Monday 31 December 2012

End of year guff


It would have been a perfect weekend to fish in Norfolk but I just didn’t have the time. Three milder days after a week of frosty nights and bleakness just has to be worth a go. Milder weather brought wilder weather with big winds and heavy rain a couple of days ago. The river on Saturday was well up and I discounted it as a venue for Sunday. That left a certain stillwater which has been unproductive so far this year but I just had to fish somewhere!

Its been ages since an alarm has woken me for fishing but it wasn’t too early and it’s much easier to get up for fishing than it is work. The daylight was growing as I filled the flask but it didn’t take me long to get to the lake and by 0745 I had two deadbaits soaking. I’d had a couple of swims in mind and one was available, the pegs to my left were taken by two carp anglers who had bravely fished the night. The shaded south eastern corner of the lake still had a thin layer of ice left. I fished a Mackerel to the left and cast a popped up sprat to my right where there should be dying weed. I often sneak out a third deadbait but today I’d opted to bring a lure rod. I have some jigs that rarely get chucked around so the plan was to twitch these past my deadbaits and hopefully stir some Pike up. Instead of using my normal baitcasting set ups I tried one of my 10ft boat rods and a fixed spool reel for a change.

After an hour or so watching the sun creep above the tree tops, sipping tea and chilling out with cricket on the radio I gave the jig a go. Being inexperienced with jig fishing I experimented with retrieves and all that technical stuff. I like the idea of bouncing bottom with a lure like this but maybe a shad shape would work better than this eely looking thing? In India, England were 94-3 at tea, a little precarious? I twitched the sprat back towards me and recast the mackerel, this too was popped up. Every now and then I picked the lure rod up, trying a springdawg & a replicant before switching back to another jig.

The morning was pleasant, I had the weak winter sun shining and every now and then a breeze sprang up from the west. The lake was filling up, two people set up on the far side, one was certainly Piking. I hope I don’t make anything like as much noise as they did setting up. There was a flurry of action to me left, one of the carpers was into a fish which appeared to fighting quite hard. When they eventually lifted the net it looked like a big lump of fish and fair play to them, well-earned after a winter night. Good angling but what’s this? C’mon, you don’t need a bait boat to fish there! After a couple of fishless hours I may have had a move but there was little scope now. Back in India, Trott & Bell were batting well and saw England reach 161-3 at the close. I was just settling down to listen to Aggers & Boycott’s summary when I noticed my float slowly upend and lay flat. It didn’t move off and I didn’t really think it was a take but I couldn’t ignore it. I wound down and felt a tap so struck and found myself actually attached to a Pike. It was lively but soon under control, a small fish but more than I’d expected by that time. The hooks were just nicked in and she was back in the water in seconds.

Another Mackerel was soon on the spot and I settled back again. My experience of this water is it’s slow through the winter, mostly “one take days” but with a good chance of a nice fish. My one take had produced a jack but I fished on. The lure rod was given another good spin and I kept on twitching the sprat back towards me. Another ninety minutes drifted passed by which time I was hungry and had to find time for a few jobs at home so that was that. Hopefully Isaac and I will find time for another visit in a few days time.

Sadly we didn’t manage to find the time and that was almost certainly my last fish of 2012.

End of year guff.
2012 is drawing to a close and will be remembered in the UK with little fondness for being one of the wettest in living memory. Grey skies and rain have seemed never ending this year but the sun did come out on a few occasions. I was lucky enough to have three sunny days at cricket this year, firstly at Trent Bridge with the family where we saw England set up a win against the West Indies in May. Next was July with a group of good mates at the Oval watching South Africa bat us out of the game. Family again in august for a CB40 match between Essex and the Netherlands which was great fun and a home win. It rained at the Latitude festival in July, where the good lady & I spent four days and nights of Music, comedy and madness. The highlight of that weekend was Paul Weller playing a blinder. Despite my scepticism I really found myself enjoying the olympics this year too. I talk about all this, my addiction to cricket and a load of other bollocks on another blog called….


Back in the spring I had several rants directed at the Broads Authority and their dredging policies. The BA complimented me by instructing their solicitor to email me… Now to be fair to the BA, since that Prymnesium bloom they’ve began to listen. They’ve taken on board advice from EA scientists, from Natural England and the Angling Trust has also been involved. They have now agreed to dredge only in the winter and will be using the suction method instead of a clam shell and crane. So credit where it’s due, I’m happy to write something positive about the BA on this occasion. However I think it’s fair to say that none of this would have happened without the pressure from the angling community led by the Norfolk PAC/N&DPC. Thanks to John Currie, Micky Cox & Steve Roberts in particular. Steps in the right direction and there is other good news detailed in an interview with John Currie coming on the “Pike Pool” soon.

My first fish of 2012 was actually a 22+ pounds Pike and my biggest passion in angling remains fishing for Pike, from a boat, on the Norfolk Broads but sadly I still feel unable to write about this too much. Why? Over in Lumbland, Dave said it all and much better than I could on this post;
This year has been a good one for the Pike but maybe not quite as good as the one before. I’ve also enjoyed bank fishing closer to home a few times, nowadays this type of fishing is almost a novelty.

I managed to catch a Tench on just my third attempt this spring then later in the year another, my best ever. (I somehow managed to delete that particular blog post somewhere along the way) These were obviously fluke captures as I mostly spent the spring totally over complicating things and catching everything but Tench. Normal service resumed, Rudd, Roach and one half decent Bream. I really enjoyed a bit of Broadland Bream fishing from the boat, hopefully I’ll find time to do that again next year. Later in the summer catching my first ever Catfish was a lot of fun too, on the right water I could get well into fishing for those ugly things. I’ve really enjoyed fishing with the children in 2012, both Madi and Isaac had PB Carp this year along with loads of smaller species. Madi is a ‘take it or leave it’ angler but Isaac is showing more and more of an interest, is learning quickly and most importantly he’s enjoying himself!


I caught loads of Carp this year but nothing that was big enough to be particularly interesting. I used to enjoy Carp fishing but was never very good at it. This wasn’t the reason I jacked it in though, it was mostly because it became so popular and I couldn’t find any peace & quiet. I enjoy my Tench fishing mostly because of the water involved, this place also holds a few nice Carp and for the first time in nearly twenty years I fancy trying to catch a few. Or is this a double bluff? If I target Carp maybe I’ll catch Tench?


Finally, some more photos from a year of fishing.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Winter's here.


Isaac and I continued our quest to christen his Pike rod with a couple of hours at the Marsh this afternoon. I didn’t fancy taking him out in the gale force winds we woke up to, laying in and listening to the cricket on the radio was a much better idea! By midday the wind had eased considerably and the sky was clear so it was much easier to venture out of our warm house. We fished an area in the North western side and spread three rods over the marginal shelves. He fished a Bluey in front of the reeds to the left and a sprat in the middle while I settled for just the one rod with a popped up herring tail cast towards some dying pads. Isaac’s casting is coming on, he improves all the time. Today he wasn’t happy with his first two attempts; he wanted his bait nearer to the reeds where the Pike may be hiding. Once the bait landed to his satisfaction he was content to leave it and play the waiting game.

