Tuesday, 5 September 2017

This Autumn Mourning

Mourning the passing of summer. Celebrating the coming of autumn. I sit in my small corner.

Anticipating movement.

Four days ago the sharp chill of early morning signalled that change. Bang on time. The afternoon sun still has the capacity for uncomfortable heat in its glare but this will diminish unless an Indian summer is to provide a thermal boost.

Rivers again run clear and are unapproachable in daylight hours. The canals awash with ignorant fools.

The option therefore? To enjoy some late tench fishing in the hope that something unexpected might trip over the bait too.


So we have settled into our oft peaceful, always still corner of the Res for the dusk period on an all-but daily basis.

Large comings-together of hirundines are now evident in favoured locations and soon they will be gone, swifts long-since departed, with the current massing of gnats to be replaced by their northern cousins capable of survival on arboreal fruits.

Tiny furry mammals, at their most numerous and industrious at this time, forage and squeal underfoot - and sometimes over it. The company of bank and field voles, water and other shrews, stoat and rat has been enjoyed in recent weeks.

The decreasing temperature and increased humidity would initially suggest an associated drop-off in fish activity but the water remains warm to the touch and, like the sea, this will be maintained while the air gets colder. Cloudy nights will assist. The fish 'know' that the time for feasting is upon them and until the winter sets-in they will be at their most vulnerable to the angler.


For now then the corner has been both comfortable and comforting. It's a snug little spot and for the last hour of each visit has produced precisely three tench to bread over a bed of hemp together with a smattering of roach up to just under the satisfying pound.

The hoped for unanticipated capture to take symmetry to asymmetry went awol through the steady string of lifts, occasional sailaways, dithers and crayfish interruptions but tench are never to be ignored, so obliging are they in the biting and fighting stakes, morning and, in these cases, dusk.

The green Goddesses and Gods were in the two to three and a half pounds bracket on the first two of three trips but, for no fathomable reason, the third brief session proved the best float caught FF&F tench catch ever with fish of 4.1, 4.4 and a hard fighting 5.3 last cast. All fish were taken on bread flake in seven feet of water late in the evening.


Daniel Everitt has been tantamount to camped here for the past few weeks but, coincidentally, has now vacated in search of flowing water fish with the changing seasons.

Sunday evening, the fourth session and ninth and tenth hours of effort, took place under heavy skies and through light drizzle.

Inundated with passing visitors, as though they knew something I didn't, the lake was otherwise quiet in an angling sense.

Admiral Fudge and Ollie the greyhound; Committee Keith with Buddie the terrier and then Joe the bailiff. During which time (first cast) a roach of one pound eight ounces was a surprise capture followed by two sub-pound fish but it wasn't until just after Joe returned with bailiff no.2 Pete (I can be a handful), and we'd exchanged pleasantries and tales of woe, that it happened.

By way of a change I slid the BB tell-tale shot up to pop a piece of crust up 5" just above a thin layer of Canadian pondweed fragments littering the bed.

Minutes later the float dipped and lifted and the strike met with decent resistance. The fish moved off right and then treated me to a juddering sensation reminiscent of an eel but less insistent. I immediately allowed myself to dream. Then the rotund side-plate shape confirmed it.

"I've got a crucian guys"

Back came Pete and Joe in a hurry.

The fish had ideas of escape however and took a while to subdue even on the specimen float rod but at the second attempt a geriatric crucian skimmed over the rim to be consumed by mesh.

An old fish.

Battle scarred, with split dorsal and otter-ravaged caudal, this beaten character (in both senses) was to shatter the p.b. set in the height of summer by a 1.2.6 fish.

Pete estimated "Two and a half". I didn't venture a guess but hoped it might just exceed that. Joe fell silent. In fact both did when it came to the maths.

The roach had gone 38 ounces with the net but this magnificently ancient individual would, with 14ozs to deduct from 56, reset the bar at 2lbs 10ozs.

Photographs were kindly taken and the boys said their goodbyes.

Danny was able to confirm via the ether that this fish was caught twice in 2016 at exactly the same weight give or take the loss of the top of its tail in the meantime. I declined giving it a name but if I did 'Grand Cru' would seem appropriate

Darkness fell a good fifty minutes earlier than normal due to the weight of cloud cover somewhat bizarrely requiring an isotope to complete the session, but, with no more action, the car beckoned and we, that is myself and the memory, hit the road...floating on air.


It is now the two day 'anniversary' of the capture and it barely slips my mind at any time. Compared to a specimen roach it is admittedly not quite there but otherwise perhaps the most satisfying of captures. In this Bloggers' Challenge year personal bests have fallen regularly with the commitment to try to load as many points on the board from all available sources within a range of about 30 minutes travel. There have been the river bream, barbel, carp, etc., but the smaller species never cease to give me greatest pleasure. Somehow they just seem that little bit more difficult to catch. If I were to list species in order of personal significance it would go something like - roach, silver bream, crucian carp, rudd, tench, chub, perch, etc., but this is splitting hairs really as any species is good to catch if it proves to be a challenge.

Monday, 21 August 2017

In Search of Wonderment.

Deep summer has never held much appeal.

As a kid The Old Duffer and The Old Trout didn't care for the sun and I guess it stuck.

We used to amuse ourselves with hemp and tares and at this time of year, the harvest, it was peak seed fishing season.

Now though, with the bonus fish commitment truly engaged, the prospect of a stream of victims up to the occasional pound limit just does not tick any boxes nor spend any of the emotional budget.

We're in a "stick cleft" (sic) as someone used to say; a dilemma; a damned if we do, damned if we don't time of year.

There are fish to be caught and, Bloggers Challenge-wise, some of  summer stillwater species have been banked but the rivers have been pretty dreadful locally, when low and clear. The recent rains have brought hope but even a swim I felt certain would produce a decent barbel or chub has been piscatorially ravaged on three or four occasions to no avail, other than three measly additional points for a 3oz 2dr dace.

