JAA's Fishing Diary - the 1970's.

Well now. It occurred to me, that the piecemeal rambling that was my very own website might be better organised chronologically. No reason, so...

KingfisherJAA's Diary for...

1961-74 / 1974-75 / 1975-79...2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017

...welcome to the 1970's sepia tinted stuff what I can recall...it will meander. Oh yes.

Bl**dy time's an illusion anyway.

Most of the below was splurged into web pages in 2005 when I thought "I know, I'll start a fishing blog", with little thought to grammar, proof-reading or the use of more than one personal pronoun. It also amused me to have little pop-up pages all over the place, something I've grown out of. Mostly. There is an overlap with the 'about' pages as well. I'll fix that later. Maybe.

Memory is a funny thing MAnd I studied it in some detail in 2016 and it really is. A funny thing that is.  - I've often suspected that 'forgetting' is more of an 'addressing' problem than a 'memory' problem. It's all in there somewhere, one just has to know where to look. Putting the 1970's fishing bits down in b&w certainly involved poking about in the dusty corner of what psychologists are pleased to call 'episodic memory', the contents of which are laid out below in an unforgiving light.

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Split Shot 1971-74. Cyprus. Hot. Very hot sometimes. And dry. Sunny. And here:

I had the good fortune to live here from 1971-4, plucked, to Mother's evident relief, from the extremes of Boddam to 90°C in the shade. Ow. This was where I started actually fishing, as opposed to dreaming about it while reading the "Ladybird Book of Coarse Angling". I had neither rod nor reel and initially made hooks out of safety pins (read it in a 'survival' book) and used a single thread out of the middle of parachute cord (green for preference). This worked surprisingly well, especially with a range of safety pins, though the angle and length of the 'hook' and 'barb' was critical. Once I found a 'pattern' that worked it was guarded with my life and copied. One pair of pliers and a concrete wall for a file and sharpener - the wall outside the back door had three solid metal posts embedded, (for some long lost wire), each making a handy makeshift anvil for beating home-made hooks a little flat and the fine-cast smooth concrete made a perfectly serviceable file. Safety pin hooks they might have been, but they were 'cold forged' and needle sharp.

Safety pin Hook Safety pin Hook Proper 'paracord' Proper 'paracord': 'paracord' fishing line - (the core threads)

Eventually I gleaned enough tackle (well, line, hooks and shot) by buying little bits and finding a surprising amount. I still find a large amount...I digress. We came by a small cardboard box of 100 Mustad spade-end hooks once, must have been about a '14', I sometimes wonder where they all went.

The fishing, with several friends, was simply sitting on a rock at the bottom of cliffs, a place directly behind the house, over the hill with the radio-listening post, skirt the minor dump (where I once used a pallet as a stepping stone among the piles of old tin, ('discovering' in this way a bee's nest) and following the rocky path down past one side of a spur of the soft sandstone nearly as high as the cliff top itself, known to all as "Camel's Hump". There at the bottom, armed with a hand-line and a knife, we fished for small wrasse and some kind of blenny using limpets as bait, prised from the rocks with the aforementioned knife.

You used your finger as a bite indicator and a couple of shot to keep the bait down. On a good morning you might catch ten fish - bites were more or less non-stop, but wrasse have small mouths and hard teeth and are hard to hook as a result. They were predominately green, with purple and yellow markings and mostly only a couple of ounces.

We envied the lucky folk with fishing rods, who could cast the 30 feet needed to catch bream or garfish.

If you let the bait down to the bottom, then you would pick up blennies, easier to catch, but fewer and further between. The risk was that a bait on the bottom became interesting for Moray eels, a sort of 'eel shaped' demon with sewing machine needles instead of teeth. And no sense of humour at all.

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This is the insane bit.

Once or twice we caught a small moray - a foot or so long, but still quite an exciting thing. The trouble was that even a small one would back into the rocks on the bottom and a protracted tug of war was needed to get them out. The only difference between being snagged on a rock and a moray, was that despite keeping the line as tight as you dared, you would get an occasional tug back. If there was more than one of you and the water was shallow, then the non-combatant would get in and move some rocks to free the eel.

This accidental catch developed into a deliberate sport at some point. Your 'moray rig' was a piece of broom handle, some very heavy line and a wire trace with a big hook on it. I have no idea where we got the wire, but I am quite inventive, so it was probably a strand of an old bike brake cable or similar.

You catch an unfortunate blenney and, using its head as a bait, search out a big hole in between the large rocks and stick in the bait...

If you were lucky you found one of the three-foot mottled yellow and brown monsters - I once caught one like this that even anchored as it was by its tail to the rocky lair, the top half was out of the water with me on the other end. Eventually the eel tired and inch my inch you get it away - and eventually (and suddenly as it lets go - focuses the mind to see a yard of thrashing airborne psychopathy heading in your direction) onto the shore with you - which suddenly becomes marginally less safe than before. As I said, no sense of humour.

The only way (and I was very young) was to go after it with the knife and separate the head from the body, easier said than done.

The trouble with getting you hook back was that the upper jaw bone was 'V' shaped and the hook tended to go right through the 'V'. And just because the head was not on the body, didn't mean it still couldn't bite. You can take my word for that.

Maybe this is why I am tolerant of eels - compared with the moray, the freshwater eel is a friendly and harmless thing...mostly.

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In our garden we had clumps of bamboo, planted a decade previously (I know this as the planter came by one day and told us). This endless supply of raw material for bows, arrows made with sanded rocket sticks and dart-feather flights, was powerful enough, if made five feet long, to stick a fire-hardened, rocket stick arrow in the side of the aircraft engine crate that had been converted to a shed in the back garden. All attempts to make a bow out of more than one piece of bamboo failed, but if I'd had cable ties, well then...they of course didn't exist then. I once spent far too long trying to make some sort of fishing rod out of a 1cm diameter fibreglass curtain pole, too thick and it's a complete mystery to me why I never simply cut a bamboo pole and tied a piece of line to the end to fish with. Seems obvious really...

I found the bottom half of some old bomb case, which I fell across once, the find's tail fin leaving a welt across the small of my back and causing me pain for weeks, for which I got no sympathy and indeed was not even helped up. Let's call it 'pragmatism'. I often wonder if that's why I had a bad back that kicked in around 1981. There was ordinance, if you knew to look under the piles of spent GPMG shells for the live ones dropped as the bolt was worked to get the belt in. Odd 'thunderflashes' turned up (deadly things), black power flare-gun shells, any number of spent cartridges, especially if you sneaked over the twenty foot, grey, handily stepped wall on the small arms range...completely forbidden of course, but you could gather a lot of brass. And plenty of 9mm slugs for one's catty.

The cattys were slingshots. A loop of elastic and a pouch. You needed to drop the hand sharply on firing and all of us at one time of another had sustained that nasty bruise that resulted from hitting one's own hand. Elastic came in one 'pic' and one and half 'pic' lengths and the latter was the most useful size - fights were common, with ammo consisting of occasional pebbles and 9mm slugs and casings. It's a wonder no-one got hurt. Probably poor marksmanship. Probably. I made ersatz firearms with match heads and tissue wadding using TV aerial tubing, an experiment abandoned when a pinch of nitro-cellulose propelled the tube fifty yards across the scout hut frontage with a noise that at once frightened and made one rather conspicuous. Once I cut the end off a rifle bullet, expecting lead, only to find it was an incendiary of some sort and as the phosphorus smoked I wondered and then as it flared, I pondered, then was left holding empty pliers between my knees, with a ringing sound in my ears and a trickle of blood running down the inside of the right knee. Even then I realised I'd been rather fortunate and for all I know that sliver of copper is still in my leg somewhere.

I spent many happy hours wandering the bondhu ('outback' or 'bush' seem the best translations) searching the dry limestone for Roman coins among other things (after rain was the best time). There was the odd Byzantine coin, a bronze finger ring (conned from me by a Flight Lt., a 'friend's' father who really should have set a better example), two bronze fishhooks, one a near circle, thick wired and flat-sectioned and one more like an 'Aberdeen' with a spade-end, numerous bronze buttons, a strigel or two, bronze horseshoe nails, tesserae of blue and green glass, some with gold leaf inlay, enamelled pottery shards, ancient glass (Why did I give this all away? Answer, 'Reducing weight for the crates home and it's rubbish anyway'). Dammit.

For my last birthday on Cyprus my parents had eventually spotted the need to fish and bought me a rod and a reel. This was a seven foot glass fibre rod, made by Modern Arms Company in Kent (it's stamped on the reel seat) and an 'Intrepid Challenger'. Well, I was excited and the glimpses of rod and reels at the top floor tackle shop in Limassol came to life - then for some transgression I don't even recall I was banned from having either for six months, which took us past Cyprus and the summer spent at my grandparents. I've no idea what I did even now, although I have a sense that mother thought it harsh, this wasn't unusual.

We drove from Cyprus to the UK in 1974, setting off in June. I know this because it took three weeks and Turkey invaded Cyprus in July 1974 and we heard of it on the radio sitting in France at a campsite near a duck-weeded canal. Turkey, reached by ferry was welcoming enough, but we were nearly held in Turkey as we crossed to Greece, father afterwards telling us how close things got and also confiding that he'd seen, among the army vehicles going the same way as us (towards Greece), an accident in the rear-view that he'd normally have stopped for, a lorry leaving the road and overturning. With hindsight, why did we get on the ferry? Odd call. At Ossicacher SeeBrrrr, cold...and so many chocolate cakes. we swam in water so cold it made your bones ache and I fished with a hand-line and an antenna float against some reeds from a canoe that the German lad from the tent next door took me out in (a quid pro quo for games of chess I played against his father, I think 'won one, lost two'). Caught nothing...but I fished.

In Austria near Salzburg, the campsite bordered a small mill-house and on the banks of the mill race I found a hook with barbs on its shank, a find which I kept long after (although we were castigated severely for wondering off the site, an overreaction to the earlier situation in Turkey I suspect). In France at last, where the invasion of Cyprus was announced on the radio, I watched French pole masters at work on the duck-weeded canel bend that bordered the site, excitement when a 1lb bream came to the net.

Then our posting to Chivenor went west (sorry), the camp closing and we ended up in limbo, staying for months at Old Bob's, a long summer and the prospect of school in Chandlers Ford loomed and then it was Anglesey. Oh Goody.

For a good year or two afterwards I'd dream of looking for Roman coins, perfectly content, then wake up, sorry to be off the Island.

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Split Shot 1974-75. Valley ('Y Fali'), Anglesey. Which is still here:

I'd like to say this was a great posting. It was mostly hateful, luckily it was a short tour and the fishing was perfect. So, in 1974-75 I lived near Caergeilliog ('Fort of the Cockerel'). There are a bunch of lakes clustered around Valley airfield which provided most of my formative fishing experience. This bit is dedicated to those lakes and small local stream where I fished for trout and a few other things and Rhyd y Gari where I continued sea fishing.

I had, as previously mentioned, the 7' solid glass 'Marco' rod and an Intrepid Challenger.

The Seven Foot rod Seven foot (almost), blue, solid glass, 2½lb t/c, still got it. As well as the gazillion perch mentioned below, it has accounted for many pike including a 17lb fish caught through a hole in the ice, a very large wrasse, flounders, plaice, sea-trout, eels, bass and a couple of decent carp. And a few gudgeon. It is due a complete overhaul (for 'funsies') and I may well do soemthing creative with carbon fibre for the ferrules. I know, 'I don't get out enough'.

I ordered, by post (remember that, in the 'old days'...), bale-arm springs and a bale-arm roller for repairs at some point. I managed for some time with a shortened bale-spring with a new 'tag' end bent on. The chrome-plated brass line-roller was fine, but once the chrome went the line cut through the brass like it was cheese. The spools are deep and with some care I wound thick 30lb mono (guessing, reclaimed from a beach-comb find and soaked the salt off), onto one of the spools, perfectly laid until the spool would hold a little over 100 yards of 3lb Perlon. I then tied off the 30lb, smeared it with araldite and when it had set, clipped the tag of the nylon flush with nail clippers and smeared another coat of araldite over ICI've always been annoyingly inventive. . It did well until I got a Cardinal 40 in 1979.

The Intrepid Challenger Reel The Intrepid Challenger Reel The Intrepid Challenger Reel The Intrepid Challenger Reel

I had three floats. A big porcy and a small one and a proper antenna float (as used in Ossiacher See). No idea where that went. At some point I bought a dumpy float to make a slider out off after reading Billy Lane's 'Float Fishing' and having some deep water off a rock to tackle. Amazingly, I still have all three.

Christmas 1974 - I had two more fishing books - "Fishing with the Experts" with Mr Crabtree of course and "Fishing - An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Catching Fish", which was not the same sort of book but nevertheless I pored over its colour plates of sea, coarse and game fish, then made the pike lure from instructions on p.57. It worked, but never caught a fish. I've put it here in defiance of copyright as (a) it's seriously out of print and (b) no money changing hands here and (c) it's really rather good. Both of those books vanished without trace while I was 'reading' Physics & Electronics, but serendipitously, after recalling them on-line in 2009 or so, I found a copy of each in a Blandford Forum bookshop in successive weeks. What are the odds?

Fishing with the Experts 'Fishing with the Experts' Fishing - An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Catching Fish 'Fishing - An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Catching Fish' Fishing - An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Catching Fish 'Fishing - An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Catching Fish'

The lakes are (mostly) situated on a bit of moorland to the north-east of Valley airfield - this consisting of a mixture of bog, reeds, outcrops of grey rock, the occasional bit of grass you could walk on (if you were careful) and sheep. It was the really green bits of grass you had to watch out for. It was a little bleak and cutting across this ground on a misty day was a wet and occasionally spooky business.

Even then, given the island's history, it was easy to think of how the land must have looked two millennia ago. There is for me little romanticism associated with that. The Bronze and Iron ages were brutal and bloody. Life was hard, cheap and short. Far removed from the vision of 'Celtic Utopia' some folk peddle. Moving on...

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A short sub-menu to assiting with steering.

