Thursday, 26 June 2014

Postcard from a wandering drunk

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One of the equally wonderful and irritating things about fishing is that, rather like football, everyone is allowed their own "expert" say in the matter. Certainly the case on urban bits of canal, where I met Seb Nowosiad for some fly fishing. If the above picture is a bit wobbly, it's probably because the bloke who took it was already on his third tin of super strength lager for the day. We humoured the chap anyway, before Seb left him a roll up cigarette and we went in the total opposite direction to where he was pointing and giving his expert fishing analysis. Nice.
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The canal itself was about as clear as an alcoholic's brain too. Not as clear as we'd hoped, which suggested it could be a challenge to catch on the fly. The numbers of rudd and roach at the surface were a pleasant surprise though and given a good walk I was confident we might find some good ones. It might sound blinking obvious, but given murky water and flies it's sensible to use slightly bigger or more visible patterns than usual. A little beaded Tan Shrimp was commandeered by Seb and took several roach plus a skimmer, while I dug out a size 12 Black and Peacock spider, intrigued by local rumours of monster fish.  photo DSC_0101_zps9ad6e44f.jpg
That's the trouble with rumours though; you almost willingly daydream and ignore the fact that
a) The general public often don't have a clue what they're looking at with fish.
b) Anglers, and especially the casual ones, will spectacularly overestimate what they've witnessed (notice how tactful I was there. I could have simply said "lie" or "deal in more fiction than Penguin Classics").
Anyhow, perhaps one or two rumours had a grain of truth, because you always have a chance of nice rudd on the Taunton to Bridgwater. If you can get to the buggers. It was especially educational for Seb, who is a relative fly novice. For a lure angler, it is all too tempting to retrieve the flies all the time- when for many coarse fish you want to just let them be to settle naturally, with virtually no interference. Too much drag or a clumsy cast and you can blow it. I still make a mess of it sometimes myself, but as well as the odd bush I had several decent fish from the pokiest swims imaginable, including this fish of 1lb 9oz:
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After sweating it for months on the new "Canal Fishing" book, you might have thought I'd have had enough of them, but I've been doing more on the local cuts than the rivers so far. With it being light well into the evening I also had a blast on the Grand Western, where a whole troop of schoolboys were roaming. High on enthusiasm but low on knowhow, I felt duty bound to help one or two. After all, you don't catch many roach on 15lb line and three very dead maggots on a size 4 hook. They also kept wanting to borrow my polarising glasses to look at passing tench like this beauty:
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A little later I then caught up with Russ Hilton for a spot of tench fishing, which proved ultimately frustrating. Well, for me at least. Russ did ok, while I managed to miss them, including one where my worm had skilfully obscured the hook point to render my strike totally duff. In typical style though, Hilton came good with a couple of nice fish. It's a good job I never make bets with him:
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Other than that, I'm just getting over the inevitable demise of England at the world cup. At least as a half Swiss, I can follow a team that are the opposite to In-ger-land: underrated, under hyped and organised with that special efficiency that comes with having a German manager. In truth, I've still enjoyed the footy and even managed to combine it with some fishing, most notably at Stafford Moor, where Chris Lambert and me tried frantically via phone and radio to keep up with England's score. We may as well have stuck to the fishing in hindsight.
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We had a plan to tempt a catfish on offal, to give you the backstory, but to no avail. Several carp fancied a chunk of liver, but perhaps a much larger or more disgusting morsel is required for catfish? Back to the drawing board I think. For the record, both Beatties and Joseph's Lake are both outstanding "runs" waters should you fancy a crack at summer carp in Devon- and there's no better or friendlier fishery boss than Andy Seery for putting you onto a big catch.  photo DSC_0353_zpsb3ae9707.jpg

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The art of (sometimes) catching

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With the thick, warm atmosphere of summer finally here I've been spending plenty of time in wild places, as often as not just watching the water or taking a long walk as opposed to actually trying to catch something. As much as I love the outdoors and a cheeky beer though, fair weather fishing can be as listless and sluggish as the atmosphere. Unless you pick your targets carefully, that is. I love to fly fish in June, but scorching weather can be poor for trout. Rudd though, are the polar opposite. Recces covering several miles at a time are essential for me to locate decent fish, not only for personal fun but for those I guide in the summer. I hope this lovely fish of 1lb 6oz will be the first of several nice fish over the summer, whether they fall to me or someone I guide:

