John Snow was right. Winter was coming and it arrived with a ‘double vortex arctic blast’ according to the Express. The Mail got pretty excited, too. And I loved the meme circulated around Facebook warning Southerners to travel only if it was absolutely necessary, better to stay home until it was all over whereas Northerners were told they’d need their big coat.
In actual fact there was barely a couple of millimetres of snow deposited on my drive here in the grim North and it was gone within the hour. Surprise, surprise. In fact I loaded my gear as normal and went fishing, exactly as planned. Do we actually need these alarmist forecasts? How often do you see declarations on the evening news that temperatures ‘could’ fall as low as minus 7 or some such figure and there ‘could’ be accumulations of snow to around 20cm but when you look at the map this is the forecast for somewhere in the Shetlands or Orkneys. In London and the Home Counties it’s actually balmy while Newcastle lasses are still heading for the Big Market wearing short skirts and strappy tops.
Weather forecasters are nowt but a bunch of cissy attention seekers if you ask me and I’ve yet to see one who could change a wheel or chop down a small tree. We need some real men like lumberjacks to read the weather. Or real women for that matter. Better still, stick to the local forecast. It’s all we need anyway.
But enough of meteorology, what about the fishing? Well, all I can say is that it’s been spread far and wide with moderate success. To be fair I’ve caught nothing truly outstanding but then again I’ve not been aiming to. I’ve just been soaking up lots of experiences and enjoying every minute.
My first significant trip after those cracking Oxfordshire roach in the last blog was to Scotland’s Loch Ken. Brian Skoyles and I met up with the usual Glasgow gang and set about catching some pike. It was an epic trip in great company but the pike didn’t really want to play ball but the perch did. The original plan was to stick out a few bait rods and share the runs. It meant when it wasn’t your turn you had time on your hands to play around with a few lures.
I had heard Ken had a good head of perch so I decided to try the drop shot gear. It wasn’t long before I had my first fish – a jack. Then I had another which I bullied right to the boat until I realised it was no pike – it was a cracking perch. Boy, did I quickly change my playing action!
Yes, we caught a few pike, but we caught more perch and it wasn’t long before the pike rods were reeled in and all three of us were focused on some rubber action. Gradually it dawned on me just how good the Loch Ken perch fishing is. They’re resident everywhere throughout its 9 mile length and they run big. I hadn’t realised they’d been out to over 4lbs yet mostly these have been accidental captures by pike anglers. Match anglers are catching them over 3lbs regularly.
Maybe this explosion of big perch has something to do with Ken’s massive crayfish problem. There are simply millions and millions of them and you only have to look at which English rivers are producing big perch and ask what they all have in common. Yes, that’s right, crayfish.
So we spent quite a bit of time exploring and wherever we went we caught perch. Thinking about the potential, Ken could possibly become the finest perch water in the whole of the UK.
The following day we decided to try a remote loch high in the hills practically on the verge of the tree line. Although the sun shone from a clear blue sky, the wind practically cut through you. This was a bleak location but Stewart McMath had no doubts as to whether we would catch or that these were the hardest fighting pike he’d ever come across. Boy, he was not wrong. Even jacks had you thinking they were doubles.
What an amazing trip. Brian Skoyles and I drove home making plans for another visit.
It has to be said that the Nottingham Piscatorial Society know how to organise a night out and pull in massive crowds. They only do one a season but in the past four years I’ve topped the bill (first year), to be followed by Des Taylor, Dave Harrell, Tom Pickering and Terry Theobold.
This year the guests were John Bailey, ably supported by Paul Floyd. Unfortunately I was so shattered having just got back from the Scottish trip I introduced him as Paul Elt. Ooops! But I think I got away with it. Other than Paul, the committee and about 400 guests, no-one really noticed…
Grim Reality Ain’t So Bad
The first frosts arrived in my neck of the woods and that meant I needed to forget about stillwaters and canals for a day or two. Even the Trent would be tricky but one species that is oblivious to frost is the grayling so I stayed local and fished the Don. It never lets you down and I caught a stack of grayling and brown trout.
Fabulous fishing and free to all through much of the industrialised corridor below Sheffield.
Lured To Distraction
I’m sure if I did more fishing with soft lures I’d be better at it but there are so many different sweets in the sweet shop that I want to eat that I can only spend so much time concentrating on each, but I keep having a dabble. Only by getting a lot of bites can you really work out how to present a lure, how and when to strike. It doesn’t help if you are spending several hours without a bite and that’s what can easily happen in winter on the canals around me.
