Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Still Fishing - Just!

A bit of a barren year on the blog post front, which largely mirrors my angling year.

Life took on a different meaning for me in April, following the birth of my daughter. Despite having the usual best of angling intentions and a good handful of club / syndicate tickets, the fish rarely got a look in during 2019.

I've been limited to snatching short sessions whenever the going at home has been good. A far cry from being able to throw myself into decent length sessions pretty much every week. I'm not complaining though - family wellbeing  is now the priority - but I've sure missed my regular dose of piscatorial therapy.

That said, what a miserable run of wet weather we've had in the last quarter of the year. All too frequently my short sessions have coincided with the rivers being badly our of sorts. I've even resorted to the odd stillwater, which had little impact on my success.

A run of 7 blanks stretching back almost 3 months was endured at the peak of my misfortune and only ended with my final session of the year.

Amongst the limited offerings I've had, there were occasional highlights with a couple of pb's.

A completely unexpected specimen canal silver bream that was actually my first post baby capture in May. It went 2lb 8oz and the sheer scale of it didn't really hit me until I started discussing it with others afterwards. I just wish I'd taken some  better shots of it now.

The other highlight was finally breaking into double figures with an Anker bream of 10lb 2oz, taken on stick float and centrepin in June. Again I didn't do it justice with the self takes and a mat shot will have to do.

2020 will hopefully see me hitting the bank a little more often again and I'll duly follow with a few more blog posts.

Tight lines all.

Thursday, 31 January 2019


I'll summarise the month with a 4-3-2-1 countdown:

4 sessions - all pretty short. A case of grabbing what I could when the opportunity arose.

3 blanks - two chasing chub, one after predators. Let's move on swiftly.

2 venues - both on the Anker.

1 bite - but a personal best!

After years of figuring that I'd eventually drop lucky with a Warwickshire Avon five pound chub, my pb was refusing to budge above 4lb 5oz. I'd pushed it close with an Anker fish earlier in the season and much bigger fish (in the 6-7lb range) are in residence.

I didn't strike gold with a 6, or even silver with a 5. I had to settle for a close third with a clean well fed fish of 4lb 12oz. I'd like to say it was down to a perfectly executed plan, but it would be stretching the truth a little.

I'd fed my three preferred swims with liquidised bread, but I then fancied a quick look at one of the deeper downstream pegs before putting a bait into them. I offloaded my gear at the end peg, but when I tried to settle in, I wasn't happy. It was a lethal mudfest at the business end. I didn't want to risk a ducking.

I moved to a different peg further upstream that I hadn't fed. I cast two big pieces of flake across the river, more in hope than anything. I was amazed to get a quick tap on the right hand rod and more surprised when the tip pulled steadily around. That was the only bite of the session - and from a peg I could easily have overlooked. The baited pegs were barren.

The season's end draws ever closer. Soberingly, I'm probably down to just a handful of opportunities left. Let's hope the weather doesn't curtail it further. While I have plenty to do at home in preparation of a new arrival, I'd rather not be confined to enforced decorating duties.

Finally, it was nice to bump into Lee from This Angling Life (ex blogger  / now Facebook). during one of the sessions. I never knew we were members of the same club! Looks like he had a nice perch of 2lb 11oz (amongst other fish)  while I was slumbering. Nice one Lee!

Monday, 31 December 2018


December seems to have flown by and for once, I managed to grab my fair share of sessions. Returns have been bizarrely consistent, albeit somewhat sparse too.

No blanks (always welcome!), but I frequently can't seem to negotiate my way past small pike, or a count of one! Indeed, it was only in the last of the six sessions where I hit the heady heights of two pike (also losing a third at the net).

Sessions were split between a small deep stillwater (2) and the Avon (4). The stillwater is still quite new to me and proved a useful option when the river briefly slipped over its banks to less than ideal levels. 

