Time travel (Entry 92)

I’ll never forget the first time I fished for crucians. It was one of the most perfect days fishing I have ever had. Even though it was twenty three years ago, give or take a few weeks, I can still remember minute details. I remember watching a flock of starlings in the field beyond and noticing one of the birds was white. An albino starling. Never seen one since. It turned out to be a lucky omen as minutes later, I hooked my first crucian. It fought hard. A little too powerful to be a crucian I remember my dad saying. The fish broke my light line. Inexperience in dealing with huge fish, or the small tench it most likely was. I was convinced after that the albino starling was a bad luck charm. Until, at last, I hooked and landed my first crucian. A huge, sparkling gold example of the species. It must have weighed a pound (four ounces to the trained eye), shining in the folds of the landing net on the lush, dew soaked grass. For a while I admired it. I didn’t need to touch. Unusual for a child I know. A powerful feeling of responsibility came over me. This was the first time I remember really understanding I had to care for the fish I caught. Of course I had been told that from the start. But this is when I truly understood. These fish need to be treated with respect and returned carefully for other anglers to enjoy. That day I caught another six crucians whilst my dad had countless. I loved every second.

A swim to warm any anglers' heart

So setting up for a short session after crucians on the banks of a lovely sand pit, my excitement levels reached a peak. The first one of the year always brings these memories flooding back. The tackle and bait may have changed somewhat but the techniques used remain the same. There may be more efficient ways to catch crucians, such as method feeders and bolt rigs, but catching them on the float is one of the finest. A straight forward pole rig was set up and teamed with light elastic. The rig was set just an inch over depth at the top of the marginal shelf at the base of the reeds. A little groundbait with a few freebies fed and then it was time to wait. I wonder if I would make contact with a crucian today? I hoped so. After an hour of fishing the things didn’t look too good. I had not had a bite. Not the slightest dip or sway of the float. No bubbles had broke on the surface. The fish were not rolling out in the lake. All in all it was lifeless. Strangely though, I still felt confident of a fish or two. Time to employ one of the toughest tactics in the fisherman’s armoury. Waiting patiently.

The first of many I hoped

Another thirty minutes passed by before the float, uncharacteristically decisive in its action, sank from sight. A fish was hooked. A powerful, thumping battler in the depths. The first proper crucian of the year I was sure. Indeed it was. Deep bodied and bronze.

A little larger

And with that the crucian flood gates opened. It was a case of feed and catch a fish. Feed and catch a fish. Really enjoyable sport on the float and at such close range. Despite a host of crucians, fourteen in total, there was never any obvious signs that they were in the swim. Had I not been catching them, I would have been convinced there was none in the vicinity. Ninety minutes from the first fish and the sport came to an end. The sun had rose high in the sky and had got very warm, forcing the crucians out from the margins and down into the depths. Beyond pole range.

Reflecting the morning sun

I was about to throw in the towel more than pleased with the result when the float sank for the last time. A very different fight to the crucians and flashing in the clear water, a much lighter fish. Indeed, when the fish came towards the surface I could see it was a lovely roach. One of the benefits of fishing for crucians is that you open yourself to surprises. Usually tench or rudd. On this occasion though it was a lovely pound sized roach. A perfect way to end my time travelling session, return to the present and call it a day. A little after ten o’clock in the morning. Brilliant.

The icing on the cake came in the form of this cracking roach

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Some people say you’re ugly (Entry 91)

If you read my blog regularly you will now that last weeks tench fishing was a little frustrating to say the least. Well, I had another session midweek, on a different water this time. With a chance to catch both good sized bream and tench there, I thought I stood a better chance of catching my target species if I put my eggs in two baskets. Baskets named tench and bream. Tactics were also changed, instead of the float gear I brought a medium feeder rod and method feeder. With a pungent fishmeal groundbait and micro pellets moulded around it, a few minutes after arriving at the venue I was already fishing. It certainly is a great approach for quick after work sessions. I started with sweetcorn as hookbait. An hour later, after a dozen casts, I had three small pound sized bream in quick succession. Welcomed, but none the less a lot smaller than I anticipated. And still no sign of any tench feeding. The swim then went very quiet. A change of hookbait to a small boilie tempted a much heavier fish. At first it plodded around a little and my hopes of a big bream looked like they would be rewarded. Unfortunately, and I mean that in the most appreciative way, it soon woke up and turned altogether more carp-like. Indeed, it turned out to be a carp. A pristine common carp, that ended up being the highlight of the session as the rest of the hours slipped by all to quickly and without any more fish. Something different was needed for the weekend.

