Monday, 30 January 2012

Last fishing trip before the imminent freeze?

I have been closely monitoring the weather forecasts for our area for the past few days and things are definitely expected to take a turn for the worse over the next few days. True, last week's forecast said it might snow today, but it hasn't. Nonetheless, there are now severe weather warnings in place for much of the country and snow has fallen in our most adjacent counties. So on that note, I thought it was just about possible to sneak one more trip in before this weather hits. Afterall, we have had no rain since the end of last week and so the rivers might actually be fining down - many would say this is the perfect scenario for winter fishing.

Unfortunately I don't have much bread and could only make up a half bucket of mash, but the river looked perfect when I arrived. Definitely down a little bit (white water has appeared at the ford again), but still coloured. So six handfuls of mash into the raft swim below the long crease, some in each of the "three swims", six handfuls in "swim 4", then the same in two new spots just before Shifford lock where the water is a little bit deeper. Time for a hot chocolate while I waited for the bait to do its work.

First cast into "swim four" and a bite straightaway - so rare that this actually happens, but entirely a sign that the conditions are so good. Instead of heading for the snags under my feet, this fish set off into midstream where there was little danger of losing it. At first glance, I thought it might be over 5lbs but it was 4-15. I tried taking a self portrait, but then found after one shot that the camera's battery was empty. So just one picture of this year's biggest chub.

The best chub of the year so far, 4-15. Not the best fishing photo ever, but it was intended as a first go, just to check focusing. Sadly, there was no photo number two.

Down to the first of the new swims. The main flow is noticeably slower here and I wondered if there might be bigger fish in such swims. My first cast was a little short of where I had intended, but I left it in place for 10 minutes and, rather surprisingly, got another bite. Very rare for me to have two bites in consecutive casts in different swims! But this was a smaller fish and I was just drawing it upstream when, for some inexplicable reason, it fell off. I assumed that this might not have disturbed the swim, but no further bites occured, so it was up to the next new swim, for another blank 30 minutes.

For the next few hours I circulated between "swim four", where I was regularly topping up the bait, the "three swims" and the two new ones, but no more bites. So just as the sun was beginning to go down, I made the long trek back to the first swim, the raft below the crease, where I had caught the 4-09 the other day. The last of the bread mash went in and I settled in a swim slightly upstream, planning to fish lobworms for half an hour while the raft swim settled.

Back there at 4:45pm and initially enough light to not need the betalight. Just after 5:00, there was a little tap, followed by the good pull of the typical chub bite. A very solid fish on the other end. Mindful of the many snags, I was keen to bully it upstream, but initially was hardly able to move it. But gradually I made some progress on it, though I did make rather a mess of netting it. I initally thought this was another high 4lber, but it did have a deep tummy and so with some careful weighing, I was able to claim 5-02, a new biggest of the year.

I don't have the best camera on my mobile, it must be said.

Definitely much colder by 5:30 and by the time I was back at the car, there was a frost well in progress. So maybe this will be the last trip for a little while. But two chub for 10-01 is excellent stuff.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Duxford - a "testing" session

Much colder overnight and a weather forecast that suggests it might snow here on Monday and be sub-zero most nights until the end of the following week. So not good for fishing. But a thought does occur to me. There are some techniques that I would like to be better at, so given the low chance of actually catching fish today, I could have a testing session and try out all the things I think I'm not good enough at.

The first surprise though was that the river was actually up a few inches after the bit of rain we have had and had a bit of colour in it. Of course there might not be any barbel in Duxford Loop, now I have read the article in Course Angling Today. But if they are, today might actually be a day they might be feeding. I couldn't find my themometer though but it might have been above the "magic" 41F level

So today's trip to Duxford involved, initially, baiting with a bait dropper, something that I rarely do as the Seer Specialist Rover rod that I often use is not up to casting a dropper. But I am currently using a John Wilson stepped up Avon rod and that seemed happy enough casting the dropper. Five swims got 4-5 droppers of hemp, meat and a few crab boilies

Next, I wanted to use some larger weights and get used to what was required to hold, say, two-thirds of the way across the river. There was a perfect "crease" swim to try this in, as well as two swims where far-bank rushes cause a sharp slow down in flow behind them. Just over 1oz was enough in each case. However, some people do use much higher than this in some rivers. I had a go with 2 x 1.5oz and was able to hold just under the far bank.

Thirdly, I was fishing a hair rig all day, adopting the superglue approach to baiting with either meat or boilies cuts in half. Never done that before, but actually it was little trouble at all.

Next, I wanted to do some upstream ledgering, where the weight is tightly balanced against a deflected quiver tip and bits are signalled by the line slackening and the tip falling back. The art of balancing seemed ok and I was able to bump a bait slowly down a run from downstream.

