Funny thing, less fishing this decade, the first half of which was spent loitering in the beech trees, chalk and steep hills of High Wycombe and a roundabout HW"High Why-Com-Bee" as an American tourist once said to me...the roundabout was the one at the bottom of Marlow Hill. This consisted of six mini-roundabouts in a big circle and like its namesake in Hemel was known locally as 'The Magic Roundabout'. This was because it was possible to go round it any way one damn well pleased, or as I did one night at 3am, right through the middle...which I don't endorse. Irritating aren't they? . Moving on...the business of working for a living, some convenient rough shooting in the office's grounds, a social life both inside and outside of work then a drive (many many drives) to pay for education - the end result - less fishing, more scattered, more in holidays, the week-end fishing drying up due to 'knackeredness', 'cricket' and just possibly 'some girls'. On passing a driving test (well, one of them) and attaching myself to the 'Other Mk.IV', you'd think it would have been 'tackle to the fore', kind of true...but little fishing, I can only recall driving to the Rye Dyke and the Thames once, parking on the north side of the river, although a little pond fishing was mobility facilitated. I did a good bit of rough shooting, the place-of-work was set in large semi-formal grounds and they had a 'squirrel problem' and I had a 'strongly liking for pigeon pie' so an arrangement that benefited all parties was agreed, except the squirrels and pigeons. On the upside, I got to take 'Old Bob' shooting, air-rifles only, with a few frames of snooker afterwards.
Deciding to 'better myself' - late '83, I spent twelve months prior to 'going up' studying maths in an evening class while, to stockpile living expenses, working as many hours as various contract jobs would allow. Fishing rather took a back seat. In 1985 I spent four months commuting along the old A4 from Hazelmere to Thatcham, working out of a little place around the corner from the prospective new house and then within a week of the folks moving to Thatcham, I found myself commuting the same A4 back to High Wycombe with the sun in my face both ways. Funny old world nffEveryone says that. Nobody laughs... . The first and short-lived Laser FM was around then, and with their limited play-list I was almost guaranteed 'Stainsby Girls' on the long straight A4 into the summer sunsets. 'Suddenly', barely having settled into Thatcham, it was September 1985, Egham & environs, with occasional Thatcham. Ah, the joys of Academe. The joys of no early mornings and a student bar, certainly.
JAA's Diary for...
There's not loads of entries on this page, so no handy links, just scrolling...
|medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...(and return to the top of the page)||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and wait for it...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...do keep up...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...and one more time...||medium one, small one, tiny one, silly one...got it?|
July 1980. Splatcove Point. What a great name. I fished from the rock seen in this picture below, an afternoon during a break day in a walking holiday. I caught a small wrasse early doors (a few ounces) and then as the afternoon wore on I dozed off. Inconsiderately, no fish woke me up, so ended the day with sun-burnt ankles. Not a big laugh when you have a fifteen mile walk the next day. Obviously it is for everyone else on holiday. Oh well. 'Live and Learn'. Nice spot though.
Carrying the Mk.IIThe nearly-seven foot-blue solid fibre-glass rod rod tied to the side frame of the rucksack was easy enough. Re-stitching the straps that tied the rucksack to its frame after the 'clash of ties' ripped one out, not so easy. Later, up the coast, one of our number who'd got under K--'s and my skin, led the others 'the girls' across a cliff-top field next to a pub in Strete, convincing himself and others there was a path down to the beach. The map disagreed, we agreed with the map. We leaned on the five-bar field-gate, watched the positive procession stride though thigh-high grass and thistles. "What do you reckon?" I said.
"Mine's a pint." said K--.
Later on the same stroll about, I fished up the Dart, some jetty at the bottom of the hill the Youth hostel was on. Blanked, 'being there' the primary goal, very much a trip of improvisation. Fish? 'Meh'.
|The interestingly named Stink Cove and Splatcove point near Salcombe|
The interestingly named Stink Cove and Splatcove point near Salcombe bar.
© Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse.The interestingly named Stink Cove and Splatcove point near Salcombe bar.
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July 1981. River Liza. On a Youth Hostelling hiking holiday with K--, I happily accepted the varied sarcastic remarks for carrying a fishing rod, tackle and a small box of worms (in damp moss) around in the rucksack. My inability to cross any piece of water without peering into it was tolerated as well. Just about.
We'd booked ourselves into Black Sail Youth HostelThe ridiculously remote Black Sail which is located at the head of Ennerdale, stayed at Wastwater YH the previous night and had walked around the lake and up over the hill. On the way we crossed a small bridge within sight of the hostel, which was the upper end of the River Liza. I cannot cross any bridge without checking for fish (which drove K-- potty I can tell thee). There were several small trout visible...as the day's walk was a short one, I headed back down with the nine-footer and with a 'worm and one shot rig', caught a small trout from the pool below the bridge straight away. Then I worked down the river, until amongst the pine trees with their grey root-level dead-ground and caught a further trout under the bank on a shallow gravelly run.
|River Liza looking downstream from the bridge into the trees||River Liza looking upstream from the bridge|
Both 'fingerling' trout (1-2oz), but a fish is a fish. The pictures above are the river looking upstream and downstream from the bridge.
July 1981. Innominate Tarn on Haystacks. The warden, 'it turned out', was a fell runner and an angler (dry fly) and hearing of my exploits, suggested (managing not to sound disparaging of a wormer) trying for the trout in the tarn atop the hill behind the Hostel. Being young, fit, if inclined not to 'think things through', I ate, jogged (yes, really, maximise the fishing time) up the hill to the tarn, following the directions given. I spent about an hour on the side of a clear and acidic looking pool in the cool evening sunshine casting a self-cocking float and a worm, at rising trout.
