At last the ‘real’ fishing season is in full swing again so here’s a bumper edition of the blog for all who love their fishing…
I forget to mention in recent blogs that I’ve been enjoying some brisk sport on a local canal where the bream have been quite obliging. The only trouble is I was pig headed enough to fish with 14 metres of pole in a cross-wind and my back’s been playing up ever since. A small feeder would have produced a lot more fish, that’s for sure, but I was determined to make the pole work whatever the consequences.
Either that or someone’s bought a voodoo doll and these twinges have absolutely nothing to do with my pole fishing and everything to do with inserting hat pins. I’m sure now the river season is open I’ll be doing enough yomping around to walk it off though.
Interesting that in between the bream, which mostly run two to 4lb (if you can avoid the skimmers), I was picking up an odd silver bream. A lot of anglers call them hybrids but I have to say, in my view these are not hybrids. They are genuine silver bream and that means some of them are actually of specimen proportions.
Take a look at the picture, look closely at the disproportionately large eye of the smaller fish. That’s a proper silver bream eye, much larger than those of hybrids.
Thing is pellets will produce plenty of bites and more often than not they’ll be from quality fish. As an added bonus there’s no waste like you get with perishable baits.
Decent anglers are now catching twenty, thirty and even forty pounds of fish without too much effort on pellets. So much for canals being all about bloodworm, squats and small fish.
One thing that left me kicking myself afterwards was paying for a day ticket. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘What a tight bar steward’, but no. I bought a season permit for the place back in March, even though there was only three months to run on the ticket (because local clubdo need our support) but somehow I’d conveniently convinced myself the ticket was for a different club’s water, so this time they got double bubble. I must be getting senile. I had the book in the same pocket as my money and I still paid up and lest we forget, when you’re a professional Yorkshire man complaining is a core duty in the job description.
I must have been enjoying myself too much.
On June 15th I sat in my conservatory watching rain bouncing up off the patio and couldn’t help wondering whether the ‘glorious 16th’ wasn’t going to be a total washout. The sky flickered black and silver as thunder shook the house foundations. It took less than an hour to flood a local school playground and on the roads of Sheffield chaos reigned – all thanks to an inch of rain.
I had plans to fish a small north Nottinghamshireriver that is quite sensitive to rain and was beginning to wonder whether it might be better to have a contingency plan. And then it stopped. The sun came out and everything in the garden was rosy.
Five-thirty AM on the sixteenth saw me crossing the Don at Sprotborough. There are plenty of barbel below the weir these days, it’s three miles from home, yet I always drive straight past it. Weird that, eh? Anyway, the Don looked in perfect trim but what surprised me most was that there wasn’t a single parked car. Had I wished I could have had my pick of the swims.
So I headed on down the road to my chosen venue and it was great to see the river looking in fantastic fettle. Summer rain can be like that, you get a deluge while twenty miles away the sun is shining. Doesn’t half make picking a venue tricky.
There were just three anglers on the river but they’d secured my top three swim choices. Typical! So I headed off downstream to a couple more of my favourite swims. Tactics were simple – use a bait dropper to introduce a load of hemp plus some of the pellet mix that Stu and I have been working with and then sit back and watch.
One of these swims is an out-and-out banker. I would have staked my life on getting a bite within ten minutes of starting fishing but the plan today was to bait the two swims, wait an hour, bait again, give it ten minutes, catch a fish from the first swim, then catch one from the second.
Must admit it sounded like a good plan to me.
In the top swim I couldn’t see much in the water due to the shade and the river was definitely carrying a slight tinge of colour. In the second swim a handful of chub homed straight in on the feed. So I waited patiently and followed the script.
I did spot a couple of barbel, or maybe it was the same one twice, in the top swim. Unfortunately it showed little interest in my bait. This is when patience can be a virtue. If the barbel aren’t having a proper go then hooking a chub isn’t going to help.
So I mooched down to the other swim and it looked like the chub had gone. Of anything else there was no sign and then I spotted a movement. Sure enough there were a couple of barbel at the tail end of the run, good fish for this river, too, just holding back from the clear gravel area.
Sticking to my plan I made my first cast of the season, well, more of a lower if I’m being truthful, into the top swim and waited expectantly for an explosive take. I was using my trusty Daiwa Infinity barbel rod, as ever, and christening a new Adcock Stanton barbel centrepin, loaded with braided mainline. Well, I have to confess tat nothing happened. Zero, zilch, nothing! Not even a chub and this is a swim that screams chub.
So I withdrew, baited both swims again and gave them another rest. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to go all gung-ho. like a bull at a gate, does it? The river season lasts nine months, not nine minutes.
