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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back in the groove

My recent return to the photographic world has reminded me that going out looking for photographs is a lot like going fishing. You set out with good intentions but the elements and other factors mean there is no guarantee of success. Saturday morning saw me up and out bright and early hoping to make good use of the promised sunshine to get some pixels organised. The sun came along, but not for long. I did have a cunning plan though...

A tree yesterday

I'd gone for a walk along the river, it would have risen on Friday and it might have warmed too so it was worth investigating. Accompanying my camera gear on the walk was my thermometer. The first stop at the edge of a nicely coloured and dropping river was to throw the thermometer in the water. It didn't take long for me to decide not to return with the rods for a while. 2.9C was far from encouraging, and the distant fells still had a faint covering of snow that would be entering the river some time soon.

When the sun went into hiding, to be replaced by light rain, I was on my way home and thence to the tackle shop where the talk was of torrential rain and gale force winds for today. The consensus was that I was mad to be buying maggots to use for roach. My intention was to wait and see what the morning brought and either head to the river if it looked set fair or to a stillwater if it bode ill.

As things turned out the foul weather was in the south (hurrah!!!) so I could get a couple of small glueing jobs done, make some sarnies and pack my gear in the car to arrive after the turn of the tide. Two cars were parked up with only one angler in sight. He'd caught a couple of chub and told me he didn't fish maggots on this stretch because the dace did his head in.

After arranging my gear in the claggy clay I cast out a single white maggot on a 16 and my usual feeder rig, the feeder being filled with old maggots, their attendant casters, and micro trout pellets. Then I ate my first salami bun and recast. As I was pouring the first flask-tea of the day the quiver tip commenced a-dancing. A nicely conditioned roach of about six or eight ounces. I was fishing a close in line to start with. If I start catching from there and then bites dry up casting further out usually brings renewed action. I prefer to do it that way than start in mid river and come closer. I'm not sure why.

Eye. Aye.

The rig I was using had been trouble free when used with a heavier hooklink for chubbing. While it was tangle-free initially with a light hooklength it had soon started to twist around the lead link and tangle on previous sessions. From there on it spiralled (pun intended) downhill. Tying on a fresh hooklink would sort it temporarily but it was a pain. Why I hadn't switched to a helicopter variantI can only put down to pig-headedness or laziness. This time I made the switch.

It was so simple. A small swivel trapped between two Drennan Grippa Stops on the main line. Another swivel tied to the end of the mainline and the feeder attached to that via a link of slightly weaker mono. The hooklink is looped to the rotating swivel, after having a cut down large Korum rig sleeve (the small ones are too small) slid on to it. The rig sleeve is pushed over the rotating swivel and makes a bit of a boom. It works. Talk about kicking myself.

It was almost an hour later before another fish came along. A dace that didn't looks as big as the ones I'd neglected to weigh last month, so I weighed it. 5.5oz. Or thereabouts. A second dace was weighed at an ounce more. That one didn't look as big as the unweighed ones either. Then I hooked something that tore off downstream, hung in the flow and came adrift as I applied too much pressure trying to pull it upstream. I reckoned it was a chub until I hooked another fish that did something similar. This time I took it easy and allowed the fish to make its own way upstream. It turned out to be a pound-plus roach, and hadn't felt as heavy as the lost fish. A smaller roach was followed by another heavy feeling fish that I took my time with. This one was a chub, of about a pound and a half. I hadn't a clue what I'd lost.

Fred keeps an eye on the rod tip while I eat my sarnies

By now I was fishing further out, about a third of the way across. Bites came with increasing regularity as the afternoon wore on. Mostly dace, two of which looked more like the ones from last month and weighed eight ounces and a fraction less. The bigger fish upped my PB - the first of the year. It still didn't quite seem as big as one I had returned unweighed. Maybe there wasn't much in it, but enough.

The top of a Ruckbag makes a good unhooking mat for small species

Despite a bitterly cold wind I wasn't feeling uncomfortable. I only noticed my toes starting to numb when I thought about them! Getting plenty of bites is a great way to get back into the swing of fishing. In among the dace and dropped fish was another roach of some six ounces. Had I remembered my keepnet I'd have amassed quite a netful. The sky had been grey but cloudy until the sun began to set. For the first time in ages there was a colourful sunset during which fish began to top all along the river.

A disgorger behind the ear is a sure sign of plenty of action

My flask was all but drained, the food long gone. Bites were still coming so my departure time kept getting put back. At five to six, with still enough light to allow the Petzl to stay in the Ruckbag, I hooked something heavy again. I took my time wondering if it was a roach or a chub. the grey dorsal that sliced through the water's surface gave the game away. Only about a pound, but on light tackle with a small hook there's no way to bully these fish in a strong flow. I'd tidied most of the gear away so the recast would be the last.

Hardly had the feeder settled when the tip bounced the upstream self-hooked fish bounce. A shoal of chub must have moved in as a fish that felt just like the previous one got itself in the flow downstream a rod length out. There was still enough colour in the river to make it difficult to see fish until they were almost at the surface. When this one boiled I was sure there was a flash of red, but the light was fading fast. I eased off a little, just in case. When I did catch a definite sight of the roach I was starting to consider prayer.

Not the biggest roach in the world, not even big by some people's standards, it was the best of the day and a great way to end my first session in what seems like ages. I'd finished with 22 fish after a slow start - two chub, five roach and the rest dace. My head was well and truly done in!

Homage to Vincent

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old and soft

I have to confess that the weather since Christmas has really put me off fishing. Had the roads not been so awful with the snow I would have ventured to a river or two, and probably done the grayling fishing I promised myself but the thought of getting stuck somewhere far from home didn't appeal. Then with the stillwaters frozen solid thoughts of pike or roach were scuppered. In a 'normal' winter such weather lasts maybe two weeks then we're back to the usual not-too-cold dampness with occasional frosts. Weather that is bearable. This winter seems never ending. It's coming up to the last week of February and it's snowing again. What I hear from people who have ventured out recently hasn't made me want to grab the rods and join them.