The lake carp are too easy to catch and the canals are nose to tail with disrespecting and dim-witted holiday narrowboaters.

Has the picture been painted?!

So, what to do?

The inadvertent bream campaign culminated in two consecutive 5lbs 4ozs individuals from a pool I've become strangely fond of but I really need to move-on.

Only two weeks or so hence the little Johnnies  and Janets will be brimming the schools; the hire narrowboats will be scrubbed-up for next time and life will be on the up. Big and long-established autumn and winter targets can be pursued with methods of great enjoyment.

Until then however a few important things have eluded my bloggers challenge submissions. River and canal carp, tench and rudd being the main ones. It would be these that ought to form the basis of the next month's action. Canals can be identified where these are all quite possible, perhaps even from a single peg. For any of these species on a river however it's far from a certainty and this must be where the bulk of the homework is done.


Bloggers Challenge Update:
James, of course, has torn-off into the lead but if the above species can be weighed-in his lead could be whittled down to manageable proportions, for now at least

Current Top 5:
James Denison 828
George Burton 626
Brian Roberts 506
Daniel Everitt 423
Russell Hilton 401


All that apart, since returning from the Wye, where after, now, a total of around ten days experience at this barbel fishing lark it is starting to make some kind of sense, the Warwickshire Avon's barbel, in some areas, including this, fish of legend, would be under the microscope.

At first, and, as it happens, for around half a dozen sessions, a tactic of either 'bait droppered' hemp & pellets or cage feeder produced not even the slightest indication of fish presence.

Then this weekend, in a down in the mouth chance encounter with Stealth Mode Gary while loading the cars after drawing yet another blank, a little pearl fell from his lips and shone like a Time Square neon advertisement. It was simple and it was instantly eating at me. Immediately it was clear this was the answer even without the accompanying tales of 12.13's, 10.6's, etc., and the obligatory, "...and he lost one at the net he said made those look small...".

So, with rain pouring on arrival (this was serious) and barbed wire scratches on the new-ish car as a bonus the 'Royal we', settled in.

Brolly like a mushroom in the still air and yet room to cast to the right we sat peering-out into the closing gloom for the last two hours of the day. It would be dark early but with a rule of no fishing after sunset it would be dusk forever on an evening like this. Sunset would be prolonged and, as prime big fish time, if it was going to happen it would be today.

Baiting-up and casting-out with confidence we sat back and exchanged idiocies with our Challenge contemporaries. It was not long before the realisation that we'd put the bait just beyond a significant fallen branch (suggesting continuing in this fashion was folly in the landing a fish stakes) caused us to start feeding further-out by catapult.

Giving it twenty minutes to settle in the squelching, overwhelming twilight the prospect of a cast with that sparkling pearl on the hook became necessarily irresistible.

Out it went. A touch out of position and, sure enough, nothing was doing. Second underarm flick to mid-river beyond the snags and we were in business.

A minute or two passed and a definite but slight quiver suggested sub-aquatic interest.

We reached for the rod.

The proverbial three foot twitch had barely materialised when the strike met with unexpectedly mediocre resistance. It was either an enthusiastic big bream or a subdued chub.

Plodding it's way toward us under decent pressure, it morphed. The plodder became a 100m runner. Belatedly out of the blocks and stripping line from the clutch with a sound like a cheap electric drill everything came to life.

It's been like this for me. The first few outings with a certain method or ambition never really have the Heineken effect until that day, usually  sat alone, when a simple tweak to the idea and suddenly it will sing and dance.

Battle continued.

We could, by now, see the fish in the shadow of a dense tree canopy. It looked disappointingly small at depth as I has braced myself for a 'double'. This was partly a strange notion, given the p.b. of only a few weeks prior was 7lbs 14ozs, and partly the result of knowledge. Not many barbel are offered-up by this stretch but when they are they are usually eleven to fourteen pounds.

Meanwhile, back at the branch, the fight was culminating in a series of increasingly desperate clutch-squealing lunges and on the final one, as soon as this fine adversary gave a hint of relaxation, over the string he came to be engulfed in brown fishnet like a shapely leg.

It continued to pour and as she hit the net the fish seemed 'small' in the sense that I had braced myself for a monster, for Barbus maxima.

In the weighing sling and at least four inches broad across the pectorals however this was surely a leviathon as compared to anything I'd seen previously. The 7.14 had seemed massive, this was significantly bigger.

The scales fluctuated between 173 and 182 ounces as she shuffled for comfort beneath. The sling would 'go' sixteen ounces on a dry day, today more. I prayed to the great fish god Gobio that it would come to rest at in excess of 176.

It did not, but no matter; a fish of nine-twelve was impressive enough in the flesh and, soaked in the gloom as we were by the incessant downpour, beaming smiles illuminated the scene.

Barbus notquiteicus
 slipped back with gusto and there had to be 'one more cast'.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

A Variety of Similarities.

A twittering, a chattering, a sip.

Leaning back under mature salix - gazing into the canopy - the innumerable gathering throng.

Blue, great and long-tailed they are. A post breeding flock of families slowly forage as a group yet frantically feed individually as they wend the willow-lined watercourse.

Hopeful I search. The occasional slurp of an ancient carp barely noticeable in distant fringing lillies.

Aurally straining. Yes, there is one there, and so is another

The most incomprehensibly evolved of passerines, the treecreeper, probing every crevice and fissure of the arboreal armour. A louse here, a moth there. A delicate call and the loose organic cloud rolling through the treetops is gone, but remains intact.


The forecast indicated cloud. The sky indicated continuous sun.

The latter prevailed.

The Gormless Old Duffer, shirtless, was not a pretty sight. Thankfully we had the lake to ourselves. I wished it had been to himself.

Carp, of no great size, cruised in teenage gangs in the shallows, terrorising anything resembling food like orca eyeing-up seals.

