Let’s kick off the river season in style with a bumper blog that’s rammed with all manner of fishing issues, great catches and a bit of fun. There’s a serious message or two plus a few images that capture the very essence of why we bother to go fishing at all. It’s a proper old Bob marathon but you woldn’t have it any other way, would you? Enjoy…
Trying To Satisfy The Critics
Work on the films Stu and I are making continues apace but sometimes we’re left wondering why we bother. Take it from me, if you think it’s easy doing what we do, then please, by all means have a go. When things go well it’s brilliant fun but mostly it’s an exercise in sheer frustration. Take this past week as an example. We’ve been trying to complete a tench fishing sequence that contrasts traditional and modern methods on very different venues and it’s been far from a case of turning up, catching a few fish and heading home, job done. Well, it may be for some, but we like to do these things our own way which means the outcome has to satisfy two of the biggest critics in the business.
Stu was so excited when he did some preliminary trips, raking swims, shooting the bites in full screen HD quality from every angle, fish feeding, floats lifting and dithering, you know the score. Of course, when we came to shoot the actual fishing sequences those misty, ethereal mornings ended abruptly. Strong north easterly winds do not make for a traditional estate lake, June morning, red tipped float, tench sequence, so everything went on hold until the weather was picture perfect. And when when we did actually try to shoot it, Stu blanked.
We’re still waiting to return. Who knows, maybe we’ll wrap it this week. We just need a few days of the kind of weather we had in April because so far June has been pants.
Meanwhile I was hammering out big tench from a cracking mature gravel pit like there was no tomorrow. Indeed there may as well not have been one because when we went there to actually film the action it was suddenly the toughest lake on the planet. I struggled to buy a bite. The fish simply went on strike and that was that. Three fish in 24 hours with nothing much over 6lb was not what we’d hoped for.
But did I mention we were also filming our escapade under the water, too?
The final 2 hours we spent at the pit saw us with a camera placed smack in the centre of our fishing spot, a location where we’d had at least one feeder, mostly two, for the past 24 hours with very little to show for our efforts. The swim was absolutely dead and we spent ages considering where the fish might be. Should we have fished a different swim? And just what might they might be feeding on, were they just preoccupied on naturals, and so on.
Well, when we wrapped up fishing and reviewed the footage it turns out there were umpteen tench in the swim, picking up maggots no more than a foot from the camera. But why didn’t we catch? So much for the ultimate tench rigs and baits then. A lot of head scratching took place on the ride home, I can tell you. How often have you blanked in a swim that, unknown to you, was full of feeding fish?
But it wasn’t such a bad trip. We did catch a few tench and a bonus leather carp snatched a Mistral i40 boilie, but it looks like another visit to re-shoot the action scenes. Lord knows how we’ll fit it in.
A Little Bit Of Magic
In the days when the glorious 16th actually meant something. When it stood for the start of all fishing, rather than just a clarion call to barbel anglers, it was an occasion synonymous with lily pads, red tipped floats and fizzing tench for what I presume were the vast majority of anglers. That was what the whole tradition was all about in my eyes. It was the sunrise, whisps of lingering mist, dew on your wellies, the dawn chorus, the eager rush for swims, sitting on a wicker seat box with maybe a foam cushion for a bit of comfort if you were lucky. It was special. But if I had to sum up that moment in one image I’d probably go for this one…
In simple terms this was what made the 16th glorious. That’s what Stu and I did our best to capture on DVD this week on a pretty much forgotten lake. Although if truth be told it was more than a week but who’s counting?
Earlier this morning I was operating not one, but two DVD cameras. However, for some reason I also had a digital SLR draped round my neck which was fortunate because I was able to fire off a shot just at that very moment when Stu struck into a fish. It’s not a cheat. It wasn’t planned but somehow I happened to look through the viewfinder and press the shutter at just the right moment as the float went under and Stu’s strike connected with a fish. I love it – don’t you?
Tell me that this picture alone wasn’t worth all the effort of getting out of bed at 3.45am …again.
Things You Really Didn’t Need To Know (Number 99)
You know it’s a slow session when your fishing partner asks you if you’ve ever lit one of your own farts.
And then digs himself into an even deeper hole by adding, ‘That’s on my bucket list of things to do before I die…’
In fairness, what shocked me was that he hasn’t already ticked that one off the list. It also left me wondering what other delights it contained, although frankly, I’d rather not know!
Well the 16th of June finally came around. Whether it was the heatwave in April or the cold and miserable May, it just didn’t feel like the start of the river season somehow. The forecast was for cloud and rain so that didn’t help either. Twelve months previous I’d been like a kid at Christmas, all worked up, couldn’t sleep and could hardly think of anything else but being by the river again. No, this year didn’t feel right somehow.
