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Thursday, December 31, 2009

So it goes

I've not been out fishing over Christmas as I've been feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather outside hasn't been encouraging enough to tempt me out into the cold. So I've stopped in reading and re-reading Gierach. I'm glad our winters don't last as long as the ones they get in Colorado. It's almost made me want to take up flyfishing with bamboo rods - but not quite... A little Googling has turned up a Gierach article on-line.

2009 wasn't a bad year, England beat the Aussies to regain the Ashes and I caught some nice fish. But my fishing was a bit up and down like the England cricketers' performances. The cold start to the year scuppered any chance of good barbel catches but I got a feel for chub fishing. Then the last week of the season panned out well when the weather changed for the better. Alas the good fortune didn't carry on into the spring tench campaign. I was hoping to really get to grips with my chosen venue this year but a combination of unfavourable conditions and a lack of time meant I caught just nine tench - although the ones I did catch were worth having.

Work restricted me to the one late spring bream session that went better than I could have hoped for. Then the rivers opened and I got sucked back into barbelling, because it was handy and fitted in round work, forgetting my other plans for the summer because I couldn't put a foot wrong with the barbel between July and November. When winter came back with a bang work piled up making me miss those narrow slots when the river was on form or a stillwater worth a visit.

Here's the highlights:
  • Barbel - 12-12
  • Bream - 14-06 [pb]
  • Carp - dnw
  • Chub - 6-09 [pb]
  • Grayling - 1-05 [pb]
  • Roach - dnw
  • Tench - 9-09 (f) [pb]
[pb]= personal best, dnw = did not weigh (i.e. small!), (m) = male, (f) = female

Perhaps not as spectacular as last year when it comes to variety of personal bests, but the longer you fish the harder they get to beat and I have no complaints. The main thing is that I've enjoyed my fishing once again. New stillwaters and stretches of river have been explored and fished successfully. That's probably the greatest thing about fishing, there's always something to do that you haven't done before. When it pans out well in pleasant surroundings, which seem to become more important than the fish as I get older and grumpier, there's nothing better.

All the best for 2010.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back to the river

If I had got the morning's jobs finished sooner I might have gone roach fishing again, but time had run out. There were things I could have been doing but they could wait. I knew I really should have been on the river last night when it was warm, nonetheless I grabbed a belated chance to try for a December barbel. Three weeks is a long time in river fishing and not only had the trees now lost all their leaves making the ridge-line of the far bank visible through the veil of fine branches, the only greenery to be seen being ivy covered trunks, but the river bank had altered yet again with the floods. This can make finding exact spots to put the gear down and to cast baits to difficult.

It was a glorious blue-skied and fluffy-clouded afternoon. I left my fleece off under the bunny suit as I walked upstream past raddled and incontinent ewes. The river was carrying some colour, was up a foot or maybe slightly more and was warm - 7.1C. The chances of a barbel looked good. Even so I had hedged my bets and packed the quivertip rod and the remains of Sunday's maggots. An S-pellet went upstream on a barbel rod and then the feeder rod was put into action. I cast the empty feeder out until I found the distance where it would hold, then I put the line in the spool clip. Next cast the hook was baited and the feeder filled. On hitting the clip I gave the reel handle a couple of turns then set the rod down to let the tip settle. A few quick casts to get some maggots in the swim then leave it a bit longer.

When I can't be bothered tying up hooklinks for this sort of fishing, and my stillwater roaching, I use hooks to nylon. Kamasan B611s as a rule. They're a strong hook and tied to stronger nylon than most.

Lazy man's hooklinks

After half an hour I decided I wasn't happy with the S-pellet and wanted to swap it for a boilie. Unfortunately the rig was snagged solid. Either I'd judged the cast badly or a new snag had appeared in the swim. To save time I got the other barbel rod out and baited it with an Oyster and Mussel boilie before casting out to a slightly different spot. Then I rebaited the maggot rod and set to retackling the first barbel rod. I wanted to fish two barbel rods after dark.

With that sorted I wound in the feeder for a recast. The red maggots were a pulpy mess. I'd had a bite and not seen it. At least there was a chub around by the looks of those maggots. Cue greater concentration on the quiver tip. It only moved when debris hit the line. There wasn't enough coming down to dislodge a 3oz lead, but the 30g feeder would move. I would have put money on getting a few more bites.

By four o'clock it was starting to grow cool. The light was fading, but not as quickly or as soon as it does when sat indoors at this time of year. There's less than two weeks to the shortest day now, that turning point in the season when things slowly begin to feel more optimistic. It's no wonder there are festivities around this solstice. It was time to pack away the feeder rod and get serious about the barbel. The second barbel rod was baited with an S-pellet and cast downstream and well across.

There was now a narrow band of mist hovering over the river giving the water a milky look. A thin veil that was also creeping over the bank. My confidence began to ebb. I was twenty-four hours late and I knew it. The mist wasn't for making its mind up. It cleared for a while, raising my hopes. At five I picked up the boilie rod for a recast. The line plucked off something then I began to drag some rubbish in. Half way back the rubbish wagged its tail. In the torch light I could see a chub making a feeble attempt at fighting back. There had been no indication. I returned the chub then the stars appeared and the mist closed in again. The beach beckoned. On retreiving the boilie rod I saw a chunk of the bait was missing. Another chub attack with no movement on the rod tip. When the chub are feeding delicately times are tough.

As I rounded the bend the river was clear. Maybe there was a chance. By the time I had the baits out and was settled down the far bank was gone. The mist had become a fog. There seemed little point packing up and hitting the rush hour traffic. Another hour wouldn't hurt. Maybe a breeze would spring up and clear the air.


Fat chance. Half past six seemed as good a time as any to finish. That way I could listen to the Archers in the car. The walk back was weird. The Petzl light was reflecting off the fog making it hard to see more than a few feet ahead. There were no lights visible in the distance to give me any sense of direction so I had to use the headtorch. Even so I nearly managed to stumble into a fence that I knew was there but couldn't see!

The car's thermometer read 5.5c, down from 10 when I had arrived, and it fell further as I journeyed home. The forecast is for more of the same. Sunny days with night-time frosts. Maybe one more try for a barbel tomorrow, when I have the afternoon free, before something more serious over the weekend. One thing's for sure; the bivvy won't be involved.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009


Spate rivers really are forces of nature, as the floods in Cumbria this week clearly illustrate. When it comes to fishing them they can tricky to get to grips with at times. The day after my last session the Ribble was over its banks. There'd been little rain since the river had risen so it would have dropped by the time I arrived on Friday afternoon. How much it had dropped by remained to be seen.

My first impression was that the level was about four feet up on normal level. The tideline of beech leaves in the car park showed where it had peaked. I decided to walk the stretch and see where was fishable. As I went up river there was flotsam hanging above my head in the lower branches of a bankside tree, and more flotsam in the field. My guess was that the level had dropped some eight feet since its peak.

There are plenty of molehills in the field, some near the bank's edge had obviously been over-topped by the river, a couple had what I took to be escape holes. Poor old moley must have been flooded out. As long as the moles had made it to the surface they would have been okay. I once watched one swim some distance along the edge of a reservoir I was tench fishing. Moles are good swimmers. The beach (which was underwater) looked worth a try, but then so did a couple of creases closer to the car park.

Making my way back to the car I saw another angler coming along the river. After chatting for a few minutes we went our separate ways. Expecting him to head for the bend I used the opportunity to fish one of the spots nearer the car. A flock of goldfinches flew up and across the river as I made my way to my chosen swim. The ground was firm where I put my chair, which made a pleasant change from sinking into leaves or silt. The flow in the edge looked to be just the right pace with a slight crease being formed by a gentle bend in the river. With the level having dropped so much I expected the leaf problem to be minimal. Most would have been lifted off the margins and should all have been dropped by now. If only.

As I sat tying bags and drinking tea the rod tips gradually pulled down. The downstream lead dragged, all six ounces of it. The upstream lead didn't move. That one was only three ounces and I had a horrible feeling I knew why it hadn't shifted. After recasting the downstream rod a couple or three times, stripping the line of leaves, I had to move. The upstream rod was snagged solid. The lead came adrift and the hooklink cut through when I pulled for a break. After retackling, this time with a rig incorporating a Hair Rigger to fish a lump of luncheon meat, I wound in the leaf strewn downstream line and set off intending to fish a slack below some rapids. The other angler would be on the beach if he had any sense.

Easy luncheon meat rigging

The day was warm again, late November shouldn't be giving air temperatures in the low teens. There was a strong westerly blowing, but moving upstream the far bank took the edge off it. When I threw my thermometer's sensor in the river it gave a reading of ten degrees. If I could find a barbel in a spot where my rig would hold out success was guaranteed. They had to be on the chew.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the slack was occupied. The angler hadn't caught yet, although he said leaves weren't a problem. Lucky sod! I carried on, my right hip starting to nag. The bank was slippy in places after the rain and I think I had jarred my leg sliding awkwardly at one point. I was wishing I had left my brolly in the car to lighten my load.

