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Posts Tagged ‘River Kennet’


Geoff, Kevin and I headed to a new stretch of the Kennet.  We joined earlier in the year and went for a wander along this particular stretch about a month ago. It’s a beautiful stretch.  Quite narrow and winding with lots of features, especially as you approach the end of the beat.

Geoff opted to fish the weir at the upper limit of the stretch and both Kevin and I decided to explore lower down.  I ended up right at the lower limit, in amongst the woods.  Its a beautiful spot down at this point, very intimate with bundles of overhanging trees and other features to fish to.  Sadly though it lacked some depth, averaging only 2′ 6″ to 3′ at best.  So after chub fishing and a spot of plumbing for a few hours, I felt compelled to move back upstream to find some deeper water.

The chub rod didn’t produce, so it was time to get on the barbel, so out came the Torrix.  I found quite a nice, deep swim just off of a bend.  I had around 5 feet, with numerous snags to fish to.  I opted to fish a boilie with a paste wrap in conjunction with a small block end feeder loaded with maggots or hemp. I had plenty of time to admire the scenery and bird life, as the tip never moved!  Unusually I didn’t see any Red Kites or Buzzards today, which is a rarity these days in this area.

With only 10 minutes left to fish, I jumped into a swim that had been vacated a few minutes before.  The guy had caught 4 barbel during his session and had kept a bit of bait going in.  So I thought it was worth a chance.  I didn’t have time to mess about and so wherever the first cast landed it would have to do.  It landed just about perfect.  I didn’t know the swim so couldn’t be certain how snaggy it was, so just had to hope for the best.  I had two knocks almost immediately and I started to worry that I may be caught up, when the rod top slammed over.  Fish on.  After a good scrap, a nice fit 7lb barbel was released.  A great end to what had been a beautiful but tough day.

Sadly Geoff and Kevin could only muster a couple of trout and a bullhead!  Shame. 🙂

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Geoff and I felt it was about time we explored a little more of the canalised stretch of the Wasing’s River Kennet.  It always seems quite tragic when a beautiful, natural, meandering river gets the ‘canalised’ treatment.  The river is straightened and most of the bankside undergrowth ripped out, so basically you end up with a canal, obviously.  However, to be fair, this section still retains plenty of cover both in and out of the water.  It still looks like a river and holds some pretty good fish too, for those that care to explore.

At the lower end of the fishery is the famous Old Mill at Aldermaston and one of the Kennet’s tributaries; the Enbourne.  You may or may not know, that it was barbel from the River Enbourne that were taken for stocking into the Severn, all those years a go.  So at this end of the section you have the option of nipping onto the Enbourne if things are a little slow on the main river.

The Kennet

We found a couple of lovely swims, with lots of overhanging cover.  I was armed with worms and it was my intention to target the perch after an hour or two of trotting but as I’d forgotten my horse……sorry!  This area is so deep (around 10′) fishing the float was going to be difficult.  So I opted for a light link ledger set-up and dropped a big juicy lob worm out amongst some trees that had fallen into the river.  I didn’t want to get too close, for obvious reasons.  After about an hour and a half and I’d had no bites and two lots of lost tackle.  On re-tackling I had looped the line twice round one of the eyes and hadn’t noticed.  Well, until I tried to cast out that is.  My best two or three casts were a bit like a little girls (sorry girls) and then after a couple of checks I realised how stupid I’d been.

So I was now in the mood for a change of scenery, so headed off to the triburay.  It’s a lovely little winding river.  The bottom is gravel and there are loads of little deep runs.  The river itself is not overly deep but there are plenty of pools and runs to offer a likely spot for a few fish to be holed up in. It’s pretty overgrown here and despite my best efforts at trotting, it really didn’t suit it. Once the winter sets in, most of the undergrowth will die back and more areas will become open to trotting.  So it was to be a day for the quiver tip.

I decided to wander up and down the river to try and locate a few fish and hopefully a few perch.  I dropped into a lovely deep  pool.  There were numerous overhanging trees and a crease that crossed the pool.  I flicked out a big lob worm and awaited the results.  I didn’t take long.  The tip rattled a couple of times and then plunged over.  A nice, jagged fight suggested perch.  Indded, that’s what it turned out to be.  Throughout the day in numerous spots, including one quite unlikely area, I caught about 8-10 really fit, magnificently coloured perch.  Serveral were over a pound and the biggest went 2lb 6oz.  They were all stunning fish and very rewarding to catch.

