Friday 28 September 2012

September spawned a monster...

Photobucket With time short, and conditions as unpredictable as ever, September has closed with a trail of budget accommodation, blustery waters and bloody fingers in search of pike and other species. With fuel so pricey, sometimes the only way to make ends meet is to kill a few birds with one stone and take a road trip. A successful one, I'm pleased to add- as you can see from the state of my fingers. Last week, it all began in slightly calmer style as I was delighted to guide fly convert Owen Haynes on what looked like the last good day of summer. We had a blast with lots of visual fish present. Despite only relatively recently taking up fly fishing, Owen put spiders to good use in some of my favourite spots, taking a good tally of fish- and was unlucky to miss out by a hair's breadth on what looked to be a real monster rudd. It matters less when you catch a hatful of pretty, nicely conditioned roach: Photobucket I always like to send folks away with some bonus flies too, and keen to catch a pike next, Owen went away with some new pike patterns for a spot of "field testing"! Photobucket Shortly afterwards, I was hurtling across the country to catch the PAC Convention, along with some strategic stops on the journey. If you travel light, you can quickly set up anywhere- and I couldn't resist a shot in Somerset on the way up. A little disheartened to see the carnage and bare spaces created by the weed cutter in operation, I was relieved to find a shoal of chub on the canal. They just wouldn't rise for a dry fly, but a Spider Sedge flicked to the edge of the shoal was snapped up by this nice fish: Photobucket After a couple of jack pike on the Severn en route, I rocked up in the Midlands to continue my shoe-string fishing tour on the reservoirs. With a good handful of waters to choose from, you're spoilt for choice, but a day with Zoota Lures maker Alex Prouse (see was a must. I had admired his beautiful jerkbaits at a couple of shows in the past and couldn't wait to see them in action. Photobucket I've enjoyed jerkbait fishing before- but usually with the solid variety you work with the rod tip to swerve left to right. There's something extra special about a model someone has tested and finished by hand however and the pike seemed to agree. Drifting to cover plenty of water, we started to get follows and hits. Alex was first into a fish, a nice double: PhotobucketThe day was exciting enough when I spotted a really long fish follow. Alex recommended a switch to a smaller "mini Wagtail"- and fatefully, ten minutes later, the line stopped and I got that nervous excitement of a fish that held deep and ponderous. At the first sight of it my jaw fell slack. Bloody hell, I was a gibbering mess! Some big water fish are thicker than your leg, others are really long: this one was both. I would be lying if I said the fight was a breeze- it was torturously edgy, as the fish was only hooked lightly by one treble. I was having horror visions of another pike in this bracket I hooked last season on Chew, which shook its head and was gone. Not this time! Photobucket At 27lb 10oz, I was supremely grateful to Alex and his brilliant lures. I don't usually dare dream of a pike anywhere near size until much later in the season- and to catch it on a lure was doubly special. Just to prove the lures were no one hit wonders, he proceeded to catch some lovely pike of his own among a string of spine tingling follows and big hits. Not only are these lures deadly- they're also a lot tougher than those I've used in the past. And if they get really hammered, a lighter can always be used to make running repairs! Photobucket The next day was a complete change of scene as I fished elsewhere with predator fly expert Nigel Savage. We had further fun with some very scrappy pike, but I was especially intrigued by his tactics for zander. This couldn't be more different to casting for pike, with jig style flies and depths often 30ft or greater to contend with: PhotobucketI would liken it to jigging- but by no means in a dismissive way. Flies are trailed and carefully worked behind the boat, rather than repeatedly cast, which would be fairly ludicrous with the vast depths involved. Doing everything by touch is a lovely way to fish and Nigel took several zander from the depths. Photobucket It was also a great week for meeting other pike anglers at the PAC Convention, where I had the pleasure of giving a talk to a group of keen youngsters. With areas like rigs and catch and release well covered by seasoned heads, my remit was the rich area of pike legends and tall tales from the archives. From the great Mannheim pike myth, to tales of geese, dogs and small boys being eaten, it was all good, far-fetched fun. In fact, the pike season couldn't have got off to a more rewarding start. I'd also encourage Westcountry rods to check out the Devon R13 PAC blog (see my links page at for upcoming events. Nathan Edgell is first up in late October at Mill on Exe- with an exclusive water fish in and other good things to come.