Silver fish tend to shoal up in winter, predators follow them and the vast majority of the canal is fishless. You can work a mile of canal bank without a touch and think you must be doing everything wrong and then suddenly you come across a shoal and it’s a bite a chuck. Location is crucial. Trouble is, most of the hot areas are near boat moorings and you end up with some official demanding you bugger off elsewhere. It’s so frustrating.
It was on one of these forays that I bumped into Dan Esox quite by chance. We’d never met before but what a nice chap he turned out to be. An absolute rough diamond with good manners and a heart in exactly the right place. We swapped tales, lures, ideas and swims. We also caught a lot of fish before we got hooked off by a very apologetic official who had been presented with a flea in his ear by a disgruntled boat resident.
Tyram Lakes holds a special place in my heart. I’ve known the owners Phil and Irene for ever and they’re always welcoming. I try and wet a line there a couple of times each year but it’s as much a social affair as serious fishing which is bonkers because it’s one of the few lakes in this neck of the woods that can boast genuine 40lb-plus carp. But the brand spanking new cafe is now open and that alone is a good enough reason to call in more frequently.
The match lakes are unusual in that they have a head of pike, not something you find in many commercial fisheries, but they’re far from easy to catch although the match anglers would beg to differ at times! I have a chuck most years. Sometimes I catch, sometimes I don’t, but I always enjoy it. Even on days like the one when I visited and the rain came down sideways all day long. But I caught one, drank lots of coffee, had a cracking bacon sandwich in the cafe and went home feeling truly alive, like you do after a day in that kind of weather. I need to go back, too, but how do you fit everything in?
A Couple Of Tofts
I’ve fancied fishing Toft Newton Reservoir for decades. It’s a pretty unattractive concrete bowl in a bleak flat landscape, stocked with trout, but it also held huge perch in the past though few anglers were ever allowed to wet a line there outside of a couple of dedicated coarse days that always coincided with the worst January weather that a Northern climate could muster.
And then the trout boom ended and it was necessary to allow a few of us common oiks onto the privatised drinking water reservoirs to subsidise the dwindling numbers of fluff flingers. It does seem a little unfair that we have to pay the same prices as trout anglers when the coarse fish we target are stocked naturally as opposed to the expensive stockies and we cannot take a trout home should we catch one by accident, not that I’d ever want to to be honest, but the principle’s there.
Anyway, I’m grateful to be granted access to the new rubber fetish meccas, even at the exhorbitant rates, as the fishing is interesting and different to what I’m normally used to. Of course, when Brian and I turned up it was fishing crap. Indeed we were the only boat out on the lake and the few fly fishers on the bank were long gone before we gave up. But we did catch some nice, if not massive perch. Brian even had a couple of fine rainbows on plugs but we left thinking we’d only scratched the surface. Indeed he had fished there a few weeks earlier and they’d caught very well. Oh well, somewhere else I need to return to.
Normally I keep my family holidays and my fishing completely separate but this year I made an exception. I was due to cruise the Caribbean and made the fatal error of exploring a few ideas on Google, which is where I came across Nick Williams who is a fishing guide on the glorious island of Antigua. Incredibly it turned out that Nick was schooled in the Newark area and knew many of the waters I currently fish. Quite some coincidence and it would have been rude not to check out the possibility of a quick fishing fix with Nick, even if that was just for a day trip.
Smartest decision of the whole trip. We met by a bar fronting a deserted beach worthy of any episode of Death In Paradise. Because I couldn’t get there much before 10am we’d missed the main feeding spell so it was invariably going to be a scratching day. I needn’t have worried. Nick knows his stuff and let me just say, when you get a take like this your knees are a-knockin!
The fights were spectacular and mostly aerial. The kind when all you can really do is pray the hook stays in as hooking a fish is no-where near the same as landing one. But with Nick’s help we got there. Get in!
Not bad from a lake! You can book guiding days with Nick if you happen to be going over there and take it from me he come’s thoroughly recommended. Check out his web site and watch some of the videos. They say all that needs to be said in reality. Doesn’t have to be tarpon, you can chase permit and much more, on fly, lures or bait. It’s up to you. Nick’s happy to oblige.
Here’s a clip from his web site. Beware, the music’s a bit loud!
