Monday, 31 December 2012

An end of year moment...

Two whole weeks off work, that used to mean one thing.....lots of fishing. This time it was different, Christmas, the first one with Jessica around. Sixteen days incorporating three weekends, without fishing would usually be enough drive me bonkers, but the run of events meant that fishing wasn’t as sorely missed as I thought it would be. I did manage to get out very briefly, and enjoyable it was too, but this festive period was all about Jessica. 

My little angel...

Unfortunately we all fell ill over Christmas. My man-flu started the day before Christmas eve, Jessica’s cold started a week or so ago and it seemed as if Corrinna contracted my germs on or around Boxing day. Our little girl was restless all through the nights which meant we didn’t receive much sleep, just the odd hour whenever the baby slept. Having said this, Christmas was as special as it should have been with our new addition to the family. I had planned to fish on (Monday) New Year’s eve but the forecast looked horrible with rain all day long. So after a time of moaning and cursing on the morning of the Sunday, Corrinna told me to grab my things and head off for an afternoon as the sky looked fairly clear. My eyes lit up, I kissed the pair of them and told them I’d be back before dark. 

I made my way to my parent’s house to collect my things. I didn’t want to venture too far away, that way I could have a few extra minutes fishing instead of travelling. Dryad was the intended venue, not the main lake but the weir that flows into the river Wallington. I heard recently that some chub were caught there and ever since I’d been hoping for a spare afternoon to try my luck there. With just a few hours to angle I really didn’t want to be laden with too much tackle so packed a creel, net, rod and reel, small tackle box and a sandwich and bottle of water. Bait was a loaf of Kingsmill and I was on my way to the river just before eleven thirty. 

I parked the car near Southwick pool, the water there was pushing through quite fast, I just hoped that it wouldn’t be that turbulent the other side of the bridge where I was headed. I crossed the road, turned onto the path and made my way last the old house and towards the gold course. This was a new shortcut I’d been told about which turned out to knock a good few minutes off the walk. The old house had a plaque on its wall that read “The Priory House”, a good omen I thought. 

The Priory House...

Zoom in (real dimensions: 799 x 530)Two gates and one fairway later and I standing on the dam at the head of the lake. The water here flows into a small snake like section that leads over the sluice and into the weir-pool before disappearing under the road bridge and into Southwick pool and becomes a continuation of the river Wallington. It was this small weir-pool that interested me. Grassy weed beds were visible and there was a lot of water flowing into the pool from a couple of angles, but it still looked worth a few trots. I set up a 10ft Chapman 500 with an Alcocks Delmatic loaded with 5lb Maxima. The chubber float took three SSG shot and a size 6 Drennan Specialist hook finished the set up. My new Andy Bachelor Crabtree net was on only its second outing, as was my Barder flamed 6ft net pole. 

With a decent sized chunk of bread moulded around the hook I made my first cast. Deciding where to make the cast was tricky as the water swirled in so many different directions. I trotted most of them, at varying depths but the only time my float dived was when the hook caught some weed or bottom debris. After half an hour it was obvious that I’d have to change spot, and with this I thought the snake section worth a try, much slower and I could sit, watch the float and enjoy some lunch. 

A lovely spot...

Zoom in (real dimensions: 799 x 588)I found a delightful spot just around halfway between the dam and weir under a large oak, plumbed the depth, made the cast and removed my lunch from the creel. I looked up before taking the first bite into my cheese and pickle and wondered if the grey clouds that were hurrying by might bring some rain. Another half hour went by in the blink of any eye, lunch was enjoyed, the clouds seemed to be dry ones and the float, although very pretty riding the mini waves, failed to sink. I was getting on for two pm and I thoughts of a venue change were on my mind. 

The beauty of travelling so light was soon to be discovered for I was packed away, past the fairway and Priory and back in the car within ten minutes. The next venue on my mind was Lakeside, closer to home and with the chance of a carp seeing as conditions were mild and overcast. The short drive took only ten minutes and soon enough I wandering a few swims where I seemed to recall there was one with very deep margins. I found the one I was looking for, dumped my gear and set up the rod. With a plummet attached I found a depth of just over four feet right against the dry reeds. On went a lump of flake and once again I sat back to watch my float tip ride the ripples.
The wait begins....

