Monday, 26 September 2016

Strange Waters Photography Competition Winners

The aim was to find the best and most unusual and adventurous pictures of your fishing. We had a whole raft of great fishing images, but in the end I had to boil it down, completely subjectively, to five pictures. Really grateful for all your entries, but here are the final entries that really stood out:

1. Jason Coggins: Fishtec Exclusive Fishing Luggage Winner!

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For anyone who loves wilderness fishing, Jason’s image and report summed up the charm of the islands of Western Scotland, such as Islay. Wild trout lochs are a real feature on some islands, but his shot was from the rugged coastline (love the rusted old wreck!). And if that wasn’t intoxicating enough, you're just a few yards from the local whisky distillery.


Jason wins an Airflo Flydri-150lt Cargo Wheelie Bag, a bomb-proof fishing bag fit for any fishing journey.
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2. Thomas Finney: Turrall Fly Pod Winner
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Close behind in second place was James’s picture of the coast at Stebley Point. An image that really captures the drama of shore fishing.

Thomas wins a Turrall Fly-Pod of his choice. These feature a tough, double-sided box and selections of proven fly patterns, from reservoir flies to grayling specials.
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Our three final entries receive a copy of Crooked Lines, my collection of twenty-four fishing tales, with exclusive artwork from Lord Bunn, available at DG Fishing for £9.99 or as an Amazon Kindle Edition for just £4.99

3. Christopher Kirkham - Book Winner
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Chris Kirkham’s Victorian moat is definitely a memorable place to fish, and just one of various striking water defences that can be fished in the UK. Several castles offer lakes or even moats to fish, while pillbox shelters from WW2 are a classic on some of our canals.

4. Nicholas Lawrence – Book Winner
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When things get really cramped on a river, you have to improvise a little. Or in this case climb a tree to get your fly to the waiting salmon!

5. Sam Wadman – Book Winner
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Some of you really do get around the planet for your fishing! A beautiful shot here, taken on Sam Wadman’s trip to the mountain lakes of Iran.

A huge thanks to all our other entrants, because every shot told a story and we loved all of them. Thanks also to Fishtec and Turrall for the prizes.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Fishing Roads and Fishing Reads

So much has happened in the past few weeks I am unsure where to start. Having got married in England, I had a second celebration in Poland last week. The weather was baking hot, and we had a wild time, going into the early hours with beer and vodka and songs.

Hung over and a little jet-lagged returning to England, the travels have continued too. I’ve been up into Somerset and into the midlands for the Pike Angler’s Club Convention, with semi urban places both closer to home and more obscure.

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The chub have been the real late season revelation. I’ve had lots on the River Tone, but if anything the Taunton to Bridgwater Canal has the bigger stamp of fish. This one went a little over four pounds and accepted a drowned terrestrial fly.

Meanwhile, the rudd and trout have not disappointed either. I also ran into one of those brilliant, weird souls you chance upon now and again. Chris “Hawk” is a curious old eco warrior, with more than a few tales to tell.

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We had a good chuckle at the state of the world on the riverbank, where he distracted me fairly successfully from the task of catching trout.

Chris has a hat full of badges, the world over his shoulder and a jacket weathered with the cause, the beginnings and endings of countless pub debates hanging like smoke. And the twang of Devon and the road.

There are fishing conspiracies too, stories of skate and sea trout and bass. He is an actual druid, a church verger and a protester of several decades, once listed as a criminal for his uncompromising position on the environment. He speaks of current projects, the good and the bad old days. But none of this is helping me catch trout.


I nod and miss another take in tumbling water, yards from where the river ceases to be a wild stream and becomes a world of dogs and children and bored townsfolk. Perhaps this is why I love the nutters. We’re also distracted by the dippers, talk of kingfishers and even an old woodpecker’s nest in a fallen tree.

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Of course, he knows where there are some bigger trout too. They always do. Upstream the river weaves and tightens. Little fish skitter away in thin, sandy water. But by the next bridge is a deeper pool with better push of water, where a tree casts shadows and a small weir starts.

A Deer Hair Caddis flicked into the corner has the desired effect almost immediately as a shoulder turns and the fly disappears at a gulp. It fights hard in the deep water too, sailing right under the bridge, a fit bright fish.

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Back in Somerset, some of the smaller drains have been well worth a look too, before the temperatures cool and the fish go down. The roach, rudd and huybrids have been hungry and willing takers, and knowing where the big rudd are likely to be, I’ve been scaling up my flies to a size 12 or even a 10 with my favoured soft hackled flies. Because while my general advice to simply catch fish is to try nymphs in the size 16-18 bracket, it’s easy to pull a tiny fly straight out of a tiny mouth on the strike. Wide gaped hooks are good for the job.

