Thursday 28 April 2011

A walk on the 'Dark side'.

Another week of hot still weather has passed, bringing the water temperatures up nicely. With my fatherly duties over by 3pm I hastily loaded the car and set off for a water I've never fished before. Actually this water used to be controlled by a syndicate and about twenty years ago a mate, “big 'un” & I stumped up the cash and set off for a recce, searching for Carp. We had a walk around, saw a few small carp and left decidedly unimpressed. Eventually our money was returned, we weren't given membership to the syndicate for some reason and that was the last I saw of the place, until today.

Nowadays the water is strictly controlled by a small club. It's quite a nice looking little place but otherwise fulfills all the criteria of a “commercial” type fishery in that it is crammed full of small to medium sized Carp. My “excuse” for fishing here today was to test out a load of new pellets in a variety of styles and flavours produced by “Lake Wizard”. The plan was to fish a method feeder on one rod and a PVA bag set up on the other, chop & change a bit to see what worked etc. However the weather was not really ideal for this style of fishing as the majority of the Carp appeared to be on the surface.

After having a leisurely wander around I could see Carp just about everywhere I looked and quite a few other anglers too. Eventually I settled on a swim in a nice shady bay. This swim ticked two boxes, 1- there were Carp about, 2- there were no other anglers present! I rigged up a method feeder using pre-soaked pellets, baited with a 10mm boilie and chucked it towards some overhanging bushes. What should I do with the other rod? It would be silly to ignore the surface gulping Carp so I chucked a handful of chum mixers out, surely these pressured fish would be wary? No, Carp appeared and slurped them down without a care in the world. Surface fishing used to be my favourite method of catching Carp, in fact I caught my first 'twenty' on a free-lined mixer back in 1985. Through the eighties and early nineties I done loads of floater fishing and know full well how frustrating it can be. Free offerings slurped down with abandon whilst hookbaits are ignored. I fully expected this to be the case today.

I tied a size 12 hook direct to 8lbs mono and baited with a single piece of floating fake corn. The carp were coming in close so there was no need for any casting weight I was able to flick the hook bait the required distance with ease. Another handful of mixers were chucked out and these too began to disappear down greedy mouths. Would my hookbait be taken? Yes, within seconds it was taken confidently and I set the hook into a fish which powered off before shedding the hook in an instance. Bugger! Well that must have pissed on the matches, to coin a phrase. I was sure the fish would have been well spooked now and half heartedly chucked another handful of mixers out. To my surprise these were being slurped down eagerly within seconds. I didn't have long to wait before another take and this time no mistake, after a brief battle a little mirror of about six pounds was in the net. I took a quick photo just in case it was the only fish of the day.

Now that must have spooked the swim? More mixers out and more Carp appeared to eat them without a care in the world. Within a couple of minutes fish number two had taken the bait and actually felt a bit bigger. After a strange fight in the margins I netted one of those funny looking ghostie koi things. A lot of anglers rave on about these but I thing they're just ugly. This one might have made it over the ten pound mark but I couldn't be arsed to weigh it. There were fewer fish around now, perhaps they had spooked or maybe I'd caught the greedy ones? Fish still fed on the mixers but were a tiny bit more hesitant with my hookbait. I dipped the fake corn into a tub of liquid flavouring and out it went again, this seemed to make a difference as within a couple of minutes I hooked a third fish, this time a common which soaked me in the net.

By now I was becoming restless. Yes I was catching fish but I wasn't learning anything about the pellets I was supposed to be trying out. I decided to catch one more fish off the surface before putting all my eggs into one basket and fishing both rods on the bottom. This last fish took longer than expected as I managed to miss two sail away takes yet still couldn't spook the fish in front of me. I'm pretty sure that takes came quicker on freshly 'dipped' baits than when I left it a while. Eventually I hooked and landed another common, a twin of the previous one, surely not the same fish? I'm pretty sure I could have continued catching like this all evening but it held no challenge. In just over an hour I'd caught more carp than in the previous decade.

