Friday, 22 February 2013

Quality Over Quantity On the River Ribble

Welcome to this week’s blog update and I doubt I have ever sat down to write an update for this blog feeling so emotional about its content.  The introduction to my weekly blog has covered a wide variety of issues over the past two years, some that affect me directly and some I can only hope never will.  This introduction was due to be about the changes I have seen in the past week in regards the seasons changing and wildlife and was supposed to be a nice, relaxing and pleasant to celebrate the fact we are slowly beginning to move out of the worst winter I can remember, that all changed on Wednesday evening as I received news about the fact Warrington Anglers had lost a stretch of the River Dee that holds such a magical place in my heart.

All anglers have venues and places that hold dear to themselves,  a special capture or the sight of an early morning mist lingering ghostly over the water’s surface can be only a few reasons a place can become special to an angler, the stretch Warrington have just lost was that stretch for me.  It was the place I first cut my teeth on the "proper" river having started my angling life on one of the small tributaries of the Dee and I will never forget that first walk to the river the grass glistening with dew and the smell of fresh flowing water in the air and the only sound to be heard was the gentle soothing sound of water flowing over shallow gravel, I blanked that day as I did so many times on this venue whilst learning its moods and hot spots but it was always a pleasure to explore its mystical depths.

This location also put me in contact with some of the nicest, genuine anglers I have ever met Gordon Munro, gave me a pint of his maggots he had left over at this venue on only our second time bumping into each other, Gordon Ashton, barbel expert, spent a good 2 hours showing me the ropes on how to fish for barbel here and I also remember fondly long chats had this year with Richard Jones and Neil, all genuine river men who were a credit to this sport and a credit to Warrington Anglers and this venue.

Unfortunately these people, like myself, my Dad and Uncle and all the other genuine river men who I didn’t have the privilege to meet will all now have to suffer the pain of losing a stretch we all hold so dear and its all because of the actions of a minority of so called anglers that don’t have the decency to go about their sport in a respectable manner.  I heard rumours about 6 months ago that WAA where to lose this stretch due to so called anglers making noise and driving around the fields as if it were a rally track on the opening weekend at an obscene hour, thank you so much for your actions, well done!, you are a disgrace to the club and the sport, I am a firm believer in what comes around goes around, we can only hope.

In my mind I don’t think these people where serious river men as I remember that weekend fondly, after all it was the magical June the 16th, the opening of the season and a day I had waited 3 months for.  I distinctly remember it as I remember being frustrated that it rained the whole week before and actually put the River Dee into full flood and unfishable, no serious river man would have even considered fishing a river in such a state, never mind driving a car around the saturated fields, the car parks on this stretch are clearly marked out as well so a clear sign or disrespect and appalling behaviour.

One or two people have pointed the finger at the residents but in reality how can they be blamed, if the shoe was on the other foot I certainly would not have been happy at all.  I am feeling a mixture of emotions at the moment an unrelenting feeling of loss mixed with bouts of happy memories and annoyance that the stretch has been lost for something that should never ever be a problem!!  Maybe the WAA is too cheap to purchase and thus opens it up to the non-desirable people of this world who think they can treat everyone with disrespect and abuse. 
For me personally, I have spent countless hours researching this venues past history and more hours than I care to remember fishing this venue and learning the good spots to fish, not only that but when writing a weekly blog you have plan your future trips weeks in advance and I had already drawn up plans of what I wanted to try on this venue in the coming season, all now a waste of time.
What this will do is make me refocus and go again on another venue, I WILL find other spots and other locations to find these special fish and I WILL put in as much effort as this venue to succeed, onwards and upwards.

River Ribble – “Quality not quantity”

We have fished the River Dee now for around two years solid and over that time we have begun to learn her moods and how she fishes in different conditions, looking at the EA chart on Friday for the River Dee we knew she would be a tad too high for us to try seriously and would also be carrying a fair amount of colour so we decided to move out attention elsewhere.  The river Ribble was looking good but with only one trip to her under our belt we had no idea what conditions we would be arriving too but she was dropping and had a day or two where she had continuously fell so we decided to travel through on Sunday for a second visit in 3 weeks.

Before that visit I had a date with work as I had put my name down for some overtime on the Saturday and on the way in I crossed paths with a sight that screamed one thing to me, spring! As I turned the roundabout towards my work I had to slam on the breaks hard as right in front of me stood without a care in the world, in the middle of the road was a duck and two drakes.  These animals starting to compete for females is a small sign there is change on the way and after the winter we have just endured it is not a minute too soon.

