Friday, 24 December 2010

A Merry Fishy Christmas!

I haven't been out fishing since catching the pike below, but I intend to get a session or two in over the Christmas break.  Have a great Christmas and New Year everyone and the best of luck to those of you wetting a line between Christmas and New Year...  If you can find any water which isn't frozen to wet it in!


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Piking before the snow came and a timely review of some warm fishing gear!

As I write this entry, Derbyshire – along with much of the UK - is in the midst of snowy weather so severe that even the most ardent Toyota Prius driver must be wishing they’d bought a “gas guzzling” 4x4 instead! I would be surprised if many anglers are venturing out at the moment because this kind of prolonged cold period can turn most fish completely off the feed. Get ready once it warms up though (after the cold snow melt water has flushed out of the system) and you could be in for some action with very hungry fish! Without expecting anything like this weather approaching us, I managed to time it right and fished just a few days before the snow fell.

I’d been lucky enough to receive a couple of products from outdoor gear manufacturer Sealskinz, to try out for fishing. I have owned their products before, which use a unique waterproof membrane to offer the wearer excellent resilience to the elements. My Sealskinz gloves have been used for everything from raft racing to caving and I’ve always been highly impressed by their function. The new products I was trying out for fishing were a winter Beanie Hat and a pair of Country Socks, both incorporating Sealskinz’ patented waterproof, breathable membrane.

 On first inspection, the country socks seemed a little on the thin side, but once I put them on I realised the benefits of their knee-height merino wool construction. They are surprisingly warm! They also feature an over-sized woolly cuff and are seamless all the way up to reduce blister-causing pressure points. At the end of a Winter session my feet are usually a damp mess, either from sweat or from water seeping in through my boots, but with these socks I can honestly say that my feet remained warm, dry and comfortable all day. Knowing that my legs were waterproof all the way up to the knee gave me confidence of trampling through long, wet grass, too. Perfect socks for fishing whether wearing wellies or boots.

The beanie hat is not only windproof but waterproof too. It has a micro-fleece lining, making it very warm on the head. Having longish hair, beanie hats tend to ride up my head as I wear them, but the Sealskinz hat really seemed to hug my head and stay put. There was no rain to speak of on the day I tested the gear out, so I can’t vouch first hand for the hat being waterproof, but I’m convinced it will be, having experienced how waterproof other Sealskinz gear is. I think all fishing headwear should be made waterproof because you never know when you might be stuck outside when a storm breaks out, so this really is an ingenious feature. I would highly recommend these hats for winter fishing; they should keep you comfortable no matter what nature throws at you, whether on the bank of a drain or a boat on a reservoir. The hat I tested was red but they’re also available in black and olive. I’m sure you’ll be seeing this red hat feature in many of my future catch photographs (including the one below!).

On the day it was great to be warm and comfortable because a cold wind was howling and the fishing was incredibly slow. I had arrived at dawn hoping to find some large shoals of bait fish that I could fish close to, but only the odd small fish made themselves visible, so I moved to an area I knew well, which had a few features to fish to. Initially I leapfrogged my rods, spending maybe half an hour in a swim before moving to the next, but gradually my confidence was slowly ebbing away; I had seen nothing to suggest there were any fish in the area, no bait fish activity and no pike striking either. Upon speaking to a bailiff, I decided to give another area a go, which I’d never seen before let alone fished. I was told no-one was down there and some pike had been showing of late, so it seemed the perfect chance for me to check it out. By the time I was packed up and headed the 4 miles or so to the new area, there was another pike angler set up and also guy after silver fish. It looked promising and the guy bit-bashing said that the odd pike had been showing in front of some far-bank features, which I could see were surrounded by submerged weed. I cast one bait as close as I could and cast around with my other rod, to see if I could find myself some action.

It was a chilly old day by this point and I was glad I’d taken an extra few layers, including the Sealskinz hat. I sat back, finished my sandwiches and flask of soup and contemplated what to do next. I was fishing with a roach deadbait on the rod cast close to where the pike had been showing; my theory being that if pike have been striking nearby, other pike may spot a natural coarse dead laid on the bottom and be less suspicious of it than a sea dead. On the other rod I alternated between smelt, mackerel and mini herring, hoping the added scent trail of an oil-injected sea dead might pull fish in from farther afield.

I had just rigged up a wobbling rig for my lure rod and was making my third cast with this when a solitary beep from the roach baited rod caught my attention. I switched rods immediately and felt the line in my fingers; a couple of strong twitches told me it was time to strike. Immediately I could tell the fish was heavy; it kited to my right before I managed to turn its head, at which point it sluggishly swam towards me. As soon as the fish spotted the net in the clear water, it bolted and gave me a brief moment of worry because I’d seen it was a good size and I inevitably worried if the hooks would hold. My worries were unjustified because soon after the specimen was gracing my net. Just one of the barbless trebles was hooked and was easily removed. When I saw the girth of the fish, I was convinced it would be close to, if not over 20lb but the scales registered 18lb 14oz. This is the largest pike I’ve landed since my PB, which when I checked the date of capture, was exactly 5 years to the day! Guess it must be my lucky date! Spooky.