I replaced the floater rod with a heli rig and a PVA bag full of pellets and concentrated on two bottom fished rods. There were loads of fish in front of me and my left hand rod was continually beeping. Almost certainly liners but I couldn't be arsed to back lead. Eventually I had a proper take and hooked into another Carp but this shed the hook after a second or two. I felt a greater sense of anticipation hovering over twitching indicators than I had watching Carp slurp down the floaters. The light began to fade, a water vole hurried along the margins in front of me and an 'orrible big brown rat ran down the footpath. I had to be somewhere so started packing up. An enjoyable couple of hours all told, not really my cup of tea but I'm sure I'll be back as it's a good place for the family to learn a little more.

And a few days later I returned, this time in the company of my better half, giving her the chance to catch something that pulled back rather more than the small silver fish she has become quite adept at catching. The day had been another warm, sunny one but a fresh Northerly wind had blown up as the afternoon had progressed. We arrived in the late afternoon and had a leisurely stroll around. There were a few other anglers about but we found a nice comfortable swim, out of the way, big enough for two and with a few fish showing.

My tactics for the night were to fish with two rods on the lake bed, despite the amount of carp cruising around on the surface. I fished a boilie/fake corn combination plus a PVA bag of mixed pellets to an overhanging tree opposite me. Also a cage feeder stuffed with pre soaked pellets and the same boilie rig was dropped beside a bush along the bank to the left. I did set up a floater rod too but this would be for Shelley to use. I began feeding with 4 or 5 chum mixers chucked out every minute or two and it wasn't long before these were being sucked down. However the Carp were a little more wary tonight, having been hammered for four days of a bank holiday weekend. Also there was a large amount of floating debris which made keeping an eye on the bait almost impossible. In the end I had to resort to attaching a small float as an indicator and using a larger flavoured floater made by 'Lake Wizard'. Shelley at this point was wandering around the banks with her camera looking for photo opportunities.

I couldn't resist having a go and it didn't take long before I had two small commons on the bank. By this time Shelley was back and I handed the rod over to her. There then followed a frustrating half hour with several near misses and a couple of lost fish before she set the hook into a Carp that stayed on. After that it was pretty much plain sailing for Shelley she hooked and lost a couple but did a good job in landing four fish in total, the best around six pounds. All the Carp were considerably larger than the silver fish she'd caught in the past.

As for me, well I had one of those days. I forgot how to cast, or more to the point I forgot how to avoid trees. I swear if I was fishing from a boat a mile into the sea I'd have found a way to cast up a tree. Maybe I should get a bait boat? NO!!! When I got it right I managed to catch a couple of fish on the bottom baits. There was one spot in particular, beneath an overhanging branch that produced a take within minutes if I could get the cast right... I also sneaked another fish on the floater rod before the end. We packed up with the light fading and the temperature dropping quickly, the recent hot spell had come to an abrupt end.

So after two evenings on a 'commercial' type water have I changed my mind about this type of fishing? Well yes and no. It is good fun for a couple of hours, if (& only if) you're catching and a good way to share some fishing with the family. It doesn't hold enough of a challenge for me though, for example, having caught a couple of fish on floaters I'd lose interest in that method. I know I'd get thoroughly pissed off if I fished when it was really busy too. One thing in particular struck me, this water has rules to safe guard the fish, i.e. no keep nets, barbless hooks only and so on. However, almost all the Carp I caught this weekend showed signs of wear and tear, damaged mouths, flanks or fins. Overall it is what it is, for the most part it's fun.

Sunday 24 April 2011


Another hot, still day had pushed the water temperature up to 19*c by the time I arrived at “The Marsh”. The lake was empty so I had the pick of swims and opted for 'the point' on the east bank. I was happy, as I'd whiled away the hours at work, this was the spot I'd wanted to fish, I had what I wanted to do all worked out. I used 10mm boilies, balanced with fake corn on 10” coretex hooklengths with heli rigs. To my left was a tiny bay of about two feet deep that is shaded with Alders and fringed with reeds. I baited the entrance to this with a carpet of hemp, attached a PVA bag of hemp & hemp pellets and dropped this on the spot. To my right about twenty metres away is an area of emerging weed. I baited the edge of this with about a kilo of mixed halibut pellets, filled a PVA bag with more pellets and plopped this rig on the edge of the growing weed. Two rods out and fishing, now it was time to assemble the rest of my tackle and prepare for the night.

