Thursday, 30 November 2017

Sore fingers

Fishing has definitely enriched my life, bringing me many wonderful sights, scenes, adventures and experiences.  Of course the best thing has been the friendships I’ve made through this shared addiction, some have been lifelong while others have been more recent, to be fair these latter associations have been aided and abetted by the various internet forums.  It is possible to get to know kindred spirits through this medium and work out who you can share a boat with and who you’d rather set adrift.  Mr H and I have known each other for about a decade and although we are often afloat on the same waters we rarely fish together so it was high time we put this right.  Usually we fish on his local waters but on this occasion we arranged to meet at a special place that is slightly closer to my patch.

We both made it to the agreed meeting place ( a layby in the middle of nowhere) early and we were soon driving along a damp, bouncy track through a typical East Anglian rural setting.  This area is a haven for wildlife and in the lead car I spied rats, rabbits, a hare then finally a fox before we reached our destination.  We soon had our boat loaded and were plodding slowly down to our first stop of the day.  The sky looked fantastic in the pre-dawn light and I couldn’t resist reaching for the camera. A Heron creaked itself airborne and Pheasants were making a proper racket.  Mr H was quick off the mark and had cast before I had a chance, unbelievably this bait was taken on the drop but it took him by surprise and made off with the bait.  Within a few minutes we each had three deadbaits scattered around the swim and had settled back with the first brew of the day.

I didn’t get a chance to finish the brew before a smelt was taken but somehow this fish too got away with a free meal.  We didn’t have a chance to feel sorry for ourselves as the takes kept coming, first Mr H with his first Pike from ‘enemy territory’ then I followed up a few minutes later with a nice mid double.  A couple of hours passed in similar vein, half an hour would pass without any action and we’d contemplate a move then two or three quick takes would occur.  A couple were dropped and we lost a couple of fish but the majority were small fish so eventually we decided to pull up the weights and moved off, we hoped a change of swim would result in bigger Pike. 

A while later we stopped and resumed fishing, we were sheltered from the North Westerly wind and the sun was shining, it felt considerably warmer than the forecast 6 degrees.  We both agreed we’d prefer a bit of cloud cover as the conditions didn’t feel right, indeed after forty five fishless minutes it seemed the Pike agreed, then it was as if a switch had flicked and the Pike were on the munch again.  It wasn’t as hectic as first thing but takes came regularly and the average weight was better.  Two hours later we’d boated another six fish including three good doubles before things went quiet again.  Both of us spend a lot of time fishing hard waters so this was a real treat.  We sat smiling and laughing in the sun, enjoying the scenery and wildlife which included a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk and a Harrier as well as a Kingfisher and all the regular waterfowl.


Another move beckoned so we made our way back towards our starting point and once again dropped straight onto a fish each.  Mine managed to knit two lines together so while I was unpicking braid Mr H managed to add another to our tally.  We’d watched the sun rise and we watched it set again, a bittern flew by in silhouette which would have made a fabulous photo had I been quicker with the camera. By now the Pike had had enough for the day, despite us fishing into darkness.  We finished the day with fifteen fish boated between us and both had sore, bloody fingers; for once things had gone to plan.  As we made our way back to the slip a Barn owl drifted along the far bank, another predator in search of a meal and another wonderful sight to cap a memorable day.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sussed?

My favourite time of the year has come and almost gone.  Even after many years of basically doing the same thing in the autumn I still find myself fishing new spots and being more than surprised by what happens along the way.  I thought I'd pretty much worked out where and how I should fish, got it sussed?  No, not at all!  New lessons learnt, so much so I wish I could turn the clock back to the beginning of the autumn and start again!

Once the clocks go back the nights become maddeningly long and it's time to take a break from the hard stuff.  It really does take its toll on mind body and soul and so it should.  So now I'm looking forward to a change of scenery for a few weeks and possibly a change of method too at some point?

Talking of scenery...









Sunday, 22 October 2017

Honours even

I’m awake before the alarm, there’s no point in rolling over because I won’t get back to sleep, not on a fishing day so I’m up early, boiling the kettle and filling flasks.  I had envisaged getting a sleepy teenage lad out of his bed would be difficult but no Isaac gets up and is almost human, after tea and toast he’s almost awake.  For once we are out of the door on schedule and on the road with ‘Twenty one Pilots’ blasting out of the stereo.  The kids have introduced me to this band and I really like them, both of us sing along on the journey.
A while later we arrive and start loading the boat, by the time we’re ready I can switch off the head torch.  The row down the stretch is with the wind, the row back could be tricky.  For some reason our weather forecasters have taken to giving storms names, I heard some explanation about “awareness” the other day, bollocks if you ask me.  Anyway ‘Brian’ was due in our part of the world around midday giving us three or four hours of comfortable fishing.  Isaac has usually had enough of fishing after a few hours while I would happily stay all day but with this forecast we’d both be happy to get home early.

