Welcome back to part deux of what must be the longest angling blog in the world. Mind you, no-one’s exactly complaining, are they? Well, that’s not exactly true. There is the occasional knob head who’s presumably fuelled by jealousy but I rather like that. Shows I’m doing something right.
I find it a little flattering when on one hand individuals appear to have so little going for them that their only purpose in life is to try and impress a few other ne’r do wells by bad mouthing me. On the other hand you have to feel a little sorry for them, don’t you?
But enough of that, let’s talk fishing.
A Welcome If Somewhat Ugly Brute…
A week after telling you the Trent is ridiculously easy it suddenly switched off. Whether it was just for a day or due to some external influence, one can only speculate. A mate absolutely emptied it on Friday catching a LOT of barbel. More than I’ve ever caught in a day, anyway. On Tuesday, fishing the same area, he and his partner had just one small fish. No-one else caught more than the odd fish either. No fish topped, no chub raps, nothing. It was uncanny.
But by all accounts they were feeding again later on. Weird. Was a big tide, mind.
The only things I can put this down to are the weather and maybe even the moon phase. From scorching sunshine to overcast and a chilly wind is probably the equivalent temperature drop of a winter frost. The moon exerts its greatest influence on the earth at times of high tide, too. Or it could have been some kind of natural insect hatch. I simply don’t have a clue.
But something simply didn’t add up.
I was fishing with Allan Parbery. We arrived, chose an area we hadn’t fished before, baited up and then jumped in his jeep to go exploring. There’s still miles of the Trent that doesn’t get fished and we found some very tasty areas that just need a bit of work with a saw and a machete to claim as our own. In fact this is where I’ll be fishing quite soon.
We returned to the swims, I popped a light lead over the baited area, touch legering – and nothing. Allan chucked out two feeders for exactly the same response. Maybe the bait had been eaten, so I topped up. Still nothing. On the basis I’d left my hooks, drills, baiting needles and a whole lot more gear at home, I wasn’t in much of a mood to experiment.
Highlight of the morning was a flock of long tailed tits, presumably one family as they can lay two clutches of up to 16 eggs. Flitting from the willow on my left to the one on my right, the distinctive peeping (long-tailed_tit1) calls gave them away long before I saw (birdsong_long_tailed_tit) them. Cute they were, barely fledged and more like balls of cotton wool with straggly tails. Anyway, one actually settled on my rod while I was holding it. Guess I’m an old softie at heart. Awww!
Then they disappeared so I went round to Allan and cajoled him into boiling the kettle.
I spent much of the day chatting with Allan rather than fishing but that’s not an excuse for not catching. This was a day when the fish were simply not having it.
Anyway, I’m stood behind a seated Allan when I whispered, “Bloody hell, Allan, there’s a great big carp just in front of you!” Without wearing polarising specs he simply couldn’t see it, despite it only being 4 feet from the bank.
We observed for a while, intrigued. When it departed I suggested he put some feed in the margins, although he needed no encouragement. Sure enough it was back ten minutes later with a mate. They seemed oblivious to us and we carefully topped up the swim with tiny pellets, hemp and even a bit of groundbait each time the fish left the area.
Gradually they gained more confidence and then I spotted a couple of other grey shapes out of the corner of my eye. Two more carp were coming to join the party. Hang on make that three. There were now five carp in front of us, almost close enough to touch.
“Get a rod in there, Allan…!” I hissed. He’d not wanted to reel in one of his feeders for fear of spooking them but this was too good an opportunity to miss. Quietly he removed a rod, changed the rig and threaded a Barbel Barrel on the hair. These barrel shaped ‘boilies’ are made from ground up Elips pellets, eggs and the odd secret ingredient. The idea is they’ll not break down as quickly as pellets, therefore making a superior lasting hook bait for barbel and anything else that feasts on pellets in rivers like the Trent.
No rod rests, just a rod laid on the bank, tip touching the bottom and the line completely slack to avoid any chance of a liner.
