Saturday, October 31, 2009

Full moon

This time I managed to set off an hour earlier. For some reason it didn't help matters much. The afternoon was so gloomy I had the sidelights on as I drove to the river. There were five cars in the car park, and with a long walk to the river I envisioned having a long walk back to the car without fishing. As it turned out I passed four anglers, one landing what looked like a chub from a distance, on my way to the bend. Above him there was plenty of room before the final angler's spot. In fact when I settled in my chosen swim I might as well have had the river to myself as I couldn't see any other anglers.

The walk had taken longer than expected, partly due to struggling over two stiles, stopping to look at a swim closer to the car, and stopping to put my waterproof jacket on when the rain started. Oh, and nearly getting lost and tangled up in a thorny thicket didn't help.

Where I was fishing the gravel was covered in a thick carpet of leaves. Maybe more than six inches deep it was like walking on a thick pile carpet. So many leaves were there that what looked like the edge of the river wasn't. Not only were there leaves sunk to the bottom in the visible margin, there was a false bank of waterlogged leaves. Netting and returning fish would be fun! Because of this I put the rod rests in well back from the water on firm ground, my landing net laid across the quaking mass of leaves, its handle propped up on a bankstick. That long handle might prove useful in keeping my feet dry.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves

My usual approach was put into action. A 15mm Oyster and Mussel boilie going upstream between two fallen trees, dropping just short enough to keep out of trouble, and a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie going below the biggest tree. Both with their attendant PVA mesh bags of mixed pellets. The rain had eased off so, after a sandwich and a brew, I started bagging more pellets. It would be come impossible if the rain became persistent later on.

Well back from the edge

This was the cue for the upstream rod to start banging. A typical chub bite. Or was it. When the fish neared the edge, I was paddling in the leaf soup, it took line. A small barbel maybe? No, it was a chub. A lovely conditioned fish too. I hoped it would make five, but it fell short by just under half a pound. Nice enough for a rubbish photo though. The Olympus compact I use really isn't up to much for flash shots.

A much manipulated chub

Two hours later the same rod danced again. This time the fish fell off as I was trying to get the mesh on the landing net untangled. What it was I'm not sure, I rather suspect it to have been another chub. The action wasn't really hectic. With the walk being so long, and the sole of my right foot beginning to hurt when I walked I came up with a plan. Rather than sit it out where I was and have to tramp all the way back to the car in one go, braving the thorns in the dark, I'd move downstream and spend a few hours in the swim I'd stopped to inspect earlier. By eight o'clock, having survived the thorns with one minor tangling incident, I was there. Or rather a swim lower down. This swim had been occupied when I arrived. Some bait would have gone in already...

Away from the shelter of the high wooded bank I was getting the full force of the blustery wind. The rain had come back too. I put my rods on bite alarms so I could hear them above the wind noise, then erected my ancient umbrella. I've fished this area a few times in the past and struggled to be honest. As far as I can tell it's a bit featureless. I suppose I should spend some time investigating it as it does produce big barbel and chub. But I find it a little bleak and depressing.

I'd been ensconced in the swim for an hour and a half and was dozing pleasantly when the night lit up with flashing orange and a piercing scream. Bugger me. A fish! Only a small barbel of fourish pounds. Welcome nonetheless. Would there be more? I didn't wait around much longer to find out. An hour later I was putting on my waterproofs ready for the tramp back to the car. This was noted by the rain gods who stopped pouring water from the sky as soon as I got to the top of the bank. I could see just one car in the car park as I slogged up the final rise. Luckily it was mine. The last silly sod off the river as usual.

As I rounded the final bend before entering the flatlands on my journey home, just before the spot two roe deer had crossed the road one night, my headlights picked out the unmistakeable shape of a bare human bum. As I passed by I saw that it was attached to the pasty legs of a young lady (looking somewhat 'tired and emotional') who was pulling her pants up at the side of a wheelie bin. There was a tiny snail creeping up my garage door when I returned home. The things you see because of fishing...

A modest snail

Friday, October 30, 2009

Not finished yet

Once again work kept me away from the river until Thursday, and then I still left it a bit late. The clocks changing has really messed my timing up. I fancied a crack at a stretch I haven't fished yet this season, but as I was running late and the walk involved is long I changed my mind and headed for the last length I fished. With just three days of the salmon season left the desperate rod wafters were out in force. There wasn't much space in the car park. Only two barbel anglers were in evidence and one was getting ready to leave. There had been a few barbel caught during the day, and the guy who was leaving even landed one while I was waiting to jump in his swim.

The river was back down, and no nasty leaves were coming down. Looking in the margins they were forming a carpet in the slack margins. Next time the river rises they'll be on the move again making life difficult. The warm weather was continuing, and while it was a balmy 16 degrees the sky was overcast, the wind coming from the opposite side of the river I was sheltered by the high bank.

It wasn't long before a chub rattled the downstream rod. I was guaranteed a good session. The baits had been out an hour, the light gone, when I had a proper bite to the same rod. There was nothing there- except a bit of twig on the hook point. After removing the wood I was attaching a fresh bag of pellets to the hook when the other baitrunner whirred. Everything was solid so I left the rod in the rest while I recast the downstream rod. When I returned to the snagged rod I could do nothing with it and had to pull for a break.

A further hour passed, with another rig snagged and lost, before I connected with a barbel of eight pounds to the downstream rod fishing a 15mm boilie. It wasn't as hectic as I had expected. At eight I moved upstream and had the baits out again fifteen minutes later. It only took fifteen more minutes for the downstream rod, with a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie on the end of the rig, to lurch over. A good scrap ensued and I netted a chunkier fish than the first. It was twenty minutes later when the other rod, with the bigger bait, nodded as the lead bounced down the river bed. A bigger fish was landed after another good fight. This proved to be a fish I had seen earlier in the season. The marks near its tail were recognisable, now healed but unsightly although no longer red raw.

