Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Pink Floyd's "Cymbaline"

I have been listening to an edition of Stuart Maconie's excellent "Freak zone" from Radio 6 and this particular show is mainly about Pink Floyd. He has just told an anecdote about his friend buying "Relics", the compilation of early Pink Floyd and how he had coloured in the wierd front cover. I had a friend who did that. Standout track was "Julia Dreams" I thought
Then he moved on to a particularly obscure Pink Floyd album, their soundtrack to the film "More". This has their main heavy metal track, "The Nile Song", but also has "Cymbaline" which Maconie has just played and which features a quite beautiful keyboard outro by Rick Wright, the sort you'd have liked to go on for another 10 or 15 minutes. I remember us all being very impressed by one guy who went up to London and came back with a copy of More. And a cool album cover we all thought.

Current reading - virtually all fishing related!

My current reading has been mainly fishing related. I had been delaying reading Tony Miles' "50 Years on the Ouse" as I suspected I would enjoy it so much, but started about a week ago. Last night's reading included an account of a 5 day trip chubbing, where he caught just 11 fish despite fishing till past midnight each night. It is when I read these sorts of accounts that I realise that I am still rather off the pass compared to the intensity with which it is possible to fish.
Before that, I was reading his book about Adams Mill and Kickles Farm, "Elite Barbel". Again this demonstrates the intensity of fishing that he was prepared to go through and which I wouldn't have done. But sad that those two waters are now largely free of barbel.
And finally, a book that consists of barbel articles from early issues of Course Angling Today. I have rather enjoyed this too, if only for the sharp exchanges between Horak, Lampard and Miles on the joys of touch ledgering. Barbel fishing has really changed over the past 10 years or so and I am well off the pace. But I have recently bought a large back of halibut pellets and I might give it a go if I manage a day on the Kennet before the end of the season.
None fishing reading has been mainly Christopher Hibbert "London: The Biography of a City". I am just moving into the 1600s at the moment - how odd to hear mention of the villages of Hoxton, Islington and Mile End outside the city. And to find out that where Daughter lives was always a rought area!
Finally, work related and a continuing detailed study of Natenberg's Option Volatility and Pricing.. This will be the third time I have read this. Just looking for things we may have missed in some of the trading stuff we do now. Complex stuff.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Another chubbing session

Anglers Mail today claims that a record chub has been caught at 9-05. Inspired by this, I have reverted to my traditional chubbing tactics for today's Thames trip rather than the hybrid chub/barbel strategies that I have been using the last few trips.

And the result? One small dace of about 3 inches, that somehow managed to hook itself on my six 6 hook, while being too small to actually indicate a bite, and a modest chub that might just have made 3lbs. Not at all sure why things worked out so badly, as conditions looked really good. Yesterday's rain will have made little difference, but it was a grey and overcast day, the river was quite warm (42F), it looked perfect. I baited about half a dozen swims with a mashed bread and hemp mix, fishing crust, but couldn't get a bite for hours. Not a touch in spot after spot that I'd had loads of chub in recently. How could every swim be quiet? The chub I did catch came at around 7:30pm, when I had just about had enough. I did notice that there was a lot of fry activity tonight, for the first time. Maybe they were out because the chub weren't. All very odd.

A 9-05 chub is a ridiculous idea. Not that many years back, I was really pleased to catch a 4lber, then I gradually started to get some 5's, and in the last year or so the number of 5s I've had has really sky rocketted. I have caught one 6 lber, and that was in the mid 1990s from the Hampshire Avon, a fluke catch I always think as I was roach fishing at the time. My current goal is a 6lb fish from the Thames and I have come close this year with one of 5-10. A 7lb fish seems miles away, but you never know with the Thames.

I have maybe 5 or 6 more trips planned before the end of the season. Maybe I can get one full day out - perhaps next Tuesday - and travel a bit further and fish somewhere where I might have a chance of a barbel. It hasn't taken me long to think that a Thames barbel is a really tough proposition.

"Jung - A Biography in Books" & "A Dangerous Method"

In Blackwells on Saturday I came across the most beautiful book, Shamdasani's CG Jung: A Biography in Books. This same person was responsible for the stunning facsimile edition of Jung's The Red Book, at the stunning price of something like £160. This new book was £35 and I am seriously considering getting it.

It is over 25 years since I first started reading Jung seriously. During 1988, I bought five volumes of his Collected Works from a secondhand bookshop in Stoke Newington for about £15 each - I note they now sell for £60 plus. The editions of Aion, Alchemical Studies, Psychology and Alchemy, Symbols of Transformation and Psychology and Religion are among my most treasured books.

