Sunday 31 December 2017

And Finally...

So the whole Christmas bollocks has come and almost gone.  After several days of being house bound by convention, weather, guests, food and booze, cabin fever was looming so I dragged Isaac out of the house and pointed the car in the direction of a favourite lake.  He chose the music and we rapped(?) along to NWA.  It was early afternoon before we got the boat away and out into a stiff westerly wind, I made a decision to explore a new area which just happened to be sheltered!  We began fishing with a couple of deadbaits each around 1330.

As we were short on time we moved every thirty minutes but after three moves it was beginning to look like we’d be unsuccessful.  Still it had been a nice couple of hours chatting and laughing with my son, there’s rarely such thing as silence, let alone an uncomfortable one.  The conversation has changed in recent times, whereas a couple of years ago we might be discussing which of the Marvel avengers was the coolest (For me, Black widow AKA Scarlet Johansson, Isaac preferred Iron Man), today we debated which member of NWA was the best rapper (Ice Cube - unanimous).

The best way to induce a take is to make food or drink and sure enough with the ridge monkey toasting sandwiches, one of Isaac’s rods was on the move.  He picked up the rod and done the necessary while I switched off the stove and got it out of the way.  Isaac enjoyed a tug of war with a Pike which punched well above its weight but was soon alongside the boat.  I reached out for the trace but a head shake threw both the bait and a load of water back at me.  After a bit of a wind up we decided a hand on the trace meant it counted and Isaac was in the lead.  This lasted for half an hour before one of my floats was on the move, in contrast this fish hardly fought at all and I was a little surprised to see a decent sized head appear.  This was soon unhooked, admired and returned, the score was leveled.
With the light beginning to fade I reached for my head torch which wasn’t where it should have been, in fact it was almost certainly on the shelf at home.  With this discovery there was no sensible option but to pack up a little earlier than expected.  The wind had dropped considerably by now but it still gave me a work out on the way back to the slip. 

So that was my last fishing trip of 2017 and at this time of year I usually type some bollocks about the fishy year about to pass but once again it’s all too predictable.  I fish a handful of waters for Pike and catch my share on most however, at my favourite place I have to work dam hard for a few takes but you know which I enjoy the most.  My warmer weather fishing is in a similar vein, trying to catch big fish from difficult waters but I just don’t find the time to put in the required effort and consequently catch bugger all.  I really should pick waters that suit my short session approach but I’m an angling masochist.

I've been a highly antisocial angler for many years but this changed a little in 2017 as I shared boats or bank swims with nine different people this year. This made a change and I'll probably do more of the same in the future, assuming other humans can put up with me.

Every angler has a ‘one that got away’ story and most of us have several.  I can remember a few from around 1981/82; there were a couple of big gravel pit Pike, what would have been my first double figure carp and a huge Chub that snagged itself in the near bank foliage.  I’m not sure I’ve landed a bigger Chub to this day.  Since then I struggle to remember anything really haunting, I can think of a couple of big Pike, one of which was at the net cord but I’m usually pretty philosophical about these things.  There have also been a couple of big Pike in the net that had no business being in there.  This year I added another memory that will last.

I’ve done a lot of lure fishing over the years and caught plenty of Pike on this method, in fact I caught so many that I actually became bored of the chucking lures.  In hindsight I did most of my lure fishing on waters that were prolific but held very few BIG Pike.  I can remember catching a nineteen pounder from a drain on a springdawg and also seeing a bigger fish follow and drift away…  But days like this were very rare.  I’ve done far less lure fishing over the last decade, in truth I enjoy relaxing behind rods more but over the last couple of seasons the lure rod has come out more often. 

On this particular day I’d been moored in a reedy bay for forty five minutes or so and as is often the case I picked up the lure rod to try and wake something up.  So I commenced casting a spinnerbait around, carefully avoiding the lines and after a few minutes I was running out of options.  I cast along the reedline with the line cutting through the outlying stems and began to mechanically retrieve.  From nowhere came a big bow wave and swirl, I thought there was a tap on rod tip then nothing!  I kept turning the handle and before I had a chance to think it hit for a second time, slack-lining me and was gone before I could react.  I stood with my mouth open with the spinnerbait dangling, scratching my head and the fish took for the third time!  It stayed on long enough for me to get a clear view of a long fish before throwing my lure back at me with a head shake and shower of spray.  As you’d expect, the Pike didn’t reappear and after a few vain casts I recommenced my head scratching.

How big?  Obviously I’ll never know but I’m sure it would have been a lure caught PB.  I didn’t tear out any hair or vandalise any tackle but it would have been highly out of character for me to not swear.  Yes I was disappointed but once again philosophical and now, a few months on, it is one of my best fishy memories of 2017.  

The last fish of 2017...

Sunday 24 December 2017


On 23rd December 1983 I peddled my tackle laden bicycle a mile and a bit to my local pit on a gloomy winter day.  I peddled home in elation that day as I’d finally caught my first twenty pounds Pike.  Thirty four years later I’m driving along the country’s busiest A road with the stereo pounding ‘The Wailers’ – “Rastaman chant” on a similar gloomy day.  The same result today would leave me just as delighted, if anything a twenty pounds Pike is an even rarer creature these days.

I’m afloat by 0700 and I don’t even have time to cast a second rod before the first is on the move and a jack brought to the boat.  I hoped for more of the same but I have to wait nearly an hour for the next which is a bit bigger.  A change of swim brings two more fish in quick succession, they are getting bigger but not by enough!  These days nearly all my Pike fishing involves fishing live and deadbaits from a boat and keeping on the move, why not when it nearly always works?  Thirty four years ago my Pike fishing was done entirely from the bank and I’d usually sit in the same spot all day.  I’d be fishing stillwaters, almost exclusively while nowadays it’s usually a river system.  My rods have got shorter but the reels are bigger but in reality I’m still chucking out a lump of fish and waiting for a Pike to find it!

