Monday, 21 December 2015

Regent's Canal first fish!

This time of year I do prefer a spot of urban fishing. I know the die-hards will be out their on the muddy banks, fighting the elements, man (or woman!) against fish. Me, I am a city-boy, I don't get the attraction of mud!

A week or so ago, there I was sitting on the bank, competing in the last match of the year for me. Very few fish, a bit damp and very muddy. As you may have guessed I am not a great lover of the cold, wet and MUDDY countryside, at least not sitting in it for hours on end. Yes, I did enjoy myself on that occasion but I don't want to make a habit of it when I can get my fishing fix in far more familiar surroundings - Town.

No mud and minimal gear makes urban fishing the way to go for me at this time of year 
Another big draw for me is that it is free, not that I mind paying for my fishing but if I only want to spend a couple of hours at it I don't feel like I have paid for a whole day. With the gear all sorted out we made our way over to King's Cross with the intention of fishing to the East of the station.

At the moment the railways in London are constantly being disrupted for works. some of this is small and occasional maintenance operations but others are not. The Crossrail project causes all sorts of closures from time to time but for us it is London Bridge closures that have the most impact. On Sunday it was completely closed with no trains even running through it. A quick search of the Transport for London (TfL) website gave us alternative routes and we were pleased to see that we could travel from one of our local stations and trains were being diverted into Victoria Station instead. A handful of stops on the Victoria Line tube and we were standing on the concourse of King's Cross Station.

Rusty buildings seem to be the in thing
The redevelopment of the area around King's Cross is staggering. The area has changed beyond all recognition. New buildings progress skyward with a relentless momentum that seems unstoppable. I must say I do like a lot of the modern architecture but I am puzzled over the idea of featuring bare steel that is allowed to rust. It seems to be the current flavour of the month, not only with buildings, but signs and bizarrely, art installations in urban areas that bleed  their rust stains onto the fine stone plinths and paving that surrounds them. Maybe I am just getting old!

The building in the picture above is not rusty because it is being built, it is meant to be that way! Even the hoardings around the site are printed with a 'rust' effect. Maybe it will grow on me but I think I would prefer to see it finished rather than just left, seems like a cop-out to me...

... I digress, back to the fishing.

Fuzzy fish!
Yes, I know it is not up to our usual standard. You just can't get the staff these days. My gillette (female version of a ghillie...) was having trouble with the camera. Quality aside, had to include this rather fuzzy picture of the very first fish I have caught dropshotting. Not only that, it is the first fish I have caught in the Regent's Canal!

Crazy Fish Tipsy from AGM
It was loafing about at the rear of one of the houseboats moored along the canal. I used one of the Fox ready-made dropshot rigs and a small orange Crazy Fish 5cm Tipsy that the fish went for on the first drop. These little plastic lures are impregnated with the most disgusting smells - in this case it is squid. There are thousands to choose from and it is a case of just pick a few and see what works. This one came from AGM but whatever you do don't go and brows their catalogue, you could spend a fortune on little plastic fish! Seriously, they have a vast collection of these lures and all sorts of hooks, weights and jig-heads. You do need to have a few spares if you are fishing in urban canals. They are full of old rubbish and although the Regent's was cleaned in places last year, it is still full of stuff to entangle your gear. I lost a couple of lures, hooks and weights that just would not wriggle free. I think as time goes on I will get to know where not to fish. I lost one rig while fishing around the temporary floating pontoons that are being used to keep the toe-path open while it is being refurbished in several places, especially around Kings Cross. I suspect I hooked a submerged tethering rope. I will not be going too near those in future.

As the night started to close in the whole place takes on a new feeling (I think they call it a vibe these days). The lights come on and still the world carries on. One feature of the canal is the floating shop that moves about from one place to the other supplying peculiar collections of pages, decorated with type and pictures. They are heavy and completely devoid of hyper-links of any kind - I think they call them books - remember those?

The picture is taken from the top of the modem flight of steps that marks the entrance to the now filled in basin that now forms Granary Square. The area has changed so much that is hard to recognise where you are if you venture away from the canal.

Do bookworms make good bait?
As we were packing up to leave we spotted this heron on the opposite bank feasting on all he (she?) could find. Again, sorry about the grim picture but the light was going, it was too far away and I was standing on a pontoon, that was far from stable, using a compact camera. But you get the idea. It was his fault I only caught one fist in a couple of hours - Well, that is my excuse anyway. We only had a couple of hours on the Canal but it was very enjoyable and I learnt a few things. One thing I must do is to buy some bright coloured braid. It was almost impossible to see the line in the low light conditions. I am also going to buy a good selection of cheap weights as they are bound to get snagged from time to time and I don't want to fill the canal with expensive tungsten weights. Another thought maybe to try some weed-less hooking techniques with the hook point almost buried in the small plastic lure. I think I need to have a hunt around for some more supplies and I must not go on the AGM site, no, not even for a little glance, no.... not at all... Well, maybe just a quick peek...