I laid out the unhooking mat between the rods with the landing net on top. Erected the bivvy and sorted everything out ready for the night ahead. The last trip a fortnight previously had swept away the cobwebs and for once I felt better organised than ever before. Time for a fry up, now where's me lighter? Bugger, no lighter = no food! So much for being organised! After an hour I had a couple of blips on the alarm of the hemp rod. Probably a liner, despite the back lead. This place is absolutely teeming with silver fish making the use of maggots and corn for Tench, sometimes impossible. Another hour passed and hallelujah! I found an old lighter in my bag, sausage sarnies were on the menu after all!


By 2130 both rods had been recast with fresh baits and the groundbait had been topped up. A good sized fish rolled to my right, over the area baited with pellets, a good sign! It was virtually dark, stars were pricking out of the sky and bats were swooping around all over. With nothing else to do I settled down into my kip back and chilled out, eyes closed listening to the sounds of the countryside around me. Will a fish disturb me tonight?

Around midnight I was startled awake by a sharp pull on the right hand rod. Maybe a liner but possibly an aborted take? Something told me it was the latter. I dozed a while longer but was awake by 2am. I decided to check the right hand rod, no tangle. I rebaited, fresh bag of pellets then the rig was dropped back on the spot and I got back into my kip bag. I couldn't sleep, somewhere out there came the sound of a motor. It sounded suspiciously like a 0215 in the morning???? Who? Were? and Why? The mind boggled....

Sleep overtook me once more until a few bleeps on the hemp rod roused me around 0500. The dawn chorus was in full flow and the first cuckoo of the year was calling enthusiastically. I rolled out of the bag and went through the drill of rebaiting and re-groundbaiting both the rods. It was a bit chilly so I climbed back into my bag again, disappointed the dark hours had failed to produce but still optimistic that the early morning period might see a fish appear.

By 0830 I was up and about again. I'd pretty much conceded defeat but kept on trying regardless. The left hand rod was cast further along the bank towards an overhanging tree and I set up a float rod baited with fake corn which I fished on the area I'd been baiting with hemp all night. I did have a bite or two on this rod but these were missed and Rudd were almost certainly the culprits. The sun shone strongly and I sat cooking breakfast, reflecting on what I was doing wrong? Last spring I'd learnt the hard way that although maggots, casters and corn are very good Tench baits, in this water they won't last five minutes before being decimated by the shoals of sliver fish. I've almost been forced to go with the boilie approach but this has worked on every other water I've fished for Tench. Are my rigs just not hooking the fish? I'd prefer shorter hooklengths but these may see my hookbait disappear into the silt. Questions, questions.

One of the regulars wandered around for a chat and informed me the lake had been busy earlier in the week but nothing of note had been caught. Despite the warm weather this spring the fishing had been slow. Maybe I'm not doing much wrong? Keep faith, keep doing what I'm doing? Time will tell. By midday the sun was high and it was becoming uncomfortably hot. I had a proper sweat on by the time I'd lugged all my gear back to the car. It'll probably be another couple of weeks before I return to the Marsh and I've got plenty to think about until then.

Monday 11 April 2011


We've had 3 days of clear skies, sunny hot weather, with temperatures in the high teens, even surpassing 20*C at times. It's unseasonably warm at the moment but before we know it we'll get some more normal wet grotty April weather . There's no doubt that this weather will get the Tench and Carp moving so I was keen to get out and at 'em, The only potential problem was preparation, would I have time to swap my Pike set ups for Tench rigs? In the end I did but only just. On Thursday night I bunged a load of gear in the car then I tackled up two rods and some rigs.

Work dragged and I couldn't get off until 1800 so the early evening was a mad rush. I called in at home quickly, put the bait in the car, wolfed down a pizza then head off to 'The Marsh' for the first time this year. For once there were a few other anglers about and it was highly unusual to see the swims that were occupied all involved a walk. The car park area was free, OK car park it is then.

I had a plan, I baited up with the seed mix, making a line of about 10 metres at right angles to the bank. The idea behind this was that any fish moving through the swim would have to encounter this line of bait. This was not my idea, I read it in Rod Hutchinson's “Carp strikes back” nearly thirty years ago. Hookbait was a good quality 10mm boilies + fake corn fished on regular hair rigs – Coretex hooklengths on heli rigs, with hemp in PVA bags. One bait was fished close to a reed bed in the margins the other was cast to the end of the 'line' of bait.

