June 16th 1995

It was an honour to get a mention over on one of my favourite blogs this week, even if it was regarding my uncanny resemblance to Little Britain’s Andy Pipkin
No hat in this photo, instead I’m sporting the hairstyle of the early-to-mid 90’s – curtains. This was my first four pound chub, caught on June 16th 1995. Tight lines for the new season everyone!
Nice hairstyle... June 16th 1995
Nice hairstyle… June 16th 1995

Fishing like a Fool

I spent a few hours on the Suffolk Stour last week in seemingly perfect conditions only to endure a difficult time of it.

I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I just fished badly. I was chopping and changing methods right up until dusk without ever settling on one, or in one place.

The pre-trip anticipation for what was to be a long-overdue session on my favourite river meant I wanted to try a few different methods for different species, in what amounted to just a few hours fishing time. In hindsight I should have just stuck to one method. Oh well.

I started on a favourite pool using a static, two rod approach – one rod baited with a smelt for pike and the other set up with a maggot feeder for roach and perch. With just one cheeky bullhead that, for the briefest of moments, had me thinking it was something more substantial after he actually made the bobbin dance and alarm bleep, I changed the maggot feeder over to a ledgered lob worm. Then I tried wobbling a smelt through the swim. By 2 o’clock and with the day already closing in, I decided to head over to a different stretch with just a rod and net and a bucket of big baits in search of a chub.

A Stour bullhead
Prehistoric looking little bullhead

There was a fair bit of extra water running through the river – where it had come from I really don’t know – and I immediately regretted not bringing the maggots and a float rod as it looked sock-on for a bit of trotting. But despite the seemingly positive conditions and even in the most reliable of chub swims, I just couldn’t buy a bite. I tried lob worms, paste and boilie, all to no avail. Then I remembered I had an old can of Spam in the bag. I impaled a decent chunk and just as the light was dropping, finally managed to coax a subtle bite that I missed.

The Suffolk Stour at sunset
The Suffolk Stour at sunset

Next cast I just left the bait in position and after a fair old wait I finally had another finicky pull. Fish on. And, at last, a hard-earned Stour chub came to the net. An average sized fish, but a pleasing one.

Suffolk Stour chub
Finally, a fish

An hour on the Stour

I managed to sneak out for an hour on the Stour during a flying family visit to Suffolk at the weekend.

A Sunday morning stroll to clear the cobwebs after a mate’s BBQ on the Saturday evening offered the ideal opportunity to have a quick cast into some of my favourite chub swims of old.

A quick rummage around my Dad’s shed soon revealed what I was hoping to find – a lovely old through action, 10ft bomb rod that is ideal for fishing tight swims. The rod was accompanied by a little reel loaded with 6lb line and I finished the set-up with a size 8 Super Specialist.

I also found a rusted, but intact can of Spam that was just within its ‘Best before’ date.

The river was in good shape. I saw some superb roach along the river with plenty of pound plus fish in amongst the shoals. A particular quartet of roach, feeding casually under a bridge were really good fish and the biggest of them must have been pushing two pounds.

I made my way to an ever productive run and had a little chub first cast. Downstream I hooked a better fish of perhaps 3lbs that gave a great tussle in what is an incredibly narrow side-stream.

Finally, a fish of around two and a half pounds fell for the spam after it had settled in a deeper pool. He appeared from nowhere and snatched the meat after two much bigger chub had showed an interest in the bait. Not bad for an hour’s work.

If you haven’t seen it, there’s a great article about kayak fishing on the Stour in this month’s Improve Your Coarse Fishing.

A Suffolk Stour chub
A nice chub from a very narrow Stour backwater.

The rise of river rudd

There seems to have been a real increase in the numbers of river rudd reported recently. The slow East Anglian rivers and drains, such as the Cam, are producing numbers of big rudd. And judging by the two and three pounders that have been reported to the angling press over the past couple of years, they are the place to go at the moment to bag a big one.

After spotting a decent shoal of good sized fish on the Suffolk Stour I’m desperate to go and have a crack at them. These guys have obviously found the Stour rudd and the spot that they tempted this beauty from is very close to where I spotted ‘my’ shoal of golden beauties during the closed season.

