Saturday 20 December 2008

Naturally Does It


A long overdue jaunt to Bellbrook Valley saw a steely, misty day in pursuit of rainbows on imitative patterns. Lets face it- so much more subtle and rewarding doing it this way than yanking in lures. This time it was for Total Fly Fisher magazine- with the hope of taking fish close in on some natural patterns.
In my humble opinion, its a shame so few articles feature pictures of the natural trout food we seek to imitate. Bellbrook is phenomenal for natural invert life and didn't dissappoint- a quick dip saw tons of freshwater shrimps, hog lice, corixa and baby newts. Baby Newts? Yes- lots of them, not too dissimilar in profile to a wiggly damsel nymph pattern. Is this why the marabou tailed damsel is always such a staple at Bellbrook?
I wanted to keep on the smaller stuff to start with however, and the best patterns on the day were smallish shrimps and Daiwl bachs on a slow figure of eight retrieve- some ballistic fights ensued after very gentle takes and I can't wait to see photographer Simon Steer's impressions of a moody winter scene in print- along with some close ups of the naturals we copied.

Monday 8 December 2008

Breaking the Ice

An icy few days, to say the least. Strangely reassuring given all the current talk of global warming and a world utterly off kilter. The pike pictured above was one of three taken on Tiverton Canal on one of those mornings where your choice of swims is limited to those few areas not totally iced up! This one was around 6lb, along with a low double and a smaller fish.

Playing these fish was an experience in itself- the smaller samples in particular were surprisingly lively. The impression of the line cutting a trail through the ice, accompanied by an eerie, sweet and sharp shattering sound is one that will certainly stay with me- such a contrast to the dead still of the morning and the glazed calm of the water.

I have also been testing a secret weapon, up for review shortly- namely the new "Pike Bombers" -predator swimfeeders from Baitbox. I can remember messing about with feeders and chopped fish for pike before- this seems like a hassle free version on that theme. Results seem promising so watch this space for a full review.

Otherwise, life is still topsy turvy, with full weekends of work and mondays off! I have no complaints, given the current climate and it also lets me get thoroughly immersed in some fishing when venues are deserted. This shot comes from Somersets bleak but strangely beautiful River Tone. I love the wide open spaces here, and the golden last light was just perfect on this especially frosty afternoon:

Saturday 29 November 2008

Big Mouth Strikes Again

At last, a fish to repay many hours of numb toes and misplaced hope! A case of one bite, one fish- this one came from Exeter Canal, a tough nut at times, and took a whole herring.
AT times, I start to think that specimen hunting is a form of self inflicted torture- selective fishing is slow fishing more often than not and for me, not the be all and end all. When a plan finally comes off though, it's very satisfying. This 18 pound sample was no dead hearted winter fighter either- some hairy moments as she was lightly hooked (I never delay striking even with fairly big baits) and also intent on reaching submerged branches. My heart is still slowing down from the buzz.
Perhaps the biggest joke is that todays swims were very much plan B- I had fished them unsucessfully on a recent morning off, but really my hand was forced by finding my prime, more remote target area disturbed and heavily coloured up.
So, a hard won, very satisfying pike. What a massive head too! These canal pike can be really solid, impressive creatures, if a touch less elegant than river samples. Best of all, she was only very lightly hooked- the one treble she was attached by virtually fell out once she was landed, and after a quick snap or two she went straight back, almost untouched! If only every cold weekend started like this...