I've also tweaked the layout of my website,  The navigation menu is now at the top of the page, rather down the left-hand side.  It looks a bit neater and dare I say, more "modern".  Hopefully because it no longer uses frames either, it will be easier for people to link to the page they want or save to their favourites.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

New Alan Partridge! "Mid-Morning Matters" surfaces on YouTube

Okay, so this is the second post in a row which is NOT about fishing, but I am a HUGE fan of Alan Partridge and I just had to let this news out as soon as I heard it.  Today, one of my all-time comedy heroes, Armando Ianucci, was a guest on Richard Bacon's BBC Radio 5 Live show.  In a fairly lengthy interview, he talked - amongst many other things - about some new Alan Partridge material which he had filmed with Steve Coogan.  It is being released in an unconventional manner, by featuring on the YouTube channel of Fosters lager, one episode at a time.  Alan now works for a Digital Radio channel, still based in Norfolk and the shows are shot from the viewpoint of a webcam in the studio.  Despite Alan's new setting, this is classic Partridge, so if you haven't already, you should watch this, now!

Also, you can download Richard Bacon's "Daily Bacon" podcast featuring a full interview with Armando Ianucci here:

He also discusses beginning shooting the next series of In The Loop, the new book of that same series, and the much-rumoured Alan Partridge film.

and if you head over to the Fosters YouTube channel you can watch all the episodes of the new Alan Partridge material, entitled "Mid-Morning Matters with Alan Partridge:

Unfortunately, most of the Mid-Morning Matters episodes have been taken down from the Fosters YouTube channel, as the series has since aired on Sky TV in the UK.  BUT you can still watch deleted scenes and out-takes from Alan Partridge's Mid-Morning Matters on YouTube below:


However, since I first published this post it's been a busy period for Alan.  After Mid-Morning Matters he published his autobiography, "I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan" (I'd really recommend you download the Audiobook version, narrated by AP himself!) and then the hugely popular film release of "Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa".  So who knows what the future holds for Mr. P?

...And lastly, here's my tribute to Partridge; my take on his Zombie outfit from "Basic Alan" for a Halloween party.  I hope you like it!
"Right, you've made TWO glaring errors..."
Knowing me, Andrew Kennedy, knowing you Alan Partridge.  Aha.

(...My next post will be about fishing, I promise!)

Friday, 5 November 2010

Sloe Gin + Heavy Furniture + Heavy Music = No Fishing for Me!

Real life has been getting in the way of fishing recently.  Since my last post I've spent a single, fruitless evening sat behind a pair of motionless barbel rods.  I arrived on the river after dark, the air temperature was hovering around a balmy 3 to 4 degrees Celsius!  I knew it was futile before I started, but I gave it a go anyway, wrapped up in plenty of layers.  I stuck it out until about 23.30 and as I started to pack my gear away I noticed all of my bags were covered in frost!  That's very often happened when I've been piking before but never when I fish for barbel!

Since then I've been up to Blackpool illuminations for a couple of days with my girlfriend and family, and also helped her move house.  This left me with plenty of manly things to do, such as constructing beds & wardrobes, lugging boxes around in a Maun Motors Transit van, covering the bathroom (and probably a few bits of carpet) in silicone sealant and hacking various parts of the garden to bits with a machete ('twas a tad overgrown!), a strimmer and a long-reach petrol hedge trimmer; but left no time for fishing.

My one indulgence over the past two or three weeks has been the making of my first ever batch of sloe gin.  In recent years I've noticed an ever-increasing crop of the fruit of the blackthorn bush, lacing the hedgerows of some local fields.  Over the the same timescale my liking for the indulgent, sweet, burgundy-coloured tincture these fruits help produce has also been increasing; so this Autumn I decided to harvest my own sloes and see what kind of quality sloe gin I can come up with.  Somehow I managed to pick over 7lb of sloes (although to be fair, I didn't leave many unpicked!), half of which I froze overnight (a contentious subject, I found out when I discovered Sloebiz, a website and forum dedicated to the making of sloe gin!), the other half I left in a bucket of lightly-salted water (to both clean the sloes and weedle out any bugs hiding amongst them).  I gave the frozen ones a few good smashes with my fists as they were defrosting, which left the sloes a bit of a mulchy mess, but saved me having to split them.  The fresh ones were so ripe they split open within a couple of hours, so again this saved me a job!  These were I put half of each batch of sloes into 2 demijohns, along with a bucket load of sugar and a couple of secret ingredients (if it works, then I'll spill the beans on my secrets, but I'm in a bit of a light-hearted competition with my mate Matt and anyone else who wants to join in, with a blind taste test deciding the winner).  The demijohns have had a few good shakes now and the colour is really coming out of the sloes.  I have a few pictures below showing my progress so far.  The bottle on the right had just been shaken, the one on the left had not.  I'm hoping to use one demijohn from around Christmas time this year.  It should help warm the cockles on those Jan/Feb pike sessions!  The other one I'll leave until next Christmas by which time it should really blow your socks off!

Here are my two first attempts at making Sloe Gin.  The one on the left has settled, the one on the right has just been shaken to get some more of the lovely sloe-ness out of those fruits!

Sedementary my dear Watson  ...One of my Sloe Gin Demijohns after a good shake

...and before a shake

This week my ears are recovering from almost being ripped off my face when I watched the double bill of Rolo Tomassi (one of my favourite British bands) and The Dillinger Escape Plan (one of my favourite bands in the world) at the tiny sweatbox that is Nottingham Rescue Rooms.  Dillinger should be gracing the Rock City stage by now, surely?  At least then more than 20% of the audience would be able to see the stage.  And it wouldn't feel so full the walls were about to burst either!  I've seen Dillinger 6 times now I think and although I loved their chaotic Leeds Festival set a few years ago, I'm pretty sure this was my favourite show.  I don't know how they can play so fast and keep so tight when hurling around/off the stage like they're posessed!  Rolo Tomassi suffered from some terrible sound, which didn't give the crowd the full effect of their musical complexity and ever changing time sugnatures.  They seemed not quite so tight, but maybe this was exaggerated by just how well honed the onstage DEP machine is.

