On this the fifth day of Advent or as John Andrews of Andrews of Arcadia would say the ‘Moveable Feast Of St. Nicholas’ I present to you some festive cheer, that time of the month when the Christmas cake needs feeding with a tipple. this year I have decided to lace with Cherry Heering and a drop of V.S.O.P. cognac. There is nothing more satisfying than sinking your teeth into a slice of cake, sip a good mug of tea whilst one observes an Avon float bob beneath the surface as a crimson fin grayling takes the bait. Tight lines to you all and let’s raise a jug of Porter to all who angle.
For those of you who are lost as to what gift to buy the fisherman that has everything, I suggest another box of fishing flies if he is a game fisherman. Several good lots are available from a well know online auction site. You will find one Wheatley fly box is never enough.
With a mass of high pressure sitting over the east of the country the forecast for today was to be fair, clouds filled the sky but by mid morning the sun broke through on this first day of Advent.
A recent visit to the North Kent Coastal resort of Whitstable was to prove to be all too brief, for this seaside town holds much history. Whitstable sits on the southern side of the Thames Estuary, a gatekeeper to the River Thames and was highly regarded by the Romans as an area where fine oyster were to be found, they liked them so much the Romans shipped oysters back to Rome.
It was only on my recent visit did I realise there was a castle in Whitstable, previous visits had focused around the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company restaurant and the many interesting shops and galleries.
My dear friend John Stoddart famed for his photography of celebrities and now a resident of Whitstable pointed out recently that the diving helmet and suit was invented here, a blue plaque on a cottage in one of the back lanes recognises this. Clearly there is so much more to this town. Over the years it has seen the regeneration of the fishing huts to an eclectic mix retailers of vintage clothing, home-wares, artists and now places to stay. Properties have been renovated and urbanites frequent at weekends as those in the know realist this town is a real gem. With such strong seafaring history I felt I needed to return and share my recent visit.
Along with the family and a close friend we headed east in order to visit a couple of restaurants I introduced my gin to in order to get them to stock it, Sloane’s Gin, named after Sir Hans Sloane, a dry style gin that won the accolade of ‘Worlds Best Gin 2011′, it’s distilled in a different way to most other gins. Each of the nine botanicals is carefully distilled then blended together, this give greater control over the balance of the gin. It is then rested before bottling. Fresh oranges and lemons are used in the distillation process instead of the normally used citrus peel by other gin makers, for us it gives a fresh citrus note. These are still early days in getting Sloane’s Gin to market and for those of you that follow trends there has been an explosion of gins in the market, in fact one bar in London’s West End boasts listing over 246!
Our first stop was the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, owned by Richard Green & Angharad Renshaw-Green. Over the years this has been a favourite haunt of mine. I introduced both my sons to the delight of this restaurant where you will enjoy some of the finest fish and oysters. On our visit today they were keen to show Young Tales a wonderful gingerbread house, an eye-catching display in the restaurant. A shared platter of a dozen oysters washed down with some Whitstable Oyster Stout was a great start to the day before our Sunday roast across the pebble courtyard at the Pearson’s Arms run by Richard Phillips, if you find yourself in Whitstable you will be spoilt for choice but you can’t go wrong with either of these fine venues, neither are pretentious but offer great food along with great service and one can’t ask for more.
Young Tales wanted to play on the beach, its pebble foreshore leads to a sand and shell encrusted vista that throws light out on the low tide across the estuary towards Southend. The oyster beds visible and marked out with marker buoys. Avocets, Sandpipers, Oyster Catchers and Terns strut their stuff as they turnover Crustacea.
As the first December day drew to a close the sunset was like a neon orange bar held in purple glove like clouds. Silhouetted on the shore were bait diggers and wadding birds flocked nearby, the wooden groynes reached out to the sea like gnarled fingers.
Young Tales suggested a trip to a nearby trout fishery was a good option on this clear and cold November day. Dressed in several layers, bags and rods packed into the car we headed a few miles away to Syon Park Fishery, part of the Albury Estate owned by the Duke of Northumberland.
With a cold wind blowing from the north east fishing was no doubt going to be hard, however during mid morning we met up with fellow WordPress blogger Mark Minshull known to many as metiefly, something he does very well. This delightful gentleman is a great observer and creates exquisitely tied flies that catch fish.
It was great to have the opportunity to share past experiences of fishing and discuss some of the myriad of patterns of flies we knew worked on the water we were fishing. It was great to see Young Tales listen to and observe the skill of our fellow fisher who was keen to share his passion and embrace Young Tales interest in flies.
