Thursday 22 November 2012

Species Hunter on the Telly!

Now, this really is the last post on this blog.

Since the article in the Angling Times both the national and local media have taken an unhealthy interest in the story.

Articles have appeared in the Daily Mail Angler spends two years travelling 60000 miles around Britain in ..., Daily Express The hot rod who has hooked 100 kinds of fish in 3 years | UK News ... and even the Sun (and I kept my clothes on, and no I didn't get to appear on Page 3 with a dolly bird)!

 Last night I even appeared on TV on the Anglia ITV regional news.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by one of Anglia TV's journalist Stuart Leithes, who using the electoral roll found out where I lived and posted a note through the letterbox.

Stuart wanted to do the interview on the bank so last Friday morning we finally filmed an interview on the River Welland near Stamford.

I arrived an hour before I was due to meet Stuart so that I could check out a couple of suitable swims for filming. As I stood on the bridge and looked downstream a kingfisher cut a sapphire blue streak through the air as it flew downstream, if only we could capture this on film. The river was that perfect bottle green colour and the day nice and overcast.

After the customary introductions Stuart and I wandered upstream to a small eddy below a weir to film me fishing. Unbelievably I landed a small chub of around two pounds from almost under the camermans' feet. This chub was not destined for stardom and hit the cutting room floor.

Stuart wanted to film me wandering down the bank so I awaited his signal from the bridge downstream before wandering down to our second swim.  I had to not look at the camera whilst watching for the signal to stop.. tricky that one.  I hedged my bets and baited up with a lobworm hoping to catch a decent perch for the camera. Stuart did some arty filming through the hawthorns opposite to where I was sat before walking back round over the bridge.. After an inconclusive twitch, no doubt a small perch, the interview began.

We chatting on camera for five to ten minutes before I saw out the corner of my eye my yellow bobbin moving, an instant strike saw a good chub on. Unfortunately the fish fell off which doesn't often happen with chub. As you might expect me losing a fish is in the final piece.

Stuart filmed his introductory piece which took five takes - no wonder the interviewer always looks so professional! I only got one take which is my excuse!

After an hour and a half Stuart left to do some more arty filming to act as a backgound to some photo's he wanted to use in the final piece. Within five minutes of Stuart leaving I had a near 2lb perch and the kingfisher returned and fished for minnows just behind where the introductory piece was filmed.

I had to leave early but the rest of the day produced another three chub including a couple of fours to 4lb 8oz. Remarkably I dropped another chub! The fishing was secondary to the experience of being filmed.

Thanks Stuart for a fun hour and producing an entertaining film.

Here is the finished piece:

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The Last Post

With my species challenge successfully completed I have decided that this will be my last post on this blog.

The Angling Times were kind enough to run a feature in last weeks edition which along with the blog will remain as a record of the last three years.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the skippers, fishery owners, tackle dealers and fellow anglers who have helped me to achieve my challenge target. In particular I would single out Gethyn Owen (My Way), Colin Penney (Flamer IV) and Chippy Chapman (Bite Adventures).

After three years I am keen to get back into the pursuit of specimen fish across all disciplines. I might even find time for a few species hunting trips as it would be nice to be the first angler to reach 110 species from British Waters.

Hopefully this blog has inspired you to get out there and seek your own angling adventures. I sincerely believe that someone out there could catch 100 species in British Waters in a single year - are you up for it?

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Bob the Builder catches a Record Blue Shark

Today I was on board 'Bite Adventures' skippered by Chippy Chapman out of Penzance in search of sharks. An average day sees 6-8 blues landed with the boat record at 186lb. As we sailed the ten miles out to sea, little did we know what the day held in store!

As Chippy prepared the rubby-dubby mix the rest of us set about the task of catching fresh mackerel for bait, and to supplement the rubby-dubby later in the day.

Three sacks of rubby-dubby were hung overboard, so that with each roll of the boat, some of the smelly concoction would be washed out of the bags downtide setting up a scent trail.

The anglers on board drew lots to decide who would take the first, second, third shark etc. This is common practice when using hire gear. Four shark outfits were set up and before long a line of floats were awaiting the sharks. The nearest rod was set shallow with the depth increasing the further out the rod was fished. Bob the Builder, Bob Pollard of the Looe Sea Anglers Club, set up his own rod and a fifth float joined the lineup.