With two rods out and the swim baited and light fading fast I turned my attention to my camp for the night. I erected my cheap & cheerful bivvy, organised my kit then set up my brand new bed-chair. Believe it or not this is the first proper fishing bed-chair that I have ever owned. I've always made do with makeshift crappy stuff and just got by. I've been night fishing for over thirty years but never before in such luxury.

With everything organised I settled back for a much needed chill out session. The Marsh is a hard water but I was confident that my approach of using the seed mix and a good quality boilie would put me in with a good chance should any fish visit my swim. Now it was simply a case of relaxing and hoping the Tench agreed with me. By now it was dark, bats streaked through the air above me and the sky was decorated by a crescent moon and a sprinkling of stars. Nothing much happened throughout the evening, well to be precise, nothing at all happened. I decided to get into my kip bag for an early night. My most recent experience of night fishing had been in the boat, tonight I would experience unprecedented levels of comfort!

Despite the opulence of my accommodation I didn't sleep particularly well. Sadly I wasn't disturbed by any fish, only a few bleeps on the rods during the dark hours. I awoke at 0510 and rebaited both rods then topped up the line of seed mix before getting back in the bag. I was happy to find that after 9 hours on the silty lake bed the boilies still smelled good. I still felt confident that should any fish visit my swim in the dawn period then my methods would do the job. Once more I settled down to slumber.

Awake again at 1000, this time I was disappointed that nothing had happened in the period of the day that I expected to be the most productive. I got up and decided to switch methods on one rod. I rigged up a small method feeder with a short hooklength and a popped up boilie. This recast regularly, plopping it into different parts of the swim, mostly around some emerging lily pads. The other rod was kept the same and once more I topped up the line of seed mix. This was the beginning of another lovely sunny day. A bit of ripple from a North Easterly wind rippled my swim. By and large the 'marsh' was still wearing its winter clothes; brown reeds and skeletal trees but the signs of spring are there. Buds in the bushes and emerging greenery all around, spring is definitely well under way.

At 1130 I was concentrating on frying breakfast when the bobbin on the close range rod climbed quickly to the rod. I was hovering, waiting for it continue but the line slackened and the bobbin slowly fell back. A liner? A few minutes later I had a repeat performance on the same rod, would it keep going?....sadly not. Previous experience on this water has seen ream as the culprits. I left it for fifteen minutes then recast.

By midday I was beaten. I slowly tidied up, leaving the rods till last as usual. A blank session to start my spring season on the 'Marsh'. I had plenty of these last year, hopefully I've learnt enough to put things right this year. Those big Tench are out there.

Two days later I was back at the Marsh again, this time in the company of my son Isaac. A few weeks ago I'd acquired a Pike rod for him, his very first rod of his own and today was the first time he'd actually used it. The weather was warm, bright and sunny with a temperature topping out at 20*C in the early afternoon. I know the Piking police would have me crucified for fishing in this kind of weather and nowadays I do very little warm weather Pike fishing but this was different. I was taking my son fishing and I don't give a rats arse what anybody else thinks!

There was no early start, it was a leisurely 0930 before we arrived and settled into a nice roomy swim with the fresh westerly wind blowing into our face. First job was to rig Isaac's rod up with a Mackerel fished on a float leger rig. Second job was to teach him the mechanics of casting a fixed spool reel. All his Pike fishing to date has been done with lures trolled from a boat or when he was really young I'd do the casting for him. All the other fishing he has done has been with a whip so today, aged 8 ¾ he learnt to cast and I'm delighted to say he learnt quickly.

Once he was settled I put out a couple of Tench rods. A balanced boilie/fake corn was fished with a PVA bag full of hemp and cast along side a reedbed to my left. To the right I fished another boilie on a method feeder cast towards a snaggy area. This left the middle of the swim wide open for Isaac to practice casting! The feeder rod was recast every half hour or so but the left hand rod was pretty much left alone. I also rigged up a waggler rod fishing corn and shared this with Isaac.

