Greetings everyone. Make yourself comfortable because this is one monster of a blog. My intention was to publish it next week but it just seems to grow by the hour, almost organically. So much has happened in the past week it’d be pointless not to share it with you sooner. I do hope you’re catching a few. Everyone I know seems to be getting among the fish. But enough of the twaddle, let’s get straight down to business.
With the mighty Trent’s barbel clearly still spawning I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. Having been prevented from fishing rivers due to the antiquated closed season laws for three long months I wanted to go and catch a barbel, but I really didn’t want to catch fish that were spewing out eggs and milt? I can think of nothing more irresponsible, can you? But each to their own, I suppose. It takes all sorts and we must be guided by our own consciences. A conversation with Mick Wood revealed that the Swale’s barbel were done and dusted and that suggested the solution might lie with a change of river, so I headed off to pastures new.
Given a choice I love nothing better than fishing for fish that I can watch and this river gave me every opportunity to stalk my quarry, especially as it was running very low and clear. Arriving at a little after 9am there was only one other angler on the bank and he’d not been very successful. Maybe he’d hoped to score in what had been last year’s top swim. Alas the entire tree that sheltered a substantial shoal of barbel and chub had been removed. For what reason I’ve no idea but I can see a fair few folk struggling this year if they have to find their own fish using watercraft!
I headed on downstream and took in all the changes. What a difference a year makes. I guess it took me ten minutes to find some barbel and another ten to get them feeding eagerly. I had to be very careful, mind, because there was a wasp nest slap bang where I would have liked to fish from. Doesn’t pay to upset these kiddies, does it?
You can’t beat a fish on your first cast, and that’s exactly what happened. Two first casts on two different rivers in two days and two barbel as a result. I didn’t bother weighing any of the fish but it was clear to see they were well down on the weights they will attain in a couple of months time. Long, lean, flabby, out of condition fish they were. I almost felt guilty catching them but they still put up a great scrap.
I stayed longer than I would have liked in the swim for the three fish I caught. But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t a race to catch.
Moving on I spent an hour looking for somewhere I fancied fishing next. Visible fish were thin on the ground. I found a few small groups but after feeding them decided they weren’t what I was after. Eventually I came across a couple of better fish and went through the usual process of baiting and waiting, observing and building their confidence. After a while two fish became 6 and they were sharing the swim with a shoal of good sized chub and one enormous bream. Lord knows how big that one was but it looked every inch as long as the barbel.
Again, after patiently waiting until the swim was cooking properly I had a fish first cast. A corker, too, that will be a substantial specimen come October. Another barbel fell for the same trap and then that was it. They got decidedly fidgety and it was time to leave them be.
It’s all too easy to find a shoal and hammer it. Unfortunately they’ll be gone next time you return, seeking sanctuary elsewhere. Much better to take a couple and then leave them be. That way you’ve a starting point on your next visit or whenever you fancy. Interestingly these fish were in a swim where it’s rare to see more than the occasional fish and one that most everyone walks by.
I then dropped into a ‘noddy’ swim and took anther but with rain starting to fall I decided an early finish was in order and I was home before 5pm. Throw in a few nuisance chub and all-in-all it had been a pretty enjoyable and successful day.
This Book Won’t Be Half-Cocked
There’s a new book due for release on 22nd July at the CLA Game Fair that I can safely recommend to anyone who loves angling despite never having even seen it yet. But maybe the strap line on the cover, penned by Chris Yates, might give you more confidence: ‘This book is something special’.
I don’t doubt for a second that it will be. Take a look at the illustrations here and you’ll need little more encouragement from me.
While My Float’s Still Cocked is written and illustrated by Maurice J Pledger. It’s the collected ramblings of an artist-angler, affectionately known amongst his angling friends as ‘Mole’.
‘Cocked’ is a fishing autobiography, a witty and whimsical recollection that records the successes of Mole and his friends in pursuit of specimen perch, pike, carp and chub.