To me it still seems almost unreal that a fish, when they reach a good size and come from clear, clean water, often look like they’re made from solid gold.

Fish spotting

I’ve not managed to even come close to actually going fishing recently, but a flying weekend visit to stay with the folks gave me an opportunity to get on my bike and have a good look around some of my favourite stretches of the Suffolk Stour.

The most encouraging thing was seeing three big shoals of good sized roach in some familiar spots. There were plenty of pound plus specimens
hanging back amongst the smaller fish and the best roach must have been at least one and a half pounds in weight. Roach seem to be making a comeback on the river and I’m sure under the right conditions there will be some good catches made.

I saw plenty of chub in the shallows of a more pacy section of water and a pair of good carp mooching around in the sun by some lilies.

Perhaps the most surprising find was upon peering into an innocuous, shallow backwater that has more in common with a sleepy farm pond
than a flowing river. Initially, I saw a few roach and some skimmers in the upper layers of the water. Then after moving along a few feet, I saw a small group of paler, fuller figured fish with blood red fins – a small shoal of superb rudd hanging back and feeding on the newly hatched flies. What a find. I’ll definitely be targeting those rudd once the season starts, as I’ve only caught a handful of these most beautiful of fishes.

A small group of rudd
A rare creature; Suffolk Stour Rudd

I did manage to sneak out for an afternoon at a local commercial pool on a particularly sunny day at the beginning of April. I was hoping for a big crucian or a decent tench, but the main aim was to simply get out in the sunshine and fish a little float close in for whatever came along.

Setting up the old John Wilson Avon in the unseasonably warm mid-afternoon sun was very pleasant. Although the lake was busy I managed to
drop into a quieter area, with a small bay to my left and some attractive rushes running along my near bank. It was simply a case of lowering a little insert waggler next to the rushes, just off my rod tip and trickling in a decent pinch of maggots and 4mm pellets each cast. I started with double maggot on the hook and it wasn’t long before a succession of nice roach and perch found the bait. Eventually the bream moved in and I had loads of them between a pound and four pounds in weight with just a solitary tench that would have struggled to make eight ounces. A fun day, but I’d have loved to have made contact with one of those elusive crucians.

Chevin chasing

Chub are one of the few species I seem to have a bit of luck with and I’ve managed to catch a few decent fish from different rivers over the years.

Chub are one of the few species I seem to have a bit of luck with and I’ve managed to catch a few decent fish from different rivers over the years. My first five pound chub came from the majestic Dorset Stour in the late nineties; a long, lean summer fish that I’d spotted in a deep hole that couldn’t resist a free lined piece of bread-flake. A decade later I landed my first six pound fish from the same river, again a summer fish that took a little boilie presented tight to a willow. I also spent two years on the fishers green stretch of the river Lee trying to catch a real monster of seven pounds. During my time on that special stretch of water, although I witnessed some amazing chub both in the water and on the bank, I never landed one of its giants.

My favourite river for a bit of chub chasing is the Suffolk Stour, which provides a perfect habitat for the species in the form of oxygenated weir pools, shallow, snaggy backwaters and plenty of natural cover. It’s still a river for bags of fish rather than big individuals and the real fun is experimenting with tactics to see what works on the day. I managed to get out for two short sessions on the river at the end of June, and managed a few lovely chub on a range of tactics – a perfect start to the river season.

The highlight came at dusk after I’d settled into a favourite swim. I’d flicked out a small piece of spam as close as possible to a classic holding spot by some overhanging trees. 30 quiet minutes ended abruptly as the quiver-tip swung round violently, taking me by surprise and I missed the chance. Again, the bait was cast out gently to the same spot, perhaps even closer to the snags this time and the bite was almost instantaneous. The fight was memorable and initially I thought I may have hooked a rouge carp, but eventually I drew a deep, stocky chub over the net. Upon lifting him onto the mat, I knew he was a very good fish for the river. At five pounds and three ounces, he was not only a very good fish but my first ‘five’ from the Stour and my best chub in nearly 20 years of fishing the river.

First fish of the 2010/11 season
My first fish of the 2010/11 season, a fin-perfect chub.
5lbs 3oz Suffolk Stour chub
My first five pound chub from the suffolk Stour.