The Trent was rammed on opening day. It was bivvy city wherever you looked. How this river has changed. Not a seatbox in sight, pseudo carpers everywhere. Although I drove down on the evening of the 15th it wasn’t my intention to fish through the night. Instead I tried to get my head down and snatch some kip but the constant blips and bleeps of bite alarms don’t sit too well with that.
At dawn I decided to have one chuck with a straight lead. Bearing in mind I’d introduced no bait whatsoever it came as quite a shock when my very first cast never actually hit the deck as a barbel snatched two Mistral Elips pellets on the drop. I followed the lead down with the rod on a tight line and it just kept on going. My second cast, at random, to a different area of the swim produced a sharp drop back in no time and barbel number two was heading for my net.
Unfortunately both these barbel were in poor shape, practically hollow although still discharging eggs. The barbel rod was immediately retired for the rest of the session. When I departed for home around lunch time a guy further along the bank had caught something like 34 barbel from just one swim. He had absolutely caned them. Clearly they were shoaled up for spawning and he readily admitted they were shedding eggs and milt as he unhooked them. I probably sound like a stuck record to some of you, especially Fred, but we have got this closed season malarkey completely and utterly wrong. There is nothing glorious about fishing for barbel on June 16th. It’s repulsive and it’s wrong.
But if you can’t fish for them in late March and April when they’re in absolutely perfect condition, when are you going to fish for them?
Oh well. I switched to fishing stick float and caster and never looked back. The chub I’d hoped to catch nailed my bait on the very first cast and that continued for a while at one a chuck. They weren’t as big as I’d have liked but you can’t have everything.
After packing up I took Stu and showed him the weir at Collingham, a place he’d never seen before. We watched as the mob on Peg 1A netted a barbel. Looked a nice fish but it took an absolute age to unhook, weigh and then photograph. It didn’t look too happy when it went back and two of them took turns to right it. Probably doesn’t seem long when your adrenaline is buzzing. You tend to see things differently from a hundred yards away and we were both chuntering, ‘Come on! Get on with it guys!’ Long before it was returned. Please, take it as sound advice well meant rather than criticism if you’re reading this, but that fish was out of the water for far too long.
I’m pleased we decided to have a look around a few venues because we had the good fortune to stumble upon the winner of the best barbel tee pee competition 2011…
Do you like the neat way his rods are neatly spread out? One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, …err, hang on. Five? Oohhh you little tinca. Maybe someone else was in the tee pee, taking a rest. The trouble is it’s so difficult to tell whether a modern barbel angler is actually fishing or just fast asleep.
Elsewhere my spies report the fishing was pretty hit and miss as well. The Dove was difficult to say the least but at least Mick Wood texted to say he’d had a few nice barbel on the Swale.
Roll on July.
The Law’s An Ass
It was with a deal of sympathy that I learned Matt Hayes has had all his gear nicked. Like £20 grand’s worth. He was obviously targeted and the scary thing is there’s a high probability that the thieves could come back again. At least that’s what the police told me when I had mine nicked. According to them, it’s quite common for folk to be robbed, have the losses replaced through insurance and then be robbed again. It’s a case of being on your guard and beefing up the security just in case.
Of course there would be no tackle thefts if there wasn’t a market for cheap, no questions asked tackle, would there? If someone offers you a set of Infinity rods and Basia reels for 200 notes please don’t try telling me you don’t appreciate it’s stolen gear. I was fortunate to recover three Infinity carp rods, complete with fully spooled reels (and rigs!) when my gear was nicked. They guy who bought them, for a ridiculously cheap price, claimed he’d bought them on the banks of Ryhill Reservoir and couldn’t remember what the bloke who sold them looked like.
I reckon if the police had charged him with knowingly receiving stolen property and aiding and abetting a robbery then his amnesia might have been cured. I lost the better part of 10 grands worth of gear and my house insurance premiums went up considerably afterwards, so I paid twice.
To the police it was just another minor larceny. Somewhere down the line they’d catch a little scrote who would be prepared to hold his hands up to 57 assorted thefts to wipe the slate clean and get a lighter sentence. The cops clear-up rate statistics would look marvelous and everyone would be happy except the victims. What do they get?
Tell me this though. If someone had walked into a high street bank and robbed them of 20 grand would the police have shown a bit more interest? Too bloody right they would! And so would the media. Anglers are so low down the pecking order in society they barely count for anything. I’ll bet there are more successful prosecutions for dog fouling than tackle thefts.
