JAA's Fishing Diary - the 1990's.

So, my own house, walking distance to the canal, barring working all hours, my own man. More or less. I had bought a 1972 Scimitar SE5A for £500 in 1989, then spent £3K on it. It was light blue, white where the fibre glass showed through the paint, a 3 litre V6 with overdrive which did 0-70mph all in second gear, weighed over a ton and stuck to the road like 'proverbial to a blanket' due to said ton and '195' & '205' tyres. It did 80mph @2,500 rpm and 18 mpg if you were careful, 8mpg otherwise, growled like a February alarm-clocked grizzly, would spin the back wheels if you banged it into third at 70mph and my courage failed before the carburettor did, and I miss it still, especially on hazy summer evenings.

1972 Scimitar SE5AThe thunderously great driving technology of the Scimitar. Probably use of the word 'technology' is over stating it. Crazy Dave once asked me if I remembered those big Perspex demonstration internal combustion engines they had in school physics departments. Yes, I said. ''Someone saw that, decided to make a cast iron one and put it in your car'' he said. I recall quite clearly that he smirked.

Some clown put interest rates up so far in 1992 we all just gave up for a year, the 'Fiesta' that replaced the SE5a lost its head gasket and I commuted to Chesham for two long years. Mrs AA became Mrs AA in 1994 and things changed somewhat, in a good way. In 1996 made 1012 runs @67.87ave(As pointed out in 'Rain Men', "Everyone knows their batting average, even if it's just a rough guess to two decimal places..."
(3 'hundreds' and 6 'fifties')"
, became a turnpike engineer and most importantly, became a father. The 'Marmiteangler' came into the world on the 23rd June, on the 22nd I'd lashed 126* off someone-or-other and although I had celebrated moderately, still was not in ideal, if legal, shape for a 2am run to Reading hospital...luckily Mrs AA is here to remind me of this. Often.

Only ever, ever take a mortgage you can afford to pay off early...this annoys financial institutions, but it is as well to remember that their cause is never yours.

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

This page is arranged more or less in chronological order with barely any sub categories - it just seemed easier that way.

Use these 'year' links to skip off down the page...1990199119921993199419951996199719981999

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...

1990 for the Most Part

1990 memories1990. 'The New Compleat Angler' by Stephen Downes & Martin Knowlden. star rating This is really worth reading through as this has the best description of how fish see the world around them (and more importantly above them) I have ever read. An understanding of this is essential for any fisherman. Leading on from that, I believe, that while drab clothing is sensible (full camouflage gear NOT essential in my opinion), stealth, and particularly lack of vibration is a huge factor in keeping fish close to you and unwary. And an un-spooked fish is a lot easier to catch. This is why I am always happier if there is some cover between me and the fish (even screen of reeds is a help), and colour in the water, while it may indicate feeding fish (which is usually good), means they can't see you either. I would add that, the deeper the water is by the edge, the happier I am.

1990 memoriesJune 1990. The Kennet and Avon Canal, Thatcham

In 1990-96 I lived a five minute walk from the Kennet & Avon Canal section just west of Thatcham railway station. This was on my TAA permit, so it was handily placed for short sessions, especially on summer evenings. As I was living on my own, tackle was kept in a state of readiness in the front room and I would return home from work then head straight out to the canal. And I kept my maggots wherever I liked.

My usual habit was to fish on the South bank of the concrete foundation of the Monkey Marsh swing bridge, and use one of the mooring bollards to attach the keep net, and sit on the concrete with legs dangling over the edge. I'd fish a small stick (for the slow flow), with a size 18, 2lb bottom and a single maggot. Size 16 and double maggot sometimes. I'd over fish about 1". Simple but effective. Initially I used my 13ft float rod, but moved to a pole rig, which was less trouble. Most evening sessions would start slowly and you would build a mixed bag of dace, roach and the occasional gudgeon and as the light fell and the tench came down the canal from the reed beds between here and Widmead Lock, you would start to catch those as well.

The middle picture below shows a fine evening's work in about 1991. I think that this one bag was caught by fishing on after dark with a beta-light 3BB antenna, on a 3lb b/s pole rig. The tench at the top of the net came out in the state shown and had old scars on its back and a misshapen tail (but was otherwise well), I would speculate a collision with a boat. Even a slow evening would give you a roach collection as shown below or a few tench in the net on the right.

Kennet and Avon CanalAn evening's roach collectionKennet and Avon CanalA net of K&A canal tenchKennet and Avon CanalAnother bunch of K&A tench

I would occasionally fish the south bank at Monkey Marsh lock, which was also good for tench, my biggest canal tench at a shade over 4lb came from here, fishing against the concrete on the North Bank. The increasing popularity of the tow-path for walking ushered me to the swing-bridge, where I could fish in peace under my own feet.

 di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate... Page dividerdi·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)  di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate...

The real attraction was the calm spot by the swing bridge, as most evenings a mist would rise from the fields behind me and towards Chamberhouse Farm to the South, as the (rather deteriorated) picture here shows. The fields were lower than the canal and often the mist would rise to the point where you felt as if you might step onto the top of the gently moving mist and walk across to the hedge top in the distance. Deer would materialise, although would never cross the bridge with me there. Bats would swerve around in the gloom and in those days I could hear their chirping, their radars' accuracy advertised by the sudden darts to miss the line or rod tip, or even a float in mid cast.

One evening, I watched a wave of mist roll down the canal towards me and expecting to be engulfed, was surprised to see threads of mist cover the water (and my float) and after a few minutes I found myself watching a stream of mist, which rose until the bridge and the hedge on the far bank were grey ghosts. Fishing was off and that part of the brain that evolved to protect you from larger animals that ate you in pre-history, starts reminding you home is a really pleasant place. So although you know there is nothing to be concerned about, you pack up with care, and saunter in a relaxed way back along the path in the mist and failing light. After all, the rustlings and shadows are only small animals in the hedge and light-in-the-mist. Obviously.

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There was a good head of pike in the canal, and I got into the habit of taking a few sprats, seldom went home without a pike to add to the bag. I suspect the one in the picture was caught several times by me. I would also occasionally walk up the canal in the late evening with a spinning rod, and caught plenty of small jack, and a couple of 1lb + perch on small spinners, mostly Droppen lures. I think with hindsight, I could have spent more time piking especially by the reed beds, but hindsight is not a great gift in this instance. On a few occasions I fished a whole day up and down the canal with worms ands spinners, as far as Widmead Lock with mixed results, never blanking completely, with one notable bag recorded hereThe Kennet and Avon Canal and the Hildebrandt Fly-spoon....

I miss the early morning and late evening canal sessions and a few pictures taken at dawn during the Summer of 1992Very very early... convey for me the atmosphere of the venue.

1990 memoriesJuly 1990. Drake's Fishery

This pair of ponds, at the time known as 'Drake's Lake', appeared as if by magic on the road to Bishop's Green. So one day I popped in for a go. My memory is hazy, but I recall catching crucians and small roach. I never went back, didn't seem an improvement on Smithy's Lake.

1990 memoriesAugust 1990. Kennet and Avon Canal. I must have been struck by the muse, around the time Monkey Marsh LockOne of only two remaining working examples of turf sided locks on the canal and is listed as an ancient monument by English Heritage was being restored and opened (July 1990). What is not on the wiki page for the lock, is that when it was originally opened, the turf had not rooted and after a few operations, the entire mass of turf on both sides slid into the lock, so it had to be replaced...

Kennet and Avon CanalSunset from Monkey Marsh Lock - it's possible to see the water has been drainedKennet and Avon CanalSunset from Monkey Marsh LockKennet and Avon CanalThis is just below the lock, where the Moor Ditch runs back into the canal a shade above a confluence with the Kennet. The water above the retaining bank was fed off through a culvert into the Moor Ditch above the lock.

Before the restoration, above the lock was half-a-canal of water. Behind the broken down old lock gates there was a clear pool with a smattering of duck-weed which held a few perch. You probably would not have fished it, although if memory serves it was on the TAAThatcham Angling Association permit.

TAA Permit 1992Yeah, I know it's the 1992 permit, but from a narrative continuity point of view it looks better here.

1990 memoriesOctober 1990. Perch. Reel. One grey dog-day afternoon I took the float rod and some maggots to fish at the north-west corner of long lake, where the tree gave way to a grassy bank. It was very nearly a bust, but one cast got an immediate bite, producing just over 2lb of scruffy care-worn perch. This was promising, but despite this there was not so much as a bite for the next 90 minutes. I heeled around and optimistically fished the Jubilee Lake pitch immediately behind - at this point the two lake were separated by a narrow strip of land bordered by scrubby trees sprouted from what once was hedgerow alongside some old track. The pitch was a grassy bank overlooking a small beach of sorts, the water was shallower, but I went fish-less. Packing up, something metal gleamed under the fringe of grass hanging over the undercut made by lapping waves at high water - this turned out to be a nice little Ceratec ML2C - a small fixed spool, nice rear drag and ceramic line roller. In general I consider any bobbing in the waves floats 'finders keepers' but a whole reel was past the rabbit-proof fence, so I placed a card on the lakes' notice board with my number. No-one ever called for it and the card was there for a year. Ah well.

1990 memoriesNovember 1990. This doesn't happen to me. On a cold day when the mood struck, I took a spinning rig to Theale Lagoon (RDAA water) on a day ticket. I say 'spinning rig', that's code for "the seven foot glass rod, the Cardinal 40 loaded with 12lb line and a big box of lures and some snap-link wire traces".

This is a huge expanse of water and when parked, headed south from the car park and after a longish strand of slender-beached 'shore' of about 100 yards (this doesn't seem quite right, there is no sea-weed smell ), there is a small inlet with trees around it. Having had no luck with 'Droppens' et al up to this point, I stood at the end of the inlet and cast hopefully down the narrow channel. No result. I moved around to the far side towards the open end and first cast got a 3lb pike, which hit the lure almost as it landed. This is normally how I catch a pike when spinning, by landing the lure on its head by accident.

Result. One more than usual. Further casts yielded nothing and moving onto the next swim, a patch of gravelly shore, cast out for a 2lb pike. My head span (no pun intended). Returned EL jnr. and cast out. And got another.

And returned it and cast out and got another. And so on. In ten minutes I banked seven more pike, all around 2-3lb. Then the takes went - maybe I'd caught them all. Either way that was my lot for the day. I never caught another pike from either of those two swims. Come to think of it I never caught another pike in Theale Lagoon either, although I saw a few. Oh well.

I'm pretty sure that I haven't caught that many pike (eight) on lures in the rest of my fishing life, never mind on one day...in fact that's still the most pike I've caught in one session anywhere.

• P.S. (2014), I've just thought about that again, and I can think of two caught spinning otherwise...a laughably small pike caught on a great big wobbler and a pike nabbed from the Kennet one evening on a 'Droppen' lure.

1990 memoriesDecember 1990. The Pike Pit Revelation.

I had flirted with pike fishing for a while. Although coming across so many at The Rye DykeThe clear as crystal Rye Dyke, with a largest of 13lb, the bug never really bit until after a 1990 Boxing Day pike session, when I became 'hooked' (see what I did there?). From memory we took eight pike between us, my largest perhaps 8lb, the bother's 12lb from 'Jubilee'.

I got broken up on the day - I had a run in 'The Bay', struck, felt a resistance like a bag of compost. Absolutely immovable. I kept the rod up, the line tight and in return came two powerful tugs. After some while with no other movement, I lowered the rod tip, then came a sudden powerful pull that snapped the line like cotton. That was that. One of those moments that makes a prickle run down your neck - for some years I remained convinced there was a monster in there somewhere.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the pike-fishing, just sprats on a shop-trace, so resolved to take it more seriously. I started at the bottom and read some books on the subject. Here is the list:

So there I was, all set for monstrous pike. We can say that.

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

1991 More or Less

1991 memoriesJanuary 1991. The Formulation of the 'Pike Heuristics'.heu...a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.