With my endurance and patience tested to the max on overtime it was time for some relaxation and it was with great excitement we headed off to the river Ribble.  We arrived at our chosen destination and began to set up using my new lamp from Sports direct that I am reviewing to set up in the dark and first impression are its great value for money but more on that in another blog post.

Regular readers of this blog will be looking at the above picture and thinking they had stumbled on to the wrong blog but I assure you that your eyes are not deceiving you, that is ground bait on my side tray.  I arrived at the river with a plan and that was to fish a closed cap feeder on maggot ground bait and hemp.  My uncle being a good float man was determined to stick to his guns and prove you can catch close in on this river.

I made a few quick casts to get some bait down and then left the feeder a bit longer and it was not long before the tip of my Shimano purist rod rattled round and I was into the first fish of the day a small dace.   This dace was quickly followed by a small roach and a few more dace before I missed a real wrap round of a bite that just had to have been from a better fish, I was gutted but at least I was doing better than I had last week.  I re-baited my feeder and back out it went, at this point we were a good hour or so into the session but it felt like it had gone by so fast.

The fact I had not fished the feeder much really showed, when I got the cast right i was normally rewarded with a bite but those cast’s where few and far between and it showed in my keepnet.  My uncle was starting to pick up a few fish on his float line and it was noticeable the fish fed in spurts before moving off and then moving back in very slowly a few more fish and the process was repeated.  It was while watching my uncle land a small chub I felt a hefty pluck on my finger and my natural instinct to strike saw me latched into a much better fish that felt really big in the fast flow, I was certain it was a nice chub by how hard it was fighting, I eventually got the fish under my feet but it was keeping really deep so I still had no idea what it was I was connected too!!  What felt like minutes passed where in reality it was no more than a few seconds but I felt every shake of the fishes head as it began to tire and eventually it gave up its identity as it slid over the landing net lip and made its mark in this week’s blog update, a bream, and a first ever river bream for myself.

The fish didn’t quite reach 3lb as much as I tried (weighed it 3 times lol)

The fish safely into he keep net I quickly got back to the fishing and from this fish on it was as if a light was switched off in the swim, the quiver tip remained set in stone with only the rhythm of the river causing it to occasionally pull round and slowly settle again.  I tried everything I could think of from longer hook lengths to just feeding maggot in the feeder.  My unce started to pick up a bit more action on the float line but my swim remained dead.

Hein sight is a thing in fishing you get good at using and looking back I stayed on the feeder too long as soon as the swim had died for 20 minutes I should have moved over to the float rod but the reality is I wasted a good 2 and half hours trying to make something happen.  This could have been down to me being tired from a long days overtime the previous day and looking back I have to admit I had a tad bit of a case of “lazy-i-tis”.

I decided to stretch my legs and visit my uncle for a bit and refresh myself with a strong coffee,  there is something about watching someone trotting a float, especially someone who is quite good at it, the way they control its decent down the river and almost drop the bait into the fishes mouth is a true art.  While I was stood with him he was going through a slow patch and in the best John Wilson fashion we began to talk up a bite “got to be a chub there Azz!”,  “yeah, got to be “ was my uncles reply and with that bang the float disappeared and my uncle was into a fish that certainly wasn’t a dace and with my uncles drag set looser than a porn stars belt buckle there was no chance he was losing it and in came one of the best cub we have had form the Ribble so far, but bot was he a warrior with a pike bite on his lower back and another bite above its dorsal, this was one lucky chub.          

I returned to my peg and quickly set up my 17ft carbon active float rod and I decided to fish a bolo type set up to see if it gave me more control in the fast water and it wasn’t long before I was happily running a float through the swim.  At first it was all quiet but I soon struck into a fish and it felt a nice fish to boot, in the fast flow of the ribble you never really know what you have got on the other end size wise till the last moment but I was over the moon when the shiny mirror like scales of a big roach slipped over the lip of my landing net, I was pleased as punch at this capture, 1lb 3oz and made the trip worthwhile in my eyes.

I continued to pick up a few more dace but I didn’t get the chub I had hoped for but in reality I had left it too long before moving onto the float rod and had I done it sooner then who knows and its that unknown that will get me out of bed this weekend chasing the dace and chub shoals on the river. 

The river ribble, for ourselves, is proving to be a river where you have to work for every bite and it is rewarding us with quality fish when we get them.  To put it into perspective my uncle caught 8lb of dace last time out on the River Dee which I guess was made up of about 50 dace whereas on Saturday my uncle had 8lb of fish and it was made up of around 15 fish.

Uncles net

My net

Hopefully this week we will find the rivers in a nice state which should see up picking up a few dace.

