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…
The great escape

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.


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