Then there was some practicing of using the self timer on my camera. This is aimed at me taking pictures of my glorious catches. I took one or test test snaps, but these revealed that I do need to look at focusing.

Late afternoon, after quite a nice afternoon, it started to hail. Quite big bits as well - maybe 2-3mm across, enough to sting when they hit my hands or face. This continued for half an hour and I huddled under a tree where I was fishing. I always think hail is really bad for fishing. Would it not penetrate the water a little way and might it even hit a fish out in shallow, open water? So after the hail stopped, it was down to a raft swim where the fish might have been a bit protected. A switch of bait to lobworm did actually produce a couple of sharp knocks on the tip, but nothing developed. Could these have been perch? I would really like to catch a big perch from a river.

But as I expected, this was the limit to today's bites. I did have a close look at some other swims, which was good. Perhaps the next time I go for a "test" session, I should do some plumping?
The only decent self-timer photo from today

The moment when the light changes, just before sunset (after the hail!)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The demise of Oxfordshire barbel?

Just days after I decided that one of my goals in 2012 would be to catch a large barbel from an Oxfordshire river, an article appears in the new issue of Course Angling Today entitled "The sad demise of the Oxfordshire barbel"! Typical, eh?

This suggests that the last decade has seen the virtual disappearance of barbel in all the rivers in the Upper Thames system, by which he means the Thames above Oxford, the Thame (which is actually below Oxford!), the Windrush, Cherwell and Seacourt Stream. Each river is considered in detail, with some comments about the Windrush below Witney really hitting home. One year - 1995 - I fished there maybe 30 nights after work in August and September, catching well over 100 barbel with a best of just over 9lbs. On several occasions I saw what was clearly a double figure fish, but failed to catch this one. Now, according to the article, otter and cormorant predation, plus signal crayfish have pretty much wiped out the species. That is really sad. I will still have a few trips this summer there I think.

I haven't fished the Cherwell since the mid 1990s either, and have just two barbel to my name, with a best of 8-08. Apparently locals fishing the main barbel stretches there have seen catches drop from 100 a year in 2004 to 2 in 2010.

Missing from the article was any discussion of the Evenlode, which had a huge barbel stocking about 8 years ago and which might be the dark horse. Access to the Evenlode is relatively restricted as one or two clubs control most of it. So maybe my summer barbel will be focused on the Evenlode instead. Hardly anyone fishes that for barbel (or indeed anything else) so maybe they have slipped through.

Also, there are some parts of the Thames where I suspect the barbel might hole up even with a general decline in numbers. So I shall be focusing on these spots in the summer too.

So where does that leave my 2012 target of a big barbel? Well perhaps it is just what I need to inspire me to fish the Kennet more. Again, one of the clubs I belong to have a stretch that is likely to be sparcely fished, especially during the week when I do most of my fishing. And apparently we can now night fish there provided we don't park near the farm and then drive off between 10:00pm and 6:00am. So I am planning a trip down one weekend to see if I can meet any other anglers there, then maybe a few trips in late Feb into the end of the season in March.

Will Part 2 next month, an interview with Oxford barbel expert John Everard, give any hope?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

More thoughts on option trading

It has occured to me that I have been approaching the question of option trading by thinking of it as an add-on to the current futures trading. Alternatively, we could trade the options as the core strategy, with the futures as the overlay. Looking at the monthly results of some option trading funds, and from our own past experience of options, the key problem is identifying what might be called a "volatility regime switch", where volatility spikes upwards hugely.

The key question for option sellers in these cases is whether they are able to spot the regime change prior to them incurring the large loses that arise in such regime changes. Then you could change to trading futures as an overlay that would offset the option losses. It seems to me that there are several candidate methods to enable this regime switch to be recognised. In a long chat with Jerome, we discussed the whole number of issue this raises. Our conclusion was roughly that it would make more sense to have the options as the core strategy and put our efforts into the regime switch model. We would need to devise some way to avoid catastrophic losses, but that is usually not too hard.

This also mean that we only trade EC during the day, which would dramatically lower our trading activities. But the fact is, our current busy activity is not making enough money and we would have been much better off if we had traded options instead.

So we have been building out options book gradually and are already seeing some of the offset benefits. But it will be some time before we have a firm idea about whether this is the right thing to do. It would have been in 2011, but who knows going forward?

Meanwhile, a long article in the Sunday papers about Man Group and the problems of poor performance from AHL, down 6% in 2011 and flat now for the past three years. I know Winton are doing a bit better. I wonder how Mulvaney are doing?

