Welcome dear reader. Let me begin this epic blog with a question; are you an optimist? Do you genuinely believe you’re going to catch whatever the weather, time of year, species you target and so on? Or are you, like me, a fatalist, fully believing that if things can go wrong, they probably will. Even during Autumn, the season that promises everything to the dedicated angler, I am loathe to raise my expectations even though many famous writers fall over themselves to tell us this is the finest time of the year for catching fish and we should all be making the most of it.
Stu and I have been trying for a big stillwater zander this past few weeks and boy, has it been tough. It was supposed to be the icing on the cake for a sequence we’ve been filming for the Caught In The Act DVD project we’re working on. My task was simple – catch a double figure zander, to order. Easy enough? Hmmm…
The water we’ve been fishing is Celtic Lakes, formerly known as Frisby Pits in Leicestershire. It’s a decent trek for us with a round trip of maybe 150 miles or so but the water has been in good form, or at least it was until we arrived. The past weeks have been a lot harder. The fish have reacted to the pressure, I guess, and when nomadic predators shoal up tight in 40-odd acres of water there’s no knowing where they will turn up next. Don’t get me wrong, some cracking fish have been coming out but not to my rods. In fact in 3 trips I’ve not actually seen a zed on the bank yet. Seems they feed best on the days I’m not there!
To give an idea how frustrating the place can be, we fished late into the night last week without getting a single indication on four perfectly positioned rods. The following day a piker moved into the same swim and had an 11-5 zander on a mackerel. Obviously this zander had not read the rule book which says they’re not supposed to like sea baits.
Oh well, we’ll be back, that’s for sure.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, some anglers find things a lot tougher than we do. Take one guy who writes an online diary about his barbel fishing exploits. Like Stu and I he haunts the rivers Trent and Dove, only on a far more regular basis. Living local he can be there at the key times of day and he dutifully writes a report about practically every single trip he makes. At the end of September he wrote: ‘17 sessions for one fish last month is enough to make you hang everything up as it certainly not due to lack of effort…’
Yep, I have to agree. It’s not effort that’s lacking…
But at least he caught a few bream.
To Autumn. A poem – With Apologies To John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With barbel that round the deep pools run;
To bend the rod, the screaming reel,
The singing line and waiting net;
To swell the sling, and plump the scales
With a soft mat on which to set those golden flanks,
But hang on there, this is no barbel,
Will these slimy bream never cease?
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy scales…
Just try and imagine what it must be like to put in 17 trips throughout September on two of the UK’s most prolific barbel rivers and catch just one Boris. His luck had to change, surely?
Err, I’m afraid not. But at least on the 26th October, some 3 weeks (and Lord knows how many sessions) later, he was at last able to share some good news with us. He’d finally caught another barbel, or as he wrote: ‘My first bite in quite a while…’
The poor bloke must have been absolutely gutted five days later when he turned up at the river to find someone was already fishing in his favoured swim – and they caught a couple of barbel. Presumably these interlopers were magicians or something similar!
By mid-November his luck still hadn’t changed but I live in hope for him and I’m checking in regularly, willing him to catch, although I do realise that following his stuff fits roughly in between watching paint dry and observing a car crash in slow motion. Such abject failure makes for compulsive reading and I’m intrigued that he publishes the moon phase for each trip – is this the proof we need that moon phases don’t make a blind bit of difference! I can’t wait to read how he gets on in winter when the fishing starts to get a whole lot tougher. Surely he’ll give up and turn his attentions to a less challenging species than the ‘river pig’?
Barbel anglers, eh?!!!
And on that subject, Mick Wood mentioned in his latest email that he’s had 38 barbel from the Trent in November alone, which doesn’t surprise me. My old mate and compulsive moon phase follower Archie Braddock is now in his 70’s and he doesn’t even start barbel fishing until the clocks go back. Winter’s the best time to catch them, he reckons, and he certainly knocks out plenty of great big lumps, especially from the upper Trent. Perhaps he knows something this diarist doesn’t…
The Lea Is Rosy
Just back from my first ever visit to the Lea and what a fantastic river it is. Okay, I caught it at its lowest level in a long time and the water was running crystal clear but that didn’t prevent me from filling my boots. I was there with Brian Skoyles who said to me on our way to the Sky TV studios a few weeks ago, ‘Do you fancy catching a big chub?’
