The witching hour….

The weather has been fine for a good few days,hot all day and the evenings just about bearable.last night I decided to do a late evening fishing session at Shearwater lake on the Longleat estate,something i rarely get to do.

We arrived at about 6pm and fished what I believe is called the lawn section,not far from the slowly decaying victorian boathouse.Surprisingly there were many of the most coveted swims empty,something i couldn’t believe as the evening was near perfect,a few ducks on the water,carp and bream taking from the flat-still surface,big golden commons rolling on the surface bathing themselves in the warm golden evening light,a small hatch of waterborne flying insects busily dancing over the surface film .In the tall sequoia a thrush telling all and sundry that this was his ‘turf’ ,the Thrush the other side not so convinced of his claim.

As usual I was using my vintage set-ups with Centre pins,one on the bottom baited with worm 10 yards along the margins,the other was set up for float fishing baited with a big lobworm from the allotment..

Once baited up and cast out I sat back to enjoy the comings and goings on the water ,a few bites but nothing landed.Before i knew it dusk was upon us,the light having faded so slowly i hardly noticed the change.

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Bats! and a good few of them started their hectic search for tasty morsels of winged snacks,skimming the surface film and whizzing past our heads,all around the sounds of darkness came alive,owls all dotted about shouting across the water to each other with tales of the day.

All these goin-ons and the heat of 20C at this time of the evening meant time for a cuppa,and my brew kit was at hand.

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Not being a fan of head torches and harsh xenon bulbs I had my tiny paraffin lamp with me ,a vintage Feuerhand 175,for a small lamp it throws out a lot of light ,certainly plenty for making brews and tying knots.

Chemstick light attached to my float I continues fishing long after dark,a few bites but no perch even with my special perch mix groundbait I had made,the fizz in front of me from the fish below feeding putting even corona in the shade!

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As I sat my mind wandered,I contemplated many things sat there, amongst which was where are the bloomin perch! my train of thought and the lakeside peace was shattered as a very late heron came home to roost,even when you know its a Heron the call is chilling,which for a moment led me down the thought path of big cats that have been seen in this area for years,apparently the big female cats in Longleat attract the feral ones when they are on heat……with this rhododendrons behind be i quickly perished the thought before i gave myself the willies!

The float twitched to one side,catching my eye,My eyes fixated on the little green light,did it move? was it just my imagination? a few moments passed and the float slipped away under the surface,illuminating a swathe of water around it.

I crabbed my trusty Hardy rod and reel and struck into the fish,it became immediately apparent this was no Perch,the green light sinking deeper and steaming out into the lake like a mini Nautilus.I applied some friction to the drum but this fish was having none of it ,the green glow disappearing into the distance and murk of the lake.

The tip of my rod held high it bowed again and again to the fish as it stripped more and more line,suddenly the tip bent over,a little panic set in I had a tangle on my reel the line was stuck and I couldn’t pay out more line,that was over 200 yards of line,a dash now and the fish would have snapped my 8lb line like cotton .A few moments passed and the line went slack,a blackness of  bitter disappointment enveloped me as I started to reel in ,having about 30 yards on the reel when it came to a stop ,a snag? that would be all i needed at this point,the snag moved, the fish was still on and had quite simply made a dash towards me!

In the darkness with a little light from my lamp I could see the line going left then right 40 yards at a time,them whizz it stripped 50 yards again,this happened seven times in all ,each time I thought the fish was ready it caught a second wind and made bid its escape.

It seemed like an age but was in reality close to 35 minutes of adrenaline filled arm aching fast paced action,even as the fish came to the net I could still feel that this fish had plenty of fight within it,as I struggled to lift the net it became apparent this was a big carp,and a personal best by a long way,In my keenness to return the fish to the water once photographed I forgot to weigh it,a good double figured fish at least.

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What a fish! and so unexpected when your fishing for crabtree species! all this work meant time for a brew and very welcomed it was too.

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As the stove hissed away and the kettle sang its warming up I sat and contemplated the fight,I was truly lucky to land that fish and decided i would add another 50 yards of line to my centrepin.

