Monday, 22 April 2019

Two fishing trips in three days!

As I type this, we are sitting here waiting for the final searches to go through on our house sale. Hopefully, that should be the last of it, and moving dates will follow - Fingers crossed! As this was the Easter weekend, and nothing was going to happen for a few days I decided to take advantage of the time and spend a day at the Estate lake I have just managed to get a syndicate membership of. The lake is close to where we are moving to and will be a great place to spend a few hours this year.

Just as I was planning my day and arranging to meet my mate John there, I received an e-mail from Ian, another mate of mine, who has also featured in my waffle in the past. He was asking if I wanted to fish over the weekend. As the estate lake is a rather exclusive affair, and away from where Ian lives, It was not practical to invite him to join John and me on Friday. After not being able to go fishing, hardly at all, over the past few months, I really fancied going, especially as Ian was suggesting we visit a venue I have not fished before. Could I really go twice in three days?

I mentioned this to Sue, who without hesitation, almost worryingly so, insisted that I go as I had not had the chance for a while and once we get the moving dates, I will not be able to go for the foreseeable future. No more encouragement was needed. The weather was looking good, and I really fancied spending a couple of days fishing with friends. The itinerary was to fish the Estate Lake on Good Friday and Mousehole Lakes, another new venue to me, on Easter Sunday.

The mist starts to clear over the estate lake

Estate Lake

This lake is set in the grounds of an estate that is open to the public at weekends and some days during the week. It is also used as a music venue once a year, and there is the odd wedding held there. As syndicate members, we are allowed access from dawn to dusk from April through to the end of December. With relatively few members it is a very peaceful place to fish. My mate, John, who lives just a few miles from where we are moving to has been a member here for a while and introduced me to the place. This was my first visit as an angler, although I have seen the venue before and been aware of its existence for a long while.

The journey from here in South East London is about an hour. An early start got me to the estate at around 07:00. The lake is situated at the bottom of a grassy slope that runs down from the car park. Permission is given to drive to the lake, unload and return the car to the car park. As this was my first time, I thought better of running my LWB transit down to the lake, fearing I might get it stuck on the soaking wet grass on the way back up the slope. Making a few deep ruts on the manicured slope might not put me in a good light, especially as this was to be my first visit. I thought better of it and decided to carry the gear to the lake. I was not fishing with that much gear, and I had a backpack tackle bag and a strap on my seat, so it should not be too arduous. Going down the bank was easy enough, getting back up at the end of the day was a different matter, this 63-year-old, bloke suddenly realised he was not as young as he used to be. That on top of nursing a leg injury, after the 'Herne Bay' incident a couple of weeks ago, when I took a tumble and spread myself all over the road, meant I was completely knackered (can I say that?) by the time I got back to the van! Next time I will take the trolley, although that might be hard work to push up the slope... Now I sound like an old man - don't say a word!

The floating seeds and other derbies slowly started to disperse
I set myself up with a float rod and a box of maggots, made a cast and instantly hooked a small rudd, the first of many. The lake was swathed in mist for the first hour or so until the sun started to burn it off. Lots of floating debris from the trees and dead reeds had collected at the end I was fishing. As the day went on, this started to slowly make its way to the other end of the lake, leaving my end perfectly clear by the time John joined me, a couple of hours later.

First fish out of the lake was a small rudd
The lake was made by damming the stream that runs through the property, making it deeper at one end than the other. I was fishing at the deeper end, and that is only three or four feet deep at best. The other end is significantly shallower. This meant I was fishing from the dam and the bank is edged with stone. I suspect it was a fair bit dipper originally, but it must have silted up over the years.

I had only taken a float rod and a small tele-pole with me on this first trip just to see what I could catch. It was hard work getting past the small fish, but perseverance paid off eventually, and the fish started to get bigger, not much, but at least they were going in the right direction. First fish worth noting was a nice fin-perfect roach. This was the first of many. Try as I might it was hard to get past the smaller fish at close range, using the short (5m) pole. I decided to have a go with the float rod and cast out to the open water about 20m out. This was more successful in that I was catching some better fish, including some skimmers, but the big fish were hugging the far bank.

A nice looking roach - the first of many...
...and one of the skimmers. All the fish seem to be in perfect condition
Walking around the lake made it evident that ledgering to the far bank would be the way to go. Next time I will bring a selection of bombs and another one of my old rods, passed down to me by a fishing friend from one of the forums. It is a nice looking heavy feeder that will be ideal for the job. The art of this task will be trying to get as close to the far bank as possible, without making tackle donations to the tree-Gods.

There are some nice tench, including some recently introduced golden tench, in the lake as well as a small number of crucian carp. It is early days yet, this was only my first visit to fish, and I have a whole list of possibilities for the coming year.

Never mind John, you'll catch something soon
For now, I was happy to spend the day in a lovely place, just relaxing, taking in the sights and chatting with my mate John. After spending a long time not fishing, and when I did, I had fished alone, it made for a very pleasant day. Although it is an hour's drive away, soon it will be my local, and it will be just a short 10-15 minute trip, door-to-lake. Can't wait!



Swift Lake at Mousehole

Mousehole Lakes

My second day out over the weekend, lead me to Mousehole Lakes, near Paddock Wood, in Kent. Again, this is a water I have never fished before, and it was suggested by another friend of mine, Ian. He introduced me to Beaver Fishery when he lived up here in London too. I had spent several days fishing there with him a few years ago, but after he moved we did not get to meet for a good while. He suggested that we meet at Mousehole Lakes on Sunday.

