The Intrepid Piscator

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Thoughts...and grayling.

To be roused by Lady Sarah with the words, "What time were you supposed to be up?" is never ideal. "5.45", my reply...."It's 6.15", she began the day.
Hurriedly, the car was loaded. The journey to my rendezvous point, rapid.
 I'd overlooked the loose top to the maggot tub so arrived with the escape committee in full flight.
Morning greetings with old friends, Derren and his father, Brian and we set off for a day of grayling fishing.
 Fortunately, I remembered all the tackle, which was just as well, as I'd forgotten money and cards in my haste.
 At this point one might say that it was going to be one of those days!
The river?....low, not ideal.
  Trotting is a favourite method, though I always feel that I have never mastered it. Perhaps it's one of those things one never truly does.. so a lifetime as a student, perhaps?
 What I really know is that a size 16 hook has a habit of finding it's way into every piece of weed, bankside vegetation, jumper cuffs, hats....and when dangled in the margin for a split second..Minnows!!
 The swim in the photo above was too much to resist despite the fact that I absolutely knew that somehow, some way I would leave a float on that tree...and so it was.
 Fortunately, not one of Andrew Fields' finest!
 It began to rain, my back and legs aching.
The clarity of the water and the caginess of my quarry caused much frustration as I watched them time and time again rushing towards my hookbait only to turn off at the last second..I almost wished I'd forgotten the polarised glasses.

 Of course, catches came. Wiry and difficult to hold, as usual; many slippery, contorting beauties...I took to photographing them as they rested post-catch, in the shallow stream. A dog walker passed to see me welly deep in the stream edge and remarked, "Just watching you makes me feel cold."

Doesn't sound like fun to many people, I'd guess.
But in this year, more than any...I was grateful for the opportunity to be with good friends and netting a few fish.

In Memory of 'Gudgeon Jim' (Maker of Fine Landing Nets)

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Another Old Friend - Redmire 2016

There are those that think the pool is finished, a muddy, weedless shadow of her former self. It's easy to be dismissive, negative......wrong!

I'd already heard that the pool was perfect this year. Well, perfect to me anyway.

Weedless and Muddy?
Not for me, this year, the cane rod and pin approach. You see, though some may call me a romantic, I do not always see life through the rosy glow of vintage spectacles...Time and place. On a Redmire blanketed in weed (the weed that they said is gone), carbon is the only sensible approach.
 I decided on Pitchfords and set to work with a cast-able weed rake once permission had been granted by Ian the bailiff.
  The greenery was increasing by the minute in the very hot weather , but after some hours of clearance I was happy that I could present a couple of baits..

The view of my swim from The Stile Pitch

All set, after a bit of 'gardening'

I guess that the knack is to remove a bit, but leave enough..I do know that my activities seemed to have had very little effect on the carp, they were soon back on the spot.

Meanwhile, up at 'Keffords', the ducks mocked me loudly, as they are inclined to do, for being so active on a lazy sunny day..

I assured them apologetically, that it wouldn't happen again...this is Redmire after all, time to relax.

 The swans sought sanctuary from the summer heat at 'In Willow'.

I popped around to say 'Hello' and enquired about the availability of quills for floats.
 They're never much problem to the Redmire carp catcher and as I've said before, I like to think they remember those that pay them due respect.

The days and nights have a habit of gelling together, merging..Was it Yates who said that time doesn't pass here, it just collects? I can kind of understand that.
This isn't a diary, just events plucked from five heady days.

Well, it was my birthday...and there would be brandy! Indeed, brandy...after food.
We had consumed the traditional "Redmire Rissotto" the day previous, to once again rave reviews and the odd grumble that such a delight should have it's own dedicated pots and year.
 So, my birthday?...of course I received a run on my left rod. I'd had three previous, all lost to the weed, hook pulls. It was my birthday now though, the pool was kind....the brandy tasted even better after a carp.

Birthday present
I'd decided that all further takes would be treated as follows..Strike fish, allow it to penetrate
the weed, wind down, place rod on rest, tell a fellow piscator, go around to fetch the punt (now allowed for snagged/weeded fish), row to swim, collect rod and fellow piscator, row/wind to fish, handline/play to net.
 This method gave 100% success in the harsh conditions. Easier for us, kinder to the fish.

At first light the following day I had my next run and was straight in the punt with my old mate Tony..
 From our new vantage point the pool looked majestic..

..With  the fish safely on the bank at the Dam wall there then followed a routine I have endured for nigh on thirty years. Now Tony is a true friend, a top bloke, fine angler and a joy to have as company on the bank...but in his own words, "No David Bailey". I hark back to the weekend over twenty years ago, the film years, when I caught the two biggest carp in the lake, one of them twice (!) but ended up with not a single decent shot. Oh and the time I caught my first catfish, every photo a get the picture?...I don't!
First attempt
Sixth Attempt!

