Sunday 14 October 2012

Autumn Salmon Fishing on the Tyne - Return of the Pretender!

I really enjoy fly fishing.  I don't do enough of it, but when I get the chance to go, it's great fun.  When it comes to using double-handed fly rods and targeting the magnificent Salmo salar, that sentence is all the more true.  I'd only ever had one salmon fishing trip, which was a day and a half on the upper Tweed, almost a decade ago.  I had such a great time there I've been wanting a follow-up session ever since.

Incidentally on this trip, despite various calamities (including setting off my lifejacket inflator on a tangled cast!), I managed to land my first Atlantic Salmon, which was a very respectable 15lb in weight.  The full story, which I shall one day have to tell, will inform you that despite being a complete salmon novice, I managed to land this fish alone, without a net.  The angler I was fishing with had wandered a few hundred yards upstream from me and out of earshot.  He had the shared net, so I had to improvise and tire the fish before beaching it and scooping it up in my arms!
It was one of the proudest moments of my life!  The great pretender in the pink-lensed polaroids managed to outfish all the other experienced salmon fishers on the beat that day.  The score at the end of the day was: me 1-0 everyone else!

The salmon, a cock fish, had been in the river for a long time, which explains its brown colouration.  Despite the water being extremely cold on this November day, I was determined to release the fish and let it complete its life mission of spawning upriver.  It took me almost 15 minutes of getting numb fingers to revive the fish, but it had got this far so who was I to end its journey?  After the TLC I gave it, the fish swam away strongly.
To date, this was my only salmon session, so through complete inactivity I maintained my 100% for years!  I really wanted another crack at them, but knew the odds of me catching another on my second session were very much stacked against me.  I was due to go pike fishing last week, but then the opportunity presented itself to go after salmon and I couldn't pass it up.

This time I would be visiting the Tyne with another angler friend, who had a spare rod available on a productive beat.  The river had been quite low, with salmon apparently stacking up downstream waiting for the chance to migrate.  Rain had been forecast but didn't really materialise, so we knew it would be tough.

In the 9 years since I'd fished for salmon quite a bit had changed.  Returning salmon as I had done previously (much to the open-mouthed dismay of many around me), has become far more the norm, as anglers have reacted to the continuing decline in wild stocks by doing their bit to help the species successfully reach their spawning grounds.  According to the 2012 Scottish Salmon Fishery statistics, the overall number of rod-caught salmon that were returned was 74% this year, compared to just 8% as recently as 1994!

To assist with the easy and successful release of fish, the treble hooks that I used with my tube flies on the Tweed were now replaced with large single hooks, which many contemporary fly patterns are tied to work with.
The morning was fantastic; dull but crisp.  "Down South" in Derbyshire, we hadn't had a frost yet, but the grass and bushes had a crunchy coating in the Northumberland countryside.  It would be tough on the hands at first, to work a wet fly line in the cold air, but the physical effort involved in Spey casting is the perfect exercise to get the blood pumping to warm you up.
The fishing was indeed tough, but I was comfortable and after some ropey casting at the start, I gradually managed to improve my casting.  It felt like a real privilege to be stood waist deep, just fishing as nature went about its business regardless, all around me.
On the Tweed, the salmon had been running well.  I'd seen the best part of a hundred leap from the water that day.  The low water on the Tyne was preventing such a run, I saw perhaps ten salmon leap but that made it even more exciting when it happened, especially when it was just downstream of my fly. 

We fished hard until just before sunset, stopping only briefly for lunch.  We covered the short beat twice each from top to bottom, but apart from a couple of delicate plucks, we had no action.
As it turned out, my best mate since childhood, Matt, went pike fishing to the venue I was due to visit that day.  He landed his first twenty!  Of course, I'm really pleased for him; he was there when I caught my twenties and I wish I'd been there to see his.  Who knows, if I'd opted out of salmon fishing and gone piking that fish could have even fallen to my rod, but I don't regret having another go at salmon fishing.  It was all more experience for me, in a faction of fishing where I have scant little to draw upon.  Next time I'll be that little bit more prepared and practised, which could prove to be the difference between a blank and a fish.

