Andy Spreadbury's Fishing

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Thursday, 7th.May 2009

A day of chaos, changes of plan, and stress.

Nine-thirty at work and my mobile rings – it is Phil. He has been studying the weather sites and is horrified to discover that a deep low is to move into northern France next week and we will undoubtedly be subject to torrential rain and thunderstorms! A change of location is called for and all the plans we have made over the past few months for The River in Picardy are 'thrown out the window' literally hours before we are due to set off. This was a real block-buster of a change for me since we were now travelling several hours further south to the river Saone. What would be required however was more bait as Phil and his friends have learnt over the years that the more feed is put in – the more will be caught. I managed to get out of work in my lunch-hour and buy another twenty kilogrammes of halibut pellets from an out-of-town supplier. I hope this is going to be enough........

Saturday, 9th.May 2009
The River Saone, South East France

Breakfast Time
The drive down from Calais was very long and tedious. Because the ferry arrangements were timed to get us to the River in Picardy we did not arrive until early evening – only to discover everywhere was closed for the afternoon. By luck, the only premises open was a 'Peche Discount' where we were able to get our Carte de Peche so at least we were able to fish legally.
Down at the river, lots of locals were set up after carp and it was quite a difficult job finding a stretch of bank capable of accommodating all four of us – but eventually we were all installed, Gary and I fishing a 'double' swim, Phil, twenty-five yards downstream to our right, and Clive, another fifty yards further downstream.

It was a bit of a scramble setting up bivvies and introducing some bait – not to say an arduous process as Gary and I particularly were dog-tired and desperately in need of some rest. Philip however, keen to get underway was out in the boat after dark, distributing maize and boilies hither and yon, up and down the river in front of us. Knackered, Gary and I collapsed into pits, only to be roused by Phil who was quickly into action with four fish to 23 lb. Plus some unwanted Bream – all on single boilies. I stuck with a combination of boilies and pellets fished as doubles, entertaining several Bream to four pounds or so.
I've got to be honest and admit I just wanted to get my head down and recover from the journey – the real business of the trip being left until early morning.
Phil did some useful work with the echo-sounder, finding a wide variation in depths down to 20 feet. In front of Gary and myself there was a shallow margin which went right down to 14 feet – whereas to the right in front of Phil there was a very shallow plateau of 6 feet, plummeting down to 17 feet a couple of yards further out. Despite this being the major feature in Phil's swim, he picked all his fish up much further out in the river – which just goes to prove that fishing to 'features' is not all it's cracked up to be.

Dawn, we are up and about, re-organising and preparing for the day. Gary is mixing up a 'soup' of Vitalin, molasses, hemp, and anything else he can lay his hands on. This looks to be good carp food and will be a useful addition to the boilies and pellets we have already put out.
8.0a.m. - I have cut down to just 2 rods, both fished at forty yards range, both single boily; I may change this later to drilled 20 mm. Halibut Pellets which (unfortunately) the Bream seem to be very enamoured of. Confidence rising as fish 'lump' out of the water all over the place although things are quietening somewhat compared to last night. Expectant rather than hopeful.

10.45 a.m. - Phil and Gary have gone into town to stock the 'wine cellar' for tonight's barbeque and also to get more sacks of Vitalin to replenish our meagre stocks. We must feed these fish if good catches are to be made.

Phil advises that the carp on this river are notoriously nocturnal and although we may get one during daylight, the chances are much reduced. We will therefore make introductions of such feed as we have this evening for the anticipated night feeding spell.

Feeling a bit more 'into' it now; it always takes at least 24 hrs. to settle in, assess the situation, and make a plan accordingly.

12 Noon – a useful bit of equipment is a walkie-talkie radio. Clive calls me to say that burgers and onions are ready in his swim to eat if I care to come along and get them! Presently, Phil and Gary return from the town bearing Prawns, baguettes, cheeses, and beer to add to our repast!

4.00 p.m. - the previously sunny day now turns overcast with the threat of rain and an eerie quietness forebodes thunder. We hastily prepare for bad weather.

7.00 p.m. - Gary and I spend an interesting hour, bird-spotting, catching sight of a Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Goshawk, and what we suspect is a juvenile Eagle. Gary refers to his bird book (he has an extremely keen interest in birds of prey) and it is definitely nothing like any of the others in there.

Weather has turned fine again and the threat of thunderstorms has faded. Big bait-up with balled-in Vitalin, boilies and pellets of various types. It is clear we are well short of what is required to do well on 'The Mighty Saone'; it is such a shame we had no time to prepare for this venue properly.

8.00 p.m. - Gary picks his rod up to reel in and check the bait and out of the blue finds himself attached to a fish which screams off downstream, unstoppably! This fish roars off like a jet aeroplane straight downstream and Gary can only hold on and hope it eventually comes to a stop! Kiting in to the bank, the fish rubs the line on the steep bar in front of Phil's swim and the line parts like cotton. A sad loss.

We speculate on what the fish might have been – probably a catfish we had been sitting out there in front of the bait which when Gary started to reel in – made a grab for it and got hooked. Who knows?.......
Sunday, 10th.May 2009

Up 'til late with the barbeque – what a night!

Sitting out with good friends drinking wine, grilling steaks, kebabs, and sausages. Tall stories and smelly farts, laughs, and a few regretful recollections. This was the french fishing experience at its best. Never mind what we'd caught or were going to catch, the whole ambience of the occasion was pure magic!

It started to rain as the last dregs of wine were being downed from the wine glasses and we all repaired to our pits to prepare for expected catches. The rain got heavier and heavier and a few claps of thunder were heard in the far distance. Batten down the hatches and hunker down.

Suddenly, the middle rod is away and a powerful fish is ripping line off the clutch! These river Saone carp are tremendous scrappers and have me all over the place. Eventually however, a fish of about thirteen pounds graces the net and I have my first look at a Saone common – long, slim, and built like a torpedo.
This proved to be my one and only fish of the night although Phil had another good common of 24 and Gary lost a tremendous fish which shot off downstream like an Exocet missile!

At last I drop off to sleep, exhausted.
8.30a.m. - an early morning 'Council of War' between Phil, Gary, and myself. We decide Phil is catching more because he is fishing further out than either Gary or myself. Fish have been seen moving at longer range than we have been casting and we conclude we must get our baits further out. Because 5-6 ounce leads must be used to hold out in the current, the distance we are able to cast them is naturally restricted. By dropping down to 4 ounces a lot more distance can be achieved – the down-side of this of course is that we cannot hold out in the flow. Phil's answer to this is to use a back-lead to keep the line down to the bottom to reduce the pressure on it and when we try it, it works, giving us much needed yards in range.
Confidence rises again; the only issue we have yet to resolve is how to feed the stretch we are fishing. Phil is distributing Maize over a wide area in front of him and this is contributing greatly to his success. We don't have any and we have to make a plan with what we have – mostly Vitalin and Pellets...

Suddenly, we see Phil out in the boat making his way over to the far side of the river. He seems to be attached to a fish which has mysteriously run right across to the other side without him knowing. Sounds like he must have had a buzzer failure whilst he was in our swim talking to us.

Phil manages to make contact – the fish has swum into a tree island and he reports, has straightened the hook! Another 'One that Got Away' story!

2.00 p.m. - Gary and I spent the whole morning trying to come to terms with our situation. We knew we needed to be further out – where the fish were – but couldn't hold with the 5 ounces we had on. I put back leads on to try and keep the line low to the bed of the river but the only effect this had was to pull the lines down into snags which on reeling in I became irretrievably hung-up in. Phil went and got his boat and we went out to get above the obstruction. Horror of horrors – my mainline became entangled around the outboard propeller! A right old mess ensued and despite heaving mightily, the rig just wouldn't free itself until I gave one last hand-line haul and straightened the hook. Just as this came free, one of Phil's buzzers came to life and a rip-roaring take ensued! Line could be seen pouring off the reel and Phil went into panic mode trying to get back to the bank to get to his rod.

He picked up his rod and landing-net and jumped into the boat, my role now changing from that of passenger – to boatman. Now I have very little – to – no experience of handling an electric outboard motor and boat although I did my best to steer in the direction of the fish. Phil meanwhile worked himself into a right old lather, berating me to “no! Not that way – the other way!”, and “faster – no, slower!, not like that!” Afterwards, he apologised for getting himself rather over-excited but at the time, his chastisement did nothing to improve my confidence or understanding of boat-handling technique!

We got the fish – a nineteen pound common, so the panic turned out to be a waste of energy with what was not the monster Phil thought it was !

