11 December 2012

Saying goodbye to Mr Toad

The glorious textures of unpredictably and diversity that elevate the river fishing experience so far above its stillwater equivalent can, to be honest, become a bit of a mixed blessing from time to time.

Certainly of late it's been those very themes of unpredictability and diversity that have been driving me mad, and although part of the fault lies with the river, the bulk is sadly mine.

For the rivers' part, the main problem lies in its changing moods. So having spent the whole of last winter getting to grips with a sulky, sullen, plodding River Leam, this year has seen me struggling with unaccustomed flow, swamped swims and, on all too many weekends of late, a completely unfishable river.

For my part, the fault lies in my short attention span and desire to do (and to know) everything at once. It's what J calls my "Mr Toad mode" (a comment to which she often appends a cheery "toot toot"). So after one session trotting a float, I'll decide it's time for a session on the feeder. Next up is the pole, before I head back to the float, this time seeing how a waggler behaves. One week I'll be convinced the answer is worm; the next it'll be all about bread.

The net result, of course, is that no two sessions are ever even remotely the same. Exciting and varied on the one hand; but difficult to build any real depth of expertise on the other. Meaning that as in so many of my hobbies and interests, I end up building a broad but shallow level of expertise.

In short, I find myself able to do a lot of things, but to do none of them notably well :-(

So invariably comes the time when a line must be drawn in the sand (well, the damp mud). "Here it must stop," I mutter determinedly, and I vow to stick to one plan until I consider myself at least reasonably adept.

This is that moment, and this is the plan.

Based on (a) an oft expressed view that the Leam could still contain big roach and (b) Jeff Hatt's oft expressed view that bread is the only bait for big roach, it is my intention to stick to legering bread in the Leam until the end of the season in March. I may experiment a little of course: perhaps bread in a feeder, perhaps loose-fed mash; sometimes the hook bait as flake, sometimes as large punch; I might nail it to the bottom or let it waft mid water; if I can hold bottom with a link-leger I will, or if it's hammering through a bit I might fish a small bomb. But fundamentally it'll be the same tactic on the same river throughout the winter and into very early spring.

A modest but encouraging start...
Since I arrived at the plan last month, the weather, my work and my family commitments have combined to leave only one opportunity to put it into action - a two-hour session on three swims upstream of the Radford Road car park which produced plenty of taps and nudges before finally yielding one pristine 8oz roach.

Modest results perhaps, but I consider them promising. And I am certainly looking forward to the next few months, during which time I hope to develop a modicum of ability in at least one of angling's diverse disciplines; as well as to prove, or disprove, to my own satisfaction the validity of assertion (a) above.

It should be stressed, by the way, that I take (b) as gospel. However my own experiments go, you'll hear no dispute from me on that one. I think it's fair to say that Jeff's roach record speaks for itself in that respect. As authors are so fond of remarking, any success I may have in the months ahead will owe a great deal to the advice and information I have received from Jeff and the  great many other bloggers out there who so freely and generously share their knowledge and experience week-in and week-out. Any failures will be mine and mine alone.

Toot toot.

16 October 2012

The trophy shot

Once upon a time, angling evidence was all about the fish on your plate; or possibly stuffed in a cabinet if it was a particularly noteworthy specimen. It was either there for all to see else it was time for the eternal fishy tale of 'the one that got away'.

Early birdwatchers had a similarly emphatic definition of proof. Before binoculars replaced guns as the naturalist's chief instrument, all bird sightings could be neatly divided into two categories: "what's hit is history; what's missed is mystery."

Of course things have changed greatly in this era of conservation and fish care, and catch and release is now the cultural as well as legal norm in UK coarse fishing.

All of which means is that the proof of the plate (or taxidermist) has long since been replaced by the ubiquitous trophy shot - the posed photograph of the grinning angler, usually on one knee with his latest capture thrust towards the lens for all to see.

The trophy photo is as much an art as that of the taxidermist, and much has been written about it over the years - how to get the background just so, how to cradle the fish safely throughout and, most importantly of all, how to get the angles and distances just right to portray the fish in all its glory without attracting the accusation that one might be trying to deliberately distort the fish's true size (perhaps in support of that other timeless fishing phrase: "honest, it was this big").

Many angler take the trophy shot very seriously indeed. When they fish in pairs, both will be well versed in the requisite technology and technique. When alone they have tripod and remote control set up in advance to allow them to capture that all important shot.

All of which would be dead handy for me as a blogger looking for regular images for the website, except that a) I generally fish alone and b) I can't be bothered with the hassle of self-portraiture by the bank side.

Instead I find myself relying very much on the kindness of strangers. If I am to get anything more complicated than a photograph of the fish in a landing net then I must ask a passer by or fellow angler for their assistance; and, since the human race is generally a great deal more decent than the Daily Mail would have us believe, the vast majority are only to pleased to help.

So, while there's not always someone to hand at my moments of triumph, I generally get at last a few trophy shots along the way - of, admittedly, widely varying degrees of quality.

But blimey what a difference it makes when a 'proper' angler is on hand to do the honours. At Stockton last week (or at least it was 'last week' when I first drafted this article; I'll post again shortly to catch up on about four weeks of lost blogging in the meantime) I managed to drag another low double out of the margins on the pole, and the chap next to me offered to photo it.

I has already deduced he was a 'proper' carper by the bombardment of bait I had witnessed raining out from his peg, and sure enough he was soon taking me through the proper trophy shot ritual: "up a bit", "forward a bit", "higher, higher", "just angle it a bit towards me" and so on.

What a palaver I thought. But blimey what a difference. The photo in the previous post was of me holding an 11lb 4oz carp - my personal best in fact, and very nice it looks too. But the one of me in this post is with a fish weighing just a few ounces over 10lb - and I know which of the two I think looks more impressive.

So there you have it. On the one hand I'm delighted to have my own 'proper' trophy shot for once (thanks to my friendly carper). But on the other I shall be looking with a great deal more scepticism at everyone else's trophy shots from now on ;-)

13 August 2012

'Munters' in the margin

On its first outing, my new pole had proved highly effective at emptying the Leam of perch and roach. But since it says 'Carp Margin' in big letters on the side, and the worryingly macho marketing material suggests it is perfect for 'taming munters in the margin' (whatever they may be), it seemed appropriate that its next tour of duty should take place somewhere I could put those promises to the test.

