Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Late Summer Fishing Highs and Lowlives

In another interesting week of summer fishing I've been cramming in the short sessions wherever possible once again. A bit of a scattergun approach perhaps, but as we head into the end of August you do get that feeling that there is only so much summer left, with time so precious and limited.

Some regular followers will no doubt relate to the plight of the multiple job man. In the eyes of the tax system at least, I have no fewer than four different jobs. And although much of my time is to do with the things I love, it is sill work- and it can be tricky to free a few hours just to sneak off down the river, or spend a bit of time with the wife and no technology in sight. Chance would be a fine thing... quite often I want to bung my phone into the sea.

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One benefit of my hours writing blogs and other copy for Clockwork (a marketing company near Newton Abbot) is that I finish my office hours only a short distance from the sea. And with Darren Sieminski, one of our ace website designers, a keen sea angler himself, another post work trip to the coast was overdue.

We parked by Living Coasts (slightly cheaper than the 24 hour robbery of the marina carpark) grabbed some tea straight from the outdoor market in Torquay before fishing the left hand wall of the outer harbour. Caught in about ten different minds, I had bundled four different rods in the car, along with LRF lures and some bait. Darren could have been forgiven for looking a bit confused.

Not that it took long to get bites. I had two small wrasse right from the off on small plastic worms fished dropshot style. Meanwhile, Darren had a small pollack on float tackle. He had released it carefully, but just as it looked as if it might recover, a seagull nabbed it. After that we had little for an hour, aside from a brief altercation with a guy on the other side of the wall, who insisted on wanging his rigs right round our side of the barrier, and then throwing a a strop when the lines got caught.

Seriously, I do worry about anyone who would hurl abuse at a complete stranger over something as petty as who has the right to cast where. As someone who worked for years with junkies, alcoholics and violent offenders, I'm fairly well versed in keeping calm and not lighting any fuses. Our friend here could have done with a similar lesson- because on a sea wall, threatening behaviour could lead to someone getting injured or killed. But hey ho, this is public fishing I guess. We also saw an inflatable boat fishing and moving right in feathering range of the pier- perhaps a southwest contender for the Darwin Awards on the cards?

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Our bad tempered friend then promptly left just as the tide was climbing and the light went dimpsy. So much for picking your moment, because the fishing improved greatly as night approached. I had a lure caught pouting (above) on a weedless rigged Isome section, before giving Darren a crack with the lure rod and baiting up a bottom rig with a prawn. Not so long ago I wouldn't have given supermarket prawns a second look, but they seem to make pretty decent baits for flatties and smaller species.

Just about able to pick out the rod tip by the lights of the fairground in the distance, I had a really rod rattling bite. It wasn't the four-pound bass I had imagined, but nevertheless a very welcome rockling. My first, as it happens. I'm no expert on the different types of rockling, so perhaps someone could enlighten me? I gather they will also occasionally take lures.

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It was a lovely evening, in fact, totally forgetting about phones and deadlines and just feeling for bites by the lights of Torquay. Sea fishing here is so much more varied than you realise, because 90% of visitors only seem to have eyes for mackerel. I strongly suspect that night fishing is the answer though, whether with lures or bait. To cement this hunch, Darren then hooked into the best fish of the trip; a hard-fighting pollack quite a bit bigger than the earlier samples.

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Just for the record, Clockwork Marketing are well worth a look for anyone involved in the hospitality trade or trying to build a business in any leisure or tourism activity! We make fantastic websites- and already do a great job for one or two fishing hotels. So much of the fishing world is blighted by dated and inadequate online presence I cannot help but feel there are more matches to be made in future. After all, how many dedicated marketing and website building agencies have actual anglers on the team?

I digress anyway, but if you are traveling to Devon soon, or if sea fishing is your thing, do also be sure to take a look at the recent Channel Kayaks Blog HERE, which features several recent kayak fishing marks and trips in Devon, from Sidmouth to Salcombe. Meanwhile, tackling the craggier parts of the South Hams in the company of happy-go-lucky maniac Norbert Darby is also my focus for the new edition of Fallon's Angler, just out.

