Tuesday, 17 May 2016

SPRING DAWN (a call of nature)

 Awoken by a call of nature this morning I decided it was light enough to venture
out earlier than originally planned. I had set my alarm for five am but at ten past four my bladder had other ideas so I crept downstairs and flicked the kettle on.

I umm'd and ahh'd whether to have some breakfast before going, drumming my fingers on the worktop while the water boiled. I had loaded the car last night and felt the pull of a very different call of nature, one to witness the dawn breaking. I was gone before the kettle switched off.

Getting out the car to unlock the gate, the rustling of the chain scattered rabbits up the track, their white tails bobbing up and down through the mist.

I grabbed my gear and approached the pool via the footpath through the woods verged with wood anemones and the last of the bluebell and primroses.

With very minimal gear I made it down to the waters edge and plonked down in my chair. I flicked a few mixers out into the steaming pool and took in my surroundings. A jenny wren eyed me through blossom and yawned before flittering  through the hedgerow to gather her breakfast.

I slowly assembled the rod, laid out my mat and readied the net. Tying my hook and fixing some wax to the line I baited up and got ready to fish. I intended to wait, sit on my hands and cast only when the carp were competing for the freebies. But the appearance of a mid double fish just under my feet was to tempting an opportunity so I stupidly plopped a biscuit just in front of it's nose only for it to spook and flick the water with its tail and douse my feet, surging off and leaving a muddy cloud in its wake.

Having caused so much disturbance in the swim curtailed any immediate prospects and I sat chastising myself.

The sun peeked over the horizon and exhaled its first breath, dissipating the mist, seemingly sweeping the pool like dust in the breeze. The plump pigeons opposite me bounced around on new ash branches jostling for position. I decided to have a walk round the lake.

The rich verdant greens of the trees in strong contrast to the blossoms of the hawthorn and crab apple dusted here and there with bright yellows from fig buttercups, the flag iris and spearwort offered a beautiful and welcome picture of Spring and erased memories of a long wet Winter.

After walking round and not spotting any fish activity I decided I'd postponed breakfast long enough and withdrew to my car. No fish but still felt I had taken something with me and really enjoyed the tranquility this morning.

Monday, 28 December 2015


The annual tradition of fishing with my stepson was re scheduled for the unofficial Boxing day as Saturday didn't fall right for either of our plans and schedules. And quite befitting as it turned out, but more of that later.

Peter messaged me at 7.30 am to say he'd had a rough night with the grandsons and had only just woken up. He'd get himself together and be round as soon as possible. I told him not to break his neck, the water would still be there and I was eyeing up a packet of bacon in the fridge and some seeded ciabatta rolls, what did he think? A second or two later my phone bleeped and the text read "You legend! Brown sauce on mine please. X"

So after a tentative leisurely start we drove the short distance to my syndicate brickyard pool to bother the pike, armed with personalized monogrammed 'match day' floats and a few 8 year old vintage sprats I managed to chisel from the back of the freezer.
One can quite correctly surmise that the fishing is not taken too seriously but more of a chance to kick back in the chair, relax and put the world to rights.
Besides, after a few days gorging on cold meat platters there was only the proverbial fat left to chew.

Peter had a problem he valued my opinion on, and listening to him it was apparent that I could offer some advice.
He has found himself suffering from anxiety and stress of late and I listened while he unburdened himself by outlining the synopsis.

It was evident from asking him a few psychologically leading questions where the answer lay. You see, when he goes fishing for days on end, as soon as he passes through the gateway on his syndicate lake, his brain switches off from all else. He won't think about anything else but locating the carp, how he will plan his assault and how peaceful it  is. This is his focal points for the next few days.
He doesn't care if there is work projects precariously nearing deadlines, targets falling short or addressing deficit liabilities.
He doesn't think about his family affairs, have to worry about the wife and kids and doesn't spare a thought for anyone. He's a self confessed egotistical self -centred angler and that's all there is to it. And bugger anyone else.
No problem there then, everything as it should be. It's how he unwinds, relaxes and is precisely why he goes fishing.

