After a bit of a storm circling around us for what seemed like and eternity finally it abated,30 mph gusts now more like an asthmatic wheeze,grey skies, but warm ,about the 14 deg C , today would be a good day for some fishing on a local pond.
Of late the pond i like to fish has been really hard work,fishing the margins,smelly baits,groundbaits designer made in the kitchen all failing to get a decent catch ,I mean low single figures! From experience I know that any time now the carp will spring into life,they will be greedily scoffing like big piscatorial pigs at the trough.
I arrived at the pond relatively early owing to road closures we had to get through the town before eight thirty or face a dog leg around the mulberry bush through the village of Zeals ,one of only 3 villages beginning with a Z in England I believe,then onto Wolverton and onto the old causeway to the pond.
Two old boys I know from the same club as I am a member were already there busying themselves setting up,pleasantries exchanged it was onto the task at hand,catching fish.
First off i mixed my ground bait as per a new recipe i had been assured was a killer,then setting up my split cane rod with a Mitchell 206s,a homemade wire swimfeeder and a size 12 circle hook baited with Lidl’s Kabanossi,a very oily smokey version of a peperami at a quarter the price,I cast this across the narrow part of the lake to the reeds on the far bank,it landed about 3 feet from the reeds the swim feeder releasing groundbait in a big cloud,put on the rod rest it was a waiting game,and to keep myself occupied i set up for float fishing on the Pin.
Late last week I happened upon a nice rod to compliment the Hardy Conquest reel,a Hardy Conquest rod,a 11 foot fibreglass rod of some vintage,initially I was surprised just how light the rod was compared to other glass rods I own,Hardy were well ahead of their time back in the day,so this was set up with a homemade float I made with carping in the margins in mind and could be cast with ease using the ‘pin ,I fished at about 15 yards in a nice corner swim hook tipped with fresh Maggot.
Clearly within an hour or so there were fish in the swim,tell-tale watery contrails on the surface of the water,the odd tap on the float turned firsly into small Perch,Roach and Rudd and then quite unexpectedly a struck into something a little more solid,an F1 hybrid followed a few minutes later by a Skimmer silver bream things were off to a good start.
As my fellow piscator in the swim next to me hit into a fish my feeder rod nearly jumped off the rod rest,for a moment I assumed it was my neighbour snagging me but again the old split cane darted for the depp,i grabbed the cork handle not a moment too soon ,i raised the rod tip and felt the tell tale nod of a good carp, after a tense minute or two ,the usual Thomasine doubts ,did i tie the hook well enough , is the leader sufficient? Nothing to worry about the leviathan was soon on the soft wet spring grass,photos duly taken and the fish returned to the water none the worse for its brief ordeal.
After lunch there was a lull in the action,just a few small perch to break the boredom. About 6 swims up from my swim was a chap fishing for a couple of hours,giving up by early tea time he threw his bread in at the margins,after about 30 minutes I could hear the sweetest sound in the world the sluuuuuurp of Carp taking bread from the surface,i watched for a while and finally decided to move up to that side of the pond with surface bread fishing on my mind.
Well to say there were a few fish in the swim would be an understatement, quickly i changed hook to a Raptor carp hook of the size four kind,big bread bait squeezed around the line and hook and i cast as far as I could with the pin,surprisingly within two or three feet of the island margins,a few more morseld of Hovis treats and the fish were competing,now i had been staring at a piece of the bread on the surface for about ten minutes when my float shot under and the bread nonchalantly bobbing away on the surface,i had as i happened been watching the wrong bit of bread! I struck into a fish ,and boy did it scrap,on a vintage centrepin carping is a whole new ball game! my arms ached the reeled screamed like a thing possessed,this carp was not coming easily ,if i was to land this cyprinid i was going to have to use skill and born of many lost fish over the years,more than once the line passed the front of the swim ,deep enough that i couldn’t see the float,this battle went on for a good twenty minutes,lucky for me my ghillie Alan was at hand to net the fish.Once on the bank I looked in awe at the common carp before me,a PB from this water,with the help of Alan and Rich we put the fish on the scales,it went right around the dial and off the reading of 10lb,after deliberation and much umming and arring we settled that it was like ly 14 and a bit pounds,photos taken and the fish released back to get on with its day., me to reflect for a moment on the battle on my hardy set up,this could be considered a good christening for it.
