Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Favourite Swim

I did that on purpose, and it took quite some thinking I can tell you. For a while I had a title but no contents, it puzzled me for a while but as soon as I tweaked the title there appeared before me words, I’ll explain what I’m rambling on about. Originally it was titled “My Favourite Swim”, but that would signal I have just the one, the fact is I have many favourite swims, so I’ll write a little about a few of them. Favourite swims can come in all shapes and sizes, be at opposite ends of the spectrum and all have their own special traits. You’ll fall in love with one particular swim for completely differing reasons than another. The truth is, if you’re fishing it’s because you want to, you chose that swim, so it must be a favourite really, shouldn’t it?

The Sitting Swim

The main one I wanted to tell you about is a favourite but is unlike the rest, for this is a swim I like to sit in, not fish. This has come about by not receiving my membership as yet, I sent off for it eight weeks ago, and am told it will be with me this week, but although I’ve missed out on weeks of fishing in near perfect conditions, but have been visiting regularly watching carp, feeding carp and gazing wantingly into classic crucian swims, it hasn’t been all bad. It has given me a chance to not only escape work and life for a while, it has allowed me to sit, think and soak up the atmosphere without worrying about whether or not I’ll actually catch anything, remove the rods and remove the distraction. This particular swim, 37, is on a corner. There is a large lily bed out in front, a dense overhanging tree of some description (sorry, still not studied that Tree Book) and various strands of weed untidily reaching up to the surface. I often spot carp milling around in the pads moving them around and sometimes they part quite ferociously, like those trees in Jurassic Park. There must also be a channel behind that tree, it’s not clearly visible but the carp disappear behind it and re-appear the other side. Quite often I have a pocketful of dog biscuits, anyone who fishes with me regularly will tell you it’s unlikely that I haven’t. And I love watching the carp here barge each other out of the way to get to the free offerings I give them. After a while of watching them, the desire to cast at them fades until, ultimately, I leave them to enjoy their meal undisturbed.

Only yesterday I sat there for an hour during my lunch break, the beauty is that it rests near to my place of work so visits most days are possible. The weather has changed somewhat over the last few days, rain has come and with it fierce winds. Being a four sided moat there is usually as area that doesn’t receive any wind at all for long periods, and here is where the duckweed forms. Yesterday the duckweed was on the move and collected in the corner just of swim 37. A hole was prominent, a perfect circle within the tightly packed duckweed signalling that a carp had recently leapt clear of the water and landed in much the same hole. I envisaged it also to be quite close to my arrival, just a minute or so the hole closed up.
As I sat I spotted a patch of small bubbles rise to the top just off to my right in the centre channel, they continued to pepper the surface for a few minutes and continued in a straight line. They were too small for carp bubbles, possibly tench or crucians. But it was just nice to sit and watch them for a change without being in a hurry to cast at them. Instead was free to sit, watch, admire and follow them with a picture in my mind of a four pound crucian sifting through the silt looking for bloodworm. There are big crucians in there, certainly over three pounds, and that is a very exciting fish seeing as I am yet to land a two pounder. But I fear I might have missed the boat this season as far as the crucians go, I promised myself at the start of the season Id target them this summer, but only one trip and a summer of ups and downs has meant that I will probably have to wait until next season to fulfil that dream.

A Regiment of Perch

Another favourite swim of mine is at a small coarse fishery near Salisbury. Two ponds with islands in each have provided me with some great carp action in previous years, but my last few trips have been all about those stripy predators I have come to love. Perch are marvellous fish, so bold, fearless and yet cunning enough when they want to be. There is a picture of a perch in the fishery hut which is four pounds two ounces. One ounce larger than my own personal best but such a magnificent fish, and there are a good few back up fish also. My best from the venue is a little over two pounds, but even the half pounders make a day worthwhile. The swim I like is nestled between two hedgerows.  Don’t know of many venues with hedgerows bordering the margins, reeds yes, trees and bushes yes, but hedgerows? Well it works for me, I can sit back, fit one rod through the gap and remain unseen.

When fishing this swim I tend to go for a large worm, there are many small roach, rudd and perch that can provide an excellent day’s sport if those are your intended quarry, but for the bigger perch I tend to go for a large lob. The carp, however, are also partial to a worm, so there can be quite some fireworks when a six pound carp tears off, centrepin spinning, cane creaking and thumb burning. Incidentally, all going well I’m to fish there this coming Sunday. A day with my Dad, and it works out perfectly, he prefers the carp, they come along more frequently and have less prickly bits, leaving me to watch the dibber float and imagine the fear in that worm as the regiment draws near.

