I’m enjoying this series of challenges and once again I’ve managed to delve into the archives and come up with a post for each day of the month, hopefully things will begin to get easier as the year progresses. If you enjoy it then please drop back each month for an update. If you can’t wait then it’s a rare day when I don’t share something on Facebook.
Being February some of these images represent the challenge rather than a level of achievement but believe me, just being out on the bank and catching anything is worthy of a celebration some days, yet on others my catches have been quite remarkable, rewarding even. If nothing else I hope it inspires you to give it a shot, even when the omens appear to be against you.
On This Day – 1st February
Looking out from my study window there’s a very light covering of snow and it reminds me that in the depths of winter any fish you catch is a bonus and any barbel more so. Three years ago (#OTD2016) I was stuggling to catch anything, never mind a barbel. And then the temperatures lifted, not a lot, but it was enough. I cannot describe how thrilling it was to finally get a wrenching bite from a barbel, how good that aggressive power felt nor how sickening it was for my line to catch on something that I suspect was a sunken branch. I could feel the fish, a good one. I could allow it to take line and draw it back but at a certain spot everything would go solid. Eventually the line shredded and we parted company. It felt like the end of the world but an hour later this scamp came along and put a big smile on my face. Winter barbel fishing is not about size, any fish will do. I’ve had much bigger winter fish but they all count, don’t they?
On This Day – 2nd February
February is a funny month. It might snow, it can be mild, it is often wet, but the days are drawing out and that means carp are starting to get active. #OTD is looking back to 2014 at Sykehouse Fisheries. To avoid hooking carp I had to fish with just two sections of pole, my float almost touching the nearside rushes. If I fed or fished further out I would hook a carp every time.
Carp are okay, providing you are deliberately trying to catch them, but I wonder how many folk there are like me who have a streak of old school about them who prefer to avoid them when targeting ‘proper’ fish?
On This Day – 3rd February
#OTD2012 Another one of those seemingly impossible days when perseverance eventually pays off. It would have been so easy to call it a day early and head for home, especially with snow flurries threatening to make it a tricky journey, but cometh the hour my tip goes round and it’s all worth it. If like me you have to travel fifty or 60 miles to fish decent venues it hardly seems worth going for a two-hour session, but I often wonder whether I’d be better off arriving mid-afternoon and writing off the morning completely, thus being totally focussed when it really matters. How about you?
On This Day – 4th February
The River Idle in North Notts is not much to look at but it can throw up an occasional surprise. These images are from 5th February 2005 on a day when I was hoping to catch bream presenting liquidised bread feed and flake on the hook (#OTD2005).
It was something of a shock to hook something that took 20 minutes to land on light feeder gear but patience paid off in the form of this surprise carp. Are you encountering more and more carp on rivers? Will they become as widespread and dominate the food chain as they have in North America and parts of Australia.
On This Day – 5th February
A special treat for followers of #OTD, two posts today rather than the usual one. Here’s the first and I’ve really dug deep into the archives for it. The year is 1997 and I was determined to catch a 20lb pike from a Nottinghamshire Pit I was a member of. The place was rock hard and I endured far more blank days than ones when I caught but eventually my stubbornness paid off with this beauty, caught at long range on legered half mackerel. Do you ever get into that dogged ‘refusal to give up until you succeed’ frame of mind?
On This Day – 6th February
And for my second #OTD offering it’s back to 2005 and darkest Norfolk, chasing big roach at Catch 22. We (the Don Valley Specialist Group) went down there mob handed and came home with tails between out legs. I seem to recal we had just one small roach between about half a dozen of us. You might say there was no pot of silver at the end of this particular rainbow. Funny how some failures last as long in the memory as successes. Do you have any memorable failures?
On This Day – 7th February
#OTD2015. I sometimes wonder how long the good times can last. These are the heydays where river angling is concerned. We’ve never had it so good. Consider today’s specimens against what were headliners in the press 40 or 50 years ago and there is no comparison. But how fragile is the current situation? Here I am back in 2015 catching a few nice chub on the Trent when the very next fish is this very sorry looking specimen.
