A trip to the dogs….

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It has been a few weeks since I last posted anything here, not that little has happened, for a lot has, but I’ve had little time to sit down and type it up. Thanks to a problem with our broadband service this has also hindered my ability to keep up the content for those that kindly follow my ramblings, in fact over 82,000 of you have dipped in and out of talebytheriverbank, I thank you for your continued support.

As the annual summer holiday West is over and with the school holidays coming to an end I found myself with the task of keeping young tales off the iPad or from lazing by the window on the chaise watching more CBBC. Today he was in need of some fresh air and had asked if we could go fishing, so a trip to Walthamstow and the Lea valley came to mind.

Late in the afternoon after a visit from BT to fix the broadband we packed the car and headed to the Walthamstow reservoir complex having been told by the team at Farlows it was an ideal location for young tales to hit some Thames Water rainbows. Whilst visiting the Pall Mall store to get some braid there was a discussion on the success some of the staff have had at the No.5 on buzzers and Diawl Bach. Years ago as a teenager I would fish Farmoor a complex twinned with Walthamstow and buzzers were the key to leveraging trout out of the water, if I recall correctly they use to take with aggression and fight like mad.

After a trip across London passing both Arsenal and White Hart Lane, this alone caused excitement with young tales who is an avid footballer, however for me it was a trip down memory lane as I had lived there for a few years as a child with my grandparents in Wood Green. Not much seem to have changed other than the Bingo hall had gone and the toy shop near Finsbury Park was now a fast food outlet, there in the park was a fair, I remember that well from childhood as my grandfather would take me there on a Saturday giving me a few pennies to roll down a slot in order to win a prize.

Heading further up the Seven Sisters Road young tales questioned as how there could be a trout lake in such a built up location, an old head on young shoulder for sure I sense as even I started to have the same thought as we got closer to Tottenham Hale. I had previously pointed out the complex to him when arriving back to the UK as we flew over North London on a flight back to Heathrow as the plane banked and turned right to make its approach down the Thames Estuary for its final approach, it’s a very visible landmark.

The entrance to the reservoir complex is opposite the historic Ferry Inn. Not a glamourous location for sure, in fact a bit of a building site. We parked up an went into the self-serve ticket office, I could sense a level of apprehension, young tales wasn’t that impressed and I guess understandably when he had the privilege of fishing locations in the south downs, Sussex and Hampshire, these locations having beautiful wooden huts, manicured laws and stream fed through woodlands – this as a bit of rough and ready.

The first thing he did was turn over the leaves of the returns book, his face dropped as he saw several pages with nil returns and the odd fish after a 9 hour stint. Before we parted with our £17 for a grey 2 fish ticket we decided to go and look at the water, young tales was not convinced this was a water for him no matter what we had gleaned from a copy of the Walthamstow Fly-Fishers Club Spring 2014 Newsletter No.59, which detailed some reasonable catches but these were from The Warwick and to the tactics explained by the knowledgeable team at Farlows, they were spot on.

After being told to drive down to the car park by No.5, we parked up and walked up over the bank to see a mass of coloured water being pushed towards us by the prevailing wind. I watch young tales, scan the water with his eyes in much the same way as he watched the dog at the whippet racing in Cornwall, looking for that dog which had the extra edge to win a race – in his eyes there were no winners today. We watch the water together looking for signs of a fishing turning in the surface ripple but nothing. He noted the amount of cormorants and herons on the island and looked a the diversity of flowers on the bank…’no daddies’ he said, that would have been his other fly of choice. For young tales hauling a Booby isn’t his thing. He’s grown up using nymphs, Buzzers and dry flies and that’s how he want to fish, I’m sure had he placed a Buzzer or Diawl Bach in the margins he may have been rewarded but he chose to return home and use todays visit as a reconnaissance for a later date, much later I feel, I’m not sure a night at the dogs would get him back.

We momentarily stopped to look at the crystal clear Lea that flowed beneath one of the connecting bridges, there, deep in the water were a few fish silhouetted by the gravel, the river was more to his liking so maybe we need some time out with our fellow blogger thetuesdayswim who is so knowledgable of the location.

