Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Canterbury tale...

Six hundred odd years ago, when Chaucer was penning his famous lines, little did he know that I would be making the journey from London to Canterbury in just over an hour, or at least it should have been. My tail is not going to run to an excess of 17,000 lines (honest!), and it is not going to be written in Middle English verse or prose. It will be more of my usual waffle, that I am sure nobody will be reading in another six hundred years time.

The weir pool in Canterbury
Fishing trips have been few and far between this year. As the weather has cooled over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about doing a spot of pike fishing. Having never done it before, I have been a little reluctant to dive in half-prepared, so today I decided to play it safe and go jigging/dropshotting for perch.

Making the trip to Canterbury is utterly impractical for just a couple of hours fishing alone, so this outing was combined with a trip to see my elderly mum. At 90 years of age, she is still very active, and indeed today we cannot get to her house before midday as she will be in the local library attending the weekly social gathering, drinking tea and eating cake.

We left home at around 07:30. With the intention of being at the water by 09:00. Even taking into account the time it takes to extricate one car and two people from the clutches of the A205 (AKA The South Circular) an Hour and a half would generally be more than enough time to make the trip. As it turned out, the 'getting out' was not bad at all and we made it out onto the dual carriageway/motorway in good time. By the time we reached the end of the M2, there was a queue to join the A2 to make the last part of the journey to Canterbury. This is usually the easy bit! We got to the roundabout after a painful 10 minute crawl up the slip road only to find the A2 at a standstill. As you join the A2 here, the road is at a high point, and it is possible to see a long way down the dual carriageway and the sight that unfolded before us was not good. Solid traffic as far as the eye could see. There was apparently something very wrong.

By now it was getting very close to 09:00, the time we had planned to be there. Usually, this would not have caused too much stress but I had agreed to meet my mate John there at 09:00 and I knew he only had an hour or so to fish. A misguided decision to skip off the main road and 'slip' through the narrow streets that pass through the village of Dunkirk backfired. It just so happened that a couple of big lorries and a bus were all trying to do the same thing, but in opposite directions, causing gridlock. We eventually arrived at the car park in Canterbury at about 09:35, over two hours after leaving home. Just as we were sorting the gear out from the back of the car, John arrived after deciding to do a spot of shopping first, I assume for bait as he was dead-baiting for pike.

We made our way across the road and past the Miller's Arms into the fenced area that encloses the weir pool. Dropshotting was the order of the day for me so, with Sue in charge of the landing net and extra plastic fish, we made our way over to the curved wall at the far side of the pool, next to the weir. There is some slack water there, and it is renowned for being a bit of a hot spot for perch, my intended target species for the session.

The curved wall where I had started fishing - Now John is not having any luck either
It is not very deep here, so the first rig consisted of a 5g weight and a little soft plastic, 5cm lure that was 'lip' hooked to a No.2 dropshot hook, tied to a 5lb fluorocarbon hook length, on 8lb yellow braid that has been loaded on to the spool of a tiny 1500 size reel. The rod is a 6ft, 6inch dropshotting rod. This tiny gear almost feels toy-like. I think my choice of weight was just a bit too light as I could not feel the bottom, so I replace it with a slightly heaver 7g one, and it felt much better. I like to use the long tube-shaped weights when fishing close in and just letting them touch the bottom and then lay down and stand up again with a minimal movement of the wrist.

After half an hour of fruitless dropshotting all the way along the wall and as close as I dare to the overhanging bushes. Even changing form lures to a lob worm ,from John's pot, did not produce any interest. It was apparent the perch had all gone off Christmas shopping and were not at home.

I had bought a slightly longer rod with me, again fitted with a 1500 size reel filled with 8lb Braid. To this, I attached a wire trace and a home-made rubber-band lure fitted with a loose 2g jig weight. I cast out a few times and tried retrieving it at various speeds, sometimes straight back and other times letting fall and then jerking it back to the surface. Nothing, not even a twitch.

I changed my rubber-band lure for a 75mm shad fitted with a more substantial loose jig weight. This was not showing any signs of success before it was sacrificed to the tree Gods.  When a careless cast into the wind took my line over a branch. I managed to get my line and weight back, but it left the lure and hook in the tree - Grrr!

A nice slack area of water close to the wall and with a few weeds looked like it might give up a perch - It didn't!
Meanwhile, John had been having no luck fishing for pike on the opposite side of the pool so as agreed we swapped positions and had another go. Jigging was not a practical proposition in this small pool, as I would be crossing lines with John or any other anglers that arrived. Instead, I went back to my dropshotting rig. I found a little patch of slack water that had some weed growing in it. The colour was starting to go from the water, after the rainfall we had last night stirred up the sediment upstream, and it was now working its way downstream through the weir. Patiently, I worked my way around the weed, and keeping close to the wall, which has been undercut in several places, I worked my way along the length until I was at the bridge you can see in the header picture. Not a sniff of a fish on the line and apart from a couple of swirls, there was absolutely no sign of any fish at all.

It was not only me. John was after a pike and had the same experience, not a single bite or even a glimpse of a fish. I guess it was just one of those days. We only had a couple of hours to fish and if we had more time I would have moved out of the pool and along the river, if for nothing else than to warm up a bit! For me this late Autumn/winter fishing is all new. Today's experience has not put me off, it has just proved I have a lot to learn about fishing in the colder months.    

Ralph

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 3

By the middle of last month, I had been fighting off a bug that had really got the better of me. While I was feeling too rough to actually go fishing, it gave me a chance to do some armchair research into predator fishing. By now I had planned to have actually been out on the bank and giving it a go. That has not happened yet as here I am on Guy Fawkes night still writing about the thought of it!

There is a lot of useful information in here
I have yet to rid myself of this bug completely. It has left me feeling lethargic (more than usual, that is!) and nursing a persistent cough. The result has been no fishing for the past few weeks and not even much blogging. Today, however, I am feeling a lot better. It has been getting better all week but then on Friday I had a bit of a relapse that spoilt the weekend, but I am hoping that is the end of it. I have a good positive attitude, and I think I should be well enough to get out there later in the week.

A lot of reading has been happening. I bought a copy of the Fox Guide to Modern Pike Fishing. This is a bit of a strange book. A lot of it is written by Mike Brown, who I respect as a decent pike fisherman, but the presentation and editing of the content leave a lot to be desired. Once I had cut through all the laborious stuff, there is a lot of good basic stuff to be gleaned, even if the information is a decade old. I never did, however, work out who 'Nev' is, other than the bloke who wrote the introduction. Funnily enough, the fact that it contains nothing but Fox tackle (not surprisingly) did not detract from getting the facts through. I do feel more confident about tackling my first pike now. I do still need to get hold of a couple of tools although I now have some 30lb braid and some suitable 'circle' hooks that look enormous compared to the hooks I usually choose.

