Friday, 31 July 2020

H'Wrassing the Population.

 After many years of procrastination I finally got my arse in gear and hit the coast! The list of potential species to aim at was endless but I only had one target this time around, the stunning and aggressive Balon Wrasse. What was great too is that I was scrambling the cliffs with fellow madman, Nathan Edgell. For a few years now I've mentioned coming down for a blast at the Wrasse but simply didn't make the time, that was yesterday.

 Fair weather, a pouch of jigs and lures, a tank full of diesel and gear packed I set off at 3am. Nearly three hours on the road and 166 miles westwards I was in Wrasse territory, by 0620 I was following Nathan' lead down 500ft of coastal cliff face in order to get to prime fishing spots. Crazy I know but essential (often nothing worth having is easy). 

 By 8am I had caught my target species and a fine fish indeed, complete with amazing colours and even more impressive dentures! 

 Then as the morning wore on I got a savage take which lunged for the rocks below and with a tight clutch my rod tip arched alarmingly quick and in a flash it was gone, I could do absolutely nothing with it and it felt big.

Not long afterwards I got a couple of half-hearted taps and nips on the sand eel replica jig which then went quiet, so a move across some rocks was made and proved to be a good shout as Nath' and myself got a few fish on the shore with this my best of the day out of five! 

 With time slowly drifting away we decided to finish up as I had a 3hr return drive ahead and didn't want to leave too late, however, I will certainly be back as it was a pukka trip and in great company! If you read this, cheers! 

 The views were fantastic and in truth, I've fished in worse places :) 

A Neolithic Ammonite.

An awesome panoramic of our days playground.

Not a bad view behind my sofa!

Friday, 24 July 2020

Canal Bream...Glimpses of Glory.

 Since 2015 big canal Bream have featured sporadically in a typical calender year, the mileage often put in makes these; and indeed Carp, Pike etc something of a treat to myself, but also if I have gained a few pounds then marching 10-20 miles in a day can often aide the removal of said weight.

 Stalking is the only way I target the canals given the nomadic lifestyles the fish live, so efforts must be matched to give myself a chance. My best two "Cut Slabs" have weighed 10lb 1oz and 10lb 3oz, both really big fish, however with the average canal bream weighing no more than a pound or two, these fish and others that I've caught between 7-9lb are colossal and represent a very tiny proportion of the systems populations. Catching one of these is of course a proper treat and an experience that you can't get blasie about, every capture is remembered fondly.

 The other afternoon I finished work at a fairly decent time so I grabbed the stalking gear and met Brian on the towpath, in search of something special and it didn't take long either. We stumbled upon a shoal of Bream cruising on the top, so I got readied and launched out a bait in the mix, the bait dropped a couple of inches under the surface and a big Bream sucked in the flake, I struck and missed it!. Damn!

 With no time to dwell on the miss, I got the bait back out and hoped for a similar response and what do you know! I did, another big Bream sauntered up to the slowly sinking bait and sucked it in, this time I got a hook hold and the fight began, albeit not very hard. A fairly laid back approach to setting up see me playing the fish between my legs whilst I got the arms in the spreader block, once I got the net in the water I then eased the fish into the net and it was a pretty good one!.

 BOSH!!!! another big'o bream'o for the records. 8lb 14oz puts this fish at number 6 in my canal Bream specimen list! Quite impressive.

 Once that fish had been photographed and slipped back we aimed at getting more, unluckily for us the boat traffic seemed to come out of nowhere and coupled with the spooked shoal meant that no more were caught from that shoal. So we began the march....

.....that went on for hours, mile after mile of baron towpath started to leave us both feeling a little dejected in some ways. No Bream, No Carp or anything else for that matter were on show, it left me thinking what has happened to the stocks of the above fish. Never struggled to see the fish, just not caught many of them.

 As we headed back towards the starting point of the afternoon we spotted two carp, that unfortunately slipped through without getting tracked (wrong light to see through the water) and that was our lot, not a soul spotted after that. The time had come to put an end to the trip.

 My second cast of the day was all I needed. Could have gone home after that in hindsight.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Chasing Chevins Part I

 A fair few years back I used to open the season up with Chub in mind. Many hours spent hauling mediocre fish in the 2-4lb range, one after another on various tactics, but the prospect of a big fish back then was practically non-existent and even playing the numbers game, a 5lb+ specimen was something you achieved maybe once every other season amongst season long hauls.

 Some bags could exceed 50lbs, especially back in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Unfortunately as the local areas began to play host to a large influx of people from the East of Europe, those fishing had very different intentions which meant stocks were declining rapidly and areas where I could have a great days sport were now empty, literally an hour of building swims would result in nothing more than the odd little fish, those 2,3&4lb fish were no more. As table fodder the Chub and in fact, any fish big enough to eat (typically anything over 3oz) were being taken and no matter how much the beats were policed the sheer numbers and tenacity of the thieves at work, the damage simply couldn't be stopped.

 So naturally my attentions turned elsewhere. Fast forward twenty odd years and I find myself still dropping in on these same areas, a lot wiser, a lot more cunning with my approaches and with the majority of "the dregs" now gone (possibly owing to the fact they ate just about everything and it got too hard for them and they left) I can get on with trying to get amongst some big fish that have now managed to grow on unmolested.