On the mend

Every so often the wind would swing and I could hear it rustling the leaves, many evidently falling to the ground - and no doubt preparing themselves to leap into the river when it rises again. That wasn't the only sound to penetrate the darkness from the far bank. Next there was the cackling of badgers squabbling. This was followed by incoherent shouting from the small house tucked into a fold of the bank at the side of the wood. I was glad to have the river as a barrier. Everything returned to peaceful silence after that interlude of insanity.

The sky cleared somewhat and the moon, heading towards full, shone brightly. The air wasn't damp. I was wishing I was out for the whole night. As my eyelids drooped I really fancied crawling into a sleeping bag in my bivvy and putting the kettle on - maybe frying a slice of bread. Despite the conditions there was no action on the rods for ages. It was twenty past ten when the tip of the downstream rod, which I had cast further down river, twitched repeatedly. I wasn't sure what I had hooked, either a chub or a small barbel. I'll never know as it fell off as it neared the net. Twenty minutes later I had a more positive bite to the same rod. That one fell off rather sooner.

By now I was considering giving up, but I was listening to something on the radio and decided to stop until Today in Parliament came on. With ten minutes to go the downstream rod was away again. This time the fish stayed hooked and proved to be a really baby of just a couple of pounds or so. By the time I was on my way back to the car the sky had clouded over again. This weather pattern is supposed to continue for a few more days yet. I'd better have another barbel session or two while it does.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This and that

As I expected, today was dry and windless. I took the opportunity to inspect the amazing exploding umbrella and managed to put it back in to some sort of working order. Two of the plastic fitments that attach the ribs to the central boss have snapped. Other than that it's perfect. For the time being the rib ends can press against the cover - but they'll wear through it eventually if I leave it that way. Coincidentally I got a call this evening from a friend in the manufacturing side of the tackle trade and he reckons there's a new, over-engineered, brolly about to hit the shops. So I'll be putting my blagging hat on soon!

I've added a link to Bob's Blog today. It's updated a few times a month and if you ignore the never ending bitching carried over from a couple of forums it's a good mix of fishing topics and other stuff. His latest post looks at blogging, which (along with a comment on another forum about magazines) set me thinking. Will weekly angling papers survive once everyone is on-line and understands how to use news feeds?

Given the number of angling forums around news travels pretty quick these days, often appearing on the web before it does in print, and frauds get exposed quickly too. There is also a growing angling blogosphere, and I know for certain that print journalists check blogs out - including this one.

Most blogs and forums now supply a feed. So as soon as more anglers realise that the don't have to check out all the angling blogs and forums manually for updates, but can put them into a newsreader where updates appear by magic, with a link to click to go to the complete post, then things will change.

As I use Blogger to compose my blog I subscribe to blog feeds there. I enter my 'dashboard' (as the control area is called) and see the latest updates to all my favourite feeds. If you visit lots of blogs, or other sites with feeds, then get yourself set up to subscribe or follow.

Modern browsers allow you to subscribe to feeds directly. If you use Firefox and see this logo next to the web page's address (as you will for this page) you can click it and see the feed - then set up a subscription in a reader of your choice, including the Firefox browser. Do this for all the blogs you visit and you can check them all out for updates at one time. Updates are automatically loaded but in Firefox all you'll get is the title of the latest post. If you set up an on-line newsreader, like Google Reader, you'll get more than the title, you'll get the first few lines and maybe a photo. The latest post being at the top. And you can set it to show all feeds at once so even less work is involved!

I also reckon that the big firms that sponsor anglers are missing a trick with blogs. A lot have 'blogs' on their websites, but in essence they are just occasional articles that their sponsored anglers send in. Few of them have feeds, so you have to check manually, and they are not updated too frequently - so you don't bother.

As far as I can tell most big firms really haven't grasped what the web is about yet. It's about changing content. The biggest trick that's being missed is to allow the sponsored anglers to blog directly and to do away with the monthly print articles. It'll happen - eventually - and then the print media will struggle.

Where they need to move is into on-line publishing. Their material can be blogged, and they can use forums to attract more visitors. So how will they make their money given that nobody wants to pay for on-line advertising? Simple. They do what Predator Publications/Carp Talk has done and get into selling DVDs and books. In fact get into producing them to sell via the on-line presence. Even put them on-line on a pay per view basis. is having a stab at the latter after starting out as a subscription channel, and I see it's now looking to sell DVDs. So maybe the future has already arrived?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

All good things

If I had my way the clocks wouldn't go back for the winter they'd go forward another hour. Anyway, I blame the end of British Summer Time for me making a late start for the river. I knew it would be too dark to see the state of the water by the time I got to any stretch, so headed for a length I know well enough to pick a swim on level alone and not have to see the flow patterns as I was expecting the river to be up. It was carrying about three feet. The first cast proved that this was two feet eleven inches of leaves.

My first move had been to walk downstream to check out a swim, then walk back upstream to get a bit of shelter from the wind so I could put my stove on. Having nothing in the cupboards to make sandwiches, and having left it too late to go buy anything, I'd put a pan and a tin of beans in with the stove. Even with six ounce leads on the rigs were dragging round as I polished off the beans. When I'd drunk a cup of flask tea I moved down as I thought the lower swim would be less leaf ridden. It wasn't. If anything it was worse.

Grub up

When I found a spot where one rig would hold I moved the other rod above it. That held too, but it was fishing very close in. A few light spots of rain fell as I tied up some PVA mesh. I moved camp a little to sit below the top of the bank so I could get some shelter from the almost gale force wind that was blowing upstream over my right shoulder. Although the wind was roaring through the trees on the far bank, their tops almost completely bare of leaves now, it was much reduced in force where I was. The rain got heavier so I put my brolly up. The ground now softer than it had been all summer the pole pushed in easily and I pegged out the guy ropes to hold everything in place.