I'm going to be watching the weather and river levels over the next week or so, plotting my next session and figuring out the wheres and what fors to give me the best chance of landing a specimen.  Perch, pike, grayling and chub will all be on the radar, but as November is traditionally my best month for big pike (strange, as for most people it's Feb/March!), then I doubt I'll be able to resist a few casts for old Esox...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

First Pike of the Season... (...and it's a proper one!)

Following a blank after-work zander fishing session last week I was keen to get back out on the bank predator fishing because the rivers were fining down nicely since the rains had stopped.  I headed to an old river haunt which I hadn't fished for four or five years.  A friend and I had some great results there between 2003 and 2005, with quite a few doubles gracing our nets.  These were seemingly uncaught fish in pristine condition, which gave me the best fights I've ever had from pike.  They were long, lean, huge-finned pike which really knew how to use the current to their advantage.  The reason we stopped fishing there is that when comparing photographs, we started to notice a few recaptures, so for the benefit of these prime breeding females, we decided to leave them alone.  A tip for checking if you've had any recaptures of pike is to compare the anal fin markings.  Like the rest of a pike's markings, these are unique to each fish and because the anal fin is relatively large and visible on most photographs, they make a perfect comparison tool.

Planning for an early start, I over-slept and didn't get on the bank until around 11am!  Still, the sky was grey and overcast, there was no-one else around and the river looked perfect.  There was enough of a tinge of colour to make barbel fishing a good prospect, but my heart was set on piking, so that was what I set up to do. 

The swims we used to fish have a variety of overhanging trees making perfect ambush points for pike to lie-up in, so I cast out the first rod with confidence.  When I came to cast the second rod I realised that the reel wouldn't turn; expecting the line to be wrapped around the tip, I went to untangle it but found everything to be in order.  I then checked the reel and to my utter dismay I found the spool on my trusty old Daiwa Bite 'N' Run reel had split almost in two and the skirt was jammed firmly on the reel.  I've no idea how this happened, but after hacking bits of the spool skirt with my Leatherman, I couldn't get the reel to work.  The only options were to fish one rod or reel the other bait in, chum up the swim and walk back to the van to rob a reel from a barbel rod...  So, twenty minutes or so later I returned to the swim with a working reel and set up the second rod.  By now, through one thing and another, I'd wasted half the day and the sun had burned through the clouds.  It was now quite warm with a blazing sun and a clear blue sky!  Not ideal condtitions, but I fished on regardless. 

After three biteless hours, I was thinking of moving swims when I noticed one of my rod tips shaking gently.  I had cast a float-legered herring into a slightly deeper hole, in the shadows cast by a large tree.  The flotsam my line had picked up had been holding my float underwater for the last half hour, so the float hadn't been much use to me, but suddenly it popped up!  I immediately picked up the rod, and struck.  As I struck the clutch on my reel spun, making me wonder if enough pressure would have been transmitted to set the hooks.  I tightened up a little and reeled what was obviously a heavy fish, straight in towards me!  I caught a glimpse of a wide, long head as it neared the surface and I reached for the net, thinking I would fluke the fish straight in.  The pike was to have other ideas though; it kited slowly away from the net, turned, then hit the nitro-boost button!  Even with the now tightened drag, the pike effortlessly thrust its way straight back across the river, almost back to the spot where I'd hooked it!

Luckily, I turned the fish and began to make ground on it, before it spotted a reed bed and headed directly towards it.  A bit of a stalemate around the reeds ended in my favour and this time I safely guided the fish over my waiting net.  I was right about the head on this fish, it was huge!  I rested the fish in the margins and for a a split-second I almost convinced myself this was a 20lb fish, but thankfully I snapped back to reality before unhooking and weighing it.  What a fish though!  Long, lean and a great fight; these fish had not changed one bit.

As I opened the pike's mouth to do the unhooking honours, I saw another, stray treble lodged in the "inner anus" (there's probably a scientific term for the digestive opening at the back of a pike's throat, but I don't know it!).  I removed this first and it came out surprisingly easily, due to having worked slightly loose over time.  Surprising because it was a fully barbed size 4 short-shank treble.  Why any pike anglers feel the need to use barbed trebles is beyond me.  It offers no benefit and only adds to the potential of something like this happening.  If I hadn't caught this fish, who knows, it could have been dead in a few weeks after slowly starving to death.  I'm sure the angler didn't mean to leave the hook in there, but the fact that it was still there backs up my argument.  There was no sign of any wire, so probably the crimp/twist attachment had parted.  We're all human, we all make mistakes, but I can't help but cringe when I see something like this.  Who knows, maybe a semi-barbed treble would have already worked loose.  Okay, so this blog is beginning to become a rant-fest, whatwith the litter rant last time and the barbed treble rant this time!  Still, I wouldn't rant about it if it wasn't something I passionately believe in and I do get a bit precious when it comes to pike welfare.  They're not in the slightest bit as tough as their appearance would suggest, so only fish for them if you know how (or ask to go with someone who does know) and if you can't find semi-barbed trebles (where only one hook point has a barb on it) please, please, please SQUASH THOSE BARBS.

Oops, fell off the soapbox there, rotten old thing...  Anyway, rant over, now for the pictures of this long, magnificent creature.  And the pike I caught! (how can I stoop so low)...

I'm well happy with this, my first pike caught by design this season (I've already caught them on perch sessions, zander sessions and even barbel sessions so far this season).  I'm guessing I won't be able to go piking as often as I'd like to this winter, so to kick it off with my biggest pike for almost 4 years is one hell of a treat.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Zander Saves September - Perch Fishing, Zander Fishing

Well, after my last post virtually declaring September as a "lost month" as far as my fishing results were concerned, a good fish comes along and gives me a slightly more rose-tinted view of September 2010 after all!