One final thought. In times of low Vol, it might be possible to target a very low exit price. For instance, with high Vol, we might target 100 pts in US equities, but at low Vol this could be reduced to as low as perhaps 25 to 50. This requires data on maximum favourable excursions, which is very time consuming to compile. Another possible research project.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tuesday afternoon at Duxford

Heavy rain overnight and all morning. Already I am thinking that Thursday could be a great day for barbel fishing. But my planned trip today depended on whether the rain stopped. For whatever reason, I don't like going fishing when it is raining when I get there. I don't mind fishing in the rain - just not getting wet before I've even chosen a spot to fish.

I decided on a change today and selected a number of possible swims much closer to Duxford ford. The two best were a long crease swim and a raft at the end of a long glide downstream of the crease swim. But I also baited up a couple of other spots which I tried first while the bait settled in the main two swims. At this stage, the overnight rain had made no appreciable difference. I could still see clear gravel in some of the swims. I get the feeling that the bit below the Ford is more gravelly that further downstream. Maybe this would be the place to try for barbel on Thursday, when, hopefully, the rain will be in the river and the barbel will be actively feeding.

About an hour after baiting up, I was settled in the downstream raft swim. This is an absolutely classic chub swim. The main flow was two thirds of the way across of river, and there was a steady, but not too fast current in the first third, making the raft a perfect spot for chub. So first cast, I flicked a large piece of crust into the faster water, letting it swing round into the slower water just under the raft. Maybe two minutes later, I had a clear tap and then the classic full-on chub bite. First contact and the fish wouldn't move from the raft. Clearly a good fish, clearly not a barbel though. Much heaving and the fish moved slowly upstream, just missing more snags on the inside of the bank. But once past these, it was pretty straightforward.

So the best chub of the year so far, 4-09, and in absolutely perfect condition

A classic Thames chub from a classic chub swim (and one that looks very un-Thames like).

After re-baiting, it was up to the crease swim. This was formed from a tree that had fallen in the river and was deflecting the main flow out to the far bank. I have not really fished many crease swims before, but planned to give this one an hour or so giving each cast 15 mins and then casting a further five yards down the crease each time. In part, my aim was also to assess my ledgering technique. I am still more used to light ledgering on very small rivers and the use of weights over 1/2 oz still feels strange to me. But generally the search of the swim seemed to go ok. I had one bite half way down, which I missed. Overall, I think I would have been better off floast fishing this swim - it would be really great for this I would think.

So back to the raft as it gots fully dark. Another piece of crust lobbed into the fast water and swung round under the raft on a 4 swan shot link ledger. And another decent bite first cast which I proceeded to miss. I had planned to fish this spot for the first hour of darkness, but no further bites resulted.

So overall, I was pretty happy with the trip. Now to wait and see if the rain can lift and colour the river a bit and I can focus on barbel (fishy boilies over hemp and pellets is the plan).

Monday, 23 January 2012

Sunday at Duxford

I rarely fish at weekends and some aspects of today's trip show why. I arrived at Duxford just after lunch and there were already several cars in the little parking area by the farm. Just as I was sorting out my stuff, two more guys and their dog arrived. They turned out to be fisherman but were out today to visit the nature reserve on the other side of the river. Nonetheless, they were keen to quiz me about fishing as we set off along the bank.

About 100 yards below the ford, two guys were pike fishing, but with no success yet. When they found I waas chub fishing, they then started telling me at great lenght about their huge catches of chub down at Sutton Courtney. But they did say that in the past they had caught barbel in the swims below the ford. Once I was extricated from them, I still had to chat to the other two as we walked to the spot I intended starting. Because of the number of people about, I decided I would just chub fish today with bread. The area where I have been barbel fishing so far has a very narrow bank and I wouldn't be able to fish if people were walking along it.

So I settled in "swim four" from the last trip. Soon after, I was passed by an older guy loaded down with fishing tackle. He had decided to call it a day after having to chat for 10 minutes to the two guys who I had walked down with. He had caught a number of chub on lobworms in a selection of swims between the weir at Shifford and where I was starting fishing. At some point I will check this area out I expect.

Meanwhile I had started fishing and caught a small chub of under 3lbs. Ever so often I would re-bait a couple of other swims with mashed bread, but those would have to wait till I was sure people wouldn't be walking along the bank. In any case, such bankside activity might already have scared the fish.

The pike anglers appeared and settled in about 100 yards away where I could hear them chatting away - mostly about barbel tactics on other rivers. I managed a second 3lbers, but then more or less stopped fishing while I waiting for it to get dark and the chance of a fish in the swim where I caught the 4lber last week. The pike anglers packed up and walked back in the field at the top where they didn't disturb me. I was settled in the "swim two" from last week, but didn't manage a bite in the hour I was there. Had they been disturbed by the people passing so close by? Who knows?

My next planned trip is Tuesday, when I might try some of the swims nearer Duxford Ford. It should be quieter then as well.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

An extraordinary music video - Fever Ray's "When I grow up"

One of those degrees of separation links today.

