Sunday, 16 August 2015
I type these words tired, but enthused after an epic weekend of fishing in great company, after the first ever Fly For Coarse summer bash. The idea was a footloose two days on different venues, with lots of species to chase. Which is why, slightly fuzzy headed from parts as far away as Sussex, we were gathered by the canal, early enough to draw some funny looks from the locals.
Which is where we come in really. With David West Beale, getting a bit of lip from a lady on a boat with a face like a disappointed teabag. He had spotted a solid perch in the central track, and was about to cast.
"You're not allowed fish within forty feet of my boat."
David was polite, bless him. I think I'd have pretended not to hear her, and got at least one cast in, before taking the piss out of her. But we saved the hassle and kept walking, and it didn't seem to matter because the whole canal was a picture. There were shapes everywhere- of roach, rudd and jack pike, occasional bream or tench, but also a steady breeze.
For the sake of the visitors though, I was mainly just glad to see the canal so clear. Among the faithful were fly enthusiasts Ian Sheridan, John Maskell and Andy Field. We mixed and matched tactics, with most starting on small wet flies. Among several hits and misses we landed roach and rudd, including one or two quite big ones, with small spiders and bead heads working best.
The Bridgwater to Taunton Canal can be fascinating for this- with miles to explore the next thing you see could be a shoal of small perch or a three pound chub. But I had also predicted we would find good perch. It's great fun fishing with mates, because you can chop and change methods, swap rods and spot fish for each other.
David West Beale had brought along some lovely perch flies and a light predator fly outfit, so I was quick to point out a good perch I had spotted in the main track of the canal. But until he cast, I hadn't noticed the other three fish in the swim, all a decent size. He put out a cautious, short cast first- but even though the biggest perch was some three or four metres away, he came hustling forward. With a single twitch the lips flared open, and with a careful haste, David had guided her into the net.
Wow! It was a really mean perch, an ounce over two pounds and a true canal specimen. The grin didn't leave his face for several hours I think- while the others all got plenty of bites and caught further roach, rudd, hybrids and bream.
Silver bream also followed, while the only hooked pike was one that had snapped at a small roach I was playing in, before letting go.
We walked for miles over the two days, to give everyone their dues. There were some great wise cracks, and some healthy needless competition between Ian and John, who are the sort of close friends who show their brotherhood by relentlessly taking the piss out of each other.
But perhaps what I like most about these gatherings is the exchange of enthusiasm and ideas. You get to have a cheeky look in other people's fly boxes, chew the fat and drink in some late summer sunshine.
After a long walk on the Taunton Angling Association waters, we were hot and really enjoyed that first pint. Some made their long way back, but for me and Dave there was still time for some late action on the canal. Fearing that the light was dying, we could still make out some silhouettes just under the surface. Chub!
I tried a flick with a small fly, but it just didn't register with the next fish I cast to. So instead, I reached for probably my favourite canal chub fly- the Spider Sedge (a long shank hook, soft mobile hackle and also a traditional feather wing). I lost sight of the fly but saw the chub I had cast in front of rise a little, and white lips gobble.
These chub are not exactly common on the canal, but always welcome and often a decent size. This one must have been a couple of pounds of thereabouts.
In fact, that late action, and the likely muddy state of the River Tone, sealed it for us. So David and I headed to a different bit of canal the next morning.
To cut a long story short, we added more miles and a few more fish to the bargain. Frustratingly though, I just couldn't find the shoals of better rudd, although roach obliged and I also caught both hybrids and a solitary silver bream. Nice for variety if nothing else. David also got bites, but struggled to tempt much of size- although perch and the odd pike would follow, they just weren't quite crazy for it. No fear- because he had a long journey back.
With a couple of hours to kill on the way home though, I decided to have a quick look at another bit of river alone. Actually, I'm glad it was just me, because the banks were horrible. Such is the way with good chub fishing. But here I'm talking nettles, brambles and all too often that horror of horrors: Himalayan Balsam.
I had been walking on an overgrown bank when the next step took me sliding abruptly into a seven foot drop, right in thick nettles and muddy reeds. It's lucky I'm tall really. Otherwise I might have been stung far worse- but it was one of those nasty moments. And there then follows the horrible process of trying to clamber up the bank, up to your armpits in stinging nettles.