I travelled a little farther afield than usual and endured a gruelling day fishing for perch, with very disappointing results.  The weather was overcast all day, the river was fairly clear and to be honest, I considered the conditions to be perfect for perch fishing.  However, the closest I came to catching a big perch was a missed take on a spinner early on, which felt like a perch and also felt heavy.  Then an hour later I was lure fishing in a shallow, gravelly run when I got an amazing follow.  The bow-wave created was huge!  It zig-zagged behind my lure and took one final swipe, but missed.  I'm pretty sure I saw the mouth of a perch as it made that final grab and I'm also sure that a pike would have had the small lure well down its throat long before that anyway!

After a few hours of throwing lures around and failing to catch even a micro-perch, I settled on a peg to bait fish.  Several hours passed and the best perch I had was around 4oz, on maggot; the best fish I had was a chub of around a pound, on lobworm.

Still, I had also caught a few roach around 3oz, which I'd killed to use as baits as the light began to drop.  The other rods I had in the van were set up for some zander fishing, so I rigged up some of these fresh baits and sat back not expecting too much.  My only run of the evening resulted in this 8lb 11oz zander:

It's by no means the largest zander in the world, but it's my biggest for a few seasons and as you'll see by reading my article "My Love Affair with Zander", I'm quite attached to the species, despite living a good 2 hours drive from most of the best zander fishing in the Country and blanking on far more sessions than I catch on.  So, this fish is very, very welcome and has made me a happy man.

It was interesting photographing this fish and just as the first shot was taken, the zander kicked and ...well see below for yourself!  It was such a quality, one-off photograph that I thought it deserved a caption and deserved to be put up on here.  Below are the best two captions so far, but if you have any better ones, post them in the comments box and I might even add the best ones to the photo and post them on here...

Plus, this photo really got me thinking about just how big the mouth of a zander gets when it flares its gills.  I tend to use small baits when zander fishing, but its mouth was twice the size of mine!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Since my last post I've fished a few times but it's been pretty slow going.  Just last night I went Zander fishing and ended up with an 8lb pike and lost a good fish, which may well have been a zed, but I'll never know...

This follows an all-day barbel session last week with friends Craig and Kev.  I fished all day on a prolific stretch of the Trent and despite trying all sorts of baits, fining down, stepping up to a 6 foot hooklength and even trying single maggot hookbaits, I didn't even get a sniff of a barbel.  I caught a couple of dace when fishing maggot (on a 2.25lb TC barbel rod, size 16 hook and 14lb mainline!), which is a species I haven't caught since I don't know when. 
I even spotted a pike swim towards a plastic bag which was fluttering downstream.  It then proceeded to follow it downstream, deciding whether or not to strike at it!  Interesting to see such behaviour, but it was a stark reminder just what harm our rubbish can potentially do to our wildlife and with the pike season just around the corner (come on frosts!), please take care with your deadbait packets.  Every season I find deadbait packs discarded in swims.  It annoys me so much!  There's no need for it, an empty plastic bag is far easier to take home than it was to bring to the water complete with its contents!  It gets anglers a bad name and makes me question the average pike anglers mindset.  TAKE YOUR LITTER HOME! 

There's a mantra I rather like which relates to this.  I've seen it used on signs in lots of Asian National Parks, it goes a little sumpin' like this... 

"Take nothing but photographs.  Leave nothing but footprints."

Anyway, fortune favoured Kev and Craig slightly more than it did me.  They ended the day, each having lost and landed a barbel.  Craig's was a new PB and was a lovely fish...

Kev's had a really bold two-tone colouration, as you can see here:

So, I did a fair bit more work behind the camera than in front of it, but as far as catching barbel between us goes, 2 out of 3 aint bad.

Aside from this session, I'd been concentrating my efforts on a barbel swim with a BIG snag.  I'd landed a couple of good barbel from there ealrier this season and been snagged & snapped by some heavy fish.  It seemed absolutely loaded with big barbel a month ago but despite river conditions not really changing much (and it's a fairly deep swim, so the temperature change shouldn't affect it), in 3 sessions I haven't been able to buy a bite from a barbel!  I was thrown a few consolation prizes last week though, in the shape of a 4lb 14oz chub, a 5lb 4oz bream and a 5lb 1oz chub, which is my second "five" of the season.  It looked a young fish, not one of the old, battled warlords who've peaked a long time ago.  This chub has plenty of growing to do.  Now if only I could find a "six" or a "seven", we'll be laughing!

The "Five" (with an empty belly!)
I've been really fancying an all-day perch fishing jaunt lately, so unless the rivers become heavily coloured over the weekend, I'll be heading out next week.  I placed an order with Willis' Worms for 100 lobs and 1kg of dendras this week and they arrived yesterday.  That little lot should keep me going for most of the winter.  My next post may well be a guide on how to keep your lobs alive, but we'll see... 

Wildlife Trusts losing my trust

Lastly, I've been a member of the Wildlife Trust for at least six years now and have generally been happy with the work they've done in protecting our native species and habitats.  However, I recently read about a worrying decision taken by the Notts Wildlife Trust to ban fishing at many of its waters, including Attenborough Gravel Pits. 

This is a decision I can partially understand because although it's been proven through practice time and again that anglers make outstanding free "rangers" for waterside environments.  If an angler spots something wrong which is going to effect fishing, they will alert the relevant people!  But on the other hand, some anglers leave litter.  Don't give powerful bodies like these a reason to ban fishing!  On the whole, UK coarse anglers are a benefit to the environment but the two unavoidable negatives associated with angling are always going to be discarded tackle and litter.  Unavoidable for as long as anglers leave it, but easily avoidable if every angler takes responsibility for their own waste!  Litter and tackle are a distinct danger to wildlife and if a species under threat visits a water where fishermen regularly leave mess behind, then it's understandable that fishing will be restricted or banned altogether to protect them.

