Hibernot….

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It feels like a 24hr fishathon, this time last night we were heading back up the M3 from another outing to fish the River Itchen, the only thing we caught were two small fish however at dusk we saw two large sea-trout and one salmon resting in the margins. What is memorable is the atmosphere, a light mist coming off the meadow, cows silhouetted against the backdrop of trees and a bird of prey circling high above, the river flowed like a stream of indigo dye and starlings formed patterns in the sky as they twist and turned forming patterns in the sky, the evening light fell away and we packed the car to head home. Joining the red snake of tail-lights on the motorway I said to young Tales that we would try again the following day but instead of targeting grayling we would try and catch a good perch.

As daylight broke I put all the tackle in the hallway as young Tales slept. The clocks had gone back an hour so it was much lighter at 6.30am. Before we headed off fishing later in the morning the House of Tales took a brisk walk along to tow path, something we hadn’t all done together for a while. Herons stood on guard in their grey tunics as they watched for small bait fish, mitten crabs and shrimps in the outflow steams and pools left by the outgoing tide. After a good hour we had done a circuit via the Wetland Centre and then stopped off at Sonny’s Kitchen to reward ourselves with a light breakfast before the final leg home to pack the car and head of to Lower Sunbury.

Close to the Lawns at Lower Sunbury we set up on our usual swim in order to target a few autumn Thames perch. With the water flowing with a little colour we decided to float fish but this turned out to unproductive so we switched our set up and attached a small Kammasan Black Cap feeder after a couple of casts this was met with a favourable response as a couple of small dace took the maggots offered on a small size 18 barbless hook. A good cast to the far bank under a tree with deep aubergine coloured leaves resulted in a fine Thames perch, a real little fighter and in top condition came to the net, for young Tales there was a brief level of excitement but he was keen to catch his own. Cast after cast he managed to catch another dace but still not the perch he was so keen to catch, frustration soon led to tears, was this just tiredness, a lack of sustenance or the fact that Percy the perch was shy of making his acquaintance. For young Tales it had been a busy day, two fishing forays in as many days, no hibernating on dark autumn days but more memories.

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And the runner up is ……

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I’ve been totally out fished this season by my young son affectionately known as Young Taleshe’s caught the most and the largest fish. Although I’ve been out a few more times and caught fish on most outings I don ‘t count the small perch, dace, roach and other sea fish in the tally.

Yesterday there was a small window of opportunity to head back down to the Itchen and to catch up with my old fishing companion Shaun. We’ve been fishing together for nearly three decades, mostly trout fishing and when time and conditions allowed spent the odd autumn day grayling fishing. It just so happened that we’d both taken the Monday off to do some general maintenance on our properties. Shaun was in the middle of fitting out his bathroom in his cottage near Bentley and I’ve been busy painting the the inside of the house, however the temptation of such a warm and clear day got the better of us so we downed tools and agreed to meet up mid morning for a couple of hours on the river.

The conditions were good although the river was still flowing quickly and with a bit of colour from some overnight rain. There was a slight breeze that put some ripple on the open water and to our surprise we were pretty well the only people out fishing. Most of the river on the spot we fish is lined by trees with the occasional stretch of open pasture that leads to the river where it is lined with bank-side vegetation. There are several small tributaries that run into the main river and it passes underneath a couple of bridges the there are some deep pools that hold fish.

We’d been fishing for a couple of hours and without success. The only other fisherman seen out on the river had caught a couple of small sea trout, a roach and a healthy sized perch. He was fishing an area of slack water in between some trees and having to cast to the far bank with a feeder full of maggots. Walking further downstream we came across a deep pool and started to fish. Casting out a small Avon float and suspended below were two red maggots. As the float bobbed its way in the swirling current it momentarily dipped either from snagging the bottom or from smaller fish chasing the bait. Time and time again I ran the float down the swim in search of a larger fish that were clearly their as they would tease us by surfacing causing a big swirl as they would take the odd fly from the surface, possibly a sea trout as they were clearly running the river in good numbers. After several casts in search of grayling the only taker was a small sea trout that upon being hooked jumped out of the water several times before gracefully gliding into the net, this was a pleasant way to end a day out and some consolation after having been witness to my sons achievements of Sunday.

