Andrew Pilgrim

Blanking for Fun.

Two blanks on the trot!… Bloody weather!……not only is this frustrating as an angler it also means that I’ve very little to write about this week, so let me ask you a question. 

How dedicated are you when it comes to fishing? 

When you have blanked you sit at home staring into the distance whilst deep inside you are contemplating what you could have done better rigs, tactics, choice of bait?  

Do persevere when things aren’t going well or you are not catching? 

How many blanks would you tolerate at a venue before you decided to fish elsewhere 3?.. 5?.. 7? 

How about 18 consecutive blanks at the same venue?

Dear readers allow mw to introduce you to my very good friend Mr Richard Barber. 

Back in Sheffield in the 1960’s I was but a small boy and my Father & Grandfather introduced me to out noble art and luckily enough a few doors down lived Richard whose Dad was equally keen on fishing so most weekends we were whisked off to local pond for some kiddie perch bashing. As we grew older, we would get home from school on a Friday and Richards Dad would drive us an hour to such exotic places as the Fossdyke and River Till in Lincolnshire for a few hours fishing. Richard and I became firm friends and not only fishing buddies but also travelling the country in pursuit of our other passions, Trainspotting (not as dull as it sounds) and Football (less said about that the better). But fishing was always our first love. 

I moved ‘Dar’n saaaf’ in the late 80’s and our fishing since took different paths with myself getting into Carp and then Match fishing whilst Richard likes targeting many specific species. These days my fishing, although quite varied is predominantly river fishing for Chub whilst my poor friend has sadly developed an acute case of OCD which is beginning to look like it may be a terminal illness. I shall explain.

Richard now lives in Nottingham and has a large gravel pit close by that has a few good-sized Carp in it but little else. These are of no interest to Richard but he heard of huge bream being caught by the carp anglers, only maybe once or twice a year but these were BIG fish, 16-18-20lb and maybe bigger. He has convinced himself that there is a small shoal of these massive old fish, maybe 6 -12, in this huge gravel pit and he is determined to catch one. He has fished day sessions, night sessions, short sessions and long sessions. Fishes light, fished heavy. Used boilies, worm maggots, pellets and sweetcorn. Fed heavy and fed little. Fished close and at range. He bought a Deeper Sonar to map out the contours of the whole gravel pit. He has invested an obscene amount of money in tackle to enable him to fish at extreme range if needed and to date he has been rewarded with a total of 18 blanks… Eighteen!!  But wait it gets worse… Not only is fishless but in those eighteen sessions he has not had a bite, that’s right not a single one. No Carp and even when fishing with maggots no bites off silver fish. I am undecided as to whether he needs a medal for perseverance or help from a therapist. 

We are still in touch and chat regularly and he is currently preparing for his ‘spring assault’ on the water. To give you a better idea of this man’s genius/insanity below is an excerpt from this week’s WhatsApp discussion on rigs……. Enjoy. 

Today I’ve built up my rigs for the spring campaign at *****. Been thinking about edge fishing with sweetcorn. I thought you might find it interesting so took pictures at stages. It takes nearly 2 hours to build a rig, and I bet it costs £20.
The hook. With widget to hold bait below the bend, and kicker to increase point attack angle. It’s a Korda size 8. To 15Lb Trickster braid 2″. Then a hinge joint. Ball of tungsten putty balances the pop up corn.
Then 6″ of 0.6mm mono stiff boom. Loops made with crimps. Then a safe Lead clip on a number 8 swivel. Then 30″ of Nash Dark Matter, heavy sink braid. Its supple and lies along bottom contours.
At the end a 3.5g olivette with float stops and a bead. Ends with a quick link and anti tangle sleeve.
Thinning the hook behind the barb. Then get it razor sharp with a stone and oil
Bait test.
The finished rig. PS in the dark I’ll take the putty off and use real corn. Flat on the deck. Rig has to have 20Lb+ Carp in mind. Theres a lot more of those

Me…………………….“Richard, have you considered free-lining? 😂

I knew you would say that LOL. Well free lined corn would be great, but I can’t watch for a bite for 8 hours. When I know there’s a 95% chance I won’t get one.

So there you have it, I have left out the videos of the rig testing to check how it lands on the bottom and the ones showing how to load a PVA bag so the bunch of worms or maggots on a ‘Medusa’ rig will present themselves ‘just right’, but I think its a good insight to the mind of a truly dedicated top angler who deserves to catch his monster Bream, and I truly think that he will succeed. And if/when he does I guarantee you two things firstly that he will never fish that water again, ever!, he will move on to another challenge,he’s ticked off Pike so maybe a big Chub or Roach or maybe a 1lb Dace or a 6oz Gudgeon… who knows. Secondly, you will not see any mention or picture of the capture on social media or in the press, he fishes only for his own ‘enjoyment’ however I will, with Richards permission, keep you posted.

Just reading this blog back it makes me ashamed of my ultra simple Chub fishing rigs consisting of a hook and SSG shot. However last night we discussed at length some interesting, and fairy radical, ideas for catching Chub that I shall be testing over the next few weeks. After all I can’t do any worse than my recent sessions.

Andrew Pilgrim


Isn’t lockdown a bitch?…. I am limited to fishing my two local rivers which shouldn’t be a problem as I love river fishing. But with the river levels going up and down, in lockdown, like my beloved Sheena’s … er…. well you get the idea. So what have I been up to the last week? Here is a brief summery.

FISHING….. I have managed to get a few trips in to the Suffolk Stour round Langham and Dedham and one to my local little stream. It seems that the main challenge this time of year is not so much finding the fish but more often finding the river!

For some reason I seem to be unable to tempt more than a solitary Chub each session which is becoming somewhat perplexing. But still, it’s better than being stuck at home day after day.

