Support two great charities by contributing towards the publishing of this excellent book.

Lifelines – an anthology of Angling Stories. Crowdfunder.co.uk

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives.  Loved ones have passed away, others lost their jobs and many have suffered physical and/or mental hardships.

We really wanted something positive to come from these dark days. To somehow make a difference.  Both Rod and I are passionate, lifelong anglers and we had the seed of an idea to produce an angling book; something that would afford a glimmer of light during these dark days.

Not the normal run of the mill “how to catch” or “look at what I’ve caught” style of fishing book.  We envisaged a collection of short stories, all based around angling but more as a theme rather than the sole purpose.

This book is an anthology of musings, reflections, adventures, humorous capers and fictional indulgencies.  We have called the book ‘Lifelines’ because it so aptly describes what angling has been for so many people and how we as anglers can offer a lifeline to those less fortunate.  

Some of the stories contained in this book highlight how deeply angling has acted as a spiritual and healing catalyst for many.  Both mental and physical scars can and have been alleviated by the pursuit of angling and it has offered so many people a road back to a much better and happier place. 

Our line up of authors includes titans of the angling world as well as internationally renowned authors, presenters, entertainers, journalists, film makers, professionals and of course regular, everyday people.  What connects them all is a strong bond; a lifelong passion for angling:

Paul Whitehouse

Luke Jennings 

Chris Yates

Hugh Miles

Charles Rangeley-Wilson

Dr Andy Orme

Martin James MBE

Dave Steuart

Chris Ball

Lisa Wilson

Martin Salter

Magnus Irvin

Terry Theobald

Dom Garnett

Stewart Allum

Peter Cockwill

Richard Baker

Lars Christensen

David Kiely

Russ Smith

Clem Booth

Vic Gent

Geoff Maynard

Nicolas Walmsley

Jay Roberts

Rod Sturdy

Nathan Walter

Fennel Hudson

The forward has been compiled by our good friend John Bailey.  As an internationally acclaimed author, journalist, presenter and broadcaster, no one could have written a more fitting forward than John.  His words really set the scene from the word go.  He is a craftsman and wordsmith and one of the finest anglers to have lived.

The book includes a very candid and humorous piece from Lisa Wilson, daughter of the UK’s best known and much loved angling presenter; the late Mr John Wilson MBE.  Although the angling world is a much poorer place with John’s passing, his memory is kept alive by his daughter Lisa, who now heads the John Wilson Fishing Enterprise.  A fitting tribute to the great man.

The book will be published by the family run Stockwell Publishers, based in Devon.  They have been producing quality books since 1898.  The book will be available in either paperback or hardback editions.

In all there are 27 stories and one poem, accompanied by some wonderful hand drawn illustrations.  We are extremely fortunate to have some very talented and gifted people producing artwork for us;

Chris Turnbull

David Miller

James Hague

Pete Wilson

Josh Fisher

Graham Tibbs

Stuart Allum

All Proceeds from this book will go to charity.  The money will be split 50/50 between The John Wilson Fishing Enterprise and The Royal Marsden Covid-19 Appeal.  Both of these charities are very special.  

The aim of the John Wilson Fishing Enterprise is to promote mental health as a key objective, particularly for children and adults who fall under the social care umbrella. Its emphasis is to provide fishing opportunities and the chance to connect with the outdoors and provide therapy through the art of fishing.  The fishery is located within a nature reserve and this opens up the opportunity of combining fishing with nature walks, as the two are so intrinsically linked in our opinion.

Lisa Wilson, who is a Level 2 Professional Social Worker told us “attendees are monitored by qualified social workers who are on hand to cover the usual processes and to conduct observational assessments”.   

We probably all know someone who has been affected by cancer and The Royal Marsden Cancer Hospitals have done so much for kids with cancer as well as adult patients alike. The General Fund has been set up to help support cancer research, staff, both Royal Marsden Hospitals and cancer patients through these uncertain and difficult times. Having seen them in action when my nephew Conor was treated, they were just amazing.  They are truly wonderful people.  I need say no more. 

Both Rod and I feel incredibly privileged to have accumulated such a wonderful, talented group of writers and illustrators to make this project possible.  We cannot thank them enough.  

Now we need YOUR help.  Everyday anglers, friends and colleagues that can make a difference and enable this project to realise its full potential. 

Please try and help us fund the printing of this book.  Anything you can give will help.  Those that can donate £100 will receive a complimentary copy of the book and will also be acknowledged as generous benefactors within the book’s credits.

There will be unpaid, independently appointed accountants to inspect all transactions and audit the books, so that you can be safe in the knowledge that every possible penny will go to our two worthwhile charities, minus only printing related costs and of course fees to Crowdfunder.

