Sunday, 21 May 2017

Mr Blue Sky and who's Mr nice guy?

As expected May (the month, not the evil politician), has provided few fishy opportunities but I managed a couple of short sessions.  The first was more of a reccee than anything but I managed a solitary Roach.  This was the first visit of the year to a new favourite summer Tench haunt.  A second trip a few days later saw a couple of Rudd hook themselves on fake corn but I was on the water at the right time to photograph a well deserved PB Tench for a fellow blogger.  A beautiful big fish that provided a much needed confidence boost on a tricky water.

Saturday was a father and son day which meant ten pin bowling in the morning, a typical American game, all brute force and ignorance but I’d forgotten how much fun it is.  Neither of us are any good but that wasn’t the point, we had a good laugh and that was the only thing that mattered.  Back home for cow pie ‘Desperate Dan’ style then Isaac disappeared into his room while I spent the early afternoon sorting a few bits and pieces out for part two of the day. It's a bit of a drive to this water and as we raced along Isaac's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' soundtrack was playing.  We both sang our hearts out to "Mr Blue Sky" and the heavens responded in kind.

By 1630 I was rowing a laden punt into a weedy corner, the fresh south westerly wind made this a good work out and it took two goes before I was where I wanted to be.  A few balls of an Expo mix, laced with maggots and corn, were plopped out in front of us and we commenced fishing.  Isaac used maggots on a whip while I used a waggler with a grain of corn on a size 16.  After a showery day the evening was clear and bright but the wind meant a jacket was required.  Nothing happened to begin with so I had time to set up a second rod baited with fake corn and a 10mm tutti.  This was dropped into another clear patch and the area fed with half a dozen pouches of mixed pellets.  The baitrunner on the ancient Shimano would alert me to any interest while I concentrated on the float rod.

The session began slowly; Isaac had a little trouble controlling the whip in the wind to begin with but soon got the hang of it.  After half an hour or so fish began topping in our swim and soon after Isaac started getting bites.  At first they were intermittent but these became more frequent and he swung a succession of Rudd into the punt.  On my side things were much slower but the one Rudd to suck in my corn was bigger than most of Isaac’s.  Time passed, fishing for Tench from a punt on a late spring evening sounds idyllic and it almost was, except for the wind and the lack of Tench.  As usual we saw loads of water fowl, Cuckoos provided a soundtrack and a Marsh Harrier hunting the fields was the avian highlight of the evening.

An hour and a half into the trip and Isaac’s catch rate on maggots had slowed but mine on corn had increased considerably and what’s more my fish averaged 6ozs or so while Isaac was catching all sizes.  The swim was alive with fish rolling and topping and I hoped all this fishy activity would draw larger, more interesting species into the area.  This may have happened given more time but all too soon ours was up and I was rowing back to the boat yard.


Elsewhere in my fishy world it seems ‘Pike & Predators’ magazine will be folding this summer.  An announcement appeared on Facebook which disappeared very soon after but there has been nothing since that contradicts this.  The late James Holgate was the man behind this magazine which grew out of the ashes of ‘Pike Fisherman’ which only lasted for a year or so.  In the early days both these magazines were inspirational and it’s fair to say they played a major part in the rise of boat fishing and the realisation that lure fishing really was a serious method of catching Pike in the UK.  I only met James on a couple of occasions and he seemed a quiet, shy but thoroughly pleasant kind of bloke.

After James untimely death Neville Fickling took on the role of editor and after a dodgy start he done a decent job.  James Holgate managed to resist the blatant commercialism present in almost all angling magazines, but when he had gone this quickly took hold to the detriment of the mag.  In my opinion the content was a right ol’ mixture of very good, totally indifferent and utter shite.  Most months the best articles were those penned by the editor himself and it was Neville’s words that were read first and usually read again.

Unfortunately in the latest ‘Predatorial’ Neville has let himself down by penning a character assassination of another well known Pike angler with whom the editor has an axe to grind.  The angler on the receiving end is not named but referred to as ‘Ernie’.  Very few people really know the truth behind the stories featured, including Neville himself and this alone makes publication unfair at best and cowardly at worst.  I know both Neville and ‘Ernie’ a little and find them both to be pleasant, likeable people so I find this one sided war of words unsettling but its giving the little world of UK Pike fishing something to talk about through the summer months.  I think this piece would not have been published if there was any future for ‘P&P’ magazine.