This is only our third trip of the Pike season and like the previous two it would only be a short two hour stint by the water. This way I can keep Isaac’s enthusiasm if things don’t go to plan and the Pike don’t play ball. The last thing I want is for him to get cold and bored sitting by the water for hours at a time. I want him to enjoy the experience, that way he’ll be keen to come back again. The downside to these short sessions is we have less time to locate and catch the Pike. If plan A doesn’t come up trumps then there is no time for plan B. So far we haven’t managed to put a bait near enough to a Pike during our outings and today followed that form. We’ll have another go in a fortnight, maybe we’ll try the river which is badly flooded today or maybe we’ll keep persevering at the Marsh.


The week that followed was in two distinct halves. It started off with days of monsoon which resulted in flooding rivers and meadows under water. The second half was clear, bright and cold with overnight frosts, the first sustained cold spell of the winter so far. By the time the weekend came around the river was running below its banks again and it had to be worth a go. This little river has few big Pike so sights are lowered, any Pike is a good Pike today.

The afternoon was clear and bright and like the last time I fished the river almost a year ago Shelley joined me hoping to catch something interesting with her camera. My plan was to travel light and cover water as the stretch I had in mind is one I haven’t fished in about twenty years. The river would be very different to when I last fished it. I chose to float fish a sprat, trotting it down with the current and when it swings round to the near bank I’d slowly retrieve it. This little river is perfect for this method, you can catch trotting down and also on the retrieve, provided the river has a little flow. On arrival it was apparent that flow wouldn’t be an issue, it was spot on but the river had run down more than I expected. Had I known it would be this clear I’d probably chosen to use the lure rod. Oh well… Here in the east we live in the flattest part of the country but floods rarely cause any problems to homes and businesses. Either by accident or design the water finds its way out to sea very quickly. Apparently a local reservoir is at a fairly low level, which really is baffling. I expect we’ll be told there’s another drought this time next year.

Trotting a bait is a good way to discover changes of depth and weedbeds as well as locating Pike. I dropped in here and there trotting along the trailing tree branches and any other feature that looked likely. After covering about three quarters of a mile I hadn’t seen sign of a fish but Shelley was busy capturing the frosty landscape. A run of trees was deeper than average and looked good but still failed to produce a Pike. Coming to the end one bush stood alone with a nice raft of debris providing cover, the river narrowed here making the current run a little quicker. The float bumped off the raft and about half way along, as it swung out a little the float bobbed sharply then began to move oh so slowly against the flow. I wound down and hit it quickly to prevent it reaching any snags that may be under the raft. It was quickly evident this fish was no monster but it was pretty lively considering the cold water. I soon chinned out a cracking little Pike that was typical for this river and looked like it had never seen the bank before. It was held up for Shelley’s camera and returned with no more than a pin prick in the scissors.

We carried on for another half mile or so before stopping for a brew and a short break. I switched to a wobbled sprat for the return walk, just a few casts here and there while Shelley snapped the setting sun. No more Pike graced our presence but it was a couple of hours well spent. If I return to this stretch any time soon I’ll have a good idea of where I might find a fish or two. I think the series of floods we’ve had this year may have done the river a world of good. The weedbeds that had remained for nearly two years have been ripped out in many places, hopefully slowing down the shallowing process that abstraction and drought has inflicted on the river. I wonder how it will look this time next year?

I picked up a copy of “Carp & the Carp angler” by George Sharman for pence from a second hand shop back in the summer. I thought it might be worth a few quid on ebay but so far I haven’t checked it’s worth. I did find time to read some of it though. It was published in 1980 when the development of Carp fishing was gathering pace it was already dated for its time and was completely blown away by Kevin Maddocks’ “Carp Fever” a couple of years later. I enjoyed reading the stories of Sharman's campaigns fishing on difficult waters but compared to even contemporary authors, the fish caught barely justified the effort. Maybe that’s harsh, as the size on an anglers “target fish” is subjective but that's another subject... Most of the book is dated to the point it is relevant only as a historical record of Carp fishing struggling out of the darkness. I couldn’t be arsed to read the last few chapters.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Night fishing in winter is...

Written in the ice on the coldest night of this winter so far.

I’m sure every angler has his share of disasters but I’m beginning to think there can be few who has as many as me. Of course boats add to the potential for mishaps. A few years ago I managed to drop my engine over the side. I got it back but it left a mate & I with a long row home. A couple of years later while fishing with the same friend we somehow managed to sink the boat, we haven’t fished together since…. That really was a low point but there are no hard feelings, on my part at least. Last season I heard a splash whilst motoring along on the outboard and thought nothing of it but when I went to edge in on the electric motor…it was gone. A mooring post vanished on the same day.

This season has seen a series of classics. The first was an outboard that refused to run later diagnosed as water in the fuel but God knows how that happened. This resulted in me having to literally drag myself off a broad, along the edge with handfuls of reeds as the wind was too strong for me to row against. After this I had a three mile row back to base. Since then I’ve lost a mud-weight which got snagged in something causing the ring to break as well as one of the bars that hold the (home-made) folding cuddy under tension, which jumped over the side. Later that trip I was blown off the weights and with a precarious drifting boat I quickly started the engine to get out of trouble only to get loads of braid wrapped around the prop!! The law of sod is familiar to the boat angler.

Recently another series of disasters befell me, for starters a collapsing trailer and boat stuck on the slip, nightmare! After an hour of sweat, grunt and “you don’t want to do it like that…” from the growing audience, the situation was sorted. The boat was shifted, the trailer wasn’t terminal but I did have a busted oar. Ah well. I loaded the car and left later than expected only to find the CD player wasn’t working. Radio 5 was tolerable only until they threatened to play Mcfly when I tried the CD player once again and this time it worked!! I was so enjoying the sound of “Magic world” by Eels that I missed my turning….

So why do we do it?  Here are a few reasons...

And of course we do catch a few fish along the way. Here's one from 2011, on one of those occasions when the luck really was on my side but that's another story!

Monday 12 November 2012


Armistice Day when we remember the brave people who fought for this country, including members of my own family.  Ironically at a little after 1100 Madi, Isaac and I were settling into the cinema to watch “Skyfall”, the latest James Bond film and bloody good it is too.