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The Last Stop Tackle Shop…

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Our annual pilgrimage to the most Southerly point of this green and pleasant land now seems a distant memory, yet it was only a few days ago. a trip to Cornwall to us is a quintessential part of our year, a time to see friends, take in the splendour of the coastline and walk the bustling streets of St Ives and observe the annual Whippet race in aid of The RNLI at The Lizard.

For me no journey is complete without a trip to the back of The Cowshed to visit Phil and Chris who run the Last Stop Tackle Shop, yes the most Southerly tackle shop on the British Isles. Here you will find more than you’d expect, a small space that is crammed full of tackle, rods, reels, lures, traces and weights line the walls. In fact on my recent visit Phil was trying to place another hook on the wall in order to hang some new sand eel lures.

To be honest this isn’t just a shop it’s an emporium to the senses, a shrine to the fisherman. It is run with passion, both Chris and Phil love what they do, they don’t over sell but advise on what’s best to cover off your needs. On this occasion the shop was more like a meeting house of the brotherhood, men passionate about the sea and fishing. At one stage you couldn’t move as locals and travellers entered into the doorway to chat, advise and joke amongst each other. The shop (shed) was warm from the summer sun, the wooden construction giving off the scent of the sea and fading smell of creosote.

Lure fishing for bass seems all the rage these days and for Young Tales an 8ft Rovex rod was acquired in order to allow him the opportunity to hurl a rubber and lead tipped sand eel in a cove close to the Lizard Lifeboat Station. With guidance from Chris we found a path, well if that’s what you can call it, we were waist high in ferns and bramble and after a while found our way down onto a rocky outcrop. There the sea was clear with gullies of deep green, yet not a bass to be found. Unfortunately we drew a blank so another trip towards September is in order, only that we were tipped off after meeting Nigel a well known Cadgwith fisherman and mentor of Monty Hall who was The Fisherman’s Apprentice, that that’s when the bass will be in.

Noticeably this year there is a lack of Mackerel off our shores, this seems to be something that has been reported about from the Sussex Coast to Cornish Coast, does this indicate a level of over fishing or just a late start to the season.

Well if you find yourself at the most Southerly point of our land do make the effort to visit the Last Stop Tackle Shop, you won’t be disappointed.

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Basstastic….

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With such warm weather and big tides the conditions for a bit if bass fishing are close to ideal if only for on the fly or lure, a good storm would help for fishing for them with bait but hey it is the summer and a late evening fish or dawn run in such balmy conditions is a great way to end or start the day.

I recently acquired a Ron Thompson N Series Tyran 8ft 10g-30g Travel spinning rod and a couple of packs of Savage Gear Sandeel and Slug lures with the aim of heading to the South Coast or Cornwall in search of these predatory monsters of our shores.

I have read several reports from the likes of Robin Howard that a reasonable amount of success had afforded him and some of his Guided clients to catch some good quality fish from the shore along the Brighton seafront.

With an old vintage Abu 55 spooled up with braid and a small Abu Ambassador Bait Caster I aim to get some fishing in over the next couple of days. The question is hard lures, soft or a change of kit to my trusted 9.6ft Hardy Graphite #8/9 paired up to my Vision XLA and some bass flies? Well, I guess it’s going to be a bit of a last minute decision however I hope I manage to connect with one of theses beautiful fish.

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Sultry Summer Days…

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The River Chess

The River Chess

The Chess Valley image by Paul Jennings

The Chess Valley image by Paul Jennings

The month of July is proving to be memorable, firstly for the chance to fish the River Chess in Buckinghamshire a small Chiltern chalk stream having been given the invitation from Paul Jennings who heads up the River Chess Association. The Chess is a river that as a young boy I would spend many hours beside it or in it. Then last weekend a brief trip to Brighton for the first sea fishing outing of the year with Young Tales which was tough going but rewarding in so many ways and finally that summer is truly upon us giving us temperatures in the mid to high 20 degrees.

