Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Talk about lucky

What a glorious afternoon, I tell myself umpteen times as I head through the Fens to the place where even I can catch fish at the moment. I can't wait to get the rods out of the car, do the cowpat slalom and hit the drain.

Except it's not quite like it was a week or two back when people were filling their boots. The water's standing, almost flat calm and clear as a glass of Gordon's. As in the gin, not Gordon's, um, you know what.

A few casts, watching the lure shimmy back towards me through the margins, and the Chipper Bailiff appears. Hella Cress, they h'int bin catchin' much here lately, he chuckles. Time for a re-think, obviously.

I know. I'll try another drain. The sun's sinking below the far bank by the time I get there and it's also calm and clear. The water's dropped a foot or 18ins below it's normal winter level as well, which doesn't fill me with confidence.

I try a couple of swims until I see a big swirl scatter the rudd and it's game on. Well, sort of. After a couple of missed hits on a Hammer shad, I switch to one with a bigger hook and whack into a jack which comes off as I go to chin it.

A few chucks later, I hook a slightly bigger one that stays on long enough for a picture. It's almost dark when a pike that looks like a low double takes a shine to the shad. Nice scrap, as I give it some stick and it bangs around on the end.

I kneel down to grab it and snick the hook out of its scissors. The camera's up the bank, so I let it slide back into the water.

As I go to cast again, there's something wrong. As in no lure. As in its lying on the ground near the pliers. I look at the trace and the clip's somehow opened up and distorted. I've got so immersed in the fishing over the last half hour, I haven't stopped to check the trace, clip, lure, hook etc every few casts as I normally do.

Talk about lucky.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

After the storm

You can see how close the storm came to breaching the sea banks if you make the long walk from the King's Lynn AA lakes to the bird hides at Snettisham. Bathed in the low sun's morning light, you wouldn't believe how close we came to catastrophic flooding on this part of the Norfolk coast.

Just a week earlier, we were out covering the storm surge and its aftermath. People lost their homes further round the coast, as the biggest North Sea surge for 60 years lashed our coast.

After covering my patch for the papers, I ended up at the Sea Life Sanctuary where staff were racing against time to save sharks and turtles as the centre flooded, cutting off power to their tanks.

They got nearly everything out in one piece, during an incredible rescue operation. which involved catching the creatures and running through the flood water to the waiting vans.

Once or twice, I wondered how the rivers and drains would be affected as I binned the day off I would have spent on them and got stuck in with colleagues covering the aftermath.

The bridge at St Germans was seriously damaged, closed to traffic. I headed down there for a look and found the incoming tide higher than I'd ever seen it. Water had come gushing through the expansion gaps the night before, villagers told me.

I watched the river as the tide turned and the water lapped high up the banks. I checked my quotes, uploaded my pictures and filed my stories.

The water topped Denver Sluice at the height of the surge, as the tide lapped around the Custom House on the quayside at King's Lynn. Friends who were there thought the barriers would go as the sea came coursing up the New Cut.

At times like this, you realise just how vulnerable parts of the Fens are - truly a landscape living on borrowed time. Thirty years. Maybe 50. Perhaps even a century. Sooner or later, the waters will come rushing back into the great sink the Dutch drainers reclaimed.

Monday, December 02, 2013

I don't like Mondays

You should ha' bin here yesty - one bloke had 20-odd, says the Chipper Bailiff. I know this is probably true, as I also filled my boots with jacks last time I fished the current 'going' water. After half an hour's poncing about which yielded a couple of follows and the tail nipped clean off a Kopyto, I decide on a move.

The Chipper Bailiff mentioned it in passing. As in haven't seen anyone down there in ages. So I trog down there and find it deserted - apart from Rob, who's sat behind his bait rods looking like Rob sat behind his bait rods.

Hella mate. W'oss gorn on..?  Come out for a couple of hours with the lure rods, haven't been all week, I say, explaining why I haven't been all week. I wish I'd bothered to bring the bait rods, I think to myself, watching Rob's spread of floats in all the right places.

Hey ho, three or four swims later I decide to sack it. Had a 15, says Rob. I drop the rods and have a wander up the bank, to see if a bit I fancy might turn the day around is fishable, but it's not.

Here, you know Ashley's 30 was the 26 you had on here the season before, he says, as I sit down for a mardle. This fish, that fish. Who's caught what, your float's gone. I watch Rob nail a couple, as dusk comes and a parliament of rooks descend on the far bank.

Should have brought the bait rods, I keep telling myself all the way home. Four more jacks and a low double, says the text when I get there.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Anyone know what did this to a pike..?

One of this fish we caught yesterday had this damage to one side of its upper jaw. Any ideas..?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unhooking practice

I need some more unhooking practice, Hawkeye observes in his Mancunian brogue as we head down the coast road towards the Not Quite As Secret As The Secret Pit pits. Should get one or two today, I reckon.

After a frosty start and ice on the car, it's bright, still and clouding over when we rock up on the causeway between two pits. I fancy one, H fancies the other, so we're soon fishing back-to-back in different lakes.

We're on deads today. I fancied a change from lure fishing but it feels strange lobbing out baits on 12ft rods, tightening up to set the blobs and then standing there, staring at them. Half a dozen chucks here tops with the lures and I'd be on my toes.

Half an hour later, a blob goes sailing off. Hawkeye gets his unhooking practice a few minutes later, as a six pounder finds itself engulfed in the net. Both hooks well in the mouth, but he whips them out like a good 'un and slides the fish back.

A move or two later, the bailiff comes along and tells us a fallen tree which had blocked access to another part of the complex has been cleared. Hawkeye reads my mind. Let's give it another five minutes here and move then.

