The stats are in for another year - time to see how far I walked with my lazy hobby in 2019. Very slightly less than the last two years but still over two thousand miles - 2,099 miles - or 80 marathons!
Three years is enough to see the average is over two thousand miles a year - so over 22,000 miles since starting this blog - and God knows how many miles since first picking up a fishing rod... Lazy? Nope!
Before heading back to London it was time for the fourth annual Christmas fish-off, so after a cracking fried breakfast me, Steve and Dyl ventured across the border to Wales for a bit of fly fishing...
And it was tough going - the trout really didn’t want to play today. Steve eventually managed a little rainbow, and a few hours later Dyl landed a little tiger - a beauty and the first one I’ve ever seen...
Not my day, none for me - but that really didn’t matter - a great day fishing rounded off with a couple of pints. Same again next year - I hope so - I’ll win one sooner of later - bit more practice required!
Far from ideal conditions - but I had to wet a line in the river this Christmas! A couple of hours and a wander. And a sprat lowered into a tiny slack did the trick - a 13lb 6oz River Wye pike - lovely!! (+1.7)
After a few proper frosts I knew the barbel fishing would be tough, and although I could find fish they didn’t want a bait. It took about three hours to find a shoal of feeding barbel and I quickly bagged two about 5lb and 3lb - then James phoned...
“Are you still on the river? I’ve popped down for an hour” I told him I was and I’d found fish, “come and meet me, try and bag one”. It didn’t take him long, a 6lb 10oz barbel first cast - followed by one about 3lb half an hour later. James left - it got cold - I left...
A shoal of feeding barbel in December? I was back for a couple of hours the next day! Unsurprisingly they had vanished - but I thought I’d have a few casts in likely spots on the way back up the river - landing one about 4½lb - then I watched a big girl nail the bait...
Cracking fight and the hook pinged out over the net, but it was too late! No need for a Mac comparison, I recognised her as the 10lb 3oz from last month - a double! Nope, at a (double-checked) 9lb 15oz she’d dropped 4oz - they’re really not on the feed in this weather!
A couple of hours trotting for dace with James, a chub each - but no dace. Then we spotted a beautiful mirror carp - I only had 3lb line, a size 16 hook and the water was fast - but it was too much to resist...
Cracking fight on the light rod / centerpin and as the carp surfaced in front of me James mugged it. Not quite the beauty we were expecting - missing half it’s tail and a nasty sore on her side...
In fairness the side above is the one we could see - feels very strange holding a fish this way round! Bit of a sorry state, but fought hard and went back well, a characterful 11lb 3oz river mirror.
Edit: It’s a carp James has caught before, back in February 2015 she went 13lb 2oz - with minimal damage and an almost complete tail. Gone a bit downhill in 5 years, but they are tough fish in this river!
Can’t catch the bloody things! Since landing my last pike over a month ago I’ve done about 20 hours spread over 4 sessions chasing them - for just one lost fish - I’d had 50 this time last season. No two years are the same - but it’s tough going this season.
So to try and get a bend in the rod I headed out to see if the chub and barbel had acclimatised to the recent frosts. Four hours on the clock - 4 chub, best two going 5lb 0oz and 4lb 12oz - and 2 barbel; 7lb 0oz and 5lb. Cracking afternoon - batteries recharged... Right then pike...
Back up to my neck in nettles, after about an hour an unsighted barbel nailed the bait. A cracking fight in the unusually dirty turbulent water after the recent rain - before a stunning double was swept up in the net. On the scales she went 10lb 10oz - fantastic!
My 10lb 11oz barbel from just over a week ago? I thought so - and nearly settled for a mat shot. Still a cracker but slightly disappointing to catch the same fish twice. So I was delighted when I compared the photos on the Mac - a different fish and a new one to me. Twins!!
There is no getting away from it autumn is here - the leaves are falling, it’s getting colder and the nights are really closing in - loosing light from about 3pm and dark by 4.30pm - winter is on it’s way.
An afternoon on the river and a bit of trotting - a real mixed bag; roach, chub, gudgeon, minnows, dace and some beautiful perch. All too soon the light faded and the short trip was done - I’ll be back.
A trip to the pike ponds and four hours of thrashing the water to a foam with a variety of lures didn’t even result in a follow. I think I fished well and covered a lot of water - but that’s fishing! Ah well, at least the barbel are on the feed at the moment...
With three hours on the clock I hit the river - a barbel or two to take my mind off it. But 3½ hours into my 3 hour session I hadn’t had a bite. As hour 4 came and went I had to call it - wait - a nibble - a tiny barbel blank-saver. I’ve never been so pleased to see a little fish!
I shot down the river - firstly to check it was still there and secondly to see if the fish had missed me! And my timing couldn’t have been better; the barbel were on the feed - fourteen landed to 10lb 11oz. Plus a bonus chub of 4lb 14oz. Had the fish missed me? Hell no!!
You can count the people who deliberately target perch on the local river on one hand, probably on one finger - but I knew there were pound plus perch in there - I’d seen them - or was I going mad?
I was off to a good start - landing two small perch on maggots while trying to catch minnows for livebait. With 4 minnows sat in the net I swapped to a chubber float and a bigger hook.