Back at camp, Gary and I continued to wrestle with the problem of holding in the flow. Gary lent me a couple of six-ounce weights and currently I am trying to fish with these although the distance is a lot less than I would like and I still can't seem to hold. I decide to have a bit of feeder fishing and give the matter some thought.
6.00 p.m. - things reached a bit of a crisis point this evening with all sorts of problems and difficulties casting an air of despondency over things. Gary had to go out in the boat to un-snag Clive's line and got the line caught around the prop. of the boat! This caused no-end of problems – not to say leaving Gary in a foul mood. The extra water in the river because of the rain leaves me struggling to hold bottom and I am just not happy with the short distance I am fishing – I am no-where near where the fish are. Phil suggests I up-sticks tomorrow and offers to take me across to the island where I can fish on my own.

10.30 p.m. - Gary and I had a really nice evening, eating baguettes, cheese, and bacon, and drinking an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. We discovered we have much in common in our backgrounds and life experiences. Later, we repair to Phil's camp for a four-way social and spend a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting and drinking wine. At the end of the proceedings, Phil gets a screamer on one of his rods and lands a fish of around twenty pounds. We are so relaxed we don't even bother to photograph the fish. It is enough to just enjoy the ambience of the place.

Monday, 11th.May 2009
2.0a.m. - High excitement in the dark......... Phil continues to catch fish – so many in fact he is on occasions down to just a single rod. We cogitate in his swim about what the reasons might be why he is catching so many and we catch nothing and decide that the only thing we can do is for me to imitate exactly the rig he is using. It is nothing secretive or fancy – just a simple running rig with a backstop. No fancy gizmos or do-dads on the end, just a simple knotless-knot to a longshank hook about 12 inches long. I hasten me back to my swim and tie this rig up and cast out. Phil calls me back to his swim for a cup of tea for he has landed yet another – he has now had so many he cannot remember just how many!
Ten minutes into the tea and suddenly my buzzer is screaming with a 'one-toner'. I run/hobble/limp/stumble back to my rods and the taking fish is going like a steam train! I lift into it and am hit with a series of terrific lunges – the fish is like a Lewis Hamilton with a rocket up its backside! It must have run a good forty-to fifty yards while I have been attached and is so far downstream it is well over Phil's lines.

inevitably, one of Phil's buzzers then goes off, signally an impending nightmare and he curses and swears at me for allowing the fish to cross his tackle! Back in his pitch he can now see the fish on the surface in the margin in front of him and is able to step into the boat and net it from there.
The fish turns out to be a magnificent common of 29 lb. - the biggest of the trip so far. Clearly however we are unable to all fish the stretch of river so close together and Phil resolves to move over to the island opposite, on the 'morrow.

5.00 a.m. - Fishing just a single rod (to avoid foul-ups with other anglers) the buzzer is screaming like a banshee again. As soon as I hook it, it absolutely flies downriver........ this fish goes like the Orient Express, a feature it seems to share with all the Saone fish. I can do nothing but hang on as the rod is thumped down in a series of frantic lunges. Eventually it comes to a stop and I make line on it all the way to the net – yet another common, this time weighing 28¼ lb. Magic......
7.00 a.m. - I recast the rod and I doubt it had been out ten minutes before it was off again, this time the culprit being a little nine-pounder.

8.30a.m. - a fidgety take to my one and only rod out produces a small fish of 7 or 8 pounds. Rod is recast before the first of the commercial vessels comes through; this is a tandem jobby pushed along by a barge. The wash is tremendous, swamping the boat moored in the margins.

We have acquired a new friend – Eddie The Eagle who comes soaring along, high on the thermals. Gary has never seen an eagle in flight before and is as pleased as punch with all the birds of prey we have seen – Red Kites, Sparrowhawks, and Barn Owls.

12 Noon – while Clive and Phil go off to the shops, Gary and I spend the morning sitting in the sunshine, telling stories and watching the comings and goings of the eagles soaring on the thermals overhead. Gary is beside himself with pleasure as the birds of prey are as much an obsession with him as carp-fishing.
It has now turned hot and sunny although there is a cooling breeze to keep things refreshed. We contemplate the hard work of this afternoon's activities for we must prepare the feed for tonight.

8.00 p.m. - a day of activities. Gary and I went into town to get some provisions and try and buy some Maize for soaking tonight and boiling tomorrow. We realise the last minute change of venue has left us unprepared for this river. Fishing this particular one requires simply huge amounts of bait compared with the River in Picardy. Phil, who knows the Saone better than anyone asked us to bring as much bait as we could, but little did we realise the industrial measures which are required – dustbin size containers of Maize and Vitalin are just for starters! To witness Phil out in the boat, criss-crossing the river, throwing scoops of feed in all directions is not only an education but also a culture shock in comparison with the relatively meagre quantities used for 'normal' carp-fishing.
All this 'prepping' and hard work under what has been a hot sun has been exhausting and I long to just flop into my pit. I am so tired my eyes are stinging really painfully and are a sure-fire indication I desperately need to rest. This branch of carp-fishing is certainly not for the faint of heart or weak of limb. The more I get older, the harder it all seems to get.

Tuesday, 12th.May 2009

2.00 a.m. - a screamer is off and away, once again going like an express train. Unlike any of the other fish it ploughs upstream across one of Gary's lines causing consternation and strife. Eventually it is landed (after breaking Gary's landing net) and weighed at 15:06.
Meanwhile, Clive comes along the bank calling for the boat. Out on the island, Phil has hooked into a fish so large he cannot land it! Gary and I wait with baited breath to see just how big it is........
3.30 a.m. - a 13:12 common in identical fashion. I reeled in the other rod to have a sort out and yet again lost the lead and rig on a snag. This river is totally snag-ridden seemingly and an endless supply of leads is an absolute requirement. Really becoming sick and tired of this aspect of it though.

8.00 a.m. - another night of lost rigs and bad weather has left me in a depressed state – so bad in fact that I'd be quite happy to pack up and go home. Most of this demeanor however is probably due to the fact I have not taken my medication (anti-depressants) since I have been out here. This must obviously be remedied – I'll dig them out and take one. We are still catching carp and Phil must be 'over the moon' with his giant fish which turned out to be a catfish weighing a colossal 82 lbs.!

Gary is obviously disappointed with his relative lack of success and is in the advanced stages of 'writing the trip off'. We have both had lots of problems to deal with and this seems to be part and parcel of this sort of fishing. Our efforts have left us wearied and despondent and we both need good fish to give us a 'lift'. Because of the snags, the strong current, and the presence of Gary's rods in the swim I am down to just a single rod (which I have confidence in) provided the fish are there. Gary is struggling and I am concentrating on offering all the help I can in getting him on to a fish.

I don't think many anglers have the faintest idea of what is demanded to come down to France and fish the rivers. Even your average carp angler has no idea of the huge demands made on the individual to fish 'properly' under the conditions. Managed fisheries and certainly commercials (including french commercials) cater well for the angler in terms of facilities, comfortable swims, and managed stocking levels. Where we are here on the river Saone there is nothing provided by Man – we are in a totally wild environment. The plus side of this is the 'connection' with wild Planet Earth which is an inevitable result of such encounters – the wild life, the wild fish etc. the downside to this is that Mother Nature provides nothing in the way of comfort – no neatly cut, conveniently accessible swims, stocking levels managed to provide a good days sport, and close proximity to domestic needs. All the problems we have encountered on this trip are a natural result of connecting with the very thing we have come out here to enjoy – wild fishing.

12 Noon – spending the day cooking Maize for introduction into the river tonight. It is a ball-aching job and I could do without it – my thinking is that the pellets are a more usable and practical alternative. What is key is that it is how it is distributed into the river that makes all the difference. Up to now we have been putting out time-bombs (hard Vitalin balls) and other stuff in a line downstream.

In this situation, the scent trail and food source is a relatively thin 'corridor' travelling downstream with the current, whereas a line going across the river makes the trail wider.

As I'm cooking up this maize, I'm pondering the problem of distributing it across the river without the aid of a boat. I don't want one myself – I hate the damn things, they have a mind of their own and never seem to go in the direction you want them to. So how do you get enough feed in a line across the flow in sufficient quantities? The carp angler's mainstay is the spod for getting out this sort of mass bait which cannot be catapulted, and for still water situations this is a good option. What about the sort of industrial quantities we are talking about here though? A spod, though theoretically feasible cannot ever compete with the boat and scoop – it would take hours to reproduce the sorts of quantities we are talking. One alternative is to use the catapult and use something catapult-able such as pellet, tiger nuts, or Chic Peas. Tigers are very durable and are known fish catchers and could go a lot further than maize. Hmmmm..... it's a problem.

One solution might be to choose a location adjacent to a bridge; you use the bridge as an elevated platform from which to distribute the feed. This restricts you to downstream areas of bridges only, to places you might not want to fish.