The brolly was obscuring my view of the downstream rod, and the wind noise meant I might not hear the baitrunner. I dug out an alarm and stuffed it under the rod. A few gusts pushed the rights side of the brolly towards me. It was nothing much. I've fished in stronger winds.

As the night was another mild one, the rain was easing and the rigs were now holding station much better even though the rods were arcing over, I began to feel more confident. Then a gust of wind hit from in front. The brolly lifted on the pole then with a loud crack some ribs snapped and it turned inside out. I've been fishing for almost forty years. I have never had a brolly turn inside out like that and I have fished in conditions when I have had to hold on to brollies to stop them taking off, when they have almost wrapped themselves around me. I was not happy.

No comment

Of course as soon as the umbrella exploded the rain eased off. By then I'd had enough. The mortal remains of the brolly were stuffed in my quiver and the rods followed. It had been a short session - less than an hour's fishing time. I don't usually let the conditions beat me. If I'd arrived in daylight I might have found a spot where the leaves could have been avoided for longer. The inverted brolly was just too much for me. I knew that my run of good luck with the barbel would come to an end in ignominious fashion. And it had.

The irony of this umbrella fiasco is that having used the Fibre-lite brolly a few times and being happy with it I had sold my old 50 inch umbrella to an acquaintance who had had his umbrella blow across the river and into a tree last week.

They really don't make umbrellas like they used to. I'll be rummaging out my ancient, and much patched, brolly for next time. It's over fifteen years old now but the frame is still in good nick. The one that preceded it lasted almost ten years if I remember right. I can recall that in the early '90s fishing umbrellas were made in England and the trade catalogues listed spares so they could be repaired - ribs, poles, covers, the works. Not so these days. I've had nowt but trouble with the ones I've bought in recent years. If the covers aren't loose and flappy the locking mechanism fails at crucial moments, the rivets on the 'hinges' fail and now the ribs snap! You'd think someone could make a strong, reliable, not too heavy, fishing umbrella that isn't garish.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fishing as therapy

This week hadn't been going well. Man Flu was bad enough - constant sneezing and soaking handkerchiefs. Then work started going wrong. On Wednesday I was in the mood to pack it all in and become a hermit. When Thursday came round the world was looking rosier, the sneezing had stopped for one thing and the sun was shining. After lunch I headed to my local tackle shop, only to find a note on the door saying 'Closed for lunch. Back at 1.30'. It was 1.35, so I walked to the café to kick them out!

I picked up a bag of feed pellets to chuck into my big pellet bucket and a Fox lure box to organise my small spools of whipping thread - the unusual colours that I use mostly for repairs and tippings. They've been jumbled up in an old ice-cream tub for far too long. On the way home I bought some corn dog for butties, and once they were made I was on my way. With the day unseasonably warm the river was calling me. An evening by the river would help me get my head together and revitlise me.

A rainbow in a box

The journey was somewhat tedious, I should have set off sooner to beat the traffic, and I had no clear idea where I was heading. Would the river be up and coloured, or would it have fined off again after the rain earlier in the week? The car made it's way to the stretch I fished last time out. It's a peaceful stretch, and even if busy there's always somewhere to cast a bait.

This time it wasn't too busy. Two anglers who were packing up said it had been a struggle. The river was not as high as I expected, hardly up at all and dropping. The colour wasn't much either. By all accounts there wasn't much in the way of leaves or debris causing problems. I wasn't brim full of confidence nor was I despondent. Something would come along at some point.

It was a two boilie approach this time. One rod fishing a 15mm Oyster and Mussel - it's been doing well so stick with it, the other a 10mm Crab and Crayfish - got to give them a fair trial. Sitting on the beach they were cast well apart to cover different parts of the bend. I dropped them both a little shorter than usual in an attempt to avoid the snags, hoping fish would still find them.

I was settled down by six, the light was fading early as the sky had clouded over. The first spots of rain pattered on the river, the wind was coming from a southerly direction and the far bank keeping it off me. Gradually the rain increased in intensity and I put on the waterproofs while sat under my brolly. That was when the upstream rod tip jagged down a couple of times and I found myself pulling in a dead weight. It was definitely a fish but it felt very odd. Half way in it seemed to come off, only to come back as I took in slack. It was either very big and lazy, or something was up. When it rolled on the surface I could see it was hooked in a pelvic fin. A bemused looking barbel of some seven pounds.

Ten minutes later, while I was rebaiting, the downstream rod fishing the Crab and Crayfish bait steamed off. Just to make me eat my words about how Ribble chub never do that... This was a very lean fish of four pounds. I wondered if these boilies were chub magnets like Mainline's NRG paste. I tried NRG a few years back, both as a paste bait and a wrap with boilies. It did catch barbel, but chub (and bream) seemed to make a beeline for it and it was abandoned as a barbel bait. Please don't let the Crab and Crayfish be the same.

I'm well into the mode of leaving baits out as long as possible now. I can't see the point in putting too much bait out when the temperatures are falling. It was twenty-five past seven when the 10mm bait was off again as the rain eased. There was no mistaking this fish for a chub. A steady plod gave the game away. Barbel would eat the Crab and Cray. When netted the shoulder width suggested another camera session would be called for. It was. But it didn't go smoothly. No sooner had I got the tripod set up and a test shot taken for framing than the batteries died in the camera. Off the tripod, put in the spare cells, try again. Camera dead. Back off the tripod and battery compartment opened to reveal one put in the wrong way round. Third time lucky. Fish out of the sack, photos taken, fish returned.

Room to fill out some more

The night was warm, I was working up a sweat with the waterproofs over the top of the bunny suit and the swim looked like a whirlwind had hit it. As I rearranged it to a semblance of order the upstream rod slammed over. This fish looked as long as the last one in the net, but on the mat was skinnier and lacking in the shoulder department. Not even nine pounds. With the rain looking like it had gone for good I sat it out until half nine. My hopes were fading though. Not least because the sky had cleared and a light mist was forming. An early finish or move? Move. As I packed up the sky clouded over and the mist lifted.