Dragging Isaac out of bed early for fishing is never easy so instead we decided to do things in reverse today.  After the cinema we loaded the car and nipped off to a local stillwater to try and catch a Pike as the light faded.  We arrived at 1530 and found to our surprise that we had the water to ourselves.  Texts from a friend informed me that other local waters were packed so we were fortunate indeed.  I chose to fish on the western bank, not just because it was close to the car which was a happy coincidence.  If I have little else to go on I’ve always liked having the sun behind me.  I have a theory that Pike can use light entering the water as a screen whilst hiding in the shade behind it, this stems from watching Pike in the “Aquarium of the lakes” many years ago.  The largest Pike in the tank was hidden in a sunken tree directly behind a beam of light entering from the outside.  A step to the left and the Pike was clearly visible, a step to the right and the fish was hidden behind a shaft of light.  Food for thought at the time and since.

This area is also a slight point with three swims close together so as we had the place to ourselves I decided to spread our four rods (two each) between these three swims and cover as much water as possible.  OK we were bending the rules a little but who were we hurting?  Isaac hadn’t fished since early September so after a brief reminder he was soon casting again.  I’m happy to say his timing has improved greatly and for the first time his deadbaits went further forwards than skywards.  We fished with Herring and Sprats either on the lake bed or slightly popped up, these were occasionally twitched back towards us to cover water.
It’s amazing that at ten years old, today's visit to the cinema was actually the first Bond film Isaac has seen so we spent the afternoon dissecting the plot and discussing the various explosions and deaths.  As the light faded the area came alive with silver fish topping and things looked good for a take.  There were no more substantial swirls amongst the silvers, sadly no Pike putting in an appearance.  We fished until we could no longer see our floats before giving it best and returning home for Sunday dinner.  Another failed attempt to christen Isaac’s Pike rod but he’s enjoying the thrill of the chase and we’ll be back soon!!

I’m sure I’ve ranted on about Otters on here before but recent events mean I'm going to do so again.  I saw my first wild Otters in Ireland about fifteen years ago and I can remember how excited and privileged I felt at the time.  Back then the Otter was a rare British mammal and to see them at total ease and comfort in their own natural environment was fantastic.  They never allowed us to get to close but the Zoom on the camera gave us a good view.  Until relatively recently I’d never seen one in England.  I saw my first about five years ago on the Norfolk Broads and since that day sightings all over East Anglia have steadily increased to the point that I’m seeing Otters more often than not.  So why, you may ask, do I find this state of affairs bloody infuriating?  Because there are too many of the bloody things!

The situation we witnessed in Ireland was idyllic as far as Otters are concerned and as I said it was a real joy to watch them behaving naturally, at one with the eco system.  If this was how things were in Britain right now then nobody would have a problem.  However the situation we have here has gotten out of hand thanks, inevitably, to the intervention of man.  Otters are being bred in captivity then released into the wild in artificially high numbers so that the environment cannot sustain them.  Otters should be wild and elusive like those in Ireland, they should not be swimming under my boat then popping their head out for a staring match.  Otters should be catching fish for food in such a way that the ecology is largely unaffected by their presence.  They should not be cleaning out Carp pools and leaving them void of fish (as has been widely reported) nor should they be attacking adult Mallards as I witnessed in Norfolk recently.

Otters are a protected species so a fishery owner finds himself in a situation where he is unable to shoot one to protect his stock, which in the case of Carp may be worth up to £5000 per fish.  Contrast this with a farmer who does have the right to shoot a dog he feels is “worrying” his livestock which may not be worth anything like as much.  As a passionate angler and wildlife lover the situation is equally frustrating, I have no problem with Otters being around but not at the expense of the fish I’m trying to catch or indeed the other birds and wildlife that live in harmony within the environment.  Nature is a wonderful thing and given time the balance will redress itself but how long is this going to take and at what cost?  It’s not just commercial fisheries and Carp pools, in some cases wild, natural fisheries could be wrecked for a generation.  It would be irresponsible to condone anglers taking the law into their own hands but sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Wednesday 17 October 2012


Fifteen years ago today, I caught my biggest Pike. So because I haven’t posted anything for a while I’m using that as an excuse for some self-indulgent reminiscing. Most of what follows below (and a hell of a lot more) was written at the time.

There was this pit a couple of miles down the road, no fishing allowed as the place was leased by wind surfers but we always wondered what was in there. In the late eighties a local tackle shop started selling tickets so we were on it straight away. A few trips between us produced only a couple of jacks so we left it alone but vowed to keep an eye on it. A couple of years later I had a twelve pounder, possibly the first double ever caught here? Unlikely on reflection but it’s a nice thought. By the early nineties we were enjoying brilliant sport with big bags of doubles but the only twenty came to a friend Ian and it turned out this fish had been moved from the river by a match angler who didn't want it eating his roach…at least he didn't kill it. By this time access to the pit was more complicated so we had the fishing to ourselves, the information kept to a small circle of friends. At the end of the ’93 season a local club took over the water so our little nirvana was gone and we moved on to the next pit… We kept our ears to the ground and the news was not always good, the pit was being reworked for a start. The latest lease holder was transferring Pike to another pit and small Carp were being stocked. Obviously we hated this state of affairs but nature is a funny thing, those small Carp disappeared and the Pike that remained in the pit thrived. A young lad pulled out a very big Pike and the pit got a bit of pressure but the big Pike was elusive thereafter. We now knew the pit had the potential to do something a bit special but just how special was a shock to all of us.

On Friday 17th October, I arrived at the pit at 6.45am as the dawn light was beginning to grow. Within half an hour I was comfortably fishing from the eastern side of the peninsula with three rods. As usual I fished two deadbaits, a yellow sprat was popped up and given the big chuck towards the old hotspot and a smelt was float legered in the deeper water just beyond the drop off. . It was a mild morning, dull and cloudy with the sun piercing through only occasionally. The wind was a straight southerly which rippled the surface of the clear weedy water, but this was the only direction that would not allow me to drift. As drifting was not an option on a third rod I set up a float rig, set to four feet, roughly mid water and baited with a live carp. This was swung out just beyond the drop off, the greased line would slowly drag the bait across the swim from right to left. If nothing else then perhaps it would attract a little snapper which I could use for bait. I sat back in my chair, staring into the water my eyes slowly scanning from right to left checking the floats, full of confidence to await the inevitable takes.

Ten past nine, two uneventful hours past, both my deadbaits had been recast and the livebait had been working well. I sat deep in thought, contemplating a move to my left where a small point jutted out into the pit. Perhaps this vantage point would allow me to get a drifter going. My attention was abruptly diverted to my livebait rod, the float had gone and the line was steadily tightening. Without knowing it I was out of my seat and as I approached the rod the bait runner began to click. I wound down tight and bent into a heavy weight, the rod bent right round and stayed there, and the line immediately began a violin whine in the wind. Whatever was attached to the end of my line felt very heavy indeed and I assumed that I was playing a decent fish along with a weedbed. The fish stayed deep but was doing very little and allowed me to slowly pump it back towards the bank. As she approached the shelf she woke up and left the bottom for the first time. I caught my first glimpse of her as she kited along the surface from right to left at a range of about twenty yards and I realised there was very little weed on the line. At the end of the run a huge head broke clear of the water and shook defiantly before submerging with hardly a splash. The fight seemed to last forever but in reality was probably only a couple of minutes. After a couple of defiant runs which were thankfully short but extremely powerful, ending in angry boils on the surface I gained some sort of control. As the fish got ever closer the net suddenly looked inadequate. With a lot of the tail end still beyond the cord I lifted up the net and my luck held she was mine! I knew this was the biggest Pike I’d ever seen, surely it had to be a thirty pounder!