2lb 6oz Perch

I was a little surprised that no chub had showed up.  Some of the swims looked very chubby.  I kept switching baits, from worm to bread flake in an effort to tempt a chevin. Eventually a small one showed its face, a fish of about 2lbs.  As the light faded I felt one more cast with a worm would do the trick.  Geoff had joined me at this stage and as we chatted the tip ripped round and a heavy fish was on the other end.  I suppose I was secretly hoping for a big perch but I certainly wasn’t disappointed when we scooped out a lovely big chub.  It looked well over 4 so I weighed it and it was in fact 4lb 15oz.  It was an immaculate fish, a real stunner.  It was a great end to a rather chilly but enjoyable day.

4lb 15oz Chub

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Geoff, Kevin and I decided to take a break from blanking er I mean barbel fishing and spend a day trotting for whatever came along.  We were hoping for some decent grayling but would be happy with a few decent dace or chub.  So it was that we headed to Barton Court on the upper Kennet near Hungerford.

This is a day ticket venue and was once renowned for the quality of its fishing.  It regularly produced very big dace, roach and grayling.  Today it’s a mere shadow of its former self.  The big roach seem to have vanished and the big dace are less in numbers.  Grayling still show and it’s rumoured there are still a few big fish in there.  Quite where, is another matter.

Barton Court

It a stunning venue though.  A mixture of the old river and numerous off-shoots and carriers.  There is a lot of water to fish.  Some areas are fast runs, others deeper and slower.  Numerous small weirs and pools offer enticing opportunities for a stick float fished with maggots.  There was little weed to speak of, which is handy when trotting.  Sadly though the river is desperately low.  In fact one of the locals said they had lived in the area for nearly 20 years and this was the lowest she had ever seen it. Quite worrying. It did at least have a touch of colour, although that doesn’t suit grayling generally.

Still we set about trying to catch a few fish.  I set-up my Drennan Matchpro, 3.2lb mainline, 2.6lb hooklink and 16 hook.  The float was a small 5bb stick float.  It was just right for the conditions: windy and with a pacey flow.  I could easily swap hook sizes depending on bait choice.  To start with I opted for the old favourite, a couple of red maggots.  I had wandered down to a particularly well-known spot by the arched bridge.  There was a nice deep run on the right hand side, which then swept towards and under the beautiful stone bridge.  Almost immediately I hooked into a decent fish.  Sadly it came adrift.  A few more trots through and the float buried.  A nice dace of about 7oz.  This was followed by several small dace and a grayling of around 7-8oz.  Then the minnows appeared.  After about half an hour of catching them, I decided it was time to move.

Upper Kennet

I wandered along the bank admiring the sights and sounds of the countryside.  I watched a couple of Red Kites for a few minutes and then a buzzard, before finding a nice deep run on a bend.  First trot through gave me a decent grayling of about a pound.  Then several nice perch and a few dace, shortly followed by another grayling.  Then, yet again, the minnows moved in.  By now it was almost lunchtime.  At this point I heard a wonderful choo, choo sound coming from the direction of the rail line.  I then heard the chuff-chuff of a steam engine.  Suddenly, a magnificent steam engine burst into sight, with white puffs of smoke billowing out of the funnel.  It was the Orient Express, with numerous luxurious Pullman Coaches behind.  What a grand sight, so terribly nostalgic (said of course, with my best Noel Coward voice!)

By now it was lunchtime.  Some hot soup and sandwiches filled a hole and a coffee to finish.  By God, this fishing lark ain’t too bad really.  Geoff and Kev had done reasonably well and it wasn’t long before we were off again.  This time I decided to head off below the stone bridge.  The river widens a little here.  It’s a bit weedier and generally fairly shallow.  We managed to find a couple of nice spots and I managed a few roach.  Kevin found a lovely pool right at the end of the fishery boundary.  Each cast produced a bite.  Pretty much all dace, with one or two half decent ones. Kevin also had the fish of the day.  A big dace going 12oz+, but we all caught a few decent dace throughout the day.