Stockton Reservoir seemed ideal. It's a fishery I've always enjoyed, particularly in the summer months. It's very close to home, full of double-figure carp and a good head of silvers, and, on two sides at least, it strikes a good balance between commercial style fishing (gravel paths, wooden platforms and high stocking levels) and a mature, natural environment including lots of planting in those all-important margins.

5lb 11oz, a nice start...
I started my early morning session using the tactic that had always served me well here, a small method feeder. Barely had the second cast settled when the rod wrapped round and I was into a 5lb 11oz mirror carp - lively enough to give my small bomb rod a good work out.

However, that was the last of the wrap rounds. Instead I started getting plucks, shudders and violent little snatches - behaviour I had seen on a recent session in Devon. Then as now it was roach to blame, delicately plucking meat from the hair rig without getting hooked - and then as now I proved it by foul hooking one of them as it tried to swim away. I made a couple of tweaks, and a shorter hook length helped me pick up a nice couple of crucial carp (to 1lb 7oz).

But the carp seemed to have moved on so it was definitely time to switch to the left hand margin that I had been priming with hemp and meat cubes - and time to get that pole out.

the main event - and my carp pb is
now the same as my pole pb!
The result was even more instantaneous than the method feeder. The rig went in, the float went down, and suddenly I was hanging on for dear life to what would turn out to be a pristine 11lb 4oz mirror carp. And it really didn't want to meet me.

To be honest a fish like this, caught so close in, can be a pig to land on a rod and line. It turns out that on a pole it can be many, many times harder. I'd read all the books and gathered all the advice about playing big fish on the pole, but when it comes down to it, if an angry double figure carp which is full of energy on a warm August day chooses to make a fight of it, all you can really do is let the elastic absorb run after run and wait until, eventually, he gets tired.

It took perhaps half an hour for me to finally scoop the net underneath the fish, by which time I was physically exhausted and mentally shredded. The main problem was not knowing what the kit was capable of - exactly how much pressure could I apply to bring him to the surface without pole, elastic or line coming under threat of breaking? To make matters even more complicated, I was acutely aware that I was fishing a relatively slender size 16 hook and a 3lb 8oz breaking strain hook length (to make sure that any breakage would definitely be there, and avoid any risk of a fish being left towing a float rig or pole section around). I felt instinctively that the whole set up should be strong enough to bring the fish in (eventually) - I just couldn't be sure!

To be honest I wasn't sorry that this wonderful mirror was to be the last carp of the day - I'm not sure I could have coped with another so soon afterwards. Instead the roach moved in, and I switched my attention to my ongoing quest for a pound plus roach. The general run of fish picking up the luncheon meat bait was the right side of half a pound, but when I hit 12oz and 13oz fish in quick succession I felt sure the prize was to hand. As my appointed hour of departure approached I finally struck into a roach capable of stretching that heavy carp elastic and I drew what I felt sure was a one pound fish over my landing net.

oooh, so close - a bit battered but
the closest I've come to the pound yet
Fifteen ounces. Fifteen. I was gutted but still happy all at once. It wasn't the fish I was hoping for, but that left me free to reflect on the magnificent mirror carp that had earlier helped me give the 'Munter tamer' a proper workout.

And now, next time at Stockton, I can clear my mind ready for a proper run at the big roach I'm sure are in there.

9 August 2012

Pole position - the appliance of science or pure coincidence?

With a young son wanting an introduction to fishing, I recently found myself in Baileys of Warwick getting to grips with the intricacies of whips and elasticated whips.

Thanks to the expertise on hand, that issue was quickly settled and my boy is now the proud owner of a 4m elasticated whip - no doubt a report will follow soon on its maiden voyage.

The real problem was that the whole exercise left me thinking about all those times when some sort of fishing pole would have been useful in my own fishing - margins, tight swims, windy days and so on. And, as sure as night follows day, that led me back to Baileys for the purchase of my own lightweight lump of carbon fibre.

It would be hard to explain just how crack-handed I felt, and doubtless looked, as I shipped this beast out over the Leam for the first time on Sunday morning. I'd never even watched a pole angler in action, let alone used one myself, and the learning curve was fierce.

I'd tied a couple of river float rigs the night before, and soon had one shotted and plumbed just the way I wanted it. I experimented with various lengths of line between pole tip and float, and tried to work out how the beast could be shipped back and forth across the river with any sort of speed and smoothness (in truth I never really managed this, but the next night I snuck back for an hour and discovered that correct placement of the bag I was using as a roller absolutely transformed the whole process, ensuring smoothness and balance where before there had been nothing but tension and panic).

a typical Leam perch, next to a 25cm pole winder -
not the best fish of the morning, nor the best of photos, but
I'm afraid I had my hands pretty full most of the session!
The whole process felt uncomfortable and alien throughout, but here's the rub: I caught, and caught at levels I have never managed before on the Leam. Sure I lost a few fish to cack-handedness and inexperience, but despite that I caught perch after perch after perch, with plenty of roach in between. Nothing over half a pound, but perhaps 30 fish in all over the three hours I was fishing. Thirty fish! My previous best over a similar period wouldn't have reached double figures. So was this sudden bonanza down to the pole? Or was it pure coincidence?

On the side of coincidence was the fact that I have done a lot more winter fishing on the Leam than summer fishing, so the results would almost inevitably be poorer. Also it's true to say that fishing is prone to erratic results - one day you catch and feel like a fishing god, and the next (and often the next and the next and the next) you are scratching around for a bite wondering what you're suddenly doing wrong.

But there were a couple of factors which suggest the pole may have had a part to play.

For a start I almost certainly wouldn't have fished this swim with my normal 13ft rod and line. There was a lot of vegetation behind and around me that would have made casting difficult, and I was fishing beneath a far bank willow on a line which would have been all but impossible to reach with stick or waggler.

Perhaps most critically of all though, the pole allowed me to hold the float back hard against the flow and inch it through the swim bit by bit, something that would have been impossible at that distance using a rod and float. Since it was generally while holding back that I got the perch bites, I don't know how I'd have got on with either the waggler or stick.

So, was this bumper haul due to the sudden introduction of an 11m lump of carbon fibre to my fishing, or was that just a total coincidence? Only time will tell, but I'm fascinated to find out how it performs next time out on the Leam, as well as on the Grand Union canal and, of course, in those carp-filled stillwater margins for which I really bought it in the first place.

31 July 2012

First time on the Wasperton Avon (for another meeting with my newest friend)

A few weeks ago I found an hour or so for a brief recce of the River Avon at Wasperton. Now, with a completely free weekend at my disposal, it was time to throw a line.

