Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Times like this

It’s become a cliché in our little world of angling but there really is much more to fishing than catching fish.  Mr T is one of my oldest friends and unusual in as much as our friendship began in pubs and clubs rather than the riverbank.  Still Mr T is an angler but spends his time hurling leads into the North Sea in the hope of catching something he can eat.  We have fished together before but it had been far too long… 

We’d pencilled in a bit of lure chucking once the weather had started to cool and now was the time.  We met at 1600 and drove through concrete suburbia straining with the start of rush hour.  Half an hour later, concrete roads turned to gravel tracks, Mr T opened the gate on my rural oasis and was totally wowed by the scene in front of him.  This beautiful little spot does take people by surprise and I hope I don’t take it for granted.

With a boat loaded I rowed us down the stretch with Mr T trolling a shallow diving Rapala out the back.  The sky was clear and bright but the wind was a fresh Easterly which gave me a bit of a workout as I pulled on the oars.  I expected a take at any time and this feeling only heightened as we passed into deeper water but still no fish showed their presence.  I kept rowing and Mr T kept guiding his lure, by now we were in the area I’d found fish at this time last year, they didn’t appear to be around now.  We continued a bit further until we reached shallow water where I dropped a mudweight and made a brew.  Time for a rethink?  As we sat sipping a Kestrel hovered to the east and Curlew pipped as they flew over to the farmland to the west.

With hot tea inside us we changed to casting lures from the drifting boat, this was always part of my plan but I’d banked on Mr T catching a fish by now, this was still my only goal for the session.  I rowed upwind and allowed the wind to take us, Mr T continued with the Rapala while I fished a ‘real eel’ high up above the weed beds.  Every now and then I’d row us back upwind a way then recommence drifting and casting but still nothing pulled back.  I switched to a Shad and on this I felt a fishy pull but didn’t hook up, this was repeated shortly afterwards and Mr T had something swirl at his lure but we were still fishless.

Time passed and the sun began to sink making the sky a constantly changing canvas of colours.  We chatted and laughed, it really wouldn’t matter if we caught but I was still trying hard.  By now I’d switched to a Slider and it was this lure that finally done the business, I felt a sharp tug and managed to set the hook this time.  The fish was small and soon alongside the boat where it released itself when I grabbed the trace.  Job done?  No, I wanted Mr T to catch! 

I rowed us back upwind and we drifted through the successful area again.  There was a splash and swirl, Yes Mr T hooked up!  I barked instructions but I didn’t have to, Mr T knew what he was doing.  I didn’t want any mistakes here so scooped the fish up in the net at the first opportunity causing a cheer from us both and high fives.  We laughed and grinned and I think I was probably the most excited of the pair of us.  Back upwind again and on the next pass through the productive area we both moved fish but both failed to hook up.  We fished on, gradually working our way back to the slip with the light now fading fast.  By the time we made it back to base it was properly dark, we laughed at my inept attempts to position the boat in a fresh cross wind but eventually got everything sorted.

As we drove through tight country lanes we had to slow down for sprinting Partridges and wait while two Deer crossed the road.  Sights an angler takes for granted but lovely all the same.  We found a quiet pub just off the main road and treated ourselves to a well earned pint.  The conversation continued, as ever veering from quite deep to very shallow with everything in between.  The setting was relaxed, the company couldn’t be bettered, we both agreed that we felt like settling in for the evening.  It was just as well I had my car outside, our drinking history is a long messy one and we are both too old for those kinds of shenanigans now.  We made our drinks last in an attempt to prolong what had been a wonderful evening but eventually had to drag ourselves home.   Modern life puts value on piles of wealth and fancy possessions, this is bollocks.  The most valuable commodities are love, family, friendships and time.  I know I repeat myself but times like this are priceless.

Sunday, 1 September 2019


I made a trip to Norfolk in mid August.  We had to drop some supplies off at Maddie’s new house in Norwich so the two of us set off north with a little space left in the car for a bit of a fishing expedition.  The house looks good, solid and spacious.  After we’d finished here we head east to Broadland.  At the staithe everything was ship shape, after draining and shifting the boat my next job was to affix my new engine.  The old Mariner had died, long live the new Mariner.  With the boat on the water and loaded, the engine started easily so Maddie and I set off out of the dyke.

Not far into the broad I realised I’d forgotten to top up the petrol so putted over to a sheltered area where I cut the engine and filled up.  Re-starting was not straight forward but after resting for a bit I got it to fire. 

