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.


Saturday, 14 March 2020

One Hit Wonder.

 Just before I jetted off for the Caribbean one last chance presented itself to head out and wet a line. With the time available I could only think of one target, Barbel. With a night going begging I opted for a static approach and feed a little as I fished a few pegs, the target Barbel being a double if at all possible and given how few are present in this river it was a tall order.

 First swim that I slipped into was stupidly steep and with the persistent high levels the banks were covered in a sludge that I could barely grip, even with my proper waders ( in case I fell in! ) I struggled at times. Having finally got a bait in the water I sat patiently, hoping that the wait wouldn't be too long. Typically I give thirty to forty minutes per swim and in the winter I feed very little, sometimes just a broken boilie and maybe a PVA bag of just twenty 6mm pellets, enough to put a scent in the water and nothing else as feeding off a single fish in the winter given the difficulty of my task would be a major blow.

 Forty minutes or so slipped by quickly as myself and Stu ( a fellow barbel man ) nagged about football and fishing before deciding upon a move. A similar issue faced me downstream in just about every peg as each resembled an ice rink. With the river still shifting through I was limited to fishing in the margins, that however suits me just fine as quite often its the best place to ease down a lead without alerting fish in the vicinity that they are being targeted as these fish, especially the Barbel are very weary and any sense of an angler they stay well away.

 A single 15mm dumbbell and with a tiny PVA bag lowered onto a clear gravel patch I was happy the bait was free of weed and hopefully wouldn't get fouled like it did in the first swim by flotsam. With the rod out and bag organised Stu and I continued our chat when we both interrupted by the awesome tune of my match aerial screeching into life and my mark IV rod tip thumping downstream, without a doubt a Barbel was on the other end, size was very difficult to gauge at first as the flow was so powerful that night, but she held firmly in the middle without breaking into a sweat. Doing my best to ease her into the margins she produced a very good fight and easily the strongest I've experienced in a while. As she came up in the water it was clear I had managed a good one, within a minute of negotiating one last burst for freedom she slipped over the rim of the net and I was confident that fabled target was achieved. ( Not many of these left unfortunately ).

A trademark chalkstream double, just lovely.

 Waited all of five minutes for that take in the second swim, just proves with a bait in the right place at the right time anything is possible. With a few hours still ahead I decided to move on down as I felt the swim was well and truly trashed. With about a mile of water still below me there was still chance another fish and after passing a few cutouts I got myself into one that I could sit in, the ones in between were a total mess and too dangerous to attempt accessing.

 Fishing a short hook-length meant I could gently lead around to find gaps in the weed beds that were still present in vast numbers and enable the rig to sit properly on the gravel rather than in the weed or other detritus. 

 Midnight slowly crept up on us as we checked in on a couple of other pegs that I have caught from in the past but didn't present any opportunities and with a little rain starting to fall one last swim was fished as it felt good for a bite as the recent floods had scoured out a channel with a large weed bed at the bottom of the run and shallows either side, the perfect feeding spot for a Barbel or two.

Just a few stars out that night before the rainclouds moved in.

 Out of all the pegs fished this one in particular had me sitting almost expectant, to begin with my hand was hovering over the rod at times at the slightest tap, fifteen minutes later I began to relax a little as it slowly became apparent my expectation was possibly too high and spent the final thirty minutes chatting away before packing up in the rain, albeit light before the heavens opened as we reached the car. 

 That for me was the end of my Barbel fishing for another season and considering my efforts I don't feel I did too badly at all. 

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Whetting the Appetite.

 It probably comes as no surprise that I haven't fished much in 2020 so far. A year that has been punctuated by a single catch of chub. Time has been available recently but have struggled to drag myself out and drown a few maggots or sit behind a couple of rods, largely owing to the poor weather conditions, some of it however has been down to me simply not feeling it much, strangely. A notion rarely felt in all these years.

 Last week I finally caved, I had to grab some gear and have a trot. The rivers all still up the options were limited. Chub and Dace were ultimately decided upon at the last minute as I made a quick dash to the tackle den and round up what I'd need.

 With the car loaded with my Grey's prodigy 12ft tactical float rod, Okuma sheffield 1002 centrepin (loaded with 4.4lb float fish) and a small 5BB float, fished in conjunction with a size 16 hook and white maggots/bread. A quick call to Brian en-route swayed him to decide on a day out rather than keeping the sofa warm at home. First port of call for me whilst I awaited Brian' arrival was a sweeping weir pool where two channels converge and a deep depression under the nearside bank often plays host to some good fishing.

