It all got a little silly (Entry 179)

I enjoyed last weeks crucian fishing so much that another morning in pursuit of them seemed foolish to pass up on. Although I was more than happy with what I caught last week, I knew I didn’t fish as hard, or as well, as I know I can. I was far too concerned with simply appreciating everything I had missed in my hiatus, whilst the cobwebs were blown away, a little slower than I would have liked. This morning however I was going to devote one hundred percent of my attention to catching.

The first of the day

I started on a marginal line, after all it was still early, and I was certain this was where the crucians would be. As I rigged up, I kept my eye on the water, a few bubbles out in the middle emerged from some unseen source, and down at the other end of the lake a big crucian rolled, unmistakable in its smooth, golden swirl. Alarm bells sounded. Fish milling around further out than I was intending to fish and at the complete opposite end of the lake. Still, I decided to stay where I was and after plumbing up, fed a generous amount of bait, before threading on my sweetcorn hookbait.

The crucians keep coming

To my surprise I didn’t have to wait long for a bite. It came quite out of the blue so any anxieties had not been built by rafts of bubbles or suchlike. The float was simply there one second and gone the next. Actually more like a fraction of one. My strike met with solidity and the fight proceeded to play itself out. Within minutes my first two pound crucian of the day was on the bank. What a brilliant opener. I’ll never tire of how impressive they look. The next 90 minutes were slow but steady and a further five crucians fell to the yellow peril presented under a finely dotted float. It was going rather well, so I fed another pot of bait, and rested the swim whilst I drank a cup of tea. A tea that now tasted extra sweet.

Another fish on the bank

When I started fishing again, not ten minutes later, the float instantly sank from sigh. The bait could hardly have been settled for more than a second. It turned out to be the first of many of crucians over the next two hours. The sport was frantic, it was really quite unbelievable, so much so I will save the numbers until the end. I did lose a few fish to hooks pulls, when the bites became very cautious, but simply feeding the swim and resting it for a time sorted that out. The interesting moment came when the sun broke through the clouds. Until then it had been largely dull, and in the light breeze, quite cool. Once blue took over the lions share of the sky, and the heat began to noticeably rise, the crucians simply vanished. There was nothing I could do to try and tempt one. No change of hookbait worked. Nor did following the fish out and into the deep water beyond. No, this was it, their way of saying you’ve had your fill. Enough is enough. Get lost.

At just under three pounds

I couldn’t really disagree; 19 crucians banked with a further six lost. More than I could ever hope for in four hours fishing. Of the 19 banked, one fish hit the magical three pound mark, 10 were well over 2lb and the rest were upwards of 1lb 8oz, a truly ridiculous amount of beautiful, rare fish.

The last fish of the day

Thanks for reading and until next time,



A great reward on a tough day (Entry 158)

I fancied a change this week, not from the venue or the species I hoped to encounter, more the style of fishing. On speaking to a few anglers on arrival, and it was now well into afternoon, the consensus was that the river was fishing hard. Still, when the bait is in the water there is always a chance. I wished them good luck and went to find a spot. Despite some rain during the week, the rivers flow was dawdling, the water was clear and I resigned myself to the fact that simply getting a bite would be a result. I was gong to try ledgering today but everything would need to be scaled down. Smaller weights, lighter lines, and finer tips. Of course, scaling down has a habit of tempting fish that are far too big for the setup, an occupational hazard when six inch fish swim alongside eight pounders.

My sights were set on a much more modestly sized fish, at least by comparison, a roach over a pound, but as I said earlier, simply getting a bite was my main priority. If no bite came then the sights and sounds of the surrounding country would be a pretty good consolation. It was time to fish, and over the next hour I cast the swim feeder every ten minutes, to introduce a little bait to an area of river the size of a car bonnet. I then eased back on the feed only part filling the feeder and casting with much less regularity.

