At last there are signs of a break in the weather. Although the high water levels present few real problems for experienced anglers – there’s always somewhere to go and catch a few fish – it’s been playing havoc with our filming schedules. Stu and I are so close to wrapping up the main bulk of filming for our Caught In The Act project. Of the 20 ‘acts’, 17 are in the can already leaving just 3 summer sequences to film. Easy you might think. Yeah, right!
Not quite so easy when one act involves stalking a summer barbel in clear water. Nor is catching a barbel on the float from a river like the Trent when it’s been 8 feet above normal level. Now folk talk glibly about ‘8 feet’ as though it’s nothing but last year when I fished at this location I was able to park on top of the flood bank, walk down the steep slope and pitch my oval on the flat area. In front of this were 5 feet high nettles and brambles, then it was down over the rocks to the river.
This year the water level has been up to where I parked and it’s been there for over a month. Lord only knows what the banks will be like when the level eventually drops but I’m guessing it’ll be muddy and the vegetation will all have died. I doubt the ranunculus out in the river will have survived, either, because it won’t have received a great deal of light. And just think on, every one of these bivvies would have been submerged!
No, when the levels fall, we’ll all be back to square one and we’ll have to re-learn the whole stretch because I’m sure the fish will have been moved around, too.
On the subject of river levels I’m a big fan of the EA River Levels web site and check it regularly to stay in touch with various rivers. This year a lot of the rain has been heavy and localised, especially in Yorkshire, and that means one river can be in flood while the next, maybe only 10 or 20 miles away is at normal level. On big river catchments like the Trent, Dove and Derwent you can check what’s happening upstream and in the tributaries and perdict when the lower reaches will rise.
Smaller rivers are very different and may only have one or perhaps two gauging stations that offer information and until you understand the nature of each river you can me fooled by the information given. Take this example of one of my favourite small rivers. These were taken on the same day at the same time.
First we have the upper reaches and as you can see the river is within its typical range.
Then we have the middle reaches, and we’re talking just 6 miles away as the crow flies. Here you can see the river is right up in the ‘Flooding is possible’ range. How can that be? And it wasn’t a one-off. It’s been like this all season, give or take the odd fluctuation.
So I contacted the EA and questioned whether the calibration was suspect. To be fair the EA responded quickly and sent someone out to check. And guess what? The level is correct. The high levels are caused by the nature of the channel and the amount of weed growing in the river. Not sure whether it’s due to cut backs or a bit of common sense but the weed was only part-cut last year and hasn’t been cut at all this year. And surprise, surprise, the river is full of fry.
Anyway, I spent a couple of hours down there last night and the river was in fine fettle. Just a tinge of colour. Not enough so that I couldn’t see the river bed but enough to give the fish confidence. Unfortunately the chub were very active. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain but it bugs the hell out of me when I’ve laid a trap and got barbel feeding confidently only for the trap to be sprung by a chub. On the right gear I’d thoroughly enjoy catching them but not on barbel gear.
There are swims here that I can pretty much guarantee to catch a barbel, so I avoid them, or should I say save them for when I’m struggling. When conditions are good I try and catch fish from swims that no-one else fishes. The overlooked spots and if you put in enough effort they are there to be found. I wear chest waders so I can wade into the river and clear small areas next to cover. It’s surprising what a difference you can make in a couple of minutes by removing a few strands of trailing ranunculus, turning an unfishable spot into a virgin ambush spot.
Small river barbel, at least in my experience where the rivers are relatively shallow and clear, spend much of their time beneath cover. Any overhanging bush is a potential barbel swim, even if it only extends a couple of feet over the river. Ideally the branches should trail into the water, the bed must be clean gravel or pebbles, there must be a good flow and finally, I like to see 18 inches of depth or more. Believe it or not the swim above is a prolific one and holds as many as a dozen barbel in summer.
How many angler walk straight past it?
Each year new growth creates new swims. I even plant my own swims during Autumn. It may take a couple of years before they mature but if you site them where folk aren’t used to looking then you can have them to yourself. One swim I’ve had my eye on for 3 years has matured this year and that’s where I headed and did my trimming. The fact that the ranunculus swept down to and under the bush told me no-one could possibly have fished there (which is why I had to do a bit of pruning). The number of scratches, bites and stings also told me I was treading fresh ground – or fresh jungle, as it seemed more like.
