Thursday, 21 February 2013
I have a theory on current fishing. We can either make the final outcome the entire reason we bother, or we can make the process itself the reason we go fishing. I always believe it's the journey, as much as the goal. If the method you use is enjoyable in its own right, you will always have a good time. This is why techniques like lure and fly fishing are fun. The process itself is inspiring, whether you catch a few or a stack. This is also why spur of the moment trips are brilliant. I just couldn't resist fellow fly angler Charlie Hancock's invitation to jump in a car and take on some underfished pike. Waders help when casting space is tight, but I also had a real eye opener when I saw Charlie set up a 14ft salmon rod. With a spey cast, he was getting a pike fly out a good distance even with trees slap bang behind his position. With the fish appearing to be further out however (possibly because of the recent cold snap), a borrowed boat also came in handy. Bites weren't frequent, this jack being my only taker, but Christ on a bike were we in for a surprise in a deep bay. We'd wondered what exactly was lurking when a couple of smaller pike bore big jaw marks. And then the answer was there with a vengeance, making his reel grind and spit out line like a child's toy in the presence of a monster! The fish went dead on twenty four pounds and he was just a little happy- from the picture you might wonder if he was so thrilled he intended to spawn with her before release! As bites dried up we formed a different plan for late in the day however. Hopping back in the car, we made the journey to Lechlade trout fishery for a final couple of hours in search of a big trout. So much for easy fishing on a stocked lake. The trout were fairly cagey, no doubt due to having seen many anglers aim flies in their direction. I tried teasing a damsel nymph in and I tried drifting a buzzer. Lures were flatly ignored. And so with time slipping away, I made the switch to a smaller, much subtler pheasant tail nymph. What a difference! A couple of little pulls were missed, before the line zipped away neatly. What began as a lazy fight then turned into a real punch up. Who says that big trout don't know how to pull back? For several minutes it was white knuckle stuff. If there's one thing even better than a goal, it's a dramatic late winner. The brown trout of ten and a half pounds in the net was not only weighty, but fantastically coloured- and it was my turn to grin like an idiot. I can't thank Charlie enough for his local knowhow and quality banter. This would have made the trip worthwhile alone. But those two brilliant fish made it perfect- enjoyable methods and cracking catches to boot. Just a final shout before I sign off is to remind all you Westcountry rods to join us at Mill on Exe on Tuesday 26th at 7:30. Barry McConnell, eel fanatic and top man, is our special guest. I also like him because he shares the same name as the Barry McConnell who once played up front for Exeter City FC and famously scored two goals to defeat Chelsea in a pre season match. Uri Geller was also there, but that's another, very odd story.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Trying to make ends meet as a fishing writer is not the most glamorous occupation for ninety percent of the time. Going fishing for a living it definitely isn't. I write more words each year than I ever did during my English degree, to say nothing of the thousands of photographs I take each month. But there are odd perks. Getting to fish with with famous personalities on some unique waters is one such treat. I've met Chris Tarrant before on the banks of the Test, but it's still a little surreal to see someone you grew up watching on TV stroll along the bank and say "Morning Dominic, anything doing?" Chris has been a keen pike angler longer than I've been alive. It would be unfair to think of anyone who has pursued the species to the ends of the earth as a "celeb who dabbles in a bit of fishing." He has been everywhere from Western Ireland to Canada- and had some great pike stories to tell. So was there any reward for getting up at silly o'clock and being first on the water? I had vowed to spend the day pike fly fishing- but did afford myself a first hour with a sardine in a big marginal slack. A rip roaring take just minutes in turned out to be my biggest ever trout at eleven pounds twelve ounces! You feel a bit of a fraud catching a fish like this on a sardine- but there you are: Chris then turned up and I switched to the fly while he cast an old school spoon as we wandered in search of further action. I had no objections to having a good chat and playing the role of ghillie- but the pike had other ideas. As Bob James caught up with us to try for some chub and grayling, I was playing the first of several fish that took a liking to one of my larger pike flies. It was hardly bite a cast fishing, but exciting nonetheless- perhaps the best fish of the day was one that bulged after Chris Tarrant's spoon but wouldn't make a last second grab. Fish have no respect for fame or status- and in this respect we're all equal on the bank. That said, Chris has taken pike that any angler would be proud of on both rivers and still waters, with a best of over thirty pounds. From his early dabblings on the Thames, to more recent trips to Chew I got plenty of interesting quotes as well as a very enjoyable day out. We just couldn't get the big one in the end however. Bob James was unwilling to part with any of the grayling he was catching further down; in fairness the smaller ones were around the pound mark and it would have been sacrilege to contemplate slinging one of them out on treble hooks. In other news, I've been making the most of wet weather by getting back to the fly tying vise. Below are part of a series of classic Spiders (or "Soft Hackles") destined for one of the American magazines. I may love fishing in Britain, but the wages are generally fairly pitiful for a writer and I'm honoured to contribute in the States, where readership numbers and standards of writing are very high. They also love their fly fishing and it's great to write about British flies and traditions to a different audience.
Friday, 8 February 2013
The seas of Cornwall might look more inviting in the Summer, but you don't pass up the chance for a quick break in a sleepy seaside village. And no matter how much stuff you cram into the boot of a car, there's always room for a fishing rod. Setting out in the dark, first sensations of Port Gaverne were lashing winds and spray on the rocks. Exciting, if a little menacing. In the morning however, it all looked prettier on a long stroll. People are also much thinner on the ground in February, which made for a more relaxing atmosphere. Not that the wildlife was absent. We watched kestrels hover over the cliffs, and I joined my brother grabbing some pictures. There are certain similarities with fishing when it comes to sneaking up on wildlife to get a picture. It was hands and knees stuff getting anywhere near this pair of oyster catchers, but good fun. I do love a sea fishing detour. Growing up in Devon, I've done quite a bit of beach casting over the years. Most of my best moments seem to have come from those rocky locations where the netsmen don't get to, admittedly- and so at Port Gaverne, I was instantly drawn to the craggy beauty of the bay on our doorstep. The unpredictability of the sea is all part of the excitement, but leads to a problem: what exactly do you take to a mark you have no familiarity with whatsoever? Simple rigs, smallish hooks and worm baits are an excellent way of hedging your bets where the species list is a big fat question mark. Where the going is rocky, I usually stick to a simple paternoster, with a weak link to the lead in case of snagging. On an initial short evening session with my older brother, we at least had the odd rattle on the tip and Ben landed a small, unseasonal bass. The next day was more fun though, as I perched on a hairy looking spot right on the point of the rocks. The tide was dropping, but there was very deep water close in. Perfect! I took only a short "pub chuck" as my pal Moxey would have described it, and within ten minutes the worm was gobbled up by another surprise in the form of this ballan wrasse: The locals then arrived, launching baits well beyond the rocks and onto the sand in search of flatties. This was once a fair mark to catch dabs, but in recent times has steadily declined I was told; I didn't see them get a bite, although I would have loved to see a flatfish. Instead of joining suit, I kept my bait just off the rocks and touch legered in search of anything. After a small pollack arrived, the final catch was one of the sea's stranger looking critters. My other half described this red scorpion fish as "an ugly little bugger." I disagree. An unusual bugger, yes, with huge fins, froggy eyes and almost as wide as he was long. Rather cute though, at least to my eyes.