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.

Itchen to go fishing…

As if a four day trip to Scotland to fish the Tay wasn’t enough young Tales couldn’t wait to get back out on the water. With fine weather forecast we put a small amount of tackle in the back of the sliver arrow and headed south down the M3 to fish the River Itchen.

Driving along under a clear blue sky we arrived at our destination after just over an hour. We parked on the bridge across the river, tackled up and headed up the narrow path that had been clearly trodden by many. A touch of colour filled the river so it was difficult to see any fish.

Young Tales was set up with a short #4 Sportfish rod paired to a Heddon 300 reel, basically a copy of a Hardy Featherweight reel. Armed with a light tippet and a small haresear dry fly. Not long into the fishing he was into a small Gayling, this time he managed to net the fish in his own.

It was interesting to observe how he is mastering the sport and with each outting he demonstrates his ability to do things just right. His casting even gets comments from passers-by as they admire his finness.

With bright sunshine all day the fish were tucked away in the far margin and under any overhanging tree. By mid-afternoon the sport had died off a bit a few takes to out offerings. Observing the water there was a sudden commotion as several small squares of  bread floated downstream, the water erupted as fish came from the depths to take such offerings. An element of frustration could be seen on young Tales face. With a change of fly still nothing, for the next hour we moved few fish. I decided to lengthen the leader of my young companion and switch to a CDC olive emerger which started to get things moving. Within 20 minutes another couple of small Grayling put a smile back on his face.

The hours had passed all too quickly but a day in the sun by a Hampshire chalkstream can’t be beaten especially when graced by the odd dart of iridescent bright blue of a Kingfisher.

Nothing to take away from the Chinese Pool

The wind had set in and there was a chill in the air blowing along Loch Tay from the distant snow capped mountains.

We fished several named pools but not a fish to be see all day. At least yesterday at Cargill we saw fish break the water not a ripple today on the Upper Tay. However on Friday an 18lb Salmon was caught.

Having fished the morning and then decided to take a break before fishing early evening at the Chinese Pool our luck didn’t change all day. My young companion kept his resolve to fish till last knocking but nothing to my fly or his Rapala.

Hopefully tomorrow brings new hope and a sense of optimism filled the air as we reflected on our day.

Heading down memory lane…

        A mere 18 years have past by since I last fished the River Tay at Kenmore.  Now I’m back with young Tales fishing the Tay and hopefully cementing memories that will last a lifetime.

        Ever since I mentioned to my young fishing companion that we would head north of the border for a few days fishing he has spoken of little else. Sheer excitement and the anticipation turned into reality today when we fished the Lower Tay on the Cargill beat, a part of the river known to be productive in early season.

        We booked a day with Tay Salmon Fisheries Company. Guided by our knowledgeable Ghillie David we took to the water just after 9am and fished all day. Fishing with a copper Abu spinner and selection of flies our endovours to catch a bar of silver will have to wait for another year eluded today. This popular beat opposite the imposing Ballathie House Hotel is booked up until the end of the season which ends in mid October so we’ll have to return next year.

        In the fishing lodge there is a wall of photographs capturing moments of triumph, prized catches of seasons past, memories captured on film.

        By late afternoon and having tried hard to allow young Tales the opportunity to play a fish we had to face the fact that it wouldn’t be this time so we packed up and moved on up river to Kenmore, the location for the opening of the season on the Tay. Hopefully tomorrow will allow another opportunity to catch a fish and create lasting memories of our time together which means so much to us.

        Let’s see what tomorrow brings. One thing for certain from what we’ve learned today a gold and brown Devon will be used. What did work today was a highly polished copper lure for one lucky fisherman.


        IMG_1309Today is a day for planning and preparation of all the things we’ll need for our forthcoming trip to the River Tay at Kenmore. It will be young Tales first salmon fishing adventure in Scotland. Some two years have past since we last went to Wales in search of sea-trout. I’m not sure where that time has gone,in fact time is now passing by all too quickly. Is that something that happens with old age or just that our lives in this modern and ever changing world are all too consumed by the internet and the information highway? For sure it has helped in being able to research quickly and acquire all manner of fishing tackle at a touch of a button or tap on a screen.