We kept moving and trying different spots.  The pools provided us with a few decent brownies up to about 3.8lbs.  The grayling were a little scarce.  I think we ended up with about a dozen between us.  Overall we caught a lot of fish.  I think Kevin said all in all he had about 70.  Not a bad days fishing.  As the sun started to sink down below the horizon, we heard that evocative choo, choo again.  A few seconds later the steam engine puffed into view and flew past at an incredible speed. Pretty much made the day for me.

We finished the day with loads of nice fish.  A really mixed bag of dace, roach, grayling, perch and gudgeon.  A wonderful day in beautiful surroundings where the wildlife is abundant and very distracting and that’s how it should be.

Ah, so that's how you do it.

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Autumnal hints are clearly showing themselves. Leaves are turning brown already, as we approach late September. This week it was only Geoff and I that headed towards Aldermaston in search of those Autumnal giants that frequent the gravel runs here. We have always found this time of the year very rewarding for big barbel. We hoped that this would be the week they showed themselves at last to 2 very determined Kenneteers.

The Kennet at Aldermaston

We set up camp as ever and wandered off for a look. I fancied a swim at the lower end of the stretch (aka near to the car!!). There was lots of cover, a nice flow and a deep hole in this swim. I baited up with hemp and caster and left the swim alone for an hour. Geoff had decided to fish much further upstream. This week we had decided we should give it until much later before calling it a night. We talked about packing up around 2am, if we could stay awake and the temperature wasn’t too chilly. Brave talk for a couple of wimps.

At about 7pm I had what looked like a persistent chub bite. On striking I discovered one of those Popeye chub on the other end. After a really good fight I netted the culprit, a barbel of around 6lbs. I re-baited the swim and decided to have a wander. As I left the swim, I noticed about half a dozen Roe Deer in the field. I took a few photos, but the deer were a bit too far away. I slowly and carefully inched forward, trying to get closer. The deer were alert and soon noticed me. They stretched their necks high and their ears twitched at my approach. I stopped and then slowly moved forward again, taking a few more shots. Suddenly they were off. That lovely, high prancing movement that Roe Deer do, reminiscent of gazelle on the Masai Mara. I then popped back to the car, only to see two more hinds in the field adjacent to the small car park. Again I tried stalking them and managed to get much closer due to the cover afforded me by the trees and bushes. Sadly though, it was by now getting dark. So the pictures were of no use. Still, lovely to see.

Kennet Barbel

I returned to my swim and carried on with the usual routine of bait dropping hemp and caster every 20-25 minutes. Finally at about 11.20pm the rod tip whacked round and another feisty barbel was subdued. Again a smallish fish, especially for Aldermaston. It looked around the 6-6 ½ lb mark. I called Geoff. He hadn’t had a touch, but we both felt we should carry on and see whether the later finish would produce. At 1.15am we both decided it hadn’t! We headed back to camp for a well-earned cup of tea. This week I had forgotten something else of course. The milk, eejit that I am. Luckily Geoff had a small bottle of some soya milk muck that sufficed under the circumstances! 😉

The following day we kicked off by going to the small village stores and purchasing a few provisions, including some milk obviously. They do some great chunky sausage rolls here. Heated up, they make a great breakfast. A decent cup of take away coffee finished off our transactions and we headed back to the river.

Wadda you looking at?

We packed away the tents, made a flask of fresh coffee. I then loaded up with fishing tackle, like some sort of over-burdened pack-horse and headed upstream looking for a likely swim. On finding one, I baited up and read Coarse Angling Today for 45 minutes. I then wandered up to see Geoff, whom it turned out hadn’t gone where he said he was going, so I found an empty swim. Still, the walk did me good….!!

It turned out to be a reasonable day for me. I didn’t exactly empty the river, but did manage 3 more barbel to about 6 ½lbs. They were all in immaculate condition. I also missed a wraparound bite! I spotted a few more deer in the field and again managed to get reasonably close and take a few shots. Geoff managed a trout and a 4lb+ chub. He’s finding it tough at the moment and I know it hurts when other’s seem to be catching and you’re not. I’m certain he will turn it around soon though.

