Thursday, 29 December 2011

Living the dream... slightly!

Someone once said "I have a dream", well so do I! albeit a little less world changing. My dream is not one that will profoundly change other peoples lives but one that would certainly be very nice for me, should I ever be lucky enough to live live it.

I dream of a small cottage clad heavily with years of ivy growth, situated close to a small well kept stretch of river in the middle of nowhere. Where early on Christmas day I would wake and slip out of bed to peer from misted windows to see rolling fields shrouded in frost.
Before venturing out I would stand and enjoy the sights further as I sipped steaming tea standing in a quint old kitchen eating an oak smoked bacon sandwich. My belly filled and body fuelled I step out in the sharp morning air rod in hand and begin my short jaunt down to the waters edge.
As I walked the frozen grass and leaves would crunch under foot and as I passed through  the small coppice picture postcard images of red breasted robins and cheeky squirrels would fill my eyes and warm my soul before I finally reached the bank and settled down to spend a short time casting for a precious bite on Christmas morn. Returning back to the cottage a roaring log fire would await me and the smell of roasting turkey would fill my senses.

But that is just a dream! and in reality I have yet been unable to shake the shackles of Christmas in the city where work holds me back, unable to realise my dream. But this year an Angel appeared before me and told me that as last year we spent our Christmas at my family's house, this year we would stay at home and instead invite others to us. Which did not surprise me at all, but what she said after this did!!! "So if you want to nip out for a couple of hours fishing feel free" It took a moment for this to compute and an another for me to shut my gaping mouth. But that was it! it was on. A fishing trip on Christmas day.

A strict curfew and common sense procluded travel. But with my car currently out of action I have been developing an acute appreciation of my tiny stream round the corner, down the hill and up the road.
So early on the 25th I lived out my dream minus the cottage, frost and southern chalk stream of course.

The water had a tint of winter green and I fished a few swims on my precious little brook. Bites were had at every stop but it wasn't until I settled for a while on a deeper looking glide and flicked out the ubiquitous pinch of bread that the fish began to flow as did the hooch from my hip flask.  

Although no monsters were caught every wonderful little fish meant ever so much to me on the dream realizing session and I ended up catching (sung to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas..!)

Three tiny minnows,

Two small roach,

And a chub of maybe a pound!

I hope you all made much merry over the holidays because I did and I wish everyone a happy new year where your lines are tighter more than they are slack.

Friday, 23 December 2011

A winter warmer

The total of my last couple of trips can be summed up quite easily with only a few lines and a couple of pictures.

On Sunday all I netted in four hours of fishing on the gin clear canal was about fifty pounds of ice!

On Wednesday myself and Andy had a ten hour picnic next to a massive wind swept gravel pit!

I think everyone still mental enough to be fishing here in the UK will agree that the fishing has certainly taken a turn for the worse since the winter has set in. And I for one will be re-evaluating my approach for the next few months to counter for this dramatic change.

- No more messing round on lakes, unless pike are involved.
- If I even suspect a venue may be frozen I ain't bothering.
- Stick to the rivers at all costs.
- Target only the species that can feasibly be caught (no chancing a rare catch)
- Use the two pound block of  stinking cheese paste that Jacky's been trying get out of the freezer all year.

Being a little bored I have been looking back trough my blog and dreaming of easier days gone by. Whilst looking through it I discovered that of all the posts I have done in the last few years, one has been the most popular and  most viewed ever since it was posted. This in turn reminded me that a while ago I had written a little tale which I had extracted from this post and expanded on it a little. And in this time of little action to blog about I felt this short may hold a little interest and warm a few cockles.