The beach was well covered in water. Some deposited debris seemed to be a little further from the water's edge than when I'd walked up earlier. The flow looked as if it would be pushing the dreaded leaves across and away from where I intended casting my baits. The bank I set up on was the terrace. Previously firm ground with grass and other vegetation. Now it is covered in a layer of sandy silt. One good thing was that the deep layer of leaves which had covered the beach had been replaced by silt. There can't be many more to come down the river.

Each succesive flood reminds me that the river is constantly changing. You can see changes after every flood. Obvious things like dead trees appearing and disappearing. There are more subtle changes like sand banks changing shape and moving downstream. The silt that's deposited in the slacks must be the remains of rocks that have been ground fine as they roll down the river. I've not experienced it myself, but I've been told that at the height of a big flood rocks can be heard moving against each other as they are shifted by the current. Looking at debris on the banks you can see how sharp edges are ground smooth on everything from branches to bricks to bits of plastic. Come spring and the silt will be consolidated as next year's growth sprouts through it. As one bank erodes so another is extended.

With my chair's legs sunk in the silt the baits were cast out. Meat upstream, boilie down. The first casts went a little too far and the rigs soon shifted as leaves dragged them out of position. Dropping them closer they held for longer. I'd been expecting a rod to pull over as soon as I arrived in the swim. Four hours later things weren't quite going to plan. I should have had a netful of barbel with the water so warm and coloured. Maybe the flow wasn't strong enough to push the fish close to my bank. If my hip hadn't been troublesome I might well have packed up and headed for a different swim or another stretch.

At least the evening was warm and dry. In fact the wind dropped after dark, which was good as the sky cleared a little and the air temperature began to fall. So did the water. I noticed there were fewer leaves on the lines. The boilie rod was cast further out and more downstream. It held for longer. Even so my confidence was waning. All thoughts of barbel gone from my mind I let my eyelids rest while I psyched myself up to face the lengthy limp back to the car.

I'd only been thinking a few minutes earlier that I hadn't had a take that ripped line noisily from the reel for a while when the aching hip was forgotten as I jumped out of the chair and picked up the boilie rod. I guess any leaves on the line came off during the fight, which was pretty good with the extra water in the river. To net the fish I'd had to step down from the terrace and onto the beach, then paddle out a foot or two so the net could reach deep enough water. The silt was quite well compacted and I didn't sink up to my ankles as I thought I might. The barbel saved a blank, and wasn't a bad one at a few ounces under nine pounds. There would have been a photo of it on the mat here if the battery in my compact hadn't chosen the moment I pressed the shutter release to die on me.

The level was dropping well. Another couple of hours and it would be spot on. Every time I moved my hip hurt. I'd give it another half hour, but no longer. At half past eight the rods were stowed in the quiver, the chair strapped to the ruckbag and both loaded on my feeble frame. Off I set, only stopping for a couple of brief rests on the way, passing no other angler. I'll be dosing myself with Ibuprofen and doing some work for a rest before hitting the river again.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Barbel karma's gonna get you

Work plans went out the window today. But as one window closes another opens. The sun was shining with heavy rain predicted to be on the way. The chance was too good to turn down. After lunch I was on my way, dazzled by the low sun. Yet again I was spoiled for choice and couldn't decide where to go. In the end I parked in an empty car park well up river. Taking advantage of the deserted bank I went for a walk to suss out a floodwater swim I'd been told about.

On my way along the river I passed a sad and sodden pink teddy bear, face down in mud, lost and forlorn. I can understand how footballs end up in rivers, but some of the other stuff (there's a broken toy keyboard on another stretch) make you think alien abduction is involved. The swim looked inviting, but maybe needed a bit more water. The level was still up about eighteen inches, probably having risen a tad since Sunday, but dropping slowly with a nice touch of colour still.

Half an hour after arriving I was setting up in a favoured swim at the top of the bend. I liked the look of the flow patterns. A boilie was cast out downstream on the crease line while I tackled up the other rod from scratch. It had started to rain so the brolly went up. Another reason for choosing this swim was that it felt more sheltered from the strong, and chilling, westerly. Lacking an ability to peg the brolly down that was a consideration. The tip of the first rod bounced back then pulled down as the lead shifted. I'd chance leaving it. The hook wasn't even tied on the second rod when the first tip began a merry dance. Then the rod hooped over and the reel started spinning. That hadn't taken long. It was only a tiny barbel but it meant I hadn't blanked and my run of luck was continuing. The rain even stopped!

Another blank saved

With two baits in the water I settled down to the customary bag filling exercise. A few were filled when the bucket lid blew off the rucksack and rolled along the bank towards the water. I ran after it and picked it up. As I turned round my brolly tumbled past me. And into the river. It was only in the edge, in an eddy that I thought was shallow. It was on its side. It would be easy enough to retrieve. I walked towards the umbrella to see it roll, the pole rising like Excalibur held aloft. Then it sank gracefully from sight. The eddy was deeper than I thought.

Now I had to try and get the blasted thing back. I wound in one of the rods and started casting around the slack. Ten minutes of fruitless casting and retrieving later I gave up. At least I now knew a bit about the slack. It might be worth fishing at certain levels. The bait was recast to mid river on the crease and I sat back to consider that my bad luck with umbrellas this season must be my punishment for catching too many barbel. I wasn't too bothered about losing the brolly. It was old and the cover was past its prime, pulling away from the rib ends and looking papery thin. The Gardner screw in pole was more heartfelt a loss. More rain fell and I zipped up the pockets on my ruckbag then tightened the cord round my jacket hood. It pulled right out. Now it would blow off my head and I'd get no shelter at all from the rain.

As I pondered which brolly to risk next time out - the amazing collapsing one (which lead me to buy two new ones, of which there is still no sign of a replacement for the exploding one) or the brand new heavyweight 45 incher - the downstream rod tip pulled over. The reel spun again and as soon as I felt the weight I knew this was no baby. The power was incredible. Line ticked off the spool with the rod hooped to its limit. Either someone had stocked mahseer or I'd hooked my brolly. I tried to get below the brolly (I'm sure that's what it was) to alter the angle of pull. As I did so the line grated and parted. The day was not going well. Another rig lost.

With a fresh rig tied and a bait out again I was restless. I don't know why because the swim looked good. It just felt wrong. The level had dropped an inch or two and I fancied a different swim. I moved the rods downstream. There were no leaves coming own to speak of, just a bit of slimy grass-like stuff. I reckoned a six ounce lead would hold well out. The rain had ceased and the sky looked clearer upwind. It only took ten minutes for a bite to materialise. True to the form of the day the rig was irretrievably snagged. Once more I retackled.

At ten to five, as the light was going, the same rod bounced. This time all went well and a small barbel was unhooked at the edge. Ten minutes after recasting the boilie rod was away again. This felt a better fish, but there was something not quite right. It was dark now so hard to see the line, the rod tip suggested that the line was entering the water rather closer than it should have been. Then everything went solid. The line was round something. I walked downstream and pulled to no avail. Back to the swim and put the rod back in the rests. Baitrunner on and line was taken. I took the slack back up and had a brew. A little line was taken then nothing. The brew finished I picked the rod up and felt for the fish. Nothing. I pointed the rod at the snag and took a step backwards. Movement. Another step. More movement. It seemed as if I was pulling the snag towards me. I began to pump line back on the reel and the snag kicked a little. The fish, as they often do after being left to find their way out of a snag, didn't fight. Not a massive fish but bigger than the other two put together.

Patience pays

By now I was considering when to fish until. If it started raining I'd pack up immediately, if not then I'd listen to the Archers before packing up. The upstream rod was fishing closer in than the downstream rod that had produced all the bites. I swapped them round and cast the upstream rod further out. At six twenty the upstream rod gave the inimitable performance of pulling down and springing back repeatedly as the lead was dragged downstream by a fish. Only a little one this time. After recasting the boilie I put a bigger lead on the downstream rod and cast that further across too. All was quiet. The Archers closing theme tune faded away. I began to wind in the downstream pellet rod. The rig was half way back when I caught sight of the other isotope performing it's upstream-bite performance. The rod I was holding was put in its rests and I wound down on the other rod. It took a while to take up all the slack but the fish was on. A second seven pounder.

I was tempted to chuck out again, but didn't. No sooner was I on the road home than I wished I had done. For the middle of November it's unseasonably mild. When I arrived the thermometer read 12, when I left it said 11. The river's in good nick, still eight degrees plus and nicely coloured. The barbel are feeding. Like my good fortune the weather can't last much longer.