I fancy a move, as the bit you can now get to again was good to us a few seasons back. It was also once the scene of an incident involving skinny dippers of the female variety a few years ago, but this has nothing to do with my desire to up sticks, bearing in mind how cold it is.

I've got the rods broken down, kit squared away for a move when Hawkeye's float bobs and jinks away. More unhooking practice, this time a low-double which puts up a decent scrap before we bundle her into the onion bag.

Hooks out, quick picture. Still fancy a move, asks H. Yeah, best part of the pit, got to be worth a look, I say. I feel a bit bad about this an hour and a half later, when we've tried a deep corner, a shallow bit and a bit in between without another pull.

One last move sees us finish up on another pit. Hawkeye nails one, right next to the tree where you always catch one, where he caught his first pike around a year ago. Since then, he's caught quite a few and has probably got better at it than he realises.

This one's a bit challenging, unhooking practice-wise. The bottom hook's nicked in the throat entrance, so I make a brief guest appearence, and show him how to pop it out by going through the gill arch.

Just before we have to go, as gloaming descends on the Not Quite As Secret As The Secret Pit pits, one of my blobs bobs and dithers 30 yards out on the edge of a bar. It drops it, I pick the rod up and when the line twitches a minute or so later, I wind down and give it a ding.

The rod hammers round, yes good fish, good fish, good and it's gone in a swirl and a bow-wave. Beau locks, as they say in France. I know how big it felt, for a brief instant. When I reel the bait in, the bottom hook's somehow turned 45 degrees, meaning it was never going to plant itself in the fish's gob.

Hawkeye says he's learned a couple of things on the drive home. I just wish I could go back there tomorrow and catch that pike.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Caught on the hop again

Grey skies and drizzle never particularly inspire me and I nearly didn't bother when I took furry chops for a walk on the beach first thing and saw the mist rolling off the flat calm sea.

But the temperature climbed a couple of degrees as I drove down the coast road towards the big bayou and it was nudging double figures by the time I got to the drain around lunchtime. There was another car in the lay-by and when I looked off the bridge, I saw three other guys lure fishing in the spot I fancied.

One of them hooked into one as I watched, his mate netting it off the high banking. I got the gear out, walked down the bank and as we were exchanging hellos, he had another one. A couple of them were eastern Europeans, using what most locals would regard as inadequate gear - spinning with feeder rods, one small landing net between the three of them.

But the fish was unhooked, another lure someone else had left in its gob removed as well and it was back in the drain and off. I didn't really pay any attention to how they were fishing other than they were using small shads on feeder rods.

Each to his own, I thought, as I wandered up and down the same side of the drain, eventually catching a jack on a small shad. One of the other guys had caught four or five by this point, including a couple from swims I'd fished without a hit.

As I passed them on the way back to the bridge, to try down the other side, I clocked how he was fishing. Chuck it out, let it sink and tap it along. It might not be the ideal set-up on a drain that's thrown up the odd big fish in recent seasons, but you can't get much more sensitive than a quivertip when it comes to showing takes.

I hoofed it round the other side, lobbed out a Kopyto and let it hit the bottom. Tap, tap, tap on the rod; hop, hop, hop the lure. After a couple of casts, there's a rattle on the end and I'm into a jack. The take was pretty gentle, but the fish had the lure well in its gob.

I try the same, hop, hop, hop and catch another one around the same size. Again, it's completely engulfed the lure. I try the same with a bigger shad and the same thing happens a couple of times. The fish are all like peas in a pod, fat jacks.

A couple hit the lure and come off, so now I'm watching the line as I twitch the lure back and striking when I see it tighten or feel a bump on the end. I catch more jacks doing this. I haven't caught anything over 4lbs but by now I've lost count.

They're obviously packed into a fairly short stretch of the drain, because the guys on the other bank are catching as well. More eastern Europeans arrive, hit the far bank and start catching. The new arrivals don't have a landing net, so the pike are all grabbed and fumbled up the bank.

I hook into a slightly bigger fish, which comes rearing out of the water in a tail-walk as soon as I strike into it. One of the guys on the far bank bank comes round for a chat. Up from London, never been here before, lovely place.

He starts fishing down the bank, no landing net. I catch another fat jack and I'm bored.  As I'm breaking down the rods, the chap down the bank hooks into what's obviously a much bigger fish. He's still playing it, or it's still playing him, wallowing just out of reach, as I catch up with him.

It throws the lure and disappears. We have a conversation along the lines of if you'd had a landing net, you'd have caught that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yet another lure to try

I can't really call this home-made, as it's just a bog-standard grub mounted on a jig head, with a spinner blade from AGM clipped on to its nose.  The blades are £2.35 for six, so no big deal if they don't turn out to be pike catchers.  I'll let you know how it gets on.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Eel work out a bit on the pricey side

Ash's face was a picture as he tried to get a jack-ravaged Real Eel to stay on the hook for a few more casts the other day. At £8.99 for three, I felt the big fella's pain. I know he had a thirty on one last winter, I know they're an incredibly life-like imitation, but £3 for six inches of soft plastic..?

We'll never know if he'd have caught the same fish if he'd had a 50p Kalins or some similar, considerably cheaper bit of plastic on the end instead of what was one of the next big things last season. Soft plastics are, of course, a gold mine for the tackle trade because they have a limited lifespan.

Once they get chomped a few times, they're off to the big lure box in the sky and you end up forking out for another packet. I've no idea how many pike I've caught on a couple of my favourite Rapala J13s, but they do last for ages.

Shads and other softies are like throwing money in the river by comparism. I've had fish hit Hammers or Kopytos I've not connected with, reeled in and found just a tail-less blob left on the hook. I guess this rant's a bit tongue in cheek, as I'd think nothing of getting through a tenner's worth of lamps if I was catching well on deads.