What a great venue. I have to say, the people are very friendly, and they have beautiful, well-kept grounds and swims as well as excellent facilities. The weather also helped, with one of the best Easter weekends I can remember, Sunday was a glorious day. As usual, I got up and out to miss the traffic on the south circular, that can get busy, even on an Easter Sunday. A simple drive from here got me to the lakes by 07:00. I found the guy taking the money and paid over my £10.00 for a two-rod ticket. He even offered to drive me and my gear to the swim. Although appreciated, I declined his kind offer as I had my trolley with me this time (after Fridays experience). A short walk along the path lead me to the lake, and I picked a spot on the near side of the lake that was in the sun. I like to feel the sun on me these days, these old (ish) bones are no fan of chilly, wet fishing trips!

A small skimmer was the first fish from the first put-in of my cheap tele-pole!
The pegs are boarded and very well maintained. There is just enough bank in front of the peg to get a bankstick or two in with ease. I set up my chair and laid out my tackle and bait ready for battle. The small tele-pole was the first to see action. I carefully plumbed the depth in a couple of likely places and noted that one was only a couple of inches deeper than the other. After marking the pole with the two depths, I started fishing to the right of the peg, drowning a couple of maggots. The bait had only been in the water a few seconds when I had hooked my first fish; a very lovely looking skimmer. Makes a change from a tiny roach, my usual first fish. I had paid for a two-rod ticket, and I planned to try a swim-feeder stuffed with maggots and maggots on the hook. I am not too experienced with this method, so it was all a bit experimental. After a bit of mucking about trying to get the rig so it would not tangle, I managed to catch a few fish, but nothing of any size and I was getting small fish, reasonably soon after casting. I soon realised that the swim feeder was dispensing maggots at a rate far quicker than made any sense, so I taped up most of the holes with electrical tape and tried again. This slowed down the speed at which the little fellows escaped but did not result in any better fish. It soon became apparent that maggots were going to give me small fish all day.

The fish were getting bigger, not vast, but better than the small fish the maggots were attracting
While I thought about it for a while, I went back to the whip. Instead of impaling maggots on the hook, I tried sweetcorn. This was a great success. Instantly the fish got bigger. I started to land lots of decent sized roach and skimmers. The larger hook-bait was selective. I was also feeding dampened pellets. This attracted the bigger fish including some bigger bream in the 3½ - 4lb range.

A nice 4lb bream caught on the tele-pole. A real handful on light gear!
Spurred on by this success, I continued on with the pole catching all sorts of fish in all shapes an sizes. I did notice that I was missing a lot of bites. I was sure the fish were 'feeling' the resistance of the float, as it would dip and bob straight back up again. It was not like a 'liner' when a fish brushes the line, this was a definite tug and let go. I decided to dot the float down, so it was just breaking the water. This seemed to do the trick, and the tugs were all now becoming bites. Every put-in was producing a fish. Using corn was to be the bait of the day, I even caught a nice looking gonk, or gudgeon, to give it its correct name.

Gudgeon. Little fish with a big heart. I do like catching these little fellows
There are plenty of carp in the lake, but none of them were keen to come out and play today. I will target some of them next time. My favourite fish of the day has to be a perfect little tench. There are said to be much larger tench in the lake, but this one will do for now.

Tench - it may be small but they fight like a much bigger fish, and they have just as much slime as their bigger relations!
As well as catching fish, the day was made so much better by fishing with my mate Ian. He was having a good day too. He caught lots of fish, and on bait, he was not usually successful on. Ian is a devotee to float fishing with maggots. On Sunday he caught more fish on corn than he has ever done before. I must say, that the fish in this lake do seem to take corn very easily.

Ian baiting up after returning yet another fish caught on corn
All in all, the trip to Mousehole Lakes was one of the best days out at a commercial fishery I have had in months. It together with my trip to the estate lake a couple of days earlier made for a very enjoyable couple of days and a chance to catch up with good friends. Now with the house move on its last stages, and feeling much better, health-wise, I am really looking forward to my fishing for the rest of the year.

Ralph.   

Monday, 1 April 2019

Walking and fishing

Last Saturday was a glorious day. The weather was warm, and the sun was shining, so it was an ideal opportunity to explore some water I have not fished before. I have a Canal & River Trust, Waterway Wanderers ticket that allows me to fish, among other places, most of the canals in London. This can be really handy at this time of the year as most of their waters are still open to fish, while the 'rivers' are closed.

I have fished The Regent's Canal in the past, but an internet search provided a list of local places I can fish using my permit. This included several stretches of canalised river in East London, specifically the Bow Backwaters and Limehouse Cut. Having never fished any of these places before, Sue and I decided that a stroll around the area, along with a spot of fishing might be a good way to spend a day away from the pressure and stress, filling our life at the moment, caused by our everlasting, and impending, house move.

Having not moved for forty years,  although I had heard people say it is one of the most stressful things you can do, I did not realise just how much aggravation it can be. Now I know!

We have a card here in London that allows travel on, (DLR) Docklands Light Railway, underground, overground, trams, buses and suburban trains for a maximum daily charge. Once that pay-point is reached (it is a few quid), all additional travel is free. This means we can jump on and off of, and change between, modes of transport all day long for no extra money.