So having digested the above books and spliced in my limited experience of pike fishing, I formed a set of rules, more a set of 'rough guidelines', as only one thing is certain in angling; that nothing is certain. Opportunities were constrained by severe fiscal limitations and consequently I had a limited roster of waters - Thatcham AA's gravel pits, the Kennet and Avon Canal, Theale Lagoon and Hambridge Lake. So these 'guidelines' are primarily based on those waters. The structure of a strategy.

  1. Pike are really not very clever, even for a fish.
  2. Catching pike is not that difficult.
  3. Finding pike can be very very difficult, especially big ones.
  4. Pike can see forwards and upwards, but not down or behind them. If you can see a pike stay behind and low down.
  5. Pike have first-class vibration detection and can track by this alone. Blind and one-eyed pike can make a pretty good living. Move very slowly softly. This matters - finding pike is the hardest bit, it seems a shame to then scare them.
  6. Pike are occasionally and proverbially curious.
  7. Pike are ambush predators so will tend to take the easy meal over the hard one. They tend not to chase and harry over long distances. It's hard work.
  8. On some waters, pike become wary of a heavily used bait - pike cannot talk to each other, so therefore a signifcant proportion of the pike have already been caught at least once on this bait.
  9. Unusual baits will often get a good response, until they become heavily used and move into the category above.
  10. Pike will sometimes feed at a particular depth.
  11. Pike have two main modes of behaviour. Let's call these 'lurking' and 'prowling'.
    'Lurkers' are often found in the same place repeatedly, tending to keep to a small area. They can often be caught in the some swim or spot on repeated occasions, especially if you change baits.
    'Prowlers', seem to move about between swims, appear to have regular beats and tend to hold up for short periods at good ambush points. I have no firm reason to think so, but believe 'prowlers' tend to be larger fish.
  12. Shallow swims often produce later in the day.
  13. Deeper swims often produce early in the day.
  14. There are very often two pike in close proximity, probably as a good ambush spot is a good ambush spot. If you catch one quickly and quietly re-bait and re-cast. Or move your other bait.
  15. Baits 'popped-up' off the bed score better than baits lying flat on the bottom. Probably because they are more visible. Baits dangling in mid water do not seem to worry pike, although I prefer to make them more or less horizontal.
  16. Baits injected with oil appear to score better than those without. They probably smell from further off - even still-waters have currents which will carry scent a long way in forty-five minutes. Also a sprat smelling of salmon is 'unusual' compared with just a sprat. For the pike it's a new bait.
  17. Bait movement can attract welcome (and explosive) attention.
  18. If the pike hasn't taken the bait in twenty minutes it probably doesn't want it, or isn't there. If the bait moves a bit the pike might change its mind. It might not. But it's worth a try.
  19. Pike will eat nearly anything. I have caught or seen them caught on trout, gudgeon, sardines, sprats, kippers, various spinners, minnows, worms (very under-rated for pike)    Catching fish from up a tree is 'ahem' interesting., sweetcorn, maggots, red dyed luncheon meat, perch on the way to the net, fly spoons baited and otherwise, gilt hooks with no bait, stationary and retrieved bread-paste. Feel free to tell me others.
  20. There really are such things as 'pike hotspots'. There is one way to find these...
  21. Any of the above can be wrong at any time.

And lastly. There are very many ways to catch pike - these heuristics and methods worked for me and will work again. However I'm sure there are many equally good systems and methods.

1991 memoriesJune 1991. Bucklebury Ponds, Thatcham, Berks

Bucklebury Ponds are set in the middle of Lower Bucklebury Common woods (opposite Nuttage House) in Berkshire, two of the dozen or so scattered around the common. They are probably medieval, so at least 500 years old, and were created as part of a series of seven fish ponds by The Benedictine Monks of Reading Abbey; these are the first two in that series.

Either old stock ponds or watering ponds, they are the sort of place where there might have been 'wildies', but some twit probably put regular tubby carp in it some time back. Both ponds are formed by an earth bank placed across a small wet valley. The upper pond is triangular, being perhaps twenty yards across at the base and perhaps thirty yards to the apex. The lower is perhaps forty yards square, clay lined or I'll eat my hat. The upper pond had a large patch of lily-pads and the few times I fished it, caught fewer fish but larger, at least one of the 3-5lb carp on each visit, on the last occasion it was the only fish caught. They are, apparently, an old English strain, which is nice and there are also crucians.

In the summer the leaves provide a peaceful atmosphere, with the wind kept in the tree-tops and as a consequence the water is almost always ripple free. In the autumn the beeches turn a glorious gold and the colours in the canopy are often mirrored in the water ahead of you. If there's a downside to this, it's the need for a bright green float-tip, as reds, oranges and yellows soon hide themselves against the drifting autumn leaves.

The bund between the lakes carries a bridleway and despite the quiet surroundings in the beeches, there is always a steady trickle of riders and dog walkers and why not? It's a great spot.

I visited these ponds quite lot in the early 1990s, specifically in 1991, when, giving up contracting, I spent six months 'temping', mostly on a 2pm-11pm shift. I'd sleep then fish mid-week mornings, not enough money but a nice lifestyle. It was good fishing, never predictable and was a pleasant place to be. It had the advantage of not having any big carp and the few there were tameable with a pole-rig. Nearly all of my fishing here was done with a pole, 3lb main line, a 2lb hook-link and size '18' or '16' hooks and a few maggots. I mostly fished the lower lake, weed free then, unlike the pictures in the visit mentioned below.

During the summer, the lower pond would fish well for the first three hours of light and tail off towards midday, picking up again in the late afternoon, but seldom dry up completely. The pattern of catches suggested that shoals of fish circled the lake. For example small hand sized crucians would appear and you would catch two of three, then nothing for a few minutes, then you would catch roach and small perch, then nothing, then skimmer bream. The gaps between bursts of fish would get longer as the morning progressed. It made sense to fish from 7am to 11:30am and then go home for brunch. In those days I had a cheap 16 foot telescopic pole. This I slotted onto a butt section of an older pole, with a home made spigot joint. The bottom section had a lead weight made with a three-inch shotgun cartridge, with a quarter inch bolt pushed through the bottom. This made the assembled pole surprisingly easy to manage.

I used a 'bristle' type pole float which took no more than 3 × no. 6, placed one shot an inch from the hook and plumbed the depth on that shot and I'd trim one of the 'bulk' shot with tweezer-cutters until the bristle sank if subjected to a really hard stare, then hook one or two maggots and loose feed.

In the summer this sensitivity was not really needed, but when it came into it's own was in the winter months, where few fish bit and the nature of the catches changed to mostly roach and perch, with very shy bites with most fish coming in the last hour, that time when your feet get really cold.

One November session I surprised by a chub in a five-fish bag, typical for the last hour of fading light on a cold day. I didn't even know they were in there, neither did the man in the angling shop and so took a picture in to prove it but wasn't believed (bit rude...and expensive for them). I was even more surprised the next Saturday to catch three more - three of the four bites of the day, in the last hour, with bites so shy as to be almost imperceptible. Both nets shown here and both resulting from a single maggot on an 18 hook, with the smallest bristle float in the box.

Bucklebury Ponds fishA very mixed bag...how often will you see one perch, one chub, one roach and one crucian...in November Bucklebury Ponds fishThree chub from the pond. There weren't any chub in there though. Even after I showed the photo to the guy in the angling shop. I don't much like being called a liar to my face so I never bought anything from there after that.

• On one occasion when fishing with sibling, I hooked a largish fish, which while not a carp gave a good account and had some weight and on reaching the top of the water was clearly a big roach. Really big. Over '2lb 1oz' big. I'd had a few over the 1lb here, but they were rare. But, as I drew it towards landing the fish caught the lip of the net and we both watched the surprised fish vanish into the brown water.

We said nothing, because he felt bad as he had the net, I felt bad because it was a good fish and both of us knew it was an exceptional roach. It happens.

• One crisp Autumn morning I was fishing and there were, unusually, other anglers on the far bank. Then a crucian (one of the many hand sized ones here), started a series of jumps down the bank to my left.

I kept still and as it finished the last jump nearest me, I watched my float, hand-on-pole in anticipation. And the crucian jumped again into the landing net, placed carefully so that the net was over the water. There was a silence while my companions the other side of the lake looked at me. I picked up the net, put the fish in and as casually as I could manage said "It's easier."

I put the net back where it was. Well you would, wouldn't you?

• I didn't fish the upper pond very much, as the fish population in it was much smaller, but there were a few carp. On one of those occasions in the early winter, I had fished for several hours with a roach for my only reward.

With the onset of restlessness, I picked out my maggot and float, and dropped it beside some lilies on the far right of my swim. Ten seconds later the float dipped and after a lively five minutes, nabbed a 5lb common.

It's often worth trying the bait in different parts of your swim when things are cold and slow, as it turns out the fish don't move about much but will take something put in front of them.

• The Ponds revisited 15th November 2005They say 'Never go back', but now I want to, again. Who are 'they'? How is it 'they' seem to know so much?.

1991 memoriesAugust 1991. Parrog. We went camping, the budget conscious option, borrowing a big frame tent. After three howling-gale-and-rain days and two mornings in the local Little Chef with 'everyone else', drying out and getting outside a hot meal, we were incentivised into Carmarthen to make our first joint purchase, to wit, a two man, or more correctly 'one man and one woman' tent. This facilitated the survival of a gale at the square-on-to-the-elements Nine Wells campsite, which overlooked a small rocky cove, reached by a winding path that bordered two peaty sinister pools.

We decamped for Parrog, a fine sunny spot, where we waded across the River Nevern at low tide, a fine experience. I snatched a few hours trotting the river/sea as the tide came in, to no avail, then the next day we climbed Mynydd Carningli, wading a sea of purples and yellows, on the next walked over the Feidr Pen-Y-Bont bridge and watched a torrent of silver fish pour upstream on the incoming tide. The holiday's highlight was sitting on the sea-wall with a pizza, swigging from a bottle of rich red, while a huge fireworks display painted the sky over the bay.

On the return leg, we camped on the Gower; we walked half the length of Rhossili Beach, then on the last evening sat on the rocks at the south end of Port-Eynon Bay and talked about the stuff couples talk about, while I touched legered for bites that never came.

1991 memoriesSeptember 1991. The Pike Method from the Pike Madness.

Generally speaking I dead-baited with two rods, 12lb or 14lb b/s line, with 20lb b/s wire traces. There's a strong argument for 20lb mono, all other things being equal, the point of fishing is ultimately to 'get them out of there, onto here'. 'Sporting chances' to escape with hooks embedded, are not sporting.

I had: a 'rod-pod', a reclining/folding seat, a big landing net, a small rucksack, flask (black coffee for the stowing of), nosh, dead baits (various), a 'rig-bin' (traces for the safe storage of), a handful of re-usable cable-ties, a book of cryptic crosswords, a four-colour pen, camera, scales, gag with duct-taped corks over the endsgagThis was 1991 - however, I don't think they were ever used, after being rendered 'corked', but carried them 'just in case'., a large long pair of forceps, two thick leather gardening gloves, tackle box with all the other bits'n'pieces, floats, balsa wood, syringe, bottles of fish oil and so on.

I'm amazed it all went in the bag, looking at that list.

The 'rig bin', a screw-top container with a foam core, is one of the most useful devices ever. It will hold all the traces you will ever need, made up in the warmth of your front room. Even better there's no 'stabbing yourself with hooks' when rummaging in the bag with cold-numb fingers...

Drinking black filter-coffee all day with nothing to eat can have the affect of making you really, really alert...so taking food is a good idea.

The basic tactic; 'rod one' float-fished a dead-bait, initially set to about a third of the water's depth. Visibility of the bait matters, in clear water I didn't worry too much, in coloured water, I'd estimate the distance at which the bait might have been visible and also try different depth-settings.

'Rod two' was set up with a bottom-fished popped-up dead-bait, 12-18" or so off the bed.