I was alway a Jungian rather than a Freudian!

Coincidentally, we decided to watch the new movie about Freud and Jung, A Dangerous Method. This is based loosely on fact, though some aspects of the relationship between Jung and Sabina Spielrein are considered to be somewhat unfactual. Much of the pre-release attention has focused on scenes of Kiera Knightley being spanked - no doubt a fine way to sell a movie, but probably not true.

Actually the movie was pretty good I thought.

What a fine actress Kiera is!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Some rain at last - while I'm fishing!

The pursuit of a Thames barbel goes on. Armed with loads of hemp, sweetcorn, two types of meat and some boilies, it is back to the stretch a few miles from home that I have been focusing on these last few weeks. Six swims are baited, with a plan to fish sweetcorn till just before dark, then meat baits for the next couple of hours.

In my first swim, the "inside crease" from previous blogs, I manage a small pike. This attacks my bait as I am winding in and is then persuaded to take a piece of spam. I was rather surprised that it didn't bite through the line, but was hooked in the scissors and just avoided the sharpest teeth. Weighed just over 7lbs and was perhaps the reason I had not had so much as a touch when fishing corn before that.

The local crayfish fisherman was about laying some traps for the first time on a few weeks. I have discovered his name is Bernie and he knows my wife - his wife is one of my wife's customers. When he was down here the other day, he saw a nice 5lb chub come out of the swim he had just set his traps in.

My next spot was to fish the swim where I had the two bite offs the other day. Given today's events, I was a little more convinced that a pike might be to blame. First cast I had a really good bite which I missed (but which didn't bite me off). Second cast I hooked a fish and soon landed a nice chub, avoiding the snags in the raft and under my own bank. I had thought it was probably a high 3lber and wasn't going to weigh it, but it just had a bit more thickness about it and turned out to weight 4-04. So perhaps it was a chub that bit me off before.

By now the rain that had started about an hour after my arrival had grown a bit heavier - not enough to dissuade me from carrying on though. Hopefully it will rain for a few days and perk the rivers up for my binge of fishing planned for next week.

Just before dark I was back at the swim where I had the pike and took a chub of 3-15 first cast. Though I stuck it out another hour or so, no more bites occured.

One effect of the rain was that the walk back to the car was quite tricky. It usual takes about 20 minutes, but the path had become a slippy quagmire and tonight it took nearer 30. I fell over once trying to walk up a muddy slope, and the last hundred yards by the river were very nasty. You really don't want to fall in a winter river in the dark. If only I could persuade Bernie to let me drive my land rover down through the farm and park in the actual field where I fish - what luxury that would be.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A brief morning trip to Duxford

My main focus for fishing this week are planned sessions for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, when I will aim to fish into the mid evening on each occasion, hoping for a barbel from the Thames. But today I reckoned I could sneak a short session in first thing this morning at my local stretch at Duxford. This is the first time I have fished here for a few weeks, my main focus being the stretch a few miles downstream. In part, this was because I didn't want to walk too far if I was only going to fish for a couple of hours

I settle in a long glide and baited with a dozen catapults of hemp and corn. It was actually quite chilly after three very mild mornings and there was a hint of mist rising off the water. Several deer were feeding opposite, a couple of kingfishers flew past, and a heron slowing made its way across the field. All very nice.

The main flow was actually quite fast and having started with a heavy leger weight, I then changed plans slightly and switched to a 4-swan shot link ledger, just enough to hold on the edge of the faster water. For the next hour or so I slowly searched down the edge of the fast water, eventually taking a 4-04 chub from the lower end of the swim.

I switched swims to a spot just below Duxford Ford, where there was a slightly slacker area near my own bank in contrast to the fast flow coming over the ford. In the next hour I had four bites, missed them all and retrieved heavily mangled corn back on each occasion. This didn't seem like chub, and were perhaps quite small fish, but I did have some very solid looking pulls and was surprised to have hooked nothing.

So by 10:00 I was back home ready for a few hours work before the new week. The focus now is on Monday afternoon when I plan to fish 3:00 till 8:30.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

An Interesting blank?

I have been reading all of the past entries in Phil Smith's angling blog for the past couple of days ( and in one entry he notes that one of the differences between an angling blog and an article in a fishing magazine is that the blog will often note blanks while the articles generally won't. He makes the excellent point that one of the positives of noting blanks is that less proficient anglers will therefore realise that "experts" are also fallible and frequently blank, indeed they may blank more than regular anglers as they are set up for the biggest fish, not just to catch anything. I found this when I read 30 issues of Course Angling Today back to back. Stef Horak's articles often present a steady procession of huge fish, with little indication that anything bad ever happens. They are good though.

