JAA's Fishing Diary 2008

If parts of the below read a bit off-kilter, that's because some was back-filled from memory in 2010...and then again in 2014 and 2019 from scratchy slime-spotted diaries. Some of the diary entries are recorded here verbatim (if I could read them) and clearly I was once compelled to record every little thing that happened for long periods of time. It's kind of interesting for me, but also kind of repetitive and probably a bit dull to the casual reader. Feel free to skim those bits.

It is extraordinary how quickly things change. When I wrote this page 'real time' in 2008, it was generally reckoned that any picture on web page needed to be 30kB or less and the web-page file size needed to be under 100kB for an acceptable loading speed. So, originally, most of the pictures were simply hyper-linked from the text to achieve this. This makes a dull old page and by 2016, it made no real difference if all the in-page pictures were 70kB, and by 2018, 110kB. So this page, like some of the others, gradually became more 'front of house' illustrated, 'WICBAWhen I Can Be Hedgehogged' - it's a technical web-design term'.

KingfisherJAA's Diary for... 2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 / 2022

You can use the 'month' links below to tumble down the page...

Kingfisher2008's months... JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

Hat-TipIf you'd like to support my float & espresso addictions in a small way, by all means 'buymeacoffeeI promise to try and not spend it on another float.' or 'buymeanotherfloatIt'll be a float, we both know it.'. Many thanks.

It'll be a float, we both know it. Hat-Tip Probably. Hat-Tip

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January 2008

20085th January 2008. Revels. Nemp and myself decided to hit the commercial for a bit of fun and with a North wind right in our mushes wherever we went, we opted for the top of Desperation Lake with some laughable idea we might be out of the wind. Clearly the cold air had addled our brains. Nevertheless, as we were already having fun we tackled up and fished against the far bank, Nemp with maggots and I went for a pinch of bread, no reason. I recall Nemp had a few bits and bobs but I lucked out and had three scarred carp and a skimmer that all hacked at a pinch of bread on a size 10, ignoring my 6lb braid hook-length.

RevelsRevels, winter RevelsRevels, winter
RevelsRevels, winterRevelsRevels, winterRevelsRevels, winter

Yep, sensitive tackle again. When we got so cold we couldn't move much and when Sir Ranulph Fiennes went past pulling a sledge, we took the hint and ambled around to the end of the canal section where we could eventually feel our fingers, although that may have been sensory deprivation kicking it....Nemp got a couple of decent stripey's out from under a bush and I pretended to miss bites for an hour. Well, I say pretended. OK, the zinc/copper alloy Simians were in the market for spot welding, but really good fun in a "We'll be glad when we stop having fun" kind of way.

200810th January 2008. Round Pond. It was decidedly odd, that the first customer trip out after the 'life changing event', the next week in fact, was to a 'hopeful', possibly grant-hunting, development idea not 400 yards from my old home in Hazlemere. Very strange. I looped back past Round Pond on the way back, not that it was really, but the pull of the familiar, doncha know? When I lived up the road from the pond there wasn't a "No Fishing" sign, I caught quite a few smallish roach and rudd, stunted tiddlers like most old ponds. This is the natural state of most unmanaged waters, and those were winkled out of winter-dark afternoons in the Christmas break. Pretty though...

Round Pond, Cobham HeathRound Pond, Cobham Heath Round Pond, Cobham HeathRound Pond, Cobham Heath
Round Pond, Cobham HeathRound Pond, Cobham Heath Round Pond, Cobham HeathRound Pond, Cobham Heath

Slightly dodgy pictures, it was drizzling and the lens and rangefinder got wet-spotted and I didn't notice that until I'd got home.

200812th January 2008. Milton Abbey. Whatever was going through my mind when I thought "I know, I'll go to Milton Abbey", it was certainly not sound logic...still, never mind. I took a rebuilt Webley & Scott Avon along for the heck of it - a clear, bright (if parky) day with the waters' colours and everything else glowing in the sun. I've had worse.

I'd been thinking of here or Silent Woman but with a loaf in the freezer 'here' wins out. Peg 11 has fish moving although the lake has good colour everywhere, I opt for '11' as it seems better. Peg 7 also pulls, perhaps first to get the sun. I try some hemp and corn then after 30 minutes with nothing, sink a coffee and switch to bread. The sun is bright, bucking the light rain forecast. Water is 10.5°C. A small fish just got chased past my float. Peg 13 calls with deep colour and sun on the water. 12:30pm and go...

'Peg Thirteen' then. The rushes are high giving me cover so I fish ten feet out with a red worm starter. Fish are topping here as well. An hour ticks by with nothing to show, but there are bubbles. I try corn for the look of it and set up an 8lb rig on the '550Chapman 500 for a popped up crust. The pike fisher on the main lake has had nothing either. I make hemp-paste in response to the flow of bubbles and bait up with it. The kingfisher is about, which is nice to see and occasionally 'pocks' into the water, marking his pitch. There's a bump, the float dropping half and inch and then rising. It's a start. A wren is in the rushes wondering about coming out and the floats dips, dithers, I drop my pen and get a 6oz roach. Aha. Hemp paste then. 'One'. I replace the paste, recast and get a dither on the drop, which turns into a big slow tench going 4¾lb. Well. In January. It's not right. More coffee.

Milton Abbey LakeMilton Abbey, winterMilton Abbey LakeMilton Abbey, winterMilton Abbey LakeMilton Abbey, winter Tinca, 'Webley & Scott' Avon and the '44xMilton Abbey LakeMilton Abbey, winter

More bubbles add to an expectant air and small float movements prompt a change of bait. The kingfisher streaks right to left, a good sign, another fish 'tops' two thirds of the way across. Very still now the sun has gone. The '8lb rig' is forgotten for now. A lone crow. Not 3pm yet but some of the still of twilight has leaked forward in time to now. A carp rises a third across, to my left. A flock of long-tailed tits animate a dead tree across the lake. Odd looking spreading ripples tell me another carp has gently topped and my float curtseys in reply and resumes its work. The carp edges nearer, quarter of the way across now, to starboard. A pike angler ambles past on the way to the syndicate lake, stilling a gently moving float. The carp is now to port, same cautious radius. The net at my feet shimmers, bubbles to the right of my float. Another bunch of bubbles has me dropping my hand to the rod but nothing happens. Rises, bobs, Stops. Bubble. For 20 minutes I'm glued to the float but eventually I check the paste, a bit left, so I freshen, slowly, drawing the float away. A bit more hemp, some paste balls and round two starts. The float lifts gently ten minutes later but fails to continue its downward movement. Plenty of movement now - thinking switch to crust of the other rod. I'm getting interest but no takes. Next fruitless twitch gets carp rig. I switch to paste and flake popped up for the last leg. All or nothing really. My flake surfaces on its own. Drat. Rebait. Coffee, still plenty of activity. Next time...

I have exactly the same feeling I had at Barton's Court, which is to say 'game on'. I wait...

200813th January 2008. No reason...

Tackle BoxSome stuff for fishing with - and the odd server - the desk's ephemera

200817th January 2008. Milton Abbey. More fish for the glass Webley and Scott. Back in 'light rain'. Tea, bread and Peg 5 as it has colour (and Peg's 12 & 13 are taken). I have some coffee infused chocolate as well. It's OK I guess. I've rigged 4lb braid to 6lb mono on the W&SWebley and Scott Avon and a size 14 with some worms as an entreé. 14:00pm, at 14:30pm will try hemp paste. I've sat behind the platform to lower my profile and the birds are already back, among them a blackbird and the uber-cautious jay behind. I like this peg, always done OK here, but today will be hard, but may get a nibble. The float antenna is fully visible, self-cocked and a no.4 would sink it. It's laying on a little to give no resistance to the fish until they are happy. That's the plan anyway, fishing 20 feet to my left in the middle of the channel. Bubbles. A lot of ground clearance this winter, it look a bit much, but I know come the spring it'll look just fine.

Something rustles cautiously behind, kind of like that. No water temperature, fishing here as it had the best colour around and I'm fishing anyway. Small fish top, well they're here then. Tea, mint. Not great, an accident of sorts, still, it's hot. Float's gone the 'curse of the brew'. Bu88er. Well chewed worm the only result. It's a start. More care, bites at a premium. Another small fish rises, I sharply hit a dithering bite and get a slow determined movement which pulls out the hook after three yards, interesting. Very solid fish that. Never good but never felt mine either, ponderous. More tea. The wind is fish-tailing a bit so I move nearer the tree. I get a bite 'on the mend' and miss it. OK then. Good though. I hit another bite and get a 4oz roach. Aha. A start, then miss a 'maybe' bite and vote to try paste in fifteen minutes.

One of the smaller ghost carp just floated past RtLfrom right to left under the far bank. Interesting. More hemp, from bank to bank, if that hadn't been the 'ghost' I doubt I'd have seen it, which raises interesting questions. The 'ghost' comes back, goes around my float, then vanishes. I sit still for fifteen long minutes then a track of bubbles gets me excited and also a 2lb bream preceded by a sliding bite and more fight than you'd expect. Swap the float for a smaller one given the shy bites. A few small dips turns into a big one and I have a small carp that gets twenty yards on the first run and then dodges the net twice. Cracking. Strike three for worms. Smaller float paid off as well, I put out another worm. 4:10pm and the light is blueing a bit. Chance of one more perhaps as roosting banter starts up, a bit spring like. Magpie then blackbird. I whip out a 4oz roach at 4:30 and a 4oz perch at 4:40pm, both on worms. And then it's too dark in this corner.

P.S. No pictures, no idea why.

2008January 2008. The LRH No.3.

I picked this on the way back from a bad day. It was £60 and is a serious rod, with an estimated 3lb t/c. It had been built with agate rings all-through, which looked nice. Also, on using it for a bit of piking, I realised the set of the rod was at 45° to the ring alignment which gave it an odd feel. I decided to take off the agates, too heavy, too cracked. I put on some Hardy game guides, which are light, a jade butt-ring (because it was pretty). I would have preferred to keep the extraordinary white agate and nickel silver 'Corbett' tip ring it came with, but the cane had been tapered a lot to fit it and this area was water damaged, so rather than cut the rod down and re-seat the 'Corbett', I opted to buy an agate tip ring that fitted the existing cane's o/d. All were whipped in bottle green, with maroon reinforcing.

There was also some plastic insulation tape on the corks, to jam one of the Hardy 'Screw-Lock' reel fittings. This had compressed the cork underneath and left sticky glue residue. I cleaned it off with white spirit and steamed out the dents, which worked better than I would have hoped, the handle was left more-or-less pristine.

It then looked good, but more importantly felt the biz. and I planned to use it for the snaggy-margin carping with 14lb line. On its first run out, I hooked a 10-12lb fish and had to stand fast to stop a 'tree branch related incident'. The hook came away, what are the odds?

The LRH No.3The Butt CapThe LRH No.3The Screw-Lock Reel BandsThe LRH No.3The Fore-GripThe LRH No.3The Jade Butt RingThe LRH No.3The Butt Section Ferrule
The LRH No.3The Tip Section FerruleThe LRH No.3The Second RingThe LRH No.3The Third RingThe LRH No.3The Fourth RingThe LRH No.3The Fifth Ring
The LRH No.3The Sixth RingThe LRH No.3The Tip RingThe LRH No.3The Bag Badge, Previous Owner's Name in situ
The LRH No.3The No.2 has no ferrule stopper and a fixed reel seat - the No.3 has a ferrule stopper and sliding 'LRH Hexagon Winch' reel bands. Of course it is a montage.

I loved the long slender handle, the 'screw-locks' which allowed the reel-placement to make full use of the 9'6" and it was the first bit of cane I'd ever bought, but it spent too long rack'd, and...soSold to the bloke at the back to Haydn in 2014. I prefer to sell to a user-angler at a good rate, I hope it catches fishes for him.

200831st January 2008. The Chapman 500.

A 1960's vintage rod, according to Chapmans themselves, based on the label type. An auction-site bargain at £60, advertised with a loose ferrule, which turned out to be the male on the top section, which I slid off then araldited on. As straight as the proverbial arrow. There was still ferrule knock, the female on the middle section was loose on the cane, the glue having given up the ghost. I eased the brass off, cleaned it and the cane, put a few turns of thread onto the cane to centre the ferrule, then used epoxy-resin to re-set it. All good.

I replaced the rings with Fuji SICs and used the ring spacing for the CH550Chapman 550, which entailed adding an extra ring to the rod. I removed the old rings and all the other whippings, removed any loose varnish then used thinned yacht varnish to seal the edges of the old varnish and any other cracks and then put a couple of careful coats over the top of the repaired sections to 'level' the varnish up. I left it as it was after that, waterproof and sound and whipped the new rings in the appropriate places, using a dark bottle-green thread and gave each whipping a light green border. It fished superbly.

Later in the year, the 550Chapman 550 with low Bells guides made me smile, so I re-ringed the Chapman 500 with high Bells and an agate tip-ring, improving the feel. I later added a clear agate stand-off butt ring taken from an old Scottie spinning rod and had to re-glue the mid-section male ferrule when the cane pulled out from the brass at the end of a cold day on the Frome, leaving the male stuck in the butt-section counter.

The 'Jammy Bender', which I liked a lot, was, through lack of use, passed to a very good home in 2011 Sold to the bloke at the back and was someone's first cane rod, they could scarcely have done better. I occasionally miss it, a very good rod.

Here are some very average pictures taken in 2011 - I did what I could with the levels and contrast, but they were poorly lit, focussed and exposed. Silk purse, sow's ear and so on.

The Chapman 500The rather fine agate tip ring. The Chapman 500A Tip-Section Ring The Chapman 500A Tip-Section Ring The Chapman 500The Mid-Section Counter The Chapman 500A Mid-Section Ring The Chapman 500The Butt-Ring The Chapman 500The Mid-Section Male Ferrule
The Chapman 500The Whole RodThe Chapman 500The Whole RodThe Chapman 500The butt-end
swivel...and...wait for it...swivel ;-)...(and back to the top of the page) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-) swivel...and...wait for it...swivel :-)

February 2008

20088th February 2008. Revels. The 'Match Lake'. Sitting at the windward side on the sun, there's five feet of water and for half an hour I dibbled for perch, after twenty minutes of 'loitering with inspect'. I get half-a-dozen or so in the ½oz range which lined up the day, then revert to the baited pitch with bread on the hook, taking chocolate and lying in the sun. If nothing happens I'll move to the lake behind me as one of the swims called to me as I went past. A smart angler would have chucked in some bait. After yesterday's internment, this is a much needed stretch, fish would be a bonus. I've got a 1g self-cocking paste float laid on against the breeze, 6lb line, 4lb braid and a size '14', 4" over-depth and a 'no. 4' tell-tale. If the bread does badly then I'll try paste made with hemp as a bit is left over from two weeks back. I put down the rod and wait in the sun. This lake is under fished due to the walk and is used for summer matches. There are large bream and a good head of carp but neither visible today so far.

The water's cold, 7.6°C , a bit chilly. I'm on the sunny and windy side, so it will warm but perhaps not the best day even on a put-and-take pool. The day promises unbroken sun until dusk though and the pull of this sunshine competes with the darker chillier corner swim in the 'Pike Lake' below. A few small fish have jumped and nothing else has shown. A tree creeper or two whirr about the trees behind me and a yellowhammer is about the place. On some lakes, one maggot might be a tactic, but with the small perch, you'd be on the busy side here...a lull in the wind made the float move in an interesting way and a small fish jumps out in the middle. Swap to plain bread, 12:45pm, the wind swings SE to SW maybe, the water is warming a couple of tenths of a degree, 7.9°C. I go for a bit of a wander and apart from bagging a small float nowhere looks or feels any different. Tea's not the greatest, jasmine and lemon doesn't really work. Put up second rod three grains of corn. Will dib for perch on the other rod. 2:10pm, 8.1°C, yet more perch. The wind dies and a butterfly, of all things, wobbles past. I eat a slice of best white bread and drink tea...

Which is where the notebook ends...and there are no pictures.

200823rd February 2008. Milton Abbey. I name this rod...finally having made my Chapman 500 useable, the plan was to fish lightish for any old thing to see how the rod felt. I alternated maggots, cockles, the odd maggot and threw hemp to pass the time between cups of coffee and pie. Not 'cups of pie' obviously, that would be silly. So...

Quiet. Slight colour in the water everywhere, but the most colour is in 'Peg 1' which I really don't like, so went for Peg 11 again. Pole float and worms on a '14', 4lb bottom, 6lb main, '44x and the '500The newly acquired and fixed Chapman 500'. I wait. It's cool and cloudy, 12.2°C in the water. A small jack appears two yards out. Aha. I strike too soon at a nibble, so miss. Sans worms. Recast. Wait. Average coffee due to a stocking issue, some regular bulked out with some de-caff and instant. maSaid in the same way Morticia Addams said "All that I could forgive. But Debbie... pastels?" Blech. De-caff coffee and alcohol-free beer. Pray, what is the point? I re-adjust the rod rest to get the tip down, the front is a rolled up towel, the rear is the flask. Another tweak foreshadowed by my own movements. 12:50pm a tweak-dip, big lift and then a roach, ¾lb or so, cracking. A tench tops ten feet the other side of my float, a bit odd, but diving after being half out of the water, a tench dives into the sound of water, tension mounting...

...I took a second to mend the line and 'wallop', a carp for sure. No choice but to stretch the cane to its utmost to keep the fish out of the weed and tree. As this was my first go on a thinnish bit of bamboo I was a tad nervous when the carp decided to play 'pull the line into the tree', but I backed the maker, or my Maker, or something and let the rod work very hard and eventually it scampered out, it has to be said, with considerable bad grace. It then sulked up and down the bottom kicking up clouds of silt before doing the decent thing. Landed about 10lb of weed as well, not bad at all, not a set in the rod, I see why some people swear by cane. Where did the tench go? Phew. Odd thing, often had good results when Christening new items; 11lb 3oz after the net weight is calculated, the stunning colours lending credence to those who claim winter carp look their best.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winterMilton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winterMilton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winter
Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winter carp. Awesome.

Another fish tops out to the left, I can wait now. Another and I'll switch to 6lb braid! Hard to relax now, I get a size '10' and 6lb braid out. I have cockles as well. Another large and gentle rise to the RHSright hand side ten yards away, a bell tolls at the abbey and the sound fades away. I go back to the Polaroid’s, it's not that bright but there are enough fishing moving to make the clarity desirable. I opt to check the paste in a bit, more bells, a peal this time. Practise! Another plop to the LHSleft hand side, 20 yards, float dithers momentarily, wedding peals now. Float gone, thumping on the line good fish boring hard into weeds in front and under the bank. Big tench fights enough to put the carp to shame, not for the first time, still netted after a few weedy plunges. 4lb 1oz. Not bad, cast. Rod first class so far, 6lb braid beckons. Coffee, more bells, February fishing at its finest.

Under the tolling, it's still and calm, birdsong, not a breath of wind. Another gentle surfacing LHS, ten yards, not a sound this time. Slight breeze, a distant plane over the bells. A dark shape materialises briefly behind the float and melts. Slightest of dithers. Bells have stopped, I wonder how the bait is ("Hello bait, how are you?", "Not bad mate, mustn't complain..."). Another top, smaller RHS, fifteen yards further. A distant shot and crows complain en masse. I consider the 6lb line and the float sinks 3mm. Hand on rod, big slurp RHS a good length delivery away.