SORT IT OUT!……………….One of the upsides to lockdown is that I finally got round to tidying out the tackle room and putting up some shelves. This caused me to ask if maybe I have enough reels.

Luckily for me I have a fishing mad wife and Sheena’s reply to my question was a rather delightful “You can never have too many reels” so all is good.

A GOOD WHIPPING….. Whilst having my sort out I found an old rod tucked away in the corner, an old Silstar that as I recall I used to use for stalking Chub many moons ago. Sadly it needed a bit of attention so I spent a day re -ringing it. Its probably 30 years since I did any whipping and the results were not what you would get from say Hardys but it will suffice. Plus it reminded me how relaxing this task can be and a very agreeable way to pass a few hours.

FISHING BUDDIES………Do have them?…. Or maybe just one lifelong pal who shares your passion? Or are you more like myself who positively revels in his own company? Well another result of fishing during lockdowns is that I have found myself drawn to chatting to any other angler I see out on the bank. Maybe its the general lack of human interaction in the rest of my life, beloved Sheena excepted, or maybe I’m just mellowing as I get older but the upside is that I am now in contact with Chris (an actor) and John (a musician) who both share the same passion for Chub fishing as myself and can regularly be found fishing the same places that I frequent. Fishing buddies?..Me?….. who would have thought. However I did have an issue with John……

I have to say that John is a cracking angler, Chub Fishing fanatic and a all round decent chap. He is even a musician like myself and produces a very slick weekly online live podcast thingy. But I was very disturbed a week or so ago when he sent me this picture. Dreadful isn’t it?

I can barely bring myself to look at it again. Do you see it?……. NO? What about now?

Perfectly pleasant bank sticks, a cracking pair of rods but the rod rests….. Dear God!… I had to let him know…..“John, your Rod Rests disturb me” I messaged, and a few day later he sent this back. With the reply “Will that make you happy?”… what a guy. Our friendship is restored.

O.C.D… Do you suffer with it? … How does it affect your angling?

Andrew Pilgrim

Licenced to Kill?

Predator anglers, do you kill the fish you catch?……. Are you sure? Lets have a chat about fish handling.

Undoubtedly the way we anglers care for our catch has improved tremendously in the last couple of decades. In the last few years the Carp boys have been leading the way with their supersized, fish friendly landing nets, unhooking mats and cradles and the Carp care kits to apply any first aid as required so a big kudos to them. Although the way they pose for photos does make me smile at times.“Why?”….. Well it’s all that ‘arms out hide your fingers and gaze in awe and teary eyed wonderment at your elbows’ stuff trying to make the fish appear larger than it actually is. If you want a picture of a bigger fish go catch a bigger fish! And don’t get me started on the up to the waist in the water with the your trophy fish held aloft, just ridiculous if you ask me. But I digress somewhat, lets get back to Predator fishing. Like most branches of our sport fish handling has improved greatly. When I was a lad the rule of thumb was when you had a Pike take was to wait ages to ensure the fish was ‘Well hooked’ by reciting the lords prayer or the national anthem before striking. This indeed did ensure that the Pike was indeed well hooked, but often right down in its guts. Thankfully this has been replaced with an almost immediate strike which is much more acceptable. The barbaric Gaff has been confined to history and the Pike Gag likewise. Unhooking mats are almost the norm and we are starting to see that treble hooks are being replaced by single hooks. “So all is good then?”…. not quite. We are back to holding the fish for pictures as this aspect of how we treat our catch needs addressing.

Let’s start with Perch.

I like many remember catching these wonderful little fish in abundance, indeed they were the staple fish for kids like me back in the 60s/70s while fishing at the end of our short rods, while our parents targeted the Roach and Bream way, way out in the pond, far beyond our limited casting range. Back then a 4oz fish was a ‘big un’ and anything larger was a fish of dreams. However these days things are somewhat different. The number of ‘big’ Perch being caught recently is truly astounding. with a 1lb fish being unremarkable and a 2lb specimen being just fairly good. Unfortunately an unpleasant trend has made its way across the Atlantic and it’s driving me nuts! Yup you guessed it, THE LIP GRIP !!

In the US the majority of Bass anglers seem to be convinced that the most harmful thing you can do to a fish is hold it like we do and damage the “precious layer of protective slime” so they grip the fish by the lower lip. Now this in itself is not a problem as the jaws on the Bass are fairly robust and holding a fish in this fashion makes for easy unhooking.

Verticle Lip Grip

The problem arises when the lip grip is used in this fashion.

NO, No and thrice NO!

The full weight of the fish is now put on the lower jaw, this will potentialy strain the muscle tissue etc that operates the complex jaw mechanism and may in some instanced dislocate or break the delicate bones. This resulte in a fish that, although you return it looking fit and healthy, is unable to feed. If it fails to recover from whatever injuries you have unwittingly inflicted upon it will die. “What’s this got to do with Perch fishing?”…… Well the rise in popularity of Drop-Shotting over here has lead to some fishermen watching videos of the US bass anglers on you tube and it really has become a case of “Monkey see, Monkey do”

If you must use the “Lip Grip on Perch please suppoet the weight of its body like this.

If You Must, just don’t pull the jaw down.

Or if you want to see a master at work have a look at Ash Costa Angling on Facebook. Not only is he one of the finest Perch anglers in the country but his pictures are top class.

Ash kindly sent me this picture where you can see how the fish is held to make your hand ‘vanish’

So lets now have a look at our top predator, The Pike

I used to lip grip pike, we all did back in the day, but I can count the number of pike anglers that still ‘Lip Grip’ on the fingers on one hand…. Oh hang on!…………………….

