Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Special rod - B.James & Son - Peter Tombleson

I purchased something special today.
I am an acquaintance to the son of a sadly departed pillar of the local angling community, a respected gentleman who lived to a decent age and fished to the bitter end.
His son has had many conversations with me about how they fished together, along with his uncle, and the great catches they had. The stories of their time together, always a joy to hear.
His father purchased the best tackle that money could buy in those days and his rod collection would make many a collectors toes curl. He was also fortunate enough to have some very esteemed angling companions.
The son has always been aware of my interest in vintage tackle and has furnished me with many a tale about the fantastic rods he knows the whereabouts of..At first, I listened with a bit of disbelief..Until I delved deeper.

About six months ago he declared that although he would be holding on to the majority of his late father's rods...he did have one I might be interested in purchasing....when he got around to sorting his Dad's stuff out.
His description of the rod had me quite excited, I had an inkling to what it might be but I was respectful and didn't want to push the issue.
Today I received a phone call saying he would bring the rod to my workplace where I could peruse it and make an offer.
A colleague brought a rod bag to my office, an immaculate green rod bag..Upon it was the label which read B.James &Son..On the inside of the flap, the ex-owners name and address in his own hand.
It soon became quite apparent that I was holding something special.
This rod has been hardly used, if indeed at all.
The original whippings are green, it has an onion butt and the guides still have the varnish on them giving them a golden glow. The ferrules pop nicely and it is as straight as an arrow.
It is not however a MkIV...The words upon the rod read "Peter Tombleson"....a rare rod indeed, especially immaculate and green whipped....and the name on the inside of the bag?...Bernard Pollard.
Now that name may not ring any bells with most of you, but Bernard was a recipient of one of the original Walker made MkIV's and a good friend of RW. They fished together many times.
I have to say that sitting there looking over this rod and wondering what to offer for it was difficult..I am quite aware that I could've purchased it for perhaps a third of my eventual offer, but I wouldn't have been happy with myself. My offer was accepted happily and I am delighted.

Monday, 31 August 2015

A Redmire float.

I found myself at the Fence Pitch, sitting, watching, waiting. I should have really been concentrating on the scarlet tip placed just feet away from me.
 My mind drifted back a few months to an email to the fine floatmaker, Mr Andrew Field.
  I'd seen a photo of a particular float on his website that looked just the job for use at such a prestigious venue as Redmire.
 Having enquired as to the availability of said float I soon received a reply from Andrew stating that the particular float was the only one left from all in the photo. This meant that although I did not yet have it in my possession, it was already lucky.
 I now have a a few of Andrew's creations, all of the highest quality, all mini works of art , all used for the intended purpose.

I'd encamped at Pitchfords, rising early to walk the short distance past Stumps whilst the others were still dreaming of glorious galitians. Walking aside the holly trees, then tip toeing on to the precarious platform to deposit 15 handfuls of micro pellets about a rod length out.
 Steam rose from the mirrored pool as dabchicks sat amid the reedmace and the first wood pigeons broke the silence with their distant 'coo's.

Back at base camp I threaded the 8lb line from the Mitchell CAP 304 reel through the rings of the B. James Mk IV and tackled up ready for a morning's float fishing...First things first though.
 My good friend Tony awoke about an hour later and duly set about producing a hearty breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs and mushrooms. Whilst the kettle was on I strolled back down to the Fence Pitch to deposit two handfuls of sweetcorn onto the baited spot and stealthily plumb the depth.

 As I drank my first tea of the day I recalled my six previous trips to the pool and all the wonderful fish she'd offered up to me, but not a single carp to the float despite my efforts on every single visit.
 By now the sun was up and I quietly edged my Lafuma low chair and rod in to position on the platform, nestled in the undergrowth.

The end tackle comprised of two small drilled bullets between two Drennan grippa stops which in the unlikely event of a mainline breakage could slip off of the line very easily. A 6lb hooklink to size 12 hook completed the end tackle. Bait was to be two grains of corn.

The float was attached by a rubber at the bottom only...

I suppose this method can be described as somewhere between lift method and float legering.

With everything set I gave an underarm flick to the spot and sat back..

...and so I found myself at the Fence Pitch, sitting, watching, waiting.
 Wrens, Tits and Warblers gorged on insects and grubs within feet as I remained still, statuesque...transfixed.
 Even the attention of the wasps, one of which landed on my nose, didn't cause me to faulter.