A small carp circles the float, clockwise, then ambles into the middle with an air of feigned indifference. A jack pike, 1lb or so, surfaces five yards out and glides off. Bail-arm check, 2pm. Magpie behind me, distant, complains. The local hunt passes by on the other side of the valley and I re-bait and ground-bait. 12:25pm. Suspect the mass of hooves will put the fish down for thirty minutes, so lean back and have a square of chocolate. Distant horns, View Halloo vh  "Right, let's get the little red ba$tard."
*Ahem* "It's more usual Your Majesty, to cry, 'View Halloo'."
"Ah. Quite. Jolly Good. View Halloo. Right, now let's get the little red ba$tard"
and all that stuff. Very quiet but still the odd fish moving. Time to try cockles...

At this point my day was made so I kept on with the maggots-&-hemp and along with occasional roach and a small perch or two picked up these five tincas. In February, not that I mind. Two went well over 4lb and one had been recently scragged by a pike, but otherwise was in good health.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winter Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winter
Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winterMilton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winterMilton AbbeyMilton Abbey, winter

Two of the five took the bait on the drop, which is interesting. So all in all, I christen this rod "The Jammy Bender" and let's face it, that's not a bad February day's fishing.

should be old ledger weights...coffin...(and back to the top of the page) should be old ledger weights...barrel... should be old ledger weights...coffin... should be old ledger weights...barrel... should be old ledger weights...coffin... should be old ledger weights...barrel...

March 2008

200810th March 2008. Breach Pond. To be fair, a bit crackers. Peg 2, south-west end, stormy, blustery, matt, wind on my back. Fishing in ten feet of water, ten feet from the bank, I prefer the platform at the east end, but not withstanding the wind in one's mush on this occasion, the two-three foot chop on the water, gathered up by the wind and hurled down the length of the lake would have made it a very damp session, the breakers washing up over the platform and the bank - never mind a certain amount of difficulty in casting - at all. So, 4lb braid, and a plastic self-cocker with a long antennae, perhaps 4-5" over depth with corn on a '14' Kamasan, scattered hemp and corn loose feed, a new can opened as the frozen in the bucket is soft, hard to hook. Again. I toyed with the idea of Pitman's but it's flat ground and the wind is in the 40mph range. Rivers are flooded, In short here or Revels and preferring here, even with the shorter odds of a fish.

Ten days in Hanover, CEBIT 2008, a welter of driving, booth assembly, long days on my feet talking with customers, prospects, suspects and actual, beers, food, bed, 7am up again, five times in a row, disassembly, loading, driving home, Sunday 'only just' am arrival...phew. A 'Wheeler-Feynman perchOne of those perch' day if ever there was one. Coffee and oat cakes.

Breach Pond, East CreechBreach Pond, East CreechBreach Pond, East CreechBreach Pond, East CreechBreach Pond, East CreechBreach Pond, East Creech

The float has dipped a couple of times and a large fish rose 20 yards off form the far bank. Hope springs...Nemp arrives with a chair to watch and/or laugh while I spend about three hours sitting in the blast and despite it, scratching out a score or so of small perch and rudd, all of which pecked at a couple of maggots. Really enjoyed myself.

2008March 2008. 'Casting at the Sun' by Chris Yates. Five-star rating Definitive.

This is a book that allows you to identify with the writer in a quite extraordinary way, due in part to the mystery and excitement of the early fishing trips being so completely evoked that you recall those of your youth with equal clarity alongside the words on the page. It's clear there was something of an obsession with carp at one point, but it's easy to overlook this, as in some respects the difference between some avid readers and the author is whether you followed the dream or went all semi-detached early on. In the end, it reads like a fairy tale, one that is better for the truth of it and is one of the definitive works on angling by a great angler.

I took this book to a trade show in Hanover, a week-long concatenation of 12-hour days on one's feet, early drinks and late dinners, book-ended by a 12 hour drive in both directions. This was a mistake, as I read into the small hours when I should have been snatching a few more hours of sleep. I don't regret this.

200812th March 2008. Back at Homer Green for the wildly speculative start-up, I took the chance to wander and headed down to the Rye, mostly to illustrate the Rye DykeThe Rye Dyke, home of the 6lb line rule and fortuitously nabbed roach page.

I walked the silent banks and took pictures of the place I caught the tench and several conifer shrouded pitches that were always good for jacks. I noted a few of the same were still present and one dead on the lake-bed. Heading for the boating pool, still with its timeless 'No Fishing' sign, I was overtaken by a small procession of dark lonely carp gliding toward the boating pool like so many Flying Dutchmen.

These pictures, like those of a frozen over Penn Pond, have vanished from my archive. Singular. Annoying.

200813th March 2008. Reasons to Use a Float *

I'm a float tart. That is, I find floats hard to resist. Consequently, I have over 100 and have no idea why or indeed what some of them are for. At least 30 are splayed in an old tankard atop the bookcase and at least another 30 are foundlings. In use, I recycle a few sorts and don't even use all the ones in the tackle-box, never mind the ones in my 'collection'. Sure, let's call it a 'collection'.

For instance, for one season I almost exclusively used insert-loaded crystals, which seemed like a good idea at the time. There was a spell of margin-carping using pole floats. No reason. For three months I exclusively used my own porcupine and goose-quill floats. The sibling however, prefers to ledger, all other things being equal; sat in identical and adjacent swims with the same conditions he'll ledger and I'll float-fish. Of course he's a philistine.

If 'separating float tarts from their cash' is discounted, there are three principle reasons for using a float. These are:

Bite Indication

Bait Presentation

Something to Look at While Waiting for a Fish

Everyone knows the first two, although I've seen some folk clearly aware of the first but not, apparently, the second.

The third; I'll often choose a float based on its appearance plus some vague viability in respect of the first two items. That old saw 'as much weight as required to make casting easy' doesn't wash, as I'm firmly in the 'smallest mass that I can cast to the right spot' camp. Plus, I like a nice colour. If signs are unmatched, a fluorescent blue tipped float will get the nod, because I like the look of it. Today, anyway. Also, a float is a far better bite-indicator than anything used for ledgering (with the possible exception of the 'index finger').

Floats generally move about a lot more than we give them credit for; still-water is never completely still and the area above the bait is of particular interest and is conveniently marked by the float. When fishes truffle, the float wobbles, dithers, often too slightly for us to notice in a conscious way, but the subconscious sees all and can tell something's afoot. As it were.

The id's muted voice can barely get our conscious attention, all we get is a hint that a bite is coming without knowing exactly why. It might be the float moves out of sync. with the passing wave front, perhaps it's leaning ever so slightly against the wind, maybe that this water is a tad smoother as something riffled the oil out of the hemp or luncheon meat. Likewise the slight curve on a crow quill will tend to curve away from the wind. When it is not, it's more interesting to look at...the float keeps your gaze where it needs to be.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

A lake I know becomes gin-clear in winter; I'll take an afternoon to walk and mark rarely visible details - subtle ledges, variations and clear trails in the leaf litter, showing where the fish regularly pass. These trails change little year to year, become small ledges in otherwise uniform patches of the bottom, perhaps etched by successive years' fishes and give better results come the spring, even when close to the bank. It would be wonderful if all waters had just one such clear-water day each year.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

Mankind a long established fascination for water. We've been chucking stuff (and some less fortunate folk) into water for a long time and there is some evidence that water was once seen as a boundary between two worlds. Certainly none of us really know what it's like living beneath the surface. It's a mystery still and from this side, it's like looking at something on the far side of a frosted window - if up close you can see through pin-holes of clear resolution and from a distance a vague overall picture, but never both at once.

This sense of mystery is why I and the similarly afflicted like deep waters better than the shallows. You can hide bigger monsters in greater opaque depths. Knowing there is 15 feet of water under your feet generates more awe than 15 inches. It's why saucer-shaped commercial fisheries, with no depth, no variation, known stock, no thread to unravel, no enigma to decode.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

During a family trip to Oxford, we took lunch behind the botanical gardens; there, a thread of the Cherwell curls around a corner on its way to the Old Father. Water in un-natural channels will run straight and true (subject to chaos), but as soon as there are curves, the water zig-zags, coursing from one bank to the other, the bends hurling the current back and forth like passengers in a roller-coaster. The river was in spate and the water on the bank nearest us was a writhing muddy snake, spiralling as the water rebounded off the opposite bank from the last curve, before rebounding again by my feet, twisting up from the bottom and over by the bank, off the next curve and downstream. Opposite me was a small oasis of smooth stewed-tea coloured calm, sliding under a small overhanging bush and I watched that rolling glass table-top while eating a pasty, imagining a grayling-bobber skittering under the bush for an imagined chub. That image stayed, fixed, until on the point of sleep that evening, I imagined the cast, the float gliding under the bush and its plunge pulling me through the surface, down into sleep...

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons  Fleurons

A pleasing appearance notwithstanding, a float provides a focal point and sits (prettily**) on a boundary. It connects the piscator to the elegant and mysterious world below. A keyhole though which we spy, with our float, in the hope of seeing something otherwise invisible.

The bob, the sudden dip, the dart under the water, or even better, the slow but deliberate down-and-sideways slide... are moments quite on a par with the frisson from that moment in an evening when you know you don't have to go home, the 'maybe' now a 'yes'.

The float's movement is a thrown switch, a pulse of electricity on the line now connected to the rod-lengths distant special world. In that instant it could be anything on the other end, a monster, Grendel's mother even, still yet seeking revenge.

This brings us to the fourth reason for using a float:

It's the Liminal Point Between the Ordinary World and the Mysterious ***


* Originally written for 'Pure Piscator' in 2008, then re-written in 2021. Because it wasn't well written and was a bit Madeline Bassetty in patches. It may still be, though I prefer the new shorter version.
** You could use an ugly float, just feels a bit rude though.
*** Jungian meta-narrative doncha know?

200816th March 2008. Milton Abbey. The return of the chopstick fishing rod. "The Jammy Bender" earned a second trip to Milton Abbey. Peg 11 after going home for the landing net...LN  I hate it when that happens...did try Peg 7 well to one side. It didn't feel right so I moved to Peg 11 and there are fish here as W-- said. Plenty of colour. More carp and roach have been added as well which might be nice. I've got a cockle on a long point '14' and a 3×no.4 crystal with a long tip, faux wind-beater with 2×no.4 on the float itself and one on the 4lb silkworm bottom. Ten minutes in, grey day, it rained until 12pm but fresh now if wet round about. I'll try the cockle for thirty minutes then hemp paste. May go to 6lb braid as well, I'll see for now. Float's a little low in the water, which is at 10.3°C Warm enough for fish. Coffee. I debate hook size for the 6lb braid, '10', '12'? Smaller baits? I wait...

After a few spots of rain, but a threat only, it's brightening up. A big dark dorsal fin has surfaced three yards from the float and vanished. Not sure whether tench or carp but nice to see. I watch the float more closely. Big tench if it was one. If carp then 6lb or 8lb may pay. I slip on the shades in case I see more clues. There is a soup of mud by my feet, but luckily hard gravel underneath. Ten minutes of the thirty minutes to paste. A bit more loose feed, 9.6°C in the air, wet fingers can feel the cold but OK otherwise. Another great rise to the left, level with my float. Coffee. Tench topped again, right of float five feet further out maybe. Dark fish, 4lb maybe. A dip and a rise then nothing, a start.

I'll give it to 5pm and then re-bait. Dip, lift, travel to the right. Dip, lift, dip bubbles (again). Re-bait re-cast, check depth, move float 3" and 1" off between no.4 shot and hook. Dip, zip and a roach. 4lb 3oz with the net (2lb 8oz) so 1lb 9oz. Fine fine fish. Coffee. More bubbles. Here's to the year of paste and cane. Water still 10.3°C in the rushes anyway. Hands a bit stiff now, so I put up the screw in type brolly spike, nice to have the mitts out of the draught. Two carp jump in the middle-left of the lake. Still a good spot then. Re-bait, more paste, cockles next. No sign of rain but still a grey dark day, I've opted out of the 6lb braid, the water is clear enough. The fish seem picky today plenty of movement and bubbles for little result really. Perhaps a larger bait - something just pelted out the pitch and a long long path of bubbles tracks the bolt. Ah well. I put on a longer trace of 6lb braid, a no. '12' tied to 18" of home camo'ed silkworm. Note to self, need new pens for colouring braid. Coffee and loose feed. Note though, the paste was still on after the bolt, line scare maybe?

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...

A big fish rolls by the far bank. Perhaps should targeted carp today? The wind has roared in the brake over the way all afternoon. Somewhere it's windy. Here it's breezy. Float dips a little and I put my hand out and a carp rolls by the float and departs. 16:35pm. Well twitchy today. Two more dips, hand on rod. They like the bread and hemp. I wait. More bubbles. 16:55pm, three hours to go, worth a try. Bit of a bippity one yields a 1½lb(ish) roach on worms. I stick with worms, well you would wouldn't you? 17:05pm. I've had worse days, more dippity-dip and a fine 4lb tinca. Sorted for the day. Worms! I wonder whether its bottom feeding preoccupation and worms are close enough to blood worm or leeches). Still a result, the '550 is a cracking tench rod as well. Chopped worms loose feed. Still time for another. Maybe.

Dusk approaches, hurried by the wind in the trees. Daydreaming, missed a sitter. I tweak the float a foot towards me after waiting five minutes and then checking the bait. Which is fine. Dusk. 17:35pm rooks rooking in the distance . Two crows return the call back and forth somewhere behind me. A coot makes a quiet noise, more of a stage whisper. A tench appears briefly topping towards the float so I pick up the rod. Minutes tick by with no result, although fish are moving all around. I consider a cockle, there's a symphony of splashes. I chop some worms and refresh the bait with a half and nip the end off at the hook, scent being more important when the lights fading. A knock, a fast bite...missed...

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...

I pick up a tench as the light skipped off behind the hill and was sufficiently interested to hang on until dusk spread out over the valley, waking the owls that hoot back and forth here. Three bites, three fish. But what fish. A trio of winterfish. Wonderful.

200824th March 2008. Milton Abbey Popped out for a late afternoon dart at them, but I wouldn't call it a blank exactly. The water is at 10.3°C at 1pm. I'm plonked in Peg 11, Nemp has come by for a chat and at 5pm he goes on. The water is down to 9.9°C by 6pm. Maybe had a bite on paste. Maybe. Otherwise despite the fishing abounding (visible at least) it's oddly quiet, feels all wrong. The north-west wind doesn't help.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey - nothing doing Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey - nothing doing

A tench has just risen some ten yards out to the left of my float, but I'm not raising my hopes with it. I shall pack up in daylight as this rate. It'll be a month before I get back on the water due to work commitments (JABOFAJust Another Bunch of Feckin' Aeroplanes). Ah well. It'll be different without the hands stiff with cold...

OK then, I blanked. Dammit.

should be old ledger weights...coffin...(and back to the top of the page) should be old ledger weights...barrel... should be old ledger weights...coffin... should be old ledger weights...barrel... should be old ledger weights...coffin... should be old ledger weights...barrel...

April 2008

20081st April 2008. Word-of-the-Day: 'inconceivable'.

inconceivable a. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Inigo Montoya ('The Princess Bride').

200813th April 2008. Today my Chapman 550 blank arrived in the post. It's clean, unvarnished and a quick exchange of emails with 'John' established the guides are to wrapped on the same side as the ferrule punch-marks. OK then.

200821st April 2008. Milton Abbey. The water is a balmy 13.3°C. Two other anglers here, unusually, an east wind but warm, so occupying the east bank - atypical of me. Cloudy. Two rods today, the Avon, 6lb line and a waggler five yards out with worms plus the '550Chapman 550 to you' with 10lb, twenty yards out with a prawn. Some activity on the rear float, distant and too low in the water. Adjustment time. I tweak the prawn to see if the float rises. It doesn't. A lull in the wind over my left shoulder evens the latte coloured water. Woodland birdsong. I wait.

2:30pm. Activity, but no bites. I try a scrap of worm on the 6lb under a pole float for twenty minutes. Nada. 3:20pm, move to SWSouth West corner, prawn out, pole float in the weeds, still with worm, I chuck a bit of hemp at the pole float. It rains, as the wind is still ENEEast-North-East, keep up this is in my face rather (now) water temp is much the same at 12.9°C or a shade under perhaps. A bit more hemp, then a cup of tea. The rain eases off, brolly down, put the pole float four feet from the bank. It's worked before. If nothing by 4:30pm, I'll ship a rod down. I'd thought of Arfleet today, cool but sheltered there. Next time maybe. Two days off next week. Joy. Chocolate (90%) and tea.

In ten minutes the water's up to 13.7°C, odd, actually a feature of the water. A big fish crashes 100 yards off to my right. Aha. 3:46pm 14.1°C, 3:54pm 14.4°. Man across the lake has a carp, 10lb maybe. 4:20pm, 14:5°C. Might have had a tweak on the prawn fifteen minutes back. I've re-tackled the Avon, size 10, cockle with a worm. Nothing. Half a prawn and worm on the other rod then 5pm...and we move again then. Odd day, a blank, no pictures, no record of the pitch, no idea why...

200826th April 2008. Arfleet Mills. The Old Pit, 5:30pm. Sunny, warm, calm, two rods. Large paste float on the carp rod, 10lb mono/8lb braid. On the Webley & Scott Avon worm 6lb/4lb fish around but nothing yet. Carp jumped opposite already and one in the corner on my right. There is a crow at the end of the lake sitting. I put corn on the 'light' rod, one grain. More hemp and birdsong. There's a patch of bubbles ten yards out to the left, I check the anti-reverse on the '66. It's on. Stuff rustles. Two pole floats, a 1g paste float self-cocking by my own hand 2" clear of the water two feet laying on bread-and-hemp 'cos of eels. Squawky jay over the way (is there any other sort?), I have tea and Lindt, and fish cockles for a bit, but they'll attract eels as well. A perfect April evening needing only the gentle sink of the float to complete it. Bubbles on the right between me and my pole float. It would be ironic to hook a carp on the Avon (but not ideal). Jay again, moan moan moan. Fishy...cup'o'tea would be good. Check paste at 6:30pm...paste float twitches.

Fish tops by the other float, brackets it, and moves on. Float bobs and a big swirl to the far left. OK then. I've never gone this long without a small fish here. Might try a cockle next. The small float pushed to the right by the breeze, suddenly dips. And stops. Line bite I suspect. More rustling on my left. A wren in the reeds edges closer. I debate fishing a worm high in the water and casting at rises. The wren bounces of the carp rod. Tea. More Tea. I get the tiniest tweak on a cockle fished a foot down. (bread failed). I go back to the bottom on the Avon and risk the eels. Still a nice evening for it. Another big dark cream bellied fish splashed at the far end. The cockle float dithers and I put my hand on the rod. It stops of course. If it does it again it's coming in (eels, I'm sure of it).

Arfleet MillsArfleet the first of a run of zerossssss........Arfleet MillsArfleet the first of a run of zerossssss........Arfleet MillsArfleet the first of a run of zerossssss........Arfleet MillsArfleet the first of a run of zerossssss........Arfleet MillsArfleet the first of a run of zerossssss........

It's gone tense with a big swirl to the right and the small float has twitched. Check paste soon, cockle dithered and stopped. A start. Something will happen soon. Rod down. A carp just surfaced a foot away and bolted sinking the float on the Avon. Hm. Ill check my bait...An odd bite on the paste fires me up but I hit nothing. I reset twice to get the float how I want. Don't feel I missed a fish but you never know. Might try paste on the Avon as cockles are not getting anything. Hemp time. More tea. A slider would be useful here, must knock one up.