The Grayling Glide

The last swim I’ll talk about is the glide I trott for grayling during winter time on the river Itchen. This beautiful stream is fairly shallow and as clear as peering through polished glass. The grayling are visible holding up in pockets, picking off the odd gentle as they trundle through the swim the smaller fish take charge, but soon enough the confidence and hunger of the larger fish takes over and the swim is alive with activity. Brown trout and minnows make up the other species found here, and there are times when the mighty minnow is as bold as the perch in the previous chapter, beating every other fish to the hook –bait even though they are many times their size.

The swim I always head for first is easy to step into, this requires thigh waders and think socks within as the water running through here in December is decidedly chilly, as I found to my peril one winter when wading across to retrieve a favourite float from the trees on the other side. The water rose above my wellingtons and above my knees, I almost turned back then but the thought of the hours I spent making that float made me continue my journey, unhitch the line and trudge back victorious with the float held aloft and a grimace on my face, the water had risen way above the two feet deep I was fishing.

There is a large tree, I think an oak to the left downstream, it reminds me of the swim a barbel was caught from in “A Passion for Angling”. I can wade out to the end of it and get a clear run through, the fish tend to hold up under its fronds and just as the float nears the exact location I can almost hear my heartbeat gather pace in anticipation of the float sliding under and another beautiful lady of the stream coming my way. In the early morning the sun shines through gaps on the oak making the giving the water’s surface on my side the effect of glistening marble, it is quite wonderful. We are almost in October now so it won’t be too long until I set forth to the Itchen for more of the same, and I can’t wait.

Saturday, 22 September 2012


Reading, something we anglers tend to look to when we fail to get waterside for whatever reason. To pick up our favourite angling literature and peruse leisurely is the next best thing to being there, and with such authors as BB, Richard Walker, Chris Yates and Nigel “Fennel” Hudson, we can be transported to a world of sparkling water, lush green surroundings and angling the way it should be done. Even if you are lucky enough to go fishing, there is little better than to while away a summer’s afternoon with your reel on check and a good book in your hand. There, with the sounds of the water, the birds singing, the leaves in the breeze and, if you’re lucky, the screeching of that clutch, you are able to relate to each wonderful passage first hand with the sun on your face and contentment in your heart.

There are many places one can read. My favourite place is leaning back against a big ancient tree. Some say that these trees, as well as making excellent resting places, are very wise. My view on this is simple, they have quite obviously been reading over the shoulders of anglers for centuries, no wonder they know stuff. With this in mind I like to lean against as many trees as possible, to kind of spread the word, educate as many trees as I can so that they too can pass it on. Trees do talk to each-other you know!

Unfortunately my fishing time has been cut short, there isn’t as much time as there used to be, and won’t be for a little while. But I have found a place I can read, undisturbed and very comfortably. A while back we (the wife and I) purchased a rocking chair and matching stool. The sole purpose for this was for the nursery, to rock the baby to sleep on nights when she is unsettled and to feed her. The chair was a revelation, best thing we have bought so far, but I've started to find myself sitting in it a little more than I should be, and have now claimed a stake in the sitting privileges. Here is where I have recently read some of my favourite passages in the various books on my shelf; inspirational things that make me smile at times when I need a little cheering up, looking after a newborn can be quite testing at times. But in times of trouble I turn to the likes of BB, Yates and, more recently, Nigel “Fennel” Hudson.

Nigel's take on the world has been nothing short of inspirational for me, someone who has been to the place I'm at right now. We live in a world that moves way too quickly, everyone in a rush, no time to stop and look at things properly. And these things apply strongly to angling; modern angling is about numbers and following trends. Fishing with a more traditional mindset allows the anglers eyes to widen, to start once again to see things; after all, it hasn’t been this way forever. When we picked up that first rod it was all so new, the magic and mystery were intact and every new adventure was just that, an epic journey. As things become familiar we tend to try to speed up processes, patience begins to wane and instant results are expected. The surrounding needn't be there at all, it’s becomes all about the capture, and the true essence of angling disappears into thin air.