Unfortuntely that didn’t produce the desired effect. By now I had made at least half a dozen sightings of barbel in the top swim but always fish that were drifting around rather than feeding. Sometimes you have to say to yourself that a swim, no matter how good, is not going to produce the goods – on that day. It will come good later, that you can rely on.
So I crept into my second banker and gently lowered in the rig. Surely this swim would produce something? Ten seconds passed, fifteen and then whack! The rod was almost wrenched from my grasp and this was definitely a good fish. It was so good to be back in the groove again and after a spirited fight I slipped the net under my first barbel of the season.
A quick glance at my phone revealed it was 9am. I’d been on the river for three hours. Where on earth does the time go?
She was a cracker, fully spawned out and rather skinny if truth be told. The fish in here tend to be chunky thanks to their rich natural diet. So a few quick pictures were taken and back she went, all safe and sound.
I played the two swims again but of barbel there was no sign and a move was called for.
It was my intention to head off to a different stretch of the same river but when I noticed my prime target swim was now vacant I couldn’t help but take a look. Out went a couple of droppers before I scrambled up a tree to get a better view. The swim looked barren at first but the angle of the sun in a morning can make fish spotting rather tricky here. And then I glanced a movement out of the corner of my eye. Great stuff, it was a barbel, so I decided to give it a go.
More bait, more wait – that does about sum up a lot of early season barbel fishing, doesn’t it?
Out went the rig. Again, an underhand swing is all that was needed. It plopped in just three yards away. Then followed a bit of jiggery pokery to get the braid under the ranunculus before bang, I was in, straight away! Alas, what at first felt like a barbel turned into an indignant chub. I removed it with as much haste as I dare and then allowed things to settle again.
My second cast was a carbon copy of the first and the bait had barely settled when I felt a vicious tug and it was instantly clear that this was no chub as the rod hooped round. Playing fish at close range on a pin is a delight that is enhanced when using braided main line. You feel every pull, each head shake and nuance, but by gently pressing your thumb on the knurled lip of the spool ensures you are in instant and complete control.
Barbel number two was now in the bag and I was beginning to wonder where to try next. It was only then that I realised the river had taken on a whole lot more colour and that the volume of floating weed was increasing dramatically. Within 15 minutes the river was unfishable as raft after raft of weeds was swept along on the current.
A voice startled me and I turned round to see a head peering over the top of the bank, “You can’t believe it, can you?” The head said. “The EA have only started weed cutting!”
My heart sunk. What a day to cut weed – the ‘glorious’ 16th. I could understand the local council doing something like this but if anyone should understand the significance of the first day of the fishing season then surely it’s the Environment Agency.
Somewhere upstream a weed cutting boat was scything through every scrap of weed from margin to margin at river bed level. Countless tons of weed would then trundle down the river forming massive floating rafts that you cannot possibly fish through because any hooked fish would be festooned with the stuff resulting in potential mouth damage.
But what of the fish eggs, the fry and the natural food that is sacrificed? In law, the EA haveto remove any weed they cut. What the law doesn’t dictater is where, so, they can cut weed in the upper reaches and allow it to float downstream for miles, only removing it at the point where it would be washed into its parent river.
Bad enough they’re cutting upstream but it’s now a given that the weed cutting boat will continue down through the middle reaches next and that means the water level of this shallow little river will drop by at least a foot, probably more, and the fishing will deteriorate as the water takes on exceptional clarity. And all before the farmers start pumping water out of the river to irrigate their crops.
No doubt flood prevention will be cited as the reason for this carnage but it’s a hollow excuse if you ask me. Ah well.
Footnote: The EA did hold up its hands to the weed cutting stating that to cut earlier might affect spawning fish and citing flood prevention as the reason for cutting – ‘Look what happened two years ago in that once in a hundred year flood…’
Yeah, let’s look at that. The houses built on the flood plain – some (relatively) new properties have been built backing right up to the river – suffered. But did the weed really have any effect on the overall height of the water or would it have come to exactly the same height, give or take an inch or two? Me thinks not.
Weed in rivers holds back water in flood conditions and the weed that was being cut was upstream of these properties. In other words, should we suffer exceptionally heavy rain then it would go tumbling straight down to the town unhindered although that doesn’t seem to worry the EA spokesperson who commented that cutting the weeds had dropped the water levels upstream by a metre.
That’s right, A METRE!!!! The bloomin’ river is barely that deep to begin with. In fact once the weed has been cut the average depth of the river will be half that meaning the cormorants will have a field day.