Frozen again

Some say that this lack of enthusiasm is the result of getting older and seeing sense. I certainly hope so! But then if we were 'sensible' when we were young we wouldn't do or learn much. I guess what you do learn is when you are likely to waste your time, and as time starts running out it's better to use it doing something you enjoy or get something out of. Sitting outdoors feeling my toes growing increasingly cold while not catching fish isn't the 'pleasure' it once was. I've still been getting out in the fresh air and stretching my legs, and my imagination, by taking a camera for a walk. I'm not sure it provides the same satisfaction as fishing can, but it's best done when the sun shines, I keep on the move and stay warm, and I don't have to stay out too long if I don't want to!

There are signs that spring is on the way, though. Even if feeble. I keep reminding myself that last season conditions were poor until the final week, that it only takes a day or two of mild weather to get the rivers back in barbel fettle, and only one bite to crown a season. I'm biding my time. How's that for optimism?

Snowdrops before the snow dropped again

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow's no fun

I had it all planned. Christmas rod orders out on Monday and spend the rest of the week fishing. The stillwaters had mostly turned solid but the rivers would be okay for chub, roach and grayling, maybe tempting enough for a pike rod to accompany me. I was looking forward to the change. Then it snowed. It's not being out in the cold that puts me off fishing but the journey to the river. Time was I'd have turned out anyway, but that was in the other country they call the past.

Long ago and far away

The other Christmas my present to myself was a lathe, this year it included a film/slide scanner which I used to scan the photo above. If I don't manage to get out fishing again soon I might blight the blog with some more blasts from the past.

I also treated myself to another Gierach book. Gierach is one of those writers it's easy to become a bore about, one you wish only you had discovered yet want to tell everyone about - even though those who would want to know almost certainly did before you 'discovered' him. That his writing is ostensibly about fly fishing is irrelevant, there are truths which are universal to fishing so it resonates. However, it's often not really about fishing at all. But then fishing often isn't.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

More bloggy stuff

Checking my web stats again I saw a few visitors had come from Chris Ponsford's site, so I clicked through to find out why. I met Chris at the Tackle and Guns trade show a month ago and it turns out he said some nice things about me in his 17/11/09 blog. You can find Chris's site here, and I've added a link to his (infrequently updated) blog on the right. He takes some fine photos. I hope he won't mind me sticking one here to brighten the place up.

Leaping salmon by Chris Ponsford

Some blogs on Blogger feature a 'next blog' link. In the past this was purely a random link but now the feature (usually) takes you to a blog of a similar nature to the one you are visiting. I waste many an hour surfing the 'next blog' link. A lot are US based and/or flyfishing oriented. There's good and bad, as with the whole of the blogosphere, but there is some really nice stuff to read or, more usually, look at.

As this blog doesn't have the Blogger link I've added it to my list of fishy blogs. Click on Random Blog to start your journey into a fishy timesuck.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Time waits for no man

All too soon I find myself writing again on the passing of a well known pike angler. Barrie Rickards, who died yesterday, was of an earlier generation than James Holgate, but that makes it no easier to come to terms with. I didn't know Barrie all that well, but like James he put work my way when times were hard, asking me to do the diagrams for John Sidley's River Piking book. I also fished in his company a couple of times and he photographed my first zander (a double), the picture subsequently appearing on the cover of a zander book he wrote with Neville Fickling.

Of course I knew of Barrie long before I met him. I'd read many of his articles in Angling magazine and, like so many pikers fishing in the late 'seventies Fishing for Big Pike was my handbook. It is worth noting that this book was written in collaboration with Ray Webb, to whom Barrie always due credit and reminded people that it was Ray's name that took precedence (on the spine and inside if not on the cover). Yet everyone refers to it as being by Rickards and Webb, when the reverse is true.

The Word

The influence of that book on modern pike fishing is immense. It was first published in 1970, a year before Buller's monumental Pike. Yet today when we compare the tackle and tactics recommended in both books Buller's appear archaic, those of Webb and Rickards do not. In fact the rigs they described (maybe with minor tweaks) are still used pretty much universally. With Fishing for Big Pike Barrie Rickards became seen as the father of modern pike fishing. There is much to be said for that, but you can read Barrie's take, written in 1997, on how modern piking evolved in this article.

It is interesting to note that Webb and Rickards came to prominence without catching numbers of thirty pound pike. Of course it could be argued that there were fewer thirty pound pike around when they were fishing, and that is undoubtedly true, but the point is they wrote about their fishing and the photos they took of pike served to illustrate that what they were saying had merit. Their reputations were built on that basis. Today's piking heroes (for want of a better phrase) are building their reputations on the numbers of big pike they have caught rather than the knowledge they have passed on.

Webb and Rickards made a point of stating what they had caught as evidence that their methods worked. Fishing for Big Pike set out to bust a few myths and propose new theories (feeding spells, hotspots and the effects of barometric pressure for example) - so evidence was required. Writers who followed perhaps took this to extremes. Neville Fickling's first (and subsequent) books contained a detailed list of every pike of more than twenty pounds that he had caught at the time of publication. I'm not laying the blame entirely at Neville's feet, but while a list of big pike lends weight to an argument it does not guarantee that the argument is correct. Neville could simply have spent a lot of time fishing poorly on very good waters! Experience isn't necessarily measured in pounds and ounces.

What the writings of Barrie Rickards, Martin Gay, Jim Gibbinson and others following in the footsteps of Dick Walker all shared was an analytical approach to fishing. They looked at what was going on and rather than dream up fanciful explanations they applied logic. That all three of those mentioned were academics as well as anglers no doubt played it's part. I think that is the most important lesson I have learned from their writings - not to accept received wisdom and to think for myself. Will we see their like again?

Tributes: FishingMagic; Pike and Predators

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Monday, October 26, 2009

This and that

As I expected, today was dry and windless. I took the opportunity to inspect the amazing exploding umbrella and managed to put it back in to some sort of working order. Two of the plastic fitments that attach the ribs to the central boss have snapped. Other than that it's perfect. For the time being the rib ends can press against the cover - but they'll wear through it eventually if I leave it that way. Coincidentally I got a call this evening from a friend in the manufacturing side of the tackle trade and he reckons there's a new, over-engineered, brolly about to hit the shops. So I'll be putting my blagging hat on soon!

I've added a link to Bob's Blog today. It's updated a few times a month and if you ignore the never ending bitching carried over from a couple of forums it's a good mix of fishing topics and other stuff. His latest post looks at blogging, which (along with a comment on another forum about magazines) set me thinking. Will weekly angling papers survive once everyone is on-line and understands how to use news feeds?