Hmmm, is the Pope Catholic?
Turns out he’d done an interview for Carp World magazine a few months earlier with Jerry Hammond who owns the Carthagena Fishery. Carthagena consists of a prolific carp day ticket lake, a syndicate lake and a stretch of the Lea. Jerry had kindly invited him to return and have a dabble if he fancied it and as it happens we were due to meet Jerry the following morning at a shop open day where he would be promoting his new book Catching Memories and the invite was generously extended to include a guest – that guest being me.
We arrived on a bright but very windy day and Brian set up a couple of carp rods while I set about spraying maggots. I spent a full hour feeding the swim at less than one minute intervals in the hope I could get a few fish competing without disturbing them by casting on their heads. An hour’s a long time to sit and feed but I stuck at it and when that waggler hit the water on my first cast I was certain it would disappear in an instant.
Unfortunately it didn’t.
Oh well, plan B was to keep feeding. Sometimes you’ve got to stick to your task and hope for the best. That’s what I did and eventually it paid off. In fact it paid off handsomely and I had a fair few hairy moments on the size 18 hook to 3lb line. One fish soon became two, then three and after that I gradually lost count. I must have had at least a dozen chub, possibly 15 and not one was under 4lbs. I only weighed two of the fish and they both registered 6lb 5oz. Mind you, they looked a fair bit bigger, I can tell you. Reminds me of that Jack’s Pike cartoon strip:
‘I hear you had a twenty pound pike last week?’
‘Yes, but I was very unlucky. If there had been no-one around it would have been a thirty!’
That night Brian and I enjoyed a hearty pub meal and talked of the morrow. Could we repeat the experience? And what about that incredible barbel we’d watched in a couple of feet of water barely six feet from where I was sat. I thought I was seeing things at first but sure enough it was a proper lump. I’d guessed it to be at least 12lb but Jerry reckoned it was a fair bit bigger – fourteen plus he said. I had fed maggots at it for a while and laid a little trap but the dilemma was, should I be fishing for this barbel and miss out on some of the best chub fishing of my life, or should I stick to what I’d come for?
Maybe next time…
If we had any doubts we were in Essex, proof came when we overheard a guy in the pub that evening asking, ‘You know all those apps you can download for your phone…, how much do they weigh?’ Later he took this conundrum a stage further, ‘You know when your phone battery is charged up, do you reckon it weighs more than when it’s empty…?’
Up at dawn the next morning, Bri had the pike rods working while I cooked breakfast. We had four bacon sandwiches inside us before his Delkim sounded a run on the lamprey rod. It turned out to be a rather nice Lea pike. In between time I kept firing out maggots but when I finally got round to chucking out a waggler there was no sign of the chub shoal. A switch to blockend feeder was met with the same disdain and after three hours we decided to cut and run. The forecast for later was pretty horrendous so we decided it was time to go.
Driving back north I turned and said to Brian, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about it. I know exactly how many chub I caught yesterday.
‘Oh yeah, how many?’
‘Enough. I caught just enough.’
Can You Believe This?
I arrived home on Thursday evening to find a bundle of mail waiting along with one of those red ‘Something for you’ cards the postman leaves to tell you there’s a parcel waiting at the sorting office. Only this didn’t say there was a parcel at the sorting office, it said ‘Parcel in top of grey binn’. The grey binn (his spelling) he refered to was the dustbin. What! I rushed to the bin to find what I knew deep down already – it had been emptied.
Have you ever tried using the Royal Mail complaints system? If you’re an idiot, press one…
After ten minutes of answering multi-choice options and pressing buttons I gave up and emailed. I received an automated acknowledgement but 48 hours later I’m still waiting to hear from a real person.