Thank you for your support.

Nathan Walter

Rod Sturdy

Lifelines – an Anthology of Angling Stories. – Crowdfunder.co.uk

Ruddy Marvellous!

  Thirty five years ago I committed my most heinous of angling crimes.  It was a beautiful simmer’s day on a Kent gravel pit.  I spent many hours here as a teenager chasing the beautiful, natural carp.  The fish were not big by modern standards; up to low twenties.  Here, I whiled away many happy hours with my good mates, Mick Hollands the local angling legend and great friend,  Trevor and his brother Andy, Jules, Dave Kiely, Storm-Rod Steve and my very good friend Gerrard Weller who was sadly killed in his early twenties and many more besides. Still I digress….. As the sun beat down, the rays of sunlight dappled the surface of the small pit and the carp could be seen lazily cruising.  Their backs gently breaking the surface film and every now and again a small boil on the water indicated a feeding fish. I set-up a rig; a small surface float and a long mono hook link with a pop-up boilie.  Out went the rig and I pulled it into position, hopefully to intercept one of those big torpedo’s that were slowly moving between the huge sets of Lillie pads. Unbeknownst to me the lake also contained some hefty rudd.  As the pop-up vanished with a gentle gulp the strike met with something less powerful than I expected.  The carp that was honing in on my bait suddenly swirled and headed off back to the sanctuary of the pads and the culprit that had stolen it’s food was soon netted. In the net lay the most beautiful creature I had ever seen; a burnish bronzed behemoth of a rudd.  I was gobsmacked.  Two young lads were standing behind me and looked in amazement at this most wonderous of fish.  The excitement in their cries of wonder encapsulated the moment. However in a flash of madness, maybe a brief flurry of youthful machismo, I decried the capture as nothing but a nuisance fish and slipped the rudd back without weighing it or capturing this special moment on camera.  A most heinous crime indeed and it would take many, many years to undo this blunder! From that day on I promised myself to enjoy unintended captures and treat them with the respect they deserved and justly so. Thirty five years later the opportunity presented itself to finally have a go for some big rudd.  I felt we had left it too late, as we often do chasing big fish opportunities.  We had been given some information early in the summer, where big rudd had been caught and not followed up on this prime tip off.  Now, as we fast approached October we had a day spare and all of the facts we needed to head to the venue.  Although it was due to be a bright and warm day, the wind looked like it would be a huge problem; gusting to 20mph.  This can make float fishing difficult and also fish observation awkward due to the chop on the water surface.  Anyway Geoff convinced me, against my better judgement, it would be a worthwhile exercise to at least explore the venue for future opportunities. P1010029.JPG We arrived around midday and proceeded to explore the stretch.  We spotted some small fish early on but nothing of any real size.  We walked some distance down one side and then decided to walk all the way back to where we had started and cross over to the other bank, as access looked a little easier.  We were armed with a loaf of bread and flicked in the occasional flake in likely looking spots.  Geoff, who was suffering with severe back pain, had decided enough walking was enough. I vowed to carry on and explore a bit more. I felt it was imperative to spot the fish first, rather than fish blindly.  Just as Geoff turned to head back to the car, I spotted two enormous rudd.  They saw me and turned broadside in the water and vanished into the depths.  One looked truly huge.  However we then spotted a big shoal of decent rudd and a few flakes of bread were tossed in, to see if they would take them.  They did.  We shot back to the car to grab the gear.  We knew that at least we had a chance now we had found a few fish. P1010027.JPG My plan of action was to set up a 14ft float rod, a waggler fixed top and bottom river float style and a 10 hook.  I intended to fish flake on the surface or to let it slowly sink a couple of feet down.  I found a shoal of rudd and they all looked decent; maybe 1.8lbs or so.  Access was difficult due to the density and size of the reeds however I managed to find a spot where I could get to the shoal.  The float went out and within a few seconds a rudd gulped the bait down.  The fish came off quite quickly and the same thing happened on the next fish. IMG_3156 The bread flake was attached to the 10 hook a bit more carefully, the line kept tight to the float and this time the strike was solid and the fish was hooked properly.  It was almost impossible to get the net to the fish but with Geoff’s help we hoisted out the first of the day.  It was a plump, broad backed golden marvel.  It looked huge now it was out of the water, much bigger than it had looked in.  The scales read 2.2lbs….success and so early on. It was a magnificent creature and with hands shaking I returned it to the water. I kept stalking the banks and trying to find the fish.  I saw some truly huge specimens and we soon realised that the shoal of rudd that we estimated to be 1.25 to 1.5lbs were in fact all 2+, so God knows what the couple of big fish I saw would have weighed! I continued with the same tactics throughout the day and managed to land 3 more specimens at 2lb 1oz, 2lb 5oz and my last and biggest rudd at 2lb 6oz.  After that the fish were hard to spot due to the light conditions and the wind.  Geoff hadn’t managed to catch but we had found a shoal of fish and after a few set up adjustments, he finally hooked but promptly lost a fish.  However at least he knew they were there and perseverance finally paid off with a stunner going 2lb 5oz. A__CC1B The trip had been well worth the drive and effort.  Well done Geoff for sticking to the plan.  At last a wrong of 35 years had been put right and in some style to.  I’m sure we will be back for another go this season but if not next summer will present an exciting opportunity to hunt these fine rudd again and who knows maybe that elusive 3 pounder may fall to our bait!