The perceptible problem lies between work and home. He tries to be a husband and father using his work ethic of systematizing everything and everybody. He's always writing action plans and lists. The boys being 3 and 1 year old respectively do not conform or care for order and rules and Peter sees this as his failure when they don't comply. And yet he'll go to work as a caring considerate father/husband, often taking other peoples responsibilities and workloads off their shoulders and burdening himself in the process. The imminent and impending problem then is making him feel anxious, stressed, and unable to relax.

I pointed out a telltale pick up and drop on my float and reeled in to re-bait. Once I'd recast and settled back in the chair I gave him my twopenny worth.

It will be hard but he had to try and leave work at the proverbial 'gateway' and become devoted father and husband I know he is. Become absorbed in work during work hours and stop trying to manage the family and just enjoy them. Stop writing lists and play it by ear, And go fishing more. Simples!

Not much on the fishing front today but wonderful to share a few hours quality time with the lad. I think we both got our fix regardless of the lack of fish. Come to think of it, I can't remember either of us ever catching much on our boxing day trips. We both look forward to it every year regardless and always keen to 'bag up' on those precious moments.

 He mentioned that he hadn't given me chance to unload my worries or concerns onto him as we packed away, and asked if I was worried about anything I wished to get off my chest. "I do have one concern" I said,
"I hope its not bloody cold meat again for tea!"

Friday, 30 October 2015


I've just returned from my autumn holiday to the south west. A week in Dorset and Somerset fishing both coarse and sea for several species using multiple tactics and methods.

As I write, I can't stop thinking of those moments of happy chance that at times either took my breath or stopped my heart beating momentarily.
I'm aware that some of the things I witnessed, whilst mundane or taken for granted by others, have been forged into personal memories.

Some might say that my personal views suggest that I 'sit on the fence' but truth be known I take very little for granted and I find others views interesting. Coupled with which, I find arguments tedious and relatively unhelpful. See: Cowardice (n)

To exemplify a relatively moot point, I witnessed an otter fishing in front of me. Now the occasion was a first for me and I was overwhelmed. It was a privileged spectacle that I know many will never see as close up in the wild, and it has now been logged in my lifetime experiences.
And yet if perchance the estate gamekeeper had come along and peppered it with his shotgun I would have understood. Whatever your views, on either me or the otter, it is of no consequence. Like I said I'm quite happy and content to be perched 'on the fence'.

The stunning views across both counties with Autumn forging its signature on the countryside was visually breath taking. The extremities of weather conditions paying no part in forming contrary to my opinion. These will forever serve as mental picture postcards in the future.

Fishing from rocks at Weymouth in brilliant sunshine, I observed Garfish hounding balls of whitebait and forcing them to explode from a gin clear sea like fireworks. It was like a miniature enactment of barracuda hunting in tropical waters. Beautiful coloured Wrasse did nothing but emphasize that illusion from my elevated vantage point. Yes I caught fish but to be honest nothing would outshine that particular spectacle.

My annual return to the Frome for Grayling is my favourite Autumn/Winter jolly and one of a select few that I anticipate with excitement weeks beforehand.


 This time it proved to be a very special 'red letter day' for me and Graham with lots of varying personal bests obliterated. As of last years trip, it was a battle fought in torrential rain at times but I think we won having thirty odd fish between us. Our achievements doing wonders for our morale.

Taking fish in a relatively tranquil setting and yet with the odd tank thumping 120mm artillery shells across the nearby ranges and suppressing machine gun fire was a little surreal. But like the local fauna, it was soon ignored and pared into insignificance.

Walking back to the car at the end of the day it felt like we were 'fished out' instead of 'washed out' like last years trip.

Trying to muster enthusiasm for fishing at all on the final day took that last remaining mettle and a fair amount of stupidity. But with the curative properties of our beloved pastime and being so far from home did force me out the door and into the deluge once again. Sometimes staring out a window at a downpour for too long can dissuade the hardiest of spirits and dampen one's eagerness.
But the prospect of a good perch or two and the very dregs of what was left of my enthusiasm won through and we ventured out for a few hours, opting to convene on a nearby lake instead of the river Yeo which would be unfavourable considering the conditions.

