Sunday 25 June 2023

The Glorious...

Friday June 16th, a special date for the older angler and for the second year in a row two Suffolk lads who would certainly fit that description looked down on a beautiful spate river.  This year it was just me and Kev, (the other two lads preferring to bivvy up on the east midlands river,) and his dog Cooper.  So the river, here it cuts through a beautiful wooded valley, Buzzards circled above the opposite hill.  The stretch before us looked appetising enough, shallow rapids with deeper swims either side but other things weren’t on our side; the river was low as we expected but had a strange brown tinge also the weather would be hot and sunny all day. 

We hadn’t hurried around in the morning and got to the river around 0800, Kev wandered upstream while I set up just above the rapids in a relatively comfortable swim, this was bliss. I fished with a simple running leger rig and a long hooklength, sometimes I used groundbait moulded around the lead, other times I nicked on a PVA bag.  Hookbaits were mostly ‘drilled’ pellets either halibut or source, this remained unchanged across the weekend.  I had a few pulls and rattles from the word go but nothing I could strike at.  After an hour I had a decent bite which I managed to miss, Kev was doing a little better with a couple of decent Chub.  By 1100 I’d tuned in the radio to hear the opening overs of the Ashes, first ball Crawley, four!  That’ll do!  I fished on until midday by which time the sun was high and hot, the fish seemed to have switched right off.

After a siesta which involved taking on fuel and refilling the flask I wandered downstream and perched myself on a groyne below the shallows.  This was a great looking swim, pacey with cover both sides but a couple of hours here didn’t produce a convincing bite.  Kev had moved about too but hadn’t added to his score, after another siesta I went back to my original swim and Kev set up just above me, within chatting distance.  My thinking was I had put a bit of food into this area through the morning, if any fish were to wake up this evening there’d be something to eat out there.

As the evening dwindled away it looked like a blank was on the cards but as the sky darkened and the temperature dropped the rattles began again, there were fish out there.  It took until 2125 before I had a proper bite and this time I managed to set the hook.  There was a bit of weight but very little fight before Kev slipped the net under a very long Chub with a huge head but no belly.  It must have been a far heavier fish at some time in its life but even in this condition I’ve had few bigger and I was well chuffed.  In the last half hour the fish switched on, I had a second chub this a small one and Kev had two himself.  A gruelling day came to an end but the last half hour had given our confidence a boost.  As we walked back to the car our head torches reflected the yes of Deer peering warily out of the woods, they were safe, Cooper is too laid back for chase.

The second morning saw us bouncing down a track to a beautiful stretch of water we’d both fished before.  This stretch still haunts me because last year I really struggled here after losing a decent Barbel early on.  Kev wandered downstream and I was tempted to go straight back to the scene of my haunting but instead I decided to walk in the other direction and fish somewhere different.  There’d been a bit of rain overnight but this had stopped, it was a comfortable cloudy morning and the river looked wonderful. I set up in a deeper swim below a shallow, pacey stretch.  To me it looked perfect but nobody told the fish.  At 1126 I had a text from Kev, ‘Had a Chub and… now got a barbel!’  This was excellent news and what I should have done is move nearer to Kev but instead I moved further upstream and didn’t catch anything here either.  The cricket had began ominously but then up stepped Broad!

After topping up with food and drink I stopped for a chat with Kev who had loads of Chub in front of him and was catching fish of all sizes on the float rod, trotting flake set very shallow.  There were plenty of Chub in the swim upstream of Kev, moving in here was the obvious choice but instead I went further downstream, setting up at the bottom of a wooded straight.  There were Chub here too but not in any numbers.  After forty five minutes staring at a motionless tip I broke out the float rod.  It didn’t take long to break my duck, shallow trotted corn done the trick catching me four small Chub, none of which needed a net.  After a couple of hours I gave it up and headed back upstream finally doing what I should have done hours earlier I set up in the swim upstream of Kev who was still picking off the Chub.