Sensitive bite indication

By now it was difficult to see any delicate indications, as the wind had sprung up and was gusting in across the field. The only thing for it was to hoop the line over my finger and hope that the tiny plucks from cautious roach would vibrate from source to tip. My finger quite literally on the pulse of the river. Currents grating over the line, bowed softly out, keeping the feeder from being pulled out of position. There I sat in a trance. Hoping to be pulled out of it sooner rather than later. Somewhere between thinking about the first time I ever cast into a river, and wishing six o’clock would come round quickly so I could eat my chilli con carne, I found myself sweeping the the rod backward. Reflexes set into action by two solid and definitive taps. I had hooked a fish that hung in the flow. It didn’t feel like a roach and I presumed it was chub. A head shake then further motionless hanging. The fish used what little flow there was to its advantage, but with gentle pressure I coaxed the fish into the margins, where I saw just what it was. An eel, of around three pound. Not a bad fish really. And my goal of getting had bite had at least been achieved.

An unexpected guest

The river refused to send any more fish my way over the next three hours, despite scaling down even further and trying all manner of hook baits. The tip simply refused to budge. The resident swan certainly thought my bait was tasty enough, and for the second time, I had a friend for the remainder of the session once a few casters had been sent its way. As the sun approached the horizon, the quiver tip began to show a few signs of feeding fish in the swim, and I readied myself for a bite. True to form it was only when I had begun to pour a drink of tea from the flask, that the tip pulled confidently round. No need to strike, just picking the rod up was enough, and a jagging fight ensued. A roach, I had no doubt, and it felt respectable too.

A great reward for sticking it out

And so it turned out to be, a big river roach, just a few ounces short of the magical two pound barrier. This did not make it any less welcomed, a beautiful example of the species, one that glistened in the warm, late evening sun. It was not the last of the action either, although it was the dreaded ‘occupational hazard’ that reared its head, twice in two casts. Both fish much too powerful to turn and probably two of the rivers barbel. An hour into dark and with the rod tip now back to absolute stillness, I decided to call it a day, and head home. Targets achieved and several hours thoroughly enjoyed.

Until next time,


Ninety seconds of crazy (Entry 154)


It got quite cool once the sun dropped. I’d been sat on the riverbank for five hours now. In that time I’d been soaked by a torrential downpour (that wasn’t helping the temperature situation now), lost several rigs in snags, and had 90% of casts thwarted by weed being washed down in the floodwater. Oh, and my shoes had decided to start leaking. A pretty dire situation and yet here I sat. Still watching the rod top nodding. Still hopeful that in a fraction of a second my mood would be lifted, soaked clothes and soggy feet forgotten about, as a barbel hooped the rod round. I poured some tea but even this didn’t induce a bite. I sat back and looked up at the sky now free from any clouds. Starting in my peripheral vision, bottom left and exiting top-centre, a sharp streak of feint light. I furrowed my brow. Was that shooting star? Too fast to focus on but too unusual not to notice. I sat for a second or two and accepted that it had to have been a shooting star. What a great thing to see. A point in favour for still being sat here. Feet now feeling less soggy indeed. I drank my cup dry and reached down to put the cup back on my flask. Thats when I became aware of the presence at my feet.

When it rained, it rained


I tilted my head down sharpish. So caught up in astronomical decision making, I’d failed to notice something within touching distance, inches from my outstretched legs, head poking out of the shallow, flooded margins. It was an otter. Large flat head, short, rounded nose and long whiskers. It’s hard not to be appreciative of this animal when so close. The otter bobbed his head then disappeared under the surface, only for a second before re-surfacing again, this time the other side of my feet, and now even closer. I cursed the rain for forcing me to keep my camera stashed in my bag, How I would have loved a picture of this close encounter of an otter kind. It seemed like he was getting the measure of me. The otter, now pretty sure I was nothing special, dived into deeper water and out of sight, a line of bubbles the only clue to its direction. No wonder I wasn’t catching any fish, I mused. At least I now felt much warmer in my damp raincoat.