So, what of serendipity? I hear you ask. Well, what I can tell you is that it doesn't pertain to another red letter day and a  bumper haul of stonking great perch much the pity. Although a couple of small fish did put in appearance, it was more to do with the meteorology than success.
By the time we'd jumped in the car and made the short trip up the road, the weather had changed significantly. In less than an hour, the deluge, foreboding and misery had dissipated and was instead replaced with optimism, hope and quite a mild afternoon. Certainly pleasant enough for me to enjoy a couple of hours drop-shotting in beautiful surroundings. The dramatic drop in atmospheric pressure and the wind direction steering round to the south east thwarted the fishing unfortunately but it was nice to relax and take in the autumnal delights.

Amazing how a few days fishing and pleasant company can alter one's perspective too. Instead of viewing my life as a constant, miserable chain of events suddenly I enjoy seeing it through an alternate lens. One that blots out a hapless and paltry existence to one that focuses instead on optimism and enjoys life's acts of serendipity. Must be the pills as I haven't smoked weed since my teens.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Pre-natal impression?
I've been waiting for today's trip for just over three long years. Yes three, and if that doesn't make me patient I have no idea what does!
Not many people can say they've had to wait that long for one fishing expedition. Sure we've all had to postpone a few because of ill health, abysmal weather and there's always that unexpected  family crisis which takes precedence of course. I've even missed a winter season because of a river in spate and had to wait a year for the next slot.
Not impressed yet? How about if I told you that finally after the patient waiting and anticipation, all the organizing and preparation, after all that I wouldn't even be fishing myself?

 Ever since I first held that little bundle at the hospital, I've been waiting for this day when I could take my grandson fishing. In fact my good lady has reminded me that even before he was even born I had shipped from America a newborn size baby-grow in real tree camouflage to welcome him into this world. More of a tongue in cheek dig at his modern carp fishing father than to influence him in anyway you understand.

2 generations of invisible offspring.   

I was to take him as far as the gate that hopefully he will open and explore for himself the footpath that might lead him to whatever particular diversity of our beloved pastime he may or may not choose.
 I've often remarked that his first fishing trip should be with his Dad but he openly admits to not being particularly patient and prefers to keep his fishing as his escape from paternal duties. He might live to regret it but you can't tell these young un's anything can you? He's yet to learn himself that it's not about the pounds and ounces but rather the experiences that form our love of this pastime and nurture our reasons for why we go in the first place.

7lb 2ozs. That all important inclusion of weight!
So I began to plant seeds early on, subtly at first, to lure the inquisitive nature of youth long before a hook was baited to tempt that first fish.
I wrote a bedtime story book for him based on fishing with 'Grumps' which I was lucky enough to have published, albeit electronically on kindle. My pitiful royalties would be put aside for him in an account that we often joke that by the time he's eighteen he might have just enough for an ice cream.
I brought a magnetic fishing game that amused him through potty training and would eventually also ween him onto the loo.
Most kids love to feed the ducks and Alex is no exception, but when he observed fish competing for morsels from the murky depths he would try to shoo the ducks away to give the fish a better chance.
One day we had him he'd toddled to my shed door curiously watching me fashioning floats and so I explained what I was making, what it was for and even made a few for him to paint to amuse him during an inclement afternoon.

Camouflaged set of floats for his Dad!
He'd asked me if he could go fishing when he was two, so I gave him his first lesson, and replied 'when you are three' to instill the importance of patience and also to make sure he's doubly keen of course.

A miniature rod and reel was procured in his favorite colour purple and I'd made him a bright red and white float to resemble the character from his  popular 'Where's Wally' books to keep afterwards as a momento. Providing of course, it wasn't left in some far reaching tree to amuse other anglers spotting it!
Added to the mix was a bright blue chair which would provide me with another opportunistic free dig about his Dad's myopic obsession with camouflage  gear.
I mean come on, camouflaged bite alarms, really?

Where's Wally? Can you find him?

I packed the boot with his rod and reel, a chair and filled his little bait tub with maggots the day before. I expressed that he shouldn't be told he was going in case of the unexpected which could lead to tears and bitter disappointment. And his of course!