Thoughts run through your head in these testing moments: "You idiot, what are you doing here?! You're stung to shit and the river is too coloured…"
But crazily, from my new position I started to see rises upstream. Worth a go?
The stings were tedious, but I decided to get wadered up and be bold- I had already been humiliated by almost falling in, so what the hell? Better prepared this time, I managed to get myself into two or three decent positions, using the reach of my ten foot four weight to reach out over the foliage.
Because of the high, still fairly muddy water I went big and bold with fly choice, fishing my wasp pattern, the "Jasper" or some grasshoppers I've been tying lately. The fish were surprisingly keen to rise, given the murky condition of the water. A missed a good solid fish beside an overhanging bush, before tempting one of his shoal mates to come up and gulp. I can think of more glamorous places to spend your Sunday, but this chub was worth it:
Wednesday, 5 August 2015
A crazy summer so far, with hardly time to stop for a pint and a fish, or even to do this lousy blog- for which I apologise I've been a bit slack with. But I've been secretly busy. I've enjoyed the company of lots of new anglers with my coaching days and with Turrall at the recent CLA Game Fair. We had an amazing weekend teaching youngsters how to tie flies. Do check out Turrall Flies on Facebook and the current blog for lots more pictures, news and all good things fly fishing.
Talking of childish things though, I also recently had a great little adventure with Mark Everad in search of some smaller coarse fish. Some of you will already know of "Fishing with the General", but what you might not know is that Dr Mark first gave me the idea.
We had this idea of a crazy mission to hop venues and catch many smaller species- but I felt that someone as big and clumsy as me holding a gudgeon or minnow just wouldn't cut it. So I hired the General, for 20p at a car boot sale, and the rest, as they say, is military history.
We had a really fine time of it anyway, jumping around small streams, village ponds and finally the very pretty Kennet and Avon Canal where it meets the Somerset Coal Canal. We had lovely ruffe, gudgeon and other species. The Doc also caught a lovely hybrid, while the General fought with Mark's 1960's Dalek and also landed some utter monsters. Proper fun fishing, with bleak, canal dace (a real rarity), perch, bream, eels and roach also joining the party.
To be honest with you, sometimes I crave some simple bread and butter fishing. And closer to home, the canal is so near me I don't need much of an excuse to go and waste an evening. You know, a cheeky couple of hours that turns into four, perhaps with a pint thrown in. You can't easily fish down at the Double Locks, because the pub get funny, but take a little walk and there are swims that hardly ever get fished.
I also love it because I used to fish here as a kid, watching the bream roll on a summer evening. To my pretty amateurish approach at the time, they seemed like amazing, elusive fish. I caught far more eels than I ever did bream if I'm honest; writhing things that give you a satisfying fight but really bugger up your hook lengths.
This time I had no eels, but still tackled up tough on the pole (6lb rig, size 12 hook and strong hollow elastic), half fancying a tench or bream. I prepped the swim with four decent tangerine sized balls of ground bait laced with caster, chopped worm and a little hemp, and fished over it into some 12 feet of water just into the central track of the canal. Exeter Canal is bloody deep, for those who don't know it.
I had a string of perch first, before roach arrived. I'd already had a couple when the next fish started behaving strangely on the way in, suddenly pulling sharply towards me. I soon saw the reason why- it was panicking at the large pike following it. In a split second I saw a real alligator head lash out and the fish went plunging away into the middle of the canal, elastic absolutely streaming after it.
I never play the prima donna when fishing, preferring to let passers by get on with their cycle or dog walk or whatever. But over the course of about six tense minutes, a small crowd started to loiter, paralysed by the sight of the stretched elastic and wickedly bent pole. There were some proper football crowd noises from a bunch of rowers including the terrible advice to "reel it in" (what, on a pole?). There was an audible "oooohhh!" when the fish came off, but I was almost relieved.
That killed the swim for a bit, predictably. But after a top up with some chopped worm, I really fancied the last hour of light for a bonus fish of some description. A head hooked worm on a twelve led to a better stretch and something nice and weighty.
