Fisherman’s Friend

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With a chilling North wind reminding us that summer is still not quite with us I ventured South and decided to view what fly life may be around on the Southern chalk streams. With intermittent showers it certainly wasn’t a day to be out trout fishing. 

The recent rainfall had increased the depth of water on the Hampshire Cress beds, green shoots on the Hawthorn were illuminated by the late afternoon sun and rain drops glistened like diamonds on the damp branches.

With the official start to the river trout fishing season underway few if anybody were out unfurling dry lines – the rivers ran fast and silent, not a click of a reel to be heard. I thought I would call into a small tackle shop near Swathing on the outskirts of Southampton. My reason for visiting was firstly to find a pack of braided leader loops and secondly to have a browse as usually I have young Tales in tow which makes for a speedy visit as he keen to be on the water than in a shop.

Having recently acquired an Intrepid Gear Fly reel, which came with line attached I realised I had no loops left to attach any leaders too. I’m not a great fan of needle knots so prefer to use the more modern braided leader loops. The only leader loops in the cabinet in the shop seemed to be too large, however a pack of ‘No Knot eyelets’ were found, made in the U.S.A by Skipper Enterprises. These fine wire No-Knot pins have barbs on them and are just inserted into the end of the fly line, you then just thread your leader material through the eyelet of the pin, hopefully the pin sets firm in the core of the line. I guess the most important thing is that these hold fast when playing a fish-well the proof will be when out on the river so look out for an update. 

    
 

The Intrepid Angler….

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During the late 70’s and early 80’s I recall a range of reels by Gladding and Sheakspere all denoting ‘ Made In England’, they were robust solid reels if not slightly too heavy against the more expensive a sought after Hardy and Orvis lightweight reels that I aspired too. It wasn’t until after I started my first job in a design studio in Covent Garden could I afford to part with the money for a Hardy LRH Lightweight reel, a reel which I still fish with to this day.

My reason for featuring the Intrepid Gear Fly is for the mere fact that I found a spare spool in a local charity shop the other week which then prompted me to think about finding a reel on that familiar online auction site, more to reminisce about those days in the early 80’s when I would fish the Queen Mother Resevoir near Datchet and Latimer Park Farm with a 10ft John Norris of Penrith rod paired to a Beaulite reel, which served me well for many years until I then decided to fish light on chalk streams in the South and smaller lakes. It was late summer last year that I decided to have my old John Norris rod refurbished by my dear friend – Richard the Fish. Not only did he rewhipp the rings but also upgraded some of the parts such as a keeper ring and nickel silver suround on the joint if the rod blank and cork handle.

These classic reels, although seen as an entry level offer were so solid in their construction that many survive in good condition today, much like this Intrepid Gear Fly featured. If you want to put together a more than adequate sea-trout package these reels paired with a good graphite or even fibatube rod and #7-#8 line means that you won’t be worried when scrambling about in the dark on the river bank rather than  risking damaging a reel that cost you several hundred pounds. To be honest I agree with Mrs Tales on her view that as long as it holds line and you can reel in why spend a fortune…

I need to dig out my old Shakespeare Beaulite and Gladding Rimfly reels which are still very usable – bit like an old classic English Sports Car, a TR2 or 3, solid old pieces of kit…’Made In England’

   
 

No April Fool…

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Slowly the blossom is starting to open up on the tree beyond the sitting room, to watch the seasons come and go as buds form, flowers unfurl, leaves flourish in the summer sun only to turn amber, red and then fall to the graphite grey pavement and that indicates the passing of another year. Now it is the time for the white blossom to form like clouds of shimmering light, the bees will soon swarm around on warm days so many of them that there is a constant hum during daylight hours.

The cold days of March are now behind us and as April heralds in the start of the river trout season it is time to plan a few days out with young Tales. Fishing so far this year has been put on hold because of the state of the rivers, running fast, high and heavily coloured it gave us little chance to fish. We’re not really into managed lakes preferring to chance our luck on meandering rivers however in February we did venture to a small fishery just off the A31 which proved to change our views on such places that when the weather warms up and the coarse season starts again we will return to watch the hot orange paint of the tip of a cork float dip beneath the indego coloured water.

