Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Variety and Application...or...What to do when it gets tough

Christmas Day a warm memory, the FF&F household refreshingly quiet as the others recover and a scattering of Santa seed brings a small flock of chaffinches to the bare bonfire surrounds, but the male dominated group are flighty and currently peer out from the trees awaiting the first mover to trigger the rest to follow.

A lone fieldfare, a much overlooked species but quite beautiful if one takes the time, in violent pursuit of anything thrush-like, ensures the fallers are his

Pondering the last month, it has been outstanding in its unpredictability and, largely weather driven, hit-and-miss-ness. It pays to plan carefully and ensure anything is possible at any moment but even then these intentions will fail more often that not without stable conditions.

Applying the experience of the decades is so important at such times and, rifling through the notes, it makes for a veritable eclecto-feast of tactics:
15.11.17 - Canal - sea deadbaits & lures
17 11 17 (am) - Reservoir - Cage feeder & bread
17 11 17 (pm) - Stream - Cage feeder & liquidised bread
18 11 17 - Reservoir - Slider & caster
19 11 17 - Reservoir - Experimental 'zig rig' with bread
20 11 17 - Reservoir - Waggler & caster
22 11 17 - Canal - Spratt deadbaits
25 11 17 - Canal - Lift method & bread
26 11 17 - Reservoir - 2 x maggot feeders
28 11 17 - Canal - Lift method & bread
29 11 17 - Reservoir - 'Zig rig' & bread
02 12 17 - Canal - Lift method & bread
03 12 17 - The Stillwater - Mackerel deadbaits
17 12 17 - ditto
18 12 17 - River - Pole feeder & bread mash

Minus 10C overnight; five or six inches of snow; heavy rain; 11C in the day; clear skies & sun have all been over and upon us during that period and none of them to any benefit for the angler unless they were to stick around and become the norm

The above and more determine the unquestionable need to keep the mind active and look to apply methods that will work in the particular circumstances that prevail, led by the preceding and present weather

In all those trips since the last post (not now bugler!) there have been one or two highlights that must not be omitted. Top of the list, firmly, a call from a dear old former traveling companion who, since our paths diverged, made his merry way into one of the handful of top English match angling teams as soon as I stopped holding him back(!), captained them until 3 years ago and took part in the World Club Championships. We could have spoken for hours and it took only a few seconds of the call to get onto angling! I can see it will be regular thing now that we're back in touch

Onto actual angling - a second-largest stillwater pike of 8.11 was rapidly subsumed into the afterglow of a p.b. dismantling lump of 16lbs precisely. The third bite in three casts at dawn. A perfectly spotless fish, well those spots that weren't supposed to be there at least, if you get my drift-float. To top it, there was still some snow around to enhance her visage

A three pounds nine ounce chub first cast on the pole feeder with bread was welcome on a particularly tricky day on the Warwickshire Avon. The somewhat subdued fight brought about by the elastic a boon when fishing this method. Unfortunately a slip and sudden flip saw it back in the drink before I had even taken the camera from the bag, so to speak. Accomplished as ever.

The chaffinches have returned on the other side of the glass and, grabbing the bin's, we seek that gem of the winter, a brambling, but no such fortune as yet. It usually takes a prolonged spell of desperately cold weather to bring such rarities to the garden and today follows that pattern.

Slider-fished double caster was successful in teasing a two pound perch from eleven feet of chilly reservoir water in a clear patch when weed was problem further out but it took three repeat sessions of regular feeding that same swim to encourage the blighter and some of his small brethren to risk a nibble

The hawfinches continue to elude us but regularly visiting bearded tit showed well enough in the reservoir reedbed, a male again this year. Sometimes as many as six are seen but just the one on this occasion of passage. An agitated individual, seemingly unable to settle, and, flitting from reed stem to reed stem, made itself impossible to photograph and therefore there is no proof to share

Of course I would want normally to close on that now traditional note of a nice big a canal roach. In fact a fish of 1lb 3ozs 3 drams from the banker swim and a bright highlight in a largely testing six week period only very occasionally punctuated with gems but, inexplicably, there is no pic so we will have to make do with this unseasonal tench taken two days before Christmas on a rubber/real red maggot balanced hookbait hopefully wafting just above the reservoir bed. This welcome winter imposter went 2.15.0 but when it came to etiquette in front of camera she was clearly found flipping wanting!

The day will close with heavy rain and then snow

The only certainty therefore being the uncertainty of the weather

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Leaves on the Line

The past couple of weeks have been varied in all manner of ways.

A return to The Stillwater is imminent but a mixture of lake, canal and river have kept this soldier of the angle busy meanwhile, if punctuated by the odd blank.

I asked my colleague to do a raindance for the rivers and it worked, to a degree. In fact it was the degree, or lack of them, that ultimately scuppered that plan with two frosts in that period.

So there's been the chance of the odd fish, by hook or by crook (perhaps attached to an orange 1970's fibreglass pole) and an inexplicable influx of our biggest finch, the hawfinch, with its massive bill (Greater Invoice Finches?) has occurred over the past week or two. Odd individuals and groups into double figures have been turning-up 'all over' and having a bird-conscious sideline has never been more timely. Plus winter visitors are arriving in force when it only seems like yesterday that summer visiting warblers were singing from every tree,  thicket, reed and hedge.

So it was with an eye to the tip or float and another to the sky (Marty Feldman again) that entertainment was sought.


It would be misleading to say the good days outnumbered the bad in angling terms but without doubt there have been some highlights in a phase of such variable global warming-induced weather that made the seeking of regular decent action improbable.

This 'bonus fish-hunting' lark is nothing if not regularly rewarding but it would be too easy to plunder the same stretch of canal that has given-up some double figure bags of bream and hybrids.

Fluctuating river levels mean occasional days with floating vegetation gathering on the line and the need for colour in the water make it constantly sought after, yet not often present.