Valley Airfield from the north, Lynn Cerrig in foreground Valley Airfield from the north, Lynn Cerrig in foreground

Split Shot 1974-75:'Whitehouse' Lake (Llyn Treflesg)

Whitehouse lake is to the west of Llyn Penrhyn and north of Llyn Cerrig Bach. I had no idea whether that was the proper name and always believed it to be named for the house on the high ground of 'the Point', which was (wait for it) white. It was occupied then, although I never saw anyone. The lake is roughly "Y" shaped and one of the more interesting places I've ever fished. In 1974-75 there were four species of fish; perch, roach, rudd and eels. That was it. There were no trout (although some of the other lakes were rumoured to have a few).

The lake was in fact christened Llyn Treflesg on creation, after the nearby farm, not that I knew that at the time, see further down the pageInteresting stuff on the formation of the lakes. Treflesg means, as far as I can work out "Feeble (or weak) Farm". On an 1899 map the 'white-house' is named 'Yr Ynys' or 'The Island', a good name for a rocky outcrop with a stream and marshes on both sides.

'Whitehouse' Lake, Llyn Treflesg, Yr Ynys' 'Whitehouse' Lake (Llyn Treflesg) in 1949, a few years after flooding, following the dredging of the silt for the runway extension. 'Whitehouse' Lake, Llyn Treflesg, Yr Ynys' The same spot on the 1887 survey. A headland with a stream and marsh on two sides. 'Yr Ynys'
White House - 'The Point' from the east White House - 'The Point' from the east

The lake has high ground on the south side, sheltering it from the prevailing winds. The resulting calm water and still air gave the south end an ethereal quality. When re-visiting in 1991, the same lily pads were in the same places, the atmosphere was strangely still and the 'White House' was sadly derelict. A small and tatty caravan was slouched on the slope, as if dropped from a passing plane.

I fished there thrice in the depths of winter, twice alone (my first trip in the UK), just happy to get out with the rod and reel I was now allowed to use. I sat hunched against the cold, clinging-damp foggy days, with a tiny flask of hot tea and jam sandwiches, watching the small porcy, willing it to submerge - with absolutely no result, unsurprising given my complete inexperience. The third trip was with a school friend (Ronny), who caught a 1lb perch with a spinner. This went into the sort of keepnet which is nigh-on illegal now and that was it for both of us. The keepnet had a hole so we never even got to gloat at the end of the day.

I fell in with in with another fisher-youth on the camp. Obviously I am not going to name him, but will tell you his reel had a "bale alarm" and a "latchet". Unlike mine which was equipped with the more usual 'bale arm' and 'ratchet'. He also felt strongly that a well known Tom & Jerry cartoon was actually called "Touch Pussy Cat". TPC"Touché Pussy Cat!"   The next 'Whitehouse' trip was in spring when the weather had warmed and after the first go at 'Trout Stream' with the aforementioned fisher-youth. I recall catching a few perch in the 3-4oz bracket, simply float-fishing worms in mid-water (plumb the depth? Why would you do that then, eh?), on one side of 'The Point'.

With the 7ft blue-glass rod, the Intrepid Challenger and a porcupine quill float, we went fishing more or less every day after school, for the unending months of the spring and summer. Get home, dig worms, have tea, go fishing.

Typically we would fish in one or two areas, which were purely selected by convenience. 'The Point' gave good access to the water for two people and 'The Beach' ditto. You could fish off 'the wall', good for rudd, but not so good for landing them. Off 'The Point' was a narrow channel of deeper water and with hindsight this was the main route between two of the larger areas of water in the lake. Certainly the rock that we perched on to fish continued down into the water, giving the impression of a steeply cut channel. You could fish from the bank opposite 'The Point' and the western bank but the swims were water-logged and only really usable in high summer, but we did sometimes.

There were other lakes but we nearly always went to 'Whitehouse'. During the spring this was because of the explosion in the perch population, the like of which I have never experienced before or since. In an evening's fishing you could easily catch 80 odd 1-2oz, all on worm. Sometimes on the same worm. Ludicrous really, but a good way to spend the evening and in the days of keep-nets, quite a thing to lift the net at the end of an evening and see 150+ perch (both catches together). Extraordinary really. Ideal fishing for the 'hard of angling' certainly and in those days I was a fully paid-up member of that club.

Even we eventually would tire of this - experiments to catch perch on anything else were carried out. We caught perch on:

Bare gold hooks. Orange and Black caterpillars cbmCinnabar caterpillars, of the Cinnabar moth - not that either of us knew that then. . Every sort of insect we could catch and put on a hook. Silver paper ('Kit-Kat'), wrapped onto the hook and jigged under the rod tip. Leaves threaded onto hooks to make simple lures, which were then pulled from side to side in front of you. Feathers tied on the hook as before. They all worked.

Eventually, after real boredom set in, I wrapped solder-wire around the base of the small porcupine quill, set 12" of shot-less line, put a small worm on, then roamed the banks looking for a rising rudd and casting at it. MrC...because Mr. Crabtree said this was how one catches rudd. ('Fishing with the Experts' P.66).  The result was nearly always a rudd of a few oz's, golden, bright red fins and emerald green-tinted if viewed from above. Very occasionally this rudd would be over ½lb and those fish were worth 80 small perch. Glorious bright-scaled fish with no sign of being previously caught. Even then these were special. I've had a soft spot for rudd ever since but seldom have seen such good fish (these days few lakes seem to have many).

On the rare occasions we got hold of maggots (mostly by getting a fish head, burying it in the garden for a week then sifting the soil for a few dozen), you could catch roach almost to order by fishing further from the bank (past the ravenous hordes of perchlings) and more-or-less on the bottom. Pound(ish) roach were not unusual and looking back there must have been many better. If I caught six roach in an evening I considered myself fortunate. Anyone could catch small perch...roach seemed classier to our inexperienced eyes. Summer evenings were almost without failure, it seemed as if the weather was always fair, calm and cool with the fish always biting. In many respects idyllic.

There be... my mate with the 'bale alarm' and I were fishing on the far shore of 'Whitehouse', as usual worm fishing (maggots were for posh kids). It was slower than usual on a warm still evening - in the shadow of the 'right-angle rock' on the far side - so for something to do we tried 'fishing on the bottom'. Novel, I mean, that was for proper anglers. My friend had a 9' glass-fibre rod with a softer action than my seven foot pool-cueNot quite as stiff as a pool cue...but it did have a t/c in the 2½lb range.. The first I knew that anything was 'on', was the 'latchet' clicking and a very bent rod and some exhortations. Nothing appeared to happen for a bit, but without any run, the water started to swirl and boil under the tight line, with its float flat against the knife-edge straight line. Seconds went by, the water seethed, the float not moving toward or away from the surface. There was a crack. And it was over. We watched speechless for a while, as calm returned to the water. Spines tingled. And then of course we speculated wildly. With hindsight, this was a large eel, who knows how big, but even a 4-5lb one would have proved too much for our tackle. But as we never saw it...

'Whitehouse' Lake (Llyn Treflesg) White House - looking north from the footbridge 'Whitehouse' Lake (Llyn Treflesg) White House - looking south from the footbridge 'Whitehouse' Lake (Llyn Treflesg) White House - western arm from 'the Point' 'Whitehouse' Lake (Llyn Treflesg) White House - north view from 'the Point'

Split Shot 1974-75: 'Trout Stream' (Afon Crigyll)

The first place in the UK I caught a fish was in'Trout Stream'.

'Trout Stream' is actually the top end of an 'Afon Crigyll'There is more than one...the stream from Llyn Carnau to the sea for example. There's a whiff of the word 'creek' about 'Crigyll' and I wonder if it just means 'tiny river'. which crosses the road between Llanfihangel and Bryngwran, about half-way between the two places. I would say this is about four miles from where the Crigyll joins the sea at Rhosneigr. On an 1888 map it's named 'River Caradog', although on a slightly later map it was 'Afon Crigyll'.

It was a stream and it did have trout in it. So fair enough really.

'Trout Stream' (Afon Crigyll) 'Trout Stream' (Afon Crigyll)

It was about six feet wide - the picture above shows the view north from the road. The stream ran under the lane from the north side and about 150 yards from the road had a right-angled turn to the east - this bend is obscured on this picture by the bushes which were not there when we were.

From a fishing perspective this was the interesting bit. About fifteen feet from the bend, the stream ran through a stone-built culvert that was about two feet wide. This funnelling of water had caused a pool to be excavated, with some colour and depth of water (about two feet). Running off the north side was a large shallower area that was a combination of a small tributary with the sort of trampled area you get where cows regularly come to water, a 'cattledrink'. Downstream of this pool the far bank of the stream was covered with bushes on higher ground, giving this small pool, probably no more than 8' x 5', an enclosed feeling.

Being only my third fishing trip in the UK, I knew nothing about fishing 0Some might say I still don't. I'm inclined to agree.  , but my companion said all I needed was a small shot, a hook and a worm. You cast (or 'drop') in the bait and wait. I tried with no success for ages (well, five minutes) and hit upon the idea of dropping the bait into the culvert. As soon as the bait cleared the culvert - a bite - and plucked out of the rushing water was a sea trout, no more that 8oz - my first rod-caught fish! I say 'plucked', the fish belted downstream until the combination of a fixed line and its momentum caused it to leave the water as a self-propelled pendulum, which then swung in my direction. I have a clear memory of the mauve/silver base colour with the bright spots on the flanks (I assume it was a sea trout).

In the next half-an-hour or so I caught a flounder and another sea-trout (both as expertly played), all received with gratitude and feverish excitement. Years later it dawned on me what good fortune it was to catch two fresh run sea trout as my introduction to fishing in the UK. Then there was the oddity of the flounders caught regularly here, three miles from the sea (as the crow flew, never mind the actual distance). They seemed at home, confirmed by the regular sighting of 'postage stamp' flatties, suggesting a breeding population - in defiance of flounder's known breeding habits.

Further visits to this small but perfectly formed venue revealed perch, brown trout (2oz a monster fish) and eels. This little pool, the best spot, would seldom give up more than three fish of any type in a session and that was a good catch. Perch were usually to be found lurking in the 'puddle' area, with eels omnipresent.

On one memorable occasion I visited during the spring run of eels, dozens and dozens of bootlace sized eels making their way upstream. An extraordinary sight.

No subsequent visit ever really matched up to the magic of that first trip though, whatever was caught.

Afon Crigyll tackle... 'Trout Stream' tackle...

In 1991, while on business in Anglesey, not unrelated to earthquake monitoring in a power station, I revisited this spot before the Valley lakes with some of the same feeling of excitement of my first visit - and discovered the stream still there, nominally, with the much cherished and quite possible unique spot, now the corner of a new golf course. Saddened I returned (via Llyn Cerrig Bach, Whitehouse, Ryhd i Gari...) to my hotel - and lest you think me all sentimental, the sadness was in most part due to the fact that I didn't have any fishing tackle with me (oh yes I would have...).

We stayed for a couple of days in the Valley Hotel and 'funny thing' it had a snooker table at which I soundly beat one of my colleagues, to his surprise. This was funny because one of our pastimes in 1974/5 was to sneak into the airmens' mess snooker room - in a block on the main camp - and play snooker during the day with whatever cue was around, finding the 'hidden chalk' as well. We spent days and miss-spent days doing this and once or twice were summarily off-loaded back through the iron framed French windows by a steward, but airmen were generally jovial and on several occasions even play against us for fun. One such, a Scotsman, put a fiver on the table at the end of a game for me to pot the last three colours and I fluffed the black. So close, a fortune then...I'd nearly forgotten those things, but for the hotel the Anotherangler family spent a few days in spring 2014, which had a snooker table and French windowed entrance (and well hidden chalk). Took me right back.

Split Shot 1974-75: Llyn Cerrig Bach

This is what we knew it as. The plaque there agrees. The existing OS map is ambiguous. Descriptions like the link above suggest otherwise also. I presume the landscape has altered somewhat since the runway was built. It certainly has since the Iron Age...as far as I can tell the original lake surrounded Craig Carnau and this lake and what we called Carnau Lake were all part of the 'original' Llyn Cerrig Bach.

(Funny thing in 2014 I found a paper that more or less agreed with this).

The "Lake of Little Stones" is famous for the large haul of Celtic artefacts, found when the RAF Valley runway was constructed. The lake in 1974 was perhaps two-three acres, with deep reed beds around it, which made fishing there awkward if you didn't have waders or a periscope. We didn't.

On the south side there was one small swim, an outcrop of grey rock providing a vantage point two or three feet above the water. It was clear of the reeds and gave access to four to six feet of water right under the rod tip. The first time I fished here was an evening when uncharacteristically, I was alone.

I put on a small 'bobber' type float, actually the top one in the picture. I have a sneaking suspicion it might (still, technically) belong to my brother...anyhoo, I actually checked the depth and discovered five-to-six feet of water, which was awkward for a short rod. I persevered and after a while came the 'bob...bob...bob-bob...plunge' of a perch and discovered a few things. The first was that the extra length of line gave the fish room to run - the second being this was no bad thing. The third thing is that perch work very hard to stay at the depth they're at (this is because it is hard for them to adjust the amount of air in their swim bladder, not that I knew that at the time). So you get a jagging and dogged resistance to being hauled upward. The fourth thing was (and bear in mind all the perch I have caught so far have come so far from one lake), the colour. I was presented with a 4-5oz fish (bigger than usual) and unlike its Whitehouse cousins, this was a very dark green colour, perhaps a factor of peatier water. Until the fish was at the surface you couldn't see it. Several other dark green fish followed in similar fashion, jagging up from the deeps.

Subsequently, I refined the rig for this swim. With the float to hook length being about a (seven foot) rod length, I made a small slider float out of a little antenna bought for the purpose (read it in Billy Lane's 'Float Fishing'). I used thin copper wire wound around a needle to make the slider ring and used mono for a stop knot. The ring was whipped onto the body of the float, near the top. It worked very well and casting being unnecessary, it eased the issues of 'the depth verses the rod' - and made the session on this little swim more fun for being tackled with a solution of my own making. Great stuff.

