Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Redmire Pool....November 2012

When Ed contacted me and asked if I wanted to accompany him to Redmire Pool for a couple of days in November due to one of his party dropping out, I jumped at the chance. I see Ed as a likeminded angler who loves the history of the sport, passionate about old tackle, pools and anglers and loves to spend quality time at his favourite pool, Redmire. Obviously it was going to be a much different trip, only two days as opposed to my usual five, and at a time of year when fishing would be tricky. But the landscape would be going through its seasonal change, so to be there and witness it with Ed and his friends was something that just had to be done.

The morning came and after much worrying about finding the time to ready my things I arrived in Ross at the meeting point we’d arranged full of expectation. The first stumbling block encountered was the pub we decided to meet at was open at midday, and we got there at ten thirty. With the cars parked and introductions done we headed into town and Weatherspoons for breakfast and some warmth. It was chilly, slightly overcast and reminiscent of early winter, which was exactly what it was and the way things would be throughout our stay. Although, I kind of hoped it wouldn’t be too cold, I was hardly geared up for arctic conditions so overcast mild nights were wished for. With warm food in our bellies we headed back to the cars and onwards to the pool.

We arrived in the car park and those butterflies returned once again. She looked amazing in her late autumn/early winter colours. The water was semi clear and weed was still visible, but not half as bad as back in July. After a walk around the guys chose their pitches for the weekend, Christian opted for Keffords, Matt set up in the Style, Ed favoured In Willow and I set up camp in The Willow Pitch (Walkers). I’d never fished this pitch before so it was nice to be spending a couple of nights in there, for nostalgic reasons and the social aspect if nothing else. I quickly set up a rod and upon casting a lead around it was apparent that there was still a lot of low lying weed around the pool so a couple of spots, just three rod lengths out, were found and baited, just to make things easy in the dark.
My Pitch...

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It was overcast whilst setting up with a stiff breeze blowing down to the shallows. On our walk around we noticed some colouring up at the head of the pool so as soon as my pitch was set up I departed for the shallows with a stalking rod and a tub of worms. I fished for an hour or so but nothing came my way, I later realised that the rain caused the feeder stream to flow fairly strongly and that was what was making the colouration. I returned to our pitches in time for Ed to strike up his Kelly Kettle (he’s quite an expert in the ways of the Kelly) and I helped out by preparing a pot of tea and supplied a few chunks of the splendid cake my Dad made for the trip.
Kelly Kettle...our hero

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With our light snack time over Ed and I headed for the dam for some gudgeon fishing. It was already getting dusky when we started and I had one eye on the light levels, I didn’t want to get back to my pitch too late and not be able to cast onto my primed spots. We caught a gudgeon each, and nice ones too, and I bid Ed happy hunting before returning to Walkers and out went two baits for the night. Ed fished on into darkness, caught a couple more gudgeon and hoped for an eel but they failed to make an appearance.
Dusk begins to fall...

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With my rods out (I was using a 1956 Mark IV and an 11ft Mark IV I picked up which belonged to Tom O’Reilly which I had yet to catch on, matched with Mitchell 300s) and the sky darkening by the minute I set up another rod with a float capable of taking a starlight in the tip, cast it out with a worm on the end and hoped an eel might come a-sniffing. I had yet to complete the Redmire set on any of my previous trips, so with the gudgeon caught already I was hopeful that this could be the trip. The rain came soon after I got comfortable and continued throughout the night, a gentle breeze rustled the leaves above me and the candle flickered on the table. Another pot of tea was had with my evening meal and I continued to watch the float until my eyes could no longer stay open. I retired to the sleeping bag for some rest and after a brief moment listening to the owls I was soon dreaming of ten pound gudgeon.

The dam in autumn

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Morning came and although the sky was still slightly overcast it was clearing up, the rain had ceased and patches of blue had started to appear. The morning brew consisted of 30% Earl Grey and 70% Ceylon, and was appreciated by Ed. We decided to concentrate our efforts on the shallows for the first half of the day and to see how things went from there. With a couple of rods each, the tea making kit and more of that wonderful cake we made our way around to Hiltons and awaited the suns warmth on our necks. There was one slight mishap on the way to the shallows, the teapot fell from my shoulder bag landing on the ground and breaking off half of the spout. It still worked, well sort of, but sadly it was to be that teapot’s last adventure with me.
Stalking time....

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Wounded pot and a gudgeon...

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We saw more fish than we thought we’d see that morning, but by lunchtime the fish we spotted had drifted away and the plan was lunch followed by more gudgeon fishing from the dam. The sun was bright and with a clear sky forecast overnight it was destined to be a very chilly one. But Ed and I decided to sit it out on the dam, fishing for gudgeon till dark and then eels and carp thereafter. Many gudgeon were landed that afternoon, well over twenty and with the light fading we cast our carp and eel rods out and prepared hot meals and a couple of mugs of coffee. The sky was beautiful, we sat in our chairs looking upwards, putting the world to rights whilst watching shooting stars, satellites and planes.
Army of vintage rods...