Gotcha!

In the last part of this saga, I was bemoaning my lack of success at acquiring a decently sized spoon net-head with a large open rubberised mesh. Well, silly me, I was searching for a pike net when all I had to do was look for a barbel net that, according to the description was 'suitable for pike' among other species! I have my mate John to thank for that information. He too has caught the predator bug, but unlike me has managed to get out there and have a go himself. A productive go at that, having caught a decent sized pike on his first cast. Now I have someone to discuss pike fishing with.

John's 8-6 pike. Not bad for a first cast!
The benchmark has been set, I now have to bag a pike that is bigger than 8-6. Hopefully soon.

Ralph.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Magazines, books, videos and forums...

Without a doubt, the best way to increase one's fishing skill is by practising the art, on the bank, with someone who knows how to do whatever it is you are trying to master. When this is not possible, for whatever reason, it is time to turn to reference material. In days gone by, this was supplied in either magazine or book form, supplemented by the occasional television programme.

Today we are swamped with digital media whether that be social media, in the form of interactive discussion or websites designed to inform. Very little of this material is prepared with any third-party editing or checking. Indeed, what you are reading here is just the result of me sitting here typing away and giving you my thoughts on the world of angling. I do try and write in proper English and check my spelling, but I do make mistakes, and I continually update the blog if a mistake is spotted by me or anyone else. These sort of errors are easy to correct and are (or should be) forgiven as the message is usually understood.

Social media is full of misspellings, bad grammar and often devoid of any punctuation except from the over-uses of the ellipsis (something I am guilty of...) and explanation mark! This matters not, on social media as this is no more than electronic 'Pub-talk', discussion and argument in a two-way forum, after all, this is a free and open discussion. It should be taken as such, and any validity of fact be taken at face value. It is when we find such things in the printed word it seems more worrying.

When I was first involved in publishing in the early 1970s, the old traditions were starting to change. We were still printing all our publications using the traditional letterpress process. This involved using lead type and all manner of specialist trades from compositors and block-makers to highly trained and skilled camera operators that made the film separations to produce horrifically expensive four-colour printing blocks. It was a trade and a closely guarded one at that, some would say too much so. Getting into 'the print' required a long apprenticeship and a lot of dedication. It was not long before this started to change. The newspaper industry was held in a grip by the unions and had been reluctant to modernise. This foot-dragging resulted in a powder-keg of tension that, when it did eventually release, set free a rapid and sensational change to the way things happened. The skills that had been learnt over generations were redundant within a decade or so.

Letterpress printing was replaced with the lithographic process, but the most significant changes were to be seen in the pre-press areas of design and production of printing plates. A whole section of the traditional print trade was to suffer a fatal wound with the development of digital imaging and the use of desktop publishing. In what seemed to be no time at all the entire reprographic industry became redundant. Skills such as 'colour planning' (the assembly of film and colour separations into a set of films ready to make printing plates from) once, one of the highest paid areas of pre-press production, became unnecessary. Today, I can do all the design, pre-press colour separations from the same machine I am using to produce this blog. Initially, a lot of the guys who were planning film moved over to computers bringing their understanding of the process with them. Sadly, this is not the case today as more and more of the 'old school' guys have moved on into retirement.

Without this technology advance, most of the periodicals would have gone long ago. There was a time when advertising paid for the production and magazines had to sell many tens of thousands of magazines to make a profit. Today, the cost of production is so much less, and the cover price is much higher, advertising is not so relevant or so readily secured. Periodicals can survive on just a few thousand sales. You will find that publishing houses are either small one-man-band affairs or they will have a team working on several different titles, writing material, and using fewer outside contributors. The same low cost also means that books can be published very much easier.

The upshot of all this means that, in a lot of cases, quality is compromised. I have written books, hundreds of magazine articles and been an editor of both books and magazines over the past forty-plus years. The books I wrote were sub-edited for general readability, spelling and grammar by someone else and read for the accuracy of content by at least one other who knows the subject. I would read the books several times myself, making further corrections to make it as easy to read and understand as possible. A similar exercise would be undertaken for the magazine articles. None of this happens to the words I write here and, as a consequence, no doubt you will find mistakes in this post.

Today, too many books and publications are produced on the cheap. The standard of writing, quality of images and lack of any continuity make it hard to follow, especially for a novice. As I have said before, all this can be forgiven or at least understood when it is free material put out in good faith. When bad (budget?) material is presented in hard-copy, or for download, with a price tag attached, it is not really acceptable.

What's the answer? Well, I am not really sure. As a novice, I found it really hard to get sound information. I have bought several magazines regularly over the past three years, and although initially, in my ignorance, the advice all seemed good, I eventually realised that most of the articles were blatant product placement. The books, with a few exceptions, are not much better.

At the moment I am trying to get some reliable information about predator fishing. I have not been able to get out onto the bank recently due to a significant dose of what has been designated 'man-flu', by my missus. The books and magazine I have been reading have helped and do give the information, but they take some reading in places. I am sure good books are available, but there does seem to be a lot of poorly put together publications out there making it hard to find reliable information.

Armed with the information I have managed to glean so far, I think I am ready to give predator fishing, or to be more specific, pike fishing, a go once I have secured a few more bits of tackle. With a little experience under my belt, maybe the written word I have invested in will start to make more sense. I am not at all sure that is how it should be.

Ralph.
   

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 2

It is now Wednesday, and I have spent the last few days trying to fight off a real stinker of a cold. I don't often succumb to colds and flu, but this one is playing dirty. By the time I had come around on Monday, I soon realised the book I had ordered had arrived, so between bouts of coughing, spluttering and dozing off, I have had a good flick through and read a few pages.

It looks to be an excellent guide and well worth the £2.80 it cost, including the delivery charge. For a while, a lot of these booksellers were selling books at 1p and charging £2.80 shipping. I assume the way they are charged for listing the books has changed. Either way, it is a good cheap way of building up a library of books without spending a fortune.

I was hoping the net I ordered from Northern Ireland would be here by now. You know that phrase "if it is too good to be true..."  I had heard nothing by yesterday, so I sent the supplier an e-mail asking if my net was indeed on its way. To cut a long story short, the answer was no. Apparently, I had ordered from a website that was out of date and should have been taken down. Refund on its way.

One step forward and another back. The big spoon net would have been useful for dead-baiting for larger pike on the still water I intend to fish; however, it was always going to be too big for the river in Canterbury. As I can't get hold of a big spoon net head, my thoughts are now moving to a large triangular net for use when lifting fish from above in shallow water, as is the requirement when fishing the weir pool in Canterbury.  For roving, on the river, something smaller would be useful but at the moment, everything I take a shine to seems to be out of stock. This is the trouble with the demise of the tackle shop. I really would like to go and look at what I am buying but I think I am going to be stuck with mail order. I did try my local shop but unless I wanted a carp net or a match net I was out of luck.