I shall be writing to the Wildlife Trusts to tell them of my dismay, and I haven't yet decided whether to revoke my membership.  The thing which is causing me conflict is that the Trusts do other good work with other species in other places, and I don't want to take away important funding from these projects.  If you would like to contact the Wildlife Trusts, then I've placed the link below:

Friday, 3 September 2010

Late August Capture Update, New Angling Star Article & New Website Article

Well, after a couple of weeks off - first being away on holiday (rarely, without any tackle!), then attending the Leeds Festival for the August bank holiday weekend - I have done very little fishing of late.  However, during the week before I went on holiday, I managed a couple of sessions which saw me bank a few good fish...

Firstly, I targetted barbel and although I managed to lose two fish in a snag, once I'd switched to using "hit and hold" tactics with a single rod, I managed to extract this excellent 9lb 5oz barbel.  Check out the way its tail fin is so long that it arcs over at the top, like the dorsal fin of an Orca Whale!

The following evening I had a couple of hours to lure fish for perch - just before sunset - and although conditions were difficult, I did land a few good fish in the shape of a 2lb 12oz perch, a 2lb 5oz perch and - just as I thought I'd spooked the remainder of the fish in the swim - my first 3lb+ perch of the season at 3lb 1oz...

Perch shown in capture order:

2lb 12oz

2lb 5oz

3lb 1oz

Angling Star & update

I have a new, double-page Barbel feature in the current August/September issue of the Angling Star.  If you want to check it out but don't have a retailer local to you, send me a message and I may be able to get a copy to you.  Alternatively, you can order back issues and also set up a quarterly or annual subscription to the magazine at the following link:  Order Angling Star Subscriptions & Back Issues

Meanwhile,  I've uploaded a new article to my main website,  It's got the stupid title of "Feeling Flexible" and it can be viewed from the following link:
This article originally featured in Angling Star magazine back in February of this year.

More sessions planned soon, so stay tuned for the results!

Friday, 6 August 2010

National Fishing Week - Event @ Barlow Lakes this Sunday

With National Fishing Week/Month (heck, why don't they go the whole hog and make it last all year, every year and maybe re-brand the country Great National Fishing Britain or United Fishing Kingdom!) upon us, I shall be once again lending a hand at an event being held at Barlow Lakes near Chesterfield.  The day is being organised by my friend - and qualified NFA angling coach - Kevin Miles.  In the past these events have featured tackle stands, taster sessions for novice anglers, fun matches and displays by the Environment Agency.  This year I am not so sure about the setup (I'll post more details once I know them), but I know that a local floatmaker is coming down, there are demonstrations of various floats and methods - including the unveiling of a new design of self-hooking controller float - and I'll be in attendance from 10am 'til around 1pm (the event is open until 3pm), so if you want to chew the fat, discuss tactics or ask me questions on any aspect of fishing then pop down.  there's no entry fee and the lakes are open all day for fishing if you want to combine the trip with your usual Sunday fishing trip.  I'll hopefully see you there...

Barlow Lakes is a lovely little complex set in a mature wooded valley.  There are 4 coarse ponds to go at and I believe 4 or 5 trout (fly only) ponds to fish too.  There are plenty of carp up to mid-twenties and some HUGE grass carp to catch, besides bream, tench, chub, crucians, roach, perch and gudgeon.  A true "mixed fishery" in every sense!  Most of the fishery is very wheelchair-friedly, including disabled toilets, and there's also a snack bar cooking hot food all day, every day.

If you fancy coming along and don't know how to find Barlow, take a look at this page of their website:

Other News

I've been fishing 4 evenings in the last fortnight with very mixed results; the first night I managed to land a pike of around 5lb on a Halibut Pellet, hooked clean in the lower jaw!

The very next night I fished the Tidal Trent for the first time this season and managed a barbel of around 5lb and my friend Crofty notched up his first barbel of the season too.  This week I lost 2 barbel in 2 nights through breakages (I'm pretty sure I was to blame through not changing hooklength regularly enough), which meant I blanked one night but managed to salvage the night with an 8lb 5oz barbel from the same spot, on the same bait as the fish I lost 15 minutes before.

Check out the size of its MOUTH!  This could be a very big fish in the future...

National Fishing Month runs from July 17 until August 15, 2010

Friday, 30 July 2010

Near-3lb River Perch on the Fly!

After a few Summers of catching a decent number of 2lb+ perch on lures I decided it was time for a slightly different kind of challenge.  I would still visit my favourite Summer swims which took many blank sessions to find, but now I know where the perch are at this time of year they've been very reliable and with only a few repeat captures.  The main difference is that instead of conventional lure fishing (which I'm fairly proficient at), I would try for them with a discipline which I'm far more clumsy and out of practice with; fly fishing.

I asked my good friend and fly fishing instructor, Kevin Miles, to tie me up some flies replicating perch fry, after seeing a good perch spit one out in my landing net a few weeks ago.  The resulting flies - tied onto size 2 Nash Fang hooks - were really good too!  I should have really taken some photos of them before I started destroying them by hurling them into undergrowth and such like!

I was using my Fox Predator XS fly rod, which I bought when it was on offer a couple of years ago and it's been gathering dust since, just begging for me to get around to using it.  To this I attached a Greys GRXi large-arbour fly reel loaded with clear sinking line.  I then used a "Rio Toothy Critter" leader, which has a coated wire trace section at the tippet.

