June the 16th finally arrived and coincided with heavy rains and thunderstorms.  Some rivers were 2-3 feet up on normal summer levels and generally heavily coloured.  The biggest worry is for the freshly laid spawn, so lets hope it doesn’t get washed away.  On the upside it does make for pretty good barbel conditions, as opposed to 30c and bright sunshine I guess.

Geoff and I headed to a new stretch of river for the opening day and one that will see us through the remainder of the season, when we are not on the Wye or Trent.  The levels were good, with the river carrying about an extra foot of coloured water.  There was a really good flow.  This particular stretch had loads of bankside cover, with lots of over hanging trees and bushes presenting plenty of cover for wary fish.  We went for a quick recce and was presented with a delightful small river, with varying flows and depths.

The whole stretch presented all sorts of opportunities to drop in and let a bait swing round in the current and under some form of feature or another.  The time spent plumbing the depths provided information on some deep holes and deep gravel runs, which hopefully would prove fruitful. Depths varied from a couple of feet to as much as 7 or even 8 feet in places, even right under the nearside bank.

The weather conditions today seemed perfect; overcast and warm.  The forecast was for the occasional shower but we were keeping our fingers crossed for a dry day.  We had to be off the water at sunset, which was around 9.15pm.  I opted for a mouthwatering swim about 1/2 mile downstream.  There was a tree down across the water to my right (upstream) and a huge leaf covered branch hanging across the river to my left.  The nearside bank also had plenty of cover.  A crease ran approximately halfway across the river and was created by the tree upstream of me.  It looked perfect.  At my feet the depth was 7ft and appeared to be mainly clean gravel.  It had to produce a barbel!

I fed some 6mm and 8mm caviar pellets into the swim whilst I set-up.  As this was a small river my Trefor West 1lb 12oz LA Barbel rod would be ideal.  It has a sensitive tip and a soft action, well until a big fish is on and then it has masses of reserve power.  They really are lovely rods to use for this kind of fishing.  I matched this with a good quality Shimano reel, 10lb mainline and a coated braid hooklink.  Bait was double caviar pellet to start.  I had a number of options with me to fall back on if the pellets failed to produce, although they rarely do.

The weaponry

The weaponry

With a steady trickle of small pellets going in I chose to fish close to the bankside cover in the deep water.  The flow here was reduced somewhat by the fallen tree upstream, so a small lead was sufficient.  It didn’t take too long to get some interest, a few chubby knocks on the rod top indicated life.  Soon the rod top was bouncing around and after quite a surprisingly spirited fight a nice chub was eventually landed.  It was great to see such a lovely fish again after the 3 month break.  Chub are perhaps my favorite fish and at 4lb 9oz it was a good start to the new campaign.

4lb 9oz chub

4lb 9oz chub

The sun came out every now and again and almost roasted me.  I was secretly hoping it would cloud over a bit more to keep from being BBQ’d!  Sadly I got my wish later on.  As the afternoon wore on into early evening the rod tip whacked round and at last I thought this had to be a barbel.  The fish powered off to the middle of the river and then headed towards some sunken tree roots to my left.  As good as this fish felt, my heart was telling me it wasn’t a barbel.  I was right but it was a stunning mirror carp that tipped the scales at 11lb 7oz.  I was more than happy with a fish of that size and Geoff obliged with the camera.

A little later on the rod tip slammed round again and this fish surged off as strongly as the last.  Again it didn’t take long to realise this was probably another carp.  It was, a fish of around 12lbs with a lovely hue of orange to it’s flanks.  Geoff by now had moved down stream of me and had failed to entice a bite.  I had decided to stay put as this swim just looked so perfect.  I would normally move quite regularly but it seemed a good spot and perhaps I was feeling a bit lazy after a busy week at work.

12lb carp

12lb carp

By now it was around 8pm and the clouds had started to build up, they were dark and foreboding.  A few heavy rumbles of thunder resonated in the valley and a sudden flash of lightning illuminated the dark clouds.  This was the witching hour and we were reluctant to pack up early, possibly missing our best opportunity for a barbel.  The storm seemed to be moving away but as often happens in a valley, it was soon heading back as it swirled around overhead.  A massive clap of thunder almost sent me into the river in surprise and a bolt of lightning headed earthbound.  Still we stubbornly refused to go.  However Geoff now reported rain downstream.  I was still dry but felt it was best to call it a day.  Just 10 minutes later the biggest clap of thunder I’ve heard in a while detonated directly overhead and the skies opened.