"Shark!" exclaimed Chippy. A group of excited anglers watched as a large blue and a smaller fish worked their way up the trail before disappearing into the depths. Seconds later the reel screamed on the closest rod and the first shark of the day was on. The shark sounded for the bottom, however the hook pulled out after only a few seconds. From the way it dived for the bottom Chippy suspected that we had just lost a Porbeagle.

Within seconds another reel was screaming and Chippy passed the rod to me. The fight was soon over as the shark was only around 40lb and had wrapped itself up the wire trace.

Several of us set up light freelining or float tackle to fish for the specimen garfish that also work their way up the rubby dubby trail. It was great fun with multiple hookups and specimen garfish providing aerial battles on the light tackle. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the largest, a 3lb fish to Shane. My largest weighed in at 2lb 2oz and there were other fish landed in the two pound class.

After the initial excitement, all had gone quiet on the shark front. Chippy suggested to Bob that he might like to try a bigger bait near the bottom. We were drifting in around 250 feet of water.

Bob baited up with a big mackerel flapper and using 8oz of lead to keep the bait down set his float 220 feet deep. Bob's float sailed out past the furthest float and the wait recommenced. After a short wait Bob's reel clicked couple of times and the rod tip pulled over out of sync with the movement of the boat.

"Bob, you have got a shark", someone shouted, and with that Bob tightened.

It was obvious that this was a big fish as the shark took a fair bit of line off Bob's fairly tight drag. Chippy asked Bob whether he needed to start the engine ready to follow the shark. Bob said not yet. The rest of us reeled in the other lines to avoid the big shark fouling them.

During the fight Bob on a couple of occasions cavalierly twanged the taut braid like a guitar;  he confessed later that he just needed to rest his arms. Unlike mono which has a certain amount of stretch, on braid everything is felt by the angler.

After half an hour or so the shark surfaced, with the wire trace wrapped around its body. Chippy grabbed the tail and started to unravel the wire, as one more turn would have resulted in the braid rubbing against the shark resulting in a lost fish. It took three people to drag the shark on board through the open gate at the stern of the boat.

The fish was nicely hooked in the scissors, and was quickly unhooked before having its vital measurements taken. The tape measure recorded the length as 98 inches and the girth as 45 inches. Although not exceptionally long,  this fish was exceptionally deep in the body. Chippy suspected this might be Bite's first 200lb blue shark and the charts confirmed a weight of 248lb.

Bob and Chippy were both insistent that the shark be returned, which meant that they could not claim the official British Record. The shark seemed rather dazed and swam around the boat giving us all one last view before swimming off into the depths.

Another small shark of around 40lb completed the day's sport.

Those of us on board were privileged to witness this extraordinary fish. It couldn't have happened to a better bloke, all credit to Bob for returning the fish.

As we sailed back into Penzance it all seemed a little surreal, Bob the Builder had just landed a British Record Blue Shark!

For the record the tackle Bob used was:

Rod: Penn Torque 30lb Class
Reel: Penn Torque 200
Braid: 65lb Whiplash
Trace and Strop (Rubbing Leader): 480lb Wire
Float: Drink Bottle
Lead: 8oz

Here are a couple more shots of the monster.

Sunday 16 September 2012

The Giant of St Michaels Mount

St Michael's Mount is an island that is only accessible from the mainland at Marazion via a causeway, for a couple of hours either side of low tide.

Legend says that the mount was originally built by a giant named Cormoran. This giant lived on the Mount, and he used to wade ashore and steal cows and sheep from the villagers to feed his gargantuan appetite. 

One night, a local boy called Jack rowed out to the island and dug a deep pit while the giant was asleep. As the sun rose, Jack blew a horn to wake the angry giant who staggered down from the summit and blinded by the sunlight fell into the pit and died. 

Today St Michael's Mount is run by the National Trust and attracts a myriad of visitors. If you are down here on holiday it is well worth a visit.

However I was here in search of the giants that still inhabit the Mount, or rather the rockpools that are exposed at low tide. Rather than employing the traditional rockpooling outfit of a net and bucket, I was armed with rod and line. 

Rather self consciously I wandered off to the left of the causeway towards the furthest rockpools. Luckily the tourists continued crossing the causeway and ignored the idiot who was perched on the rocks like a giant garden gnome fishing a tiny garden pond.

The giant's live in the crevices and gaps between and under the larger rocks within the rockpools. 

As I lowered my ragworm section next to a likely boulder, a giant came out from under the rock as quick as a flash, inhaled the worm and returned to its lair.

