Monday, 30 January 2012

Surprise Capture On The Dee............

  This week saw the culmination of a selection exercise in work that has been going on for a few months now and could have seen me posted in a new role up to 20 miles away from where I live.  Thankfully I was posted in my current role which was a great weight off my mind and now feel I can concentrate on the year ahead and relax a bit.

  With that decision passed to me late on Friday afternoon it was with an air or celebration I looked forward to the fishing trip the next day and for once the weather was playing ball and with the water levels looking to be falling slightly all looked well for a good days trotting.

My plan was to spend Saturday trotting the River Dee and a few hours on Sunday ledgering for a few chub on the River Dane but unfortunately the Sunday trip never really materialised for one reason or another but luckily all the bait I needed for my session on Sunday is easily frozen and will be all the better for a week marinating in my secret concoction.

 Saturday morning came and unlike the last few weeks I loaded the car in completely calm conditions, not a breath of wind and what a relief it was.  Calm conditions are, I find, one of the best for trotting in as you can not only control the line your float trots a lot easier but also dot your float right down to detect even the most shy of bites.

We arrived on the banks of the Dee just as the glow of the new day was showing in the distance and quickly set up our gear in the early morning light.  The early morning temperature was a at best struggling to hover above zero but with a clear sky overhead we knew we were in for a warm mild day once the sun rose and where both optimistic for the day ahead.

  The swim I chose to fish is one I had fished in the summer and looked forward to seeing how it fished after a cold frost as this year has always been one of discovery on the Dee, learning the good spots and how different stretches fish throughout the year and so far there has been a lot of positive outcomes from our trips in all conditions to the various stretches.

The swim if I am honest started off quite slow and took me a good half an hour to put together a few dace but eventually the fish got their heads down and the bites became a bit more predictable as the fish held at the end of my trotting line and in time the quality of the dace improved with the odd nice dace coming to the net like the one shown below.

Not long after this nice dace went into the net did the float bury right over my hemp and I struck into a fish that felt totally different to any fish I have caught before it felt really big but lacked the pulsating fight of a dace or a roach and after a few second of playing the fish all the fight suddenly disappeared and I lifted the line out of the water thinking the fish had come off only to find to my amazement a flat fish on the end of the line.  I have heard so many people say to me they have caught these fish on the Dee but till Saturday I have not managed it myself yet and what a welcome surprise it was and I have to say what a cracking bite it was as well.

My uncle on the peg next to me had been picking up a great mix of fish including grayling, trout and salmon par  along with the usual dace and roach while myself had a more uniform bag of all dace and of course the flatty.

The day continued to go from strength to strength till around 2pm when my swim just died completely to the point I couldn’t even muster a bite no matter how much bait I put in and with around half an hour to go managed to connect with a fish that instantly disappeared as soon as I hooked it.  The line flying back at me had a clean break on it so it was obvious a pike was to blame.

I decided instead of setting up again I would have an hour or so and chance my arm for a late afternoon pike.  Out went a dace bait and after around a 25 minute wait the float slid away and I connected with a pike hell bent on getting into a sunken tree to my right, luckily I was well booted with 15lb line and a strong trace so I was able to turn the pike and soon lay on landing net.

 I would like to take this opportunity to again mention a bit about pike safety, pike is one species of fish that you really need to do your homework on before trying to catch and ideally a few trips with someone who pike fishes is ideal to teach you how to handle and unhook a pike so please if you think of targeting these fish try and go with an experienced angler of at least attend one of the many Pike Angling Club open days that they run across the whole country.  I personally was lucky to grow up a stone’s throw from a prolific pike canal and have handled and caught pike all my life but I still see far too many people on the local canal pike fishing without a landing net and forceps!!.

  After returning the pike to the river we decided to photograph and weigh our nets.  I weighed in at 11lb 10oz and my uncle pipped me with a net of 12lb 11oz and we both left the river content after an enjoyable day on the bank.

My net:

Uncle net

Next week will hopefully see us back on the River Dee and baring overtime being on in work I should be making up for a missed visit to the River Dane for some chub action.

