Sunday, 17 November 2013

Scratchin' the Itch

Some years ago I was lucky to get to fish the Test on some of it's fabulous beats, treating customers to days out! This was a completely new kind of river to me, someone who was brought up on the Warwickshire Avon and Severn. I loved it.
So when I had a phone call from Martin suggesting a day on the Itchen I jumped at the chance. He arranged day tickets for the Lower Itchen Fishery above Gaters Mill for Joe, me and himself. As I had done previously on our trip to the Wye, I opted to take a leisurely drive down the day before rather than get up at some godforsaken hour on the day. After a hearty breakfast at a proper caff (didn't want the pre-packed rubbish the Travel Lodge offered) I was on the water by 7:30 and had a good mooch before Joe and Martin arrived.

The river is a mixture of fast glides and some deeper runs.

I thought such a place desrved a little respect so set up my Edgar Sealy "Rover" with a centre pin loaded with 3lbs line. A cane and balsa Avon completed the outfit.

Being the gentleman I am, I waited for the others to arrive and even sorted out a comfortable parking area for both cars! We had a big bend in the river to ourselves and were able to rotate swims.

We were all quickly into fish, mainly small grayling up to 1lb.

When I changed from corn to maggots I started to attract the attentions of tiny parr.
After a few hours Martin and Joe decided to go for a recce upsteam and settled into a couple of likely swims. After about an hour I had a phone call from a breathless Martin urging me to get up there quickly with my camera. He'd managed to annoy a cock salmon of about 5.5lbs into taking his double red maggot on a size 16 hook!
Both he and Joe caught a couple of Sea Trout and I managed a Brownie of exactly 1.5lbs on double red maggots. It looked as if it had been in trouble with something as its tail had been munched. Either that or it was a fungle problem.
By mid afternoon, Martin had decided that he'd caught enough grayling and was going to go back downstream to the mill in search of some chub and I joined him. While he feeder fished the weir pool I stayed on the float in a nice little swim on the old mill race.

As you can see from the photo, I'd packed away the traditional gear in favour of a 15' trotting rod. I scaled up from size 16s to a size 10 which carried a big chunk of Hovis's best. What chub could resist such a prized piece of processed white loaf? Well, these could. But as a consolation prize a 2.5lbs brownie decided it was time for a late lunch.
To finish off a most enjoyable day, I spent some time watching a grey wagtail on the far bank and a typically cheeky robin munching my maggots.

All 3 of us had good bags of graying mixed with some more exotics like salmon and sea trout so a great, but tiring day out. I would say in the peaceful Hampshire countryside, but upstream we had the planes taking off from Southampton airport 800 yards away and at the mill we had the M27 traffic thundering 50 yards away!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Why the Wye?

Well, it's been over 30 years since I fished the river. Then it was upstream where the Wye is more of a tumbler-over-boulders sort of river. Having had the Wye & Usk Foundation booklet for the last 2 years and reading and re-reading it many times over, I decided that a trip to the lower reaches was in order. As soon as I mentioned it to my wife, she immediately asked which towns I was considering (which translated meant, "where is there good shopping"). We decided that a couple of nights based in Hereford would allow a day at a huge outlet centre in Ross followed by a day wandering around Hereford itself while I tackled a stretch of the river just a few miles outside the town.

A journey of merely 10 minutes from our hotel next to the Cathedral brought me to Sugwas Court. A beautiful spot, made better as both Martin and Joe decided to drive down for the day and the three of us had the whole stretch to ourselves. I had made a bit of a recce the afternoon before and offered to show them the upper and lower beats but when we met at the upper of the lower (does that make sense?) they were happy to start there and forgo the short drive upstream.

Much of Sugwas Court is what I would describe as having "difficult" swims, well for an old git like me, whereas the stretch we settled on was a long meadow with quite a few "easy" swims. It was a walk of just 140 yards - according to Google Earth - from the lay-by to the river bank and there were both shallows and deeper holes to chose from. Walking across the field, through a herd of Herefordshire cattle, we saw a couple of very interesting large residences on the opposite bank. One in particular reminded me of Satis House where Miss Haversham lived in Great Expectations. I saw no-one throughout the whole time I was there - spooky!