Copying is rife among lure manufacturers. So maybe someone's cooking up a budget Reel Eel on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Wisbech as we speak.

Winter's just around the corner

I picked what might turn out to be the last sunny day of the autumn to have an hour on the big drain earlier in the week. Winter spates turn it into a surging mass of water when they fill it up from the river and flush it out to sea between tides. This can be when it fishes best, if you hit the right part of the fill-empty-fill-empty cycle.

When it's standing and the level's low, the water clears and the pike seem harder to tempt most days. There were plenty of fry about, with grebes and a goosander tucking in. I knew the pike had to be there, as I went through half a dozen shads at different depths and speeds, with just one hit I failed to connect with to show for an hour in the sunshine.

I tried an old pit on the way home without managing to add to my rapidly-growing tally of jacks. As the sun sank behind the alders, a stiff breeze got up and the temperature dropped noticeably. I tuned into the weather forecast on the way home up the coast road. Winter's just around the corner, it said.

Thoughts on three lures

I've tried three lures for the first time this autumn and caught on all three, which is an encouraging start. They're different variations on the time-honoured plastic shad, which I'm currently using most of the time.

Big Hammer

I really like these lures now I'm starting to get the hang of them. The big, square tail really kicks on the retrieve and pike seem quite partial to the 4.5ins version.

It took me a few trips to get my head round how to use them. I know, it's a swim bait - you chuck it out, and reel it in. The crucial thing with these is use the right jig-head, as in one of the wedge-shaped shad ones AGM sell.

They seem to work best with around 15g of weight . On anything lighter, or a ball head, the tail's frantic action makes the lure roll from side to side, rather than swim naturally. 

Mounting the head flush to the back of the lure also seems to help get them to swim right. You also get the odd one which seems to have an even better action than the others in the same packet. They're hand-poured, so I guess there's probably some slight variation from lure to lure.

AGM sell them in around a dozen different colours at £3.99 for four. Creeping Death and Atomic Punk - as opposed to red, orange and black - both produced on their first outings, as did the silver, sparkly one with the yellow tail, whatever that one's called.

They have one flaw, as I soon discovered when I started catching a few on them. They're made of incredibly soft plastic, so you sometimes only get a couple of fish on one. Worse still, a missed hit sometimes results in a tail-less lure. 


I like these too, especially the 4.5L version. It's a slim-profiled shad which has a lovely wiggly kick on a 10 or 12g jig-head. 

The 5ins version has a deeper-bellied profile. Stick a 15g head on its nose and it gets a nice wiggle on, even on a slow-ish retrieve.

They come in more patterns than you can shake a stick at, don't ask me why but the pearl or yellow ones seem to be banker colours.

Like the Big Hammers, their main drawback is you'll be lucky to get more than a few fish out of one, while the odd thump on the end you fail to connect with will sometimes mean another tail-less lure on its way to the bin.

These are around £1 each from Lure World.

Mikado Fishunter

These are a bit of an acquired taste - imagine a shad made from jelly, as in the mainstay of a decent fruit trifle, and you're not far wrong when it comes to this lure's durability.

But while the first fish that hits one of these usually shreds it, Fishunters are cheap and cheerful - I got them at £2.99 for a packet of five from Lure World and have one or two other things going for them.

The makers claim the head of the lure "sucks in" jig-heads. A 10 or 12g head sits nicely in the moulded recess. Beware if you use a drop or two or super glue to mount your shads, as some types don't agree with the plastic these are made from.

++They've now one back to £4.25 for a pack of five...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Who dares spins

First chuck on the drain and I nail this pretty little jack on a Big Hammer shad. Two casts later, I hit one a pound or so bigger.

I'd left it until late afternoon, remembering how the place came alive as the autumn sun sank below the floodbank a couple of seasons back. For the last hour or two, it came alive as rudd went mad for a fly hatch.

I see a load of same come flying out of the water in the next swim, followed by a swirly bow-wave. I hoofed it down there, four or five casts and Mr Hammer hits the nail on the head again. Another jack of around three or four pounds.

Never mind, at least I'm catching. If you like catching jacks, like Ash reckons he does, you'd give your right arm for my start to the season, as in I seem to catch three or four most times I go at the moment.

I 've not been keeping count but know I've probably already had more fish than I had all last winter. One double so far and most of the pike I've caught have been under 5lbs. But fishing's fun again, so who cares.

The fun continues with a jack that somehow squirms off the end as I go to chin it. Then the gloves come off when what's obviously a big pike, as in a proper old lump, makes the drain erupt as a huge shoal of silvers flee in all directions in the first swim I tried.

Up the bank, down the bank, a few more casts and another jack. Huh..? The big fish shows again a couple of swims further down, so it's up the bank and down the bank again. The rod hammers round, big fish, big fish - no. It's another jack. I can't get the hook out of it fast enough.

I keep thrashing the spot where it showed and bump off another jack. Then the surface erupts just out of casting range, the other side of an inaccessible 20yds of bank. Geese are squealing over the far bank, as they loft off the beet tops and form up for the return flight to Mussel Bay.

Teal are flying in, the light's going and I decide to come back and have another bash tomorrow. I have a vague, nagging feeling I ought to go back with the bait rods. Pop some big deads up bang in the middle of where the tiddlers are shoaled.

I go for the lures again, but this time the drain's almost lifeless until last knockings, when a few jacks start giving the rudd what for. Big shad, bright yellow, cast around where the big fish showed yesterday.

Come on baby, where are you..? The geese take wing again, great skeins of greylags arrow overhead whaunk, whaunk, whaunk. I fumble closing the bail arm, get a turn of line around my fingers and the lure's sunk in the weed by the time I sort it out.

