Friday, 30 November 2012

"Barbaric" conditions on the Dee see us heading for Flushing Meadows Fishery

A warm welcome to this weeks blog update.  This week saw the whole of the country drenched in what seemed an endless deluge of rain, with the flood plains still saturated and the water table high our rivers soon began to rise and as the rain continued to our down some of our rivers approached bursting point.

As many of the regular followers of my blog will know the River Dee is my preferred river of choice and in my few years of fishing her I have built up a bit of knowledge about the water levels, what is normal summer level, what is the normal winter level are all information I hold in my armoury as a river angler so when I saw the EA chart below I knew instantly the river was well above the normal level and had in fact burst its banks. 

On the diagram above the top image shows the River Dee at its normal summer level and the image below that shows the same stretch on Tuesday at midday.  The two images high light two things to me about river fishing, one is the depth of the water, believe it or not on the summer image there are depths not more than a rod length out from the bank of over 10ft and more so just imagine how deep that water is on the second image with the entire bank covered.  Two is the steep banks and the water clarity, the water here on image two on Tuesday would have been very coloured with poor visibility and the steep drop off to the bank would have been invisible to the human eye, hidden by the murky water. 

I mention the above just to highlight to any inexperienced river anglers that come across my blog and want to try it for themselves to realise just how dangerous the rivers can be.  I first visited the river on a nice sunny day in the middle of summer the river was low and clear and gentle and after a few trips I soon became confident and dare I say over confident a bit like a teenager who has just got their first car and after a few weeks gets really confident behind the wheel and doesn’t see the danger.  The winter came and so did the first floods and my dad made a point of taking me through to the river just to witness how powerful and dangerous the rivers can be, I was shocked, whole trees coming down and the bank was so slippery.  It was a lesson well learned that day and opened my eyes. 

I am always a little embarrassed when people contact me regarding the blog saying it inspired them to try river fishing but when I see the river like it was this week it also gets me thinking how many people don’t contact me yet still are inspired to try it and don’t know the dangers or what state the river is in, hence why I have posted this on the blog and I hope it does show just how dangerous our rivers can be and by all means get out there and enjoy our fantastic rivers but always take care, no fish is worth it.

This weekend coming up, for one reason or another, I will not be out on the banks of any of our still waters or rivers.  Both me and my uncle have a fair few jobs to get done so with the rivers running high and the first frosts hitting our still waters its provided a timely gap in our angling to get these jobs done, I will be also taking this opportunity to replenish my tackle box and I will also be hoping to pick up the braided line I need for my pike fishing.  I today took delivery of my much anticipated pair of thermal boots.  I decided to go with the Skee Tex thermal boots that where highly recommended from many sources including my uncle and I look forward to giving them their first outing on my birthday next weekend.  There will hopefully be a short update next week just to check in, what it will contain god only knows but I am sure I have a trip or two from summer in my files I can post up.

On to this weeks fishing:

As mentioned above all the rivers in the area where running high with flood water and where out of the question so Friday morning was frantic with texts going back and two between my uncle about where to wet a line the following day.  Many ideas where put into the mix from risking getting a decent peg on Rixton Clay pits to trying our nemesis venue, the canal.  The canals have been so bad to us since we started this blog and I would go as far to say as its been a joke how badly we have faired on them so confidence in this as a chosen venue was at an all time low and with the chances of Rixton being free also being low we decide if we were going to wet a line in the predicted freezing conditions it would have to be at a venue that would guarantee us a bite or two so we opted to fish Flushing Meadows Fishery in Acton Bridge.

The upside of visiting this venue is it doesn’t open till first light which at this time of year is around 7.30 and with no shortage of pegs coupled with the fact we knew very few anglers would be mad enough to be out we enjoyed a well earned lie in and arrived at the fishery gates around 7.45am.

Parking the car in the carp park of the fishery we had a clear view of the farmers fields around us that glistened as if jack frost had decorated them with glistening diamonds over night, the full extent of the overnight frost was felt as a chill ran through my exposed hands, it was certainly one of the chillier mornings on the bank and as expected we were the only anglers in sight.

Over the past two years fishing this venue we have wet a line in all 5 of the pools at this venue and we knew the better silver fish resided in the easy access pool and that is where we chose to set up camp.  We knew the closed in nature of this pool would offer us some protection form the predicted bad winds and also the rain due later in the day.

As you can see form my side tray our plan for the day was to keep it simple so I went armed with a pint and a half of maggot and a small tin of sweet corn while my uncle went with the castors he had turned in the week for in anticipation for our usual river visit and also a small loaf of bread as a change bait to try for some of the bigger species in the pool.  Above you can also see my rig for the day, a homemade poly ball float made from a polystyrene ball and a small plastic stick, cheap as chips and absolutely deadly for silver fishing.  The floats only take a number 8 shot to cock and another number 8 shot on the line for bite detection a simple size 18 hook on the business end and your away, a rig that is so easy to set up you are on the bank and fishing in a few minutes.

The reason this rig is so deadly is it catches fish in all levels in the water column as the bait falls so naturally through the water it is easily mistaken by the fish as a free offering and also when fished correctly the bait will get to the bottom where you have a chance to pick up the bigger species that feel absolutely no resistance from the float when they take the bait.  It’s a method my uncle has taught me and one that gets you a few funny looks on the bank when you first start but soon has the angler behind your peg asking questions when your bagging up, one word to sum up this simple rig, DEADLY!!.

