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It’s been a while since I wet a line with my good buddy John Kemp, too long in fact. At last we managed to put this right and agreed to a session on the Sussex Ouse, a river I’ve not fished before.  I have to say I was looking forward to the challenge of a new venue and I always enjoy new surroundings too.  The Ouse runs through some stunning countryside in Sussex, places like Sheffield Park where people flock to in the autumn for the stunning colours of the trees.  A veritable cornucopia of hues to marvel at and bewitch the eyes and minds of all those who visit.

Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park

We stopped at a few well known spots for a look see.  I have to say I was impressed.  We ended up at a fairly narrow and heavily wooded section that looked barely fished in all honesty.  The river here winds its way through the Sussex countryside, with steep banks and endless features to fish to.  It is a fairly small and very intimate river, with a good mixture of shallows and deeper runs.  There appeared to be a very healthy amount of gravel on the river bed too, which looked ideal for summer barbel to flourish in.

The Sussex Ouse

The Sussex Ouse

John and I were here for the chub today.  The weather conditions have been fairly steady over the last week, with a slight increase in air temperatures and very little rain to speak of.  All in all it was ideal chub fishing conditions.  The river had a good tinge of winter colour and looked spot on for a fish or two, well hopefully!  I was armed with a 12′ quiver tip rod, a reel loaded with 6lb line, some 2 and 3 x swan shots for the link leger and some 4 and 6 Pallatrax ‘The Hooks’.  This was a day of simple fishing tactics.  I thread 4 grippa stops up the line and then bend over a piece of mono between them and put on 1, 2 or three of the swan shots, whatever I need to just hold bottom.  A big hook is used to fish either lob worms or even better a big piece of crust.

Always, always try and buy your crust from a high street bakers.  I promise you they are far superior to the supermarket ones.  I don’t know why this is the case but it is.  The supermarket ones generally have very brittle crust and don’t freeze particularly well and rarely stay on the hook for long.  A baker’s loaf has much more pliable crust that you can bend in half without the crust splitting and breaking apart and it will stay on the hook for ages.  Unfortunately my local baker’s has closed down and I was forced to buy a loaf from Waitrose and it was awful.  Luckily John had some decent stuff so I pinched some of that, thanks John.

The right sort of crusty loaf

The right sort of crusty loaf

We headed to the upper section of the beat, with the intention of leap frogging swims back down to the bridge.  There was a lot of water to target and most of the swims looked likely to produce a bite.  My first choice was near an outflow from a waterworks.  From here I opted to fish for maybe 20 minutes per swim and head downstream.  The first swim failed to produce and so I moved down into the next favored spot.  Here a tree had come down right across the river and the depth looked good right along this section.  I threw out 3 balls of liquidized bread and cast out a big piece of crust flavoured with Sausage Sizzle.  This was anchored about 4-5 inches from the hook.

A few tiny pings on the quiver indicated interest from some unseen watery inhabitant and then the tip pulled round slowly into a full arc.  I struck and felt something solid and heavy on the other end.  A nice chub I thought.  But no, this was no chub as it tore off downstream and right under the tree.  I managed to coax it back and again it headed  off under the tree.  This toing and froing continued and I still hadn’t seen the culprit.  Over the first 30 seconds of this fight the fish had gone from chub to barbel to carp.  Eventually the unseen leviathan boiled on the surface and it was indeed a big carp and it looked like a ’20’.  This fish hadn’t given up yet and it went on a series of runs again, albeit much shorter and far less powerful than the initial ones.  I shouted for John, who luckily had moved downstream nearer me and soon came running to see what all of the commotion was about.

Whoops!

Whoops!

The fish was now wallowing on the surface and John just about squeezed it into my chub net!  As he lifted there was a horrible cracking sound and my Drennan net handle snapped in half.  We still managed to lift my prize out and there lay this big, fat and beautiful mirror carp.  It did look big and I lifted it with one hand and it felt a twenty to me.  We weighed and photographed the fish and it was 20lb 4oz.  I was over the moon.  You often loose fish like this on light set-ups but it is a testament to the old adage of using balanced tackle.  I have often said that you can exert an awful lot of pressure on big fish with light gear providing it’s balanced.  A quiver tip rod and 6lb line can easily subdue big fish, the only thing that often causes a loss is a hook pull, particularly if using very small hooks or the fish becoming snagged.  If I had been barbel fishing here, I would be using much heavier tackle due to the amount of snags.

20lb 4oz

20lb 4oz

We continued to fish and move slowly downstream but with no bites forthcoming.  I watched a Buzzard being mobbed by several crows.  You see so many buzzards now and I even saw three whirling overhead of one another whilst playing golf at Knole Park the other day.  They are the first ones I’ve seen here.  I knew they would eventually move in.  I saw my first and only other Kent sighting quite a few years ago in Stone Street, so it was good to see that they have populated the area now.  Of course you often hear them long before you see them, that forlorn cry as the circle high up on the thermals.  After talking to another angler lower downstream who had also failed to get a bite, we decided it was time to head off to another venue.