Monday, November 16, 2009

On the move

Saturday evening saw me doing something I hadn't done for a long time. Twisting up some pike traces. That done I removed my bait tubs and barbel box from my rucksack and replaced them with my cooking gear, drop-back alarms and pike box. Then I checked over my pike quiver and rods before going to bed early. All I'd have to do would be fill water bottle, throw the bacon and bread in the rucksack and get some deadbaits out of the freezer. I was going to have a day on a stillwater taking it easy. I must have been full of anticipation because I woke just before the alarm on Sunday morning. Then I turned the alarm off and considered my next move. Back to sleep. I knew the barbel were feeding on Friday. The river would have risen a touch with Friday night's rain but would be dropping back again. The leaves should have flushed through. An afternoon session might be productive.

The morning passed quickly with a little work then I swapped out the pike gear for the barbel stuff. Piking can wait until the barbel are hibernating. Lunch was the bacon I'd intended taking fishing. There wasn't much in the way of pack-up so it was honey sandwiches to accompany the flask. I was on my way on a still and warm afternoon. But with no idea where to head for. Somehow I ended up on the bleak stretch, another car following me into the muddy car park. I managed to park on firm ground. The other guys struggled a bit. After a chat we went our separate ways. I headed downstream to a spot I fancy when the river is up as much as it was. The level was falling steadily, hard to tell by how much when you haven't seen a stretch recently.

My baits were out as the church clock struck two. They held nicely on the crease and very little rubbish was collecting on the lines. Tiny fish were topping in the slack, with occasional larger swirls that could have been made by bigger fish feeding on them. Further down the river and angler was catching steadily on the float. I wished I'd picked up some maggots on Saturday as I'd half planned to do.

About an hour before dark I heard a wader calling as it flew upriver. As I spotted it I saw it jink and hit the water, disappearing. Most unusual for a wader. A split second later I saw the sparrowhawk that had been chasing it veer across the river and up into the trees behind me. Then the wader reappeared and flew back whence it came calling in continued alarm. I'm not great on identifying waders, especially at distance in the gloom against a dark river bank, but I think it was redshank.

That was all the action there was before dark. The clock struck five and a move was called for. My original plan was to walk upstream of the car park and have a try there. Back at the car my plan changed. The river higher up still would have fallen more, the leaves that had been an irritation on Friday should be non-existent, I might be able to hold out further across if I fished the same swim again. How to get there? I chose the scenic route for no particular reason other than it was easier, if longer.

It seems odd turning up to fish an evening session in the dark. But arriving at six o'clock is actually a fair bit earlier than I get to the river during the summer. It's not without its drawbacks though. You don't have time to get your casting muscle memory tuned so you can hit the same place reasonably accurately like you can when fishing an hour or two in a swim in daylight. You can't always read the flow too well either. So long as you know the swims it's not too bad though.

The sky was clear, no rain forecast until I'd be long tucked up in bed, no cars parked up meaning my swim would be free so I left the brolly in the car to lighten the load. The level had indeed fallen. I wanted to position myself further downstream than Friday. The bank, though, was deep in leaves. Even with the legs of my chair at full extension I was sat too low. The silt was also a mess. In the end I put the chair well back on almost firm ground, but had to sit with my feet in mud. An hour after packing up downstream I was cast out again. Not without trouble.

Winding in my downstream rig it had found the rock pile I was hoping held a fish rather too well. The hook had parted company with the line. That needed replacing. More annoyingly the other rig, which I'd hoped to cast straight out, maybe with a fresh bait on, had got tangled up on the walk to the swim. Try as I might it would not untangle. Sweat was running down my forehead when I arrived at the swim, I was hot and bothered, my specs steaming up making it impossible to see the knotted line. I had to cut and start again. With two baits cast out it was time to cool down and have a brew.

Again the rigs were holding easily. Again nothing much was happening. No chub or eel bites to make me leap up in anticipation. England got hammered by the South Africans and I was beginning to feel the river was going to hammer me too. The night was particualrly black. There wasn't much I could make out in the woods. But it was mild and windless. Not unpleasant. I'd give it three hours or so. I was leaving the baits out for almost an hour at a time. Nothing of note was collecting on the lines and even three ounces was holding well enough.

At ten to nine the downstream rod, with the Oyster and Mussel boilie, began doing a chub dance. The fish felt more like an eel, but was indeed a chub of a pound and a half, or thereabouts. I rebaited, put on a fresh pellet bag, recast and sat back down. This cast I chanced a little closer to the snags. It only took five minutes for the tip to pull down and stay down. Then the ight and sound show started. Immediately I pulled into the fish I got the feeling it was decent. Certainly no chub. As it rolled ready for the net the size of it's mouth suggested a scales job would be called for. With the net laying in the edge I got the sling and scales. As I stepped forward to dunk the sling my left foot sank through what had looked to be leaves on the bank but turned out to be quickleaves. Like quicksand but leaves. My foot was damp and cold.

"A double's a double"

Although the fish looked, and felt, heavier she only just scraped over the ten pound mark. Rather lean of belly she was. The fish was popped back in the net rather than messing around with the sack while I got hot and bothered again finding somewhere solid enough for the bulb release to work. The fish felt really cold as I held her for the camera. A few snaps and back she went. Out went a new bait to the same spot and time for a brew.

There wasn't much tea left. Surprisingly my wet foot wasn't cold so I wasn't miserable, but the honey sandwiches hadn't been too filling and hunger was setting in. I clung on for an hour more. The boilie rod tip had pulled down and sprung back shortly after being recast. I had a nagging feeling I knew why nothing more had materialised. Sure enough it was snagged solid when I came to wind in. Oh well. It hadn't been a bad session. I'd put some effort in and caught.

A nice run of settled weather wouldn't go amiss right now, even if it means the river going low and clear. I could get that stillwater pike session in, or do some serious chubbing. But the weather is predicted to be unsettled this coming week, so it's looking like barbel fishing will have to be slotted in when the time is right. If that fits in with work commitments.


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lancastrian Salt Circle

My morning was spent dealing with a customer and visiting the bank. When I returned home it was lunch time, after which the sun broke through and spurred me into action. I was spoiled for choice as to where to go and what to fish for. A stillwater roach session was considered. Or would it be a short pike session on a drain, river roaching or barbelling? My customer had had a few barbel on Wednesday. That decided me. There'd be colder conditions for the roach and chub later in the winter.

Yet again a silver trail led up my rod quiver to a missing pellet and a chewed boilie. It's time to get the salt out and ring the floor where the quiver stands. That'll sort the buggers. With winter on its way I have switched to my Korum Ruckbag. I don't need the extra carrying capacity of my Aqua rucksack as I'm now wearing the bunny suit and waterproof bib and brace from the off. My fleece gets folded up and stuffed into the chair which is clipped to the bag. And very nicely it all carries too.

I wasn't sure what state the river would be in. There'd been rain since Sunday, but dry spells too. At first glance it looked to have risen. But when I arrived at the swim I'd fished last it had dropped some eighteen inches. I carried on upstream, disturbing a female goosander that winged her way upstream, and fished two rods close in where the water was slower than the main push. I spent three quarters of an hour tying up bags of pellets and watching the upstream rod tip, the rig cast a little further out, gradually pulling down. The spool on the baitrunner turning ever so slowly as leaves gathered on the line. I wasn't convinced by my swim selection so the rods were moved, followed by the rest of the gear.

The move had put me on the beach, or rather up the bank from it as the river was still a good foot or more up on NSL. The willow was on dry land today though. The bank was covered in freshly deposited leaves and other vegetable debris, with a covering of silt in places. Quite a difficult surface to walk on. I was just in time to switch the radio on for the start of England's first match of the South Africa tour (a twenty-twenty evening match) - SA being two hours ahead of us. Sanity has returned and I can again fish and listen to cricket.

Almost back to normal

As the light faded so the sky clouded over. There was rain forecast to move in later. I was hoping it would be much later, but it wasn't. Up with the ancient umbrella (my broken one has not yet been replaced) to discover a new hole in the cover. Near the pole, so it won't let water drip on me directly. I was glad there was no wind as this brolly went into retirement when the loop at the top where guy ropes attach broke off. I poured myself a cup of my flask tea, I use QT instant tea with milk in my flask, and I thought how similar the colour of the tea and the river were.

Now it was dark and rainy. The wind seemed to be picking up, coming off my back for a change, putting a bit of north in it. Rain had reached the cricketers too. I poured another full cup of tea and contemplated my tactics. Hope was fading although the rigs were holding out well. With the water temperature quite low at 8c I am in winter mode and like to leave baits out as long as possible. Every so often, at least thirty minutes, I'd move the baits around the swim. Not having any clues as to where the barbel would be with the level as it was, and not being able to hold out where they usually were, that seemed like a good strategy.