via Environment Agency confirms another rule change for Cuadrilla’s fracking site

The Sunday Express

The petition to stop habitat destruction on our waterways made the Nationals today:

Support the petition and help save our rivers:






Many of you will not be aware that the destructive removal of UK riverbank and canal trees, shrubs and other vegetation, and ‘in-river’ flora/weed growth is unlicensed and neither is it governed by any laws in most cases.  Only in instances where the River, Canal or adjoining Land is listed as an SSSI protected area or where there are preservation orders on certain trees, does permission need to be sought and granted to destroy and remove this vegetation.  This action always results in established habitat destruction of the essential cover, sanctuary and natural homes of resident birds, bats, fish, insects, amphibians and all wildlife.

This means that Landowners, the Environment Agency, Natural England, Canal and River Trusts, Councils, etc. can remove anything that they deem necessary, unhindered by regulations and without fear of scrutiny and prosecution.  They can and will decimate entire lengths or riverbanks and streams and remove as much in-river established habitat as they wish, without accountability. They do this in the name of flood defence and maintenance or projects.  They do not need to consult anyone; neither do they need to seek permission, except in certain cases. Much of this destructive work is funded by public money in the form of grants from Natural England, the Environment Agency, private initiatives and the EU.

Modern flood defence management (and I use the term ‘management’ loosely and with a certain amount of contempt) has been the most destructive concept to hit our rivers in my lifetime.  It has zero consideration for fish and wildlife, either in or out of the river.  It has intrinsically altered our rivers and canals, primarily to further farmer’s profits and protect farmers profiteering interests and in some cases to protect housing built on natural floodplains and natural water meadows where the excess river and rainwater should naturally be stored.  However, farmland is, without doubt, the major reason for this modern take on flood management lobbied for by the National Farmers Union (NFU).  Of course, building houses on natural floodplains doesn’t help either! The destructive work on many rivers has been so severe and the natural watercourse altered so irrevocably that the damage inflicted to the riverine ecosystem is nigh on irreparable.  Yet despite this, the Environment Agency and their partners, Natural England, private landowners, Canal and River Trusts (formerly British Waterways) Councils etc. continue to destroy our waterway habitat, week in week out, directly or indirectly.

As well as the bankside Tree and Vegetation habitat destruction, the other damaging practices are Dredging; where the guts are ripped out of the river and marginal vegetation is utterly decimated causing, bank collapse, further siltation and erosion. Established lifeforms, like macroinvertebrates (insect food for fish and every living creature along the riverine and land food chain), are simply obliterated and destroyed in this ill-conceived destructive process.  Established fish spawning grounds are trashed without thought, highly beneficial life-giving ‘protected’ Ranunculus weed growth and other species are cut and removed, plus numerous other critical cover and sanctuary features, are simply ripped out of the river.

Canalisation; the art of reducing a beautiful, meandering wild river into something reminiscent of a canal or spate river; no bends, no features, and the bankside vegetation kept to a minimum or none at all.  There are two main reasons for this kind of butchery; firstly to allow boat access from canals into the river itself.  This pollutes the naturally clearer river waters which become full of dirty, toxic contaminated silt and diesel laden turbid water.  The water clarity is lost, the weed growth dies off and so, in the end, do the fish and macroinvertebrates that used to thrive in those once crystal clear and much higher quality waters.  The loss of vital spawning grounds, along with flora and fauna mean that fish, bird and wildlife populations simply decline and become fewer and fewer. Obviously, this has a knock-on effect on the whole ecosystem and food chain, which is critical to the survival of all living creatures.

The other main reason behind the river destruction is so that in flood conditions, the river water can be rushed downstream and out to sea as quickly as possible, unhindered by overhanging trees and bushes or natural meandering river features like bends. This prevents farmland set on natural floodplains from flooding, despite it being a natural outcome.

