Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Moody

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, 7 April 2017

Good Evenings

By the time the Pike fishing season finishes I’ve usually pushed my luck with the family as far as it will go and actually feel like a rest from early mornings and physical fishing.  However I still need to get my fishing fix so what I really need right now is some interesting (that word again) short session fishing.  Luckily a year ago I stumbled, almost by accident, onto some good Roach fishing so right now this fits the bill nicely.  Once upon a time I would have laughed at the thought of finding myself fishing for Roach but apart from being interesting (!) it ticks the other boxes too.  The water in question is quiet and beautiful, the fish grow big.

As I get older I realise the benefits of keeping an angling diary too, I was able to go back a year and remind myself exactly how I went about it from location to groundbait mix to hook size.  This time I felt confident enough to tweak things a little.  Open end feeders, helicopter rigs and short hooklengths, my set ups would still make a proper Roach angler weep but I’ve gone a little lighter all round without breaking my philosophy of not wanting to get a bite if I can’t actually land the fish.


Since the Pike rods went to the back of the shed I’ve fished three times, all short evening sessions covering the last couple of hours of daylight and the first hour of dark.  Already a pattern has formed, during the early period it seems as if there isn’t a fish within a mile of my baits but this gives me an opportunity to soak up the sights and sounds of the birdlife which is constant.  When this subsides at dusk the silence is stark and the flight replaced by bats.  I recast regularly to keep the feed going in and half an hour before the bats come out the Roach switch on.  This also coincides with the dropping temperature requiring warm head gear in the form of my new ‘Catch Cult’ hat.  Of course it could just mean that the new hat is a lucky one.  So far I’ve caught a few Roach and missed a few too, only one required the scales and if I’d have been a bit more organised I should have used the camera too.  To be honest I’d have settled for this but I’ll be back soon, hoping for more and bigger!
Talking of 'Catch Cult' the new magazine has been very well received and actually sold out!  Well done Rob and Martin, roll on issue 2!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Friends.

Once the New year turns the Pike season disappears at an alarming rate and all too soon its mid March.  There was no time to get back to Norfolk before the river season ended but I did manage to fit in a couple of social trips on stillwaters in the days that followed.

The first of these saw four of us sharing two boats on a dull, breezy day.  I teamed up with Giles which was nice because despite socialising often our fishing paths haven’t crossed for a while.  In the other boat was a particularly motley crew consisting of Rich and Jason.  Our venue hadn’t been on the regular radar for a long time and there was much to learn again.

Both boats began in the same area and kept mobile, Giles had a fish early on and I missed one.  In the other boat Jason and Rich reported similar.  The fish didn’t seem to be where we thought they might be so we split up and went looking.  Plan B brought a Jack for me but this was the only reward for a lot of searching.  We crossed paths with the other boat and after the mutual hurling of abuse ritual we learnt they too had only had one each.

In the early afternoon we finally found a group of fish in an area which surprised us.  Things started to happen, Giles managed a succession of fish to double figures and finally I had another that might have scraped.  For a while it was exciting fishing as every cast was made with confidence but after a while it seemed we’d caught all that were willing to feed and it was time to move on.
Back at the car park we compared notes, our boat had the bragging rights, thanks mostly to Giles but things could have been different if not for the one that got away…


A few days later I was in a boat with Rich on another away day.  I was knackered and Rich was ill so we couldn’t be arsed to get up for the crack of dawn and only had the boat away by 0800.  It was another good Pike fishing day, mostly cloudy, brighter at times and with a good westerly blow.  With this in mind and with no clue as to where to find Pike we decided to troll on the oars, with the wind, until we found some Pike.  This took about half an hour before three quick takes saw Rich with a fish and me lose one.  We’d found some Pike so dropped the weights and started fishing with lures and deadbaits.

We were on fish and Rich was soon in again boating two fish to low doubles.  I also had two takes but managed to bugger one up and the other was dropped.  Then it went quiet so we began moving and searching.  The first spot brought no reward, was it going to be one of those days?  Surely I can’t end the season with a blank?  Thankfully I managed to get off the mark with a nice fish on deadbait in the next swim and unfortunately it was Rich’s turn to drop one.
After that things kind of clicked, every move brought a fish or two, mostly on deadbaits but a couple took lures and as the afternoon lengthened we got a couple of fish that required the scales and camera too.  We trolled back and Rich caught the final fish of the day bringing the scores level with a total weight well into three figures. 