Anyway, I had about an hour of fluff-chucking and had just a single take, but it was from a big perch - my biggest of 2010 so far in fact - 2lb 15oz of fry-eating, fly-crunching, prime Summer stripey!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

River Chub Brace

I recently captured my best-ever chub brace, landing this 5lb 2oz specimen (left), followed by a 4lb 8oz fish while I was setting up my camera!   I risked life & limb to land the latter fish, because I was fishing a peg with a very steep - almost vertical - bank leading down to the water.  I wanted to rest the chub in my landing net, in the margins, but as this wasn't possible where I was fishing, I took the net and fish a couple of swims downstream where the margins were shallow and calm. 

As I was setting up the self-timer function on my camera, the alarm on my other rod screamed!  I was left to battle the fish in a deep, fast-water peg with no landing net!  Standing between me and the net were 3 trees, overhanging the water.  There was no way over or around them, so I had to (in the dark), scale the steep bank, test the margin depth with my toe whilst holding onto a tree with one hand and the rod in the other.  Luckily there was a narrow, rocky ledge about a foot under the water, so I slowly shuffled along this, negotiated the trees and a reedbed and finally reached an area I knew was shallow, where I jumped in feet-first and managed to reach my net!  It's a good job it wasn't a barbel or I may have been waterskiing! 

I later went on to catch a barbel and another 4lb 8oz chub, all caught on a variety of pellets.

This brace of chub were 5lb 2oz (left) and 4lb 8oz (right)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Not something you'll see often!

This posting is about something that you won't catch me doing very often, but last weekend I fished a MATCH at Glebe Fishery (part of Ray Marlow's Mallory Fisheries) and managed to come second out of 11 entrants.

It wasn't what I'd class as "proper" fishing - just lobbing a bait at a bunch of far-too-enthusiastic water pigs and reeling them in - but it was quite enjoyable to get a decent bend in the rod a few times.  I mainly caught bream and carp, although there were a few roach and the odd perch amongst them, but others also caught crucians, rudd and barbel.  I ended up with 72lb 6oz, with my largest fish being a 9lb 6oz mirror carp. 

Part of my 72lb Glebe Fishery bag

The Environment Agency has released an extremely handy feature on its website, for checking river levels.  I believe it's based on the same data they use for their "rivercall" telephone service, but it's more up-to-date and it's free to access!  The interactive map isn't the greatest unless you have the length and course of your favourite river permanently etched into your brain, it can be difficult to pick the right one out but with practice it's a decent system.

EA River Levels

The only problem is, for some reason the service has been "unavailable" this week!  Maybe the website boffins got caught in an unexpected flash flood... 

Speaking of rivers, they're back on the agenda for my next blog!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

River Season Starts with a Bang!

How great it's been to sit by a river in this glorious heat to while away an evening or two!  After such a cold, long, snowy winter I'm not really surprised that the extremes of weather have gone full circle and now some of the reservoirs are dangerously empty!  Normally with such dry and bright conditions the fishing is difficult but I've either been doing something really right (granted, I have changed a lot of my setup) or I've been extremely lucky (or more probably a bit of both) in my first couple of sessions of the season. 

I fished last Tuesday & Wednesday evenings on the River Dove for my first sessions of the new season and unusually, I managed to hit the ground running!  The first evening I only had a couple of hours fishing because I was so disorganised, I didn't cast a line until half past 9!  The very first cast I had some tip rattles on my upstream rod which seemed like a bite given by a chub mouthing the bait.  After the bite continuing for a good few seconds I struck but failed to connect.  Next cast, a similar but more forceful bite resulted in a bizarre scrap on the surface, which I struggled to win.  The fish turned out to be a PB 2lb 12oz rainbow trout!  Not what I was expecting, but my season was officially underway and a blank was thankfully off the cards...

Officially my first fish of the 2010/11 coarse season - a surprise Rainbow Trout!

With my next three casts I hooked & lost a barbel (hook pull), landed a chub, then lost another barbel (another hook-pull!).  I thought that was it, my chances of a barbel were done for the evening, when a last-gasp screaming run turned out to be a really special fish for me; after 7 years fishing the Dove, I landed my first "double", at 10lb 5oz!

The pinnacle of 7 Summers on the Dove 

The next evening I fished the same stretch, but arrived around 19.45 so I fed the swim for an hour by removing my hooklengths and casting & re-casting my swimfeeders.  An hour and a half passed with not even a twitch on the rod tip.  After my instant success the previous night, I thought I must have over-done the baiting and was starting to accept that the session would be more of an experience-builder rather than a fish-catcher, but I still held some hope of a bite from the swim I was fishing.  At almost dead-on 11 o'clock my only bite of the session came.  What a battle it was too!  Four times I thought I had the fish beaten, but each time it came anywhere near the net, it swung out into the white water down the middle of the river and bolted back downstream.  At least six or seven minutes passed and when I finally saw the long white belly flop over the net rim, I knew I'd landed another big fish.  The scales proved me right; I'd not only beaten the previous evening, I beat my Personal Best too!  This specimen weighed 10lb 10oz, was completely spawned-out and had a humungous mouth!

The Dove snatches my PB back from the Trent!

I'm saving the full story for the Angling Star, but this is a brief description of how things unfolded.  I'm now setting myself a target of a double from my 3 nearest rivers in the same season.  Given that my barbel fishing is limited to after-work evening sessions in the summer, I think this would be a huge acheivement.  Just the Trent and Derwent to go...

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A Couple of Closed-Season Gems

Well, I didn't get fishing too much over the closed season, but two of the more notable sessions were fishing for Crucian carp at Carr Vale Pond near Bolsover and Tench fishing with my friend and erstwhile editor, Kevin Miles.