The giant of St Michael's Mount was finally revealed as a giant goby

Friday 17 August 2012

The Trophy Room

Although I am not a match angler I have entered or been entered into a range of competitions. 

As a youngster I used to send in details of my specimen coarse fish captures to gain Kingfisher Guild Certificates from the Angling Times. An Angling Times Top Ten badge was proudly worn for a while, this was the mark of a true specimen hunter at the end of the seventies.

My allegiance then changed to the Anglers Mail, and at one stage I used to send in photos for publication. In those days the Anglers Mail paid £25 for each photo it used. Believe it or not, a 5lb 9oz Welland Chub back in 1989 won me a reel as the fish of the week. How things have changed, even a six pound chub barely gets a mention nowadays!   

Various badges from Trout Fisherman and Sea Angler Magazines have arrived in the post and like the Angling Times Top Ten Badge have briefly adorned fishing clothing. I don't recall ever entering a trout, it being good publicity for day ticket fisheries.

My match career is limited, I have entered one trout fishing match. I travelled all the way to Bure Valley Fishery in Norfolk to find that the only way I could fish that day, was to enter a competition. I fluked a four pound rainbow first cast and walked off with a trout rod for the biggest fish of the day.

Despite this glittering array of awards I had never won a trophy until a couple of years ago when I was the weakest link in a two day RNLI competition aboard Colin Penney's Flamer III. Today I finally got another trophy to accompany it after accidentially winning a Portland and Surrounding Waters competition aboard Flamer IV.

 I have entered several matches aboard Flamer, simply because this has given me access to species rich areas that would not normally be visited during a charter trip. During Colin's matches I have landed several new species including the rare Red Band Fish and the Baillions Wrasse. Whilst I admire match anglers, I have no real desire to compete and continue to concentrate on trying to catch new species. I felt that I had a chance of Trigger Fish, Dragonets and Butterfly Blennies and fished accordingly. Unfortunately I failed miserably and yet again, the angler next to me caught the only Butterfly Blenny of the day. 

I was truly astonished when Colin announced that I had not only landed the most species but was also the points winner by some way. I don't really understand why, as I am sure that Steve Clements the runner up caught far more fish than me. However I would have happily swapped the kudos for Steve's  Butterfly Blenny and the weakest link spot!

Where is my trophy room, the downstairs loo of course!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Small Eyed Ray!

The muddy waters of the Bristol Channel are famed, both for their strong tides and the quality of fishing. August is a good time to fish for the small eyed rays so I booked a couple of days with Kevin Axtell on Seren y Mor out of Swansea Marina. As well as the rays there was also a chance of a trigger fish showing on the inshore wrecks and rough ground to the west of the port.

I arrived in Swansea the evening before the trip and spent a little time familiarising myself with the location, finding the tackle shop and Kevin's pickup point ready for the morning. Rogers tackle in Pilot House Wharf opens early enabling anglers to purchase bait prior to boarding your charter boat.

I phoned Kevin after 7pm to check whether the trip was on and although the forecast wasn't great we would be able to get out. Unfortunately Thursdays planned trip was cancelled as stormy weather was forecast to arrive wednesday evening.

After collecting some bait from Rogers Tackle I joined a mixed party of individuals on Seren y Mor. Kevin explained that we would be heading east due to the weather conditions and would be unable to get out to the offshore banks. Kevin's crew for the day was his father David.

Swansea Marina is joined to the sea via a lock and we joined a small flotilla of boats in the lock eagerly anticipating a day at sea.

We headed east out of Swansea down into the Bristol Channel. The shoreline became more industrial as we passed Port Talbot. Our first mark was on broken ground and we could expect smoothounds, eels, huss and the ever present lesser spotted dogfish that abound in welsh waters. Off Holyhead they are called Welsh Tiger Shark and here they are called Swansea Salmon!

As the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel are shallow I set up an uptider and lobbed my bait away from the boat, to get out of the scare zone.

Fish baits produced a string of LSDs with the odd small bullhuss. As smoothounds were being landed to crab, I baited up with crab and had three in three casts. The biggest hound just into double figures fell to Ray. It appears that the smoothound fishing is prolific with the larger hounds, fish to fourteen pounds being caught in May and June.

Our second mark offered a chance of a small eyed ray so I set out my stall with a large sandeel tipped with a strip of squid. It was tempting to go for the hounds as other anglers landed fish to just into double figures whilst my beautifully presented sandeels attracted a string of LSDs.