We decided to make for the Limehouse Cut as a starting point. This is a dead straight stretch of water that leads from Limehouse Basin to join Bow creek, a distance of about a mile and a half. To get there was easy, we just needed to jump on a bus to Lewisham and ride the DLR to Devons Road, from where we walked a few hundred yards down the streets to the point where Violet Road crosses the canal. Here there is access to the towpath. We walked north, towards Bow Lock, along the narrow towpath. The water is a few feet down from the towpath at this point, and the path was busy with walkers and lots of cyclists. It was at this point that reality dawned on me; a beautiful spring Saturday, might not be the best day to try this. The other amusing thing was the sign we found when we got to the lock. You would have thought that someone, with a sense of humour, might have spotted the obvious hilarity in announcing the area as Limehouse Cut, 'Bow Locks'! 

The sign made us smile...
Although travelling light, I had a bag of tackle as I had taken a dropshot rod as well as my small telescopic rod, rigged for float fishing. The bag was not that heavy, but it was starting to feel that way, after a few miles. Next time I will take one or the other.

Some of the graffiti that adorns most of the surfaces adjacent to the river, here on the river Lee, just north of the locks at Bow
Limehouse Cut joins the River Lee at Bow. We continued to walk as far as the southern edge of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and decided to make our way over to the Regent's without getting a rod out. Next time I think we will try the other end of the cut. I am sure there are fish in there (I have been told as much), but on Saturday there were far too many people about to be able to fish without constantly dodging cyclists and runners. The photographs were taken between the torrents of cyclists and joggers that were out enjoying the excellent weather. That is not a complaint, everybody is entitled to use the canal as they want, but I prefer it when it is a bit quieter.

We walked over to Bromley-by-Bow tube station and caught an underground train to Kings Cross. There we made our way to Granary Square, which is a short walk, north of the station. This place has completely changed over the past decade or so. From being a run-down inner London area that you would avoid unless absolutely necessary, it is now trendy and extremely popular. It was stacked out with people, enjoying the ridiculously warm day.

We made our way west, towards Camden town and eventually found a short stretch of wall where we could sit and set up some gear. I threw a handful of maggots into the margin to get any perch sniffing around while I set up a dropshot rod and selected a small rubbery shad that was impaled on the hook, by its nose. All this was being watched by the passers-by along with a few others who had joined us sitting on the wall. I started to fish a few inches from the wall, right under the rod tip. Lots of the passers-by were asking if I had caught anything or telling me "you'll be lucky mate!"

Fishing close to the edge... and it worked!
Within a few minutes, much to my relief, and the onlooker's amazement, I caught a small perch. Nothing to write home about, but a fish is a fish. I returned it, without photographing it as I was sure I was on a roll and that I would be pulling out one after the other and I would have plenty of opportunities to get some pictures of fish... Wrong.

That one fish was the total for the day. Although I fished on for an hour or so in different spots, the fish were just not playing ball. If there was one thing to be learned from today, it is not to venture along the narrow towpath of a London canal on a beautiful warm and sunny Saturday.

We ended up walking as far as Camden Lock and decided to call it a day as far as the fishing was concerned. I had a great day, and we had a good walk. It was a good job I had Sue with me to carry the gear!

Thanks Sue!
Ralph.     

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Really...

 ...it would have been better to stay at home.

It all looks a bit bleak at this time of year
I never thought I would be saying this but in this case, it may well be true. To be, just sitting on the bank, watching the world go by is fun enough. Catching fish is a bonus. Yes, it is nicer when the sun is out, but the cold and wet has not bothered me in the past, at least not like it did on Friday.

Having got seriously delayed getting out last week, I was determined to make an early start, this time. The weather forecast was showing dry morning with light rain showers moving in later. Although the temperatures were in single figures, I thought I would be okay. I try and avoid setting up in the rain, but once I am set up and wrapped up I am usually perfectly happy to keep going in the rain.

I managed to get out and be on the road before 06:00. Sue's trusty 'recycled fridge' (Volvo) was the chosen mode of transport as my van was half full of stuff to be shipped down to our storage 'facility' in advance of our impending house move, that seems to be taking an age, but that is another story!

Okay, it does mean that I can travel faster on the arterial roads as there are no extra speed restrictions placed on the car, as there are on big vans, but I must remember that my 'intimidation' power is much reduced when it comes to asserting ones self into the traffic. It is also not as quick off the mark as the van, especially at speed. That said, I had plenty of time, and a leisurely drive got me to the fishery in just under an hour.

There was a bit of a queue at the gate, but this soon dissipated as it opened and I found myself alone in the office, buying a ticket. I assume all the others were already booked in to the specimen lakes. I bought a two-rod ticket and headed off to Maze Lake.

The lake has had a lot of work carried out on it over the past year, with some major alterations to the layout. It was also netted over the winter and restocked, recently, with a thousand F1s. The lake has not fished well for me, of late, but with all those new fish, surely I should have had a more successful day, in terms of numbers of fish caught.

The flat-calm water did not stay like that for long, once the wind and rain got up
The guys have been busy this winter on the grounds. The surrounding vegetation has been trimmed back to reveal a stark looking landscape that is a bit of a shock at first sight. It amazes me just how different this will look in a couple of months time when mother nature attempts to reclaim the lake as her own.  

My plan for later was to try feeder fishing, one rod at distance and one close in. Before that I wanted to try my luck with my trusty tele-pole and see what was hanging around the severely cropped marginal reeds. To my surprise, I was not getting a sign of anything there big or small, not even a touch.