Half an hour later I was settled in the swim where I had tumbled down the bank earlier in the season. It was less overgrown now with less to trip over. With the river being lower than back then I went for long chucks on both rods. It only took fourteen minutes for the downstream rod to rip off in decisive fashion as yet another chub proved my judgement wrong. A bit of a baby this time. Ten minutes later the Crab and Cray provided me with a small barbel, boosting my confidence in the bait. I thought about making another move, but by eleven thirty without another bite I decided to give it best.

Two good things gained from the session were the barbel on the new bait and the small one from the second swim. I had it down as maybe a better bet for barbel when the river was carrying extra water, but now I think there's a chance of a fish anywhere along the length. Maybe moving regularly is the secret to fishing the uniform appearing stretches. It has worked for me on another length.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An away day

Once again an early start was avoided. I had planned to be up and out by eight at the latest, but it was nearly nine thirty before I hit the road to Stoneleigh for the Tackle and Guns trade show. After many years of driving to Stoneleigh I have finally found a straightforward route. The most tedious bit was the M6 which was restricted to a 50 limit in three or four sections of road works that weren't being worked.

I'd only just arrived when I got tapped on the shoulder by John Watson and then I bumped into my friends from my local tackle shop. And so it went on for the usual couple of hours - walking round the stands in circles, looking at new products, chatting to people about tackle and fishing - and annoying the Scousers on the Harrison stand! It's always a good day to catch up with folks, and this year it seemed to be busy.

While I was noseying around the Korum/Sonubaits/Preston Innovations stand I spied a lot of new gear from Korum. Bigger rucksacks and Ruckbag, some daftly large rod holdalls, some nice looking bits-bags and a wheelbarrow. There might have been more. Chris Ponsford gave me a couple of bags of Sonubaits Crab and Crayfish shelflife boilies - which don't smell of much - but which he reckons catch plenty of barbel. I thought I'd give them ago on my way home. The gear was in the back of the car after all.

I like freebies. But will the fish?

The good news from the show is that Owner hooks will be available again very soon. The bad news is that they have gone up in price. I might also have something new to stock, but that's to be decided by price at a later date.

With everything looked at twice it was back to the car, drink some tea and set off across country to wet a line in a river I haven't fished since March. On paper the road I'd chosen looked like it would be quick. When I took it it turned out to be a mass of roundabouts, speed limits and Sunday drivers. As I passed Magnas and Parvas in the rolling countryside, the trees in their full autumn glory, I was struck by how built up the north west is. How close together the towns are and how the villages sprawl along the A roads. There is countryside, but it is not so expansive.

The river was deserted. I walked down the bank and the popular swims were not trampled. Then again with the lack of rain they wouldn't be as badly as affected in any case. Things had changed, the Rat Hole was closed in more by the willows, the bank altered too. I drove on downstream. Here two anglers were roving with float tackle and I spent another half hour or so walking the banks. The river was low and clear, gravel beds clearly visible but not much weed to be seen. The path through the undergrowth took different turns to last year at this time. Again swims looked under fished. Some were grown over. As I retraced my steps the angler who had been in the only swim I fancied under the conditions had gone. With the swim being less than fifty yards from the car, and my legs being tired that was where I'd fish.

After dropping my gear at the water's edge I flicked away the dog turds from the grass above with a bankstick. I had no desire to put a foot, or a hand, in them in the dark. I took my time setting up. With the water so clear I didn't hold out much hope until nightfall. My rigs were in disarray. One hook was gone, it having snagged up when I wound in last time out. This one was rigged to fish a 15mm boilie. The other rig I knew had a hook which had been resharpened. With a chance of a really big fish to be had from this river I'm less slapdash with my set ups. A fresh hooklink was tied up to take one of my newly acquired 10mm boilies. Before sorting the rods out I put some bait in. Having forgotten my bait droppers, and faced with a fair flow and depth, I picked a handful of stones from the field behind me and tied up some PVA stocking - dropping a stone in with the pellet mix. Half a dozen of the weighted bags were thrown in downstream just out from the edge, then two handfuls of pellets scattered like corn over the top.

The white blob at the right is the stone

Then the baits were cast out. The small boilie went over the feed, the larger one to an overhanging tree on the far bank. It actually went in the tree but I pulled it free... The cast ended up just the right side of some debris trailing from the branches, so I was happy enough. Time to polish off the sandwiches.

There were a few leaves coming down with the flow and every so often the line on the upstream rod would look to have shifted. With darkness near I decided to have a recast in readiness. I picked the rod up and found it snagged. I pulled and the trailing debris below the tree moved. I pulled again and it all felt spongy. The debris was attached to some line that had been caught in the tree and snapped off. It was probably mono by the feel of things so I'd have no problem either snapping it or dragging it clear with my braid. Not so. I pulled hard and something parted with a crack like a whip. Braid doesn't usually do this. My line had parted and shot towards me, some of the slack wrapping itself round both my rod and the line between the rings. I tried to untangle it but ended up reaching for the scissors. The floating debris had returned to it's station.

I'd got as far in the retackling process as clipping on the lead when the baitrunner came alive on the nearside rod. The culprit was a chub of ten or twelve ounces. Fin perfect and a confidence booster for the new bait. Why don't Ribble chub always take off like that? I dropped the far bank bait short of the tree on the recast then put the near side rod out again.

It wasn't long before the big bait was taken. The bite was one of those that slams the tip down and causes the rod to rattle in the rest as it almost bounces right out of it. Typical chub bite. And so it proved. A bigger fish, but far from a monster.

A nicely conditioned chub

It was well dark by now but the fields were still being worked. Crops being sprayed and soil being rolled with heavy harrows clanking in the distance. Another of those mild nights that was a pleasure to be out in. But not one which filled me with barbel confidence. The next bite was another rip-roarer to the small bait that turned out to be yet another chub. A five-pound-long fish that I weighed at four and a half.

