Sunday 31 December 2023


I don’t mention the tackle I use much because as long as it’s able to put the bait where you want it and strong enough to comfortably land the fish you are after then what does it matter?  Most of the rods I use were relatively cheap but this includes some good kit that were second hand bargains and I still have some top quality Tricasts from the late 80's that I still use from time to time.  All do what I need them too, though I have to say, although they don’t catch me any more fish, Mr Lumb’s Loch Tamers do it all a little bit better.  With kids and a mortgage, reels over the years have mostly been medium priced Shimano but the best Pike reel I’ve used was made by Okuma.  I did consider 'upgrading' to some 'better' baitrunners but I've got eight or nine DL's or ST's and loads of spools that fit both so it made more sense to stick.  Sometime in the eighties, while carp fishing at the infamous Layer pit I lost a fish because the top of a Mitchell 300 spool suddenly popped off sending line flying everywhere.  I tried pulling on the line like a fly fisher but the hook soon fell out…  Apart from that I can’t remember a rod or reel failing at the crucial moment in all the years I’ve been fishing and that’s all you need from the items of tackle that we stare at the most.

Obviously the most important thing when fishing is location because you can’t catch what ain’t there.  But then comes bait and I suppose to start with I use whatever I have most confidence in then switch things about if necessary.  Over time we build up experience of what works and when, or at least we think we do…  But back to tackle we’re left with hooks and line, both need to be strong enough and the former needs to be sharp.  When I worked in tackle shops I broke this down to “good bait on a sharp hook in the right place.”  Fishing really is as simple as that.

I got side tracked, the reason I was waffling about tackle is because, well the braid I'd been using just wasn't up to scratch.  I've had braid on all my Pike and Lure rods for over twenty years and it's almost exclusively been Power Pro.  I have used ET’s Grand Slam braid and I can’t tell it apart from Power Pro to be honest.  Anyway at the beginning of this season I needed new braid on an Abu I use for lure fishing and there was no Power Pro available in a hurry, so after a bit of hesitation I spooled up with another brand that has a good reputation.  Just three months later I’ve stripped the stuff off again and binned it because  compared to PP it is just not good enough.  First of all on a multiplier it beds in leading to far more frequent over-runs and far more nasty tangles.  The act of unpicking these balls-ups actually damages the strands and weakens the bloody stuff, for the first time in years I found myself cracking off a lure on the cast.  Also there is virtually no abrasion resistance and even dragging a lure through reeds damages the braid enough for me to lose confidence.  I still have about two hundred metres of the stuff unused, perhaps there’s a place for it on one or two of the rods I use for bank fishing with baits but I’m not sure I dare use it.

So today I re-spooled with Power Pro and as it was the brightest day in over a week, a period when I’ve been mostly housebound and stuffing my cake hole, I decided on a walk in the country beside a piece of water, but where?  After a bit of thought I remembered a place I’ve had my eye of for a while so a little recon would be the order of the day, by casting and moving with a lure rod you can learn a lot fast.  I had no idea if Pike were even present but all things considered it was odds on. Getting to the water side involved negotiating an unfriendly fence but once over I was pretty well screened and so relaxed.  I worked my way round slowly, casting as I went finding mostly shallow, weedy water but there was depth in places.  The water itself was gin clear giving me confidence that any fish would see my shad easily.  One spot in particular really looked the part, If Pike are present then surely this would be the place?  Maybe, but not today.  It was back to normal with the braid though, it came off the spool nice, no bedding in and no over-runs despite the reel creaking like a grumpy Heron at times.  I left the place fishless but in doing so found a more convenient access point, should I decide to revisit some day.

And that, as it turned out was my last trip of 2023 which has been another really bloody good year all round, some photo highlights are included.  I’m enjoying it as much as ever and catching enough fish to make me think I might be doing something right?  Chub from home and away including a couple of my biggest to date, a PB Barbel and a new river best from the place out west.  Loads of fish off the beaches including lure caught Bass and several good sized Rays.  Then the Pike fishing which as ever dominates my year, this time around I had new success on an old method in a now familiar place.  I was lucky enough to catch a few big ones too but not the one below which was caught in 2020 and weighed 31-12.

I expect 2024 won't see much change in terms of where I fish and my only hope is that I continue to enjoy this silly pastime of ours as much as i did in 2023.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

December days

On a dull Thursday in mid December I made my way to Norfolk in the pre dawn dark and after a struggle got the boat afloat and ready.  Today, for the first time in a very long time, I had a guest, someone I first met around seventeen years ago when he was already a Pike angling legend.  Nowadays we might even describe him as angling royalty but then again he’s not everyone’s cup of tea…

So out in to the swamp we soaked deadbaits in likely places and even managed to bring a couple of Pike to the boat but mostly spent the day chatting and taking the piss.  We would certainly sit on opposite sides of the house which was the source of much mutual ribbing but we also have a great deal in common.  My guest had spent time on this system in the past but this was his first visit for a over a decade and he enjoyed being back.  The day was mild and grey with a light westerly and it passed in a flash, we stayed on into darkness but tonight this didn’t pay off.  In fishing terms a modest day but in very many ways a memorable one.