Ray joked that he had small eyes and therefore was a "small eyed Ray".

As the wind was not as bad as expected we pushed offshore to a sandbank for our third and final mark of the day. Kevin advised that this was a prolific ray mark.  We timed our arrival to coincide with the tide reaching it's peak, which is when the rays feed best on a Neap tide. On Spring tides the first and last hours of the tide provide the optimum conditions on this mark.

We anchored on the slope and fished down the bank, within minutes I had a series of slow taps as a ray maneuvered its body over the bait. I had expected the rod to pull over but the taps continued. I wound down and my first small eyed ray of around three pounds was boated. The next five casts produced a further five small eyed rays to nine pounds. I was surprised how well these fish fight compared to other rays that I have caught.

Thanks to Kevin and David for a super days sport out of Swansea. I will be back for a crack after a trigger fish.

Wednesday 27 June 2012


The weatherman forecast a break in the weather, a phone call to Chippy confirmed that Wednesday's planned charter trip aboard Bite Adventure out of Penzance was on. However the wind was due to pick up again and unfortunately with 20mph winds forecast Thursdays planned shark trip was not going to happen.

I was joined on this trip by three members of the Looe Sea Angling Club and a couple of sea angling novices. As the tides were not favourable for drifting the sandbanks the plan was to anchor a reef in search of a couches bream and perhaps do some drifting later in the day when if wind and tide permitted.

The sail along the coastline towards Lands End took us past some of the South-West's most picturesque coastal scenery, not that you would have known as the sky was overcast and sea mist filled the skies threatening rain. Within sight of Lands End Chippy cut the engine and we started to feather up mackerel for bait.

 I fished mini sabikkis just in case any pilchards were swimming with the mackerel. As usual I used a shiny pirk as my weight as I am convinced that the flash attracts baitfish. Within minutes the crew had feathered up enough mackerel for bait, a shoal was located near the surface. It was noticeable that these were small joeys, a sign of commercial overfishing perhaps!

Chippy anchored the boat so that our baits would be fishing down the edge of the reef in 160 foot of water. If truth be told the fishing was slow, but gradually the species tally grew with pouting, pollack, haddock, dogfish, cod, red, grey and tub gurnards. Bob, one of the Looe members lost a decent fish that bit through his hooklength. Chippy and I then landed fish that had fresh wounds, my male cuckoo wrasse had a deep gash in one of its flanks. We speculated whether a tope or even a blue shark might be responsible. One of the anglers put down a mackerel flapper searching for an answer to the mystery, however the resulting conger was a "red herring"!
After lunch we moved off the reef, as the tide was strengthening and started to drift the sand banks. This is interesting fishing, a thin strip of mackerel on a running ledger is dragged along the bottom as the boat drifts. The reel is kept in free spool with a thumb on the spool ready to feed line when a fish takes to enable it to take the bait properly. As the boat drifts the angler can feel every undulation on the sand bank and bites can be difficult to detect but usually consist of a sharp rattle on the rodtip.

I missed my first bite and Bob landed a megrim, a rare flatfish marketed as Cornish Sole by Waitrose. A frustrating few drifts followed where I only managed a grey gurnard, whilst Bob managed a couple more megrim and an angler on the other side of the boat also managed a brace of megrim. A brill to one of the holidaying anglers added insult to injury.

Was today just one of those days?

Next drift the tip rattled and I let off some line before winding into a fish. Chippy stood by with the net as a flatty came into view. Was it a turbot? When Chippy said it was a brill my legs went to jelly. "Please stay on", I thought and it seemed an age before the fish slid over the net. After 30 months I had finally achieved my goal of 100 species from British waters.

But there was more to come. Next drift I landed a megrim, the sixth to the crew and another new species for me. I was now brimming with confidence and half expected a greater weaver, a common catch off Porthcurno but it was not to be. With the fog closing in, Chippy called it a day and we set sail for Penzance.

Thanks Chippy for a brill day about Bite Adventure!

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Glorious Failure

My trip to Cornwall coincided with the arrival of yet another depression. The type that brings strong winds and heavy rain. The resultant cancelled boat trips could have brought on a diffferent type of depression.

My options were limited from the shore I could potentially target gilthead bream and three bearded rockling. However the rockling normally show during the winter so I decided to concentrate on trying for a bream.