I bring it back fast across the top to clear the mush off the hook and I see it in slow-mo as I'm about to swing the mucky mess that's covered the hooks to hand. A huge head and shoulders of a pike appear, it lunges and misses, turning away from the bank at the last moment and disappearing into the gloom with a flick of its great big tail.

Spot the pike #2

Here's a slightly easier one than the last STP (spot the pike...) challenge. I'd had four or five casts over its head before I spotted it right under my feet. I dropped the rod, rummaged for a camera and while I could see it clearly, the camera's struggled with the light coming off the water.

I then decided I'd try and catch it and it shot off in a swirl as I miss-cued and dropped the shad right on its hooter.

A day with the jack basher

Ash chuckles as I unwind my trace around a jack that might just go a pound on a good day. 

"So that's how you do it, is it - lassoo 'em..?"

It was a lovely day, albeit one where it turned out anything over 3lbs wasn't coming out to play. Ash managed eight or nine around the same size as the first one he had a few casts after my micro jack.

Ash stuck on what will hereafter be known as the Jack Pit. I tried another pit and failed to add to the tiddler I had in the first swim.

Just once, a bigger fish engulfed the lure right under my feet and spat it back out again in a split second. How they do that is completely beyond me.

It's always interesting watching how someone else fishes. Ash rigs his lures with lighter jig heads so he can twitch them back much slower than my 10 - 15g go for head. He also carries all his fishing swag on his back, meaning he looks a bit like a cross between your average Eastern European angler and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

We walked a fair old way, fished a bunch of swims on a couple of new pits and had a few laughs.

The last fish I photographed Ash - aka Jack Basher - with was a thirty. But he just loves catching them, regardless of size - not to mention catching eight or ten times as many as me.

Good to catch up.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Angling's shameful side

This place is one of the few waters where anyone's ever actually caught Weil's disease in the locale where I fish. I wonder why.

I can't understand why so many people who love spending time in the great outdoors leave their litter everywhere behind them. If you take it out with you, it's surely not that hard to take it home afterwards. Yet as the leaves die back, you can feast your eyes on the aftermath of many a marathon session.

Beer cans slung in the bushes. Half-eaten meals, sometimes still on plates. Takeaway containers, a colourful selection of discarded under-clothing (male and female...), bottles and tins of all shapes and sizes.

After more seasons than I care to remember, punctuated by the odd decent haul or twenty, I'm close to saying adios to the place - much as it breaks my heart to say so.  If that's your bag of crap left hanging on a tree, you shame us all.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spot the pike

I spotted this little chap sitting in the margins the other day. An 18ins-long bundle of trouble waiting for the next frog that hops off the pads in search of somewhere to hibernate.

I took a picture of it, but when I got home and plugged in the old hurdy gurdy to download it, I thought I'd snapped the wrong bit of lake at first. Take a closer squint and you can see it. Just.   

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A pike from the Forgotten Pit

There's a big swirl and the water boils as a good fish smashes into the lure. On a forgotten pit in the middle of nowhere, I've sunk my hook into an angry reminder of why I love this so much.

 I'd never set eyes on the place before I clocked it on Google Earth. Pits elsewhere in the valley hold pike, so this one surely must. I plotted the track that winds around the old gravel workings from the by-road, sketching it on a Post-It I could stick on the dashboard of the car to help me find it.

The first few casts revealed an underwater jumble of bars and drop-offs, weedbeds and silty shallows full of sticks and twigs. I persevered in a corner where a tiny pike barely bigger than the lure chased the Big Hammer.

Baby Pike should, in theory, mean Mummy and Daddy Pike are in here too. I dropped into a gap between two trees where the wind was off my back and I could send the shad right out towards the middle, into the pit's main bowl.

It's not much deeper, maybe five or six feet. It needs a brisk retrieve to keep the shad above the weed. A few casts later and bang - Mummy's here. The sleek low double fights hard in the clear water. From up on the bank, I can see it flare its gills and furiously shake its head.

Then it's in the net and it's mine. No monster, but a near-perfect double - apart from the rosy scrape on its flank. The new Big Hammer droops from its scissors, ripped to shreds as I grab a quick photo on the mat, flick the hook out of its gob and drop it back. As I watched it swim off, I wished I'd weighed it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Caught on the hop

I seem to be catching more than I was last time around. Plenty of small fish seem well up for sinking their teeth into one of the above selection of rubber things, or something out of the other box of rubber things I've been lugging around with me on my first half a dozen or so trips.

Despite the lack of anything half-decent, I've learned a bit about fishing the shad-type lures so many people now seem to use almost to the exclusion of anything else in the Fens. The first thing's how versatile lures I always thought were just chuck and retrieve baits can be.

When a straight cast/retrieve, cast/retrieve style of fishing them doesn't work, I've had one or two fish hopping them back along the bottom, which I'm guessing will be an even more useful technique once the weed's died back. Onwards and upwards.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Feminine intuition

This looks like a nice spot, says the wife, plonking down the picnic box. We've come to a picturesque stillwater, because the wife didn't fancy fishing one of the drains. I am laden down with deadbaiting rods, because the wife doesn't like lure fishing.

I get a few out, while the wife and dog plot up under a tree and start on the sandwiches. It certainly looks the business, with a gentle westerly rippling the surface and bait fish dimpling off the reeds.

Half an hour later, I hook into one, followed by a couple more. Nothing earth-shattering size-wise, but worth coming out for an afternoon all the same.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Man arrested for "twatting" a heron

Back in the days when the local evening paper was most peoples' main source of breaking news, you can just imagine anyone who cares about the wildlife that lives along our rivers snapping up a copy of the Evening News to find out more on this shocking crime.

But a quick look on Google, after the picture emerged on Twitter, revealed it to be a spoof. Newspaper pundits argued no bill (as the posters are known in the ink trade...) would use the word local - let alone twatted, for starters.

