Tuesday, 29 December 2015

They left me alone...

Christmas is my favourite time of year, more so now I have a young daughter, and have another due sometime near the start of the season. It is a time for family and friends, for parties and time off work. There also, before work resumes, needs to be an amount of relaxation, preferably alone. Time for the brain to unwind, to gather one's thoughts, without noise or interruption. Thankfully, today was my day. 

But where to go? I thought for what seemed like hours, racking my brains for an answer, but one just wouldn't come. The seasons are pretty messed up right now, we should be well into heavy frosts, white mornings and ice cold nights. Night fishing should be either a distant memory or something nice to look forward to. Instead, we are almost at the turn of the year and it still feels like autumn. 

Surely nature is confused. The plants unsure whether to continue to lie dormant, they find themselves awake and wondering if it's winter yet, or spring already. Animals too, birds, and no doubt the fish. If this keeps up we'll see springtime begin in May, and summer will commence in September. A shifting of the seasons will surely have some detrimental affect. 

Then it came to me, Barton Court Lake, that ought to be quiet. A fair drive, yet it hosts some stunning fish, most notably the perfect perch and mouth-watering mirror carp. I'd been truly blessed before at Barton, but in recent times its been far from an easy venue. Most venues seem fairly devoid of angling pressure over the festive period, so a tricky fishery should be just the remedy for he who seeks solitude. 

It wasn't early when the door closed behind me, I couldn't find my float tube so spent the best part of half an hour searching for it. Finally I found it where I thought it would be and where I first looked, just not properly. It was dark and drizzly outside, it was well past sunrise, but lots of grey stuff hid its view. I loaded the boot and set off, intentionally for Barton, yet even in transit I still had my doubts. 

As I approached Fareham I thought of the moat and its wonderful dark mirrors. Proir to heading onto the M3 I thought about Broadlands and how long it had been since I last visited. Just shy of the A303 I thought about Vale Farm, that prolific water where one can guarantee a fair day's angling in even the most unfriendly conditions. But I stayed true to my gut feeling and soon pulled into an empty car park at Barton Court. 

Although the forecast was for a dull, yet dry day, drizzle was still peppering me as I strolled the lake and covered me in that fine mist, the one you hardly feel yet you soon end up soaked. The wind was hurtling across the surrounding fields, I looked out for hares on that first walk around, yet saw none. The piercing call of the red kites filled the air, which somehow felt welcoming. Small silver fish splashed irregularly, there were signs of life, but nothing of note, and nothing that caused me walk at much more than a bimble. I settled upon pitch 16, one that I'd done well from in the past with a channel to the right culminating in an overgrown island dead in front. 

I spent the day with our friend and master rod builder, Andrew Davis. Not in body, but certainly in spirit. Carpathia fished for carp in open water, with a ledgered prawn surrounded by a few pouchfulls of pellets and crushed prawns. The delightful All-Rounder with its Avon tip section fished into the deep margins with a classic bobber float and, again, a prawn was the bait. You can't go far wrong with prawns here, the carp and perch love them, sometimes. With the rods fishing I sat back and quietly wished for 2 things. To be alone for the day, and for the fish to leave me alone too. 

It was reverse psychology of course, I figured that if I pretended that I didn't want to catch, I would, and even if I didn't, it was just a day spent beside a quiet pool, with a chance to catch that I yearned for. The sky gradually closed in on me, grey, low and heavy. It whirled by bringing waves of drizzle, sometimes turning to rain and often becoming completely dry. I glanced at the twig bobbin, then at the float and back again, but nothing stirred.

I sat behind Richard's old umbrella, dry and content with my old friend sheltering me from the elements. Red kites continued to entertain me until my focus was drawn to a tree on the island. A tap tap tap had me thinking a woodpecker was busy foraging, but closer inspection revealed a marvellous nuthatch, almost as blue as the kingfisher that zoomed past just minutes before. Still the twig and the float were redundant. 

The small silver fish continued to splash intermittently, a rich larder that would more than likely keep the perch busy. I think, perhaps, that the prawns work best when the climate is a touch more akin to winter. In colder weather I can imagine the roach go into hiding, they certainly become harder to catch, maybe the perch experience the same difficulties as we anglers. That's when a juicy, motionless prawn will be at its most appealing, and the perch will become lazy scavengers. 

The carp, however, I had no such excuses for. The water was coloured and deep, so no amount of searching would have found them. No bubbles rose, no fish crashed, so it was down to my senses, a smidge of watercraft, and a decent dollop of good old fashioned luck. The area I had cast to was a gulley, a deeper channel leading the open water into the pathway betwixt two islands. A patrol route no doubt, yet these can sometimes be where they just pass through, without stopping to feed, like underwater motorways. 