I tried fishing light for the crucians, as is normally required to hook one, but for some reason couldn't connect with the bites.  When I eventually swapped to fishing the lift method (which is one of my favourites for close-range fishing) and swimfeeder, I did start hooking fish.  The first came to the lift method on a single grain of corn and it went 1lb 4oz.  Later on, my "sleeper" feeder rod, which I'd loaded with a big hook, a whole lobworm and a grain of corn in the hope of a big tench, was nearly dragged in by an absolute screaming run, which I assumed must be a tench or carp.  After a good scrap for 30 seconds or so, the fish seemed to give up, almost like a bream would.  I brought the fish to the net wondering what on earth I'd hooked.  it turned out to be another, bigger crucian at a PB weight of 1lb 14oz.  It's no Marsh Farm fish, but heck it's not a bad 'un for North Derbyshire!

My two crucians which preferred crude over refined!

On June 2nd I was joined by Kev Miles on a private Midlands reservoir which I'd been lucky enough to secure access to for a day.  It holds some monster tench and with my PB for this species being pretty meagre, I went all-out to try for a big one.  A 5lb+ fish would have been brilliant, but the potential was there for fish up to 9lb!

What a view!  How can an angler fail to be impressed by this!

What a water it was; reed and tree-fringed, weedy, clear and holding big tench - what more could we have asked for?!  It was a baking hot day with clear skies so we spent most of the day sheltering from the sun beneath a brolly.  With the weather so bright and the water so clear, I'm guessing that the tench were similarly seeking refuge deep within the weed cover.  We only had one run during the day, which came to Kev who was using a method feeder over a big bed of groundbait with imitation sweetcorn as hookbait.  The fish managed to embed itself in the weed a couple of times, but without too many nerves wrenched, the fish was landed and weighed 6lb 12oz.  I'd never seen a tench bigger than 5lb before, so I was thrilled to see such a beautiful specimen, which seemed to be spawned out, so may well have been even heavier just a few days before.

The business-end of Kev's Tench

Being late June and being a fan of river fishing, naturally I've been out on the rivers already and I'm pleased to say I've been catching!  I'll be posting news of my best-ever brace of barbel soon...

Friday, 21 May 2010

See, I can still catch perch!

Sorry everyone, this post is almost 2 months late!  I started typing it shortly after the session and then never got the time to finish it!  So for now, here's a slightly rushed post, but I've a fair bit of fishing planned in the near future so expect a flurry of activity on here very soon!

A couple of weeks after the rivers closed I headed to local fishery, Tibshelf Ponds, to target the resident perch which are numerous (It used to be my local water and I would catch several every time I fished there as a child), but I had an incling that there were some really large ones there to be caught too.

I set up with a combination of a swimfeeder rod (switching between a groundbait feeder & maggot feeder) and a heavy pole float fished on a new bolognese rod that I'd bought and was keen to try out.  Bolognese rods have never really taken off in the UK, they are designed to fish the deep canals & slow rivers of mainland Europe, and they're basically a telescopic whip (mine's 6 metres long) with a reel seat and a rod ring on every section.  They're not very good for casting, but I bought mine to allow me to fish very light with the sensitivity and precision of a pole, but with the playing abilities of a rod and reel, especially beneficial when a large fish is hooked.  In reality, it's not quite as good as a pole or rod & reel, but I don't like relying on a piece of elastic to "play" my fish for me, so it's a useable substitute for a pole that caters to my own desires and stupid prejudices!

Over the course of the day I landed most of my perch on the float and was amazed at the fights on the bolognese.  Even modest 6oz fish would feel like 1lb+ brutes as they fought against the huge rod; it made catching small perch so much more fun and then when a 1lb 3oz fish finally took a liking to my worms, it gave me a proper tussle!

The bites dried up around the middle part of the day, as they so often do with perch, but eventually my air-injected lobworm started receiving some serious fishy attention.  I missed bite after bite - probably small perch - whether I struck immediately or let the run develop made no difference, I just couldn't connect!  Then I managed to connect with the next three consecutive bites!  The first fish kept me guessing all the way to the net.  It was fighting hard but didn't feel like a perch and I couldn't decide between perch, tench or carp.  A flash of green gave me a moment of hope, but as it surfaced properly a rubbery yellow mouth gave it away; it was a tench.  Next cast I struck at a very perch-like sharp, stuttering run, which turned into a head-thrashing, hectic, perch-like fight.  After a close encounter with some submerged Norfolk reeds a perch looking easily 2lbs graced the net.  Unfortunately, this pot-bellied, thuggish-looking perch (check out its protruding bottom lip!) had recently spawned, so that pot-belly was empty and she weighed 2 ounces shy of 2lbs, making it my biggest bait-caught perch to date (for some reason, all my biggies take lures!) and a personal best for that water. 

Darkness was fast approaching and the fish were hard on the feed, so I quickly re-cast.  About 10 minutes later I got another run which turned out to be yet another species, a chub of around 3lb.  It wasn't what I came for but it was a lovely fish and would be one of the fish I used to catch in my teens, which were stocked at about 4oz, 15 or so years ago.  I still have photos of my beaming face behind a tiny chub at Tibby ponds!

Anyway, here is the photo of the perch.  A bit more writing to follow soon I promise!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

"The End of the Line" - Free DVD in The Sunday Times this Sunday

Are there people you know who have not yet seen "The End of the Line" yet but you think they should? Well they've come up with a clever way of helping you spread the word this weekend.  If you pick up a copy of The Sunday Times this Sunday (11th April) you will find a clever little voucher for The End of the Line DVD.  All you need to do is take that voucher to a Waitrose store and you will be given the DVD in exchange.  Nice and simple!  You can either keep it or give it to someone you want to see the film.