Friday 21 November 2008

The wind bites, the fish don't

A strange week for me. Lots of fishing, but only because my work rota has more holes than a packet of polos. Better than moping around at home I guess- but no less than three sessions in a row have been dissappointingly slow-come-useless.
Ok, so I sometimes aim for a big result and you have to accept that sometimes blanks are a fact of life. Earlier in the week, big commercial fishery perch proved elusive, whilst two shots at the Taunton to Bridgewater canal have been surprisingly quiet too. Its amazing how in fishing a stretch of water can be so productive one session, so utterly dead the next- confounding our best laid plans. Perhaps in all honesty I have failed to follow up my initial success on the canal, which is admittedly a part time haunt for the odd spur if the moment trip. I have yet to beat the fifteen pounder taken on my first ever visit almost two years ago. Sensible types would probably be elsewhere, but I have a thing about canals you see; they suit my long legs and restless nature.
So where am I going wrong? I thought I had found the perfect area- a little boat yard, teeming with fodder fish. However, everything from decent sized deadbaits to wobbled roach and even throwing a few lures around have seen nothing break the stalemate. Around two miles adjacent have also been searched, with one jack to boot, not much longer than the lure it took. Plan C this weekend is most definitely the pub. Sometimes you really can try too hard- far better to have a break and return fresher.

Monday 17 November 2008

Exe Rated

River Pike

Jeez, what a weekend. What a tough, time consuming weekend. Out in the Cotswolds, the pits really were the pits for many, many fruitless casts. The frustrating bit was that previously good areas yielded, well, zilch to cut a long story short. Two malnourished jacks apart, it was an exercise in futility- but that's pit piking I guess. Testing stuff- but always the chance of something special. And that's why we put ourselves through it, I guess. So many casts and steps covered. That finely balanced equation, huge elation at one end, just dog shit and dissappointment at the other.

Still, I can still catch them on the city stretch of the Exe, as the picture shows! One of three taken in a short session, this one went just over ten pounds. Seems to be the story of the season so far- the lazy afternoon produces after the hard luck story of the long hard slog. So, no beast this weekend, and it seems again that sometimes the easier you take it, the easier you get it.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Catch my Drift?

What a brilliant pike session with Exeter Angling Centre's Jim Moore this week, using a favourite tactic of his (and one I've "borrowed" from the lads myself)- scaled down drifter fishing. Using small suspended baits and letting them search the water in the natural tow and chop is simply a deadly tactic and Jim proved it.
Perhaps the only trouble was, I was on writing and camera duty and thus just an interested spectator. The day was not exactly hectic, but three fish were taken, including a cracking 11 pounder. A great result for a small canal- but I'm afraid the full story will have to wait for the Angler's Mail, where you'll also witness the benefit of yours truly freezing his backside off, wading into an icy canal to get some pleasing images, like the pic above. It's very difficult to get decent action/ netting shots when in the water on a spur of the moment- so rather than stressing the pike out any more, I went for some release shots. Once again, I can only credit Jim's example with this- this pike, a 7lb sample, fought really well and so he took the time to hold it upright and let it recover. Incidentally, all Jims fish were landed with JUST ONE TREBLE. With smallish baits, the pike tend to grab the offering whole and with just one size 4 or 6 treble he only lost the real tiddlers.

Monday 3 November 2008

Poles apart

Winter fishing means a fair amount of time on the canal for me. Unfortunately this can mean rubbing shoulders with some pikey types, and not in the fishy sense. I am never one to look the other way when anglers are clearly not following rules and have made a point of checking club licences of late. Pike fishing time is the worst of it too. You know the score- flashy lures bit no wire trace. No unhooking equipment. Landing net that wouldn't handle a goldfish.
The point is not to have a go, but to protect fish stocks and educate. Three local lads I met on Exeter Canal in their early twenties were just plain dishonest though. First I got the classic: "Left my license at home"- to which I give my customary: not much good there is it mate? Worse still, pathetic unhooking gear and net. Lie number two: "the tackle shop said this gear would be fine". Er, no. I know the staff there and perhaps their number one bugbear is clueless anglers who skimp on kit and don't respect their catch.
Thank god they hadn't caught anything- one got slightly irate, but I just calmly told them they couldn't fish until they had their licences. Off they went. On days like this, I'm glad I'm 6 foot 5 and 16 stone. Amazingly, they ranted about "bloody poles" before walking off.
The next angler I challenged, by sheer coincidence, was one of our much maligned Polish guests in person. But what a contrast; he was friendly and had a license. We spoke a while and I gently raised the subject of eating fish- at this the young chap pulled a face. "I hate the taste of fish!" he said.
We are very quick to judge and see things in black and white in this country. I have no doubt that some immigrants flout rules- but do we exaggerate without direct experience? I would certainly rather share my local patch with Piotr, rather than the trio of yobs I'd met earlier. But I'm not allowed to say that, am I?