With a few Pike under my belt I decided to go searching areas I rarely fish; the plan is forty minutes in a spot without a fish then it’s time to move, still soaking deadbaits but also pinging a sinking lure about.  If there’s room, I like doing this while I’m bait fishing in fact with three (at least) good reasons, it’s silly not to.  Obviously I may catch a Pike but if I don’t any fish in the area will be aware of the lure and may move and pick up a deadbait and I also count the lure down to get an idea of the depths.  The first spot produced a take and a small fish bumped off, the second spot yielded nothing.  Then it was third time lucky with the biggest fish of the day coming to a bluey.  Today was the latest in a series of gloomy and sunless skies but at least it was still mild and there was a good breeze.  Is it me or is December always like this?  Maybe it’s because I have a gloomy outlook on the season of greed and gluttony?  I’m sure December 1983 was just as dull, weather wise.  Despite the murk the hunters were active, to my right a Kestrel hovered whilst to my left a Sparrowhawk perched high.  Earlier in the day I’d seen a larger bird of prey a way off, maybe a Buzzard probably a Harrier but which kind?

The afternoon came and went without me finding any more fish and all too soon the daylight was running out.  I expect to catch at last knockings here and my last move of the day brought me two more takes, one dropped but the other made it to the boat and required the net.  I kept at, twitching the baits back to the boat in the growing dark until I’d run out of both line and light.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday 14 December 2017

What do I know?

Continuing the theme of fishing with mates I had a rare day afloat with Rich, it’s rare for us to be in the same boat at least.  The weather was clear, cold and bloody horrible and we didn’t expect instant action but it wasn’t long before one of my floats was on the move, unfortunately the bait was dropped before I wound down.  An hour later I was contemplating a change of scenery when another float started zipping along, this time it was a decent fish which stayed deep then just rolled into the net where it inevitably woke up and went mental.

Nothing else happened so we went for a long move and settled down, sheltered from the cold Northerly by a wall of reeds.  It looked and felt right down here out of the wind but only produced one jack to my rods.  At least this gave us a chance to discuss the critical state of the world, the Ashes look gone, poor selection and dodgy captaincy.  We retraced our steps and stopped just short of where we’d begun and were both into Pike within minutes.  I started with a double figure fish then seconds later Rich was into a jack.  We’d just got settled again when we had a repeat with me losing a fish and Rich boating another jack, then yet another a few minutes later. 

After a quiet half hour we moved for a final time and dropped down again a short way upstream.  This resulted in two more quick takes, both to my rod, the second was another good fish, which came in the half light and was the biggest of the trip.  Another lovely day with good fishing and great company, for once everything had gone pretty much to plan and we’d caught a few fish in what we’d considered poor conditions.

The next three days brought the dreaded white stuff falling out of the sky, three frosty nights and general panic around the country.  The fourth day brought milder air and a nice south westerly wind, for once my luck was in and I had a chance to fish!  I was on the water early and set up by torch light, three deadbaits were thoughtfully spread around then I sat back in the gloom to await the inevitable takes.  Ninety minutes later the sun was up but it was still gloomy on all fronts, I remained fishless and was pondering a move.  I’d had company from a Barn Owl which hung around long enough for a dodgy photo in the murk and there was a hovering Kestrel downstream.  There had been Roach showing so I should have been sensible and made a short move, instead I gambled and when for a long row.  An hour later I was rowing back again!

A few days earlier I’d been catching fish in crap conditions and now I was blanking when everything seemed right!  I kept going, an hour here and an hour there but it wasn’t until noon that I finally found some fish.  Scattering Roach gave the game away and in little over an hour I had six takes boating four jacks before the feeding stopped with the onset of annoying rain.  A friendly Robin joined me at the boat, pecking at a discarded Herring and a female Hen Harrier briefly perched in a tree on the far bank but typically took flight before I could get the camera out.  With a grim forecast and foreboding clouds I decided to get off the water early.

So we caught a load of fish when it should have been hard then I struggled when everything seemed right.  What of these weather forecasts and theories?  Well closer scrutiny shows the clues, the pressure rose yesterday then bombed again today and the moon phase wasn’t great either.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Thursday 30 November 2017

Sore fingers

Fishing has definitely enriched my life, bringing me many wonderful sights, scenes, adventures and experiences.  Of course the best thing has been the friendships I’ve made through this shared addiction, some have been lifelong while others have been more recent, to be fair these latter associations have been aided and abetted by the various internet forums.  It is possible to get to know kindred spirits through this medium and work out who you can share a boat with and who you’d rather set adrift.  Mr H and I have known each other for about a decade and although we are often afloat on the same waters we rarely fish together so it was high time we put this right.  Usually we fish on his local waters but on this occasion we arranged to meet at a special place that is slightly closer to my patch.

We both made it to the agreed meeting place ( a layby in the middle of nowhere) early and we were soon driving along a damp, bouncy track through a typical East Anglian rural setting.  This area is a haven for wildlife and in the lead car I spied rats, rabbits, a hare then finally a fox before we reached our destination.  We soon had our boat loaded and were plodding slowly down to our first stop of the day.  The sky looked fantastic in the pre-dawn light and I couldn’t resist reaching for the camera. A Heron creaked itself airborne and Pheasants were making a proper racket.  Mr H was quick off the mark and had cast before I had a chance, unbelievably this bait was taken on the drop but it took him by surprise and made off with the bait.  Within a few minutes we each had three deadbaits scattered around the swim and had settled back with the first brew of the day.