Angling is nothing if it is not a challenge.


So what have we encountered?

Starting with the highlights, the list is quick to define through it's lack of depth.

Top of the list, without anything coming close, was catching a stationary stoat in the headlights on entering a fishery. In turning to face the light it exposed an inverted triangle of pure white chest crisply set in chestnut flanks before bounding into the verge and the consolation of darkness. The nearest warren would soon be on the highest level of alert.

Next, a bruiser of a barbel from below the weir, a fish that somehow managed to find itself being replayed a week later in the Club newsletter. This capture was unusual in the way the swim was fished.

Unbeknown to me the depth of the river changed dramatically precisely where I sat. If I swung a lead under the near bank to the left it suggested around 5 to 6 feet but to the right it was comfortably into double figures.

Given that it wasn't deepest winter the shallower area was favoured. A couple of handfuls of meat went in, the big fish rig was lowered to join it and left to simmer while a light liquidised bread feeder was cast a third across hoping to bring that area to an immediate boil seeking that elusive big river roach.

The latter didn't occur, the best of seven fish going around eight ounces.

An hour and a half in however, while fiddling with my tackle, the 1.75tc rod attempted to take off. Instantly dropping what I was doing, I managed to grab the handle and adjust the clutch to suit.

The fish fought like a champion. Tearing off diagonally downstream initially away from the bank and then back, kiting, deep in the strong weirpool flow. Then it was off again this time closer and almost under the bank. Close to capture, the fish was in and out of the net twice and landed at the third attempt.

A public location...a crowd had gathered.

Various uneducated questions were asked and  responded to. It was a barbel, not a tench and, no, I wasn't expecting that but I did hope for it. Then a guy with a unit conversion app advised me it was 11lbs 3ozs with the net, which, by this time, was large and sodden and upon deduction brought a notably chunky barbus to it's true weight of 10lbs 6ozs.

The fourth and smallest F,F&F Warwickshire Avon 'double' of the season/lifetime.


We were.


Beyond stoat and whiskers it's been a case of digging deep into the notes to find no.3 in this week's chart...

The increased flow and depth of local rivers had engendered a certain misplaced excitement yet with little to report. Not surprising at this time when water temperatures are still unsettled but on a general downcurve.

So we go back a fortnight and into a slightly questionable decision. A visit to a short stretch of Grand Union that produced a rare ruffe in the summer occurred.

Knowing it might produce roach, bream and/or hybrids was of use but the worm sideline failed miserably for predators.

The session was entirely predictable in that it took time for the fish to find the feed. When they did though things instantly became just a tad interesting...

Three hybrids ranging from 15ozs to 1lb 10ozs started the action off followed after a lull by a twelve ounce roach. I felt I may have started too close in and so fed again further out after the first boat.

Crayfish were a real problem, constantly pulling the bait around, but a decent flake popped-up out of their reach and soon something somewhat more substantial was attached. At first it swam toward the bank and I lost direct contact thinking it was lost and then maybe that it was a smaller skimmer but when it turned, perhaps having seen me, it stripped line off the centrepin for a few yards. Being a fish of its species however it was never likely to be the battle to top them all and soon it caved in, flopped on its side and was directed over the net to be recovered for inspection.

Now at this point I must explain that I do not know how big my biggest canal bream had been. It will have been caught in a match on the Grand Union, probably at or near Fenny Stratford, but won't have been weighed separately. I have therefore been 'seeking claims' from myself at a minimum of 3.8.0, so to speak.

This baby went 3.10.3 and therefore now fills that previously vacant spot. Which just shows that the area one might often walk past should not be ignored when the time might be right.

The most bizarre thing of all is that this little event had gone partly unrecorded. No notes left in the phone, only part of the story in the log book but with points claimed for The Challenge.

Otherwise three things are worthy of note - a dace of a few drams larger than previously claimed and a one pound, twelve ounce river perch for challenge points together with a straggly flock of around 150 migrating golden plover over the Warwickshire countryside.


1/. James Denison 523
2/. Sean Dowling 314
3/. Brian Roberts 308
4/. Mick Newey 272
5/. George Burton 268

1/. George Burton 296
2/. James Denison 206
3/. Russell Hilton 180
4/. Daniel Everitt 119
5/. Sean Dowling 95

1/. Brian Roberts 301
2/. James Denison 296
3/. Daniel Everitt 249
4/. George Burton 249
5/. Russell Hilton 147

1/. James Denison 1025
2/. George Burton 813
3/. Brian Roberts 654
4/. Russell Hilton 576
5/. Daniel Everitt 541

A typical current river catch. 4lbs or so of rosch, dace and chublets

To conclude this particular post then -
A small number of good fish but with plenty of quiet sessions in between; some nice bird sightings but no hawfinch (yet) and plenty of the season left to go at.

Bring it, and the proper cold weather, on!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

In between Times

Living in the Midlands possibilities for roach of such magnitude as to make one wonder whether it's really worth having another cast, or whether the bewildered state should somehow be embalmed and taken from the bank, are few.

Revisiting Mark Wintle's excellent roach books, it being autumn now, in "Big Roach 2" was to be found a statement by Pete Shadick pronouncing that 2lb river roach are at least 14" from snout to cleft of tail.

Out came the measures and, by deduction using ratios from photographs, the second of my two lifetime two pounders, a canal fish of 2.3+, measured at least 14"

This was of some comfort as, being the doubting sort, even casting aspersions on my own old records, I do sometimes look back at those fish and ask whether a mistake could have been made.

Well not in this case it seems.

Comfort is drawn.


So, The Boy Wonder "TBW" decides it's a fishing weekend and his favourite location is agreed upon.