This Pike season has passed too quickly, I don’t want it to end which is a sure sign that I’ve enjoyed myself.  Despite some seriously hard fishing at times I’ve still managed to catch plenty of Pike from different types of water.  There have been several big ones but a proper lump at the back end eluded me, there’s always next year.  I shared boats with nine different partners this season, which must be a record for this anti social git?  Sadly there were a couple of friends I didn't fit into the hectic schedule but we'll put that right next year.  After nearly four decades I enjoy Pike fishing as much now as I ever have and as I get older I appreciate the whole thing more.  I have an affliction, maybe an obsession at times but definitely an addiction.  I’m very glad to have it and there's no harm in sharing it.



I know many people share my addiction or hits of their own and angling bloggers are lovers of real angling writing, which is exactly what you will find in ‘Catch Cult’ magazine.  Catch Cult has been put together by friends Rob Shallcroft and Martin Mumby, two people with a passion for real angling.  The website is up and running you can order a copy here;



Please watch the trailer below it's brilliant.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

It is what it is

I was all set for what should be my last trip to the special place, but I managed to right off my car...  My fault, no one hurt.  Thankfully I had my priorities and with help from a good friend I made it to the boat yard, hitching a lift with Rich, top bloke!

It was raining when we got there but this had cleared by the time we set off.  After that it was glorious and a pleasure to be out for a day, a night and a day.  Conditions were pretty good too, if we can find some...

 Perfect setting to soothe the soul and get the shit out of my head.  Things could have been worse...


 Small victories




Another tough season comes to an end.  It is what it is, there's still nowhere else I'd rather spend my time.


I don't think I have any photos of my boat from the outside, apart from this one.  It's scruffy but I love it!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Inspirations?

My friend Rich is a keen summer carper and has lent me a few carpy books over the years.  In particular Dave Lane's two books are as good as anecdotal writing gets.  An old favourite of mine is Rod Hutchinson's "The Carp strikes back" which surely was an inspiration to a teenage carper and once again features superb anecdotal writing.  It is said that Rod isn't in the.. "best of health" these days and his last book was published in 2010.  This book is called "Carp Inspirations" and Rich recommended a chapter on weather conditions, so with a diminished reading pile at the time I ended up reading the whole thing.

The book is not Rod's usual brutally honest "fishing stories..." type of thing but more of a technical piece about how he goes about his fishing after a lifetime of experience.  The title comes from the guest chapters throughout the book which are written by anglers who have inspired Rod to chase Carp all over the globe.

The book opens with a great chapter by Walker's cohort Maurice Ingham and followed by another member of the Carp catchers club.; Fred J. Taylor.  Both are really interesting covering the early days of specialist carp fishing.  This is followed by Jim Gibbinson talking about his pioneering winter fishing and this is another really good chapter by another author who inspired me as a youngster.  Fred Wilton's original articles on his high protein bait theories are really good too, I'd never read these before.  I bet he didn't have a scooby doo how lucrative his ideas would be for others.

A little deeper into the book, Lee Jackson writes about plastic baits and although I know they work I can't get my head around Lee's take on why.  Len Middleton's original article about 'the Hair rig' is reproduced and this was another i'd missed first time around.  Alan Smith writes a sensible chapter about weed fishing, good commonsense stuff.

Towards the end there is a chapter on Carp leaping by Albert Romp which didn't convince me and there are two chapters by old school angler Brian Mills.  The first is about the neglected art of float fishing for big carp, something I know works but definitely don't do enough.  The next is about weather conditions and is the reason for Rich lending me the book.  It's pretty good and makes sense to me and sits alongside pieces written by Barrie Rickards.

Obviously Rod Hutchinson himself writes his share and his chapters cover just about everything you'd expect in a book on carp fishing.  Rod's use of particle baits was groundbreaking at the time and he was one of the first players in the bait trade.  All told there was a bit too much about bait for my liking, all the theorising and experimenting was great at the time but now we just have to pick up a bag.  There was loads of good sense though, Rod can break through the bullshit of carp fishing and simplify things.  The theme throughout is a little bit more thought and going against the grain will catch you more fish.  this applies to all types of angling at times.   Rod Hutchinson is much better at telling stories than writing a 'how to' types of books and it does get a bit jumbled at times.  For an occasional carp angler this book was OK but not great.