Both our swims had deeper water close in with cover from overhanging bushes, I started off with the float rod and soon caught a couple of small Chub.  By 1930 we were both staring at rod tips hoping for something substantial, half an hour later I had a text from Kev which had me winding in and scurrying down in time to photograph a beautiful big Barbel!  Things just got serious…   My confidence was boosted, there was still a chance but the time ticked by and it looked like mine had gone.  With five minutes to go my rod tip finally wrapped over and I was into a fish, a Chub but a decent one which definitely needed a net brought my day to a positive end.  I felt a little frustrated as I hadn’t made the right decisions today, I could have fished better.  On the other hand Kev had got it spot on finishing with over twenty Chub to over four pounds and two Barbel.

Day Three already...There had been rain overnight and the morning was cloudy which lifted our spirits and our start to the day was relaxed start right up to the point we ran into a closed road.  Twat Nav seemed more of a hindrance but we eventually made it to our destination, another gorgeous stretch of river and one I’d never laid eyes on before.  The first swim we viewed was just below rapids and looked spot on, the next just above the rapids looked just as good, even better as bronze flanks were flashing.  Some were certainly Chub but a couple were longer and darker.  When we’d put our eyes back in their sockets we continued to wander up the beat all of which looked fishy but none more so than the first couple of swims.

We were set up by 0945, Kev downstream and me above, trembling with anticipation I had to make myself slow down, take my time and not charge around in a flap.  I had knocks and rattles from the off as well as a sharp bang that was way too quick for me.  When the next bite came I was stood in the water holding the rod, this I didn’t miss and a nice sized Chub gave me a proper battle after running downstream into the fast water and hanging there with its gob open.  I walked downstream winding slowly as I went whilst trying to control the net in the fast water.  Eventually the Chub went in.  Ten minutes later I added a second Chub of a similar size which gave me an identical, hard fight which had me thinking.  A Barbel or a big Chub getting into the fast water would be a problem, I needed a plan.  My first thought was to quickly gain line and control while wading upstream but this would really take some doing.

As it turned out I had time to think as the bites dwindled as the fish appeared to drift away although I could see dark shapes moving just upstream.  I wound in and took a walk upstream to the next swim which was large, flat and potentially comfortable, here I could see Chub of all sizes drifting around.  There was still plenty of pace, a bit of cover on both banks an if I wanted to I could easily cast downstream and fish the gully above the rapids but I was far enough away to take the problem of fish running too far downstream out of the equation.  I could see Chub but no Barbel but they were here earlier, Kev had found himself in a very similar situation the previous day and it had all worked out nicely for him.  I had a plan.

But first a siesta.  I wandered down to speak to Kev who’d had no luck so far and was planning his next move.  I burnt a couple of sausages and refilled the flask.  While this was going on the phone rang, Mr S my friend from the wild west offering advice and encouragement.  Kev had been exploring and fancied a swim way downstream so off he plodded.

I was fishing again by 1400 catching a bait sized Chub on the first cast but then it went quiet again even though I could see plenty of fish.  I started feeding corn while I unfolded the float rod and a few minutes later hooked a couple of grains on, set it to about nine inches and flicked it out.  I had bites from the start, missed plenty but caught a few Chub of all sizes up to a couple of pounds or so.  The fish drifted in and out throughout what had become a dark cloudy afternoon.  By 1600 it had been raining in the test match for some time and was beginning to get damp here too.  The swim was a rare one in which I could easily erect a brolly, so this I did, back to watching the tip whilst sitting in comfort.  I started off by casting mid-river, upstream slightly then worked downstream with successive casts, then when I’d reached the limits of comfort I started the process again.  I had plenty of rattles caught two decent sized Chub over the next couple of hours but there was no sign of Barbel.  At one point the rain stopped and the sky seemed clearer so I took the brolly down, two minutes later it was raining harder than ever.  Kev was doing better upstream, having been frustrated for a couple of hours by Barbel that were rolling but not taking baits he finally tricked one, then quickly followed it with another.  He suggested I move in close to him but I decided to stick to my plan, though now I was beginning to doubt myself.