Given the number of angling forums around news travels pretty quick these days, often appearing on the web before it does in print, and frauds get exposed quickly too. There is also a growing angling blogosphere, and I know for certain that print journalists check blogs out - including this one.

Most blogs and forums now supply a feed. So as soon as more anglers realise that the don't have to check out all the angling blogs and forums manually for updates, but can put them into a newsreader where updates appear by magic, with a link to click to go to the complete post, then things will change.

As I use Blogger to compose my blog I subscribe to blog feeds there. I enter my 'dashboard' (as the control area is called) and see the latest updates to all my favourite feeds. If you visit lots of blogs, or other sites with feeds, then get yourself set up to subscribe or follow.

Modern browsers allow you to subscribe to feeds directly. If you use Firefox and see this logo next to the web page's address (as you will for this page) you can click it and see the feed - then set up a subscription in a reader of your choice, including the Firefox browser. Do this for all the blogs you visit and you can check them all out for updates at one time. Updates are automatically loaded but in Firefox all you'll get is the title of the latest post. If you set up an on-line newsreader, like Google Reader, you'll get more than the title, you'll get the first few lines and maybe a photo. The latest post being at the top. And you can set it to show all feeds at once so even less work is involved!

I also reckon that the big firms that sponsor anglers are missing a trick with blogs. A lot have 'blogs' on their websites, but in essence they are just occasional articles that their sponsored anglers send in. Few of them have feeds, so you have to check manually, and they are not updated too frequently - so you don't bother.

As far as I can tell most big firms really haven't grasped what the web is about yet. It's about changing content. The biggest trick that's being missed is to allow the sponsored anglers to blog directly and to do away with the monthly print articles. It'll happen - eventually - and then the print media will struggle.

Where they need to move is into on-line publishing. Their material can be blogged, and they can use forums to attract more visitors. So how will they make their money given that nobody wants to pay for on-line advertising? Simple. They do what Predator Publications/Carp Talk has done and get into selling DVDs and books. In fact get into producing them to sell via the on-line presence. Even put them on-line on a pay per view basis. onlinefishing.tv is having a stab at the latter after starting out as a subscription channel, and I see it's now looking to sell DVDs. So maybe the future has already arrived?

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Change of plan...

For whatever reason I couldn't get motivated to risk a drive to the river today. Probably because I really want to fish somewhere else, for something other than barbel. Instead I've been packing rods ready to despatch tomorrow - after I've visited the garage...

My idle hours have been spent rereading my 1979 edition of Jack Hilton's Quest for Carp which, covering the years to 1970 and like Casting at the Sun, recounts earlier days of carp fishing when there were plenty of problems to solve - not least what tackle was best. Carp anglers, all big fish anglers in fact, have it easy these days.

A truly iconic cover photo of Bill Quinlan

Big fish angling was much more of an adventure back in the early days. Not only was it unknown what might lurk in lightly fished, secluded pools, but tackle had to be made to do the job. One can appreciate that catching a handful of what would be considered mediocre fish today was a real achievement, and that the process was as much a part of it as the catching. No twin skinned bivvies for Hilton and co. Just an umbrella, a groundsheet and some polythene sheeting. And can you imagine today's carp anglers suffering in a mail bag instead of a fleece lined duvet sleeping bag? They must have been exciting times. I wonder how many of today's carp anglers will have read Quest for Carp?

By the time I came to big fish angling it had almost all been sorted out. There were numerous glass fibre specialist blanks available and Send Marketing Brollycamps were to be aspired to as were Optonic bite alarms - and out of the price range of an impoverished student. Today tackle is almost ridiculously cheap, and rarely nasty.

The closest I've been to being involved in something like the pioneering days of the post-Walker era was the 'big lure revolution' of the 1990s. Only looking back do I see that now. I wonder if the likes of Hilton realised how much they were changing things at the time they were freelining potatoes?

Checking the webstats for this blog to see where you lot find it I saw that Ted Carter's have started a fishing blog. If you are local to the Preston area or interested in fishing tackle developments it might be worth keeping an eye on.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Law of Sod

I'd been a good little boy all week, working instead of fishing, which meant that the weekend and most of next week could be spent wetting a line. I had taken a detour on my way back from Liverpool to have a look at a local commercial fishery that has recently opened - out of curiosity rather than a desire to fish the place - and was a mere five miles from home when the car stalled as I turned a corner over a bridge. I managed to keep the engine running as I waited at the level crossing then, knowing there was a junction ahead and cars behind me, I pulled over. The engine died again. I put the hazards on and had a think. I fired the car up after a few minutes and drove home without any more trouble.

This has happened before and the car is likely to stall, or run like a sack of spuds, at any time. It cost something over £200 to sort out last time. So I have that to look forward to next week, and my plans to have an away day this weekend have been scuppered. With the wind howling in from the north west and having brought rain I must admit I'm not too bothered about being stuck indoors, but I can't go a whole week without fishing, so I'll take a chance somewhere close to home tomorrow.

In the meantime here's an embarrassing photo of me with my first ever barbel, caught (in 1991 during my Grizzly Adams years) on a lump of luncheon meat, touch legered on the River Dane...

Not even five pounds

...and one of my second caught on a hair rigged boilie from the Ribble 13 years later...

Over seven

...and my first double, from the Trent, six months after that.

Nearly eleven and a half

I'm lucky to have a photo of that one. The camera batteries died after the shot was taken. It was a cool January night but the Trent fished well while the Ribble had been a struggle. Looking at my results for January through to the end of the season in 2005 I made 13 trips to the Ribble for one four pound barbel, while four sessions on the Trent produced eleven - three over nine pounds. I put this down to the Trent, certainly in the lower reaches, being less prone to rapid temperature (and level) fluctuations in the winter giving the barbel a better chance to acclimatise and settle down to feed.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Modern times

After doing some work in the morning I couldn't make my mind up what to do next. Having wasted too much time in deliberation I decided to go barbel fishing (just once more!) and chance a long walk to Buzzard Bend. I'd been listening Farming Today in the morning and the terrible issue of noise pollution in the countryside. People, who claimed to be country folk, were complaining about shooting, bird scarers, church bells and big tractors. It made me wonder what they expect from the world. These sounds are all part of the ambience of the countryside for me. Just like blanking makes catching more pleasureable they make the silence that follows them all the more intense.