Something nudged through the reeds at my feet and then later rippled out to my left. Fish nearer the edge maybe? I've bought both baits into the margins, fishing paste as that's my only real bite so far. A few pills of paste and hemp go in and I wait. Risky on the W&S Avon? The floats are flat in front of me, one three foot to me left, the other six feet to my right. Tea. On a whim I put the Avon back out with corn. No reason. Something squeaks and skitters past my feet. A fish swirls on the right, they're about for sure. I might simplify, one rod and put bait by the bank. Think about free-lining the paste and look for the foil. OK, the foil is on. A worm on the Avon. I wait. Might have to get some lead core, handy for free-lining close in. I tweak the line off the Avon and flick the paste almost over the lake. I put a cockle on the Avon and then get a real bite which I miss in surprise. 16.9°C water.

8:20pm I drop the probe two feet down. 16.5°C. Amazing difference, I must check that. The Avon will come down in a bit...dusk, still a good chance . Maybe plain bread on the free-line right under the tip for the last hour. Cockle or corns then? Penultimate tea. Roosting songs echo in the trees and the distant puff of the train. Good even without fish. Which was just as well.

...and that's it for the April Fool...

200830th April 2008. The Chapman 550.

I'd yearned for cane for a bit so ordered a blank in December 2007 ("550 Blank, not impregnated, medium flame colour and bronze ferrules fitted. Handle, with reel fittings/rings"), influenced by the convenience of three-piece. It took me four outings on a new water to Christen it, but eventually I had a brace of 10lb commons and a couple of 5lb ghosties. Now I see why some prefer it for playing fishing. Having said all that I never really took to it. I bumped off a lot of tench, it seemed very stiff and the ferrules were a bu88er to get apart.

After some time on the rack, I took of the Fuji rings and whipped on, using garnet and bottle-green threads, low Bells, an agate butt ring and a white agate Hardy tulip tip-ring. It looked vey pretty then and even fished OK. In March 2009 Chapmans made me a tip section (54" Custom made tip section for Chapman 550 at 1-1/4 lbs t/c) to make up a 'combo' type of rod. It was a beautiful thing but the first time I took it out, the tip dragged on the roof of the car and the top 5" snapped clean off, like it was a candy-cane. I returned it to them but never followed up for one reason or another. In the end another rod which was racked so long ISold to the bloke at the back it on to a good home.

Gobio GobioGobio Gobio (and return to the top of the page) GonkGonk Gobio GobioGobby GonkGonk Gobio GobioGobio Gobio GonkGobby Gobio GobioGobio Gobio GudgeonGudgeon GudgeonGudgeon Gobio GobioGobio Gobio

May 2008

20081st May 2008. Milton Abbey. More tincas, more bamboo. Quiet, 10:30am, warm and sultry today, the weed has just drifted left-to-right across my once clear swim, bu88er. The pole float has sunk but is visible. Not a fish has moved since I arrived but the water is a balmy 11.7°C, warm enough despite the cool days and rain. Foil rigged paste to the right under the tree with a few inches of lead-core to sink the line and give casting weight. The float is lost now, not in a good way. Coffee. There are stones in the foil ring to counter the light breeze but no rustling as yet.

A stroll round shows life in 'Peg 8', colour and a few shadows under the tree to the left. The weed is drifting back again a demarcation line almost level with me. A fish shows itself fifty feet away to my left. It's a start, 11.9°C. I'll give the paste an hour then cockles, a big bunch. I'll try worms as well on the '500. A proper rise dead ahead, twenty yards. Another and I'll cast free line to it. I wait. I munch a well-known retail outlet's "finest" cookie and find my attention drawn by a break in the ripples radiating from the channel to the right. Where my paste is. Hm. The fish dead ahead rises again. Interesting. 12°C. Breeze gets up which is good for the DODissolved Oxygen. Big rise to the right only a few yards out. A few maggots go into the swim and the birds go about their business, chippy like. I try bread on the float for a change. Nice bread too. Another small rise twenty yards dead ahead.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...

A failed attempt to reach the rise with a worm and back on corn and maggots on the '500. 12.2°C. Change the '550 bait to cockles and crab-stick? Worth a go. The weed is all over the far side now but there is RtLRight to Left flow near the back end of the lake moving odd bits. I suspect fish will be along in a bit so wait with pie (ham and chicken). Full hooks of cockles now on the '550 and the '500. Strike that, 4lb and 16/18 fine single maggot. A pike about 6lb slips past five yards off , heading towards me veering left. Be just my luck to get it with the 'chopstick'.

A carp cloops on the bank where the free-line is. 12.3°C. I've seen three carp (12:45pm or so) and now needle bubbles, so switch to free-lining in front, with paste and the '500 to one side. Bubbles under the bait now. I watch the line where it enters the water. The sun returns telling me the water has more colour now and a small carp rises twenty yards ahead and another pike drifts by RtL only fifteen feet off. I watch the line some more. More needles five yards out level with the bait but six feet farther out. The sun shows me two tench and a carp, the latter heading this way. The tench dithering. The sun having imparted this information, leaves, I remember to breathe and watch the line. 13°C, 1:15pm. Fish are here for sure, with tails and tench flitting about with inevitable needles bubbles. I put braid back on the '500 and a '14' decorated with a cockle and re-cast, both rods in front of me now. Good. A carp, 10lb or so, comes right level with the float and vanishes into the cloudy water, then two lines of bubble appear near the free lined bait. I've put in chopped black pudding as well...a gust of wind sinks the float. I mend the line and more bubbles appear 12" away.

Another big carp repeats the move and after a wait, retrieve the '500's free-lined cockles and cast at the 'entry' point. Hard to control today. 13.2°C, 13:50pm. More bubbles and small roach, then two pike moving RtL, 1½lb perhaps. A shoal of rudd appears, I consider maggots. An owl hoots, odd, second time today. Odd, back to 'Plan A'. The 'other one' arrives. Oh good.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey again, I know but I keep catching stuff...

The sibling's gone, was here about four hours, long enough for appearances, not long enough for sincerity. It's not 7:40pm. I've had two tench, 5lb 6oz, 5lb 3oz, missed one, bumped one. Hopeful in the light of the sunset, for one more. The weed drift is still a pest and the barring the banked, bites have been tentative. Odd day. Pike pre-spawning in progress. Tried worms, but the pike are not interested. The wild garlic scent's rising in time with the setting sun, not as nice as it sounds.

A six-foot round mat of weed blocks my swim, so drop the bait at my feet and wait for the clear water to arrive. The swim under the tree to the right now has a resident. Roosting songs and distant crows. No change there then, Our afternoon friend, a hopeful looking robin mops up the maggot box escapees. Float flicks. Tea would nice. More flicks. The moment passes. Another twitch ten minutes on, take off the Polaroid's, damp air, still water. The tench moment has passed I fear. Change the no.6 for a no.4 to see if it helps sink the bait through the sediment.

I toss the free-line at the swim and a cloud of bubbles erupts on the left of the float which twenty seconds later flicks five-past-one to twelve fifty-five. 8:35pm, quiet. A few bubbles and tweaks. A bob. Still again. I put the '500 down and listen to the blackbird chipping to bed and the blue tits likewise, across the lake. Slow ten hours, five bites, two fish. 13.1°C. good day, not easy, never dull.

20082nd May 2008. Arfleet.

Arfleet MillsArfleet Mills... Arfleet MillsArfleet Mills...

20084th May 2008. Arfleet. South corner, back pit, mini crystal waggler and a size '6' adorned with pasta, macaroni to be specific. I've aligned myself at an angle to the bank, the rod (the '550Chapman 550) pointing into the corner, laying on in eight feet, perhaps two of them over depth, one foot of that 'leadcore' for weight and to keep the line against the sloping bed. It's 5:10pm, 15.7°C (water), two others were here, one floater fishing, both gone on, one generously giving up the swim I coveted. I find a bit of G&B chocolate, finish it, drink tea and wait.

Fish are gently rising but are chary of the floaters (dog biccies) not taking the hooked one however hard my neighbour tries. The breeze rustles the new leaves, light green, and drifts bits into my corner. The floater man goes on. Good (no offence, but I like the place to myself). Carp are rising this end. All down the lake carp are public spiritedly clearing up the floaters left by the departing duo. I fancy a bait over the water just short of the reed bed there, a long flip for a light float set eight feet up the line. Slider or free line? Next time perhaps. The float flicks but it's indolently set and this is a one fingered gesture to the wind only. 5:30pm. If nothing by 7:30pm then free-line and hold the rod up and bait up over the water as well.

I'm drawn here. The last four carp attempts have yielded a hook pull, a break, a blank, rudd, perch and four missed bites. Drawn back to gaze into depths like the brown eyes of an enigmatic woman. It remains to be seen whether I prosper here tonight or indeed any other. Tempted to try pump air into a slug on the surface. The ground is covered here which makes then good for a try. Float is interesting now. A big cloop from the middle, perhaps halfway down the lake. I add a libation of hemp and corn using a low held boilie 'pault, to avoid waving my arms around like a loon. A bumbler wobbles past, sunlight streaks through the trees and the woods break into gentle birdsong. A jay then cracks the peace into shards.

The float dips twice sharply, which gets my attention, but is only small fish molesting the float. I re-bait the paste, put more offerings into the far bank swim with the twatapault. Having disturbed the peace, I pour tea. Why does tea in the flask taste of coffee and vice versa? How does it do that? (The Hatangler knew at once hat "It tastes of both, but you don't notice when one when the other is in the flask" he said after the briefest of pauses. Bright lad.) I wait. 6:10pm, 15.7°C. Rod on knee, miss a bite, get a scale as consolation. OK then. Did and gone, no preamble, like Friday. Rod in hand it is then. 6:25pm 15.8°C. Five minutes later another fast take (I assume). Options? Cockles, free-line? Both? Hm. Another fast one missed. I rig a big maize bait with paste behind it. Rod across the knees again. A prowler visits en route to the other old pond, aiming for eels pchr  Some would say he's a local poacher of ill repute, Some might even call him 'Don', a notorious poacher of eels and occasional potter of EA bailiffs....either way, he didn't see me until he was on top of me, that made him start. Heh. Kind of him to let me know his plans...spooked my swim though I expect. Cockles on the hook? Corn on the hook, dip and travel, no fish no paste. 15.8°C, 7:10pm. Free-line I think. I try paste with a grain of maize and get a couple of trembles. I put four cockles on the hair after another fast bite on the paste. I'm going to take the lead core off and put the trace straight on the moon and add a BB. The old ways are the best and so on. More tea and Lindt. 7:45pm, still 15.8°C. 8:10pm, lead core off, 'number one' basic over fishing rig with paste. Why not, nothing else is working.

At 9pm I'll free-line, at 8:30pm there's another fluttering flirt. Nothing to show, I put corn on the hook with a blob of paste. Getting desperate, still 15.8°C. I think it's back to basics and a bigger bait for the very chary fish. Meat perhaps...sunset.

Arfleet MillsArfleet May 4thArfleet MillsArfleet May 4thArfleet MillsArfleet May 4thArfleet MillsArfleet May 4th

20088th May 2008. Arfleet. I actually caught one, but for the old scratchy diary, I'd never have recalled how...too many planes and airports this month. Back with hemp, hemp-paste and sweet-corn, same spot. No sooner here than a passing visitor, so all spooked despite a line bite knock. They'll not nibble the corn off. I'll try two takes and then risk the dreaded hair. It's warm and sunny (again a cool breeze filtering through the trees, 6:40pm might have had a bite. A drifting branch and the breeze conspire to sink the float. But a sudden submergence had me striking, no bait left, recast. Tea. Lindt 90%. It occurs to me under my feet might work as well. Cockles as well. At least two carp, one dark common one ghost have materialised in front of me without a sound or a ripple. Plenty of bubbling but it's a gassy lake and one can read too much into that. A tweak, hard to shake off the feeling that these are not real bites.

Still, time will tell. Baiting the near swim as well now. Another ghost drifts by my float, I put a hand slowly on the rod. Might try bread next, another pull for nothing. Bait being ejected I think, a smaller ghost carp sweeps past my float radiating indifference. OK, two misses, one on the drop, so I beat up with five fat corn grains, next I'll go for 8lb, size '14' and one grain...of course nothing happens, then bites and bubbles gone by at 7:30.pm. Appropriately 'the margin', the pole float it is then. 7:45pm I strike at a bobbing float, all wrong again. Should have left it. Another pull no fish even on a hair, nothing I can hit. Nuts. I must just be bad at this.

Fish or work, but not both. 8:05pm I switch to a pole float four feet out, 18" over depth but laid down the slope of the bed. Convenience rather than expectation to be honest. If I can't hit 'em I might as well fish simple and enjoy the evening. I miss a bite even as I write...I hit my second bite get a dogged lump that bores hard for a good five minutes and giving me time to consider how nice cane can feel in the right situation, but then eased into the net is 10¼lb of perfect dark common. A start, the water it turned to stewed milky tea by the struggle. I celebrate with tea and Lindt. 8:35pm. That'll do.

Arfleet MillsFinally, one of the Arfleet common carp

200814th May 2008. East of Omaha. Ten-to-midnight on Wednesday when I pull into the M27 services, as five minutes previously the "Italian for coffee" from Terminal 2 had worn off and I prefer to be wide awake when I get home, rather than the alternative.

The car park is eerie, deserted, but I get my fix and stand in the middle of the park with the soft south west wind blowing in my face and drink half the coffee, relax and put the yellow lamps at the far end out of focus. I'm almost at the end of a welter of six hundred miles of driving, five short-haul flights and half a dozen discussions on workings and fine details of networks, OFDM and communications, all of which started at 3am Monday. Boarding my last flight tonight, I looked down the plane to see a row of dark suits on one side only, like the black pawns on a board. All trying to be the most important, all the same as a result. Not for the first time I'm glad not to wear the pin-stripes.

I draw in a long breath, shut my eyes and fill in the space in front of me with black water, ruffled by the warm wind. The eyelid-filtered flash of headlights, still on their way home, becomes the gentle flicker of a candle lamp, my night fishing guide, placed behind the bag, keeping even that feeble star from the curious fish. I lean back on the chair, rod across my knees and check the bale-arm and line by feel and listen to the foil rustle in time with the wind, waiting for an off-beat scratch or a pull on my fingers.

I drink more coffee, the only thing real in both worlds; listen to the water on the reeds, the wind in the trees and the occasional sucking of the carp. A few shadows ripple across the cane from the flame's light and I sink into the deep calm night. Eventually my heart speeds up again, a caffeine signal flare and I resurface to the grey asphalt and painful pale sodium lights, put the cup in the bin and get back in the car. Thursday.

On the road again. Turn the page.

200817th May 2008. Arfleet.

Arrived 6pm and it's grey and oppressive, a showery evening, more April than May. I gave up on the back pit and stomped over to the 'new' pit where I sidled in behind the rushes. 7:35pm, lost a clunky tench going by the slime on the trace. It rhymes with "ducking bell". Cockles and hemp, 'no change there then', then bagged a reasonable and startling rudd after a red-shirted angler and his cubs moved on...a 'meh' type of session. And it rained. Otherwise perfect in every way.

Arfleet MillsArfleet May 17thArfleet MillsArfleet May 17thArfleet MillsArfleet May 17thArfleet MillsArfleet May 17th

200818th May 2008. Arfleet. A brighter and calmer evening, I've picked a swim nearly opposite the path entrance, risky as every man and their (actual) dog wants to see how you're doing. I'm encouraged by the rod rest left by the previous addict, optimism tempered by water the colour of black tea, never a good sign here. There's a huge rise in front of me, chasing some jetsam floaters of to my right. Note to self: must get some flouro. It's now 18:25pm, I'm using a feather for a float and cockles on the pointy end. Bubbles only, so far. Paste next, 45 minutes pass with a twitch on the feather and a couple of folk, half of which have white 'T's, stop to scare the fish and ask about permits.

Fish are rising everywhere even so, some are even leaping which is encouraging. Should have brought the loaf. The feather darts forward and I pick up the rod. It stops. I wait and consider the paste and removing the 'BB' 'tell-tale'. At 7pm I opt for just that, plus a dry feather. Some depth adjustment required, feathers come in 'sizes, various'. I wait some more. Paste turns out to be too soft so revert to cockles, corn and another new (drier) feather, they soak up water and are especially poor after being 'clooped'...which keeps you on your toes. 7:45pm more hemp and at 9:00pm after only a few twitches, revert to free-lining a string of corn kernels and two cockles with foil over the line. Which is where it stays until I can't see it...

Arfleet MillsArfleet May 18thArfleet MillsArfleet May 18thArfleet MillsArfleet May 18thArfleet MillsArfleet May 18th

I've got into a rut with Arfleet's clay pit - not thinking it through, more sort of hurling myself against an immovable object. So Just went here a lot and tried so many things - even using tiny feathers as floats (didn't work) - and ended up veering between missing bites like a novice and getting none at all. 'Obsession by JAAIt's a man-perfume scent and it smells like carp slime, stale bread and sweetcorn.'.

200823rd May 2008. Arfleet. Best part of two hours has glided past on another pleasant evening resulting in a 10lb fish that I've had before. After 1½ hours of 'feathered' paste, I switch to a pole float, one of the self-cocking paste ones and get a ¾lb rudd at 8:30pm, then the carp, dogged and slow. Cockles again, two fish this year both falling to cockles. So much for hemp paste - lots of interest, can't seem to hit a bite. At 8:50pm I miss a bite and at 9:20pm get a regular eel, wide mouthed, sullen, 1½lb maybe, which sheds the hook without help and pours itself over the lip of the bank back into the lake. I put paste on the hook for no good reason and let the night settle over me.

Arfleet MillsArfleet Mills, finally another fishArfleet MillsArfleet Mills, finally another fishArfleet MillsArfleet Mills, finally another fish

(I've caught this fish before, in April 2006Back again. Hasn't changed much, but seems to be getting by OK.)

200826th May 2008. Arfleet Mills. The rain eased off, the sky cleared and so took both sticks to the clay pit. I put in some hemp and corn (no change there then) nearest side only and put 6lb/4lb, pole float with size '16' 'thick-wire' on the light stick. A worm yields nothing and corn gets just a couple of blips which eventually morph into a proper bite, getting me this 3lb ghostly mirror which careered about the swim like a clown on a mini bike. Interesting. I switch, optimistically, to a 6lb bottom.

Some corn lobbed earlier lingered frozen floating; suddenly vanished in a rolling boil of water the float rode like a surfer. A hint. Another bite, pen in hand, I'm too slow. 4:10pm and I missed three or four pulls, then get a 4oz rudd, the metallic smell of which flings me to Whitehouse lake and it suddenly feels a little more eerie where I'm sitting. Two rudd, two jam sandwiches, two visitors. Tea, two cups then. One of the visitors was Nemp joining me for a natter and my second carp, a common, 8-9lb, proved a little hard to net, but it was one of those fish which signalled its presence for some thirty minutes ahead of the bite, without actually giving you anything you could use in a court-of-law to say it was there. Nemp and I spent that time leaned forward in our chairs with the expectation that comes from a lot of carp fishing, 'the buzz...that odd cross between mild tinnitus and the feeling you really can hear something...'

Arfleet MillsArfleet Mills, finally fish Arfleet MillsArfleet Mills, finally fish

So persisting with float fishing the margin, although with limited success because I hadn't really thought it through. Having said that, this session did seem to turn a corner...the second fish made me think I'd cracked it, but of course, I hadn't...

Wild and Feral Carp...wild...(and back to the top of the page) Wild and Feral Carps...feral... Wild and Feral Carps...wild... Wild and Feral Carps...feral... Wild and Feral Carps...wild... Wild and Feral Carps...feral...