A very nicely proportioned bream of four pounds or so anyway, and that all important bend in the rod. Sadly though, these evenings are not so common at present as I chip away on my next book. It'll be a collection of some wild new stories, along with the very best bits and some secret gems from the past decade or so of words. I also have Sheffield artist Lord Bunn collaborating on the artwork. Here's a sneak preview with an early draft of the cover:
Thursday, 2 July 2015
A new season trip to a familiar river brings both excitement and a little uncertainty to the angler. Will it be the same as you remembered? Will the fish be in the same places? I was hoping for classic river swims and aquarium clear water for my latest return journey, and I got it as I took Chris Kirkham for a guided fly fishing trip on the Dorset Stour.
Chub were our main target, although the river can and will also produce dace, roach, perch and pike on the fly. An interesting prospect really, because although it is a notoriously popular stretch, the fish don't see many flies.
It doesn't get a lot more classic, actually: think weed rafts, trees and gravel channels. Better still, craggy bits you can wade too and play a game of cat and mouse with the chub. These great fish also have a reputation for trickiness, with the regular fishing pressure making the fish notoriously spooky.
Although we were spellbound by the river, it made good sense to give Chris a quick bit of casting tuition. With chub it is a case of short, accurate casts without alarming the fish. His overhead cast steadily got better on the day, while he also quickly picked up side and catapult casts, so useful for ducking into tight corners.
What a sight the river was too. Bravely, having no waders, Chris waded in shorts and old trainers. I think he had one or two of those "ooohhhhh…cold…" moments, but actually, wet wading can be a nice exercise on a baking hot day- and this was a record shaker.
I'm going to be covering more on the subject of chub fishing in a feature or two, but both the fly choices and the antics of the chub are always something that fascinate me. They are so different to trout for one thing. They will often respond to a twitch, rather than merely a dead-drifted fly, for example. I was trying to reinforce this message to Chris, who then executed it nicely. We had found a couple of little pods of fish and after an early missed take they would rise up to look at the fly, but then turn away. The next time this happened,the fly began to skate a little across the current. A little twitch and those big lips opened. What a lovely way to break your duck for coarse fish on the fly, and very well fished.
There were other takes and missed chances galore, and I was also glad Chris had booked just the half day, because it gave me the chance to get stuck in too (I don't normally fish when I guide, as a rule). So we took it in turns and spotted a real variety of life on a long walk. There were sensational numbers of damsel flies of many types, hordes of dace and even a large river carp.
And although the chub remained tricky, they continued to inspect and rise to our dry flies. We had a great explore, also casting for smaller fish and, in the case of the dace, often striking at thin air. Quite how a one ounce dace thinks it is going to eat a size 8 hopper is beyond me.
Speaking of patterns, we tried big hoppers, Stimulators and others from my Turrall chub selection, but the best was the Jasper (that's Westcountry slang word for a wasp). Quite why a fish that spooky finds such a big, gaudy fly appetising is a curious one to say the least, but sometimes the temptation just seems too much to resist.
No world records on the day then(for that, you want "Fishing with the General" who, we heard, had an eighty-pound chub) but what a great day out. Should you be tempted to book me for a day's fly fishing for coarse species, whether here or my home in the South West, do take a look at the website. Actually, it also has some cracking flies for chub for sale too ;-) www.dgfishing.co.uk
Still some of the best value wilderness fly fishing around at just £10 a day (try www.westcountryangling.com), Dartmoor is a beautiful place to spend a day roaming and casting. It also happens to be one of my favourite places to run guided fly fishing days for those new or returning to the sport, because the trout, while not often large, are certainly hungry and numerous.
Joining me for a ramble across Dartmoor was Nick, who is more used to coarse fishing. We stopped at the Two Bridges Hotel, where you can pick up a ticket and get straight onto the West Dart.
The terrain is boggy and quite up and down out here, so waders are very useful- and wellies are an absolute minimum. We could see lots of insect life, and in fact the dippers and wagtails were already picking them off as we approached the river. A particular delight were several of these Yellow Sally Stoneflies:
With the water level low and clear, I set Nick up with a light four weight outfit and a simply dry fly on a 3lb tapered leader. He had a casting lesson for the first hour or so and quickly picked up a tidy overhead cast, before we tried for a fish.