Talking of fishy writing I got my hands on a 'Special edition' of the forthcoming "CATCH CULT" magazine.  Why me?  Because I've written something for the mag and I'm really proud to see it in there.  Don't let that put you off though, there are excellent articles covering the whole specialist angling scene (even carp), my favourites being Richard Wesley's article on Perch fishing and Danny Taylor's brilliant story of a night of urban Eel fishing.  Theo's pitch is a great diary piece from an experienced and successful angler and lookout for Mr Crabmeat, a future Icon in the making.  CATCH CULT is different to the advert driven crap fishing mags we have to put with, it looks and feels different too.  Well done to Rob Shallcroft and Martin Mumby for pulling it together and good luck!  More details about CATCH CULT to come...
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Fishing...  I  found myself with a couple of days to spare and couldn't resist the pull of the marshy wilderness, for once the weather was mild and dry too.  Actually with decent westerly winds it was pretty good fishing conditions.  Things didn't go to plan, when do they?  It didn't matter though, I had a fantastic time in my comfortable boat, floating around the most glorious place in the east.  The fish made me work hard but this always makes it sweeter in the end.  Life will allow me one more visit before the season ends and I can't wait to get back.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Enough

Fishing lately has entailed two days in the boat.  The first in the company of Mr B, who has been catching big Pike for longer than I’ve been alive and has shared boats with legends.  I first met him nearly thirty years ago but it’s only been the last few when our paths have crossed more regularly and this was the first time we’d fished together.  We survived a near calamity at the boat yard and later a hook in the hand incident.  We also endured a day of darkness, gloom and drizzle, yet another time this winter when the sun hasn’t shown its face.  We had a day of constant chat, Pikey tails from through the years to brighten a dull, gloomy atmosphere.  We also found a few Pike, Mr B started with two fish to low doubles, I equalised with a pair of jacks in quick time then Mr B pulled away with two more small fish before the end.  It was a nice day and we’ll do it again sometime.

A few days later I was back again with my Nephew Josh, the unluckiest Pike angler around.  The weather was an improvement with occasional glimpses of blue sky along with the light rain which always seems to make an appearance when we fish together.  We set off in good spirits and with a few clues to where the Pike might be, confidence was high.  This was one of those frustrating days where we found Pike but struggled to actually boat any.  Every time we dropped the weights down we got at least a take but every time the fish dropped the bait before we could set the hooks.  This happened three times before Josh at last managed to put a proper curve in his rod, just as I was reaching for the net his cursed luck stuck again.  The fish thrashed on the surface and threw the hooks.

We moved around and kept finding Pike but they were still dropping the baits, even after a slamming take to a float-trolled bait was spat before Josh had taken up the slack.  So why were the fish dropping the bait?  I’m not going to blame the set ups or baits as they were exactly the same as had worked earlier in the week.  Some stretches of this water get a bit of pressure bit I don’t think it’s enough to make Pike all over this water react the same way.  Some days you just have to accept that the Pike just don’t really want it.  Eventually I managed to hook a fish and succeeded in bringing it alongside the boat where I easily nicked the hook out with the pliers.  I’d been lucky to land this one, just the bottom double had been nicked in the scissors.

Would you believe we actually saw the sun today?  Late in the afternoon it dipped below the clouds and was bright enough to have me reaching in the bag for my sunglasses.  We rowed back, float trolling again, trying to break Josh’s jinx but it was not to be.  We’d laughed loads today and my nephew enjoys the fishing whatever and it’s only a matter of time…

I’ve had a very enjoyable midwinter period and have managed to catch loads of Pike for a change.  It’s also been a long time since I’ve done much social Pike fishing, for the last few weeks all my Piking has been shared with another angler and it’s been really good fun.  However it’s time for a change, I’m starting to get the urge for something different yet familiar.  As enjoyable as this fishing has been it doesn’t get the juices flowing and doesn’t keep me awake at night.  I don’t find myself drifting off into mad thoughts and theories about where to find a monster.  I’m missing the special place and I’m missing my bigger, much more comfortable boat!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Glorious defeat

For nearly two weeks I’ve been scraping the windscreen every day.  At first this was OK because I couldn’t go fishing anyway but as time ticked on it became apparent that it wasn’t going to get any better before the weekend.  I’d arranged a day out with Rich and we were both fairly confident that due to its nature, our venue of choice would be fishable, even though our local stillwaters were frozen.  Early Saturday morning I was pleasantly surprised to find a frost free screen but as the day progressed it just got colder.  Still we were ready to give it a go the next day but decided against getting up silly early.  The following day would be good and I went to bed looking forward it.

