Sorry about the delay in publishing this March Blog but I’ve been doing far too much fishing of late and when time can be freed up the paid work has to come first. I have to pay the bills somehow! If the writing appears rushed or the imagery falls below the normal high standards I do apologise but I really need to be out fishing again. I’ve got the bug!
Before I start, if you haven’t already got your new rod license get out there and buy one now. Your old one runs out at the end of March and you’ll be an April Fool if you get caught fishing without one on the First. You can purchase them online, by phone, on the Internet or by standing order so there really are no excuses, are there?
The last two weeks of the season proved to be a right old curate’s egg. When I caught it was brilliant. Unfortunately when I didn’t it was painful. By heck it was cold, just in case you’ve forgotten. I’ll bet you’ve forgotten the snow water already.
Those who read Improve Your Coarse Fishing will have seen me bagging up on the Idle in a recent issue, catching roach like they were going out of fashion and then nicking a few pike just to break the monotony. What a day that was with me landing the thick end of 30lb of roach and 30lb of pike. Almost a year to the day later I went back to the very same swim on a river that looked in excellent nick and blanked. How do you explain that?
The day started with a proper old downer. I had already decided to let the traffic clear before setting off but when I trundled up to the tackle shop to pick up some bait I’d not bargained on it remaining closed till 10.00am. Can’t blame the shops, can you? With anglers buying most of their bait from fisheries now there’s no longer a need to open at the crack of dawn for the few of us who still fish rivers. Sign of the times I’m afraid.
I had a few barbel in the final weeks, too, from two different rivers and that pleased me no end. Nothing big but it’s all about catching the species you target, not the size when the conditions are against you.
I had a session on the Leeds water at Asenby with Matt Brown; that’s on the River Swale for those of you who are unfamiliar. With clear skies, a heavy frost and ice ringing the margins I always expected it to be tough and I was very pleased to catch a cracking chub early on but it was the only bite we had between us during the morning session.
A walk along the bank saw an encouraging number of anglers on the bank but not one of them had landed a fish. Fortunately for us there was a brief feeding spell in the afternoon and I took my total of chub landed to ten thanks to a steady run of fish. Didn’t manage a ‘five’ but who’s complaining? Dipping my hook baits in Grub Juice certainly did my catch rate no harm though.
I had prayed for the water levels to fall on a favourite small Yorkshire river that usually can be relied upon to produce a few quality roach but it really wasn’t to be. Matt had three middle order chub and I had three small roach on a day when I’d have backed myself to catch thirty. It’s worrying how the roach in two rivers have vanished. Let’s hope it’s down to temperature or air pressure or any other excuse you can come up with. If it’s cormorants or otters then frankly I’m f****d because I’m rapidly running out of places where I can catch a river roach at all these days once the clocks go back.
I’ll say it here and you’ll probably disagree but the roach is an endangered river species. Can’t remember the last time I saw one top on the Trent or anywhere else for that matter. No eels, no roach, what’s next? If it’s not like this where you live then enjoy it while you can because it won’t last.
I found myself dodging about a lot, searching for bites really. A morning on a small river, hoping to catch a pike was a miserable failure so I tried a nearby gravel pit. I’d barely been there half an hour and just hooked into my first pike when the local wildlife wardens came and asked me to hoppit! Well, you’ve got to chance your hand sometimes or there simply wouldn’t be any fishing at all in the UK.
The guy was absolutely sound about it and offered a deal of sympathy, but a move was in order. I asked if he’d mind taking a picture for me to which he said, fine. Unfortunately, while I sorted out my camera the pike, which was resting quietly in the margins in my landing net, not only managed to unhook itself (barbless hooks) it also managed to get out of the landing net, too,and bolted off into the depths as only a pike can do.
With a move required I pondered my options. Nowhere round about that I fancied piking so it was back to the river. I set up a quiver rod and headed for a pretty reliable swim. After just one cast I found myself pondering why I was fishing there. What was I going to learn? I’d fished here only last week.
Hope renewed I immediately packed up, jumped in the van and headed for a little stretch that I’ve never fished before. I had been told by a friend that it was worth a cast or two and that was just about how long I had left as the light faded.
