Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Snow Fish

A snow chub had been on the agenda since returning to angling now some 8 years or so back

Catching it took some time but the accompanying reward of an inner completeness was worth it

The first with any snow on the ground was something of a disappointment as the snow lay neither deep, nor crisp and more thinly patchy than even

At the second attempt, in proper crunchy, creaky, fresh snow, the anticipated satisfaction, if not more, was all around

Opportunities in more recent times have been more limited however with less non-work, snow-hit days available for such pursuits

Last weekend, the first of 2021, was not a contender but an afternoon session of around two hours at Rocky Res was always going to be a challenge even without any weather constraints at the time of year

Hoping for quality roach at 3°C with light showers wafting in behind me from the west, two open-end feeders were deployed at distance with 18 hooks on short helicopter links and red rubber maggots offering the natural presentation of an unnatural snack

Flurries of departing gulls headed to the nationally significant roost Draycote Water as the evening drew in. Coots were in and out of the water at each passing dog walker

Four roach, three of them noteworthy, topped to my left as dusk hinted at its intentions and at a distance that suggested the feeders sat in the right area 

As the afternoon progressed so the quality of the angling regressed to the sort of state that left a feeling of hopelessness. It became seriously cold and at sunset, when the bell tolls for we lesser mortals without night tickets to packaway, odd pellets of snow started to hit the water, and. as I reached for various items to tuck them under the umbrella, the left-hand alarm struck up a shocking shrill chirp and an urgent glance down witnessed the bobbin hit the rest and drop back to the ground, confirming a self-hooked fish

Lifting the rod, a very gingerly-played fish was slowly inched toward the bank, or so it was hoped. It became increasingly apparent that this probably was not the ultimate target and, as thoughts turned to the landing net, it took on that unmistakable increased power closer to the bank that can only mean one thing

Who'd've thought it. Not a huge fish at 3lbs 9ozs but a winter tench, a January tench and a snow sprinkled tench too, all in one freezing finale to an otherwise fish free afternoon. 

Which surely supports the adage, "Never give up"!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Arthur's Basket

Isn't it annoying that the YouTube videos glanced at long enough to start rolling before ones very puzzled eyes find their way into your watch history by default? 
I suppose I could bother to set it so that it doesn't, but then I'd be content, and how boring would that be?! 

History in angling is very much at the mercy of the memory and, at that, the memories of others, often unknown and far away. Unless it is deemed by the journalistic community to be of National significance, or committed via the words of a book, the truth is often difficult to pin down. 

Now, fishing information is often distorted we find, do we not? 

If it's not a match angler cringingly under-'estimating' their catch, it's a carp angler claiming an unwitnessed pound roach, caught overnight of course, to be a 'three'; or that person in the tackle shop (remember those?) who just cannot recount a tale without it growing one and running away with him, or her. 

If only. 

Just occasionally however the truth really can be the best story, honest, and, similarly often, there's one right under one's nose lost in the vast expanses of plain sight, and so it is with this. 

When I was a boy, my grandfather, 'Pap', who was blind, could be found, daily, sat on a wooden dais, with his dog 'Sal' next to him on her blanket, weaving in his outhouse (he was weaving - not the dog). 

Cane would be soaking in a vast tank of black treacly water while he felt his way round the seat of a stool or chair and made a perfect job of it without ever having seen it. To a youngster, and that being all I had ever known of him, it all seemed unremarkable and it's only in recent times that I wished I had taken more notice and perhaps even learnt how to do it myself. Apart from new stools, repairs, handled shopping baskets, etc., Pap also made the most sought after fishing baskets, 'creels' to measure, and they could be seen standing against the wall of this house on fine days. 

Owning such a basket was a commitment. As they dried they would creak and eventually take on a fearful lean. It was a requirement of the contract to own one of these beauties that it were to be submerged in the bath every so often to swell the cane, tighten and straighten it up. The more diligent would varnish theirs every close season and thus they took on a regal depth of woody hue that couldn't be beaten, but at a cost, they would get noticeably heavier with each coat. 

The Old Duffer, as Pap's son, once had a basket made to the exact height of his flask, with 6 legs, and, once delivered, it was like the woven equivalent of a Chesterfield Settee. A work of manually-laboured art. A pale off-white cane for the panels and a richer red for the base, rim and lid. 