Walking upstream the first field that had been lush grass and clover last week, was shorn and yellow. The second was still being worked, the rural idyll hideously shattered by two enormous tractors collecting silage making the most of the continuing Indian Summer. There should be a law against it...

The bend is deep, snaggy, and an easy cast. I leaded around then spodded out some two pints of pellets and the contents of a tin of hemp. Fear not, I hadn't bought the tinned seed. It had been acquired in exchange for some leads and pellets. With the appetisers laid I cast out the main course. A 15mm boilie on one rod and a 10mm boilie on the other, both with their attendant bags of pellets. The ritual bag filling then commenced.

Since seeing the Korum PVA mesh sold in watertight pots I have been keeping mine in a screw top container. The one shown below will hold 20m of mesh, and being clear I can see how much I have left. I leave half an inch of the mesh hanging out when I put the lid on so I can find the end easily.

PVA container

It was quarter to five by the time the baits were out, the sun still shining warm and bright. A kingfisher was having success on the far bank. There are plenty of small fish in the margins at the moment. The silage was gathered in and a natural 'silence' descended once more on the valley. A buzzard mewed, a blackbird chattered its alarm call and flew across the river to disappear into the thick canopy of the wooded bank opposite. The leaves are now showing definite signs of autumn. The air was still, I watched a leaf detach from a branch and flutter slowly to the water's surface and drift equally slowly downstream. Fish were rising noisily.

A lazy, hazy day

The river was low and clear, with it's usually light peaty stain. I was expecting kick-off time to be around eight. I wound the baits in and went for a wander up river. There was a tempting looking run with far bank snags. Not tempting enough for me to move after putting the bait in on the bend. Back in my chosen swim I dropped my rig in the margin to see how obtrusive the braided hooklink was - and took an underwater photo. The hook looks more obvious than the braid to me.

What the fishes see

The baits were recast, but I swapped the big bait rig over to clear nylon. An experiment to see if it would bring me a bite in daylight when the 'highly visible' braid might not. I sat down and swigged from my bottle of pop. Hearing a rustling in the balsam I turned round to be greeted by a fellow angler who enquired how this swim fished as he hadn't tried it. I replied that I hadn't got a clue. "This is the first time I've..." ZZZZzzzzzzz. The small boilie had been swapped for an 8mm crab pellet and a barbel had approved of the change.

Barbel fight differently in deeper water than they do in the shallows. In the shallows they use their power to cover distance at speed, in deeper water they use it to bulldog. This one was bulldogging like a good un. With the river being clear it had glistening brassy flanks. It also looked like it had swum into a big rock as a small fry. A chunky fish even so.

Son of parrot

So much for the braid putting the barbel off. Half an hour later the big boilie was taken. One all to the two rigs in daylight. There was some light cloud overhead, the evening was staying warm. A couple of days earlier I was wrapped up in fleece long before dark. This time I was in my t-shirt until eight.

Sunset in the valley

By the time the next bite came, again to the pellet, I was fleeced-up but by no means cold. The fingerless mittens were still in the rucksack and dew wasn't forming heavily. This third fish gave an unusual bite. A short zuzz on the baitrunner followed by a tapping rod tip. The initial impression when I leaned into it was of a chub. Until it started to take line. At a couple of ounces over nine pounds it was the best, and last, barbel of the session.

As the evening wore on it felt more and more like nothing else would happen. It didn't. I have a hunch that if I had put more bait in from the off, or topped it up as the session progressed, I might have caught a few more. There's no way to prove it though. I packed up at half past eleven and began the fifteen minute trudge back to the car. As I was loading the gear in the car I saw a bright green cricket on the window of the rear door. Prehistoric looking, and larger than I had imagined crickets to be.

I have two choices of route home. The short one through town and suburbs, the long one along motorway and through the flatlands. I opted for the motorway. This was a bad move with a capital 'B'. Before I had reached the end of the slip road I ground to a halt in what was obviously a lengthy tailback. It's less than two miles to the next junction. It took me an hour to get there and turn off - the tailback went on for as far as I could see. The cause was 'workforce in carriageway', four lanes being reduced to one.

Every light in town was on red, reminding me why I take the motorway. At one set I noticed movement at the bottom left of the windscreen. The cricket. It must have crawled along the side of the car. As my journey home continued the cricket carried on creeping. By the time it was in front of me I'd got quite fond of it and didn't want to drive too fast in case it got swept away by the airflow. I entered a 50 zone and it turned head on to become more streamlined. As I hit the dual carriage way I saw it brace its legs. If it had knuckles I'm sure they would have been white. Turning in to the village it started to crawl on to a windscreen wiper. By the time I parked up it had descended the other side. I thought it had an air of relief about it!

The fastest cricket in the west

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Foggy dew

Every so often the weathermen and women get it right. The Indian Summer arrived on Wednesday morning. By noon it was red hot. So Wednesday evening saw me braving the rush hour traffic to deliver the fettled rods from Sunday. There was plenty of room on the stretch and the gear was (not so amazingly) in the back of the car. What the hell?

The drawback to Indian Summers is that the nights are long and the sun low in the sky. While midday temperatures can be high they soon fall once night falls, and they are slow rising again in the morning. By the time I had my gear in place the bank was shading me and I needed my fleece. For a change I used a spod to put some pellets out. The bait dropper would have been a pig to cast the required distance and could easily have snagged up. The baits were cast out and I began bagging chore.

I wasn't happy. After filling enough bags with pellets to keep me going for a few hours I moved. Only a few yards downstream. Just far enough for my downstream rod to be come my upstream rod and the upstream rod to be leapfrogged to fish further down the swim.

Things were quiet, even after dark. The sky was clear and a bright moon began to rise. I amused myself by bracing my head against the back of my chair and watching the moon's progress behind the leaves and branches of a tree on the far bank. It moves surprisingly quickly. After a few recasts the upstream rod began to bounce. A good scrap was had from what proved to be the largest fish of the night at an ounce under eight pounds. Ten minutes later a five-ish pounder was landed to the downstream rod followed by a repeat performance another ten minutes after that. Then there was a lull before two more fish came along after ten, and another lull before two more were caught within minutes just before eleven.