A knock out Barbel

A few years ago whilst targeting some very respectable Barbel on clear shallow section of the upper Warwickshire Avon  I went through what can only be described as a unbelievable run of comical disasters whilst trying to land even just one single Barbel, leading up to the crescendo that I will never forget. 
I endured numerous problems including; having a close friend spoil my best chance of the entire summer through a morbid fear of wasps, a rod snapping like a twig whilst playing a very nice double figure Barbel, which I subsequently lost; and having a mink dive in where I was fishing sending every resident of my favourite swim off for days. 
But by far the worst and final disaster happened on a surprisingly hot and hazy autumn afternoon. 
One of the best swims on the entire stretch of river had a mouth watering willow which had slumped over into the river. All summer long a huge mat of debris had built up around it making the perfect hiding place for a resident shoal of Barbel which ranged from three pounds right up to oh my god. 
Perfect as it was this swim had one major drawback. One of its bows supported it perfectly from the bed of the river and just happened to be dead centre of the entire hidey hole, which made casting baits under the raft from upstream absolutely impossible. In fact the only option was to cast a bait as far under as you dared from the side and then try and tempt the residents out slowly by trickling hemp under it from above. 
On this occasion I had crept into position being very careful to keep myself well hidden behind a small mound fringed with tall dry tufts of grass. I had for once made the perfect cast first time and after being cramped up against the trunk of a tree for two or more hours my gradual baiting had finally tempted a few fish to the edge of the shadows just under the mat where my hook bait lay visible on the bottom on a fantastic gravel run. 
Just as I moved back to my position after again peering through the grass, another angler very considerately crawled up behind me to ask how it was going. Whispering back to him I explained that they were just starting to come out to play and I had seen at least two good fish move out and then back in again. Both of us sat transfixed by the tip of my rod as it began to tremble. Knowing full well what could happen next I readied my hand hovering just over the rod just before it jerked violently over. I was to my knees instantly applying maximum side strain to keep the beast from the snag. With my heart thumping I somehow blurted my belief that it felt like a good one just before the rod sprung back violently as the hook pulled.
I just looked at the river with that forlorn look all we anglers get in that situation and waited for my companion to maybe utter a few words of condolence. But he was silent. Turning round I realised why... He was no longer beside me but was instead lying flat on his back about five feet away in the grass with little birds fluttering round his head and an Adam Ant style red mark straight across the bridge of his nose where my rod had connected with his face. After I helped him up and dusted him off and he stumbled off and downstream cursing me as he went. I didn’t even get the poor blokes name never mind apologise. So if he ever reads this “I am very sorry and I hope it didn’t have any lasting effects”. And if that was not bad enough I never did actually land one of those Barbel from that very special swim.

I hope that warmed you up. And if anyone else has any amusing stories get em posted on your blogs cos we've still got two or months of this freezing weather left and we could all do with a chuckle.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Remembering a good friend

Growing up in a non angling family left me rather short of influential figures in my younger years and as a result anything thing I learnt was glimmed from books or old VHS tapes. On top of that the travelling radius in which I could fish was limited that which I could walk or cycle, as persuading parents to drop you off back then was a no no.
It wasn't until my very end of my teens that two brothers came into my life who would step into the role an angling father would have held: both showed me there was a much larger and varied angling world beyond my own; both had a passionate love of the Norfolk broads having spent a large proportion of their life fishing amongst it's reed line banks. And this was something they have passed onto me. I don't believe there has ever been a single time when I had spoken to ether Richard or John when they failed to show interest in what I have been up to or what I have caught.

I have spent countless days cruising the broads with Richard and whenever we were looking for a mooring he would always be thinking of where we could get some good glides for us to trot down.
John on the other hand would pick me up early in the morning and transport me off to Northamptonshire to fish a small syndicate water he was a member of, that had a astounding stock of powerful and stunning carp. which I would go at like a kid in a candy shop until I was practically falling asleep sitting up. I once returned the favour and took John to a friend of mines secluded lake where he hooked what at first we thought was a small carp. Which as always morphed into something else in the net. Only thing was it turned out to be the single biggest chub I have ever seen. God I wished we had weighed it! cos I've seen a few six pounders and this thing made them look like tiddlers. But John just smiled and slipped it back.

Sadly John passed away some years ago suddenly which shocked us all. Happily I remember all the times we spent together doing what we both loved so much. But as always I still wish we could have fished just one last time with him.

John Bibb

Thursday, 15 December 2011

New hat new techniques.

Just lately I have been pondering the possibility of a new hat. Now to most normal people this would be a simple case of adding another hat to ones wardrobe, much as you would another jumper, but for me it's turned into quite a quest.

As you see I am in no uncertain terms a one hat angler; meaning that at any one time, barring substitute hats for winter when my protruding ears are at risk of being snapped off, I only wear one hat for fishing come rain or shine. Why this should be the case I am not exactly sure, but it is and that's why at this time of change I have found myself in such a quandary.

For the near entirety of my youth I sported what I often refer to as a Happy Mondays style hat which was put aside along with fishing from the ages of fifteen to nineteen whilst I was obsessed by chancing nothing but girls.

Early in my return to angling I won the only competition I have ever won in a fishing rag whereupon I received a black baseball cap with Kamasan embroidered on the front. This freebie stuck with me for a few years and was subsequently replaced with army green jungle style hat of which loved dearly and has served me well for a very long time.. until it went mouldy after being stuffed wet into my fishing bag.

The last hat in this abbreviated history of Daniel Everitt's hats is the one most people who have ever read this blog will be familiar with. The Hill billy chic camouflage baseball cap. Which I would like to add has driven my poor Jacqueline insane for some reason ever since it graced my head. Her constant pressure to replace it and annoying habit of whacking the peak in seeming anger at it, has driven me into a corner where my only option is new head gear. So for the past two months I have browsed every hat repository for fifty miles and tried on a multitude of hats including deer stalkers, other baseball hats, trilby's and even a bowler hat (which incidentally I came very close to buying). But finally I think I have found it.

