Stags, Festivals and Tench

May has been fairly hectic all-round, yet I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of short early morning trips on my local tench pool this month.

Spring dawn - tench time
Spring dawn – tench time

The first session right at the beginning of May was fantastic – a number of big, lumpy tench fell to simple float fishing tactics using three dead red over loose fed dead maggots.

4lbs 2oz web

4lbs 12oz tench web

The silkweed in this clear, deep venue is really thick and carpets the bottom, so the dead maggot approach works well as they don’t crawl away and they’re light enough to not sink into the weed too deeply – plus the tench love ‘em!

Unfortunately so do the great big eels that live here and the second session was tench free – despite the swim, at times, absolutely bubbling away – it was only a couple of big snakes that took the hookbait.

eel web

Still, in terms of enjoyment, I can’t think of many things to rival sitting in the early morning sun catching big and wild fish on the float from a lily fringed pool, all before the world wakes up.

We also went along to the latter stages of the annual Wye River Festival that takes place along much of the river through spring.

The 2016 festival programme saw all sorts of activities, performances and locations – including a sound installation at Redbrook and torchlight procession at Llandogo. It was good fun and you can’t help but embrace the distinctly pagan undertones running through much of the festival.

The overarching theme was: Celebrating of the outstanding landscape of the Wye and our complex and universal relationship with water – undoubtedly something all anglers can relate to!



These gentle activities were in complete contrast to my mate Joe’s stag-do over in Dusseldorf, also this month. A brilliant city and great people, we had a blast. A real highlight was heading over to Cologne to take in a third tier (3. Liga) match between SC Fortuna Koln and FC Erzgebirge Aue.

We’d timed it to perfection as Erzgebirge Aue needed a win to secure promotion, which they duly did. A full on pitch invasion took place on the final whistle which we all got involved in! Both sets of fans were great and it was a real party atmosphere. Good fun.

SC Fortuna Koln vs FC Ezgebirge Aue

Fishing For Fun in the Afternoon Sun

The sun’s warming afternoon rays had enticed the great British public out to the beach in search of some traditional Easter holiday fun. Sand and sea. Shells and ice creams. Picnics and pints.

Sunset over the beach
Sunset over the beach

Shell web

While mooching around the beach, I knew the sunshine would be having a similar effect on the local carp population.

And so, a few days later, I decided to head out to a local, shallow pool for a few hours fishing for fun in the afternoon sun.

The carp here aren’t big, in the grand scheme of things, but after a winter of roach fishing a carp getting on for double figures looks bloody huge!

Common carp web

And I had a blast, waggler fishing under the rod tip, 4lbs line to a size 16 and double maggot as bait.

Despite the warmth, it had snowed up in the valleys a couple of days previously and I wondered if this spring fed pool may be feeling the effects of that. So I opted for maggots as bait and it proved a wise move.

As well as a number of lumpy carp I had four tench, each of which had me wondering if I’d hooked one of the pool’s ultra-rare monster perch.

There was no mistaking those carp though, as they tore off on those intital thirty or forty yard runs. Great fun.

One in the net!
One in the net!
A chunky mirror carp
A chunky mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp
Macro shot of a stunning, heavily plated mirror carp

Sunday Evening Breaming

I couldn’t help but notice I was sliding down the Bloggers Challenge list quicker than this Championship season’s big bottlers, Derby County… (Good luck at Newcastle Shteeve!)

So, with literally two hours free on Sunday evening I went out in the hope of picking up some much needed Stillwater points before the rivers open.

The venue I’d decided on – a club water with a massive stock of bream of all sizes and varying numbers of most other common stillwater species – is an attractive place to spend an early summers evening, float fishing for whatever comes along.

Fishing a float next to some lily pads - a fine way to spend a summer evening
Fishing a float next to some lily pads – a fine way to spend a summer evening

I knew I’d tempt roach and slabs, and indeed by the end of the evening I was getting a lovely, solid bream every cast on the float, almost under my feet. I was hoping one of the venues big, old cruicians might show up – but they never did.

Still, a nice way to spend a couple of hours and earn a few points…

South Wales slab
South Wales slab
Dusk by the pool
Dusk by the pool

Bloggers Challenge – Tench Time

So, the great Fishing Blogger’s Challenge of 2015/16 is underway! Big-up Russell, Jeff and George for setting it all up.

I think it’ll help me focus on looking for some of the more obscure point scoring opportunities through the year; encourage me to explore a bit beyond what I already know; and perhaps even force me to get out on the bank a little more. I’m looking forward to it.

My efforts began on bank holiday Monday in search of tench. My local venue is just starting to produce a few green beauties and there’s always the chance of a (locally) big fish – I had one of 8lbs 1oz this time last year.

I arrived around 6.30am, with a view to fishing until 9.30 or 10. It was calm and sunny and patches of pin-prick bubbles could be seen erupting sporadically around the deep, clear lake, showing the tench were indeed on the feed.

My plan was to float fish close-in. Nothing complicated – the old John Wilson Avon rod, 6lbs line and corn or pellet on a short hair fished over regular, golf ball sized nuggets of micro pellet laced groundbait.

The plan was to float fish - but the wind made it hard to do so.
The plan was to float fish – but the wind made it hard to do so.

I swear it was on the first cast that the wind started to filter down the lake, and after an hour or so it became virtually impossible to float fish effectively. To compound my frustration, when the wind did drop a touch I could see patches of bubbles emanating from where my groundbait was.

Time for a rethink. I switched over to a straight lead and simply watched the tip of the Avon rod.