With boxes of game fishing tackle stored in the loft it is now time to get them out, dust off them off and compile sets of tackle for fishing the rivers of Hampshire, Wiltshire and the trickling streams of the West Country. There are Wheatley boxes of nymphs, emergers,  drys, wets and the classic Mayfly. Hardy reels with double taper dry lines, sink tips and intermediates – every option is covered with an abundance of spare spools in order to change the presentation quickly. Light tackle to heavier rods and reels for Sea-Trout fishing later in the year…yes, there us a lot of ‘stuff’ as Mrs Tales would point out.

For me April is still too early to fish, the bankside vegetation is only just starting to grow, Robins still till the soil for earthworms and grubs and the temperature of the water still too cold for fish to start to feed properly. Those of you that head to the rivers will now doubt find it hard going. The lack of camouflage from the bankside vegitation means that fish are easily spooked with only juvenile fish eager to take the fly more out of their inquisitive nature to chase a moving object, the larger fish are no ‘April Fools’ being tempted by larger patterns they simply tuck themselves close to the bank occasionally moving into mid stream to check out the odd dislodged snail or displaced matter.

This month is about planning and preparation, putting the time in now will pay dividends in the months to come. Depending on the enthusiasm of young Tales to venture out fishing we could find ourselves out before the end of the month however I sense it will be May for that first trip to the river.

   
   

The Detectorists…

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My post have been far and few between in these early months of 2016. There have been few fishing forays as the weather and state of the rivers have dictated the opportunities to fish. Rivers running the colour of builders tea and water levels up to your nick-nacky – noos have meant the rods linger in there rests and the ratchets of reels don’t click.

With now only a couple of days away until the close season there will be no ‘classic coarse’ fishing until late June. For us we herald in the season for Trout, Sea-Trout and Salmon fishing and when time and weather permits lure fishing for Bass.

Having been feeling under the weather over the last couple of days I took to the river today under a clear blue sky and walked along the shoreline to see what the recent high Spring tides had scoured away and what it may reveal. In the distance I saw two camouflaged clad figures, for a moment I thought Members of TAC but soon it became apparent that they were ‘mudlarks’, Detectorists of the metal kind. 

Having struck up a conversation with these enthusiastic gentlemen they were open to sharing their knowledge of the river, their methods and finds. Whilst in mid-conversation one of them bent down, turning over the surface pea shingle and then between thumb and forefinger rubbing a small thin circular object, he stopped his patter and observed his find. ‘Can you see what it says’ as he passed the  20mm disc to me. I rubbed it in much the same way however I could feel the relief of the hammered token. With the warm air on this bright sunny March afternoon drying the token it revealed the wording The Olde Thomas Pearson on one side and In Westminster Pallace Yard on the reverse with His Half Penny in the centre. The condition of the token was simply breathtaking seeing that it was struck between 1648-1673 and had been covered by the river silt as its only protection.

Within a few feet another gleaming item appeared, this being a metal button made by Webb & Co London, again I was astonished as to its condition after the surface grime was rinsed off with water from the river.

I’m still amazed at what this river gives up or rather the things that have found their way into it. Each and every time I walk the shores of the River Thames  history unfolds beneath my feet, so much, so visible to the naked eye, yet thousands pass it by without a second thought.

It will be interesting to see what I may find next time out.

My thanks to the Detectorists who shared that special moment today. 

    
   

Half term…then we must go fishing!

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It wasn’t a school day but young Tales was up and about early, the school half term is already upon us and we are not heading to the slopes or for winter sun. Our focus is on keeping young Tales away from a certain communication tool that has robbed us of so much of his time and conversation, yes the iPad, that wonderful device that gives us so much information at a flick of the finger and helps a certain level of learning is also a destructive tool. I’ve witnessed so many times a whole family out for dinner where each individual is engrossed with reading the next text, Facebook notification, tweet and catching the latest result…surely this is meant to be family time where conversation and banter abound or am I just showing my age? What gives me something to smile about is that he wants to go fishing!

I can only take comfort that at bedtime young Tales was eager to know if fresh bait had been acquired, tackle assembled for a day on the water. Forecast as the coldest night of the winter and freezing conditions for tomorrow this hasn’t quashed his enthusiasm for a days fishing with an old school friend at Willinghurst Fisheries in the Surrey countryside. Lakes are not young Tales favoured haunt but it certainly will be easier than river fishing, well ‘easy ‘ may not be the most appropriate word as I’m sure it will be a challenging day. Hopefully for both boys their rods will bend, a few smiles and the adrenalin of catching a fish will bring warmth in the chill of the Surrey air in mid February.