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A Lower Itchen Sea-trout.

A cry for help….

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The weather was unseasonably warm, broken cloud gave way to intermittent sun, red kites took to the skies gliding on the thermals and cows grazed in the lowland pastures. Every now and again the peacefulness of the Hampshire countryside would be broken by the buzz or roar of the planes taking off from Southampton Airport, we were on this day fishing a free stretch of the River Itchen in search of ‘the lady of the stream’, the grayling.

Having watched the weather forecast all week the conditions seemed favourable however the overnight rain would impact on our fishing. After the hour or so drive from South West London we arrived by the River Itchen at just after 10.30am. The rods were put together and appropriate reels in order to float fish using maggots as bait.

There were several people already on the water, it ran clear if not a little too fast so fishing wasn’t going to be easy. Having spoken to a couple of local fisherman they mentioned that there was a good run of sea-trout so there was the likelihood that one of these fish may also take the bait. As the hours past the only bend in the top of the rods came from the bunches of weed that made its way downstream with the flotilla of autumn leaves. Every now and again we would see a fish rise in a swirl of water, the rippling water fading out as the current dispersed the rings.

I had found myself a small opening on the riverbank, I placed the old Efgeeco tackle box on the muddy bank and set up the rod on the rest and watched the tip. Gazing across the meadow I was aware the young Tales was doing his own thing, now a competent fisher I left him to fish on his own, always mindful of the dangers of any river he was safe enough and within constant watching distance. Young Tales would now and again shout out “dad, there’s a big fish”…was this just the eagerness to catch something, could he see the trout running through the weeds or was it his imagination. It wasn’t long before I heard another shout, this time, “dad, I’ve got a fish!”, I glanced to the right to see his rod bent right over and Young Tales hanging on for dear life, what on earth had he hooked. I rapidly made my way to him, net in hand and when I got to him he said, “it’s huge!” Looking over the bank down to the water sure enough there was a large mass of Silver and dark grey swirling around in the water. I needed to look twice, it wasn’t a sea-trout but a salmon he had hooked. I could only deduce this from the prominent ‘kype’ on the lower jaw. Clearly a large male fish. It ran and thrashed about for some time as Young Tales held on. I told him to walk back and keep his rod up in the air so I could lean down and get the net beneath it in order to land it. Well this was more than we had bargained for, a sea-trout was one thing but a salmon was a surprise. Once netted and on the bank we carefully unhooked it, took the trophy photograph and then returned the fish to the water.

I’m so proud of my Young Tales. He’s out-fished me all season and good for him. To see the excitement in his eyes and to know that memory will last a lifetime is worth every minute of taking him to the river. .

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Tempted by Mrs Simpson…oh yes!

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In much the same way as Edward VIII could not resist Wallis Simpson neither could I pass up the opportunity to add two more Mrs Simpson flies when presented in a vintage Dickson & Son Inc Alex Martin tin on the stand of Mr John Andrews of Andrews of Arcadia at Spitalfields Market.

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Mrs Simpson…

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In this mornings post a letter from York had enclosed in it a packet of deadly Mr Simpson lures. Like the lady herself these are dressed to deceive. These sculpin imitations are ideal for predatory fish such as perch.

I will head out later with a light #3-4 7ft rod in order to catch Edward the perch.

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A day of hemp and tares…

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The 30th day of September was not only to mark the end of the official trout season but also witnessed some warm temperatures, warmer than expected. The crowds that flooded to Kempton Park Race Course for the final market in September walked around in shirts sleeves and linen dresses. There was a mix of dealers from Europe where in every isle different languages were spoken and at the top of the hard standing was a Belgian dealer downing a large bottle of Duvel beer, at 10.30am this was quite an accomplishment.

This market is undoubtably now one of the best if not the best in Europe.

