Friday 23 September 2016


Getting down and dirty.
I'm often drawn to people that are so hooked on their subject that their enthusiasm rubs off on you. The excitement picked up in their voice coupled with the extensive knowledge seems to not only make me listen to the subject in which their talking about but it also gives me some insight into why their so passionate about it.
 It matters not what that interest may be, whether it be history, astrology or even language for instance, that somebody's passion for that topic can be traced back to a specific point in the past. Whatever sparked that passion, it becomes a catalyst that reacts infectiously and drives them throughout their lives, the enthusiasm never leaves.

Whether it be familiarity with his written prose or his time in front of a camera, non can deny that Chris Yates is passionate about fishing and wildlife.
The chance to spend time in the company of some such an enthusiast and to share the subject was too good an opportunity to miss. But it wasn't as easier decision as I thought it would be, I was in two minds about it.
 It evoked a conscience for one thing, I felt that meeting him would not only dispel any mental image of him I've pictured from reading his novels but would retract yet more of his valuable time away from him. Time he, like us all, is rapidly running out of as it becomes a more increasingly precious commodity. We're often reminded of that fact by our child's/grandchild's birthdays or moments in their lives that signifies their coming of age yet also denotes the increase in ours too.

It was during one of our conversations on the phone arranging a mutually convenient diary date and listening to his forthcoming family commitments which reminded me of why our time spent fishing is so cherished.
It is crucial that the angler strips back to basics to get the very utmost enjoyment from that precious time. What tackle you use, what you're wearing or your methods falls to insignificance.
You should allow yourself to get down and dirty with nature and just be glad to be a part of it and be thankful. Get among the nettles, grasses and reeds with the voles and grass snakes. Absorb all the beauty that surrounds you and enjoy it.
Thinking back to halcyon times when every fishing trip was an adventure until it was time to wearily drag yourself home with grubby knees.

 Did it matter that you didn't have all the latest gear or wore a brightly coloured replica football shirt? Probably not, but you definitely spent a few minutes reflecting on the day and almost certainly thought about plans for your next trip in those moments before sleep took you to a reverie of quiet pools fizzing with bubbles.
 Those are the times you yearn to experience again. They are still possible if you follow B.B's philosophy to study to be quiet and are driven by a passion enough to want to.

I set off about eight having taken note of Chris's directions a few days before on the phone. I use the word 'directions' loosely. Travelling a hundred and twenty odd miles looking for a welly sticking out of a hedge didn't really sit well with my self confidence. Especially with his last words echoing in my ear that he would "Try and remember to put the welly out the day before!"

Being pre warned that Chris didn't do early mornings, it was suggested I arrive mid to late morning. I gingerly rattled a rather Heath Robinson wind chime at 10.45 and a tame Robin came and sat behind me on the apple tree as if to give me the once over while I waited. The aroma of toast and marmalade wafted out the door as it opened and I detected the faint background hint of blended tea too.

Not a new book but a Polish edition of How to Fish.

We chatted about floats, books, rods and fish til well after 2pm which ignited a mutual passion and whetted our appetites for a practical session by the riverbank.

We crept among the nettles beneath the willows and settled ourselves down in his favorite Gudgeon swim for the battle of the gonks.

Sat beneath the canopy of a weeping willow we relived those halcyon days where such simple tactics and satisfying surroundings quenched our very souls.

We were rewarded with the sighting of a kingfisher, that moment when the earth suddenly stands still and everything pales in insignificance at the passing of the king. Electricity that not only captures the brilliant blue but describes those moments that seem to stun the atmosphere with charged static.

We'd opted to take some photo's of our first fish laying beside a miniature rod I built several years ago whilst whittling in my shed and resides pride of place among the curios in his study.

Among the mixed bag of Dace, Roach and Chublets between us were a modest few target species. It is customary to have a gonk match and I've no shame in admitting defeat to the master.

At one stage he'd even gave me a sporting chance to catch up by tying a size 8 hook and baiting it with ten maggots and a worm.
He still managed to out fish me catching a fish a chuck.