The unhooking mat was laid out ready and I staggered up the bank with my prize. The hooks were just behind the scissors, (God the mouth was huge!), and I removed them easily despite my seriously shaking hands. I hoisted her onto the Avon’s hoping she would take them into the red and counted the needle round. Ten, Twenty, Thirty! They kept going (oh my God!) Thirty five, Thirty eight, allowing for the net 36 ½ pounds!!!!!!. It couldn't be! I gently lowered her to the ground and repeated the exercise getting the same result, but I was shaking so badly I couldn't be sure. My mind reeled and all my strength had deserted my body. My hands were shaking as if I’d been drinking for a week and my legs were Jelly. The last time I felt like this I’d just been hit in the head by a cricket ball. I simply couldn't believe it and if I couldn't how could I expect anyone else to? I needed to find a witness but on a Friday in October who? I got my head together sufficiently enough to place this magnificent fish into a sack (was she really Thirty Six?) and as I lowered her into the water I was startled by the sound of the back-biter. If ever there was a time that I didn't want a take! The long-range rod was away still with no strength in my body I half-heartedly wound down and struck. The fish was attached and I had a real struggle to wind her in, I thought it might be a decent fish but luckily for me the fish was small and soon in the net. I really doubt if I could have coped with another big fish at this stage. Still shaking I unhooked and returned a fish of about four pounds, then slumped back in my chair. I needed to get my breath back and to think.

After a few minutes I had calmed down enough to allow some kind of rational thought and decided that with two rods already wound in, the simplest option was to wind in the third and leg-it to the phone box. I half jogged/half walked to the phone box which stood by the road half a mile or so away. I guessed my dad, Derek, would be at home so phoned him first and he was more than happy to come out. On impulse I dialled Rich’s number, not expecting an answer but my luck was in, he hadn't yet left for work and promised to be there as soon as possible. I jogged back to my swim, all the time praying that the fish hadn't escaped from the sack. What a nightmare that would have been! I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I returned to find all was well and cheekily recast a rod before collapsing back into my chair, exhausted once again.

Soon the cavalry arrived, Dad first and then Richard with a firm handshake and a celebration cigar. We made everything ready, scales tape and cameras. I crouched by the water and prepared to drain the sack I said a silent prayer of thanks. As I removed the fish from the sack Richard let out a gasp, she was huge! We measured her at forty seven inches long to the fork & she looked as deep at the anal fin as she was near the head. With help I re-weighed her and with Richard reading the dial we settled for a weight of 36lbs 2ozs. What a Pike! Long and dark with olive speckled flanks and a huge head. On one flank, near the tail was a red scar but otherwise she was flawless, a throwback to those beautiful Pike we’d caught in the early days. With a battery of cameras we quickly got the formalities over and with a strong sense of responsibility I returned the monster to the water. To watch her swim away was both a joy and a relief. Then it dawned on me, if the Domesday Book was ever re-written the Pike and I would be in it! I asked Rich if I was dreaming and he replied “no mate, you've just put a Thirty six back!”

Being Pike obsessed from an early age my only ambition had been to one day catch a Pike that would qualify for Fred Buller's book and actually catching one blew my mind for a while.  It probably took a decade for me to get my fishing head back.  My state of the art tackle of the time was a 12 ft 2 1/2 tc century rod, 14lbs AN40 mono, QED wire (but I can't remember what strength) and a couple of size 8 partridge trebles.  As far as I know that fish was never seen again on the bank at least, it all seems a very long time ago now. There were other pits in the vicinity and for a while we had good sport exploring them but they are now part of a large commercial fishery catering mostly for Carp anglers. Our group of friends ran out of new pits locally about a decade ago and without that buzz of the unknown in the fishing we now seek it further afield.

Monday 17 September 2012

Curtain raiser

Sunday morning saw me attempting to prise Isaac from his bed at the unearthly hour (for him) of about 0730, “Just five more minutes Dad…”.  Half an hour or so later we stood on the banks of the Marsh surveying the scene.  As ever there were a few Carp anglers in residence but the swim I wanted to fish was free on this cool, grey morning.  We were attempting to christen Isaac’s Pike rod which he’s had a while and used a couple of times but without managing to hook a Pike on it.  This was a priority for us this autumn, the Pike police will say we’re a bit early and ultimately the weather may have been in agreement.  However we’ve had our fill of Carp and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to go fishing with my son while it’s still warm enough for him to relax.

I set Isaac’s rod up first and after a quick reminder he set about launching his float legered sprat out into the lake.  His cast went further skyward than it did forwards but it plopped on the edge of the sparse lily pads, just where we wanted albeit with a bit of a splash.  I chucked a lump of bluey to the left then commenced setting up the whip.  With maggots as bait and a little bit of groundbait it was bite a chuck from the off, Rudd up to 4ozs which made ideal baits.  We soon had one mounted on Isaac’s rod, switched to a paternoster and this too went on an upward trajectory and out into the lake.  I decided not to use a live, if there was a Pike about I wanted it to take Isi’s bait and would probably have let him wind in any that took my mine.

We both soon got tired of catching Rudd so put the whip to one side and chatted while we willed a Pike to take Isaac’s bait.  I was brought up to speed on the latest computer games and tried to explain why we hadn’t caught a Pike yet.  When nothing had happened after the first hour I became resigned to it not happening at all, had I been fishing alone I’d have moved but…  A good reminder should I actually fish here alone at another time.  A cup of tea a bag of crisps later we decided to give it best, I tidied away slowly leaving Isaac’s rod till last but his chance didn’t come today.  Happily he’s still determined to christen his new rod and quizzed me about “places with more Pike…” for next time.  I’ll have to have a think.

Matt Hayes has been stirring the pot through his social networking sites over the weekend, offering honest opinions on the state of angling today.  Fish stealing, Otters, Match fishing and the tackle trade in general have all been criticised.  His comments about bait companies not actually field testing their products rang a bell.  When I worked in that trade I witnessed very little actual field testing but colleagues and I were keen to put this right so did it in our own time.  Some of the baits we came up with weren't up to scratch but a few were very effective, our "Instant stick mix" for example.  None ever saw the market however as they were “too expensive”.  On the shelves of tackle shops around the country is a product that proudly boasts the effectiveness of an ingredient that doesn’t actually exist, under that name at least.  Around a decade ago one of my colleagues also had a phone call “offering” him a record Barbel that had recently been caught, it was eventually reported to be caught on the bait of the highest bidder…. (allegedly…).  From my experience Matt Hayes is a nice bloke and I agree with very many things he said but I can’t help thinking he’s bitten the hand that has fed him very nicely over the years.