With one sip taken from the cup, the radio barely audible above the pattering of rain on the taut nylon of my brolly I heard a faint whirring sound. The isotope on the downstream rod, which had been cast further downstream still, wasn't where it should have been. It was much nearer the water and the rod was arced right over. Somehow I put the cup down without spilling the tea and grabbed the rod. There was a fish on, but it wasn't a big one and was easily dragged over the net. I left it in the margin while I finished off the brew before it went cold.

With a fresh bait cast out I took shelter once more. England were handed victory courtesy of Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis, and I felt I had been too. At eight I packed up. The recently dropped silt made the usual path out of the swim rather slippy to negotiate fully laden so I took an alternative route. Here the incline up the terrace was less steep but the silt soft like snow. So I used the snow climber's technique of digging the toes of my boots in to make steps. It worked a treat and I was up on the top of the bank without mishap. The rain was easing. the wind, however was not. The further I walked from the lee of the escarpment the stronger the wind blew. What rain there was in the air was coming almost horizontally. Back at the car the wind was howling through the beech trees.

Driving up the lane, the rain stopped completely and the thermometer reading a degree warmer than when I had arrived I wondered if I had left too soon. On the motorway, as rain lashed across the carriageway and the car was buffeted I thought not. Back home and it was warmer still, rainless but windy. Maybe I had. But best not risk it. That wind was going to get worse - and it is Friday the 13th!


Monday, November 09, 2009


For the first time in ages the day dawned dry and stayed that way. There had been sunshine between the showers all week, but as soon as I thought I'd get the gear together another heavy shower would set in. So I spent the week working. Sunday was too good to miss as the temperature soared and the sun shone. Well, got pleasantly warm.

Things didn't go smoothly. First of all there was a strange smell rising from my rucksack as I packed the flask and food. This was traced to my lucky cap. It wasn't exactly savoury to start with but the mould growing on it put me right off wearing it. Another cap was thrown in to take its place. Then I got the rods out and found one boilie gone and the other chewed, a shiny mess of dried slug slime encasing it.


I knew the river would be up and coloured. Earlier in the week the barbel would have been feeding hard, the mess of leaves would have made fishing difficult so I wasn't too worried about missing out on that pleasure. The car park was empty, which surprised me with the sun shining after a week of rain. I'd have plenty of river to go at. The level was high, about four or five feet up. There was a spot I fancied would be fishable and sheltered from leaves. That was where I headed, looking for other likely places to drop a bait or two in later.

The field that had been mown a few weeks ago was now short but lush grass, and in the distance it was being grazed by sheep. Sheep in the valley are a sure sign of winter. The cattle are in their sheds to prevent them churning up the land, while the sheep's dainty hooves do less damage. Across the water a few leaves were clinging on desperately to the trees on the lower slope of the bank, the high branches that catch the wind now stark and bare.

With the river so high I was set up on the first terrace of the bank, my baits dropping on, or just past, where my chair would normally be placed. The rigs held out pretty well with the main flow angling across the river. For a change I had one rod baited with a lump of luncheon meat. A sure fire floodwater bait. So I'm told.

I'd normally be sat beyond the willow

Occasionally a rig would shift. Few leaves were fouling the line though. But no bites materialised. A kingfisher alighted on a lone hogweed stalk to my right then zoomed off, low across the water. A grey wagtail landed and wagged its tail. A lightning fast thin brown streak passed from right to left turning into a wren when it stopped. As the light began to fade it happened. The tip of the meat rod began to jag down. As I reached for the handle it stopped. Then jagged again. It had to be a chub. That's all I ever get on meat. It sure felt like a chub when I tightened to it. But it wasn't. It was an unseasonable eel.

The river was on its way down. Dropping at least an inch an hour. The leaves becoming less and less of a problem. For some reason I wasn't happy. At twenty to six I packed the gear as the mist began to rise from the water and headed downstream. Hovering at sheep-level was a pall of mist, the air above it clear showing the warm lights from houses on the ridge to the north where the river had flowed in the distant past. A belated bonfire burned in the distance, having resonances more to do with the coming of winter than the punishment of a terrorist. There's something ancient about the valley after dark.

The spot I most fancied fishing was below a big slack. The bank quite steep, but grassy. I think I'd left it too late, though, as the depth was less than I'd have liked and the level seemed to be falling faster. That's one problem of moving after dark when the river is on the way down or up, you can't get a good look at the flow patterns. This is made more difficult when you don't know the stretch all that well. There is a spot I know, but no longer have a ticket for, where I'd have been confident, and happy, to fish with the river as it was. Or I would have a few years back. It could have changed since I last fished it.

Although the sky had cleared I wasn't feeling the cold. My feet were warm. Even so my heart wasn't in it. By eight I'd had enough. Partly it was because I didn't have much confidence in the swim, or the options open to me. Also niggling away at me was the urge to spend a day by a stillwater for a change.

The car's thermometer read 5.5c, rising a couple of degrees as I left the river. It didn't seem that the forecast frost was likely. When I looked out this morning it had arrived. The cloudless blue sky and still air suggesting winter is on its way.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Full moon

This time I managed to set off an hour earlier. For some reason it didn't help matters much. The afternoon was so gloomy I had the sidelights on as I drove to the river. There were five cars in the car park, and with a long walk to the river I envisioned having a long walk back to the car without fishing. As it turned out I passed four anglers, one landing what looked like a chub from a distance, on my way to the bend. Above him there was plenty of room before the final angler's spot. In fact when I settled in my chosen swim I might as well have had the river to myself as I couldn't see any other anglers.

The walk had taken longer than expected, partly due to struggling over two stiles, stopping to look at a swim closer to the car, and stopping to put my waterproof jacket on when the rain started. Oh, and nearly getting lost and tangled up in a thorny thicket didn't help.

Where I was fishing the gravel was covered in a thick carpet of leaves. Maybe more than six inches deep it was like walking on a thick pile carpet. So many leaves were there that what looked like the edge of the river wasn't. Not only were there leaves sunk to the bottom in the visible margin, there was a false bank of waterlogged leaves. Netting and returning fish would be fun! Because of this I put the rod rests in well back from the water on firm ground, my landing net laid across the quaking mass of leaves, its handle propped up on a bankstick. That long handle might prove useful in keeping my feet dry.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves

My usual approach was put into action. A 15mm Oyster and Mussel boilie going upstream between two fallen trees, dropping just short enough to keep out of trouble, and a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie going below the biggest tree. Both with their attendant PVA mesh bags of mixed pellets. The rain had eased off so, after a sandwich and a brew, I started bagging more pellets. It would be come impossible if the rain became persistent later on.

Well back from the edge

This was the cue for the upstream rod to start banging. A typical chub bite. Or was it. When the fish neared the edge, I was paddling in the leaf soup, it took line. A small barbel maybe? No, it was a chub. A lovely conditioned fish too. I hoped it would make five, but it fell short by just under half a pound. Nice enough for a rubbish photo though. The Olympus compact I use really isn't up to much for flash shots.

A much manipulated chub

Two hours later the same rod danced again. This time the fish fell off as I was trying to get the mesh on the landing net untangled. What it was I'm not sure, I rather suspect it to have been another chub. The action wasn't really hectic. With the walk being so long, and the sole of my right foot beginning to hurt when I walked I came up with a plan. Rather than sit it out where I was and have to tramp all the way back to the car in one go, braving the thorns in the dark, I'd move downstream and spend a few hours in the swim I'd stopped to inspect earlier. By eight o'clock, having survived the thorns with one minor tangling incident, I was there. Or rather a swim lower down. This swim had been occupied when I arrived. Some bait would have gone in already...

Away from the shelter of the high wooded bank I was getting the full force of the blustery wind. The rain had come back too. I put my rods on bite alarms so I could hear them above the wind noise, then erected my ancient umbrella. I've fished this area a few times in the past and struggled to be honest. As far as I can tell it's a bit featureless. I suppose I should spend some time investigating it as it does produce big barbel and chub. But I find it a little bleak and depressing.

I'd been ensconced in the swim for an hour and a half and was dozing pleasantly when the night lit up with flashing orange and a piercing scream. Bugger me. A fish! Only a small barbel of fourish pounds. Welcome nonetheless. Would there be more? I didn't wait around much longer to find out. An hour later I was putting on my waterproofs ready for the tramp back to the car. This was noted by the rain gods who stopped pouring water from the sky as soon as I got to the top of the bank. I could see just one car in the car park as I slogged up the final rise. Luckily it was mine. The last silly sod off the river as usual.

As I rounded the final bend before entering the flatlands on my journey home, just before the spot two roe deer had crossed the road one night, my headlights picked out the unmistakeable shape of a bare human bum. As I passed by I saw that it was attached to the pasty legs of a young lady (looking somewhat 'tired and emotional') who was pulling her pants up at the side of a wheelie bin. There was a tiny snail creeping up my garage door when I returned home. The things you see because of fishing...