After a couple of hours I was starting to feel the cold. I have fished in much colder conditions in the past, but this time I was really suffering. I had warm clothes on, more than usual, but I was still starting to feel uncomfortable. I added an extra layer in the form of a hoodie, over my thermal T-shirt, jumper and under my coat. I was wearing gloves and thermal socks inside my boots, yet still I was not very warm. I decided I was being a bit soft and carried on.

I was fed up with the lack of action on the tele-pole and put out a second feeder. at least this way, with the bait-runner drags at a minimum, I could put my gloved hands inside my pockets. Just as I was thinking this was going to be a blank day, the distance feeder's reel started to click and then scream as it paid-out line. A fish!

The only fish to make it to the bank
I wound into my quarry to realise, by the lack of fighting resistance, that I had not found one of the new F1s, but a decent sized bream (at least for me) that just slid into the net and I landed with no problem. Encouraged by my success I reloaded the feeder with my trusty Two Dog groundbait, secured another punch of bacon grill on the hair and recast to the same spot. Meanwhile, the other rod was doing nothing so I recast a new feeder full of the groundbait and sat back and watched the lack of action. I had a couple of takes on the distance feeder over the next couple of hours but lost both of them at the net. One a fairly decent common and another bream, this one a bit more feisty than its previous cousin.

By now I was really feeling disgruntled and cold. I had also had a call about the house sale and had to spend some time trying to sort that out. By now the wind was getting up and it took my line into the branch of a tree as it passed the end of the island. that resulted in the feeder being donated to the lake and a huge tangle of line making friends with the reel. At this point  I decided to ditch the closer of the two feeders and try again with the tele-pole in a new position.

Here, I was more successful in as much as I managed to hook a few more decent sized fish, including a ghost carp that must have gone a few pounds. I fought it for what seemed to be an eternity on the light gear, only to lose it at the net to a chorus of not so tuneful, but heart-felt expletives. Although I hook a few more fish, I landed nothing more. I was surprised that I did not catch any small fish at all, not even a small roach on the tele-pole.

By now the rain was becoming more persistent and I was not enjoying myself at all. At around 15:00 I decided that enough was enough and I started to pack up. I suddenly realised that I had not been out fishing in the cold, like this, since I have lost weight. I have lost a huge amount of weight since this time last year, so much so that I had to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes, including my fishing gear! I am now convinced that the several layers of fat I have lost from around my waist (six inches of it) must have been insulating me from the cold. The strange thing is, I seem to have lost it from all over, including my head! I put my favourite fishing hat on the other day, only to find it slipped over my eyes!

I was back home by 17:30 and it took me all day yesterday to warm up again. No more sitting around stillwaters for me in the colder months, in future I will restrict my fishing on cooler, sun-less, days to roving the rivers and canals.

Ralph   


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Yes, I made it to the bank...

…but it nearly didn’t happen!



My fishing adventures have been somewhat curtailed over the past year for all sorts of reasons. Health issues, the hot weather and an ongoing house move, have all contributed individually or in combination to thwart any plans I had of spending a day at the bank. I did make it a couple of times in November, but other than that, the only outings were to mine or the other bloke's local river, since July. As it turned out, I ended up fishing the same water I had fished in July. This time the conditions were very different.

Over the past week, the weather down here in London has been balmy. Temperatures have been in the high teens with low, but bright sunshine. The lighter nights and dry (ish) weather have added to the illusion of a spring day in February. All this beautiful weather, combined with a convenient gap in our altogether chock-a-block calendar, gave the perfect opportunity to take a day out fishing.

That was the middle of the week, and by Friday I had gathered together some tackle, purchased a pint of maggots and was ready for an early start on Saturday. That was until I realised my mobile phone had gone flat. I plugged it in to charge and forgot about it until early evening. As I was gathering my last minute bits together, I noticed a message from the estate agent selling our house. It merely asked me to call him back. The trouble was it was now too late. I thought about calling him from the bank, assuming I could get a signal, but in the end, I decided to put the fishing on hold.

Saturday morning came, and on the dot of 09:00, I called the agent only to discover that the guy who called was not in until Monday! By 10:00 I had managed to get hold of his colleague, who said he just intended to keep me up to date and there was nothing that needed attention urgently. I know if I had just gone fishing, it would have been a different story. Now, somewhat deflated, I pondered what to do. In the end, I decided to go anyway. I loaded the van and was on the road by 10:10.

I had pondered where to go, but anywhere is a decent drive from here. I stuck to my original plan and set off for Beaver, yes I know, same old story, but I know I will find some fish there.

On leaving the end of my road, I joined a queue of traffic on the South Circular, it was stationary. This part of this very busy road is only two-lane, one in each direction. There is no choice but to sit in the queue and wait. A mile or so further on, the reason for the hold-up was revealed as the police had closed a section of the road (in both directions) diverting the traffic to the left and right, just before the road passes under the railway. It is a fair distance to get to the next crossing point. As these crossing places are a bottleneck, at the best of times, the back-doubles soon became gridlocked. An hour after leaving home I was just about to cross the railway half a mile away from the closure.
I eventually got onto the M25 and sailed the few miles to the A22, the road that winds its way through Surrey and, in due course, past Beaver. Usually, this is not a bad road, except on a Thursday morning when the refuge trucks are out. This particular morning the traffic was thick and more clutch-pumping made for a further tedious delay.

Getting on for two hours after leaving home I drove through the fishery gates.
At this time of year, the gates close at 18:00, so I had barely five hours to fish, after allowing for time to set and pack away, leaving enough time get out of the gate before it closed - automatically.   

