Story telling…

This is not going to be a story of the one that got away, more about the gains form from tidal Thames.

For centuries the Thames has been a locker room for documenting of our history, discarded waste, accidental loss and signs of the time. The river is an artery that has supported life and cultures on its course to the sea. Settlements of Neolithic tribes, the Romans, Medieval Britain through to the Industrial Age and beyond, fragments of lives and the way we live litter the river bed. With each tide and moon phase fragments of our possessions are exposed.

Over the last five years this river has given me an insight into lives an cultures that inhabited the land on both sides of the river, Neolithic flint tools, Roman glass and clay pots, Medieval tiles, Victorian ceramics, war torn Britain, and now the plastic age.

One story that I told today at a local event to celebrate the Birthday of a friend was the unexpected find of part of an art installation poured into the tidal Thames, this being 5,000 individually numbers ceramic eggs of various sizes. When I found the first three eggs to say the hunt for more became obsessive would sum up the unfolding events well, on each low tide I would hunt for more and on the occasional high tide I would scoop up the odd one with an extendable landing net. We are soon approaching the anniversary of this event as it took place just after Easter Sunday some years ago.

Today was about getting a few friends together and take them to the foreshore to understand a little more about the river and what lay beneath it.

Hedgerow Bullace

As freezing cold temperatures sweep across the country, the Bullace or Wild British Plum is in flower under clear blue skies. The winter sun has pushed this early flowering member of our hedgerow to blossom over the last week.

A light green hue now adorns the riverside bushes along the Thames Path, patches of white blossom brings a bit of colour momentarily, however we could see a blanket of snow over the coming days destroy the fragile flowers of the Bullace.

It is interesting to see that when these hedgerow dwellers bear their fruit that few people pick them. When ripe these yellow perfumed fruits have a sweet taste, soft skinned and are ideal for making jam. The other use is in the infusion of Gin or Bullace liqueur. Recently I have seen a couple of gin produces launch a limited release of Bullace and Quince Liqueur, Pinkster being one them.

What would be interesting to do is to use the flower as a botanical in gin distillation, on that note I may have to go and have a conversation with the guys at Sipsmith, our local distiller or maybe with the erudite Master Distiller, Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers based in Clapham.

One thing for sure some Bullace infused gin will be made this year one way or another.

On a final note it’s a shame more isn’t done to protect our hedgerows and educate people on the importance of looking after them and the rewards that they can yield.

Car boot finds

Last weekend I took a short walk across the river via Duke Meadows to the monthly car boot sale held in the grounds of Chiswick School. Over the years this car boot sales has never fallen short in terms of the eclectic mix of items found and those which one would buy to style a home with.

As most of you know who read this blog I have a passion for angling and vintage fishing tackle. In recent months I have passed on the option to acquire more however last weekend I couldn’t help myself as bargains were to be had. Not long after 8am I found a Shimano Baitrunner 4500 in great condition and for less than the cost of an average bottle wine made sense to buy as I’m thinking of doing a spot of pike fishing over the next couple of weeks. Not long after this purchase and having viewed several vintage rods that I passed on I found small green reel case, sipped up but clearly housing something interesting, it was to contain a Young’s Ambidex in great used condition again for under £10 it was duly purchased. Having now spent the good part of 2 hours wondering up and down the rows of vendors I took one last look among a pile of boxes scattered across the school playground only to find a box full of pike fishing gear, having already acquired a fair amount over the years I decided just to buy a mint condition Efgeeco bait box, two traditional pike floats and a dead-bait spinner. With my new purchases placed in the bag the last purchased was a painting easel, as if I needed another one but always handy for displaying one of a number of paintings I own.

I guess I wonder what treasures will be found and the sales at the beginning of March.

Items found at the monthly Chiswick Car Boot Fair last weekend.

Happy Christmas to you all

Under a leaden coloured sky there is merriment in homes across the land but let’s cast a thought to those not so fortunate. At Midnight Mass the word ‘buffeted’ was the focus of the Rectors speech, he thought it was the most apt word to describe events of 2017, Brexit, Trump, Genfell Tower, terrorist attacks, fires, floods and discord across the globe.

Whilst many of us woke this morning with the joy of Christmas in our hearts, let’s cast a thought to the many for who it is just another day of survival, poverty, disruption and a bleak future.

For those of you who are brothers of the art of the angle, may the memories of this last season bridge the gap to the end of March. To those of you who switch the focus to grayling, pike and perch may your lines tighten on a crisp winters day. I leave you to enjoy the festive season with this verse:

On the dust-covered hillsides,

In the quiet of the night,

‘Twas shepherds out feeding,

Who first saw the light:

A window to heaven

As the sound filled the sky.

Sing glory to God

For the Maiden and her Child.

I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Christmas is soon upon us…

As detailed in previous posts there has been little fishing since May, few car boots visited and only three items of vintage tackle purchased.

Work has been all consuming, sometimes I think to the detriment of life rich tapestry but young Tales’s focus has also shifted to four wheels, poles apart form his passion of fishing.

I hope over the Christmas break we’ll find a day to fish the Itchen in search of a Grayling.

