Surviving Lockdown.

March 30, 2020 at 1:32 pm

My worst fears were realised this week, when the UK Government imposed a lockdown on the population, with a very basic message, STAY AT HOME.

With advice to only go out for essentials like food and medication, plus one exercise session a day, the question being asked is can I go fishing, or shooting? As we know both of these are very good exercise. Government advice is not totally clear on either aspect, but what is clear is that unessential travel is now restricted to two miles, with the police able to impose fines, so a short drive with fishing tackle, or rifles in the back of the car could take some explaining. The minimum, if stopped by the police will be a request to turn round and go home, a repeat offence will attract a fine, or possibly the confiscation of any firearms, or withdrawal of your firearms license?

Ok, what if I can walk to my shooting permission, is that an offence? All of my shooting permissions are a solitary affair on many acres of open land, one of them a scenic walk from home down green lanes and public footpaths to reach on foot. Living in an urban environment, more people than ever will be seeking out new places to walk and most country paths are too narrow to allow social distancing when passing, so for safety’s sake we have to assume that every body is carrying the Corvid-19 virus. For this reason I will not take the chance of getting infected and stay put. Following such a wet winter, when my rifles remained in the gun safe, I had been counting the days to the dryer weather, but unless I get a callout from one of my landowners to deal with rabbits, or a fox, they will stay in the safe, until boredom drives me yet again to strip and oil them ready for use.

The river fishing season is over in the UK, but not on ponds and lakes, but as with the above, more people are out taking walks and with two public lakes only minutes walk away from my home, I will resist the temptation to load up the fishing trolley. Being a successful angler, I often attract curious onlookers, even the occasional gallery of the “caught anything” brigade and the thought of someone coughing the virus over my shoulder does not bare thinking about. So thinking of sneaking out for a few hours fishing? Forget about it. Stay home and safe.

Trout fishing season begins next week and a lone wolf expedition with the fly rod appeals, but fly fishermen are a very sociable bunch, eager to compare flies and talk of that big trout lying beneath a tree, so once again, the easiest way to avoid contact and possible infection is not to go.

The latest information on the coronavirus is that Government measures to restrict movement and infection will last for at least six months, so that’s the the trout season finished for this year. Good job that I was too busy to sit down at the fly tying vice before the season started. A friend had secured a half rod on the river Test this year and I was feeling guilty about not having fulfilled his request for a few of my deadly Black Devil nymphs for the early season. Sorry Peter, next year.

With many World Wide followers of this blog, these UK restrictions my sound severe, or not severe enough, depending where your country, or state is in the cycle of infection, but no one is yet immune to this potentially killer bug. I will keep posting, delving into the archive and putting up points of interest and maybe strip a rifle or two. In the meantime Stay Safe.

Covid -19. Time for a little self isolation, went fishing

March 23, 2020 at 6:07 pm

There can be nobody that is unaware of the global threat to life as we know it, as Covid-19, the latest and deadliest type of coronavirus, that has rapidly spread from China in recent months, continues to cast a shadow over all our lives. Governments are struggling to get ahead of the curve of infections, bringing in restrictions on movement and association.

Only days ago, the thought of an escape to the solitude of a small pond filled with obliging crucian carp, seemed the ideal antidote to worries of the future. Thumbing through waters in a club handbook, I found the likely candidate, a tree lined farm pond twenty minutes drive away, that boasted nothing of size, but plenty of roach, crucians and common carp ready to pull the float under. The first day of summer had dawned bright and clear, the sun still shining when I arrived at noon, although a chill wind was blowing in clouds from the east. The car park was close to the pond and short walk found a well tended swim with no overhead obstructions. Perfect.

Prepared for battling crucians and an occasional common carp, I had brought my heavy duty pole with 12 – 18 weight elastic, setting up with a 16 x 4 antenna float to a size 16 hook Plumbing the depth, I found three feet at 4 metres, dropping away to four feet at 6 metres. While getting ready, I had not seen a ripple, or a movement on the surface and wondered how accurate the handbook had been in its description of the fishing. I ventured a small ball of liquidised bread at 5 metres, followed by the float rig baited with a 5 mm punch of bread and sat back waiting for the action to begin.

It began with a few dips of the float, followed by a slow sink to the left. Bracing myself, I lifted into the bite. Missed it? No I hadn’t.

My heart sank. There was no mention in the handbook blurb of rudd, let alone tiny ones.

Back in again, the float dipped and sank. A bit more resistance, it was a slightly larger rudd.