 There was still enough time for more early action so I re-rigged and cast back to the spot.

Twenty minutes later I was back in the punt.
 I was pleased to see that the swans had left me some prime wing feathers on the surface so I collected a few as I slowly plodded towards my prize.
 After the undramatic procedure of extracting a sprightly common we were once again back on the dam wall. At this point I was able to give Tony a quick tutorial before raising the fish for the obligatory photos.
 As I lifted the fish, something profound struck me. A sense of familiarity.
 He lay across my hands, tensing his muscles, flexing his fins.....I'd seen this before. I knew exactly at this point which fish this was. It's perfect proportions, it's flexing and writhing, it just had this aura.
 I told a couple of the lads that I knew which fish this was....They scoffed, "How many commons are in this lake?"....One even said,"They all look the same".
 Well have a look at this my friends.....In my opinion, the finest fish swimming in Redmire..The fish that made my angling dreams come true. Here is a photo taken in 2010 of my first ever Redmire carp..

 ..and here is the fish I caught last week..

How could I not recognise it?..Just imagine how impressive this fish will be at 20lb+...I will always love him and it was so nice to make his acquaintance again. I had often wondered if he'd survived the removal of single figured commons in recent years. Truth told he should've been put in the removal cage when I first caught him..I couldn't bring myself to do it. Hopefully he'll continue and thrive from now on in the depths of Redmire, he'll always be the best fish I ever catch.
We saw some very large fish amongst the weeds on this session and we all caught, there are still some great fish here, but even if there wasn't...this place wouldn't be finished, it wouldn't be a shadow, take it from me...I know.

Friend Mike fishing from the fallen oak

The fruit of his labour

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Old Friends

The sounds of the city,
Sifting through trees,
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

Take a look at these two 'erberts. That's me on the right, and my old buddy 'Birdy' catching carp that would go on to be 40+.....just like us!
  We met at work, getting on for 30 years ago.
  Soon discovering that we had both found a 'brother of the angle', plans were hatched for many fishing adventures.
 In the early days it was the canal for carp....With us both being welders we became quite adept at 'borrowing' bits of metal to make fishing related items. When we saw our first 'rod pod', the one made by Gardner Tackle, we soon rustled up a copied version each for our own use.
  Imagine the scene then, whilst angling for canal carp one evening with our rods perched on our newly made creations, as Birdy spots the company MD strolling down the towpath towards us with his lady..We were busted, he'd surely recognise the metalware and we'd be 'up the road'....or so we thought.
 Fortunately at that very moment Birdy had a take which produced a fine carp of around 18lb, the likes of which our MD had never seen much so that he couldn't take his eyes of it..Here's the fish that saved our jobs..

..Note my kit in the background, a rather dodgy Argos bedchair and that pod.

Of course we became quite obsessed with be honest that species of fish probably cost us both our first wives!! Fortunately, we have more 'understanding' spouses these days.
We always like to consider ourselves as allrounders though and we have had great times chasing other species, not least the pike..I could tell stories of sea-sickness on Grafham Water and drunken nights preceding a day or ten on the fens and drains. Maybe another day.
We even had a photo with the bait!!

Let's fast forward to this week..
 We don't fish together so much these days, but I thought it was about time Birdy caught a grayling. A plan was hatched for a trip to a little chalk stream that I knew would come up with the goods.

The weather was not the frosty, crunchy ideal that I love so much when angling for this species, indeed we arrived at the first swim quite warm. The weather has been so bizarre this winter.
 The first swim is pacey and has depth. I dropped my bag and undid the tub of red maggots and chucked a few mid stream.
 Little Lady darts drifted in and mopped them up. Staying silent about the presence of fish I told Birdy that he might want to bait a line and have a dabble.
 Having set the depth and baited a hook the cast was made and the float vanished immediately, and so Birdy lost his grayling virginity.

My tackle for the day was my Hardy Perfection Roach and Allcocks Match Aerial combo.
 It has to be said that my relative lack of angling recently has left me a tad rusty and I found myself in all sorts of tangles and strife, not helped at all by the gusty weather. I feel that the shallower drum on the Match Aerial and wind are not a great match.
 Fortunately, I don't take my angling and myself too seriously these days, so kept my mini nightmares in perspective.
 Once I'd learned to trot again I was soon into the grayling and a few rogue trout...

..but my personal highlight of the day was my first ever roach from this river..

..the rod clearly weaving it's magic again.