The old and the new floats Much repaired, but lost orginal livery...'restored' to the orignal livery in 2014, no reason. The old and the new floats Home made slider, 1974, renovated for 2014, no reason...

I cannot believe it's 40 years since I fished here. Wow. Both those floats above the same age. Huh.

  Page divider di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)  
Llyn Cerrig Bach, from 'the rock', Whitehouse in the distance Llyn Cerrig Bach, 'the rock' looking towards south end of the lake
A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box...(and back to the top of the page) A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box

To the south of Llyn Cerrig Bach is a small nameless pond surrounded by reeds with a couple of fishable swims on the north bank. One windy day (actually it was always windy, it was just a case of 'where on the Beaufort scale are we today?'), a man fishing there showed me how to float-ledger, the method he was using. He decently affected not to notice the short unsuitable rod - back then it seemed all off-duty airmen behaved in a civilised way - so I learnt a new thing which when tried, worked. So in the teeth of a very brisk wind, I was getting bites and reliably hooking fish, it didn't matter that said fish were 2oz perch.

This is how it works: I probably used a porcupine quill the first time I tried it (I had very little else). This method worked best with a loaded 'self-cocking' float (using solder wire to do the loading) and ideally with an antenna with the smallest ledger weight that worked at the distance. Stop shot on the hook side of the weight.

It helps to keep the rod tip (just) under the water as well. All in all, in some conditions and especially in high winds it worked rather well. If you remember the three uses of a float, then this is a good way to use one more often...

Float-Ledgering
How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers? ?(and back to the top of the page) How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...? How can you not like perch bobbers...?How can you not like perch bobbers...?

Split Shot 1974-75: Llyn Penrhyn

Llyn Penryhn, means 'lake with the headland' (penrhyn (n.) cape, headland, promontory, naze) and a look at the map will give you a clue. The eastern bank was covered with a dense bed of reeds, some twenty yards thick in places, with swims that were cut into the reed beds. To get close to any fish you needed to wade into the water between the reeds - the water was shallow and sloped gently, so with only wellies on one could wade twenty yards from the edge to clear water. You still needed to cast a distance, but you could balance your rod on a rest and an iron frame sticking out of the water and ledger. I only tried this once and caught several good perch around the pound mark using, I think, reeds hanging on the line as a bite indicator but my short rod was not really up to the task. Experience wonders whether quietly fishing at the edge of the reeds might have been as productive...

I fished once on a rock shelf behind the officers' quarters, with no result and recall a sun-warmed rock, shallow water and finding some split-shot on the rock (stowed, all gratefully received), which showed I was not alone in the idea of it being a good place to try. I wonder, sitting here, whether a better spot was on the headland itself, with the possibility of some depth of water near the bank (it turns out this was the case).

A perfect view of Llyn Penrhyn

Buildings alongside Llyn Penrhyn

This excellent picture, which captures the atmosphere of the lake, appears to have been taken at almost the spot I ledger-fished from and is © Copyright Nigel Williams and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Gobio GobioGobio Gobio (and return to the top of the page) GonkGonk Gobio GobioGobby GonkGonk Gobio GobioGobio Gobio GonkGobby Gobio GobioGobio Gobio GudgeonGudgeon GudgeonGudgeon Gobio GobioGobio Gobio

Split Shot 1974-75: Carnau Lake

This lake is to the north of Craig Carnau itself, lying in the lee of the small hill.

The whole lake is behind the hill which put the south bank in shade and shadow, keeping that side of the lake becalmed and even on the brightest days, quiet pools of shadow and calm dark water. I have mentioned the atmosphere on this clutch of waters before and while not exactly Stygian gloom, it had a disconnected and slightly ethereal feel.

The lake is narrow and our fishing was concentrated on the two ends. The west end where the lake narrowed to a reed covered exit stream had some depth of water and was often clear enough to see perch mid-water at the edge of a smaller reed patch some five yards from where the water exited among yet more reeds. This was where the small head of sea trout that frequented the lake gained entrance, but although they existed, they were so infrequently caught that a trout fishing license was not considered mandatory for the lake, (unlike Trawfyll).

At this western end we caught many perch of a slightly larger average size than in Whitehouse and I cannot recall catching larger than about 4oz, but seldom less. As in all of the lakes there were eels, but there seemed more here than elsewhere and any worm left on the bottom for fifteen minutes, would tend to develop the 'little eel' bite thing. This is when they apparently insinuate themselves around the bait without actually moving it - often the float dips a quarter inch and stays there...I recall grown-up anglers saying matches could be won here with a net of eels.

At the eastern end the water narrowed into a large reed bed which continued into a thin channel of weedy water that connected under the road to Llyn Cerrig Bach, (a similar channel also connected Llyn Cerrig Bach to Whitehouse). This reed-bed had various little inlets and bays with paths snaking around the banks amongst the reeds. This was interesting - there were several good spots in here, but again the catch seemed to be limited to 4oz perch - excepting one occasion.

The camp angling club had introduced a tench and carp into Llyn Carnau which promptly disappeared off the radar. About one a year was caught. I know this, because fishing in the reeds at the eastern end, I rolled up to a swim, dropped in the by now inevitable porcupine quill and it went straight under. Now, as previously hinted at, I have a seven foot 2½lb test curve rod and 3lb line. The landing method was to hoist out the fish. That was it. We had no net anyway, so I hoisted. A large brownish lump appeared and was 'placed' on the bank. Someone (Ian Lees I think) went off for scales and on weighing the tench (and I knew it was a tench as it looked like the tench in all three of my fishing books) was found to be 1½lb. That was my first tench, the only one I caught until a small bag on the Rye Dyke some years later.

I did think it was 2½lb, but on reflection with a 3lb line and a good blood knot (I was careful with knots even then, OK then I was a Scout) I think a 2½lb fish might have not "hoisted" that well... I subsequently found out that had I declared it I would have won the tench cup for the year (it would have been the sole entrant). It never occurred to me a 1½lb tench would win anything. Drat.

I've caught scores of tench since, but still get excited about that thump on the line...

just a hook...just a hook...(and back to the top of the page) ...and a loaf of bread...and a loaf of bread just a hook...just a hook... ...and a loaf of bread...and a loaf of bread just a hook...just a hook... ...and a loaf of breadjust a hook... just a hook......and a loaf of bread ...and a loaf of breadjust a hook... just a hook......and a loaf of bread ...and a loaf of breadjust a hook... just a hook......and a loaf of bread ...and a loaf of breadjust a hook... just a hook......and a loaf of bread ...and a loaf of breadjust a hook...

Split Shot 1974-75: 'The Bridge'

The top of Whitehouse Lake narrows despite the high ground on the west and low flat marsh on the east side. This top channel connects to Llyn Dinam and was an area we never fished. One day though I took it into my head to explore this un-fished part, I cannot remember why. In the late spring I picked my way across the marsh, which on a clear day looked like any rough damp pasture, but on a misty one conjured up images of the spectral and monstrous hounds. Very flat bits of this ground were best treated with deep suspicion, as thin turf hid deep water or mud. Where the lake necked there was a line of scrubby trees on either side of the channel. On reaching them it was clear that access to the water was limited, but on making my way a few yards 'upstream' as it were, I came across a bridge.

I say 'bridge', you've probably conjured up images of an ancient stone arch, thick with old moss. This was simply two large girders which disappeared into the bright green moss of the bank on the near side and embedded on the far side in a concrete block with a manhole cover. These girders were carrying the services it was there to support, but as far as I was concerned, a bridge. I edged across the cold scabby iron over the narrow channel of water. It was perhaps eight-ten feet wide, was almost covered with a tunnel of branches and the water colour had grey-green depths, which hinted at large perch of above the normal stamp. It was a magical spot for me and I spent some time watching the water, although nothing stirred. If there was a flow it was not apparent. The overhung green translucent calm, smell of the marshy ground and the isolation combined to give a heady mixture of signals that yelled 'fish here'. Easy for a 14 year old with 'the fever' already deeply embedded, to imagine solid and dark perch jagging up from deep water, after pouncing on the offered worm. I determined to fish at the next opportunity.

Circumstances were against me, the posting was over and we moved away in late '74. After the move, battling the change from almost daily fishing to almost none, I would set up my seven foot rod, with the little self-made slider float and dream of monsters under the bridge and it still even in my mind when a couple of years later, I received a fibreglass car aerial, perhaps five feet long and I made a simple one handed rod with it, with a cork handle, ideal for small spaces where even 7ft rods might clash with the undergrowth (this was later enthusiastically bought by a friend, which I regret). The bridge leapt unasked into my thoughts the other morning, while I lay abed listening to the rain and wondering if I might get out for a 'fix'. I still want to fish there. One day.

Split Shot 1974-75: Drabe'd Ditch

So, behind our house there was a playing field. If you followed it down the hill (spellbound, I once watched a wall of snow, fresh-blown off the Irish sea, roll up this slope like a curtain) past the garages, always handy for a cast-off hacksaw blade, down the next bit of open grass, through the fence and there was a ditch, half in the field and half under the hedge. There was tortured gorse and dark water and mystery...so one day I passed from wondering to hand-lining a worm. And from the black water into which twisted skeins of gorse plunged, came a see-sawing 4oz perch, the dog-fighter's 'falling leaf' in reverse. Well now. They really were everywhere. I went home. I only wanted to know.

Split Shot 1974-75: Rhyd y Gari, Cymyran (sea)

There are three contrasting ways to fish the sea here (or there were). You can fish off the south beach or in the channel between Holy Island and the Main Island or fish on the vast flat exposed by the falling tide, through which a few back channels fill on the incoming tide at the far side of the sand. It's not quite a risky as some places, but you need to keep a close eye on if you chose to fish off the exposed sand, especially as one of the first channels that filled ran on the inside track and could cut you right off with five knots and four feet of cold water.

This brings me to 'The Barnes Wallis Bass'...

We had the good fortune to have a neighbour (whose name escapes me) take myself and my brother out bass fishing from the sand at the south end of Rhyd y Gari, opposite Cymyran (Pathfinder 750 for the curious) - also "rhyd" translates to "ford" which some might think 'optimistic' here. The channel between Anglesey and Holy Island is narrow with a ferocious flow. As the tide turns you can watch the water stop, hover and start to move in the other direction. It really rips, you'd be gone in an instant. If you skip a flat stone across this flow and get it right you get a perfect parabola of splashes that holds it's curve for an instant before vanishing.

Anyhow, our neighbour lent my bother a beach caster and as my seven foot rod had the oomph if not the length I used that. He also very decently gave my brother a 6' white fibreglass spinning rod, which he still has and should not be sneezed at. Solid fibreglass has a good springy action, better than hollow and is very tough. I digress, again.

The first part of 'plan bass' involved finding peeler crabs which was a new experience for us and good fun. Rooting around the seashore is a satisfying activity at any time, probably due to it being difference between 'lunch' and 'being lunch' at some distant point in our collective ancestry. You hunt around for crabs in the seaweed and under rocks and if you find a crab, see if it's ready to peel by looking for a crack in the back of the shell or breaking off a bottom bit of leg and see if a new skin is forming underneath, the precursor to shedding its old shell. Occasionally you'll find a soft shelled one that has just 'peeled'. They're pretty useful bait as well.

Anyhow, we were tackled up with the crabs secured on a large bright barbed-shank hook with cotton thread to keep it on and all three of us stood on the sand at the edge of the flow, cast in and stood there holding our rods. At this point there is a vast expanse of sand when the tide is out, some 200 yards across and stretching all the way back to Four Mile Bridge some two miles away. My brother asked what we should do if we got a fish and was told that bass had large mouths and a tendency to head towards the shore when hooked and were best dealt with by retreating away from the shore while reeling in, both to be done at a brisk pace.

Time passed, the tide came in, the weather and surroundings were pleasant, a few words were exchanged, but we were thirteen and eleven and our guide was an adult and there was little to talk about really.

During one of the short exchanges, I turned to our neighbour and became aware that there was someone missing from our little party. I looked round - 30 yards away with a beach-caster over one shoulder was a diminishing form not inconsistent with my younger brother. I looked at my neighbour and he at me, then there was a splash between our positions, followed by a large silver object that skipped out of the surf, bounced off the shelving sand and once more between our feet before skating and skipping across the sand. I think we both yelled words to the effect of "you can stop now" to a now distant and determined figure...

The stunned fish turned out to be an 8lb bass (this was the biggest fish either of us caught for five years). It was a tremendous fish which ever way you look at it. I'm still envious and only partly because I was reminded on a regular basis for the next five years who caught the family record fish. Interesting use of the word 'caught'.

It was a bigger bass than our erstwhile mentor had ever caught either and I think it rather got him down at the time, although he was very decent about it.

That's the nature of fishing, you can spend a lot of time trying for the elusive and next day someone turns up out of the blue, bungs in a bait and wallop. Luck counts for a lot and that's part of the point. I don't recall my brother coming again, but I certainly went again, but never did catch a bass there.

  Page divider di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)  

I went at least twice more with 'the neighbour'. The first time I switched to fishing a baited spoon in the channel the incoming tide ran through between the house and the sand steppe. I'd read about it you see and couldn't convince myself that the hook on the spoon would work so took it off and tied one on a foot of line with the hook at the other end. I perched on the rock and fished it sink and draw and nabbed two flounders, the second large enough the pull the tip of the old blue starter rod right over. "If they get any bigger", said the bass fishing 'responsible adult', "I shall fish for them myself". On another occasion, I'd since modified my spoon with a couple of small drilled bullets under the bead to add casting weight - I bass fished off the steppe and once the water ran, fished in the channel to no avail then decided to cast into the filling lagoon behind - once having reached dry land that is. I stood on a handy rock and did get my flounder but it was decently sized, caught the current and I had to fall in or step in. I chose wisely, so had to empty the wellies and endure the jibes along the lines of "A flatty pulled him in". On the way home, the hurriedly collapsed rod left the spoon dangled outside the boot and the wire was more than bent by the trip...and here it is. Three flounders and a plaice to the good.