The result is often catastrophic; fish fry, spawn, invertebrates and other wildlife are simply killed and swept away. Any natural river feature, that would have offered a refuge and sanctuary in these adverse conditions, has been eradicated by the Environment Agency ‘flood defence’ teams and their partners.  Despite the running off of excess river and rainwater ASAP, this being the ill-conceived EA’s standard flood prevention procedure, it leads to even more severe flooding downstream of towns and cities. There are countless examples of this over the years and yet the obvious reasons as to why this happens are still ignored by the Environment Agency.

Our rivers have never been under such threat.  We must fight to protect the riverine habitats that our fish, birds, wildfowl and all wildlife depend on for survival.

The highly protected otter, bats, water voles, kingfishers, herons and a plethora of protected bird life, animals and invertebrates, are all put at risk by the removal of bank-side trees, shrubs and in-river flora and fauna.

Fish are under tremendous pressure from predation and this form of essential habitat is critical for their survival too.  Tree roots and overhanging and fallen trees offer sanctuary for the fish, where they can seek cover and evade capture from predators. Fish also use these structures and weed growth for spawning and we are seeing declining fish stocks due to this loss of essential habitat.

In-river tree debris, trailing branches and tree roots are often packed with life.  All sorts of insects including mayflies, damselflies and dragonflies use these for laying eggs and reproducing future generations naturally, as do the fish. To ensure we have a balanced ecosystem we must stop removing these vital survival resources from our rivers. Remove just one critical element beyond a sustainable level and the whole pyramid collapses. As a nature lover, I want to see all life thrive, both in and out of the water.

As an angler, I have an affinity with the fish as they are often forgotten in the great scheme of things, particularly when it comes to the more glamorous wildlife that most non-anglers love to see.  Fish are not fluffy, cute or cuddly creatures and it’s difficult to look at them with any great fondness unless you are an angler. However, the fish are key to the survival of the other wildlife and we have seen a huge decline in fish populations in our rivers over the last 20-30+ years. The only reason that some indigenous UK fish species are still present in our rivers today, is because of the Environment Agencies artificial captive breeding and continuous re-stocking of our rivers and streams, which simply masks the bigger issue of why these stocks are declining.

The EA and other Government financed departments will be only too happy to dispute this statement, arguing our rivers have never been so healthy; however, the reality is the UK has failed miserably to meet the EU’s Water Framework Directive and has been challenged successfully in court by the Angling Trust and the WWF. Let us hope that this pressure on our Government continues and that more battles are won to protect our rivers, trees and all fish and wildlife.

For all of these species to thrive in harmony together, we must ensure that their environment and habitat is highly protected.  This is why I have created this petition.  We must prohibit and stamp out this kind of destructive work, no matter the reason, to protect the rivers in England and ensure our rivers can support the fish and wildlife that we all want to see.

Anyway, back to the point in hand; Riverbank Tree and Shrub removal plus in-river debris. This work must be fully licensed and valid reasoning given for the action to destroy and remove. Full and proper ‘independent’ ‘Environmental Impact Assessments’ carried out ‘beforehand’ and ‘after’ in all cases before any legal permission is granted or denied.  The EA already produces a ‘Best Practices’ leaflet to try and stop the mass destruction of habitat.  Yet despite this acknowledgment that works carried out can frequently be excessive and damaging, there are still no laws to try and prevent it from happening.  There are also numerous instances where the EA fisheries department has helped to create and enhance riverbank trees and shrub growth, only for their own flood defence team to come along at a later date and take it all out!

I hope that you can give this petition your full support and act to save our rivers, birds, bats, fish, insects and all our wildlife. If you love wildlife, love walking along beautiful unspoiled rivers, watching countless birds and wildlife thrive in and around this watery environment, then you need to support this petition.  We must put an end to this wanton destruction of such nationally important habitat.



Angling for Health?

Most non-anglers have a perception of fishing as a sedentary sport, where fisherfolk sit motionless for endless hours, staring at a float or a rod tip.  Is this a realistic view of the UK’s biggest participant sport?


Well as an angler, I would, of course, dispute this belief.  There are branches of our beloved sport, or pastime if you will, that do fit this image of a non-physical activity. However, there are other fishing pursuits that fully embrace the physical side, generally associated with the term ‘sport’.


I can only speak of my own passion for angling and what it gives to me.  I’m lucky to be in a position that allows me the opportunity to pursue my chosen pastime pretty much wherever and whenever I want.  I travel throughout England and Wales in pursuit of my chosen quarry and I’m very lucky to have some like-minded friends to share those experiences with.  That’s a big thing for me and my fishing; good friendship.  To socialise and share experiences with good friends, or like-minded people, goes a long way to ensure that our wellbeing is being catered for.