So what else of note can I report from the past week or two? I jumped at the chance to dash back onto the local canals and River Tone for some surface sport, if done in a bit of a hurry. On the cut, I must have spent about 80% of a 2-3 hour session just walking and looking and not fishing, seeking out larger rudd and roach. And I found one or two, albeit in very different spots to previous seasons. I lost what looked like a 2lbs+ hybrid (bream/rudd?) basking in the top foot of water, before netting two nice rudd to one pound nine ounces. As is so often the case, it was a simple capture- the only key was casting in a bushy swim and getting a simple hackled wet fly (one of my Turrall Spiders) close to the fish.

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I also had a quick blast on the River Tone with Norbert joining me for the ride. We must be freak magnets, because we had uniformed staff out looking for some crook on the run.... who we think we spotted later. One of those guys you take one look at and think "oh God, what happens now... ". First it was "can I use your phone, I'll pay you a tenner" (because I always willingly lend my phone to guys who look like crack addicts) before the question "has there been any police or guys down here looking for me?" Christ on a unicycle, I bet the landed gentry fly fishing on the Test and Itchen don't have to deal with this sort of shit. One scary lunatic, and that's coming from me and Norbert, who seem to draw these undesirables like perch to a wriggling worm.

Still, the chub were feeding, albeit very spooky. So often in the low, clear water they would come right up to the fly, before sulking away again. The only takes were by taking your life in your hands and dropping a big terrestrial right under the branches in their sanctuary. I missed two nice fish, but hooked one of the best in a group of eight or so fish, which took a Chopper (my big, leggy deer hair winged fly designed for the species).

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Otherwise, the only fishy business I have to report is of a very pleasant short session on Creedy Lakes. Yes, I Know, I'm not always a fan of the big main lake. It's all a bit bivvy-tastic. But I had a lovely evening on the top pond and also made a new friend. In the same way you know instantly that some folks are surly buggers (like our friend in Torquay, Mr High Blood Pressure/ No Manners), others you just instantly know are on your wave length.

Such was the case with Mick Latham, who fished the next swim and was such great company- as we filled out tickets it appeared we had exactly the same plan, to fish simply on the less fashionable top lake, where it's pretty and weedy, even if the fish aren't quite as big.

Rather than race for the best spots though, we played it civilised, sharing pegs and anecdotes. It does make you think- surely this is the way it should always be, rather than competing with each other like kids? Sometimes I dislike busy specimen fisheries because regulars can get so serious they won't even say "hello" or "how's it fishing?". But it costs so little to be friendly to other anglers; and you could get a useful tip off or make a new pal.

I stuck it out on the floaters in the end, using nothing more complicated than a 50p bubble float (often just as good and less obtrusive than the huge £5 odd things I always see in the tackle shops) and a few dog biscuits. This was the best of my brace (and no, I didn't weigh it):

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In between a perfect lazy evening, watching the kingfishers, picking out the hoot of an owl, laughing and discussing life, the universe and everything, Mick went one better and caught three. We shared netting and photography roles too, perhaps confirming that angling etiquette isn't dead after all. Nice fish too in this top pond- they tend to be wily and strong:

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The only other recent journey was to Merlin Unwin Books, publishers of "Flyfishing For Coarse Fish", to attend their 25th anniversary bash and meet some fellow authors. I'll be reviewing some new fishing books shortly from their range, so do watch this space.

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The plan was then to fish at Caerphilly Castle on the way home, but the weather was too filthy to stick around long. Those keeping up with my weekly Angling Times column or who bought Crooked Lineswill know of my love of unusual angling destinations. This will also be the topic of a new photographic competition on the way very soon.

Until our lines cross again, let's all keep our heads and keep smiling. Happy fishing and my best to you all.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Back to Basics

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It’s tough coming home after a holiday. Especially when there is great fishing involved. Great fishing that you know you won’t be able to afford again for a long time! So what is the answer? How do you deal with a holiday hangover?

Perhaps the easiest option, after a few days of catching up with work and sleep, is to get back to the bread and butter fishing that you know and love. Because the stuff on your doorstep is also good fun. In fact, had you arrived from a totally different country you would probably be wowed with a lot of it. Because even an urban, free fishery has mystery and something new every time. Even if it’s in Tiverton or Torbay, not California.

