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Andrew Pilgrim

A Bobby Dazzler

I have to admit that I am not, nor ever have been, a big Darts fan. Back in my youth I used to pe partial to a game of arrows over a pint or six but that’s as far as it went. Seeing todays darts players being worshipped as sporting hero puzzles me somewhat, although I myself recall being star struck, and lost for words, upon meeting the likes of Ivan Marks, Ian Heaps and Tommy Pickering back in my early match fishing career so each to their own I suppose. The great Darts players of the past such as Eric Bristowe, Jockey Wilson and Bobby George held little interest for this fishing mad teenager, but I suppose the fact that I still remember their names shows I must have been paying attention somewhere along the line.

Bobby George, The King Of Bling

“So what the dickens has this got to do with fishing?” I hear you ask. Well the aforementioned Bobby George is a keen fisherman and has a beautiful mansion with three fishing lakes. “Good for him” I hear you say. Ah!… but did you know they are open to the public to fish on a day ticket? Oh!… now you are interested eh? Not only that but he lives but 5 minutes drive from my home so I thought it would be rude of me not to pay a visit, so I did.

Firstly his house George Hall (and why not) is not easy to find but Google knows so that’s ok. Once there you will find the whole site is very well kept and neat & tidy. Bobby is seen most days on his ride-on mower which doubles up as personal transport when he comes round for the ticket money and a lovely chat.

The three lakes (ponds?) are but a short walk from the car park. The first to the left is small, round with an island and some Lilly pads. Bobby tells me that it has a good head of small Carp 1-2lb in addition to the usual Roach, Perch etc. He also claims there is a huge Grass Carp in there that he never new was present until someone caught it recently.

The next lake is bigger, also circular, with a central island. This also has a good head of Carp, Roach, Skimmers etc. All the swims are on raised platforms.

The third lake is rectangular with a long central island running down the middle at a distance whereby the (very long) pole can be fished tight to the island. Again very much a mixed fishery but has quite a few bigger carp exceeding 20lb.

I chose to fish the larger of the two round lakes. with simple float tactics. A small amount of Red Lake groundbait with some Explosive feeder mixed in as I like the crushed hemp content it has. I fished Red maggot close in where it was 3-4ft deep. Nothing initially but with regular loose feeding of maggots I soon started catching Roach, Perch, Rudd and small Skimmers.

Bobby advised that its important to keep the loose feed going in, so I did. I also tried Worm and Caster but with little success.

My beloved Sheena then appeared, strolling over from the carpark, Acolyte in one hand and chair in the other ‘Im bored, Thought I would join you for a couple of hours” she said and plonked herself down next to me and proceeded to catch a steady stream of assorted silver fish. Now I know to some the thought of their other half going fishing with them sounds like hell, I myself really enjoy our time together on the bank, we chat and laugh together in a way very differently to how we do at home. Anyway I digress. We both caught steadily for the next few hours including this lovely F1/Brown Goldfish/Crucian Carp shaped thingy.

The afternoon was drawing on and Sheena had to go and feed & walk the dogs so I kindly told her to leave her Acolyte and chair and I would bring them back with me. Little did she know I was hatching a cunning plan.

Now lets just say I don’t fish commercial waters much these days, it might sound pompous to say, but I just don’t really find them challenging enough. Sitting and hauling out 100lb+ of semi tame Carp from a vastly overstocked, over fed water does not float my boat. I get more satisfaction from eking a few decent Chub from a difficult to fish river. So why was I fishing at Georges? Well, firstly this place does have a large head of good sized Carp but not so many as to keep interrupting a nice days fishing such as I was having, and secondly regular readers of my blogs will recall a disastrous blanking session on the River Chelmer, and that was yesterday and I was yearning to just catch some fish. That said I have fished commercial fisheries enough to know what happens at the end of the day. Yes those bigger Carp that I had successfully managed to avoid all day will make an appearance, not out where I was fishing, oh no!, in the edge, right in the edge in less than 1ft of water, inches from the bank. So in anticipation of this daily occurrence I had been feeding small bits of pinched bread flake down to my left and I was watching for the tell tale swirl on the surface to indicate the presence of a ‘Lump’. Now the Greys float rod I had been using was perfect for the smaller species but nowhere near manly enough to deal with a bigger Carp. Oh how I wished I had something like Sheena’s Drennan Acolyte 13ft Plus Float Rod I gently mused to myself. And as if by magic there it was behind me. Happy days! A quick re-rig with a size 12 and a small self cocker set at 12″ and I was ready. True to form just as the light faded I saw the gentle disturbance of the surface tight to the bank. I gently lowered the pinched flake tight to the edge and watched it gently flutter down out of site to the feeding fish. As expected within less than a minute the float started to slide away and I lifted into a good fish and after a spirited fight and the predictable flat refusal to come to the top and be netted I finally had this lovely Common.

Mission accomplished and I packed up and headed home. Undoubtedly there were more fish to be caught this way but…. well … The urge had been quenched as it were.

So Georges Lakes …… a couple of miles out of Colchester, well kept, clean, tidy, comfortable swims. Toilets on site. Not the place for Optonics and Boillies but a very nice mixed fishery with a good chance of latching onto a bigger fish or two and odds on you will get to meet, and chat to one of Darts all time legends and a nice fella to boot.

LOCKDOWN BLUES Pt2

The Suffolk Stour. I had to put on hold my quest for a “proper” Chub from the Langham stretch due to the amount of rain we have had recently, once the levels had dropped slightly I was back at it and a late afternoon into evening session resulted in yet more nice Roach on bread flake and cheese paste.

As the light started to fade I switched to double worm on a size 12 fished tight down the near bank on a simple 2SSG link ledger where the flow was strongest, and almost instantly I had an enquiry.

The tell tale tap tap pull of a Chub and I was in. Finally I had my first good Chub from this River after 5 attempts.

Next week I an fancying a bit of a change, of venue and species, something a little different shall we say. Plans are afoot….. Watch this space!

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Andrew Pilgrim

Lockdown Blues.

So here we go again, Lockdown! Only its not a Lockdown at all is it? Most things are open for business…….. B&M staying open. Go outdoors Timpsons, Argos, Wickes and B&Q staying open. All off licences staying open. Macdonald’s Burger King and KFC staying open. All supermarkets staying open. All takeaways staying open. Schools colleges universities staying open. PC World, Curry’s staying open. The Range, Dunelm, Auto centres, Halfords, Majestic Wines, Subway, Greggs, Costa Coffee, Service station restaurants to dine in !! Starbucks, Boots, Hobbycraft, Pets At Home, Next, M&S clothing, Carpet Right…. etc etc etc.

