Ice on the car windscreens this morning doesn’t bode well for my trip to the Severn in a day or two. Guess we’d better get used to the fact that Winter is around the corner and the days of easy fishing on rivers are now probably over until next June. Oh well, mustn’t grumble, it’s been a good Summer.
Let’s kick off this blog with a trip to the lower River Don. Now the tidal Don might not be everyone’s idea of angling heaven. Indeed most would regard it as hell. For sure it is not the most picturesque river in England. No, I’ll rephrase that, it must be up there among the least picturesque and it’s as muddy as hell. The tides rip through at an alarming rate of knots causing it to flow one way, then the other. The level can fluctuate by several feet and it’s a wise man who checks the tide tables before venturing out.
My sessions on the Don tend to be short, based around the tide, and where possible on a low tide. If you study the tide tables you’ll see they’ll show you the height of the tide as well as the time. Go for the smallest you can.
On the positive side it is unlikely you’ll be racing for the prime swims. There aren’t any! In fact the chances of you even seeing another angler are extremely slim, unless of course he’s taking his dog for a walk. No-one fishes it and that’s probably why it’s the best kept secret around. The Tidal Don is probably the best dace fishery in England right now.
But first you’ve got to get there and that means finding a way around the back lanes. Unfortunately there always seems to be at least one of them shut for roadworks – a legacy of the 2007 floods – and sure enough I ended up making a detour that Marco Polo would have been proud of. But I got there in the end. A new stretch today, swim picked out on Google Earth with parking less than 100 yards away. Ideal.
A quick plumb-up revealed about 12 feet of water less than a rod length out. Could havedone with less, I guess, but having negotiated a near vertical bank to secure my muddy plot I had no intentions of moving. Feed, cast, feed, cast, feed, cast… The rhythym comes quickly. If only the bites would.
Out of the blue the float burried and I had a small roach. Well, I’d avoided the dreaded blank. Next cast a small chub. Excellent. It was in mint condition but why I should point that out, I don’t know, because every fish was a minter. These fish have definitely never seen a hook before.
And then I had a really nice dace. Things were picking up. Too soon to count my chickens though. From then on I started bumping fish, missing bites, having them wriggle off on the retrieve. I was having a ‘mare.
Off came the size 20, on went a 16. That tends to sort them one way or another. If the bites keep coming then great. If not, it’s plans B, C and D! As it happens they kept coming yet for some reason I still had several fish squirm off the hook. I guess it’s in the nature of the way dace fight.
Time to change it for a different pattern. I was travelling light and the only thing I could lay my hands on was an eyed, maggot barbless pattern in a size 18. Amazingly this turned my fortunes around. Fish followed fish but I still kept having quiet spells.
The amount of leaves floating down on the surface wasn’t helping either. Trying to lay out a 12 foot rig without catching on a leaf was a tad frustrating. I guess it’s also that time of year. Suddenly a pike swirled at a dace just as I was about to swing it in. Fortunately I saw the strike coming and was able to soften my wrist to cushion the first explosive lunge.
‘Take your time, Bob.’ I whispered to myself. However, with me being a jammy so-and-so, the hook had transferred from the dace to the tip of the pike’s jaw and my patience and gentle coaxing was rewarded with a nice pike of maybe six or 7lb.
But I was now struggling to get back into any kind of rhythym. I’d catch three or four dace in as many casts and then it would go quiet. Smashed maggots with no indication on the float suggested they were moving up in the water. I shallowed up two feet at a time until I was fishing maybe four feet deep and bingo, it was one a chuck for a while. And then I bust off on the strike.
Bl**dy non-toxic shots! Time to call it a day.
Having spotted otter tracks on the Trent last week I guess it should come as no surprise to find similar evidence on the Don. Sure enough, the marginstold a story. Obviously you can’t by one hundred percent certain when there’s only a few prints but the swim I was in would be inaccessible to a dog and the print run appeared to come from under a tunnel of vegetation. I’ll be keeping an eye out in future, that’s for sure.
The Mail ran a full-page story on otters announcing that Tarka’s Back! Robin Page wrote of how he still cries when he reads the final page of Tarka The Otter. He even claims that otter shit smells nice, ‘surprisingly like bloater paste’. Kinda says all about where he’s coming from. Page tells us that otters hunt everything from sticklebacks to salmon and that 20 per cent of their diet is made up of mallards and moorhens, and that they’re now resident in every single county in the UK except Kent (a situation that will hopefully change soon, he says).