Being quite urban, it's not my normal kind of venue, but as it contains the odd pike to 20lb+ and near double figure zander, it was worth suffering noise on the odd occasion I'd need it. 

A bailiff popped by and gave me a tip off for a swim where a zander had shown  earlier in the week. It was on my "to fish" list anyway, as it was on my route back and just looked fishy with lots of overhanging branches and deep water close in.

Blanking with half an hour to go, I suffered a hook pull on a jack and began to wonder if I'd be left fishless. Fairly quickly and to my relief, I put the blank to bed with a jack through.

With light levels dropping I decided to stay put and see the session out in the same swim - and I'm glad I did. With a small ripple present, I was struggling to see every twitch on the float in the ever fading light. I started to think I was imagining things, but I felt sure something was cagIly working my smelt hookbait over.

Then I got a decisive dip and clear movement of the float, followed by a fight that didn't feel pike-like. As suspected, it was a zander and it popped nicely into the net and instantly shed the hooks. Phew! Not a huge fish at 5lb 6oz, but respectable enough and my first from a stillwater. So, a pb of sorts I guess.

The return a few days later was a bit trickier and threw up one bite and one jack.

Now the Avon hasn't really been kind to me in predator terms for a couple of seasons now. As mentioned, I'm avoiding blanks this season, but largely with single jacks. It's just a case of plodding on though and hoping things drop right. Pike can be notoriously fickle creatures - seemingly stupidly easy some days, but rock hard on others and often with no obvious indication which way it's likely to play out.

The highlight of the December Avon sessions was the last one of the year. Nothing to do with extra fish, but for the entertaining demonstration by a real professional angler in the shape of a kingfisher.

It popped by several times and even plundered my swim!

Last fish of 2018
Christmas brought a few fishing related gifts - mostly bags to replace those that are now showing signs of wear. A special mention goes to a net handle that was a bit of a blind punt. 

I love quirky or compact tackle and the Korum Opportunist 1.8m telescopic handle caught my eye online. I have all manner of net handles ranging up to 4m, but I wanted something compact and stronger than the normal offerings. The 1.8m version I already had was quite weak in its feel and only suited to small light pan netc, 

This Korum version is a lot more sturdy and I've pleasantly been able to use it with a specimen triangular folding net with no issues so far (which is beyond what I expected of it). Obviously there are more suitable handles for use with such larger sized nets, but this little version is definitely a useful backup and can be left in a net bag permanently for when needed (it folds to less than 2ft). Or, it's a great tool for those opportunist family breaks where fishing kit space is limited (easily hidden in a suitcase!).

On that note, 2019 will more than likely see a reduction in my fishing, due to a new addition that's due to check in to our household in late April. Exciting times ahead though and I'm sure the rewards of parenthood will offset any lost bankside hours. 

Thursday, 29 November 2018


Another month drifts by and there was next to no fishing for me. DIY work has somewhat swallowed up most of the limited spare time I've had.

The good news is that I'm on track to finish the current phase of work this weekend, leaving me with a whole day to indulge myself. Weather permitting, I sense a rare dawn to dusk session is a shoe in.

November fishing activity won't take much summing up. Sessions, proper bites and fish were all equal at one each.

Tackling the Avon, I fished a deadbait rod (smelt), hoping I might sneak a zander. It remained biteless for the entire 4 hours. Luncheon meat was used on the other rod and although quiet, I did get one positive enquiry which yielded a small barbel of 5lb 7oz.

Being a bit of a statto by trade, I like to keep records to look back on. The barbel on the stretch in question are showing a downturn in size for me this year. Across the previous 3 seasons I had a pleasing running average of a shade over 9lb, but this season's fish average out to just over 7lb so far. The number of fish are similar though, so that remains encouraging.

Significant rain would be most welcome, as long as it doesn't wipe the river out over Christmas again. I'm hoping to make the most of an extended festive break this year.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


A strange month comes to an end. The weather has been quite diverse at times. Hot, cold, windy, but not really much rain to shout about in the Midlands.