The sand dunes between the parking area and the beach was the back-stop for a long forgotten small arms range and one could find a score of 0.45" bullets in little time and then, as boys do, sit on the beach with a catapult and try to hit seagulls on the wing. Once I even hit one.

I can recall only the three trips in fact, although I once set up a long line on the steppe, wading the bottom end of the 'other' Afon Crigyll with five hooks, a long piece of para-cord and a stake at one end and a stone with a hole in it at the other. I put blood-loops in the para-cord then loop-knotted the 12lb Perlon - my 'sea fishing' line. It took some weeks to get a time when the evening tide was low and the Saturday morning tide was low as well, I caught two, neither massive, both went in the pan and for the parent's part I'd 'just been fishing off the beach'. Kind of true. The flounders tasted just fine.

the flounder spoon Battered but not beaten, the flounder spoon. the flounder spoon Scruffy but effective...the spoon, not the user.

Split Shot 1974-75: The Floating Bank

No name for this lake on any map I could find - so here is the lake.

This was behind the small part of the camp that had the 'NAAFI' and surgery, on the east shore of Penryhn. Once through the fence, a footpath led to the soggy end of Llyn Traffwll, past a small pond with a thick reed bed and one fishable bank. This bank, ostensibly turf, was one to three feet thick and floating. Really, you could poke a stick through the peat and after a bit it would meet nothing but water. If you jumped up and down it wobbled (I know...).

Half-way up this bank was a hole, dug by some person with even less sense, which you could fish through. The water was four or five feet deep, the perch were very numerous and 4-6oz on average which was a draw. Fishing on this lake was completely forbidden for juniors under all circumstances of course. We fished it a few times, the rewards far outweighing the theoretical possibility of plunging through the peat and drowning unseen in the dark water.

I recall fishing it once with rod and line and dropped a wonderful blue-handled Swiss Army (fisherman's version) penknife SAKIn them days boys had pen-knives. You just did and if you were a boy-scout you also learned how not to cut yourself, although from a practical stand-point, 'cutting yourself', was how most of us learnt. It never occured to us to stab anyone. , barely three months from a birthday, into the dark water and being more concerned about (a) the reaction to losing it at all and (b) where it was lost. I mitigated (b) by suggesting it was at the tip end of 'Carnau', where the stream entrance swim was deep enough to defeat a landing net. I was still thoroughly castigated of course. The second occasion I remember was approaching the lake from the Traffwll end, where a narrow channel of water led under some scrubby trees and could be fished. The fishing pal and I were not fishing, but we found some line, a hook, dug scraps of worm and took turns in hand lining out perch for a happy lost few hours. Heh.

That penknife will get tagged as a votive offering in a thousand years. Still, the old no-name black-handled Spanish penknife with its hard carbon-steel blade held a rather better edge (and I still have a number of thin white scars to prove it), so going back to this was no hardship.

Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page) Carp? What addiction?a very subtil fish Carp? What addiction?Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. Carp? What addiction?if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience Carp? What addiction?I am content to wait. I am well used to it.

Split Shot 1974-75: Llyn Traffwll

This was the closest lake and twice the size of Llyn Penrhyn, fishing it required a trout license which I didn't have. The real reason to avoid poaching was that you might get caught fishing without one, so losing your club permit. You only had to cross the road, take the footpath down the hill behind Eglwys St. Mitiangel's Church and escape the attention of the psychopathic collie that considered the footpath past the farm its personal domain. Five minutes to the shore, two if the collie was 'in'. The foot-path went between the boulders on the western shoreline, which resembled a handful of rocks carelessly tossed by a giant. They were good for climbing, but small beer after Boddam's granite and Akotiri's limestone. There were several gaps in these giant's-jacks and once I came across an angler hunched into such and watched him catch perch while hoping for a trout. He implored me to hunch down, I thought to keep from scaring fish, but later realised he'd no trout license either. Once through these rocks, the path snaked through reed-beds, the tops hissing in the wind over my head, crossed several patches of peaty water and once a side-path to the right (to the floating banks lake). One day I went on, bore left, then there was a small headland, where the ground rose to dry grass and grey stone. On the side of this headland there was a multitude of goose feathers, a carpet undulating in the waves, so I sat and picked one out, which had a small hole and a pair of splits running up the quill. Inside, was a single small lead shot. I shook it to make it rattle, wondering who would think no.6 shot would bring down a goose, then held it up and let the wing whirl it over my head.

Never fished it. No idea why I didn't make floats from those quills. Probably because I already had four floats.

I like porcupine quill floats...I like porcupine quill floats...(and back to the top of the page) I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats... I like porcupine quill floats...I really like porcupine quill floats...

Split Shot An Anglesey ex-pat writes...

I had an email or two in 2013-14 from an Anglesey (Bodedern) ex-pat - one of the wonders of the interweb, that stuff 'out there' attracts occasional and fascinating correspondence - although I'm now well served for a supply of nice Russian girls looking for a husband (should I find myself alone and lobotomised) - he'd fished the lakes mostly in the 60's. Penrhyn was a favourite because of the big perch and I was surprised to find there were stepping stones to the rocks opposite the island (around the back). Spinning was good there with a good old 'MEPPS' spinner as well worm baits. He mentioned the RSPB have dredged the 'stepping stones area' now so the water is several feet deep and he did try to fish it once, not knowing what had happened but there was no depth around the edges of the lake. This appears to have been since I fished it (in 1974/5) and the present time. It may be there's a clause stating that RAF Valley club members can still fish here. In 1997 I did speak to the Valley Camp Liaison Officer and he seemed to think that fishing was still allowed - I had a plan to go back for some fishing and arranged everything only to discover I had no holiday owing. Duh.

It would be nice, I think, to see the RSPB and anglers working together more.

The RSPB appear to have banked up the edges of the lakes through dredging, so basically you can't cast out far enough to get at any fish. Recently he said he'd fished Llyn Cerrig Bach a few times and there are some good healthy roach and rudd there and a 'surprise' 2-3lb tench - I speculate this might have been from the original stocking in Llyn Carnau in the early 70s maybe.

My correspondent also used to love fishing Whitehouse (Llyn Treflesg). He tells me a kind old lady lived there and let them dig in her chicken compost heap for worms and she also used to shout them up off the bridge for some ice cold orange squash on hot summer days (that doesn't happen any more does it?). Sadly it's all changed now, The last time he was there the cottage was derelict, the bridge was all but rotted away and the land around the lake is completely overgrown with bramble and fern. The public footpaths linking the lakes across the bridge are still there but mainly due to walkers and 'twitchers', sadly not fishermen. This must have been after my 1992 fly-past, as the bridge was fine and access to the lake was possible, if not well trodden.

He generously provided me some recent photographs and has allowed me to use them, so here they are with the 'tooltip' text explaining the pictures.

Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures A view of the 'White House' Lake. The old lady's name (who lived in the 'White House') was Mrs Edwards. Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures At the rear of Llyn Penrhyn there were stepping stones across a reed bed and the shallowish water to get to the rock facing the little island at Penrhyn. The RSPB have dredged a deep channel so it is no longer possible to get across there. Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures Another view round the back of what used to be Llyn Penrhyn's big island before the RSPB dredged the channel.
Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures A view of the RAF (officers) quarters across Llyn Penrhyn. Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures This shot is taken from the bank opposite the White House and the footbridge is on the far left of the picture Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures We discussed the idea that 'Whitehouse' (Llyn Treflesg) might have been deeper and that some features of the lake were a little man-made in appearance - you can see an iron ring in this shot. It transpired these such were attachment points for dredgers when the silt was removed to extend the runway, after which the lakes filled naturally in the 1940's.
Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures This view is of the channel from the other side of the footbridge, another good spot for perch. Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures This beautiful view of 'Whitehouse' (Llyn Treflesg) is taken from the foot bridge at the south end. Note the colour of the water, a luminous lime green scum. The bridge now only has a rail to one side now, presumably to discourage fishing off it. Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures In his own words: ''As you can see it is all overgrown now. This is looking down the (Whitehouse) lake from where the house used to be. There used to be an old caravan on the right and there was a good mark from the bank, and deep water.'' The caravan was there when I flew by in the early 90's, dilapidated then, and the deep water off 'the point' on the right was certainly a good mark!
Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures Where the actual 'Whitehouse' used to be: In his own words:''This is all that remains. It's clearly been demolished and the spoils removed. Just weeds now. The orchard is totally overgrown and the chicken manure heap gone. I often got my worms from there. The old lady used to bring us boys fresh cool water and squash on hot days. I don't know if there was a spring there but it tasted delicious. She was so kind. I'll try and find out a bit of history about the place, who lived there, when it was built etc. However you just don't see kindness like that these days. I think she probably just enjoyed chatting to us as she lived on her own. She must have had a phone though, the telegraph pole remains'' Tom Jones' Anglsey Pictures The railway bridge by 'Whitehouse' lake. In his own words: ''You will remember this bridge over the railway if ever you drove over it. Depending on the type of car, the exhaust used to scrape the road. All overgrown now. I vaguely remember also having to sit on the bonnet to give that extra traction to get over the hump.''

And like me, he rues the passing of the Valley lakes, which were truly natural and the fish wild. He and I should like to fish them just once more! I may yet.

He also tells me the Valley lakes are 'eutrophic lakes' - a lake that is naturally nutrient rich. It has a relatively high alkaline status and high phosphorous levels. This type of lake is now quite uncommon throughout Europe because of pollution. There's a bit more information here.

Split Shot Valley Lakes

I followed up the 'eutrophic lakes' angle out of curiosity...

Now and this is interesting, I found this 'PDF' on the creation of Valley Lakes (with the exception of Llyn Penrhyn). 'A PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD OF A PRE- AND POST-LAKE CREATION EVENT FROM WORLD WAR II AT VALLEY, ISLE OF ANGLESEY, UK'. The lakes were created in the 1940's dredged out for material to make the airfield and create drainage. In particular the Whitehouse lake which didn't exist at all, along with Dinam and it explains for me the way the lakes were joined by drainage channels and also the rather too accurate right angle on the western shore of Whitehouse and the stone jetty like wall on the west shore both of which always stuck out in my mind as "not fitting", the later turns out to be platform for supporting dredging cables. Quite fascinating. A close look at the Luftwaffe (really!) photograph show the 'White House' itself is already there and the shape of the lake can be seen in the ground contours - although a stream ran through the area then. The lakes, to me and others, seemed completely natural, but in most ways were man-made.

Valley Lakes
Valley Lakes

The other picture in the paper shows what we knew as Llyn Carnau, labelled as Cerrig Bach NOT the lake by the road as it's labelled today. That makes more sense when the area of the finds is described as having a cliff face of 30 feet overlooking it. It does also suggest why Carnau had the darker atmosphere, if you notice that kind of thing.

You think you know something about something...

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  • 1975-79. Hazelmere, Bucks. Which is here:
  • We loitered at Walter's Ash for a twelvemonth then headed for Hazelmere which was nearer the school, luckily for me a good one, as the two previous 'comprehensives' did a fine job of keeping us equal  1 The key thing is 'equality of opportunity' not 'equality of education', the latter cannot exist as we are all different. The former is really not popular, but oddly enough, mostly with those who have all the opportunities... by teaching as little as they could manage. I dread to think how things would have turned out without four years of an unfashionable and 'elitist' grammar school education. I'd be insane and you wouldn't be reading this, that's for sure.

      Page divider di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)  

    Split Shot 1975-79: Longridge, Marlow

    Living at Walter's Ash it was hard to see where the next bit of fishing was coming from. It was a shock to the system to go from fishing very nearly every day at will, to not being able to go at all. The primary problem was one of geography. We were on the top of a big chalk hill. There was a pond up the road at which I peered hopefully through the fence, but it looked more like a big puddle than a small possibility. There was the square deep water hole on the base area, standard type, but a six-foot fence and thin chance of any fish at all in such a place ruled that out.

    So maps it was, luckily readily available, father genetically passing an interest in maps to me. It was pretty much a bust within a five mile radius. Hughenden Valley had a seasonal stream and lake, although the stream had sticklebacks where it vanished into High Wycombe en route to the Wye. With the logic of the young and financially challenged, I opted to try for free fishing on the Thames at Marlow, so packed a lunch and cycled to Marlow. Sounds easy don't it? Have you seen the hills around there?

    Having cycled to Marlow, blind chance took me through the town, over the bridge, to a right turn onto Quarry Wood Road...I could see folk fishing on the river by the A404 bridge, so followed the bypass embankment north to the part of the river near Longridge scout camp and was told by a family who were fishing and picnicking, fishing was free for that short stretch between the bridge and the fence upstream. Not knowing of the other free fishing on the Thames, that was good enough.

    So it was that the first post-Anglesey fishing were to the Thames. 'Plan A' was to cycle, both the sibling and myself, but the parents vetoed it as the bikes were being loaded as it was too far. Instead the parents dropped us one Saturday, maybe even the next and in early 1975 we started our long association with Longridge.

    Here the river is plit by an island (Taylor Island) and the right bank cut was the narrower. The A404 bridge loomed overhead with a concrete drain cut to the left of it, with 'The Island' five yards distant, with a good covering of trees. This was a good spot to park yourself, being low, dry and out of the weather. There was a small hollow in the river bed from the drain's discharge, which was a good fish holding area especially when the river was up.

    When we first rolled up here, we had little idea of how to fish rivers and still had seven and six foot glass rods, 3lb line and with methods based on a little reading. We possessed, jointly, an eight foot hollow glass rod that was liberated from a portacabin of junk on Anglesey, but this would have towed a canoe, so was seldom used. Still avid Angling Times fans in those days - so we went for simple top-and-bottom float rigs set to the depth of the river and usually fished with worms, bread and very occasionally maggots (which cost money and were not popular residents in the YJAA household). Luckily worms almost always took fish.

