Sunday, 10 November 2019

Polaroids and Autumnal Delights.

 2019 has gone by incredibly quick, I know it's only November but if the last eleven months are anything to go by it'll be done in the blink of an eye, knowing where my next trip will come from is often a question I ask myself.

 On Tuesday I fancied a trip out in search of predators. For the last three years I have heard of many good Perch slipping up through Hertfordshire and Essex, two counties I am fairly familiar with, but not for Pike, Perch and Zander. So with only a handful of half-hearted attempts at the Perch and returning on every occasion empty handed I looked to try my hand once again at tempting the "biggest fish of all".

 An early start battling motorway traffic resulted in arriving at my chosen first port of call over an hour later than I hoped and with dusk now at 1645 it chalked a large portion of my day off so I didn't hesitate in getting myself together. With large Pike present I opted to fish a trace which is something I don't tend to do for Perch owing to resistance, thankfully for me I took that chance and within an hour I was watching a large Esox that was thought to be in excess of twenty pounds, I quickly got pretty nervous.

 As I trotted my live bait towards the pike it moved very slightly towards it and then stopped as my bait continued on, all of a sudden just when I thought the chance was drifting away, quite literally, the pike then put on the afterburners and the gap between predator and prey was reduced in no time and I watched my little Roach disappear and the float slip under, the time had come to finally wet my net for my first predator of the season.

 Fishing with 20lb line and a 2¾ TC rod in conjunction with a 25lb trace you be inclined to think it would be easy, however that is seldom the case as these river Pike tend to fight extremely hard and often find myself at the end of every fight thinking how much more could they give. The answer is quite scary, battles sometimes continue beyond the length that you'd think, for those anglers who target pike will know exactly what I mean.

The rivers are so clear down here, spotting Pike was challenging but not impossible.

 Once the battle had ended a lovely marked Pike sat in the net, possibly a twenty pounder for my first pike of the season would be an awesome feat, it didn't take long to dispel that dream as she sat tipped the scales to a pleasing 18lbs 7ozs, I honestly couldn't be happier mind you, it looked awesome both in the water and on the bank.

Beautiful marking on this one.
 Watching her swim away was just as rewarding as catching it. One thing I did miss out was that when I hooked that Pike above this Pike below cruised out from under a tree to see what the commotion was all about, the very next cast resulted in a 12lb 15oz Esox slipping up and fought equally well to its predecessor that had just left the net.

Not too shabby either, two doubles in ten minutes.

From that point the fishing got quite hard as those two Pike were the only fish I saw for well over two miles, by which point I moved section and gave it a go upstream, hoping to come across a Perch, which to tell the truth was my initial target, armed with half a dozen Gudgeon I continued my fishing like downstream and hoped to avoid Pike on the untraced rod, which was also fished downstream but totally ignored.

 A couple of hours drifted by without much action then I stumbled across what was clearly a holding area for predators as my float stayed still for very little of the time I spent in this particular swim. Problem was most of it was little jack' terrorising my Gudgeon on the untraced rod and I was quickly running out of my bait until as dusk was beginning to settle in my float slipped away once again, this time I allowed the run to develop before striking and when I saw that a big Perch was on the business end the fight became more of a protection exercise rather than a battle with a big fish. With Pike in the swim capable of snatching this fish I had worked so hard for it wasn't very enjoyable.

 As the Perch approached the lip of the net the Gudgeon was visible on the very finest flap of skin, disaster was just a moment away as my fears were realised just five foot out, a strong head shake was followed by a flying Gudgeon and the loss of tension on the rod, which was followed by a sizeable vortex as the Perch (well over three pounds) slipped back into the darkness. Gutted was just the beginning of my feelings that festered for the following day.  Having been the only chance of the day, that was my opportunity at landing a Perch capable of beating my personal best of 3lb 6oz.

 The only positive apart from the Pike was that I had found a big Perch, more must exist within spitting distance, I will certainly be back! 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Home Comforts: Part Three.

 Times are changing out there, the leaves are falling by the thousand and with the clocks going back the time to be on the river is sooner in the day which gives me a good chance of coming across a fish or two as these unchallenged fish often slip out of the cover under darkness, although of late that hasn't been factual, weirdly in my last couple of trips the action barring last night has come on the cusp of darkness where enough light has enabled me to spot unsuspecting Barbel on the clear gravels as they clearly have changed tact.