On the whole Pike anglers are pretty good at fish handling, we have to be or things can get nasty pretty quickly. Though I do think we could be better. Firstly we have to remember that the shape of a pike, being long and thin makes then somewhat awkward to get and keep a good hold on.

If you are unsure about unhooking Pike this video explains very well the correct way to handle your fish.

However once unhooked you may wish to hold your fish up for a picture. Please be aware that although your fish may be large Pike are quite fragile and are easily damaged. The anatomy of a fish is such that their internal organs are always suported by the water. If they are held roughly the internals can be easily damaged and result in a slow lingering death for the fish despite it swimming away strongly. Tope and Shark anglers realised that once boated and held for pictures these Sharks were less likley to survive once returned so now most are never brought onboard as they are unhooked at the side of the boat. If you hold a Pike in the same way as you might hold a carp, thrusted out infront of you, the hand under the fishes belly will squash and crush the delicate internal organs of the fish.

Squashing and squeezing a fishes belly like thish should be avoided at all costs, as should folding the fish in half like this.

Pike are not designed to bend in this direction and this can’t be doing them any good whatsoever.

“So how should I hold a Pike?”…. Well there are a few ways. By using one hand to ‘Chin’ the fish and support the weight of the fish allong you other forearm, close to your body. But the key thing is keeping the head well above the body. My favorite way hold a big pike for a picture is by far this way.

If you are unsure or dont yet have the confidence to handle a really big specimen do as this young chap has done.

So there you have it, my own personal thoughts on displaying your fish for a picture.

One last thing, there are many ways to hold your fish, some better than others. But my beloved Sheena says if she ever sees anyone using this Eye Grip she will seriously give them a good ‘re-educating’, and I would advise anyone to do the same.

We hold a licence to Fish, not a License to Kill.

Andrew Pilgrim

What’s in your Bag?

Before Xmas my trusty old bag finally died (who said Sheena?… How dare you!!!). No it was my roving/stalking bag. We had shared many good years bankside in all weathers and to be honest both of us were looking worse for wear and it was touch and go as to which one of us would expire first. Luckily for me it was my old bag. So a replacement was required and much researching was done. The replacement had to fit the following criteria.

1/ Waterproof and rugged

2/ Big enough to accommodate all the essential tackle but not too big as to get filled with pointless stuff that gets carried around for years, just in case, without ever being used.

I settled on the Diawa Wilderness Game Bag No4. (£29.99 from Uttings of Norwich)

Now I am well aware that a blog review of a bag will probably be as dull as dishwater so what I thought I’d do is show you the bag and what I use it to carry, so here goes.

Diawa Wilderness No4 Game Bag.

The bag has a couple of useful side pockets.

In these I have my scales and spare batteries and the other side holds my small yet powerful power pack. both in plastic bags for protection from the elements.

The front of the bag has two further small pockets each with a magnetic flap. These contain the following; one side has my metal tin “Ashtray” (why do people insist on flicking their tab ends in the water?) my spare torches, and most importantly some sustenance should I get peckish.

The other side holds my selection of hooks, spools of Flourocarbon hooklink and some split shot.

Behind these pockets is a long shallow pocket that quite nicely takes my tackle box.

The main compartment is plenty big enough for the remaining essentials such as bait boxes, a flask, rag, and my unhooking mat sits nicely on top. This largest compartment also has a good quality detachable waterproof lining.

At the rear of the bag is one further slim pocket with a zipper. This holds my poncho which is vital should I get caught in an unexpected downpour.

I also carry other items that I have found invaluable.

A bungee cord with clips. This is a fantastic addition ro a river stalkers kit and has many uses. for example – yesterday I fished a swim where there was a long branch crossing at about 9ft high preventing me from lifting my rods up. I hooked this with my landing net and secured it to the trunk using this bungee. in 30 seconds I had made a comfortable swim out of an unfishable one. You will find many uses for a bungee.

Also in my bag is a small tripod that holds my phone. This in conjunction with the “Whistle camera app” enables you to capture better pictures. This tripod performs another vital role as a torch holder. As regular readers of my blogs will have spotted, when Chub fishing, I like to fish into dark, thus making the most of the “Golden Hour”, that wonderful time when dusk turns to dark and the fish bite. My quiver tips are painted white and the tripod holds a small and not very bright torch which is just powerful enough to light up the tips without illuminating the opposite bank and fields for miles as the super powerful ones seem to do. The other bonus of this fantastically crap little torch from Halfords, is the battery life is 20+ hours unlike the 1/2 hours you get from the powerful ones.

Here is a bit of advice – if you use this torch set up always position the torch low and downstream of you with the beam pointing upstream so it is not visible to the fish you are trying to catch. While we are on the subject of light I also carry this handy little lantern which I hang on a bankstick near my left shoulder. This provides enough light for baiting up etc. Note the tape blocking off light to one side again so as not to be visible for the fish.

One other thing I would like to recommend are these tubs.

These are called Lock N Lock and are only a few quid from places such as the Range,. They come in various sizes and are fantastic for holding most of your favourite Chub delicacies.

A smorgasbord fit for any Chub.

The other great thing about these boxes is when you get home from a session they can easily just be put in the freezer ready for the next trip.

So, there we have it my roving bag, and all it contains. So far I am impressed with the quality and and usability. Maybe I will review it again in 10 years to report on its durability, but for now its ‘So far so good’

What do you have in your bag? any tips on vital bits of kit I may be missing?

Why not leave me a comment using the box at the bottom of this page.

Happy Chub hunting.

Andrew Pilgrim

Frustrating Isn’t it?

Frustrating isn’t it, when you are denied your one pleasure in life, when, in your mind, you have been perfecting a new technique or method and you are dying to try it out, when your tackle is starting to look forlorn and underused and you start to wonder if you may ever use it again?