If I had been closer to home I'd have moved, but I was feeling tired for some reason and getting home at two a.m. didn't appeal. As Watto and I agreed earlier in the day, we fish for our own enjoyment not to prove a point. Rather than move I called it a day shortly after nine. I'll be back again. Either for barbel when the river's carrying extra water, or later on when I'll have my chub gear with me - and maybe a float rod for the grayling.

The drive home was livened up by an alder fly that had found its way into the car and was crawling over the side window in a confused manner. Until it took to the wing. Then it chose to land on my head and crawl down my neck. I can't advise swatting at insects while doing 70 in heavy traffic.

Friday, October 16, 2009


It never cease to amaze me how easy it is to upset people on the internet. Delicate flowers get in a tizzy now and then over what I consider to be throwaway lines. Nowt so queer as folk! Spilt milk and all that. So if you ever take offence at something I say here or elsewhere I'll let Joe E. Brown's closing words make my excuses...

If you don't know the film click here

With work going almost exactly to plan I went fishing, even though I didn't make my escape until it was nearly dark. Seeing three vehicles in the car park I expected the bend to be packed out so I'd have an ideal opportunity to give that swim I keep meaning to try a bash as it's always been free. As I approached it I saw the dim green glow of two isotopes and a red head torch in the swim. Blooming typical!

The day had been warm and with the cloud cover it was staying that way. No fleece was required under the bunny suit and no woolly hat. For some reason I can't stand wearing a baseball cap after dark, it seems to restrict my vision, so my thinning hair was exposed to the night. As it turned out the swim I fished last time out was free, but had been fished during the day. It wasn't where I wanted to fish but I was still confident as conditions were perfect - which was why I'd set out in the gloaming.

Carrying as small pellet bucket a long way can cut into your hand if it has a thin wire handle. Larger buckets usually come fitted with grips, but the smaller ones do not. If yours doesn't then the answer is simple. Pop one end of the wire out (you might need a lever of some sort), slide a length of hosepipe over it, then pop the wire back in.

Deluxe bucket modification

Just after I'd set up there were some peculiar warbling, throaty trilling noises from the wood, which then progressed behind me and upstream fading away into the distance. Definitely a bird of some sort, but what I have not a clue. Most peculiar.

The first bite was a long time coming. I'd just wound in the upstream boilie rod to find a foulhooked eel attached (how long it had been there is anyone's guess) when the pellet rod was away. The fish felt ponderous. It got slightly upstream of me, and at the point I reached to slacken the drag a notch it fell off. Checking the hook point I found it was turned over ever so slightly. A touch with the file and out went a fresh pellet followed by a new boilie. Twenty minutes later the boilie was away and a seven pounder landed. The lost fish had felt a bit bigger. There was bound to be more action to come.

The sky stayed cloudy, the wind minimal, the air toasty. It was ideal but the barbel thought otherwise. After those two bites in short order it went quiet again. A small chub took a pellet, another eel hooked itself behind its head and failed to make its presence known. I was glad I'd left the luncheon meat behind or the eels would certainly have been on it. Around eleven a light mist rose up across the fields and the air began to cool slightly. By midnight I was on my way to the car. Baffled, but not despondent. Text book conditions don't always provide textbook results.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Upper Trent Pollution

Following the recent pollution of the upper Trent after an earlier pollution resulted in a paltry fine a petition has been set up calling for stiffer penalties for polluters.

Please add your name. And pass the link below on to anyone you can think of.

Back to work

I ordered some glue over a week ago, special glue, but despite the bill arriving the glue did not. No glue meant no handles could be fitted. That's why I fished a bit lot last week. Yesterday I phoned to see where the glue had go to and was told dismissively that it had been posted and there was nothing they could do about it. Thanks. Anyway, it turned up today (with last week's postmark). Marvellous.

This means I can now salvage the rod butt below and it's partner for their owner by fitting cork and a Fuji DPS reel seat. What possessed Daiwa's designers to use such horrible fittings on expensive carp rods? Why would they put them on any rods? The true horror of the shiny gold and black isn't conveyed by the photo.


The arrival of the glue means I can start work on some rods that have been sitting around waiting for cork handles. I have deliveries due most days this week too. Then there's the Tackle and Guns trade show on Sunday. How will I manage to squeeze any fishing in?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't make plans, take opportunities

It was looking like I'd be tied up pretty much all of the coming week, and there were night time frosts forecast. Better hit the river then. Another gut feeling saw the car carry on past the track it had been drawn down the afternoon before. The stretch looked deserted and the wind, chilly as it was, from a direction that wouldn't have made the fishing uncomfortable. The lure of a bank that wasn't vertical and slippy was too much. I got my timing a bit wrong though. It was getting dark as I put the rucksack on my back and made the short walk to the swim.

Out went a boilie, well upstream, then a pellet downstream. I sat down to check the position of my chair would allow me to grab either rod easily when I had to leap up and grab the downstream rod! A scamp was unhooked at the water's edge. Before I could rebait I was playing a fish on the upstream rod. A slightly larger scamp. The gear was arranged to my satisfaction before both rods were recast.

And so it progressed for most of the session. Not quite so hectic, but bites at regular intervals. The third and fourth bites resulted in dropped fish. The fourth one right at the net, which never happens to me. I didn't change the hooks or resharpen them, although they were checked, and everything else hooked stayed hooked. Hook pulls just happen. I no longer fret about them. Write them off and move on.

At quarter past nine a barbel bite resulted in a small but immaculate chub. At eleven the same rod, fishing the pellet, slammed down and bounced in the rest, then slammed down again. The fish pulled a bit at first then gave up until it was under the rod end. I couldn't work out what was going on until a large pair of white lips revealed themselves over the landing net. Peering down in the faltering light from my Petzl I saw a chub that might just need weighing. After confirming the weight I rested it in the net while I set up the tripod. Normally I wouldn't bother with a self-take, but large (to me) immaculate chub are like large immaculate (I refuse to say 'pristine') roach. Scarce. These two species always seem to lose scales as they age. This chub was near as dammit scale perfect. As ever I failed to capture this with the camera.