Till next week

Tight lines


Monday, 23 January 2012

Gale Force Trotting on the Dee

This week my attention has solely been on work and at one point last week it seemed there was going to be little chance of getting on the river bank to wet a line, what with overtime going in work and the forecast of really bad weather I actually was thinking that a weekend away from fishing might just be a good thing.  This was my feelings on a cold Monday afternoon in work having been fishing the previous day but by Friday the need for my fishing fix was burning strong within and it was with a beaming smile I received the news that overtime was only going on Sunday and quickly arranged a fishing trip with my uncle the following day to the River.

  The weather all week had been relatively settled that was until Thursday night when the rain started to come down quite heavily and didn’t show any signs of relenting and sure enough I awoke on Friday to the pitter patter of rain and hail peppering the front door.  This weather continued for the whole day and the forecast for the following day didn’t bring any good news with gale force winds due to hit over night. 

This amount of rain falling was certainly going to have an effect of the already saturated water table and in turn the river levels and sure enough a quick check on the EA site on Friday night showed the levels to be rising slowly but still well with a fishable level and I set to work on making some hook lengths for the following day.

 I have only recently started tying my hook lengths the night before and I must admit it saves so much time on the bank, both when setting up and of course when you inevitably loose hook lengths during the session.  Friday nights hook tying session was adeptly done whilst watching the movie Jaws and must admit to having a little chuckle to myself as I sat there tying size 20 hooks to 1lb 7oz breaking strain line whilst the famous scene on Jaws played out where the two men are hooking up their missus Sunday Roast to the biggest hook ever and tying it to the jetty, if only they had finely tuned their drag eh lol.

  Saturday morning came and upon opening the door to load up the car I was greeted with howling gale force winds which had the tall trees opposite my house bent double!! My honest thought at the time was I must be absolutely mad!! Looking at it though I think all river anglers have that must needed streak in them to love the branch of the sport we do.  Arriving at my uncles we quickly checked the river levels and realised they had again risen overnight and we set off hoping to find a secluded corner of the Dee out of the wind.

Arriving at our chosen venue it became apparent as soon as we arrived that we were not the only fishermen mad enough to contemplate fishing in such conditions and most of the “better pegs” where already taken and to make matters worse a few of the pegs that where left where unfishable due to the high water levels.  I decided to set up on a peg I had fished before and I knew held some decent fish while my uncle set up further upstream.  My new basket again made the peg I was fishing so much more comfortable to fish and had I still been using my old blue Shakespeare box I would have been facing a day stood up trotting but with this box and footplate I could look forward to a comfortable days trotting.

As you can see from the pictures above even the ready-made pegs on the river are a far cry from the cleanly prepared pegs we are treated to when we are on our spring and summer campaigns on the commercial’s and I would say overalls or even better a thermal bib and brace are a must for any fishermen looking to fish in winter, even if only for the sake of your car’s interior. 

After setting up the peg the next thing I do is set the rod up and holding 17ft of carbon in the air certainly gives you an idea of how strong the wind is and believe me Saturday was as bad as it has been since I have started to write this blog and in all honestly feeder fishing would have been the more sensible option but I really do love trotting on the Dee and decided to give it a go and if it really did become impossible to trot a float down then a feeder rod is only a few minutes to set up.

The video above shows the true magnitude of the wind and at time resembled more a rough day by the seaside than it did a day on the river with waves rolling upstream that wouldn’t look out of place on Bondi Beach.  The swim itself was deep just of the rod tip and had a gentle flow to is and I after a first trot through I thought to myself I could be in for a few fish judging by how the float was running through the swim and that is when my problems started, second trot down the float buried and I struck into something solid, no not a pike like the last few weeks but a snag and a good one at that that took my hook length.  Another hook length was quickly tied on and a adjusted my trotting line and hoped to miss the snag and again the float buried a quick strike and I was connected again with a snag, not a good start at all and it was on with another hook length and another line and thank fully this one was clear but a bit to bar out for my liking and very hard to feed in the gusting wind and all it wasn’t long before my fist fish of the day was on the bank, a fin perfect roach.

  The wind till now had been gusting up stream and the tree at the bottom of the trot had protected me from the worst of it but a slight change in direction saw the wind blowing my float into the bank and into the territory of that snag and for the next hour or so I caught a total of six fish and the snag two more times.  The most frustrating thing about it was I knew the fish where there if I missed the snag it was a bite every time but in the end there was only one option and that was a change of peg and I moved upstream to another peg that was a lovely trot down to a sunken tree and more importantly snag free.

