Certain Days

I often find myself day dreaming about what I’d like to be doing on those certain days or little periods of the year when things change.

I’m talking about the little shifts in weather or daylight that indicate significant seasonal change is on the way.

For example, The First Slightly Warm Day of Spring is a big one. Crucially, The First Slightly Warm Day of Spring must fall on the weekend or it doesn’t count. You all know the one. It’s almost always mid-March. You wake up, open the curtains and are greeted by blue skies and bright sunshine. You step outside and for the first time in months the watery morning sun actually feels a tiny bit warm on your face. By 2pm the shops have sold out of charcoal and lager and everyone is walking round in shades, t-shirts and shorts. Here we go its summer time wheeeyyy! By 4pm it’s bloody freezing. A week later it’s snowing.

Another favourite of both coarse fisherman and Starbucks is The Official First Day of Autumn. Crisp! Fresh! Leaves! Pumpkin Spiced Latte! Soup! Berries! Wellies! Perch! Barbel! Roach! It immediately follows one of the worst periods for the angler – The Last Few Days of Summer – when all anglers are impatiently waiting for The Official First Day of Autumn so they can immediately start their Autumn/Winter Campaign™.

Looking over the Wye Valley shortly after The Official First Day of Autumn

We recently suffered The First Proper Day of Winter. The First Proper Day of Winter is when everything is properly shit. Sometimes it’s in October and sometimes it’s not until February. It’s properly cold. The dog doesn’t want to go outside. It’s so, so grey. It’s nasty wet. There’s a cruel wind. The postman looks sad. Your face hurts when you go outside. Somewhere near you there is a bloke in a bivvy by a pond trying to convince himself that this really was a good idea….

But perhaps my favourite little period is: The Final Few Quite Warm but Gently Overcast Days of Mid-Autumn.

This is one of the best times to go fishing all year. You can literally pick your species and not just hope to get a few, but expect to catch and catch big. Consistently mild. No frosts for at least a week. Warm rain a few days previous. Overcast, but with spells of gently warming sunshine. Nice to be out. No need for a coat today.

But what to fish for? Where to go?

I’d planned it to perfection. A mid-week day off bang in the middle of The Final Few Quite Warm but Gently Overcast Days of Mid-Autumn to go fishing. The river was quite low and anyway I had my ‘new’ pole to try and fancied an old estate lake in search of something that might give my new (badly) self-fitted elastic a stretch. I knew the pole would enable me to drop my bait through the shoals of ravenous rudd at the lake and bang on the money every time. The only other part of the plan was simple – worms.

I pulled the weed rake through the swim a couple of times just to check what came back. Luckily the main channel was pretty clear and I knew the raking would quickly pull in a few fish. I introduced a few maggots and a bit of chopped worm. And that really was enough to keep the bites coming through most of the day. I had roach, rudd, perch, a few nice hybrids and seven lovely tench. Great fun.

A decent roach / rudd hybrid
Autumn tench
The end of The Final Few Quite Warm but Gently Overcast Days of Mid-Autumn

Having got The First Proper Day of Winter out of the way, I’m now looking forward to a few more key days that are highly likely to appear in the next few weeks. These include: The Official Most Depressing Day of the Year (Covid-19 Remix). The First Day of Proper Snow That’s Gone by Midday; The Day That Tricks You into Thinking Spring is on the Way Until You Go Outside; and, of course, The First Slightly Warm Day of Spring (Vaccination edition).

The Job Lot

I couldn’t resist a recent ‘job lot’ of tackle for sale locally when it popped up on my Facebook feed one Saturday morning recently.

A quick scan of the photos told me what I needed to know – there was some old gold in there.

I met up with the guy selling the gear later that same day. He’d kindly laid everything carefully out so I could have a good look and make sure I was happy. I already knew I would be. It was a proper collection of gear – half a lifetime worth of everything and all sorts. Nothing of any real value, yet a collection full of memories.  

I always wonder why people sell their fishing stuff. Not so much flashy and expensive matching carp rods or packs of size 26 fine wire hooks. It’s the full collections of gear, often amassed over decades, the ‘job lots’ that I find most intriguing. Why would someone part with everything? Of course the reasons why are sometimes surprising, dramatic or sad. But usually mundane. In this instance it was just another guy who’d lost the time and inclination to actually go fishing. He’d even still been buying the odd rod or bits of terminal tackle here and there with the intention of going again. But never quite got round to it.

I can identify with his situation. Life gets in the way. We all have priorities and certainly at this particular point in time, there really are more important things to worry about. Yet I always seem to find a bit of time. I still can’t resist going fishing, even after all these years.