Both rigs used oil-injected baits. Baits were 'unusual' where possible. I used small gudgeon, sprats, trout, sardines and smelt. Sprats were easily coloured with food-dyes and anointed with fish-oils. They're cheap and seem to keep catching - perhaps they mimic the staple roach and rudd. Sardine and salmon oils were the most productive oils. The much lauded smelt never brought me a run and if they smell of cucumbers, I can't tell.

Herring are supposed to be good, as they are both large, easily got and smelly. I cannot bear the smell, so used them a few times without result and then stopped.

I made up wire traces with 20lb b/s plastic covered wire, giving up treble-hooks, never really liked them and their tendency to get caught on everything. I took to 'VB doubles' in various sizes, taking the barb off the larger hook using needle-nosed pliers, flattening it out, then a twist usually broke it off. For small baits a trace with a single VB hook and a swivel at the other end was threaded through the bait's body and out the mouth.

Single VB Hook RigSingle VB Hook Rig

I preferred copper crimps as the soft metal forms around the trace-wire on crimping, making a stronger joint which is less likely to weaken the trace. The gleam of the copper did no harm either. Also, copper can stand more work-hardening that brass, making crimps less likely to crack on compression. I doubled the wire through the crimp once more than usual, which you can see in the picture. This might mean using a slightly larger crimp than normally needed for the wire size. For larger baits two hooks were used. See the picture below.

Double VB Hook RigDouble VB Hook Rig - it's not meant to be a work of art, just to show how I made traces...

Notice the second loop of wire though the bottom trace. The idea is the wire loop on the 'rod' side of the trace acts as a wedge reducing the chance of the hook pulling the trace through the crimp. The same crimp arrangement is used for the swivel at the other end. The free end of the wire is cut off flush with the crimp, shown for clarity only.

The top hook also has the loop-through so the trace can be one piece of wire. The finished length was not less that 2' and as long as 3'. Enough to go round a big pike twice, such was the received wisdom.

These traces allowed an instant strike. Pike generally pick up dead baits cross-ways in their mouth. With one or two-hook rigs, I waited a few seconds to ensure the bait is well held, while slowly retrieving any slack line, then struck firmly. I've missed the odd run, I haven't (to date) dropped a fish, but critically, have not had any swallowed baits. A gut-hooked pike is a dead pike.

An instructive digression on how a pike takes a bait. When fishing on the Rye DykeCatching fish from up a tree is 'ahem' interesting., in clear water, pike could be seen and stalked. It was more effective to cast over the fish then tow the bait slowly past its eyeline, not too close, 3-4' was good, then let it drop. The pike will slowly line itself up on the bait, using the pectoral and anal fins, then gradually get more and more agitated. The tail starts to waver (a bit like a cat about to pounce), then it pounces on the bait. There's usually a shake of the head, then the fish remains fairly still and chomps a bit. Which is when to strike...if left any longer our pike will, with a few more chomps, move off a distance. This is the first 'run', at the end of which a pike will turn the bait to swallow it, if using a dead-bait.

Anyhoo, for the float-fished bait, the main line went through a plastic bead and a link-swivel, the float, usually a small loaded stick, was attached using the link-swivel. A braided-line stop-knot was used to set the depth. In this way there were no weak points on the main line, it was easy to change floats, change depth or change to bottom-fishing.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons

the Lean Mean Snapping Machine2016: I'd strongly recommend using a bite-alarm for any pike fishing, even if float-fishing. It's easy to drift off and miss a take, then you have a deep-hooked pike. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred you'll see the float go, but the bite-alarm will make sure the 100th time isn't a dead pike.

the Lean Mean Snapping Machine2019: I've evolved my trace making since I wrote this - the basic form remains unchanged - but I tie the bottom hook on using a 'knotless' knot, put a touch of waterproof cyanoacrylate on the knot, pull it snug and put clear heat-shrink over the shank and eye. I then do the same with the second hook, at the appropriate distance from the first. I still use 'VB' doubles, but equally often use two single hooks, generally red-flashed stout 'sea hooks' or for really small pike, two size 10 red nymph hooks or size 8 red drop-shot hooks.

the Lean Mean Snapping Machine2020: Then I went back to looped wire and single hooks...

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons

For the bottom-fishing rig, the trace was attached directly to the main line. Thin slivers of balsa wood were inserted into the bait to make it float (since 1991, this is considered to be a bad idea but by 2010 one could buy special bits of balsa with eyes in them for popping-up a bait). I preferred balsa to foam, as it's biodegradable, cheap, model shops sell cheap packs of odd cuts, and it can be whittled to the right size for the bait. Balsa does absorb water and the buoyancy will change. I would pinch a swan-shot or two onto the trace just above the swivel (or further up sometimes). Check the bait actually floats before casting... Every time you reel it in, check it is still floating. The wood gets wet, the bait start off with air in it, it leaks oil and so on.

Chuck both baits in (did I say chuck? I meant 'cast' obviously), opposite directions is sensible. Let the float drift, it almost certainly will, it'll cover more water. After twenty minutes slowly reel in the bottom bait about a third of the distance (we called this 'enticing'), the bait will bob along about a foot from the bed. The few moments after reeling in a popped-up bait will sometimes see a real slammer of a bite, be ready for it! Bite indicators can get flipped out of your fingers - my bite indicators were champagne corks with a plastic covered paper-clips glued into a slot in the top and painted with a wide band of fluorescent orange. Swan-shot could be pushed into holes in the bottom to increase the weight. They floated and were easy to find after striking.

Always retrieve pike baits slowly, with pauses, you'd be surprised how often that works. When I'd fished out the swim, 45-60 minutes or so, I tied the rods to 'pod' with the re-usable cable-ties and moved to another swim.

The crossword book is for 'between pikes', or in my case, usually 'instead of pikes'. The four-colour pen is just for fun. Well it worked for me.

For small to medium sized waters this allows you to cover a lot of water in a day's fishing. While no method is infallible, after a certain amount of time on a water, you start to discern a pattern - certain swims and areas produce more pike than others. Some never produce a fish. This may be for a number of reasons, but I would think that features and food are at the bottom of the patterns. It is worth varying the time of day on swims. There are patterns that favour some swims at dawn and dusk and others in the middle of the day. For example the good 'double' lower down the pageA fine brace of pike, if not finely photographed. were taken near a reed-bed at the east end of 'Long Lake'. While runs were rare during the day, at dusk small fish movement by these reeds would increase and the pike would move in to feed on them. On this lake that was the swim to fish at the end of the day.

I would regard these two fish as 'prowlers', going by the reports of catches along the northern bank and the south east corner. You could even speculate on a 'regular' route. You'll certainly figure out where the 'lurkers' tend to be with this peripatetic method - 'prowlers' will often turn up in the same places, as a good place to ambush a food source, is a good place to ambush a food source, whatever your inclination as a pike. How do you tell them apart? Good question. It would help if they wore little pike T-shirts with 'Born to Prowl' or 'Born to Lurk' on them, but they don't. Pity.

My belief is that fishing a water and studying it is the best way to come by this knowledge. You can learn from other pike-anglers, even those that have one or two swims and stuck to them..."Well it's a good swim isn't it?". If you can find out when 'Mr Static' catches, you can often work out how/where/when to intercept the fish. While on the subject of information, pike gossip is the most distorted ever, with tales of monsters all over the place.

1991 memoriesSeptember 1991. Unhooking the Monster You've caught the pike, how to get the ironmongery out of its teeth?

Before we go any further I would advise anyone new to piking to get an experienced pike angler to fully explain and demonstrate the technique below. Pike are a very delicate fish and will not withstand rough handling. Treat all pike gently and with care.

I fish with VB Doubles, with the barb flattened, never more than two and often only one. These are much easier to remove and do not tend to tangle in the net. I strike fairly immediately on getting a take, so have seldom (no example comes to mind) deep-hooked a fish and often, especially with single hooks, the hook sets in the jaw 'scissors'. Then all you need is a good grip with the forceps and tweak it out.

Anyhoo. It's like this:

You need an unhooking mat. (In 1991 these were rare. Times have changed.) Essential are: 12" forceps, wire cutters, a 'deep throat disgorger', 6" forceps plus a pair of long-nose pliers. Unhooking mat. A pair of thick leather gardening gloves...

After netting the fish, cut the line a foot or two above the trace. It's easier all round.

Put the pike on the mat and lay it on its back. The most convenient thing is to kneel over the fish, one leg either side. This supports and prevents it thrashing around. Carefully slide a gloved finger under the gill cover and carefully move the finger towards the front of the jaws. You must avoid any contact with gill rakers. Pull the lower jaw upward gently. As you lift, the pike's mouth will open allowing you to see the hook(s). Using forceps in the other hand remove the hook(s). I find that forceps are not really the best things to use - they are not always the best tool for getting a good grip on a hook, and I generally try using the pliers first.

You'll need to bend forward and peer upside-down into the maw of the beast. A bit odd, but the best way.

I keep gloves on both hands myself. If necessary use the wire-cutters to cut any hooks or the trace. No trace is worth the pike's life, cut it into bits to remove hooks faster if need be. Get the fish back into the water as soon as possible.

Fleurons  Fleurons   Fleurons  Fleurons

the Lean Mean Snapping Machine2016: I believe pike don't react well to capture however carefully they are handled, so if you must weigh them, get on with it and don't dilly about taking endless trophy shots. I'm of the opinion that multiple pike captures often kill the fish or traumatise it into starvation - I've no evidence for this, save the slow decline of pike numbers in enclosed waters with regular captures.

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

1992, Probably...

1992 memoriesJanuary 1992. I think. Quite why I had opted for the camera rather than the fishing rod, I'm not sure.

Kennet and Avon CanalMonkey Marsh bridge looking east/downstream Kennet and Avon CanalMonkey Marsh bridge looking west/upstream
Kennet and Avon Canal...just an arty picture of a snow covered tree.Kennet and Avon CanalThe path between the canal and the Moor Ditch, looking east.Kennet and Avon CanalThe Moor Ditch, looking east from Monkey Marsh bridge.

1992 memoriesMarch 1992. The Pike Pit. Below are a few of the pike caught in that season. My apologies to everyone for not having the unhooking mat we all have (and should have) now. I can only assure you that they were unhooked with care and returned promptly after being photographed.

Pike Pit Pike #1Pike Pit Pike #1 and some fine chocolate biscuits. And a foot.
Pike Pit...pikePike Pit Pike #2Pike Pit...pikePike Pit Pike #3Pike Pit...pikePike Pit Pike #4

These four fish were caught on Pike Pit in 1992, by myself and the bother. The only thing I can recall for certain is that first fish above is the 10½lb one-eyed pike I caught again later in the season.

1992 memoriesJune 1992. While on Business in Anglesey, not unrelated to earthquake monitoring in a power station, I revisited the old venues with the same feeling of excitement of my first visits - and discovered 'Trout Stream' nominally still there, I recall a golf course, but the Expressway was built in 2001, so I suppose it might be under that now...saddened I returned (via Llyn Cerrig Bach, White House, Ryhd i Gari...) to my hotel - and lest you think me all sentimental, the sadness was in most part due to the fact that I didn't have any fishing tackle with me (oh yes I would've...). I wound through a roll of film, the results of which are on the Anglesey pageplace hadn't changed that much mostly inserted into appropriate places.

We stayed for a couple of days in the Valley Hotel and 'funny thing' it had a snooker table at which I soundly beat one of my colleagues, to his surprise. This was a 'funny thing' because one of our pastimes in 1974/5 was to sneak into the airmen's mess snooker-room - in a block on the main camp - and play snooker during the day with whatever cue was around, finding the 'hidden chalk' as well. We spent days and miss-spent days doing this and once or twice were summarily off-loaded back through the iron-framed French-windows by a steward, but the airmen were generally jovial and on several occasions even played against us for fun. One such, a Scotsman, put a fiver on the table at the end of a game for me to pot the last three colours and I fluffed the black. So close, £5 a fortune then...I'd nearly forgotten those things, but for a hotel in which the Anotherangler family spent a few days. This had a snooker table and a French-windowed entrance, plus hidden chalk. Took me right back.