Till next week thank you for reading

And tight lines


Friday, 15 February 2013

Bolo Fishing The River Dee and 2 Years In

A warm welcome to this week’s blog update, this week's update is not so much about this week’s fishing but more of an reflection and rounding up the second year of my blogging life and as the Blog approaches its second birthday its crazy to think that 60,000 people have dropped in over that time and I thank every single one of you that has helped me and shown an interest in my blog over that time.  People who know me in the "real" world know how shy of a person I am around people I don’t know but through this blog and being recognised and approached on the bank side it has done wonders for my confidence in speaking to people, I put a lot of time and effort into this blog and it’s great that it has given me something back.
As any angler that fishes every weekend throughout the year will tell you it comes with its ups and its downs and like the very rivers we fish our success levels ebb and flow from week to week, there are things we can do to try and increase our success rates but ultimately through the course of a year we will have our fair share of bad weeks.  The flip side of this is we also have our fair share of memorable days and the beginning section of this  blog is about celebrating those few “red letter” session from the past year that are etched in our memories forever, so come along and lets have a look back over the last angling year.
The first session that springs to mind was the very last session of the river season last year a day that saw us catch steady till a high spring tide killed the action dead and for a few hours we struggled to get a bite but then almost as if a switch had been turned on this fish appeared and we gave the river season a royal send off with a nice bag of fin perfect red fins.

Blog link:
After the season closed our attention turned towards our Stillwater campaign and Rixton Clay Pits grabbed out attention as we basked in the spring time sunshine and enjoyed the wealth of wildlife that this place has in abundance.  The first few visits we just got to grips with the place but as we refined our tactics so the fish came and we were all rewarded with some beautiful tench culminating in my uncle’s tench below.
Blog link: 
Before we knew it the river season was upon us and to fit in with the rest of this years river campaign it was met with a swollen river Dee, this pushed us onto the River Mersey in pursuit of a flowing fix and although the session was atrocious for both me and my uncle it was a session to remember for my dad with this 7lb Bream and it meant so much more the fact it had come from the river Mersey a waterway we have lived on the banks of all our lives.
Blog Post: 
The river season meandered along and between the torrential floods came big bags of dace but it was winter and pike I had my eye on and after seeing Martin Bowlers picture of his pike in the snow, I wanted one for myself and so the challenge was set.  A brief gap in the ever persistent rainfall saw the river fall to a fishable level and the banks blanketed in deep candy floss snow and I knew this was my window of opportunity, the day started with a new personal best Perch of 2lb 5oz but it was the ending to the piece that I enjoyed most, two pike around 10lb and with it my pike in the snow.
Blog post: 
Again the rain returned and pushed the levels on the Dee to an un-fishable level and we were forced to search for pastures new and I and my uncle found ourselves on the banks of a new river altogether, the river Ribble.  The day was slow to begin with but by the end of it my uncle had landed possibly the best specimen fish this blog will ever feature a massive dace of 1lb 3oz and a whopping 90.4% of the British record and great way to round off the second year of the blog.
Blog post: 
Moving on from talking about our angling year but still on the subject of that record tingling dace some of you may have noticed it featured in this weeks edition of the Angler Mail Magazine and also got a nice write up next to the picture as well, had I known they were just going to cut and paste my email I would have put a link to the blog in there!!  This fish also earned my uncle a place in the top specimens of the week competition and his prize, an Anglers mail T-shirt will feature in a future update when it arrives.  Well done again to my uncle and to thank you to all the people who left such nice messages on the Facebook page and forums it was posted on.

One final point I would like to brush on before I move onto the bread and butter of this update is my disappointment at the mess left on a location I visited recently doing a scout of a potential venue for the blogs Spring/Summer quest for a 10lb plus carp.  I will be going deeper into my pre baiting plans on my main blog and the carp blog in future updates.  I arrived at the chosen venue hoping to find any signs of where the carp where residing to give me a place to start from with my pre-baiting, what I found really disturbed me, evidence of fires, beer can laden bushes, food wrappers, pot noodle cartons the lot. 

I reflected on it a minute and then thought,  no I may be jumping the gun here it might not be anglers and in that moment my eyes where drawn to specific things in the area, hook packets, line, pre made rig wrappers and sweetcorn tins all over the place!!  This confirmed in my eyes it was anglers night fishing the area, which I have no problem with but why o why do we live in a generation where no one takes responsibility for their own mess!!, take it home with you!!.  It is not only bad for the environment, which is bad enough, but it does nothing to improve the image of angling in general, most bait shops give you your items in a bag it’s as easy as taking that page with you and putting the wrappers and stuff in it when finished, rant over.
And with that off my chest it is onto this week’s escapades on the bank: 
With rain all day on Friday it meant the rivers that were just about fishable were due to rise again through Friday evening and Saturday so it was with an air of uncertainty we travelled to the River Dee early on Saturday morning.  What greeted us was a high but surprisingly clear river that was rising but was not carrying much colour at all.  We knew we might get the day out of it if we were lucky but even a morning would be better than nothing.  As you can see on the chart below I have marked in red the period we fished and you can see it was rising all day and we also knew there was a major tide expected as well in the afternoon so we were in for a tough days sport.

