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It’s Christmas!


Well it’s that time of the year again.  To all of my followers I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.  Enjoy the holidays and I hope you get time to fish.  Most important of all stay in good health and enjoy time with your loved ones.

Best wishes or should that be fishes! :-)

 

 

 

 


Day 1:

I rarely get the opportunity to fish the Test these days but an invite by good mate and Lone Angler’s team manager Jez Brown was very welcome indeed.

I have fished the Test at Timsbury a couple of times but not for quite a few years.  I did try Jez’s beat out last season and managed a few nice fish but lost a couple of big roach, so I was looking for a second chance.

The forecast mentioned something about a weather bomb.  That’s a term I’ve never encountered before and the only thing I’ve heard close to that is Sex Bomb, but hey that’s enough about me!  Anyway it seemed strong winds and driving rain was the general ingredients in this meteorological bomb.  Luckily the area we were in seemed to be sheltered enough by hills and trees to deflect this winter storm of almost biblical proportions (allegedly).

Still this meant we could feeder fish and trot without any interference from Mother Nature.  A simple feeder rig consisting of around a 2’6″ hooklink of 4lb line and a 12 hook, a small cage feeder and breadflake hook bait did the trick.  I used a soft glass tip on a 12ft Avon style rod.    Initially we fished up in the mill pool where there is plenty of deep water to hold a few roach.  The levels looked pretty normal with a tinge of colour.  Everything looked more or less spot on.

The feeders were loaded with crumb with a nice piece of flake on the hook and out it went.  It was a little slow at first but once we got some bait going in on a regular basis, things started to improve.  I missed a few bites as I was a bit too quick to hit them.  Soon a few grayling, dace and trout put in an appearance and then a run of nice roach to over a pound.    Jez trotted a few maggots down and grayling after grayling came to the net.  They ranged in size from just a few ounces to close to 1.8lbs.

After lunch we headed off downstream but that failed to produce much and so we returned to the mill pool.  I managed a few more roach to breadflake with the best going 1lb 6oz which made 4 over the pound mark.  Jez tempted a couple as well, of a similar stamp and we both had a few decent dace to maybe 10oz or so.  As always the trout were active, they are such voracious feeders.  Sadly those really big roach failed to show but hey there’s always next time.

Day 2.

I headed off to another chalk stream this time in search of big grayling.  Geoff and Kevin had fished it the previous day whilst I was on the Test and had struggled, although Geoff had taken a nice fish at just a tad under 2lbs.

The area we headed to was far more open to the elements and the wind was blowing a hooley.  Dark brooding skies suggested rain could come at any moment, almost without warning.  However lady luck was with us and although we had a very squally shower it only lasted around 10 minutes or so and then remained dry for the remainder of our visit.

The key for me was to find a swim where the wind was blowing (howling more like) down stream.  After a long walk I managed to locate a swim that looked fishable at least.  The wind was seriously strong and would make presentation very, very difficult.  I decided on a heavy float with a strung out shotting pattern.  I normally fish bulk shot but felt the presentation would improve with this alternative approach.

Hook bait was double maggot with a regular trickle thrown in with every cast.  The float buried almost immediately as it sailed down a lovely long glide close to the near side bank.  The fish felt heavy and I was confident it was a decent grayling.  I wasn’t disappointed.  At 2lb 5oz it was a lovely big, solid grayling.  Another small one followed almost straight away and a short time later another very good fish fought for freedom.  Luckily I seemed to be keeping most of the fish on the hook this time and a 2lb 9oz fish was the result.

2lb 9oz

2lb 9oz

The other two lads seemed to be struggling with I think one fish apiece and neither particularly big fish either.  Around lunchtime I decided to move.  I hadn’t had a bite for sometime and fancied trying elsewhere.  Kevin jumped into the swim to see if he could tempt something.  Later on he reported he’d just landed a 2lb 7oz fish, so maybe I should have stayed put.

2lb 5oz

2lb 5oz

I wandered upstream trying out spots on the way.  I spotted a couple of unusual old birds!!  Two Antipodean visitors; a pair of black swans.  I managed to get a few shots with the camera before spotting them again later in flight.  They have the most beautiful white wing feathers which are an incredible contrast to the rest of the bird.  Anyway I digress, the odd grayling and trout were tempted but all in all it was difficult.  By 3pm the skies were growing very dark with rain clouds and so we opted for an early finish.  I ended up with 7 grayling and 3 trout. which put me just ahead of Kevin.  Geoff had a tough day and then broke his centrepin!  Not the best day for him.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

These are no Galahs. Fair dinkum Bruce!

