Wednesday, 8 October 2008


After the wonderful scenery, the wildness and the emptiness of Scotland, it was a little strange to be back in the heart of the commuter rat race, fishing for, what effectively, are farmed rainbow trout.

I have to say though, that the scenery here at this local trout fishery is magnificent. The lake is set in a bowl, the surrounding sides of which are covered in woodland, and it is this bowl shape that protects the fishery from the brunt of the wind. From the lodge the view is spectacular as the trees surrounding the lake are starting to turn their autumn colours and the skies are beginning to herald the onset of the darker months. The sun is lower and the light more angular, enhancing the striking colours of the turning leaves.

The fishing too can be wonderful at this time of year; the fish seem to realise that the harsh months are just around the corner. Today though, the weather was kind and placid, the morning and evening chill displaced by the warm daytime sun. The breeze too was benevolent in its warmth and gentleness, sometimes just putting enough of a corduroy ripple on the water to entice the fish to feed on, or near, the surface.

I intensely dislike using lures when trout fishing, I always have. I feel that, having spent the time with fur and feather poised over my fly-tying vice until my eyes water and my back creaks making imitation nymphs, bugs, beetles and flies to be a pretty near copy of the original and down to size 18s, it’s a shame to throw that all back in the fly box and tie onto the tippet, something, which in effect, is just a gaudy imitation of nothing! Don’t get me wrong, fry imitations do have their place, especially this time of year, but I always prefer the smaller copies of naturals to the large and garish.

Today was no different. I started with a damsel fly on the point and a black beetly fly (a diawl bach, actually) which would have been fishing just below the surface. In fact, it was the damsel which took the first fish after two or three casts. It was only a fish of about a pound and a half but it was a start.

I had a pleasant afternoon, although Harry lashed the water to a foam for only one fish, I caught six, including a chunky 6.02 and a four and a half pounder. Later on in the afternoon as evening approached, the fish moved up to just sub-surface and a twinkle midge immediately did the trick for the penultimate fish, but most were taken a foot or two down. It never fails to amaze me how small you can go down to in hook size to catch, fish were taken on size 10 long shanks (the damsel) right down to a 16 (twinkle midge). I also caught three rudd on the dropper fly, one of which was splashing around whilst I had a trout on the dropper.

I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, I always enjoy this time of year, but when the weather is kind the days can be very special.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Rutland writings

Harry's Tatty Jack
 The annual PAC visit to Rutland took place today and Harry and I, having learned from our excursion last year, stopped off for breakfast on the way, thus missing the mad rush and the lodge prices.

I had to laugh again at the sight of Neville running in his over trousers in his usual manic attempt to be first off the quay and onto the water. Why he thinks it’s so important to be the first away is beyond me, but if it keeps him happy…

Harry and I found some interesting features again, on a different arm to last year, but even though some of the lumps and bumps on the bottom looked very fishy, nothing was tempted from the water. I did have a follow from a lovely looking Perch over some tree stumps. The water was clear enough to see the fish flaring its gills as the Ernie lure reached the surface, before sinking away, fading into the depths like a spectre in the mist.

The day was much better than the windy, rainy day we experienced last year, but it was still a day of changing weather. Cloud, sun, showers, but not much in the way of wind was the order of the day and it wasn’t until late in the afternoon that we encountered a fish.

We were drifting slowly along when Harry quietly said “I’ve just had a follow, Mike.” We continued to drift over the spot and a while later Harry was into a fish on a spring dog copy. It was a tatty looking jack, and it just about destroyed the cheap lure, which probably is a moral in itself.

And that was it. Others caught, but most didn’t; there were two twenties and a handful of doubles and jacks, but the real fish defeated us again.

Still, there’s always next year.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Scottish Magic

Some of my fondest fishing memories are inspired by various sorties into Scotland, and in particular, the Scottish Highlands. I have seen so many wonderful sights there in the past, so many pleasurable little events that seem to occur on a daily basis. The wildlife is more predominant and much more accessible than in Kent, the roads more sparsely filled with cars, rivers and lochs less fished and much wilder, but catching anything large is much more unlikely.

This trip proved to be just as enjoyable, with just as many sightings and breathtaking moments, some wonderful walks and hikes, but certainly the fish proved harder to come by.