 Quite a few short trips have been made over the last month and sport was starting to really slow up, thankfully I seemed to have turned a corner and action has improved to a point where I have managed four Barbel in four trips for combined total of around nine hours, so given the track record down this section I feel that the return is better than I could have expected with the best weighing 9lbs 14ozs, a nice long fish in tip top condition, the others weighing 6lbs 1ozs and two youngsters around 5lbs.

 Strangely no Chub have surfaced since mid July and not sure why, I know what will happen now I've said it and they will likely become the scourge of my Barbel fishing. All I have to do now is keep up the momentum and try to keep on the front foot as to the where abouts of the Barbel shoal/s.

 As autumn slips into winter I know it'll become tough as it has in the past, knowing where the Barbel feed now should put me in a good position to continue the catching, all I need now is the time.

 As autumn has settled in I seem to seeing more Owls and Fieldmouse, only too happy to feed the mice they seem to like me and eat just a foot or so from my boot, very cute indeed, last night I was feeding one and my rod tore off after just five minutes with a bait in the water, nice when a plan comes together.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Grayling Away Day.

 To tell the truth this trip wasn't necessarily in search of Grayling but knew the likelihood of my initial target, the Roach making an appearance on the bank would be quite a long shot. A beautiful mid-autumn morning gave way to a largely bright sunny day and although fishing was far from easy I did make the very best out of my time in what is as close to angling heaven as I've come to experience.


 Excluding out of season trout I didn't catch a fish in the first three of my time on the bank, first Grayling of the day was very much worth the wait however, first go for them this season and the first fish is a two-pound plus specimen, can't get a lot better than that. As I gazed through the crystal clear water that flows through the pristine Hampshire countryside more fish of similar calibre sauntered across perfect gravels, simply teasing me as countless attempts to add to my great start slipped by without as much as a flinch.

2lb 2ozs, first Grayling of the day!
 It took some getting used to the constant assault from the Trout with some of them well over five pounds and putting my very light but well balanced trotting setup to the test, often beating Grayling out the way to the double/treble white maggot, some were really stunning too in great autumn condition. I did get another chance at a big Grayling but through all the control I had at the start of the fight the last ten seconds went horribly wrong as I lost concentration and the hook pulled as the fish turned on the frame of the net and dislodging the hook in the mesh. 

 Plenty of Trout action continued to marginalise the Grayling and in the end, the Roach. It took most of the day to find a Roach, but when I did I watched two monsters easing across the other side of the river to a slack under a bush, nothing much I could do about it as the Roach had already made me. Seeing them gave me my plan for dusk and concreted my hopes about at least targeting one or more.

 Having struggled with the "Ladies of the Stream" I had a little blast at the pike and was treated to five in a short spell, nothing big which was to be expected, nevertheless good fun and then it was back to the Grayling to tie me over until an hour before dark when I changed tactic to a small 10g cage feeder with mashed bread in a marginal slack.

A pristine Test Valley Esox.

A few in the end came along, I seemed to get into my groove, not before time!
 My wait for dusk had been patient as I could see Roach starting to appear from downstream of where I was sat and as the light began to fall the delicate liners began as the now fifteen strong shoal of redfins, some which were way way way over 2lbs sifted through the weed on the bottom, only to get a quick tap on the quivertip, followed by a brutal wrap around, I really thought for a second or two that a monster Roach was on the other end, that hope was quickly dashed as large trout, possibly 7-8lbs bow waved across the river backwards and forwards, much to the irritation of the Roach that after 30-40 seconds slowly drifted away downstream to whence they came. One shot to catch the seemingly impossible was done, but not without one last go.

 Having seen them already make their way upstream once the hope they would repeat that feat now the commotion had settled was firmly in mind. I settled a new feeder full of mashed bread down on the same crease and sat back listening to the Tawny Owls in the trees behind me calling away as a fox harked across the fields for its partner. A lovely atmosphere to be immersed in, all I could wish for at that point was the serenity to be broken by a blabbering wreck of an angler as a monster Roach lay in his net...