Hopefully, this cold will be gone soon and I can get back on the case of acquiring the last few bits and pieces I need to go and pester a few pike without harming them.

I can see that this quest still has a way to go yet...

Ralph.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 1

My fishing has not been as prolific as I would have liked it to have been lately. Even when planning to meet up with angling friends I have been forced to cancel at the last minute. No one thing has caused this hiatus in my fishing journey, but the net result (sorry about the pun) is that the colder months are here and I am still trying to get some fishing in.

For the past couple of years, those thoughts have led to dropshotting. This year I have decided to have a go at a spot of pike fishing. Nothing is simple though, as there is pike fishing and pike fishing. My first thought was to lure fish for pike, but this will mean acquiring a whole new lot of gear including rod and maybe reel, landing net, unhooking mat (roving) more tools lures - have you seen the price of some of those? And a whole lot more. I am not saying that I will not follow that path, but for now, I am planning to go dead-bait ledgering or float fishing, or both. I can use one of my carp rods and reel for this.

Yes, I will need some new tackle and the most obvious, must have is a predator landing net. That is one with a large open rubberised mesh. Fox made a super 900mm (roughly 36 inches) predator net until last year, and although an internet search for a supplier threw up lots of hits, without fail, they were all showing the net as out of stock. Eventually, probably through a fluke of my search wording, I found a seller in Northern Ireland that had stock. Being part of Great Britain, shipping via the Royal Mail from Northern Ireland costs the same as ordering it from the mainland and takes a similar amount of time to arrive.

As stated above I will be using my carp rods and reels to start with but loaded with braided main line and not monofilament. The only braided line I have used to date is the much lighter Jig Silk I use on my dropshot gear. Those are small 1500 size reels, and although the braid is expensive, for dropshotting, I don't need much, and there is no distance casting to worry about. To put some line on these much larger spools, I will have to apply a good lot of backing to the spool. This is where I need to do some research. I know I want to use braided mainline and a wire trace, but as to what weights I need, I am at a loss for now. There are so many different opinions.

On the recommendation of one of the guys on The Pikers Pit Forum I have ordered an old book published, in 1994, called An Introduction to Pike Fishing, by David Batten. Hopefully, this will answer a lot of my questions.  

In the meantime, there are still a few things to get together for handling pike safely to protect the fish and my fingers! These include a large unhooking mat, which I have already, a pair of extra long nose pliers and a pair of long wire cutters. For me, I will take a first aid kit along with clean water to wash any cuts. It has been said that pike are likely to introduce an anticoagulant into the wound, meaning it will not readily stop bleeding. Personally, I think this is a myth. The profuse bleeding is probably the result of multiple fine cuts made to look and feel worse by wet, cold hands. Whatever the reason, an open wound is never a good idea next to water, and I will make sure, as well as having the appropriate fish-care equipment, I have some 'me-care' gear with me as well!  

To be continued...

Ralph.
       

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How To Drown Maggots now has a Facebook Group

For all you Facebook fans out there, I have just started a Facebook group page, to complement this blog, where you can join in and post your comments, add your hints and tips or just show us what you have been doing. Rules are few but apart from the obvious ones about conduct and absolutely no swearing, I do not want to see any advertising, there are plenty of places to peddle your wares, so don't do it on my page.

To find the Facebook page, follow THIS link and join today!

Ralph.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Landing net rubbers

Most landing nets, especially the cheaper ones, are supplied with an O-ring at the bottom of the thread that is used to attach it to the handle. When I bought a set of three nets recently, one of the O-rings was missing. Rather than go back to the supplier, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to try out something I have been thinking about for some time.

A neater solution than the usual O-ring
The usual O-ring that is supplied with most landing nets is inclined to twist out of shape and become malformed if the handle is overtightened to the net-head. This can mean the joint will have a tendency to loosen, especially if a big fish is in residence. What is really needed is a washer that can be tightened onto but will also have a bit of 'give' in it so the joint will undo without the use of tools.
It occurred to me that a tap washer would be the perfect substitute. A rummage around in my plumbing gear uncovered a box of mixed tap washers. Just to confuse the issue here, tap washers were originally sized according to the size of the threaded connection into the bottom of the tap, this means the stated size of the washer does not match up with its actual physical size.

I knew these would come in handy one day...

I selected a washer that actually measures 5/8 inch (aproximatly16mm) diameter. The washer I picked has a rubber core and a bonded mesh on each side making the mating surface particularly resistant to scuffing as it is tightened onto. The only problem with a tap washer is the hole in the centre is too small to wind it onto the thread of the net head. My first thought was to pop into the workshop and bore the hole out to a more suitable size. A simple job with a cordless drill and twist bit - wrong!

Larger than life O-ring and washers. The one of the far right has been bored out
The first problem is that it is impossible to hold by hand. Okay, that is easily cured by boring a hole is a scrap of wood, holding that down over the rubber and passing the drill bit through the hole to make the hole in the washer bigger. All that did was to expand the hole in the washer to become a very tight interference fit on the drill bit. The washer had merely expanded under the pressure of the drill. All I want to do is make the hole in the washer bigger. It would be so much easier to just punch it out to the correct size, well it would be if I had a punch!

The washer is prevented from expanding by fitting it in a blind hole of appropriate size
Nothing for it I am now going to have to make a jig, just to bore a hole in a tap washer. What I need to do is to stop the washer expanding as the revolving drill bit is applied to the hole. The jig is easily made by boring a shallow, 16mm diameter blind hole in a piece of MDF. A second piece of MDF has a hole bored through. This hole needs to be the same size as the drill bit to be used. Because the hole in the washer will close up a little after the re-sized hole is bored in it, I have found that a 9mm diameter bit seems to be just about right.

These parts need to be held together while boring out the washer
To use the jig, place the washer in the blind hole, centre the hole in the second piece of MDF over the washer to trap it. With the drill on its fastest speed setting, lightly bore out the hole in the washer through the hole in the second piece of MDF.

Done and now it will fit on the thread - albeit a tight fit
It sounds far more complicated than it really is. The washer can now be fitted to the net head and when the net is tightened up to the handle will not scrunch the washer up and will be securely attached to the handle. This is a straightforward fix, and once you have made the jig, you can convert any number of tap washers to a fishing application.

Ralph.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

I caught some perch!

Dawn and a quick snap from the cab can reflect this - and me!
Today, I finally managed to get a day's fishing in. As usual, I was late to bed last night and as it is Saturday today, the morning traffic is not as bad as it is during the week. I decided to have a lay-in and did not surface until 05:30. After making the coffee and packing the van, it was getting on for 06:30. Leaving at this time on a weekday would mean a two-hour trip if I was lucky. Today it was about three-quarters of an hour, and the M25 was running freely. The view from the side window reminds me of those old British Railways adverts and slogan "Let the train take the strain." Remember?