Evening papers no longer carry 'late prices', as most now come out much earlier in the day than the late editions of days gone by.

Besides this small clue, not lost on lovers of newspaper geekery, a more obvious question would doubtless have been on the lips of anyone who knows anything about herons all along.  Like, how do you get close enough to, um, twat one in the first place..?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where do coarse fish on sale in King's Lynn's eastern European supermarkets come from..?

I wonder where all the coarse fish you see on sale in almost all the eastern European supermarkets in King's Lynn are sourced from.

There are dried roach, dried bream, smoked bream and all kinds of other fish on sale with nothing to indicate their origin on some of the packaging.

How anyone could even eat a 4oz roach is beyond me. There can't be much more than scales and bones left by the time you've dried or smoked it.

Ditto bream, like the skimmer above, which could be yours for £1.35 with no use-by date or any information on the packaging (plastic bag) regarding its provenance.

There could obviously be an innocent explanation to all this and a clear and verifiable supply chain to wherever these fish were caught.

This in turn would clearly separate the shops which sell these fish from the illegal netting operations which come on top, from time to time, when gill nets are found strung across drains a few miles from King's Lynn.

Standing down

Ash and I are standing down as King's Lynn ROs for the Pike Anglers Club. We don't have the time to give the role the commitment it needs - and truth be told, it probably needs a new face (or faces) who can inject some time and enthusiasm into it.

I wish our successor(s) well. There was some money in the kitty which is being sent back to the national PAC to look after until they're appointed.

The Norwich Eskimo Song

Friday, September 13, 2013

Testicle eating fish on its way to the Fens..?

A fish which feasts on anglers, um, wedding tackle is on its way to our shores. Well, the Daily Mail reckons it is.

"A piranha-like fish known for biting and eating testicles may be on its way to Britain," it reports. "The pacu, known as 'The Nut Cracker and 'The Ball-Cutter', was recently discovered in the Seine river in Paris.

"Fishermen in South America have reportedly bled to death after losing their testicles to the vicious teeth of the fish."

Male swimmers in Denmark were warned not to 'go commando' when one was caught near Copenhagen last month, the Mail adds. It quotes an expert who reckons the fish are sometimes released into lakes and rivers when they grow too big for their tanks.

I can't quite see this somehow. But in this era of health and safety, dynamic risk assessments and litigation gone mad, I'm not taking any chances.

I reckon if you stuff a couple of plums down your boxers, you should be safe when wading.

++Daily Mail story *linky*.

+++French newspaper website story *linky*.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Salt Marsh

Went up the salt marsh with Furry Chops to look for mullet as the tide flooded up the creeks. We didn't see hide nor hair of  them, but a glorious morning unfolded all the same, with curlews crying out in the distance as the sun burned the cloud off.

I dropped the rod and rucksack, reached for the camera and immersed myself in the scene.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

So long then, Summer

So long then, Summer. And hello, you must be Autumn. Nice to see you again. After a few weeks off fishing and a few you should have been down here tonight, they were well having it texts, I decide it's time to hit the road again.

I read about some big perch being caught on the big river, so I packed a few little rubber bits and pieces and headed down there yesterday. When I got there, there were people in nearly all the swims on the stretch I'm guessing the article was about.

I get chatting to a couple of old boys who are up on holiday and one tells me he's seen a couple of big perch chasing fry around the marginal lillies.

I went back this afternoon, had a few chucks in the right swims and lo and behold spy the author of the angling column in question.

"Oh no mate, that wasn't here," he chuckles, looking at my lure rod. "That was on the Middle Level."

To the south, the sky is darkening menacingly. I eye up the approaching storm and wonder if I can get to the right bit of the right drain before it arrives. 

Having only brought a light rod and small lures, I decide to forgo a soaking and hit a little stillwater on the way home instead. Carp are swirling around on the top. I wonder idly whether one might take a tiny 1" shad as I swop the wire trace for a fluorocarbon leader (no pike in the water...).

A few swims in something swirls behind the lure. Did I spook a carp in the margins, or did it come after the lure..? Next cast, I hook into something that tears off half way across the lake before the hook pulls as I try and turn it. Sorry Mr Carp.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

RIP Ken Wallis

Wing Cdr Ken Wallis has passed away, aged 97. I met and spoke with this truly incredible man a a few times over the years. He flew Wellington bombers and Lysanders dropping agents into enemy territory during the Second World War. He also invented the Autogyro, which he flew as a stunt double in a James Bond film. More on him here

Monday, September 02, 2013

A story of our times in the Fens

They dredged the Old Bedford at Salter's Lode last winter - so how come it looks like this a few short months later..?

Flag rush is growing across the centre of the channel. And water levels are down at least two feet from where they should be judging by the marginal mud and exposed sill.

When I last looked at it a few days back, they were letting muddy water in from the tidal Ouse, presumably to top up levels to make up for water lost to abstraction.

This is  surely how the lower end of the drain silts up. I've no idea how much money the Environment Agency spent on dredging it last winter, but I'm guessing it didn't come cheap.

Yet at around the same time, the water levels were so high on the Welney Washes that the EA were deploying emergency flood barriers to protect the village.

Could we not apply some joined-up thinking here, somewhere along the line - and find a way of diverting some of that winter flood into storage, to tide farmers over through drier months..?

The Old Bedford's in mortal danger unless a solution can be found. It throws the odd big fish up, but the pyramid of pike of all sizes looks to be long gone in its lower reaches - along with a lot of the other fish this culturally-important fishery once held, bread and butter species like tench and perch.

Culturally important..? Because it once inspired a generation of pike anglers who were fired up by the writings of the now-departed Rickards and Webb.  If they saw it today, they'd probably be turning in their graves.

