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Friday, January 08, 2010

Slipping and sliding

The shack nasties are starting to kick in as the stillwaters, canals and drains round here are topped off with a layer of that cold solid stuff. I'd venture to the river but I really don't fancy sliding down the hills, or being stuck at in the valley unable to drive out at the end of the session. Not that it's looking too good - looky-linky. While the sun makes the days bearable it isn't high enough for long enough for my liking, and it soon gets really chilly once you are out of the sun.

So I've been amusing myself birdwatching from the comfort of my home. I'm fortunate that there's a field beyond my back fence which, before the snow fell, was a magnet for redwings, fieldfares and starlings. Other birds too. This week I've seen over 20 different species either in the field or the garden, the two 'best' spots being a pair of snipe and a couple of meadow pipits. It's enjoyable, but it's not the same as fishing.

Nonetheless there's a tiny sliver of what's to come each evening as the sun sets further to the west and the daylight hours lengthen. This has prompted me to scan some more slides from the past, slides of summer fishing. Maybe this year I really will get round to doing some serious eel fishing again. These photos are from the year I gave up carp fishing on an expensive syndicate lake and put the worm rods out. 1991 I think it was. I still use the same rods, reels, storm poles (now my barbel sticks) kettle and water bottle. Buy good quality gear and if it ain't broke, and all that!

The first brew of the evening

The first eel I managed to calm down for a self take.

An earlier attempt at eel wrestling!

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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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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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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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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tench memories

I've not seen a tench so much as roll this year, yet this time last year I was catching loads of them. Or that's how I remember it. Checking my diary I read a different story of blank after blank followed by a few fish then more blanks. We seem to remember the good days more than the bad - until the bad ones become the norm!

To remind myself what they look like I've dug out some tench snaps from my Sywell seasons when I'm sure I never blanked... They were enjoyable days in good company with easy fishing - cast two boilies out and wait for the alarm to sound!

My first eight pounder - 1990(?)

A summer seven - 1991

7lb 10oz - 13/03/92

I didn't visit Sywell again until 2006 when I fished a 24+ hour session having been told boilies were no longer any good and maggot feeder was the method for success. I didn't have a run until I put a 14mm Tutti on one rod for the last couple of hours when I almost immediately hooked and lost a fish, then caught the rather tatty fish below. I should have started out with a Tutti on one rod, a few fish had rolled in front of me so who knows?

8lb 7oz - June 2006

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Friday, April 17, 2009

A long, long time ago... I can still remember

I said last time that I was going to start being nice to carp anglers. I was digging back through a load of old photos yesterday and found this one. So I thought I'd ingratiate myself with the carp fraternity by posting it.

Young(er) and (just as) daft

The fish was about fifteen pounds, I think, and caught using a 'proper' carp rod, not one of the casting sticks everyone seems to need these days. The rod was a Z-1 a really versatile rod for all sorts of fish. I've since gone on to catch a 23 on one of these rods while tench fishing.

And there's some young carp anglers who think us old pikers couldn't cope with catching a carp... They ought to stick to polishing their rod pods and lining up their reel handles.

D'oh! I was trying so hard to be nice...

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random stuff

I'd shown the picture below on the Pike and Predators forum as an illustration of how summer pike should be fighting fit when returned. I thought I'd post it here so I can find it if I need it again.

Pete Hesketh returns a summer pike - back in nineteen eighty-something!

The rings arrived from the USA enabling me to complete my 'bream rods' a couple of weeks ago. I haven't had a chance to use them, and now I have my barbel head on they aren't required until April. So I shall be taking them along to Piking 2008 as an example of my superb craftsmanship, and to see if anyone wants to buy them. If they don't sell there they'll be advertised on here and at I had a waggle of the 2.5lb Torrix yesterday, so when I get shut of the Ballistas there could be three of those getting built at Lumb Towers...

With trying to get rods finished for collection at Piking 2008, and to send out this week, I have been working hard since my last fishing trip. Even after 10 at night! Plans for this week's fishing have also managed to go awry (I'm sat here waiting for a parcel to turn up when I should be on the riverbank), and with the funeral of a friend to attend on Friday it could be weekend before I can wet a line again. Then again it might be tonight...

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