Saturday, 28 July 2012


There are some of us that were raised in the countryside and feel familiar and safe in this slower pace and relaxed lifestyle.
Those that begrudgingly commutes to the towns and cities. They silently pine like 'a dog in an outhouse' at the scenery that they leave behind viewed either from the window of a train or car as they go to work. Watching how far too quickly the serene arable fields and trees become harsh contrasting blankets of concrete and glass.
It is in that journey that they let go or release a part of who they really are, but they can't forget what is left behind.
I am one such person. I stand in a town for a while and I survey the people, the buildings and I listen. Before long I feel very alone, that I'm not there, not part of this hustle and bustle. I watch people hurrying along to banks, to shops or to catch that ever so important bus often oblivious to the traffic or the risks. I hear snippets of conversations either as they walk by me or on the bus. It might just be one sentence I catch. It sounds so petty or of no relevance to me but the tones and audibility or volume that is portrayed either to another person next to them or down a mobile phone to a friend, it is obviously important to them. Other sounds of traffic, the sirens, the horns, the thunderous roar...plays like a monotonous drone continuously looped on a tape cassette. It quickens the heartbeat and governs the speed of people's lives and I hate it.
Visually the lights do nothing to soften the pace. Neon lights advertising shop displays provoking minds with words like 'offer', 'discount' or 'free'. Subliminal and optical  messages telling us where, how and when to 'go', what to wear, what to eat or how to look. Traffic and brake lights telling us to wait, stop or go. Horns hooted to remind us that we are not moving fast enough or not conforming to urban pace. I would love to click my fingers and stop everything just for a second. Just to shout "WHY?!"

I guess its why I am good at my job. My town of work is notoriously known as "God's waiting room" subject to the fact that the population of pensioners that inhabit it far outnumber any other. But I take time to smile, to allow time for them and to talk. I like pensioners. To me, they are like books. Each one a story that cannot be judged by their frail and sometimes damaged covers. They move at a pace more realistic to the speed of my  rural demeanor. They are calmer, more resilient than we give them credit for if only let down by their frail bodies. 

I was often subject to teasing from school tutors and pupils about being brought up in the sticks and names like 'carrot cruncher' and 'farmer Giles' would echo in classrooms and halls not to mention my head and this in time only fueled such feelings of not belonging or not wanting to be accepted by the urban community.
I'm not saying I was a loner but I grew up with a feeling deep inside that I didn't conform to this way of life, that I didn't want to.
I remember having a friend home from school one Saturday, and took  him around my stomp, to give him a glimpse of what I did when not at school, to show what's great about living 'in the sticks'.
On his arrival I had chores to attend and he couldn't believe I was allowed to use an axe. I think we spent an hour splitting  logs and transporting them in a barrow to the wood shed. He took delight at this, to me anyway, menial task. Afterwards we took the dog out for a run and I showed him around. The farm, the woods and later the river. We climbed haystacks and trees, made dutch arrows and fired an old bb air pistol at matches on a post for a while before journeying to the lock for a swim in the river. We lit a fire to dry ourselves and made a wigwam in the wood, before heading back for supper. 
Afterwards I walked him across the field to the bus stop and waited with him til it came.
I remember him asking me, "What else do you do?" 
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well" he said "I've really enjoyed today but is there anything else?"
"That's the thing about the countryside" I replied, "there's nothing to do and plenty of room to do it in".
"Eh? I don't understand what you mean" he said.
"Never mind, your bus is here, catch you Monday at school".
He never asked to come back unfortunately but I guess it must be in your blood and you either love it or hate it. 
Anyway, I guess I'd better get ready for another day in the urban jungle. A place where all the seasons seem the same throughout the year.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


The weeks diary of two novice barbel fishers on a very experienced River Wye.

 The journey to Hereford was meticulously planned and organised, but then I am a professional. Ha!
Arriving at Oxford services in 2 hours for breakfast at the respectable time of 9.30. The unfortunate 'others' including my 15 week old grandson, had a rather more arduous trip.
We arrived in Hereford at the supermarket in four and a half hours to get the weeks supplies and after arriving at our cottage, unpacked in good time for our somewhat tardy and exhausted guests. Still no sympathy was shown as they only had themselves to blame!