June 2008

20081st June 2008. Highbench. I very nearly had one of everything - rare with tench hardly ever showing - and having had perch (of course) roach, rudd, several bream and a crucian, then hooked a fish which charged into the rushes, surely a tinca for the full set, then the hook transferred to a rush stem. Drat, so close.

HighbenchThe Pitch and the '500HighbenchThe Pitch and the '500HighbenchHighbench from the dam

My notebook records:

Rurudd...10 off   ||||| |||||
Roroach...4 off to ¾lb   ||||
Crcrucians...1 off   |
tench, absent...
Pperch, rods or poles...7 off     ||||| ||
Bsbream, silver...2 off   ||
Bbbream, bronze...3 off, 2 at 1½lb   |||

20088th June 2008. East Creech Farm. The Hatangler goes camping and fishing, baked beans, carp, tomato soup by candle-lamp, sleep, fried egg sandwiches and more carp. The only way to fish here is to camp. That's a bit dull (and a little odd) all Tod Sloan so I brought the lad. Two man tent, well 'one-and- a-boy' and several tins, baked beans, soup, some bread and eggs for breakfast. Oh yes and a 9ft rod and the '500The Chapman 500. Tea, (beans, bread-and-butter) dispensed with we head for the series of three small lakes over the road. Carp, tench and roach we were told in the farmhouse, bread is a good bait. Isn't it always?

It was explained that the fish were sorted bottom to top by size. The top pond an old clay pit is dark and forbidding, the lad opted for the middle pond, the smallest. I put 6lb, a size 14 and a random quill on the spinning rod and pinch on the bread. Several misses and a bite later a 4oz carp emerges. And another. I make a similar rig up but the 6lb is for the rushes and the alleged tench. After we steps? Starts? And odd carp we settle in tandem on worms as the fish appear to want to bite your hand off for them. A few roach appear and after an hour of this dibbing over water like fizzy tea, the lad's rods gets a real bend to keep the tip down the rod taking lunches and the '66 grudgingly giving line once or twice. The net goes under a 2½lb fish this for the head size but a belter and the lad's biggest fish.

East Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the Hatangler

Excellent, so the crisps are broken out...this is the pattern of the evening with probably fifty-odd fish to the lad and forty-odd to myself the 2½lb and a ¾4lb probably the best plus six crucians, two to the Hatangler...as he was so seldom seen without a peaked cap for several years. Once or twice during the afternoon I watched a larger fish amble out of the weeds in the lower pond, mooch about and drift back in. I was tempted. We retire to the tent and heat tomato soup with bread-and-butter. Sitting back in the candle lamp light I'm pleased to stay this evening, I suspect the Hatangler will not fish as he gets older but this is one more trip that my father ever made with me. The owls we could hear when fishing are not audible at the tent - but the cows are. Still, less noise than any urban setting.

East Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the Hatangler
East Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the HatanglerEast Creech FarmEast Creech and the Hatangler

Time to turn in. So, morning, the top lake and fried-egg sarnies for breakfast...

200814th June 2008. Canford Ponds. I went for stroll around here just for fun, so many good looking swims, then around the far side, in the last but one swim, my breath was stolen by a common carp that swam past side-on, so far over the 'twenty', I was suddenly anticipating 'the 16th' rather more....

Canford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford Ponds
Canford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford Ponds
Canford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford Ponds
Canford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford PondsCanford Ponds

200816th June 2008. The River Stour, Fiddleford Mill and Canford Ponds. The First Day, 7:10am now and I've been here since 4am, even so it's crowded. Briefly tried to fish in the main mill race, fumbling my way to the corner and tackling up a 'pin and a crow quill Avon, one of Mr Lawrence's. After forty minutes without a sniff I give in, if maggots won't catch even the small ones...(poor pitch and swimfeeders all over the place). Still I was there for dawn...I slog upstream to a flat spot in the next field and trot maggots back on the '66 - the sun's broken through, eight fish, perch dace, roach and a small chub before trying laid-on corn with the same pole float, in nine feet of gently flowing water. I manage to bump off a bream so switch to a quill and 6lb through, laying-on some corn amongst the marginal lilies and then sit back in the long grass.

Fiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford Weir

There is a roar from the main road, a pigeon in the tree opposite, the sun is very warm indeed, but there was no bite on the corn. So I go back on the indolent quill and I'll try a cockle next. Worse places to be, but a busy few days coming. Not really in the river mood; and I don't do early very well...tea. I try bread paste for twenty minutes; I switch to cockles more in the spirit of experimentation rather than expectation. The float gathers an air of permanence around it almost immediately after I recast...then I nab a single small pike. Sport then ceases for the day, so I head for Canford Ponds, all bright-eyed, bushy tailed and stuff.

Fiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford WeirFiddleford Weir
Fiddleford WeirFiddleford Weir Fiddleford WeirFiddleford Weir

Canford Ponds; live-wire in my mind after the 14th, was a crushing disappointment. The central fishing area, tarmac'd for disabled access was home to half-a-dozen anglers, three of which were monosyllabic carpers standing around a pod. Two of them couldn’t manage monosyllabic, all blocking the path like sulky teenagers loitering at the shops. Rude, as usual really. The last two swims on the far bank were taken, so I fished at the end of the spit (peg 18), as far from everyone as I could get and hoping to avoid bored-foot-traffic (this tactic failed dismally).

So at 3pm I sat on the ground and fished seafood-over-hemp. Two lads pitched behind me, not the poster boys for stealth. A fellow angler comes by, quietly (it can be done), like me likes the 'no boilies rule', not that anyone is taking any notice. A rambling bite gets no result but it could have been wind drift. The breeze gets up, scudding the water towards me, welcome and good.

At 4pm a carp half-spooks, a little to my left. I hadn't so much as moved, all I see are ripples and a swirl in the dark tree-shade. Now the plan is to get its head down and lead it over to my small patch of open water and towards my float... There are bubbles and nudged lilies. I wait. Lily pads jump and bump and water curls. Fish are about, but I’m still waiting...

The carp relaxes and edges further out of its cover, then a galumph of a visit "to see if I've caught any", scaring it back... OK. I'm at least getting activity; 4:30pm. I put on some bread and get a flurry of bumps, then switch to a size 10, miss a bite on bread right away, try a worm and get a 2oz 'snotty'. Aha. Back to an ‘8’ and cockles. More scatters of hemp, some intended to (re)draw the carp back to the open water in front of me...the galumpher returns to check what I'd caught, again. The carp dematerialises. Again. *sighs*...

Well, at least they’re about. I'll give it another hour and then try the other side. At 5:20pm an air of expectation arrives in counterpoint to the falling breeze, the lilies are still ringing when struck on their stems. Two more ‘passers-by’ clatter past on the other side, White T's, Ye Gods. So, not moving to the other side then.

I might free-line in a bit, worth a try. The carp under the tree is still there, occasional swirls mark the spot. So, good, but a conspicuous lack of tench and bream as well as the C. A bump on the float perks my attention; 17:30pm. A fully scaled common slips out on my left and goes under a platform further down. Didn’t re-emerge, keeping under the feet of the angler there, 9-10lb maybe. Free-line looks good... 6:40pm a ½lb silver bream gags itself on the cockles. As close to a proper bite as I’ve had. Dead calm now, still-water, and the carp edges out for the third time...

...the same person thumps up behind "to see if I've caught any", shocks the gently rocking water into a final stillness. I crack a bit, say "Not now.", shortly, over his head; he then proceeds to tell me it was harder fishing than it looked. You couldn't make it up. I packed.

Odd water. Meh.

200820th June 2008. L'Etang de La MorinaisMike's perfect French hideaway. So. A long story and a long trip around France which finished with a fish...

Friday: 3:55pm almost an hour of fishing in the wind at the north end of the lake. I'm laying-on in Point Parfait, three-four feet of water a bit under one of the trees to the right. Mike showed me around and I agreed with his assessment, the windward end is the end to be, carp so often wind-herded, especially when the wind and water are warm. If I've had any action though I've missed it. There are fry in the margins with one or two larger fish about and there are very suspicious sucking noises from time to time from my far right. On cue a fish crashes on the opposite corner. I'd put a bit of corn behind the platform always worth a try and a crayfish sidled in about thirty minutes later ad made off with some of it. It's not returned since. More sucking and clooping behind which is good.

The sun and the wind are in my face (OK, I'm half tucked under a tree some shade but it's receding as the sun lowers. A small fish, perhaps ½Kg mMetric units, it's in France...  has jumped twice in line with my float perhaps fifteen meters further out. We'll see. I've not got my hopes up, you have to enjoy the waiting as well.

L'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais

When I got here, via, Caen (a), Le Mans, Orleans (lovely little motel, terrific plat de jour, and a good red, still have the bottle, interesting customer), the 'FuturoscopeJust for the hotel you understand' near customer(b) (don't ask, regular hotel, if I recall, breakfast in a Casino) at Poitiers, then Rennes (and its 'interesting' traffic system), perhaps finally here by 2pm, I stood on Point De Chasse and took in the atmos. The 'small technology' rang. It was 'French Customer (a)', the TD of, who'd assembled his team and put me on speaker-phone to give me a piece of his mind, as I'd advised French customer (b) that their design [designed unknown to me by 'French Customer (a)'] was under par in several respects. Unwise to put me on speaker-phone in front of his minions, it didn't go well for him. Then I turned the STsmall technology off. I went and got the left-over half-a-bottle of red from Poitiers.

Saturday: I've got corn and cockles on and the maize supplied is too hard to side hook, being soaked only. I might rig up a hair later (a 'true' hair not an 'anti-eject') if I fancy trying some. My float dips fast and I pick the rod up. Nothing happens. Huh. A kingfisher flies over me and off to the left bank heading for the boathouse. OK then. I put my hand on the rod and thirty seconds tick by then I strike and there's solid resistance for a moment giving the 2lb t/c and 12lb line something to hope for but it morphs into dogged tinca, 5lb 13oz in the net, so 3½lb. Not bad, never bad. Not the plan, but all tench are good.

L'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La Morinais

So the kingfisher was right, I wait some more, not a blank then. The 1lb carp jumps again ten yards off the float, 4pm and the activity is still here. Something seems about to happen, no reason silly as it sounds. I mark the float's position against a crack in the edge of the platform in case. Another cloop from the far bank, still tense twenty minutes later. What looked like a small perch has just chased into the small fry lurking in the space behind the platform. With more time I'd fish generally at least once. A bigger fish just barrel rolled in front of me, I'll give it to 5:30pm and rig a mussel or two, for thirty minutes. I've quietly made a new trace up, I might not use it yet. Hard to shake off the fish feeling. A very big fish has just jumped to my left fifty yards out. A big double maybe. Aha. I re-bait for the forty-five minutes before tea. Big fish rolls under the trees five yards to my left...

L'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisFishing in the waves at L'Etang de La MorinaisL'Etang de La MorinaisJAA at L'Etang de La Morinais

Horrible early drive to the ferry and the new roads on the way didn't appear on the navigation technology, so it thought I was driving through fields...which was interesting.

2008June 2008. L'etang de La Morinais"This must be the most peaceful & unspoilt fishery on earth to go fishing."...is an ideal carp fishery if your preferred approach is float fishing the margins, free-lining, casting to bubblers, fishing floaters or snooping about looking & waiting for that opportunity. Or alternatively, not bothering to cast at all; finding a comfortable trunk to rest your back against, dipping your hat over your eyes & having a little snooze.

L'etang de La Morinais does not claim to have several tons of pellet reliant carp crammed into a surface area of water, where fish health issues remain a real risk. There are around 160 carp from double figures through to forty pounds. The first thirty was landed in 2006, the first forty in 2007, with forties now being caught regularly.

JAA personally endorses its fine fish, atmosphere, location and hospitality, and has been five times...so far.

200829th June 2008. Milton Abbey.

...forty-five minutes fishing and I’ve upgraded the '500 to the '550 and 6lb-8lb; too many carp and tench about and a lot of weed to boot. Big paste bait goes in after a big tench which dallied, but I pull the hook out of this fish, then snag a branch. I cut the branch off to cut my losses. Hot sunny and perfect otherwise...at least 6 carp to 15lb and 3-4 tench have shown themselves, so it looks fair, I alternate cockle, paste and corn then see (and wait...) 4:45pm. Sunshine, distant pigeons and planes droning. Humpy mirror carp of about 8lb nips past the float. As a result of its coming I wait too long on a bite, fretting about ‘liners’ and so miss. The carp exits. Pah. But paste is good. 5:25pm.

I switch to cockle. Two misses is careless. A 3lb tench loiters for a bit and the water’s more opaque than of late. I predict I’ll get some action later if not sooner. Tea maybe. I munch the seedy crisp-bread that is my evening meal and well, wait. A raft of weed runs down the float, forcing a recast. Tench are around, a 5lb and a 3lb fish, hoping I hadn't spooked them setting up.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey; tincaring on the Pump Pool Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey; tincaring on the Pump Pool

Tea stratagem...I get a dibble, hit it with one hand, on the lean, and after a tussle on the RHS the hook comes away. Drat. Small tench I’d say. 5:45pm...5:50pm, a big bait, a bite and a long silver corkscrew comes off. Grass carp? I change hooks, I can’t see the problem but there is one.

Steady bite at 6:30 which I hit hard, this is a 4lb tench, ‘one’. Good, then I switch to paste, no reason. The unrelenting steady clockwise drift bows the line and I need to account for it when striking. Recast due to drifting weed, back on cockles, perhaps too over-depth also. Tea. Still annoying; four tench is par, seven is exceptional; 7:15pm dusk coming and odd tench keeps scooting by. No carp for some time though. I munch oatcakes and consider options, but as I’m pretty much getting a bite every 40 minutes, seems little point in changing.

Milton AbbeyA Milton Abbey tinca, the Cardinal 44x and the Chapman 550Milton AbbeyAnother Milton Abbey tinca, the Cardinal 44x and the Chapman 550Milton AbbeyYet another Milton Abbey tinca, the Cardinal 44x and the Chapman 550

7:30pm; 6lb+ tench, after five minutes the hook pulls out again. Must be me. Odd. 7:35pm, 3lb tench landed, overpowered. 8:10pm, a 5lb tench. Three swam by just after I change to paste, so I flick a bit of hemp in and that was that. 8:15pm lose another 3lb tench on paste. Arrgh...time to go home...

2008June 2008. The Old Carp Rod. Operation Camo. I gave the rod a re-furnish a new handle, moving it towards the butt-end, as it used to have a double hand "horizon cast" thing going on. A new set of rings and it's whipped 'camo'. C'et un blague. My Harrisons was a test bed for thread colours and the tip sports several, plus the whole rod has 1ft marker intermediates. It was dubbed a camo-whipped Avon by a friend, so on the old rod I went the whole hog and mixed colours and spacing for odd intermediates along the entire length. None of the rings have two whippings the same colour. Good fun. I look forward to my first 'bite' on it...

The 'camo whipping'Hard to see eh? C'et un blagueThe 'camo whipping'Hard to see eh? C'et un blagueThe 'camo whipping'Hard to see eh? C'et un blague
The 'camo whipping'Arfleet, 'off the top' with the 'camo-whipped' Old Carp RodThe 'camo whipping'Arfleet, 'off the top' with the 'camo-whipped' Old Carp RodThe 'camo whipping'Arfleet, 'off the top' with the 'camo-whipped' Old Carp Rod
How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers? ?(and back to the top of the page) How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...?

July 2008

20086th July 2008. Milton Abbey. A typically drowsy Milton Abbey lake summer's day, with insects swarming and the sun beating the water flat. I did manage four great tench at least two of which were over 4lb, but the really annoying thing about this is that having set up in Peg 13 with the '550Chapman 500 and the usual float-fished cockles-&-hemp and having banked four fish, I've got to tell you I lost six, all to hook pulls and two of those fish were over 6lb because I saw them...

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...

I've no idea why I couldn't get the hook set, whether it was the rod or my incompetence. You ought, on a warm and happy day, to be pleased with four such tench even if spread over five hours, but to level with you I went home fairly pi$$ed off, which I admit must appear petulant and ungrateful but there you are.

Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey tinca's again...

200811th July 2008. Arfleet. Arrghfleet.

I’m on the SE bank right at the outlet end, due to some half-formed idea about cold water running along the far bank and this side being warmer. I have a quill-float, a size 10 and hemp-paste. There's plenty of small fish to keep the float mobile. There's a patter of rain; 6:10pm. Maybe that was a bite (missed). There’s a good fish rising behind the stump in front of me. I’m tossing it slugs as they appear, eventually they’ll be a hook in one. To the left is a nook or niche in the bank, which I fancy for later. Tea. Bell is 192*. Did he get his ‘200’? All right thinking people hope so. Some of the float's nudges have faded away, those fast dips caused by passing rudd forming a bow in the line (the giveaway is the sharp rise of the float after said dip).

There is a large swirl, a fish spooked by the float (or the angler) perhaps. More and more I think about free-line, only the lure of the float keeping me from trying this more often. The fish are busy and feeding though and one of them will (I hope) do the deed in the end. There are two other anglers beside me on the bank, both novices; my good side is itching to help them catch - maggots fished two feet down in ten feet of water is only going to score a few rudd.

Arfleet MillsArfleet - the outlet end Arfleet MillsArfleet - the 'niche' and its potamogeton

I’ll try the paste for an hour and swap to cockles. We’ll see. 6:50pm more paste. Another slug lobbed. More hemp scattered. Another ‘maybe’ bite, it’s hard to tell, a dip-and-stop. Cockle or the niche? Hmm. 7:15pm; miss a sitter. The neighbours leave. More tea; decamp for the niche and its potential potamogeton, where a carp of about 10lb potters about. I miss a bite after 10 minutes, recast closer in. A big fish appears at my feet and vanishes in a vortex. Funny place. More bites in the margin. Back onto cockles.

I switch to a size 10 ‘No.7’, recast, hook a ghostie almost on the drop, after a bit the hook-hold gives. Dammit, 3-4lb maybe. I try a ‘regular’ hook; get bites and a 4oz rudd. I switch to a pole float, drop to a size 12 and 8lb line. Jack up the blood sugar for the last hour with oatcakes. The float dips off as I write and so miss the fish (hint) but not a tree. Hm.

P.S. I typed this entry in April 2021 from notes taken on the day and then, inexplicably, put on the shelf for over a decade. As part of the memory experiment this is instructive. I had absolutely no recall of most of the detail in the notes, although now it feels like I remember some of it. The thing though, is I know I didn’t, but the memory is now indistinguishable from one I had all the time...and as the original handwritten notes pass through the shredder, the above becomes the original and is more accurate anyway...

200820th July 2008. Bartons Court. Never drive past a dead jay. I'd not had a great weekend. 'Plan A' had been to spend a day sorting out my late father's house, then to comb through the last of the effects and then to head off for a well deserved spot of siblings' carp snaffling. Due to monumental sickness, 'Plan B' turned out to be a solo effort on the house clearing and after a day and a half finishing off the bits and bobs, I'd earned some respite care during the drive back.

For some time now I've tried to take every opportunity to wet a line, that and never to drink instant coffee. Despite the pull of home and family yet 70 miles down the road, I took an opportunity in duplicate with a stop at 'Italian for Coffee' (have flask, will travel) and then at a gravel pit I know of, where, against the odds, the lake was very quiet so I found a calm spot around the back, which, although trammelled, is a good swim when deserted.