By process of elimination I’ve deduced the missing parcel was the new Perchfishers book, something I was really looking forward to reading over Christmas.
I’ll let you know how I get on with the Royal Mail.
What A Picture!
You’ve probably notice that I’ve expanded the amount of pike articles on the site lately and that’s been very much down to the support and encouragement of Alan Dudhill.
Alan recently won the PAC’s Barrie Rickards Pike Angler of The Year Award and was presented with a rather dramatic original painting by Karen Sarkar. He rates it as the proudest moment in his piking career. You can see more of Karen’s superb artwork on her web site:
Can’t Keep A Good Man Down
Stu and James had to make a last minute switch to their piking plans this weekend when most of the Yorkshire rivers did what they do best – flash flooded and coloured up. However, using the EA water levels web site they could see one river had held its level so that’s where they went. The result was several nice pike including this 16-10 beauty. Unfortunately he missed a take on his second rod while he was playing it – a take that had the rod bucking in the rest like it was a barbel bite. Unfortunately it somehow shook out the hooks but left him in no doubts that it was no mere Jack.
Fishing Magic – Online Community or Just A Business?
I’m sure you’ve noticed that during the course of a year I try and give fellow anglers a bit of help where I can. If I mention someone or a company here I try and stick in a link. This might be a plug for a fellow blogger or web site owner, mentioning a service someone provides or maybe makes for bits of tackle, books, DVDs and so on. It extends to fisheries, holiday venues, rival video makers, societies, you name it. What’s more, no fee is ever asked.
Beyond the web its a rare week when someone doesn’t ring up from a newspaper or magazine asking if I’d mind providing a quote for a story they’re running, or do I have any fresh gossip, news, could I let them have a picture and so on. Perhaps its unprofessional to do this kind of thing for free, I don’t really know or care. Perhaps I’m just an idiot?
But the payback comes when you have something to promote yourself. That’s when you call in a few favours and hope for a sympathetic ear. This month we ran a special offer on our DVDs. All four for £49.99 inc P&P which is a handy discount. The Times and Mail said no problems, in fact it led to a chance for a bit of work in the future. Total Fishing said fine, we’ll run you a piece, after all they used footage of me in their video magazine recently with my blessing.
So how come Fishing Magic, which once prided itself as an online community under the stewardship of Graham Marsden, offered a special deal where they’d only charge me £75 in return for a plug instead of the usual £100. When I pointed out that I had freely provided them with numerous articles in the past and that they were quite happy to publish photos that I’d taken in one of their latest articles without payment it brought little sympathy. Alas any business with FM appears to be a one-way street.
Those Fishing Magic forums were once the liveliest and busiest on the net. Today you can watch the tumbleweed blowing through the diminishing number of mundane threads. The days when you could engage the likes of Jim Gibbinson, Tony Miles, Jan Porter, Graham Marsden, myself and others are but a distant memory. I wonder why?
Walker’s Achilles Heel
I’ve just finished reading Dick Walker’s fascinating new book, Fishing With Walker, edited by Peter Maskell and it truly brought home to me the paucity of creative writing among today’s angling columnists. Walker would never have stooped so low as to prostitute his reputation by writing: “I mounted my Mainline boilie on a Kryston hair, hinged from a Fox hook and tied to Drennan Braid. The Korda lead gave my Daiwa rod the impetus to project it 500 yards thanks to the silky smooth Gardner line that filled my Shimano reel to the very brim. I placed the Infinity on my Solar pod and smiled as the Delkim warbled its merry tune…”
That may be a slight exageration but tell me, is it so far wide of the mark? I suppose it is really. What we actually get is, “I tied my Korum to my Korum, cast it with my Korum and sat back to drink from my Korum cup, which actually runneth over.” Of course depending on who the ‘writer’ is (and I use that term cautiously), you could subtitute Fox, Korda, Nash or whatever.
It was Brian Skoyles who said to me that during a recent carp roadshow he attended, for every ten questions they were asked, one was on bait, one on rigs and the other 8 were, ‘How do I get sponsored…?’ And all seemed to come from kids in their teens or early twenties. What price experience, eh?