Now it has to be said that I know next to nothing about big river fishing, and although this stretch of the Avon is hardly huge, it is way out of my established comfort zone. All the more reason to get stuck in then...

Easy-to-fish swims seem to be at a bit of a premium on the lower LAA stretch, but I eventually found a tight-ish spot which allowed me to cast beyond a downstream line of weed with a simple feeder rig.

To be honest I was really there to get a feel for the place, rather than catch anything. No point missing the opportunity completely though, and I figured either meat or worm would be my best bet for a decent fish or two.

Nothing much happened on worms, but I started getting little plucks and indications as soon as I hair-rigged a ragged chunk of luncheon meat. None of them came to anything much so, after striking at thin air a couple of times to check I wasn't missing anything, I sat back to admire the view and wait for something more decisive.

When it came, it was hard to miss - a strong and sustained pull that I'd have had to be pretty clumsy to miss (but oh how many times that's happened before). I struck into something heavy and quickly scrambled to a vantage point which would allow me to steer it out and away from the mid-water line of weeds and the reed-clad bank to my left.

As my avon river rod took on a very welcome curve, and based very much on instinct rather than experience, I quickly ruled out the possibility of barbel. But I was still trying to decide whether it was a good chub or an excellent perch when I finally caught a glimpse of my catch - and I couldn't have been much more surprised. After years and years without any at all, I had caught my third eel in two days, and all from different waters.

This one was a different proposition to the other two though - bigger and able to fight much more strongly thanks to both the lively flow of the river and the heavy weed I was trying to draw it across. I was grateful I hadn't tried anything particularly delicate with my my rig, which meant that after a few minutes of steady pressure I was finally able to scoop the landing net under a 1lb 9oz eel, a new personal best.

All in all, not a bad introduction to a new and potentially very exciting stretch of water. There's plenty more in store for me here I'm sure, although I am tempted to get a Birmingham AA ticket just for the easier-to-fish pegs a little further upstream. Either way I'll be back on the Avon very soon.

22 July 2012

Some sights for sore eyes

The uncertainty principle which I proposed here a couple of weeks back (the theory that the superior appeal of natural waters lies chiefly in the fact that it's harder to predict what might happen on any given session), was vindicated in fine style during an evening on the Grand Union canal.

Family commitments mean I don't often fish during the evenings, so I was looking forward to this opportunity to see the canal in a different light (literally) - hopefully after the boats had stopped for the day.

Sadly it turned out that boaters are busy much later than I thought, so by 8.30pm I'd endured (with as much good cheer as I could muster) a lot of boats, a lot of fast-flowing water between the locks, but no fish - not so much as a sucked maggot in fact.

As a last throw of the dice I moved a hundred yards or so to cast towards a bridge, and that's when the nights two big surprises happened.

The first was the most entertaining narrow boat that's ever passed by this angler - one crewed by six decidedly fair young ladies, each with a glass of wine in hand, and none (apparently) able to steer, since the boat was careering down the canal from bank to bank, crash to crash.

It was quite a sight, but as they crashed into the bank right in front of me I (only just) resisted the gallant urge to offer my skippering services, and instead returned to the matter in hand - avoiding a blank.

not a perch... and I'm afraid not easy to photograph
in the gathering gloom
And a few minutes later I did just that, albeit in the most unexpected fashion. The float dipped decisively, I struck, and could instantly feel the head-banging escape attempts of a good perch. A very good perch, judging by the curve my ultra light float rod was starting to take. Except this was no perch, and after a very good fight I was looking at the first eel I had ever caught.

Extremely exciting of course, but I do have just two slightly negative thoughts to share. Because if I had previously thought bream to be slimy and perch to be prone to deep hooking, that was because I'd not had an eel to compare them with. Because the eel, it turns out, is well covered in a slime which is just about unremovable from a landing net. It is also more than capable of getting a single maggot half way down its length in the time it takes the average angler to strike.

But what a fight from a sub-pound fish, and what a fantastic way to spend an evening on the local canal.

14 July 2012

Brought to you by the letter C

Today's post is brought to you by the letter 'C', standing in this instance for commercials, convenience and, of course, carp.

While writing in praise of rivers and canals, I know that I've been guilty of making the odd disparaging comparison between 'wild' natural waters and fully stocked commercial waters. This, as anyone who knows me or follows The Hornet's Nest will realise, is profoundly unfair of me since I fish commercials all the time.

So just to set that record straight - I love commercial fisheries (or at least the good ones).

Not that I want to fish them all the time, you understand - there is still something thrilling and primal about even the smallest river fish that you just can't get from a heavily stocked and carefully managed fishery pond. But in turn, the very best commercials offer plenty of things that the rivers can't.

Which is why, when the sun finally appeared for a couple of hours after work on Wednesday, it was to Bishops Bowl that I sped. This excellent and still-improving fishery typifies everything that can be good about commercials, in that it is conveniently close to my home, has a handy bait and tackle shop on site, and generally guarantees a few quality fish from even the shortest session.

For a short evening session I'd normally settle down on Walworth lake with a small waggler to try and pick out some of the nicer tench, but the unexpected burst of warm weather seemed to have brought the bigger carp close to the surface, so instead I dusted down the pellet waggler for its first proper outing of the year.

It was, in short, a very good move, and within five minutes I was pretty much taking a fish a cast - generally carp in the half to three pound range, but one or two which were big enough to quickly smash the 4lb hook length and leave me scrambling to bolt the proverbial stable door with a 6lb length for the rest of the session. It's a lesson I seem to forget as quickly as I learn it - the ferocity of the take and the shortness of line beneath the pellet waggler means that a beefed up hook length is an absolute must for this style of fishing.

It was an excellent, if short, evening session, the biggest surprise being the capture of a nice two pound tench so far up in the water - well, either that or the violent storm which suddenly sprang forth from nowhere and sent me fleeing the site with a boot full of soaking gear.

12 July 2012

Canal success (and some helpful perspective)

At the very real risk of sounding immodest, the thing that surprised me most about my recent session at the Grand Union Canal was just how well I fished it.

I'm still in my early days back fishing (well, a couple of years in, but I'm a slow learner), so improvement should always be on the cards. But this was chalk and cheese compared with my last visit just over six months ago.

I fished much, much lighter than before; I was tighter to the ledges / edges (having plumbed the entire width more accurately); and I fished to both sides to give me more options through the morning. I also kept the feed going in at what felt like the right amounts at what felt like the right times.