On a brighter note, I'm enjoying autumn very much. A few pike are showing- although its slow going on the mornings I've sneaked before work. Some nice results have also come from recent photos, the following snap came from a day on the Lyd with Paul Hamilton:
Lyd Grayling

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Lady Gray

Grayling time on the Lyd is always a bit of a bitter sweet affair- some beautiful fishing at Sydenham, with some stunning grayling, but also the prospect of a long wait before you can return.
On this occasion I was joined by top snapper Paul Hamilton, to try to capture the rich colours of autumn as well as some grayling. Well, that was the plan anyway; it was typically slow in the morning and not brilliant for aesthetic purposes either.
I always find Grayling a real paradox- fussy and elusive one day, stupidly gullible the next. But what an exotic looking, ornate creature for a cold English stream. This trip required persistence though, as my best tied bugs, shrimps and czech nymphs were ignored for the first couple of hours. Worse still, I was facing a ribbing from Paul, by his own admissions not a fly fisher. And then the inevitable comment:"What you need is a couple of maggots!"
Very satisfying then, when finally I found a productive swim. A pink shrimp did the business for two half pounders, before the unthinkable happened- rise forms and a fish that weighed over a pound to a Klinkhamer. A beautiful male fish too, with a classic, sail fin. And not a maggot in sight...

Sunday 12 October 2008

Less than ideal conditions...

What a strange week! I've had two Exeter Canal pike blanks, getting up early before work, preparing meticulously and finding favourable conditions. Today it looked all wrong- sunny, clear and lots of boat disturbance. But at the highly sociable hour of 2 30 pm I finally hit a fish, a hard fighting mid double that took a roach deadbait.
Exeter Canal 14.08
Very sweet after all those hours of nothing- but what exactly is the moral of the story? Pay no attention to conditions? Get up late? Go fishing on a whim and prepare at the last minute?
In actual fact, the more military my preparation is, the less of a pleasure the actual fishing is, whereas a spontaneous, spur if the moment trip can be just as fishing should be- a joy.
The big canal pike was a nice highlight to several boring hours-but not as much fun as an afternoon on Tiverton canal in the week when work was cancelled at short notice. Chucking a few bits in a bag and finding a pretty spot, I had some cracking roach, rudd and perch on caster- followed by two jack pike taken in an hour with lures. So simple, but so satisfying catching even small fish in clear water, watching them all take. No grand ambitions other than killing time on a sunny afternoon.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Cooling Off

Autumn Roach

Roach fishing is always such a nice diversion- with the mass hysteria generated by carp, many of us have forgotten what beautiful fish they are. They are NOT nuisance fish, only suitable for pike bait. Nor are they unworthy of attention- unless you're just another of those sad cases who can only raise a grin for an enormous, bloated lump of a fish.
Actually I should have made this Roach trip months ago, when there was some semblance of summer. For some reason, I chose Goodiford Mill, perhaps because the roach fishing is pretty unexploited here. Hempseed and caster didn't yield a mega catch, and a cold morning meant that it was a challenge to winkle out a modest net. Apart from the odd little "pair of eyes" the fish here seem a good average size; and what beautifully coloured fish they are, with those bluish silver scales and orange fins.

Thursday 25 September 2008

A Load of Carp?

Coombelands 13

Cooler days are here again, along with clear, icy starts that seem to make for fairly slow fishing. I get the feeling I should be trying the rivers, but instead have been tackling carp waters. A trip with my old man resulted in the beautiful common above, not the biggest fish ever, but a stunningly conditioned creature, leathery gold and all muscle. And that was it for the day out at Coombelands- the intention was to compare old and modern styles of fishing, but this wasn't the best day to give anything a trial except our patience!