I had no luck at all, but in the evening sitting still seemed the wrong thing to do. Very suddenly, with the failing light, came a wisp of cloud from behind me, then a sudden but gradual fading of the orange setting sunlight. I looked round, saw cloud coming down and watched the visibility drop to 50 yards. I didn't even take my rod down, jammed the hook well into butt, tightened the line and headed down the way I'd come, which had already started to vaporise into the mist. The edge of the cloud followed me down the hill like a slow fall of snow. Even with my limited experience of The Lakes, I knew if the visibility went, so should you.
I jogged down the hill and was very fortunate when my left leg sank up to the knee in soft earth mid-stride while running down the steep gully. I stopped dead, the reflexes of the young, fortunate not to dislocate my knee or break my leg. Don't mess with the mountains.
|Innominate Tarn - almost exactly where I fished from.||Innominate Tarn on Haystacks|
Years later I discovered the ashes of the great Wainwright were scattered up there, something I was not aware of at the time, makes me feel slightly privileged for some reason. A wonderful place, I wish I'd photographed it for myself
1981. More or less. Latchmoor Pond, Gerrards Cross Common, Bucks. A displaced mildly aristocratic pal of mine lived around the corner. On a whim, as it appeared to be 'free' (i.e. others fished and there were no signs to the contrary) I had a go and failed to catch any of the small carp but did promise myself I'd slip back for an observed pikelet. Which I never did...
|Gerrards Cross: Latchmoor Pond- at the north end of Gerrards Cross Common.||
Gerrards Cross: Latchmoor Pond - at the north end of Gerrards Cross Common.
The last time I looked, this was a site of some squabbling, now an official 'amenity'. I'll bet it's 'no fishing' in any event.
|A bunch of hooks found in my pike box...(and back to the top of the page)||A bunch of hooks found in my pike box||A bunch of hooks found in my pike box||A bunch of hooks found in my pike box|
July 1982. Porth Nanven, near St Just-in-Penwith - this is 'round the corner' a bit from Lands End - at the end of a small valley, leading away from the Youth Hostel. It's another one of those places that is more interesting than you first suppose.Porth Nanven has sometimes been referred to as 'Dinosaur Egg Beach' ...
At the end of the valley is a rocky spur, jutting out into the sea (at high tide anyway, see the piccy at the bottom). The plan for me and one of my walking friends was much to do with having a quiet day after some stiff walking. We'd shopped and fortified with bread, ham, cheese, plus some mead wine, so set off. I was fishing in an incidental way, which is to say, as well as eating and sleeping off the wine. I amused myself by catching a very large goby out of a big rock pool.
As the tide was coming in, we ate, libated and settled further up the rocks. I set up a simple paternoster running rig on a 1½oz 'spoon' lead (made by using a tea-spoon as a mould, cheap and very good at staying where put). I levered limpets off as bait, cast out 50-odd yards, sat in a comfortable spot, back on the rocks and held the 7' rod up with a finger over the line...and some time passed. N--, 'fatigued' by mead wine, sunshine and being the least athletic of the three of us, fell asleep. I waited. The tide had come in quite some way and the small beach and pools below were drowned under three or four feet of water. How do I know this?
Two girls appeared walking round the beach from the right. On reaching the bit below where I was fishing, they resolved to wade rather than climb round and being oblivious of me and the napper, stripped to the waist [which was how I knew how deep it was] and waded on around their clothes held over their heads, with much giggling. I kept quiet - I could have woken my friend, but more fun to tell him later. And I didn't want to embarrass anyone, obviously. There's was also the nagging suspicion that with a warm wind and a high tide, they were Kelpies in disguise. One cannot be too careful.
Some time after that, I'd almost dozed off myself, the rod started to bend steadily seawards. Aha. It became clear this was not the wind or current, when, after hitting about the test curve, line started to click steadily of the '40. I forbore the strike (seemed unnecessary somehow) and started to 'play' a very heavy fish which appeared to be swimming parallel to the shore, fifty yards out. It took some time to winch Leviaithan shoreward and when the battle was half won, I remembered I was still eight feet above the water so keeping the line tight, made my way down to a shelf on the water line, more or less where the beach met the rocks where the tide had come in.
|That's the rock...|
N-- surfaced himself and inevitably asked me if it was a fish, prompting a tirade of sarcastic suggestions vis-a-vis submarines, mermaids and associated mythological creatures. I still hadn't ruled out the Kelpie. I kept up the pull-reel-pull until the fish broke water near my feet, revealing itself to be a very large wrasse. I grabbed it by the gill cover and lifted it clear of the water and for a while we both marvelled at the size and colouring. Non-fishermen are often surprised how big a 6lb+ fish actually is, which makes sense if you normally only see fish fingers and battered cod.
Going by the size of carp I'd caught ('two'? 'three'?), this was a fish of not less than 6lb and was likely a good bit bigger. I knew wrasse are not usually eaten and with the Youth Hostel lacking such facilities anyway, the fish was returned to the sea after only a few minutes. Calling it quits, we made our way back to the beach where I was accosted by a man who wanted to know (with some aggression), why the fish had been returned. I explained it was inedible and got a reply suggesting it should have been killed anyway. Atypically I walked away. Still a great fish, not a bad afternoon. Mine improved somewhat when I explained to the sleeper how two mermaids had passed him by.
The next day, we walked on to St. Ives, did not meet a man with seven wives, overtaken after a few miles by a short, spry German girl who appeared to be carrying a sideboard in her rucksack. I'd spent an hour explaining the differences between cricket and baseball to her the previous evening, while playing chess with a the son of another resident of the hostel, while in the background an Australian girl played 'Stairway to Heaven' on the common-room piano. Funny what you remember. I spent the evening fishing in St. Ives harbour, eschewing the first few rounds of beer, blanked of course. Still...
July 1982. Pednennis Point, Falmouth. Mermaids? What mermaids? I took an evening on the rocks behind the Youth Hostel, again levered limpets, then found a deep drop to give me a chance with the seven-foot Mk.II rod. So dreaming of large wrasse, threw the 1½oz dessert-spoon lead into the green-and-grey mysterious, dropped the eyelids and listened to the wind and waves...then I was being watched and opened my eyes onto a grey seal ten yards off, motionless in the waves, dark eyes gravely studying. We watched each other for a short eternity, then it was gone. I offered a silent plea for no seal-and-tackle incidents and when, half-an-hour on, the rod tweaked a bit I leaned back hopefully and found myself immovably snagged, so broke the line and went to the pub...
