A new river puts a spring in your step!!

River Dove 29th November 2014

I’d been looking forward to this weekend  for a while, my club card arrived mid-week and I was soon packed and ready to pay my first visit to the river Dove in Derbyshire. I’d said ta ta for now to the river Dane and we parted company on good terms so I could always return should the opportunity arise.

River Dove 29-11-14 (2)An early start was planned but I failed miserably to make the 5am alarm call having only had three hours sleep due to an over active imagination and broken dreams of 6lb chub. Instead a more civilised 7am rise saw me making up a flask of coffee and heading off onto the M62 around 8am. Eighty miles later I was walking into the cafe for a spot of breakfast, something I fear will become a habit, still it does set you up for the day!

I headed upstream and found a very tempting swim with a smooth glide. Dropping in I sat back for five minutes and just observed my new surroundings. The sheep in the field bounded around in between munching grass, bullocks turned up to have a nosey at the new bloke and flocks of geese performed aerial manoeuvres overhead.

River Dove 29-11-14 (5) River Dove 29-11-14 (6) River Dove 29-11-14 (14)

Another angler wading upstream of me flicked his fly with rhythmic precision and although I did consider walking up to have a chat my eagerness to cast was too great so I set about it with a ceremoniously overhead flick, my fishing on the Dove had begun.

A fresh cheese paste I’d made the night before felt just right as a first offering to the chub, my usual blend of Laguna Milk Pro base mix combined with the Blue Cheese SAC juice mixed 50/50 with the Banana SAC juice and plenty of stinky cheeses hit the crease with a ‘plop’ however I’d under estimated the pace of the river and was soon dragged into the nearside bank. I reeled in and stepped up to a 30g black cap feeder filled with hemp and as I recast to the same spot it stayed in position allowing for a slight bend in the tip.

River Dove 29-11-14 (8)

A reassuring pluck was registered and like a gun fighter in the wild west my hand hovered over the rod ready to strike, it pulled around and I lifted into a fish. It lept almost immediately from the water and I could see it wasn’t a chub but it still fought well and within a few seconds was in the net. I’d been fishing less than fifteen minutes and had my first Dove fish, I wasn’t use to that kind of start and thinking back I should have guessed the trout were in residence after all the clue was staring me in the face fifty yards upstream.

River Dove 29-11-14 (10) River Dove 29-11-14 (12)

I probably stayed too long in the swim but I wasn’t in a rush and had the rest of the day ahead of me but after a further half hour I went in search of the weir.

The weir marks the upper limit of the beat and also the start of nine miles of Derbyshire countryside for me to explore. I wanted to fully appreciate the river from start to finish, I knew that wasn’t achievable in a day but I have all the time in the world for this kind of river, wider than the Dane overall but of a similar depth and a complete unknown which is why I’m fishing it.

River Dove 29-11-14 (16) River Dove 29-11-14 (17)

I’d researched my surroundings and felt acquainted with their form, I had my bearings but Google earth is a powerful tool but you have to be careful not to make any assumptions particularly when it comes to boundaries and barbed wire fences!!

The shingle beach provided a stable footing for my chair but I stood near the edge and rolled a piece of free lined meat around in the turbulent water hoping to get a quick take from an unsuspecting barbel. Eventually my lack of sleep caught up with me so I attached a 2oz grippa and cast it forty yards or so into the heart of the weir, propping the rod on the rest I tucked the long cork handle under my arm hooked my finger around the line and drifted off into a much-needed sleep. An hour later I was woken by the sound of panting just behind my right ear, disoriented for a moment I turned and came face to face with drooling dog who’d come over to inspect this strange man sat in the middle of his patch. The beat is popular with dog walkers who nod knowingly if you catch their eye and seem to be a friendly enough bunch.

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I reeled in only to find the meat had long gone, perhaps it had been plucked carefully away by a giant chub who managed to avoid the hook, if it had I wouldn’t have known a thing.

River Dove 29-11-14 (25) River Dove 29-11-14 (27) River Dove 29-11-14 (28) River Dove 29-11-14 (32)

Walking back to the car I stayed close to the river’s edge scanning potential swims for my next visit, every twenty yards I could see a ‘chubby’ looking spot, the Dove was quickly getting my seal of approval.

River Dove 29-11-14 (33) River Dove 29-11-14 (34)

I decided to use the last hour of light to find a second car park downstream and set off in the general direction but it was soon apparent that the sat nav didn’t know where it was going either and I ending up driving around in circles until eventually it was pitch black.

Heading back to just below the road bridge I dropped onto the next beat.  It too screamed chub and had a bit more pace judging by the occasional procession of foam. Mid way was as good as any and within a couple of minutes I was casting a rod length out and letting the flow take the feeder to a natural resting place. I poured a coffee and watched the starlite, it flickered slightly and then pulled steadily around a nicely conditioned chub of 3lb 12oz was the result.

River Dove 29-11-14 (38)

Pleased with the chub I decided the far bank needed a run through so I punched the feeder across and this time held onto the rod. The cheese paste had barely come to a halt when I felt a familiar tingling through the line. I didn’t hesitate and stuck firmly to my right but no resistance was forthcoming and I reeled in quickly to recast. Just under the rod tip I caught a glimpse of a fish and much to my surprise my second chub was banked. At only eight inches in length it was a chublet but it was the first chublet I’d seen since Bicton two months ago and it signified a healthy river with a growing population, result!!

River Dove 29-11-14 (42)

My final couple of hours were spent wandering downstream where eventually I came across another angler, a brief chat confirmed my location and he said there were a couple of anglers beyond him so I gathered my tackle and headed off to find a vacant peg. A suitable peg found I had a look to see if I was close to anyone else, two glowing night lights twenty yards away confirmed I was so I said hello and we started chatting.

As luck would have it I was speaking with the current barbel river record holder and he spent a good half hour or more telling me about the Dove and how he’d fished it since the mid 70s, he clearly knew the river intimately. His river record hadn’t come from this section but he said it still contained some lumps so I spent the last hour casting frequently and learning about my new home which although it’s likely to be a long haul I’m happy to drive those extra miles each week and once again enjoying my fishing.

Dove-record-533x400

River Dove record barbel.

 Grazy.

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A change from the norm ……

River Vyrnwy 22nd November 2014

Decided, after last weeks barbel on the Dane, that a new venue was required for this weekend so I looked around my club card and decided on my first visit to the river Vyrnwy.

Vyrnwy Map

Quoted from Wikipedia – The river used to be sourced from the many rivers and streams running off the mountains surrounding the Vyrnwy valley.

The dam under construction, c. 1885

The dam under construction, c. 1885

However, since the Lake Vyrnwy dam was built in the 1880s, the river has flowed directly from the base of the dam. The river runs for 39.7 miles (63.9 km), and the last 8 miles (12.9 km) form part of the Welsh/English border between Powys and Shropshire. It eventually joins the River Severn near the village of Melverley.

My clubs stretch is less than a mile in length on the downstream limit where it joins the river Severn which in actual fact is just downstream of our Llandrinio stretch. I’ve fished Llandrinio on many occasion but hadn’t realised just how close the Vyrnwy ran nearby, in fact travel down the track a further 100 yards and you’re there so it offers an alternative should you fancy a change or find the Severn unfishable.

Having studied Google Earth and the club map book I had an idea on how to cross the fields and get to the river, mistake no.1 was listening to those ideas because in reality the fields had thickets between me and said Vyrnwy so I scrambled through a gap, carefully negotiating the barbed wire and took a first look at the river (I later learned the easier gated route). What I saw was a murky swollen river at the top of the banks however as this was due to heavy rain the day before and the upstream monitoring station said the level was falling I decided to set up and continue with the session, in any case I’d travelled 70 miles to get there and you don’t turn back unless the river is in the car park (I’ve done that before today)!!

Vyrnwy Levels 22-11-14.jpg

The problem was gauging where the banks ended and the river started and only the tops of tress gave some indication plus the main flow was carrying huge rafts of rubbish and I watched as they drifted silently by.

Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (2) Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (3)

For the first hour I cast short of the mark and after losing a couple of feeders and leads I discovered that by casting straight ahead and half way across into the main flow it brought the 2oz grippa lead swiftly back in towards the near bank downstream hitting the bottom with a ‘dunk’ as the carpers like to call it, a slight pull back to check I wasn’t snagged and I was in business and fishing.

