Sunday, 1 October 2017

Let me at 'em

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

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

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

Thursday, 31 August 2017

In the air

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

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

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Embracing Stage Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Flaming curses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Monsoon season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Mr Blue Sky and who's Mr nice guy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 6 May 2017


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

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