...which had a jukebox and we amused ourselves playing our own choices, K--, N-- and me, and I probably played "Pearl's a Singer" more than was proper, but I'd never heard it before and liked it rather.
|...coffin...(and back to the top of the page)||...barrel...||...coffin...||...barrel...||...coffin...||...barrel...|
1983. Coleshill Pond, Coleshill, Bucks. This pond looks like a large puddle in a field after winter rains and is apparently unusual being at the top of a hill, lying on a perched aquifer (whatever that means). Having said that there are quite a few ponds atop hills in this part of the Chilterns. Penn Pond for example and there are ponds at Holmer Green, Beamond End, Penn Street and Winchmore Hill as well (no idea if they had fish in). Judging by the fence and trees in the water, the level varies considerably over the year. How I came across it I do not recall. I must have been on the way somewhere and stopped to see and having seen signs of fish, elected to return at a later date.
I went several times over a winter in 1982-3. I fished a simple pole rig with punched bread or maggot, a 2lb bottom with a size 18 hook, light tackle, but was fairly sure I wouldn't need more than that. I caught a good dozen small roach on my first visit, a few ounces each at most and while this is no great shakes it was good sport of a cold winter afternoon, for a couple of hours (probably after Sunday lunch, when approaching the long dark tea-time of the soul).
This was the pattern of subsequent visits and I went no more than three or four times, finishing each visit straining to see the float in the winter gloom, with the fish still tentatively biting even was frost fell...and then getting back to the car cold-numbed from the neck down, only shivering when the heater kicked in half-way home (I had rather stupidly trained myself to sit in the cold without shivering as it spoiled one's aim rather).
|This picture taken from the end I fished from.||Coleshill Pond - Coleshill, Bucks||Coleshill Pond - Coleshill, Bucks|
Just so you know; An aquifer is a body of rock or soil that is sufficiently porous and permeable to store and transfer significant amounts of groundwater. An aquitard is a body of relatively impermeable rock. A perched aquifer is a body of groundwater (e.g. a pond) that lies above the regional water table (on top of a hill for instance) because it is underlain by a small aquitard (a pond liner for example).
The top of this small zone of saturation is known as a perched water table. In this case, I think that there is a layer of clay over the top of the Chilterns, which stops water in some places seeping back into the chalk...wow, I must get out more.
So, it appears, should you.
P.S. in around 2004 I met an engineer at a customer's who had lived in Coleshill and fished it himself in the mid '90's, so regaled me with tales of inevitable carp and some well received tench. Time moves on...
P.P.S. I did take some snaps on a soggy day in 2008 on my way back from somewhere or other, but I've lost them. Funny. I don't normally lose stuff like that.
July 1983. Afon Goch. On another YHA 'have rod will travel' thing, we booked into Snowdonia YH. At the end of the Hostel's driveway there was a steep gully, with a small stream. It had to be done, so enquiries were made in the YH; "Anyone can fish there...", which was good enough. The stream was six feet across at most, a steep gulley thirty-degree cascade, the water tumbling from pool to pool via assorted stones. It was white-noisy, overhung with trees and also had fish (certainly in the lower reaches passed en route). I still love fishing in water that you can hear. Intoxicating.
I went for the inevitable 'worm and shotThe hook, the worm and the shot' rig. A single 'BB', 4" from the '16' hook is all that was needed to put the bait more-or-less where aimed and stay there long enough to get a bite, in theory. I flicked the bait into the pool upstream and touch ledgered...first pool, 'rattle' and out came 1oz of small trout. In this sort of fishing the speed of the trout across the pool usually sets the hook and swings the fish clear, all in one movement. Usually.
Not a bad start, but better came, as after a second try in the same pool, you never know, I worked up to the next. And got the same result - I worked my way up the gulley casting ahead of myself and in an hour (no more, the pubs were open soon...), nabbed nine trout of 1-3oz. Not monsters, but fresh, clean and very well coloured. At least two more threw the hook on clearing the water.
At the top of the gulley, the stream 'levelled out' to a mere five degrees or so, with a field on the right hand side. I made my way back down with no further reward. One of my best fishing sessions ever. With hindsight, knowing trout tend to face upstream (as dry fly purists know well), it seemed that even in this environment, making your way upstream was essential to catch. No bites on the way down small-stream Nirvana.
July 1983. Llyn Padern. Afon Goch ran (or more appropriately "fell") into Llyn Padern, a two mile long lake at the entrance of Llanberis Pass, lying in the shadow of Snowdon. There were day tickets available for the lake and if memory is right I bought more worms for bait. I fished an area of the lake on the south bank that had various small inlets and a heavy covering of trees, which were I think alders. The water was three-four feet deep and I float-fished against the far bank of one of these 15-20 foot wide cuts. For some reason I can remember using a 4BB antennae, which I still have, a bit battered now...
I had three bites in my half day session and follwoing the first, lost a smallish trout which went off at a terrific speed and threw the hook when it cleared the water. The last two bites turned out to be thick eels of 1-2lb which took some landing on my light ("celery stick") rod and 3lb line. Later in the day a couple of local lads came by to fish and were quite disappointed to know I put the eels back...still attached to their heads as well. It can be done.
July 1983. Llyn Cwellyn. The lake is onA natural glacial moraine lake that has existed since the last ice age. The lake is very deep and is one of the few lakes in Wales to support a natural population of Arctic char. the western side of Snowdon and, is situated in broodingLlyn Cwellyn, Watercolour, copyright © Keith Andrew RCA but stunning countryside. Apparently there are Char in the lake, as there are in Llyn Padern. I didn't know that at the time and wouldn't have known what to do about it, if I had.
