Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Warwickshire Avon - Purity and Pullarians

The Wife and I were tucking in to another load of sweet and savory chicken wings the Butchers Social do so well, the combination of salted caramel, bacon bits and honeycomb are matched so well, with fried chicken that you wonder why others don't follow. But then it's not good to follow is it, best to take your own route and move away from the pack.

Now I have been a fan of Purity Brewing Co for sometime now and watched them go from humble beginnings to the business they are now. Certainly a leader now in the area and you only have to look at the pubs and supermarkets and small village shops that sell their products just how established they are now, that's down the testament of their products though, and for me they need to be celebrated.

I suppose it helps that they are just down the road from me and I've always been a supporter of local businesses when I can.

I'm yet to grow a beard, get a flat cap and a knitted cardigan but as my hair is receding at a rate of knots I've got to get in with the stereotype, I've never really been a larger drinker though, just not my thing.

While lagers are made using bottom-fermenting yeast, where the yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermenting vessel and fermentation takes place at a relatively low temperature, ales, which includes bitters, milds, stouts, porters, barley wines, golden ales and old ales, use top-fermenting yeast.

In this method, which is the traditional way of brewing British beer, the yeast forms a thick head on the top of the fermenting vessel and the process is shorter, more vigorous and carried out at higher temperatures than lager.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s many brewers made the decision to move away from producing traditional, flavoursome beers which continued to ferment in the cask from which they were served.

Anyway enough of the history lesson,whilst we were eating a delivery a Purity delivery van appeared opposite and even the simple thing as a logo to promote their brand and also the names and that have for their beers, and the ever expanding range hard to fault. Their limited batch of session IPA I was enjoying was a new one for me and is apparently the most Hops they've added to one of their beers, even more so that the aptly named Bunny Hop. 

The session IPA was unfiltered, infused with real grapefruit peel and brimming with tropical fruit notes and hop aromas, and for a Pale Ale probably my favorite of theirs now, and even dare I say it topping my default Purity Ale of choice, Mad Goose.

If you want to try some their shop can be found here....

Their full range is available including polypins and mini casks if you've a party to go to. Also if you're in the area go and like-minded have a factory tour, well worth a visit. Oh and if you're in Warwick and fancy no frills real ale or cider if that's your thing then the Old Post Office is worth a trip out, a proper pub with plenty of character and it helps that that the range of beers on offer that changes frequently are around £3 a pint, cannot say that about mans places these days can you. You can even nip a few doors away to the fish and chip shop and eat them on the premises. 

Ten a penny chain type pubs, take note, this place gives the customer what they want and has won awards because of it.

A little like this short evening session down at the Warwickshire Avon, back to basics if often needed on my fishing, that's how fishing should be in my opinion. Why do you need a brollie, a big chair and a trolley to cart your gear to the river bank ? maybe if you're not that mobile, but then wouldn't you be better off at one of the ten a penny commercial fisheries that have cropped up over the years.

After struggling in a couple of the banker swims I had to wade through a load of stingers and over hanging branches to where the Chevin felt more comfortable. I thought the cloud cover would have helped but they were still very cagey indeed. A fish was caught on the first float down of the bread, it gave a cracking fight too in the streamer weed and I thought I would lose it at one point. I didn't weigh it but it looked around 3lb.

Talking about not weighing it, considering I've caught thousands of Chub I'm still not good at gauging the weight.Warwickshire Avon fish are generally long and lean but then some are short and fat and the next swim down where the bigger fish seem to reside I managed the fish below after feeding what seemed like an age before putting a bait out. 

I'm sure they've worked me out now, there were multiple fish feeding quite close in, but now there seems less of them and further down the swim which is largely inaccessible.

The fish went 3lb 14oz's and again after the powerful fight it gave I thought it was bigger as it had a belly to fill. I've not switched to other species yet, such as barbel, mainly because the conditions are less favorable for barbel but with dusk getting ever closer I'm sure I'll move on to them soon. 