    Fortunately this minor backwater was teeming with gudgeon, ruffe, regular perch, small chub, roach and three million bleak. It really didn't matter how you fished, even on slow winter days you would catch gudgeons and ruffes. More than enough to keep us happy.

    A 1oz gudgeon was prized and the 4oz perch exalted over. Ruffe we pretended to despise, but they saved many quiet days from being 'too quiet'. On light tackle ruffe give a good account of themselves, despite their ability to get a size 8 hook and three lobworms into a mouth the size of a hazelnut shell. How do they do that?

    I graduated to a roach pole and the sibling to a float rod. With rods more suited to 3lb line and small hooks, we reaped the bounty, adding bleak to our bag. 'Bleak bashing' was big at the time, so we would loose feed maggots then cast in small floats, 6" of line under with a single maggot. Once we got to thirty or so the attraction waned, but the day was started. Maggots improved the general fishing no end and in keep-net days (or more accurately shared keep-net days), a good end to the day was the net wriggling with dozens of assorted gudgeons, ruffes, bleaks and perches.

    The Angling Times Stick Float.

    This roach-pole, a 16' telescope glass-fibre, got broken the first time I used it. The tip caught in the water when 'striking' and the top 6" snapped clean off, leaving the pole-elastic afloat and still atttached to the flick-tip. This was retrieved and I fished the day with a temporary 12lb mono 'flick-tip' eye whipped on with 3lb nylon. Once home I made a 'quick-release' ring with some stainless steel wire, modelled after some faddish floats of the day and whipped it onto the broken end of the pole (it remained until 1992 when I made a graduated elastic rig fitted inside the pole).

    The quick-release flick-tip The stainless-steel quick-release flick-tip The quick-release flick-tip Neat Whipping eh?

    I made a counterweight for the butt-end with a 3" cardboard 12-bore cartridge (used!). I punched out the cap replacing it with a ¼" x 1"hex head bolt, with the head inside the cartridge. This bolt was, as it happened, an 'interference fit', in the cap hole. Which is a nice way of saying it was seated using a hammer and parallel pin punch. I melted some lead and filled the cartridge to the top. A little smokey, but once cooled, quite solid. I bored a ¼" hole in the screw-on end cap of the pole, araldited a large washer each side of the the plastic cap and bolted the weight on so it was inside the pole. Made it rather easier to hold for long periods.

    On one long afternoon, when the fun had palled, I noticed fish rising to insects and more specifically 'daddy-long-legs' ('crane flys' to you). So I put 3-4" of peacock quill on the line, grabbed one such from the grass bank behind, hooked it through the body on a size 18 and dapped it midstream. It took three goes to catch the fish - a bleak. You have to be quick but I caught a good few, hitting any more than one in in three 'rises' was hard work but good fun. Next time I visited the tackle shop in Green Street, I bought two of the smallest grey dry flies they had and some floatant liquid and next time on the river, tried them.

    You need to be even quicker with the dry flies...

    Events that stick out are:

    Split Shot Chub on a dead bait on the River Thames, Longridge, 1978 maybe...

    Longridge again, a sunny day when many many bleak had made for a good days sport. Being pretty much 'bleaked' and 'gudgeoned' out I resolved to try something new. I had it in my mind to catch a pike (we'd caught many at the Dyke). Using the seven-foot rod, put on a large balsa stick, tied a single treble-hook'd wire trace onto 10lb line and add a side-mounted unfortunate bleak. I set the depth for about three feet and from under the bridge cast to just short of the opposite bank. The stick and cargo drifted with the current and as it cleared the bridge's shadow, vanished.

    I struck 'fairly hard' (7' rod, thirty yards out plus the wild enthusiasm of the young) and contacted something which played ('towed') to the near bank was a colossal chub of 3lbs. This was a red-letter event to us normally happy with the odd 4oz perch. Naturally this was tried again. And again...with no result.

    2009: Singluar to find that in the "Peter Stone Letters", Richard Walker discusses using dead-bait bleak for chub.

    Split Shot The Big Break

    During one of many trips here, a slow day had once again prompted some unusual tactics, that some would call 'fishing properly'. On the downstream side of the road bridge, there is a slight narrowing of the river and just short of this and just out from under, was a hollow in the bed, with a bar just the other side of it, which was just visible in clear water and appeared gravelly (is that a real word?). This hollow was five or six feet deep and the bar a foot higher maybe. My 'pool cue' was appropriated and with 8lb line through to a basic ledger rig set up with luncheon meat if (I remember correctly). Brother got a bite and hit it and I got a shout and got to see a short but very violent fight with a large fish. The little blue rod got bent past it's test curve point repeatedly - and that's 2½lb. There were few long runs, but a lot of dogged pulling with huge power. Eventually and sadly, the line went. I don't expect I felt as bad as the sibling but it was close. Whatever it was (best bet a large barbel), it was big.

    On another long day, I caught a large perch (1lb which was large for me) on a minnow, which I put fished high in the water and watched as the perch loomed out of the dark water under the bridge and gulped it down in one go...I have no idea how may times we went here, but it was a lot.

    Around 2010 I dug about to see if the fishing here was available, just for the heck of it and with a keyboard under you fingers so much is so much easier than it once was. The answer, after one phone call to Longridge boating centre and an email was 'sort of'. I didn't follow it up, I just wondered...

    Split Shot 1975-79: Wallingford

    On one great occasion we went to Wallingford and fished upstream of the town on the west bank, (the right bank) which was and still is (in 2005), a stretch of free fishing.

    Dropped off by our parents who then went in into the town for a quiet day unencumbered, we wandered up the bank and settled down to fish in sight of the bridge.

    At the time the press was all about punched bread so we'd got a couple of punches (still have mine) and me with my pole and bro. with his rod started to fish - and caught right from the off. Now, it might not have been a heavy bag, but we spent all day catching gudgeon after gudgeon on bread (and anything else we tried, although other fish (especially ruffe) showed on worms).

    It was non-stop for about five hours and I think we both had well over ninety fish in that time, which was huge fun. Punch, hook, trot, strike, put fish in net. A fish every two minutes more or less. I know that none of them was more than a 1oz gudgeon, but that is the point really. Strongly imprinted in my mind was the way the gudgeon would steam off on hooking and due to the pole and elastic, it would reach the extent of it's power and the elastic would curve the fish, still fighting furiously, towards the surface from four feet down. A 2oz gonk scrap would put a 4oz perch to shame.

    Ounce for ounce they fight as hard as anything in the river which is one of the reasons I like them. A great day which we talked about for years afterwards. Well I did.

    The bread punch Flick Tip Ring

    Split Shot 1977-79: Medmenham on the Boat

    A school friend of mine had a boat. More to point his Dad had. They used to take occasional trips on the River at Medmenham and I got asked along. It involved being picked up at 6am but that goes with the territory. This part of the river is reached via Ferry Lane, a pleasant spot and good place for a walk with a Young lady as well, but that's got little to do with fishing...

    Downstream from the launch spot are a couple of islands (opposite the excellently named Frogmill Farm) and the backwater side of these were the spot of choice and we drifted under the trees in dappled and cooling shade, catching odd bits and pieces. On this occasion I spotted some old pilings by the left bank and announcing it was a good spot for a perch, adjusted my float (random adjustment but for the look of it) and flicked the porcupine quill and worm perfectly against the woodwork, to much scoffing and derision.

    To be fair, my casting is not that good normally. A good five seconds later bob-bob and 'gone' and I soon had a half pound perch in the boat. It's gone very quiet over there...I had another on the second cast and then nothing, but I was the 'perch expert' from then on... if only.

    On a second occasion the boat showed without the friend 'au crack sparrow' at Hazelmere crossroads. "Lazy Sod wouldn't get up" said his father, but nothing stopping us going." So we went and caught fish and it was another good fun day trailing around nooks and crannies picking a few fish out here and there before moving on. One of the nicest days fishing I can remember, if not the details.

    The friend remained so and by his generous and expert graces, I ran my green Cortina all through uni. and he also saved the biochemist's car from certain seizure (it had started drinking a pint of oil a week), finding, after about three hours, that one of the engine mount bolts had gone and the bolt hole had been drilled clean through to the lower half of the cylinder so it was spitting oil on every stroke. That was a new one. In my mind's eye I can see drops of oil caught in mid-air with the strobe lamp. Huh.

    Split Shot 1977: Henley

    The brother and myself were dropped in Henley on a day out for the parents and knowing of the free fishing (so much of that has 'vanished') were hovering upstream of the bridge on the right bank gazing with cautious intent at a mooring pontoon and a nice man said we could fish from it. So we did. We more or less blanked...himself nabbing a jack pike on an early afternoon ennui spinning attempt, a 4g Gold Droppen must have practically landed on the unlucky thing.

    Funny thing - in 2002 I went on one of those clichéd team building week-ends and discovered we'd (back then) parked ourselves on one of the Leander Club's pontoons and permission given by a passing member. The best thing about the 'team building' was meeting two members of the 2000 Olympics Ladies Quadruple Sculls team who took silver. I took away from that that they practised close finishes, as at that level they all are. Interesting and charming, I'm ashamed to say I can't recall the ladies' names. The rest was predictable bo££ocks of course but I've still got the shirt which was good quality. Small world.

    Split Shot 1977: Cookham

    So, Cookham, another drop'n'shop by the parents. How we ended up down at the end of Ferry Lane on the little jetty by the hotel, I don't know, I fancy we asked in the hotel and they said "OK". We soundly blanked here on a cold foggy day where the only fish we even saw was a rather battered old perch of 1lb or so that drifted under the jetty and gently vanished downstream indifferent to any passing worms.

    VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace...(and back to the top of the page) VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace

    Split Shot 1979: West End Farm

    West End Farm is in a valley just to the north of the A44 in Docklow, just outside Leominster. It's still there.

    'Tam' and 'Bruce' had been here before and regaled me with stories of easy to catch carp, huge artery hardening breakfasts, 'lock ins' with rough cider and so arranged a further weekend in the autumn and I got the nod. They also had to call 'Fred'. 'Fred' was a Brummie and had spent most of his life as a compare/comedian in British Legions around the Midland. He was a scream apparently.

    So we set off. Me with only the nine foot rod and with only two carp ever to my name. The prospect of more (and easy to catch? Not carp surely?) seemed too good to be true. I don't know what West End Farm is like now, but then I recall one lake, which looks as if it might be the larger of the ones on the map. You stayed in the farm, the plan was to rise with the sun, fish until breakfast (large 'death by cholesterol' type), fish again, back for lunch and so on , until the pub up the road opened. So after a long afternoon catching obliging carplets, we retire to the pub and cross ply ourselves with proper cider and discuss metaphysical matters such as BNWHM, fish, whether 'Blue Oyster Cult' are a proper rock band ('no') and probably girls, then a 'lock-in', stagger back to the farm at some ridiculous hour on Saturday.

    Saturday morning dawned, literally. At that time I had become immersed in Shotokan and my custom on rising was to stretch my legs in a variety of outlandish and not relaxing ways. It was cold (sub zero), today hurt more than usual, trust me. It wasn't helped by a variety of sarcastic and ill informed remarks by 'Bruce' pertaining to the activity (some would say I'm not a morning person, they'd be wrong, I'm not a person at all until 11am or so and at least one cup of fresh brewed Arabian). I stood up out of a side splits and flicked a foot jovially at my room mate and by pure fluke (or poor judgement, pick one), hit him square in the solar plexus, which ended the chatter. Sitting him on his own feet and stretching his back out to keep him breathing, I kept the 'accident' side of the incident more or less to myself...almost.

    We hit the lake all bygones and I cannot remember that much of the fishing, for the whole weekend in fact, which is not like me. The alcohol probably didn't help in this respect. One of the great things about youth is the ability to burn the candle at all ends with no apparent ill effects, save recalling it.

    More carp were caught and fried food consumed. It was a new experience to me that any fish was easy to catch (except perch and gudgeon). Float fishing corn we all caught fish but I lagged well behind the others, with a shorter rod and less experience of this type of fishing. I was probably trying too hard. The Rye Dyke carp were sneaky, wary and hard to get near never mind catch. Having carp hurl themselves at the hook was odd. But with my Angling times stick float and 6lb line I had little trouble and enjoyed myself. These days this kind of fishing has little appeal but after years of working hard for fish, this seemed a good idea - many of us think differently now, but that was then.

    The highlight of the day was Fred turning up. Fishing degenerated in to a tennis match of volleyed very rude insults with occasional jokes that Mr Manning would be proud of, but these days would be met with embarrassed and muffled laughs. We laughed out loud. The day wore on and eventually with evening coming Fred announced we would go to the Legion in Leominster, because he could get us into any Legion in the Midlands. He bloody did too.

    After a happy day catching carp under 6lb, we togged up and hit the British Legion for an evening of beer and bingo. After enough very reasonably priced beer that's surprisingly bearable. After a gyratory introduction a young lady asked one of ale swilling trio to dance. Tricky. Clearly you need to say yes, because you never know, but 'street cred' with your angling mates is a significant factor. I accept, weak I know. We do a slow circuit of the floor while I studiously avoid eye contact with my friends and ignore various gestures and mouthed suggestions. I was asked what we were discussing when herself was attracting our attention. I suggested we were wondering who herself found to her taste and we had a bet on it. "What happened?" she asked all breathy innocence. "I lost". So, dancing over and story recounted, all 'street cred' returned, getting the girl but putting your mates first. Yeah right. But I needed the lift home for sure.

    Sunday, with less of a hangover than Saturday progressed gently in the autumn sunshine, with pauses for breakfast and more than a few carp, until mid afternoon and time to move back to real life.

    Strangely we didn't do it again, but it was a blast all in all.

