Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas All.

To all who have shared my angling exploits this year, to friends old and new, brothers and sisters of the angle. I thank you, one and all and wish you a very 'Merry Christmas'  and a prosperous new year.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Grayling - Back Amongst the Ladies

What is it about angling for this little fish that captivates us so. They seem to be loved by everyone that throws a line.
 Perhaps it's the anticipation.....
 James had told me that he would be angling for grayling and asked if I'd like to join him again. We had such a great time last year that it made me wish for the winter months to arrive a little quicker this year. I do love my winter fishing and the addition of grayling to my winter list just seems to be the icing on the cake. 
 The Speedia was oiled for the occasion, something I do far too infrequently. I do make things difficult for myself because the addition of just one drop of oil makes such a difference.
 With the bait sorted and tackle ready, an early start was in order.
Perhaps it's the tackle...
 The Allcocks Lucky Strike seems to be just about perfect for small stream grayling fishing. I will  admit that I've not actually tried anything else but I just don't need to. I have no problem at all trotting a traditional style float all day with the Lucky/Speedia combo. Some people actually claim that cane is heavy, it's not. OK, it is heavier than carbon, but let's face it, if you can't hold a bit of bamboo all day.......
Perhaps it's the river....
 The chalkstream, a fragile environment , bestowed upon us by this diverse and wonderful country of ours. How lucky we are to be able to idle away hours of our lives in such enchanting places.
 We arrived at first light, that first glimpse from the bridge giving all the information we needed to assess the days fishing. Low, cold , clear...for any other species I'd have been worried, yet I revelled in the sight before me.
Perhaps it is the company....
 James is a good companion. He's fished the stretch more than me and knows the swims well. Like myself, he is fortunate to have a knowledgable angling father who has taught him a little too well. 
 My love of solitude dictates that I give much thought to who I choose to fish with.
Perhaps its the joy of angling.....
 Having caught a few small grayling upstream I took a stroll to a swim I did well in last year. I could clearly see a few fish present, just drifting into view as they snaffled  passing red maggots.
 The cast is often grabbed by the overhead branches but I succeeded in avoiding the twiggy grasp and the float was on it's way, effortlessly towing line from the Speedia.
 The orange tip vanished and the strike connected. The dark cane of the 'Lucky' flexed it's steel against the fish, which was now sitting in the fast central flow. Such strength for such a small fish. He was no match for such a classic combination though and he was eventually mine.
Perhaps it's the fish.....
 I once read somewhere that a grayling looks like it has been knitted. Well I can see exactly what they meant. They have a look all of their own. Those exquisitely  iridescent colours, that gorgeous sail of a fin, those eyes.
 Add to that the tenacity of a fish twice it's size. The strength to hold in the current, that fight and their wirey, muscular contortions when held a little too tightly for their liking....I love 'em.

We caught many. We once again had a fine day, a day to remember. I could wax lyrical about it all, but will save some for another day.

 What is it then, what does a grayling have that strikes a chord with all brothers and sisters of the angle?

 I'll tell you what it has.....

.........It has it all.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Redmire Photos, Kodak Brownie - Never the Easy Option

The easy option is to fish with my modern tackle on a commercial fishery, that is if I want to catch fish all day. It has to be said that the aforementioned is perhaps not my primary objective. I do the things I do because they make me smile. I like to think that I take the fun option. Cane rods are not as adept at catching fish as their carbon cousins, they are more fun though.
 So then, let's take photography. A digital camera will produce a high resolution image that can be manipulated, should one wish, to become black and white, then aged, quite simply. That's not real though is it?
 At a summertime car boot sale I chanced upon a Kodak Brownie 44A, a camera that is contemporary to some of my old tackle. I purchased it for 50p and purposely hung it around my neck for the rest of the sale,much to the embarrassment of Lady Sarah. I new exactly what I wanted to do.Just like the rods I refurbish, I wanted it to live again, and in style. I would purchase a film for it and use it at Redmire Pool!
 Lady Sarah gave a customary eye roll at my latest barmpot scheme.
 The camera takes the now obsolete 127 film. I thought my only option would be ebay, and after some perusal found that I'd only be able to buy the film from old expired stock or from eastern Europe. I didn't fancy either option and searched the internet for something else. Fortunately ,I stumbled across this fantastic site....Lomography....which in turn directed me this site,a site with instructions on how to convert your Brownie camera to the more readily available 35mm film format.
 Having carried out the conversion I purchased an Ilford HP5 plus 400 film and loaded it as instructed.
 Having the camera alongside my digital at Redmire just seemed right, and I followed the shooting and winding procedure as set out on the site.
 On return I sourced a processing lab in Devon...Spectrum Photo Lab  and having manually rewound the film under the duvet, it was sent off to be printed.
I'd long forgotten about the anticipation, the old questions, "Will they be blurred, double exposed etc."
 I was able to obtain 15 images from the 24 exp.film and I'll let you make your own decisions about the results, ironically digitalised here in order upload to the blog.
 Clearly not the easy option, but it has been really good fun.