Hopefully some more rain will be forthcoming as the rivers need a top up desperately. The temperatures are set to drop though which is an encouraging sign, colder water should get them feeding I'm sure.

Zander, oh yeah, forgot about them, damn Chub !!!!

Sunday 19 August 2018

Warwickshire Avon - Prototypes and Pramfaces

I’ve never really been happy with the isotope or chemical light holder options available in the market for rod tops. The biggest issue is because they are a little fiddly to fit I tend to fix them permanently in place and when using rod top protectors which are removed and refitted frequently, they are not that robust and don’t stay in place very long. The large starlite clip slow below was about the best I've used but wasn’t cheap at a quid a pop.

A decent isotope isn’t cheap either, so can be costly to lose so I do like to stick with the chemical light option more often than not.

They are more visible obviously and someone whose eyes wander away from the rod tip they are easier to see in ones peripheral vision. Not only that but they are relatively cheap to buy and available in various colours.

Now some larger glowsticks were in evident at the Gatecrasher Outside Gig yesterday in the Cathedral ruins in good old Coventry, I haven't been to town in ages and couldn't believe how much it's changed, the event was great, all the old skool tunes and in a nice setting, shame some of the surroundings are as rundown as ever but then thank the Luftwaffe for lots of that.

Anyway, back on track....

So why design my own more suited to my needs and requirements, something easier to fit, easier to remove and maybe a holder that could accept 2 chemical lights rather than just one.

Now a recent innovation project for a client I’m working with I designed some parts that used neodymium magnets for part retention.Neodymium magnets are the most powerful of all permanent magnets. They are often known as “Super Magnets”. They are used in applications where the strongest magnetic force is required from the smallest possible volume of magnet material. 

Even small neodymium magnets have a surprising amount of magnetic force and they are capable of lifting in excess of 1,000 times their own weight. A neodymium disc magnet weighing only 2 grams can lift a steel block weighing over 2,000 grams!

They emit deep magnetic fields to attract ferrous items and other magnets from impressive distances. Two neodymium disc magnets 10mm diameter and 5mm thick can attract each other and hold in place, through the thickness of a human finger.

This is why so many neodymium magnets are used by magicians for magic tricks and illusions. Having now thousands of hours designing parts of CAD, designs can be knocked up in a lunchtime and with the vast amount of 3D printing firms out there after your business, costs are coming down all the time.

For instance the first hit I did was a design to accept a single isotope and was ultra-compact with 4 disc magnets used for retention only cost £8 and that was including postage and package. 

Back in the late 90’s when I was working in an automotive design studio in Gaydon I could send parts direct from my CAD workstation to a wax printer and realise a part in 3D rather than just looking at it on a screen. The advancements since those early days have been significant. 

Not just the type of printing available but the choice of material which are now available, from resins to plastics and metals which gives the engineer a much wider choice engineering properties to suit the application.

Not only that but websites such as 3D Hubs are available which couldn’t be more user friendly, they are the world's largest network of manufacturing services, and the platform offers 3D printing, CNC Machining, and Injection Moulding and operates a network of over 7000 manufacturing partners.

By uploading data via their website you can get quotes within seconds of upload and interrogation of the data is done online to check suitability of the part for printing or manufacture.  

So the first hit wasn’t quite right for a few reasons so it was a complete redesign for the second hit,the magnets worked well, and that was encouraging.

The new design though I made it larger to accept two chemical lights and use larger rectangular magnets 20x6x1.5mm in size which had a convenient super-strong 3M 468 adhesive with easy-peel backing. 

Because of the power of the magnets the tape needs at least 24 hours to cure before the magnets is operated as intended.

A small but strong magnet like that can support a steel weight of up to 1.6kg vertically from the magnetic face when in flush contact with a mild steel surface so once secured on the rod should hold firm under a cast unless you go all out Ali Hamidi. 

