A quick dash to Warterloo to get the train to Bournemouth in search of South Coast bass on sandy shores…
Having been prompted by a post from BlundstoneLove on the virtues of giving a minor a Vitorinox Swiss Army Knife I thought I’d take a lead and consider giving my ‘Little Tales’ access to one as well.
When ever we are out fishing the first item in the tackle box he aims for is my Leatherman Micra, it has incredibly sharp blades and my concern is that the next thing required will be the BAND-AID box to be found. I guess I may be being over protective but it’s that fine line between being the responsible parent and allowing him to join in and share the experiences I had at his age.
The Leatherman Micra has the best scissors on any small tool I have found to date and is such an invaluable item when fishing. The Swiss Army Knife is more an icon but having owned one with all the tools one could ever wish to use housed in its red casing. I decided some years ago to opt for the Leatherman, as the main tool I used when fishing was the scissors. I have found the scissors on the Swiss Army Knife prone to not working that well as the little leaf spring can break, the Leatherman is just better. I report that I have lost one of these in the past after having left it on the roof of the car when packing up in Banksome Chine near Bournemouth and driven off only to realise when home what I had done. Maybe had I been using the red cased Swiss Army Knife I would have noticed it, as the Leatherman in its Stainless Steel blended in with the paintwork of the car also with their incredibly small size they are easy to misplace.
If I go back to my childhood I recall I was given a rather large knife with a deer antler handle when I was a Cub in the Boy Scouts, it shows you how times have change as this knife had a 5 inch blade, was heavy and in the wrong hands would be considered a dangerous weapon. So should I give my young son use of a small Swiss Army Knife I found in a box of old tackle I purchased at Wimbledon Car Boot, I guess as long as he’s supervised I’ll run with it as he is alway keen to slice up the mackerel into thin strips to fish with or trim off the heads and tails of sand eels and trim the extra bits of line off.
I remember my uncle Bern gave me a black handled knife he used when trimming his leather work, he was a master at making things in canvas and leather, to this day I cherish several bags, leather belts and old tins of odds and ends my aunt gave me after he passed away. I still have the knife which he gave me at a young age. So I guess as I still have all my fingers and didn’t stab myself then, just maybe then I can give ‘Little Tales’ a small penknife which I hope he will treasure, as they become an essential item once you own one.
The bass prized as one of the foremost gamefish of the sea, it is wily, powerful, awesomely fast and when hooked has unparalleled aggression. The fact that this fish can be found along some of the wildest, unspoilt coastline around the British Isles means it holds such allure for game fishers and sport anglers.
Without question you are more likely to catch a bass on bait, crabs, mackerel, lug or ragworm and something that never seems to fail to get their attention is squid.
During the month of September I will fish in a bass competition to be held in Brighton. It never ceases to amaze me how well Brighton and Shoreham fish for these predators of the sea. Their bright silver flanks, sharp dorsal fin and razor-sharp gill plates are their dominant features.
Catching bass becomes a passion, another fish I target is sea bream. For me catching a bass in the rolling surf is what it’s about but over the years some have fallen to baits cast from boats off known marks. Bass off the Cornish Coast seem to hang around for longer but head out into the Atlantic by mid January. I have heard of good-sized bass being caught off the Sussex beaches over the Christmas break and New Year.
Bass are opportunist feeders usually feeding in loose packs covering the seabed with speed, they will chase sand eels, baitfish, crabs, juvenile mackerel and any edible molluscs. So make sure you have a good range of lures and spinners and always travel light.
We started bass fishing at Seaford Head a few years ago when we met a group of ‘old salts‘ who were fishing off a slip way and over an outflow pipe…there is another story but I’ll write this up another day. Well baited hooks of lugworm, mackerel and squid were order of the day but after several hours fishing and a few losses of end tackle none were to be caught. However that day we made some new friends and they embraced the enthusiasm of my young son.
There is a great book on bass fishing by John Darling printed by The Crowood Press, I can recommend this as an essential addition to any fisherman’s library.
I will add other posts on bass fishing over the next few weeks but if you haven’t tried it give it a go as you will get hooked.