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Car booty…

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Today saw the return of a certain West London car boot sale. I guess I was a little excited when I drew back the curtains to see blue skies and the glow of winter sun. A mug of tea was downed and a layer of thermals put on as although the sun saw out a brisk wind barrel up the river.

Joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers turned the towpath into one of Boris’s super-highways and the river was a hive of activity with rowers as they skimmed their oars across the water. I made my way over Barnes Bridge via Duke Meadows past the Civil Service Sports Ground where a procession of Range Rovers, Astons, Maserati Quattroporte, Ferrari 456, Porsche Cayenne and mid range executive cars ferried their occupants to a rugby tournament. Hastily on foot I made my way past the engine noise of V8’s, V10’s and turbos.

By the time I past the allotments I knew I was only a few minutes away from the car boot sale but o was later than I wanted to be as the trade descend on this venue early in the morning in order to pick up the best and most desirable items, however it seemed that they had stayed away today as it was quiet compared to other days.

I was after picking up some vintage gin and whisky miniatures as I know they turn up, today was no exception as soon after scouring the ground with my eyes I found three cardboard apple boxes full of someone’s collection. clearly made up of collecting souvenir miniatures from their travels. Nothing really stood out though I know many are still prized by bar tenders, bottles of vermouth , Benedictine , Camus Cognac, J&B Rare and Sandeman Sherry. One miniature that did stand out was a co-branded BOAC Fino Sherry, clearly a First Class complimentary aperitif. Even for the £1 price tag I declined to load my backpack, foolish I may be but they turn up time and time again.

I know my dealers well, so I call on the usual suspects however didn’t find what I was looking for or had I…I can’t help myself with vintage tackle, I do pass up on most of what I see but did part with £8 for a Efgeeco rod carrier and a vintage fibreglass Cardoc Three Fishes leger rod, both items in clean usable condition, not on that we’ll know online auction site could you buy these a £4 per item.

Having browsed several isle of stalls I came across a stall of vintage glass ad ceramic bottles, none of the old gin or whisky bottles but I did clock a black- japanned time with the distinctive label BACC JUNIPERI. The tin had a flip top hinged lid which revealed a bright clean interior, this I had to buy. On the same stall was s box of vintage hand-made floats all beautifully made the paint and varnish still crisp and clean. There were Spanish reed floats, chubbers, avons, fluted, quill floats, antenna and wagglers, a box full of over 50 floats all marked up at £2.50 each, I was so tempted but knowing I have boxes and boxes of vintage floats I passed on these, however on the walk back past the allotments I wished I purchased a handful.

Maybe next month I will find more treasures but in the meantime I hope to get out on the river to give the rod I purchased today a chance to bend whilst playing a river roach or dace.

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Low tide…

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The air was crisp, a familiar wind barrelled down the river, the river ran fast as low tide approached on what was a bright and sunny February afternoon.

I took a couple of hours out of my day to walk along the river on the Middlesex bank towards Corney Reach as stretch of the Thames that run from Dukes Meadows towards the Chiswick Brewery know as the Fuller’s Brewery. This part of the Thames as a story of two to tell and is steeped in history. Here along the Thames are the remains of Saxon fish traps, plantations of willow once used by basket makers and the tell tale signs of an industrial past of boat building a wax works and the knowledge that settlement dating back to the Neolithic period and Roman Empire utilised this part of the Thames.

At low tide the riverbed reveals its historic past, clay pipes, ceramics, pottery, glass, metal and leather litter the shoreline. Each item gives a dateline to activity on a social and industrial level. Every decade and century leaves its stamp amongst the more contemporary detritus.

Their voices carried on the breeze, a group of children from one of the local schools exclaimed their excitement at finds in the shallow pools left by the outgoing tide. ‘A leech Miss, a leech Miss’ followed by ‘I’ve caught a shrimp Miss’ and then the shriek ‘ an eel’, all of this gave me a warm feeling as it means the state of the river has improved and running clean.

As I made my way across the stones and silt towards the drop off of the gardens where the edge of the river is scoured to reveal bars of sand fragments of pipes are bleach to their former white clay, fragments of clay pottery, blue and white china lay like confetti on the surface. One fragment of glass took my eye, it was the base of a glass Roman storage vessel. This fragment of glass was a mix of green and blue with a dimpled surface texture, this is one of my oldest finds. However I have found a flint arrow head which I assume pre-dates this along with the fossils of sea urchins and squid.