When you live by writing of various kinds, with fishing a big chunk of it, a sense of perspective is vital. Never mind living the dream, you have to work at it- and if you’re not careful you can kill your passion. Which is why I always make sure that besides the “serious” expeditions, where fish, pictures and words have to be conjured up to order, I always make room for casual, fun fishing. Because the moment you lose sight of that laid back pleasure in the simple things, it all becomes just a job.

Time is incredibly precious. Until the eight day week is invented, I will continue to steal two hours here, an afternoon there, to get my fix like everyone else. The way I see it, this is healthy.

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Rudd fit the bill perfectly- and there is no better place to catch them on the fly than the smaller canals and drains in Devon and Somerset. I had a real challenge on my hands on the Tiverton Canal though, with a quick afternoon off cursed by fierce gusts of wind. Not only does this make casting a pain, you just can’t spot the fish easily –or even the rises.

I found one or two twists and turns, after a fair walk, where the wind was less fierce and I could at least spot the fish. I had several that I could pick out in the upper layers, all to spiders and little beaded nymphs in sizes 14-18. And although high winds didn't help with location, the fish were up for it. I saw quite a large fly in the drink, in fact, with a rudd taking three attempts to nab it from the ripple!
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Roach also showed up, along with a few perch, all sitting in the top few inches of water. Most were more than willing to take a fly, the breeze perhaps helping to mask any less than delicate casts. Sometimes it was tricky to spot takes, so I resorted to adding a little floatant to the leader about two feet from the fly and just watching for small pulls before striking. Not big fish, but fun on light tackle and all in the space of just a couple of hours. Small perch were also there for the taking on a tiny minnow streamer from my coarse box.

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Rather than face the rush hour into Exeter, which is quickly starting to resemble Essex in the congestion stakes, I decided to take a last hour on the River Lowman, Tiverton. Ironically, the breeze was a help rather than a hindrance with the small trout which are far more easily spooked than rudd and roach.
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This is a pretty stream, if you mentally blot out some of the more industrial background. In fact, man altered streams with little weirs and falls tend to produce well, with the pacy sections quite forgiving, even for a tall, ungainly angler. Tiny emergers and wets both hit the spot:

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Perhaps the best part was the accidental crowd of kids who decided to join me though. After telling me that cheese was better than what I was using, I managed to pick out a lovely slightly better fish right before their eyes.

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After this, the audience multiplied, as did the questions. And there were some humdingers:
"Is that a real fly?"
"What is the biggest fish you've ever caught?"
"Can you be arrested for pushing someone? This girl in my class says you can."

They were great fun- and although their antics probably didn't help me catch many more trout, I think they learned a little about fly fishing, and trout, and not scaring them. In an age where we're continually told that young people are bad/lazy/addicted to technology, it's refreshing to see kids racing pushbikes, crawling along the banks and hopping in and out of a stream.

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The next fishing window I had was another piece of quickfire opportunism, this time on Brixham Breakwater with the LRF fishing tackle on the way from work. This time I was hoping for mackerel and pollack, but with the tide still quite low and locals complaining about the local seals scaring off the shoals, I thought I might have to adapt. I quite often wonder if these things are just excuses, but looking over the sea wall, I did wonder if they might have a point:

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I couldn't tempt a mackerel, and the winds were brutal on the outer wall, so I switched to the inside, where there are usually plenty of modest wrasse and mini species to go for, which usually escape the attention of the feathering brigade.

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I managed to land three up to about three-quarters of a pound quite quickly, all on Texas-rigged Isome type worms, while getting chatting to a chap escaping for a quick hour away from the wife and kids. He wasn't catching and I could feel his pain. Having only a small window of opportunity can be frustrating. So after the next fish, I decided to play nice and give him the lure and rig I was using. A mere three minutes later, his lure rod slammed over and I had to run back to him with the net!

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A nice ballan wrasse it was too, very fit and probably as big as my four put together! Still, I was as happy as I would have been catching it myself.

