Just over a year ago James and I were grayling fishing on a frosty river, after an hour I looked across the field at our tracks in the frost - footprints everywhere - how far had we walked back and forth?
I told TC and she got me a Fitbit watch last Christmas, I’ve worn it every day for a year - not just fishing but obviously chasing fish is a big part of my routine - is fishing a lazy hobby?
The results are in: Over 4.6 million steps or 2,235 miles - that’s the same as 85 marathons or walking from London to Cairo! In fact a friend of mine who also wears a Fitbit is a keen jogger and she didn't travel as far - lazy hobby? Nope!
The second annual Christmas fish off and Dyl, Steve & myself ventured into deep dark Wales in search of rainbow trout. They are stocked fish but it’s catch and release so they’ve seen it all before and in a spring fed, gin-clear pond it’s not easy fishing.
Dyl was first to bump a trout before I nailed one on a twitched Purple Headed Womb Ferret. Next I switched to a fast paced Blue Vained Flute bagging a second fish. And after a few follows I landed a third on a Bucket-Head Bruce Banner from under a bush.
A three fish lead against the fly guys, perhaps it was going to be my year. Steve swapped to a deep diving Tinky-Winky Spam Javelin, bagging his first trout and a One-Eyed Custard Flinger accounted for two more. Tea break; 3-3-0.
Last year’s top catcher, Dylan, struggled after losing a fish early on - and post tea break fishing was tough going. So it was great when one hit his slow sinking Mushroom Headed Meat Weasel while I was there to get a few action shots.
When the sun dipped behind the hill it started to get really cold, and the trout were happy to follow but not hit a fly. Steve bumped a couple before landing one on a Bubblehead Bangstick, I answered with one on a static Slippery Bishop. Four-four.
But Steve had saved the best until last. A big rainbow hit his bottom hugging Bald-Headed Buzzer. Hell of a fight and I remembered I had scales in the car, best of the day 5lb 12oz rainbow to end on. 5-4-1. The day was Steve’s but a great day was had by all.
Cheers guys, same again next Christmas? Oh, by the way, I have no idea what the names of the flies were. (All trout returned alive).
The last Total Flyfisher hits the newsagents this month, gone the way of so many other fantastic angling publications over the years. I'm really going to miss it having written & drawn the comic strip Fluff Chuckers for over 5 years.
Great while the magazine lasted and best of luck to the editor Andy Taylor, the writers & team who produced it. And thanks to the readers who took time to email me, glad you enjoyed the cartoon - perhaps it's time for a new comic strip...
I had been looking forward to this trip for a couple of weeks. Up at 4:30am, a near 6 hour round trip, 4 pints of maggots and 2 packs of roach deadbaits - we were on the bank to watch the sunrise...
When we had light we could see the normally gin-clear chalk stream was high and carrying a lot of colour - cr*p! Stick 'n' pin was swapped for feeder fishing and float fished roach for ledgered sprats...
I had a grayling first cast about 1¼lb and bumped two more in the next two casts - hopes remained high. The next bite was midday, the 1lb 10oz grayling above - and that was to be my last all day.
Not enough grayling to feed Des Taylor (if you're keeping up with fishing news). But a pike would save the day - nope, just one dropped run, they really weren't on it in the dirty water.
James did suggest a move to The Stour early on and in hindsight that would have been a far better plan, but when you've been planning a trip and with such high hopes it's hard to drag yourself away.
December fishing has been tough going so far, the plans have been great - but the weather and the fish don't follow plans. I really hope The Wye is on fine form over the Christmas break...
A new river in search of perch and the plan was to leap-frog down the stretch lure fishing and when we had a hit or follow to concentrate on that area with lob worms and minnow livebaits. With three of us fishing this was a great way to cover a lot of water.
I opted for natural pattern small hard body plugs, not great for hooking up to perch but they love tapping and following them - I hoped they'd give up their hiding spots.