My first canal rudd? ID confirmation (or otherwise) welcome...
As a result, once I'd got the swim going (which took about half an hour) I was able to keep it going, putting together a nice bag of roach, possibly my first canal rudd (comments welcome on the photo, I wasn't 100% sure), perch and skimmers, the best being a 2.5lb bream that (for a bream) fought like crazy.

A fabulous couple of hours all round, until the boat traffic started up at 8am and finally sent me on my way at 8.30am (I tend to be quite cheery and smiley for the first three, the next two get a mutter and then the rest can enjoy the sight of an empty towpath where an angler had previously been).

The typical stamp of bream on GUC
So all in all I was feeling quite good about my canal angling - until I read this from Jeff - British Canal Records - The New Canal Royalty.

Blimey, there are some fair sized fish in that list! I'm in awe of everyone who has achieved that size of catch from what always look like such modest waters - and thanks for giving me the incentive to get my backside back on the towpath a bit more often (and maybe put up with a bit more boat traffic in pursuit of those records).

2 July 2012

The Uncertainty Principle

Boredom is a killer - in fact I'd tend to agree with 'Idler' author Tom Hodgkinson when he argues that if modern science were more subtle and sophisticated it would surely prove boredom to be one of the central killers of our age.

Why are we so bored? Well, industrialisation and the division of labour has helped ensure that most jobs are, to a greater or lesser degree, pretty one dimensional. The remorseless rise of branded foods and the supermarket system means that every tin, packet and bottle we open contains exactly the same factory-produced 'food experience' time after time. We buy standardised clothes in standard sizes from the same few shops which can be found in every high street in the land. And when we get home and turn on the telly, we find ourselves watching not the hundreds of programmes and channels we were promised but myriad variations on a small number of proven programmes formats.

Truly ours is the age of boredom.

Fortunately there is plenty you can do to combat this (aside from the Stoic solution so eloquently expressed by Pink Floyd when they sang: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.") And chief among the way in which we can fight back is by injecting uncertainty back into our lives.

Drive a different route to work this morning. Bake your own bread and brew your own beer (and revel in the randomness, and occasional glory, of the output). Turn off the telly and listen to the radio (Radio 4 is truly the last bastion of randomness in our world, as I came to understand a couple of years ago when I found myself glued to a 3 part series on the joys of granite). And of course, fish a river rather than a stocked lake or pond every now and again...

Because there was certainly nothing boring about Friday evening on the River Leam. For a start, the stick float that had last week refused so obstinately to go under now seemed alive; every trot was greeted by a bob, a dive and (generally) a pretty decent roach.

Ouch - a perfectly punctured perch
When that line of attack slowed down at around 8pm, I switched to a lobworm and feeder attack and again the river seemed full of fish. It was perch that dominated this time - at least, that is, until a jack pike set up camp in front of me. He took a minute or more to let go of the first perch he grabbed, he took the next one from me in moments, but the third was nearly his undoing as the hook transferred itself from perch to pike and I got within a whisker of drawing him over the net.

But it was not to be. With a single flick of his powerful tail he headed back to midwater and finally managed to sever the hook link. No pike then, but exactly the kind of unexpected and enjoyable encounter that commercial fisheries don't often deliver.

And as if to underline these themes of randomness and variation, my attempt to fish the upper Leam the next night was completely stumped by high water levels which made virtually every swim unfishable. Unexpected? Yup. Annoying? You bet. But absolutely part and parcel of the joy of river fishing.

28 May 2012

The fish beneath our feet

The advice I received from a fellow blogger following my previous post on Jubilee Pools (thanks Baz) was not to ignore the margins.

Perhaps then I shouldn't have been quite so surprised to find a dozen or more large carp patrolling right under my feet as I arrived on the horseshoe lake just before 7am on Saturday morning.

A delightful sight of course, but one which begged the inevitable question - how to catch them?

Trying to resist the temptation to rush, I flicked a few pieces of crust out, but there was no evidence of them taking off the top. Instead I turned to the worm and started to put together a peculiar hybrid outfit - my rarely-used carp rod, 15lb mainline and flouro hook length incongruously fitted with a tiny reed stem float with a dendra worm writhing beneath. Sounds odd I know, but I honestly couldn't see any other combination in my kitbag which would have allowed me to hook and hold a large carp just feet from the reeds, platform legs and other hazards so close to the bank.

And do you know what - it worked! The worm went in a few times just a metre or so to the left and right of the platform in front of me. One or two of the big girls sailed straight past it, and then whoosh - the float buried, I struck carefully, and off went a strong, strong fish.

Since I was basically fishing with what felt like a broom handle and tow rope, I imagine I could have bossed the fish a bit more than I did. But it had been quite a while since I'd caught a real cracker and I certainly didn't want to risk a hook pull at this stage. I'd also never used kit like this in anger before, so softly softly was the order of the day.

Once I had the fish heading away from the margin I was content to carefully back wind and give it some space out in front of me from which to make a couple of determined runs, before slipping the net under it five minutes later, quite literally shaking with happiness. I can't quite put my finger on why, but there is simply nothing else in fishing quite like stalking and catching a big fish from right under your feet.

And this margin-caught mirror carp was a beauty. Not as heavy as I'd initially thought at 'only' 9lbs 5ozs, but it was as picture-perfect a fish as you could wish for - lean and strong, intricately scaled and rose-hued in the already-strong morning sun.

A thoroughly enjoyable morning followed, albeit one that could never quite live up to that joyous start. Once it became clear that the margin fish had moved on, I set up on a neighbouring peg and put a more normal carp rig out just a couple of rod lengths to my left. That worked a treat and I had a 6lb common carp on the mat before I could even rig up a second rod.

When I finally got to that second rod, it was a traditional feeder with 'deads' on the hook in the hope of roach or bream. It produced taps, liners and a couple of missed bites, but as the bobbin on my sleeper rod danced indecisively up and down for the remainder of the morning it became clear that the bream had moved in and taken a fancy to my close-in pellet and boilie offering instead.

I landed three of them in the end, the largest just over 4lbs, to finish the morning with: a notional 'bag' of around 25lbs; a multitude of birding 'ticks' including a cuckoo and a pair of fly-by oystercatchers; and a silly grin, still plastered all over my face.

A little more of this please

Oh early summer I love thee, however brief your appearance may be this year.