Mole (Pledger) is a fabulous artist, of that there can be no doubt. His illustrated wildlife books for children have sold over ten million copies worldwide. These images need no further explanation.
While My Float’s Still Cocked is his first book on fishing and has been eagerly awaited by anglers and discerning book collectors alike.
In the preface Chris Yates writes:
The stories from Maurice’s boyhood fizz with enthusiasm and there’s no doubt that his early experiences and observations were the inspiration for his artistic life. However, what marks this book out as something special is the remarkable series of fish paintings, fish with so much natural beauty and grace that they almost swim off the page.
While my Float’s Still Cocked will be launched at the CLA Game Fair 22ndJuly 2011. The standard edition is a high-quality paperback with flaps – Price £19.95. There will also be very special Collector’s and De Luxe editions.
If You’re not going to the Game Fair then copies can be ordered from Coch-y-Bonddu Books (Phone: 01654 702837) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org Further information can be found on the Coch-y-Bonddu web site.
Stop Press: A sample chapter from the book complete with more of Mole’s amazing illustrations will be published exclusively on this site in the next day or two. Don’t miss it!
Swordsey Chub Feast
Old Swordsey certainly nailed a few chub at the start of the season on the Trent. He had 22 by all accounts with 7 over 5lb and the best going 6lb 2oz. Well done that man. I’d be careful though mate. Some folk get a bit twitchy about publicising photos from there.
Although I could be barking up the wrong ‘tree’ entirely…
James’ Goulden Start To The Season
I’d have loved James Gould to say he’d caught these two barbel on sweetcorn. I mean, a blogger like me would have given his right arm for the chance to run a headline along the lines of, Jimmy Cracked (It On) Corn And He Don’t Care, wouldn’t I?
Alas it’s safe to say it was the ever reliable pellet that led to their downfall. Oh well, you never know, he might be tempted to give the golden grains a go sometime, but I doubt it. What’s the point when standard Elips pellets just go on catching. Will barbel ever tire of them? I very much doubt it. But what is it that makes them so irresistible.
I spent a whole day exploring a stretch of river that has hardly been fished in a decade. It used to be full of quality roach, bream and skimmers with the odd nice chub thrown in. Those who used to fish there had no interest in specialist angling, they were mainly match or pleasure anglers. Today it holds chub and a few barbel and I was able to locate a few of each. By that I mean I found the odd two here and a trio there, but you’d walk several hundred yards between fish holding spots. Indeed what struck me about this narrow, shallow, crystal clear river was that it appeared to be pretty devoid of anything longer than 2 inches or weighing less than 3lb.
Of the bream shoals it once held I think I saw two individuals. As for roach and dace, they seemed almost as thin on the ground as chub. There was just one fairly concentrated group of chub, maybe a dozen, spread out over 100 yards in two’s and 3’s, but it was as though much of the river was empty.
Something that Stu and I learned while filming Barbel Days And Ways was that if you managed to find exactly the right habitat, type of gravel, proximity of cover, weed and depth then you could confidently predict that it would hold barbel, even if you couldn’t see them. The rule was proved time and time again by the introduction of feed, but what about fish (barbel) that had possibly never eaten anything other than natural baits before?
Well, by locating the habitat and then using a dropper to introduce a little hemp and pellet I managed to entice barbel out from cover in four locations out of four. Something about Elips pellets is incredibly attractive to barbel and it doesn’t really matter what that is so long as it works. That’s all I need to know.
Moving on to a second stretch, one that I’m fairly confident never sees an angler, I found two different groups of fish. One swim contained two decent barbel, a nice chub and a fair sized bream. The other swim was quite an eye opener because I spotted a couple of carp. Not monsters by any means but after feeding pellets into open water well away from any cover whatsoever I also drew in two barbel and two small chub. What I wasn’t expecting was the group of carp to grow from two to six, the biggest of which was a chunky mirror that I suspect would easily go double figures.
As tempting as it was to catch one I decided against it. After all, I was having all the fun I needed just watching them.
