Sunday, 25 November 2018

Friday, Saturday


For most of this year I’ve been working literally five minutes from home and I mean five minutes’ walk from home.  This has been nice as I’ve mostly avoided the madness of the rush hour commute.  I have a chuckle in the mornings as I walk alongside the main road, I like to look at the drivers faces, which without exception always look unhappy.   That was me not so long ago and there is every chance that will be me again sometime in the future, in fact that was me for two days last week when I had to drive into the heart of Fenland for a computer course.

I’ve fished in the Fens a lot over the years, when my local Pike fishing started to decline this was an obvious area to try.  An hour in the motor saw me surrounded by water but it was a different type of fishing to what I was used to.  It took me a long time to adjust to fishing rivers and drains as I had so much confidence in the ‘static’ style of fishing that had been successful on my local stillwaters.  In 1992 on only my second visit to Fenland I managed a cracking Pike of 19.06 which to me at the time was proof that I didn’t have to change my approach too much.  Eventually the penny dropped and I began to travel lighter and fish more of a roving style but to be honest I was never really mobile enough until I became a boat owner.  I have lots of fond memories of fishing in the Fens, mostly for Pike and Zander but I also fluked some big Perch and Chub too. 

One of my favourite spots was a stretch of the big river that ran through quiet meadows to the south of Ely.  Here I would carelessly thrash my car down an unsuitable farm track and park it precariously on the edge, allowing just enough room for the occasional vehicle to pass.  One morning after a summer night fishing for Zander I emerged from my bivvy to find a herd of cows had surrounded my Astra and for some reason were happily licking the paint off it?  This stretch fished well for me in the autumn and then again at the back end just before the season finished.  This area ticked a lot of boxes for a pleasurable days fishing and I have many fond memories.  Looking back I had Pike to 19+ and Zander around 8lbs.  Rich had a 13+ Zander, Ian a 20+ Pike and Giles managed to catch a 5lb Sea Trout.  Being a little off the beaten track it was always quiet and it was rare to see another angler here. 

I realised it had been nearly a decade since I’ve fished in this part of the world so a drive through old haunts was sure to be interesting.  Because I spent most of my time sitting by and looking at the water my memories were of lovely reed fringed waterways and I’d completely forgotten how bleak the Fens look in winter.  Thousands of acres of ploughed black earth crossed with treacherous roads that sit far above the fields yet bizarrely below the water courses; many isolated houses sporting a rusty car or two as garden ornaments.  The little towns and hamlets of dull grey brick seem depressing and could do with a bit of love and attention. To be fair in the dark, drizzly weather we had last week nowhere looks its best.  My destination was Wisbech, which I’m told is very nice in places but not the parts I could see.  The sign reading “Wisbech – Twinned with Mordor” didn’t bode well.  Worst of all is the new A142 Ely southern bypass which consists of a giant flyover that cuts straight across the lovely quiet meadow that my friends and I used to fish, it is ruined forever.  As I drove home on Friday evening I realised it is unlikely that I’ll ever fish regularly in the Fens again, if ever.  That’s fine with me, I’ve moved on and have been lucky enough to find waters where I can be at peace and enjoy interesting fishing.

To be fair the traffic around Ely and Soham was horrendous, even with the horrible new bypass and even when I got onto the A14 it was little better.  Instead of sitting in a slow moving queue of traffic I was in a faster moving two lane amateur whacky race with idiot drivers switching lanes as if it would make any bloody difference at all to their journey time.  I couldn’t relax for a second and by the time I arrived home I was frazzled.  I hadn’t planned to fish this weekend but I needed some tranquil time to clear my mind.

So Saturday morning saw me sitting in a boat in an isolated corner of the county, I suppose from the view I had, if you didn’t know better you might think I was in the fens.  The day was another in a monotonous stream of cloud and gloom, the Easterly wind has been a constant feature for over a week.  All the text books say these are the worst conditions for fishing and so it seemed, two hours passed without a twitch.  It didn’t matter though, I was outside in the fresh air and the cares of the working week were being cleaned away.  Then just before 1000 a smelt cast along the near margin was moving steadily into mid-stream, the strike met a positive response and a couple of minutes later I was unhooking a Pike of about seven pounds.  I couldn’t get my radio to work so had to follow the cricket via my phone, England seemed toothless at first but Sri Lanka later collapsed spectacularly.  In the next couple of hours the float sailed away twice more and another two small Pike were brought to the boat and unhooked over the side.  As planned I packed up at lunch time, passing Giles and son on the way back to the boat yard, pleasantries/abuse were exchanged, I wished them luck and headed for home.

In the early evening Rich collected the Purple Princess and I, he pointed his car north and towards the UEA where my daughter is currently living and studying.  It was lovely to see Maddie as I’ve been missing her like a lost limb; the four of us then walked over to the LCR building where ‘The Levellers’ were playing.  It’s been a couple of months since I last saw any live music so I was well up for it.  The Lev’s were very good although I would have preferred more of the older tunes and the hall was absolutely ram packed which made moving difficult and dancing impossible. Still they are a very good live band with a strong, loyal following and it was another good gig.  I've said it somewhere before but the Levellers' anti establishment message began in the hell of Thatcherism but is sadly even more relevant today.  After hugging my daughter goodbye we headed back to Suffolk, today was a good day, just what I needed.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Pikey times

Our Irish Piking brothers need help!  There is a long history of Pike persecution and fishery mismanagement in the Western Loughs of Ireland and just when it seemed the tide was turning anglers now have to contend with a ridiculous byelaw.  Dave Lumb sums the situation up nicely here;  Lumbland

If you feel like donating then click here;  IPS   There is lots more info on the IPS Facebook page;  IPS FB

It's been a week of magazines as the latest issue of PAC's excellent 'Pikelines' mag landed on my doorstep.  This publication gets better and better with every edition, this time around it features articles from a few good friends too.  I don't like rushing a fishing mag, it'll take me a week to pick my way through.  However I've read Rich Gostlings piece on single hooks and I know he's talking sense.  I may be biased but I think it must be the best Pike fishing magazine on the planet and free to members of the Pike Anglers Club.  See link on the side of this page.