Nick offers the kind of service that would suit anyone on holiday with the family in Antigua and just wants to sneak off for the day (or two), bearing in mind I was only on the island for a grand total of 8 hours. Or, you could make a week of it, mixing and matching the styles, float tubing the mangroves and wading the flats, and I’m sure he can put you in touch with boat charters should you fancy doing a bit of the old blue water headbanging.
Nick can also offer first class accommodation in competitively priced apartments. I have to confess, I fancy a trip back there sometime and Nick’s is where I’d be heading because these apartments look as if they’d even meet my good lady’s exacting standards. Food for thought.
You’re Kidding! – Not Again…
With just a week to go to Christmas I found myself quarantined in a single bed ward at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Why I keep getting struck down by random, yet deadly virus’s is a mystery. There no logical connection to explain it beyond my immune system being weakened thanks to an inherited kidney disease. But there I was, laid up, feeling lousy and desperate to escape. At least if I’d been in prison I’d have had a TV and access to wifi.
Turns out I’d contracted Klebsiella, one of those nasty superbugs, but a few days on a drip saw me make a decent recovery. I’m the Sam Allardyce of the hospital wards. However grim things look initially you just know you can rely on me to bounce back.
Not A Caer In The World
New Year saw me making a pilgrimage back to Caer Beris for a few days of partying with old friends and hopefully getting a chance to fish the Wye. Well, to be honest, that was never in doubt and following a full Welsh breakfast I crossed Groe Park and set up beside the Town Waters. Amazingly I was the only angler there so I settled into one of my favourite chub swims, set up a waggler and began feeding casters.
This was going to be so easy, or so I thought. It was anything but, unless you count trout and grayling. Of chub there was no sign. Not a sniff. But the nuisance fish more than made up for it. At times it was a fish a cast and that did little to enthuse me as it was more or less telling me straight that Mr Chub was either not at home or not likely to feed today. Frustrating.
The following day I was joined by Peter Smith (hotelier), Keith Elliott (editor and publisher of Classic Angling magazine) and John Hunter (who used to work with me on Advanced Carp Fishing and was editor – until handing in his notice at Christmas – of Tackle Trade World and Tackle and Guns magazines), a fine bunch of reprobates, on the River Irfon in the grounds of the hotel. The fishing was rock hard but we found a few fish, mostly wild brown trout rather than the grayling we were hoping for. With one rod between four of us we took turns extracting the urine out of the poor sod who’s turn it was on the rod. I might have caught a lot of fish in my time but it’s rarely as much fun as a session like this.
And when we’d had enough we retired to the hotel to drink coffee and eat scones. Does it get any better? Probably not. Unless you count the evening meals. Wow, they were spectacular! Hats off to the chef and his team. You were brilliant.
Providing we get a proper winter, January is my favourite time for chubbing. It’s cold, sharp, crisp and very little else wants to feed and folk on the Trent have become so blinkered by barbel they know no better than to waste their lives in conditions that give them little chance of success. The word idiotic springs to mind but its each to their own. So go ahead and prove to yourself that if enough barbel anglers will sit out in the cold for long enough then eventually someone will catch one, but come on, so what? What’s the point when there are other far more interesting targets to tackle. Barbel fishing is not climbing Everest. George Mallory’s excuse of, ‘Because it’s there’ doesn’t stack up in fishing. He didn’t attempt to climb it in extreme conditions, he picked the best time, and if you do that with barbel you’ll catch loads of them.
I enjoyed several chubbing sessions with mixed degrees of success, but always getting bites and never blanking. To paraphrase Mr Yates, I talked to the river, asked it questions with bread and cheese paste. It answered me with bites, lots of them. Sometimes I even managed to connect with a few. But at no time was I ever bored, although I was pretty close on the day I sat opposite the greediest man in the world (see my Snowflakes and Barbel Bashing article!) and gave maggots a go. The fish showed no interest in maggots whatsoever, but a switch to bread brought the river to life. Ignore the white lightning at your peril.
Word reached me that a local commercial was regularly popping out 3lb perch in matches. What’s more it was one that was off my radar. I had never even set foot on it before so it made an interesting change to check it out. I was surprised by how neat and tidy the place was and by the fact that it gets lightly fished. How easy was this going to be if I turned up with a bag of prawns?