I think they have an old fashioned charm and thoroughly recommend that you have a go.

Link back to T.F.F

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Poem...Found.

Whilst strolling along the River Gt. Ouse at Bedford today with Lady Sarah we stumbled across this little gem. I felt it rude not to share.......

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Redmire Pool 2013

"Patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet."

The remaining ancient oaks drop acorns, as if tears, shed for their fallen comrade who still lies wounded in the pool of dreams.
 Small fry leap just for the hell of it, carp ... not gudgeon, flamboyantly somersaulting.
 These things break the silence now that the rain has abated. I'm here again, It's wet again.

 Moorhens stalk my pitch for crumbs and a huge fish gives out a 'kaboosh' from the sleeping oak.
  With two rods out, the autumnal blaze drifts into monochrome and I drift into that heady world that only a night at Redmire brings.
 I'm in the famous "Willow Pitch", it'll never be "Walkers" to me. If anything it should be "Richards'", the true pioneer of the pool, I digress.
 With Ash opting for the productive "Stumps" and Tony in "Pitchfords," I've chosen this pitch with one thought in mind, it produces the bigger fish.
 My starting tactic, to fish just two rods, my rigs tied with the larger residents in mind. 
 The night shift begins with the bats, only three this year. They're some of my favourite creatures and I watch them until my eyes can strain no more. The tawnys up in the oaks call out, first 'toooit' repeated many times until the eventual reply 'Woooo'. The reeds start to shuffle, rodents large and small scavenge the surrounding area. The alarms stay silent and in the early hours I eventually succumb to light sleep.
 I wake to light rain and the news that Ash has caught his first ever Redmire carp, this being his second trip, a common of around four an a half pounds. Promising news.

Ash's fish. Taken on a mobile, at night, in the fog!
 Around mid-morning the lads venture into town. I'm awarded a rare treat, I have the whole pool to myself. The rain persists and it's tempting to confine myself to the bivvy, but this opportunity may never arise again, I sit out.

For an hour and a half I'm able to indulge myself in the fantasy that the pool is mine and mine alone. She is a moody companion though. My thoughts turn to the years previous.
 I've trodden these banks a good few times now, usually in less than clement conditions. She's given up a few of her prizes to me. I've felt the elation of a capture on these banks, even in this most esteemed of pitches. But there's a dark side to the pool. It can wound you. I hark back to the deluge and floods of last year, the harsh reality of enduring the worst fishing conditions I've ever encountered, and not a fish to quell the pain
 The lads return and the rain stops..

Shortly after, a fine figure of a man appears, apparition-like on the dam wall. As he strolls it's length I recognise a gentleman I know only from his writings. We'd corresponded and I'd organised permission for him to visit. It is none other than Dave Burr of the wonderful "From the Banks of the Wye".
 We greet at the end of the Dam wall and he takes a seat. I have to say I enjoy his company and it's clear we have a lot in common.
 Unfortunately, Steve, my kettle doesn't take a shine to Dave and is reluctant to boil, resulting in perhaps the worst cup of tea he's ever had....Sorry mate, Steve's fault, not mine.

A good while passes, in which time we have put most of the world to rights and observe that rather nice fish hurl itself out by the oak again. It's time to stroll around the pool.
 It's now that I read Dave's mind a bit. I've told him of my fishing plan for the week and as I reel in the rods and show him my rigs, I know that inside he's thinking something along the lines of "subtle, they ain't.".
 It was good to meet up at last. I'm sure we'll fish together some day, though he sadly seems not to want to fish the pool. We bid farewell and before long darkness cloaks the pool again. And so to a quiet, dark fishless night.
 I wake early,  Lady Redmire is in a good mood and I never tire of watching the sun come up over the oaks, it's shafts of light piercing through the foliage and down onto the pool. I'm always minded of, in my opinion, the best line Walker ever wrote, perhaps whilst sitting in this very spot...."Our long vigil had begun. It continued until daybreak and after. The sun rose deep orange, it's beams making the lake steam. Nothing moved; I was lost in a quiet world of green and grey and gold".