The new swim was ten times better than the previous one and it was not long before I was into some fish and it was no surprise to see the majority of the fish I caught in this swim where dace due to the extra pace it contained and as both me and my uncle have come accustomed to now on the River Dee all the dace where of a high quality and average weight truly magnificent trotting and after the torture of the freezing cold blank last week we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves taking nice dace steadily throughout the day and my uncle even catching a few bonus grayling to again demonstrate the diversity and cleanness of the Dee at this moment in time.

The morning’s when you are struggling go so slow but when you are into the fish and catching the days go by so very fast and Saturday was no different, the time just went nowhere and before long it was that time again to pack and as the light faded we began to load up the car for the journey home and the end of another adventure on the banks of this most elegant rivers.

my net

 uncles net

(the net pictures get worse every week lol)

The river season now only has a few weeks left until its three month break and we both intent to make the most of the few weeks we have left to fish her, talk on Saturday inevitably turned to future trips in pursuit of carp, tench, crucians and that most beautiful of summer fish, the rudd and a few destinations are already earmarked for a visit. This year has been dominated by river fishing and the close season will offer the blog some diversity away from trotting and barbel fishing but already the thought of leaving the river is in the back of our minds and come march 16th we will hopefully have a few more nets lined with silvers to enjoy to help us through the longest three months in the river anglers year.

Till next time

tight lines


Monday, 16 January 2012

Grand Theft Farndon

Before we get onto the blog this week I would like to send my thoughts out to the families of the Angler than lost his life on the River Trent over the weekend and may this event heed as a warning to all anglers across the country as to the dangers of fishing our rivers, not only at this time of year, but all through the seasons. Take care and be keep safe.

This week saw the publication of an article in the Angling Times rag of the 30lb pike caught from the River Mersey which is sure to arouse more attention to this once severely polluted waterway.  Reading the article you get a sense of the lengths specimen anglers will go to for their quarry from crawling on his belly through brambles to the monetary costs of breaking five rods in the process not to mention the hours he spent each week fishing this spot for its giant resident.

Living on the banks of the River Mersey myself you always hear stories on the grapevine and in this last year alone I have heard nothing but positives from this local river which come from the full length of its course from salmon running the river higher up, 40lb plus weights coming out in matches        in Warrington, 20lb plus carp being caught and even the estuary is making a comeback with numerous anglers now sea fishing from Spike island in Widnes all this bodes well for the future and who knows in a few years time I may not have to travel to Wales for a good days dace fishing, fingers crossed!!!

On to this week’s fishing which I am really pleased to say was back on the River!!! (finally!!)

  With the weather settling and the rain that had caused our rivers to flood now reduced to a few small showers the River Dee finally showed some sign of falling a process that would take a few days of little rain to be any where near fishable by the next weekend.  Every morning I tentatively pulled back the curtains and prayed there had been no overnight heavy downpours and religiously checked the EA site to track the waters decent.  Thursday morning came and still no rain and the river levels had dropped to around 6.5m at Farndon, al level I knew would still be tough fishing but was definitely fishable and with frosts due the next day and all weekend I hastily booked the following day off work with a view to fishing Farndon the next morning, all that stood between that was a gruelling overtime shift in work till 7.30pm!!.

Red clear sky at 4pm from work window confirmed I was in for a bitter cold calm on the bank.

  Thursday night was taken up preparing my hemp and creating a few hook lengths for the following day but it is a task I now have come to love as it means fishing the following morning and this week it was a day earlier than normal, rigs prepared and hemp cooling I was all set for a day on the river the following morning.

  The alarm clock ringing in my ear at 6am was regrettably not put back on a 10 minute snooze and it was closer to 7am when I left my house for the river bank and was undoubtedly an error that would see me not getting a peg on such a busy stretch of river.  The whole journey there down the motorway I refused to let myself even think about what lay ahead as to not be disappointed when I arrived but to my amazement I pulled into an empty car park when I arrived at Farndon and was a sight that could only mean two things either one the river was fishing poorly or two the cold sharp frost that hit on Friday had seen a few anglers turn over and give it a miss.