    La Morinais carpa very subtil fish...(and back to the top of the page) La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpa very subtil fish La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience

    Split Shot 1975-79: The Weston Shore

    This spot, was on Southampton water and was reached by Morris Traveller and invariably required stopping for 'rag' on the way, down some backstreet, old Bob darting off and returning with a newspaper packet of rag. The beach was shingle with some kind of a step an old stage perhaps and I had only a seven foot rod, but it would cast a 2oz lead quite well - certainly as far as was required. 'OB' had made a rod rest from a five foot galvanised steel fence post into the right angle of which he'd pop riveted, about a foot down, a 15oz soup tin (without the soup). This banged well down into the shingle worked quite well for my little rod and himself's beach caster leaning against a tripod. You watched the tip. That was it really. I must have fish three or four times and accompanied another half dozen and grew to like the place, despite the fact I don't think I ever had a bite never mind a fish.

    Pre-1975 'flatties' and silver eels came home, the eels spent the night in the bath before becoming fish-cakes, the metallic smell and baleful looks a feature of 'calls of nature'. The catches dropped off in the mid 70's the eels becoming infrequent and the 'flatties' smaller, oily tasting and most when cooked were spat out and fish-fingers arranged on the run. They weren't brought home much after that.

    There was a flask, hot milky coffee and sandwiches, the wind was keen, even hunched down, but that didn't make it less enjoyable and beach-combing for lost tackle was always worth a punt and I had a variety of clip-on bells and any number of odd leads and brass wire fittings, most of which were stored for re-use (annealed on the stove, they could be used for all sorts - repairing bent flounder spoons to quote one random example...

    I should mention the lead weights. We tried making a wooden mould and making bullets and coffin leads, melting the lead on the stove and it more-or-less worked even with string to from the hole before it carbonised. Then we made sea weights using spoons for moulds, teas-poon and desert spoons (2oz on the nose) using twisted copper wire for the eyes and some made with long tags of wire trailing out of the flat side the wrong side of course if you think on it for a moment) to make ersatz breakaway leads. One such, made in a serving spoon, held the end of my keep-net down for many years after. 'Old Bob' being mostly a plumber had plenty of lead....

    About 4-5oz About 4-5oz

    ...and for years I thought it was the 'western Shore'. Never clicked it was on the east of the water...it's right here...

    Split Shot 1976-77: Mr. Bert's boat

    One of 'Old Bob's pals, 'Mr. Bert', (there was a 'Mr. Charlie' as well), had a boat, not a large thing at all, and it was fine for a bit of inshore dangling and we took at least three trips out in it that I can recall. On the first occasion, fishing our short rods, somewhere on the Fawley side of Southampton we all fished ragworm on the deck - I discovered the little bu88ers nip, the laugh on me - the water wasn't ever so deep, perhaps eight feet and there were no life jackets.it was small boat and the 'facilities' were known, sardonically, as the 'yellow bucket', which was luckily, yellow. One of my duty letters (August 1976) records the first trip out, with a blank to me, everyone else landing 'schoolie' bass.

    Om the second trip, (July 1977) I tried my baited spoon towards the end of the trip and bagged a very decent plaice 'north' of a 1lb or so, to the surprise of most (except me).

    On the third trip, I took my nine foot rod, assembled it 'broken' across my knees and fished my big sliding porcy quill on 6lb line, as the water was only eight of nine feet deep and caught several 'schoolies' without too much trouble. Again, all aghast but I - in those day sea gear was always thick line, big leads and whopping hooks, whether ye needed them or not...this was 'the way'.

    On one of those trips, a squall blew up, so we hot footed for the landing slip and while it never occurred to me that we were in any danger at the time despite waves flicking over the sides, I can recall the pale face and terse manner 'Old Bob' (who couldn't swim) and 'Mr. Bert' as we docked and packed up. Hm.

    The following year 'Mr Bert' was no longer on the scene, 'Old Bob' not having heard from him. A nice chap who put himself out for me and the other one.

    Split Shot 1977-78: Fawley Break

    'Mr. Bert' took me and the brother shore fishing, over near Fawley, he had very decently agreed to take us fishing as 'Old Bob' was working. We had to address him as 'Mr. Bert', this was made quite clear. I could not find the spot on the map but the oil refinery was not a 100 miles away. The shore was edged with timber to give a good fishing platform and on this occasion we used our own short rods and beach casting rests, the sort that allows your rod tip to be well up in the air. It worked after a fashion, as long casting was essential. We had all had a few rattles, from small bass probably and the brother got what was less a bite and more of a steady tightening of the line, which necessitated a quick grab of the rod to keep it out of the water. Something very large swam leisurely up and down for a good bit. There was no control really at the shore end of the line, not for lack of trying. The short six foot rod was very very curved and while breaking it was never likely (solid fibre-glass), eventually the line gave up. It just went slack. We were both gutted. Again a big fish, slow speed and great weight are a give-away.

    Old Letter Old Letter

    Split Shot 1976: Fishers Pond, Colden Common

    ...itself is an artificial lake held back by an earth dam at one end with a fine old red brick sluice gate. The pond was, legend has it, constructed 700 years back to allow the Bishop of Winchester to have fish supplied to his table - this old old stock pond is about 3 acres and I fished here on-and-off (more off) across nine odd years. When first taken by 'Old Bob' the pond was not a 'commercial fishery' in today's parlance, with it being just a lake with some bank access. I only ever caught a few roach, despite several trips and the area fished was inside the 'bathing enclosure' which is on the east bank and had probably long since rusted away or been removed. I only ever managed a few stunted roach as a bag, although 'Old Bob' once caught a goose to our huge enjoyment. The goose was not so amused, despite being released without any permanent harm.

    During the long hot summer of '76 (myself, just two years back from Cyprus thought it 'temperate') both tired of the heat and gardening in it, went for a look at Fisher's Pond. This was baked mud, so we walked up Hensting Lane (how good a name is that?) as it was in the shade, then stood and watched two deer pick their way out from the trees behind the 'swimming pool' and make their way across. We watched, stock-still. We walked on, to the bridge at the top of the pond, where the fish had been sequestered in what water there was. A kingfisher peeped across the road. Rarer then than now and worthy of note. We watched the fish jostling for a while. "Always something to see if you're quiet" he said.

    I think it was that summer, when water levels were low everywhere, we also made our way up the Itchen from one of the two main bridges on Kiln Lane and 'Old Bob' showed me two of the old eel-traps built into brickwork, long disused even then. He knew where they all were...

    Split Shot 1977: roach on a Spinner, Fishers Pond, Colden Common

    In about 1977 (I know this as I have a 'duty letter' written to my parents) during a stay with 'Old Bob' I was dropped at Fishers Pond, in the days before it was as stocked and well looked after as it is now. On my first visit I had one tiny roach, as detailed. In those days the fish stocks were small and mostly roach and the swim with the 'swimming pool' was your best bet. This was a large semi-circle of corrugated iron on a frame about 30 yards in diameter, enclosing an area of water. There was one tree on the bank about two-thirds of the way along.

    On my second visit, still in the future of this letter, I do recall it was a grey and dull, so after the best part of the day 'not even getting a bite', with time getting on to being picked up, I tried, out of sheer boredom a 4g silver 'Droppen'.

    Second cast I hooked something and moments later, I had a roach of about ½lb on the bank. Fairly hooked in the mouth as well. Now that doesn't happen every day (I didn't catch anything else).

    Split Shot 1976-1979: Some reel stuff

    One day 'Old Bob' came back from work and we were 'bu88ering about' in the garage and he produced three old fly reels. 'These any good to you?' He said and I said "Yes. Please." Still got 'em.

    Old fly Reels#1: This one, 'Ogden Smith, London' Old fly Reels#1: This one, 'Ogden Smith, London' Old fly Reels#2: This one, 'John Forrest, Thames St.' Old fly Reels#2: This one, 'John Forrest, Thames St.' Old fly Reels#3: This one, no markings... Old fly Reels#3: This one, no markings...

    On another day he turned up with a five or six inch wooden 'starback'. The brass back had snapped halfway between the centre spigot and the reel seat. A 'project' then, so on a wet day we drilled out the pins on the broken bit of brass and wetting a little of the wood and using new screws to hold it in place, silver soldered the break with a honking great soldering iron. Then, flipped it over and filled the ragged holes and the flaky wood around the spigot with two part epoxy and we left it on a heater to soak and set. The holes on the outside of the wood were filled with plastic wood and it dried paler than it looked like it should leaving light patches. It was wet'n'dried and varnished anyway. Which worked, a spot of grease and a small brass wing-nut and it was a user. It never got used and I have no idea where it went, although I kept it for years.

    'Old Bob' had two reels of his own. A large multiplier with an ivory-plastic side-plates, (which was for beach fishing with a solid glass beach-caster, which had plenty of 'welly' although probably hardly ever stretched) and a outlandishly large 'Galleon' fixed spool, which I can't recall him ever using. He passed the latter onto me, and I kept it until about 2009 and gave it away, without ever using it. He also owned a five foot solid glass 'boat rod', which was grey, had a wooden handle and no discernible taper...

    He told me his biggest ever fish was a 16lb skate, Leviathan to me then, caught boat fishing using that rod.

    Split Shot Maggots

    The thing about Fishers' Pond in those days was that the only fishing to be had was in the old swimming pool area and the fish were 'proper', no hordes of obligingly hard-of-caution perch to commit ritual suicide on your size 12. "I really need some maggots to catch" I said in passing "I used to use fish heads buried in a tin of sand". That was true, a bass-head or unlucky perch was left out for a day then buried in a tin of sand for a few days and then riddled out for a handful of rudd catching gold. 'Old Bob' said that was easy enough, we'll paunch the rabbits hanging in the garage and leave the stuff in a bucket for a day with the door open and we'll get plenty. Oh yes. Proper galvanised metal bucket of course. So we did that...

    Now...the bucket got a day in the open, on a nice warm day and then for reasons forgotten and unpredictable, two days passed before we opened the garage door. We were, of course, knocked off our feet. The normal smell of old wood and oil was obliterated by the waft of rotten rabbit entrails. It couldn't get worse...but 'Old Bob' thought it best to open the double doors at the other end to "get some air in". And some light. Then we saw them.

    Maggots. Thousands of the little bleeders. Have you ever let rain fall in you maggot box? They're off up the sides and away in a trice. Imagine three day old rotting rabbit entrails...you're not even close...and so they'd 'legged it'. There were maggots crawling down the side of the bucket. There was a bunch on the floor under the bucket and radiating trials of slime emanating from the pile where the early escapees made good. They'd even got up the bucket handle and made trails across the beam the bucket was hung from. They were on the floor, on the walls, on the beams, on the bench.

    We swiftly rearranged our priorities vis-à-vis, bait and "getting rid of the little ba$tards". The bucket contents were dispatched to a swiftly dug hole, the bucket washed several time with water from the barrel by the garage door. The doors were left open (for days) and we tracked and removed as many as we could and finally 'Old Bob' emptied two cans of air freshener in there. None of that helped in the slightest.

    I swear, that even the following summer, the good smells of the garage, the oil, the iron and the slight smell of hanging game were cut with maggot-smell.

    Never even got to fish with them, I can still smell them, still makes me smile...

    Split Shot The Partridge

    We were sitting on some bales in the shed and 'Old Bob' was having a Woodbine (a less apt name for a ciggy I've yet to come across) and I was watching the trees for 'woodies'. A small covey of partridges came up the track from the golf clubhouse direction. It was a hot day in a warm spell and the track's white dust was scuffed into small clouds by inquisitive feet and bills. They milled around where the track opened into the entrance for our hide, with us drab-dressed motionless against the dark background, invisible, as good as.

    As I watched, 'Old Bob' said, without moving and quite conversationally "Do you think you can hit one of those in the head from here?". It took me a second to realise this wasn't a rhetorical question. I thought about it, 20+ yards, a Webley Service .22". Possible, but hard. "Yes" says I, leaning back onto the bale behind me and putting the fore-stock hand on my knee. Clearly as I'm sitting here, I can see the picked bird out in front of the field, slightly way from the main flock, so that my shot was hit or miss and missing might give me a second chance. The wind-gun spring thunked and the bird dropped face down into the dust, one wing flapping aimlessly and 'Old Bob', moving faster that I'd ever seen, (and he was sixty-five or so then) had the bird in his game bag and was back on the hay bale in a moment. "Good shot, duck" he said softly, watching the sky now and finishing the Woodbine.

    Split Shot Mitchamador

    At the end of the Long Garden was a five bar gate of silvered oak, and in the evening 'Old Bob' would lean on the gate with a Woodbine and alternate between berating pub customers for blocking his drive and watching the world soldier past. There was a pair (I think ) of pine trees off to the left, bordering the old cricket pitch and as the light fell cockchafers would appear from some hidden place and whirr around the tree tops and then as the sun eased away for the night, the bats would appear, swoop on the beetles and chittering, carry them off. Always worth seeing.

    Did you know an old name for cockchafers is 'mitchamador'? I miss being able to hear bats, advancing years. Pah.

    Split Shot The Revolver

    I used to collect cartridges as a youf, various sorts with holes bored in one side, the powder shook out, penetrating oil to kill the cap. 'Old Bob' picked out a .32" rim-fire, lead grey against the brass (brasso, shiny brass wonderfully grey lead) and said he'd been given a revolver once, took it to a field with an old metal water tank and fired it at the side. The bullet went straight through, "Christ Alive, that scared me so I threw it in the river".

    Split Shot 1976-1979: Memory Jogging

    One summer I'd gone down on my own and had taken to an early morning run down the length of Hocombe Road (some fine mighty Sweet Chestnut trees down there), along the Hursely Road and then back down Hiltingbury road (a little over four miles), to the Chandler's Ford road and back for breakfast. One morning someone was fishing the lake and I pattered to a stop and padded over to watch a carp being landed. Interesting, enticing, but, sadly some residential restriction made it out of the question for me. I could have walked there. Shame. Never good to pick up a run after you've cooled off. Ow ow ow.