The flat cap

 It's strange that I should have ignored this head wear for such along time as of all the hats available this one is what the men of my family have traditionally worn. My father occasionally dons one and both my grandfathers wore them. One of which wore one so much that up until quite an age I was convinced that this was what his hair looked like. I am sure that the flat cap goes back much further into my family history judging from the areas of the country that both sides of my family emanate from. But why have I denied my birth right for so long. Maybe it's an age thing, maybe I didn't feel old enough to pull it off. But now it's on my head it feels strangely comfortable and even a little reassuring. So I will give a go and maybe even consider getting a waxed jacket to go with and possibly a mutt. A whippet or a Jack Russell should set it off just nice.

So wearing my new hat and having a morning to spend fishing I headed off out into the beautiful English countryside so I could appreciate the resplendent wind and drizzle at my pleasure. As well as trying my new hat I also wanted to try a new method which I have until now never tried.

Long range maggot feeder fishing using helicopter rigs in winter has accounted for some very large roach in the past and as I've heard along the grapevine that one of our club waters is rumoured to hold some very respectable Roach indeed. It seemed the perfect place to have a go at it.
Even though I was hell bent on whacking feeders out through the stratosphere a niggling thought in the back of my head made me only half commit and take a float set up to fish close in. The idea being that one or the other line should locate some fish and I was right. The float line died a death after I caught a few small perch and soon after this the feeder line lit up so I swapped my float rod over to a very light feeder rig to maximise my chances.

There is no doubt sitting behind two light rods perched on indicators roach fishing is an odd sensation. As most anglers would be far more at home trotting or even ledgering for them rather than fishing what is essentially carp style with light rods.

At first the sharp tugs were impossible to hit. But as I suspected that the roach were just plucking at the three maggot baits. I pushed the hook link which was trapped between a couple of float stops right down onto the feeder to create a self hooking rig. And low and behold it worked with a roach first chuck of the modified rig.

One thing that continued to bug me as I fished was how long the fish took to get on the bait. So in-between casts I did a little experiment. After filling my larger feeder, I dropped it in the edge to see how long it took the maggots to find there way out of the feeder.

I was surprised at what I saw! From the moment the loaded feeder hit the bottom to when the grubs made this attractive spread took and gargantuan 17 minutes. It took nearly five minutes for the first one to escape then once he'd gone most followed suit. What the picture does not show is the large amount which wriggled straight under the feeder and disappeared into the sand. But after seeing this it all made sense. The bites took ages to appear after a cast and probably came about when the freebies made a decent spread on the bottom.

My decision to commit both rods to this strange technique turned out be the right one as by off setting my casts of each rod by 10 minutes meant for the final three hours it was constant action. Cast one rod out then then by the time that one was all set to go, the other one went off and after landing the fish I repeated the process.
The only disappointment was the size of the fish. Although I landed 25+ roach not one was over 10oz but saying that there was not one under 5oz.

So by those results I can happily say the method works. All I have to do now is find some bigger roach!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The forgotten stream

Xmas is coming and as per normal my spare time is dwindling. Like everyone, my family commitments and work seems to increase exponentially as the holidays approach and as result my chances of nipping off for even a half day this weekend were zero. Saying that I love Xmas, so it really wasn't that much of a hardship and a little lateral thinking got me two micro sessions back to back over the weekend.

There is where I live a tiny little river long forgotten by the local angling fraternity. I have heard that at some point in its life, not that long ago, it was more than just a focal point for the junior anglers. Apparently in its hey day it was common place to see trilby hat sporting men, perched on wicker baskets brandishing split cane rods as they trotted out some respectable fish. But this is now all history, and since then the city has encroached on it. Seventies style housing estates now sit on its flood plains and its silted river bed is strewn with fifty years worth of rubbish dumped by a myriad of idiots. It would seem that the majority of people that live close by are oblivious to this diminutive waterway and those who do know of it would fall over laughing if you were to inform them that fish still swim in that trolley filled brook. But they do, because as we all know, nature finds a way. She always does and she certainly will when we have all gone!

Day one: Validation

My time was to be short. So well before all those people with common sense had risen and the others with less than me had staggered home to bed, I was up and slipping out the door into the night. I always get a bit of a kick being out in the empty streets at night. It feels like the world is all mine to do with as I please as no is around to say otherwise.
Through the fluorescent lights I walk, slipping through alleyways and crossing roads at will. In one hand I can feel the cold aluminium pole of my landing net and in the other my 10ft super light quiver tip rod is banded neatly into three sections with the reel attached. This rod is perfect for this tiny river, short and sensitive. I know the river is low and the fish will be shy. So before I left I fitted a tip so sensitive even a passing water boatman could make it quiver. I carry only a tiny satchel, full more of bait than tackle as I will not need much beyond a few hooks, some weights and couple of tiny floats.