I pulled up in a peg that although wasn’t the best peg on the beat was one that would allow me to fish comfortably and that is exactly what I was looking for on such a bitterly cold day.  My first view of the river took me back as she looked to have a bit more water in that I expected but once I saw the peg I realised it wasn’t so bad with it just covering the bottom step. 

With the first step out of bounds this would normally have seen me standing for the entire session on the next step up but with my new seat box I could easily fit the first four legs on the second step and have the foot plate legs extended down onto bottom step and made for a really comfortable days fishing sat trotting the river, worth the purchase already in my eyes.

The river itself was like ice with not a breath of wind to cause any problems with presentation and although the main flow was moving at some pace as the rain water filed off the water in front of me was at a more manageably pace so I decided to scrap the heavy 5gram bolo float I had intended to use and went with a much more sensitive stick float dotted right down to detect the slightest most delicate of bites.

During the first part of the session there was a lot of commotion from peg 1 closest to the bridge and upon investigating I found out it was the Environment Agency removing the debris that had got lodged behind the arches of the bridge in the recent floods and great to see them hard at work so soon after the floods have subsided.  The commotion caused by the operation was as expected loud but the speed at which they worked was outstanding and certainly earned my praises and within an hour had completed their job and packed away.

The fishing from the off was like any other recent visit to farndon, fast and furious, with bites coming in quick succession as the fish held over my hemp offerings and as time wore on the quality of the fish improved and saw me taking the fish below  a chunky roach that was holding in the inside slack.  The inside line produced some decent fish through out the session but trotting that line was lined with danger as there was a hook length stealing snag lying on the bed of the river that greedily took three hook lengths off me in the space of an hour and although that line produced some decent roach I quickly decided to go with the line further out that was producing small dace.

Not long after this roach I was happily fishing away when out of the corner of my eye I caught the sight of two men walking along the top of the path in suits, very unusual I thought as the location I was fishing in farndon is more accustomed to fishermen, ramblers and dog walkers and I just thought they where looking at the derelict houses that line the fishing at Farndon and carried on with my fishing.

A few more roach and dace came to the net when I heard the guy on the peg next to me speaking to someone about these two people in suits and as she walked past the top of my peg I realised it was a police woman who had been talking to him and with that all hell broke loose with two police cars turning up and coppers getting out with sniffer dogs followed by the police helicopter arriving overhead and methodically flying low above our heads and the surrounding village.  I remember thinking whatever they have done it must be serious and I must admit I was just glad I had decided against going the loo a few minutes earlier!!!!

  The helicopter seemed to stick around for what seemed like and age just scouring the area and as the commotion was taking place towards the end of the stretch I got back to my fishing that had hit a mixed patch as the bites where more scrappy as if the fish where darting in and out of the peg for the bait and I also remember looking down at my keep net to see all my catch up in the net and this is always a sure fire sign that there is a pike down there somewhere.

The distance I was trotting was improving cast on cast to try and search the fish out  and after around 20-30 minutes without a bite I eventually hooked into a decent dace right at the bottom of the trot and just as it was coming into sight from nowhere a pike nailed it and slowly headed into the depths.  The pike was solid on the bottom of the river and there was nothing I could do with it every time I got it half way up in the water column it made a strong run back to the bottom and was on the line for 5-10 minutes before it spat the bait out, as you can see from the video below it was a decent pike judging by the bend in the rod.

  In these scenarios I never get too confident and reach for the net as 99 times out of 100 the pike will either bite through your line or let go of the fish and that can be at any time in the fight even at the point where you have it on top beat!! Only rarely does the hook transfer from the fish into the pike and hook somewhere its teeth cant cut through the line and you get them in.  The dace was a right mess when I finally got it in.

The pike during the fight really did cover the whole of my peg and to be honest the fishing never really recovered I did catch steadily through out the day but nothing like I had at the start and the fish never really got their heads down over the bait again and as the day wound on the fish in fact came up in the water and had I packed my pole I am sure I would have had them one a chuck on the drop.

Below are the final pictures of the nets and of course they never do them justice.