As I sat amongst the Willowherb and Nettle a decent looking common cruised in just below the surface and completely circumnavigated the float slowly, attentively, before cruising off on his way..I hadn't fooled him at all.
 In the next few minutes the float was landed upon by two damselflies, double somersaulted by a gymnastic gudgeon and checked out by the dabchick which broke cover to see if it was edible, leaving her miniscule offspring to call frantically from beneath the willow fronds......

...and then, quite magically, the classic lift bite...Up...Flat....then drift away...and.....strike.

The fish, quite clearly a scamp, dashed for the nearby willow and once turned, zoomed around in ever decreasing circles...It has to be said that getting to my feet, grasping the net and engulfing the fish was a quite delicate affair, but my balance remains good enough.

 The result of this little plan? An absolute gem of a fish..Small yes, but perfect in every way. With fish like these,the future remains bright for the 'Mire.
 It had taken 7 years to catch a Redmire carp on the float. I've caught some of the pools greatest treasures, but this little fellow and the way it was caught will live long in the memory.

Despite fishing on in the same manner for another four hours I received no further action. With this catch I'd blown my cover completely, but I strolled back to base feeling more than contented with my perfect little prize.

Andrew Field's website can be found here.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Barbel Bullion

Disorganised days drift into the chaos of traffic, and so follows the haphazard loading of tackle.
About an hours drive away lies the low flowing sinuous abode of gold. Through humid field and o'er five bar gate, I go to prospect.
 The chatter of the magpie, shrill call of the 'fisher welcome, as the mallards argue. The grass moist, seeps, as the evening sun begins to fade.
 The water runs low and fast at the top of the beat where small unknown birds dart for grubs and insects amongst the rampant reed growth. Thin, fast, shallow?...No, not here..onwards to the grasping, rasping snags and depth, today.
 The crunch of pulled balsam beneath my feet betrays my presence to wood pigeon and noisy pheasant and startles us all.
 Well away from the flow I tie the simplest of rigs, then stealthily edge riverside concealed behind reed mace as the nettles brush my forearm.
 Vehicle noise is now just as distant as my memory of the home time traffic, once more I enter the heady world of the evening barbel fisher..
 I prime three swims with just two pieces of bait each, which today is meat, and then a moment of contemplation, no rush now, everything has slowed, a time to savour before that first cast.
 With an underarm flick to the faster midstream flow, it sinks unseen, to where in my imagination the barbel are stacked like pure ingots..

He who dares?

On the opposite bank, murderous squealing, something was being killed by a predator..I was quietly glad it was still a bit light..spine chilling stuff,  I don't usually get spooked. However, the unseen does play tricks.
 Suddenly, the rod whacks over with such ferocity that I jump! The tip almost hitting the surface of the river as the Speedia check screams.
 The strike is immediately met with aggression from upstream, not down....Upstream being where the snag is and the fish has gone straight through it still taking line...I'm in trouble, eventually I gain a small element of control but the line is grating awfully.
 I come to a position where the fish is tight to other side of the snag..With no other option, I am set to go in.
 Hand-lining slowly I think that the fish though not in view, could indeed be nettable, alas the line goes limp and with a great boil whatever it was, is gone. It seems that he who dares doesn't always win.
 My first thought is carp, but I'll never know...It is time to move swim.

After the addition of a couple more free offerings a cast is chanced towards a recently fallen willow.

 There is streamer weed and depth here and I am able to see the baited hook fade in to the depths before sitting back in what can only be described as a bog.
I need the chair in this swim but  I still have that 'Titanic' feeling.
 The sun has peeped back round from behind the evening cloud prompting a festival of midges who seemed to want to party the evening away... in my eyeballs! It is whilst trying to extract one of these eyeball headliners that my rod pulls around again. My strike is late, but not too late, the fish hasn't yet reached the sanctuary of the fallen branches, though the intention is certainly there. I give no line, my thumb pressed firmly against the narrow drum and the trusty Chapman 500 holds firm. This rod has taken some punishment over the years, it is dog-legged with numerous 'sets' but I like it that way..It bares the scars of battle well and soon has a small, spirited barbel with a tail grown for fighting ready for the net..I have struck a little bit of gold.

No messing about with the roll mat here, there is no man made substitute for natures unhooking mat of moist, lush grass. Fish dealt with fast and efficient and back in the net to recover a while before release...and so, it is time for the next swim.

 A deepish bend with no real feature other than it's bendiness! I feel that with the sun beginning to fade it will give a better chance of playing and landing a hooked fish.