Also arriving this week was the latest 'Catch Cult' which is actually number ten.  Rob and Martin have done a top job in delivering a proper fishing magazine featuring articles by anglers, not industry blaggers.  As with any mag that covers a wide range of angling disciplines there is always stuff I really like along with stuff I don't.  This month there was an article which was a bit of both.
Well done to Catch Cult for interviewing Mark Lloyd of the Angling Trust and well done again for asking the difficult questions.  As an AT sceptic (FFS) I thought Mark answered well and I could actually sympathise with his thoughts and views throughout the interview.  That was until I cam to the shit sticky subject of everyone's favourite mammalian killing spree.  Mr Lloyd basically said "we absolutely can't push for an otter cull, the public will slaughter us.  Now lets talk about Signal Crayfish..."  OK Mr Lloyd you are probably right about calling for a cull, I know what you can't do so how about telling us what you can?  For starters how about educating the general public as to the truth about Otters?  Does AT have any interaction with the Predation Action Group?  
I've been an AT member in the past and in principle I want the organisation to succeed, after this interview I think I'm more sympathetic to the organisation.  Unfortunately, from my point of view as a wild water Piker, on the two occasions I've needed the AT to stand up and be counted they've sat sat firmly on the fence.

Here's another Broadland sunset.




Saturday, 20 October 2018

Pike Time

Where do the weeks go?
My daughter left for university and I miss her more than I could have ever imagined.
Then just over a fortnight ago Rich and I traveled up to Kettering for the annual PAC convention.  This was actually the first time I'd ever attended purely as a paying punter, in the past I've always had a job to do.  However we were on limited time and horrendous roadworks/diversions ate even further into this so we didn't even see any of the speakers.  We did spend a few hours in the tackle hall talking to lots of friends from across the country, which is always my favourite part of any convention anyway.  It was good to catch up with the likes of  Rob Shallcroft, the Denis & Tim double act, Brian Birdsall, Saint John Currie, Eddie Turner, Dave Lumb, Chico who still hasn't sold me anything, Stephen Harper aka the only sane man in Norfolk and the not even remotely sane Neville Fickling who granted an extended audience.  We both spent a bit of cash too, emergency wire (as I've mislaid my trace making box and it's driving me fucking mad!), a book from the affable Barry McConnell (more to follow...) and a rubber lure from Neville which did exactly what he predicted, caught a few fish then dismantled with the body sinking slowly out of netting range.

"The Eel Angler" by Barry McConnell

Nearly all of my angling friends had read this book and all rated it it highly.  I always planned to borrow a copy and have a read but then I got chatting to Barry at the convention who mentioned the knock down price and I thought why not?
First impressions, it's a Stephen Harper production.  I know this means it will be visually fantastic because that's what Mr Harper does.  Obviously I can confirm this is the case.  As for the content well I love anecdotal writing and that is exactly what we have here, the story of how Barry and friend's Eel angling evolved, similar in a way to Watto's 'Pikers progress' only with Eels, obviously. Barry is a good writer who can really set a scene and put you in the place, I could easily visualise the waters and events described.  He also has many years of experience with catching big Eels so has a wealth of interesting stories to tell with British Eels to over nine pounds.  Unlike most species there is comparatively little known about big Eels, they certainly don't come with pet names and a history of captures, the air of mystery remains.

Barry likes to fish long sessions, two or three nights at a time and this is something I can relate too, I enjoy being by the water for days, fishing gives me the excuse to be there.  The book covers Barry's fishing in waters all over the country, most notably the Meres of the North West but Canals, pits and lakes are also covered.  All things considered there is enough interesting material here to make a really good fishing book.
But 'The Eel Angler' gives us even more.  There are four chapters covering the trips to the antipodes made by Barry and friend Pete Drabble aka 'The Anguilla Guerrilla", in search of truly enormous Eels.  The pair made to trips to New Zealand and two more to Australia where a slightly different species of freshwater Eel grows to almost unbelievable weights.  These trips are genuine pioneering adventures which see the pair literally hacking their way through jungles at times.  They catch some huge Eels too...

I like this book a lot, it's just my kind of read.  If I have one criticism it's Barry's writing is a bit inconsistent.  I mean it's good all the way through but for large parts of the book the writing is excellent.  To me it seems that some of the chapters are a little rushed, with a bit more care the end product could have been even better.  That said it is still a very good book which has inspired a couple of my angling friends to try their hands at Eel fishing themselves.  And yes, I too can see the appeal, pioneering unknown waters for never caught fish, the trouble with me and Eels is I just don't like the bloody things.  But never say never...


So autumn, Pike fishing






Sunday, 23 September 2018

Rehearsal


To be honest not catching Tench or Carp was becoming tedious so I was glad of a cooler spell as I felt comfortable fishing for Pike with lures and I was well up for it.    Isaac and I had agreed an afternoon out in a boat but the forecast was dodgy to say the least, a high chance of light rain but how light?  In the end we said stuff it and loaded the car, the kit supplemented by waterproofs in case it got really bad.