1992 memoriesJuly 1992. The Kennet & Avon Canal, an Early Summer Dawn. I'd not got to bed at all, although why I felt this was a good idea I am not entirely sure. Still.

Kennet and Avon CanalGround mist on Thatcham MarshKennet and Avon CanalGround mist on Thatcham MarshKennet and Avon CanalGround mist on Thatcham Marsh
Kennet and Avon CanalLooking west from Monkey Marsh bridge Kennet and Avon CanalTowards the yet-to-rise sun from Monkey Marsh bridge

1992 memoriesSeptember 1992. Buttermere. Mrs AA-to-be and I went on a week-long camping holiday, spending two days at a campsite near Buttermere (for 'near' read 'right beside'). I still took fishing tackle anywhere (have rod will travel) so made some enquiries about fishing in the lake and was assured that this was OK.

I had the 9', three-piece rod (travelling light, it's the only way to fly...) so made my way along the shore, decided on a rocky spot that had comfort to recommend it. I was on the North side of the lake, consistent with the sun in my face. Lack of lake-lore and features hampered me more than the sun.

From asking around I'd gleaned the information that there were trout in the lake, allegedly some coarse fish (typical of still-waters in the 'Lakes', perch, roach and rudd) and that the water was deep, shelving steeply from the edge. So I devised a cunning plan, rigged up a running ledger rig with a gold fly-spoon and a ¼oz Arlesey bomb. The fly-spoon trace was a 1' long, with about 3' to the Arlesey. I stuck on a large worm and cast in. This was more in hope than in expectation, but even as the bait settled, the rod tip rattled and the strike produced, after some depth related jagging about, a fine perch of about ½lb. Bingo.

I had a fish a cast more-or-less, mostly as the bait settled, but leaving the bait after it had settled worked as well. In an hour I caught about fifteen fish and at 8 o'clock the bites stopped. I persisted for another forty minutes or so then went back to the tent, the red wine and the redhead. On the way, two gentlemen who'd been boat and dry fly fishing for trout stopped me and handed over two fresh trout. We had them for breakfast - into a small frying pan with some butter, a rare treat.

The following evening I went back and did it again (you would, would you not?). Same tackle, same fish, the bites stopped at about 8 o'clock and I speculated that the angle of the setting sun was the key plus the amazing good luck to cast into the right bit of water illuminated at the right time. No gift of trout though. Whatever the reason, two great sessions producing about thirty 8-12oz fish which is fine fishing.

1992 memoriesSeptember 1992. The Kennet and Avon Canal and the Hildebrandt Fly-spoon...

I'm a big fan of fly-spoons, buying a couple on a whim in Newbury one day, as they were terrifically shiny and gold. They're not used very often, but when used the results have generally been good. Twice in the Lakes and this occasion on the Kennet and Avon Canal stands out. So this was 1992 then...

On a fine sunny and cheerful sort of day, I'd spun along the canal from my house to Widmead Lock with no luck, lure-fishing as intimated elsewhere, not being my forté. I arrived at the lock around lunch-time, decided to traverse the lock-gate to an inviting patch of grass for lunch. The bank, a metal buttressed support as part of the lock-cut, was a couple of feet over the water and a few feet to my left the outlet stream for the lock ran into the canal. I decided to put on a '12' hook gold fly-spoon, a worm and a couple of AAA shot and drop it in this outlet stream, the idea being that it would dangle attractively in the current while I kept one foot on 6' white glass-fibre rodlwrThis 6' rod was given to my brother by our helpful bass-fishing neighbour in Anglesey, an outstanding act of generosity. It was a tippy light spinning rod with gold-anodised reel-seat and butt-cap, both of which looked nicely worn. I don't recall why I had custody of it at that time. and got on with eating and a serious coffee in the sunshine.

Not more than 'almost getting the pie to my mouth' seconds later the rod-tip curled over and a scrap later I landed a perch of about a 1½lb, bristling with indignity (a collective noun for perch, an 'indignance of Perch'?). Anyway, mindful of the 'returned perch scaring the rest of the shoal' thing, I backed away from the edge, made my way to the lock gate, popped it back and moving quietly and well back from the bank, tried again. Same results, 2lb this time I'd say, but no scales to prove it. And again and again...I ended up with six perch ranging from about a pound to two pounds, in as many casts, giddy heights for me. Then it went quiet, so I ate my pie.

Then towards the end of the coffee, one final bump and out came a roach of about 1½lb. I persisted for another half an hour, with more and less shot to vary the depth, then spun back down the canal, with no further improvement. Can't complain though. I did try it again, but it never happened again. Oh well.

Hildebrant fly-spoonsStill on their cards.Hildebrant fly-spoonsA few with signs of useHildebrant fly-spoonsStill on their cards.

• 2016: I keep a collection of fly-spoons, even now. When the internet was quite new (in 2002), I 'googled' the serial number stamped on inside of the spoon-blade and came by Hildebrant Lures - and so called them up and like nearly every US company, they shipped to the UK so I ordered a clutch, half of them lost when their box slid out of a bag in 2012. I've since tried to get more and sad to say, the company'Flicker ® Spinner' was sold and the lures are no longer the same quality, with coarse split-rings and poor quality hooks, while superficially the same.

1992 memoriesOctober 1992. Approximately. The Pike Pit.

We were fishing on Pike Pit and this wondered past - not quite believing the size we hoicked it out with the landing net. Big is it not? A non-native signal crayfish, bit of a pest now. Not great pictures but pre-digital camera you know. That really is an 8" bait-box.

Pike Pit crayfish That's an eight inch bait box Pike Pit crayfish Big crayfish isn't it? ''No crayfish in here'', I was told in 2005. Sure, we can say that.

1992 memoriesOctober 1992. The below fish, a smallish one was caught on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Monkey Marsh swing bridge, after it pestered the roach I was catching. Single sprat, single VB hook rig. If I bothered to take pike-tackle, this spot reliably produced a pike a session (probably the same one) to a 'sleeper rod', so quite why I never went the whole hog and fished for pike I have no idea. I like this picture as you can see the forceps and the bonkers rainbow shoelace that in theory prevent them getting lost. It must have worked as I still have the forceps and the shoelaces. The army rucksack is still going after seventeen years and you can see the 'Cardinal 40' attached to the carp rod.

Canal PikeA K&A canal Pike

1992 memoriesNovember 1992. Tench on a spinner - Jubilee Lake, Thatcham.

This year, trying very hard for pike, I decided one briskly windy day to spin around Jubilee Lake, on the basis that keeping on the move might locate some swims with pike potential away from the usual spots. I am, however, the world's worst lure fisher - having had very little success. Even varying depths lures and covering a lot of water, I do not have much success...

Anyhow - right around the back of the lake there was a small concrete platform jutting into the water, a leftover from gravel extraction days. Spinning off that in shallow water, I got a hit on a 8g bronze Droppen and after a lively but short tussle, netted a 3lb tench. Yes really. Hooked in the mush too. I have not heard of anyone else doing this, so if you have let me know. Weird.

Didn't get a pike all day though. As mentioned, not an expert lure-fisher...

1992 memoriesDecember 1992. Ice Fishing. It was one of those days that you have to be slightly mad to go out. Luckily I am. It was bitter, around -4°C to -5°C but no wind mercifully. When I turned up, the lakes were frozen and although I knew of one or two patches where the ice would be thin, it looked iffy for sport. I made my way to 'Pike Pit' with the one short rod for about 11am. The grass was hoar white and crunched under my feet and picking a swim in the deeper water I went to find a branch to crack the 1" thick ice. I found a handy ten foot 'stick', 2-3" thick and smashed the ice, about half-way up the lake where the water would be ten feet under the tip. I stuck with one rod and in deference to the hole used the 6'9" solid fibre-glass 'Mk.II' and 12lb line. One rod on the pod and a frakking orange cork with a paper clip wedged in the end. By the time I'd tackled up, a thin film of ice had set over the hole, crinkling slightly like cellophane with the slight movement of the water.

I stuck with a balsa popped-up sardine, weighed down with 2×SSG on the swivel end of the trace, dropped the fish by the far edge of the hole and watched the bait glide down into the dark water. Ten minutes later I was frozen and the line had frozen to the rings. I opted to keep warm and so walked up and down behind the rod in ten yard tracks. Hands in pockets, keeping the blood moving all the while watching the bobbin, stopping every five minutes to snick the line free of the ice. The air had an edge at the back of the throat like the bright strip on a recently honed carbon steel knife. After 40 minutes (I'd set myself an hour in each swim), the bobbin jerked, as the ice's hold on the line was snapped, then slid up toward the butt. I picked up the rod, snapped over the bale arm, tightened up and struck and got a lively 5lb pike which was outgunned by a good margin. Netting was a trial with the net frozen stiff, barely softening in the black sub-zero water, but with the Esox jnr. unhooked and returned I felt the day was already worth the pain. Cracking.

Baited back up and off again, after a cup of rationed hot stuff. Crunch crunch crunch crunch. Twenty minutes pass and I'm gobsmacked to get a repeat run and after a short tussle get a 3lb fish, more outgunned than before, but a fish. Two up. Well I never. I re-bait, but this time 40 minutes pass, with no movement, except my measured pacing and this time, I pick the stick up and walk thirty yards down and make another hole. I moved the frosted pod and tackle down and drop the sardine into the new hole. More coffee and pacing and 30 minutes pass and I get another knock and a fast streak of the bobbin and I tighten into a larger fish which gives a good account, especially when you consider the short rod and the limits to the angles I can use due to the ice. More frozen stiff netting reveals a good fish of 8lb, which make this one of the better days I've ever had on these waters. Forty pike-less minutes pass, with the ice re-freezing more quickly than before and I opt for a dart on 'Long Lake' where the water from Jubilee drains though, which should be clear enough to fish. The added benefit, I told myself as I made my way along the hard ridged frozen mud and stiff reeds, breath hanging in the air as I pass, is that the walk will warm me up. It did. A bit.

The ice here tapers to a knife edge on the rim of the pool around the outlet and I slip the sardine under the edge of the ice for the fourth time. I'm cold even so and only the prospect of another fish is keeping me interested, with the grey grim early afternoon twilight announcing a dip to even further below zero. Ten minutes later I get a run and a 3lb pike. Wow. Okay, one last cast then and extra coffee now the end is in sight.

Ten minutes of silent pacing in the alley of trees and my brother turns up to chuckle, although less so when I mention four fish. We watch the bobbin together and when it moves after another ten minutes or so, I have to make a few yards to the rod. This was not 3lb, 5lb or 8lb, it streaks hard to the right and I have the rod under the water curved right over. After ten yards it reverses and we see a ghost under the ice, five yards out, pass us going right to left. This established the pattern, with me having the power to halt the runs after a period but no angle to change them and the fish made several runs under the ice, a grey-blurred missile of substantial size, gradually getting nearer the hole edge and after a perhaps half a dozen runs, it subsides into the sibling wielded net, a 17½lb fish which worked hard for its freedom, to no end.

Bro. nipped off for the camera of our mother (as it happened) and here are the best pictures in the fading light including a size 10 welly.... I've always wanted to do it again, but that was the last hard freeze while I was in Thatcham. Naturally I had to endure 12 months of sarcastic remarks about ordinary bank fishing being too easy. A challenge is important...in case you're wondering why I blur out my own face, you do know they have software which can look for your picture on the internet, don't you? [In 2020 there is an 'app' for that...]

17.5lb pike, caught through a hole in the ice at Long LakeThe 17½lb pike, caught through a hole in the ice on the seven-foot glass rod, ideal for the job. 17.5lb pike, caught through a hole in the ice at Long LakeThe 17½lb pike with JAA. Behind is the south-east corner of Jubilee lake and you can just see the outlet from that lake in the left lower corner of the picture.
17.5lb pike, caught through a hole in the ice at Long LakeThe 17½lb pike with size 10 wellies for size comparison. Frozen toes (JAA for the enduring off) enclosed. 17.5lb pike, caught through a hole in the ice at Long LakeI disclaim all knowledge of the pizza box and the lighter fuel.