In my life I’ve seen no end of fish kills, columnaris in roach, the perch wipe-out almost countrywide in the 1960s, KHV, SVC and so on. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if we had a widespread devastating disease affecting our chub and barbel populations, could you? And if we did, how many of would be demanding the Angling Trust and the EA did something about it? yeah, the same Trust and EA so many have been quick to pillory on social media this past few weeks…
On This Day – 8th February
Memorable days are often not about the fish you catch, it’s who you were with. Here’s a special one from #OTD2017. A bunch of old reprobates rocking up at a local commercial fishery in search of perch. From left to right there’s Matt Brown, Bob Roberts, Brian Skoyles, Paul Fisk, Michael Townsend and Ron Clay. John Austerfield dropped in for a social, too, if my memory serves me right. Fisky’s holding the trophy we competed for, which Mike won with a 4lb 1oz specimen.
I nicked this 3-pounder out of Mike’s swim on a light jig! Well, it was a friendly day out. We should do this again guys!
On This Day – 9th February
Heading back seven years for today’s offering, #OTD2012. Cumbria’s glorious River Eden, and how aptly named. I was put on the very best swims by top class guide and all-round good guy, Chris Bowman. He’s a bit of an unsung hero of mine. Try Googling ‘Chris Bowman fishery management’ or ‘fishing guide’ if you are looking for someone to take you grayling fishing in delightful surroundings. He operates in the Carlisle/ Cumbria/ Scottish borders region and has access to some great waters. Chris also writes a regular column for the Chronical. You can follow the links here: www.borderlines.org.uk/ www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/other-sport/angling/ Do you have any unsung angling heroes that deserve to be thanked?
On This Day – 10th February
Lets head back 5 years to #OTD2014. A perch fishing trip saw me attached to what, for a few moments, felt like the mother of all stripeys. Turned out to be this tench (unfortunately), but that got me to thinking. Very few waters produce tench through the winter. Anglers Paradise does, Arksey Willowgarth used to, but are we still in the depths of winter or has spring sprung. You see, tench wake up far earlier than folk think. Watch out for a few surprise captures cropping up on social media in the next few weeks. Are spring tench a viable target for those brave enough to put in the hours? And where will you catch them, deep water or shallow, weedy or open water? And on what baits?
On This Day – 11th February
So busy preparing my gear for tomorrow I almost forgot to post today’s picture. #OTD2011 – and how fitting that it was taken at the very place I’m returning to in the morning for a spot of roach fishing. It’s a carp water, not fished it for several years so no idea how, or even if it will fish. Well, there’s only one way to find out. These roach hardly ever get fished for. I’ll either catch a few quality roach on the pole or I’ll be on a carp puddle by lunchtime! Is this the wrong time of year to be gambling on venues?
On This Day – 12th February
#OTD2016. The Trent was up and coloured. Time to gamble on a big fish or bust stretch. Kind of a one bite area, but if that bite came it would likely as not be from a lump. I fished on into the dark, in the mud, convinced I only needed put in the hours, then it happened! The rod pulled over, my heart nearly jumped out of my throat and then… Crushing disappointment. But I’ll take a bream over a blank any day. How about you?
On This Day – 13th February
It’s grim up North folks. Winter fishing can be a real grind. Every single bite is earned. A romantic Valentines break at Anglers Paradise has kept me sane during more winters than I care to remember, mainly because I can fit in a few fishing sessions in between the partying! The fish in Devon have never even heard of winter. So here I am, #OTD2014 indulging myself in the gold star experience. Big orfe are suckers for maggots. Casting a small feeder to the corner of an island usually does the trick. Do you have your own special venue that never lets you down, even in the middle of winter?
On This Day – 14th February
Here’s looking back to #OTD2014 and a local canal. It wasn’t the biggest fish of the day but in bright sunshine, I’ll never turn up my nose at a fish like this chunky specimen. Does bright weather put pike off or turn them on? What’s your view?
On This Day – 15th February
I said that getting my slide scanner to work would open up possibilities. I’m heading back to #OTD1997, yep, 22 years ago! A Valentine’s Massacre on the main carp lake at Anglers Paradise. One of three twenties in one overnighter, a mirror, a common and a leather. Hardly look a day older, do I? Carp are waking up folks. Now’s the time to go out and mug a few before they wise up. Do you have any special Valentine’s fishing memories?
On This Day – 16th February
A few days ago I posted an image of a large golden orfe to which someone said, ‘That must be close to the record’. Well, this what a potential record orfe looks like! Again, it was from Anglers Paradise, ten years ago to the day, taken on a small maggot feeder #OTD2009. As usual I had no scales with me, nor a retention sling. I don’t even have a picture of me holding it. But I have to admit it is one of the finest looking specimens I have ever caught of any species. Would you, in my shoes, have taken steps so you could claim the record?