I wanted to be able to store the parts and fit them only when needed, so larger and stronger magnets, a dowel feature for location and the fact the part is in two halves and effectively a clamp around the chemical lights ‘should ‘ make the assy pretty secure and self-locating under the strong magnetic force. 

But then that’s what prototyping is all about, you rarely get a design right first time, there are always small tweaks here and there to improve the design, or it might highlight an issue that would mean a complete redesign altogether. I had the second round of parts printed in a translucent blue colour that would complement the blue 4.5mm X 40mm chemical lights I intended to use. 

Then I had another idea which maybe be used for a new development altogether is the use of electroluminescent wire (often abbreviated as EL wire), it’s a thin copper wire coated in a phosphor which glows when an alternating current is applied to it. It can be used in a wide variety of applications, vehicle and structure decoration, safety and emergency lighting, toys, clubbing clothing etc.

There are EL tapes available also but they are relatively stiff and you couldn’t really wrap it round a rod tip for example as it wouldn’t be flexible enough, but the wire could attached to the existing painted rod top.

In the automotive the industry I work for example, EL wire is is used to dress up interior clay model property to simulate ambient lightning without the expense.

Unlike these types of strand lights, EL wire is not a series of points, but produces a 360 degree unbroken line of visible light. Its thin diameter makes it flexible and can be cut to any length desired and easily secured to the whole of the rod top with only a power supply being needed to operate it.

That is the biggest issue as the power supply effects overall package. An EL Driver is needed you see and that technically ‘Inverts’ the DC current from the batteries to the AC current that makes the phosphor in the electroluminescent wire glow.

I found a small portable EL Driver 4.3cm x 2.1cm x 0.9cm which runs off a single CR2032 battery which looked ideal as it could be permanently secured to the rod.

As its rather unobtrusive I could design a dock to fit on the rod tip and the driver could be fitted or removed as and when required.

And that's exactly what I did, so the design shown above is a little like the Tankara rod easy keepers or pole cups that use rubber bands for grip and retention but are easily removed.

The beauty of EL wire is that in a light environment it doesn’t offer that much light, but Zander fishing at night it offers just the right amount of luminance.

Now those parts haven't arrived yet so for the moment the battery is sellotaped on in place, and as you see with the picture on the left the wire is temporarily in situ as well. Maybe some heat shrink is the way forward, well if's a goer that is.

You seem enough of the ambling, for a future session, and you know how I like to plan this things, I need to try out the 2nd round of prototyping and get down to an area of the Warwickshire Avon to try it in service so to speak.

I cannot fish in to dark but if I want to catch a Barbel at dusk I could think of no other stretch I fish that they would potentially be biting.

So I need to get a proper short session to try them out, so the plan is to fish only one swim which is not like me. So I'd set the stall out two rods, one a meat bait, the other a krill wafter, I was hoping I'd get a bend in the rod.

Watch this space...

Thursday 16 August 2018

The Tiny River Alne – Rutilus and Rhypophagy

A busy petrol station, the first row of pumps down, a rather large lady clearly not shy round the buffet eventually unfolds herself from the car door and meanders to the pumps like a constipated wombat mimicking a slumbering sloth on the go slow. Eventually she undocks the nozzle and starts filling her car, the filling doesn’t last very long however because, after what seems like only a tenners worth of juice, she’s now shop bound.

Now the courteous thing to do would be to move forward to free the pump up, but oh know she’s got a hunger to quell and a body to maintain, 'time waits for no man'. The shelves perused over and over again, up and down, back for more and eventually she’s waddled out of the shop and car bound after what seems like an eternity with a whole load of big belly and backside creators in her clutches.

Her food fix is needed urgently though, so only NOW she decides to pull forward to free the pump and to relieve the Wife of her rage and a feeling of cleithrophobia. Yeap rather than leave the forecourt she needs her food fix ‘RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW’ !!!!. Hands like shovels a large packet of Doritos has never been consumed so quickly.