An hour later and itching to see the rest of the swims I moved upstream, the river appeared to be rising although the monitoring station upstream said it was dropping but having set up on dry land within an hour I had wet feet and so a further move was necessary.

Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (9)

The upper limit was looking much more fishable and the flow a little more sedate. Phil joined me around 3pm and we started to fish in earnest, I’d dug up a few nice lob worms and Phil was trying a lump of meat. A 2oz grippa was all that was needed to hold bottom here and I’d dropped some hemp in both swims adding a few balls of mashed bread sprayed with the Laguna Blue Cheese SE SAC juice, it was certainly a smelly ground-bait which can often draw fish into the swim.

Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (10)

The sunset was spectacular and made the trees on the far bank glow an autumn orange.

Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (4) Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (6) Vyrnwy 22-11-14 (7)

It was soon dark and a chilly damp evening reminded me to change to my thermal lined pants for next week, we’ve been blessed with a relatively mild autumn but now that winter is well and truly here the evenings and early mornings can be particularly cold.

The last cast was made a 7:45pm, all guns blazing in a last ditched attempt but it wasn’t meant to be and at 8pm we headed back (via the correct path this time) to the car having a much need brew and a butty before hitting the road, for Phil a fifteen minute journey but for me an hour more.

What a difference a new venue can make to your fishing, I feel happy with my choice this week despite the high levels, I needed to leave the Dane on a high note and that I did but the Vyrnwy will need a significant amount of time to master it’s inhabitants and it’s time I haven’t really got this winter, my card for the river Dove will be with me mid-week and I’ll be making the 160 mile round trip for the first time next weekend, I’m feeling excited already!!

Grazy.

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We’re gonna need a bigger boat…

River Dane 7th November 2014

My usual Saturday session was called off due to other commitments so I opted for another Friday night into early morning stint on the river Dane. With a clear run down the M6 I arrived at 8pm and as the weather forecast was for a mostly dry and clear evening I was once again full of optimism and determined to put an end to my run of blanks on this sometimes frustrating local river.

When I arrived at the river it was up and running through at a very fast pace, I’d checked the levels and the weather forecast the day before but hadn’t checked further upstream near Macclesfield where apparently it had been raining steadily all day, this was going to be a very tough session particularly because I had nothing bigger than a 2oz lead and only a couple of them at that.

The following day it was obvious that I'd arrived at a rapidly rising river.

The following day it was obvious that I’d arrived at a rapidly rising river.

Dane at Rudheath 002

On Bills advice I headed to the downstream swim known as the Sandbank, the field crop had been harvested last month but negotiating the muddy field was a mission in itself. Once set up I cast out a small feeder full of bread crumb and cheese paste on the hook, the river was pushing through and my earlier bait droppers of hemp were probably half way to Middlewich by now, the movement of the rod tip was so erratic that it was impossible to detect bites.

Daisybank 07-11-14 (1) Daisybank 07-11-14 (5)

After half an hour I packed up and moved to a swim where I knew there was a good bit of slack water.

There was a slack in fact a nice back eddy tucked behind a bush to my right on a bend so I checked the depth and had a good five foot below the rod tip, not bad and a small feeder was all that was needed to keep the bait still. The feeder stayed still until in the gloom of the night a drifting branch ran through the line making me jump to attention.

Daisybank 07-11-14 (11) Daisybank 07-11-14 (14)

I moved another four times, even casting a line from the field, before ending up in the last swim upstream. When I arrived I couldn’t believe what I saw, the river was raging through and had spilled over the far bank as far as the eye could see. Wider than a football pitch and with tree trunks racing downstream at a rapid rate of knots I stood in awe of this powerful display. Of course ten minutes later I chucked a cube of meat along the inside edge just in case an unsuspecting chub was hiding in the undercut bank but after a further ten minutes I admitted defeat and headed home.

This was now the third fish-less blank in a row however you don’t catch fish if they aren’t in-front of you and maybe on this night they were more interested in survival than feeding, who knows I’d had an amazing night watching mother nature turn a normally tranquil river into something resembling a modest tsunami all in the space of a few hours. It was 3:30am when I sent the text to a couple of mates advising them to stay in bed or fish somewhere a little less flooded, well there was no point in them going unless they took a canoe!!

River Dane 9th November 2014

Two days later and I was back again, this time my plan of action was reap the benefits of a feeding spell that usually follows a flood. The river was a complete contrast to the last 48 hours. It was running at a gentle pace, levels were up a foot on normal for this time of year but well within it’s banks and if I hadn’t witnessed the huge expanse of water flooding nearby fields I’d have not believed it had happened at all. The banks were surprisingly dry and only the neatly swept vegetation high up the bank hinted that something was previously amiss.

My ‘hope ometer’ rose slightly as I watched a crease at the back of the island and I screwed the rope into position for the decent, the fallen foliage providing some purchase on the normally slippy banks I settled down having cast a small feeder of bread crumb along with a freshly cut chunk of meat, big smelly baits at this time of year usually doing the trick.

I watched as the rod tip nodded gently in the flow but once the feeder emptied it rolled randomly into edge and snagged solid. The next swim was to be my last for the evening and although I could at least cast a distance without resorting to the bread raft I saw no signs of fish in the vicinity.  What I did see silhouetted against the night sky was a sinister looking wing span flying over to my right, it could have been an owl or other bird of prey but I had a gut feeling it was the black death, a cormorant and with sightings of otter and mink a significant factor in the decline in fish numbers.

So what had happened? Had I lost my edge? Four sessions on the run on not as much as a pluck, the hill seemed steeper as I trudged back to the car my head hung low, I didn’t feel like giving up but with work in a few hours I had to park my thoughts until next time.

River Dane 14th November 2014

The week in work went by without a fuss and it was soon Friday and time to go fishing. I’d be spending the weekend away in the steely North East with my daughter at her last karate competition of the year so a few hours Friday night would quench my fishing thirst.

I set off slightly earlier than before in order to beat the rush hour traffic and after misreading a sign saying the M6 northbound was at a standstill (I was heading south) I missed my turn off and took a detour eventually arriving at junction 18 which was like the proverbial car park as people exited the motorway and headed towards Middlewich. I queued patiently and started to plan my session deciding to head for the gate swim and sit it out for a few hours. Once arrived I went downstream and dropped six loads of hemp in from the high bank close into the margin by the inlet which was running faster than normal.

It was pitch black but I could tell by the pace of the surface that it was pushing through and once again I’d ended up fishing a rising river, I had checked before leaving work but they looked to be rising by only 3cm in the past 6 hours and with no further rain forecast I didn’t see it as being an issue.

Dane Levels III Dane Levels

Fortunately I’d taken some 2oz grippa leads which would come in handy later on but to start with a small cage feeder was loaded up this time with Laguna DinnerBell method mix and a few 8mm pellets. My pellet hook bait was attached using a bait band as a hair and cast just beyond where I’d deposited the hemp.

Bicton 01-11-14 (2)

After half an hour I reeled in and started to have doubts again, four sessions on the run without a bite had taken its toll and confidence was at an all time low. It felt colder than before and I could see the river shimmering as it raced past at a pace, it was steadily rising and the drifting branches were getting larger, probably the same branches that had been marooned once the flood waters receded the week before.

A change of tactics was necessary, only a subtle change but I knew I needed to keep the bait still long enough for a fish to find it so the cage feeder was swapped for a grippa lead. To ensure some attractant would be somewhere near the hook bait my usual PVA stick of ground-bait and small pellets was tied to the lead using a plastic garden tie. The hook bait was changed for a cube of meat which I’d soaked for a minute or two in an old split shot box containing Laguna Hemp SAC juice.

Daisybank 14-11-14 (12)

Cast mid-river it held station and I poured another coffee, I was at last chance saloon as although it was only 7pm I knew the window of opportunity was closing with each creeping increment of the river. I stood up to stretch my legs having long since given up on touch ledgering in these conditions when all of a suddenly the green glowing nite light pulled sharp left dislodging the rod from the rest and as I turned to pick up the rod from the floor I slipped almost landing on top it, a short lift skywards confirmed it was no accident and I felt that reassuring pull of a fish on the other end.

Immediately I started to gain line, with such difficult conditions I couldn’t afford to muck about and within a minute or so I had a barbel up on the surface drifting towards the net, a fumbled attempt led to one final run but this time I drifted the fish into the net and let out a victorious whoop.