First follows were from a very rare Lea zander, in true zander fashion it was more than happy to follow my lure but didn't want to hit it - at one stage I was making it follow a figure of eight pattern off the rod tip before it got bored and skulked back to the depths.
It had been an early start and fishing in the rain, I really hoped we'd be rewarded with a perch or two but we didn't even spot one all day - really not having a lot of luck with them yet this season.
I did however manage a couple of jacks on the plugs - really nice to get pike from a new river, and somewhere I'd like to return for a double later in the season - and hopefully a few elusive perch.
On the water just after 2pm, a later start than planned but we were going to fish into the dark. We were met by a seal, one of the features of tidal fishing I suppose, and hoped he hadn’t spooked the pike and zander.
To cut a long story short I had a run first cast; a pike about 4lb lost at the net, I blame the net-man (even though it wasn’t his fault). And a run on the last cast; a beautiful, fat, very hard fighting 9lb 11oz pike to end on - tough day!
I did have another run during the day; the float slid away, I struck, looked like a zander but was fighting far too hard - pulling the boat about. Quite a surprise to see a kelt had hit the livebait - a ropey looking bugger, but I hope he survives to come back another day.
Meanwhile James is having rotten luck, unusual for him - I wonder if that will massively turn around by his next blog post?!
Back on the tidal thames in search of predators, and after a lot of hard work bait fishing, we were loaded up with minnows and mini-dace hoping to winkle out some perch and zander (and pike, I know they'll take a small bait).
James had brought along one larger dace and started off trying to find a pike - and it wasn't long before he had a run. Looked about 17lb as it surfaced by the boat before spitting the hook - had we made a mistake with the small bait?
We both lost zander but I finally got one to stay on the hook - my first river zed - 5lb 6oz - and what a beauty. Green stripped back and blue in the pelvic fins - in this gin-clear water they are much prettier than their muddy puddle cousins.
It was to be my only predator of the day - but I'm still delighted, a tidal zed brilliant! I did land this clonking gudgeon while bait fishing, me and James agreed it looked over 2oz but we didn't have mini scales - ah well. I put it back, this one wasn't going to be bait!
I haven’t been fishing for a couple of weeks - a long time for me. After my last trip out chasing pike and grayling I returned home where I’m normally met by my cat, eager to sniff my kit, hands and most importantly the net - but she didn’t appear.
On one of the sofas she was breathing rapidly and unable to move much. A long night and I phoned the vet the moment they opened, an emergency appointment followed by a very long four days in an oxygen tent - but unfortunately they couldn’t save her.
I know to some people ‘it’s just a cat’ but I’m gutted, I miss her greatly, I thought we’d have a least another 10 years together. Nothing to do with fishing but as she occasionally appeared on here and in Jack’s Pike, and meant so much, I couldn’t resist a few photos.
"I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you" said the man behind the counter of the tackle shop when he glanced at the bait tub in my hand, "we haven't got any maggots".
He went on to explain that the course fishing season opened on the first of November and he'd sold out, we weren't the first fishermen he'd disappointed! "It's the same every year" - ummm - OK!
Me and James looked at each other - how could it not have occurred to him to double his maggot order and make more money this week? Bit of an error there...
Options were limited, he had worms... but you're not allowed to use worms... red sweetcorn it was then. I really don't like using sweetcorn for grayling, a difficult task just got harder.
The red corn smells lovely, looks great and the trout love it - but I lack faith, and grayling fishing without faith in your bait isn't ideal - especially in bright, warm conditions.
James has faith - his PB fell to a grain of sweetcorn, the yellow variety, but sweetcorn was a banker to him. Which is probably part of the reason he did so much better than me.
It was a lot of hard work - I only landed one grayling, the 1lb 7oz fish above, best of the season so far, but I'm hoping to better it soon. Wonder what I'll be using for bait next time?
I had a back-up plan to add a new river double pike to the list, and a friend of James' was getting bugged by one downstream. James was first to try and tempt her - but soon went back to grayling...