On This Day – 17th February
#OTD2016, Messingham Sands. Pole fishing with prawns in the rain can be a soul destroying experience. The hours of inactivity tend to drag by, the dull ache in your neck and shoulder muscles and then suddenly, the fish arrive and bingo, you get a handful in next to no time. Do you think it’s a case of intercepting patrolling fish or is it a case of them being in your swim all along but a drop in light levels in late afternoon causes the fish to switch on?
On This Day – 18th February
I’m considering calling in the police. Someone’s stealing time and I don’t seem to even miss it until I look at the dates on my picture files. Can’t believe today’s #OTD harks back to 2011 but there you are. The best fish from a productive morning on a Lincolnshire drain. Nothing complicated about the tactics, just walk further than anyone else and chuck out a deadbait. Do you find a long walk beats all the fancy rigs and gizmos hands down when it comes to catching pike?
On This Day – 19th February
Looking back to #OTD2013 and a refreshingly cold morning. With the forecast for possibly record high February temperatures over the next week I wonder if my winter’s chubbing is now over?
I love the cold weather roving sessions, simple tactics, delicate bites, 10 minutes in a swim and move if its not happening. A fish here, a fish there. The variety of swims and indeed rivers you can cram in as the days lengthen makes for very rewarding fishing, but with barely 3 weeks left of the river season, time’s running out fast. Should I now be turning my attentions to barbel when they are chunky and fighting fit, or should I leave it until June when they are so, so easy to catch? Great time for zander, too. Decisions!!!
On This Day – 20th February
Couple of #OTD images for your gratification. The first was on this day in 2013, Upper Wensleydale, possibly. My memory is far from perfect. Somewhere near the source of the Swale, or it may have been the Wharfe(?). Who cares. Absolutely Baltic temperatures, ice everywhere. Which is why I sometimes find fishing in warmer climes so attractive, like this image from #OTD2010, deep in the jungles, Uganda to be precise.
Oh, to land a fish from a river so big you cannot lift it! The water is infested with crocodiles, there’s Africa’s most dangerous animal barely 20 yards away, out of shot (the hippo, in case you’re wondering – they kill far more people than lions). Alas, until I get my transplant, trips like that are off my radar.
On This Day – 21st February
Exactly a year ago. #OTD2018. The Trent looked perfect for a barbel, as it does today, but don’t be fooled, some will catch, many will not. I was grateful to catch this, I can tell you. But with only three weeks left before the fish commence their Bacchanalian 3-month-long orgy of exhibitionism, procreation, group sex, dogging and voyeurism, spare a thought for all the folk who’ve not fished since October and even now will be looking forward to further 3-months of denial so they can celebrate targeting out-of-condition fish on the Glorious 16th. On the other hand, if you are a dedicated angler, there will more than likely be some good fishing to be had in the next few days, make the most of it.
On This Day – 22nd February
When my first wife died (on Christmas Day 2002) my world pretty much imploded and I’ll always be indebted to the good people that helped pull me through. Most of them you won’t know, they know who they are, but some you certainly will. Big Des invited me to stay with him and Marg when I was ready. Zyg, David Hall, both did the same, and so did Mat Hayes. It made a big difference to me knowing how folk cared.
Here’s me, #OTD2003, on the Warwickshire Avon with Matt and Ed Brown. Sad times but incredibly fond memories. Thanks guys. It’s not forgotten.
On This Day – 23rd February
#OTD2015. The weather was bitterly cold so I stayed close to home and enjoyed the modern miracle that is my beloved River Don. Free fishing doesn’t come much better than this. Odd chub, dace, roach, grayling galore plus the occasional interloping wild brown trout. I’m sure some miserable git with nothing better to do will start moaning that trout are out of season, but seriously? Spare us all. Get a life. If I was targeting trout, then fine. Send me a PM. If I was fishing a game river, okay, but its not. Certainly it’s not recognised as such in the industrial wasteland where I was fishing. So tell me this, how many of us truly know the start and finish dates of the trout season, or the salmon and sea trout seasons, bass or mullet, without looking it up? Indeed here’s a link to the variations on 50 different rivers: http://www.spinfish.co.uk/Article-fishingseasondatesengland… Complicated, isn’t it? It’s not like I was taking trout or grayling for the pot (ahem!) or targeting barbel on the Wye (or even shad, which apparently is worse as that’s now illegal) during May, or perhaps early June, is it? I’ve heard some do that, you know…
On This Day – 24th February
It’s this time of year when river bream begin to relocate. They will have been laid up in tight shoals through the colder months, now they are on the march, heading upstream. It’s the chub fisher’s nightmare. Back in #OTD2016 I was hoping for a good catch of chub, a fish here and there in various swims as I covered a mile or so of river. It wasn’t to be. Bream everywhere, in swims where it’s rare to encounter a single one.