I’ll cut a long story short. After a few heart stopping moments one of the bigger carp tipped up and made a mistake, almost dragging the rod in the river. Game on!
I was expecting a tougher battle because these Trent carp can be explosive fighters, but it was more dogged than dramatic. Turned out she was a bit of an old warrior and by the look of the split fins and general tattyness she was probably an escapee from some Trentside commercial fishery or other. Your normal Trent commons tend to be long and sleek.
But we weren’t complaining. It was a nice bit of teamwork and a fine bit of angling. I took the pictures and with the predicted rain now falling and with me having neither a brolly or a shelter I packed my kit away satisfied that this hadn’t been a wasted day. In fact far from it. new swims to try, new targets to consider. Maybe I’ll have a go at these carp myself sometime soon.
We’re Going To Need A Bigger Net
I happened to be visiting Anglers Paradise about 15 years ago when Zyg took delivery of a dozen catfish from Nev Fickling. They were only a few inches long, British born and bred, and Zyg installed them in what was then called his ‘fish farm’. A low outbuilding shared with the Vietnamese pot bellied pigs and various other exotic creatures.
After a suitable period of quarantine the cats were released into the Main Lake and left to their own devices. For a long time they were missing in action and then an occasional fish would get caught. They were packing on weight nicely but it wasn’t until the lake was next drained and netted that we could see how they were really getting on.
Which is when we discovered they were not only growing rapidly, they were also multiplying.
The penny should have dropped when the usual crop of small golden tench was completely absent at this netting. Clearly these great big slimy tadpoles were waxing fat on a diet of bright yellow tench. A tasty snack that’s dead easy to see.
There was a case for removing all the cats there and then but Zyg, in his wisdom, introduced these cats to several of his other lakes, even creating a specific catfish lake on a far-flung corner of his empire. Now it’s common to catch cats while carping. In fact you’ll sometimes catch more cats than carp and they are showing no signs of slowing down in their growth rate. Fifties are no longer rare. In fact it’s probably fair to say that a fifty comes out most weeks through the warmer months.
There’s little doubt really that the Anglers Paradise complex is now the UK’s most prolific catfish venue. There are venues with bigger cats but I doubt any other fishery has cats in as many different lakes. I really fancy a crack sometime, trouble is, I’m going to need a bigger net!
Day Ticket Thirty
And while we’re on about Anglers Paradise, folk sometimes moan that you can only fish there if you’re a holidaymaker actually staying on the complex, which is not exactly true.
There are four excellent day ticket lakes alongside Anglers Paradise called Anglers Nirvana. They contain some amazing fish and receive very little pressure. Indeed one or two of the holidaymakers at Anglers Paradise have twigged this and have begun trying out the lakes.
One of the lakes, Kracking Karp has just produced its first authenticated thirty (right), a chunky looking fish weighing 30lb 8oz that fell to Simon Winters, a 19yr old student from Manchester. Simon caught the fish on a single hookbait surrounded by a few crushed boilies along with just half a dozen freebies.
In time honoured fashion the captor was allowed to suggest names for the fish which will in future be known as Klarissa.
Nirvana comprises four lakes of which one is a dedicated catfish water containing cats to well in excess of 35lb.
Certainly looks like these waters are worth considering if you’re planning a holiday in Devon anytime soon.
The Dove From Above
Ah, Reeves and Mortimer…
Well, no. The Dove in Derbyshire actually, easily distinguished by the more difficult questions it poses me. Actually I think I’d selected the ‘Smack Round Head With Frying Pan’ option last week by mistake.
There’s little doubt the Dove has become a busy place of late. In fact make that a VERY busy place.
When Stu and I filmed there on opening day 2008 we were able to fish in unspoiled areas. The swim we opened up withwas a jungle of dense vegetation that had not seen an angler in a long while. I called in this week and it looked like the aftermath of Glastonbury. Why do folk need to flatten (or worse still, strim) every blade of grass for a diameter of at least 8 feet?