My fishing in Scotland is predominated by catching trout in the summer and pike in the winter months, although, in the future, I may wander into the mysteries of salmon fishing and the expense involved with trying to catch the fish that I’ve seen on many occasions in my times by Scotland’s myriad rivers.

Staying in Abernethy, it seemed churlish not to fish the River Nethy, unfortunately, both my trips resulted in two blanks with only one lost fish and a wasp sting to show for my efforts. Incidentally, I have only ever been stung by a wasp once before in my life, and that was on the beach in Deal when I was twelve; this week I was stung three times on three different occasions, reacting quite badly each time with two swollen arms and a lumpy thigh. Including the bee sting last year, I have now been stung four times in 12 months. Perhaps global warming is effecting even the smallest of insects, turning them into grumpy, malcontent beasties with a grudge against us all.

Which reminds me – we took the Mother in Law along this time too.

I managed to winkle out a small trout on the river Beuly for my nine year old nephew Harvey to inspect while we were having an alfresco lunch on the bank in bright, warm sunshine without a breeze or a ripple on the water. That was another wonderful part of this holiday – the weather! The rest of the country was languishing in days and days of unceasing rain, but we had warm, dry and settled weather for the most part, and the few showers we had occurred over night.
I had another smallish trout in a remote stream in the middle of Sutherland, about twenty miles south of Tongue, again whilst having a picnic lunch and a brew from the Kelly Kettle. I just had to show the Mother in Law and Franc the beautiful colours and markings of a true wild trout. A few minutes later we were awed by the spectacle of a Golden Eagle soaring over our heads just a few miles further on. What a wonderfully wild sight that was. The King of British birds just a few hundred feet away from us, wings spread riding the mountain thermals in search of hares, rabbits and other small mammals. Just about the only time the use of the word ‘awesome’ is eminently justified.

One, misty, autumnal morning during the fortnight, I fished the Spey near Broomhill and managed a more respectable fish that provided supper for my wife later on that day, after a boat trip on a local loch provided a couple more for the Mother in Law. It was whilst fishing the Spey and the Beuly that I caught sight of the Salmon heading up river and showing themselves tantalisingly to me on their way. The best glimpse I had was of a fish porpoising out of the water in silhouette just 10 yards from me as I looked upstream into the sun.

My loch trip provided a mixed bag of weather conditions; sunshine and flat calm, a wind change, stormy overcast skies, but, fortunately, no rain. If anything, I could have done with a more consistent breeze and without the change of wind direction. Even so, I caught 8 lovely trout, two of which I took home for supper as I previously mentioned. These fish are mainly 4 or 6 to the pound, but with the occasional half or three quarter pounder showing. There are monsters in here, there are always monsters; that’s one of the reasons we fish – the dream of a leviathan – yet it doesn’t matter if the fish are all small. Fishing is not just about the catching, it’s about the space, the nature, the dream. Fishing, for me is a multi faceted enterprise – I hesitate to use the word ‘hobby’, it seems an inadequate concept – and I love its complexity, its simplicity, its frustration and its joy. But best of all, the most enjoyable, the most fulfilling, the simplest and the most satisfying part of all my fishing is when I’m fishing in Scotland.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Charity Day - The Kelly Twins

Earlier this year, Mark Barrett set up an auction on the Pike and Predators web site in order to raise money for a charity for one of the forum members. I placed a bid and managed to obtain a day with Tim Kelly in his boat on the Thames around Snetterton, just a few minutes from my daughter’s house. Our original plan was to fish for the elusive Zander and Perch and although we tried for them, it was the pike that were predominant through the day.

I met Tim in the car park at 5.30 as the mist was beginning to drift in upward spirals and the day brightened. We immediately launched the boat after some frantic trailer manoeuvring on Tim’s part, and made our way to one of the many weirpools in the area. It turned into a lovely morning and I was surprised at how much the sun shone through the water into the weirpool. The river was a lot clearer than I thought it would be and the sun glinted off the spoon as I retrieved it to the boat at a considerable depth. Tim was into some jacks almost immediately, but it was some time before I started on my catch card.

We caught fish in the weirpools, along the banks; we caught them trolling and casting and we had an awful lot of fun trolling small hornets to catch some perch. Unfortunately, these turned out to be smaller than we had hoped for. However, they were still fun to catch among the pier legs, cabbages and jetties along the river.