Opposite the Youth Hostel on the East side of the lake, was a semi-circular meadow jutting into the water. I still had a permit which covered both lakes for a week, but as the water was gin clear, float fishing seemed out, even with trout rising. I could see rocks on the bottom twenty yards away, in ten or twelve feet of water. Unusual. So I ledgered worms about thirty yards out and caught three eels in a couple of hours. Very many worse places to spend time behind a fishing rod and I don't mind eels.
August 1983. Fisher's Pond again. At some point the lake was bought then drained via the sluice at the bottom end and managed, i.e. restocked with a good number of carp and many of the stunted fish removed. Before I fished again 'Old Bob' and I wondered past and popped in to find the water just a muddy thread with netting in progress and were permitted to stand at the sluice and watch as carp and other fish were sorted and put into holding tanks. 'Old Bob' was amazed to see fish of that size in the pond, I was just amazed.
I fished the pond thrice after that. On the first occasion making a good net of roach on float fished maggots, fishing off the moss lined cool seat of the red brick platform by the sluice and on the second occasion from the same spot, expanded my horizons by fishing a 4BB 'Windbeater' next a patch of lilies twenty yards off. Sweet corn was deployed and after an hour landed a mirror somewhere around 6-8lb. Despite the feeble 9' rod it was subdued quickly after one long run. This was my third carp and gave me immense pleasure as I'd set out to fish for one against a feature of my choosing. Chuffed.
The last time I fished here was in 1983 - I'd struck up a friendship with 'Pterrydork' and we decided a weekend of fishing and drinking would be a good plan and cajoled 'Old Bob' and his better half into putting us up.
We had a few preliminary drinks on the Friday and Saturday headed off to the pond and hired a punt. Punted out to a large patch of lilies and holing up, fished happily in the sun on a mirror-finished surface for the morning and despite my friend being a newcomer to fishing we caught plenty of roach all morning. I used my old pole and passed my float rod over, on the basis that if anything large was hooked it might be better to deal with it on the rod and line. A sound plan, but not one that was needed in the event.
There are many worse ways of spending a day with the trees on all sides and fishing easily against a lily patch. After a pleasant bag, the internal dinner gong sounded and we punted over to the pub, moored by the wall, partook of a large lunch and some 'light refreshments'. Oh all right then, a couple of halves...possibly even three. We punted back to the lilies and passed away the afternoon in similar fashion with broadly similar results. Perhaps the falling-down water had pickled some brain cells as the details are hazy.
We dined at 'Old Bob's and headed for the 'Coach and Horses' at the bottom of Otterbourne Hill, wiled away the evening playing the 'balloon game' with us lining up pure capitalism (Maggie) against pure socialism. Pterrydork had to endure a breakfast of shame (sausages, home-made white bread and butter on Sundays) due to a certain amount of chucking up, probably down to what was undoubtedly a 'bad packet of crisps'...heh. 'Old Bob' thought that amusing.
1983. Returning the Favour
My first proper job was at a now-defunct R&D Establishment in Buckinghamshire, which by 2016 had dwindled to just the original manor-house, shorn of its light industrial appendages, these latter replaced with 'desirable residences'. Most of the grander trees remained, some which were brought there by some long forgotten adventurer, including two immense redwood trees, one either side of the drive.
I had a yen for an air-rifle rough shoot, I'd a newly acquired 3-9×45 telescopic sight and so enquired of the gardener, who lived in a bungalow on-site. Different times. He was in broad agreement in principle as long as, in return for my removal of woodpigeons, pies for the making of, I would thin the grey-squirrel horde as they were proficient burglars with a fondness for electrical wiring. I was directed to the site-services director, a pompous man in a distant high-status office of the old house where he agreed to the terms. The deal was struck.
I worked out the best places to nab pigeons when they came in to roost and by virtue of sitting quietly, worked out the squirrel highways through the trees. It turned out the best way to shoot them was to ambush them on their normal runs, and if you are unnoticed, they do not move neary as fast as most think. A winter's afternoon would generally provide an hour of two squirrelling, and then a dusk-hour of pigeon shooting and I seldom failed to nab one, they all went for the pot.
I passed my driving test later than some - before that time I used to cycle - I cycled to work in any event, eight miles each way. I'd wrap my air-rifle in a thick shapeless cloth bag and strap it across my shoulders, which looked less like a gun than one in a gun-bag. During the summer I'd arrive at dawn, an hour early for work, and then pick one or two squirrels off before the site woke. This was most around the back of the site, behind what was once a walled garden. I can tell you that the squirrel population never diminish noticeably in the three-odd years I thinned them out. The woodlands and gardens around provided a seemingly inexhaustible population.
It was the case that Old Bob had very much ceased to take his old 12-bore out, he was a good judge of his own increasing years. However, when he was visiting, as I had both a car and a second air-rifle, I could take him for a stroll about with the gun as an appostie quid pro quo. The first time we went, barely out of the car he shot a squirrel using my shoulder as a rest and was sufficiently pleased that we made it a regular thing and I got the pleasure of showing him my shoot, the pigeon lies and squirrel runs.
As a bonus the social club, (these kinds of places really don't exist anymore) had a decent, slate-bedded three-quarter size snooker-table and for a modest fee I was allowed the keys. So we would could shoot for an hour or two and then play snooker, another of his great loves, until it was time to go home for tea. It is a rare thing to give back something of a great gift in such a way. I'm more grateful for this than I can express.
|just a hook...(and back to the top of the page)||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...|
1984. At last a Proper Rod. I'd got a bee in my bonnet about having a proper fishing rod, despite going fishing less often. A (new) tackle shop on Desborough road in Wycombe offered me a blank which met my description, soft action, about a 1½lb t/c, 11 feet long. It was mostly carbon, but I wonder now if there isn't some glass in the mix. This cost me £40, a lot in 1984, it had a duplon handle and reel seat fitted. I went into Newbury and bought 'Fuji BNHG' rings (the sort with the luminous insert, I just liked the colour) and thread. The thread was thicker than grade 'D' (they must have seen me coming) and I whipped the rings on top of a thin coat of araldite and then smeared a little more into the whipping surface. Sounds awful, but the rings were was still going strong in 2004.