This last random picture taken from the same reel of film, shows the bottom half of the 7' glass-fibre rod leaning on the table, for some reason. If you're eagle-eyed and have a good imagination, on the table top there are spools of 'Perlon' and a Cardinal Bronco reel. Eagle-eyes are not required to spot the odd bottle of booze. I disclaim all knowledge of the pizza box and the lighter fuel.

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 :-)

1993 Almost Certainly Happened

1993 memories1993. 'Ken Whitehead's Pike Fishing'. Five-star ratingAll of Mr. Whitehead's books are worth reading. It is nice to read books that do not instantly recommend the author's range of tackle...much of the reviews and advice on the 'net seem to end with a recommendation for the author's product. It is hard to take such advice at face value. This book looks at pike fishing problems from the bottom up, with solutions arrived at by virtue of sensible un-biased thinking. As a result there is much to learn from this book, both about pike-fishing and how to approach problems.

1993 memoriesFebruary 1993. That first '20'...weighed in at 20½lb and was taken on a float-fished sardine at a depth of three feet, about ¾ of the way up Long Lake on the North Bank. I was using a Fuji-ringed Winfield Specimen Fisher with a fixed reel-seat I had fitted, not a bad rod at all, with an old Cardinal Bronco loaded with 12lb Perlon and a two-VB-hook trace.

It didn't show much fight after the first run and I recall being stunned by the size of the fish, which was not at all consistent with the feeble fight. It was windy and mild and I cannot remember whether I caught any others that day (there is nothing in the diary). Luckily, the decent TAA committee member come by (on the way back from a match) to help take pictures and weigh the fish. None of the other committee members could be bothered to come over to record or witness it. Thanks lads.

I would not hold a pike like that these days, but at the time I was rather pleased with the opportunity to have some snaps for posterity. 'Long Lake' is in the background, it is Peg 68, and also in view are my old army rucksack, chair and the dead-bait carrier-bag. Down the avenue of trees looking east you can see a bit of picket-fence and that is where the 17½lb fish came out from under the ice.

20½lb Pike on float fished sardine 20½lb Pike on float fished sardine 20½lb Pike on float fished sardine 20½lb Pike on float fished sardine

1993 memories15th March 1993. The 1992-93 Season Pike Fishing Review. I had messed about a bit and was still evolving my method and learning about the subject (never ending...) but this season I had a score of fish, which worked out better than one fish per session, with a 17½lb fish and a first 'twenty' @ 20½lb, plus two 10½lb fish, which given the suspicious lack of 'the same eye' and with 'both' taken from the same corner of Pike Pit, leads me to think it was the same fish. I was 'popping-up' baits, using attractor oils and had swapped to 'VB double' hooks. So far, so hoopy.

This season was good enough to encourage me to take pike fishing more seriously, so fired with enthusiasm I headed for the 1993-4 season...there were other hobbies in the summertime, mostly involving a cricket bat and only in December did I get round to picking up the pike tackle again.

1993 memoriesJune 1993. Branscombe. There was a time...we stayed in a chalet at Branscombe and one day I yomped a mile up the beach to a rocky outcrop and touch-legering in the sun, caught one wrasse and missed another bite. By the time I'd yomped back again, I probably had heatstroke and had to spend the rest of the day lying down in the shade, so as a result missed a mackerel fishing boat-trip. Idiot.

1993 memoriesJuly 1993. The Norfolk Broads. Myself and the Future Mrs. AA went on a ten day trip around 'said Broads with the potential in-laws. It would have been churlish not to take tackle. So I took my old pole, the carp rod and bought maggots at one of the various stops. As far as I can tell I fished in these places:

I caught small stuff in the fast flowing Bure at Wroxham (where I caught a pole float, which I still think I have somewhere)...

1993 memoriesJuly 1993. The Norfolk Broads...and caught more roach in Cocksholt Broad or thereabouts where we moored for the night...

1993 memoriesJuly 1993. The Norfolk Broads...on Burton Broad we moored mid-water for lunch and float-fishing with maggots I caught more roach...

1993 memoriesJuly 1993. The Norfolk Broads...at Neatishead Staithe one evening, I caught a variety, smallish bream, roach and eels, then got broken up by something heavier than my 3lb line would stand.

1993 memoriesJuly 1993. The Norfolk Broads...I caught yet more roach and eels at the Aston boatyard (in Reedham?) on our last day, using the carp rod as a flick-tip, having lent the pole to the dickhead. This was an impromptu idea, but one I later refined by threading the elastic through the rod rings and adding a large shock bead to protect the tip-ring. Actually very effective. I wish I'd taken some piking gear...

Aston BoatyardAston boatyard, JAA and 'the dick-head' fishing. JAA is the good-looking one at the front of shot.

1993 memoriesSeptember 1993. The Pole Rig. This stuff is based on my own use of the pole, which is all about the convenience of a fixed line, rather than the speed and sensitivity biased pole fishing that match fishermen use. You are unlikely to see me hunched over my pole [ ;-) ], fishing on the far bank of anywhere with all pole sections out. I'll sneak round the other side and just use the top four or five...

For instance, I would rather keep the pole tip two feet from the float, to give me enough line length to re-bait without completely dismantling the pole - I am not convinced the tip next to the float gives me enough of an advantage to offset the nuisance of re-baiting otherwise. I enjoy using the pole for general fishing, as when the fish are not excessively large it is convenient, satisfying and flexible. I spent the first decade of pole-fishing with a home-made quick-release eyeThe home made quick-release flick-tip eye.

• Elastic Rigging. I kept this quick-release eye until buying a newer 5m telescopic in 1993 for £16. Then I graduated to an elastic rig strung inside the pole and having had experience of a large carp on the pole early on in angling lifePossibly as nerve-racking an introduction to carp-fishing as one might get, I went for a set up as shown below. I take no credit for the idea, it was from an article in the Angling Times of September 22nd 1993.

I started by taking my old roach pole butt section and using a piece of the second section made a spigot joint that allow me to fit the 'new' pole's lower section onto this 'butt'. I left the counterweight on the Shakespeare's butt-end. I made a bung out of a champagne cork, roughly sanded down to the right diameter, to jam in the end of the 'new' pole bottom section. I araldited a plastic disgorger through the middle, so that the end with the hole was stuck about 3" through and the disgorger's tapered 'hook-removing end' out of the other. I cut this end off and smoothed it over. The observant may notice the panel pin stuck through the plastic, embedded in the resin. Not that I am a 'belt and braces' type of guy...a piece of tubular surgical elastic was slipped over the disgorger and whipped it on with thick thread. I used a 15lb 'Black Spider' braid and PVC varnished this 'whipping'.

I whipped a small Dacron loop over the end of the surgical elastic, leaving about a 6" length. Take the No.8 elastic and make a large loop with a double over-hand knot about 2' in length. Thread this through the loop in the surgical and then tie another double over-hand loop with itself. Tighten the knots. Tightening knots in elastic is awkward, but I do it by tensioning both ends and rolling the knot up and down until it is snugged down.

The goal is to end up with about 6" of double elastic, 6" of quadruple and 6" of surgical. The idea is that when the single runs out of stretch, the double absorbs the shock, and so on. Take care that these knots cannot, when the elastic is stretched, get jammed inside the top section of the pole. The 'bung' went in the bottom of the 5th ('new') section. A pole bush was fitted to the new pole's tip.

The pole rig from Angling Times of September 22nd 1993Champagne Cork Bung

Thread single pole-elastic up the inside of the pole (I used a piece of pike trace-wire), extend the pole and then tie on a pole tip connector - tensioning the elastic so that when you've finished the connector is pulled against the bush. Did it work? Are bears Catholic? With this rig, No.8 elastic and 3lb line, I landed any number of carp up to 17½lb. As long as the water is open with no snags you can get by with little trouble.

Some old pole stuffChampagne Cork BungSome old pole stuffElastic double looped at the bottom endSome old pole stuffDon't buy pole winder stretchers, use old elastic

I wouldn't recommend this for carp fishing though, but it's handy if they come along. This rig will handle quite a bit but does lack power so getting a large fish to the net can be hard. I believe this necessitates totally exhausting the fish to get it to the net, which is not ideal.

While we are on the subject, threading elastic is a pain at the best of times. A threader is well worth having, but I admit I've never bought one, but have one made up out of twisted 8lb Alasticum wire, with the loop end very small. It works well, and is cheap, and coiled up, will sit inside the smallest "seal easy" bag.

Keep some of the old pole elastic - the smallest diameters make good little pole winder stretchers, as shown. Make some up about ¾ of the winder length and some about 1½ times. That'll cover all eventualities.

• Rod and Pole. These days I always have a pack of elastic when out with regular rods. On holiday in the Broads, having taken a 2lb t/c carp rod, but wanting to fish for bits and pieces, I made a flick tip of sorts out of the rod by putting about 4 feet of elastic through the rod rings, double once and twice as above and looped over the last ring on the top section (2 piece rod). The other end was threaded through a cork bead (made from a wine cork at the time), drilled out a bit, and then a pole elastic joiner. The cork bead/pad doesn't do anything other than prevent a break-off punching out the ceramic liner in your tip ring. Looks a bit odd, but works terribly well actually.

• Float Things. I'm also not a big fan on the mimsey little rings on the side of some pole floats, which pull out at the slightest pull. While there are occasions when 'top and bottom' attachment is a necessity, bottom end only often works well or better, especially if you do not want the pole overshadowing the float and bait. So I have a few floats with braid eyes whipped on the bottom stem, mostly the ones with thick carbon stems. I use these for margin carp fishing as well. Small porcupine quills turned upside down make good sensitive pole floats for bottom end only fishing.

Pole FloatsPole Floats

• Protecting that 'Top 3'. Likewise I feel that top sections are not that robust in real life. The outer layer on many poles is thin and small knocks or nicks translate to doom under pressure. Do yourself a favour and stick a coat of clear matt varnish over the top 3 sections of your pole. Or even 2 coats. Avoid varnishing the joints together...

• Where to Put Your Pole Rear End. Lastly I never ship my pole back behind me, never being that much of a hurry (and few places have that kind of space). I use my rod pod to keep sections on. I covered the cross bars with rubber sleeving, and put the sections across them. I angle it a bit back from the water though just in case...you can easily keep them in the right order then as well for adding length in a hurry...I usually put the butt rod rests on the side of the bars nearest me, front and back to rest the pole on when I need to put it down.

• Dapping Flies - Dry and Real. Try dapping dry flies with a pole...or live ones, crane flies worked very well. You need to be very quickInsanity dapping...

1993 memoriesOctober 1993. The Kennet and Avon Canal. The future Mrs AA had moved in and the canal was, shift-work permitting, a source of evening walks and we would often stroll downstream past the odd ghost of Colthrop village and if heading upstream, I would sometimes take a spinning rod (Hah! The Mk.II Pool-Cue) and to my surprise, even caught the odd perch and small pike, for the most part just below or above the newly restored grass-banked Monkey Marsh Lock.

1993 memoriesOctober 1993. Crooked Willows.

A week-end chez the in-law's - I found this place by asking in the Wimborne tackle shop. The place, as it was then, was a hole-in-a-field with a flat grassed island. Pole-fishing with a maggot on an 18, I took a great net of chub, roach and small perch. I recall thinking it rum that I had caught chub from Bucklebury (where there "wasn't any") and then again today.

1993 memories4th December 1993. TAA Gravel pits. I went spinning for pike, managing just a single 1lb pike caught on a whopping 'buzzer' for the whole day. How the little devil even managed to get the hook in its mush I'll never know. I have mentioned my spinning 'expertise'.

1993 memories5th December 1993. The 17lb and 20lb Brace. The weather on this December day was cold (3-4°C) but clear with a moderate westerly wind. I'd had a grim start to my piking this year and was almost worn down to giving in (or finding waters further afield). But I persuaded myself to pop out for the afternoon, tried an hour and a half or so in the NW corner of Jubilee with no result. At 3:30pm I moved to the NE corner of Long Lake.