He rejoiced in telling us how a friend phoned imploring him to come over straight away, ‘Otters are in the pond!’. They were in his koi pond, ‘using it as their personal fishmongers’. The thing is, everyone loves otters but anglers and gamekeepers apart the chance of actually seeing one in the wild is about as likely as winning the National Lottery. They’re creatures of myth, folklore and nature programmes on the box.
I too think otters are wonderful creatures. It’s fabulous that they’re avoided extinction. The problem is they’re vicious killers and they’re everywhere now, not just where they existed in the past. Britain’s freshwater fish stocks are as low as they have been since the Industrial Revolution. We’ve precious few migratory fish running, salmon and eels in particular. Taming the rivers for boat traffic using weirs has destroyed the prolific shad runs on every major river system except a few in Wales.
But otters have no predators…
Otter numbers should be controlled and confined to the areas they survived in 50 years ago before the pesticides like Dieldrin and DDT did for them in the 1970’s. Wider distribution should be avoided at all costs until the food chain issues are resolved because there’s no point in encouraging an apex predator on a wide scale if that means other species become extinct as a result.
The release of mink by animal activists has all-but wiped out the water vole. Cormorants continue to wreak havoc on silver fish populations. the grey squirrel problem, foxes, need I go on? All down to man’s meddling.
Oh well, the morning sunshine had turned to rain. I’d had a nice double figure net of dace in under four hours without ever breaking sweat. It was time to pack up and leave it for another day. I love this river. And best of all it’s mine because no-one else other than Tarka wants it. How sublime is that?
Zyg’s Got The X Factor
Looking forward to meeting up with my old mate Zyg Gregorek soon but maybe I’ll have to wait until he’s knocked out of the X Factor…
Can you spot the odd one out?
No, nor me, they’re all odd one’s! Amazing isn’t it. The resemblance between Zyg and Wagner is uncanny.
And both are nine carat nutters.
Bless This Mouse
It will probably come as no surprise that I tend to have a few bags of old bait scattered around my garage. I return home from fishing with every good intention of tidying up afterwards but made-up rods gather cobwebs in corners, tubs of feeders, hooks and other accessories are piled in heaps as I search for my sandwich box and before you know it I need to set aside a whole day to sort it all out. Being versatile and targeting almost anything that swims doesn’t help either.
It’s not a problem for most of the year but I live in a village and that means we tend to see a few visitors around harvest time. Little brown, furry visitors…
Earlier this week I was on my hands and knees sorting out some pike lures when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough I was being watched intently by a cute little mouse that seemed totally unconcerned by my presence. Time to act. Leaving it till later is not an option. Mice in the garage is one mistake away from mice in the house.
My collection of rods with chewed cork handles, nets sporting holes tied up with braid are a sure give-away signs that I’m no stranger to sharing my home withmice in the past so each year I’ll give my old mate John Austerfield a call and ask if he’ll pop round and top-up the traps with his industrial strength vermin terminator. John’s business is pest control and I can sleep again at night when he’s been round. Not sure if I’ve been extra vigilant this year, lucky, or they’ve arrived early. One thing’s for sure, he won’t be around for long. Unless he’s related to this little chappie…
As ever, I popped the kettle on and we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about the season so far, mutual friends, places we’ve both fished and generally put the world to rights. John used to run the Fishing at Nostel Priory Lakes when they were day ticket fisheries. That’s probably where we first met. If not, it was through a mutual friend, the late Colin Dyson.
Colin was a great man and I say that about very few people I’ve known. He inspired me to become a writer. Indeed he mentored me and if I’ve ever had a father figure in angling it was Colin. Unlike most angling ‘writers’, Colin was a trained journalist. A ‘proper’ writer who knew his subject inside out. Colin was the editor of Coarse Angler magazine in its heyday when the circulation was well in excess of 25,000 copies, he was involved heavily with or actually wrote several books that particularly influenced me. Tom Pickering’s My Way With The Pole, for starters. And Archie Braddock’s Fantastic Feeder Fishing.
Colin was very active within the PAC, too. Chairman for a while, I believe, and after his untimely death due to cancer the PAC’s Special Merit Award was renamed the Colin Dyson Memorial Award. The winner of the Green Un Club Match Angler Championship that I run each year (with its phenomenal £8,000 prize pool) is presented with the Colin Dyson Memorial Trophy.
Colin and John fished together for pike on a Lincolnshire water that, at the time, was perhaps one of the finest in the country. The number of ‘twenties’ they racked up was astonishing. ‘I dug out an old photo of Colin the other day.’ He told me, ‘It shows Barrie Rickards and Colin with fish of 27lb 12oz and 24lb 8oz, plus a big double at their knees and none of the fish were sacked up. They all came in a mad spell at the same time.’