I fished with an old fly rod he'd had converted into a perfect Gudgeon tamer coupled with a Richard Carter Dragonfly pin and Chris used a Barder pin and a Sealey Floatcaster. Very different choices as far as those first early items that took hold of Chris's imagination and set the hook of the magic that was yet to come.

Those first tools still held dear.

Returning back to his at dusk for more talk on the days events over tea, we discussed plans for next time. Just as passionate, just as excited, and equally keen as once it was.
I'm going to require surgery to remove that smile.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

SPRING DAWN (a call of nature)

 Awoken by a call of nature this morning I decided it was light enough to venture
out earlier than originally planned. I had set my alarm for five am but at ten past four my bladder had other ideas so I crept downstairs and flicked the kettle on.

I umm'd and ahh'd whether to have some breakfast before going, drumming my fingers on the worktop while the water boiled. I had loaded the car last night and felt the pull of a very different call of nature, one to witness the dawn breaking. I was gone before the kettle switched off.

Getting out the car to unlock the gate, the rustling of the chain scattered rabbits up the track, their white tails bobbing up and down through the mist.

I grabbed my gear and approached the pool via the footpath through the woods verged with wood anemones and the last of the bluebell and primroses.

With very minimal gear I made it down to the waters edge and plonked down in my chair. I flicked a few mixers out into the steaming pool and took in my surroundings. A jenny wren eyed me through blossom and yawned before flittering  through the hedgerow to gather her breakfast.

I slowly assembled the rod, laid out my mat and readied the net. Tying my hook and fixing some wax to the line I baited up and got ready to fish. I intended to wait, sit on my hands and cast only when the carp were competing for the freebies. But the appearance of a mid double fish just under my feet was to tempting an opportunity so I stupidly plopped a biscuit just in front of it's nose only for it to spook and flick the water with its tail and douse my feet, surging off and leaving a muddy cloud in its wake.

Having caused so much disturbance in the swim curtailed any immediate prospects and I sat chastising myself.

The sun peeked over the horizon and exhaled its first breath, dissipating the mist, seemingly sweeping the pool like dust in the breeze. The plump pigeons opposite me bounced around on new ash branches jostling for position. I decided to have a walk round the lake.

The rich verdant greens of the trees in strong contrast to the blossoms of the hawthorn and crab apple dusted here and there with bright yellows from fig buttercups, the flag iris and spearwort offered a beautiful and welcome picture of Spring and erased memories of a long wet Winter.

After walking round and not spotting any fish activity I decided I'd postponed breakfast long enough and withdrew to my car. No fish but still felt I had taken something with me and really enjoyed the tranquility this morning.

Monday 28 December 2015


The annual tradition of fishing with my stepson was re scheduled for the unofficial Boxing day as Saturday didn't fall right for either of our plans and schedules. And quite befitting as it turned out, but more of that later.

Peter messaged me at 7.30 am to say he'd had a rough night with the grandsons and had only just woken up. He'd get himself together and be round as soon as possible. I told him not to break his neck, the water would still be there and I was eyeing up a packet of bacon in the fridge and some seeded ciabatta rolls, what did he think? A second or two later my phone bleeped and the text read "You legend! Brown sauce on mine please. X"

So after a tentative leisurely start we drove the short distance to my syndicate brickyard pool to bother the pike, armed with personalized monogrammed 'match day' floats and a few 8 year old vintage sprats I managed to chisel from the back of the freezer.
One can quite correctly surmise that the fishing is not taken too seriously but more of a chance to kick back in the chair, relax and put the world to rights.
Besides, after a few days gorging on cold meat platters there was only the proverbial fat left to chew.

Peter had a problem he valued my opinion on, and listening to him it was apparent that I could offer some advice.
He has found himself suffering from anxiety and stress of late and I listened while he unburdened himself by outlining the synopsis.

