Thursday, December 31, 2009

So it goes

I've not been out fishing over Christmas as I've been feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather outside hasn't been encouraging enough to tempt me out into the cold. So I've stopped in reading and re-reading Gierach. I'm glad our winters don't last as long as the ones they get in Colorado. It's almost made me want to take up flyfishing with bamboo rods - but not quite... A little Googling has turned up a Gierach article on-line.

2009 wasn't a bad year, England beat the Aussies to regain the Ashes and I caught some nice fish. But my fishing was a bit up and down like the England cricketers' performances. The cold start to the year scuppered any chance of good barbel catches but I got a feel for chub fishing. Then the last week of the season panned out well when the weather changed for the better. Alas the good fortune didn't carry on into the spring tench campaign. I was hoping to really get to grips with my chosen venue this year but a combination of unfavourable conditions and a lack of time meant I caught just nine tench - although the ones I did catch were worth having.

Work restricted me to the one late spring bream session that went better than I could have hoped for. Then the rivers opened and I got sucked back into barbelling, because it was handy and fitted in round work, forgetting my other plans for the summer because I couldn't put a foot wrong with the barbel between July and November. When winter came back with a bang work piled up making me miss those narrow slots when the river was on form or a stillwater worth a visit.

Here's the highlights:
  • Barbel - 12-12
  • Bream - 14-06 [pb]
  • Carp - dnw
  • Chub - 6-09 [pb]
  • Grayling - 1-05 [pb]
  • Roach - dnw
  • Tench - 9-09 (f) [pb]
[pb]= personal best, dnw = did not weigh (i.e. small!), (m) = male, (f) = female

Perhaps not as spectacular as last year when it comes to variety of personal bests, but the longer you fish the harder they get to beat and I have no complaints. The main thing is that I've enjoyed my fishing once again. New stillwaters and stretches of river have been explored and fished successfully. That's probably the greatest thing about fishing, there's always something to do that you haven't done before. When it pans out well in pleasant surroundings, which seem to become more important than the fish as I get older and grumpier, there's nothing better.

All the best for 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow's no fun

I had it all planned. Christmas rod orders out on Monday and spend the rest of the week fishing. The stillwaters had mostly turned solid but the rivers would be okay for chub, roach and grayling, maybe tempting enough for a pike rod to accompany me. I was looking forward to the change. Then it snowed. It's not being out in the cold that puts me off fishing but the journey to the river. Time was I'd have turned out anyway, but that was in the other country they call the past.

Long ago and far away

The other Christmas my present to myself was a lathe, this year it included a film/slide scanner which I used to scan the photo above. If I don't manage to get out fishing again soon I might blight the blog with some more blasts from the past.

I also treated myself to another Gierach book. Gierach is one of those writers it's easy to become a bore about, one you wish only you had discovered yet want to tell everyone about - even though those who would want to know almost certainly did before you 'discovered' him. That his writing is ostensibly about fly fishing is irrelevant, there are truths which are universal to fishing so it resonates. However, it's often not really about fishing at all. But then fishing often isn't.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feathered friend

Quite why I've got the urge to catch pike again I don't know. I was up and about at six, hastily eating toast and honey and forgoing my first brew of the day in my haste to get to The Land that Time Forgot again. For once the rain didn't descend as soon as I opened the car door in the car park. The air temperature had dropped about three degrees between leaving home and arriving at the lake though.

If I'm honest, had my maggots not been old and castery I would have put two roach rods in the quiver and one pike rod. As it was I had three different rods with me, all on trial. Well, the 2.5lb Torrix wasn't on its first outing, but I hadn't tried it with braid or for piking before. The other 'pike' rod was a 3.5lb Ballista which I've built up to use as a spod rod - my proper spod rod being a bit too much for the smallish spods I use when tenching. The third rod was one of the three 1.75lb Torrixes which I have managed to get whipped up and the thread sealed with its first coat (good enough to fish with). I settled on the metallic aquamarine thread for handle highlights in the end, and a cut down woven carbon reel seat and trimmed Duplon cones, plus lightweight Fuji SiC guides, for a personalised look.

It looks better if you click it...

A smelt and a headless mackerel were cast out a short distance from the bank. I'd picked a spot where the margin shelves steeply into deep water on the basis that the water will have cooled recently. It was a plan. When it was properly light I set my chair by the 'roach' rod and commenced casting the feeder to get some bait out. The rod handled the 30g feeder easily, much better than the Chimera Avon as a casting rod. It's a more powerful rod, obviously, but with a tip that is soft enough to cope with small hooks. I had a problem. The six pound line on the reel I was using (one of my Sporteras) was catching on the tag end of the backing it was tied to. It wasn't stopping me reaching where I wanted to fish but it was annoying.

The sky was overcast, the wind chillingly from the north. I couldn't get my brolly up where I was sitting as the bank was quite steep. My thermometer showed that the water was warmer than the air! I was tempted to move downwind to get some shelter in the next peg along. A much more civilised swim. I resisted.

After a couple of hours of nothing it commenced raining. I set the Aqua brolly up on a flat piece of ground above the rods and let the roach rod fish for itself - baitrunner engaged. I'd been throwing maggots to a friendly robin that had come to see me. It was in and out, mostly in, of my swim all day long. Often landing on my left hand rod setting the sensitive Blankbiter off.

Cheeky chappy

At half past ten a roach hung itself and I set up a paternoster rig on the heavier Torrix. A bit late but I should be guaranteed a pike on it. Fish must have found the maggots as a couple more bites were missed over the next hour or so before a small skimmer hooked itself. This was popped in the landing net in case I needed another bait when the roach was taken. A second skimmer joined it after lunch. Around this time the paternostered roach woke up and I heard a few single blips from the alarm. There must have been a pike spooking it, the alarm would sound in earnest soon. The next fish to the single red maggot was another roach of some ten ounces. Getting soft in my dotage I let that one go.

Too big for bait... today!

The catching line was annoying me when I cast. I swapped the feeder for a 1.5oz bomb and whacked it out. Then I pulled line from the spool until the knot was exposed. What to do? I had no tape in the tackle box to hold the tag ends down. I had one of my rare brainwaves. I took my scissors to a plastic gripseal bag I had in the box and cut a strip from it. This was placed over the knot and the line wound over it. Success! Back on with the feeder and to fishing.

By half past two I was getting ready to admit defeat on the pike front. At three I wound in the roach rod and tidied most of my gear away. The smelt rod was wound in and packed into the sling. Time was running out. I picked up the livebait rod and wound that in. Beaten. The final task was to release the two skimmers and roll the net up. I dropped the net cord below the water surface and teased the reluctant fish out. There was a noisy swirl and a puff of silt. No wonder the bream didn't want to leave the safety of the net. A small pike had nobbled one of them to taunt me.

Anyway I had turned out partly to try rods out. As with plans, I like to have my excuses prepared in advance! The 1.75lb Torrix proved okay for the job. Until something better materialises they will be my choice for feeder fishing for roach at distance. However, I am wondering how they will perform with a big tench on. There's plenty of poke lower down so the softer extreme tip compared to the Interceptor shouldn't be a problem. They are sweet rods to hold and cast with. The 3.5lb Ballista didn't get much of a work out, nor did the 2.5lb Torrix - although it cast the livebait nicely.

There'd been another piker on the lake who had had nothing, and two anglers fishing on the tip hadn't caught as many silvers between them as I'd managed. So I hadn't fared badly. I'm pretty sure that if I'd concentrated on the roach, fishing two rods and recasting more frequently, I would have had more. I don't know what I have to do to get a run off a pike from this place though. And I'm not sure I want to put the time in to find out. Or do I?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back to the river

If I had got the morning's jobs finished sooner I might have gone roach fishing again, but time had run out. There were things I could have been doing but they could wait. I knew I really should have been on the river last night when it was warm, nonetheless I grabbed a belated chance to try for a December barbel. Three weeks is a long time in river fishing and not only had the trees now lost all their leaves making the ridge-line of the far bank visible through the veil of fine branches, the only greenery to be seen being ivy covered trunks, but the river bank had altered yet again with the floods. This can make finding exact spots to put the gear down and to cast baits to difficult.

It was a glorious blue-skied and fluffy-clouded afternoon. I left my fleece off under the bunny suit as I walked upstream past raddled and incontinent ewes. The river was carrying some colour, was up a foot or maybe slightly more and was warm - 7.1C. The chances of a barbel looked good. Even so I had hedged my bets and packed the quivertip rod and the remains of Sunday's maggots. An S-pellet went upstream on a barbel rod and then the feeder rod was put into action. I cast the empty feeder out until I found the distance where it would hold, then I put the line in the spool clip. Next cast the hook was baited and the feeder filled. On hitting the clip I gave the reel handle a couple of turns then set the rod down to let the tip settle. A few quick casts to get some maggots in the swim then leave it a bit longer.