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    Split Shot 1977: The History Teacher's fishing rod

    I can't recall how fishing came up, although I recall a good deal more than is useful about Boer war. "There is an old rod in the cupboard," he intoned "been there years, no idea who's it is, you're welcome too it!" Our teachers wore gowns in them days and there was a walk in cupboard with text-books and supplies of ammunition, that is to say chalk and black-board erasers, both of which could sting somewhat. It was a three piece rod, whole cane for the lower sections, greenheart tip (which even then I knew was probably past trust, a porcelain butt ring and tip ring, brass reel bands, cork sheet over beech handle and now, I realise probably Allcocks' fittings on the handle. The whippings were in a crude thread, some unravelling. I took it off home and determined to restore it for fun. Many things got in the way of this project and the rod sections never made to my parents new house, the tip ring I gave away and the handle fittings went the same way. Ah well. Would have made a fine gudgeon rod.

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    Split Shot 1979: Pevensey

    We went to Pevensey on a camping holiday, which was for the most part interminable. For future parents of teenagers, endless stately homes and bracing family walks are dull, dull, dull (did I mention it was dull?). I think it was 1979, as I have a vague feeling that I got my (very average) 'A' Level results by 'phone and recall only boredom, very very flat landscapes and a fishing trip to a drain on the levels 'somewhere', adjacent to a pub I think, where we fished most of the day, myself using the 'windbeater' and a worm. We were told there were bream, so fishing lift method (which is what you do for bream, right?) I missed a succession of huge lift bites and catching an equal succession of eels of vary degrees of complexity. That's about that - and seeing the carp amongst the lilies in the moat at Herstmonceux.

    Much repaired

    In about 2001, I was intrigued to read in 'Ken Whitehead's Pike Fishing' (an excellent book) his description of piking on the levels and wished I'd know more about them back then. Same old same old...

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    Split Shot 1977: Worcester & Birmingham canal. Upton-on-Severn

    Another camping extravaganza started in the shadow of the Malvern hills, vaguely recall walking on the hills themselves and we had a day's fishing on the Severn near Upton. I can't pin down the spot, even with 'google maps', too much has changed, but I did fish the river in some convenient brown niche in the bank, marvelled at the hissing writhing water, so much more power than I'd seen on a river.

    I was woefully under-tackled of course, but with the glass 9' float rod I 'laid-on' sweetcorn in a merest suggestion of a slack and to my surprise took half a score of goer roach from clean positive bites and was enjoying myself so much that the next time the float slid off, I struck and something angrily snapped my line with a shake of the head. "Oh..." I thought. It's a shame my next thought wasn't to put 6lb line on, but still.

    The next campsite was nearer Worcester and despite my best efforts I can't pin down that spot either. We camped next to a lane, which ran over the canal and I think under a railway embankment. Fishing was available on the non-towpath side of the canal on the left of this bridge as we approached it and if one had to slide a little down the crumple-leaved bank to reach the water, it was worth it for fishing. The water periodically rushed one way or the other in the manner of canals with locks and every way we tried produced ruffe, ruffe and more ruffe. All fish, a fish is a fish.

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    Split Shot 1978: Tackle

    Buoyed up by the regular wage of a part-time job with 'JS', I bought a hollow glass fibre float rod, which was very tippy, but otherwise around ¾lb t/c and was perfectly suited to 3lb line. Why I didn't invest in a longer rod I have no idea. Possibly the thought of a nine foot rod after years of a seven foot simple seemed 'long enough'. A little after that I bought a Cardinal 40, a thing of elegance and solidity against the by now worn, Challenger. And it had a 'stern drag' which worked. I've still got the '40, but the float rod got the 'order of the Spanish Archer' in 2009 on one of the 'Great Garage Clear Outs'. It would have made a perfect brook rod, so a pity really.

    Here's the Cardinal 40 though, with a 'match' spool which I don't think I ever used – I did keep three others, 6lb, 8lb, 10lb line, all of which fit nicely on a '44x...

    Cardinal 40 Cardinal 40
    should be an old quill floatProper Float...(and back to the top of the page) should be an old quill floatAnother proper float

    Split Shot 1978: Penn Pond

    Penn Pond is located on the village green at Tylers Green in Buckinghamshire. It was rumoured to have fish in it, so one afternoon I went to see, and as it's not a massive piece of water, being some 5-10 yards in diameter, took my roach pole. There were rumours of tench. The picture below does it justice, it is a pretty location and was a nice place to fish.

    On the day, using punched bread and a small pole float, I caught sixteen 'naturalised goldfish', which is to say they were mostly brown and green, although there was the odd fleck of gold on some of them. These ran to about 6oz and provided lively sport. I added a few gudgeon, of good size, for luck. The goldfish were, according to legend, left over prizes from a fun-fair held on the green.

    I went one more time with similar results and would have gone again, but a "No Fishing" sign appeared, just about visible in the picture below.

    Still see the no fishing sign

    The Pond on Tylers Green, near Penn

    Creative Commons License © Copyright David Hawgood and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    My first customer visit of 2008, was bizarrely, to a small design house in Homer Green, not a quarter mile from the old place and so, after some technical stuff, I wondered back past the pond and stopped off. It was frozen over, with the usual stones embedded in the ice and a collection of objects flung by the curious. Chips of ice littered the surface and I wonder, as I always do, if there should be some game on the ice, a cross between shove ha'penney and chess. The 'No Fishing' sign was still there and I took pictures, but they've since disappeared into the digital ether.

    HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of...(and back to the top of the page) HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of. HookHook, eyed, fishing for the use of.

    1977-79: The Rye Dyke in High Wycombe

    Split Shot The Rye Dyke...is an artificial lake created in 1923 by the Marquis of Lincoln, with open playing fields on the south side ("The Rye") and on the north bank, mature beech trees. It runs roughly west to east and is about a mile long, with the west half being broader, some 50 yard across and shallower, being about 3 feet at the margins and about 7-8 feet in the middle. It's a bit deeper than you think, like most water that you can see the bottom of. There was very heavy weed growth in this half and this in part was what drove the 'no lines under 6lb b/s' rule in the late 70's and early 80's.

    The eastern half is narrower, down to 15 yards in places, with beech trees overhanging and with the bottom sharply shelving as you move away from the bank, with depths of 15 feet in places. At the end there is a waterfall (some 10 feet or so) into a small stream that continues onward to the Thames via Bourne End.

    The Rye Dyke is fed at the west end by a clear stream from the Wycombe Abbey School grounds. Where the stream enters the lake there is a pool, 'the Boating Pool'; which was 'fishing verboten' then. Fishing was only allowed from the south bank in any event.

    The lake contained a lot of pike, many jack, a good head of carp, at a time when carp were not common with 20lb fish and plenty of good perch, roach, tench and a good school of chub, which were often seen but almost never caught. On balance it was a hard water to fish with the clarity of the water and thick weed working against you most of the time.

    It appears the pike were still there in 2004.

    Split Shot January 2014

    I was contacted by an EA fisheries officer who was looking for some history on the Rye Dyke. There wasn't a lot (that isn't here somewhere) I could add, sadly. I gather an electro-fishing survey was done around November 2012, which threw up number of decent (~20lb) carp and little else and the EA are working with the angling club to help build it back up to a sustainable fishery. No tench, very few pike and no roach/chub/perch whatsoever on the survey unfortunately, although it was stocked it with 5,000 roach and 1,000 tench in late 2013 from the Calverton fish farm. The next step is to try and put measures in place to stop them being predated on until they can grow on and survive. Good to hear.

    You can follow this work on twitter, much as avoid twitter like the plague myself.

    There's also 'Revive The Wye', which is a charity set up by various people involved in High Wycombe and the Wye who want to try and make the river a much better place than it currently is...

    All this reminds me I took some pictures of the Rye Dyke in 2008 or thereabouts to illuminate the Rye Dyke page and saw only a few small pike, one of which was dead on the bottom and a small procession of dark lonely carp gliding toward the boating pool like so many Flying Dutchmen.

    Those snaps, like those of a frozen Penn Pond, have vanished from my archive. Singular. Annoying. Pah.

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    The Rye Dyke Boating Pool. 'The tree' is the one on the far right...
    A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box...(and back to the top of the page) A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box A bunch of hooks I found in my pike-boxA bunch of hooks found in my pike box

    Split Shot 1978. The first carp

    I'd decided for some reason long forgotten to buy myself a roach pole. I think that with the amount of Thames fishing I did and the large numbers of bleak and gudgeon, plus the press banging on about bleak bashing, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I ended up with a 15' hollow fibre glass pole, with a flick tip ring. At this stage (circa 1978) elastic inside the pole was unheard of. I made myself a couple of pole floats - one of which was an empty biro refill with a very slim antenna (I found) glued in the top. It worked rather well - and I decided to take it down to the Rye Dyke to test both the pole and the float. I attached the line to the end of an 18" piece of elastic, which was secured to the pole with an overhand loop knot pulled through the tip loop on the pole. The line was attached to the elastic the same way.

    After some messing around (the highlight of which was my brother catching a pike of 3-4oz, which during unhooking clamped itself onto his thumb and took some prizing off again, blood was involved, not the pike's), I settled on a swim about halfway up where the weed was very thick, but there were plenty of small roach and rudd. With a 2lb b/s bottom and a size 18, plus single maggot I was amusing myself catching these small fish from small gaps in the weed. I'd caught half a dozen or so, when one of the gaps produced a trail of "needle" bubbles moving towards me. I did what anyone would have done and dropped my bait in front of the trail and away went the float...

    I struck, confidently expecting another 1oz rudd or roach...oh cr*p...

    'All h*ll broke loose' is a terrible cliché, so I'm going with 'a lot of things happened all at once'. A large lump powered through the weed and towards the middle of the Dyke. I would like to claim I played it expertly, but that would be a bared-faced lie.

    What I did do, was hang on for grim death to the pole while the fish, now obviously a carp, swam around in large circles in the middle of the water. I would swear that at one point the 18" of elastic reached some 15 feet in length. It ploughed through the weed beds with no apparent effort - how the line held I will never know. Eventually and improbably, after an eternity (about 15 minutes more likely), the carp tired enough to be netted and was, in a folding net that today would have you barred from a fishery for life.

    What I'd connected with a was a common carp, fully scaled and fat with spawn. We had no scales and could not find anyone with any, so we marked the length of the fish on the landing net handle and returned it, with some regret due to not knowing the weight. Using a length to weight conversion table we got from somewhere, the weight was estimated at around 6.5lbs (but with spawn was more likely 7-7.5lb).

    This was not good for the nerves, but it did make me aware of the potential of the pole at an early age. There is tremendous shock absorption with a good pole set up - even with the basic rig I had here...

    La Morinais carpa very subtil fish...(and back to the top of the page) La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpI am content to wait. I am well used to it. La Morinais carpa very subtil fish La Morinais carpWatch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders. La Morinais carpif you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience

    Split Shot 1977-79: Fish up a tree #1

    On one of the many Dyke sessions in 1979 or so, we were doing our usual thing of stalking and looking for small pike and we ended up on the last two swims by the boating pool. This had a "no fishing" sign in the middle, classically. I decided to see what I could see in the boating pool and decided the best way to do this was to climb a few feet up one of the trees on the left hand side of the last swim, where brother has settled in for some serious "ledgering worms". Getting about six foot up I looked down to see a large pike directly below me (and in retrospect, luckily facing away from the tree & me). "Lurking" to be sure. Interesting.

    I climbed down the tree, moving very slowly and went to get my trusty 9 foot fibre-glass float rod, (which had the backbone of a stick of celery to be accurate). I put on a big bunch of lobs, usual trace (three plaited strands of 7lb line, size 6 long shank fly hook) and as far as is possible climbed the tree with rod in one hand and much stealth. Brother looked on with amusement, but decently kept still and quiet and sceptical all at the same time. No mean feat, but not unusual for him. I ended up lying on a sloping branch with my arm around the branch and the rod in front of the branch about 8–10 feet above the water – an objective view might be that I had not really thought things through. So far so good.

    The pike, if it saw me at all, probably thought I was some large sort of bird (Greater Spotted Twitfisher maybe). I dropped the writhing bait into the water about 2–3 feet in front of the fish. It didn't move, a good start. The bait drifted to the bottom weed carpet, perhaps about 2–3 feet down. Nothing happened. I waited. Still nothing happened. I stopped holding my breath and risked breathing normally.

    More nothing. Check clutch and anti reverse...no effect on the pike. I briefly considered jiggling the bait up and down, but decided if the fish was in no hurry neither was I.

    Then the fish slowly started to angle itself downward lining up on the still seething bait and as I watched it slowly agitated the rear fins to the point where it "pounced" on the bait. I let it chomp a few times and heart in mouth, tightened up and struck.

    Pike–like there were few long runs, but the water was clear and snag free (except for the sign and a few low hanging tree branches). After playing it for a bit, I belatedly (some would say) considered the second half of the problem...

    When the worst of the battle was over I had to back down the tree, not letting go of the (rod) fish. First problem: getting both hands onto the same side of the tree (any side) without letting go of the tree or the rod. This was accomplished, with requisite care (and a couple of near misses) and then onto land with the fish still on (and by no means docile). I then had to pass the rod around at least one more tree to get to the swim my brother was in, to get the net under it. I'd got the hang of it by then. No problemo.

    Taken up with the moment the brother forgot to be sarcastic for some time. Netted, the fish was a bit over 13lb and was my first double and the only one for a long time...but bigger than an 8lb bass (at last).

    All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench...(and back to the top of the page) There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchTinca tinca little star...

    Split Shot 1977–79: Fish up a tree #2, carp #2

    So there we were again and I just had to look up the tree again. Well you would wouldn''t you? Yes you would. Anyway I did. Not a pike in sight, not even a little one.

    BUT there were 2 or 3 carp, rooting in the weed...so down the tree, see previous tree story and off to get my trusty 7ft rod and a tin of luncheon meat. Plan A was to bung in some chunks and then lower a bit on a size 8 with the ground bait. Simple plan, all the good ones are. Stealth still needed. Brother, still, quiet and disbelieving. Carp, luckily, heads down in the weed.

    So I lobbed in about 6–8 chunks of meat and then dropped in the hook bait. Déjà vu? One carp obligingly picked up every bit of bait except mine. Really. I could have screamed. But then it went twice round my bait and picked it up. Just like that. Like you would pick up a biscuit from a plate as you were on the way past.