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I also step up tackle slightly with these bigger flies. A chub is always a possibility, or a hybrid (above, caught on a Black Spider) while a big rudd can easily break a fine tippet if he weeds you up. Modern copylmer lines are brilliant for giving a fine presentation without compromising on strength. I like a 4lb tippet, but will go up to 6lbs if it’s snaggy and there is the chance of a good chub or perch. My ten foot four weight rod handles them all, although it’s not the best for casting heavier streamers for perch fishing.

It was addictive, infuriating fishing in the end. The water clarity was just a little too dirty to sight fish effectively. At some periods I could see shoals of good rudd but they were keeping low and it was difficult to track the fly. I dug out some beaded spiders in the end, but it was still a game of anticipation, casting the nymph well ahead of the shoal and watching each passing rudd to turn or rise and gobble.

They are such game fighters on light tackle. Not outrageously fast, but broad sided and energetic fish. I just cannot quite break the two-pound barrier, but caught three fish all of over the pound and a half mark, to 1lb 11oz.

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Otherwise, I’ve also been on the road at the Pike Anglers Club Convention, as a guest speaker and with my usual table of books, flies and other things. One fellow bookworm I meet at several of these events is Chris Quinn. He’s a real magpie when it comes to fishing books and owns well over two thousand, collecting them incessantly. He has all of my books, signed and, well, in beautiful condition. He doesn’t read all of the books, because they must be kept in excellent condition, so I should take it as a compliment that he has read Crooked Lines.

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And if the truth be told, I am a bit of a bookworm too. I just don’t always get the time, but have been happy to see Merlin Unwin Books again lately. A month ago they were celebrating their 25th Anniversary and so I’ve been only too happy to meet old friends like Theo Pike, and new alike, such as Laurence Catlow.

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The Healing Stream is Catlow’s homage to the Rivers Wharfe and the Eden, and a life spent both finding and failing to find contentment. It has a rare confessional quality to it, delving into many of the places fishing writers don't usually tread. Because beyond the well-rendered tales from Catlow’s best loved rivers, there is a darker narrative of breakdown. It's about a man's loss and recovery, spanning decades along running water. And it's both bleak and beautiful.

The anecdotes from many years fishing are keenly set down and highly entertaining. There are also some interesting thoughts and terse wisdom on flies and techniques. It is both lyrical, but also argumentative in the best sense.

But it is the darker and more personal side that really sets the book aside. It’s about the river’s permanence, alongside Catlow’s struggles with the bottle, faith and the flow of his whole life. Plenty of interesting counterpoints and great writing.

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Nymphing the New Way: French Leader Fishing for Trout (Jonathan White)
is the other current fly fishing release from Merlin Unwin Books and could not be a more different proposition. This is a detailed, excellently illustrated guide to French Leader techniques- or in plain English, the art of fishing with super long leaders. I'm not sure Mr Catlow would approve, but for so many of us interested to see how these methods are used to catch some huge trout and grayling in difficult rivers, this looks a fine book.

It is technically thorough, but lifted from being a very dry topic by beautiful photography, some interesting chapters in fly fishing history and the direct input from several very talented anglers from around the globe, including young England International Oscar Boatfield.

I often swear by a long leader on stillwaters, but the French Leader technique is something I intend to try more often after reading this book. The information is incredibly thorough but there are also some inspiring fishing stories and useful bits, from leader construction diagrams to tips on fly fishing for grayling, large trout and even carp. Refreshingly varied and well worth a look for any fly angler I'd say.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Strange Waters competition: Best fishing pictures so far...

What a great summer it has been so far for discovering new fishing destinations. The new "Strange Waters" contest aims to bring together some of the most strikingly different, whether wild or man made environments. Thanks to all those who have entered so far, thought I'd share the best of them with you below.

Still plenty of time to enter, until September 25th. Just post your pictures on the Facebook thread or email me: domgarnett@yahoo.co.uk).

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A beautiful spot on the Isle of Islay for Jason Coggins. Ideal for a spot of fly fishing or LRF, with whisky distilleries a further temptation nearby.

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Wild tides at Stebley point. Thanks to Thomas Finney

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A beautifully composed shot of fishing the Fenlands, from Lee Saunders

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Fishing nutter Dan Sales courts calamity and a large bream. Don't try this at home kids!

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Welcome to the fairground: A holiday cast in Portugal for Paul Sharman.

Thanks everyone- and keep those entries coming! You can read the previous blog for all the competition rules and prizes on offer, which include travel kit, fly collections and signed books from yours truly!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

PICTURE COMPETITION: STRANGE WATERS

Have you fished anywhere wild, different or downright weird lately? Regular readers of the blog and my Angling Times "Far Bank" column might already know of my love of bizarre and off-the-beaten-trail places to fish.