We set off from the boatyard at 1600 beneath damp, murky skies, plan A was to cover water and find fish so I took the oars and Isaac held a rod.  The ‘Angry bird’ worked in the killing zone, just sub surface and above the weed, creating a nice wake, this lure has worked very well in the past.  The bulging lure was hypnotic, I kept concentrating on it and forgot to look where I was going but Isaac steered his lure around most of the weed clumps.  We covered water steadily for forty five minutes and just when confidence started to seep away, Isaac’s rod thumped over.  A nice fish fought hard but Isaac was in control and it was soon in the net and unhooked in the water.  We rowed on a way then turned around to go back over the productive spot but hadn’t got near it before Isaac was in again but this time the hooks didn’t hold.

With a couple of fish in caught the same general area it was time for a change of tactics and time for me to have a cast or two.  We trolled back to the top of the wind and the light south westerly pushed us along on a nice slow drift.  Now casting, Isaac continued stuck with his ‘Angry Bird’ while I chose a Zoota Wagtail, one of my go to lures in clear shallow water.  We hadn’t drifted far before a Pike slashed and missed my lure.  A bit further down and my rod thumped over again and this time it stayed on, another small Pike unhooked in the water.  The drift was slow and I needed to row back upwind a couple of times to keep us on the right line but it was worth it as the next three drifts brought three more Pike to my Wagtail as well as a couple of other fish moved.  Right at the end of our last drift Isaac was in again on the Angry Bird and brought his second fish to the boat.

By this time the drizzle was becoming heavier and we made a unanimous decision to turn round and head for home.  I tidied my gear away and Isaac trolled while I rowed back.  Back into the productive area and a Pike swirled at the lure but missed, would it try again?  A minute later the rod hooped round, whether it was the same fish we’ll never know but it was certainly the biggest of the day.  It required the net for sure but Isaac declined the camera.  The score was 4-3, would Isaac get a chance to even the score?  No, as it turned out, we reached the boat yard around 1800 but seven fish in two hours was more than I’d hoped for.  A couple of hours fishing that actually went to plan for a change and just what I needed ahead of the Pike season.  Isaac claimed bragging rights as there’s no doubt he caught the biggest today.  That’s it, summer is over, it’s my favourite time of the year, autumn is definitely here now and I’m raring to go. 

Monday, 3 September 2018

The passage of time


Time keeps ticking by, the weeks have turned into months, summer is turning into autumn and soon it will be Pike time.  The years are rolling by too.  I was surprised that I’ve actually been doing this blogging stuff for over a decade.  So long in fact that the medium is becoming obsolete, replaced by go pro, all action, video blogs.  I still prefer words and pictures so will continue in this format when I find myself with something to say, which seems to be less often these days.  It doesn’t matter if it gets read or not, that was never the point to begin with.  Back at the beginning in 2008 I was just trying to keep an online diary for my own sake but that had to change when I realised I was giving too much away!

In 2008 a lot of my blogging consisted of describing fishing trips with my children, or nieces and nephews on occasions.  God how they’ve all grown up!  My foster daughter left home last month; my youngest Isaac starts college in the morning and our Maddie will be heading off to university in a few weeks.  Ten years ago they were bubbly children running around in the meadows as often as they were swinging fish into my chops for unhooking.  Now they are practically adults and fine people they are too, I’m a proud Dad, if a biased one…

I had planned a last holiday before term time started but I left things too late and screwed up on the dates, the holiday had to be shortened to a long weekend break.  We considered tents but the nights are longer and darker now, in the end a houseboat on the Broad seemed a good compromise to me and happily the family agreed.  I was pleased to see my loved ones appreciating and enjoying spending time beside the water in a place I love.  One of my favourite pubs is just a short ride away too and here we enjoyed excellent food as well as a few pints of East Anglia’s finest beverages.  We were treated to a couple of the famous broadland sunsets too, I’m sure the sunrise would have been equally spectacular but none of us even considered rising in time to see it.  

Our days were spent out and about; firstly Norwich which despite my hereditary football prejudices I have to admit is a nice city, a good bookshop always helps.  Cromer is a traditional old seaside town which has mostly avoided being spoilt by the kind of tourist tat that afflicts many such places.  However Cromer is famous for crabs and the few crappy gift shops that have crept in exploit this by selling all manner of buckets, handlines and dropnets which can be used to catch and torture the hapless crustaceans.

Finally we visited Great Yarmouth which can only be described as a shithole.  Yarmouth hasn’t avoided cliché seaside crap, in fact the town actively encourages it and tasteless shit seeps from every storefront.  Every gaudy, horrible thing you associate with seaside tourist traps is proudly displayed in Yarmouth and believe it or not there are actually people who seem to like this shit!  I’ve never considered myself a snob but whenever I visit this place I am forced to reconsider…  I don’t like facial piercings on grandparents nor do I like tattoos on children but maybe that’s just me?

I had my radio beside me throughout most of the weekend and managed to follow another really good test match.  India are ranked no.1 in the world yet somehow the most inconsistent England team I can remember has managed to win the series.  How good could this team be with the addition of a couple of decent batsmen?

At either ends of the day we fished.  This was mostly from the houseboat itself where we caught loads of silver fish as well as a few Perch.  Both Maddie and Isaac joined me for trips out in my fishing boat in search of Bream; once again there were loads of Roach and Rudd up to 8ozs but we did manage to catch a few of the larger fish for which the broads are famous.  Nowadays Isaac is pretty adept at all fishing for silvers entails and it didn’t take Maddie long to get back into the swing of it, even though it’s been a few years since she’s fished.  Even the Purple princess had a go this time around, usually she’s happy to watch and click away with her camera and had forgotten how much she enjoys actually catching a few.

