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 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.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Sloe Gin, Long Walks and Green Thread.

With the blackthorn positively bursting with sloes this year it was time to forage . Tradition usually dictates that the sloe should be harvested after the first frosts. In reality most have been harvested by then. There is a fine line between allowing them to grow fat and ripe, and turning up late for the harvest.
 With this in mind, and with this years fine weather bringing the berries on nicely; Lady Sarah and I collected a tidy little harvest in just an hour or so. All this for the preparation of Sloe Gin for the winter hip flask and Sloe Vodka for the Christmas festivities.
 We kept to the  following recipe...
1lb Sloes
8oz Sugar
1.75 pints of gin/vodka

Of course we've seen variations to these quantities and ingredients, but this seems more traditional and if it isn't broke, we don't fix it.
All the sloes were washed and pierced a few times with a sterile needle. We then placed them, the spirit and sugar in a clean 2 litre bottle with the aid of a homemade funnel and closed it tightly. After a good shake it was stored in a cool dark cupboard.
 The bottle should be shook every other day for the first week and once a week thereafter. It should be good to strain and drink by the festive season.


It was time for a long walk, a walk that took me through mown meadow to reeded flow.
 In the distance, walking towards me, a brother of the angle .
 As our paths crossed in the midday sun I enquired  "Any luck?". He answered that he'd caught a few small chub and the conversation meandered through barbel to roach. It transpired that this gentleman had read this very blog and was pleased to be able to see a fellow angler's tales from the place he himself cast a line. Well I hope you are reading this post sir. It was nice to cross paths with you and I hope the rest of your day was fruitful.
 Walking down the beat I noticed just two other anglers and gave them both a wide berth, strolling further downstream.
 I eventually arrived at a likely spot.
 The river is low and clear and I dare not even chance a sneaky peek with the polaroids. Instead, a good plan seemed to be to have some carrot cake and tea whilst sprinkling the downstream area with caster and hemp.

My tactics here, in these conditions are simple. Three small soft-hookable pellets straight on a fine wire size 12 hook to 5lb line. That  is the joy of using forgiving cane rods.

You can see here that by using mono instead of braid and the lack of a hair, that the rig is not at all blatant.
  Having quenched my thirst and quelled my hunger it was time to cast. A gentle underarm flick to the baited area, then sit well back , and wait.

And wait............and wait!

No solid bites were forthcoming. With cunning stealth I'd set my traps, but the fish were wiser. After a couple of hours trying I reeled in and went for a stroll.

The river needs rain, for colour more than level. I did eventually find a swim with a bit of depth, chucked in some offerings, then returned for my kit.

Sitting amongst a mix of Himalayan balsam, reed and mind wandered to thoughts of the Redmire gudgeon, and a swim known as Cranstouns..The rod tip flickered, then jagged chub-like. I struck.
 It was as if I had summoned the beast from the depths, as there before me hooked fair and square was this lovely fellow.

I'd seemingly found a lovely space to sit and wait for monster gudgeon to snaffle my barbel baits..I stayed a while and caught some more, they made me smile..they always do.
Deep down, I knew it was time to take another long walk and then another short one, if I was to find a barbel or a roach....

Amazingly, I found myself  able to bag the productive swim of previous weeks. With an angler downstream I decided to stick with my simple leger tactic, alternating between caster and pellet on the hook. Caster were the the bait that scored first, a feisty small barbel, golden and wiry. 

Having bagged a baby barbel my mind became set on roach, so I upped the hemp input and stuck to multiple caster on the hook. Slowly but surely I am honing a method that I'm sure will eventually bag me one of the monster roach I feel sure are present.
 The method worked, providing a succession of quality roach. I guess it's not innovative angling really, but I'm learning and tweeking things as I go.

What a cracking fish this last one is, I don't think I've seen a more beautiful roach. A fish to make anyone's day, it certainly did mine.
 As I photographed the last roach a call came from upstream. The chap was beaming from ear to ear having just caught a near double figured barbel on meat. I strolled the fifty yards or so and helped with photos. Fortunately he had the same camera as me so there was no drama. We chatted a while about vintage tackle and the like and as I returned I said he'd soon be down to use my camera, as I was to shift my attention to barbel now.
 Having politely declined the offer of a couple of chunks of meat a move back to the small pellet was in order.
 The wait was perhaps an hour or so but as the light began to fade I received a savage bite, matched only by the fight of a fit barbel. It is the first time since using cane rods that I thought I might break one, but it stood firm and was eventually able to subdue the fish..Not huge, but very reluctant to be netted. My fellow barbel catcher duly obliged with the picture. You might notice that the Redmire beard is coming along nicely. I actually loathe it, but tradition is tradition.

My fellow piscator remarked that we had another half an hour before we had to be off of the fishery,"Enough time for another one" he said.
 Within five minutes I was indeed into another hard fighting fish. For their size they fight so hard, but once again everything held together for me to land her.

I probably had enough time to catch one more, but I have learnt to sometimes be happy with my lot and go home happy........which I did.


Well I received my whipping thread yesterday for the restoration of my new Allcocks SuperWizard, a rod that I have big plans for. I have gone for Pacific Bay Green in grade C for the rings and nodes and grade A for intermediates. The original colour whippings for the rod are red but I will be putting my own personal touch on this particular rod. I think that green will go better with the later green Allcocks decal and is also a nod in the direction of the original Wallis Wizard. I'll not be documenting the refurbishment here, but will post some 'before and after' shots when complete.