“Err, it’s to get the bivvy in, Bob…”
Anyway, my first trip of the season on the Dove was a rather brief one that was restricted to a few hours between lunch and teatime. Apparently the worst time to go right now as the barbel have adopted pretty much nocturnal habits in response to the pressure they’re seeing.
Stu had mentioned a small group of big fish that we’d spotted two seasons ago and that he’d had them feeding two days earlier for well over an hour and then screwed up when he introduced his rig. ‘Give ’em a go’, he suggested. So I did.
I crept up to the swim, the overcast, blustery conditions and a tinge of colour due to the previous days rain made fish spotting impossible, but that didn’t matter as I knew they wouldn’t be far away. I placed the rig first and then droppered over the top. Fish seem okay with the dropper but not the lead going in so it made perfect sense to do things in reverse. The lead itself was immediately below my rod tip and I reckoned the vertical line would cause less problems than a diagonal one with these spooky fish.
I sat well back to await developments and sure enough the tip whacked over. Unfortunately whatever I’d hooked was not a barbel and my first inclinations towards a chub being the culprit were soon dashed when a great big rainbow trout thrashed on the surface and put paid to that swim for a while.
Deeply hooked and bleeding like a stuck pig, it wouldn’t be bothering any more barbel anglers. A swift tap on the head was the only merciful thing to do but it didn’t go to waste…
I spent the next four hours roving around, just to familiarise myself with the river again. Must say the anglers I bumped into were a friendly bunch which is always nice. Mind you, I’ve never really met a bad angler on the bank. The Internet is the only place you really seem to find the ones with huge inferiority complexes. I suppose you really have to feel sorry for them. Can’t be much fun being eaten up by jealousy and bitterness all the time.
I fished six different swims over the course of the afternoon and I have to say I never once felt remotely confident that I’d catch a barbel. To do so would have been nice but that wasn’t the whole purpose of the exercise.
I did have a nice chub from a glide that usually gives me a fish or two but that was it really. I never had so much as another chub rap. But I did leave with a few plans formulating in my mind. In fact I can’t wait to go back and try a few ideas out.
My next trip to the Dove will be with chub very much in mind but my chub tactics will be tailored to appeal to barbel as well. I’ll let you know how I get on.
I Hate Stu!
Just when you don’t need it(!) young Stu sends me another couple of pictures in an email titled, ‘If Carlsberg Made barbel…’
Yes, he’s had another couple of doubles and one was in daylight (of the fast fading variety). Now I’m either going to have to kick my backside into gear and fish the noddy hour or I’m going to have to steel myself for a bit of this night stalking lark. Maybe I’ll try a few other options first.
It certainly seems like the Dove is in a period of change. In years gone by there was a ready supply of fish in the 4 to 8lb range that would give you a pull at any hour of the day. Indeed there were shoals of these fish but all the reports I’m getting are that you can find solitary fish or groups of two and three but the bigger groups have vanished. It could be they’re simply keeping away from the pressure but why is it that the only fish being caught are big ones?
I fully understand that fish do grow, but they don’t all suddenly turn into doubles. There was a healthy population of smaller fish that can’t possibly have become doubles in such a short period of time.
What I’m really looking forward to, if I can cram it in, is spending a sunny day on the river with next to no tackle and doing a bit of searching. Maybe they’ve dropped lower downstream. The weirs are not an obstacle in high water, that’s for sure. Or maybe they’ve gone upstream…?
Swordsey’s Looking For Pussy
Nothing new there then! Lee Swords tells me he’s after a Trent cat and he’s been putting out a deadbait for them on each visit. No sign of a cat so far but he’s just had two PBs in one trip for two different species.
First up is this cracking 7lb zander. Now I’m not one to raise alarms willy nilly but I was watching a small shoal of fish darting in and out of the margins last week and snaffling fry. Visibility wasn’t good but they looked to be around five inches long. At first I thought they might be perch but they weren’t deep enough. They certainly weren’t pike but they moved on before I managed to get a proper look.
