Sunday, 24 February 2013

A Spot of Kennetting...

I am in no way, shape or form a river angler, I have fished with experts that leave me behind when it comes to the skill involved in reading the river, knowing where and when to cast and when to expect some action. Now that’s not to say I don’t like fishing rivers, quite the opposite, I think rivers are the most beautiful places to fish, their inhabitants glorious and the ever changing nature of a river means the angler has to keep on his toes to keep up. All I’m saying is that I’m very raw and in need of much more in the way of experience to be able to call myself a competent river angler.

A while back, fellow Gobio Society member Steve asked if I’d like a day’s fishing on the Kennet before the end of the season. He said there would be the chance of gudgeon, and certainly chevin if conditions favoured, so the date was set and things were readied for the big day. We had been corresponding via email for a few weeks, and a few days leading up to the trip I asked what time he’d like to meet. He gave me the honour of choosing the time, although 8am seemed to sound quite hilarious to Steve, saying that ‘The only thing his eyes see at that time on a Sunday are his eyelids’. So we settled on 9:30, halfway through the day but at least it would mean I got a little longer with Jess that morning.

Well 9:30 came and went and I found myself driving round and round trying to find our meeting point. After a few phones calls we met up and I followed Steve to the venue. It was 10:30 by now and after the cars were parked I had a blindfold tied on so to keep the location a secret. With the blindfold removed the first thing I saw was the most glorious stretch of river, looking just like the bit Chris Yates fished in APFA when Bob poached a chub from right under his nose. It might well have been in fact. The swim was called Chub Straight.


I put the wizard together, attached the reel and started setting up for trotting when Steve asked if I’d be ‘laying on’. I’d heard the term before but didn’t know what it involved. He explained that you fish as you would with trotting gear but over shot the float and fish a couple of feet over depth, Flick out into the main flow and let the current bring it all round in a straight line. A couple of casts later and I had it, the line gong from my top ring to my float and then down to the shot and ultimately the bait. Steve went on to tell me it’s a good method for fishing when it is as cold as it was (1 degree all day with a scattering of light snow falling) allowing you to rest the rod on the reeds, watch the float and keep your hand in your pockets. It certainly worked for me.


We fished there for an hour or so, both laying on and trotting, with bread and paste but nothing wanted to bite. So we wound in and trudged our way through the boggy terrain to the next spot. This spot was a known chub hotspot called Chub Corner. Steve put me in the banker swim and went to fish a little way upstream. I attached a large flake of bread and cast out into the flow feeling for it to swing around and settle, but it didn’t settle. It seemed the flow was much stronger, so I’d have to add more shot or gently tease the bait through the swim searching out any fish; this seemed the best option for me.


I think it was the third cast; I let the float work its way down through the swim letting line peel from the spool very slowly hoping that the fluttering action of the bread might cause a winterised chub to suddenly wake up and get hungry. The float dipped, at first I thought it might be turbulence, but it stayed under. I lifted the rod and felt a lunge...”Chub Ahoy!!” Steve wound in and arrived in the swim just as I netted the fish, a wonderful brassy chub of around 3lbs. We took a few quick snaps, released the superb fish back into the river and danced a little celebratory jig, just to warm ourselves up.


That fish was amazing, I really wanted to catch a chub as I’d not had one all winter, and time was running out with just a couple of weekends before the end of the season. With that fish, the rewarmed blood flow and confidence singing I really thought I’d catch another next cast. But we fished on for another good hour with no more bites. Steve returned to my swim and suggested we move on and try another spot, Chub Bend.

Chub bend was another classic looking area that screamed Chevin, it was just below Chub Hole. It was a sweeping bend, just large enough for two anglers and was crying out for a lump of flake to be worked through it. And work those flakes we did, but half an hour passed and numb fingers tips were all we had to show for it. We moved down into Chub Hole but that too was devoid of hungry chub. We knew it would be a difficult day, it was snowing after all, and just a tad above freezing, but it was great to be out on the riverbank, and what a splendid riverbank it was.


Next stop was Chub Bridge, a low bridge we could actually fish from and land any fish we caught easily. It gave us a nice opportunity for a drink from the flask, munch on a sandwich and a have a natter for a bit. Steve fished on with flake as did I at first but then switched to maggot, just to see if I could catch anything else that might be down there. We sat on the bridge for half an hour but after no action we moved on for the last time to Chub Snags. There we had a couple of casts each but I already had an eye on my watch knowing I had the best part of an hour’s journey home and needed to be back for Jess’s bath time.


