Saturday 28 June 2014


this is one it eat earlier

It’s 04.30 in the morning of 23rd June and time to reflect on my golden opening … and I’m up at this lovely time of day, not because I’m about to cast but because there is a ‘playful’ otter just outside the window, trying to eat the last of our minnows. Bless!

waiting for the glorious 16th

It reminds me of my opening day at a lovely little crucian lake up near Shaftesbury where an otter visited during the early hours of the 16th, trying to catch before I had even cast in. Luckily the lake I was fishing has an electric fence round it but the lake next door has been drained for dredging and there were the tracks, leading through the mud to the last remaining carp in the puddles that are left before passing my swim by the lilies - but on the other side of the fence. What a shame we have to fence off bits of the countryside to protect our precious fish.

not long to midnight now

I arrived at the lake on the 15th and after a careful walk round to assess where the fish might be, I set up in the ‘Vole Swim’, named for obvious reasons and with lilies on the left and overhanging willows on the right. I raked a narrow channel in the thick weed and noted that there was very dense potamogeton at pole lengths end … tough weed and trouble with a capital “T’ if I hooked a tench!

A little bit of groundbait  and small pellets were offered as a gift to the fish gods, along with a few casters and dead maggots and by dusk there were encouraging signs of activity in the depths below. Anticipation was mounting and as if to celebrate the start to the season, a barn owl flew at head height past the window of my VW camper as I brewed a cuppa. It was so close I could have almost touched it as it looked at me carefully as it passed, a moment indelibly printed into my brain for life.

I sat by my swim at midnight but decided to delay that magical first cast until dawn when all the senses are alert and the world is waking up. I just love that first light when all the birds start singing and the sky begins to shape the lake with it’s reflections … and I didn’t have long to wait for a bite, for as I was easing out my knob of paste, a small rudd grabbed it. Several more of a reasonable size slid over the net and with the water being crystal clear, their glorious colours made sure it was a golden start.

aren't rudd beautiful

Bubbles were rising frequently from the mud, so I knew something bigger was on the cards, hopefully a crucian  and when the float slid under and the fish was hooked, it circled for a second or two, as crucians do but then it woke up and tore off into the dense weed. Obviously a hefty tench … but I will never know for the hook pulled. The same thing happened again a few minutes later so I selected a new top kit with stronger elastic.

I was getting tiny bites which I felt sure were crucians and after a winter trotting a flooded Avon for roach, I’d forgotten just how sneaky crucians can be. I adjusted my tiny pole float to hang in the surface tension, with a No10 stots just off bottom for a tell-tale and felt sure that would result in the first crucian of the season but when it finally disappeared, yet another tench tore off and completely trashed my carefully assembled rig. Curses.

stretched elastic and nerves

Twenty minutes later, and with even stronger elastic, I had a new rig with the bait just touching bottom and hoped that by edging under the overhanging tree to an area that had received no bait, my soft hooker pellet would avoid the tackle wrecking tench and find a hungry crucian – and it worked.

During the next two hours I managed to miss several tiny bites but also landed six lovely plump crucians, four over two pounds with a best of two pounds six ounces. What a lovely way to start the season.

a perfect golden start
I had several small rudd and another crucian over two and had already lifted my rig out once when in the clear water I saw a large golden tench enter the swim. When it came into the swim again I couldn't resist seeing if I could land it and it promptly broke my pole! I knew this fish from the past when it had broken a rod ... they do go a bit these golden ones ... and realised my stupidity even before I hooked it, so it was time to pack up and lick my wounds. It had been an enjoyable start to the season, even if I was left wishing that I could have landed one of those tench.

the tackle breaking terror
Anyway, I had work to do because I had foolishly volunteered to make a film with Trevor Harrop for the Angling Trust about Avon Roach and their predation by cormorants. Trevor had given a very successful introductory talk at one of the Trust’s Fishery Management Advisors meetings about the Roach Project and Trust roles in changing the cormorant protection laws and the suggestion was for Trevor to appear at every meeting. This not being practical, the next best thing would be a film of him giving the talk so I stepped up to do the honours.