The traditional Pike season will soon be upon us and the curtain raiser comes this Saturday, Saturday 22nd September sees the annual PAC convention at Harrogate, see link below.  This is by far the social event of the year for British Pike anglers both on the event itself and in the bar afterwards.  For some reason it often coincides with the year’s worst hangover too.  If you’ve never been you don’t know what you’re missing but don’t take my word for it, go see for yourself.

Monday 10 September 2012

Do different

Friday night was spent in a busy Town pub, sharing a laugh and a pint with loved ones along with all the hustle and bustle that goes with it. Twenty four hours later I was in the boat tucked into the reeds fishing for Bream on a dark, starry night.

My original intention had been to have an early Pike session but the weather had been far too hot of late so that was ruled out. Instead I’d take the Bream rods and do something I’d never really done before. I could also spend time motoring around the system, getting the hang of where the weedbeds are and how things have changed since last year. This would provide useful information for the Pike season to come.

Saturday at work had been a grueller, I didn’t have a hangover but there was one lurking, ready to pounce should I drop my guard. Plenty of tea to keep me hydrated and the drink demon was kept at bay. Time dragged but eventually I was finished and racing home to load the car. Turnaround time at home was longer than expected but I eventually hit the road and chased the setting sun. I launched the boat in fading light but I was able to cross the broad and motor down to my chosen spot before it got fully dark.

I found a place on the sheltered bank, not a bay as such but a little indentation in the reeds about fifty yards long that allowed me to tuck the boat out of the southerly wind and importantly out of the boat channel. This area was shallow and weedy but gave me easy access to the deeper channel where I intended to put my baits. I fished simple cage feeders filled with a mixture of brown crumb and special G, which is a groundbait I have faith in because in a previous job I used to make it. Provided they haven’t tampered with the recipe too much it should be good stuff. Hook bait was sweetcorn fished on size 16 hooks with 18” hooklengths and these were gently lobbed into the deeper boat channel. I also baited the area with a couple of kilos of mixed pellets and I was fishing for Bream from a boat at night. Something I’ve never done before.

So I was fishing and it felt great to be out in the boat in the wilds once again. Good to get back in the swing of things, kind of a practice for when my Pike fishing starts in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m not an angler who can just switch methods and species with ease (I admire those who can), I need a trip or two to get my head around things. OK I wasn't Piking but I was in the boat so it was practice of sorts. To demonstrate my ineptitude as an all rounder, my total lack of night time Bream/boat fishing became apparent as it became fully dark and a bit of fog drifted in, I simply couldn’t see my quiver tips!! This was a bit of a problem which became obvious when a fish found its way into weed, undetected and was lost. I eventually got around this snag with a moment of genius, cut to one rod and touch leger!

Within a few minutes I’d detected and missed my first bite, there were fish out there and I thought I was in with a chance of catching a few. However bites did not come regularly and I had to wait a while for the line to be pulled from my fingers and I set the hook. My first Bream of the trip wasn’t a monster but required the landing net and I’d got a result of sorts. I fished on with enthusiasm but after an hour without feeling anything I became a little drowsy. The festivities of the previous evening began to catch up with me so I decided to get my head down and have another go first thing in the morning.

After a fitful night I roused around 0600 to find light growing on a misty morning. I recast the feeders, catapulted out some more pellets and began fishing again. Having read many times that Bream are nocturnal I didn't know what to expect. I began getting tremors on the tips but no definite bites, I guessed smaller fish were trying to eat my corn baits. With a couple of cups of tea and some breakfast inside me I fished on with a bit more energy and at last began to get some proper bites. I even began hooking fish, Bream and hybrids around the pound mark, not exactly what I’d expected but fish none the less. Bites came in spurts, I’d hook two or three fish then it would go quiet for a time before another little burst of activity. I've only ever targeted Bream a handful of times over the years so have very little experience but would guess I didn't have enough feed to hold a number of fish and was picking off a few each time a shoal passed by. As time passed a few bigger Bream showed up too, again nothing huge but big enough to require netting. As the morning wore on the boat traffic began to increase from annoying to “FFS!”. I’d arranged to meet the good lady around midday so although I was still catching the odd fish I wasn't too bothered about tidying up, lifting the anchors and heading off.
I picked Shelley up in the early afternoon and took her for a leisurely cruise around the system, showing her beautiful places she’d never seen before. After a couple of hours we found a nice quiet spot away from the madness of the boat traffic and I pinged out the feeder rods while we enjoyed tea and a picnic. Bites here were very slow in coming but after an hour of enjoying the scenery and wildlife the tip began to rattle again. Two skimmers came in quick succession before I hooked a third, much heavier fish. This was on for a bit, thumping its head before my hooklength parted. I suspect a proper Bream had taken my bait that time, live and learn.

With the sun beginning to descend we upped the weights and I pointed the boat back in the general direction of its home. With everything finally tidied up and secured we finished a lovely late summer day with a pint of local bitter and a lovely seafood pub meal. The long days of sunshine rarely appeared this year but this was one that we’d thoroughly enjoyed, however I’m ready for autumn now, ready for Pike fishing…

Monday 3 September 2012

More mixer madness

At the start of spring I wrote on here about how I was hoping to share my fishing experiences with the children.  Having dipped in and out during the summer, I’m delighted to say that lately Isaac is really showing some enthusiasm towards the sport, he’s now asking me when we can go fishing.  We had a couple of hours spare this weekend and when I mentioned this to Isi it was a done job.  Should we fish for Rudd at the Marsh or Carp at the puddle?  Carp won this time, they’re a little bit bigger and more exciting for a ten year old.

We arrived around 0830 on a cloudy, dreary morning and found a couple of anglers sitting in the spot we usually fished, so undeterred went round the other side to try a new area.  I chucked a couple of handfuls of chum mixers out while I baited up and I could soon hear the slurping of oh so hungry Carp.  Both of us freelined two 10mm boilies, hair-rigged on size 12 hooks, Isaac used a whip while I used a light Carp rod.  Other than that we’d only brought a minimum amount of tackle.  Just the landing net, unhooking mat and one small bag containing a few spares along with chairs to sit on.

I’d barely got my bait in the water before Isaac hooked his first fish which was giving whip, elastic and boy a good work out.  After a protracted tug of war Isi eventually steered his first fish of the day into the net.  It was one of the bigger fish in this particular pool and we were pretty sure it was Isaac’s personal best, which the scales subsequently confirmed.

After that the action was pretty much constant, it seemed as if one of us was into a fish at all times.  Every handful of loose mixers brought more fish into the area, more competition for food made them increasingly easy to catch.  Most were Commons though we also caught a couple of Mirrors and one or two ghostie things.  Sadly there was, as always, signs of bad angling.  Most had damaged mouths, a couple looked more like Chub than Carp at the business end.  Also many of the fish were very thin, torpedo like shaped fish like wildies.  Their body shape has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with lack of food.