Monday 10 September 2012

Cheap Seats vs Exclusive Beats

Photobucket I've never been one for forking out mega bucks for my fishing. It's not any lack of love for stunning private waters, but more lack of funds. You do get the odd perk out of writing about places, but the phrase "there's no such thing as a free lunch" also applies. Just like I'd never want my output to read like a sales pitch for a sponsor, nor should it read like a fishery brochure. And besides, I quite like it when my viewpoint comes from the cheap seats. Where there's muck there's interest. Where there is dirt there is truth. This is why Rimbaud and Baudelaire frequented gutter bars and cemeteries rather than five star restaurants. That, and the fact that they were perpetually wrecked on absinthe. Photobucket This week has been a tale of two very different river settings. Firstly, you have the free stretch of the Culm. I've never investigated this place properly before, hence it was a bit of an awakening. Sadly as well as butterflies, birds, chub, dace and trout it also has litter and dodgy types; cows and dogs disturbing the water in at regular intervals. Not surprisingly the best fishing came from taking a walk (or should I say a wade) away from the better trodden areas. Like that craggy bit by the M5. You know the one, the place you must have scanned 1000 times from your car and thought "I wonder what's down there?" Well, I gave it a crack: Photobucket Was the fishing electric? In a word, no. But varied and challenging, yes. I fished a Klinkhamer and hares ear combo to find dace and a couple of sporty trout, as well as losing what I suspect was a half decent chub. The dingy bits were so overgrown I stuggled, but on some of the shallow, sunny runs I got some lovely rises to the dry fly. Beautiful too, are these Culm trout. Sunny gold and vivid. This bit of the Culm might not be Premier League fly fishing then, but hey- it's free. Photobucket My next outing couldn't have been more different. An invite to spend the day on a quiet -and usually very private- stretch of the Exe through the kindness of a family friend wasn't to be sniffed at. It was a place so beautiful you had to keep reminding yourself that you weren't trespassing. My brother was already frothing at the mouth with the prospect of salmon, but I wanted to make sure I put something in the net first before giving them a cast. Grayling are a particular favourite. They definitely thrive on neglect- and of all the fish I believe they are the most fragile and easily killed by careless anglers. The nice thing about grayling on salmon waters is that you know virtually nobody is fishing for them. I found plenty of lovely, steady paced runs with 2-3 feet of water and rising fish. Most wanted the dry fly: Photobucket It soon went from good to outstanding, as the rises increased and Ben hooked a salmon further up. The next grayling I hooked was in a different class to the rest, vast in length by comparison. They are one of those fish that really tantalise as they come towards you; I love that moment the dorsal fin is hoisted and for a brief moment the fish is perfectly frozen before you. My brother had the only scales sadly, but it was 17", quite possibly a two pounder. Who cares, figures are for maths teachers and it was exquisite: Photobucket I've written before about the huge influence confidence, or a lack of it, can have on fishing success- and on this occasion you felt anything was possible. Ben had already caught a salmon too, so there was only one way to try and finish the day. I aimed an orange Pot-Bellied Pig into various tempting, boiling spots along a far bank channel. After about cast fifty, I was still hoping and almost tempting fate asked Ben "so do I strike when I feel something?" The answer to that is generally "NO!" -a better answer would be to grit your teeth, give line and try not to die of shock. The thing I was attached to flew downstream at a scary pace before throwing itself into the air. Pure adrenaline. In fact, the next time someone even suggests fishing is boring I'm going to slap them. "It's going to be a decent one," and "it's well hooked I reckon," were comments that only added to the tension. The fight was manic, but under my brother's expert guiding hand I eventually managed to bring it to the net. A first ever salmon for me, on the fly and one of the most nerve shattering battles I've ever had on a fishing rod I'd say. The fish, a male, made a steady recovery before making his way homewards. As for me, I've only just stopped quaking. Photobucket

Thursday 6 September 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Angry

Photobucket How much gear and expense do you need to be successful at fishing? The truth is most of us own too much. Not only that, too much of it gets dragged along with us on the bank. Away trips can be a particular headache. Take too much and you carry it all or leave it there to nick in your car; take too little and you're bound to have that "why didn't I bring a...." moment. I always aim to be slightly ruthless with myself on this front, which is why for most of this week's trip to the Dorset Stour I carried just a fly rod and a few essentials. Just as well flies don't weigh much. I find Clouser style pike flies especially useful for river fishing, which have the sink rate to explore deeper swims. Photobucket The morning felt cool, but quickly became pretty baking hot. Not very surprisingly I got most hits early and late, with cool, well oxygenated spots like the edges of pools the best. As well as a nice bonus perch around the pound mark I managed a few pike, the best of them this lean low double, which took a black fly just as I'd started to flag in the heat. Photobucket Next day, I had a cast with intrepid river angler Nathan Edgell. When it comes to travelling light, his approach is refreshingly simple. Just one rod, one bag, but lots of ground covered. It didn't take long for a fish to launch itself at his spoon. Angry? It was livid!: Photobucket There's possibly only one thing better than exploring a lovely stretch of river, and that's spending it in the company of someone who knows all the juicy spots, the wildlife and the character of the place. Lot's of fun, if a bit bloody hot to be in waders. There'll be more on the way with Nathan involved, including an appearance as our first speaker of the year for the Devon PAC (Oct 30th, 7:30pm Mill on Exe- bung it in the diary!). Photobucket Otherwise I've seen some of the best and worst that fishing has to offer. The bad revolves around the continued presence of illegal fishing- and a crazy little twist last time out. I had found two Eastern Europeans (I know, it sounds predictable already), with dead fish in a shoddy keepnet on the Grand Western Canal. When I challenged them and picked up the phone, they promptly scarpered, leaving all their gear! Credit also to Ian Nadin, who was there in three minutes flat to give them a further scare and get their car reg as they left at speed. The big plus point is that these idiots now have nothing to sit on, let alone fish with. My garage isn't the tidiest at the best of times, but now has a whole heap of dodgy extra gear- crude isn't the word! Photobucket On a much lighter note however, I also took some family friends fishing for the first time. It's always great to see youngsters catch their first fish- and Laurie and Bryony Pym had a netful of crucians, roach and tench out at Little Yeo Fishery. What was really nice was to see not just how much fun they found it, but how quickly they got stuck into the basics, from hooking the bait to handling fish with wet hands. Photobucket