That said, Phil also notes that describing blanks in an interesting manner might be quite hard - "I did this, I didn't catch anything" isn't compelling reading.

The overnight temperature was 11C last night and the temperature gradient in the river must now be up. As I noted in the last entry, my plan is to move away from crust over mashed bread, which is catching me loads of good chub, and instead try bait combinations that might, and I emphasize might, also attract a barbel. So today's plan was to bait some swims with hemp, corn, meat and boilies, then fish corn till around 5:00, switching to meat afterwards. The boilies are a modest pre-bait for some time next week.

The chosen swims were the inside crease swim where I have had lots of chub recently, the two deep swims (one of which has produced just one 3 lber and the other produced the brace of 5's the other week), plus a new inside glide further downstream and a raft swim just beyond this glide. First baiting was around 12:00, second at 2:00 and the third around 4:00. I fished each swim in rotation for half an hour or so using corn but didn't have even the slightest hint of a bite. Of course I have taken two 5 lb chub on corn in the last week or so, but that was single grains on a size 14 hook, 4 lb line and a float. Today, with barbel in mind, I was back to 8 lbs line and a size 8 hook. Maybe that dissuaded the chub today.

Around 4:30 I had my first excitement of the day when there was a big swirl as I wound in my tackle. I cast out again and the same thing happened, a tiny jack pike of maybe 2lbs taking my lead (not the meat bait). I did briefly flick a piece of meat down to it, but didn't have a proper take.

Around 5:30, I was down at the raft swim, the furthest swim downstream that I'd baited. I hadn't fished this with corn at all, but instead dropped a "cocktail" of Spam with garlic (a new, limited edition spam) with an added piece of hot dog sausage. After a few minutes I had a nice slow take, but felt nothing on the strike and retrieved a missing hook - a bite off! Next cast produced another bite that I missed. Third cast another slow take which I connected with this time. But then a problem. Line was being taken from the reel - I had forgotten to adjust the drag from when I was float fishing with 4 lb line. As I manually applied pressure, the line went slack and I retrieved another missing hook. A very confident chub (or barbel) could have caused the bite off, but given what happened earlier, perhaps it was another pike? I will never know.

Back to the first three swims and two more hours hard fishing produced no bites anywhere. So a blank for today and not looking good for my decision to abandon bread. But the weather forecast now says that rain is due for much of the next week (showers at least) and maybe this will cause meat over hemp to bounce back. The little bit of pre-baiting I've done might help also.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Float fishing for chub again

No overnight frosts for the past two days so the temperature trend should now be stable to up. I only have the morning for fishing today so decided to do the same as Sunday and float fish sweetcorn in the long glide at the top end of the stretch. Bit of a shock to get up at 6:15, but it did seem a mild morning and I was down at the river before 7:00. Yet again the river is down a little and the water is a little clearer. Two newspapers ran with drought stories on their front pages yesterday. Some rain is due this week, but not much. Fishing would definitely improve if we had a day or two of steady rain.

Five catapults of hemp and three of corn went in at the top end of the swim, slightly less in the next swim down. Sunday's tackle was slightly altered by the use of a slightly bigger float, a 2 1/2 swan loafer, just to give slightly easier casting and more solid control. My main query remains the depth to fish at. I started at about 6 ft but gradually inched upwards from there, ideally so I reached a point where I started to snag the bottom occasionally. But the swim does shallow up towards the far end to around 6 ft, so I can't fish too deep.

A huge red kite flew overhead no long after I started fishing - these really are incredible birds.

After 30 minutes or so of steady fishing, depth changes, constant baiting, etc, I finally had a bite at the very far end of the run, perhaps 30 yards below me. The fight developed oddly. I could feel the fish, but couldn't seem to get any pressure on it. It turns out that the fish had run across stream and settled in under by bank - the lack of pressure was due to it having run towards me. The float was stuck round some vegetation, but the fish was lying quite still under a weed clump. I was nearly able to reach it with the net, but that woke it up again and as it set off back to mid-river, the float came loose, much to my surprise. A new personal best chub on float tackle, 5-06.

But then I discovered that there is some sort of problem with the camera, it is not saving images to the memory stick. That could be a memory stick problem, or maybe the battery is low, or maybe it is more serious. The camera is 7 or 8 years old afterall.

I moved down to the lower end of the swim and legered for the last hour or so, my thoughts being that this might be the best chance to get a barbel. But I have also noted that all the chub I've taken on the float have come from the lower end of the swim. Maybe this is due to the shelving up of the river bottom at this point.