6.00 p.m. - I have previously described the problems of toileting whilst away on these french trips and this afternoon I was once again called upon to move a stool. So remote is this location that there is no difficulty in finding a suitable spot – in this case, the bottom of a shallow gulley surrounded by trees. No sooner had I dropped my shorts than thousands of mosquitoes took to the air homing in on my nether parts, sinking their fangs (or whatever it is they use) into my bottom. I strained furiously with all I was worth, desperate to move the resistant stool, but no, it just wouldn't budge.......eventually, with the job half completed the squadrons arrived, stinging and biting every exposed inch of bum flesh! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Pain, strain, grh.......... then finally, a quick finale with the toilet paper and then it was up with the shorts and off and away! I didn't look back but I suspect I was pursued by a black mist of midges, teeth bared, baying for already-tasted blood!.......

Back at camp I had an opportunity to examine my tenderized posterior – it looked like I had contracted some dreadful disease – my skin was pock-marked with raised, white nodules which were now beginning to itch like Hell! To say this would be unpleasant in the warmth of the sleeping bag is an understatement; only those who have suffered the torment of itching mozzie-bites will appreciate the depth of the horrors such afflictions present!

6.45 p.m. - we manage to get a lot of maize, pellet, and tiger nuts out before a colossal barge comes through. Hopefully, the water movements caused by such a vessel will help to spread the feed out.
Wednesday, 13th.May 2009

8.00 a.m. - nothing to report from a night which was very quiet from a fishing point of view although ideal fishing weather – overcast, warm, and sultry. At one point it was so sultry, lightening rent the darkness and distant rumbles of thunder were heard.

This morning, Phil reports the back-channel is full of carp feasting on newly-cast spawn from masses of Bream, coursing in and out of the beds of lily-pads, their mating activities attracting large marauding catfish.
11.00 a.m. - just got back from the island. Clive and I went over in the boat to see all the activity that is going on over there; what a sight! Large Bream up to 6 or 7 pounds are like 'alpha-males' attacking smaller fish seek to join in the orgy – the large fish attack the smaller ones and drive them away; whether this is to guard the fertilized eggs that have been lain to prevent other fish from eating them I don't know – but there is definitely some sort of Bream-on-Bream antagonism going on. Chub also lurk around and these I suspect are intent on eating the eggs, but at the top of the food chain are the large catfish of four, five, and six feet long which slink along tight to the margins. Curiously, the Bream don't seem afraid of them. Whether they recognize somehow that the catfish are not in attack mode I don't know but the Bream are happy to swim with them and the catfish make no attempt to attack or eat them.

I tried to take some photographs of all this but the water was very coloured and the shots were disappointing. A key to our lack of carp action for the past couple of days was the sight of fish grouping in threes and fours. These fish were having what I call 'practise spawning', not so much getting on with it, but going through the motions of keeping close physical contact and engaging in vigorous shaking of their bodies in harmony with their sexual partners. For students of fish behaviour this was a fascinating and informative experience.
5.00 p.m. - decided to move and have settled in to a very nice swim about a quarter of a mile downstream of the others; although I am a long way away I have the walkie-talkie and can keep in touch. Just about to have a shower and a clean-up after the toil of taking down my dome, moving, and setting it up again.

Incidentally, I have now abandoned the 'Camp Shower' I have used previously on trips – a more effective and practical solution is to use the kettle with warmed water and just stand on the unhooking mat and pour it over the head; a good lather can be generated with the increased water and it is both cleaner, more practical, and takes up no room in the kit.

7.15 p.m. - baiting-wise, I have gone for the big hit, scattering 20 mm. Boilies, 20 mm. Halibut pellets, and 12 mm. Halibut pellets right across the front of the swim.
The current is peculiar; down at my feet the water seems to be moving upstream to my left – against 'the tide' as it were. I see I am on the beginning of a bend so I guess there may be some eddying going on somewhere.
The Buoys in the River. There is an orange one and a green one and heavy barges and the like must stay between them if they are to ensure they have enough depth below the keel if they are not to touch bottom. This I guess is about fifteen feet or so; they are a useful indicator of river depth however. Vessels must not stray bank-side of them so I think it safe to assume this is where the shallower water is.

The orange buoy upstream of me is some way out from the bank so I guess the water in front of me is relatively shallow; hence I deduce I am fishing in about 8-12 feet (compared to the centre channel which is 20 or so).
My current GPS is:
N **.*****° E *.******°

8.30 p.m. - a dropped take on the rh rod and some fish activity (albeit from small fish) has raised my confidence somewhat.

Thursday, 14th.May 2009, The Last Day

6.30 a.m. - very successful night and once again an endorsement for the scent-trail tactics. On the face of things, there didn't seem to be many fish here – certainly no outward signs of rolling or splashing fish. Into the evening and there's a dropped take on the bait fished to the tree. A funny take this – a running fish but a bit half-hearted in some respects.

A bit later and this time a 'proper' take ensues, although not the one-tone screamers I have now come to associate with the Saone carp. The fight from the fish although hard, was not protracted too long – fortunate this because it started to rain quite hard. In the dark however I could see the fish was not a carp but one of the Saone's famous catfish! My first one ever! I was delighted with this and got him up the bank and on the mat as quickly as I could.
My first ever face-to-face encounter with a European Wels Catfish – like some primeval creature from the Black Lagoon, a throw-back, a monster from the Dark Age, baleful eyes and an ugly, sinister countenace. These are fish from pre-history and are the most foreboding looking blighters I have ever seen out of freshwater. Weighing just sixteen and three quarter pounds it was but a kitten, but for me, a quite memorable capture.

It was like a Tolkien-esque equivalent of a Balrog (read the book).

Back out with the bait and a series of tweaks and lifts indicated interst from fish and I had Bream and Roach/Bream hybrids on a number of fidgety takes. Then there followed a quiet spell resulting in a typical Saone screamer – a carp this time weighing 12 lbs. Back out with the bait and there was further interest (although not enough to strike at), followed by another carp take and this time the fish was off and away like a train in typical Saone fashion.. an intense but not protracted fight ensued resulting in a 22:12 fish – like all of the Saone fish I've had, another common.
Out with the bait yet again – to the same spot just in front of the orange buoy, and it's a further hybrid followed by another fish of 12:00. there was then another relatively quiet spell which ended with a fish of about eight pounds which gave a most Bream-like bite; no doubt due to the massive amount of feed I had put out. Still, another Saone carp under my belt ending a very profitable night.

8.30 – just done a big bait-up with boilies and pellets and it all seems to have gone quiet. Phil had a 30 and one other from his pitch on the island and Clive also had a fish or two. Poor Gary still struggled and only had one Chub I think plus, he lost 2 sets of gear picked up by a damn great 20 foot x 1 foot diameter tree, floating down in the current. Fortunately, Clive got his three sets of gear out of the water – but only just in time. Over the walkie-talkie network they warned me it was coming although being so far downstream it would take a while to get to me. I stayed up until nearly 1.00 a.m. Keeping a look-out for it but it never did arrive as far as I could see; I suspect it drifted out into the middle of the river.

10.00 a.m. - collecting all the non-essential pieces of kit together today; we have to load as much as we can in the truck tonight for we have an extremely early start tomorrow.

The Session Wine Choice
Very lucky with the wine choice this time, it is:
Cabernet Sauvignon, vin de Pays D'oc by Pierre Charnau, about eight Euros for a 5 l box; better still is the one costing nineteen Euros – absolutely superb. The cheaper one I had is still very drinkable; it is a tough, fruity wine – a man's wine!

1.00 p.m. - i've kept piling in the feed (boilies and pellets) and there is no doubt that the 'Ronnies and Reggies' are having a field day whittling the baits down. These baits have not been hardened by air-drying so it's not surprising.
I've had one or two abortive snatches so I'm wondering whether there is so much bait out there now that the fish are eating it 'on the spot' without moving along the bottom. What I'm going to do is fish one back-stop long (about 12 ins.) and the other short (about 3 ins.) and see if there is a difference.

4.00 p.m. - people are beginning to converge on my swim for the farewell barbeque and sleep-over. Phil has moved off the island and has boated all his equipment down to my swim. He says he is just going to put up an overnighter and sleep, but I suspect he'll have a craft rod or two out!
Clive has gone into town to diesel-up and he too is moving up to my swim to do the night so that makes all of us gathered together for the final few hours.

5.00 p.m. - I've managed to get some 20 mm. Pellets into the boat channel (but only just) I think it would be sensible to fish one this side of the channel and one in, the boat channel tonight.

7.45 p.m. - the evening kicked off with Phil and Gary arriving and setting up their sleeping quarters for the night. I had withdrawn my third rod because there'rd be less to pack up in the morning because of the very early start, Phil however kept on and on about putting a bait out to the right – under the branches of an overhanging willow and I eventually gave in, re-instating the rod I had previously withdrawn.