No matter, we knew the big fish would feed first and then, when the heat became too much, the action would subside. This was certain. Past experience would prove it.

Four balls of ground-ait and feed went in. The Gormless Old Duffer on the feeder with an alarm. Myself on the slider.

An hour or more passed.

The alarm was silent (we checked it was switched-on). The float, well, floated. Clearly I'd bought one without any bobs in it.

Then out of the blue the alarm went, the arm dropped...and...no contact.

The slider slid and a fighting roach of half a pound was grounded and returned.

Fish topped with playful abandon.

An idea. The lake was deep and the fish might have been in higher water layers.

The canal rig shot were redistributed and the float pushed-up to 7 or 8 feet.

Bites on the drop on corn, every cast but after five 2 to 5 ounce roach - instant boredom. This wasn't the game we came to play.

Chess please, not draughts.

Back to the slider and the float immediately lifted, then disappeared beyond the visible depth and a good one was on. No fight though. It must've been a stick. But no, a large signal crayfish burst through the surface to its legally required destiny.

At first a carpet had been laid-out and a few ingredients were threaded onto the hook in desperation. Instantly the float behaved unusually and a nodding donkey was hooked. Never a battle to write home about but a fish that lights the F,F&F candle whenever it exceeds three pounds.

This slime-coated stinker hit the bar at four pounds six ounces and the day was made.


This had been part of an inadvertent trend. Though it had not been realised at the time and being, or trying to be, a modest sort made it all the more surprising.

A sort of introspective retrospective I suppose.

Bronze bream.

They had been prioritised on lake and river for quite a number of trips and, without quite realising it, I'd been involved in a campaign.

Of course any decent summer species is welcome when the water is low and clear and the prospect of anything other than carp on a lake seems increasingly unlikely.

I'd found a shoal on the river but in three trips only managed two fish within half an early hour of each other; catching them before they hit the morning snooze button.

The second was a river p.b. at 4.10 (I've dropped bothering with the silly drams now except for smaller species!) and a dark old bottom feeder he was too.

Lake fish peaked at 4.8 among a raft of other four pounders. A weight that suddenly feels the norm.


So with the species ticked in both lake and river categories today the trusty bus headed for the river with carp in mind on one rod and dace on the other.

Rest assured, like any other person, when a target is set there is the disproportionate likelihood for all to fail.

Maggots sprayed 3/4 across and boilies (yes, you heard right, boilies!) along nearside marginal lilies and streamer weed. A perfect swim. 7 feet deep between weed-beds and just enough room to trot through.

Thirty or so roach, dace and chublets later, the 'donk, donk, treadwater, donk' of a meaty adversary. So clear was the water that the fish came into view quickly. First thought was, tentatively, chub but on closer viewing the unmistakable outline of yet another bream was discerned. About three pounds was the initial assessment but in a decent flow and with a sixteen to two pound fluorocarbon between it and the net odds were very much against.

Nodding interspersed by cautious retrieval made for very little headway. This gave ample time for two things.
  • Worry, and,
  • Regular review of the predicted weight.
Step by step; nod by nod; draw by draw the weight increased to around five pounds by the time the fish, now with line wrapped around it's anal fins for interests sake, was scooped-up.

Into the meadow and nestled in the deep uncut grass this was no five pounder.

"That's six, surely", I muttered to the passing butter and damselflies.

Six pounds?

Nope. Way out.

Seven, six.

A river and overall p.b. by a clear 2.12


Of  course nothing could top this, even removing the pike that constantly marauded the keepnet was well adrift in the enormity stakes.

Yes, that would do. That would do nicely.

Thank you world.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Searching those Stillwaters

The pursuit of 'summer fish' on stillwaters does not come naturally. In fact, apart perhaps from roach and tench, the pursuit of any fish on stillwaters does not come naturally.

The otherwise dormant inner matchman wants to burst out, grab the catapult, and feed, feed, feed.

Today it actually happened.

I had been warned. There was no excuse.

But first were the times, or the day at least, when it was a worthy approach.


In pursuit of 'those fish' the favoured method has been to fish whatever bait was the selection on the day over a bed of hemp.

This had brought forth a burst of p.b's set against the context of a canal angling background and the need for bloggers challenge points this season.

Almost all of this fishing had been with a static bait; employing feeders, alarms, rod pod, the works and prior to small fish becoming active in May. Yes, maggots have been off the agenda for a couple of weeks now.


It started with (a kiss) decent roach, rudd, tench and perch. Nothing outstanding but quality fish and solid points.

Tench over 6lbs, perch over two and roach close-on a pound and a half. The latter two could be followed-up on in autumn and winter but, unlike the 2015/16 challenge, those species that become tricky in winter needed to be dealt with now.

Leamington A A control a few stillwaters from which the majority of those fish might be taken.
Carp, certainly.
Rudd, within limits of size, yes.
Silver bream? Probably not.
Common or bronze bream, yes, and to, potentially at least, a good size.

The lakes also offer interesting wildlife. Birds, invertebrates...only today there were five marbled whites to be seen and small skippers at two different venues plus a good variety of dragon and damselflies


The past two weeks and half a dozen sessions on a variety of those venues have been fruitful and while these are not commercial fisheries they are well stocked and hold some nice specimens very much of the nature this particular angler likes to target - the bigger fish in the swim, regularly and by design.

Of course the list of p.b's remains paltry, being very much canal & stream orientated until now, but the opportunities, with ever-growing knowledge, are vast and consequently it is inevitable that with an inquiring mind and experience to call on those records are going to fall regularly until the target, maybe, becomes ever bigger specimens.


In this short fortnights' spell the bronze bream best has risen to 3.13, then 4.1 and, today, to 4.6.

King carp to 9.6, 12.12 and...

Most pleasing however was to catch a net of crucians topped by two over a pound and landing three or four p.b's in the one session which now stands at 1.2.6. I had not fished for this magically beautiful and powerful little fish since early in the 1980's and then in a local overstocked shallow farm pond where the stunted fish rarely exceeded eight ounces. Regular feeding worked with these excitable fellas.