A Sad Farewell
I’d love to regail you with tales of great catches during opening week but alas I had to travel down to Cornwall for the funeral of one of my closest friends which meant fishing took a back seat. We stayed in the delightful setting of Charlestown but it was hard to appreciate the beauty of this quaint harbour town in the circumstances.
Cancer is an evil disease
In our youth we’re indestructable. Through our twenties, thirties and forties most of us will experience raising families, careers and ambition; we learn about responsibilities and if someone dies it tends to be a distant relative or someone who’s really ‘old’. It’s when you hit 50 that you realise you’re actually moving into that vulnerable and ‘ancient’ group yourself. It’s when we begin to realise we’re actually mortal and the chances of ever doing those exciting things on our bucket lists recede with every passing day. It’s the point where some of us begin to understand the meaning of life, that it’s for living, for enjoying, and for savouring every precious moment.
The cremation took place at the Bodmin crematorium which has the most spectacular views from its pews. As the service reached its conclusion and curtains drew round the coffin three buzzards appeared as from out of nowhere, wheeling in the skies as we gazed through the vaulted windows. And then they were gone. An eerie moment. Quite surreal.
Rest in peace Terri.
Back In The Groove
On returning home I could feel the Trent was calling me and it would have been rude not to listen. So I nipped down to the CEMEX water at Carlton for a short session. I arrived at the river around 10am on a day that promised sunshine and high temperatures which didn’t bode too well as I fancied giving Fisky’s Fantastic Feeders a proper work-out.
Well, I’d barely got both rods set up and cast out when the first one hooped over and I was into my forst Trent barbel of the season. It augeredwell and by the time an hour had passed I knew I was on for a good day. And then a great big gravel barge decided to moor up barely 20 yards above me. Why, I don’t know but it spent the next hour reving its engine and stirring up the river bed. The river coloured up and that was that. I didn’t have another bite until well after it had moved on.
Oh, and when it departed it sailed close enough to the bank to cut off one of my rigs!
‘Trouble with tidal rivers is the constantly changing height and flow can switch the fish on and off and by the time things had settled down again the tide was backing up and the river level was lifting steadily and I was really struggling for bites. Fortunately the fish fed again on the run off so no complaints.
It’s always good to catch a few but it’s even better to catch when the sun is shining. Doesn’t happen often enough, does it. I finished up landing five chub and seven barbel in six hours but have to confess to losing another to a hook pull and two more in a snag. Not bad to say I was home for tea.
The following day I enjoyed another cracking session on a different river but I guess I’ll save that tale for the next blog.
I don’t know if you found those comments on the June Blog by the increasingly demented ‘Laird Of Hazelford’ entertaining but does it not beggar belief that he’s still daft enough to respond in the full knowledge that I’m supplying him with the rope he’s using to hang himself on the stupid tree…?
When ‘Whiskerton’ responds in support it draws a wry smile from me, too. Quite why he gets so upset when I edit unwelcome comments (however I see fit) is beyond me. Somehow neither he nor Mr Rocca appear to grasp the concept that I will continue to do this is because it is MY personal site, not theirs.
If they don’t like it, then they shouldn’t post insulting messages, or better still, they could start their own sites and show the world just how clever they really are.
Thousands of visitors enjoy the fare I freely provide and I suspect the majority rather enjoy my ridiculing of this idiot fringe. But it will only stop when they go away, not because they demand it.
So, Let Me Tell You A Story
Back in the ‘roaring twenties’ Ernest Hemingway was famously challenged to write a six-word short story. A wager was set; Hemmingway responded by scribbling on a napkin:
‘For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.’
Having a beginning, middle and an end it won him the bet, which set me to thinking, could I write a six word story to describe my detractors?
‘Tiresome Tone, Gnawing Bone, Can’t Keep Away.’
‘Two Heros, Both Zero’s, Naught Naught.’
Not forgetting the indignant one…
‘Grey Graham, Pet Lover, Food Critic.’
‘Fed Too Much, Tut-tut, Mi Lud.’
I suppose it depends if you regard the hyphenated tut-tut as one word, or two. Actually that one doesn’t really work too well but a good short story author saves his best till last. How about:
‘Trap Laid, Bait Taken, Futile Responses.’
‘I came, I blogged, they wept.’
If you can do better, and I’m sure you can, post a message – I’ll publish the best folks, providing they’re legal, decent and honest. These stories are ‘fiction’ – aren’t they?
Playing Card Magic
I’ll close with a YouTube clip that I nicked from a post on Fishing Magic and make no apologies for doing so because it’s simply brilliant. It has nothing to do with fishing but sometimes we have to accept that there is true genius out there and a whole lot more to life than the constant struggle to get our nets wet, eh?