Upstream, I scattered some freebies and set the rod in its rest, this rod had been out about ten minutes before the now familiar screamer ensued and a hard fighting common thrashed about in the lilies in the margin. Momentarily, the fish got stuck and I had to haul it a bit but eventually Phil put the net under another twenty-pound common – twenty-two dead.
Friday, 15th.May 2009 – Departure Day

The planned farewell barbeque in my swim didn't happen unfortunately because incessant and persistent rain had begun to fall, it didn't however prevent a communal cook-up and wine-tasting session among the part and the occasion was no less enjoyable.

My scattering of 12 mm. Halibut pellets up and down the margin had unfortunately attracted a shoal of Roach/Bream hybrids which were making a thorough nuisance of themselves, the bobbins bouncing up and down and the buzzers going off at frequent intervals. They were an especial nuisance to Philip who was intent on a good night's sleep for the long journey home and he less than politely invited me to “shut those f******s up!” why yes Philip, I could perhaps invite them to partake of something tasty elsewhere?

The night was very unpleasant, cold, and wet; just before dawn however the bait placed under the tree to my right (where I'd had the previous fish) was picked up and an identical fight ensued, culminating in the landing of an 18:12 common. This turned out to be the last fish of the trip; I withdrew all rods as Phil needed to sleep and I hunkered down, waiting for 5.00 a.m. A wet pack-up, and off to Calais.......

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Saturday, 17th.January 2009

Winter for me, used to be a grim time in the fishing year. Sitting behind a pair of carp rods, week after week, freezing cold, bored, frustrated at the lack of action, and thoroughly fed up with the whole thing wondering what the hell I was doing there. Then I discovered With the discovery of this band of lunatics came new friends and a window on a world of Angling I had hitherto had scant knowledge.

First the pole, then the waggler on the many commercial fisheries in the South-East became my winter interest and I am happy to say that through Maggotdrowning I have had some not only really enjoyable sessions in terrific company, but I have learnt an enormous amount – mostly from the Master of the Poles himself – our very own Sir Peter of Morton. It was with Sir Peter I was fishing one of my favourite places today – Match Lake 2 on the Monk Lakes complex near Staplehurst, known to all Kent anglers. It's always a Grand Day Out with Peter and today was to be no different........

The Session

I left home in a downpour and things looked decidedly grim – Monks is very exposed and the combination of high wind and rain can make a session on there arduous to say the least! We decided to go for pegs with the wind at our backs and this proved a wise decision as the wind really got up on occasions during the day.
(photo courtesy of Peter Morton)
Straight out of the rod-bag it's my brand new Shakespeare 13 foot Match Lite (£85 from Devon Angling and price matched by the excellent Invicta Angling of Ashford). This was its first outing and I was really keen to see how it would perform; this was teamed with an old Shakespeare 'Powerplay' rear drag jobby filled with 3 lbs. Line, the rig terminating in 0.1 Preston Powerline and a size 18 Tubertini.

First up and it's a little Chublet for me, closely followed by Peter with a hard-fighting carp of three pounds or so. This was going to be a very good day, marred only by a family of mental retards fishing the far bank, shouting to one another in what can only be described as 'ape language'. The dad seemed to be permanently turned to maximum volume and appeared to have the intelligence of a Geranium. Peter asked me if I had a gun as he wished to put the poor man out of his (and our) misery!
As usual, Peter's catch-rate began to exceed my own and I sat there scratching my head wondering what it was he was doing that I wasn't. I thought I'd got a grasp of the basic principles (acquired during previous sessions with Peter) of Feeding being the key to success, the Little and Often principle applying to pole and waggler fishing in general. I was obviously not doing it right and it was not long before Peter had spotted this too and stopped fishing to come to my aid....
“Lets have a look at your rig Spreaders”.

I willingly offered up my end-tackle, thinking “he won't find much wrong with that; a bulk around the base of the float and a single number eight, nine inches from the hook acting as a tell-tale. Peter grasped the line, screwed up his face in disgust and pointed to a single shot I'd got a foot below the float,
“What's that doing there?!”
“Erm; it's a shot to take the float down a bit – I had too much sticking out of the water”
(photo courtesy of Peter Morton)
Peter had an 'Oh my God' look about him as he made lots of adjustments to my shotting.

“You need to stabilise the rig in this wind as there's a bit of tow on today; there's four shots tapering down to the number eight, up from the hook and the locking shot are closely tucked up at the base of the float”.

This was an altogether better rig which on casting felt a lot better, it didn't drift so much on the tow, away from my feed. Ah feed. Now that was another disaster.

“Cast out and fire out six maggots around the float”

I grabbed what I thought was a small pinch and fired them off in the general direction of the float, the strong wind unfortunately taking them several yards away from the float, (well that was my excuse anyway!)

“Andy, the general idea is to actually feed where the hookbait is – not five yards from it. All that will happen is the fish in the area will go and eat the feed there rather than where your hookbait is! And I did say half a dozen not half a bloody handful!”

On paper, Little and Often sounds as easy as anything, but how many is Little, and how long (in time) is Often? Here was the answer – six maggots every minute and a half and they have to be spot on around the float otherwise you'll just end up drawing the fish away from your rig rather than to it.

After this I spent the rest of the session trying to get these few basic principles right – and how difficult it proved to be. Granted, the wind didn't help although on the day it was a useful training aid in practicing skills with the catapult, but for a relative numpty, I found it remarkably difficult to get right, my maggots flying hither and yon, scattered to the four winds on occasions. Peter had the answer to this too – fish a lot shorter. Better to bait accurately at short range, than inaccurately at longer range.
(photo courtesy of Peter Morton)
From then on, with just a few maggots landing around the float every few minutes or so my catch-rate began to pick up and I managed to put together quite a respectable net of fish – F1s, some Ide
(photo courtesy of Peter Morton)
(a first for me as I'd never caught one before – a fish like a huge Roach and very hard fighting), a Golden Orfe (again another first), skimmers, and a lone Tench. At the end of the session we had a weigh-in (we had special dispensation from Ron at Reception), and I was very pleased to record twenty-nine and half pounds – the most I think I've ever weighed-in at Monks. Peter was of course ahead of me with thirty-four and a half pounds which would have been much, much more had he not stopped fishing to sort me out and give me instruction.

Once again it was a Grand Day Out in smashing company. My thanks to Peter for persevering with me throughout the session – what a frustrating pupil I was! Here's to the next time we go fishing.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Saturday, 15th.November 2008

Temperatures were in the teens when I journeyed to Bysing Wood – it was one of the mildest November days I can remember in a long while, and I thought it was a good opportunity to have yet another go at the big Bream.

I’ve had a few good ones this year - fish of six and seven pounds – but nothing big and certainly nothing near the target of double figures which I have repeatedly tried (and failed) to catch. I got a call from Ted our club bailiff to say that a twelve had been caught and it might be a good time to get over there and have another try.

Lots of members were fishing and there were a couple of ‘parties’ of four or five individuals in a swim either sharing a rod or just ‘spectating’. For once, everyone seemed reasonably well behaved unlike the usual accompaniment to such gatherings which invariably included bad language, shouting, and general anti-social behavior. Call me old-fashioned if you like but I go fishing to get away from such shenanigins.

I decided to try an area of the lake I hadn’t fished much for Bream, the top end known as ‘The Knicker Island’ end (don’t ask). There is a natural subterranean spring which enters the lake at this end; in very cold weather it is the last part of the lake to ice over and always leaves a clear patch even if there is an inch or two everywhere else.
PhotobucketAfter huffing and puffing with my new barrow to the swim, I had to sit down for a minute or two as I was sweating profusely - it was so mild and I didn’t really need the two jumpers and bib-and-brace I’d got on! However I set up with the usual Method Feeders, one baited with two rubber corns popped-up, and on the other rod, a single 8 mm. Halibut Pellet hair-rigged to a nine-inch braided hooklength. When after carp I like to keep this hooklength really short at two or three inches, but Bream need a bit more to take the bait properly.

I don’t mind using groundbait on the Method cage as long as there is some evidence it has been eaten. I like to use as little as possible in the winter to avoid over-feeding and prefer the strategy of casting all over the place to cover as much water as possible rather than to clip up and build up a concentration of feed; all this seems to do is attract the skimmers, fish up to a couple of pounds or so. By casting around over a wide area a lot of the lake can be searched and if there are Bream anywhere and in a feeding mood I reckon I’d get a take.
Things started pretty slowly with hardly anything happening during the first couple of hours. There was the odd snatch and pull – but nothing positive so I stuck to my plan of moving the baits around in a wide arc; I also tried different baits too and swapped between the 8 mm. Halibut pellets, 12 mm. Halibut Pellets, and double popped-up artificial corn at varying distances and locations. Eventually however, I had a drop-back take to a bait cast directly out in front – but unfortunately missed it. This tends to happen a lot on these sort of takes and I wonder whether they are ‘proper’ takes at all and not line-bites. At this juncture I happened to notice a series of dimples on the surface over an area of about twenty square yards, exactly half way across the lake.