Blindfolded I made my way back to the cars, thanked Steve for providing a cracking day’s fishing and after promising to repay the favour of a guest ticket we bade each other farewell and safe journeys....

Sunday, 17 February 2013

A Special Nightwalk...

A while ago I received a message from my good friend Ed Whitby informing me there was an invitational afternoon with Chris Yates coming up where he would be signing some special deluxe editions of Nightwalk, and asked if I’d like to go. We’d been talking about my future involvement in Angling Heritage for a while and this would be a great opportunity to meet the founders, Keith and Sandy Armishaw of River Reads in Torrington.

Yesterday I received the bad news that Ed couldn’t make it down, but that I’d still be welcome to attend. Attend I did and this afternoon I spent a few hours with some lovely folk. Keith and Sandy were every bit as lovely as Ed said they were, we chatted about various things and I’m pleased to say that sometime in the near future I will be involved in one way or another with AH. They are passionate about what they do, not only with the book side of things, but also with the AH, and with the membership scheme they have introduced, I can see it going from strength to strength.

There were other wonderful people at the event, a very informal gathering of around a dozen lovely guests I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with. Some of which I will remain in touch with. And then there was a certain Mr Yates, on form as ever, late, quirky, witty and only too keen to tell a few fishing stories. We spoke about the time I almost broke his favourite rod last time we met, we spoke of my favourite local water, Waggoners Wells, and many other things whilst he signed my book. A deluxe cloth bound slip case edition of Nightwalk. Mine is number 13 of only 15 copies. The leather edition available on the day was awesome and was a limited run of 30 copies.

Here are a few shots of my book, the owl he drew in it for me, along with the same on the accompanying post card. Also, you can see the included print of the badger Chris’s son Will drew.





Time sped by and before long it was time to say adios to everyone and head home. It was great to meet Sandy and Keith, to catch up with Chris and to meet some new friends, but it would hae been great of Ed could have made it as well. The journey home would have been great if I hadn’t headed for Ringwood instead of Andover and added half an hour onto my journey. But then, having said that, it’s been a good while since I got lost, and everyone has to get lost once in a while don’t they?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A day on the Colne with Paul Cook

It all began with me dropping Paul a line asking if he would be attending the Romsey Vintage Tackle fair. He was unsure as to whether he would make it but said we should arrange a day’s fishing, just to be on the safe side. Paul kept an eye on his local River Colne over the following weeks, waiting for a gap in the rain when the river could have half a chance to fine down and offer us a chance for the long awaited meet. Finally the rain subsided long enough for levels to drop and I received the message from Paul that things were looking just about right.

Paul told me that the day would include spending some time in the mill pool, then we’d roam the river covering quite some distance in the hope of finding a few little gems to trot. Tackle would have to be kept to the absolute minimum as there was to be lots of walking involved, but that suited me down to the ground, travelling, stalking and carrying very little in the way of kit is something I’d got used to since long session angling had no interest to me anymore.

Travelling light....


Kit and bait was sorted on Saturday afternoon so it was a simple case of loading the car Sunday morning at around 8am heading northbound for Watford. I got there early, I always allow for traffic and if it doesn’t come then I usually arrive half an hour or so before I should. Paul greeted me and after meeting the family we enjoyed a nice cup of tea and chatted in the garden for the best part of two hours. We spoke of many things, tackle, fishing, more tackle and a bit more fishing…then decided we should stop gassing and head down to the river.

With the tackle in the back of my car we set off for the river Colne, a short journey from Paul’s place, arriving at the car park after only five or so minutes. Loaded with our lightened loads I followed Paul through a pathway of hedges and over a bridge to the mill pool. The pool looked lovely, quite sizeable with water rushing in to my right and back out down to the main river to the left, in-between there was a large expanse of water swirling around. Here Paul told me we should have fun with roach, pristine roach that could be as large as a pound.

I set up my Wizard with a trotting centrepin and Avon style float. Paul gave me the nod of approval, helped with the shotting pattern I’d need and pointed out the areas he though the roach would be lying. He also told me there could be a chance of dace, chub and perch, but as with all rovers, it very much depends on the day. I started fishing and, just as Paul said, started catching superb roach, perfect looking bars of silver with hues of sky blue that shimmered as they wriggled to break free.