My play for the day was to fish short to my left along a reed line and catch whatever came along basically and just enjoy my day on the bank.  As you can see on the picture above it was a very atmospheric morning on the bank as a light fog moved in around us and the temperature actually began to drop further, these new wellies are a must I thought in my head.

A few maggots were introduced, only around 5 or 6, I always remember the rule of you can put more in but you cant take what you have put in out so I always start my feeding on the light side and then judge my feeding from there, a the start of any session on a Stillwater I am fishing for one bite.  This venue being the prolific venue it is it was not long in coming and as expected it was a roach of around 4oz in size, a great start to the session as at least the fish were up for taking bait, maybe the first hadn’t affected them as bad as we thought.

In went a few more maggots, again only around 6 or 7 as not to overfeed and within seconds the float shot under and I was into another small roach and for the first hour or so it was a case of rinse and repeat as roach after roach came to the net and as the swim developed as did the size of the roach as roach of around 6oz started to show in the swim.

My uncle’s decision to fish castor was paying dividends as he was avoiding the smaller roach (most of the time) and picking up a much better stamp of roach with some being around the 12oz mark and what was even more surprising was the regularity in which he was catching these fish and goes to show had this been a match the angler fishing castor will always attract the better stamp of fish.

As the morning wore on I began to prep a longer line close to the margin but a lot further up the bank just off a small tuft of reeds.  I knew from fishing this peg before the water here in the margin was a lot deeper and with the added cover might just see me picking up a better stamp of roach, that was my aim at the very least.

A shipped out my pole and fed the swim more heavily than the margin swim I had been feeding, this was down to two reasons, the depth and the fact I knew the fish were feeding I also introduced a few grains of sweetcorn as I planned to try this bait in the deeper water as well.   My confidence was increased as well due to the fact my uncle was picking up the odd crucian carp and small tench, madness I thought in such cold conditions to catch two fish we associate with spring and summer.

The fishing on the deeper line was explosive from the off and not with roach but with skimmer bream and I picked up skimmer after skimmer nearly every put in culminating in the one shown below which actually proved to be the best skimmer I had on the day.

The swim then went dead as quick as someone turning of a light it went from a bite a chick to me sitting looking at a stationary float, not a knock!!, I knew form experience on here that this was a good sign it meant something had moved in and pushed out the smaller bream and roach, what was it I thought, on here it could be anything from a proper bronze bream to a carp.  The float lay there, motionless, not even a fait breeze was around to agitate the float into life and then the bright yellow poly ball bobbed into life, dipping once, then again before moving slowly across the surface, I struck and as expected it was met with a solid resistance and blue hydro-elastic oozing out of the tip of my pole as the fish hugged the deeper water the fish wasn’t massive but put up a great fight compared to the lethargic bream I had been catching.

After this carp was returned the rhythm of the afternoon was set, I was waiting a lot longer for bites but when they came they were a quality fish and throughout the after noon I picked up a further three king carp a rogue crucian carp and a handful of tench.

My uncle was also catching well on castor and decided to move over to fishing bread flake to try and see if any bigger fish were about, it resulted in him catching some more quality roach and tench, I still cant believe I am writing a blog update going into December which includes the word tench without the words “is a fish I am look forward to catching come spring” after it.

My unlce then hit into a fish that was in another league all together it hugged the bottom and made long hard runs for the middle of the pool which saw line dripping from the reel and the clutch screaming as it did so, that clutch is like music to an anglers ears.  All the fish we had caught to this point had fought well but were not fighting as hard as they would in summer so we knew whatever my uncle was into was going to be the fish of the day.

The battle continued and we both had a guess at what we thought it was I thought it was a tench while my uncle threw a barbell into the mix.  The fish just wasn’t having any of it, every time he lifter its head and began to bring it up it would go on another run, a little prayer was said to the angling gods for us to at least see what it is and they must have been listening as a torpedo shaped bronze flank made the water boil as it again went on another run.  I grabbed the landing net in anticipation and thankfully we managed to net the fish, a barbell!!.

You read all the text books about barbel and they all say barbel should not be on the feed in such cold conditions, Saturday was a cold day on the bank but I guess these commercial fisheries are stocked in such a way that nature goes out of the window, you would find it hard to pin point a venue away from the commercial scene and not on a river, where you could catch the weight of silver fish we did on Saturday and I guess the competition for food makes these fish changing their feeding habits and feeding on the coldest of days.

The final fish of the session went to myself who instantly lobbed out a large piece of bread flake into his swim and was rewarded with my best carp of the day but the day will forever be remembered for my uncles barbel.

Till net time I wish you all,

Tight lines


Friday, 23 November 2012

Puttting The Piking On Hold.......For Now

A warm welcome to this weeks blog update and I start with a thank you to all the people who have contacted me and sent me emails in support of my decision to edit the pictures on last weeks blog update and to air there disgust at the actions being carried out on the River Dee.  What immediately became apparent is the scale of these incidents as it would seem they are now a common scene across the whole of the country on a variety of waters, only last night a post was put up on the Warrington Anglers Facebook page by an angler visiting a club water only to be greeted with a group of people lingering in the car park.  The water in question is really shallow which raises the concern around netting and is a real worry as it’s a seen a one of the jewels in the Warrington Anglers crown and holds some specimen fish.