  First chuck produces a bite and results in another 'dart' of a barbel, released without photo.
 The light fades and I'm now fishing by touch as the tawny owls call to each other from distant trees . The mallards strolled off over the field and have now fallen silent.
 Heat has become cool and the whole scene has taken on an air of expectancy.
 I've cast into the slower water and can feel chub plucking the bait, so move back to the faster mid flow and add another few morsels of bait.
 The line is yanked from my hands and the drum whizzes as a fish takes the natural chicane and tries unsuccessfully to ram itself into the downstream reeds, the rod is perhaps at it's limit now but the fish is turned, yet not beaten. Using the flow to it's advantage it evades the net, perhaps four or five times before eventually succumbing.

These fish are lean, wiry beasts with big tails. They know their home well and are a great match to the tackle I use.
 It is time to leave this wonderful world, time to join the traffic once more...and dream of future gold.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Voices

Do you ever get that feeling? You know the one..that inner voice that whispers, "Go there, you'll catch there".
I took the back roads home, tearing round the bends like an inept rally driver..stupid. That's fishing for you, or me anyway. Makes me throw caution to the wind and focus attention on just rivers, fish..and stuff.
 I reached home in one piece, loaded the car messily, kissed the missus and set off....rapidly.
 Two hundred yards up the road the voices started, " You've forgotten your camera you baffoon, more haste , less speed."
 I actually just abandoned the car and the gear in the middle of the road and ran home to fetch the camera, much to Lady Sarah's dismay...she's sees this behaviour regularly.
 The journey to the river is a short one and once through the noisy fishery gate that inner voice, call it intuition, insisted that I walk to the very furthest swim again...without looking at any of the others for signs of fish.
 The session was rather auspicious in that it was to be the first time I would use the Hardy Perfection Roach that I had purchased some months ago, alongside my Allcocks Match Aerial.
 Bait was caster, hemp and bread. Tackle was one of Richard C's floats and size 14 hook.
 The flow was not excessive, just enough for the reluctant reel to do it's job.
First trot, a lovely 10oz dace to caster.
Then not much at all..I fed hemp and caster, a pinch every trot. 
 I know that the fish could take hours to get on the feed and that just before dark would be my time..but how did I know that? Something was keeping me right here, searching the swim, holding back, adjusting shot.
The inner voice knew I should stay.
Darkness began to fall and by this time I'd taken the rod's first roach and a few chublets. All very nice. Is it experience that guides my path or have I absorbed some of the river's spirit over the years? I fished on, straining to see the float tip, and when I could just about see no more...under it went.
 The strike was met instantly by a very satisfying arc of the rod and the fish was soon some way downstream and making bid for freedom up a nearby inlet.
 I was more than a match for this fish though and he was fought and duly landed. 
 Laying in the net was a rather nice chub which I weighed in at 5lb 2oz, worthy of a photo I thought.
 I took the camera from the bag, the camera I had run back home for, and pressed the ON button..nothing...battery as dead as a Dodo...The bloody voices didn't tell me about that!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Citronella Nights

 With my newly re-connected fishing head firmly back on I pass through the clanky gate to the inviting green sanctuary that is Ouse.
 The undergrowth seems to have grabbed and kept the days sun and I stroll headstrong through it's thermal pockets.
 This evening I do consider my options, the entire beat is mine. Passing every pool and glide, weighing one's options as the blood sucking insects case me out.
There's a tinge of colour to the flow and the fish only give themselves away at surface level, chublets, dace and roach chasing the hatch.
 Settling on the farthest swim from the gate I sit amongst dock and the huge mutant plantain, bright green filigree'd leaves surround.
The Davenport & Fordham MkIV & Speedia Deluxe combo is tackled up and seems just about right here, not overly long and with backbone if required.

 My swim is quite featureless, straight and deep. I consider that it might be great for many things; trotting, laying on, predators; pike and perch will definitely live here.....but maybe not a classic barbel swim. However, you never know on the Ouse..and you have to try.
 I arrived at this swim choice because the area downstream is gravelly and has lots of cover, thinking maybe I could tempt a barbel up to me with the fourteen boilies I have baited. Confidence is everything, so fourteen it must be, it's a magic number. Doesn't seem a lot of bait to prime a swim with, does it? The barbel are so few now that you are angling for single nomadic fish...less is more. I purposely take very little bait, if I took more it would be used, and more never works.
 As the sun begins to lower itself I hear voices, loud voices. Someone is showing a friend the fishery..loudly. I become agitated, how dare they break the dare they both stroll straight into my swim..loudly. Eye contact is all that is needed to tell them to move along but I hear them for ten more minutes. What has happened to angling etiquette?..I feel like I'm turning into my father!
 The tip judders, and then again and I raise it on.
 No drama here a small, welcome chub. I can feel that this swim has the ingredients for big chub, but I take whatever comes gladly.