It's the lack of rain that has rather dented my enthusiasm. I've been hoping to catch the river in prime condition for a shot at a double figure barbel,  but it remains on the back burner.

Since my last post I had a short (2 hour) after work dabble on a new stretch of the Upper Avon. Great to see it, but with weed still relatively thick, it's a tough cookie at this stage of the year. Best left a while longer, although one particular peg really grabbed my attention. A return is planned for mid November if conditions are OK.

A lazy Sunday afternoon trip to the Anker didn't throw up a great deal from the gin clear water. Just the odd silver fish to the stick float rig. Pike didn't want to play - or more to the point, they didn't play fair!

I'd had a deadbait out all session. Not a sniff. On packing up I jettisoned the bait with a sharp tug, leaving it clearly in view on the bottom just beyond the margin.

I packed the gear in the car which was just behind me. A quick check before moving off to make sure nothing was left behind. Yep, all good - even the deadbait left beyond the margin was no longer littering the river bed. Hang on?! I've been done over while my back was turned,

Pike rod back out with net and another smelt was dropped out. Two minutes later a pike goes nose to nose with the bait, staring it out for 2-3 minutes. It then flipped the bait on its side and chomped down on it. I struck, but all too early. I knew that we'd likely be parting company and after a brief tussle, the hooks were ejected. Not a huge fish thankfully, but it would have saved my day.

A week later I didn't even get out at all. A rare soggy day that coincided with my only window of opportunity, did nothing to inspire confidence. With alcohol excess also being a factor, a simple decision to stay at base camp was taken.

Next up was a rare foray out to the far flung pastures of the middle Avon. Lots of legwork required, but I had high expectations for this venture. It didn't transpire into a real rod bending session though. Just the one bend as it happened, but boy was it a belting battle.

Spotting an opportunistic pike mullering small fish on a regular basis in the oxygenated water, I trotted a smelt fairly shallow. I just allowed it to drift around the natural eddy. It didn't take long to get snaffled and all hell broke loose.

After several runs and some careful avoidance of near bank snags, I eventually guided it into the net. A decent double at 13lb 5oz, which eclipses anything I caught all last season. Better to come in the season ahead I hope, but I'll take that for starters.

The big hope for the month was still to come in the shape of the River Test. The main mission was simple - get the grayling monkey off my back. Big pike, roach or chub were also on the short list.

I love these indulgent days out. A day ticket costing more than some of my season tickets, sounds obscene. However, we just don't have this type of river within easy reach of me, so sometimes you have to treat yourself. I work hard enough all week after all!

The weather wasn't kind to us though. No recent rain, coupled with a big drop in temperature on the eve of our visit. Throw in a biting northerly wind, a sharp overnight frost and a multitude of  excuses were on standby.

I began trotting maggots just below where a carrier joined the main river. An early bite saw a bumped fish, but then nothing after several more runs down. Did I spook them perhaps? I moved above the carrier for a longer trot. Still nothing doing.

Plan B saw me ignoring the biting downstream wind on the main river, in favour of the more sheltered carrier. I arrived at the top of the beat just as Charlie had worked his way around from the main river. I left him to tackle the first pool while I plundered a small run towards a bend.

A couple of casts and the float dipped. A small fish, but unmistakably the lady of the stream. My first ever grayling was in the bag - all of 4oz maybe. Who cared though? I didn't!

Job done and anything else was now a bonus. I almost banked a second - even smaller - one, but some comical handling of my 15ft rod saw me grappling with overhanging tree and fish in tandem. The fish slipped away while I retrieved my rig with my net. And then the swim died.

Despite plenty of endeavour it wasn't proving easy. Charlie managed a grayling and lost a better one. He was also picking off the odd small trout. Brian was battling with his centrepin, trying to get to grips with non-fixed spool angling. A tough ask in the conditions and he abandoned it as a bad job.