The holiday wasn’t without its mishaps too.  On the first night the princess managed to peel her finger with a razor blade and this required a trip to a surgery.  Whilst Isaac is quite experienced at boat fishing nowadays, Maddie isn’t and on the last evening a moment of panic at the staithe saw both of us tipped out of the boat and into the drink.  Thankfully the water is shallow and the only thing damaged was pride.  It was a timely reminder of how quickly things can go wrong though.  Once dry we discussed what had happened and by the end of the night it was the cause of much laughter.

So now we’re all back home now safe and sound, some of us will be returning to routine and normality.  I’ll be ringing up my Pike rods in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to being back in my comfort zone doing what I love most.  However by then my daughter will be living in another county and that is something I’m dreading…

Monday, 6 August 2018

High Summer


I had hoped to be fishing all weekend but I’d forgotten a prior engagement.  Friday evening saw Mr Hill and I visit the capital to see a punk band called ‘Fucked up’ perform in a sweaty basement club.  It was a great night out and a really good gig.  Saturday morning saw me highly distracted, I parked in front of the tele at 10:55 and I didn’t move for over two hours.  By this time England had won an exciting test match by 31 runs to take a 1-0 series lead against India.  Once I’d caught my breath I started to sort some tackle out.

By 1730 I was settled and fishing with three rods.  Previous exploration had revealed a nice clear area amongst the weed beds and I’d already baited this spot up with two kilos of mixed particles by boat.  The clearing was big enough for two rods so two pop ups fished on chod rigs were chucked on the spot.  I don’t really like chod rigs, I hate seeing the lead so close to the mouth on the rare occasions that I find myself playing a fish.  However needs must, it is a good rig for weed fishing also I know the hordes of Rudd will try and eat even a boilie, if this happens there is little chance the bait and hook can be dragged off into weed.  The third rod was my preferred helicopter rig, baited with a Tiger nut and fake corn.  This I dropped into another clear spot in the margins.  With the rods out and the bivvy sorted all I had to do was sit and relax.  Locating the larger fish here has proved very difficult and if I do find them they could be miles away from a suitable bank fishing spot.  I don’t like the ‘bait and wait’ approach but at the moment it feels like there is no choice. 

It was a hot day but here by the water the breeze kept me cool.  It was lovely just chilling out and watching the bird life; the Heron is a regular visitor but the Egret less so.  Sometimes I see a Bittern but not tonight.  The Princess joined me at dusk and we spent a lovely evening drinking tea, putting the world to rights and watching the clear sky fill with a thousand stars.  We saw several shooting stars and I know our wishes will come true.  The conversation was good, at times like this I almost forget I have rods out; unfortunately nothing appeared to remind me.  A crescent moon rose around midnight and we were in the sleeping bag shortly afterwards.

My bladder woke me around 0500, the dawn sky looked beautiful and while I was up I recast the close range rod.  I considered sitting up behind the rods but the lure of the sleeping bag won, it was another couple of hours before I woke up properly.  By 0800 I was sitting behind a float rod but after fifteen minutes and a dozen Rudd I was bored, so back to the boilies.  I knew my best chance was over now but was still lovely sitting in a remote part of the countryside, watching the natural world progress, this morning butterflies and dragonflies were prolific.  

By lunch time we’d had enough, the heat was getting to me and I needed a toilet I could sit on.  As I tramped back towards the car a Buzzard circled, mocking me with its shrill call, maybe from that height it could tell me where the fish are?  I suppose I could try fishing easier waters but that would feel the same as catching the Rudd on this place.

It’s August now and time is running out for my summer season which has been as frustrating as it has been enjoyable.  There is still a little bit of time and I may have a little luck and find some of the fish I’m after.  However I find myself looking forward to the autumn and Pike time.  This will always be my first love, in comparison it seems simple and I’m well within my comfort zone.  But before then if I could have just one more opportunity…

Thursday, 28 June 2018

A weekend in June


So once again my attempt to catch a huge spring Tench has resulted in abject failure, indeed my attempt to catch any Tench at all has been fruitless.  I have caught loads of fish of other species but not the ones I’m targeting.  It’s the same every year but I refuse to compromise and settle for artificial fishing, I enjoy what I do regardless and one day I will be successful and it will be all the sweeter for it.  I will keep on trying throughout the summer, even though the spawned out fish will be down in weight.

The opening of the river season gave me the chance to do something different so the Purple Princess and I headed for Norfolk for a weekend of camping, Pubs and the chance to actually catch a species I was targeting for a change.

  Saturday dawned but we were in no hurry to get up and out of the tent.  A cup of tea and a breakfast fried on the stove got us fuelled and ready, a visit to the tackle shop topped up our bait and supplies then we headed to the ‘Greyhound’ for lunch and a welcome pint of ‘Ghost ship’.  With full stomachs we made our way to the slip and I was soon opening up the engine and cutting through the Broadland waters.  It was lovely to be back, last time I was here the trees were skeletal and the reeds were creamy brown, now everything was green and lush.

By early afternoon I’d dropped the weights in a secluded bay, away from the worst of the summer boat traffic and soon had two feeder rigs out into a clear channel between thick weedbeds.  I used open end feeders on helicopter rigs, hookbaits were maggots or corn on short hooklengths.  The feeders were stuffed with a mix of Expo, brown crumb and crushed hemp which is the mix I use for almost everything. This is a favourite summer spot and one that almost always turns up a few Bream, my target species for the day.  The weather was kind to us; warm, bright and dry with a brisk north easterly wind but the wall of reeds gave us more than enough shelter.