For the last few days I have listening to an album from a couple of year's ago - First Aid Kit's The Big Black and the Blue, a really lovely album. Today, The Times has a review of a new record by them, The Lion's Roar. This review notes the video for the title track which I checked out on youtube later.

Swedish hippy folkies, First Aid Kit

Meanwhile, years ago, Jose Gonzales had a track used in an advert for Sony televisions, his cover version of The Knife's Heartbreak. The Knife are a Swedish brother and sister who were once described by The Wire as deeply disturbed! As a result of this, I have all their records. A couple of years ago, the sister from The Knife released a solo album under the name Fever Ray, which I also have.

On the youtube page for First Aid Kit's The Lion's Roar, there is a link to another video by them, a cover version of Fever Ray's When I grow up, and theirs is an excellent cover version. And from there, it is a short jump to Fever Ray's own video for that song. And what an amazing thing that is - quite horrific. Like one of those scary Japanese horror films with girls with their hair over their eyes and their head lolling to one side. Very, very disturbing. I note it has had over 6 million views so far!

Fever Ray's video for When I grow Up

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A good chubbing trip to Duxford

No frost overnight - indeed some rain, not enough to raise the river or colour it, but at least higher temperatures. So a longer trip than normal and down to Duxford at 11:30, planning to stay till 7:00pm. As before, I am continuing the hunt for a large Thames barbel, but I expected today to be more about chub, as the temperature will have only risen a tiny bit, if at all.

The longish walk to the main swims I am currently focusing on left me really hot given the milder weather and my ultra-warm clothes. The three swims close together received their first baitings of hemp and halibut pellets, with hot dog sausage and bacon grill. Then I settled in "swim four", a classic winter chub swim, fishing crust over mashed bread.

Swim Four

I started fishing about half an hour after first baiting and had a bite first cast - as so often the way when conditions are good. But a few seconds into the fight and the fish was weeded in a snag by my feet. Luckily I could just about reach the fish with the landing net and as I lifted it up, the line cames free from the snag. Not a huge fish, 2-15, but a nice start. I rebaited and moved to a "swim five" just downstream whereupon I was bother by a young swan, attracted to my bait (some bits fo bread stayed floating). The swan seemed keen to settle directly in front of me, until I gave it a quick nudge with the landing net handle and it retreated downstream. Like all fisherman, I am rather anti-swan.
A re-bait of swims one to three, then back to swim four. Another take first cast and again the fish ran to the snag below my feet, faster than I could bully it upstream and away. This seemed a better fish, but as I heaved it slowly out of the snag, the hook gave way. Probably ruined this spot for a while, so time for a wander round and another visit to swim five, where I had one bit, which I missed. Back to swim four and a bite second cast. But again the chub made for the same snag. It looked a bigger fish but again the hook pulled loose as I heaved it out.

I will really have to have a think about this swim some more. One solution would be to fish with slightly heavier tackle - maybe the stepped-up Avon rod with 10lb line. Then I could perhaps haul the fish upstream quicker. At the moment, the two lost fish do not bode well should I hook a 5lber or a barbelBut then disaster strikes. I caught my landing net on the ground and the point where the net joins the pole sheered off completely leaving me with no way to re-attach the net to the pole. I did wonder about whether I could really fish on with this, as the chances of landing a fish would not be great. But I thought I would have at least a couple of casts into the prepared swims, starting with Swim two, the most chubby of the three.

Bait now was a hair-rigged piece of hot dog sausage. My plan was to basically cast this and leave it for 30 mins or so. But maybe five minutes later, a good take and what was clearly a chub made for the lower snag. I was able to turn it ok and bring it upstream, but the landing net problem was worse than I thought. In the end, with the chub under my rod tip, I had to lie down flat on the bank and reach down with just the net, scooping the fish up from about the maximum I could reach. Clearly landing a barbel would be impossible.

A rather nice Thames chub, 4-04

I did return briefly to swim four with no further bites, but there seemed little point trying swims one to three again, as I probably couldn't land another fish that way as it got fully dark. So an early finish to the day.

I have ordered a new net and a bag to store it in, and while I was out, a huge order of bait arrived today - mainly barbel pellets and various oil additives. Gearing up for my planned splurge in March when I plan to fish as many days as possible - target is 10 trips in 14 days, with a view to getting some barbel.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Option trading back on the agenda

My search for trading strategies uncorrelated with our current trading continues. And in a flash of "inspiration" (?), I had a look at how Oxeye, a FTSE options trading firm, had been fairing. The answer is that August last year was really bad for them (-18%), but that the period since had been pretty good with returns of +8.18, +5.24, +7.90 and +6.43 for +30.7% for the last four months of the year.