At lunchtime I wound the rods in, I never expected to be called into action and drop my lunch onto the muddy ground below, but I was taking no chances. Christmas ham sandwiches with a trifle too much English mustard, washed down with a flask of oxo. Before recasting I moodled along a few swims, it felt nice to stretch my legs so I made the excuse of going for a wander by trying to stalk a perch, returned for the float rod and dangled my prawn under a few likely holding spots.

I returned after just shy of an hour fruitless, yet fulfilled. If they were to be caught, I'd have caught them, one cannot make it happen if it doesn't want to happen. All we can do is be there, and if we happen to be there on the right day, at the right time, then it will. I've read that certain anglers have the ability to stand beside a water and feel whether or not it will happen, and today I felt it for myself. Yes I always go into it with confidence, but this was different. Being confident, and knowing something will happen are two completely different things, I realised that today. 

So, back in my chair I cast out the rods, placed them on their respective sticks and watched the clouds hurry by, thankful that I'd stuck with my initial decision to opt for a peaceful day. A day without fish slime, wet nets and stinky mats. Perhaps I should have gone for a walk, taken a chair along. I could have stayed local, taken a picnic, my camera. But then, wouldn't have had the chance to catch something amazing, sometimes it's all we really need, the chance. I took one last glance at the lake before heading for home, just as a huge chestnut mirror carp leapt clear of the water and plunged back in sending ripples in every direction. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Special Christening

This past weekend saw a gathering of piscators, anglers who's intention was to meet up with friends and exchange pleasantries just before Christmas. This section of the Itchen has become a firm favourite for many of the brethren, fishermen who believe that it is far more important to enjoy the day, as it is to catch some fish. The weather started started out fairly lousy, in fact, I was all ready to leave at the expected 7:30 but a toe dipped outside the front door had me rushing back in and towards the kettle. Jessica woke and wanted me to tell her all about Father Christmas one more time, so before I knew it the sky was looking far more friendly and it was after 8:30. 


This trip, for me, was mostly about my dear departed friend Richard, for it would be the first time I used the reel given to me by his partner which happened to be the reel he last used at this very venue when he caught his first ever grayling. That trip was to be his last fishing trip, after that I visited him twice in hospital before receiving that heartbreaking news a week later. I still miss him every day.

With his reel in tow I arrived at the river, said hello to Paul and Bumble and found a nice stretch of semi slow river to angle upon. A few trots through with single red maggot and the float dipped. It was never going to break any records, quite possible the smallest grayling I've caught, but it meant so much to me. A grayling on Rich's reel, and a baby one too, a symbol of new life. I couldn't have been happier. 


A few fish later, including some delightful trout type creatures, and it was time to head for the weir and to say hello to the others. Bernie was angling just before the weir and I found MGs just a tad past it. We chatted briefly and I settled down for another few trots down towards the weir itself which is where I found a few of the better fish the river has to offer. Most notably a fairly large trout and a very good grayling, both fish really tested the AD All-Rounder with the Roach tip fitted, knew I should have plumped for the Avon instead. 




At lunchtime we gathered at the weir bench (our usual congregational spot) and ate sandwiches, drunk from flasks and when MGs arrived tucked into his exquisite fruit cake. PafPuff arrived just as we were leaving, he'd been fishing much further upstream and had been enjoying himself immensely. We got chatting about fly fishing, something I'm very inexperienced with but am looking to get more involved with very soon, and he gave me a present to help me on my way, thanks Paul! Bern, PaulD and Myself had decided to leave shortly after lunch, I wanted to have a look at a couple of local rivers for perhaps an hour on the way home to see if I could catch a bristling perch. 

On the Itchen at Mansbridge I set up in the swim just downstream from the pub. I trotted for an hour but only had 1 minnow, a lovely minnow it was though. As I was on my way back to the car a chap stopped and asked if I'd caught anything, then he asked my name and told me he knew me. Turns out he was good friends with Richard and had seen photos of me and read some of my work. what a small world, and what were the chances of bumping into him on the day I first use his old reel?? 

On the Wallington the swim I wanted was free and I began catching from the off, a handful of roach were swung to hand before a wonderful river perch brightened an otherwise drab day. Not the biggest perch by any means, but it put a massive smile on my face and sent me home feeling totally fulfilled. 


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Autumn Reflections

The tired sun dipped behind a big grey cloud taking the shadows with it. As if suddenly switched on, the breeze strengthened causing dry fallen leaves to do cartwheels across the ground. Yes, autumn had taken hold and the seasonal transformation was well underway.

Showers outnumbered the dry spells, a land of green progressively became one of gold, crimson and brown and large flocks of winged wonders materialised from out of nowhere. The angler, however, had a glint in his eye, something reminiscent of a young lad who’s just been given his first real fishing rod.