It turned into a bream day, but hey, mustn’t grumble. The sun shone, I had bites galore, but no chub. But plenty of action. Oh well. Beggars can’t be choosers, can they?
On This Day – 25th February
Does confidence play a big role in your fishing? Looking back to #OTD2014. I was in a bit of a torrid run. I’m sure it’s happened to you. You wonder where the next bite is coming from, it’s too cold, too bright, the river’s low, too clear, ought to take up golf, you name it; and then, the tip pulls round and all is right with the world again. This fish put an end to a dismal run, after which catching came easy again. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?
On This Day – 26th February
Hope you are all enjoying this magnificent late-season weather but let’s not get carried away. Today’s #OTD2018 is from12 months ago. The weather was a little bit different back then, eh? Who’s making the most of it?
On This Day – 27th February
I’ve had the good fortune to have travelled the world, seen incredible places and spent time with some wonderful people, from the Great Wall of China to Victoria Falls, from the Panama Canal to the canals of St Petersburg and Venice; there’s even a stamp in my passport for Hell (seriously!), but when it comes to memorable trips few can match my trip to Scotland #OTD2016. I joined Kris Smith and Michael Mellors on Loch Ken for a spot of piking. To say it was cold would be an understatement. It was bloody freezing!
We were bivvying on the banks of the loch. Overnight the temperature fell so low half the loch froze over. Bites were at a premium but we still caught a few fish (or ‘fosh!’). I was introduced to square sausages (Larne Sausage) and Black eyes, that’s sausage containing a circle of black pudding. Cooked on the bank this is the food of the Gods. But in the end we quit, as you do eventually.
Kris drove me back to Glasgow where I was catching the train home that Sunday afternoon. We had a few hours to spare and he asked if there was anything I fancied doing. let’s go see the football grounds, I said, so he took me to Ibrox. We entered the reception and chatted with the uniformed security guard on duty. All was quiet and eventually I popped the question, ‘Can I have look around inside, please?’ No way. No way at all. Of course if I came back they did run stadium tours. Oh well, that was out of the question as I was only there for a matter of a couple of hours.
And then his resolve melted. He walked round us to the front door, closed and locked it. ‘Follow me!’ He said.
We walked through a doorway, past the wall of advertising stickers were players are interviewed after each game, along what I suddenly realised was the players’ tunnel and emerged into the daylight of the stadium alongside the pitch. Here’s me sat on the home bench. Chris being a Celtic fan insisted in being photographed on the away bench.
How do you follow that? ‘Well, let’s go and see Parkhead.’ I suggested to Kris.
‘No way will we get in there!’ He insisted.
But the photographs on my phone proved to be a powerful incentive and guess what? yep, here I am, with Kris, sat on the Celtic bench. And I’ve only been in Glasgow an hour!!!
It’s days and trips like this that bring home to you just what incredible sights and opportunity angling presents us with. If it weren’t for the pictures you simply wouldn’t believe it, would you?
On This Day – 28th February
Back in 2012 someone suggested I try a section of the River Don immediately behind a small industrial unit. Just call in the factory, he told me, and pay £3. They’ll then let you through the gate onto the riverside path. It was only a short stretch but immaculately manicured. The owner kept it as a garden and any money he raised from allowing a few folk to fish went into the upkeep. Trouble was, you never knew when the place would be open. here’s me #OTD2013 and obviously I had managed to gain access to the ‘secret garden’. It’s deep under your feet, there are lots of grayling and I’m told barbel turn up in summer, especially on the end peg.
Alas the factory is now closed, the parking area chained off and there’s no obvious way around or through the high wall. Would have loved to fish here more often. Do you have fond memories of special places where you can no longer fish?
And that’s it for now, except for one last image. A fish I took last night, my final February fish of 2019, just as a bonus for sticking with me till the end…
Sometimes Lady Luck smiles upon us. This was one of those occasions. Tight lines!