But contrast, we have found August to be great while the the period since August has been increasingly difficult, as volatility has died and we are just not getting the winning trades that we were back in the summer. If you just combined us with Oxeye, August would have been fine, indeed a small gain despite the option losses. Then the option trading would have done well as our trading trailed off. Overall, a good pick up in return relative to risk from the combination of the two strategies.

So my new research plan is to consider an option writing strategy as an overlay for the futures trading. When vol is low, as it remains now, the furtures trading does relateively poorly, while the options are fine. And when vol increases. the options do poorly and the futures does better - or at least that is the theory anyway.

Rough estimates suggest that this is considerably Sharpe ratio enhancing, but the details of how we might do it remain uncertain. Nonetheless, we sold some Feb calls and puts today to start us off.

A short Evenlode chubbing session

There was another frost overnight, the fourth day in row. The question is: would the local chub be used to it now? The weather improved during the morning and I was tempted out just after lunchtime for a short session, choosing a stretch of my local River Evenlode.

My plan was to try to fish in line with a recent Tony Miles chubbing article. I usual fish flake rather than crust here (in part in the hope of accidentally catching one of the large roach in the stretch) but today it would be crust. I baited 5 or 6 swims over a 200 yard stretch and the plan would be to move between each, staying for 30 mins in each

Over the last year, this stretch of the Evenlode has really changed - and not just that it is painfully low at the moment. The main big change is that the huge willow has fallen into the river at my favourite deep bend, creating a river wide raft. This swim would remain my banker swim for the day. I slowly worked my way down the long glide just past where the river rejoins a side stream. In the past this has produced the odd 5lb chub, but nothing today. Then a short stop in the deep bend swim, but nothing in 10 mins and so a rebait and a move down to a new spot round the next bend. This looked perfect but turned out to be much too shallow in the current conditions.

Eventually I persuade a chub to take my crust bait from deep bend - not a huge fish, 3-08. Most fish I have caught from this spot have been over 4lbs. But there is actually ice in the margins of the river, so perhaps conditions are still against me. The forecast is much better for the next few days. Milder weather, no frosts, maybe some rain. So I need to arrange a trip for the next few days to take advantage of this.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Resolutions for 2012 - progress so far

I actually had quite a few resolutions for the new year. But how am I faring so far?

1. To fish "lots"

I have interpreted "lots" as meaning "greater than 50 times in the year". So far I have been 3 times and have walked various stretches I might fish this year. I would like to catch a large barbel from the Thames, several 5 lb chub, a decent river pike and, possibly, a 20lb carp.

2. To reduce significantly my intake of Coca Cola

I would say that in 2011 I drank at least 1 litre of Coke a day. So far in 2012, I have finished the last three 1/2 litre bottles we had at home and have had perhaps one actual coke in addition. I suspect my headaches in the first few days on 2012 were caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

3. To lose 14 lbs and go to the gym "lots"

"Lots" here meant twice a week on average. But over Christmas I had a cold and this has left me with a rather nasty chesty/tickly cough that I seem to be stuck with. So this is my excuse for not going to the gym so far this year at all! Also we had meant to buy a good set of scales before new year but didn't, so I don't know what I weighed then. In theory, not drinking so much coke should cut my calorie intact by 600 per day. I will re-start this resolution next week when I will definitely go to the gym.

4. To read 2 "very short introductions" per month

So far I am half way through The Reformation and intend to read Autism or Photography next. But most of my current reading is actually fishing related.

5. To learn how to use Photoshop Elements 10, take some great pictures and print them on my new A3 printer.

I have started on PS 10 and am making steady progress. I haven't taken any really good photos though.

6. To have a great year trading

Sadly, intra-day volatility has been dropping since mid November and is now about half what it was then. And we are not getting the swings up and down that we got back then either. The systems have adjusted to these current conditions but are not really making much money at the moment. We have to be patient through these tough conditions and wait for vol to pick up again.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Old fishing photos - fishing with daughter

The results of scanning in some old fishing photos from 1995 and 1996, when my daughter liked to come fishing on a Sunday with me. Not very likely to happen at the moment, she being a budding business woman in London in her early 20s. She is 6 or 7 in these pictures!
Daughter's first chub, 3-05 from the Cherwell at Throop.
A bigger chub later that same day, 3-15
Daughter's first barbel, 2-08 from the Windrush at Ducklington
And infront of the swim she caught it from. The river here is less than 12" deep, but just to the left is a slightly deeper hole. The barbel were usually resident under the far side undergrowth.