The Eden

The Eden

This time we headed to Kent to fish the Eden.  The Eden is a diminutive and intimate river that eventually joins the River Medway.  It’s largely gravel bottomed but rarely deeper than 2-3 feet.  There is plenty of bankside cover with steep banks down to the river.  Fortunately there are plenty of ledges to fish from.  Again we leap frogged downstream, fishing lots and lots of superb looking swims.  I was still struggling to get a bite, whilst John had lost a chub of around 3lbs and managed to net a slightly smaller one.  With only 15 or so minutes to go I moved into my last swim, having just lost a nice fish further upstream.  Out went a big piece of crust into a nice long glide under some overhanging branches.  The tip suddenly pulled round and a good chub fought on the other end.  I could see from the size of the chub’s mouth that it was a good fish and on landing, it proved to be a very healthy, bulky fish and weighed in at 4lb 7oz.  A fitting end to what had been a rather exciting day in the company of my very good mate JK.  Thanks for another great day out John.

4lb 7oz

4lb 7oz

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The first episode of this new series was aired yesterday evening.  It was always going to be difficult to try and capture that magic quality of Bernald Venables’ inspirational and best selling work, however for me, that’s exactly what they did from the outset.

Summer tench fishing brought back some very fond memories of my own youthful entry into angling.  John and Sam’s approach was one of simplicity.  From the opening scenes of that misty dawn, with the sun just breaking through the haze and a beautiful Barn Owl, spectre like in it’s soft and quiet passage across the still waters of that peaceful lake, just captured the bewitching power of fishing again for me.  The excitement was almost tangible as they crouched behind the rushes watching the tench feed in the margins, with those tiny pin prick bubbles fizzing on the surface.  And to see the rapture on Sam’s face as he hoisted out that monster tench was a joy to behold, only to follow it up with a fish of a lifetime, was just sublime.

I can remember vividly my early forays into stillwater angling as a kid.  The excitement of seeing bubbles and fish swirling and rolling as I sat next to the waters edge so full of anticipation and genuine excitement.  I fondly recall my late father taking me to a lake in Horsemonden where my Uncle was the local gamekeeper and fishing for carp.  I would have been just about 8 years old.  It was incredible.  We threw some pieces of bread out into the mirror like surface of that lake and soon a throng of small carp moved in to hoover up the fee offerings, slurping at the surface in their eagerness to ingest all there was to offer.

Out went a piece of bread with a hook firmly buried into its fluffy folds and then the singing line and the powerful bend in the rod as a fish fought for its freedom.   Well for me, that was it.  I was as hooked as those carp and the passion for angling flourished within me.  It wasn’t long before I was fishing my local mill pond and I was an avid reader of any sort of angling publication I could lay my hands on from Dick Walker to Mr Crabtree, inspiration abounded.  Soon I was fishing small floats next to lilly pads and feeding maggots or sweetcorn or worms.  I can remember the excitement of the float dipping and the rod bending as a small roach jagged on the other end.

I can also recall the first time I spotted a really big fish, a carp cruising out in the middle of the lake.  So enraptured was I by this leviathan that I was forced into fishing an area that was strictly speaking out of bounds.  I tied on a thick twig which gave me some extra casting weight and baited the hook with some bread.   I waited, the tension building inside me like a pressure cooker.   The carp was still there and circled my ‘float’ when suddenly the stick bobbed and started to shoot across the surface!  I struck and the rod whooped over in an alarming arch.  The power of the fish was phenomenal and I held on for dear life.  Sadly of course my experience and skill at playing a big fish was non existent and so the outcome was inevitable, the line broke and the monster carp sank into the gloomy waters of the old mill pond.  I have never forgotten that first encounter with a big fish and I am delighted to say that I have relived that moment many times in my angling life and hope to for many more times to come.

It was then, as I grew older, that my desire to catch bigger and more varied fish took me to my local lakes in Frant.  Here I learned to leger baits like bread and luncheon meat and I even started to stalk the resident carp with pieces of crust.  Here I fished with my lifelong friend Jules and we even ventured into the exciting boyhood adventures of night fishing.  Wow these were great times, when life seemed so simple and every day was an adventure.  I can remember waking up one morning and there perched on it’s hind legs staring at me from the end of my camping bed was a mink, just sat there looking at me before it scuttled off in search of food.  We caught lots of grass snakes and even the odd adder in our landing nets and had many, many wonderful days just exploring the lakes, watching and learning.

One winter’s day I found a swan snared up on a small island out in the middle of the lake on some fishing line.  I was quite distraught at this sight and was in a quandary as to what to do.  Obviously this was long before the advent of the mobile phone, so there was no option of calling for help.  I felt there was only one acceptable solution.  I had to go in!  I stripped off, despite the chilly conditions and just jumped in.  The water was freezing and took my breath away instantly.  I could hardly breath as I made my way slowly towards the swan, taking in shivering breaths of air which seemed to stab my lungs, such was the iciness of each breath.  The swan was obviously exhausted from it struggles to get free and put up no resistance at my attempt to untangle it.  Soon I had managed to snip away at the line and the swan was free and I emerged cold and dripping from the lake.  I had to stay like that all day until my dad came to pick me up and I recounted my story to him.  I think he was quite proud of his little boy that day and again it’s such a fond memory of my youth and of my late father.

So to me this first series of ‘Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing’ has offered so much more than many of the modern angling series of recent years.  It’s simplicity and youthful exuberance reminded me of simple days spent chasing mythical monsters, of balmy evenings under an umbrella waiting for a bite, of misty summer dawns and the heat of the sun as it shone down at us from clear blue summer skies  and when catching small tench, roach and carp seemed to fulfil all of my childhood requirements and fuel years of dreams about catching fish.

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