An evening tench - always a special
My first after-work fishing session of the year (two tench, a couple of carp and a mix of skimmers and better bream on a simple waggler rig); whitethroats scratching out their songs all around my Henley-in-Arden lunchtime walks; a single yellow spike of cowslip in the wild grasslands of The Mount; a carpet of bluebells in the nearby woods; birdsong all around me morning, noon and night.

These are just a few of my favourite things.

24 May 2012

Two lifers... a bolt from the blue

With my angling adventures leaving so little time for 'proper' birding at the moment, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to add new ticks to my life list. As a result, the two 'lifers' I added on Sunday afternoon came as a bit of a bolt from the blue.

After concluding a chilly morning's fishing at Jubilee Pools, I dashed off to the nearby Brandon Marsh nature reserve to meet the family for lunch and perhaps, I thought, a quick stroll down to the pools. As it turned out the family was quite amenable to the idea, so with bins and scope in hand we scooted down to East Marsh for a family birdwatching session.

My son is still at an age where he finds it easier to use a scope than bins, so as soon as we arrived in the Wright Hide I attached the hide clamp, levelled the scope, adjusted the focus - and found a pair of red crested pochards staring back at me. These exotic ducks, nearly all of them descended from escaped captive birds, are not so uncommon as to make them hard for a committed birdwatcher to find - but for some reason they had eluded me for the best part of ten years. A nice surprise.

Moving on to the main East Marsh hide, a second surprise awaited. From this angle I had views over a second, and much wilder, lifer - a wood sandpiper, a striking wading bird presumably stopping over for some rest and recuperation on its way north to breed.

Two years ago almost to the day I recorded here that, much to my annoyance, a pair of wood sandpipers had passed through Brandon while I was away for the weekend. So if I record here and now that I missed the recent influx of Warwickshire ring ouzels, plus the nightingale at Brandon and the wood warbler at Draycote, perhaps in two years time... well, one can but hope.

Anyway, the updated life list  is here - 213 species in all, a miserly haul for any serious birder but they've all given me a great deal of pleasure over the years, and that's all I really care about.

19 April 2012

A lunchtime symphony

Most people seem to take dogs with them when they go for a lunchtime walk over Henley-in-Arden's Mount. Me? I take my ears.

"Chiff chaff, chiff chaff" - there's no mistaking the first song that I hear upon leaving the road via a narrow stream-side path. "Chiff chaff, chiff chaff, chiff chiff chaff", interspaced with a few quieter "Hooweet, hooweet" calls. The chiffchaffs are at their most active having only arrived back from East Africa in the last couple of weeks.

"Chiz...chiz, chizzik" - not the more familiar pied wagtail, but a grey wagtail, an exploding ball of brilliant yellow that explodes past me from the stream. Soon he is gone, and a blue tit keeps me company along the rest of the waterside path, "tic tic tic, tic tic tic", and other variations along a three-note theme.

My head snaps left at the near and distinctive cackling call of Yaffle, aka a green woodpecker. Ahead of me is a bright, but silent, jay, and high above are the mewing calls of unseen buzzards.

From here the 'squeaky wheel' calls of great tits start to cut across everything until, that is, they are trumped by the strident repetitions of a song thrush. Accompaniment comes from wood pigeons on bass, blackbirds on melody lead, but sadly no great spotted woodpecker for drums. Perhaps the 'tack tack tack' of the robin can lay down a suitable beat?

As I leave the path and head back onto tarmac it is left to the finches to say goodbye, the 'bowler's action' song of the chaffinch (step, step, step, skip-skip-skip-skip arm oooovvvverrrr) and the "cheeeeeeeeeezzzzzzz" of the greenfinch sending me smiling on my way.

18 April 2012

In your face

I defy anyone not to be a bird watcher at this time of year. Birds are quite simply everywhere during April and May, noisy and 'in your face', full of display and bravado as they press on with the matter in hand - breeding.

My first swallow of the year flew over the garden on April 11th, and there were a couple more at Partridge Lakes near Manchester a few days later.

Grey Wagtails have been much in evidence along the Henley-in-Arden brook near where I work, and chiffchaffs have been calling there in good numbers for a fortnight or more. In the last week they have been joined by willow warblers - I heard the first of those from the allotment last Wednesday.

With a couple of spare hours on Sunday J and I had hoped to get to Napton, but time didn't really permit (inevitable then that a stunning male redstart would turn up on the reservoir!). Instead we managed a 50 minute dash round Brandon Marsh, our first for ages.

It was great to be able to listen to the music of four warblers from a single spot (willow, cettis, chiffchaff and blackcap), and to catch sight of some of the regular wading birds - a pair each of redshank and little ringed plovers, plus a few lapwing. A longer return visit is clearly called for in the next couple of weeks, as is that postponed trip to Napton.

17 April 2012

Ineptitude saves the day

The increasingly common practice of stocking chub and barbel in lakes, ponds and other still waters presents me, and I suspect many other anglers, with an interesting dilemma.

Most anglers naturally want to catch the best of what's in the water in front of them. But many also feel instinctively that these two species belong in the river not the lake.

So the dilemma arises when you're sat on a lake which is well stocked with one or both of the species. Do you want to catch them at all? Are you a purist or a pragmatist (especially at this time of year when the rivers are closed to anglers anyway). And how would you feel if your personal best for both species were recorded on artificially stocked lakes?

The views I have read and heard vary wildly, but in one sense it's easier for me as a relative novice. I've not got a single barbel nor a single decent (over one pound) chub to my name, and I don't particularly want to break either milestone on a lake. It's just not the way I've dreamed about these things happening.

All of which means that you could argue it was good news on Friday when I lost my one decent fish of the day, a fairly chunky chub. Not that it felt like that at the time of course...

I was fishing with my Manchester-based brother in Partridge Lakes, a sophisticated commercial operation not far from the M60. In fact when we first arrived we were worried by how commercial it was - the tightly-packed mosaic of tiny lakes was unlike anything I'd ever seen before and certainly not my cup of tea, being clearly designed around the needs of match, not pleasure, anglers.

Fortunately a short walk revealed the two Holbar lakes which were much more to our taste - bigger, better spaced pegs, more natural surroundings and stocked with a good balance of carp and silvers - including those chub.

Plenty of these lovely roach -
fortunately(?!) the big chub got away
It looked ideal, so we set down side by side and started to fish, initially both with a feeder hard to the bank of the island opposite. But although the guy to the right of us was steadily emptying the lake doing exactly the same, we were both struggling. After an hour with only a skimmer to my name, I switched to a waggler and caster attack mid water and things started to pick up. First a half-pound roach, then another. A couple more skimmers, and couple more roach, and then bang - I bent into something considerably more hefty.