Fishing well and quietly here gives you a good chance of a fish and an outside chance of a leviathan. Not too easy, not too hard. I set up a quill-float rig on the carp rod, eased into the cover of a bush at the side of the no-mans-land which defined the swim and eased outside a large black freshly ground and ruminated in the setting sun. A sobering process to sift through the paper minutiae of your father's life and to discover more than you knew. It's also very wearing on the soul. For two-and-a-half restoring hours, the fish heroically, unsympathetically even, resisted the temptation of my various baits. I only had one movement you'd call a bite, the float sidling off with that determined angle that's usually caused by something small, line over one shoulder, trudging away in a determined way. You never know, so I struck anyway...

Bartons CourtBarton's Court lake Bartons CourtJust Another float

I have a carp rod. I should explain: I have several rods, but this one is the only one that's actually for carp. I bought it in 1982 when carbon was new and exciting and I'm reasonably sure it's got some glass it in. It's thick walled, with a 2lb t/c and an all-through action. I've just rebuilt it, as after 20 years it's perhaps due some new rings. I also changed the handle from a double gripped 'horizon cast' type to a sensible one with the reel seat under my hand with about 2" of the butt past my elbow, to give me best use of the 11 feet. This rod landed many 'wildies' when I first went carp fishing and while the new 'camo' whippings are strictly 'subverting the genre', the action is not.

So, no bites so far then. I took off the float, flicked out some pre-soaked kibble stolen from the dog (only the white bits, so if the hound develops a vitamin deficiency, I'm in big trouble) and put three feet of flouro on the end of the mono and a size '6'. And that was it. I watched the loose floaters for a bit but just when I was thinking, "Ah well...", a small dark hole opened up in the water to my left and a dog biscuit ran down it like wine curling into a glass. A scaly back rolled over, reminding me briefly of a Chinese dragon and the water closed with a soft 'thop'. Aha. I threaded two of the kibbles onto the hook and lobbed it in. I'd like to say I got a take. The erstwhile water-dragon mopped up the loose singles in a casual and knowing manner. It went quiet then. I waited.

The minutes ticked by, while the fish (I thought, I hoped) weighed up the risk as the bait slowly drifted nearer my rod tip. With the stealthiest of movements I kept the line in touch. The light faded. The two biscuits changed into a rotating carriage clock pendulum and then they vanished in a black flint swirl and pretty much all I had to do was lift the rod tip. Something solid charged under the tree to my left. I hauled it out. It did it again. I hauled it out again. It went out 15 yards and skulked in eight feet of water, then tried again for the tree. It almost made it. Then I had the net under a fish which might have been 9lbs.

My first carp on a floater, first fish on my old revamped carp rod. Joyful serendipity.

Bartons CourtNot just another carp

Some days you don't mind too much if you fail to catch. On other days you really want a fish. Some days though, you really need a fish. This was one of those days...in my youth I stayed with my grandparents in Hampshire and one of the great treasures of the Otterbourne woods was a jay's blue feather, although you never found more than one at a time. One year I had four, found in two weeks. To discover this sapphire among the lesser jewels of the summer foliage was a wondrous thing to me then. It still is.

So it was that on my way home from an airport last week, near Stockbridge, I drove past a jay. It was on the grass verge, quite dead but its blue under-wing shone like an evening star. I should have stopped - I thought about it, twice, then again on the roundabout. I mean, when have you ever seen a dead jay? How often do you get the chance for a whole set of those blue feathers? I advise stopping whenever you get the chance.

200823rd July 2008. Athens. Three sales leads came in from around Athens... "Better go to Greece then." said the boss. Very very hot. Athens was over 30° in the shade. Blistering and my first appointment, in the middle of the city, was interesting but a bust, let us call it 'networking'. The receptionist, channelling Betty Arvaniti, was wearing clothes that appeared to be two sizes too small but looked cucumber-cool, no mean feat in this heat, walked me to the hotel they'd booked for me, which was kind. Even kinder was the fruit basket she'd arranged - that fruit was ice cold and I ate every piece - the morning gig was a small router company who didn't quite seem to 'get' the technology, although I saw fine views from the top of the tower and the last gig was more promising (although it came to nothing in the end). The owner of the last wouldn't hear of me eating alone in a hotel and insisted on taking me to a small fish restaurant 'somewhere by the sea' where we sat under a vined pergola, dined on red mullet with samphire and drank red wine. It felt to me like a meal of the Cyprus of my youth. Saw some fishing. No really. I yearned for the hand-lined wrasse of my younger self.

Athens and somewhere near the sea...I can still taste that chilled fruitAthens and somewhere near the seaIf you don't recognise this I can't help you any moreAthens and somewhere near the seaI don't know what this is...
Athens and somewhere near the seaThe post prandial strollAthens and somewhere near the seaThe post prandial strollAthens and somewhere near the seaThe post prandial stroll
Athens and somewhere near the seaTold you there was fishing...Athens and somewhere near the sea..there are many worse ways to spend an eveningAthens and somewhere near the seaEven managed a picture of a float...

200827th July 2008. Arfleet. Well helloooo there 'fishing off the top'. Now, the thing about today is that I've decided to give the old floater-fishing a bash. I'd stolen the dog's kibble, at least the whitish bits, soaked them in the hot water from cooked hemp, patted them about with kitchen roll until I'd got a more-or-less-spongy-and-floaty kind of consistency, then took them to Arfleet along with a bag of dry mixers to fire about, the Old Carp rod, some 10lb line and a Partridge hook, long-shanked but fine in the wire for its size. Heh. New notebook, new start.

16:40pm; I'm in the first swim, south corner, the water has an atypical muddiness. Odd fish are about and on the top so I've lobbed in a few floaters. Those on the right vanish with barely a sound, the 10lb magician passing by my feet with a swirl that rocked the float. I've got two hempy dog-biscuits on a size 6 in waiting, meanwhile fishing corn on the bottom under a modified paste float, with cockles to try later. It's 29°C but shady. I've had a fine day, taking the Littleanglers swimming then getting through 'The Secret Carp' and three 'Jethro Tull' albums in the same two good hours. Floaters next...rod then.

I miss two bites on the float watching the floaters. A 10lb common starts on the few right-hand baits and I miss a take. I try again, but wise, it clears up the single baits and merely nudges the trap-double, then evanesces. I fire a few more hopeful mixers, a shower of which rebound from the catapult and scatter the water a yard or three in front of me. I was reasonably dumbfounded when a ghostie loomed out of the opaque, nabbed a couple and blurred off. I added two to the hook, dibbled it only eight feet way in hope not expectation, but stap me, back he came and the game was afoot with a practise run and then one quick slurp. After a one-sided scrap, 6lb in the net. But first blood and all that. I go back to the float rod while things settle.

Arfleet MillsArfleet, 'off the top'Arfleet MillsArfleet, 'off the top'Arfleet MillsArfleet, 'off the top'

There are far left cloopings, but the baits there are ignored. I change back to the float-rod looking for a straggler and lengthen the trace, soaking it so it sinks. Cockles and tea anyone? There are bubbles to the left (of me) but surface activity at this end has tailed off, the float's also static; 17:40pm, I'll go a-floating in a bit. More bubbles to the left, perhaps 10 yards off. I feed the far bank with dry biscuits, there was a fish about as baits were being nudged and popping out of sight in a reasonably regular way, so I stuck two more on the hook, flung it about three yards short of the far bank, waited...and waited...after what was about 15 minutes and a number of pokes, this too went under and there was a struggle going as it dove towards the rushes, getting attached to 50 feet of some other person's line and an old bubble float that must have been draping the bed. Most odd, but in the net about 9lb maybe. Two in no time, unheard of riches here. Hm. I like floater fishing. 6:15pm, tea.

After a bit of a think I moved, about 7pm, to the other end where the floaters wash up and carp were now moving. I try for one in the last-but-one swim and see only rudd despite the presence of a real fish that picks off the few loose baits. I then opt to get right in the corner on all fours; I loose three hook-baits to the rudd then have an aborted run at the hook-bait from a carp that looms out of nowhere.

Down to the last five baits, I opt for the far bank right in the corner where I know there's a carp, and the first pair of baits sinks...I try the second pair which floats and edges towards the middle. This nudges a couple of times and then suddenly becalmed, raises the tension. I wait five minutes with silence in a circle around the bait then in a cream-swirl, it goes. I hit the lump and it tries to get under the far bank and then whips out into the lake, so I swap swims, then it heads back into the corner, curving the rod right over. I retrieve the carp, then it sounds deep, once, twice, then gives into the net; 11lb, "3". 8:15pm.

Arfleet MillsArfleet, 'off the top'Arfleet MillsArfleet, 'off the top'Arfleet MillsArfleet, 'off the top'

More tea. It's gone quiet with the approaching dusk and cooled enough for me to put my fleece on; a big change from the 30°C of noon. A big carp surfaces dead ahead then a trough of bubbles tears along the top to five yards out, making me twitch. I've put a few of the remaining floaters out, but the carp are less evident now, I might try a dibble under the far bank or under the rod tip. A yaffle cackles, stealthy rustling starts, blackbird chips quietly.

A carp tops five yards ahead, ignores the floater I send after it; 8:50pm. I essay a distance floater and get rudd-robbed. I go back to the float, corn-and-cockle, fade to black.

So, this is surface fishing. I rather like it.

P.S. This entry is an amalgam of the web entry and a diary entry typed up in October 2019; the diary entry was a little different from the backfilled memory, which is a trick memory plays...

'BB'it's lead free, honest...(and back to the top of the page) 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p 'BB'it's lead free, honest 'AAA'it's lead free, so a bit cr*p

August 2008

20081st August 2008. Just AnotherAngler on the edgeI like puns, so sue me.

It's always been a source of amazement for me that some folk go fishing on a lake and immediately on arriving and tackling up, hurl the end bits to the far bank or as far across as they can manage. I've been on that far bank when stuff, some of it not out of place in a softening up bombardment on the Somme, 'thops' into the water in my swim. If the other bank looks so good why not walk around and fish from there? It seems there is something ingrained in some psyches about the bigger fish being further out. Bigger is better. Size matters. Something like that. 'Compensating', I call it.

The truth of the matter is that the fish go where the food is and where conditions are appropriate for consumption - in nearly every water you can think of, the banks on all sides are high on that list. I freely admit this marginal addiction is partly born out of a dislike of ledgering in general and fishing miles away in particular (I don't count free-lining as ledgering). So although I prefer to fish on my side and with a float or nothing else on the line at all, this is tempered with a healthy perspective on the advantages. In many waters the major source of natural food is from the bankside flora and fauna, fish know this. They also know that huge bipeds clumping about are a bad sign. So they hide, fading like the Cheshire cat but taking the grin with them, often with little indication they were ever there. Excepting of course those waters where 'natural food' is mostly angler supplied, leaving the insect life amazed they get about with so little trouble.

Actually margins are often a good source of non natural food - when evening arrives, many fisherfolk pack up before the best two or three hours (?) and chuck in their leftover bait. (I'm "careful with money", I refreeze mine). One lake I fished often for six months, often had the 'best swims' occupied (funny how they are usually the ones near the car park), until that hour or two before sunset and then abandoned. If I'd not had a bite for a bit and with the 'all-clear' sounded by the slamming of car doors and fading engine noise, I'd sidle round and catch several.

Amused am I (turning into Yoda am I), when visitors to a lake make a point of standing at the front of every swim, hands on hips, sky-lined and wearing spottable clothing, knowledgeably scanning the far bank for life. And then go around the other side and repeat the exercise. Those of us who've snuck in, have only a few inches of rod tip poking through the edge-sward and are resolutely drab in appearance (some would say I don't need the fishing clothes for that) chuckle to ourselves or seethe when signal-shirt and wavy arms clumps up behind to ask if you have caught anything. Not now mate. Luckily, the die hard clumpers and peerers seldom seem interested in information from the actual anglers. I've had trolleyed up serious carp boys walk past me while I had a fish on without even breaking their chat. Amazing. I can't do that, even if I was just to watch. Still, I've experienced being told across the water I can't fish that swim as they've baited it, so it's theirs. Luckily there still are good uses for butt spears and .45" lead bullets (drilled or otherwise) that are not mentioned in "Still Water Angling". Although one of them is mentioned in "Drop me a Line".

I digress. The margins. I prefer them for many reasons. The fish tend to prefer them. I don't have to cast miles. I find it no hardship to keep still, avoid sudden movements, keep off the skyline and avoid things that cause waterborne vibration in general and I catch fish there regularly. It seems to work. By and large I fish over depth with small floats and braid hook-lengths and get sail-away bites for the most part (of course I fish a lake where I don't get positive bites, but I do catch the fish anyway). It all comes down to 'Still Water Angling', which impressed upon me the need to keep out of sight and sound. It also sold me on braid hook lengths which I started with in 1985, one foot lengths of 11lb Milward Black Spider, varnished and water knotted to the mono. I fished for wildies under my rod tip with a 2×no.4 crystal canal float in 10 feet of water with 1×BB on the trace and Size 8 hooks (which turned out to be a Jack Hilton) obtained when I went into a tackle shop in Newbury and asked for carp hooks. Oh yes and sweetcorn. It worked and I averaged two fish an evening, five evenings a week for five weeks, best 8lb 14oz, but by golly did they motor. And a 6lb tench and a lot of surprised roach at the 1lb mark. I had to train several of the visiting anglers to crouch, walk gently and speak softly and most did. I never did train the bailiff though, who wore size 12 army's and a white 'T' shirt. Many trembling floats he stilled.

So it works (for me) and returning to those roots in 1998 or thereabouts, I kept the Milward on the line and with 8lb mono bagged some impressive roach and a 13 tench haul at a local lake. Amazing how you don't need fine tackle sometimes. I've moved onto specialist hook lengths these days in nice sensible breaking strains. But 8 squid for 20M of hook length, when Milward was a fiver for 100 yards? Daylight robbery lads, for sure.

The compulsion to fish by the edge remains and given freedom from the clumpers, the semaphore artists, the disinterested, their hulking barrows and the rod artillery, I find I can catch quite well. It's sobering to get the full rush of a big double picking up under your feet. So if you happen upon a drab-dressed sloucher with a rod barely over the edge and possibly a small float three feet out from the bank, crouch, walk softly, speak softy and you'll discover some of us are quite sociable. And if you sit long enough you may see why it works. And if you don't see a fish before you leave, someone leaving the bank will often encourage the really shy ones...so I'm never too sad when folk move on.

20086th August 2008. L'etang de La Morinais. We took the tent to France and pootled about looking at stuff and I occasionally fished in the lake. A great family holiday.

On day one, a casual cast at a patch of bubbles from the Point De Chasse resulted in this grass-carp, 15lb from memory. I'd only taken the Chapman 550 down for an hour and if I'm honest that was more power than this fish needed. Like most such, it ran once and more or less gave up. I snapped it once and dropped it back in.

L'etang de La MorinaisThe grass carp. Still think they look like mullet.L'etang de La MorinaisJust a nice pictureL'etang de La MorinaisThe float in the lake's unique water-colour.

20089th August 2008. The Spoon.

At L'etang de La Morinais, we were trying for a tench or carp, and I windmilled in some loose feed. "You know Dad," said the BugAngler (aged 9 & 23/24ths), "you could flick bait in with a spoon and it would be much easier." Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings and all that.

Fine La Morinais fishesOne of the fine roach Fine La Morinais fishesOne of the fine tench

You can flick a dozen grains of corn about 40 yards with a spoon, the wooden sort they have on ferries are good, but the plastic baby spoons are much better. You can get a big bit of kibble 50 yards. An ear of giant maize will go 60 yards. Live and learn. I carry a couple of spoons now. Plus, you don't get hemp and corn stuck in your ears when it bounces off the catapult handles.

200810th August 2008. La Morinais. The last day. On the last day's dawn I take my tea and wander down to the platform, Point de Chasse, to look at the water one last time, it's a still blue morning with the promise of sun but the air still has a cold streak running through it. I wander on and at the next platform spot a bubbler about 30 feet out to the left. I stand motionless for a bit then sidle backwards off the boards and set off to collect the 'old' carp rod, still made up on the veranda from the previous evening's unsuccessful free-lining.

I collect corn, landing-net and the 'Hatangler', who was up, and we head back to the platform with a brief word of explanation. The ghillie waits with the net tucked by a convenient bush, I slither onto the boards, flick a few free offerings and cast. The bubbles stop. I wait...

The bubbles re-appear on the right of the swim, so I retrieve quietly, briefly consider the monograph on bubblers by the under-appreciated Mr. Sharman and cast to a yard in front of the new line's heading. I silently lay the rod down, sit on the grass next to the ghillie and we wait...and a few minutes later the line twitches, straightens and cuts across the water...

I take a long stride, pick up the rod, snap the bail and lift hard into hope, which responds with a swooshing leap in the shallow water, then runs 50 yards at full steam, pushing a roll of water in front. I request the services of the ghillie while the fish, now on a long line, heads harder right for a patch of lilies, obliging me to wind furiously to stay in touch...with disaster possible if not imminent, I whip the rod over to the right and pull hard and the fish, a good common, immediately changes direction and heads left. Then, more-or-less level with the platform fifteen yards out it capitulates. I loosen the clutch and pump the fish into the net via a few protesting lunges, the ghillie doing a fine job. A glorious common, 18½lb. The way to end a holiday. A snap, then off to re-tell the story and break fast, then the trail to the ferry, via the extraordinary Mont St. Michel.

L'Etang de La MorinaisDawn at La Morinais L'Etang de La MorinaisDawn at La Morinais
L'Etang de La Morinaisthe early morning send-off L'Etang de La MorinaisThe quite extraordinary Mont St. Michel

200817th August 2008. Milton Abbey. Warm, sultry and dead calm.

I've weed-dragged Peg 12, but nothing happened for the next two hours, so I'm now in Peg 7 where fish are passing. Fishing corn and a cockle on the Four-Piece Avon rig, I pull the size 14 out of a 3lb(ish) tench. Hm. With constant carp, I've switched to cockles and corn free-lined on the Old Carp Rod.

The bigger 'ghostie' is abroad but nothing's paused yet; 5pm, no improvement on the roach front, that is to say, there aren't any, although there are carp feeding 35yds to the left, which refuse to take any bait offered. It's very quiet, it can be hard here and I'm tempted to try another swim by the car park, so potter off coffee in hand to take a look; there is a small whirligig of tench and silt by the outflow where a new swim has been cut in the rush-bed. I fish in it and an hour later actually get my first bite, a 2lb tench; 6:01pm. Bizarre. Tried all baits and no better result. Odd day for fish and I feel a quarter-wavelength out of phase myself. I don't get another bite. 7pm. Carp and tench have visited but not stayed and I've put out free-lined giant maize in hope rather than expectation. If 8pm brings no fish I'll call it quits. I can't quite settle today - I've spent five hours straight without moving for three bites, but today that's not working for me. This swim was grey with silt two hours ago, that colour has faded to the bottom except a swirl about ten yards out 30 minutes ago. I've put in some floaters, again, not in expectation. A distant owl. A few patches of bubbles appear.

Perhaps time to fish with one rod, simplify things, lets see what this week brings.

Milton AbbeyLooking across the very green Pump PoolMilton AbbeyMilton Abbey Peg 7Milton AbbeyMilton Abbey Peg 7

I've accidentally 'moved on' a pike by casting across it, of course the swim is dead now, I'm past moving again though, I'll fish it out 'till 8pm or so. Another owl. The float flickers a bit and stops. The ghostie turns up five yards off on my left, steers into the margin and glides under the rod, takin' the mick. Owl three. The ghost has a shadow, 5lb of mirror carp, perhaps a food taster? The owl is getting into its stride now, a kingfisher joins me on the end of the willow and I prop the free-line rod on a rest to keep it free of the rushes. You never know. The kingfisher wings it up the lake. Twice now the float has twitched and the ghostie appears. Perhaps I'll a put cockle on a free-line.