With the sky so clear there was soon a heavy dew forming on the grass, the rods, and anything else that didn't move. I expected a mist to roll over the water at some point, and it did. It wasn't heavy or constant. There was a breeze that kept it dispersed most of the time. The thermometer had fallen from 17 when I had parked up to 8.5 when I loaded the car. By the time I set off for home at midnight there was a heavier, but patchy, mist in the valley.

On the drive home I began to ponder The Abolitionist Project and its aim of ridding the world of all suffering by chemical and genetic means. If all the world was permanently blissed out on MDMA there would be no highs and lows. Life would be dull. It would be more like purgatory. Imagine being forced to fish somewhere you got a bite every cast and landed every fish, each identical to the next. There'd be no misery of lost fish, but there'd be no elation of landing a whopper. My mind wandered.

    "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same...

    "Rudyard (after a lake) Kipling (not after a maker of exceedingly good cakes)

It sounds clever at first, but it's a load of old tosh when you think about it. How can anyone treat blanking the same as catching? And why should you?

Triumphs in fishing are made all the sweeter by the inevitable failures and disasters. If you catch all the time without really trying it can become a bit boring. As I have still only had two blank barbel sessions this season, and having hooked and lost a barbel on one of those, the appeal is starting to pall. It's still difficult to resist 'just one more session'. So after my next barbel session I'm going to have a change. Maybe.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Now, then, forever

Driving across the flatlands I turned one of the many ninety degree bends and ran straight into a wave of overwhelming nostalgia. On my left was field of half-dried hay being turned in the late summer sun. The grass lying like a loosely thrown duvet over the ground. The next sharp bend turned right before I could change up a gear and there was a wheat field, motionless. The early evening light throwing the Naples Yellow ears into chequerplate relief.

Nostalgia for England is not Bob Cratchet in the snow or Heathcliff on the rain-lashed moor, it's Constable, Housman and larks ascending in the brief, nameless period of low sun and still air between summer and autumn. I don't remember which route I took to the river. I was lost somewhere in the past that was also the now.

The river was flowing peacefully when I arrived to fish a spot EH had shown me on Tuesday. It had the vibe and I wanted to try it out. After struggling through the vegetation I took my time getting set up. A quick lead around and I knew it would be snaggy. Big rocks in the margins and cobbles on the river bed. With the flow pushing through under the rod ends I droppered out some pellets. I was trying a different rod for this. I was hoping that the nine footer would double as a rod for tight swims. It was a bit lacking for the dropper. Back to the drawing board - or I should say the blank pile.

Even while I was baiting up the mallards arrived. Not my friends from downriver, a more bolshy bunch. I chucked a couple of broken boilies in and the ducks dived for them. Bang went that idea. With the baits in place I sat down for the inevitable PVA bag tying session. The warm evening made this a piece of cake. Although not hot I was able to sit out in shirtsleeve order until gone eight. By which time the rod tips had already started twitching to the attentions of chub. I didn't expect any real action until the light had gone.

The swim was a comfortable one, and as I was sat a few feet above the waterline, fishing close in, I was able to keep the rods low. This positioned the tips at eye level, preventing neck ache, and the isotopes glowed brightly against the silhouette of the opposite bank as dusk turned to night proper. When the bite came I wasn't expecting it.

The downstream reel buzzed wildly and I found myself playing the fish before I knew what was going on. The marginal boulders made for a tense, interesting fight. I managed to clamber down to the water's edge and with the fish beaten drew it safely over the rocky jumble into the net. A fish of six or seven pounds was unhooked in the river and swam slowly back over the ledge to deeper water.

More taps and twitches were coming to both rods. It was almost an hour later when the upstream rod slack-lined repeatedly. This was no barbel, no chub either, but an eel. It was flicked off the hook into the water.

A clear blue evening sky heralded a starry night. And a starry night would mean a drop in air temperature that would allow a river mist to form. I was surveying the river for mist - a killer of sport - which was light and sparse, when I glanced upstream and saw the moon's orangey glow through the leaves of an ash, I think it was an ash, on the far bank. Not quite a half moon, not quite a crescent. A Samuel Palmer moment and the nostalgia swirled round me. The polythene wrapped silage bales opposite seemed as timeless as standing stones.

By eleven thirty the mist was thickening. For the first time this season my toes were feeling chilly. I tidied my gear away without interruption, climbed the grassy bank and loaded the car.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Books, writers and writing

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd read Casting at the Sun recently. I also got a copy of My Fishing Days and Fishing Ways by J.W. Martin (The Trent Otter) at the same time. Two reprints from the Medlar Classics series - affordable hardbacks produced in an appealing format. I'm not a book snob and think books are meant to be read not objects to be admired, so the cheap price appeals to me. Paperbacks would have been even more appealing.

It must be me getting old, as I usually prefer books that are instructional rather than intended to invoke the spirit of angling, but the Yates book is a very good read. An evocative tale of his journey through carp fishing to catching the record. But for me it is spoiled by the section relating to the Golden Scale Club.

Nostalgia is fine, but trying to live in a romanticised Enid Blyton world in the modern age makes me spit. If Yates wants to fish with old tackle to catch carp, great. But please leave the silly names and ginger ale out of it. If I get the urge to read the book again I shall be taking a sharp knife to physically excise the offending pages!

The Martin book, on the other hand, is a genuine piece of history, having been written in 1906. For me the sections about the Trent and barbel are the most interesting. The famous Cromwell weir was still at the planning stage, so the river must have been tidal further upstream and somewhat different to what it is today, yet many of the stretches mentioned will be familiar to Trent regulars and are still productive today. I've caught from some of them myself. While tackle and baits have changed in some respects it's interesting to read how little some other things have altered. The fish are still the same, so they still hold in the same sorts of places they did 100 years ago and behave in similar fashion.

Another thing that hasn't changed is anglers moaning that the fishing isn't as good as it was years ago. In Martin's case I can't help thinking that taking most of the catch home, or selling it to pay for the next day's bait, can't have helped. So it's no wonder that a double figure pike was a rare capture, and a twenty pounder an absolute monster, but fourteen pound barbel were still to be had from the Mighty Trent. A good read. I must seek out a (cheap) copy of his barbel book.

You may have noticed a new quote from John Gierach in the sidebar. Not a writer I was familiar with, what with him being an American cane fly rod wafter, but I have seen a number of quotes from his writing on a few sites - notably Pure Piscator. I thought I ought to acquaint myself with his work as he clearly had things to say that were worth saying.