I didn’t get a chance to finish the brew before a smelt was taken but somehow this fish too got away with a free meal.  We didn’t have a chance to feel sorry for ourselves as the takes kept coming, first Mr H with his first Pike from ‘enemy territory’ then I followed up a few minutes later with a nice mid double.  A couple of hours passed in similar vein, half an hour would pass without any action and we’d contemplate a move then two or three quick takes would occur.  A couple were dropped and we lost a couple of fish but the majority were small fish so eventually we decided to pull up the weights and moved off, we hoped a change of swim would result in bigger Pike. 

A while later we stopped and resumed fishing, we were sheltered from the North Westerly wind and the sun was shining, it felt considerably warmer than the forecast 6 degrees.  We both agreed we’d prefer a bit of cloud cover as the conditions didn’t feel right, indeed after forty five fishless minutes it seemed the Pike agreed, then it was as if a switch had flicked and the Pike were on the munch again.  It wasn’t as hectic as first thing but takes came regularly and the average weight was better.  Two hours later we’d boated another six fish including three good doubles before things went quiet again.  Both of us spend a lot of time fishing hard waters so this was a real treat.  We sat smiling and laughing in the sun, enjoying the scenery and wildlife which included a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk and a Harrier as well as a Kingfisher and all the regular waterfowl.

Another move beckoned so we made our way back towards our starting point and once again dropped straight onto a fish each.  Mine managed to knit two lines together so while I was unpicking braid Mr H managed to add another to our tally.  We’d watched the sun rise and we watched it set again, a bittern flew by in silhouette which would have made a fabulous photo had I been quicker with the camera. By now the Pike had had enough for the day, despite us fishing into darkness.  We finished the day with fifteen fish boated between us and both had sore, bloody fingers; for once things had gone to plan.  As we made our way back to the slip a Barn owl drifted along the far bank, another predator in search of a meal and another wonderful sight to cap a memorable day.

Sunday 19 November 2017


My favourite time of the year has come and almost gone.  Even after many years of basically doing the same thing in the autumn I still find myself fishing new spots and being more than surprised by what happens along the way.  I thought I'd pretty much worked out where and how I should fish, got it sussed?  No, not at all!  New lessons learnt, so much so I wish I could turn the clock back to the beginning of the autumn and start again!

Once the clocks go back the nights become maddeningly long and it's time to take a break from the hard stuff.  It really does take its toll on mind body and soul and so it should.  So now I'm looking forward to a change of scenery for a few weeks and possibly a change of method too at some point?

Talking of scenery...

Sunday 22 October 2017

Honours even

I’m awake before the alarm, there’s no point in rolling over because I won’t get back to sleep, not on a fishing day so I’m up early, boiling the kettle and filling flasks.  I had envisaged getting a sleepy teenage lad out of his bed would be difficult but no Isaac gets up and is almost human, after tea and toast he’s almost awake.  For once we are out of the door on schedule and on the road with ‘Twenty one Pilots’ blasting out of the stereo.  The kids have introduced me to this band and I really like them, both of us sing along on the journey.
A while later we arrive and start loading the boat, by the time we’re ready I can switch off the head torch.  The row down the stretch is with the wind, the row back could be tricky.  For some reason our weather forecasters have taken to giving storms names, I heard some explanation about “awareness” the other day, bollocks if you ask me.  Anyway ‘Brian’ was due in our part of the world around midday giving us three or four hours of comfortable fishing.  Isaac has usually had enough of fishing after a few hours while I would happily stay all day but with this forecast we’d both be happy to get home early.

We arrived at our first spot of the day only to discover the boat was missing one mud-weight, yes I should have checked.  Still no problem, I pushed an oar into the shallow margin and looped the rope around it then we set about getting a few deadbaits scattered around the swim.  With everything set we tried to get comfortable, settled back and relaxed with a bit of gentle piss taking; Dad gets some stick then replies, the laughter building.  Whoever gets the first fish will be in pole position for the wind up, talking of which it should have happened by now?  It’s been a while since I’ve fished this water and I’ve forgotten that this is normal and I never get a take here until I’ve had time to start scratching my head and wondering what’s going on?  There were plenty of natural distractions however, baitfish were topping in the area, there were skirmishing Swans which somehow managed to avoid our lines and we were treated to a close view of a Bittern which flew slowly along the stretch.

Something caught my eye, a float was on the move and it was mine!  I’ve not had much practice at this so far this autumn so it was a relief when everything went to plan and the rod bent round nicely.  A long, lean fish allowed itself to be pumped back to the boat where it woke up and charged around a bit.  As I reached for the net I heard the unmistakable sound of a ticking baitrunner, another one of my baits was on the move.  As I was otherwise engaged Isaac eagerly took his chance and poached a fish on my rod.  My fish was a low double which I unhooked in the net and returned in time to bag a fish of seven pounds or so for Isaac who had cheekily christened my new P3.  Honours even but my fish was the bigger.

We’d just got the boat back to normal when one of Isaac’s rods was away, I smiled to see him wind down and bend in as if he done it every week.  No sooner was this fish unhooked and returned when another of his rods was rattling off.  This time he done absolutely everything wrong, struck thin air but still managed to wind down again and hook his fish.   At this point things went pear shaped; the mooring rope slipped off the buried oar and the boat began to swing, what’s more one of my rods plopped over the side of the boat.  Thankfully Isaac’s fish were getting smaller and this one was soon secured in the net allowing me to swear heartily, retrieve the rod (eventually) and secure the boat once more.  Isaac managed to resist ribbing me for the calamity but wasn’t quiet about the 3-1 lead he’d now taken.

The swim had gone quiet so we had a short move downwind and started again.  It didn’t take long for one of my baits to be picked up again, the result was another jack.  On with another Mackerel and the float had hardly settled before it was travelling along the reedline once more.  No mistake and I levelled the score with another jack but they were definitely getting smaller.  Meanwhile it looked like ‘Brian’ was on his way as the wind was starting to gust, not a day to be afloat on a more exposed water.  It seemed a good idea to cover some of the distance back to base so we had another move.  Would we get another chance?  Yes, one of Isaac’s floats dipped and slid away giving him the chance to sneak a last minute winner but this time he wound down to a dropped and chewed bait.