I feel the year is rattling by and I simply want to do more with each day however my commitment to my role working for a Dutch Distiller is absorbing most hours everyday plying the trade of marketing and selling their award-winning gin, Sloane’s Gin, which has in the past been awarded the ‘Worlds Best Gin’ in 2011 at the San Francisco Spirit Challenge. Many would think what a great job, it is, however when I travel for work I see streams and rolling countryside that I want immerse myself in and spend time getting to know and if the opportunity was right to get the rod from the back of the car and fish, unfortunately like the tide, time is rarely on my side. I’ve travelled across the West Country, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Cumbria and the Borders and not once did I have time to fish.

Reflecting back on the evening spent in the Chess Valley close to Latimer it bought back many memories. July was always a notable month as it would mark the end of the school term and for me a long summer where many hours would be spent occupying my time with walks through the beech woods, days down by the river and helping out at Quill Hall Farm. We very rarely went on holiday in those days as my parents wouldn’t put the cat into a cattery and they were not that interested in foreign holidays so most summers were spent at home, not a bad thing as I loved the farm and especially the Sear family who owned it as they treated me as an extension of the family and often I would be in their kitchen having breakfast.

I arrived a Paul’s house just after 6.15 and after a brief chat in the kitchen about my Beverley Brook project we tackled up and headed down the lane to the river. I was slightly ill-equipped for the evening as on my way there the clouds were grey and it had poured with rain half an hour before my arrival. With the grass and bankside vegetation so tall and lush I was in for a real soaking as we made our way along a narrow path dotted with holes from burrowing badgers and voles. The worst part of it was the frequent with a stinging nettle.

Paul showed me a couple of good pockets of deep water, one with a lonesome Bream and the other with a large brown that was freely feeding below the surface. I edged my way into a clearing and gently cast upstream in order to cover the fish, you had little opportunity and getting it right first time was a must otherwise these willy fish were spooked easily. My cast landed about 18in short that was my only encounter for the evening. I tried casting further upstream but in the back cast with the adrenalin kicking in failed to see the hawthorn overhanging the water, this time the line tightened the wrong way and my cast along with a fly tied by our friend Mark Minshall (metieflies)itieflies.com was stuck fast into a branch.

The temperature dropped dramatically and the stillness of the evening air gave rise to a mist that engulfed the valley as far as the eye could see. As the light dropped off we headed back to what Paul referred to as the ‘last chance saloon’, a deep pool either side of a footbridge and he ventured off to fish a small run off which serviced the mill house, I hasten to add that we both blanked. For me it was a memorable evening being in that valley, the air smelt the same and it was like the clock had not moved on in over 40 years.

Fishing Brighton a fortnight later was such a contrast, searing heat and this time instead of a fly rod we were using a pair of old Masterline Spinning rods that we use for sea fishing off the Marina wall. With a fresh packet of lugworm, a 3oz weight on the end of a custom-made bream trace both rods were put to use as we when in search of this pretty maiden of the sea. The water was coloured as the sea churned up the seabed close to the wall so there was no chance of either a mackerel or bream, the only thing taking the bait was the odd blenny. Later in the afternoon Young Tales was convinced we had a take, the rod loaded up but not with the usual sign of a fish, this time we saw a large black mass beneath the surface, this was a lobster that had decided to latch itself onto the sliver of mackerel bait we put on the bottom hook of the trace. Unfortunately our crustacean friend let go much to the annoyance of his nibs. What was the best part of the day was to watch my sons face when he had a fish on, it was shere joy on both parts.

With the weather set to get hotter towards the end of the week an evenings trout fishing with a dry-fly would be a fitting occasion to complete the month.

On the vintage tackle front I did manage to acquire a vintage Abu trout landing net with flamed handle circa 50-60’s plus from a couple of car boot sales a small Abu Baitcaster reel which was brand new for £5 and a fantastic Vission XLA reel with new floating line so that will pair up with my vintage Hardy Graphite rod for some fly fishing for bass. July has been a good month to date.

Eggs on the Eyot…

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Sometime ago I wrote about the ceramic eggs by the Brighton artist Anon being found along the Thames. Having been placed in the tidal Thames a couple of years ago one would have thought these works of art would have long gone, however thus is not to be the case.