“So what is closed then?” I hear you ask…. I’ll tell you what is closed. Bloody PUBS !!!! Now anyone who knows me will appreciate that this bothers me greatly, not because I am a functioning alcoholic (This may be open to debate) but because I own a pub and yet again this ill advised bunch of er?….. lets call them nitwits, have seen fit to close the one sector that have been doing the most to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It really does boil my Pi…. ah yes!, my beloved Sheena has just reminded me that this is supposed to be a fishing blog not a political rant, so I will go make a nice cup of Yorkshire Tea and I’ll be back in a minute or two.

Other inferior brands of Tea are available.

Ahhh!…. that’s better. Right, where were we? Oh yes, Lockdown. The one (only?) good thing about being denied the ability to earn a living is that you have lots of time to go fishing, so I did. And what follows is a report from this weeks outings.

Now closing a pub up for a month isn’t as simple as just locking the door and walking away, there is a lot of work to be done, emptying fridges,cleaning the beer lines and closing down the cellar. Once this was all done I realised I had a hour or so of daylight left and my dropshot tackle was in my van so I decided to have a stroll allong the river Colne, which by another stroke of luck is but 50 yards from my establishment, and it’s a very pretty little bit of water..

I should point out that this stretch is, alledgedy, no fishing, I am not sure if there are any signs up but I am old and my eyesight is poor so I cracked on. Not much to report really, one hour and 4 perch, biggest 8oz or so but fun nevertheless and I am learning more about this method every outing.

Perch really are very pretty.

The next day I was back on my forlorn quest for a big Chub from the River Stour near Langham. A three hour session on worm and cheese paste only produced a couple of roach, 6 Perch and this surprising winter Rudd.

I was obviously overjoyed with this Rudd.

In need of a netfull of fish I decided to head down to Chelmsford, on Thursday, to a cracking swim just below the big weir in town. When I lived in Chelmsford years ago I had some great days fishing here with good sized Roach, Perch and Skimmers, such as this netfull from 2007.

A Chelmer catch from 2007.

I decided to bring the full set of match tackle, which rarely gets a run out these days, and I also decided to treat the day as if I was in a competition, setting myself a target for the non existant match of 10lb for a section win, 15lb to place and 20lb to win. (Does anyone else do this or am I a bit strange?) Sheena says….. !!!!

My plan of attack was to fish the stick float on the Centerpin at one rod length out, where the flow was strongest, feeding caster and tares for the better Roach and to feed a second swim at 2-3 Rod lengths with groundbait and fish the waggler and feeder for the Skimmers.

I arrived at 9am and set all three rods up, mixed the groundbait and fed the swims. 9.30am and the ‘All in’ sounded in my head and we (I) were off. I fished hard, very hard, concentration levels at max .Feed, cast, feed, cast. switching between the two lines to maximize the swim.

Three hours in and I was pretty certain where I was going to finish in my imaginary match as this was the contents of my net.

Thats right…….Naff all……. not one fish……. and more importaintly not a single solitary bite, not a slightest dip of the float or twitch on the tip of my Acolyte feeder rod.

I packed up early and headed home, consoling myself with the thought that the River must have suffered some hidious polution or such, because there is no way that an angler of my undoubted match fishing pedegree could fail to catch in that bit of river.

Two days later Bailey (The chap who runs this site) totally ignored my advice to fish below the weir and fished above the weir, a mere 50mtrs from where I had been, and caught some huge Roach like this, Just goes to show what I know!!

Check out Baileys blog to read how he caught this cracking 2lb Roach.

So week one of lockdown and my confidence is shot.

First job for next week is to catch fish… LOTS OF FISH !

Bring on week two.

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Andrew Pilgrim

Suffolk Water Park.

Due to the latest lock down I have been somewhat busy with work issues so fishing last week was a non-starter. But I thought you might be interested in a short review on this cracking venue just off the A14 near Ipswich. I know its not strictly in Essex but its a very short drive if you live up this end of the county and well worth the effort. .

As far as fishing goes this venue, created from some old gravel workings, offers a cracking assortment of waters with something suitable for most Stillwater anglers.

As you enter the car park you will see the on site cafe very handy for a mug of tea and a bacon sandwitch before you start your day.

It benefits from an onsite tackle shop,and, although the carp angler is well catered for the general/match angler section is a bit limited. A huge selection of ground bait and boilies is available. Directly behind the shop there is ‘The Big Lake,’ a huge 25 acre specialist Carp lake with fish of 20, 30 and 40lb+, Night fishing is allowed and daytime Pike fishing from November onwards.

Once your ticket is bought it’s a short drive to the rest of the complex which has a further 5 lakes.

Traditional Lake 

6 acres with a small island in the middle, on which I have had many good sessions fishing for Bream. It’s a good venue for using the long pole and I have regularly had 30-50 in a session from 2-5lb. Also contains a good head of Carp to 20lb+, plus a good selection of all the other usual species you would expect.

Match lake 1

A large rectangular lake with most species , some big shoals of Bream and it is noted for its big Perch at the golf course end (more on that to follow) and many carp to upper doubles.

Match lake 2 A smaller version of match Lake 1 with similar fishing available.

The Doughnut Lake. A small round lake with a circular island meaning that every angler has access at about 12-14mtrs. Not very deep but noted for its Tench and Crucian, however I’ve had little success to date.

The Canal Lake. My wifes favourite. It’s a manmade long thin lake that looks like a canal hence the name. Not very deep and it can be quite weedy in summer but has some fantastic Tench in as my Beloved Sheena found out on her first time fishing there.

What a fish to give your brand new Drennen Acolyte a good test

All swims are comfy, spacious and well maintained, most having parking directly behind. Some are Jetty style and are of a good size. Double swims and wheelchair accessible swims are also available.

Fish are generally in good condition as keepnets are only permitted in matches. Food is available on site and I believe they offer a delivery service to your peg. Well worth giving this place a go.

Oh yes the Perch…… Well I decided that Beloved Sheena and I should give it a go as Perch are her favorite and the rumours of fish to 4lb+ sounded very inviting.

We fished the noted Perch hot spot at one end of Match Lake 1. Sheena started on Red maggot with steady feeding soon giving her a steady stream of Roach and Rudd!

 I fed Reds but chose to float fish a big air injected lobworm just on the bottom close in on the float. This produced the occasional small Perch of around 6oz. Then my float twitched and lifted and laid flat as the huge Perch picked up the Lob and the SSG shot and off it sailed. A firm strike and I felt the satisfying weight of a good sized Perch….. a very VERY good Perch which, three seconds later turned into a potential record breaking Perch and then suddenly morphed into a bleeding Carp as it powered off into the middle of the lake. My poor thumb was sizzling as I tried to put as much pressure on the Centerpin as I dared, but 3lb line can only take so much. 20 minutes later and it was in front of me and refusing to come anywhere near the surface. The line was ‘singing’ my arm was aching, my thumb was throbbing and my Beloved Sheena was giggling like a schoolgirl at my feeble attempts to lift the fish and net it at the same time. Eventually, after half a dozen or so goes, pity set in and she came and took the net and scooped it up at the first attempt. “So much for Perch fishing” she tutted.