Closer to home it has come to my attention this week that the Bridgewater Canal in Runcorn which was once owned by Halton Joint Anglers and more recently Runcorn Angling Centre is now free fishing.  There are a few rumours doing the rounds as to why the bait shop closed but I was told on the bank this week that the upside of the shop closing is they no longer hold the tenancy of the stretch so it’s free till a new tenant is found, so get trolley dodging and get catching those carrier bags that strewn the bottom of this urban canal.

The last point I want to get to before I go onto this weeks fishing is the fact I will be ceasing my pike fishing on the River Dee with immediate effect.  I got speaking to an angler on the bank on Saturday and the conversation moved over to pike gear, upon seeing his gear it hit me straight away I have been fishing far too light for these river fish.  The gear I have used for years to catch the pike from the canal has always done me proud with 10lb maxima being my chosen line and so I have kept faith in this line as I moved over to my river piking and after hearing the guy speak it is certainly not up to the task should I connect with a decent upper double specimen, which is highly possible on this productive river system.

I got home and took advice from some really helpful piker’s who follow the blog on Facebook who where great at pointing me in the right direction for a good quality braided line that will be good enough for the job in hand, so I again thank both the angler on the bank and the people on Facebook for their help and understanding, thank you.  So as soon as I have the line sorted and have nailed to new knots to a point where I am confident as I am with my mono knots that they are up to the task I will be back out after those river dee pike and I am actually looking forward to seeing how different the fight is on the braided line.

This week update on the fishing side of things will be quite short and sweet as the fishing was not the best as for some reason the fish where all up in the water and the only bites we could get on the bottom was from tiny dace.  The rising sun and clear water soon revealed that the dace where nailing all the bait just under the surface so no bait was getting any where near the bottom.


I quickly changed over to my pole and a poly ball to catch these fish on the drop and found it really difficult to hit the rapid bites.  I eventually got to grips with it by tweaking the bait and I also managed to draw the fish closer in which made it a lot easier to control the bait and I was amazed at the quality of the dace just under the water.


My uncle on the peg up from me was also catching the same small dace on the bottom but persevered with it and made changes to his line and feeding and soon the better fish were showing with some really pristine roach making an appearance.  My dad was getting tonnes of bites on the feeder and was missing them and had we not been on the float rod catching these tiny dace on the bottom he could have been in a situation where he was loosing his mind but in reality you are never going to hit such fast bites on the feeder.

My dads fortunes changed later on in the day when the bigger dace settled on the bottom and he began to catch some quality dace like the one shown below.

Catching the fish on the drop is never a method that is going to catch you fish all day and my bites tailed off and I continued to pick up the odd fish through the afternoon but nothing that was going to put together an amazing net of dace but still I enjoyed my relaxing day on the bank.

My net

Uncles net

As I write this short update the rivers have just had a good run through and hopefully will start to fine off for our trip on Saturday but the reality of it is should be have any more rain between now and Saturday the river is almost certainly going to be a washout.

Till next time I wish you all tight lines


Saturday, 17 November 2012

River Dee Piking - If you want to eat fish go the fishmongers!!

A warm welcome to this week’s blog, a week that reminded me to always go with my gut instinct and so it was proven right this week.  I start this weeks update though with some sad news I have been hearing recently about Eastern Europeans descending on the River Dee and taking fish for the pot.  I have witnessed this for myself of late and also heard reports of decent pike and a few to boot being taken away in carrier bags and have also been told from a reliable source of people setting up barbeque's on the bank cooking up roach of all fish.

As an angler who doesn’t take any fish away form the river I don’t quite get why people would take such beautiful creatures permanently away from their natural home but upon thinking about it and reading my licence the people involved, if they do have a licence, are not breaking any laws in taking the specified amount and size of fish stated in the EA licence, which is:

On rivers

On any given day,  you may only remove:
  • one pike of up to 65 cm;
  • two grayling of 30–38 cm;
  • up to a total of 15 small fish of up to 20 cm of the following native species: barbel; chub; common bream; common carp; crucian carp; dace; perch; pike; roach; rudd; silver bream; smelt; and tench.
Fish are measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.
If you remove any more fish than this, you are committing an offence and risk a substantial fine.

I have myself in the past caught many fish of a size to be “taken” from a 10lb salmon to double figure pike but it never entered my head to take such fish form the river, the pike control numbers of fish, not only the dace and the roach, but also their own numbers, there is a reason the saying “the only threat to a small pike is a bigger pike” came about and that is that the big pike predate on the smaller jacks and control their numbers, you remove one of the big pike you will initially see one thing, an increase in dace, but over the next year or so you will see a increase in the amount of jack pike and pike at this age are only thinking of one thing, getting bigger and eating.

A fellow Dee angler and blogger, Stuart Maddocks, once mentioned in an email to me as the pike on the River being like the lions on the Serengeti, and when you look deeply into it they most certainly are, they control the prey numbers as we all know but they also pick up and weak, diseased or injured fish and thus not only keep the prey number controlled but also keep the prey population healthy. 

The ecosystem on a river, or any body of water, is finely balanced and any dramatic changes do effect it, there is no doubt about that, even one pike removed has some type of effect but when people are reporting 2 or 3 being taken then it if far from ok as it also gets me thinking how many times have these individuals visited the river and taken fish.  Its like me on Saturday, I visited the river and had a cracking day, as you will find later on in the blog, I caught 3 pike ranging form 8 to 11lb and all were returned safely, had I taken all these pike home for the pot imagine the effect that would have on that local area of river. 