My second visit this year to the majestic Wye had not quite the same explosive start as that first trip, preferring to merely whimper as opposed to BANG!!
The conditions here at the beginning of July may have provided an insight as way of explanation and reasonable excuse. Scattered showers and overcast the first few days with a stiff intermittent south westerly breeze. There were some sunny, somewhat short lived spells but by an large mostly torrential downpours. Most of the brighter weather enjoyed by the early riser but only the fool hardy would venture out for a walk without a coat. Or brolly. And waterproof trousers. And boots.
And perhaps a rope tethered to a dog spike! But more of that later.

The following account is written from my journal which the weeks events were logged. It pulls no punches, its embarrassing at times, funny but true account of one novice barbel angler (piscator 2) and an experienced carp angler but barbel virgin (piscator 1). 

Saturday (pm)
Saturday evening found the 2 piscators exploring their beat and introducing a little free offerings to encourage the fish to a few accessible swims. One or two promising looking spots were picked out as likely to produce results for the following day. Swim '4' preferred as piscator 1's choice as he witnessed a couple of fish on approach.
Dawn on Sunday greeted us with a bright sunny start and we both left the cottage with enthusiasm and much gusto. On arrival at the swim we were delighted to see a large barbel visible in the 'head down' position obviously hoovering up our previous evenings freebies. A good omen perhaps? More feed was introduced and rods were not lowered into position until a visible sighting of our large whiskered friend returning. He was very quick to come back, obviously eager to hoover up feed before chevin and fellow genus arrived and offered competition.
One or two chevin bites inviting both piscators to 'strike at thin air' as they notoriously mouthed our hookbaits in typical fashion.
Every once in a while our 'leviathan' would incite eager beaming smiles and improve our dwindling enthusiasm. 
After three hours stalking this beast in the now wet and gloomy weather, our piscators started raising questions.
Was it perhaps a pike? Is it a fish at all? How deep was our swim? I wonder what's for lunch?
The shadow would appear infrequently at sporadic intervals but more or less in the same position, preferring the edge of the crease facing upstream in the flow
headlong. In the third hour and after exhausting our efforts and limited knowledge, No.1dropped his bait in the middle of the flow of the current and wound back to retrieve it over the position of our sightings. As he leveled with the Willow on the edge of the crease he promptly foul hooked our quarry, a seven foot piece of plastic from a straw bale encrusted with weed.
As far as any previous catches of foreign objects were concerned, both piscators concluded that it was by far the most 'fin perfect' piece of plastic we have ever stalked! 
"Not a complete loss" was to become somewhat of a catchphrase in those first few sessions as things that were likely to go wrong, invariably did its upmost not to disappoint. Both positive minded piscators tried, by way of post trip analysis, to find something good to come from each session. It was to be a challenge in itself sometimes. "Not a  complete loss tho, at least we were fishing"!
Day two continued in the conventional manner we were fast becoming accustomed. The more persistent rain arrived a day or two earlier than expected and tried its upmost to dampen everything but failed with our spirit and eagerness. I arose around 5am and decided to travel light and have a go at rolling some cheese paste around with plasticine to try and locate some fish in some deep gulleys that I noticed from the bridge the previous day. Having put on suitable wet weather attire, I set up the rod at the cottage took out my paste from the fridge and donned my boots. I arrived a little damp to the area where I could access the gulleys and flick a bait in the flow with the centrepin. It was about this time I remembered the cheese paste still adorned the draining board some half mile back at the cottage! 