I found a delightful swim with a big bush affording lots of cover for a chub or two and tossed out a small cage feeder loaded with liquidised bread and with a lump of flake on the hook. Second cast in (I didn’t like where the first landed) the tip yanked round and I struck into something that was mighty angry. The water literally exploded and a right old tugging match ensued as it strove to reach the trailing branches.
For a while I thought I’d hooked a barbel but it turned out to be a near 5lb chub. It was only when I returned it and decided a move might be a better option than waiting for things to settle down (time was running out so fast) that I realised I’d been fishing in less than a foot of water. No wonder it fought like it did!
I joined Mick Wood for a session on the Trent just before the season closed. We had the river to ourselves, both banks for as far as the eye could see and this was once one of the heaviest fished stretches of the entire river thirty years ago. Folks have voted with their feet and those who reckon that commercial fisheries aren’t worth fishing had better get their rods on eBay sharpish because there ain’t going to be any alternative before long and the demand for second hand river tackle will fall through the floor.
I’ll not bore you with details of every trip since the last blog as you won’t really care about the blanks or the actual mechanics of each fish lost or landed.
Ah well, the season’s end came and went. As if by magic the air temperatures rose about ten degrees in three days and the weather for river fishing would be perfect if they weren’t all closed. I have no idea why we have a closed season that starts in the middle of March. It’s complete madness and even the staunchest supporters of the closed season must find it hard to concur with such an arbitrary start date.
The thing is they only concentrate on the end date and the ‘glorious’ 16th when they themselves will be out there targeting fish that are getting ready to spawn. Sorry, they’re hypocrites. Just like the pikers who’ll be out there targeting pike on the shallows this month. Whatever the closed season stands for can we at least agree that it ain’t for the protection of fish.
Ooops! That’s the traditionalists upset. There was one little job hanging round mine and Stu (Walker’s) neck and that’s the links for our next DVD, Barbel Days and Ways Volume 3. It’s all fine and dandy having the different sequences in the can but getting them to fit together properly is so important and for this we needed to film a whole series of intro’s, outro’s, thank you’s and goodbye’s. And time was running out fast.
With no sign in a let up in the weather we opted to shoot the links in Tony Flint’s tackle shop, Climax Tackle at Dronfield. We also invited Archie Braddock along because he’s already one of our featured guests in the DVD. Fortunately everything clicked into place and we only held up the closing of the store by ten minutes. Thanks Tony.
You’d think that with Volume 3 wrapped we’d be moving on to Volume 4 but the news on that score is it’s already done, so we now have two DVDs filmed, edited and ready for production. They’re both at the reprohouse as I write and we shall be releasing both DVDs in May. It would have been so easy to release Volume Three now and the fourth at Christmas but the two are inextricably linked as you will be able to see soon enough.
I’m not going to reveal much more about these DVDs at the present time other than to say if you enjoyed the first two, you ain’t seen nothing yet! These two films take our knowledge of barbel behaviour to another level.
Anyway, let’s move on. A good few years ago I used to fish with Goldthorpe AC and Russ Fowler’s best mate was Ken Barber. In fact Ken was a member of the Smithies (Barnsley) when I fished with them even further back in time. Ken was a cracking angler but he appeared to disappear from the scene but I came across his web site recently and for those who don’t like commercials, this is the place for you.
Reading’s taken a bit of a back seat but a Christmas present that’s been hanging around needed a bit of attention and so pased was I that I made time to read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea. It’s one of the shortest books you’ll ever read at less than a hundred pages but there’s a wasted word anywhere. Excellent stuff and a far cry from the knit one, pearl two books we get today.
Sometimes I get asked quite simple technical questions that are easier to answer with a picture than 500 words, so, to those who keep asking what a ‘crease’ is, take a look at this picture. It’s about as good an example of a crease swim as you might hope to find.
The ‘crease’ is plain to see between the steady water and the fast water. As the meerkat might say, ‘Simples!’
Since the season ended I’ve managed to keep myself out of trouble on a number of different fronts.
I’ve had an awful lot of writing to catch up o but I did squeeze in a little visit to a commercial fishery I’ve never been to before, Pool Bridge Farm, near York.
It was great fun to rig up a pole and fish for roach. Pool Bridge isn’t completely stuffed with carp like some venues, it’s more of a balanced fishery and right now, until the weather warms up and provided you don’t go mad with the feed you can easily fish light gear to target the quality roach it contains.