A hungry intruder

With a spell of much warmer weather predicted, my thoughts turned to carp, and the possibility of doing some floater fishing. I then thought that the carp themselves might have other ideas, in the form of spawning. Dilemma. After much deliberation I decided to do something I have never really done before, and that was target a catfish. A daytime one too. Thankfully, being in a club offering a good amount of waters containing catfish, my job of deciding where to head to was made a lot easier. For starters a catfish of any size would do me, having only caught one before, accidentally taken on a banded pellet whilst fishing for carp. Catfish on the waggler. Not something you expect and thankfully it was only small around 2lb in weight. I rounded up whatever fishy smelling bait I had in the shed. Some monster crab boilies seemed appropriate. I could take a few pellets with me too and some paste to wrap the hookbait in it for extra pulling power. Hang on a minute, all this fish smelling, fishmeal boilies, and paste, seems like scaled up barbel tactics. Suits me fine.

Todays view

It was a glorious day. The sun was high and the sky clear. Not the best conditions for cats then? I was going to give it my best regardless. I chose a swim offering a good amount of shade. Perfect. One rod was cast along this shaded area and the other put into open water. I would have liked to position the second rod in a similar place to the first but the cramped swim forced my hand. I noticed plenty of carp were sunning themselves in the upper layers. Not ready to spawn just yet. Ever the optimist, I sat back and waited, watching a small damselfly sunning itself on my net. My thoughts never far away from where those catfish might be lurking.

Happy to help

After an hour of fishing I received my first take. An aborted one which I initially put down to smaller a fish doing it’s best to engulf the two boilies I was presenting. A running rig certainly reveals a lot more activity in a swim than the now standard bolt rig does. I resisted the urge to reel in and left the rig in place. A few minutes passed before the alarm woke from its silence as a fish picked up the bait. I reeled down and set the hook. On the other end; powerful head shakes and lunges in the direction of the tree roots. For a few moments a stalemate. Unable to give the fish any line I hoped all the knots held. Thankfully the fish then ran out into open water giving me chance to recover a little. The speed and power of the fish was like nothing I was used to and I assumed it had to be a cat. In the open water the fish hung deep and planed gracefully in ever decreasing arcs. All the while I was gaining line. When it came into the margins the fish bored hard into the bottom and sediment. Occasionally it’s pale flank would flash below the surface. It was most definitely my intended species. No need to panic now, just wait for the fish to tire. There was a few more minutes of this cat and mouse before the fish eventually rolled on the surface, close enough for the net to be plunged underneath, and breath drawn on my part.


Taken in the daytime, my first catfish caught by design lay on the unhooking mat. I was struck by it’s strange kind of beauty. Prehistoric looking. A creature perfectly adapted for feeding a certain way. An apex predator. I took a few photo’s before letting her go and quickly got the rod back into position should her bigger sister fancy an afternoon snack.

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Angling is good for the soul… apparently (Entry 90)

I can’t think of another pursuit that is more soul destroying than angling. Only at times of course. When everything falls into place angling can be very satisfying and rewarding. An angler tramples through dew soaked grass a little before sunset with thoughts of tench. They arrive soon after at a picturesque, reed lined and weed filled lake. The morning is deadly still. The waters surface, glassy. Setting up as the sun rises gloriously. Its warming rays begin to work their magic. Small fish begin to rise. The anglers casts as near as they dare to the weed. Throwing in some free offerings in a bid to get the attention of nearby tench. Of course, in this perfect scenario the tench bubbles follow, as do a handful of stunning, dark green doctors with maybe a scattering of had sized rudd thrown in for good measure. The angler leaves at mid-morning having achieved so much and seen such beauty all before the rest of the world has woken up.

It’s a shame then that my recent tench fishing sessions, two of them, haven’t quite fit in with the above scene. In fact they have been less than good for the soul. The first of the two took place early in the morning. I arrived at the venue just as the sun was rising. Previous experience teaching me that any earlier would have been too early, the fish usually switching on around seven o’clock. As long I was set up and fishing before then I felt confident of a fish or three. I set up in double quick time, found a lovely patch in the weed and by half past six had already had a few casts. On my fifth cast the float lifted positively and I struck into a tench that ploughed straight into the weed. Steady pressure applied freed the fish, and although it tried several more times to find the darkness of the tangled stems, the fish was soon on the bank and having it’s picture taken. So far so good.

A small but perfectly formed tinca

Seven o’clock came and went with no further fish. There wasn’t much activity anywhere on the lake in all honesty. Usually the small roach and rudd rise and feed on any insect life unfortunate enough to fall on the surface but so far I hadn’t seen one. I fed little and often hoping to attract something into the swim, which I assumed was barren of tench. I think I was right to assume this too, as the early afternoon made an appearance I was still on just one tench. A very tricky session for sure. I decided it was time to pack away and come back a few days later, this time for a late afternoon session. Spirit Level; 80%.