I am sorry to seem like I am ranting here but it’s a subject that is close to my heart and this blog is a personal account of my angling and my angling life and I feel this subject is important to me.  There is one part of this that really upsets me though and it’s the fact I now find myself looking for places to photograph my fish that gives nothing away about its location, I love posting pictures of my swim before I set up, I in fact have a cracking one from Saturday with the mist rolling down the river which I feel I cannot use.  I set my blog up as a means for anglers to see what potential the local waters in the northwest have but I feel I have no option but to “doctor” the pictures as to keep the location of these fish a secret, for their safety, a decision I never ever wanted to have to take but unfortunately one I am going to have to make.  I would hate for this blog to be abused in a way that it would lead to any of the amazing creatures that inhabit the river systems demise.  I just hope the Environment Agency officers are as vigilant and pro active as I have witnessed them over the last few years on the River Dee.

On to this weeks fishing

The plan all week was to get away from our previous weeks location, away from the hustle and bustle and the goldfish bowl setting that goes with the River Dee’s busier venues and escape to a quieter stretch of river where we could relax and take in all the nature around us and grab ourselves a big slice of good old mother nature.  We knew a trip away form the other location would probably see us struggling with numbers of fish in the net but now we have built up a picture of how different venues fish during the year we were expecting a less than prolific days sport but we knew there was a good chance of running into a grayling or two, so we set of with this fish as our target.

My dad joined us again, for the third trip on the run, it’s been a while since he has put that many trips together on the run but I am so glad he is coming more often now.  On Saturday swims were of a premium so my dad and I decided to fish the same area and I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time on the bank together, during the day we had some proper laughs and of course caught some fish.  My uncle set up further down stream on a peg that is a tough peg to fish and get to grips with but the fish are there and is a peg where you can literally catch anything from roach to barbel, this is the only thing that lets this location down the fact that one of the people on the trip is just that little too far away, on some occasions its been me and you do feel quite isolated at times during the day.

I arrived at the peg and immediately set my basket up in the shallow water and for once I was set up in no time as I was fishing the whip and I already had the rig stored from last weeks trip.  I started by introducing some hemp seed down the middle of the slow glide and my chosen bait for the day was maggot.  I was just about to make my first cast when I just got this feeling in my gut that I was doing the wrong thing, yes if I fished here I would undoubtedly catch dace and my chosen quarry the grayling but this voice inside me just kept saying I should be going for Mr Pike, I cant explain what it was it just felt right.

I started on the whip as I would need some bait for going for the pike any way and it took a while to get the fish going but eventually they did and I started to pick up some dace that were just the right size for a bait and of course with a steady stream of bait going in it wasn’t long before a greedy grayling moved into the trot and began to dominate the swim.  After around an hour and a half I had enough dace and to be honest the grayling had completely took over and I was sure I was catching the same one a few times.  It was time for the pike fishing to begin and so I set about setting up my pike paternoster rig.

My dad was having a cracker of a day already on the tip using his trust puddle chucker ledger rod and the ever reliable Kamasan maggot feeder he was picking up grayling after grayling, it seemed every time I looked round he was playing one.  After taking a few pictures of his fish I was all set to spend the rest of the day chasing my first targeted river croc.

  I was just about to grab my pike rod when I witnessed the most bizarre wildlife spectacle I have seen in a while, literally countless seagulls passing over head all heading inland from the sea.  I asked my uncle had he seen them later on in the day to which he replied “yes, and quite accurate they were too with their bombing run” whilst pointing at the countless droppings around his peg.

I made myself a promise there and then that I would spend the whole day targeting pike, no matter how slow the fishing got I would persevere with it, so I set off on my way hoping that my new tactics would yield some fruit and give me that much needed confidence that the rig was fishing correctly and I was doing things right.

I settled into a swim I have fished a number of times before for dace and been pestered with and caught the odd jack pike from in the past so I approached the swim with an air of confidence.  The swim itself looked better than I could have imagined as the recent floods had wedged a lot of dead drift wood around the sunken tree given this spot a mysterious darkness to it and it just had to have a resident pike lurking about.

As I have touched on in past updates my pike fishing this year has changed dramatically, in past years I went out dace fishing and if a pike turned up then fished for it, in hindsight this is probably not the most skilled way of catching pike and  being an angler who wants to have as many strings to his bow as possible I set myself a challenge this year of actually going out and targeting the pike as a species, fishing swims that haven’t had the pike lured into them by the constant line of dace being caught.  I will still take my pike rod with me on my dace trips as they can kill the swim when your dace fishing and do sometimes need to be politely moved on but I will certainly be having trips like Saturday aimed solely at catching these prehistoric fish.


The depth was marked and set with a slip knot on the line and it was time to lower a bait in, the float settled and began to almost dance on the surface of the water almost tantalising a pike into taking the bait, the float then settled a little and for a while it looked like no one was home then all of a sudden the float pricked into life and began moving erratically my senses were pricked that there was something happening in the murky depths and slowly the float began to move off into the flow.

I gave the float a count of 5 seconds before striking and immediately was hit with the solid resistance of a angry fish, the drag was set on the reel and to be honest had not been tested like this before, there was no time for tuning the drag instead I controlled the spool with my finger and managed to halt the pikes lunge, the pike then went solid, I knew it was a decent pike, the power of that run as evidence of this, this was obviously a craft pike but I had a trick or two up my sleeve and this pike fell for it hook line and sinker.  Instead of just pulling and pulling I let the line go completely slack and after a few seconds the line began moving slowly out as the pike swam from behind what ever obstacle it had got behind and the fight continued.  The pike made countless hard runs for this same snag again and again but I the difference this time was I knew it was there and was read for it.  The fight which seemed like a lifetime in reality was only around a minute or so long but what a rush!, my heart was pounding out of my chest! The pike on the bank it was time for a picture and to find how much this girl weighed.