The Res has been good to us this year from roach in the frost early-on, through rudd, perch, tench and even a proper crucian but, since the Challenge commenced TBW had not seen a tench to his own rod

The imaginary Golden Maggot would get an airing too

Weapons were chosen for the duel:
TBW - 1 rod - maggot and hemp feeder at 30m
F,F&F - float fished bread at 2 rods out (and a sneaky chopped worm feeder down the inside on the wand)

The level had dropped and colour with it

Standard Custom and Practice ensued...
I catch my biggest fish first cast and TBW casts his rig off and spent the next hour in state of general faffulence

Yes that first throw of the flake and up pops the float to reveal the clutch screaming surge of a 4lbs 5ozs 8drm male tench, but that was that

Total Bloody Womble "TBW" eventually gets into the swing and as per usual proceeds to tease two decent tench of 3.3 and 3.5 with a bigger one lost on his last cast to pluck the total weight prize from my grasp with some excellent counter-attacking. Draw the opposition out and into a sense of security then hit them hard. Perhaps Jurgen Klopp could learn from this boy Womble

TBW - Total weight 6.8; total species 1; number of fish 2. Points 1
FF&F - Total weight 6.0; total species 2; number of fish 4. points 2
Never in doubt


My staple water the North Oxford Canal is very poor at present. Few fish, much colour and boat traffic high.

A move to the short length of conjoined Grand Union and Oxford Canals, even with its essential bow to stern flotilla from 8am or so, has been far more productive and a new area of attack has offered surprising all round  quality.

The wind could have been awkward hence the choice of an east-facing bend which was inevitably capable of offering shelter whichever forecast one favoured.

The local farmers were flat-out flattening-out the fields for winter fare. It seems but yesterday that the dust of the harvest clogged the airways but now there is no sign; the reaping, rolling, ploughing, tilling and drilling all complete in perfect linear patterns.

When everything else is failing revert to what you know. In this instance mashed bread and chopped worm. That approach on two rods produced a marvellous catch of just over ten pounds in two hours this very morning.

It was not the overall catch however but the size of the best fish of each species that made the eyes bulge, like Marty Feldman on speed.

The trend of the sequence caught with this approach when bream are present usually goes: bream/hybrids then a roach, or maybe two, then when that dies (by reverting to the worm rig) it's perch and the odd zander.

This morning followed the protocol to the letter with five bronze bream to 2lbs 2ozs followed by the best roach of the campaign yet at a cracking 1.10.0, albeit a fish of two halves with the anterior of a definite two pounder and a posterior that suggested a pounder, then five perch to 1.13.13 plus a zed-let.

That hard fighting roach would sit proudly in the top F,F&F canal roach list and, without checking, probably at around 6th or 7th.

It's 10am now and, the morn only having been sufficiently light 7am, already it's bums on (heated) seats and foot down heading off for a breakfast but not before a triple take as the last of today's many less than immaculate narrowboats chugged through...two years since we'd spoken I'd estimate...and there he was, a little changed by the passage of that time. Duncan, a good former angler, now operating on the dark surface of the water - with the odd dabble when the mood takes no doubt.


The Bloggers Challenge is at an odd stage.

Many of the summer species are tabled and those that passed many of us by, largely those of flowing water, are not feeding due to a lack of rain.

For my part then it's purely a case of enjoying the fishing with no particular target other than whatever occurs, or at least for now.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Canal Research gets Silver Liting

There was a time when the pursuit of big canal fish was a combined effort. Committed anglers pooling information to inform a common goal.

Then that all changed two winters ago and since the furrow had been ploughed alone with neither horse nor spreadsheet.

A chance encounter with a bankside acquaintance has changed all that however with our work on 'the project' stimulating the latent traditional angler in an otherwise rubber fetishist mind (as a hitherto devout lure angler).

Witnessing the early morning success of bread on the canal had inspired him into a burst of activity on a canal I last fished in an NFA West Midlands Junior Championship precisely 40 years ago.

Results have been comparable with those I too have experienced and at last there is a sounding board out there, a catch-it net from which to pluck some rebounds.

Eric Weight authored an excellent lure fishing blog "Artficial Lite" which he then had to mothball due to the age old problem, but now it's back and now adorned with a separate glittering subsection "Silver Lite" in which he eloquently sets-out his findings in this new venture.

Initially Eric has had little difficulty in depicting my dear old self as a complete know-all (clearly he is a good judge of character) but hopefully by sharing what we've gleaned through the research and ramblings of F,F&F he can subjugate the learning process and cut to the chase of the chase on the cut.

Silver Lite is proving the fish of the Ashby de la Zouch Canal to be more akin to heavy metal by the weight of numbers of large hybrids Eric has teased into the net via dawn, and even pre-dawn, presented flake.

I joined him for a tough session on a recent Saturday morning and found the canal very much reminiscent of my local North Oxford Canal in appearance and, possibly, stocks. The main noteworthy difference being the sheer size of its armoured space invaders; one of which I had to net and must've been nigh-on half a pound!

Eric has been having some great early morning catches and has recently tracked down some decent roach to just over the pound mark so there is potential in that cut, albeit, for myself, it's a few minutes further than I like to regularly travel.

Interrogating the map however reminded me that other lengths of the Ashby do run closer to home and must be worth some attention this winter, especially in sheltered countryside locations.

Thankfully it is generally a rural canal.


And so the canal campaign begins...

Today I sit writing with rising, recently seeded fields before me, migrating skylark and occasional meadow pipit calling overhead. The water now turbid as the passing narrowboats exceed double figures.

On the inside of this wide piled bend I had hoped.

The clarity at dawn was perfect for some 'bread fish' as well as those susceptible to the odd large worm.

These mornings however can never be lengthy. If the canals were closed they would soon be clear so, yes, we do need boats but the resultant short sharp sessions need to be very focussed to avoid wastage.

Good things are always possible...