As the day went on the skies drew darker as the sun sunk towards the horizon,my compatriots said their goodbyes and wished me well,I baited the hook again and cast mid stream and sat back to wait for another slurp.
With all the fish catching going on I had barely noticed the plethora of birds in the trees and hedges,this was the time of day that the song thrush comes out to sing to all that will listen from the tallest oak on the pond,his calls answered by other thrushes further afield,a last moment chime of goldfinches made their way along the hedgerow to my left upsetting the Robin in the blackthorn,and he certainly let them have what for too!
My attention was caught by a slurp and a tug on the line another carp on the floating crust,and another and another,fish after fish,i near lost count,almost as soon as the bread hit the water the ravenous carp were upon it like lions on gazelle.
Well what a day,my best day of catching fish since last year,clearly the spring carp were waking up with the hunger of a bear after a long hard winter.This will be one of those days i shall remember for a long while ,the day of carp in the daffodils.
When I was a boy as you might imagine I was very much into all things countryside,not that i was brought up in some rural idle,I was brought up on a council estate in Salisbury called Bemerton Heath,Bemerton itself being on the banks of the Nadder at the bottom of the hill and getting its name from the middle english for ‘the field of the horn or trumpet blowers’.
The Heaths one saving grace was it being surrounded by countryside on three sides ,well nearly four ,farmland and some patches of heathland left where you could see every butterfly in the Collins Gem! .In the middle was a woods known as Barnards Folly or if you were local just ‘the folly’,a place of wonder for a young boy,dens made wars won and lost fauna slain for an all too often empty pot,it was the seventies and eighties.
Most importantly within walking distance some of the finest chalk streams in the world the Hampshire Avon and its tributaries the Nadder and the Wyle with little to do that wasn’t mischief fishing was just a natural choice to a many of us ‘Bemmy Heaf’ boys over the decades including my dad.
This naturally lead to a dalliance with fly fishing in my mid teens,mostly as I was an enthusiastic fly dresser,member of the fly dressers guild and tying professionally within no time.
The fly dressing lead me to call into a shop in salisbury looking for feather and fur for my craft,Not just a run of the mill tackle shop but a Hardy Dealer,Barbour jackets and Hunter wellies,I admired in awe of the Hardy reels and rods,you don’t grow up around chalk streams of the calibre we had and not know about Hardy.
In ‘The Rod Box of Winchester’ I met a chap Called Nick he was the manager,we shared the love of fly dressing and he would let me hold the Hardy reels and turn a handle or two.
A season passed and I popped into the shop again to see Nick,he wasn’t there,now there was a softly spoken chap called Steve Kemp,he used to write article for salmon and trout magazine and the like,this chap also used to be keeper on the Wyle back in the day and knew more about the wyle than any other man alive at that time as well as the Avon on the banks of which he lived in a small cottage in the Woodford valley.It is said that Steve coined the phrase with regard to the Wyle that it ‘Separates the men from the boys’.
After a couple of weeks Steve offered me a saturday job in the shop which I readily accepted ,five pounds a week all to myself! I met some fantastic characters from behind the till,a Brigadier who was in his nineties who served in the Raj and would tell tall tales about his fly fishing in jungles and rivers all over the raj,another was a Wing Commander with a pencil mustache and an eye over one shoulder when buying new Hardy reels in case his wife might see him as she walked past the shop.We even had one of Prince Charles’ ex girlfriends in the shop one Saturday,I was young and easily impressed.
During quiet periods i would get to know the stock well,every book carefully thumbed,and i spent time dusting the reels new and old,Prices that could almost buy a flat where I came from! One day I said to myself I will have one of those centrepins one day and often looked at the stuff online.
Just Thirty five years later finally I bought a centre pin , stumbled across one at the price i actually could afford and a good deal less than its true value,a Hardy Conquest,In good nick for its age,in need of some love and attention ,a service and an introduction to Autosol.
After a few hours with cotton buds and an odd sock It beamed with all its former glory,she scrubbed up well for an old girl.
So with less than a couple of days left of the running water season I need to get out on a local river for some Roach trotting on the Dorset Stour,I am assured that this reel will thankfully be just at home on still waters for muddy piscatorial leviathans,whether by sinker or by float.
Now a quest has begun for a rod suitable as mate for my new reel,it has to be vintage but cane or glass?