I actually packed up around 9:30, so only fished for 2 hours. But I have now taken 6 chub over 5 lbs this year so far.

As I write this, it is actually raining. Hopefully it will rain hard for the next 24 hours or so and Thursday, Friday and Sunday will give me good opportunities to get a barbel, if there actually are any in this stretch. So a change is planned for my strategy next time. I want to try and fish in a manner that could get barbel in addition to the chub I have been catching, so I will be moving over to baiting with hemp and fishing with corn/meat/boilies. I plan to fish three swims, baiting reasonably heavily with hemp to try and ensure that any barbel in a 500 yard stretch will detect the bait. If it could just rain enough to colour the river and raise it a couple of inches . . . . .

Monday, 20 February 2012

A really hard fishing trip

A second night of frost and a good chance that fishing might well have been adversely affected but the great results of the last two days and my thought that I'd like to investigate some of the swims further downstream tempted me out again. But it was a really hard day's fishing.

Walking down to the river, it was immediately apparent that it had dropped another inch or two. I wonder if any people other than river anglers really appreciate the true scale of the current draught? Also the water had cleared a little more and many of the shallow swims at the upstream end now had gravel bars visible on the bottom. Low and clear and getting colder - not good conditions?

Baiting today was with a small amount of mashed bread and an equal amount of a white/brown crumb mix. Some of this was placed in the slacker, near-bank water and not so much in the areas I have been fishing in the last few weeks. A quick walk downstream about 300 yards suggested 3 possible new swims and I baited each of these. Hookbait would have to be flake from a Hovis "thick" white loaf, as I'd forgotten to bring a bag of crust with me!

My starting point again today was the inside glide swim where I had so many bites on Saturday. Today it was all quiet and peaceful and 30 minutes later I was off upstream to the "Hawthorns" where I'd had the fish on Sunday with the ultra light leger set up. Would I get another today? And perhaps the surprising answer was, yes! Again I used just one swan shot and let the flake swing in to the near bank. Result? A really nice looking fish of 3-15.

But from then on, things were very quiet. I tried the two deep swims and the 3 new ones in rotation, fishing 20 minutes in each, then rebaiting and moving on. But not a touch. A second cycle in every swim then has the same result. By 5:00, I am back in the first swim having completed two cycles and was pondering on whether I should have just waited a few days, given the much better forecast for later in the week.

I had been alternating baits between flake and small bits of crust off the sliced loaf. Finally, in the inside crease swim, I had a second bite of the day on crust and this produced a much bigger fish, weighing 5-01. Its possible this was a re-capture as it had a very distinctive set of deformed scales on one side and I seem to remember seeing this before. So the five hours of hard fishing finally paid off.

Not a great photo. It was just beginning to get a bit dark and I had to use a much wider aperture, which messed up the depth of field and resulted in the background being in the best focus.

I fished on till near 7:00pm but no more bites anywhere. The forecast for Wednesday night is that it will be 10C higher than last night. I am no longer planning to fish tomorrow, but might go out Wednesday morning for a couple of hours float fishing again. But Thursday will be a very serious fishing day. I am pondering on fishing corn over hemp, with maybe some meat bait as well. The temperature rise might just tempt barbel to feed and they wouldn't be so keen on bread.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A weekend's fishing campaign - Part 2

As forecast there was a frost overnight, but it wasn't a hard as it could have been - maybe an overnight low of -2C perhaps. And the rain yesterday might be soaking into the river and that might have helped keep the river temperature up. So regardless of the frost, I was off to the river at 7:00 this morning to try and catch a four pound chub from the long glide that I had pre-baited with hemp and corn yesterday.

Tackle for the day was a John Wilson stepped up Avon rod in its 13 ft configuration, 4lb line straight through to a size 14 Drennan sweetcorn hook, plus a 3AAA Avon float. First cast landed short of my target on the edge of the main flow, but I let it continue down. Control wasn't bad once the float had got downstream of me a bit, but I am really out of practice at long trotting. About 30 yards down, adjacent to the next swim, and in the calmer water, I got a bite and with a slow and steady pressure was able to slowly bring the fish upstream, always remembering that I was on much lighter tackle than my "heave and haul" usual chub tackle. A slight scare when it tried to just into the roots under my bank, but it was soon in the net. So my goal of a 4 lb chub on the float took just one cast. The fish was 4-15 and perhaps the largest chub I have caught float fishing. Sadly no photo today - I had left the camera at home after transfering the pictures of yesterday's big chub.