Matt’s gear will probably be sold at car boot sales, in second hand shops, by shady guys in pubs, through local paper ads and probably on eBay. It’ll be sold for a fraction of its true worth and I can actually imagine some folk out there being secretly proud to own a knocked-off rod, previously owned by Matt Hayes. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they brag about it.
The police will simply issue Matt with a crime number and log the details. Far too busy catching speeding motorists, I suspect. When it happened to me I received a tip-off saying some of my gear was in a certain garage in Sheffield, so I rang the police and reported the news. The bobbies response?
‘Don’t bother, I’ll go myself!’
‘Err, we strongly recommend you don’t do that, sir.’
When all’s said and done, TFG stuff is as cheap as chips to start with. What’s a second hand knock-off rod going to be hawked around at? But no-one is safe. You know, I’ve half a mind to paint all my gear pink. I might look a complete pratt on the bank but at least no-one in their right mind would nick it.
Surely there’s a niche in the market for miniaturised mobile tracking devices. The kind of thing that can be concealled inside a rod, in a seat box, a holdall, a replica bite alarm, that king of thing because one thing’s for certain, the gear we tend to collect over the years is worth thousands of pounds. The police are useless, the insurance company claim assessors will try and reduce your claim through any loophole they can find, and you’re in deep trouble if you deal with the culprits yourself.
It’s my experience that when you get your gear nicked you’re a victim three times over.
And make that four times if you include the scumbag anglers who are quite prepared to buy your gear for a pittance.
Footnote: My better half has just replaced here phone. It’s probably worth about the same as one decent rod or reel yet it comes with a GPS tracking device in case it gets nicked. I also heard a story on the radio about a cuckoo, fitted with a tiny tracking device, that disappeared from Norfolk and truned up in Central France a few weeks later. Surely we can do something like this with valuable goods like fishing tackle?
Fly Like An Eagle
I was very privileged to witness a fish eagle while piking on Lough Derg with Herman Molenaarthe other day. It soared over us and I did my best to shoot a bit of video footage. However, Shane O’Reilly of Fisheries Ireland, who was with us but in a second boat, managed to snap this stunning shot with his camera…
I see loads of hawks when I’m out and about fishing. The other morning I even had to slow down for a buzzard that was feasting on road kill right in front of me. I watched a kite sweep majestically over the tench lake I was fishing several times, but nothing quite compares to something like this. It was absolutely huge.
Can anyone enlighten me as to what the wing tags are for? This bird is clearly number 17…
The Price Of Fame
According to Deloitte the income generated by Premier League clubs went up to £1.98bn last year and that players wages alone accounted for 67% of the total, or to put it in easy numbers, they took home a whacking £1,300,000,000.00p. That’s a lot of noughts, eh? No wonder these players can afford fancy clothes, flash cars, mansions and super injunctions. And they seem to spend more time on the golf course than the football field. It’s crazy that some players can pick up in excess of a million pounds a year without ever getting near the first team.
By contrast, top anglers receive pathetic rewards. Take Julian Chidgley for instance. Smart, intelligent, articulate, youthful, already a Drennan Cup Winner, regular columnist in IYCF, consultant to various companies, top bloke and fabulous all-round angler. He’s currently touting his services as a fishing guide for the princely sum of £80 a day. That’s a 12-hour day, by the way, plus he’ll throw in tackle and bait, and he has to travel to the venue, eat and drink.
There ain’t exactly a lot of profit, is there?
I wish Jules every success with his venture but it’s no way to make a living.
Here he is in action at one of the day ticket venues he’ll take you to, Anglers Paradise’ Krackin Carp Lake, catching a 32lb common carp.
Get A Life?
The messages left by visitors beneath articles published on this site contribute to its verve and vitality. Yes, sometimes they’re slightly controversial, or catty, or even angry. I certainly don’t agree with the sentiments contained within many of them but these visitors deserve an opportunity to share what’s on their minds. However, what I won’t stand for is personal abuse. I’ve made this quite clear on many occasions but there’s always one who takes thing too far, isn’t there?
Fortunately I get to moderate these messages before they’re published. Like this one that arrived today:
A new comment on the post “2011 – Happy New Year!” is waiting for your approval
Author : carp legend (IP: 22.214.171.124 , 5e0cbdab.bb.sky.com)
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/126.96.36.199
Comment: Get a life fred and go and f*** yourself. you are a c*** face.
Currently 2 comments are waiting for approval. Please visit the moderation panel:
That’s one IP address who won’t be posting on here again, I guess. Probably be too busy trying to get a life himself.
