Doorstep to doorstep (Entry 206)

I headed to the local canal this week, a place I have had a few attempts at fishing in the past few weeks, simply because it takes minutes to get there. When time is short, I’d rather spend an extra hour fishing than driving an extra hour simply getting somewhere to fish. With a rise in the water temperature I expected that the fish would be willing to feed, but this being a canal, you shouldn’t get too carried away. Fine lines and small hooks are still a must whilst the water still has clarity and forget about piling in bait. Especially when you are after roach.


Believe it or not, after feeding a palmful of hemp at the start of the session, I fed just three casters every fifteen minutes or after catching a fish, to keep interest without feeding them full. The canal I am fishing has a typical natural venue cycle; the first hour is positive, then the fish become cagey. Then is the time to re-feed and rest the swim, sometimes for half an hour or longer, and this will see the fish return. Today was no different. Using a long crystal waggler, with a foot of line on the bottom, I was able to slow the bait down adequately against the canals natural tow. The bait still moved, but very slowly, something that roach cannot resist at times. In fact, my second cast produced a bite, a small roach to start with at 6oz. My next cast however produced one of a much better stamp.


This roach was well over a pound, though not quite two, and fought like a tiger. For their size, and on balanced tackle, I can never get over just how hard roach fight. Fooled on a single caster with a size 20 hook buried inside. I was overjoyed. A true gem of the canal in the middle of a bustling city centre. I guess the busy banks do go some way in keeping the cormorants at bay, especially so when said banks are flanked with apartments, dog walkers, or someone having a sneaky cigarette on their balcony. They all help. After that fish I continued to catch 6-8oz fish, over 15 in fact, before losing a roach even bigger than the first. My heart dropped to my shoes. A lull in activity followed, forcing an earlier than intended re-feed of hemp, and the consumption of my sandwich. Time to rest the swim and lick my wounds.


The gamble paid off, thankfully. Half an hour later, on my second cast, I hooked the second pound plus roach of the day, smaller than the first but still as magnificent. A brace to be proud of. A few small perch then turned up, which I never think is a good sign to be honest, before out of the blue I hooked into another good fish which took the caster on the drop. The rod locked up, the fish jagged hard and ran, before shaking its head where the hook, again, pulled. A silvery flash was my only glimpse of the fish as it swirled down into freedom. I dearly hoped it was a hybrid or a chub. In fact, I know it was. I can’t even begin to consider the alternative. And that is all I am going to say on the matter.

Until next time,




It’s all about appreciation (Entry 157)

The float went under for about the fiftieth, another tiny little chublet came whizzing through the water, and was swung gently into my hand. Like a new penny. Glistening, its silvery flank beginning to take on the bronze sheen of its bigger brothers and sisters, scales aligned perfectly and edged with crisp, dark lines. It was a beautiful little thing. In between I had also caught a few equally tiny roach and a huge gudgeon, that writhed out of my hand whilst being unhooked, escaping quickly so that no photographic evidence of the ‘monster’ could be made. Of my intended quarry, a big roach, there was no sign.

Kamikaze chublets

The river really looked good today. It’s a strange phenomenon, and we have probably all experienced similar things no matter what branch of angling you practise, that when conditions look close to perfect, the end result is often lacking. That being said, the flow did pull the float through the swim beautifully, and in doing so stripped line from the reel, requiring minimal effort on my part. Occasionally I slowed the rig down, hoping this would tempt a roach to bite, but I never truly believed it would. Maybe this was why I had not caught one.

Todays float

With the fishing as it was, I became distracted quite easily, and plenty of cups of tea were consumed. A kingfisher flew up and downstream for most of the day, mimicked much more erratically, by various dragonflies. I tried resting the swim and I tried feeding heavily. I changed to different hook baits, bigger and smaller, but still the procession of tiny chub continued. Eventually I hooked a much larger fish, only comparatively however, one which turned out to be a quite beautiful looking roach-chub hybrid. They can grow to a fair size in this river, so this one of eight ounces, has a lot of growing to do. I continued fishing and time ticked on. Still no roach.

