It was supposed to be the traditional Xmas Fish Off with Dyl & Steve but the weather was awful, strong winds, driving rain and Steve wasn't well. Was a shame - I really fancied a win this year - might have to come back in January or February...
Instead I headed to The Wye, with about 3 hours until dark I abandoned the pike gear and tried to bag a barbel before returning to London. Three chub to 4lb 10oz and a little barbel of 4lb 11oz found the net. At least a Wye barbel wanted to play! (+1.6)
Merry Christmas! Back to The Wye, it's mild and the river is in it's banks for a change. But the pike fishing is tough - some locals (and very good anglers) have been struggling, very few pike have been out this winter. I think the otters are having a big impact.
There are three otter holts in less than a mile on one stretch I fish - and one angler I spoke to found 6 pike skeletons outside just one in the summer! Looking back through the blog shows diminishing returns on my Christmas pike fishing year on year.
I've got my excuses in because day one I fished a number of 'banker' swims - all day without a run - didn't see a pike, even though the conditions seemed perfect. Same story on day two, but I did take a ledger rod and bagged a few blank-saver chub (too cold for barbel).
Not giving up, there has to be a pike in there somewhere - hopefully - going to have to put my thinking cap on and track down my Wye Christmas Pike. And as a bit of inspiration here's a Wye twenty - from twenty-seven years ago - the good old days!!
Mr Fox peering through the window waiting for his breakfast.
Unsurprisingly the chub shoal has moved, and I've looked a few hundred yards upstream and down - did I say moved? - I meant vanished! Kind of knew they would - big chub tend to do that!
I did catch a couple of barbel but they are getting difficult to tempt in the cold weather. Think I might have to target a roach or dace before heading to The Wye, hopefully for a Christmas pike or two...
The plan was to head from The Wye to The Severn for a couple of days chasing the barbel and pike, but with the river bursting it's banks, strong winds and rain we rather sensibly abandoned the idea.
By Friday the weather had improved, with most of the large rivers in flood we headed for a smaller stream - a bit of wandering with a pike rod each - in the autumn sunshine - what a difference a day makes!
Action was pretty quick - James loosing a fish before we both banked a beautifully marked pike each. The day was made, and it didn't matter that we wandered about until dusk without another run!
Pike season opener, 14lb 10oz.
And James' first pike of the season, details on his blog.
The postponed trip to The River Wye and me and James found less than ideal conditions! We had watched the high water roll down the river on various online guages - the river was flooded but falling when we arrived, and you've got to be in it to win it...
James fished two barbel rods, I fished one for barbel and one for pike - dawn until dark (and a bit) - and a couple of hours the following morning - for just a couple of small chub. We'll be back - but we will pick our conditions a bit more carefully next time.
We did nab a blank-saver barbel each from the Small River on the trip back to London - nice consolation prize anyway!
All clear! Cancer free!! Words can not express how relieved I feel - as you can imagine. I was very lucky, it was caught early and there was a surgery spot open that I was eligible for. Aggressive treatment schedule but I was glad to get on with it - and get it over.
My Mum and Dad have been brilliant and my girlfriend has been absolutely fantastic - couldn't have got through it without them! I only told a handfull of friends (and you lot as I thought I wouldn't be blogging) - everyone has been great - thank you.
The Small River has been a godsend. I'm not going to lie; when I was up all night being sick and could feel my bones grinding together under my skin it took a lot of effort to drag myself to the river - but it kept me sane, and to some degree fit!
And I popped down yesterday - to get over my good news hangover... A couple of hours - and after watching the bream sniff my bait for 20 minutes - I bagged a few barbel - 6lb 12oz (above), 6lb 8oz, 4lb and 3lb - James even turned up for net and photography duties.
When I was on the river last I spotted a bream - very rare on this river, in 13 years of fishing it I've only spotted one before. So armed with a tin of sweetcorn I planned to see her on the bank.
The water was pretty dirty but I cast out under a tree where she was hanging out before - and 15 minutes later the rod slammed over. A small common carp - I was convinced I'd hit my target for a second!
With the swim thrashed I decided to leave it to recover for an hour and went in search of a barbel - a wander about downstream and I found two, 5lb 2oz and 4lb 6oz - great stuff!
Back to the bream swim but the water was rising like mad - two chub found a bait before I was flooded off the river. I will be back when the water drops - and I can sight fish for her (or him).
Sometimes, when I have an early appointment, I take the fishing gear with me to the hospital - with the trains on my side it's less than an hour to the riverbank - and hopefully a barbel - or in this case five!
I always travel ultra light - no point taking heavy stuff for a walk. Unhooking mat, weigh sling and boots are in the bag, triangle net with cut-down handle and four piece travel rod - sorted!
A very strange summer season, after my diagnoisis I thought time on the bank would be limited. Instead I did find time (20 trips), fishing around surgery, chemo and radiotherapy. I was in hospital most days so each fishing trip became very important - the planning and time in nature as essential as the fishing itself.
Closed Season: Things were very up in the air after the initial diagnosis - after the bad news we had to create a plan to try and deal with it! Fishing was far from my mind to begin with but an away day before surgery seem a great idea - and a catfishing trip was perfect - eight cats to a 33lb 6oz new PB - that'll tide me over...
June: Opening day was just 10 days after surgery - but I dragged myself to the riverbank - it really gave me something to work towards. Season opener was a little common carp and soon the barbel flowed - 34 of them over three trips to the Small River, not big fish but just what the doctor ordered! Plus a 5lb 3oz summer chub.
July: A couple more trips to the Small River but the main event was five days on the mighty River Wye. Targeting barbel in the low water, a few hours a day on Swan Shit Island inbetween family time. And the fishing didn't disapoint - 30 barbel to 8lb 4oz, 70+ chub and seven eels! Hopefully be back for a few more barbel before pike time.
August: Started with a mission to find a seven pound plus barbel on the Small River - do they still exist? Yep, got one - but I think they're few and far between now! Then a fantastic day chasing Fenland rudd in the boat with James - no monsters but a pretty perfect day! And the initial round of treatments came to a close - I am knackered!!
September: Really knackered - in fact I ended up in hospital - just pushed it too far! I had to cancel my trip to The Wye and take it easy closer to home. I've said it before but I'm so lucky to have the Small River - it was a summer of chasing barbel - and great just to be out on the riverbank when I thought I would be stuck at home!
Right - now it's time for wooly hats and wellies - let's see what the autumn and winter season has in store for us...