 I’ve been feeling like this for the last few weeks now and I mentioned this to my beloved Sheena who immediately changed the subject and suggested that I go fishing instead to clear (clean?) my mind, so I did.

Just before lockdown I paid a visit to the River Ter in Essex as part of my quest to fish lots of the forgotten small rivers and streams that Essex has to offer. You can read my blog on this subject here..

The pretty little River was carrying a bit of extra water and was well coloured, despite that my fishing partner for the day James and we covered about half a mile of water and we both managed to winkle out some tiny Brown Trout.

Now whilst these are not going to impress anyone with their size they make up for it with their enthusiasm, (Sheena has just said she’s going to start calling me her little Trout!) Anyway they put up a spirited little fight on my little 9ft Drennan Acolyte Ultra rod and despite it being a bitter cold day it was a very enjoyable one.

Now, as you know, with this latest lockdown malarkey we are restricted to staying local which is not too bad for me as the Suffolk Stour is but a few miles down the road and I therefore that’s where I headed.

First up was the Mill Pool at Dedham.

Dedham Mill has featured before in my blogs and I will say again what a stunningly beautiful place it is. Although I am yet to encounter any of its larger inhabitants I’m quite confident that it’s just a question of time as I’m sure it holds some great fish. In fact a bit of research throws up talk of big Bream to 8lb+ and other large specimens of other species too, so I shall persevere.

I am finding that most times I visit the river is carrying extra water and is quite challenging. All my recent trips were no different and bites were few and far between. Roach on bread flake and small Chub up to 1lb or so on worm with little interest on my killer paste.

An interesting note is that I usually like to fish into dark 12-6pm ish and when fishing the end of the pool where it shallows and narrows both times I have had a run of bites and fish between 4-4.30pm just as the light is going, and then nothing. There is obviously a shoal of chub leaving the pool or heading into the pool for the night. Further investigation is required.

Also, I was sat at Dedham thinking that I was somewhat crazy fishing in such raging conditions when, in the swim to my left, I noticed two old women adorned in bright swimming gear enter the water and proceed to swim franticly upstream and into my swim, luckily the flow was such that they never quite made it as every time they stopped for a rest the flow took them back to where they had started from. You can just make them out in this picture, I was fishing off the end of the bush!

I managed one further trip due to the river levels and the cold, which was to another local stretch of the Stour at Langham.

I was fully intending spending an afternoon on Cheese paste but when I got there the river looked perfect for running a stick float through. The float rod was already set up in my rod bag and soon I was blissfully trotting away. I have to say that for me nothing comes close to trotting a stick float, and after an hour or so I could feel all my worries and woes drifting away as I slowly got into a rhythm, feed 6 maggots, gentle Wallis cast, 6 more maggots, trot a while mend the line and trot further… and repeat.

My state of meditation was, however, rudely interrupted when right at the tail of the swim, 30 yards downstream the float vanished and I struck into the bottom which was solid, 2 seconds later the bottom gave a couple of shakes of its head, turned and shot off downstream. I love it when Chub do that, The next 10 minutes were spent with the Speedia Centerpin going forwards then backwards as I slowly worked the fish upstream in the flow, all the time being fully aware the I was only connected via a size 16 hook. Once netted and pictured the fat lad was returned and I was soon back trotting.

The daylight ebbed and I spent the last two hours ledgering Cheese paste and worm with no interest at all.

As I write this I note that the levels are dropping so I shall be back out Chub hunting in the next day or two with hopefully something nice to report next week.

Tight lines Y’all and stay safe.

Andrew Pilgrim

Bluefin Tuna off Clacton?

Ok, I can hear you all laughing but read on, you may be surprised.

First I’d like to tell you about the amazing creature that is The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.

Unfortunately I can’t as I have never even seen one never mind caught one so what follows is taken from where you can read further about this amazing creature.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (ABFT) are the largest of all the Tuna and can grow to over 700kg, (1,500lbs), and live for up to fifty years. They can attain speeds of 70kph and dive to depths of over 1000 metres. They undertake great migrations each year, some on a par with those other great ocean travellers, Blue Whales.

Perhaps the most important characteristic of the Thunnus tribe, and the one that most often surprises people, is that they are Warm Blooded. Crucially, in addition to this, the “True Tunas” all have an ability to control their body temperature, a capability found in a very small number of fish, including some Billfish and Shark species.

Tunas do not ‘flap’ their gills, but in common with billfish and some shark species, rely upon constant motion to pass water over their gills. The gills of Bluefin are huge in relation to their size. TEN TIMES larger than those of Rainbow Trout (kg for kg). They are also incredibly thin. This huge surface area allows them to extract 50% of the Oxygen present in the water that flows across their gills, a phenomenal feat. Humans only extract 25% of the oxygen that is present in the air we breathe.

They have an ability to tense their red muscles, stiffening their body. This accentuates the power transfer of their white muscle, designed for high speed bursts. This means that at anything over a low cruising speed their bodies do not move sinuously like most fish, but instead the large tail, or caudal fin oscillates at phenomenal speeds, providing great thrust.’

So, amazing creatures don’t you think?……….   “But aren’t they exotic tropical fish?” … NO!

The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna has a fantastic range from the Gulf of Mexico up to Canada in the Western Atlantic and more interestingly, for us, in the Eastern Atlantic they are found from the coast of Morocco, in the Mediterranean and up the coast of Spain and France and……. Wait for it…. The UK. In fact they are also seen in numbers off the west coast of Ireland , Scotland and are currently being studied in the waters around Norway and Denmark. In British waters the largest numbers are seen down in the West Country, often seen hitting bait fish less than a mile from shore. Regarding the English Channel, verifiable reports have come in of sightings off Brighton, fish washed up in Chichester harbour and interestingly some ‘bycatch’ washed up on a beach near Folkstone! Lets put all these on a map.

