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Well it’s been a tough old season, that’s for sure.  Geoff, Kevin and I have been targeting a Thames tributary and thus far it’s proven to be a tough nut to crack.  Although both Kevin and I have lost one barbel apiece, only Geoff has actually managed to bank a small barbel of around 6lbs.  I guess I must have done around 8-10 sessions here, comprising of a Tuesday evening and pretty much all day on Wednesdays.  We have at least had some nice chub, thank goodness.  I have managed a nice brace of mid ‘5’s’ and one really good chub of 6lb 1oz.  I love catching chub and to me they are a real bonus.  I’m really looking forward to fishing here throughout the winter with simple link leger tactics using breadcrust or lob worms or trotting a float through a few mouthwatering swims.  Maggot and caster never fail to produce a chub or two in the right conditions, so we’ll see what the winter brings us.

6lb 1oz

6lb 1oz

I did have a short break from the rivers due to the poor sport and headed off to Marsh Farm in search of some tench and crucians.  I only did two short evening sessions.  The first gave me a few crucians to 2lb 7oz (I think, although it may have been 2lb 9oz) and a solitary tench.  The second session proved much more productive with 8 crucians all around the 2lb mark.  I weighed one which showed 2lb 2oz on the scales and the others all looked to be of a similar stamp.  I also had numerous tench to well over 4lbs.  So all in all some good sport and it made a pleasant change from the blanks on the rivers!

2lb 7oz Crucian

2lb 7oz Crucian

Geoff and I also decided to make the most of the benign conditions and head to Britford on the Hampshire Avon in search of some summer roach fishing.  Armed with hemp and tares and the Drennan 14ft Matchpro Ultralight, plus light mainline and fine hooks we hoped we could tempt some of those big Hampshire Avon roach.  Fishing two areas in particular, we soon had some reasonable roach boiling on the surface as they intercepted the hemp-seed.  Most of the fish appeared to be on the small size and we hoped that as the day wore on the bigger fish would start to show.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

The river was gin clear and thick streamer weed choked most of the river.  However there were plenty of clear spots in amongst the weed and plenty of gravel runs to be trotted.  Presentation really was quite straightforward and the weed offered little in the way of hindrance.  By constantly feeding hemp and running a single tare through on a small hook, bites came almost immediately.  Both Geoff and I started to catch roach from the off.  Not particularly big roach but quite a few of them.  It was good fun and a few nice dace put in an appearance too.

As the day wore on so the big roach started to show.  They tended to hang back from the main shoal but they were still there in reasonable numbers.  A few looked like big fish, probably in the 2-3lb bracket.  There were plenty of fish well over a pound showing too.  A handful of hemp had them boiling on the surface.  When you see them like this you might be fooled into thinking it’s going to be a bit like taking candy from a kid, however the reality is different.  A trick that did seem to work though was running the float below the main shoal so it passes them and gets to the bigger fish hanging back.  Holding the float back allows the tare to flutter up enticingly in the water.  Fortunately a big roach took the bait.  A jagged fight ensued and the fish did the swimmers roll on the surface.  As I grabbed the net it shed the hook.  I seem to remember a string of obscenities wafting through the air on this beautiful summer’s evening.  Hopefully they didn’t quite reach the Cathedral although the bells did start ringing!  That fish looked close to two pound and would have been my first ‘2’.  Still it’s there for another time.

A decent Roach

A decent Roach

I continued fishing and missing bites and casting in the wrong place and  getting tangled of course.  Despite this there were plenty of fish to keep both Geoff and I occupied and a few around the 1lb-1 1/4lb mark.  As the light started to slowly fade my patience evaporated!   It was just one tangle too far.  I had a severe tooth ache and had to keep taking very strong painkillers to keep it at bay and they were making me very tired and very irritable (even more than normal, if that’s possible).  I finally snapped and so did the middle section of my beloved Drennan Ultralight.  I feel most embarrassed about it but it was out of my control.  Never mind a replacement has been sourced through Apollo Tackle at the Marsh Farm complex.  Steve’s a real brick (? 🙂 ) and did me a good deal on a replacement.

After that session I had a 3 day trip to the Wye with Geoff and an American friend who had never fished in the UK before.  He has fished extensively in the US and also Scandinavia.  I won’t go into details about it now because we are writing an article about the trip and how it compares to fishing in the States.  So hopefully that will be available soon.