Almost mint

The sky was clear, the stars and aeroplane lights bright, there was no mist on the water despite the cool air and the haze up the valley. It was a pleasure to stop until midnight. I'd caught a few barbel, seven in fact- including the Kinkster which had visited my net for the sixth time this season, I think. It had been fun. I'd pushed my barbel count for the season to an all time high (which isn't saying much). But the highlight had been the chub. One big fish or a lot of middling fish? I'll take the loner every time. Then again, I do like getting the rods bent.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In two minds

Out and about on Saturday morning I spotted some surface feeding chub on a little river. I picked up a pint of maggots with the intention of having a dabble for them, the day being warm and dry. The attraction soon wore off, and even though I very nearly put the quiver tip rod in the sling and the maggots in the rucksack the lure of barbel was too much to resist.

Fancying a change of scenery I thought I'd head for a stretch I've yet to fish. This meant driving past a length that I have fished before. When I got close to it the car seemed to turn down the track of its own accord. This is a bleak stretch at the best of times. Once tucked down the bank all there is to stare at is the opposite bank and the sky. Occasional cows, dog walkers and anglers break the skyline, but that's about it. There's a lack of interesting looking swims too. But it's a challenge.


After parking up I walked downstream where there were five anglers enjoying mixed success. Mostly with smallish fish on the float and some better roach on the tip. I was beginning to wish I'd put those maggots in the bag. Given the choice of ten pounds of bits or one ten pound barbel there was only one winner. The swim I fancied was vacant, but with the other anglers around I didn't want to drop in between them. I turned round and headed back upstream.

While it was warm there was a chilling wind so the bunny suit was welcome. Walking to the upstream limit got me warmed up though. Nowhere appealed. Well, nowhere I could see that was fishable. Heading back to the car to wrestle with my recalcitrant flask top and pour a brew a flock of goldfinches flew ahead of me along the hedge line. I was in two minds as to jumping in the car and setting off further upstream. That niggle was there, keeping me where I was. Doing my Sherpa impression I clambered over the fence and braved two large tups in the field. I saw that one angler had gone and another was packing up leaving me plenty of space.

The swim I had in mind had slack water below it so one bait would go to its crease and the other I'd chance out in the main flow. The level was as low as you could expect and the colour well dropped out, but there were leaves coming down on the surface. Once set up on level and firm ground, rather than a mud-slimed surface that surrounded me, the baits were cast out. It soon became apparent that the leaves were forming a lane near the bank as they came round the sweeping bend - and my upstream line was in it. This didn't prove too much of a problem in practice. Leaves were collecting and shifting the lead but it would settle on the gravel and hold.

The upstream wind was cool enough for me to put the fleece mittens on. A few spots of rain threatened that the brolly would be needed, but the wind blew them over. Right on dark as I was tidying up ready to move the uptream rod tip jagged down twice and the baitrunner spun. I really wasn't expecting that! Hooking a fish close in in deepish water is always fun. Even so I soon had the fish sliding over the net. A real minter. Golden scaled, with a full dorsal spine and a full belly. With the river so clear I was pleased to catch anything from this reputedly difficult length.


I carried the fish in the sling to the next peg where I could get close to the water, slipping and sliding on the deposited silt-mud and tripping over a tussock of grass, managing to avoid joining the fish in the river. The boilie went back out while I finished tidying the gear then I set off upstream. By the time I reached my new swim the wind had died away to nothing and I was sweating cobs.

The surface in this pitch was sheltered from the dreaded leaves. Both baits would hold out without problems. Small fish were topping regularly on the calm water. Bigger fish were crashing out too. It was warm enough to do without the mittens. The only action though was the upstream rod tip pulling right over and staying there. The baitrunner didn't complain. The rig was snagged solid. I could feel the lead bumping up and down when I pulled on the line. The hook must have been stuck in something. When I pulled for the break the hook was indeed gone. A bit of a mystery.

Ten o'clock seemed like a good time to leave. Then half past. I couldn't be bothered to pack up. It was nice to be there with no mist on the water for a change. At eleven I eventually wound the rods in and left.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

No imagination

Although I really fancied a change from chasing barbel on the river I couldn't think of anything else to do. The prospect of rising before the sun to go piking filled me with dread, although I do like the idea of sitting in one swim all day making brews and frying bacon. So it was that after a swift lunch, I slapped some corned beef in two buttered rolls and set off to spend a sunny afternoon by the river. Originally I had thought of returning to last night's stretch but something was drawing me to Buzzard Bend.

A blurry buzzard over the bend

The car park was almost full. A game angler thrashing the water to a foam gave me hope that there might be more of his kind out and about making the most of the extra water before the salmon season ends. And so it was. Two others were wafting rods for spotty things, and two more were float fishing with success. The other angler I passed was into a barbel, so my hopes rose. They rose further when, after leaving my gear by a swim I have had my eye on for a while, I walked upstream to find a good swim free. I gave it a good look and decided that it was eminently fishable. The flow was manageable, the river was still nicely coloured though obviously lower than yesterday. Only the leaves on the surface might cause problems.

I returned with my tackle and commenced to setting up. Although I had put half a dozen big leads in the bag this time I cast out with a three ounce square pear on the upstream boilie rod, and a four ounce planing lead on the downstream pellet rod. A big bag of mixed pellets was applied to each hook and the rigs cast well out to the deeper run. They both held so I left them where they were and began tying up fresh rigs and mesh bags.