These miniscule dimples are impossible to see in anything other than a flat calm and it was fortunate that whatever was causing them was in the one area of the lake which was in fact mirror-smooth. I’ve noticed this sort of thing before in the winter – it can easily be dismissed as little fry or even emergent insects – but experience has shown it is often fish grazing on the bottom releasing minute bubbles. I quickly reeled in both rods and re-cast right into this area; 8 mm. pellet on one rod and 12 mm. on the other.

They’d been out about ten minutes or so when there was a good old ‘bang-bang’ bite on the small pellet, the bobbin whacking the rod in a series of thumping raps. I hit the fish straight away and at once felt a solid resistance on the end – I knew immediately it was one of the big Bream by the feeling of dead weight on the end. Bream may not be the most exciting fighters in the world but you can always tell when you’ve got a good one on. This fish ‘kited’ about a bit before surfacing near the net and when I saw it I could see by its size that if it wasn’t ten pounds – it was near as damn it!

Fate however was as unkind to me as it has been with the other upper nine-pounders I have caught; nine pounds twelve ounces. Perhaps I should have stuffed four one-ounce Arlesey bombs down its throat?!
9:12 Bream
It seems churlish to be disappointed with such a big fish – but those who have similarly pursued their own goals weight-wise (perhaps with other species) will understand exactly how I felt. I was very happy with the fish – but disappointed I had once again missed the magic ten pound mark by only a handful of ounces. The fish was a real ‘slab’ and looked to me to be a young fish unlike some of the old ‘warriors’ I have caught in the past; this can only be good news for the future of big Bream fishing at Bysing Wood.

Out with the rod again and another series of little movements to the bobbin, all of which failed to develop. I did toy with trying to strike them but left them alone believing them to be line bites. There then followed a blank spell right up until dark when I had another fish of three to four pounds just as it was getting too dark to see.

By now things had become very quiet but I decided to stay on a little after dark to see if there would be any more action and re-cast both baits out in front one last time. Unfortunately, not a touch did I have, nor did I see or hear anything and gathered all my things together to load up the barrow. Just as I was about to withdraw the right-hand rod, the bobbin jumped up and down like a jack-in-the-box and I struck into another fish. This too gave the familiar dead weight on the end and for the second time that day I netted another big Bream. Slightly smaller than the first at nine pounds two ounces – but the first occasion I have banked two ‘nines’ in the same session. So something of a ‘result’.

The double yet again remains at large although I know he is there. His capture however I shamefully admit has now become something of an obsession……………….. and I promised myself I’d never get obsessed about a fish ever again!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Friday, 5th. September 2008

My long-awaited trip to the River in Picardy. Phil and I have been wanting to get back and have another go, for ages, but with Phil at The World Carp Classic, this was a solo trip. Big fish were in the offing; we’d had a high average size during the last trip and both of use expected to get a real ‘lump’ before too long. As ever, I recorded everything in my journal.

5.30 a.m
I have just got back from the ‘Boutique’ to get my wine for the session – a bottle of ‘vin rouge’ to go with my meals. The ferry is relatively quiet with few crossing at this hour.

This is a solo trip, my regular buddy Phil away at The World Carp Classic at Lac Madine. He is fishing with his good friend Chris (Lev) Levington and thus far they are fishless, although several fish have been caught including a 56 so far. There is still time yet for him to break his duck and catch his first ever fish during one of these contests – although talking to Phil he doesn’t see it as a competition – more an opportunity to meet fellow carp anglers from all over the world.

There is the usual mixture of excitement and trepidation – ‘what if something goes wrong and I cannot deal with it on my own?’ I try to put these negative thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on my Mission Plan for as ever, the trip has been planned with all the efficiency of a military operation…….

The first job is to navigate down to the ‘Target Zone’ – the section of river in Picardy which yielded such promising results last time back in April. The next aim is to get onto the PA (Point of Access) – the place where I can leave the car and get to the swim (which I had previously identified using Google Satellite Imaging.

3.00 p.m
All four rods are out – 2 single baits downstream and 2 double baits upstream, the first lot of feed is in and the kettle is on for the first cup of tea.
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The SatNav got me to the PA ok but I found that access was 100 yards across a ploughed field! Although the satellite imaging had been accurate, it hadn’t shown of course what conditions were like on the ground and considering the huge amount of kit that needed to be transported to and fro, this was unfortunately a no-no; I plumped for exactly the same swim I fished back in April as I felt I could do very well from there.

The local Police have just dropped by although they didn’t bother to get out of their 4 x 4 as it is raining; they just came to have a look-see and then buggered off.

The rain got harder and harder the nearer I approached the ‘Target Zone’ and was coming down in ‘stair-rods’ by the time I arrived at the river. My preferred swim is on the far side of the river so I have had to take quite a circuitous route to get there which of course proved fruitless and involved a detour of several miles to get to where I wanted to go.

There is a very serious issue to contend with which Phil pointed out last time we were here, namely the extreme shallowness of the water in front of the swim. In fact it is so shallow I cannot see how a fish can be landed without going in after it – which is possible – but probably inadvisable. I have the waders with me and I need to make a plan as to how to don them and get out to a fish; doesn’t seem impossible however. We shall have to see how we get on.

7.30 p.m.
More bait into the swim and I am starting to build it nicely; I’ve even had one or two Breamy enquiries so that’s encouraging. Since I don’t expect to catch a carp until the third or fourth night, anything between now and then is a bonus as although the rain has stopped for now, there is a vicious wind blowing, gusting up and down stream making things horrible. Not confident yet.

Saturday, 6th.September 2008
9.00 a.m
It was Bream City here last night with one fish after another, all on the Halibut Pellets. I put up with them until about 2.00 a.m. but simply had to get some sleep so pulled in the Halibut Pellet rods. The rods baited with Matrix boilies were untouched which further leads me to suspect they are lacking in attractiveness. Whether the manufacturer is ‘cutting’ them with cheap ingredients to make them commercially viable I don’t know – they certainly don’t seem to catch as well as they used. I am glugging the single boily in Bloodworm and Molasses to try and increase their attractiveness.

There are no fish here yet – I have yet to see one at all although I might have heard one during the night.

10.20 a.m.
Although it has stopped raining and the sun has come out, there is still that very strong wind blowing which is keeping temperatures down. I have yet to see a carp although this hasn’t dampened my optimism - yet! The regime of regular feeding must be maintained for the scent trail to bring the fish into the swim from downriver and still I do not expect anything to happen at least until tomorrow.

11.00 a.m.
Just been looking closely in the margins in front of me and I have to say it is desperately shallow. I would go as far as saying it is at the very limit of where you can safely bring a carp in and return it. Water always looks shallower than what it is because of the for-shortening effect; there is only one way of finding out and that is to try and catch a fish and see. There are no options here other than to move to a completely different location. I tried putting the waders on and going in but sank up to my knees which isn’t in itself a problem – but netting a fish and getting it back to the bank with both feet stuck fast with rod in one hand, a landing-net in the other, and a thrashing fish on the end – it ain’t happening!

I have decided there is only one viable alternative and that is socks and trousers off and in after it; hopefully I shouldn’t have to go out too far to get it.

3.00 p.m.
As it starts to pitter-patter with rain again I pause to reflect on the ‘pontoon’ I have constructed which I hope might just give me another couple of feet out from the bank.
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All manner of flotsam and jetsom line the banks of the river and I managed to salvage enough materials to build something which might help. I’ve also taken a shower using the solar ‘Camp Shower’ which although does not provide piping hot water, at least takes the chill off the cold. There has been little sunshine and it’s to its credit it ‘warmed’ the water as much as it did.

I feel wonderful! Having showered, washed my hair, cleaned my teeth, and shaved, I feel really invigorated. It is amazing the effect such cleansing has – it is quite symbolic too – a kind of washing away the previous unsuccessful hours and lack of action.

I still feel they will come eventually.

4.00 p.m
All four rods recast. This time I have short, stiff rigs on the single bait downstream offerings; these are accompanied by pva ‘socks’ of goodies. The double-bait upstream rods are the long, flexi-rigs with no socks. Between the four of them there must be something the carp like. That’s if there are any there. They are still not anticipated to arrive until tomorrow.

The Session Wine Choice
This is a Sauvion, Saumur-Champigny (red) costing £4.00 from the ferry shop. Very nice. Recommended. Went well with the beef mince, rice, onion, and pepper ‘thing’ I created last night. Tonight it’s chicken pasta so we’ll see how it goes with that.
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7.00 p.m.
The wine proved an excellent accompaniment………………………………………… in the middle of writing this, the l.h. downstream rod is away! This proved to be a small skinny common of 11:04 to the single pellet and short, stiff, rig. Fish landed without too much trouble although it did get stuck on the ‘ridge’ – where the bottom shelves off into the deeper water. Best make up some more of those rigs!