I recall the little fella (5'-3" on a clear day) returning from its maiden voyage to announce, "It's no good. My feet didn't touch the ground!". I seem to recall he cut an inch off the legs and thus became happy again. 

Many would paint their initials on the side so that they didn't get mixed-up on the club bus trip to a far flung river and end-up in someone else's shed. Things moved on though. In came vast solid fibreglass seats with a veritable rectal effigy cast into the lid. The scrawl was on the creel from that moment. Slowly, in fact probably quite quickly, baskets were discarded or handed down to sons or, more rarely then, daughters, and the brand battle in angling began in earnest. Stephens of Birmingham, Steade-fast, Brennan & Hickman. These were the forerunners of today's commercialised angling world. 

So the dear old characterful basket was soon extinct. A demise caused by man, but without any hint of global warming. 

Or so I thought. 

A while back The Old Duffer's old fishing pal sadly passed. He was visibly shaken by the event and, as a memorial to their many years sat on sunlit banks together, his dear wife, 'Aunty Ann', she who once got her dentures stuck together on the riverbank on a Quality Street toffee, to the concerned accompaniment of cackling friends, gave the basket to him. A varnished one, for Arthur was indeed diligent. A man who always had the best cars but also the most terrifying cough that put my little heart in my mouth as a boy whenever he burst into one of his explosive, crimson-faced fits. 

Time passed, The Old Duffer hung up his float tube, and now finds his entertainment at his marvelous care home in dominoes, quoits or snakes and ladders, but the reaction to an angling tale is always there via a twinkle in his eyes and fleeting smile, "That's good", he'll say, "I like that". 

Slowly, over two years, his tackle has been distributed among the needy, but Arthur's basket?, well that stayed put and, as the ultimate inheritee, it recently came into and under my guardianship. 

On Christmas day that great giver of gifts from the North left me with a dream materialised. 

A split cane rod, or two.

10'-6" of dreamy, historic and quite beautiful, handcrafted exquisiossity by way of J. Aspinall's 'Avondale' float rod (thanks again Andrew!) comprised one half of the pair. Matched with the J. W. Young 'Trudex' centrepin acquired about 2 years ago (thanks Martin!) there was only one conclusion...

The antique rod and reel then magically conjured a single half pound skimmer from a disgustingly-coloured Oxford Canal but it was a lovely if brief session, with a warm glow in the frost and all made possible by the beautifully preserved Arthur's Basket. 

It was only right.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Early Shot

Challenges remain unsated

A chilling sun illuminates early evening beneath cloud and over land, casting an eye-watering terminal October brightness over the angling day

Soon the sky would be orange, red, purple and unique. A photograph of a scene every day of a lifetime, would be ever-changed, and from minute to minute

The little river. Perfect in every way, wound like a rattlesnake on the move, it's curves carved like inundated lino cuts into the Feldon clays and gravels

Its flow was urgent, its depths compounded and, with a fish-confiding turbidity, the irresistible combination exacerbated the attraction ten-fold

An urge deep within. 

An urge to seek, to confound and trick. 

An urge that would, within minutes, result in a bait descending those depths so gently, so disarmingly, as to tempt the terminally torpid

Silty and shielding, sinuous and yielding. The emotion driven by an autumn flood irresistible. Here was the fisherman. A challenge unsated. 

This barely perceptible river had been an historic champion but could it again, in whatever form, diminished by time and the disregard of humankind? Could she again nurture chub and roach of unimaginable magnificence in her watery womb? 

Those seemingly surreal targets had hung heavy on the angler like a lead-laden yoke. Through innumerable seasons he'd yearned and toiled on its oft-times treacherous or impenetrable flanks

Could a chub of four pounds, or an impossible roach of two, be lying undisturbed below. Could they? 

He was to find out as his quest absorbed the strident confidence of this streamy, if not dreamy, provider and adversary, Warwickshire's lesser-loved River Leam. 

Crouched, eyes fixated; a first sudden rap resonated with the senses. Sight and touch stimulated. A hair-trigger poised. The snatching turned to tug, to pull, to strike, to hook, and was on. 