The wind was starting to roar and we were both happy to settle for a 3-3 draw, the decision to move closer to the yard had been wise but rowing back was still a good work out.  We made it back to base without disaster and were back in the car before the rain came.  Because of the manic nature of the fishing I didn’t get the camera out at the right times but here’s a picture of someone keeping a careful eye on the floats.

Tuesday 17 October 2017


My attempts to catch bigger fish this year has already been farcical so in hindsight buying a load of new gear was a foolhardy thing to do.  Going into the autumn I had an unreasonable amount of things that needed christening, with two new hats, two reels, a rod and some scales along with the regular, less expensive bits and pieces.  The new tackle curse has me in its grip as my Pike fishing has only seen a couple of small fish boated along with several near misses and a ‘one that got away’ story that I’ll save for another day.  Meanwhile ALL of my local fishing mates have been amongst the fish…

On a recent trip a Lamprey rattled off in the dark, a chance to christen the P3!?  I wound down but the fish had dropped the bait.  A couple of hours later the same rod was away again, the biter was singing and the baitrunner purring, what could go wrong?  For a second time I wound down and felt absolutely fuck all.  An hour before dawn a third steady take on the Lamprey but this time I connected and the P3 took on a curve!  I steadily pumped back a decent weight that did nothing aside a few unmistakably fishy thumps, ‘what’s going on here?’  The beam of the head-torch revealed a ball of weed with a bloody Eel hanging out of it, a decent eel but still an anti-climax.

I haven’t fished for Eels for over thirty years but I take a great interest in anything written on the subject.  The thought of Eel fishing really appeals to me and I’ve often thought a couple of my local waters would be perfect for a big uncaught fish.  However, when I actually catch an accidental Eel I realise the cold, hard truth is I don’t like the bloody things.  I wouldn’t consider myself squeamish and in the past I’ve handled and even photographed lots of eels but these days they totally repulse me.  At least this one did.  By the time I’d cleared the weed the Eel had unhooked itself but had left me with a great ball of snotty mess and a rig that needed redoing.  By my standards this was a decent Eel so I decided to be brave and fetch the scales and christen another bit of kit but by the time I’d returned to the net the poxy thing had made its escape.

I did manage a couple of quick photos after I’d cleared the weed.  The float in the picture is seven inches long (and the absolute best float for Broadland Piking but not my designso I reckon this fish was a little over three feet long and thick so I’m thinking between two and three pounds?  I could be miles out and I won't be trying to catch another one for a while.

So autumn is here and I’m doing what I love to do the most and though the Pike may be sparse other things make up for it.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Let me at 'em

 Time has been sparse this month and the only fishing I’ve done is an hour of half hearted lure chucking on a lake that resembled a beach in Poland.  I followed this a couple of weeks later with a similar half-hearted effort at the same place.  Part of me wants to have a go at this water but whenever I go there I just don’t feel it…  But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, the decorating hell is almost over!!!  Hopefully everything will be cleared and I’ll be able to have a proper crack at fishing very soon…

I’m not long back from the fortieth anniversary PAC convention which took place at Kettering once again.  I enjoy it every year even though I’m mostly working, catching up and chatting with friends and colleagues is enough.  The 40th anniversary display put together by Eddie Turner was brilliant, it’s a shame we couldn’t have this at every convention. This year I actually made it to a talk as well.  I’d never seen Dave Horton’s show before so I didn’t want to miss him again, I wasn’t disappointed.  Dave lays himself bare, makes us roar with laughter and inspires with Pikey stories and awesome fish, top stuff.  During the day and evening that followed I picked up the latest issue CC4 from Rob and Martin on the Catch Cult stand, could have chatted all day to ‘the only sane man in Norfolk’ Stephen Harper, received financial and budgeting advice from the Smeltfather, not quite as mad as he looks Neville Fickling (bless him), ‘why red wine is good for you’ from Pete Haywood, ‘where not to drive a 4x4’ from Eddie Turner, loads of laughs with Dave Marrs.  Rich and Giles were wild eyed and on top form, Mark and Gary ate all my food.
I also bought some stuff so I’ve probably cursed my season now.  I picked up some spare ‘Boatbiters’ from ET, and another Boat rest from Neville.  I only buy rods when I need them (i.e. when I break them) often second hand bargains, but when I need to replace a Pike rod then I might as well get the best.  There are a few high quality rods out there but as I already had one of Dave Lumb’s Loch Tamers and know how good it is, I thought I might as well get another.  Now I just need a chance to use it!!!!  All of the traders mentioned can be found in the links on the right hand side.  My better half had been looking with disdain at my battered and weather beaten PAC cap and dropped hints that it was time for it to go.  I don’t remember how long I’ve had it but think it’s in the region of ten years and its been retrieved from broad or river on numerous occasions. It’s perched on my head in most of my favourite photos and has been covering my bald patch through some memorable days.  It may be retired but will never be discarded.  Believe it or not it was originally exactly the same colour as the new one on the left, I wonder how long it will take me to turn this one a mucky grey colour?

I forgot to take a camera but Dave Lumb was busy with his and you can see some of his photos here;

Thursday 31 August 2017

In the air

August has come and gone (almost) and fishing time has been even more limited.  Four short sessions for Tench on the big water with just a handful of bait sized Roach to show for it but relaxing and enjoyable fishing none the less.  Summer is almost at an end and it looks like the monster Tench will elude me for another year as I have been struck by the ultimate curse for all anglers, unavoidable decorating.  This affliction looks like sucking up all meaningful time at the weekends and the evenings have suddenly shortened dramatically making an after work session more difficult.  Soon it will be Pike time and already I can hear the wind rushing through reeds in my mind and I can almost smell the autumn air…  This is double motivation, I’m looking forward to being out in a boat so this work must be done before the end of September.