        It will be early April when we head north, for me back to familiar territory but for youngy Tales a new adventure. He is so eager that he mentions the trip every day, if not every hour. The pages of Trout & Salmon are being turned like never before and it will be a trip up in the loft for me to retrieve the box of reels, fly boxes and salmon lures – flying C’s, Abu and Mepps plus a few old Devon Minnows. I will take my old Hardy Jet #9, hopefully a usable rod for my fishing partner. Some years ago I purchased a Sage 15ft #10 but it’s never really been used. I think the last trip to the Tay I ended up spinning most of the time.

        Today is the last day of the Fly Fishing Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington, unfortunately we won’t be able to make it which is a shame as it would have been an opportunity to discuss with the guys from Tay Fishing who are exhibiting there. I’ll just have to catch up on phone with them. I have fished the Tay on the Cargill beat before back in 2001, a great streatch of water in front of the Balathie House Hotel. The day I fished it is was productive for those spinning but more challenging on the fly.

        Hopefully it will be a rewarding trip for my young companion, as he has already said ‘I don’t really mind if I don’t catch a salmon, it’s just the opportunity to be by the river and out in the open air’, music to my ears.

        Winders and spools…

        Grey clouds passed overhead and a light precipitation filled the air accompanied by a chill March wind. Being the first Sunday of the Month meant that it was the second car boot sale of the year held in the playground over in Chiswick at the School beside the A316. I missed the one last month but the having been woken up early thus morning by one of our mischievous cats I decided to stroll over the bridge and have a look to see what was for sale.

        Usually this sales is well attended by both buyers and sellers however you could count the amount of stalls on both hands. The cold, wet, windy weather had severely reduced the numbers, the upside was with a reduced number of buyers there were deals to be had and a greater likely hood to find something interesting and that’s just exactly what happens. On the second stand I looked at were several cane, bamboo and glass sections of rods. I assembled one rod a 10′ #7 fly rod, inscribed The Greys Inn Fly Rod, beneath the inscription a small rectangular transfer but unfortunately missing sections so difficult to identify. When I asked the vendor how much, he replied ‘a tenner’ which was cheap enough however to use it it needed new guides however it did retain it’s agate butt and tip rings. The action was extremely soft and although tempted I decided to give it a miss. I then spotted over in the corner of the back of the playground a bundle of rods in different rod bags, the distinctive blue and olive green of Hardy’s of Alnwick. The whole bundle was wet firm the rain and tied to it was the Lot No. from the Auction House they had been purchased from. I asked if I could undo the bundle to inspect was was on offer and to my amazement the following came to light. A Hardy Houghton, a Hardy Peferction, a Hardy Knockabout all with both tips but in need of restoration, most sctions missing whippings and guides, an Edgar Sealey in good usable condition but a bit on the heavy side. There was one other smaller fly rod which I think was by C Farlows but the small oval stamp on the base of the butt section was difficult to read, unfortunately the eyesight isn’t what it use to be. Tempted I was. However every rod needed restoring and although the purchase price was affordable and I know one would make a tidy profit I just couldn’t be seen going home with another bundle of sticks so again I passed up on these, if any of you reading this would like them I have a contact email address for the vendor.

        I had a look at all the other stands and on a second glance at one stall I found a small black travel case of terminal tackle and old Bakerlite reels. A stack of old line winders retaining a few vintage Harcork and cellulose floats helping to date this haul between the late 50’s and 60’s, 3 old pike floats and on another stall a bobbin of fine copper wire which will be ideal for tying flies with or for young Tales to use for detailing his home-made bank stick.

        I’m always astonished and amazed at what I can find at this car boot sale, however the Allcocks Wizard I’m hoping to find one day wasn’t to be found today.