Monday, 31 December 2018

T W T Y T W

Christmas came with much over indulgence, Christmas went with more of the same.  The days were grey with little sign of the sun, one blending into the next, what day is it now?  Cabin fever looms... Even my teenage son was growing weary of his bedroom full of technology and eagerly agreed to a morning by the water to break the routine.

We didn't get up silly early but were still first to the water and afloat before it was fully daylight.  By 0730 we were relaxed and fishing with deadbaits scattered about the boat and friendly insults scattered within it.  Before long a convoy of cars arrived as expected, at least four anglers would be lining the banks today.  I always give the bank anglers a wide berth and usually enjoy a chat with most of them, never any friction.  I was surprised to see two anglers appear in the swim directly opposite us showing intentions of setting up.  Both Isaac and I had a recast, an unsubtle signal which had the desired effect, after a bit of muttering the two anglers separated to other swims but given the choice available they were still too close for comfort.

Meanwhile I looked up to see one of my floats zipping along the surface, I quickly wound down but the fish dropped the bait.  Still where there's one there is often more.  Half an hour later the same rod, baited with Mackerel was moving again, this time I made contact with a spirited fish that I managed to unhook alongside the boat.  That would do for me, I just wanted Isaac to catch now.

It must have taken an hour for our neighbours to get set up, I watched with a critical eye, they looked to me like once a year Pikers using their carp gear.  A few more deadbaits splashed down into the area which made it a few too many.  We decided that we'd have a move as soon as we'd eaten our breakfast toasted sandwhiches, the ridge monkey is a good bit of kit!  With the stove cool and packed away we upped the weights and moved off, as I rowed away I noticed one of the anglers leave his swim with baits in the water and wander off to chat with his mate, my expression of dismay was ignored, as were the curses that followed...  This water has a lot going for it but access to ignorant muppets isn't one of them, there have been signs of poor angling for as long as I've fished here.  When Isaac caught his PB I removed his trace along with two others.  The rules are printed plain as day but are obviously being ignored.

We recommenced fishing on a narrower, shallower stretch.  This was a 'shit or bust' move, sometimes the Pike are here in numbers but other days it just seems dead.  More than anything the choice had been made to avoid other anglers.  By 1100, after a couple of moves it seemed we'd shit out as nothing had disturbed our baits.  We decided to pack most of the gear up but leave one rod so Isaac could troll a deadbait, just one more Pike would round the morning off nicely.  I rowed as far as possible upstream without a touch then turned and headed back towards the boat yard.  

As we rowed through one of the spots we'd already fished Isaac's float stabbed and slid away but as he wound down the float popped back up, bugger!  We circled round to cover the area again and were mid turn when the float once again plopped under but for a second time the bait was dropped.  The joey Mackerel was looking chewed but still whole however I switched it for a small Smelt, if Isaac got lucky again then he'd be able to strike instantly.  We were almost through the swim when the float slid away once more.  This time Isaac set the hooks quickly and soon bullied the smallest Pike in the water into the boat.  With honours even we were both happy to head for home.


2018.  
Another year of the post truth age has flown by...  The world went mad some time ago so I find it best to try and ignore all of the bollocks that makes the Ten o'clock news (I am mostly successful but not always) and concentrate on the things that make us happy, Adnams beer is high on this list.  Family comes first and thankfully everything is fine in my world, mostly happy people doing well and also healing where necessary.  Pray it continues...

I love to read, on average I go through a book a week and this year really enjoyed books by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ali Smith, Ian Rankin, Mick Herron and Haruki Murakami amongst many others.  My favourites of the year were "How I killed Margaret Thatcher" by Anthony Cartwright - if only... "Fingers in the sparkle jar" by Chris Packham was surprisingly good and very moving and "Dead man's trousers" by Irvine Welsh a brilliant continuation of the 'Trainspotting saga'.

Then there's cricket which was anything but joyous early in the year; outplayed in Australia, embarrassing in New Zealand and woeful at Lords against Pakistan.  Having leveled that series things got dramatically better with a good win against India including those emotional scenes at the Oval and a very good win in Sri Lanka.  After a couple of turbulent years the test match team is starting to come together again. We also have the best ODI team in the world, next year they have to prove it.

I was spoiled with lots of live music experiences this year, the best were Eels at Brixton Academy which was almost perfect and the Killers at Latitude which was part of a mad, over indulgent festival evening.  Other good shows through the year included The Charlatans, James, PIL, The Vaccines, The Wailers, Wolf Alice, The Levellers and Fucked up who I'm seeing again next month.

Then there's fishing which has been much the same as most years. Pike fishing started steadily in January but the horrible arctic weather ruined my grand plans for a spectacular seasons end.  A bit of Roach fishing went okay but the BIG fish seem to be a thing of the past now.  Apart from an early spring Carp my warm weather fishing would be described as an anti climax if it wasn't so predictable.  The start of this Pike season has been a hard slog but ultimately rewarding.

My fishing highlight?  This time last year I wrote about losing what would probably have been a lure caught PB.  A few months later I had a rematch with another Pike on another water with a different lure and this time, despite getting my landing net snagged, I managed to somehow win the battle.  I was delighted to add a few pounds to the 19.08 I caught on a Suick Thriller in 1999.  But the fish in the photo below isn't either of them.  Happy New Year.