Friday 18 May 2012

Spring Tench & Carp Overnighter

I managed to pick a couple of days break in the early-May rain, to fit in a 24-hour session with Shane Calton.  We visited Derbyshire's Higham Farm Lakes and tackled up primarily for tench, but with the head of carp, bream and other species in there, we knew it would be difficult to target them solely.  

Higham is pretty local to me, so I used to fish this place quite regularly for the carp when I was 15 to 18, but I worked out that I have only been there once in the last 12 years!

I was field testing a fair bit of Cyprinus night fishing gear, including a bivvy, a memory foam bedchair, a 3-5 season sleeping bag and a tackle barrow, which all performed superbly (Reviews on here).

Before I arrived Shane had already landed a few bream in the 4-5lb bracket and as I was setting up he landed a tench of exactly 5lb, which was a very promising start.

It was to be the last tench we had between us, but we each notched up carp overnight and I also had a bream and a strange fantail brown goldfish-cross thing, which I should have really taken a photograph of, though I have caught similar fish from Higham in the distant past too.  I had one breakage and two hook-pulls in the night, which were either the mothers of all tench, or more likely carp.
Overnight I was setup on both rods with 6lb mainline through to 5lb fluorocarbon hooklengths to size 14 Drennan Power Hair Rig hooks.  One rod had a helicopter rig above an open-end feeder and I alternated between corn and meat on this rod whilst on the other rod I rigged up a small method feeder and baited this with a 10mm pineapple & banana pop-up which Shane kindly provided!
Just as I was settling into my sleeping bag to get some sleep, the alarm on my margin rod - which had its bait placed just in front of a small bush - screamed out as a fish tried its best to swim between every root before I could lift up the rod.  As soon as I felt the rod I knew I was connected to a decent fish which was a huge worry, what with my 6lb mainline being dragged through the roots!  Thankfully I kept my calm, kept the rod tip underwater and applied steady sideways pressure.  I think the fish had run out of ideas, as one-by-one I felt the line 'ping' off each root, my heart fluttering a little each time as I though it was the hook dislodging.  I gradually felt more in contact with the fish and was able to coax it out into open water where I could tire it without fear of it finding more snags.  Shane did the honours with the net and we both gasped as we realised this fish was a little bigger than either of us expected.  It was a beautiful mirror of exactly 18lb.  My biggest carp for quite some time, although I rarely target them these days.
The following day I alternated between taking photos of the gear I was reviewing and fishing on the surface with this floater rig.  I ended up taking another 3 carp off the top and lost a couple too.

After a pretty terrible winter campaign it felt great to be on the bank catching, in fairly pleasant surroundings (I saw a few buzzards, jays & a treecreeper and had a field mouse visiting my groundbait bowl).  Surface fishing got my juices flowing big-time!  And when I latched into this 14lb common on my last cast, I actually caught myself smiling as the drag slowly "ticked" as the fish took line several minutes into the fight.  This year, for probably the first time ever, I was really glad that the river coarse fishing season was over. There's no hiding from it; since the beginning of November I'd had a real stinker of a season and smiles have been sadly lacking from my fishing for longer than I'm happy to accept.  But if this session was anything to go by, the spark is back and I'm loving my fishing again; at last!

Royalty Fishery - Article Online now at FishingMagic

On the ball as always, I thought I'd better mention my latest article, which has been published on FishingMagic for, errrrm, 5 or 6 weeks already!  It details my trip down to the famous Royalty Fishery at Christchurch, Dorset, on the Hampshire Avon.  It was my first time fishing the river and whilst I enjoyed the experience, it was certainly a trip of mixed emotions.  I headed down there for two days with my old friend Matt and we primarily pike fished, although there were a number of barbel anglers who were catching well.  We spent day 1 on the Parlour pool and bought a general day ticket for the second day.

It was a really difficult article to write, it took several drafts to get it to read right, but now it's finished I'm quite happy with the result.  I think it's worth a read if you've ever been to the Royalty, are planning to visit, or have ever considered or dreamed of a trip there.