We crossed the Broad and away, the engine pushes the boat nicely and increasing the revs doesn’t seem to make it much faster.  A slow meander down, checking out spots for later in the year then we settled into my favourite spot just inside a big bay.  Straight away it was obvious that there was much more weed here this year and the weed is growing in areas where it’s usually clear.  There was enough clear water to fish two swimfeeders on heli rigs with short hooklengths and maggots as bait.  Bites came from the off but they were hard to hit.  Eventually we connected with a few and brought a procession of Rudd to the boat.  An hour here was enough, it didn’t look right for Bream in this spot.  The engine restarted fine, I think I’m getting the hang of it.

The day was mostly cloudy with a moderate north westerly wind, as we motored back towards the staithe I pondered a second fishing spot and ended up in a spot I’ve rarely fished before.  Once again bites came quickly but this time we hooked Bream, not big ones but definitely the species I was after.  We packed up when we ran out of groundbait , in ideal circumstances I would have liked to have fished for longer with Bream located but all good.

I had a couple of futile trips down into the Valley, searching for the impossible Carp.  The first time I fished from the bank as the wind was howling.  For some bizarre reason I took a feeder rod and some corn, after constant bites and a couple of Rudd I became bored.  The Carp rods did nothing to brighten my day either, the cricket on the radio didn't help much.  A few days later I went back again and as I’d put a bit of bait into my swim on the previous trip I returned.  Would some Carp or Tench be mooching around?  No.

The final weekend of August, I decided to head back to Norfolk for a crack at the Bream, my nephew Ollie fancied a day out too.  We left mid morning and had the most infuriating journey.  I realised I needed petrol and my slight detour to the garage went a bit awry and I ended up driving on roads I’d never been on before.  We eventually made it back to the A road but things only got worse.  Only in Norfolk would they close one of the county’s main roads but NOT mark out a diversion route.  More miles on unridden roads.  We made it to the staithe about an hour later than planned.

We loaded and launched on a bright breezy afternoon and left the dyke with a plan.  I’d located Bream a couple of weeks previously so it was to this area I headed, this journey was hampered by blind sailors charging us.  When we emerged from the plastic armada Sod’s law intervened again.  A large holiday cruiser had dropped weights in the exact spot I wanted to fish.  No matter, I turned around and headed to another spot I usually catch Bream, this was vacant if a bit exposed.  We quickly set up a feeder rod each and began pinging them into the channel.  Bites came quickly and regularly to begin with and we caught a few Roach each but after an hour bites had slowed and no Bream had shown.  A larger cruiser came past us and it looked like the one which had been in our way so we tidied up and moved.

Half an hour later we were fishing again and I was full of confidence, there were loads of Bream here last time!  First cast my tip pulled round and I struck into what could only be a Bream, heavy and plodding as I slowly drew it towards me.  Unfortunately the fish became weeded and dropped off, no worries, there’ll be more.  We put a load of bait out and continued fishing but bites were slow and tricky, the few we connected with were Roach or Perch.  Time passed and the fishing didn’t improve but we drank cool beer and enjoyed the broad, celebrating that Town were still top of the league and England were still in the Ashes.  The afternoon turned to evening and the sky clouded over, it even spat a bit of rain at us.  With lower light levels I felt more confident and at last we started to hook Bream, at least Ollie did.  I netted three for him but my rod was still just producing the odd Roach.  Then with a series of swirls and bow waves an Otter crashed through our swim and the bites all but stopped.

We got off the water with the falling light and headed for home, better prepared for the quirks of Norfolk’s Highway department.  It had been a poor day in a fishing sense but a very enjoyable social day out.

So that has been summer.  The settings may have been secluded and beautiful but it has to be said the fishing has been rubbish.  I really should concede that I don’t have enough time to put in the required effort to properly tackle the Valley.  The way my fishing time falls I really would be better off fishing more prolific waters but I’ll almost certainly have one more go next year.

Friday, 9 August 2019

No cigar

By 1700 I was anchored up fishing three rods; a mid water pop up was cast upstream out of the way, I'd dropped a PVA bag rig beneath a gnarly old overhang and swung a chod rig into clearer water midstream.  Before setting up I'd paddled about a bit, the water was more coloured than before, some kind of algal bloom?  I didn't spot any fish so my chosen swim was random, one of those spots that just looks right.

