Welcome to the third part of my end of season saga. Hard to believe how much has happened in the space of a couple of weeks but I guess it’s the inevitable when you’re a busy angler. Let’s kick off with news from a fishery that will be open all year and don’t forget, some of the best fishing there can be enjoyed on the day ticket lakes where a 40lb carp is on the cards this year and the cats are even bigger…
Paradise Cats Have Woken Up
Catfish are now well on the prowl at Anglers Paradise and the Main Lake has already produced one weighing 53lbs to Stuart Vivash. Unfortunately he still uses a 35mm film camera so I’m waiting to see whether I will get a digital image anytime soon. I do hope so. Meanwhile you’ll have to make do with this beast:
It weighed 37lbs 2oz and was caught from the day ticket complex, Anglers Nirvana, by Martin “Geek” Smith.
Down The Drain
I spent a few pleasant hours wobbling deadbaits the other day. It was never meant to be a serious session, the sun was shining and I had a gut feeling that I might nobble a few pike if I made the effort. Looks like someone else has found my ‘secret’ drain as it was clear that the rushes have been flattened every 30 yards or so, presumably by someone chucking lures.
I took two rods, one to float fish a static deadbait, the other to work either side of it, just casting around with a wobbled deadbait. It was easy enough to cover fifty to a hundred yards every ten minutes or so but even this seemed desperately slow as I could see nearly 2 miles of drain stretching out into the distance. So much water to cover and a good chance the fish would be gathering in certain spots to spawn. Oh, to know where they are!
My hope was that I’d keep on the move and eventually find a fish or two. Ten minutes in I connected with a very ambitious jack that wasn’t a great deal bigger than my wobbled bait. Anticipation rose but soon fell. Nothing else responded in the area. In fact nothing else responded in the next few hours. I was shocked if I’m honest but way ahead in the distance lay what I thought might be a banker swim. A swim where the water is deeper and there are two overhanging bushes.
I soon started skipping areas to get there. Alas it was to prove a disappointment. I did have a take but the pike I brought to the surface was smaller even than the previous one. Oh dear.
It was a long walk back to the van.
Get In Ken!
Regular readers might remember my article about last years coaching week on the Wye when I was joined by ‘The Blues Brothers’. Two guys from opposite ends of the country who brought so much fun to the party. Can’t tell you how pleased I am that they’ve rebooked this year and joined the list of returning regulars – folk who make it a real pleasure to spend a week with – so much so that what began as a simple weekend has become two sold out weeks.
Anyway, one of the pair I dubbed the Blues Brothers (a reference to their shades) is Ken, something of a barbel fanatic who fishes the Hampshire Avon most of the time. He thinks nothing of going 3 weeks without a bite even in the warmer months so you can imagine he found the Wye rather more prolific!
Anyway, he’s just upped his PB with a stonking fish weighing 15lb 9oz. Well done Ken, I know exactly how much that fish means to you. Roll on summer, eh?
Why Should The Victim Pay?
Andy Harper left an interesting comment beneath a recent blog suggesting anglers should fund proper scientific research into the effects of predation. Andy and I have known each other for a long time, indeed I was with Andy when I fished the Dove at Tutbury for the first time about 12 years ago. But I digress. His post set me thinking and it didn’t take me long to realise we are coming at this situation from the wrong end of the spectrum.
Who is the victim in this scenario? Legislation was (mistakenly) afforded to carbo sinensis which has since swept across Europe and subsequently caused havoc to inland UK fisheries. Has their error affected anyone in the European Parliament? No. Has it affected the bird watching possibilities of one single RSPB member? No.
It has certainly impacted on fish, anglers and angling. Clearly we are the victims of an injustice so why are we talking about funding lengthy and costly scientific research? Those who support the European Act should be the ones who pay, not the victim. All the evidence I need can be seen in the photo above.
