Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 in a single post

Doesn't time fly...

and in't it easy to let a blog slip... mind you, its not like I've been too busy fishing to write about it. In fact I've fished less this year then practically any other year this century, about half a dozen times if my reckoning is right. But as the year draws to a close it seems like I should document my adventures, if for no other reason than to explain the gap in the record when I look back at my tribulations in years to come.

So the year started badly... My dads cancer had returned, this time with no prospect of treatment, so fishing took a back seat as we ferried back and forth across the Midlands at weekends to see him as much as possible. His season drew to a sudden close on March 18th. ... 69 is no age these days, and though the speed of his demise took us by somewhat by surprise, He was at least very well cared for by the St Michaels hospice, and after all, once your time is definitely up there is little to be gained by hanging around.

He was never an angler, my dad, He didn't even like the smell of fish...though he did his best to support my fishy interests during my formative years. I recall a trip in the caravan to somewhere in North Wales when I was about 11, dad had taken the two “rods” that I played with in the garden to Hattons tackle shop in Hereford to get some replacement eyes whipped on, and that weekend, despite the limitations of the centrepin reel (yes even though it was 1986 I started with a 'pin) the remnants of his childhood knowledge showed me how a well timed strike would turn a nodding rod tip into a silvery wriggling gudgeon... From that point on I was entirely self taught, but logistically supported... There were the trips to “The Southern Leisure Centre” near Chichester with a memorable eel from the gravel pits qualifying as my first “Proper” fish and a pouting caught from Bognor pier my first sea capture. There ware lifts and ticket money to fish the pool at “the Royal Oak” for its stunted micro carp and even the day that we bobbed around on the vast expanse of Llangorse lake failing to catch a thing. I don't actually ever remember him complaining about doing any of this for us... though he must have done... he was nicknamed “whinger”.... Anyway dad, if somehow you are reading this thanks... for everything.

31 March 2012 – River Dore

So as March became April, the day after the funeral, Marie and I, along with my brother, sister in law and niece took ourselves off for a couple of nights camping in Herefordshire. The site is nestled in the golden valley, just outside Peterchurch and is bordered by the tiny river Dore. Its such a small stream that last year it dried up entirely along this stretch, so I wasn't too optimistic, but I had a small box of flies and a much too heavy #7 outfit with me, & anyway just having a go would be enough.

The river here is actually one of the Wye and Usk passport waters, the upper section alongside the site is straightened canalised, swift and shallow, the lower part retains its natural meandering form, generally shallow riffles punctuated by the odd deeper pool that might put 2ft of water over a fishes head. I stalked and watched the water several times during the first day to get a feel for what might be present. There was a touch of colour in the water, enough to conceal the depths of the pools, but the riffles were clear enough. In total I spotted about 8 fish, none rising & every one of them spooked, regardless of how carefully I approached the water. They were only small wild trout, but at least we had a quarry & it was clear that they were going to be hard to catch.

The River Dore here is too small a stream to even need a cast, a little flick or even just a nymph dabbled beneath the rod top could cover the handful of spots in which the trout were likely to reside. My Brother and I leapfrogged our way along the water, one rod could cover it in an hour or so, so we were tending to linger more than I usually would when fly fishing. Eventually I got a take on the GRHE nymph dead drifted along some slightly deeper and quicker water on the outside of a bend. The little brown trout was brought safely to hand before being released. My brother remained fishless... which makes a nice change as he has had a habit of outfishing me in recent years. Of course, with 4 year old Frankie in tow, he will claim his odds were diminished, I'm not entirely sure what she made of of her dad & uncles fluff flinging attempts... though it has to be said, the River Dore is not exactly a beginners water in any respect, other than you wouldnt come to any harm if you fell in.

June 16th 2012

My fishing club had taken on a new stretch of river this season, and a couple of days had been spent during the close season helping to get it fishable. On opening day I took the opportunity to steal a few hours and find out if this new field was living up to expectations. The river was chocolate brown, high but dropping. John was settled in and had had decent barbel and a very big chub as the season kicked off, In the end I spent most of the time having a natter, with him, Then the pair of us spent an hour or so with the fishfinder to get a good feel for the bottom contours.