According to the IP address tracker I submitted it to, the message was sent from Redbourn Road, Redbourn, which is somewhere between Luton and Hemel Hempstead. Could be wrong although two different tracker sites came up with the same result.
A Bit Of Culture
On a brighter note I received this poem via my Facebook page the other day. I like the message about leaving a clean and tidy peg.
No doubt I’ll be clearing up piles of other folks’ discarded rubbish now the rivers are open again.
But if we all carried a little black sack and did our bit, just think what it would be like…
By Bob Bettridge
Cast to the left of me, cast to my right
Cast out in front of me but I can’t get a bite
I’ve changed my tactics many times, tried ledgering and float
And now the bitter lashing rain has soaked right through my coat
Worms and Maggots, Corn and Flake on every size of hook
I’ve used up all the tricks I know, it seems I’m out of luck
The weather’s gone from bad to worse and now the wind’s a gale
I should be in a nice warm pub and supping pints of ale
Most Women think we’re barmy and all who fish are mad
“To be obsessed with drowning worms is really very sad”
But non angling folk have no idea of the Buzz when the line goes tight
Or the adrenaline rush when the fish is on and the rod bends to the fight
Not every day is action packed with solid bites and takes
When your angling comes together with very few mistakes
There are days like this when nothing’s right and all you try’s in vain
Just fishing on with not a bite in the bitter lashing rain
Any size of fish would do, just to avoid a ‘blank’
What’s this! A twitch, about time too, my inert float just sank
I am getting lots of bites at last though the fishless hours were rotten
Now it’s a bite with every cast and all be fore’s forgotten
I have learned a bit and caught a few to finish off my day
And carefully I’ve set them free and watched them swim away
I am all packed up but before I go there is one last look to see
That I’ve left a clean and tidy ‘Peg’ for those who follow me.
A Deserved Gong For The Dentist
I was pleased to see that Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, Director of the Wye & Usk Foundation, has been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to the environment and to conservation on the Rivers Wye and Usk. I’ve been fortunate to know him personally for a number of years, had dinner with him, visited his house and so on. His drive and commitment are remarkable.
It was Stephen who actually founded the Wye Foundation in 1996 which became the Wye & Usk Foundation (WUF) in 2002. It’s now Britain’s largest Rivers’ Trust and barbel anglers have a lot to thank him and his willing army of helpers.
The funding generated to bankroll game fishing projects has had a knock-on in terms of coarse fish recruitment and one cannot argue that WUF has opened up some spectacular beats to all of us for the price of a day ticket.
Away from the Wye and Usk, Stephen has also played an important role in the political side of angling. As chair of the Anglers’ Conservation Association he helped to unite the various representative bodies into the Angling Trust and became its first Chairman in 2009. He also played a part in the creation of the Association of Rivers’ Trusts in 1999.
Makes a pleasant change from politicians, local government bigwigs and entertainers, don’t you think?
Every Little Helps, I suppose
My comments on otters last time drew predictable responses, mostly in private so I can’t reveal those, but there are still folk out there doing passable impersonations of ostriches with their heads buried in the sand. They still don’t believe otters pose any kind of threat to angling. Their response to anyone who states the bleeding obvious, that otters eat fish, is that we’re being hysterical.
Naturalists insist that otters only do this, or do that, they have little impact and that their preferred diet is fish less than 30cm long – which by pure coincidence is exactly the same size prey that cormorants like to feast on. No they don’t, they adapt to their circumstances. They evolve. Their behavioural patterns change. Why else would they be caught on CCTV, foraging in cities?
Thirty years ago my mentor and source of writing inspiration, the late Colin Dyson used to rail on about the threat that cormorants posed on the River Trent. Remember, these birds were a novelty back then. He said they would decimate the Trent. Many, me included, thought he was exaggerating. After all the Trent was paved with roach, skimmers, bleak, dace, chub, hybrids, gudgeon and so on. You could set up practically anywhere and take a fantastic bag of mostly small fish. The river was alive with fish topping constantly wherever you looked.
Today it’s pretty much big fish or bust. Yes, there are the odd locations where, at certain times of the year, you can take a decent bag of silvers. But these are not representative of the wider picture. I doubt there is 5% of the silver fish left compared with, say, 1980. By all means cite the effects of cleaning up the water, chemicals and anything else you wish to name, but the plain facts are there for all to see. Hundreds, possibly thousands of cormorants have and do continue to wreak havoc, each taking their kilo of flesh per day.
Predation is out of hand and suggestions that nature will balance itself out come from those who seem oblivious to the fact that nature fails to halt the decline in species diversity all the time. The planet we live on loses numerous species – gone for ever – each and every single day. It is pure Tom Foolery to believe that at some point the predators will suddenly stop killing, join Weightwatchers and voluntarily reduce their numbers.