Are our waterways really just there for convenience and the odd PR exercise on the part of the powers that be - or are they the lifeblood of our landscape, vital arteries worth preserving..?

When dredging began last winter (right..),  to undo the previous summer's damage, I thought the powers that be had seen the light.

The Old Bedford lives on - just. It would probably be cheaper in the long run to just save it for posterity, along with several similar smaller drains, by finding ways to capture winter run-off for use in the growing season.

Answers on a postcard...

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Rockfalls show dangers as Hunstanton cliffs erode

The hop across the rocks isn't quite the same, but I don't realise why until another angler points it out to me.

"Fresh rockfall," he says, pointing to the tonnes and tonnes of chalk and carr stone which have come down from the cliffs at some point over the last couple of days. "Look, you can see all the dust still. I wondered when that lot was going to go."

There are large cracks up in some of the rocky overhangs. The cliffs are gradually eroding inland, as the elements eat away at rock strata which took millions of years to lay down. The edge of the cliffs has moved around two metres in the last decade, by my reckoning.

Hawkeye reckons he's heard the cliffs creaking and cracking as he's walked along the beach, while I have pictures showing the cliff edge being 20 yards from the wall around the light house - it's less than half that now and another good fall or two will probably see the path on the seaward side lost, as the council move the safety fence back.

People hunt fossils as well as bass at cliff base - like these fossilised ferns I found the other day. Some holidaymakers clamber up the rubble, others sit and picnic underneath - despite the warning signs.

The latest rockfall graphically shows the danger, with lumps of carr stone landing around the high water mark after bouncing their way down the slope.

There were grockles sitting there the other night, I tell the guy who pointed out the avalanche. "They might be under that lot now," he shrugged.

Rock slides apart, the last few tides have been dead.

Sunday night - sea choppy and coloured, large regatta in progress a few hundred yards offshore. Fished next to one of the more consistent local lure anglers. "You will catch 'em when it's like this," he said. We didn't.

Monday morning - high tide at dawn. No sign of any fish, but terns diving about 150yds off the beach.

Monday afternoon - went to try a little stream where I've seen some perch and Hawkeye swears he saw a pike. Few silver fish and - amazingly - bream about in a deeper run beneath an old bridge, but water very clear and no sign of perch.

Monday night - back on the bass. Sea coloured within 50 yards of beach, terns diving move out into a gathering squall, surf building in the gale, got soaked to the skin within half an hour and cleared off.

We have two runs of decent tides left between now and September, so improving on my bass total's going to require a concentrated effort - and one eye over my shoulder looking out for rockfalls waiting to happen.

***It's hard to guage scale without anyone in the pictures. The two flat rocks, sitting on top of each other, are around the size of a small hatchback. Which you obviously wouldn't like landing on your toe...

Making skull jig heads

Genius...! Hat tip Paul's blog, which is a bit like Blue Peter goes lure fishing - ask a grown-up before you heat up the tin, use the oven or the sharp thing *linky*

If you've got time, read his brilliant writings about living and fishing on the island of Erraid *linky* which I guess is where he got the making things bug from.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mullet - blast me, you won't catch them

Mullet..? Cor, blast me - you can't catch them. This has come close to being the soundbite of the last few weeks for me, having decided to test out this old Norfolk adage. And they were right.

That's why I've been so quiet - I've been trying hard to catch one of these things.

It all started when I looked off this bridge somewhere I'd never, ever think was worth fishing, and I saw a swirl. A gull dived and the surface erupted with fish bow-waving off in all directions.

What on earth are they, I wondered. I took a walk up the bank and found a chap sitting in the rye grass watching the water through binoculars. When I asked if he was bird or fish watching, he said: "A bit of both."

The water heaved as a shoal of mullet chased and swirled on the top. I've never seen anything like this, I told the man with the binos. "Me neither," he said.

He beat me to the spot the next day. We fished but there was no sign of anything. Mullet can be a bit hit and miss like this, apparently - as in they come and go, there one tide, gone the next.

I went back a few days later, having by now read up and tied up some spinners with a fluo trailer to bait up with worm, hit the place as the tide turned at the start of the flood and the mullet were back.

I crept alongside a shoal that must have been 40 or 50-strong, fins and black backs breaking the surface as they nosed along kicking up puffs of silt.

Three or four casts and they were gone - 20 yards down the bank. I squelched down through the mud and lobbed the lure well past a group of fish I saw on the top.  Three or four of them followed it in to my feet and turned tail in a muddy swirl.

Then a tractor towing a monstrous piece of farm machinery made the banks shake as it clanked and thumped its way over the bridge. I never saw another mullet that tide.

I read up and decided to try the mashed bread approach. Mullet apparently respond to this, although there are two kinds of mullet  - thick and thin-lipped - whose habits vary.

You need to know what kind of mullet you're fishing for, apparently, to tailor your approach. Are they of the thick or thin-lipped kind..? Until you actually catch one, you can't be certain. And that's mullet fishing's Catch 22.

One or two of them swirled at the crusts which floated up from loosely-squeezed balls of bread. Sea gulls make floating crust a no-no. When the gulls started diving after the bread, the mullet melted away.

I must admit, I thought a few of these would be an easy steal. Location being 90pc when it comes to catching them, etc etc. I went back and tried tiny spinners rigged with Isome worms on light leaders to a Size Four trailer and you wouldn't have thought mullet had even been invented.

I've been totally side-tracked by these things I'm clearly in no danger whatsoever of catching. I've tried bubble floats and rag. I've tried spinning for them, jigging little grubs and tiny plugs.

You get the odd follow doing this, but they drift away without taking. Five minutes later, the surface erupts down the bank when a bird spooks them or they munch into something on the surface.