A couple of days later Giles and I had a lazy afternoon by a stretch of flowing water, we approached it the same way we usually do when sea fishing but this time we were after Pike.  This afternoon the main priority was to get out and relax for a few hours, any fish would be a bonus.  But there was a method to our madness, this stretch of water does receive a bit of pressure so would fishing after everyone else had gone home give us an edge? We started around 1400 fishing side by side with two rods each, static deadbaits of various types.  The afternoon was cloudy but mild with a fresh westerly wind but on this piece of water it meant we’d be sheltered and comfortable.

We started off at the upstream end of the stretch and it all looked good but after a couple of hours nothing had happened so even in our state of laziness we had to get moving.  A short while later we were settled again in a treelined area downstream, each of us had a nice looking overhanging tree to which we dropped a bait and deeper water midstream.  Fishing side by side was cramped but manageable but we had a plan should a fish be hooked.  By the time we were settled the light was fading but we had planned to fish into darkness and were prepared.

It got dark and nothing happened but sheltered by a thick bramble bush we were content and comfortable just sitting in the dark, chatting and chilling out.  Then out of nowhere a Micron beeped, my blue light lit up and a few seconds later two more beeps had me on my feet.  Nothing appeared to be moving but something had to be happening so I wound down and felt the welcome weight of a fish.  It’s always a little weird playing fish in the dark but this one wasn’t a monster and was easily controlled.  Giles soon scooped it up in the net and the blank was avoided.  With a fresh bait out we sat back again with fresh confidence, hopeful of another Pike.  We gave it an hour then as we were enjoying ourselves, gave it another but no more fish put in an appearance.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Dropped on or switched on?

After that cold night on the beach the east endured the first week of winter with mostly clear skies and frosty nights leaving me with no urge to wet a line.  Then it got a bit milder again, days of dull December grey, the sun was rarely to be seen and there was barely a breath of wind.  After seven straight shifts came a midweek day off and with it came the urge to sit by the water, I wasn’t feeling the pull northwards so settled for a lazy day on a local venue.  I wasn’t out of the house early and hit the road when in theory the morning rush hour should have been winding down but I should have known better, to be held up by queueing traffic was almost inevitable.  Off the A road then miles of single track before I reached a remote strip of water cutting through thousands of acres of arable.

The day started off as another gloomy one but at least today there was a wind from the north west shifting the clouds to make the sky go through many shades of grey.  I was fishing by 0945 with three deadbaits soaking a little bit further down the stretch than where I’d stopped a couple of weeks ago.  A bit of drizzle blew in so up went the oval and beneath it I spread out, content of comfortable.  I occasionally got up to recast a bait or twitch one back but mostly I just chilled.  I hadn’t realised how much I’d needed to cool off in the countryside but now I needed to catch something.  The morning had been and gone without a pull so a move was called for.

I loaded up and stomped back upstream to a “between the cars” area that doesn’t get so much attention.  Out went the rods again and then the brolly which I didn’t really need but what the hell, I’d carried it this far so why not enjoy a bit of comfort?  So it was chill out time again, half an hour passed and the doubts began to form, was it going to be one of those days?  Hang on, is that float moving?  Fuck yes!  I like the old Drennan Pike wagglers and mine was sliding away into deeper water as something moved off with half a bluey which had been under-armed to the right.  The fish had no fight in it and I soon had a Pike of about seven pounds in the net.  With this fish quickly returned I swung the same piece of bluey back out then settled once more.  A few minutes later the same float slid off again and I found myself attached to another Pike that didn’t want to fight but this one was a little bit bigger.  The bait was gone this time so on went the other half of the bluey and within a few minutes this too was on the move.  I set the hooks and the rod thumped a couple of times, I was just beginning to wonder if this was a bit bigger when the hooks pulled out, never mind.

Three takes in half an hour, had I dropped onto some fish or had they just switched on?  A question impossible to answer when you’re fishing on your own but one that often occupies the mind.  After that, things calmed down a bit but I wasn’t tempted to move, for some reason I felt the Pike would find my baits.  Half an hour later this was the case, the same float slid away again and another Pike of a similar size which did have a bit of energy and actually threw itself clear of the water twice before swimming into the net.

Then followed a quiet hour, the wind increased in strength scattering the clods to reveal a blue sky, something I’ve not seen for a few days.  But with the clear sky so the temperature was dropping noticeably and the freshening wind had a bit of a bite to it.  I decided enough was enough and started tidying up the non-essentials including the oval and then onto the rods.  With one wound in I was unclipping the trace when the shriek of a Micron alerted me, it was the bluey on the near margin for the fifth time and this time the fish felt a bit bigger.  This one pulled back a bit, maybe the water had warmed through the day?  Whatever, a nicely marked fish that would have probably been a double had I bothered to get the scales out.  By now the light was fading and it all felt pikey as hell, good for another fish or two?  Nah fuck it, I’d had enough for one day, I can always come back.

Monday 27 November 2023

Cool side of comfortable

Saturday came round again and with it clear skies, winds from the north and predictably, cold weather, ice scrapers required first thing and I wasn’t even up particularly early, this lazy fishing suits me at the moment.  Giles and me had discussed our options and thought we’d manage a night on the beach.  We left in the late afternoon, heading east we couldn’t make up our minds which beach we fancied.  The decision was made at the last possible moment, we turned left instead of going straight on and so found ourselves at Monster beach.