The whole area seems to speak to you about its past, its former market gardens, fishing and the location of Corney House these are all are distant memories, yet you think you can hear voices of ferry men working the river.

If you get a chance to visit this part of West London take a walk along the river and if at low tide see the history for yourself. On a cautionary note the tide moves fast and you need good footwear so alway be aware of the state of the river and locate exit points.

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When the wind blows…

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January has passed by in the blink of an eye. The rods only twice graced the water and only once did the line tighten and that was for young Tales during a foray to the River Itchen just after New Year.

As the winds blow and the rain continued throughout the month the rivers ran the colour of the proverbial builders tea, the river banks were awash with water and its speed too fast for trotting for silver fish. It has been a poor month for river fishing.

The latest copy of Fallon’s Angler has yet to hit the doormat so we still wait in anticipation for its arrival and the recent copy of Trout & Salmon still rests in it plastic wrapper. Something tells me that either time has not been in our side or that young Tales focus has moved on, the words ‘can we go fishing’ have been seldom spoken this side of Christmas. This time last year we had spent a Saturday at the Lower Itchen Fishery, braved the chill winds on Brighton Marina wall, fished Syon Park Fishery and had a couple of trips to the Thames at Sunbury. Is this absence a reflection of my own lack of enthusiasm or just that windy wet days keep us away from the water. Certainly the rivers aren’t fishing well, not unless you fish the bottom with a feeder and that may be the option for this weekend. With the wind set to blow most of the weekend fly fishing for Grayling will be a tough task and one where any back cast will probably connect with the hedge or worst still in your back as you cast out.

For the first time young Tales showed interest in the local fishery in Barnes close to the Wetland Centre. A well kept lake surrounded by trees and in his mind a better option than the lengthy drive to overflowing rivers. This is a Members water so we will investigate the option on getting him a Junior Membership, certainly an option if it keeps the enthusiasm but I know not quite where his ‘purist’ beliefs are of the wilds of the river in order to watch a fly or float work the currents.

One thing we have noticed is how advanced the plants are in the hedgerows, even the daffodils are out a month earlier than last year, the Blackthorn who’s fruit in Autumn is the sloe berry is in flower along the towpath, nettles are showing fresh growth and even in a sheltered spot the blackberry has over-wintered and is flower, most bizarre.

I sense this year will pass all too quickly, they just do as you get older, like watching clouds rushing by they are gone in a flash so you need to make the most of the time you have.

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New Year, new directions…

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Christmas is just a distant memory and the New Year was spent as far West as one could get tucked away in a friends cottage with the warmth of an AGA. The cottage was situated on the shoreline of Abereiddy, once a slate workings where the only indication of its industrial past was a row of derelict cottages and the main slate working now flooded to form a lagoon.

There was no mobile signal or internet access, no village shop or pub, we were miles away from it all. We had packed all the food and drink we needed, warm jumpers, Barbours, wellingtons and slippers.

The rain fell continuously and the wind blew, only occasionally would the patchwork grey sky give way to the odd ray of sunshine, the presense of a cobalt blue patch a welcome sight. To many this may seem a remote and glum place to be but there was a beauty about it. Certainly it was a key location for those willing to brave the element to surf and those that took to the coastal path for a bracing walk on what was a breathtaking coastline.

It wouldn’t be a normal Tales adventure without the use of a fishing rod. We had packed a beachcaster, rigs, weights and a fixed spool reel the only thing we didn’t have was any bait, however there were enough limpits on the rocks to use. The surf was high and powerful so the water was coloured like builders tea, not ideal conditions but it was more about being out there.

The torrential rain that most of the country has endured for weeks kept up over the three day vacation and what was a small stream from the hills became a broader river in flood cutting off access to the whole beach, you needed wellingtons to breach it, each day it flowed faster and deeper.

We took time to visit St David’s with its grand cathedral that seems to be built on an incline so if you stand at the back of it you look upwards towards the alter. To think how long ago it was built adds to the grandeur of the magnificent construction and to look back at it through the trees dappled in winter sun gave an air of romance about it. It inspired me to paint a quick picture of what I could see on an off-cut of wood with some acrylic paints I took with me.

I would like to spend some more time exploring the Pembrokeshire coastline with the family here in late spring so for sure we will make this a destination for our travels in 2016.

For all of you may I wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Whatever you do and wherever you go enjoy.

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