I put a cockle on a free-line and wait. Money is on 'zero' or the ghost's shadow! If it comes back...dusk now and more than a hint of autumn in the air making me wish for a hard winter.

Milton AbbeyHeadache inducing reflections Milton AbbeyThe catch of the day, one tinca tinca

Note to self: barometric pressure could affect dissolved oxygen (DO), which would tally with the belief that low pressure is poor for fishing and a rising barometer is good. However, 980-1020 mBar is only a 2% variation in pressure. Fourteen feet depth of water is 1 Bar (1000 mBar) of pressure; 2% of 14ft is 0.28ft or 3.25", so it hardly seem likely that pressure is the direct cause of change in fish behaviour, although there may be a correlation.

A small lone tench has slipped into the top of the swim and the ghost is under the rod. Again. A few rain drops scatter across the swim, the float flickers and the ghost turns up (again) after a bit. I wait. I resolve, as it goes by again, to lay a trial of bait. This I do, adding another cockle to the free-lined hook, in place of the corn, and scatter a few loose ones in a line. This is worth the still hours of the afternoon.

The foil twitches; 8:10pm; a leather carp slips by, almost invisible, a grey on grey glide. There another patter of patter of rain and hemp-seed. An eternity passes but it's now only 8:15pm. I feel the moment has slipped away, but I've been wrong before, the foil rustles but it's the breeze...more loose rain-drops and a rat appears on the left, I flick my finger at it and it bolts...

200824th August 2008. Pallington.

Pallington LakesPallington, a wonderful evening Pallington LakesPallington, a wonderful evening

200829th August 2008. Clattercote Reservoir. Hideous place. The car park was piled with litter and it stank. I found a spot (first there) on the North boardwalk (I like this actually). The space behind is 'no fishing' too snaggy, the fish know of course. I AvonThat's 'Four Piece Harrison's Avon''d out four tench, one of which was missing the top of it's mouth, ugh (not pictured) and a carp, while forming a poor impression of many of the distant residents, as it looked just like they were getting pi$$ed and planning to sleep it off on the boards, with a fishing rod as justification.

The sibling nabbed a fine carp by feeding it out from under the boards and playing it around one of the posts, a tinge of comedy fishing...back at JAFHJust Another Fecking Hotel it turned out the Polish receptionist was from Ziolona GoraWhat are the odds? Probably not so large. so we talked about that, what are the odds? This probably helped with the full refund I claimed, due to the cockroach I stopped on my bedroom floor. I stay 'stopped' I of course mean 'flattened'...'trific.

Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony Clattercote ReservoirClattercote cacophony

The following morning there were 'anglers' sprawled on the boards still sleeping, empty tins around, rods laid on the floor, if not pulled into the water. We fished for an hour on the south bank near the damn, deeper water, plenty of roach, then went to Butlers Hill. It'll be a long time before I return to Clattercote, South West Water you should be ashamed of this.

200830th August 2008. Butler's Hill Fishery. Seen worseReally OK, despite some of the clientele...we had started the day at Clattercote and despite our best intentions the place simply was no longer doing it for us, what with its overnight drinkers still sleeping it off on the far boardwalk. We half-heartedly extracted a few roach from the bank opposite yesterday's session and made like the shepherd*. Butlers Hill then: there are three ponds, the first had two bivvies blocking any access to the rear of the pond and the owners glared at us daring us to try, we were tempted on principle, we are not slender chaps. Bo££ocks to them tarring all anglers with their brush. The pond furthest from the cars seems the nicest and I nabbed two carp in the first couple of hours.

The bivvie'd chap and his 'other half' (at the end of the pool) came around as they'd blanked and I gave him a handful of cockles for restoring my faith and he in turn gave me some tikka powder in a bag, which he used for rolling meat, it smelled good enough for myself. Later he offered to share a meat pie he'd heated up, it does your heart good to meet such nice folk. I spend the fading light trying for a fish off the top, failing and the sibling bagged a couple as well.

Butler's Hill FisheryThe dibber and its cocklesButler's Hill FisheryCarp the first @ Butler's PoolsButler's Hill FisheryCarp the secondButler's Hill FisheryThe serenity of the early evening

The last two fish were the sibling's, I still keep that Tikka powder in the bait-box in the boot, still smells great, still use it...

*...and got the flock out of there...

200831st August 2008. Pallington. Eel. I'd spotted several carp right at the island end and a couple were surfacing and browsing right under the bank and as I prepared to tumble a bait off the grass into their path, a man appeared with a notebook, sneered "Obviously you're not going to be in the carp match." and clumped past, so that was the end of those carp and the beginning of the end of my membership. Such an ignorant person. I then nabbed a couple of bream on haricot beans and the eel took a mussel and three cockles, well it would. Hm.

Pallington LakesPallington Eel, no change there thenPallington LakesPallington, a good lake spoiledPallington LakesPallington, a good lake spoiledPallington LakesPallington, a good water turned into just another carp lake
A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box...(and back to the top of the page) A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box

September 2008

20083rd September 2008. Turku, Finland. Missed opportunity, that's the Aura River. I say that, but anything sharp like a 'fish-hook' wouldn't have got through security. I recall changing flights at Helsinki, then driving up-country through snow, to a customer who seemed to have invited us to visit for the sole reason of telling us they'd used the other people's product. Eh.

TurkuJust Another Fricking Hotel and the ephemera of the turnpike engineer. TurkuI liked this.
TurkuThe view from the JAFH's roomTurkuThe view from the JAFH's roomTurkuThe view from the JAFH's room

20087th September 2008. Pallington. So close...but no banana. Or carp.

I pitched up and pitched in the second swim up on the north bank, tucked into the side between the tree and the reeds. The water here is 9' and I fish 2' over* with a big lump of hemp-paste. The fish are at this end, signalling with rises and bubbles. Hopefully they're not 'tackle shy'. Tight clutch and 12lb mono, water is 18°C, I wait. One rod, one hook, back to the start. On cue, after a few nudges, the float sinks as I fiddle with the thermometer, which is convinced it's 26°C in the shade; I disagree... a villainous branch impedes the strike...I'd prefer to keep it as cover butas the hook is stuck firmly into wood I pull it out and relocate it in the long grass behind. That'll probably kill the swim for 40 minutes or so dammit.

OK, off we go again, then the float dips again, briefly, as I write, but returns to attention in a moment. Bream? We'll see, it continues to bibble about; 5:10pm, a barrow-man has gone silently past, good of him, pitched in the enxt swim up, he seems to have more bait that I use all season. A chap on the far bank has just gone by with this thirdbarrow-load. I'm pretty sure all the tackle I've ever owned would fit onto one barrow. Strewth. 6pm for tea? I have provisions, there is a kitchen...

I have a strong feeling that there is a good chance tonight. No reason, but it seems like the right spot...then there are bubbles and the tip dips and I double the rod over, there's a surge and 'catch' a scale the size of an old 50p piece. Drat, drat and double drat. Cup of tea, there's now an annoying tangle around the spool, must unkink the line later on. Still, the tea is cool now...

Pallington LakesPallington Lakes Pallington LakesPallington Lakes

I'm keeping a trickle of maize going in for later. When the light goes I'll free-line with the same as hook-bait. Float dips, 7pm, some activity, but a bite-marked whittled bait suggests anguilla. Hm. I retire to the hut and make scrambled eggs with sweetcorn, a craving I brought with me, I feel significantly more optimistic for eating something, but am slightly underwhelmed by the mixture, plain eggs next time with toast. I return, re-bait, the temperature has dropped a degree but the sky has cleared, the sun is showing as it sets. I'm tucked back in behind the reeds out of the breeze. Must have another go at finding a bee-keeping veil in a drab colour (they all seem to be white). Fish periodically confirm their presence by rolling in the middle. The wind is freshening, 7:40pm, some bubbles, plucks and I miss a promising proper bite. Pah, incompetent fool. Cup of tea. Then the wind drops and the water becomes still, the reeds fall silent, there's a chill in the air, a tinge of autumn...

Pallington LakesPallington Lakes Pallington LakesPallington Lakes

I swap my hat for a beanie, time to break out the lined wind-proof jumper. Mill-pond calm now. If it's happening it'll be soon, the float dips in response to the pen. Only 30 minutes from free-lining and foil, the sky has cleared and the light through the reed foreshadows winter. The float is never still despite the dead calm water...the light has gone I switch to free-lined maize, put a big ring of foil on the line, lit the candle-lamp putting slightly behind me with my bag between it and, the foil glittered in the flame-light. then I got lost in the moon on the water, the evening star perfectly positioned in the 'V' of a tree branch and whatever frequency my brain runs at drifted into phase with the slow beat of the lake. It was completely dark when I decide fish are not coming this time but that didn't seem to matter any more.

Pallington LakesDuskPallington LakesMoonrise at Pallington LakesPallington LakesDusk

As I slipped up the bank I passed the fellow in the next pitch, who'd joined me earlier in the kitchen, and critically had slipped pass me noiselessly when I indicated a fish was below my feet. We talk of baits that were not boilies and fish that were not carp then I bid him a good night.

* I know, two feet over depth? I assume this is a slip of the pen and I meant to write 2". Damned if I know where the umbrella locking nut went though.

200814th September 2008. Poole Quay, Dorset. Crabs, more crabs, a careless blenny, a pipefish, hot chocolates and a large 'americano'. Great fun had by all.

200814th September 2008. Pallington. Tricky place for fish. Some barbed noses as well.

Late afternoon and I take the top swim again, the scene of the recent 3lb eel. It's 3:55pm; I've come here as today this is the fishes' end, the wind is blowing into this corner, wind herding and it'll be high DO after two warm still days and the water is at a balmy 18.9°C, the afternoon air at 22.6°C. I'm fishing off to my right so the bank covers me, using the self-cocking quill and a slider knot, not because it's really that deep but to ease casting in the breeze.

I've stuck a large blob of paste on the hook and thrown in a few handfuls of hemp-seed. When I arrived there were bubbles here, predictably they've gone. My float just foundered in a swirl of bubbles. Time to re-adjust, so I move the float a foot up the line. Was that the real thing or a 'liner'? Hard to say, we'll see, so I put down the book; having not taken my eye off the float, it vanishes without pre-amble and I strike for nothing; 4:25pm.

Pallington LakesThe barbed nose syndicate Pallington LakesThe barbed nose syndicate

There are bubbles then a temporary calm and my new cast is more middle lake than behind the loosestrife, but I leave it where it is. Getting bites not so hard today. There are more suspicious bubbles a yard left of the float and I drop one hand onto the corks. The float jiggles about and I miss a bite, but not a very carp-like one. The water has coloured up so I re-bait and wait, although I suspect roach and/or bream, so may try some giant maize on a size 2; the float continues to twitter about.

A two-and-a-half foot tarpon just ghosted past, so vague it was more thought of the fish than the fish itself; 5:30pm and a carp leaps 40 feet the other side of the float, then left a stream of bubbles 10 feet long as it ploughed the lake-bed, alas heading in the wrong direction. I opt for tea. Two of the bivvie-livers on the far bank are 'in', fishing under this bank of course. I decide it is worth dropping the hook size and finding out what plagues me. I immediately catch two 6oz roach on corn tipped size 10, curiosity sated, I try paste for a while but despite bubbles all around the float, I couldn't buy a bite. Odd. I switch back to a grain of maize and to commemorate this wind drops completely.

I'm tempted to move down the lake, but that'll get me more interruptions. No wind, birdsong and occasional bleeps from up the bank. Float bumps (again), bubbles (again), a bite-spook (again). It's increasingly clear that 'bites' here are 'try then bolt in fear'. I need a new plan, as the fish here are so twitchy; perhaps hit the twitches, they're certainly not confident enough to pick up a bait. This plan might be "fish for the other fish". It doesn't seem quite right that here, carp can barely be caught conventionally, even allowing for possible ineptitude.

Pallington LakesThe barbed nose syndicate Pallington LakesThe barbed nose syndicate

An hour's fishing left perhaps, I'll split it half-and-half between paste and maize baits. The slightest twitch of the float. Hm. The light patch of open sky on the water keeps leaving after-images on my retinas and when I look back the float edges to the right in stop-motion. A big patch of bubbles erupt three feet left of the float. OK then. More bubbles ahead of the float, perhaps five feet or so. Another twitch; the float is dithering slowly; I imagine tail-fan currents. Optimism. Ten minutes later the float dithers then stops and I quietly look for a paste spring. I switch to paste for the last twenty while I can see to do it. Dusk. A shade of autumn in the damp air. A bat. A carp would be good!

200821st September 2008. Kimmeridge Bay. Dorset. The custom in the 'Anotherangler' household is to have an evening picnic or two at Kimmeridge at the book-ends of the holiday season. By the evening the grockles have packed and left and you have the place almost to yourself. These are informal affairs involving, in no particular order, egg mayonnaise, bread rolls, 'Mrs AA', tuna mayo, grilled sausages, 'littleanglers', crab lines, various drinks, picnic rugs, fishing umbrellas, 'Cadge the dog', shrimp-nets and the occasional fishing rod.

On a cool Friday evening in September, sitting on the dark shale that is still radiating the soft heat of the west bound sun, we break out the better-for-being-outside finger food. Dining over, crabs are turfed out from under stones, gobies are coaxed into nets and the dog tries to steal any stray sausages as usual. Arming myself with cockles and an Avon (mea culpa, malice aforethought, I'd packed them), I wade thigh deep in the warm water and float-fish the gentle waves for Corkwing and Ballan Wrasse, the 'sergeants' of the sea. I'd have stayed until the water was up to my armpits, but after I snatch five, an "indignity of wrasse" perhaps, the air turns sharply cold, so we all head home.

Poole QuayCorkwing and Ballan Wrasse, the 'sergeants' of the sea

200822nd September 2008. Romsey Tackle Fair. A place where crusty anglers get their old tackle out. Resisted, thus bought only a few floats and Rod Hutchinson's "The Carp Strikes Back" for £4. Bargain.

200823rd September 2008. The 'Pen Rod'.

Today a tiny 4'9" 'Pen' Fishing Rod turned up; Telescopic and with an equally tiny fixed spool reel. I just wanted one (this is a place-holder, there will be more).

200828th September 2008. Poole Quay, Dorset. One of our Sunday morning 'things' is crab fishing on Poole Quay. This morning I brought a pen rod (I'm a sucker for that kind of thing) and while the 'littleanglers' caught crabs, I used the mini rod and a quill to extract a dozen assorted gudgeon-like gobies and blennies plus one small ballan wrasse (I assume, bright green it was) to go in a bucket next to the crabs.

Poole Quaya dozen assorted gudgeon-like gobies and blennies plus one small ballan wrasse Poole Quay...and the crabs

The Quay crabs have wised up in the last year and learning to drop off the bait when out of the water - without a landing net to catch them, pickings can be meagre. Still at least my landing net gets used this way...then off for hot chocolates all round and one black coffee. Brilliant fun.

200828th September 2008. Pallington. Well, with the aid of black-eye beans, I got a lot of twitches and missed my only real bite.*

So, morning crab catching over, I pitch at the top (north-west) end, for no other reason but quiet, then bait up with hemp (with added vanilla), corn, black eye beans and a few broad beans. The plan is to fish corn and black-eyes then switch to broad beans. The slightest of breezes and the sun are in my face. Roach are shoaled up at the very top of the water, some 30 yards off. There's not been a bubble or tweak on the corn for 40 minutes, the longest I've ever been completely bite-less here. The kingfisher headed this way some 15 minutes ago then vanished into the island; something is splashing under the right-hand bank, fish, fowl or serpent I cannot tell.

It's autumn but not as we know it Small roach, in small groups of three and four, are streaming past, heading down the lake. It's hot in the afternoon sun, but in less than an hour the sun will be behind the trees. A great knot of roach is morphing in front of me now, they'll find the bait soon and pester it greatly; 3:20pm, re-bait in 10 minutes? 3:55pm one tiny tweak on the antennae so changed the hook-bait to a black-eye. Very quiet, tempted to move lakes, but today's plan is to bait and wait...

More roach are moving and topping, a better sign, but if they are near the lake bed I've seen no sign of it, not even a few bubbles. I pour a tea, normally a sure way to encourage a bite. Bubbles, a few, but a start, surface drift forms them into a line of four, like ducklings in a row. Clouds and trees conspire to hide the sun and the temperature falls. A slight breeze pushes on my back. A change maybe, the weathercock creaks around. Time to watch. 4:00pm...

...4:45pm; as I picked up the note-book the float sunk the length of the antennae and as I dropped my hand onto the rod, it stopped. I'm now almost under bombardment, a massive lead has hit the right hand corner, line draped over the trees, it's retrieved, the lead broke off and dropped into the water. Wonder where the next one landed? There are more casts, the waves caused by whatever the frak he's doing are now washing my float. I give in, make myself known, remonstrate a bit, the caster shrugs, 'not his problem'.* Dick-head. Another tweak. I suspect small roach. Another cast, smaller bomb maybe. Size 10 hook for the roach? Or go somewhere not under fire?

Pallington LakesPallington LakesPallington LakesPallington LakesPallington LakesPallington Lakes

6:40pm, the bombardment continues (why does it not occur to him to walk around and simply drop a bit of bait in?) so I head down to the 'tree swim', a neat niche at the end of the reed-bed with an overhanging tree and a fathom deep under the rod tip. I put three broad beans on a size 4, lower the bait into the depths and watch the float settle. Dusk with autumn damp is here and there are carp in these reeds, occasional rises in the middle. The float has twitches once or twice but no line bites. I;ll switch my beans for paste in a bit, as the owner has been round with their dogs† and most folk have gone. Oil boils and a fish is under the tree...it's a start. I thought earlier, talking to a man finishing a three day (blank) session, that I'd be lucky to average one fish a session, but less than that seems likely. I've hooked one (briefly) and this is the fifth session...the fish are here now, but will they go down? The reeds tremble and waver, all but under my feet...

Pallington LakesPallington Lakes Pallington LakesThe tree pitch

* This is one of those "typed up over a decade later from a notebook" entries. I've transcribed what I wrote on the day with almost no editing. These entries tend to end abruptly when it gets too dark to write.

† This is the first reason I left the syndicate. This utterly boorish behaviour that seems to typify the carpista, i.e. "I'm fishing how I want and frak everyone else". Of course not all carpers are like this, but enough of them are.

‡ And this is the second reason I left the syndicate. With a regularity that is destructive to fishing quietly in the margins, the owners potter round with their yappy little dogs. They're allowed of course, it's their lake, but I paid several hundred pounds avoid such inconvenience, not to experience it and then have to be nice about it.

Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Carp? What addiction?...a very subtil fish Carp? What addiction?Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Carp? What addiction?if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it.

October 2008

20085th October 2008. Pallington. A really nice afternoon.*

Second pitch up on the main lake, north bank. Been fishing for an hour now, paste, a carp was just topped to the left, perhaps 20 yards out, couldn't say how big. The water is 14.8°C and the air is 16°C, so the windward end should be OK, if the rain that's pelted all week-end eases off. Which it is, grudgingly. A text tells me the bother, 200 miles north, has had 2×3lb carp, which is nice. I'll give it another 10 minutes and then drop a paste lump into the reed margin to the right, where I've been dropping hemp and paste balls.