I've also had them grubbing about right under my feet and just watched them as they probe the mud.
As soon as you make a move, they shoot off.

The picture is a mullet (not sure which type, as in thin or thick-lipped..) I took in the Sea Life Sanctuary a few years back.

What a fascinating fish, although time's running  out fast when it comes to chasing them.  As I give up (for now...) to return to trying to catch more bass, I decide I'll chase the mullet next year.

Just imagine catching one of them, I said to someone yesterday. "Mullet? You won't ever catch one of them," they replied.

In praise of rivers #1

I watched a big match for the first time in donkey's years today when I went along to report on the Division 2 National on the Ouse.

Apart from four guys who shared a bream shoal up near Littleport for individual honours, the river was hard going for most of the 300 or so who took part.

Instead of the who caught what, chopped worm alternating between the 15m line and groundbait feeder, over the moon, sick as a parrot kind of stuff, I thought I'd see what people made of the river.

"I tell you what," says one of the first anglers I get into conversation with. "I can see why so many people fish the commercials 'round here."

Some seemed to have thrown the towel in by the half way point when I turned up. Others remained focussed on the fishing.

The river's ticking through with a slight flow but it's clear. The verdict is this has switched the bigger bream off, meaning a scramble for bits and skimmers for section points.

A few pegs down, I find a couple of guys fishing like their lives depend on it. One confides the team plan was get 1lbs a member in the net before fishing for themselves.

Their eyes don't stray off the tip or float, as they alternate between feeder rod and pole. Ten minutes down the edge, 10 down the middle, three chucks over the far side, pouch full of feed down the inside, back on the pole.

Every missed bite is an agony, yet it's fascinating to watch. Dave from Stroud (left) ends up with me and a few guys from Lynn AA sitting behind him, willing him to catch as the whistle looms.

We know he's got five or six pounds of hard-won skimmers and bits in his net. One good fish would seal the section.

Dave's travelled hundreds of miles, he's fished his guts out for his mates and puts 3.880kg on the scales when Kye and Webby set up their tripod.

Downstream there are anglers with just grammes in their nets. One says his handful of roach were well worth the trip, because they were immaculate, wild fish, which he had to work all match to catch.

"I'll be back come the autumn," he says. "What a river."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fire in the big sky

I stopped fishing as the sun sank over Lincolnshire. I put down the rod and rummaged for my camera, as the sky was set ablaze.

It lasted all of five minutes, but what a sight as the sea reflected the fire in the big Norfolk sky.

Click here for more non-fishing pictures, mostly of the Norfolk coast.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Another lure-caught first..?

After gingerly swinging in the jellyfish, I walked up the beach to show it to Hawkeye.

"It's a jellyfish," he says.

After a quick picture, I drop the boy-o-war (as young Portugese man-of-war are known) back in the water.

Sea-mist has almost completely enveloped the shingle, leaving us fishing in a surreal half-light.

Sandwich terns occasionally hover within casting range and dive for sandeels.  I've seen the occasional distant swirl I'm hoping might be a bass.

When the culprit comes closer and pops his head up, it's a big grey seal.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tragedy mars village heavy metal night

Dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun; dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun; dun-dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun; DER-DER-DER. It's Black Sabbath night at the Village Pub.

A band who look like extras from Braveheart with over-active sebacious glands are headbanging away in the beer garden.

I am attending Hawkwind Sid's first-ever rock night with Malcolm, my friend who is an architect, whose knowledge of 1980s heavy metal would fit on the back of a stamp with room to spare.

Malcolm nods sagely, as I explain how the nucleus of Black Sabbath remained true to the band's doom-laden sound in the wake of the numerous personnel changes that spanned the decades since the band was formed by Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osborne, in 1968.

"They're nearly as old as that other lot you like then," Malcolm observes, holding up an empty glass in need of a re-fill. "I mean, these guys are so like years ago, they might as well be in another century, yah. Your shout either way, mon brave. I'll have a Shucky and a chaser."

The Vicar's mate is on drums, as the band shift seamlessly from Paranoid to the opening strains of Die Young, from the Heaven and Hell album featuring the late Ronnie James Dio on vocals, which was released in 1980 and many would argue remains one of the band's finest.

Ching-ching-ching-ching, ching-ching-ching-ching, goes the Vicar's mate on the hi-hat, as the band wind up for the song's explosive start amid a swirl of keyboards.

Pzzzzzzzzzzzzzt. There is a bright blue flash as the lights go out across the village. A dog which has urinated on a speaker stack lies twitching next to the amps, as the odour of roasting lurcher is carried across the beer garden of the Village Pub, overpowering the smell of beer and barbecued chicken.

"Lemmy - no, Lemmy," cries Hawkwind Sid, as he pushes his way through the crowd. "Someone like, um, call an ambulance - or a vet or, um, the RSPCA or something..."

Lemmy, who once blew up Hawkwind Sid's probation officer's photocopier looks singed beyond help to me, as the lights go back on, although I am no expert.

A uncomfortable silence descends on the beer garden of the Village Pub. This is not how anyone would have wished the Village Pub's inaugural heavy metal night to end.

Many - myself included - hoped Die Young would be followed by Children of the Sea, which remains one of my favourite Black Sabbath songs.

"Last orders... La-aa-aa-ast Or-da-aa-aa-aa-aa-aa-aa-ahs," screams Neil By The Way.

"Looks like time for Lemmy," shrugs Malcolm, my friend who is an architect, summing up the situation in the succint but poignant way that only people who design buildings can. "Good job you didn't bring your dog. He'd probably have been toast too."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

At least someone's catching something

Beaten before I start

First cast, and the enthusiasm sinks like a stone as fronds of weed leave the braid looking like the proverbial clothes line, ending in balls of green snot around the trace swivel and the lure. I try a few more and can't seem to defeat the stuff, even fishing with rod up high and as much line as I can out of the water.