Around 2000 I started searching the upstream water after recognising that I’d been blinkered and fixated on the downstream where I’d seen fish rolling.  Upstream looked bloody good too, especially the near side bush where there’d been plenty of Chub milling around earlier.  The first cast here did produce a couple of rattles which were too fast and I resumed searching the swim.  After a couple of casts I under-armed a method ball and source pellet upstream close to the bush, a few minutes later the tip pulled round and things got serious.  The fish moved upstream then stopped in front of me and it was then I realised this was different, there was more weight and a kind of throbbing power, Barbel!  The fish fought hard like I knew it would but unlike last year, today I felt in control, patience soon saw the fish in the net.  This fish was nothing like the monsters my friends were fishing for on another river but I was delighted, it was my second best and to me any Barbel is special and I love fishing this special river!  I’d rested the fish in the net before unhooking and rested it again after, after a few more minutes my lovely bronze whiskery thing was ready and kicked away.

For some reason I cast away from the bush next chuck, I can’t remember my thinking.  Maybe resting the bush or wondering if there were Barbel moving elsewhere in the swim, notably the area where most of my feed had landed during the afternoon.  But I was impatient and soon swung my bait towards the bush again.  It didn’t take long, a solid bite and a bit of weight had me thinking it was a small Barbel but no it was a Chub, my sixteenth of the day and by my standards a big one.  The scales confirmed it, this too was a second best and actually the best as my PB was caught on a Pike lure.  While this was going on my phone had been beeping, Kev had caught a couple of Chub and another Barbel!  The next cast landed in the same place and soon hooped over again, another Barbel that fought it’s heart out but wasn’t as big as the first.  While this fish was resting I checked my phone, Kev had caught another one as well.  I knew Kev would be a while and figured I’d have time for one last cast and would you believe it the tip slammed round and I was in a tug of war once more.  My last fish of the night was the smallest but was every bit as exhilarating.

I’d just released it when Kev and Cooper appeared, he’d finished with four Barbel and three Chub.  We staggered back to the car grinning, for once things had gone to plan for both of us, what a day!

The last day came around, we had to pack away our campsite before we made our way to the river so arrived later than previous days.  Today’s beat was a few miles upstream and once again it had everything I want to see in a Barbel river, white water shallows and boiling pools, shady trees and streaming weed.  I think this is why I want to fish this river as opposed to some that are closer to home and have bigger fish.  Here I see what my younger mind imagined when I read about Barbel fishing and dreamed of one day catching one.  After a wander we chose our swims; Kev opted to fish just downstream of a shallow run while I had developed a sudden liking for swims with cover, pace and deep water close in, even better if there was a shallow margin just upstream and this was exactly what I found.  What’s more tall trees shaded me but they did make casting a careful operation.

I started around 1100 searching what I could with the feeder but the near side bushes received particular attention, the morning was cloudy but humid but today there was a breeze blowing upriver.  Second cast brought a sharp bang on the tip but that was the only action in the three and a bit hours I sat there.  I could see Chub though, mostly out of range but occasionally drifting into my vicinity but they weren’t interested in what I had to offer.  It was time for a move but before I did so I baited the swim with pellets and hemp, to my very limited experience the swim just felt right and for some reason I was certain fish would investigate later in the day.

Kev was also fishless, we met at the car park and after lunch took Cooper for a walk exploring everything we hadn’t yet noticed.  To me there were a couple of interesting swims but the pull wasn’t quite there for me so Kev positioned himself in a new swim and I returned to the one I’d left feeling even more certain that I was in the right place.  Earlier in the day I’d realised that I hadn’t lost a single fish this trip when last year there’d been a couple of disasters.  Of course I cursed myself, first cast in the ‘old’ swim produced a good pull and I hooked a decent Chub which managed to shed the hook after a few seconds.  No worries, I felt sure I’d get more chances, if anything I now felt even more confident.

But two hours passed without anything happening by which time I’d switched to the float rod, running corn through.  I only had a short trot due to the trees and unlike previous days the bait fished shallow didn’t work and I didn’t get a bite until I started tripping bottom.  I began with a couple of Chublets then hooked something bigger that started to give me the run around.  It tried to make it into the downstream bush but I turned it only to have it bolt upstream into the other bush where the hooklength parted…  I tackled up again but the bites had dried up so I switched back to the tip under armed to the downstream bush and chilled out some more.