One thing is certain. These are not newsworthy catches but the most important thing in angling is enjoyment and the pleasure is immeasurable when, firstly, the careful plan works and then it feels as though one has succeeded (even if in reality it was pure fluke or coincidence, but who are we to know that).

That is until today.

I planned to go to try to catch a decent rudd and, driving toward that crock of gold, developed an urge to go elsewhere, and followed it.

Bream became the momentary magnet.

It seemed incredible. After an ounce roach first cast I had a visitor, returning to angling from a decade break, seeking advice (from me, on a lake, I ask you!). As we talked, a 2lb bream came to the net and, as he got just four pegs away, another of 4.6, quickly followed, just as he disappeared out of sight, by a tearaway fish.

Now initially it didn't give much away, holding it's fins close to it's chest. Once it knew the game was on however I feared for my 16 hook and 3.5lb fluoro link.

The clutch shrieked...and shrieked...and shrieked.

The rod bent to that familiar complete curve

1 peg away, 2 pegs away, and into the third.

This fish was going to be lost. No doubt.

The hand-me-down, and excellent, 13' power match rod, the biggest fish it had previously landed being a tench of 4.7, expressed itself in a manner I could only have dreamt of, but the fish would be victorious.

Pump by pump, it started to come back my way. Over and over again it tore off and slowly, but somewhat increasingly surely, it was drawn back. I would come off the though.

It went round my second rod but I untangled it. There was no way this fish would be landed.

It tore right, then left again. Brushed the underwater roots to my left and shot forwards into the fed swim.

It would break the line. The hook would come off. A knot would give. Something.

I had it's head out. A mirror. Another surge. The clutch squealing again.

Again it surfaced but I couldn't quite net it and once more it drove maniacally, vertically, down into the deep water. For sure this fish would not be beaten on inadequate tackle.

Up and up it came, onto its side, gulping air.



No one else was there. It was ok to scream madly.

Exhausted from a good ten minute engagement, we regarded each other. The fish and I knew.

Thirteen  pounds seven ounces this beauty went.

Oh!...and a personal best too of course.


Henceforth he catapult became attached to my right hand. Feed, feed, feed.

I knew not why.

At this point I noted the jangling song of the corn bunting. Now a rare farm bird and a joy to hear after such a long period of famine extending to over a decade but today the other wildlife seemed not to be there, such was the thrall of the angle

35 to 40 roach and perch later, and not one over three ounces, this would be enough.

A few more challenge points; the head cleared for Monday and a thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Worm has Turned

These past few weeks, trips to the Highlands notwithstanding, I have been trialling a new lob worm method to try to enable the use of whole large worms while attempting to eliminate, or at the very least reduce, the problem of missed bites either due to the hook being in one place on the worm and the fish being in another or indeed the problem of the worm simply tangling the rig up and leaving the hook central to a clump of earthworm flesh

Why it has taken quite this long to think of it I am not sure. Maybe because I have been preoccupied with bread for so long and worm/dead bait fishing has very much been the also-ran method, who knows

Anyway, as the impending summer started to dawn on me and the winter methods perhaps lost their gloss a little, with increased canal boat traffic, I wanted to make more of this simple but undoubtedly effective bait

I came to thinking about an old Tony Miles rig, akin to sea fishing, which uses hooks tied to the main line off bottom with the rod pointed at the sky and a lead on the deck. Helicopter rig style but without the hook links. It was pretty much the most crude rig I have ever used but it has helped in weedy situations where the lead could be cast into gaps and the rod held high allowing worms to dangle into those ‘mid’-water gaps for feeding fish to see their movement

I had tried a watered-down version on the canal but with little success and very little can be caught well off bottom on the canal when it comes to big fish at the best of times, so that clearly wasn’t the solution

Fiddling about tying short hook links for helicopter rigs for tench gave me the idea, I had an image of a great long ‘hair’ tail with another hook tied to it. Obviously I had to retie the bottom one first to then tie the top one but this gave me two hooks about 3 to 4 inches apart and I could hang the head of the lob on the top one and the tail on the end hook such that, if set correctly, it would appear that the worm was rising-up out of the silt head first and straining to get up into the water. I have been holding the lobs on crimped-barb hooks with dark red rubber maggots to enhance the appearance rather like the old red wool on the trebles of spinners

Of course as soon as I come-up with the idea I Google it to find that someone is already marketing them for trout fishing with worms in various patterns although the hook size is not stated

The original idea was to maximise the zander and perch pulling potential. Most of my larger canal perch have come either to a whole worm cut to leach the fluids on a size 6 to 10 hook or one a whole lob cut into two or three sections on a similar hook, the latter being a successful way of avoiding the issue raised above but not good at preventing the wrap over of the hook point we are all so familiar with

Following the theme, thus far I have generally used two size 8 specimen hooks and over three or four trips as yet the results have been, well, odd. Or maybe simply surprising.
Very few canal fish species outside the usual two predators have I taken on worms over the last couple of years and yet, presenting the bait in this way, that has all immediately changed, though admittedly I have been fishing the GUC rather than the NOXC I’ve frequented more in the past

Trip 1: Bronze bream 3lbs, 1.12. Perch 10ozs. Zander 5ozs.

Trip 2: Perch 1.6, 1lb. Zander 4ozs. 1 signal crayfish!

Trip 3: Silver bream 1.3, 1.7. Eel 9ozs.

The two silver bream one recent evening from close to a lock gate were completely unexpected as I don’t think I have taken one on anything other than bread…ever.

I am going to keep pursuing the method, trying finely snipping to release fluids and injecting air for more attraction to see what effect that might have.

The Stillwater interest has continued while also absorbing information on forthcoming river options nearby in the process.