 Opening day I was on the Fens somewhere so my first trip on my childhood stomping grounds was a few days later. Barbel and chub fully spawned out sometime ago and with the warm spring the fish should have had time to pig out and recover some weight.

 My first trip was only going to be short as I was on my way to work, so a spare hour or so was all I had to find a fish.

 A bright sunny morning, crystal clear water and my polaroids on I got to work. My first two peeping gaps amongst the nettles were not fruitful, third gap was unfishable owing to a load of snags that had probably moved in during the 6 months of rain we had over the winter! I crept into the fourth swim and straight away I could see a large dark shape over the gravels, roughly halfway across and I knew exactly what it was.

 I spent a couple of minutes watching the fish which appeared to be unaccompanied before deciding to go with the tactic I had employed in the other gaps in the nettles. Well upstream I cast the meat and proceeded to roll it downstream, right in the path of the chub and within seconds it was right next to it in the swift flow and the chub gently sidled up to it and watched the luncheon meat vanish, the anticipation of the strike was incredible and with one stern strike a powerful chub headed straight downstream, stripping twenty yards of line with no hesitation, the fish knew it was hooked.

 Thumbing the pin the chub was halted before making a mad dash back upstream, hugging the far side treeline, typical by chub standards and the remaining fight was either played out against the far-side or near-side treeline before easing into the awaiting net...this was a bloody good fish for the river, in fact up there in the top 1% for certain.

 But the moment of truth would reveal it was the biggest fish I've ever had off this particular river by an ounce and not a fish either myself or partner in crime recognise which is even better news, three different sixes present, its getting interesting now!.

My best off this river, weighing in at 6lb 4oz!

MEGA! start to the river campaign.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Fenland Escapades Part I

 This part of my fishing is probably what I have missed the most, those drives into the Suffolk and Norfolk fens in search of the most beautiful of all our summer targets, it can only be the Rudd. Large bars of gold, that glisten in the summer sun and watching those crimson fins cut through the surface of the water as they charge down the crust, what else could you possibly want to catch when these are available, if you can find them.

 Elusive at times it can takes hours to find them, but with a boat to hand and pretty good knowledge of the waterways where I have dabbled in I do feel confident in finding some fish. So having picked Brian for this trip we left London at 0230 and headed north-east..ish some 96 miles to a location I'll refer to a base camp. Unfortunately it was where I'd learn that a large puncture would deem the boat out of service and HMS Rudd would have to watch from the sidelines as we both conceded to the fact we would spend the next two days on foot.

 Not a great start. Knowing that we would be walking a lot we kept the gear to a minimum and did our best to find fish to begin with and once a couple of small fish were tempted I set about looking for something that would pull back a bit. Finding that something a bit bigger however was not proving to be an easy task. The lack of access to open water really limited us as to where we could target fish and even if we saw something decent the problem of landing potential fish was then assessed and often thought better of it, even with a 3m reach plus the net!

Get me on the scoresheet.

 By 10am I'd only seen one decent fish that I reckon was over 2lb and the sort of fish we were both eagerly searching for. A decent helping of crust went out to try and get the fish to feed confidently but all I could see smashing the bait was tiny Rudd up to 6oz or so, then out of nowhere after ten minutes or so a decent bow wave headed for a piece crust, about the size of a £2 coin and it vanished, just what I wanted to see. I knew at this point I could be in business.

 Using a loaded fat top float I launched it to the other side of the drain and drew the bait into position, roughly centre of the track where the Rudd last appeared and hoped that the big Rudd would feed again. Not even a minute went by and a cheeky little Rudd started nobbling the edges of the crust when all of a sudden the crust just vanished, a large swirl was then followed by the float vanishing too, the take from heaven. On the light gear ( 12ft Greys float rod, Shimano 3000 exage FS reel loaded with 5lb straight through to a size 8 wide gape hook ) the fight was brilliant until it darted into a weed bed under my feet and was trying its very best to get into the reeds to shed the hook.

 With my heart pounding and polaroids steaming up I did my best to stay in control as I was getting beaten up by a determined Rudd. By this point Brian was neck deep in nettles with an outstretched arm and full length net, ready to gently coax the fish in as it finally came free of the weed bed! I can honestly say it's been sometime that I last experienced a battle that close, it could have easily gone the other way.

 This was the sight I was met with when I put the rod down and composed myself.

That 22'' landing net has seen some fish!
  Composed and ready to go we weighed her and got a few snaps before having the pleasure of watching her waddle back out into the unknown world, to which she may not possibly see a hook again.

A big drain Rudd at 2lb 5oz. BOLM!
 That is what I like to see. Those Fenland Rudd are just a different gravy all together, if I lived out there, I couldn't see myself targeting another species. Nevertheless, it was great to see it on the bank, but, the task I felt now was to help Brian find a new PB to cherish on the journey home, with a day and a half to go the odds looked good at the point of releasing my prize. Big Rudd often stick together and if packs of small hungry Rudd are around its quite often a good idea to move and by judging the size of the ripples coming off the bait it would suggest the remaining big fish moved off.

 Back to the drawing board again.