I’m pretty convinced they were small zander.
Last week I was pestered by small dace when I fished maggots and it appeared that suddenly, out of no-where, the river was full of these three-4 inch pests. I suppose I shouldn’t complain because they could end up giving us some fantastic sport if they survive to maturity.
The chances aren’t good thanks to the black plague. More of them around this year than I’ve seen in a while. However, one species that will wax fat on dace is the zander and we may well be seeing a big shift in fish potential yet again. Let’s hope it’s not at the expense of the excellent big perch population.
Lee also managed a pb eel of 4lb 1oz which wolfed down a 3oz roach deadbait in one go. He reckons the girth behind its head was astonishing. The next time we get a bit of colour in the river I might just have to apply myself to these predators. There may never be a better time to do it. It’s just a case of making time, I guess.
For Old Time’s Sake
I bumped into a guy in a tackle shop the other day, “Do you remember me?” He asked.
I didn’t know him from Adam.
“We were in the same class at Junior school…”
When he mentioned his name I knew the name instantly and could place him, vaguely, but as far as I can remember he didn’t have a whacking great handlebar moustache in those days. But it always leaves me in awe that folks can still recognise me when I can barely remember yesterday!
“You’ve hardly changed.”
Yes I have! Loads… And not always for the better!
Chance meetings like that are always bound to throw you though. But what about organised events? Have you ever attended a class re-union?
I went to one last week and left after an hour. Who were these people? And what was I doing there in the first place? I never enjoyed school. I left as soon as I could and turned my back on everything to do with it, got a job and within a year I’d moved away.
I don’t remember my school days with any kind of fondness. I had little in common with most of my fellow students back then, so why would I suddenly want to be friends with them now after a gap of more than 40 years? It’s madness, isn’t it?
But you know why we go to these do’s, don’t you? Vanity.
We all want to see how well we’ve aged against your peers. Who’s grown old before their time or really let themselves go.
There was much gossip to be gleaned if you were in the least bit interested. Who’s pensions had gone up the spout, who falsified his accounts and then went under owing 80-grand, who had gone twice (or more) around the merry-go-round only to find themselves hitting 60 with a huge mortgage, a nest of kids of pre-university age and no realistic possible prospect of ever retiring.
Did I really care?
Sue and I hung around for an hour out of politeness and then made our excuses before retiring to an excellent little Indian just up the road for the rest of the evening. A table for two was just the ticket.
So why do I feel guilty?
Bob The Fish
I’ve neglected Bob The Fish in my last two blogs, mainly because they’ve been magnum opuses and you have to say, ‘Woah!’ at some point, don’t you?
So, here’s one for those who come around here with their attitude.
Even sharks run for cover when Bob’s in a bad mood…
Cloughie Was The Greatest
Did you see ‘The Damned United ‘ on TV the other night? And the documentary that followed, ‘Clough, The Best Manager England Never Had’?
I first watched ‘Damned‘ on an aeroplane so it was good to see it again on a proper telly. I love the way the film makers turned a drama into a fairly faithful documentary by interspersing real footage with the mocked-up stuff. I guess it didn’t go down too well in Leeds as it doesn’t portray their team in a very good light. And boy, when you see those crunching tackles, flying boots and flailing fists, you have to say Cloughie had a point when he told Bremner and Co to throw their medals in the dustbin because they’d won them by cheating!
I suppose the documentary that followed was actually more telling. It added gravitas to the scenes in the film, completely reinforcing the message. The only folk who showed any bitterness to Clough all those decades later were the former Leeds footballers like Clarke and Hunter who are still to this day completely besotted with Revie.
Clough, who earlier, with his partner Peter Taylor, took Derby County, a second division club, from obscurity to the Division One title. On the strength of this he was recruited by Leeds and then sacked sensationally after only 44 traumatic days.
The players simply would not play for him.