The moon had already risen when we hiked across the marsh but we managed to get everything assembled whilst it was still fairly light.  Here it is very deep and the currents are tricky, the fishing is inconsistent at best but when it all comes right…  That is why we come here, almost every angler will know what I mean.  Things started off okay, Giles had two Whiting on his first two chucks and I missed a sitter on a flapper rig dropped in close.  By this time it was dark and getting colder, baiting up left the hands stinging raw and the wind which was little more than a breeze really but enough to cut through.  After a couple of hours had passed comfort could only be maintained inside the shelter, we’d definitely have been a bit warmer at the other beach…

But at least we had a few bites, mostly tremors and rattles nothing to speed the ticker up but enough to keep us interested.  Once the currents had abated enough to fish a bit further out I had two Whiting on whole squid and then two more at high tide, one on each rod.  We packed up shortly afterwards, truthfully we’d found our limits weather wise, tonight was just the cool side of comfortable.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Change of pace

Autumn is all but over for another year but as usual I’ve managed to cram a lot in, a dozen trips in eight weeks altogether, mostly but not exclusively spent floating around in the big swamp.  This was everything I expected it to be yet at the same time totally different to what I thought it would.  An Oozlum bird of a contradiction or just another way of saying it’s different every year even though some aspects don’t change.  At times it was baffling and exhausting but always beautiful and ultimately rewarding.  I fished hard again this autumn but by the time the clocks changed I was running out of energy, and once the fireworks had gone off I needed a change of pace.

Saturday came around again, cool with a clear sky but little or no wind and a high tide around 2230.  A night on the beach?  Yeah I don’t mind if I do.  On my first trip to the beach this year I’d been with Mr T and six months later we’d found time to do it again.  When I pulled up at his house I had a surprise, “room for another one?”  yes indeed!  “Biggun” is another friend who’s put up with me for well over thirty years and although he’s not an angler had decided a night on a beach might be fun, it was bloody good to see him too!

We shared four rods and were just about set up and settled before headtorches became essential.  I stuck to my normal squid on a pulley on the heavy rod but switched to a two hook flapper on the other.  Baits tonight, mostly squid and chunks of mackerel but I had a cool bag full of stinky things to try.  This evening the fishing wouldn’t matter, it was just an excuse for three old pals to get together for a couple of beers and a yarn, well that was the plan but the Whiting had other ideas.

Tonight we just couldn’t sit still, everything we cast out came back with a Whiting attached, on almost every cast and we had many double hook ups.  It didn’t matter what or how, whole squid hurled out or small strips dropped in close, we even tried chunks of sandeel but the Whiting ate these too.  It’s always nice to be catching fish… or is it?  I don’t know many we ended up catching but I’d guess between fifty and sixty.  Some bites were fold overs but most were tremors and quivers which we often left a while so were probably fishing livebaits by default.  Whatever we tried no bait remained untouched for long enough for the more interesting species to find them and so knowing it was Whiting all the way the fishing actually became boring.  Later on I cut to just the one rod and Mr T had spells where he just wanted to relax for a bit so couldn’t be bothered to cast.

In between the winding in and baiting up we did find time for a good catch up, Biggun and I realised the last two times we’d met had been funerals, old friends were remembered and later when his son and grandson popped down to see us it brought it home that we’re old fuckers now.  The wind stayed away all night, the beach shelters remained folded up and the clear sky gave us a huge starscape above and all around but once we’d found the Plough and Orion we were stuck.  Around 2130 a freezing mist rolled in and covered the sky, the temperature definitely started to plummet, we’d caught more than enough fish so a good time to call it a day.  The mist had become fog and it was a slow drive home but somehow Hendrix sounded just right.


The forecast for Saturday morning was horrible, heavy rain and fresh winds so I just couldn’t motivate myself to get out of bed early to wet a line.  When I did wander into the back garden in the late morning it was gloomy but the worst of the rain had blown over.  Could I be arsed to go fishing?  Not really but then again I needed to get out and do something, I can’t be cooped up in the house all weekend.  So I put a few lumps of bait into a cool bag and quickly sorted out my bank fishing kit before chucking a pie in the oven.

By 1330 I was pushing in rod rests beside an old land drain, I’d carried a brolly with me but it looked like I might get away without it.  I fished three deadbaits, near middle and far, recasting and moving all of them regularly, mixing it up.  Two rods were on float legers, the other a plain running leger but in my haste I’d forgotten the drop off indicator for this so had to make do with the classic bent twig combined with paying attention.  This would be fine unless I needed to put the brolly up, happily the cloud was breaking up and at times a little weak sunlight pierced the grey.

I hoped for a quick take but this didn’t come, though thinking about it, it rarely does on this water, whatever time of day I start.  Time passed, it was mild and comfortable, I was glad I’d made a little effort to get out into the countryside but a fish would be nice.  Should I have a move?  Go looking for fish, do I stick or twist.  Around 1430 I twitched one of the float legers back towards me, my half a bluey was now sitting just a couple of rod lengths out.  A couple of minutes later that micron sang out as something made off with it heading downstream.  The rod bent over and it felt quite reasonable for a bit but shrank as it came over the net, a long tatty fish with an ottered tail that would have weighed around seven pounds but should be a couple of pounds more.  I hadn’t had time to get this rod back out before the leger rod baited with smelt was away, the bent twig done the trick and I wound into another fish that felt decent, a bit of weight plodded upstream.  But once turned it came back easily and turned into a nice conditioned fish of around the same weight as the first, along with a lump of weed.  Maybe I’m not used to these twelve foot rods, when was the last time I used them?