I put on a floated kipper bait (really - I took a kipper fillet, folded it in half, sewed up the open ends and attached it to a 2 × 'VB hook' rig) fished about three feet down drifted up against the reeds at the end of the lake and a popped-up sprat cast out and to my right. There was probably about 30 yards between the baits. I settled in for the last hour and the wavelets' right-to-left foxed my eyes and every time my gaze switched from the orange stick in the reeds to the bobbin on the sprat bait, the ground rippled and appeared to travel under my feet.

At 4:15pm after almost 30 minutes of giddy watching and waiting, the float stabbed once, sharply enough in the gathering gloom to make me think I'd imagined it, then popped out of sight. I hate it when that happens. Imagining an 8lb fish, a regular out of this corner, I tightened and struck firmly but not wildly, resulting in a large swirl near the reeds, putting paid to the 8lb pike in my mind's eye and the carp rod arced over. The fish took a short run away from me along the east bank past the reeds and after 20 yards wallowed, there were no more long runs, but the fish was sulky and un co-operative to the net and as the net went under, in the corner of my eye the bobbin on the other rod jigged, jerked and line started paying out. Now that I really hate.

So this is how it went. I landed the first pike, noted it had '20lb potential'. I put the rod down, put my foot on the net handle, closed the bale arm on the second rod and struck the fish, 'not small', I noted as the 2lb Winfield curled over. I held it long enough to be sure of the hooking and opened the bale again. Took the first fish into the long grass, unhooked it (mercifully, bottom hook in the scissors 'VB doubles'). Back to the other rod, net in hand, expecting to have nothing. I tightened up, discovered the fish on and moving steadily, but not urgently, 'away', so battened down and the fish increased pressure and so did I. After thirty yards it ground to a halt then reversed tacked towards me and just as I imagined a fierce battle over the reed beds' sanctuary, it glided towards me and into the net. Handy.

With a measure of calm descending with the dusk, I weighed both fish, with the 'kippered' Esox going 21lb and its second-in-command going 17¾lb. I took pictures, but an old film camera and a flash have made a less than perfect job, but still beating my mind's eye. I had no other run all day and certainly have not had such a good brace of fish since. The right hand picture shows the larger of the two, with the tackle box and flask to give some idea of scale. I suspect that they might have been the same two fish as caught on separate occasions given the similarity of the sizes. I was chuffed.

21lb & 17lb Pike on float fished kipper21lb & 17lb pike on float fished kipper 21lb Pike kippered21lb pike kippered

1993 memories12th December 1993. Pike Pit, Jubilee and Long Lake. Cold day, wind was S/SW, raining. I started at 11am with 1½ hours on the Pike Pit in the corner by the East end, with a floated kipper and a popped up sardine. Without a run by 1pm, I moved to the NW corner of Jubilee and swapped the sardine for a sprat, to fish the water out on the retrieve. The rain had eased off though. After no run, except one from a careless crayfish, I moved to Long Lake.

Pike Pit and Long LakePiking the Pike Pit. Swim 3 I'd guess and the right hand rod is the 'Winfield Specimenfisher'. Pike Pit and Long LakePiking on the east end of Long Lake. This was a good swim, but it didn't produce if you were in it. If you fished it from the north bank it worked out better.

...where I continued to have 'no runs' for the rest of the day.

1993 memories19th December 1993. Jubilee Lake and Pike Pit. I elected to fish out the swims at the back of Jubilee, to see if there were any productive swims. I popped up sardine and sprat in the shallow water, had one fast take around mid-day, which not only yielded no fish, but left the sprat curiously unmarked. Not convinced a pike did that. I spent the last hour in the corner of Pike Pit, where at 4:15pm I received a tentative nibble on the sardine, which was a crayfish

1993 memories26th December 1993. Pike Pit. The traditional 'Boxing Day' thing. Temperature around 0°C, wind W/NW. Water gin-clear. Some fringes of ice on the water. Myself and brother fished around the entire Pike Pit during the day. Tried sprats, sardines, mackerel, kipper, floated, popped up, ledgered, all with the same result (zippo, nada, natch).

1993 memories27th December 1993. Jubilee Lake and Pike Pit. Hard frost, no wind, some sun shine. Water still clear. Started out on the back of Jubilee, moved onto Long Lake mid-way up the north bank and finished at the east end of Pike pit. As previously every combination of the four baits were tried, with no runs. I noted the ice patterns on Jubilee, in case they indicated depth variations or springs to try at a later date.

1993 memories28th December 1993. Pike Pit and Long Lake. Weather as for the 27th. We fished Pike Pit for a couple of hours and I wind-drifted a dead-bait the whole length of the pit at varying depths, along with a foam filled swim-feeder of sardine oil...no result but for a big oil slick. We moved to Long Lake, where the water was gin-coloured and spent the second half of the day trying various swims on the north bank. One crayfish was caught in the NE corner and a tentative run came mid-afternoon, which may have been a fish and may not.

1993 memories30th December 1993. Theale Lagoon. Brother and self went there for the day. It rained pretty much all day and faced with a vast water and pretty well no knowledge, we went for the tree covered area on the north side, beyond the yacht club. In very heavily weeded water the bother brThe grammar checker suggested 'brother' then I thought, "Nah, 'bother' is more accurate". had a single pike about 3lb. We saw others, in the next swim up there were several decent pike so I spent an age gently casting and retrieving single sprats past their noses, once only a pike snapped at the bait, leaving the sprat with a line of needle holes across its flank. This was the best I managed, so we retreated to the west bank where there is a cutting (mentioned previously) but we had nothing further to add to our day. Still raining as well.

Perch'perca fluviatilis'...(and back to the top of the page) PerchStripey Perch'Sarge' PerchA 'swagger' of perch Perch'Sarge' PerchA 'swagger' of perch PerchA 'swagger' of perch Perch'perca fluviatilis' PerchStripey Perch'Sarge'

1994 if I Recall it Right

1994 memories15th January 1994. Theale Lagoon. Passed the day trudging around here and one of the adjoining pits in the rain. Suffice to say that despite many changes in baits and techniques I achieved 'no runs'.

1994 memories16th January 1994. Long Lake. Spent the day dead-baiting right around the lake. I had one 3lb pike on a popped-up sprat by the feeder drain. At least it wasn't raining.

1994 memories22nd January 1994. Jubilee Lake and Long Lake. Spent the whole day dead baiting on the back of Jubilee and the south bank of Long Lake, with no results. I varied baits and methods and fishing each swim out for an hour. Monday and Tuesday produced a 12lb and 20lb fish for 'Zen'.

1994 memories29th January 1994. Pike Pit. Spent the day with the bother on Pike Pit. He caught four fish up to 6lb on sprat. I didn't get a run (see what I mean about the gods deserting me?).

1994 memories30th January 1994. Jubilee and Long Lake. ...and again got not a run. I gave up with the weather and some details at this point, it's amazing I persisted really. 'Zen' had a 9lb fish from the NE corner of Long Lake (a good swim).

1994 memories5th February 1994. Long Lake. Had a single 6lb fish from the NE corner of Long Lake on a float fished gudgeon. Yippee.

1994 memories15th March 1994. The 1993-4 Pike Fishing Season. A dire return on the hours put in, you can see I gave up in February...the pike fishing in general had tailed off in the lakes and also my personal gods appeared to be against me as well, as recorded above. In summary I caught five pike this season. OK, one great double, but phew. I elected to try other waters next year, did some reading and as a result made a few changes, but not many.

1994 memoriesApril 1994. I flew to LA for a week of 'hardware integration' in Simi Valley, so becoming became acquainted with the 'Elephant Bar' (off Madera Rd., long since closed) and jet-lag.

The end-customer paid; Virgin's first plane with a bar in business class and a hostess who'd been on 'Blind Date' (yet to be broadcast) who blew the gaff on its heavy scripting; two of the end-customer's employees were on the plane and kept me entertained, but 'let me' drive to Simi, possibly not unconnected to the use of the aforementioned bar. Huh. Most of a week in the Radisson just off 'Innovation Way', spending most evenings in the bar, learning baseball from several affable regulars (c.2020, this is now the appropriately named 'Grand Vista').

Simi Valley, looking southThe Grand VistaSimi Valley, looking southThe Grand VistaSimi Valley, looking southThe Grand VistaSimi Valley, looking southThe Grand Vista

The valley-girl marketing Barbie who’d been part of the set-up met me on the first day, then conspiratorially explained this was a ‘white-flight’ community and then, mistaking me for 'good people', felt obliged to explain what that meant. I lost respect for her right about then, but wore the mask. I hope. My two engineering contacts could barely be bothered, ‘politics’, but luckily the non-college firmware writer and technician were up for a challenge and after a long week, 50+ working hours in four-and-a-half days, thinly veneered resentment neared grudging respect by the end of the week. I assume they took the credit.

Simi Valley, looking southJAFH room, Ca.Simi Valley, looking southJAFH Ca., looking up Innovation WaySimi Valley, looking southJAFH Ca., looking across the car-park, I think my hire car is in there somewhere, I can't really recall.

I 'saw some sights', but only those shown. The early morning drive down the 'I405' slowed to a desert crawl as the radio played "All I want to do...", the first time of hearing. A few miles later I crossed the Santa Monica Boulevard. What are the odds? Then I got off the '405 freeway one intersection too early, had to U-turn when I hit desert and nodding donkeys, definitely NOT LAX. Foreshadowing...

1994 memoriesMay 1994. Pole-Rigged.

I took the pole-rig up the page to the Pike Pit, fished in the 3rd swim, kinda the gateway to the deep narrow channel along the south bank and fished a grain of corn on a small hook on 3lb line. I probably caught 'some other fish', but absolutely did catch one of the feral carp, the main memory of which is the extraordinary ground it made to the left-hand side at the extent of the elastic. This proved beyond all doubt to me that the progressive shock absorption system did the job alright. Although even back then, at the final hurdle I thought the rig was a little underpowered. But still.

1994 memories3rd September 1994. Talisker Whisky. I like most whisky, but I have a soft spot for Talisker, possible due to the newly wed Anotheranglers' visit, heads heavy with cold, being started with a large one popped into your hand as you pass through the door. Now that's marketing. It's not a bad cold cure either.

The Ten Year old is peaty, smoky with a hint of the sea and a sip takes me straight back to the shores of Loch Harport in 1994. It's probably sacrilege but a tot in a flask of Ceylon, brightens those colourless winter days by the waterside. And a large one with a spot of hot water is perfect for the head-cold of Mrs AA. Despite herself professing no love of whisky, my bottle always seems to evaporate through the cork if I am away from home...

A wonderful smokey warming malt. Buy some, drink it, appreciate it, buy some more. It is not tricky.

1994 memories4th September 1994. Before this day there was no Mrs. AA. After this day there was. It was a fine fine day and probably one of the smartest things I ever did in my life.

1994 memoriesSeptember 1994. The Burn of Durn. Yes, really. The "Burn of Durn", at Portasoy, Banff, in Scotland. As part of our honeymoon we went on a round trip of Scotland and camped for a couple of nights at the small campsite right on the shore at Portasoy. As it was September we had the place to ourselves. Well it had a chip shop and a pub, what else do you need?

Anyhow, a small stream ran down to the beach only about 50 yards from the tent and it flowed under a small footbridge into a pool before soaking away through the pebble-and-sand beach like small streams often do. Not for them, the grandness of estuaries and tidal waters.

A look in the pool confirmed the presence of trout, so I got my tackle out BoD1According to the terms of the Geneva Comedy Convention of 1887, in any story about honeymooners with fishing involved this remark is mandatory. and with a "worm and one-shot" rig and my rod in my hand BoD2According to the same convention, this is not mandatory, but I couldn't resist. , whipped out a small trout of a couple of ounces first cast. Which was my only success. Despite my best efforts for about an hour, I couldn't persuade another fish to take a bait. I tried no shot, smaller hooks, bits of worms, fishing off and behind the bridge. Not a nibble. Just goes to show, that once they're spooked, they're spooked. Yes, I really did take fishing tackle on my honeymoon. And worms.