It was evident from asking him a few psychologically leading questions where the answer lay. You see, when he goes fishing for days on end, as soon as he passes through the gateway on his syndicate lake, his brain switches off from all else. He won't think about anything else but locating the carp, how he will plan his assault and how peaceful it  is. This is his focal points for the next few days.
He doesn't care if there is work projects precariously nearing deadlines, targets falling short or addressing deficit liabilities.
He doesn't think about his family affairs, have to worry about the wife and kids and doesn't spare a thought for anyone. He's a self confessed egotistical self -centred angler and that's all there is to it. And bugger anyone else.
No problem there then, everything as it should be. It's how he unwinds, relaxes and is precisely why he goes fishing.

The perceptible problem lies between work and home. He tries to be a husband and father using his work ethic of systematizing everything and everybody. He's always writing action plans and lists. The boys being 3 and 1 year old respectively do not conform or care for order and rules and Peter sees this as his failure when they don't comply. And yet he'll go to work as a caring considerate father/husband, often taking other peoples responsibilities and workloads off their shoulders and burdening himself in the process. The imminent and impending problem then is making him feel anxious, stressed, and unable to relax.

I pointed out a telltale pick up and drop on my float and reeled in to re-bait. Once I'd recast and settled back in the chair I gave him my twopenny worth.

It will be hard but he had to try and leave work at the proverbial 'gateway' and become devoted father and husband I know he is. Become absorbed in work during work hours and stop trying to manage the family and just enjoy them. Stop writing lists and play it by ear, And go fishing more. Simples!

Not much on the fishing front today but wonderful to share a few hours quality time with the lad. I think we both got our fix regardless of the lack of fish. Come to think of it, I can't remember either of us ever catching much on our boxing day trips. We both look forward to it every year regardless and always keen to 'bag up' on those precious moments.

 He mentioned that he hadn't given me chance to unload my worries or concerns onto him as we packed away, and asked if I was worried about anything I wished to get off my chest. "I do have one concern" I said,
"I hope its not bloody cold meat again for tea!"

Friday 30 October 2015


I've just returned from my autumn holiday to the south west. A week in Dorset and Somerset fishing both coarse and sea for several species using multiple tactics and methods.

As I write, I can't stop thinking of those moments of happy chance that at times either took my breath or stopped my heart beating momentarily.
I'm aware that some of the things I witnessed, whilst mundane or taken for granted by others, have been forged into personal memories.

Some might say that my personal views suggest that I 'sit on the fence' but truth be known I take very little for granted and I find others views interesting. Coupled with which, I find arguments tedious and relatively unhelpful. See: Cowardice (n)

To exemplify a relatively moot point, I witnessed an otter fishing in front of me. Now the occasion was a first for me and I was overwhelmed. It was a privileged spectacle that I know many will never see as close up in the wild, and it has now been logged in my lifetime experiences.
And yet if perchance the estate gamekeeper had come along and peppered it with his shotgun I would have understood. Whatever your views, on either me or the otter, it is of no consequence. Like I said I'm quite happy and content to be perched 'on the fence'.

The stunning views across both counties with Autumn forging its signature on the countryside was visually breath taking. The extremities of weather conditions paying no part in forming contrary to my opinion. These will forever serve as mental picture postcards in the future.

Fishing from rocks at Weymouth in brilliant sunshine, I observed Garfish hounding balls of whitebait and forcing them to explode from a gin clear sea like fireworks. It was like a miniature enactment of barracuda hunting in tropical waters. Beautiful coloured Wrasse did nothing but emphasize that illusion from my elevated vantage point. Yes I caught fish but to be honest nothing would outshine that particular spectacle.

My annual return to the Frome for Grayling is my favourite Autumn/Winter jolly and one of a select few that I anticipate with excitement weeks beforehand.


 This time it proved to be a very special 'red letter day' for me and Graham with lots of varying personal bests obliterated. As of last years trip, it was a battle fought in torrential rain at times but I think we won having thirty odd fish between us. Our achievements doing wonders for our morale.

Taking fish in a relatively tranquil setting and yet with the odd tank thumping 120mm artillery shells across the nearby ranges and suppressing machine gun fire was a little surreal. But like the local fauna, it was soon ignored and pared into insignificance.

Walking back to the car at the end of the day it felt like we were 'fished out' instead of 'washed out' like last years trip.