Zoom in (real dimensions: 657 x 800)My friend Rod arrived for a natter so after chewing the fat for an hour of so I decided to pack away and get home to my girls, it would be a nice surprise for them to see me return before dusk. I said farewell to Rod, loaded the car and drove back home stopping at another venue on the way back, just for a quick peek. Baffins is a small pond in the centre of the city that had issues with algae years ago and was shut for angling. Recently the club has been working to get the water back to a fishable state and as of this season it is back on the books. I parked the car beside the pond and spotted all the things I have tried to avoid recently. There were hoards of folk walking off the festive food they’d indulged upon over the past few days, around half a dozen cormorants sat in the trees on one of the islands and I don’t know how many ducks, so many varieties too. It’s great that the water is available again, it’s just not for me. I much prefer the quieter places, away from the crowds and preferable when I cast I don’t want a hundred ducks fighting over my hook-bait. 

Back home I was greeted with two fabulous, heart-melting smiles. That evening after dinner Jessica had her first bubblebath, which she enjoyed immensely.

Water baby...

Zoom in (real dimensions: 751 x 799)Right now I'm sat with my girls on New Year’s Eve. I have a glass of ten year old port beside me and doubt very much I’ll still be awake when the clock strikes twelve. Happy New Year everyone.....I sincerely hope next year is a special one, for all of you.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

TFF Gathering....Grayling, the Return.

Christmas, a time for enjoyment, a time for spending time with loved ones and a time for surrounding yourself with the things that make you happy. So what could be better than to go fishing with a bunch of friends, that’s just what I did this weekend. It was the next of the Traditional Fisherman’s Forum gatherings, “Grayling the return” on the Itchen navigation near Winchester.

I had planned to meet John and Daz at my parent’s house at 7am, to load the car and to hit the road in the hope of reaching the venue at 8. But things never go to plan where fishing is involved and I pulled up at Mum and Dad’s late and still in need of sorting my fishing gear out. Whilst my two companions chatted with Dad I frantically ran around the house, in and out of the shed and tried my best to ensure I’d not forgotten anything The only thing I couldn’t find was my float tube, I looked everywhere and decided that I must have left it behind somewhere, but I did have one new float, and the perfect float for the day’s fishing we were about to embark upon, so all was not lost. With the car eventually loaded we left for the river.


We got to the arrival point just ahead of time and found that most were already there. We stopped for a chat, found out who we were missing and once we were happy all were accounted for set off for some angling, under the bridge, past the pub and left at the river. The walk from here is around half a mile, that’s to Wilbur’s Bush, the spot we like to make camp and decide if we want to fish up or downstream. Wilbur’s Bush is simply the bush that Wilbur, an old battle scared grayling of around 2lbs, lives. The weather was very kind to us to start, the sun was just peering over the tree line, mist collected at various points and the sky was blue. The river looked perfect too, a nice flow, not too strong, not too slow and with a lovely tinge of colour. Prospects were good.


The vintage tackle on show just as everyone was setting up was amazing, and the rod that caught our eyes the most was the super little Wizard Connor was tackling up. Jeff had spoken with master rod builder Andrew Davis and asked if he would make a rod for Connor, and the outcome was “Connor’s Junior Wizard” and what a superb rod it was. It happened to be the luckiest rod of the day too with a grayling of 1lb 10oz, a 2lb trout and many other fish being brought to shore. It certainly was a joy to watch such skill in the hands of a very young man. The future looks very bright.

Everyone started to catch from the off, grayling and small trout seemed to be the order of the day, so not much change there, and with a sprinkling of minnows just for good measure. I caught two nice grayling and a few trout also and the new float acquired from Stuart at Fat Fish Floats was not only a joy to look at but also worked supremely in the conditions found that day. Six triple A shot and a number six dropper were needed to set the float correctly, a 1lb 12oz hooklink ended with a size 18 hook and two maggots to complete the set up. I did manage to catch the float in a tree early on and some bushes later in the day but somehow avoided losing it. These floats all come in lovely little felt cases, just to keep them safe, a very nice touch to an already impressive item of tackle, my order for more is in already and I can’t wait to receive them.

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Just before lunch I got the call from Fennel that he had arrived. Nigel, Jeff and I made our way back to the cars to meet him and to collect the tea making kit and cake. Once back at the weirpool we took a break from the fishing, chatted about the morning and I set about lighting the Kelly (with a lot of help from Fennel) and sliced up the wonderful cake my Dad made for the trip. Then more cake appeared as others had also brought some along and before long we were all tea and caked out and ready for some more fishing.
A lesson in the ways of the Kelly...