Gilthead bream are a warm water species and at the right time can be found in numbers on the Fal and Helford rivers. As the tide floods, the bream run up the estuaries up to the top of the creeks where they feed on worm beds and peeler crabs.

Access to the Fal and Helford rivers from the shore is limited and this is one venue that is better approached with a small boat or kayak. I was aware of one definite mark towards the top of one of these rivers and decided to concentrate my efforts there.

I fished a number of tides, however with the heavy rain colouring the water and bringing in an influx of fresh water I was not confident. Unsurprisingly my paltry catch for all this effort was a single flounder. So far I have had four sessions after a gilthead bream without success.

A night session on Penzance Pier after a three bearded rockling was another glorious failure, resulting in pollack and yet more shore rockling.

One day, I will return to Cornwall and bag both these species!

Thursday 24 May 2012

It's the wrong Rockling Gromitt!

Three Bearded Rockling are not normally targeted by sea anglers so there is little information available on how to catch this member of the cod family. They are normally found on rocky marks which for an angler terrified of heights causes a few issues. I had been advised of a number of potential marks but only one, Holyhead Breakwater did not involve a horrendous scramble down a steep rock face to reach it.

As Three Bearded Rockling are normally caught after dark I decided to fish three short after dark sessions to try to catch one.
 My visit to Anglesey had coincided with the first heat-wave of the summer and I witnessed some fabulous sunsets.

The outside of the breakwater is very rocky and I was told to expect to lose loads of gear. I was advised that the ground was snaggy up to sixty or seventy yards out so I fished relatively close in amongst the rocks.

Knowing that three bearded rockling were normally caught by accident whilst fishing for conger I decided to fish with decent sized mackerel strips.

The first session I fished thirty to fifty yards out and had pollack, dogfish and a couple of shore rockling.

Taking advice from Geth the next couple of sessions I fished closer in and caught rockling after rockling with several double shots. However despite catching between twenty and twenty-five rockling I had failed to catch the target three bearded rockling.

Catching species 100 is proving harder than I expected and it will be June before I can next target a "new" species.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

What are you gonna do when the hounds are calling?

Smoothhound are perhaps the most sporting fish found in our seas. Although I have now caught a number of hounds I have not caught a double.

The waters off Anglesey see a run of smoothhound each year during late May and June. These are not small fish with doubles being average and fish to twenty pound plus a distinct possibility.

I had four days booked on board Gethyn Owen's My Way. Geth advised that the hounds hadn't yet arrived in numbers and sport was a bit patchy. Despite this, one twenty pounder had already been boated. My trip coincided with a spell of settled weather, a mini heatwave in fact.

The plan was simple, do some scratching until the tide was right and then move onto the hounds. This meant that everyone caught a few dogfish, dabs, codling, whiting etc before settling down to the waiting game.

Most of the lads rigged up with uptiders, not having a light uptider I set up a carp rod. In retrospect I think it was a little soft and could have done with some more backbone. I struggled to bring a small balled up hound against a strong tide! Four foot of 50lb line with a 4/0 hook baited was baited with a peeler crab. Interestingly Geth favours not peeling the crab and passing the hook through the abdomen before tying on the crab with some bait elastic. This minimises the number of dogfish (these welsh waters are paved with LSDs).

Day 1 was a little choppy and hard going, I blanked on the hounds. Day 2 I landed a couple including a new personal best at 12lb 8oz. These fish really do go and my light rod hooped right over as a hound decided to scream off on another run. Day three I added a couple of small ones and on the last day I kicked off with another double before losing a good hound when the leader knot parted. I was gutted as this was a good fish lost through bad angling. I will spend some time testing out different mono to braid knots when I get home to minimise the chances of this happening again.

Geth's usual collection of dodgy music and bad jokes kept the crews entertained whilst we waited for the hounds to oblige.

Over the four days the crew averaged 5-8 hounds per day with the best weighing 18lb plus. I was happy with 5 although I was perhaps a little unlucky with the size as the average was probably around 13lb.

Geth put on the Prodigy who sang "what are you gonna do when the hounds are calling". I just said "lose them".

Tuesday 24 April 2012

What is happening to freshwater fishing?

What is happening to freshwater fishing?

1. Small stillwater trout fishing has brought trout fishing to the masses, however stocking larger and larger trout has devalued the capture of a big wild trout. Even reservoirs are not immune to the stocking of brood fish! Much as I enjoy catching doubles on these fisheries it always feels somewhat artificial.