Hemp and Caster caught Barbel

Perhaps one of the highlights for me was watching a Crow and a Kite doing an impersonation of a World War II dog fight. They twisted and turned almost in harmony, as the Crow badgered the much larger and more impressive Kite. They soared and rolled, dived and turned. Occasionally, when the angle was just right, the Kite would suddenly swoop at the crow and they would disappear. We were certain the Kite had engulfed the crow with its mighty talons, but they would just as suddenly reappear and the aerobatics would continue. It was wonderful to watch.

Anyway, next week we are on the Trent for 3 days. So here’s hoping for some decent fishing weather and a few wraparounds to go with it.

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After our sojourn to the great Ouse last week, we decided it was time to stick to the job in hand and try to catch a few fish from the Kennet.   I have always liked September on the rivers.  It’s a month which has historically produced some of my best fish.  I’m sure that statement would be borne out by most angler’s experiences.  The barbel are starting to pack on a bit of weight during the Autumn months in readiness for the onset of winter.  I tend to get more doubles at this time of the year than any other, with the exception perhaps of late February and March.

The Kennet

So with this in mind Kevin, Geoff and myself felt that Aldermaston was the place to concentrate our efforts on.  This would give us the opportunity to fish a few hours into darkness on the first night and an early start the following day.  We are getting conflicting information regarding the best periods to fish.  Some advocate night-time, up to 1 or 2 in the morning.  Others are saying their catches are coming early morning up to 9 or 10. So we decided to try both, although we would probably only fish until maybe 11.30 or 12 on the Tuesday night. I do need my beauty sleep, as anyone who knows me will testify, often telling me that it’s quite obvious I’m not getting enough!

I had decided to go all out on the hemp and caster route.  Armed with about 12 pints of hemp and 6 pints of casters for the loose feed and then using 4 casters superglued onto a longish hair.  I hoped that by having a long hair, I’d hook less dace and roach and therefore create less disturbance in the swim.  It’s not a cheap excercise, as casters are £3.25 a pint, but it might prove worthwhile.  We arrived in the lower car park and found it empty.  After setting up camp we headed off to find a few suitable swims.

The largest loaded bait dropper

My intention was to stay put and bait the swim up throughout the duration of the session.  Kevin and Geoff found a couple of swims, but would consider moving if they felt it was appropriate.  I found the swim that I fancied and after bouncing a lead around, just to double-check the depth and weed situation, I used the largest bait dropper to deposit about 2 1/2 pints of hemp and caster into the swim.  I then intended to leave the swim to rest for an hour.  I tied up a new hooklink for my main rod and went about setting up the chair and oh yes the landing net.  Now where is my landing net handle…oh not in the quiver…..must have already taken it out…..er no….not in the car either……ah, think I left it at home.  What a total wazzock!  I had already realised that I had forgotten my fleece top as well.  Things were looking a bit dicey.  It was going to be one of ‘those’ sessions.  Luckily Kevin was just a few yards upstream of me, so offered to stay there during the duration of the session, despite my comments about him and Geoff missing the Junction on the motorway last week!  I just hoped that I wouldn’t disturb him too much.  Well, chance would be a fine thing!

So after much cursing and coffee drinking, I finally swung the bait out into the swim.  My intention was to bait dropper 3 loads every 20 minutes using the medium sized dropper and re-bait and re-cast every 40 minutes.  In the event of a fish, I would bait dropper 6 loads and rest the swim for 30 minutes.  This is very much a Steve Pope method of fishing hemp and caster.  If it’s good enough for him, it is certainly good enough for me.

6lb Kennet Barbel

15 minutes into the first cast and the tip whacked round.  A strong fish fought like a tiger on the other end.  I knew it wasn’t a big fish, but what a great fight.  The barbel was around 6 pounds and went back very strongly.  I did the 6 dropper thing and enjoyed a coffee.  Out went the bait again after 30 minutes.  A little while after, the rod tip went round again and this was a small but strong fish.  It felt too strong for a roach or chub, so it had to be a small barbel.  It was.  A perfectly formed and pristine fish of about a pound in weight.  Very encouraging for the future.  At about 10.30 the rod tip whacked round again and this time a really nice fish of close on 8lbs resulted.  Both Geoff and Kevin had not had a bite.  Maybe there is something to this hemp and caster lark after all.