Sunday, 23 December 2018

Saturday at last

Every autumn I make sure the car is full of CD's so I have a good soundtrack to while away the hours in the car.  On the way to the water the music is hardly heard as my mind runs riot with the possibilities for the days ahead, 'where should I start?  Will I find them in the same place?  What's plan B?'  On the way back home it is usually something upbeat which will hopefully suit my mood...  Maybe some euphoric dance music, some chilled out reggae or angry, punchy punk.  Some examples are included;


For once this December I had time on my hands but at some point the decorating demons had crept into my house and made loads of work for me to do.  Or so I was informed...  I don't mind painting but I'd much rather be fishing.  When that was done I had furniture to move in and more to move out.  I ended up tired, battered and covered in paint and was then told I still had to go shopping before the end of the week.  I took this blow in my stride because the media tells me everyone shops online these days so the town shouldn't be too bad.  To be fair it wasn't but I can only tolerate crowds of strangers for so long and by the end of our spree I was definitely getting cranky.  The day hadn't gone too badly so far but the journey home was a bastard.  The roads were busy, yes that much should be obvious but it's not weight of traffic that causes the problems it's fuckwitt drivers.  We all see cheeky, impatient drivers nosing out of a junction or roundabout but when the line of traffic isn't moving all they do is block the traffic coming the other way.  This happened several times, even at the same junction and on two occasions the culprits were buses.  It was a good job I wasn't driving...


Meanwhile the bastards that run the country are still taking the piss, how can these inept cunts getaway with being so shit at their jobs?  Why isn't there anyone in a position to sack them?  Not at the next 'election' but immediately, no one else gets away with being so shit.  Breathe...  I'm actually going fishing tomorrow!!


Friday was windy, damp and horrible.  Sunday’s forecast was dark, wet and horrible.  But this was Saturday, mild and dry with a fresh westerly, for once the weather was in my favour.  Today I had company, Mr B is a former colleague from a younger generation but despite this we have much in common.  It would be good to catch up; I hadn’t seen him since we’d shared a boat this time last year.

We were loaded and away in the dark and soon anchored in a favourite spot, setting up slowly by torch light, by 0700 we both had three deadbaits each soaking in gin clear water.  The sun crept above the fields and shone orange through the trees, the sky was clear but we should be getting a bit of cloud later.  The sun crept higher and the day lightened by the minute, it’s the best time of the day, optimism and expectancy at its highest.

It was just at the point when the doubts begin to materialise (isn't that always the case?) that my herring pinged across to the far bank began to show signs of life.  As I wound down the float picked up pace, running back towards me.  I asked Mr B to duck while I swept the rod sideways, successfully as it stayed bent.  Strong tackle and no quarter, the first of the day was in the net in no time.  A nice double figure fish quickly unhooked and returned.  On this water one fish often brings two or three so we sat up straighter and watched the floats with renewed expectation.  I was content to have a fish under my belt and hoped my guest would catch one soon.  It didn’t happen though so forty five minutes later we were on the move.

The first ‘hot’ swim had been underwhelming but no worries, we were soon sitting in another under the now bright sunshine.  A move always gives the confidence another boost but an hour passed without incident, the cloud hadn’t materialised and it looked like we’d face a day of bright sunshine combined with water that could have come out of a tap.  Another move brought a small improvement when a Pike struck at a bait on the retrieve but still we had no proper takes. 

By 1145 we were tied up in our fourth spot of the day, the sun had progressed to an angle which meant the tree lined bank opposite us now cast a bit of shade on the water.  Half an hour later a Mackerel cast into the shade was picked up and I soon had my second Pike of the day.  I say ‘soon’ but it had been four hours between takes…  No time to ponder, Mr B was away at last and into his first of the day so my job as ‘guide’ was successful, all pressure off.  In the next half hour we had another fish each, the best a low double to Mr B and all four were caught from the shaded far bank.  With the boat returned to normal we decided it would be a good time to toast some sarnies and have a cup of tea.  We had planned to move after this but another fish to Mr B delayed things, once again it came off the far bank.  We considered our options which were limited by the arrival of a couple of anglers.  Our next move at 1500 wasn’t ideal but we could still cover a fair bit of water without encroaching on anyone.

At 1530 I had another take from the far bank on a mackerel and quickly wound in the smallest Pike of the day.  With the sun sinking lower in the still clear sky my confidence was increasing in proportion, I was sure the next hour would see a few Pike.  By 1600 I was beginning to wonder but ten minutes later I saw my float twitch, this time it was a smelt dropped close to the boat and which I’d baited with chopped leftovers.  This one had a little more weight to it but as it was hooked on a short line it did most of its fighting in the net.  When the commotion died down I unhooked my biggest fish of the day.  In the next twenty minutes Mr B had two more fish to low double  to bring the final score to five each, the last couple were unhooked by torch light.  We packed up when we could no longer see our floats. Of the ten Pike boated all bar two had come from baits fished in the shade and those two had come after the sun had set. 

It had been a relief to get back into the wilderness after a couple of weeks of incarceration, good to catch up with a friend, we’d stayed warm, dry and comfortable and we’d caught a boat load of fish.  Perfect.

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!