Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
Another wonderful year has come and gone! In January we had a holiday in Tobago. What a place! Apart from taking the wrong top section for one of my spinning rods and getting an infected toe on my second day (sort of 'trench toe' induced by keeping my reef boots on for too long without drying my foot - the toenail's JUST getting better now), all went pretty well. While we were away Richard and I fished every dawn and every dusk plus as much time as we could manage in the daylight hours (not as much as we might have liked in view of the needs of our better halves and the requirement to eat, drink, etc.). We caught some cracking bonefish by wading and spinning on the flats and these were interspersed with large numbers of jack barracuda - nowhere near as powerful but faster and a lot more toothy. By fishing close together we managed to unhook everything without any major injuries. We also hooked several big jacks and lost them because we couldn't stop their runs before they went down over the coral. The major family change this year was in February when Richard and Ana moved to Brazil. We went out in June to help celebrate his 40th birthday and had a fantastic time. What an incredible country – we travelled in the Pantanal and saw lots of amazing landscapes, plants, birds and animals and we look forward to our next trip. They are living in the centre of the country in a place called Viçosa – a beautiful university town and have acquired an apartment and a dog.
Lilian had her first holiday abroad ‘alone’ (without me trailing along) this year – she went to Rome for five days with a friend - (I had been before and couldn’t face any more ‘ruins’). She had an excellent time apart from the initial hiccup when, on arriving at Heathrow, she discovered that the passport she had taken was mine. Fortunately I hadn't gone fishing when she phoned (I was just getting my gear together) so it was a lightening drive up to the metropolis for me instead of a relaxing morning after the perch and chub.
Where's the water?
The rest of the family continue to thrive. Describing our sons in descending order: – Paul and Steph's eldest is 19 and at University, and their ‘baby’ is almost two - with three girls and four boys their life is never quiet! Marc and Linda have had an odd year – both have been quite ill but are now well on the mend. Their son Ben (the next generation of pathologically fishing Ladles) is growing like a rocket and seems to have my interest in natural history. Richard and Ana, as I said, are now in Brazil. However, most recent news was that Dan and Deanne expect a baby at the end of March - we are all looking forward to another member of the family (and potential angler!).
The end is finally in sight for Lilian's Bestwall Archaeology Project (started in 1992). The first massive volume came out in September and the second should follow next year. The finds - 400 boxes of them - are now in the museum in Dorchester. She's continuing to excavate – three sites this year - and doing talks on the Bestwall site and on Mediterranean archaeology, so I'm still free to do the occasional bit of fishing.
My book 'Tactical Pike Fishing' written with my ex-student and pal Dr Jerome Masters (a pike tracking expert) was published in late November and I have a couple more in the pipeline.
We’re still developing the garden – it’s very different to anything we’ve had before. despite the impoverished heathland soil most of the things we’ve planted have done very well and are really thriving.
Now for a few excerpts from the year's fishing - In February, after my return from Tobago, the weather was dreadful. It put the kybosh on my attempt to go and fish a reservoir with my pal Dave. When things got better I fished the flooded fields alongside my local river with wobbled herrings on a 4/0 circle hook and caught a few decent pike
By March Ben and I decided it was bass time and by fishing at four thirty we had a few early fish on the plugs. Later on in the same month we landed more bass and a cracking mullet on the maggot fly. It was all exciting stuff and a wonderful start to the season. April saw me carp fishing with breadcrust off the top. It was great to feel the power of the carp on my bass gear and my first attempt produced fish of eight and twelve pounds. Back to the sea for the first May spring tides with Nigel and again we found shoals of big thicklips feeding at the surface. The fly fishing was difficult but we had both bass and mullet. On my own the following morning I landed ten more bass on the plug.
The next excitement was our trip to Brazil to see Richard.The fishing was moderate but the wildlife was out of this world. Both of us learned a huge amount about the fishing potential and Rich managed a decent Jau catfish. Of course the rivers over there are huge and it is almost essential to fish from a boat. Back in Dorset again I caught chub, pike, trout and perch from the river, almost a rest after the rigours of Brazilian fishing. I also got back down to the coast as soon as possible and once again I had ten bass in a session on the plug despite weedy, murky water. A repeat effort the following morning produced four more reasonable fish.