Roach X bream hybrid 2lbs 1oz
Roach 0.14.2
Perch 2lbs 1oz & a few more challenge point
The above formed part of this mornings 11 fish, 9lbs catch from an area I'd been meaning to visit for three years but for various reasons didn't make

It was certainly an education and were it not for a mad spell of fifteen minutes during which four bites came to both rods simultaneously and all ended-up being completely missed.

It's clearly going to be a while before we get back in the groove!


1 James Denison 999
2 George Burton 771
3 Brian Roberts 623
4 Danny Everitt 503
5 Sean Dowling 428

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Canals & Barbel. An Eclectic Mix.

The suddenly changing seasons, firstly with gales and short bursts of heavy rain combined with a noticeable drop in air temperature, have taken me back to considering canals.

Initially a week too early it seemed as, having endured over twenty narrowboats in an hour and a half period recently, I did wonder what on earth, or water, I was thinking.

Thankfully it was a one-off and a couple of subsequent quiet weekday evening sessions after work have been pleasant however, neither with a boat in view, and both mixing tactics with bread down the middle and worms to one side at the bottom of the towing path shelf.

The highlight of these visits, somewhat oddly, was a lost fish...
A whole lobworm was lowered among a mass of physically discumbobulated dendrabenas and, upon striking, there ensued an initial aquatic hiatus during which the fish (if it wasn't a seal, or Adam Peaty) did nothing and felt relatively manageable. As the realisation struck, the fish decided it was an appropriate moment to make use of it's express single ticket to the far bank and as I searched belatedly and frantically for the tightened clutch I was beaten to it by the crack of the line.

I say that was the highlight but on the next trip a ruffe just under the ounce snared itself on three dendrabenas and a fake maggot. A rarity indeed, followed closely by a surprise but sought-after rudd just over a pound which, combined, provided a few unexpected but welcome Challenge points.

It was nice on a separate early Feldon morning the register the first impressive canal roach of the campaign at a touch over 1.5 and a few perch to just over a pound have succumbed too.

Two new (to me) stretches of canal have been visited, the Ashby for big hybrids (failed) and the Grand Union Leicester Arm for tench (failed)


The first spell of seeking-out Barbus maxima was partly covered in the previous post but that was only the beginning of a truly unbelievable run of three or four sessions either side of the physical feature identified as the most  likely holding spot.

Next session after the 9.12 was banked two hard-battling fish were landed at 11.14 another p.b. and 10.9 but then to my parallel amazement and unbridled joy a 12.11 hit the net a day later and raised the p.b. bar yet further.

Worse than dreadful picture but here it is. 12.11
Barbel were also pursued in a second little burst on the Avon since very recent heavy rain achieved the all but impossible and put some colour into its customary fish tank like clarity but no bites have been forthcoming. Others have been catching them elsewhere so I suspect they may have moved.


An early start on the Grand Union 'proper' this past Sunday was however exceptional. If we can ignore a little three ounce tearaway of a zander the smallest fish of the other eight fish of four species banked weighed a chocolate mouse less than a pound and the biggest, a bream, went 3.2.0 on the replacement, and now suitably calibrated, scales.

I was really after carp however (failed!).

In a feathered sense regular barn owl views on the river, a marsh tit roving through the backside vegetation on the GUC and an unusually showy, quite magnificent, adult water rail wandering out onto lilies in search of the sustenance of the Leicester Arm have been worthy distractions there.

News is though that we will soon be back on The Stillwater, necessary maintenance works having been completed, and this very evening The Boy Wonder and I traced the wending route of The Stream to deduce best options with colder roach, perch and chubby weather on the horizon. Only three swims appeared to have been fished this season and those the armchair options of course.

"What size tell-tale to hold this down?!"

1. James Denison 920
2. George Burton 754
3. Brian Roberts 633
4. Danny Everitt 513
5. Sean Dowling 428

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

This Autumn Mourning

Mourning the passing of summer. Celebrating the coming of autumn. I sit in my small corner.

Anticipating movement.

Four days ago the sharp chill of early morning signalled that change. Bang on time. The afternoon sun still has the capacity for uncomfortable heat in its glare but this will diminish unless an Indian summer is to provide a thermal boost.

Rivers again run clear and are unapproachable in daylight hours. The canals awash with ignorant fools.

The option therefore? To enjoy some late tench fishing in the hope that something unexpected might trip over the bait too.


So we have settled into our oft peaceful, always still corner of the Res for the dusk period on an all-but daily basis.

Large comings-together of hirundines are now evident in favoured locations and soon they will be gone, swifts long-since departed, with the current massing of gnats to be replaced by their northern cousins capable of survival on arboreal fruits.

Tiny furry mammals, at their most numerous and industrious at this time, forage and squeal underfoot - and sometimes over it. The company of bank and field voles, water and other shrews, stoat and rat has been enjoyed in recent weeks.

The decreasing temperature and increased humidity would initially suggest an associated drop-off in fish activity but the water remains warm to the touch and, like the sea, this will be maintained while the air gets colder. Cloudy nights will assist. The fish 'know' that the time for feasting is upon them and until the winter sets-in they will be at their most vulnerable to the angler.


For now then the corner has been both comfortable and comforting. It's a snug little spot and for the last hour of each visit has produced precisely three tench to bread over a bed of hemp together with a smattering of roach up to just under the satisfying pound.

The hoped for unanticipated capture to take symmetry to asymmetry went awol through the steady string of lifts, occasional sailaways, dithers and crayfish interruptions but tench are never to be ignored, so obliging are they in the biting and fighting stakes, morning and, in these cases, dusk.

The green Goddesses and Gods were in the two to three and a half pounds bracket on the first two of three trips but, for no fathomable reason, the third brief session proved the best float caught FF&F tench catch ever with fish of 4.1, 4.4 and a hard fighting 5.3 last cast. All fish were taken on bread flake in seven feet of water late in the evening.