The fishing started off slowly but after a while bites began to come steadily; Roach, Rudd and the occasional Perch homed in on the maggots but the corn on the other rod remained relatively untouched.  I began to wonder if I was over confident, had I jinxed myself?  Would the Bream laugh at my attempts to catch them?  Would this trip be another failure?  Whatever, the surroundings were idyllic and there was plenty to look at when the tips were still.  Most of the familiar feathered residents of the Broads put in an appearance, we heard the Cranes but didn’t see them and the Bittern were as elusive as ever.  A couple of birds flew over that I didn’t recognise at first, they looked like anorexic white ducks but when one flew close the upturned beak gave the game away.  Once home my bird book confirmed they were Avocets.  Later there were fluttering wings and a flash of colour, at first I thought it was some kind of small bird but no, it was a famous Swallow tail Butterfly.

After a couple of hours the sweetcorn rod started trembling and eventually pulled round properly.  I pulled into my first Bream of the day and for the first time this season I’d caught the fish I set out for.  After that I caught a few more though the bites came and went and I never felt the fish were there in numbers.  The biggest Bream would have been between three and four pounds but were lovely dark bronze fish, just as Broadland Bream should be.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t caught any of these dark coloured fish or any bigger ones since the Prymnesium outbreak three years ago.  I think a generation of proper Bream was wiped out in 2015 and now the survivors are growing on and growing bigger.  With all that has been learnt since this last catastrophic fish kill the future looks hopeful, thanks to the persistence of anglers led by John Currie and PAC along with the EA and scientists at John Innes centre.

By 1900 we fancied a change of scenery, the boat traffic had calmed considerably allowing me to visit an area I would avoid during the day.  Once settled bites came straight away on both maggots and corn.  I caught more Roach and Rudd and yes I caught more Bream too though these were mostly silvery skimmers up to a couple of pounds or so.  By now the wind had died away and we were perfectly positioned to enjoy a fabulous Broadland sunset, reflected in the now calm water.  With the colours changing by the second the Princess was busy with her camera, capturing one of nature’s great displays that most people don’t even notice. 

By 2130 we were both tired and the temperature was dropping quickly so we tidied up and cruised slowly back to base, the sky was still awash with colour.  It was 2230 by the time the boat was back in its space and I hadn’t even needed the torch.

Another night in the tent, again we were in no hurry to go anywhere so it was another fried breakfast and another delicious pub lunch.  I pointed the car in the general direction of home, stopping on route for a walk around a nature reserve and an ice cream.  Back at home I turned the TV on just as Adil Rashid walked to the wicket, it looked like the game was gone and with it our chance of a whitewash.  Enter Joss Buttler and one of the greatest ODI innings I’ve ever seen, seeing England home with a wicket to spare!  Apparently there was a football match too?

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Fruitless Normality


I’ve had another couple of trips to the Valley since that Carp pulled my string.  The first was an attempted repeat of that initial success, fishing the same swim with the same methods on a cold, breezy evening.  The day had been warm and bright but by the time I got to the water in the evening it had changed completely, taking me by surprise.  The water was so choppy I could hardly see my float and most of the time I had no idea what was going on with it.  The boilie rods didn’t move either; I blanked and to misquote Fred J, was glad when I’d had enough.

A week later and the weather had been hot for a few days, I decided to take to the water and launched a punt.  The lake was gin clear beneath me, with new weed growing quickly I rowed slowly along the lake, noting clearer areas and looking for fish.  Through the polaroids I could see dense clouds of silver fish and tell tale splashes in the reeds told the tale, these fish were starting to spawn.  Pike were also in attendance, smashing into the spawning Rudd and Roach from time to time.  There was a spot I fancied and without anything better to go on I tied up and began fishing.  A pop up boilie was swung across to an overhanging tree and baited with a few pouches full of pellets.  On a second rod I float fished corn over some Expo close to the punt.  Float fishing for Tench from a punt, does fishing get more idyllic?  Well yes, actually catching one would be a massive improvement!  I’d not long started when two good sized Carp cruised by then vanished into deeper water.  This gave me a bit of confidence but I didn’t see them again.  Despite the spawning going on around me I caught Rudd and the occasional Roach steadily, so much so I considered switching to a fake bait to slow things down.  Instead chucking the rig up a tree brought things to a full stop.

The weekend came around again and with an afternoon free I drove into the Valley again.  I wanted to get out in a punt once more; with a bit more time surely I could find some fish?  The weather intervened with light rain, turning to steady rain, becoming heavy rain and I spent the time huddled under the oval, staring at motionless indicators.  My rods were sat on a pod which in theory should be straight and kind of symmetrical but never is.  Every now and then the rain would ease and I’d wind a boilie rod in and chuck out the float rod.  Rudd of all sizes were hammering the sweetcorn which rarely made it anywhere near the lake bed and I soon got bored with catching them.  Today I didn’t know if I was within a mile of any Tench or Carp.

After a flying start my warm weather fishing has settled into fruitless normality.  Searching for a handful of Tench and Carp in twenty odd acres of weed and snags is just the kind of daft fishing challenge I like.  To be successful I either have to have everything in my favour so I can locate some fish in a place I can reasonably fish for them; or I have to be incredibly lucky. Or both.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Wet Air



I left home around midday and after a quick pit stop at a tackle shop, arrived at the water about forty five minutes later.  The Charlatans had been playing in the car but as I walked to my swim Skids “Into the Valley” was whirling through my head, something about the venue?  The day was horrible, murky and damp which had already brought a change of plan.  I had wanted to fish from a boat but this was not a day for being exposed to the elements, even though I wouldn’t think twice in winter?  So once again I was fishing from the bank and found myself putting together a rod pod of all things!  There was no science behind my swim selection, I picked the most unpopular, least fished one on the lake but a wise friend had tipped me off to some good fish coming from here in the distant past.  Whatever happened at least I’d enjoy the peace and quiet.