I picked him up in the morning about eight as usual and when he was buckled up in his seat he asked what we were doing today. I told him if he'd been good then I would take him fishing and if he caught a fish then he would get an ice lolly as a reward. I never had my camera in my hand but his expression is best relayed by the late Terry Scott...although, perhaps not quite so camp.

Did he just say Ice lolly?
I thought that an hour or two might be enough to amuse his interest and to keep him from becoming bored. Time enough for a taster and to leave with him still wanting more. It would be ample time for me to teach him the basics of baiting a swim, casting, and playing a fish. To practice the study of keeping quiet, listening and watching for birds, point out things to learn the name of would be teachings for another day. Today this was just about him, I wanted it to be about making sure above all else he has fun. And point out the dangers as well of course, like not getting too close to the water and the prophesy of an angler being the first to touch the sharp hook before the fish ever does.

When we parked on the track beside the lake I spotted a few carp idling in the shallows and pointed them out to Alex. The visions of those dark shapes mesmerized him and I hope they will stay with him in his dreams.

I set up in a small bay where small roach hide from predators and mixed a hand full of ground bait for Alex to introduce to the swim. He didn't mind being introduced to maggots and held one in the palm of his hand while it wriggled. I carefully mounted two on his hook and he was relieved to see they were still wriggling. A gentle flick plopped the float beneath the trees and I handed the rod over to Alex.

Where's Wally now?
I have to say that the concentration on his face focusing on the float was like looking at a seasoned angler who had being doing it for years. It really was a picture that will stay with me for a long  time. Another image that fortunately was caught on camera was him feeling that first fish tugging back at him.

Don't they hang on!

And so it was that history was written and memories were made. Ten perfect little roach were returned to fight another day. Words are not needed to describe the elation on the little anglers face so I'll let the pictures do the talking.

On calling time to a close I said we'd best go and see what his Nanny had been up to in our absence. He asked if I thought she might be making him a cake bless him. 'Out of the mouths of babes' eh?, a boy after my own heart. Which incidentally, unless you haven't already gathered, he already has.

Saturday, 11 July 2015



I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it seems we spend the majority of our precious sleep time trudging to and fro the bathroom instead of resting and recharging our batteries flat out in our comfy pits.
I'm also certain that I can't be alone in thinking that if I was single, without the doubtless torrent of abuse I would undoubtedly incur from ones better half, that I'd probably sleep nearer to the window. Or at least have a suitable container under the bed!

In the wee hours (Ha!), on my way back from my third visit to the bathroom, I noticed that the space I'd been left to slip back into had somehow shrunk whilst I'd been away. Sharing a bed with someone doesn't strictly mean an equal share does it? A little like us offering to cut that last piece of cake into two slices whilst making the tea. It does tend to lean to one side more generously. I could have woke her and asked her to move I suppose but then.....well, then she'd be awake! :Scared:

No, a far better option at 3.30am was to trudge out to the car with a few bits and spend dawn by the lake with a few friends. To watch and hear the world come awake and be gone before the crescendo.
I took myself round to the far side armed with a few mixers in my pocket and plonked myself down on a wooden bench to survey my surroundings. I fed a few free offerings and poured a first cup of tea while I waited.
A few noises rustling in the hedgerow, and that collared dove high in the ash sounding like a repetitious kazoo. A few audible splashes from thousands of small fish dimpling the mirrored surface playing with a mixer far too large for them. Resembling a bygone memory of fifty kids in a playground all chasing around after the same ball.

Sweet Pee's?
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Half way down my flask, a few sightings of humped backs forming slick arches steadily getting nearer to my hidden spot. And finally that tell tale shcluuurp! Time to cast my baited trap and duel with these monsters of the deep. I say duel but more realistically it's Russian roulette because you only get one shot at this.
There was a swelling in the water beneath my mixer then a deep trough which seemed to leave a concave dimple in the surface. Not just monsters at work here but Archimedes was doing his bit too.
In a sudden movement the line cut a scar across the lake revealing both opponents location at either end. A strike from one end and nothing but a bow wave left at the other. I'd had my shot...and missed.
I said 'oh bother' or words to that effect startling a linnet who shot off like a scolded cat. I took a deep lung full of air and breathed in a pleasant aroma of the wild sweet peas in front of me and took refuge with my flask back on the seat. I don't like to leave a pool with bad feeling rather like not going to bed on an argument and waited til calm was once again restored. You win some...