Sure enough, I baited, I waited, I observed. And guess what. A nice barbel came out from under the sanctuary to investigate. A smile played across my lips because I knew I’d catch it. Once it was feeding I was able to quietly lower my rig just ahead of it, something that’s pretty easy to do when you are fishing 2 feet from the near bank in 18 inches of water. I then sat back to wait, more smug than confident. It was only a matter of time and that time was measured in seconds, not minutes. Seriously, it’s as easy as that when you get things right.
I Think Like A Fish
Jan Porter used to call Johnny Rolf ‘Manfish’ because he reckoned the Trent expert of old could read what the fish were thinking. If the latest Jack Pike cartoon is anything to go by I think like a fish, too…
Click on the image if you want to learn more about the creator.
Left High and Dry (Or Should I Say Wet)
I was meant to be spending a couple of days on the Trent with Dean Macey last week but high levels put paid to that. He was hoping to film a programme for TV the week after and that’s gone on the back burner, too. Just to be on the safe side I made my first trip of the season to the river and sure enough it was sky high and had been even higher judging by the line of debris in the corn field behind.
This has been a sensational summer for river levels and I can see a good autumn ahead of us because every bit of crap will have been flushed away. Fish tend to be more difficult to catch when the water’s high but they certainly feed on something, at least during summer floods, because the fish I’m catching are mostly in great nick.
I’d almost forgotten how the Trent gives you neck ache, at least it does if you adopt the popular lightning conductor approach with multiple rods pointing at the moon. In the shot below I’m actually fishing from the top of the flood bank close to where a dyke enters. There’s a footbridge over the dyke and not only is the footbridge under water, so is the handrail and despite the fact the clarity is coming back I can’t even see that.
I’m wondering what the banks will look like when the level drops, as it must do sometime. Surely everything will be caked in a layer of fine silt and I’m guessing that after a month under water a lot of the vegetation will have died off and roted. We shall see. Soon, I hope!
The old gravel barges aren’t affected by the high levels, as this shot shows, but by heck can they motor when heading downstream! No fear of grounding when it’s like this, eh?
I fished for maybe 5 hours and of course, the fish were as obliging as ever, but I didn’t see another soul on either bank. There’s a lot of folk talk the talk but when the rivers are up and you can’t go to sleep because crap is building up on the line they soon wimp out. It’s funny, but having done my time as a match angler anything longer than 5 hours is a marathon yet to many that’s not only a short session, it’s barely worth turning out for. Judging by the number of bivvies you see during a normal summer 24 hours and longer in one swim is the norm.
I wonder though, in the same way that the carper who fishes with his gear on a barrow and is prepared to move the instant he spots fish catches more and bigger fish, how many of these long-stay barbel anglers, or should I say carbellers, are only catching a fraction of the fish they might do if they fished actively? Many seem to have taken up camping and the fishing rods are simply there as an afterthought. I for one am not impressed by the guy who fishes for 48 hours with multiple rods and tells me he’s caught 8 fish choose however big they may be.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it. It’s just not for me. Once in a while, yes. As a change, maybe. But every week to the exclusion of all else? No thanks. It’s effective, no doubt; but so is dynamite and long lining.
Sorry, nearly went on a rant! Back to the story. It was surprisingly easy to hold with a 5oz Fisky Feeder, even at 30 yards – I needed to be sure I was well clear of the rocks and other hazards. The amount of crap build-up was manageable; indeed it probably helped because it meant I kept topping up the swim. Let’s face it, the feed you put out there isn’t hanging about for long, is it?
I’m not going to kid you and say I had fish crawling up the rod, either, but I had half a dozen and dropped a good fish to an unexpected hook pull. They weren’t huge, but do you really think I cared? No, it was a pleasant day’s fishing. No more, no less. Indeed the best part of it was time travelling. Yes, I was transported back 20 years to when I had places like this all to myself. Somehow I don’t think that will last but we can all dream.
Does The RSPB Really Have Any Sympathy With Angling?
Does anyone else think that the RSPB has an agenda where anglers are concerned? In my last blog it was otter lovers claiming they want to work with anglers. This time let’s consider the RSPB. Does anyone harbour a single doubt that these folk know exactly what cormorants have done to the silver fish populations across the UK? Be under no illusion they are fully aware that entire populations have been decimated in double quick time by these imigrant birds and hide behind the blanket protection afforded in error by European legislation.
But do they really need to take the piss? If I go to my nearest nature reserve there’s a picture of a cormorant on the welcome board. Today I walked through the Old Moor Nature Reserve and spotted this hide. I think it says all we need to know about the RSPB’s hand of friendship.
I think it clearly states the RSPB position, don’t you?