There is plenty of time left this season to get back here and hopefully bag a few more of these stunning fish before March.

2lb 7oz

2lb 7oz

Hardy Grayling


As those wonderful long summer evenings relentlessly draw in, winter arrives all too quickly.  However it’s not all doom and gloom.  With those dark, cold mornings when breath vaporizes in an instant, comes the grayling season.  Despite hating the cold I feel a certain tingling sensation at the thought of chasing those ladies of the stream.  Not sexual healing as Marvin would put it but rather a therapeutic endeavour that sends the pulse racing at the thought of a large grayling gracing the net.

A sign of things to come?

A sign of things to come?

The colours of a grayling’s fins and dorsal are quite exquisite, with hints of blue, magenta, red and other exotic hues.  They truly are a magnificent fish.  They are famed of course for the impressive sail like dorsal which they use to good effect in the fast flowing chalk streams of which they call home.

A decent grayling

A decent grayling

A big grayling can test the very best tackle in the pacey flows and often results in heart in the mouth action.  Sadly all too often, as you draw the fish to the net, a final head thrash will throw the hook and a monster grayling will sink back into it’s watery home.

I have traveled the length and breadth  of the country (well almost) in search of these jewels amongst freshwater fish.  The Shire’s have produced well, as have the valleys and mountain streams of Wales.  Now we have returned to the southern chalk streams in search of that elusive 3lb grayling.  In one or two rivers the grayling have prospered on the quality and biodiversity of their surroundings.   A chance of a 3lber is a real possibility and so over the coming winter months, Geoff, Kevin and I (aided and abetted on occasions by Danny) will be targeting these most magnificent of fish in some of the South’s most scenic and unspoilt countryside.

Our first opening gambit saw us tackle the river over a two day period.  First up was a stretch that has produced some seriously big grayling and has a reputation as being one of the prime beats on the river.  The levels have returned to normal after a great deal of rain over recent weeks, however the colour hasn’t quite dropped out and probably doesn’t over the winter months.  This is a fast, generally shallow river with lots of twists and turns.  This creates an abundance of fishable glides both deep and shallow and all over pristine gravel.  It’s simply mouthwatering.  Depths range from 18 inches to around 4 feet, with the odd 6 or 7 foot hole or short run.  Personally I don’t like the deeper areas and have rarely succeeded in these swims.  For me 2-4ft produce the best results.

We traveled light (well light for us) with a single rod, centrepin, net and an array of floats and odds and sods.  I still use my rucksack that I use for my barbel fishing, only because it can accommodate my flask, float tubes, towel, food and a camera.    I have just purchased a new trotting tool in the shape of a 15ft Matchpro Ultralight.  I have also just treated myself to a new Young’s Purist II but sadly that has yet to be put through its paces.  However the rod performed admirably and I’m delighted with it.

On the first day I chopped and changed baits and depths to try and tempt some fish.  However the fishing, for me at least, was slow.  I covered most of the upper two beats, giving each swim an hour or so to produce.  Bites were few and far between and perhaps the first of the heavy frosts had chilled the grayling’s appetite somewhat.   So I kept swapping baits with red worms, maggots and corn all getting a workout and altering the depth and speed of the float.  Anything was worth a try, just to entice a bite or two.

2 pints of maggots, sweetcorn, worms, spare hooks, shot and still room for more in the Lone Angler Bait Pouch.

2 pints of maggots, sweetcorn, worms, spare hooks, shot and still room for more in the Lone Angler Bait Pouch.

Eventually a few fish put in an appearance and I ended the day with 6 grayling to 1lb 4oz and 5 trout.  Like me Geoff also found it hard going, whilst Kevin had more success taking 12 grayling and I think 8 trout.  I’m not sure what the secret of his success was down to but he certainly finished well ahead of the field.  I don’t think any particularly big fished were landed but I lost around 12 fish with 3 being notably big.  However their identity remained anonymous as I never actually saw the culprits.  Sadly one fish in particular felt like a very big grayling indeed.

Later that night we were treated to a superb meal in the local pub and washed down with perhaps the finest real ale produced in England; Timothy Taylor Landlord!  Wow what a pint of ale that is, my absolute favorite.   Early the next morning we left the cottage and headed off to our final destination.  This section was around a mile long and again abounded with twists and turns and long gravel glides galore.