In terms of decent angling magazines there is now only one Pike fishing publication available now and ‘Pikelines’ magazine has been the absolute best since Stephen Harper took on the role of editor.  This is quarterly and available free to members of the Pike Anglers Club.  ‘Catch Cult’ magazine is head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to an all round fishing mag and issue two should be available to order later this week.  This latest edition features an untold story of a capture of the infamous ‘Black Mirror’, possibly the most iconic Carp ever to swim in British waters.  Anyone interested in either magazine will find links on the right hand side of the page. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Stubborn

Everyone knows where the fish are, there’s absolutely no secret there and there’s room for a few anglers in the area too.  Two things get in the way though; complete stubbornness and the desire for solitude, could I overcome this?  I got as far as meeting Kevin at the ‘hotspot’, when I say meet I actually reversed into his car but no harm done to either!  To make amends I helped him carry his gear to his chosen swim, the stretch looked nice but not as nice…  Roach were topping as we stood chatting but still I just didn’t get a feel for it.  I went to my preferred area, will some big fish move in like they did last year?  One good one would justify my decision.  I blanked, Kev caught a net full.  Things are different this spring; the water is lower and clearer, the weather has been dry and cool too.  I shouldn’t expect the fish to behave the same way.  Sometimes being a stubborn angler is good because I don’t give up, the game isn’t over until I win.  Sometimes it makes me too slow to adapt. 


Still it’s been an enjoyable month chucking feeders, watching quiver tips and learning a little more about a species I’ve neglected for years.  Just the one photo worthy fish this spring, shame I was too disorganised to get the camera out.  In truth I assumed there’d be others.  Now I reach the time of year when my fishing gets frustrated, I want to be making plans for some spring Tench fishing but other aspects of life have to take priority.  My calendar is full for the next five weeks so any fishing will just be a few hours here and there for who knows what?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Moody

The Roach fishing seemed to have peaked early this spring, some speculated the fish had spawned and moved away early this year, certainly my two most recent trips seemed to endorse this.  The first saw just a couple of twitchy missed bites at dusk and the second a total blank.  The following day I still had the car loaded but as the work day wound down I still hadn’t decided whether to bother or just go home.  The weather was hardly encouraging, dry and bright but the North easterly wind was keeping things cool.  Should I turn right at the gate and head for home or should I turn left and fish? 

Half an hour later I had two rods out in a sheltered swim, surrounded by tall trees.  As fishing for Roach was obviously hopeless I decided to change things, instead of identical rigs fishing the same area I decided to drop one in close and bait it with corn.  Before the splash of the feeder subsided I chucked two handfuls of corn on top and another two of maggots, then I left it to its own devices.  Ever the optimist I had Tench in mind on that one.  As usual the other was dropped down the shelf, baited with maggots and recast every ten minutes or so.

Once settled down with a brew I felt content.  In all likelihood a blank was on the cards but I was in a lovely spot watching Grebes, Mallards, Tufties and a Swan.  There was plenty of birdsong coming from the newly greening trees, Blackbirds, Green Woodpeckers and a Pheasant squawked away to the North.  When all is said and done this is a pretty good place to unwind on a spring evening, even if the wind did mean the heavy coat was required.   However if tonight is another total blank should I reconsider my future plans?
1930, an hour has gone.  The pheasant is still noisy, Pigeons and Crows have joined the chorus but there are still no fishy signs in the swim.  A week ago this wouldn’t have bothered me, it’s still early in the session but now the doubts creep in.  This is a moody water, stuffed with fish of all species but they are highly nomadic and this is one of those times when you wonder if you are within a mile of one.

2000, the wind has dropped briefly and the swim is calm, revealing nothing.  A week ago I started getting unhittable rattles about now but not yesterday and I’ll be surprised if it happens tonight.  2010, A faint but definite rattle on the tip!  I’m all attention now…  A couple of minutes later I wind in maggots that look untouched…  Was it a liner?  My optimistic side wonders if a nice Tench has brushed the line on its way to my baited spot in the margin.  Another prolonged gust of wind makes me glad the Catch Cult hat is pulled down tight over my lugs…  Was that another rattle?!  If so I’m too late again, sure enough the maggots have been chewed!  Its growing dark now and I untangle the head torch, there’s a splash under the tree near my margin rod, was it fowl or fish?  Shortly after the recast the tip thumps round and it’s unmissable!  But I missed it… this has happened a few times this spring. 


By 2025 the bats are out, my hands are cold and I’m hungry. I’ve run out of groundbait and it’s not really worth making more so I start tidying up.  It would be nice to end on a tale of a big fish against the odds but I finished with the blank I expected.  If I’d been a bit more positive I’d have probably fished better but at least tonight brings a bit of hope.  There are still fish around, I should have known better as it was hit and miss last year.  I just have to stick to my guns and keep going whenever I can, there’s still a chance this spring.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Good Evenings

By the time the Pike fishing season finishes I’ve usually pushed my luck with the family as far as it will go and actually feel like a rest from early mornings and physical fishing.  However I still need to get my fishing fix so what I really need right now is some interesting (that word again) short session fishing.  Luckily a year ago I stumbled, almost by accident, onto some good Roach fishing so right now this fits the bill nicely.  Once upon a time I would have laughed at the thought of finding myself fishing for Roach but apart from being interesting (!) it ticks the other boxes too.  The water in question is quiet and beautiful, the fish grow big.