Catch Cult 3 is available now and although I haven’t read it all yet, but I think it’s probably the best of the trilogy so far.  Best of all, Rob and Martin have promised another three magazines, at least and production of CC4 is well under way.  Catch Cult is a throw back to the old days of inspirational angling writing, don’t miss out get a copy here.

The 2017 PAC Convention takes place on 30th September in Kettering, this year the club is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary and the convention will be a bit special.  Doors open at 0900, click the link for more details.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Embracing Stage Three

Mid summer and I reach this point of the season having caught precisely fuck all of note.  This should come as no surprise because it happens every year without fail.  This could be because I’m totally useless at fishing for most species and there is certainly plenty of evidence to support this theory.  It could be down to other priorities resulting in fishing lots of short sessions instead of pitching up for a day and a night which is what I really enjoy doing.  Finally I do tend to pick waters that most sane people would walk away from.

Many years ago I heard a quote that stuck with me, (google has attributed these words to an American, Edward Ringwood Hewitt,) “Anglers do, indeed often pass through three stages in their fishing lives: the time when they want to catch all the fish that they can; the time when they strive to catch the largest fish; the time when they study to catch the most difficult fish, caring more for the sport than the fish.”  At the time I heard this I was in the process of passing from the first stage to the second but couldn’t ever imagine I’d move on to the third.  Now I realise I’ve been in stage three for about a decade. 

So now I have a couple of waters at my disposal, both within a reasonable distance of home and both tick all the boxes required by this very fussy angler.  Of most interest to me at this time of year is Tench and both of these waters hold small numbers of Tench that grow to an impressive size.  Both waters hold fish that could shatter my current PB, however pursuing these fish borders on masochism.

The smaller of these two waters I’ve named “The Valley” and though I say smaller it’s still 18 acres and due to its nature seems much bigger.  The water is shallow, weedy and full of silver fish which will demolish most Tench baits before they even reach the bottom so I’m pretty much forced to fish boilies to have any kind of a chance.  Happily this approach also gives me a chance of catching Carp, there are a small number of these fish and the ones I’ve seen look quite big.  What’s more, as far as I know these fish don’t have names.

This lake has lots of inaccessible places and in the clearer areas fish spotting has proved difficult most of the time.  As time has gone on I’ve managed to identify a few areas which look likely to hold a fish or two.  I feel my best chance here is to fish when I have a bit of time on my hands, bait up a couple of spots then sit back and wait.  This approach nearly saw me crack the place at the first attempt but my luck didn’t hold…  In the handful of sessions since I don’t think I’ve even been close.  One last thing about the Valley, you can ignore the weather forecast because this place has it’s own weather which never matches what the BBC predict.

On my most recent visit I picked a swim which I thought looked the part and indeed had recent history of turning up a Tench.  I put three tempting baits into areas that felt right, put a little feed out then sat back.  The night was quiet but the morning was breath-taking, exciting but ultimately frustrating.  In short I had Tench rolling and fizzing in my swim but I couldn’t get anything other than liners.  Initially I stuck to pop ups, 10mm boilies and fake corn but eventually cracked and tried maggots and corn but caught only silvers, even with fake baits they just kept getting battered.  Eventually a 15mm pop up was away and I thought “At last!”  It was the biggest fish of the trip indeed but an 8oz Roach wasn’t what I expected.  I packed up in the early afternoon and as I stared into the water wondering how I had managed to blank, I noticed movement.  There swimming in the water at my feet was a Tench, what else?  It was a very small Tench and looked like it had recently survived an encounter with a Pike but at that moment I’d have done anything to have caught it.

The other water is the one where I occasionally fluke a few decent Roach.  This place is completely different, far bigger and much deeper it’s on a totally different scale.  However large parts of the water can be ruled out due to depth alone so in many ways, finding likely looking Tench swims has been easier.  Being there when the Tench are around is another matter.  There is a good head of all species in this water but they can be highly nomadic.  Here I can mostly use traditional Tench methods and baits as there are no nuisance fish that I would be disappointed to catch.  At the moment I’m mostly fishing regular short sessions which probably isn’t the best approach but it means I’m covering a lot of ground and building up a picture of the water.  I’ve fished this place, on and off, since 1987 and in all this time I have never, ever caught a Tench.

A few days ago I was back at the big water on bright breezy evening.  Even though I’m short on time I always like to have a quick walk around here and after ruling out a swim I’d never fished before I selected one that I had.  This one has a nice little bar stretching out from the margin, dropping away into water a foot or so deeper on either side.  I lowered two baits in, baited with pellets and corn then sat back with a brew.  As I gazed at the water there appeared to be bubbles streaming up, on any other water I’d be sure that was Tench fizzing, hang on a minute…  A few minutes later an alarm sounded, a jittery stuttery take but definitely not a liner.  I picked the rod up, the tip thumped over and then it was gone and all I retrieved a clump of weed.  The bubbling fizzled out after that.

I don’t know who first started using military metaphors to describe fishing but at one time it would have been unique, clever and actually pretty effective.  Nowadays it has become so cliché that most probably don’t even know what they are actually saying when they look through their armouries and plan their campaigns.  I always like to think of my fishing obsessions as journeys and at the moment I have two running parallel.  These trips are well underway so I can no longer use “just starting out” as an excuse for not getting into any meaningful fish.  I’ll just keep going and I have the advantage of pure bloody mindedness on my side.  I will get there because I won’t give up and when I reach the destination, hopefully I’ll stay awhile.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Flaming curses

Well the monsoon didn’t materialise this June, it’s just been getting hotter and hotter and there hasn’t even been the scent of rain but tonight its humid, it feels like a storm is on its way…  Fishing time lately has been limited to a few short evening sessions.  The first was a glorious evening after Tench at the big water, I fished a swim between two snags with 10mm tuttis on one rod and float fished corn on the other.  At no time did I feel a fish was likely but it was lovely sitting by the water. 