Which reminds me, I must check they are open as I have a month off work and they owe me a big Perch!  

https://www.suffolkwaterpark.co.uk

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Andrew Pilgrim

FREE BAIT !!

Autumn is my favourite time of year for fishing. Most Carp anglers are now cleaning and putting away their gear for the winter and will spend the next 5 months gazing wistfully out of the window dreaming of warm nights camping under starry skies. I know some super keen Carpers fish all year round and there will always be a few out at weekends braving the elements tucked up in their bivvys watching TV with the heating turned right up but that’s not for me. Today I set off for an afternoons fishing in the pouring rain on the River Stour just north of Colchester.

Here’s a question for you. Have you ever been fishing without any bait? I don’t mean in a forgetful whoopsie left it at home way.  No I mean I went fishing today and I took just a rod, net and small bag of tackle and a flask………., NO BAIT!

I know what you are thinking and it has indeed been said many times before, and much worse (usually by my beloved Sheena), but I do like a challenge. Perhaps I should elaborate.

At this time of year fish are often feeding well as they know that the slim pickings of winter are just round the corner. Luckily for them as the trees shed their golden gowns and slowly display the true beauty of their structure something else happens – berries! Berries everywhere, lots and lots of berries. Elderberries, Blackberries, Rosehips, Rowan and many more.

These little morsels are often taken by our wild birds who have the same hungry mindset as the fish but some will fall to the ground ready to grow into new plants once the warmth of spring arrives or depending on the location sometimes into the river. This annual cycle is known to the fish and Roach and Chub will eagerly gobble up natures free banquet.

Half an hour foraging and I had a bait box, and half a belly full, of some of the best fishing bait you could wish for and as a true Yorkshireman I found the cost to be highly agreeable.


The Stour is an intriguing, winding river and quite wild in places as it snakes along the Essex/Suffolk border with no discernable footpath along the stretch I am targeting. It is a river that I am still getting to know but one that excites the angler at every deep bend and  fallen, half submerged tree.
I decided to begin on float fished elderberry, and I would have done had I remembered to put my shot tub in my stalking bag…. D’oh! I tried to use an un-shotted waggler but it felt ridiculous and I thought the presentation was all wrong, and clearly so did the fish who eagerly awaiting their five a day.
After half an hour of fighting the flow with an unweighted float I gave up. It was time for a rethink.
At this point I would like to tell you that link ledgered Elderberry is a little known method that I have perfected over my many decades fishing for Roach, but to be perfectly honest I can’t recall ever even trying it, so I rigged up a 2 SSG ledger slipped a berry onto the size 16 and swung it out while I went foraging for some worms to try and save the day. Twenty minutes later and I had the bait box filled with enough red worms to last an hour or two so I wound in the Elderberry.

Actually I wound in the Elderberry and a small Roach !

“ How interesting” I muttered. So Idecided to forget the worms and try again with the berries. This would have been mush easier, and less painful, had I not emptied them into the nearby nettles to make space for the worms!
Once rebaited, I recast and sat rubbing my hands together, not in anticipation but in pain. A few minutes passed and the tip on my Acolyte shot round and I had another roach, this time a little better, and then another.

Clearly I was onto a winner but my painfully retrieved berries were few and the foraging area was further downstream so I picked up my gear and trudged back to replenish my supplies with more Elderberries and Haws.
Freshly stocked up and ready to recommence  I picked a cracking looking swim where a large fallen tree blocked half the river and pushed the flow to the near bank.

There were a couple of areas of slack water that I felt sure would hold some good roach and maybe a bonus Chub. The Elderberries were quite soft and tricky to get to stay on the hook so I switched over to the Haws. (Berries from the Hawthorn bush) and Blackberries.
It took a while but eventually, as dusk approached, I started to connect with a succession of good sized Roach.

As the day turned to night the torch came out and the bites dried up, around 6pm I decided to call it a day, well I decided to call it a very nice day indeed with a final tally of 27 Roach up to 1/2 lb or so.
Then a strange thing happened, as I began to pack up I was just contemplating how much satisfaction I had gained through only fishing on natural foraged baits and what a thoroughly agreeable day I had just had when I looked down and by the light of my torch, on my bag, I saw a miracle……….. Well it was a slug actually!

As any hardened Chub angler knows the humble Slug is the king of all baits and so the warmth and dryness of home was quickly forgotten. I am not a religious man but neither am I one to ignore a sign from on high so I picked him up and put him in the bait box.
A 20 minute re-rig with a No8 hook would have been quicker but for three things.

Firstly I am old and can see naff all when it’s dark,

Secondly I only have a small torch and

Third, the little fella kept crawling out of my bait box. I think he was desperate to get to the Chub. But eventually I was ready and I have to admit to raising my head to the dark cloudy skies and whispering “Thank you” to whichever deity had sent me this gift.


As I carefully slipped the hook through one end of Mr Slug I gently said “Off you go little fella, go find a Chub” and I swung him out into the blackness.


Then I waited…..

And waited….

And waited,,,,,

At this very moment a gap opened in the broody sky and a shaft of moonlight lit up my swim.

I suppose you are now primed to hear of my mighty tussle with the monster Chevin?
Well, dear reader, I’m sorry to have to tell you that the Holy Slug was defective.
Two bloody hours sat in pitch darkness in the pissing rain and not a touch.

I trudged wearily, through the darkness, back to the car going rod over bankstick a couple of times.
And that, my friends, is why I shall remain a devout atheist (until the next divine slug appears )

Footnote…….. If you are out Carp fishing this Autumn and fancy putting a bait under a nearby bush, go take a look at said bush and see it it has any berries, maybe you could find a overgrown bramble/blackberry bush overhanging the water. Ask yourself this, would the Carp waiting under that bush prefere your Egg & Lettuce boilie (or whatever this weeks flavour is) or maybe they are feasting on natural food dropping from above. Hair rigged Blackberry?……. Try it…I have… it works!

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Andrew Pilgrim

Just add water…!!!

Just Add Water…………(Pt1)

Hello fellow Anglists. My name is Nigel.

Unfortunately your regular blogger, Andrew Pilgrim, is not able to post anything for a couple of weeks due to work commitments, but as he is a good friend of mine I said I would be more than happy to write a blog in his absence, so here goes.