how many takes?!
Several takes later the filming at Britford was complete but as Trev said, we were both suffering from sun stroke by the time it was in the can. What with his fluffs, plane noise, dog’s barking, wind gusts and clouds obscuring his face it’s no wonder I want to give up filming. It drives you mad! After making more than sixty wildlife films ‘Repetitive Strain Syndrome’ is getting to me.

still smiling - or relieved it's in the can?
Three days editing followed before the film was finished … and if you visit the Avon Roach Project or Angling Trust’s websites you can decide if it’s a job well done. Roach certainly need all the help they can get if they’re to recover in our rivers and lakes. The Angling Trust is doing a great job now and I believe all anglers should support their work. In the meantime, catch one for me … I'd better go and check the otter damage, then do some gardening.
pretty but only a few minnows left
roses round the door
beautiful - and they smell good too

Monday 9 June 2014


only 6/9 but what beautiful fish tench are

I love tench, as many of us anglers do and I wish there were more waters where they dominated catches instead of those endless carp. 

low double nuisance fish - lovely colour though
Since catching lots of big roach in April, I’ve been trying to catch a good tench and have struggled to get past the carp, so I write this out of frustration :

‘How come a club chooses to spoil a prime tench water by stocking ever more carp when there are dozens of carp waters everywhere you look?’

Rant over. I’ve enjoyed the struggle and caught a few tench but non of the bigger ones that the water holds. I note in the press that most good catches come after a couple of days baiting a swim but I don’t have the time to fish on more than one day so what should I do?

a lovely spot but too many carp for us tench anglers
Some advise minimising the feed by simply casting a maggot feeder to the same tight spot every so often, tho’ maybe adding a spomb or two of particles if you think the tench will tolerate the disturbance.

Others might put down a good bed of bait but then there is the risk of attracting the mud suckers. As the saying goes, you can put bait in but you can’t take it out … and once I’ve done it, I sit there questioning if I did the right thing. I’m sure you’ve all done the same but that is part of the fun ... and so is the wildlife. The chaffinches fed better on the red maggots than the tench.

even when nothing is happening, something always is
If we knew what was going to happen every time we went fishing, most of us would die of boredom or even worse, take up golf. I should correct that ; playing golf is enjoyable too.

May was a bit wet
Perhaps the weather didn’t help because the tench were feeding well in April when I was enjoying my roach fishing. ‘You should have been here last week syndrome’ for in May the rains came and water temperatures fell. One day I sat there for five hours in rain that was too heavy to pack up in without getting even wetter. It was cold and horrible ... but I caught a carp.

 the worst weather I think I've ever fished in - it was windy too
The tench went off feed and though I did catch one each time I visited, the carp became increasingly greedy and dominated my brief sessions. Not quite what I had in mind but they don’t half pull on tench tackle.

21/3 of battling mirror
peace and tranquility at Sway Lakes
In the end I returned to Sway to catch a few of my favourite roach and what did I catch, tench and carp of course. 

6/5 of battling tench - didn't half test the 3lb line
an all muscle male
However, the common was immaculate and was as beautiful a creature as you could wish to clap your eyes on … and landing it was a tense battle on 3lb line.

absolutely immaculate common of 13/3 - what a fight close to the lilies by this beautiful creature 
I did catch lots of roach too, eighteen over a pound, including four over two and the best a massive roach even bigger than the 3lb5oz giant that I caught in April -but having recently spawned, it weighed ‘only’ 2lb15ozs. 

very long but very thin
However, it was caught at night with a little starlight attached to a tiny pole float and was my PB pole caught roach. No pics to do its size justice as I was alone but it was certainly a monster and at eighteen inches long would have weighed maybe 3/8 or so if caught three weeks ago. A cracking roach all the same.

this is the 3lb5oz roach I caught in April - a PB to savour
dawn magic over the barn owl reeds
I might head up to the place I grew up to start the season, the beautiful Fens. 

a fat Fenland tinca
I can catch tench there without being pestered by carp, though the bream might provide me with plenty of ‘nuisance’ fish! Whatever happens, it’ll be wonderful to be sat watching barn owls, bearded tits and marsh harriers under those glorious wild skies.
the place of my childhood - I just love it up there