I’ll tell you. Not easy at all. Indeed I didn’t catch a single perch on my first visit but I did catch about 10 carp. Sods Law and bit of a conundrum. Most of the perch reported came out in matches to anglers pole fishing maggot in open water. No-one appeared to have had any success on worms. Weird. But that just meant I had to have another crack…
Let’s Drain The Swamp
Before I get all right on and political, I’d like to take a page out of the Donald Trump manifesto. He wants to drain the swamp and if I had his resources I’d instigate my own version. Thousands of folk visit this web site, thousands more my Facebook Page. From the feedback I receive it’s obvious they enjoy my ramblings and whilst I’ve got stuff to write about then I’ll continue to share it. But not everyone is enamoured. One gentleman in particular gets pretty hot under the collar every time I post. The conundrum is this. If he hates me and or my work, then why on earth does he read it? Why is he so hell bent on getting involved?
I can pretty much guarantee that he’ll be posting some inane comment or other after this blog even though it will get caught in the filter and never see the light of day. Each one arrives with a false name and email address, for example:
But guess what, the web site software captures his IP address and he’s getting careless as the recent abuse has all come from exactly the same IP. Not smart. He’s a BT broadband customer, too. The net tightens.
Any mention of the name Graham in my posts really winds him up.
And for some reason he can’t resist having a pop at a certain Fred, or Freddy as he condescendingly calls him.
All I can say is what’s the point? If you post under a pseudonym and use a non-existent email address then your views will not only never be heard, they are an irrelevance. If you don’t have the courage of your own convictions to identify yourself when throwing unfounded allegations and abuse around then frankly you are a coward. A troll. A petty nuisance who’s doing nothing more than wasting his life away on pointless pettiness.
Will The Last Person To Leave Please Switch Off The Lights
Driving through Goldthorpe the other day I noticed that the Goldthorpe Angling Centre had closed. It didn’t come as a great shock because, like so many small tackle shops, it’s been in its death thoes for quite a while. That doesn’t mean its passing wont be mourned. It was from this shop that the original owner, Russ Fowler launched the mighty Goldthorpe match squad. Initially sponsored by Silstar and then Daiwa, I was fortunate to be part of an incredible bunch of anglers that stormed through the 5 National Championship divisions.
And now that’s just a distant memory.
Directly over the road from the shop was the Job Centre and I learned on the local BBC news tonight that it is also going to close. Incredible when you consider that greater than 25% of the town’s residents are on benefits yet some folk, mosty in the South, cannot understand why folk in these parts were so in favour of Brexit. We’re the forgotten, those ill-educated knuckle draggers in the north, in fact, why don’t we just have independence for Londonistan, eh Mayor Khan, your own special single market EU deal and f*<£ the north of England!
If you think I’m exaggerating the lack of investment outside of the luvvie south, consider this. Lincolnshire is the second largest county in England. It hasn’t got a single motorway yet Deptford managed to find sufficient loose change down the back of the sofa to erect a statue to Peter The Great. What?!!! Oh, and we won’t even go there over Michael Jackson’s statue outside Fulham’s ground.
We’re Out – So Lets Just Get On With It
On the subject of Brexit was anyone in the slightest bit surprised about the PM’s exit plan revelations? Seriously? It was a speech I could have written for her months ago. My concern is why on earth did it take so long and why is it going to take us a further two years to rid ourselves of the leeches who are sucking on our blood?
Of course, this assumes that the Lords, Supreme Judges, the Bliars, Bransons, Farrons, Sturgeons, Corbyns, Cleggs, Millibands and Millers of this world, treasonous bastards to the last, fail in their various attempts to delay and obstruct our exit. And that’s not to mention the self-serving elite we pay so handsomely to represent us in Parliament.
Look, project fear has been exposed as a complete fraud. It’s time for the Remoaners to get over themselves. After all, does every vote in the commons go through with a 100 per cent mandate? Or in the Lords? How about general elections? Parliamentary Candidate selections? Party leadership selection? Strike ballots? Juries? Or planning applications? The list is endless but has one thing in common. Democratic progress requires only a majority of those who choose to exercise their right to vote for the verdict to be accepted unless the rules state otherwise IN ADVANCE. This is not the X Factor. You don’t need 4 yes’s, tears from Cheryl or praise from Simon Cowell.