Trying to muster enthusiasm for fishing at all on the final day took that last remaining mettle and a fair amount of stupidity. But with the curative properties of our beloved pastime and being so far from home did force me out the door and into the deluge once again. Sometimes staring out a window at a downpour for too long can dissuade the hardiest of spirits and dampen one's eagerness.
But the prospect of a good perch or two and the very dregs of what was left of my enthusiasm won through and we ventured out for a few hours, opting to convene on a nearby lake instead of the river Yeo which would be unfavourable considering the conditions.

So, what of serendipity? I hear you ask. Well, what I can tell you is that it doesn't pertain to another red letter day and a  bumper haul of stonking great perch much the pity. Although a couple of small fish did put in appearance, it was more to do with the meteorology than success.
By the time we'd jumped in the car and made the short trip up the road, the weather had changed significantly. In less than an hour, the deluge, foreboding and misery had dissipated and was instead replaced with optimism, hope and quite a mild afternoon. Certainly pleasant enough for me to enjoy a couple of hours drop-shotting in beautiful surroundings. The dramatic drop in atmospheric pressure and the wind direction steering round to the south east thwarted the fishing unfortunately but it was nice to relax and take in the autumnal delights.

Amazing how a few days fishing and pleasant company can alter one's perspective too. Instead of viewing my life as a constant, miserable chain of events suddenly I enjoy seeing it through an alternate lens. One that blots out a hapless and paltry existence to one that focuses instead on optimism and enjoys life's acts of serendipity. Must be the pills as I haven't smoked weed since my teens.

Wednesday 22 July 2015


Pre-natal impression?
I've been waiting for today's trip for just over three long years. Yes three, and if that doesn't make me patient I have no idea what does!
Not many people can say they've had to wait that long for one fishing expedition. Sure we've all had to postpone a few because of ill health, abysmal weather and there's always that unexpected  family crisis which takes precedence of course. I've even missed a winter season because of a river in spate and had to wait a year for the next slot.
Not impressed yet? How about if I told you that finally after the patient waiting and anticipation, all the organizing and preparation, after all that I wouldn't even be fishing myself?

 Ever since I first held that little bundle at the hospital, I've been waiting for this day when I could take my grandson fishing. In fact my good lady has reminded me that even before he was even born I had shipped from America a newborn size baby-grow in real tree camouflage to welcome him into this world. More of a tongue in cheek dig at his modern carp fishing father than to influence him in anyway you understand.

2 generations of invisible offspring.   

I was to take him as far as the gate that hopefully he will open and explore for himself the footpath that might lead him to whatever particular diversity of our beloved pastime he may or may not choose.
 I've often remarked that his first fishing trip should be with his Dad but he openly admits to not being particularly patient and prefers to keep his fishing as his escape from paternal duties. He might live to regret it but you can't tell these young un's anything can you? He's yet to learn himself that it's not about the pounds and ounces but rather the experiences that form our love of this pastime and nurture our reasons for why we go in the first place.

7lb 2ozs. That all important inclusion of weight!
So I began to plant seeds early on, subtly at first, to lure the inquisitive nature of youth long before a hook was baited to tempt that first fish.
I wrote a bedtime story book for him based on fishing with 'Grumps' which I was lucky enough to have published, albeit electronically on kindle. My pitiful royalties would be put aside for him in an account that we often joke that by the time he's eighteen he might have just enough for an ice cream.
I brought a magnetic fishing game that amused him through potty training and would eventually also ween him onto the loo.
Most kids love to feed the ducks and Alex is no exception, but when he observed fish competing for morsels from the murky depths he would try to shoo the ducks away to give the fish a better chance.
One day we had him he'd toddled to my shed door curiously watching me fashioning floats and so I explained what I was making, what it was for and even made a few for him to paint to amuse him during an inclement afternoon.

Camouflaged set of floats for his Dad!
He'd asked me if he could go fishing when he was two, so I gave him his first lesson, and replied 'when you are three' to instill the importance of patience and also to make sure he's doubly keen of course.