Each day I pass by my collection of these ceramic eggs as they are nestled in a wooden box in the hallway, the thought of finding any more long gone but however people are still finding the odd numbered egg here and there. It was reported to me today that a lady by the name of Linda Bloomfield found one during the weekend at Chiswick Eyot, a small island made up of weaved alder fencing and surrounded by reeds with a small outcrop of Salix (pussy willow). This Eyot is accessible at low tide from behind the Fullers Brewery. Having previously searched this location long ago I can only imaging it got trapped somehow or that somewhere up stream near Brentford one of the houseboats has moved and the trapped debris has given up a captured egg that lay amongst the driftwood,plastic bottles and other lost items.

This legacy of Anon’s work continues to cause intrigue for many a beach comber as they walk the banjos if the Thames.

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So little time….

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With only one previous post on my blog in June and that being the first day of the month I ask myself, where has the time gone? The coarse fishing season is now under way and those longer evenings when one can fish till dusk are here, however I seem to have filled every hour with work related activity.

The weather this week has been warm and bright so fishing in the day I know would be hard so possibly I haven’t missed out too much other than the time to be free and watch the natural world and bask in the sun. I do feel though I have missed out on some classic early evening and last light dry fly action. To balance out the lost time I’m planning on a couple of hours fishing later today and try out Walthamstow Reservoir No. 5.

Having recently been into Farlows of Pall Mall, the team of highly knowledgable staff had recommended I try this reservoir out for a spot of buzzer and dry fly fishing, not usually my sort of place to fish but happy to give it a go.

I’ll probably use my Hardy Ultralite Rod, pair it up with my Hardy JLH Ultralite #6 reel with a DT6 floating line knowing that this rod will punch out enough line a good distance if I need too. I’ll also put together a box of buzzers, emergers, some hoppers and elk hair sedges a great assortment that should tempt a fish or two.

This North London reservoir complex caters for both coarse and fly fishers and offers a range of tickets to suit most needs. An evening two fish ticket will cost £17, so I find it reasonably priced.

One last thought was to pop a couple of dog biscuit flies in the fly box and have a walk on the ‘wild side’ of the River Lea and see if there were any carp to be had, worth a thought.

So with little time these days let’s see if this water is as productive as the team at Farlows report.

A repeat performance…

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As the grey skies cleared and the sun broke through for most of Saturday it gave us a chance to head South and fish the Wey once more before the month of May drew to a close.

Throughout the day the temperature rose, dressed in my old fishing jacket I started to feel the heat and decided to cast it off, opting for my old Barbour Northumberland jacket in order to blend in with the surroundings as it is easy to spook your quarry on this small river.

Since the last visit the bank side vegetation had put on a good six inches and the quagmire of a bank had started to dry out. The edges of the river are soft and much silt has built up that the rotting vegetation gives off a terrible oder as your boot sinks into the mud.

It was an afternoon of proceeding with stealth and observing the water more than casting across it. We proceeded to the spots where we knew fish had been seen on the last visit. One of these fish held station just under a willow tree from a narrow channel, difficult to cast to and even if you could get near it neigh impossible to get the fish to the net to get it out. After several casts one hit the spot and no sooner had the fly hit the water it was engulfed in a swirl of water and the line tightened. Well, all hell broke loose with a good 2.5lb brown heading in a direction I rather it didn’t. Young Tales was soon onto the case with the net but the margins were perilously soft, unstable and deep. This little episode turned into a whole family affair with Mrs Tales hanging on to his lordship and myself struggling with a fish that just didn’t want to play ball and head into the net the straight away.

After some heart stopping moments and the silt rapidly rising up my boots I held the rod with one hand and reached for a bank side stick in order to stabilise my own exploits. Finally the fish turned on its back and it slipped into the net.

The rest of the afternoon gave reasonable sport with smaller fish taking a grey wulff fished through a reeded section of the river.