The pike looked to have been feeding well and hit the scales at exactly 9lb on the nose, I was sure it was a double but was more than happy with my prize she was in mint condition with not a mark on her and as with all river fish her colours were deep and well defined and I took a few moments to take in this moment in my angling life, I have caught many pike in my years, even on the river alone, but this one was special, it could have weighed 2lb it would have still felt the same sense of achievement from this capture I was more than made up with it.

I found a nice slack to release the fish where I could hold her upright in my hands till she fully recovered and with one hand holding her tail she would tell me when she was ready to go and with one slow flick of her tail she moved of and held station in the shallows for a bit before gliding off into the main flow, see you again at the end of winter when you are a double.

One thing that will come with this type of fishing is a build of knowledge about how to tackle swims, how long to try the same swim for, how long to rest a swim before trying the same swim again?? I have found in the past you can fall on a “pod” of pike and have quite a frenetic time taking a few pike in a short space of time so I decided to chance my arm in the same swim again, as I mentioned earlier the stretch isn’t blesses with a great number of swim that I could move to any how so today would be a great lesson in working one swim.

I returned to swim and introduced another bait and like an expectant heron I held station and keeping with the bird theme had I been a peacock I would have had my wings fanned high and wide I was grinning like the Cheshire can and over the moon.

I tweaked my set up a bit by shallowing the rig up slightly so the float cocked in the water allowing me to see the bite early as I didn’t want any pike taking the bait and making its way to that obstruction to the back of the swim.  Again the float danced to the beat of the rivers drum as the odd rush of water created a eddy to whirl through the swim as if to whip the bait into life.  The bait fishing itself I began to relax and take in the world around me and it wasn’t long before a busy kingfisher whizzed past my swim the gin clear margins obviously making his life a lot easier. 

Time passed by and it just got to that time where you are thinking should I move and look for another swim when the float shot under the water and began to move slowly out, again I gave it a few seconds and struck, I felt the fish on for a second but then the rig came back at me, I was sure the fish hadn’t felt the prick of a treble and so I quickly reintroduced the rig, with a hungry pike around, missing its dinner, it wasn’t too long before the float again moved off and I struck into a proper angry pike.

This pike fought the whole way, with plenty of tail walking and head shaking it was not happy at all, this pike was getting near to be landed and I got a glimpse of it looked mean, some pike just look mean and this one sure did, its eye seemed weird to look at and only added to its tempestuous look.

 I was going to chin the pike out and it was of those moments where you think twice as no soon had I leaned down to grab her she twisted her jaws angrily in my direction, not happy at all and being calm in these situations is paramount, if you are not comfortable handling pike then chinning them is not recommended at all, I have caught a lot of pike so feel ok chinning them out but any new anglers to this branch of the sport I would say always net them and get comfortable holding and working with pike on the bank and almost certainly try and go out fishing with a experienced pike angler before you try it yourself. 

---The business end of Mr Pike and a place you need to concentrate and be confident in your work:

You need to be confident in holding the pike and working around the pikes mouth as not all pike are hooked in the front of the mouth and those trebles can get anywhere, as this pike proved with one treble in the top of its mouth and the other had actually come out the side of its gill cover so extra care was need in handling and unhooking, leaving trebles in pike is not an option.


As you can see the pike was a double figure specimen at 11lb and what an ugly and mean looking pike it was, it turned out it was blind in one eye and also had a pug mouth with its top jaw being quite well set back in regards to its lower jaw, it was a pike that only a mother pike could love, it was given a nickname but that will remain unmentioned as to not offend ant relativesJ.  Apart from its head it was again in top nick with not a mark on the fish and judging by its belly had been feeding well too, a bit like its captor.


Again the pike was RETURNED into the slack safe and well to go about his business and I joined my dad in a well earned cuppa and sausage barm.


I decided to rest the swim a while and wandered of to visit my uncle who was bagging dace with great regularity and also the odd grayling which was inevitable in such a glide and I spent a good hour sat with him chewing the fat on the days events, as I said the swim was out of the way so I spent longer on his peg than I normally would on a normal trip but it also gave me time to rest the swim I was in for the pike.

Returning to my vigil a the pike swim gave me a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of working life and time to think about how fortunate I am and how good life is at the moment for me, too many people dwell on the bad times but don’t appreciate the good times in both angling and life and I was the happiest man alive on Saturday afternoon.

The day wore and I thought I was don’t for the day when the float moved off again and I was into another pike which again felt like no push over, it certainly wasn’t fighting any less than the others and actually went right out into the main flow, another lesson learned for the future the tackle I am using is more than good enough and it cushioned the right amazingly and had more than enough backbone to control the fight.  The pike back in front of me it wasn’t long before it was mine and safely on the bank and waiting to be weighed.

This fish went 8lbs, unfortunately my electronic scales have played up so I couldn’t get exact pounds and ounces figures for them but using my uncles trusty scales gave me all I needed.


So ended the session on three pike in total and three what I would call proper pike, my dad continued to pick up grayling after grayling on the feeder and even the odd trout.

While my uncle ended the day with a superb net of all dace and returned countless grayling up to around a pound and half which he said would have took his final net over the magical 20lb barrier for the second time this season.