Player power may have won out on that occasion but history shows that Clough re-united with Taylor and went on manage another provincial second division club, Nottingham Forest, who they led to promotion, to the Division One title and then won back-to-back European Cups.
And we all know what became of Leeds, don’t we?
And did any one of that famous team ever make a real success of club management? Can someone list the trophies that collective bunch ever won? I realise Bremner won the Fourth Division title with my beloved Rovers, but that doesn’t exactly amount to a hill of beans.
Clough was the only manager since Herbert Chapman to win the Division One title with different clubs. Alas he turned to drink and that was his downfall. Forest clung to his memory for one season too long and despite taking the team back to whence they came, Clough remained a legend with the fans.
There has been no-one like him, before or since. I doubt there ever will be. For me he’s up there with Shankley as one of the truly passionate, down to earth, all-time footballing greats. Characters like this are rarer than hens teeth and they’re the very reason we love Mourinho. Unpredictable, outrageous lovers of the truly beautiful game.
Fasten My Seatbelt, Will You?
Even by my chaotic standards the next few weeks are shaping up to be pretty hectic, so blog writing may have to take a back seat.
Sue wants to know if I will film the school’s summer show on the proviso that I will have it edited and the DVDs burned within a week. Already scheduled is my old school reunion, a special little lure fishing trip, the Dove needs another look and so does the Derwent. When I’m actually going to get around to fishing hemp and tares is anyone’s guess.
Then I’m spending a week in the sunshine entertaining Sue, Sky TV have asked if I’m free to appear as the studio guest on Tight Lines on Friday August 6th (make a note in your diary – bound to raise some controversy whatever I say!).
The football season kicks off on 7th August and then I’ve four days coaching booked on the Wye with a completely sold-out party for good measure.
Throw in two magazine deadlines, my regular weekly newspaper column and Stevie wanting to know if I’ll attend an open day at Norwich’s Angling Direct on behalf of Daiwa on the 21st August (yes, of course!) and you’ll get the picture that this retirement lark is not exactly a laid back pipe and slippers routine.
But I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ll maybe organise myself a real steady week between the 14th and 20st August because by then I think I’ll be ready for it!
Hang on, Peter’s asking when we’re free for a few days on the Thames in his nice little 35-footer…
Now that sounds fun!
Dramatic Finish To Fish’O’Mainia XVII
It was described as easily the most sensational finish to a fishing match in the 17 years this competition has been running. Two South Yorkshire born anglers slugged it out before a massive audience live on Sky TV in a nerve tingling drama.
Tom Pickering needs no introduction. The former World Champion normally sits alongside Keith Arthur in the TV studio commentating on the final but this year he’d qualified to fish for the first time and started out as a red hot 4/1 favourite.
Few gave Neil McKinnon much of a chance in what was a stellar 16-man field and this was reflected in his 12/1 odds. Neil hails from Sprotborough, just outside Doncaster and I actually used to compete against both him and his father in club matches with the Parish club. A former worker at the ICI factory on Wheatley Hall Road, he’s now relocated to Gloucester and fishes for the crack Shakespeare outfit.
The match, staged on Cudmore’s Arena Pool before a crowd of spectators and a live TV audience was one of many twists and turns. The half-hourly weigh-ins indicate how the lead changed no less than five times. Here’s how it went:
12 Noon – the all-in.
12.30pm– With half an hour gone Andy North (3.9kg) was a full kilo ahead of McKinnon who was in second place with 2.64kg. Tom Pickering trailed in 7th place with 1.26kg.
1pm– Andy North was still in the lead (7.4kg) while Neil McKinnon (4kg) and Tom Pickering (1.97kg) had trailed off to 7th and 16th respectively.
1.30pm– With ninety minutes gone Rob Wootton snatched the lead with 8.25kg. Neil McKinnon had pegged back a couple of places to 5th with 7.05kg. Tom Pickering had enjoyed a good catching spell bumping up his weight to 6.37kg jumping from last place to 7th.