For it is this childlike enthusiasm we rediscover when we mature as anglers, when pressure eases and we can relive those boyhood days but through older, much wiser eyes. As a child we fished with a sense of urgency and eagerness, eager to learn, eager to catch but at the same time the hours moved much more slowly.

Our lives and our angling merge into what can only be described as a blur, with each one gathering pace more each day until we can’t tell which is which. Everything becomes about numbers, the mortgage, the overdraft, the weight of that mirror, the amount of bait, numbers. Seasons come and go without much notice being taken as we begin to wish life away, eager to get to the time when fishing becomes easy again.

The matured angler feels no competition, only the strong desire to enjoy. He longs for precious moments at his favourite places where every second spent doing what he loves is a second spent in the best possible way.

Breakfast will be prepared and consumed before setting off, lunch will be served when he is hungry and his tea will be on the table when he returns, there will be no time to keep an eye on, only his instincts pointing him in the right direction matter. The failure to catch doesn’t worry him in the slightest, for there will always be next time, and the time after that; it’s being there that matters the most.

At this season, above all others, he has time to reflect upon the year so far and make provisions for the harsh time ahead. The summer was productive; along with dreamy summer days spent alongside lily covered pools of emerald he caught tench, roach and, his favourite of all fishes, the crucian carp.

The sun upon his neck was something that brought warmth to his soul, now a scarf would have to suffice as biting winds arrive to mark the beginning of the cold spell, but he does not fret over such trivial things; an extra thick jumper and pair of gloves will remedy the situation quite comfortably.

New fishes to angle for excite him, the prospect of a marbled pike or a tiger striped perch will be enough to stoke the fire in his heart and see him through whatever the elements decide to throw at him.

Just to be close to nature and witness her marvellous changes is enough for the matured angler, to focus too much upon the catching of fish and miss all that goes on around him would be to do himself and Mother nature herself a great disservice.

Just one blink and you can miss the amazing, a look in the wrong direction and the wonderful goes begging. You can’t capture everything, but concentrate on the important things and you return after the day fulfilled whatever the outcome.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

An Opportunity Taken...

Jess was settled with mum and dad, we’d been out for the day and she was busy ripping open the new things she’d been bought. It seemed the perfect time to pop down to Tithe for a look around, it had been a while.

When I arrived there were 2 other anglers on the middle pool and I spotted 3 on the top. With this in mind I opted to swerve the top and concentrate on the middle. It was unusually quiet, nothing cruised, nothing sat amongst the heavy weed, but after a few minutes I worked out that it was the pads that harboured my quarry.

Behind the island I concentrated my efforts, fed some mixers among some sparse pads, probably thinned out as a result of a recent battle that had taken place. Two separate carp rose in the water, ricked it from side to side and took a single mixer each. The disturbance caused mini waves to lap the bank under my feet, they were good fish.

3 mallards arrived along with two moorhens and their youngster, this pretty much signalled the end of my spot, finished before I even got to cast. The area opposite me the other side of the island was worth a look, so I gathered my minimal kit and set off.


The last pitch on that bank had an area of clear water just out from the bank, an area some 20 feet wide and 15 feet deep before the pads started. In the middle of this area were 4 single pads, I decided to sprinkle some small pellets around the base of these pads, then if any carp fed they’d knock the stems and I’d know all about it.


I nipped next door and flicked some mixers out along the edge of some pads, waited 10 minutes but nothing occurred, it was deathly quiet. I tiptoed back to the 4 pad swim and spotted the silt pluming up and the pads trembling. I attached a lump of luncheon meat to my size 4 hook, then found an old popup in the bottom of my bag, slit it with a knife and slid it onto the line to act as a sight bob. I made my cast.

After a minute if so the popup bobbed, moved an inch then sank out of sight. I struck and held on as an angry carp charged into the pads. The tackle was tried and tested; I had utmost confidence in what I was using. The Browns Barbel pin, Carpathia, Drennan Specialist Wide Gapes and 6lb Maxima. The carp didn’t get too far into the pads, and as I thought, at this back end of summer the lads aren’t strong so I managed to keep the carp on the move.

Only when it rolled in front of me did I realise just which carp I’d hooked, a good mirror was my first thought, then the second time I had a chance of netting I realised it was the ‘Half-Lin’, a carp that had been on my list a good while. She went back into the pads briefly, but back out she came and into the awaiting net, I was victorious and made up.


A nice chap a couple of swims along helped out with some photos, and did a cracking job. I weighed her at 24lb 2oz and beamed as I held her in the margin and waited for her to swim strongly off. After 10 minutes of reflection I packed away and headed home to Jessica.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Jessica's First Crucian

The girls had arranged a day out, a fishing picnic with the intention of Jessica and Emily fishing whilst Rob and I looked after them and Leanne and Corrinna chewed the fat sunbathing. We decided that Marsh Farm at Godalming would be a good place, well kept with clean toilet blocks and a shop if ice creams were required.