For Genesis Fans Only – It’s Returned, You Know…!
I also had a little walk along the River Dearne with runs through the reserve and came across this cracking specimen growing adjacent a popular public foot and cycle path. I apologise for the quality but that’s camera phones for you…
This not-so-little beauty stands all of 9 feet high and if you’re in any doubt whatsoever as to what it is it is heracleum mantegazzianum better known to thee and me as the Giant Hogweed and it is actually illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to plant the stuff because it has toxic sap and can cause severe burns. Obviously I did the public spirited thing and reported it to the Environment Agency but you’d think these cormorant loving freaks would maybe have spotted it before I did.
Or maybe they might be hoping an angler might cause himself a rather nasty injury and steer clear of the place in future.
Footnote: If you’re under 50 (perhaps 60!) and confused by the headline then don’t worry. Here is the relevant lyric:
Turn and run!
Nothing can stop them,
Around every river and canal their power is growing.
Stamp them out!
We must destroy them,
They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odour.
They are invincible,
They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering.
Long ago in the russian hills,
A victorian explorer found the regal hogweed by a marsh,
He captured it and brought it home.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
He came home to london,
And made a present of the hogweed to the royal gardens at kew.
Waste no time!
They are approaching.
Hurry now, we must protect ourselves and find some shelter
Strike by night!
They are defenceless.
They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.
Still they’re invincible,
Still they’re immune to all our herbicidal battering.
Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens,
In which they innocently planted the giant hogweed throughout the land.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
Soon they escaped, spreading their seed,
Preparing for an onslaught, threatening the human race.
The dance of the giant hogweed
Mighty hogweed is avenged.
Human bodies soon will know our anger.
Kill them with your hogweed hairs
Giant hogweed lives
Eeee lad, they don’t write songs like that any more. Thankfully. But it did seem rather cool at the time!
Oh well, indulgence over!
Lights, Camera, Action
There’s a little river not too far away that provides me with some great fishing. I absolutely love the place and it’s very dear to my heart. It’s where I caught my first ever 2lb roach. Where I learned to fish a stick float. But let’s not dwell on the past for it is nothing like the place I once used to fish. Man’s intervention put paid to that. Today it’s a fluid relief channel, not a river. Trapezoidal banks, uniform depths and designed to shift water from A to B as quickly as possible and mostly where I fish it’s around 2 feet deep. Of course nature kicks back by growing a bush or two and luxurious weeds but these soon get removed. Right now it’s looking fabulous because for the first time in living memory we are approaching August and the weed hasn’t been cut, which means the level is high and the fry are doing just nicely, thank you. I can see tiddlers everywhere.
But we anglers don’t fish for tiddlers, we fish for bigger stuff and that’s why I see few anglers here. Not only is the fishing patchy, it can be quite difficult and a big fish here is barely an average one on the Trent and you can’t plot in, fish two rods each pointing at the sky because floating debris will wipe them out in minutes and you don’t make too many multiple captures from one swim, at least not in that way. And horror of all horrors, you pretty much have to fish in daylight. Which suits me to a tee.
Mostly it’s not a case of if I might catch, it’s more of what I want to catch, because there’s quite a bit of sight fishing involved, and on what method I want to catch, because there are many guns in my armoury. Still, who gets excited by a six popund barbel these days? So it’s mine. On my last trip I didn’t see another angler. The previous trip, just one. Who could possibly complain about a playground like that? My goal this season is to catch barbel from swims I’ve never had one from before. Often these are swims that didn’t hold fish in the past, but the few hours I devoted to creating an overhang or planting a bush in recent seasons has just begun to pay off. I’ve put them in areas that anglers tend to miss out because they don’t expect to find fish there and it’s beginning to pay off.
Last week I wanted to catch one from a particular spot that never gets fished, which I did do. Then I decided to take it a step further and photograph myself doing so. This meant trimming the trailing ends of ranunculus so I had a little hole to work in next to the cover of a small bush. Easy you might say, but what about the action shot? How would I manage that while fishing alone? Easy. I use Canon gear and self-takes are dead easy with a gizmo called a Hahnel Giga T Pro. It’s a receiver that plugs into your camera with a programmable remote shutter release device.
So I turned up to my chosen swim and placed some feed behind the trimmed ranunculus with a bait dropper. Leaving this to settle I then waded across the river (you’ll see I’m wearing chesties) and scrambled up into the far bank nettles taking far too many stings for my liking. I then took a few practise shots to establish the light readings, the focal distance and then framed the whole thing up. It was then a simple job of hooking a fish and hoping to press the remote shutter at the right moment. Of course, the fish decided not to play ball but it all came right in the end.