I had a load of jobs to do that weekend, but was distracted by my new haul in the garage. I just couldn’t resist pulling out another box and going through it – I must’ve stayed up well past midnight on the Saturday evening rummaging through the gear, sorting it out. So many stories, so many adventures living in that old tackle.

I picked out a few rods to clean up and sort out on the Sunday morning. A few to sell, one or two to keep, a couple to give away. One of the oldest was a powerful ‘general coarse’ rod. An early carbon fibre model complete with slidey reel fittings and a darkened, chipped cork handle encrusted with old groundbait. The seller obviously had particularly fond memories of this rod and had clearly owned it a long time. Memories of his youth and bream fishing on the local park lake. A big carp on an autumn morning. Memories flooding back as he showed it to me and told me about his adventures using it. No fisherman, no matter how lapsed, can resist revisiting past glories with another angler. Someone who understands. Of all the gear, this rod was something he truly treasured. But it too had to go.

There’s a BOSS seatbox. Complete with a cumbersome leg/platform contraption attached. When I was young, seeing a guy perched on one of those on the riverbank – or even better in the water itself – told you they were the real deal. A proper angler, keepnet inevitably bursting with unbelievable fish.

And a pole! A proper, 12.5m pole! Not a piece of equipment I’ve ever owned, but definitely something I’ll be keeping to use mainly for the fun of it. But also because, in certain situations, it’ll give me a useful new option and possibly a big advantage when fishing for some of my favourite species like roach, perch and tench.

There’s loads of other stuff too. Reels, whips, net handles, feeders, floats. Even some size 26 fine wire hooks. And I’m still only half way through sorting it all out. A proper job lot.

The strangest of times. The best of times.

I’ve been pondering the idea of starting up the blog again for a while. I still read the small pool of fishing blogs quite regularly and enjoy them so it’s always been at the back of my mind to do something. Now seems like a good time to get it back out there.

I sat outside in a pub garden and had a pint the other evening for the first time in nearly a year. It was bloody freezing by 8! Autumn has come around quickly and it’s made me think about just how quickly the last few weeks and months have gone. The strangest of times.

I watched Bayern Munich win the Champions League on TV in a stadium with no one there. I watched a scuffle break out at a busy motorway service station over the wearing of face masks. I took a photo of the M4 at rush hour on a Friday evening with no vehicles anywhere to be seen. I cycled to a large national insurance firm’s HQ and no one was there. A whirlwind of surreal moments punctuated by those grim daily stats…

Since the easing of restrictions we’ve been lucky to get away, to take a few breaks in some wonderful parts of the UK. To places we know and places we don’t. And I’ve really enjoyed getting back to the simple, uncomplicated act of going fishing, perhaps more than ever. I can’t think of any occasions I’ve fished for more than two or three hours at a time, but these short, sharp sessions, usually early in the morning, have been just wonderful.

A long weekend glamping in rural Suffolk gave me the chance to fish a little lake I last fished over 25 years ago. Then we were often rewarded with numbers of small but perfectly formed little crucian carp, tiny cubes of meat fished under wonky, under-shotted floats giving my friends and I hours of fun before a parent was sent to collect us, inevitably sunburned, dehydrated, stinking and happy.

The lake has matured into a lovely little venue with the tench and rudd thriving. Indeed, the bigger tench have reached a good size and the four and five pounders I hooked were great fun on sweetcorn fished under light float gear. But it was the final morning that provided me with what I was really hoping for – one of the big, original old crucians still quietly eking out an existence in the pool. I wonder if it’s one I caught all those years ago. Crucians typically have a life span of ten years, but some reports suggest they can live to 60 years of age!

On the way home we stopped off to see one of my oldest mates who’s moved from Tottenham to a perfect little home deep into the East Anglian countryside. Nearby runs a crystal clear little drain with some incredible rudd residing there. I walked along the narrow, overgrown waterway looking for them. After getting a few better fish to slurp at some crusts, bread flake under a float rewarded me with two absolute beauties. Is there a finer looking fish anywhere than a deep flanked, golden rudd? Incredible creatures.

In August we camped close to a canal that holds some pretty serious carp. Last summer I managed to get an absolute beauty of 13 pounds after failing to convert a number of chances beforehand. I was hoping to get something like that again and so dragged myself out of bed at 6am and made may way down to the canal on a clear, fresh late summer morning. It was already starting to feel like autumn was lurking quietly just around the corner and with it genuine uncertainty. Has an approaching season ever felt quite so ominous as autumn / winter 2020? But of course there and then, in that moment, I was only concerned with catching a carp. And I did.

Bloggers Challenge – Social

We all know social media can be a blessing and a curse. Spending any amount of time reading some of the inane drivel on the Facebook fishing groups really can put me off.