No need to weigh it as it was clearly no more  than average for that stretch but definitely the need for a photo or two to celebrate the end of a far too long run of blanks.

Adult-cycle-stabilisersSo where to now? I have been looking for alternatives to this stretch for a while, not because I wasn’t catching but more so because I’ve spent most of the past three years on this river and I realised I needed a change of scenery and in order to address that I’ve joined another club.

From the beginning of December I will be fishing a different river. It’s not too dissimilar to the Dane in terms of its size and ability to change at the drop of a floppy hat but with miles and miles of river to go at I’ll be like a child riding his bike for the first time, knowing what I want to do but still running on stabilisers until I figure it out.

At least I can leave the river Dane on a high note knowing that its precious cargo although depleted do still swim in its murky depths and that’s what draws us back time after time, blank session after blank session.

Next weekend I’ll be heading for the river Vyrnwy in search of big chub, a club stretch of no more than 500 yards in length but I’m hearing some good reports of recent captures and as I’m patiently waiting for the new club card to arrive it’ll fill a couple of weekends quite nicely!!

Grazy.

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It’s not always about the catching…..

River Severn 1st November 2014

blankety-blank-e1331713324474Last weekend I paid a second visit this season to a club stretch on the upper middle Severn at Bicton. My previous trip resulted in a blankety blank however I felt conditions had improved sufficiently to warrant a re-match and so I set off at 8am on the 150 mile round trip stopping on the way for a full english at the Lazy Kettle cafe on the A483. The journey down was uneventful and after a quick chat to the farmer, who kindly offered me a cooked chicken he’d bought but not managed to eat the day before, I parked up and started to explore the upper stream limit. Although the bankside vegetation had died down sufficiently to see potential swims nothing appealed and I found myself back in a swim I’d fished a few times previously and had a couple of barbel from, it had also produced a 6lb+ chub for a fellow member the season before so I made the first cast with both species in mind and used meat direct onto a size 6 hook.

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After an hour and many re-casts I switched to banded pellet which, as usual, was soaked in the Laguna SAC juice, this weeks bottle was the new Elderberry which I felt would be attractive to chub given their liking for berries that drop from over hanging bushes. The feeder contained bread crumb which had taken a liberal spraying of the Blue Cheese SE SAC juice the night before, I’ve found that this aids ‘balling’ in over a distance as it binds the crumb together and will remain in the feeder long enough to hit bottom before leeching out all those lovely attractants around the hook bait.

Bicton 01-11-14 (2) Bicton 01-11-14 (4)

I’d arranged to meet Phil again and fish together in the afternoon so after a couple of hours I returned to the car park and had cooked chicken for lunch. Phil arrived along with his two mates Russ and Lee and we spoke about our chances given the river looked in fine condition after the recent rain and had a good pace to it.

We walked the half mile or so to the bottom end and I dropped into a swim just upstream of the river Perry opposite, again this was a swim I’d had a fish from previously albeit a barbel from the margins whilst chub fishing.

Bicton 01-11-14 (14)

I used a bait dropper to deposit six payloads of hemp each in three likely looking areas, one in-front two rod lengths out, one upstream to my left under an overhanging bush and the other to my right in the margins, if I was going to catch I had a few options whilst I rested the successful spot.

Bicton 01-11-14 (15) Bicton 01-11-14 (16)

Phil had set-up twenty yards downstream of me and agreed it looked very likely to produce so our first casts were made with much hope of a quick return. By late afternoon neither of us had been given a sign by the fishing Gods and staring at a motionless tip I decided to pay a visit to the island about fifty yards back upstream.

The river was racing through on the nearside so I figured it would be too much for my 1oz feeder to hold bottom however, as you’d expect, the very back of the island was relatively still with only the odd swirl occasionally forming a back eddy, the perfect spot for chub and barbel to rest up. I cast as close as I dared to the overhanging bushes and the little feeder held station without as much as a nod on the rod tip. A king fisher swooped at low level and darted into the bushes where I’d cast and my hopes were raised for a take.

Bicton 01-11-14 (18)

After half an hour I’d moved ten yards downstream to another slack area in between some dense undergrowth, the 10′ rod was perfect for this type of jungle warfare and reminiscent of the great John Wilson on one of his Go Fishing programs when he usually hooks into a chub and has to negotiate the shrubbery to land it. Unfortunately for me there was to follow no shouts of ‘Oh here we go’ and ‘That’s lovely’ as only JW can and as darkness had arrived I returned, slightly despondent, to my evening swim.

clockPhil departed around 8pm and told me Lee and Russ had given up even earlier but as all three intended a full days fishing the next day it was understandable, he wished me luck and disappeared off into the distance on the long walk back to the car park. I’d made my mind up to sit it out until midnight at which point I too would give up and head home but one last cast led to another and unfortunately I stayed much later, 3am in fact and my only excuse was the intermittent rain showers and not wanting to pack up in the wet conditions.

If I’m honest I’d say it wasn’t the rain, I was cold, slightly damp and tired but as each hour passed it brought new hope for a fish, just one, any fish would do even a trout from the Perry, I didn’t really care at that stage which leads me onto the point of this post ‘It’s not always about the catching’ if it was it’d be called catching not fishing, to angle for fish is a skill in itself, a skill most of us have fine tuned over many hours on the bank. My mate Smudge once said ‘If the fish aren’t in-front of you then you won’t catch’ a simple statement but one that rings true for every angler who’s returned home without catching a fish but what do most of us do after such an event? Well most of us probably analyse what went well and what we’d do differently next time so despite being ‘fish-less’ I walked back to the car park with the usual spring in my step and reflected on what had been a challenging session but at the same time most enjoyable because of good company and the sights I’d seen, the king fisher, the swans and a free cooked chicken!!

River Dane 4th November 2014

The next day I was up early and drying out the tackle from the previous night. I was still licking my wounds from an uneventful session on the Severn when I decided to have an evening session on the river Dane after work the next day.

A quick session after work for me involves battling the rush hour traffic along the M6 so I managed to set off at 6pm and literally ‘go with the flow’ which, fortunately for me, kept flowing albeit at a reduced pace and I pulled into the farmyard an hour later at 7pm. I had the bare minimum and apart from my lightweight chair had no luxury’s for this short but determined session. My tackle consisting of a made up Hardy rod and centre pin, landing net, bankstick and a bait pouch containing a small selection of meat, pellets, a couple of slices of bread and a small ball of cheese paste, I also squeezed in a small bag of hemp left over from Saturday and of course a couple of small bottles of Laguna SAC juice to soak the pellets in, the pouch is lined so behind it I had a weigh sling and a small set of digital scales just in case I caught that elusive 5lb Dane chub. Camera was tucked away in the quiver pocket, another ‘just in case’ piece of equipment.

The ESP bait pouch is a very versatile means of carrying bait, scales and few essentials when roving.

The ESP bait pouch is a very versatile means of carrying bait, scales and few essentials when roving.

My very reliable weather site, yr.no, had predicted rain at 8pm so on this occasion I took my brolly in the small quiver otherwise I’d have been walking around with just the rod, net and bankstick in one hand and the chair tucked under my arm. As it happened the chair housed my flask and rope for descending the steep banks especially if it rains. The quiver took my brolly, rod and landing net so it I set off a quite a pace mostly due to travelling light but also in my eagerness to get fishing. I must say that the roving chub angler will usually dispense with a chair but my longer sessions have taught me that sat on an unhooking mat touch ledgering can be uncomfortable after a while so I’ll always get it down to the river and then have the option to leave it in a swim whilst I wander off elsewhere.

I headed straight for the Willow swim another ‘banker’ in the past but not always guaranteed especially when ones confidence has taken a knock but but 7:30pm I was set up in the swim and casting a chunk of meat out under the sparsely clad tree branches, the rain arrived bang on time and I huddled under the umbrella for warmth, something very comforting about being under a brolly in the rain.

The Willow swim, photo taken last year, it was blowing a hooley so some improvisation with ropes to stop it taking off!!

The Willow swim, photo taken February this year, it was blowing a hooley so some improvisation with ropes needed to stop it taking off!!