The Wife’s fills up and pays at the pump luckily just as the delightful young lady drives off, as I felt like their might an enactment of Falling Down on the cards and I’d have one of the starring roles.

Grumpy Old Git, you bet'ya !!!

Luckily fishing helps with controlling ones trigger finger, just that little bit of much needed solitude keeps it all in check, keeps the stars aligning as they should.

Now talking of solitude a little-known stretch of river hardly fished had one’s mind overly active in the week, dreams of colossal roach, monstrous dace, troublesome trout and gargantuan carp luckily changed to the habitual dreams of tremendous tits.

I was in two minds what to fish for but with the roach featured of brobdingnagian proportions they were my target for this evening sessions. If there redfins were that big in years gone by, could they still be here.

This stretch will certainly be on my radar come wintertime, but having hardly trodden these pastures I wanted to have look at what could potentially be a water of interest for all manner of species. Now bread was being mullered by mischievous minnows so apart from the maggot rod I'd have a small quiver rod with a simple link ledger with some 6mm squidgy pellets to try, at least these would keep the hookbait intact without having to wonder if it was still there or not.

Uncharted, reticent, with its residents unknown, what’s not to like….

A previous reconnaissance mission by me and Sam the tangleator gave us a few pointers to we could expect and that sort of fitted in with my plans for this short session.

Now with the river level indicator kaput I only went on the rain we've been having and made a guess on what the levels would be like and yeap you guessed it, I'd guessed it wrong. It was still as low as ever which made the fishing tough. The farmer had been doing some cutting and clearing though, so more swims were accessible, and to be fair, getting to know this water better is also part of the longer term plan.

The fishing though was hard, usually trout would show but with around 5 or 6 swims fished without much more than minnow a few gudgeon and small dace it's one of those waters that I'm sure will fish completely different when there is some water on it. The river just looked lifeless to be honest and I'd not really got that feeling the other times I'd fished it.

The pellet didn't even get a nudge throughout the session the maggot mullered my minnow. So that's it for a while I think, even though I love fishing this sort of river, even I know when to leave it sort itself out.

Sam's T-Shirt created by Brian from Pikeblog available here....

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Warwickshire Avon - Bludgeons and Bossa-novas

This quick after work session was a proper tough one, lots of roving around to find the fish which didn't seem to be in the usual locations. The bread revealed their hideouts though but again spooky as anything, even after feeding a good while when a bait went out they would come up to inspect the bait a few times, and in lots of instances knocked the bait with their heads to break the bait up.

This is exciting fishing however and generally how I like to fish rivers these days, staying in one swim just isn't me and this technique suits me down to the ground.

Fish were caught though and the first fish went 3lb 10oz  with the one pictured below 4lb 3oz's. Now one particular swim I'd never fished before but after battling through a load of stingers to get to it, I watched and fed bread for a good while before landing a small chub that grabbed one of the small pieces of bread that still had the hook attached after a bigger fish headbutted it.

There were some proper big fish here, how big, well easily the biggest I've seen here since I've been targeting them. The seemed to be taking part in a samba dance off such the visual disturbance in the swim. However as soon as that small fish was caught the swim went dead and that's the issue with this sort of fishing, the chevin don't hang around, they move on if they feel they are in threat.

The smaller of the bigger fish I caught today I swear was a barbel at first, it was activating the tight clutch for starters which considering I've had fish to 5lb now that was a first. These Warwickshire Avon fish are fighting fish and with a little extra water on from when I fished this area last week, they seem to be enjoying the milder weather and a boost is levels like I am. The two I caught today were proper long and lean though with with big heads, so plenty of room to grow.

Even when the light was almost gone the fish were still talking off the top. Don't assume that because you cannot see that the chub are similarly handicapped. The eye of a fish is specially adapted for poor light, and there is strong evidence to support that to most fish there is no such thing as real darkness. Anyway take no chances, sit as far back from the waters edge as rod length and other factors allow.