We're at that time now when the local wildlife begin to complete the days business.
The heron is flying from bough to bough, looking for a roost.
 I see the kingfisher, frantically diving along the beat, searching for the last meal of the day.
 A solitary magpie flies through the overhanging branches as chub rise for the relentless insects in the flow beneath. The magpie is not a harbinger of bad luck for me, I have much wierder superstitions!

Another tap, and then a click of the centrepin, I strike and another chub.

 Netted, released and recast just before darkness, and so to what I call the quiet hour. As the light drops away, so does the sound...Silence and a marked drop in temperature.
The otter appears, in no hurry to pass through my swim. Steady and methodical is how he works. I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love to see them, they have a right to be here..they have also eaten most of my beloved Ouse barbel.
I wait beneath the enveloping branches of this old willow, the rod tip now invisible, I leger by touch.
 My eyes feel heavy. The heady whiff of citronella, darkness and concentration are taking their toll and I nod off.
 Something pulls at my fingers, which are still holding my line. I wake, strike and miss...Go home to bed Gurn.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Back Amongst It.

It's always there, it's a calling. The Great Ouse, sometimes I forget that I miss it, but yes, I'm always conscious that it's flowing mass somehow has this impact upon me. It's not called 'Great' without reason. I curse myself for letting life get in the way, but sometimes it must.
 Treading pathways, newly formed by the excited river angler, I stroll, focussed.
 In the back of my mind I know where I will end up but kid myself that I shouldn't be blinkered, so view other likely places through nettle and over broad leafed plantain the size of side plates, it grips at my stride. These moments have missed me too..Uncaught fish, lost memories, but now I'm here it feels cosy and correct.
 Inevitably, I'm in a swim that has been kind in the past. These days you take what you can on the Ouse.
 Somehow the fish are secondary here, though when they happen along you know that you deserve them.
 Settling in, one rod, baited, waited, cast. Instantly I realise that my once accustomed body is not as ready to sit on an old Lafuma low chair as it might be.
 The odd angler strolls the far bank, not enough to bother a searcher of solitude. I exchange an obligatory nod and nothing further..Move on, nothing to see here!
 The rod tip jags twice..why am I still lazily looking at it? jags twice again and I lift the rod and start to play the fish in a position that seems too low down...I get to my feet, eventually.
 After a spirited initial surge, so typical of the chub, he tries to ram his way beneath the near bank. He's mine Ouse fish, first of the season.

With the rod re-cast I sit back down with what I can only describe as a feeling of smugness, not because of the fish but because I am alone, at peace. Is it selfishness? No apology here.
 A pair of swans with two young arrive downstream, grazing on the present weed. They're noisy, but in a good way. I'm reacquainting myself with these once familiar sounds.
 A great heron soars above, screeching like something from the Jurassic, searching for a spot to fish and though I hear the other 'fisher I do not see his flash of azure.

It occurs to me how little I actually watch the rod tip directly, though I'm always aware of it in my peripheral vision. There's too much going on to worry about bites,  a sharp tap re-focusses the
mind for a few seconds. It may sound a bit weird, but I believe that I could actually somehow feel a bite without even looking.
 The light is beginning to fade and my swim takes on a spiritual vibe with  more than a couple of citronella incense sticks burning around me.
 The mosquitos and midges swirl in great vortices atop the trees like starlings coming to roost or the funnels of insect tornados. I've never seen this before, silhouetted trees like arboreal log cabins look to have smoking chimneys, such is the abundance of these bugs.
 With the coming of the insects, so come the bats, amongst my favourite creatures, their acrobatic displays are worth the ticket fee alone. I often wonder why they sometimes fail to detect fishing line though!

One of the many advantages of using a cane rod is that any available light bounces off of the varnish rendering the rod white...I have my own light sabre, no isotopes here.
 A Tawny Owl screeches from the trees and a large unseen flock of noisy birds passes above as dusk becomes dark.
 Just before midnight the downstream swans become agitated and the cob hisses incessantly. He's definitely disturbed, it can only mean one thing, a predator is close. Human? Fox? ..... a couple of minutes later a large dog otter swims nonchalantly through my swim..and so, nature tells me it's time to go home.

Friday, 30 January 2015

The Magic

It's been just over a year, a busy year, a 'not much in the way of fishing' year. I've moved house, have a new job and we've planned a wedding.  I'm amazed at how popular this site has remained and I thank you for your messages, most of which were telling me to get my arse back in to gear! Well I'm back.,  and though this will be an even busier year, I'm determined not just to angle more, but to write more.