I’ve named this water ‘The Valley’, for reasons that are obvious if you know it but hopefully you don’t.  It is home to a small number of large Tench and a handful of Carp but is stuffed full of silver fish which will demolish a carpet of particle baits in no time at all.  Two years of persevering with this approach has been fruitless so I have reluctantly decided that my best chance of a big Tench is to use methods more suited to the Carp, basically large 8 to 11mm pellets and boilies.  I’m aware of a couple of other anglers that target the Carp on this water but it doesn’t suffer from the type of angler that ‘carp waters’ attract.  I won’t have to listen to monotonous rambling about the cost of the latest ‘Basia’ and I won’t have to hear what Danny Fatarse has said on his new DVD.  Best of all, none of the fish have silly pet names.

I spent some time casting a bare lead around to check for weed, muck and other obstructions, after landing nicely a foot short of the far bank I clipped up and marked the line.  By 1315 I was fishing with a couple of rods; I swung a helicopter rig along the margin to my left where it landed in the shadow of a bush.  This was baited with a fishmeal boilie tipped with fake corn and fished on a 5” hooklength.  I baited the area with a few handfuls of mixed pellets and ten boilies.  On my second rod I used the dreaded chod rig and baited it with a pineapple pop up, this was cast to the far margin then I used my newly acquired catapult to spread about twenty boilies over the area.  So now to my third rod, I could have sat it on a buzzer but fancied something different so used a waggler set up and fished corn at the bottom of the marginal shelf.  I put five tennis ball sized lumps of Expo in and sat back to wait for the inevitable assault by the silver fish.

The afternoon was unpleasant enough for me to give the oval brolly a rare outing, it was a horrible overcast day with a north westerly wind whipping in the kind of drizzle that you barely notice until you realise you’re soaked.  I decided it should be called ‘wet air’ which reminded me of an essay I’d been given at school about thirty five years ago, “the disadvantages of having wet hair”.  It was raining and my hair was wet so the teacher sent me into the corridor to dry it, when I returned he punished for me for being late.  Teachers were able to get away with being sadists in the eighties and this bastard really had a chip on his shoulder, perhaps being christened Stewart Blewett had something to do with it?

So with everything sorted I relaxed under the oval and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the East Anglian countryside.  Skylarks were in good voice and I enjoyed watching Swallows and Martins for the first time this year.  The drizzle came and went, the sky brightened up for a time and something fishy splashed on the far bank but what?  My float had dipped slightly a couple of times but I’d been slow to react, now it was mostly motionless which was a surprise.  An hour passed in blissful tranquillity, the only sound was bird song and the drone of bees.  There seems to be loads of bumbles about this spring which can only be good (not to be confused with Bumble, there is only one David Lloyd).  I heard my first Cuckoo of the year and saw it on the wing later in the afternoon.  A Warbler perched in the reeds almost within touching distance but I knew it would be pointless reaching for the camera and I’m not sure of the variety; Willow, Sedge or a Chiffchaff. Meanwhile the alarms were still silent and the float only gave the occasional half hearted wobble or dip, when I remembered to look at it at least.

At around 1445 an alarm beeped… and then again… a liner?  Was my line was tightening?  Then ‘Beeeeeeeeeeep…’  I found myself with a bending rod in my hands, it was the pop up cast to the far bank and I was gaining line on something kiting to my right.  The occasional surge took line from the clutch so whatever was on the end had a bit of power too it.  I realised I had a proper shake on and a thumping heart, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve had a rod roar off like that and I’d been totally startled. In comparison a Pike makes off with the bait in a far more gentle manner and my heartrate increases gradually.  As the fish came closer so it rose in the clear water and I saw that, inevitably, it wasn’t a big Tench but a long Common carp that had the bright yellow pop up clearly pinned to its lower lip. Still I was nervous because I was yet to land a Carp from the Valley and I really wanted it in the net, I was glad I’d brought the proper 42” one too.  After a bit of typical marginal plodding the fish rolled over and I managed to draw it into the net, where it stayed while I got mat, scales and camera ready.

The hook popped out easily and despite being quite a long fish the scales told me the fish was a couple of pounds lighter than I’d expected.  Usually I have a plan for self take photos but had been so confident this afternoon that I hadn’t bothered.  This partly explains why the pictures were poor, also Carp are a bugger to hold, I keep wanting to slip my hand up the gill.  With the fish returned I recast the rod and pulted out a few more loose boilies, then sat back with a satisfied grin.  This fish would not raise any carp angler’s eyebrows, most would hardly look twice at it but the whole experience thrilled me and that’s why I go fishing.

I’d love to be able to report that I’d finally cracked the water and this was the beginning of a dream session of hauling in Carp and Tench but of course this wasn’t the case.  That was it for the day as far as fish were concerned as not even the float rod brought any proper bites.  Nonetheless I enjoyed the afternoon in the countryside though it was mostly spent huddled under the oval out of the northerly drizzle, with the occasional chat with the friendly neighbour who’d joined me.  A pair of Buzzards circled though not on thermals, it was too cold for that.  A Sparrowhawk whizzed by and landed in the bush a few feet to my left, this time I did manage to get the camera out but the result was… well, crap.  I didn’t have a good camera day.

I had intended to fish well into darkness but by 2000 the temperature had dropped considerably, I didn’t feel confident of catching anything else and to be honest I’d had enough.  As soon as the oval was packed away the drop in comfort levels was considerable and for once I didn’t dawdle when packing the rods away.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Turnaround


Spring turnaround has arrived, the day every year where the winter Pike gear gets stashed at the back of the shed and the spring and summer stuff gets moved into pole position.  Last winter had seen unwelcome rodent lodgers who chewed their way through buckets and pots before they succumbed to the poison.  When I discovered this, sometime back in the cold, dark months I’d only done a quick patch up job so I had a bit of extra sorting to do now.  In the end my shed turnaround took around four hours which is about normal though I’m sure I spend half of this time scratching my head and frowning. 