Nigel strongly believes in a slower pace, to be in less of a hurry and to enjoy every second as we once did all those years ago. Through his writings he has helped many an angler realise that, I for one spend my time on the bank slightly differently and am pleased to say that each and every minute spent at pools and rivers has been much better for it, with the eyes open it's a remarkable experience. The latest in the series of Fennel’s Journals is the much awaited Traditional Edition. I am currently half way through this edition and love it to bits, one I shall read a few times both in the rocking chair and on the banks once I resume my own adventures. In this edition the author write about the values of angling in a traditional way. Being a gentleman angler, respecting those around you, taking time to explore the world and taking those values into everyday life. There are stories of Golden Scale Club gatherings, views on the sadness felt by the removal of the traditional closed season, happy moments involving the finer things in life. There really is something for everyone in this issue. It goes some way to explain why we traditionalists do the things we do, not that we need to explain ourselves, but some might question why we do the things we do. It goes further than buying a vintage rod and reel and going fishing, that’s just a small part of the bigger picture.

Check out Nigel’s website, The Priory, for info on how to receive these wonderful Journals of his, you’ll be glad you did......

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Two PDAS Legends ."The Daddy" & "The Woodcarving"

Two of my favourite captures, both caught on PDAS waters and both very special to me.....
The Daddy
13th May 2009, unlucky for some…….

I wasn’t going to fish that evening, the forecast was terrible and, to be honest, I just didn’t fancy it. But, as the day wore on and the conditions were once again proving the forecasters wrong I thought a quick hour or so with one rod and some crust could be worth a go……

I got to the lake at a little after five pm and wandered down to the end pegs where casting your crust to the reeds is just a gentle underarm flick, but as I got there I saw the bailiffs were working on building some new steps. Disappointed that my original plan had been foiled I trudged back along the paths half heartedly looking into a couple of swims for some inspiration but it just wasn’t to be. I decided to call it a day early and head for home, but on the way back to the car park I looked across to the last swim on the opposite bank (Andy’s) and decided on an hour in there, “free-lined flake for the tench could be fun” I thought to myself.

Once in the swim I cast out a piece of flake just where the overhanging marginal tree touched the water, an area I’ve had tench from in the past. Whilst awaiting a twitch where the line entered the water I flicked a few chunks of crust under a bush to my right and carried on watching the line for any movement. After just a few minutes I heard those all too familiar tell-tale “Shlurps” coming from under the bush and watched on as the pieces of crust disappeared, although it was very cut back and dark so I couldn’t see the culprit, but it was definitely a carp. I quickly reeled in, attached a piece of crust to the hook and after dipping it to add a little weight I swung it pendulum like and made the cast to where the activity had been, right under the overhang. The fish must have semi spooked as there were no sounds for the next five minutes, but soon enough it was back and had no hesitation in taking the hook-bait and trying it’s best to gain sanctuary among the roots and snags.

After one hell of a short and very powerful fight I slipped the net what I thought was a sizeable fish, little did I know until I tried to lift the net how big it was. On the matt it looked a monster, I weighed it and kept looking at it, such an impressive fish, such a big frame. It was later confirmed that it was, indeed, a fish known as “The Daddy”, the second largest in the lake, and off the top! She weighed 26lb 12oz, a new PB Mirror and I was one very happy chappy! To think I nearly never went, and when I did I got despondent because I couldn’t get where I wanted, just goes to show you…



The Woodcarving

Summer 08 saw me starting to get the feeling I’d outgrown the runs waters I’d been fishing for a while, I felt myself starting to yearn for a bigger challenge. It was time to leave the easier waters behind and seek something with more of a reward at the end, and I had just the water in mind, one that had been popping into my thoughts on and off for quite some time now, one of the premier carp waters in the area. Here I could fish for “Proper Lookers”, fish with names, but most importantly, it was a time when I took my fishing to the next level.

I booked in to do my first session on a Saturday night, end of June. I was ready to go a few sessions without result, that goes with the territory on these harder waters but, I had confidence. During that first trip I fell in love with the place, it was like Redmire in a way, dam one end, stream running in at the other, and some very special looking carp, with gorgeous surroundings and also unseen monsters, I was quite positively buzzing but knew this would be no pushover, hard work, determination and plenty of blanks go with the territory. I needn’t have worried though as the water was very kind to me and gave up one of its secrets on that very first session. It was a small stocky of just under 15lbs, and the seed had been sown.

Funnily enough that fish was to be my last for a while. I put in a fair bit of time, more a campaign that I’d been used to, evenings were squeezed in and even overnighters after and before work, in all I went on to fish 14 sessions without a run. Monday the 18th August was when it all started to come good. I put it down to a tip off and a new bait but that night I had not one but two runs resulting in two twenty’s, a common of 25lbs 2oz and a mirror of 23lbs 6oz. I was elated, not only had I found the fish but this new bait worked a treat. I was back on the Thursday, same swim, same bait. The beauty of the midweek overnighters was that there was never anybody else around, it was hard work finishing work at half 4, getting to the pool and set up by just after 5, then pack up in the morning at 6am to get to work at 7, but this is the effort needed if you’re to get the rewards. That Thursday I hooked a fish from the far bank spot but the hook pulled.