A rare sight - a blurred image of the traffic on the M25 - It looks very Turneresque 
On my arrival, I made for the fishery's office, paid my day ticket and bought a tub of worms to take fishing with me. Lucky worms! I am not keen on fishing with worms and even less keen on chopping up live worms then sticking things through their dismembered body... Hmmm... Can a worm be dismembered?

I was off to my favoured spot on The Major's Lake. When I arrived, I was shocked that someone dared to erect a bivvy in MY peg. Reaching for the baseball bat, a sudden sense of calm washed over me, and I decided to let the perpetrator off - this time. See what a calming influence has on me. My second choice of a swim, on the other side of the lake (where the disappearing rod incident took place) was inaccessible by the van as that part of the road is, for now, blocked by a couple of articulated lorry tractor units. Besides the swims, either side had been taken making it all a bit crowded. In the end, I settled for the corner swim that will forevermore be referred to as the 'Birthday Swim' since I christened my new accessory chair there on my sixtieth birthday.

The shallow end of the lake looked perfect
If I was an estate agent, I could flower this up to make it sound much better than it really was... Sorry if you are an estate agent, but I am not referring to you, just the stereotypical conception of the beast, honest...

During the week I made a batch of groundbait specifically aimed at attracting perch. The plan was to lay a bed of groundbait down, laced with a sprinkling of free offerings to match the hook bait. For example, I started off using prawns on the hook and added chopped prawn to the groundbait. This proved successful on the first chuck, much to my surprise. First fish and it was a member of the target species. Several more casts produced nothing and trying to keep the prawn on the barbless hook was proving difficult. Hooking a white maggot, in addition, also seemed to help.

Okay, not the biggest fish in the lake but at least it is a perch!
Now for a spot of worm carnage. My pot of worms was opened, and my first victim was extracted from the huddled mass. I place it on the lid, took a deep breath and chopped it into four bits. Blood a guts oozing out it looked repulsive, but I am sure the fish will like it. Two of the bits were chopped further, added to a golfball sized ball of groundbait and added to the swim.

I hooked one piece of worm and made a cast. Seconds later I had another perch similar in size to the first. I tried this several times without adding any more groundbait and caught several more fish of similar size, one after the other - all perch. I have never caught so many perch in one go before. I was finding nothing else. Could my new groundbait be working?

Just to see what would happen, I cast a maggot into another part of the lake and fed over the float with a few more maggots. I caught a roach, and another and another. I was just about to go back to my original line and go after the perch again when the rain came in.

Rain!
As you may be able to see, it was chucking it down. I switched my hoody for my coat, swapped my hat for the hood and continued - a spot of rain was not going to put me off. To be honest, I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setup in such conditions that I don't like. First priority is to cover the maggots as rain give them 'traction' as they all take on the positive mental attitude of Steve McQueen while portraying Capt. Virgil Hilts  (the 'Cooler King') in the classic film The Great Escape.

With a towel over my seat and standing up to cast (after checking for overhanging trees - I am learning!) I continued to fish and, yes, I caught another perch. This fellow did not look happy being dragged out of the lake, into the pouring rain. Perhaps fish don't like getting wet either.

"Oi! Put me back, can't you see it's raining out here!"
By lunchtime, the bites had dried up somewhat. I decided to give the swim a rest and have some lunch. All morning I had a sleeper rod out sitting close to the far bank hoping to catch a big fish patrolling the margins. So far this had not shown even a twitch, let alone a bite. Determined not waste any valuable fishing time, I put a second feeder rod out while I was eating my lunch. Just as I took a bite out of the first of my sandwiches, the tip of the newly cast rod flicked around ad I grabbed the rod just as the line went taught and broke. Classic error - guess who had not slackened off the drag before putting the rod down. This was, of course, a huge fish. It had to be at least twenty pounds in weight, a real specimen sized fish, it was T H I S big!  

Another feeder lost, and that was not the first piece of end tackle to get donated to the lake today. After lunch Andy, the bailiff, came along to check that everything was going to plan and made a few suggestions to help on my quest to bother some of the bigger perch. One of the things he said I could try was to put a heavier float on and cast beyond the patch of lilies to my left. I could then drag the float back so it would sit just next to them in the gap between the main clump and those few leaves to the right, as indicated in the picture by the red ellipse. I changed my float for an excellent new Drennan Puddle Chucker, and after throwing in a couple more of my small worm-laced balls of groundbait, I made a few casts. The float flew over the pads, and after a few further attempts, I was able to coax the float into just the right place. The float had not been sitting there long, presenting another piece of severed worm, when there was movement. First, a little shudder and then the float disappeared like a stone. I had something a bit bigger on the end of the line. 

Trying to stay calm I gently applied pressure to the line and, whatever I had hooked, started to pull back. At last, I had a decent fish with which to play. Then it stopped, I kept the pressure on, but nothing was happening. I released the pressure and reapplied it. Nothing. It was rock solid. I polled a little harder but whatever I was pulling against it was not moving. Eventually, the line went slack, and I retrieved in a section of vegetation. Whatever had taken the worm had released itself and snagged me up. Clever them fish!

Now disheartened with the loss, I decided to leave my pursuit of perch for a while and try out my (new to me) method of attaching the line to the elastic of my tele-pole. Of all my gear, I am now most impressed with my little tele-pole. As supplied I am sure these poles are intended for children to provide a simple method of fishing that does not involve a reel. As such, I am confident they are good. My one came in a starter set I bought when I first set out fishing three years ago. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you will know that it has gone through a few changes of use in its life. I converted it to a margin cupping pole and used it used it to cup in corn custard for a while. I then elasticated it and turned it into something much more useful. 

The last time I took it out the elastic broke at the connector, so I decided to try the 'crows foot' connection method. Below is a short video explanation I found on YouTube, by Steve Lockett, for those who are not familiar with the technique. It is nine years old now but is very clear and well presented. I added a soft bead to the elastic to prevent the elastic disappearing through the bush and to protect the line from consistently hitting the pole tip.



Out with the tele-pole and maggots and I had a nice relaxing hour catching roach and skimmers, by using single or double maggot on the hook and feeding them loose over the top. I was only fishing the tele-pole for an hour or so, but I had no perch at all in that time. 

Having lost a feeder and got bored with the tele-pole (it is too easy), I went back to my original plan to catch perch. Although I had been snagged by a fish earlier, I thought I would try again to pick one off from under the lily pads. Again I cast over the pads and pulled the float back into my desired position. After a while, I was suspicious that I was snagged as the float had not moved an inch. Sure enough, I was snagged. I pulled the line reasonably tight and tried a dropshotting technic for freeing braided line. The line is pulled tight and plucked fairly vigorously sending a shockwave down the line. I had no idea if this would work with monofilament line, but I had nothing to lose. It did, and the float and end tackle complete with bait rejoined me on the bank at the speed of a bullet. Two subsequent attempts, however, were not so successful and I ended up donating a couple of my favourite floats to the lake, with no more fish to show for it. At this point, it was time to go home. 