Barrie Rickards, another fine gentleman that we’ve lost from angling. You know, I look back at some of the amazing characters I’vespent time with over the years, true giants of the sport like Ron Lees, Ivan Marks, Peter Wheat, Barrie, Colin and so many others. How different they are/ were to some of the gobshites that polute the Internet with their forum and blog posts.
Be My Guest
No wonder old Ron Clay yearns after the Fifties and Sixties, his golden era and of course his humble reverence for Dick Walker. Which brings me nicely round to Peter Maskell. Peter was on the staff at Angling Times in the days when it sold 100,000 MORE copies than it does today. He called the other day to let me know he was publishing a collection of old Walker material to commemorate the 25thanniversary of his deathand ask if I would be so kind as to review it? Of course nothing would give me more pleasure and as soon as I’ve read it I will publish my views here.
On the other hand you have no need to wait as copies can be ordered immediately. The book is called Be My Guestand it’s an invitation that you simply can’t refuse. It’s a typical Walker masterclass on how to catch all the major species – barbel and bream, carp and chub, perch and pike, roach and rudd, tench and trout and grayling and salmon during a calendar year that spans all the variations of temperature and water heights and conditions.
The centrepiece of be my guest is the iconic Conversation Pieces that were published in Angling Times between 1964-1967. They fulfilled every angler’s dream – the chance to fish with the man who had held the carp record since 1952, the man who had caught eight perch over 4lb, more than 60 chub over 6lb and dozens of double-figure barbel.
The second part of the book is a fascinating insight into the fishing experiences that created an angling legend. Rivers of Memory covers all the major waters on which Dick began his angling career and where many of his most famous exploits took place. There are stories about the Hertfordshire rivers, the Great Ouse, the Cam, Kennet and the Wye, the Hampshire Avon, Arlesey Lake and Redmire Pool.
With a foreword is by Chris Yates, Be My Guest is available in a limited hardback edition of just 570 copies with dust jacket, numbered and signed by the Editor and Publisher Peter Maskell. The 197 pages contain many period Dick Walker photographs which have never previously been published and is available for £25.95 plus £2.75 postage and packing.
A full leather bound Limited Edition of just 30 copies, complete with bespoke, handmade slipcase, numbered and signed by Editor and Publisher Peter Maskell is available at £165 plus £6.70 postage and packing (Special Delivery)
To order a copy, send a cheque, postal order or banker’s draft, made payable to Peter Maskell Publishing Services, to: Peter Maskell Publishing Services, PO Box 1163, STAMFORD PE2 2HJ.
Louie-Lou-aye, Oh, Oh…
Sometimes I have to work at this blog. On other occasions the stories and pictures fall into my lap so easily I wonder if I shouldn’t have bought a lottery ticket. Take the email I’ve just had from Dave McIntyre…
Just thought that you might like to see some pic’s from my trip to SouthAmerica. I was lucky enough to be invited to go to Suriname with Joe Taylor to fish for Lau Lau Catfish. Got back last night after a two week trip,”9 days fishing”. Joe had already been there for a week, and will be staying until November.
The fishing is very slow going, with an average of one take per week per angler,moving most days to try and locate fish, and covering up to 100 miles of water by boat each week. I was sharing a boat with Andrew Hosegood, and on our very 1st morning I hooked 2 fish, landing a 67lb Lau and loosing one on the rocks, and Andy had a 116. We then had to wait 7 more days for the next bite to come. I thought that that was it for me,but in the last evening and morning I caught a 144 and 143. “Over the Moon”.
Apart from the fishing ,the wildlife can be spectacular. You can sometimes hear Jaguar from the camp. We saw Giant Otters, Caiman, Howler and Spider Monkeys, Tucan, Macaw amongst others.
Joe Had a personal best of 199. Gary Newman was also on the trip and will be writing a double spread for the Anglers Mail sometime in November.
All the best Macca
And what pictures he’s sent. Take it from me, this guy has been there and done it all. Honestly, his trips and successes would put John Wilson to shame, never mind the Bailey’s and Boote’s. Always on a shoestring. Always off his own back. Indeed his Facebook page shows him astride a moped high up in the Himalayas, above the cloud level, rod tubes strapped to his back.
And that’s his idea of luxury travel!
You may recall that in a previous post I referredto Dave as the ‘Snake Man’ due to his hobby of catching said creatures for fun, poisonous or otherwise. Well, he must have run out of snakes to catch because here he is holding something that looks like a juvenile caiman to me. Just hope it’s mummy didn’t come around looking for it.
Who’s Your Fishing i-Doll?