A slovenly autumn fish, subdued by the progressively chilling substrate through which it slid, offered little beyond the token in reluctantly accepting the duel. Not the bullseye but a surprisingly voluminous occupier of a high-scoring inner ring nevertheless

Thirteen ounces adrift wasn't a shameful starting shot and hope took root


Soon, a gentler solution. Finer, lighter, smaller and tighter. Flow subsiding, shade tending to green. The stream was just that. No longer the receding flood

Field maple, subsumed and released, left tattered by the subsiding flood formed a potentially darkened lair. The streaks and whirls of the flow, tickled and teased its leaves from below, while careering past a deeper slack

A gentle flick of that the most irresistible of small river lures - daintily presented, like a petit four drifting, he hoped, to inevitable consumption - barely broke the surface and faded into the fishiness to accept its fate. A fate that proved instant. A fate that proved that perhaps there was hope of the least likely target being present

A chub-like fight, passionate and self-respecting, outshone its predecessor such as to be confounding

At the rim, chub turned to roach. A gasp in shock but there she lie, sparkling and true, one pound of solid previously unsullied perfection

Signs of potential

Would this be the season to be jolly? 

Sunday, 4 October 2020

A 'How to..' by Way of a Change and 'Why to..'. Perhaps by Way of a Whinge


A genuinely special, unique and almost magical bait

The shells of freshly run-off casters, glistening from a quick rinse, smelling meatily enticing and fading from bright orange to white, are surely one of the most enduring and selective of hook options available to the discerning angler 

Evocative of sparkling nets of quality roach and chub but, capsule for particle, a selective choice for any one wishing to sort the men from the boys, in fishy terms, for pretty much any species

It is with roach however that the bait is synonymous. Even those bionic individuals that have become accustomed to the 8mm pellet aimed at a barbel are unlikely to turn their perfect little noses up at a regular rain of them falling in front of their eyes

So, one might expect them to be a perfectly well understood bait when it comes to preparing, conserving and use

Sadly, however, perhaps with the increased hustle and bustle of everyday life; the onset of instant gratification in the angling world; the ownership of tackle shops by non-expert anglers or the advent of general laziness one cannot be certain but there is little doubt that the knowledge of, and ability to, produce the best casters is a dying art

Many of the angling books that today would be dismissed as 'old school' (because the young don't need to learn from the experience of others anymore) commit whole chapters to the bait, and not without good reason. The plastic-packaged, gaudily-coloured, marketing person's dream that is the tackle shop bait shelf in 2020 and those, in themselves, a sign of the potential for the phasing-out of anything in the slightest bit messy, awkward, time consuming or a loss-leader, demonstrates the problem consummately. The bait fridge has become an incidental rather than fundamental requirement of the trade with even the mainstay of the whole sport, the maggot, the blue bottle larva, being pushed to the periphery such that some shops sell nothing but pellets, boilies and their derivatives.

What a commercialised world angling has become, but those that populate that world will probably not be interested in reading this

Casters buck the trend and in many quarters it has been forgotten that they are living things; a halfway house between maggot and fly, between terrestrial and airborne life. A stage in a quite miraculous process and this is the key factor, in terms of usefulness to the angler, the caster is short-lived and literally has a limited shelf life of around one week. The one complicating factor being that as the caster gets darker it reaches a point, at the deep maroon stage, at which it will start to float and become useless

Shrink-wrapped or chemically preserved casters are non-starters. The only purpose these methods of so-called preservation serve is to make them useful for filling a nearby bin as the bait will be dead and therefore decomposing unless used fairly instantly after packaging

For casters to be appealing in the long-term they must be fresh and most of all alive. Feeding stale to rancid dead bait will only serve one purpose and that is to sicken the fish and put them off next time they encounter such a 'treat'

Lovely early autumn caster caught Rudd of 15ozs

So what is the protocol when nurturing the perfect bait?

Firstly, a good supply of the biggest, fresh bait you can lay your hands on, and if you can't find such a source then consider running your own off by purchasing a couple of pints of white maggots the week before you need them and riddling them regularly, a process that ideally means you are able to go home in your lunch break 

Given a suitable supply though there are a few simple rules to follow to arrest the metamorphosis from maggot to fly such that you can keep the bait both healthy and usable, i.e. sinking, over the days between purchase and use:

- As soon as you get them home, open them up, swirl them gently round to get air to every one and then tie the bag with a bit of air space in it of about 1/4 the volume of the casters. Repeat this 2 or 3 times per day and they will stay fresh

- An alternative is to trap a sandwich bag across under the lid of a bait box with a small air gap under it above the bait. This is quite a nice way of doing things, especially for a canal trip. 

