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Archive for December, 2012


I experienced a somewhat lacklustre days grayling fishing last week in Berkshire.  The river was a little coloured and probably 12-18″ up.  However despite that it was a reasonable day and yet I failed to entice more than half a dozen grayling.  I did have a couple of bonus roach, one of which was nudging a pound.  Geoff and Kevin of course slayed them, taking 16 or 17 apiece.   Dan fared about as well as me I think, so we were certainly runners-up.  It was interesting watching a large group of grayling take the freebies but avoid my hookbait like the plague.  No matter what I did (hold back, hold back really hard or just let it go through the swim at its own pace) they wouldn’t touch the maggot hookbait with a barge pole let alone those delicate mouths.  Eventually I gave up of course but it was fascinating to watch.

So this week Geoff, Kevin and I headed to Hertfordshire to fish the upper beat of a small river, well it’s small at this point of its journey to the Thames anyway.  I was going with the intention of targeting the roach and dace.  With that in mind I was armed with 2.6lb mainline, 22 hooks to 14oz hooklinks and a small stick float shotted button fashion.  All this was to be fished with the trusty Bob James centrepin and my wonderful Drennan Matchpro Ultralight.  Bait was to be single maggot.  It was a cold day.  On arrival it was -6C and we’d already had a couple of frosts overnight and so wasn’t quite sure what to expect fish wise.

My first swim failed to produce so much as a twitch on the float and so I decided to move upstream.  After a recce I found a couple of swims that looked promising and so I upped sticks and settled into my new swim.  The depth was about average for this venue and that’s about 2’6″ deep.  A light stick float was used which took 5 no4 and I spaced out the shot using No6s, 9s and 11s.  A few trots through soon had the depth sorted and a few maggots thrown in each trot through would hopefully get the roach feeding.

It was not to be.  The roach and dace were either not present or were simply bullied out by the sheer number of chub that seemed to be ensconced in the swim.  Between 12pm and 4pm the fishing was a times quite hectic.  One of my earliest fish proved to be the best; a chub of 4lb 3oz.  I lost a couple of good fish and so upped the hooklink to a 20 hook to 1lb 14oz and this certainly helped.  I still lost a couple of fish but proceeded to land a total of 23 chub.  Several were between 3-3.5lb and another one which I estimated to be around 4lbs, otherwise they were mainly 1.5-3lbs.  It was great fun on the light set-up and the action was thick and fast at times.  I’m fairly certain I lost a couple of barbel out of the half a dozen or so that came adrift.  Still that’s how it goes.

4lb 3oz

4lb 3oz

It was interesting to note that once I changed to double red maggot the bites came thick and fast.  Prior to that I fished a single maggot and only had a couple of fish.  Once two were used they went potty.  Of course that may be just a coincidence and it may not.  Personally I think they were in a real feeding mood and responded well to constant little and often baiting tactics and the larger hook bait.

Geoff managed several nice roach to just over a pound and finished with a barbel of around 6.5lbs plus a couple of reasonable chub.  Kevin had a few chub too but it was one of those rare occasions of late where I actually managed to out-fish the buggers! 🙂

The fish were in excellent condition which is a testament to the hard work of the committee and good angling practices used by the members.  All in all a lovely day.

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When a phrase becomes part of an angler’s vocabulary you know it’s because it stands for something very special.  So when we as anglers describe a swim or a venue as very ‘Mr Crabtree’ we have a vision of something a little out of the ordinary; something special and magical.  So it is that Bernard Venables left his mark on us all, even those that perhaps aren’t that familiar with his writings.   His weekly articles in the Mirror were not just a snap shot of angling but encompassed the passion, the excitement and the thrill of angling and the countryside.  Anyone that knows me or reads my blog will know just how important these things are to me.  I simply delight in being out there fishing and soaking up the sights and sounds that go with this great pastime.

Bernard Venables was a master of his art.  Whether he was writing or painting he was able to capture the moment, set the scene and draw us in to his world and we felt the tingle of excitement every time we believed that we too could catch that tench or a big roach or feel the power of a hard fighting barbel.  His work simply inspired generations to go out and try for themselves to catch fish they never thought possible.

Now John Bailey has teamed up with illustrator Rob Olsen to recreate and perhaps, dare I say, put a modern day spin on Bernard’s inspirational work ‘Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing’ and have named the title quite aptly ‘Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree’.  The style is similar, with those wonderfully evocative comic strip style layouts, where simplicity is the order of the day.  Somehow John and Rob have captured the essence of angling and of that Crabtree magic with such acuteness it feels that you could be there with them.

This wonderful book manages to meld old with new.  John guides his young protégé with good sound advice and simple tackle and tactics; it’s a reminder that fishing isn’t all gadgets and fancy rigs.  Within these short story boards and accompanying chapters are superb snippets of river and water craft that we all could learn from and you can’t help but feel like a young lad again trying as hard as you could to catch that unseen monster.

With introductions from the likes of Chris Yates to name but one, you know this is quite a special book.  There are some delightful photographs of Bernard throughout his life which is a lovely homage to the great man.  It’s always difficult to re-create something as special as Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing and yet they have pulled it off quite extraordinarily.  Team Crabtree have almost re-invented the wheel with this insightful, beautifully written and delightfully illustrated modern masterpiece.

For more information on how to purchase a copy of Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree and for details on the upcoming TV series, please click on the link (located under the calendar) on the right hand side of this blog called ‘Mr Crabtree’s Emporium’

Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree

Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree

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