Here in the UK (and especially with anglers) we tend to treat any kind of success with disdain. For instance, go on any fishing forum and post a thread suggesting you like Big Brother, Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent and see what kind of sneering responses you draw. Yet these are the shows that pull in the very highest viewer ratings.
In fishing we have a few minor celebrities, John Wilson for instance, Matt Hayes and Keith Arthur, and guess what? They are continually derided and moaned about by the public they set out to entertain. Real incisive comments, too, such as, “I can’t stand his laugh”, or “I can’t stand him!”.
Indeed, if you were to glance through a Japanese Daiwa catalogue you would discover that their top consultants are actually idolised and by that I mean you can actually buy i-dolls – that’s right, figurines of the top anglers. And they certainly do not come cheap. Each one is a work of art and costs an arm and a leg to purchase.
Not sure folk are quite ready for that on Barbel Fishing Ain’t My World. On the other hand I’m sure there are a few voodoo figurines of Steve Pope knocking around!
New Releases From Little Egret
I’m always ready to lend my support to small hard-working enterpreneurs like Tom O’Reilly at Little Egret Press. It can’t be easy to make a living by publishing ‘niche’ books but without the likes of Tom we’d probably only ever get instructional works or the latest celebrity on the block trying to make a fast buck, books.
Tom is what he is, a traditionalist, a folk musician, an artist and without the sterling efforts he puts into his work the only time we’d see some of the books he re-prints would be as collectors items on auction sites.
The limited edition releases under the Little Egret Press collection have breathed new life into several classic out-of-print works and the world is certainly richer for him giving us access to them at sensible prices.
This year Tom O’Reilly’s branching out and publishing a Little Egret Press Calendar containing high quality photographs – all taken by himself. They depict angling through the seasons and feature images of carp, barbel, perch, sea-trout, pike and other aspects of our sport. It’s in A4 format, the calendars are individually shrink-wrapped and are currently in stock – ready for immediate dispatch on receipt of your order. The cost is a very repectable £9.95p
L-E-P is also launching two new titles this month, A Carp To Begin With by John Nixon (£28.95) and Silver Season – Golden Memories by Tony Miles (£28.95) and then there are some signed copies of Times to Remember by Bob Buteux at £35.
You Tell ‘Em Steve!
Interesting piece by Steve Partner in Angling Times about the folk who flounce around on Internet forums spewing out bile and trying to trample all over people. Here’s an extract from his article:
As I’ve written before, these cowards treat the net like a cyber playground where, hidden under the cloak of anonymity, they act out the role of bully.
It isn’t just wrong, it’s normally in contravention of libel laws, too. What some forum users don’t seem to realise is the Internet is subject to the same strict rules as broadcast and print media. Can you imagine some of the comments posted on threads ever appearing in a newspaper? Of course not.
Editors simply wouldn’t allow it.
But, for some reason, the custodians of many websites don’t seem to acknowledge that fact, trusting members who have posted over a period of time to act as moderators. Hardly the strictest security net is it?
While I hope I’m wrong, it won’t be long before someone in the fishing world, defamed on a public forum, does more than simply demand the removal of offending material. Sites will end up being shut and the owners will suffer heavy financial penalties. It’s not a matter of if but when.
He’s not wrong there. Only this week a Police Inspector asked me, ‘Why have you not considered taking action against this individual before now…’
Meanwhile here’s a quick guide to Troll spotting:
The first step to dealing with trolls is learning how to recognize them. The following traits are clues:
- Has the person posted inflammatory remarks that have no real substance to them?
- Does he or she make it a habit to post messages that include insults and vulgar language?
- Does he or she respond in a purely negative, critical way?
- Does the person post messages that are generally off-topic? Does he or she seem to want only attention rather than discuss the topic at hand?
- Does the person resurrect old conversations or discussions that were once controversial? Some trolls enjoy bringing back old arguments to encourage dissent.
- When confronted with a counter argument, does the person in question change tactics rather than answer the points made? Does the person employ logical fallacies within their posts?
Hmmm, one or two individuals spring readily to mind, don’t you think?
Someone (on another site) asked why I allow certain comments to remain on my site. The answer is evidence. Comes in very useful when you need it.
But enough of the negative, let me close with a giggle…
Stelling’s Stellar Rant
I lovewatching Sky Sports’ coverage of the football on Saturday afternoons with Jeff Stelling in the anchor seat. Jeff would be a welcome guest at any ground in the country but his true passion for Hartlepool United never waivers, nor does he try and hide his love for the north east of England. If you’re in any doubt as to what on earth I’m on about, take a look at this classic clip. I’m guessing it was put together by someone on the production team as one of those Christmas tapes but someone clearly leaked it…