While we were chatting, Tim came by on his usual stroll as he is fairly local to the navigation and was surprised to see an army of traditional anglers all clad in tweeds and wielding cane rods about. We’ve met before so had a natter and I introduced him to some of the chaps. As Tim left so did Fennel and Nigel, they both had fairly long journey’s home, and just as they did the sky came over very dark, thunder and lightning struck and the heavens opened. We al got one hell of a drenching and did our best to pack everything away and run for it. We got back to the cars in one piece and before heading for home, John, Daz, Loop, Mark, Trev and I ducked into the pub for a swift half of ale, just to reflect on a splendid day and to wish each other a very Merry Christmas.

The Piscators….


Fennel and Tim

John, Merlot and Trev





…and our star of the day, Connor!!!

As you can see, we had no shortage of smiles, and I’d like to personally thank everyone who attended for making this gathering a very special one. Happy Christmas one and all….


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Times a-changing...

I woke this morning with a very different outlook on things. Everywhere I look recently I see fish, smiling folk holding fish, great fish, wonderful fish. The lack of fishing is really starting to grind me down, yes I’m having the best time ever bringing up a wonderful daughter and I wouldn’t want to change that for the world, but I do miss my angling very much. Maybe I need to distance myself from fishing when I’m not doing it. That might sound odd but visiting forums, talking about fishing on Facebook and searching for tackle bargains on Ebay aren’t doing me any favours just the same as watching a cookery programme on TV when your starving. This only makes me want to enjoy to the max the days I do get to fish. Starting with this coming Sunday, a day’s river fishing with a bunch of old friends, new friends and some I’ve never met before. The danger is that I’ll do more talking and tea drinking than actually fishing.

Only yesterday I visited a local water during my lunch break and started plotting the downfall of the carp that live there. To bait during the week and fish at weekends, but then I remembered that I can’t, time won’t allow, things are different now. I’ve had the idea to fish there during my lunch breaks for a while now, but think this is best suited to warm weather when the fish are searching, hungry and more visible. I didn’t see one fish yesterday. The water also hold crucians, I probably hold crucians on par with kings now, and hope time will allow me to spend spring days angling for them on that quiet little paradise. Things will change as Jess grows up, time will become available, I just hope I don’t lose sight of my passion as I have done in the past.

Back to this morning, it was cold and icy when I left for work. The photo spot look worth a stop so I pulled over into the layby and reached for the camera. It was evident that someone else had the same idea as me as there was a guy a few yards along with a much better camera than me perched on top of a tripod, he actually looked as if he knew what he was doing too. I did my David Bailey impression for a few minutes and left for work nodding to my neighbour as I did.

Once at work I pulled up next to an Astra covered in very think frost, it sent a shiver down my spine that I can still feel every time I look at this photo.

Right now the sky is clear, there are no clouds, only blue up high merging with grey on the horizon. I have a clear hour or so and instead of searching the forums as I would usually do I am sitting here typing this blog piece, albeit a short one, I like to keep it updated as much as possible, even when I haven’t been fishing. That’s the idea of a blog, it’s not all about ‘I went fishing and this is what I caught’, it’s so much more than that. I like to take the reader along on the journey, wherever that may be, and with me that could literally be anywhere.
Chubbing on the Wallington is pencilled in, roach on River Farm needs re-visiting, a winter’s trip to Waggoners is on the cards and a few grayling trips would be nice also. I have two full weeks off work as of the 21st. That time will be spent enjoying Christmas, the first one with Jessica in the fold so no doubt it’ll be one to remember. But I’m sure that if I buy them both something nice I’ll be granted a couple of days fishing. Here’s hoping…

Sunday, 2 December 2012

In Search of Roach


A quick peek outside revealed that, as expected, the Porsche was covered in a layer of thick frost. I estimated that it would probably take around twenty minutes to half an hour to scrape it all off, I didn’t envy the neighbours one bit. My old banger however, was ice free due to it being parked close to the house. As soon as the gear was loaded into the back I set off to the roach pool in hope of that elusive two pounder and to continue where last winter’s campaign ended.