Chris Yates one of the first celebrity anglers once said it is more important to enjoy fishing than to catch fish,a sentiment I only grasp as I advance in years.When I was a lad it was all about the number of fish,then it became the size of the fish,now it to me is as Chris Yates admonished,enjoy your fishing,I can remember some memorable fish over the years perch ,grayling,roach and tench to name but a few but the days i really can see vividly in my minds eye are the perfect days when the score didn’t matter,deep red sunsets over a pond stalking carp in the margins,trotting for Grayling on the Hampshire Avon on a crist February morning with the hot sun on my back,and the night session on Summer solstice seeing the sun rise over a lake shrouded in mist swans appearing and disappearing as the mist wistfully drifted by ,mallards shouting claim from across the water unseen but not unheard.
Today was a different day,little did i know but the day would see little in the way of our friends from the deep,but it was one of those days i will remember.
Charlie and I arrived late to the water today,it was shortly before Eleven in the morning and a good hour later than I had hoped for.This was our fist time fishing this lake,a warminster Angling Club water.
The weather was good,dry warm sunshine but a stiff northwesterly wind steadily moving round to the southwest as the day proceeded,sat on the lake side facing south the sun was beating down on us,the trees sheltering us completely from the gsts of some 16 mph.Both Charlie and I were down to our shirt sleeves within 20 minutes.
The lake itself was a bit coloured but give the heavy rain the previous 2 days it was not really surprising on a clay bottomed lake like this one ,to the right of us was an almost mangrove in the shallows at the end of the lake, a place i thought would hold some perch ,in front of us the open lake ,good banks level ground and a swim ideal for a son and his dad to fish.
Charlie is getting to be a dab hand at setting up these days,can tie his own hooks on etc,understands how rigs work and how to make them,this frees my time up immensely to set up quicker and drown a maggot or two.today we had our lines in the water in no time at all,both feeder fishing on the bottom with lobworm hookbaits,to have a more pro-active method too we both set up for float fishing too,Charlie on the roach whip and me on my split can and mitchell 206,and of course we both had home made floats.
We baited our swim with hemp,micro pellet and a home made groundbait,adding some dixed spam for good measure ,surely a scent no fish could resist along with a good amount of chopped lobworm in the mix.
As we settled into our seats and awaited a bite,we together sat bathing in the warming sun,listening to all around us,behind a woodpecker ratta taping on a bead pine interrupted by the chiff-chiff-chaff of the male chaffinch in the now budding hawthorn bush.to remind us it was still very early spring a robin appeared to our left sat on a log,twitching as he does and then darting ten feet or so to the base of the oak to grab some poor unsuspecting morsel of bugginess.Hovering rearby was a huge bee checking out the wild primroses growing on the dappled sunlight.
A stick snapped behind us maybe a roe Buck making his way to better grazing on the far meadow,what ever it was it threw a male blackbird into a fit of rage,my Blackbird linguistics are a bit rusty but it wasn’t the kind of thing one should be shouting in good company for sure.
In Front of us over the opposite hill was a group of buzzards all catching a spring thermal and making their magnificent cry as they make their sky dance,the lower birds being mocked by a corvid,I have never thought of corvids as being particularly brave but this one was mobbing for all it was worth,I am sure he made contact more than once,the buzzard carried on trying not to notice the insult hoping the loudmouth would get bored and bugger off and pick on someone else,after all didn’t he have a bin to knock over somewhere or a bi bag to pull apart?
suddenly our attention was drawn to a more piscatorial rucas,a sizeable carp launching itself out of the water making a huge slash and sending waves in all directions,Charlie was quick to point out the merit of long distant casting,something i managed to dissuade him from,filling trees with tackle is not my game for sure.
We changed our baits and just enjoyed fishing,chatting and laughing whilst keeping a hopeful eye on our floats,seeing some fizz on the surface but not as much as either of us would have liked.
My bits and bobs set in easy reach ,i like a bit of organisation even if others do not see organised!