We had a shore lunch in a local hostelry which went down delightfully and allowed our clothes to dry after a short, sharp shower had caught us some distance from the pub, and I found Tim to be a great person to chat to. He seems content with life and was having a laugh with his wife on the phone which is always a great sign for a keen fisherman. Being self employed allows him to choose his time on the river to a certain extent and he seems to enjoy company, choosing to fish with friends, rather than alone.

I chose to fish with Tim, because he’s a successful lure angler. I put this success down to his focus, his knowledge of the water and his dextrousness with the boat. His ability to cast and retrieve lures while controlling the electric motor, keeping the boat in position was remarkable and enabled me to fish without having to worry about where I was. I found myself casting and taking for granted the fact that I would be where I needed to be. Tim would turn the boat and say ‘Try over there Mike.’ Or ‘Just by the cabbagy goodness…’, and, sure enough, most times we’d get a hit.

Tim easily outclassed me in terms of numbers of fish catching at least double the number that I did, but it didn’t matter, I had a wonderful day, I caught fish and I enjoyed Tim’s company immensely.

I also caught the biggest fish of the day.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Having been persuaded to do so by Harry at last night’s Thames Gateway PAC meeting, I turned up at the lake with my Pike gear on a brilliant, bright sunny afternoon to find that he had already caught two jacks on the west bank.

He’d caught one on the bottom and one on a drifter float, so I unloaded the car and moved the pile of tackle (where does it all come from?) into the next swim, to Harry’s right, putting two rods on the ledger and one on the drifter. One of the legered baits was popped up and one was flat on the bottom in an attempt to cover all the bets, but they were only just beyond the margins, about 5 or 6 yards out, whilst the drifter was set at around 8 feet and allowed out to about 50 yards. The water here is deep, about 8 feet in the immediate margins, shelving down to a pretty uniform 16 feet or so about 10 – 15 yards out. There are shallower areas, but I think that the pike follow the shoals of bream around and they seem to patrol from 30 yards and beyond.

I was drifting a half herring, and at about 3.30 or so I was retrieving this bait when I spotted a pike following the half herring all the way into the margin. The water is incredibly clear and I watched as the pike lost the bait as it sank below him for a second. He seemed to have a puzzled look on his face – I swear it looked like that – but as I lifted the bait into his vision again he grabbed at it, almost gently, and held it in his jaws for a second or two. Then he turned it and as he did so I lifted into the strike. It was interesting because I could see the moment he had the hooks where I wanted them and when I landed him the hooks were in the scissors and the roof of the mouth. Good stuff! The fish weighed about 5 or 6 pounds and went back immediately it was unhooked.

About an hour or so later, the drifter float was about 50 yards out when the float slid away to the right and out of sight. I lifted into the fish which initially felt larger, but alas, inexplicably came off after a few seconds. They don’t seem to mind drifted half baits, which given the clarity of the water, had bothered me at first, but maybe we credit the fish with a little more discernment than they perhaps have.

That was it for the day, we both packed up at dusk although next time I may stay on into dark.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

First of the Year

I don’t know why I didn’t go Pike fishing today. I suppose I believed it to be warmer than it was, or perhaps I was over optimistic about how far the year has advanced. Or maybe it’s because I’ve not been fishing for so long, I’m out of touch with everything!
Anyway, it was a disaster!


Last night Britain had its biggest ever earthquake; 5.3 on the Richter scale and about three chimney pots fell down and one cat was awfully anxious!

It was on the news all day…

It took me forever to get all the gear ready – it hasn’t been used for a while – but eventually it was all in the car and I was on my way. I fancied a spot of feeder fishing and I thought Harry did too, but he turned up at the lakes with his pike gear! We started on the small lake and tried there all morning, but I didn’t have a touch on maggot or worm, not even a nibble on float fished maggot either.

So after lunch Harry and I moved to the front lake to pike fish with the drifter floats as there was a nice westerly breeze. But although we managed some nice drifts we caught nothing. The water was exceptionally clear even though we had rain earlier in the week and Harry spotted a low double in the margins which he managed to scare off before he had a chance to tempt it with the tiny smelt he had brought along.

And so the day ended with neither of us coming close to catching anything but it was good to spend time on the bank and to chat with Harry again.