Bloody hell, that went quick - but I did manage more time on the riverbank than I thought I would this summer. Here is a quick look back at the closed season and the summer river season before it's wooly hats, floods and frozen fingers time...
Closed Season: I had planned to get out every two weeks but work had other ideas, I did manage a few trips to Marsh Farm where I caught tench, roach and bream - no monsters but it was great to wet a line. I even managed a few elusive crucians the day before the season opened, love these fish. How did I ever manage sitting it out for the full three months?
The highlight of the closed season was my first canal pike - a proper urban pike from the heart of London - a 15 pounder on a lure - great stuff!
June: I had the opening week off work and hit the local river hard, landing 24 barbel in three trips for over 100lb - sixteen of them on the opening day - a much better start than recent years.
Another trip to Marsh Farm produced two new personal best in the shape of a 1lb 1oz rudd and a 6lb 4oz tench in the same afternoon. A rather splendid week off work.
July: I continued to cram some time in on the local river with Saturday mornings and some short after work sessions while I still had some summer light. And as well as barbel I added chub to my target list, landing quite a few to 4lb 2oz.
I achieved a target I've been after for a few years; a pound plus roach from the local river - a 1lb 2½oz beauty - my fish of the month and I hope to bank one or two more through the winter.
August: A trip to The Wye provided a start to the Predator Challenge in the shape of perch, including two over 2lb - I really want to beat my PB this season and would love a three pounder.
I also added trout to this season's species list, normally caught while fishing for something else I had a great afternoon targeting them. And took my barbel tally to 70 fish - would love to see 100 this season but perhaps I should really focus on catching a double.
September: I started the month chasing a monster pike on The Wye, but it wasn't to be. Though I did catch a double and my first Wye barbel in over 10 years - I'll be back for the big girl.
A recce to The Royalty will hopefully come in handy with the pike season and we've made a start on the local zander fishing. An afternoon on the local river took my total to over 80 barbel, the 100 target is in sight.
Predator Time: A few trips already planned to The Royalty, Test and Wye - and I have my mind on some proper monsters next month...
I hit the local river this afternoon, I needed three more barbel to push me over 80 from the river this season - and to cut a long story (and walk) short I got them!
I ended up with six, no monsters the best going 6½lb but my total now stands at 83 barbel for 306lb 9oz. Which leaves me with 17 more to catch over the tougher winter season - and a double to top it off would be great!
A very early 4am start saw me heading down to The Royalty with James and Warren for a two part mission.
Mission 1: Survey the water for future pike trips. With clear water and polarised glassed James and myself walked the entire beat - including the 'swamp' - looking for pike, holes and likely lies where we can cast a bait when the pike season opens in October. With a mental map of the river we have greatly expanded our search area when the time comes - mission success.
Mission 2: Try and find a Royalty barbel - a first for both me and Warren. There was a slight tinge to the water colour and we felt confident. But as the day wore on, and got brighter, the fish just weren't playing - I had a couple of chances but at 8pm we called it quits - even James couldn't tempt one. I did manage a trout on rolled meat to avoid a blank - but the mission was a fail.
After my non-event fishing on Saturday it was great to join James after work for an evenings zander fishing on a local canal. It's fair to say when it comes to zander we are both complete noobs - and to cut a long story short we blanked.
But I think we both took a lot away from the trip - we found zeds - which I think is half the battle. James had one about 1½lb follow a lure and I had three of them together follow in a roach head, all of which were under a pound.
Then I had a run on the drop - nicked the bait. You can't fish a bait on the deck as it's loaded with crabs so we fished about a crab's claw-length above the bottom. But when we started positioning the bait higher in the water column James (fishing mid-depth) started getting runs - even briefly hitting into one of them. Fishing an hour and a half past our intended departure time - we really had run out of time.
I've come away with a bunch of ideas to test, after all it's a learning curve and I can't wait to get back - we'll get one!
Well over a month later my replacement rod finally arrived from Tidal Tackle - a very long wait! The box it arrived in looked thoroughly beaten up, and I remarked to a friend there was no way the rod wasn't smashed - but I opened it and checked it out and was surprised it appeared to have survived being delivered by Mad Max.
I fancied christening it on the local river, stalking carp in the slower, deeper water. First up I baited a swim to come back to - and as I watched the cubes of meat hit the riverbed a barbel about five of six pounds was straight on it - too much to resist.
I quickly set up the new rod and the barbel nailed my bait straight away - one lunge and the rod snapped - WTF??!? I tried to play the barbel on the remaining rod but something got caught and the line snapped. F**K!
It's not just the expense (and long wait) I have very limited fishing time and that cast was my entire week's fishing - what a jip!