For Remainer, insert the word loser and move on. Stop trying to re-invent democracy. Get over it. Things didn’t go your way. You lost. But there’s still ample time for you to sell up and emigrate. If you don’t like the way the UK is democratically ruled and you love the EU so much then do us all a favour and pack your bags! Plenty of room for you in the other 26 countries. See how long it is before we miss you.
Bored with it all yet? Try Jonathon Pie’s take on it:
But let’s get completely real here. The UK, the world’s 5th largest economy, a tiny island, is performing brilliantly yet we are being lectured by no-mark politicians in basket case countries like Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Malta about how we run our economy. It is laughable. They are pushing for us to be punished. Exactly how do they propose to achieve that? Refuse to take our money? Refuse to sell their goods to us? Oh yeah, that’ll work. They need us as we’re one of their largest export markets. Thing is we currently benefit the EU to the tune of something like 15 BILLION Euros per annum, NET. A figure calculated by French economists, not me.
Remind me again who’s gonna get punished if they keep up with these stupid notions?
England, Germany and France contribute two thirds of the EU’s income. Of the remaining 25 countries 18 take out more than they put in. And this was before Mystic Merkel flooded the continent with lawless gimmegrants. The costs of welcoming them are skyrocketing.
The posturing by un-elected bureaucrats in ivory towers constructed at our expense is laughable. But now we see Junker backtracking like he’s in a walking backwards race since May let the cat out of the bag. No soft Brexit, out means out and no deal is better than a bad deal. What did they expect? She knows and they know that the rest of the world is queuing up to trade with us. Something we couldn’t take advantage of from within the EU.
Suddenly we’ve gone from the back of Obama’s queue to the front of Trump’s. The Donald has made it clear he does not like Angela and her cronies, wiped out a $100M deal with her car industry and scrapped the proposed TTP deal with the EU. Suddenly the EU is scrabbling to find trading partners and seal deals around the world to make up what appears to be a looming and alarming shortfall.
Meanwhile the rest of the world wants to trade directly with the UK. The choice we have is looking inward or outward. The risk is being frozen by fear of embracing a challenging, dynamic future. What kind of idiot honestly thinks that open borders, throwing billions down a black hole, being part of a European army and being governed by European laws is such a good idea anyway? Yep, I get it if you’re rich beyond dreams, are one of the privileged elite, or a politician who sees a comfy well-paid retirement in the pockets of Brussels, but for regular folk? Wake up and smell the coffee.
It’s time to get on with it, sooner the better. Let’s get on with putting the great back into Great Britain. For those who don’t like that then I you’ll find there are plenty of ferries from Folkestone, Dover, Portsmouth and Weymouth, not to mention regular flights out of more than 70 airports. If you love the EU so much then let’s not forget you are still fully entitled to go and live there.
Anyway, I’ll end the political rant with a nod in the direction of the NHS from the remarkably talented Jonathon Pie…
The Footie Bit
Round about the end of the January transfer window we begin to see football teams’ and supporters dreams getting shattered like eggs dropped on the pavement from the top of a tall building. Last January Doncaster Rovers were pressing for a play-off place. Sixteen games without a win later we were falling headlong towards relegation for a second successive season yet such an outcome was completely unthinkable at the start of the month when we’d just won 7 and drawn 4 of the previous 13 games.
Roll forward to the present and we’ve just won 11 and drawn one of the last 13 games plus we’re the top scorers in the top four divisions averaging more than 2 goals a game. That’s more goals than Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and every team in Ligue 1 except Monaco. What could possibly go wrong?
But don’t forget this is little old Donny Rovers, so anything could happen!
To be fair it would a disaster of biblical proportions not to get promoted this season considering we’re top of the table after 28 games (19 wins), 7 points clear of 2nd place Plymouth, 16 points clear of 4th placed Luton and a staggering 20 points clear of the first team outside the play-offs with only 18 games to play, 61 points already in the bag and five different players have already scored 8 goals or more.
The two teams currently footing the table and in danger of dropping out of the league have still managed to average one point per game so far. If we only match that we’ll probably get promoted and with each game that passes the likelihood become even more inevitable. In the past 21 years the average number of points required to finish 3rd has been 81 suggesting we need just 20 points from the final 18 games for promotion.
Is there any wonder the bookies have us at 33-1 against to get promoted. By heck, I’m feeling dizzy!
Hats off to Darren Ferguson, to the players, the support staff and especially to the Board for holding their nerve. Most managers would have been sacked after last season. Just goes to show that patience can pay off.