As this stage I should point out that I am no stranger to writing online blogs as I am a regular contributor to many stamp collecting and caravaning sites so I am sure you will find the content of this, my first fishing blog, to be both educational and informative and I would expect that the powers that be will be asking me to contribute more in the future.

I myself am pretty new to the game, well to be honest I have never been fishing before, a fact I may have neglected to mention to Andrew, but due to the world wide web and in particular the You Tube video channel it’s very easy to get yourself educated on just about anything. I have spent over 3 hours watching instructional videos from top Carp anglers such as Robin Hughes & Little Andy, so worry not, I am fully up to speed on the latest tackle, techniques, and trends and armed with all this accumulated knowledge and an abundance of confidence I headed to the local fishing equipment emporium.

The fishing shop in question was a vast warehouse and I was confident of being able to procure everything I needed if only I could remember what was in my list which I had neglected to bring with me.

“Can I help you fella?”

“Yes I’d like a couple of rods for catching the Carp fish please”

“Certainly sir, follow me”

He showed me a selection of rods he said some were 2 pound but I selected a couple he said were 3 pound rods as I didn’t wish to appear like a cheapskate.

“I never realised fishing equipment was so cheap” I said at which point the manager stepped in, pushed the boy out of the way and with a smile on his face he furnished me with everything I could possibly need to catch the Carp fish.

He was very helpful indeed and reminded me to buy many things I hadn’t even considered such as great Camo clothing so the fish don’t see me, and all the time with a huge grin on his face, What a nice man. To be honest with you I had not anticipated spending £2,678.24 on fishing stuff but at least the rods were reasonably priced and he assured me that it was all essential so needs must.

I had seen on the videos that Carp fish like to eat pellets so, on the way home, I called in to my local garden centre and bought a big sack of Koy Carps food. That was me sorted and ready to catch.

Just add water…… (Pt2)

As I mentioned earlier, Andrew is tied up at work but his beloved wife Sheena has kindly offered to take me tomorrow to a local water which she assured me is stocked full of Carp fish, Perfect!

But don’t worry guys I am not going to tell you where it is as one thing I learned from the videos is never to disclose the location. So tomorrow I will write a blog of my day and to make it more exciting I shall type on my i-pad as it happens.

7.45 am……..I have just pulled into the car park I can see Sheena has almost finished unloading her gear and to be honest I am amazed at how little she has brought, just a box seat thing and a long holdall I’m guessing for her rods, no trolley! The poor girl has to carry all her stuff. She really should get herself a decent set up. As she walked off she shouted that I should “Swim to the left of the island” but it’s cold and I haven’t brought any trunks so I will give that a miss and concentrate on the fishing.

8.15 am …..That’s the van emptied and I am sure people will be impressed when they see my barrow stacked high with gear, I certainly look the part!

8.45am……… Finally got to my fishing position next to Sheena but Jeezus I’m knackered.

Nigels Top Tip….. Always buy a motorised barrow

9.08am ……..As I am starting to arrange my tackle Sheena is netting her second Breem. I do hope we aren’t going to be plagued by these little fish all day, although Sheena seems to be enjoying herself. Strange girl!

9.55 am …….. That’s the rods set up and boy do the Shinamos look good, I have spent ages  getting the poddy thing perfect and it looks great, Sheena keeps looking over and smiling, I think she approves………now for the other stuff.

Nigels Top Tip… Use a spirit level to get everything just right

12.25pm ….. The instructions for my Nesh tent said, and I quote… “ Use Poles to erect Bivy”.              I walked round the whole lake and after asking all the other anglers it transpired that there were no Polish people fishing that day so, being a practical sort of guy I eventually did it myself. The man in the fishing shop assured me that it was easy to put up, he lied! I shall be having words.

12.53pm….. How proud am I as I survey my set up. Tent up, rods ready, cooker lit, bed made now all I need to do is put some fishing string on my new Bite Running reels and get catching.

01.25pm…….. Sorry I got side-tracked by something on my portable TV.

Nigels Top Tip… Don’t turn on the TV until everything else is done.

01.58pm…… Reels filled and I’m ready to go. Now as we Carp anglers all know the key to a successful day is plenty of bait and I was well prepared.. I had learnt from the videos I had watched, that throwing in pellets was the approved method of pre-feeding and for this I have brought the 10kg sack of Koy Carps pellets and to get them to the area you want to fish the man in the shop said I  should use a Foxy red rocket thingy on a ‘Spaff Rod’.  I have stupidly neglected to buy a “Spaff Rod” so I will have to use a normal rod.

Nigels Top Tip… Make sure all your spaffing gear is in order before going fishing

03.12pm……  That’s the pre-baiting done. Beginners should note that the Big Red Foxy Spaff Rocket that I bought was not easy to throw out. The first attempt went along way, mainly upwards, and after 10 seconds it came down with a loud splosh in the Lilly pads in front of me. But after a few dozen throws I have the hang of things and now all the 10kg of Koy Carps pellets are out in the water. Well ON the water would be more accurate but at least my half of the lake is covered.

03.20 …. I have baited my hooks with Sauce & Sempex Boilie Balls and I am about to make my first throw in. Here is another thing I’d learnt from the videos. Carp fish are always caught very close to the far bank, so I lined up and woooosh!…… Well I have to say that the half hours practice with the rocket thingy has enabled me to perfect my throwing in and the positioning is perfect. My rig landed just 1 meter from the far bank. I think that the chap fishing there was impressed because as my 5oz lead gently plopped into the water in front of him he stood up and gestured his appreciation with a few claps.

03.45….It took me 8 throws to get the other set of tackle close to the far bank but it is now in place. The man opposite now appears to be coming round to express his admiration for my fishing prowess in person. Sheena has intercepted him and I think she told him not to bother me whilst I am angling as he is now returning to his camp.

04.15 … I have finally finished setting my biting alarms. There are so many tones to choose from it was hard to decide. But both are nice and loud so everyone will know when I catch something.

 Nigels Top Tip….. It’s wise to check they are still working by tugging the fishing string every 10 minutes.

04.45… Poor Sheena has been plagued by Breems all day. But at least she had the good manners to keep them in a net so they don’t swim out and eat my baits.

5.30pm…. Sheena has just been and told me it’s time to pack away and go home. I’ve only been fishing for an hour or so, she obviously has little patience, but to keep her happy I will do as she asks. To be honest I don’t think I will catch any Carp fish today as the weather is not in my favour. All the Koy Carps pellets got blown by the wind into where I am sat and then eaten by hordes of hungry fish, Breems I suspect. They have been sucking and slurping them up all afternoon.

6pm... Sheena has gone and I have my rods all put away. Now to start on the rest but it’s not going to be easy in the dark.