  All in all it was a very enjoyable day on the bank and was so good to be back on the river again, canals are great places and my time on them in the past few weeks produced some lovely pike but the rivers just hold that magic about them that is so addictive.

I nipped out on Sunday for a few hours with my uncle to another stretch on the dee that fished well in the summer and really struggled but what we where treated to was a visit form the resident swans from summer with their nearly fledged cygnets.  Any one that followed this blog back at the start of summer will appreciate this following picture as the small family we met on a warm summer morning has come through the rough and smooth one the river and come out the other side, a sight that warmed up even the coldest morning on the bank.

till next time

tight lines 


p.s searched high and low for what the guys in suits had done on local news but turned up nothing.

Monday, 9 January 2012

would not like to be a roach...............

This week saw a relentless barrage of weather batter the UK with wind gusts reported over 100mph in Scotland and we also felt the full force of the wind locally with the evidence of its destruction all too apparent on my drive into work with parts of roof’s littering the road and fallen trees causing my main road into work to be closed.

  The wind was really an after event to the rain that came before it, the relentless deluge of rain dampening my hopes of getting on the river at the weekend with every drop.  The River Dee was thinning off nicely for the first part of the week till the rain hit and after that it ran constantly at 8.5m at Farndon and at them levels would have flooded the low lying fields in the Dee valley area.

  Listening to the radio on my way home only confirmed this as reports came in the EA in Wales had placed 22 rivers on flood watch and issued a flood warning for all of the lower Dee valley around midnight when the rain water was due to reach those areas.  The true magnitude of water that must run into this river for it to stay in flood for three days defies belief and shows the massive catchment area of this river.

  With the whole of the country receiving a soaking it also meant the tiny River Dane was also running high up the banks also and put pay to any trip to running water barring a trip to the River Gowy.  After a bleak trip last time we decided to again put out faith in the local canals praying we would find the pike well fed leaving the silvers to feed in peace.

On to this weeks fishing:

  After a lot of deliberation on Friday evening we narrowed the two venues we would be looking at the next day down to the Bridgewater Canal or the Trent and Mersey Canal with the first one being our preferred destination due to holding a bit of colour at the moment but the final decision would only be made once we seen how the stretches where being effected by the wind due to come in over night.  Sods law isn’t it you sit in work all day Friday in perfect calm with blue skies, wonderful conditions to wet a line but soon as you walk out of those doors from work the weather changes.

  The rest of Friday night was spent preparing my bait for the next day with slices of Warbutons bread being liquidised and a few slices being prepared for the hook.  The only other change I made to last week was I decided to purchase some pinkies instead of the normal regular maggots I had been using in an attempt to see if this improved things on last weeks catch.

In all honesty the canals have been a bit of a let down for me as I was really looking forward to catching a few skimmers on my lighter match kits on my pole this winter and so far it hasn’t materialised at all I know it is nothing wrong with my rigs presentation as I cant really refine it any more than a size 22 hook with a 1lb hook length, its about as refined as fishing gets in England. 

 I am not one for making excuses about my fishing but the first visit to the canal was when it was frozen solid and icy cold which is always tough and last weeks visit was never going to be easy with so many predators in the area, silver fish are always going to be tough with 5 pike lurking in and around your swim.

With the possibility of us fishing the Trent and Mersey again on Saturday I put my small 6ft pike/boat rod my dad bought for me as a kid for literally a few quid for lure fishing the canal near my house and to be honest I have spent many hours fishing for pike on this rod and never ever caught one in fact I think the only fish I ever caught on it was a nice carp when I used it for fishing for carp under some overhanging willow so a trip out for this rod was well overdue and I packed it into my holdall in case it was needed to sort out some more toothy critters.

  We arrived at my uncles around 7.20am, late as usual and boy are we going to feel it when we get back into the river fishing, we straight away headed for the local Bridgewater Canal at Daresbury, a journey that only takes around 10 minutes by car from my house so we arrived as the new day was just starting to show on the horizon and already the wind was howling along the canal causing waves that would make the surfers on Newquay beach nervous!! A quick check around the bend and it was, in fact, worse than the stretch by the bridge we then took a detour to the Bridgewater at Moore to find the wind still blowing a hoolie and far to strong to pole fish in so we decided to put all our eggs in one basket and take whatever the Trent and Mersey Canal had to throw at us.