It isn’t actually a roach pool, that’s just what I call it. For the majority of the year it is a busy day ticket carp fishery, but it holds a few really good roach, many going over the magical two pounds. My best to date was one pound thirteen ounces, a splendid fish however you look at it, but there was something special but that extra three ounces. As the first of the frosts had come and gone and with more arctic weather due it was time to continue the search, and to try and enjoy myself along the way.

I got there, after a visit to the bait shop, at around 9am. Not a particularly early start but I saw little point getting there at the crack of dawn; it would have been even colder and probably dark.Besides, I needed cockles and the fishmonger didn't open until 8am. As it was there was only one other angler on the pool, a carp fisherman setting up his camp and whilst I unloaded my car one more turned up. As I approached the pool I was met with a completely different landscape to the one I’d been used to. Autumn was gone and winter had well and truly taken hold.

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The ground was tricky to manoeuvre especially in my lined boots, the frosty grass was covered with deep footprints in the mud which had filled with rain and were now frozen over, so walking to assess the swims was both slippery and crackly. I opted for peg 9, this swim was in the entrance to a bay and had an overhanging tree to the left of it. I don’t know what it is about overhanging trees but I think all swims should have one. With my brolly and chair in position I returned to the car to fetch the rest of my things, just as the sun began to climb above the trees.

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I settled into the swim, made up two rods and tackled them both up with floats. Size 14 hooks were baited with cockle meat and with both floats sitting around a metre apart two rod lengths out, one off the bottom and one on it, I fed a few maggots, a couple of small balls of ground bait and sat back to watch the world materialise out of the fog.

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I sat there for a couple of hours topping up the swim with bait and topping up my cup from the flask. I never saw either of the floats move, but that was probably something to do with the fact that I was busy watching everything else around me. Kingfishers began darting around, trees appeared as the sun burnt the fog away and a carp, followed by a roach, rolled in the margin opposite me. This prompted me to up sticks and move to where I saw the action in the hope of an opportunist result.

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I re-pitched as quietly as possible, plumbed the depth, deposited a little loose bait in the area and proceeded to fish. The morning turned into afternoon but still I had no dips to either of my floats. By 2pm I was beginning to wonder if this could be a blank trip. It mattered not really as I had some wonderful pictures on my camera along with everlasting memories in my mind of what was one of the most perfect winter’s mornings I’d witnessed. But all along there was something missing, a wonderful polished silver roach with blood red fins.

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With little more than an hour left I decided to move once again, closer to the car and to the swim past the bridge where I’d had roach before. Again I settled into the swim, plumbed the depth, introduced some bait and resumed fishing. The wind had sprung up by now, a biting wind that took my slack line into an arch making the float sit in the water awkwardly. Then the bites came, gentle dips on the tip reminiscent of crucians. I couldn't hit any, missing them as they were far too quick. I wound one rod in and leant it against the reeds, cast out the one remaining rod and held it to see if I could hit the bites a bit faster.

Gentle dips and bobs occurred, lifts too and it took a while for the float to actually disappear. When it did I struck and connected with something, it wasn't powerful enough to be a carp but it was too strong for one of the smaller roach so there was only one thing it could be. A few good lunges on the rod tip practically confirmed that a good roach was hooked, but soon after the hook slipped and I wound in an empty hook. I cursed my bad luck, attached a new cockle and cast back into the swim.

A few missed bites later and with the sun beginning to dip back behind the trees I connected with another roach. Only this time it stayed on and I slipped the net under the most beautiful fish I’ve caught in a long time. A quick hoist onto the scales revealed it was one pound and ten ounces. I took a few pictures on the mat and retuned it into the next swim down. That fish made a fabulous day out even better, although I do seem to be making a habit of leaving things until the last minute

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I felt there was a chance for another fish, not to sound greedy, but there was still enough time (around twenty minutes or so) to continue fishing. And continue I did, but all the time the sky above me darkened, not only from the retreating sun but large multi coloured rain clouds rolled in, the wind strengthened further still and things were looking a little hairy.

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With the first of the drizzle I started to break the rods down and dismantle camp. Before I managed to get back to the car the heavens opened and everything got wet, but I still managed to get a quick snap of the sky before loading my wet things into the car and heading home. I was surprised how quickly it got dark, dusk fell almost instantly, it was quite eerie.

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