And it’s a measure of the success and influence of Nash and Alan Blair’s Urban Banx series that has seen the format mercilessly copied across the ever growing numbers of carp fishing related channels on YouTube. Urban Banx is brilliant – a worthy modern day successor to A Passion for Angling I think – but if I see one more version of Budget Banx, complete with wobbly GoPro footage of someone sat by a pond in Air Max looking as though they’ve just been told their VW van has failed its MOT, I think I’ll cry.

Luckily, the angling bloggers challenge WhatsApp group has provided a regular healthy dose of reality, convivial piss taking and even the odd bit of inspiration.

The bloggers challenge is good fun and there are enough opportunities for me to gather a respectable points haul simply by changing where and what I fish for regularly, which is what I enjoy anyway.

I fluked a giant roach bream hybrid (50 points) in January from my local pool, keeping up a strange phenomenon of catching a personal best fish on my birthday. It was one of two bites on a bloody cold and, if I’m honest, bloody miserable mid-winter afternoon that was illuminated by a lovely, colorful mirror carp right on dusk.

I joined Russ for a far more enjoyable session on one of his fantastic canal venues a week later. Fishing with Russ is always a pleasure, a genuinely social affair. It’s never too serious and it’s nice to fish with someone like-minded. It was a lot milder too and Russ even thought a tench may make an appearance. He was right. I hooked one at the end of the day that absolutely ran me ragged before snapping me up. I’m itching to get back and have a go for them again as soon as the snow finally eases off. Luckily the predators were on the feed and I had a lovely pike and perch on the day – all valuable canal points for the challenge too.

I did manage a final few hours on the Wye too, but despite it being a mild day a rapidly rising, cold river put paid to a first river fish of 2018. Still, managed to get a few pics for the ‘gram!

The Perfect Carp

It was warmer outside than in my car, despite the grey skies, swirling winds and light afternoon drizzle. T-shirt weather in October. I knew the carp would be on the move…

Although I’m generally far more happy with a rod, loaf of bread and net, I was really looking forward to getting a pair of rods out – buzzers, boilies, bolt-rigs and all.

I’d already decided to feed quite heavily, so the margin rod had a dozen or so handfuls of hemp, 10mm boilies and pellets around it.

I baited a little more sparingly around the island rod and stuck to just a few pouchfuls of 10mm boilies scattered in front of a dead tree, with my rig fished just off the feature and the clutch set tightly.

The top end of the lake on a warm, wet and windy autumn afternoon

A perfect golden common carp

Despite my confidence, it was a fair while before the island rod pulled round – I was onto it quickly, sweeping the rod upwards and walking backwards to steer the carp quickly from the tree roots. A beautiful, golden common carp was the result, making my day there and then.

After that it was very quiet. A dad and lad turned up for the weekend and pitched up on the next two swims up from me. I decided to move.

I went for a walk. Halfway down the lake, tight to the margin, I found some churned up, coloured water just off a tiny bush. I trickled in a few boilies and lowered in a rig, leaving the rod on the ground.

Margin spot…

As I was exploring another spot a few yards away, the baitrunner started buzzing dramatically as a carp moved off at quite a pace. It had covered quite some distance by the time I picked up the rod, but I was in open water and soon had the fish under control. Once up in the water, I got sight of a golden, fully scaled mirror that looked immaculate.

Luckily, everything held and i was soon looking at perhaps the most beautiful carp I’ve ever caught…

The most beautiful carp I’ve caught – a fully scaled Welsh mirror. Deserving of a carpy pose…

I soon added another fat, pale mirror carp – a less attractive, but no less rewarding fish – by casting a PVA bag a fair old way to where I’d seen a carp stick its head above the water, next to big tree at the bottom of the lake.

It capped a perfect autumn carp trip. But it’s that fully scaled mirror carp that’ll remain etched in the memory.

 

Last of the Summer Wye

Although I’ve not fished the Wye a great deal this summer, I have been more regularly than the last couple of years.

My first trip was on a wild and windy evening at the end of June when a brace of barbel arrived late in the day. Then Russ and I visited a favourite stretch in July and spent a really enjoyable day wading a shallow, rocky stretch in search of chub and barbel.

Russ on the Wye 2 web
Russ fishing the Wye early on a summer morning

going...
Going, going…

The great escape
…gone!

It wasn’t until early September that I visited again, for a short evening trip on a low, clear river. I knew it’d be tricky, but I had a plan. The advantage of getting to know a stretch of river is you can begin to understand how fish populations move, react and adapt according to the time of year, conditions, angling pressure and other such details. I find chub far more aware than barbel. I also find them far less predictable in their movements – sometimes they remain in one area for years and then, suddenly, they are gone. I recall a productive swim on the Suffolk Stour with an old overhanging Willow that always held chub. All it took was subtle change in the river contour upstream of the Willow one winter, and come summer, the shoal had moved on completely.