Once the rain stopped I moved 30 yards downstream to the swim I’d had my last chub from with Deano, surely this would deliver the goods again? Not so and with time marching on I settled on the Gate swim as the last chance saloon, en-route I stopped and looked long and hard at a swim I hadn’t fished for a long time, not easily accessed but so inviting I just had to give it a go. The swim before the island has produced big barbel in the past and some decent chub too, the trick being to entice them out of the deeper pool and out into nearside edge.

Taken last year, the trick is to entice the fish out from the deeper pool to the left of the island.

The Island swim, photo taken last year, the trick is to entice the fish out from the deeper pool to the left of the island.

BreadThe problem I was faced with was getting a bait down that far on the centre pin, heavy meat wasn’t too bad free lined as long as you kept it moving but pellet was near impossible so I remembered reading about getting baits into awkward places using a slice of bread. I had 2 pieces of bread so the banded pellet was carefully pushed through one end then the same again the other end and the hook point dug into the crust, I lifted up to swing it out but was a little too forceful and the bread parted company with the rig.

I watched it float downstream, cursing under my breath, but actually it went exactly where I’d intended so I quickly re-rigged the second and final piece this time taking care to just lower it onto the surface and off it went as I hand fed line off the reel. Just as it reached the intended spot I pulled slowly back and felt the hook bait part company with the improvised raft, perfect!! I settled down in my chair and waited, it was 12:30am and work was only a brief sleep away but I was in with a chance of saving the night and redeeming my honour with a fish.

Fifteen minutes later and with no takers on the pellet I lifted up only to find it snagged solid, it had fallen into weed and probably sat on top, bugger all that thoughtful preparation to get it into position wasted and what’s more no bread left, I reeled in and swapped the hook for a size 6, pulled it through a cube of meat and cast it back out. At 1am I had to admit defeat, all in all some twenty two hours fishing and nowt to show for it except I then realised just how much I’d enjoyed this impromptu session and how I’d enjoyed the planned session on Saturday, I felt relaxed and stress free. Not catching actually doesn’t bother me as much as not going fishing in the first place, I look forward to each trip, so much so I can’t usually sleep much the night before. It’s not always about the catching is it?

Grazy.

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Deano’s day on the Dane with Sherpa Grazy

Sherpa-porterLast Saturday I had the pleasure of guiding for Deano on my favourite stretch of the river Dane. I’m by no means a seasoned guide and in fact it  was offered as a prize for our charity auction last April, which incidentally raised a total of £2500 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Someone suggested it was the booby prize but Deano won it fair and square with the highest bid and despite the ribbing from my mates I took the challenge seriously and looked at how I could ensue Deano got the most from the day/evening session. Last season I probably fished this stretch most weekends and you tend to get a feel for where you’ll find the fish but this season has proved extremely difficult with a long summer and little rain it’s been a mission to avoid a blank most of the time.

River Dane 25th October 2014

The guiding day arrived and arrangements made to meet in the farm car park at 7:30am. As is customary I cooked us both some bacon butties before setting off on the long walk down the hill, Deano was fully fed and ready to do battle, being mainly a tench and carp angler he said he was really looking forward to fishing the river and particularly the Dane as, if he liked it, he only lives twenty minutes away so it would add another choice to his fishing options.

Daisybank (Deano) 25-10-14 (1)

All ready to go, travelling light in comparison to his carp fishing…

We headed off passed the ‘excitable’ dog and down to the horseshoe at the upstream limit of the stretch, this is an area I know well and we could fish at least three or four swims in rotation so we started by bait dropping some hemp and caster into each swim returning to the first some thirty minutes later.

The set up was simple although Deano had tied up a reasonable hook length it was a little long in the hair for me and also there was a decent flow on the river which was up a foot since my last visit so the three SSG shot wouldn’t hold the bottom. After thirty minutes of no action we re-rigged and went for meat straight on a size 6 hook, this is a good bait for both chub and barbel and Dean soon realised that lifting the rod occasionally showed us where the meat had settled and was able to reel it back towards the over hanging trees to our left where I’d had some decent chub in the past.

Touch ledgering and feeling for bites Dean commented on how relaxing the situation was, the sound of flowing water and an abundance of wildlife really hit the spot with him and I know exactly where he was coming from as it’s the same for me every time I go fishing!! We had a full day ahead of us and plenty of time to enjoy the experience and not having a rod in my hand was easier than I thought it’d be. As we talked about methods, swim choice, slacks and creases over a brew I started to realise just how much pleasure there is in passing on knowledge gained from putting the hours in on the bank, I may not consider myself a full on sherpa but Dean was in good hands and there were a few mountains to climb in order to give him the confidence to come back another day on his own.

The first swim hadn’t delivered us a ‘quick bite’ although we did get a tug probably from an inquisitive chub so we moved across to the other side and descended into Shrinkers swim, my first guiding fail was I’d left my trusty rope and dog corkscrew in the car so it was a little more than a smooth descent but we made it and soon had the bait cast into the swim.

We probably over stayed our welcome but to be fair we did solve most of the worlds problems as Dean told me of his work and recent semi-retirement from the engineering industry and we saw the vivid blue and orange flash of a kingfisher as it flew on a low-level mission above the water. Although we probably could have stayed chatting all afternoon I knew if a swim here doesn’t produce within half an hour it’s unlikely to produce at all.

We collected our gear and walked downstream to the ‘gate’ swim, this swim has also produced plenty of fish in the past some monsters too. Sticking with meat Dean cast where I told him too and sat back enjoying the view which, as he rightly said, had changed three times all ready. In the middle of another conversation the rod tip pulled round but unfortunately Dean missed it so a recast and touch ledgering employed to catch the crafty chub, it went again and Dean lifted the rod sharply to the right, it arched over and this time he was in. Keeping a good bend in the rod he played it towards the net and in true Grazy style I  missed it on the first attempt so he guided it back upstream and let it drift down, this time I didn’t miss and we had Dean’s first river Dane chub in the back of the net!!

Daisybank (Deano) 25-10-14 (14)

I was delighted for Dean and after taking the photo’s and returning the fish I declared it was time for Tiffin but not before we moved to our final swim for the evening session, the ‘Willow’ swim.

Afternoon tea was served back in the car park and Dean provided some home-baked fruit cake to go with the chocolate chip sponge, he asked what was meant by Tiffin and I must admit I had to look it up but by definition ‘The word originated when Indian custom superseded the British practice of an afternoon tea, leading to a new word for the afternoon meal.’ it also refers to a fridge cake ie a cake that is not baked in an oven but rather it is chilled in the fridge until set. In any case it was most enjoyable and set us up for the evening session ahead.

We walked down the concrete path and settled in for the evening session. As Dean had caught his first Dane chub and the swim was particularly tight for two anglers to occupy I liberated the hardy rod from its bag and set up on a peg around the bend and within easy shouting distance should he hook into another fish.

Evening into dark can be the most productive time to fish and I often wonder whether the results would be better if we just turned up at 5pm and focussed on a couple of swims instead of an early start and fish all day but then I like to get the maximum amount of time from my once a week visits and it’s not always about the catching so we settled down and started to enjoy the evening as it unfolded before us.

Dean had a number of plucks on the rod tip but couldn’t connect so I suggested he free lined the meat instead, this particular swim was always slow-moving and an accurate cast would see the bait fall slowly under the tree where usually the fish are waiting.

It was getting on for 10pm when I decided on a move downstream of the Willow swim so armed with the bare minimum I set up in a shallow run and switched to a banded Laguna pellet soaked, as usual, in the SAC Banana juice, a few free offering were tossed in and I didn’t have to wait long before I felt the usual vibrations down the line, I struck and missed the bite twice before deciding to stand like a pelican perched on the side of the bank. I felt the line tighten against the crease in my finger and struck this time the rod arched over into its usual curve and I was in, a short but powerful fight and the chub was mine…… ‘Grazy never known to blank’ had succeeded and saved an almost certain ribbing from his mates.

On the scales it tipped round to 3lb 12oz, a very respectable chub for the day and a fitting end because although we continued until the early hours of Sunday morning we had no more takers for our bait. We walked up the path and back at the cars Dean said he’d really enjoyed his day on the Dane and would in fact return soon now he had a good idea on how to approach a small, but perfectly formed, river. Job done and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it myself, great company, great result and money raised for a good cause too!!

Grazy.

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First time on the river Trent

River Trent 10-10-14

This year the autumn gathering of the Chub Study Group was on the river Trent. Some said that heavy leads and powerful rods had no place in chub fishing but as Lee had not one but two 7lb chub from the Trent this year I didn’t need asking twice!!