The greatest pleasure derived from my angling experiences is being out in the great British countryside, breathing in fresh air and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.  Whether it’s summer, autumn, winter or spring, each season brings a change in the flora of our surroundings.  The changes in lushness and colour. Changes in the luxuriant growth of summer to the crisp, frosty mornings of winter, where the ice sparkles in the sunlight.  Being outside offers a chance to escape the mundane, day to day chores that life throws at us.

I particularly enjoy river fishing.  I love the wildness of a river.  It’s unmanicured banks, thick foliage and unpredictable nature.  The sounds of flowing water are enchanting.  It’s therapeutic and almost spiritual.  It offers an escape, a cure, a tonic perhaps, from the day to day harsh realities of everyday life.  Walking mile upon mile in search of the right swim, the right spot, with the right flow, whilst carrying a backpack, rod, chair, net and a plethora of barely-used tackle, can only help to keep one fit and healthy.

Summer and winter can see me in chest waders working a float through numerous swims, testing the flow and depths and searching out the fish.  It’s an active method and a day stood in the river can leave the body aching and tired but with a feeling of being alive and being almost part of the river itself.

Even fishing with a static bait can involve covering much distance.  I’ll still wander the stretch of river, trying likely looking spots and if nothing materialises, I’ll move on again until I find the right one.  This way many miles can be covered as I wander up and down stretches, dropping into likely swims before moving to the next.  Sometimes I’ll tuck myself away amongst the bankside vegetation and sit quietly watching the world go by.  It’s at these quiet times that nature simply comes to you.

I’ve been very lucky to see otters frolicking in the river just feet from me, the flash of the iridescent blue kingfisher as it hurtles past, or sits perched on a branch waiting to dive into the clear waters.  I’ve even had kingfishers land on my fishing rod as I’ve watched quietly, in awe.  I’ve been within a few feet of barn owls, fallow, roe and muntjac deer.  I’ve watched enthralled at the antics of stoats and weasels as they tumble and frolic together in a frenzied dance.  I’ve seen mighty red kites swoop down at prey within spitting distance of me and buzzards, peregrines, harriers and kestrels.  I’ve heard the captivating sounds of ravens as they have made their deep, gurgling croak hidden in the trees.  I’ve watched birds of prey circling high above, riding the thermals and listened to those haunting cries echoing through the skies.

Fishing offers escapism, breathtaking scenery, nature and wildlife, exercise and a feeling of wellbeing, that only the countryside and maybe the concentration of fishing can offer.  I have yet to mention the fishing itself….well perhaps that’s for another time.  However, needless to say, it’s the instinct buried deep within us; to hunt.  To track down and tempt our chosen quarry.  For me, the greatest sight of all is seeing that fish, that we’ve worked so hard at to catch, swim strongly away and back into the flowing waters, where it may never see a hook again.  There is a beauty in each fish and each species of fish that is hard to define but any angler would smile at the mere description of a magnificent roach, chub, grayling or barbel.

After a day on the river, I feel healthier, more alive and more enriched than I can describe.  If that’s not good for the body and mind, then I don’t know what is!

For further information on promoting positive health and well being please visit: https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/



Hurricanes and Barbel

As Hurricane Ophelia slammed into the shores of Ireland on Monday, Geoff and I headed to Robin Hood country to try and locate some late Autumn barbel.  We targeted a couple of Worksop stretches and another club water.

The forecast was pretty good prior to leaving but the imminent landfall of Hurricane Ophelia meant that the forecasters didn’t really know quite what to expect.  As we arrived at our first port of call, we were greeted by a dark and brooding sky.  It had an almost surreal look to it; ash coloured but not really cloudy.  It looked almost like a vast dust cloud.  Peeping through this gloom was a blood-red sun, almost malevolent in its appearance.  Was this the end of the world?  Only time would tell.  As we set up the rods, the winds gained in strength and gusted to over 50mph.  Although there appeared to be little threat of rain, the wind was causing more than enough problems.  Huge waves lashed at the banks and the rod tops bounced around in the gale like conditions.

It was a chilly day until at last, the winds pushed away the dark dust and the sun broke through, gently warming the air.  Apparently, the dust was, in fact, Saharan sand and was further flamed by the smoke of the Portuguese forest fires. Armageddon would have to wait it seemed.

We fished a very deep bend, possibly 12ft deep.  The river bed was clear gravel and promised much. For the first 90 minutes, I kept casting every 5 or 6 minutes to get some bait out. A 4oz feeder was ample to hold bottom and a 3-4ft hook-link with double 12mm caviar pellets finished off the set-up.  Sadly nothing materialised that day, not even a twitch on the rod top and as the wind had battered us throughout the day, we decided to call it an early night and headed off to the hotel for some dinner. Steak and chips soon improved the mood, along with a pint of Kronenberg!  The wind, it seemed, hadn’t quite died down and had somehow moved indoors!  However, it turned out to be Geoff!  He had obviously eaten something which was reacting in an unsociable sort of way with the environment (and me).  The next day he was long trotting, to coin a fishing analogy!  Luckily it soon passed and he was back fighting fit.