I achieved early success taking a couple of nice grayling and several big trout including a really big brownie of around 4lbs.  I enjoy searching a river and so spent the day swim jumping and trying to cover as much water as possible.  This helps to map the stretch and slowly build up a picture of the beat and gain some essential knowledge of depths and likely swims.  Grayling do tend to move around a lot, so a swim may produce well in the morning but nothing later on, or vice versa!  In fact a brilliant swim one day can be useless another.  I find it best to keep exploring and fish several swims in a day.  I think it’s worth persevering in a swim if you think it looks like it’s got potential, so give it an hour or so before moving on.

I kept a trickle of maggots going in on every cast and today maggots seemed to produce the most bites.  Worms and sweetcorn caught just a couple of fish.  By the end of the day I had landed 9 grayling to 1lb 7oz and 6 trout.  I lost around 4 or 5 grayling that I saw and a few that I didn’t.  Geoff was also struggling a bit but towards the end of the session he came up trumps with a new PB; a grayling of 2lb 5oz.  Meanwhile Kevin was yet again top rod, taking 13 grayling and a number of trout.  More significantly he manged fish of 1.12, 1.14, 1.14, 1.15 and a beauty of 2.4, five stunning fish.  He just seemed to have the knack over the last couple of days and put Geoff and I to shame.

Geoff's new PB 2lb 5oz

Geoff’s new PB 2lb 5oz

So our time here had come to an end.  It certainly showed promise and we are looking forward to many more trips here over the remainder of the season.

Kevin's 2lb 4oz Grayling

Kevin’s 2lb 4oz Grayling

Autumnal Pursuits Part 2


A two day trip to the Wye had been planned a month or two ago and I was due to take an old mate up for some autumnal barbel and chub fishing.  Sadly he had to cancel but I decided I’d go anyway, albeit alone.  The Wye really does look fabulous at this time of the year and this particular beat is spectacular anyway.  It’s also in the middle of nowhere and you can often feel like you the last man alive, such is the solitariness and remoteness of the stretch.  This of course makes it all the more special and when you’re taking in the beautiful scenery alone, it often seems more acute and one’s senses seem more attuned with nature.

The Wye

The Wye

I had decided to go back to some more simple fishing over the two days.  I’d stopped off at Woody’s and picked up some lob worms, maggots, groundbait and a few feeders.  The idea was to have a dabble with the float and therefore have an opportunity to test out the new reel; a Daiwa 125m with rear drag.  I was looking forward to this.  I’ve owned a few close faced reels but have never really taken to them.  I like to play fish off of a drag and I have found the ABU’s wanting in that department in all honesty.  I love a centrepin and if the fishing is close to you, they are superb.  However when casting a bit father I find a centrepin more restrictive.  So this should be fun to test out the reel.  I also intended to link leger with lob worms, hoping to tempt a few chub and maybe a perch or two.  With so many great spots to target on this stretch I was confident of a fish or two.

So I came armed with a float rod, a 12ft 1lb TC Avon and the usual barbel rods.  First up was the float rod.  Fishing the Ocean Pride squabs directly on a size 12 ‘the hook’ unusually didn’t produce a bite.  Unfortunately the wind had sprung up and was a very breezy downstream affair, which made presentation extremely difficult.  Normally this method scores exceptionally well here and big bags of good quality chub and barbel can be taken.  So a change of plan was in order.  Out came the Avon rod, close faced reel and a simple triple swan shot link leger, size 6 ‘the hook’ and a big, fat juicy lob worm.  The idea was to simply cast around the pools and runs, allowing the bait to bounce around with a small lift of the rod top.  I was hoping it would entice a big stripey but it seemed the barbel had other ideas!

The first three casts produced 3 lovely, golden barbel and oh boy did they fight!  On the light Avon rod and close faced reel the fish fought well but I was never under gunned I can assure you.  After that the chub put in an appearance.  I started to move around and I was picking up seriously good chub in pristine condition.  They were all 4lb plus fish and weighing a few put them close to 5lbs.  By the end of the day I’d taken 15 chub and 8 barbel.  As the afternoon wore on I decided a rest was needed and so swapped to the more familiar feeder tactics.  As always this season I opted for the Caviar Pellets and some of the LA groundbait.  They seem to be a pretty deadly combination and as ever produced the goods with 5 barbel to almost 9lbs being taken.

Cracking Wye Barbel

Cracking Wye Barbel

It had been a wonderful first day back on the Wye.  We’d had quite a bit of overnight rain on the Tuesday and maybe this had helped a little.  The nighttime temperature was up and the rain had maybe breathed some life back into the river.  The following day was another story though.  I was joined by Danny Collins and Pete Robinson for the day.  Having had such a productive day yesterday, I was hopeful they would have a  few fish.  Sadly the fish didn’t comply.  We tried a number of swims and numerous methods and baits.  I took a number of big chub to worm again, including three fish on the bounce going 4lb 10oz, 4lb 12oz and 5lb 1oz.  However there was no sign of any barbel.  However I did tempt a couple of nice perch with the biggest touching 1lb 8oz.  Meanwhile Danny and Pete were struggling.