Daylight revealed just how badly the banks had suffered from the rain with them covered in a brown thick muddy soup which made keeping completely clean a total impossibility.  My uncle chose to do away with his seat box and opted to stand up trotting while I made the most of my extendable legs on mine to set it up snuggly on the bottom step.

My plan for the day was to fish the bolo float and get to grips with not only fishing it correctly but getting the rhythm of casting in (tangle free) and feeding while the float is still trotting the swim, I feel I am slowly getting there now but I am going to continue to persevere with it both till the end of this season and into the summer when the season reopens as it really does open up the option of fishing right down the middle of the river.   The river with 2m to 3m on is a different animal than at any other time as it can see you fishing anywhere from 12 to 17 foot deep so you need to be equipped for the job at hand, I personally use a 17ft Carbon active float rod for my fishing and I have to say now I know how to fish with it I wouldn’t be without it.  The picture below shows just how deep you have to fish on the River Dee at times and also highlights the biggest problem you face when fishing the bolognaise method in deep water, the fact there is a large amount of line between your float and your bulk shot means you do suffer a lot with the float wrapping around the top of your rod, this is a problem that only practice will fix.

I adopted my usual mentality of starting of easy and going further out only if I needed to and I managed to get a few fish but what became obvious very early on was there was a decent snag to my right that I was going too struggle to miss.  A few hours in and I had around 10-15 fish and I decided a change was in order as I was losing the battle with the snags by a cricket score.  I decided it was time to be aggressive and make the fish come to where I wanted them.  I set up my pole rig and began feeding the slack in front of me with hemp and introduced some free offerings into the slow water to my left.

This method took a few slow trots through to get right but eventually the fish moved in and I began to connect with a few dace, I stuck on this method for a good hour or so but as the swim grew the size of the fish began to reduce.

Another fish comes on the pole:

 I knew the better dace where holding on my old trotting line where I had been hitting a snag so I decided to increase the weight of my bolo float so I could fish further out and began to pick up some better dace right at the end of my trot.  It was while fishing this method I witnessed one of the most surreal things I have ever seen on the River Dee, a tidal bore come upstream, it was almost as if a large boat had turned around downstream the waves where that large!!.  There were a few very experienced anglers around me that day and I heard a few of them say they had never seen anything like that, it was a unusual feeling of watching in ore and being slightly worries sat so close to the water’s edge!!

Video of bore

At this point the water was rising quite fast but with only a hour or so to go we would easily get the whole day out of it and surprisingly the fish continued to come even though the river was rising on a large tide.  The day was a lot harder than this blog update makes it sound and we both had to really work hard for our nets of fish and to be honest when its hard I find it the most enjoyable, when the fishing is really easy and the fish are there “one a chuck” as they say it can sometimes seem as less of an achievement than days like Saturday where we had to really work for each fish.  I know my uncle suffered a lot with the fish being up in the water column and he worked really hard for his net of dace.

My net

Uncles net

All in all it was another learning session for me as I come to grips with all the methods I need to learn to become a complete all round angler on the river, I hope there’s a day where I can confidently pick a method and be able to fish it to a good standard, but I guess all us anglers are caught up in a never ending search for angling perfection.

Till next time

I wish you all tight lines


Friday, 8 February 2013

Uncle Lands Massive 1lb 3oz Ribble Dace!!!

A warm welcome to this weeks blog update and for the first time in a while I will be using this initial part of my blog to discuss some bad news over the past week.  The first is the passing of one of the greatest all round anglers of our generation, Terry Lampard.  I never had the pleasure to share time with him in real life but spent more time than I care to remember watching his exploits that were captured on film, although he will always be remembered for his chub fishing the name Terry Lampard for me will always bring that scene out of Catching the impossible to my mind where he lands a 3lb plus roach trotting bread, a great loss to our sport.
The second thing I would like to touch on is the report’s that’s surfaced late last week of an angler fishing on the River Mersey coming across a network of gill nets that had captured fish from small pike to carp in what seems to be a high level operation by a group of poachers to illegally rape our rivers of their fish.
As a person who has lived on the banks of the river mersey all his life I have to say I highly doubt the individuals would be local people given the name the River has for being dirty and polluted, I know I certainly would not eat anything I ever caught out of the river, although in certain countries I do hear fish eye balls are a delicacy so I guess a river that has rumours of fish with 3 eyes makes good business sense.