Sadly my brain didn't move as fast as the fish did. As it stripped line from the clutch my brain was saying 'carp' - so once I had that first run under control I anticipated a steady enough fight in open water (albeit a careful one, since I was on a size 20 hook and 2.5lb hook length).

I swear I looked away only long enough to locate my landing net - but by the time I looked back it was to see what appeared to be a decent chub doing exactly what chub do - diving into the reeds to my left. Attempts to draw it back out left me exactly where I thought they would - with a broken hook length, an empty net and a glum expression.

At least the weather held for us and we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, with the best fish, a decent enough F1 carp, going to my brother.

And at least my dream of a river, not stillwater, chub breakthrough remains intact. Hoo-bloody-ray ;-)

13 April 2012

The tench and Ratty and me

I've never fished White Bishops lake well, and following Tuesday's performance I see no reason to update that statement.

My favourite Bishop Bowls lake, Walworth, had been hammered in two big matches over the weekend, so I thought I'd give it a miss and try to break my White Bishops hoodoo instead. Hmmmm.

With a decent westerly pushing through I set up on the northeast edge, peg 3, and gently lobbed a feeder out with luncheon meat on the hair. Within minutes I'd missed my first bite of the day. I won't bore you with the full details, but suffice it to say that I missed perhaps 20 bites on the tip during the day, and hit precisely none. I tried everything I could think of - shorter hair, longer hair, no hair, shorter and longer hook lengths, hitting them later and earlier, tighter line and slacker line. I'll happily accept any ideas anyone has that might help me remedy this in future because quite frankly it drove me to distraction.

small but perfectly formed - my first tench of 2012
Thank goodness for the float then. After two hours in the teeth of the wind I relocated to the sheltered calm of the opposite shore, allowing me a) to warm up and b) to put a small waggler on the edge of the marginal shelf. Red maggot produced some skimmers, a string of decent roach, a couple of small carp and, at last, my first tench of the year. Admittedly it was one of the smallest I've ever caught, but it was an absolute smasher to look at. A sight for sore eyes indeed.

I kept returning to the feeder from time to time, and the misses kept coming. This might have made for a miserable day, were it not for the redeeming successes on the float coupled with some delightful wildlife encounters - an oystercatcher flew loudly south, chiffchaffs fluttered and sang all around me, and finally a water vole swam across my swim no more than two metres from my toes. This was only the third or fourth I've ever seen one that closely, making it an absolutely priceless moment.

2 April 2012

Spring it on

It must be Spring - I heard my first chiffchaff of the year on a sunny lunchtime stroll today, but the weather forecast is suggesting snow in time for my Easter weekend fishing :-(

If I may quote the significantly under-rated Depeche Mode at this juncture: "I don't want to spread any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humour, and when I die, I expect to find him laughing."

Ho hum, bring it on. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger (or, more importantly, a better angler).

25 March 2012

Division Two angling

A cardinal error often made by top flight football teams is to take lower league opposition for granted. The results can be ugly.

It's only Carlisle (or whoever) they think (often in the glory that is the FA Cup 3rd round) - how hard can that be? So out come the second string players, with less than 100% focus, a lack of preparation and an attitude problem. The result is often (pleasingly) an early goal from Carlisle (or whoever, other lower league teams are available) and a panic-stricken manager throwing the big guns on in a desperate bid not to become the latest big-name cup casualty. All rather pleasing really.

I mention this in a post about fishing because the same phenomenon applies in many walks of life, including angling. Underestimate the opposition or the challenge in front of you and they are perfectly capable of giving you a good kick in the pants.

Not that I realised this as I drove off to Bishops Bowl fishery for the first time in many months, thinking: "after a few months of hard fishing on the rivers, it'll be nice to put a bend back in the rod and bank a goodly number of decent fish - some carp, bream and the speciality of the house, tench."

Ahem. You see what I'd done there was fall for the old 'commercial = easy' line. Even on the most over-stocked carp pool this isn't necessarily true, but on one with more sensible stocking levels it can be far from the case. I was about to (re) learn that lesson the hard way.

I turned up at Bishops and popped down to the Marshes fully expecting, for whatever mad reason, to bag a fish a cast. After three hours of 'Division 2' angling (and I'm being seriously generous to myself there) I'd got no more than a couple of small carp on the bank.

My casting was all over the place, my feed was being scattered to the wind, I'd tangled a couple of feeder rigs, and I'd bumped a couple of modest fish off the hook with cack-handed playing. Floats were either broken or in a tree. I'd even managed to spill piles of bait around me. If it could be cocked up, I'd cocked it up.

In the end I got my act together, settled on one spot and one tactic, and managed to string a few fish together. But in common with aforementioned overpaid football players, I need to seriously buck my ideas up before next weekend's replay.

28 February 2012

Oh brave new world...

...that has such creatures in it. A glorious Saturday spent on the banks of the upper Leam produced such a wealth of wonderful sightings that I scarcely know where to start.

Perhaps not, for a change, with the fish. Because as I set up in a wooded 'jungle' swim (a move I swiftly regretted as I launched my first float rig into a low overhanging branch), I became aware of buzzard calls. I looked up and around, and realised that not one but four birds were playing and courting in the trees around me, so close I could hear their wings beating over their mewing calls.

Not 10 minutes later I was watching a pair of ravens engaging in even more acrobatic courtship low over the nearby hill. And what was turning into a decent birding day went on to include a series of up-close-and-personal sightings including kingfisher, sparrowhawk, reed bunting and skylark.

Meanwhile I was struggling to recover from that float-in-tree incident. Although there had been a gentle flow on the river when I arrived, a gentle upstream breeze had sprung up and all but stopped the water. That, plus the fact that I was again being plagued by minnows, resolved me to abandon my initial stick-and-maggot attack in favour of a tried and tested combo - a nice juicy lobworm on a size 10 hook connected to the most sensitive quiver tip in the bag.

That final detail really came into its own when I cast into the third swim of the day. As has happened before in this swim, barely had I tightened the line when that super soft quiver tip just started to edge round - a quick tap followed by the slowest and smallest of bends. I struck, and it was immediately apparent that this was likely to be my best Leam fish to date - all I had to do now was get it on the bank.

Fortunately I think I'd previously made every mistake it is possible to make in this swim, so I was able to steer the fish first into the relative safety of the deeper water and then to draw it towards me without gifting it the chance to bury itself in the submerged reeds right in front of me (it had a pretty good go though).