For the post lunch session I wanted to head for deeper water. Unfortunately my preferred area was spoken for, so we settled down elsewhere, bedded in and chucked our feeders out. Trotting was banished. A suicidal trout gave me the runaround, but nothing else showed for any of us.

Eventually all of the downstream rods moved back above us, and, with nothing to lose but a nagging wind, I headed off alone to seek shelter and renewed hope for the last couple of hours.

An hour in and I'd had nothing. Deadbait motionless, maggots untouched. I'd been feeding liquidised bread through a feeder, so I switched to flake hookbait for one last fling. Straight away I had a bite which I duly missed. Straight back out and the tip banged around almost instantly. No mistake this time, although not quite the chub I'd hoped it might be, but a 4lb 1oz pb trout.

Next cast, rod barely put down and the tip was pulling around again...

And so it continued with another 3 trout in a short mad spell. I lost one too as it jumped around 2ft clear of the water, ejected the hook and the feeder narrowly missed my left ear! The last fish fell to a deadbait rather than bread.

Not quite the coarse fish bounty I'd hoped for, but as a one off it made for a fun experience in tricky conditions.

Closer to home I had a week off work to catch up on home improvements. A short fishing window opened up on Halloween afternoon, so I headed off to the Anker for predators. I changed my mind on the way though and ended up on a small pit instead!

It's a backup water I don't fish very much, as it lacks tranquility due to its location. It's a nice water though with pike to low twenties and zander nudging double figures. It would be quiet midweek.

With only 2 hours to spare I hopped between a couple of pegs using smelt deadbait. Initially I started with a heavier weight in the deep water, but I eventually scaled back to a single SSG shot to give a slower drop. That change triggered an instant reaction and my only fish of the session.

A nice clean jack of maybe 6lb that gave the dullest fight ever! My first predator from the venue though.

I have no idea what's next. Family matters are dominating things at the moment, but I'll be looking out for any chance to wet a line as soon as possible.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Big Blank Off

Two men with a passion for rivers. A day's work under their belts, they'd join forces for a couple of hours in pursuit of predators. Who would earn the bragging rights?

A painfully clear Avon was the venue. However, with a good depth and dipping light levels, a degree of optimism was daring to surface in both camps.

In the red corner, Mick had the run of the pegs down to the weir. In the blue corner, I took the pegs towards the upstream limit. Our paths never crossed, but updates were shared throughout.

It wasn't exactly a thriller down the river. A single chomped smelt dropped take for Mick. I'm claiming a single tentative enquiry that saw two solid short dips on the float about 30 seconds apart. That was it! A no score draw. 

Still, it was a nice enough evening for early October and much better than staying on at work. Even I'd take blanking over working any day!

Later in the evening I acquired some of my late father's old fishing tackle. My brother was having a clear out and offered it to me rather than just dumping it.  

My dad didn't have much gear and what he did have was rarely of any great quality.  Part of a large Irish family, brought up in the 1930s / 40s, he had a strong make do and mend attitude.

He never bought a rod in all the years I fished with him. He only had one and it hadn't seen the light of day for maybe 20 years. In his latter years I'd always encouraged him to use my gear - largely to stop him carrying his own, due to his health issues.

Taking his old rod from a damp and musty rod bag, I expected it to be rotten. Not so though. The blank itself remains in good nick. Some eyes have been knocked about and the cork handle is a little warped. 

It's not a rare or valuable high end blank, but the joints all slot together perfectly.  It feels reasonable enough and theres no structural damage.

The tip section looks like it's suspiciously short of a few inches though - evidence of the mend mentality no doubt. The handle is too long for my liking, but that's soon remedied (and would conveniently eradicate the warped area).

All things considered, it would probably still give some reasonable service as a heavy float rod for species like tench or larger bream. 

And so a plan is born. I've been looking at more and more retro / vintage tackle on Ebay recently and quite fancied a restoration project for later in the year when the dark evenings hit. This has dropped into place nicely, so I'm going to strip it back and attempt a full makeover. 