One bit of light to come from this report was the fact the angler reported the nets and then the Environment Agency acted upon this and actually waited for the culprits to return before taking them away, I can only hope the high level reporting of this in the angling press will push the EA to make an example out of them to try and deter others from committing these offences in future.
Just before we get onto this weeks fishing I have been messing around of late with some of the scenery pictures I have taken over the past years and I am thinking of adding another column to the blogs tool bar as a place where I can post these images and I am also thinking of including pictures of personal best captures we have had in the past two years of the blogs existence as well, so once its up and live please have a look and let me know what you think.  A lot of the images I have already posted to the blogs facebook page and you can follow the blog on there by clicking on the following link.
On to this weeks fishing adventure:
The River Ribble, a Brand New Adventure Begins
At the end of last weeks blog I mentioned the fact that we would more than likely be visiting a new venue the following day and I am happy to say my predictions were right and we did indeed visit a brand new river, the River Ribble.  This is a river neither myself or my uncle have ever wet a line in before so we were both excited to see how we got on and both accepted that in learning this new river there was bound to be a few blanks along the way, how wrong we was.

In fishing I am a firm believer in the saying “you only get out what you put in” and I adopt this to all aspect of my fishing.  This trip to the River Ribble was a last minute decision but I didn’t go blindly into the abyss to this new river as I had done hours and hours of groundwork through the last few months, scouting out areas that would suite our style of fishing and would hold the type of species we would want to target, a way of putting it in terms of the Ribble is there is no point fishing a great looking dace glide that is too close to the sea and is actually in water that is too brackish to hold silver coarse fish, I can’t iterate it enough to people I talk to in emails, you have to do your homework, us as anglers have it a lot easier now than people years ago with the revolution of the internet forums and Google Earth, I knew what the stretch of the Ribble looked like before I even set off to the river on Saturday, you only get out what you put in.

The tides on the River Dee can really sneak up on you at times if you are not expecting them but I would say there are very few cases where the rising tides on the Dee would put you in a situation of grave danger, that is unless your fishing a gravel bar in the middle of the river, but the river Ribble on paper was a whole new animal all together as being a spate river it rises and falls metres at a time in only a short amount of time too boot and I have watched this EA chart over the past few months on my phone and gasped at the sheer speed at which it comes into flood with rain and also how fast it rises with the big tides, it certainly isn’t a river to be taken lightly and we had to have our wits about us.

Setting off in the pitch dark we knew we had a fair drive ahead of us but although it was a distance to travel the general route was really easy and only took in two motorways in the M56 and the M6.  We wanted to get on the banks nice and early to give us a chance to have a good look at the stretch we were heading too so we didn’t have to rush and could make a sensible decision on where we wanted to target.  Hitting the M56 at 5.45 we were quickly making good time along the M56 and were approaching the junction with the M6 when in the distance we could see a wall of red lights, a traffic jam, with no slip road between us and the wall of lights we had no choice but to join the queue and wait for the emergency services to do their work and for the motorway to open.  We spent 45 minutes in the jam and thankfully it was only a broken down fuel lorry to blame for the jam and no one was hurt which was our initial thought with all the flashing lights on the horizon.

The build-up of traffic on the M56 meant the M6 was really clear when we got on it and we made good time and still arrived at our chosen stretch under the blanket of darkness, two anglers were already unloading their gear and we had a short chat with them before unloading our gear and setting off to pick our swim. 

We chose swims quite close to each other so we could compare notes throughout the day and I was really pleased to see plenty of anglers on the bank as in my head I thought that they are not here for nothing.  I set up my trusty 17ft trotting rod with a 10 no4 stick float and began feeding the swim with maggots and hemp, the word on the street was down the middle was the way to go but me and my uncle stuck to what we knew best and tried to get the fish to come to where we wanted them.

The first few hours passed by and neither of us had even had so much as a chewed maggot and when you think about the fact we had both been feeding maggots and hemp during that time the situation was a bit worrying but to be honest as we looked around there wasn’t many people faring much better apart from one man who was catching some nice bream and chub on the feeder.  As we both hit the point of desperation my uncle struck into a small chub and not long after my uncle struck into his I also landed my first chub of the day, nothing massive but at least we were not a pair of blankers.

After this flurry of fish the swim again settled into its “dead” state and me and my uncle decided to take a time out and have a coffee at the top of the bank.  It was during this break a fella pulled up in his car and began chatting with us and he was soon helping us out in what we were doing wrong and what to do in the afternoon to get a few bites, in short we were wasting our time trotting and should be on the tip.  Me and my uncle had a quick change around in tactics and both set up a feeder rod and a maggot feeder, judging by the amount of bait we had already put in there just had to be fish on it.