I was fishing just off bottom with the bulk shot 12 inches from the hook. Adding another length of pole, I adjusted the depth to 4 feet in an attempt to avoid the rudd, damping down the feed to allow a tight ball to fall through quickly.

The rudd were still small and after an hour would have expected some better fish to have been attracted into the swim, or a few bubbles bursting on the surface. At least the float kept going under. I slipped into mechanical mode. Feed a small ball, fish to the side of it, hook another rudd. At last they seemed to be getting bigger. I actually netted this one!

Slipping the landing net under another “better” rudd, a voice behind made me jump. I was in my own little fishing world and someone asking how I was getting on brought me back to reality.

I said that I had not had any crucian carp yet. “Crucians! There haven’t been any crucians in here since the 90’s!” So much for the handbook. That young lad proudly displaying a net of crucians and tench has probably got sons of his own now. A long time member of the club, my visitor explained that the photos and write ups were rarely changed. “I only had one tench here last year. Its mostly carp now.”

After a chat, and more rudd for me, he walked round the pond and settled down opposite, casting out his two rods diagonally with a bait either side, spraying out pouches of pellets over the deeper water.

My steady feed had been effective over a small metre square area, fishing close to the bottom picking up some chunky rudd. I had gone up to a 6 mm punch, which seemed to have slowed the catch rate, but improved the quality.

After three hours, the temperature had dropped considerably and with tea and sandwiches gone, this rudd was my last. My carp fishing collegue, also packed up, not having had a bite.

No crucian carp, but the rudd had kept me busy and thinking about fishing rather than the worries of the World. If there is a government clampdown on travel, this may be my last blog for some time.


Chub herald stick float season closer

March 14, 2020 at 6:07 pm

With all the doom and gloom following the latest Coronavirus announcements, I was looking for an exceptional last session on my local river Cut before the end of the season. Walking past the swim that had produced a 7 lb mixed bag a couple of days before, I continued downstream, taking a chance on a section of river that I had never fished before. On a part of the bank cut off from the main path, I had to split down my tackle into easily transportable lots, dragging and carrying my trolley over obstacles to reach my swim.

At the tail of a bend, the main flow was pushing along the side of a berm created by the Environment Agency a couple of years ago, which looked ideal for trotting a stick float for chub. As with earlier in the week, my choice of tackle was my 12 ft Hardy rod with ABU 501 closed face reel attached and a 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 barbless hook. Liquidised bread feed with a 5 mm punch of rolled medium sliced white bread was all I needed for bait, starting off with a ball of damp crumb upstream of the berm, while I set out my stall.

First cast the float had only carried a yard before it held under and I was fighting a chub that dived back to the woodwork of the berm, hanging on and back winding in rapid succession. With only two feet under the float, the fish fight hard in this shallow little river, but soon that big white chub mouth was clear of the water and sliding towards the landing net.

Not massive, but packed full of power, this chub was soon in the keepnet, another 5 mm bread pellet on the hook and the rig cast out again. The float sank in the same spot and I was playing another chub minutes after the first.

This one was even bigger, bending the Hardy to the butt as it searched for a snag to hang up the hook, the light tackle coping with all that was thrown at it. Two nice chub in the net in the first 5 minutes was a good sign of things to come. Third cast and I was in again, but this time it was the distinctive fight of a quality roach.

The chub had not finished, a smaller fish still putting a bend in the rod.

As I netted this chub, another Braybrooke member, Michael came along the bank, telling of his catch the day before further downstream, showing me images on his phone of two, two pound crucian carp and a pound roach that he had landed along with chub and more roach. Like me, he was keen to make the most of the penultimate afternoon of the river season and headed off downstream.

That’s better, the float sliding sideways through a ball of feed as a larger chub took the punched bread, powering off downstream at speed, testing the tackle in the sudden rush, taking my time to wear the chub down.

Phew! This had been a hectic fifteen minutes and I stopped for a breather and a lunchtime cup of tea, damping down some more bread feed, putting it in upstream again close to the far bank.

Trotting through again, the float dragged under and I lifted into a snag that moved, the deep bronze shape of a big bream drifting up to the surface, shaking it’s head slowly as it took the full force of the current against it’s slab sides. Heading off downstream, taking twenty yards of line on the backwind, it stopped, the slow thudding fight thumping the rod at full bend. Keeping the pressure on, it sailed back and forth, each time I had the bream close to the net, a second wind sent it off again. The swim was very shallow close in and I needed it exhausted and on it’s side to stand a chance of getting it in the net, while at this moment, the only thing that was getting tired out was me. Close to the net again, the hook pulled out, leaving it semi stranded in the muddy shallows, before the 4 lb plus bream regained it’s senses and scuttled off. I have had one of 3 lb 8 oz from this river before, but this was much bigger. I now needed another cup of tea and a sandwich to recover.