I think I nailed it, don’t you?
There’s something about the Fens that draws me back time and again. Don’t ask me what it is because it’s not like I pull too many trees up down there and it is a ridiculously long way that involves driving by so many other abulous venues on the way. But it’s a poor year when I don’t make at least one trip down to the lands of the ‘Tigers’.
I needed to return to the River Cam to film a bit of extra footage recently so, as ever, I monitored the EA River Level site carefully. Sure enough it rose dramatically following a bout of seriously heavy rain and then over a period of a couple of days it settled down again. I gave it a couple more for good measure and made sure it was actually lower than on my previous visit. In the van we jumped and sped down to Cambridgeshire.
And guess what? It was chocolate brown and running faster than the Trent. What I’d not anticipated was the volume of muddy water in the fields and side drains which was being pumped into the main river. What an utter disaster. I didn’t even set up a rod.
Instead I gave Mark Barratt a call and asked about a group of drains called the Lodes. These narrow waterways date back to Roman times and were used to transport goods. Alas the local wildlife trust has made access difficult and we were warned it would involve a long walk but what the hell. It was a bright sunny day, for a change, and I’d stripped the gear down to bare essentials.
The Lodes are popular with pikers, pleasure anglers congregate around the access points but if you are prepared to put in a bit of effort you can get far from the madding crowds. Mark suggested a spot that had produced some VERY big rudd a few years back but warned they might have gone now as no reports had been heard for a long time. It was worth a gamble so we carted our gear the mile or so to a very specific location, and guess what, there was an angler fishing the very swim we were heading for. And you know what they say about Location, Location, Location.
Oh well, sometimes a plan doesn’t come together. But we did discover a few very handy looking carp, the biggest of which looked every ounce of 25lbs. Of course that’s the point when you realise you ain’t going to land one on 3lb line and rue leaving the rest of your gear a mile away in the van. But it was nice to watch them taking crusts with abandon. If only, eh…?
Charging For DVDs Sucks – Apparently!
It’s hard to comprehend the brass neck of some folk. As you probably know Stu Walker has a nice little Youtube channel featuring a number of our video clips, quite a few of which have never been included on DVDs, but it’s the trailers that clearly direct folk to the ‘shop’. Watch, like, buy, is the business model. Simple. Effective. Seems to work well enough for us.
Last week some bloke asked where he might download our DVDs to which Stu responded, you can purchase them from this web site. The response to which was, ‘Well, that kinda sucks!’
Excuse me? Why does it suck? We spend months working on projects like this investing time and considerable expense. We are not backed by some film company or a benevolent sponsor. Everything comes out of our own pockets, up front.
Good equipment doesn’t come cheap, nor does fuel, Li-ion batteries, umpteen hard drives, computers to run the editing software, hotel bills, advertising, reproduction, printing, phone bills, silly things like radio mic batteries and above all else we put in a huge amount of extremely valuable time.
Are we expected to do this for free? So folks like him can rip off our work for nothing? The world’s gone mad.
And then you get the nice emails from genuine folk asking, ‘When’s the next one coming out, Bob?’
A call from Sky TV set my mind racing the other night. ‘Hi Bob, it’s Mick. I was wondering whether you and Stu might be interested in doing another little job for us. Would you by any chance fancy doing a spot of filming in Zambia. It’s just that we’ve been asked to shoot a film about tiger fishing and you know how it is. If we have to send a crew, observe all the Health and Safety rules, etc, etc, the cost goes through the roof and we simply can’t afford to do it. How about you and Stu? You must have had the jabs for every kind of disease on the planet!’
Well, he didn’t have to ask twice. A few calls and emails later and guess what? We’re off to fish the Zambezi River. Bring it on. Here’s where we’re going. I’ll keep you updated.
Not that we’ll make a profit. We’ll actually end up quite a bit out of pocket but that will be offset against any profit we might make on the barbel DVD sales. And in return you will all get to see our footage from Zambia – free of charge, because eventually it’ll be on Youtube, and available as an App on smart TVs.
It doesn’t make us greedy, or selfish people, does it? But the next time you’re ripping a copy of a mate’s Barbel Days and Ways DVD just think on, you’re making it very difficult for us to create another. We don’t charge the earth, we don’t sell a million and there ain’t no radio and TV royalties, arena tours, t-shirts, programmes nand other merchandising opportunities that go hand-in-hand with, say, the music industry. We’re in the nickels and dimes business so please, do think twice before you rip us off. I’m sure Martin Bowler, Hugh Miles, Matt Hayes and John Wilson all share our sentiment.