Opposite is the corner swim known as "Cranstouns", home of monster gudgeon, but nowadays little fished for carp. Here it also rains acorns from the oaks near to the spot Jack Hilton caught his forty pounder. The falling fruit cause the same noise a boilie makes upon landing, when having been launched high into the air with a catapult (we've all done it).
 I'd remarked to Dave on the possibility that this might have a dinner bell effect on the carp. That large carp is still hanging around the area and launches herself skywards. I'm able to see she's a sizeable mirror.

There's only one place to be on the pool when the weather is like this, the shallows. For the first time this session I thread the 8lb line from Peter Frost's old boomerang check Mitchell 300 through the rings of my B.James Mk IV. The rig is a size 10 Gardner Mugger hook fished blowback hair rig style to coated braid. The bait, three grains of sweetcorn.

 Nestling in to the swim amongst what appears to be watercress and wild mint I now have command of the extreme shallows. The air smells sweet and fish soon betray their presence.

I  think the swim is now known as the "Top Pitch" but in the past was called "No.3 Pitch". It's cosy, if a tad moist.
 A gentle underarm flick is all that's required and I sit back, arms folded, hat on, shades on..hiding my obviously white skin, blending in.

..Yes, blending in is exactly what I'm doing. I really feel absorbed by it all...so much so that I nearly nod off, this always seems to happen here! Fortunately, the odd large fish breaching the surface shatters the tranquility and focuses my mind.
 To watch these legendary fish actually turn on to their sides to propel themselves through the shallows, is a joy to behold. Great plumes of red silt stir up with every beat of their tails.
 Alas the line stays ever still and my attention wanders to the shuffling of a small mouse, frantically searching for morsels to eat, no more than four feet away. It's his lucky day, I'm willing to share a few golden grains with him. In fact, it was a fine day for both of us despite my lack of a bite after many hours of static contemplation.
 Back at the "Willow" and with the evening drawing in, I take time to greet the lone Mire swan.  He seems not to have discovered a new mate having sadly lost his partner a couple of seasons ago. I find him friendly and no problem to my angling at all. I like to think he remembers me, he almost certainly doesn't.

 He's still king of the pond though.  The small flock of Canada geese are well aware of where they sit in the pecking order. It's the first time I've seen Canadas on the pool. They are also an interesting and entertaining addition to the daily life of this microcosm.
 With the Mk IV now set up to fish, it seems logical to set it up as a third rod for overnight, sticking with the sweetcorn. The other rods still rigged with big carp in mind.

With the setting of the sun, so comes the inevitable Cranstouns/Fallen oak dolphin show.

 That fish is at it again, so much so that one could quite easily be fooled into thinking the swim was packed with feeding carp.
 A few bleeps emit from the sweetcorn rod's alarm. I'm unsure of the cause, perhaps small carp picking up the bait, perhaps large fish causing line bites, perhaps rodents walking into my makeshift stick bobbin..I drift off to sleep.
 Did I hear my name being called in half slumber? Was the spectre who called me from "Stumps" five years ago back to lure me again? No, I awake to torchlight. Ash has come around to inform me that his father has caught a nice common and ask my advice on how to proceed. I tell him to sack the fish till daylight.
 All too soon it comes for me as my eyes welcome another fishless (for me) dawn. Looking across the pool that old saying resounds in my thoughts, "Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning".

 It is a morning of breakfast in bed delivered early by Tony. Bacon and egg roll, thank you very much. I suggest we sort the fish and photos as soon as possible and we are soon down at the Dam. However, the rain has beaten us.

What cracking fish these Mire commons are, we both agreed that it was a fine result for Tony. I was so pleased for him.
 With the fish safely returned we also agreed that we'd probably be bivvy-bound for the rest of the day.

 An Intrepid Piscator has a a couple of choices at times like this. One can sit in the bivvy with a view such as this...

.....or one can sit out in the rain making cheese toasties!

 You will need the following items...

One vintage Nutbrown sandwich toaster
Two slices of white bread (buttered)
A bag of grated mature Cheddar
A Primus (or similar) stove

Apply one slice of bread to one side of the toaster, butter side down then pile on copious amounts of grated cheese......

Apply the other slice of bread butter side up on top of this. Then clamp the toaster together to trim the edges pretty sharpish to avoid sogginess in the rain......

All that is then left to do is hold both sides over the stove to produce the finest toasted sandwiches you will ever taste..It is not, however, compulsory to do this in the rain..