Despite how hard the lake fished last time I was still eager to return. In the four days I had been away the weed had grown so quickly. It was now just a foot from the surface in places and I feared I might be heading home for the weed rake. Thankfully, the swim I fished last time still had a channel that was fishable, so although I was going to head elsewhere, I ended up back in the same swim. The session started slowly, but this is something I expect on the venue. Pellets and corn were sparingly fed over an hour or so before the float wavered and sank for the first time. The fish on the other end though, was not a tench but a bream, turning on its side and coming through the gap with the utmost cooperation. You can’t grumble at a fish over five pound even if it is not the target species. A quick picture and away it went. Spirit Levels; 85%.

Bream like this are always welcome

I re-cast the rig with a touch more confidence now. Surely the tench would find my bait eventually. It was just a matter of time. Thirty minutes passed before the next bite and, yes, it was a tinca. It bored for the weed on both sides of the channel, burying its head on occasion but being still quite soft the fish easily come free with a little gentle pressure. As I reached for the landing net the rod jolted back as the hook pulled. Solidity melting away to nothingness in the way only a hook pull does. Never mind, I thought, the tench are present and feeding. More feed introduced and another thirty minutes went by before the next tench was hooked. And lost. Once more a hook pull and just a few seconds into the fight this time. I took it on the chin. A wry smile and a shake of the head later, my rig was was back in position. It was when the third tench was hooked and lost that I began to think I it wasn’t going to be. Especially as this fish was within arms length of the landing net before the hook just popped out and the fish, seemingly in slow motion, righted itself and sank from view. The fourth tench that I hooked in the now fading light, five hours into the session, was destined to join the other three and once again, when the hook pulled mid fight, I was not surprised. I conceded defeat and began to pack away. Spirit level; 10%.

You would think that would be enough to put me off tench fishing for life. But of course it is not. It is not the failures that matter. Yes, you can learn from them. Dissect them in an attempt to ‘work it out.’ Sometimes, however, its better to admit defeat and far better for one’s sanity to focus on those perfect moments. When everything comes together. To think of the times past and yet to happen. That will restore the soul. I know I have already begun doing so. I guess thats the reason the spirit level will never fall to zero.

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Freelining fun (Entry 89)

With the last swim fed I made my way slowly back to the first. I had fed it twenty minutes previous and hoped that when I returned there would be signs that some carp had been feeding or at least investigating the tasty morsels lying on the lake bed. It would take me a further five minutes to make my way back to the swim, and I would need to set up the rig too. It should’t take too long to tie a hook onto the mainline though. Oh, and wrap a little tungsten putty a foot back from this. Really you couldn’t get much more simple.

Carp feeding here.

With the rod set up and the net readied, I took the tub of bait from my car, along with unhooking mat that would double as my seat for the next few hours. As I neared the first swim I had fed I became aware of my heavy footing. Herd of elephants didn’t come close. Tentatively I took a peek into the depths but could no longer see the bottom. The gin clear water now cloudy with sediment sent up, I assumed, by hungry carp. This now posed a problem. I would’t be able to see my bait, and perhaps more importantly, couldn’t see if there was any fish still in the vicinity. I thought it best to feed more and move on to the second swim instead. Hopefully a little quieter on my part.

Cheap and cheerful bait

Thankfully in the next swim I saw three carp and what looked like a crucian feeding. They picked up a few grains of corn and then casually sank back down the shelf. Only to return a few minutes later for more food. Perfect. I waited for them to vacate the area, and carefully lowered a double corn hook bait into position, hid as best  could behind the one long grass stem in front of me, and waited for them to return. Tense minutes passed. Tense, fish-less minutes. Had I spooked them? I didn’t think so, they were feeding happily before they ghosted from view. I just need a little patience. There, just where the visible water met the dark, hung a dark shape. I could just about make it out. As it edged up the shelf I could make out its size for the first time. It looked to be a scraper double. A common too. Eyes on the fish, eyes on the bait. The fish certainly knew those kernels were there. It probably knew I was there too. Inch by inch the fish glided nearer when suddenly the hook bait vanished. But the common carp had not flared its gills! And then I remembered the crucian from earlier.

This one certainly tricked me!

Regardless, it was a lovely fish. Not a crucian in the end but some kind of goldfish-crucian-fantail hybrid. ‘Heinz 57’ but the first fish of the day and very welcome. With that swim now disturbed, it was time to re-feed and head to the next to repeat the process. A few minutes later I was nearing it, and even before I had made my way down the high bank, I could see a few dark shapes grazing over the pellets and corn. In fact when I was at the waters edge, they were feeding so confidently, I chanced flicking the rig in before they had moved off. This worked to my advantage as no sooner had the double corn hit the bottom, a plump carp decided to take it. The fish don’t grow that big in this venue but they fight like tigers. I quite honestly have never felt fish fight as hard for their size and they don’t give in. In the clear water, every powerful surge, every twist and turn can not only be felt, but seen too. And what an amazing sight it is. A tiny flick of the tail can propel the fish metres. Effortless in their environment.