I casted my feeder out and I couldn’t believe it as instantly there was plucks on the tip and it wasn’t long before I struck into my fist fish on the tip, a dace, taken on a size 12 hook laced with 5 maggots, so far detached from the finesse of our River Dee fishing.

As the afternoon wore on so the bites kept coming and I must admit I missed more than I connected with but I did put a few nice chub on the bank.

My uncle was also connecting with a few fish but it wasn’t until it was time to take a picture of his catch I realised just how good the fish were my uncle had caught.  I peered into his net to see a few chub and small dace and then it was almost as if the fish parted to show a gem in the rough at the bottom of his net,  “that’s a Dace Azzer  I shouted and a big one”.  We quickly let his other fish go so we could give this undoubted specimen all our attention,  the fish was photographed, the scales were zero’d and the fish was placed in a carrier bag and then placed onto mu brand new weigh scales, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief as the scales read a whopping 1lb 3oz, not just a big fish but a colossus fish not too far off the record, a fish that my uncle will do well to ever beat, a fish of a lifetime!!.

It was a real pleasure to share that moment with my uncle, he in my eyes is a first class angler and I like to think of this capture as the fish gods repaying him for all he has taught me over the past two years on the bank, there is no doubt my river fishing has improved, thank you mate!!, you deserve it!!.

This fish will has done and will no doubt divide opinion when it gets out to the open forum and all I can say is my blog is there for all to see, we are both honest anglers, we are not specimen hunters by any stretch of the imagination and we did all we could do, weigh the fish and take photos of it, it is what it is, the scales don’t lie, the pictures are now with the Anglers Mail if the experts say it’s not a true dace then so be it, that is something I am not an expert in but it looks like a true dace to my untrained eye.

In reflection at our time on the River Ribble, I would say it is a brute of as river compared to the river Dee, big feeders and big bait seem to rule supreme and I can see that being the case when we promise to visit again for the barbell in summer.  The fish don’t seem to like to chase a bait one bit as Saturdays session showed and we also didn’t get to get a taste for what the tides can be like on Saturday so that will also be an experience to go through on our future visits.  Neither myself or my uncle left the bank disappointed on Saturday and although the morning was hard work the river showed us enough promise for us to want to go back again and I look forward to locking horns with this powerful river again.

Till next time

Tight lines


Friday, 1 February 2013

Dreaming In a Winter Wonderland.............

A warm welcome to this week’s blog update and boy what a weekend on the bank it proved to be and I am still buzzing from it now, that’s the magic of fishing it can bring the angler so much joy and happiness, yes its nice being around the great wildlife the north west of England has to offer but nothing beats that feeling of achievement after a red letter day on the bank.  Another milestone also passed by with last week’s post in that it was my 100th blog post!! It only seems like yesterday to me I was an avid reader of all the great blogs on Blogspot and now I am 100 posts into my personal blogging life, madness and surreal and all I can do is thank you all for reading my updates and I hope you all enjoy reading them as much I enjoy writing them.

I start this week’s update by covering a program that aired for the first time this week on the Quest Channel called Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr Crabtree ( ).  There are 6 episodes to the series that will show weekly at 9pm on a Thursday evening and they will cover all aspects of our sport from pike fishing to river fishing, the opening week was devoted the fish of spring, the teddy bear eyed tench.

The program stars John Bailey as host as he takes a different child under his wing each week hoping to teach them the ways of Mr Crabtree.  I have long said on my blog that it worries me how many new anglers to our sport only know how to fish with a heavy lead and a bite alarm, many times on the bank I get speaking to young people in our sport who have never fished a float, don’t get me wrong this is not me preaching but more me disappointed as it as such a shame that the art of float fishing a canal say for roach and perch is fast becoming a dying art and a young kid’s first fish these days is just as likely to be a 5lb carp than a perch of a few ounces and I just feel you have more appreciation for the bigger species like carp when you have spent time catching the smaller fish.

This program see’s John and Sam stalking the margins of a pond for tench kitted out with a rod and a centrepin reel fishing under the rod tip using old fashioned tactics tweaked with the best the modern day has to offer to fool these shy fish.  It took me right back to the days before I started writing my blog when I used to fish a lovely tench water on the Warrington Anglers card called Cicely Mill, at only a few feet deep and reed lined margins I used to fish with my centrpin right under the tip of my 13ft float rod for these lovely fish.  In review I thought the show was fantastic and a breath of fresh air to the very stagnant TV fishing series of late and it really didn’t surprise me to see the greats of our sport like Matt Hayes publically complementing the series on Twitter.  I think it did exactly what it intended to do from the outset in taking people back to their childhood and open the eyes of the younger anglers to our sport to the joys of float fishing, it certainly ticked box one with myself and I can only hope box two was ticked with a few youngsters and I really can’t wait this week’s instalment on the rivers, 10 out of 10.