I took the arduous trek back and consoled myself with a coffee and cholesterol breakfast. No.1 piscator had surfaced and was immediately put in jovial mood by relating ones misfortunes, such was his whim.
He went to his own adventures ahead whilst I contemplated the remainder of the day and rethought a plan of action.
I later found him, although sodden, quite happy and contented with news of his pb chevin of just over 3.8lb. This was also added to with a smaller one both on meat baits.
I trudged and trundled through the rain and squelched through the mud with much hope to locate another swim where I could enjoy similar encounters. 
The bank, having been made somewhat treacherous by the persistent rainfall, limited passage to only 2 swims I could safely negotiate. The first was situated in front of two fellow piscators on the opposite bank huddled under a brolly and I would prefer not to disturb their fishing.
The second swim was fishable but if per chance I hooked a fish I wouldn't be able to get close enough to land it.
Having had a second soaking and a heavy laden walk that morning I decided to venture back to the cottage to pester the ladies 'quiet time' and pamper my 15 week old grandson (piscator 3..?) 
I had not been in long when No.1 piscator arrived back half drowned but by no means disheartened and related news of his success.
We made plans to venture into Hereford to seek the tackle shop with a view of purchasing a couple of brollys for an evening session.
Monday (pm)
The evening session was planned and prepared for, our chosen swim was just perfect by way of features and room enough for the two piscators to fish side by side in the comfort of our chairs and under our new brolleys. We fastened isotopes to rod tips and set off pleased that we were fishing together. No.1 introduced half a dozen bait droppers of freebies to a pool that looked 'fishy'.
On cue,having waited for our levels of expectation to reach its peak, disaster chose to rear its ugly head again. No.1's sixth dropper of bait caught in an underwater snag and bade its farewell on its speedy journey in the vicinity of Chepstow.
Unperturbed, No.1 put his first cast over his free offerings only to snag the same unforgiving sunken trap and relieve him of his terminal tackle. Failure to foresee such an occurrence brought closure to his fishing after just one cast, having no gear to replace it with on him. How I laughed.
Any mickey taking and general ribbing was short lived as my own cast put my bait in the flow with insufficient weight was washed into the same snag and parted with my line. 
"Not a complete loss"... there was less mud on the bank when we left!
Tuesday (pm)
Two sorrowful piscators left for the supermarket with the grandson in tow and bought some essentials and enough gastronomic delights to woo our wives and clock up some brownie points. We were more or less ordered bankside to get a couple of hours in as the weather at last had broke. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the evenings company from No.1 and the air show laid on by bats snatching moths and insects mid air. One such strike happened not six inches from my face!
I had a few bites using meat and No.1 landed a very lean and long 4lb chevin.
We were escorted back under a full moonlit walk by the bats.
Barbel remained somewhat elusive still but our neighbour took great delight in landing a 10lb barbel and incited us further. I fancy that before long one will put in an appearance.
Wednesday (am)
What a difference a day makes!
The overnight rain gave the river a flush through and added a further foot of floodwater. The breeze has gone and the morning was bright and sunny. 
We had a 4-5 hour session at our "plastic" swim. Fishing p.v.a bags and extra weight proved most productive. A chevin of 4lb 2oz and a pb barbel of 7lb 14oz for No.2 and a couple of chevins for No.1 just under 4lb.
The rain did resume normal service just as we retreated to keep the peacewith our respective wives and we took them shopping at Oakchurch.
Suddenly the world seems a better place now we have been blessed with a few fish. The wet grass smells sweeter, the trees seem more elegant and the birdsong more melodious. Despite the deluge of the past few days, the Wye seems slightly more majestic with every fleeting visit.