The search took me to an unusual, small, deep venue this weekend that had a jumbled mix of species. In fact if The Fishing Race still existed in pursuit of ‘the golden maggot’ then this would surely be a good starter. First perch then roach, bronze bream, rudd, mirror carp, tench and common carp. All were susceptible to maggots and rubber baits over a carpet of hemp.

3.13 bream

First up the little roach and perch (too little!) were keen to intercept the double maggot hookbaits but, after heavier feeding, slowly they lost interest and the bites that ensued included a surprise 3.13 bronze bream and a 2lbs-odd mirror carp.

Next day the maggots remained in the fridge and a few fish were taken on rubber offerings of various shapes and sizes including a mirror of 9.6, a small common, a little tench and then there was  the one that got away...naturally, we all have to have one.
Once bites had subsided over the previous days' topped-up feed the worm rig sprang to mind

It has long fascinated me how an apparently dead swim can be brought back to life by something real; something, well, writhing (sorry mother)

Suddenly the dormant situation was transformed...immediately bites occurred and a ‘certain’ ten pounds-odd catch was boosted, first by a quality perch of 2.4 and then a bigger carp at 12.12. Other ‘tiddler’ bites occurred but it was enough to demonstrate, again, that a logical change away from contemporary thinking and back to the past should not be ignored. The humble, and whole, lobworm had turned the catch that would not be settled for into a twenty-eight pound catch. A p.b. carp (I’m not a carp angler), my biggest fish ever (I’m not that kind of big fish hunter) and a 2017-best perch. All by a simple change to a juicy natural active hookbait.

So, to add to the previous list:

[Trip 4 (stillwater): Perch 2.4 and 3ozs, Mirror carp 12.12].

The future is in the past.


Top 5 to Date:

George Burton 340
Brian Roberts 280
Daniel Everitt 274
James Denison 259
Russell Hilton 258

I thought I'd publish this while it lasts! No one has yet targeted small species though. That could radically change the situation

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Silver Scaled Springtime Shocker

At this time of year a tench-like weakness overcomes one of the less common of our canal species.

It's oversized eye seeks out the bread and maggot of anglers' provision; it fights in a frantic manner reminiscent of the crucian carp yet passes most anglers by as 'another skimmer'.

The Silver Bream is one of my favourite of fishes, in fact if a giant roach gives me palpitations on a scale of 10/10 a silver of similar proportions would certainly score 8 or 9.

Strangely they only get caught in any numbers in late spring. Tench-like indeed


They have been showing well in the past few sessions on both Oxford and Grand Union Canals and any fish over a pound is a specimen equivalent to a roach of around one pound eight ounces. Sean Dowling ('Off the Oche, Down the River') has recently taken them to one pound fourteen, a true specimen, and yesterday evening, for the second time in two weeks, pound plus fish have fallen to the f,f&f hookbait just as it was barely possible to see the float at dusk.

Maybe, like the Zander, those big eyes suggest nocturnal or perhaps crepuscular feeding habits. Why would they evolve in that way otherwise?

Yesterday's fish caused some excitement overseen by HonGenSec on a visit to a swim he should have frequented but the tables were turned in comedy style.

It went like this:

F: "Are you there yet?" (Thinking I'd go and watch for a bit to surprise him)

H: "I'll be leaving in 30 mins"
I drive to venue but get there first...then deciding to fish for the last hour and a half of daylight and set-up to test the new perch/zed method again on a second rod, together with the usual bread rod.

H: "Too much to do. I won't be going now".

F: "Oh! I've just cast in".

H: "Okay, I'll come down"

On arrival -

F: "Did you bring your stuff?"

H: "No, I'll just watch"


The session itself was surprisingly hectic but, with a boat going through as I walked to the spot and contemplating turning round just 50 yards away but then abandoning manoeuvres and ploughing the far shelf for good measure, the prospects appeared somewhat slim.

Yes it's narrowboat rental time. Imagine being sent out to drive a bus on the road with just a few minutes tuition.

While not rushing to cast in, as the milky complexion that filled the watercourse fell back into black tea, bread mash was fed heavily. With an hour only ahead, there was little point taking it gently. Specimen or bust it was.

The worm rig sat 5 yards to the right. It's upgrade intended to avoid wasps and zedlets by presenting whole lobworms in a more definite manner to avoid inevitable failed strikes when the fish has simply got hold of a hookless loose end of the bait.

A silver bream of around five ounces started the ball rolling followed by hybrids and more silver's of up to ten ounces.

Then a surging run on the worm and a heartily scrapping perch of 1.6 was followed by another of a pound before death by crustacean descended on both lines of attack.

Signal crayfish abound in most of the places I fish on both Oxford and Grand Union canals. Their presence given away by silly little runs and dips and dodges of the float. Very unusally is one connected with but three were this time and all suitably dispatched according to the law.

A massive swarm of midges glowed like orange fireflies in the, all but horizontal, setting beams of the source of life through an historic bridge arch to my left.

And so it went quiet.

Darkness descended.

HonGenSec said his goodbyes and as he turned to go a raging lift bite on bread and a good scrapper was on. "Hybrid!", we both exclaimed. No, a really good silver bream and both combined excitement and astonishment on my part.

On the scales it plunged the proverbial needle to just a tad under one pound eleven.

Immediately I declared it a p.b. but, driving back, I started to have doubts, rightly so as, checking 'the book' at chez nous, it was bettered by a 1.11.8 Grand Union fish last year.

A cracker nevertheless and an Oxford Canal best at the very least.

With luck these beauties will continue to offer themselves up for a few more days but there can certainly be no better time to pursue them than late May into early June.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

So How's it been Going?

So how has it been Going?

Three weeks into the challenge today and the starting tactic of filling some common stillwater & canal species in before June 16th is underway.

The main target has been stillwater fish as it's not something I've done much of in the past.

Any points scored on such venues are a bonus but the water has only just crept up to the sort of temperatures associated with catching a few fish and thus good days can be often followed by bad.