The rain was torrential.  It hammered down, with great blobs of rain splashing mud in all directions.  Luckily I had already just about packed up.  I threw on the rucksack, grabbed the rest of the gear and beat a hasty retreat to the protection of the dense tree cover.  Despite the cover, I was soon soaked through and stood there sopping wet waiting for Geoff.  He had quite a walk ahead of him but soon appeared.  A bedraggled figure, dripping wet and looking thoroughly miserable.  We were soon back at the car and heading home.

It was an interesting start to the season.  The stretch certainly looks good and probably will present some great opportunities for a mixed variety of fish.  Hopefully next time a barbel or two will put in an appearance.





The new river season is just around the corner.  I can’t believe how quickly the last few months have gone and here we are into June.  Thank goodness the weather has at last warmed up and it was certainly noticeable as we headed to Godalming Angling Society’s Marsh Farm.  The car was showing 26c!  It was overcast and rather humid.  All in all, pretty good conditions.

After the traditional brekkie at the local golf club and a stop at Apollo tackle on site, we were soon full of eggs and bacon and armed with a few maggots for the fishing.  After a quick recce I decided to remain in the corner, in peg 1.  It was out of the wind and looked very fishy.

After a quick depth check, I baited up with some groundbait, mini pellets and a liberal dose of Ocean Pride spray.  The maggots got the same treatment plus a sprinkle of chili powder for good measure.  Reserve baits included garlic luncheon meat, an assortment of soft hooker pellets and some corn.  As it turned out maggots yet again proved to be the winning bait.

The fish were soon fizzing in the swim, mopping up the loose fed maggots and groundbait.  It didn’t take long to get some action and a small crucian succumbed to the tactics. Today I was using a 1 1/2 bb waggler, 3.8lb line and a 13ft float rod.  A small 16 hook would be sufficient.  In this particular peg there weren’t any real snags, so I could fish comparatively light.

The fish continued to fiz right through the evening until about 9pm.  Then things slowed down.  By about 9.30 I had managed to tempt 7 crucians but then things went quiet.  This seems to be a familiar theme of late.  I start really well but can’t seem to catch as the light fades for some reason.  Geoff seems to do the opposite, which is all rather inexplicable.

By the end of the evening I’d managed 9 crucians including fish of 1lb 14oz, 2lb, 2lb 3oz and 2lb 5oz.  Pretty good going really.  Geoff ended up with 8 fish but his first was the best at just a smidgen under 2lb 11oz.  I also managed to land a small tench but lost a decent fish to a hook pull after it had towed me all over the lake.  I also lost a couple of crucians, which is fairly normal.

Geoff's Crucian

Geoff’s Crucian

We left about 12.30am feeling pretty chuffed with the results.  We certainly won’t be back before the new season starts.  We hope to be on the river next Thursday 16th for the first day challenge and we are hoping for a barbel or two!

Good luck to all you river anglers out there and may your rod bend and your tight lines sing in the wind!


Bars of Gold

There’s a lot of thrashing around in the reeds at the moment as tench and crucians get a little jiggy with it!  Yes it’s spawning time folks and the fish tend to be a little preoccupied when it comes to spawnification. 🙂

In bloom and full of spawning fish

In bloom and full of spawning fish

Nevertheless some fish have finished, whilst others are still rampant.  A sudden drop in temperatures probably wouldn’t cool their ardor either. With the thermometer dropping from about 18c or 19c to just a miserly 12c it was a bit of a shock to the system, particularly as by 11.30pm it had plummeted to about 5c or 6c.  Fortunately the SAS training kicked in and Geoff and I brushed off the inclement conditions to try for a few more crucians.

It was a good start with a small crucian coming to the net within a few minutes.  Sadly it then went quiet for a while.  However a few more followed as the evening wore on.  I was having a bit of trouble landing some of the fish.  Both the tench and crucians seem particularly aggressive fighters at the moment, tearing off at break neck speed for the reeds.  I must have pulled out of possibly 8-10 fish, mainly tench but certainly 1 crucian.

Luckily a few were subdued and I ended up with 4 crucians including a nice brace of ‘2’s at 2lb 6oz and 2lb 3oz, plus a couple of feisty tench.  As with my last visit I opted to stick to white maggots but also tried reds, firing out an almost constant trickle of bait.  The maggots were flavoured with Ocean Pride and this time I also used a small amount of OP groudbait and some crushed pellets.

As usual I was plagued with infuriating, unhittable bites.  The float would rise, dip, sway and bob.  No matter at what stage you tried to hit a bite, it failed miserably.  Without a doubt, in my opinion, some of these if not most, are line bites.  Fish moving through the swim and perhaps feeding, just pull the float around.  Sometimes a perfect sail away bite fails to connect with anything.  Its quite mind boggling really but all adds to the experience and there’s never a dull moment.