More recently still, I've been shadowing top all rounder Paul Hamilton for a forthcoming feature, which has been interesting stuff. Creedy was the venue- sometimes a tough nut when the nights are cold. How blinkered are we though, when it comes to carp? You'd think at Creedy that the only form of fishing that existed was a static trio of bolt rigs. Not for Paul though- who uses some canny tactics, including freelined and floatfished naturals such as prawn, to good effect. I'm saying no more for now though- that can wait for Angler's Mail!

Sunday 7 September 2008

The best laid plans...

Specimen Grayling

More washed out fishing trips for end of summer- I am now actually confirmed mad, having been out on some ridiculous days. Yes, sometimes the fishing is good on dour days- but there's dour and then there's COMPLETELY VILE & INSANE weather.

A real highlight however has been a trip to Wales. I absolutely love Wales. Tons of wild rivers, great fishing and friendly people. The Camarch Hotel where we stayed is a prime example- stunning scenery, a warm welcome and two rivers so close you could almost reach them with a double haul from your bed room.
I was after one a monster though, if I'm honest, one of those "once or twice a season 'oh shit!' fish". No joy on the Usk- although it was absolutely breathtaking and we did score with several 10-12" browns.
It was the Irfon where we really struck gold however next day- funny how in fishing a search for one thing can lead to something surprising and totally different to expectations. In this case it was a section of river absolutely stacked with grayling. Pure perfection- you know the swim, steady, slightly deeper water, far bank cover... after a tough start we had about two hours of fantasy fishing with many beautiful Grayling, topped by a 2.4lb specimen pictured above- a fish I will treasure for a long time. The only very slight pity is that I couldn't grab a better image. Is it me, or are Grayling the worst behaved of all fish bar eels?!! Even so- she went back well and the experience is more important than the celluloid.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Waiting for the Sun

Darts Sunset

What an appalling summer we're having. Yes, dour weather is often better for fishing, but you can only take so much grotty weather. With the rivers high and dirty, it has been a case of sticking to the safer option of lakes recently. Carp at least don't mind chocolate coloured water.

Creedy is normally a good bet on a short afternoon session- and if you're one of those radicals who doesn't pile in the bait and sit behind three rods, the top pond provides some nice surface fishing. Not easy, but rewarding- I had a short bash and managed a common of just over pounds, losing another. These carp really do need coaxing to feed and require a careful approach.

Dart's Farm was next and surprisingly tough. In fact, despite a rough, surprisingly very cold night (I never sleep well night fishing) and waking up looking like a tramp, I got the sum total of one line bite in twelve hours. That's the addictive frustration of fishing though- using identical tactics on a previous visit in not dissimilar conditions I had two good fish. The time wasn't wasted though- I noticed a lad busy casting a huge sea fishing float around with thick line. Let's face it- we all start somewhere. Rather than getting annoyed at the disturbance though, I thought I'd try and help. Swapping the shark gear for the smallest float he owned and using a small barbless hook, he was soon in business catching roach. The result was one very happy kid and a much quieter pond! I'm no good samaritan, but I do wonder why we're sometimes so slow to help beginners. Despite being fishless myself and looking like I'd been sleeping on the streets of Moscow, I went home with a warm glow inside.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Fickle Success!

Fernworthy in July
Another distinctly weird British summer is afoot; and after a good run things have got tricky. Nevertheless, perhaps there is something to be said for a bit of a slap in the face from reality from time to time? A sure catch would be, after all, the most boring thing on earth.

Back at Fernworthy for another try, I was shocked to find all the symptoms of a proper summer- sunny and windstill. Must have thrown me. anyhow, a very slow session followed- the old man, who loves this kind of weather, had a pretty 8" wild trout, whilst I tried every trick in the book for two bumped trout in several hours. My own frustration on days like this brings me to a different conclusion though- that my father has exactly what so many modern fishermen lack; a genuine joy in simply spending time fishing, catch or no catch. Still, on my part it was a great day for photography- typically the great fishing days are usually lowsy for aesthetic purposes.