See what you think and then please let me know what you think of it.  If you're a FishingMagic member, you can post directly beneath the article.  Or if not, feel free to post your thoughts below here.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Brierley Park Pond Anglers Association needs your help! New fishing club in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire

Early this year I heard about a local angling club which had been setup to open fishing on a country park lake, on Brierley Forest Park near Sutton-In-Ashfield.  This lake is within a couple of miles of both where I live and where I work, so I'd known it existed for quite some time and had heard that people would often "poach" there, because fishing wasn't officially allowed but was turned a blind eye to.  I was really pleased to hear that a club was taking control of the lake, because one of the downsides to free, unofficial fishing is that it's totally un-policed.  Anyone could fish there, however they liked, they could leave litter, thieve fish and use questionable methods and baits without anyone to check even if they had a rod licence.

Through hard work and persistence, permission was granted by the appropriate local bodies for a newly formed angling club to lease the lake and and open it up to properly managed fishing.  On June 2nd 2012, Brierley Park Anglers Association* will officially open up the pond to fishing with an open day at the water, featuring various family-orientated events and who knows, maybe even a visit from one of the club's high profile patrons, Bob Nudd, Keith Arthur, Julian Cundiff and Dave Williams.

One of the things which impresses me most about the whole Brierley Pond project is that it has a real "community" feel to it, with a large emphasis put on providing angling opportunities for disabled anglers and children.  Wheelchair-friendly pegs are being installed and tackle donations are being sought, so that on-site tuition can take place, to actively encourage youngsters and those with disabilities to take an interest in fishing.

Help/Sponsors Needed
In conjunction with the Environment Agency, Brierley Park AA are installing numerous accessible fishing platforms and to fund these, club chairman Steve Savage came up with a novel way of funding them.  He's asking bait & tackle companies, along with local businesses, to sponsor a peg, at a cost of £100 per season.  For this price not only will the sponsor be helping anglers fish in comfort, they'll also get a name plaque placed on the peg and should the peg feature in any match-winning catches, it will be mentioned ion the website and in local media by name rather than by number (e.g. instead of "Joe Bloggs won with 12lb of roach from peg 4" you'll see "Joe Bloggs won with 12lb of roach from Terry's Tremendous Tackle peg").  

If you would like to find out more about becoming a peg sponsor at Brierley, or can provide any fishing tackle to be used to help teach local disabled people and children to fish, please contact Gary Barfoot via the Brierley website or search for "Brierley Pond Community Project" on Facebook.

The Fishing
I fished at Brierley during the winter and found it to be chock-full of silver fish.  I was catching quality roach and rudd, more-or-less every cast.  This was on a bitterly cold day and despite this, I was catching in less than 4 feet of water.  The only conclusion I could come to was that I was casting into - to coin an old Yorkshire phrase - "One foot o'watter and three foot o'fish"!  There are also a few carp well into double figures, along with lots of tench, bream, crucian carp, chub, perch and the odd surprise!

The lake is just over a couple of acres in size and is quite shallow on the whole, with 3 or 4 feet being the average depth, but there is the odd trench and hole which go a little deeper than this.  There are beds of Norfolk reeds, sedges and a few overhanging trees as features and one bank is completely fenced-off as a nature reserve, so the wildlife, as well as the fish, can get a little respite.  Brierley lake has a healthy population of waterfowl with the standard coots, moorhens, mallards and swans sharing the water with the fish. 

The lake is best suited to pleasure anglers, but it also has plenty to offer matchmen and the chance of landing an uncaught specimen; who knows what could be in there!

You can now purchase season permits to fish Brierley for a very reasonable £30 per year adult or £15 juniors & concessions.  There is a £6 joining fee for your first year.  

There are also day tickets available, but these must be purchased prior to fishing (they can be purchased days in advance, provided you know the date you're going to fish), from the Brierley Forest Park Visitor Centre & Cafe, located 250 metres from the pond, near the car park.  

Brierley Visitor Centre & Cafe is open:

April – OctoberMonday to Friday: 11.00am - 4.00pm
Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays: 11.00am - 1.30pm
November – March
Monday to Friday: 10.30am - 3.30pm
Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays: 11.00am - 1.30pm

A wide range of food and drink is also available.
You can make out Brierley Pond as a triangular shape towards the top-right corner of the map, so you can see how close to the fishing this shop is:

There are also set to be regular matches held at the venue, so keep an eye out for the results.  See the Brierley Pond Community Project website for further details:

You can also browse or join the Disabled Fishing Talk forum, which I believe is moderated by Steve who is chairman of Brierley Park Anglers Association, at, where there is further info about the fishing at Brierley.