Writing, I sit canalside, the breeze keeping the fingers moving searching for a degree of warmth. The glowing dome of the zed alarm wiggles like a florescent catwalk model in the flow of lock water.

Earlier it was exciting.

Fish came to bread and worms regularly resulting in the springtime early morning catch of around ten pounds.

The aim was a good hybrid, to 'up' the bream figures and also find some big perch.

Only the bream played ball but the fish are spawned out; battered, beaten and bruised now. The three pounder having shed at least 5ozs earlier this month.

Skylark serenade on all sides here though and whether the plan works or fails there is pleasure to be had. Indeed with the tackle neatly and firmly tucked, zipped and tied away I continue to sit. The gentle throb of the tenth approaching narrowboat contrasting an urgent, flickering sunlit ripple on the rushy bend.

Manky flotsam adorns the once uninterrupted clear surface, but that's why we're here. If the wind blows the blossom petals, twigs, ripped vegetation and crisp packet debris here then fish will be below, gleaning what nourishment they can from the propeller-scoured base of this murky water snake.

The species count is impressive given the oftdays simplicity of the approach.

Warburton's best dragging roach, silver bream and bronze bream into instant feeding activity; and worms with a trialled new perch and zander tactic slowly producing both species (in tiny sizes!) and two good bream, best just a stickleback over three pounds, the other shedding the hook of a size most commonly observed at sea.

Today the Grand Union was chosen despite being the first boat-intensified day of the little darlings' school break.

It was inevitable the session would be short.

It's now 09.30 and already the early bath & prospect of bacon beckons. Sat waiting for the remnants of the action to dry from the crusting mesh, contemplation of the traffic begins. Numerous vessels have passed and always the compulsory, every man for himself, throttle-happy nematode amongst them. It's only to be expected.

Meanwhile the sedge warbler has rattled, trilled and squeaked-out his incessant song from various perches. The sun has risen and the heat now bakes the knees through long-since superfluous waterproofs.

So the upshot is a few more bream points and likewise for perch but the latter can wait until winter.

The pursuit of summer fish that cannot be relied upon in the winter must now prevail.
Carp, crucians, Stillwater bream, rudd, etc. These must be the quarry, together with those odd species that I never fish for but are nonetheless listed and relevant in the challenge.


The stillwater tench campaign has been a reasonable success given the paucity of local options for  big fish, by that I'm thinking 7lbs or more.

Around twenty have been banked, the best this cracker of a female at 6.4

but outdone in the beauty stakes by an earlier 4.13 just two days ago.

No comparison.

Among the above fish came a complimentary roach just under a pound and a half which was very welcome, and we'll aim to beat next winter, together with decent rudd and perch, but both stand to be usurped, with any luck, later in the year too.


The biggest challenge though will surely be the summer river period. A situation I naturally associate with small fish of many species.

THAT will need to change.

Friday, 12 May 2017

A Long Weekend Off

So what would the weekend bring?

The first of three consecutive daily sessions on a stillwater, concentrating on continual baiting of one swim. The swim no one wants, but today there could be a twist.

Yesterday on Birdguides, the serious birders sightings news app., a bearded tit, no doubt on passage migration back to breeding grounds east of the midlands, was posted and mentally noted by yours truly.

Now only once have bearded tits graced the eyes and ears with their beauty and twanging, and that was on a very rare visit to a proper bird reserve in Norfolk some decades ago. Not tits at all of course but we British do like to rename things to suit ourselves don't we? Which reminds me, I just get some Bombay mix on the way home.

They are in fact the only British representative of the parrotbill family and they tend to frequent marginal reeds and little else. Plenty here.

After a quick chat about prospects of tench with a friend who had started early, and had one already, the decision was made to bait the chosen, otherwise neglected, swim and then seek out the bird before settling-in for some fishing and to make my usual general list of birds now to be found under the "The FLIGHT bit" tab above.

The trot round the lake produce the embryo list topped, at that point, by a chattering lesser whitethroat.

The north east wind was still quite light but enough to make one walk that little bit more briskly to resist the bone freezing effects that were to afflict me the following day when the optimism in the number of clothing layers proved my undoing.

A flush common sandpiper, always a welcome sight in these parts, followed by a second brightened the journey as I approached a likely reedbed I stopped to remind myself of the sound they make via the infernal gadgetry and no sooner had I started than the target bird was flying toward me to defend itself, my face now the target. As I fumbled to stop the noise my panic make me do everything other than achieve the result until eventual composure got the better of the situation and relative silence descended.

The glorious male beardy now looked on, quietly quizzical and lingered while record photos were taken on the same gadgetry.

A prime example of why bird song recordings should not be used to find them. The bird temporarily distracted from its instinctive routine exposed to predation and subject to a perceived intruding male when, in fact, it was likely the only one there. Suitably embarrassed I was.


...and the day hadn't started yet!

Returning to my perch, in two senses as it turned-out, the angling day gradually came to life but never frantically, just a steady trickle of fish to maggot feeder-tempted entrapment. The two potential prizes of which, presumed tench, got the upper hand; one to a submerged snag and another to a weak spot on the line probably due to chafing on the rocky bank.

Meanwhile Little George had visited on a detour from his walk, his head straight under my seat and nose straight in, chomping on the groundbait! A "No you don't", and a hoik of the collar and he was turned back up the bank to his apologetic master. Little bugger.

Come mid-afternoon however the bizarre succession of perch around the one pound mark was interrupted by a solid weight on the end of the line. Not feeling huge, but certainly noticeably different, initial thoughts turned to a foul hooked somethingorother.

A flash of a flank, then a hint of silver. Then gone from view, but soon back and a bronzy hue. A bream or hybrid.

The bream very rarely show here. When the do they are said to run up to 7lbs or so, which made this a baby, but very welcome at 2.10. It seemed a shoal had found the now flying magic maggot carpet as another of exactly the same weight and a third of 3.5 were taken.