Not quite a dace, cub or roachAs if to proved a point, the one that dictates you can only catch what is in front of you and when it wants to be caught, as the light began to fade, a trio of roach came my way in as many casts. Three immaculate fish, approaching the pound mark, unable to resist the double caster hookbait trundled temptingly their way. And as if they had never existed, the tiny chub had vanished, maybe due to the roach or bigger fish pushing them out. No more finicky dips of the float. No more stealing of casters. A little too late in the day, perhaps.

A trio of roach

I’m sure had I been able to carry on, maybe switching to a feeder rod, complete with isotope, and fished into darkness, a big roach or chub could have been tricked. But today had been a day for float fishing. Not necessarily a day for catching the fish I would have dearly liked to. More for appreciating how enjoyable the technique of trotting can be. When everything seems ‘spot on’ and runs smoothly. Night had now taken over. Time to concede defeat on the big roach front, but I left with an appreciation all the same, just a slightly different one. After all angling is what you choose make it.

Until next time,


No surprises, it was back to the river (Entry 156)

There’s no way I could possibly ignore heading back to the river. One that had helped me achieve a long standing ambition of catching a pound plus roach from a river just the week before. Of course, I didn’t expect to relive that day again, not for a while at least, but I did feel full of confidence. That I may find a few dace, roach or chub before the day was over. The river was still extremely low and clear, it was late afternoon, and I couldn’t wait to begin fishing.

As on my last visit, the first two swims I fished seemed quite devoid of fish, though I think this was purely due to the time of day and the water conditions. If I had stayed in the first swim and plugged away, until the sun began to lose its potency than the fish would have arrived, I was sure. But with so much river to explore staying in one place for too long was really unnecessary. I hope that with a more coloured river and the onset of the shorter days, the fish may become more obliging earlier on in the day, it’s something I am looking forward to finding out either way. Taking the sting out of Winters’ tail somewhat.

Business end of a fast feeding dace

The third swim, which I started fishing well after six o’clock, offered much more pace than the first two. I remembered my abundant yet misplaced confidence last week, in predicting just where the dace would be hiding, a confidence that was ultimately battered and bruised by a lack of silver darts. I hoped that my predictions would fare a little better this week. And they did. After just a few casts, and a generous feeding of casters, I began to put together a net of dace. Some good ones were mixed in too, up to around ten ounces, though the majority were six to eight. They are striking fish, sleek lines, subdued but glistening colour. Get it right and they are easy to catch but feed wrong and they can be very frustrating. Shelling the caster without so much as a dip of the float. As began to happen after I’d took around twenty or so fish. A modest but worthy opponent for any angler.

A brace of silver darts

Bites dried up soon after and as I wrote earlier, with much river to go at, it was simply a case of returning the fish and moving on. If no further fish came my way then I had already had my fill. As I wandered slowly downstream, in a tree just ahead of me, I spotted a small, fluffy bundle of brown with two eyes. A Little Owl, bobbing his head, unnerved by the presence trampling clumsily toward him. I froze. A Mexican stand off between us. Dare I reach for the camera and the zoom lens? Of course, I thought, and quietly set about doing so. I got the correct exposure, zoomed in and focused, finger on shutter button, just as the bugger took flight and glided across the river and out of range. I’m sure he knew what I was up to all along.

A lovely roach in the fading light

The last swim I fished, with the time now fast approaching eight, was a classic roach swim. Steady, much less pace than the last, and offering a good depth. I fed it with a generous helping of casters and hemp and enjoyed a cup of tea. My mouth was parched. Time for the swim to settle and thoughts of monsters to form. When I began fishing some time later I caught roach, the biggest a pound fish, with the average stamp being 10-12oz. They were much easier to make contact with than the dace and fought brilliantly on light tackle. Double caster once again proving to be the best bait. With the daylight now decreasing, by quarter past nine I was struggling to see the float and ten minutes later, it was pointless trying to carry on. Time to pack up. Begrudgingly of course. Where does the time go? I’d had another cracking day though and left for home a satisfied angler.