A rustling of a padlock and chain on the gate sounded an end to my solitude and I gathered my things and took a stroll back to the car. It was lovely to spend a few hours of dawn on an impromptu visit. And quite befitting then, that it should end with a call of nature. My grandson Alex calls it a 'tree wee' when he's out and about with me. Maybe that's it, it's what I'll get for the bedroom...a small potted shrub! :idea: 

Downstairs loo.

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Thursday, 27 November 2014


It has been a difficult year with personal health issues. Dealing with a close relatives sad deterioration through dementia has been heart rending and trying to support my wife whilst battling myself with the black dog of depression has been at times traumatic for both of us.
Unfortunately in October it was mutually agreed with  my employer that I would be let go on medical grounds when my depression and mental breakdown presented an unrealistic timescale for me being fit and returning to work again.
 My employer had already helped by finding me a placement last year when I lost my licence to drive buses through sleep apnea and I didn't really need help to feel anymore of a burden to anyone else.
 It's too often an unapproachable subject mental health, it's difficult for those that care to know whether to inquire about your well being or treat it as a taboo subject and rebuffing them. As a sufferer it's equally difficult, both finding it too embarrassing to talk about, often disregarding people's genuine good intentions as well as triggering a paranoia that if they don't ask they don't care.

 But this isn't about me moaning and bewailing my own personal experiences, we all have stuff we have to deal with right? We have to suck it up and get on best we can. Life can be hard...and then you die!
Fortunately with my wife's help, love and support from family and close friends I have broken free from the shackles of misery and with some address to my cognitive behavior reached the end of the tunnel blinking at the light and I'm now able to enjoy the freedom of positive thinking and forward planning at long last.

It's a year now since my last post and coincidentally it signals a return to the same southern location chasing the Grayling again. This time I would be joined by Dave Burr and hopefully I could repay his kindness of giving me moral support down the phone through difficult times by providing him with a venue to address his shortcomings with his Grayling pb.
 Bookings were made, times allocated and arrangements settled with copious amounts of emails and phone calls. We'd be staying at the same guesthouse as I did before, I'd be in the same room, with the same abysmal weather forecasts but hopefully I'd witness Dave tasting the same euphoria I did last time with a fat lady, Grayling I mean!

It would allow me to chill out and relax, enjoy sharing time with Dave with much chewing the fat, putting the world to rights, no doubt being the brunt of much mickey taking, laughing and more importantly fishing. The few times I've been this season have found me beneath an all too familiar black cloud. I was there but hardly playing the game which normally would recharge me. I knocked it on the head as it was too depressing to just be a bum on a seat, the sanctuary of my church would wait.
 It would also allow me to christen a new rod I had custom made as part of my summer retail therapy along with a mint condition Hardy Conquest (old type).
A perfect pairing for trotting a float down a chalk stream after Grayling.

Mixed fortunes, dreadful weather, a river in spate but only the positives will be remembered. Dave's p.b grayling, osprey and hobby sightings and christening the new rod. But as I strolled back across the field  beside Dave for that final time the greatest memory of them all. Unclipping the black dog from the lead and letting it bolt free, across the sodden field. This time I wouldn't be calling it to heel.
It's great to be back among the living again.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


The journey provoked further pessimism.  I left Sussex just after the rush hour on Friday with a very light drizzle. By the time I got to Hampshire there was flash flooding and no signs of it improving. Wouldn't you just know it.
The classical music did its it best to ignore the out of sync tempo of the wipers. But it would be okay, it was my time. I'd surely suffered enough, hadn't I?
Rachmaninoff and co did their best to calm and soothe as I crossed over fabulous southern waterways.
The Itchen, the Test, the Avon and the Stour. A niggling voice of reason that I was passing by rivers with some fantastic fishing repute. Ignoring the doubt, I focused on my quest.