- If you have time, it is worth picking through the bait to get rid of any dead maggots; small, rough, slightly curled chrysalis of other fly species and general alien debris

- Transport the bait in the same manner and, on arriving at the bank, give them another gasp of air and pour a couple of hands full into a tub, and no more. This limits the amount of bait exposed to the elements and starting to turn to a darker shade, creeping toward the floating stage of the life cycle. 

- Covering the casters in water is another option that many prefer as it arrests their progress to a fly but again this should be done using smaller quantities, not the whole bag, as, if fishing for a good number of hours, they could have died and started to sour. 

- It is always wise the keep the spare casters in the manner described, in the shade and cool. This way they'll be useful for a couple more days if they don't all get used 

- If you start to suspect one or two are floating then immerse the whole lot in a deep tub and skim the floaters and any semi-bouyant ones off. These are of no use, especially if used in groundbait when they'll draw fish into the upper water levels as they float off.

- I recently discovered that black bags prevent what is known as 'bag burn' on the casters. This is a mark that looks like a burn from being scorched where the bait has been in contact with a clear polythene bag. It doesn't look good and seems to make the bait progress faster to a floating stage. 

- After the end of the session commences the same storage protocol of occasional gasps of air. Eventually however, about a week after being run-off they start to show signs of ageing, even though they may not have been on the bank or at a floating stage. The shells start to look less bright and go a dirty sort of shade. At this point they need be used immediately as this is the start of their deterioration and soon they will take on a certain aroma, suggestive of the early stages of decomposition. 

So the key aim is to have fresh, tasty casters at all times and when this is the only bait you are using, or it's in conjunction with hemp, the better the bait, the better the fishing and the more chance that, as you use them increasingly, the fish will get a proper taste for them. 

So that's the "How to.." bit out of the way. Apologies if I come across as preachy but I do love my casters! 

Onto the "Why to.." then...

'Everybody' fishes the feeder these days. I've been fishing the Severn and Warks Avon a lot this past year and a float angler is a rare sight indeed. There are certain stretches where the float is still favourite, such as Stratford Lido, but largely the scene is one of stiff rod tips in the air and wait for something to pull it round in a violent and unmissable arc. 

Well that's fine in itself of course, each to their own and all that, but it does strike me that many anglers have found a way of catching the odd decent fish when conditions by chance coincide with this approach, when, with a bit of advice or deeper thought, they could be doing so much better. 

A couple of weeks ago I was fishing the Severn in it's then incredibly low, clear and slow state. A time when ideally you'd apply crepuscular tactics and just fish first and last thing in the day, but living over a hour from the river, that's not a regular option in my world.

A 4lbs+ chub taken loose feeding a low and clear River Severn last week when very little action was evident

In my youth, rubbing shoulders with experienced river and canal anglers at their peak, was a source of valuable information, as little gems fell from their lips in everyday conversation that have been glued into the memory and reinforced by personal experience since. 

Hoofing a 3 or 4 ounce feeder full of groundbait into a shallow, clear river doesn't even register as an option in my head but, for many, this is probably what they've read and seen being done and so it's taken, literally, as read that this is the method; but angling has never been about one method or approach. As conditions vary, so too must the angler, and his or her tactics, targets and expectations. 

At the age of 15 or 16 I gleaned one of the most valuable nuggets of information I ever heard, from a member of the local 'National' team, as we used to say, by the name of Pete Jarvis. I don't recall how it came about but he said, "I thought I could get away with more groundbait today, as it (the river) was so coloured". 

It took a while, but over the years this short statement infiltrated the thinking and has influenced so much of what has proven correct on the day. I now have a simple adage that rarely fails; clear = loose feed; coloured = groundbait. On a river therefore, loose feed can be coupled with the straight lead and groundbait with a feeder; again as with anything, it's not 100% reliable but it's a fair guide.

Most things are not universally applicable. You might fish a block-end feeder and bronze maggots in coloured water, you might use bread mash on a clear river but, generally speaking, the principle is sound. 