The older I get, in fact (and don't let the beard fool you, I'm no spring chicken any longer) the more pleasure I get from helping other anglers and sharing knowledge. Teaching many people to fish over the past few summers is one of my quietest yet proudest achievements. I get a real kick out of launching others into the world of fishing and, hopefully, equipping them with skills to help them enjoy many years of peace and enjoyment- and I run various guided fly fishing trips in Devon and Somerset each season. Summer is peak time around Exmoor and on the streams of the Westcountry Rivers Trust.

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Steve Badger and his son were my latest victims. The really lovely part of it was that they wanted to fish a wild stream, branches and all. It can be a real challenge even for the experienced, with low, bushy water and shy fish to deal with. But they quickly got the hang of making short deliveries and sneaking unobtrusively into tight spots. Side and catapult casts were the order of the day, often on hands and knees. It was challenging to say the least, but caught two fish, a small trout and a grayling. Result!

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We fished the Westons stretch (see, a lovely bit of water for just £6 a day. The farmer was also brilliantly friendly and I think he was chuffed to see a youngster fishing on his land. We also made a new friend: Ruby, an ancient looking dog who is anybody's best friend for a pat on the head, who still enjoys helping to bring in the cows, albeit with a slight limp:

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Needless to say, I got a real warm glow from the day, which wasn't just down to the blue skies and baking heat.

Perhaps the biggest change I've seen in angling over the past few seasons has been the sheer number of anglers who enjoy a varied fishing diet, with lots crossing over into fly fishing. Organisations such as the Angling Trust certainly help, and I was delighted to join them at the Game Fair at Ragley Hall. As soon as I spotted this rather funky vehicle, belonging to Sarah from Get Hooked on Fishing and "pimped" by fishing artist Dusto, I knew I was in the right place:
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It wasn't the busiest it's ever been, but plenty of guests stopped by and, most importantly of all, stacks of youngsters got their first taste of fishing. The other great thing was the feeling of togetherness of all the angling branches. Everyone from the England Carp team to the Fly Dressers' Guild was out in force- and on an evening social we had just about every approach you can think of on the lake, from lure fishing to specimen, match and fly fishing on the lake. The carp were lean and hungry- and not easy to lure to the surface, although it was great to see one a visiting Scottish fly angler catch his first ever carp (of any description) on the fly.

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In between doing some fishing talks and demos, I also caught up with some of the anglers really making the sport tick these days. The lure casting pool was a huge hit with the likes of Sam Edmonds and John Cheyne, while I also met "Big Fish Off" champion James Stokoe, before sinking some beers with Dusto and the others. I think he probably earned them more than me having spent the whole of a humid day working on another of his giant masterpieces. I am seriously considering asking him to paint my kayak!

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Talking of kayak adventures, I've also been back out to sea to explore some shore marks. The fishing has varied from tough as nails to hectic, with a lot of lessons learned. More to come shortly on the blog at Channel Kayaks (a whole stack of species and venues covered- now live, CLICK HERE), including what is surely my biggest ever wrasse. It's a species I've really got to grips with, in no small part due to picking the brains of my lure fishing friends such as Andy Mytton. The same weedless and dropshot presentations also work wonders with real bait too:

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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Fishing in America

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How do I even begin with this blog post? Still slightly jet-lagged after my honeymoon in the USA, I have no idea where to start. Nor can I cover everything in this blog, because there are some stories that demand a proper treatment in print and the necessary depth. Suffice to say, this is a vast, fascinating country with almost limitless fishing. And while I didn't want to bore the heck out of my wife Paulina, some fishy detours were an absolute must. Tricky to plan in one sense, because each state needs a different license and with limited time and my own idiosyncratic tastes, I had to make the most of quite a fast-paced visit. The best part of 2000 miles.

Perhaps from the very start though, I wanted to find the so called "rough fish" (American for coarse fish). Partly because I can catch trout at home- and also because free-biting fish like panfish and bass can be targetted with just an hour or two to kill at a time. The trouble is, as in much of the globe, online info tends to list trout and salmon fishing but is quite poor on all those other less fashionable fish. Bluegills, shad, catfish, carp... you name it, they scarcely get a mention.