Daniel Everitt has been tantamount to camped here for the past few weeks but, coincidentally, has now vacated in search of flowing water fish with the changing seasons.

Sunday evening, the fourth session and ninth and tenth hours of effort, took place under heavy skies and through light drizzle.

Inundated with passing visitors, as though they knew something I didn't, the lake was otherwise quiet in an angling sense.

Admiral Fudge and Ollie the greyhound; Committee Keith with Buddie the terrier and then Joe the bailiff. During which time (first cast) a roach of one pound eight ounces was a surprise capture followed by two sub-pound fish but it wasn't until just after Joe returned with bailiff no.2 Pete (I can be a handful), and we'd exchanged pleasantries and tales of woe, that it happened.

By way of a change I slid the BB tell-tale shot up to pop a piece of crust up 5" just above a thin layer of Canadian pondweed fragments littering the bed.

Minutes later the float dipped and lifted and the strike met with decent resistance. The fish moved off right and then treated me to a juddering sensation reminiscent of an eel but less insistent. I immediately allowed myself to dream. Then the rotund side-plate shape confirmed it.

"I've got a crucian guys"

Back came Pete and Joe in a hurry.

The fish had ideas of escape however and took a while to subdue even on the specimen float rod but at the second attempt a geriatric crucian skimmed over the rim to be consumed by mesh.

An old fish.

Battle scarred, with split dorsal and otter-ravaged caudal, this beaten character (in both senses) was to shatter the p.b. set in the height of summer by a 1.2.6 fish.

Pete estimated "Two and a half". I didn't venture a guess but hoped it might just exceed that. Joe fell silent. In fact both did when it came to the maths.

The roach had gone 38 ounces with the net but this magnificently ancient individual would, with 14ozs to deduct from 56, reset the bar at 2lbs 10ozs.

Photographs were kindly taken and the boys said their goodbyes.

Danny was able to confirm via the ether that this fish was caught twice in 2016 at exactly the same weight give or take the loss of the top of its tail in the meantime. I declined giving it a name but if I did 'Grand Cru' would seem appropriate

Darkness fell a good fifty minutes earlier than normal due to the weight of cloud cover somewhat bizarrely requiring an isotope to complete the session, but, with no more action, the car beckoned and we, that is myself and the memory, hit the road...floating on air.


It is now the two day 'anniversary' of the capture and it barely slips my mind at any time. Compared to a specimen roach it is admittedly not quite there but otherwise perhaps the most satisfying of captures. In this Bloggers' Challenge year personal bests have fallen regularly with the commitment to try to load as many points on the board from all available sources within a range of about 30 minutes travel. There have been the river bream, barbel, carp, etc., but the smaller species never cease to give me greatest pleasure. Somehow they just seem that little bit more difficult to catch. If I were to list species in order of personal significance it would go something like - roach, silver bream, crucian carp, rudd, tench, chub, perch, etc., but this is splitting hairs really as any species is good to catch if it proves to be a challenge.

Monday, 21 August 2017

In Search of Wonderment.

Deep summer has never held much appeal.

As a kid The Old Duffer and The Old Trout didn't care for the sun and I guess it stuck.

We used to amuse ourselves with hemp and tares and at this time of year, the harvest, it was peak seed fishing season.

Now though, with the bonus fish commitment truly engaged, the prospect of a stream of victims up to the occasional pound limit just does not tick any boxes nor spend any of the emotional budget.

We're in a "stick cleft" (sic) as someone used to say; a dilemma; a damned if we do, damned if we don't time of year.

There are fish to be caught and, Bloggers Challenge-wise, some of  summer stillwater species have been banked but the rivers have been pretty dreadful locally, when low and clear. The recent rains have brought hope but even a swim I felt certain would produce a decent barbel or chub has been piscatorially ravaged on three or four occasions to no avail, other than three measly additional points for a 3oz 2dr dace.

The lake carp are too easy to catch and the canals are nose to tail with disrespecting and dim-witted holiday narrowboaters.

Has the picture been painted?!

So, what to do?

The inadvertent bream campaign culminated in two consecutive 5lbs 4ozs individuals from a pool I've become strangely fond of but I really need to move-on.

Only two weeks or so hence the little Johnnies  and Janets will be brimming the schools; the hire narrowboats will be scrubbed-up for next time and life will be on the up. Big and long-established autumn and winter targets can be pursued with methods of great enjoyment.

Until then however a few important things have eluded my bloggers challenge submissions. River and canal carp, tench and rudd being the main ones. It would be these that ought to form the basis of the next month's action. Canals can be identified where these are all quite possible, perhaps even from a single peg. For any of these species on a river however it's far from a certainty and this must be where the bulk of the homework is done.


Bloggers Challenge Update:
James, of course, has torn-off into the lead but if the above species can be weighed-in his lead could be whittled down to manageable proportions, for now at least

Current Top 5:
James Denison 828
George Burton 626
Brian Roberts 506
Daniel Everitt 423
Russell Hilton 401


All that apart, since returning from the Wye, where after, now, a total of around ten days experience at this barbel fishing lark it is starting to make some kind of sense, the Warwickshire Avon's barbel, in some areas, including this, fish of legend, would be under the microscope.

At first, and, as it happens, for around half a dozen sessions, a tactic of either 'bait droppered' hemp & pellets or cage feeder produced not even the slightest indication of fish presence.

Then this weekend, in a down in the mouth chance encounter with Stealth Mode Gary while loading the cars after drawing yet another blank, a little pearl fell from his lips and shone like a Time Square neon advertisement. It was simple and it was instantly eating at me. Immediately it was clear this was the answer even without the accompanying tales of 12.13's, 10.6's, etc., and the obligatory, "...and he lost one at the net he said made those look small...".

So, with rain pouring on arrival (this was serious) and barbed wire scratches on the new-ish car as a bonus the 'Royal we', settled in.