A near '8'

At 11.30 we called it a day.  It was still warm and I could have fished on for another hour or so, but we wanted an earlyish start.  So we headed back to camp for a cup of freshly brewed tea and the usual late night chin wag, then off to bed ready for day 2.

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This is far from being just a barbel fishing blog, but big barbel have been somewhat elusive so far this season.  I think my best to date has been 10lb 1oz from the Trent.  The Kennet doubles have proven to be even harder to come by.  We normally take plenty of big fish from the Kennet. I think my best day was 3 ’12’s’ two seasons ago.  A season where I managed 14 doubles from the Kennet.  This season has been the hardest start on the Kennet I’ve had in 5 years.  It’s strange because everywhere else I go I seem to catch plenty of barbel.  I’ve had the best part of 140 fish this season and only 15 have been from the Kennet.  Still hopefully it will get better…….!

So it was that Geoff, Kevin and I packed up the tents and moved to Aldermaston.  We know this stretch well and in past seasons have fared well here during daylight hours.  Rather than fish during the day on the other beats, this week we had swapped around a bit.  Fishing the evening and night at Dalston and today here at Aldermaston.  We hoped that this change in tactics might just produce some fish.

Base Camp

The water was still quite coloured and the river an inch or two up, maybe.  The river looked good.  We each headed off up river in search of some likely spots.  I ventured in to a very boggy swim.  Luckily I was armed (or legged) with my Simms waders.  So if I did have to wade into a few boggy spots, I could.  There is a lovely deep gully in this swim.  It’s flanked on one side by beautiful, flowing ranunculus and on the other by lots of overhanging trees and bushes.  It looks perfect.

I started off by putting out about 3 pints of hemp and caster.  Leaving the swim to rest for half an hour whilst I got organized.  The swim was certainly boggy, but I managed to find a firm spot for the chair.  Once that was all sorted a cup of coffee was in order and then I tied up a new rig.  The previous week I had fished casters on the hair, but due the the colour this week I opted for pellets for bait.  Hoping that the additional smell might make it easier for the fish to locate them.  A 3 foot braided hooklink was tied up with a 12 hook and 2 large elips pellets superglued to the hair.  The feeder was a 3 ounce Andrew Witham cage feeder.  This was packed with a mixture of pellets and Hinders ‘barbel bomb’ groundbait.

The bait was swung out into the gully and I sat back to await events.  I took this opportunity to nose through the weekly fishing papers.  A 4lb 10oz crucian carp had been caught from a Verulam AC water.  The picture looked good.  The fish, at a casual glance, looked like a true crucian.  They are not easy fish to identify.  The colour looked pretty good: dark bronze and orange tints to the fins.  The mouth didn’t look quite right, but it was open and extended, so nothing conclusive there.  I didn’t do a scale count, I think I’ll leave that to the experts.   I hope it is genuine and well done to the angler that caught this beautiful fish.

Anyway back to the barbel.  At last I had what looked like a persistent chub bite, so decided to hit it.  It was a chub, about 3 1/2lbs.  Then  a little later, another persistent chub bite, so I hit this one as well.  This time though it was a chub on steroids, 3 shredded wheat and a tin of Popeye’s spinach.  What is technically known in fishing circles as a barbel.  Not a big fish, but a really good fight.  A fish of about 6-7lbs.  Later on I had the full on 3 foot twitch.  It felt like a good fish on the other end.  It stayed deep and thumped around for a few seconds before snagging me on some unseen obstruction.  Steady pressure from numerous angles and plenty of swear words usually does the trick.  Sadly though everything went slack and the hook had pulled out.  At least I got all of the tackle back and the fish had escaped safely.

The rare Wasing lesser spotted Kookaburra

The warm weather was having a soporific effect on me and I kept drifting off into a world of naked women and British record barbel.  What a combination! Luckily, this was interrupted by the phone going and an excited Kevin on the other end informing me of a very good barbel in his landing net.  Assuming it hadn’t swam in there of its own accord, I hurried down ready to do the David Bailey impression, although I was sober!