 Filled with confidence I started to feed maggots on the crease and began running a float through in the vein hope of picking up a Dace as over the years I have managed some really big specimens to a number of tactics from this exact area. After a dozen trots through the float finally slipped under and I was met with some considerable resistance which was more substantial than I'd expect from a Dace! within seconds the inevitable shape of a brown trout broke the surface as a series of acrobatics kept me entertained before slipping off the hook a foot from the rim.

 To tell the truth for the next twenty minutes and countless trots that lost trout seemed to have set a precedent as another two fish (both trout) managed to slip off the hook. Upon the third loss I checked the hook point as it was strange to have such a poor hook-up ratio so early on, but fresh out of the packet it was tack sharp and with that put it simply down to bad luck. A further dozen or so trots through resulted in nothing and with that got myself downstream to try a few more areas that may have fish holding up.

 With so much high water of late I guess a lot of fish have been displaced and found this to be consistent with my thinking as glides and depressions that often hold fish were completely empty, with the clarity being as good as it was I didn't have to fish it to know. Finding and catching fish was becoming a struggle!

Paddle on that!

 Apart from the odd trout that I finally managed to keep on the hook it wasn't easy going until I reached the top field where I had a plan to change from the float to a small 25g feeder that I flicked into the margins. It didn't take long for the rod tip to start bouncing before thumping upstream. Within an hour I had managed seven chub to around 2lb and a Barbel of around 4lbs which was something I was not expecting. So all in all it wasn't easy and the Dace yet again have avoided detection and starting to wonder why I can not find them!

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

In Search of Ladies.

 A busy start to the year has seen my angling take quite a hit, with only a couple of half days managed since the new year. I promised myself a little more time on the bank but has yet to materialise. Queue the manic scramble for the gear, off down souf to target a little piece of piscatorial heaven. Picture a gin clear chalkstream through pristine Hampshire countryside, a plethora of animals to keep you entertained and Roach to make you shake like a crapping dog, Grayling to whet any anglers appetite and Trout....trout to drive you crazy and lots of them.

 After eating up the tarmac we were ( Brian, Richard and I ) back on hallowed ground where my date with a three-pound Roach beckoned. Never content with any redfin my lust for specimen fish is always at the forefront of my plans. Arriving in the courtyard around 20 minutes before dawn we got ourselves together and got a full on quick march to the salmon hut, fuelled with confidence of a good day ahead. Conditions were pretty good, cloudy, light winds and a gin clear river, albeit the highest I've ever seen it.

 My trotting gear was setup the night before so I wasted no time by setting the standard....first trot....a trout.....not a bad one either but certainly not what I was looking for. The peaceful surroundings were  sporadically punctuated by the thrashing of water as all hell would break loose. Any chance of getting grayling and roach feeding with such ravenous trout about would prove to be the real challenge. Beautiful gravel runs broken up by the odd weed bed often held solitary grayling, these fish would be targeted, only to end up catching a trout and spook the grayling off.

 Roach unfortunately could not be found, I searched the beat up and down a few times over in the vein hope of locating just a couple of fish, no matter how hard I tried to find them the colossal redfins remained anonymous. On my way back up I had the pleasure of trying to knock two "2lb+" Grayling off with the net as Brian slipped into his groove, ( 2.00 and 2.04 ). After conceding the fact a roach was not likely I turned my attentions to a grayling and after much trout trouble I finally managed three ladies ( 1.10, 1.06 and 1.06 ), certainly not monsters but beggars can not be choosers.

Best of the day, good nick.

Resting a pest.

Lovely looking fish.
 As dusk settled in and the prospect of a roach off the table my desire to fish really hard ebbed away, just happy to see fish being caught. As to whether the roach had moved away or the dreaded otters had revisited and polished off the shoal at long last was playing on my mind. Only time will tell as to whether it was just me that was going blind or if there is something a little more sinister that playing out.

 I think we all left happy, but we were left in no doubt as to who fished the best, a pleasure to see a couple of decent grayling on the bank.

Monday, 20 January 2020

What a Start to the Decade.

 A new decade and a sense of drive to achieve a few milestones that I have put to the back burner seem to be in order, this drive would be directed at carp predominately, especially once spring arrives. However, with the frosts reigning supreme at the moment with the high pressure systems currently overhead it was difficult to decide on what to do on Saturday, in the end I decided upon targeting a carp and if a bite materialised then I'd be happy.