2. Fishing for those silver tourists, the salmon and sea trout isn't what it was. Even if your wallet can stand the cost, catch returns from most of our rivers are pitiful. How lucky were those anglers who fished before the 1970's when the decline kicked in.

3. What is it about carp Commercial stillwaters are in many cases so seriously overstocked that visiting match anglers have to catch a hundred pounds of pasty carp during a five hour match to stand a chance of the prize money. Visiting pleasure anglers are guaranteed a bite every few minutes. The RSPCA and environment agency stand by and do nothing about this animal cruelty. Overstocking to that extent is cruelty, period!

4. Where are the young anglers ? Those few youngsters that can be tempted away from their screens are obsessed by carp fishing. Youngsters get all the gear, flock to the nearest carp fishery and camp out until they either get bored of carp fishing or catch a big carp or two and give up fishing because camping out for days behind multiple rods is frankly a bit boring and not real angling.

5. When I was younger a twenty pound carp was a real achievement, nowadays there are waters where every fish landed will be a twenty. Carp fishing has gone the way of stillwater trouting which has devalued the sport.

6. Many of our rivers have suffered serious declines. My local welland for example is a shadow of it's former self. Thirty years ago I could walk a mile of river and spot fifty or more chub,and shoals of small fish were everywhere. Now if I walk that same mile of river I am lucky to see any chub and small fish just aren't present. Cormorants clear a stretch of river as soon as the fish reach six inches or so. Otters which have been reintroduced without any consideration of the entire ecosystem pick off the few remaining specimen sized fish to eke out a living. That river of the seventies would have happily supported otters!

Rant over.

PS. Went fishing for the first time in a month and caught a stack of silver bream up to 1lb 7oz. The highlight of my day was seeing "ratty", it must be a decade since I last saw a water vole.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Relics from the Ice Age

In Falkus and Buller's Freshwater Fishing there is a chapter about the Whitefishes. These game fish are an ancient relic of our glacial past and are probably surviving remnants of migratory stocks which became land-locked during the last ice age.

There are two species, the common whitefish (represented by the powan, gwyniad and skelly) and the vendace. Each species is found in only a handful of glacial lakes in Snowdonia, Lake District and Scotland. The powan is the most common of these and is found in Loch Lomond, Loch Eck and Loch Carron.

Very few whitefish have been caught on rod and line, mainly because few anglers have ever tried to catch one. In Freshwater Fishing, Dick Walker speculates how he would set out to catch a powan from Loch Lomond and suggests that they should be regarded as a kind of stillwater grayling. Dick suggested either flyfishing during the summer or fishing worm or maggot during the winter.

Fred Buller once held the British record with a powan of 11.25 oz caught from Balmaha Pier whilst catching roach to use as bait for Lomond's legendary pike.

Powan spawn on gravel shallows at the mouth of the Endrick River and at this time of year, if you are lucky like Buller one may happen along whilst roach fishing from Balmaha Pier.

The introduction of the ruffe to Loch Lomond has impacted badly on the Powan as they feed on the powan's eggs.

I am ashamed to say that it was pike anglers (through discarded livebaits) who introduced the ruffe and other non indigenous species including bream and carp to the loch.

If you have ever wondered how to keep maggots in perfect condition on an extended trip I can reveal a foolproof method. After purchasing your maggots from the tackle shop:

1. Place them in a bucket in your bait fridge and  let them chill off for a couple of hours.

2. Tip the maggots into a polybag, suck out all the air from the bag and tie off.

3. Put an ice block or two in the base of a decent cool box, add a thick layer of newpaper, then place your polybag(s) in maggots in, add another thick layer of newspaper before finishing off with more iceblocks.

When you open the bags the maggots look dead, don't panic as after a couple of hours they will be as lively as the day you bought them from the tackleshop.

My first sight of Lomond did not disappoint, this is a stunning location. My plan was to fish a maggot feeder for roach hoping that a powan might happen along.

Balmaha Pier is a popular location and to avoid the crowds on the Saturday and Sunday I fished to the right of the Pier. I set up a light quivertip rod and started off with a helicopter rig with a short hooklength. Initially I struggled to find my rhythm but by lengthening the hooklength I started catching a few roach, perch and ruffe. Indeed I caught more ruffe in four days on Lomond than in the last 30 years of angling!