Hopefully I'll be putting it back into service sometime next year. It wouldn't feel right just consigning it to the local landfill site. That would surely amount to betrayal.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Summer Catch Up

With lots going on in my daily life and fishing life, I've neglected the blog for quite some time. I started putting some notes down several weeks ago, but could never quite pull it together for a post. A case of writer's constipation I guess!

I contemplated stopping altogether, but I know I'd regret that in years to come. The blog is primarily a point of reference for me personally and I don't want to lose that.  So, with renewed vigour as we move into Autumn, I'll attempt to kick-start it off again and try to be more regular again future.

The summer has whizzed by for me. It will certainly linger in the memory for the long hot dry spell we suffered. Fishing conditions weren't exactly great for much of it, but I've still had my share of trips.

My best laid plans were somewhat disrupted  (in a good way) when George Burton's syndicate got off the ground. Suddenly I found myself with a whole new load of options to go at and I've been busy getting myself acquainted with them.

For me they're mostly new venues, but with one old venue that I last fished 20+ years ago. The real fun in this venture though, is the unknown. Joining something established often brings a degree of predictability with it. This is completely different. Not quite a blind punt - more of a calculated one - but with plenty of uncharted territory and lots of opportunity for discovery along the way.

Most of the summer has been spent just keeping it simple. I wanted to get back to trotting a float more regularly - something I've neglected a lot in recent years. I acquired a late 1960s Bruce & Walker float rod earlier in the year and it has been put to good use on many occasions.

Rather than trying to recount individual sessions, I'll get up to date by sharing some photos from my travels across four counties, five rivers and a couple of stillwaters.

Tranquil Stour

7lb 4oz summer Anker pike

9lb 3oz - Avon

9lb - Avon

Ruffe day on the Avon

10lb 14oz - stalked from syndicate pool


Avon chub 

Leam perch 1lb 5.5oz

Avon - 4lb 12oz

Avon - 6lb 4oz
Herefordshire estate lake

Glorious Wye
And finally a tale of two Marks, both returning to fishing after long absences.

Mark One

The setting was a Herefordshire estate lake and I was helping Mark to rediscover the joys of float fishing.

As we moved into the afternoon his reel suffered what we both agreed was a terminal demise and I set him up with one of my spares. While retackling I also suggested a change of float to something heavier, to allow him to make longer casts. With the depth plumbed I attached some shot and asked Mark to flick it out to check the lie of the float.

Out it went, but as he retrieved it I saw the rod seriously arch over. Caught on the bottom I presumed, but it quickly became apparent he'd got a fish on, as the rod tip started lunging. With Mark never having caught anything beyond 3lb before, I assumed my best Corporal Jones (Dad’s Army) impression. “Don't panic, don't panic!”.

Managing to quash Mark's initial natural instinct to reel like mad, he then played the rest of the battle out perfectly. On light gear we managed to coax a pike of 9lb into the net. Presumably it saw the flash of the hook and struck out at it. Luckily the hooklength held out by the slenderest of margins - breaking under minimal pressure when tested afterwards.

It made his weekend - even if he was a little reluctant to handle it!

Mark Two

The Avon this time and another Mark returning to fishing. We'd talked during the journey and established he'd never caught a pike. I predicted it might change soon.

He started off trotting maggots under a stick float and given the swim choice, I knew the inevitable would happen soon enough. First strike and his rod arched over. “It’s a decent one” he shouts. I'm hoping chub, but already thinking pike - and so it was. Nearly landed, but it let go at the last.

It took a couple more encounters later in the session before he got lucky and the hook lodged in the scissors of a fish. Expertly played I might add, Mark carefully guided his first pike into the net. Less than 5lbs, but good fun on light gear and we had the happiest angler ever to guest on this blog!

I hope I find the pike this easy when I start targeting them! Great to see others enjoying themselves though - often more rewarding than our own exploits.