8.15pm…… Finally home. So there we go my first and hopefully not my last angling Blog. I trust you have enjoyed reading and hope you have all learnt something via my handy tips.

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Andrew Pilgrim

Dazed & Confused

As you may recall from last weeks blog this week I fancied getting the big lures out for Pike. One thing you, dear reader, should appreciate is that when you sign up to write a weekly blog such as this the pressure is ramped up when you do have a days fishing, you have to log the days events and remember to take pictures of your surroundings and the stunning, often specimen fish that we bloggers seem to catch on a weekly basis. The thought of blanking and not having much to write about is always in the back of your mind. As a fishless uneventful day draws to an end the mind starts to search for past fishing trips that may provide an interesting story for our esteemed readership.

So today I went pike fishing and here is a blog about something completely different!

A while ago now I had an acquaintance who I used to buy traditional cider from, on chatting to him it transpired that in addition to making cider he also owned a small vineyard in north Essex, less than 5 miles from my home. “You should pop over and have a look” he said and as I like wine and my beloved wife Sheens is partial to a bottle or two from time to time I arranged a visit.
Wineries are fascinating places to visit if you like wine and the walk through the rows of vines on a summers afternoon, followed by a visit to the “tasting room” was most agreeable. However to be honest I was finding it hard to concentrate as Tom the owner waffled on about grape varieties acidity levels. Why?…. well on arrival at said vineyard I had spotted something, just a merest glimpse though the trees…. WATER.
Now as every angler knows the sight of water immediately prevents you from thinking about anything other than fishing. Tom moved on to tell me about Terroir (soil) and I nodded sagely whilst all the time devising some way of changing the subject. “Lovely place you have here Tom, mind if we have a walk round?”….. “Be my guest” he replied and off we ambled making a beeline for the Trees but all the time resisting the urge to break out into a trot.
“Oh! You have a pond?” I exclaimed trying to sound surprised. And indeed he did, a very pretty one too.


A quick scan round and it was very obvious that there were no swims, and allot of the bank was inaccessible. But boy did it look inviting. “Do you fish Tom?” …..” No” came the reply. “Shame” I said “I bet there are some nice fish in here”………… “Oh yes, we see them swimming about on the top, Big ones” he replied turning to walk back .It was obvious that a less subtle hint was going to be required. I decided on “Well Tom it you ever fancy learning to fish I’d be more than happy to bring my tackle up and show you”. I waited with baited breath………………. “No thanks, not really my thing”……DAMN!………“But you are welcome to come and fish if you would like?”…..BINGO!
A couple of days later I arrived just after sunrise and the place looked even more inviting.

I chose one of the few places where access was easy albeit the bank was a little high and not knowing what to expect I set up various tackle. A 6mtr whip for any smaller stuff, a waggler to fish corn hoping to tempt the better fish and a heavy feeder rod for any bigger “lumps” that may be lurking within this little piece of paradise.
The weather was beautiful, my gear was ready and I was well prepared for anything (or so I thought!)
I started on the whip at 4mrts loose feeding maggots and half an hour later was amazed not to have had a bite, Hmmm?….. Time to change to the waggler. Three rod lengths out in 6ft of water I had been steadily feeding corn on this line but an hour later…. Not a touch, and to be honest I was quite perplexed. The previous evening had been spent dreaming of the wonderful array of creatures I would undoubtedly haul from this unfished utopia. I had never considered blanking but after 2 hours things were not looking good.
I turned and picked up the feeder rod feeling sure that the castor and chopped worm laced groundbait I had introduced just off the overhanging trees to my left would surely by now have tempted some fish into the swim. Another half an hour and nothing not a single twitch. As I sat there feeling confused and despondent thoughts started racing through my mind, “What if there were no fish?… Maybe it had been netted recently or even polluted!”
Then suddenly the swim came alive, well to be honest it was more like it woke up the morning after a good session. “Two bites on the tip in two casts followed by three fish in three casts all Roach of around 3/4oz on corn, then again nothing. Ok I thought back to the whip line at 4mtrs, if the smaller stuff is on the feed. This proved to be a wise decision, almost, as soon as the float cocked it shot under, my poor little whip bent double and the line parted before I could add any sections. Ok I thought at least I had found the bigger fish so I picked up the float rod hooked 3 maggots on to the size 16 and swung it out to my whip line. The float slid away and yet another small Roach was caught, and another and another. Maybe that lost fish was just a one off, so I re rigged the whip and cast in expecting to have a hour or so bagging up on silver fish, BANG! Off it went and yet again I had been snapped off. “Ok like that is it?” I murmured under my breath”, I’ll have you “. Out went the tip onto the short line with 3 maggots on the size 14 and yet again Roach after Roach. This called for some serious thinking.
I decided that it was time to find out how much my whip can bend, I have fished the whip for years and landed many nice fish in the past so I felt confident as I re-rigged with 4lb maxima direct to a size 16 forged hook. Right, here we go. The float shot under and the whip arched round but this time I had planned ahead and had the extra 2mts already in place behind me, as I pushed the whip out the fish shot off down the margin and I managed to turn it. After a spirited fight involving quite a bit of running up and down the bank and swearing I finally landed the biggest carp I had ever caught on this method and, although I was shaking from head to foot, I was feeling smug, “Sorted!” I said out loud, time to bag up on carp. Or not as it transpired. Next cast and the fish hooked was unstoppable and I recall pulling my “Special Face” as the line broke, luckily before the whip did. Time for another rethink, I hate losing fish like this so this time I set up my float rod identical to the one on the whip and fish after fish were caught, you guessed it, all Roach! The rest of the day followed exactly the same pattern. Tip rod =Roach, Waggler =Roach, Heavy whip rig =Roach. I resorted to taking the light whip rig off and tying it to my float rod still only roach. So the light rig was re-attached to the whip and I promptly got smashed up. This continued for the next few hours and to be honest by 3pm I had had enough, no matter what I did the bigger fish would only take on the light rig, and only when fished on the whip.
I ended the day with a nice enough net of fish, All Roach and a Couple of Carp one of which, to be fair, I had no right to land.

When I got home I was totally shattered both mentally and physicaly.Very rarely you have a day where you just can’t suss out what the hell is happening but this was certainly one of them. Still to this day I can’t think of anything I could have done differently. Answers on a postcard please.
Anyway I got home and my beloved Sheena was waiting “Well? Did you catch many?” she asked expectantly.
“Yes loads” I replied.
“So you had a good day then?”
“No….. No not at all! “and I explained in great detail the mental trauma I had endured.
And I’m sure that as she turned away shaking her head I heard her mutter “Should have borrowed my Acolyte”

Next week I fancy…..? No I’m not going to jinx it.

We will see what happens.

See you on the bank or at the bar sometime.