The fish rose rapidly for a small emerger, so rapidly I think Nick was taken aback and it was only a few snatches later that he managed to catch a trout. Most up on the moors are not big, but they’re certainly pretty. It was also a good exercise in watercraft and reading the river. Studying the little pools, bends and sections of cover, we did spot a few better fish, including one that looked about a pound. That one spooked, but connection was made for a few exciting seconds with another slightly better trout, just beside an overhanging tree.
By the end of the day we must have had dozens of takes and several small trout, an experience that should hold Nick in good stead. Do take a look at the guided fishing section on my website (www.dgfishing.co.uk), if you’re interested in a guided fly fishing trip on the streams of Dartmoor. From a rambling all day adventure, to a short afternoon session, I can tailor something to your needs. You don't need any previous experience and I can provide all the gear for an enjoyable day.
Naturally, we couldn’t hope to catch a trout as big as the General this week (above), but we’ll keep trying. You can read his continued ramblings on the blog and facebook page.
Sunday, 28 June 2015
Of all the parts of Europe I’ve travelled to fish, Scandinavia always has a special pull. Followers of “Crooked Lines” or readers of “Tangles with Pike” will know about my adventures in Finland, lure and fly fishing. But this time it was Norway that drew me back, and the promise of some excellent predator fishing with my good friend Geir Sivertzen, aka "Dr Hook" because of his expertise working for Mustad.
It was to be a trip in several parts, with boats, cars, big lakes and breathtaking scenery. First we stopped in Gjovik, on the banks of Lake Mjøsa: a monster of a place at over 110km long and very deep, trolling for big, predatory trout.
We had a brilliant welcome and beers at the fishing club in Gjovik, and it was like something out of a story book. You know the one, you probably read it in Tin Tin or something. The cabin by the lake. A crammed display of lures; a huge lake trout and a pike, mounted behind glass. And best of all, I kid you not, in the cabin next-door we met the ex-captain of the local paddle steamer, sat there playing cards and drinking scotch.
I was also in the great company of Dutch angler Pim Pos, and Welsh actor and keen fisherman Julian Lewis Jones. The local beer was great too (can you believe my luck, Nordic IPA) , and we had a fine time trading stories and jokes. Julian had us in stitches with his comedy accents, while the crazy little Dutchman managed to start about six different fishing debates all at the same time.
As for the fishing, it was atmospheric stuff, covering miles of water in the late evening and watching the sun never quite seem to set. Myself and Julian hopped on a boat with Kim Vegarde Sunde. An absorbing, if sometimes slow game, trolling for big trout. But we waiting and talked and learned more of the lake.
Mjøsa has some 22 species, including the usual coarse fish (roach, perch, bream, pike) but also rarities like burbot! There are also grayling, whitefish and several others, but the most numerous small fish must be the smelt. It is these fish that form huge swarms in the upper layers of the water and provide the main diet of the trout. Unsurprisingly, slim plugs of around four inches long work well here.
The night proved a test, but well into the early hours we did find our trout. Beautifully silver and deadly they were too. Ours barely raised an eye brow at between two and four pounds.
If anything though, we were rather unlucky with the unseasonably cold and wet weather on the first couple of days on our trip. But this did give us time to relax and take a look at some other random diversions, including the world's biggest fishing hook (outside the Mustad HQ) and even a cute little crucian carp pond that I tried with Julian:
Our next adventures took us on a whistlestop tour of two other lakes, where pike were the target. We battled lashing winds, rain and minor disasters including a buggered up outboard motor for the next couple of days- but also some fantastically wild pike fishing. When you have such a huge amount of water and so few pike anglers, the potential is huge!
For the lowdown on tackling these lakes, you can read a more extended account in the Angling Times soon- but suffice to say they are both a challenge and pike anglers dream. Searching tactics worked, casting lures most often, although I also fished the fly.