Trotting down then gently winding back, just as the light faded my float hammered under - good fight and I was delighted when a spikey fin broke the surface - 1lb 7oz - mission accomplished!
Releasing the fish I accidentally freed my livebaits - but the one on the hook still looked good - so out of light I had one more trot down and a 1lb ½oz perch to finish on. The quest for a two starts here!
Ping. I’d landed four barbel to about 4½lb and now I was watching something special. A good double, and as she moved to my side of the weed bed I trundled a cube of luncheon meat down to her - she nailed it straight away - fish on - for about 30-40 seconds before the hook pinged out - I watched a potential PB dart back into the weeds...
Gutted. I started making my way home - but there was still a couple of spots I wanted to try on route. And in one my fortunes changed. An unsighted barbel hit my bait - hell of a fight in the fast water, including getting snagged - but by then I’d seen her and waded out to free the line - wet shoes and jeans but totally worth it!
Meatball. A very distinctive fish (Stu named her Meatball) and she’s been out a few times over the years. For a while it looked like she’d peaked in weight getting caught between 9lb & 10lb, but last year James caught her at 11lb 2oz - and I’m glad the growth spurt is continuing - weighing as she did 12lb 1oz - brilliant!
I couldn’t wait for a gap in the weather so I broke out the rain-suit and went anyway - to the ponds! I lost a pike about 5lb second cast, and I don’t know how many hundreds of casts later I saw a big pike swirl in the edge - I didn’t need a second invitation - she didn’t need a second invitation to hit the lure...
Even though I hooked her a couple of foot from the bank she shot out to the middle of the pond and plodded about - then she made a right fight of it and really didn’t want to go in the net. Cracking pike, 18lb 3oz, with plenty of room to fill out. Delighted - a stillwater PB as well as a lure caught PB pike - a brilliant start to the campaign.
And I think I know what’s happened to all the jack-pike in the pond!
There is a lot to look forward to in October; the film Joker finally hits the cinema, El Camino is getting aired on Netflix and Rick & Morty is back after what seems like an eternity. Anything else? Oh yeah, pike!
To the pike ponds - and I’d like to say between storms - but I got soaked! But it was worth it; my season opener was a beautiful dark double at 12lb 6oz followed by a jack on the next cast.
Both fell to a Storm Curl Tail - my go to lure in these conditions. I think I could have had more but the storm thickened - then thunder and lightning - and even I draw the line at fishing in lightning..!
The summer river season is just 107 days long, and once again it has flown by. After a quiet closed season I was eager to get cracking - I mainly limited my targets to just three species of fish; barbel, carp and chub for the opening months. Lots of early starts and creeping about in the nettles - here’s my summer, written as I went along...
Closed Season: I had a bit of a break over the closed season, very little fishing. I did manage a couple of gudgeon matches against James on a local pond. A couple of days chasing my first wels catfish - landing five, setting a fantastic PB of 27lb 0oz. And pre-season warm up with the tench and crucians down on the farm.
June: Well rested I was looking forward to the start of the river season, and this year it was all about barbel. Seventeen barbel on the opening morning was a result beyond my dreams! And four more short sessions took my barbel tally to 34 fish for the month - a cracking start to my 100 barbel challenge, could I complete it in the summer?
July: As well as barbel fishing I set my sights on a fly caught carp - but what I wasn’t expecting was this stunning double figure koi on the fly - brilliant way of catching her! A long day of bait ‘n’ wait was rewarded with a beautiful twenty pound common carp - the first of many I hope! And I took my barbel count to 55 fish.
August: I continued my barbel quest with a few short early morning sessions - which included bagging a double - my barbel count was up to 84 fish. But the fish of the month (perhaps season) was a six pound chub from the local little river. Me and James have long speculated their existence - and here was one on the bank - brilliant!
September: The month started with a beautiful river koi - followed by catching carp on Jelly Babies! But the main mission of the month was my barbel quest - and I cracked it - 102 in the summer season! Sorted, I managed three crucians from the farm and said goodbye to the summer with my very first tidal Trent barbel!
Thirty six hours on the mighty River Trent; tidal, stormy and in flood - and worse still the barbel had fed like mad at the beginning of the week then completely switched off. But some of the locals were catching the odd fish (with their local knowledge) - so tempting a barbel was still a possibility - even on a first trip.
To cut a long story short; as home time approached I was thankful I’d landed a blank-saver bream, but then, far more by luck than anything else the rod hammered over and the alarm screamed - a hard fighting stocky 8lb 15oz barbel - I was delighted - not one of the monsters the river is famous for - but we’ll be back for them...
The mornings and nights are closing in and there is a chill in the air - it’s very nearly pike time. But before it’s too late I fancied a crack at a neglected summer favourite - the crucian.
To The Farm! I fished one rod on the mag ‘n’ wag, on the other I fished the method feeder with scaled down hair-rigged halibut pellet on a bite alarm - traditional verses modern approaches.
I landed dozens of rudd, roach and perch on maggot - and the pellet accounted for three crucians, 1lb 12oz, 1lb 14½oz & 2lb 9½oz plus a bonus tench at 3lb 9oz. Beautiful fish, glad I didn’t miss my chance.
Baffling: All three crucians ripped the rod off the rest on the lead - I couldn’t hit their bites on the float - how can something that bites so delicately on the float be so aggressive on the lead?