The darkened skies had lulled the leaping carp into thinking it was dusk and she was soon up to her tricks. Crashing through the snags beneath the oak and hurling herself about like she was half-demented.
 By midday the gastronomic delights were in full flow, with me dashing around to the lads with some of the Redmire cake kindly produced by Lady Sarah for the occasion.
 Slowly but surely the inclement weather passed and the sun tried hard to poke itself through the grey clouds. I don't need much encouragement to be back on the shallows, this time at "No.1 Pitch".

Just a couple of snatched hours really, with still nothing to show for my efforts. As time moved on I start to consider a move of swim for the night, the opportunity was there this morning but time had run out due to the earlier weather. "Stick to the plan", I think.
 To be honest, the thought of yet another infamous Redmire tradition had by now taken over and I am soon in Tony's swim to partake in the now legendary Redmire Rissotto. Describe by some as "food of the gods" and by others as "something that might have been down and up twice". The sight of this wondrous dish polarises opinion. I know it looks like something that you might find on a town centre pavement on a Saturday night....but it tastes fantastic. We really excel ourselves this year.Tony and I eat two bowl fulls each.

Night falls quickly on the pool at this time of year and I'm stubbornly sticking to my big-fish rigs on the two original rods with the MK IV being used as a 'snide' with the sweetcorn.
 It gets really dark at Redmire! Though when the clouds part, my whole swim is illuminated by the fat moon.

They're long, these nights, so long, too long. Gazing, waiting, drifting, waking. Never a full night's sleep. No sound, no fish..except the Cranstouns leaper.
 Morning breaks on our last full day and no-one has caught in the night. The sun shines bright in intervals and Tony tells me he has plans to fish with me in the shallows from my side of the lake today. I've secretly been thinking of fishing "Hilton's" and suggest that we have a bank each with Ash preferring to stay behind his alarms.
 I'd noticed quite a bit of fish activity in the area in front of Hilton's on my previous forays down on the shallows. 
 I think I might try the tactics that have proved so successful in the the low clear river conditions I have encountered in previous weeks. That being to use a light mono hooklink, size 12 fine gauge hook with soft pellet on the hook, no hair, and a very small semi fixed lead..
 I love this swim but one must be very stealthy in approach and indeed whilst in residence. I tackle up behind the trees then slowly position myself in situ and catapult out some feed pellet, before gently flicking out the rig.

 Tony is nowhere to be seen in No.1 pitch, yet I know he's there. We both melt into the backdrop, motionless for a couple of hours, until I see movement on the opposite bank as Tony vacates.
 About five minutes later he's behind me, informing me of his plans to visit Ross-on-Wye for lunch and to refresh body and mind. I now have a dilemma, in less than 24 hours we will be leaving. Do I 'waste' valuable fishing time? "Don't chase 'em Gurn," I tell myself. 
 The line is carefully reeled in and I apply around ten pouches of the feed pellet to the swim. Proceeding to create my own version of 'Kevin the scarecrow', leaving my low chair, rod and hat in position, before leaving for respite in Ross-on-Wye.
 Fully refreshed, we return. It's straight back to Hiltons for me and the fish are well on the pellet. Manoeuvring myself back in to position, I cast to an area beside the coloured water and sit back and wait, and wait.
 The fish appear to be everywhere except close to my hookbait and a decision is made to reel in and climb the pollarded willow made famous by Chris and Bob.
 From here I can clearly see where the fish are feeding and also that the water is so coloured now, that sweetcorn is an obvious choice of hookbait. Back down in the swim I attach two kernels to the hook and cast into the correct area, a high, looping accurate cast.
 Sitting back, I take up some of the slack and try to sink some of the 8lb Daiwa Sensor main line.
 Sudden 'churning' of the Mitchell 300's handle takes me completely by surprise and my eyes sharply scan the swim for the swan or the geese. The only thing I see is the rapidly tightening line and I take up the MkIV and raise it hard and forcefully, it takes on a fighting curve and I'm finally attached to a carp. The corn had been in the water no more than twenty seconds before it was taken and the perpetrator was now within feet of Tony on the far bank, who seems oblivious to the saga playing out before him. Scrambling to my feet I now stand upon the small platform, the usual thoughts running through my head. "Easy does it, six pound hooklink" "Fine gauge hook" "Snags to the left".
 Five minutes in and with the fish having now paraded it's way around a full circuit of the shallows, Tony enquires,"Are you in Mr. Gurn?", my reply, "Well in, sir". Realisation hits that my net is stealthily placed behind the swim and I tell Tony of the situation, he immediately reels in to assist. As he arrives, with young Ash who looks at my rod and reel with an element of disbelief, the fish seems to be ready to net. "I'll walk it back, you net it", I instruct Tony. There's no real need to tell him what to do. We have fished together for many years and we automatically know how to assist each other at these times..He nets it first time. My long wait is over, and in what style? MkIV, Mitchell 300, sweetcorn straight on the hook, from the shallows. Pretty near to perfection for me.