To the fishing. Joe had found a cattle drink which allowed him to wade out and long trot.

He wasn't going to give that up easily so Martin and I settled in 2 swims lower down which had, in Martin's case, a deep pool and in mine a run up to some shallows.

Soon Joe was into a shed load of small brownies which snaffled up his maggots and then got into a couple of chub, one of which didn't want to play and took him straight into some tree roots. Not wanting to loose either the fish or his float he walked downstream and attempted to net the chub.

He retrieved his terminal tackle if not the fish.

At one point the two of them decided to take a look at the upper stretch and walked though an apple orchard full of cider (NOT Cidre!) apples.

After having his fill of brownies, Joe moved to a deeper swim and feeder fished, still with maggots. Both Martin and I had persevered with a pellet approach, I also had tried meat without success. Eventually Martin switched to maggots and started to pick up some hard-fighting chub between 4 and 5lbs all of which he had great pleasure in bringing to me for photographing!

All while I stuck with pellets. In the end Martin kindly offered me a box of maggots and I was able to start to catch more regularly, ending up with some chub (but only babies of around 2.5 to 3lbs) and a lot of brownies.

The rain which was forecast from midday until late never really materialised, we had just a shower for about 1 hour which allowed Martin to wear his new designer camouflaged lightweight waterproofs. You'll have to look really carefully in this next pic, see if you can spot him.

So a great day on a stunning bit of river with a couple of good chaps (I have to say that!). If you haven't looked at the Wye & Usk brochure I strongly recommend it. For the ticket price (£20), having the stretch to a maximum of 4 anglers - although they limit it to 2 or 3 if it's a group of friends like us - it is a good deal.

Finally I have to thank Martin for offering to take my large rucksack back in his car so I could get all the purchases my wife and her sister made over the 2 days in the boot!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Jeff's New Shed

Spotted this photo and am pleased that Jeff's finally finished his man cave. (

Didn't realise he had an interest in old Yankee cars though.

On the fishing front, I hope to break my recent lack of action by having a day on a Wye & Usk Foundation stretch of the Wye near Hereford this Friday. While I'll be taking the easy route - going for a couple of days in a hotel - Martin and Joe will be pounding the tarmac on a day trip to join me. I'll see if I can smuggle a couple of sausages from my breakfast table for them!

Hopefully we'll have something to report next weekend.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Pub Grub = Gippy Tum

Yesterday afternoon should have been my first visit to a lovely stretch of the Avon where there be monsters.

I did actually make it there but as it was inhospitably hot and sunny when I parked up, I decided to while away an hour or so by having a pub lunch and a pint of ale. The beer was from Jennings of Cumbria, nice.

On the chalk board were  a number of pub classics and I went for pork chop. It was delicious.

By now the local yummy mummies were parked all over the village waiting for their little Tristans and Bethanys to bring them their scribbles and potato prints so I decided to head down to a familiar stretch and have a look-see for an hour - the sun was still high in the sky. Met just one angler who had just caught a PB chub - well done! Had a nice chat with the bloke - hope to see you again on the bank - and headed back to the original stretch.

Martin had given me good directions where to walk and I was soon eying up possible swims.

No sooner than casting a giant piece of meat along side a nice undercut bank I felt a strange, but not unknown, feeling in my guts. I won't go into details, there may be those of a delicate constitution (not Martin for sure) reading.  Suffice to say that over the next hour I experienced hot sweats, bright lights, terrible stomach cramps and everything which normally follows.

My hoped-for few hours of searching out a double merely resulted in me doubling over.

I won't name the pub for fear of legal action, but I can assure you that my normal healthy life-style was not to blame for this disaster - at least not this time. A bowl of breakfast cereal was all I'd eaten since the night before.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The JGR Dispatch

For those who don't already subscribe to this site I can heartly recommend it.
Here's a great video for fly fishers everywhere.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A More Classical Approach

Thursday evening on the Warwickshire Avon. Having fished a few miles further downstream on Tuesday where the barbel refused to play - but I did manage 4 nice chub - Martin joined me on one of the regular stretches where we knew there were some, not many, chunky barbel. While he went big time with powerful quivers, pellet, paste etc., I wanted to put 2 "new" old split cane rods.