A modest snail

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Not finished yet

Once again work kept me away from the river until Thursday, and then I still left it a bit late. The clocks changing has really messed my timing up. I fancied a crack at a stretch I haven't fished yet this season, but as I was running late and the walk involved is long I changed my mind and headed for the last length I fished. With just three days of the salmon season left the desperate rod wafters were out in force. There wasn't much space in the car park. Only two barbel anglers were in evidence and one was getting ready to leave. There had been a few barbel caught during the day, and the guy who was leaving even landed one while I was waiting to jump in his swim.

The river was back down, and no nasty leaves were coming down. Looking in the margins they were forming a carpet in the slack margins. Next time the river rises they'll be on the move again making life difficult. The warm weather was continuing, and while it was a balmy 16 degrees the sky was overcast, the wind coming from the opposite side of the river I was sheltered by the high bank.

It wasn't long before a chub rattled the downstream rod. I was guaranteed a good session. The baits had been out an hour, the light gone, when I had a proper bite to the same rod. There was nothing there- except a bit of twig on the hook point. After removing the wood I was attaching a fresh bag of pellets to the hook when the other baitrunner whirred. Everything was solid so I left the rod in the rest while I recast the downstream rod. When I returned to the snagged rod I could do nothing with it and had to pull for a break.

A further hour passed, with another rig snagged and lost, before I connected with a barbel of eight pounds to the downstream rod fishing a 15mm boilie. It wasn't as hectic as I had expected. At eight I moved upstream and had the baits out again fifteen minutes later. It only took fifteen more minutes for the downstream rod, with a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie on the end of the rig, to lurch over. A good scrap ensued and I netted a chunkier fish than the first. It was twenty minutes later when the other rod, with the bigger bait, nodded as the lead bounced down the river bed. A bigger fish was landed after another good fight. This proved to be a fish I had seen earlier in the season. The marks near its tail were recognisable, now healed but unsightly although no longer red raw.

On the mend

Every so often the wind would swing and I could hear it rustling the leaves, many evidently falling to the ground - and no doubt preparing themselves to leap into the river when it rises again. That wasn't the only sound to penetrate the darkness from the far bank. Next there was the cackling of badgers squabbling. This was followed by incoherent shouting from the small house tucked into a fold of the bank at the side of the wood. I was glad to have the river as a barrier. Everything returned to peaceful silence after that interlude of insanity.

The sky cleared somewhat and the moon, heading towards full, shone brightly. The air wasn't damp. I was wishing I was out for the whole night. As my eyelids drooped I really fancied crawling into a sleeping bag in my bivvy and putting the kettle on - maybe frying a slice of bread. Despite the conditions there was no action on the rods for ages. It was twenty past ten when the tip of the downstream rod, which I had cast further down river, twitched repeatedly. I wasn't sure what I had hooked, either a chub or a small barbel. I'll never know as it fell off as it neared the net. Twenty minutes later I had a more positive bite to the same rod. That one fell off rather sooner.

By now I was considering giving up, but I was listening to something on the radio and decided to stop until Today in Parliament came on. With ten minutes to go the downstream rod was away again. This time the fish stayed hooked and proved to be a really baby of just a couple of pounds or so. By the time I was on my way back to the car the sky had clouded over again. This weather pattern is supposed to continue for a few more days yet. I'd better have another barbel session or two while it does.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

All good things

If I had my way the clocks wouldn't go back for the winter they'd go forward another hour. Anyway, I blame the end of British Summer Time for me making a late start for the river. I knew it would be too dark to see the state of the water by the time I got to any stretch, so headed for a length I know well enough to pick a swim on level alone and not have to see the flow patterns as I was expecting the river to be up. It was carrying about three feet. The first cast proved that this was two feet eleven inches of leaves.

My first move had been to walk downstream to check out a swim, then walk back upstream to get a bit of shelter from the wind so I could put my stove on. Having nothing in the cupboards to make sandwiches, and having left it too late to go buy anything, I'd put a pan and a tin of beans in with the stove. Even with six ounce leads on the rigs were dragging round as I polished off the beans. When I'd drunk a cup of flask tea I moved down as I thought the lower swim would be less leaf ridden. It wasn't. If anything it was worse.

Grub up

When I found a spot where one rig would hold I moved the other rod above it. That held too, but it was fishing very close in. A few light spots of rain fell as I tied up some PVA mesh. I moved camp a little to sit below the top of the bank so I could get some shelter from the almost gale force wind that was blowing upstream over my right shoulder. Although the wind was roaring through the trees on the far bank, their tops almost completely bare of leaves now, it was much reduced in force where I was. The rain got heavier so I put my brolly up. The ground now softer than it had been all summer the pole pushed in easily and I pegged out the guy ropes to hold everything in place.

The brolly was obscuring my view of the downstream rod, and the wind noise meant I might not hear the baitrunner. I dug out an alarm and stuffed it under the rod. A few gusts pushed the rights side of the brolly towards me. It was nothing much. I've fished in stronger winds.

As the night was another mild one, the rain was easing and the rigs were now holding station much better even though the rods were arcing over, I began to feel more confident. Then a gust of wind hit from in front. The brolly lifted on the pole then with a loud crack some ribs snapped and it turned inside out. I've been fishing for almost forty years. I have never had a brolly turn inside out like that and I have fished in conditions when I have had to hold on to brollies to stop them taking off, when they have almost wrapped themselves around me. I was not happy.

No comment

Of course as soon as the umbrella exploded the rain eased off. By then I'd had enough. The mortal remains of the brolly were stuffed in my quiver and the rods followed. It had been a short session - less than an hour's fishing time. I don't usually let the conditions beat me. If I'd arrived in daylight I might have found a spot where the leaves could have been avoided for longer. The inverted brolly was just too much for me. I knew that my run of good luck with the barbel would come to an end in ignominious fashion. And it had.

The irony of this umbrella fiasco is that having used the Fibre-lite brolly a few times and being happy with it I had sold my old 50 inch umbrella to an acquaintance who had had his umbrella blow across the river and into a tree last week.

They really don't make umbrellas like they used to. I'll be rummaging out my ancient, and much patched, brolly for next time. It's over fifteen years old now but the frame is still in good nick. The one that preceded it lasted almost ten years if I remember right. I can recall that in the early '90s fishing umbrellas were made in England and the trade catalogues listed spares so they could be repaired - ribs, poles, covers, the works. Not so these days. I've had nowt but trouble with the ones I've bought in recent years. If the covers aren't loose and flappy the locking mechanism fails at crucial moments, the rivets on the 'hinges' fail and now the ribs snap! You'd think someone could make a strong, reliable, not too heavy, fishing umbrella that isn't garish.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Fishing as therapy

This week hadn't been going well. Man Flu was bad enough - constant sneezing and soaking handkerchiefs. Then work started going wrong. On Wednesday I was in the mood to pack it all in and become a hermit. When Thursday came round the world was looking rosier, the sneezing had stopped for one thing and the sun was shining. After lunch I headed to my local tackle shop, only to find a note on the door saying 'Closed for lunch. Back at 1.30'. It was 1.35, so I walked to the café to kick them out!

I picked up a bag of feed pellets to chuck into my big pellet bucket and a Fox lure box to organise my small spools of whipping thread - the unusual colours that I use mostly for repairs and tippings. They've been jumbled up in an old ice-cream tub for far too long. On the way home I bought some corn dog for butties, and once they were made I was on my way. With the day unseasonably warm the river was calling me. An evening by the river would help me get my head together and revitlise me.

A rainbow in a box

The journey was somewhat tedious, I should have set off sooner to beat the traffic, and I had no clear idea where I was heading. Would the river be up and coloured, or would it have fined off again after the rain earlier in the week? The car made it's way to the stretch I fished last time out. It's a peaceful stretch, and even if busy there's always somewhere to cast a bait.

This time it wasn't too busy. Two anglers who were packing up said it had been a struggle. The river was not as high as I expected, hardly up at all and dropping. The colour wasn't much either. By all accounts there wasn't much in the way of leaves or debris causing problems. I wasn't brim full of confidence nor was I despondent. Something would come along at some point.

It was a two boilie approach this time. One rod fishing a 15mm Oyster and Mussel - it's been doing well so stick with it, the other a 10mm Crab and Crayfish - got to give them a fair trial. Sitting on the beach they were cast well apart to cover different parts of the bend. I dropped them both a little shorter than usual in an attempt to avoid the snags, hoping fish would still find them.