I took it down to show 'Old Bob' and he couldn't believe how light it was.
1984. Crummock Water. On yet another walking holiday in the Lakes we had a spare non-walking day and took my 'pool cue' to the edge of Crummuck Water for a bit of non-serious fishing in the sun. On the north side of Crummock Water in the lee of 'Low Bank' I found a small beach area, set down three feet down from the cut-back turf shoreline and bunged in a ledgered worm and sent several hours in the sun with one of my walking companions which yielded among other things a small trout. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Dammit was I ever that thin?
...and nice and easy does it...
It was a pretty relaxed type of fishing as you might deduce from the old (scanned) picture of a much younger (and some might say marginally slimmer) JAA.
I fished from very near here
© Copyright Pam Brophy and licensed for reuse
Crummock Water taken looking South, from the point where the road runs along the North of the lake.
1984. Hove and the Milward 'Black Spider'.
I visited a cousin in Hove Actually HA"So, you live in Brighton?" "No! Hove actually..." and rambled on the next day, found a tackle shop where I got a spool of Milward 'Black Spider' braided terylene in 11lb b/s. This was thinner than the 8lb I was using, so was much chuffed as it seem bang-on the same diameter as 8lb 'Perlon' and so perfect for a varnished four-turn water knot. I bought a mackerel, parked up the coast and fished lightly in the gentle surf, sitting on the pebbles between two groynes and enjoying the sun. After a drifting hour, I noted subtle swirls on the edge of the waves and once or twice a fin poked through...I tried for some time to keep a bait on the edge of the water but never got so much as a nibble. Hey ho.
The 'Black Spider' went on the carp fishing for the next three years, and you can see it in the blurry picture and I still have the spool...
|The right hand orange circle is the 'Black Spider'. The two left hand ones are thread, carp rod for the building of, and some bottle of fish-oil for pike fishing. I'm faintly embarrassed by some of the rest of the room's contents. I was young.|
1984. I was inveigled into taking a slightly younger cousin fishing and I chose Broadlands on the basis it was nearby (to him). I had no idea how it might fish, and had barely enough tackle to provide a set-up for him, but we went, I recall some corn, a bream and something larger trailing off and throwing the hook. And, on the way back, nearly dying on the M27 when a car ahead lost control and the unconscious mind kicked in and had me braking before the two cars between us. Phew...
|I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page)||a very subtil fish||Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders.||if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience||I am content to wait. I am well used to it.|
1985. Thatcham...and Egham.
So, relocated to Thatcham in 1985 (which place, up to then, I'd only ever heard of as I'd been driving there for the previous three months, working less than a hundred yards from the folks' new home, one of life's "What are the odds?" thingies. Thought to be the oldest continuously settled place in the UK apparently. Until 2014.
This made the 'A' level maths evening class in Amersham something of a slog, made bearable by (a) the contract draughting job in Coronation Road, High Wycombe and (b) the charming Janet who brought coffee to class for the first month, which she shared, then artfully tippex'ed a white patch on my brief-case and wrote carefully on the impromptu notelet, "Your turn to bring the damn coffee."
In the evenings of that summer, in-between times on the road, was The Pike Pit and more than a passing acquaintance with "The Cricketers" as it was then, let's call it an 'old fashioned' pub. Then came higher education, thus I moved seamlessly to full-time student, 'the soprano', displaced by 'the biochemist' turned seamlessly into 'the stalker' and fishing was suddenly relegated to "Later on...".
The 'damn coffee' note was still on the old Delsey briefcase when I threw it out in 1999. Heh.
June 1985. The 'Pike Pit'. ppKnown as 'Horden's Mere' these days...noble idea, but it'll always be 'Pike Pit' for me.
|The South-East corner of Pike Pit - around 1992, but apposite to put it here. Ten feet of water a rod length out, a wonderful spot for perch pike and carp. I recently rescanned this picture and suddenly there was my old 13' float rod and to the right just past a sprig of leaves, a float.|
'Pike Pit' was the smallest, most northern and my favourite of the three gravel-pits on the Thatcham AA permit at that time, named for the pike that were removed from the other pits and placed into this one. Allegedly. Favoured because it was near enough to walk to, was the smallest and for my money the most feature rich. It is perhaps 200 x 50 yards, had shallow water on the north side and deep water on the south side, inplaces twelve feet under the rod tip. The west end had a kind of bay area and a small lagoon. There were lumps and bumps all over the lake bottom and reed beds on both sides, plus plenty of alder tree cover at the east end.
It reeked of fish, first experiences there were of float-fishing with mixed maggots and in 1985 you could fill a net with roach and perch on a warm day, especially if you fished in deeper swims where the fish were under the bank. For a couple of years the perch were everywhere, but then (and as you would expect) the pike made an appearance feeding on the perch. I know this because I lost a lot of perch 'that way' and landed at least two pike of about 3lbs that just wouldn't let go, once in the Corner Pitch and again on the Point pitch. On both of those occasions the perch swam off, the tough skin punctured but not torn. Sturdy little bu88ers.
Attitudes to pike were still 'basic' even then and it was not unusual to find dead pike on the bank or in the rubbish bins. Duh. As most things go full circle, when the pike food runs out, the pike fade away and a few big ones make it by eating the others.