Eden Pond - The very sparse vegetation, at this time of year, gives it a very open look
I had thought I would try Maze Lake again, as it has been netted over the winter and a lot of work done on it last summer to fill in some of the redundant water. Talking to Andy, the bailiff, it sounded as that was not a good idea at the moment as no one had been successful on there over the past week or so. Instead, it was suggested that I try Eden Pond, as I was only looking for a few hours of float/short-pole fishing. This I did.

On arrival, I found one other person fishing the lake. He had been there all morning and caught nothing… Not what I wanted to hear. Nevertheless, I set up my minimal kit comprising of a chair, small divvy table (for bait), unhooking mat, net etc. and one of my cheap 5m tele-poles. A light rig using 4lb line and a 3lb hook length to a size 18 hook, suspended under a small rugby-ball shaped, 0.1g pole float. I started off at dead depth with a single maggot.

My first fish of the session, and the year!
I had been feeding a swim close to an outcrop of reeds while I was tackling up. I put the float in and let the bait settle. A gentle lift every now and then did nothing to encourage a feeling of optimism. It had been months since my last trip out fishing way back in early November. I had blanked that day, other than an unfortunate Signal Crayfish. I added a couple of inches to the depth, so the bait would be sitting on the bottom, and put in again with the same bait. Within seconds it was fish on, and I had caught my first fish of the day, and of this year!

A nice roach. Okay, not the biggest specimen in the lake, but not the smallest either. Feeing a few loose maggots every five minutes or so seemed to keep the swim alive. I was catching a good number of roach, all about the same size. I was happy, and the other guy on the lake was still not catching anything. I asked if he would like some maggot and he said he would. I gave him a couple of handfuls and went back to my fishing.

Changing the bait for one red and one white maggot, lead to me landing a nice little perch about the same size as the roach. This little fellow looked as if he had been in the wars, as most of his dorsal fin was missing. I did not photograph him and sent him on his way without putting him through any further stress.

I sat there fishing the small pole for a few hours, soaking up the sunshine that was making for an enjoyable day. Fish were coming at a rate fast enough to make it enjoyable, without being too easy. Subtle changes to depth and bait gave varying results. I was catching, and that was good. At least it was for me. I have learnt that light tackle, at this time of year, seems to be the way to go. Not too light though, as there are a few bigger fish in here.
I caught lots of roach, all about the same size
The elderly chap (yes he was older than me!) took great pains to tell me how long he had been fishing (all his life) and that there were no fish feeding in the lake (pond?) today. He could not understand it. After I had started catching continuously, he decided to pack up and go. He had been fishing using heavy line and a long waggler float that was sticking out of the water by about eight inches. I am not even sure he had plumbed the depth. His tactic was to throw in handfuls of soggy groundbait, that hit the water like a rock, all over the swim. After he had gone, I rigged a rod and lobbed a float out over where he had been fishing and caught a small bream on the first cast. Maybe I am learning something. I was fun to actually find and catch a few fish.

The small bream (large skimmer?) 'nicked' from the other guys swim after he left
Although only a short session, it was fun to get out and as I was so late getting started, I got a half-day ticket which was even better! It was only a few hours, but I enjoyed every moment, and I am so pleased I did not give up the fight to get here, as I was tempted to do when I got caught in all that traffic. The saving grace was the journey home was a good one, and I was home in a fraction of the time it took me to get there.

Ralph.  

Thursday, 15 November 2018

A bend in the rod

Today, the weather forecast was for good weather with a predicted temperature high of 17°C. This being halfway through November, I decided to try and get a day's fishing in before it really started to get cold. As it turned out, the sun stayed hidden, except for a fleeting glance in the afternoon and temperatures never did get near the forecast high. Even so, it was plenty mild enough to make it comfortable with the standard clobber adorning my now much lighter frame. I have lost over two stone over the summer and now my fishing clothes, which were tight, are now a more than comfortable fit. I used to look like a Teletubby, in my bib and brace, now I am starting to resemble a partially deflated Michelin man.

As last week's trip to Beaver was a disaster, as far as catching fish was concerned, I made a point of getting there early this week to get the choice of swims. I have not got up this early for a while, but it all went fine. I was feeling good and as I was not taking too much tackle, and the van is half full of boxes and other junk from the packing up of our house, I chose to take the car. The old, recycled, Swedish fridge is getting on a bit these days (it is even older than the van!), but it still does the job with flying colours.

The water today was dead flat at times. Just look at the refection of the rod in the water
A decent run meant I got to the fishery just as the gates were open and to my surprise, there was no queue. I had expected to be among a whole lot of people who had the same thought as me. After a bit of a catch-up with Andy, I paid my day-ticket money and set off for the back of Jeff's lake. I got there to find just one other person setting up on the far bank. The water was so still, it was like a mirror at times, ideal conditions for seeing the float. That might come in handy later, but for now, it is time to go back to what I know.

Today, I had made the decision to go back to method feeder fishing, using my tried and tested Two Dog groundbait as a feeder mix and Bacon Grill on the hook. I set up and filled the small 30g, Preston flat back method feeder, burying the hook-bait within the feed. This will generally give almost instant results on this lake, but not today. I persevered with this method for a while and eventually gave up, planning to revisit the spot later in the day.