But the chub were where I expected them to be. I spotted a really good one mid-river as soon as I arrived in the spot and that was all it took for me to begin putting my plan into action.

I started spraying 6mm pellets a quarter of the way across the river. I set up and cast out a ledgred chunk of Spam into the area where I expected the pellets to settle, hoping that the chub, and possibly barbel, would detect this stream of feed and eventually move over the bait. I thought it may take a while for them to drift out from the protective cover of the dense, late-summer streamer weed and into the slightly deeper I’d baited.

After an hour of feeding and with not even a pluck on the rod, I wound in. I stood up to get a better view of the swim, cupping my hands over my polarising glasses to avoid the glare, and fed another pouchful of pellets. Five or six chub charged in, taking the pellets on the drop in the upper layers of the water, and darted off again in different directions.

I set up a cumbersome barbel rod/waggler combo and found a reel with five pound line that I fished straight through to a size 16 hook, baited with a sliver of Spam. And as dusk arrived, I managed four or five fin-perfect chub that each took the bait on the drop, all from different areas of the swim. Great fun.

Wye Chub web
Who cares about pounds and ounces?

Then the rain arrived. I met Russ and his dad for a few hours on the middle river and it looked spot-on for a barbel. It was really pushing through and with the debris in the river, I knew I’d need the heavy gear again. Flood conditions on the Wye requires big feeders, powerful rods and heavy line, but the barbel become confident feeders in such conditions and it can be explosive fishing.

I decided to put my new Fox Warrior + rod through its paces and set up a 4oz running cage feeder, through to a long braid link and my usual super-strong size 14 beaked hook finished with two hair rigged krill pellets. The rod performed brilliantly – although it’s a strong tool, it’s forgiving and lobbing out a heavy feeder a fair distance and, crucially, getting it to stay there in the extra water, was easy.

rod

The first swim I tried didn’t feel quite right so after an hour I moved to a lovely area that featured a big slack, created by large trees both up and downstream extending out mid-river. A significant crease had formed with the high water and looked an ideal area to target.

I got a few feeder loads of bait down and sat back to enjoy the early evening sunshine. But I didn’t get to settle for long as a lean, lively barbel soon arrived, testing the gear fully as it sped off into the full flow of the swollen river. And six or seven of its brothers and sisters made it a session to remember.

Autumn Wye barbel web
Last of the summer Wye barbel

Fishing the river Tone

 

Fishing on the river Tone in Taunton

My first visit to the wonderful river Tone in Somerset was on a cold, grey January day earlier this year, when I spent a productive afternoon fishing for grayling with my friend Russ.

On that occasion we fished a stretch situated in a classic English lowland countryside setting – all sparse, exposed fields, moss covered stiles, winding B roads and jagged treelines.

Russ kindly invited me along for an afternoon on the Tone again this week, but this time we met in the centre of Taunton for a spot of urban float fishing.

The river running through Taunton is as far removed a setting from our winter venue, but certainly no less interesting. We started close to a large park, bustling with people out enjoying the mild October Sunday afternoon. From yummy mummies to grizzled street drinkers; teenagers trying to find somewhere to have a quiet smoke to shouty dog walkers; these public spaces remind me of the many open access venues I’ve enjoyed fishing through the years. The people, noises, lights and smells all add to that bustling, busy, and occasionally edgy atmosphere, synonymous with fishing in and around busy towns and cities.

The first spot I tried had an obvious feature right out in front of me in the shape of a large willow tree, complete with a decent shoal of chub mooching in front of it. I didn’t need a second invitation from Russ to give it a go. But these chub were finicky, edgy fish and undoubtedly cast at regularly, and I struggled to get them feeding with any sort of confidence.

Russ was faring better and soon had an appreciative audience as he landed a few nice chub and trout from below the willow. I eventually tempted a lovely chub too, a wily urban fish and a great prize.

We moved down to a floating pontoon that enabled us to fish together, with Russell’s partner Beth joining us after a few hours shopping in town. And we had plenty of fish, with the last hour or so proving especially productive.

I found great feature at the end of the day in the shape of an abandoned shopping trolley, just off my rod tip. By inching my float slowly past the trolley I managed a succession of good sized spiky perch as the light dropped, each one offering a dogged, almost tench like resistance – such lovely fish. In the end we added roach, dace, bleak and plenty of chub. It was a really enjoyable afternoon in relaxed company and fascinating surroundings.

Russ on the Tone web

Bench web

Dusk on the Tone web

chub web