I hadn't fished for a month!  Last time I had time it was just too fucking hot to go outside.  Today was better, a nice comfortably warm afternoon with a bit of cloud and a light north easterly breeze.  I settled back with TMS on the radio, England were in a proper scrap with Australia, the last time I fished I had listened to South Africa beat the Aussies in the world cup.  Another defeat for the sand-paperers  would go down well.

Once again I was fishing blind, just hoping something would pass by and find my bait.  Meanwhile there was a piping sound and two Curlew flew over quickly, I can't remember seeing them here before?  A Sparrowhawk was active, using the treeline as cover, the calm water was alive with insects and a million Rudd disturbed the surface, as far as the eye could see.  A few bubbles broke the surface, anything could have caused them but they give an angler hope.  The cricket was concerning, the Aussies were fighting back...

After two hours on the spot I was getting restless.  Although I had seen some interesting patches of bubbles I suspected these were caused by Pike launching themselves to strike at the shoals of Rudd.  I had itchy feet and no great confidence in what I was doing, after a month away from the water I decided that spending a bit of time paddling around and checking things out would be time well spent.  So this I did and found two or three areas that looked like the species I'm after might have visited them at some point recently but I caught no sight of the fish themselves.

Around 1945 I anchored up again and set to work getting the rods out.  This swim is one in which I've seen Carp before at least.  I decided to chill out here till the sun goes down, I was fishing so I was in with a chance.  The problem I have here is always the same, finding the fucking things!  And when I'm in the punt I wish I was on the bank; when I'm on the bank I wish...  

Half an hour later it seemed I may have some luck at long last, there had been some explosive patches of bubbles that could only have been caused by large bottom dwelling fish moving or feeding.  There was no evidence to suggest 'Pike' this time.  Yes!  A few minutes later a Carp stuck it's back out, I'm in with a chance.

The light faded slowly, a Buzzard flew upstream in silhouette, more patches of bubbles broke surface and I just had a feeling there were fish about.  I've got the hang of arranging the punt after all the practice of the last couple of years so I can keep movement to a minimum and I was screened against the tree behind me.

At 2045 I saw a bow wave coming downstream towards me and before I had time to wonder, a bastard Otter poked it's ugly head out.  It swam to within a rod length of the punt before stopping abruptly and hissing at me.  "No I'm fishing here, you can fuck off".  That wasn't a translation, I said it out loud.  The wasteful murderer dived and sped in an arc through the swim sending up clouds of bubbles that were far more impressive than any the fish had produced.  

Well that's fucked things hasn't it?  There's no sight that dents my confidence more but I remember two occasions when an otter through the swim had been precursor to me catching a Carp.  And sure enough there were more bubbles over the next few minutes and another large fish rolled.  I'm still in with a chance.

Around 2100 there was a strange clicking sound and fuck me it's a baitrunner, the mid water bait was moving.  I made contact with something that felt small to begin but actually heavier as I got it closer.  For some reason I thought 'Pike' though I can't put my finger on why.  Before I'd got to the 'where's the net' point the line went slack, I wound in to find the 10lbs hooklength had parted but not near the hook where I'd have expected it.  Pike?  I'll never know.

I had the feeling I'd disturbed the swim terminally but fished on for half an hour with just the two rods.  I didn't see anything, not even a bastard Otter.  I chucked a few handfuls of boilies into the swim before leaving. 

Twenty four hours later I was back at the lake.  As this was the closest I'd been to a fish here for over a year it made sense to get back as soon as possible and predictably I set up in the same spot again.  If anything the conditions were better tonight; more cloud cover and more strength in the Easterly wind.  I was set up by 1730 using the same tactics as previously, I felt happy with where my baits were sitting and was confident in what I was doing.  If fish visited this area again I felt I was in with a chance  Unfortunately I felt less confident about England's position in the test match.

The evening passed pleasantly but uneventfully.  I saw far less signs of fish than the previous day although there were still regular patches of bubbles nothing substantial rolled within sight.  After a while the evening began to feet different too, something inside me knew it wasn't going to happen.  At 2030 light rain rolled in, I was unprepared for this but stuck it out for another half hour before chucking it in.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Early Summer

Fishing lately has been more of the same.  This consists of going out in the punt and slowly paddling around trying to see signs of fish and usually failing.  I say usually when I could accurately say always, apart from the occasional area of coloured water and patches of bubble and fizz that could be caused by almost anything.  Sometimes I wonder if the multitudes of swan mussels are in league and are trying to confuse me?  Blanking does that to the mind…