Around 1930 the tip pulled round and I managed to keep a fish on the hook, a nice sized Chub was quickly released.  The evening passed rapidly, a weird feeling as with every second I felt a fish was more likely but every second took me closer to the time I’d have to pack up.  2105 the tip pulled round once more and I lifted into something with weight and power.  The fish was plodding in front of me, taking short rips of line off the clutch while I waited for the unstoppable run I knew was coming.  Then the hook fell out.  It was definitely a Barbel and felt heavier than any I’ve hooked so far.  Gutted?  Not really, there was nothing I could or would have done differently it was just one of those things and I felt justified in the choices I’d made today. 

I still felt I had a chance and on the next cast had a classic three foot twitch and somehow managed to miss it, just like I do when beach fishing.  But I was still confident so got a bait back out quickly, certain I’d get another chance.  Fifteen minutes later the tip went over and I set the hook but it didn’t have the strength and power I’d been anticipating.  A nice sized Chub was soon netted and that was my last action of the trip.

After packing up we stuffed our gear into the remaining gaps in the car then pointed the car to the east and drove through the night.  Four nights sleeping in a tent and four days of physical fishing, walking the banks and almost abseiling into swims had taken its toll.  Between us we caught over sixty Chub to 4.06 and ten Barbel to 8.08 and if you’d offered us that on the 15th we’d have bitten your hand off.

Saturday 10 June 2023



Another Saturday, flying solo today which meant I had to make a decision as to where I set up camp for the evening.  Looking out of the window it seemed the forecasters had got it right, the day was bright and clear, this backed up by a trip to the shed, the wind a moderate North easterly.  Apparently, this isn’t good conditions for beach fishing though I wonder if the dislike for an east wind comes from not being able to launch a bait so far when the wind is blowing into your chops?  The high tide was due after dark at 2345 by which time the clear sky should not be an issue, a decent time to be fishing.  But where do I go?  Radar would be an obvious choice if a little predictable having fished it regularly this spring.  Then there’s the many named beach I’m calling ‘monster’ at the moment, so far this spring it’s been disappointing but here anything could happen.

These days are strange, not much to do in the morning except watch the clock but TMS kept me company for far longer than anyone expected.  I mooched about a bit, before starting to get my kit together when tea came.  By the time I was on the road the mental debate had ceased, I’d made up my mind, monster beach it would be.  A steady journey across country, outside the car Suffolk was glorious green but inside it was all London grey but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  After parking tight to the wall I hiked across the marshes, the wind was in my face already and had a bite to it.  I arrived at possibly my favourite piece of coast to find I had it all to myself.  The camp went up quickly and by 1820 I had two baits rolling around in the heaving grey mass.

It's a weird thing that I do really, I set up early knowing that most days I won’t catch anything for hours so why do I bother?  I suppose it’s mainly down to fishing when I can, in the spare time available but also I just like being by the water, this is the time of the week I look forward to most.  People who get bored when fishing in wild places really are missing the point and here on this strand of pebbles anything could happen.  I enjoy the unpredictable nature of this place, it really is shit or bust.  In all likelihood I could lose hope of ever seeing the rod wrap over but if it does…

And for hours nothing happened except all the things that occur every week, the tide rose and the sun sank, by the time I had my head torch on a full moon had risen, a glowing orange above the sea.  The rod tips stayed eerily motionless but this doesn’t usually bother me because in theory every minute that passes my chances are actually improving…  But your mind does play tricks and just at the moment I give up hope…  2345, high tide was greeted by a proper bite on the heavy rod.  The tip jagged over then sprung back, I was on my feet, tightening the line and hoping…  Yes a definite weight on the end.  I pumped the fish back towards me which took a while as I’d been timing my casts tonight, it wasn’t hanging and throbbing like a Ray nor was it banging around like a Bass.  When a chunky Dogfish writhed onto the shingle I wasn’t surprised at all.  A fish at last but not what I’d hoped for.

The next three casts all brought identical banging bites on squid and three more Dogs all a good average size.  Amidst this I also had a rattle on the light rod which I’d chucked a bit further but didn’t connect.  By this time it was well past midnight, it still felt good for another bite or two but I had to be somewhere the following morning.  By the time I’d tramped back to the car I was well and truly done.