Daughter's biggest barbel, 6-05 from the Windrush.
Daughter chub fishing the Evenlode at Long Hanborough - a perfect "Crabtree" swim

Another session at Duxford Loop

For the last few days my main reading has been back issues of Course Angling Today magazine, mainly the chub and barbel articles by Tony Miles, Phil Smith and Stef Horaks. When you read loads of articles back to back, there is a slight tendency to become somewhat jaded with the constant big fish they seem to catch. This is especially true of Horaks, whose writing style and humour I really like, but who at times seems to arrive at more or less any stretch of river, bait up with loads of hemp and casters and proceed to catch a long sequence of chub and barbel all of which seem to be specimen sized fish. No doubt much effort has been put into fish location, but that doesn't come across so much in the articles.

My goal at the moment has been to catch a big Thames barbel in January. But the Thames is a huge river and the barbel could be anywhere from here to Oxford, so location is a problem. My initial chose of venue is Duxford Loop, in part because it is so close to home (less than a mile) but also because it has more features that the regular Thames below Shifford lock (where the loop re-attaches). There is another stretch further downstream where I have heard that barbel have been caught in the last year or so, but I have only managed a limited rece of this so far.

My walk last weekend noted a sequence of five or six possible fishibng locations marked by huge snaggy areas combined with steady glides above them. So my plan would be to bait these glides quite heavily just above the snags with something aromatic (in this case, hemp and halibut pellets), then leave these swims to settle, re-bait a couple of hours later, then fish each in rotation a couple of times between dusk at 4:30 and 7:00 or so. If the snags contained barbel, I thought the hemp and halibut would attract them out to feed, and hopefully I would intercept them there as it got dark.

Prior to 4:30, I fished another huge snag using the classic bait of two lobworms. My hope here was to possible get a decent chub or even a perch. Some taps on the rod tip did suggest that something was playing with the bait but when I eventually did strike and hook something it turned out to be a small roach of about 8oz. Still it is good to know that such small fish are still in the Thames, even if 8lb line and a size 6 hook is unusual to catch a roach on.

Eventually I settled back into the first of the baited swim as it got dark. I was very expectant that my first cast onto the bait would give an instant take, but all was very quiet. Re-baited with more hemp, then down to swim two, which produced a chub of about 3lbs and then went quiet. Finally, swim three, the huge raft swim. This produced two chub around 3lb each again. Back to swim one and nothing again, then nothing second time round swim two and three. A slightly longer stay in swim two also produced nothing more.

By this time, the sun had fully set. Owls were hooting, there was the constant rustle of pheasants roosting in the trees opposite, the call of three foxes in the fields opposite, and the gradual appearance of loads of stars. Of course my eyes were fully acclimatised to the low light, so the stars were very visible. But this also suggested that the temperature was dropping sharply. I gave it until just after 7:00 and then managed the long walk back to the car in the dark much better than I did the other night. A hint of frost on the car though.

So what did this achieve? The main issue is the location of barbel. This is very problematic on a river as big as the Thames, and where fish can't be seen. So the bait up approach seems right. After all, any barbel that were active would have probably located at least one of the free bait patches. But I suspect that quite a lot of patience is required with Thames barbel, so I am not unduly bothered by the lack of fish tonight. More problematic is the drop in temperature, which might stop any prospect of catching a barbel even if they were close to me in my chosen spots. So my next fishing trip might well be chub on the Evenlode - a classic crusting day.

Sunset at Duxford - from swim two

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Pictures from the "Great Flood of 2005"

More photos have been scanned from my fishing diary, these pictures being "flood" and "non-flood" from the "great" floods of the (fairly) recent past. I think the flood pictures were taken in 2005/06 but I could be wrong about that.

First up is an amazing view of the Thames & Windrush at Newbridge. The Thames is nearly a mile wide in these pictures, extending well past the Maybush pub on the left and into the fields beyond, and flooding to the right so that it joins the Windrush and then further flooding out towards the gravel pits on the right of the picture.

Next, the Windrush at Ducklington near Witney. The first picture is of one of my favourite barbel swims.
Normally three foot deep, in flood it is carrying an extra five foot of water.

Then another barbel swim - normally two foot deep.

In flood, it is 7 foot deep and three times the width. That means there is perhaps 10 times the water in the river if it is flowing at its normal rate, more if the flow is greater.

Finally the bridge at Ducklington. Nowadays I would have been tempted to fish in the floodwater, knowing that barbel could well be very actively feeding. Then I would have had no idea how to go about this and so would definitely not have tried. What a thrill to catch a big barbel in such conditions!

First fishing trips of 2012

So I have been on my first two trips of 2012.

The first was an evening to Duxford loop after chub (and with thoughts of a barbel campaign here as well). The walk down from Duxford itself reveals literally dozens of possible chub swims, mainly various tree rafts. I planned to fish a sequence of four or five swims about 3/4 mile from Duxford Ford. In each case, the swims were baited with bread, hemp and halibut pellets and the intention was to fish with crust or meat. I am not quite up to the technicalities of hair rigging pellets, but will have that sorted out soon.