Categories
Andrew Pilgrim

New Tricks for the Old Dog

What’s this new-fangled ‘Drop Shotting’ that I keep hearing about? Laughably tiny, whippy little rods and baby reels with a small bit of neon wobbly rubber for bait….. Quite frankly that sounds absolutely ridiculous!…… So, naturally, I thought I’d best give it a try.

Now as I have mentioned before I consider myself an all-round angler rather than specialising in one discipline of our beautiful sport and as I have just had a milestone birthday (don’t ask!) there was some money burning a hole in my pocket, so a trip to my local tackle shop was called for.

Colchester Bait & Tackle is an absolute gem of a place, a wonderfully disorganised Aladdins cave of assorted fishing paraphernalia. All the latest Carp gear and ‘fuss’ baits, a well-stocked sea fishing section, a plethora of match and pole fishing hooks, floats and rigs and a smashing selection of pre used rods, reels etc for those on a budget, and the bait is always top notch. It’s the sort of place where one can spend hours rummaging around and end up spending a vast amount of money on things you never knew you needed…. I love it!

As I walked in Kevan, the owner, gave me a big beaming smile and his face lit up, to be honest I’m not sure if he has a bit of a thing for me or maybe it’s my wallet he is pleased to see, but when he realised that my beloved Sheena was not accompanying me his smile did fade somewhat as he turned and placed the Drennen Acolyte back on the shelf.

“Drop Shotting…. What do you have?” I asked and a selection of rods quickly appeared for my perusal. After much wiggling, shaking, bending and flexing (the rods not Kevan) I settled on a Savage Gear LRF 0.5-7g, quite a light rod but as I intended to target perch I felt it would do just fine. Reel wise I decided to dig out my little old Mitchell 308 which has been kicking about in my collection for decades just waiting for someone to ‘invent’ Drop Shotting.

I say ‘invent’ Drop Shotting and I’m sorry to burst any bubbles but back in the day this was a recognised method of fishing for Perch. A light weight with a short paternoster, a foot or so above, baited with a big worm was cast out and gently jigged to ‘entice’ a bite, it just wasn’t called Drop Shotting. The American and European lure anglers have really perfected this method over the last decade or so and it has become a real art form with lure only matches becoming major events with sponsorship and big prize money on offer for the top performers. We, sadly, are playing catch up in this regards. Having said that we do have some exceptional exponents of the art of Drop Shotting and if you fancy giving it a go I highly recommend that you watch some You Tube videos by the twice British Lure Fishing Champion Steve Collett – very entertaining and informative. Watch this video and I guarantee you will want to pop down to see Kevan at Colchester Bait & Tackle to get kitted out (Other tackle shops are available)

One of the joys of this style of fishing is the simplicity of what you need – rod & reel, a landing net and a bag with a box of assorted end tackle.

Armed with my shiny new gear I headed down to my local stretch of the River Colne in Colchester town for a couple of hours.

I am ashamed to say that despite living in Colchester for 10 years I have never fished this mile long bit of waterway, and as I walked along it I realised that neither, apparently, has anyone else. There were very few recognisable swims or evidence of other anglers, perfect!

I began my session at the weir at the bottom of East hill, where the freshwater stretch ends and the tidal begins, and was to walk the mile or so to the bridge at North Station Road. The first thing that struck me was what a very pretty river this is and what potential it has. The first section is wide with little flow despite the recent rains this then narrows to a tree lined section with a nice pace on the water, this section ‘screams’ Chub and I’m sure I shall be revisiting over the winter to try and tempt one or two of my favourite fish.

As we approach Castle Park the river is shallower with depths of only a few feet and on this day, with the water pushing through was not unlike some Barbel rivers I have fished.

In Castle Park is a little weir that I recall many years ago had a few swims and a couple of wooden fishing platforms, This whole pool is now unfishable due to the banks being overgrown and access is impossible.

 There are a couple of signs on the bridges in this area stating that the river is owned by Colchester Oyster Fishery, This lack of maintenance bankside is one of my pet hates and really frustrates me.  More ranting on that to follow in another blog.

So to the fishing, firstly I can say that Drop Shotting is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours walking along the bank, searching out likely fish holding spots and really getting to know the stretch, and to be honest my relaxed appreciation of my surroundings was reaching a high when I was suddenly reminded of the task in hand by a sharp pluck on the rod tip. Far too quick to strike at but never the less it did concentrate my mind somewhat. The next few casts with a small brightly coloured lure produced no further action so I changed to a 3” ‘Shad’ style lure and worked it close in down the margins. I’m not going to turn this blog into an instructional piece on how to fish this method so if you are interested watch the video that I linked above. A short while, and a couple of swims , later I had my first real bite as the rod tip was wrenched round and the drag screamed and after a great fight on such a light rod I netted my first Drop Shot caught Perch of almost 2lb, I was a happy little fisherman.

Despite trying many likely looking spots, and a variety of lures, on the remainder of my walk I only had a couple of rattles on the tip and I concluded that they weren’t really having it or maybe my presentation was not quite right, but I’m sure that this method will produce some good catches once I have perfected the technique.

As its now October we are starting the Pike season, so next week I may be chucking some larger lures for predators, Having said that my beloved Sheena says she quite likes the sound of drop shotting and as we speak she is frantically scanning the Drennen Acolyte range looking for a suitable rod to purchase, I fear she may be disappointed, as will Kevan! .

All the best , and Tight Lines Y’all.

Categories
Andrew Pilgrim

Sowing the Seeds

It seems lately that every time I write a blog something I mention in it prompts me to have a go the following week.

Last week in my ‘Back to the old School’ blog I spoke of how the smell of hemp or tares reminded me of fishing with my Grandad, and as we are in Autumn I thought it was the perfect time to get the seeds simmering.

Hemp and/or Tares are great baits for Roach at this time of year, cheap, easy to prepare and easy to use I can’t believe more people don’t use them. These days’ anglers are becoming obsessed with the latest shop bought pellets that they have seen recommended by some well-known Youtuber.

I’m going to leave my ranting on some of today’s fishing ‘Trends’ for another day, but suffice to say some things irritate me, some make me furious and others make me laugh in disbelief.

So……I boiled up some bait and headed off to my favourite Essex River…. yes you guessed, The Chelmer.

The swim I fancied is on a backwater at Sandford Mill where a small footbridge crosses.

 On reaching my swim it didn’t look like it had been fished all season and the nettles requires some pruning. But the area is very pretty and ‘screams ‘ fish

Now the key to fishing the seed is this, constant feeding, a little and often. I like to start with 6-10 grains if hemp every 30 seconds or so only upping the quantity once the fish are well on the feed. I started fishing on the drop.