It was very pleasing to watch Isaac now expertly flicking his bait out with the whip as well as playing the fish patiently, holding on and letting the elastic do its job.  As we began to run out of bait so bites became more finicky, the fish were more adept at ignoring our baits whilst slurping down the few remaining mixers we were eking out for freebies.  It was Isaacs suggestion to use a mixer as hookbait so I carefully hair rigged one up for him and bites became more easy than ever.  He caught three fish in as many chucks, overtaking my tally in the process.

After ninety minutes or so we were out of bait and were content with what we’d caught.  Isaac finished with a nice round total of ten fish while I managed nine.  Averaging about four pounds each we must have totalled nearly eighty pounds of fish in this short session.  On the way home Isi was making plans for his next fishing trip, he thinks it’s high time he christened his Pike rod.

September has come around again, the nights are drawing in and there is a heavy dew on the grass in the morning, autumn is well and truly on the way.  I spent most of Sunday reorganising the fishing shed.  The bivvy, bedchair and all the Tench/Carp equipment is now at the bank while my Piking kit has been moved nearer the front.  One set of tackle for bank fishing and another for the boat.  For personal reasons, very little of what goes on in the boat will make its way onto this blog but hopefully a little bit more of Isaac’s fishing progress might.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Dark and not proper

The plan was rush out of work, a quick change around then off to the Marsh for a nights fishing.  For once thoughts of Tench were on the back burner, I had a hankering to catch myself a proper Carp which is something I haven’t managed to do this summer.  Anyway, by the time I arrived at the Marsh there were five other cars parked up leaving only a couple of swims free.  I had a little stroll around but nothing inspired me, I was feeling a little mind fucked and craved a bit of peace and quiet.  I could have squeezed in but it just didn’t feel right.  So what next?  If I’d gone home I’d just drink too much so I decided to take a drive and check the puddle out.

As I drove I was aware of gloomy storm clouds approaching from the west, would I reach the lake before them?  No, it was a dead heat, as I opened the car door the first drops began to fall.  I sat in the car and waited for the storm to pass, there was a surprising lack of other anglers giving me plenty of choice which was a nice change.  The rain fell and fell and showed little sign of stopping anytime soon.  At one point it eased a bit so I thought ‘stuff it’ and began setting up on the end of a point that I hadn’t fished before.  Typically the rain fell heavier again half way through setting up but I continued.  I fished two rods, a boilie to a channel on my left and fake maize to the margin on my right, finally getting started around 1945.
By this time I was nicely wet so decided staying for the night was a bad idea.  Chances of a ‘proper’ Carp were minimal but I’d fish till about midnight and if I could just catch a fish or two that would be a result.  I had managed to forget a box containing my back leads so liners were pretty constant but I had to wait an hour for the first take.  A fish was hooked on the boilie but it dropped off almost straight away, it was turning into one of those days. 

The rain stopped, things were looking up.  I stretched out on my bed chair listening to the T20 final on the radio and at 2135 I had another take, this time on the maize.  Resistance was minimal and before long I brought a small Common over the net, the blank was saved and I had a smile of satisfaction.  Another hour passed, Hampshire beat Yorkshire in the final which went down to the last over, then the boilie rod rattled off again and another little Common brought to the net.  The puddle is a strange place after dark, despite the moon it was pitch black and visibility poor.  I’m not easily spooked but it was a bit creepy.

By midnight my wet gear and damp self were back in the car and heading for home.  I’d cleared my head and caught a couple but I’m not sure I’d really enjoyed myself?

Two days later I was loaded the car and headed off for a day session.  I still wanted to catch a proper Carp, the Marsh has a higher average size but was still packed as I expected.  I’d kind of intended to end up back at the puddle which does hold some good fish, if I could work my way through the smaller ones.  I had a full day ahead of me and would give it my best shot.

I didn’t roll up until about 0830 and was pleasantly surprised to find I was the only person there, which was a first!  With the pick of the lake I settled into another swim that I hadn’t fished before.  I had a nice overhang to my left and a channel to my right with a snaggy area across the back of the swim.  I fished boilies on both rods to begin with.  One was cast to the overhang over a kilo of pellets whilst I dropped the other in the channel with just a big PVA bag full of goodies.  I don’t really know why I fished like this but it seemed a good idea at the time.  I also had another rod set up with a just a size 12 hook tied to 8 pound line and two 10mm pop ups hair rigged.  I fed a few mixers, little and often, knowing full well that the Carp would come up for them.  I stubbornly wanted to catch them off the bottom to begin with, God knows why?  Maybe I’ll learn one day.  The day was a pleasant mixture of sunshine and cloudy spells, a nice comfortable temperature for once.

I only had to wait 15 minutes before the channel rod went and I was briefly attached to a fish which dropped off.  Although I’d remembered my back leads today I still had regular pulls and twitches on both rods.  Many times I was half out of my chair expecting a proper take to develop…but they didn’t.  However something did happen at 1030 which gave me a big clue, I hooked a Bream which flipped and flapped towards the net before dropping off at the draw cord.  Oh well.

By mid-morning I’d swapped the boilie rod cast to the overhang for the freelined floater and began a session of ineptitude and frustration, bordering on farce.  I hooked and lost three fish on the floater for no apparent reason, then another because I’d inadvertently put the anti-reverse on.  I’d also struck thin air on several occasions, mostly with the floater rod but also with the boilie.  There were still Carp slurping down floaters in front of me but the bigger fish seemed to be hanging back, just out of range.  I swapped the freeline rig for a paternoster and anchored a floater out where the fish were showing.  Around this time the boilie in the channel rattled off again and I bent into a better fish.  I played a nice Common over the net where it turned and trundled off on another run, I absolutely knew what was going to happen next and it did.  Second time at the net, the hook pulled and I just laughed.  That had to be the low point, it had to get better from here.

Minutes later the floater rod went and I hooked another fish which felt like a good un.  I thought things couldn’t get any worse but they did.  Something felt wrong, my Carp was on the surface in the middle of nowhere, my line was going to its mouth and another was going away from it into the snags.  I’d hooked a tethered fish, something I can’t recall experiencing before and I hope never to again.  I didn’t have a clue what to do but after a bit of swirling my hook pulled.  I suspect this left the fish still tethered but there was nothing I could do.   I began to notice the signs of bad angling around me, there was tackle hanging from trees and in the past I’ve seen people fishing snaggy areas with tackle that isn’t up to the job.  I’ve ranted about the stiff pole drag ‘em in brigade before along with the damaged fish I’ve seen. On the whole it’s a pretty good club and it suits me but it seems this type of water attracts this kind of angler as they don’t show up at the more challenging places. 