Kevin lifted the fish out of the water and we were confronted by a very big, fat barbel.  It looked about 12lbs and this was confirmed on the scales, as she went 12lb 2oz.  A new PB for Kevin and the smile said everything.  Well done buddy, great result.  It was nice to see a big fish on the bank at long last.

Kev's PB Barbel 12lb 2oz

Despite a move, on Geoff and my parts, we couldn’t muster any further action.  So we ended the day with 2 barbel, plus the 5 from the previous day. 7 barbel and a new PB isn’t a bad couple of days fishing.  Oh and we also stopped by the road side to watch 2 Red Kites and 2 Buzzards sharing the same air space.  Lovely to watch such impressive birds glide and swoop just overhead.  Ah well, until next time. As Arnie would say “I’ll be back”

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The lure of Kennet roach drew me back to the Wasing beats of this beautiful river this week.  The Kennet was once famed for its red finned inhabitants and it had a reputation for holding some very big specimens.  Well I’m pleased to say that in certain stretches, they are still there.  They crop up from time to time, mainly to barbel fishermen.  I have targeted these roach on just a few occasions recently, having taken them to 1lb 12oz in the past.   I’m certain that with some perseverance the larger specimens will eventually succumb.

So the set-up was fairly straight forward.  I balanced my superb light ‘river and stream’ quiver rod (a TFG rod that is sadly no longer available) with a Drennan reel loaded with 5lb line.  A running ledger link and a 3 foot mono hooklink coupled with a 16 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ completed the set-up.  The bait was a small hair rigged Hinders Elips pellet, attached by incorporating a small bait band tied to the hair.  This is a nice simple rig, where little can go wrong.  I do like to use a 3 inch length of silicone tubing on the hooklink which pulls onto the swivel.  This just pushes the hooklink away from the feeder, which is then attached to the running ledger link.  It just helps to prevent tangles.

I targeted an area that I know has produced some decent roach in the past and still regularly throws up some decent specimens over a pound.  There is a lovely long glide here and a fallen tree at the end of the run.  On the opposite bank are more bushes and trees in the water, which create a lovely crease.  It screams roach, especially as it has an excellent average depth.

Ah, I can smell roach...or is that my aftershave!

After setting up base camp (where’s Sherpa Tenzing when you need him?) I baited my chosen swim with a little hemp to get the fish interested.  The water was a little higher than of late after recent heavy rains and the river was carrying a little more colour too.  Perfect roach conditions.  First cast out with the hemp and caster feeder, produced instant results.  The tip yanked round from a cracking bite and the strike met with that jagged resistence of what felt like a good roach.  Then, sadly it was off.  Things went a little quiet from there.  It was a lovely warm evening.  As dusk approached the tip pulled round again and this time the culprit found the folds of the landing net.  A fine Kennet roach of about a pound. It was fin perfect and in immaculate condition.  Hopefully this was to be the start of some decent action.

Hemp and Caster - Irresistible!

Well sadly by 10pm, not an awful lot had happened.  Kevin had taken a couple of nice barbel further upstream, the biggest going 8lb 10oz and Geoff had caught a small fish of about 4-5lbs. Then at last another bite came my way.  The dogged, zig-zag fight indicated a roach and so it was.  Another fish of about a pound.  Sadly tiredness was beginning to get the better of me (that’s old age for you) so I decided to have one more cast whilst packing away all of the usual paraphernalia that us anglers take but never seem to use (please tell me it’s not just me!).  Once all that was done, it was time to reel in.  Moments before doing so the rod top dragged round violently and a hard fighting fish ripped line from the reel.  The clutch screamed as the fish headed for the fallen tree.  Steady pressure won the day (a good balanced set-up, even using lightish lines, can subdue big fish) and the fish was drawn over the cord of the landing net.  Well it was obvious by now that this was a roach of the bearded variety. Yes, a barbel. Certainly not a monster, but about 6lbs.

A bearded roach

I popped over to see Geoff and as I stood there his rod whacked round and a feisty barbel of around 4-5lbs was later unhooked and slipped back to fight another day.  I headed back to camp and got the kettle going.  Kevin surrendered to the Barbel Gods but Geoff was made of tougher stuff and after his cuppa, carried on fishing for a couple of hours.  Sadly nothing more came his way and even he eventually succumbed to tiredness.

Not a bad session all in all.

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