I had a great day, survived a torrential downpour and proved that my new groundbait recipe had at least not frightened the fish off. It is too early to say it works, but at least I know it is not doing any harm. I will try it out over the autumn and winter, diluting it with a non-food bulk (molehill soil) in the rivers to save overfeeding and to get it down to the bottom before too much of it is washed away in the flow. 

 Ralph.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Bothering The Major's perch

That's it, no more namby-pambying about, I am off to try out my new groundbait tomorrow. After a couple of weeks of indecision and other factors getting in the way, I am off to Beaver tomorrow. More specifically to The Major's Lake, where after talking to the bailiff, I have the best chance of catching a decent fish. Apparently, there have been a few caught in there this week.

I am looking for a perchy place to fish, so it is near the reeds and under the water lilies. The trouble with that is, this is exactly where a lot of other fish will be hanging out - including the pike. The Major's Lake is the fishery's Pike lake in the winter months. It is a good thing the season does not start until Sunday - I hope someone told the pike that!

My favorite swim on The Major's Lake
 I will go and see if my favorite swim has any suitable vegetation. The picture above is a couple of years old, and the lake has been refurbished since then. I may have to go down the shallow end to find some reeds.

Roll on tomorrow!

Ralph.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Not again!

My intention was to try out my new groundbait today, but it was not to be. From here, in my part of London, there are not many venues locally to fish. Our small local river is only just about fishable, and although better than nothing, it is limited. The next best thing is Oakley Road Fishery that is about half an hour's drive away in traffic. The trouble is Oakley Road is small, and they have a few rules that will restrict my plans to test my new bait. There is no swinging to hand at all, not even tiny fish, which virtually scuppers the use of whips. And they are not keen on the use of groundbait anyway. I get that as the lake is not very big and does not have a flow as it is fed from run-off.

All this means that if I am going to another commercial, I need to leave early just to be clear of the morning traffic, as we live just inside the South Circular road.

Click the image to open in full size.
Midnight and it is not looking good...
I am the first to admit that I am not keen of fishing in the rain or traipsing through the mud. After a spell of beautifully dry weather, perfect for me, where work had prevented me from going fishing, I had made up my mind to go today. Last night it started to rain it was pouring down. Okay, perhaps it will clear, was my thoughts. I decided to wait a while and see how the night developed before making a decision. By now it was past midnight, and if I was going to go, I needed to get some sleep. I can make do with four hours if needed. I had virtually decided that all this was getting too much and thought I would see what the weather was like in the morning.

If that were it, I would probably be out fishing right now instead of writing this, but at about 03.30 I was woken by all the windows in the front of the house resonating in tune with what sounded like a slow running diesel engine.

The gasboard are digging up the road and have narrowed the entrance to the road opposite meaning it's hard to emerge into our road. Stuck across the street wedge between the barriers, a telegraph pole and a parked car is a long rigid refrigerated lorry, slowly shunting back and forth attempting to get around the corner.

As I was wondering if I can help in any way, the driver had apparently given up and proceded to demolish the barriers and cones to make the turn. To my amazement, he stopped (in the pouring rain) and re-erected the entire barrier system.

That was it. I had managed to get a couple of hours sleep, and now I was wide awake with no chance of getting back to sleep. With less than an hour to go until I would have to get up anyway, yet again I abandoned all thought of getting out early to go fishing. 

I have now just received a call from a friend of mine who needs some help tomorrow (instead of the pre-arranged Monday), which now means that tomorrow is out for an early start.
I give up. Well, for now anyway.
Maybe I should just get on with it and go come rain or shine; I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setting up and putting away in bad weather that I hate. Being a 100% townie, I also have an aversion to mud!

Ralph.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Cattyfish groundbait!

No, it is not aimed at catfish, it is just made from cat food and fishy things...

It has been a while since I made any new groundbait. My previous concoctions have served me well for the fish I was seeking and the tactics I was using. Recently I have rediscovered the simplicity of float fishing, whether that has been on rod and line, whip or my selection of tele-poles. Most of the time I am happy with whatever comes along and takes my bait. On our small local river, I caught four species in about an hour on my very first visit armed with nothing more than a 3m whip, bread and maggots.

This time of year my thoughts are turning to predator fishing. In past years that has been mainly satisfied by a spot of dropshotting, however, I have been looking into lure fishing for pike, and I think I am going to give that a go, at some point. For now, I am going to go and target the perch using my float gear. I plan to try and tempt the fish into the area with a fishy groundbait as an attractant and then feed over the top with whatever hook bait I am using. I have no idea if this will work, but I will find out. I may end up attracting all the wrong fish. Whatever happens, it will give me a chance to experiment with a new groundbait.

The Assembled ingredients for the base mix of Cattyfish groundbait
This time I want a groundbait with a strong fishy flavour that the fish will be drawn to - I hope! Perch are partial to prawn and with this in mind, a bag of leftover prawn crackers from a takeaway meal this week got me started. I also had to hand a few tins of Tesco's own brand Tuna Chunks; the result of an experimental economy drive that failed. It smells very 'fishy' and tastes horrible, making it an ideal ingredient for my new experiment. Other ingredients in the base mix are white breadcrumb, Rich Tea biscuits, fishy cat biscuit and seed hemp.

Regular readers will recall that for a long time I have been drying out cheap supermarket sliced bread. This was fine when I was only making small quantities of groundbait. As time has gone on, I am using more and more as well as making some for friends. I now buy my breadcrumb ready made that is supplied in sacks, that is much more convenient, if slightly more expensive. If kept dry, it lasts indefinitely. I have a large blue storage barrel that I keep our bulk birdseed in. The breadcrumb is stored in there where it is also rodent free.

Below is my initial recipe. This will make just under a kilo of groundbait, just enough for a single trial session.

My Cattyfish Groundbait Recipe 


Dry ingredients:
  • 200g Breadcrumb
  • 200g Rich Tea biscuits
  • 200g Cat biscuit
  • 50g Prawn crackers
Wet ingredients:
  • 175g Seed hemp, including the liquid (half a tin)
  • 160g Tin of tuna  



Dry ingredients after processing to a fine powder 
Except for the white breadcrumb, which is already processed, the other dry ingredients are 'liquidised' in my super powerful Duronic BL1200 blender and placed in a mixing bowl. The blender is powerful enough to reduce hard ingredients, such as cat and dog biscuits, to powder in no time!