Ah! A nice little roach, for a change
Meanwhile, I had been feeding a spot a few meters out to my right where I could drop a maggot-baited hook in with my short 5m tele-pole. A size 16 hook on a light rig was decimating the gudgeon population. I must have caught several dozen of them! Then, just for a change, I caught a nice little roach. Although I was catching fish this week, my total catch so far probably did not weigh much more than a pound or two at most. After getting bored with catching lots of tiny fish, I reverted to the feeder.

I had some Maggots left over from last week. I had bought a pint of mixed (colour) maggots. I have never used these before, and they are interesting to look at, even if the fish were not at all interested last week. Not wanting to change the rig I thought I would make a 'cocktail' bait by securing a punch of Bacon Grill on the hair, and a couple of the brightly coloured maggots on the hook. Having never tried this before, I was impressed when it resulted in a nice, firm take. For the first time in months, I was playing a fish that had some fight. The fact that it played dead after a very short fight confirmed my assumption that I was playing a bream.

That's more like it
Great! First decent fish of the day, I was on my way. I baited the rig again, and cast. Nothing. That was the end of the feeder fishing in that spot. I decided to go back to the pole and try some bigger bait to try and discourage the gudgeon. I tried at dead depth and nothing. After several attempts, using meat, sweetcorn and even bread, I was getting nowhere other than one perch that went for a piece of red (dyed) Bacon Grill. Even that was only a small fish. In desperation, I changed the hook to a size 10 and loaded it with a bunch of various coloured maggots, after buying another pint from the fishery shop. I also moved the float up the line so now I was fishing with an inch or so of line sitting on the bottom. That changed things dramatically.

The first put-in got a mighty tug. At this point, I realised the line was wrapped around the tip, and the elastic was still in the pole. Snap! The hooklength had broken, and I was left having to re-rig. Next put-in had the same reaction. This time the elastic came out of the pole until it bottomed-out and then snapped. I had brought along a second tele-pole with a stronger elastic fitted. That was rigged with a stronger line and hooklength. I put this in and again I had several strong bites that got away, this time I was just losing the fish. The gear, including the hook, sans bait, was holding up. Then I had another one on. It was playing nicely, and I was as gentle as I could be until it made a bolt for it and bottomed-out the elastic. This time the hooklength broke and the fish was lost.

By now, I realised that there was not much I could do to stop the fish using the small poles. They are excellent for small fish, but if anything of any size gets a hold of the bait, there is nothing I can do to stop it. By now it is getting on for lunchtime. I pulled the line out of the water and poured myself a cup of coffee to have with a sandwich and consider my options. It has been a while since I last fished this lake with any commitment. I did spend an hour or so on here earlier this year catching F1s on corn, but that was at the height of summer, and I was using heavier gear.

The multi-coloured maggots worked well with my Two Dog groundbait feeder-mix
After lunch I hit on the idea of just dropping the feeder in, charged with Two Dog and leaving a bunch of maggots just hanging on a four-inch hooklength. After all, that is not that much different to what I was doing with the pole, once I had started to fish over-depth. That worked! The heavier gear was easily up to the job, and I was landing fish after fish. By now the lake had filled, and I was fishing with seven or eight other anglers. Some were catching, but not at the rate I was. Again, the Two Dog feeder mix was calling in those F1s. I must have had twenty of them over the next few hours, along with the odd bream and a lovely crucian. At least I am reasonably sure it was a crucian. As I understand it, the way to tell the difference is by counting the number lateral line scales. This fish seems to be in the 32-34 bracket which makes it a crucian as F1s usually have more, in the 35-36 range. Please correct me if I am wrong, I am only going by what I have read.

A nice size crucian was my favourite fish of the day
It starts to get dark very quickly at this time of year, so by 4 o'clock I was beginning to pack up, and by 5 o'clock I was all packed up and well on my way home. A great day fishing and I learnt a lot today.

Ralph.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

John Wilson

Long before I was an active angler, I often watched television programmes about fishing. Jack Hargreaves was probably the first 'name' I can remember. His series on the long since defunct 'Southern Television'  was called Out of Town, and later, when it was picked up by Channel 4, Old Country. His soft dulcet tone was very easy to listen to, and his whole demeanour gave him a grandfatherly appeal to a young lad like myself, even though I was not interested in fishing as a kid. 

Later in life, as an adult, I would watch fishing programmes with Sue, my wife. Neither of us were anglers, but we enjoyed watching well-presented fishing programmes as entertainment in their own right. John Wilson's Go Fishing was one such programme. Like many others, we were captivated by John Wilson's genuine enthusiasm for the hobby. It mattered not that we were not interested in having a go ourselves, we soaked up the material on offer for the sixteen years that the programme aired on Channel 4 and then again as repeats on the digital channels in recent years. John Wilson's programmes had (and probably still do) an appeal, way beyond the angling community. 

Today, 13 November 2018, I learned that John has died, this morning in Thailand, after suffering a stroke on Sunday. He had moved there a few years ago to retire to the sun, but in recent months he had decided to return home to spend more time with family. Sadly this was not to be. Although I have never met him, I felt like I had lost a friend. When I took up fishing late in life, just four years ago, the first book I bought was a copy of his Course Fishing Method Manual. Now long out of print, being first published over twenty years ago, I managed to secure a second-hand copy.


The book was obviously well loved before I became the custodian of the volume. The original owner had scribed a declaration on the inside of the cover, stating that the book belonged to him. He had also added his undying love for his girlfriend! Even now, the book is full of the basic information a novice like me needs to further my fishing adventures. I am sure there is many an angler out there today who has learned a lot, and like me, are still learning from the words of John Wilson. 