Uncles net.

Thank you for taking the time to read my angling blog,

Its tight lines from me,


Friday, 9 November 2012

Whippin' it up on the River Dee

A warm welcome to this week’s blog update, with Christmas and my birthday only a matter of weeks away my attention was drawn to what presents I would want from my fiancĂ©.  In past years we have been quite extravagant at this time of year but now with a new baby to think of times have changed and rightfully so, I guess many people would call it growing up!! So this year it’s a pair of thermal welly’s and a Martin Bowler DVD, by far the best gift this Christmas wont cost a penny as sitting watching my daughter playing with her Christmas presents, her first Christmas, will be the most magical thing ever, I cant wait.

I have long been a great admirer of the writings and film work of Martin Bowler, I am sure many of you are familiar with his most noticeable work, Catching the Impossible, that is being repeated constantly on the Discovery shed channel, I think this program truly is the only modern day program made by an angler that can compete with the great “A passion for Angling” that for me is the best series ever made.

A few years ago I decided to purchase another video series made by Martin Bowler, A fish for all seasons, in this series of DVD’s it takes you through a year in the angling life of Martin and documents how his fishing and tactics vary as the seasons change around him.  I think it’s the link in with nature that really captivates me and engrosses me in his films and his new series out this month called “Seeking Shadows” is certainly number one on my Christmas list, I just hope it lives up to his past work but judging by the preview videos and pictures it looks fantastic.

On to this weeks fishing:

We decided with the river levels being quite steady and the temperature remaining low to fish the same stretch as we did last week and as normal it was a nocturnal start.  Arriving at my dads to load the car the house was filled with that mouth watering, ever appetising sound and smell of bacon and sausage cooking in a pan.  After last weeks cold, shop bought, tasteless cheese and onion pasties my dad was taking no chances on going hungry this week and was taking care of our bagging himself, bacon sandwiches for breakfast and cold sausage sandwiches for dinner, boy I love my dad and even more when he decides to come fishing and do the bagging J.

After washing down our carnivorous breakfast with a warm coffee we set off to pick up my uncle and headed off into the gloom.  The clear sky from the previous evening had been replaced with a thick blanket of cloud that had seen the early evening temperatures rise above freezing overnight which resulted in quite a mild walk along the bank picking our pegs in the early morning moonlight.

The forecast for the day ahead was for heavy cold showers and a fair bit of wind to be blowing downstream off the welsh mountains so the brolly was one of the first things out of the holdall, “I think I will be needing that today” a voice in my head said as I released it from its protective cover.  The norm these days for camouflaged or green umbrellas was lost on me but a least my bright blue brolly will match my fingertips in the coming months.

The swims chosen we began about setting our stall out for the day ahead, I touched on my plans last week of keeping things one dimensional and I stuck to it this week as I went all out for the silvers, the pike rod was still with me but more as a means of moving any stubborn pike that show up rather than fishing for them.

River fishing does not have to be a branch of our sport that costs the earth, after the main outlay of purchasing a decent float rod and reel the basic terminal tackle is relatively cheap from week to week.  Here is a picture of my side tray from the session on Saturday and as you will see it is very simple, hooks, hook length line, weights, disgorger and a depth plummet will all last you a great number of sessions before needing replenishing, as you can see the weights are a little low but fishing 8 number 4 float I have actually been using the same weights since the beginning of the season in June if you always put them above your hook length all you loose is your hook a little bit of hook length line and a few number 8 weights.

The fishing on the day was very good from the off with small dace coming at a steady pace, I had, as always, set myself the target of 20 fish for the session and was well on my way to beating that in the first few hours.  The fish although not massive were still there and I also lost count at the amount of fast bites I missed from these small silver darts, no wonder my dad was struggling to hit bites on the feeder.

With a slack on my inside line I decided to try a slower trot down towards a submerged tree and this instantly saw me picking up some small roach, these fish on the River Dee really are beginning to get a name in my book as being a really lazy species, you rarely catch them in the mail flow but you trot a slower line even sometimes laying it a foot or so on bottom they are on it in a flash.

I continued on the dace line for the rest of the morning as there was a snag on the slower line and after losing two hook lengths in quick succession I got tired of playing snag/fish roulette if you missed the snag you got a decent roach if not it was hook length practice again.  The dace line continued to produce the goods all morning and the quality of the fish improved it seemed the further into the flow I went.

Eventually though the swim died off a bit, in fact to a complete stand still as I started to pick up the odd minnow!!, how a swim goes from dace and roach to minnows is beyond me, well I say beyond me I have a sneaky feeling a toothy critter had moved in as the bites where just to confident and steady for them just to turn off feeding.

I decided on trying a different method and one I had read about in the Anglers Mail in the week and that was using the whip.  With the slack water being quite close in I set up an old whip I had as a kid and at 9m long it was ideal I thought for the river.  It took me a while to get the feeding and bait placement right but eventually I started picking up the odd fish and when I did they where roach of a decent stamp.

It is a method I need to work on if I am honest but I am sure I with have time over the coming months to fish swims where this method can be utilised with good effect on the river Dee. If I had stayed on the trotting line I have no doubt I would have picked up more fish than on the whip but my aim is to be an all round more complete river angler and my whip fishing and my feeder fishing certainly need more work.

I continued to persevere with the method and was pleased to be joined by my first Robin of the year, with no zoom function on my iPhone it’s a picture that is more like spot the robin that look at this lovely robin but rest assured he is there.