The next two days proved fruitful, for me at least.  I managed to bank 12 barbel to a new Trent PB of 11lb 10oz and around 8 or 9 chub to probably 4lb+.  I also had another double of 10lb 3oz and several 9s to 9lb 11oz.  All in all, not a bad few days.  The fish were taken on fairly standard feeder tactics; long hooklinks and double 12mm caviar pellets.  The barbel fought like stink. Some of the hardest fights I can remember ever having.  I lost another good double right at the net, as it powered away for one last dive and the hook pulled, despite a well-set clutch.  Gutted!

11lb 10oz

Geoff didn’t fare so well but still managed barbel to over 9lbs and some chub and bream.  We seemed to have struggled recently on the Trent and we’re not quite sure why.  Perhaps maggots may have been more successful in the clear water conditions?

We have done a number of trips up to the Wye this year and found that sport was also slow there, generally speaking.  I think between Geoff, Kevin and myself we have had the odd good day, taking upwards of a dozen barbel to one angler.  However more often than not we’ve been scratching around for 2 or 3 fish.  This is rather unusual for the Wye, to say the least!  Again it could be the conditions; apparently, the Wye has had the lowest oxygen levels for the past 70 years.  I don’t know how true that is but it obviously would have a severely detrimental effect on the fishing.  The other reason being a lack of ability!

A recent Wye fish

With the winter fast approaching the barbel rods will be hung up for the remainder of the season.  There may be an occasional barbel session if the weather proves to be mild enough.  Now I’m looking forward to some grayling fishing on the Frome and some chub and roach fishing on the Avon.

The Avon





Early Spring Gold

March 15th…..A sad day for any river angler, as the 15th signals the end of the river season and the start of the closed season on flowing water.  I enjoy the break and I’m sure it does the rivers and foliage good.  That’s not to say I entirely agree with it but that’s another story.

So with the 3 month break now firmly in place, the weather has turned into glorious sunshine with warm days and nights.  With thermometers peaking at around 17 or 18c, it really is a sign that winter is over and that summer is just around the corner.  Let’s hope that’s not too premature and winter doesn’t make an untimely comeback!

As the weather was so delightful and work had stopped me from getting back onto a river in the last couple of weeks, I wanted to get bankside somewhere.  I decided to head to Bury Hill and my thinking was that with such mild conditions of late, both during the day and at night, the crucians might be active.  I enjoy a few sessions at Milton Lake, although I prefer it when the bankside vegetation has emerged a bit more and the reeds and lily pads are mature.  I would think another month of this weather and most lakes will look completely different.  The trees, hedgerows and water plants will be in full bloom and growing like mad.  It transforms that rather grey, drab look of winter into a spectacular mix of colours that makes spring and summer in England so special.

I was armed with several baits at my disposal.  Maggots, casters, luncheon meat (small cubes) and hooker pellets would be my choice of hook baits and I had some of my trusty Lone Angler Ocean Pride groundbait to get the fish rooting about in the silt.  I tend to add in a good mix of my hookbaits to the groundbait and keep a steady trickle going in all day, particularly in these warmer conditions.  Tackle was pretty standard stuff; 14ft float rod, fixed spool reel loaded with 4lb line, a small insert waggler and a 16 hook to 3.6lb hooklink.  I could use all of my baits on that one size of hook and the tackle was sturdy enough to deal with just about any size fish that came along, even the odd rogue carp, if one materialised.   As always, it is essential to plumb the depth and make sure, as near as possible, that the bait is just resting on the bottom.  Crucian’s are the trickiest of biters, at times frustrating and infuriating and can lead to serious bouts of tourettes!!

Today was no exception!  Some bites were barely discernible. The merest twitch or dip.  They were so cautious and so tentative you could easily pass it off as a fish brushing against the line.  However a few strikes met with resistance, as a crucian put up a very spirited fight.  Often though they signaled either a missed bite or a bumped off fish.  I lost around 10 crucians and missed probably 30 bites.  I started off with maggots and they produced an almost instant bite.  The result was a beautiful golden crucian of around 1.25lbs.  After that I couldn’t buy a bite on maggots.  I switched to caster; nothing.  I switched to small cubes of luncheon meat…nothing.  Small green hooker pellets….nothing.  Small 6mm white hooker pellets…..bite!  It was these small white hookers that they seemed to want and I managed to tempt 11 more crucians before it went dead, around 3pm.