I fished most evenings in the summer of 1985 for the wild carp (probably just 'feral' rather than 'wildies'), which were under-fished at that time and ran to about 9lbs (my best was 8½lb). The serious proper carpers with the pods'n'rods fished Jubilee and scorned the 'Pike Pit'. The method was as simple as you like. I fished a couple of feet out from the south bank of the lake, the depth was between nine and twelve feet. I initially used a 3BB crystal antennae, but ended up with a 1BB version and laterly Drennan Canal Crystal floats.
|This is the only one I have left, I had several.|
The '1BB' was put about 6" from a size 8 Jack Hilton carp hook jhNot that I knew that then...went into the tackle shop in Newbury and asked for carp hooks and that's what they sold me. It wasn't until 2005 I found out what a JH hook was and realised I still had a few. , packed with sweet-corn and then loose feed a little more. Having read my 'Still-Water Angling' I didn't really trust split-shot on the mono as it might weaken it. So I made a stop-knot with braid and then added a second stop-knot at a convenient distance below the float to facilitate underarm casting. Then it dawned on me that one piece of braid was all that was required and either put the float on the mono between two slider-knots or on the loop of braid thus formedBefore the advent of 'float-stops', I did this.. I also used a braid hook-link made up with initally 8lb and later 11lb "Milwards Black Spider". I joined this to 8lb mono with a four-turn water knot - the braid having been painted with polyurethane varnish for about 3" on one end. I spent some time testing hook-knots with this braid and the scales proved that a 'half-blood' was fine, despite reading to the contrary.
This set-up worked well and I never had a break on these knots. The 11ft through-action carp rod mentioned aboveStill a good rod, just needs a cork handle... was paired with the 'Cardinal 40' loaded with 8lb Perlon.
|...which I recently used on a rod re-build for decoration||The remaining stock of JH carp hooks, barbed, as they were in those days.|
Fishing that close in meant absolute stillness, quiet and a low profile and was for the most part a solitary business. I sat on the flap of my rucksack RSKhaki, army surplus, thick material, one strap a little frayed where 'Smaje' Junior spilled HCl on it. He also set fire to my hand once and my tie on another occasion. And poured liquid bromine on his hand, earning a 'blue-light' ride to hospital. The chemistry partner from Hell. cross-legged and waited. Several regular visitors were trained to keep quiet and low when dropping by. The bailiff, of course, clomped about in a white T-shirt, which appears to be mandatory. On a good evening I might catch three fish by fishing into the darkness with a beta-light float.
Typically, I'd pick out a swim in the reed beds and ground-bait with a few grains of corn right on the margin. The slider-knot rig (above) allowed me to underarm cast while keeping the rod off the skyline, then I'd lay the rod on the ground. This became a regular thing, a few hours most evenings spent beside the lake until past dark and beyond.
It's unbeatable, the excitment and satisfaction at having so carefully constructed a strategy and tackle-set for these carp and then to catch one, then two on the first evening out. It felt like proper fishing. Bites were often sudden, the float simply vanishing. The first run was electrifying and seldom less than 30 yards of head-down sprinting. The fights were hard, the fish slender and fit, unlike so many over-fed fish now. So I learnt to fish and how to play fish. This poor picture is scanned from an old photo and was taken late evening, flash-lit with my point-and-shoot film camera.
|3-4lb of feral carp from the Pike Pit. The only picture I ever took of the carp, I've no idea why. Pictures cost money in them days, so one was sparing, but now that looks like a silly reason.|
My regular visits made me a 'feature' and both the bailiff and a lad became regulars when it became clear I was actually catching. The boy, after initially strolling up and to my mind putting down the fish, understood after we talked about why I did what I was doing and became stealthier as time progressed. These sessions saw the development of the sixth sense some of us claim. I'd usually 'know' a bite was imminent, a stillness would come over the float and I'd find my attention focussed and my hand on the rod. Seldom wrong back then and while it is easy to convince yourself that you knew something was about to happen (forgetting all the times it didn't, we call this 'confirmation bias'), I pulled this trick off with company. 'The Lad' sidled up one evening while I was lolling off-the-rod and asked if anything was happening. Not at the moment I replied and then two quiet minutes later, I sat up, laid a hand on the rod, saying "There is now" and the float vanished with no preliminaries, as it did. I repeated this trick with the bailiff, resulting in a terrifiic tussle even by the standards of the water, the bailiff impressed enough to fetch scales and weigh the largest I'd had, 8lb 14oz of feral common, not quite the largest from the lake by a few ounces.
The sixth sense thing also worked with "Call me Zen" on the pitch up from 'The Corner Pitch'. There were times this didn't happen, but it's odd. Over many sessions it became clear that dusk was the key time, so with a torch and a 3BB 'Beta-light' float I fished into the night, all the tackling up and baiting performed inside my small bag by the light of the feeble torch, lest its light spook the fish. It's the best time to be by the water as the light fails and the float starts to dance in front of your eyes. Watching the beta-light sizzle fifty yards across the water in near darkness was quite something as well. Everything changes at night. The surroundings close in around, your other senses heighten, a limbic response from pre-history when we were the prey. Reeds and leaves rustle for no good reason, fish suck at the margins producing a variety of unlikely and sudden noises.
I spooked myself once and packed with the supressed-frenzy calm that is the last barrier between normality and blind panic. No reason, no ghosts. Calm and measured tread through the bushes between the two lakes and along the track with the muscles on your back crawling and the feeling of being watched persisiting as I crossed the sports field in the sodium-wash. You don't look behind because you know there's nothing there, that would be silly. Then the palpable relief on reaching the far side of the sports field. Unnerving. Not the only time either.
|di·vid·er: (noun): a thing that keeps two spaces or areas separate (...and back to the top of the page)|
The other advantage of this method was the occasional 'other fish' and there were a few tench, roach and crucians in the lake. One evening, fishing at the last south bank swim before the reed bed started, oddly carpless, I had a bite and after something of what I though was an atypical struggle, discovered this was a typical dogged bottom-hugging battle from a tench that went just over 6lb, which even with the stout tackle, gave a very good account of itself. Tench do not often exceed the speed and length of run of a wild carp, but the power is often in excess of its cousin, weight for weight and they are a harder fish to bully where they don't want to go.