The next two were spent out in a boat with Giles.  On the first we worked hard chucking lures around on an almost still, flat evening.  Although conditions were a lot more comfortable than the last time we’d fished the Pike weren’t really up for it.  We had to work hard and only managed one take each despite covering a lot of water.  Both were Jacks but thankfully we managed to get both to the boat. 

While all this was happening England’s ODI team was absolutely rolling with three convincing wins.  Then they bumped into a Pakistan team that started shambolically but kicked into gear.  The semi final was an echo of the ’92 world cup, when they are good Pakistan are unstoppable and their bowlers always do well on English wickets.  The best team won the tournament.

A long very hot week later and we figured the water temperatures were just too high for Pike fishing so decided to float fish for whatever came along.  On this evening there was a surprising cool North Easterly and as we sat there was plenty of Pike activity!  A bit of groundbait brought loads of silver fish along too.  Giles caught consistently by switching depths and baits.  These were mostly Rudd but there was the odd Roach and a few Perch thrown in too.  I caught a few nice Rudd with corn float fished in mid water but spent most of the evening trying to keep a piece of fake corn still long enough to catch a Tench.  As usual my attempts to catch a slimy greenback proved fruitless.  I will be back!

Festival season is approaching so this was all the excuse we needed to load the car for a weekend of camping in Norfolk.  Of course this meant an inevitable change in the weather, gone was the hot, sunny and dry with more changeable weather on the menu.  Also on our agenda was a day in the boat, snapping photos and hopefully catching a few fish.  The Purple Princess and I studied the forecast, Saturday would be warmer but with the risk of showers, Sunday was said to be dry but a little cooler.  In the end we opted for Saturday and were afloat by 1130 in thankfully dry, pleasant conditions.

Forty five minutes after setting off I cut the engine and steered us into a bay sheltered from the south west wind.  Shelley’s camera had already been working overtime and was still clicking as I tackled up two rods.  Both had 30gm open end feeders fished on helicopter rigs.  The lighter set up of the two had a 16 hook and a short hooklength of about 4”, this was baited with three maggots.  The other had a longer hooklength, around two feet, with a 14 hook baited with corn.  The feeders were loaded with a right old Heinz 57 mix of groundbait then pinged to the same general area about twenty yards from the boat, lined up with a convenient tree on the far bank.  Having bought a new landing net a few weeks ago, I’ve been suffering a new tackle curse this spring and so far I haven’t actually had a fish in it.  Actually I should have netted a couple of Roach earlier in the year but as I was sitting right by the water I’d literally picked the fish out of the water and not used the net.

Often it takes a while for fish to find the bait but first chuck with the maggot rod and the tip bent round and I hooked a small Roach.  This happened on the next four casts with three more Roach and a Rudd swung into the boat.  The sixth cast brought another bite but this fish dropped off.  Things were looking good, plenty of fish in the area and surely it was only a matter of time before some Bream moved in.  Half an hour later and amidst all this action I’d failed to notice the wind had completely swung round to a north easterly and was starting to bump the boat around.  The forecast had promised winds from the west all day so this wasn’t at all in the script, the forecast had threatened showers too but could we trust it?  The sensible thing was to move the boat just in case so a few minutes later we dropped the weights in another bay sheltered from the new wind.

I used the same methods here but bites weren’t so quick in coming which at least gave me the chance to make a cup of tea.  After a while the tip on the maggot rod began to rattle again and I began to catch a few small silver fish.  After an hour on this spot the maggot rod bent over properly and I was into my first Bream of the day, it wasn’t that big but required the net and the curse was broken at last!  On the next cast the same rod produced another, bigger Bream and before I’d unhooked that one the sweetcorn on the other rod was taken by the smallest Bream in the Broads.  I switched both rods to corn and the bites kept coming, six out of the next seven fish were Bream averaging around 1 ½ pounds each, the net curse was forgotten.  While this was going on the wind dropped to almost nothing then a few minutes later picked up again from a westerly direction.  We were comfortable and nothing threatening showed on the horizon so we stayed put but a fishless half hour passed with barely a rattle on the tip.  Time for another move.

A third spot gave Shelley another angle for her camera and I started again from scratch.  Bites were slow to begin with and never came as regularly as the previous two spots.  I’ve caught plenty of Bream in this area in the past but today I only managed Roach and Rudd.  Bream may well have moved into the swim as the light faded but we didn’t find out because by then we were motoring back to the slipway.  The day finished with a seafood medley washed down by a couple of pints of ‘Ghost ship’ in my favourite pub in Norfolk.  While we were tucking into this the rain came and emptied the beer garden.  Luckily we were inside watching through the window, our timing had been pretty good today.

Thursday 8 June 2017

Monsoon season

Has June always been stormy or is it just recent years?  If, as I think, it’s a fairly recent phenomena; then perhaps it’s further evidence that a bunch of rich men have fucked the planet up?  They don’t give a shit because they’ll be dead soon anyway.  Whatever, today was as rough as guts, heavy rain and gale force winds, clouds as dark as Theresa May’s soul.  Ideal for chucking lures around in a boat, possibly not.  Fortunately the forecast said the clouds would break in the early evening and we might even see the sun.

I met Giles and we were afloat by 1900, drifting with the still strong wind and casting lures as we went, the sky was miraculously and mercifully clear but there was more gloom on the horizon.  Away to the north a flash of lightning and rumble of thunder, to the south a rainbow gives Giles an unlikely halo.  The lake looks fantastic, full summer greens lit by the longed for sun but it doesn’t last.  Cloud and gloom skids by but it stays dry, all things considered these are pretty good conditions for a late spring Pike.  As Giles was my guest I was on the oars, which was going to be hard work and would leave no time for snapping photos of the scenery, no matter how nice.