The rain fades away, as if towed by a receding plane's engine. This seems a good day for a fish, I'll try an egg later. Autumn has been by and touched the leaves on the island opposite but not as much as on this side. Warm still, bodes well for a visit to France in a fortnight.

4:40pm; retrieving my hook, sans paste, makes me wonder...I drop a lump into the left-hand margin, it twitches two minutes later and after ten minutes a gentle pull comes to nothing. Fish are still moving despite the cooling air. I feel a floating bait calling me. Another ten minutes in case of fish...I keep up the hemp and paste balls in the meantime. Interesting day.

6:30pm; tea, cup off; I put boiled egg on the hook. I chicken out of a whole egg, using only half. The air temperature drops to 13°C, wind swings around to the north, I've put a thicker jumper on. Still fish are moving and I reckon I'm still in with a good chance. Chap over the way has had two fish, 16lb, 12lb a good day for him. Wind aside a good evening and afternoon.

Pallington LakesThe light is always good here, nice pictures are easy thenPallington Lakesthe really really long rod-restPallington LakesDusk at Pallington Lakes

The notes cease when it's too dark to write...I had a good few roach on baits aimed at carp this evening and the rod-rest in the pictures is four feet long. That's deep water tha' knows. I discovered, by retrieving half-eggs with eel-shaped bite marks in them, that eels really like boiled eggs. I stayed until dusk was three hours past, a candle lamp for company and on the way out chatted with a fellow, who unlike some here, was thoroughly pleasant and amiable, he nearly changed my mind. Nearly.

I've nearly rumbled it. Got to hit the twitches and fish for them...pole floats and holding the rod it is. See, here's the thing - I've seen no one using a float, no one using only one rod and certainly no one using bait actually on a hook, in six sessions. Although I've not spent more than five hours a session here, unlike one or two 'three day session blanks' I've spoken with.

* This is one of those "typed up over a decade later from a notebook" entries. I've transcribed what I wrote on the day with almost no editing.

200817th October 2008. Three Days Not a Million Miles from L'etang de Morinais. I had the good luck (sure 'luck'...) to wangle a road trip to Rennes in October. ‘Work done’, I arrive on Friday evening*, managing a couple of hours in quite wonderful light, although the fish were elsewhere. I don't mind and enjoy tinned cassoulet and soft red wine, nabbed along with other essentials, from a supermarché somewhere near Redon. The last hour is pleasantly extended with bank-side philosophy and good whiskey. Cheers Mike.

200818th October 2008. Saturday, I get up with the sun, take bacon-and-Pain-Rustique-sandwiches and some fresh coffee (have coffee pot will travel), noted the bottom by the boathouse had long tracks din the bed casing by fishing in the night ripping up the ground-bait, spook two bubblers, then sit at the lake's south-east corner, the sun rising over my shoulder and watch the island loom out of the mist ahead, a personal Marie Celeste. I bait up a big hemp patch on my left and free-line a big paste bait in front of me. With the Avon, 'light', 6lb, crow quill and fish cockle or corn over the hemp for the roach, carp in absentia and catch one of 8oz.

As the mist clears, I find myself focussed on the crow's orange tip piercing the dark water, which trembles a fraction as the float starts, the ripples frozen for an instant, the point-of-impact pattern on a piece of dark flint, ineptly struck.

L'Etang De Morinais...the sun rising over my shoulder...L'Etang De Morinais...and watch the island loom out of the mist ahead...L'Etang De Morinais As the mist clears...

I've tried twice to make flint tools and both attempts left me with no more than lacerations and a strong memory of the fire-smell from badly struck stone. The first attempt, in Norfolk, ended with dark shards-cut fingers and is linked in my mind with Wickenpond. These days I'd 'google it', finding out how in a minute or two, or even buy arrowheads on fleabay. Men's oldest tools, traded on men's newest. Ha.

The float, becalmed by sunshine, switches sideways a quarter of an inch causing another nest of ripples in the smooth surface and I get a sudden insight. Space-time ripples are linked to mass but also to magnetism. Simply, if you moved an electromagnet with an alternating current in a coil, the mass is moving, so there must be ripples in space-time. Gravity to you. Aha.

My second coffee is delayed, cold and as I write a big fish swirls at 11 o'clock, 25 meters, close to the hemp patch. The float sinks to the tip, the strike begets a short tearing run of five heart-in-mouth yards, a Morinais monster on the light gear, oh my word, no sooner is the fear crystallised, it melts into a sinuous sandbag eel, which takes a little subduing, somewhere between 2-3lbs, broad wide-mouthed, a predator. I roll it in the folds of the landing net, lay it on its back, tweak out the hook, take a picture and then let it wend back into the water for another ten years. I chuckle to myself in the dappling sunlight and write it all down. Grasshopper mind.

L'Etang De Morinais...focussed on the orange tip L'Etang De Morinais...sinuous sandbag of an eel

Bubbling over my bait now. At least the coffee is still hot...there's a thinly stretched air of expectancy, I flick out some floaters and soak a few in corn-liquor. You never know. Bubbles show in my bait patch. I wait. A couple more fish rise in the middle, which is good although these are distant, nearer the island. A green woodpecker lands a few feet away, watches me for a while then whirrs away down the path. A floater just went, right under the trees. Good stuff. I pour more coffee, miss a sitter on the float, then nab an 8oz roach, then another, 6oz, about 1pm. Lunch, tinned cassoulet and I eat it while watching free-lined corn by the boathouse. Back to the corner, more bait in, swap the free-lined paste for giant maize and corn, put a cockle on the float-rod.

Dead calm.

Thought the hemp would be fizzing by now, a fish rises 45 meters off dead ahead, I watch a sun-lit thread of spider silk being blown across the lake, making a ripple on the water like a dorsal fin tip. The thread vanishes into the sky, wind-bourne, who knows how high? The afternoon orchestra is crows, yaffles field-fares, jays, long-tailed tits. At 4:20pm I put the '550The Chapman 550 up, 10lb mono, size 6, three cockles, one nib of corn for visibility. Might as well carp-fish with both rods. The sun's reflection is harsh in my eyes, even the hat can’t sort that.

I face slightly the other way, a kingfisher scoots past into the left-hand corner, I elect to take this as a good sign. The distant tap-tap-tap of the woodpecker continues...5:15pm. BEGBlack Earl Grey tea tea, paste on both rods. A big rise at 12 o'clock, 10 meters off, promising, another big 12 o'clock rise 50 meters off, kingfisher has gone on. I keep one eye on the float, the other on the foil. Kingfisher is halfway up the lake now, going by the diving noises. If the breeze persists thing may yet work out. The kingfisher, having looped the lake, zips past into the left corner, field-fares are working the hedge behind, the breeze strengthens putting a decent ripple on the water which I prefer. Something barges the float, making me start. L’Etang is not an easy water and is better for it. Two more rises at 11 o'clock, perhaps 50 meters, under the south bank. The float nudges again, and then there's another soft rise directly in front, perhaps 15 meters off...promising...I wait...

L'Etang De MorinaisDead Calm. L'Etang De Morinais...despite waiting and then watching the wonderful sunset.

...but nothing else stirs the baits, despite waiting and then watching the wonderful sunset.

More cassoulet and soft red wine.

200819th October 2008. I've a few hours before the lope up the road to the ferry.

Dawn, 7am, Point De Chasse, mist covers the lake, it's clearing edgily, the island appears piecemeal. One slow bite on corn on the float, not carp-like, no fish resulting. No charge, no sudden thump. Despite yesterday's bait no sign of fish either. There's a growing medley of distant crows, barking dogs and gentle bird-song. After an hour I head back for yesterday's Pain Rustique well soaked in beaten egg then fried in butter, while it cooks I make a pot of Earl Grey tea. Consequently fish feel like a bonus. So I wait, watch the steam rise from my second cup and listen to the condensing mist pattering on furled leaves. Once or twice the foil on the Old Carp rod rattles about making me start, autumn roach chasing bait which is only small enough for their large eyes. There's an almost spectral rise some 50m off, then a cloop under the right hand tree. Four hours left and already I'm planning for next year's visit. There's a large fish rolling on the far side of the lake. Monotonic peals push through the mist and roll across the water, calling the faithful to prayer, I finish the tea, enjoy the autumn sun, there's another rise some 80m out. An egret glides out of the grey and wheels off to the other end, or perhaps another lake. Sunday in Normandy.

L'Etang De Morinais...so park on Point De ChasseL'Etang De Morinais'the hat helps to keep it off'L'Etang De Morinaisto next Autumn...

No carp, three glorious days of tranquillity. I've realised why some anglers wear the hat with the wide brim. I reluctantly head for St. Malo. Here's to next Autumn.

* On Friday, I was stood on the Place des Epines with a glass of said red and a 'customer called'. Yesterday I visited a reseller near Poitiers (overnighting at a hotel in the Futuroscope) and they showed me their design for review. I suggested, as politely as one can, that it would work well, but the SNR might be +10dB better and for any future designs I'd be more than happy to review them. All very reasonable and pleasant. 'It turns out' the design was done by a 'consultancy', who took exception and the technical head rang me on speaker phone at 5:30pm on a Friday, to put me in my place in front of his team. It didn't work out well for him, I let him have his rant, explained that it wasn't their design, it was their clients (now) and although in future they would be welcome to avail themselves of my (free) design reviews. I ended the call then turned off the phone. And that was that.

200822nd October 2008. Ziolona Gora Ephiphany. I'm sitting in an odd little hotel-room in the middle of Poland on one of the strangest trips to date, although my second here. The hotel receptionist needs calling to open the hotel, thankfully the 'driver' did the talking. I say 'driver', heavily built, crew-cut, fit looking, 'well cut' jacket and the casual confidence that characterises ex-servicemen. Behind the desk she had a black eye and a snot nosed boy-child clinging, peering fearfully at me from behind an over-thin jean leg. Hmm. I've got six or seven hours to kill with only biscuits and a kettle and half-way though a mountain of email, with runs down the stairs to the only wireless spot in the "dining room". I suddenly realise the club water I've joined is just wrong for me. I'm not sure why I did it, it's been a tough year, but I've been worn down by the impossibility of quiet when every other angler goes past you twice (or on one occasion four times) with barrows of gear. When the angler that cast to within 10 yards of me with at least 2oz of lead for the other bank shrugged and carried on when I said "Do you mind?" The fish that are not wind herded but lured by the sound of boilies fired, that have forgotten there are other foods. Where your rod is judged on the basis of it not having two matched triplets? Sod that.

I met some pleasant folk I should say, the floater fishing guy who always had a chat, the gent in a bivvie that just enjoyed the surroundings and offered me a brew as often as not (I note he was well away from the main thoroughfares) and the man who turned up at sunset one evening with the full pod to be sure, but lightly tackled and softly spoken and was there for the dusk and the bats whatever rig was on the end of his line. The bank-side gun emplacement rows of bivvies. Even if it cost me the yearly fee I resolved right there to never go again. It didn't, generously, grudgingly, but that wouldn't have changed my mind. They even had a carp match. I once chatted with a decamping carper and he'd spent three days in the same spot without a fish. Did he not think to move? The same gent showed me his fly rod, nothing heavy, but with a fluffy imitation dog biscuit. The irony of catching carp conditioned to eat totally unnatural dog biscuits by then using an artificial imitation, makes me smile.

In the morning the hotel didn't take credit cards, or the now seedy male receptionist didn't, despite the booking promise and I have to pay in Euros. I'm sure the driver could have 'sorted it', but I don't mind keeping the cards out of sight. Car hire companies won't let you hire cars in Germany and drive to Poland. So you have your customer hire a car and driver, then you pay them to drive you through miles of dark forests with thin tracks and wooden towers at the end and snatches of moss red brickwork, you imagine grim history, see first hand the grinding poverty of many of the smaller towns and villages, patched roofs, rusting cars and subsistence vegetable plots. It's not all plumbers. I trudge from the hotel to the customers', half a mile, cutting through a pine tree copse to avoid the drizzle, thinking of Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs.

200826th October 2008. Silent Woman. A very odd blank, with Nempster scratching out one rudd. Bizarre.

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November 2008

20082nd November 2008. Dairy Farm. New, windswept.

A new venue for me, I'd thought this was for was residents only, but it turns out not to be the case, although expectations are low after a cold snap. The thermometer alleges (its wire is frayed) 10°C air and 7.6°C water and circuit locates nothing in the way of significant warm spots. I picked an east-end swim on the middle ('specimen') lake after circling the lower lake - just a glimpse of this swim drew me in - so I followed my instinct. The float, tethered, is caught between the left-to-right wind and a right-to-left tow caused by the said wind pulsing water into the corner opposite and around the island. As a result the float is gently varying its yaw, but in the midst of this a few sudden small movements keep me watching.

All very low tech.: the Old Carp Rod, '44x, 8lb line, crow quill, cockles. The sounds of distant crows and sheep, the blustery wind on my back, a kingfisher flashes past and I ease into a proper reverie...

Dairy Farm - 'specimen' lakeDairy Farm - 'specimen' lakeDairy Farm - 'specimen' lakeDairy Farm - 'specimen' lakeDairy Farm - 'specimen' lakeDairy Farm - 'specimen' lake

...but there's no sign of a fish, other than the spasmodic flickers of quill and with a hour or two of light remaining, I potter back to the lower lake and fish halfway between the island and the near bank and finally, as the light falls, I get a series of slow shy unmistakeable bites on pinches of bread, none of which yield a fish. Funny thing.

Dairy FarmDairy Farm - bottom lakeDairy FarmDairy Farm - bottom lakeDairy FarmDairy Farm - bottom lakeDairy FarmDairy Farm - bottom lake

20086th November 2008. Bridges.

I travelled a lot this Autumn, most weeks flying to Europe, usually failing to get any fishing in, but on one sunny day in early November had a two hour drive, a simple meeting with the benefit of little preparation required which is as close to a relaxing visit as I ever get.

I habitually put aside more time for a journey than I am likely to need, but having a good run up and finding time to spare, I take a spin around the back roads of the younger self and admire the gold of the beech trees around Bradenham which are, clichéd, the colours of a good wild carp. Autumn is an odd time, I like it, but it's beauty reminds one of the passing of time, much like meeting an old friend (unexpectedly, past midnight, in Heathrow Terminal 1; this really happened jl...but you'd have to be an special kind of idiot to give an old friend a lift home at 1am, and I'm never that tired. I went to Park 1 then pottered on home, pondering the odds. ), fair in youth, still fair 20 years on, but the passing of time is interwoven with the beauty of the present, a softening of the edges, pale marble veined with gold, if you like.

Business complete, I find myself in Winchester, en passant a conference call with Germany and the USA. I often visit Winchester on the way past, a place I have a long association with and in autumn there are enough trees to make the paths rustle and gleam. Why I keep returning is hard to say, one of those "simply reflecting changes in the patterns of the sky, or does the weather heed the twinkle in your eye?" things. I am though, very fond of knapped-flint faced walls.

I find a good coffee and take it to one of the many bridges. I can easily think of a dozen and two of my favourites are the Watermill bridge at the end of the High Street and a footbridge in Abbey Gardens (opposite the statue of Alfred the Great), where I was once entranced by thick, dark eel slinking along the bed and vanishing under my feet. I skip both of these in favour of one of the footbridges over the river on Eastgate street and watch for a grayling. Did you know this bit of the river is free fishing? I let the water draw the job away and contemplate the passing of the season. My diary notes many blanks this year, which tells you I spent more time carping than 'just fishing'. Bright highlights are there also, glimpsed through sinuous ripples behind the coffee cup, temporarily at least.

20088th November 2008. Silent Woman II. Top lake still otherworldly, so I caught lots of small ones in the bottom lake.

Silent Woman LakeVery very Silent Woman Silent Woman LakeVery very Silent Woman

200815th November 2008. Dairy Farm. Eventually. Bottom Lake, it's 12pm, I've been here half-an-hour. I did try Milton Abbey and the water was clear and heavily weeded. The only two swims I might have fished were occupied and the others would have needed dragging. I spotted a common carp, a ghost carp, a few tench in long tunnels in the weed and a few roach, for the most part floating mid-water. So I decided on a second visit here as although I’ve yet to catch, I like it.

I went for the west bank wind on my back, no reason, thermometer is broke and this seems like as good a spot as any. Hemp and paste for two hours, then to the top lake for a bash, maybe? Fine weather so far, even some sun, fresh wind mind, I've started with the '500, 4lb line/braid and a size 12 fine-wire. The float sinks but suspect a gust of wind, rather than any excitement. I’m still tempted to try paste against the top-lake's reeds but there's time to change tack yet. More coffee, the sound of the monk, distant sheep and the wind's noise. Even a distant crow. Perfect.

A reasonable fish has cleared the water on the other side, this lent credence to fishing with the wind in your face and that the wind is warming the water. I'll give it to 1pm, then move round. half an hour before this there’s a second series of ‘jumps’, which moves me across. I put the '500The Chapman 500 aside, assemble the '550The Chapman 550, get an interrupt from another fish on the left end of the island...

...the owner comes by, relieves me of £5, said he’d lost a lot of fish to otters and that there may not be many fish in here, setting my expectations...

...twenty minutes later the indolent porcupine quill slide off and a 5lb common give a good account of itself, although it wolfed two cockles and two lobs in order to meet me. I dismantle the '500, stick with one stick, back to basics, put the coat and beanie on, not that cold but the wind in your face can soon chill. I wait and listen to the wrens in the reeds and the buzzard in the sky. A little later the wind eases off, the quill is acting as a weathercock but it has not lately indicated anything other than the wind direction. At 3pm I’ll try the corner of the middle lake, stealthily. Worth a go and with a fish under my belt, why not? I wait, still and listen to the cows and sheep. But for the clouds and short day it could be September. The hours comes, no second fish, I decamp to the middle lake.

Dairy FarmAcross the lake from the west bankDairy FarmTo the top of the lake from the east bankDairy FarmThe lone carp and the Chapman 550

I fish a spot spot on the south bank where there is a screen of rushes, bunged in the same float and a big worm-and-cockle. Thirty minutes later the float skipped a beat in the waves, then is yanked and released. Curses. There have been three big rises, all in the middle admittedly. A third swan has slipped in dambuster low over the fields in front of me. The float darts again and stops. Tempted to put the '500 rod back up, possible risky, I’ll try some paste or corn in a bit. After 3-4 misses on ever smaller worms I get a 2oz perch, which makes me smile. Always good to know there are there for the hard days! 4:15pm.

A fish jumps only a few yard to my left, but the chord is too high a key to be a large fish, the others under the far bank are tenors to this treble. Better perhaps to fish further off. The light is leaching away under the cover of the grey cloud, as if it’s trying to do so unnoticed. But the fish are still moving, the swans have left though. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Now the the rooks are clattering and chattering to roost, pheasants are announcing their intention to become a sitting targets if it pleases you. I’ve long since removed the shades and enjoy the dusk sliding over my right shoulder. Still a chance I would say and a coot agrees. I think I’ll work this top lake a little, some meat and perhaps a little curry powder.

Dairy FarmThe sole and determined perch... Dairy Farm...and its corner.

Perhaps next week. Last of the coffee. Fireworks tonight, they were postponed due to the deluge of two weeks ago. There's another fish-splash off to my right somewhere, another pheasant poses in the tree, I could pretty much fetch it with the modified boiliepault and a few swan shots. But that would be wrong. Must buy maggot for the next time, but float fishing here might need a double-bluff rig, with a size 14 thick wire.