My day was all but made when I happened to look up at just the right moment and see an avocet land not 40 yards away from me as I headed back to the van. There’s certainly a rich variety of wildlife through the valley and the site was visited by a rare spoonbill only recently. I stopped andchatted with a number of bird watchers over the course of the day and it was surprising how many of them were anglers or former anglers. All mentioned the complete lack of kingfishers this year.
As river guardians we share a lot in common but I couldn’t get excited by the report one gave me that an otter has been seen working the river. If that’s the case then we’re in deep brown stuff that smells like s**t. The fish population is arguably at an all-time low, okay, that probably suits the blinkered barbel man but when there’s not much else but a few barbel and chub to target then we could easily see the fish pyramid collapse.
How does the saying go? Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…
What Do You Mean, ‘Where’s The Rods?’
I was sent this picture, taken on the Tidal Trent, a couple of days ago. Isn’t it amazing how much gear modern barbel anglers need? How on earth did the likes of Peter Stone and Peter Wheat manage to catch anything back in the old days?
And how on earth can you go stalking with that much kit! Full credit to the guy for not bothering to wear camou gear. Now that would have been funny!
When I think back to some of the rows I had with the Barbel Society about their ‘No Sleeping By Rods’ rule, and comments like, ‘We are barbel anglers, not carpers’, I simply have to smile. Whoever won the battle is irrelevant. I suspect the war was lost.
As for short session stalking, does it even enter the Tidal Trenters’ vocabulary?
Competition: Guess The Weight…
I get all manner of stuff sent to me over the course of a season and some of it, like the image above, gets shared with you here in the blog. By way of a slight change and a bit of fun I’m going to feature a guess the weight competition this time. There are no prizes or anything, it’s just for fun.
This chub was captured on the River Dearne in South Yorkshire by Newcastle United supporter Andy D. In his words it, ‘gave a belta scrap aswell from only 5ft away in shallow water’.
Okay, so what do you reckon it weighed? Perhaps it’ll help if I give you a couple of clues.
1. He’s a obviously a big strapping lad.
2. I never realised chub grew quite so gigantic on a river that’s within spitting distance of where I’m currently sat bashing away on a keyboard.
I’m trying to visualise what this specimen will weigh come winter. because, like you, I find it hard to believe that I could be actually obliterate my chub PB within a mile of home. Isn’t that amazing? Unbelievable you might say…
If it grabs your interest I’ll reveal the answer next time. And by the way, Andy and his fishing pals are obviously not allowed to enter!
Tough On The Causes Of Crime?
We all remember the slogan, don’t we? But who would have thought that the Government would completely stamp out crimes like robbery and burglary at a stroke? Well think again because it has done.
There is no longer such a crime as theft in the UK because some highly paid mandarin has introduced a new definition – acquisitive crime – no doubt driven by some PC bashing idiot who feels we must not offend criminals by stigmatising them with cruel names like robbers, crooks, burglars and scum.
Apparently domestic burglary (residence), theft of a motor vehicle, theft from a motor vehicle and robbery (people and business) all now come under the banner of acquisitive crime. That’s right, Matt Hayes wasn’t robbed at all. His gear was merely ‘acquired’ by a scum bag.
Oh, sorry, I can’t use that term, can I? The term scum might offend the ‘acquisitee’.
You couldn’t make it up, could you?
Golden Day For Dad
Good to see old Zyg getting out to fish on Fathers day with son-in-law Joe Drury. The pair tackled Anglers Paradise’s Specimen Golden Tench and Orfe Lake ad landed a trio of tench over 5lb, the best going to Joe at 6lb 4oz which he caught using a vintage MkIV Richard Walker split cane rod.
A classic example of style of substance. Joe, take it from me that a proper carbon rod would do the job ten times better! Cane rods are for old duffers, like, err, err…, well, let’s be honest, your father-in law! 😉
The pair celebrated afterwards with a fine meal washed down with Bubbly.
And several glasses of port
‘What more could a father want?’Asks Zyg?
Well, knowing him better than most I’d suggest malt Whiskey, more wine, lager and then some more champagne.