We pulled up in the lay bye and there was a big feeling we where running later than we would normally as it was already day light by the time we had made the short journey to our chosen swims for the day.  The good thing about pole fishing is how quickly you can get fishing and after pluming the two lines I wanted to fish I was all set to go.  In went a nugget of liquidised bread over my straight out line and a sprinkling of maggots went in my second line right next to the stick ups to my left.  My dad and uncle set up to my left a round 2 match pegs apart, my dad on the whip and my uncle like me on the pole.

  There really isn’t a lot to say about the silver fishing other than it was absolutely diabolical and a non event!! By noon my uncle had had 2 small roach on bread and my dad a sole perch on the whip while I had given each line a decent amount of time with nothing to show.  I then noticed the reeds bang on my maggot line like they do when a tench moves through them in summer and definitely was not the wind, which was blowing in big gusts from time to time.

The water was so gin clear I could see my small bed of bread on the bottom on the far side and this also must have added to the fishing being hard going but it was while making a quick change over to my bread line I saw a big shape go over the bread and I knew from its shape it was certainly a pike!!.  I moved over my maggot line and after messing with the depth earlier on I had lost where I was a began pluming the depth and as I lifted the plummet it felt like it was grabbed for a split second and upon inspecting it I could see definite teeth marks on it.

  Knowing how active the pike where last week I knew to have any chance of a decent afternoon I had to try and move this pike on and I quickly set up a simple pig rig with a barbless treble and a pike float stopped with a stop knot so the bait was in the upper layers and out went a perch bait.


  The bait bobbed around for a bit until I moved it over where my maggot line was and within seconds the float disappeared and I was into a pike, no wonder we where struggling with so many pike about and being that active.  The pike was aggressive in the fight as all pike are with its violent runs for the sanctuary of the reeds and the head shaking as it got closer in trying its best to throw the hooks.  Thankfully I had a good hook hold and the pike was soon being unhooked on the bank.  Pike are known for being aggressive fish and are a fish you can take your time unhooking and getting a picture with and are good fish for going back well but you must be equipped to unhook these fish, forceps, pliers and bolt cutters are a must as under no circumstances should hooks be left in the mouth of a fish they can easily lock their throat shut and I sincerely hope all anglers are now past the stage of throwing these beautiful creatures up the bank they have a right to be in the water just as any other fish and let nature strike its own balance.


 After returning this fish further up the bank I got back onto my pole fishing line and expected to wait a bit after the commotion but was hopeful some fish would move in.  After two long hours I had given up all hope and decided to spend the last hour watching my uncle and dad who had picked up one or two more small fish but nothing to say it was a decent day and around 3.30pm I returned to my peg to pack away.  As I was packing my gear away I saw a much bigger fish swirl off the reeds as it must have taken a fish and caused one hell of a splash as it did so, this pike was a lot bigger than the one I had returned and decided to spend the last half an hour with the pike rod out.

In all honestly it took no more than 3o seconds for the small roach bait to be taken and from the off this fish was in another league all together as it almost reached the reeds time after time and even with 10lb maxima line I was struggling to cushion its hard runs, boy do these fish scrap!! It was not long into the fight my dad got a glimpse of the fish in the water and said it was a decent pike and take it easy on it.  Pike are known for their explosive fighting and this one was no different short spells of it being heavy on the line followed by long hard dynamic runs but eventually to my arms relief the fish tired and was in the net.


Its taken me years of catching pike to get comfortable around them and it really is something you need to be confident with as with this fish one hook was in its mouth and easy to remove while the second was deeper down towards the top of its mouth and when handling these fish you need to be firm and confident and take your time and that’s what I did and soon enough the fish was unhooked and having its picture taken.

It topped the scales at 10ob 11oz and is a new blog record fish and to be honest only the second double figure pike I have ever caught and certainly the biggest in recent memory.  This year really has been a bumper year for pike both on the river and the canal for me personally and you have to admire the beauty of these fish they are truly beautiful fish to look at, so many colours.  This picture below, you followers on twitter will have seen as I posted it on Sunday night but I definitely do not want to be reincarnated as a roach on the Trent and Mersey Canal.


Till next week

Tight lines