So as we can see Bluefin have almost encircled the whole of the British Isles, and it gets a little more interesting if we look back in time. In the 1800s a large commercial Bluefin fishery existed in Denmark with many fish being caught each season using long lines and nets. Some of these fish were reported to be in excess of 800lb.

A Danish fish market of the past

Also you may not be aware that back in the 1920s onward there was a thriving Big Game fishery for Tuna in the Uk, known back then as Tunny. This attracted the rich and famous from around the world who flocked to the East Coast of Yorkshire to sample the world class fishing on offer. Celebrities such as John Wayne, Errol Flynn and David Niven Charles Loughton, Walter Edward Guinness of the Guinness brewing dynasty and members of the wealthy Rothschild family amongst others were regular visitors to Scarborough on their huge yachts.

The wealthier tourists included Lady Annie Yule, “said to be the richest heiress in the empire”. She arrived with her daughter on their 1,574-ton luxury steam yacht Nahlin, which had 12 bathrooms and a gym. It’s now owned by Sir James Dyson, who is probably richer, with £7.8 billion. Boats working out of Scarborough and Whitby took the sporting gentry of the day out to pit their skills, and tackle, against these powerful fish. The rods were hickory, bamboo, lancewood and greenheart. The large Centerpin reels were loaded with strong twine. Once a fish was hooked the angler would ‘decamp’ into a smaller boat and the fish would tow them around, often for hours. Only when the Tuna was tired out would the fish be brought to the boat. .

Just look at that tackle!!

 In 1932, on the Dick Whittington trawler, Harold Hardy of Cloughton Hall battled with a 16ft tuna for over seven hours until his line snapped. Four observers described the struggle as “the greatest fight they had ever seen in their lives”.  

 Many fish to 700lb+ were caught every year and things reached a peak in 1933 when, fishing out of Whitby the delightfully named Lorenzo Cecil Vaughan Mitchell-Henry caught a Bluefin Tuna weighing 851lb, which is still the record for the heaviest fish caught in British waters.

 After a break from 1939 -1945, whilst European countries had a bit of a squabble, the fishing resumed and fish were caught up to the early 1950s. Why the fish stocks declined after this time is attributable to two main factors. The increased efficiency of the commercial fishing boats in the North Sea depleted the stocks of Herring and Mackerel, their main food source, so the Tuna moved elsewhere to forage. In addition to this there is something at play called The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) which basically speaking is a cyclic change in water temperature affecting our shores every 20-80 years or so which some think may be partially responsible for the disappearance of the Bluefin and their subsequent return in the last few years helped by the increasing amount of baitfish available round our shores. Indeed Bluefin are caught in increasing numbers each year by charter boats in the West Country ‘accidentaly’ whilst targeting other species such as sharks. At this point I’m sure that a few Essex Anglers have run out to their sheds looking for the old 80lb class gear and the spool of 120lb braid they bought years ago for a Tope fishing trip with John Rawle in 1998 that never happened but hold your horses.

 I say caught ‘accidentally’ as it is currently illegal to fish for or land a Bluefin Tina in this country due to their protected status which you can read more about here

What are the chances of re-establishing a Big Game Bluefin fishery in the UK? To find out I spoke to the man behind Bluefin Tuna UK,  Steve Murphy, who was most helpful indeed. This is what he had to say…

AP……….With all the Bluefin appearing down the west country over the last few years how close are we to having a serious recreational fishery for Tuna in the UK?

SM ………We have been working on a recreational Catch and Release fishery for two years now, it was always tough without quota. We (BFT UK, Angling Trust, representatives of about 65 charter skippers, a number of clubs) were involved in a consultation Sept-November with DEFRA and CEFAS to look at the possibility of an Irish style research fishery across the Channel from Dover to Lands End in 2021. Phase 1 went well, and phases 2 starts next week. We can’t really talk about that too much as we are awaiting sight of the official report to agree with DEFRA and then issue a joint press statement in the very near future. I am cautiously optimistic we will have a legal framework for some kind of Bluefin fishery this year, and beyond… Fingers crossed, more work to do…..

AP ……………What is the likelihood of Bluefin Tuna appearing in the Thames Estuary?

SM…….   “BFT COULD, in theory, move through the straits of Dover into the lower North Sea, or they could come South from the North. I think the biggest constraint for the southern North Sea is water clarity. Way offshore there are areas of cleaner water but not consistently enough to make good long term habitat for Atlantic Bluefin.”

A…… So why were they reported recently in off the Kent coast?

SM ………”When they ran much further East up the Channel last year, we think it was for very specific reasons. Basically we had a bunch of ‘Atlantic’ water able to penetrate much further East than usual, hence the fish washed up in Chichester Harbour, bycatch off Folkestone dumped that wound up on the beach there, and sightings off of Brighton etc…. I wouldn’t bet more than a few quid that they repeat that consistently. This was a specific situation with the collapse of a front that often acts as a barrier.”

AP …….So no chance of seeing them in the Thames Estuary and beyond then?

SM …… “I would never say never, but I think if you want to consistently encounter them, it’s really West of Start Point where the concentrations are the last five years. The chances of fish up towards the Wash et are slim, not non-existent, but slim I would think….”

So there we have it Bluefin Tuna off Clacton?  Improbable but not impossible, highly unlikely but not beyond the realms of possibility, Who knows what will happen over the next few years and decades.

I will leave you with this one further little titbit for the local Thames Estuary anglers.  In his writings on the History of British Tuna fishing, Mike Thrussell the well-respected angling author, journalist and tackle consultant notes that “ In 1928 a massive 1000lber washed up on a mud bank at Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex”

Food for thought?