Adding the liquidised wet ingredients
Half a tin of seed hemp is liquidised with the tin of tuna, to make a smelly grey sludge, and added to the dry ingredients. The whole lot is mixed together to form a lumpy mixture that is not of much use as it stands.


Lumpy!
This is left to soak for about half an hour before being passed through a groundbait riddle several times to thoroughly mix it together and produce an excellent crumbly mix.


Now it is just right - you can't beat a good riddle!
It made just about a kilo as I had to add a drop of water to the hemp to get it out of the tin. The other half of the tin will be used as loose feed. The finished groundbait is bagged up and ready for use. It will be kept in the fridge for a few days, if I were not going to use it immediately, I would freeze it as the fish may not keep for too long.

Cattyfish Groundbait ready for use
I plan to use the groundbait as an attractant to fish over. To the base mix, I will add whatever I am using as hook bait. Initially I will be using prawn, rough chopped and added in small quantities as I go. If this does not work and I change the hook bait to say, maggots, I will add maggots to the mix.

I will let you know how I get on with this one. As I say I have no idea whether this approach will work, but I will have fun trying!

Ralph.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Three years already!

My PB so far - See HERE
It does not seem possible that I have been fishing, and writing this blog, for three years already. In that time I have learned a lot, amassed an enormous amount of tackle and caught hundreds of fish. It did not occur to me that I would ever get this involved. I started it initially as a way for my brother and me to get together on occasions other than family gatherings. Well, it has not worked out that way. Tim has just not found the time to come and has not got the interest I have. This surprised me as he was the one that fished when we were kids. I only suggested fishing as an idea because I thought he would be keen. I saw myself sitting on a bank chatting while Tim did all the hard work. As anyone who has been reading this will know, that is far from how it turned out.

I love my fishing, three years on, and I am still finding new things to explore and have a go at. I have recently had a go at river fishing, and I can see the appeal. It can be lovely and peaceful, and there are many places where I am really looking forward to trying out new techniques. With the autumn and winter just around the corner, I will be having a go at some lure fishing this year in some of the rivers I have been investigating.

I have also got a lot of pleasure from writing this blog. I started it as a sort of personal diary, and I was hoping that Tim would join in and author a few post of his own - I have all but given up on that score. I am amazed that here we are, three years on and I have received getting on for 100,000 page views. Okay, not a lot in internet terms but I don't think that is bad for an independent personal fishing site that does not sell anything or allow any advertising. It is not here with any commercial interest just as a pure pleasure website. It seems that others appreciate some of my posts.

The bait posts are always popular as are the repair topics but for me, it is simply a record of what I have been doing. Three years on and I am still writing it and planning my next adventure. I love it!

The top three post over the past three years have been:
  1. Two-dog groundbait... 
  2. Oh, bother! 
  3. Oakley Road
Ralph.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

At last, a day at the lake...

For all sorts of reasons, I have not been to the lake for the past couple of months. An hour or so snatched here and there on our local river, and one trip to The Stour in Canterbury has been my lot.

The familiar sight of the gate closed, but I was first in the queue - got something right then...
Today, I was off to Beaver Fishery. It's Bank Holiday weekend, and I have a feeling the place might be packed. I needed to get there early, or I might not get a decent swim on whatever water I choose. Commercials can get busy on a typical Saturday, and with it being a bank holiday and having one of the lakes closed it could be a bit of a squeeze. The only rule, when it is like this, is not to move once the swim has been decided upon. I tried to break this rule once and found I could not find anywhere else worth fishing and ended up going home early.


A different swim on Maze lake shows lots of open water and no trees!
The Major's Lake, the largest lake at Beaver, is closed at the moment for maintenance, so I needed to decide between trying to catch some of the bream in Maze, perch and roach in Eden Pond or just have a good play with the F1s in Jeff's Lake. In the end, I opted to fish Maze Lake. At the beginning of the year, extensive work was carried out on the two specimen lakes. A lot of fish, mainly bream, were relocated to other lakes around the fishery. Maze Lake was the recipient of a good many bream, not that I noticed any last time I fished it back in June. That day I was fishing the lake from a peg I have often fished before. Andy (one of the fishery's bailiffs) had suggested that I might be better off looking for the bream in the open water, hence the decision to pick a different swim today.

I had decided to use a couple of rods. A 5m tele-pole fishing for small silvers and a feeder rod at a distance. I started with the feeder rod that would be loaded with my Two Dog groundbait and a big lump of punched bacon grill, hair rigged to a No.14 hook. If I were to do this over on Jeff's Lake, I would be landing F1s with every chuck. Here, the bait can sit there for a while before anything happens. I filled a 30g feeder and let fly 30-40 yards with no hook length. Clipped up and after a couple of minutes I retrieved that one and cast another. I did this half a dozen times to get a bed of groundbait on the spot. I added a hook length baited with a lump of punched Bacon Grill and cast to the spot - Plop! I planned to let that rod sit there, with the drag slackened off, just waiting for a bite. In the meantime, it was out with the tele-poles.

I really enjoy playing with these things. All they are, are 5m cheap telescopic 'poles' that have had elastic fitted through the top two sections, see HERE. Just as I was rigging, one of these poles, the feeder rod bent around, and I had hooked an F1 within a few of minutes of casting out the first baited feeder. This was starting to look promising.

First F1 of the day after only a few minutes of fishing
I refilled the feeder, replaced the hook bait and sent another feeder load to the spot - Plop! It has taken a while, but I seem to be getting on or there about the same place with each cast. Considering I am using a cheap rod the accuracy is fairly good. I do wonder if my casting would benefit from using a better rod. For now, I am not complaining, these rods have served me well, and I have not spent a King's ransom on buying them.

Lots of skimmers around
Plumbing the depth at 5m confirmed the lake is only about three feet deep pretty much in an arc from the swim. I took my time to get the hook at dead depth to start with. I baited the size 18 hook with a single white maggot and continuously fed three or four maggots over the float by hand. At this distance, it is relatively easy to be accurate. This was starting to produce results in the form of small roach, and skimmers that were steadily getting bigger.

Meatster from Aldi - very nice!
Meanwhile, back on the feeder rod, I was catching fish every fifteen to twenty minutes. To my surprise, I had found the bream, and I was catching nice 1-2lb fish interspersed with the odd F1. I had changed hook bait to try a punched salami stick similar to Peperami. This one is called 'Meatster' and is available from Aldi. They do an Original (green packet) and a 'Hot' (red packet). It is less than half the price of the brand leader at £1.09 for a pack of five. I just punched an 8mm 'plug' out of the stick and shoved a meat stop into it. I did not bother to push it all the way through, and it held like, well, I will let you make up your own analogy here! It is very oily and had the texture of rubber, but the fish love it, as do I. It lasts so well, in fact, it is hard to get through more than a few pieces. The rest of the stick does not get wasted. I can't show you the whole of the Hot pack as two sticks got used today; half a dozen punched pieces for the fish, and I had to check it was not off, so I ate the rest. I can now make a good impersonation of Clifford, the Listerine Dragon - If you don't know who that is, Google him!