It was a glorious day, warm but not too hot, and with patchy clouds giving cover every so often. Showers threatened but never materialised. We met there at 11am and after buying a day ticket I began setting up on the little Hill Pond whilst we waited for the others to arrive.

Rob, Leanne, Emily and Freya weren’t too far behind us and soon we were unfolding chairs, unzipping cool bags and putting rods together, there was a lovely vibe and we couldn’t wait to get proceedings underway. I set up a ledger rod and a float rod. There would be some waiting between bites due to the fact we were fishing bigger baits for the tench and crucians. With this in mind we let the girls play close by when they got bored with watching float tips (Jessica is still 2 after all) and call them over to assist with reeling in, unhooking and of course, posing for the camera.

Rob and Emily were first to catch, a lovely small tench was soon laying upon the mat being observed, gawped at, stroked and admired. The tench was put back and we all got serious, the girls sat on our laps and watched the little brightly coloured float tips for any movement. It was slow, the sun shone and that certainly didn’t help with angling for tench and crucians, it was the wrong conditions and the wrong time of the day. After another 5 minutes the girls went off to play.

Around 15 minutes later the float dipped, Jessica was close by and I called her over just as it slid away. I struck and handed the rod to Jess, she did her best to wind the centrepin handle whilst I held the rod up. As the fish broke surface for the first time I took a deep breath and steadied my nerves, it was exactly what we’d come for, Jessica’s first crucian, and it was a good one too.

I reached out with the net as she wound down and soon the wonderful fish slipped nicely in, I scooped up our prize and cheered, Jessica followed suit. I placed the net on the bank and Jessica fell to her knees, Emily came to see too, they were both so very excited, but I think it was I who was the most overjoyed. We unhooked it and estimated the weight at somewhere around a pound and a half. Jessica was a little star when it came to the photographs; she held it gently but firmly and showed a smile that melted my heart. My life was complete. We said goodbye to that amazing fish, but not before she gave it a little peck.


The rest of the afternoon was also slow going with a few tench coming to the ledger rod but the floats remaining rather still. Jessica helped out whenever a fish was hooked, however busy she was playing nurses. She felt each one, said they were slippery but still insisted on kissing every single one before they went back.


Her concentration levels mean that she won’t sit still and fish for very long without getting up and wandering around looking for something or someone to terrorise, but just as soon as a fish is hooked she is helping, wanting to take over and she loves nurturing and caring for the fish. She respects them and is very gentle, I guess the first lesson we must teach them, so we’re certainly getting there.

Just today we visited Lakeside for half an hour, flicked out a ledger rod with a chunk of spam in the hope that we could get her a carp, but after picking nanny some flowers and the rod tip staying motionless we left and headed for MacDonalds instead, vowing to return another day when they were hungry.


Friday, 7 August 2015

The Ancient Pool with Chris Ball

It had been a while since I last fished with Chris Ball, it was at Linear fisheries; we had a good day too. We’d been in contact ever since and finally agreed to do it again. Chris informed me that Linear was very busy, even midweek so a trip to an ancient little neglected water he’d been visiting might be a good idea. The day was arranged and I simply couldn’t wait.

We met at the rendezvous point at 10am and after a quick hello and a hand shake I followed Chris the rest of the way. Through locked gates we entered and along an overgrown path, I just knew it was going to lead somewhere special, and it didn’t disappoint. Before the cars came to a stop I peered smiling into gaps among the trees, flat water, black in appearance due to the clarity and depth, this was extra special.

Chris had nipped down for a look prior to collecting me and fed a few pouchfuls of mixers, and it was apparent from the surface activity that they liked them. Dark shapes cruised before us, some were quite close to the bank and I observed eagerly as dark backs broke the surface and chum mixers were engulfed. Chris and I had a brief catch up, but it was clear that we were both eager to get started and put a fish on the bank, I wanted dearly to see how these fish looked, if they were half as prehistoric as the lake, then we were in for a treat. Incidentally, Chris told me that he’d landed 6 commons on his last visit, with dark fish up to 17lbs.


Just to the left of the cars Chris started fishing, his own classic floater fishing style too with pouchfuls going out into open water followed by a controller float. Chris’s tried and tested method which has caught him countless big carp from all over. Seagulls were thin on the ground too, with just one bird threatening but not actually causing too much of a nuisance. I opted for my usual, trying to tempt them as close to the bank as possible and wanting to see the whites of their eyes before pulling the trigger. It’s my way, it’s where I’m most confident, it’s what I do.