A couple of recent trips broke the mould a little.  On the first a couple of weeks ago now, Isaac joined me for a morning in the punt.  I rowed down the stretch while Isaac held a lure rod and trolled his trusty Rapala ‘Angry Bird’.  We hadn’t gone far before the rod was thumped over and he was doing battle with a spirited Jack.  Once I’d reached over and got hold of the trace the fish shook itself off and we set off again.  We fished towards the bottom of the stretch and caught Rudd from the off whilst sitting in the sun and listening to Eoin Morgan smashing the Afghan bowlers all over Manchester.  Catching silvers was so easy we actually switched hookbaits to fake maggots to save having to change so often and made a game of it.  We closed our eyes, dropped our baits in then counted to three before lifting the rod.  We hooked fish on at least a third of occasions.  After a couple of hours we’d had enough so rowed back with Isaac trolling again.  I stopped in a couple of places to put a bit of prebait in and on one occasion Isaac’s lure was smashed as we moved off but this time the fish didn’t stay hooked.  No matter, it had been a lovely morning.

More recently I had a frustrating day and an unusually stressful afternoon before I finally made it to the lake, by which time the first rain in a fortnight was falling.  I’d already decided to forego the punt and fish from the bank for a change, indeed I had a swim in mind, one I’d been dropping a bit of bait into from time to time…  Conditions and time constraints meant looking for fish wasn’t really an option today but I settled into my swim with a little confidence, knowing it had been baited in the recent past.  Unfortunately by this time the long grass had soaked my lower half.

Once in the swim the Oval went up first to shelter me from the strengthening rain, the forecast had said ‘light showers’, it was very wrong.  By 1730 I had three rods out sitting pretty on my pod.  I swung a pop up on a chod rig to my left and chucked a few boilies around it.  Cast a dreaded ‘Zig rig’ into the middle to intercept any cruising fish, well that was the theory…  The third rod was a solid bag full of pellets and crushed boilies with a snowman rig stuffed inside.  This was swung to an overhanging tree on my right. 

After that I did nothing but sit back in my chair sipping tea and sheltering from the now heavy rain while listening to the cricket on TMS.  First up India easily defeated Sri Lanka to take them to the top of the group, for a few hours at least?  The second match was much better, South Africa set a good target and in reply Australia were struggling.  If they failed to win then India would stay top and the Aussies would face England in the Semi final.  The rain settled in and it became one of those English days when you feel like you’ll never see the sun again.  Occasionally the precipitation would ease enough for me to emerge from the shelter and scan the water but I saw nothing to get me excited.  Meanwhile the Aussies had started to make a hell of a fight of snatching a win against the odds.  Eventually scoreboard pressure prevailed and South Africa hung on to win. 

At around 2100 the rain finally cleared out for good and I was able to enjoy the last hour of the day in a little more comfort.  Unfortunately it passed without incident but at least the whirl of thoughts that had churned in my brain had ceased and I felt my usual calm self once more.

Friday, 7 June 2019

May (not Theresa)

After another session in early May spent sitting behind a rod pod, catching bugger all and seeing nothing of note, I fancied a change.  With so much water unfishable from the bank the only sensible option is to take to the punt and go looking.  So this is what I have been doing for the last few trips, spending at least an hour mooching around trying to find a sign but it hasn’t brought a change in fortunes.  Last year I managed to spot both Tench and Carp, even if I didn’t manage to catch them but so far this season I’ve seen bugger in the way of clues.  I’ve also gone through the ordeal of making the same mistakes; i.e. I really should remember that traditional groundbait attracts every silver fish for miles.  I like float fishing but it’s impossible to keep a bait in the water, even fake corn gets battered and the float is moving constantly.  If a proper fish took my bait I might not even know the difference.  I did feel the difference when a decent Pike grabbed a Rudd and swam past the boat and away taking my size 14 with it.

The way to approach the fishing would be to use the punt to drop baits into the holes in the weed, top up with a bit of bait then carefully row away, tie up quietly then sit it out.  That is fine in theory but in practice any kind of crosswind makes this much more difficult than it should be!  However with a bit of practice this method of presentation is manageable but it still hasn’t worked for me.