Before a trip to the wine cellar and maybe a nightcap of Fruits of the Forest fortified with Polish vodka.
That should just about cover it.
A Timely Reminder
Back at the turn of the year I published an angling calendar on Smilebox for anyone who wanted something a little different from the sick puppy and chocolate box lid variety. It proved quite popular but, ever conscious that I’m picking up new blog followers all the time, if you would like to download and print the second half of the year just click onto my Facebook Page and follow the link. It’s completely free with no catches (well, except the catches I made in the pictures!).
Or alternatively there’s my Scribd page.
And if that’s not enough, you’ll also find it on Smilebox by clicking on the image below (fingers crossed).
Whew! I think that covers it. Except I think I forgot to remove the audio. Sorry, If you find the music’s a tad annoying then fear not, just just click the mute button in the bottom left hand corner of the calendar.
You Don’t Know Wharfe You’re Doing!
The invite from Mick Wood was compelling:
‘Looks as if after two poor years the Wharfe is back to normal. Went friday just for the morning and had 7 to 9.4 and yesterday evening had 3 to 10.9. Can go wednesday thursday this week and tuesday friday next week if any of these dates suit you.’
I couldn’t resist, could I? So off I went and the river looked perfect. Mick had arrived before me and put some bait in a couple of swims, one for him, one for me. We chatted while he made his first cast and he had a liner almost straight away. Things were looking promising as he described some of the red letter days he’d enjoyed in these two swims in years gone by. The River Wharfe is probably Yorkshire’s supreme barbel river. The Swale does bigger fish but for consistent sport the Wharfe takes some beating.
I left him to it and set up in a swim no more than 50 yards away. I was travelling light. No seat, no ironwork, minimal kit and a great big heavy camera. Do you like my bank stick? First time I’ve used one this year. Wouldn’t have used one today were it not for the lack of action.
Yes, you’ve guessed, my Wharfe hoodoo struck again. It would be fair enough if I wasn’t catching but Mick is king of the Wharfe, well, at least in my eyes he is. Not many folk know the river better and I doubt many have had more barbel from it. But something was wrong and it didn’t take my hawk eyes long to realise the river was rising. Actually I’d chosen a far bank log to mark the direction I was swinging out my lead and it disappeared. Pretty easy clue, I suppose.
The river level rose slowly but steadily, maybe 3 inches an hour, but instead of switching the barbel on it turned them right off. But it wasn’t a major problem. Today had an element of social fishing about it so results weren’t everything. Anyway, around 1pm I was sat having a natter with Mick when his rod hooped round and he was into the first fish of the day. He was lucky to grab the rod because neither of us was watching the tip.
Not a monster but a cracking fish in prime condition. No sign of spawning blues about this one. So I hopped off back to my swim and it wasn’t long before I had one, too, round about the exact time Mick had a second. And then the river died again. Like no liners at all. No chub raps. Not even a dimple on the surface from a dace. It was dead as the proverbial dodo.
I packed up at 4pm. Better things to do, so I told myself . Well, someone has to write this rubbish. Of course I’d hardly been home half an hour when this text came through…
You’d think he might say he’d had one from his own swim, wouldn’t you? Telling me it came from mine is just rubbing it in!
But The Award For Beeing An Absolute Greedy B&$!&?d Goes To…
Stuart Walker, who turned up on a quiet stretch of river last night and caught four double figure barbel, three of which were over 11lbs, plus some back-up fish to over 9lb. Amazingly he didn’t see another angler during the whole session so you’ll forgive him for not naming the river or the length he was fishing.
This was the smallest of his four doubles.
Top angling mate. Well done!
And Just When You Thought They Had Gone Away…
My ramblings on football are back. They never really went away but things have been a bit hectic of late. As ever I’ll tag them on the end of the blog so those who have no interest can ignore them.
Fixtures Released – Will Big Clubs Dread Playing ‘The Likes Of Doncaster’?