Walkers articles were invariably written about fish behaviour and fishing experiences and today that makes his articles more refreshing that a pina colada on a tropical beach. Dick wrote with some expertise on all manner of species both coarse and game but he had a blind spot when it came to pike and his views would definitely be regarded as non-PC in this modern age. He was anti-livebaiting and actively encouraged knocking pike on the head. He felt that pike were more of a liability than an asset in the majority of fisheries.
On the other hand, such was Walker’s nature, he might easily have been stirring up controversy and debate for the sake of it. Long before we had internet trolls Walker was prone to penning articles using guises like Water Rail. Perhaps he really was ahead of his time.
I’ll review the book in detail when I get a chance but in the meantime don’t hesitate to buy a copy. It is a fabulous read.
For Those Anglers Who Already Have Everything…
I’ve mentioned the superb engravings you can have on the Adcock Stanton centrepins before. I own two, one with a barbel engraved on the back plate, the other with a roach. However, you may not be aware that a whole variety of designs and messages can be engraved on a plethora of gifts, be they in metal or glass. They’re ideal for hip flasks, lighters, tankards and so on.
Have a look at the Engrave Gifts web site for some novel suggestions:
New Reels For Old (…well it is the Pantomime season, Aladdin)
On the subject of Adcock pins there are still loads of the original models kicking around, indeed many are still in use that are around 50 years old. Unfortunately anything that revolves will tend to show a little wear and tear after five decades but Ray Hyland who owns the company and still makes bespoke reels to order has begun repairing old Adcocks. If you have an old model that’s seen better days, maybe a family heirloom, you can still have it restored to virtually new condition again. Just contact Ray through his web site for details.
Get Them All Out Of There – Please!
When did watching washed up celebrities eating shite in a jungle become prime time viewing for a family audience? Where’s the actual entertainment in it and what talent do the contestants actually require to be on such a programme? The ability to pull faces? It makes the positively dull X Factor appear interesting. And on that score, does anyone remaining in the show actually have the X Factor? I address that not just to the remaining wanabees but also the panel.
I guess it hit rock bottom when Tulisa (who?) said she’d never heard the song ‘Freedom’ before! I can appreciate Richie Havens was a bit before her time and I doubt history was her strong suit at school, but surely she’s heard of George Michael…?
Even so you have to hand it to Louis Walsh when it comes to dropping the season’s most catastrophic clanger. After Misha B’s performance of Dancing in the Street he told her: ‘If Berry Gordy were alive, he would absolutely sign you.’
It must have come as a huge shock to Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, to learn he had died. Gordy, 82, appears to be in robust health and recently made appearances at the American Music Awards and was a guest at the White House earlier this year.
Oh well, it was completely fitting the show ended in triumph for a manufactured girl group comprising a bunch failed contestants that the judges cobbled together after all the other auditions had taken place. ‘The first group ever to win X Factor!’ Gushed Tulisa, ‘The first girl group, too!!!’ One would have thought that was obvious in your first statement, love… And guess what, they’ll be top of the charts before this very week is out with a strangled version of one of my favourite pop songs. What a surprise.
Everything about this show is manipulated and contrived from the audience to the contestants and, let’s face it, even the so-called ‘judges’. The guest acts all form a convenient cartel and I for one get rather sick of seeing adverts rammed down our throats every 7 minutes or so.
Come on ITV, the series is on its arse, it has even fallen behind Strictly in the ratings and let’s face it, ballroom dancing with b-list celebrities is hardly what anyone bar your granny would call riveting viewing. Surely it’s time to put this show out of its misery and reinvent our Saturday nights.
Piking In The Nineties
There’s a nice series of video clips on the PAC web site (hosted by Youtube) called Piking in the 90’s. Isn’t it scary how the Nineties is a term that sounds so very long ago…
Well worth a look if you haven’t already seen it.
Would You Like Chips With That, Sir?