It's going to be interesting come winter time if they are still here as one swim in-particular has a high average of lunkers, where I think everyone caught has been over 3lb. I've yet to use a bottom bait in anger yet so maybe that's something to try to maybe see if there is a older and wiser fish lurking in the background leaving the younger fish to compete in the mayhem.

 So the morning drive in to work is now lights on time so the days are getting shorter so I've got to try and cram in as many sessions as I can before I'm really having to work out when I can fish. I'm lucky that I've plenty to go at this season with more water than ever available to me. I did think a change of species to target, in-fact I might try for a Roach on the Avon sometime soon but at the moment my mind is still on chub chasing.

Barbel will be much later in the year and this season I will give them more of a go and I will make every effort to beat my mediocre PB of 11lb 11oz that was caught sometime ago now. Oh and Zander, I've forgot about them. So the next session, well Sam wants to fish the Alne again, so I'll hopefully get out midweek.

Monday 13 August 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Sputcheons and Spatchcocks

There is nothing to a spatchcock chicken for a barbi, and unlike a whole chicken which can take an hour and a half to cook in a Webber kettle, this can be cooked directly over the coals.

So with a whole chicken place chicken breast-side down, with the legs towards you. Using sturdy scissors or poultry shears, cut up along each side of the parson's nose and backbone to remove it, cutting through the rib bones as you go. Open the chicken out and turn over then flatten the breastbone with the heel of your hand so that the meat is all one thickness.

Use two skewers to secure the legs and keep the bird flat by running the skewers diagonally through the breast and thigh meat.

Jobs a good’un….

This one was a simple tandoori marinade and served with salad and a few hasselback potatoes takes no time at all and dare I say it like this floating bread I’ve been using to target Chub recently back to basics. In fishing the modern carp angler and the gear he requires and methods he uses puts a shiver down ones spine, 3 rod set-ups, trollies, bivi’s and tonnes of bait, I just don’t see the appeal.

But then I’ve always been an advocate of do what you like in fishing, if that means being part of the bolt rigging brotherhood fair enough.

I think the problem is I really have the opportunity to fish short sessions, it suits my family life and anything over 4 or 5 hours would take a bit of planning, 24 hours certainly doable but would need to be put in the dairy weeks in advanced. I certainly couldn’t manage it with a drop of a hat. 

Well to be fair I probably could, but it would mean taking a day off work which would be expensive. So with not much more than a rod a few bits and pieces and a couple of loaves of bread this style of fishing suits. 

What didn’t suit though was the water I wanted to fish had a match on, so for this session it was down to a bit of the Avon that I haven’t really fished in anger for a long time. The problem is especially for this season and last, I’ve too much water to go at and when a decent fish has been caught I’ve maybe neglected other waters to concentrate on one. I intend to change that next season and maybe only stick to one club or the syndicate I’m in.

A initial cold start turned in to a warm bright morning and the session was a tough one, the water very low and clear but there are some nice swims here with lots of pace and because of the frequency of matches lots of bait goes in hence the fish hang around. The bigger fish were around as I could see them from time to time when they came out from under their cover or their silhouettes were visible hugging bottom. 

Eventually some fish were caught though but unlike the small head of large fish I’ve been fishing for recently, these were much smaller. Even a small Chub can get a large piece of crust down its overly large mouth so the biggest I could muster up was the one pictured above. With some water on the Alne now I've a quick after work session with Sam and I want to try and have a session myself after the small head of big Chub. I'm sure there are some bigger ones to be had.

Friday 10 August 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Bolt-ons and Bamsticks

We'd stumbled upon the Red Lion in Cranford more or less a year ago to the day, we had some lovely steaks there and vowed to return. Very good quality beef and the staff were very friendly indeed and the ales were kept proper which doesn't appear to the norm these days, anyway we popped back last Sunday and the food was great quality and good value yet again.