A miniature rod and reel was procured in his favorite colour purple and I'd made him a bright red and white float to resemble the character from his  popular 'Where's Wally' books to keep afterwards as a momento. Providing of course, it wasn't left in some far reaching tree to amuse other anglers spotting it!
Added to the mix was a bright blue chair which would provide me with another opportunistic free dig about his Dad's myopic obsession with camouflage  gear.
I mean come on, camouflaged bite alarms, really?

Where's Wally? Can you find him?

I packed the boot with his rod and reel, a chair and filled his little bait tub with maggots the day before. I expressed that he shouldn't be told he was going in case of the unexpected which could lead to tears and bitter disappointment. And his of course!

I picked him up in the morning about eight as usual and when he was buckled up in his seat he asked what we were doing today. I told him if he'd been good then I would take him fishing and if he caught a fish then he would get an ice lolly as a reward. I never had my camera in my hand but his expression is best relayed by the late Terry Scott...although, perhaps not quite so camp.

Did he just say Ice lolly?
I thought that an hour or two might be enough to amuse his interest and to keep him from becoming bored. Time enough for a taster and to leave with him still wanting more. It would be ample time for me to teach him the basics of baiting a swim, casting, and playing a fish. To practice the study of keeping quiet, listening and watching for birds, point out things to learn the name of would be teachings for another day. Today this was just about him, I wanted it to be about making sure above all else he has fun. And point out the dangers as well of course, like not getting too close to the water and the prophesy of an angler being the first to touch the sharp hook before the fish ever does.

When we parked on the track beside the lake I spotted a few carp idling in the shallows and pointed them out to Alex. The visions of those dark shapes mesmerized him and I hope they will stay with him in his dreams.

I set up in a small bay where small roach hide from predators and mixed a hand full of ground bait for Alex to introduce to the swim. He didn't mind being introduced to maggots and held one in the palm of his hand while it wriggled. I carefully mounted two on his hook and he was relieved to see they were still wriggling. A gentle flick plopped the float beneath the trees and I handed the rod over to Alex.

Where's Wally now?
I have to say that the concentration on his face focusing on the float was like looking at a seasoned angler who had being doing it for years. It really was a picture that will stay with me for a long  time. Another image that fortunately was caught on camera was him feeling that first fish tugging back at him.

Don't they hang on!

And so it was that history was written and memories were made. Ten perfect little roach were returned to fight another day. Words are not needed to describe the elation on the little anglers face so I'll let the pictures do the talking.

On calling time to a close I said we'd best go and see what his Nanny had been up to in our absence. He asked if I thought she might be making him a cake bless him. 'Out of the mouths of babes' eh?, a boy after my own heart. Which incidentally, unless you haven't already gathered, he already has.

Saturday 11 July 2015



I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it seems we spend the majority of our precious sleep time trudging to and fro the bathroom instead of resting and recharging our batteries flat out in our comfy pits.
I'm also certain that I can't be alone in thinking that if I was single, without the doubtless torrent of abuse I would undoubtedly incur from ones better half, that I'd probably sleep nearer to the window. Or at least have a suitable container under the bed!

In the wee hours (Ha!), on my way back from my third visit to the bathroom, I noticed that the space I'd been left to slip back into had somehow shrunk whilst I'd been away. Sharing a bed with someone doesn't strictly mean an equal share does it? A little like us offering to cut that last piece of cake into two slices whilst making the tea. It does tend to lean to one side more generously. I could have woke her and asked her to move I suppose but then.....well, then she'd be awake! :Scared:

No, a far better option at 3.30am was to trudge out to the car with a few bits and spend dawn by the lake with a few friends. To watch and hear the world come awake and be gone before the crescendo.
I took myself round to the far side armed with a few mixers in my pocket and plonked myself down on a wooden bench to survey my surroundings. I fed a few free offerings and poured a first cup of tea while I waited.
A few noises rustling in the hedgerow, and that collared dove high in the ash sounding like a repetitious kazoo. A few audible splashes from thousands of small fish dimpling the mirrored surface playing with a mixer far too large for them. Resembling a bygone memory of fifty kids in a playground all chasing around after the same ball.