2lb 6oz Bar of Gold

2lb 6oz Bar of Gold

Geoff bagged the fish of the day; a nice crucian at a smidgen under 2lb 11oz.  Well done that man.  We are hoping that once spawning has fully finished the fishing will be electric and we’ll be there to see it.  Fingers crossed.

Just about the only virgin you're likely to see around here!

Just about the only virgin you’re likely to see around here!

It has been a long time since I wet a line at Marsh Farm.  However now things have warmed up and spring seems to have sprung, Geoff and I felt it was time to pay it a visit again.  The set-up and MF is excellent.  They have a superb shop on site with very friendly, helpful staff, excellent toilets and secure parking.  Access to the lakes is via gravel paths and although car access is limited to disabled drivers, walking isn’t hampered by overgrown, pot-hole infested roads, like some fisheries can be.

The lakes are just coming into full bloom, with the trees, bushes, bankside vegetation, reeds and lily-pads bursting into life.  The wildlife is a buzz of activity with all manner of waterfowl and other bird life to be seen.  There has been many a time when I have witnessed dramatic events unfold, as crows, magpies or even herons spot small, defenseless ducklings or eggs and steal them away from under the nose of a distracted mother.  The harsh realities of nature are all too apparent when you spend a great deal of time in the countryside.  Luckily it is balanced and you see some wonderful sights from all manner of animals and insect life to help redress the balance.  Spring and summer are delightful times to be in the great outdoors, soaking up the sights and sounds of the Great British countryside.

The Great British Countryside

The Great British Countryside

Despite almost torrential rain throughout the previous night and pretty much all morning, the lake looked remarkably clear when we arrived.  In fact it looked pretty damn good.  As always breakfast at Broadwater Park Golf Club was excellent and set us up for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Steve and the guys in Apollo Angling on site at Marsh Farm were dishing out plenty of abuse but some great advice too.  So armed with a tub of white maggots and a few odds and sods, we were soon trudging along the path fully laden like some sort of Himalayan yak!

I opted for a swim sandwiched between some reeds.  To my left a large bed of reeds sprawled out into the lake and I could see the stems vibrating and the tops dancing around, as fish moved through them.  To my right there was a much smaller reed bed that remained fairly tight to the bank.  Well there were certainly fish here, that much was obvious.  As I stood watching, a nice tench swam past in the clear water, totally oblivious to my presence.

I trickle fed maggots into the swim after a liberal dose of Ocean Pride flavouring.  I do like to flavour maggots, it just gives them an edge.  I tackled up with my 14ft float rod, 4lb mainline on the fixed spool and a small insert waggler.  The float needs to be sensitive for crucians as they can be the finickiest of bitters.  I like a tiny bit of the float tip visible and try and hit the slightest dip.  Some days it works and some days it don’t!  They can drive you mad.  Patience is the key and expect the unexpected.  I use a couple of gripper stops to hold the float in place (with a float adapter attached) and I use a small swivel to join the mainline and hooklink.  By doing this I can mold some extra heavy tungsten putty to the set-up, without the need of using any split shot.  The reasons for this are two fold; firstly you can set the float to exactly how you want it with ease and secondly there are no split shot that can pinch the line or get caught up in the reeds or lily pads.

Today I was using a size 16 hook to accommodate two white maggots.  After spending some time plumbing the swim, I had the bait just resting on the bottom.  I fed two swims; one to the left and one to the right.  That way if one spots dries up, hopefully the other will produce a few bites.  By now it was about 4pm.  The float was flicked out and a few maggots tricked in over the top on a regular basis.  The float was gone almost instantly and a nice dark green tench was quickly landed.  It was in beautiful condition and was soon swimming back to its mates.  A few minutes later and a lovely dark bronze flank of a crucian shone in the late afternoon sunshine.  This was a much darker hue of bronze than I seem to remember from the crucians here and it looked a minter.  Not a big one; probably 1lb 8oz-1lb 12oz but beautiful to look at.  Each cast met with almost instant bites.  Sadly I missed dozens, which is not uncommon and sadly I seemed to lose almost as many as I landed.  It was quite a tricky swim and even the crucians were fighting hard, with all the fish heading straight for the sprawling reeds to my left. Luckily the combination of the right rod and reel line subdued most of the fish and I only got broken on one occasion, when a fish shed the hook and left it in the reeds.