Brolly like a mushroom in the still air and yet room to cast to the right we sat peering-out into the closing gloom for the last two hours of the day. It would be dark early but with a rule of no fishing after sunset it would be dusk forever on an evening like this. Sunset would be prolonged and, as prime big fish time, if it was going to happen it would be today.

Baiting-up and casting-out with confidence we sat back and exchanged idiocies with our Challenge contemporaries. It was not long before the realisation that we'd put the bait just beyond a significant fallen branch (suggesting continuing in this fashion was folly in the landing a fish stakes) caused us to start feeding further-out by catapult.

Giving it twenty minutes to settle in the squelching, overwhelming twilight the prospect of a cast with that sparkling pearl on the hook became necessarily irresistible.

Out it went. A touch out of position and, sure enough, nothing was doing. Second underarm flick to mid-river beyond the snags and we were in business.

A minute or two passed and a definite but slight quiver suggested sub-aquatic interest.

We reached for the rod.

The proverbial three foot twitch had barely materialised when the strike met with unexpectedly mediocre resistance. It was either an enthusiastic big bream or a subdued chub.

Plodding it's way toward us under decent pressure, it morphed. The plodder became a 100m runner. Belatedly out of the blocks and stripping line from the clutch with a sound like a cheap electric drill everything came to life.

It's been like this for me. The first few outings with a certain method or ambition never really have the Heineken effect until that day, usually  sat alone, when a simple tweak to the idea and suddenly it will sing and dance.

Battle continued.

We could, by now, see the fish in the shadow of a dense tree canopy. It looked disappointingly small at depth as I has braced myself for a 'double'. This was partly a strange notion, given the p.b. of only a few weeks prior was 7lbs 14ozs, and partly the result of knowledge. Not many barbel are offered-up by this stretch but when they are they are usually eleven to fourteen pounds.

Meanwhile, back at the branch, the fight was culminating in a series of increasingly desperate clutch-squealing lunges and on the final one, as soon as this fine adversary gave a hint of relaxation, over the string he came to be engulfed in brown fishnet like a shapely leg.

It continued to pour and as she hit the net the fish seemed 'small' in the sense that I had braced myself for a monster, for Barbus maxima.

In the weighing sling and at least four inches broad across the pectorals however this was surely a leviathon as compared to anything I'd seen previously. The 7.14 had seemed massive, this was significantly bigger.

The scales fluctuated between 173 and 182 ounces as she shuffled for comfort beneath. The sling would 'go' sixteen ounces on a dry day, today more. I prayed to the great fish god Gobio that it would come to rest at in excess of 176.

It did not, but no matter; a fish of nine-twelve was impressive enough in the flesh and, soaked in the gloom as we were by the incessant downpour, beaming smiles illuminated the scene.

Barbus notquiteicus
 slipped back with gusto and there had to be 'one more cast'.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

A Variety of Similarities.

A twittering, a chattering, a sip.

Leaning back under mature salix - gazing into the canopy - the innumerable gathering throng.

Blue, great and long-tailed they are. A post breeding flock of families slowly forage as a group yet frantically feed individually as they wend the willow-lined watercourse.

Hopeful I search. The occasional slurp of an ancient carp barely noticeable in distant fringing lillies.

Aurally straining. Yes, there is one there, and so is another

The most incomprehensibly evolved of passerines, the treecreeper, probing every crevice and fissure of the arboreal armour. A louse here, a moth there. A delicate call and the loose organic cloud rolling through the treetops is gone, but remains intact.


The forecast indicated cloud. The sky indicated continuous sun.

The latter prevailed.

The Gormless Old Duffer, shirtless, was not a pretty sight. Thankfully we had the lake to ourselves. I wished it had been to himself.

Carp, of no great size, cruised in teenage gangs in the shallows, terrorising anything resembling food like orca eyeing-up seals.

No matter, we knew the big fish would feed first and then, when the heat became too much, the action would subside. This was certain. Past experience would prove it.

Four balls of ground-ait and feed went in. The Gormless Old Duffer on the feeder with an alarm. Myself on the slider.

An hour or more passed.

The alarm was silent (we checked it was switched-on). The float, well, floated. Clearly I'd bought one without any bobs in it.

Then out of the blue the alarm went, the arm contact.

The slider slid and a fighting roach of half a pound was grounded and returned.

Fish topped with playful abandon.

An idea. The lake was deep and the fish might have been in higher water layers.

The canal rig shot were redistributed and the float pushed-up to 7 or 8 feet.

Bites on the drop on corn, every cast but after five 2 to 5 ounce roach - instant boredom. This wasn't the game we came to play.

Chess please, not draughts.

Back to the slider and the float immediately lifted, then disappeared beyond the visible depth and a good one was on. No fight though. It must've been a stick. But no, a large signal crayfish burst through the surface to its legally required destiny.

At first a carpet had been laid-out and a few ingredients were threaded onto the hook in desperation. Instantly the float behaved unusually and a nodding donkey was hooked. Never a battle to write home about but a fish that lights the F,F&F candle whenever it exceeds three pounds.

This slime-coated stinker hit the bar at four pounds six ounces and the day was made.


This had been part of an inadvertent trend. Though it had not been realised at the time and being, or trying to be, a modest sort made it all the more surprising.

A sort of introspective retrospective I suppose.

Bronze bream.

They had been prioritised on lake and river for quite a number of trips and, without quite realising it, I'd been involved in a campaign.

Of course any decent summer species is welcome when the water is low and clear and the prospect of anything other than carp on a lake seems increasingly unlikely.

I'd found a shoal on the river but in three trips only managed two fish within half an early hour of each other; catching them before they hit the morning snooze button.

The second was a river p.b. at 4.10 (I've dropped bothering with the silly drams now except for smaller species!) and a dark old bottom feeder he was too.