Tonight the Pike had read the script, kind of.  We had plenty of hits, as usual Giles getting the most but the Pike just wouldn’t stay hooked.  We both had fish come off quickly and as the evening progressed we got them ever closer to but not actually in the boat.  One jack which Giles managed to get fairly close threw the lure in the process of leaping a good yard clear of the water.  My killer Rapala which done the business last year provoked just one response early on while Giles had hits on a variety of lures, notably a spinnerbait.

Having enjoyed reading about Mr Lumb’s surface fishing I’d become inspired to chuck a topwater in the box.  I’ve only ever caught a handful of Pike on surface lures; I’ve rarely had the confidence to persevere for any length of time but now was the time to put it right.  I’m not even sure what lure I was chucking out either.  I think I bought it via the old P&P forum, it may have been made by Dave Greenwood from whom I got a few good fish catching lures but I have a feeling this one was made by Graham Slater?  Anyway I began chucking it around and working out how to fish the thing.  After a handful of casts I felt a sharp tug which may have been a take?  A bit of missing paint seemed to back this up.

The wind was still blasting which made controlling the boat and the lures a bit tricky and the row against it was a bastard but we kept going.  We worked out the best way to fish was to lower a mudweight which controlled the drift but even this eventually saw us too close to the bank.  I tried a couple more lures but ended up back on the surface thingy simply because I was enjoying fishing it.  I worked out it seemed to feel right casting downwind and bringing it back against the waves with a slowish, steady retrieve.  A boil on the surface signalled the fish agreed and I was attached to a Pike for long enough to actually think I might boat it but no!

A few casts later it happened again, I didn’t see the take but felt the thump and set the hooks, my luck held and we actually needed to use the pliers.  Just a Jack but at least we’d boated a fish.  We had a cold beer to celebrate and watched a bright red sun sink to the west.  After a few more minutes of firing the topwater out I decided I’d had enough and began a very slow, arduous row back against the wind.  Hopefully Giles would be able to move a fish or two on the way?  Sadly not, one Jack torpedoed out but missed the lure and vanished.
By 2200 my arms ached but we were back at the boatyard and it was still light enough to pack up without a torch.  Despite being thoroughly wind blasted it was a fun night that will hopefully be repeated soon.

This is the unidentified topwater lure.  The tackle boxes are great, they’re really cheap and come full up with free ice cream!

Sunday 21 May 2017

Mr Blue Sky and who's Mr nice guy?

As expected May (the month, not the evil politician), has provided few fishy opportunities but I managed a couple of short sessions.  The first was more of a reccee than anything but I managed a solitary Roach.  This was the first visit of the year to a new favourite summer Tench haunt.  A second trip a few days later saw a couple of Rudd hook themselves on fake corn but I was on the water at the right time to photograph a well deserved PB Tench for a fellow blogger.  A beautiful big fish that provided a much needed confidence boost on a tricky water.

Saturday was a father and son day which meant ten pin bowling in the morning, a typical American game, all brute force and ignorance but I’d forgotten how much fun it is.  Neither of us are any good but that wasn’t the point, we had a good laugh and that was the only thing that mattered.  Back home for cow pie ‘Desperate Dan’ style then Isaac disappeared into his room while I spent the early afternoon sorting a few bits and pieces out for part two of the day. It's a bit of a drive to this water and as we raced along Isaac's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' soundtrack was playing.  We both sang our hearts out to "Mr Blue Sky" and the heavens responded in kind.

By 1630 I was rowing a laden punt into a weedy corner, the fresh south westerly wind made this a good work out and it took two goes before I was where I wanted to be.  A few balls of an Expo mix, laced with maggots and corn, were plopped out in front of us and we commenced fishing.  Isaac used maggots on a whip while I used a waggler with a grain of corn on a size 16.  After a showery day the evening was clear and bright but the wind meant a jacket was required.  Nothing happened to begin with so I had time to set up a second rod baited with fake corn and a 10mm tutti.  This was dropped into another clear patch and the area fed with half a dozen pouches of mixed pellets.  The baitrunner on the ancient Shimano would alert me to any interest while I concentrated on the float rod.

The session began slowly; Isaac had a little trouble controlling the whip in the wind to begin with but soon got the hang of it.  After half an hour or so fish began topping in our swim and soon after Isaac started getting bites.  At first they were intermittent but these became more frequent and he swung a succession of Rudd into the punt.  On my side things were much slower but the one Rudd to suck in my corn was bigger than most of Isaac’s.  Time passed, fishing for Tench from a punt on a late spring evening sounds idyllic and it almost was, except for the wind and the lack of Tench.  As usual we saw loads of water fowl, Cuckoos provided a soundtrack and a Marsh Harrier hunting the fields was the avian highlight of the evening.

An hour and a half into the trip and Isaac’s catch rate on maggots had slowed but mine on corn had increased considerably and what’s more my fish averaged 6ozs or so while Isaac was catching all sizes.  The swim was alive with fish rolling and topping and I hoped all this fishy activity would draw larger, more interesting species into the area.  This may have happened given more time but all too soon ours was up and I was rowing back to the boat yard.

Elsewhere in my fishy world it seems ‘Pike & Predators’ magazine will be folding this summer.  An announcement appeared on Facebook which disappeared very soon after but there has been nothing since that contradicts this.  The late James Holgate was the man behind this magazine which grew out of the ashes of ‘Pike Fisherman’ which only lasted for a year or so.  In the early days both these magazines were inspirational and it’s fair to say they played a major part in the rise of boat fishing and the realisation that lure fishing really was a serious method of catching Pike in the UK.  I only met James on a couple of occasions and he seemed a quiet, shy but thoroughly pleasant kind of bloke.