After a good nights sleep it was time to sort out the carnage after the few days camping in Cornwall, what I would say is that what we ended up with was nothing like what I saw today of the remains of the Reading Festival.
Having had to pack away the tents and all the camping equipment in the rain everything was still damp and in need of airing on the balcony. Somehow tent pegs seem to be in every bag, sleeping bags missing their correct storage bag, fishing tackle everywhere but not where you’d want it and that thought of would I ever put myself through that again…
Having had time to reflect on the better parts of the few days what I would recommend is a visit to the Millennium Gallery in St Ives to see the works of Richard Nott, his new exhibition called ‘Unearthed’. The Gallery hosts a list of good artists see http://www.millenniumgallery.co.uk other artists such a Sarah Ball, Andrew Hardwick, Joy Wolfenden Brown and others make this a premier gallery of the South West.
St Ives is also home to the Tate Galllery also around the town you will find sculptures by Hepburn and the home of Alfred Wallis.
One good aspect of the inclement weather is that the photographs I took reflected the moody nature of the weather and gave a different pallet of colours to work with. St Ives has always been a focal point for artists, Nicholson, Hepburn, Wallis being names that most people will recognise but its magical nature and spiritual influence still draws artists, writers, sculptures and photographers.
In Porthleven we found a studio possibly owned by the king of reclaim, it was full of items possibly washed up on the shore or discarded by fishermen but then put to good use and artifacts made into sculptures one a boat and the other a dog made out of fishermens rubber boots.
Hopefully I will return in October to paint and fish again.
After a few days in Cornwall under grey skies we decided to call it a day and head home.
Our bass fishing exploits resulted in little return for the effort and the only fish taken was a pollock late in the evening from the harbour wall in Porthleven on some fresh ragworm.
The 1965 Campervan became temperamental and as much rain came in as was washed aside by the wipers. Gear selection became a game of Russian roulette, and as the engine backfired down the country lanes on over-run it then stalled at most junctions, still this little VW turned many heads with admiring glances.
We travelled along the South Coast stopping off at Porthleven, St. Ives, Mevagissey, St. Austell and Fowey. We found a couple of cliff tops to pitch a tent but the rains fell and got progressively heavier, there was just no escape. However the scenery here is stunning even in the rain. I’ll post up some pictures once I’ve downloaded them, there should be some good images of the leaden skies.
With so much rain over the last few days putting pay to any decent fishing time was spent in art galleries, tea shops, browsing the eclectic mix of shops and a ferry trip across to the Fowey Estuary. There were plenty of boats out with eager bass and mackerel fishers but few fish were seen on the line. Back at Mevagissey with its pastel coloured houses we met a young boy called Oliver who had caught a 5lb bass on a lure earlier in the day, clearly this harbour and coastline was his playground as he was clearly knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about his fishing.
Whilst walking back from the Fowey Ferry this young lad took off down the dark stone cliffs only the haul out a dogfish by its tail that was swimming close to the surface, the fish seemed to swim towards him…for was he the fish whisperer?
As another storm front was forecast for today we packed the already sodden camping gear up once more and took off back up the A38 and onwards to London.
My bass fishing for the remainder of this year will be focused on the Sussex coast.
The pike lure I found the other day washed up and showed its vibrant colours. Having found it in the floating in the margins and covered in grime from the river it eventually cleaned up well. Stripped of the rusting hooks and damaged wire trace it will be fitted with a new set of trebles and used in the back waters of The Creek where were know the pike lay in ambush of small perch.
On a hot sunny day in mid August the tide on the Thames was at its highest by late afternoon, floating in the margin near Small Profit Dock was a large pike lure detached from the main line but still with its wire trace…was this a bid for freedom or simply that Mr Esox Lucius had taken it captive, now rescued from the tidal rubbish I have given it a new home.
B James, Cane Rod Restoring, Chris Lythe, Chris Yates, Ealing, Edward Barder Rods, Fine Cane Rods, Garry Mills, Gary Marshall, Martin James, Paul Adams Hand-Made Lures, Paul Cook, R Chapman Co, Rodmaking, Ware
This week has been all about cane rods. Having acquired a couple of old cane rods recently one being a Chapman 500 that is in need of some work and a delightful Martin James cane rod that could do with a little tlc , the debate opens up as to who really did make the best cane rods during the 50’s and 60’s in the UK. More the point who is continuing this fine trade in rod making and restoration.