I was settled down by six, the light was fading early as the sky had clouded over. The first spots of rain pattered on the river, the wind was coming from a southerly direction and the far bank keeping it off me. Gradually the rain increased in intensity and I put on the waterproofs while sat under my brolly. That was when the upstream rod tip jagged down a couple of times and I found myself pulling in a dead weight. It was definitely a fish but it felt very odd. Half way in it seemed to come off, only to come back as I took in slack. It was either very big and lazy, or something was up. When it rolled on the surface I could see it was hooked in a pelvic fin. A bemused looking barbel of some seven pounds.

Ten minutes later, while I was rebaiting, the downstream rod fishing the Crab and Crayfish bait steamed off. Just to make me eat my words about how Ribble chub never do that... This was a very lean fish of four pounds. I wondered if these boilies were chub magnets like Mainline's NRG paste. I tried NRG a few years back, both as a paste bait and a wrap with boilies. It did catch barbel, but chub (and bream) seemed to make a beeline for it and it was abandoned as a barbel bait. Please don't let the Crab and Crayfish be the same.

I'm well into the mode of leaving baits out as long as possible now. I can't see the point in putting too much bait out when the temperatures are falling. It was twenty-five past seven when the 10mm bait was off again as the rain eased. There was no mistaking this fish for a chub. A steady plod gave the game away. Barbel would eat the Crab and Cray. When netted the shoulder width suggested another camera session would be called for. It was. But it didn't go smoothly. No sooner had I got the tripod set up and a test shot taken for framing than the batteries died in the camera. Off the tripod, put in the spare cells, try again. Camera dead. Back off the tripod and battery compartment opened to reveal one put in the wrong way round. Third time lucky. Fish out of the sack, photos taken, fish returned.

Room to fill out some more

The night was warm, I was working up a sweat with the waterproofs over the top of the bunny suit and the swim looked like a whirlwind had hit it. As I rearranged it to a semblance of order the upstream rod slammed over. This fish looked as long as the last one in the net, but on the mat was skinnier and lacking in the shoulder department. Not even nine pounds. With the rain looking like it had gone for good I sat it out until half nine. My hopes were fading though. Not least because the sky had cleared and a light mist was forming. An early finish or move? Move. As I packed up the sky clouded over and the mist lifted.

Half an hour later I was settled in the swim where I had tumbled down the bank earlier in the season. It was less overgrown now with less to trip over. With the river being lower than back then I went for long chucks on both rods. It only took fourteen minutes for the downstream rod to rip off in decisive fashion as yet another chub proved my judgement wrong. A bit of a baby this time. Ten minutes later the Crab and Cray provided me with a small barbel, boosting my confidence in the bait. I thought about making another move, but by eleven thirty without another bite I decided to give it best.

Two good things gained from the session were the barbel on the new bait and the small one from the second swim. I had it down as maybe a better bet for barbel when the river was carrying extra water, but now I think there's a chance of a fish anywhere along the length. Maybe moving regularly is the secret to fishing the uniform appearing stretches. It has worked for me on another length.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

An away day

Once again an early start was avoided. I had planned to be up and out by eight at the latest, but it was nearly nine thirty before I hit the road to Stoneleigh for the Tackle and Guns trade show. After many years of driving to Stoneleigh I have finally found a straightforward route. The most tedious bit was the M6 which was restricted to a 50 limit in three or four sections of road works that weren't being worked.

I'd only just arrived when I got tapped on the shoulder by John Watson and then I bumped into my friends from my local tackle shop. And so it went on for the usual couple of hours - walking round the stands in circles, looking at new products, chatting to people about tackle and fishing - and annoying the Scousers on the Harrison stand! It's always a good day to catch up with folks, and this year it seemed to be busy.

While I was noseying around the Korum/Sonubaits/Preston Innovations stand I spied a lot of new gear from Korum. Bigger rucksacks and Ruckbag, some daftly large rod holdalls, some nice looking bits-bags and a wheelbarrow. There might have been more. Chris Ponsford gave me a couple of bags of Sonubaits Crab and Crayfish shelflife boilies - which don't smell of much - but which he reckons catch plenty of barbel. I thought I'd give them ago on my way home. The gear was in the back of the car after all.

I like freebies. But will the fish?

The good news from the show is that Owner hooks will be available again very soon. The bad news is that they have gone up in price. I might also have something new to stock, but that's to be decided by price at a later date.

With everything looked at twice it was back to the car, drink some tea and set off across country to wet a line in a river I haven't fished since March. On paper the road I'd chosen looked like it would be quick. When I took it it turned out to be a mass of roundabouts, speed limits and Sunday drivers. As I passed Magnas and Parvas in the rolling countryside, the trees in their full autumn glory, I was struck by how built up the north west is. How close together the towns are and how the villages sprawl along the A roads. There is countryside, but it is not so expansive.

The river was deserted. I walked down the bank and the popular swims were not trampled. Then again with the lack of rain they wouldn't be as badly as affected in any case. Things had changed, the Rat Hole was closed in more by the willows, the bank altered too. I drove on downstream. Here two anglers were roving with float tackle and I spent another half hour or so walking the banks. The river was low and clear, gravel beds clearly visible but not much weed to be seen. The path through the undergrowth took different turns to last year at this time. Again swims looked under fished. Some were grown over. As I retraced my steps the angler who had been in the only swim I fancied under the conditions had gone. With the swim being less than fifty yards from the car, and my legs being tired that was where I'd fish.

After dropping my gear at the water's edge I flicked away the dog turds from the grass above with a bankstick. I had no desire to put a foot, or a hand, in them in the dark. I took my time setting up. With the water so clear I didn't hold out much hope until nightfall. My rigs were in disarray. One hook was gone, it having snagged up when I wound in last time out. This one was rigged to fish a 15mm boilie. The other rig I knew had a hook which had been resharpened. With a chance of a really big fish to be had from this river I'm less slapdash with my set ups. A fresh hooklink was tied up to take one of my newly acquired 10mm boilies. Before sorting the rods out I put some bait in. Having forgotten my bait droppers, and faced with a fair flow and depth, I picked a handful of stones from the field behind me and tied up some PVA stocking - dropping a stone in with the pellet mix. Half a dozen of the weighted bags were thrown in downstream just out from the edge, then two handfuls of pellets scattered like corn over the top.

The white blob at the right is the stone

Then the baits were cast out. The small boilie went over the feed, the larger one to an overhanging tree on the far bank. It actually went in the tree but I pulled it free... The cast ended up just the right side of some debris trailing from the branches, so I was happy enough. Time to polish off the sandwiches.

There were a few leaves coming down with the flow and every so often the line on the upstream rod would look to have shifted. With darkness near I decided to have a recast in readiness. I picked the rod up and found it snagged. I pulled and the trailing debris below the tree moved. I pulled again and it all felt spongy. The debris was attached to some line that had been caught in the tree and snapped off. It was probably mono by the feel of things so I'd have no problem either snapping it or dragging it clear with my braid. Not so. I pulled hard and something parted with a crack like a whip. Braid doesn't usually do this. My line had parted and shot towards me, some of the slack wrapping itself round both my rod and the line between the rings. I tried to untangle it but ended up reaching for the scissors. The floating debris had returned to it's station.

I'd got as far in the retackling process as clipping on the lead when the baitrunner came alive on the nearside rod. The culprit was a chub of ten or twelve ounces. Fin perfect and a confidence booster for the new bait. Why don't Ribble chub always take off like that? I dropped the far bank bait short of the tree on the recast then put the near side rod out again.

It wasn't long before the big bait was taken. The bite was one of those that slams the tip down and causes the rod to rattle in the rest as it almost bounces right out of it. Typical chub bite. And so it proved. A bigger fish, but far from a monster.

A nicely conditioned chub

It was well dark by now but the fields were still being worked. Crops being sprayed and soil being rolled with heavy harrows clanking in the distance. Another of those mild nights that was a pleasure to be out in. But not one which filled me with barbel confidence. The next bite was another rip-roarer to the small bait that turned out to be yet another chub. A five-pound-long fish that I weighed at four and a half.

If I had been closer to home I'd have moved, but I was feeling tired for some reason and getting home at two a.m. didn't appeal. As Watto and I agreed earlier in the day, we fish for our own enjoyment not to prove a point. Rather than move I called it a day shortly after nine. I'll be back again. Either for barbel when the river's carrying extra water, or later on when I'll have my chub gear with me - and maybe a float rod for the grayling.

The drive home was livened up by an alder fly that had found its way into the car and was crawling over the side window in a confused manner. Until it took to the wing. Then it chose to land on my head and crawl down my neck. I can't advise swatting at insects while doing 70 in heavy traffic.

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Friday, October 16, 2009


It never cease to amaze me how easy it is to upset people on the internet. Delicate flowers get in a tizzy now and then over what I consider to be throwaway lines. Nowt so queer as folk! Spilt milk and all that. So if you ever take offence at something I say here or elsewhere I'll let Joe E. Brown's closing words make my excuses...