 I did fish for a couple of hours as the sun set. The mosquitoes enjoyed the meal that I had laid on for them, but the chub and barbel seemed singularly unimpressed with the luncheon meat offering that I presented, biteless but bitten I returned home before it got properly dark. Weather, conditions and work never really aligned in a way that led me to the bank throughout June, and as the end of July approached I had still not really been out for a proper fishing session. Even the odd evening that I really had no good excuse to not be out passed without me taking the opportunity. Looking back on it now it seems inexplicable, that the urge to fish which can sometimes manifest as a virtual obsession can just disappear. I think it was the overdue recognition that June and July had passed me by and the summer would soon be over that bumped me out of my lackadasical mindset and I set out for my first proper session of the season.

28th July – River Trent

I dont know if it was force of habit, checking out a hunch or what, but I actually drove down to The Pads to begin with. The hay had already been cut, as if I needed reminding of how many weeks of potential fishy joy I had already foregone, but the river was still stubbornly well above its normal summer level. Gazing out over the undulating surface, and knowing that I was blind to what the lillies and vegetation underneath were like this year, it seemed obvious I was in the wrong place. Trundling back up the track it wasn't long before I was spinning the combination into the padlock of the ferry field and surprised to find that I had the choice of swims. I had arrived late, and I had barely enough time to get a bit of bait out, rods up, rigged and baited and the bivvy sorted before the fading light, and inevitable mosquito onslaught saw me settled down for the evening.

Checking the baits after half an hour, then again at about midnight showed that despite the flow debris wasn't going to mask the bait, though the fine blanketweed strung out like washing on the line played havoc by gathering on the tip ring into an inpenetrable mass that would then need to be picked apart a little at a time before I could recast. Apart from this it was a pleasant evening, “nice to be back on the bank” I thought to myself as I caught the occasional glimpse of stars through the nightime cloud. “now if a decent fish were to show up that would really be grand”...

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee........ that sound from the alarms really only means one thing, I amaze myself with how quickly I can get out of a bivvy in response to it... even at 5.45 in the morning. Lifting the rod and slowing the baitrunner in one action, freespool was disengaged and the fish was on. Not rushing anything I played it gently on a lightish clutch, but even so it decided that it wanted to charge around and misbehave once close to the bank & on a short line... I'd already got a glimpse of the capture though and I was delighted, not a specimen by any traditional account...but...

The 2010 & 2011 seasons were dominated by my attempts to snare a carp from the river, a task in which I had utterly failed, I guess at least 300 hours were devoted to this enterprise without so much as a carpy run... so there I was, on my first carping session of this season, and not even up to double figures on the hours totaliser and there, in the net, is the thing I have worked so hard for. John came and joined me for a cuppa before I packed up, it was good to see him, and he was happy that the clubs new stretch had finally produced a carp, Though his tongue in cheek comment as I showed him the pictorial evidence rather summed it up. “I didn't know they still made them in that size”... a whole 6lb 8oz... brill

18th & 19 August - River Trent

for my next session I moved downriver, joining John on a drizzly friday afternoon I spent most of the afternoon tapping away at finishing off a book chapter I had been working on. The afternoon gave way to a warm and muggy evening, and fancying my chances of picking up a decent eel. I put a bunch of maggots onto a size 12 connected to a quicksilver trace and dropped it just beyond a dropoff to the right hand margin. It was only a few minutes before a steady run resulted in a decent eel of 2lb 4oz.

this was followed half an hour later by another, this time a few ozs short of the 2lb mark before the 3rd eel, this time about 1 lb twisted itself around the rig to the extent that scissors were needed to extricate it. Content with my slimy haul I switched back to bolt rigged boilies but the alarms were to remain silent until morning, when a bream turned up at 6am to make sure that I could enjoy the dawn with a hot brew...