Swordsies 7lber

Swordsies 7lber

An early start on the Friday morning for the 130 mile journey meant we were at Kelham Hall for 6:30am and as we peered over the bridge the river looked in good form considering the relatively dry weather we’d had.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (9) CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (12)

We’d booked the four popular pegs nearest the road bridge which meant we’d be fairly static so I spent twenty minutes dropping hemp and pellets into a couple of spots before setting up two rods, the first was my usual chub set-up of Trudex centre pin and Hardy Avon which I placed just off the reeds to my left and the second was my Rodrill cane rod and Mitchell 300 cast about a third of the way across.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (18)

10am and time for tea and one of Bills famous bacon and sausage butties, quick team photo and back on the rods which so far had remained quite still.

Bill was fishing hemp and caster and had the first of four fish just before lunch a barbel of around 5lb which he played admirably into the net. Bruce was finding the bites hard to come by as was Phil so we went into the afternoon hoping that things would pick-up.

Tiffin was served a little later than usual at 5pm and with Bill still the only one to catch it was all resting on the last hour as we went into darkness.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (43)

I sat with Bill for a while and watched his rod tips flicker as the weed ran down the line, of course it wasn’t long before he was into another barbel, hemp and caster proving irresistible, so I ghillied for him and guided another fine Trent bertie into the net.

I pulled the second rod in and focussed on the marginal rushes which I’d trickled bait in all day, mashed bread laced with Laguna Blue Cheese SE SAC juice, balled in and flake on the hook popped up about six inches so it wafted in the gentle flow.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (60)

As dusk arrived I felt a few plucks but fifteen minutes before our due off time a quick downpour signalled the end and we packed up at a rapid rate looking forward to a few pints and a catchup with fellow chevin chasers.

Back at the digs we were pleased to see our room backed onto the pub and we dumped the bags and went for a much-needed pint or three, dinner was the only fish of the day for me accompanied by chips and mushy peas.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (64)

The Chub Study Group members sat and talked about fishing the Trent and we picked our local members brains for stretches likely to hold chub. With the venue agreed we retired to bed for a good nights sleep.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (96)

Breakfast was served at 8am and as we headed off to the new venue hopes were high of a better days fishing, on the same stretch the day before a fine 4lber had been caught by Kevin’s wife so I knew they were in there.

We arrived to find a lot of cars parked near the upstream section and discovered it was a regular match but we could drop in anywhere beyond mid-point. After walking the stretch we still couldn’t decide on what to do, the fact was we wanted to fish into dark in order to give ourselves the best chance of catching but ‘Day Ticket’ meant exactly that and I don’t like looking over my shoulder for a bailiff nor do I like packing up at a set time just because we have to get off the venue.

Smeatons Caravan ParkKevin and his wife arrived along with Steve, the local member, who’d give us the heads up on chub fishing on the Trent, keep it simple and fish under your feet were his wise words. We chatted about the night-time fishing and concluded it wouldn’t be possible without chancing a ticking off from the owner so a few phone calls later and we’d booked onto Smeatons Caravan Park stretch located a few miles away. With seven pegs and the option to fish a day and night ticket it was agreed we’d fish well into dark and if it was good right through till the early hours so half an hour later we arrived and met Rob Hilton who’d kindly popped along from his club stretch to give us some local advice.

We had the first three pegs from the road bridge and as we set up for the long haul ahead I just knew this place would produce the goods, maybe not an abundance of chub but certainly big barbel featured highly on the agenda and as Bill needed to get his first double there was a relaxed feeling of expectation as we, once again, dropped our hemp and caster into the respective swims.

The steep banks were accessed via some cast concrete steps and with the lower river levels they made a great shelf to place a bag or bucket of bait with my chair placed on the ledge of bank at the bottom.

I had a very chubby looking swim with a nice overhanging bush just downstream and plumbing around with a lead I had at least seven-foot under the rod tip, perfect!!

Let battle commence……

As expected Bill was into the fish straight away, a difficult cast under the arch of the bridge was rewarded with a series of barbel, each one beating his PB and creeping ever closer to that elusive first double.

The scales said 4oz much to Bills amusement but it looked much bigger so we reset them and found it to be a good solid 7lber.

Shortly after he was in again, this time a fin perfect 8lber and smiles all round as we realised we’d made the right decision. I took a few photos and returned to my swim and for the first time in a long while thought about my own PB barbel of 10lb 9oz, could this be the day that I break it?

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (95)

Out came the pellets, a guaranteed barbel magnet but on the off chance a chub came along I used a bait band pulled through the pellet to keep it close to the hook, soaked in Laguna SAC Banana juice it was cast out a couple of rod lengths along a likely looking crease.

The Rodrill cane rod has a similar action to a Richard Walker MKIV carp rod and both my Dane doubles had been landed by it so I knew it was up to the job, the Hardy 10′ glass rod and pin were much better suited to marginal work and along with a chunk of meat were duly dispatched close to the downstream bush. I had at least seven feet of water in the margins so using a bait dropper was the only way to keep the free offerings in a tight area, hemp and caster along with some pellets were dropped in at regular intervals.

As evening arrived we knew we were in for a busy night…..

The evening sun flickered under the arches of the bridge as we pondered over our evening meal, the caravan park had given us three menus for local delivery and by unanimous decision chinese was duly voted in and ordered.

The three stooges!!

Shortly after dark Bruce was doing battle with another Trent monster, the scales showed it to be a new PB and went round to 11lb 12oz, a magnificent start to proceedings.

Less than an hour later I was watching the isotopes when the cane rod nodded twice then lunged forward, I lifted in and felt the reassuring thud of a fish, it felt like a small barbel at first and I shouted Bruce to assist but when it topped I could see it was the target species, a chub of 3lb 12oz.

Bruce was next with an 11lb 4oz clonker, two 11lb fish within an hour not a bad result considering it was our first visit.

Not to be out done Bill had another PB of 9lb 2oz creeping ever closer to that elusive first double, by this time he’d switched to boilies and they certainly worked.

The next excitement came when my cane rod pulled around and I shouted to Bruce “I’m in” to which he replied “So am I” so I thought fair enough we’ll have to sort these out ourselves. The barbel charged off downstream until I eventually turned it and started cranking it back upstream, it drew level with me and the accelerated off like a rocket only something wasn’t right, my isotope was pointing towards the bridge and was almost horizontal to the river then it all went slack and it was off.

Tug of War

“Bugger” I shouted, “I don’t believe it” said Bruce as he too had lost his fish at exactly the same time, I reeled in and oddly enough the bait was still attached to the hair? Then is dawned on me, Bruce had a take and when the fish bolted it ran through my line making me think I was playing it when in fact we both were playing the same fish, that explained why my rod tip was pointing at the bridge as Bruce had his rod tip up in the air at the same time!! What are the chances of that, very odd indeed.

With one chub to my name I felt a little left out of the barbel party but after all the excitement I settled down and poured a cup of tea from the flask at which point the ratchet on the Rapidex centre pin screeched as it gave line at a rapid rate, I lifted into it expecting a chub as this was the margin swim to my right but as soon as I saw the rod hoop over I knew it was a barbel and a big one at that. It dived straight under the bush and I could feel the line grating against the snags but the barbel gods smiled down and it came out into open water relatively quickly, I shouted to Bruce “I’m in again” and he replied “so am I” here we go again, but this time we had a fish each and mine hugged bottom whilst the Hardy bent all the way over absorbing the thuds. Eventually I had its head up and as it dropped over the net I could see it was a lump. I rested the hard fighting barbel before gathering my camera and climbing the steep steps.

Up at the top of the swim Bruce arrived with his barbel too, side by side they both looked likely doubles so a quick but blury mat shot was taken before they were weighed.

Double trouble on the Trent...

Double trouble on the Trent…

Mine went 10lb 13oz beating my PB by 4oz, a boilie wrapped in Laguna Halibut paste doing the business, I was delighted to say the least. Bruce’s fish wasn’t far behind at just over 10lb so with Bill taking the photo’s it was smiles all round followed by a further rest for each fish before carrying on.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (162)

It was 11:20pm as I sat back and just soaked up the events of the evening, surely it couldn’t give any more?  We didn’t have anything further for an hour when suddenly Bruce shouted he was in again and just as Bill arrived to assist with the netting Bruce’s second rod sprung into action so they played the two barbel in together landing the second just as I arrived in time with my net.