Wednesday (pm)
I would love to be able to relate a fabulous recount of bumper catches, double figure fish, a gloriously calm and care free session.
 I would love to, but unfortunately this is supposed to be a warts and all, pull no punches account of what really happened, So here goes.
To start with we had no option but to make the arduous trek to the furthest swim individually as the grandson was having teething troubles. He decided to make his parents evening a little harder by reminding them that young parents plans and routines are not always followed by the youngest members of the family. And if he was suffering then so should they.
I made the lone trek to the chosen swim to be joined later by No.1 piscator. I met with a friend bankside who bailiffs some of this river and we discussed our fortunes and further plans for this session until No.1 arrived.
Due , I would like to say, to a communication breakdown, a very important bag containing important items of tackle was left behind. Each thinking the other had brought it. A little petty squabbling ensued before No.1 returned to the cottage for the bag having the younger leg. I believe his mutterings were heard all the way back but of no consequence to me, I was happily sat under a brolly in a comfy chair taking in the scenery.
On his return, normal service resumed and some level of concentration and order ensued.
Unfortunately for us, the enjoyment of winkling out a few fish to restore faith that we had at last worked a successful method earlier was not adopted by the fish. In fact, suffice to say they never had the decency to show up, unlike the rain!
I have to confess to not being over familiar with night sessions and I relied heavily on No.1's experience. Although he had still not caught his first river prince, when it comes to modern carp fishing with all its gadgets and wizardry, his expertise would ensure I had a reliable assistant to be comfortable and enjoy the experience.
We tried similar tactics to the morning, tried locating fish in other areas of our swim, took on a little water and had a few bites...from mosquito's I hasten to add.
We had fished well into the eleventh hour without any success when I decided to unleash a secret weapon.
Three months ago I cubed up a tin of meat and laced it with garlic oil and a whole pot of garlic salt and placed it in my bait freezer. I, with the foresight to remember the bait on this occasion, filled my feeder with a mixture of groundbait to plug the feeder and a large quantity of mashed garlic meat inside it. I fished with the remainder, a 2" cube on the hook.
By way of last chance, offered my very smelly bait plum centre of a deep glide. Once I was happy that rod and line was positioned correctly I set about ridding my hands of the stench of garlic goo. Necessity being inventions mother I decided to grab a handful of the wet himalayan balsam leaves. Unbeknown to me because it was dark, I also grabbed a few stinging nettles in the mix also and proceeded to administer stings to the backs of both of my hands. 
Whilst frantically slipping about foraging for dock leaves to null the irritation, several expletives filled the night air but were marred by rather ungentlemanly and unsympathetic guffaws from No.1 piscator.
It was not with that painful experience that the evening was to conclude. Having given up we faced the daunting prospect of scrambling up the treacherous bank with all our gear.
What ensued can only be described as 'slaptick comedy' and consequently ended up with me using two banksticks as pitons, hauling myself up a greasy muddy slope on my front, resembling a rather muddy and extremely wet Chris Bonnington!
After yet another arduous trek home, including some spectacular spills and several stumbles arrived utterly exhausted, and completely beaten by the elements.
Thursday (am)
D.N.F- I am afraid to report that the weather persisted in doing its uppermost to saturate everything further including our spirits. Coupled with last nights 'comedy of errors' fresh in my mind and the lashing of rain on the windows this morning, I could just as easily go home now! This kept the two disheveled piscators  inside this morning licking their wounds bites and stings. I'm unsure whether our current lull in mood or indeed the weather will improve but for this mornings entry I announce we Did Not Fish.
No.1 stepped up to the plate after lunch to fly solo and try his luck as for a brief moment the sun came out. Fortunes favour the brave or rather the persistant  piscator. I am very pleased to announce that No.1 returned full of folly having at last been initiated into the barbel catching fraternity- hurrah! He was very pleased to report catching two chub
to 3lb and followed up with a river prince at an impressive 7lb 10oz. His first ever. 
I am overjoyed for him and offered congratulations before gathering my gear and hot footing it down to the river. After all,there is only 4oz between our pb's. A little narrow for comfort!