 Rewind a week ago and conditions were quite a bit different, wet and squalled days seemed to follow one another with no end in sight. Rivers running over their banks for a few weeks in succession has affected numerous lakes that I may have targeted in order to avoid the swollen rivers. So with the added water in the table it limited my options furthermore, to a degree I contemplated giving the day' planned fishing a swerve entirely. Fortunately for me I know a river that tends to shift water through pretty quickly and with a break in the rain for the night a cunning plan was hatched.

 Having loaded up the car with carp gear the night before I spent fifteen emptying it, before packing limited gear which comprised of just the rod, net, mat and a few bits and bobs. My hasty approach to the outing meant I ended up forgetting a few bits that were needed but thankfully most of those weren't going to bite my backside. Just a half pint of maggots was packed and hoped for the very best. Roach were my initial quarry in the pacy glides and deeper depressions as this time of year the females will be looking to put a little extra weight on with April in sight in preparation for spawning.

 The idea certainly seemed perfect at the time, strangely this season has been one of whereabouts unknown. I usually have an uncanny knack of finding roach and good ones too, this last twelve months I have struggled. Not even small ones are showing in what is quite often very clear water. With my skill not really accounting for much the decision was made to keep walking downstream, to areas that tend to hold less silverfish, though sometimes bigger specimens can be found floating around in isolated groups.

 Roach wouldn't be my only target in these parts as small pods of chub seek refuge in the enormous amount of trees that line both banks, some of these trees have created the ideal habitat for chub. Sneaking out a chub on 5lb line straight through on a link ledger is hairy business, strangely, quite exciting too. A good few hundreds downstream proved fruitless still until I came across a swim a friend of mine had mentioned was holding a couple of chub, sizes unknown at the time it was always possible to hold something decent as the river is currently going through a perceived boom in chub weights.

 Twenty-six years on here and five pound fish were and to a degree, still are, rare. A six pound fish is utter poppycock. Well, until this season, five 4's and a 6 by Christmas certainly portrays a story of a river on the up, the question I ask myself is where were these fish? I don't recognise three of the 5's nor the 6lber and I keep an extensive album of chub and barbel caught from this particular river as it is very dear to me and how it over the years has repaid my faith in it to deliver special fish of all species that inhabit it.

 With a few chub now in my sights I stood and watched as I planned how I would target them, needless to say I've fished easier places.

 Having forgot my polaroids in the van I had to nick Brian' which made him blind to what I was watching. A few sprays of red maggots upstream soon got the chub feeding well and after inexplicably casting into the upstream tree twice a bunch of reds finally made it into the river and as I got my range correct with where the maggots would fall a chub cruised up to them and sucked them in, my 12ft float rod indicated a quick double tap and I struck....but nothing. I missed the bite and god only knows how. The chub on the other hand couldn't care less, the more maggots that went in the keener they seemed to be. The next drop in above the trees didn't disappoint!.

 A quick double tap yet again was met with a firm pull on the rod and the chub powered off downstream straight under the trees, my reactions had to be that of a cat, I shot down the bank and  thrust my rod tip under the surface and kept the tension on to try and prevent the fish from wedging me in the branches that were submerged on the outer edges of the trees. At one point the tip was just touching the bottom of the riverbed as I did my very best to keep the line running horizontally to prevent or avoid any contact with the trees. After a good strong tussle I slowly got the better of the chub and it slowly headed towards the net, a decent fish over the five pound mark slowly edged over the rim of the net and after a battle of whits my prize was won.

 Before I get to the photo I noticed when I hooked that chub that a few others spooked out and one of them was a real donkey, much bigger than the one I had landed. I knew at that point if I could get them feeding again I could catch something bigger still.

A fine winter chub, 5lb 4ozs. No:5 for the season here.
 Once the chub had been released downstream I got the maggots trickling in again and hoped to repeat the process. A few minutes passed as I stood watching the odd chub push up along the treeline to pick off maggots when I spotted what I believed to be the bigger chub that I witnessed just a few minutes previous, picking off maggots, darting from side to side and hoovering up what it could find.

 When chub are in that mood there is often a good chance of emptying a swim.