Another evening, sat in The Corner Pitch, I watched a crucian make its way along the east side in a series of jumps and as my bait was ten feet down, was not holding my breath as it disappeared for the last time six feet from me, but fifteen (long) seconds later the float flicked twice and vanished abruptly and I found the crucian was around 2lb, although it had little of import to say to the 8lb line and the carp rod, although it did its best.
There were quite a few 'surprised roach' to a over a pound, but nothing larger - big roach are terribly shy and with the obsessive attention on 'quiet and keeping out of sight', I would hazard a guess that there were very few larger. Hindsight is easy, but I wonder about the possibilities of paste and meat if I'd fished with them.
I plied my carping trade here for two summers of long evenings, many many feral carp came and went (in reality, probably the same ones several times, there can't have been more than 20-30 of them at most. Like all places of the past, the fishing and atmosphere were a peak product of the surrounding years and after those two 'perfect' summers it never fished quite the same and was never really the same place. So I keep this lake, that taught me how to fish and carp-fishing, penned on the internet for posterity.
|An almost failed attempt to photograph a robin that was cadging maggots. These and the rod-bag tells me I was 'float-fishing for bites'.|
July 1985. Churchill Heath Farm. Not one thousand miles from Chipping Norton and 'the soprano's' place was this little old quarry pit (as it was in 1985) and so went up early one time and fished an afternoon and recall only the steep sides on one side, a kind of muddy beach and an almost inevitable indigence of small perch. There's a 'proper' fishing lake there now. Probably not as interesting but still.
September 1985. The Pike Pit
'The soprano' wanted to go fishing to see what it was about, so on a sunny day we beetled over to Pike Pit, at the most sub-optimal time for carp naturally. The lake was relatively crowded, so we parked on the east-end pitch which was something of a cut-out in the long grass, a comfortable spot, although without shade. This suited herself, who donned cool sunglasses and lounged in a cool way in case anyone influential was watching.
I opted to fish sweet corn 'down the slope' into the deeper corner water as there wasn't really any other option that seemed likely to bring a carp out to play. It worked after a bit, I got 'the buzz' and the tiny canal crystal slid into the water on the same trajectory as the slope of the bed and the soprano was impressed with the size stI kind of feel a snarky knob joke should go here, but can't be bothered so insert your own. , perhaps 5lb's of feral common.
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July 1986. Tributary of the River Amble, North Cornwall. In the summer of 1986 I had the good luck to stay a week at a farmhouse B&B near TrewethernThis is as near as I can work it out; R. Amble on...(see what I did there?) (Near Wadebridge, odd coincidence that) with a good friend. The farm had a small stream running through it and although only four feet wide in the wide places, it had a small head of brown trout. I knew this because the entrance road to the farm forded the river and you could see the trout scurrying for cover on the upstream side which was tree covered almost down to the water level, making an inviting tunnel, but the invitation was 'to lose your end tackle at your convenience'.
100 yards up the trees cleared and the stream wandered through the fields, notched into a small valley and so on one bright and sunny day (not always the best for this type of fishing) I went down to a likely pool in the meadow and fished a worm rig a la 'Trout Stream' in this pool and other likely points up the stream. I had one success after an hour or so, a nice brown of about 3oz, which is very decent for stream of this size. A fish is a fish. I'd have had another dart at them, but that would have been a tad antisocial.
Ye gods, was I ever that thin?
|...cracking shirt...Ye gods was I ever that thin?|
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July 1987. Round Pond. On Chobham Heath, just beside the B383, South of the M3, but just North of Chestnut Lane is a small round pond perhaps thirty yards in diameter, the name of which is 'Round Pond'. I spent some time in 1987 walking on Chobham Heath, rehabilitating a torn ligament in my left ankle (second time, third yet to come) and came across this pond, which advertised it's population with a few shreds of discarded tackle and on closer examination the small movements of small fish.
If you were to take a small rod I imagine that if you were to sit quietly here with a simple float rig and using a small worm as bait you mightd expect to catch few small roach and rudd. It certainly looks that way.....there's probably no fish in and probably no fishing here either. So obviously I wouldn't have fished.
On the Heath, where on two occasions Fran saw the ghost of a small girl, just east of Staple Hill there's an old earthwork and while walking off the ligament (torn for the second time, one more to come) I found a tiny pool in the middle and on impulse threw in a few coins. Seemed the right thing to do.
August 1987. Runnymede. I took a room in a hall in Englefield Green, summer digs, summer placement, a screaming waste of time with ICL in Bracknell, all busywork and no supervision. Float rod in the corner of a room long enough to practise on-drives with a piece of broom handle and a squash ball, an old stable block true to its roots with slug trails on the floor and damp stealing my breath week-on-week. I'd slide down to the Thames at Runneymede, free fishing then and pick perch and roach out of swims carpeted with 'cabbages' and the nets made my room stink but not of horse-pi$$ at least. The 'work' placement over, I took cash for cleaning a sunken garden next to the hall, once a lake at the top of the hill, 'Surprise cottage' maybe, a cave-like niche in the bank where the donkey pump circled to keep it full. Snakes scattered from me and an old Simi SimiThe Simi is a Maasai short sword with a double-edged, leaf-shaped spatulate blade, made from leaf-spring steel. The Maasai use this blade for everything from clearing brush, butchering cattle to peeling fruit. I got mine for £5 in a Beaconsfield antique shop in about 1984. I knew it was African as the bottom end of the red-hide-and-wood sheath is secured with an East African coin with a hole bored through the middle. I only know this, as I spotted one on a 'Ray Mears' program in 2016. I've since cleaned it, repaired the sheath and now take better care of it. It's at least as useful as a hatchet and about ten times more versatile, although it looks quite fearsome. , but strangely good fun. This ended, I went home, a short contract in Basingstoke, £7 an hour making it the smart thing to do. Two days in a dry room, could run eight miles again, Thatcham, Hambridge, the entire canal path back to the station and home, losing 10lb of water in the summer evenings.