A brace of roach before the light fades

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Until next time,


Rivers and roach (Entry 155)

A glorious late summers day was already in full swing, the sky was largely cloudless, birds swooped and sung, and a myriad of insects darted as I made my way along the river bank. The conditions of the river itself could be summed up in two words. Low and clear. Go on then, three words. The wind gusted, strongly at times, and always seemed to be in a downstream direction. The lack of water and clarity presented a great opportunity to take note of the rivers make up though, and I made a mental note of any hidden snags, deeper pools and channels, drop offs and shallow glides. Such as this was, it took much longer to begin fishing than it would normally do but it was not wasted time. I am quite sure of that.

I’d left the barbel gear at home this week; swapped for my trotting rod and a pint of casters. I was hoping that if I wandered between swims I might find a shoal or two of dace or maybe a big hungry chub or roach. Given the conditions, I didn’t expect fishing to be easy, but these things are sent to try us, not that fishing in such beautiful countryside is particularly trying. I donned my waders and carefully made my way out into the river, edging ever closer to a short glide with a little pace, a haven for dace. At least so I thought. After half an hour without so much as an indication I came to the conclusion that my theory was wrong and the dace were not home. Or maybe I had just created a little too much disturbance as I waded out. Next swim ninja mode would be activated.

Roach magnets

Well, I am either a pretty poor ninja or the fish were just not in the mood for any late afternoon feeding, having tried several more swims without any joy. I sat on the bank amongst the tall grass and ate a cheese sandwich. The most loyal of all fisherman’s snacks. Made even better by some red onion relish. For now the fish could wait. As my tastebuds were treated, so were my eyes, not just by the countryside but the slow realisation of were I needed to fish next. Just downstream of where I now sat; a shallow area gave way to deeper, steadier water and a fine gravel bottom melted into earthy darkness. It screamed fish. It screamed roach. Then again all the other swims I’d already fished had screamed dace and so far I was drawing a blank.

Food devoured, I made my way into position, easing myself through the gentle currents, the water rising to knee height and beyond. I reached into my bait pouch and began to feed a few casters. Small, regular helpings that cascaded wonderfully though the water. The sunlight hit them, making them look more like jewels offered up, than bait. Red, orange and yellow. I restrained from casting for all of five minutes before the stickfloat was joining the free offerings, carrying its own payload downstream, a double helping of course. No bite came. Not on the second or third trot either. But this swim seemed right. I felt a confidence I hadn’t in the others. I persisted and was after a time rewarded. The tiny orange speck of my float tip stuttered from sight. I struck and bumped a heavy fish! A sharp intake of breathe. Then time to begin again. On this trot too the float sunk and I once again bumped a heavy fish. Expletives escaped my lips this time but the wind carried them away from any ears upstream. And the cows downstream of me didn’t speak ‘human’ so no offence was caused.

Staring back at me

Ten bite-less minutes passed and I feared that my chance had come and gone. I tried running the float on a different line, a little closer in, and on the first trot through the float sank confidently. Thankfully I made contact with a fish, a jagging, head shaking fish, that erratically darted in one direction then another. It felt a good fish. I carefully lead the unseen prize upstream where it became visible in the clear water. I was kind of sorry I saw it. A big roach. Certainly the biggest I have ever hooked in a river. Once its identify was confirmed, every twist and turn became amplified, and I was sure the fish would come off. It would surely find a way to flick the tiny hook free or steer the line onto the sharp edge of a rock. Somehow, and I really mean somehow, I managed to net the fish. I can’t remember doing so.

A stunning old roach

I took a moment to compose myself before wading to the bank, in front of me, safe in the net, was a new river PB roach. I could tell just by looking at it. Brassy flanks, highlighted with streaks of gold, a brilliant red eye and glowing orange fins. It was a rare sight. Quite honestly one of the the most beautiful fish I had ever seen. A photo quickly taken and then onto the scales. My new river PB roach was confirmed at 1lb 11oz. What a great day this had turned into.