I'll be phoning Tidal Tackle on Monday and I'll publish the resulting conversations on here (and Google feedback, Facebook etc). Hopefully they will sort me out with a new rod - but I still can't get my afternoon's fishing back.
Edit: Just keeping track of this here (for a future post).
Ordered new fishing rod from Tidal Tackle Torquay
£27.99 -- rod
£8.00 -- p&p
11 August (1 week)
2x emails went ignored. Got hold of someone on the phone who told me they were out of stock, took my number and told me they would "keep me informed" - they didn't.
9 September (5 weeks)
Rod arrives (to wrong address) in beat-up packaging, must be cracked because it snaps on first fish - 6lb barbel lost.
14 September (6 weeks)
After a couple of attempts, got hold of Tidal Tackle and was told to send the rod back.
£11.99 -- cheapest postage
£2.59 -- cheapest packaging
25 September (7½ weeks)
New one arrived in my office. In pretty bulletproof packaging, even bubble wrapped... Wrong f*cking rod...
I did get a note which explained they had sent me a more expensive rod, £32.99 - five whole pounds more expensive (and something they had knocking about in the shop no doubt). So now I've waited over 7 weeks and spent over £50 on a £32.99 rod I don't want! And I bet they will want me to pay to send it back - I've given up, I'll get it from somewhere else.
Time to try and get my money back. But just in case I'm just composing my 'glowing review' for Yell, Facebook review, Google feedback etc...
Saturday Afternoon: This weekend I headed to The Wye armed with light lure gear in search of more perch to add to the challenge. And it wasn't long before a nice pike appeared between two weed beds and nailed my little Mepps - cracking fight in the clear water and with no snags to plant itself in she was soon ready for the net.
The net was too small for the pike and the bank was too steep to get to the water, and after several attempts to get the pike to stand on her head in the waiting net the hook caught in the mesh and with a shake of her head she was free and sank back into the weeds.
That was about 16lb NOT added to the Predator Challenge!
Really should have brought a pike net, ah well, bit of swearing and back to the perch. And I found them, landing 12 - two of which were over a pound - adding to the challenge weight. When I hooked them you could watch a small shoal of their mates follow them in, grabbing at the blade of the Mepps.
The last one I hooked didn't have his mates with him, instead he was followed in by a monster of a pike - under gunned and without a big enough net I hoped she would still be there tomorrow.
As the sun was fading I rolled some meat under a nearby bush, landing my first Wye barbel in over 10 years (to be fair I haven't fished for them in over ten years) 8lb 4oz. I quickly follow it up with a chub and two more barbel at 7lb 12oz and 6lb 5oz - don't they fight when they have deep water and loads of it?!
Sunday Morning: I was on the riverbank before sunrise, this time I had heavier gear and more importantly a net that was up to the job - hopefully the monster was still there. I rolled some meat under the near side bushes, resulting in a 2lb chub, while waiting for enough light to lure fish.
Back to the monster's lair, and I thrashed the water to a foam with plugs, spinners and shad - she had gone or at least wasn't playing - bugger.
The perch were still there and first cast I nailed one about 1½lb, one for the challenge, until up she popped and plucked if from the Mepps - agggghh!!
I didn't move very far, up and down with an occasional cast over the area I was hoping she'd still be. It wasn't until I had another little perch on again until I saw her, she just missed it and cruised into the shallow water giving me a good look - it was about 14lb...
It's not hard to over estimate the size of a pike from a follow or a snatch, still a nice pike but I thought it was bigger. I looked over at my perch that had just a lucky escape - but something rather bigger was also watching it.
Easily a twenty - and I could see the treble of the Mepp sticking out of the perch's mouth - sorry little perch - she went for it twice - and missed both times - before sinking back to the depths. I unhooked the luckiest perch alive, without a tooth mark on it and popped it back a peg down.
Sunday Afternoon: It was bright and hot and nothing really wanted to play, I had a couple more perch and a jack about 4lb, loosing two more of a similar size.
I could have waited for dusk, barbel time, but I had one thing on my mind...
Monday Morning: Dead baits or bust! If she won't take a lure perhaps she fancies a mackerel? The clock was ticking, back to London this afternoon. First rod was set up and cast out and as I picked up the second rod it was away - with my heart beating through my chest I ran over and struck - a pike about 10lb thrashed to the surface before spitting out the bait and hook and bolting.
Two more dropped runs before I got the second rod in the water which was soon nailed by a hard fighting 10lb 2oz pike. Not the one I was after, but very welcome - beautiful markings but strange looking, short top jaw and one eye bigger than the other - I'll recognise this one if I see it again!
Baits back out I waited, I couldn't change swim - what would you have done? Had she moved or was she only hunting perch? Well, it's the ten pounder's tail in the lead photo, I didn't catch her this time - she's only getting bigger and I'll be back...