At this point I thought about jacking it in and going home but after a break for a brew and a fry up, stubbornness got the better of me and I resumed fishing.  I kept the boilie rod in the channel and baited the area with a couple of kilos of pellets, I wanted to use up a load of bait as I have other fishing on my mind now…  For my second rod I reverted to the freelined floater and soon had fish on the feed again.  It didn’t take long to hook one and this time it all went to plan and I drew a nice Common over the net, not a proper Carp but close.  After that I didn’t look back as Carp queued up to take the floaters, mostly Commons but also the odd Mirror.  Unlike the first half of the day none of them fell off, however all were smaller than I hoped.

Finally the boilie rod roared off once more, I found myself attached to a fish that was pulling back and felt a little bigger than the others.  The fish tried to gain the sanctuary of the snags but there was no way I was going to let that happen.  Soon it was boiling at the net and it turned out to be smaller than I’d first thought, another nice Common but still not a proper Carp.  That was it for the day, I’d caught a few and I’d enjoyed myself (eventually), that would do for now.

That may well be that for this summer season.  I may squeeze in another trip for scaly things but I really need to give the fishing shed a good sort out and start to gear up for the autumn and winter fishing for toothy things.  As usual I'm highly disorganised and it'll take time for me to sort things out.  I'm not an angler that can just pick up a rod for one species today then another species tomorrow and I admire those that can.

Andrew Strauss retired from all cricket yesterday.  He was a very, very good player as well as captaining the best England team I have seen.  On and off the field he was an absolute gentleman and a credit to the sport.  Unlike other mercenary, money grabbing, border crossing scumbags I could mention.  Anyone fancy a nut?

Monday 20 August 2012

Summer holidays

It was another busy day in the summer holidays.  Madi, Isaac and I had walked through museums, mansions and a gallery.  We’d been in shops, through the market and had a burger so with all that behind us I needed a couple of hours of peace and quiet to restore my sanity.  Despite the children’s lukewarm response we were going fishing, no debate!

So in the late afternoon we rolled up at the puddle to find the car park deserted, perfect!  I wanted the children to catch fish so we headed for the first lake where the Carp are generally smaller but more numerous.  I fed with Chum mixers while I went through the process of setting the gear up.  We’d travelled light just a couple of bags, a net, unhooking mat, a whip and a rod.  The three of us would share this gear.  By the time we were ready to cast the swim was full of hungry Carp eagerly slurping down mixers.  It looked like a shoal of piranhas feasting on a carcass.  We just had to catch fish!

To save baiting up too often both set ups were rigged up with two pop up 10mm boilies hair rigged onto a size 12 hook.  Having been hammered all summer these fish are a little bit more cagey than they were in the spring but hunger and competition for food gets the better of them.  Madi wasn’t too bothered about the fishing to begin with but once Isaac had netted a Carp, she wanted to have a go.  Before I knew it both the kids had hooked fish at the same time and somehow I managed to get both in the net at once.  I didn’t get a look in to begin with as I was busy baiting up, netting and unhooking fish.  

 After a while the children decided to have a break which gave me the opportunity to have a fish for myself.  Like the last time I visited this lake I found it too easy, not my idea of fishing at all.  When the kids returned I tried to talk them into moving over to the other lake where the fish are a bit bigger but they were having too much fun where we were.  They soon resumed their positions of battering the Carp stocks and keeping me busy keeping them fishing.  Every now and then I managed to pinch a rod and catch a fish or two.  After a couple of hours of mayhem which included another “two fish in the net” occurrence and plenty of friendly sibling rivalry we’d had enough.  The family total was twenty four Carp, Madi caught the most and Isaac caught the biggest.  Best of all, all three of us had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!
 A couple of days later the three of us found ourselves in north Norfolk with a tent and time on our hands.  Because we were camping only a few miles from the boat yard an afternoon on the water was a must.  The main motivation for launching was to simply take the children for a little ride around the broads however it seemed daft not to chuck a rod and a little bait in the boat with us.

It was a warm sunny afternoon but with just enough breeze to keep us cool and give the water a healthy ripple.  After motoring around for a while I steered into the leeward bank and dropped the mudweights.  First job was to mix a little groundbait and set up a feeder rod.  I left Isaac in charge while I prepared to light the stove and get the kettle boiling.  Unfortunately I’d managed to leave the lighter in the car so no stove and no tea…oh well.  It wasn’t long before the quiver tip started rattling and Isaac eagerly began to wind in a few small silver fish, mostly Roach but with the odd small Bream.  We shared the rod, Madi and I caught a couple too but Isaac caught the lions share.  
 We stayed put for an hour or so, Isaac would happily have stayed longer but Madi was all set for a change of pace so we upped the weights again and went for another slow cruise around the broads.  There were loads of waterfowl as usual but the harriers were conspicuous by their absence for once.  As the sun began to dip in the sky we pointed the boat back towards the slip and headed back.  The children had enjoyed their afternoon on the water and I’d loved sharing a special place with them. The day finished with dinner in a nearby pub with a welcome pint for me.

When I’d booked the campsite I hadn’t realised how close it was to a lovely sandy beach so for the next couple of days the kids and I spent many hours relaxing there. The high tides coincided with the beginning and end of the day when the beach was at its quietest. This may have been why we were fortunate enough to see surprise visitors in the form of Seals swimming close to the shore. This delighted and excited the three of us and they even came close enough for a photo.

Sadly our week together came to an end and now I’m back at work. It was lovely sharing some of my favourite things with the kids and great to see them enjoy it so much.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Chasing Pussy, ....

…something I attempted frequently as a young man but I’d never fished for, or indeed caught a Catfish.  Why?  Well I could claim lack of opportunity but in truth there are a couple of waters that are fairly local and hold Cats.  Both are commercial Carp fisheries and therefore often crowded which is one of the things that has put me off.  Both of these waters have a low head of cats too so in reality, catching one from these would require a sizable investment of both time and money.  So do I want to spend a lot of time shoulder to shoulder with carp anglers and spend a fair bit of cash along the way?  No!!

My mind started to tick over recently when a customer brought in a leaflet for a commercial fishery in Norfolk which had a fair head of Cats and reasonable prices.  He confirmed my fears that the place got packed at weekends though.  However I had a little mid-week time coming so after consulting the good lady, I made a couple of phone calls, done a little research and began to make plans for my first attempt at Cat-fishing.