The End of the Line trailer on YouTube

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Kennet (and my last trip of the river season 2009/10)

As day was breaking I arrived at the Reading & District AA car park and was sorting through my worms as Will pulled up. Will not only has a string of massive perch to his name, he is also the angling development officer for Reading, a bailiff and coach for RDAA and is a founding member of a small specimen group based around Reading called SAS Angling! Over the past year, you may have also seen him feature in one or two of Ian Welch's articles in Anglers Mail too...  Right from the off I got on really well with Will, who's a genuine, amiable chap, not to mention knowledgeable!
 My first glimpses of the Kennet gave me instant optimism and I couldn't wait to get set-up.  It was slightly couloured and with plenty of perchy features.   We set up in a shady area of overhanging near-bank trees, which provided the margins with some shade as the sun rose behind us. The roots were quite terrifying to offer a bait towards, but they were blatant perch (and chub!) holding features. 

Before long, Will was getting bites which he was suspicious of.  Eventually after an aggressive tap on the rod tip, he found the culprit to be a signal crayfish, which apparently plague the Kennet (and many Southern rivers), but the species was completely new to me.  Obviously I've read and heard about them, but never actually seen a live one.  They are aggressive wee beasties with pretty formidable claws loaded with sensory hairs, which allow them to accurately grab at prey in extremely low light levels, while small barbs on the claws help them cling on to their prey once captured.  These crayfish are far larger than I expected and besides the fungus they carry (detrimental to our native white-claws), it's easy to see how these creatures have just taken over in so many rivers.  The signal was duly despatched and removed from the vicinity of the river, and so were the others which followed.  It didn't take too long until I'd caught one myself, which gave me a savage take!  Have a look for yourself at these close-ups I took, paying special attention to the size of the cray in comparison to Will's hand!

Eventually Will got a bite which was definitely not a crayfish, but within seconds his rig had been pulled into the tangled mass of tree roots and the fish was lost.  Apart from crayfish, the swims went dead and we decided upon a move onto the nearby Kennet & Avon canal, to pass the early afternoon before returning to these tree-lined swims later on.  It was quite a hike with all the tackle, but after about 20 minutes walking we ended up at a "Perch paradise"!  This place was straight out of the textbook; if someone sketched an example swim with features to look for, this place would have more features!  On the near-bank there was a mixture of overhanging bushes, trees & brambles and moorings; on the far bank there were these, plus a resident barge; downstream the water shallowed and upstream a small stream flowed in. 

The banks were high and steep and the water was really clear, so we set up well-back from the water and crept up to our pegs to cast.  After the slow morning (and previous day!), seeing this place was an inspiration and I began to get quite excited at the prospect of what perch lurked within this stretch.  Will also said he had a good feeling about the place, so we decided to stay put for the rest of the day and see what happened.  Will had a bush in front of him, growing well out into the water and sheltering around this were thousands of minute, freshly hatched fry.  Something had been spawning recently, but we couldn't tell exactly what species they were.  Could they possibly be perch fry, meaning any perch we caught would be a fair bit leaner and lighter?

I was first to get a bite here, as the bobbin on my right-hand rod jerked and lifted a few times promisingly.  On this rod I'd cast an air-injected lobworm fished in conjunction with a maggot feeder, under the barge on the far bank.  The bite never progressed into a proper run, so I twitched the bait back a few inches towards me.  A few minutes later the same bait was taken again, but I failed to connect with the culprit.  We managed to catch a single gudgeon, which we hoped would be enough to tempt one of the large fish - which was no doubt lurking beneath the barge - out of its lair for an easy meal.  It wasn't to be though, and as it happened we probably caught this gudgeon half an hour too early.  As the light began to disappear, the perch finally came out to play, but by this time the gudgeon had seen better days.  Five or six sprays of fry from all around our swims signalled that the perch were actively chasing the fry we'd spotted earlier.  They had been there all along!  How big perch manage to keep a check on there natural urges for hours until the time is just right (it had been overcast for most of the afternoon, yet still they waited for dusk!), I'll never know.  All of a sudden our worms started attracting attention.  First, Will hooked into his first positive bite from the peg and landed a fish of just below a pound.  We knew there were larger ones lurking and Will's next bite turned up a completely different beast.  This one was fighting hard, trying its best to snag Will's line on one of the many snags/sanctuaries (depending on the angler/fish viewpoint!).  Luckily we both had extending landing net handles and I managed to coax this fat, round perch off the overhanging grass it had snagged in, and into the net.

Finally, a very good perch lay subdued in front of us.  How good exactly we shall never know; we both thought it looked over 3lb and a couple of days later, Will's scales were shown to be weighing 7oz light at 3lb.  On the day they weighed this fish at 2lb 13oz and I think we could conservatively call it 3lb.  Here's the photo, what a beauty!...

There was still enough time for me to have what seemed to be a promising run on the near-margin rod, but it turned out to be very violent but too quick for me to strike.  I stood poised, waiting for it to go again, but unfortunately it didn't.  We fished on slightly into dark, but I managed to end the second river season in a row with a blank session!

Will is soon to be offering guided perch trips on the Kennet and K & A canal, which I'd recommend if you want to be in with a chance of latching into a real beast of a stripey.  With his vast knowledge of this species in particular, you're bound to learn some key tactics to help you in the future too.  When his guiding is in operation, I'll post more details on here but meanwhile if you'd like to arrange a day fishing with Will, email me and I'll put him in touch with you.