Had a very interesting email this morning from a chap telling me he’d caught a 15lb sturgeon at the weekend – on chopped worm, using a pole and a size 20 hook to white hydro elastic. What’s more, the fish came in a pegged down match! David Patrickson hooked the beast during a Woodseats AC winter league match at Aston Ponds, near Rotherham. However, hooking it was one thing, landing it quite another. It was only after he’d played what he thought was a large carp for 15 minutes that he realised his landing net was going to be completely inadequate. Eventually he managed to get its head in the mesh and grab the four foot long strurgeon by its tail.
The fish was weighed and returned immediately.
Last Call For The Wye
By the time this blog is published I fear this snippet might altready be out of date.
Within 24 hours of announcing that I’d be organising two courses on the River Wye next summer over half the places were snapped up. At the time of writing there are just two vacancies on the second week. The first week is a complete sell-out and I’m encouraged by the fact that 60% of the places have been snapped up by anglers who have been with me on the Wye before. I’m certainly looking forward to meeting up with a bunch of folk I now regard as friends rather than customers.
If you’re interested then check out this page on the web site. A £50 deposit secures your place.
Time’s Running Out On The DVD Deal, Too
Our special Christmas offer of all four DVDs for under £50 has proved very popular but if you’re interested let me remind you that time’s rapidly running out. At a pinch I might extend it till 1st January but once we hit 2012 the deal will end. If you want to know more, click here.
A Whole Day Of Tedium And Boredom Can Be Yours
Each year the Barbel Society runs an auction to raise funds for its Research and Conservation Fund. If I wanted to be controversial I could easily claim that the recent article in Barbel Fisher suggesting that otters do not represent a problem perhaps suggests the research part of the pot is wasted, but everyone is entitled to an opinion on such a thorny subject and therefore I grudgingly respect that position.
In the current issue Fred Crouch expouses a view that anglers’ bait is causing a decline in barbel numbers. He argues his corner eloquently and to a degree thoughfully, but I don’t believe for one moment that the collapse of barbel numbers on the Cherwell, Windrush and Evenlode has anything to do with someone chucking in a bag of trout pellets. I think he’ll find it has rather more to do with Tarka and his chums.
Indeed the most prolific barbel river in the country, the Trent, receives more bait than any other I know and those fish are thriving; the population is self sustaining, present in all year classes and brood stocks are borrowed from Nabbs Island (Hazelford) each year to be stripped of eggs and milt, reared in captivity at Calverton and then distributed to a plethora of rivers around the UK that are then poluted with and ravaged by this alien species at the expense of the dwindling indigenous population. It is absolutely selfish and practically criminal to stick them in every bit of flowing water available. The EA is deliberately and constructively creating monoculture in our rivers. That surely is wrong.
But back on topic, I have no truck with the Society having fine intentions with regard to research and conservation. Indeed I’m happy to support it and have volunteered myself for ‘A Day With Bob Roberts’ in the R&C Auction. The closing date is (oh dear, I fear that now reads was!) 9th December and it went for a song – just £116.
So back to Fred’s bit. Perhaps he should consider whether male pride, ego and greed is at the root of most barbel problems. If you brag that you’ve caught 5,000 barbel in your lifetime and use this as a measure to promote your credentials then surely that challenges others to catch similar amounts of barbel rather than less, so that means using food to attract them, especially on the larger rivers where spotting is not an option.
Perhaps by having national records, river records and club records this creates a destructive competitive climate? Like it or not we are all judged by, ‘What’s thi’ biggest then?’
By proudly displaying captures in magazines, newspapers, books, on DVDs, web sites, Youtube clips, on TV programmes, in advertising, etc, then stating the fish’s weight in the caption, are we not encouraging folk to keep the fish out of water longer than necessary?
Creating a handling code advising how fish should be laid on an unhooking mat and weighed surely encourages the practise of keeping fish out of the water for far too long when it would surely be better to just unhook them in the net and return each fish un-weighed. Barbel anglers wouldn’t need to be instructed on how to aid the recovery of a fish if that were the case. It’s not swimming around with a hook in their mouths that creates a life-threatening problem for barbel, it’s keeping them out of the water too long.