Lake fish peaked at 4.8 among a raft of other four pounders. A weight that suddenly feels the norm.


So with the species ticked in both lake and river categories today the trusty bus headed for the river with carp in mind on one rod and dace on the other.

Rest assured, like any other person, when a target is set there is the disproportionate likelihood for all to fail.

Maggots sprayed 3/4 across and boilies (yes, you heard right, boilies!) along nearside marginal lilies and streamer weed. A perfect swim. 7 feet deep between weed-beds and just enough room to trot through.

Thirty or so roach, dace and chublets later, the 'donk, donk, treadwater, donk' of a meaty adversary. So clear was the water that the fish came into view quickly. First thought was, tentatively, chub but on closer viewing the unmistakable outline of yet another bream was discerned. About three pounds was the initial assessment but in a decent flow and with a sixteen to two pound fluorocarbon between it and the net odds were very much against.

Nodding interspersed by cautious retrieval made for very little headway. This gave ample time for two things.
  • Worry, and,
  • Regular review of the predicted weight.
Step by step; nod by nod; draw by draw the weight increased to around five pounds by the time the fish, now with line wrapped around it's anal fins for interests sake, was scooped-up.

Into the meadow and nestled in the deep uncut grass this was no five pounder.

"That's six, surely", I muttered to the passing butter and damselflies.

Six pounds?

Nope. Way out.

Seven, six.

A river and overall p.b. by a clear 2.12


Of  course nothing could top this, even removing the pike that constantly marauded the keepnet was well adrift in the enormity stakes.

Yes, that would do. That would do nicely.

Thank you world.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Searching those Stillwaters

The pursuit of 'summer fish' on stillwaters does not come naturally. In fact, apart perhaps from roach and tench, the pursuit of any fish on stillwaters does not come naturally.

The otherwise dormant inner matchman wants to burst out, grab the catapult, and feed, feed, feed.

Today it actually happened.

I had been warned. There was no excuse.

But first were the times, or the day at least, when it was a worthy approach.


In pursuit of 'those fish' the favoured method has been to fish whatever bait was the selection on the day over a bed of hemp.

This had brought forth a burst of p.b's set against the context of a canal angling background and the need for bloggers challenge points this season.

Almost all of this fishing had been with a static bait; employing feeders, alarms, rod pod, the works and prior to small fish becoming active in May. Yes, maggots have been off the agenda for a couple of weeks now.


It started with (a kiss) decent roach, rudd, tench and perch. Nothing outstanding but quality fish and solid points.

Tench over 6lbs, perch over two and roach close-on a pound and a half. The latter two could be followed-up on in autumn and winter but, unlike the 2015/16 challenge, those species that become tricky in winter needed to be dealt with now.

Leamington A A control a few stillwaters from which the majority of those fish might be taken.
Carp, certainly.
Rudd, within limits of size, yes.
Silver bream? Probably not.
Common or bronze bream, yes, and to, potentially at least, a good size.

The lakes also offer interesting wildlife. Birds, invertebrates...only today there were five marbled whites to be seen and small skippers at two different venues plus a good variety of dragon and damselflies


The past two weeks and half a dozen sessions on a variety of those venues have been fruitful and while these are not commercial fisheries they are well stocked and hold some nice specimens very much of the nature this particular angler likes to target - the bigger fish in the swim, regularly and by design.

Of course the list of p.b's remains paltry, being very much canal & stream orientated until now, but the opportunities, with ever-growing knowledge, are vast and consequently it is inevitable that with an inquiring mind and experience to call on those records are going to fall regularly until the target, maybe, becomes ever bigger specimens.


In this short fortnights' spell the bronze bream best has risen to 3.13, then 4.1 and, today, to 4.6.

King carp to 9.6, 12.12 and...

Most pleasing however was to catch a net of crucians topped by two over a pound and landing three or four p.b's in the one session which now stands at 1.2.6. I had not fished for this magically beautiful and powerful little fish since early in the 1980's and then in a local overstocked shallow farm pond where the stunted fish rarely exceeded eight ounces. Regular feeding worked with these excitable fellas.


One thing is certain. These are not newsworthy catches but the most important thing in angling is enjoyment and the pleasure is immeasurable when, firstly, the careful plan works and then it feels as though one has succeeded (even if in reality it was pure fluke or coincidence, but who are we to know that).

That is until today.

I planned to go to try to catch a decent rudd and, driving toward that crock of gold, developed an urge to go elsewhere, and followed it.

Bream became the momentary magnet.

It seemed incredible. After an ounce roach first cast I had a visitor, returning to angling from a decade break, seeking advice (from me, on a lake, I ask you!). As we talked, a 2lb bream came to the net and, as he got just four pegs away, another of 4.6, quickly followed, just as he disappeared out of sight, by a tearaway fish.

Now initially it didn't give much away, holding it's fins close to it's chest. Once it knew the game was on however I feared for my 16 hook and 3.5lb fluoro link.

The clutch shrieked...and shrieked...and shrieked.

The rod bent to that familiar complete curve

1 peg away, 2 pegs away, and into the third.

This fish was going to be lost. No doubt.

The hand-me-down, and excellent, 13' power match rod, the biggest fish it had previously landed being a tench of 4.7, expressed itself in a manner I could only have dreamt of, but the fish would be victorious.

Pump by pump, it started to come back my way. Over and over again it tore off and slowly, but somewhat increasingly surely, it was drawn back. I would come off the though.

It went round my second rod but I untangled it. There was no way this fish would be landed.

It tore right, then left again. Brushed the underwater roots to my left and shot forwards into the fed swim.

It would break the line. The hook would come off. A knot would give. Something.

I had it's head out. A mirror. Another surge. The clutch squealing again.

Again it surfaced but I couldn't quite net it and once more it drove maniacally, vertically, down into the deep water. For sure this fish would not be beaten on inadequate tackle.