I scanned the water upstream once more before accepting the otter had vanished. Turning my head left I looked back at the rod tip as it started to shake and pull over. Surely not a bite? What was happening! I picked up the rod, hands trembling slightly, and was met by solid weight. Solid, moving weigh. Then a violent head shake and deliberate power. I simply couldn’t believe how events had just unfolded. If I’d have had a third arm I would most certainly would have pinched myself. Five hours of redundant actions then ninety seconds of madness. This wasn’t the time to reflect though. I had to concentrate. Already the fish, definitely a barbel, had made several yards on me and was heading for the main flow. I didn’t want it reaching that. I tightened the clutch, the pinging sensation from last week still fresh in my mind. This time, thankfully, the hooklength held and the fish was stopped. I kept the rod high, in an attempt to stop the line grating on any rocks between me and the fish, as the barbel dived into deep water.

A message from the universe


I managed to lead the fish in close, inch by inch coaxing it to the surface, praying the line would hold, grimacing at the thought of unseen snags close in, made accessible by the extra water. As the fish surfaced I could see it was a good size, the net was flung in its general direction, and just in time too. The barbel lunged down and found sanctuary. Thankfully, in the mesh of my net. I rested the fish in the margins and readied the scales. A deep breath and a chance to take it all in. The universe had just treated me to an amazing skyward spectacle, a very close encounter with a beautiful (if controversial) mammal, but as it turned out decided to withhold one ounce from making this fish my first double figure barbel. A wry smile upon a beaming one. Once more rested the fish, another cup of tea, whilst the minutes passing by. Just what else was going to happen? A Sasquatch casually walking out of the field and joining me for a quick brew? I packed the rod away. The barbel, still in the net, was kicking strongly now. Time to let her go.

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Fuel (Entry 153)

To the river it was, another evening session where I hoped to meet up with some of its  fighting fit barbel, no doubt still hiding themselves away from the afternoon sun. The river was still painfully low and clear, even more so than last time, but I felt that a bite or two would be possible if I fished into darkness. The thing I am learning to appreciate about barbel fishing in these conditions is that time seems to tick away a lot slower than usual. This is not to say that it drags, not at all, but the session can be planned and executed with an almost Germanic precision. A bit like bream fishing.

Nature provide if only you look

Bait can be mixed properly and allowed plenty of time to rest. The perfect constancy achieved. This can then be casually fed, a bed of bait laid down in readiness for a few hungry fish to be mesmerised by, then once more simply left to fester for an hour or two. Plenty of time for the rods to be tackled up, rigs tied carefully, and of course, a cup or three of tea consumed. Its quite incredible how much more you can notice when given this extra time. The flora and fauna, the nuances of the river itself, and the the setting it is a part of. How I tried to unsuccessfully blend in, on numerous occasions trout spooking from the shallow margins, alerted by tiny movements from an angler sticking out like a sore thumb.

I made my first cast around eight o’clock, a running rig, light ledger weight, and very long hook length sent two thirds of the way across the river. I’d started fishing with a few casters hoping that I may pick up a chub or two while waiting for the barbel. The fish had other ideas and not a tap registered on the tip.

A change of bait

With the light blue sky starting to darken, dusk was not far away, so the rig was reeled in and the hookbait changed to pellets. Still presented on a short hair in case any big chevins fancied some supper. The swim was topped up with regular helpings of small pellets and it was simply a case of sitting patiently and awaiting the gloom. The sun had been below the horizon for twenty minutes and the sky held on to what was left if its blueness. The rod was yanked savagely. Line began to melt from the spool. The first barbel had been hooked and was heading, turbo charged, up river. Thankfully this direction was away from any visible snags and once I had made up the line, the barbel came in quite placidly, waking up only when in the net. Resting in the margins recovering, was a very healthy looking barbel, a respectably sized one too. What a great result.

A great looking barbel on dusk

It must have been ten minutes before I recast, having made sure that the fish swam away strongly, but no sooner had the lead touched down than the rod was heading upstream once more. The fish lunged more aggressively than the last but fought less frantic, and at the point where the other fish turned, this one kept going. Faster and faster, clutch spinning, heart rate increasing. I managed to turn the fish, gaining several yards of line in the process, before another surging run pulled the rod over. In seconds, twenty yards were lost. Raw power. Heavy weight. I tightened the clutch a tiny amount and ping.