Monday, 14 December 2015

Who forgot to bring the fish?

Saturday saw a gathering of members of the Maggot Drowning Forum to participate in the South East Fur and Feather match held at Furnace Brook Fishery, East Sussex. This is a wonderful lake set in a valley. Even on a murky winter's day the place has an inviting charm.

The day commenced with the usual early start. Not cold at all, and refreshingly it was dry as I loaded the van.  A few drops of rain on the window were not the prelude to a wet day - thank goodness. I really did not fancy sitting on the bank cold and wet.

It's dark, it's 5:45AM and I'm goin' fishin'... Bonkers!
This time on a Saturday morning even the streets of London are relatively quiet. I decided to drive out through the suburbs to the M25. Normally I will take the other option and drive due East out to the motorway via the south circular to Swanley and drive back around the M25. a much longer route in distance but quicker due to the ability to drive at a decent speed. Driving through deserted streets at 30mph (20mph in places) is frustrating to say the least. The nice sedate drive, admiring the new speed cameras (he said gritting his teeth), got me onto the M25 and onward to the A21. This, for those who don't know it is a decent run of dual carriageway as far as Southborough, where Jane insisted I should "Take the exit". That was the end of the easy driving from here on down it was town and country lanes that just got narrower and narrower... Not fun at all in the dark, punching the van down unfamiliar country lanes hopping that nothing was coming the other way as there was no room to pass. Eventually I made it to the fishery at 07:20 and managed to get parked.

I was the second one there. I could see a light on in the lodge and squelched my way through the gate and over towards the smell of bacon cooking. I was greeted by one of the other guys, Wayne, sitting there fondling the fishery cat, and the guy making the bacon smell.  After exchanging a few pleasantries the afore mentioned cat decided to bite Wayne and was duly 'ejected' from its previous position. The cat made a swift exit out onto the balcony that over-looks the end of the lake. this was followed by an almighty splash!  We both rushed out there expecting to see a half drowned cat. Instead we realised the cat had surprised a duck that made a rapid decent into the lake. The cat was no where to be seen.

A huge baguette stuffed with several rashers of bacon and a mug of tea followed, re leaving us of a very reasonable £4 each. Time to get the gear ready. By this time the others had arrived and the sun had risen. The guys were chewing-the-cud in the car park and getting their trolleys ready. Posh, branded luggage was carefully piled onto designer trolleys ready for the off. It is at this point that I feel like the the poor-relation, akin to an allotment being compared with a stately garden. My meagre kit piled higgledy-piggledy onto my sack barrow and secured with some bright red bungee straps.

View from my peg. That little blue shape under the red arrow is the van!
Kit loaded, it was time for the draw. I pulled peg 5. Yes, you guessed it, right up the far end of the lake. A good peg I was told. After dragging the loaded barrow with one hand and the pound-shop bucket in the other to the peg I was then faced with a flight of steps down to the peg itself. Leaving the barrow at the top would have been the sensible thing to do, but no. Muggins here decided that he would roll it down the grass bank. Halfway down It became obvious that this course of action was never going to have a happy outcome as there was a, eighteen inch vertical drop at the bottom of the slope to the peg.  The trolley did a broadside and landed on its side with all the gear in disarray.  Well, that's one way of doing it. The only major inconvenience was that my cantilevered tackle box that had just been tidied and carefully sorted out was now well and truly un-sorted!

It didn't take me long to set up my small amount of kit. I had my feeder rods set up already, only requiring the addition of hook lengths and bait to be added. I pitched (if that is the right word) my keep nets, positioned my seat, set out my other bits and pieces and that was it, ready. Still having half and hour or so until the off, I went for a wonder around and a chat with the others while they were setting up. Ten competitors, and what seemed like nine poles... Hmmm... Might be something I am missing here, me thinks.

Just before the whistle, calm and coloured water
10 o'clock, and the match was off. I had already planned my lines and clipped up to where I thought I might catch a few fish. The water was very coloured after the recent heavy rain but the consensus of opinion was that there would be fish around, ready and willing to be hauled in and shown the sights. Straight in with the flat back method loaded with my usual Two Dog groundbait. A punched lump of Bacon Grill on the hook. This was repeated several times to lay down some free offerings. Normally by now we would get a few line bits and some interest if not a few fish in the net. Nothing. I was not alone, very few fish were being landed. Hours went by and absolutely nothing was happening.  I swapped to a swim feeder and maggots, both in the feeder and on the hook. Nothing. By this time I am beginning to think that someone had forgotten to bring the fish! I had seen the odd fish being caught but the pickings were slim to non-existent.