At 1am we called it a day and headed back to the digs where surprisingly we sat and recalled the highlights of the session until eventually it was time for some much-needed sleep.

The final day

Breakfast was a welcome sight the next morning and after telling all present of our eventful night we said our goodbyes and discussed were to fish on the way home. We didn’t fancy doing battle with the Trent barbel again mainly due to fact that we needed to head home around 2pm and like most rivers the chances increase as darkness falls so instead we dropped in on the river Witham which was literally two minutes down the road from the pub.

As we walked over the footbridge we peered into the gin clear water like three boys on their way home from school but with no sign of life it didn’t look good, “there’s no fish in here” Bill said but ever the optimist I insisted we walked the banks in search of monsters and would give up if we hadn’t seen anything after half an hour besides it was a lovely misty morning and the scenery was breath-taking.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (170) CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (171) CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (173)

On the way back we still hadn’t spotted a fish when suddenly Bill stopped dead in his tracks “look there” he said and sure enough with the aid of my Polaroids I spotted a fish, long and lean we agreed it was none other than a jack pike who was around 12″ long and holding station in the far bank margins. Where there’s jack pike there should be mum and dad plus a plentiful food source so with renewed enthusiasm we returned to the bridge and looked long and hard into the water below.

First we saw some roach then a few perch then as our eyes became accustomed to the light the river seemed to be full of fish. I ran back to the car and returned with my rod and pin and a bucket of bait, as we dropped caster into the river below the fish started picking them off as they fluttered downstream. Bill started trotting down to the waiting shoals and we seemed almost certain of a bite but they didn’t take the hook bait which must have been acting suspiciously.

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (176)

Without any warning the three of us watched in amazement as a huge pike of at least 9lb cruised out from the right hand side and rushed the shoal scattering them in every direction before it slopped away under the opposite bankside rushes, an unbelievable sight for such a small river.

Still full of our schoolboy exuberance we decided to ‘rest the swim’ and headed off downstream considering how much fun it be to have this little river on your doorstep. We reached another bridge and I switched into John Wilson mode creeping through the undergrowth like a chicken on a hot plate picking my feet up so as not to spook the resident fish, a chub would be impressive given the original purpose of the weekend so a size 10 hook and a lump of cheese paste was free lined alongside the lilies, nothing came out and took it but somehow that really didn’t matter.

Bill was determined to have one of the roach we’d seen earlier so we returned to the bridge and scaled down the end tackle, a size 18 was buried into a single caster and one of my home-made quill floats added for authenticity.

Eventually on what seemed like the 100th cast Bill struck sharply and a flash of silver splashed on the surface, after a short but exciting battle he lifted up a roach to a dangling net, mission accomplished Bill held his prize for a trophy shot, a stunning fin perfect roach of around 6oz.

With the perfect end to a fantastic weekend we walked back to the car and still smiling started off on the 130 mile journey back to Liverpool, what a weekend and as for the Trent? What a river even if it doesn’t suit every chub angler, who cares? It was a fitting way to celebrate my 50th and we’ll be returning in the very near future for more of the same, nice one Mr Swords you’re lucky to have such a river on your doorstep.

Grazy.

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A test of my resolve…

The weekend before last was my first visit of the season to a club stretch on the middle Severn. Known to be a hard water but with some specimen fish I’m looking to spend my winter chub campaign there so with a leisurely start and a midday breakfast at the Lazy Kettle cafe it was 2pm when I pulled into the car park at Bicton.

I was meeting Phil at 3pm so fancied an hour travelling light and roving in the wooded section which had produced in the past. I dropped into a fairly open swim upstream that had gathered plenty of cover for chub over the recently dry months.

Bicton 04-10-14 (4) Bicton 04-10-14 (5)

As expected the level was painfully low and the flow almost still but if you put me in front of  muddy puddle at the side of the road I’ll wet a line if I think there’s a chance of a fish. I primed a few swims for the way back with bread crumb glugged with Laguna Blue Cheese Special Edition SAC juice, I’d soaked it overnight and it balled easily into the swim, my plan was to make the balls quite firm and so they’d stay put and break down gradually attracting and holding the fish until I came back later.

I started on the Laguna cheese paste for the first cast and it landed close to a fallen tree. After ten minutes I switched to the other side and just dropped it in with an unannounced but gentle plop alongside the surface scum. A gentle pluck raised my pulse for a brief moment but didn’t develop so after half an hour I switched to meat left over from last week,  it had been marinated in Banana SAC Juice and would surely gain some attention. Although the margins were deep enough I opted to try out in the middle and initially although I felt a couple of tentative enquiries through my fingers it didn’t develop so I moved downstream to another spot I’d baited earlier.

This spot wasn’t really a swim as such but the level was that low that the base of the tree would allow me to net a chub if I managed to make contact. Surrounded by snags I free lined a piece of cheese paste in between two fallen bows and left a slack drop in the line to indicate a bite, within seconds of the bait settling the slack line tightened and I lifted sharply to my left wary of clouting the tree trunk, it was fish on but no bend in the rod and when it came to the surface I realised why, a chublet of around 8oz had honed in on the paste in fact forceps were needed to remove the size 6 hook it had engulfed.

Bicton 04-10-14 (1) ???????????????????????????????

We packed up and returned to the car around 6pm, the plan was to get settled further downstream and fish one rod each into the night. The swim we chose was a cattle drink swim just before the island, a swim in which Phil had much success previously. The flow was virtually non existing and a cold clear night with a full moon didn’t bold well but we pressed on enthusiastically and joked about how much better than watching the X-Factor it was.

Time ticked away, a cow came for a drink a was a little startled by our presence, bats twanged the line occasionally making us jump to attention but apart from a half hearted take nothing transpired and so at 11pm we called it a night and trudged back to the car park. I was really glad of Phil’s company on such a fruitless night and will be back at Bicton in November once the river has recovered from the long dry summer, there is an autumnal feel in the air now and it’ll soon be time for early morning walks across frozen grass heading down to the river in search of monsters!!

CSG River Trent 10-12 October 2014 (199)

I’ve just returned from a great weekends fishing on the river Trent with good mates and the Chub Study Group, it was a weekend of PB’s and much enjoyment as we celebrated my recent 50th, I’ll write about it soon but the photo’s are now published on my Facebook page, in the meantime I’m off to Poland with my daughter for the World Karate Championships where she’ll represent England, an honour for any father and no doubt I’ll have a lump in my throat on the opening night when the national anthem is played so until then tight lines my fellow Piscators and we’ll catch up soon.

Grazy.

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On the seventh day the Gods invented fishing…

River Dane 28th September 2014

TIN_DISPLAY_DADS_TAXI_OWN_BWI’d mentioned in last weeks Blog that I’d not be fishing this weekend, well to be more precise I’d not be fishing until Sunday as I was booked to run my daughter around whilst she prepared for her 16th birthday celebrations with friends. My usual Saturday session had to be postponed until the Sunday and I spent most of Saturday afternoon sat in the car outside various shops whilst my daughter had her make-up done and bought some new shoes which, apparently, is akin to us anglers buying rods; that is you can never have enough of them!! I made good use of the time and whilst sat in the car, waiting patiently, started reading my latest fishing book ‘The Deepening Pool’ by Chris Yates so technically I was doing something related to fishing and the time wasn’t entirely wasted.

Daisybank 28-09-14 (1)I dropped them off at the restaurant in town at 7pm and once I was back home-made final preparations whilst waiting to pick them back up around midnight. I too had a small celebration for Mr Passat, my faithful fishing wagon, who never complains even when pressed into service at 4am, he’d just clocked up his 188,888 mile. I say ‘he’ because ‘he’ never complains unlike female cars which I’m certain would never be seen out at that hour without having had a full valet and body polish. Mr Passat and I have spent over 30,000 miles together in the last 3 years and despite being driven down many a pot holed dirt track in search of a river or physically abused by young cows when unattended in a field he still fires up first time to take me fishing.

Car loaded and off to bed I still find it hard to get to sleep especially when I know I’m up early however at 4:30am the alarm sounded and like an excited child on Christmas day I jumped up, had the customary bacon on toast and was on the road less than an hour later. It was 6am when I arrived at the farm yard and the farmer greeted me with a cheery ‘Mornin’ his day had already begun and milking was well under way.