Up and up it came, onto its side, gulping air.



No one else was there. It was ok to scream madly.

Exhausted from a good ten minute engagement, we regarded each other. The fish and I knew.

Thirteen  pounds seven ounces this beauty went.

Oh!...and a personal best too of course.


Henceforth he catapult became attached to my right hand. Feed, feed, feed.

I knew not why.

At this point I noted the jangling song of the corn bunting. Now a rare farm bird and a joy to hear after such a long period of famine extending to over a decade but today the other wildlife seemed not to be there, such was the thrall of the angle

35 to 40 roach and perch later, and not one over three ounces, this would be enough.

A few more challenge points; the head cleared for Monday and a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Worm has Turned

These past few weeks, trips to the Highlands notwithstanding, I have been trialling a new lob worm method to try to enable the use of whole large worms while attempting to eliminate, or at the very least reduce, the problem of missed bites either due to the hook being in one place on the worm and the fish being in another or indeed the problem of the worm simply tangling the rig up and leaving the hook central to a clump of earthworm flesh

Why it has taken quite this long to think of it I am not sure. Maybe because I have been preoccupied with bread for so long and worm/dead bait fishing has very much been the also-ran method, who knows

Anyway, as the impending summer started to dawn on me and the winter methods perhaps lost their gloss a little, with increased canal boat traffic, I wanted to make more of this simple but undoubtedly effective bait

I came to thinking about an old Tony Miles rig, akin to sea fishing, which uses hooks tied to the main line off bottom with the rod pointed at the sky and a lead on the deck. Helicopter rig style but without the hook links. It was pretty much the most crude rig I have ever used but it has helped in weedy situations where the lead could be cast into gaps and the rod held high allowing worms to dangle into those ‘mid’-water gaps for feeding fish to see their movement

I had tried a watered-down version on the canal but with little success and very little can be caught well off bottom on the canal when it comes to big fish at the best of times, so that clearly wasn’t the solution

Fiddling about tying short hook links for helicopter rigs for tench gave me the idea, I had an image of a great long ‘hair’ tail with another hook tied to it. Obviously I had to retie the bottom one first to then tie the top one but this gave me two hooks about 3 to 4 inches apart and I could hang the head of the lob on the top one and the tail on the end hook such that, if set correctly, it would appear that the worm was rising-up out of the silt head first and straining to get up into the water. I have been holding the lobs on crimped-barb hooks with dark red rubber maggots to enhance the appearance rather like the old red wool on the trebles of spinners

Of course as soon as I come-up with the idea I Google it to find that someone is already marketing them for trout fishing with worms in various patterns although the hook size is not stated

The original idea was to maximise the zander and perch pulling potential. Most of my larger canal perch have come either to a whole worm cut to leach the fluids on a size 6 to 10 hook or one a whole lob cut into two or three sections on a similar hook, the latter being a successful way of avoiding the issue raised above but not good at preventing the wrap over of the hook point we are all so familiar with

Following the theme, thus far I have generally used two size 8 specimen hooks and over three or four trips as yet the results have been, well, odd. Or maybe simply surprising.
Very few canal fish species outside the usual two predators have I taken on worms over the last couple of years and yet, presenting the bait in this way, that has all immediately changed, though admittedly I have been fishing the GUC rather than the NOXC I’ve frequented more in the past

Trip 1: Bronze bream 3lbs, 1.12. Perch 10ozs. Zander 5ozs.

Trip 2: Perch 1.6, 1lb. Zander 4ozs. 1 signal crayfish!

Trip 3: Silver bream 1.3, 1.7. Eel 9ozs.

The two silver bream one recent evening from close to a lock gate were completely unexpected as I don’t think I have taken one on anything other than bread…ever.

I am going to keep pursuing the method, trying finely snipping to release fluids and injecting air for more attraction to see what effect that might have.

The Stillwater interest has continued while also absorbing information on forthcoming river options nearby in the process.

The search took me to an unusual, small, deep venue this weekend that had a jumbled mix of species. In fact if The Fishing Race still existed in pursuit of ‘the golden maggot’ then this would surely be a good starter. First perch then roach, bronze bream, rudd, mirror carp, tench and common carp. All were susceptible to maggots and rubber baits over a carpet of hemp.

3.13 bream

First up the little roach and perch (too little!) were keen to intercept the double maggot hookbaits but, after heavier feeding, slowly they lost interest and the bites that ensued included a surprise 3.13 bronze bream and a 2lbs-odd mirror carp.

Next day the maggots remained in the fridge and a few fish were taken on rubber offerings of various shapes and sizes including a mirror of 9.6, a small common, a little tench and then there was  the one that got away...naturally, we all have to have one.
Once bites had subsided over the previous days' topped-up feed the worm rig sprang to mind

It has long fascinated me how an apparently dead swim can be brought back to life by something real; something, well, writhing (sorry mother)

Suddenly the dormant situation was transformed...immediately bites occurred and a ‘certain’ ten pounds-odd catch was boosted, first by a quality perch of 2.4 and then a bigger carp at 12.12. Other ‘tiddler’ bites occurred but it was enough to demonstrate, again, that a logical change away from contemporary thinking and back to the past should not be ignored. The humble, and whole, lobworm had turned the catch that would not be settled for into a twenty-eight pound catch. A p.b. carp (I’m not a carp angler), my biggest fish ever (I’m not that kind of big fish hunter) and a 2017-best perch. All by a simple change to a juicy natural active hookbait.

So, to add to the previous list:

[Trip 4 (stillwater): Perch 2.4 and 3ozs, Mirror carp 12.12].

The future is in the past.


Top 5 to Date:

George Burton 340
Brian Roberts 280
Daniel Everitt 274
James Denison 259
Russell Hilton 258

I thought I'd publish this while it lasts! No one has yet targeted small species though. That could radically change the situation