We arrived at our first spot of the day only to discover the boat was missing one mud-weight, yes I should have checked.  Still no problem, I pushed an oar into the shallow margin and looped the rope around it then we set about getting a few deadbaits scattered around the swim.  With everything set we tried to get comfortable, settled back and relaxed with a bit of gentle piss taking; Dad gets some stick then replies, the laughter building.  Whoever gets the first fish will be in pole position for the wind up, talking of which it should have happened by now?  It’s been a while since I’ve fished this water and I’ve forgotten that this is normal and I never get a take here until I’ve had time to start scratching my head and wondering what’s going on?  There were plenty of natural distractions however, baitfish were topping in the area, there were skirmishing Swans which somehow managed to avoid our lines and we were treated to a close view of a Bittern which flew slowly along the stretch.

Something caught my eye, a float was on the move and it was mine!  I’ve not had much practice at this so far this autumn so it was a relief when everything went to plan and the rod bent round nicely.  A long, lean fish allowed itself to be pumped back to the boat where it woke up and charged around a bit.  As I reached for the net I heard the unmistakable sound of a ticking baitrunner, another one of my baits was on the move.  As I was otherwise engaged Isaac eagerly took his chance and poached a fish on my rod.  My fish was a low double which I unhooked in the net and returned in time to bag a fish of seven pounds or so for Isaac who had cheekily christened my new P3.  Honours even but my fish was the bigger.

We’d just got the boat back to normal when one of Isaac’s rods was away, I smiled to see him wind down and bend in as if he done it every week.  No sooner was this fish unhooked and returned when another of his rods was rattling off.  This time he done absolutely everything wrong, struck thin air but still managed to wind down again and hook his fish.   At this point things went pear shaped; the mooring rope slipped off the buried oar and the boat began to swing, what’s more one of my rods plopped over the side of the boat.  Thankfully Isaac’s fish were getting smaller and this one was soon secured in the net allowing me to swear heartily, retrieve the rod (eventually) and secure the boat once more.  Isaac managed to resist ribbing me for the calamity but wasn’t quiet about the 3-1 lead he’d now taken.

The swim had gone quiet so we had a short move downwind and started again.  It didn’t take long for one of my baits to be picked up again, the result was another jack.  On with another Mackerel and the float had hardly settled before it was travelling along the reedline once more.  No mistake and I levelled the score with another jack but they were definitely getting smaller.  Meanwhile it looked like ‘Brian’ was on his way as the wind was starting to gust, not a day to be afloat on a more exposed water.  It seemed a good idea to cover some of the distance back to base so we had another move.  Would we get another chance?  Yes, one of Isaac’s floats dipped and slid away giving him the chance to sneak a last minute winner but this time he wound down to a dropped and chewed bait.


The wind was starting to roar and we were both happy to settle for a 3-3 draw, the decision to move closer to the yard had been wise but rowing back was still a good work out.  We made it back to base without disaster and were back in the car before the rain came.  Because of the manic nature of the fishing I didn’t get the camera out at the right times but here’s a picture of someone keeping a careful eye on the floats.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Cursed

My attempts to catch bigger fish this year has already been farcical so in hindsight buying a load of new gear was a foolhardy thing to do.  Going into the autumn I had an unreasonable amount of things that needed christening, with two new hats, two reels, a rod and some scales along with the regular, less expensive bits and pieces.  The new tackle curse has me in its grip as my Pike fishing has only seen a couple of small fish boated along with several near misses and a ‘one that got away’ story that I’ll save for another day.  Meanwhile ALL of my local fishing mates have been amongst the fish…

On a recent trip a Lamprey rattled off in the dark, a chance to christen the P3!?  I wound down but the fish had dropped the bait.  A couple of hours later the same rod was away again, the biter was singing and the baitrunner purring, what could go wrong?  For a second time I wound down and felt absolutely fuck all.  An hour before dawn a third steady take on the Lamprey but this time I connected and the P3 took on a curve!  I steadily pumped back a decent weight that did nothing aside a few unmistakably fishy thumps, ‘what’s going on here?’  The beam of the head-torch revealed a ball of weed with a bloody Eel hanging out of it, a decent eel but still an anti-climax.

I haven’t fished for Eels for over thirty years but I take a great interest in anything written on the subject.  The thought of Eel fishing really appeals to me and I’ve often thought a couple of my local waters would be perfect for a big uncaught fish.  However, when I actually catch an accidental Eel I realise the cold, hard truth is I don’t like the bloody things.  I wouldn’t consider myself squeamish and in the past I’ve handled and even photographed lots of eels but these days they totally repulse me.  At least this one did.  By the time I’d cleared the weed the Eel had unhooked itself but had left me with a great ball of snotty mess and a rig that needed redoing.  By my standards this was a decent Eel so I decided to be brave and fetch the scales and christen another bit of kit but by the time I’d returned to the net the poxy thing had made its escape.

I did manage a couple of quick photos after I’d cleared the weed.  The float in the picture is seven inches long (and the absolute best float for Broadland Piking but not my designso I reckon this fish was a little over three feet long and thick so I’m thinking between two and three pounds?  I could be miles out and I won't be trying to catch another one for a while.


So autumn is here and I’m doing what I love to do the most and though the Pike may be sparse other things make up for it.





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.