I was back the following Tuesday and little did I know that this was to be one of the most memorable nights fishing I’d ever had, before or since. I finished work as usual at 4:30pm and arrived at an empty car park at 5 to 5. The swim I was fishing was the closest to the carp park so first job was to wander down and put a few handfuls of bait over the spots. There was a nice overhanging tree down to left on the inside margin, the bottom here was gravely and produced one of the twenty’s the week before. It was just a case of dropping the lead off the rod tip on this spot. The right hand rod was fished to the far margin, only 20 or so yards away but as this end of the pool is like a triangle, that margin gets further away the more you look along it, culminating eventually where the big Willow lies at around 60 yards and then the reed beds before the opposite swim.

The rods were on their spots, house built and kettle on by 5:45pm. It was a fairly drab evening, slight breeze and that really annoying drizzle that gets everything really wet without you realising it until you touch something. Another cup of tea and a snack and 9pm came and went, around the time of my good fortune a week previous just as it started to get dusky. I climbed into the bag at 10:15pm and just as I got settled an Owl called out. The drizzle continued and the breeze swung round, I was only using a basic type oval brolly at that time and remember that the rain was starting to speckle my forehead. I repositioned the bedchair further inside to give a little more protection and was soon asleep. At 1:30am and I was woken by a fast run on my right hand rod, I leapt up, slipped on my Crocs and prepared to do battle with something very powerful out there in the dark. So many times during that fight I pictured I my head that little size 8 hookm, praying all the time it would stay in, but my prayers fell on deaf ears and after a minute or two the rod sprang back limp.

I cursed my bad luck, put the kettle on, scattered a few more baits over the spot and recast the rod once again as close as possible to the far bank marginal cover. I was sitting on the edge of the bed sipping tea and shaking my head in disbelief at losing now two fish in as many trips when the same rod, only just recast, burst back into life. I dropped the cup, gripped the rod butt and once again the test curve was tested to the max. This one powered up the far margin away from me towards the big Willow, I kept steady pressure on as I’d heard somewhere there were some nasty snags under its branches. Just beyond the Willow, the reed beds were another safe sanctuary the fish could try to reach. Luckily, just before the Willow the fish turned right and swam towards the centre of the pool, all the time the fish dictating what was happening, although I did my best to stay in some sort of control. Then my worst nightmare, just as I was thinking I had it beat, all went horribly solid. It had found a thick weed-bed and was stuck fast; I kept steady pressure on for what seemed like ages, standing out there in the pitch black, the drizzle, hoping someone up there would come to my rescue. Then, after a minute or two it started moving, I started to gain a few feet of line back on the reel. Whatever was on the other end was extremely heavy but wasn’t kicking at all so at this point I didn’t know if there was a fish there or just a huge mass of weed. It must have taken a good 10 – 15 minutes to pump it ashore and in the headlamp beam all I could see was a massive clump of weed. Once over the net cord I dropped the rod and hoisted the mass up and onto the unhooking mat.

So, there was I, rain still falling, arms aching and still I’m none the wiser as to whether I’ve actually got a fish to show for it all. I tore at the weed bit by bit anxious to reveal its secret, then I caught a glimpse of a bronze flank, a common, but how big? Huge was the answer, certainly bigger than I’d ever seen on the bank anyway. I couldn’t believe my eyes; I was well and truly astounded. Once all the weed was cleared away, there on the mat lay the most beautiful dark bronze carp and definitely larger than my 26lb PB that was for sure. I got the scales ready and the reading was a little over 30lbs, a quick wipe to remove the rain from the scales face and a more accurate reading of 30lbs 6oz was recorded. I thought at the time that it could be the famous Woodcarving common, although I’d never seen it before; it was later confirmed to be that fish. I sacked the fish in the margin for ten minutes to calm myself and the great fish down a bit, dry my hands and get the camera and tripod ready for a few self takes. Luckily she behaved impeccably and I managed to get some really nice shots. I released my prize, sighed a deep sigh and let out a little “Yes”, and just as I did, the Owl called out once again as if in acknowledgement of the recent events, perhaps he’d witnessed the whole thing.