When I can't be bothered tying up hooklinks for this sort of fishing, and my stillwater roaching, I use hooks to nylon. Kamasan B611s as a rule. They're a strong hook and tied to stronger nylon than most.

Lazy man's hooklinks

After half an hour I decided I wasn't happy with the S-pellet and wanted to swap it for a boilie. Unfortunately the rig was snagged solid. Either I'd judged the cast badly or a new snag had appeared in the swim. To save time I got the other barbel rod out and baited it with an Oyster and Mussel boilie before casting out to a slightly different spot. Then I rebaited the maggot rod and set to retackling the first barbel rod. I wanted to fish two barbel rods after dark.

With that sorted I wound in the feeder for a recast. The red maggots were a pulpy mess. I'd had a bite and not seen it. At least there was a chub around by the looks of those maggots. Cue greater concentration on the quiver tip. It only moved when debris hit the line. There wasn't enough coming down to dislodge a 3oz lead, but the 30g feeder would move. I would have put money on getting a few more bites.

By four o'clock it was starting to grow cool. The light was fading, but not as quickly or as soon as it does when sat indoors at this time of year. There's less than two weeks to the shortest day now, that turning point in the season when things slowly begin to feel more optimistic. It's no wonder there are festivities around this solstice. It was time to pack away the feeder rod and get serious about the barbel. The second barbel rod was baited with an S-pellet and cast downstream and well across.

There was now a narrow band of mist hovering over the river giving the water a milky look. A thin veil that was also creeping over the bank. My confidence began to ebb. I was twenty-four hours late and I knew it. The mist wasn't for making its mind up. It cleared for a while, raising my hopes. At five I picked up the boilie rod for a recast. The line plucked off something then I began to drag some rubbish in. Half way back the rubbish wagged its tail. In the torch light I could see a chub making a feeble attempt at fighting back. There had been no indication. I returned the chub then the stars appeared and the mist closed in again. The beach beckoned. On retreiving the boilie rod I saw a chunk of the bait was missing. Another chub attack with no movement on the rod tip. When the chub are feeding delicately times are tough.

As I rounded the bend the river was clear. Maybe there was a chance. By the time I had the baits out and was settled down the far bank was gone. The mist had become a fog. There seemed little point packing up and hitting the rush hour traffic. Another hour wouldn't hurt. Maybe a breeze would spring up and clear the air.


Fat chance. Half past six seemed as good a time as any to finish. That way I could listen to the Archers in the car. The walk back was weird. The Petzl light was reflecting off the fog making it hard to see more than a few feet ahead. There were no lights visible in the distance to give me any sense of direction so I had to use the headtorch. Even so I nearly managed to stumble into a fence that I knew was there but couldn't see!

The car's thermometer read 5.5c, down from 10 when I had arrived, and it fell further as I journeyed home. The forecast is for more of the same. Sunny days with night-time frosts. Maybe one more try for a barbel tomorrow, when I have the afternoon free, before something more serious over the weekend. One thing's for sure; the bivvy won't be involved.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

That's more like it

It's all too easy to get out of the fishing habit when you have an enforced lay-off. Faced with the choice between home improvements and fishing I narrowed the decision down to roach or barbel.... The river would be well up and coloured, possibly warm enough to get the barbel feeding in earnest, but I've done that before and I wanted to try for some roach. Rain seemed to have passed over for the day and the sun was reflecting dazzlingly off the wet roads as I headed for the hills.

Although a Sunday saw plenty of anglers out and about I managed to get the swim I fancied. Not too surprising as it's a bit awkward to get at. Cosy when in it though. I'd made up some fresh power gum rigs on Saturday night and soon had them tied to the end of my lines. Then it was time to add a feeder and have a few practice casts. Damn. I had no 30g feeders only 50g ones. A little bit much for my Chimera Avons. Beggars can't be choosers so out they went. Not as far as I'd have liked but it would have to do. On with two short hooklinks and time to get started. The first few casts were only left out for a few minutes in order to get a bit of bait out. Each feeder was two-thirds filled with maggots and then topped up with hemp, one rod baited with a single red maggot and the other with one red and one white.

Roach food

Why some people moan about hemp stinking I don't know. I like the smell of it. Roach seem to like it too as it wasn't long before the bobbins started moving. Mostly the right hand one showing the roach seemed to have a preference for the double maggot bait. I was failing to connect with the bobbins on a drop so I set them at the top to show drop-backs. This they did yet I still failed to connect. It wasn't too long before a roach hooked itself though. And not being one to look a gift roach in the mouth I popped it in a bucket while I set up the pike rod that I had forgotten to remove from the quiver from my last session. A rod that just happened to be rigged up with a paternoster and a snap tackle. What a coincidence!

Waiting for a drop-back

Bites were coming steadily to the feeder rods, either within a minute of casting out or just as I was getting ready to recast. The fish weren't getting hooked too often, but it was enough action to maintain my interest. After a couple of hours the bites started coming closer together. A small roach-bream hybrid was landed followed by a couple more roach. Not monsters but only just small enough to swing to hand. Having made a late start it was getting on by now.

A typical roach

A dusk feeding spree was being anticipated. That's when big roach are supposed to come on the feed. It didn't happen. In fact after three o'clock the bites all but ceased. I fished on until half past four without a bite in the last three quarters of an hour. All the while the livebait had also remained untouched and was released when I packed up. I'd expected to tempt a jack if nothing bigger.

Maybe a short session but enjoyable and interesting. Having a sparrowhawk fly past the swim a rod length out was the avian highlight. Watching it get mobbed by seagulls came a close second. I'm already planning another, longer, roach session and have ideas for improving the hook up ratio. Some of the bites set the rod bouncing or were storming drop-backs. How could a roach fail to get hooked against a 50g feeder when the bobbin was moving so far? Unbelievable!

It was dark by the time I got back to the car, a smell in the air that I knew but couldn't place. Behind my car there was a van parked up with its interior light on containing two young men sat smoking. As I got closer the aroma grew stronger. That was when I remembered what it was. Another form of hemp... It's an odd world.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Events conspired against me yet again this week meaning the only chance I'd have was Friday morning. For once I woke early not hearing the wind howling and the rain lashing the bedroom window. Getting up and ready wasn't a chore. The prospect of a pike session on a calm and sunny winter's morn was just what I needed to get me back into the fishing routine while giving me a break from river fishing. By half past six I was heading for The Land That Time Forgot. A place where no matter what the weathermen predict it rains. Where the trees are hung with mosses and lichens. Where the ground is forever sodden.

Sure enough the forecast was for a fine day with rain arriving around six pm. Sitting under the tailgate pulling on my cosy Baffin boots I heard what sounded like the gentle patter of tiny raindrops on the branches above. It couldn't be. It was. On with the waterproofs and down to the water's edge.

Daylight was just breaking as I selected a swim. Not on the shallows nor too deep. Three baits went out, two close in and one a bit further. The day hadn't started well when I found rather fewer dead fish in the freezer than I remembered. My selection wasn't quite what I'd have liked. The next minor setback was finding that the locking screws on two of my banksticks had seized up. Not the end of the world.

There was no wind at all, small fish were dimpling and flipping on the surface, some on the line my baits were cast to. The moon was high in the blue and cloudy sky to the west reminiscent of a Nash landscape.

Baits out, brolly up, brew poured. I was already pining for the ever-changing surface of a river to watch. There was very little in the way of birdlife to keep me interested. A slack handful of tits flitted and twittered in the willows. The highlight being when I was standing staring vacantly into a willow bush and a coal tit landed in it at eye level. That was about it. The sun came out and the day perked up. I started taking photos to relieve the tedium. Looking across the lake the bands of moss and algae on the stones opposite me brought to mind another painter although I'm not sure the photo gets that across.


Another piker had arrived as I had sat down, and within an hour I was photographing a nicely rounded double for him. His second fish of the morning. I began to curse my manky baits - and lack of livebait snatching gear. On a calm day a livey clonking around would have boosted my confidence, had there been a bit of a wave on I'd have been happy with the deads. The roach head had it's float leger rig altered to a paternoster. I drank more tea.