The Angling 2000 stretch of River Culm a few days later was slightly better, albeit far less idyllic. Whilst some fly fishers seem to inhabit a world of glorious chalk streams and two pound trout, my own existence is more muddy banks, barbed wire fences and hard won half pounders.
The Culm was well coloured and pushing through harder than usual. Then it started chucking it down- still, a day off is a day off. By using nymphs of the large and gold headed stamp I at least managed to get odd bites in shallow water, where the fly didn't just disappear in the murk. A fiesty half pounder is a big enough victory in crappy conditions- a pleasant surprise, joined by a smaller sample and two pretty chub. In fact a small fish can be just as satisfying as a much bigger catch when the chips are down- or is it just me?

Thursday 17 July 2008

Reservoir Blogs

Dartmoor Brownie
What on earth is going on? Work mates are striking, fuel keeps rising and the work is thin on the ground. Time to go fishing- perhaps anglers should have their own protest, where they ditch the office for some fresh air and a rod in the hand.
Dartmoor is just beautiful at the moment and two reservoirs have been on my hit list. First up, Venford is ideal for a skinflint in search of wild trout. Choppy conditions on my visit and precious few rising fish saw me opt for a loch style team of three, fished a couple of feet beneath the waves. Nice when a plan comes together- it didn't take long before the first of three wild brownies had mauled the point fly, a small black special.
Next day was Fernworthy- also on the moor, but with the added bonus of bigger, stocked browns. Tough going and few rises again- but a Black Snatcher accounted for a lovely 13" stockie, along with a smaller, darker half pounder. A fishing paradox, Fernworthy is one of those venues where the bigger fish can be easier to catch than the small ones; the bigger fish gave a hungry, smash and grab take, whilst I spent a frustrating hour later on trying small flies for pint sized wild brownies just a few yards down the shore- the usual moorland staple, a black gnat, was flatly refused by these small risers. Who says the biggest fish are always the biggest challenge?!

Friday 11 July 2008

A Very English Summer

The national treasure that is the British Summer continues to work its magic- that wonderful July downpour along with our own extremely lame reaction of surprise and mild disgust. Still, if anything the fishing is usually BETTER when the weather is worse- or is it just me?

Enjoying the last of the recent T-shirt weather was Mark Wills from Exeter Angling Centre. I shadowed Mark with the camera for a feature session catching sea fish on coarse tackle at Brixham. Mark took a fantastically colourful mixed bag on float tackle. Something of an expert in this department, Mark uses groundbait, wagglers and light line to great effect; watch this space for a cracking summer feature!
Meanwhile, my own fishing has been soggy but productive. A rare trip to Creedy produced a twenty pound carp, plus two smaller samples, to old school tactics:
Creedy 20lb carp
I just love the rain here. For one thing it thins out the number of tackle tarts, using their bait boats to send rigs twenty yards out. Not having three high tech set ups pointed into the middle of the lake perhaps marks me out as a bit of a heretic here- but what the hell. You can keep your boilies and the rest- my fish all came on margin fished bread paste, over a generous helping of mash thrown in at regular intervals. The irony is that a second rod with boilies produced nothing. The prime bait? (-blush-) Somerfield value white bread. Those carp are probably still constipated.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Take the Tube