There is a growing body of anglers who want to fish with cane and would welcome a source of hand-made split cane rods, Chris Yates a cane enthusiast has been a great influencer of this.
Without having a bible on cane rods I had always been led to believe that B James of Ealing had cane coarse rods down to a fine art and by the looks of the price second-hand rods are fetching they seem to lead the pack. R Chapman of Ware rods are still sort after but the B James rods do get a premium and on finish I do think the quality of the B James rods is hard to beat. Constable of Bromely, Sharps, Allcocks and Sealey are all names that are associated with cane. Hardy have produced excellent cane rods and if you look around there are countless cane rods available. There is a strong market for traditional tackle. I did however see a barbel rod by Barder this week hit the £700 mark and several B James Avons change hands at £275 and upwards. If you want to buy a Barder rod you are looking at the best part of £1500 for a new one.
On close inspection of the Martin James rod I picked up from Darren in East London I would say these rods also were well put together and the specifications of the one I have certainly got the interest of the Chapmans on my recent visit to their workshop. Locking ferule, fine whippings, agate rings throughout, fine cork handle and high quality fittings. The only thing is that after a week of trying to find out exactly what the rod was I’m still none the wiser as the label on the rod is missing a small corner but as noted in an earlier post details ‘De Lux’ . It seems to be a stronger set up than a Champan 500 or 550, in fact it would make a great rod for a spot of barbel or salmon fishing. Having made the mistake of not checking out the exact condition of a rod before acquiring it I now find myself needing to get one restored if I actually want to use it and that is going to prove to be expensive, it needs new guides for a start so that will be a good £100 plus.
One thing to keep in mind if you buy a rod off the internet is that you may be in for a nasty surprise unless you are buying a fully restored rod from one of the known vintage tackle dealers. I guess you need to weigh up the odds and decide if you are going to fish with it or just put it on show in. The cost of restoring a rod will without question run into a few hundred pounds, new agate guides will put you back £20 a piece, so if you need a butt and top guide for a carp rod that’s your first £40, a refurbished handle with good grade flor cork will be another £60-80, replacement ferules, then there is whipping and varnishing another £120, that’s without having to look at the cane. Now you can see why a cane rod by Paul Cook and the like will then give you barely enough change out of £900 to buy a second-hand Speedia to go with it.
There are some good vintage tackle dealers that have a good range of cane rods for sale and you can have piece of mind that you will be able to fish with them. Some of the cane classics can be found for £275-495, so if you are in the market for a vintage cane rod take your time and look around. Four rod builders that have come up in conversation this week are Edward Barder http://barder-rod.co.uk heralded as Britain’s finest rod-maker, Clive Young who restores rods to better than new, Gary Marrshall http://finecanerods.com and Paul Cook http://www.artofangling.net/restoration.html all seem to produce fabulous work. Also don’t expect to them to turn you recent eBay, car boot or auction find around for you to use this year, Gary Marshall has his books full for the next 16 months.
Another point of interest is that there is little sign of the current economic climate affecting the flow of work for these artisans, in fact some report they have never been busier. One thing we all know as fisherman is that we like the best and you can never have enough rods are reels. When this comes up on the home front I usually respond that there are more handbags than rods in the house so I rest my case..but only just.
Having witnessed the demise the UK tackle industry and the decimation of Redditch there is a re-emergence of fine rod making for purists and those that simply want to fish with cane as opposed to a tank aerial. I’m not for one moment being dismissive of modern materials but after you’ve had a cane rod to use you will look at it in a different way, cane has a personality, its own natural colour and there is just simply something about cane you don’t get with a modern carbon rod. What has interested me it that along alleyways, in sheds and workshops throughout the corners of England there are artisans producing bespoke rods, restoring classics and making their own versions of the Avocet, Avon and MK IV along with fine cane rods for fly fishing, here Barder and Marshall are in their element of making fine fly rods.