The mixers Chris had been feeding were by now drifting on the gentle breeze into the corner of the lake, a willow hung heavy over the water and carp broke surface every so often to intercept the free offerings. I got myself into position and began angling, Carpathia was the obvious choice every time now, teamed with the Hardy Altex. Two mixers on the size 4 with 6lb Maxima completed the set up, my trusty line, strong as old boots. The carp, although easily spotted weren’t easily tricked, they’d obviously seen it all before at some point and certainly hadn’t forgotten the rules of the game. I like a challenge, and this was certainly going to be that.

In true wary carp fashion I fed loose baits, waited for the carp to start feeding and observed as they fed on all but the hook bait. With the water drifting in a circular motion I found myself leapfrogging swims to keep up with the moving fish, yet they always seemed to stay one step ahead of me. It was three swims up from the corner when I clocked a carp feeding just off the tip of some pads not quite a rod length out, and stopped in my tracks was I when I spotted a near leather with three small scales near the wrist of its tail. It looked deliciously long and so dark and remembering Chris tell me he’d yet to catch a mirror from this pool, or a 20, made me want it even more.

I cast out just beyond yet another fallen willow, drew the hook bait back gently and right into the path of the feeding mirror. It took three mixers in a line then approached mine. It hung a second, then sucked the baits in, I struck and the hook came flying out and landed in a tree behind me. I looked down and noticed that the fish didn’t spook, simply waved its tail and swam off round the willow. It was the one, I was distraught but hopeful, if I could tempt them close enough I could surely bank one, and where there was one mirror, there were bound to be others.


Another swim along and a line of surface scum was visible about 30 yards out. It wasn’t thick stuff, but was it was clearly enough to attract them and there were fish swimming along its length picking of what were probably more of Chris’s drifted mixers, he was fishing quite a way out and the line they drifted on made sense. There were still the odd carp close in, but the more I looked at the 30 yard mark, the more I spotted. I added a lump of Babybell wax to the line to aid casting and made a cast just behind the scum line, drawing it back into position and firing a pouchful of my own mixers out around the homemade controller float.

I was just reaching down to get another pouchful when I noticed the wax take off across the surface and the line tighten up, I struck and connected with my first carp from the Ancient Pool. The pool seemed fathomless, the fish was clearly swimming torwards me, or perhaps down and down, the line cut through the water downwards on and on, it was quite bizarre and quiet unlike anything I’d experienced before, perhaps it really was bottomless. It stopped at the edge of some pads just left of the swim, and although the pads were twisting and turning, the fish was still clearly quite a way down.

Eventually I managed to get the fish to rise and caught sight of it for the first time, it was long fish, quite dark, and then it came to me, it was a mirror, and to my utter astonishment, it had three small scales near the wrist of its tail. That’s when my legs turned to jelly, I reached out with the net, more in preparation than anything else, this fish was still a way off being ready. The hook held well and the 6lb Maxima did me proud, after having her half over the net and falling off twice I finally scooped her up and cheered. Chris shouted well done from across the lake and hurried round with the weighing things and camera.

I had told Chris previously that I’d spotted and almost hooked a mirror, now it was in my net and we were both made up. It was so very long; Chris measured it at 32 inches with a girth of 21.5 inches. She weighed 20lb 12oz and looked absolutely fascinating. These are the carp I seek; I think perhaps the carp everyone hopes to bump into. So dark, such history and I was so very proud to be holding her up whilst Chris took a series of photos. We released her back to those mystical depths and decided now was a good time to break for lunch.


Between the cars was a lovely grassy area, in fact, there was nowhere around the lake that looked trodden down, it really was a little piece of paradise. Chris tucked into his hard boiled eggs and I nibbled on my cheese and pickles whilst getting the Kelly Kettle started up. Soon we had a steaming pot of tea and I sliced up a Manor Farm fruit cake. As Chris told me numerous carpy stories we polished off the pot and left a few cake crumbs for the robin.

Fed and watered we set off once again on our separate ways, Chris returning to his open water spot and I opted to explore more of the fallen willow bank. It was odd, whilst we were weighing and photographing the mirror there were still fish feeding off that scum line. Yet now when I returned the scum line had drifted away, broken up and dispersed and so had the fish. I couldn’t see a single one. I stood a while and fired out some mixers, but after 10 minutes or so it was apparent I’d have to get on my toes. That was when I heard a commotion coming from Chris’s swim.

I got to him in time to see him back-winding like mad; whatever he was attached to was very angry and rather powerful. It was quite strange watching him play that fish the other way round, what with him being a left hander, and also preferring to back-wind as opposed to my clutch work. But each to their own, whatever works best for you. This fish, a common, was giving him the right run-around; multiple times he got it close to the net, only for it to take one look at the net and charge off again on another powerful run.


I took the net allowing Chris to concentrate on getting the fish, which was by now growing tired, landed. It was with much cheering and delight when a peach of a common slipped into the net. I muttered that it could well be another 20lber, it was a deep fish. Chris did the measurements and found it to be similar to the mirror, yet slightly deeper. The fish weighed 20lb 8oz, a 20 apiece, we couldn’t have been happier. It was my turn to snap away with the camera, and I did my very best to do Chris proud.