From 4pm until 8pm I managed to land 4 crucians and 6 tench, however from 8pm until 11.30, which historically has been the most productive time, only 1 more crucian and a couple more tench put in an appearance.  Normally as the light fades crucians start to roll and become very active.  Not so tonight, at least in my swim.  Still it was a lovely mild night of around 16c and I really enjoyed my session.  Geoff had started off very slowly, I think I’d had 5 or 6 before he tempted his first fish but he ended up with about 8 tench and a crucian, after his swim eventually woke up at dusk.

Most of my fish were in A1 condition and their colours were certainly the best I think I’ve seen here at Marsh Farm.  I didn’t manage to land anything of any great size but enjoyed the ones I did land.  I’m sure we’ll be back very soon for another go at those magnificent crucians.


It’s been quite a while since I last wet a line.  The end of the traditional river season was a bit of a damp squib, although I did manage a number of good sessions on the Itchen.  Since then I haven’t been that inspired by the weather conditions to venture out.  However after a 6 week hiatus I was keen to have a dabble at something, before I completely forgot how to fish!

Geoff and I decided to give it a go, even though the forecast was yet again nothing special and a cold wind was predicted.  We didn’t get to Bury Hill Fisheries until around lunchtime and after a chat with Dave Roberts in the shop, we headed over to Milton Lake.  It looked fairly busy at the fishery today, with anglers well spread out across the main lake, Bonds and Milton.  It was nice to see the trees and bushes showing signs of spring.  We can’t be too far away from a noticeable improvement in the temperatures.

We headed to the far bank and set up in a couple of adjacent swims.  After a bit of plumbing we assessed the swim depth and mixed up some groudbait.  Mine consisted of Ocean Pride groundbait mix, a dollop of glug and some micro pellets.  It was a simple as that.  Tackle was a 14ft float rod, 3lb mainline and a size 16 hook to nylon.  I used a small waggler but big enough to cope with the by now, windy conditions.  As I started to fish the wind seemed to pick up even more and I soon found myself fishing into a strong wind which was affecting the float.  Despite fishing over-depth the float was being blown into the nearside bank.  As I was targeting the crucians, I didn’t really want to sacrifice the delicate presentation by having to compensate too much for the wind.

I decided to go for a wander and soon found a nice swim tucked in next to a huge reed bed containing reeds around 6 feet tall.  This area was also out of the wind, being protected by the island opposite me.  It looked perfect.  Plumbing soon revealed the swim was around 3 feet deep, even close into the reed bed.  I started out just off the reeds and put in a couple of small balls of groundbait and a few loose maggots.  I tricked the maggots in over the next 45 minutes but couldn’t muster a bite.  I then shallowed up and tried the waggler at half depth, firing just a few maggots out constantly over the float.  I thought this might entice a few roach to take but even that failed.  By now it was gone 3pm and I hadn’t had so much as a twitch.

I decided to try tight up to the reeds, just to see if maybe they were feeding in among the stems.  It seemed they were; and at last the float slid away in a confident bite. A good thumping fight ensued and it wasn’t long before a beautiful bronze flank gleamed in the spring sunshine, as a crucian broke the surface.  At last!  I soon poked the float in right next to the reeds again and put out 2 small balls of groundbait. Again an instant result.  The float kept sliding away for the remainder of the day.  Sometimes it went quiet for a while but the fish soon returned.  I was catching crucians regularly between around 1lb to probably just shy of 2lbs.  They all looked glorious with that lovely buttery gold colouration and orange fins.  They were not all genuine crucians; a few F1’s or brown goldfish were mixed in.  The true crucians are normally easy to spot; if they are a lovely golden colour then they are likely to be genuine.  If they look brown, silver or grey then they are generally something else.

A few good tench also put in an appearance.  I ended up with 5 or 6 with a couple of good fish around the 4lb mark.  They put up a spirited fight on the light tackle and added a bit of variety to the proceedings.  By the end of the day I’d caught 24 crucians and the tench.  Geoff had started off well, taking a couple of early fish but then faded as the wind increased.  Eventually he moved in next to me and managed to winkle out a few more crucians.  I think he ended on 15 crucians a couple of tench and a nice 1lb 5oz roach.

On those occasions where the sun came out and the wind abated, it was surprisingly warm.  It does lift the spirits when you feel the warmth of the sun on your face again.  I have to say I’m really looking forward to some warmer weather now.  Obviously when it gets above about 25/26c I’ll be moaning its too hot of course!!


With the close season almost at the half way point it’s worth looking at a few ideas to help with some spring fishing and to prepare for the new season ahead.

Spring Fishing:

Spice up your ground baits with some extra zing.  Add some flavouring to give that extra boost.

Liquid Flavouring

Liquid Flavouring

Soak hook baits to give them that extra edge too; whether its luncheon meat, pellets or even maggots, an extra glug of flavour can make all of the difference.