The Wye

The Wye

I then managed another trip to Berkshire to fish the Thames Tributary, which despite looking spot on never produced a bite for either Geoff or myself.  We bumped into Paul Whiteing and Andy Myers who ended up doing rather well on the barbel and chub front.  We discussed some ABF business before settling down to try and tempt a barbel.  As the light began to fail so the mist started to swirl over the fields.  It drew closer and closer before enveloping us in its cold and unearthly grasp.  We were now wrapped up in our full winter clothing; fleeces, over-trousers, gillets and jackets and still the cold crept into our bones. We both resembled Nanook of the North!  It felt about 8c and we remained biteless throughout the night, packing up around 11.30pm.  Paul Whiteing had indicated that it was incredibly mild!  That seemed crazy, however on walking back upstream we discovered the mist was absent from this area and the temperatures were much, much higher.  When we arrived back in the car park the car thermometer was showing 13c.  We stripped away all of the cold weather clothing and enjoyed a nice cuppa by the cars in just shirt and trousers and were very comfortable in the early autumn air.  Just goes to show how conditions can vary and how they affect the results.

The following day we headed to the Kennet to target the Benyons.  We didn’t want to be leaving there very late, hoping to head home around 8.30-9.00pm.  We arrived at the river a little later than expected at around 11am.  I wandered downstream whilst Geoff headed upstream.  We thought this might provide a contrast and if one area produced the other could always move.  I baited up a deep marginal swim with some hemp and fished the inside line.  It was a good 7ft deep and offered loads of bankside cover, with overhanging trees and undergrowth hopefully sheltering a few fish.  Sadly it appeared to be quite snaggy and after a few hours of inactivity I felt a move was in order.

I checked out a few likely looking swims with a rod to plumb the depth and feel what the riverbed was like.  I finally plumped on a nice spot which had a deep run under a overhanging tree and a far bank line of trees where the flow offered an enticing crease.  I decided as the day wore on to concentrate on the far bank run.  This looked the best spot; it had a good flow and lots of cover and seemed an ideal interception point.  I baited the tree line up with catapults of hemp and then fished a block end feeder with hemp and two elips pellets on the hair.

Hemp is a great attractor

Hemp is a great attractor

It was beginning to look like yet another blank when there was a bang on the rod top.  At last a sign of life!  Perhaps it was just a chub investigating the bait but who knows?  Around 10 minutes later with the light fading fast, the rod top started to dance.  I was fishing upstream with a bow in the line and this was an all out bite.  I grabbed the rod and pulled into the fish.  It was solid and nothing moved.  I could then feel a thump from something on the other end and this fish started to power off on a very slow and determined run, taking line from a begrudging clutch.  As I pulled back the fish seemed to get stronger and just hugged the bottom.  I honestly thought it was snagged for a while and then started to realise it was in fact just a good barbel on the other end.

I managed to coax it eventually to the nearside bank where it headed straight for a sunken bush.  With steady pressure I easily kept it away from any real danger and suddenly the fish popped up on the surface.  I made the most of this opportunity and managed to slip the fish straight into the waiting landing net.  Phew what a relief. At last a barbel and a decent one at that.  I quickly called Geoff and informed him of my catch and said it looked 13lb+ possibly even 14lb I thought.  I waited for Geoff to wander down and then we weighed and photographed a magnificent Kennet barbel in beautiful condition.  The fish tipped the scales to 13lb 3oz and was my second biggest Kennet fish to date.

13lb 3oz

13lb 3oz

With that the rain started and as it was already about 7.45 we decided to call it a day and head home before the weather turned really nasty.

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It’s all quiet on the western front, however the eastern front brought rain, cold winds, ice and hail.  So fishing has been held at bay for me unfortunately.  I’m no ‘fair weather’ fisherman but I can only take so much.

Family issues also put a different slant on things and fishing suddenly seemed unimportant somehow.  However fishing and the countryside have been the one constant in my life.  Salvation, peace, tranquillity and a sense of fulfilment.  They have all played their part in my angling life and I am eternally grateful to them.  Sometimes the solitude angling can offer can be very beneficial; allowing one time to reflect, time to heal.   I think any angler or nature lover would understand that sentiment.

Waiting for a bite

Waiting for a bite

Anyway; the fishing.  Well I missed the first 4 to 5 weeks of the traditional closed season.  The weather was bitterly cold and I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm to get out and sit on the bank for hours and hours trying to catch a tench or a crucian.  I decided to wait until things improved a bit.  The ‘bit’ took some time but eventually I made it bankside. The temperatures levelled out around the mid teens and the evenings were at last 8-12c.  So I managed to wet a line at Marsh Farm near Godalming.  Conditions were still difficult.  It was generally very windy at times and this even affected the fishing.  The results over about 4 sessions were mixed but mainly poor to be honest.  On one occasion I did  manage 8 tench and 2 nice crucians, both of 2lb 8oz. However the other 3 sessions provided me with 2 blanks and one tench!  Geoff  seemed to fair much better and on one occasion took 17 tench and 7 crucians.  So perhaps it was just poor angling on my part!