After James untimely death Neville Fickling took on the role of editor and after a dodgy start he done a decent job.  James Holgate managed to resist the blatant commercialism present in almost all angling magazines, but when he had gone this quickly took hold to the detriment of the mag.  In my opinion the content was a right ol’ mixture of very good, totally indifferent and utter shite.  Most months the best articles were those penned by the editor himself and it was Neville’s words that were read first and usually read again.

Unfortunately in the latest ‘Predatorial’ Neville has let himself down by penning a character assassination of another well known Pike angler with whom the editor has an axe to grind.  The angler on the receiving end is not named but referred to as ‘Ernie’.  Very few people really know the truth behind the stories featured, including Neville himself and this alone makes publication unfair at best and cowardly at worst.  I know both Neville and ‘Ernie’ a little and find them both to be pleasant, likeable people so I find this one sided war of words unsettling but its giving the little world of UK Pike fishing something to talk about through the summer months.  I think this piece would not have been published if there was any future for ‘P&P’ magazine.

In terms of decent angling magazines there is now only one Pike fishing publication available now and ‘Pikelines’ magazine has been the absolute best since Stephen Harper took on the role of editor.  This is quarterly and available free to members of the Pike Anglers Club.  ‘Catch Cult’ magazine is head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to an all round fishing mag and issue two should be available to order later this week.  This latest edition features an untold story of a capture of the infamous ‘Black Mirror’, possibly the most iconic Carp ever to swim in British waters.  Anyone interested in either magazine will find links on the right hand side of the page. 

Saturday 6 May 2017


Everyone knows where the fish are, there’s absolutely no secret there and there’s room for a few anglers in the area too.  Two things get in the way though; complete stubbornness and the desire for solitude, could I overcome this?  I got as far as meeting Kevin at the ‘hotspot’, when I say meet I actually reversed into his car but no harm done to either!  To make amends I helped him carry his gear to his chosen swim, the stretch looked nice but not as nice…  Roach were topping as we stood chatting but still I just didn’t get a feel for it.  I went to my preferred area, will some big fish move in like they did last year?  One good one would justify my decision.  I blanked, Kev caught a net full.  Things are different this spring; the water is lower and clearer, the weather has been dry and cool too.  I shouldn’t expect the fish to behave the same way.  Sometimes being a stubborn angler is good because I don’t give up, the game isn’t over until I win.  Sometimes it makes me too slow to adapt. 

Still it’s been an enjoyable month chucking feeders, watching quiver tips and learning a little more about a species I’ve neglected for years.  Just the one photo worthy fish this spring, shame I was too disorganised to get the camera out.  In truth I assumed there’d be others.  Now I reach the time of year when my fishing gets frustrated, I want to be making plans for some spring Tench fishing but other aspects of life have to take priority.  My calendar is full for the next five weeks so any fishing will just be a few hours here and there for who knows what?

Wednesday 19 April 2017


The Roach fishing seemed to have peaked early this spring, some speculated the fish had spawned and moved away early this year, certainly my two most recent trips seemed to endorse this.  The first saw just a couple of twitchy missed bites at dusk and the second a total blank.  The following day I still had the car loaded but as the work day wound down I still hadn’t decided whether to bother or just go home.  The weather was hardly encouraging, dry and bright but the North easterly wind was keeping things cool.  Should I turn right at the gate and head for home or should I turn left and fish? 

Half an hour later I had two rods out in a sheltered swim, surrounded by tall trees.  As fishing for Roach was obviously hopeless I decided to change things, instead of identical rigs fishing the same area I decided to drop one in close and bait it with corn.  Before the splash of the feeder subsided I chucked two handfuls of corn on top and another two of maggots, then I left it to its own devices.  Ever the optimist I had Tench in mind on that one.  As usual the other was dropped down the shelf, baited with maggots and recast every ten minutes or so.

Once settled down with a brew I felt content.  In all likelihood a blank was on the cards but I was in a lovely spot watching Grebes, Mallards, Tufties and a Swan.  There was plenty of birdsong coming from the newly greening trees, Blackbirds, Green Woodpeckers and a Pheasant squawked away to the North.  When all is said and done this is a pretty good place to unwind on a spring evening, even if the wind did mean the heavy coat was required.   However if tonight is another total blank should I reconsider my future plans?
1930, an hour has gone.  The pheasant is still noisy, Pigeons and Crows have joined the chorus but there are still no fishy signs in the swim.  A week ago this wouldn’t have bothered me, it’s still early in the session but now the doubts creep in.  This is a moody water, stuffed with fish of all species but they are highly nomadic and this is one of those times when you wonder if you are within a mile of one.

2000, the wind has dropped briefly and the swim is calm, revealing nothing.  A week ago I started getting unhittable rattles about now but not yesterday and I’ll be surprised if it happens tonight.  2010, A faint but definite rattle on the tip!  I’m all attention now…  A couple of minutes later I wind in maggots that look untouched…  Was it a liner?  My optimistic side wonders if a nice Tench has brushed the line on its way to my baited spot in the margin.  Another prolonged gust of wind makes me glad the Catch Cult hat is pulled down tight over my lugs…  Was that another rattle?!  If so I’m too late again, sure enough the maggots have been chewed!  Its growing dark now and I untangle the head torch, there’s a splash under the tree near my margin rod, was it fowl or fish?  Shortly after the recast the tip thumps round and it’s unmissable!  But I missed it… this has happened a few times this spring. 

By 2025 the bats are out, my hands are cold and I’m hungry. I’ve run out of groundbait and it’s not really worth making more so I start tidying up.  It would be nice to end on a tale of a big fish against the odds but I finished with the blank I expected.  If I’d been a bit more positive I’d have probably fished better but at least tonight brings a bit of hope.  There are still fish around, I should have known better as it was hit and miss last year.  I just have to stick to my guns and keep going whenever I can, there’s still a chance this spring.