My next freshwater sessions were experimental in the sense that I tried using soft plastic jigs for perch. In fact they proved to be quite selective and apart from a couple of stray pike I only had perch. The colour and shape of the lures didn't seem to make much difference and certainly when the perch were 'in the mood' they were very successful and I often had fish within seconds of starting. I'm learning all the time. Since pike do occasionally take the jigs a wire trace is still essential (bit of a downer that), nevertheless the soft plastics will clearly catch plenty of perch of all sizes. My pal Paul, who's done more of this than me, says that they tend to be best in winter. I can't wait.
Having caught a few perch on soft plastics I then had a reasonable bass on a 16cm Slug-Go lure fished without any weight. The big advantage of this lure seems to be that it is almost weedless. Later on, fishing with Nigel in murky conditions one evening, I decided to give the Slug-Go another try just to see what would happen with a 'weedless' lure. It worked and I soon landed a reasonable bass - good stuff! After ten more minutes produced no further bites I switched to a large, white Sandra lure that I sometimes use for pike (I remember Malcolm Brindle telling me how good they were years ago). It was amazing. In the space of the next half-hour I had five more bass on what is effectively a giant grub. The really interesting thing is that, apart from one small bass on the fly and another hooked and lost by Nigel on a Slug-Go the other three anglers on the same stretch of shoreline were fishless all evening. All in all the Sandra had outfished everything else by about twenty to one in terms of the length of time it was in the water. Well worth having one in the bag I decided.
Last summer the rivers were incredibly low. In places there were huge carpets of duckweed on the surface and filamentous algae on the stones that bunged up the hooks of the lure for a pastime. However, it was still possible to induce fish to take. Despite my 'crude' bass/pike tackle I caught lots of chub, perch and trout by spinning in the low, clear water.
Despite last season's success with bass on livebaits the opportunities to give it a go were few and far between and I didn't get any bass on the few times I tried. The compensation was the success of both lures and flies for bass an mullet. For example on one, hour long, session I started off with a poly maggot-fly and after losing a mullet on my first cast I proceeded to land four more, all between 3.5 and 4.5lb. I switched to a small Clouser and promptly caught a bass. Before I had to leave I landed five more bass on the fly. I went again the following morning and see whether the surface feeders were still there - they weren't, but after trying a couple of lures I put on a Maria Chase shallow diver to see if I could tempt a bass. On about the tenth cast the lure was grabbed when it was only about five metres out. Nice bass! I was thinking (yes I do think sometimes) 'That fish was pretty close in. Perhaps there's another one!' I swung the rod and pitched my plug to the left straight along the shore so that it landed a couple of metres from the water's edge and came back parallel to the rocks. It was almost back to the rod tip and only about 20cm from the edge in about half-a-metre of water when I hooked my best fish of the year - exactly six kilogrammes (13lb 3oz) , I took its picture, popped it back and went home for my breakfast.
PB on lure.
What else did I do - well I tried 'the Czech nymphing' for grayling and caught several - result!. The best of the mullet fishing came along in the Autumn when I landed three six pound plus fish on the fly in a single evening. My pals also had a few big fish - wonderful stuff. In November Richard came over from Brazil and we went piking. Rich tried my Sandra 'bass' lure and landed a stonking great perch on it. In November I had more bass and mullet on a variety of tactics. I finished up my year, just before Christmas, catching pike for research. I also made a radio programme on pike for BBC Radio 4 - it will be broadcast on the 31st of January. Needless to say, when we made the recording, the conditions for catching pike were horrendous but at least I managed to catch one. I've also had a few fish in the middle and upper teens of pounds but the big ones have yet to show.
We’re looking forward to another couple of weeks in Tobago at the beginning of February. Richard (plus rods and reels) is hoping to join us.
Best wishes for very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year.