As the tea ran out so did my time. I had to be back home by one. Four and a half hours had passed surprisingly speedily considering how much I wanted to be somewhere else, or fishing for a different species. I've endured more lengthy blanks this year while tench fishing, but I was glad when this one was over. Maybe if I'd been better prepared, or fishing somewhere that doesn't depress me so much, I'd be keener to have another pike session soon. As things stand it might be maggots and stinky cheese on a river, or maggots on a stillwater, next time out. Quite when that will be gets harder to determine. Monday and Tuesday are already write-offs, Saturday is supposed to be wet and windy (again) with Sunday a possibility. Ho, bloody, hum.

Billy's Blankbiters

Friday, November 27, 2009

Back on-line

The new PC is plugged in and the router has finally arrived. It hadn't been set up right, so getting back into gear took a bit longer than expected. But now I have a whizzy new computer and a great big screen that makes my blog look awful! Sorting that out is probably beyond my capabilities, so my apologies to everyone who has been viewing it like that for ages. [I've managed to make it look right in Firefox - but it's gone worse in Internet Exploder... So if you browse using IE, tough!]

It should look something like this

Anyway. If anyone reading this tripe has e-mailed me recently there's a good chance I've lost your contact details (or won't be able to find them). If so please send me an e-mail to so I can update my contact list.

Still no fishing as I've a few rods that I am able to complete (another order of rings has failed to materialise in full so it's two steps forward, one step back).There's snow forecast for the northern Pennines, which means I might have to sneak a session in before it melts and cools the river too much, or I might head south and try a warmer river - or go pike fishing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No internet = no fishing + no blogging

I'm trying to get a new computer up and running and connected to the interweb - so far without success. The old one I am using for this is on its last legs! So no fishing until it's all sorted out, and no blogging either.

Orders through my webshop will be experiencing delays in processing during this period and e-mails will go unanswered for a while. I would be grateful if any sent in the last few days that have not yet had a reply could be resent when I announce my cyber-return on here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Spate rivers really are forces of nature, as the floods in Cumbria this week clearly illustrate. When it comes to fishing them they can be tricky to get to grips with at times. The day after my last session the Ribble was over its banks. There'd been little rain since the river had risen so it would have dropped by the time I arrived on Friday afternoon. How much it had dropped by remained to be seen.

My first impression was that the level was about four feet up on normal level. The tideline of beech leaves in the car park showed where it had peaked. I decided to walk the stretch and see where was fishable. As I went up river there was flotsam hanging above my head in the lower branches of a bankside tree, and more flotsam in the field. My guess was that the level had dropped some eight feet since its peak.

There are plenty of molehills in the field, some near the bank's edge had obviously been over-topped by the river, a couple had what I took to be escape holes. Poor old moley must have been flooded out. As long as the moles had made it to the surface they would have been okay. I once watched one swim some distance along the edge of a reservoir I was tench fishing. Moles are good swimmers. The beach (which was underwater) looked worth a try, but then so did a couple of creases closer to the car park.

Making my way back to the car I saw another angler coming along the river. After chatting for a few minutes we went our separate ways. Expecting him to head for the bend I used the opportunity to fish one of the spots nearer the car. A flock of goldfinches flew up and across the river as I made my way to my chosen swim. The ground was firm where I put my chair, which made a pleasant change from sinking into leaves or silt. The flow in the edge looked to be just the right pace with a slight crease being formed by a gentle bend in the river. With the level having dropped so much I expected the leaf problem to be minimal. Most would have been lifted off the margins and should all have been dropped by now. If only.

As I sat tying bags and drinking tea the rod tips gradually pulled down. The downstream lead dragged, all six ounces of it. The upstream lead didn't move. That one was only three ounces and I had a horrible feeling I knew why it hadn't shifted. After recasting the downstream rod a couple or three times, stripping the line of leaves, I had to move. The upstream rod was snagged solid. The lead came adrift and the hooklink cut through when I pulled for a break. After retackling, this time with a rig incorporating a Hair Rigger to fish a lump of luncheon meat, I wound in the leaf strewn downstream line and set off intending to fish a slack below some rapids. The other angler would be on the beach if he had any sense.

Easy luncheon meat rigging

The day was warm again, late November shouldn't be giving air temperatures in the low teens. There was a strong westerly blowing, but moving upstream the far bank took the edge off it. When I threw my thermometer's sensor in the river it gave a reading of ten degrees. If I could find a barbel in a spot where my rig would hold out success was guaranteed. They had to be on the chew.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the slack was occupied. The angler hadn't caught yet, although he said leaves weren't a problem. Lucky sod! I carried on, my right hip starting to nag. The bank was slippy in places after the rain and I think I had jarred my leg sliding awkwardly at one point. I was wishing I had left my brolly in the car to lighten my load.

The beach was well covered in water. Some deposited debris seemed to be a little further from the water's edge than when I'd walked up earlier. The flow looked as if it would be pushing the dreaded leaves across and away from where I intended casting my baits. The bank I set up on was the terrace. Previously firm ground with grass and other vegetation. Now it is covered in a layer of sandy silt. One good thing was that the deep layer of leaves which had covered the beach had been replaced by silt. There can't be many more to come down the river.

Each successive flood reminds me that the river is constantly changing. Obvious things like dead trees appearing and disappearing. There are more subtle changes like sand banks changing shape and moving downstream. The silt that's deposited in the slacks must be the remains of rocks that have been ground fine as they roll down the river. I've not experienced it myself, but I've been told that at the height of a big flood rocks can be heard moving against each other as they are shifted by the current. Looking at debris on the banks you can see how sharp edges are ground smooth on everything from branches to bricks to bits of plastic. Come spring and the silt will be consolidated as next year's growth sprouts through it. As one bank erodes so another is extended.

With my chair's legs sunk in the silt the baits were cast out. Meat upstream, boilie down. The first casts went a little too far and the rigs soon shifted as leaves dragged them out of position. Dropping them closer they held for longer. I'd been expecting a rod to pull over as soon as I arrived in the swim. Four hours later things weren't quite going to plan. I should have had a netful of barbel with the water so warm and coloured. Maybe the flow wasn't strong enough to push the fish close to my bank. If my hip hadn't been troublesome I might well have packed up and headed for a different swim or another stretch.

At least the evening was warm and dry. In fact the wind dropped after dark, which was good as the sky cleared a little and the air temperature began to fall. So did the water. I noticed there were fewer leaves on the lines. The boilie rod was cast further out and more downstream. It held for longer. Even so my confidence was waning. All thoughts of barbel gone from my mind I let my eyelids rest while I psyched myself up to face the lengthy limp back to the car.

I'd only been thinking a few minutes earlier that I hadn't had a take that ripped line noisily from the reel for a while when the aching hip was forgotten as I jumped out of the chair and picked up the boilie rod. I guess any leaves on the line came off during the fight, which was pretty good with the extra water in the river. To net the fish I'd had to step down from the terrace and onto the beach, then paddle out a foot or two so the net could reach deep enough water. The silt was quite well compacted and I didn't sink up to my ankles as I thought I might. The barbel saved a blank, and wasn't a bad one at a few ounces under nine pounds. There would have been a photo of it on the mat here if the battery in my compact hadn't chosen the moment I pressed the shutter release to die on me.

The level was dropping well. Another couple of hours and it would be spot on. Every time I moved my hip hurt. I'd give it another half hour, but no longer. At half past eight the rods were stowed in the quiver, the chair strapped to the ruckbag and both loaded on my feeble frame. Off I set, only stopping for a couple of brief rests on the way, passing no other angler. I'll be dosing myself with Ibuprofen and doing some work for a rest before hitting the river again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More bloggy stuff

Checking my web stats again I saw a few visitors had come from Chris Ponsford's site, so I clicked through to find out why. I met Chris at the Tackle and Guns trade show a month ago and it turns out he said some nice things about me in his 17/11/09 blog. You can find Chris's site here, and I've added a link to his (infrequently updated) blog on the right. He takes some fine photos. I hope he won't mind me sticking one here to brighten the place up.

Leaping salmon by Chris Ponsford

Some blogs on Blogger feature a 'next blog' link. In the past this was purely a random link but now the feature (usually) takes you to a blog of a similar nature to the one you are visiting. I waste many an hour surfing the 'next blog' link. A lot are US based and/or flyfishing oriented. There's good and bad, as with the whole of the blogosphere, but there is some really nice stuff to read or, more usually, look at.

As this blog doesn't have the Blogger link I've added it to my list of fishy blogs. Click on Random Blog to start your journey into a fishy timesuck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Barbel karma's gonna get you

Work plans went out the window today. But as one window closes another opens. The sun was shining with heavy rain predicted to be on the way. The chance was too good to turn down. After lunch I was on my way, dazzled by the low sun. Yet again I was spoiled for choice and couldn't decide where to go. In the end I parked in an empty car park well up river. Taking advantage of the deserted bank I went for a walk to suss out a floodwater swim I'd been told about.

