and after having quite a few jerky knocks and taps the reel went into meltdown and I was soon playing a strong fish that was hell bent on making for some downstream snags, bushes and anything it could seemingly find, numerous little scrapes and thuds could be felt as main line and lead tripped too close to these. After a cracking scrap a long barbel slipped over the net, peering into its folds I could make out a slight mark on one flank, a small round blemish which you could almost call a birthmark, I instantly realised this fish was an old friend and indeed my barbel pb from a year ago. She looked in good condition but down in weight, sure enough she was and weighed 14.7, to put this into perspective I caught her last October at 15.6, so she was down in weight by 15oz's which is quite a lot considering the mild conditions compared to last winter.

I was so very happy to see her again, healthy even if down in weight and I guess you could say that it was a bit like meeting a fond friend for a Christmas get together. After wishing her a safe journey I drained the dregs from my coffee flask, gave the river a smile, murmured thank you and slowly made my way home.