I also know that many of you will be returning from travels in some pretty weird and wonderful places. Hence I wanted to celebrate the beautiful and bizarre places you go fishing with an exclusive competition, open from now until Sept 15th 2016


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The rules are pretty simple. All you have to do is share your fishing venue pictures, along with a sentence or two describing the place, why you were drawn to it and what's so special or unusual about it. It needn't be exotic or far flung either; travel destinations would be great, but you could just as easily capture somewhere distinctly urban right on your doorstep. Just to start the ball rolling, I've described five of my favourites below, from the streets of Amsterdam to Arctic Norway!

PRIZES: Just to give you an extra incentive, I've wangled several neat prizes courtesy of Fishtec and Turrall Flies to reward the best, funniest and strangest entries. These are as follows:

WINNER: THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL FISHING BAG FROM FISHTEC!
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Fancy winning the smartest, toughest solution for travelling with your fishing kit? Look no further than the Airflo Flydri 150lt Cargo Wheelie Bag (RRP: £169.99). With a big capacity and bullet proof construction, this is just the ticket to get your rods, reels and tackle safely to your chosen fishing destination. Even if it happens to be on the other side of the planet, or the luggage handlers do their job with all the finesse of a group of axe-murderers (sorry to all the careful luggage handlers, but some of you seem to love smashing up our fishing tackle. It's a bloody good job you don't work in childcare).

4 RUNNERS UP: TURRALL FLYPOD OR SIGNED COPY OF CROOKED LINES
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Fancy winning a brilliant boxed fly selection or a collectible 1st edition of my latest book? Four highly-commended entries will be rewarded handsomely with one of these great fishing gifts. The Flypod is a brilliant concept for the travelling angler, featuring a whole collection of proven deadly flies in a durable, double sided box at less than £25. Meanwhile, Crooked Lines features two-dozen of my finest, funniest and strangest fishing stories and some truly eye-opening fishing destinations (Described as "an absolute treat" and "like what might happen if Gierach, John Cooper Clark and Half Man Half Biscuit got together and wrote about fishing", if you believe the recent reviews...).

HOW TO ENTER: Just share your pictures on the DG FISHING FACEBOOK PAGE or simply email them to me (domgarnett@yahoo.co.uk). Do provide some info about the location, what you might catch and what makes it unique. You have ONE MONTH from now to get your pictures in (deadline: 25th September), and I'll be sharing and commenting on the images I like the best as we go (you have been warned!).


So without further ado, here are five of my most memorable destinations from both the UK and abroad to get your brain ticking over:

1. Arctic Norway
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It’s one thing to still want to fish when the mercury hits silly temperatures, but quite another to pack a drill and get fishing! In Northern Norway, this is a reality for anglers who must find a way or take an unbearably long break. On my trip to Skaidi, we used foot-long rods and fished through holes no wider than a dinner plate to catch Arctic Char. A reindeer skin protects your backside from freezing, while snacks include dried halibut and whisky. By night it got down to -20C, but we carried on fishing actually inside the tent!

2. Pant-y-Llyn, Wales
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Some of the most uncannily beautiful waters of all are those little altered by man. Pant-y-llyn is one of those places you simply have to fish at least once in your life, especially if you are a bit of an old school carp fishing romantic. You won't find bloated, boilie-fed forty pounders here. But you might just tangle with some of Britian's most classic looking fish, as it is one of the only remaining fisheries with true wild carp. It's also one of the tales featured in Crooked Lines, while you can also book a days fishing there yourself with the Wye and Usk Foundation.


3. River Wandle, London
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Urban fisheries produce some of the most surprising sport in the UK. Among the most fascinating is London’s River Wandle, where I fished with conservationist Theo Pike. In spite of a history of severe pollution, the river is now bouncing back and has everything from wild trout to roach, chub and even the odd barbel. Even so, it’s an odd feeling casting a fly or trotting a float while double decker buses and police cars pass.

4. Caerphilly Castle
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Since the age of about seven, I think most of us can admit to having a secret fantasy about being a feudal baron with ultimate power, medieval weaponry and a stinking great big castle, right? Well, it's never going to happen. But for a day at least, you can enjoy not only one of the oldest castles in Britain, but fish in its 25 or so acre moat! How cool is that? There are roach, bream, carp and even a few pike here. If you can find a castle type venue to top this, make sure you send us a picture!

5. Amsterdam
A haven for tourists and travelling hedonists, you might assume the waters of Amsterdam were too dirty to hold much life. And you’d be wrong! Countless canals and other waters contain perch, pike, carp and some excellent zander fishing. My good friend Dutch fishing guide Pim Pos has even cast a line in the city’s notorious Red Light District! The city is also famous for its art museums, fantastic food and drink, and strange smelling tobacco, which I am told can make one somewhat dizzy. Not that you probably need it with swims like the one below, complete with pair of dismembered plastic legs:
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Ok, over to you! All you have to do is post your pictures HERE... good luck.

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 www.westcountryangling.com), 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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