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There's a magic to summer in fact, when even the confirmed bottom dwellers of the fish world come up to play. The reason most anglers see these fish as "Uncatchable" is because they're eating natural food and don't take kindly to having a worm lobbed to them with float or weight attached.
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These two skimmers were hanging in the top few inches but would only look, not take a slow sinking wet fly, although I did manage a roach bream hybrid. And whether you catch or miss them, it's visually such good fun that even my non-fly fishing mates tend to steal the rod for a cast, such as confirmed pike addict Seb Nowosiad, who somehow managed to tempt perch as well as small silvers by poaching my four weight:
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Rather more adept with game tackle was my next guest Peter Davis, who was keen to both catch some coarse species and also revisit a pretty corner of Somerset where he walked as a boy. We tried several different nymphs to good effect, with some top class sight fishing but also a tiny indicator when the breeze made takes harder to spot.
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Peter had a hatful of pretty roach and rudd, mostly to small spiders, but was also unlucky not to connect with a chunky perch that kept following a streamer. Even so, it was a day of great viewing and plenty of quick takes from rudd of all sizes:
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Next stop will be the chub, now the rivers are back open, and I'm already scouting some great new places to try over the next few months and take more visitors. Do check out my site for a whole range of "Flies for Coarse Fish" and guided days at very reasonable rates- we're entering a terrific period for fly fishing and it's not unusual for my guests to catch half a dozen species in a day trip.

Talking of day excursions, a trip to Dorset last week rendered me awe-inspired but rather frustrated at the county's "Sculpture by the Lakes" attraction. Only an angler feels the true pain of such a setting: beautiful lakes with big fish and even a succulent bit of river next door, and none of it available to fish!
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Actually, it's all in the name of something just as poignant and pointless as fishing itself: art. Works by the appropriately named Simon Gudgeon surround the waters and, fishing or no fishing, they are absolutely beautiful.
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Last but not least, I leave you with one of the most romantic little fishing huts I've ever seen. Not sure why it's on wheels, but there we go:  photo DSC_0505_zps8c9265c0.jpg

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Elegant blanking, balsam and beginners

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My last couple of weeks have been enjoyable, if a little barren on the fishing front. Sometimes the fish don't play ball- or at least seem to lack my eye for a story. Perhaps I've changed as an angler however. Once I might have gone home thoroughly fed up after a blank but these days, if it doesn't sound odd, I tend to enjoy myself regardless. Yes I love to catch fish. But I also love watery places and people and a glass of beer. And there are few certainties in fishing other than two constants: when the fishing is rubbish it will always get better at some stage. And equally, when the fishing is brilliant it will never last for good. The only real constant pleasure is just being alive and enjoying the outdoors.
Just as well I'm more chilled these days, because I haven't picked the most ludicrously hard fishing. The Main Lake at Anglers Paradise can be challenging, but is usually worth a run or three, but nothing on my last overnighter. A shame, because over a quick glass of homebrew with Zyg, I thought I'd found the all new deadliest catfish bait in the form of a slightly rancid Polish Kabanos sausage. Terrifyingly potent and tough skinned to boot, I quite fancied it (not to eat, but to catch on). It could have been a great story too… maybe next time eh?
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Heading more coastal, I've also been enjoying the odd short session but not succeeding to any great level. The mackerel were absent off Sidmouth beach on an otherwise pleasant jaunt. I have been back on the smaller trout streams of Devon though. The trout are always willing, barring a flood- and among several options, the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme is always worth a go for sheer value and the wild places on offer. I've also been combining these sorties with a new hobby too: Balsam Bashing. I've always hated the stuff, but Theo Pike's new book on invasive species has really galvanised me.
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On reflection, the best fishing of the lot was enjoyed by some of those I've been guiding recently. Edward Ames had his first ever taste of coarse fishing at St Tinney Farm, along with his mum and dad. They picked up the basics very quickly in fact, catching carp, roach, rudd and crucians in quick succession. The enthusiasm of young Ed was a real highlight for me- the sheer excitement of a four year old with a fish is something truly magical. And impressively, he went from just about daring to touch a fish to holding one by the end of the session. Great little angler in the making I think!
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Nor was young Edward the only one to catch a great deal more than me these last couple of weeks. Entries for the "Fly For Coarse" contest are steadily coming in and results have been impressively varied. When your catches include everything from a 30lb pike to buzzer caught bream to a little gudgeon, you can tell things are really cooking!
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 photo PaulSharman_Bream_Buzzer_zpsf7c88489.jpgPerhaps my favourites have been the carp though. Deer hair mixers have been working a treat for many, but even more appealing to me personally is targeting carp with more natural flies. How's this for a belting mirror carp, taken on an Apps Bloodworm by Phil Dixon at Seighford Lakes?
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The idea is to slowly build a one stop resource at - and I'm also busy getting together two essential new sections: the first will be a guide to "Fly Friendly" coarse fisheries across the UK. In particular this means venues well suited to the fly, where an angler is safe to cast without those predictably bloody stupid comments about trout, JR Hartley etc. Equally exciting is an ongoing hunt for specimen captures to make up a list of "UK Record Fly Caught Coarse Fish", something which is long overdue. Anyway, watch this space. By my next post I might even have caught a fish!