For more information on this fascinating fish and the ongoing fight to set up a UK recreational fishery please visit here and support them in anyway you can.

Andrew Pilgrim

New Year, New & Old Gear

When Chub fishing I often like to use two rods. Apart from the obvious benefit of having two baits out it allows me to cover more water and ring the changes when it comes to baits and methods. My go to rod for the last few years has been my trusty Diawa Harrier Z MK2 quiver tip.

Its been fantastic for most of my fishing, mainly roving the Suffolk Stour for my my favourite Chub but it has been equally at home launching feeders half way across the Trent and method feeders to the far bank on many Dutch Rivers. It’s a strong durable bit of all round kit with bags of power. But, for the New Year I thought I’d treat myself to a couple of dedicated Chub rods. When I mentioned this to my beloved Sheena she immediately advised that I should purchase a couple of her favourite rods, Drennan Acolytes. She appeared somewhat miffed when I pointed out that the Acolyte range, excellent as they are, does not as yet have a rod that would meet my requirements. The Acolyte 11ft Plus comes close. I have borrowed Sheena’s and it is a fantastically well made rod and a joy to use but it has it’s limitations. It is still too soft for flicking a 3oz lead into a flooded river or weir pool, and it is what I would call a ‘through action’ rod, great for commercial waters and slower moving stretches of river. But as I often find myself fishing up close and under trees, bushes and other features I really need rods with more ‘grunt’ to keep the bigger specimens out of snags. I spent the Xmas period researching the rods available and settled on the Drennan Specialist Twin Tip 11ft Avons. My dilemma was which to chose the 1.25lb or 1.5lb test curve. For those that don’t know how this rating works it’s quite simple. If you were to hold the rod horizontal the test curve is the amount of weight it would take on the tip to pull it round 90 degrees so the tip was pointing strait down. My decision was made easier due to the limited stock currently available in the country and a pair of 1.5lb TC rods were delivered a couple of days later. On inspection the build quality was very good, DPS screw reel seat, SiC guides and the rods are a rather fetching matt green. Also a big plus were the tips were white! I would argue that white is by far the most visible colour for quiver tips in most conditions buy especially at this time of year with the low light and the usual 2″ of bright red, yellow or green that you usually see on quiver tips is designed to catch the angler more than fish. If you don’t believe my get some tippex and paint the top 4″ of your quiver tip white, try it you may be pleasantly surprised. The same applies to floats, What’s the most visible colour?…. Yellow, Red, Orange?… It’s actually Black, yes that’s right Black. Don’t believe me? than get a marker pen and paint the top of your float, you will be amazed how much more it stands out.The reason you never see black floats for sale is because we simple anglers are drawn to the bright colours thinking they will be more visible but, unless you are fishing in a very dark shadow, often they are not.

The next decision to be made was what reels to pair the rods with. To be fair reels are not something lacking in my tackle store, from vintage 1950s centerpins to top end Shimano’s and Diawa, all were available for me but I needed something rugged and reliable, something that I wouldn’t be precious about dropping in the mud and would stand up to the abuse that river stalking often entails, something guaranteed not to let you down, and as I’d just spent a couple of hundred on rods – something cheap. The choice was an easy one, The legendary Mitchell 300, and as luck would have it the same day as the rods arrived the postman brought me 2 boxes, each containing a pair of Mitchell 300s. How fortunate.!

Sheena did point out that I do indeed already have quite a collection of these cracking reels but, I told her, these were different. Two were imaculate 300As made around the late 1970s and the other pair were the ones I hankered for back in the start of my match fishing days in the 1980s, the Mitchell 300 Pro, I was a happy boy. I would say at this point that these old classics should not be in anyway confused with the modern Mitchell Reels which are made and sold by the Pure Fishing Group who also bought, and now own, other great names from the past such as Abu Garcia, Berkley, Chub, Greys, Hardy, JRC, Penn, Shakespeare, SpiderWire, and Ugly Stik. Although they do have some quality products in their portfolio in my opinion the quality is often lacking especially on the cheaper models which are Chinese made. The Mitchells I have were made in France, or rather ‘engineered’ in France. They are absolutely tough, reliable and will last you a lifetime. In fact most of the second hand ones have already lasted someone a lifetime and will ‘see me out’!

So my new acquisitions were serviced, re-greased and oiled and were good to go for another few decades . Time for a quick test so I headed down to the Suffolk Stour at Deadham Mill which is a delightful place.

I set up the new tackle and waited patiently with double worm on a size 14 hook on one rod and bread flake over liquidised bread down the edge on the second.

I started fishing at noon and at 2pm I had my first bite, a confident tug tug and then the tip bent right round on the worm rod. This annoyed me as at that very moment I was winding in the other rod and completely missed the ‘unmissable’ bite. Nothing for the next two hours but then a flurry of activity on the worm rod with a further 5 ‘unmissable’ bites in the next 45 mins only one of which resulted in a small Chub.

I went big with a No 6 and a snake of a Lob tipped with a small worm for added movement.

Still nothing. All this time the other rod had been rotating Flake, Cheese Paste and Chunks of cheese without a touch, It was definitely a worm day. By 5.30 the temperature had dropped and I decided to pack up. That hour or so when dusk turns to night was certainly evident today, The Golden Hour.

So how were the new set ups?…. Mitchell reels were reliable and perfect as they always are and will remain so for generations to come. The Drennan rods also performed well although I am looking forward to geting a bigger bend in them soon. One thing I would say is that the 1.5tc rods come with a 3oz and 4oz tips which will be great in a faster flow like we have had recently but I have now orded a couple of 2oz tips as on this day I could have done with something a little lighter for rolling a bait across in the flow. Something like Sheena’s Acolyte I suppose, but dont tell her that.