I had a starter which was the size of a main in rural Warwickshire of mussels in a creamy chorizo sauce and then a dressed crab with warm sun-dried tomato bread and a samphire salad. The wasps were becoming a pain if I'm honest but overall another enjoyable experience, sometimes in life the most simplest of food is one of life's pleasures.

I polished off the food pretty quick but the quantity was such I didn't eat later on, a proper swelly belly. Now the rotund and greedy Chevin down this neck of the woods haven't the will power I showed last week such their gluttonous personalities, however they can disappear quicker than Katie Price’s £42,000,000 that she apparently once had. Like her shop bought assets, there has been some overly large lumps here over the years, however there was a problem.

The winter just gone you see, big chub captures so baron I was wondering whether that was it, the area that they once loved to reside, was no more and one of my favourite places to fish, the stretch proper kaput !!!! . Chublets caught with red raw chunks out of them, Otters about and many many cormorants spotted, even the barbel were suspicious in their absence I thought, damn, that was it.

Caught on a freelined slug !!!!

BUT But but….!!!!

Of late in the baking heat we are having, some fighting fit big’uns were back and a 5lber was eventually caught to ditch that monkey that was firmly clinging on to ones back. That fell and others to floating bread tactics and over a few sessions, using either bread or a floating insect lure a few half decent fish were banked. A decent dumping of rain had the river rise a foot or so and that I was hoping would spur them on even further to feed because of the increased oxygen levels despite. That didn’t happen though and the fish caught, ok were nice but were not the statue to make any dents on my new PB.

I’m sure they started to work me out you see, and the confidence they once took the bread started to wavier and the number of fish caught per session was starting to reduce.

Even after feeding for 15 minutes or so knowing that the Chub were in hiding they rarely ventured out from their cover, if they did venture out they ignored it. There was a good high vantage point downstream where they couldn’t see me but I could see them, and after following the bread down I could see their silhouettes hugging bottom and rarely coming up from it, if they did, they went back as soon as they came up….

….they were just not interested.

Oddly a method that did eventually work was to rest the swim post feeding and leave it a good while whilst fishing another swim, and then putting out a larger than the norm, allowing it to slowly meander down the swim not quite in the strongest of flow, so that the highly visible food canopy drew their attention that the smaller morsel would.

Now a cheapo Ebay purchase made last week turned up a couple of days ago ‘The complete specimen hunter’ by Tony Miles. It's been a good read up till now, and one of the chub rigs he detailed caught me eye, it was the sub-surface drifting flake rig which made a whole load of sense and wondered why I’d not thought of it myself.

In much the same was with natural bait fishing, once a fish or two had been taken from a swim on floating crust, the rest of the shoal would become very agitated. That is when the start coming short of the crust or swirling to knock bits off, which I’ve seen happen, as this enables them to eat the bits at their leisure.

A tackle modification he suggested was to fish a combination of crust and flake so that a small piece of flake is drifting down an inch or two under the surface, below a normal crust offering and about the size of a 10 pence piece.

A double hook was fiddly and probably not ideal so he suggested the crust held in place by a tie of grass and the hook below it a piece of squeezed flake, but it was worth a try when as I’ve found they have been actively cautious and maybe even frightened of a floating crust offering. 

So this session I’d give it a go, the double-bait ploy may well have a limited life as the crust I’ve found does but before switching to a slow sinking bait or even a static bait to continue catching this was defiantly worth a go.

So anyway the session, how did it go ?

Well the first swim after feeding some freebies every now and then for a good while and watching the swim pretty active I put on the bait, initially a crust at first but after twice having to retrieve the hook after a chub came up to feed the swim went dead. I decided to give the sub surface rig a go but after a couple of trots through without any interest I decided to move to the next swim.