On a recent trip Isaac joined me; I didn’t intend to put a boilie rod out but brought it along just in case.  We spent a pleasant couple of hours messing about in a boat, which gave me a chance to look for any fish that weren’t scattered by the commotion of Isaac’s rowing.  We stopped for a while and fished with floats and corn.  We caught a few Rudd and had a few laughs then moved off again.  The water was crystal and we saw thousands of Rudd but still no sign of Tench or Carp.  No worries, being lost in the East Anglian countryside has other benefits, the Cuckoo has been vocal and visible for a few weeks now and all the usual wilderness residents have been putting in an appearance.  Isaac and I spotted a Bittern last time out. 

By the time I fish again I expect the fish will have spawned and the chance of a real BIG Tench will have passed for another year but you never know...

Sunday, 28 April 2019


I've had two attempts to catch Tench this spring and I've been met with two days of horrible weather.  The first time it was a raging easterly and the second a howling westerly with stinging rain at times.  In theory this can be good fishing weather at this time of year but on this particular water location which is usually difficult at the best of times, becomes near impossible.  In short I was forced to chuck it and chance it then shelter beneath the oval.  In between, when I couldn't fish, we had a week of warm settled weather, such is life.

I fished a bright yellow pop up on a chod rig to the far side, a combination that has worked before. The second rod was  fake corn with an open end feeder on a clear patch of hard bottom amidst weed that is already climbing towards the surface.  This rod was recast regularly but otherwise i sat staring at the water, doing nothing but rarely bored.  I don't know where my mind goes at these times, hours feel like minutes like I'm in some kind of trance.

The countryside is coming back to life, new reeds have pushed a foot and more through the marshy banks and most of the trees are showing a sprinkling of fresh green leaves.  I've seen the first swallows and martins of the year as well as swans, two types of geese, shelduck, crows, rooks, pigeons (that will please the farmers), reed bunting, kestrel, pheasants and partridges.  I saw a harrier hunting over the fields, a bittern landed in the reeds opposite me and vanished before my eyes and I saw hares in their boxing rituals.  One thing I haven't seen is any fish in the net.
                                             No longer boxing, just a Hare

Friday, 12 April 2019


A few days ago I attended a work party at a local club lake.  When all was done a friend and I took a walk around the water, discussing amongst other things, how lucky we are to fish such a beautiful water.  My friend, a lifelong passionate angler, has just returned to the UK after several years of living abroad and remarked how much things have changed, in particular the waters available to the angler.  He has quickly worked out that he has to choose between overstocked commercial waters that are crowded with anglers or the less popular natural waters which are far less prolific.  On this choice we are of the same mind, the natural waters will win 99 times out of 100.  We are happy to sacrifice bites for peace, God I never thought I'd ever think of myself as 'traditionalist'.

Things have changed dramatically in this vicinity.  When I was younger I had lots of choice with chains of gravel pits and a lovely little river within minutes of my home.  The river is saddest of all, abstraction has all but killed it, it is little more than a stream now and barely flows if we have a dry summer.  One of the groups of pits was turned into a commercial water nearly twenty years ago, fabulous mixed fisheries are now choked with Carp, the big Tench, Bream and Pike a thing of the past.  The club that controlled the other pits has suffered more than it's share of problems and has lost control of it's biggest gravel pit asset.  The waters it still controls are dominated by Carp, I know that's what people want these days...

The big 'lost' pit has been back filled to make it into a series of smaller pits and another commercial type water is under construction.  I noticed that this complex, which rarely if ever produced thirty pounds + Carp now boasts three or four over forty, where did they come from?  Although nobody is saying so they are obviously stocked fish.  I cannot understand how anyone can derive pleasure from catching a fish of that size that was obviously swimming around in a farm puddle slurping pellets not long ago.  But then again what does it matter what I think?  If the anglers catching these fish are enjoying themselves then good luck.  One man's meat...  However what has this done to Carp angling's "goal posts"?  Not so long ago a forty pound Carp was a monster and literally the fish of a lifetime, nowadays these target figures are meaningless in Carp angling.

It all boils down to choice and if you like Carp fishing or crowded waters then there is plenty.  If like me you prefer quieter, natural waters then the options are being reduced year upon year.  If the day came when I had to join the modern angling scene in order to fish then I'm not sure I'd bother?

So here comes spring and summer when everything fishy should be easier than the winter we emerge from.  It never works out like that for me, I usually catch far less at this time of year.  However what I do catch will be hard earned and appreciated.  A big Tench or Carp that doesn't have a known history and a stupid name would make for a happy summer and in the winter a twenty pounds Broadland Pike will always be a fish to get the heart hammering and will never lose it's "worth" in the modern angling world.

Will I ever see one of these in my landing net again?