Another pound plus roach

It didn’t end there though. Once the roach had been returned, I halfheartedly had another cast where quite to my disbelief, I caught another roach. A little smaller this time but still a fish anyone would be proud to catch. Especially on a method and bait so synonymous with the species. At 1lb 7oz it made up the brace of pound plus river roach. Little did I expect a result like that as I had headed river-ward just five hours previously. A memorable day had indeed been made.

Beautiful colours

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Until next time,


Swings and roundabouts and barbel (Entry 151)

The first of two sessions this week took place early in the morning. Very early in fact, arriving before dawn, but only just. Time to rain a good amount of bait into an area of the river I thought looked best for a bite. Such a commotion would surely unnerve any fish present, at least for a while, so over the next hour to give the swim time to settle, I ate a tea cake, had two cups of tea and generally took in the ambience of the place. Peaceful, cool and hazy. The landscape tinged in blue. Without a breathe of wind. Nothing dared to move. The river itself only doing so begrudgingly.

Unfortunately, the rod tip followed suit, sitting motionless for around two hours, before eventually giving in. The bite was a spectacular one, rod tip hooping over and jagging ferociously, and it appeared my target species had been hooked. The hard fighting barbel. Upon picking up the rod however, I was met with little resistance, a little head nodding but nothing more. A small chub then, the greedy little thing certainly had its eye on a good meal, in the form of the big halibut pellet I had on as bait. I casually reeled the fish in and netted it, but upon peeling away the layers of mesh, I was shocked to see it was in fact a baby barbel, perfectly formed and fresh from the mould. Quite how it managed to take that pellet I’ll never know.

First fish of the new season

After it’s picture, the fish swam strongly away, the rivers future for a second literally in my hands, and its a good sign to see smaller fish present. For the rest of the session though, it appeared as if the river was devoid of fish, save that one baby barbel. Dinner time soon came and with the sun now very high, it was time to leave, the drive home giving me time enough to plan a return trip for the next evening.

The next day passed quickly and I soon found myself bank on the riverbank. A session of opposites about to begin. For starters it was evening instead of morning. No longer was the air still, an angry wind gusted from all directions, and the sun that forced me to retreat the day before was hidden from view behind dark grey clouds. Ones who’s bark, I hoped, would turn out to be much worse than their bite. The only thing remotely similar to the first session was the level of the river and its lack of flow. Despite this I decided to fish positively, so in went a few feeders full of pellets, casters and of course, some hemp. Much smaller baits would be used this time, my hookbait changed from pellet to caster, at least until darkness fell.

My new best friend

I ate a tasty pie, had three cups of tea, and set up my camera equipment in readiness. Just in case, and certainly not a show of confidence, but if I was to catch a fish I wanted to keep it out of the water for as little time as possible. An hour soon passed, in fact it was nearer two hours, and I’d still not made a cast. My hay fever played up big style, my eyes itched and I couldn’t stop sneezing. Probably not the wisest move to be sat in the countryside but what was I to do? I also became sidetracked feeding a trumpeter swan some casters. I’d never seen one before and they are huge! On occasions the swan looked lovely, yet on others seemed to have a sinister look in its eye, as if it now knew where my secret bait stash was and would seize it the very moment my back was turned. Unsurprisingly, I now had a companion for the rest of the evening, but I didn’t mind.

My rig was cast into place a little after nine o’clock and remained there until well after eleven. From nowhere the rod tip sprang to life. I sharply picked the rod up and leant into a powerful fish. In the darkness it was a fantastic fight, accompanied by hisses from an unimpressed swan, a long and sleek barbel gave me a real run around. In the end the fish was beaten, and rested for a few minutes before I even contemplating unhooking, which I could do in the margins. It was then up to the mat for a super quick picture, a maximum of thirty seconds later the fish was back in the margins and allowed to fully recover. It took a further five minutes before I was happy enough the drop the rim and let her swim off. Which she did strongly, illuminated in the clear water by my head torch, an impressive sight indeed.

A good sized summer barbel

And that was it for the rest of the evening but I left the river a very happy angler, walking back across the field amongst a huge hatch of mayflies, and the sound of ravenous trout taking advantage of this bounty. A perfect end to a fantastic evenings fishing.

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,