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Eventually it became too cold to sit out any longer so the rods were wound in and we returned to our respective pitches to cast out for the final night of our stay. The thought of capturing a carp, or indeed and eel, seemed unlikely at that point: I’m always optimistic but the longer the session went on the more I thought we’d fail to catch. I’d fished hard for the eels, chopped worms in various spots, but it just didn’t look like it was going to happen. The same went for the carp, there were a few cruising the shallows briefly during that day, but throughout the whole weekend we never heard one fish crash out. The rods were dropped as close to the primed areas as I could get them in the dark, a few handfuls of bait was deposited around each one and I sat back to enjoy more of that starlit night until it was time to hide myself away from the cold and try to get some much needed rest before the final morning’s stalking.

The night was very cold, and the decision to leave the fleece insert from my sleeping bag at home was a poor one. However, I came through to morning unscathed and a pot of tea soon warmed things up. The rods however were just as I expected them to be, very still. The was a wonderful mist clawing its way across that pool on that final morning so both Ed and I were hard at work with the cameras trying to capture what our eyes could see, but however good that camera is, you never quite get what you’re looking at,. Ed’s camera was amazing, much better than mine and he captured some wonderful shots, a couple of which he has kindly allowed me to use in this report, thanks Ed.
Ed's Pitch

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The time had come to start to think about tidying things away, with everything back in the cars we could spend the last couple of hours searching the shallows for that last minute opportunity. My hands were still slightly cold so whilst Ed kept an eye on my rods I nipped back to the car for my gloves. I didn’t get far when Ed started shouting at me; I sprinted back and found him with the Tom O’Reilly rod bent double. When I took over it was weeded, but moving very slowly. I steadily brought what was obviously a huge lump of weed to the bank, whether or not there was a fish attached remained to be seen. As the dark green mass got a few yards from the bank we spotted a tail a few feet behind. Ed expertly scooped the net under what we thought was the fish and we both let out a little cheer once our prize was safely in the mesh. I bit the line, cleared some of the weed and hoisted her onto the unhooking mat. Matt and Christian heard the commotion and came to see what was happening and to congratulate me; it was the perfect end to a marvellous weekend.


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It looked a good fish, a lovely dark common, certainly over twenty pounds and without a sign of damage anywhere, save for the odd scratch to its flanks. The weight was 23lbs on the nose and we carried her to the dam for some photos. Thanks fully Ed had some life left in his battery as I didn’t and he snapped away at the great fish and my massive smile. We watched the fish swim away and chatted a while about how one late fish can make a super weekend a magnificent one. A carp and some gudgeon, but no eel, someday I will complete the set.

The others packed away their things and continued to stalk for the remainder of the morning. I slowly dismantled camp and after numerous trips, without a barrow, back to the car I sat on the dam, cast out one rod and just admired the beauty of this magical place. It doesn’t matter how often I visit, whether I catch or not, whether I freeze half to death or even whether I get stuck in silt in the shallows, I will never stop loving Redmire. She has been very kind to me over the last few years, I feel we have struck up a bond and along with it I have made some very special friends.

With the arrival of the next party we wished them luck, said our own farewells and left the pool once again, hoping that the return wouldn’t be too far away.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Pockets of Winter

The trip started way before the morning of departure. All week I’d been hatching plans, gathering information about the fishery, tidying up tackle and I even restored a cane rod for the occasion. New line was wound onto empty spools; weather reports were checked and checked again, those thermal long johns were located and extra thick socks were purchased. It was certainly “Wrap up warm” time, almost as if autumn was only a few days long and made way for winter’s savage onslaught way ahead of schedule.

A few days previous there was rain, lots of it, mostly overnight. Saturday was to be dry but cold, I wondered how the rain and drop in temperatures would affect the fishing, but with grayling, chub and perch to angle for I felt sure of at least a little action. Even if nothing wanted to play, it would still be an enjoyable day spent with a gang of traditional piscators, tea would be flowing, cake was sure to be handed around and a lack of good chat was never going to be an option.

The morning came, five am the alarm sounded. It was dark, I peered through the window and was met with rain falling, droplets peppered the glass. I quietly got dressed so not to wake the baby and carried out my ablutions, left the house and headed for my parents’ home and the tackle shed. Once there I made a flask of coffee, some cheese and pickle sandwiches, loaded tackle and bait into the boot of the car and with the sat nav pointed in the right direction I headed to Newbury and a rendezvous with the creatures of the Kennet.