As I get older I realise the benefits of keeping an angling diary too, I was able to go back a year and remind myself exactly how I went about it from location to groundbait mix to hook size.  This time I felt confident enough to tweak things a little.  Open end feeders, helicopter rigs and short hooklengths, my set ups would still make a proper Roach angler weep but I’ve gone a little lighter all round without breaking my philosophy of not wanting to get a bite if I can’t actually land the fish.


Since the Pike rods went to the back of the shed I’ve fished three times, all short evening sessions covering the last couple of hours of daylight and the first hour of dark.  Already a pattern has formed, during the early period it seems as if there isn’t a fish within a mile of my baits but this gives me an opportunity to soak up the sights and sounds of the birdlife which is constant.  When this subsides at dusk the silence is stark and the flight replaced by bats.  I recast regularly to keep the feed going in and half an hour before the bats come out the Roach switch on.  This also coincides with the dropping temperature requiring warm head gear in the form of my new ‘Catch Cult’ hat.  Of course it could just mean that the new hat is a lucky one.  So far I’ve caught a few Roach and missed a few too, only one required the scales and if I’d have been a bit more organised I should have used the camera too.  To be honest I’d have settled for this but I’ll be back soon, hoping for more and bigger!
Talking of 'Catch Cult' the new magazine has been very well received and actually sold out!  Well done Rob and Martin, roll on issue 2!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Friends.

Once the New year turns the Pike season disappears at an alarming rate and all too soon its mid March.  There was no time to get back to Norfolk before the river season ended but I did manage to fit in a couple of social trips on stillwaters in the days that followed.

The first of these saw four of us sharing two boats on a dull, breezy day.  I teamed up with Giles which was nice because despite socialising often our fishing paths haven’t crossed for a while.  In the other boat was a particularly motley crew consisting of Rich and Jason.  Our venue hadn’t been on the regular radar for a long time and there was much to learn again.

Both boats began in the same area and kept mobile, Giles had a fish early on and I missed one.  In the other boat Jason and Rich reported similar.  The fish didn’t seem to be where we thought they might be so we split up and went looking.  Plan B brought a Jack for me but this was the only reward for a lot of searching.  We crossed paths with the other boat and after the mutual hurling of abuse ritual we learnt they too had only had one each.

In the early afternoon we finally found a group of fish in an area which surprised us.  Things started to happen, Giles managed a succession of fish to double figures and finally I had another that might have scraped.  For a while it was exciting fishing as every cast was made with confidence but after a while it seemed we’d caught all that were willing to feed and it was time to move on.
Back at the car park we compared notes, our boat had the bragging rights, thanks mostly to Giles but things could have been different if not for the one that got away…


A few days later I was in a boat with Rich on another away day.  I was knackered and Rich was ill so we couldn’t be arsed to get up for the crack of dawn and only had the boat away by 0800.  It was another good Pike fishing day, mostly cloudy, brighter at times and with a good westerly blow.  With this in mind and with no clue as to where to find Pike we decided to troll on the oars, with the wind, until we found some Pike.  This took about half an hour before three quick takes saw Rich with a fish and me lose one.  We’d found some Pike so dropped the weights and started fishing with lures and deadbaits.

We were on fish and Rich was soon in again boating two fish to low doubles.  I also had two takes but managed to bugger one up and the other was dropped.  Then it went quiet so we began moving and searching.  The first spot brought no reward, was it going to be one of those days?  Surely I can’t end the season with a blank?  Thankfully I managed to get off the mark with a nice fish on deadbait in the next swim and unfortunately it was Rich’s turn to drop one.
After that things kind of clicked, every move brought a fish or two, mostly on deadbaits but a couple took lures and as the afternoon lengthened we got a couple of fish that required the scales and camera too.  We trolled back and Rich caught the final fish of the day bringing the scores level with a total weight well into three figures. 


This Pike season has passed too quickly, I don’t want it to end which is a sure sign that I’ve enjoyed myself.  Despite some seriously hard fishing at times I’ve still managed to catch plenty of Pike from different types of water.  There have been several big ones but a proper lump at the back end eluded me, there’s always next year.  I shared boats with nine different partners this season, which must be a record for this anti social git?  Sadly there were a couple of friends I didn't fit into the hectic schedule but we'll put that right next year.  After nearly four decades I enjoy Pike fishing as much now as I ever have and as I get older I appreciate the whole thing more.  I have an affliction, maybe an obsession at times but definitely an addiction.  I’m very glad to have it and there's no harm in sharing it.