With the sky a vivid blue the sun had warmed the day more than the thermometer suggested and I had worked up a sweat walking up river wearing my bunny suit. I'd be glad of it later though. There were midges forming clouds over the remains of the balsam and the drying skeletons of hogweed. I tried to take some arty photos of the backlit flora.



...contre jour.

With half an hour or so of good light left, and 'Count Arthur Strong' about to commence on the wireless I wound each rod in in turn to rebait and recast to avoid having to listen to him. The boilie rod first, then the pellet rod, tensioning the tips against the leads. I sat down and my eye was drawn to the upstream rod falling arrow straight. The line was hanging limp. As I reached for the handle the tip twitched. I took up the slack and a steady pull caused the line to pluck off something, and again. Then it went briefly solid before another pluck and the snag moved off.

The fish pulled well in the flow but didn't look anything special when it rolled on the surface, it's deep flank revealing its true size when it rolled into the net and stared up at me accusingly. I threw the weighsling into the net as I rested the fish while mat and scales were sorted out. After the weighing ceremony, when the needle spun on past the vertical, the fish was sacked. While affixing the bulb release bracket to the camera I heard the zzzzzzzziiipppp of a baitrunner. This barbel felt much smaller, in fact it didn't feel much like a barbel at all. Hardly surprising as it was a chub. With the chub released I took the sack from the water, took some self-takes then took the barbel upstream for release. For a moment she lay still, but upright, before waddling slowly out into the flow, diving deep and out of sight.

Nothing arty farty tried here!

Back in my swim I cast back out and sorted out the carnage of camera box and bait tubs, towel and landing net. Time for a brew. Sitting drinking it I saw two kingfishers flying downstream calling. The leading bird had a small silvery fish in it's beak. They both landed in a tangle of fallen branches and brambles where they argued for a while before flying off.

With darkness setting in the stars appeared, but no moon and no mist over the water. These came later. The mist wasn't too thick. I was still confident. A sharp chub bite to the pellet wasn't connected with. It was growing chilly. I'd caught my biggest barbel of the season, my second biggest off the river. I could leave happy. At nine o'clock I tidied the rucksack then went to wring out the sling. The Petzl light sparkled on the mat. The sling was crispy. Definitely a good time to leave. In the car the thermometer read 5.5. Damn these bright sunny, almost windless, days!

Brock was on the track again and ran ahead of me to the lane. Still lacking imagination or inspiration for a new challenge I considered carrying on barbelling to see how many I could clock up by the end of the season. It was a thought, but one probably doomed to disappoint. Nonetheless I expect I'll have the barbel rods in action again before too long. After all, they are set up, the bait is sorted, and it doesn't require an early start.

Don't play misty for me

The day had turned sunny and warm after the first, light, frost of autumn. So I gave the grass, and the mushrooms, what I hope will be the final mowing of the year.

The season of mists and mellow mushroomness

There had been enough rain earlier in the week to bring the river up and put some proper colour in it. After prevaricating I set off after tea, managing to walk a way upstream looking for likely slacks and creases before the light failed. In the distance a thread of blue-grey smoke rose vertically in front of the distant woods. The local aboriginals were down for a night fishing session...

I'd spotted a couple of nice looking spots but was concerned that my 3oz leads might not be up to the flow - especially if there was any amount of weed coming down. Having forgotten my big leads this might prove to be a very short session. I opted to start out near the car park.

As the level was dropping the swims were covered in slimy silt, so I positioned my chair and bag well up the steep bank. Should I hook a fish I would chance the descent into mud. While I was tackling up and setting my stall out a robin kept me company, flitting about in the few remaining balsam stalks and the willow to my right. Every now and then it would burst into song. When the light had faded the robin was silent. Bats came out though, and barn owl began to quarter the flat field on the other side of the river.

The sky was clearing and as it did so the mist began to form over the water. The taps I was getting to the pellet rod dried up. Although this caused my hopes to dwindle, the leads were holding well and when wound in there was very little weed collected round them. There'd be a chance if the mist would clear.

As the moon broke through the mist did clear. Only briefly. When it rose again it was in earnest. The river channel was filled and the mist rose higher than the fields. With everything dewy I admitted defeat after three and a half hours. If this weather pattern holds then I think the misty river will be a feature every night. Time for a change.

On the way home I contemplated my next move as I watched the air temperature reading drop below 5, but couldn't think of one that appealed. Winding my way across the flatlands I was surprised to see a pair of roe deer bound across the road and away as I've never encountered them in the area before. There must be all sorts of wildlife around us that we aren't aware of.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

On the road again

With a heavy heart I headed for the garage to pick up my car. I had that feeling that reminded me of being summoned for a reprimand at school, knowing punishment was coming but not what form it would take. I entered the office and asked if the car was sorted. It was. I got my wallet out. "Twenty three pounds fifty, please." Was I dreaming? The plastic was put away and I fumbled through the notes. "I'll see if I've got the cash." "Twenty quid for cash." "I've got the cash!" I drove home with a spring in my step (if that's possible), a plan already hatching.

A perfect autumnal day wouldn't be completely wasted. It had started chilly then warmed, but with a suggestion of coolness, as the sun rose higher in the windless sky. A curry was thrown in the microwave and the tackle sorted out. I'd respooled with fresh 30lb Power Pro over the weekend because the level was getting low on the spools. More leads had been moulded and a few were put in the lead bag. The PVA tub had been topped up. I was ready to rock.

The drive across the flatlands was done with the low sun behind me, its warm rays giving the trees an even more golden hue. Fields were ploughed and harrowed, in some next year's crops were already sprouting. It's the ever changing nature of the British countryside and it's weather that's so special. We moan about the rain, or the sun, or the cold, but that's what makes the glorious days even more memorable. I'd been reading about Chris and Sue Harris decamping to Belize to live their dream on a Caribbean beach and wondered why anyone would want to move there when they'd lived in rural Norfolk. Nowt so queer as folk. Especially folk who like making money.