As I messed around trying to tinker with my depth on the whip my uncles peg continued to produce dace after dace after dace while my dad improved on last weekends hard session with some cracking dace to show for his days efforts.  My uncles net at the end went easily over the 10lb bracket and I would this was closer to 15lb but with the light fading a quick picture was all we had time for, the dark really creeps up on you at this time of the year.

My net

Uncles net

On the morning of writing this update I was greeted to the sight every winter angler likes to see and that’s the windscreen of your car frozen solid with ice, so it gave me great pleasure to dust off the old de-icer and clear it off, the good times wills soon be here, I so cant wait for that first proper session of the year.

This chilly weather has got me thinking of frosty mornings chasing grayling on a small river with only a tub of maggots and a centrepin for company, I thinik this weekend I might go in search of a few ladies of the stream, if conditions hold that is.

Till next time,

Tight lines


Sunday, 4 November 2012

River dee trotting and the pike hunt begins

A warm welcome to this weeks blog update, the clocks have gone back and we are now officially leaving autumn behind and creeping into winter.  This past weekend the changes have been dramatic both the temperature and the look of the landscape has changed.  The temperature on Friday night dropped into the minus figures and I think it caught the local council on the hop as it seemed every available vehicle was dispatched to grit the roads as I made my way home late on Friday evening, the trees and vegetation are now showing signs that their winter sleep is nearly here with a lot of trees around our area only being a good gale away from loosing their copper leaves and the bank sides of the River on Saturday have began to look noticeable more bare and beginning to shape into the barren banks we associate with cold, finger tip numbing winter sessions on the bank.

For some the frosts arriving marks an end to their fishing for another year and rods are cleaned and packed away till the warm sun returns next spring, but for some of us all year round anglers the frosts coming sparks an excitement within that the good times are not too far away on our beloved rivers.  The change in seasons, as dramatic as they are from autumn to winter mean a lot of anglers have to change the fish they are targeting, some carp anglers target pike in the coming months while river barbel anglers often refine their tactics to target other species like chub that will willingly feed on the coldest of days.

This winter for me will be one of chasing dace bags and hoping to catch the odd chub if I can from the River Dee or the River Dane as I did last year but one big change will be round my other love I have developed and that is a love for pike fishing.  Last year I was quite successful with my pike fishing and managed to catch my first double figure pike from the River Dee, a fish of over 13lb and I was more than made up!! But my pike fishing last year was more of an opportunistic approach where I targeting pike as they disrupted my dace fishing.  This year I have kitted myself out with some dedicated pike year which is all new to me, I always have the right gear for dealing with the landing and the unhooking of the pike but what I lacked was the terminal tacking to fish live baits properly and I have purchased a few items of tackle in some paternoster booms and quick clip wire traces. 

This year my aim is to be more one dimensional with my fishing and having a set target on each session and not dividing my time between two species.  I am going to have some sessions this year where I am just going to go and target pike for the whole session, this not only will add some variety to the blog in I will have more time to capture the feel of the session in photographs and videos but it also gives me a chance to adapt a more roving approach which is something you loose when you are sat in the same peg trotting for dace all day.  After catching some nice pike last year and seeing some of the fish that have followed my dace in whilst trotting the past few years I am optimistic as the fish are there in the Dee its just about finding them and I cant wait to see what the winter session hold for me.

I did break this weeks session in half with the morning for dace and afternoon for pike just purely to get to grips with the new rigs and how to fish them effectively so I am ready and confident my rigs are right when it comes to devoting a whole session to them and I am glad I did as I think I picked out one big mistake on Saturday and that was fishing the live bait to close to the bottom giving it chance to just lie dormant of the bottom and not fish give off them distressed signals to the pike, so it was a worthwhile experiment and really confirmed to me that the roaming approach is something I am going to love about this style of fishing.

On to this weeks fishing

Leaving the house at a barmy 4am to meet up with my dad on the other side of the Mersey my face was hit instantly by the freezing cold freshness of the evening air its icy cold prickling my face with the subtleness of a inexperienced acupuncturist.  Looking up at the crystal clear sky I knew it was close if not below freezing and looking at my car it confirmed it had been below during the night as its windows and paint sported the glittering shimmer of a frost, out came that old faithful de-icer and I was on my way.

The temperature gage in the car read a cosy 2oc but it soon reflected the true temperature as we made our way over a deserted Runcorn Bridge, save for the mad builders attempting to paint this beautiful structure in such chilly conditions.  I was soon at my dads warming myself up with a nice strong cup of coffee and before we knew it the time had come to get on our way to pick my uncle up and head to the frosty banks of the River Dee.

We arrived at the banks and quickly picked out a swim each to fish for the day, me any my uncle where quite close together but my dad, being on the feeder had no choice but to fish a swim further upstream, it wasn’t the same him being up out of the way and it did impact on the feel of the session as me and my uncle took it in turns throughout the day to visit him during his lonely vigil.

My plan for the session as mention in the introduction was to fish the morning for dace and then change over around 2pm to fish solely for Mr Pike.  Armed with 2 pints of maggot and a pint or so of hemp seed I began to feed my peg as I prepared my rod and terminal tackle for the day ahead.  My chosen float for the session was a 8 no 4 wire stem float fished with the weights bulked above a 2 foot hook length of 1lb Bayer Perlon line down to a tiny size 20 Kamasan eyed barbed hook.  My rod for the session was my trust 17ft Preston Carbon active float rod and I teamed this up with my closed faced Abu 706 reel loaded with 3lb Drennan Float line.