Amongst my newly acquired bits and bobs is an early Milbro ‘maggipult’ a bait catapult that certainly didn’t get the numbers made that the better known milbro greenhouse breakers of my youth and is subsequently a bit desirable,here’s my catty:
Charlie noticed a steady stream of ripples from the bank of the swim to our right and went over to see if it was a nice fish supping on emerging flies,Charlie excitedly called me over to ‘see what he found’. Well i guess it must be spring then,in the margins were a dozen or so frogs laying spawn,along with our rarer Toads,all the spawn was returned once it had been poked and prodded gently.Charlie managed to get a fantastic photo of a frog:
Charlie with some fresh Frog spawn:
Charlie with Toad spawn:
As the sun made its slothful journey to the west it became clear that today was not a day of fish,in fact 3 bites between us,but what a day,one of those days that its more important to just’enjoy fishing.
As anyone who knows me will know i like to make things and one of those is making fishing floats,personally i love all the retro stuff,split cane ,old mitchel 206,a centrepin and ot forgetting floats,often i use vintage float patterns as inspiration.
Over the last 150 or so years there has been a plethora of designs,from razzle-dazzle camo on pike floats to simple pirch bobbers,materials as diverse as peacock quills,cork,balsa wood,bamboo,oak-galls,reeds and porcupine quills have all been utilised in making floats.
So amongst my fishing posts will be fishing related tackle that i have made,from floats to swim feeders to lures and flies.
So without further ado may i present todays piscatorial delights.
A pair of Trotters……
Boxing day was my planned day out fishing,I got up early looked out the door and after taking in as much grey damp foggy weather that i could bare said sod it and promptly went back to bed. the end……
However the following day was a completely different kettle of fish.A high of 9C virtually no wind at all and what there was was from the south west,a mist hung low to the pasture across the road from my cottage ,i took in a deep breath of air and declared today to be fishing day!
Three of my boys were off doing voluntary community work first thing so I was without a ghillie today on the upstroke my dear lady wife was willing to drop me off at my favorite local pond for a bit of piscatorial therapy.
I chose my usual swim facing south,face in the sun ,i was down to tank-top in no time,this was warm in the sun but the fog everytime i breathed out showed otherwise.
A slight mist sat upon the surface ,a slight breeze moving it too and fro,the peace disturbed by a splash and customary call as a moorhen entered the water through the reeds the other side of the pond.
This was near the perfect morning for winter fishing for me.
Soon i had set up and cast out a small home made cage feeder and a hook baited with some fine dendrobaena worm ,rod place on my stix and strike bobbin fitted in place. I hoped the remains of Alans secret groundbait would serve me as well as last week.
After what seemed an age the bobbin twitched as it always does as a coffee is being consumed,i continued to sup the welcome hot drink,then the bobbin shot up and the rod bent around falling from the rest as it did so. I spilt my coffee all don my trousers as i set the cup down with one hand and grabbed the cane rod with the other setting the hook,i held the rod erect waiting to feel if there was a fish or not,then bang bang bang as a fish nodded its head in a very carp like way.line was both begged and bartered i didn’t want to put too much pressure on the light 2lb hooklink,after a short while firstly i saw the swim feeder surface followed by a glint of light off the flanks of a nice fish.Photos taken this piscatorial delight was returned to its home.
This seemed to be it! a good hour and a half passed with little to no bites,the bobbin remained still .Maybe a bit of float fishing would prove better,so i switched to a homemade float set at five feet or so baited with worm.As i settled i realise the sun was glinting off the water very brightly now it was above the tree line,the sort of light that when you look away all you see is green blotches! so i tried the hand,arms ached,i tried squinting through one eye,that hurt too after a while,what could I do? eureka! i made a small shade out of an empty hookling packet attached it to my hat ,now i coud peer with one eye shading the suns glint with the packet! I could now see the float .
After missing some bites I finally connected with a fine winter carp,not sure of the weight but i was very pleased with it all the same,pictures duly taken and the fish returned to the deep of the pond.
things went slow,i set up the top two sections of the roach pole and set it a foot from the bank,i thought a bit of fingerling fun would be amusing,the light reed float dived under with even the smallest perch,i must have caught 20 or more ,as i watched the float again start to slip under the surface i struck,immediately i could tell this was no fingerling,after a brief but fraught time i had landed a lovely small carp,quite the surprise really.
My dear lady wife duly arrived to take me home,she had a quick go bashing mini perch,finally she caught one bigger than the hook so i took a picture!
I am not lying when I say it was good to get into a warm car,as we set off i mused what a wonderful days winter fishing it had been ,as we made our way up the farm track we paused to take a picture of the suns last second before night fall.