5lb 1oz

5lb 1oz

They moved swims after lunch and feeder fished a deep run with lots of bankside cover opposite.  Eventually their perseverance paid off and they had a barbel each plus a chub or two.  I ended up with 5 good chub all on worms.  I’d had a lovely couple of days on this wonderful river and in all honesty its a privilege to be able to fish here in these amazing surroundings.  I think the two guys enjoyed the visit albeit in one of it’s less productive moods.  Still I’m sure we’ll be back at some point over the winter for the quality of the chub fishing if nothing else.

4lb 10oz

4lb 10oz

Autumnal Pursuits Part 1


Perhaps September is one of the greatest fishing months in the barbel angler’s calender.  It often produces bigger than average fish, as they start to pack on weight ready for winter.  Added to that are the array of colours on the trees that can make a beautiful place into a simply stunning, breathtaking place.  I don’t think there’s a better time to be on a river for the sheer, dare I say, cornucopia of colours of varying hues and shades.  You just can’t get bored of it.

I had arranged with Geoff to pop up to the Trent for a couple of days fishing.  We wanted to try a couple of day ticket venues, one of which has produced a number of very large barbel.  The first stretch is well known to us but the word on the fishy grapevine was that the fishing was very slow.  The Trent, like many other rivers, was suffering with low water levels and flow.  The river was as low as I’ve ever seen it, which didn’t bode well.

The Trent

The Trent

I headed upstream and found a suitable looking spot.  I like this area of the stretch as it’s a long walk from the car park and therefore lightly fished.  I’ve had some memorable captures here and it rarely fails to produce good numbers of fish along with the occasional double.  Nothing big mind you, they tend to be scrapper doubles to be fair.  I started off in one swim but after a few hours without so much as a twitch, I opted to move into another very productive spot.  I like to get some bait out, so two rods armed with big feeders are cast every few minutes to get some bait out into the swim.  I’ll keep that up for about an hour and then recast every 15-20 minutes, depending on the action.

Well as the light started to fade so the rod top started dancing and soon the rod top whooped over and a nice feisty Trent barbel fought for freedom.  This action continued and I ended up with a number of chub and barbel.  I think 5 barbel in all to nearly 9lbs.  Not a particularly productive session but good fun and perhaps not a bad result considering.  I tried a few baits but the Lone Angler Caviar Pellets seemed to be working the best.  They have proven to be a very effective bait this season taking a large quantity of barbel and chub.  I must say I’m very impressed with them.

Meanwhile Geoff fared slightly less well, although he still took a couple of barbel and a chub or two, plus a few bream I think.  The next day we decided to try a different stretch famed for it’s very large barbel with fish to well over 17lbs reported.  On arrival we chatted to a couple of local guys who had been struggling recently.  Again the low level and lack of rainfall seemed to be the cause.  Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing a couple of guys with swimming caps and goggles swimming up the river on the far bank.  I guess they were heading to the English Channel!!  Still that’s a new one on me.

It was pretty quiet when we arrived and the fishing was in the deep boat channel close in, just a couple of rod lengths out, which on the Trent makes a nice change.  Unfortunately as with all big fish venues, things started to change as the day wore on.  By late afternoon cars and vans started arriving and it felt like Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Big Horn.  We were slowly being surrounded on all sides by an army of barbel hunters and some didn’t seem to mind about fishing almost in our laps.  We were obviously in the popular swims.  One guy could have almost held hands with Geoff, had he been so inclined, as he was that close.  Geoff of course didn’t take too kindly to those intimidation tactics and simply cast right at the point the other guy was casting.  Eventually the bloke got fed up and moved blow me, luckily far enough away so as not to disturb my fishing.  Mind you not that it made any difference as I never had so much as a twitch.  With all of those anglers there, I think I heard of 1 bream being caught!

C’est La Vie!


What a fine fine figure of a man he cuts!!  Ignore the spelling mistake….it’s me really. :-)

Delighted to be on the front cover.  Thanks to Jez Brown for some superb photos.

 

Coarse Angling Today

Coarse Angling Today


Set in the heart of Kent’s garden of England lays many a Stately home and a castle or two.  I was invited to go and have a dabble at a castle fairly close to home; Chiddingstone Castle in fact.  I’ve never visited Chiddingstone Castle before, although I’ve cycled through the village and it’s a really beautiful English village.  If you do live in the area the village is well worth a look and the pub looks pretty fab too!