1994 memories27th September 1994. Hambridge Lake. Having got a membership of RDAA - and took a 9½lb pike on a float-fished gudgeon, with salmon oil injected into it. I got distracted by a commotion in the NW corner while trying for a run by the feeder stream on the west bank. I noticed a scattering of fry in the small lagoon in the NW corner. Aha. If looked just as if as if something was lunging out from under weed cover and scattering fry. I'd already had one fish about 5lb, and knew a bit about stalking pike, from the DykeThe straight faced Rye Dyke and its pike days - so rigging up a small popped up dead-bait on a single hook VB traceThe terribly sensible VB hook and trace, I cut inland and sneaked around to the inlet, and doing my best impression of a commando (not the same as 'going commando'), made my way to the edge of the water and watched from behind a handy tree.

Another lunge and scattering confirmed the fish was still there. I assumed the fish was broadly speaking facing out of the weed and toward myself and the prey, gave it five minutes to get back in and worked myself around behind the head end of the fish and cast past it with my bait and letting it sink I retrieved to somewhere in front of the assumed fish. I waited...and waited. Fifteen minutes ticked by. I reeled in my popped up bait with a few turns of the handle and stopped. And waited again...five minutes later, another bow wave and scattering of small stuff. Surely my bait was more interesting? Salmon oil and all? After another 10 minutes I recast as slowly and carefully as I knew. Pretty much the same result, and more lunges confirmed the fish was still present. After another ten minutes, decided my bait was wrong, or the fish was preoccupied, so worked my way into a position to see my intended quarry.

After moving quietly to the entrance of the small inlet (where naturally you'd never be able to get a rod), I saw a blur of movement, a scattering of fry and a common carp around 8-10lb glided to a halt, then after a bit ambled back to it's ambush station under the weed cover. Aaaaaah. So back to the pike then. With hindsight, I could have gone for the smallest sprat I had on a regular trace, but knowing the 'rule of cussedness of nature', I'd have hooked a pike and got 'bitten off'...

1994 memories2nd October 1994. Pike Pit. 1×2lb fish on the SE corner on a float fished smelt. I also missed a take on a sprat while it was being retrieved. This was popped-up off the bottom on a ledger rig, held down by a couple of swan shot at the top of the trace.

1994 memories3rd October 1994. Long Lake. 1×6lb pike from the SE corner on a float-fished sprat. The bait was drifted right up against the reed-bed. I missed a take where the feeder stream from Jubiliee runs into the lake.

Peering at the gravel by my feet (I would say 'waiting for a bite', but had long since lost hope) I picked out what I thought was an old drilled bullet, but this is solid chalk, cleaned the hole out with a piece of thorn from the blackthorn behind (where I once found a three-piece green glass float-rod, each section broken neatly in half - a bad day for someone) and still wonder how old it is, as the gravel deposit housed some of the oldest inhabitants of the islands (the Mesolithic site some 400 yards off 'Lower Way' is one of the best examples in the country).

BeadFunny little chalk bead BeadFunny little chalk bead

1994 memories9th October 1994. Hambridge Lake. 1×5lb pike on a float-fished trout, which had sardine oil injected. An hour later missed a take on the same set-up.

1994 memories16th October 1994. Hambridge Lake. Returning, I banked a 7½lb and a one-eyed 10½lb fish, both taken on a float-fished sardine oiled sprat. I abandoned smelt at this point.

1994 memories22nd October 1994. Long Lake. Back at Thatcham, I took a single 6¼lb fished at the SW corner on a bottom fished popped-up trout, anointed with sardine oil.

1994 memories23rd October 1994. Hambridge Lake. On the back arm I had a 2lb and a 10½lb fish on float-fished trout and sardine oil and a 4lb fish on a float-fished sardine oiled sprat. I imagine the double was the same fish as caught on the 16th, going by the same missing eye. As I'd never taken a pike on bottom fished baits here, I'd switched to float-fishing two baits at different depths.

Sitting on the bank under the trees, my attention was taken by an embedded claw-in-profile, so I put down the bic'n'cryptic crosswords and scratched it out. I pick up such things for no good reason and on the same bank earlier in the year, I'd picked another odd fossil that looks for all the world like a Venus fly-trap.

FossilOne certainly a fossil, the other 'maybe'... FossilOne certainly a fossil, the other 'maybe'...

1994 memories25th October 1994. Pike Fishing Diary.

I stopped keeping a 'Pike Diary' on the 23rd October 1994. Having fished for five weeks with changes of venue and methods, I had already landed twice as many fish (ten) as the previous year. I went to Hambridge several more times, catching at least a fish a session, but none bigger than 10½lb, despite covering most of the lake at one time or another looking for the traditional alleged monster. About half of the fish caught in this lake came from the enclosed arm of the water on the south bank.

1994 memoriesDecember 1994. Grantham gravel pit. I spent the week-end with the bother and we went for a day's fishing at a gravel pit near Grantham, I forget the name. The water was large, the weather was clear, bright and cold, to the point of ice forming on the line. We went around the back of the lake on the basis of having some shelter from the wind, which was slight. As we knew nothing else about the water, that was as good a reason as any.

The water was gin clear, so I opted to pole fish as far out as I could and put out a popped-up sprat on a slider-float around 30 yards out and even then I could see the bait on the bottom in water deeper than a rod-length.

Stap me if only half an hour later, away went the float and after a lively tussle I netted a well conditioned pike of around 12lb. This boded well. Or not. That was it for us both all day - neither of us even had a bite after that on regular tackle or dead-baits. With hindsight we should have roved and dead-baited, we'd have been warmer...slightly fortunate, but consider how far away a popped-up bait could be seen in water that clear.

Not so very common carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Not so very common carp...a very subtil fish Not so very common carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Not so very common carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Not so very common carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it.

1995. Probably.

1995 memoriesFebruary 1995. The Kennet and Avon Canal. I was fishing the canal one February day, when the canal was coursing like a river. The flood-piking advice in 'Pike Fishing' by Ken Whitehead, is to look for the slightest of slacks and fish those. The only 'slacks' were the tiny indentations at the ends of the concrete lead-in to Monkey Marsh bridge, no more than a notch in the bank. I tried a sprat, lowered carefully into all four in turn - and had one small pike of 3lb or so from the upstream left-hand niche. I was ridiculously pleased with this in the circumstances.

1995 memories15th March 1995. The 1994-95 Pike Season saw me re-vitalised which, given the dire previous season, can only be ascribed to eternal optimism of an addicted angler. I kept the diary for the first few weeks of the season and then for some reason stopped. Perhaps having conquered the demons of the previous season, I was happy to take things less seriously. Or something. In truth I felt that I wasn't doing a lot wrong, but the waters I fished simply didn't have that many pike to catch.

I continued to put two baits in the water, generally one 'popped-up' and the other float-fished. I still used sprats on occasion, but my favourite and most productive baits were gudgeon and trout, neither native to the waters. I bought the trout, caught the gudgeon myself (...at Bishop's Green. Allegedly.) and both baits were injected with salmon, sardine and tuna oils.

1995 memoriesMay 1995. The Stream Behind the Pavilion. It was a tiny stream, a drain really, and one week-end there was a pike in it, a couple of pounds perhaps; so I fished it out with a sprat and the seven-foot rod. Just for fun.

A team-mate had a house that backed onto the Kennet and said I could fish it any time I like. Never did. No idea why not, seems silly not to have done.

VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace...(and back to the top of the page) VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace

1996. All True.

Nope. No fishing this year. None. Nada. When the first-born turned up in June I had a new very busy home plus a new very busy job...

1996 memoriesOctober 1996. Vive la Révolution

I'd kinda forgotten this trip, until pulled to the surface by some random conversation reminder. This was an 'up-and-to-the-right' semi-conductor company’s sales beano, a new experience for me. The hotel, the Trianon Palace1 Boulevard de la Reine, 78000 Versailles, France* in Versailles, was up-market enough to make ‘JAFH’ seem harsh.

Trianon PalaceThe hotel, or a bit of itTrianon PalaceThe 'Avenue de Trianon' before breakfast-time.Trianon PalaceYer actual 'Palace of Versailles'...Trianon Palace...and looking the other way...

I recall my room number, onze-quarante, that we had fine cuisine in the hotel one night, which was completely forgettable and that on the second evening we all trooped out to a regular restaurant for dinner. There I had a poached smoked haddock on a sauerkraut bed followed by créme caramel, both sublime.

When I naively asked the VP of sales if he was at all interested in the product, he curtly told me that it could be peanut brittle as far as he was concerned, sales were sales. Sure. The room’s TV had free seedy porn, sad on many levels. The Palace of Versailles’ gardens were wonderful, I slipped around the near reaches pre-breakfasts, the ornamental ponds held carp and goldfish.

All very enlightening. I recall absolutely nothing about the products or the presentations of them. Zero. It’s an Ozymandias thing. 'Up-and-to-the-right' and over the edge.

Palace of Versailles'Bassin de Neptune'Palace of Versailles'Bassin du Dragon'Palace of Versailles'Bassin de Neptune'

* ...the hotel has Palace of Versailles views, Michelin-starred dining, and classic luxury meet on the edge of Louis XIV's royal domain. Built in 1907, our hotel is tucked between the Palace of Versailles and the Grand Trianon, amid centuries-old trees and rolling gardens. Spa Guerlain boasts 2,800 square meters of relaxation, with a sunlit Grecian-inspired pool.

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1997 ±20% Sure

1997 memoriesJanuary 1997. Lake ArrowheadWhere well-off Americans go for winter Ca. OK, so the lake was frozen around the edges, but really, could have tried harder.

Lake ArrowheadLake Arrowhead itself. It's not actually frozen over, but does have a fringe of ice.Lake ArrowheadAn arty shot of one of the pines behind the chaletLake ArrowheadJust a snowy shot.

In LA ‘somewhere’, the first night hotel's breakfast was the most amazing scrambled eggs with finely chopped peppers and a smidgen of chilli. Never had anything as good before or since.

I had thought the Lake Arrowhead spectacular was '96, but it couldn't have been as the applications guy hadn't joined us in '96 and we ribbed him about having to put snow chains on 'as he was the apps guy'. I know. The best thing about this sales meeting? The inter-chalet snowball fights, during which I acquired the name 'lefty'...

1997 memories20th March 1997. Paignton. Bloody Geraniums. The MD and myself stayed here in passing, some big meeting involving VITO's*. The place was handily near the town centre and the sea, but was a thicket of scented geraniums, not that I mind those per se. However the owner was just ‘too attentive’. My travelling companion was sure at one point he appeared from a wardrobe. Or the cupboard under the stairs. One of those. Rum, very rum.

* "Very Important Top Officer". From a painfully extrovert sales seminar, horrible acronym, surprisingly good strategy, if it was slightly tempered.

1997 memoriesOctober 1997. Henbury Lakes were a funny little venue and I fished the lower pond a few times on the Wimborne ticket. I pole-fished, making steady and satisfying catches of roach and perch. Otherwise there is little to add; there were gorse bushes than ran almost of the edge of the east bank and I had to park Mrs. AA's old Renault somewhere in Henbury itself, then yomp across ploughed furrows to reach the ponds. I was sorry when it dropped off the ticket; it was nice natural little water.