To cut a long story short we didn't manage to christen Isaac's new rod with a Pike, in fact the fishing was slow all round. I had a couple of short pulls on the method feeder but that was it as far as the Tench rods went. Even the waggler rod was slow but in the last hour we did manage to catch a few Rudd each, one of which went on the Pike rod but to no avail. We did enjoy a large fry up and just after noon and after filling up with sausage sandwiches we packed up in the early afternoon. Another slow session from a fishing point of view but time spent with my son is priceless.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Timebomb ticking.......

Six weeks have passed since I highlighted the lunacy of the Broads Authority's plans to dredge Heigham Sound. Since then John Currie and the guys from Norfolk PAC with The Norwich & district pike club have taken the fight to the BA. For my own part I have engaged in debate with the officers of the BA with a series of emails. Despite being bombarded with evidence and information spelling out the folly of their ways, the BA stubbornly refuses to even compromise, let alone back down.

What we are facing now is the following 'worst case' scenario;

The BA has reached the conclusion that the system needs dredging thanks to “desk based” studies from Cranfield university using a “conceptual model” (i.e. a bunch of students in a classroom) The unnecessary dredging goes ahead in the summer, the worst possible time because higher water temperatures aid algal blooms. Instead of using the more environmentally friendly suction methods of dredging, the BA uses the antiquated clam bucket equipment it bought second hand a few years ago. This could potentially scour too deep into the bed and allow salt to creep in.

The BA currently only tests for Prymnesium on a weekly basis and has not stated any plans to increase this frequency.

OK so if the Dredging triggers changes in the water, an algal bloom results which goes undetected for several days allowing Prymnesium to flourish. The algae multiplies and so does the toxin. The longer this goes on unchecked, the more potential damage will be done.

When the bloom is finally detected the BA proposes to pump water from internal drainage ditches into the affected area. Ditches that could well be virtually dry in summer or at worst, be full of all sorts of nasty pollutants and of course more of the dreaded prymnesium. How they will pump this water is still unclear at this time.

So despite the warnings and evidence which the BA writes off as “anecdotal” the quango marches blindly on and incurs a massive ecological disaster that kills the system, no Roach, Bream or Pike. No Otters. No Bittern, or Grebes. There is a history of this “anecdotal evidence”, it happened in 1969 and it took a decade for the system to become a viable fishery again. There have been numerous smaller outbreaks since then and in all honesty the Thurne system has never fully recovered.

It's OK though because the channel will be deep enough for the big boats to go through and the BA will have done their job.

Please register your opposition here;

The Angling Trust is a body that I've criticised through these pages in the past but on this issue they have been fighting in the trenches with us. Mark Owen of AT produced the letter below and it would help if people would copy this (or write something similar) and send it to your own MP.

I sent my version of this letter to my MP on 23/3/11 but sadly I still await a reply. Shame on you David Ruffley, Tory member for Bury St. Edmunds.

Your Address


MP’s name and address


I am a keen angler and one of your constituents, I regularly travel to the Norfolk Broads to enjoy fishing the most important fishery in the country and to enjoy the scenery in, what is, a European and globally protected site for its wildlife and the habitats that support it. But all this is under threat; the Broads Authority plan to dredge approximately 1.3 Kilometres of the waterways at Heigham Sound for navigation purposes. Whilst this sounds benign and laudable this carries a severe risk of causing a toxic algae bloom that in similar circumstances in the 1960’s resulted in hundreds of thousands of fish being killed and turned into an ecological disaster from which Broadlands has never recovered.

I believe that the plans for dredging by the Broads Authority should be immediately stopped and that an independent public enquiry should be held to consider:

· Whether the dredging for navigation is necessary

· If it is found that it is then the enquiry should have the powers to insist that the Broads Authority carry out the work in the most ecologically sensitive manner utilising best practice from those countries that regularly encounter this issue

The Broads Authority is intent on carrying out this dredging within the next few weeks despite the objections of hundreds of anglers and increased concerns from the recreational boating sector. I would ask that you urgently contact Richard Benyon MP, Minister for the Environment & Fisheries in order that he instructs the Broads Authority to stop the dredging and order that an enquiry take place.

Yours sincerely