On my way along the river I passed a sad and sodden pink teddy bear, face down in mud, lost and forlorn. I can understand how footballs end up in rivers, but some of the other stuff (there's a broken toy keyboard on another stretch) make you think alien abduction is involved. The swim looked inviting, but maybe needed a bit more water. The level was still up about eighteen inches, probably having risen a tad since Sunday, but dropping slowly with a nice touch of colour still.

Half an hour after arriving I was setting up in a favoured swim at the top of the bend. I liked the look of the flow patterns. A boilie was cast out downstream on the crease line while I tackled up the other rod from scratch. It had started to rain so the brolly went up. Another reason for choosing this swim was that it felt more sheltered from the strong, and chilling, westerly. Lacking an ability to peg the brolly down that was a consideration. The tip of the first rod bounced back then pulled down as the lead shifted. I'd chance leaving it. The hook wasn't even tied on the second rod when the first tip began a merry dance. Then the rod hooped over and the reel started spinning. That hadn't taken long. It was only a tiny barbel but it meant I hadn't blanked and my run of luck was continuing. The rain even stopped!

Another blank saved

With two baits in the water I settled down to the customary bag filling exercise. A few were filled when the bucket lid blew off the rucksack and rolled along the bank towards the water. I ran after it and picked it up. As I turned round my brolly tumbled past me. And into the river. It was only in the edge, in an eddy that I thought was shallow. It was on its side. It would be easy enough to retrieve. I walked towards the umbrella to see it roll, the pole rising like Excalibur held aloft. Then it sank gracefully from sight. The eddy was deeper than I thought.

Now I had to try and get the blasted thing back. I wound in one of the rods and started casting around the slack. Ten minutes of fruitless casting and retrieving later I gave up. At least I now knew a bit about the slack. It might be worth fishing at certain levels. The bait was recast to mid river on the crease and I sat back to consider that my bad luck with umbrellas this season must be my punishment for catching too many barbel. I wasn't too bothered about losing the brolly. It was old and the cover was past its prime, pulling away from the rib ends and looking papery thin. The Gardner screw in pole was more heartfelt a loss. More rain fell and I zipped up the pockets on my ruckbag then tightened the cord round my jacket hood. It pulled right out. Now it would blow off my head and I'd get no shelter at all from the rain.

As I pondered which brolly to risk next time out - the amazing collapsing one (which lead me to buy two new ones, of which there is still no sign of a replacement for the exploding one) or the brand new heavyweight 45 incher - the downstream rod tip pulled over. The reel spun again and as soon as I felt the weight I knew this was no baby. The power was incredible. Line ticked off the spool with the rod hooped to its limit. Either someone had stocked mahseer or I'd hooked my brolly. I tried to get below the brolly (I'm sure that's what it was) to alter the angle of pull. As I did so the line grated and parted. The day was not going well. Another rig lost.

With a fresh rig tied and a bait out again I was restless. I don't know why because the swim looked good. It just felt wrong. The level had dropped an inch or two and I fancied a different swim. I moved the rods downstream. There were no leaves coming down to speak of, just a bit of slimy grass-like stuff. I reckoned a six ounce lead would hold well out. The rain had ceased and the sky looked clearer upwind. It only took ten minutes for a bite to materialise. True to the form of the day the rig was irretrievably snagged. Once more I retackled.

At ten to five, as the light was going, the same rod bounced. This time all went well and a small barbel was unhooked at the edge. Ten minutes after recasting the boilie rod was away again. This felt a better fish, but there was something not quite right. It was dark now so hard to see the line, the rod tip suggested that the line was entering the water rather closer than it should have been. Then everything went solid. The line was round something. I walked downstream and pulled to no avail. Back to the swim and put the rod back in the rests. Baitrunner on and line was taken. I took the slack back up and had a brew. A little line was taken then nothing. The brew finished I picked the rod up and felt for the fish. Nothing. I pointed the rod at the snag and took a step backwards. Movement. Another step. More movement. It seemed as if I was pulling the snag towards me. I began to pump line back on the reel and the snag kicked a little. The fish, as they often do after being left to find their way out of a snag, didn't fight. Not a massive fish but bigger than the other two put together.

Patience pays

By now I was considering when to fish until. If it started raining I'd pack up immediately, if not then I'd listen to the Archers before packing up. The upstream rod was fishing closer in than the downstream rod that had produced all the bites. I swapped them round and cast the upstream rod further out. At six twenty the upstream rod gave the inimitable performance of pulling down and springing back repeatedly as the lead was dragged downstream by a fish. Only a little one this time. After recasting the boilie I put a bigger lead on the downstream rod and cast that further across too. All was quiet. The Archers closing theme tune faded away. I began to wind in the downstream pellet rod. The rig was half way back when I caught sight of the other isotope performing it's upstream-bite performance. The rod I was holding was put in its rests and I wound down on the other rod. It took a while to take up all the slack but the fish was on. A second seven pounder.

I was tempted to chuck out again, but didn't. No sooner was I on the road home than I wished I had done. For the middle of November it's unseasonably mild. When I arrived the thermometer read 12, when I left it said 11. The river's in good nick, still eight degrees plus and nicely coloured. The barbel are feeding. Like my good fortune the weather can't last much longer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the move

Saturday evening saw me doing something I hadn't done for a long time. Twisting up some pike traces. That done I removed my bait tubs and barbel box from my rucksack and replaced them with my cooking gear, drop-back alarms and pike box. Then I checked over my pike quiver and rods before going to bed early. All I'd have to do would be fill water bottle, throw the bacon and bread in the rucksack and get some deadbaits out of the freezer. I was going to have a day on a stillwater taking it easy. I must have been full of anticipation because I woke just before the alarm on Sunday morning. Then I turned the alarm off and considered my next move. Back to sleep. I knew the barbel were feeding on Friday. The river would have risen a touch with Friday night's rain but would be dropping back again. The leaves should have flushed through. An afternoon session might be productive.

The morning passed quickly with a little work then I swapped out the pike gear for the barbel stuff. Piking can wait until the barbel are hibernating. Lunch was the bacon I'd intended taking fishing. There wasn't much in the way of pack-up so it was honey sandwiches to accompany the flask. I was on my way on a still and warm afternoon. But with no idea where to head for. Somehow I ended up on the bleak stretch, another car following me into the muddy car park. I managed to park on firm ground. The other guys struggled a bit. After a chat we went our separate ways. I headed downstream to a spot I fancy when the river is up as much as it was. The level was falling steadily, hard to tell by how much when you haven't seen a stretch recently.

My baits were out as the church clock struck two. They held nicely on the crease and very little rubbish was collecting on the lines. Tiny fish were topping in the slack, with occasional larger swirls that could have been made by bigger fish feeding on them. Further down the river and angler was catching steadily on the float. I wished I'd picked up some maggots on Saturday as I'd half planned to do.

About an hour before dark I heard a wader calling as it flew upriver. As I spotted it I saw it jink and hit the water, disappearing. Most unusual for a wader. A split second later I saw the sparrowhawk that had been chasing it veer across the river and up into the trees behind me. Then the wader reappeared and flew back whence it came calling in continued alarm. I'm not great on identifying waders, especially at distance in the gloom against a dark river bank, but I think it was redshank.

That was all the action there was before dark. The clock struck five and a move was called for. My original plan was to walk upstream of the car park and have a try there. Back at the car my plan changed. The river higher up still would have fallen more, the leaves that had been an irritation on Friday should be non-existent, I might be able to hold out further across if I fished the same swim again. How to get there? I chose the scenic route for no particular reason other than it was easier, if longer.

It seems odd turning up to fish an evening session in the dark. But arriving at six o'clock is actually a fair bit earlier than I get to the river during the summer. It's not without its drawbacks though. You don't have time to get your casting muscle memory tuned so you can hit the same place reasonably accurately like you can when fishing an hour or two in a swim in daylight. You can't always read the flow too well either. So long as you know the swims it's not too bad though.

The sky was clear, no rain forecast until I'd be long tucked up in bed, no cars parked up meaning my swim would be free so I left the brolly in the car to lighten the load. The level had indeed fallen. I wanted to position myself further downstream than Friday. The bank, though, was deep in leaves. Even with the legs of my chair at full extension I was sat too low. The silt was also a mess. In the end I put the chair well back on almost firm ground, but had to sit with my feet in mud. An hour after packing up downstream I was cast out again. Not without trouble.