2lb 8oz

2lb 8oz

Little signs of Spring growth

Little signs of Spring growth

So all in all not so good really.  I then had an afternoon at Penshurst Place on the castle lake.  Yet again it was another very windy day, but I managed to set up in a quiet corner that was sheltered from the strong winds.  I soon had a few carp feeding on the surface and so armed with a Fox Avon rod, 6lb line and a carp controller I fished large pieces of bread crust on a 6 hook.  The carp were a little cagey, swirling and boiling at the bait.  However 15 slipped up but nothing big.  They were all around 3lb to about 8lb.  Still it was good fun for a few hours.

Penshurst Carp

Penshurst Carp

A quiet corner

A quiet corner

I also managed to try out my new Drennan Power Float Rod.  Sadly I had forgot to pack the 1 foot handle and so only ended up using it for a very short period of time.  Fishing a big lobworm in the margins I hooked and played a lovely common carp of 7 or 8lbs.  It was great fun but without the  handle, rather awkward.

The Castle Lake

The Castle Lake

Hopefully before the river season starts I’ll squeeze a few more sessions in after the crucians and tench.  However the long term forecast is predicting cooler weather to remain in the south possibly into June, so we’ll see what happens.  I am also quite busy with the Association of Barbel Fishers and have a meeting at Basingstoke (details) on the 29th May and a further one in Leicester (details) on the 5th June to attend.

 

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Well, what happened to all of that lovely, unseasonably good weather we were having?  The winter has certainly bitten back with a vengeance.

Over the last few weeks we have still been attacking Marsh Farm.  Plenty of tench showing, despite the cold weather.  Most of the tench range from about 3-5.8 pounds, so a very good average.  A fair few crucians coming out as well.  Numerous fish in the 2-2.15 bracket.  Sadly no 3s as of yet but it’s still a little early.  The crucians are being even more tricky than usual, probably due to the low night time temperatures keeping the water temperature down.  They are just such finicky biters sometimes, they can drive you to distraction.

I have persevered with the worms but also tried king prawn.  I just cut slivers off and fish it on a 14 hook.  Thinking of trying some float fished paste.  Big lumps on a fine wire 6 or 8 hook, fished in conjunction with a very small waggler and no weights.  I’ll just use the weight of the paste to cock the float.  Bites should show very easily and the float will offer very little resistance, if any.

We’ll see how well it works soon.

 

 

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Another week has passed and I found myself on the banks of the Marsh Farm lakes in search of crucian carp and tench.  The weather has been just phenomenal lately, with temperatures rising to 20+ degrees.  Sadly the nights are still rather chilly, with the odd frost keeping the water temperatures down a little.

This week I was joined by Geoff and Dan on Tuesday and Kevin and Geoff on Wednesday.  Tuesday was a total failure for me.  I lost a good tench and missed one bite.  Geoff and Dan fared much better.  Dan was first off the mark with a nice crucian of 1lb 12oz and he followed that up with another of 2lb 8oz and a couple of tench to 5lb 9oz, so he was pretty chuffed with that.  Geoff found a few crucians, taking four to nearly 3lbs and a tench.  When we left a frost had just begun to form and the ice was beginning to march relentlessly over  everything at ground level.

The following day saw another scorching day and a slightly milder night.  I decided to fish two rods, one on a feeder and the other a float as normal.  Using an open end feeder I fed a nice black groundbait, with chopped worm and prawn and fished a large king prawn on a bait band.  This rod ended up accounting for 3 tench to close to 4 pounds and one that I lost at the net, plus a few missed bites.  I was quite pleased as it was a new rod.  A Fox Duo-Lite Specialist with a 3/4lb Avon top.  It has a lovely through action and is just perfect for tench fishing.  I’m really pleased with it.  On the float rod I persevered with a small piece of prawn but was getting very little attention.  Eventually I gave up with the prawns.  I was getting some very delicate bites, barely discernible.  I was certain they were crucians and so changed to worm.  First cast and at last a decent bite.  It was a nice crucian of 2lb 12oz.

A little while later the float slid silently away and this time something much bigger was on the other end.  The fight was powerful and dogged but eventually I coaxed the fish into the waiting net.  I could see it was quite a big tench.  On hoisting it out of the water I could now see it was a heavily laden with spawn female.  She was not shedding any spawn at all and so I weighed and photographed her.  Had she of been shedding spawn, she would have gone straight back without any fussing.  I was keen to get a weight and photo as it is the biggest tench I have caught on the float.  I was over the moon and she was in lovely condition, just a touch on the plump side.  As the saying goes “Who’s been eating all the pies? You fat bas…. ” uhum anyway back to the action.  Well actually there wasn’t anymore really.  I missed half a dozen bites I guess and left around 11.30pm.

7lb 8oz Tench

7lb 8oz Tench

Both Geoff and Kevin caught a few roach and rudd but sadly didn’t find any tench or crucians.  Still with their track record, it won’t be long before they get stuck in to a few.

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