On the Sunday one of the anglers on the pier caught a powan of around a pound. It was clear that the bulk of the roach, (and powan?) were about twenty or thirty yards to my left.

I made an early start on Monday to secure the swim. I need not have worried as I had the place to myself.
I started catching roach from the off, pristine little fish in the four to eight ounce bracket with the odd larger fish to a pound. During the course of the day I was lucky enough to bag three powan with the largest at 1lb 2oz.

I returned on the last day of my holiday and managed a further five powan to 1lb 3oz.

It is weird but in the photo's they look more like herring, but in the flesh they look like grayling without that sail like dorsal.  Being a game fish they put up a reasonable fight for their size. Powan must not be kept in nets as they are fragile fish.

I had enjoyed my week with this relic from the Ice age and finally achieved a long held angling ambition.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

It's a long way to Lochaline!

It didn't look that far on the map, honest!

My cunning plan was to enjoy a trip through the magnificant scottish scenery culmulating in a few hours after a butterfish or yarrells blenny for the species hunt,

After a trip to Oban to purchase bait I travelled north through magnificent Scottish countryside. The journey took me up to Fort William around the perimeter of various sea lochs. Fort William is remote.

Lochaline is a really remote, it was about sixty miles from Fort William, of which thirty miles of the road is single track. What a journey, I stopped to admire red deer, buzzards and my first golden eagle which posed for me on a fence post.

The water off the Pier at Lochaline is deep, it took a minute and a half for four ounces of lead to hit bottom. The fishing was dire and all I caught was a solitary leopard spotted goby. I am sure if I had been able to source some ragworm things might have been different.

After my days fishing I got back in the car and realised that I had a one hundred and fifty mile drive ahead of me! I started to sing, it's a long way to Lochaline.....

Sunday 12 February 2012

The Thames Smelt a bit Fishy!

A number of reports in scientific journals suggested that smelt gather in numbers in the tidal Thames at this time of year before migrating up river to spawn in freshwater.

The smelt is better known as that pike bait that smells of cucumber. Despite having used them on a number of occasions, I have only ever caught one pike on a smelt, albeit my personal best at twenty-four pounds.

Although we were still in the grip of cold weather I decided on an attempt on a Thames smelt as:

1. There was a spring tide with high tide at 4.11pm
2. There had been a report of a smelt caught at Erith Pier a couple of weeks earlier
3. I could not get back here for at least 3 weeks by which time my opportunity would be over.

To cut a long story short I failed to catch a smelt. Actually, no one on the pier caught a fish of any description! In fact no one fishing on the pier seemed to have heard of smelt being caught from the Thames.

Those scientific journals were begining to smell even fishier than a smelt!

Saturday 4 February 2012

Ice hole fishing for Trout!

When the water temperature drops below 40 degrees most coarse fish stop feeding. Rather than struggle away on the rivers I like to dust down the fly rod and have a relaxing days fishing for rainbow trout.

I like the fact that you can visit a new stillwater trout fishery with every expectation of catching a few fish on your maiden visit. My stillwater trouting falls into two camps, either fishing big fish waters that offer a chance of a double figure trout, or catch and release waters where I can enjoy a days fishing without  having to stop once the agreed bag limit is reached.

I decided to visit Withern Mill in Lincolnshire, a five lake complex which has the added bonus of half of mile of river holding grayling. I purchased a two fish ticket which enabled me to catch and release once my limit had been reached.

I arrived to find a hard frost and a dusting of snow.  Three of the five lakes were frozen solid and there was a small clear patch on the other two lakes around the inlet pipes. On lake two the ice hole was about twenty yards by ten and perhaps half that on lake five.

The morning was spent trying to catch a grayling on an upstream nymph. Every few casts I had to clear the ice from the rings of my little brook rod. Every time the line stopped I struck, three sticks, loads of weed and a foul hooked stickleback resulted!

After a warming cuppa in the "refreshments shed" I set up my heavier outfit with an intermediate line, tying a white nomad on the end of a twelve foot leader. First cast into lake two, the line tightened and I was into a fish of around two pounds. A couple of casts later I was into a second fish, which came off!

After another warming break in the "refreshments shed" I returned and again first cast everything went solid, I lifted into a powerful fish that went screaming off to my left under the ice. Eventually I managed to net the rainbow which went exactly 7lb on the fishery scales.