 For around six hours I ended up walking a 3mile section backwards and forwards, armed with my bucket of bread and catapult loading up areas that looked good for a big fish and would watch the water to see what responded and it took most of the afternoon to find another good Rudd and this time Brian was on it, the presentation spot on, the timing just perfect and the Rudd could not resist, 1lb 14ozs of pure fenland drain gold was his and a new PB too.

 Conditions however then began to dictate the direction our trip was heading and with storms skirting us for some three hours we finally came in the direct firing line of a fierce front where the pressure plummeted instantly and rumbling sheet of torrential rain headed straight for us, lightning and thunder filling the air we beat a hasty retreat to the car some half a mile away and we timed it almost to perfection as my back just started to get the first drops on it and Brian closed the boot and dived in the car as the heavens absolutely opened. At this point we had already decided to cut the trip short, A: The lack of boat was a severe disadvantage ( even given the fact we both caught good fish ) and B: The weather forecast was to predict heavy rain throughout the day in spells and in truth, that would take the shine off what was a very tough, but rewarding day on the drains.

 We will be back soon, with a non-leaking boat.

Oi! my prize, one last time :) 

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Baptism of Slime.

 For some time now I have known about the ever increasing capacity of waters in their catfish stocks, catfish being a species I have had no interest in, at all!. BUT! I am one to try my hand at just about anything and if I fail first time around I'll often get straight back on the horse and try again.

 Thankfully, the lake I visited is quite well known ( Charlie's Lake, in Ashford ) for its obscenely healthy population of slugs ( a term often used for catfish ). With lockdown still in place I made a booking a week or so in advance to put myself in with the chance of catching one.

 Fast forward 1905 on the Saturday evening....I had already banked two. That wasn't too hard was it now.

 Within ten minutes I got a one-toner on my LH rod and proceeded to land a 20lb 9oz specimen which was backed up by a 19lb 8oz catfish. With both catfish in great nick I admired them both before gently cradling them into the lake to roam free once again.

A twenty to ease me in with. 20lb 9oz.

 Sport then did ease up as it took me an hour and a half to register a third fish, this being my first thirty pounder ( 30lb 12oz ) and boy those larger specimens are a different gravy, longer more drawn out battles and more forceful lunges/runs to bankside vegetation and treelines, which in turn did give another dynamic to the battles which I can happily say I endured more of.

 As the night closed in on us we were in for an interesting night as the bigger fish seemed to come on the feed. Between 2247 and 0145 I had four fish with three over thirty pounds with the biggest just missing out on the forty pound mark ( 39lb 9oz ). That was interesting holding it up for a photo! Not quite a chub or roach.

The benchmark has been set.

 After a ( 33lb 5oz ) cat I took the opportunity to have a kip and woke up around 0615, twenty minutes later the LH rod yet again tore off and locked into battle with the second smallest of the trip ( 17lb 10oz ), but then I did suffer a proper lull in action as my next bite didn't come until just after midday ( 17lb 12oz ). By this point I was already very happy, I do have to confess mind you that having come so close to "forty", I now wanted to achieve that.

 Every take I had from then on I was willing for it to be a lunker and although I had had some very good fish already I wanted more. Not unusual for me it has to be said.

Finish it off with a thirty, why not. 30lb 10oz

 Then as we approached the final sector of the trip a few more fish came my way and as the gong went a ( 30lb 10oz ) slug slipped over the cord to give me a final total of an astonishing 337lb 1oz bag of cats. Not bad for about 16hrs fishing if you factor in the shuteye.

 20lb 9oz   1901
 19lb 8oz   1905
 30lb 12oz  2036
 28lb 1oz   2247
 32lb 2oz   0005
 39lb 9oz   0045
 33lb 5oz   0145
 17lb 10oz 0635
 17lb 12oz 1206
 21lb 13oz 1305
 22lb 6oz   1358
 16lb 2oz   1615
 20lb 4oz   1640
 30lb 10oz 1818

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

The Curtain Raiser.

 I finally got the desire to go out for a days fishing a week or so ago, Tench were about all I could think of, what with Carp, Bream etc spawning I didn't want to bother them. I know a small deep lake where the Tench tend to spawn later than most places and thought this would be a good shout at a bit of action.

 Joined by Brian for our first trip out since March 13th we set out to catch whatever we could, personally I'd set a target of beating my long standing PB of 8lb 3oz, on this particular venue its a possibility and quite soon we were watching big Tench ghosting around the margins, some were certainly over eight, most likely in the nine pound bracket.

 That was the fuel to get my tench head on and really give it a go. One set-up fished using the lift method and the other a flatbed feeder 42g with a short 5lb hooklink to a lump of breadflake. In my experience here, bread is far superior to any other baits in terms of catch rates, which I do find fairly strange as the natural life in the lake is plentiful, but I won't question the approach, it works!.

 It didn't take long either for the quiver tip to spring into action as an arm wrenching take nearly removed the rod from the rest, sat on top of it I was in no danger to losing it, however I could envisage it happening to someone! The quivertip rod I use is a Maver Reactorlite with a lite tip, which it comes with (3 in total) and yes, it is quite expensive, retailing at somewhere around the £170-200 mark but the action is second to none and tamed a fair few decent fish on it and always felt in control.