After shaking Chris’s hand I wandered off left this time to explore the other half of the lake. There was a fallen tree with what was quite obviously a fair amount of fish hanging around it, but it was far to treacherous to attempt to angle anywhere near it, its submerged branches twisting and turning under the surface, it would have been a tall order to land one with such underwater obstacles present. I was just peering into the water near the sunken tree when I heard the call from Chris, he was in again. As I got there he was just releasing a mid double common, you simply cannot keep a good man down.

After watching some lovely fish among the flooded jungle I carried on around the snaggy corner bay and settled into a platform opposite the end of the tree. From here I felt I could draw the fish away from danger and once hooked keep them clear and play them out in open water. I fed some mixers and sat and waited. A few minutes passed when a pod of three fish started to chomp the drifting baits. I fired out some more followed by my hook bait. Soon after, the pod moved on and nothing else visited. The carp waited for the mixers to reach the tip of the snags, then proceeded to eat the lot with gusto. They'd sussed me. Typical.

I moved on and found a lovely little swim, if not a little tight, but it screamed carp and was purpose built for me. There was a dense tree type bush to the right hanging out over the water with large pads below it, a large set of reeds to the left and around 20 square feet of those miniature pads directly in front of me with around 12 feet of clear water leading up to my own bank. I watched a while, carp cruised just off the pads from the reeds to the tree and back again, but it was the movement among the pads that really caught my attention.

It was akin to fishing among the weed at Tithe Barn, I flicked out a few mixers and sat back whilst the carp’s mouths came up through the pads sniffing out and munching on the little cubes of tastyness. This is always tricky fishing for me, but immensely enjoyable. I should cast them out and wait for the carp to find them, but I’m far too impatient for that, opting to try and gently plop them on top of a fish’s mouth as it comes up. Time after time I either missed completely, spooked the fish due to plopping it too close or hooked the pads. It was comical but highly addictive.

Finally I got one right; it coincided with the heavier rain coming over. We’d had the odd shower since lunch time, but this was more persistent. The mouth came up and my bait landed soft and gentle right alongside it. It shot past momentarily, then backed up and sucked in the hook bait. I struck and held on whilst the fish charged around. They were soft small pads so posed no problem, the bonus being that carp hooked this way seldom dart off. I had the net in position and as soon as the fish was clear of the pads I scooped it up. It was all like clockwork and just as I’d envisaged in my head.

It was a delightful common, not quite double figures, but still a lovely dark one and quite clearly fairly old. It was apparent that all the fish here were special ones, and not knowing if I’d ever get the chance to revisit, I held on to every moment, cherishing the time spent at such a wonderful place. Chris took a few photos and congratulated me. I slipped her back and sat smiling a while hiding under a tree whilst the worst of the rain shower passed over.


As the drops of rain became smaller and less frequent I hopped out of my hiding place and made my way back to the previous swim. I flicked a few mixers out among the pods once more, some of which landed in the open water just beyond. I looked at the watch and realised that we only had half an hour left. I prayed the fish would return after the disturbance, watching and hoping and all the while conscious of the minutes ticking away. The pads moved, then again, fish began feeding once more, I’d never been so happy to see a pair of carp lips.

I made a few casts but as before, fluffed all of them. A carp cruised through past the pads from the reeds to the tree picking up a few mixers on the way; I made a cast near the tree and waited for the carp to return. It crept out and took two free mixers that had drifted close by, then ventured out further, spotted my hook bait and made no hesitation in taking it.

The fish charged under the tree first off, hurried around some but it seemed fairly clear of roots and branches under there, there was no grating or line getting stuck. With constant pressure I kept the fish moving and gradually got it out from under the tree and under the larger pads. Again it was quite the tussle but suddenly it exited the big pads and made a beeline for the little pads. I never allowed it to get stuck, keeping the pressure on and keeping it moving. Just the same as before I had the net ready and as soon as the fish cleared the pads I scooped it up.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was another mirror and a corker too. I called out to Chris, it was time to get going but we made time for some photos of yet another special and ancient fish. We didn’t weight the fish, size seemed immaterial anyway, this fish meant so much more than numbers. As I hoisted the fish up Chris snapped away. They say that a smile says it all, I like to think this smile shows the absolute joy I had in not only capturing this stunning fish, but the immense pleasure the whole day brought.


FLE Top Lake....A Weekend Finale

So after leaving the Kennet I headed to Romsey to meet up with Peter and Graeme who were already a day into their weekend at the FLE Top Lake. Martin was to meet us on Sunday morning. I met Graeme and made my way to the lake. I had a quick natter with Peter who was angling with his daughter, yet was mindful that time was getting on and I'd be losing light.