A 3lbs 2oz chub taken this very evening on bread mash and flake from a rising and coloured River Leam. The best of two fish in a brief and rain-drenched session either side of dusk

So, when I see anglers doing as I described above, with heavy open-end feeders pounding into clear water like Howitzer shells, following a pattern that works by chance from time to time, it's baffling, but if the angler hasn't had the benefit of long experience, punctuated by snippets of golden information, where is the knowledge to come from? Surely life is too short to work it all out oneself!

Videos are largely product-driven and similarly limited to match fishing commercial fisheries. Top match anglers will always hold something critical back (otherwise how do they remain at the top?) and it is not since the days of genuine pioneering, ground-breaking anglers such as Kevin Ashurst and Ivan Marks that we have had their evolving ideas, failures and successes laid bare in the weeklies. Having been a long-standing match angler, albeit decades ago now, I know that there is more to angling and success in it than meets the eye, and most of it boils down to reading a swim and doing the thing(s) most likely to succeed on the day. The more often we can achieve this, surely the more enjoyment and satisfaction we can feel from having cracked the code on the day. 

Angling is very much divided between commercial, so called 'specialist', pleasure and carp anglers in 2020 and, while there is undoubtedly a massive catalogue of information out there, very little of it is genuinely what one might term 'watercraft'-related, in an era increasingly insistent on instant success. 

There used be a 1970's product, it might have been one of Green's, the Quick Jel makers', and the strap line was, "Just add an egg". Fast-forward to today, and the righteous indignation at having to add an egg would be palpable. 

Moaning, commentating or inviting a better future? 'Not certain but it's a fact, nonetheless. 

As the Great Man himself said, 

"I've got a grapefruit matter, it's a sour as s**t, 

I have no solutions, better get used to it". 

Monday, 21 September 2020

Plan C

It wasn't to have been the first time I had gone fishing, or with the intention of fishing, without critical items before. Most famously rods, for a far flung match, and, most recently, hook bait. 

Today though, today was a day to send all previous efforts into the bin marked 'pathetic attempt' forthwith. 

Fancying an evening behind alarms for a change, the Land Rover took me to the Old Lake with a view to a 4pm start. Travelling light, with as much kit previously set-up as possible, it took only a few minutes to be in a position to kick-off, or at least it should have done. 

I've been spending some time experimenting with open-end feeders packed with hemp and the smallest amount of liquidised bread to hold it in place in search of lovely untouched roach with perhaps the odd rudd and tench. 

The approach on this evening, with a strengthening breeze off my back and dropping temperature, was to try a large bread punch (13mm) on a short helicopter rig. 

So, clipping the feeder and 3" hook length on, I moved to punch some bread...only to find it was still at home. 

Brain racking time.

Ah yes, rubber maggots, they would do. 

Casting the first of the matching pair out about 30m, I leant across to set the rod in rest and alarm as I tightened it up. Ah, no bobbins! 

So how to resolve this? I hastily built a little bobbin using 7lb line in lieu of chains and a quick change swivel linked by silicon tube, but I soon found the swivel stayed on the line after striking and rattled in the rings. 

Some method of creating a clip that would readily pull off the line was a challenge. An inverted gemini clip worked to a degree but the tight area was too short and engaging it too fiddly. 

Then a penny dropped. A little upward nick in the side of the silicon tube would hook over the line and pull off perfectly on the strike...and sure enough it did, quite nicely in fact!

A few swan shot completed the never to be repeated article and the fishing commenced in earnest. 

Somehow the home made bite indication made the evening all the more enjoyable until, to cap it all off neatly, the batteries in the left-hand alarm died and the mouse-like mechanical squeak of the cheap roller had to suffice as an early warning system. 

A few nice roach in the 2 to 10 ounce range followed at dusk but a rudd of just a few drams below a pound took the beauty prize on the night. 

By the time another cast was made there was insufficient light to work with and this wasn't to be afforded the 'into dark' commitment I might on other occasions stay-on for so the odd bit of tackle still in use by dusk was tucked away and loaded into the car. 

As I sat on the tailgate, swapping wellies for Scarpas, tawny and little owls were calling with apparent urgency and Daubenton's bats hovered over calm water close-in, in the lee of the fresh breeze. 

All was well in this little world and the need to have improvised had added to the trip immeasurably with the majority of the fish coming to single red fake maggot. 