By 7.30pm we started to head back towards the car with young Tales stopping every 50 yards to fish. Within a few minutes he was into a small brown. We crossed the field and followed the path around the outer edge. There was one spot that I had not fished before, heavily reeded with tall yellow iris and flanked on the opposite side with tall trees. There amongst the shadows a ripple formed from a fish taking surface flies. Two casts later the line tightened and the rod bent sharply as a good-sized fish headed towards me in order the bury itself into the reeds. It took a good ten minutes to bring this fish under control and again assistance was required to net it.

Once in the net this 3lb brown trout glowed in the evening light, a fitting end to the last day of May and gave much to discuss at the Anchor Inn in Lower Froyle.

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A beautiful May

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On the whole May has been a beautiful month, bright blue sky, warm days, lush green vegetation, spring flowers and great early season trout fishing.

I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing from Andrews of Arcadia two small vintage tins of May Flies that were displayed on his table at Spitalfields Market the other week. The two tins made do distinctive grey metal, one with a cork liner to the lid was full of beautifully tied flies.

Having already a good supply of vintage flies I thought that purchasing more was more of an indulgence but now regrettably I wish I had as they would have been a great collection of flies for young Tales.

Tomorrow will be another opportunity for young Tales to do a bit of fluff chucking, so we’ll try the same May Fly as last time and hopefully another bag full of brown trout.

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May Day, May Day…..

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Late in the afternoon on Saturday we were invited to join my old fishing companion Shaun Madle on the River Wey, a short stretch of river between Farnham and Bentley. This syndicated water meanders through pasture and meadows of the Surrey foothills not far from the Hogs Back.

We have had the opportunity to fish this river before, however not during a time when the May Fly are hatching. Saturday saw an increase in temperature and this clearly impacted on the ability for these insects to hatch in numbers. With their graceful flight some seem to bounce across the water, others caught the breeze yet some end their short airborne life at the mercy of the spider, we found one caught in web with other insects.

The water ran clear and still with pace after the winter rain. Bright green vegetation lined the water’s edge, the ground still soft beneath the sun scorched surface within a couple of yards of the river.

Small chub sipped the dancing flies from the surface and every now and again a larger swirl cut the mirrored surface of the river as a trout took advantage of a May Fly momentarily dropping to the surface at its peril.

It wasn’t long before young Tales was into a fish, his short 7ft rod bending into a fish and line spooling off the reel at an alarming rate. A good sized brown trout had snatched his May Fly imitation the second it hit the water. With only a short cast along the reeded bank it took young Tales by surprise. Within a few minutes he was into another fish this time one slightly larger than the first. Young Tales has not witnessed the excitement of brown trout on a feeding frenzy before so for him it was a jaw dropping moment to have a brace of browns in such a brief foray.

It was for young Tales a memorable afternoon which will be permanently etched on that tablet of fishing adventures, he just simply couldn’t stop grinning….

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Fluffers delight….

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With the merry month of May upon us the May Fly are soon to hatch in abundance. There are some that still refer to it as duffers fortnight, with media hype in the game fishing titles how can one not be tempted for tying on a rather large fly made of dyed partridge feathers in pursuit of aggressive brown trout. There is something about that explosive moment on chalk stream around the country when otherwise artificial fly shy trout power themselves through weed and from beneath bank side vegetation in order to consume a large fly.

On a recent visit to Spitalfields Market to catch up with John Andrews of Andrews of Arcadia, there laid out on his table were several boxes and tins containing a fine array of vintage May flies.

Having already acquired several boxes of these flies over the years the purchase of anymore would be frowned upon by Mrs Tales, however I was very tempted to acquire one more box but resisted temptation. They are beautiful things to look at so taking a picture to share with you all will have to suffice. I did though buy a copy of The Lost Diary by Chris Yates which John had on his table, a good read and Mrs Tales can’t frown upon reading matter can she?

Early May has started with a real mixed bag of weather, rain, wind and a dip in temperature. This mixed weather may suppress the annual ballet of these exquisite Emphemorptera, Emphorus meaning ‘short lived’.

For those of you with ease of access to the chalk streams you should see a few days of hatches, so enjoy chucking a bit of fluff.

I did see the first House Martins over the house at first light today so maybe this is a sign that warm days are on their way, an omen yesterday of finding some pressed metal birds for sale at Spitalfields.

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