Now as a, largely, canal angler the prospect of a twenty pound catch is not to be sniffed at and, totting up the swag on the gadget, I was a few ounces short with 30 minutes of play remaining before stumps would be drawn.

The gadget died. Too much excitement.

Three missed bites ensued.

Of course! That had to happen.

Then..."What the...", I inwardly blurt.

Binoculars rushed to face. The agile, floaty, white rumped, flexi-streamered sight of a solitary globe-trotting arctic tern. Straight onto Birdguides that went, to join the earlier visual treat.

Then a three ounce perch succumbed but unable to remember how many ounces were needed and the I.T. Dept defunct I felt another fish should be enough insurance, after all the size of the fish had averaged a pound so one more made it a certainty - didn't it?

Nine ounces of perch followed that one, and, still not sure if I had done enough, I headed off to Chez Nous. Around the dinner table a quick recalc and by one ounce the elusive twenty pound catch was confirmed; all but half of it thanks to those three afternoon bream.

Quite a day, QUITE a day.


Blog update:

The eagle-eyed, ultra-observant, Sherlocks among the readership will no doubt have noted the new tabs at the top of the home page.

These have been created to display firstly, the Bloggers Challenge fish we are required to publish before claiming the points, the scoreboard will be up there soon too, and secondly bird lists from wherever they were collated.

The latter is a touch dry at present as it's just acting as a vehicle to record sightings but in time it will include record shots and a bit more information.

Sunday, 7 May 2017


Notice the title has been upgraded from 'Big'


Way back in the dusty and rusty old days of this blog the scaly subject of the likely maximum size of canal roach was broached.

At the time dear old Jeff Hatt & I figured that two pounders must currently exist locally, we live 13 miles apart by road, based on our collective experiences. Jeff's with hard won, deep winter, whole lobworm-suckered fish of up to a few drams under the magic weight and my own with sheer numbers of pound plus fish.

At the time we both felt the North Oxford Canal offered the greatest chance of that fish. Zander infested, otter plundered and historically supportive of fish over a pound, even thirty years ago, with a good depth and with the small fish constantly cropped leaving the survivors to grow, and grow fat. A stock of roach well over a pound and approaching two was introduced from a trout reservoir decades ago and their progeny must form these contemporary shoals.

Since that time things have moved on to the point, and I would never have believed I would say this, where it is now possible to catch a fish well over a pound to order if conditions are right. How much over is down to dedication, knowing the water and it's foibles, and luck.

Three September's back Jeff considered a fish I took of 2.3.10 was the biggest authenticated canal roach ever but immediately this was usurped by one over 2lbs 4ozs from the Gloucester Canal.

The research Jeff put into historic roach records, taking him into waters that even the likes of Mark Everard and Mark Wintle knew little of, was as extensive as one would expect of the blogfather of angling, but it threw-up very little in the way of authenticated catches. That's not to say there haven't been any in the past of course, there will have been, harvesting it and squeezing the pips from the fruit however is another matter.

Plenty of stories - zero science.

Even the now legendary Albert Oldfield stories are not beyond reproach it seems and, generally speaking, when it comes to questions like, "...but did he weight it?", mist descends over the tumbleweed

I came across a mounted fish on eBay a couple of years ago, labelled as from New Bradwell canal, Milton Keynes to you and I, which from memory was supposed to have been two pounds, eight ounces. My memory may mislead me there but it was certainly in excess of the 2.4 recent best. The fish however would come with no certificate and lacked authentification by anyone who knew the circumstances of capture.

It is surely inevitable that larger, heavier canal fish must exist but there are obstacles to their capture and surely the greatest of these is a dearth of potential captors. One usually feels an extensive rutiloid furrow is being ploughed armed only with a Billy Lane ducker.


It is against this backdrop that news of big roach is a welcome surprise but always received with an element of doubt. Most anglers catch roach but a good proportion would not weigh a fish. There could be a number of reasons as to why but these aren't particularly relevant here.

So when a reliably informed bankside contact advised that a big canal fish had been taken nearby it could not initially be ignored. He showed me a photograph on his phone that looked convincing enough as often one's immediate impression on seeing such images is one of rejection.

I had to know more. A little detective work via The Lady Burton's Facebook account brought me into contact with it's tamer, one Jack Williams, a tackle shop worker, who just fancied a late hour by the canal until dusk.

A blend of pole float tactics on rod and line was Jack's favoured method feeding maggots in the boat channel and fishing two on an eighteen hook. Apart from the pole float a fairly standard approach one might say.

On this length of canal though a session's success can hinge on that one sudden bite and sure enough the only indication of interest in this visit produced the goods in, first the strength, and then the shape of a rod-bending roach of mind-bending proportions (we came close to getting Uri Geller in there!).

Once in the net...wonderment.

But how big?...and was it big or HUGE?

The trusty lightweight dial scales came to the rescue and, incredibly, the needle twizzled round to a massive two pounds, six ounces.

To my mind, and let's face it there aren't many others out there with an interest in such matters, on the face of it comfortably the biggest authenticated roach ever from an English canal.

And this is what the trophy shot looked like...

Jack and I entered into some brief correspondence during which it was decided he would check the accuracy of his scales and we would endeavour to work out the length of the fish.

Many times the impact on fish size attributable to offline marinas has entered and crashed around in my psyche. There are many in this part of the world...more I suspect than anywhere else.

To produce, now proven, multiple roach over 2lbs, hybrids over four and bream, the peak size of which are not yet fathomed, but clearly also over four pounds, from what is a plain, narrow canal with little respite for its stocks from weekend and holiday boats...no, this cannot be chance. The coincidence of these safe and plentiful offline growing-lakes has an influence without a doubt.

Sadly Jack's scales showed a six ounce disparity and now languish awaiting refuse collection day but that should not cause us to underplay the fact that this was a two pound roach. To my mind a genuine fish of a lifetime and a truly marvellous fish from such an unlikely source, the humble cut, and, yes, a HUGE roach, without doubt.