I ordered Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders, a compendium of essays culled from six of his books. My third angling book purchase in as many weeks that contains no photographs of fish or diagrams of rigs! Gierach's a writer more on the 'why' of angling than the 'how' (although there's some of that slipped in almost incidentally), on anglers and their motivations. It turns out he studied philosophy, and had ambitions to become a 'serious' writer, which no doubt accounts for this. A parallel with Yates, perhaps, who went to art school - which attracts people who don't like the concept of work in the nine-to-five sense of the word, people who look at the world through enquiring eyes.

I have long felt that fishing is akin to the creation of art, be that in paint or prose. Writing, painting, and fishing are all about immersion in the task at hand, about solving problems, finding new ways to do things, avoiding repetition, keeping out of ruts. They are all three intellectual pursuits. The results (the book, the painting, the fish in the net) are not what they are about. They are about the process. While that process can be frustrating, to the point of heartbreak or despair, it is what provides the satisfaction. Gierach knows this. Joseph Conrad knew it too; "They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means". That's stuck with me for nigh on thirty years - which is why the full quote appears at the foot of this page.

Books of essays can be dipped into. Having a mistrust of all things fly-fishing I turned straight to the essay Pike - hoping I might ease myself into the book through a species I have some understanding of and almost immediately found a quotable line; "Skill in fishing is a nebulous thing based largely on seasoned intuition, perhaps informed by a little knowledge, but catching a few fish now and then doesn't mean you have it". The book is by my bedside. I can see it being defaced by my corner foldings and underlinings...

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blogs, blagging and the infernalweb

Recently I received an e-mail promoting the publication of a facsimile of an angler's journal. It's a bit pretentious for my tastes, being hand-lettered and illustrated by the author, but I'm sure it will appeal to angling book collectors and romantics.

Nice. If you like that sort of thing.

I wonder if today's bloggers used to keep journals, or has the ease of blogging turned them into diarists? In my teens and twenties I kept a detailed diary, sometimes later pasting in photos of memorable fish. Then I gave up with the descriptive bits and simply noted interesting occurrences, times of bites, fish landed, swims fished, conditions and so forth. I still carry a hardback A6 notebook for that purpose and use the notes to write up this blog and articles (when I used to write them, that is). I have a pile of these notebooks going right back t0 the early eighties, and before that I used to note how many fish I had caught in Angling Times diary and an old school exercise book.

Over 25 years of fishing notes

Making notes of what you have caught, as you catch the fish, turns up surprises when you look up red letter days. They often turn out to be a paler red than remembered! If you note down times of capture and baits it can show patterns though. So it is practical, nostalgic and humbling.

No publisher would produce a facsimile of that!

If you are reading this you already know that there are plenty of people writing about their fishing on the infernalweb. I have a few links to some of my favourite blogs in the sidebar, and have added two more today. I'm choosy about the sites I link to though. Some I read occasionally set me ranting - either because of the way they are written or because of the opinions of the blogger. But I reckon that if you like this blog (see Sad Deluded Fools, below right) there's a fair chance you'll like the same sort of blogs and sites I enjoy visiting. In amongst the poorly written, ill informed dross there is good stuff out there. Both informative and entertaining.

I find it particularly encouraging that young anglers are contributing to the web. It shows that there is a continuing desire among anglers to share their experiences and to express the pleasure it brings them. Blogging gives them the freedom to develop their own style and a place to have their say. Breaking into the angling print media is less easy than it used to be for an un-sponsored writer. Pike and Predators and Coarse Angling Today being two of the few magazines that don't feature obviously sponsored anglers contributions as a matter of course.

The tie ups between magazine, advertisers and contributing authors can be quite convoluted. I know for a fact that agreements/arrangements are made between publications and manufacturers that their sponsored anglers will write (sometimes exclusively) for those publications. The fees for the articles making up part of the angler's sponsorship deal. The inclusion of articles heavily featuring the sponsor's logos and products helps keep the advertisers on board. I suppose magazines use these thinly disguised advertorials because they are guaranteed space fillers, because they must know most people can see through the ruse, and many readers detest them.

Before I get accused of hypocrisy, I know I mention Korum and Sonubaits a bit on here. Well, I happen to know someone who works for the Preston Innovations empire so I get given gear and bait from time to time - on the understanding I mention or review the stuff I like. John knows full well that I won't praise something just because I've been given it. As I said to him when I was filling my car with bait one time, "I won't use crap bait just because it's free!" Being naturally 'careful' I do my best to blag, or negotiate a discount or deal, on any tackle I really want. If that fails then I'll pay full whack. In fact, there have been times when I have bought bait or gear that I could have blagged because I wanted it in a hurry. Strange, but true!

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Veni, vidi, blanki

Coincidentally Martha Reeves is in the UK - just as the radio weather forecasters say we're heading for a heatwave! The last few days have been pretty warm, but it's supposed to be getting hotter still. I managed to make my getaway on Thursday evening and was set up well before dark after a red hot sunny day. After a warm night, when I didn't need the bunny suit or sleeping bag, just lay under the bedchair cover, Friday dawned dull with tench rolling and tail slapping, both in my swim and well out of casting range. Hopes were high. Alas they were to no avail. When the afternoon grew sunny there were fish splashing about near the inaccessible reedbeds. Some were probably carp, but I have a feeling some were tench spawning. Whether they were spawning or not they certainly weren't picking up my baits.

I spent a fair amount of time watching a pair of grebes building a nest, diving down for weed and even twigs, dragging them quite some distance. I also gained a new friend in the shape of the mallard duck that had visited my swim on another occasion but now was much more bold. No messing about, straight on the bank to mop up my spilt hemp then waddling over to my bivvy with a greedy look in her beady eyes. After peering over the bedchair she ducked (cough!) underneath it for a look around, then a circuit of the outside of the bivvy and back again. I tore up a slice of bread and she had no qualms about taking pieces from my hand. I then placed a whole slice on the edge of my bedchair. This was soon snatched and taken away to be devoured.

Later in the day she returned. I hung on to my bread this time, but threw her a couple of dendrobena worms. These must have been a bit dry or spicy, because she had to go for a drink of water after devouring them before coming back hopefully for more.

Where's my lunch?