John Wilson was voted the 'greatest angler of all time' by the Angling Times readers and was awarded an MBE in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours, For services to Angling.  

R.I.P John Dennis Wilson, MBE.

Ralph.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Finally, a day at Beaver...

Your days are numbered...
Today has been a good day. My first visit to Beaver Fishery since July. I missed most of the summer fishing due to one thing or another, although I did manage the odd trip to our local river and Tim's stretch of The Medway, as regular readers of my waffle will know.

The cold and dark of this time of the year did not inspire me to plan an early start, so a leisurely plod was in order. The van is full of boxes as we are in the process of packing up the house, so rather than mess about, I decided to go light and take the car. A float rod and a tele-pole, my comfy seat and a small bag of tackle was the order of the day that all fit nicely into the back.

I left just before 09:00, and to my surprise, the traffic was fairly light. Less than an hour later, I was driving into the fishery. By this time the office was locked, and the guys were out and about tending to the grounds. I could hear the sound of the fishery's Kubota pick-up and headed for the noise. On the bank of Jeff's lake, I found Adam trimming the margins. After a brief chat, we headed back to the office where I paid my day ticket and bought a pint of multicoloured maggots and a tin of hemp.

Maze Lake. The area inside the red box has now been in-filled
Last time I was here, the silted up arm of Maze Lake was being filled in and now completed, access to the 'fingers' is easier from the back of the lake. I decided to have a go at fishing from there. It always seemed a lot of messing about to get there before. I set up in a swim at the end of the 'finger' in a place I could not reach from where I have fished in the past. The spot looked good with open water in front of me and a patch of lily pads to my left at the closed end. The section of the map is taken from the complex map on the fishery's website, showing the layout of Maze Lake as it was before the infill.

The greyed out area inside the red box indicates where the lake has been filled and the red arrow shows where I was fishing for the day. I say fishing, I think in four years, this was the first time here that I blanked, not a sniff all day. The only thing to get dragged out of the lake was a signal crayfish laden with eggs. Even that was foul hooked! Needless to say, it did not make it back to the lake.

The view from my peg, looking out over the swim to the new grassed area of infill.
 The spot looked idyllic. Nice stretch of water in front of me, looking over to the bank that surrounds this side of The Major's Lake. My favourite place to fish is just the other side of that bank. However, the water level is still low in The Major's Lake and is continually being topped up from Maze via a diesel pump that can be heard in the distance. After a while, I forgot the noise was there.

You would think there would be a few fish around those lily pads, wouldn't you?
I was too busy trying to catch fish - unsuccessfully. I started off by cupping in a small cup of maggots and hemp while I was rigging my short, 5m pole. I plumbed the depth to set the bait right on the bottom and impaled one of the colourful maggots. Nothing. I fed a few grains of hemp over the float. Still nothing. After an hour or so, I gave up on the pole and decided to rig my float rod with a long waggler and see what was hanging around further out. Nothing. In short, I tried changing bait to corn, bread and even meat but it all gave the same result, absolutely nothing. I did not get a bite all day until the last few minutes when it was getting dark, and I was about to pack up. Both fish came off the hook and my total catch for the day was one, now deceased, signal crayfish.

This is very similar to a trip we made to our local river back in the summer. It had been raining all day yesterday, and I guess the rain has cooled the water down sufficiently to cause the fish to stop feeding for a while as they acclimatise to their changed environment. Mistakenly, I chose today to go fishing as it looked like the weather was going to be good, not thinking about the fact that it had been raining all day yesterday.

Yes, it would have been nice to catch the odd fish, but never mind, I had a day out in some nice weather getting some fresh air and was able to spend a good few hours without worrying about life in general, moving house and being ill. I think if the weather is not too bad, I might go and say hello to the fish in the weir pool on our local river over the weekend. I wonder if they like multi-coloured maggots!

Ralph. 
   

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Goodbye London and fishing on Thursday - Maybe.


39 years and 19 days after moving into our Victorian terraced house (that we bought as a first time buy back in the days when nobody wanted to live here) we have just put it on the market. Since we moved here the area has steadily become more desirable as the infrastructure has been improved and the surrounding areas have become far too expensive for anybody but the elite.

Now the multi-coloured, ten-year old Ford Cortinias and rusty Morris Marinas that used to adorn the curb have been replaced with Range Rovers, Porsches and Mercedes. Every road has houses being refurbished to high standards and usually with the addition of loft conversions, extensions and even basements excavated. Who would have thought, when we bought a house that had been converted into two flats, for no money at all, that four decades on it would be one of the most desirable locations in the road? Not us, that is for sure. Originally, we had only intended to stay here for three years.

Now after a lifetime of living in the smoke it will be a big wrench to drag ourselves away from all the advantages living in London can offer. This has been made a lot easier in recent years by the growing list of disadvantages for us. There is no doubt that a younger person making his way in life, the modern fast, twenty-four hour vibe of the metropolis can be the perfect place to live.

For me, all that is behind me. At 62 years of age, I have no intention of landing myself with a whole lot of stress I don't need. The thought of moving out to a place where I can just be, has become more and more appealing as the years chug by. Making the move now, before I get too old to enjoy the things I love, makes perfect sense.

So What has this got to do with fishing?


Lots. For a start I will not be able to do much fishing over the next few months while we pack up and sort out the best part of forty years of accumulated stuff. You know, there is furniture, clothes and kitchen utensils and all the rest is 'stuff'. We seem to have far more than our fair share of stuff, in fact I had no idea just how much stuff we actually had tucked away in this house!