I fished on for a bit but to be honest i was happy to have just caught the one.Slowly I packed my stuff in the trailer and headed for home ,only having to stop once to allow two fallow deer to cross the leafy lanes of bradley village.

Now, do I return this evening to try for a perch?

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Dorsetshire Stour Silver.

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As the countdown to the glorious 16th ,the start of the coarse river season, Myself and millions of other anglers were eagerly watching the met office in hope of a decent day to start their season,as the count down progressed each day i checked the for cast it seemed to get worse ,it felt like i was being mocked by a higher force.

For some reason when we think of june in the Uk we think of hot days, blue skies ,grasshoppers singing in the long brown grasses and all manner of summer niceness,In reality June is more often than not a temperamental month to say the least ,a mistress with a split personality if you will.

June the 16th arrived following a dreary week,the gulf stream diving south dragging with it cold air ,cold wind and cold precipitation south over us,the water temperature still above 60F.I rose half expectantly at dawn and drew the curtains and peered through squinted eyes,yep WET,back to bed.

As the days progressed the weather began to change for the better a couple of trips to local ponds was made but Charlie and I wanted a crack at the Dorset stour,our local river,so last night we decided to get a couple of hours on the higher reaches of this wonderful river at Gillingham (the Dorset one!)

Charlie and I arrived at the river about seven in the evening,it was slightly overcast but most importantly warm and dry.We soon set up our respective gear,Charlie on a small spinning rod and I with my hardy set up.

The Dorset Stour is famed through the ages and land as a top river producing more than a few British records of species like Roach and Barbel,sadly this far up the chances of a barble are very slim but there are Roach and all the other ‘Crabtree ‘species.

We started on an S bend in the river after seeing fish rise for bread and ground bait floatie bits,certainly roach and at least one cunning diner sized trout in there,not that I am one to kill what i catch these days.

With my home made trotting float I set my depth to 18 inches and  impaled a nice lob worm freshly dug from the allotment on the size 6 hook.On the second or third trott down the stream the float dived under,I nearly didn’t strike as I was sure it was just weed again, i tightened up the line and felt a reassuring knock,fish on!Only a few moments went by when i saw a glimmer of silver Roachiness roll on the surface and then silence,the line limp,gutted.

We moved a bit further upstream when a small stream meets the Stour,the waters quite differently coloured not unlike what I have seen in the Tannin stained waters of New forest brooks and not a bad tone for a cup of tea.

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After a couple of hand-sized balls of ground bait were tossed in it became apparent that there was a shoal of Roach and more than a legion of dastardly bait nicking minnows.I had to change the depth to 4 feet to fish this pool and bread flake replaced the worm,bites came fast but I was having no luck connecting,suddenly my float shot under and made its way to the far bank,this was no weed,again a glint of silver,after the panic of the landing net being 30 yards downstream from us had passed the gleaming good sized Roach was thankfully landed,the evening light reflecting off its flanks,I was very pleased with this bar of  Stour silver,photographed this fine specimen was slipped back to the murky pool from whence it came..

As the light faded the Pipistrelle bats came out to mop up the entomological delights,more than one clipping my line as I fished,after a few more lovely Roach We decided it was getting too late to fish,Charlie announcing hopefully that the chip shop was probably still open this late after bedtime(it was only 9:30pm !)

As we drove home the air of the car was thick with the sweet perfume of vinegar dashed chips and excited chatter of what our river season held for us in the coming months….

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Finally its Tench time!

 

An overcast but warm day was upon us,according to all the tomes i have read over the winter now should be the start of tench fishing.

The water was spot on 60F ,ideal a light wind from the north doing little to lower the temperature.

With the swallows skimming the pond for the fly hatch i set up my goldfinch/rapidex on the bottom with a home made cage feeder packed with dead red maggot and my trusty bran and horse feed mix.My hardy set up being set up for float fishing the lilies in the margin not more than 15 feet from my feet,bait for both being nice big lob worms from the allotment.