If you don't know the film click here

With work going almost exactly to plan I went fishing, even though I didn't make my escape until it was nearly dark. Seeing three vehicles in the car park I expected the bend to be packed out so I'd have an ideal opportunity to give that swim I keep meaning to try a bash as it's always been free. As I approached it I saw the dim green glow of two isotopes and a red head torch in the swim. Blooming typical!

The day had been warm and with the cloud cover it was staying that way. No fleece was required under the bunny suit and no woolly hat. For some reason I can't stand wearing a baseball cap after dark, it seems to restrict my vision, so my thinning hair was exposed to the night. As it turned out the swim I fished last time out was free, but had been fished during the day. It wasn't where I wanted to fish but I was still confident as conditions were perfect - which was why I'd set out in the gloaming.

Carrying as small pellet bucket a long way can cut into your hand if it has a thin wire handle. Larger buckets usually come fitted with grips, but the smaller ones do not. If yours doesn't then the answer is simple. Pop one end of the wire out (you might need a lever of some sort), slide a length of hosepipe over it, then pop the wire back in.

Deluxe bucket modification

Just after I'd set up there were some peculiar warbling, throaty trilling noises from the wood, which then progressed behind me and upstream fading away into the distance. Definitely a bird of some sort, but what I have not a clue. Most peculiar.

The first bite was a long time coming. I'd just wound in the upstream boilie rod to find a foulhooked eel attached (how long it had been there is anyone's guess) when the pellet rod was away. The fish felt ponderous. It got slightly upstream of me, and at the point I reached to slacken the drag a notch it fell off. Checking the hook point I found it was turned over ever so slightly. A touch with the file and out went a fresh pellet followed by a new boilie. Twenty minutes later the boilie was away and a seven pounder landed. The lost fish had felt a bit bigger. There was bound to be more action to come.

The sky stayed cloudy, the wind minimal, the air toasty. It was ideal but the barbel thought otherwise. After those two bites in short order it went quiet again. A small chub took a pellet, another eel hooked itself behind its head and failed to make its presence known. I was glad I'd left the luncheon meat behind or the eels would certainly have been on it. Around eleven a light mist rose up across the fields and the air began to cool slightly. By midnight I was on my way to the car. Baffled, but not despondent. Text book conditions don't always provide textbook results.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't make plans, take opportunities

It was looking like I'd be tied up pretty much all of the coming week, and there were night time frosts forecast. Better hit the river then. Another gut feeling saw the car carry on past the track it had been drawn down the afternoon before. The stretch looked deserted and the wind, chilly as it was, from a direction that wouldn't have made the fishing uncomfortable. The lure of a bank that wasn't vertical and slippy was too much. I got my timing a bit wrong though. It was getting dark as I put the rucksack on my back and made the short walk to the swim.

Out went a boilie, well upstream, then a pellet downstream. I sat down to check the position of my chair would allow me to grab either rod easily when I had to leap up and grab the downstream rod! A scamp was unhooked at the water's edge. Before I could rebait I was playing a fish on the upstream rod. A slightly larger scamp. The gear was arranged to my satisfaction before both rods were recast.

And so it progressed for most of the session. Not quite so hectic, but bites at regular intervals. The third and fourth bites resulted in dropped fish. The fourth one right at the net, which never happens to me. I didn't change the hooks or resharpen them, although they were checked, and everything else hooked stayed hooked. Hook pulls just happen. I no longer fret about them. Write them off and move on.

At quarter past nine a barbel bite resulted in a small but immaculate chub. At eleven the same rod, fishing the pellet, slammed down and bounced in the rest, then slammed down again. The fish pulled a bit at first then gave up until it was under the rod end. I couldn't work out what was going on until a large pair of white lips revealed themselves over the landing net. Peering down in the faltering light from my Petzl I saw a chub that might just need weighing. After confirming the weight I rested it in the net while I set up the tripod. Normally I wouldn't bother with a self-take, but large (to me) immaculate chub are like large immaculate (I refuse to say 'pristine') roach. Scarce. These two species always seem to lose scales as they age. This chub was near as dammit scale perfect. As ever I failed to capture this with the camera.

Almost mint

The sky was clear, the stars and aeroplane lights bright, there was no mist on the water despite the cool air and the haze up the valley. It was a pleasure to stop until midnight. I'd caught a few barbel, seven in fact- including the Kinkster which had visited my net for the sixth time this season, I think. It had been fun. I'd pushed my barbel count for the season to an all time high (which isn't saying much). But the highlight had been the chub. One big fish or a lot of middling fish? I'll take the loner every time. Then again, I do like getting the rods bent.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

In two minds

Out and about on Saturday morning I spotted some surface feeding chub on a little river. I picked up a pint of maggots with the intention of having a dabble for them, the day being warm and dry. The attraction soon wore off, and even though I very nearly put the quiver tip rod in the sling and the maggots in the rucksack the lure of barbel was too much to resist.

Fancying a change of scenery I thought I'd head for a stretch I've yet to fish. This meant driving past a length that I have fished before. When I got close to it the car seemed to turn down the track of its own accord. This is a bleak stretch at the best of times. Once tucked down the bank all there is to stare at is the opposite bank and the sky. Occasional cows, dog walkers and anglers break the skyline, but that's about it. There's a lack of interesting looking swims too. But it's a challenge.


After parking up I walked downstream where there were five anglers enjoying mixed success. Mostly with smallish fish on the float and some better roach on the tip. I was beginning to wish I'd put those maggots in the bag. Given the choice of ten pounds of bits or one ten pound barbel there was only one winner. The swim I fancied was vacant, but with the other anglers around I didn't want to drop in between them. I turned round and headed back upstream.

While it was warm there was a chilling wind so the bunny suit was welcome. Walking to the upstream limit got me warmed up though. Nowhere appealed. Well, nowhere I could see that was fishable. Heading back to the car to wrestle with my recalcitrant flask top and pour a brew a flock of goldfinches flew ahead of me along the hedge line. I was in two minds as to jumping in the car and setting off further upstream. That niggle was there, keeping me where I was. Doing my Sherpa impression I clambered over the fence and braved two large tups in the field. I saw that one angler had gone and another was packing up leaving me plenty of space.

The swim I had in mind had slack water below it so one bait would go to its crease and the other I'd chance out in the main flow. The level was as low as you could expect and the colour well dropped out, but there were leaves coming down on the surface. Once set up on level and firm ground, rather than a mud-slimed surface that surrounded me, the baits were cast out. It soon became apparent that the leaves were forming a lane near the bank as they came round the sweeping bend - and my upstream line was in it. This didn't prove too much of a problem in practice. Leaves were collecting and shifting the lead but it would settle on the gravel and hold.

The upstream wind was cool enough for me to put the fleece mittens on. A few spots of rain threatened that the brolly would be needed, but the wind blew them over. Right on dark as I was tidying up ready to move the uptream rod tip jagged down twice and the baitrunner spun. I really wasn't expecting that! Hooking a fish close in in deepish water is always fun. Even so I soon had the fish sliding over the net. A real minter. Golden scaled, with a full dorsal spine and a full belly. With the river so clear I was pleased to catch anything from this reputedly difficult length.


I carried the fish in the sling to the next peg where I could get close to the water, slipping and sliding on the deposited silt-mud and tripping over a tussock of grass, managing to avoid joining the fish in the river. The boilie went back out while I finished tidying the gear then I set off upstream. By the time I reached my new swim the wind had died away to nothing and I was sweating cobs.

The surface in this pitch was sheltered from the dreaded leaves. Both baits would hold out without problems. Small fish were topping regularly on the calm water. Bigger fish were crashing out too. It was warm enough to do without the mittens. The only action though was the upstream rod tip pulling right over and staying there. The baitrunner didn't complain. The rig was snagged solid. I could feel the lead bumping up and down when I pulled on the line. The hook must have been stuck in something. When I pulled for the break the hook was indeed gone. A bit of a mystery.

Ten o'clock seemed like a good time to leave. Then half past. I couldn't be bothered to pack up. It was nice to be there with no mist on the water for a change. At eleven I eventually wound the rods in and left.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

No imagination

Although I really fancied a change from chasing barbel on the river I couldn't think of anything else to do. The prospect of rising before the sun to go piking filled me with dread, although I do like the idea of sitting in one swim all day making brews and frying bacon. So it was that after a swift lunch, I slapped some corned beef in two buttered rolls and set off to spend a sunny afternoon by the river. Originally I had thought of returning to last night's stretch but something was drawing me to Buzzard Bend.