Otter supporters claim only 117 captive-bred otters have been released into the wild as if that means there are only 117 otters in the UK. Otters have no predators to worry about. They breed and spread, encouraged by those who are gleefully building holts willy-nilly in every bit of damp grass and ditch they come across. They’re omnivorous, and for a while there will be plenty of small furry creatures and birds to supplement their diet. But that won’t last for ever, either.
Thank God that folks like John Wilson are doing their bit. Here’s a clip of him on a BBC TV news channel doing his bit for the cause. Unfortunately I’m not convinced by calls for more research. Those with a few grey hairs will recall similar calls when we first recognised the impact cormorants were having. Scientists told us that cormorants were not very good at catching fish. They had watched them diving constantly but not once did one surface with a fish in its beak. It never crossed their minds that they swallowed their prey under water, did it? Science can be flawed. Those involved are not always impartial.
No-one is calling for the total eradication of otters, or even mass kills, but those who have a desire to see them survive and thrive have a responsibility beyond creating homes for the bastards. They should be held responsible for feeding them, and if that means compensating those who have their valuable fish stocks killed by otters then so be it. If it means otter supporters have to recreate a situation where we have vibrant runs of migratory fish (including eels, salmon, sea trout, smelt, shad, sturgeon even), again then go ahead guys, and if it means regenerating diminished river flows that will be brilliant – maybe remove a few locks and weirs, discard the idea of hydro schemes, stop building on flood plains, meet the water framework directive in full and bring back water voles, hey, I’m with you all the way – providing you are going to fund it.
Because right now it’s the angler who’s paying. He’s paying with his sport and that’s far too high a price to pay.
The introduction of 117 otters might not sound a lot but neither did 98 zander. And pardon me for pointing this out, there’s not a single shred of evidence that zander have been introduced to the Severn, the Warwickshire Avon, the Trent, The Nene, The Coventry Canal and countless pits, pools and lakes around the countryside. And no-one was going round digging zander holts, were they?
A Novel Idea
A friend has ambitions to write a book but things are not quite going to plan. He summed up his progress in a recent email:
‘I think it (the book) will be a tricky task… I tried doing a little bit about bream fishing and ended up writing about buck toothed Somalis, Indian women with poor downstairs hygiene getting chased by displaced tigers, a cocky sheep getting twatted at Thrumpton and immigrant gangs of child molesting zander. The problem is it all makes sense to me.’
I suppose it does, Lee. I suppose it does, providing you’re a complete raving lunatic!
Footnote: When I asked him if I might reprint the above quote he replied, I can do better than that. Here is 75% (rough draught) of the bream chapter so far…’
So there you have it, I’ll be publishing his rabid ramblings first chance I get. With a PG warning, I suspect.
Dropping One (Or Two As The Case May Be)
Staying with the humorous theme, I nicked the background image below off Marsh Pratley’s Facebook page. It shows one of his customers accidentally dropping a bollock.
Hang on a second. Please tell me it wasn’t deliberate…
Daiwa Launch Online Catalogue
I suppose it is the way of the world and with print costs spiraling astronomically I imagine paper copies of product catalogues will soon be in short supply and ultimately will be phased out completely. The web is where most folk get their information these days and it’s a logical move for companies to create online catalogues.
Daiwa is the latest manufacturer to release its catalogue in this format. Check it out and tell me what you think. I’ll pass your comments back to them.
And Finally – Kid On A Red Chopper Bike
Tony Beesley’s a local author who writes about music, specialising in the punk era. His ‘Our Generation’ trilogy is essential reading for anyone who was an aficionado of that particular brand of music. His latest book is, I’m assured, the second best selling book at WH Smith’s Parkgate Retail World store, not that Jeffery Archer is getting too orried just yet but hats off to a local boy made good. At least he’s having a go and doing something positive.
The blurb suggests you: “Re-live the care-free innocent days of the 1970’s – the decade that taste supposedly forgot! Refreshingly honest, often shamelessly nostalgic; take a trip back to days of power cuts, flares and Glam Rock as seen through the eyes of a mischievous young kid on a Red Chopper bike. Ride through long hot summer days of laughter and wide-eyed wonder….
Bringing back to life days of a non-PC world and a different time where fear knew little place, Kid on a Red Chopper bike tells a tale of youthful discovery, excitement, obsession and ultimately tragedy and loss!”
You know, I might just grab one. At £8.99 it won’t exactly break the bank. It’s available on Amazon, eBay and sundry outlets but the easiest way might be to simply get one direct from the author by logging on to his web site.