Hook Bait Glug

Hook Bait Glug

Make sure your line is in good condition and replace it if you’re unsure of its age.  Don’t loose a big fish because of complacency or laziness.

If you haven’t used your float or tench rods since last spring, clean them and check for damage prior to use.

Ensure your hooks are sharp and that hooks to nylon have been checked for poor tying or signs of damage.  You may prefer to tie your own hooklinks like I do, so that you have total control over their quality and reliability, particularly if you’re targeting big tench, bream or crucians.



Most of all enjoy your time on the bank.  It’s about escapism and pleasure.


The Season ahead:

If allowed, get down to your chosen stretch of river for a recce.  If your selected river flows clear, then in good conditions try and spot the barbel and chub.

Find out where they spawn and you’ll see exactly what numbers and sizes of fish are in your stretch.

Watch the behavior of fish.  Look for feeding patterns and patrol routes.  Look for where the fish tend to frequent on a regular basis and identify why they like these areas so much.

Even in rivers that do not flow clear, you can still look for potential holding or feeding areas.  Early season cast a lead around to try and locate features and depths.  Look for deep holes or gullies, gravel beds and runs or anything out of the ordinary like hidden boulders or snags.  A day spent doing this can make all of the difference to your catch results.

Look beyond the well trodden paths and try and locate remote areas that have the potential to produce fish.  Once off the beaten track, you’ll often have the place to yourself and the fish will be far less spooky.

Pre-baiting can help introduce a new bait or get the fish used to finding a readily available food source in particular areas, potentially giving you an edge come the new season.







Yes it was back to the Itchen, although this time lower downstream in search of the big roach that inhabit this delightful chalkstream.  As is typical of late, heavy rain the day before had coloured the river and it looked like it had pushed the levels up a bit.  Overall though the river looked pretty good.  The forecast was for a dry day with no rain, so quite what this wet stuff was falling from the sky is beyond me!  Luckily the rain didn’t last too long.

Geoff and I were particularly after the roach, however beggars can’t be choosers and so anything would be nice and in all honesty a roach would be a bonus.  We opted to start at the lower extremity of the fishery and work our way up, dropping into the occasional swim for a trot through with a float.  A chat here and there with a few local old boys pointed us in the right direction and we kept moving to see what was about.

At the top end I found a very nice, smooth glide.  It looked about right for roach; it was around 4ft deep, smooth water and a distinct crease between the faster flow down the centre and the slower water on the inside.  I’d set up with my 15ft float rod, centrepin and 3lb line.  I opted for size 16 hook-to-nylon and double red maggot.  The float was a 3g bolo, which is about 5AA or 10bb.  If I’m fishing for roach I will bulk the big shot around the float and fish a few much smaller shot shirt button style down the line.  Normally I’d use a few No 6’s and 8’s.  If I was purely after the roach I may use a smaller float but it does need to be able to cope with the deep water and heavy flow.

I’d managed to tempt a number of grayling and salmon par before eventually connecting with something much bigger. Initially it was difficult to know whether I’d hooked a fish or the bottom and then that tell tale ‘thump, thump’ indicated a chub.  After a dogged fight Geoff finally landed the chevin and it looked a decent fish.  After the initial “it looks huge” comments had elapsed we weighed the fish at 4lb 8oz.  It was a lovely fish and would take some beating.  Nothing else emerged and so another move was in order.

4lb 8oz

4lb 8oz

A few trots through the new swim and the float buried.  After a spirited fight it turned out to be a sea trout of about 3lbs.  It put up a great scrap in the flow and a few passers by had stopped to watch the action.  A round of applause followed once the fish was safely landed, unhooked and returned to fight another day.  After that this swim went a bit quiet and so I moved downstream to a pedestrian bridge.

A roar of Merlin engines filled the air and announced the arrival of a Spitfire hurtling upwards overhead.  The Spitfire was first flown from Southampton Airport and with a anniversary coming up soon I believe, I guess this was a practice run.  I do love the sound of those Rolls Royce engines and the sight of that majestic plane maneuvering through the skies.

After the excitement of the Spitfire I managed a couple of nice dace to just shy of 10oz, a few grayling and the ever present salmon par.  Geoff and I then targeted a really nice far bank glide.  It was tricky casting that had to be inch perfect to trot the correct line but the masters that we are, we managed to get the odd one right!  Geoff had the only fish though but it was a lovely roach of 1lb 4oz and any roach over a pound tends to be the highlight of the day.  It had been fun with a good mixed bag of fish and with the season drawing to a close in a week or so, would probably be our last visit to this particular stretch until next winter.

1lb 4oz

1lb 4oz

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