I know when I am nearly there when I see the suburban underpass. I always half expect to come across a gang of loitering droogs hanging out looking for some ultraviolence but as always it's far to early for that part of society to be up and out. So I pause to study the tribal writings on the walls and wonder is Becky as promiscuous as they say she is or does Dave really have such sub par genitalia. I ponder the enduring appeal of of 'ere over here and wonder why the people who scrawl on walls think that missing the H off saves time. 

I shouldn't waste too much time, as now half the sky is black and the other turning blue as the dawn rises and today time is precious. Last year I studied much of this stream when the water ran clear so I know where to begin. Even in the dark I can tell no one has ventured to this area for a long time as mine are the first feet to crunch the dry cowslips lying across the ground on my way to my nest of nettles which still have a shockingly venomous sting in the cold morning air.

Operating with no light I line my rod rings up against the sapphire sky and pinch a minuscule of bread onto my hook before swinging it mid flow. Rustling into my bag I pull out a small bag of bread that I ran through a food processor the night before, until it was more like a liquid than solid. Now I squeeze it back together in balls no bigger than fifty pence pieces and toss it out a little upstream of my bait. I know from experience that after it almost silently hits the water it will float for a few seconds before breaking up in a seductive cloud which can stimulate the most obstinate fish. 

There is no way I can see my rod tip so I feel for bites holding tension onto the line with my left hand. At first I can't tell if the tapping on the line is fish or the blood pumping through my hand but then the hair like line is ripped between my fingers and with anglers instinct strike into a fish.
I am careful not to strain the light line and let the rod do my work as my quarry ploughs around the river. It's not big but still it darts back and forth across the river until I hear it splashing out in front. Although I can't see it at all my net slides under it first time and I lift it from the water. Well away from the bank I turn on my torch and smile at my suburban chub.

The river is no more than than a good jump wide where I am fishing so my hopes of another are not high. But still I cast again just to check and moments later the line is again torn from my grasp as I hook the sibling of the first.

After the light rises I trot away my time catching some tidy roach and perch in between minnows as my float ambles along an eddy. Kingfishers dart round the bending little river and I get distracted for an age by a tree creeper darting up and down the tree at the end of my rod. I am satisfied that my original statement holds true and this forgotten stream holds more than the odd minging old fish just clinging on life by a thread. This place is well and truly alive with life.

Day two: Where others wouldn't dare

I repeat the journey of the day before but this morning the air is warmer and by no means still. This morning I can't see the stars as they are hidden by cloud and the wind intermittently gusts. Back in the same spot I chance my light rig again into the dark and instantly it is met with a sharp pull which I miss. A second cast ends the same. Maybe they are on to me, maybe it's the same fish again and they've learnt their lesson since yesterday.

As the light appears something feels different. The fish are more coy; apart from two tugs nothing has touched my bait at all, which is odd as the day before I got constant attention from little fish. The shadows of trees on the water reveal the truth to me. The day before the river had that strange green tinge almost like winter water but today it runs clear and I can see a speckled patch of white on the bottom down stream where my liquid bread has settled. If that was not disturbing enough I can see that no black shapes pass over it to indicate fish.

The decision is made I have to move on and search out cover or deep water where nervous fish would hide. I know upstream spots are limited but down I have spotted a few fine looking runs but there is an issue. A river chooses not where it runs and if it did it wouldn't run here for the the place where I go is not pleasant.
On a warm summer evening this place is a no go zone. It's like Beirut with Burberry and dirt bikes, and as I cross the field the burnt out motor bike in the bushes reminds me of this.

I am sure that most of the people that live here are perfectly nice but I also know they they aren't the problem, it's the kids that are. Walking along the river it is rammed with crap. The fallen trees of upstream are replaced with sofas and trolleys all forming ugly man made sculptures just inches underwater.

At the end of no man's land I reach the run I have seen before and my keen anglers eyes are right - between two reed beds the river narrows and deepens into around two and half feet for a good thirty foot. And although leaving time is very close I make a few casts just to probe out this run for another day.

Bang! First chuck the tip hoops and I feel resistance for a fleeting moment. I cast again but this time a million hungry mouths can be felt whittling away my bread. I give it a while before I reel in one of the culprits.

With this my time is up and I must make tracks. But even though this trip produced no more than minnow I now know this deeper run in the war zone holds better fish that are secret and shy. So I shall return another day while those angelic kids who rule this place still sleep.