 Fishing tight to lily pads I use 6lb mainline and always a free-running approach should the worst happen, along with a size 14 barbless wide gape hook I feel all precautions are taken. The pull of a good Tench is always nice but even better when you haven't been fishing properly for basically two months.

 Mornings and evenings are two distinct periods of feeding, everything in between is usually spent fiddling with rigs or having a catch up. For me I went for a little drive to see the Wood White butterfly that is getting rarer and rarer every year that goes by.

 My first Tench of day tipped the scales at 5lb 8oz, what is a rather modest fish the bigger ones could be seen drifting on and off the area where I had baited. Puffs of sediment climbing the water column would often be my cue to get close to the rod and quite often within a minute or so the tip would slam around, or float dip if I chose to go on the float rod. Chopping and changing I find really does keep it fresh and also keeps your mind from wondering. The float rod I use is a Greys Toreon 15ft 3-piece, used with a centrepin loaded with 5lb line straight through, on the lift method, which is a deadly tactic for catching sometimes quite weary Tench.

Any bait will do, bread and casters for me are great baits for Tench.
My second tench of the day at 6lb 7oz.
 From the morning session I managed five bites, four on the feeder, one on the float. 

 Weights; 5lb 8oz (0745), 6lb 7oz (0820), 5lb 7oz (0902), 7lb 2oz (0936) and 5lb 3oz (1037) great sport.

 Having taken a 3-hour break from the fishing as I knew it would be poor I went on the hunt for this butterfly and after an hour or so of searching I came across a few, floating amongst the track.

  Upon my return I had asked Brian what he had managed and the answer both justified my break from the fishing and also backed up the detail that I have learned of the venue, six hours of no action, thankfully for me my return was perfectly timed and within 20 minutes of getting a rod back out the float sailed under with a fighting fit Tench of 6lb 0oz. 

 About half an hour later though a much better fish stormed off and what turned out to be the best of the trip at a pleasing 7lb 12oz, my joint best Tench from the venue and the big fish still elude me, not that I was complaining of course.

7lb 12oz

6lb 12oz 

  The evening played out in a similar fashion as a steady stream of bites came, with a total of 12 Tench coming to the net, it was a good day.

A good Tinca ready to go.

On it's way in a hurry.
 Evening session consisted of seven Tench: 6lb 0oz (1640), 7lb 12oz (1708), 6lb 7oz (1756), 5lb 10oz (1856), 6lb 12oz (1911), 5lb 4oz (1931) and 6lb 4oz (1946). The evening rush always tends to bare more fruit than the morning session and gives you the day to prepare.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Borderlands Pit, Part One.

 If anyone is familiar with the game "Borderlands" then the title of this will give you a good idea of what idyllic surroundings this small disused clay pit is set in and feels like. A scent of danger does permeate the air, what with the various foreign objects littering the margins and indeed the middle, along with the obligatory disposable barbeque scorch marks!

 My number one task here however is to see what fish call it home, never to turn a good opportunity down I walked it one morning to get a feel for what morning conditions may throw up and to my excitement a few carp seemed to show themselves in a sheltered bay and in the teeth of the wind on the surface which I found to be quite unusual but carp can't be second guessed as to what they may do or where they will do it.

 That morning I saw a white and black bird on the far bank margin and when a couple of Mallards spooked it she came over my head and it dawned on me what it was! An Avocet! to say I was shocked would be an understatement. Never seen one before and its not a place I thought I'd see my first. You never know what will happen next.

Look closely and the upturned bill can be clearly seen.

 I was champing at the bit to get back down and a couple of days later I slipped down at first light and started where I saw numerous fish and threw out a few dog biscuits ( larger ones on this occasion owing to the wind strength as the small ones were drifting far too quickly into the windward bank ), for this I use these.

 These are a decent size and stay on the hook fairly well or banded even better, plus they let off a nice little oil slick which fished in windy conditions has the same effect as when fishing oily pike baits and the ripple seems to not effect the baited area giving you a clear sight of your hookbait (however, any windier and the effect is lost). I had another errand to run in the morning so I had about an hour or so before shooting off. 

 An hour it would seem is all I needed. Carp started to find my biscuits within 20 minutes and as each biscuit went I got even more excited. Given the gusto within which the biscuits were going I flicked mine out with a size 6 Korda Mixa hook, side hooking the biscuit as I forgot to pack mixer bands and drew it back to the feeding area. Just a few minutes past and as a procession of common carp drifted in and out and in again a carp eased up behind my mixer and slurped it in without hesitation. With no line in the water whilst they got confident really helped.

 I watched the carp close its mouth and I struck firmly to pull the hook through the mixer and set the hook, it was on! Not to tempt fate I didn't set up the net so I ended up playing the carp with the rod jammed between my legs on a light clutch, done it many times before so it wasn't a problem and within a couple of minutes a lovely dark mirror carp eased over the cord. For possibly ten to fifteen fish that went through my swim I didn't see a single mirror so it was actually a nice surprise. 

 Not a monster, weighing 14lb 4oz and probably older than myself, built like a mini torpedo. 

 I didn't get any further enquiries and that for the morning was that. But a success all the same and back to it soon I hope for round two.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Season 2019/20 Top Six: Part Three.