At least the sun was shining and the birds were in full voice, at last spring is here in more than name only.  The last few weeks have been gloomy and very wet, the farmers are worried, something about having the crops down before the cuckoo calls?  Once I was finished I was due to set off fishing but where and for what?  I plan to concentrate on the Tench in the ‘Valley’ this year but if I’m going to try for a big Roach from the big water then now is the time.  I couldn’t decide so hedged my bets and put two set of rods in the car then set off to buy a load of bait to get me through a large chunk of the warm season.  With this done I still hadn’t made up my mind, when I got to the junction it was decision time, in the end I turned right, for Roach.

From the car park it was obvious straight away that the water level was much higher than this time last year.  It had been like this two years ago and we’d caught some cracking Roach here, unmissable bites on helicopter rigs. Last year the water had been low and clear, the fishing had been difficult and the bites very finicky.  With the bright sunshine I couldn’t believe what I was doing, I was sure I’d be sitting behind motionless rods for a while, waiting for the sun to dip.  Whatever happened I’d be chilling out in a quiet corner of the countryside, as I walked to my swim the hedgerows were all buds and blossom, there was a constant drone of bees and the birds were in full voice.  At the bottom of the bay the Swans were nesting in their normal place, unconcerned by me walking past.

I was fishing by 1630 using two open end feeders fished with short hooklengths on helicopter rigs.  I’d found a bag of groundbait that had been in the bottom of the freezer for months, this would have to do.  Hookbait was red maggots; three on a size 16 on one rod and two on an eighteen on the other.  For the first time in about six months I sat on my comfortable fishing chair and relaxed with a brew behind two rods, bank fishing is such a novelty at the moment!
I was sure I’d have to wait a couple of hours before anything happened but to my surprise I started getting bites straight away, not just taps and rattles either, proper bites that even I could hit!  For the next ninety minutes I caught fish steadily but all around 4 to 6 ounces, no sign of the bigger fish from two years ago.  It was fun though and at times I couldn’t keep two rods in the water, I picked a piece of corn out of the groundbait and stuck this on the size 16 with the intention of concentrating on the other rod but by this time the bites had all but stopped.

The lull in fishy action gave me the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds; the high trees seemed like transit stops for the Wood Pigeons, on their way to plunder whatever was growing in the surrounding fields.  The water itself held the usual cast of Mallards, Coots and twice a Grebe surfaced in my swim seeming confused to find me there.  As did the Otter that poked it's head out and dived again arse upwards a rod length away, these things are supposed to be rare.

The second ninety minutes saw just three bites and one Roach landed but I was confident of more action as the sun dipped.  Sure enough between 1930 and 2000 it was all action again but there was still no sign of the bigger fish.  I’d ran out of groundbait so had to switch to maggot feeders but this didn’t seem to matter.  Then it all abruptly stopped.
I fished on for another half an hour; my tips were still clearly visible without need for a head torch but unfortunately they were no longer moving. 


Somewhere in the trees a Tawny let out it’s unmistakable call and for the first time this year I was able to watch bats showing of their aerobatics.  After the cold, sodden, drawn out winter spring is here at last!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Score draw


I can’t remember a March that has been as cold as this one, it’s been brutal but eventually milder weather arrived.  With Pike time and opportunities running out it was even mild enough to tempt Isaac out of bed at an early hour.  We’re a little slow getting underway and Isaac is virtually mute on the journey but eventually the mug of tea in his hands does the trick and he’s almost awake by the time we reach the water.

We only have a few hours so I went for a long row with the intention of fishing our way back to base throughout the morning.  We dropped the weights in a narrower, shallower stretch, flanked by thick reeds.  It looked and felt right for the time of year.  With our baits scattered about the swim we got settled.  The wall of reeds sheltered us from the southerly wind, Isaac was still quiet but had his headphones on and was nodding to the music, Kendrick Lamar apparently.  He was lost in his thoughts and totally unaware that one of my floats was on the move and stayed oblivious until this small fish was splashing by the boat.  This brought surprised laughter and the volume came down a couple of notches.

With Isaac now in the land of the living conversation and laughter flows and half an hour passes in no time before we are interrupted by a Pike.  My rod again and this time a better fish which deceived me but in the end it didn’t need the scales and was unhooked in the water.  Dad 2 Isaac 0 I’m in the lead so not getting any ribbing but I’m desperate for him to catch!  Forty five minutes later and just as we were discussing a move another of my rods is away and soon after another nice fish is unhooked in the water.  I didn’t have time to recast before it was Isaac’s turn at last.  As soon as he set the hooks the Pike ran towards him which took him by surprise and the line went slack.  Isaac kept winding and somehow the fish was still on and in the net shortly afterwards.  As Isaac had no trophy shots for his efforts this season, this one did come in the boat for a quick photo.

Fifteen minutes later the boat was back to normal but not for long, Isaac was in again and mostly in control, certainly for long enough to be secured in the net.  This was slightly bigger than his first so warranted another quick photo.  Dad 3 Isaac 2.  That’s a nice score so I don’t feel too wicked in having a little wind up which is met with mock outrage and more laughter. 