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We began our trip in Seattle, where downtown is a real mish-mash of cultures and cool places. You can also find Pike Place Market- one of the liveliest and best markets on the planet. It's a place where you can find just about anything and the fishmongers entertain crowds by playing catch with twenty-pound salmon.

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With the value of the post-Brexit pound not so healthy though, we had to be quite careful with budget. So rather than posh motels, we opted to break things up by investing in a $24 tent from Walmart.

Perhaps my biggest indulgence was a night at Silver Lake Resort, further south in Washington State. This is one of those rare places where you can literally fish from your own room, with a balcony right on the water!

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It revived happy memories for me, albeit of fishing on the completely opposite side of the States in New York's Central Park (a tale which you can read in my latest book, Crooked Lines). Panfish, such as crappies and bluegills might not be the smartest, but provide brilliant sport. American tactics are fairly crude, but you can have a field day by loose feeding and fishing with a British style float rig.

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I had an absolute blast with the fish, catching a stack from the room and also briefly being connected with a large bass that grabbed a tiddler on the way in! We also took a boat out for a few hours; and while the bass went missing I had some more sport with the panfish on the fly rod, which proved very receptive to bloodworms and bright loch style flies.

The other cool part was the sheer friendliness of our American cousins, and we sank some beers and fished alongside our neighbours who just happened to be from Portland, our next stop.

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This city is another colourful place and the spiritual home of the 21st Century hipster, awash with oddball humour and some of the best craft beer on the planet. Portlanders are notoriously nutty and original, starting up all manner of of strange businesses. Perhaps the most odd recent success story of the lot, however, is Voodoo Doughnut.

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This is a place where you can order an insane number of delicious and truly bizarre specials, including the signature doughnut, which is a voodoo doll pastry, served with a pretzel stick so you can stab it and watch the jam pour out. Even more strange are the three doughnuts that have been BANNED! one of these was a special hangover doughnut, which became a cult offering for hipsters struggling through the morning after a big night out (it was topped not with sugar, but crushed aspirin).

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It's a brilliant city, and as the IPA capital of the world I was in heaven. Brews such as Citrus Mistress (a wonderful grapefruit beer), Deschutes IPA and the arrogantly named Total Domination IPA are amongst the best you will find anywhere- and for larger appetites, bars will also fill you a huge pitcher to take away, known rather disturbingly as a "growler". Only in America!

Everywhere we went, we found great people- civilised and often cultured, shattering the regrettable cliches of the archetypal dumb white American. The folks of Oregon are friendly, smart and cultured. In the smaller towns and cities such as Eugene and Coos Bay especially, we found people amazingly kind and characterful.

Perhaps the only shock is the dark flipside of the coin, in the sheer number of homeless in the country. Many of these unfortunates have serious mental illness or addictions and it breaks my heart a little to think of how many tens of thousands there must be across the USA- not that we are necessarily some shining example here in the UK. It's a beautiful world we live in, but a damaged one, even in the world's wealthiest nation.

But I digress. We enjoyed the cities hugely, but I was most excited of all about discovering the vast forests, mountains and coastline of Oregon's national parks. Days were baking hot, but nights were cold in the tent. As friendly as our neighbours were, you do feel a bit of a beggar in a cheap tent, pitching up next to American RVs, which are ridiculously big, like hotels on wheels.

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Our next stop was the Umpqua River, where we had booked a boat day with guide Mike Shearer. What an absolutely epic place it was too. Broad and sparkling, with cinematic scale scenery and tons of smallmouth bass. I kicked off on the fly and was quickly stunned by the rod wrenching performance of these fish, with even the run-of-the-mill half pounders pulling like demons. That said, it was Paulina who had more fish, casting a plastic worm from the back of the boat. In fact, far from backing away they seemed to quite like the shade of the vessel.

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What fine looking fish these are too. We had them to around the two pound mark, also witnessing the odd bigger beastie that wouldn't take.

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Our guide was not only highly knowledgeable but great fun. We saw wild deer and many birds of prey- and perhaps the highlight of the day was when he dispatched a bass and threw it onto the water. Seconds later, a bloody huge, classically American looking eagle swooped down and nabbed it!