My first swim was where I’d had the solitary chub from last week and the subtle glow of a cloudy dawn dimly lit the area as I set-up. Free lined cheese paste was to be dispatched as far under the tree line as possible and based on previous experience I did expect a take almost immediately, this really was planned to be a dawn raid with hit and hold tactics.

Daisybank 28-09-14 (2) Daisybank 28-09-14 (3)

My rig couldn’t have been simpler 6lb line straight through to a size 6 hook, no frills no weights and no clutter. The cheese paste was made using milk protein base mix and a double dosage of Laguna Blue Cheese Special Edition soak and coat SAC juice, a recipe that accounted for most of my chub last year. Based on last weeks failings to connect with said Chevin I allowed the hook point to remain proud of the paste as I prepared to make the first cast.

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During the week I’d watched John Wilson skilfully bounce a piece of meat under some over hanging trees something I’d never thought of previously so, crouched low to the water’s edge, I made a forceful sideways cast and watched with delight as it skimmed not once but twice across the surface before sinking slowly right under the cover, perfect, I thought, and I settled down into my chair in the usual touch ledgering stance.

Almost immediately I felt vibrations, something was attracted to the bait but I felt not a chub and then I thought eels, bugger, they aren’t known for their liking of cheese paste but you never know if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat anything. I waited for a positive tug, a sure sign that the chub have moved in but still nothing so reeled in to rebait, a bare hook was all that came in and I was convinced that the bait robbing eels had skilfully removed the paste or it had fallen off on the retrieve. A snail had made its way across my unhooking mat and for a moment I did consider it’s worth as a chub bait but the fact that it’d probably immediately withdraw into it’s shell put me off the idea, still it was a pleasant sight given the lack of action in the swim.

Next cast and the same feeling through the line almost like a small electric shock so this time I tightened down and struck hard to my right which was met with nil resistance. Swinging the bare hook in something glistened, a leaf maybe? On closer inspection a fish!! Well OK a minnow and a tiny one at that.

So now I knew that my cheese paste works all I needed was the bigger fish to move in and scatter the minnows. The resident swans cruised gracefully by as I recast  a banded pellet, at least the minnows would struggle to take that.

Again I’d spent far too long in the swim, some two hours, so at 9am I packed up and headed off further into the corn field to another deep pool that I hadn’t fished since the start of the season.

When I arrived the tell-tale rope around the tree opposite showed how much the river had dropped over the past few months, at least a couple of feet possibly three. I started free lining paste and, on the first run through, had a show of interest but as usual I was caught unaware and missed it.

I tried meat followed by pellet and eventually set the float up and trotted a piece of flake through, nothing showed any interest. At 6pm I returned to the mornings swim to find it undisturbed since my last visit, two other anglers had passed me downstream and one turned back but unless he knew of this swim he’ll have walked by missing a good opportunity. I decided to stick it out until 9pm, the overhanging trees and cloudy conditions seemed to scream chub and I didn’t fancy trying out somewhere else upstream, sometimes you feel a little bit of instinct kick in when you look at your surroundings, it just felt right.

Cheese paste skimmers to start with and within five minutes the ‘fairy bobbin’ pulled steadily up, I hesitated, it dropped back….. another missed chance. I diced a new tin of meat and glugged it in the banana SAC juice, same casting technique only this time a little too hard and it bounced off the far bank under the tress falling about a foot away from the edge of a raft, I tightened up to it and sat back waiting for a bite. A couple of minutes later there was no mistaking the bite as it pulled the tip around and kept going, the rod absorbed the first two runs, this was most definitely not a chub. Eventually I managed to guide it into open water and drew it towards the net, it spooked off the shallow water and made another run so I positioned the net as far out as I could and let it sink, this time as it slid above the net I lifted and it was in.

Until now I hadn’t used my head torch for fear of scaring off any unsuspecting fish whilst keeping the barbel off the surface to avoid any unnecessary disturbance but as I flicked the red filter on I could see this was a decent barbel for the stretch. He rested in the shallows whilst I organised the scales and camera, after a couple of minutes he was ready to be admired.

Returning him to the deeper water he hovered almost motionless before flicking his tail and heading straight back towards the trees in the direction of where I’d caught him.

It was almost the last hour and a 9pm finish was looming, I wasn’t going to stick it out any later as unfortunately Mondays always follow Sundays and that means work in the morning. I’d recast a couple of times into the darkness but listening to the plop plop of the meat knew it wasn’t too far off the mark so was optimistic of another bite and just forty-five minutes later it came, a sharp pull on the line and I was in again this time though a typical half-hearted fight told me it was my target species and another Dane chub, still that’s why I go chub fishing it’s not always about doing battle, just getting it right and connecting with a chub is the hard bit especially when the conditions are against you.

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At just over 3lb he proved once again that persistence and patients are key to a successful session plus the occasional prayer to the Fishing Gods who clearly do work on Sundays after all!!

Next week I’m off to the upper middle Severn for my first visit of the season, chub will again by my target but with pellet and meat on the menu who knows what you’ll come across on the day. The following weekend I’m off for a few days on the Trent with a group of like-minded chevin chasers, should be fun so until next time tight lines amigos.

Grazy.

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“He who dares Rodders”

 Shropshire Canal & River Dane 20th September 2014

Del-boyThis week I fished a canal for the first time in 30 years, the canals on my club card are generally under fished but one or two photo’s of specimen sized fish accompanied by tall tales of monster residents are enough to get the juices flowing in any angler and although I didn’t have a target species in mind I did fancy a few hours in the company of fellow piscator Vinny also known as The Northwest Fisherman.

I arrived around 8:30am and found Vinny already set-up on the tow path just along from the boats moored opposite the pub. We hadn’t arranged a start time as, like me, Vinny has an understanding of when it’s time to fish and ‘in the morning’ is sufficient to allow for an early or late start depending on how you feel although his understanding of when to stop fishing is much more honed than mine as I never really know when it’s time to give up and go home!!

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As I’d not really decided what I would target I’d taken every conceivable bait known to man apart from boilies, in addition to the usual pellets, meat, corn and chick peas (an impulse buy at 20p a tin but I figured they’d be worth a go) I also had two new pastes to try from Laguna which looked and smelt superb. For the afternoon session on the Dane I’d made a new batch of cheese paste the night before and had bread flake and crumb for the feeder.

Laguna Paste

Vinny was off to a flying start on caster and worm, his target species was perch and he’d already had a few out prior to my arrival but, as I was shortly to learn, his main advantage was fishing the pole.

I set-up on the next peg which was marked with a mooring ring, I wondered how many years ago that was set into the stone edging and how many boats had used it to steady their barge as they loaded or off loaded their wares for the local village. These days of course the boats are used mostly for pleasure and, for some, a lifestyle change once retired and as the world passes by at a maximum pace of 4mph on a canal I can fully appreciate the desire to do that once you’ve escaped the daily grind of working life.

The trusty Hardy rod and centre pin were soon assembled with a duck quill float for a quick plumb around and, as you’d expect, the depths varied being around 5 foot in the boat channel to less than 2 foot in the reed lined bay on the far side, under my feet was a good 4 foot which I found useful later on once the boat traffic started. I started off on pellet which was banded on a size 14 and as usual coated in the banana Laguna SAC juice, the first cast was woefully short of target and I soon realised that canals have a natural tow meaning the float made it’s way to my right so whilst Vinny explained the basics of locks and subsequent tow I upgraded to a heavier goose quill and added more shot to aid casting, I also brought one of the ‘Mitchell Bruvvers’ out to help with accuracy as my casting is still ‘under development’ with the pin. This set-up did the job well and fishing a little over depth it held station in the desired spot.

Meanwhile Vinny was shipping in his pole on a far to frequent basis, small perch and skimmer bream his prize, at one point he unhooked a perch that had not only taken a worm that was longer than itself but was also in the process of swallowing a small roach at the time.

After a hour we had a well earned cup of tea and Vinny, obviously feeling sorry for my complete lack of canal angling skills, offered me a few of his worms one of which was duly hooked and cast out to the small bay on the far side, shortly after the float disappeared and a small perch reeled in, no blank and my first canal fish in a very long time, result!!

We continued until lunchtime and called it a day, I’d had one more perch whilst Vinny continued to bag up on perch and bream, a nice roach and even a jack pike but I’m sure he’ll tell all in his own weekly Blog later on.