On my own again and with things to do on Saturday I fished day earlier than normal and an earlier time of day.  High tide was due in the afternoon, just after 1600 so where to fish?  I fancied Monster beach but as I’d be fishing part of the ebb tide the steep one was a better bet, in theory at least.  After an early dinner I pointed the car in an easterly direction but it was slow going, when the A14 grinds to a halt all the lanes become clogged.  Luckily my route seemed to avoid the worst but was still slow, it could have been worse, if I’d left a minute later I would have encountered an artic trying to navigate a narrow village high street.

I arrived at the Steep beach, loaded up and tramped across the shingle. the day was clear and bright but a fresh north easterly kept the temperature down.  There were only two other anglers on the beach and I found myself settling down pretty much exactly where I’d hoped.  I quickly erected the shelter then got settled and put a couple of rods together, the usual two rigs but today I was going all out with big baits; hermit crab, bluey and squid.  I was fishing by 1400, two hours before high tide, in theory I should have a chance from the off.  The wind was stronger than expected with sizeable waves smashing into the slope and the rod tips were wobbling, would I see a bite in these conditions?

At 1500 I had my answer, the heavy rod was bouncing and I was soon hauling in something that felt heavy to begin with but got progressively lighter, it was no surprise to see a Dogfish writhing in the surf.  Shortly after the light rod pulled down too but nothing developed.  High tide came and went, in the hour that followed I had two more decent bites on the heavy rod which I missed.  After that it all dried up but I was content sitting in my shelter listening to the boom and hiss of waves followed by the loud ssshhhingle rolling down the slope.  As the waves grew quieter and further away so it seemed my chances were heading in the same direction.  I gave it till 1900 to allow the traffic to die down then headed home.

Spring is giving way to summer now and the last couple of months on the beach have seen plenty of fish but very few of the big or interesting ones.  The two heaviest fish I hooked managed to wriggle free in the surf, had they hung on a little longer… 

Now comes an interlude from the squid hurling.  I spent most of Saturday rummaging in the shed, checking out camping gear then finding fishing stuff and putting it in the right bags followed by rigging up rods and setting clutches.  Back inside an hour tying up rigs and finding odds and sods.  The rivers open again on Friday and I’ll be making a long anticipated trip west.

Sunday 4 June 2023

Chucks and chances

Four years without a sniffle, all the way through covid I was fine but now of all times I get a bloody cold.  A cold in May FFS.  It was just a cold, twenty four hours of snot and discomfort then a week of shifting the debris but never so bad that I wouldn’t have gone fishing so I went to work.  What pissed me off most was that some kind of germ had got past my defences and sneaked in, cheeky, sneaky little fucker.  I have the same reaction to an insect bite, I take it as a personal insult almost an assault.  When that kind of shit is finding root in my head it’s time to go fishing.

Friday, my normal day of rest at the moment but on this occasion I had to get up at 0600 to take Isaac to the station, (rail not police).  As I was getting up early I figured I might as well throw some gear in the car and take myself on to the waterside.  I looked at the tides but couldn’t find inspiration so thought why not fish in freshwater for a change?

So the Valley, I arrived around 0730 and had a wander around without seeing anything, which is normal at this place.  The morning was bright but a fresh northerly kept things cool, I settled on a spot where the wind had blown together a raft of floating debris, I figured this would be as good as anywhere.  A couple of casts with the lead told me it was clear enough for a chod rig so I dropped a bright yellow pop up in and chucked three good handfuls of mixed accumulated boilies on top.  On the other rod I put on another pop up with a long hooklength so it would sit above the weed, or a zig rig if you like.  I had intended to float fish with some corn but the wind meant this would be more hassle than I could be arsed with and would probably lead to more disturbance than I’d like.

How did I rate my chances?  Slim at best.  I’ve spent many hours here trying to catch the elusive Tench and failed miserably but I know they are here!  Nowadays there’s more fish present but its still a difficult fishery.  Today I felt like I was fishing in such a way that if a Tench or Carp was mooching about in the area then I’d have a chance.  As time passed the wind carried in more debris which made the raft even bigger, covering my baited area and hopefully making it more appealing?