It was baking hot, but the fish didn't seemed to mind a bit- and by close of play we'd had over a hundred of these obliging creatures to the boat. Not huge fish but a whole ton of fun. Every tactic seemed to work. I had some nice fish on ultralight lure tackle and even managed to get a couple to take big grasshopper fly patterns right off the surface. A day I'll never forget and there's a fascinating article in there somewhere.

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We then spent an amazing few days driving and camping in some of Oregon's vast mountains and coastline. All of it was beautiful, but a couple of detours were especially remarkable. One was a trip to Umpqua Hot Springs, a site of naturally hot, mineral rich pools where you can have a relaxing dunk with amazing views of a rushing mountain stream, some seventy yards below.

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And then there was Crater Lake. We had seen the pictures and heard the hype about America's deepest lake, but little could prepare us for the ascent to this natural wonder. Passing through blankets of snow and steep, craggy roads we were met with very possibly the most spectacular view I have ever seen in my life. Vast distances and impossibly blue water. And no, I didn't fish there. It is possible to cast a line, but fish life is fairly scant from what I gather- and I didn't want to test my marriage by attempting to fishing at every stop. Sometimes it really is enough to watch and wonder.

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In fact, my next fishing sessions were brief, on other stretches of the Umpqua and later from a campsite at the far end of Clear Lake, a huge stillwater in North California. Not that I needed bags of time, because I found the bluegills and crappies very receptive to the fly. Even in quite murky water they seemed willing to grab a pattern, especially if there was a good dash of orange or red in it. Bites were not always super positive though, and a short leader seemed to work best. These fish really kick for their size too- especially when they turn broadside and run in bumping circles, not unlike crucian carp.

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The time goes so quickly on a road trip- a sure sign you're enjoying yourself. The Oregon Coast and the Redwoods were spectacular too. We must have passed a hundred rivers and creeks- but for much of the time I had to be content to stare and daydream.

San Francisco was our final stop and a place I have wanted to visit my whole life. Dare I say it though, but it wasn't quite the liberal, laid back place I'd hoped to find in all cases. Again, you have two cities. One of the well to do, and another of the lost, mad and homeless. We gave away our tent and some supplies to a young lady sleeping rough.

At least in Haight there is still something alive from the great hippie era of upheaval. Perhaps best of all was the gathering of drummers and musicians in the Golden Gate Park. It spiralled somewhere between genius and chaos, with sound shaking the air, a primitive sort of togetherness.

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We also had time to stop at the Aquarium of the Bay, a fantastic collection of Pacific and worldwide species. I'm always a sucker for these places. The real stars were shoals of big striped bass and an extremely rare rock bass- one big and seriously prehistoric mother.

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Perhaps it was the sight of all those amazing fish that made me eager to have one final cast from the city piers. I had a mere hour trying jigs with my LRF tackle, with our flight impending. But the biggest and most bizarre finale was still waiting. Something stranger than I could ever have imagined... a California Halibut, landed with the help of a borrowed dropnet and a gallery of Chinese fishermen and random tourists! It was an epic battle and one I might easily have lost on a 6lb trace! The full story will come out in the wash I guess...

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Marriage, Wrasse and Wreckage

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Regular readers of this blog will have heard, or been warned about Norbert Darby. He is as wayward as they come, and so I wasn't surprised when he turned up two hours late to my wedding by the Double Locks the other night. It's a pub I've had previous with, and a great place to have a wedding bash on so many levels.

So in his customary fashion, Norbert arrived rather late, half cut on a BMX and not especially smartly dressed. I was even more shocked to learn he hadn't been fishing in two years. Seemed odd, because we were once both glued to the banks of the Exeter Canal fishing for carp (as recalled in Crooked Lines). And so, in that drunken way that you do, we hatched a plan to go kayaking fishing on the South Hams.

From the off, you could probably file it under "seemed a good idea at the time." Lashing waves. A small boat. Norbert's love of adventure and warped sense of humour. I didn't sleep that well the night before. When you've just got married, it's not a great time to go missing or die. But Norbert was insistent, after another tin of cider, that he had done loads of kayaking in his younger days, when not driving uninsured cars and chasing barmaids.