Next stop for me was the Dane and 40 minutes later I was parked up and boiling the kettle for a flask. Back on home territory I was in a confident mood as descended the hill but on arrival at the waters edge the confidence dwindled as the lack of rain mean’t the level had dropped even further over the past two weeks in fact I had this mad thought that if it didn’t rain soon would this now tiny river run dry leaving nothing but pools of specimen fish flapping about making easy pickings for the predators. It apparently happened in April 2012 when drought took its toll on many a water, the worst drought since 1976 it was reported…

Mail Online

Mail Online Drought

The thought sent a shudder down my spine but a fish topped right in front of me restoring my faith in this mighty river. I continued to set up the rod and hastily cast a free lined lump of halibut paste along with the last four worms into the swim, with little flow it soon found it’s spot and settled in between two runs of streamer weed.

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The line immediately started to tremble so I waited for the pronounced tug….and I waited and waited until in the end I reeled in a bare hook, eels had no doubt been the culprit stripping the barbless size 6 hook of all it’s goodies.

The bankside vegetation seemed to have had a growth spurt since my last visit and apart from the worm snatchers everything was set for a good days chubbing.

Next up for a try was a lump of luncheon meat which I’d pre-soaked in the rather effective Laguna Blue Cheese Special Edition SAC juice, the meat had taken some of the bait activator in and looked like a sick bag after a good night out.

I continued to trickle pellets into the swim and free lined meat for the next two hours, of course I had purposeful takes some even stretching to a full on wrap around but usually when I’d put the rod down to pour a cup of tea or reach for a sandwich or take a glance at my phone to check the time, chub as we know use periscopes to see when you’ve taken your eye off the ball or at least that’s how it seems!!

I had to move swims, two hours in the one swim is far too long but when you’ve got your comfy slippers on and everything to hand there is always the temptation to stay put. I peered over the cover occasionally almost like waiting for the last bus but as 6pm arrived I gathered the bare minimum and headed of into the lower field to a swim I knew contained some decent sized fish.

The problem I had and the reason this field is rarely fished by anglers at this time of year was negotiating the line of crops, sweetcorn again this year was towering over my head and with the bankside collapsing in places it was precarious at times but as Del-boy once said “He who dares Rodders” I pressed on and was soon enduring the painful sting of nettles as I reached the swim. I shouldn’t have been surprised but the previously water covered margin had been devoid of water for so long that 4″ of fresh grass had grown and with no trampled foot prints visible I was clearly the first angler to step foot onto the outcrop in months.

I’d only brought paste, meat and bread flake in my bait pouch so I cast in a chunk of flake and watched it flutter to a standstill just under the tree line. Sitting down on my unhooking mat I supported the rod on the rod rest and hooked an autumn leaf over the line to indicate an imminent bite.

A minute or so passed and then wallop the rod was almost pulled off the rest, of course I reacted about 3 weeks too late with the strike and again reeled in a bare hook but my gut feeling was right there was definitely fish in the locality!!

Cheese paste was next and, from the seated position, I was able to do a sideways cast right under the overhanging branches and straight into the deeper pool. This time I held onto the rod and again within a minute I felt the line pull gently on my finger, STRIKE… but nothing there, undeterred I rebaited this time moulding the paste around the hook and leaving the point exposed.

Again I managed the perfect cast and again, a minute later, the line started to tighten STRIKE…. and this time a fish was on, I scrambled to my feet and watched the line dart straight back towards me reeling in to keep a bend in the rod. The chub appeared from under the tree line and in clear view beached itself under my feet!! It must have realised it had just performed a complete ‘angling fail’ because it flapped it’s tail furiously and launched back into the shallow water, I applied the pressure again trying not to laugh out loud and turned the chub back towards the net.

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I let him rest in the shallows whilst I unfolded the mat, camera ready and scales….. I’d left my scales back at base, it looked a good chub too but never mind it was a great result and was happy not to put an accurate number on it, well OK a good 3lb and possibly 4lb was my guestimate.

The mat shot duly taken I studied him for a moment, pristine condition and although short he was well proportioned and most definately worth the trouble I’d gone to locate him.

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I continued to cast cheese paste for the next half an hour and apart from this very unusual fry that came in on the retrieve perfectly lip hooked on a size 6 I had no further takers for this magical Laguna bait so realising I’d also forgotten my head torch I reluctantly gathered my gear and retraced my steps back to safety.

It was 8pm and most ‘normal’ anglers would have packed up and gone home but not Grazy, no Grazy doesn’t do an early bath so I settled back into my chair, threw another log on the open fire (metaphorically speaking) made a cup of tea and recast the cheese paste. At 10pm the clouds parted and crispness descended in the swim, the stars shone brightly and I zipped up my fleece, 3 biteless hours later I thanked the fish gods for their earlier gift and trudged up the hill back to the car and headed home.

Next weekend I’m not fishing, no that’s a complete fabrication of the truth, I’m not fishing on Saturday instead, on Saturday, I’ll be celebrating my daughters 16th birthday and yes that does make me feel old but fear not I will be heading back to the Dane on Sunday for an early morning assault on that crop field where, travelling light, I’m certain the ‘5lber’ is hiding in a secret swim or at least that’s the plan!!

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Those who can………teach!!

Barbel Fish-In 13th September 2014

raven-RDThe clubs barbel fish-in is a bi-annual event and one I really look forward to. The September event was well attended by both mentors and students and with the start time brought forward to 12 noon by 9:30am I was on my way to meet the lads at a cafe about half an hour from my clubs stretch at Atcham on the River Severn. Due to heavy traffic and a ‘Tough Mudder’ event I was almost an hour late arriving at the cafe but apparently two coach loads of hungry passengers had just been in consuming almost a hundred breakfasts so it didn’t make much difference to my unforeseen delay anyway.

After a full English the three of us headed off for Atcham arriving fashionably late at 12:20pm by which time Bill had paired up the eager barbel newbies with their mentors and they’d made their way to their swims for the day. I waited for an even later arrival named John and after the introductions we headed off into the right hand field setting up on the next peg to ‘Duffers’ were I’d enjoyed some success at the August event with Swifty. the river had dropped by 8″ compared to last month and the weed was beached in some places so with the river very low and clear it was going to be a difficult afternoon.

After showing John the rigs we’d be using we started off on banded pellet once again dipped in the Laguna Banana SAC Juice which worked very well at the last event. Fishing one rod each we edged our bets and fed DINNERBell ground bait into both swims recasting every 15 minutes, to compound the poor conditions the cloud parted and the sun beamed down making our chances of catching during the day even slimmer.

Bill, along with his student Colin, had found the conditions in Duffers were not to their liking so they moved swims into the left hand field and knowing he’d bait dropped a gallon of caster and hemp I jumped into the now vacated peg to see if it’d switch on for the run up to teatime, the plan being to get the fish feeding and move John in to have his first river fish.

The first few casts on pellet proved fruitless so a change of hook to a size 6 and a big lump of free lined meat, again coated in the banana juice, was cast out and bounced around the swim under the very shallow streamer weed, this is usually a good method if heavy cage feeders are being snagged and lost on the retrieve as, with the hook buried inside, the meat skates across the top and rarely comes off.

First cast and the meat stayed put in front of me so I started to reel in the slack line and a bang bang on the rod tip signified the first fish of the day, I shouted for John to join me and a few seconds later passed him my rod, he played the fish in without a fuss and his first river fish, a chub of around 3lb, was soon in the net.

I left John on the peg with a selection of baits and made my way back to the car park to get the kettle on for afternoon tea and of course cake. Tiffin was a very civilised affair and as usual 3 or 4 pots of tea were made along with a selection of cake whilst our barbel newbies discussed how there afternoon had gone, one other chub had been caught and everyone looked forward to a more productive evening session. With the group photo taken we drifted back to our swim and settled in for the night.

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Soon after dusk a text from Phil indicated the first barbel of the day had been landed along with a couple of chub and so it continued with most catching a fish or two as darkness arrived around 8:30pm.

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The next few hours proved difficult and although occasionally I could feel vibrations through the line I didn’t have another fish, perhaps I should have moved when John left after tea but sometimes there’s a niggling voice in your head telling you to stay put however on this occasion I shouldn’t have listened and as midnight arrived I packed up and headed home.

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