I arrived in the vicarage swim in glorious sunshine and set up quickly as the sky read as changeable. Once I was comfortable and had everything to hand to minimalise movement
as I was precariously perched above a pool formed by a back eddy and fish could be just below me. Last nights and indeed the mornings rain still lay on the grass and boggy mud still adorned the bank laying a trap for the unwary angler to land on his rear and no doubt slide into the river collecting bramble thorns and stings from nettles before a cold treacherous bath in the Wye.
After a little feed was introduced I sat back and dared to slip my jacket off under my brolly which was at the time used as a parasol and took in the surroundings.

I took a couple of chub around the 2-3lb stamp and a 3lb barbel. All jolly nice, if a little small, but pleasant to sit  in the sun and to catch at all. It was nice to feel close to nature and not be battling against it. Among the usual flora and fauna, I witnessed my first sightings of a blackcap and a gang of seven goosanders that were startled by my presence and had the decency to swim past my position without spooking away the fish. The only mishap was a forgotten rod rest. This I soon remedied, fashioning one from a young oak sapling. This innovation later inspired me to adapt the saying "from little acorns grow mighty oaks" and add my own "from little oaks come handy banksticks".

 Thursday (pm)

Both No.1 and myself chose to fish seperately this afternoon, No.1 picking the vicarage swim and myself undecided at this time. I fancy a trek to nose around further downstream. Will have to see. The showers broke and produced a sunny break in the weather. It was very well received by all but the fish. I chose to walk without a rod and armed myself instead with a camera. I wandered down to visit No.1 who was basking under the shade of his umbrella.
He had not yet caught but whilst I was there we were treated to a visit from No.3 piscator, my 15 week old grandson. After a photo shoot I strolled back for lunch leaving No.1 to fish in peace.
After refreshments, I took No.1 a snack and received his catch report of a small but welcome chevin. I sat along side him and was invited to fish the small pool below. I fished with a slug on a size 6 hook and quietly lowered it into the ten foot deep pool.
Fish inactivity allowed both piscators to survey our surroundings. Although now somewhat familiar we saw things differently now the sun was shining at last.
I pointed out to No.1 what I believed to be a young otter making a break across the river, and on mention of it to No.1 to alert him it spooked on hearing my voice and disappeared into the depths never to be seen again.There then began a humorous debate over what it actually was as it was to brief glimpse to be sure and here is our findings.
No.1 reckoned he was 65% sure it was an otter. No.2 more certain having a longer sighting and was 75% sure of its identification. I knew that daylight sightings were rare but because of its size, behaviour and colour could rule out mink, rat and vole. Both piscators a little sceptical and afraid to commit themselves down to our previous sighting and stalking of a plastic fish! In surmising generally tho,it was lovely to see whatever it was and our amusing debate deflected the disappointment of not catching and kept our spirits high.
We both planned to fish all day tomorrow as it was our last day so packed up mid afternoon and decided on a curry, DVD and much needed early night.
It is sad that its our last day and we planned to get the most from it and so made a few groundbait balls with a heavy pellet crush and large heavy pellets to remain after dissolving the cloud.

Friday (the last day)
I gave No.1 an alarm call at 5.30. We talked over the problem of any alarm waking the grandson who shared a room naturally with his parents and No.1 came up with the idea of giving me 2 pairs of rolled up socks to gently toss at him from the door to rouse him from slumber the previous evening.
I silently turned the handle and eased the door agape giving me just enough  room to stealthily peer into the gloom. I could just make out human forms in the dark and was suprised to see No.1's arm raised to alert me that he was awake without need for the sock bombardment. I however was unlikely to pass the opportunity of 2 free shots and let him have both regardless. Well, you would wouldn't you? I retreated downstairs stiffling guffaws and left No.1 shaking his head somewhat bemused to make a brew.
The weather was very gloomy with a persistent rain yet again but we arrived with positive hope and expectations despite the Wye having risen again and resembling gravy.
We introduced our frozen groundbait and continued a steady flow of freebies to build the swim. I was yet again reminded of the majestic Wye and humbled by its power.
The rain fell in stair rods all morning turning our bank into yet another quagmire for us to negotiate. Felled branches motored down in the current. We have really struggled with the elements this week as if the river itself not enough to contend with.
Quite befitting really to have us wet, muddy and tired feeling soaked and disheartened. The Wye reminding us it was king and that fruits of our labours should be even more appreciated. We ended the week with 3 barbel to 7lb 14oz and 9 chub to 4lb 3oz.
Weeks summary
 Our synopsis would concur that it was difficult considering the total hours spent bankside but by no means unenjoyable. This weeks piscatorial jolly has given us both more than just a few fish. Its been a valuable teaching which adds to our learning and understanding of both the Wye and nature. At times we have learned much of ourselves and its been a pleasure to fish a whole week with Peter. Glimpses of unseen natural beauty has at times taken our breath away and in times of adversity No.1  and myself have laughed with and at each other. We have enjoyed rare exclusive access to our own bit of the Wye to relax and enjoy peaceful fishing. We felt on the whole the trip a success.
Yes the weather could have been better, the water levels lower and the clarity clearer allowing us to perhaps learn more from watercraft. But isn't it all part and parcel of nature? Wild and unreliable.
I'm sure we will return in the future together and maybe next time there will be Piscator No.3 accompanying us fishing.