I had spent an evening a week ago with an acquaintance who is selling his big collection of old and vintage gear. As well as a pristine Hardy "The Tourney" 7' 3" fly rod which I hope to enjoy on the Windrush sometime soon and a 1908 Hardy salmon rod "The Murdoch" (when am I likely to go after salmon???, I bought a Peter Stone Ledgerstrike, by Chapmans of Ware, Hertfordshire and an Edgar Sealy "Rover".
That's eating out and little treats out of the window for a bit!

I arrived first and set both rods up, the Legerstrike with a feeder and pellet approach and the Rover with a nice cane and balsa Avon.

There was about 3 1/2 ft just off the rod tip and, feeding maggots and casters regularly, I had a good mixed bag of small chub, nice-looking dace, perch and roach. Nothing of any size but a very satisfying result on my Mr Crabtree gear. I alternated between the float and the feeder but the feeder rod didn't come up with anything.

Although Martin fished determinedly until 10, he just had "chub" knocks but no fish.

To  keep our inner man satisfied I cooked us both a couple of bacon rolls, there's nothing like the smell of frying bacon to buck up the spirits!

That, as well as the kingfisher flashing up and down the river, chaffinches making a racket and flying from the tree opposite to a bush at my shoulder, and watching the Wild West antics of several horses in the field opposite,made for a most enjoyable trip.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

When not fishing.......

.....I like to read about it. As I'm sure most of us do.

There are many delights to be found at Car Boot sales. As well as tackle, I've picked up some interesting books. Recently I bought "Split Cane and Sable" by Robin Armstrong for the exorbitant price of 20p - how dare they try to rip us customers off!

I'd never come across him before but read the book from cover to cover in a few hours, un-put-downable. He's a river warden for South West Water and also an accomplished artist. Although more about fly rather than coarse, his stories evoke the special magic which keep us all going back for more. I thought I'd share it with you.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Silver Lining

Martin persuaded me, well I didn't need much, to have an evening at a small pool which purported to hold a good head of crucians plus some nice silver bream. It also had the benefit of being less than 5 minutes drive from my daughter's where a ready supply of wine is always available. (Only had 2 small glasses, honest officer.)

So we met up after he left work and had the pool to ourselves, despite it being a Friday and at the start of our summer - who am I kidding?! Martin opted for a short pole and small soft pellet approach and I took my 15' rod and centre pin, fishing a sensitive Drennen waggler. Hook was a barbless 12 with a hard 8mm pellet.

Martin did suggest that the crucians would struggle with such a mouthful but I stuck to my guns. I'm glad I did as the float slipped away and a feisty tench around the 3lb mark came grudgingly to the net after dashing headlong into the rushes at my feet. I had been loose feeding a mixture of tiny through to 6 mm pellets in a little dry halibut ground bait and occasionally a few grains of corn.

The crucians were doing exactly what Martin expected, he was pulling them out regularly to around 1lb as well as some silver bream which didn't quite make the pound. When my float next slipped under, I was chuffed to see a flash of silver going over the rim of my net. A very nice silver bream, despite the quickness with which it "gave up". At 1lb 2oz it was a new PB so I could get over the lack of gold for silver.

I followed that up with another at 1lb 5oz

and then again with one of 1lb 1oz. Chuffed didn't quite cover it!

Another tench around 2.5lbs followed and then a solitary roach. To put the icing on the cake I had 2 more silvers going 1lb 3oz and 14oz.

There are some common carp in there going to 20lbs and both of us felt one on for no more than a few seconds as they raced off into the distance. Neither Martin's elastic nor my line coped!

Prior to this my best Silver was just under 1lb so to take 4 over this weight in less than 4 hours felt great. Martin and I discussed the fishing later and decided that his approach caught him over 16 crucians and half a dozen or more silvers as well as a few tench, but my "big gob" approach seemed to sort out the larger fish. A great evening's fishing.

During the time spent there, we saw a wonderful site of 10s of thousands of tadpoles gathering all over the pool in great swathes looking like weed beds or lines of smoke. The bailiff said that although they had them every year, this year's "cloud" - a name attributed to author Alon Schulman, which is, I think, a better description than the scientific "shoal" or "school" - is a first.