We will downsize our collection of vintage tackle in 2018, sad to see it unused and stored in boxes in the loft, so watch this space as we select what to keep and what to let go.

It has been good to read others stories and posts on the art of angling, some of the photography has been sublime, motivating and artistic.

Hopefully I will find time to post something before Christmas Eve, however, may I take this opportunity to wish you all the best over the Festive Season.

Tight lines to you all.

Winter light…

Those of you that follow this blog and I’m eternally grateful to you all will note that I have had little time to pursue my passion for angling and write about it.

The months seem to pass by all too quickly, the rods have seldom been moved and if I look back at the pictures on my digital devices there are few of the pursuit of trout, roach, perch or our sea dwelling friends, in fact I think you can count the number of fishing trips on one hand.

Most of my interests have had to take a back seat this year, few car boots visited, little if any vintage tackle purchased, fewer art galleries and shows visited, so as you can understand I feel a little short on content to add.

Young Tales has taken to four wheels with gusto, learning a new craft of steering around a tarmac track and with great ability, determination and competitiveness, a total opposite in some respects to his fishing but still with commitment and concentration. Having only asked a few times about spending the day fishing his enthusiasm for motorsports has taken over. With the season drawing to a close maybe he will revert back to the rod and the brotherhood of the angle to contemplate his achievements and what lay ahead next year. Fishing is always the best therapy for the busy mind and maybe the beauty of a river in winter sun can tempt him back to the countryside.

I couldn’t help thinking after watching the sun set across the River Thames yesterday evening that life away from the river, fishing and being amongst nature leaves you feeling you’re missing out.

Fisherman’s Corner

The sound of the sea drawing back the shingle, the screech of gulls, the smell of the sea breeze are a distant memory but how I yearn to feel the salt air on my face with a rod in hand whilst looking out across an emerald sea.

As the saying goes ‘Time and Tide Waits For No Man’. Just over a month ago my work took me close to the port of Ramsgate, a jewel of the Kent coast. Over a century ago Londoner’s flocked in their thousands to take in the sea air and bathe. The promenade would be full of ladies and gents in their finest dresses and suites and most men wore a hat even in the height of summer.

I remember in the early sixties being taken to Ramsgate by my Grandparents. I recall the trip taking hours in an old Cortina Mk 1, with it’s distinctive rear lights. We were also privileged to have a webasto roof fitted.

I remember the grandeur of the buildings, formal gardens and size of the port. In some ways nothing has changed other than that the buildings took in need of some tlc, the shops have that run down feeling about them with most being Charity offerings, however there is that quintessential charm about it.

Having concluded my meeting I drove down to the sea front. In the distance the vista offered that blight of our seascape of rows of wind turbines, I guess it heralds the change to harnessing power and all that but they are an eye sore.

The sea was flat calm and at high tide. Along the silver painted railing were recreational fisherman casting out their leads to over 60 yards, the white splash indicating their distance. I engaged in conversation with them to enquire if the bass were showing. They responded by saying that it was mainly flatfish showing with the odd Dog Fish taking the lugworm bait. Whilst stood there mid conversation they broke away to check the twitching tip of the rod and then pulled hard to hook the fish, another Dog Fish cane to the surface and then up and over the silver painted railing.

It was great to see these gents using vintage rods and vintage ABU reels. Modified Rockets and tweaked 6000 series. Mastering one of these reel and getting good distance is an art but looking at these reels glint in the sun put a smile on my face.

I then decided it was time to head home after my salt air fix and on my way back to the car I cane across Fishermans Corner. The shop was full off everything you need and everything you don’t, as my wife say’s ‘Fishing Tackle shops catch fishermen’. The shop has been run by the same guy for several decades, pleasant in manner and knowledgeable.

I’m due a visit back to Ramsgate soon. So next time will check the tides and pack a rod and if I decide to bait fish will call upon Fishermans Corner.

A passion for gardening…

As I glance at the bookcase on this Sunday evening it is made up of titles about fishing, exploration, Shackleton, cooking, gardening and gin. 

Yesterday I had to work plying my trade of marketing drinks brands to an eager consumers in search of something different from the brick clad building in Tobacco Dock. This event was titled Junipalooza, created by the talented duo of the Gin Foundry who have established themselfs as the font of all knowledge on this category of spirit that is booming. With over 155 gins showcased yesterday I can say there is a gin for everyone. However the most awarded gin is Beefeater. To many Beefeater is a mainstream brand but it’s Master Distiller, Desmond Payne still produces some great spirit. Last year Beefeater produced ‘Beefeater London Garden Gin’ a Gin that should be found in any gardeners allotment shed, for a tipple at the end of a hard day’s gardening. 

As there was no fishing this weekend I thought it was worthwhile reflecting on my other passion of gardening. In a small London Garden I have managed to find time and space to grow my own botanicals, edible flowers, cultivate an arrage of soft fruit to garnish with and grow a Mediterranean corner with fig, olive and lemon trees, all grown in the fertile soil a stones throw from the banks of the Thames.