A blurry buzzard over the bend

The car park was almost full. A game angler thrashing the water to a foam gave me hope that there might be more of his kind out and about making the most of the extra water before the salmon season ends. And so it was. Two others were wafting rods for spotty things, and two more were float fishing with success. The other angler I passed was into a barbel, so my hopes rose. They rose further when, after leaving my gear by a swim I have had my eye on for a while, I walked upstream to find a good swim free. I gave it a good look and decided that it was eminently fishable. The flow was manageable, the river was still nicely coloured though obviously lower than yesterday. Only the leaves on the surface might cause problems.

I returned with my tackle and commenced to setting up. Although I had put half a dozen big leads in the bag this time I cast out with a three ounce square pear on the upstream boilie rod, and a four ounce planing lead on the downstream pellet rod. A big bag of mixed pellets was applied to each hook and the rigs cast well out to the deeper run. They both held so I left them where they were and began tying up fresh rigs and mesh bags.

With the sky a vivid blue the sun had warmed the day more than the thermometer suggested and I had worked up a sweat walking up river wearing my bunny suit. I'd be glad of it later though. There were midges forming clouds over the remains of the balsam and the drying skeletons of hogweed. I tried to take some arty photos of the backlit flora.



...contre jour.

With half an hour or so of good light left, and 'Count Arthur Strong' about to commence on the wireless I wound each rod in in turn to rebait and recast to avoid having to listen to him. The boilie rod first, then the pellet rod, tensioning the tips against the leads. I sat down and my eye was drawn to the upstream rod falling arrow straight. The line was hanging limp. As I reached for the handle the tip twitched. I took up the slack and a steady pull caused the line to pluck off something, and again. Then it went briefly solid before another pluck and the snag moved off.

The fish pulled well in the flow but didn't look anything special when it rolled on the surface, it's deep flank revealing its true size when it rolled into the net and stared up at me accusingly. I threw the weighsling into the net as I rested the fish while mat and scales were sorted out. After the weighing ceremony, when the needle spun on past the vertical, the fish was sacked. While affixing the bulb release bracket to the camera I heard the zzzzzzzziiipppp of a baitrunner. This barbel felt much smaller, in fact it didn't feel much like a barbel at all. Hardly surprising as it was a chub. With the chub released I took the sack from the water, took some self-takes then took the barbel upstream for release. For a moment she lay still, but upright, before waddling slowly out into the flow, diving deep and out of sight.

Nothing arty farty tried here!

Back in my swim I cast back out and sorted out the carnage of camera box and bait tubs, towel and landing net. Time for a brew. Sitting drinking it I saw two kingfishers flying downstream calling. The leading bird had a small silvery fish in it's beak. They both landed in a tangle of fallen branches and brambles where they argued for a while before flying off.

With darkness setting in the stars appeared, but no moon and no mist over the water. These came later. The mist wasn't too thick. I was still confident. A sharp chub bite to the pellet wasn't connected with. It was growing chilly. I'd caught my biggest barbel of the season, my second biggest off the river. I could leave happy. At nine o'clock I tidied the rucksack then went to wring out the sling. The Petzl light sparkled on the mat. The sling was crispy. Definitely a good time to leave. In the car the thermometer read 5.5. Damn these bright sunny, almost windless, days!

Brock was on the track again and ran ahead of me to the lane. Still lacking imagination or inspiration for a new challenge I considered carrying on barbelling to see how many I could clock up by the end of the season. It was a thought, but one probably doomed to disappoint. Nonetheless I expect I'll have the barbel rods in action again before too long. After all, they are set up, the bait is sorted, and it doesn't require an early start.


Don't play misty for me

The day had turned sunny and warm after the first, light, frost of autumn. So I gave the grass, and the mushrooms, what I hope will be the final mowing of the year.

The season of mists and mellow mushroomness

There had been enough rain earlier in the week to bring the river up and put some proper colour in it. After prevaricating I set off after tea, managing to walk a way upstream looking for likely slacks and creases before the light failed. In the distance a thread of blue-grey smoke rose vertically in front of the distant woods. The local aboriginals were down for a night fishing session...

I'd spotted a couple of nice looking spots but was concerned that my 3oz leads might not be up to the flow - especially if there was any amount of weed coming down. Having forgotten my big leads this might prove to be a very short session. I opted to start out near the car park.

As the level was dropping the swims were covered in slimy silt, so I positioned my chair and bag well up the steep bank. Should I hook a fish I would chance the descent into mud. While I was tackling up and setting my stall out a robin kept me company, flitting about in the few remaining balsam stalks and the willow to my right. Every now and then it would burst into song. When the light had faded the robin was silent. Bats came out though, and barn owl began to quarter the flat field on the other side of the river.

The sky was clearing and as it did so the mist began to form over the water. The taps I was getting to the pellet rod dried up. Although this caused my hopes to dwindle, the leads were holding well and when wound in there was very little weed collected round them. There'd be a chance if the mist would clear.

As the moon broke through the mist did clear. Only briefly. When it rose again it was in earnest. The river channel was filled and the mist rose higher than the fields. With everything dewy I admitted defeat after three and a half hours. If this weather pattern holds then I think the misty river will be a feature every night. Time for a change.

On the way home I contemplated my next move as I watched the air temperature reading drop below 5, but couldn't think of one that appealed. Winding my way across the flatlands I was surprised to see a pair of roe deer bound across the road and away as I've never encountered them in the area before. There must be all sorts of wildlife around us that we aren't aware of.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

On the road again

With a heavy heart I headed for the garage to pick up my car. I had that feeling that reminded me of being summoned for a reprimand at school, knowing punishment was coming but not what form it would take. I entered the office and asked if the car was sorted. It was. I got my wallet out. "Twenty three pounds fifty, please." Was I dreaming? The plastic was put away and I fumbled through the notes. "I'll see if I've got the cash." "Twenty quid for cash." "I've got the cash!" I drove home with a spring in my step (if that's possible), a plan already hatching.

A perfect autumnal day wouldn't be completely wasted. It had started chilly then warmed, but with a suggestion of coolness, as the sun rose higher in the windless sky. A curry was thrown in the microwave and the tackle sorted out. I'd respooled with fresh 30lb Power Pro over the weekend because the level was getting low on the spools. More leads had been moulded and a few were put in the lead bag. The PVA tub had been topped up. I was ready to rock.

The drive across the flatlands was done with the low sun behind me, its warm rays giving the trees an even more golden hue. Fields were ploughed and harrowed, in some next year's crops were already sprouting. It's the ever changing nature of the British countryside and it's weather that's so special. We moan about the rain, or the sun, or the cold, but that's what makes the glorious days even more memorable. I'd been reading about Chris and Sue Harris decamping to Belize to live their dream on a Caribbean beach and wondered why anyone would want to move there when they'd lived in rural Norfolk. Nowt so queer as folk. Especially folk who like making money.

A big old moon was low on the horizon as I made my way to the bend. Passing the swim I ended the session in last time out I noted that it was miles away from the feature I thought I'd been fishing to! That's the trouble with moving after dark on stretches you don't know well. This was about half way to my intended swim, I'd just make it in time to rig up fresh baits and cast out before dark. With the heat gone from the now set sun the bunny suit was most welcome.

The river was up a midge's, and slightly tea-stained. Two big bags of pellets were used and the baits would be left for at least an hour before recasting. Right on cue the upstream rod commenced nodding. A good scrap ensued and an seven and a half pounder was returned. While I was rebaiting the single crab Pellet-O I heard a couple of clicks from the downstream Baitrunner. Looking round I saw the rod tip nodding. Two more clicks and I picked the rod up to lean into the fish. Except I leant into nothing. No fish. No rig. Cut off straight away. I knew there was something snaggy in that part of the swim but thought I had cast away from it. The upstream rod was cast out and I retackled.

The moon yesterday

Another hour passed. The moon had shrunk as it rose higher and it was beginning to shine through the trees lighting up patches of leaves as it did so. I was just thinking that the mist on the water would put paid to any more action when the upstream rod pulled down and the rod butt shifted on the sand. Another lively fight from a slightly smaller barbel. While rebaiting I noticed the hook had opened slightly. I swapped the rig for on that would take a five pellet snake.

There was an ever so light breeze swirling the mist which was growing thicker and lowering my confidence. The moon was high above the trees now and casting stark shadows. Then the upstream rod bounced again. This third fish was smaller still, not by much and still able to give a good account of itself in the deep pool.

I think the mist was affecting the camera's focusing

The downstream rod was only indicating chub bites. One time the boilie came back chomped in half. My toes started to cool down. At half past ten I packed the gear away and walked up the bank into the field, hung with a low mist glowing in the moonlight. In the second field there was no mist and the river there had none either. I don't know why but it was interesting for future visits. Back in the car it was obvious why the tootsies were cold. The thermometer was reading a mere 6.5. Time to put my fishing thermometer in the rucksack - so I can depress myself watching the temperature falling after dark!