Friday, 25 January 2013

ANGLING ADVENTURES - 2012 - PART 1




Now, where's that polar bear?

Time to write a few words about fishing instead of doing it. Well, I’m not going out in this Arctic blast am I, even if my ‘Catching the Impossible’ mate Martin Bowler is out there – carping – he’s mad you know …

Chilly garden at Chillbrook Croft
                          ANGLING ADVENTURES – 2012 – part 1

The dictionary says an adventure is ‘a risky undertaking, the ending of which is uncertain’.

My angling certainly fits that definition and I’m very grateful for that. Who wants to go fishing when you know what you are going to catch? The mystery of the unknown is everything.

Brightening a winters day
I started the year on the Hampshire Avon and blanked – well, only two minnows. Then next day on the same stretch caught two big chub. Moving to a lake I had an unseasonable golden tench of 5lb on very light roach gear, so for starters, enough uncertainty to fulfil the criteria.

In mid January I headed off with a group of friends for our annual pilgrimage to catch India’s sacred fish, the golden mahseer. We should be there now and given our present snow covered landscape, I wish we were.
Catching the bait 



Thomas - our chief guide
Splendid scenery
However, some ‘do-gooder’ decided that fishing in wildlife parks should be banned, so they did! It’s a disaster on two counts. Firstly, the rural economy around the area of the Cauvery River will be devastated because angling brought in tens of thousands of dollars every year. Secondly, the angling guides who carefully protected the mahseer will not be there to fight off the poachers. They might even get hungry and poach the fish themselves. So, yet another sustainable resource is likely to be destroyed by the stupidity of man.

Murrell - good to eat - no wonder he's smiling
Rama with 'small' silver mahseer
A perfect dawn
Thirty pounds of violent beauty
I’m also upset because I’m missing my angling highlight of the year. I love India and its’ people, let alone the wildlife and fishing on the Cauvery. I’ll write another post on the fishing and wildlife in a while but suffice to say it is wonderful, with all of us catching plenty of mahseer – some big ones too. I caught exactly 150 mahseer in the ten days with several of about 30lbs. but the most remarkable achievement was by Gerry Higham who caught one of 50lbs – on barbel tackle! I hope I’m proved wrong on my gloomy predictions for those wonderful fish and their guides that we’ll be back there next year with them for the ultimate holiday.
Fifty Pounds to Gerry - what a fight!

The sport was good on our return to the UK too, a day on the Avon at Britford trotting a little waggler down the far bank yielding about 40lbs of roach, dace and big chub. Several of the roach had been damaged by predatory cormorants that relentlessly  straff the valley.
Some of the few survivors

Nearly 2lbs - over ten years old and nearly dead




Mid. Feb. saw us on the Avon again but this time with a BBC News crew. The Angling Trust’s Martin Salter, Trevor Harrop of Avon Roach Project fame and myself had been invited to explain why there was a need to change the law to allow us to protect our fisheries more effectively from cormorant attacks. I supplied them with appropriate film clips and we made the national news with a well balanced story – certainly a result.



Presenting the truth to the Minister - Richard Benyon
Next day we delivered the 16,000 signature cormorant petition, ‘Our Biodiversity in Danger’ with its’ carefully researched arguments supporting a law change to the Minister, Richard Benyon. 16,000 signatures sounds impressive but when you consider that there are well over one million anglers out there, it’s pathetic. All wildlife enthusiasts are suffering because of excess cormorant predation so it is frustrating that so many anglers couldn’t even be bothered to sign their names. That school report ‘must try harder’ springs to mind! [A lot more to come on cormorants and the state of our rivers plus three films in future posts].


We hope for a concession on cormorant licencing from the Minister in February but since the petition hand over I’ve been trying to winkle out some big roach from the dwindling stocks and it’s not easy. However, I did say I like it difficult didn’t I.

Sorry about the pic. - a one arm self take - nice roach tho'
In March I was kindly invited to try to catch roach from an extremely low and clear River Dever. It was the best sort of angling, exploring a new place with very difficult fish … and I was told by the keeper that the one and only John Wilson had fished for the roach there and found them difficult, so it must be. However, they were there, which makes a pleasant change. Creeping on hands and knees, using a little Drennan bomb rod, a link ledgered AA shot on a five foot hook length with a 20 hook and single red maggot, I managed to extract seven roach, the best going 1/7. I managed to avoid most of the brown trout and grayling too, so it was a most rewarding days sport.

a bronze beauty
Roach proved elusive at the end of the season but I did snare a lovely 5+ bream from an Avon weirpool. The contrasting pictures of the weir show graphically the effect of the summers’ rain – end of season to start of season. At least the deluge saved us from an environmental disaster, a lucky escape – this time.

March 14th low water
June 16th and plenty of water

Where's those roach?
More important than catching fish is the friends that you fish with and one of my regular mates on the bank is Trevor Harrop. We were sharing a day at Sway lakes after the end of the river season and though we struggled to catch roach, I managed plenty of perch on maggots, even rudd, while Trev. remained biteless on bread. Then eventually he did get a bite and twenty minutes later he still hadn’t seen the culprit on the end of his line. Eventually success triumphed over adversity and he landed the most perfect common carp of  17/9, not even close to a monster by carp fishing standards but on 2lb line and a fine wire hook a rather skilful bit of angling. It was smiles all round.

Mud Suckers don't come any better looking than this ... the fish I mean!

On 3rdApril, Trevor and I were invited to a meeting of the ‘great and the good’ in London to discuss progress on the government’s cormorant review and the impending drought orders, ironic because as we left the building it started raining and hasn’t stopped since!
Yellow and red is the rain - a familiar radar image this summer

I never used to fish in the closed season but I so seldom have time to fish now that I have abandoned my principals and escape to the waterside whenever I can. A couple of local lakes gifted me lots of roach to 1/14 and on warmer days several carp to 18lbs. Life is too short to sit behind bolt rigs for a week to catch a mud sucker but I find stalking carp really exciting, with all mine being caught within a foot of the bank – magic.
Perfect pin country
A nice little scrapper


Our computer guru Chris Wild joined us at Beeches Brook for a cast or two and stalked several feisty carp and Trevor and Budgy, the co- founder of the Avon Roach Project bagged up on roach, watched by Robin, the bailiff and the New Forest’s champion talker.

Trevor, Budgie and Robin
Swaying with delight
I do love roach 


I fished Sway for roach a couple of times just before the proper season opened and managed to winkle out eight two pounders on the pole with a best of 2/6. I caught lots of others too, along with tench, the best a manic male of 6/8 on the pole - stretched elastic and taught nerves.

Careful with that old bit of wood Chris
Nice one Mr.Yates

A perfect summer fish


Two happy boys






June 16th dawned cold, wet and windy and I’m too old and wise to fish in horrible weather now ; after all, fishing is only a bit of fun. Trev. and I didn’t start until the 19th … and what a start. After boldly shattering the tranquility with a rake we caught 34 crucians between us, with 31 over 2lbs, all from a delightful little lake near Shaftesbury. My best was 2/12 and Trev’s 2/14. Mr Yates and Chris joined us and also had some biggies. The cake was good too.
Sue's Victoria Sponge - perfect
Deepest Dorset

Always one ounce short of the target
Next day I fished the lake above and had dozens of big roach to 1/15 on either the pole or wagglered pellet. What an opening to the season. It could only get worse – and it did. I had to do some work!

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