I arrived in the afternoon and walked the southern bank of the beat. The weather had eased a little but being below trees the drops continued to 'pop' like caps on my hood.
The feeder streams spewed their foul muddy sediment into the river, tainting its clarity. Maybe the extra colour might prove to be an advantage. Notice optimism putting in an appearance.
I walked to the bridge and gazed down into the water briefly before scanning the meandering river upstream. I spotted the rise of a sea trout and it did nothing but whet my appetite for the forthcoming adventure.

Facing the setting sun I watched the flickering silhouette of a lone kestrel scouring the hedgerow for that last meal of the day, making the most of the fast failing light.
An abundance of pheasants were  making their way to the wood to roost whilst rabbits emerged to take their places on the headlands like the changing of the guard. A pipistrelle bat flittered and danced beneath the canopy of the trees above me as I reached the car. The night shift were here.

I checked in at the guest house, unpacking and settled in an armchair with a book. I didn't fancy getting changed and making my way out to the pub for a meal so I relaxed  and decided to try an early night.
Notice I said try.
I drifted in and out of sleep. My mind awash with leaping Sea trout and iridescent dorsal fins kiting up shimmering riffles in my reverie. The digital display of the bedside clock appeared to entrap time which caused me to compare it with my phone on several occasions, lest I were party to some bizarre deceit.
I was so comfortable but it might as well been a bed of nails for the rest I got. Tossing and turning in it like a small boat on a raging sea. At 4am I couldn't stand it no longer and staggered my way scratching and farting to the en suite shower.
I thought I'd get a large breakfast  about seven to set me up for the long day but I wasn't fooling myself or anyone else in disguising my eagerness for nonchalance. I slurped a big mouthful of fresh coffee and made short work of two thick slices of toast smeared with bittersweet marmalade before picking up my flask and packed lunch and hightailing it from the door to the car.
The slight drizzle was so fine that would take all day to get you wet but the time I got my waders and suitably attired a heavy downpour had me sheltering beneath a tree whilst I awaited Grahams arrival.
It gave me chance to take in the spectacular autumnal colours around me and ignore the gloom of inclement weather.

Exchanging greetings and tackling up together we discussed the prospects like eager children and made our way upstream to enter and begin our assault with fly rods and czech nymphs.

A while later Graham hooked into a good grayling that gave a good account of itself after realising it was hooked. I made my way up to him unclipping the net from my back as I went. As akin to my vision, the fish hoisted its dorsal in the shallow riffle and surged downstream twisting and turning. In trying to gain control and turn the fish Graham sadly parted company with it.

We both were disappointed  but at this early stage we could at least seek solace in the fact the fish were there, feeding and our tactics worked.

I fished for the morning and well after lunch before taking my first fish. A Grayling of about four inches long.
I felt guilty that I felt no elation. There was no shouting for joy, no whoops and squeals of delight. A real anti climax really. I guess seeing how big Grahams lost fish was so close up, it did nothing but increase my enthusiasm for better results.
After we had sandwich back at the car I decided to change to trotting with a float. I'd wrestled with a nagging voice all morning as I waded upstream. It scolded and criticized me about all the idyllic swims I was wading through and disturbing that were as perfect to trot a float through downstream as you'd be pushed to find anywhere in the country.

On making my way upstream again I made for the swim Graham had lost the good fish in and trotted a light wire stem stick float along the edge of crease and deep glide. I was soon rewarded with a much better tussle and eased it toward my net. This was better, much. A good fish, a very good fish. Here was euphoria and elation. Now came relief, joy and a sense of success. A grin adorned my face which set and no amount of despondent thoughts or inclemency could wash away. I could relax now, I'd done it. Tension dissipated like tears in the rain.

I enjoyed several more fish during the weekend including a beautiful wild trout and I'm pleased that Graham was rewarded with another good fish to placate the annoyance of his lost fish that first day.

With a mix of modern and traditional tackle I had my fill and enjoyed every minute of it. I will be returning for sure.