Whilst the UK and other bits of Europe are creaking under the weight of overcrowded cities and swollen populations it is refreshing to find a place where you can still go and roam, free from tescos, chavs and yet more new housing. Finland!
I just love it here. Thousands of lakes but not many people, great forests and wildlife everywhere. Summer as it should be: get up late, have a hearty brunch and then off to discover new waters, before late supper and a hot sauna. Scarcely gets dark in June, so no time pressures whatsoever.
So, what of the fishing? Well, there are coarse fish just about everywhere, and with a light spinning outfit you can have an absolute blast with pike. Ok, so they're not massive- the best I took was a lean eight pounder, but what stunning surroundings and quality fishing! Perhaps the trouble is we Brits are in danger of putting weight before everything- we have forgotten how to simply have fun. Perhaps it's just easier to relax though when you have an enormous lake before you with no human beings in sight!
My newest addiction is now float tubing- I can't believe how much fun it is; in some ways actually better than using a boat. In fact it is absolutely perfect for paddling around lillies and snags, casting for pike. When one follows right up to the side of your tube (and they don't half get close!) it's just awesome. "Intimate" I think you'd call it- several times I got splashed in the face by tail walking fish at close range!
Although the pike don't seem so huge, I get the feeling there are bigger ones in these lakes- the best two (seven and eight pounds) both came from weedy spots which also had slightly deeper water- you know where the better ones are more comfortable perhaps from how chilly your feet get! -At least, the warm and shallow water only seems to yield the little samples, cute though they are. In any case, I had a mouthwatering experience. There is just so much to explore here and I am already thinking of trying for the zander next time round. It is with a heavy heart I have been sitting in traffic this week, back to work on our crowded little island. No hares or woodpeckers round here, thats for sure. Not many lakes, come to think of it. The first thing you think after being in the wilds of Finland for two weeks is "what the fuck happened to all the trees? Why is everywhere so ugly and overdeveloped?!" Welcome back to England, dear boy...

Monday 19 May 2008

Slightly Wild

Why is it that so many trout fishers are averse to river fishing? Is it the percieved complication and high cost? Hard to say- but lately I've really enjoyed getting out and introducing some other, stillwater anglers to some favourite wild streams.

First up was work mate Pete Thomas, who couldn't believe just how beautiful the Little Dart by Witheridge was, and for just £5 a day! We caught several beautiful little brownies between us and Pete loved the whole experience, real commando stuff. I was almost a little apologetic about the size of the fish- which we had to 10". Pete, who is used to catching stocked browns and rainbows into double figures, couldn't have cared less- these brownies were the "real deal" in his own words! Have I converted someone?

Next week it was the turn of my Dad- who also tends to do the stillwater thing, but was pleasantly surprised by another Angling 2000 beat for the princely total of £5 each. We both had plenty to do, but thought, sod it! there are only so many afternoons this beautiful in an English summer. Again, lots of little brownies- no great rise today, but lots on nymphs, and an 11" stream beast to a PTN. Again, simple fishing- just a rod and a few flies; not scaring the fish perhaps the biggest challenge.

Monday 5 May 2008

Opening Day at Furzebray

Brand new fisheries are easy pickings aren't they? Not necessarily. All the ingredients were there for a cracking opening weekend at Furzebray- but the carp proved trickier than expected, although a few came out.

I tackled Furzebray with a view to a "making of a fishery" style piece and was impressed with what I saw. This specimen carp fishery looks anything but "new" and is a testement to thoughtful planning and hard work; on arrival I was greeted by a swimming grass snake and diving swallows.

So what about the fish? The carp were not impressed by lots of leads and spods crashing down, having scarcely been bothered by humans. "Uneducated" carp are not necessarily stupid after all. My other half and myself did manage two fish- but perhaps no coincidence that they came from a quiet margin spot that had seen less disturbance. A simply presented pellet bait dropped gently in the edge with minimal loose fed did the trick for two low doubles- and beautiful fish too; Tony has around 100 cracking British carp here, muscular and broad shouldered creatures that are growing at a frightening rate.

Saturday 26 April 2008

It's a Spring Thing

There's always something sweet about the first good session on the river for the year. The first dry fly catch, to see the trout rising again, not to mention first time of the year you go home without numb limbs.

Today it was The River at Wiggaton. Fining down and beautifully clear when we arrived- hawthornes and dark olives spotted early on got our hopes up- and we weren't let down. We usually split up and compare results later, but brother and myself happily shared the beat and still caught well today.

I hasten to add that aside from perhaps three little trout taken to dries (esp. a good sized hawthorne) nymphs took the lions share of the fish, presented new Zealand style, with our own GRHE patterns doing as well as anything. Had forgotten just how well these little trout fight! They love to leap clear of the water and time after time, our brook wands bent double before we were surprised at the modest size of these fit little fish. We took over 20 trout to half a pound, plus three grayling between us- all carefully returned. Is there any better way to spend a spring afternoon than on a beautiful Devon stream?