*Please note that Brierley Park Anglers Association has now been renamed Brierley Pond Community Project

Thursday 8 March 2012

A few new bits and bobs

This little newsflash post is soon to be followed by a fishing update, but I just have a few things of interest I thought I should share...

Firstly, Carl Allman of Rio Ebro Angling, who we chose to fish the Ebro with - for zander, roach, carp and catfish - last September, acheived second place in IGFA's World Record Acheivement Awards, as acknowledgement of him guiding anglers to a total of 18 line class World Records during 2011 alone!  I'd like to say I was one of those anglers... but I'd be lying!

Rio Ebro Angling also have a newly redesigned website and I urge you to check it out if you're thinking of venturing to foreign shores in search of fish this Summer.  There is a limit to how many bookings a single guide can take and I assure you Carl is among the best, so make your enquiries sooner rather than later.

I wrote an article a little while ago, about storing and keeping worms, including lobworms and denbrobaenas ("dendras").  I've put it up on my website.  If you want good, plump, fresh worms whenever you need them, without spending a fortune keeping them, it's worth taking a look:

I also have three more features up on, the first is a step-by-step photo guide on how to make your own buoyant leger stems which are both cheap and robust:  Make your own Leger Stems

The other features are two reviews of Cyprinus products.  The first of which is an oval brolly/shelter called the V3.  It's ideal for spring & summer overnighters or for really windy and wet day sessions; just the job for an all-round specialist like I try to be! 
Cyprinus V3 Oval Brolly Review

The second Cyprinus review is of their flagship "Whole Hog" fishing accessory chair, which comes complete with all the rod support kit and a little side table too.  It even has arm-rests and a reclining back - both luxuries I've never been used to in fishing chairs in the past.  The review is here:  Cyprinus Whole Hog Fishing Chair Review and also, I noticed there were no instructions with this chair when I opened the box.  There are quite a few parts and to put them together for the first time is a bit confusing unless you have diagrams or instructions.  I've since found out that there is a PDF instruction leaflet available on request from Cyprinus, so I've also stuck it on my website for convenience, here:  Cyprinus Whole Hog Chair Setup Instructions.

Lastly, I came across this video yesterday which shows a novel and quick way of removing a barbed hook from your body, should you be unfortunate enough to hook yourself.  It does require another person to assist and it's not for the feint-hearted, but it's a pretty impressive technique:

Monday 9 January 2012

Underwater River Ebro Catfish Fishing Video

I've put up a little compilation video of all the underwater footage we shot (only with a small hand-held camcorder) when catfishing on the Ebro. You can view it below or on YouTube:

More Ebro videos to come when I get time to edit them!

My Back needed some Muscle Mend-ing!

To follow on from the end of my last post, I was in agony with my back.  It turned out I'd pulled some muscles down either side of my spine, around the lumbar region and for a pulled muscle, boy has it given me some grief!  It was playing havoc with all parts of my life, at work, at home, sleeping... I couldn't even put a pair of socks on!  Worst of all it was preventing me going fishing, so something had to be done

After trying various forms of pain relief, such as Voltarol, nothing was doing the trick and after all, killing the pain isn't really getting to the source of the problem.  A friend suggested I visit a sports massage therapist for treatment and recommended Nigel Mallender's Muscle Mend service.

After the first 45 minute session last week, I felt a gradual improvement in the level of pain I felt and the range of movement in my back. Nigel showed me a routine of stretching and strengthening exercises to do each morning, which also seemed to help.  Today I had my second session and now feel no pain from my injury.  Having said that, I can feel it's still there and I'm very wary of aggravating it again, so I'm still going to be taking things easy with my back for the next few weeks.

I'm keeping up with the exercises and if things continue to improve, I'll risk going fishing again soon when hopefully I can end this blank spell!