It’s strange how they just seem to want one bait and will ignore all else that’s presented to them.  I decided to try the 6mm green ones after a long hiatus and this produced the odd fish, a few bumped off and a number of missed bites.  I had hoped that as the day wore on and the light faded, the roach or even crucians, might switch on.  Sadly they didn’t.  I ended up with 15 crucians or brown goldfish.  Yes all that glitters is not gold.  A number of my crucians appeared to be hybrids or brown goldfish.  There were no big fish, so it really didn’t matter what they were and it was fun to catch them.  Had they have been 3lb or even 4lb+ then that would have been a different matter all together.  There are many a big ‘crucian’ that turn out to be something very different.

Still, I had a pretty good day in glorious sunshine and even got a touch of sunburn!  Not bad for March.  I’m sure I’ll be back again soon and hopefully I’ll track down some of those elusive big roach that reside in Milton.

Hampshire’s Finest

The title is certainly not a description of me or any other angler, but the fast flowing rivers that make Hampshire such an iconic destination for any river angling enthusiast.

Day 1 saw me treading those hallowed banks of perhaps Hampshire’s most famous of rivers; the Avon.  The Avon cuts it’s way through Wiltshire and Hampshire before entering the sea at Christchurch, which is now part of Dorset.  At times the river meanders it’s way through open fields, with barely a tree in sight and in other parts it cuts through heavily tree lined banks where thick foliage offers the angler some much needed cover.  Much of the Avon where I fish is lined with dense reeds or rushes.  They stand tall and shield the angler from the quarry.  They also offer plenty of cover for the fish, with deep undercuts to provide sanctuary to chub and barbel.

The Avon

The Avon

Today I was primarily after chub.  This area holds chub to over 7lbs, although they are a rare beast indeed.  Of course the Avon is also famed for it’s roach, however some much needed reconnaissance is required before I target these most beautiful of fish.  A great deal of my time will be spent fish spotting throughout the spring and summer months.  The river will be gin clear by then and the ability to see the fish will allow me to start to log where roach are and where they might be come the winter months.  Hemp and tares will be used during those warm days, so hopefully a roach or two will succumb to my float tactics during the summer.  Hopefully come next Autumn I will have built up a much better picture of fish holding areas and give me a much increased chance of some big roach.

However today, as I said, I was after some chub.  Tactics were very simple.  A 12 foot Avon quiver tip rod (3oz glass tip), fixed spool with 6lb mainline, size 6 hook and a cage feeder.  The only bait used was breadflake, which is simply a deadly bait for chub.  Of course it’s also a deadly bait for roach too and I’ve even caught a few barbel on bread, so anything could turn up.  The hooklength was around 3 feet.  I use liquidised bread in the feeder and a pinch a flake on the hook.  It makes for a cheap days bait at around £3.00, which makes a pleasant change.  Maggots in Kent are now around £3.50 a pint and casters £3.90, so a few pints is the best part of a tenner these days.

My plan was to fish a swim for an hour and move on.  The only downside was the forecast.  Originally it had been really good for today, however the day previously it had changed to 2-3 hours of heavy rain.  This meant I was taking my umbrella and a few extra items of clothing.  I find fishing in heavy rain rather tiresome and I therefore fish less effectively.  Today I was fortunate to be fishing with good mate Jez Brown and he even treated me to breakfast, what a good chap he is!  So the plan was to leap frog swims downstream looking for good chub swims.

The Hampshire Avon

The Hampshire Avon

Jez was into a fish almost instantly, a nice fish of a few pounds.  Soon after I was netting a nice chub too.  I had found a lovely swim just below some sunken bushes, with tall rushes lining the bank.  A few yards downstream were a number of partially sunken trees and it just screamed chub.  The depth was good at around 4ft.  Soon after the first, the tip tapped for a second time and arched round. The result was a slightly better chub nudging 4lbs.  They were in immaculate condition and fought quite hard.  Sadly the rain had started by now and was pretty heavy.  I headed back to the car to put my thermal waders on to keep warmer and drier.  We lost around 2 hours fishing.

Avon Chub

Avon Chub

I worked my way downstream, although nowhere near as far as I’d hoped.  I simply had too much gear to carry for traveling any great distance.  Despite this I did fish around 4 or 5 swims.  They all looked superb and I ended the day with 5 chub to around 4lbs and a couple of trout.  I missed two absolutely unmissable bites too! Jez had headed off early and so I packed up around 5.30.  I would have liked to have stayed a bit longer but I was off to the Itchen the following morning and had the long drive back to Kent to contend with in the meantime.