 I stopped feeding the maggots just so I could get mine out and flicked some more out to get the fish competing again now that my bait was in the mix, ten seconds or so ticked by and in a flash I could see a big fish move over my hook bait. In a split second the rod tip hooped down towards the surface and once again I was sent scrambling down the bank to prevent the chub doing me in the trees (no innuendo intended). Quick as I could the rod tip was way under the surface giving me every chance of success and little by little the chub was slowly coming upstream, not without a fight it has to be said. Powering off out into the main flow the main bulk of the battle was done here, as the whole fish was now visible which made me more nervous.

 A few more nervy moments came about ensued as the chub made a couple of last second dashes for the snags in the margins, thankfully for me, my trusty size 16 hook had held well, with the chub now plodding into the vicinity of the net I could now finally begin to relax, with a quick dip of the net she was mine!

 Cue the excitement and estimates of what this lump was going to achieve....I was going at rather a  conservative 5lb 12oz and Brian said over six pounds. Now its not hard to see why I'd not talk it up that far, knowing how rare they are, nevertheless when I hoisted her out of the water my estimate felt  quite a way off, built like a breeze block and probably the longest chub I've caught from the system it was threatening my 6lb 2oz specimen I caught just a few months back.

 On the digi's it went and a new river personal best, 6lb 3oz. A superb fish that on any river I'd be happy with, from this place? It was worth that of an 8lber off the Lea, Trent etc in terms of equal rareness, in some instances possibly even rarer. I can't stress how minuscule the chances ever were or are to catching such a fish here. Alas now it has happened twice for me and Brian once this season, I can only imagine they have hit a growth spurt among the shoal as they have located a rich food source, one that they hadn't previously, whether it be artificial or natural who knows. I am just chuffed to bits to witness them coming through and who knows what lyes in store for the next twelve months.

 Releasing such a fish to fight another day is always a fantastic feeling, lets just hope the revival does continue and that they remain in fine shape.

What a fine fish indeed.
 One more bite further downstream resulted in a smaller chub around 3lb 12oz to bring my tally to 3 for the day and for me that was just fine, a pukka day out and Brian got to witness her too, a fish that I hope will one day push the rivers limits beyond what it already has. What a start to 2020 and the new decade.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Picks of the Decade.

 Choosing candidates for this is pretty tough, so a few of these may not strike you as being particularly big for the species but in terms of its size relative to where it was caught it. Some of these places would surprise many anglers as to where the fish came from. Over the years I have been extremely lucky as to what I have managed to slip the net under, others have required the utmost skill and patience, often pushing me to the limit.

 Here are just a handful of fish from the 2010's and yes there are so many that some catches that mean a lot to me won't make this but I have to draw the line somewhere. Most of these are actually personal bests too.

This bream was my first double figure fish off a canal, since then I have been lucky enough to do it again, special fish and very special waters that certainly make you work for the rewards, a truly special fish for its environment.

Almost an entire days trotting culminated in coming away with one grayling, that one grayling weighed 2lb 11oz and still the fight gives me nightmares. The fear a big grayling puts in you when they turn broadside and power off downstream is quite something, you struggle to find words to describe it.

The river Cam is home to some special fish, this is one of them, March 13th, bitterly cold and bare footed holding one of the most awesome wild carp I'm ever likely to catch, 27lb 12oz, caught on rudd gear in the boat. Quite a fight indeed, Brian deserved a knighthood for getting that in a 22'' drennan landing net.

Having witnessed a 13lb 3oz zed to the boat the day before I had a burning desire to get back out. Less than 24 hours later I was posing with this incredible looking fish, again in the boat and with all light gone the take was so powerful the rod jolted to simply let me know it was time.

Not a personal best but my best lure caught pike off the mighty Wye, a Rapala X-Rap minnow was the savour to what was fairly tough fishing. A couple of shows just off some sunken trees indicated where the lure had to go, ten minutes later and a few casts she was in the net.

One of the best looking barbel I have ever caught, a comfortable double that fought so hard I had to rest afterwards. Just twenty feet wide and 2-3ft deep hardly seems the sort of place one would target barbel but it certainly doesn't bother them.

Two years on Newdigate with the sole purpose of catching one of the two big golden orfe had finally come to an end. 6lb 12oz of a brilliant looking fish, shame they fight so poorly but it can be forgiven. Ten trips after starting and a faithful buoyant maggot on the method feeder was the orfe' downfall.

Opening day on a sun swept Stour gave up a couple of its gems, this chub being the largest at 6lb 8ozs, there was a time I'd had two six pound chub ever, fishing the Avon/Stour that figure soon crept up quite nicely.