 Of course the greatest achievement of the day was seeing a bit of that youthful excitement in the face of my old buddy when he netted some fine grayling and one or two large brownies. The years came rolling back..Good times..
Birdy with one of his grayling.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Special rod - B.James & Son - Peter Tombleson

I purchased something special today.
I am an acquaintance to the son of a sadly departed pillar of the local angling community, a respected gentleman who lived to a decent age and fished to the bitter end.
His son has had many conversations with me about how they fished together, along with his uncle, and the great catches they had. The stories of their time together, always a joy to hear.
His father purchased the best tackle that money could buy in those days and his rod collection would make many a collectors toes curl. He was also fortunate enough to have some very esteemed angling companions.
The son has always been aware of my interest in vintage tackle and has furnished me with many a tale about the fantastic rods he knows the whereabouts of..At first, I listened with a bit of disbelief..Until I delved deeper.

About six months ago he declared that although he would be holding on to the majority of his late father's rods...he did have one I might be interested in purchasing....when he got around to sorting his Dad's stuff out.
His description of the rod had me quite excited, I had an inkling to what it might be but I was respectful and didn't want to push the issue.
Today I received a phone call saying he would bring the rod to my workplace where I could peruse it and make an offer.
A colleague brought a rod bag to my office, an immaculate green rod bag..Upon it was the label which read B.James &Son..On the inside of the flap, the ex-owners name and address in his own hand.
It soon became quite apparent that I was holding something special.
This rod has been hardly used, if indeed at all.
The original whippings are green, it has an onion butt and the guides still have the varnish on them giving them a golden glow. The ferrules pop nicely and it is as straight as an arrow.
It is not however a MkIV...The words upon the rod read "Peter Tombleson"....a rare rod indeed, especially immaculate and green whipped....and the name on the inside of the bag?...Bernard Pollard.
Now that name may not ring any bells with most of you, but Bernard was a recipient of one of the original Walker made MkIV's and a good friend of RW. They fished together many times.
I have to say that sitting there looking over this rod and wondering what to offer for it was difficult..I am quite aware that I could've purchased it for perhaps a third of my eventual offer, but I wouldn't have been happy with myself. My offer was accepted happily and I am delighted.

Monday, 31 August 2015

A Redmire float.

I found myself at the Fence Pitch, sitting, watching, waiting. I should have really been concentrating on the scarlet tip placed just feet away from me.
 My mind drifted back a few months to an email to the fine floatmaker, Mr Andrew Field.
  I'd seen a photo of a particular float on his website that looked just the job for use at such a prestigious venue as Redmire.
 Having enquired as to the availability of said float I soon received a reply from Andrew stating that the particular float was the only one left from all in the photo. This meant that although I did not yet have it in my possession, it was already lucky.
 I now have a a few of Andrew's creations, all of the highest quality, all mini works of art , all used for the intended purpose.

I'd encamped at Pitchfords, rising early to walk the short distance past Stumps whilst the others were still dreaming of glorious galitians. Walking aside the holly trees, then tip toeing on to the precarious platform to deposit 15 handfuls of micro pellets about a rod length out.
 Steam rose from the mirrored pool as dabchicks sat amid the reedmace and the first wood pigeons broke the silence with their distant 'coo's.

Back at base camp I threaded the 8lb line from the Mitchell CAP 304 reel through the rings of the B. James Mk IV and tackled up ready for a morning's float fishing...First things first though.
 My good friend Tony awoke about an hour later and duly set about producing a hearty breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs and mushrooms. Whilst the kettle was on I strolled back down to the Fence Pitch to deposit two handfuls of sweetcorn onto the baited spot and stealthily plumb the depth.

 As I drank my first tea of the day I recalled my six previous trips to the pool and all the wonderful fish she'd offered up to me, but not a single carp to the float despite my efforts on every single visit.
 By now the sun was up and I quietly edged my Lafuma low chair and rod in to position on the platform, nestled in the undergrowth.

The end tackle comprised of two small drilled bullets between two Drennan grippa stops which in the unlikely event of a mainline breakage could slip off of the line very easily. A 6lb hooklink to size 12 hook completed the end tackle. Bait was to be two grains of corn.

The float was attached by a rubber at the bottom only...

I suppose this method can be described as somewhere between lift method and float legering.

With everything set I gave an underarm flick to the spot and sat back..

...and so I found myself at the Fence Pitch, sitting, watching, waiting.
 Wrens, Tits and Warblers gorged on insects and grubs within feet as I remained still, statuesque...transfixed.
 Even the attention of the wasps, one of which landed on my nose, didn't cause me to faulter.

As I sat amongst the Willowherb and Nettle a decent looking common cruised in just below the surface and completely circumnavigated the float slowly, attentively, before cruising off on his way..I hadn't fooled him at all.
 In the next few minutes the float was landed upon by two damselflies, double somersaulted by a gymnastic gudgeon and checked out by the dabchick which broke cover to see if it was edible, leaving her miniscule offspring to call frantically from beneath the willow fronds......

...and then, quite magically, the classic lift bite...Up...Flat....then drift away...and.....strike.