After what seemed an eternity I was all set to make my first cast, all my setting up rituals where completed with my keep net going in before anything else followed by my bait waiter and then finally my landing net, always in that order and always in the same position, not that I am superstitious at all, well if I am its not worked as I have had some terrible session of late hehe.

 The swim I chose to fish had a sunken tree in its right hand margin which just looked like it had to hold the odd better fish and had a steady trot just of the rod tip but also has a slack on the inside line where I hoped to find the odd roach and perch.  The flow on the day was easily recognisable as it was laden with and endless parade of leaves that had blown into the river from the trees lining the banks along its course.


Not knowing how this new stretch would fish I set myself a target of catching 20 fish for the session, I find this a nice target to aim for on even the toughest of sessions and gives you a achievable target to aim for.  The first few trots through passed by without any interest but I made some changes to my line and found the fish to be more in the flow than I expected and soon began picking up dace with some regularity.

The dace continued to come in the main flow and as expected the odd roach came if the float found its way into the slacker water.  I knew if I fished the slacker water I would probably pick up some better roach and dace but this tactic was thwart with danger as I has been luck a few times hitting snags and coming back with just a small branch, so I knew it was a risky strategy and so it proved as I finally hit the snag proper.  Over the day I was to find bits of this snag that no doubt resembles a Christmas tree on the bed of the river with numerous anglers’ line and leads as its tinsel and baubles.

The swim continued to tick over nicely and then I hit something solid that at first I thought was the bottom till it started to kick and move out into the flow, at first I thought it was a pike but after having the fish on for a few seconds I knew it wasn’t a pike by the fight it was giving, I could feel the beating of its tail as I kicked, with a pike its more of a solid surge, the fish made for the snag downstream and I managed to turn it but then it made a solid and determined run for the snag to my left and that was it, fight over there was nothing I could do as I could get no angle on the fish to direct it from it, all I know it was a nice fish, gutted!!.

I re rigged up and got back to it and it wasn’t long before the dace moved back in and I was back into the groove of feeding and trotting through the swim and as the morning progressed I lost two more decent fish with one being after I had stepped up to a 3lb hook length, the problem wasn’t so much the size of the fish it was the fact I could not play the fish on the drag as if I gave the fish line I would loose it any way in the snag I had no option but to hit and hold and hope the knots and hook length held and unfortunately they didn’t.

Towards the end of the morning session for silvers I did hit another decent fish and this time I got it in and it instantly proved to me the other fish were in fact big perch the fight was exactly the same and the fish made for the snags just like the others.  I was more than made up with this welcome addition to the net but have to admit to being disappointed in losing the others.

I continued to persevere with the trotting and continued to pick up the odd dace here and there but to be honest the fishing was getting worse not better and after snagging on bottom around 1pm I decided to make the change over to the pike fishing and set about getting the gear ready.  My final net I didn’t weigh but estimated it to be around 7lb, a nice mornings fishing.

Setting up the pike gear took longer than usual as I have a few new components I had not used before to set up but I was very confident of a bite as the water clarity looked spot on for the pike to be able to easily pick out the fish from some distance and home in on it.

It was whilst setting up my dad appeared at the top of my peg, flustered and out of breath he explained he had caught a pike that had taken his only fish of the morning as he was bringing it in and could I come and unhook it for him.  Arriving at his peg he lifter his net out to reveal a pike around 3 or 4lb hooked fair and square in its scissors, a very lucky man as this in generally the only time you get these pike in when they take you fish, if you are lucky enough for the hook to transfer from the prey fish to the pikes mouth whilst avoiding the razor sharp teeth.



I spent a few moments admitting the exquisite markings that the pike had before returning the pike into the margins to terrorise the dace shoals some more and chewed the fat with my dad for a good half hour, his fishing on the feeder had been poor to say the least, but then again as I explained any pike of any size is enough to keep the silvers from feeding in your area confidently.

I returned to my peg and put the finishing touches to my pike rig and introduced the bait into the slack where I had fooled some of the roach earlier and sat back and took in the world around me, a part of my fishing I seem to have lost recently with the hectic all action trotting we have been doing, it was relaxing to just kick back, relax and take in the sights and sounds of the world going by and I must have looked like I didn’t have a care in the world.

During the afternoon I adapted a roving approach spending a good hour in each swim all looked the business and are all swims I have done well in before but alas nothing was forth coming.  As you can see below the swims took in all manor of features from dark deep water beneath overhanging trees to submerged sunken trees.



The time came to call it a day and pack in, my dad had a few nice dace in his net but cleverly released them before I could get a picture hehe, while my uncle had put together a nice 9lb net of dace and also reported being snapped once by something he had no chance of stopping, obviously some big fish lurking in the depths and we will no doubt be back soon the battle with these fish again but next time we will come prepared!!.

As we packed the gear away the sun set on another day doing what I love, wetting a line on the river.

And always the optimist the last thing to come out was the pike rod.

Time really did fly on Saturday and I learnt so much form my time spent piking that I will put into my future trips, one, I think my paternoster was too close to the bottom and two I think I had too heave a lead on holding the rig in place, this year I will be happy just mastering the basics of this type of pike fishing and I can see it being so rewarding actually stalking and catching a pike rather than the pike coming to me.

Till next time

I wish you all the tightest of lines and thank you for reading