Well, not only have the football league fixtures been published, we’re barely a month away from the big kick off. I pinch myself sometimes just thinking about the fact that my little club, Doncaster Rovers are due to start their 4th consecutive season at this level. Considering we were in the Conference a decade ago, a time when Leeds United were competing in the Champions League, it’s rather a lot to take in.
We are already the bookies hot favourites for relegation before a ball has been kicked and who’s to say this is not the year we go down? We are but minnows in Europe’s fifth richest and best supported league and sooner or later it all has to end in tears. But, for now, we can dream. Not too long ago we played (and beat) Bristol Rovers in Division Two. It provoked one ‘Gas’ fan to comment on a fan’s forum, ‘I don’t believe it. Graydon must go. We are Bristol Rovers, and we’ve just been beaten by bloody pub team Doncaster Rovers, for God’s sake.’
Yes, a bloody pub team! And to this day Rovers fans frequently refer to their club as ‘just a pub team having a laugh’. We like to keep it real.
There’s a cracking article on the Viva Rovers web site at the moment called ‘The Likes Of Doncaster’. It suggests we were given a new prefix 3 seasons ago by the press which has been full of stories comparing every other affluent club to TLOD, basically saying we shouldn’t be getting beat/outclassed by TLOD. Site owner Glen has trawled the Internet to come up with a series of classic quotes. Seriously, it’s worth a read if you have the time. It made me smile anyway.
So what delights does next season hold for us? Well, I have to say it looks a tough challenge. Not many teams would fancy playing away to Brighton on opening day when they will celebrate the opening of a new stadium in front of a sell-out crowd, no doubt buoyed by the fact they have just romped their way up from League 1 under the stewardship of Gus Poyet.
Co-incidentaly we were the last team to play at the Old Goldstone Ground before it ceased to be and now we will open the new one. Apt really because there’s always been a deal of empathy between the two sets of fans. A proper old love-in awaits and there will even be a fan’s game before the main event in some obscure Brighton field.
Clutching at straws it might just help us that half the Brighton crowd will not have seen them play since the heady days of the 1983 Cup Final, if indeed ever before . The average home attendance last season was 7,351. Advance season ticket sales for next season have topped 17,000. That’s an astonishing jump, enough for some fans to think they’re the new Arsenal, so it would be a shame if they failed to beat ‘The Likes Of Doncaster’ on such a momentous occasion, wouldn’t it?
Seven days later The Likes Of Doncaster face the mighty West Ham at the Keepmoat Stadium. Gawd, we really needed that game so early on. No doubt they’ll be going all out to prove they’re still a massive club, especially after spending an absolute fortune on securing Newcastle’s favourite son, Kevin Nolan. They may even yet manage to hang on to Scott Parker so for the record, can I just point out that the second highest transfer fee we’ve ever paid out is still £300,000. I hope that puts the challenge we face into perspective. You could probably buy our entire squad ten times over for the price of one Kevin Nolan, never mind the rest of the Hammer’s squad.
Three days later we meet former European Champions Nottingham Forest. Let’s hope it’s a dry night because the Wally With The Brolly will want to be making a good impression as they charge towards the Premier League. Then we have 3 away games in four fixtures. That’s away to Derby, Cardiff and Reading.
Assuming we get a point out of Bristol City and Palace, and fingers crossed Hull, the game away to Peterboroughon 1st October might already be a relegation six-pointer with both teams’ fans praying for their first win of the season and a chance to double thier points tally to date. Let’s hope so because the next game is home to Leeds United who, according to their fans, are (perennial) Champions Of Europe. Away games to Blackpool andPortsmouth follow and they will not exactly be a walk in the park, will they?
All I can see right now is a very tough series of matches that could well see us sitting rock bottom of the table going into November, just like the bookies and every know-nothing pundit will have predicted. But don’t ever forget, we get called The Likes Of Doncaster so often for a reason. It’s because those who believe they have the God given right to success keep falling flat on their arses when they tread on the slippery banana that is an unfashionable club playing the game the right way.
We’ll be okay.
I hope… Gulp!