If you are a decorator, interior designer or window dresser there is no better place to find such an eclectic mix of items, I know I’ve said it before but you will find most things on your wish list. If there are trends to follow you’ll certainly find them here first.

Today for me was much about the reporting than buying, in fact I only turned up with enough change to buy a cuppa.

With a keen interest in interiors and items to dress up retail environments and bars I was overwhelmed by the amount of quality items. There were leather club chairs, lighting, glassware, zinc containers, silver and pewter bar ware, taxidermy, signs and all manner of reclaimed items. However I was on a mission to source orange boxes for Sloane’s Gin as POS items.

The mix of tourists, ladies that lunch, pretty designer sorts, Spitalfields boys and traders basked in the mid morning sun, it was a quite magical day.

On leaving the market I took a quick short cut to the river, there I found a gentleman fishing for roach with buckets of hemp and tares. I saw one fish take his bait however I felt he was fishing too deep, I guess about 4ins off the bottom, I find most fish in the swim he was fishing in mid-water. It was bright and the water quite still except for a slight current. I did suggest he try further to his right where the dappled light from the trees may be better for the fish but he stayed firmly fixed to his seat box. I bid him tight lines and continued about my day….I wonder if he moved.

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Little devil…

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In a recent post I mentioned a fish called a weever a member of the Trachinidea species, a small grumpy looking fish that spends a good part of the day buried in the sand in warm shallow water as it stalks small bait fish, worms and other sand dwelling creatures. Recently we managed to catch two in as many casts. To those of you that are not acquainted with this bottom dweller, beware! Small this fish may be but it is venomous, in fact it is more venomous than most jelly fish and as poisonous as a stingray.

The lesser weever is common on the south coast and the one usually caught by fisherman as they have a habit of taking bait quite readily. It is said that their name is derived from the French word ‘wivre’, when translated means dragon, it’s exactly what it looks like with its spines and mouthful of minuscule teeth.

What I was surprised to witness was one of the fish we caught over the weekend took a Dexter Wedge which was at least half its body length.

If you happen to catch one be mindful that it will sting you if you try to put your hands on it to take off a hook.

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Dexter got wedged……

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By mid afternoon on Friday we had executed a jail break, the entire House of Tales had made a run for it. St Ives in Cornwall was the destination for the weekend, however a sprint down the M4, M5 and A30 was to culminate at the Millennium Gallery to attend the Private View of Richard Nott’s Exhibition Histolysis, an exhibition of at least two years work of this enigmatic and reclusive artist. I only say reclusive as Rich spends many hours reading in his Eames Lounge Chair overlooking the sea near Porthminster Beach. This iconic design by Charles and Ray Eames, created in 1956 is a contemporary classic. If you want to buy one these days it will set you back £3750.00. If Richard is not reading and contemplating his work he is hidden deep in his studio working with paint, bitumen, resin, paper, polystyrene, plaster and a hammer!

Earlier in the year I was given the opportunity to visit his studio to see some of the works in vary states, sizes and those already finished boxed up for safety. As Richard quotes “Viewing the work is witnessing a protracted collision of process. An evolution of matter exposed, concealed, exposed, concealed – continuously. The consequence of years spent. My history merging with the history of the elements used”.

After the six hour drive we eventually arrived at the Millennium Gallery on Street-an-Pol, there a group of people huddle by the door and within dressed in a crisp white shirt was the artist. People stood around admiring the work however I needed to get up close and personal as these works are 4D, they smell! Yes, they have notes of a fine wine – tobacco, emulsion, resin and curing agent and a distinct smell of tar-bitumen. All these elements worked and turned, layered then dissolved and then hammered and to be worked on further. These works are inspiring, works of indulgence and inner expression, for me they really work to the level – “I want one of those”.

Works by the title Moraine I, Isthmus III, Histolysis V, Excision II, Dissolution, Detrius II and Integument make up this feast for the eyes, however they are so tactile but you are asked not to touch them.