Fishing gear comes under the 'stuff' category and again, it mounts up. My intention is to keep some to hand, but the rest will have to be packed up ready to move and put into storage for a while, along with a lot of other stuff. Now I have to decide what to keep to hand.

I could base it on what I take when going 'light'. See HERE. That covers float fishing, but I will add a couple of my short tele-poles and pole-rigs. I will also keep to hand my little telescopic rod that I use on the tiny rivers we have locally. That should do for the foreseeable future. All the rest will go into storage and will still be accessible if I do need it.

The weather looks good for tomorrow and that will give me a good excuse to try out the minimum gear approach. I have not been to Beaver for months, partly due to the moving 'distractions' but mainly due to not feeling well enough. I am really looking forward to a day by a familiar lake just gently fishing for whatever comes along. The last time I was there, the weather was baking hot. I think it will be a bit different tomorrow. Time to dig out some warm clothing and something hot for breakfast on the bank...

...Happy to be going fishing, but even happier now we have just had an offer accepted on a house we want to buy - all we have to do now is sell this one!

Ralph.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

And then there were perch!

We save all the trimmings from Bacon Grill punching
The last time we were down by our local river, here in Catford, it had just been raining, and it was running a torrent over the shallow weir and into the pool we have been fishing lately. Today, normality has been restored, the water was crystal clear, and the chub are cursing around looking for anything that might constitute food. We had no maggots in stock, so we took some Bacon Grill trimmings (the bits left behind after first slicing and then punching a whole can into hook-bait) that had been chopped up ready to use as feed on my next outing.

Having never fed these fish with meat before, I had no idea how they would react. It turned out they are partial to cured, processed pig fat and meat! I might try them of meat next time instead of/as well as Maggots.

As we were watching the chub, I caught a flash of stripes. Yes, the perch from downstream have also arrived in the pool along with the chub. Although not as bold as the chub, they were definitely interested and were patrolling the far bank, close to the pilings. Although they did make the odd excursion our direction, they would not move that far away from the far bank. I should have brought the small pole catapult as although the river is not that wide, it is impossible to get the feed over to the far bank without spooking the fish with my flailing arm.

Next time we get the chance, I will take willies with me and paddle over to the other bank, across the weir. The water passing over it is only a few inches deep, most of the time. Once there I can have a go at fishing from the far bank. With that in mind, I have some Bacon Grill punch that has been dyed red - it might just tempt a passing perch. I might even try dropshotting for them with a small plastic fish!

I would never have thought there could be so much fun to be had just a short mile and a half walk from my front door here in South East London. The more I study this small river, the more I like it and the more interesting it becomes. I really enjoy my short sessions actually fishing, but I am getting just as much fun out of trying to learn where the fish are, as there is no one to tell me. I guess this is what they call watercraft, or at least the learning of it.

Ralph.

   

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

No fish, but I got my spanner back!

The trees have been trimmed - time (and room) to fish
Yesterday, I got back down to Kent to fish with Tim. Having been stuck indoors for the past few weeks, I was really looking forward to a day fishing with the other bloke on The Medway, upstream of Maidstone town centre, attempting to catch a fish! Neither of us did. Since we first fished here, the trees have been trimmed, and the place looks completely different. At last, we will be able to cast with ease. We started off having a go at dead-baiting for pike, as Tim had bought a few frozen roach and skimmers. This was a big learning curve as neither of us had tried this before. Just trying to get the single circle hook through the body of the fish (now unfrozen!) was a bit of a palaver - it would have made a poor comedy sketch. None of what you see on YouTube is as easy as it looks, and this is no different.

Armed with a good few hours of experience, we need to go back to the virtual classroom and see if we can move on a stage. The bait was getting attacked, we were just not feeling a bite, or when we did, we were not connecting with the fish. Hey Ho. After a few hours of 'feeding' the fish we decided to pack it in and go back to float fishing and chatting - sort of what we do best, the chatting that is!

We still blanked, not even a twitch. I guess Saturday's heavy rain had changed the river, that was the clearest I have seen it since we first fished here, back at the beginning of the summer. This part of the river is above the first lock, so the flow is governed by when the lock is opened or the rate water that is allowed to pass. Now, call me thick, but I have just realised that maybe we should be fishing this stretch of the river more like a canal than a river...

Although the fishing was not great, I did come home with a catch, not mine but one of Tim's. When the guys were trimming the trees, he borrowed their magnet-on-a-string and managed to recover the spanner I dropped into the river when we were removing the ladders. That was back on the 4th of August. The spanner had been in the river for a good couple of months. When Tim got it out, it looked in excellent condition apart from what looked like some light surface rust. When I got it home, I gave it a quick wash in warm soapy water and the 'rust' dissipated. It was just a build up of reddy-orange sediment that had deposited itself in the lettering and the jaws of the ring-end. If this is not a good endorsement of quality, I don't know what is. The picture below shows a brand new spanner that I bought to replace the lost item and the recovered spanner. Can you tell which is which?

The lower one has spent the past couple of months at the bottom of the river!
Next time we fish from here, I will be using a slider float and having a go with a long pole. As far as the pike fishing is concerned, I have discovered what we were doing wrong with the rig, I just need to go and find out how to use it! I will let you know how that goes in due course. All in all, it was a great day, with good company and fun fishing, even if we did not land a single fish.

Ralph.