 This part of the series leads me down the path of possibly the most infuriating species in our rivers, sometimes they can be so obliging, other times I am left scratching my head, even when I know fish are present.

 Rewind back September last year. I had only just started to get some mobility back, walking just a mile was taking huge tolls on my energy levels and the pain felt just attempting such short distances were often unjustifiable, but wholly necessary in my rehabilitation. Fishing, short distances was just the escape I needed.

 Targets were not in my thinking, simply walking, or should I say hobbling the banks was enough for me. Of course, I had a rod with me and a little bait with my camera and some scales in case I caught something worthwhile. My choice of swims were very limited and my first fishable swim provided me with a couple of challenges, these being presentation and approach. Stalking on this river is a joy, when the fish can be found, luckily for me, this particular area does hold the odd Barbel, but also Chub and of late some good ones have been slipping up.

 A decent bank of low cloud was passing through as the sun struggled to burn it off, within an hour this was long gone and a lovely sunny day followed. In such low light conditions stalking, even in a couple of feet of water is a tough ask. Not in a rush I was only too happy to sit and wait.


 Chub are very well known for being shy creatures at times, this perception can be sometimes very distorted when they become confident feeders and within five minutes of setting up I put the gear down and proceeded to flick free offerings out on the treeline and not before long the odd fish would waddle from out of the cover and take slow sinking pieces of flake, five minutes later this fish became so greedy I could not resist not fishing for it any longer.

 With the cloud now all but gone visibility was much better and this chub was proving to be very greedy and inevitably she would slip up. Gingerly I tossed a small piece of flake out along the treeline with a small BB shot and allowed it to drift downstream invitingly towards the overhanging tree...the anticipation was so great my glasses steamed up so much I couldn't see. Thump! a tremendous whack through the rod had me focused, not that I could see what I was attached to, my initial thoughts were that obviously hungry chub that barely turned away from twenty or so free offerings, but the fight was pretty strong for a chub, sharp lunging runs into the far bank cover had me thinking a barbel such was the speed at which it stripped line. 

 Now it wasn't out of the realms of possibility, just unusual given the technique/swim. For well over a minute I just held on for dear life with the rod tip dipped under the surface, hoping that with the consistent pressure whatever it was would come free of the trees. A couple of faint taps through the rod suggested the fish was still on but I was no closer to finding out what it was, then a giant vortex broke the surface downstream as a large chub rolled, worryingly, it was not in line with where I thought it was and had clearly gone through a part of the tree and now I was in it.

 Typical chub style, play dirty whenever they can. 

 Thankfully when the line pinged free of the branch I was back in direct contact with the chub which was now well downstream of the treeline. As the next couple of minutes sailed by I could now see the fish that had caused me all sorts problems and it wasn't done yet. A few old branches off of an upstream tree gave her the all clear to try and smash me up again, what is it with chub and playing dirty!.

 It got to point now where it could go either way, I had to make a swipe for it and with the tension still on the net was shipped out under the branches and after a brief kick and splash it was evident the chub was in the net! That was hard work!

A very good fish for the river without doubt.
 Lifting it out the river I was certain she would go five pounds, but in truth I was just delighted to have won the battle, this one did not want to co-operate at all!

 The Rueben's settled on 5lb 6oz, for this watercourse that's big, fours are a welcome specimen here.

 Through the pain a smile was creeping through and wondered whether that would be it, given the nature of the fight I started to feel quite uncomfortable and thought about knocking it on the head, but one swim close by is often a decent shout for a fish, typically barbel would be likely. 

 Not easy to get in, once in there though a quick change of bait was made as the flow often increases here and keeping the bait on or very near the bottom is paramount. No fish could be seen as I hobbled into the peg, but, with an abundance of Ranunculus they could be hiding right under my feet, I'd never know it. First roll down didn't reveal anything, second roll down again nothing, on the third time I felt a light pluck on my finger and thought it was the bottom, just below the meat I could see a fish back off and assumed it had just had a go, so I left it to continue rolling down and within seconds the rod hooped round, there was no mistake in the fish' intentions this time, the taster obviously got the better of it.

 A powerful battle ensued mid-flow as the Chub made off downstream, stripping five-ten yards of line off at the first attempt, unusual for chub but that day they seemed to have a bee in their bonnet, running, long and hard! Not that I was complaining at all. With a healthy bend in the rod I just allowed the fish to tire itself out as there wasn't much other than the weed to negotiate, even the far bank trees weren't a problem, with such low water the branches didn't touch the water, so when it rolled under the tree I didn't sweat it and within a minute or two she was in the net and the thought of finally landing a six-pound Chub from this little urban river was too big of an ask. The scales didn't seem to think so...I had done it, that target just a few years ago would have been unimaginable, infact possibly would have been admitted to an institution. The sudden upsurge in this shoals growth/weight gain is something of a mystery to me, but not all completely out the question.

 Looking back on some records and fish pictures I have located to distinctive specimens that have pushed on, fish number one in Oct 2016 weighed 3lb 9oz - Dec 2018 weighed 5lb 4oz and another weighed 4lb 10oz in Dec 2018 and now goes 5lb 6oz in Sept 2019, so they are growing and pretty quickly as those figures suggest. It will hopefully be an exciting 2-4 years ahead for this little river, could.....could a seven pound specimen be possible? The above fish would suggest it should'nt be ruled out, no matter how insane that claim me seem.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Season 2019/20 Top Six: Part Two.