We ended up back at Julia and Richards for an after show party, the gin flowed in fact there were several to choose from each offered with its suggested garnish so the table was more like a green grocers where you would find at least one of you five a day to go with your gin.

If you find yourself in St Ives or in Cornwall between now and the 21st October do yourself a favour, make a visit to Millennium, I just hope you enjoy Histolysis as much as I did.

With such good weather the conditions were ideal for a spot of fishing, a small ruck sack was packed with a few bare essentials, spinning reels, weights, swivels, sliders, floats, traces and the ubiquitous Dexters Wedge…don’t leave home without one.

Having walked over to see Young Tales surf on Porthmeor Beach by the Tate. I couldn’t help wonder if there were any bass out there amongst the waves. Either end of the beach were rocks the ones to the left had the silhouette of a lonely fisher casting out, the other just the waves starting to break. I decided to walk up and over the cliff following the S W Coast Path to the back of The Island. I scrambled down the rocks found a flat ledge and started to fish a deep gully. Using a small 20g wedge I worked the deep pool fanning across between the rocks and the weed beds. Close in by the rocks I noticed wrasse chasing the spinner powering themselves from the indigo blue seas. After several casts I had a sudden pull, the top of the Tyran rod dipped, it wasn’t a bass otherwise all hell would have broken loose, however it was a bright eyed pollock.

After an hour or so Young Tales made his way down the rocks and took over the rod. His casting has improved greatly and I must not forget that he has out-fished me all season. Unfortunately his efforts .were not rewarded. Having decided that the swell was steadily getting bigger I thought it was prudent to move his lordship to a safer position so we headed to a small beach which is flanked by an old pier, here was a platform that was safe for Young Tales to fish from. We switched the spinner and opted for a running rig baited with rag. Within minutes the rod tip gave an indication that something was having a look, sure enough out popped a small beast, a weever. These fish have need to be treated with caution as they will sting you with their spins and if they do without question you will need to seek medical advice as they can cause severe swelling. After a bit if a struggle deemed the fish too badly hooked to save so we decided to return the fish as bait, within minutes the whole top section of the rod rattled on the railings on the pier something sizeable had had a go at our live bait. Reeling in we saw that the fish had be torn apart, what took it we will never know but it was a hard enough knock to be a small bass. After a while the was the telling knock knock of a menacing crab clearly stripping the remaining flesh of the weever, the line was retrieved, still attached was our savaging crab.

The decision was made that if the bass were in on the high tide then we’d get the Dexter out and let Young Tales have a go, again he hooked another weever, this one we returned safely. Again Young Tales cast out over and over again but nothing.

With the warmth of the late summer sun radiating on our faces and the tide turning I suggested we made our way for some tea. One final fling with the Dexter ended up with it being firmly wedged in the base of one of the wooden pier pillars, no matter how hard we pulled it was snagged on a discarded crab line so this was to be unquestionably the last cast as our Dexter was wasn’t coming back.

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Time for tweeds..and not a fish in sight

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The second week of September usually marks the annual Goodwood Revival Meeting a three-day event held close to the Sussex Downs at the Goodwood Circuit, this nostalgic event of man and machine with accompanying ladies dressed in vintage clothes is a specticle to behold.

This event gives you the opportunity to dust down the tweeds, don a hat and enjoy the day for what it is – a journey back in time. That smell of Castrol R and hot rubber fills the air and the sounds of those cars at full throttle have a magical note. I have been attending this event for nearly 20 years, it is one of the highlights of the year. Both my sons have been and to all accounts love it, especially Young Tales, however this year I decided to go on the Friday with two of my oldest friends. We hadn’t been out for a day like this for well over a decade, married life, work, travel and just the issue of getting the diaries together never quite worked out but this year it was just a matter of booking the tickets and agreeing we were off for the day.