I took over but despite watching a mid-double try and nail one of Neil's grayling I couldn't talk her into hitting a deadbait. But when I launched a smelt into the tail of the swim it was hit almost instantly.
Brilliant fight (athlete pike in that fast water) before she was ready for the net - James had the pike net - so a couple of attempts getting her in the small net before resulting to chinning her out...
And my hand managed to find the treble inside her mouth - but it was barbless and a bit of blood signals the start of pike time for me. An 11lb 10oz Frome double to save the day! Brilliant!!
The trip ended with me and James finding a beautiful stretch of river as the sun was setting, something to explore next time - but next time will be with faith - and maggots!
In my quest for new venue double pike I hit The Royalty - I've had quite a few pike from here but never a double. I did loose one about fifteen pound at the net last season - time to put things right...
Well despite walking 9.6 miles back and forth carrying a heavy bucket of livebait I only managed three jacks - the one below convincing me I was hooked up to something much bigger in the fast water.
Still, the excitement when that float shoots under is still the best rush in fishing, really can't complain - and I'll be back for a double!
What started seven years ago with rumours of barbel fishing a bus ride away, and rekindled my love of fishing for things other than predators - barbel number 500 is in the bag. It would have been nice if #500 was a double but at 8lb 13oz and a hell of a fight - I'll take it!
Word on the riverbank is they've turned nocturnal, which has made these last ten more difficult as I like daylight fishing. I like to stalk a fish wherever possible, it's nice to spot and target an individual fish - real heart in mouth fishing!
Winter is coming and the barbel are going into hiding, they are leaving the shallows and I'm spotting fewer and fewer fish. The fishing is going to get a lot tougher from here - so I’m glad #500 found the net without a dreaded blank this season.
I also added another four plus chub, number nine, 4lb 3oz above - while I had a barbel resting in the net.
A Brief History
It all started back in September 2010 when Dan and I set out to catch a local barbel, that first season we struggled but eventually had a few splashers, Dan then broke through the three pound mark before I landed a cracking best of 6lb 6oz - we were hooked!
Pike Blog had become Barbel Blog!
The following two seasons we were practically camped out on the riverbank, and after a sharp learning curve we were into the bigger fish, both catching double figure barbel (Dan was first), and our average weight improved to just under seven pounds.
We were on a roll...
My 2013/14 season was written off with work, we did get out a few times - one of which was to be Dan's last trip to the river. I still see him occasionally, we talk about the good old days, he sometimes reads this, and promises to return one day.
Pike Blog returned to pike. And barbel. And all other species!
Since the beginning of the 2014/15 season I’ve mostly fished the river with short (1-3 hour) missions. Bait ‘n’ wait has been replaced with stalking, and specimen hunting with quantity - something to pull my string (although an occasional biggy is rather nice).
A quick trip here and there started to add up... to 500!
And the future; I'd imagine you're expecting me to say 'next target is 1000 barbel' but at this time I have no idea - perhaps? Or perhaps it's a new river, or species, who knows? But five hundred - fantastic! Would never have believed it at the start!
Some Of The Big Girls
Strawberry at 11lb 15oz, caught twice in 2017, initially some confusion over weight - but I'm now sure she was just under twelve.
Stitch in 2016, even though she regularly exceeded double figures this was the heaviest of the three times I’ve caught her, 9lb 14oz.
A scraper double at 10lb 1oz in the summer of 2014, wondered what the winter weight could be but haven’t seen her again.
My personal best - twice! Caught at 11lb 10oz and then a month later at 12lb 4oz in the winter 2013.
The Pig in 2013, I caught The Pig four times between 2011 and 2013 weighing between 9lb 12oz and 11lb 7oz in the photo above.
My first double figure barbel, I had been stuck on 9lb 15oz for so long. Weighed 10lb 6oz back in 2012.
Not included in my count but can't resist posting Dan's first double back in 2011. The Pig at 10lb 2oz - happy - nope - ecstatic!