  It has to be said, its not one of my best thats for sure, numerous targets set and most missed owing to my lack of time on the bank.

 My best six catches here were probably about as good as it got, leading on from the canal linear that was sneaked out of a busy and testing situation. Now we change direction to a little farm pond where rumours of big Tench have lingered for a little while now and after a couple of years I finally found myself there. A couple of early spring trips got my teeth into what would await me as the water warmed and the Tench would begin to grow in size as peak time approached.

 18th May 2019.

 A lovely warm day with light wind meant a day on the float was certainly on the cards, a tactic I love to deploy when tinca's are involved, either the lift method or a gently dotted down float are my preferred, but on this occasion I used a small piece of crow quill and lay it on the surface, fishing just a inch or so overdepth, any indication would result in the either the float sliding under such were the manner of bites or the line would shift across the surface before inevitably slide under.

 After a 40 minute drive the farmland was in view and the prospects of a good days fishing lay with the fishing gods, my homework was done to a certain extent. I targeted the same peg as the two previous visits and set about building up my peg with hemp and caster to get them feeding confidently, where I would then fish a piece of bread flake over the top of it, a piece big enough to just cover a size 10 hook.

 At 7am I was ready to go. With the tell tale pin head bubbles lining marginal areas of the lake it gave me goosebumps, I knew what was going on down there. Tails of tench wafting in mid water as they buried their heads in the silt searching for the goodies had me filled with excitement, the morning mist still hanging in the air with the sun just beginning to pierce through it in odd spells before thickening again and just before my first cast of the day I was greeted by a marauding Barn Owl, scouring the fields flanking the pond in search of breakfast, being there was just heavenly.

 From the very beginning there was the odd shudder on the quill as Tench moved the water around the baited area, no doubt multiple fish were grubbing around under my float without taking a bait or were they? I know Tench pretty well and they have an incredible talent for picking up a bait and spitting it out without any detection on alarms, float or quivertip, no matter how delicate, I suspected those tiny hesitant quivers on the quill was bait possibly being ejected.

 Twenty minutes slipped by before I finally got a proper take, the quill went from flat on the surface to half buried by the time I struck, with my hand on the rod it only took me a split second to lift into the fish and boy do these fish pull! A good solid fight at close quarters got me warmed up nice and quick. At first glance it looked a good fish and once it was in the net I thought the days account was opened with a seven pounder. Not bad going. Given the average the size I previously encountered this was a bit bigger with only one seven logged in my previous two sessions.

A typical example of our pristine they are.

Back to whence she came too.

 I only had one thing on my mind and that was to get my gear back out. The anticipation is always a massive lure to keep me coming back and it didn't take long for number two to take the bait, a couple of minutes spent angling the tench out of the pads saw a good fish of around mid-five pounds in the net, a super start.

7.9, best from the lake, at this point.

The 7.9 was followed this 7.12.

A brace of upper sixes in the space of four mintues.

 The fast start was soon followed by a tricky spell where the bubbles began to stop appearing and the old ones were following the slow natural drift on the lake into a corner under a couple of willows. My intentions were to stay put as I know fish tend to come through in waves every thirty minutes to an hour and the day continued to play out in that exact fashion, by eleven o'clock I could see fish up in the water and were now no longer feeding on the bottom, I had to change my approach, an observation that without polaroids I wouldn't have made and it proved crucial as within minutes of coming up two feet it bought me another ripping tug on the quill! very exciting stuff, what was more exciting was I could see the Tench suck in the flake a split second later my float registered a wobble.

Another good fish 7+
 As the average seemed to be better than my previous trips the thought of even bigger Tench coming by and falling foul to my very basic tactics looked likely, if I ever had a better chance of catching big tinca's I can't remember it. With a few Tench caught and fish moving through my swim the float began to spend more time moving than not as a precession of fish would mouth the flake and eject before I could strike, bearing in mind I can see it all happening, it appeared every fourth or fifth fish that tried the bread would end up taking it, guessing this was the confidence levels increasing at the lack of action when other fish tested it, (no shot and effectively fishing freeline meant there no resistance) with a slack line fish were able to move off three or four foot without feeling a thing.

 As the day progressed I stalked fish after fish, most of which were over 6lbs, every one giving a fantastic account of themselves as the battle to escape became frantic as they approached the net. Great fun and as I looked upon the horizon to see the sun going down I knew a good days fishing was coming to an end. My arm ached as a total of 16 Tench was amassed with the totals below. One of the big girls in the end did elude me but will hopefully try a couple of times this year when this lockdown lifts.

 In order of capture: 7lb 9oz, 5lb 8oz, 5lb 12oz, 7lb 12oz, 5lb 10oz, 6lb 11oz, 7lb 0oz, 6lb 15oz, 6lb 14oz, 6lb 6oz, 6lb 8oz, 6lb 7oz, 6lb 5oz, 6lb 6oz, 6lb 0oz and 5lb 15oz.

Total bag weight, 90lb 13oz in a days fishing, with four lost fish too.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Season 2019/20 Top Six: Part One.