Same goes for otters. Otters are killing specimen fish at a prodigious rate across the length and breadth of this country. They do this because they were stupidly bred, released and encouraged to spread in an environment where their natural food source had clearly and dramatically diminished. Who undertook the scientific research that said re-introducing otters wouldn’t have a detrimental mental impact on angling and the environment? Did anyone undertake a thorough environmental impact survey before undertaking this programme? I doubt it very much.
Otters were bred, spread and encouraged to flourish with no thought whatsoever. There was no funding for ongoing monitoring, nor was there an end-game or a contingency plan if it went horribly wrong, as it is doing. Those who undertook this ‘experiment’ should be shot along with most of the otters until a situation is reached where the waterways can realistically sustain them! They should certainly be held responsible for their actions and compensate anyone who has suffered measurable financial loss or had to fund preventative measures as a result. This is the UK. We are supposed to have an educated and civilised population. Crime is punished and victims are compensated.
We are supposed to care about all of nature. It’s time the Angling Trust woke up and demanded some action. It is not up to anglers to fund research, it is our right to demand research and those who support change are the ones who must defend their position by paying for what they believe in. Nor should it be our responsibility to fund protection measures against an introduced predator. It’s time the Government stood up and made these folk accountable for their actions and gave anglers the power to protect their interests.
And this leads me nicely into the closed season. Again, we’re back to research and costs. The Closed season was not introduced by Neandertal man, nor God. It was introduced by a non-angler – and quite recently, too. It was never meant to protect coarse fish. Currently it affects about 3 per cent of anglers as I see it. The rest fish on regardless on commercials and stillwaters.
Even that staunch defender of the closed season, Keith Arthur, on his own radio show last sunday, admitted he did fish occasionally in the closed season – but it was okay because it was on artificial waters and that when he fished it was for was work. Sorry Keith. Fishing for work is no different to fishing for pleasure. It’s fishing. The motivation is irrelevant. I say keep on fishing and keep up the good work, enjoy it, but don’t try and convince me it’s okay because money is involved. The fishery might be artificial but the fish aren’t. All open or all shut, I say. Simply protect the spawning areas at the appropriate time – commercials included.
I would like to see the closed season abolished forthwith with the proviso that those who disagree can organise themselves and fund the research that proves conclusively angling in that random period has a negative impact and campaign for its reintroduction. After all, unless we do it this way, any research into angling impact is nothing more than supposition, guesswork and gut feelings. Go on guys, prove that abolishing the closed season is detrimental.
The world has changed dramatically since the Mundella Act was introduced. Just because it exists does not mean it is just. After all we don’t recognise and abide by every ancient law on the statute book today. For instance, it is illegal for a Member of Parliament to enter the House of Commons wearing a full coat of armour and in London, Hackney taxis must carry a bale of hay and a sack of oats. In Hereford, you may not shoot a Welsh person on Sunday with a longbow in the Cathedral Close, while in Chester you can only shoot a Welsh person with a bow and arrow inside the city walls and after midnight. Also in York, excluding Sundays, it is apparently legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow.
The Law is an ass at times wheras the Mundella Act is a seaside donkey with a clown on its back.
More to the point, Parliament is suspending the Sunday Trading Laws for the duration of the Olympics because there’s a few bob to be made – we shall now call that the Arther defence – which proves just how readily a law can be manipulated to suit a situation if there’s a profit to be made. If this is just then why can’t the Mundella Act be suspended until a greater understanding of the claimed negative impact can be established?
Which is an appropriate time to mention Fred ‘they were old and going to die anyway’ Bonney. It appears I’ve ruffled his feathers. Indeed I quote:
“A certain blogger is getting boring now with his constant chunterings about the close season and otters etc etc, give it a rest Bob, the blog is reading just like the Daily Mail now, even with their touches of inaccurate reporting thrown in. It seems to me he’s pushing for a sure fire method to build his readers figures in this river Close Season.”
What’s the problem Fred? You can’t really be worried that someone might listen? I do apologise if it bores you but you do visit here of your own volition. There is no entry fee and you’re free to leave at any time.