The path by the 'Cooper's Hill Lane' sports field was crossed by adders as you walked, once scored exactly 50 there, bracketed by two-brace of ducks, evidence of cricket's randomness in the face of good or poor form. Long evenings at the Barley Mow, with a friend and class-mate, late after one misty walk back, claws scratched the lane and a badger emerged, skidded to a stop on its arse, then did a cartoon running-start off to one side. Heh.
Four namesakes too many at the memorialThe Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, in Englefield Green, is a memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from the British Empire who were lost in air operations during World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace.. Sobering.
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August 1989. DAM Quickfire Match.
I found this 13-foot 'match rod' in a Thatcham junk-shop in 1989 or so. I didn't use it much, but for general river fishing with a centre-pin it was 'OK'. It badly needed re-ringing as it had those tiny eyes that were once the fashion, but make casting hard work. When used again in 2011, I remembered why I'd stopped using it, so gave it to the postman for his son to use. Not 'sold' as such.
September 1989. Bishop's Green. In late '89 I heard tell of this place, so went somewhere new. I couldn't get over the number of fish the lake had - it was overrun with small carp in the 4oz range, gudgeon, roach, with a pint of maggots & a float it was impossible not to catch, a new experience when weaned on working for fish with no guarantee of a result. On the west bank, where the slope of the bed is gentle, I would throw in handfuls of maggots and watch the streaks of gold and silver as the fish dashed in to take advantage - the water fairly clear in those days, not the permanent muddy colour of carp-heavy waters. In the winter, I had a carp around 7lb on the float rod, 6lb line, the DAM float-rod and worms, patted myself on the back on landing, as my experience thus far was thirty yard runs of hard-won 8lb line. But of course most carp fight so much less hard now, fat or a different strain. Who can tell? In later sessions, I shamelessly harvested the gudgeon for pike dead-baits.
P.S. Funny to find myself there again in 2010, over a score of years later.
1989. There was a junk shop in Thatcham at the rear of a kind of mini-arcade, which occasionally acquired cast-off fishing tackle. For me, at some point in 1989, it provided a 'DAM Quickfire Match', a 13ft three piece carbon float fishing rod, which was snapped up and I used it for quite a while, thinking myself well set, although in truth it wasn't a great rod. I also picked up one of those glass-fibre tackle box/seat things with a carrying strap, that were popular back in the day. I modified mine with two pieces of aluminium square section bolted to the inside of the long sides and then bolted a Stuart plastic tackle box across those sections. This held the small bits and bobs leaving access to the rest of the box for the big bits, reels, flask, scales and such. I kept it for some years after that, with the sole addition of a camouflage paint job, carried out with tester paints and squares of foam rubber, which was as much to amuse the Hatangler as anything.
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• 'The eighties'. Some people think they were terrible, but they don't remember 'the seventies' with flared trousers, nylon shirts, sexism, misogyny, three-day weeks and power cuts. Mind you, there was 'Duran Duran', but I ignored them, there was 'Blade Runner', the original and the best 'Edge of DarknessIt was the time of the preacher, in the year of 01. Now the preachin' is over and the lesson's begun...' with the un-replaceable Bob Peck. 'Up' was so much fun, I could have worked harder, but did enough in the face of considerable distractions meh...'the biochemist', 'the psychologist, 'the film star's namesake', 'the cellist' and 'the typist'...I re-iterate - not a monk. , lucky enough to be given a grant to go, with today's £40K costs I'd never have bothered. True for many, hardly fair.
It was a funny decade - for those who've read in chronological order, you'll have spotted the peripatetic life and having spent the first four years 'settled' in the same house, then moved to Thatcham, lived there part-time while during gaps lived in; two halls of residence, passed through a third, a bungalow in Windlesham, then a flat not a million miles from the great carp spot of Wraysbury (not that I knew that then, but there was a long dry moat which plucked at the angling sense every time I turned the SE5eReliant Scimitar, GTE, SE5e. 0-60 all in second gear. into it). I shared this flat with a couple, half I knew from my first year, a girl, a firm friend and her rather odd boyfriend , a flake and it transpired, a git. I agreed to taking a third of the lease but on arriving discovered that I was covering half on the basis that their cohabiting was against the principles of her ultra-religious parents. They compounded this cheeky fait accompli with buying a Great Dane and promising to build it an outside pen/kennel but never doing so, falling foul of the landlord, a decent blimpish chap who mowed the lawns on a sit down mini-tractor thing with a (second or third) G&T in one hand.
I worked long hours, contracting for the most part and getting out of the house the rest - I think the fishing tackle had gone home for the duration - although if 'he' was out, her and I got on well as we always had and often drank in the Crown in Horton together, where she would slyly and with some humour sabotage attempts to chat up the very attractive fraternal twin barmaids. She would never speak of her relationship however, this was a closed subject. I occasionally think of her and hope it worked out better.
What with the dog crapping everywhere, cracklingly high tension in the flat, an insane mix of sexual tension due to her beliefs and his passive-aggressive attempts to get his own way in all things, I could couldn't bear it, so quietly bought a one-bed first house in Thatcham and moved out, leaving a promise to cover a third of the lease if no tenant was forthcoming, then commuted to New Malden behind the big old V6, with a glove puppet squirrel sq'Cagey' the squirrel (he was shy). to wave at folk in M25 traffic jams. Spent the first month building a bookcase and a stereo unit, all from scratch, still got the book-case. Easy to work out when things happened though.
Two more serendipitous near misses, my second contract as a BSc was at Saunderton, a mile from the family's 1975 home, then the third was in Loudwater at the 'nice end' of Wycombe and funny thing 'the artist' worked in the next building.
On to the 'nineties'If I could have invested the money the 1990's cost me at 3% p.a. compound, I could have retired at 50. when life levelled out rather, even if the cost of it went up.
"Jedburgh Lives!" I once saw on a T-shirt. Hope so.
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