A big old moon was low on the horizon as I made my way to the bend. Passing the swim I ended the session in last time out I noted that it was miles away from the feature I thought I'd been fishing to! That's the trouble with moving after dark on stretches you don't know well. This was about half way to my intended swim, I'd just make it in time to rig up fresh baits and cast out before dark. With the heat gone from the now set sun the bunny suit was most welcome.

The river was up a midge's, and slightly tea-stained. Two big bags of pellets were used and the baits would be left for at least an hour before recasting. Right on cue the upstream rod commenced nodding. A good scrap ensued and an seven and a half pounder was returned. While I was rebaiting the single crab Pellet-O I heard a couple of clicks from the downstream Baitrunner. Looking round I saw the rod tip nodding. Two more clicks and I picked the rod up to lean into the fish. Except I leant into nothing. No fish. No rig. Cut off straight away. I knew there was something snaggy in that part of the swim but thought I had cast away from it. The upstream rod was cast out and I retackled.

The moon yesterday

Another hour passed. The moon had shrunk as it rose higher and it was beginning to shine through the trees lighting up patches of leaves as it did so. I was just thinking that the mist on the water would put paid to any more action when the upstream rod pulled down and the rod butt shifted on the sand. Another lively fight from a slightly smaller barbel. While rebaiting I noticed the hook had opened slightly. I swapped the rig for on that would take a five pellet snake.

There was an ever so light breeze swirling the mist which was growing thicker and lowering my confidence. The moon was high above the trees now and casting stark shadows. Then the upstream rod bounced again. This third fish was smaller still, not by much and still able to give a good account of itself in the deep pool.

I think the mist was affecting the camera's focusing

The downstream rod was only indicating chub bites. One time the boilie came back chomped in half. My toes started to cool down. At half past ten I packed the gear away and walked up the bank into the field, hung with a low mist glowing in the moonlight. In the second field there was no mist and the river there had none either. I don't know why but it was interesting for future visits. Back in the car it was obvious why the tootsies were cold. The thermometer was reading a mere 6.5. Time to put my fishing thermometer in the rucksack - so I can depress myself watching the temperature falling after dark!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fame at last

Leafing through the Tackle and Guns trade magazine that arrived today I noticed Shimano must have taken me on as a consultant by telepathy!

I don't know where they get the idea these small Baitrunners are good for deadbaiting though.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Change of plan...

For whatever reason I couldn't get motivated to risk a drive to the river today. Probably because I really want to fish somewhere else, for something other than barbel. Instead I've been packing rods ready to despatch tomorrow - after I've visited the garage...

My idle hours have been spent rereading my 1979 edition of Jack Hilton's Quest for Carp which, covering the years to 1970 and like Casting at the Sun, recounts earlier days of carp fishing when there were plenty of problems to solve - not least what tackle was best. Carp anglers, all big fish anglers in fact, have it easy these days.

A truly iconic cover photo of Bill Quinlan

Big fish angling was much more of an adventure back in the early days. Not only was it unknown what might lurk in lightly fished, secluded pools, but tackle had to be made to do the job. One can appreciate that catching a handful of what would be considered mediocre fish today was a real achievement, and that the process was as much a part of it as the catching. No twin skinned bivvies for Hilton and co. Just an umbrella, a groundsheet and some polythene sheeting. And can you imagine today's carp anglers suffering in a mail bag instead of a fleece lined duvet sleeping bag? They must have been exciting times. I wonder how many of today's carp anglers will have read Quest for Carp?

By the time I came to big fish angling it had almost all been sorted out. There were numerous glass fibre specialist blanks available and Send Marketing Brollycamps were to be aspired to as were Optonic bite alarms - and out of the price range of an impoverished student. Today tackle is almost ridiculously cheap, and rarely nasty.

The closest I've been to being involved in something like the pioneering days of the post-Walker era was the 'big lure revolution' of the 1990s. Only looking back do I see that now. I wonder if the likes of Hilton realised how much they were changing things at the time they were freelining potatoes?

Checking the webstats for this blog to see where you lot find it I saw that Ted Carter's have started a fishing blog. If you are local to the Preston area or interested in fishing tackle developments it might be worth keeping an eye on.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Law of Sod

I'd been a good little boy all week, working instead of fishing, which meant that the weekend and most of next week could be spent wetting a line. I had taken a detour on my way back from Liverpool to have a look at a local commercial fishery that has recently opened - out of curiosity rather than a desire to fish the place - and was a mere five miles from home when the car stalled as I turned a corner over a bridge. I managed to keep the engine running as I waited at the level crossing then, knowing there was a junction ahead and cars behind me, I pulled over. The engine died again. I put the hazards on and had a think. I fired the car up after a few minutes and drove home without any more trouble.

This has happened before and the car is likely to stall, or run like a sack of spuds, at any time. It cost something over £200 to sort out last time. So I have that to look forward to next week, and my plans to have an away day this weekend have been scuppered. With the wind howling in from the north west and having brought rain I must admit I'm not too bothered about being stuck indoors, but I can't go a whole week without fishing, so I'll take a chance somewhere close to home tomorrow.

In the meantime here's an embarrassing photo of me with my first ever barbel, caught (in 1991 during my Grizzly Adams years) on a lump of luncheon meat, touch legered on the River Dane...

Not even five pounds

...and one of my second caught on a hair rigged boilie from the Ribble 13 years later...

Over seven

...and my first double, from the Trent, six months after that.

Nearly eleven and a half

I'm lucky to have a photo of that one. The camera batteries died after the shot was taken. It was a cool January night but the Trent fished well while the Ribble had been a struggle. Looking at my results for January through to the end of the season in 2005 I made 13 trips to the Ribble for one four pound barbel, while four sessions on the Trent produced eleven - three over nine pounds. I put this down to the Trent, certainly in the lower reaches, being less prone to rapid temperature (and level) fluctuations in the winter giving the barbel a better chance to acclimatise and settle down to feed.