Sweet Pee's?
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Half way down my flask, a few sightings of humped backs forming slick arches steadily getting nearer to my hidden spot. And finally that tell tale shcluuurp! Time to cast my baited trap and duel with these monsters of the deep. I say duel but more realistically it's Russian roulette because you only get one shot at this.
There was a swelling in the water beneath my mixer then a deep trough which seemed to leave a concave dimple in the surface. Not just monsters at work here but Archimedes was doing his bit too.
In a sudden movement the line cut a scar across the lake revealing both opponents location at either end. A strike from one end and nothing but a bow wave left at the other. I'd had my shot...and missed.
I said 'oh bother' or words to that effect startling a linnet who shot off like a scolded cat. I took a deep lung full of air and breathed in a pleasant aroma of the wild sweet peas in front of me and took refuge with my flask back on the seat. I don't like to leave a pool with bad feeling rather like not going to bed on an argument and waited til calm was once again restored. You win some...

A rustling of a padlock and chain on the gate sounded an end to my solitude and I gathered my things and took a stroll back to the car. It was lovely to spend a few hours of dawn on an impromptu visit. And quite befitting then, that it should end with a call of nature. My grandson Alex calls it a 'tree wee' when he's out and about with me. Maybe that's it, it's what I'll get for the bedroom...a small potted shrub! :idea: 

Downstairs loo.

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Thursday 27 November 2014


It has been a difficult year with personal health issues. Dealing with a close relatives sad deterioration through dementia has been heart rending and trying to support my wife whilst battling myself with the black dog of depression has been at times traumatic for both of us.
Unfortunately in October it was mutually agreed with  my employer that I would be let go on medical grounds when my depression and mental breakdown presented an unrealistic timescale for me being fit and returning to work again.
 My employer had already helped by finding me a placement last year when I lost my licence to drive buses through sleep apnea and I didn't really need help to feel anymore of a burden to anyone else.
 It's too often an unapproachable subject mental health, it's difficult for those that care to know whether to inquire about your well being or treat it as a taboo subject and rebuffing them. As a sufferer it's equally difficult, both finding it too embarrassing to talk about, often disregarding people's genuine good intentions as well as triggering a paranoia that if they don't ask they don't care.

 But this isn't about me moaning and bewailing my own personal experiences, we all have stuff we have to deal with right? We have to suck it up and get on best we can. Life can be hard...and then you die!
Fortunately with my wife's help, love and support from family and close friends I have broken free from the shackles of misery and with some address to my cognitive behavior reached the end of the tunnel blinking at the light and I'm now able to enjoy the freedom of positive thinking and forward planning at long last.

It's a year now since my last post and coincidentally it signals a return to the same southern location chasing the Grayling again. This time I would be joined by Dave Burr and hopefully I could repay his kindness of giving me moral support down the phone through difficult times by providing him with a venue to address his shortcomings with his Grayling pb.
 Bookings were made, times allocated and arrangements settled with copious amounts of emails and phone calls. We'd be staying at the same guesthouse as I did before, I'd be in the same room, with the same abysmal weather forecasts but hopefully I'd witness Dave tasting the same euphoria I did last time with a fat lady, Grayling I mean!

It would allow me to chill out and relax, enjoy sharing time with Dave with much chewing the fat, putting the world to rights, no doubt being the brunt of much mickey taking, laughing and more importantly fishing. The few times I've been this season have found me beneath an all too familiar black cloud. I was there but hardly playing the game which normally would recharge me. I knocked it on the head as it was too depressing to just be a bum on a seat, the sanctuary of my church would wait.
 It would also allow me to christen a new rod I had custom made as part of my summer retail therapy along with a mint condition Hardy Conquest (old type).
A perfect pairing for trotting a float down a chalk stream after Grayling.

Mixed fortunes, dreadful weather, a river in spate but only the positives will be remembered. Dave's p.b grayling, osprey and hobby sightings and christening the new rod. But as I strolled back across the field  beside Dave for that final time the greatest memory of them all. Unclipping the black dog from the lead and letting it bolt free, across the sodden field. This time I wouldn't be calling it to heel.
It's great to be back among the living again.