Chiddingstone Castle Lake

Chiddingstone Castle Lake

Within the grounds lies a stunning little estate lake.  In typical estate lake fashion there was an abundance of water lilies and the whole lake was lined with ancient oaks and an assortment of other towering trees of varying hues.  It really was beautiful and what a delightful spot to while away a few hours.  The castle looked splendid and offered an impressive backdrop to the lovely lake and grounds which are open to the public.  The lake is available on a day ticket at £10 which is for two rods, not that you’ll need two to be honest.

The Castle

The Castle

On arrival I found Buzz Peacock set up and fishing away.  He’d had a couple of perch and rudd.  I opted to try above him in a clear patch surrounded by lilies.  However on plumbing the depth I found only around 2 feet of water.  I decided to wander down the lake testing the depth as I went.  As I approached the lower end I found 5-6 feet of water and spotted several carp cruising around on the surface or just under it.

The lake holds wild carp, roach, rudd, perch and bream.  I believe it used to hold the British record bream at one time?  Anyway I decided to move down and Buzz joined me.  I baited up an area around 2 rod lengths out with Lone Angler’s groundbait with added maggots, casters and corn.  Soon fish were bubbling up in the swim and at one point there were so many bubbles bursting on the surface I was convinced  Jacques Cousteau was scuba diving in my swim!  I’d set up a simple waggler with a size 14 hook to nylon and fished 4lb mainline.  I had a selection of baits; sweetcorn, maggots, casters, bread and some hooker pellets.  The idea was to keep feeding all afternoon to hold the fish in the swim.  It worked a treat, there were fish constantly bubbling in the swim.

The fishing should have been quite hectic going by the activity in the swim, however I was distracted by the surface activity going on around me.  I’d thrown a few pieces of bread out and they were disappearing with a swirl and a gulp.  Each piece would be sucked in almost immediately by the carp.  I’ve fished for wild carp on an estate lake that a company I used to work for owned.  They had a couple of other smaller ponds as well as the main lake and they were all full of stunning wild carp.  The one bait that always sorted out the better specimens was a piece of floating crust or a large piece of floating flake.  I caught literally hundreds of long, lean and dark wildies up to 8lbs from these lakes.  An 8lb fish really is a tremendous specimen.  I was told it had produced a 10lb fish but I never saw one that big myself.

So I had to set up an Avon rod and a reel loaded with 4lb mainline straight through to a size 8 hook.  What a simple and exciting way to catch these beautiful fish.  A large piece of soft flake is folded over the hook, dunked in the lake and flicked out to where the fish are feeding.  In fact the fish seemed to be feeding everywhere by now.  It didn’t take long before a torpedo like wildie honed in on the bread and the line whizzed across the surface as the fish powered off with the bread.  A good solid strike and the reel’s clutch was screaming!  I like to keep the clutch on the loose side; mainly because these fish power off so hard and also if you are using a lighter setup it will prevent any unforeseen breakages.

 

So the action continued like this all afternoon until I packed up at around 6pm.  Throughout the day thunder and lightning storms had passed overhead.  The thunder reverberated around us and I saw one tremendous lightening bolt heading earth bound which really lit up the dark skies around us.  The rain was almost biblical at one point but then we were treated to a mixture of sunshine and clouds throughout the day.  We had a spell of heavy rain for around an hour mid afternoon but then it eased off and the sun came out and illuminated the lake in a splendour of colours.   What a place to spend an afternoon.

By the end of the day I’d taken at least a dozen wildies to close to 6lbs, roach, rudd and one nice bream.  I alternated between the float rod and the Avon but in all honesty couldn’t resist picking off the carp with the floating bread.  It’s such an exciting way to fish and just really good, simple fun.

A Stunning Wildie

A Stunning Wildie

Then came the highlight of the day; an incredible rumble of engines in the sky suggested something special was approaching and oh boy were we in for a treat.  A Spitfire appeared and the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were unmistakable.  However what followed was unprecedented in my lifetime anyway; not one but two Lancaster Bombers rumbled past followed by a Hurricane fighter.  I watched spellbound as they flew past and felt a surge of pride for those that served in them during the war.  I don’t celebrate war and what it costs but I do find it very humbling knowing that so many brave men and women fought selflessly for our freedom.  I knew an amazingly humble, gentle man who was a navigator during WWII and who flew well over 30 missions.  He was a DFC and a gentleman.  I just feel so indebted to these people.

The Lancasters

The Lancasters

What a great way to end a fabulous days fishing in such a beautiful, unspoilt spot.

 

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