I can wholeheartedly recommend Nigel for anyone living in the Chesterfield/Dronfield/Sheffield area and if anyone is reading this from farther afield, who has a similar condition, get yourself off to your local sports massage therapist!  As a bit of a bonus, the massage covered my whole back, shoulders and neck and Nigel was able to find & treat some pretty serious knots which had built up in my shoulders through a combination of my terrible natural posture, being hunched over a computer for way too long and my dislocated clavicle injury I picked up when snowboarding 3 years ago, as mentioned here:

For those interested, Nigel's website can be found here:

Fingers crossed my next post will be (soon!) about blowing off the cobwebs and catching some fish!

Charity Predator Match @ Celtic Lakes

One session which I was hoping to have, but with work and other commitments it seems unlikely I'll be able to attend is a Charity Predator Match at Celtic Lakes, Frisby, which has been organised by Peter Hill, in aid of Leicester Royal Infirmary's Children's Ward.  The match is on Saturday 28th Jan and I believe there's still time to book a place if you're interested, you can contact Peter on 01162 313201 or 07598 339841.

Pike, Perch and Zander all count in the match, which is £20 to enter.  There are various prizes up for grabs including a week fishing on the Ebro and all proceeds will benefit the above, very worthy cause.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

2011 - That was the year that was

I haven't posted a "true" blog post for a while now, I seem to have been abusing this blog and using it mainly as an interactive advertising board for other things I've been up to.  My own fishing has been very disappointing lately (more on that later), and I turn 30 in a couple of weeks, so I'm in quite a reflective mood and thought this was an opportune time to fill in on how 2011 was for me in fishing...

2011 started off very slowly for me.  A multitude of reasons have left me spending far less hours on the bank than I would have liked to, but thankfully most sessions I've made the most of the time I had and caught some reasonable fish.  I only had chance to fit in one session before March, but then managed a couple more river sessions before the season ended.  The only fish I landed during this period were a few pike, topped off by an 18lb 13oz beauty, which I blogged about here:

Once the rivers closed, my fishing mainly went on a self-induced hiatus.  Buying my first home became the priority and despite ours being a relatively straight-forward purchase (so we were assured by the estate agents!), it took a couple of months to complete and another few weeks to get it how we wanted.  Just before the whole house purchase started, I headed to the beautiful Errwood Reservoir in the hills above Buxton, to do a spot of fly fishing.  I met up with Ian, who was the club secretary and resident Errwood maestro, and he showed me, with my very rusty fly fishing skills, how it was done.  I managed to break my rainbow trout PB twice in the day, despite the most sunny & hot April conditions I have ever seen in the UK.  It was also the start of a new fishing friendship which I'm sure will see us fishing together many times in the future.

A couple of "muck-about" sessions were all I had to keep me sane for the rest of spring & early summer.  A couple of short, unremarkable trips to some local lakes caught me a few small fish but did little to satisfy my angling hunger.  From the end of July, I started to get a few free evenings, so I could finally start my river campaign in earnest.  I didn't have to endure many blanks throughout the summer and caught a fair number of barbel, most of which were high "8s" or nine pounders.

I had a couple of flirtations with surface fishing for carp, which caught me a lot of fish.  Though none of them were monsters, I had some real fun fishing for them and I felt the electricity through my veins that only comes when casting to fish you can see (or by shoving your fingers in a socket!).  I definitely want to get back into surface fishing in spring 2012, maybe I'll latch into some bigger carp too.

An obvious highlight of the year was always going to be my first visit to the Ebro with Shane and Dave, in early September.  It did not disappoint, especially because we'd gone with an open mind towards the species we wanted to catch.  We didn't just want to sit it out for a monster catfish (though one of those would have been nice!), but rather sample a range of what the river had to offer.  With some carp fishing, a few zander, loads of roach to over 2lb, along with the cats; I think we ended up with more than just a sample!  I wrote a two-part article about the trip for Angling Star and FishingMagic, which you can still read online here: Part 1 - Zander, Roach, Barbel & Carp and Part 2 - Catfish

After returning from Spain, I continued to barbel fish on average one evening a week, up until late October.  The fish kept coming and again I didn't have to endure many blanks.  The average size was again between 8lb and just shy of 10lb, but my best evening brace came from the Derwent in mid-October, when I landed a fish of just shy of double figures and another of 11lb 2oz within an hour of each other.