I found a pitch to set up camp for the night thanks to a tip off from Graeme and before I had a chance to pitch the tent Graeme called us together to commence the match. The idea was we'd fish in pairs, Graeme and I vs Peter and his daughter. The target was the small carp, last year's successful spawning, and the prize was to sit back while the losers tend to the barbeque.

It was 1 point for a mirror and 5 for a not to common common. We'd be fishing until we could no longer see our floats. The little hand sized carp loved maggots, and seemed to like me too. We won 19 - 2 , with me catching 12 of them and Graeme managing the only common. Whilst the others lit the barbeque I set about building my house. We sat by the campfire, eating burgers and hot dogs and chatted till late. I turned in , chilly and tired looking forward to a full day's stalking next day.


It was a cold night but I emerged from the canvas tent unscathed. Breakfast was washed down with a pot of tea and I was soon wandering the banks armed with Carpathia. Martin arrived early and after meeting and greeting he went off to set up a rod whilst the rest of us continued stalking. I tried worms cast at bubbles for most of the morning, but caught only small stock fish. Lunchtime came and tea and cake brought renewed enthusiasm.



Mid afternoon Graeme called me over to the aerator bay where a couple of carp were hiding under some thick reeds. I thanked him and set about trying to trick one. Incidentally it would have been my old pal Richard's birthday that day, and I really wanted to catch a goodun in his memory. The carp though had other ideas and ignored everything I tried.

With an hour left and only one hooked and lost fish to Martin I decided to pack away the tent and then fish the last half hour. It would give those cunning and disinterested carp a short breather too. With everything bagged up and ready to be loaded into the car I crept back into position. For ten minutes I saw nothing, then just a rod length out a mirror bobbed up and cruised through slowly. I worked out where it was headed and lowered a crust into position.

As it approached it seemed to hang mid water looking at the crust. It seemed an age, then, slowly it inched forward and sucked in the bread. The fight was quite localized, sharp jerks on the rod tip followed by a dogged battle under the rod tip. It went into the net at the first time of asking, not the big girl I was after, but perhaps the prettiest fish in the lake.


It was quite a moment, a carp for Rich and so very close to home time. It weighed 13lb and worked the camera well. It capped a busy angling weekend beautifully and sent me on my way with a very big smile.



A Gobio Gathering

Saturday saw the gathering of the Gobio Society; the venue was The Old Mill, Aldermaston on the marvellous river Kennet. It was Steve’s 50th birthday celebrations; he wanted very dearly to catch a gudgeon to mark the occasion.


I arrived early, just on 8:30 and soon after the fishery opened. Nigel was there already set up in a little weir pool he’d had some success years previous. There was room for me to sneak a rod in so after a chinwag I set up a perch rod and began fishing a worm in a deep hole just before a fallen tree.

No perch were forthcoming so it was time for me to have a wander. I ambled downstream a way, trying my luck in various likely looking dips and glides, but nothing wanted to snatch my trotted worm. I returned to base camp, set up the gudgeon rod and returned to see if I could tempt anything at all.

I began just left of two thick trees, a corner where the water swung round under said trees and opened out into a fairly substantial pool with a relatively uniform depth of around 18 inches. I started to catch quite quickly, mostly small roach and perch, but then a small gudgeon was caught at the end of the run where the water shallows up, the target species, I was thrilled.



As with all small stream fishing it didn’t take too long for the bites to dry up. I wandered on and fished the point, an outcrop where by the side stream was joined by another. It was a lovely glide and threw up many small dace, but after half an hour of catching similar 6 inch dace one after the other it was time to get on the move again.

On the way back to Nigel I noticed a deep slack between those two trees I’d been fishing near before. I plumbed the depth and sent two red maggots down to case the place. No sooner had the float settled, it was under and sliding off to the right. I struck and to my utter amazement up came a wriggly gudgeon. I repeated the process and caught another, much bigger specimen. I’d found their lair.

Each one was a glittery, pearlescent wonder, some touching 2oz too. I was in my element. I shared the location with Nigel who joined me and caught one himself. Some minnows also joined the party, along with the obligatory perch, some of which were more than capable of feasting upon some of the gudgeon we were catching. It was delightful fishing.


Around lunchtime and back at base Nigel had a roaring take on luncheon meat and hooked what he swore was a barbell, but unfortunately it was gone as quickly as it came It did wonders for the enthusiasm levels though, and soon we were flinging meat baits out into the weir pool in the hope that old Boris was still lurking.

As it happened I fell asleep for a while, a much needed lunchtime nap to recharge the batteries. I woke to find Nigel back off on his travels in search of something to angle for. I trotted the weir pool and caught some more perch and dace. I also tried the canal type section behind us, and caught more small roach and perch and minnows.