With both rods back out I sat back in the chair, the rain was staying away and the wind seemed to be dropping, everything was okay in my world, I was glad I’d dragged myself out.  The truth is, nowadays there’s very little that can inspire me to get out of bed early, it really is the hardest part of winter angling for me.  At certain times and in certain places I put in the big effort and work hard towards the ridiculous aim of catching a fish then letting it go again but in-between these times I enjoy fishing that is comfortable and convenient.  A leisurely start and fishing into darkness fits the bill nicely and now I’d caught a couple of fish I felt no urge to move.

It wasn’t dark at 1555 but the light was certainly being turned down when another rod tore off, this time a herring fished in the middle.  Another fish hooked and this one didn’t feel heavy at any stage, the smallest of the day was soon released.  Should I recast it?  Yeah why the hell not.  Time passed, a little orange light squeezed out between the cloud and the horizon, I might as well sit into darkness for a while.  At 1645 a micron broke the silence and had me scrambling out of the chair fumbling for the headtorch, half herring again, this time placed in the margin.  This fish also felt a decent size as it charged up and down on a short line but I wasn’t fooled this time, another nice conditioned Pike maybe a little bigger than the first couple, was unhooked in the beam of the head-torch.  With that rod without a bait I decided to pack it away then slowly tidied up the rest of my gear until I was left with one rod.  It was pleasant sitting there in the dark so this I did for a little while longer before calling it a day.  Four modest Pike in as many hours at my own pace, that’ll do nicely for me today.

Monday 16 October 2023

October New Moon

Mid October, the best time of the year and as always I try to cram as much in as I possibly can.  A few days spent at the special place, more memories made…  Elsewhere Giles and I had another evening drifting around in a boat, chucking lures in likely places.  On this occasion the fishing was tricky, the Pike had moved from where we’d last located them and when we did catch up they weren’t really up for it.  We moved several fish but they were mostly just swirling and bumping however we did manage to bring three small fish to the boat.

Then a week later, October new moon with comfortable conditions and a light north westerly wind, I’m not going Pike fishing, what’s going on?  Well if for whatever reason I can’t fish for Pike at my favourite place then why not do something differently entirely, especially when there’s a big high tide due not long after midnight.  So Giles and I loaded the motor and head east, I had a nagging feeling that I’d left something important behind, thankfully we hadn’t gone far before I realised it was my wellies.

We arrived at the car park at around 1815 with the daylight fading quickly, hoisted our gear then tramped through the unique back of beach habitat.  We set up where we always do and the way things have gone this year why wouldn’t we?  I soon had the regular two rods ready; a whole squid was hurled on a pulley rig and on my lighter set up I fished a running leger with a size 1 longshank baited with strips of mackerel.  I managed to get the shelter up and everything organised before the headtorch became necessary but the latter was strapped on soon after.  The fading light meant there was little time to take in the surroundings and sitting in the dark felt surreal.  We have little experience of beach fishing at this time of year and not much idea of what to expect but if we saw the rods knocking a few times and wound in a couple of fish that would be a result.

To say the evening went to plan would be an understatement, our rod tips were showing knocks and rattles from the first casts and there was barely a cast all evening that didn’t bring some kind of fishy attention.  Tonight there was little time to chat, we were on the go constantly, if not winding in or casting, traces had to baited up ready for the next chuck.  We began by catching mostly small Dogfish which were in the mood for a scrap, mine coming mostly on the lighter rod then as time passed all the rods were banging and most of the fish we beached were Whiting, many were big enough for Giles to take home for a feed.  This is all good fun but as time passed we grew greedy, would something big put in an appearance?

Not long after 2200, still a couple of hours away from high tide, I heard an exclamation from Giles direction and looked up to see him struggling with a seriously bent rod.  He had a bit of a pull me push me but gained line steadily.  I waded into the breakers and grabbed the leader to drag a big brown diamond onto the shore, a good sized Ray – actually a PB for Giles and a fish that made the night complete.  But we weren’t done yet.  Minutes later Giles other rod dropped slack and he wound into another good fish.  With heavier tackle this one put up less resistance and he soon had a second, smaller Ray at his feet.

So the Thornbacks were about and feeding, I must be in with a chance!  I decided to put a bigger hook and a whole squid on the light rod and freshen up the squid on the heavy rod too.  When I wound them in both rods had undetected Whiting attached, no wonder the Rays couldn’t get to my baits.  Within minutes of the recast I had a decent bite, the heavy rod again and found myself attached to something with a bit of weight.  It came in easily but I was chuffed to catch myself a Ray even if it was the smallest of the night.  With this rod recast I set about preparing the next bait but glanced up to see the heavy rod being yanked over heavily.  I struggled out of the chair and grabbed the rod and pulled into a heavy weight at long range.  This fish definitely didn’t want to visit the beach and hung in the fast tide like a drogue, pumping it back was hard work but steady lift and wind kept it moving.  After the normal tug of war in the shallows Giles grabbed the trace and dragged it onto the beach.  It was a good sized Ray but it had felt much heavier and I’d expected something about the size of a pool table.  I soon had a bait back out and a few minutes later the same rod went slack.  I wound into another good fish and another obvious Ray although this one was coming in a bit easier and didn’t make me work like the last one.  A bit smaller but still a bloody good fish!