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Come fly with me

With spring proving cold, the pike season has gone into extra time. Cue another couple of sessions on the Grand Western Canal, Tiverton looking for some action on a fly rod.

Todays was the big test- a session in front of the lense of Anglers Mail photographer Paul Hamilton. Very cold night and some colour in the water not exactly a promising start- or was it the extra pressure of the camera?

Session started on a Dodd's Dodger- a roach pattern I really rate, but no joy. A change to my own pattern, the "black beast" brought about a change in fortunes however, and along with two small jacks two more sizeable fish were hooked- the better at eight pounds or so. Intensely frustrating though- they came adrift. Pike not so bold today, only gently mouthing the fly, perhaps the reason for only lightly hooked fish.

We then moved on but found the canal at Sampford Peverell too coloured- hopeless for the fly, so it was time to move again. Time was running out! Had I missed my chances? Had the crappy conditions beaten me?

Bloody minded persistence got a result in the end, in the nick of time the "black beast" scored again, and I played out a nice five pounder, praying it wouldn't come off. What a relief to see it hit the net! No monster, but a good result given the unpromising conditions- and it doesn't take a beast to really bend that fly rod!

The cruelty of hope...

March 15. 2008

Hope can be a cruel thing. So can the great British weather, which resembled an evil climate experiment this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not soft or anything- in fact, my problem is that I’ll fish no matter how revolting it gets and however hopeless the odds. In a secret, semi-sadistic way I even enjoy such “testing” days. Unless, of course, they involve 220 mile round trips, biting winds and high expense.

Saturday was a lesson in how to locate pike without being in any danger of actually catching them. Take a Cotswolds gravel pit, mix with six hours of pissing rain, add a large dose of misguided hope. Trouble was, it looked so promising. Dodging all the carp boys on the pits, we found an inviting little corner where the pike were stacked up, close to spawning in all likelihood. Lots of visible fish- absolutely no interest, despite several little return visits to see if that elusive feeding spell could be hit. Pike seem the total opposite to humans, who can happily eat before, after and perhaps even during (?!!) spawning.

I guess you can’t begrudge spawning fish though- probably far better just to leave them alone. Previous weekend saw an absolutely ballistic weekend bash with grouped canal pike; first bite came before I’d clipped up the line, another fish five minutes later! I switched to single hook rigs, took two more and then just left them alone. What is the difference between catching three or four decent pike and seven or eight anyway? Time to leave them be for a couple of weeks at least.

March 16
After the commiseration of a curry and beer evening recovering from yesterdays soaking, older brother and myself headed to the Bristol channel to join a boat party after codling.

Hope, as I have already stated, is a slag sometimes. Each angler paid £40 in boat hire and bait. Eight of us spent four hours in a choppy, frozen Bristol channel. I had the luck of catching the only cod- a tiny little thing, way undersized. Perhaps the most expensive four ounce cod ever in fact (you do the maths). At least on rod and line I could release it- rather than lobbing it in dead and moaning about size limits. Actually, I think a sodding great trawler is the answer next time.

You could tell the die hard anglers on the boat- the ones still suggesting we try “just one more spot” to the skipper, whilst saner individuals sheltered in the cabin. Still, those Siberian winds do wonders for the complexion- I had aged about ten years when we got back to port.

How confused must our fish be with the onset of global warming? At the shallow canal I visited today, the pike were clearly finished spawning and are starting to disperse – even in a relatively cold, unsettled spring like this it seems, they do their business pretty early.

Roll on spring is all I can say- brother and me had a decent three hour bash, but icy winds not great for elegant casting or warm fingers; glad I had a 9 weight set up.
As is typical in this disruptive weather, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion today. Water clarity very variable too, but once we’d found a clearer stretch, bites followed. A smallish black pattern worked- the water was full of fry and smaller patterns seemed to get more interest. We finished with five jacks, the biggest, at a mere three pounds still went satisfyingly well on a fly rod. In fact, the battle was every bit as good as my last gravel pit double on heavy gear!