Perhaps I should forget more kit more often. 

Or maybe not. 

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Three Weeks In…The Hiatus at Home

A Long Season Behind & a Long non-statutory Close Season to Follow

There was a time when life was simple

A time when a close season was accepted, when fishing was uncomplicated and when people knew where they stood

They knew right from wrong, in a sense

The glorious 16th. Of spring fishes, sharp mornings, misty views, gritty eyes and the heartbeat of uncertainty

Those of unfathomable feathered feats of migration would start to trickle in. A few waders, the odd martin or swallow; overwintering chiffchaff and blackcap might start to sing, boosted by a far greater number of visitors and, conversely, some would leave; redwing and fieldfare most notably, but they can also be noted hanging around seemingly far too long (7 fieldfare in a mature garden aspen just 2  weekends ago)

Wildfowl leave and wildfowl return; cetaceans follow prey into the waves warming coastal waters and, somewhat intriguingly, become spotters’ fantasy sightings

Frogs, toads and newts; snakes and lizards; invertebrates; fish; every living thing becomes caught-up in the palpable swell of Spring

Except this year, 2020, when we British humans are to be denied our Spring

Questions are begged

"But what about the League?!"

Liverpool, perhaps Coventry City, Celtic, Dundee Utd, Cove Rangers they could all be declared champs and not many would be bothered but when it concerns tight current positions like those of Leeds, Crewe/Swindon, Raith Rovers, etc., plus the numerous also rans seeking promotion and those trying to drag their legs from the rubber towel holder of relegation, what’s to do? Well okay the, disrespectfully so called, lower leagues have been scrubbed but firstly, does it not seem quite incredible that none of the leagues seem to have rules set-out under the heading “Massive Disaster Contingency Plans”, especially as the majority of them survived at least one and probably two World Wars?

Surely the simplest solution is that if a delay of more than ‘X’-weeks occurs the places each team occupied at the time of suspension will be their finishing positions. If the rules state it there is no doubt and everyone goes into it with their eyes open, but to take decisions in multi-million pound situations mid-flow could/would result in complete chaos with the legal system being swamped with claims and counter-claims arising therefrom. One would think they’d be ready

So that’s just one issue in this crazy COVID-19 world of isolation. I’m told there may be others

For F, F&F though there are bigger fish to skin and many ways of frying a cat (to use dear old Psycho’s method of phraseology. For the can’t be bothered at heart, he once said, “We could see the carrot at the end of the tunnel”) and some of those creatures will be positively contributing to this, the Hiatus at Home, while others will suffer

Research, conservation, breeding, crime, birth rates, death rates, sales, mental illness, wealth, etc., will all have wildly swinging fluctuations of fortune and we’ve just got to bite the bullet and make the most of what we have without any great release other than conversation, community spirit, siege mentality, gardening, home decorating, health and fitness, families being drawn together, helping each other, playing games, cooking. Blimey, sounds quite plausible actually.

So, for our part, it’s been a case of writing up angling notes, imagining what one might need to prepare for and what options might present dependent upon the timing of our release.

Revisiting those notes is always rewarding, not least because the number of hopeless trips become apparent and being confined to literal gardening duty seems nicely profitable in comparison to those

One aspect, it being a Bloggers’ Challenge season, is the noting of those slightly more special fish. There’s a little schedule that qualifies a fish in FFF-land and anything above gets underlined in red. So it’s quick to glance through and see how successful a period has been in terms of fish that have hit the mark of being noteworthy, albeit they all get noted anyway

They’ve become known as Stone-fish

PB’s merit a red box around them. Any type of PB. Best for rivers, canals, lakes; best for individual watercourses or lakes or of course the actual overall, indisputable, species, ‘with knobs on’, Lifetime Personal Best

PB’s came along like mornings when the Float & Flannel elements of the Blog were growing and the first Bloggers’ Challenge entered was underway. A few years on, a PB has become more of a rarity as the number of pyramid topping species has racked-up. Indeed, it’s become more a case of seeking epic moments than PB’s in their own right.

But is this right? Is angling all about breaking previous barriers?

The Bloggers’ Challenge  is all consuming.

The inner competitor breaks-out of dormancy and influences every move.