Sunday, 7th.September 2008
12 Noon

A pretty amazing and drastic turn of events last night as the lateness of the journal entry shows.
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Once again, the weather was horrible, with intermittent rain showers and really gusty winds, in fact I have never known the wind blow so hard in France – branches were coming down off the trees – the lot!

I continued the regime of baiting and put out single baits on all four rods; each rod was accompanied by a pva ‘sock’ and all hooklengths were short lengths of 20 lbs. Korda ‘Hybrid’. It didn’t take long for the Bream to start and once again my swim became ‘Bream City’ with the bobbins dancing up and down like yo-yos! I was really starting to get fed up with the perishers – curiously, all on one rod – the left-hand upstream rod baited with single pellet. Oh how Bream love pellets! Once again I withdrew this offering as I was getting pretty fed up with going up and down the steep bank, all the time attending to the snot-ridden things! Big Bream I like; smaller ‘skimmers – ugh!

At last I was able to settle down and get some sleep although it was little more than dozing, so hard was the wind blowing, the bivvy sides were rattling, kicking up a fair old racket. I must have been half-in and half-out of sleep when I became aware of the drone of one of the buzzers. Stumbling about, I managed to find my bivvy slippers and negotiate my way down the little steps I had cut into the bank to make the descent safer. One of the boily rods was away and in no time at all there was the satisfying lunge of a big carp on the end. I was happy to let it go and yielded line before imposing myself on the fish which was threatening to get far too big for its boots!

The fight was a fairly standard affair – it made it into weed once or twice but was no match for the ‘big guns’ I had brought with me – 3 lbs. TC Harrison Ballistas and 30 lbs. Berkeley ‘Fireline’ braid, ideal for cutting through weed and lilies. There was a certain amount of trepidation however, bringing the fish over the ridge and through the shallows. I knew this would be problematic but the ‘pontoon’ made all the difference and I was finally able to scoop out a fine looking common.
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This fish turned scales at 24:12 and was a very pleasing result after what felt like a lot of hard graft. A quick photograph and it was back in the water – and it was here that the problems started. There wasn’t water deep enough to cover its back and despite pushing it out as far as I could with the landing-net handle, it just lay there, upright, and unmoving in the dark.

I quickly donned the waders and entered the water at the margins – and just as quickly retreated. I sank in up to my knees and test-probing with the landing-net handle revealed it was just as bad further out. What to do?

Back at home I had made a solemn promise to Christine that I would not do anything unsafe – safety first at all times. Whilst I deeply regretted the circumstances of the now stranded fish, I was adamant that risking my own safety was not an option. I could do nothing except hope it managed to find its way into deeper water and home. I must say, I did not anticipate the returning of a fish would be a problem – rather, getting it into the net had been my one and only concern.

I there and then resolved to abandon the fishing from this swim and reeled in all four rods; I just could not risk this sort of thing happening again. In the morning I would move to another part of the river and use the rest of the trip as a scouting mission, exploring other locations.

I was up and about at first light, packing all the kit away into the car. The good news was that the fish was now gone – it had managed to get itself off the shallows and away.............phew! was I relieved?!

A quick look at the map and I decided to investigate the north side of the island, about a kilometre away from where I was at the moment.
Much of the river valley is given over to sand and gravel extraction. The many barges that ply up and down, carry this material to where it (presumably) is distributed all over France. One of the unfortunate aspects of these activities is the extensive riverside works which are an unsightly intrusion into an otherwise beautiful river. I did however, mange to find a very ‘tasty’ looking spot down at the river’s edge with only just enough (and no more) room to set up the rods and all my paraphernalia.
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With baits out (an underam lob distance) I sat back and watched the huge barges throwing up their immense wash as they went up and down in front of me.

What of the prospects? My intention as always is to use the same strategy that has proved so successful in the past – setting up a scent trail and drawing the fish up to the swim. The only drawback to this is that time is required and I have only two nights left to do this. Will this time be sufficient?

3.15 p.m.
There is a curious bright yellow object in the sky; rumour has it, it’s called The Sun! It is the first I have seen of it this trip!

My current GPS:
N **.*****
E *.*****

4.30 p.m.
Everything has gone lovely and quiet. No boats are running, no-one is about save the very occasional dog-walker, there is no traffic or industrial noise. It is very peaceful.
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Despite very heavy leads, there is still a strong current and I am having trouble holding bottom here. The water is very deep – 15 ft. plus I should think, although this I deem, is a good thing. I saw one or two fish topping earlier (not carp but it seems as if they have stopped now.

8.00 p.m.
Another bombardment of bait to try and get the fish up to the swim. On recasting the rods, I found that the pellets were missing; is this due to them ‘washing away’? or are there ‘Ronnies and Reggies’ in the river? I couldn’t see any sign of their usual scrapings on the boilies however. There doesn’t seem much point in leaving pellets out for long periods of time.

Still getting rain showers. The weather has been bloody awful this trip.

Monday, 8th.September 2008
9.00 a.m.

The evening started off with the usual high winds and squally showers, but later cleared to leave a fine, still, and chilly, night.
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I had seen one or two carp in the early evening but as it got dark this activity intensified. Swirling and leaping could be heard in the dark – exciting stuff!
There were lots of yo-yo bites to all rods early on; a succession of Breams were hooked – and duly returned when all of a sudden, the bites ceased. There was a brief pause, and then a screaming take ensued to one of the downstream rods! I was on it immediately and hooked into a fish which tore off downstream. It felt a good fish and I let it go, slackening the clutch to avoid a hook-pull.

This really was a lively fish which was up and down the river like a mad thing! – it felt almost demented in its desire to free itself from its tether, but eventually I slipped the net under a long, lean common which weighed 15:10 but which looked as if it should have been a lot more.
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This was a real result for me as it made all the effort in relocating to the other side of the island worthwhile; I felt really pleased with myself and rebaited all three of the remaining rods. I decided that four were too many for such a confined swim – three adequately covered my baited area and also gave me more room to land fish, as well as move about.

As I lay in my sleeping-bag, I could hear the sounds of the occasional carp rolling or splashing out in the river. Once again, I couldn’t say whether I was awake, dozing, dreaming, or asleep – but I heard two distinct, seperate bleeps of the buzzer, followed by a screaming ‘one-toner’. Without being aware of how, I found myself standing in the dark hanging on to a fish which was absolutely roaring off! This fish really got a trot on and I should think it took a good thirty-forty yards of line against the clutch.

Eventually it slowed and I managed to regain much of what had been lost – but then it set off again on another run – this time upstream and I just had to let it go. Eventually, after slowing it down and regaining some line and then further negotiating runs across the river I eventually netted an absolute peach of a common.
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This fish weighed 25:09 and was one of the ‘chunkiest’ commons I have ever caught. Not fat, or particularly deep-gutted – just solid as a rock, a veritable Arnold Swartzenegger of a fish – total muscle!

Happy days. Or in this case – night!

11.00 a.m.
Just done some sums and the average size of fish caught so far this session is 19.3 lbs. Proving once again that this location has a better than average weight than those at ********. It seems that when you get a twenty they are 24 or 25 pounds – whereas at **********they are 21 or 22; plus, there are always a lot of small fish at ********(single figures).

I have changed the rig on the downstream rod – it’s a short, stiff, rig but I have tied a Dacron Hair to the hook and knotless-knotted the coated braid to the hook. This way there is no ‘joint’ between the hook and the stiff braid although the Dacron braid allows the bait to behave naturally.
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1.00 p.m.
An old character has turned up and is fishing the far bank. He appears to be using three, light, telescopic rods, baited with what seem to be sprats. There seems to be no form of bite indication, the rods have been laid down at the water’s edge where presumably the rod-tips will go or one of the rods will end up in the river! I wonder what he is fishing for? Pike? Eels? They eat what they catch over here so it could be either.

Three EDF vans have turned up and are parked in the car park behind me. The workers obviously know one another as this is obviously their lunchtime trysting-place – it is a typical Gallic scene however. Out came the bottles of wine and the baguettes. Very civilized.

2.00 p.m.
Not a single, solitary piece of action have I had all day – even the Bream have had enough, though I suspect they will return this evening.

More bait has gone in and I have just enough left for a final baiting this evening. Rationing the resources has proved very efficient. One thing that has been a success is catapulting out the 18 mm. Boilies with the ESP ‘Particle’ Catapult. Up to a dozen at a time, landing in small groups gives a very good distribution. Better than putting them out in one’s and two’s and taking all day at it. Will adopt this mode again.