The remainder of the session produced another few carp of similar size before fading light drew a close to play. It was more than enough for me though. Plenty of walking and watching. Learning how fish feed and how they spook on various sounds and movement. Also, how once feeding, this same caution abates. I reckon I could have done a jig in neon clothes at some point and the fish wouldn’t have noticed such was their intent of finding every last pellet amongst the gravel. Every fishing trip is a learning curve but some are more eye opening than others. This was certainly one of them.

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Keep calm and go waggler fishing (Entry 88)

As I set the rig to the correct depth, in this case just an inch over, a golden flank rolled a little behind where I had fed. You couldn’t ask for a more positive indication. Definitely fish in the area. But what were the fish I was attempting to catch? Well, quite honestly, I was happy with anything. Today was just a few hours fishing on the float with no great concern about what came along. I hoped maybe some brown goldfish, crucians and tench would featue. Maybe a small carp or two. There was the outside chance of a grass carp if I was really lucky. One thing was for sure, I was looking forward to wiling away some time and getting lost amongst the ripples.

Initial feed for todayI had fed the swim with a mixture of small pellets and some corn. The pungent fishy aroma of the pellets and visual nature of the corn would ensure the attentions of any nearby fish would be focussed. As I usually the swim was given ten minutes to settle and for any feeding fish to gain confidence. The small patches of bubbles appearing with increasing regularity told me that the fish were indeed getting their heads down. A single kernel was slid onto a size 16 hook and the remaining dregs cleared from my flask’s cup. With that, I gently flicked the small peacock waggler out, sank the line and waited. Hopefully not for too long.

Not a bad start to the sessionThe float bobbed and waved almost instantly but I knew this was the small rudd pecking at the float, shot and bait on the way down. I had to wait for a positive bite which developed just a few minutes later. The strike met with that classic thumping sensation typical of ‘crucian type’ species. One I will never tire of. Within seconds though, a handful of solid gold was in the net and a content grin etched across my face. Only a small fish but it need not matter when the fish are as pretty as these, and the fishing as intimate. Once returned, another kernel was hooked and the float sent out. Once more, instant attention from the tiny rudd as the rig fell through the water column. A few minutes passed before another fish was on. Again a chunky crucian ‘wannabe’ maybe a little bigger than the first, certainly plumper, if not longer.

They were getting biggerThe swim went through a little quiet spell after this. I sat wondering if a bigger fish had moved in and pushed the smaller ones out. As yet though there was no signs of that. No sooner had those thoughts popped into my head, than swathes of pin prick bubbles were sent to the surface. I seemed that a tench, or maybe two, were feeding in earnest. The float was surrounded by tiny reflections of itself and I knew it would only be a matter of time before the tench caught sight of the sweetcorn nearby. Until then, the float tip teased me before eventually dipping and then sinking from sight. The fish bolted for the nearest snag, a tree to my left, but heavy side strain saw to it that its roots were never reached.

Fighting fit spring tenchOn light lines these fish were really giving a good account of themselves. The light rod I was using, whilst not only cushioning any lunges when the fish were within netting range, also allowed me to feel every twist and turn of the fight. There’s one thing I don’t like to do and that is fish any heavier than needed. As long as I know I’m not putting the fish in any potential danger, why would I want to ‘mask’ the thing that is one of the best parts about going fishing. The tense moments of playing a fish can sit long int he memory.

After the commotion of the rogue tench, it took a while for the swim to settle. When the fish returned I caught a succession of brown goldfish, a solitary tiny crucian and three small common carp all around the pound mark. Three hours had passed by all to quickly and I decided that after with the next fish I would have to leave. In true fishing style, it turned out to be a lovely fish. Dark, bronze and brown colours. A deep bodied fish with a liking for pellets and corn. It gave the float rod a real work out as it circled defiantly in the margins before turning on it’s side and conceding defeat.

A cracking fish to finish on

Around two pounds of stunning conditioned brown goldfish. It capped of a wonderful session of close in waggler fishing. The conditions had not been too great. A strong wind causing problems with undertow but extra depth added to the rig soon sorted this out. There was a few sharp showers but even they couldn’t dampen my enjoyment. I’m glad spring is here. It means there’ll be plenty more sessions like this, all the way through summer too. I can’t wait for more!

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until Next time tight lines