Face Book or Face Ache?
Comfortable retirement brings great opportunities. Not only does it mean I can fish whenever the fancy takes me, it also means I get to see the Jeremy Kyle show. Now before anyone suggests I’ve gone completely bonkers stop and think for a moment. I reckon it’s a public service broadcast funded by the Government. Why? Because it shows sensible folk how bad their lives could be if they stepped off the straight and narrow. It’s a window on the feckless, the immoral, the ignorant and the downright stupid. The kind of wasters that educated folk cross the street to avoid and hope to God they never have to live next door to. I’m sure you know what I’m driving at.
If you ever want to see a posh bloke shouting at a tattoed idiot with bad teeth and wearing a track suit, the Jeremy Kyle Show is where you go. One of JK’s favourite hobby horses is Facebook. He positively hates it. ‘Why don’t you people talk to each other instead of using Facebook to tell lies all the time?!!’ He’ll scream at some scum bag. Sounds apalling but it’s dangerously compulsive. Like visiting a lunatic asylum was in the 19th Century, perhaps.
Well my own experiences on Facebook have been universally positive to date. I’ve encountered lots of friendly folk, quite a few interesting ones, too. And to date, not one single knob. You see, I left those behind on the fishing forums when I launched this web site, much to their chagrin. ‘Boo hoo!’ They cried, ‘He doesn’t want to talk to us any more…’ Presumably they thought that maybe I appreciated their constant attentions. How deluded can a person get? But anyway. I created my web site and perfectly happy I was, or should I say, still am.
Those who appeared to have little else but bitterness in their lives were put out to grass. Perhaps it was coincidence they launched their own copycat blog sites soon afterwards although it was sad to see they contained little else except insults and slurs about me. Even so, I have to say I was touched, immitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all. Perhaps I didn’t appreciate how much they obviously cared.
Unfortunately few of them have enough of interest going on in their sad little lives to actually find material to fill a blog. Most have ground to a halt or appear rather infrequently. Certainly their content is high on the insult front and low on the actual fish catching. Truth is, when it came to writing about what they did it rapidly became apparent the answer was very little except bashing away on a keyboard.
It was Steve Pope, a little while later, who insisted I should be on Facebook. It made perfect practical sense. After a bit of advice and guidance from Matt Brown I launched into it and never looked back. Hundreds, probably thousands of messages later, both public and private, and not a sign of bitterness or trolling. It was bliss. Sadly Facebook’s growth seems to have accellerated the decline of angling forum’s until we’ve reached a point where the only folk left to bite lumps of each other on the Forums were the trolls themselves and there’s nothing more obvious than a lonely troll.
You just knew that sooner or later these folk would find themselves with little choice than to go looking for trouble elsewhere. Most are perfectly harmless, if a little stupid and deluded, but the odd one is so odious and obnoxious he is difficult to ignore and I knew that sooner or later he’d turn up on Facebook. Sure enough, as of May 2nd we were joined by Mr ****.
Who? you ask. Exactly. What more need I say.
And it hasn’t taken him long to come a-trolling round, spreading poison in his wake, posting on the wall of one of my friends that I am an ‘egomaniac and a tool’.
Don’t you love that? They can now use other people’s pages to broadcast their insults and slurs. Real classy behaviour, I have to say. Not happy with posting it on his own wall where no-one will read it, he broadcasts it on other’s, far more popular than himself, instead. Facebook’s Achilles heel.
But what has provoked this outburst? Have I insulted him? Bad mouthed him in some way? No, not at all. It’s because the producer of an ill-fated TV show (it bit the dust days before it was due to air when Setanta abruptly stopped broadcasting) shared a clip of me being interviewed by Dean Macey and Wendy Lithgoe in my local tackle shop. You can actually watch it here if you like…
It’s a bit rich, don’t you think, that this sad individual, who I have never knowingly met in my life, should think of me as an egomaniac.
For once words fail me.
Alas the sanctity of my Facebook has been disturbed. Disrupted presumably forever. Trolls attract more trolls. They are the cockroaches of the superhighway, almost imposible to eradicate, contaminating all they touch. Perhaps I should do what I’ve been threatening to do for a while and report this individual’s behaviour to the police. A report of harassment, is long overdue and a caution would certainly follow…
That should do it.
Till the next time then, tight lines 😉