After a quiet hour we have a move and this was rewarded with a take inside ten minutes, Isaac wound down quickly and this time played the fish like a pro, wiping out my early lead.  With time running out it could be a case of the next fish being the decider.  I fancied one more move but the mild weather had brought a few people out and our options were growing limited.  In the end we decide to settle for a draw and pack up a little early.  As I rowed back the verbals continued, I claimed victory as I’d caught the biggest fish but after some mental arithmetic Isaac declared himself winner with the highest weight.  His grin widened as I struggled for a comeback.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Only an idiot


So the weather had wrecked my plans but cabin fever had well and truly descended so I was determined to get out fishing at the weekend.  As forecast the thaw set in on Saturday, the roads were getting back to normal and the tide of whiteness was ebbing.  Sunday looked good, seven degrees would feel like spring after the last week and surely the rise in temperature would get the Pike moving?  The only potential problem was whether the boats would be iced in?
I set off with light already growing as I didn’t feel the need to be driving in the pitch black on roads that had been impassable a few days earlier.  The main road was clear but very wet, there was still a bit of snow laying on the fields. 

Traffic was light and I cruised nice and steady, singing along to Weller.  I turned off the main road and the lanes were full of puddles, snow piled ominously high against the hedgerows.  As I went further the lanes were narrower and the snow piles ever higher and as it closed in around me I began to get a feeling of disquiet.  I arrived at the gate and had a careful look at the track, it looked okay as far as I could see but what lay around the bend?  There was only one way to find out and by the time I did so the track was covered in snow and I was stuck!  I got out for a look, it didn’t seem too bad and sure enough a bit of shunting saw me free again.  Thank fuck for that!

Now I had a decision to make with facts to consider.  The track ahead of me looked okay but just round the next bend, out of sight was a slope and after that still a good half mile that could be in any kind of condition.  There was nowhere to turn round so whatever I decided I’d be reversing out.  Okay it was all thawing so I’d get out eventually but that could take hours.  The only sensible thing to do was to reverse up to the gate, then turn around and go home.  Only a total idiot would try to go any further in these conditions.

So I put the Focus into first and proceeded towards the water; to begin with all was good, however half way down the slope the track was ominously white.  I still didn’t have the sense to go back and at that moment didn’t seem to be capable of doing anything other than keep going, as if in a dream.  Yes the inevitable happened, I got stuck and this time no amount of shunting got me anywhere.  I considered the facts once again; I was stuck in the snow on a farm track miles from anywhere.  I wish I could say this was a one off moment of madness but if I’m honest, ploughing on regardless of the consequences is typical for me.  I cursed my own stupidity and let off steam but all the bad language and hot air failed to speed up the thaw. 

As I sat behind the wheel a bird flew quickly along the track directly towards me, as it got closer it turned into a Sparrowhawk which looked certain to fly straight into the windscreen but lifted at the last moment and skimmed the roof of the car. All I could do now was wait so I opened the boot, found the flask and made a brew.  I dug out the camera and went for a little walk, snapping a Chaffinch in the hedgerow but too slow to catch the rabbits in the field.  The valley looked beautiful but I didn’t have time to capture it all before I heard the sound of an engine.  I met the friendly farmer at the track and we had a good laugh at my predicament.  He assured me that I was stuck in the worst part of the track which was all clear below and everything would thaw quickly.  He was less certain about the state of the water but thought it would be ice free.  With a bit of a push we got the car moving again, “Thanks!” and another good laugh. 
As I approached the water I kept stealing glances but didn’t like what I saw, the upper stretch was definitely frozen, as was the boat yard.  I had no option but keep going, whether I fished or not I’d have to give the track a couple of hours to thaw.  Thankfully I found plenty of ice free water further down so I would be able to have a go from the bank, even if my boat kit wasn’t ideal.

By 0800 I was actually fishing!  I chucked a Lamprey at the far bank, a bluey along the near bank to my left and fished a smelt on a paternoster.  This I cast as far as I could, with the intention of twitching it back a few feet every now and then.  I sat in my folding ‘L’ shaped boat seat on the damp ground but was comfortable enough and more than happy.  The morning had definitely not gone to plan but I was fishing and I was in with a chance.  The water looked lovely with its sleeves of snow and above me I could see blue sky and a glimpse of sun.  I couldn’t resist a laugh.  After half an hour the Lamprey was on the move and I bent into a fish.  It didn’t do a lot except kite to my left and there didn’t feel at all heavy.  Still after everything I was delighted to have a fish on the line and was pissed right off when it dropped off for no apparent reason.  Half an hour later the same float tremored and wobbled again but when I wound down there was nothing doing.

Another half hour passed, I’d just twitched the paternoster and by the time I’d fallen into my seat the smelt was on heading towards the estuary, I had to quickly scramble to my feet again.  This time I hooked the smallest Pike in the water but netted it anyway just to be certain that I could take a cheesy snow photo.  It’s probably just as well as the hooks fell out in the net.  This began a mad hour when the fish switched on.  I had a couple of dropped takes, missed one and lost another but also managed to land a couple more small Pike, both of these were very lightly hooked.

After an hour of inactivity I had a move and had just got all three rods out again when I noticed the Swans had broken off a big sheet of ice which was being blown towards me by the wind.  Five minutes later I was forced to move again.  By the time I’d settled it was midday and if the forecast was correct then I had an hour before a band of rain was due to reach us.  Sure enough the cloud was building and a couple of short showers blew through.  These were enough to convince that sitting on my arse in the rain wasn’t going to be much fun so for the first time this day I made a sensible decision and packed up before the rain got too bad. 

Thankfully the return journey was without incident, the farmer had been spot on, all the snow was gone from the track but the stuff piled high along miles of hedgerow will linger a while longer.  This is supposed to be spring and I was supposed to be in Norfolk!  Will there be time for another go?