Dairy FarmSunset. Sorta

Must order those rod-rings for the Winfield Specimen fisher rebuild. Still not sure about the blue thread I’ve picked for it though.

200823rd November 2008. Dairy Farm. Another cold and horizontal day, with hail, Nemp's first blank for 21 years and another Wheeler-Feynman perchA single perch, again. It's uncanny..

Dairy FarmDairy Farm, the lone perch again... Dairy FarmDairy Farm, the lone perch again...

The perch, sadly not recorded, came to an inevitable worm that I took on a born-of-boredom tour of the topmost lake...they all count.

2008December 2008. Reinforced Coffee and Tea

JAA When it is jolly cold a hot flask is well worth the trouble and its weight in the bag. I have taken to 'reinforcing' it, nothing drastic, but the hint of the malt alone is warming.

I have found, by dint of extensive research, that coffee tastes best when reinforced with something that has been in sherry and/or bourbon barrels for ten years or so, 'Quinta Ruban' and 'The Lasanta' are good (and a bargain in most duty free shops) and Aberlour is also good and was a silly price for a litre in 2008. Black Earl Grey seems to work best with something peaty, Islays, Laphroig, Bowmoore or Talisker. I am sure there are those purists that think this is a sacrilegious use of a good single malt, but I subscribe to the view, that as I own the bottle, I can paint the walls with it if I so wish.

I would point out that I only ever put 40cl in a 1 litre flask (I have a 'jigger'. Stop it.). This is somewhere between a single and a double. My reasoning is that a 'unit' of alcohol takes one hour to be absorbed into your system and two hours to leave it; 40cl, even if scoffed all at once, is 1½ hours in and three hours out, 4½ hours, which, luckily, is the duration of my normal shortest trip out. And that is not allowing for the evaporation loss of the alcohol itself, which must be considerable when dunked into a hot flask, and the gradual intake during the day. Legal and safe. And feeling better as well.

JAA Big boys hot chocolate. Take two squares of 90% cocoa chocolate and break/cut into about 16 pieces each. Place in a well warmed flask and add about a pint of boiling water. Put the top on and shake until chocolate has dissolved. Add one coffee pot of freshly brewed coffee. Top up with more boiling water. Replace cap. Shake well.

JAAA tot of 'Red Label' doesn't make it worse.

Before pouring a cup shake it again...it will keep you warm even in an East wind.

Wild and Feral Carp...wild...(and back to the top of the page) Wild and Feral Carps...feral... Wild and Feral Carps...wild... Wild and Feral Carps...feral... Wild and Feral Carps...wild... Wild and Feral Carps...feral...

December 2008

20081st December 2008. Turfcroft. Frosted grass all day. This was a day planned, an escape from work pressure and while I don't often go all the way over here, midweek it's usually quiet and the environment is it's own reward. It was a cold sunlit day but the grass-frosting never left and I tried three spots on the lake, first trying a corner at the east end with no result, then switching my '500, 'pin and 4lb line further around the lake where the sun played on the water and here on the double tikka maggot I started to pull in fish often if not regularly and although most were a few ounces, roach and perch, I had two good perch, one very good 1¾lb and a cracking cold water roach at 1½lb, perhaps twenty fish in all.

TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.

Eventually, what with the days as short as they can be, more or less and the sun dipping somewhere warmer, throwing long cold fingers across my side of the pool, I went around to face the sunset and for a change, upped to rod to a '550 and laid on a big bunch of cockles almost to the island where fish unseasonably rolled. I was briefly distracted by the starlings whirring past in formation and then after missing two good bites with numbed fingers, connected with something that for a second felt carp like then capitulated to this bream, 5lb+ maybe. Not a bad days fishing at all and I sat in the gloom hoping my tea-cup would thaw my fingers enough to pull the rod apart. It didn't and the brass ferrules burned even more than the tea.

TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.TurfcroftTurfcroft, sub-zero all day.

20087th December 2008. Wytch Farm. Clear blues skies and sunshine, the winter sort, a gesture, a reminder of warmth, rather than warmth itself. And ice fishing, of a sort. I've no idea what possessed me to decide to try for a Wytch carp, I've caught them here when the water's been 3°C, but in truth it's been more like -3°C for a few days and I wasn't expecting clear water. Or a bite.

The only ice free spot, despite the sun and 3°C air temperature, is Peg 13, kept that way by the seepage into this corner from a generally unremarked ditch hidden in the trees. I put in hemp-seed, scoff half of a most excellent chicken-and-ham pie, assemble the '550, the Kingpin, 12lb line and put three cockles on a size '10'. Thirty minutes later the water is twitching suggestively. I decided it could be a lot worse, it's a glorious day, the sun is out, the wind is slight, there are distant crows, a not-as-distant woodpecker and a hatful of blue clear sky. A good day to wait in the warmest corner. There are signs of movement in the water, small ripples breaking away from the edge of the ice, even the slightest knock showing. I admit to debating fine tackle to snitch the little fishes, perhaps next time.

Wytch FarmWytch Farm ice Wytch FarmFrozen Pitman's

Fortunately, I have plenty of hot Earl Grey to heat the inner angler and some more chicken-and-ham pie; 1:50pm. There's movement yet, but catching a fish might not be the biggest problem; getting it in might be. There's thick green weed on the bank, a sunken tree reef on the right, plus ice for five yards in every other direction. Hm.

There are distant noises, but it's quiet enough to hear dry leaves hit the ice under the far bank side, as the sun loosens their frost-hold. That and the chipping of a small mob of long-tailed tits working their bright efficient way through an alder across the pond. A biggish wave rocks my pool. Interesting that the source is not apparent. I came here many times last winter for the peace, but always there was a chance of a fish, even when cold, although I've never seen it iced up. Ramblers potter past behind me.

Wytch FarmWytch Farm ice Wytch FarmFrozen Pitman's

Once or twice I got 'the buzzkeeps happening', the floated wavered and the water under the ice rocked gently. An hour has skated past, punctuated by distant ineffectual shouting at dogs and birds quietly going about their business. The iced-breeze pecks at my fingers and face. The patch of open water is growing I've decided, I put on a small bunch of red worms to see what happens, if they've not moved in ten minutes I'll take them off again.

Wytch FarmWytch Farm low winter sunWytch FarmWytch Farm low winter sunWytch FarmWytch Farm low winter sun

I was still curious to see if small fish were about and I have the maggot option, in truth bought for the river. I decide instead to try some hemp-paste in a bit which will probably take me up to home time. What appears to be fish movement continues. Odd. The air has dipped to 0°C; 3:20pm. The ice still retreats, even the feeble low light is winning for the moment. A fish-rise has given me optimism but I suspect the best chance went with the sinking sun. Check paste at 3:30pm, then hot tea until dusk. What a fine afternoon to be out, glorious. I can wait on a day like today even if the ice is growing back by the end. There is also, luckily, plenty of tea for a three hour trip. Never a bad thing. I might check the dead-bait stock and the wire traces, I can feel pike calling, which hasn't happened for a while, although this might just be the memories of cold fading afternoons behind pike-rods.

A few fish are moving; 3:50pm and very cold now, I set myself a leave time of 4:30pm, by which time I shall have either frozen, caught one or both. It's been a fine afternoon and while a fish would improve things, it's not essential...more tea...the heat from which does not, apparently, reach my toes...and last knockings my reward was magpies chattering in the distance, the blackbirds' roosting songs and the fine winter sunset behind the trees.

200814th December 2008. Breach Pond.

The water temperature is 11.6°C, which is warmer than anything I've seen for a couple of weeks. However that's at the margin, two rods out in nine feet of water, things may be different. I'm float-fishing curried maggots, so far without response, and have put a light-legered knob of hemp-paste out towards a sunken tree, in response to the high enough water temperature. A big old pike float is moored there, though whether it's evidence of unfortunate casting or an escaped Leviathan, it's not possible to say. I've robbed the chocolate of its foil wrapper to use as a bite indicator but it's not moved a mil.

Breach Pond, East Creech.Breach Pond in pastelsBreach Pond, East Creech.Breach Pond in pastelsBreach Pond, East Creech.Breach Pond in pastels

The float tugs at my inner Esox-fisher and I promise myself I'll pike fish this year, luckily I picked up a couple of packets of VB doubles today at £3. I would really like some very thin copper tube to use for crimps (I've always felt copper was better than brass for this), a model shop stop perhaps. The maggots have failed, so I switch to paste for the next hour.

Today, 'Plan A' was curried and dead maggots at Dairy Farm. This notion was formed by a sudden temperature rise over the previous two days. Then the overnight frost that I'd expected to be burned off was foiled by cloud cover, which kept the temperature at 1-2°C until past midday. So I'm scratching on Breach. I carry out a short experiment in respect of 'live vs. dead' maggots by dropping some of each into the clear water under the fishing platform, where they lay on a scatter of dead leaves. After ten minutes it's abundantly clear that dead maggots make better ground-bait.

One or two fish have topped 50 yards off and one larger fish has been moving by the end of the still extant lilies on the left bank. Oddly, these are still green, while the patch on the other bank has gone for the season. A warm spot? Or the south bank sun?

Breach Pond, East Creech.Breach Pond in pastelsBreach Pond, East Creech.Breach Pond in pastelsBreach Pond, East Creech.Breach Pond in pastels

At 2:30pm I change the bait on the ledger rod to a cockle-and-worm. Prediction; 'Anguilla', if anything at all. A visitor has come and gone, I enjoyed the good chat about South Drain and Redcliffe. Still no fish or hint thereof, the temperature is falling but the water is still 12.8°C There's a fine murmuration of starlings as the light falls, but the range was beyond the little camera's capabilities, the results blurry. Pity. Creeping cold and another blank beckons I reckon, but you never know...

Breach Pond, East Creech.Sunset on Breach Pond.

My gosh, that was a flat grey day to end all flat grey days. Three hours without a ripple, a bite, a twitch, at all, for hours. Zippo. Blank. Nought. Nada. Rien. Loved it.

200819th December 2008. Barton's Court. A 'meet in middle' trip with the b'other one.

I arrived at 7am, first (naturally). It was crunch-underfoot frosty and it stayed cold and fine for the rest of the day. I tried to float fish in the lagoon around the back and lost one of my self-cocking GCC2 The disputed '1936 Amendment' of the Geneva Comedy Convention of 1887 - encourages the slightest pauses after the word 'cocking', in the order of ¼s, before continuing the sentence as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. paste floats to a tree in the first ten minutes, which was annoying. After spending about two hours waiting for a bite in the next swim over, no reason but I've had fish before here, I sat next to himself, who managed not to catch a single pike...

Barton's Court LakeLooking south across the lake Barton's Court LakeEarly morning winter-sun

As the only visible movement was occasional dimples on the flat-top, I decided to ship out the '500The much missed Chapman 500, fit a small self-cocker, a size '14' with two maggots set three feet down and blat it at said rises. I caught seven small roach in this way and after an hour declared the day "not a blank". Well, for one of us.

Barton's Court LakeFloat fishing by the island right around the back on the pit.Barton's Court LakeThe Chapman 550 lying in waitBarton's Court LakeThe amazing oak, which you can walk past and not even notice.

With a complete lack of fish otherwise, himself opted to head for the hills. For the last hour of grey-light I slip into the windward swim by the car park with the '550 and some curried cockles, to wait for dusk with the roosting pheasants and to admire the great oak. I've always felt this was the better pitch. Worth a try and I sit here listening to the pheasants as the light fades with "Good Times, Bad Times" on an endless loop in my head.

No carp but an amazing tree.

200821st December 2008. Wytch Farm. Home of the now twitchy fish. Could have caught, didn't.

I opt for the armchair of Peg 3, an old friend. It's mild, 10°C, cloudy and with a brisk wind blowing towards this corner. At thirty minutes in (1:20pm), I've got the '550The Chapman 550, a fine light carp rod, the Cardinal 66, 8lb Stren, thrown in some hemp and put cockles on the hook. I've since had half a rather fine hand-turned venison-and-rabbit pie, a cup of Earl Grey and one small tweak of the float.

With the float tip in the peripheral v., I'm eyeing the far bank, although nothing's moved so far. There are some suspicious (and encouraging) slurping noises somewhere on the distant left. Such a contrast with two weeks ago, when all but a small patch was frozen over; it's like being on a different water. I have, not for the first time, got the place to myself, rum considering the four day mild spell. It was a tough call between here or Dairy Farm, where I was considering a dart at the bigger fish (allegedly) in the middle pond. However, I'm well served for fishing time, with two whole weeks out of the treadmill ahead of me, so later maybe. The thick marginal pond-weed is as green as it was in spring, although the lilies have shrunk, killed by the recent deep-freeze. There's another surreptitious sucking to the left, under the tree there maybe? The float dips and stops. I wait. It dips again. At 2pm I get a swift first bite, which I equally swiftly miss. I tell myself not to be too concerned as the really fast bites are often small fish. Not that I mind small fish.

The rather choppy water is making it hard to keep track of the float's out-of-sync movements so I put on the Polaroid's, which helps somewhat. Although it's grey, it's brighter than it first appeared. Half an hour later, having missed a sitter on cockles, I switch to hemp-paste and award myself at least 15 minutes fishing with it to see what happens. After a third of that time, a sensible solid take connects me to a carp that came off after two frantic minutes...rats.

Paste it is then...however, alea iacta est.

Wytch FarmWytch Farm windy dayWytch FarmWytch Farm windy dayWytch FarmWytch Farm windy dayWytch FarmWytch Farm windy day

This was the day which marked, for me, a change in the character of this water. Up until this point I'd been able to catch the carp by fishing about 6-8" over-depth and waiting for the carp to finish fiddling with the bait and stroll off with it, which is a normal carp's modus operandi. However, match-battering this year has reduced the fish to the kind of nervous prodding which renders conventionally fished baits something of a lottery. Even in this kind of choppy water and scuddy cloud weather, the thaw since early December would have, twelve months ago, given me a chance of a fish, but today the cockles-and-mussels only got twitches followed by a spooked swirl of muddied water as the fish scared itself off to some other spot. This is not because there's a hook in the bait, it's because the fish are approaching their food in heightened fear. A great pity. Of course, we must now use 'modern methods' to catch the poor bu88ers when they poke nervously at their food. Natch to that.

200823rd December 2008. South Drain. Piking without actual pike. A hare-brained and pre-conceived trip, which saw me up with the frozen lark and dibbling sprats under a float in the South Drain. I put 12lb line on a Kingpin, bolted it to the LRH No.3 which is quite pike-like and the early morning frost and mist is supposed to foreshadow great piking. 'Supposed'.

The South Drain looks the part with said frost, ground mist and the flat reclaimed mini-fen behind. There are three fishable swims; I watch a flock of starlings de-roost in the orange rising sun's light and pitch in the farthest of the swims, which has a few bubbles and twitching reeds. I set the bait off the bottom, tweak it every 15 minutes, then with the small pitch explored, repeat this exercise in the next two...

...this is where the resemblance to classic pike fishing ended. I spent a short while at Redcliffe (where I'd parked) running the dead-bait toward the town on the incoming tide. After three hours it was clear I was not destined for a traditional pike. Or any kind of pike, come to that.

The South Drain, WarehamThe South DrainThe South Drain, WarehamThe LRH No.3, the Kingpin and the notebookThe South Drain, WarehamThe South Drain
The South Drain, WarehamThe South Drain The South Drain, WarehamThe Frome's interesting eddy

As it was barely coffee time I headed over to Holmebridge, a couple of sensible anglers had nabbed a couple of large grayling at 2½lb and 1½lb plus some roach and dace. I showed one of them how to cast 'off the reel', an Okuma 'pin as it happens, a good reel, especially for the money. I wondered upstream and spent a further couple of hours trying out odd holes and the big eddy upstream of the bridge...and then tried under the bank downstream of the bridge...none of which got me a snatch.GCC1 Another ruling from the Geneva Comedy Convention of 1887 - when using the word 'snatch', a bit of a leer is encouraged as well as a slight pause, less than ¾s, more than ¼s, before the next word. The disputed '1936 Amendment' also makes provision for a double waggle of the eyebrows, the so called 'Groucho' amendment. I feel this venue might be better pike-fished with 2oz leads with the bait attached to the third way of a three-way swivel. Ah well...really good fun though.

200828th December 2008. The River Frome, Holmebridge. The pursuit of the phantom grayling.

Three hours trotting at Holmebridge with the '450 and the Chapman 500. Again, the 'pin (or at least my use of it) not up to casting to the far reaches, but even so, non-stop, not even a parr. The river's low, clearing to crystal which may be the other part of the problem. Enjoyable nonetheless.

A blank, the rest the of story is in the pictures.

The River Frome, HolmebridgeHolmebridge Snipe HuntThe River Frome, HolmebridgeHolmebridge Snipe HuntThe River Frome, HolmebridgeHolmebridge Snipe HuntThe River Frome, HolmebridgeHolmebridge Snipe Hunt

200831st December 2008. Gold Oak. Ice fishing. Today, Nemp and me thought we'd get out if at all possible, cobwebs frozen in the cold blast and then brushed away. We went to Whitemoor Lakes, frozen solid, although we collected some nice floats and a spare quiver-tip. Crooked Willows was likewise arctic, I realised I'd been there in 1994, Mannington frozen solid. In the end we headed for Gold Oak on the basis we'd be sheltered from the bright edged wind and maybe there was a hole in the ice...

...mostly there wasn't. There are four lakes here, and there were two (same might say equally bonkers) lads on the 'bream' lake down the slope, they'd made their own holes in the ice. We opted to make our own ice-holes on the top lake reasoning it being nearer the spring source for the lakes, so might be the warmest, as least under the ice. Sure. I took the swim nominally nearest the car-park, Nemp the next. Luckily there was a handy log resting on a pile of other ground clearings and the landing net was used to fish ice-floes from the water.

Some might say we were a bit mad, we were two of those people, but persisted. Light tackle for Nemp, 2lb line, but I went with 6lb through, a small pole float with no shot under, a size 14 with some curry-powdered maggots. There was an inevitable begging robin.

Gold Oakpetrified flotsamGold Oakbig enough, good enough?Gold Oakspare us a maggot guv?

Nevertheless, we both winkled out numerous roach and perch for the best part of three hours and at about 2:30pm I had, most unreasonably, a stunning winter-gilded common in the 6-7lb bracket which would have troubled 2lb line in an ice-hole but with 6lb was less trouble that you'd think. Something of an endorsement for curried maggots. At 3pm Nemp was too cold, -1.5°C allegedly, the line had starting freezing in the rod rings and it may have been a little colder than the thermometer indicated. Toes frozen and hands numb we creaked and shuffled back up the rime-track to the car, congratulating ourselves on a great day. No one came to collect the money. So that was good.

Gold Oakah go on, it's freezing!Gold Oakthanks, very grateful, mmpf, nom, nom...Gold Oakthere's always a chance, 6lb 4oz
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Year Four. Still going...<< this way to the 2007 diary and that way for the 2009 >> diary.

This is 'Spike the Perch', sketched onto the kitchen message board by the Hatangler. Spike spent a number of years being occasionally retouched and indicating, with addition of notes and arrows, whether I'd 'gone fishing'.

Spike the Perch

Hindsight c. 2021: Funny thing. During the fishing fallow years, the water-scape had changed. Being able to visit such a variety of waters, then to catch carp and tench often (if not regularly) was much like being let loose in a sweet-shop. I'd probably convinced myself this was due to angling prowess. Of course it wasn't, but I really enjoyed it, even the soon to be ubiquitous carps.

I especially like liquorice all-sorts if anyone is interested.

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