Loading the car just before seven it did feel bloody cold!  I’m not sure how accurate the car thermometer is but it read -6, surely not?  I was in no hurry on the road that’s for sure; Rich and I agreed we wouldn’t be expecting any early action anyway.  We turned left and the track ran alongside the stretch, it was frozen…  It could well be clear further down?  It wasn’t.  After poking around for half an hour or so we found some water the Swans had kept clear.  When they started to bugger off the clearance grew a bit more.  We had a starting point and a chance to get a rod in but we’d need to clear some ice first and it would mean bank fishing.  Could we be arsed?  With the sun rising above the mist, revealing a beautiful white winter landscape it was a lovely place to be, we’d done the hard part by getting out of our warm beds and we were here so why not?  A plan was hatched but it hinged on the old weed rake I’d seen laying around, was it still there?  Yes it was.

So we set to work, taking it in turns with the rake we started to smash ice and clear water.  After a while we got into a rhythm; Rich was hurling the rake and I, with the waterproof gloves, would haul it back in.  Thrashing the rope around was also smashing the smaller chunks of ice even further.  None of this was the slightest bit subtle!  We’d definitely be able to wet a line but the rake was landing short of the water cleared by the swans.  If we could just break through that we’d have a lot more space.  Rich set up a rod and clipped on a big lead, with this he was able to crack the ice and drag chunks of it back towards the bank where I could easily smash it up with the rake.  By 0930 we were ready to fish and the exercise had warmed us up nicely.

We had room for a couple of rods apiece but decided to settle for just one each.  We were under no illusions, a Pike showing up was unlikely but we talked it up.  We had time on our side and maybe the disturbance and the stir up might actually make a fish want to investigate?  The best spot we were able to reach was to the right and I offered this to Rich, he said no we’ll flip a coin for it.  Without any change between us we had to settle for a gripper lead, we agreed one side was shinier than the other and I opted to call “shine”.  Rich flipped the lead into the air and it landed and stuck in the frosty grass on its edge!  When we’d stopped laughing the second time the lead landed shiny side up so I flicked a smelt out to the right and Rich put a Herring out to the left.  We then sat back with a well-earned breakfast washed down with a cup of tea, we were fishing and we were happy.  After about half an hour Rich looked at his watch and with a grin said “Nothing’s happening mate, fancy a move?”

We had decided to fish for as long as we were enjoying it, a couple of hours at least, with great company and flowing conversation the time just drifted by.  A Buzzard soared overhead, a Kingfisher zipped by looking for a place to feed, somewhere a Bittern boomed.  As always our thoughts turned to the ‘special place’ our favourite water.  We remembered the good days, chuckled about the bad and made grand plans for the future.  Whatever state the system is in, for us there’s nothing else like it in fishing.  Time passed, we stuck to our single rods but moved them around and switched baits, trying to make it happen.  Then in the early afternoon Richard’s rod tip thumped and his flat jerked.  Something had definitely happened there but Rich wound down to nothing and there were no obvious marks on the bait.

With that came renewed confidence but this proved false hope.  There was no point in staying into darkness so we tidied everything up but were still reluctant to wind our rods in.  “Fifteen more minutes?” I asked; “Yeah what the hell” came the reply and even then we could have stayed longer.  We did the sensible thing and finally packed up before dark and before things started to freeze. It was good to get into a warm car and I turned the stereo up on the drive home. Some might see a fishless day like this as a waste of time and effort but in all honestly today was enjoyable as any time I’ve spent fishing this season.



I often moan and one of my favourite subjects is the general crappiness of good fishing magazines, even Carpology, formerly one of the best seems to have got more commercial and less believable.  The one notable exception is “Pikelines” which since Stephen Harper became editor has become a work of art, full of great articles.  Recently Phil Wakeford’s “Iconic” series has been very good and Chris Betts has done a brilliant job with his “Back to basics” articles.  This type of writing is usually a bore to someone who has been around the Piking block a few times but Chris has made it interesting.  Mr Harper even printed some of my guff.  To make things even more impressive “Pikelines” is a club magazine produced by volunteers.  The magazine is worth the membership alone, without all the other benefits of PAC membership which you can find out about by clicking the link on the left of the page.  Actually I’ll make it even easier for you;


Before I got side-tracked I was moaning about magazines…   Well hopefully I won’t be moaning for much longer as a new magazine will soon appear and this one will be a little bit different.  “Catch Cult” is being produced by experienced and successful anglers Rob Shallcroft and Martin Mumby.  It will feature proper writing from proper anglers and even me.  The magazine will cover all species, even Carp and a bit of sea fishing too.  It’s produced by anglers, for anglers.  Just like the magazines used to be.  More details to come.