While sorting out this first fish a swan and 6 of last year's cygnets swam up my swim on exactly my taking line, and I had initially thought that might be a very big negative. But two casts later and another very gentle take at the far end of the swim and a second chub, this time of 4-08. It shouldn't be ignored that both these fish came from the extreme end of the trot down, in the slower water inside the main flow. And moreover, it was open water, the sort of spot that I wouldn't have bothered with if I were legering. So quite a bit to note from that.

Six or so casts later and 9 swans came charging down the swim taking off as they did so. A huge disturbance for the swim and, as one might expect, no more bites subsequently. An hour or so later and I did change over to ledgered corn in the area where the swim shallows up at the end. But no more bites and I was done by about 10:30.

So this does show the value of pre-baiting, it does show that I can catch decent chub on the float, and it does show that decent chub are out in the middle of the river but in the slower flow.

My new plan for tomorrow afternoon is to fish a crumb and mash feeder setup with either flake or crust as bait and to focus on near bank slacks. I also intend to try some new spots below the lock - hopefully a couple of dozen new spots. The search for a Thames 6-lber before the end of the season is well and truly on - maybe 10 more trips before the season ends.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A weekend's fishing campaign - Part 1

Wife and daughter have gone away for a girlie weekend - a fitness weekend at a Spa hotel in Hinkley of all places. This means I have more or less an entire weekend free, so much thought has gone into planning what fishing I will do (despite the weather forecast of an overnight frost on Saturday).

At 7:00am this morning I went down to the river and deposited a gallon of hemp and half a gallon of sweetcorn in a 50-yard section, which I plan to float fish tomorrow. I haven't caught a fish on a float for years, and my newest target is to get a four pounder before the end of the season. That done, it was off to Witney where I bought huge amounts of canned meat, canned sweetcorn, frozen sweetcorn and bread for the coming few days, then spent another £45 in States Fishing tackle shop, mainly on leger weights, line, swivels, and so on.

I got to the river about 11:00. On Wednesday last week I badly bruised one of my toes and today's long walk to the downstream end of the fishery was not pleasant - sort of a slow shuffle. And just as I got there, I was initially disappointed to spot another angler moving spots in the distance, just at my two hotspot swims. I dumped my stuff in a new swim and went down for a chat. Apparently he and two friends fish this stretch quite a lot, despite being from Windsor. Indeed the other two had a 5-15 and a 6-10 just two days ago, one of which was from the last deep swim where I had the 5 lbers on Valentines day. He recommended the stretch at the downstream end of tghe fishery and spoke of the occasional 7-lber caught there. I definitely have to take this information seriously. He was planning a very mobile approach and soon set off downstream leaving me to my half dozen swims.

After baiting the swims, my starting point today was the "inside crease" swim. First cast I had a pull in less than a minute which I missed, then second cast, another bite which I connected with this time. A fine scrap before I managed to haul it over the dead reed bed, and a slight shock to find it is a perfect fish of 5-10, a new record for this year and closing in on the 6-lber of my dreams.

A decent enough self-timer picture, despite the twig in the way.
And a not so decent picture!

I moved from there up to the raft swim and had another decent bite which I also missed. Then up to the hawthorn bush swim. I have been thinking about this swim alot over the last few days and decided to fish it initially with a very light weight, trying to hug the inside of the river, under the bushes. Then I had the idea of just using the single swan shot. I managed a cast of about 15 yards downstream and as intended, the bait swung into the near bank, probably just around the point where there is a small raft under the bushes. This produced another nice chub a few minutes later of 4-10. No pictures this time as it had started to rain, and indeed rained quite hard for the next hour or so.

Next stop was the two deep swims, but I didn't get a bite there. Back at the first swim, I had another bite from just inside the crease which I missed, then I lost a fish in "swim 4" which seemed to snag me and then throw the hook. Things then went quiet for the next couple of hours, but again, the inside crease swim produced a bite, which again I missed.

Just as it got dark I was joined by the angler I had met earlier. He had caught four in the end, including three from one spot far downstream. His theory was that the fish were all in slack water. And you know, that could well be right. That was where I caught my two fish and I couldn't get a bite in the main flow swims. So perhaps I need to pay more attention to near bank slacks. And I have to investigate well downstream.

It had just about got dark by now. My eyes were well accustomed to the dark and as a result, I could see far more stars than normal, especially around Orion and Taurus. Just before I finished a barn owl flew across the river just above me - the first I've seen for a year or two. Lots of foxes about tonight as well - barking at each other across the fields.