1997 memoriesDecember 1997. Wellington Lake. I took my pole down here one cold December day to 'fish-for-bites' and slipped down the bank of the east side of the westward arm and fished the usual single maggot on an '18' to 2lb line. No real idea what was in there but this felt like the right spot. An hour slipped by, I got 'the buzz' and eventually the bristle double-dipped and slid off and I, hopeful, picked up the tip and found myself sandbagging. It was a slow and ponderous affair with the elastic pulled out to the longest extent I thought possible on several occasions, each time brought to a juddering halt a cricket pitch away. Even when the fish, cold-water slowed, gave in, sideways on, it was all I could do to pull it slowly towards the net. This was 17lb of mirror carp on a 2lb bottom, I even texted the bother on the work-phone (a big old Nokia about the size of a half-brick) to brag. I fished another hour, happy bunny, but the fish feeling went with the fish and after a bit, decamped to the north-east end, switched to thicker elastic and 6lb line and took a brace of 8lb commons on double maggot on a '14'. Top day really.

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

1998 ±20%

1998 memoriesJanuary 1998. I recall this day too well. I was on a two-day sales-training course in Bristol, which was execrable even on its own merits. This was my own fault as I asked for sales training. There were two engineers working as technical salesmen amongst a group of frozen-chip and stationery sellers. These are noble professions, but the gulf was unfathomable from one side of the divide.

To receive, at the end of that kind of day, the news that 'Old Bob' had gone, on was a body-blow. I have, in the normal run of events, to guard against an involuntary echolalia, probably a response to a forces-brat upbringing, but this, its effect, and the South African course leader did for me. After one pint I could feel my vowels shortening and my voice clipping. Not a good thing. I took myself and my second drink off to bed.

A grim and dark day and I was too far away.

1998 memoriesFebruary 1998. Cough.

On a February fishing trip, the Pike Pit was mist-shrouded, persisting into late afternoon. The miasma muffled and did odd things to sound. The brother and I were a swim apart at the road end of the lake and I cannot recall whether we were piking or just fishin'.

We had spent some time discussing things of the past and had at length discussed my maternal grandfather,'Old Bob' and the influence he had on us both as fishermen (and myself as a rough shooter). He had, unfortunately died in January.

The thing about 'Old Bob' was he had this cough. It was half a throat clear and half a cough. It had a double note like a return call to a wood pigeons [hoo-hooo(hoo)]. When you consider that he had smoked since he was 14, he had pretty hard life as boy and then continued with the unfiltered fags all his life, Senior Service and latterly Woodbines (a less aptly named cigarette I cannot think of, but amusing was a B&B in Ambleside, "Woodbine B&B. No Smoking"), it's a wonder he lived to 86 - although the young doctor who told me in January that "smoking has killed your Granddad", during his last visit to Winchester hospital, was lucky not to be tossed out of the second-floor window (oddly, the same ward my wife worked on when we were courting, even more odd, the same ward his son laid in, diagnosed with cancer at a premature 65 less than decade later). When you add the time 'Old Bob' spent fighting fires in Pompey and Southampton during the darkest days of the war, 80 plus years was a victory. As he said he had a good knock and no complaints.

Still, 'the cough'. If you had the bad fortune to be stuck in the queue for the loo while Old Bob was having his morning cough you needed a stout bladder. That aside, this half cough would resurface during the day. We got used to it. It was a calling card. A throat clear with a glottal stop on the end.

On that day in the curling mist, after remembering him fondly we clearly heard 'the cough'. I risked a look at himself. I'd like to think I had a wooden face. The sibling started visibly and looked at me. No one spoke. A minute or two passed, during which I suspect, we both pointedly didn't look behind us. Footsteps up the bank passed quickly through nerves to rationality as a normal figure with a slight but altogether wrong cough, materialised out of the white and with an "Alright lads?" moved on. Well that's OK then.

Sly sense of humour Old Bob; he may have caught us that time. If I'd heard a chuckle it'd not have surprised me.

1998 memories15th March 1998. Turfcroft Farm Fishery. I fished at this delightful small pond in the New Forest a few times in the 1997-8 season, initially for no good reason really, as it is some way from home. It is situated near Burley off the A31. The lake is a bit over an acre with two islands and the surrounding ground is well drained gravel, with a good covering of trees. Although shallow, it is well established and I had three or four very pleasant sessions here with the pole, making good catches of roach and small carp. Time is my biggest problem these days for fishing, and I am reluctant now to take the 40 minute each-way drive, when I can fish 15 minutes from my house...well almost.

Turfcroft Farm TicketTurfcroft Farm Ticket

1998 memoriesJune 1998. A Proper Pole. Giddy with a commission cheque I bought a modern 10M multi-section pole with two 'top threes', a regular one and a 'carp' one. I adapted the elastic rig mentioned above to fit inside the top four sections, but skipped the surgical elastic and just doubled and quadrupled the elastic and used a plastic cone-shaped bung. With the 'carp top three', thicker elastic and 5/6lb line I found I could deal with quite large fish, although a some large tench at Milton Abbey took some landing after they took the elastic to the limit. I still felt, even with the carp top, there was a lack of power (especially when the elastic is not stretched out), which was awkward with larger fish. I would not set out to catch double-figure fish with this myself, but as a safety net when large fish are around in company with the small it's invaluable. With some commercial fisheries, it is a racing certainty that you will hook carp while fishing for smaller fish - which is hardly a good thing. This is partly why I use 3lb line on commercial fisheries and often fish with 6lb main to a 4lb braid hook-length. This allows me to avoid split-shot on mono line, which I have never had complete faith in.

1998 memories23rd September 1998. Cannop Ponds...which are located in the Cannop Valley (surprise) in the Forest of Dean, not far from Lydney. I spent a pleasant autumn day here during a short holiday based at St. Briavels. Having got a day-ticket and maggots in Coleford, I set up on the larger of the two ponds ("No. 1"). The ponds are surrounded by deciduous trees, there were patches of lilies and the overall effect was very therapeutic for a stressed new father with an eighteen-month-old.

I ended up facing what must have been mostly west, as the sun was hard in my eyes and reflected off the water. Setting up a pole rig with no. 10 elastic and 3lb right through, I persisted in the face of the glare and in three hours caught a good number of roach, bream, a couple of perch and a headache. I recall catching about twenty fish. Getting to the middle-of-the-day lull in proceedings, the headache motivated me to circle the pond to blissful shade where I spent the same length of time catching nothing - in the cool. This is the law of cussedness of nature ('Sod's Law'). A nice place and I'd go again, if I ever get over that way with me tackle out.

Cannop PondsThe actual Cannop Ponds day-ticket

1998 memoriesOctober 1998. Old Harbour, Paignton.

A second stay in the oddest B&B I've ever encountered, right off the seafront and overrun with scented geraniums. The landlord reminded me of the housekeeper in 'Sir Henry at Rawlinson End', and appeared to burst out of cupboards to ask if everything was OK. It was late in the summer, just past 'the season' but the lights were still up. I took the old carp rod, the Cardinal 40, a piece of supermarket mackerel and so spent several wind-swept hours float-fishing off the end of the old harbour wall, by the light of the sodium lamps. It was calm, cool, smelt of old nets, long-gone catches and was as refreshing a good pint of beer after a day's walking. Just because I could. Nothing took the bait...so back to the geraniums. The creeping oddity overtook me by morning and eschewing breakfast, I paid and bolted. I never went back.

The Old Harbour, PaigntonThe picture of the Paington lights I took on the evening. Lights on, no-one about, late season then. The Old Harbour, PaigntonThe Old Harbour, Paignton, in February 2015. Where, oddly, Mrs AA and I stayed a stone's throw from the old Nortel buildings, a place I must have been a score-and-ten times back in the day.

At a Santa Clara sales-beano in 2010, I sat with Trevor who also stayed there the first time I did. He still swore the guy hid in cupboards and leapt out to 'check everything was OK' and we laughed about it skIn a "Wouldn't it be funny if he was a serial killer ha-ha?", "Yes, ha-ha", kind of way., but it wasn't really funny. Bloody geraniums.

1998 memoriesNovember 1998. Edmonsham Smallbridge Lakes.

On the Wimborne AC permit, myself and the bother rolled up here one cloudy and still day in the autumn. We set up on a small promontory on the west bank and taking advice we float (and pole) and ledgered sweet corn near to the bank to pick up carp. We were then visited by a water bailiff who asked for our rod-licences (see it does happen), who also scared me out of using my pole by recounting tail of broken poles and monster carp. I switched to my carp rod. OK, I have landed a 17lb mirror on a pole, but I wouldn't set out to.

My bother had already caught one at the 4-6lb mark I think, when I had a bite and striking, found myself attached to a missile, which headed toward the middle of the lake. It showed no signs of turning at all so I notched up the side strain a bit at a time until the rod was in full battle curve mode, with all I had to show was a boil of water some 40-50 yards distant. I opted for a measure brute force and slowly began to draw the fish back to me. At this point I was struck by the nature of the fight which was one dimensional ("away from me" sums it up) and was speculating on a large tench or perhaps even a big eel even. After 10 minutes of hard graft I got the fish to within 10 yards of the bank and it went of again. Another five minutes, pull, reel, heave.

Again near the bank another run. Bother watches with interest. Finally getting the fish near enough to the bank to risk getting the net out and a final pull - and out came the tail of a carp. Derisive snorting noise from my nearest relative. I'd hooked a 6lb common bang in the middle of the tail root. Unhooked, none the worse, although tired, it needed some support for a few minutes to get its 'breath back'. I ignored several suggestions to "try hooking the other end". That was absolutely the hardest fight I have ever had with any fish. In the end we both ended up with three fish, before sport tailed off in the early afternoon - for some reason we didn't return and tried other waters that weekend, among them 'Wellington' at Kingsbridge, where we blanked - the bother remarked on the then similarity between one of the swims at Wellington with 'The Point' on Whitehouse lake - then a short session at the now long gone 'Hyde Lakes' where we also blanked, although we might have seen a fish in one of the lakes...and then Pallington, still day-ticket then, where we froze and caught eels.

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1999 All Happened For Sure

1999 memoriesAugust 1999. Ottawa, The Westin HotelJAFH in truth. opposite the The Rideau Canal''Black and green bass are as plentiful here as pollywogs in a rain barrel.'' quote from ''The Picturesque Rideau,'' 1898.. Stayed for two days and saw bass, pike and large carp in the weed, took a jog along the path opposite the hotel to see them. This was a mistake. I had a day off as well. Duh.

Good Geoff GGThere was an 'Evil Geoff'. This latter was a devious Machiavellian type who would rather manipulate you into something, even if he could have just asked. Like many of his ilk, he had no idea he was actually the 'bad guy'. It was Mrs. AA who came up with the naming scheme. 'Good Geoff' was a terrific chap and taught me a great deal. It was unjust that when he retired, his wife died less than a year later, breaking him for a time. suggested we take the train from Ottawa to Vancouver. Money was tight at the time and it would have cost several hundred dollars we could have barely afforded, but I still regret not taking that train.

1999 memoriesAugust 1999. Pan Pacific HotelNot JAFH, my house could fit in the front lobby., Vancouver. It's on the seafront. It could not have been closer to the sea. Three days too. Ah well. Not that it mattered, as the jog 'that was a bad idea' was the last straw that broke my inguinal wall. So I got a blue-light tour of Vancouver en route to the nearest hospital (my expenses note '24-Aug-99, Hospital Out Patients Vancouver'). This meant my bags were carried by my colleagues and it is perhaps best I do not mention the manager who suggested I might stay on, rather than go straight home. Hint for all managers: the right thing to do is offer to fly someone home right away, otherwise you are, quite rightly, despised for ever. Some trip. Good Geoff had his credit card cloned and we were at the airport when it became clear the boss had got his dates one day wrong...he found a hotel (in Richmond) while we sat in terse silence and our extra day was spent watching "The Thirteenth Warrior" (so obviously 'Beowulf') and eating Chinese food. Two of did us anyway. Some people would have flat out admitted an error and apologised.

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That was a decade. Everything happened as far I can recall. I bought a house, gave up contracting, everyone else got married, we got married, we had a child, I moved from electronics design into field sales, sold a house, lost money on the sale, we bought another house, we had two more children...and so on...it is a bit of a blur.

For the previous decade's autobiographical fishing recollections, head <<this way'Backwards and Downwards' and for the next decade's potentially false memories head this way>>'Onwards and Upwards' .

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