Thursday 20 June 2013



the evening of June 15th - waiting for midnight like thousands of other passionate anglers
ANTICIPATION – that is what respecting the traditional closed-season start gives us – the thrill of the glorious 16th and not knowing what the fishing might bring us on the day and in the months ahead. After the coldest spring for many years this season’s start was more eagerly anticipated than most … and it didn’t disappoint, even if the fishing was rubbish!

2/11 of solid gold
Crucians were our quarry, those golden giants of overgrown ponds hidden deep in the Dorset countryside. Chris Yates, Trevor Harrop and Kevin Parr are the lucky gang who share the trials and tribulations of trying to catch these enigmatic beauties.
upholding the best of traditions
We also get to share Sue’s splendid Victoria Sponge and Kelly Kettle tea and this is as much a part of the tradition as is the banter and story telling that goes with our gatherings by the lake.

Sue's famous cake - another priceless tradition

it's just a bit tasty
essential equipment for June 16th
The fishing this year was ‘interesting’, a real challenge compared with last years crucian fest when we all caught enough in one day to last the season. But that ‘crucian conundrum’ is part of the species charm. Will they bite and if so, are you able to strike at the right moment to hook the tricky little blighters? So often they truffle in the swim but exasperate by not taking our bait … or fail to show that they even exist. This is how they performed this year but that didn’t succeed in spoiling the day. The surroundings and company saw to that … yes, that line ‘there’s more to fishing than catching fish’.
isn't this the most perfect crucian pond

lovely from the other end too

The season started well enough for me, arriving on Monday afternoon – it was raining on Sunday – I walked carefully around the two lakes, looking for signs of where I should make a start. I crept up to a fallen tree and was thinking it looked like the perfect crucian hiding spot when one rolled just feet in front of me as if to say ‘feed me’, so I did.

However, before doing so I was keen to repeat the trick that was so successful last year, raking the swim, but instead of disturbing the peace and quiet, I’d come armed with my underwater filming kit … three landing-net poles lashed together … but instead of the camera on the end was a weed-cutter blade.

the crucian's home ...
I dragged this through the crucian’s home a few times to clear any debris and colour up the water and by feeling the bottom could tell it was quite clear and gravely. Gently dropping in a tiny pole float I found three feet of water ; the signs were good.
... but would they bite?
A few dobs of secret paste were all I offered the fish and it wasn’t long before the float was wavering gently in that inspiring way that crucians have of telling you that they might come out to play. Due to the hard bottom there were only a few bubbles rising to the surface to indicate their presence in that exciting way but by 7pm the float finally told me that the fish had the bait in it’s mouth and soon the first of the season was in the net, though not before the elastic had received a good stretching. Exactly 2lbs this one, which I was carefully releasing just as Mr. Yates crept up.

He sat with me talking as the float wobbled enticingly again before sliding towards the fallen tree. A violent tussle followed before Chris did the honours with the net and a golden beauty of 2/7 lay before us. The season’s anticipation had just been fulfilled.
what a lovely way to start the season

Chris headed off to find his own magic moments while I continued to catch steadily, interspersed by the inevitable missed bites that were un-missable! I ended up with six crucians to a splendid 2/11 along with two gorgeous little rudd before it became too dark to see the float properly. I had to pack up anyway because I had agreed to meet Chris at the van for a glass of wine to celebrate the new season.

tension as the intended catch tries to make it's escape in the lilies

happy memories of the previous years of success
The VW van was bought as a location base, catering wagon and shelter for the filming of “A Passion for Angling” and is still going strong, even if it is on a second engine and held together with copious welding! It will be 25years old this Autumn and the 25th anniversary of ‘Passions’ first showing on BBC 2, so Chris and I had plenty to drink to, though not on the fishing front sadly. He had blanked, though not without having had several chances in a couple of favourite swims. We talked until close to midnight before the idea of sleep became more attractive.

another beauty lured by the old master and his ancient tackle
I was up in three hours, ready for a cuppa and the first cast of a new dawn, always a magical time in any fisherman’s day. Luckily the fish were still there and still hungry, for I caught four more of around 2/8 before Trev arrived to try to replicate our catch of last year, 34 crucians between us with only one under two pounds. The biggest was 2/15 to Trevor – what a mornings fishing!

aren't they the most perfect fish

 a brace of beauties - the fish I mean
Trev with just one of the crucians from the previous year
I helped him round to his chosen swim and delivered the rake so that he could stir up the silt … and I could hear the crashes like cows falling in from my swim at the other end of the lake. Throwing a rake seems so alien to crucian fishing but it certainly worked last time we tried … though not this year. Trev blanked in that swim and apart from a couple of small rudd, it didn’t work in another swim he tried either.
Trev happy blanking
Chris had returned with Kev at 9am and they failed to catch even after trying several swims each and staying until even the owls couldn’t see.

surely they would bite now but ...
You’re probably expecting me to say I carried on catching in my previously productive swim but on returning from helping Trev I couldn’t buy another bite, not one. I tried another swim in the deepest, weediest water but couldn’t get a bite there either. The lake had completely switched off and why this happened will always be a complete mystery, though we all agreed over tea and cake that the sport of fishing would be much the poorer if it was predictable.

a perfect tench swim

even when concentrating he still missed the two bites

I might have laughed a bit
Chris and I even tried the upper lake in the afternoon and struggled there too, Chris missing one or two good bites and I bumping three good fish, one being the tench that I was hoping for. I did manage some small roach and rudd on caster but the roach and crucians eluded my subtly presented offerings.
you can't beat the pole - but the big fish did

red at night - crucian fisherman's delight
shirt sleeve dawn
Dawn the next day was beautiful and it grew to be the warmest day since September 9th last year but the tench and roach failed to respond.
a new swim in the shallower end of the lake
aren't the flowers wonderful this year
wild flag iris were numerous along the shore

I moved swims and in the end found feeding fish, though the hoped for tench dived into the lilies and on stretching the elastic to breaking point, the hook pulled.
Eventually a lovely pound plus roach saved the day and I returned home a happy man.
one pound plus of perfect roach

roses round the door - and welcome home
The tench will have to wait for another day for I might be off to the Fens soon, returning to the scene of my childhood, trying to find another of our golden beauties, a monster rudd.
gorgeous - but will I find a big one this year?