I raise a glass to you all who toil in the gardens, allotments and roof terraces of our fine City, cheers to the London Garden.

Cake by the ocean…

The clouds rolled in as did the surf and baitfish took to the shoreline to avoid predatory fish late on Friday evening on a Dorset beach. The Tales household took up refuge after a late booking gave us a couple of nights away in small Dorset fishing port.

Our accommodation was a static home on a Holiday Park close to the sea, no more than a 5 minute walk from the beach. As I’d spent no time over Half Term with young Tales it was a great opportunity to share our passion for beach fishing. We arrived late in the evening and managed to get out with a rod just after sunset. The purple and indigo clouds gave way to a hint of amber in the distance. Baitfish danced on the waters edge and young Tales cast a rig of mackerel feathers into a darkening sea. His eagerness to hook into a fish soon turned into the reality that nothing was biting.

As first light came on Saturday young Tales stirred and quickly put his clothes on off to the West Bay Tackle Shop we went. The usual browse of the shelves and racks in order to spot a lure that took his fancy and then the questioning of the shop staff to find out where was fishing well. With lure, rigs and 200gms of fresh rag worm bagged up it was back to the holiday home to set up the rod. Rod in hand and a small bag of terminal tackle we headed off to fish tide for flatfish. At the West Bay end of Chesil which stretches for 18 miles  from Portland to Abbotsbury and onwards to West Bay near Bridport joining Dorset to East Devin. From geography lessons at school some 50 years ago this is the largest tombolo. It’s made up flint and quartzite pebbles, some areas the material is pea sized and others the size of a clenched fist. The  cliffs catch the early morning sun casting a reflection of the vivid terracotta across the incoming tide on calm days.

Having done a little bit of research there are many good marks along this Jurassic Coast. West Bay proved difficult to fish as a weather front came in and put a 2-3m swell to cope with, along with the surf came a blanket of weed that made the fishing laborious. We spent as much time clearing weed off the line as casting for our quarry, Plaice was the target species on this area beach, its shallow with sand bottom. Unfortunately our rag tempted nothing. 

After four hours of relentless chuck and retrieve we manage to tempt young Tales away from the waves with the notion of a fresh crab sandwich at the Hive Cafe, a well known beach cafe that served great food and sublime cakes and tea.

Later in the day we moved on down the beach to Abbotsbury in order to see if fishing was any better but the beach resembled the encampment of Sangatte, a beach littered with tents and beach shelters as the rain started to sweep in. In fact in West Bexington had larger tents and a greater congrigation of fishermen littered the beach, litter they did very well as I spent 20 minutes clearing up the mess they made before the plastic bags, cans and spent line ended up back in the sea. I do wish some of the fishing fraternity would take their litter home with them and respect the sea that affords them the pleasure they seek from it.

Well our fishing exploites ended up with a blank. Also on this occasion Mrs Tales put pay to me acquiring a nice vintage beach caster that I found in a vintage shop. It was in clean condition with a beautiful cock full length handle and quality screw reel fitting but it was met with the comment ‘you don’t need anymore, I thought you were selling, not buying more’. Begrudgingly I turned away but for the 14 miles of our next journey in the car I kept thinking, that was a nice rod and what a shame to pass on it. Even in the back of the car young Tales admired the beauty of its vintage construction.

If you by chance find yourself in or around the area be sure to visit the Hive Cafe at Burton Bradstock or the Watch House Cafe at West Bay, I couldn’t recommend enough, but you may have to wait in line they get very busy.

Well, it will be the a month or so before we head back and hopefully then the Macs and Bass will be biting.

The Bentley Boys …

You will have noticed that my posts on Tales By The River Bank have been few and far between of late., simply work pressures makes finding the time to write, go fishing or source vintage tackle are a thing if the past.

My good friend and fishing companion of over 30 years, Shaun Madle gave us the opportunity to be his guest on the Bentley Ass. water on the Rivee Wey that runs though the boarder of Hampshire and across Surrey. The stretch of river we were fishing for brown trouta syndicated  water meanders through pasture between tree lined hills. It’s a difficult water, challenging to say the least. Although stocked with Brown Trout it holds a good head of natural browns.

We walked the river to observe any movement in the water, the sky above us was grey and heavy with cloud. The water ran slow across the shallow, it was coloured possibly from the rain the preceding evening. The bankside vegetation was lush, reeds and Irisis narrowed its course and it was in the dark hollows that fish could be found. We were all fishing Mayfiy patterns from light #3-4 rods no more than 7ft in length.

I set up young Tales with a small Grey Wulff, great sport was to be had with this over the rippling water with eager small trout. I used a small vintage spent Mayfly pattern of yellow partridge. Shaun however opted for a large white winged and silver bodied fly.

Having met several other fly fishers during the afternoon it seemed that fishing was tough with few fish showing, that said one fellow fisher had caught and released over a dozen fish. For us there was the occasional swirl in the water and I had three good follows only to see the buttery colour of the underside of the fish as they turned away. This gem of a river kept up to its reputation of being a hard water to fish for those less familiar to the lies of the territorial browns. Hopefully we will return another day.