    Did I hit it? Too right I did. Unlike pike, carp are built for long runs with some power. Unlike the 9 foot celery stick, the "blue pool cue" had a 2.5lb test curve and 10lb b/s Perlon right through to the hook. And solid fibre–glass has a spring to it that hollow does not. Despite the handicap of the tree, with which I was now quite familiar, the contest was quite one sided (in my favour, thank you), despite the carp being only my second ever. So get rod on one side of the tree, down the tree, mind the fork, along the bank, round the second tree, into the net. Receive sarcastic applause.

    A small mirror, on the scales, a bit over 8lb. But who cares? Really?

    Of course I went up the tree several times subsequently (well, every time I went past, wouldn't you?), but never had that kind of luck from that tree afterwards.

    small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...(and return to the top of the page) small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and one more time... small split shotmedium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...got it?

    Split Shot 1977–79: Jack Piking

    The Rye Dyke, as intimated elsewhere, had more jack pike than average. At least two–and–a–half thousand more...so it seemed. The water was usually so clear that perhaps it was just they were that much more visible. Anyhoo..

    It was relatively easy to catch jacks – especially on purpose – so I evolved simple tackle and a method that caught dozens up to 3lbs and a few over that (just the one 'double' though). The 'rig' was simplicity, an 18" wire trace of 6lb or 8lb 'Elasticum' wire, with a single large long–shank No. fly hook at the business end and a swivel at the 'line end'. Both the hook and the swivel were attached by winding the tag end of the wire around the standing part 6–8 times, then twisting the tag end with the main body of the wire for about 3 inches.

    This seems crude but it was all you needed. Bait was a bunch of worms, the more the better (hence the long–shank hook). If one wanted more casting weight, then pinch a few shot on the top end of the wire trace. If the water was clear (which it was mostly), then you stalked from swim to swim and looked for the fish. On spotting one, keeping low and behind the fish if at all possible, cast well past (5–10 yards) and over the fish, then quietly reel the bait in, past Esox's sharp end, perhaps three feet from it. About close enough for Jack to see the worms and far enough away not to spook him. Usually. Let the bait fall to the bottom, as it passes the snout...

    Now wait and watch. You might have to wait 5–10 minutes, but usually, the pike will slowly tilt until the body is angling down towards the bait. The rear fins will agitate slowly, edging the fish nearer and finally with a short lunge it will grab the bait, sometimes accompanied with a slight twist of the body. The flash of white from the gill covers and under the chin, gives you firm indication of a pick–up. Give it a few seconds, while the fish chomps to itself (literally no more than 5 seconds) to ensure it has really got the bait, they do miss sometimes and strike.

    If the water was cloudy, you put on a self cocking float and setting the depth to a bit over the water depth (which was a roughly uniform three feet at the broad end of the water), just went from swim to swim giving it half an hour or so in each one. Each swim had banks of thick weed and many had trees with branches trailing in the  water, great hiding places for the pike we were after. The broader shallow end of the Dyke worked best, with the last 25 yards by the sluice gate good as well. The deeper and narrow section did not produce as well and it may well be no coincidence that most of the biggest pike I spotted were in that area.

    Three times when fishing for jack, I caught roach over 2lbs – twice with the wire trace rig described above, once described here and once when float fishing in coloured water.

    You can learn a lot about pike if you get the chance to fish regularly like this, in clear water. First and most obvious, is keep quiet, low and behind the fish. The prey was off if disturbed. Secondly, the larger the fish the easier it was to spook. You could make a real hash of getting a bait to a 1½lb pike and still catch it. A bad cast to a 5lb fish and it usually was a missed opportunity. Also the smaller the fish the faster it leaves – a small jack will when spooked often dart off. A larger fish will amble off. Really good ones will fade into the background like the Chesire cat, but with a slightly more murderous smile.

    It was much harder to stalk very large pike. I almost never got close enough to cast. They kept further from the bank for the most part as well. The other thing of note is that often pike were in rough pairs, sometimes visibly so. Even when you could see only one fish the another might be around. Several times I cast to a fish, only to have another unseen pike take the bait, often not even noticed until the flash of white as the bait was taken. this also underline the effectiveness of the mottled markings as camouflage.

    Occasionally the pike would miss the bait on the lunge. You could usually get away with stealthily withdrawing it and re casting. If a pike hovered around without taking it, giving it a nudge would usually help. The movement would get it's attention.

    I refined the end tackle by creating a trace made of three strands of 7lb Perlon, pleated together. The idea was pinched and modified from a section in a book about fly fishing for pike. I made this by taking three lengths and three feet long and using a bulldog clip on a bit of wood, pleated 3 strands together for about 2 inches, about 4 inches from one end. Then(holding the ends carefully), double over the short length you have made and combining the 3 strands at each end of the pleated section, pleat together for about an inch. Then leave out one set of three and continue pleating until you have about a foot length. Yes it took a while. It helps to have good light and also to put a swan shot on each of the ends, much like bobbins in lace making. When you have the length you need, put a blob of nail varnish on it to stop it unravelling.

    You then whip over the eye splice with fine thread, covering the loose ends. Give the whipping a couple of coats of polyurethane varnish,which is flexible when dry. On the other end you whip you long shank hook onto the trace. I would tie an overhand knot in each of the three nylon pieces and whip over them. Finished whipping about and inch long. Again polyurethane varnish two coats. I only ever make two of these and caught many pike on them (and another 2lb roach plus more than a few perch). I never lost one to a 'bite–off'. I changed the hook whipping a few times also, as after a dozen fish it tended to look a bit 'worked over'. If I was fishing like this today I'd just use a thick braid (I know that's contentious).

    This method accounted for dozens of pike from ½lb up to 13lb. Why on earth we never graduated to sprats and other dead–baits and tried for larger fish I do not know. We saw many much larger pike, several that with hindsight, must have been 20lb+. These days, I'd be inclined to pop the worms off the bottom and put a few slivers of red tinsel on the hook. Although so many trips here skew the figures as it were, I've probably have caught more pike on worms that any other bait. It is true to say I never go pike fishing without a few...you never know if you see a fish, it might take worms even if not really feeding.

    Split Shot 1979: Tench on a Slider

    On one occasion having taken my nine foot rod and some sweet–corn down for some proper fishing, I'd made my way about two–thirds of the way along the bank to where the water narrowed and deepened and chanced upon a cloud of silt in ten or twelve feet of water. I assumed these were tench on the feed , so with barely suppressed anticipation tackled up. A more–haste–less–speed moment if ever there was one. The first issue was the depth and I rigged up a slider float that was based on large porcupine quill with an elasticum wire slider eye whipped on the side. I bunged a large hook on the mandatory 6lb mono and loose fed corn all the while.

    I was concerned that setting the depth would spook the fish, this had to be done, but with exaggerated care. I succeeded by virtue of plumbing to one side of the cloud and hoping the depth was similar if not the same and over–casting some way to avoid the terminal tackle splash.

    I removed the 'BB' by the hook, used for this adjustment, over cast and reeled back over the cloud, slipped the bale arm open to allow the line to pull through the float to the stop–knot. This is of course the feeling we all go out for...the float dipped almost right away (which is the other feeling we go out for) and one tench on the bank around 2–3lb. Release and recast and another and few minutes later a third. Delirious by now with thoughts of a red–letter bag, I recast...

    ...and a jolly boat, of the sort rented at the other end of the lake, crashed though the over hanging beech branches next to my swim and over the top of the silt cloud. Sheer bad boatmanship on their part and sincere apologies were proffered, but it was too late for the remaining tench, which had fled.

    The big sliding porcupine quill The big sliding porcupine quill

    The excitement of the previous fifteen minutes was reflected equally now by the sense of lost opportunity that enveloped me while I spent another hour on the spot, on the off chance the school would return. Drat and double drat. That was my 2nd 3rd and 4th tench (ever) anyway, both the good and bad engraved in memory for my posterity.

    VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace...(and back to the top of the page) VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace VB Hook traceSingle 'VB' Hook trace

    Split Shot 1979ish: Another 2lb roach

    I had, as written above, developed a jack pike method for the Rye Dyke, with which it was overrun at that time. A 6lb Alasticum wire trace, a single no. 8 long–shank fly hook, with re–ground the point and barb to ease hooking, plus plaited 8lb Perlon and a couple of AAA shot.

    Bait was worms, several. The idea was, if the water was clear you spotted your pike, cast over, reeled the bait past the nose of the esox l., several feet off, then struck when you saw the bait chomped. If the water was cloudy then touch ledger, casting into likely spots.

    On this occasion I snuck into a swim with bushes on either side and in a gap in the weed spotted a jack around 1½lb facing me only six feet off the bank in maybe three feet of clear water. I pendulum cast the bait out past it, wound back past the pike and let it settle. Nothing happened for a bit, then as the small fins' movements started to signal an impending pounce, a large (and hitherto unseen) roach swam out of the weed, picked up the bait and headed back, just like that.

    After a short but unequal battle a roach was landed that was comfortably over 2lbs on my ropey cheap spring balance...oh well.

    I caught three 2lb roach while jack piking like this, but this one sticks in the mind as I saw every detail. Great moment (I apologise to serious roach fishers everywhere).

      Page divider di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)  

    Split Shot 1977–79: Rye Dyke moments caught in the RNVM

    The first time I ever fished the Rye Dyke was with the brother one cold January, the water was tea–coloured, rare, not that we knew and we'd got centre–pins for Christmas, the current BIG THING. "K. Dowling and Son's" it has on the back of mine, never 'span' in any real sense of the word (still doesn't) and had a kind of line guard made with brass wire and a sliding eye–thing, long since lost. We fished with worms next the boating pool and in the swim the other side of the tree had gently cast lobs into the murk, new 'pins on. Then I had a 'twitcher' and slowly drew in my worm to find a 3lb jack hanging loosely onto the bait. It let go and Cheshire catted. I cast again and it happened again and the third time in hope, it came lightly hooked to the net (a really rubbish folding trout net kind of deal). All fish are good fish. Never occurred to me to actually strike. Now I come to think of it that must have been my first pike ever. Still have the reel, used it for carp in 2006.

    K. Dowling and Son's Centre Pin K. Dowling and Son's Centre Pin

    Pike were the reliable quarry here. I made a tiny spoon of beaten copper and never caught a fish on it, but one cold winter day between two trees at the deep end a monster followed the slowly revolving spoon right up to my feet where it stopped, glared hard at me, then evanesced into the depths, never to be seen again. I cast again with my heart thumping my ribs. Of course.

    Copper spoons Old Devon Minnow

    On another occasion in spring, I cast a bunch of worms to a small pike in the marginal weed at the spot where the Rye Dyke narrowed and deepened. I watched the stripling for a bit and a big pike indeed ambled gently into the swim, picked up the worms and turned away with them and I struck them right out, the pike never changing speed or course.

    I made a tiny quiver tip one winter out of a Winfield quiver tip, a solid glass thing 6 inches long, by taking an inch off it and shaving it to half the thickness. It worked, the tip bobbing perfectly in sync with the pounce of a small pike striking the worms, hidden by the muddy water.

    In a fit of creativity, foreshadowing later tinkering, I took the top section of the 7 foot glass rod and fitted it to the counter of the glass float rod middle section. It made a powerful all through rod of 9'6" – sadly so top heavy in the hand it was abandoned very shortly after. I refitted a new ferrule to both section of the glass rod and then whipped the female with brass wire and soldered over it. No idea why, it's still there.

    The bailiff, at least the only one we knew, was Eugene who fished with an 11ft Bruce and Walker MKIV G, not that I knew it then, but when I saw one a few years back recognised it right away. He used it even for roach fishing and we queried lad–like whether this was sporting'. "Remember," said he "the object is to get them out of there," pointing at the water, "onto here." pointing at the bank. Quite.

    There was a shoal of 'uncatchable' chub which we never tried to catch as they were 'uncatchable'. 'Bruce' (OK, not his real name) cast bread at them in defiance of received wisdom and hooked one. He lost it. See, uncatchable...

    One rhyme–crusted winters day, fishing just down from the boating pool in the first swim free of the ice which locked the entire lake solid, except this part near the top with spring water flow, I watched a mallard angle in for an aircraft carrier landing on the ice, skating towards the ragged edge. It hit the water with a quiet and satisfied 'quack', there was a swirl and it was gone. I watched for a long time after...

    One cold day the three of us sat in a row among the trees at the deep end 'fishing properly' and froze our way to midday without a bite between us. "I'm going to pour a cup of coffee", said Tam, loudly. "There's nothing like a cup of coffee" he continued, pointedly, eye fixed on his float. It never moved. "Huh" he said and picked up the steaming cup. The float stabbed under, the strike confounded by a small vortex of cold and scalded fingers and twanging fibreglass. "Duckit duckit ducking ducking ducking bell!" said Tam. At least I think that was it. Naturally not another bite was seen.

    The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream...(and back to the top of the page) Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus Thymallusgrayling The Lady of the StreamThe Lady of the Stream Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus The Lady of the Streamgrayling Thymallus ThymallusThymallus Thymallus

    Split Shot 1970s, the decade that was. There you go – if you've read all that and got to the bottom, jolly well done. It took me quite a few goes.

    A lot happened, anything recalled is here – chatting with chums it seems likely I recall more than some – I theorise this is because of peripatetic nature of my upbringing – memories become enclosed in the parenthesis's of location – for others, a score of years in one spot must blur more scenes into one, shifting vistas delineate. There's perhaps a little more and some formatting to sort out...the joy of 'php' – but onto the decade of shoulder–pads, big hair and New Romantics. All three of which I studiously avoided.

    Have you noticed that even in 2014, 'disco' never quite died? "Not even," said the Bugangler (14¼) thoughtfully, when some fool put a disco revival on the radio, "if you keep hitting it with a hammer?". That's my girl.

    All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench...(and back to the top of the page) There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchAll tench are good tench There are no bad tenchThere are no bad tench All tench are good tenchTinca tinca little star...