...but no matter how much I wished, my time came and went and once again these leviathans eluded capture, more often than not this is the outcome when targeting such weary and measured fish. I will be back to give them another go, the cards may well be stacked in my favour on another day.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Home Comforts: Part Two.

  For many years I treated my local river, which isn't so local now as my training ground. Learning most of which I'd need to know in my quests across the country. There are many things that we down here are blessed with, large numbers of Barbel, Roach to make the head spin, Gudgeon to warm the fondest of piscatorial hearts and massive swathes of Chub.

 The latter is a species that in the coldest and in the most uncomfortable of times do these offer themselves up for capture, not many other species seem to have the need to feed as much, now whether its out of necessity or pure greed its almost always welcome, (when targeting Barbel or Roach they can scupper entire plans), but through all the greed they never seem to get above 5½ pounds, even these are very rare.

 That is until this season, a handful of upper four pounders and fives have been out (5.10 & 5.08) so far for me this season, with very little time done so far I suspect there will be more! or is there more already?!

 Twenty-Six years has elapsed so far, since I first wet a line on this diminutive chalk stream with my father, all the way back in 1993. Crazy to think that portion of time has already slipped by, without seeing or catching a Chub capable of threatening that magical barrier of 6lb that I have achieved on four other rivers. Not for a very long time did I think that that milestone would be achieved, but in the light of recent events my confidence in catching such a fish had vastly improved.

 With only a few hours available a couple of weekends back I fancied going localish and giving the river a go, when I arrived at the river there was plenty of colour so my approach of stalking fish looked to be up in the air, but my arrival was well timed as the level had already dropped over a foot and the colour dropping out fast. First port of call was a run of overhanging bushes that offer plenty of cover to passing fish and residents alike. With only a tin of meat on hand, rolling meat was my desired tactic.

 Drawing a blank in the first run a quick wander upstream proved a real good call as I could see a couple of sizable shapes gliding across a patch of sand, all I had to do was get a long enough cast with the centrepin to hit the spot where a take was likely, this was a lot easier in theory, rarely getting the bait out far enough to where the chub were holding. When I did get the bait as far as I needed the attention was emphatic!

 The result was another five pound chub, this one weighing 5lb 6oz and it did not want to come in, beds of ribbon weed, tree stumps, you name it it tried to dislodge the hook, but my fairly stout tackle was enough to win the battle!

Lovely and Stocky.
 That, however wasn't the end game and boy was I in for a real treat. All those years of waiting and hearing the odd humour on the grapevine of possible six-pound Chub were to become wholesome truths!

 Half a mile down river before I next cast a bait was where the unthinkable happened. My first roll down the inside margins produced nothing, as did my second roll down in mid river, the third roll, second in mid river I got a faint pluck on the line and just made out a silhouette drop the bait when it took it again and the hit was much more vigorous, now I could see it was a chub and a good one too but hit it some twenty-five yards downstream in murky water, so I couldn't be sure.

 The hook-up led to a powerful scrap which had me believing the unthinkable, not that I thought possible, just a couple of minutes later and a heart in mouth battle had ended I was convinced I was close or just over the line.

 Much to my delight she didn't just make it, but clear daylight!

 6lb 2ozs and a new personal best for this river, a far greater achievement than any of the other six-plussers I've managed elsewhere, I simply could not top that capture, I slowly packed up and then released her, a fish I may never see again but thankful for our brief encounter!

22.6 inches long and 14.8 inches girth, likely to be a high six come April.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Home Comforts: Part One.

 Since our most recent deluges the rivers are looking in fine fettle and the confidence levels are starting to increase as the Barbel begin their pre-winter munch. Now we have entered October I am a little more inclined to target Barbel, as the nights draw in the chances to fish into darkness improve and with darkness often comes prolonged feeding spells as they seek to avoid detection on what can be a busy river. The hoards of louts often slip back under their rocks this time of the year until next spring when they can come back on to the river, albeit illegally.

 Over the next few months I am seriously hoping to get amongst some fish in what is one of the most under fished sections of the river. Knowing that fishing won't be easy I am playing the long game and having already devoted nine short trips and a day session with only three Barbel and two Chub to show for my efforts the fruits of my labours will be counted when March 14th passes!