I spent the morning sitting in the sun, sorting out my rucksack and tackle box for the next time I fish in freshwater, in a couple of weeks’ time, on a river.  What stuff will I need and what can I leave behind?  While I did so I was surrounded by Dragonflies of some type, loads of them zipping around which may be why a Sparrowhawk regularly buzzed past.  Back to the here and now, the truth is I think to catch fish, Tench or Carp, here regularly is certainly possible but requires more effort than I am arsed to put in at the moment.  What I occasionally do is chuck and chance fishing but every second blue moon it actually works, just not today.

Carp have been spawning in the east which means the pointless closure of many waters so the beloved scaley beasts can get it on in peace.  Even anglers fishing for other ‘lesser’ species are turfed off waters when the carp start to spawn but do carp anglers have to stop fishing when Tench or Bream are spawning?  Of course not.  What a load of bollocks, why is it this invasive alien species is given this star treatment?  The reason once more is cold hard cash.

The angling trade and therefore media is driven by carp fishing because carp anglers buy more stuff most of which has little or nothing to do with the act of actually catching a fish so obviously spend more money.  Carp are perfect cash cows, they grow big quickly so soon become a suitably impressive thing for a macho man to be photographed holding.  Also they live a long time and are very hard to kill, unless ironically, they become infected by something nasty carried by another carp (a bit like humans?)  Find a patch of water, tip a load of carp in and watch them grow (dump the ‘nuisance fish’ into landfill and they’ll grow quicker – allegedly) then reap your regular cash crop, piece of piss.  Newcomers to the sport are steered quickly to the local carp puddle, the start line of the race for more, better bigger tackle and fish.  Social media and the cynical brand marketing make sure the pot never runs dry.

Carp fishing is ruining angling, a bold statement maybe but not an original one, it is one I happen to believe.  Here in the east we mourn the loss of what we once called the mixed fishery, there are still a few around but they are disappearing rapidly, Carp is not just king, carp is everything.  Which is why I find myself heading for the beach at this time of year.

Talking of which...  Saturday afternoon, the weather is unchanged since yesterday, in fact unchanged for the last three weeks.  It was warm in the garden while I got my gear together but it’s always much cooler by the sea, especially with a northerly blowing.  High tide was due around 1730 so we’d be mostly fishing the ebb and our growing experience suggested the Steep beach again.  This was the logical choice but I wasn’t really feeling it to be honest.  Sure we’d have a good chance of catching something interesting but it was bound to be busy.

We were on the beach by 1515, plenty of anglers about but the wind was keeping the day trippers at bay.  We walked to the north again, the shingle seeming to suck our feet down and we were blowing by the time we got to the top of the slope.   I was fishing within a few minutes, the usual pulley rig on the heavy rod but I’d switched the light one back to a long trace running leger.  The multi hook rig hadn’t been as productive as I’d hoped, certainly not more so than the leger which we think is a better rig for Bass.  With the rods out I put up the shelter to shield me from the cool wind and stop all the bikini clad day trippers from staring at me like I was a piece of meat, or was that bit a dream?

As has become custom Giles had a fish on his first chuck but it was a small Weaver which had to be handled with care.  After that we sat staring at static rod tips, right through the high tide and well into the ebb, nothing happened until just after 1900 when I had a good bite on the heavy rod baited with hermit, this I missed of course.  Immediately after this Giles had rattles on both rods managing to land a Pouting from one, we thought this was the fish switching on but then it went quiet again.  As the minutes flew by we knew our best chance would be went the sun switched off which still gets later every week.

By 2100 it was growing dim but not headtorch time yet, which was just as well as I realised I’d left mine at home.  Twenty minutes later there was a definite pull on the heavy rod, for once I didn’t rush just lifted the rod from the tripod and held it.  When it pulled down again, I pulled back and finally hooked something, simple really…  The fish didn’t feel big but there was a bit of pull back and it was no surprise to see a good sized Dogfish wriggle up the beach and save me from blanking.  We gave it another half hour then began packing up, a job I managed to complete without the light.

Another evening which hadn’t gone to plan which has been a theme this spring…