Orion had now climbed above the horizon, we’d had five Rays in under an hour which had turned a good night into a brilliant one but after that things started to calm down.  There were no crabs about so we could leave our baits out and we still had bites almost every chuck but the gaps between them were longer.  We missed a few and caught a few more Whiting but we knew from experience that the best part of the tide was over.  Between us we must have caught over forty fish though Giles had the lion’s share, his flapper rigs were showing bites much better than my long hooklength and he had a few double hits.  At high tide the wind grew strength and veered to the north west, we could feel the difference straight away and the decision to call it a night was an easy one.

We walked back inland with the stiffening breeze in our chops, you could feel the north in it for sure.  After a busy evening on a rugged beach and a couple of hikes a soft car seat feels like heaven.  That was a good night’s fishing and I hope I can find time to have another go soon, October just isn’t long enough. 

Sunday 1 October 2023

It's that time again

Once back from the wild west the month of September was gone almost before I could notice… 

I had an evening on a beach I’d never fished before, soaking squid with some old friends, which I should point out is not a metaphor, we were fishing.  The lads had caught fish here previous years  but I didn’t feel confident at any stage, there was just something about the place that didn’t ring my bells.  I think I had one pull on a rod tip that might have been a bite and that was my lot but there were a couple of Whiting caught and we all had a proper good catch up which was the main point of the evening after all.

A week later the tides were all wrong so on a cool Saturday afternoon Giles and I stuck up two fingers to the Pike police and set off in a boat throwing lures around.  The afternoon was a mixture of sunshine and cloud with a light westerly breeze and it all felt right for an autumn Pike.  On the way out Giles trolled while I steered but nothing intercepted a lure and we soon reached our destination where we commenced casting from a static boat.

Our starting point was an area that has produced a few fish in the past but I realised hadn’t been particularly productive in recent times.  Every ten minutes or so we lifted the weights and moved back up the stretch in the direction of the car park.  Probably an hour had past before we reached the spot we probably should have started at and Giles soon hooked the first fish of the night, as he usually does! After that we had four more Pike between us, it didn’t seem to matter what lures we used but tonight they wanted them a bit deeper than I would have expected.  We were able to unhook all of these in the water with a quick flick of the pliers which was done for convenience rather than any Pike welfare paranoia.

Now autumn proper is here and I’ll be doing the same old things in the same old places, loving every minute and mostly saying fuck all about it.  It’s a shame it has to be this way and there must be many great stories that may never be told but that’s another curse of the social media age.

The summer sea fishing was a different experience this year, whereas 2022 had been all about the Bass in 2023 we done really well for Rays. Unlike previous years I may well have the odd sea trip through the autumn but for a few weeks at least I'll have a one track mind.

Thursday 14 September 2023

Back in the valley

I like September, with the kids back at school and parents resuming their normal lives the countryside becomes quieter again, an ideal time to visit beautiful places.  That’s how I managed to convince the Princess we should spend a week in a tent in the gorgeous western valley.  In truth this didn’t take much doing, she’d also been here before though not for more than a decade so knew she’d enjoy herself.  I booked the same campsite as I’d used on my more recent visits and we planned to spend our days mooching around, enjoying a pub lunch or two and enjoying the valley.  But for the evenings I’d done a bit of research and found a stretch of river I could fish at a reasonable price.  It looked the part on google earth, whether it was any good or not remained to be seen but it would be fun finding out.

So we drove west on a hot afternoon, pitched up, went to the pub, chilled out then crashed out.  Our first day proper was spent in a funny little town on the river that is famous for its bookshops.  They’re not big on customer service in these shops, maybe it’s a pact between the shops as one business offering a smile and a welcome would surely encourage people to buy there if anywhere?  But it’s a nice place full of higgledy piggledy buildings built into the landscape.  We had a nice steak at the castle and generally enjoyed the peaceful vibe but I couldn’t help wondering about the whole ‘book town’ thing.  Is it real or a contrivance?  Maybe just somewhere that found its niche and a way to survive in this mad world.  The river here looked gorgeous, shallow on one side of the bridge but with a deeper pool on the other.  Talking of the river…  The road back to camp took us past the chosen stretch and coincidently the gear was in the car so it made sense to pay it a visit.

We arrived around 1700 in the hottest, most humid part of the day.  There was no wind but the sun was lowering and there was enough cloud to stop us from frying.  There were already three cars parked so we walked the stretch finding anglers fishing all the accessible spots near the car.  I just about decide not to fish tonight when I approached another swim that had a boiling deeper channel close in with a shady overhanging tree just upstream.  After observing for a couple of minutes I went back to the car to get the gear.  I was fishing by 1800 using just one rod with a 2oz open end feeder, long hooklength and a size 8 hook with a hard pellet on a hair rig.  This I regularly dropped towards the back of the tree while enjoying the sights and sounds of the valley.