 My previous visits below:
 July 16th   - 4hr approx - 1 swim - 2 fish (Chub 4.03 ( 1747 ) & 5.08 ( 2020 ))
 July 17th   - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 0 fish
 July 23rd   - 2hr approx - 4 swims - 0 fish
 July 29th   - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 0 fish
 Aug 1st     - 2hr approx - 5 swims - 0 fish
 Aug 2nd    - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 1fish (Barbel 6.03 ( 0637 ))
 Sept 6th     - 4hr approx - 3 swims - 0 fish
 Sept 24th   - 13hr approx - 6 swims - 0 fish
 Oct 3rd      - 2hr approx - 2 swims - 1 fish (Barbel 6.09 ( 1721 ))
 Oct 9th      - 3hr approx - 3 swims - 1 fish (Barbel 8.13 ( 1912 )) This session!

 Now, getting out and doing a bit has been tough, with lots of work on I have been struggling for anything more than what you see above, I mean I have eked out every drop of time possible.

 I arrived at the river in a lot better shape than it was the previous trip where the river was a swirling monster, most little cut outs that I am poking myself into were completely unfishable, the pegs I could get into I did not fancy and a quick 2-hr stint was all I could muster before my own mind defeated me.

 This time around the river was within its banks and all cutouts were easily fished with just a 1oz running ledger. I couldn't wait to get on with it, funnily enough I am not massively confident with daytime fishing here and I often find myself twiddling my thumbs awaiting dusk and for good reason too.

 I sat in one of the handful of pegs I have cutout trickling in 6mm HookBait Co nimrod pellets and the matching dumbbells along with a few other bits of boilies. Only little and often, but only enough to feed off the hoards of small Chub and Roach that are present.

 As darkness fell myself and a friend who came along for a nag sat there chatting away as all anglers can and do quite easily, only to have the background silence broken as the ratchet on my centrepin went into meltdown. With it being so dark I couldn't see the quivertip, I simply threw out a hand to grab the rod! Immediately clear it was a Barbel my heart started to properly thump, I had no idea how big the fish was, 6ft deep in quite pacy water this fish really put on a show, the first two surging runs were impressive on quite heavy gear ( plenty of snags are present, possibly big fish around I'm taking no chances ) as she powered off about twenty yards above me and held firm in the flow. head torch was failing me miserably as I couldn't quite see the surface of the river and could only make out the white belly occasionally before she disappeared again and again. A few minutes since the violent take I had won the battle, with tiring arms she slipped into the net!

 For me, that Barbel represented a good evening' work for me and I hit the road.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Little Mirror on the Wall...

...who's the prettiest of them all?

 This one of maybe ten-eleven pounds is certainly up there. A quick fire morning on a local lake had this scamp running riot as I stalked it off the top amongst four commons, thank goodness this one was a little more hungry.

 Zip perfection :) and that was that, another day on the road in London, plenty of money to be made!!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The Trent: It's Easy I Tell You!

 For years now all I have heard and seen splashed across the angling prints and social media is the abundance of Barbel and Chub that the Trent holds and the sheer numbers of fish being caught to anyone who reaches its banks. Whether it's 8ft on owing to a couple of months rain falling in just a day or so, or when the river is flat on its arse and the flow has almost ceased.

 Such can be the numbers of fish being caught by seemingly everyone, I and my party of two ( Father and Brian ) could not blank and in fact end up having to fish just one rod such would be the pace of the sport that we would experience, or would it be a crock?, simply a river that in good form can deliver some awesome returns for anglers but by and large just be like most other big rivers, hard most of the time and bar the "hotspot, in Collingham Weirs top ten pegs" have the ability to wow the travelling angler on the odd occasion but resign them to hours of head scratching for the remainder of time.

Standard procedure.

 I will on this case cut to the chase and tell you it isn't easy, yes we weren't shall we say in the hotspot but I know the conditions should have given us more of a reward for the 362 mile round-trip. I won't say I fished badly even though I couldn't even muster a bite, my approach was no different to what everyone else employs, my watercraft had me fishing exactly where I would expect a fish or two and to compound my theories furthermore my father above me and Brian below both caught on the same line I fished both rods ( 10-15m apart ).