Winding in my downstream rig it had found the rock pile I was hoping held a fish rather too well. The hook had parted company with the line. That needed replacing. More annoyingly the other rig, which I'd hoped to cast straight out, maybe with a fresh bait on, had got tangled up on the walk to the swim. Try as I might it would not untangle. Sweat was running down my forehead when I arrived at the swim, I was hot and bothered, my specs steaming up making it impossible to see the knotted line. I had to cut and start again. With two baits cast out it was time to cool down and have a brew.

Again the rigs were holding easily. Again nothing much was happening. No chub or eel bites to make me leap up in anticipation. England got hammered by the South Africans and I was beginning to feel the river was going to hammer me too. The night was particualrly black. There wasn't much I could make out in the woods. But it was mild and windless. Not unpleasant. I'd give it three hours or so. I was leaving the baits out for almost an hour at a time. Nothing of note was collecting on the lines and even three ounces was holding well enough.

At ten to nine the downstream rod, with the Oyster and Mussel boilie, began doing a chub dance. The fish felt more like an eel, but was indeed a chub of a pound and a half, or thereabouts. I rebaited, put on a fresh pellet bag, recast and sat back down. This cast I chanced a little closer to the snags. It only took five minutes for the tip to pull down and stay down. Then the ight and sound show started. Immediately I pulled into the fish I got the feeling it was decent. Certainly no chub. As it rolled ready for the net the size of it's mouth suggested a scales job would be called for. With the net laying in the edge I got the sling and scales. As I stepped forward to dunk the sling my left foot sank through what had looked to be leaves on the bank but turned out to be quickleaves. Like quicksand but leaves. My foot was damp and cold.

"A double's a double"

Although the fish looked, and felt, heavier she only just scraped over the ten pound mark. Rather lean of belly she was. The fish was popped back in the net rather than messing around with the sack while I got hot and bothered again finding somewhere solid enough for the bulb release to work. The fish felt really cold as I held her for the camera. A few snaps and back she went. Out went a new bait to the same spot and time for a brew.

There wasn't much tea left. Surprisingly my wet foot wasn't cold so I wasn't miserable, but the honey sandwiches hadn't been too filling and hunger was setting in. I clung on for an hour more. The boilie rod tip had pulled down and sprung back shortly after being recast. I had a nagging feeling I knew why nothing more had materialised. Sure enough it was snagged solid when I came to wind in. Oh well. It hadn't been a bad session. I'd put some effort in and caught.

A nice run of settled weather wouldn't go amiss right now, even if it means the river going low and clear. I could get that stillwater pike session in, or do some serious chubbing. But the weather is predicted to be unsettled this coming week, so it's looking like barbel fishing will have to be slotted in when the time is right. If that fits in with work commitments.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lancastrian Salt Circle

My morning was spent dealing with a customer and visiting the bank. When I returned home it was lunch time, after which the sun broke through and spurred me into action. I was spoiled for choice as to where to go and what to fish for. A stillwater roach session was considered. Or would it be a short pike session on a drain, river roaching or barbelling? My customer had had a few barbel on Wednesday. That decided me. There'd be colder conditions for the roach and chub later in the winter.

Yet again a silver trail led up my rod quiver to a missing pellet and a chewed boilie. It's time to get the salt out and ring the floor where the quiver stands. That'll sort the buggers. With winter on its way I have switched to my Korum Ruckbag. I don't need the extra carrying capacity of my Aqua rucksack as I'm now wearing the bunny suit and waterproof bib and brace from the off. My fleece gets folded up and stuffed into the chair which is clipped to the bag. And very nicely it all carries too.

I wasn't sure what state the river would be in. There'd been rain since Sunday, but dry spells too. At first glance it looked to have risen. But when I arrived at the swim I'd fished last it had dropped some eighteen inches. I carried on upstream, disturbing a female goosander that winged her way upstream, and fished two rods close in where the water was slower than the main push. I spent three quarters of an hour tying up bags of pellets and watching the upstream rod tip, the rig cast a little further out, gradually pulling down. The spool on the baitrunner turning ever so slowly as leaves gathered on the line. I wasn't convinced by my swim selection so the rods were moved, followed by the rest of the gear.

The move had put me on the beach, or rather up the bank from it as the river was still a good foot or more up on NSL. The willow was on dry land today though. The bank was covered in freshly deposited leaves and other vegetable debris, with a covering of silt in places. Quite a difficult surface to walk on. I was just in time to switch the radio on for the start of England's first match of the South Africa tour (a twenty-twenty evening match) - SA being two hours ahead of us. Sanity has returned and I can again fish and listen to cricket.

Almost back to normal

As the light faded so the sky clouded over. There was rain forecast to move in later. I was hoping it would be much later, but it wasn't. Up with the ancient umbrella (my broken one has not yet been replaced) to discover a new hole in the cover. Near the pole, so it won't let water drip on me directly. I was glad there was no wind as this brolly went into retirement when the loop at the top where guy ropes attach broke off. I poured myself a cup of my flask tea, I use QT instant tea with milk in my flask, and I thought how similar the colour of the tea and the river were.

Now it was dark and rainy. The wind seemed to be picking up, coming off my back for a change, putting a bit of north in it. Rain had reached the cricketers too. I poured another full cup of tea and contemplated my tactics. Hope was fading although the rigs were holding out well. With the water temperature quite low at 8c I am in winter mode and like to leave baits out as long as possible. Every so often, at least thirty minutes, I'd move the baits around the swim. Not having any clues as to where the barbel would be with the level as it was, and not being able to hold out where they usually were, that seemed like a good strategy.

With one sip taken from the cup, the radio barely audible above the pattering of rain on the taut nylon of my brolly I heard a faint whirring sound. The isotope on the downstream rod, which had been cast further downstream still, wasn't where it should have been. It was much nearer the water and the rod was arced right over. Somehow I put the cup down without spilling the tea and grabbed the rod. There was a fish on, but it wasn't a big one and was easily dragged over the net. I left it in the margin while I finished off the brew before it went cold.

With a fresh bait cast out I took shelter once more. England were handed victory courtesy of Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis, and I felt I had been too. At eight I packed up. The recently dropped silt made the usual path out of the swim rather slippy to negotiate fully laden so I took an alternative route. Here the incline up the terrace was less steep but the silt soft like snow. So I used the snow climber's technique of digging the toes of my boots in to make steps. It worked a treat and I was up on the top of the bank without mishap. The rain was easing. the wind, however was not. The further I walked from the lee of the escarpment the stronger the wind blew. What rain there was in the air was coming almost horizontally. Back at the car the wind was howling through the beech trees.

Driving up the lane, the rain stopped completely and the thermometer reading a degree warmer than when I had arrived I wondered if I had left too soon. On the motorway, as rain lashed across the carriageway and the car was buffeted I thought not. Back home and it was warmer still, rainless but windy. Maybe I had. But best not risk it. That wind was going to get worse - and it is Friday the 13th!

Monday, November 09, 2009


For the first time in ages the day dawned dry and stayed that way. There had been sunshine between the showers all week, but as soon as I thought I'd get the gear together another heavy shower would set in. So I spent the week working. Sunday was too good to miss as the temperature soared and the sun shone. Well, got pleasantly warm.

Things didn't go smoothly. First of all there was a strange smell rising from my rucksack as I packed the flask and food. This was traced to my lucky cap. It wasn't exactly savoury to start with but the mould growing on it put me right off wearing it. Another cap was thrown in to take its place. Then I got the rods out and found one boilie gone and the other chewed, a shiny mess of dried slug slime encasing it.


I knew the river would be up and coloured. Earlier in the week the barbel would have been feeding hard, the mess of leaves would have made fishing difficult so I wasn't too worried about missing out on that pleasure. The car park was empty, which surprised me with the sun shining after a week of rain. I'd have plenty of river to go at. The level was high, about four or five feet up. There was a spot I fancied would be fishable and sheltered from leaves. That was where I headed, looking for other likely places to drop a bait or two in later.

The field that had been mown a few weeks ago was now short but lush grass, and in the distance it was being grazed by sheep. Sheep in the valley are a sure sign of winter. The cattle are in their sheds to prevent them churning up the land, while the sheep's dainty hooves do less damage. Across the water a few leaves were clinging on desperately to the trees on the lower slope of the bank, the high branches that catch the wind now stark and bare.

With the river so high I was set up on the first terrace of the bank, my baits dropping on, or just past, where my chair would normally be placed. The rigs held out pretty well with the main flow angling across the river. For a change I had one rod baited with a lump of luncheon meat. A sure fire floodwater bait. So I'm told.