Many commercials have good stocks of roach that seldom get fished for and I was more than happy to spend a day catching fish like this.
I also had an appearance to make on Sky Sports’ Tight Lines show. It’s always great to work with Keith Arthur as it really is just like sitting in his shed and supping tea while you talk about what you’ve been up to recently.
The team had done a great job of editing the Uganda footage and adding some very apt music. Unfortunately he show flies by and before you know it you’re back on the train home. Keith and the producer, Mick Brais are keen to do a bit more work together this year so I’ll no doubt keep you posted.
Uganda – Picture This
Stu Walker has created a photobook with images taken from our recent trip to Uganda. If you click on the link it’ll take you to Photobook and you can watch his album. There are pictures here that won’t appear in magazines or the ‘Net and you might just enjoy them for their own beauty. Click on full screen and let the slideshow play. Unfortunately we can’t remove the offer for you to purchase this book.
Let’s take one final look at Uganda. Here’s the clip that Sky used in the Tight Lines Programme when I appeared on it last week
I’ve mentioned Catch magazine before in my blog but there’s another issue out now and it’s completely free to read on line. You’ll not find better imagery anywhere and it’s worth taking the time out to look at the pictures even if fly fishing and foreign travel isn’t your thing.
Also available if the latest issue of This Is Fly. TIF is a far harder edged magazine aimed at the artsy, snow boarder kind of guy. It contains a cracking playlist with tracks by Bowie, Zep, Floyd, the Kinks, Lou Reed, Talking Heads and numerous other artists. Make sure you read the article about End Of The Line and watch the video clips. It’s a film that will absolutely shock you if you’re not already aware of it.
The Footie Bits
Can a bunch of schoolkids actually beat a team professional footballers? Of course not. But what if you evened up the odds a little, what then? Well, Japanese TV came up with an idea. What if you increased the number of players in the kids team? And then, what if you increased it by ten fold?
That’s right, ten outfield players in the professional team, ONE HUNDRED in the kids side. Check this out on Youtube:
Donny Rovers have been creeping up the league in recent weeks and a check through the Sky Sports football stats reveals that we currently have 8 players in the Championship’s top 20 rated players (marks out of ten per game average). I blinked when I read that, too.
Guess we’ll be ravaged again this closed season by the next lot of big spenders.
But do you know what, we were written off completely when two of our so-called best players left for lucrative contracts in the summer and our other Galactico has been out injured for much of the season. We were expected to be down there in the relegation scrap. Well, we’re not, we’re eighth and if you look back over the penalties we’ve missed in crucial games, the ‘goal’ we scored at Watford that only the ref and lino didn’t see, conceding in the last minute at Cardiff after we had battered them, and the injury crisis(‘s) and I could go on, we could so easily have been in serious contention for a play-off place.
Fortunately we’re not because it’s a step too far for us right now and this vertigo feeling is a bit worrying.
But it don’t half make you smile when other teams keep bleating on after we beat them that, “We really shouldn’t be getting beat by teams like Donny!” You see, we play superb football, to feet, on the grass, admittedly in a shiny new lego stadium, in front of relatively small crowds – average circa 11-12,000.
Eight years ago we were in the Conference and playing in front of 3,000 if we were lucky and some of these deluded souls feel it’s incongruous, an insult even, when we play them off the park. Take Cole Skuse the Bristol City midfielder. Before we played them at their place he was quoted in an interview saying: “It’s about time we gave someone a tanking and won a game by three or four goals; it would bring the confidence flooding back and enable us to look up rather than over our shoulders at the teams below us.”
I wonder what he was thinking at 5pm that Saturday after we’d put five past his team at Ashton Gate?
We get more respect in Brazil. A country that knows its football and can’t get enough of us and one of our stranger fans…
Mind you, it was clearly a cold day…
And we bade a sad farewell to Chester City. Wound up, gone, forgotten. The web site tab for ‘next match’ says, WHO KNOWS… Indeed the majority of armchair fans who swear allegiance to Chelski and Manure won’t even be aware they even existed in the first place.
We played Chester in the play-offs in the year we gained promotion from the Conference. But for a late goal it might have been us, not them, that went to the wall. Instead our paths have gone in quite opposite directions.