So anyway, we faced a foggy start to the next day, weaving through backroads and laughing at the lack of civilisation and directions. Low tide was mid afternoon, which didn't seem so ideal but left us with some time. Or enough to fritter away in what looked like a garage-come-shop, but turned out to sell a whole heap of fishing tackle, local tat and all the rest. Norbert left with a four pack of Strongbow, some crisps, weedless bass lures and a 3D postcard with pigs on it, which he thought was the best 99p he'd spent in his life. But this is Norbert. He is permanently acquiring things, only to lose them.

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We reached our sheltered mark around midday and got sorted with kit. This takes some discipline with kayak fishing, because when you're out there, everything can get wet or misplaced, so you have to be organised. I put my lure boxes in a fly vest for security. We also wore buoyancy aids for safety. Really bad early 1990's buoyancy aids, to be specific.

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We took the plunge right from the beach, getting well out into the little bay quickly. The tide seemed quite reasonable, although the spot we were heading for seemed to channel the currents.

It is an eerie, exciting feeling travelling over rocky, kelpy ground in a kayak. It was great to see a mark I've fished since childhood from a totally different angle too. The odd larger wave would sometimes creep up and give you butterflies, but Norbert was a dab hand at steering the boat.

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We headed for a large rock that I must have looked and wondered at from the shore for the last twenty years. Now we could get to it! We'd packed three rods between us. Two lighter lure fishing outfits, along with a more no nonsense set up. I tried the heavier set up first with a Texas-rigged worm. I fished it tight to the bottom, jigging quite patiently and feeling for the bites. I got two early plucks, then nothing. But as we reached a really deep, fishy looking spot, I switched to weedless Black Minnow. I'd just cast some fifteen yards from the kayak and given a couple of pulls, when the rod absolutely thumped over. A pollack? A decent wrasse?

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It turned out to be a lovely ballan, not far off three pounds I would guess. Norbert's pictures were pretty shaky, but at least he kept us both alive.

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And I'm hardly joking, because after a break and a bite to eat, it was a very different sea we found. The incoming tide and an onshore breeze had kicked up quite a swell. It was tricky just to get into the sea without shipping lots of water. Not a huge issue, because modern sit on kayaks for fishing are very stable, and act like a giant air-chamber. But it's a pain when you have things like lure boxes and a camera on you, regardless of whether you have a dry bag.

Some of the waves on the return journey were large to say the least. The big ones would just pick you up like a toy. It was good practise, although fishing was often out of the question. You have to constantly anticipate and watch for currents and bigger waves. If you head directly into the waves, you get shoved up and down, but in safety. Whereas if you catch a big wave side-on, this is the biggest risk of the kayak rolling and getting pitched into the sea.

Eventually, we had to admit defeat and fish from the shore, since it had seemed way too risky to get into the rocky parts we really wanted to fish. It got pretty rough though. We started to get a battering and the General nearly got washed into the sea. A little disappointing, but there were still fish to be found from the shore, doing a spot of rock hopping and casting lures into the gullies.

I must say, the wrasse have been excellent fun this year but also quite a sharp learning curve. Having a session or two with Andy Mytton has really opened my eyes to the detail here. It is such brilliant, and surprising, fishing too. The trick is to fish lures right amongst it, in the rocks and kelp, hopping across the bottom foot or to with a degree of patience. The challenge for someone more used to freshwater fish, is the patience required. With the smaller fish, you have to let bites develop. But when a better wrasse arrives, the decisiveness of the take can be formidable.

A wrasse of two or three pounds can be too much for the lightest tackle, which explains why I was relieved to land another recent fish of that stamp from a different rock mark. Curiously this was on another more testing session where the larger lures didn't score- and the best of the day took a small 3" section of worm, rigged weedless. Luck had it that the shelf below was quite open and I was able to keep the fish from burying itself. Even so, the battle on an ultralight rod and 5lb hook link was hair-raising, thrilling stuff! A long-handled net came in handy once again too.

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Which is enough excitement for a bit. Because it might be June 16th tomorrow, but it's absolutely lashing it down outside. Although you can catch more from me in both the Angling Times and the Turrall Flies blog shortly...