I'd normally be sat beyond the willow

Occasionally a rig would shift. Few leaves were fouling the line though. But no bites materialised. A kingfisher alighted on a lone hogweed stalk to my right then zoomed off, low across the water. A grey wagtail landed and wagged its tail. A lightning fast thin brown streak passed from right to left turning into a wren when it stopped. As the light began to fade it happened. The tip of the meat rod began to jag down. As I reached for the handle it stopped. Then jagged again. It had to be a chub. That's all I ever get on meat. It sure felt like a chub when I tightened to it. But it wasn't. It was an unseasonable eel.

The river was on its way down. Dropping at least an inch an hour. The leaves becoming less and less of a problem. For some reason I wasn't happy. At twenty to six I packed the gear as the mist began to rise from the water and headed downstream. Hovering at sheep-level was a pall of mist, the air above it clear showing the warm lights from houses on the ridge to the north where the river had flowed in the distant past. A belated bonfire burned in the distance, having resonances more to do with the coming of winter than the punishment of a terrorist. There's something ancient about the valley after dark.

The spot I most fancied fishing was below a big slack. The bank quite steep, but grassy. I think I'd left it too late, though, as the depth was less than I'd have liked and the level seemed to be falling faster. That's one problem of moving after dark when the river is on the way down or up, you can't get a good look at the flow patterns. This is made more difficult when you don't know the stretch all that well. There is a spot I know, but no longer have a ticket for, where I'd have been confident, and happy, to fish with the river as it was. Or I would have a few years back. It could have changed since I last fished it.

Although the sky had cleared I wasn't feeling the cold. My feet were warm. Even so my heart wasn't in it. By eight I'd had enough. Partly it was because I didn't have much confidence in the swim, or the options open to me. Also niggling away at me was the urge to spend a day by a stillwater for a change.

The car's thermometer read 5.5c, rising a couple of degrees as I left the river. It didn't seem that the forecast frost was likely. When I looked out this morning it had arrived. The cloudless blue sky and still air suggesting winter is on its way.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Time waits for no man

All too soon I find myself writing again on the passing of a well known pike angler. Barrie Rickards, who died yesterday, was of an earlier generation than James Holgate, but that makes it no easier to come to terms with. I didn't know Barrie all that well, but like James he put work my way when times were hard, asking me to do the diagrams for John Sidley's River Piking book. I also fished in his company a couple of times and he photographed my first zander (a double), the picture subsequently appearing on the cover of a zander book he wrote with Neville Fickling.

Of course I knew of Barrie long before I met him. I'd read many of his articles in Angling magazine and, like so many pikers fishing in the late 'seventies Fishing for Big Pike was my handbook. It is worth noting that this book was written in collaboration with Ray Webb, to whom Barrie always due credit and reminded people that it was Ray's name that took precedence (on the spine and inside if not on the cover). Yet everyone refers to it as being by Rickards and Webb, when the reverse is true.

The Word

The influence of that book on modern pike fishing is immense. It was first published in 1970, a year before Buller's monumental Pike. Yet today when we compare the tackle and tactics recommended in both books Buller's appear archaic, those of Webb and Rickards do not. In fact the rigs they described (maybe with minor tweaks) are still used pretty much universally. With Fishing for Big Pike Barrie Rickards became seen as the father of modern pike fishing. There is much to be said for that, but you can read Barrie's take, written in 1997, on how modern piking evolved in this article.

It is interesting to note that Webb and Rickards came to prominence without catching numbers of thirty pound pike. Of course it could be argued that there were fewer thirty pound pike around when they were fishing, and that is undoubtedly true, but the point is they wrote about their fishing and the photos they took of pike served to illustrate that what they were saying had merit. Their reputations were built on that basis. Today's piking heroes (for want of a better phrase) are building their reputations on the numbers of big pike they have caught rather than the knowledge they have passed on.

Webb and Rickards made a point of stating what they had caught as evidence that their methods worked. Fishing for Big Pike set out to bust a few myths and propose new theories (feeding spells, hotspots and the effects of barometric pressure for example) - so evidence was required. Writers who followed perhaps took this to extremes. Neville Fickling's first (and subsequent) books contained a detailed list of every pike of more than twenty pounds that he had caught at the time of publication. I'm not laying the blame entirely at Neville's feet, but while a list of big pike lends weight to an argument it does not guarantee that the argument is correct. Neville could simply have spent a lot of time fishing poorly on very good waters! Experience isn't necessarily measured in pounds and ounces.

What the writings of Barrie Rickards, Martin Gay, Jim Gibbinson and others following in the footsteps of Dick Walker all shared was an analytical approach to fishing. They looked at what was going on and rather than dream up fanciful explanations they applied logic. That all three of those mentioned were academics as well as anglers no doubt played it's part. I think that is the most important lesson I have learned from their writings - not to accept received wisdom and to think for myself. Will we see their like again?

Tributes: FishingMagic; Pike and Predators

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


You might call it being a tackle tart, I call it aesthetics! Not being able to face another session of gales and leaves on the line, and with no blanks to build outstanding rod orders, I spent Sunday and Monday doing odd bits that needed finishing and making a start on my 1.75lb Torrixes. I had the handle spec decided on a while ago - DPS with carbon spacer, a stainless collar at the rear and cut down Duplon cones, the butt grip being slim tapered Duplon and the butt cap stainless steel. The rings are lightweight Fuji SiC. So far so good. The only thing to be decided on is the colour of the tipping I want to put around the handle for a slightly tarty look. On my 2.5lb Torrixes I used aquamarine, and very nice it looks too. Should I do the same again or go for something different? On the subject of the 2.5s I wasn't happy with having the Fuji butt cap straight on the blank It's functional but looks better on a thicker blank. So I slid some X-weave shrink wrap over the butt, redid the whipping and pushed the butt cap back on. I'm still not sure. The shrink might look better with a small stainless button. It won't be as practical though. No glue has been used on the butt cap so it'll be easy to swap. Both X-weave and plain shrink is available on custom builds either as butt grips or full handles for anyone who is interested.

X-weave shrink and Fuji butt cap

While I was at it I put the name of the rod above the grip, on the underside, as part of a new discreet lettering option I've come up with, which I also used on a new spod rod I built for myself a few weeks ago. I haven't been using massive spods or aiming for the horizon when tench fishing. When I'd used my marker rod, built on a 3lb Ballista Slim blank, for spodding I found it easier than with my heavier rod. I selected a 3.5lb standard Ballista for the job. As an experiment I whipped it with dark green thread and tipped the handle whippings with metallic lime green. I keep looking at the rod but can't make my mind up if I'm happy with it. The dark green whippings look nice. A change from black yet dark enough not to be garish - in some lights it's hard to tell they are green. Even so I couldn't bring myself to tie the Torrixes with that thread. The lime might be a little bright. At least on a spod rod it'll soon be covered in gunge!

With the handles fitted and the rings tied on the 1.75lb Torrixes I whipped keeper rings to the left hand side and tipped one in aquamarine, one in lime green and one in electric blue. I am now pondering. The lime is losing out so far. Having looked at the other metallic colours available I might give forest green and dark burgundy a try. There's no rush. I don't need the rods until March!

Multiple choice

As I type this the parcel that I have been waiting in for has just arrived. Time for a sandwich then out on my errands, which will probably keep me busy until it's too late to visit the river and battle with the elements. Tomorrow will be a day of waiting for couriers calling to collect parcels. So it looks like gloom and despondency on the fishing front this week as the sun breaks through the clouds.

PS - As I bit into the aforementioned sandwich a parcel full of unexpected rod blanks arrived. The fishing front is looking even more depressing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Full moon

This time I managed to set off an hour earlier. For some reason it didn't help matters much. The afternoon was so gloomy I had the sidelights on as I drove to the river. There were five cars in the car park, and with a long walk to the river I envisioned having a long walk back to the car without fishing. As it turned out I passed four anglers, one landing what looked like a chub from a distance, on my way to the bend. Above him there was plenty of room before the final angler's spot. In fact when I settled in my chosen swim I might as well have had the river to myself as I couldn't see any other anglers.

The walk had taken longer than expected, partly due to struggling over two stiles, stopping to look at a swim closer to the car, and stopping to put my waterproof jacket on when the rain started. Oh, and nearly getting lost and tangled up in a thorny thicket didn't help.