The fish, quite clearly a scamp, dashed for the nearby willow and once turned, zoomed around in ever decreasing circles...It has to be said that getting to my feet, grasping the net and engulfing the fish was a quite delicate affair, but my balance remains good enough.

 The result of this little plan? An absolute gem of a fish..Small yes, but perfect in every way. With fish like these,the future remains bright for the 'Mire.
 It had taken 7 years to catch a Redmire carp on the float. I've caught some of the pools greatest treasures, but this little fellow and the way it was caught will live long in the memory.

Despite fishing on in the same manner for another four hours I received no further action. With this catch I'd blown my cover completely, but I strolled back to base feeling more than contented with my perfect little prize.

Andrew Field's website can be found here.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Barbel Bullion

Disorganised days drift into the chaos of traffic, and so follows the haphazard loading of tackle.
About an hours drive away lies the low flowing sinuous abode of gold. Through humid field and o'er five bar gate, I go to prospect.
 The chatter of the magpie, shrill call of the 'fisher welcome, as the mallards argue. The grass moist, seeps, as the evening sun begins to fade.
 The water runs low and fast at the top of the beat where small unknown birds dart for grubs and insects amongst the rampant reed growth. Thin, fast, shallow?...No, not here..onwards to the grasping, rasping snags and depth, today.
 The crunch of pulled balsam beneath my feet betrays my presence to wood pigeon and noisy pheasant and startles us all.
 Well away from the flow I tie the simplest of rigs, then stealthily edge riverside concealed behind reed mace as the nettles brush my forearm.
 Vehicle noise is now just as distant as my memory of the home time traffic, once more I enter the heady world of the evening barbel fisher..
 I prime three swims with just two pieces of bait each, which today is meat, and then a moment of contemplation, no rush now, everything has slowed, a time to savour before that first cast.
 With an underarm flick to the faster midstream flow, it sinks unseen, to where in my imagination the barbel are stacked like pure ingots..

He who dares?

On the opposite bank, murderous squealing, something was being killed by a predator..I was quietly glad it was still a bit light..spine chilling stuff,  I don't usually get spooked. However, the unseen does play tricks.
 Suddenly, the rod whacks over with such ferocity that I jump! The tip almost hitting the surface of the river as the Speedia check screams.
 The strike is immediately met with aggression from upstream, not down....Upstream being where the snag is and the fish has gone straight through it still taking line...I'm in trouble, eventually I gain a small element of control but the line is grating awfully.
 I come to a position where the fish is tight to other side of the snag..With no other option, I am set to go in.
 Hand-lining slowly I think that the fish though not in view, could indeed be nettable, alas the line goes limp and with a great boil whatever it was, is gone. It seems that he who dares doesn't always win.
 My first thought is carp, but I'll never know...It is time to move swim.

After the addition of a couple more free offerings a cast is chanced towards a recently fallen willow.

 There is streamer weed and depth here and I am able to see the baited hook fade in to the depths before sitting back in what can only be described as a bog.
I need the chair in this swim but  I still have that 'Titanic' feeling.
 The sun has peeped back round from behind the evening cloud prompting a festival of midges who seemed to want to party the evening away... in my eyeballs! It is whilst trying to extract one of these eyeball headliners that my rod pulls around again. My strike is late, but not too late, the fish hasn't yet reached the sanctuary of the fallen branches, though the intention is certainly there. I give no line, my thumb pressed firmly against the narrow drum and the trusty Chapman 500 holds firm. This rod has taken some punishment over the years, it is dog-legged with numerous 'sets' but I like it that way..It bares the scars of battle well and soon has a small, spirited barbel with a tail grown for fighting ready for the net..I have struck a little bit of gold.

No messing about with the roll mat here, there is no man made substitute for natures unhooking mat of moist, lush grass. Fish dealt with fast and efficient and back in the net to recover a while before release...and so, it is time for the next swim.

 A deepish bend with no real feature other than it's bendiness! I feel that with the sun beginning to fade it will give a better chance of playing and landing a hooked fish.

  First chuck produces a bite and results in another 'dart' of a barbel, released without photo.
 The light fades and I'm now fishing by touch as the tawny owls call to each other from distant trees . The mallards strolled off over the field and have now fallen silent.
 Heat has become cool and the whole scene has taken on an air of expectancy.
 I've cast into the slower water and can feel chub plucking the bait, so move back to the faster mid flow and add another few morsels of bait.
 The line is yanked from my hands and the drum whizzes as a fish takes the natural chicane and tries unsuccessfully to ram itself into the downstream reeds, the rod is perhaps at it's limit now but the fish is turned, yet not beaten. Using the flow to it's advantage it evades the net, perhaps four or five times before eventually succumbing.

These fish are lean, wiry beasts with big tails. They know their home well and are a great match to the tackle I use.
 It is time to leave this wonderful world, time to join the traffic once more...and dream of future gold.