We rolled through the gates at about 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and had a little look around.  Toilet block, gravel roads and cut grass, not my sort of thing and I didn’t really feel at home but I could put up with this if it meant putting a Cat on the bank.  We found ourselves at the pool containing the Wels which looked much nicer than some of the others on the fishery which were little more than holes in the ground.  The Cat pool is about an acre in size, fringed with reeds and had some lovely Weeping willow trees which added character.  There were Carp showing all over, rolling and swirling but the water was like green pea soup and it was impossible to gauge the size of any fish.  The pool looked okay but there were about seven other anglers squeezed in, however most of them showed signs of packing up.  Shelley and I chose to fish at the western end of the lake beside a weeping willow.  The tree was an obvious feature but we were also as far from other anglers as we could get.  Fish of some description were fizzing out in front of me and Carp nosed around the margins.  The banks didn’t look too trodden so I hoped no one had fished this area over the weekend.  Most of the anglers that were about didn’t look particularly clued up, not that I am either when it comes to Carp or Catfish but I know not to charge down the bank and strike wildly at liners.

 So how should I fish?  I decided to hedge my bets on one rod fishing fishmeal boilies ‘snowman’ style with a PVA bag full of pellets and a handful of loose boilies.  This was fished on a 2.5tc Tricast rod and swung beneath the willow to my right.  This I hoped might catch me a carp but still give me a chance of a Cat.  On my second rod I fished a hair rig baited with two 22mm halibut pellets, tipped with a fake boilie.  Once again I attached a PVA bag full of various sized pellets and dropped this about five metres in front of the willow.  I didn’t put out too much loose feed at this stage as I wanted to wait and watch.  Shelley fished with her usual whip and maggot set up but bites were slow to come, I was hoping she’d be able to supply me with a few silver fish that I could use as bait.

It took me ages to get the bivvy set up and sorted as I was watching the water, looking for clues of what to do and how to fish.  Shelley showed no signs of catching any silver fish which cut out the livebait option.  The bailiff wandered round for a chat and recommended luncheon meat as a top bait for the Cats, sods law meant it was one bait I didn’t have with me but he kindly gave me a tin to try.  The sun was sinking slowly and most of the other anglers had departed, the rest were packing up so it looked like we’d have the pool to ourselves for the night, lovely!  I just had to decide how to fish.

I decided to stick with the boilie rod which I dropped into a reedy margin spot where carp had showed.  I walked round and baited up by hand with about fifty free offerings, that was one rod sorted.  With Shelley catching nothing on the whip we replaced this with another out and out ‘Cat rod’.  Incidentally the rods I used for the Cats were my most powerful Pike rods, both ten footers usually used from the boat; one of Dave Lumb’s Loch Tamer and a Fox Predator elite.  On both I had 50lbs braid and helicopter type rigs, hooklengths were made from either Fox Armadillo or Coretex.  Hooks were Kuro 2b barbless, for once I was complying with fishery rules.  Anyway, I fished two large Halibut pellets with a big PVA bag of pellets about fifteen metres out to an area where fish had been fizzing all evening.  Having read that Catfish are eating machines I baited this spot up with a couple of kilos of mixed pellets and a few boilies.  If I was lucky enough to catch anything I’d top up the bait.  The other rod was baited with a large chunk of luncheon meat and swung beneath the willow.  I put a couple of handfuls of pellets on top thinking it might help fish to find my bait in the soup like water.

Throughout the evening the indicators sounded as my lines tightened and fell slack.  I put this down to either liners or smallish carp trying to eat my too big baits.  I felt sure that should a Catfish take my bait, there’d be no messing about.  By this time we had the pool to ourselves but kept getting visited by strange locals, one carrying a large rifle along with a very skinny and very loud cat of the four legged, furry variety.  As the sky darkened our visitors departed and there was loads of fishy activity from leaping or rolling Carp.  There were also more sinister slurps and slaps that may have been Catfish feeding in the upper layers.  I can’t be sure but I suspect that’s what they were and I wished I had a livebait or even a bunch of lobworms out there.  It was a lovely starry night and we sat drinking tea, listening to the Olympic closing ceremony on the radio whilst chatting and putting the world to rights.  By midnight the closing ceremony had finished and the temperature had dropped considerably so we retired to the bivvy.  I was a little disappointed that the evening hadn’t brought me a Catfish and my confidence was low, what would the night bring?

The sleeping bag was warm and I began to slip away into sleep then all of a sudden an alarm was sounding a constant single tone “Showtime!” and I found myself scrambling out of the bivvy with shoes on the wrong feet.  The rod baited with halibut pellets had been picked up and I wound down into a fish that pulled back with power, it was apparent pretty quickly that I had hooked a Catfish!  There has been lots written about the fighting power of these fish and it hasn’t been exaggerated much.  To me the fight was like an Irish Pike of the same size but with more stamina.  When the fish went on a run it couldn’t be stopped and started off with a surge that juddered the rod tip in a manner that seemed strange to me.  I guess it was due to the long muscular fish tensing itself then uncoiling?  It was bloody good fun battling this creature in the dark and after a while I felt I was winning.  The loch tamer was doing its job, the runs became shorter and a long pale shape materialised over the net, I had my first ever Catfish!

The fish was as ugly as I knew it would be and actually very slimy but I was surprised by how well it behaved on the bank.  I’d read about the pads in the fish’s mouth but they were more ‘toothy’ than I expected, the gill rakers looked scary!  My hook was just in the corner of the mouth and I also removed another from the other side, along with a length of leadcore and several yards of line.  I weighed my Wels, no monster but a very pleasing weight for me, then Shelley reeled off a few photos.  One last look at this strange prehistoric creature then I returned it back to whence it came.  I then sorted out the mess, got the bait back out there and topped up the groundbait.  I’d got a Cat!  Result! 

Sleep didn’t come easily after that, although I was very tired my brain wouldn’t switch off.  I kept reliving the battle in my mind and hoped I’d get another chance.  Next thing I remember there was this sound and Shelley was murmuring, “was that your bite alarm?”  Then I heard that sound again and crawled out of my kip bag again to find a bait running buzzing away.  It was an un-missable take but somehow I managed to wind down into nothingness.  Had the fish dropped the bait?  Had I pulled the bait out of its mouth?  Who knows?  By now it was about 0500 and growing light so I recast the two Cat rods and topped the freebies up on both before returning to the comfort of the bivvy once again.

I managed a bit more sleep but all too soon it was 0800 and fully daylight; that would almost certainly be that fishing wise.  I began to think about getting out of the comfortable kip bag when another alarm sounded, this time it was the rod baited with luncheon meat.  By the time I reached the rod the alarm had stopped and the water boiled as a large fish made it’s get away.  I suspect a Cat may have somehow shed my hook and I’d missed another chance. 

After that I gradually began to tidy up our kit.  I cooked sausages for breakfast while Shelley had another try at catching something on the whip.  Eventually her persistence was rewarded and she managed to catch a couple of tiny Roach, maintaining her record of never having blanked but she is a fair weather angler!  I was very pleased that I’d managed a Catfish but I knew I could have had a couple more.  I’d learnt loads and now have more ideas of how I’d go about it in the future.  I enjoyed the whole Catfishing experience and I’m positive I’ll find the right time and the right place to have another go.  I now have a 100% record when it comes to chasing pussy but I wasn’t anywhere near that successful as a young man…