Where I was fishing the gravel was covered in a thick carpet of leaves. Maybe more than six inches deep it was like walking on a thick pile carpet. So many leaves were there that what looked like the edge of the river wasn't. Not only were there leaves sunk to the bottom in the visible margin, there was a false bank of waterlogged leaves. Netting and returning fish would be fun! Because of this I put the rod rests in well back from the water on firm ground, my landing net laid across the quaking mass of leaves, its handle propped up on a bankstick. That long handle might prove useful in keeping my feet dry.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves

My usual approach was put into action. A 15mm Oyster and Mussel boilie going upstream between two fallen trees, dropping just short enough to keep out of trouble, and a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie going below the biggest tree. Both with their attendant PVA mesh bags of mixed pellets. The rain had eased off so, after a sandwich and a brew, I started bagging more pellets. It would be come impossible if the rain became persistent later on.

Well back from the edge

This was the cue for the upstream rod to start banging. A typical chub bite. Or was it. When the fish neared the edge, I was paddling in the leaf soup, it took line. A small barbel maybe? No, it was a chub. A lovely conditioned fish too. I hoped it would make five, but it fell short by just under half a pound. Nice enough for a rubbish photo though. The Olympus compact I use really isn't up to much for flash shots.

A much manipulated chub

Two hours later the same rod danced again. This time the fish fell off as I was trying to get the mesh on the landing net untangled. What it was I'm not sure, I rather suspect it to have been another chub. The action wasn't really hectic. With the walk being so long, and the sole of my right foot beginning to hurt when I walked I came up with a plan. Rather than sit it out where I was and have to tramp all the way back to the car in one go, braving the thorns in the dark, I'd move downstream and spend a few hours in the swim I'd stopped to inspect earlier. By eight o'clock, having survived the thorns with one minor tangling incident, I was there. Or rather a swim lower down. This swim had been occupied when I arrived. Some bait would have gone in already...

Away from the shelter of the high wooded bank I was getting the full force of the blustery wind. The rain had come back too. I put my rods on bite alarms so I could hear them above the wind noise, then erected my ancient umbrella. I've fished this area a few times in the past and struggled to be honest. As far as I can tell it's a bit featureless. I suppose I should spend some time investigating it as it does produce big barbel and chub. But I find it a little bleak and depressing.

I'd been ensconced in the swim for an hour and a half and was dozing pleasantly when the night lit up with flashing orange and a piercing scream. Bugger me. A fish! Only a small barbel of fourish pounds. Welcome nonetheless. Would there be more? I didn't wait around much longer to find out. An hour later I was putting on my waterproofs ready for the tramp back to the car. This was noted by the rain gods who stopped pouring water from the sky as soon as I got to the top of the bank. I could see just one car in the car park as I slogged up the final rise. Luckily it was mine. The last silly sod off the river as usual.

As I rounded the final bend before entering the flatlands on my journey home, just before the spot two roe deer had crossed the road one night, my headlights picked out the unmistakeable shape of a bare human bum. As I passed by I saw that it was attached to the pasty legs of a young lady (looking somewhat 'tired and emotional') who was pulling her pants up at the side of a wheelie bin. There was a tiny snail creeping up my garage door when I returned home. The things you see because of fishing...

A modest snail

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not finished yet

Once again work kept me away from the river until Thursday, and then I still left it a bit late. The clocks changing has really messed my timing up. I fancied a crack at a stretch I haven't fished yet this season, but as I was running late and the walk involved is long I changed my mind and headed for the last length I fished. With just three days of the salmon season left the desperate rod wafters were out in force. There wasn't much space in the car park. Only two barbel anglers were in evidence and one was getting ready to leave. There had been a few barbel caught during the day, and the guy who was leaving even landed one while I was waiting to jump in his swim.

The river was back down, and no nasty leaves were coming down. Looking in the margins they were forming a carpet in the slack margins. Next time the river rises they'll be on the move again making life difficult. The warm weather was continuing, and while it was a balmy 16 degrees the sky was overcast, the wind coming from the opposite side of the river I was sheltered by the high bank.

It wasn't long before a chub rattled the downstream rod. I was guaranteed a good session. The baits had been out an hour, the light gone, when I had a proper bite to the same rod. There was nothing there- except a bit of twig on the hook point. After removing the wood I was attaching a fresh bag of pellets to the hook when the other baitrunner whirred. Everything was solid so I left the rod in the rest while I recast the downstream rod. When I returned to the snagged rod I could do nothing with it and had to pull for a break.

A further hour passed, with another rig snagged and lost, before I connected with a barbel of eight pounds to the downstream rod fishing a 15mm boilie. It wasn't as hectic as I had expected. At eight I moved upstream and had the baits out again fifteen minutes later. It only took fifteen more minutes for the downstream rod, with a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie on the end of the rig, to lurch over. A good scrap ensued and I netted a chunkier fish than the first. It was twenty minutes later when the other rod, with the bigger bait, nodded as the lead bounced down the river bed. A bigger fish was landed after another good fight. This proved to be a fish I had seen earlier in the season. The marks near its tail were recognisable, now healed but unsightly although no longer red raw.

On the mend

Every so often the wind would swing and I could hear it rustling the leaves, many evidently falling to the ground - and no doubt preparing themselves to leap into the river when it rises again. That wasn't the only sound to penetrate the darkness from the far bank. Next there was the cackling of badgers squabbling. This was followed by incoherent shouting from the small house tucked into a fold of the bank at the side of the wood. I was glad to have the river as a barrier. Everything returned to peaceful silence after that interlude of insanity.

The sky cleared somewhat and the moon, heading towards full, shone brightly. The air wasn't damp. I was wishing I was out for the whole night. As my eyelids drooped I really fancied crawling into a sleeping bag in my bivvy and putting the kettle on - maybe frying a slice of bread. Despite the conditions there was no action on the rods for ages. It was twenty past ten when the tip of the downstream rod, which I had cast further down river, twitched repeatedly. I wasn't sure what I had hooked, either a chub or a small barbel. I'll never know as it fell off as it neared the net. Twenty minutes later I had a more positive bite to the same rod. That one fell off rather sooner.

By now I was considering giving up, but I was listening to something on the radio and decided to stop until Today in Parliament came on. With ten minutes to go the downstream rod was away again. This time the fish stayed hooked and proved to be a really baby of just a couple of pounds or so. By the time I was on my way back to the car the sky had clouded over again. This weather pattern is supposed to continue for a few more days yet. I'd better have another barbel session or two while it does.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This and that

As I expected, today was dry and windless. I took the opportunity to inspect the amazing exploding umbrella and managed to put it back in to some sort of working order. Two of the plastic fitments that attach the ribs to the central boss have snapped. Other than that it's perfect. For the time being the rib ends can press against the cover - but they'll wear through it eventually if I leave it that way. Coincidentally I got a call this evening from a friend in the manufacturing side of the tackle trade and he reckons there's a new, over-engineered, brolly about to hit the shops. So I'll be putting my blagging hat on soon!

I've added a link to Bob's Blog today. It's updated a few times a month and if you ignore the never ending bitching carried over from a couple of forums it's a good mix of fishing topics and other stuff. His latest post looks at blogging, which (along with a comment on another forum about magazines) set me thinking. Will weekly angling papers survive once everyone is on-line and understands how to use news feeds?

Given the number of angling forums around news travels pretty quick these days, often appearing on the web before it does in print, and frauds get exposed quickly too. There is also a growing angling blogosphere, and I know for certain that print journalists check blogs out - including this one.

Most blogs and forums now supply a feed. So as soon as more anglers realise that the don't have to check out all the angling blogs and forums manually for updates, but can put them into a newsreader where updates appear by magic, with a link to click to go to the complete post, then things will change.

As I use Blogger to compose my blog I subscribe to blog feeds there. I enter my 'dashboard' (as the control area is called) and see the latest updates to all my favourite feeds. If you visit lots of blogs, or other sites with feeds, then get yourself set up to subscribe or follow.

Modern browsers allow you to subscribe to feeds directly. If you use Firefox and see this logo next to the web page's address (as you will for this page) you can click it and see the feed - then set up a subscription in a reader of your choice, including the Firefox browser. Do this for all the blogs you visit and you can check them all out for updates at one time. Updates are automatically loaded but in Firefox all you'll get is the title of the latest post. If you set up an on-line newsreader, like Google Reader, you'll get more than the title, you'll get the first few lines and maybe a photo. The latest post being at the top. And you can set it to show all feeds at once so even less work is involved!

I also reckon that the big firms that sponsor anglers are missing a trick with blogs. A lot have 'blogs' on their websites, but in essence they are just occasional articles that their sponsored anglers send in. Few of them have feeds, so you have to check manually, and they are not updated too frequently - so you don't bother.

As far as I can tell most big firms really haven't grasped what the web is about yet. It's about changing content. The biggest trick that's being missed is to allow the sponsored anglers to blog directly and to do away with the monthly print articles. It'll happen - eventually - and then the print media will struggle.