After a very tense minute or so I had netted my prize, a pretty respectable perch. It was indeed my River Leam PB, as well as my perch PB, weighing in at 1lb 9oz.

And although I caught no further fish that day, the river did have one more fishy encounter in store for me. As I sat quietly in my final swim I noticed a sizeable shape slip past the end of my rod tip. For some reason my initial reaction was 'chub', and I moved my hand closer to the rod handle in anticipation. But this was no chub - it was an altogether more majestic spectacle. And, like the buzzards who had welcomed me to the river that morning, it was a killer.

It wasn't a big pike by most standards, but it certainly looked big in this tiny stream-like stretch of river. Its two menacing passes along the margin beneath my rod tip convinced me that any other fish in the swim would most likely have fled in terror, so I packed up and went happily on my way home.

20 February 2012

A weekend on the river

With the 2010/11 fishing season fast running, out I braved the wind and rain on Saturday and the cold on Sunday in my ongoing attempt to coax at least one decent fish from the upper Leam ('decent' being a highly subjective word, with every angler having their own definition - in my case I think a qualifying fish on this stretch of the Leam would probably be a) 1lb roach; b) 1lb perch or c) 2lb chub).

With some serious rain threatened on Saturday afternoon, I decided to make the morning session quick and simple. A tiny drilled bullet nailed the bait, either bread flake or lob worm, to the deck. The 1.5oz quiver on my avon rod would be light enough to spot virtually every tap, and I'd aim to do three swims with no more than an hour in each (unless I was catching).

And it all started so well. Nothing doing on bread flake, but I'd hardly had time to tighten the line on the first worm of the day when the tip went round and I was into a scrappy little perch. Only 10oz as it turned out, but a lovely little fish and a welcome start to the day.

Sadly it was also the end of the day, as nothing I did thereafter seemed to go right. Nothing more from that swim, so on to the next - where I missed one massive rap on the rod tip, and then a modest chub managed to throw the hook just a few minutes later.

I was at the third swim when the proper rain arrived, and discretion proved the better part of valour. I fled.

Sunday was a completely different sort of day - clear bright light bounced off a dusting of snow and a wicked north wind swept down onto the Leam.

There had been quite some flow on the river on Saturday, so I turned up on Sunday armed with stick float and bread, ready to target the roach. Sadly the river had gone to sleep a little, but I did find a decent run to fish in my second choice of swim.

And I found minnows. Lots of minnows. In fact I doubt I've ever caught as consistently as I did in that two hour session. Dozens of the little blighters went for everything I sent their way. So why did I stay? Ah, well the river goddess was evidently having a laugh at my expense, sending me just enough non-minnows to keep me there in hope if not expectation. One tiny dace, one tiny chublet and 4oz one roach (hurrah, my target fish for the day). Surely if the small ones are here, I thought, then the big ones will be too. Well, perhaps they were. But once again, I sure as hell didn't find them :-)

19 February 2012

How it all began...

Hmmm, this was the 'review of 2011 / how I started fishing again' post which I was drafting in December. I've completed and posted it now because a) this is my personal as well as public diary and these details fill a rather large number of gaps in the narrative and b) I hate wasting any work that I've already done. So...

The combination of a busy schedule at work, an allotment that needs putting 'to bed' for the winter, and the various demands of the festive season mean that I am unlikely to be wetting a line again until after Christmas :-(

But at least this unwelcome interruption to normal service gives me a little time to reflect on 12 months of fairly hectic fishing - 12 months in which I came back to the sport having spent many, many years away, and, for the most part, fished like it :-)

It all started as a wheeze for my 40th birthday present. Why don't I get my brother and dad, accomplished anglers both, to take myself and close friend on a fishing trip which would reacquaint me with a long-lost passion and introduce my fly-fishing chum to the joys of coarse fishing. My brother chose Bury Hills Fishery in Surrey, I was quickly into two early morning carp, and that was it - I was hooked (in fact all three of us scored that day, holding our fish top to bottom are brother Paul, Rich and my own good self).

I was on the internet as soon as I returned home, and the first local fishery I found quickly became a firm favourite - Bishops Bowl in Bishops Itchington. Despite still being a little unsure of what I was doing, my first morning on Walworth Lake in mid September saw my float dip with great regularity as my first ever tench (pictured below) was quickly joined by more, plus my first ever crucian and plenty of tenacious little carp.

Last winter's weather may have been the worse for more than 100 years but there was no one more enthusiastic than me at that point, so I persevered through it all, never once blanking, always learning something new and still landing the occasional decent fish (including a couple of 1lb plus roach and some pretty good crucians for example).

I was also reading voraciously - everything from the latest magazine articles to the classic books on how to coarse fishing from my childhood. The former could tell me what the hell the 'method' was, the latter still had plenty of relevance when it came to the timeless arts of float fishing, watercraft and more.

My first fish 'flying solo'
- beginner's luck?
I knew winter was properly over when the tench started feeding again at Bishops. The most memorable of the early spring trips that followed was again with my brother. Because he hadn't put any tench on the bank for a while he drove down for an evening session, and despite the fishing being a little slower than I'd expected, he used every bit of his vast fishing experience to bring some lovely fish to the net, giving me a real masterclass in margin fishing.

A margin masterclass from little bro...
 Once summer arrived I was keen to get into some slightly bigger fish, but not necessarily the 20lb plus carp in the two main Bishops' lakes. A bit more research suggested that Stockton Reservoir might be the answer. This British Waterways owned water was well stocked with carp about a decade ago, and now reports suggested that the average stamp of fish was 5 to 12 lbs - the perfect way for me to extend my education and put a more substantial bend in some of my fast growing collection of rods!

And so it proved, as on my third trip I managed to bank a double figure fish - a 10lb 5oz mirror carp taken on a method feeder, if memory serves.

A week after that I ambushed an even bigger common carp with a float fished lump of luncheon meat in the margins - 11lbs 4oz of very angry fish that will stay long in my memory (it was like trying to coax a submarine up from the depths on not-overly-hefty tackle).

Yours truly with
11lb 4oz of margin-caught
common carp
And there you have it - a potted history of my 2010 / 2011 reintroduction to fishing, albeit posted about eight weeks after I wrote it. It was shortly after I landed that personal best carp that I switched to river fishing for the winter, the results of which I have already documented in previous posts. 
In another five weeks or so the river season draws to a close and I will be back on the lakes and reservoirs, and while I'll miss the Leam and the Avon, going over this old ground has at least reminded me that there's good fish to be had in the still waters round here. 
After a few weeks of scrapping for 'bits' on the rivers, it will at least be good to put a bend in the rod and a few decent lumps on the bank!