Just watch this…
A truly awesome piking film!!!
You can buy it here.
Fancy A Night With The Stars
I appreciate time’s running out and you’ve probably already made plans for New Years Eve but there’s one hell of a party going on at Anglers Paradise this year and anyone who happens to book a villa is invited. You might be surprised who’ll be attending but one guest I can confirm will be there is that small screen angling presenter Matt Hayes.
Zyg’s New Year Parties are legendary. It’s not exactly a strict choice between black tie and fancy dress but these things are encouraged. The disco will go on till rather late and most of the serious fishing talk goes out of the window after about the three drinks. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun and the lakes seem to fish well whatever the weather.
A two-person villa will set you back £350 for 4 nights or you can do the whole week for £520. That price is for the villa by the way, not per guest. Those who fancy sharing one of the bigger villas with friends will find the ‘per head’ costs works out even cheaper.
Oh Go On Then – A Quick Footie Bit
I have to say it looks increasingly likely that my team, Doncaster Rovers might not be gracing the Championship next season. We’re shuffling off towards obscurity under pantomime management it would seem. Don’t write us off just yet as we may still pull of something spectacular but having dispensed with the services of possibly the finest manager we’ve ever had, a dignified gentleman who truly managed to make a silk purse out of a sows ear on a budget of twopence, we’ve gone for broke and handed over staff recruitment to one of the least trusted football agents in the land.
Although it irks me to say this I could accept Willie McKay being in charge of player sales and recruitment and I can see his dream – that of bringing in ageing superstars on short term deals and placing them in the shop window, actually working. I mean we currently have the likes of El Hadj–Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda, Carl Ikeme, Herita Ilunga, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Habib Beye and Herold Goulon at the club on top of established Championship players like Billy Sharp, Brian Stock, James Coppinger and Giles Barnes, not to mention a host of others. It’s a team that on paper is capable of pressing for promotion rather than battling relegation. So what’s the problem?
Well, we don’t actually own these players, mostly they’re guesting or on a short-term contract. There’s a rumour circulating that replica shirts will have velcro strips in future so fans can change the name of their favourite player each month. But that’s not the real problem. Replacing a proven manager with a guy who’s only previous experience was managing for 3 years in the Conference is. Dean Saunders has no Football League managerial experience and certainly none at Championship level. You might say a team with so many ‘star’ players could organise itself but he’s the one who trains them, picks the team, determines the formation and shuffles the squad during a game.
The positives are we have moved off the bottom of the table and last week we beat the league leaders, Southampton. Coventry have slumped below us and look a lost cause at the moment. Forest appear to have gone into freefall, although they’re still above us, and there’s a cloud hanging over Portsmouth involving administration and a potential points deduction. Ipswich have gone from promotion hopefuls to flirting with the drop and it doesn’t look good for Paul Jewell, although a remarkable win at Barnsley yesterday might have steadied the nerves and saved his bacon for a little while longer.
Sadly the negatives appear to be racking up and we’re almost exactly half way through the season. We are 4 points from safety, 7 points behind 20th place, we have a minus 17 goal difference and time’s running out. Most of the loan players are on short term deals ending in January. No-one can say which of our existing players will be sold in the next window but there’s every chance that Billy the Goal Machine will go and who can really blame him. Yesterday we lost at Birmingham to another last minute goal following Deano’s disastrous tactical substitutions. Well done Saunders the Soundbite. Oh, and if we go down we can say goodbye to the likes of Diouf who we shouldn’t forget is only 30 and potentially in his prime.
It’s not the thought of relegation that worries me, it’s the fear of implosion and administration that might follow. One thing’s for sure, this don’t seem like my club any more. I feel no different when we lose than when we beat the league leaders. It’s like it’s happening to someone else’s team, not mine. Perhaps I’m not alone and that’s why the crowds are dwindling…
So, back to where we began. I opened this blog with a simple enough question: Are you an optimist or a pessimist? As far as I’m concerned, even after 5,000 words, I’m still not sure whether I qualify as an optimist – we’ll have to see, eh?!!!