Where they need to move is into on-line publishing. Their material can be blogged, and they can use forums to attract more visitors. So how will they make their money given that nobody wants to pay for on-line advertising? Simple. They do what Predator Publications/Carp Talk has done and get into selling DVDs and books. In fact get into producing them to sell via the on-line presence. Even put them on-line on a pay per view basis. is having a stab at the latter after starting out as a subscription channel, and I see it's now looking to sell DVDs. So maybe the future has already arrived?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

All good things

If I had my way the clocks wouldn't go back for the winter they'd go forward another hour. Anyway, I blame the end of British Summer Time for me making a late start for the river. I knew it would be too dark to see the state of the water by the time I got to any stretch, so headed for a length I know well enough to pick a swim on level alone and not have to see the flow patterns as I was expecting the river to be up. It was carrying about three feet. The first cast proved that this was two feet eleven inches of leaves.

My first move had been to walk downstream to check out a swim, then walk back upstream to get a bit of shelter from the wind so I could put my stove on. Having nothing in the cupboards to make sandwiches, and having left it too late to go buy anything, I'd put a pan and a tin of beans in with the stove. Even with six ounce leads on the rigs were dragging round as I polished off the beans. When I'd drunk a cup of flask tea I moved down as I thought the lower swim would be less leaf ridden. It wasn't. If anything it was worse.

Grub up

When I found a spot where one rig would hold I moved the other rod above it. That held too, but it was fishing very close in. A few light spots of rain fell as I tied up some PVA mesh. I moved camp a little to sit below the top of the bank so I could get some shelter from the almost gale force wind that was blowing upstream over my right shoulder. Although the wind was roaring through the trees on the far bank, their tops almost completely bare of leaves now, it was much reduced in force where I was. The rain got heavier so I put my brolly up. The ground now softer than it had been all summer the pole pushed in easily and I pegged out the guy ropes to hold everything in place.

The brolly was obscuring my view of the downstream rod, and the wind noise meant I might not hear the baitrunner. I dug out an alarm and stuffed it under the rod. A few gusts pushed the rights side of the brolly towards me. It was nothing much. I've fished in stronger winds.

As the night was another mild one, the rain was easing and the rigs were now holding station much better even though the rods were arcing over, I began to feel more confident. Then a gust of wind hit from in front. The brolly lifted on the pole then with a loud crack some ribs snapped and it turned inside out. I've been fishing for almost forty years. I have never had a brolly turn inside out like that and I have fished in conditions when I have had to hold on to brollies to stop them taking off, when they have almost wrapped themselves around me. I was not happy.

No comment

Of course as soon as the umbrella exploded the rain eased off. By then I'd had enough. The mortal remains of the brolly were stuffed in my quiver and the rods followed. It had been a short session - less than an hour's fishing time. I don't usually let the conditions beat me. If I'd arrived in daylight I might have found a spot where the leaves could have been avoided for longer. The inverted brolly was just too much for me. I knew that my run of good luck with the barbel would come to an end in ignominious fashion. And it had.

The irony of this umbrella fiasco is that having used the Fibre-lite brolly a few times and being happy with it I had sold my old 50 inch umbrella to an acquaintance who had had his umbrella blow across the river and into a tree last week.

They really don't make umbrellas like they used to. I'll be rummaging out my ancient, and much patched, brolly for next time. It's over fifteen years old now but the frame is still in good nick. The one that preceded it lasted almost ten years if I remember right. I can recall that in the early '90s fishing umbrellas were made in England and the trade catalogues listed spares so they could be repaired - ribs, poles, covers, the works. Not so these days. I've had nowt but trouble with the ones I've bought in recent years. If the covers aren't loose and flappy the locking mechanism fails at crucial moments, the rivets on the 'hinges' fail and now the ribs snap! You'd think someone could make a strong, reliable, not too heavy, fishing umbrella that isn't garish.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fishing as therapy

This week hadn't been going well. Man Flu was bad enough - constant sneezing and soaking handkerchiefs. Then work started going wrong. On Wednesday I was in the mood to pack it all in and become a hermit. When Thursday came round the world was looking rosier, the sneezing had stopped for one thing and the sun was shining. After lunch I headed to my local tackle shop, only to find a note on the door saying 'Closed for lunch. Back at 1.30'. It was 1.35, so I walked to the café to kick them out!

I picked up a bag of feed pellets to chuck into my big pellet bucket and a Fox lure box to organise my small spools of whipping thread - the unusual colours that I use mostly for repairs and tippings. They've been jumbled up in an old ice-cream tub for far too long. On the way home I bought some corn dog for butties, and once they were made I was on my way. With the day unseasonably warm the river was calling me. An evening by the river would help me get my head together and revitlise me.

A rainbow in a box

The journey was somewhat tedious, I should have set off sooner to beat the traffic, and I had no clear idea where I was heading. Would the river be up and coloured, or would it have fined off again after the rain earlier in the week? The car made it's way to the stretch I fished last time out. It's a peaceful stretch, and even if busy there's always somewhere to cast a bait.

This time it wasn't too busy. Two anglers who were packing up said it had been a struggle. The river was not as high as I expected, hardly up at all and dropping. The colour wasn't much either. By all accounts there wasn't much in the way of leaves or debris causing problems. I wasn't brim full of confidence nor was I despondent. Something would come along at some point.

It was a two boilie approach this time. One rod fishing a 15mm Oyster and Mussel - it's been doing well so stick with it, the other a 10mm Crab and Crayfish - got to give them a fair trial. Sitting on the beach they were cast well apart to cover different parts of the bend. I dropped them both a little shorter than usual in an attempt to avoid the snags, hoping fish would still find them.

I was settled down by six, the light was fading early as the sky had clouded over. The first spots of rain pattered on the river, the wind was coming from a southerly direction and the far bank keeping it off me. Gradually the rain increased in intensity and I put on the waterproofs while sat under my brolly. That was when the upstream rod tip jagged down a couple of times and I found myself pulling in a dead weight. It was definitely a fish but it felt very odd. Half way in it seemed to come off, only to come back as I took in slack. It was either very big and lazy, or something was up. When it rolled on the surface I could see it was hooked in a pelvic fin. A bemused looking barbel of some seven pounds.

Ten minutes later, while I was rebaiting, the downstream rod fishing the Crab and Crayfish bait steamed off. Just to make me eat my words about how Ribble chub never do that... This was a very lean fish of four pounds. I wondered if these boilies were chub magnets like Mainline's NRG paste. I tried NRG a few years back, both as a paste bait and a wrap with boilies. It did catch barbel, but chub (and bream) seemed to make a beeline for it and it was abandoned as a barbel bait. Please don't let the Crab and Crayfish be the same.

I'm well into the mode of leaving baits out as long as possible now. I can't see the point in putting too much bait out when the temperatures are falling. It was twenty-five past seven when the 10mm bait was off again as the rain eased. There was no mistaking this fish for a chub. A steady plod gave the game away. Barbel would eat the Crab and Cray. When netted the shoulder width suggested another camera session would be called for. It was. But it didn't go smoothly. No sooner had I got the tripod set up and a test shot taken for framing than the batteries died in the camera. Off the tripod, put in the spare cells, try again. Camera dead. Back off the tripod and battery compartment opened to reveal one put in the wrong way round. Third time lucky. Fish out of the sack, photos taken, fish returned.

Room to fill out some more

The night was warm, I was working up a sweat with the waterproofs over the top of the bunny suit and the swim looked like a whirlwind had hit it. As I rearranged it to a semblance of order the upstream rod slammed over. This fish looked as long as the last one in the net, but on the mat was skinnier and lacking in the shoulder department. Not even nine pounds. With the rain looking like it had gone for good I sat it out until half nine. My hopes were fading though. Not least because the sky had cleared and a light mist was forming. An early finish or move? Move. As I packed up the sky clouded over and the mist lifted.

Half an hour later I was settled in the swim where I had tumbled down the bank earlier in the season. It was less overgrown now with less to trip over. With the river being lower than back then I went for long chucks on both rods. It only took fourteen minutes for the downstream rod to rip off in decisive fashion as yet another chub proved my judgement wrong. A bit of a baby this time. Ten minutes later the Crab and Cray provided me with a small barbel, boosting my confidence in the bait. I thought about making another move, but by eleven thirty without another bite I decided to give it best.

Two good things gained from the session were the barbel on the new bait and the small one from the second swim. I had it down as maybe a better bet for barbel when the river was carrying extra water, but now I think there's a chance of a fish anywhere along the length. Maybe moving regularly is the secret to fishing the uniform appearing stretches. It has worked for me on another length.