We fished both Lake Steinsfjorden (lots of islands and numerous pike) plus Krøderen (deeper and more challenging, but the pike often average ten pounds and grow into the thirties!). Some of the lakes have shallow areas where you can cast and rove for smaller but more numerous pike, but often the secret of finding the quality is to look for the drop offs, where the depth plummets from a couple of metres, to much deeper. A fish finder is also a plus if you can get hold of one.
We saved the best right till last as it happened our trip, with this lovely long pike on the final day:
It was a fantastic, testing, unpredictable trip, and we also learned many other lessons:
-The national food of Norway is not herrings but hotdogs
-Norway's best beer is called Aass
-Never trust an outboard motor.
-Never trust a Dutchman with a Norwegian TV presenter
I should also give a kind mention and a link to the good folks who put us up (and put up with us!) for our stay- because the hospitality of Norway is legendary.
The country might have a reputation for being a little expensive, but it needn’t be. For a family or small group, there are some superb self-catering lets and in both the following places boat hire is readily available too. You can also readily get to most locations by bus in Norway, right from Oslo Airport:
Bjertnes Lodges: (above) Delightful wooden lodges, right on the banks of Lake Krøderen. The clear, cold water makes it ideal for summer pike fishing. Boat hire also available if you book in advance. www.bjertnes.com
Utvika Camping and Lodges: Just 40 minutes from Oslo by car or bus, this lakeside campsite has both tents and cosy self-catering lets. They have boats to hire and the nearby Lake Steinsfjorden (a part of Tyrifjorden, right by the campsite) has a great head of pike, perch, trout and other species. www.utvika.no
Other useful resources for a real wealth of fishing are available at www.visitnorway.com and en.gjovik.com
Thursday, 28 May 2015
Greetings to all blog readers and followers. Hopefully you've managed to track down more "Crooked Lines" posts on my website, where it will now live. Do keep an eye on it as the year progresses, because I haven't abandoned you- regular posts are still appearing that I hope you'll enjoy. The latest ramble, with some cracking canal fishing, can be found here: http://dgfishing.co.uk/canal-chub-other-random-fishing-encounters/
Meanwhile there are also a couple of other bits you might find entertaining. Perhaps "least" of all in terms of size is the fresh piece of nonsense "Fishing with the General". A look at mini species (or are they world record fish?), along with a friendly slap in the chops to the modern specimen fishing scene, this should be a lot of fun. Click here to read the blog and do also check out the General's Facebook page. If you don't, I will fill your waders with maggots.
Otherwise, you can also follow my craft beer blog "IPA MONSTER", and I'd also urge you to keep an eye out for Issue Three of Fallon's Angler. Out very, very soon this is quite simply the best read in fishing. Where else can you read Chris Yates and a host of others in one publication, bursting with great stories and free of the usual sponsored guff?
Monday, 4 May 2015
A big hello to all my blog followers, along with a bit of a change this week! My blogging activities are now branching out in a few different directions. I'll be writing more new content and entries than ever, which I hope you'll continue to enjoy:
CROOKED LINES will be moving to my website, here: www.dgfishing.co.uk/blog Rest assured, it will be the same entertaining/new/odd stuff as ever, just attached to DG Fishing.
FLY FISHING ACTION: I will also be writing an additional blog covering fly fishing for trout, coarse fish and all sorts for Turrall Flies HERE. Please do keep an eye on this, as well as their Facebook page and Twitter updates for all things new and exciting in the fly fishing world. Do give them your support, likes and follows. Lots going on and without folks like Turrall I simply cannot do what I do!
The "Fly For Coarse" competition will also continue to run, at the usual website and Facebook group.
MONSTER BEERS: For any of you who enjoy craft beers, my newest blog might also be of interest. It's called IPA MONSTER and it will feature various great brews, pubs and more. After all, a man cannot survive on fishing alone, right? Click here for a taste of the good stuff.
Otherwise, you can catch my latest work in the excellent indie fishing quarterly FALLON'S ANGLER, as well as pieces in FLY FISHING & FLY TYING MAGAZINE, while I'm also in every other issue of COARSE ANGLING TODAY with "The Far Bank" column and also occasionally in the ANGLING TIMES and a few others.
Any other news, I will update this blog page in due course.