The fish was lost. It was a lot heavier than the first and I feared it may have been a big barbel. The feeling in the pit of my stomach one every angler experiences. One of complete hollow disappointment, fuel for the future though, I tried to convince myself. I had a consolation barbel an hour later. A smaller example but a lovely looking fish. Rested, cared for and returned healthy to this magnificent river. One that obviously holds big fish. Boy, I would loved to have seen what I lost, and maybe I one day will.

A late, little barbel

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Just the session to part on (Entry 152)

They usually turn up quite quickly in your swim, then start to delicately pick on the particles you have provided, sending up little bubbles as a momentary ‘thank you’. At this point the float, which is delicately shotted, remains still. Perhaps drifting slightly in the currents, made near the bottom, by their busy fins. Time to reel in. They are not interested in this hookbait at all and so a change to something more palatable is in order. Yes, that sweetcorn really wasn’t pulling them in but this pellet will. Once more the float settles, the bait flutters down, and expectation grows. Those ‘thank you’s’ begin to mount up but still no bite occurs. You try altering the depth and cast a little further out, or closer in, crucians are fond of the margins after all. But it seems nothing you do can tempt them. Time ticks on.

Just as your sanity is in real danger of vanishing, along with the morning, your float will dip, a tiny, quivering movement, more akin to vibration than motion. You almost strike but in the nick of time manage to subdue your instinct. Don’t bury it to far as you’ll need those reflexes when that float vanishes at lightning speed. Out of a blue the breeze springs up. It catches the line and moves the rig slightly. An intervention from Isaac. Far below the surface a crucian sees an easy meal escaping. Making its own instinctive play the crucian snatches at the bait. All caution forgotten. Ironically, its sweetcorn that’s taken, the bait you started with but was convinced was useless. Time becomes blurred and twisted as the float simply vanishes. The rod is whipped upward. A fish is hooked. It all happens so quickly that you can’t even call to mind the bite that just occurred. An indistinct memory, transparent and incomplete. Maybe it wasn’t even a bite at all? The solid weight at the other end of your line that would suggest otherwise. One hell of a tug of war has begun. And it’s at this point you have just joined me.

The fish fought so powerfully, that for a few seconds, I was convinced I had hooked a tench. Small but brutish tail movements propelled this acute fighter into deeper water, and when for a moment the tail had to stop to gather a second wind, the fish turned on its side and used it deep flank to create as much drag through the water as possible. A foot or so of line was gained before that tail started powering up again. A deadlock lasting thirty seconds or more. A foot in my direction and two against. With the light tackle I was using it was impossible to impart any more pressure on the fish. Not just for fear of snapping the line but of pulling the hook. They had been feeding very delicately and the hook hold would most certainly be a light one. If there is one thing you cannot do when fishing for crucians, it is rush them, both before the take as well as after.

Eventually the fish succumbed to the constant, sapping pressure of the rod and ‘flopped’ to the surface. It’s weird to describe a fish as flopping, especially when in the water, but its the nearest adjective I can think of. They suddenly just give up. Fed up of fighting. Knackered. With pectoral fins waving their strange kind of crucian greeting, this enigmatic block of gold can then be drawn over the landing net as easily as any skimmer bream, or wet sock. A strange, and almost disappointing end, to a very active process. A fish ready to unhook, admire and return. Time to start over again. I hope you’re ready, nerves.

Another brace of two pounders

Over the last six weeks I’ve had a great time fishing for these beautiful fish, and this session was no different, following a tip off from a friend, an early start was observed and I had caught a run of crucians since my arrival. Not thick and fast, more slow and steady, but we all know which one wins the race. I’d had seven so far. Seven two pound crucians topped by a fish one ounce short of three pound and the first of the day. The session was about to take a turn for the worse however as I lost four fish in a row. I then hooked two more fish that would simply refuse to stop. Both required a full re-tackle once the hook pulled. A birds nest created as the rig catapulted back, at close to the speed of sound, and one that Houdini himself couldn’t have untangled.