The early afternoon producing a few crucian carp ,Rudd and an F1 hybrid carp:

 

 

Then about 4pm the Tench came on the feed at one point i had two rods with fish on! well for the next 2 hours it was tench after tench,nothing to shout about by way of size but great powerful fish none the less and after weeks of trying my best finally all the research paid off:

 

 

after all that action it was time for a brew ,today using my vintage Optimus 111 whilst admiring how pretty the pond has become with its chorus of greens and yellows and a family of mallard hatchlings skimming across the surface trying to keep up with mum .

 

 

What a day,I hope to get to the tench pond as I will now call it again very soon.

 

 

JFK and fishing.

Talking about the space race to the moon in the 60’s the then president of America JFK said : “we do not do these thing because they are easy but because they are hard.” and so he could have been equally talking of my hunt for Spring Tench .

This last week or so has seen me chasing tench from pond to lake,sadly the little (and big) Tinca’s have eluded me on my chosen venues,amongst them a local pond that has true crucians and tench with a scatter of silvers.

As I knew only the very basics about Tench I have spent some time reading what some of the greats in angling have to say about them and so now understand a bit more about the habits and lives of the Tench.

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And so a few hours in the evenings I have practicing what i have learned,tench like the dimmer light it is said,they feed usually as the morning star burns bright in the east and when his sister the evening star signals the days is over.getting the banks of the pond in the early hours is problematic being a non driver and so evening fit well with our day ,i get dropped of in the afternoon and picked up when the kids finish youth club by my dear lady wife.

Due the narcoleptic nature of the fishing,defined by the lack of fish interest, I like to keep a kettle on my vintage meths picnic stove,fresh coffee does the trick and combined with a bit of light reading the time flies by.

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One particular swim that screamed out Tench is the one pictured,Tench love the shade of the lily pads,however the water temp was still too cold for the tench a reading of 55 deg F there could just be one starting to awaken from their winter slumber.Despite my best efforts again No tench,however i did manage a couple of small but perfect crucian Carp from a foot from the lilies but in addition to about 10lb of silvers that was all I would manage that day.

A couple of days later I managed a few hours at another local pond,know for its pike and carp I felt sure that there would be some other piscean delights in the shallows.S with one rod on the bottom with a cage feeder and one on the float I sat,and Sat and yes sat a bit longer!

Interestingly as i sat I saw a large brown bat swirl wistfully about the pond surface,it was just then i noticed a good hatch of sedge flies were emerging,the Rudd taking a few stragglers on the surface film,it must be a hungry bat that ventures into the rays of the spring sunshine to fill up on fresh bugs.It occured to me that if the swallows were here yet they too would be making dent in the entomological four course on offer ,sadly they are not here yet all though i did hear a couple chattering up high in the air just the other day at home,I looked up but couldn’t see them,I guess they were merely passing through on their way to the north.

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Along with the Sedge flies were what is known commonly as the Black gnat,or in posh terms Bibio Marci,a name derived by the flies usual time of emerging :St Marks day that being 25th April,a day or two either way in layman’s terms.

Alass other than a dozen Rud and a milt filled  Roach again no tench or for that matter anything else.Determined to catch my quarry Last eve my good lady and the kids along with me decided to grab a fish supper from town and have a couple of hours on Shearwater reservoir,small as reservoirs go but a nice place all the same,the principle fishing there seems to be carp,dotted along the banks are the green igloos,the puff of a disposable BBQ and the occasional call of a bite indicator.

 

I ,as you no doubt know ,favour float fishing  however i chose to fish the dam wall section as on the way in to the venue we noticed the fizz on the surface betraying fish feeding on the day time anglers unused bait that was unceremoniously dumped in at the end of their day.

Fish and chips devoured the kids went to play,charlie set up on a ledger and i settled for a cage feeder.As we sat on the wall we were sure that at thery least we would manage some bream or a small carp.

Strike bobbin set i settled down to watching the bird life on and around the lake,clearly still a hatch of bibio marci along with small midges dancing across the surface.I was startled by a primordial screech,almost pterodactyl like,as the heron effortlessly crossed the lake his belly just touching the surface with the flap of his enormous wings,finally settling on a favorite perch.