When I left it was reading seven degrees outside on the car's thermometer. A built up area near the sea was always going to be reading higher, almost lulling me into a false sense of security. I reached the motorway and as I headed through areas of a more rural nature I watched the temperature drop as low as three, but still I feared not. During the last few miles things changed quite considerably with some spots dropping as low as zero, it was as if there were little pockets of winter dotted around the landscape. I arrived at the venue to minus one and a heavy frost.

Mark and Jeff were already there when I pulled into the car park at a little after seven. We all shook hands and spoke about the prospects for the day. A few others arrived and after greeting old friends and acquainting myself with new ones I decided to head off in search of fish. The fishery was a real maze of streams, ditches and pools that twisted and turned, I found myself lost on a few occasions but eventually got my bearings back and returned to the hut for a coffee and a quick scratch of the head whilst contemplating the plan of action.

With maggots, worms and bread at my disposal I really didn’t know what species to angle for, but in order to keep my options open I decided on trotting bread-flake through as many glides as possible in the hope of snaring a chub, roach or grayling. With my newly renovated rod and delmatic loaded with three pound line I headed off full of anticipation for that first cast. It was as if I didn’t want to make it until I found the perfect spot, for to reach the end of the glide without a bite would have tainted the occasion somewhat.

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I found the perfect spot son enough, a sweeping bend that had a classic wooden platform to cast from and an overhang on the far bank that just had to have a large chub living under it. I baited my size six hook with a fairly large flake and cast my float into the flow mending the line all the time to stay in control. As the float neared the overhang my heart beat quickened, I expected it to dart under at any second, but it wasn’t to be, eventually it came across the shallower area where the water became more turbulent and I wound in for another go.

I fished on there trying various depths for around fifteen minutes and headed on to the next spot biteless. Thirty or so yards further downstream there was an equally promising glide which narrowed between brambles and opened out again the other side. I had to stand close to the water to keep the float in sight but the first trot through produced a dip in the float which I struck at but wasn’t sure if it was the bottom or a fish, either way I came back bait and fishless but without any sign of weed so attached another flake and ran through once more.

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This time the float dipped in the same spot, just through the narrowing, but as I struck the rod tip jagged round and a fish was hooked. A few seconds later and what was obviously a decent sized fish managed to shed the hook. Three more trots through resulted in just one more missed bite, but this came much further downstream so a change of position was needed. From my new vantage point I continued to work the stream watching the float tip and willing it to go away. It did disappear on the third trot and immediately the hooked fish leapt clear of the water, trout on!

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The battle was spectacular, at first I wished it was a big roach or a chub, but I was engaged in a serious fight and once the net was slipped under my prize I just had to reach for the camera and get a quick snap. It was a lovely fish, really nicely coloured and was a fish that would make the day of any fly fisherman. It certainly made my morning a tad brighter and cast any thoughts of numb finger tips aside. With all the commotion the swim went understandably quiet and three more trots produced nothing.

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This seemed to be the order of the day. More swims were fished and more trout were caught. All hard fighting and all very pretty, having differing patterns colourings they were a joy to angle for. I made my way back to the hut for the lunchtime gathering where we ate various cakes made by the anglers, drunk tea and chatted about the mornings activities and what to expect in the afternoon session.

The Fisherman's Hut

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During lunch I had my eye on a pool close by just downstream of the bridge near the hut. Probably overlooked due to its location but a stream begging to have a nice flake run through it. After three trots I watched as the float dipped and upon striking a trout did a somersault in the air before crashing back into the water and shedding the hook. No more bites came from this spot so I wandered off to explore more of the river and its tributaries.


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One area I headed to was a small stream with slack areas where I was told there might be a few decent perch hiding. I fished into an area with no flow, leaves and other debris came swirling through off the main stream every so often and through the clear water I could see everything. My worms wriggled around an inch off the bottom and small roach, bream and minnows came into view but never troubled my hook-bait. Trout also came to this slack but no perch, I stayed for half an hour or so and headed off to discover more of the main stream.

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Various other sections were fished and more trout were caught. Apart from one minnow that I hooked fair and square in the mouth I caught trout, over twenty of them. All hard fighting and all very pretty, but the roach and chub I angled for eluded me. There was one small perch caught and a handful of chub to nearly five pounds to Merlot. A couple of pike were also caught along with a few grayling. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely and by four pm anglers started to bid farewell and make their way to their respective homes.

I packed up around four thirty, bid my friends farewell and started the hour long journey back to a warm house and a hot meal. Unfortunately I didn’t use my camera nearly enough, but Mark and the Professor kindly sent me some of their pictures of the day to use on my report.

Next weekend I return to still water, Redmire Pool for two days. Gudgeon by day and carp through the night, that’s the plan anyway.