Lord March  and his team do a magnificent job in putting this event together, it has grown and to some degree become a little too commercial but all the same it really does work. In all the years I have attended I had never witnessed so many people dress up in period clothing, it was as if you were on a set of a 50’s/60’s film. what makes this event so the more captivating is the shere number of vintage cars, bikes, vans, planes and utility vehicles that are used as props, then there is the car park outside the gates that allows all the Members to park there pre 66 cherished cars. Without writing up chapter and verse it is simply a specticle that need to be seen first hand, I can’t recommend this enough. Even if you are not into motor racing, the sight of so many priceless cars spanning the pre-war years to the chart topping Beatles and the mid 70’s is a sight worth seeing. The Alfas, Ferraris, Maseratis, D Type Jaguars, Shelbys, Lotus, Cunningham and ERAs are a feast for the eyes – most I view as works of art, high-speed sculpture. Both the Glover Trophy Race and Sussex Trophy Race were mind-blowing as these priceless cars were driven at ten-tenths.

All I can say is if you get the chance to go, dig out the tweeds as they are not just for fishing and head South next September. See http://grrc.goodwood.com

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The curry powder plot…..

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As the hour of 5pm was indicated on my watch I decided to conclude what was an unproductive commercial day and take to the river to reflect and plan on what needs to be done to get some momentum behind the gin brand I look after.

The the tackle bag already packed it was just a matter of calling into Chapman’s in Twickenham to buy a pint of mixed maggots and make my way to Lower Sunbury and fish a favourite back water of the Thames were the well oxygenated water generated by the weir allow the fisher to catch good barbel that seem to rest towards the end of the day and into the night. The river was still, little flow and coloured, however the surface was covered by the first leaves of autumn and other debris.

It was noticeable that small fry and other small silverfish were being disturbed. Every now and again they would surface leaping out of the water in a frantic bid to get away from something, was that something a large pike or a hungry shoal of perch.

As the sun started its gradual decent lengthening the shadows it still had warmth to it, enough for me to want to bask in its rays. I had opted to float fish using a small stick float, my Diawa Vertice rod paired to an ABU 1044 closed face reel and suspend beneath it a couple of red maggots on a size 14 hook, after a while I downsized to a size 16 with a single white maggot and this seem to entice take after take of small bleak and grudgeon. After an hour or so of repeated catches of small silver fish I switched my set up to target perch feeding close to the bottom. After several casts nothing seemed to be interested, clearly there was evidence of predatory fish but nothing seem to be interested in my offerings.

It wasn’t long before I was joined by another fellow fisherman, he first surveyed the water and I could see he had a chosen spot to fish, yes and that was were I had taken up residence. He was a seasoned fisherman and had fished this stretch of water a while ago. Clearly he understood this piece of river and knew exactly were his quarry would be located. He certainly had some state of the art tackle and from observation was a tidy and organised individual. His rigs were neatly pegged out in a foam line box, his rod rest was made of high quality stainless steel or turned alloy with substantial rod cups, his bait was meticulously put together and upon asking what was he using, he replied ‘”luncheon meat dressed in curry powder” furthermore to add “they just love it”, barbel that is.

I watched him set up, then make his first cast with the accuracy of one of King Henry’s longbow archers, straight as a die and in the middle of the river towards the oxygenated water. At this stage and after much observation I took the opportunity to introduced myself, “I’m Graham he replied”, we then spent a few minutes discussing the opportunities this water gave and the sort of catches he had made in the past. One he described was of a mighty 22lb carp that he spent over an hour and a half playing the fish in one direction before it then took off towards The Creek for him to play until he could get if close to the back to net. These were notable accomplishment and certainly greater than anything I had achieved out of this 120 yard stretch of water. He reported having caught carp, tench, perch and barbel from the spot where he had taken up residence, if only I could lay claim to such catches but alas the largest fish was a perch which we caught last week and the mainstay of our catches are small silver fish. I asked my new acquaintance to inform me of his success for it was clear he was going to catch something much larger than my 4ins silver fish that I had been plucking from the water in the late afternoon sun.

Well I hope the curry powder paste did its job and I hope he had a tight line or two. Maybe he’ll let me know via a post on the blog.

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