Andrew Pilgrim

Practice What You Preach.

Hi Guys & Gals, I trust you all had a very enjoyable Xmas and your sacks were full to bursting on Christmas morning, I know mine was but my beloved Sheena was busy basting her Turkey!

Anyhoo, my last three blogs have been quite intense reading but I hope you found them useful and helpful in your quest for winter fish. So I thought I would have a quick recap on my own fishing over the last few weeks.

But first I would like to thank those who took the time to leave comments as feedback is most appreciated and to the ones who sent me a PM asking if I have considered writing a book, I am flattered, maybe one day but for now there are too many fish that need catching.

If you missed them they can be found here

The weather has meant that I have had to put into practice some of the techniques I have been writing about in my previous blogs on River fishing, so lets see how I got on…………………

Drop-Shotting in Chelmsford I’m still getting my head round this method and had a trip to the Chelmer. I started at Browns Wharf and worked my way round to the main weir in town. Just the one little Perch from the gin clear canal and some small jacks from the well coloured river above the weir.

Elusive Big Chub on the Backwater I have been using the backwater of the Suffolk Stour at Stratford St Mary as a proving ground for a new batch of Cheese Paste, the recipie for which can be found here.

Most of my short trips here have been late afternoon into dark so please excuse some of the pictures. I have consistently caught small Chub and the odd nice Roach proving the paste works – no sign of anything much over 1lb, but very enjoyable never the less.

Raging Weir Pool In my efforts to find a bigger Chub I had an evening session on the Suffolk Stour at Dedham Mill. This is a stunningly beautiful place in the summer but nigh on un-fishable due to canoeists, swimmers, swimming dogs, paddle boarders etc but late afternoon in December was perfect, apart from the fact the water was well up and raging through. A few enquiries on worm and bread early on then as it went dark I had a few bites on Paste and managed to eke out a few Roach and a small Chub, but still no sign of a bigger fish.

Lure Fishing with Thomas and Bailey A thoroughly unproductive day trying in vain to tempt a Pike from a pea soup coloured Chelmer near Maldon. Thomas somehow managed to get a small jack on a spinner but Bailey kept us both entertained by chucking his lure into a tree!… which tree?…. ALL OF THEM!

Unfishable?… Never. Yesterday I was desperate for a few hours fishing. The Suffolk Stour was well up at over 1.5 meters.

(Check your local river levels here )

So I met with an old friend James to fish my secret stream. This too was well up as you can see in the following pictures taken a month apart, and had burst its banks in places.

We persevered and found three places where we could wet a line. One bite on worm gave me a good sized Dace.

And half an hour later the most tentative of bites on Cheese Paste, a very gentle, Tap……… Tap……. Tap, Tap then a slight pull of no more than a quarter of an inch ( Thats less than a centimetre kids) and I found myself connected to a very nice, but quite angry Chub. My little 9ft Drennan Acolyte ultra had a cracking bend as the Chub tore arround the pool. Never ignore the little bites, big fish can be very cagey.

For more information on fishing Secret Streams near you have a read here

If you enjoy reading these blogs please do leave c comment below and if you would like one of our bloggers to cover a specific subject just ask.

So thats about it for this year from me, best wishes and see you all again in the New Year.

Andrew Pilgrim

Advanced River Fishing Techniques Pt3

In the first two blogs in this series we covered firstly how rivers flow and secondly how to approach fishing a flooded river. If you missed them they can be found here.

and here.

This week I thought we could talk about one of the Chub anglers favourite subject… Cheese Paste.

Over the years I’ve had many people ask me “How do you make your paste?” And To be honest I’m not going to tell you as its something I’ve perfected over 40 plus years of hunting Chub and also Roach, Bream , Carp and Tench. I have my own preferred pastes for each. What I will do here is explain how easy it is to knock up a basic cheese paste mix and that will give you a base from which to experiment and find your own ‘Secret Recipe’.

Firstly we need to ask ourselves why Cheese Paste? Well way back in 1653, In his book The Compleat Angler, the great Sir Izaak Walton mentions using cheese to catch Chub. Almost 400 years later the fish haven’t changed they still love a good smelly lump of cheese.I would hazard a guess that of all the freshwater fish we target none has a sense on smell to match the Chub. So what follows is a quick and easy way to knock up a killer bait.

CHOOSE YOUR CHEESE. The rule here is almost any cheese will do, the smellier the better. as its Xmas in a week or two there will be a plethora of mouldy half eaten bits cheese lurking at the back of the fridge, perfect. Take every last one, put them in a sandwich bag and pop them in the freezer until your ready to make your paste. Without doubt the go-to variety for any Chub angler is the mighty Stilton, and if you don’t have Stilton in your fridge go buy some its a must have. The rest is up to you but I would personally avoid hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Goat/Sheep cheese as they have a high salt content which I personally think makes the bait less attractive.

For this example I will be using a mix of Stilton and Red Leicester.

Take your cheese and grate it finely.

Pop it into a bowl and stick it into the microwave for 10 seconds. No more or you will separate too much of the fats. Mix it together to make a thick stinky cheesy goo. I should have mentioned at the start that this whole procedure is best carried out when your other half has left the building.


Next take some flour add the melted cheese, I also like to add a beaten egg, I’ve no idea why it’s something I’ve always done and it seems to work.

and mix, and mix and mix. It’s important to mix well as this action gets the starches in the flour active and gives the dough/paste a certain elasticity, which is what we want.

Once you have a soft dough turn it out and kneed for 5 minutes.

Your paste should be fairly soft and a little sticky, almost gooey.This bit is trial and error and comes with experience. Don’t worry as when you get outside on the bank, in the cold, it will be perfect for moulding round your hook, and when it gets in the cold water it will stiffen up even more.