The feeder line was looking after itself, and I was fishing with my tele-pole happily enjoying the roach when all of a sudden the elastic made its debut straight into the water. Just as I am thinking to myself "My! That's not a skimmer or roach..." the elastic started back into the pole, and a fair sized bream broke the surface thrashing around making a right show of itself. Most bream seem to play dead when caught, not this one, it was seriously annoyed. Just as I am saying my goodbyes to my end tackle and float it reverted to type and played dead. In it came, laying on its side probably feeling a bit foolish after being caught on such cheap gear.

Gotcha! Sitting in the net after taking a maggot on the tele-pole - great fun. The feeder rod is still lying across my leg
At this point, I decide to go after the perch that I know patrol this part of the lake. I baited the hook with a small section of prawn. I buy (well, I get the missus to buy) a 300g pack of Tesco Everyday prawns (£3.00) and split them into three lots of 100g. That amount is plenty for me when I am only dabbling between other catches. I fed a few loose prawns, into the area I planned to fish and hooked a small section of prawn onto the hook. Sure enough, the little stripies were there in abundance, and I managed to catch a good few, one after the other.

They don't have to be big to be fun. This little fellow put up a brave fight and is still cross now!
All of a sudden, it all slowed up and went quiet. The shoal of perch obviously had better things to do than to eat my prawns. The water was swirling a bit, so I knew something was down there. All of a sudden the elastic was out again and the poor little tele-pole was bent double. This time I was sure I was going to lose the lot. You know that feeling when blowing up a balloon and you are waiting for it to burst, well, that was how I was feeling as the elastic was getting thinner and thinner.

Not bad for a cheap tele-pole and light elastic!
I kept the tip down and led the fish first to the left and then to the right in an attempt to tire it out. After what seemed like an eternity, the pressure started to ease, and I manage to net the fish. It was a good sized bream, in fact, it was the biggest fish of the day. I had no idea bream would eat prawns.

What a great day. I found a good swim, had great fun just catching fish all day. The weather was just right, and even the road closure on the A22 did not cause any great dramas. All in all, it was a perfect day.

Ralph.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Not a fish in sight...

The water was at its normal height today but why was it looking so murky?
Fishing adventures have been very thin on the ground for the past few weeks. What with work, family commitments and trying to get organised to get out of this house, fishing has been very low priority. Today we managed to squeeze in a couple of hours on our local river.

Our only local river, that has any fish in it seemed to be totally devoid of fish today. Not only did we blank, we did not see any fish at all! It was good and early when we arrived at our usual favoured spot. The river was looking very coloured, so much so it was hard to see into the water at all. I was puzzled by this. We fished for about an hour with no success whatsoever. Usually, we have something within the first few casts, but today, nothing.

We like our little spot because we are off the tarmac path, away from the passing 'traffic' of walkers and cyclists, but more importantly away from any of the 'antis' that often seem to patrol these sort of spaces. Having had not a sniff of a fish, we decided to up-sticks and move a good half a mile upstream to a place where we had seen a good shoal of perch, a few chublets, and several other silvers, on several occasions, as recently as last Monday.

The river is in a concrete lining here as the park runs through the old gasworks site and was redeveloped as part of the planning permission concession given when one of the big supermarket chains wanted to build a superstore on the site. There is a lot of vegetation hanging over the wall where the river meanders through its totally man-made environment. Fish seem to hide in the shadows and commute from one area of overhang to the next. On Monday there was a huge (by River Pool standards) shoal of perch patrolling the beat between the overhangs. Today nothing was coaxing them out to play. We tried feeding our tried and tested rolled up bread, meat and even casters but not a sign of a fish. Here we were fishing in full view of other people. Apart from the odd "Morning", we were not bothered. By fishing on the opposite bank to the main path it was only really dog walkers to fend off.

The water here was still a bit murky but nothing like as coloured as it was down-stream earlier. Then the cause of this stirred up murk became obvious. Wet dog. The river has no real depth anywhere and there are plenty of places where dogs can access the river and have a good splash around, stirring up the silt and sending it down our way. I assume all this canine activity does nothing for fish confidence and they have all gone off to hide.

Today has taught us a new lesson. As dog-walkers seem to prefer the early mornings, this is possibly a time to avoid. We have not been here this early to fish before and our planning did not consider dogs. Of the several visits, we have made here over the past few weeks, the most successful one was the first, and that was late morning on a weekday. Maybe that is the time to go in future.

Ralph.       

Monday, 7 August 2017

Just a little fishing trip...

We have had some of the best fishing weather of the year over the past month or so and I have been unable to get out and fish hardly at all. Today has been no different, by the time I had finished work it was half past four in the afternoon but I was determined to get at least an hour's fishing in.

By the time we had got the gear together, grabbed some bait and made our way to the river ready to fish, it was half past five. The water looked as if it had a film on top but I think this was some kind of dust 'from' the plants as it didn't shimmer like an oil and there were plenty of holes in it. The first thing to bite was the local bug population, biting us! The place was swarming with all sorts of fauna, all of which was intent on acquiring the taste of human. For me, it is really just a nuisance, but for Sue, it is more of a problem as she reacted badly to bites. Last time we were here she had an awful reaction to a couple of bites. Even though she had used some anti-bug spray and changed her attire to try and keep the little fellows out, they still managed to get her. Let's hope they don't cause her as much discomfort as last time.

We manage to catch a small roach, almost straight-away, on bread punch. I decided to try a single red maggot, thinking I might find another perch, and found a stickleback, just like last time. A few more casts and the tip twitched again, a light strike and I had another stickleback, this time a male with its bright red colouration on the front part of the underside, which I understand to be its spawning colours. I will have to read up a bit more about these fascinating little fish that are full of fight.

A male stickleback in its spawning colouration
After an hour or so, the insect population was getting the better of us, and we decided to call it a day. I had a good time, we caught some fish, and we were only out for less than a couple of hours after work, including the walk to the river and back. We will give it another go, but I think we will try the early morning next time. Always assuming Sue can find some way of keeping the bugs off...

Ralph

Friday, 21 July 2017

Blackberries and fish

The nice thing about fishing a local river is that it is not time-limited. By that I mean I don't feel that I have to spend many hours there to justify the expense. Today, was a last minute decision to grab a couple of hours on the local river. On reflection it was probably not the best time to go as it was mid afternoon.