 I won't play the blame game either, it simply didn't happen for me, I fished the same conditions as everyone else and yes it wasn't fishing well, even some very experienced Trent locals had only managed 2 to 4 Barbel in 72 hours such was the difficulty, many turning up, fishing a couple of hours and realising it wasn't going off so back off home they went, for us that style and approach wasn't an option as you could imagine!

Rods out at witching hour.

 It will simply serve as a stark reminder when I do go back up to not read into all the hype, go up there when I can next and give it hell! However, I could not see this trip go down as a failure as I had the pleasure of witnessing my Dad' first Barbel for quite sometime in the form of a stocky 6lb 15oz torpedo and Brian of course catching one as his rich vein of form on the Barbel front continued in stella fashion with a lovely specimen a fraction under nine-pounds.

 In the famous words of Arnold, "Get to the chopper, Trent bound"!

 For us who stayed up we were treated to one hell of a night sky too! the clearest I have seen in the UK for many years and excluding the two fish on the bank the highlight of my trip, how small our existence really is in the grand scheme and offered me at gone 3am a chance to reflect on a what has been a tough year for me in all aspects of life as I gazed into the wonderful it is to be a brother of the angle.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Peas in a Pod!

 Back on the river again and back amongst the fish. For so many years I've been doing this but never have I seen so many young fit Barbel coming through the ranks! Fish between the 1-4lb barrier were seldom seen or caught, most likely owing to their disproportionate numbers to larger fish 5-9lb bracket. For what seemed like the river was going to turn into a big fish river has quickly entered its cyclical downturn in terms of larger fish to smaller fish ratio, but has exploded in the last 5 years into life as a vast number of young fish seem to have made it through the tough "early years" where predation and delicacy to the pollution that often enters the river, especially in these conditions!

 Targeting big Barbel just six years ago was a task that I'd often set myself and fairly often achieve, big fish for me here would be anything over nine pounds. Currently I am trying to build on my early season success of a mid-nine pounder and look to build up a head of steam as we enter a very wet autumn. In the south our aquifers have been running on bare bones and although flash floods are never a good thing for anyone or anything the surrounding countryside has benefitted of late as additional rain has entered at a decent rate allowing the water table to start filling up and my local rivers have slowly started to hold a good level with varying clarity.

 Big Barbel are difficult to find nowadays and the hope that one will come along at night whilst fishing static is almost my last real hope.

A typical trot, makes less than accessible areas easier to fish.

 However, with the rivers smaller inhabitants float fishing for Barbel has become an even more likelier approach than most other tactics and no more so than the other day, an hour available, two swims and three Barbel. Nothing large, but action all the same, two of which may well have come up through the ranks, side by side from a neighbouring spawning ground some 8-10 years ago!

A pair of little tikes.
Best of the day at 5.06.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Barbel, Camera, Action.

 Slowly catching up now and this piece was following a decent couple of short trips out in search of Barbel, hoping the fish were still hard on the feed I hit the river with a view to taking them on the float or freelined flake on the top....yes yes yes I know Barbel are designed for feeding on the bottom but in the right conditions paired with the fact they are as greedy as any other fish they can be taken clean off the top and this feat has been achieved many times in the past.

 Joined by Brian for an hour or so we became the Barbel' arch nemesis, between Brian spotting and feeding, whilst armed with the camera I had the arduous task of fishing :),

 Within five minutes the deadly duo were in action and Brian was snapping off some pukka images whilst I had my arm ripped off by a stroppy boris. Not that I mind of course.

 These sorts of shots are ones I have wanted for years, problem is I tend to fish alone and also never in accessible areas, not that this was particularly accessible, but having that second person meant that the shots could be made.

Not a monster, roughly 6lb 8oz.

Not long after, number two slipped up.

Then this superb little whisker!
 That small Barbel is a very indicator as to how well the river is currently doing, if only the EA and TW look after it better it can remain that way!

 To finish it all off a decent Roach of 1lb 8oz took a liking to some freelined flake too.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Gudgeon Fest.

 There aren't many more species in our rivers that trump these awesome little creatures, spirited fights coupled with very bold biting, everything about these fish raise the question, where would they rank in terms of desire to catch them if they grew to say five pounds?

 For me, I thoroughly enjoy catching them regardless.