What points-scoring fish do current conditions suggest the most likely? Catching it is uplifting but there are many, many failures and its easy to look back at a year via the notes and (lack of) underlining to see the fact

Some nice fish have been to grace the net, certainly, but the whole period has been more about quantity and filling the scoreboard with ‘nice fish’. The final part of the plan, this current river close season from mid-March to mid-June, was to have been the icing on the cake but of course, chances are it won’t now happen at all

Post-Coronavirus I envision a world quite different

When nature bites humankind on the proverbial, there is usually a quick return to whatever normality is, and it’ll be different things emerging from this pandemic that will stay with us. Sadly however, it will probably be the easy things that have little effect on people’s everyday lives that will be retained

In reality of course its the more fundamental far-reaching changes that need to become the norm, family, community, walking, supporting nature, growing food; all locally undertaken. British holidays, and, as the air now clears, a massive reduction in air and car travel, and so on

Personally it strikes me that if this lockdown has taught us anything surely it is that we’ve lost touch with the natural pace of life. The increasingly confusing, rushed, frantic daily grind that is neither natural nor healthy, nor sustainable is the new black. A place of darkness driven by the constant search for economic growth. More of this, more of that and less/no actual time to simply live. A pace careering to an inevitable collision with mental health and physical issues, which all begs the simple question, “Why?”.

One final question:
Could CORVID-19 be caused by a flock of rooks?

Seat photograph: Copyright Florian Müller

Tuesday, 24 March 2020


The winter of 2019/2020 will no doubt be recorded as "the wettest since records began" in due course. Everything must be labelled thus in the 21st Century; biggest, smallest, worst, best, hottest, coldest, was Ben Stokes' Ashes hundred the best innings ever? Does it really matter?

The rivers only returned to anything like normal level toward the start of the beleaguered close season following what seem to have been interminable grey skies accompanied by heavy rain

Locally in fact, in terms of human impact, it wasn't that bad but certainly the situation once the ground became inundated was such that each time it rained the rivers were quick to rise with any additional precipitation finding no traction on the land. Thus it was difficult to predict levels from one day to the next. Throw into the equation the further determining factor of falling or rising water temperatures and it made for a quite unfathomable mix on the constantly warm angling front.

On one occasion at the water, that time approaching normal level but still with a strong tow and silt-coated banks, littered, thankfully, with barely any man-made litter, a great tit struck up a seranade. It's urgent 2x2 tune as if summoning passengers to the ark this winter had conjured in the minds of many a joker.

The View from Here throughout the Winter. Fishing into Cold Tea. 
Collectively and collaboratively, for FF&F and Artificial Lite, it had been preordained that the rivers would be targeted through the whole winter to support our forthcoming film but, never being tardy in the acceptance of a challenge, it was immensely taxing and thus worthwhile in a personal satisfaction sense when something actually happened.

It wasn't so much getting bites that was the issue but the late Peter Stone's influence over the perpetual search for those bigger fish in the swim was certainly stretched like no.6 pole elastic in a carp fight at times.

Checking weather forecasts, river levels, predicting whether water temperatures were increasing or simply increasingly cold were daily events. If they were rising and the target river was falling, then we'd be erecting our aerials for barbel on meat, if not it would be anything that swims, usually with lobworms.

Selecting swims took a good deal of wandering the banks, but some cracking (looking) options were identified and became so called 'go to' places dependent upon the above factors combined with wind direction.

As for the rest of the tale? Well, it's currently being narrated and edited.


So, season over, it has become customary to take up residence at Rocky Res. Not the prettiest of backdrops to illuminate the quality of the fishing, which has never been better, but for a few bites and the chance of decent tench (regularly up to five or six pounds), roach averaging 12ozs but often over a pound and other mix'n'match treats along the way, it's a veritable fishing sweet shop with the word 'STRIKE' running through it much like its sugary seaside namesake.

...and strike we did.

A number of us from the Warwickshire Bloggers Angling Syndicate (WBAS), took the opportunity to move toward our second anniversary, with a few bites, the winter having been so tough for all of us.

The first few minutes, waiting for that first run on goal, always seem interminable and when utilising the now standard short link heli rigs for roach the opportunity that presents itself is often blasted over the bar.