This time no freebies and a big chunk of crust, this swim is small and confined you see so after about 5 or 6 seconds you cannot even see your bait. A Chub came up straight away to have a look but I'm sure he saw me and I saw it and again the swim went dead.

There were a few slugs around so after freelining one under a raft eventually I had a couple of pulls and a fish was on, it gave a good scrap as well but not the biggest of fish. I didn't bother weighing or photographing it but looked around a scraper 3lb'er. So just goes to show thinking outside the box a little and the use of natural baits can buy a bite.

The next swim a familiar face was in one of the two swims and he had some plucks and pulls on bottom baits but hadn't banked any chub yet. The swim I ended up in is my favorite and after sheltering from the rain which came out of nowhere I was back up and running. After feeding some bread for 15 minutes or so there were Chub coming up to feed at the tail end of the swim, the problem here is that there are a couple of overhanging trees and no matter how careful you are when the crust ends up in the area where the fish are, the line gets caught.

After a couple of snag ups eventually I hooked up to a fish, this quickly carted to my right was was trying to get in to some marginal reeds but moving away from my hiding spots in the open and giving it some decent side strain I managed to get control of the fish and steered it away from potential freedom. In the clear water it looked a decent fish as well and after landing it successfully I thought judging by it's girth I had another five.

On unhooking though, it didn't have the length unlike the norm for Warwickshire Avon fish, still it went 4lb 9oz's on the scales and looked an impressive specimen. If it's still around in the winter, with a proper full belly, that will be a certain 5lb'er and maybe if it's got its head down to feed properly maybe even a 6.

Encouraging signs once again and I love catching Chub in the summer, the colours with their dark backs and bronzed flanks are fantastic ....

Monday 6 August 2018

The Tiny River Ise – Flake Faith Pt2.

There is nothing quite like a bit of fine dining from time to time, Cheal’s in Henley is a restaurant the Wife and I have dined at on a number of occasions now. It seems to be getting better and better if that's possible and we had to get back there as soon as we could.

On presenting of the bill we could have popped over the road and dined on ridiculously good salted caramel fried chicken wings (so good) and Onglet steaks at the Butchers Social, and probably could have returned another couple of times, for similar outlay. But it’s the occasion (Wife's Birthday) the ambience, the service, oh and obviously the food, which my God is wonderful.

Pretentious, well probably, but heck, does it taste good !!!!

That blob of reduced sauce what ever it was (they did say) that accompanied the gravy was so tasty they should try and bottle it, how can something so small taste to good....

To the heathens out there no you wouldn't need a bag of chips on the way home to fill your stomach, the ambitious food here is a testament to that, anyway like we do, you could always ask for some more sourdough bread which by the way comes with salted butter and whipped pork fat topped with crispy bacon bits, and lets not forget the canapes and amuse-bouche which come part of the meal, sounding better is it ?

You won't go hungry let put it that way, despite it looking that way to many !!!!

I admire the skill and technique Matt Cheal and his team can muster up, you see as a food lover and someone who enjoys cooking when I’ve a plate of such quality put in front of me the cost goes out the window, we are only here for a visit after all, I get pleasure out of it. More often than not we tend to eat out more or less every Friday lunchtime when the kids are at school for the quality time relationships need, however getting the kids looked after for an evening is seemingly getting rarer these days, so might as well make the most of it and go all out when we get the opportunity.

Now talking about rare, what happened to these big river roach that used to frequent the waterways ?

More or less a year to the day we were back on the diminutive River Ise in Kettering which was renowned for them in years gone by. Sadly it was only for a short weekend break this time but last time we fished it Sam and I managed to winkle out some nice roach and chub from this neglected and seemingly forgotten bit of river which sadly appeared to be a bit of a dumping ground.

You only have to look at the pictures from last time to know it’s my sort of river and if only some of the residents and holiday home owners were likeminded, they could turn it in to a nice little stretch of river.Certainly judging by the stamp of roach I manage to catch which were hiding under some shady cover, there are some nice fish to had, and considering we only fished a tiny section of it,

I’m sure there are some nice surprises....