I went about texting a few pals to tell of my good fortune and once the rod was back on the spot I climbed back into the bag and dreamt of big bronze commons. At 4am I was woken again by the sound of the alarm singing in the night, same rod and once again I was in. This time a small stocky mirror of just over 13lbs was landed and quickly returned. Six am found me waking to the alarm on my phone, time to pack away. Somehow I didn’t much feel like work that day,  I spent most of the day daydreaming, longing for my next visit to the pool…

The mighty Woodcarving...

Monday, 17 September 2012


I returned to work today, first day properly since the arrival of my beautiful daughter, Jessica. Upon leaving the car and heading towards the office I noticed a squirrel bouncing around, magpies chattering away among the evergreens and a kind of enchanting glow strewn across dewy grass caused by early morning sunlight bursting through low branches. I had one of those moments, the ones that stop you dead in your tracks and transport you somewhere else. For a brief instant I was suddenly at my favourite pool surrounded by things in this world I hold dear. Through the glistening dew came the vision of water, sparkling in the early autumn sunshine, the squirrel, still visible was gathering whatever he could before returning victoriously to his family and the magpies became tufted ducks swimming to and fro hoping to stumble across some scattering of anglers bait. Just then a car drove past and I snapped out of my wonderful daydream, I was saddened slightly that I had to come back to earth and resume the normal day. My wife and new daughter were in my thoughts, along with the vivid picture of pools I longed to visit, and it made me realise how much I’d taken it all for granted in the past. Before, time was readily available, pools were plentiful and the only issue was deciding upon which one to spend my time, my glorious dilemma.

It has made me think long and hard about how best to spend any future angling time I am awarded. I already have a dozen swims in mind, a good handful of species and a decent idea of what tackle I’ll use for each situation. So what to do when that time is finally granted, which one do I choose? I think I’ll start off with taking my Dad to the Kio pool, he hasn’t been out fishing this year yet and a day with him at this wonderful place will be a great starting point. I told him all about it on the return of my maiden voyage there and watching his eyes light up stoked the fire and etched the date firmly in my minds diary. A trip to Waggoners is also on the cards and has been for quite some time. I think I’ve fished there about three times this year, but only the once this season. The thought of stalking around those shallow margins, creeping up on feeding fish, delicately placing my hook-bait onto that hotspot whilst hoping not to spook them and coming face to face with the fish of my dreams has been racing through my mind for months. Some of the more local waters have also been in my thoughts, with the private moat high on the list. My new membership should be through this week and I plan to spend my lunch breaks there watching a quill for an hour or so, after all, every hour is precious now. I hope to catch the last of the crucian fishing here too, there are some wonderful specimens present but I’m fully aware that the colder it gets the trickier they will be to tempt. Then there are the rivers, soon enough that time of year will present itself and the rivers will come into their own. Grayling, chub and hopefully barbel will be angled for on a variety of local rivers along with the quest for that 2lb roach that was started last winter but not fulfilled.

During this “break” from my angling exploits I have had time to re-evaluate the shed and its contents. Most of the modern equipment has gone, what’s left are the few things I think I might need at some point (shelter, bed etc…) and this spring clean has made way for the more elegant items I’ve been collecting for the past few months. I now have a space I can actually walk into, I can locate a needed item easily and I have plenty of room for any new additions. I also have my old work bench back so float making can resume just as soon as time allows. There, I did it again; I mentioned time, the one thing that is stopping me from my passion, along with family life, but it all boils down to having the time. All these years I’ve had folk asking how I manage to fish so much, every weekend, evenings in-between, week stints at various locations, and I put most of it down to having an understanding wife, someone with her own outdoor pursuits (horse riding). But now, all of a sudden I realise just what they were getting at, they were secretly telling me to enjoy every moment, don’t waste a second for someday you’ll be just like the rest of us where time isn’t so readily available anymore, when other things must take priority and fishing takes a back seat. It will become something you used to do a lot but now only get the chance every so often when time allows. Well I am there now; I have become a normal person with responsibilities and mouths to feed. I must work, look after my family and only when I have time will I be able to continue my passion. 

It may seem to some that I’ve been rambling a little, but I’m just trying to explain that reality has hit me and I’ve realised that things will not be the same for the foreseeable future. Will I be bitter? No. Time has been taken away from me but it will help me to enjoy angling more, appreciate time spent bankside and concentrate more on being there instead of how many fish I can capture. These things, I feel, are the true essence of the traditional approach I’ve been trying to add to my fishing, so I guess the finishing touches are taking shape as we speak and, ultimately, I will be where I want to be and reach my goal. Most of the time I would usually spend fishing will now be spent with my daughter, watching her grow up, teaching her rights and wrongs, precious time that is far more important than catching any fish, so I can only come through this a winner, however you look at it.