Fishing the French rivers really is an absolute joy. It enables you to blend in and become a part of what is a wild environment, the environment in which the quarry live. These are no commercially reared, fed, fish, designer-contrived to be the maximum weight possible, but pure, unadulterated wild creatures whose domain is the wild river in which they live.

I am tempted to say that size doesn’t matter with these fish such is their allure; it is a fact however that a wild thirty from a wild river far, far outstrips their equal from a commercial venue. This is not to demean the commercial fish because they have an inherent pleasure-providing value. It’s just that these wild river fish possess a Quality that puts them at a completely different level. The numbers that just happen to be their weight are just that – numbers. It is not the numbers that are the value of these fish, but they take on the environment and its purity which is as much a part of them as it is the river in which they dwell. I just love them.

3.30 p.m.
I think it was the insistent flies continually settling on me which suggested I probably needed to take a shower! Up to now I had not had the opportunity to test the ‘Camp Shower’ properly – there being so little sunshine on these French trips over the past couple of years, but today had been such a glorious day it was an ideal opportunity.

I put some water in the bag at about nine this morning and left it flat on the ground in the sun to heat up. Even given that the sun has gone behind the clouds for much of the time, I was delighted to find the water pleasantly warm – not hot, but decidedly warm. A roaring success. Thus invigorated it was time to start thinking about collecting all non-essential items together and putting them in the car ready for a prompt departure tomorrow morning, an unpleasant if essential task. Don’t want to be late for the ferry. [Note - I was!]

4.00 p.m.
Another old gent has turned up and has gone to fish under the bridge with a livebait and huge orange ‘cigar’ float. Bless him; I’ve seen five-year-olds make a better fists of things. Still, I hope he enjoys his fishing......... whoops, as I am writing I see he has taken a tumble down the bank. He seems to be o.k. though and is upright. For a minute I thought I might have to do my ‘entente cordiale’ thing and go and lend a hand.

Some time later I see him running down the bank to his rod and strike – he is attached! Presently, a friend materialises out of no-where and puts together his landing-net which he has left up at his car. In short order, a large fish is landed – and what a fish!
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This looks (through the binoculars) to be all of 8-10 lbs. I can’t see what it is but I guess it’s a Pike; zooming the digital image on the camera however it looks more like a freshwater Bass (?) I didn’t even know there were any in the river – although a closer examination shows it’s probably a Zander. Whatever it was it receives several lusty blows to its head with a short length of steel pipe! It is then wrapped in a towel, and put in the back of the car!

Tea tonight apparently!

6.00 p.m.
There is a sudden mad flurry of activity out on the river as one huge barge after another comes chugging through.
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The tsunamis they send up are massive as first the river is sucked down revealing the bottom – then comes surging back in with tidal waves swamping the banks. I cannot imagine the huge forces at work here, but the immense wall of water being driven in front of the bows of some of these craft is testament to the astronomical numbers which must be involved.

Four or five went through, one after another, each time the bobbins were set going nineteen to the dozen, the buzzers bleeping hysterically in accompaniment. The extreme upstream rod was doing a right merry dance – different to the other two – so I lifted into it on the off-chance. There was something on the end! This was in the form of a 7:08 Barbel, fairly hooked in the mouth.
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Setting a new pb for me I returned it after a hastily taken snap.

Now the question is “does it count?” i wasn’t fishing deliberately for them so I cannot claim any merit in the capture. As a Barbel it was a modest one, but supposing it had been of record-breaking size? (in actual fact it did break a record – my own!) Now there’s one for the philosophers. I shall ‘count’ it anyway.

This fish did not like being out of the water and I held it in the current for quite a long time before I let it go and I wasn’t entirely happy about its welfare when it went. Seems Barbel are not as robust as other species when it comes to hanging about on the bank waiting to have their photo’s taken.

8.00 p.m.
It seems very quiet out on the river now – I haven’t seen or heard from a fish for ages. I’m just anxious that last night’s action was a one-off. I don’t think I’ve over-baited; most of it will be well on its way to the English Channel by now anyway. Can’t help wondering though.

Tuesday, 9th.September 2008
On the ferry home

After the Barbel went back, I busied myself with attending to several preparations for the journey home tomorrow. All non-essential kit was taken back to the car and I made sure the Ferry Terminal was programmed into the SatNav.

I always find this final night’s fishing an odd affair. On the one hand, it can be the culmination of all the hard work done throughout the trip and often yields the best results of the whole session. On the other, I am always missing Christine and know how anxious she gets for my safety; I was really looking forward to seeing her.
It was a lovely evening, the golden rays of the setting sun illuminating the banks of each side of the river in a gorgeous, warm, glow. The temperature however was dropping and it felt decidedly chilly. Fish however began to move as soon as it got dark and it seemed as if some bizarre switch had been thrown – the river suddenly became alive with fish! Carp, and other silver fish species suddenly all joined in a spectacular display of rolling, leaping, and swishing in the darkness. The last of the barges had been through of course and maybe this was the preferred time to feed – when boat traffic had ceased.

As if on cue, the Bream began their activities again, ‘yo-yo-ing’ the bobbins up and down like demented Jack-in-the-Boxes! The year class I was catching were the same size as at the previous location – slightly smaller than those Phil and I had caught back in the Spring. There must be a very high density of Bream in this section of river for they were proving to be a confounded nuisance. Future trips must allow for this and bait-wise I’ll probably bring extra large ‘donkey-chokers’ to avoid them.

I caught a couple of these nuisances, quickly dispatching them back into the water, wondering whether all the feed I had put in had done the little more than attract them and hold them, in which case, they could bloody well clear off!

At this point I started to get very fast, jerky sort of bites, some of which pulled line from the ‘clutch-runner’ – much too excitable for Bream! When one finally turned into a full-bloodied take I thought I had hooked into a small carp – the fish fighting like a little terrier, giving numerous rod-jerking wrenches; most un-carp-like (or Bream for that matter). When I slipped the net under the fish and banked it in the darkness I could see it had the glorious silver flanks of another Barbel!

This one was slightly bigger than the first and weighed 8:12, thereby breaking my pb for the second time that evening! Again, did it count though?

Bites were more or less unremitting for most of the early part of the night, the only interruption coming when a series of lifts turned into a proper take resulting in a small common of about 8 lbs. No sooner had this fish been returned to the river than there was yet another series of jerky lifts followed by a ‘proper’ take. Again, the fish fought in a most un-carp-like way and when I finally netted it, yet another Barbel graced the net – it was even bigger than the previous two and I couldn’t contain my astonishment uttering the familiar expletive. When I weighed it, it was dead on 9 lbs. Like the previous fish I didn’t take photographs as I didn’t want to risk the fish – it went back straight away. I wish Phil had been on hand to do the honours, for it was a great fish.

Further action followed during the night and my plan for getting much needed sleep before the long drive home tomorrow went right out of the window. Three carp picked up my boilies this time, the ‘shoal’ of Barbel seemingly having buggered off. Fish of 14:12,
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and 20:00 dead were all weighed and returned to the river in what had been a now very productive night. Curiously, of the eight fish caught during the trip – all were commons; not a mirror or leather amongst them. Perhaps this demonstrates the dominant nature of the gene giving rise to common carp scaling within wild fish spawning naturally in the river.

One final fish was hooked just as I was taking the other rods down; unfortunately, this was lost due to a hook-pull near the net amongst the rocks lining the margins. From what I saw it wasn’t a huge fish – although it would have been nice to put another score on the score-sheet.

And so into the car and head for home.....................

Monday, 25 August 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Murston nr. Sittingbourne, Lake 4

SAC, Murston, Lake 4

My first session at Murston on a cloudy, grey, overcast, windy afternoon. Access to the Fourth Lake was easy and I was able to fish secure in the knowledge that the car was safe – I could see it from where I was fishing and this was a great reassurance.
As expected, the lake was extremely weedy and it was obviously going to be a tough job finding somewhere fishable. There were two characters fishing on the far bank and I went round to see how they were getting on; both were fishing poles with sweetcorn as bait and lots of small fish were reported. One of them said however he had caught a Rudd of about three pounds! Could this be true? We are talking National Specimen size here and I don’t doubt it as I’ve heard similar from Phil. My appetite was whetted for them immediately.

My walk along the near bank revealed all the swims weeded up so it was a case of far bank or nothing. Fortunately, there was a ‘Secret Swim’ between the two old geezers and I set up there.
The 'Secret Swim'
The area to the left of the pitch was almost completely weeded right up. There were some clear spots in the margins but I suspect this was where members had been dragging; where I was and to the right of me, the water was a bit clearer although weed was still present underneath. I managed to find clear-ish water in front of me an under-arm lob out and I set about baiting-up this spot with the Vitalin; I didn’t over-do it too much as I suspect I have done so in the past – particularly on School Pool and I suspect this contributed to my failure. Better I think to build the swim gradually and only lay down groundbait by re-casting the Method Feeders. One rod was baited with artificial corn, one with Crab Pellet, and the other with Pineapple Crush boily. I was very interested to see the response to the boily following the conversation I’d had with Phil regarding bait and my own thoughts on attractiveness.
The corn had been out about ten minutes or so before there was a Breamy-type take and I hooked a fish which shot off into the weed. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it on the John Wilson and it took a good deal of heaving, humping, and hand-lining to get it out. Get it out I did however and landed a five and a half pound Tench! I was absolutely ecstatic with this fish as it seemed as if the plans had at last come to fruition. It was a long-ish, lean individual and I should think had the capacity to go over six on a good day.