I am a right mess, a self imposed burden has been lifted. Adrenaline courses through my veins making me shake so much. The rod and reel have performed impeccably and my thanks go to the lads for safely transporting the fish to the dam for a quick photo call.
 Again I now consider a move, Tony has had the self same thought, but after lengthy discussion we talk each other out of it.
 With the evening now approaching, the time seems right to pack away the Mk IV, return to my swim and indulge in my own sausage and ale festival. The pool had rewarded me for not chasing and I sat alone contemplating the events of the afternoon with a bit of a golden glow. Perhaps the catches from this pool mean too much to me, I'll never make apologies for it.

Having nothing to lose by persisting with my big-fish rigs. I send them out, freshly sharpened, to spots by the tree that had received the majority of my bait over the last five days, not too close to the tree mind, I am not of the 'fish at all costs' mindset.
 Darkness falls and in the moonlight something stirs, a beasty on the dam ? No. Perhaps one of the lads? No. It is Bamford, custodian of the pool. Now considering that I'd partaken of a few ales I am quite pleased to see that he only holds four cans of bitter.
 I love talking to him, such a character, so knowledgeable. I say 'talking', it has to be said that you mostly listen!. We discuss everything from bait theory through to Ashlea Pool. After an hour or so has passed the big fish leaps from the area by the tree. "That's been doing that for weeks", exclaims Les. "I'd thought it was tethered but it seems to have been spotted in various areas of the swim". We agree that it is probably gorging on the bloodworm in the silt near the outflow and intermittently clearing its gills with aerobatic displays. Les and I converse another hour until he leaves with this parting shot,"Catch that f*cking fish."
 Still feeling 'wired' from my earlier catch the nocturne envelopes me. Not a chance of sleep, I scroll my cameras screen in self congratulation. The night progresses and I am startled as my left alarm bursts into life, my first run from the swim this week. On connection, my brain immediately evaluates the situation proclaiming that I am attached to one of the 'scamps'. No line is given as it kites, unseen, towards "In Willow". I literally pull it back to me, winding as I go and before long it is in front of me, sending boils from about two feet below the surface. I raise the rod in the moonlight and she glides effortlessly to the spreader block to be enveloped with no drama at all.
 It is only when I fetch the torch to have a look that I realise I've caught something very special. A phone call to Tony has him reeling in to be at my side to help with the unhooking and sacking. Things I do effortlessly on other lakes seem to need more attention on the pool and my first thought is always for the safety of the fish. More hands make this easier.
 I'm not a huge fan of sacking fish, not that I think it's of detriment to them. Far from it, I actually think it's a good way of resting them after the ordeal of capture. The problem for me comes with the huge responsibility. I can't rest, constantly checking and re-checking.
 The fish is safe and deep, I know that, but there is no way I am going to sleep. 
 An hour and a half later another alarm sounds out, not mine but Tony's. I reel in to return his favour and dutifully assist with his fish an absolute belter of a common.
 I have never been so pleased to see the dawning of a last day on the pool and photos and release are carried out early.
  The big fish plan had come good on the last night. I recall my words to Dave four days previous, "All I need is one good bite". I also recall Les' parting words and reflect that the fish hadn't leapt in all the time my carp had been retained.

Lady Redmire had decided to be nice to me again. A fish of dreams. I'll not venture weights here, such is their immateriality, but one can be safe in the knowledge of another personal Redmire milestone easily surpassed. I suspect this fish fell victim to the rogue otter of a couple of years ago. I know of at least one other fish with this tail damage in the pool, a large common. I just pray thanks that it has lived to tell the tale, and fulfil my dreams, even if it has lost a bit of fight.
 And so to Tony's final fish, another corking Mire thoroughbred, just beautiful...

 We leave on a high. Thank you Redmire, we will of course return.

My thanks go to all involved in the running of this great place, it never lets you down. Also to the lads for their great company. But,mostly to my Lady Sarah who went above and beyond the call of duty to do two five hour round trips to drop me off and pick me up,  my car being a bit ill at the moment.
 Special mention once again to Graeme of Carp On Baits who just keeps on coming up with the goods.

Link back to Redmire Pool forum........Here.
Link back to Traditional Fisherman's Forum....Here.