One Happy Angler


We fished the mill pool for the best part of an hour, then decided to explore more of the river. It was smaller than I’d expected, and I was quite happy with that, my local river is very similar and I think given the chance I’d sooner fish these smaller, more intimate rivers than the larger ones. The next pool Paul put me into was a shallow glide after a blockage caused by a fallen tree, here he told me there can be large shoals of fish at certain times of the year, but after a dozen trots through I only managed one roach/bream hybrid (which I mistook for a new record dace!).

Lovely, even in winter

Tools of the trade...


Bit by bit we searched out likely looking spots, catching more roach and hybrids and stopping for regular flask breaks. We had roamed around two thirds of the stretch when we decided to return to the mill pool for the last hour’s fishing before dusk. The pool was only a couple of minutes from the car too so it was the best option all round. We caught more roach, both of us catching fish of a slightly better stamp than in the morning. And again, we chatted like a pair of old women. When it was too difficult to see my float we called it a day, returned to the car and back to Paul’s.

Paul trotting the end of the pool


There we warmed up (that first hand wash after being out all day in winter takes some beating!) sat at the dining table and waited to find out what the wonderful smell coming from the kitchen was. Soon enough, and after even more chatting and looking through Paul’s impressive Leather book collection, we were tucking into Barbara’s wonderful beef stew with roast potatoes and lots of crusty bread. And if that wasn’t enough, we had apple crumble with cream afterwards!

It was almost 9pm and I needed to get home, so I bid Paul and his lovely family farewell, thanked him for his marvellous hospitality and left for home with three superb new floats to add to my collection. Hopefully we4’ll get to fish together again before the river season closes, I’ll let you know if we do.

Amazing craftwork.


Check out Paul's wonderful website...

Monday, 4 February 2013

What I've been up to....

Well there was no fishing to be had, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t far away from my thoughts, in fact, I still managed to do lots of fishy related things. The bulk of the weekend was taken up with a theatre trip Corrinna and I had booked quite some time ago. It was always going to be a bit weird as it was to be the first time we’d left Jessica since she was born. But, Phantom of the opera was fantastic and we returned Saturday morning to a happy smiling baby.
Sunday was the day I was due to go fishing, a day’s river fishing, but after corresponding with Paul all week we decided that it would be better if we left it till the following week in the hope that the rain eases and the river gets back to looking like somewhere we could catch a few. So with fishing off the menu it was time to get some tackle tarted up.
I had been restoring an 11ft glass Bruce and Walker Mark IV S/U that my good friend Ed gave to me. The cork was cleaned up, all rings and inters were removed and I re-whipped the rings back on and varnished over the course of a week. This weekend I managed to finish the rod, although I will take it to my trod builder friend just to nib down and give one last coat of varnish. He does this using his finger, just as Dick Walker and Maurice Ingham did and gets much better results than with a brush.

The other project was servicing my Mitchell reels. I did notify a pal asking how much and when he could do them for me. But after seeing an instructional video on the forum I decided to have a bash myself, purchased some degreaser, some grease and a small screwdriver and set to work. After a couple of hours I had two Mitchell 300s looking and feeling like new. I was apprehensive, but as I said, I have a friend who does this all the time, so if I got really stuck I could always ship them off to him to sort out for me. On the subject of reels, I recently purchased another Mitchell 300 to go with the floater rod I’ve restored. This one is a little different due to the fact all the black paint has been removed and the metal polished up, looks a bit different.

I fixed the pen drawer of my desk with some wood glue I bought, it was one of those jobs you need to do but just never seem to get around to. Now I have a much neater desk with everything in its rightful place, for now anyway. Still no Vintage fountain pen yet, but I have a payment coming from amazon shortly for my kindle book sales, so will purchase one out of that. Kind of putting back into my writing what I earn from it.
I recently found a new venue too, a very exciting complex of three pools, one of which is right up my street and I hope that my application is successful as evenings stalking there will be very cool. I’ll be keeping the location and pool name a secret in the hope that the place doesn’t get too crowded, but for the purpose of the blog it shall be called Oaks Melt Pool.

Fly fishing for carp is something I've been thinking about for a while, and I have a 9ft split cane fly rod on its way to me right now. I already have a fly reel and a friend is making me some carp flies, so this season will see me taking my hand to this new method. I’ve seen folk use this method to great effect on some of the waters I fish, gently laying the bait on the surface without spooking fish, so decided I’d give it a whirl.
This week I am awaiting arrival of my new reel, some floats I ordered from Stu at Fat Fish Floats and an ally spool for the Mitchell, so all eyes on the letterbox. Next blog will hopefully be all about catching lots of nice fish from the river on Sunday, here’s to a week with no rain.