The swims chosen were decidedly chubby, yet I only managed a couple of bites, which I proceeded to miss. So a slightly disheartening first trip blank. But on the upside, I have started to get a feel for the characteristics of a few swims, ready for next time.

One of the rafts at Duxford

My next trip was a spur of the moment decision to go out the next morning down to the Windrush. For some reason I had got it into my head that I would like to try trotting with my centre pin reel. However I am not very good at this type of fishing and with the bank rather overgrown with various dead plants, I was continually tangling. Once or twice everything went ok, and it was rather fun, but I only stuck it out for an hour or so. Next time I want to go trotting, I will choose a better venue - the Windrush is definitely a ledgering venue.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Walking some fishing spots

Given the rather nice weather, I had trips out on Saturday and Sunday to walk some local fishing spots that I am considering fishing in the next month or two. This also gave me a chance to take some photos - one of this year's resolutions is to produce some "impact images", especially landscapes.

Linear Fisheries, Stanton Harcourt

Linear is a really famous fishing spot and is only about 5 miles from my home, but I am not a big fan of lake fishing and I have also had the prejudice that Linear is dominated by carp anglers (this being based on what I can see from the road next to it when I go to the dump - so not really very good grounds for belief at all). But I walked round Manor lake today and actually most of my prejuduces were confirmed! There are about 20 marked swims of which perhaps 12 were taken. All had bivvies in place, all the kit was matching pairs and trios of rods on those Fox stands, all with matching sets of buzzers, all with a fourth rod with one of those heavy floats that are used to assess depth, and so on. In other words, everyone fishing exactly the same way.

There looked to be less people on St Johns and every fewer on Hardwick and Smiths, so maybe those would be the place to go. Of course, I am not after carp, but instead would like to catch a decent pike. So those other lakes might be fine for that. Smiths used to be well-known for its huge chub as well, so maybe have a go for one of these too - don't know much about stillwater chub fishing though.

The Windrush

I have heard one or two rumours that the Windrush has suffered from a sharp drop in fishing quality over the last few years, mainly as a result of otter predation. I haven't fished there seriously for years, but am tempted to give it a go again. Back in the mid-90s I fished this one stretch over 25 times and would usually catch one or two barbel per trip, sometimes as many as 6 or 7. It would be a shame if that isn't possible anymore.

This swim was quite a productive one. The barbel would be holded up under the bush on the far bank. Feeding hemp just above and outside the bush, the barbel would be tempted out from under the bush to feed. Best fish from here was about 7lbs

This doesn't look much but was the best barbel swim on the river. The left bank is a foot or two deeper than the main river and is heavily undercut. One of the rare swims into which I would lower a bait rather than cast. This was my "banker" swim and rarely disappointed. Indeed I would usually manage at least two from here during an evening / night session. My best Windrush barbel came from here, 8:15 (and it is the swim that daughter photo'd me on for my barbel article from 1996)

A flock of seagulls previously feeding by the river

This swim often had a shoal of large roach in it. My best was 1-05 but there were some 2lbers. Is that a mink trap?

Further downstream than the other swims above, this often holds some excellent fish. Once I saw a shoal of perhaps 15 barbel in the space between the two bushes in the water, biggest was definitely a double. And on one occasion I was showing my wife a large chub (well over 5lbs), when it rose to the surface and ate a passing duckling as we watched! That rather surprised wifey!

A perfect long trotting swim on the Windrush - as you would expect, the far bank is home to large numbers of chub and some roach. A really good evening swim as the sun is blocked by the bank well before dark.

The Thames at Duxford

I haven't fished this stretch for quite a few years as well, despite it being only a mile or so from home. It is a really beautiful stretch, and of a far different character from the regular Thames which is running along seperately a hundred yards or so away. This stretch has some really big barbel, chub, pike and perch in it. But today, as I walked along it, I also came across a guy setting some crayfish traps and he said it was infested with them (as so many rivers are in the UK now) There were also two "Eastern Europeans" fishing for pike. No doubt any fish caught would be for the pot, something which is not allowed in the UK and which is causing some racial tension between anglers and (predominantly) Poles.

One of the many rafts currently in place - how many chub under that one?

Probably even more chub under this raft. I am very tempted to have an evening fishing this week. Maybe a good swim in which to feed chopped worm and maggots and then ledger a lobworm under the raft?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Specialist Angler - the one with my first article in it

I have now reached Specialist Angler in my fishing magazine sort out and the memorable issue number 27 from Spring / Summer 1996 which includes my first fishing article, Small River, Summer Barbel. So it was with some delight that I was able to re-read my learned thoughts on this important, but sadly neglected subject.