Another ball of feed and I was fishing again. The bream had seen off the chub, but now small dace were attacking the bait, only hitting one in four of the lightning bites.

In an attempt to slow down the dace bites, I added six inches to the depth and held back hard. A decent bite at last, brought a rod bending roach from under my rod top.

I was still getting dace, but gudgeon had also moved in on the feed area.

The roach were back, taking two or three then more gudgeon and dace.

These roach and too many to photograph were all clonkers, having just netted the one above, when Michael stopped on his way back from his labours, telling of another decent chub among his net of roach and dace. It was my time to go too and I said to myself “Just one more decent roach and I’ll pack up.” It obliged and here it is.

How many times have my last day of the river season been a day to remember? Too many. It is a shame to put the stick floats away for three months each year, but it allows the river fish to spawn in peace.

Over 8 lbs of quality fish in just over three hours, was the perfect antidote to the fears and uncertainty surrounding our lives in the months ahead.






Chub, roach and dace line up for the bread punch on the Cut

March 10, 2020 at 2:38 pm

Following reports of more pollution on my local river Cut, controlled by the council backed Braybrooke Community Nature & Fishing Club, I decided to check it out for myself this week with an afternoon fishing session between the storms. I had walked the river the day before and it had been level with the bank, the colour of milky builder’s  tea, but today it had dropped back and although running fast, was carrying only a tinge of colour. Pollution booms were still in place across the main river, blackened with an oily deposit and I was prepared to pack up, if I had failed to catch after 30 minutes.

The morning had begun with blue skies, but by noon, as I tackled up, flat grey clouds had taken over again, the forecast of heavy rain sweeping in between 3 and 4 pm looked likely.

The river here was pushing  hard along the opposite bank and I opted for a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float fished on my soft 12 foot Hardy rod, controlled with an ABU 501 closed face reel. The previous week I had used this rig a couple of miles downstream on a flooded section of the river, bulking the shot a foot from the hook, but today pushed the main bulk beneath the float to give good float control, while spreading four No 6 shot six inches up from the size 16 barbless hook to give a natural fall of the bread punch pellet.

I wet down some liquidised bread and squeezed together a small ball, throwing it up stream close to the far bank. With a 5 mm punch of bread on the hook, an under arm cast put the float close to the bank in the path of the feed. I straightened the line to the float and eased it down, watching it slant away, lifting into a good fish that dashed off downstream, the long shape of a chub flashing beneath the surface. Taking my time, it was soon in the net.

First cast! Was it a fluke? Another 5 mm punch of bread and I cast in again. The river was running fast and I eased the float down again, slowing it to half speed, releasing and stopping the line with my finger as it came off the reel. The float dipped, then half held down and I struck. This time a silver flash and the juddering fight of a dace was bending the rod top.

A fat dace, evidence that stocking by the Environment Agency with five inch dace in 2017, after a major pollution event, has been a success, the river being devoid of these hard fighting fish before this.

Dace made the running for the next ten minutes and I tried another ball of feed, increasing the depth by three inches, again holding the float back, then releasing it, swinging the bread on and off the bottom.

The float held down and I was in again, a golden flash followed by the dogged thump of a roach as it fought along the far bank, continuing upstream past my keepnet, where I netted it. This was turning into one of my better fishing sessions, any doubts about the pollution long forgotten. Another trot, another roach.

Dace were competing with the roach, the extra depth of the float allowing more positive bites.

Another small ball of bread kept the fish lined up, bites coming in the first six feet of trot, the float under in ten feet. Roach had moved up over the feed and became the main feature.

After an hour there were over twenty quality fish in the net already and I needed to wet down some more feed, a small ball every three, or four fish working well. Early on I switched to rolled bread as bait because the dace were knocking the standard slice off the hook.

The catching spree continued, getting into a rhythm, zeroing in on the roach, the landing net required for most.

Even the gudgeon were chunky, hugging the bottom all the way back.

Dace were still in the mix, along with gudgeon and roach. Chub may have been further down under the bush, but the float never reached that far before it was buried by fish like the roach below.

As predicted the rain started at 3:15. By 3:30 pm it was hammering down and I packed up, this dace being my last fish of a very productive afternoon.

Thanks to the Environment Agency and Thames Water, this little unsung river, a tributary of the mighty Thames, has been saved to provide excellent fishing for a small club.

Not bad for a few hours on the bread punch.