There is also no easy living being a rod maker, it is driven by a love and a desire to produce a beautiful item. They work a minimum of 10-12 hours per day and usually 7 days a week. There is an art to making fine rods, much as my friend Paul Adams makes the most fantastic hand-made lures it’s down to pure dedication. The same can be said of the reel makers in the UK and restores such as Chris Lythe and Garry Mills of The Mill Tackle Company Ltd., which I will write up about during the autumn. See http://www.milltackle.co.uk
As I have several rods that need to be worked on I will document who I get to work on them and a before and after. Well it’s now the weekend so I will dust off the Kennet Perfection and head to The Creek.
Cane Barbel Rod, Cane Carp Rod, Chapman 500, Chapman 550 De Lux, Fishing, Fishing rod, Fly Fishing, Hunter, London, Martin James, Mug of Tea, Peter Stone Ledgerstrike, R Chapman Co, river lea, Split Cane, Ware
Having been asked to visit the outer provinces of the metropolis I found myself a crows flight away from the workshop of R Champan & Co of Ware. My route took me along a road that ran parallel to the Lea, that alone gave a sense of excitement.
Upon arriving at an unassuming alley right at the end I could see the sign R Chapman & Co in green raised letters above a workshop to which the entrance door painted in a rusty coloured paint that gave access to a small office. Prepared canes hung from lines, glass fronted draws were packed with cork, rod parts, rod bags and tools of the trade lay on the top of benches. I was greeted by John’s brother who after saying hello offered me a mug of tea ( that’s what I call service). The Chapman brothers are rod builders, they have been so for many years and make some of the most cherished rods in the business. Their legendary Chapman 500, 550 and Dennis Pye 700 rods are some of the more well-known, but they also produced the Shelford, Hunter and Peter Stone Ledgerstrike 600 Rod. They now focus on making canes for fly rods. The seasoned cane is crafted into blanks which are now supplied the world over. I watched John cure and temper a blank over a flame, if that’s the correct terminology. Every detail of their rods is painstakingly done using traditional methods and just the sheer time and craftmanship means that you will eventually own a masterpiece. Having recently acquired a late Chapman 500 I decided to take it to them to check that it was worthy of fishing with, not that for one instance did I think it wasn’t but the last thing I wanted to do was to head to the river to come back with a rod in pieces. John checked the cane but noticed that the nickel guides were slightly corroded and if fished with would without question end up with a line break. The other issue with the rod was that at some stage the ‘varnish devil’ had given the cork handle a good coat of varnish, seems to be a very 70’s thing to have done. The advice here was to give it a coat of Nitromorse, clean it down and then give the handle a work over with some household bleach on a toothbrush. The other option here was to ask them to make a new handle with a button end as opposed to the budget plastic cap mine is fitted with but then you are looking at a bill not far short of £100. I sense there will be a return journey to Ware to get the rod sorted once I’ve saved up some cash to have the whole thing done with a replacement agate top and bottom guides and the spec done to the de lux model, with the extra guide added. So some thinking to be done on if I want to change it from its original spec. One thing to keep in mind if buying a rod off the internet is that you can end up paying a premium for a Chapman rod and then end up having to double your money if you want to fish with it. Unfortunately due the economic climate at the time these rods were produced production dictated that to save on costs to make these affordable some of the fittings weren’t the best, so fifty years on they are showing these flaws. Mind you if you get a good one it will give you another fifty years service, so you get what you pay for so buy with caution. I took the opportunity to show John a Martin James rod that was about 10ft in length, made of a good solid cane with locking joints and agate guides throughout and well whipped. We couldn’t work out what it was but on the small badge near the handle you can make out L…..De Lux. The other sticker on it detailed ‘Robertsons E13’. I had purchased this as a barbel rod. For the price I paid they said I had got a gem of a rod. My only purchase today was a new cloth bag to keep the 500 in as the original bag had seen better days. It will be a few months I guess before I will return to get the rod sorted, had only the guides been in better condition I would be fishing with it but at least I know they can work their magic on it and it will return to a higher spec and last a lifetime.