 It has to be said, its not on of my best for sure. Targets were set, barring a couple achieved most were missed owing to my lack of time on the bank.

 My best six catches here were probably about as good as it got, starting with my canal ventures which culminated in landing a stunning old linear just under 20lb and with a few heart in mouth moments got the chance I needed, not that the Coots and Moorhens read the script!

 16th May 2019:

 I was out working as usual and my last job was in Hackney where I normally jump on the A102 south, with the conditions as good as they were I put a few spare hours to good use, with my stalking gear in the van from mid-March onwards the only hurdle tackle wise was to find a shop to get a loaf of bread. Three shops later and twenty minutes used up I set about my task in seeking out a towpath tiger.

 I parked up in an area I know only has restrictions up to midday and beyond that it wouldn't cost me anything and could just wander to the canal without worrying about only having one or two hours max stay which gave me freedom of the system. Choosing where to go is often a tough one, previous trips earlier in the spring told me where a few fish were loitering around and normally you can't take that as gospel but in the earlier months they tend not move as much, once the waters begin to warm and spawning is firmly in their minds then they will typically swim 2-8 miles a day, that includes slipping through locks should they be operational.

 The wind was light with the occasional breeze and with not a cloud in the sky gave me almost flawless stalking conditions and armed with the most important asset a stalker could need, polaroids, I was in the game. Typically the canal was busy with joggers, walkers, narrow boats and general chatter boxes, as I am forever being asked whether I had caught anything, to which the answer is usually no. The miles clocked up will inevitably give me chances at catching these very wise creatures and seldom caught monsters, some of which have been in the systems possibly longer than I have been alive.

 By the time I had probably clocked up 5 miles I finally came across a Carp, in fact two of them. A common and a mirror drifting sub-surface on the search for bugs and seeds gave me the perfect opportunity. Centre track of the canal (easy casting distance for me with minimal gear) these two carp drifted in and then out continuing their search for food, given their confidence in people the nature of my attempts wouldn't seem out of place on the canals. I was able to stand at the edge to allow cyclists and runners go behind me. To start with I got a big lump of crust on a size 8 wide gape hook and waited for two Coots to pass through, annoyingly they sensed free food was on the menu and decided to hang around, making my attempt at the Carp all the more difficult.

 Being mindful of many passers-by I had to be extra careful to pick my time impeccably, the birds after twenty minutes seemed to have noticed Gulls getting excited 400 yards or so to my left and the birds hindering me flew off to gorge on the bread buffet, I knew this was my chance, my bait went out and the cast couldn't have been better, no wind, no ripple and......a Moorhen came out of the bushes on the far side who must have been sat on a nest and shot out, straight to my crust! I could not believe it, the Carp were on course for it immediately. In a flash I got the crust in, being careful not to strike anything off to keep it waiting around.

 Just before I cast back out I squeezed a big bit of bread and launched it into the cover the Moorhen came from and the plan had its desired effect when the bird shot straight to the cover for the food, before the bird got there I cast my freshly moulded piece of bread out and within half a minute I had the common circling underneath the crust, beginning to shake with excitement the common began to slip away and the mirror followed in behind and eased up to the crust, looking straight at me she gently tilted her body so now the mouth was tantalisingly close to the crust, I could watch it waft backwards and forwards on the surface and the eyes focused on the bait, the carp was no doubt processing whether it was cosher or not, given these are very clever fish.

 Possibly the longest minute of my angling life ensued as the mirror then slowly dropped away, only about 6-12 inches but enough to make me think she had worked it out, then out of my left eye I could see the birds to my left had exhausted their latest loot and I was back in the frame. A wave of Gulls were starting to work their way up to me and knew I had very little time left, with the mirror hovering just behind she began to slowly make its way back to the crust, fins giving off subtle little movements as it gained the distance and she opened her mouth just a little, enough for her to suck the now sodden crust between her lips and with the common now completely out of sight there was no competition. The lips slowly closed and with that I put a healthy bend in the rod watched the mirror break the water immediately, then off on a 40 yard run, stripping line off a pretty tight clutch, no room for errors around where boats are concerned.

 A towpath tiger was on, a fight I always want to be up for if only I got more chances on such sparsely populated canals. Three powerful surging runs had an audience forming around me and the pressure I guess was on to make this one count, possibly twenty people standing on the grass verge cheering me on, asking questions as I continued my battle and a battle it was!, for over five minutes she did everything possible to escape. Doing what I could, in the end the net was shipped out and the rest as they say, is history, this impossibly stunning canal linear mirror lay resting in the net.

 You never know what will be put before you when trying on the canals, I have grown very fond of the task and resilience required to fish such vast bodies of waters, often with no reward!

Simply superb.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Last Action of the Season.

 Now if Carlsberg did fishing trips I'd have bitten off your arm for it. On a whim, I phoned Brian ( AKA PikeMan ) and pitched a plan, he said yes, 440am I was on my way the next morning to collect him, we were heading south. Target, Grayling. Find a big one and hope for the very best. After a crazy evening the day before trying find a tackle shop to get maggots I couldn't wait just to get home, sort some bits out and grab some sleep. Midnight came and went and I was still wide awake, as the excitement of the unknown kept me from sleeping. At some point I obviously managed to conk out as I woke to hear my alarm buzzing away.