Slowly we get into it and memory serves to advise that with a suitably balanced set-up the strike isn't actually important. If the feeder and bobbin are suitably matched a dropback indication confirms the fish is hooked as it's moved the feeder; similarly the bobbin repeatedly bashing against the alarm is a fair sign too!

Beyond that, the only interest was in the fish with no bird life of note to occupy the inter-bite lulls, and it was undoubtedly the latter, the bites, that stimulated endocrine system to ooze adrenaline as, on a couple of occasions, a fish was being played to the tune of the second alarm, singing like a canary in need of a good slap. Baitrunner engaged, rod thrown off the alarm, fish going who knows where!

The wind stiffened into its own adrenaline trigger between events as dense showers billowed across the valley like a stage curtain caught in the flatulence of an open fire exit. 

First time, a sight unimaginable to me just a few years ago. A roach of 1.6 sharing the bunk with a 5lb tinca. This followed later by two tench of 4.12 and 3.9, the one seemingly cradling the other. The ripped old net ('tempted to put "man" there!) was straining into shock but on neither occasion were fish lost and the effectiveness of the method was emphatically confirmed.

Soon of course swallows and martins will be coursing and swooping over the ripples. Warblers will be warbling on maximum volume and everything will seem fine again; while, at Rocky Res, it certainly is giving that impression already. 24lbs 8ozs of roach and tench followed by 14lbs in less that two hours on a subsequent visit is not to be sniffed at and not a fish under about half a pound.


So (why does everyone start sentences with "So" these days? I blame the scientists), approaching the end of the rifling through of various venue options, Google Earth, forecasts, river levels and the like; a break, a distraction, was required. Blogger's Challenge points had rarely been boosted through the muddy months and canal perch was one column needing to be populated with a two pounder, as a minimum, 100 points available to the taker if it exceeded two pounds and three ounces.

Cue a jolly to the banker swim. The journey brought a definite hint of a chill and it started to influence the inner workings. Parking up this was momentarily lost a the unbridled beauty of the song of the thrush accompanied the preparation as the extra layers initially felt bracingly cold against the skin. It rang out through the trudge to the waterside until he became consumed by a new urge. 

Caster feed and lobworm chopped in half, and both sections impaled, against the resistance only a lobworm can display, on a delicate little size 8 forged heavy metal hook would be the tactic on my beloved 10' wand. Now usually when you snap the tip off a rod the whole thing becomes quite useless but 2" off the tip of the wand, damaged in transit, and neatly cut back to what was the penultimate eye actually improved things for this exquisite little tool in the bigger fish stakes.

No need for anything elaborate here. Simply drop the lead to the right, quiver straight out and wait for the enquiries to start while sprinkling caster heavily (for a canal) over the top. Always been partial to casters have big perch.

Poised for that first bite and suddenly that clarion of small bird alarm calls, as, sure as strike follows bite, silent death. A female sparrowhawk on her early morning sortie. A smash and grab raid before breakfast. Without a whisper she was over my head and through the confined invisible, impossible (impassable even) tunnel of a route through the facing hedge and out of sight, not a feather ruffled nor a wing beat. 

Soon enough, a few tentative pulls and then the fish was clearly fully committed. A sharp strike in the hope of setting hook into boney mouth and the typical 'digging' run of a decent perch ensued. After quite a battle, the rod again served the purpose with ample reserves and this beauty was there to behold. Laying spent and sparkling under the blanket of heavy cloud

On the scales 35.3ozs, or 2lbs 3ozs 5dr to give it a precise conversion.

Points in the bag and a parallel apology to dear old Ben Henessy, whose 100 pointer this would usurp by just a quarter of an ounce, was certainly in order! (Still feeling guilty Ben).

That's the precis of the story anyway. As luck would have it, in the short session the following list of perch, tempted by an unexpected feast, from this apparent super-shoal went as follows:
2.3.5, 8oz, 6oz, 2.1.5, 1.2.10, 1.14.0 & 1.3.0 plus roach that moved in at the end of 4ozs and 10ozs.

Those latter suspects came as a complete surprise, so involved had the perching become but they did trigger a little reluctance to leave, even though bites had generally tailed-off significantly.

As an angler however, that feeling of confidence that a bite could come at any moment never wanes. It is probably the greatest cause of being late for whatever follows. One more cast. Well maybe another then, if I put it just...there.

Now why did I spend all winter on the rivers exactly?