The thing is, Fred – and anyone else for that matter, is free to visit this site and share in my views. Everyone (with only a couple of unreliable and untrustworthy exceptions!) is given an opportunity to leave comments and views beneath each article and I invariably respect those views, publish, and where appropriate, respond to them.
There’s no need to do it in obscure little corners – just do it here and have done with it. If that’s not good enough then my philosophy is simple. If you don’t like my blog you should go out and purchase a newspaper or magazine that reflects your views instead. If that paper doesn’t deliver what it promises then you have every right to complain because you’re a customer, you’ve made a financial investment. However, if you’re a freeloader who wants everything for nothing then I’m sorry, whilst I respect your opinion for what it is you have no real grounds to complain or dictate content, do you?
A friend owns a rather unusual commercial fishery. It contains pike. Hang on I’ll rephrase that. I have two friends with commercial fisheries that contain pike. The first only contains just one pike. It’s a proper old lump but let’s be honest – one fish in a lake rammed with roach, skimmers, orfe and carp is rather a tall order to catch. I think about having a go but it’s one of those opportunities I will probably ignore. Some tasks are just too difficult.
However, the other fishery is a different prospect. It has pike in two lakes. How they got in no-one knows and the owners are trying to remove them. After all, pike and commercials don’t exactly make good bedfellows, do they? Thing is, the pike are thriving and growing fast. One angler recently had two twenties in a day…!
Then I was shown a picture of a fish that looked every ounce of 25lb.
I’m wondering when I can fit in a session. Obviously!
One For The Diary
For those who live within travelling distance of Reading there’s a cracking day lined up on Saturday 19th May at the Lands End Pub. John Wilson, will be joined by fellow authors Graham Marsden, Mark Wintle, Mark Everard, Graham Turner and Terry Theobald…
It’s the perfect opportunity to meet these gents in a leisurely atmosphere, share a pint and ask all the questions you like.
How come these days are always organised ‘darn sarth’ and never ‘oop north’? It’s not that grim you know. We actually have water up here as well, oh, and barbel too.
A Red Letter Day
With little time left I had some tough decisions to make. Where to fish and what for. Having caught pike, zander, grayling, dace and chub recently it was a case of finding a different species to target and what better than a very late season perch. I knew exactly where to go and what to do but I hadn’t banked on the swim I fancied being occupied by the only other angler on the bank. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.
In the end it didn’t matter. A 2-pounder put in a welcome appearance on only my second cast. Then another. Only this time I was into a proper lump. The other angler kindly offered to weigh it for me and photograph it. Good job really as I wasn’t carrying scales. Try as hard as he could it wouldn’t quite make 3-12, so 3-11-8 it was. But what a fish. A big perch really is the biggest fish of all.
I had another, missed two bites and lost something that will prey on my mind for a long time. It was big. It fought like a perch and I’m pretty certain it was a perch. But you can never be completely sure, can you?
Boris Signs Off With A Cameo Appearance
I’ve not caught a barbel since last September. In fact I’ve not even tried to catch one. My tank was full. In fact it was so full it was leaking out of the filler cap, so I’d put old Boris on the back burner till next summer, or so I thought. I did contemplate catching one from a small local river earlier in the week and even got as far as turning up on the bank with my tackle. But in the end I never wet a line. Couldn’t raise sufficient enthusiasm. After all they’re only another species. They’re not the be-all and end-all some folk would have you think.
So there I was, in the most unlikely looking barbel swim on the river. 8 foot deep, crystal clear, almost stood still, and I’m laying on a worm on the off chance the swim might hold a perch or two. My tackle, a 17 foot match rod and 4lb line was geared towards perch. When the float dipped a couple of times I was convinced it was a small perch playing with the lobby. But I gave it a little slack and then tightened up.