Three hours in and still no fish.This was getting silly. Then just as the enthusiasm was about to dry up completely the rod top bent over and I had a fish on. Reeling in this first fish was not exactly hard work and when it arrived it was a 1oz roach... but it was a fish! That was to be my total catch of silvers all day.

Four and a half ours in, my total was one fish and 1oz. I had a feeling I was not going to win this one. Sitting there feeling rather deflated I decided to give the sweetcorn another go. I had tried it earlier with no luck. I cast back on my original line and tightened up to the feeder when it suddenly took off! Blimey I have caught a fish and this feels like a carp. Please don't come off the hook.....  More winding and a bit more fighting tiring to keep it from heading for cover. I eventually landed a nice sized common weighing in at 5½lb (at least in my book) Okay not the biggest fish in the lake but at least I had caught one. Chuffed to bits with my catch I continued to fish corn on the feeder for the last half an hour but did not get another sniff.

It does not look as big as it was, folded into the net, but I was a 5½lb fish - the only carp I caught all day
Out of all the anglers that weighed in I came last with a total weight of 5½lb as I know at least one other did not weigh in, in my books I was not really last so I was as happy as I could be. I wish I had caught a few more but that was how it was and I was not going to let one poor outing put me off. Fish or no fish I had a great day and I got to fish a new (to me) venue. I think I will go back in the summer and give it another go. It is without doubt a very picturesque  venue and, if wast the others say who know the place is anything to go by there is normally good fishing to had.


During the day, while experimenting with different hook baits, I did try my latest creation, frylies, that I talked about in my last post.  Although I did not get a bite, they proved their ability to survive a cast, soak and retrieve with out breaking up. I will give them another go in the new year and I will report any findings then.

I plan to get some dropshooting in on the regents on Sunday morning, if the weather holds, combined with a visit to the street-food market at Camden Lock or sample some more of the weird cuisine on offer from all over the world. Last time be were only brave enough to sample some Polish sausage, maybe it will be something more exotic on Sunday!


Monday, 7 December 2015


Last weekend we were involved in a non-fishing event. While clearing the hall at the end, what food was left over was offered to those doing the clearing up. Even after that share out, there was still some left over. This was heading for the pigs, or worse, land fill. With this in mind, I offered to take it. The sausage rolls were nice and they got frozen for eating as did the baguettes. But there were a couple of dozen Asda mini pork pies - I am sorry, but these things would qualify the true definition of the word disgusting. There is so much soft, tasteless pastry wrapped around the marble sized pork gristle, they only just qualified as being non-vegitarian. Yuck!

I wonder if fish like pork gristle? Only one way to find out. Short of tying it on to a foot-long hair, and targeting a few big catfish, I think they will need reconstructing.

Frylies - Like boilies but fried...  

Frylie paste
After separating the gristle from the pastry, I had a small amount of gristly meat and a huge pile of soft greasy pastry.  My first thought was to process the meat into a even consistency and roll it into 12mm balls using my boilie table. In to the gun went the mixture and it squeezed out a 12 mm sausage. A small section of this was placed on the table and rolled. It made a rather friable ball.  I tried shallow frying it. It disintegrated. I tried deep frying it. It disintegrated.  Hmmmm...

Okay I need a bit more substance and a binder. I added about an equal quantity of the soft pastry crumb some eggs and a few ounces of flour that I had by me in the freezer. It was in the freezer undergoing 'purification' - killing the weevil that I had discovered in it a few months ago. I mixed the ingredients together, adding the flour until it did not stick to my hands. I tried to fry it again. This time I had success, but the thing had got bigger, not smaller as I had expected.  Hmmmm...

I tried again and this time I used my new little particle rolling table that makes 8mm balls. I shallow fried it and it came out perfect,  After letting it cool down, I dropped it in a glass of water and it floats. Thinking about it that is probably because the dead weevil flavoured flour is actually self raising. It does look like I might be on to something here - Pop-up Frylies.  I need to do a bit more experimenting but it is promising so far. I will make a batch and see how it goes. Once I have proved it works I will publish a full recipe. The little frylies start off at 8mm from the rolling table and grow slightly when fried.

Pop-up frilie

Once immersed in water, they seem to expand a little more and finish up a shade under 10mm. This is just about the size I was looking for. I don't think they will as robust as boilies but with my style of fishing the bait only needs to last the cast and a minute or two in the water.

It floats!

I like the idea of them popping up from the bottom and the short hook link will prevent it from floating away too far above the feeder. I could try a shorter hook-length, if four inches of pop up is too much. Early days, let's see how it works first. It may be a total waste of time but if it is I have still learnt something, even if it is that it does not work!