A trio of big two pound cruciansIt was at this point I stopped and poured a cup of tea. I began to think about the crucian fishing I’d experienced. I didn’t want to simmer and stagnate over the fish that now frustrated and escaped me. I’d much rather look back in fondness on the cunning, but fallible enigmas, I had already had the pleasure of pitting my wits against. And would inevitably do so again. With so many other venues to visit and fish to fathom, I began to feel very content indeed, so much so that I poured another tea. I simply sat and soaked it all in. There was no need to tackle up for a third time. This is possibly the last I will see of the crucians for this season, and if so, then so be it. In my opinion it’s the best way I could leave them. I’ll see you next spring.

A fond farewell

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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,


Soaked and spoilt (Entry 150)

Halfway to the venue I made a u-turn. The reason; I knew deep down it would be out of sorts. Not an hour since making up my mind, I made it up again, and headed to pay another visit to the crucian water. It had been very warm for the week preceding my trip and reports had indicated that the margins of rivers and stillwaters were taking on the same characteristics as bathwater. Lovely and warm. For us humans at least. I had a hunch the fish would be finding it as uncomfortable as this mugginess was for me. But if there was one fish that would give me a chance of a bite during these conditions, I figured it had to be the crucian, the most tolerant of all our fish. Why didn’t I work that out at home? Now there’s a thought.

Bait, at least

I had been heading out to fish for bream and tench so bait choice had already been made. Hemp and sweetcorn. I would have preferred a few more hookbait choices but sitting waiting for a crucian with two baits to choose from trumped watching lethargic bream and tench basking on the surface, whilst my sweetcorn lay nailed to the bottom in ten feet of water. I arrived twenty minutes later. Greeted by threatening clouds gathering on the horizon. In true fishing spirit, I now realised that my umbrella was still in the shed, so wearing just a t-shirt, hoody and (thankfully) some trousers, I began to tentatively set up, whilst the heavy grey clouds rolled over. Rain began to fall, erupting ferociously amongst flashes of brilliant white, the wind rattled through the trees and the thunder boomed.

Thirty Minutes later, and now soaked to the bone, I made my first cast. The sun had returned and for the first time in weeks, I was very grateful for how warm it was, drying me out in next to no time, vapour rising as the water left both my clothes and the surrounding vegetation. The fishing began slowly. A few delicate indications my only reward for the first hour. Across the lake not many fish were moving. Those that did were small, very small, and I certainly didn’t want a shoal of them taking up residence in the area I was fishing.

A very welcome crucian

Persistence paid off as eventually my float lifted, from nowhere just like the storm that had blown in at the start, all hell broke lose.The fish charged around defiantly but was soon played out, admired and respected. Then back to watching a lifeless float. But, a fish had been caught, a beautiful two pound crucian carp. I had to put myself right. This session was proving a lot trickier than previous ones. Time to judge things in the now ratter than comparing them to past events. Especially when you have been well and truly spoilt as I have. I wouldn’t have come anywhere near to catching a specimen fish on my original choice of venue.

A beautiful brace of big two pound crucians

Not a great amount happened during the next few hours, but with my new found philosophy, I was enjoying every minute. I watched a kingfisher taking advantage of the plentiful small fish on offer. A much better angler than I, every dive was rewarded with a catch, not that I was jealous. Well, maybe a little. The light began to drop and with it the temperature. I gave myself another half hour before heading home and in that time caught a further two crucian carp. Both good two pound fish taken in successive casts before I connected with a fish that would not stop. A ‘steam train’ that eventually took my hooklength and left me shaking my head. I have had a few fish that have roared off now and have never seen one of the them. Carp or big tench probably, and if pushed, I would say tench. Angers intuition. Or wishful thinking.

Three crucians on a tough day

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,