So overall, a really excellent day, for my new best fish of the year and for the stuff I found out from the other angler. Tomorrow I am floating fishing for chub, and Monday might be my investigation of further downstream, toe permitting.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Aki on Masterchef

In the last week or two, we have been catching up with the last few episodes of Masterchef 2011, where Tim has rightly won, and we are now well into Masterchef 2012 - is this programme ever off the screens?

The hightlight of the current series is, of course, the very bizarre Aki. Japanese, in her early twenties, hyperactive, doe-eyed, doing a PhD in quantum physics (!!), and with a series of the oddest facial expressions you could ever wish for. And she has a posh English accent! As far as I can see, she is totally perfect and I will be very disappointed when she is eliminated, as I suspect there is not much chance she can win as she basically only knows Japanese cooking!

Addendum, Thursday: And just when you think it can't get any madder, this week Aki tries to make a chocolate brownie and ends up with most of the mixture on her apron or face. Yet she still gets through, just.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Grouper playing UK shows

From the new issue of The Wire, a small feature saying that Liz Harris (Grouper) is performing a handful of shows in the UK. These are billed as "The Violet Replacement Tour", which is described as
"a collection of tape collages . . . . Field recordings, wurlitzer loops and vocal tracksfrom her archive are mixed, spliced and processed live from an array of dictaphones and tape players to create fragile melodies and submerged textures which gradually transform the space"
Which sounds good to me. My first attempt is to get tickets for the London show in Covent Garden but that is sold out already. However, she is also playing in, of all places, Reading, and I have been able to get two tickets for this one. Much excitement on my part, slightly less so on Wife's part!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day Chubbing

Wife has consented to another afternoon at the river on two conditions. Firstly, that I don't get home after 6:00pm and second, that I am still in charge of our Valentine Day's meal. These seem very acceptable given than fishing conditions look pretty good.

I am now fishing the other local stretch of the Thames - the one where I believe some barbel have been caught. For the moment the focus will be chub, then when the water temperature begins to rise, I will start a campaign for a barbel there. Nothing has indicated that Duxford would be better for barbel - the swims I used to catch loads in during the mid-1990s just seem to have chub in them now.

My focus today would be on two deeper swims at the end of the stretch. This involved a one mile walk and the milder weather meant I was really hot when I got there. Fifteen minutes later and I had baited half a dozen swims and could have a sit down, a drink and a Mars bar. One new swim baited today - a spot where a tree and some rushes cause the inside line to about one rod length out to be a much slower flow than the main flow (i.e. a near bank crease). This could be a great floodwater swim. Downstream in the slower flow was a tree in the water, so maybe fish would hole up there and then feed along the crease.

My first fishing spot was two swims close together which I have christened "Hawthorns 1" and "Hawthorns 2" . With only maybe half an hour since the bait had gone in, I wasn't sure I would get anything here, but gave it 20 minutes in each before rebaiting and then moving to the big raft swim. Using slightly more lead than usual, I decided to hold the bait under the raft itself, rather than just to the side as I have done before, and actually did get a bite here, which I missed.

A second feeding of bait into the two deeper swims, then I settled into the inside crease swim, my new spot. First cast at the head of the crease produced nothing in ten minutes, so I moved the bait down a few yards and then did get a take which I connected with. The fish set off into the main flow, then promptly fell off. Not sure why as the hook looked fine. It didn't feel a huge fish though. But it was good to know that there were fish in this new spot, and so I can have another look at it next time.

Finally, after 3 hours and two baitings, it was time to have a go at the two top swims, my initial choice being the uppermost swim. First cast was perfect, drifting down towards the tree in the water. Five minutes later, the line briefly slackens, then tightens as the tip pulls round. I got a look at the fish straight away and it was clearly a decent fish. Oddly it fought by moving away from the huge tree in the water and stayed in open water throughout. And the hook held this time - a lovely fish of 5-02, the second 5-lber of the year from the Thames and a pretty instantaneous confirmation of the wisdom of dual baitings before fishing.

First fish of the day, 5-02

So with that in mind, I thought I would stay put, just in case the first fish had not scared any others when it ran away from the snag rather than into it.

And 15 minutes later, I got another bite and connected with another solid fish. This one stayed deep and did try for the tree a couple of times. But I am trying to play fish hard at the moment and was able to heave it away ok. And what a fish, 5-08, my best of the year so far. A birdwatcher appeared as I was setting up the camera and obliged by taking a couple of pictures - a shame neither of us spotted the weed attached to the fish's side which slightly spoil the photo!