Sometime after 3pm the man of the moment, Steve, and his band of merry men arrived from their lunchtime gathering in the local brew house. After the meetings and greetings we all angled together and caught some more fish, Nigel even caught what at first looked like a huge gudgeon, but which turned out to be a baby barbel.

I took Steve over to my gudgeon hole, I knew he wanted to catch one on his birthday, and it didn’t take him long to catch that fish. He went on to catch 5 in the short space of time I had left. At 5pm I had to depart so bid a fond farewell to everyone as I set off towards the car. Next stop FLE Top Lake and a rendezvous with some big carp.

Friday, 31 July 2015

A Tale of Two Halves


Due to finances and other arrangements I was unable to visit the wild carp of Wales this weekend, this of course saddened me, but with a full weekend of angling before me, the blow was softened somewhat. This morning I was up at 4am, flask filled, car loaded and I pulled up at Soake pond at around 5am. Sunrise wasn’t until a little before half 5, which gave me plenty of time to get set up and ready to begin. The lake looked amazing; it was a cold start, only 5 degrees and mist steamed all across the lakes surface.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 800 x 450)Image

I began fishing and quite quickly had bubbles fizzing all over the swim, it looked just perfect. I peered at the little float tip through the mist and noticed it slide away, soon I was into what was quite obviously my first tench of the session. I was targeting the big roach that reside at Soake, but I can happily catch accidental tench all day long. It was a classic Soake tench, deep dark green, ruby red eyes and delightfully chunky.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 800 x 471)Image

The next couple of bites produced roach, smallish ones around 8 - 12oz, but they were fin perfect and each one brought a beaming smile. The bites weren’t quite as frequent as the weekend previous, but then the conditions were completely different. Last Sunday was mild, overcast and I sat most of the day in the rain. This day was cold, and thinking back I don’t recall ever catching too much when heavy mist rises from the lake.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 549 x 800)Image

As the morning opened before me I was greeted by an incredible day, clear blue skies and that early chill soon made way for a warm and gentle breeze. The sunlight caused the mist to intensify, columns started off circling low, close to the lakes surface soon to be drawn up in shafts reaching high culminating in being detached from the lake and evaporating shortly after.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 450 x 800)Image

More bubbles rose, I knew there were tench there feeding on the pellets I’d been regularly feeding. The float tip kept rising out of the water like the Sword of Excalibur; I struck the lifts and hooked roach almost every time. Then the float dipped, rose again and disappeared out of sight, this strike connected with a tench, I was now savvy to which bites were from which fish.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 452 x 799)Image

The battles from the tench were awesome; they certainly knew where the weed beds were and used them to great effect. Although I was using a 2.6lb bottom, I still managed to extract the tench from the weed, with steady pressure and by keeping the fish moving they posed me no problem and soon another beautiful emerald tinca was lying gracefully on the mat.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 506 x 799)Image

The morning got warmer and brighter, regular dips into my flask were welcome and some fruit gave me much needed energy, it was a very early start and not the best night’s sleep. The bites began to get farther apart, things were slowing up. Some more roach came on the drop, but once more I found myself frustrated slightly at the lack of better fish, the ones I’d come for. The tench however, provided me with great sport throughout the morning keeping the rod arched and the adrenalin pumping.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 501 x 800)Image

By 10am the bites were very fickle, and I was missing a lot. I decided to go for a wander, to stroll the pan handle and see if I could locate a carp or two. My findings were fruitful, carp were present, not in great numbers, but I felt sure I could at least find a chance or two to go at. With my base broken down I loaded most of the kit into the car and headed with the bare essentials to see if I could snare myself a carp.

This part of the day didn’t go to plan at all. As the wounds are still fresh I’ll not elaborate too much on the events, but a prĂ©cis will give you an idea of what occurred. First I found 3 good mirrors at the very head of the handle, one was just half a rod length from the bank feeding among surface weed. I hooked the fish quite quickly, played it out well and found myself with the fish jammed into a wedge of weed just out from the bank. I’m still asking myself why I went in with the net tail end first. The net touched the carp’s body; it bolted and broke the line. It was easily 20lbs and dark and scaly.

Next up I happened to chance upon The Daddy, the largest carp in the lake at over 30lbs. I spotted it through a gap in trees; it was clearly feeding on a silt patch between weed beds, feeding then coming up to chew, and repeating the process. I couldn’t get a rod to it, there was no way I could angle for it. I watched a while and in the end walked away. Then, to top it all off, I had the Classy Common, an old fish around 25lbs, feeding on dog biscuits, only for it to approach the hook-bait, have a sniff then turn and waddle off, never to be seen again.

So there you have it, a wonderful morning, quite possibly the perfect morning, followed by a lousy couple of hours chasing canny carp. It isn’t the first time carp fool me, a it certainly won’t be the last.

Zoom in (real dimensions: 800 x 450)Image