They leave behind a nice new ground as a reminder that they existed. I have a very fond memory of the old ground, Sealand Road, and I’m going to hark back to 1966 (and all that), the year when we first won the Fourth Division title.
Chester were promotion rivals and the away game was nominated as the Supporters Club outing. I went that day on the special train, the majority of the 4,000 travelling fans went by car and coach. It was quite an amazing turn-out for a Div 4 outfit in a crowd of 9,831 but those who were there will recall a dazzling performance and an astonishing 4-1 win. But what I will always remember is one of the best individual goals it has been my privilege to witness. Alick Jeffrey waltzed around four players in the box and coolly slotted home.
Jeffrey is a Doncaster legend, more so even than Harry Gregg. He played in the first team as a 15-year-old and was playing for the England Under-23’s as a 17-year-old at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate when he broke his leg and for all intents and purposes his career was over. The late Sir Stanley Matthews said of “King” Alick: “I predict that he can become one of the greatest inside forwards in the game. His play bears the stamp of genius.” While Jackie Milburn, the former Newcastle United and England forward said: “This boy has everything. He is by far the best youngster I have ever seen.”
Manchester United legend, Sir Matt Busby, the builder of the world-famous Busby Babes team, who planned to take Alick to Old Trafford to figure in his plans for European football domination once famously told the skilled teenager: “I will come and get you in time.”
The broken leg ended all that promise and Jeffrey moved to Australia. He returned home in the early 1960’s and made a comeback against the odds. Despite his career being abruptly ended and being paid out by the insurance he was given permission to play again for Doncaster Rovers in the 1963-64 season. He produced remarkable form, hammering home an astonishing 36 goals from 46 starts in the 1964-65 season and finding a further 22 the following season as Rovers’ clinched the Division Four championship.
It was interesting to look back at Chester City’s fixture list immediately before and after the visit of Doncaster. It read:
Bradford Park Avenue, Barrow, Hartlepool United, Little Old Donny, Southport, Crewe Alexandra, Newport County and Luton Town.
Including Chester City, six of those nine teams are plying their trade beneath the top four divisions. It brings home just how fortunate Donny were to not only survive the Richardson years to move onwards and upwards to where we are today.
Good luck Chester.
Ain’t it funny how Portsmouth can squander countless millions as they head for the Championship; that Ken Bates and his ‘new’ Leeds can walk away from massive debts as they too hope to reach the same Championship; and former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale is still hoping to get Cardiff City out of the debtors courts, out of the Championship and into the promised land of the Prem, yet a club with a fraction of those debts goes under?
Saying that, are Leeds going to bottle it again after last nights defeat by Millwall on their home turf?
Compare these two tables:
|9||Milton Keynes Dons||24||11||3||10||36|
|8||Milton Keynes Dons||37||17||5||15||56|
The ‘damned’ United were 11 points clear of Norwich who are now 8 ahead and a full 20 clear of Millwall with a game in hand at the turn of December. Swindon have clawed back 14 points and it’s a good job Charlton have been rather indifferent. I believe it was Sir Alex Fergusson who gave us the phrase, ‘squeaky bum time’. He ain’t wrong if you’re a Leeds fan!
Surely they can’t screw it up again?
Take away Beckford’s goals and it don’t look good, does it?
Oh well, it’s the ‘bar codes’ for us tonight at the Keepmoat. Lord knows how this one will go. Dont be surprised if we ship four or five goals as we are about due a chaotic night. On the other hand it could be a bit of an end-to-end classic. Either way the ground will be pretty full and it’s a far cry from playing Halesowen and Dover Athletic.
Right, I’m off fishing now.
PS: A Quick Footnote
I still get an occasional abusive email sent to me through the web site from what can only be described as an idiot fringe. Not enough to cause great problems but if you’re tempted to post such comments on this site, do be aware they come to me for authorisation first and as you can see, your message includes your IP address so you ain’t exactly doing it anonymously!
Dave McIntyre, the sketching wizard has been over in Thailand. He’s a seasoned big fish catcher but he ain’t called the snake man for nothing. The fish are self explanatory but he caught the snake in a restaurant! He’ll pick a wrong ‘un one day!