This was no small perch, it was the mother of all perch. I was convinced that when this fish came to the surface I’d see a huge spiky dorsal fin and striped flanks. And then it started to sulk. My suspicion turned from perch to pike. When I saw the first swirl I was convinced it was a pike but a few minutes later I spotted a decidedly un-pike-like tail. Blow me it was a barbel.
And it was a proper lump of a barbel which appeared to grow a lot bigger in the net. What had first looked like an 8-pounder was clearly a double and a very good double at that, but what pleased me most was its condition. The fish was immaculate. A couple of quick snaps later she was back where she belonged, swimming free.
When Your Memory’s Gone, You’re F****d!
Oh well, the final day of the season rolled around and I was in a quandry as to where I fancied fishing. If truth be told I was a bit knckered after chasing all over the place in the preceding fortnight cramming in as much time on the bank as I could manage. There were many things I would like to have done, places I could go and various friends who I might spend that time with, but none seemed appropriate to mark a special day.
Perhaps that’s why it was lunchtime before I even set off. My destination was the Don, just a couple of miles from home. I’ve had my eye on a little stretch that never seems to get fished. Hmmm, now I know why!
So I cut my losses pretty quickly and moved on to a more reliable spot. Nothing doing there, either. Oh dear. One last gasp chance, back to the familiar. Dave Walker was already fishing close to where I was headed. He was absolutely bagging on hemp and tares when I got there, catching nice roach and getting a bite every cast. I dropped in 50 yards downstream and was soon catching dace. In 3 hours I must have had 150 of them, all caught shallow on the maggot.
With the sun dipping I popped up to Dave with my camera and grabbed a beautiful bag shot. Nets of roach like this from rivers are so rare these days. And that’s when the error message flashed up on the display screen – No CF Card…
I’d left the bl**dy memory card in my computer after dowloading the previous days images. What an idiot!
There’s A Ghost In The House
Afraid big Des took exception to my comments on his new Diary Of A Countryman column in the January blog. Indeed he seemed deeply hurt, which was never my intention, so let’s put my comments into perspective. I’ve known Des for knocking on 20 years and I can’t remember whether we first fished together on the Wye or the Severn it’s so long ago but let’s get something straight for starters, I have the utmost respect for him as a fellow angler and as a friend. Let me describe his angling prowess in his own words, it’s something he said to me many moons ago – ‘I’m not brilliant at anything, Bob, but I’m pretty good at everything!’
I’d tend to agree. And what I will say here and now is that Des is angling’s equivalent of a National Treasure. Big personality, big voice, loud, brash and not shy of speaking his mind no matter who it upsets. Of course no-one took him seriously with his outrageous politically incorrect rants. Des in character was simply angling’s ‘bloke on the number nine omnibus’. Maybe they should make him a Dame in next year’s New Years Honours list!
The thing is Des will be remembered for saying what a lot of folk were actually thinking without having the courage to actually verbalise it, but what he did best was fish. He fished everywhere for anything with fins. Sea, game and coarse fish alike. Worldwide. Des had the drive and image that made him an iconic figure. His battles with big fish inspired the post-Walker generation, me included. But somewhere along the way he seemed to lose that determination, the desire to catch everything. His column wasn’t the same. Some even suggested that it seemed to favour certain products rather than fishing.
We should also remember he brought fun to the paper. Those of us who are old enough will surely never forget him having to eat his hat after competing in the Evesham Angling Festival…!
In recent times he’s left and come back. Then he left again. And now he’s back again.
We all get older and whether we care to admit it or not we change. I’m not the same man I was 20 years ago and it’s fair to say Des isn’t the drum beating, big drinking, loudmouth he was 20 years ago. Now Keith Arthur takes care of the political views in the paper. Martin Bowler is top dog in the specialist angler stakes. Which leaves Des needing a new peg to hang his hat on.
I’d hate to see the paper without him because he does have something very important to offer. He’s that rare beast, an angler with a personality, an enduring character. He’s also an angler the common man can relate to. Softcore rather than hardcore. Middle ground. Able to catch anything but unlikely to spend 3 months doing nothing else at the expense of a normal life.