I know many people share my addiction or hits of their own and angling bloggers are lovers of real angling writing, which is exactly what you will find in ‘Catch Cult’ magazine.  Catch Cult has been put together by friends Rob Shallcroft and Martin Mumby, two people with a passion for real angling.  The website is up and running you can order a copy here;



Please watch the trailer below it's brilliant.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

It is what it is

I was all set for what should be my last trip to the special place, but I managed to right off my car...  My fault, no one hurt.  Thankfully I had my priorities and with help from a good friend I made it to the boat yard, hitching a lift with Rich, top bloke!

It was raining when we got there but this had cleared by the time we set off.  After that it was glorious and a pleasure to be out for a day, a night and a day.  Conditions were pretty good too, if we can find some...

 Perfect setting to soothe the soul and get the shit out of my head.  Things could have been worse...


 Small victories




Another tough season comes to an end.  It is what it is, there's still nowhere else I'd rather spend my time.


I don't think I have any photos of my boat from the outside, apart from this one.  It's scruffy but I love it!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Inspirations?

My friend Rich is a keen summer carper and has lent me a few carpy books over the years.  In particular Dave Lane's two books are as good as anecdotal writing gets.  An old favourite of mine is Rod Hutchinson's "The Carp strikes back" which surely was an inspiration to a teenage carper and once again features superb anecdotal writing.  It is said that Rod isn't in the.. "best of health" these days and his last book was published in 2010.  This book is called "Carp Inspirations" and Rich recommended a chapter on weather conditions, so with a diminished reading pile at the time I ended up reading the whole thing.

The book is not Rod's usual brutally honest "fishing stories..." type of thing but more of a technical piece about how he goes about his fishing after a lifetime of experience.  The title comes from the guest chapters throughout the book which are written by anglers who have inspired Rod to chase Carp all over the globe.

The book opens with a great chapter by Walker's cohort Maurice Ingham and followed by another member of the Carp catchers club.; Fred J. Taylor.  Both are really interesting covering the early days of specialist carp fishing.  This is followed by Jim Gibbinson talking about his pioneering winter fishing and this is another really good chapter by another author who inspired me as a youngster.  Fred Wilton's original articles on his high protein bait theories are really good too, I'd never read these before.  I bet he didn't have a scooby doo how lucrative his ideas would be for others.

A little deeper into the book, Lee Jackson writes about plastic baits and although I know they work I can't get my head around Lee's take on why.  Len Middleton's original article about 'the Hair rig' is reproduced and this was another i'd missed first time around.  Alan Smith writes a sensible chapter about weed fishing, good commonsense stuff.

Towards the end there is a chapter on Carp leaping by Albert Romp which didn't convince me and there are two chapters by old school angler Brian Mills.  The first is about the neglected art of float fishing for big carp, something I know works but definitely don't do enough.  The next is about weather conditions and is the reason for Rich lending me the book.  It's pretty good and makes sense to me and sits alongside pieces written by Barrie Rickards.

Obviously Rod Hutchinson himself writes his share and his chapters cover just about everything you'd expect in a book on carp fishing.  Rod's use of particle baits was groundbreaking at the time and he was one of the first players in the bait trade.  All told there was a bit too much about bait for my liking, all the theorising and experimenting was great at the time but now we just have to pick up a bag.  There was loads of good sense though, Rod can break through the bullshit of carp fishing and simplify things.  The theme throughout is a little bit more thought and going against the grain will catch you more fish.  this applies to all types of angling at times.   Rod Hutchinson is much better at telling stories than writing a 'how to' types of books and it does get a bit jumbled at times.  For an occasional carp angler this book was OK but not great.


Talking of fishy writing I got my hands on a 'Special edition' of the forthcoming "CATCH CULT" magazine.  Why me?  Because I've written something for the mag and I'm really proud to see it in there.  Don't let that put you off though, there are excellent articles covering the whole specialist angling scene (even carp), my favourites being Richard Wesley's article on Perch fishing and Danny Taylor's brilliant story of a night of urban Eel fishing.  Theo's pitch is a great diary piece from an experienced and successful angler and lookout for Mr Crabmeat, a future Icon in the making.  CATCH CULT is different to the advert driven crap fishing mags we have to put with, it looks and feels different too.  Well done to Rob Shallcroft and Martin Mumby for pulling it together and good luck!  More details about CATCH CULT to come...
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Fishing...  I  found myself with a couple of days to spare and couldn't resist the pull of the marshy wilderness, for once the weather was mild and dry too.  Actually with decent westerly winds it was pretty good fishing conditions.  Things didn't go to plan, when do they?  It didn't matter though, I had a fantastic time in my comfortable boat, floating around the most glorious place in the east.  The fish made me work hard but this always makes it sweeter in the end.  Life will allow me one more visit before the season ends and I can't wait to get back.