The following day saw me on the lower Itchen Fishery with Peter Bentley, a fly fishing friend who came with me last year to trot the Itchen for grayling.  That was his first foray into float fishing and grayling fishing and he managed to catch a few fish.  This time I thought the LIF gave us a bit more water to tackle and hopefully a few more fish.  We didn’t arrive at the river until almost 11.30am and we were looking to pack up around 4.30, so we had around 5 hours to get stuck in.

We were soon tackled up and ready to rock and roll.  The tackle today were 2 14ft float rods, centrepins loaded with 3lb line and either a 2g Avon float or chubber.  Bait was sweetcorn and maggots.  I always look for some smooth water, regardless of depth.  We were soon running floats through swims and the fish were biting.  Peter was in first and landed a spirited little grayling.  Others followed.  We stopped around 2.30 for coffee and a sandwich before exploring a bit more water downstream.

The Lower Itchen Fishery

The Lower Itchen Fishery

Most swims produced a few fish and I think between us we ended up with probably 20 grayling and a dozen trout.  As always, almost as many were lost as we caught, but that’s often the way with grayling.  On our way out of the fishery I bumped into Danny who had caught a nice barbel from the bottom end.  It wasn’t a monster but more than welcome.


Dorset Dazzlers

I’m not sure if the ‘dazzlers’ are the Dorset grayling or Geoff, Kevin and myself, although I think I know the answer!

A three day trip to the Dorset Frome had been planned and the forecast a day or two before indicated pretty favorable weather conditions, however it turned out to be tougher than expected. So the three Musketeers headed off in search of those legendary Frome monsters.  As usual we stayed with John Aplin at the Dairy House.  He looks after us really well and having the annexe gives us plenty of room.  There’s even a tackle shed where you can store your wet gear if needs be.

The sitting room has a lovely open fire

The sitting room has a lovely open fire

The first day of our adventure saw light winds and a reasonably overcast day.  The temperature was mild and conditions seemed ideal.  The river is still a little low and could probably do with a good flush through.  That should clear some of the remaining weed and push the levels up a little for the winter.

I opted to fish several swims, rotating them frequently throughout the day.  First up was a nice bend ending with a shallow riffle.  The depth was around 3 feet and all gravel.  There appeared to be very little weed here.  A few trots through determined the depth and I opted for a 2g wire stemmed Avon.  They have a nice bulbous tip which can still be seen clearly at 20-30 yards. I decided to fish the shot in groups of 2 spaced out up the line with a No 6 dropper shot 6-8 inches from the hook.  The hook was a size 14 Kamasan B983 and is a great grayling hook.  Bait was a mixture of bronze and red maggots with sweetcorn as a backup.

After a few trots through the float buried and a nice pound grayling came to the net.  A few more followed but nothing big.  I went for a recce upstream and soon found a swim I really fancied trying.  I would have to wade to be able to fish it due to the towering waterside reeds here.  I managed to slip into the water and was wading in around 2 1/2 feet.  I was trotting down the reeds in maybe 3 feet of water.  The float soon buried and a really good fight ensued.  The fish was twisting and turning and the gun metal grey flank indicated it was a grayling.  After a couple more sightings of the fish during the fight I could see it was a reasonable fish.  After a few heart stopping moments I eventually landed my prize. It was a lovely 2lb 2oz fish.  Another smaller fish followed and then after a short rest I landed another fine grayling of 2lb 4oz.  The swim died after that and by now the wind had really picked up and made fishing here very difficult.

2lb 2oz

2lb 2oz

Due to the strengthening wind I chose to fish below the road bridge.  Again wading provided me with the best opportunity to fish this swim and I was soon into another grayling.  The fish here were not big, averaging 10-12oz but there were plenty of them.  There was also a good head of dace too and some right little crackers; probably a few were around the 6-7oz mark.  I ended the day with two dozen grayling and maybe 8-10 dace plus a few trout.  All in all a pretty good day.  Geoff had managed 15 grayling and Kevin 12 but nothing particularly big.



Day two saw 40mph winds and some spells of heavy rain.  We managed a handful of fish between us but it was a testing day and I was glad when it was over.  We enjoyed a great meal and a pint of ‘Proper Job’ at the Wise Man in West Stafford that night, which helped improve our moods!

Some of the locals

Some of the locals

The last day was also rather testing with high winds and the occasional blustery shower.  Not too many fish found the net today however I did manage to find and tame another 2lb grayling and also had a right old tussle with a salmon which looked around 5-6lb.  I think I had 3-4 grayling, a few trout and the salmon.  We packed up early with Kevin being the top rod today with 8 grayling.

It was a tough few days in Dorset but it did produce some lovely fish and I’m sure we’ll be back soon chasing those legendary monster grayling.

The best brace of the trip - courtesy of John Aplin!

The best brace of the trip – courtesy of John Aplin!

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