Saying that, did you see that cracking 18lb 11oz zander he had off the Severn recently? That’s my Des! One of the ten biggest zander of all time. Get your trumpet out mate and blow it as loud as you like because that’s the stuff I want to read about in the paper, not jam making or biggest leek competitions.
Now he’s had a PB barbel. Great stuff. And if he was observing a woodcock or listening to a woodpecker when it hooked itself, then fine. I’ll buy that as part of the atmosphere surrounding the capture. But getting up at 7am to watch the Bewdley Hunt? Nah. I’m simply not buying that and let me explain why. I have to purchase Angling Times if I want to read it, even when I’m in it. I’m a consumer, just like you are, and if that doesn’t give me every right to comment on a change in direction or content then such arrogance will be its downfall. It’s a fundamental right of the customer to comment about the paper’s columnists, journalists and management and what’s more they should appreciate this. It’s called customer feedback.
It is often said that without loads of advertising and product placement the angling papers would not be viable but that’s only part of the picture. It’s you and I who make the Angling Times tick; the advertisers are only there because we are. And our financial input is important or otherwise it would be distributed for free through tackle shops and reach ten times more readers and make the advertisers even happier.
So lets get down to the nitty gritty. The Times doesn’t cost the earth to buy but if I’m not supposed to express my feelings about its content then put me down as an ex-reader, a former customer, like many thousands of others who’ve stopped buying it in recent times. Richard, Steve – are you listening? I know you read this blog. No say, no pay.
Not long ago I was asked (on my Facebook page) what my all-time favourite angling book was and it took me a while to put my finger on it. The book is A River For All Seasons by Tom Williams. It was simply a compilation of articles that made up the best series ever published in the Anglers Mail. It was about the life and times of a riverkeeper on the Hampshire Avon. Ironically I was told that Tom Williams didn’t actually write it and that it was ghost written by his wife but this was the archetypal ‘diary of a countryman’. A man who earned his living tending not just a river but possibly the finest river in the whole country at that time. It was authentic and genuine. Enthralling. He was completely involved, not just an observer.
So come on Des, I love you to bits and I know you have a great love of nature and the countryside, nor do I feel there’s anything wrong with including observations about country life in your Angling Times column, but first and foremost I want to read about where you’ve been fishing, who with and what you’ve caught. If I want to know how to knit a pair of wellingtons or read about the Bewdley Hunt I’ll buy a copy of Countryman magazine. Or Google it.
Des, please, it’s a simple request from a customer, not a personal attack on you, will you please write about your fishing escapades in Angling Times? I don’t particularly care whether you call it ‘Diary of a Countryman’ or ‘Mrs Taylors Diary’ or ‘The Kid From The Black Country Council Estate’. If nothing else there’s a clue in the title of the paper in case anyone’s forgotten. It’s called ANGLING Times. Now if I’ve offended you again then sorry mate. That’s not my intention, nor would I wish to. Perhaps you might stop and think a moment. Instead of getting upset you should be flattered that folk like me still want to read about what you catch after 20 years.
Welcome back to the paper big man.
I’ll close by sharing a little drama I witnessed yesterday. Possibly the most remarkable thing I’ve seen in a lifetime by the waterside. I was fishing for pike, make that catching pike – they were really having it – when I heard a kingfisher. I’m sure you’re familiar with the staccato peep they make when they flit by you but this one was peeping constantly in a distressed manner.
Looking up I could barely believe what was happening. A sparrow hawk was trying to catch a kingfisher in mid-air over the water, swooping round and containing it in a very tight space as the kingfisher tried vainly to escape. The hawk was clearly the master of agility but a kingfisher can hover and dart. They’re lightning fast over short distances.
Even so I feared the outcome was inevitable until a large black crow, presumably attracted by the commotion, flapped into the battleground. This threw the hawk and the kingfisher made its escape but it had a very narrow squeak, I can tell you.