Shortly after this, I targeted zander on the Trent for a couple of sessions and had quite a result in catching a couple of good zander, but also 3 pike including a couple of doubles to 16lb 14oz and a surprise 2lb 5oz eel, detailed in an article on FishingMagic here.

Also, during one of these sessions I managed to capture a strange shot on the self timer.  It's a trace of the light from my headlamp as I bent down in front of the camera, but it came out more like a ghostly-looking cobra ready to strike!

Since that run of form in the unseasonably mild Autumn, I've really struggled.  A pike session with my mate Titch had us on a venue with striking pike all over the place, but we could not tempt them on deadbaits.  We drove a long way to change venue, which saved a blank, but only in the form of a small jack for me and a lost potential PB for Titch.

My next two after-work sessions, in early December, didn't yield me a single bite.  Firstly fishing for barbel, then a zander session.  I'd been busy with domestic things for the remainder of December, but after Christmas I had the chance for a full day session.  Strangely, I hadn't caught a single chub on any of my barbel sessions throughout the summer or autumn, which I don't think has ever happened before. This gave me a bit of a chub itch to scratch, to save me going through a whole calendar year without catching one (I'd caught my last chub on new years eve 2010), so I decided to set this session aside to target chub. When the day came around the conditions were perfect on paper; warm rain the previous week had brought the levels and colour up, but no rainfall in a few days meant the colour was slowly being lost as the rivers fined down.  The weather was overcast with patchy clouds and when I arrived on the riverbank, the river looked in absolute peak winter condition.  The problem was, I was far from in peak condition; completely knackered from Christmas excess and nursing a back injury sustained whilst fitting a cooker hood on Christmas Eve!  Despite painkillers and strong coffee, I just couldn't get in the zone.

I'd wanted to trot with the centrepin and a new Cralusso Surf float I'd bought but hadn't used.  Unfortunately the wind was so strong I didn't even try to set the rod up; it wouldn't have been worth the hassle.  My backup plan took the form of a pair of quivertip rods and a variety of baits, from maggots to cheese-paste, bread to mackerel chunks.  The pain from my back made me really not want to walk too far with my tackle, on what I'd hoped would be a roving session, taking in plenty of swims on a really feature-rich stretch of river.  I ended up fishing a couple of swims with overhanging trees, quite close to the car park.  In three hours I had two half-hearted bites, one on mackerel chunk and one on cheese paste.  I connected with neither bite and eventually I decided I'd fished out both features and there was no chance of any resident fish which I'd not spooked by recasting, so I trudged back to the van and headed to a different stretch where I knew there was a huge sunken tree within an easy walk of the car park, where I'd caught chub from in the past.

I'd set up the first rod with a mackerel chunk attached on a lasso hair rig and cast it just below the rod tip while I baited the second rod.  Almost instantly the tip wrenched round, but being distracted with the other rod, I missed the bite and reeled in an empty mackerel skin, a chub bite for sure.  From then on I tried every bait and fished the swim to death well into dark, but I couldn't get another bite.  Eventually, cold and in a fair bit of pain, I accepted the inevitable and packed up, so for the first time in well over a decade, I've gone a whole calendar year without catching a single chub; bizarre!

On Monday I had planned to go barbel fishing for the last couple of hours of daylight/first couple of hours of darkness, but again my back has put paid to that idea.  I'm booked in at a sports phsyio tomorrow to hopefully get my back sorted out, which will allow me to go fishing again.  I hadn't realised how debilitating a minor back injury could be, but it's bad enough to keep me from fishing, which very little has done before!

Before the season ends, I'm hoping to get in as many sessions as possible, though at the moment I'm struggling for confidence so I've no idea what I'll be fishing for.  One major thing I have to look forward to is a jaunt down onto the Royalty in February, with a day on the Parlour Pool followed by a general day ticket, which we'll most likely be roving.  Considering the quality of fish available across a range of species on the fishery, I'm planning to go prepared to fish for anything and will let the river conditions dictate what I target, so we'll see how that goes!

I wish everyone the best of luck for 2012, wherever you fish and whatever you fish for!