 Like a coiled snake I was up and out, but only to forget where I put my centrepin, cue the f*ing and blinding under my breath as I rampaged in silence through draws, boxes etc to find it. Why must things insist on vanishing when you want them the most? utterly frustrating and Brian's express service to the river was now late!

 Once I finally arrived we shot off south and hoped that the river would be fishable as I did put the feelers out the previous evening to try and work out whether it was a no go or that in parts it was okay. Upon arrival down a long winding track we finally came to the river and yes it was up but I certainly felt we stood a chance.

 A deep sweeping pool was our first port of call which in the past has played host to some exceptional fishing, however size of the fish have not been of specimen proportions and hoped one day we would cross paths with possibly one or two fish that would exceed the 2lb barrier, no doubt they are already present, they simply haven't been caught by me.

 After a fast start from Brian it was myself that got the first decent pull on the float and very quickly realised it was a big grayling, a few rod lengths out, twisting and turning in the strong flow my knees jangled as the fish then went broadside with its sail-like dorsal fin proudly erect and causing me all sorts of problems as the line gained was stripped off and some as it now played a foot under the surface about 30 yards downstream before it mercifully stopped taking line. Another minute or so of tussling and finally Brian swept up the grayling. That was nerve wracking.

 In the water she looked a good "2lber" and throughout the fight I thought it all along but on the bank she felt lite and when she settled on 1.14 I wasn't surprised as such. At some point this would be comfortably over that milestone.

 I guess you can't be disappointed with a beauty like that! For probably another twenty minutes or so we continued to try our luck but it quickly became apparent there wasn't much feeding in that area so we moved downstream, my luck was in for sure!

 As we bunny-hopped pegs it was even more apparent that it wasn't going to be an action packed day, scraping the odd fish together was testament to how difficult it was turning out to be. That said on possibly my 10th or so trot, fishing a fraction over-depth I got a sharp tug on the float and soon enough I doing battle with a good fish, with it being unsighted had me wondering if I'd hooked another good Grayling and soon enough the culprit broken the surface, flashing a massive dorsal well clear of the waterline, it was time to stop playing hard and ease her in. Yet again, just like the first used every trick in the book to avoid coming to the net as it went broadside and flew off down stream, all I could do was hold on, matching it would have surely been a disastrous decision to make.

 Patiently waiting for my chance to gain on her up the inside margins I took my chance as she slowly eased up to the waiting net with Brian in control of the situation. Another good'un in the net, convinced this was over two pounds I awaited the reading on the scales....1lb 13oz?! how? I asked myself, she looked bigger than the first that should have been over two pounds too. Have they spawned already? that is the only explanation I can muster, yet they were pristine without a mark on them and I know Grayling don't mess around then spawning, affairs can be vigorous so I had doubted that reason since.

 As to why the fishing in general was tough I can only imagine it is that the river has flowed with plenty of detritus for weeks now and that the Grayling are only just getting back on the feed, as by 2pm I had caught four trout and five grayling. As we approached the later stages of the day a couple more Grayling were added to my days total but found fishing very hard, even bites were few and far between.

 Then I decided to leave my gear with Brian and went for a wander with the polaroids and about quarter of a mile downstream I caught sight of a few small Roach, those were sights for sore eyes, but then my eyes began to focus through the gentle ripple and glare of the sun and the small Roach were ganged up with big Roach and big big Roach, the sort I've been searching for a couple of seasons. I watched them for five minutes before heading back to grab the gear, with silt puffing out the gills of the Roach it was time to get a bait to them.

 Bogged down by boots covered in mud the walk to the gear and back was taxing, all I could think of was a big Roach slipping up. Maggots and bread available and a couple of hours to try winkle one or two out. Once I got the depth right and worked out they wanted bread and not maggots I was getting bites, but so fast and tentative I couldn't hit them which was frustrating until about an hour in we both realised we had to let them hang themselves as they were cornering the bread flake and it was taking 20-30 seconds for the fish to get close enough to the hook point.

 Even with tiny pieces of bread just covering the hook point it took some skill to finally connect with the first one which was about half a pound, from that moment on it was a case of sticking to the task and the rest followed suit, some really nerve wracking moments followed but it was a thoroughly enjoyable evenings fishing as I came close twice to breaking the two pound barrier with a pair of Itchen pearlers. The biggest that weighed 1.15 was played to my rendition of "Another day in paradise" as it felt like it and enabled me to see past the fact I was playing a large Roach that at first I didn't think was close to two pound or over until it was in the net, by that point I thought I was in the money.

 Awesome fish and I was proper over the moon, my days tally stood at 11 Roach ( best two @ 1.15 & 1.14 ), 8 Grayling ( best two @ 1.14 & 1.13 ) and 5 Trout. A tough day but brilliant too. That was the last action of the season.

1.14 (top) & 1.15 (bottom) awesome fishing.
 A great end to an indifferent season owing to many factors external to angling, the next twelve months will hopefully see me get on the bank a little more.

 Tight Lines all.


H'Wrassing the Population.

 After many years of procrastination I finally got my arse in gear and hit the coast! The list of potential species to aim at was endless bu...