There was a little more visible tench activity in the evening, again failing to be matched with bobbin activity. Given that I had seen more tench during this session than the previous two I decided to stay put for a second night. There had been rain in the afternoon and the evening and night were muggy. A couple of bleeps to the margin boilie rod awoke me at three, but I managed to focus my eyes just in time to see the bobbin dropping back. Liner. Out with the last of the hemp, rebait the rigs and recast.

Saturday morning was quite still, the sky grey and a light mist blurred the distance. A couple of tench showed over the bait and even closer in. Still no pick ups. After breakfast I caught up on some sleep then packed up at eleven. As I hit the road rain arrived. With nothing better to do, and with thoughts of tench fishing starting to fade I set off to look at a couple of fisheries for a new challenge.

One was reputed to hold crucians and tench. It looked a bit of a hole in the ground to be honest, but it might be worth a chuck. The other was an ancient pool deep in the countryside holding a stock of wildies. I saw one carp caught, and another angler who had a load of carp (many small ones) cruising and crashing out in front of him. This was a much nicer place to be, especially on a damp midsummer afternoon with rain beginning to clear, warm drips falling from the trees and mist over the fields of wheat. I could see how carp fishing appealed to people when it was all carried out on waters such as this - but with fewer anglers about.

A vision of the past

My nostalgia isn't shared by everyone. I'd been prompted to seek out this pool by a conversation with a carp angler who had said it was a lovely place. He then went on to say that if it was his fishery he'd drain it, remove the numerous native carp and replace them with thirty big fish. Why do people want monoculture fishing? What's wrong with a bit of variety?

I've got a bit of work to get done this week, so I'll be playing it by ear dependent on the weather. I might have one more desperate try for a tench or two, or I might give those wildies a try, there's also a rudd pit that's come back on my radar. Then again a certain river I called in at looked rather enticing. If it does turn hot, with muggy nights I suppose the eel rods could get some use. Thank heavens all waters aren't chock full of twenty pound carp.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thought for today

I have long thought that fishing and art are interchangeable. For me at least. Both provide a never-ending quest, filled with challenges to be overcome and problems to be solved. Listening to the radio today I heard someone quote Albert Einstein.

If you think of the following in terms of angling it makes a lot of sense. It is the mystery of luring often unseen creatures of unknown size from an alien medium that leaves us in awe of them when we succeed.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Life is short

I suppose it's inevitable as you grow older, but I've lost two good friends in the last year. Two blokes who were like chalk and cheese but bonded by a shared enjoyment of fishing. I met them both for the first time back in the early 'eighties when piking on various venues in the north west of England and south west Scotland.

Dave Standing was what is often known as 'a character'. Always ready with a witty (or not!) quip, always looking on the bright side of life and never known to be miserable. Nothing phased him. One time he did an entire slideshow in reverse order to an audience who didn't know him from Adam. After a few slides they were rolling in the isles!

James Holgate, who died last night, wasn't scared of stating his opinions in print, but in person he could come across as reticent and stand-offish, even humourless. He was often asked to do slide shows and always said 'no'. Yes, he was shy and quiet, but when he got to know you he would reveal his funny side (it was James who sent me the Nasty Mice picture and many more (some potentially libellously) amusing pictures and e-mails.

I owe James a lot when I look back. He bought rods off me when I was starting out in the rod building lark when I'm sure he didn't really need them. It was James who published my rig book, the royalties from which helped me out while DLST got established, and, of course, he started Pike Fisherman (which turned into Pike and Predators) opening up a whole new market for me. I am eternally grateful for that.

That James and Dave used to fish together on a regular basis for many years would seem an odd pairing (I'm sure they infuriated each other at times!) but they did. That's part of the magic of angling. I'll remember them both, often.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bank Holiday Blues

I doubt any of you few, you happy few, you band of brothers... Enough already! I doubt if any of you care a toss about the trials and tribulations that have kept me from the water's edge for a week, but I shall inflict them upon you anyway.

Monday to Thursday was spent awaiting callers of one sort or another every day. Some came bearing gifts (gifts as in £s - I like those callers), some failed to show (those I don't like), and some needed a kick up the backside to turn up at all. The latter was a delivery of belated blanks (although not all the ones I was awaiting), which meant that Friday to today (Sunday) has been taken up turning the things into fishing rods so that I can not go fishing again on Tuesday when I shall again be waiting in for a caller (my couriers) to take them away.

Such is the life of a one man rod building outfit. Whole days wasted waiting for something that takes a few minutes to be over and done with - always seeming to happen at a time that makes nipping out for a few hours impossible. Impossible at this time of year when the evenings are still quite short, and there's nowhere local to fish into dark. Once the rivers open the problem disappears.

I know I could get up early and fish for a few hours before starting work, but I lack the discipline. I'd either carry on having 'one more cast', or I'd come home feeling tired and have 'one more brew' before settling down to work - in other words leaving work for another day... It's not that I'm lazy. Just that fishing is more fun than working!

Rod building entails a fair bit of waiting - for glues and varnishes to dry. Today I have used that time to stuff catalogues into envelopes. I put it off for as long as I can as it's so mind numbingly dull. This tedious process revealed that I didn't order quite enough catalogues to go round. So, anyone with a surname beginning with S to Z won't be getting one until I get some more printed.

With all that lot out of the way and (I hope) the last few rods of the weekend spinning merrily on the drier I thought I'd have a look at the web stats for this blog. To my surprise this last month there's been a fair bit of traffic coming from a carp fishing forum. I guess I'll have to stop saying nasty things about carp and carp anglers! In fact I've already been thinking of taking up carp fishing. My reasoning being that carp anglers are always being pestered by big bream. Seeing as I can't catch bream when I fish for them perhaps fishing for carp will lull them into a suicidal feeding frenzy? We shall see - if I ever find the time to try.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BST

The clocks have gone forward and at last it's warm enough to work outside without a fleece and woolly hat. In other words it's definitely tench time. So what am I doing? Sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for blanks and fittings. No work to do and not fishing? Nope. Also waiting for customers calling, one every day this week. When the rivers are open this kind of enforced idlesness is no big deal as I can nip out late on and get a session in, but there are no stillwaters locally where I can fish into dark, not many I want to fish in daylight either to be truthful.