Over the next couple of hours I had some more fish in the two pound class before the pull of the river became to strong. I spent the last hour trying in vain for a grayling. The water did have a tinge of colour and maybe that was the reason for my lack of success.

I heard a high pitched peep which was swiftly followed by that sapphire blue flash as a kingfisher flew upstream past me, what a nice ending to the day. With the temperature falling fast I decided to set off for home so that I would be back on the A16 before it was dark. I suspect the ice will claim the rest of the lakes surface overnight and the fish will be left in peace for the next few days.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Plan B

I was supposed to be boat fishing out of Poole today, unfortunately my planned trip after blonde rays and spurdogs coincided with the belated start of winter. Freezing temperatures and a force 5 easterly wind mid channel meant that both days were cancelled.

After last year's plethora of cancelled boat trips it was a disappointing start to this year's boat fishing calendar. Shore fishing at this time of year is at a low ebb so it was no surprise when I failed to catch anything from Swanage Pier (my very poor Plan B).

If you regularly read this blog you may have noticed that I have had several wasted trips to the coast over the last couple of years. In future I am going to pack an emergency outfit into the car which will enable me to either fly fish or pursue estuary mullet. All the kit I need should fit into the pockets of a waistcoat.

Saturday 21 January 2012

River Piking

I have been an angler now for over thirty years, and in all that time I have never attempted to catch river pike. I decided to put that right and spend a day on a day ticket stretch of my local River Nene.

My plan was simple, to fish a single rod and spend twenty minutes in each likely looking swim. Hugh Tempest Sheringham wrote "A float is pleasing in appearance, and even more pleasing in it's disappearance".  Like Sheringham I like to use a float wherever possible, so I fished my deadbait well over depth with the sliding float lying flat on the surface.

During the course of the morning, the appearance of my float was indeed most pleasing and three times I became even more pleased as it slid downstream submerging as it went. None of the pike were leviathans, the largest being perhaps eight pounds.

Like many rivers nowadays I had the stretch to myself and the wildlife. This part of Northamptonshire is a stronghold of the Red Kite.  I watched one of these magnificent birds soaring up and down the valley in the strong winds. It wasn't hunting but seemed to be just out enjoying the windy conditions.

Unfortunately my day was cut short mid afternoon when my landing net broke, the metal thread connecting it to the landing net pole had sheared. As the banks were not suited to chinning a fish out I called it a day.

Although I have spent many days in the past piking on stillwaters, and been lucky enough to catch a sprinkling of twenties, frankly I find it all a bit boring! For me, winter fishing is all about rivers and after 30 years I think I have finally found a way to enjoy catching pike. Next winter I will target a twenty pound pike from the Nene.

Sunday 1 January 2012

X marks the Spot

For the river angler January to mid March sees the best of the fishing with most species in prime condition. Chub are my favourite target, but I have also had some of my largest roach, dace, perch, grayling and barbel in these last couple of months of the river season.

I am never in a rush to get on the riverbank at this time of year, and it was late morning before I arrived on the banks of the Upper Welland. Although overcast and unseasonably mild I suspected the clear low water would provide difficult fishing.

I scaled down my hooklength to 4lb fluorocarbon as the river was so clear, and only needed a single swanshot to hold station when fishing to the far back. As there are a few decent Perch on this stretch, I decided to bait up with lobworms and reserve the cheesepaste for after dark.

As expected I fished the first four swims without a bite, although I nearly hooked a fully grown labrador. The dogs idiot owner threw it's ball into the river just off my rod tip, which was naturally retrieved. Thankfully the labrador somehow avoided tangling itself up in my line.

The next swim down was a deep hole where one has to poke the rod through a gap in the trees. Here was a deep eddy which Mr Crabtree would have marked with an X for perch. I missed the first bite, the bobbin rose slowly to the rod, bream thought I. Two minutes later another slow and deliberate bite resulted in my largest small river bream to date at 7lb 1oz.

This was followed by an altogether different bite, the bobbin rising in a jerky manner. Perch thought I , and a nicely conditioned perch of 1lb 7oz was netted. The next perch fell off which as I expected killed the swim.

My next swim was a massive flood raft, Mr Crabtree would have marked this with an X for chub. As expected a chub resulted and a good one too at 4lb 14oz. It had the length of a five but was hollow. Revisiting three of the swims I fished earlier through dusk and into the darkling resulted in three further chub to 4lb 8oz.

What a lovely day on a delightful little river,  I somehow think that Mr Crabtree would have approved.