To begin with nothing at all happened but as the light drained so a bit of activity began, plucks and rattles on the tip told me there were fish about though maybe not big enough to take the bait.  By 2010 it was almost dark, I dropped the feeder behind the tree and said “last cast”.  After a few minutes there was a decent knock on the tip but in the gloom I barely saw it so done the sensible thing and held the rod and line.  I felt a couple of sharp plucks but just as I was about to give up the tip pulled round and I was into a fish.  I’d have been delighted with a Chub and this fish wasn’t doing a lot - just plodding but it had a bit of weight to it.  It circled in the deeper channel close in, taking a bit of line at times but didn’t tear off like a Barbel can.  The fish was weeded at one point but steady pressure got it moving again and it was soon splashing just out of reach of the net, then one more heave and it was in!

I couldn’t believe it.  In the recent past these fast water fishes had made me work and made me think but today I’d just turned up and caught one.  This is not the sort of thing that happens to me, it never goes to plan like that!  So we weighed a new PB for the river, took a couple of pictures then slipped it back in the river, packed up and went back to camp.  Job done!  But in hindsight maybe I’d have caught another had I stayed?

The next two days were hot, humid and horrible but we managed to enjoy ourselves wandering around a couple of local towns, strolling along parts of the river and taking refuge in the pub when the heat got too much.  It wasn’t weather to inspire any kind of fishy confidence and with a Barbel under my belt I was content.  But the next day was a bit cooler and a bit fresher and fish I would as I’d arranged to meet Mr S, my friend from the wild west by the river.  Mr S has years of experience on this river but this was one of the few stretches he wasn’t too familiar with.

Once again this part of the river was a bit busy but we kept walking away from the cars and found one swim that inspired a bit more confidence than the rest.  Here it was a bit shallower with clumps of streamer weed with the deeper water in mid river, we sat side by side both flinging similar feeder rigs though crucially Mr S had allowed me the downstream rod.  I should mention my groundbait which I’d forgotten had been fermenting in a car hot enough to kill animals for two days.  This resulted in a little bit of white growth which I mixed back in, a lovely beery aroma and more by luck than judgement a perfect texture.  We started off by balling a bit in then topped this up with the feeders regularly.

Like the previous evening things started slowly but as the light faded a few plucks and rattles began to occur.  As it grew darker we both took to holding our rods but it didn’t look like anything was going to happen.  “Just one bite” we said but confidence was ebbing away though the conversation was flooding.  Around 2045 I felt a bite and swept the rod back, fish on!  This didn’t have the feel of the fish I’d had a couple of nights previously and I soon had a nice Chub in the net.  We resumed fishing with more confidence but forty five minutes passed before my rod pulled over again.  A bit more weight this time but not that throbbing power, another bigger Chub was most welcome.

At some point Mr S missed a half pull but it was another forty five minutes before my rod pulled over again.  I pulled back and was into something solid “this might be a Barbel…”  This fish fought very much like the one from the first trip, staying in the deeper channel without taking much line but refusing to come any closer.  This went on for a few minutes with the rod bending nicely before Mr S managed to scoop it up in the net, bootiful!  The scales revealed another PB for the river, a couple of quick photos then back in the river where it kicked away powerfully.  That was enough for me so I packed up and sat with Mr S hoping his turn would come.  It did the following day but unfortunately I didn’t make it to the river in time.

The Princess and I fished again the following afternoon, it was busy once more and I ended up trying both the swims I’d fished previously and the day followed the same pattern; it was hot again and I had nothing while the sun was up but rattles and plucks as it grew darker.  I saw loads of birdlife including many Kingfishers, Heron, Egret, Long tailed tits, Great tits, Bunting, Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and what I think was a Peregrine.  There was also a strange duck which I think I’ve identified as a female Long tailed duck in summer plumage, unless anyone knows different?  But tonight despite fishing well into dark I didn’t get a proper bite.

Back to the campsite, we ended the day as we had all of the others, sitting outside the tent with a brew and staring up at the stars.  The following day it rained like fuck, typical as we had to decamp then drive almost all the way east.  I feel at home in the wild west, more so than anywhere I’ve visited outside East Anglia.  I think this is because it’s a very rural setting and the pace of life seems similar to home.  I’m unlikely to get back to the valley again this year so I’m looking forward to next already.

Friday 1 September 2023

Road trip

My friends have been visiting the big midlands river for a while now, catching Barbel and Chub including big ones and in the case of the former, fish that would have been British records when we first fished together.  I’d had an open invitation from day one but for a variety of reasons I hadn’t been able or willing, in one way or another life had intervened or I just hadn’t felt the urge, until now.

A couple of hours in the car, heading northward through rain and sun, a RHCP classic oozing from the speakers.  In mid afternoon we arrived in a busier landscape than we’re used to, there was a bit of brick and bustle but we weren’t here to stay, just for chips. But Sod’s law struck, the chippy was closed for renovation so no hot food.  If I had half a brain I would have gone to the nearby co-op and got a load of fuel on board but…  A while later we were driving alongside the big river which was certainly a mighty piece of water though not entirely to my taste.  We soon pulled up at the car park on a warm, humid afternoon; the sort where Jimmy would swing it round corners but the bastard Hundred has gate crashed summer.