Let me tell you about a fish I caught back in August..

Did it all start on a cold January morning with a phone call to Les Bamford, or  when I discovered an obscurely listed fishing rod on ebay?
You know my love for Redmire, blimey, it's taken a bit of a peppering this year. I mind not...for all those that say 'it's finished' 'the magic has gone' etc. do not know the same pool as I. Their loss, would be my gain if I thought of it in a selfish manner, but it truly is their loss.
The magic is still plentiful for those romantics that happen to indulge it.
 I also have a fondness, nay, addiction, to carp rods of the MKIV taper, or variations thereof.
 Scouring the darkest recesses of that bloomin' auction site we all love and hate in equal measures, I happened across a job lot of old rods. I recognised one of them as an early Constable 'Forty Fore', a rod I'd been chasing for some time. In fact I'd have settled for a later version such is their scarcity.
 I messaged the seller, who lived around thirty miles from me and arranged a visit.
 On arrival I heard from a lovely old lady of the sad passing of her husband 'Tom' an avid angler in his day, who bought the best he could afford.
 I perused the rods on offer, I really only wanted the 'Forty Fore'.
 It needed some restoration, but the nice lady was pleased to hear that I intended to have it restored and it would be used again.
 I ended up buying all of the rods on offer, most of which I had no use for, for a fair just seemed right.
Here is the rod, at the ladies house, as purchased...

The cane was sound, a testament to the rod building of Cliff Constable, he's truly one of the greats.
 The job of restoration would fall to someone else, I just knew I wouldn't have the time. Responsibility fell to Steve Boncey who agreed to take on the task, he came highly recommended by people I trusted.
 I have to say that Steve is not only good at what he does, but he is a gentleman too. Always keeping me informed of the minutia of the build and even sourcing new ferrules to match my insistance for originality.

Here is how it came back to me..I'll let the photos speak for themselves...

..and so, fast forward then, to a balmy August evening at Bernithan Pool, Redmire.

It has to be said that there is a fine line between indulgence..and over-indulgence, on this particular evening it was unfortunately the latter.
 With rods rested against the shelter and spots primed with free offerings..We indulged in the hospitality of one Mr. Bamford.
 Amongst my closest friends, the stories, food..and yes, shamefully, the Napoleon brandy did flow.
Les is now one of the few fortunates to have tasted the delight that is 'Redmire Rissotto!'.
 The 'nightcap' was extended and the atmosphere became 'heady' as only Redmire (and Brandy) can deliver.
 Common sense did slightly kick in and I made my way tentatively back to the Open Pitch before too much damage was done.
 The first rod, The Forty Fore, was cast to a prepared spot..and cast well, all things considered.
 I stood back a while as the line sunk, taking in the timeless scene before me, set the Mitchell to 'churn'...and I really was about to turn on the bite alarm...honest.....when my good pal Tony appeared, somewhat worse for wear!
 It transpired that he'd arrived at his bivvy, gone to sit on his bedchair...and missed! Now Tony is not a big drinker and had been affected by the evening a bit more than myself..He was scared to fish in such state and decided to come to my swim to clear his head and talk crap for an hour or two as us men are inclined to do at such times.
 In reality, we discussed much, a catch up, putting the world to rights, long into the night.
 Perhaps, two hours later, the handle on my old Mitchell 300 did indeed begin to 'churn'.
 Tony was stunned that I'd not set the bite alarm......I was going to...I really was. No matter, I struck and connected to one of the pool's jewels.
 This was my first action on the new rod and it felt awesome.
Standing there in the moonlight Tony remarked, "It's like Walker and Thomas all over again"...The scene could've been sixty years previous..Alas, I'm no Dick Walker!
 Now both very sober, the state of unspoken teamwork we both attain at such times had kicked in and Tony set about unjamming the tip ring of weed that was coming up the line in abundance. I did tell him at one stage that, "You're not playing a double bass, you know?" such was his twanging of the line, but he had it all in hand.
 The fish was a plodder, staying deep, moving ponderously but determined for some time. The rod performed impeccably soaking up each dogged run.
 Slowly, very slowly, we gained line on the fish...Tony grasped the landing net..I had reservations, "You gonna be alright with that mate?"..His reply, " It won't get two chances" and with the fish finally subdued, he was..of course..proved correct. With the fish netted first time without drama we both collapsed to the floor giggling, as we'd done so many times in the last thirty years... In the net lay a Twenty pound plus Redmire common, a fish worthy of christening any rod and another Redmire ambition achieved.
  Don't tell me that the magic is gone.

In Memory of Peter Thomas, Eddie Price and 'Tom'.