The day was as much about meeting Mark as it was about fishing. Earlier in the day Mark had secured one fish on one if his trusted patterns however our endeavours were not so fruitful until later in the day. With Marks kindness of giving us a couple of his flies we were to get a couple of knocks. Eventually a fly resembling a Montana, black cock hackle tenkara style, florescent lime green bead, black silk body overwound with fine flat silver tinsel finished with three strand fibre tail was the answer.
It took Young Tales a while to net his beautiful crimson marked rainbow it was square tailed with bright flanks that were iridescent in the afternoon sun. There was also a rather large grin on Young Tales face as the fish lay in the net on the riverbank.
With one fish caught from our two fish limit we decided to call it a day. We thanked our new acquaintance for his kindness, guidance and support, hoping that we will be able to share another adventure together. At least today we benefited from his knowledge of this water and the riddles of catching trout in difficult conditions were better understood after learning that the had tied a selection of flies that were based upon real knowledge and that he was kind enough to share.
Thank you Mark (metiefly), it was a most memorable day. See http://itieflies.com for links to Marks blog and look at his fly tying videos on YouTube.
Yesterday was my birthday. Over half a century has passed and in that time I have endured loss, love, happiness,wealth, hardship, conflict , change, development and fulfilment. The most important element of life have been the long-term friendships and many of those friends share the same passion for angling.
I was lucky enough to receive as a gift from my old friend and fishing companion, Shaun Madle, a copy of Esox The Story Of A Pike, it was wrapped in bespoke wrapping paper designed and produced by Shaun, a design of multiple flies, you’ll see it illustrated here.
It’s not so much about receiving the gift but the knowledge of the time and effort that went into finding the book and on its presentation, so Mr Madle, it is with great gratitude and thanks for helping making that day most memorable. We enjoyed a Scotch Egg served with chips and washed it down with a pint or two of Jugged Hare Pale Ale, an exclusive beer to the ETM Group of pubs and restaurants. On this occasion we found ourselves in The Hat & Tun.
What we need to do is find a crisp dry winter day to go in search of Esox. Dressed in tweeds and oiled jackets we will seek this quarry with a fly, as it is reported there is good sport to be had on light tackle. So as soon as my dear friend Richard has finished restoring an old Hardy Graphite #8/9 it will be taken out used accordingly.
If you are in search of a good gastro pub then I can highly recommend you go to http://www.etmgroup.co.uk
There was a change of plan in the Tales household this morning, as young Tales decided that it had been a while since he chucked a 3oz lead into the abyss.
With light precipitation, a degree or so cooler than recent weekends we made our way to Brighton, it’s close proximity making it a regular location for our sea fishing exploits. After van hour-long drive and a pit stop into the Tackle Box to pick up some lug we made our way over to the East Wall of the Brighton Marina. As we made our way round we looked over the wall to inspect the colour of the water and strength of tide. There were plenty of fisherman out on the brisk November Sunday, visibility was fair but a light wind blew in a southerly direction.
Tackled up with two vintage Masterline rods paired up with a couple of vintage Mitchell reels we decided to fish small hooked flappers tipped with black lug in search of flat fish or a late season mackerel.
Young Tales placed a reasonable cast about 30 yards out, the 3oz weight giving a satisfying plop as it broke the olive coloured water. Constantly adjusting the distance we cast methodically in a half crescent and also dropped a line close to the wall in order to tempt a wrasse, unfortunately there were no solid takes although our bait was being snapped at and stolen by the thieves of the ocean floor, yes the crabs were about.
After a 3 hour stint we decided to call it a day as the light started to fall away with the falling tide, as they say ‘time and tide waits for no man’. As a final treat to end the day a visit to the Palace Pier for a stick of Brighton Rock. However what we did observe to our left were three people fishing the low tide with lures for bass, could this have been ‘fishy rob’, a well know bass fishing guide. The low tide was illuminated with a golden glow by the lights on the pier, somewhere beneath the surface a bass or two were lurking.
Whilst on my way back from a couple of days in the Durham and Edinburgh I learn that my wife has agreed to have lunch on Sunday with a couple of girlfriends, how convenient I think when I realise this Sunday sees the Vintage Tackle Fair hosted by John Andrews in Redditch. I’ve been given the duty of minding ‘young Tales’, how convenient as the young lad is also a keen fisherman, so guess where we are going for a day out?