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Al this peace was interrupted as my strike bobbin flew up hoovered for a second and then tugged again,i struck into the fish,would it be a tench? a bream maybe? clearly this was not a huge fish and it came up from the green murky depths just below the surface I saw a flash,then as it broke the surface with a tail slap i saw the signature stripes of a fine perch of a good size too ,before long this fine specimen was on the grass being unhooked,haven fallen for a mouthful of lobworms on a size 6 hook  he lay there in his glory,a pb for me,and a delight for sure,and in many ways better than a tench,a decent perch has always eluded me I have had legions of the little buggers of the years none bigger than the float I use to catch them with!

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Photo’s taken old stripes was gently put back to his home,a quick flick of the tail and he was down in the depths to continue feeding with i hoped his big brothers,

The sun that had so unseasonably beat down upon us in the day  gently sank behind the spruces the far side of the lake ,the day visitors were gone and the bats were out in force ,tonight was a good night if you love a juicy bug for supper,the water was calm all but for some ripples as a moorhen jumped into the lake noisily announcing the still freshness of the water temperature.

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Silence,or close to it.The night fishers luminations twinkling on one after another as the darkness enveloped the water.

Zzzzzzzziiiip! up went my strike bobbin again,surprisingly a good fighter but again not a huge fish by any measure,in no time at all and much to my surprise i saw the fins of a perch break the water,once on the bank it was plain to see it was another fine Perch ,pretty much of the same stamp as the first but a little more bttle weary,a split dorsal and a few pike scars on his side,nevertheless a nice fish and again the second big perch in as many hours.

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We sat for another hour and a half ,baiting and rebaiting,not so much as a nibble from the fizz makers below.Still with a new Personal best Perch double It was a great evening and one I hope to repeat sooner rather than later,maybe with a Tench for good measure?

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Carping on.

Well yesterday Charlie and I made the most of the clock change and went to try out a water new to us,managed by Todber Manor but leased to a local club it was full of potential,little did we realise just how much.
We arrived at silly o’clock ,the wind was an annoying 15knott with gusts ,light cloud but a reasonable 13C,the water was still cold to the touch,of the two lakes we chose the furthest,shielded by some evergreens and lower than the first it afforded some protection from the elements even if they were not as bad as the winter trips we have had.
Once on the water it became clear that other than one old boy we had the place to ourselves.The day before we spoke to renowned match angler and allround piscatorial good guy Ray Webster ,he recommended the best swims for us to fish and some methods which we adapted to fit 1950’s tackle.
Whilst charlie started setting up I went to chat to the other angler,a nice chap as it happens,he said it was a bit slow and that he had been on micro pellet all morning since dawn but had only had a couple of fish.
Upon returning to our chosen swim I chucked some bread in close to the margins up wind.Sluuuuuurp! carp on the feed right at our feet.
Charlie chose a size 4 raptor barbless and crust,well to cut a long story short he landed two carp before I had set up my float rig.The chaffinch in the budding hazel stand behind us was announcing that there were danglers and anglers and this boy was no dangler!
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Before lunch charlie had landed 12 carp of sizes from 10+lb down to 5lb,i had managed a few as well on the float on a range of baits from hovis ,sweetcorn to maggot.
I managed to land a small mirror carp that was what appeared to be a melanistic near black and a first for me.
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By the time my dear lady wife turned up early eve,backs were aching from fighting fish,a landing net pole snapped and smiles etched permanently on our faces,Charlie managed a final score of 23 carp landed and probably 10 leviathans lost to the mirk,me? well i had a few and some welcome Rudd.
As we packed away our kit I am sure i saw a pipistrelle bat skim the water,too early? not sure but a sign of better weather,longer hours and warm evenings fishing on our chosen ponds.
BTW Charlie is still smiling and reminding us all that he caught more fish than i…….
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Daffodil Carping.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Conquest

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.

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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.

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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?