 Here are a few snaps of a little batch of Gonks that I had roughly 6 weeks ago.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Summer Gold, Better By the Hour.

....I could have easily gone after that immaculate barbel, however with so little opportunity swinging my way to go out fishing I remained on the river to continue the good work. I had recently heard of some good chub coming out upstream from a friend of mine and whilst the thought of targeting some big chub sounded like a great idea my physical condition was really putting paid to most plans, I had to stay fairly close to where I had parked, just in case the pain became too much to cope with, not that you'd know it looking at the smile with the barbel!

 As I meandered upstream slowly the beginnings of the acute pains were starting to shoot through my buttocks and down my left leg as the nerve trapped in my back was starting to get agitated with the short walk. A typical walk on the river would normally comprise of at least six miles being covered in a short 4-hour session, I knew I would be very lucky to complete one, thankfully I managed to get to my first port of call, one that I have managed big chub and barbel out of in the past, although if recent showings are anything to go by then I wouldn't be targeting anything sizeable.

 Funnily enough on this occasion, my previous visits would account for absolutely nothing! As I gingerly hopped up on to a narrow wall I could make out numerous shapes out on the gravels along side a large submerged tree, possibly thirty fish (barbel and chub) in plain sight, this could surely only end up with me catching at least one fish. with practically every fish on show I sat and watch the shoal for possibly twenty minutes before a large chub caught my eye right tight against the submerged tree.

 Having already spotted possibly four or five chub over 4lbs I kept my cool as I hoped one of the rivers larger residents was stopping by and sure as, there was at least one. The largest was holding position away from the main shoal but unfortunately not in a casting position, the next ten minutes was spent flicking lumps of bread flake out and gain the confidence. No sooner did the flake start going out scores of fish charged out of position and intercepting the bait, barbel over 7lb were taking flake as it hit the surface and chub were bullying each other out of the way to get food, some people would think these don't get fed!

 With all the commotion going on inside of the tree and myself the coy monster of a chub slowly began to make its way into the mix, numerous barbel and chub still occupied the narrow gravel channel, mouths wide open and awaiting the next piece of bread, now that I had the big chub' attention I began to throw lots of bread in way upstream in a bid to draw the hungrier fish away from the target chub and allow my target a couple more seconds to make up its mind without me hooking another fish as I knew I only had one shot at this!

 When plans are formulated there is always that possibility that it won't work, but without flicking a bait out I'd never find out. First cast out and a barbel around 4lb quickly honed in and if it wasn't for a quick bit of thinking the whole game would have been up. Quickly pulling the flake away from the barbel allowed it drift back down in the flow and within seconds the big chub sidled over and the flake was engulfed! My Mark IV bent double and one hell of an angry chub stormed off for the far bank cover where I spent a nervy two minutes or so trying to prevent it winning the battle!

 I wanted it a little more than it wanted to escape and my largest chub off the river in 9 years lay in the net!

5lb 10oz, my second largest off this river.
 I have seen a few good chub this summer and coupled with a 5lb 8oz specimen I had just a week or two previous certainly shows this river is on the up in terms of chub weights as it has noticeably stagnated in the past decade if not two. Now, I could only hope for this river to produce "sixes and sevens" as they incredibly impressive creatures, I have my reservations on that thought, though the piscatorial romantic that I am would love to see them common place.

 With my target chub in the net the remainder of the shoal barely spooked and having begun the reintroduction of flake to the swim it was clear the previous few minutes of noise etc didn't dampen their appetites, so I left the big girl in the net and got another bait out and what do you know?! Another very good chub sucked it in first time of asking, in front of about six hungry barbel!

5.10 and 4.12.

 Side by side they filled a 30 inch spoon landing net and my 1957 Mark IV lye proudly next to them, 10lb 6oz of summer gold that most would envy! I know I would.

 What I'd do to find them again in the winter, my first six off of here may well be achieved.

 Just over an hour since that awesome barbel downstream and I was blessed with a stunning brace of chub, lucky me...two months down the line and my back is improving, time however is still at an absolute premium. Just got to make it out!

 Tight lines all and hopefully my next post will be out soon.

 All the best, James.

Polaroids and Autumnal Delights.

 2019 has gone by incredibly quick, I know it's only November but if the last eleven months are anything to go by it'll be done in...