I switch from a foil spoon to a big Dexter, but its roll becomes muffled by weed within a dozen turns of the reel.

There isn't much wind, 10 knots tops, but it's from the north and whipping up a lumpy chop, colouring up the water as the waves roll onto the foreshore, leaving great lumps of green weed sloshing around in the troughs.

Several people walk past me armed with lure rods, heading for the favoured spots where you end up trapped by the tide for an hour or so around high water.

"Tuesday night," one says. "Tuesday night was good, had a couple then."

Needless to say, I was working then.

"Well, this'll take a few days before it blows itself out," the guy continues, before he resumes his trek along the rapidly-shrinking beach.

I look along the shore. I could just about make Whale Rock without getting my feet wet. But I fish my way back towards the sea wall instead, catching more and more weed each cast, before I break the rod down and admit defeat.

At least I tried.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Exploring the fish's larder

Imagine if they emptied the swim you fancy could do a few fish every day so you could walk along the bottom and inspect all its little nooks and crannies. This is one of the more interesting parts of fishing most of the beaches around Mussel Bay - when the tide's out just about everywhere within casting range and far beyond is high and dry, meaning you can take a leisurely look-see.

You can see straight away why this few furlongs of the foreshore draws in the bass. In between the sprawl of boulders, from football-sized rocks to shed-sized lumps, a maze of gullies runs seawards.

The rocks are covered in silkweed and fronds of wrack. Little pools which remain after the ebb teem with shrimps and small crabs. Blennies dart for cover when you peer into their little world. As the bottom turns from coarse sand to mud, worm casts erupt like acne.

There must be rich pickings as the tide returns and wafts anything rash enough to leave its hidey hole into the bass's sights. By the time it's starting to cover the rocks, there'll be two or three feet of water surging through the gullies.

I try to mentally map the gullies, using one or two distinctive rocks above the high tide mark to work out where I'd have to stand to cast to them. But one gully looks pretty much like another and I'd never be able to get the lure down in the narrow gap even before you factor wind and current into the equation.

That's when the tide's in, of course. I wonder about getting down two hours before high water and fishing a rearguard action among the rocks, retreating up the beach as the sea rises. I've never seen anyone doing that before.  So maybe it's worth a try.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A bass at last

First cast, bang - the rod rattles round and I'm into one. Better still, after a brief, splashy scrap in the shallow water, I grab the lure and it's on the beach. How big..? Not very. But I don't care as I take a quick picture, snick the hook out and watch it bow-wave back into the sea.

A few chucks later, I hook into another one that makes a better fight of it but comes off just out of reach of my fingers as I grab the line to beach it. I check the hook and it's James Blunt. As I'm sharpening it up again, there's a big splash 10 yards out, right in front of me.

This is starting to get exciting now - caught one, lost one and seen one all in the space of 10 minutes' fishing. I swap the spoon for a Thunderstick and buzz it over the spot where the fish topped. After a few casts, there's a big swirl behind the lure as I start to retrieve it.

I change lures a few times, Dexter, Toby, Piranha, before returning to the silver foil spoon I had the fish on. But the action's over as quickly as it began.

I pause to drink in my surroundings before I head for home. The day's just breaking and the sea's flat calm. It's a beautiful morning and I've crowned it with a bass.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ever caught one of these on a lure..?

As I bounced the rubber worm back towards me, I felt a sharp pluck on the end. I paused and it went again, bend in with the rod and yes - I'm into something. Something that didn't quite feel like a fish as it kited off in the flow, but didn't quite feel like weed or the disposable nappy (used...) I pulled out a couple of weeks back.

As I pumped it back towards me, a claw broke the surface, followed by a hand-sized shore crab. When I lowered the rod to remove the hook nicked in one of its pincers, it made a run for it, still clutching the lure.

When I got the pliers to the hook and turned it out, the crustacean turned and waved its claws at my trainers, before it sprinted off.

While this clearly underlines the versatility of saltwater lure fishing, it wasn't quite what I was after. After taking the rods along when I went to recce the spot at low tide yesterday, I'd seen fish swirling where two creeks meet. Terns were diving and coming up with small fry and sandeels, so maybe the swirls were bass or mullet feeding on same.

I had a few chucks and thought I felt a tap or two on the end. After striking at one or two and failing to connect, I wondered if it was just the lure bumping the odd stone or patch of shingle. Turned out it was probably Mr Crab.

Seeing as there's obviously plenty to eat around there, I decided to go back all the same and give it a go at high tide.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Berkley Ripple Shads

These come in a Berkley Power kit with five shads in a couple of sizes and a pair of jig heads for £7.99.

Not sure the hooks are long enough in the shank to guarantee nailing a fish but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt before I start worrying about adding stingers.

They seem to fish quite nicely hopped along the bottom - hence the bashed jig head on the smaller one. The shads are quite robust. If the bass like 'em, I'll probably fork out on some more.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New patterned Rapala J13

Splashed out on one of these to see if the bass fall for it. Bet the pike will if they don't.

J13s have been around for years but you can only get them in a handfull of colours, despite the fact you can get things like Shad Raps in dozens of patterns.

If I had Paul Adams's DIY skills, I'd probably try re-decorating some of the well-bashed bashed older ones I've got knocking around somewhere.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How to make a lure out of a paint brush handle

Here's another of those amazing lure making videos from Paul at homeluremaking - how to make a lure out of a paint brush handle:

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Must-have wind forecast info site

Found a top website which offers wind predictions for the next seven days.  You can tap in just about any location for a forecast of how the wind's going to blow during the day.

Click here for a gander.