This week on the banks of the Dee went to show why it is important to be polite and friendly on the bank to the people you meet as I had a very special fish capture as you will see in the update later on but my electronic fishing scales packed up on me and I had no means to get a weight for a fish that was obviously a personal best.  I walked along the bank to ask another angler if I could borrow their scales and on approaching the peg I realised it was a fellow I had had lengthy chats with last winter and he had no hesitation in lending me his scales.  It just goes to show treat others as you would like to be treated and be polite and it will always have its benefits later on down the road, far too often people on the bank can give you the cold shoulder and be ignorant and there really is no need for it, thankfully on the river Dee they are very few and far between.

The result of this was this week I decided to invest in some new scales that don’t require batteries, I will get the old one up and running as a backup but inspecting these ones below I am already more than made up with them.

On to this week’s fishing and although it all happened in one day I will split it into two halves, the day session and the short “on the way home” session.

River Dee Day Session:- TROTTING FOR DACE

  Last week I fell really ill with this vomiting bug that has been going round and it really knocked me off my feet so much so I was off work from the Wednesday and spent the majority of my days either in bed or in the bathroom.  Friday came along and it began to feel as if the worst of this bug had passed and late on Friday evening I “perched” myself at my desk and watched while the thick snow began to fall out of the window of our house.  The snow fell and fell and fell and eventually became so thick it blanketed the whole of our car park in a good foot of so of snow.  I wrapped the blog up around 12.30 and gave my uncle a call as to whether it was sensible to go ahead with our trip to the river the next day, a quick chat and we decided the trip was off. 

This decision was made, not because of the conditions being too bad to fish in but the fact that my dad and uncle both live down on streets that are on quite steep hills and with us leaving under the cover of darkness it would be really dangerous for me to travel in the conditions alone, not to mention we didn’t know how bad the conditions were in Wales.

With no fishing on the agenda I tried my best to have a lie in but it didn’t materialise at all and I was sat in my living room checking out the river Dee water levels at 5am.  It would seem that I wasn’t alone in my early morning vigil as I received a text around an hour and half later from my uncle saying how mild it looked outside, a quick glance out of my window and he was right the snow was thawing and it was very mild.  It took us a matter of minutes to change our minds and I was already in my fishing gear before I the phone left my ear and I quickly swallowed a few ibuprofen tablets and made a beeline for my mobile igloo, also known to many as a car.

The roads locally were treacherous and my head and body were aching more and more as the journey to my dad’s continued, this was a bad idea but looking at the EA chart I knew the river would certainly flood for the next week at least and this could feasibly be our last chance to get out on the river for a few weeks, the opportunity was there today we just had to take it.

Driving the river in the daylight is not something I am normally accustomed too and with our final destination being a popular stretch of the river we hoped the harsh conditions over night would see a few people turn over when there alarm clock went off.  Pulling into the car park the stretch was empty except for two cars right at the top end of the beat so we settled on two relatively open pegs that we knew would hold some dace.

In last week’s update I went into detail about my general set up for trotting the river and this week I decided to try and add another string to my bow by using a Bolo float and fishing a lot further out than I normally would.  These floats are traditionally fished with a bulk shot a few feet above your hook and I decided to go with this set up and used an ollivette to make up my bulk shot weight.  This style of fishing is generally used to fish a third to half way across the river so it would also see me using a piece of tackle I don’t normally use on the river and that’s a catapult.

Getting used to flicking the line out tangle free and baiting the hook without the float wrapping round the blank of the rod took what seemed like an eternity to get right but eventually I began to get to terms with it and managed to get a few decent trots through the swim.  The main problem I encountered was the swim was noticeably shallower just past my bed of hemp which made it really hard to get a decent presentation and to further my problems I was also struggling to cast in and feed the line with the catapult whilst letting line run from the reel to allow the float to still run through the swim.

With the wind coming down the river I decided to pull my line in to the end of the tree to my right, this had two benefits, one I gained control as it was closer in and two the maggots where going straight down so it meant I could trot a small distance in front of me and get bites. 

Doing this soon saw me picking up the odd dace but all of a sudden the swim died and did so for around 10 minutes, I decided to persevere and I was so glad I did as not long after casting in the float buried and I was into a fish that was in another league all together.