It didn’t take long before I had my first fish a pretty little hemp caught Roach,

 More fish followed on the hemp.

A couple of casts later and a missed bite, and another and another, they mere really snatching at it today. Some days it can be a fish a chuck on hemp but not today. So to plan B. A larger hook, size 16, and a change of float pattern to fish just on the bottom, 2-4” or so and the bait was switched to Tares.

I kept feeding Hemp but also put in 4-6 grains of Tares.  The smaller fish intercept the hemp as it flutters down while the Tares sink much quicker and reach the bottom  where the larger fish will cautiously suck them up.. This then becomes a waiting game with fewer bites but a better stamp of fish often turn up.

My plan worked perfectly and I was soon getting a nice sized Roach every 5 minutes or so.

Due to work commitments I only had a short session of 3 hours but still managed to catch getting on for 10lb of pristine Roach. This autumn why not try the backwaters of your local river, there’s some great sport to be had.

There we go a whole blog without mentioning Sheena or Acolytes ………………………Wait ………….. Damn!

Categories
Andrew Pilgrim

Small River Roach Fishing

Regular readers of my blogs will recall that I have a soft spot for one particular Essex River, and in particular one little stretch a mile of so long, I fished this beautiful meandering river at least weekly often 2/3 times a week for many, many years, 10 years ago I moved to Colchester and the days (and nights) on the Chelmer became just happy memories. So I thought it may be nice to revisit.

In my opinion this stretch comes into its own in Autumn/Winter when the weed has eased and the river has some flow but I had the urge so I went on a short session 5-8pm to see how it was looking.

On arrival, as suspected, the weed was going to be a problem in many swims but there was some flow.

Roach were going to be my target and I was armed with 6 slices,and a small tub of liquidised bread to try and feed off the smaller fish rather than attract the larger specimens. In reserve, as always, I had a small tub of worms. I had brought along my Acolyte 9ft tip rod which serves well as an all-rounder on a small river and began by fishing bread flake on the bottom. This resulted in a bite a cast from the smaller fish in the swim but none of them were worth striking at, just very quick taps and rattles. So I fed a small amount of liquidised bread which did the trick and I started getting fewer but better bites as all the small stuff came up in the water into the cloud of bread.

This resulted in a couple of reasonable sized Roach but nothing more.

 I decided to move swims about 50 yards downstream to where I knew there was a deeper run under the near bank.

Once I had safely ensconced myself amongst the stinging nettles I rigged up a small waggler float and set it so it was 6” or so off bottom. Immediately the float was twitching and bobbing about as the small stuff were intercepting my flake on the way down, so again I fed a small amount of liquidised, this time to one side of where I was trotting my float down which attracted the little ones away and left me clear to catch yet more nice hand sized roach.

With the light starting to fade I fancied my chances of a good Roach. My float then slid away sideward and I was in and after a short but spirited fight I landed a very nice Chub. Not the species I was fishing for but I was not disappointed in the least as they are without doubt my favourite freshwater fish in the UK.

A few more Roach followed and then one was grabbed by a Pike of around 7lb on the way in, it hung on for 20 seconds or so then bit me off.

Next cast I hooked a small jack, On Bread!

Note the hook in the jaws.

Then it went really quiet, obviously the Pike activity had killed the swim. Bailey turned up about 7.15pm, it was nice to meet him in person and have a chat. Shortly before 8pm as it was getting dark I called it a day.

I intend to fish my old haunts on this bit of river a lot over the next few months, and have set myself a personal target of a 1lb+ Roach and a 4lb+ Chub before the end of the year, but I’m going to give it a few weeks to let the weed clear a bit before I start my quest.

In the meantime I fancy something different for next week.

Big Perch maybe?…. We shall see.

Tight Lines Y’all.

Categories
Andrew Pilgrim

Back to the old school.

When I was a lad growing up in South Yorkshire in the 60s & 70s (stick with me) things were different in many ways. In my late teenage years it seemed that everyone was a fisherman – at work on a Monday morning the question “Where did you go at the weekend?” invariably received an answer of “Trent”, “Witham”, “Middle Level” etc or even  “16 foot” “20 foot” or “40 foot”      (Drains in Lincolnshire if you don’t know) … Ask the same question to todays youth and you would probably get the reply “Yates” , “Walkabout” or ………… (Insert the name of your local crap generic nightclub here). And the follow up query of “Any luck?” has completely different connotations these days that do not need discussing here, so I shall return to piscatorial matters.

 Like most people it was my Dad that showed me how to catch fish on rod and line, but, for me, it was my Granddad who taught me how to fish.

Back in the 60s as a young nipper I would stay over at my Grandparents house and my Grandad, Sid, and I would head off down to the woods to dig for worms next to the stream, and the evening before fishing would be spent learning knots and sorting tackle, whilst on the stove bubbled away a pan of Wheat, Tares or Hemp. The following morning we would rise at dawn and creep around the house like secret agents gathering our gear together and then leave, gently closing the door behind us. These were magical times for a young lad not yet 10 years old and, 50+ years later, whenever I cook Hemp I am instantly transported back to my childhood and the happy memories are as vivid as ever. We usually caught the bus to local fishing ponds but just occasionally another family member joined us who had a car and this young lad armed with his 6ft rod, Intrepid Black Prince reel and a tiny aluminium bait tin crammed with worms was whisked off, wide eyed in anticipation, to new and exciting ponds, canals and lakes,. Once there I often, awkwardly, caught tiny Perch whilst all the time being in awe of the old man in the next swim catching, what seemed to me at the time, an endless stream of huge Roach. More often than not I would sit with him and listen to his fishy stories. I remember those days fondly.

A young me and my fishing hero.

  My grandad passed away then I was early teens and I never had the opportunity, or took the time, to thank him for planting and nurturing the fishing seed in that young lad. Being a fisherman has taken me to many far off places and I have met some wonderful people, it has changed my life in many ways and helped make me the man I am today, I am eternally grateful to him for that. So Guys, if your Father or Grandad or Uncle or whoever taught you how to fish and they are still around, thank them….. Do it now!

Well that was a bit heavy and you are probably wondering why I brought up, well I mentioned in a previous blog (My Wife is a Tart) that I still had my Grandads old rod and Centerpin reel so I hatched a cunning plan to take it on my next trip and review said 50+ year old tatty length of cane. My plan became even more cunning when I decided that it might be interesting to compare it to my current favourite rod a 25 Year old Shimano Compare Specimen Match, and if that wasn’t enough my cunningness reached new heights when I decided to compare both of them to a brand new top of the range rod, “ What a genius!” I modestly thought, a real time comparison of a 50 year old rod, a 25 year old rod and a brand new rod. My smugness took a sharp dive when I remembered that I don’t possess a top of the range new rod …… Bugger!      But I know someone who does…. Sheena my wife (and Tackle Tart).