There's a real lack of decent stillwaters round here. There's the canal where I first started fishing when I was about eleven, but it's not what it was judging by a few sessions I had there about five years ago. There are some deep and cold reservoirs, a few small sandpits - one of which is a carp syndicate, one complex is a no-fishing nature reserve and another a 'leisure attraction' with caravans and jet-skis. There are also a couple of clay pits, one of which I vowed never to return to after a Labrador swam through all four of my lines many moons ago. Go elsewhere and there are gravel pits galore. Anglers in the Midlands (even Cheshire with it's meres and sandpits) and further south, not to mention East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, don't realise how lucky they are.

If there was a decent water or three within half or three-quarters of an hour or so from here where I could get an evening session going into dark, or an overnighter, in every so often I'd be laughing.

A gravel pit hours from home

The tedium got so bad today that I was reduced to mowing the rolling grasslands of my immense estate. Sheer desperation. Oh, how I long for a long hot summer to scorch the grass (moss) of the lawn and kill it so it doesn't need mowing. Why can't these genetic engineers genetically engineer a grass that cuts itself? Or maybe tiny sheep that could be let loose upon the lawn to keep it in check? I've considered a small herd of guinea pigs.

Yesterday, after finishing the varnishing on the refurbed boat rods, I stripped down a four piece rod I'd built up as a pike fly rod (I must have been bored that week too) only to find it was a bit too stiff, stuck the sections on the lathe and ground them smooth then fitted a new handle to start turning it into a barbel stalking/creeping rod. Whether it will come to anything I don't know, but I could leave it in the car with a small reel loaded with 30lb braid and use it for a sneaky session here or there either for barbel or pike. I want to see what a certain thread colour will look like on a matt grey blank for another project too. Basically I just felt like tinkering! But until the rings I'm waiting for arrive I can't take that project any further.

I suppose I ought really be stuffing catalogues into envelopes. That, however, is a prospect even less appealing than mowing the rest of my grasslands.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gratuitous cultural dogs

I've been idly Googling (without which I'd probably have got all the following completely wrong!) and browsing the unreliable and US-centric Wikipedia and for some reason started looking for paintings after stumbling on a Nathan Altman portrait of Anna Akhmatova. How I came to stumble on that I really don't know, but it brought me to this portrait with a dog which I think is particularly doggy.


There is a long history of dogs in art. Bonnard was fond of including hounds in his work, the Futurist Giacomo Balla famously painted a dachshund in motion, Francis Bacon painted a scary dog and Lucien Freud has also included dogs in many portraits throughout his long career. Possibly the most piteous dog in art is that painted by Goya.


That's the cultural interlude concluded...


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Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or treat?

It must be nigh on forty five years since I first sat by running water with faith, hope and a toy fishing rod given to me by an aunt and uncle. Why they bought me that outfit, complete with red and white plastic 'bob' float in Ross on Wye I have no idea. Nobody in my family fished. But I sat there at the edge of a crystal clear rivulet only inches deep waiting for the float to sink. Even at that short-trousered age of four or five I was aware that the silver paper my dad had put on the hook was a poor bait, and that there were no fish to be seen. That was also the first time I had to make 'one last cast'. I was entranced.

That blind faith and irrational hope that a fish would come along against all the evidence and odds was what I experienced today and sparked this burst of nostalgia for my little metal rod with black plastic rings, handle and integral reel that I can't remember ever 'fishing' with again, although I did play with at home until it eventually broke.

Work had kept me away from the bank for most of the week, the recent night time frosts having pushed thoughts of barbel from my mind when I missed that slim chance last weekend, but I had to get out and wet a line somewhere. I had three options; perch on a commercial, chub on a river, or a speculative roach session on a pit. Reasoning that the roach fishing might be more interesting I set off with that in mind. I also fancied a session sitting in one swim making cups of tea!

With temperatures set to fall once more after dark and my intention being to fish at least an hour after the light had gone I wrapped up well. I also put on the Wychood boots I had bought about three years ago and hardly worn since as they were (are) uncomfortable to walk in. They are warm though, and walking wasn't to be much of an issue. After thirty yards or so I was reminded what is wrong with the boots. It's hard to explain. They simply don't fit where they should. The foot part is fine, the laced up bit is okay. It's the bit in between that flexes. Once sat down and not moving they're great!

These boots aren't made for walking

It being a sunny day there were a few pikers on the water. Two of them fishing the spot I had in mind which rather scuppered my plans. So I started plumbing up a couple of swims past them. There was a lot of floating weed in the margins, and some drifting about, nonetheless it was difficult finding a really clear patch to cast the feeders. After a while I found a slightly less weeded spot a good cast out and put out a few feeders of maggots before attaching the hooks. Further down the bank I could see that there was still pond weed reaching the surface in places. It will be a month or so before the weed is really on its way out.

Two rods fished feeders and maggots, one fished a 10mm pineapple boilie. This third rod was cast out and left in one place while the feeders were reloaded, hooks rebaited and rigs recast at intervals. Even in the 'clear' area I was picking up weed on every retrieve. Admittedly much of it was accumulating once the feeder started moving, but I couldn't be certain the rigs weren't buried.

All marked up

At first the wind was coming out of the north, but I had settled in with a bush to my left and was sheltered from it's chilling effect. All set up and on with the kettle. My brewing equipment hadn't been used since July. This was more than apparent when taking the sugar tub out of my mug revealed and encrustation and some furry stuff. After pondering the health benefits of this I boiled the kettle and poured the boiling water into the mug to stand for a few minutes. Then I swilled it out and wiped round. It smelled clean enough, so the kettle went back on for the first of many brews.

Around three thirty the wind dropped and swung round to come off my back. As the air temperature was starting to drop this seemed to make it feel less cold. I was expecting it to turn really chilly at dusk, but cloud cover had moved in and the temperature held up. It was five to six when I had my one and only indication. A single bleep on the left hand rod that didn't develop into anything. When I wound in for a recast after leaving things to see if a bite might develop the maggots didn't look to have been sucked. I'd tried my tricks but there were no fishy treats for me this Halloween. I gave it another half hour and, all hope having faded, I packed up hatching a plot...

The plot was, as it was still fairly warm, to call in at a car park swim on a river, take the water temperature and spend an hour or two hoping for a barbel. As I headed to the river the car's thermometer showed the air was cooling, the gritters on the road suggested it would cool some more from 4C later. The river was low in level and temperature at a chilly, but not hopeless, 6.3C. Nonetheless I decided to carry on for home.

Things are set to warm up over the next few days. The barbel might be beckoning again.

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