So how big do they go then?

Wouldn't it be awful if someone told us?

The mystery is all.

Monday, 1 May 2017


May 1st, 2017. 

For F,F&F an early cast to add whatever points could be gleaned on Bloggers' Challenge opening day to the board...the new 'season'.

I had been sussing-out the local reservoir I covered last time up as stillwaters have always been a mystery to me and so have spent much of the period since the river season ended trying to get to grips with the venue.

I had fished the swim the day before without much success but with plenty of bait and so expected early bites on maggot feeder over the leftovers, which was key, as I had to leave around 10.15am to get to the races for a different kind of gamble.

First cast and a small tench of 1.12.0 got the score ticking along then this was immediately surpassed by a 3.4.5 example next chuck out.

Bites came regularly at first and the species total mounted. I was quite pleased with a rudd of 0.11.13 as the best I have seen there is only 1lb 1oz and soon after that a roach, below par, at 0.7.3 joined it.

Further feed went in but frankly I made complete Horlicks of it and sprayed it everywhere except where I was aiming, so it was not until the last two fish, a perch of 0.8.2 and a fifth tench of 3.7.0 that any further points were raised

Not the best of days for big fish although a nice early a.m. catch of 16lbs-odd in less than four hours' fishing but it's just nice to get started!

Sunday, 23 April 2017


Since drawing a 'that'll do for now' line under a suitably satisfying big canal roach campaign the inspiration to write had waned with the slipping focus and lack of direction associated with the close season.

Attention has now turned, more by accident than invention, to a smaller but reliable local reservoir offering good fish across a range of species. Carp 30lbs plus, Tench over 6lbs, Rudd over 1lb, Roach to 2lbs, Perch over 2lbs, Pike to double figures and Crucians to at least high 2lbs.

There is an additional bonus of these waters and that is migrating bird life and so whether to float fish or enjoy the flight of incoming migrants before producing this flannel was the potential conundrum.

But no!

Armed with bite alarms rather than quiver tips or float rods both could be targeted; well, until a bite came of course! Mind you my concentration did lapse to a passing common sandpiper while I was playing a fish at one point.

Is he a birder who fishes or an angler who birdwatches? The crunch would come when a rarity appeared at the same time as a bite. I'm pretty confident the bite would win but, once hooked, that fish would be played on autopilot for sure.

I've fished the Res a number of times in this spell including all four mornings over the bank holiday period and have been completely mesmerised by the quality of fishing and the ever-changing birdlife at this peak migration time.

Sand and house Martins, swallows and all three breeding wagtails, including two of the most stunningly brightly coloured of british birds, the yellow wagtail, together with the aforementioned sandpiper and increasing warbler species numbers, including the (hardly common) lesser whitethroat, all made those slack spells between bites as fascinating as could be.

Shrews argued in their shrill almost inaudible way beneath the rocks and anglers, birders and dog owners passed every few minutes, many of whom kindly shared the time of day for an engaging minute or two.

Feeding the swim each trip made sure of early bites the next day as the fish got used to food being there.

The quality of fish for a venue that is not widely known outside the local area is very surprising and over that ten day period or so, with the The Boy Wonder also on the case on two occasions, we managed the following little list of maximum species sizes:
Perch 1.2.5
Rudd 12ozs
RoachXrudd hybrid 1.4.8
Tench 5.2.0
RoachXbream hybrid 1.6.0

The highlight however was a roach of 1.10.13 which, with gargantuan incredulossity, was caught again the next day at 1.10.3! Followed a week later by one of 1.8.10 amid news of a two pounder a few days ago.

TBW would disagree however....for him a tench would do nicely thank you, to add to his winter first of the species of 2lbs or so.

Naturally, in keeping with his 'anything you can do' nature, he breaks that p.b. with a fish of 2.14 only to follow it with one of 4.9 a few minutes later. I'm really beginning think I should not encourage him further and perhaps buy him a subscription for Macrame Online. (Why would ANYBODY do macrame? It doesn't even look good).

So the Res is serving a purpose and giving us a few clues for the rapidly upcoming Bloggers' Challenge 2017/18 at the same time.

Speaking of which...


Dear old over-pressured Russell (new blog, new job and all) has created the self-calculating spreadsheet to include the three new smaller species. A WhatsApp group for more immediate sharing in the excitement of captures is under preparation and thus we are requesting last orders for a place in the stalls on the start line come 00.01hrs on May 1st. Don't be shy, it's just a bit of fun.

Please see the previous f,f&f post for further details, which will also take you to Russ's blog to register. Bear in mind you don't need to be a blogger as long as you know one!

All entrants will be contacted with necessary detail this week.

It stands to be an epic campaign!

Chance encounter...
Bumped into Eric Weight author of "Artificial Lite" blog and talented photographer, and his angling mate Pete, this week. Chewing the fat bankside we covered various unfathomable subjects including the fact that the vast online angling video library that is YouTube does nothing to help those who don't get a bite within 'X' minutes. As Eric put it, "None of the films show you that do then". "Because no one would watch them", was added.

Watch this space.


Meanwhile the bankside grapevine brings news of a new possible biggest ever canal roach in the form of a 2lbs 6ozs bejewelled beast from the zander-improved Grand Union very close to where much of the FF&F winter challenge was undertaken. The captor is sending me some information and so I will update this news in the next post.


Chance encounter two/too:
Same Res., same result.

I bump into a fellow Warks blogger. This time Daniel Everitt, "The Lure of Angling", who was his usual deep-theoried, impeccably-enthused self, in pursuit of float-fished tench...until he relented and the feeder rods came out of the car. Anyway, the rest is a tale for him to tell in his own time.


Some unbelievable migrants to another local reservoir these past few days also...

Black-winged stilts. A bird in the flamingo class for the impossibly evolved...and severely beautiful, elegant creatures they are too. Let's hope they stay