10 February 2012

Variety is the spice of life | Part 2

A late summer recce of the upper Leam which I carried out last August revealed a small river, no more than a stream in parts, with plenty of physical challenges to overcome (barbed wire, steep banks etc) and just a few fishable swims between the weed. Since I was still very much in commercial carp mode, I filed it under 'hmmm, maybe another time' and thought no more about it.

For whatever reason, by the time I returned to fish it on a bright, warm, breezy day three weeks ago, my attitude had transformed. A few more swims had opened up, the obstacles seemed smaller than before and all-in-all it looked absolutely perfect. I couldn't wait to get started.

Having identified about half a dozen likely looking swims I started at the farthest from the car - a deep pool on a 90 degree bend. With so little flow it was obvious that the lightest tip would be fine, so out went a couple of maggots with just a tiny drilled bullet holding it to the deck.

Perfect, except that the breeze had now turned into a gale. I was definitely getting taps, presumably from small stuff, but it was hard to spot with the rod tip bouncing all over the place. The next swim was even more exposed, so it was an hour or more before I found the shelter I needed to get a still rod and a good idea what was happening beneath the water.

The minnow - a long lost friend of mine
Feeding a steady trickle of maggots just upstream of a fallen tree soon got those taps coming back on the rod tip, but this time I was able to see and hit them - or at least I was when the fish were actually bigger than the maggots I was using as bait! I'd forgotten the joys of minnows, once such a staple of my childhood fishing. I was certainly reaquainted with them on this trip. In between a steady stream of the little blighters came a few tiny chublets, and then over went the rod tip and I was into the fish I'd come for - a chub of over a pound. Well, briefly I was into it anyway. I'd accomplished 90% of the mission - I'd found it, hooked it and sighted it - and then I lost it. The whole process was over in seconds, and I was gutted, particularly since that was my last bite of the afternoon.

Now just try telling me there aren't
chub in there...
I was back the following week. It was colder, just as sunny, but stiller. I only had two hours, but I figured that the deep pool offered a decent chance of some action. Again I caught some tiddlers, but in case you're expecting a happy ending I should hasten to the bit where I lost another decent chub in the reeds under my feet.

I'm starting to think that blogging about my fishing is bringing me bad luck. For my next post I might just review 2011, recalling a time when a) I wasn't blogging about fishing and b) I was actually catching some decent fish. Ahhh, happy days.

29 January 2012

Variety is the spice | Part 1

One of the great joys of rivers, at least when set against the majority of commercial stillwater fisheries, is that no two swims are ever exactly the same.

Not, I should hasten to add, that I've got anything at all against commercials. In fact they've been largely responsible for my reintroduction to angling, and I fished little else for the whole of my first year back.

But having vowed to abandon those commercials during the winter in favour of learning more about river fishing, I'm now relishing the variety, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of flowing water.

Take the River Leam by way of an example. I've pretty much hammered the Welches Meadow and Leam Valley nature reserve stretches over the last few months, but genuinely feel like I'm only just starting to get a feel for one or two swims - an understanding of where the currents run, where the shelves and the deeper pools lie, where the snags and the weeds are and, of course, where the fish are most likely to be. It takes hours of bank time to get this feel for just a single swim (well it does for me) - and yet the neighbouring swim, which may be just yards away, is almost certainly completely different. And a few days of rain or a change in temperature of just a few degrees can mean that even the swims you know best feel completely alien again.

So even on the stretches of the Leam I know best there are dozens of unexplored (by me) swims, and if you move significantly up or down stream then the changes are even more dramatic, with the river undergoing almost total transformations of character.

Clearly one winter will be nowhere near enough to get to know even this one short and relatively minor river. So last weekend I realised that I faced a choice - continue exploring the stretches I had already been fishing, or make a start on tackling one of the other areas.

Whether it'll make me a better angler I don't know, but I chose the latter and headed to Offchurch in search of the upper Leam...

22 January 2012

Some early-year bird notes

One of the real joys of January is what feels like the almost overnight re-emergence of the birds.

It occurs to me pretty much every year that the birds seem to see the end of our Christmas celebrations as their cue for bursting into song - lifting our spirits and announcing the idea of spring many weeks before it will actually arive.

They bring me moments of joy throughout these dark weeks.

As I leave the house for work I am greeted most mornings by the rapping of great spotted woodpeckers looking for partners and territory.

I stopped last week to watch and listen to the blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, blackbirds and more from a narrow footbridge over the Henley-in-Arden stream. It was already a lovely lunchtime moment, but became so much more so when a tiny, mouse-like treecreeper flew to a tree trunk just yards from me and started to spiral upwards.

Fishing trips (of which another post shortly) are accompanied by the most amazing symphonies - today it was jackdaws, fieldfare, great tits and a superb song thrush.

And when you go out of your way to find the birds, as we did last weekend with a family trip to Brandon, they are there in numbers - there is not better time than a sunny January day for watching our brilliant wildfowl for example, from the exquisite teal to the whistling wigeon to the beautiful but faintly absurd shoveller.

8 January 2012

If brevity is the soul of wit...

...then these note should be good (bit pressed for time I'm afraid).

On the birding front, I've just stepped out of my back door to be greeted by a low flying, loud 'cronking' raven circling my house. A wonderful start to my day :-)

Elsewhere, all is awaking - blue tits and wrens notably singing for the first time this week.

Fishing news is equally brief - I spent 90 mins on the Leam yesterday but couldn't find the roach or chub. I should have moved swims (chap down the river had 20 or more nice roach in the morning, so they were still feeding), but couldn't raise the enthusiasm. Fortunately a lovely 14oz perch saved the morning.

1 January 2012

One last hurrah

Managed to sneak in a couple of hours on The Leam to finish 2011, and with some success.

With virtually no flow to speak of on my favourite bend, I ignored the (not very) shallows in front of me and instead targeted the deeper water downstream with a waggler rig.

This gave me a wider water and more lines to target, which was I think the key to putting together a longer run of bites than hitherto. Either that or it was the new secret ingredient - turmeric on the maggots!

Whatever the reason, I ended up with four nice fish on the bank (a chunky 6oz roach and three chub to 7oz), a few tiddlers, a handful of missed bites and two good fish lost in play - the second of which killed the swim and effectively ended a very enjoyable little session.