2pm– Former champion Neil Machin had now come to the fore with 11.02kg but Neil McKinnon was still knocking on the door in second place with 8.87kg. Meanwhile Tom Pickering had suffered a blank half hour and fallen back to 8th, still on 6.37kg.
2.30pm– Neil Machin only added a kilo to his weight (12.41kg) but Tom Pickering was now on a roll. He increased his total by half to record 9.5kg and claim second place, piling pressure on the leader. Neil McKinnon suffered a blank half hour to remain on 8.87kg and fall from second to 4th.
3pm – With two hours remaining Tom Pickering snatched the lead in demonstrative fashion. He’d boosted his weight by more than 4kg to 13.85kg making him the fourth angler to lead the competition so far. By now Neil McKinnon’s challenge was faltering. Another blank half hour saw him slump to 6th, still on 8.87kg.
3.30pm– With ninety minutes to go the headlines were already forming in journalists minds. Tom Pickering had cemented his lead with 16kg, but hang on, Neil McKinnon was making a dramatic comeback. 11.05kg lifted him to 5th but he still trailed the now cruising Pickering by 5kg.
4pm–Pickering (18.78kg) had edged a little further ahead but McKinnon, with 13.43kg was suddenly running second. The gap was significant and few would have betted against Pickering, a man who has achieved success at the highest level to be anything but very cool under pressure.
4.30pm– With just 30 minutes to go Tom Pickering’s lead had stretched to 6.15kg. Surely that would be a step too far for McKinnon who had added just over 4kg in the previous half hour.
The final half hour could not have been more nerve wracking for the two competitors. The prize is a winner-take-all £25,000, banner headlines, TV coverage, national recognition and a place in history. The reward for failure? Nothing! But Pickering’s swim had died. Try as he might he could not tempt a single bite in the final 30 minutes of the match.
Meanwhile McKinnon netted a 2kg carp. Then another. The third one possibly edged him in front and the pressure was suddenly all on Pickering. One fish either way now would be so crucial.
In the final ten minutes McKinnon pulled away and rightly claimed his place in the Fish’O’Mania Hall Of Fame. The weigh-in was irrelevant because the celebrations had already begun. Neil McKinnon, the patient stalking horse, had won Fish’O’Mania XVII in some style.
Final Result:1. Neil McKinnon 27.98kg; 2. Tom Pickering 23.88kg; 3. Andy Benwell 20.27kg; 4. Ray Hayward 16.71kg; 5. Rob Wootton 16.37kg; 6. Andy North 14.87kg; 7. Neil Machin 14.75kg; 8. Tim Bull 13.87kg; 9. Kieron Rich 12.62kg; 10. Stuart Ballard 12.07kg; 11. Steven Seaborn 10.99kg; 12. Sean Huggins 9.85kg; 13. Luke Bamford 9.25kg; 14. Richard Hoskins 8.07kg; 15. Ben Emery 5.99kg; 16. Steven Bamford 5.36kg.
Afterwards Neil McKinnon said:
“With an hour to go I just stuck to my plan and fished my heart out and it has worked for me. I knew there was a lot of carp there and I had to be patient to find them. But I persevered and persevered and I caught five or six fish in the last half hour and it has made all the difference. What a day. I missed a few bites near the end and I thought that might’ve cost me but it didn’t. I might buy a new car or go to Las Vegas. Viva Las Vegas!”
“Neil fished a great match in the last hour and I couldn’t catch anything in the last half hour. He deserved to win it and I’m pleased for him. I will just have to try again. Finishing second you might as well chuck yourself in the water and drown yourself. I’ll be smashing up everything in the house tonight but full credit to Neil!”
Just to round off a frustrating day for Pickering, his former wife, Ann Yates won the Fish’O’Mania XVII Ladies event with 37.00kg.
Footnote: Special thanks to Luke Riches at Lustig/Matchroom Sport for allowing me to use these pictures.