I’d try and get out myself to one of the other stretches away from the familiar for a dawn session which is a hop over a bridge and in to some open land where apparently some big Roach have come out in the past but for a few short sessions of an hour here and there we’d fish the area we could see from our accommodation.

Tactics well, I think we had it nailed on last time, a light link ledger set-up with some flake on the size 12 hook. Some of the available swims wouldn’t suit anything longer than 8ft so for this trip the Browning F1 wand with the 1oz tip was the rod of choice and what a great little rod it is, the last outing was to the similarly tiny river, the Alne.

The problem with this sort of river it needs time to be explored and I haven’t the luxury of that so I’d be fishing blind more or less, which is never a good thing especially in the summer where rivers are low and the water clear. Witnessing the presence of roach has never been more important, for sadly, in many stretches of the rivers we fish, they are nowhere as prolific as they once were. A great proportion of apparently mouth-watering, idyllic roach swims turn out to hold absolutely nothing.

When the rivers are running on the clear side, like it was last time I was here, there was no point flogging away during daylight as it was obvious the roach because I could see them, and they were not really interested in feeding, but come dusk though and a couple of times in to darkness they responded during these days positively to ledgered breadflake.

And while this piece is really about tactics, rather than technique, it is worth mentioning that here we are talking a big bait, one that only a large roach can suck in. Nothing less than a thumbnail-sized piece of fresh white bread, covering a size 8 to 12 hook and a 3lb to 4lb hooklength would suffice. There were snags and lots of them, and once of the problems was although cagey the Chub would home in to a bait much faster than the roach could and they needed to be bullied out of the swim, rather than let them dictate the fight to you.

The oldest working water-chute ride in the world !!!!
Now one thing I noticed when we entered Wixsteed Park was where were all the Roach ? the small boating lake had some huge shoals, but this time it was hard enough to spot one. Hmmmmm very worrying, as was the algae bloom on the lake. When we got to the lodge a quick scout of the river we spotted a group of Chub around 6 or 7 strong with two looking like they might even go 5lb, encouraging but then the river seemed devoid of fish life apart from that, a few some small perch and the under the tree where I caught some decent Roach last time, zilch.

The Chub once they know you are there are difficult to catch, they were spooky as hell as expected and with the river being so clear you can understand why.

A quick natter to one of the lodge owners there had been two otters being spotted over the past few months as from their vantage point they could spot them easily enough, especially as being so used to humans like are.

So the weekend well, we'd fished a few short morning and evening sessions opposite the lodges and also up from the bridge at the park in a nature reserve and boy the fishing was tough, we we proper the stealthy for the first bite and it was 3lb chub one of the smaller ones from the group but it gave a decent scrap all the same, then they were nowhere to be seen the rest of the break.

I can imagine fishing well in to dark may have brought some different results but I didn't really have that luxury. Worms were attacked by little pesky perch, the bread by tiny fry.

Maybe sweetcorn might have been worth a dabble. It didn't help that I snapped by one and only quiver tip on the first session so the bite indication was either visual or by thumb and finger, but we ploughed on.

Eventually some roach were found above the bridge, but nothing really of size and I could see the bread it was that clear and a few chub were milling around but happily ignored the bait such their caution. The biting insects at sundown increased significantly so it wasn't exactly pleasant so we didn't fish 'that' much such the tough going as were the bites which were mounting up big time.

The river in the sections I fished were weedy with literally no flow but I'd say the fish numbers were down from when I fished it last. Maybe winter is the time to fish it as I'm sure there are some specimens to be had, the Chub especially I'm sure there are clonkers. Fish in to dark is the way to approach it, maybe I'll get another chance, but the Ise, in decline, from what I've been told and what I've experienced, that's highly likely, shame as it's a lovely river, if you can call it that.
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