The fish of the year so far, 5-08

Next spot to try was the second of the deeper swims. This hadn't produced a bite the last two times I have fished here, but 10 minutes or so in, with no preliminary moves, the tip flew round and another fish on. This one was smaller than the others, but actually caused more trouble landing as it found a snag just under the bank in front of me. But by moving downstream to change the angle of pull, it freed itself and chub 3 of the day was landed, a smaller fish of 3-15.

That proved to be the last fish of the day, though I continued to rotate between the various swims. A cold easterly wind picked up as the afternoon progressed and I was quite happy to pack up around 5:00.

Our Valentine Day's meal was a starter of salmon, prawns and scallops in a cream and paprika sauce; fillet steak with a port and red wine jus and steamed vegetables and an M&S ricotta cheese cake, all washed down with a bottle of sparkling rose and a Cahor 2004 red.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Saturday in London with Daughter

Today's trip to visit Daughter in London is based around a trip to Stoke Newington, where we used to live. We haven't been back there since we left in 1994. But the other week, Daughter was driving through Hackney with her friends and happened to mention that this was where she grew up. Apparently her friends were somewhat sceptical of this, so Daughter had decided she shopld visit the area of her initial childhood. No doubt lots will have changed!

We parked in Kyverdale Road, where we lived from 1988 to 1994. Our old house looked rather tatty, having not been painted since we had it done. But someone was definitely living there. We resisted the temptation to knock and the door and see if we could have a look around.

From there we walked round to the bottom of Stanford Hill to see if Phoenix House, Daughter's first school, was still there, and we were delighted to find that it was. It is still a Montessori school as well. Daughter started there when she was two in 1991 and was their first pupil on the first day it opened. We thought she really thrived there.

Daughter's first school - now called Phoenix School - on Stamford Hill

From there we walked to Church Street, even in our time the upmarket part of Stokey. It now has a Wholefoods store - ultra trendy organic stuff. Our old Indian restaurant, the Karnaphuli, is still there too. But our favourite cafe - Pumpkin - has probably long gone, as has Mullholland Drive, the American restaurant near the park. And my favourite secondhand bookstore looked long gone too. But that said, the cafe in Clissold Park had been completely renovated and was really nice. We stopped for cake after walking round the animal enclosure in the park. And St Mary's School was still there - after Phoenix House, Daughter hated this school, and only went there for one term - this was the main factor in our decision to leave Stoke Newington

We walked back through Abney Park Cematery, one of London's great examples of overgrown tombs. I used to love wandering round it.

Are these "weeping angels" per Doctor Who?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Chub in the snow Part 2

Following the snow, a night of extreme sub-zero temperatures of around -10C. My thoughts turn to chub and the attempt to catch a decent sized one in such conditions. I was on my way to the river aboput 11:00, with lots of pauses to take pictures.
Snow doesn't hold on thin willow branches apparently
Just below the ford - in the summer, a fine chub and possible barbel swim
Another fine summer swim - a nice gravel bar runs down to the tree on the far bank
My fishing focused on what I have been calling "swims one to four". The picture above is from "swim 4". In swim one I actually caught a little chub of maybe 1.5lbs. On the one hand, this is still not the four-pounder "snow chub" that I want. On the other hand, it is good to know there are some smaller fish about - this is actually my smallest fish of the year so far.
A thaw is underway by the early afternoon - the raft in swim 3 looking down towards swim 4
But just the one fish for my efforts for the afternoon - and jolly cold

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Plumbing the depths - a river pike trip

The weather remains bitterly cold. However, the forecast is actually for the weather to get worse with snow tomorrow which will stick around as temperatures remain below freezing well into next week. When that does melt, it will then be another 3-5 days before fishing is very feasible. But today might have been ok. The snow melt from the weekend might have cleared, and the chub might be used to the cold.

But instead I decided that I would have a few hours on the river doing some pike fishing. It is years since I fished for pike. But my thinking was actually coloured by the idea that I could use the river float tackle to also do some plumbing of a wide range of swims. So it was really pike fishing with chub in mind.

When I got to the stretch of the Thames I was planning to plumb, there was one angler already fishing. He had just lost a decent chub and was switching over to ledgering from float fishing. That suggested I might have been better off chub fishing. But the aim was to gather valuable intelligence for the battles ahead and so for the next three hours I searched around a dozen swims with deadbaits and then, as I was ready to switch swims, I had a quick plumb around the swim.

What I generally found was that the river was deeper in a number of places than I had thought - around the 5 foot plus level, rather than 3-4 foot that I had thought. I paid particular attention to two swims at the end of the stretch which I plan to fish seriously for a monster chub before the seasons end. As I suspected, these are slightly deeper swims, nearer 7-8 foot deep and look very promising.

