Saturday 8 October 2016

Jessica's First Gudgeon

I realised recently that I’d not yet taken Jessica fishing this summer, and that summer was almost finished. It was WIGG today, the annual Wallington Invitational Gudgeon Gala, an event I’d fished for the past few years, but today I was on daddy duty so couldn’t commit. A cunning plan however, meant that I could perhaps leave James with my parents for an hour whilst I nipped out with Jessica, met up with the guys and saw about perhaps trying to get Jess her first gudgeon.

We got ready, loaded the car, packed a picnic and headed off to the viewpoint to meet the chaps at 9am. It was good to see them, a great bunch of lads, who meet far too infrequently. After a good chat and lots of banter Jess and I headed off to Cheeseman’s Bridge. I knew her concentration levels wouldn’t be quite honed yet and that half an hour or perhaps a little more would be about enough for her.

We clambered down into position and with everything in place she began fishing, with two maggots, one red and one white, suspended under a delicate handmade float. I watched her face rather than the float tip. I could soon tell when the float dipped, her look changing from that of total concentration to one of excitement, she even let out a little squeal. I told her to lift the rod, she did so but it wasn’t a proper strike, not really, but it wasn’t a bad effort. The line entering the water changed direction and started going upstream, so it had obviously had the desired effect.

As with the practice goes, she wound backwards at first giving line instead of retrieving, but soon changed when I pointed this out to her. Soon enough she had a lovely little fish winging its way ashore. I peered into the water, we both did, and I was the one squealing when I spotted it was a gudgeon, first cast.

We were both as pleased as one another, although I think Jess pipped me slightly. I asked her to hold out her hands whilst I lay the fish, and quite a decent specimen, safely in her grasp. I made sure she waded out slightly so that there was a watery landing should she drop it. But I needn’t have worried, she was gentle and curious, elated and enchanted, it was a fabulous moment.

Once I’d done the David Bailey bit she crouched down and gently released her prize, it was as if she knew exactly what to do. A sweety for each fish, that was the deal so as promised I produced a Jelly Baby from my pocket, then asked her which colour maggots she’d like to try next.” Got any pink or blue ones dad?” she asked. Only red and white ones were in the pot so again one of each went on and we had another cast.

We had a half a dozen more casts at the bridge, each one resulting in a bite, and another four gudgeon were brought to shore, all just as marvellous as the first. After the fifth Jelly Baby Jess told me she’d like to try somewhere else, so we hooked the hook in the keeper ring and headed out of the swim, through the gap in the trees and across the field. The grass was long and wet, Jess had her wellies on, but I didn’t.

With damp shoes and wet ankles I followed Jess till she found a spot she liked the look of. Under a tree the undergrowth was trampled somewhat making a nice level platform to fish from. The river trickled across gravel and deepened just before us. There was a tree opposite and a deep spot just before the root system. It looked great.

We made a few casts but it was all quiet to begin with. Then the float dipped a few times without really sailing away. I had a good idea what the culprit was, and this was confirmed when Jess reeled in her first minnow. She loved it and thought straight away it was a baby fish. I told her it was a fully grown adult as it was quite big for a minnow, but she was having none of it. After a few photos we watched the fish swim back to the deep spot and soon after I handed over another Jelly Baby.

We caught one more minnow from that spot before Jess decided that perhaps it was time to return home as her dollies would be due a feed. On the way back we had one more cast from the bridge before heading to the car which resulted in the last gudgeon of the day. All strapped up in the car Jess told me all the way home how much she’d enjoyed the day, and that next time she’d like to catch the same fish so she can ask how they’ve been since she last caught them.

As always it was amazing watching her fish. A chip off the old block? Maybe, maybe not, but time will tell, perhaps James will be the angler. All I know is that those short trips we share are magical memories in the making. 

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Long time no see...

Must apologise firstly for the lack of updates, most, if not all of my fishing write ups have gone towards my new book. It is now complete and should be published in November all going well. I'll keep you all updated on that.

Alongside the writing and becoming a father again I've had a dabble into the world of film making. A few short fishing films have been published and seem to be enjoyed by those who have watched them. Here's a link to my channel, have a look if you get a few spare minutes.

Now the book is done and dusted I can concentrate on updating this blog more often. Next weekend I travel to Wales in search of those Wildies again. I'll make a film, should make for good viewing.

For now, bye.


Monday 11 July 2016

An Update

Crikey, has it really been 6 months since I last blogged? Well here's what I've been up to, oh and sorry for the delay.

Well book number 2 is done and with the publishers, very exciting this one, should be out in November. Child number 2 is out now, James is 6 weeks old and is gorgeous. It's ovbiously harder with 2 of them, but very cool too.

As for the write ups, they've all gone into the book, so you'll have to wait to read those, but I have been trying my hand at a few little films. it all started when I recorded some fishing on my phone, made it into a short film and got some really nice feedback. Since then I've invested in some better kit and have made half a dozen short films now, with each one getting better.

Here's a link to the latest one, hope you like it.


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.