Take a piece of paste and roll it into a ball.

Squash it flat.

Lay your hook on the paste.

Mould the paste round your hook

I like my paste to be quite soft and the hook will pull through the paste on the strike, however it you prefere you can mould the paste round the shank to leave the hook point showing.

So there you have it, a simple basic and easy to make killer bait for Chub. From this basic recipe you can experiment adding many different flavours in powder and liquid form, here are just a few ideas to get you started, Garlic (many peoples favorite), Tumeric powder, Curry powder,Mixed Spice, you get the idea… SMELLY is what you want.

Stick it in a Tupperware pot, keep it in the freezer and you can grab it as you go fishing, no need to defrost overnight. When you get back just put it back in the freezer.

One further tip. When I have made a new batch of paste I like to test it sy yesterday I headed down to a backwater on the Suffolk Stour that I know had a good head of smaller Chub. Four hours fishing with Sheena’s Drennan Acolyte Plus quiver tip rod and 13 Chublets later I had full confidence that this is a good batch.

So tomorrow I will venture out to where the big Chub live full of confidence in my bait

Andrew Pilgrim

Advanced River Fishing Techniques Pt2

This week I would like to write about how to tackle fishing in a flooded river. If you haven’t read Part1 it can be found here.

Please do read it, off you go, the rest of us will wait.

All read and digested? good stuff , then I shall continue.

Now we all understand what’s happening to the flow under the surface of any given river lets bear that in mind and think about how to approach a river in flood.

The Suffolk Stour last week.

So how would we approach a river like this?….. CAREFULLY is the answer, the banks are slippy, the water is running fast. I have a small readership and I cant afford to loose any of my loyal followers.

When you arrive at a flooded river you may be tempted to take one look and get back in their car to head for the nearest carp puddle for some easy fishing. But flooded rivers can offer some great days fishing, and they are pretty easy to master provided you follow the following easy steps.

1/ TRAVEL LIGHT Take only what you think you will need. Rod, Net, Rest and bag of basic tackle is all you need. A feeder rod is perfect, 4lb main line for general fishing, 6lb if you may encounter a Chub or two, Hooks in sizes 16-8, some big shot and a few weights.

2/ TAKE A WALK. Don’t just plonk yourself down in the most comfortable swim you come across. Take a walk and identify where the fish will be. Remember that the fish haven’t gone anywhere they will just maybe not be where they usually are. You need to find where they have chosen to hold up out of the torrent.

3/ IDENTIFY LIKELY LOOKING AREAS. This is the key to successful river fishing at this time. That you are looking for are the following. Slack water on the inside of bends, ‘Cow drinks’ that offer some slack water, junctions where a slower river joins and structure on the bank, trees walls etc, that will divert the flow creating slower flowing water behind them. Can you see the theme here? that’s right we want to find some water which has less flow than the main river. Here are some pictures of the Suffolk Stour and the Colne taken last week. They were both pulling hard with weed, leaves and the odd branch flying past Now lets have some fun….The river is flowing right to left where would you cast?

Well how did you do?

Lets have a look.

I this picture we can see the flow coming round a bend and hitting the near bank just upstream. However the tree provides just enough deviation to the flow to create a small thin area of slacker water right along the near bank, very close only a foot or so from the submerged bank. In addition we can see a larger area of calmer water across on the far bank. If you fish across to somewhere like this get your rod tip as high as possible, ‘beachcaster’ style to keep as much line out of the fast flowing water as possible.

You can just make out the submerged bank downstream of my position, A big lobworm gently placed along here produced 3 good bites off Chub. Across and downstream is another area which produced one bite. It was a cold day and my beloved Sheena decided to give it a miss which was a shame as her Drennan Acolyte Feeder 11ft Plus would have been perfect for this style of fishing.

The River Colne, Colchester.

What a fantastic fishy looking hole just behind the tree and a huge area across that surely has fish holed up in it.

So we can see that all rivers have holding areas you just have to find them.Unless the river has burst it’s bank I would consider any river in flood as ‘fishable’. Don’t waste too much time in one spot, give it 15-30 mins. No bites then move to the next spot, remember the fish just need finding and as they have been swimming against a flow, using up energy they still need to eat.

Rigs are best kept as simple as possible. Without a doubt ledgering would be my choice with a very simple rig such as this.

If you need to use a heavier weight please never tie it directly to your line. A good Chub will find any available snag and a ‘fixed lead’ can become caught tethering the fish. You should always use a rig such as below where the lead is held in place by a single shot which can slide off should it become snagged leaving you connected to the fish.

One last thing we need to discuss, BAIT!

Most of your usual baits will catch fish but there are a few things to consider that will greatly improve your catch rate. Natural baits such as Worms and Slugs will get washed into rivers in times of flood and the Chub, Perch and Roach are on the lookout for these. Nip the end off your worm to increase its scent trail.

Smelly baits come into their own in heavily coloured water. Cheese, Luncheon Meat and stinky Cheese paste can be killer baits. Tailor the size of baits and hooks to your target species but remember if you are hoping for Big Chub use Big Baits on Big Hooks. I’ve caught 4-5lb Chub on a No4 and a lump of Red Leicester the size of a match box. For you youngsters that’s maybe 27 cubic grams or something, I don’t know, maybe ask your teacher!

KEY POINTS. Stay safe-Travel light- Identify fish holding areas-Keep on the move- Simple rigs and baits- and lastly concentrate on the margin, by which I mean as close to the usual bank as possible.

So there you have it, a simple guide to fishing flooded rivers. Personally I find this the most challenging and yet the most rewarding way to pass a few hours. In fact I think I shall be popping down the Suffolk Stour tomorrow, can’t wait.