I’ve owned a fishing barrow for well over a decade but it had only ever been loaded with festival kit but today, for the first time I loaded it with fishing tackle.  There can’t be too many anglers of my generation that can say that?  Oh well my proud record has gone forever and it’s just as well because even with the barrow the slog to the chosen area almost killed me and from here on in I’d have to ration what food I had and save some grub to give me the energy to get back again.  But to be fair the walk was worth it, this stretch was quiet and beautiful with only the occasional cheerful hiker and the odd boat.  My friends insisted I fish the downstream swim, feeling this would give me the best chance of a Barbel, Rich fished just upstream of me whilst Kev and Cooper were a little further up.  We each had plenty of water but were close enough to make assembling in Richard’s middle swim a viable option but this did mean I had to turn the alarms right up, these are an item of tackle I’d rather do without these days.

I had my rods out by 1730, fishing pretty much how I do on the western river but it was all scaled up a little, alongside my Barbel rod I had an old century twelve footer with 2.5 test curve.  I used a big feeder stuffed with groundbait on this rod while on the other I moulded groundbait around the lead.  Following my friends lead I balled a load of groundbait and ‘pulted some boilies into the middle of the river and it was here I fished the heavier rod.  For some reason I cast the Barbel rod slightly upstream and away from the area, I don’t know why, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  With this done I set up camp, everything fitted nicely underneath the oval brolly and I felt comfortable and content.

I’m not going to describe the ‘where’ too much because it’s someone else’s paradise but suffice to say it ticked almost all of the boxes.  The river itself was big, wide and powerful and apparently up a bit, it certainly had a tinge of colour but catching fish wasn’t really on my mind.  Despite my friends assurances I was fishing blind and had just copied what they did.  Recent trips had seen the fish coming out after dark so once we had got ourselves sorted we assembled with various beverages and relaxed on this pleasant summer evening.  As we put the world to rights the sky dimmed then darkened and we layered up.  There was the occasional beep which snapped our heads round but apart from that it would have been easy to forget we were fishing.

Just after 2200 the tranquillity was shattered by a screaming alarm followed by a buzzing baitrunner and it was mine.  Within seconds I had a bent rod in my hand, this was the fastest I’d moved since I disturbed a bees nest a couple of years ago which was just as well as this fish had been steaming down river.  It had to be a Barbel but after the initial run it was just plodding, allowing me to draw it slowly upstream.  At some point it registered that this was the rod cast away from the baited area.  By now I had company, Rich and Kev were as excited as me, offering abuse and encouragement in equal measure.  I was glad I’d hooked it on the lighter rod as I’d become comfortable using this set up out west in June.  When the fish neared the shelf it woke up and tore off again, all the way back across the river, this it done twice more before Rich scooped it up in the net.  By fuck that was fun!

We done the right thing, rested the fish in the net while we got everything ready then got the formalities done quickly.  It was obviously a PB, Rich said “maybe a double?” I hoped it would be but wasn’t the slightest bothered that it wasn’t quite.  Then a couple of quick photos and I held my perfect Barbel in the stream until it kicked away, still visible in the torch beam before vanishing into a black river.  Grins all round and a group hug; Kev and Rich were buzzing, they’d wanted me to catch and felt as much satisfaction as me, result.  After that things were rarely quiet for long…

I’d hardly got settled again before the other rod banged over hard and I found myself attached to another fish.  This had a bit of weight but nothing like the power and soon I drew a Chub over the net and by my standards it was a big one.  After that the action moved upstream to Kev’s swim, in a short space of time he netted three Chub, all bigger than mine and three Bream, two of which were proper ones.  Then when things tailed off in Kev’s swim, Rich fishing in the middle got in to a couple of good sized Chub.  By this time midnight had long passed and we were all laid out on our bedchairs grabbing some rest.  After a spell of around three hours the bites had certainly died down but all through the dark hours I was stirred by sporadic bite alarm beeps.  One of these, on my rod, was more persistent and I winched in a Bream of a couple of pounds.  After this my swim was quiet and I managed to have a couple of hours kip.

Sometime later an alarm screamed out, a proper fast take, it wasn’t my alarm but I swung my legs off the chair and staggered out into a misty daylight.  To my right Rich was doing battle, his rod had a proper bend on so I shuffled up to his swim, stumbled down the bank and took position with the net.  A few minutes later I returned a favour and slipped the net under a nice sized Barbel for Rich, it looked big to me but apparently this was a run of the mill fish for this river so it was slipped back without a fuss.  Last night the first Barbel had sparked a spell of activity and we hoped this would be the case again but as the sun climbed higher so the life seemed to drain out of the river.  In the dark of last night we’d had an electric couple of hours but the day became soporific and we spent the morning dozing, resting our eyes and our bodies, saving energy for later.

In the early afternoon, having dodged a shower we tidied up, loaded the barrows and pushed our way back upstream.  Kev and Rich were looking for new water in which to spend the second night while I was happy to break my up my slog back to the car with a couple of hours soaking pellets as I had to be off, work had got in the way this time and I be back at it the following morning.  These couple of hours were uneventful and to me the river still seemed lifeless but part of me was envious as the lads were confident the fish would be active after dark and so it proved…

The push back to the car was more manageable and maybe my body was a little more used to the exertion.  I turned the stereo up and pointed the car in the direction of home.  It had been hard work for a couple of days but I’d enjoyed myself, a couple of ‘champagne moments’, the company was the best and yes I’m sure I’ll find myself back there sometime.