And I even caught one pike, though it was possibly the smallest I have caught since two pike of 15oz each which I caught from the River Leam and Esthwaite Water back in the 1980s. My guess is that it would have struggled to break 1-08. It took a float fished smelt as I was winding in slowly down the right bank margin. This week, a 32lb pike was caught in Esthwaite. Could that have been the one I caught years ago? Not sure how long pike live, but it probably isn't 30 years!

I wonder if I could sneak a chub trip in tomorrow before the snow hits?

Monday, 6 February 2012

Daughter's steak

Daughter has sent me a photo of a steak she acquired from the butchers in her local market and has asked my advice on cooking it. I have suggested coating it in paprika, then cooking it for 10 mins, split 3 mins on the top and bottom and the rest on the sides. Should come out medium-rare, which sounds good to me.

Debra Bloomfield's "Still: Oceanscapes"

From the £2 bookstore in Oxford - about the only place I have bought books lately - I have acquired Debra Bloomfield's "Still: Oceanscapes". This is a quite stunning set of photos based on the ocean at rest (rather than showing the crashing surf, or even waves). They aim at a more mediative view of the sea and are quite magnificent. I am thinking about splashing out another £2 on another copy and then cutting out my favourites to frame. Exactly the sort of high impact photographic images I am working on taking myself.

And another picture of hers on a different theme

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Chub in the snow?

The snow that had been forecast has finally arrived, but not in great abundance here. We had about an inch on Saturday night, followed by some rain, and this morning it was not a very complete covering. But one of my fishing targets is to catch a decent sized chub when there is a good layer of snow, so today just about counted for that. In any case, if I didn't go fishing again today, it is unlikely that I will do for a few days as the forecast is pretty poor for the next five days or so.

My hope was that I might be able to get one in the long crease swim that I fished last friday, but soon after arrival and baiting, two swans arrived in the swim and proceeded to feed for about 10 minutes or pretty much the exact line I planned to fish. Like most anglers, I am not a great fan of swans and was pretty annoyed by this incursion. Sadly I didn't have enough bait with me to move further downstream and bait somewhere else, so I would have to wait it out. Still. this did give me a chance to take a few photos of me fishing in the snow.

The wretched swans, right on my fishing line beside the crease
Fishing the crease

I did try a couple of new spots a little way downstream, but failed to get any bites. But it was actually a really nice morning to be out. There were no other people by the river, though a micro-lite aircraft did fly directly over me at one point. The temperature was definitely above freezing and the snow was melting throughout the time I was there. Indeed, this is probably a bad sign for fishing in the next few days, as snow melt is the absolute death of most river fishing.

Back in the long crease, I may have had one, very-tentative bite but didn't connect. The same in the raft swim at the end of the crease. By 2:00pm or so I had had enough. In all, I was out for about 5 hours. My next planned trip is for Thursday or Friday if the temperature remains low. I plan to go all the way down to the far end, deeper swims and give them a few hours each.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Winter fishing madness

The internet weather service I follow says that the temperature in our area of rural Oxfordshire fell to -10C overnight. By 8:00am, it had risen to -7C. It might be thought that this would be enough to persuade me to not go fishing. But given the right clothing and the closeness of the venue, it didn't seem a bad idea to me and I set off down about 2:00pm aiming to fish till about 5:30, my planned limit in the sub-zero conditions. That said, I did decide to fish the spots nearest the car, rather than walk the extra 1/2 miles and fish the three or four deeper spots before the weir that I am really keen to visit again.

The river had dropped another inch or so and the colour of the last week or so has now more or less gone from it. This means that the lower raft swim at the end of the big crease has been revealed to be actually quite shallow, maybe only 2 foot deep now. There are still spots in it where you can see that chub could hole up, but it seems a less likely spot than it was with a bit of colour.

So my focus is the long crease swim, where the depth is around 4-5 foot. A 1/2 to 3/4 oz weight is required to search the different areas of the swim correctly, and I was rather pleased with the methodical way in which I set about this. And after about 30mins, in a spot downstream of my fishing position, and just inside the main line of the crease, I had a couple of sharp pings in the quivertip, a brief slackening of the line, then a strong pull and the connection with a decent fish. The deep fight suggested it might be a very good fish, but it then just gave up the fight and it turned out to be another really nice 4lber, 4-08 to be exact.

This turned out to be the only fish of the afternoon. No bites in the raft swim at the end, possibly one other in the crease swim. I blame a jogger (!!) who ran past me about 4:00, clumping away on the hard ground and possibly spooking the fish.

A nice plump 4-08 chub