The fish made lunge after lunge for the safety of the snags to my left but I was determined not to lose this fish like I had done the better fish I had hooked into in previous weeks.  I am sure the new reel had a part to play in me winning the fight as it helped to cushion and control the fish’s powerful lunges where I feel the unforgiving nature of the closed faces drag would have seen me snap off on one of the final lunges the fish made.  In my head I thought it was a nice chub, which have been rumoured to be in the area, but what came to the surface was something altogether more rewarding, a big perch and the person who said nothing looks bigger than a big perch certainly knew there stuff, I was shaking with the sight of what was in my landing net, definitely a new personal best.

The fish safely in the net I made my way along the bank to see if anyone would lend me their scales to use and like I mentioned earlier I came across a guy I had had a few conversations with in the past and he was more than kind enough to help my cause.  Returning to my peg I quickly put the perch in a carrier bag and got it on the scales, 2lb 5dr, I was more than made up with this fish!! A perch over two pound is a fish I thought I would never catch.

The fish was put into the keep net so I could have another admiring look at the end of the session, the scales returned I spent a good hour chewing the fat with the guy who lent me the scales and both shared our knowledge of the Dee and the surrounding rivers.  I eventually got back to the trotting and settled in for an afternoons trotting and between 12 and 3pm I put together a respectable net of 10lb including the perch.  Not my best session on the float but considering I was on the bolo float I was more than made up.

 My uncle had a solid days dace fishing with bites coming all day long and he ended with an outstanding net of 16lb of all dace, a more than respectable day’s work and would have actually put him joint top with the winning weight in the Dee anglers match on the other bank.

 As many of the blogs followers on facebook will know I have been experimenting recently with an app called Instagram on my iphone and I am really impressed with some of the changes you can make to pictures, I was more than made up with what it allowed me to do to my perch picture, I feel it really brings out the fishes colours.

Going with the flow of the day – a bit of opportunistic piking

With there still a decent amount of light left and the fact we knew this would probably be our last trip to the river Dee in the next few weeks we quickly rounded up a few live baits in a bucket and set off to see if I could achieve my goal of a pike in the snow, after no activity all day again at our current location I was far from optimistic, but one thing I did know was if I was going to get a pike today the place we were heading was as good as anywhere.

Parked up I made my way to the spot and with freezing cold and shivering hands I baited up my rig, said a little prayer to the fish gods and cast out into the murky depths.  The float danced on the surface as the fish plodded around under its surface and then it settled into a rhythmic motion almost as if the lapping of the waves agitated the dace into motion.

In a blink of an eye the float descended into the depths and I struck into what felt at first a small jack pike, that was till it realised the dace it had just engulfed wasn’t heading into its lair as easily as it would have liked and that’s when I felt the full power of this pike as it made a strong run.  I was using my braided line for the first time and I have to say it left me in full control of this pike, I always felt I had power in reserve and whereas before I used to give the pike some drag this allowed me to firmly apply pressure to the pike so it remained in front of me and before I knew it I had my winter snow pike, I didn’t weight the fish as it was not a record breaking fish but I knew by holding it the fish was easily around the 10lb mark.


With the light fading fast I didn’t have long to try for another fish so I quickly got my pictures so I had time to hold the pike in the margins and let it rest fully, again this rumour that pike are a hardy fish is just that a rumour, we should really limit their time out of the water as much as possible, get our photos and rest them fully before releasing them, it is amazing how long a pike, that fights so aggressively will lie in the margins with you holding their peacefully before giving their big paddle a lazy kick and moving off.

The pike released I moved back into my swim and chanced my luck for another pike and I was not to be disappointed as after only a few seconds the float went for another soaking as it descended, this time towards the snags!! This was going to test thr line for sure so I quickly struck and applied as much side strain as I dared and I was amazed how the line gave me the strength to turn what was a decent pike  and which turned out to be slightly bigger than the previous one.  My target was one pike in the snow, two pike had me in dreamland, a dream land surrounded by a winter wonderland.


The pike is more than equipped for its role in the food chain.


That was it for the action and we reluctantly left the banks, a personal best perch and two pike around the 10lb mark, I still can’t believe I am catching pike of this size regularly and taking them in my stride, a few years ago a fish of around 10lb would have been a dream fish but I never take them for granted in my mind I know we are only a pollution incident or fish disease away from this great river going up in smoke, the fishing on the dee right now is up there with anything I see in the weekly rags and long may it continue, I am proud to be a River Dee angler.

my second home:

This weekend, if the conditions hold, we have a new destination on the cards, it’s a brand new fishing destination for us and will be a whole new learning curve, we may well blank, in fact I am sure there will be more than the odd blank as we learn this new place.

Till next week tight lines from one happy angler,