My angling activities peaked in 1995 as 1996 was the year of the Hanson demerger and I was stuck working 15 hour days for that year, being too tired to even contemplate fishing at the weekends. Indeed 1997 and 1998 were not much better and it was not until the 1999 / 2000 season that I started to have enough time to do a few trips. My article recounts a summer barbelling on the Windrush at Ducklington, a river I haven't fished for years now, but which I am thinking about for this summer. Rumour has it that the river has been desimated by the re-introduction of otters. But I will give it a go I think.

The memorable issue for Spring / Summer 1996.

There I am in the company of Peter Stone (who I once went fishing with on the Windrush after meeting him at a Newlands AGM), Mark Vial (who died while fishing I believe), Stewart Allum (famous chub angler) . . .

What words of wisdom! And a photo of me fishing taken by daughter one Saturday morning when she was six.

Page 2, and an illustration using a 7lb barbel. Note the Seer Rod in the photo - my "specialist rover" built by Andy and Jill Orme.

And this is a good excuse for another Jill Orme picture - this time she seems be be Jill Butterworth. That is an amazing pike she's caught. My best is about half that size.

32lbs from Loch Lomond - brilliant

Bow Wow Wow are playing in Oxford!

Another name from the distant past - Bow Wow Wow - has appeared in an advert for live shows, one of which is at the O2 in Oxford. I was a big fan of BWW in the very early 1980s. I loved the "Burundi beat" drumming and Annabella was a great singer. Of course the band were swampeed in controversy from the world go, due to the rather racy lyrics and their first album cover based on Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, all when Annabella was only 14/15.

This rather detracted from the fact that she was actually a really good singer.

I have no idea what she has been up to since BWW split, but had hoped at one time that she would develop into a singer like Neneh Cherry. And I'm not convinced that I would like to see a live show now. I did see them once in London in about 1982 and they were very good. Annabella had two dancers with her and they were very impressive together. But it would be pretty odd to see BWW now, when Annabella is in her 40s, particularly since most of their best songs did rather play on her under-age status. For instance, a song like Louis Quatorze would be very odd.

Still, she did have a great voice, so I would like to think that her shows would go well.

Annabella and dancers - a 1982 live show in the USA

The controversial cover (as Annabella is 14) - BWW's Dejeuner sur L'herbe (Manet's Lunch on the grass - below)

Very much the look I remember from the live show I saw

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Fishing Magazines - Practical Course Fishing - the issue with me in it

My sorting out of fishing magazines has reached Practical Course Fishing, one of my all-time favourite fishing magazines, but one that only made it through about a dozen issues, from October 1993 to November 1994, before being "merged" (was subsumed) with the nowhere-near-as-good Improve Your Course Fishing (which, ironically, is still going strong)

The June 1994 issue was the highlight as it is the one that features me fishing with Tony Miles on the Hale Park Syndicate water on the Hampshire Avon. I had joined this syndicate after an advert appeared in Waterlog, but only fished it half a dozen times. It was a tough venue, but with a very large average size of fish. My personal best chub at the time, of 5-07 was caught there.

So it is early one Sunday morning in March 1994. I had travelled down from London on the Saturday evening and was parked at Hale bridge. As I emerged pre dawn, it turned out that Tony was in the van next to me. We had first met back in the late 1970s when I was chub fishing on one of my local rivers, the Leam. And I'd bumped into him again a year or two later, on either the Warwickshire Avon or the Upper Ouse. But we were not particularly friends or anything.

But we had a good chat first thing that morning. Tony effectively quzzing me on all I knew about the stretch (not much). Then we set off in different directions, passing one another at various times through the day. For me it was a tough day, one bite, no fish. Tony apparently had a couple later on that night after I had set off home.

At one point, towards the end of the article, he asks me to get in touch as I had left some tackle behind. This was untrue - he just wanted to get in touch more generally. We corresponded for the next year or so, and arranged a couple of fishing trips together, but my work commitments stopped these happening. After the 1995 season, when I fished more than I have ever done since, 1996 was the year of huge work changes and I hardly fished at all. In fact, it was not for a few years that I managed a season with more than a dozen trips - so we lost touch.

Maybe I will drop him a line - my magazine sort out has revealed a load of his very early articles that I remember well from Angling magazine.

Tony's article, with a background shot of me fishing the right bank below Hale Bridge on the Hampshire Avon - trotting bread flake using a centre pin.

The paragraphs that I feature in are in the right hand column

I remember Tony saying when we first started fishing that day that if I caught something decent, could I retain it for a photo for the article. Sadly I didn't!

My main fishing club has an arrangement with Hale Park that we can fish down there, so I have a tentative plan to have a two day trip in March this year, 18 years after the trip that immortalised me in the angling press!