Canal rudd very rarely get up above 4oz and often are the bane of a surface anglers session, however this corker at 2lb 5oz certainly put a smile on my face, perfect in every way, just one day hope to follow that up with a 3lber from a canal, that would be something to rival any capture during a season. Especially off the somerset levels.

Enton....does that place need an introduction? such an awesome place but not as easy as anglers make out, many hours I spent on there in search of crucians and managed just a couple, my best here at 3lb 8oz, during all that time I didn't lose a single fish.

Possibly the shock of the decade, the river will remain nameless as I hope to one day cross paths with this incredible common once again. On my MARKIV split can rod and pin, freelined bread it really was the best way I could hope to catch such a carp, no name, wild and at 28lb 3oz she is my biggest common and river personal best, quite a fish. I still dream of that fight in my head at night after seeing the photos again.

Having literally stepped off a plane from Asia just six hours earlier this immaculate double figure barbel took a fancy to a trotted piece of meat, one of the prettiest specimens I've been lucky enough to catch, just over a foot of water, a tiny bush just hiding the front half, first cast...easy.

A snow carp? my only one of the 2010's and what a fight, 2.8lb bottom, 15ft float rod and pin, chub were the intended target. A double figure carp though certainly wasn't quaffed at.

Two hours and possibly six miles of marching the towpaths put me in touching distance of achieving an incredible feat, that being catching a cut carp. Over the last few years I devoted some considerable time to targeting canal carp with varying success. Carp however do not come better looking than that fish above, 19lb 9oz and possibly a lot older than I. 

My personal best carp and a fish known as the "ghostie leather", 35lb 8oz and on bream gear including 6lb line was not just the envy of myself, a few onlookers clearly appreciated its capture and after a couple of photos she went back like a trooper. Names and fish aren't my kind of thing, but this lake I'll make an exception to as it holds some iconic carp, this being one of them.

My first twenty pound pike (21lb 9oz) and thee prettiest I have caught, from a river too made this catch so much more impressive, I shook like a crapping dog for ages after I had landed her too, I was physically terrified! But not long after realised just how fantastic it was, simply superb.

Possibly the craziest catch from anywhere in 2010's, roach x bream hybrids are very rare throughout london and this was the first I'd caught since the late 1990's. Whilst stalking carp on a really cold morning I noticed a flash of silver under my feet as I walked along the towpath and realised this awesome/freaky creature was feeding on the weed clinging to the canal wall, a nice flake of bread soon captured its attention and forever opened my mind to the real possibilities these canals can produce. 5lb 1oz.

The last decade bore witness to some fantastic years after roach. My personal best of 2lb 15oz remained comfortably out in front but was joined by an additional 7 fish over the two pound barrier, all from Thames tributaries fishing a range of tactics. My favourite species and its not hard to see why.

My one and only dace of the decade that surpassed the 1lb barrier and fish that was immense, the images of this fish do not do it justice and have always found big dace difficult to convey in shots, however, at 8 drams over the pound mark I had numerous fish one winter over 14ozs, since then they have disappeared almost entirely.

When it comes to looks this towpath mirror has it all, black as your hat, a little battered as you'd expect a big wild carp to be, but also represented a personal best mirror off the canals at the time. 25lb 4oz and what was even better is I got to share the moment with my dad who was taken aback by its sheer size and the fight? of course it was of biblical proportions as it always is. Escape is the only plan.

I saved possibly the best barbel I'm ever likely to catch to last. First ever visit to the H.Avon and I decided to settle in the top swim on the pipes. Half an hour before dusk I popped out my 18mm pellet tipped with a grain of buoyant corn and just hoped for the best. As the light faded over the fields my tip slammed round and was locked into battle with a big fish but with no headtorch I couldn't tell what I had or how big it was. My mate Stuart made his way upstream to assist me with the weighing and photos. Having finally landed her she was resting in the net and could only make out a portion of the body, still not fully appreciating what I had just caught.

Once Stu had arrived with me I lifted the net out the river and then it hit me at what I'd just caught, she was a truly Hampshire Avon giant at 14lb 6oz and is still my personal best. The feeling of seeing that fish for the first time and holding her still plays back in my memories museum. 

What a first fish to catch off the most iconic of our rivers. Luck and skill in perfect balance and the reward was much greater than I could ever have hoped for.

 What are your favourite memories from the last decade of angling? feel free to pop a comment in the box. I am intrigued to hear your stories.

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...