It really was no more than a couple of minutes before the tip whacked round and I was in. After a reasonable tussle a bloody huge eel presented itself on the surface – I was already thinking of the challenge points when it found the hole in my landing net and went straight through. I tried, and failed, with a kind of reverse landing technique, swore a bit before applying brute force in an effort to land the thing. I almost didn’t mind when the hooklink parted.

I introduced some more groundbait and flicked out the bait again. The wind was really driving down the lake by this point and although the sun was warm, the wind chill made it a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately another bite and really good tussle saw my first tench of the day in the net. I forgot about the cold wind instantly. A short stocky male tench of 4lbs 1oz was my reward and I was again reminded how much I enjoy fishing for these beautiful fish. I always find clear water tench far more stunning than their murky water dwelling cousins, taking on that wonderful deep green/yellow belly combination.

Off the mark - a lovely 4lbs 1oz male tench.
Off the mark – a lovely 4lbs 1oz male tench.

I added another female fish of around three pounds to complete the brace before heading home for a bank holiday breakfast, very happy.

Perch and Portman Road

It was my birthday just recently. And as it was my birthday and because I really do enjoy float fishing for perch more than any other type of fishing at the moment, I went float fishing for perch.

I decided on my usual short session and arrived just after lunch. The lake was clear of ice, even if the water was extremely cold. I tacked up my new Drennan Red Range 13ft silver fish float rod (a brilliant tool, by the way – slim, responsive and a pleasure to use and only fifty quid or so!) with an insert waggler, three pound mainline and a two-and-three-quarter pound hooklink and finished with a size 18 hook. I had a feeling a maggot approach would pay off with the water so cold, so I started off feeding just ten or so every cast and used a double red offering on the hook.

A few small roach came quickly before it all went ominously quiet. But it was for good reason that those little roach disappeared as no more than 30 or 40 minutes into the session, I had the bite I was hoping for. Upon striking the solid resistance and firm, angry headshakes told me a big perch had arrived early. And she was a beauty – 2lbs 5ozs of stripy perfection.

After such a quick result, I was hoping there may be a few other perch around, but by the time I’d cast back out the small roach had returned and the perch had gone. I had plenty of roach, skimmers and even a pretty little linear mirror carp, but by about three o’clock it all switched off and I never had another bite – I expect the fish are feeding in patches during the warmest part of the day.

A big cold water perch.
A big cold water perch.

Then on Saturday I travelled back to see the folks. I was thinking of sneaking in a couple hours on the Suffolk Stour after a chub, but the sleet put me off to be honest. And anyway I had more important matters to attend to – Ipswich vs Wigan with the old man. Terrible game, but it was fantastic being back at Portman Road. We had season tickets for years, but being in London and now out West as well as having a young family has limited the opportunities I get to go and see them.

Great to be back at Portman Road with the old man.
Great to be back at Portman Road with the old man.

McCarthy has worked wonders and we’re finally seeing a bit of positivity around the club after the dark days of Keane and, particularly, Jewell. It was great to see young Tyrone Mings in action too. Always a split second ahead of the others on the pitch, he is genuinely comfortable on the ball – unlike the majority playing on Saturday who when they received a pass simply wanted rid as soon as possible – and incredibly strong, yet graceful. Things didn’t always work out for him on the day, but he got over it quickly and moved on without fuss. A class act, I’m sure he’ll go far.

The close season is looming. Lots of ideas and plans – another crack at the perch, a trotting trip or two and maybe another go for a big pike – quite which of those I’ll get around to before the 15th remains to be seen.

Perch and Pikeels

I went to try and catch a big perch from a local pond at the weekend. During my last visit in September, I sat in a t-shirt and had probably two dozen feisty perch to over a pound and a half in weight. So confidence was high as I arrived for an afternoon session on a colder, overcast afternoon. The plan was to see if any bigger perch were around.

We’d had a good bit of rain on the days prior to my visit and on arrival the water colour told me everything I needed to know – it was going to be a struggle. A feeder stream had emptied thousands of gallons of tea coloured water into the lake, turning it 50 shades of Pantone 7412 C.

Pantone 7412 C - not a shade to instil confidence...
Pantone 7412 C – not a shade to instil confidence…

It was frustrating as the weather has already seen off two perch trips this autumn – the rain doing for a planned day with Monty and Hurricane Gonzalo halting the other scheduled trip on the Grand Union with my mate Rob, who’s quietly been getting amongst some good fish this year.

Oh well. I decided to stick it out, but I knew deep down it wasn’t going to happen. I did get some nice roach in the end, but even they disappeared after a couple of hours.

An iridescent lake roach
An iridescent lake roach

I hope the rain doesn’t completely finish off any chances of some decent winter river fishing, but it’s not looking good. Still, winter commercial perch fishing is something I enjoy a lot, so it’s something to fall back on.

Daggertooth pike conger
Dear old Matt Hayes. He gets a bit of stick on the forums and social media, but I think he comes across as a decent chap. He certainly takes a good photo. He recently posted an image on Twitter – don’t think it was one of his – of a Japanese pike eel. Now there’s something I’d never seen before. A quick Google brings up all sorts about these fish and what must be either the same species or a close relation, the Daggertooth pike conger. The stuff of nightmares!

Japanese pike eel
Japanese pike eel

Autumn perch

They may be at their heaviest right at the very beginning of spring, but come the autumn, I can’t resist fishing for perch.

Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves

Dropping something wriggly, suspended beneath a bulbous float, into deep, slack water, preferably close to cover, is the only way to fish for them in my eyes – real boys own stuff.

A river perch lair
A river perch lair

I had a succession of stunning perch last week from both the river and a local pool. While the river is low, they make for a far more enthusiastic target than the chub and barbel.

A perfect Wye perch
A perfect Wye perch
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A decent river perch from a deep pool
A chunky pond perch
A chunky pond perch