We had been worried that there might not be any fish in the river after getting a call from a fellow angler last Sunday, who lives at the other end of the river (it is less than 3 miles long), saying he had seen a milky cloud making its way downstream. He was concerned that it might have been something nasty. Sue and I immediately set off to have a look at our end. The river was full of sediment and we could not see through it. I guess the heavy rain had caused the river to colour up. Although we could not see any fish, there was no sign of dead fish so we assumed whatever it was had not been detrimental.

We set up in our secluded spot by the willow with the fallen limb. Sue was feeding the swim with the usual peppercorn sized pellets of bread rolled in her fingers to make them sink. A few fish appeared and started feeding. Last week's fear of another chemical spill was now put to rest. Meanwhile I was fiddling about tying the rig to the flick-tip of my whip. This short 3m flick-tip whip is the prefect weapon for this small river, fishing from a very tight spot. Last time we were here I was just freelining and using a buoyant bead on the line just to give a small amount of indication - it seemed to work. This time I decided to use a small, short pole float with half the cocking weight directly under the float and the rest strung out shirt-button style down to a loop where the hooklength was attached.

I am now thinking the size 16 hook was probably too big but it was too late now, I had only bought a couple of identical rigs with me. Anyway, I cast in a couple of times with what I thought to me to be a good guess at the depth, only to watch my bait glide down the river at what looked to be mid depth. Time to do it properly and plumb the depth. Well, what a surprise, it turned out to be getting on for 2½ ft deep! It only looks to be about a foot deep. Again, another new experience for me. I have only fished in here once before and the only other time I have fished in gin-clear water was at Canterbury the other week. both times I had been mainly freelining, so no need to plumb. It looks a lot shallower than it actually is.

Slippery little dace
I managed to catch a couple of small dace, not the largest haul of the year. Then the fishing just dried up. I am not sure if we over fed the swim or frightened the fish off by returning the fish back in the swim. It may well have been just the time of the day. Whatever it was, we did not see another fish, even after we had packed up and went blackberry picking on the way home... Not bad for a couple of hours by a river in the depths of South East London!

I am very new to this river fishing lark, but it is good fun. Sue calls it "real fishing" and I think she might be right.

Ralph.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Urban fishing 2

Sue and John look happy - a decent sized chub from the weir pool in Canterbury!
Okay, here's the plan, get up early and drive to Canterbury, fish the river for a couple or three hours and then go and visit my elderly Mum. That all sounds fine, so I call my Mum, who is 90 years of age, and tell her my plans. "Oh... all right then..." comes the rather stilted reply". With that, I ask if there is something wrong, to which she replies to my surprise "Can I come too, I would really like to see the fish?"  "Er.. Yes of course you can" I reply, trying not to sound gob-smacked!

This was fine but we had intended to be there early, and I did not expect my Mum would be up for a 05:00 start. I made arrangements that we would collect her at 08:00, go and fish for a couple of hours and then have a spot of lunch. 06:30 this morning the phone rang. My Mum was not feeling so good, nothing serious but she had decided not to come after all. Between all this mucking about my mate John, who lives locally to my Mum, had told me the river was unfishable where we had planned to fish due to excessive weed growth. He also said he would be fishing the weir pool at The Miller's Arms from mid morning. Time was now getting on, we decided to go and meet John at the weir pool.

We made sure my Mum was not in desperate need of us and arranged to meet John at the weir pool. I have no idea where the time went but it was pushing mid day by the time we eventually got to Canterbury. By this time Sue had made the sensible suggestion of not fishing now, but to go and meet John for a chat and come back later after we had visited my Mum.

It is a long way down - full extent of a 3m landing net handle
I knew it was a long drop to the water, so landing net pole in hand so I could check that it is long enough, we made our way to the weir pool. Sure enough, John was there fishing from his favoured spot. He was after chub, free-lining a huge lump of meat on a size 2 hook. He had already had one earlier in the session and was not really expecting to catch another. As we stood there discussing tactics the line tightened on his finger and he was into another. A short fight led to me landing it for him. This time it was a good size, getting on for 4lb. We took photographs and released it back into the pool.

John with his 4lb (ish!) chub
After spending just about an hour with John, we set of to visit my Mum, complete with pack lunch for three. When got there she was feeling better but did not want to go out. I did the 'obligatory' jobs she had lined up for me and spent a pleasurable few hours with her before heading back to Canterbury, via the local fish and chip shop.

Arriving back at the car park just before 19:00, I was amazed to see parking was not free until 21:00, obviously cashing in on the early evening theatre and pub/restaurant business. Three quid for two hours parking was parted with and we went back to the weir pool. Nobody was fishing it so we had our pick of swims. I opted to fish in the same place that John had fished earlier.

My struggle with what tackle to take continues. To be fair, I had not fished this venue before and other than being told to take strong gear to have a go for the larger chub, I was just guessing. The largest hook I could muster was a size 10 and my rod choice was wrong too. I took a three-piece, 12ft, cheap match rod that was as stiff as a broomstick and I could not feel a thing on the line. I took this rod because it fits in the boot area of the car, meaning I could leave the car unattended with the fishing gear being on show. I know, wrong reason for rod choice but I thought I was being smart. I have not used this rod since the very early days of my fishing and now compared to my other rods this thing really is not up to much at all.  I also did not have any meat with me, but a detour to Sainsbury's, on the way to my Mum's, cured that.

Rod issues aside I spent the first hour trying to get the meat in the same place as John had fished earlier. First with a smaller piece of meat, more appropriate to a size 10 hook. This did not have the weight to make the distance with an underarm lob. A full cast was out of the question as the spot was protected from such attack by the tree Gods. I then tried a good sized piece of meat pulling the inadequately sized hook through the piece of meat with a baiting needle. This did the job and the meat stayed on - even after a brush with the overhanging trees, but still without the sign of a fish.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pool, another chap had arrived and was float fishing for perch, getting a fish on most chucks. Every time he got a fish he would let us know by calling or gesturing across the pool. It don't half make your jaws ache smiling with clenched teeth. By now it was obvious that the chub were not going to bite so I re-rigged with a float and smaller hook. The idea was to have a go at the silvers that were in abundance. They may have been there in numbers but they were not that keen. I did manage to catch my first dace, nothing huge but a first for me. Sue has been feeding the swims, watching the fish come in and trying to identify them, although she has no passion to fish she is happy to just watch. Today she had a first; she actually picked up and fed some maggots!

My first dace
Having never fished in a river or any flowing water before, I have now done it twice in two days and I love it. I can see what so many people like about river fishing over the commercials. It is a totally different experience but for me I think I can live with both. One thing the past couple of days has taught me is that I need some more tackle. What is fine for pulling silvers and small carp out of commercials is not so useful in the small rivers. Rods and centre-pin reels apart, I could do with a few different floats and a small net (for landing the chublets of yesterday) would make far less commotion. I can't wait for our next session, because it is free and local, at last I have found somewhere I can fish for just a few hours on a more regular basis.


Ralph.