Back out with the baits and it’s a long wait for the next fish. This was a rip-roaring take I was convinced was a carp as it shot straight into the weed and came to a dead stop. Initially I couldn’t move it and was convinced I’d have to pull for a break, but by careful handlining I was able to shift a big clump of weed towards me and to the bank. I had no idea if the fish was still on – all I could see was the weed so I just put the net under the whole lot and heaved it onto the bank. Parting the mass of weed, there lay a fish of about four pounds – so it had stayed on after all!

There was one more fish after this – another of about four pounds odd and although I stopped on after dark there were no more takes.
Tench Catch
The Fourth Lake at Murston is a fantastic water. Rich as a Sultan’s horde, the water exploded with fry every time the feeder hit the water – they were on it in a flash; the water is alive with fish and I am greatly looking forward to some winter action on here. Some tactic to beat the small fry will be called for – probably a largish particle like Chic Pea and perhaps similar tactics used at Longshaw Farm to beat the tiddlers might succeed. There are also Pike present and I am looking forward to having a go at them with the spinning rod when conditions allow. What with the Tench, Rudd, and Carp there is a wealth of fishing here.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Saturday, 19th.July 2008

Bysing Wood

This summer has been fairly horrendous. What with being made redundant, we had launched into re-decorating the kitchen just before I found out I had lost my job and were committed to not only a mountain of work – but hefty expensive into the bargain. Although I had managed to find employment, there was work to be done at home in every spare moment so consequently, fishing has had to take something of a back-seat. On the few occasions I had managed to get out, the lake was either full, conditions were dreadful (gale force winds and driving rain), or like this weekend, matches were taking place and the venue was off-limits.

My target lake is the School Pool in Faversham and the aim is to catch one of the few big Bream and Tench – but things just haven’t gone right. With work now coming to a conclusion on the kitchen I decided to have an evening session on Bysing Wood where there were several things I wanted to try out.

My tactics had previously focused on Method-Feeders and boilies for bait with corn and maggots as alternatives on float-fished and quiver-tipped rigs close-in to the margins. By burying the boily in the method ball I found I could consistently fish down through quite weedy swims and still have a good presentation, but I was still concerned that the bait would end up under the feeder (despite using Korda feeders with the lead on one side of the cage so that it ‘always’ settles bum-down as it were on the lake bed). I came up with the idea of fishing the method feeder Helicopter-style. Now this is not my idea – I saw Matt Hayes using it for carp on one of his programmes, but it occurred to me that the hooklength could be hidden in the method ball, much as a ‘Stick Mix’ hides the hooklength on a carp rig. The very short dangling hooklength would be very unlikely to tangle and if it did, could be folded up inside the groundbait.

I nearly lost out on my chosen swim. I left the car just inside the gate and went off to have my usual gander at the lake before starting fishing and as I was returning from The Dead Tree Swim (which I was very pleased to see available) someone passed me on the track in his car obviously making for the same place. Now the question arises here – “who gets choice of the swim?” was it ‘rightfully’ mine because I was there first – or was it the chap in his car because he’d got his tackle with him? I regret to say I rather pressed my case and asserted my claim although I am still uncertain whether it was legitimate or not.
This is one of the most popular swims on the lake and is very productive, offering many options for bait positioning. My plan was to fish across to the far reeds as close as I could cast and build a bed of Vitalin and Layers Mash groundbait on which hopefully, the Tench and Bream would eventually settle on.

I was immediately struck by how seriously, a member fishing opposite was taking Health and Safety issues – as a Health and Safety Officer myself I applauded his risk assessment skills in wearing a ‘Hi-Viz’ vest during fishing! Perhaps there were low-flying Pteradactyls, Eagles, or Flying Fish about the place. Being seen by such hazards is an important part of Health and Safety!
I catapulted several balls of the groundbait mixture out in front, just short of the reeds and cast two rods onto the feed. One rod was equipped with a Tutti-Fruitti boily and the other, popped-up Enterprise corn anchored by a number 6 shot, half an inch from the hook. I have caught carp on this bait but never Tench or Bream and I was keen to 'get off the mark' with them on it.

My Method balls were squeezed onto the cage with the hooklength between the groundbait and the cage. The idea of this was that the groundbait covered the line, disguising it, much like the carp-angler's 'Stick' rig. Almost immediately I started getting bites at the start of the session which was to produce more Bream than I have ever had in a sitting at Bysing Wood. The fish all seemed to be of the same 'year class' - fish of between two and two-and-a-half pounds, not a few ounces more nor a few ounces less. I was getting them one after another and when I changed to a 16 mm. Cotswold Baits drilled Crab Pellet the catch rate increased. Bream (and Tench for that matter) absolutely love pellets and the difference in catch rate between them and the boilies was quite marked; I think I shall make the pellets my front line bait in the future. I also had fish on the popped-up corn too so avid were they feeding.
My Rig
Then there was a blank spell and the bites suddenly fell right off. I suspected that a Pike was about as there were a series of swirls and a period of small fish leaping out of the water followed by the familiar slashing vortex but it wasn't long before I had another positive bite on the pellet rod...........

As soon as I hooked it I knew I'd got one of the better ones; although Bream hardly fight at all, the dead weight on the end of the line signified a decent fish - which it proved to be at seven pounds eight ounces. I slipped it into the keepnet to see whether I could catch some others to go with it.
7:08 Bream
I suppose the rod had been back in the water about five minutes or so when there was another take - unfortunately I was away from the rod having a pee - but got back in time to hit the fish (and pee down my trousers at the same time). Again, this too felt a good fish although unfortunately it came off after having been on for only a few seconds.

I have noticed this with Bream and Method Feeders. I think you must hit them very quickly as they seem most adept at shedding the hook. Some takes will see the bobbin hopping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box and if left the fish will get off. Theoretically, by the time a bite is registered on the bobbin, the fish is hooked (by the resistance of the rig); they do however seem to be able to shed it quite readily. Probably, this is something that varies from water to water and happens more on some venues than others. At Bysing Wood, the dominant activity is carp-fishing with resistance rigs and I imagine that the Bream have got used to being hooked with carp angler's rigs and have learnt how to shed them. The carp certainly have learnt such tricks. In future I shall try to be far quicker 'off-the-mark' than I have been in the past at striking these bites.

The Bream fed on and off for the rest of the afternoon and if I had put all of them in the keepnet I would have had a fair old weight. I hung on however for another decent one and some time after dark I had another of 6:14. Not big, but good-ish. These bigger Bream are almost like a different species. Whereas their smaller bretheren are pale, insipid, slimy individuals, fish of over six pounds or so are bronze coloured and virtually slime-free, an altogether different kettle of worms.
Perversely, the hours of darkness saw a fall-off in sport - the complete reverse of what normally happens and there was just the odd twitch and smaller sized Bream at intervals.

At some point, just before eleven o'clock in the evening, I had a more positive take. When I struck and hooked the fish I at first thought I'd hooked into a snag. I knew I wasn't in the reeds as I was 'clipped-up' to get the distance in the darkness. This fish however was completely solid.................and then eventually, very slowly, it moved and started coming towards me. At this point I was in a fair old state of excitement - the fish felt massive and was undoubtedly the biggest Bream I'd ever hooked - I vaguely saw the commotion in the water in the light of the full moon that was shining and it looked simply huge! For a long time my ambition has been to catch a 'double' and at last it seemed I was going to do it! It was far and away bigger than the 7:08 I'd caught that afternoon.
As I put the landing-net in the water and crouched down to net the fish....................the hook fell out.

To say I was gutted is an understatement. I have fished a long time for my double and having come so close on more than one occasion I am well deserving of it. This loss of such a big fish however was not the first time such an event has happened and I dare say it won't be the last. It doesn't make it any easier to bear however. It was horrible. Loss and heartache.

Although this disaster was awful to suffer, there was a positive aspect to it. It meant that the loss of the fish mattered. It had me thinking that the minute such a loss meant nothing - that it was just a mere inconvenience, then the meaning of what I was doing - the position that fishing holds in my life - is still the same that it has been all these years.

The minute the loss of a big fish means nothing, is the time to hang up the rods and don pipe and slippers.........