Thursday 17 August 2023

A couple of weeks when not much happened

At the beginning of the month we had a lot of rain over several days so I figured with a bit of extra water in it the river might be worth a go.  I acquired some maggots then the following morning I got up early with good intentions and went out into a grey, drizzly morning.  My grand plan was to walk the stretch I explored last winter, dropping a float in here and there to maybe learn a bit more, I should have known better.  I walked a mile downstream without making a cast, mostly because either the river was choked or the banks were. 

After retracing my steps I walked upstream and soon found a short stretch of clear water with a bit of flow.  First run through her I had a bite which of course I missed but soon after I managed to swing a Dace to hand.  A few minutes and a couple of casts later another smaller dace before the bites dried up.  I knew a short walk upstream would bring me to another run I would probably be able to fish and so it proved.  I had bites from the start but missed a few before hooking a tiny Dace.  A gave it a while here but only had another slightly bigger dace and a chublet.  I debated exploring further upstream but the already damp morning was getting gloomier so for once did the sensible thing and cleared off before I got a soaking.

The weekend came and with an early afternoon tide it made sense to get up fairly early and fish through the morning for a change but I couldn’t decide where.  All my usual favourites weren’t inspiring me, for all of them I had some kind of doubt and the weather conditions, wet and blustery, had to be taken into account as well.  In the end, after a bit of google earthing I decided to head for a beach I hadn’t yet fished, something I haven’t done enough of lately.

So this very damp morning I steered the car through puddles on a different and at times unfamiliar cross country route, three quarters of an hour later I pulled into a car park which I might have stopped at sometime in the nineties?  I walked south where cliffs would shelter me from the weather a bit, passed a line of anglers who were just as daft as me and kept going to give both me and them a bit of space.  With drizzle in the wind I popped the shelter up first then quickly chucked a squid out on a pulley rig and a strip of mackerel on a running leger on the lighter rod.

It felt good to be on unfamiliar territory, looking out at different views but nowhere looks great peering through clouds of drizzle; when the sky cleared a little, in the distance to the north I could see Poshlondon on sea and it occurred to me that my favourite brewery was named after the body of water in front of me.  With no previous knowledge I dodged showers and recast regularly, varying distances and switching baits but as these were coming back seemingly untouched and the rain became heavier and more frequent so I spent more time sheltering and peering out.

High tide came around 1400 by which time the wind had switched to the south and was getting increasingly stronger.  It became one of those days when between the wind and waves the tips were never still, spotting a bite would be a challenge but judging by the baits I was retrieving there didn’t seem to be many fish about, I didn’t see anyone else catch either.  Around 1500 s squall blew over leaving lighter, dryer skies, I took this opportunity to pack up, cut and run.  No fish today but definitely a nice spot to spend time in on a more pleasant day.

The days drifted by, my next scheduled fishing trip was curtailed by a stuck car that proved frustratingly easy to fix in the end.  Then a day or so later another window of opportunity opened on a warm, calm day, what’s more the Princess was off work too so she came along to see what this sea fishing lark was all about.  We arrived at Radar and were fishing by 1830, high tide due just after midnight, we wouldn’t be staying that late but there’s always a chance here on a rising tide.

Here by the sea there was a bit of breeze, far more than at home but otherwise it was a nice summer evening, a little bit of cloud obscured the sun from time to time but it was lovely just being there.  This was just as well as there was no sign of any fish, in fact the baits were coming back virtually intact, never a good sign.  The biggest distraction of the first couple of hours was the antics of a man who had drunk so much he literally couldn’t stand and was navigating the beach on all fours although most of the time he just sat slumped in a pile.  It one point it became apparent he was crawling in our direction, I met him half way and having once been fluent in the language of the boozer I managed to light his crumpled roll up.  He gave me the thumbs up then crawled back to his belongings.

We had a nice night sipping tea and snacking and enjoying all the sights and sounds of what has become my favourite summer pastime?  By 2100 it was head torch time but the drop in light levels didn’t bring the hoped for surge in fishy activity although I did drag a one clawed Crab onto dry land.  So we sat chatting when around 2130, out of nowhere the heavy rod hooped over, at last I seem to be getting the hang of these unmissable bites!  There was a good bit of weight on the end which didn’t want to get any closer but didn’t really have a choice.  I expected to see a Ray and so it proved, not a monster but I enjoy them all.  With the whole squid launched once more we sat back and resumed the seaside meditation, it had been a nice evening already but actually catching a fish was a bonus.  Ten minutes later the heavy rod started banging again and I wound into another solid weight and after a bit of push and pull dragged another Ray onto the beach, a bit bigger than the first, happy days.

A fresh squid was soon soaking and it looked good for another bite although we both had work in the morning so couldn’t stay too late.  The ambience was broken by a strange crunching sound, I turned and the torch beam picked up the bizarre sight of our pissed pal crawling towards us with a badly rolled fag stuck to his lips.  With this successfully lit, he babbled and slurred then crawled/staggered/crawled back to his bottle.  What he did next I have no idea.  He wasn’t ill, didn’t appear to have any kind of disability other than being literally pissed legless and after a few minutes of consideration I decided he wasn’t my problem.  With that I decided I’d had enough and the princess agreed so what we did next was pack up and go home.