 So I asked the question. “Sheena my darling, I don’t suppose I could?….” Well it turns out I could………

I could do the washing up, I could mow the lawn and I could cook tea, but, as they say, fair exchange is no robbery and permission was given on the condition I cherish Sheena’s Drennen Acolyte as if my life depended on it, and to be fair it probably did! So I had the tackle now to decide on a species and venue. 

The criteria I set was thus, I wanted to try and get a good bend into all three rods to fully compare them so a day ‘bit bashing’ would be of no use, likewise I didn’t intend to put too much strain on the old cane rod or, God forbid, Sheena’s cherished Acolyte, so commercial carp fisheries were also out of the equation. I had to be static, walking miles of river carrying three rods was out and to be honest I didn’t fancy the idea of holding a heavy old rod for hours trotting a float. So I needed a Stillwater with a good chance of some nice sized fish but nothing too big. …… .Hmmmmm? Tench? Perfect.

But where to find a venue with a good head of Tench but none of those pesky 10lb+ Carp waiting to smash your tackle. Then I remembered FOXEARTH FISHERY. Just through Sudbury this venue offers 3 Lakes. A “Big Carp” lake for the weekend camping fraternity, a Pleasure Lake stuffed with assorted Roach, Bream, Perch, Rudd, Tench, and smaller Carp plus a ‘Traditional Lake’. This small lake (Pond?) has a good head of Tench and Crucian Carp, and NO big Carp, perfect. For the record this venue is very well run and has toilets and a snack/drinks machine in site, I highly recommend paying a visit.

Full details can be found here,  https://foxearthfishery.com/

So armed with a veritable Tench banquet of Red maggots, Casters, Hemp and lots of worms I set off on the scenic 40 minute drive to the furthest tip of north Essex. The weather had been settled for the previous few days a little muggy at times but mild and overcast, just how I like it for Tench fishing, and I chose a very comfortable looking swim (they all are) with pads to my right and a gentle breeze from right to left. It took me an hour so set up all my gear in which time the chap who was already fishing on the next peg had 5 Tench so things were looking good. I chose to use my Speedia centerpins as I don’t think there is a better reel for this type of fishing but I was rather annoyed to find I had left my ‘modern’ pin at home so the Acolyte had to make do with a fixed spool.

All three rods were set up with classic lift method float rigs and 2 swims were baited up with Hemp. I decided to start on Sheena’s Acolyte, and I was quickly into a succession of Rudd small Perch and a few nice sized Roach.

An hour or so later I struck into something better, not the Tench I was hoping for but a stunning Crucian Carp. It’s not always easy to find a venue that has a good head of these hard fighting fish but Foxearth is one.

 A short while later the float twitched, lifted then slid away in a classic Tench bite and I was into a fish which bolted straight for the pads to my right but the Acolyte was having none of it and with the drag wound down tight she was soon out into open water and quickly landed, and I have to say that this rod is as good a rod as I have ever used, light yet very powerful.

Then it went quiet…. Very quiet…….The chap next door had stopped catching and even the smaller fish had vanished from my swim. This was not looking good for my side by side test. Around lunchtime I heard a familiar voice “How’s it going my love?” Sheena had made the hour and a half round trip just to see if I was catching, how sweet! But secretly I knew she was only there to keep an eye on her beloved Acolyte. “Very quiet” I replied, here you have a go. So she did, and promptly caught a Crucian,

“It’s nice here, Be careful with that rod” she said handing me back her Acolyte and just like that she was gone leaving me staring at a motionless float for the next couple of hours. Although the bites had dried up I was not too concerned as on my two previous visits I had experienced the same pattern, a few fish early on then a burst of fish late afternoon. I decided to use the quiet time to mix a little groundbait and I laced it with a good quantity chopped of worms and crushed casters thinking that the groundbait will get the worm down to the bottom without being intercepted by the Roach and Perch. At 2.45 with the bright sky clouding over I fed the swim and had my next bite at 3.10pm – another cracking Tench.

Confident of more I switched to the Shimano, my favourite rod and almost instantly realised that it was no longer my favourite. It felt heavy and clumsy compared to the Acolyte. It did however catch me a rather hungry and irritable crayfish that tried to eat my trousers.

Next it was time for the old cane Sealey Rapid Strike to have a go. I will be honest here and say that it has been neglected over the years and the previous evening had been spent re-fixing a guide and applying varnish to the many strands of whipping cotton that were dangling off it so it would be fair to say, at this point, that I was a little nervous about its ability to cope with what I was about to subject it to. Casting was’ interesting’ to say the least due to its weight and ‘unique’ action, more akin to casting a clothes prop ,and after 4 attempts to hit the right area, a mere 2 rod lengths out, I settled for an underhand flick. The float settled and I waited nervously.

Seconds later all hell broke loose

The float slid away and I quickly struck. Well I say struck, I lifted the butt end and the tip eventually followed (Rapid Strike my ar*e). The angry Tench on the other end shot under the pads, I applied as much side strain as I dared and heard an ominous noise only it wasn’t the rod, I soon realised it was me going “eeeeeeeeeeek!”…. “out…OUT!!!!” and out of the pads it came and immediately shot off in the opposite direction. At this point of the story I guess you are expecting me to say how horrible the action was and how it was akin to playing an angry dog on a floppy car ariel. Well, I have to say, I was very surprised, the action was absolutely superb considering the rods age and that the butt was solid cane connected via a large brass ferule to a built cane middle and another brass ferule to the spliced cane (Spanish reed?) tip section. But let’s not forget that men have been making fishing rods from cane for hundreds of years and the experience and craftsmanship built into this rod was very apparent. Again a lovely tip action and progressive power through the middle section. Judge for yourselves.

Sealey Rapid Strike in action

Compare this to the new Drennen Acolyte

It really was a revelation, so much so that I had another cast, and another and caught succession of lovely Tench and the odd Crucian.

and on the final cast of the day was rewarded with this stunning fish.

I never picked up either of the other carbon fibre rods for the rest of the session. Yes the old rod was a bit cumbersome to cast, the name Rapid Strike is somewhat misleading and you had to keep the butt firmly under your forearm when playing a good fish but, without wanting to sound all ‘hippy’, there was something wonderfully organic about the way this rod felt. Maybe it was the natural products used in its construction, maybe it was the centuries of knowledge built into the design or maybe it was just all in my mind, knowing my dear old Grandad had caught many fish on this very rod. Whatever the reason after a dozen Tench I was in love with this battered old bit of history and I shall certainly be giving it another outing soon.  If you have any old rods tucked away at the back of your shed, get them out and give them an airing, you may be pleasantly surprised, as I was.