My tale from the river bank

My mate Nedsy and I had enjoyed a successful autumn pike campaign catching plenty of fish up to a weight of seven and a half pounds, a true giant in our eyes.

***This originally appeared in Anglers Mail, Feb 16 2010. Hope you like it!***

cropped page from the AM.

Lewis Hobson was not a lad to be messed with. At 13, he was not only a year older than us, but also twice as big and his reputation preceded him. Lewis didn’t appear to like many things in life, particularly school, but he was a keen pike fisherman and it was rumoured he had landed many pike over 30 pounds in weight from our local Suffolk Stour.

My mate Nedsy and I had enjoyed a successful autumn pike campaign catching plenty of fish up to a weight of seven and a half pounds, a true giant in our eyes.

It was a particularly cold and bright Saturday morning at the beginning of December when we left the comfort of Nedsy’s warm living room, having finished our traditional piker’s breakfast of pickled onion Space Raiders and Mars bars washed down with sweet tea.

Grabbing our rods, already rigged up from the evening before, and a bag of sprats from the freezer, we made our way to a productive stretch of river where we had managed a brace of four pounders on our previous visit. Before long we were settled in the prime swim by the bridge, our pike floats settling apprehensively in anticipation of the inevitable moment they would be slowly pulled under the glassy surface.  It wasn’t long before I had such a bite and after a brief tussle a nice pike of five pounds was netted, unhooked and carefully returned to the murky depths.

Shortly after, he appeared. It was Lewis Hobson. Lewis was dressed somewhat inappropriately for the weather in baggy jeans and a denim jacket which was undone to reveal a t-shirt that said ‘House of Pain’. He did however have a black woolly hat on which had a rather fetching image of a green leaf and the words ‘Cypress Hill’ across the front. “Caught anything losers?” enquired Lewis, in a tone that didn’t suggest total hatred. Perhaps, I thought, the very fact that we are fishermen like him has saved us from a surely inevitable beating? Upon revealing our success Lewis actually managed a pitiful smirk before telling us he’d already landed a pike of 25 pounds that very morning! As he recalled the tale of his monster pike, I remember thinking that his tackle didn’t look up to much, with line that looked like it had seen better decades rather than days, a curly wire trace that boasted a set of huge, rusty trebles and a rather sorry looking sprat hanging limply on the end. Also, with no landing net how had he netted such a leviathan?

Lewis, again confounding our expectations, actually seemed quite pleased that there were other anglers about that morning as he proceeded to sit down and fish with us. Discarding his decrepit dead-bait and helping himself to a fresh one from our bag, Lewis cast out his huge, ancient looking pike bung rather clumsily, the line struggling through the rings of what seemed to be a sea fishing rod from 1950. Sitting back and lighting up a Benson and Hedges cigarette, Lewis seemed surprisingly at ease with the world. Nedsy and I listened intently and respectfully as Lewis spoke, covering such diverse subjects as his hatred for the ‘townies’ of Sudbury, his love gangster rap and, of course, his astonishing list of giant pike.

And then it happened. Lewis’s bung which was sitting awkwardly between our floats, started to drift sideways, bobbing dramatically as a pike picked up his bait. What happened next surprised Nedsy and I. Lewis, instead of confidently striking and playing the fish as we would have expected such a pike expert to have done, started to look increasingly concerned at the events unfolding. First a look of surprise and then fear spread across his face. “WhaddoIdo , whaddoIdooo?” Lewis pleaded, standing up sharply and moving away from the rod as it started to jerk round. Nedsy stepped in and grabbed the rod and helped Lewis gain control of the pike which after a short tussle, I netted. An immaculate six pounder lay in the bottom of the net. Lewis sat back down. He’d obviously never landed even a modest pike before in his life.

As we sorted everything out Lewis sat quietly looking a little pale and shaken by the experience. “Thanks lads” he said.

Fast forward to Monday morning, back at school and that weekend already seemed like a lifetime ago. Lewis was back to his normal self, recalling another successful pike trip to his mates in the corridor. As Nedsy and I walked past Lewis on our way to double maths, he glanced in our direction and gave us a quick nod, before continuing the tale of his 30 pounder from the bridge.