Next day was brighter, I spent a couple of hours in the morning on peg improvements, sawing back some overhanging branches which had been troublesome in the dark, Spent an hour or two with a maggot feeder but only managed a single perch.
Johns wife Luce joined us for a Barbie in the evening, great company & great grub watching the dragonflies hunting mozzies in the evening sunshine. Decent fish however remained elusive, and well after dark I turned in for the night pessimistic that anything much was likely to happen...

at about 3am the rod fished out towards a mid-river went howling off, and I was into a slow moving, but seemingly reasonable fish. My sleepy head resulted in me plunging one trainer clad foot into the muddy depths as i moved onto the old jetty that would more easily facilitate landing the fish, and from this vantage point the light from my headtorch confirmed that the adversary at the end of the line was my second carp of the season. Frustratingly, this fish wallowed around on a short line, stubbornly refusing to let me get its head up, and making some scary dives towards the rocks which were 8ft below the surface. However eventually it succumbed to the landing net. This one at least managed double figures at 10lb 11oz

That was it for the night, and the next morning. I scraped together a makeshift breakfast for John (which was a poor shadow of the previous evenings grub) and at about 11 am we went our seperate ways, In my case, a   quick nip home to drop the heavy gear off and pick up a fly rod for a quick roam of the Erewash

19 July PM River Erewash - Toton
I had popped down here with some bushy flies hoping that I'd be able to stalk a chub, Unfortunately that wasn't to be. It was one of those hot sunny days and the few chub I saw were very skittish and wary. The perch on the other hand were most obliging, and I took about half a dozen, with a black woolly worm being the fly that did the business. Eventually I found a chub... all 3oz of it.

23rd Aug - River Trent

I got back on the river the following weekend, spending a couple of hours trotting maggots through a shoal of roach and bleak It was nearly a fish a chuck, with one small silver bream a surprise capture to break the pattern. I had a joey mackerel paternostered a foot off the bottom at the upstream end of the swim to see if the bits were escorted by any decent predators, but that bait stayed untouched.
 I had euthanased a couple of bleak which were bleeding when unhooked, and as the sun dropped below the horizon I prepped them by removing the head and tail, cutting a strip of skin off one side and stabbing the other several times. The rig was simple, just a size 2 single hook to 30lb quicksilver as the trace and a free running 1oz bomb.  This was dropped into the margin, the rod was positioned with the baitrunner on its slackest setting and as darkness fell i got the kettle on...
I was on my last sip of hot chocolate as the alarm made a solitary bleep, I began to stealthily approach the bankside, but only began, as within a second or two later the line began to peel steadily from the reel and i took two quick steps to pick up the rod and strike. I had a feeling it was a zander rather than a pike, and as it broke the surface in the deep twilight the suspicion grew. After a pretty spirited fight the idea was confirmed, as there in the net was my biggest zander. Not a monster at 8lb 4oz but a respectable fish nevertheless.

After that success I split the rods, fishing a legered mackerel on one and boilie on the other. I didn't get a peep out of the alarms all night, though oddly the prawn boilie and hook were both gone when I reeled in to check the baits at 3AM...

1st Sept - River Trent.
I left it a bit late before heading out on Saturday evening, the light was fading fast, the first evening of the year that made me realise that autumn was basically here. I was left with only half an hour of fading light to pick up some deadbaits and failed miserably, watching until the tip of the float was more imagination than reality in the gloaming. Instead of the predator session i had planned I therefore turned my attention to carbelling, tackling up in the light of the headtorch before retiring to the camper. Not only did I see no action that night, but in the morning as I tried to depart the van refused to start. One of those days I guess. If you had told me on that morning that that would be my last session of the year I'd have never believed it, yet.. as things turned out it was...

Monday, 2 January 2012

A Fairham First

I cross Fairham brook, the tiny stream that skirts Clifton estate every day on my way to work. I dont think there are many fish in it, and I'd be even more surprised to catch anything of any size, but as I'd never yet wet a line here I decided to go for a roam and see what I could find. I'd done a recce with the polaroids back in the spring and found a small group of chub along with plenty of minnows but overall less fish than I was expecting. On this occasion the water was fairly clear, yet I saw no sign of any aquatic life for the first couple of miles. Trotting through the slightly deeper water brought no bites and it was well into the afternoon before a movement in the stream caught my eye and I realised I had found some fish.

this 10 yd stretch held a mixed shoal of chublets & dace along with a few roach. As the light was fading fast I moved on after a dozen of so, with a last chance saloon trot on a deeper bend a short way upstream. this yielded another baby chub. Another box ticked at least, taking fish from yet another of the River Trents tributaries, still plenty of virgin water to go at later in the year too