Back in nature…

Friday evening saw me, two other leaders, one junior leader and 14 Scouts park up at Ullesthorpe Scout Camp. As soon as I headed down through the trees with my gear, I knew I was in for a special weekend. Just being surrounded by nature, no phones, no watches, just tents, food and space.

I think it took about an hour to get our camp pitched, before we got the fires lit, kettles on, and burgers and hotdogs cooking. So nice eating outdoors with our troop, surrounded by trees, with the crackle of fires soundtracking our evening. I didn’t mind that I had a tiny tent, although it was kinda funny listening to the Scouts chatting away loudly until 2:00 in the morning!

I didn’t sleep much that night, so was up at 4:00am, getting water and making sure the kettles were on for a brew. It was nice having the camp to myself  for a while, the only sound being the stove boiling water. Strong coffee brought me big smiles, as I waited for the rest of our crew to stir…

A fry up of bacon and eggs, more coffee and some fruit got everyone up and running, and we set the Scouts off on Bivvy building exercises, and making sure their fires were brought back to life. Our younger Scouts did a great job of keeping their fire going all day, which was brilliant, as we were cooking on fires that evening. I was very proud of how our younger Scouts managed over the weekend, and carried out all tasks, even washing up with a smile and good grace.

At some point during the day, I wandered back up the hill, and sat in the small open air chapel for a few minutes. It was lovely just sitting in peace for a short while on my own, surrounded by trees.

So, the bivvies never got built, but the fires were stoked up, and a water fight ensured everyone (me included) got soaked. Hey, it was fun, and the sun was high in the sky, and we dried off quickly. Dinner that night was chicken stew and baked potatoes cooked on the camp fires, damn there were good. Dessert was baked bananas with dark chocolate, I should have left mine on for longer, but it was nice and unctuous…

We spilt the Scouts into two groups and set them challenges around the campsite, which was fun, and they won sweets, which they enjoyed. We all spent time chilling around the fires, and all was good until some of the older Scouts starting mucking around, and curfew was called. Just as well we were all tired anyway… I read for an hour (Pratchett) and crashed out, happy wrapped up in a sleeping bag.

I was first up again in the morning, so got the kettles on for brews. Once everyone else was up, we got sausages on, and tucked into a very hearty breakfast… those sausages were GOOD. Slowly, we took all the tents down, washed all the pots, cleared up the rubbish, and generally got ready to go home. We were all knackered form taking everything back up the hill, but it was worth it. We had all had a brilliant weekend. Bring on the big camp in July…

Daybreaker

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Squelching through fields and along tow-paths in wellington boots before the sun has even risen may seem like insanity to some, but it seemed perfectly sane to me yesterday morning.

I had prepped and packed my rucksack and breakfast the night before, meaning that I could venture forth quickly once my alarm awoke me. It felt good to have planned ahead and to be prepared.

IMG_0037Seeing signs of piscine activity upon my arrival at the locks made me smile. I was happy to be out of doors in the early hours, and the fact that I kept catching myself smile made me realise how much nature means to me.

I fired up my stove and got the kettle on for coffee and tucked into leftover Christmas dinner to break my fast. I also scattered some breakfast for the fish, of which they were only to happy to partake of.

IMG_0043Whilst the coffee was brewing, I set up my rods, preparing them for casting out into the murky water afore me. Buying a rig guide from Carpology has already made such a difference to my fishing, having given me greater confidence with knots, baits, leads and lines. After all, I cannot have my best friend with me all the time to show me the best set up for any angling occurrence. His family would miss him…

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The fish were very keen on the bait that I had put out, showing plenty of activity through the murk on the canal. I cast out both rods to where they seemed to be feeding, one midway across the canals span, the other in front of deep weed on the opposite bank.

They were keen to chow down on my bait, but not my hooks, no matter where I cast, my alarms staying silent. I was not unhappy however, as it was glorious to be at one with the elements. I know that there will be more occasions bankside, as the fish now have a taste for my bait. It is only a matter of time before one is in my net.

Happy days…

Into the trees…

RollingI’ve been trying to cycle more over the last few months, partly to get fitter, but mostly because I love bikes and cycling of all forms. It’s also a great way to explore…

I have a regular route to a local town that I use for meetings which takes in country lanes with spectacular views of beautiful English countryside. One side of the road, rolling hills and fields, the other woodland. I love woodland, its my happy place, where I can escape from everything for a while and regroup.

BicycleThere’s one stretch of road I’ve been on lately, which has woodland stretching down a hillside that I’ve wanted to explore. So I stopped, turned my bike round, broke through the hedgerow and stepped into another world.

I put my bike down and looked around me. There were trees all around me, with the hillside rolling down from me, covered in a blanket of leaves, broken with clumps of bracken and brambles. My first thought was “Woah. It would be cool to ride down that…”, as there was a clear(ish) trail weaving down the hill. Another time, definitely…

EntranceThe hill is quite steep, so I stepped carefully, stopping to photograph the ancient trees as I descended. I also stopped to look back up the incline, admiring the view of the midwinter sun pouring back through the trees. At the base of the hill, there is a gate leading into farmers fields, so I can only assume that the woodland belongs to them…

UphillI wove my way back up the hill, aware of the time again, knowing I had an appointment to keep. But for a short while, I knew my mind had escaped the stresses and strains of everyday life. Picking my bike up at the summit, I knew I would return, hopefully to go blasting down a clearer hillside on my trusty steed.
Slope

 

That’s better…

I’ve had a rough day today… not feeling too good about myself and my attitude, I spent the morning at college on my Counselling Diploma. This morning, we were working in groups presenting controversial issues to each other and letting the debates ensue. I dug myself further and further into my cave, withdrawing from the room and the ensuing debates.

I presented our groups issue (enforced euthanasia) with sheer bloody mindedness, stayed for the following group, made my excuses and left, knowing that my mood and mental state would not be conducive to learning that afternoon.

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The Pond in late Autumn

After a long lunch and a cuddle with my wife on my return home, I packed up my fishing rods and backpack and headed back to my favourite fishing spot of the summer, “my pond”. Just walking down the towpath in the late autumn sun made me feel better. The canal was high after heavy rain last week, and the trees were mostly bare, allowing more to be seen in the fields around the canal.

 

 

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Rods are out…

Arriving at the pond, the feelings of the morning faded, and a warm smile spread across my face. It is good to be back at one of my favourite places to relax. The pond seemed a little different, as it is not covered by so much foliage now, but it has lost none of its magic calming effect. Being in nature is such a tonic to me in times of distress and upset.

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The Pond in late Autumn

 

After fishing with my good friend Rolf at the end of last week down in Hampshire (I was after Pike, Rolf was after Carp), I was certain that there is a dirty great big Pike in the pond… I had seen it briefly over the Summer, and the lack of water birds on the pond confirmed it to me and my friends. Rolf has kindly set me up with Pike rigs and a bigger landing net, so Im determined to go after the Pike in the pond, alongside fishing for the larger Roach that are definitely in there too.

Here’s to an exciting Winter at a lovely spot, and catching some big fish. It makes me happy.

Gone fishing… again!

It’s been really nice to have a day off today. Even with being self employed, sometimes you need to take a break. The last few weeks have been really busy, as we’ve had some big projects on,but both my wife and I are so happy with how our art and design business is growing.

I spent a little time tying a new (to me) rig ready for the mornings fishing, whilst keeping an eye on the weather (it’s really windy in the UK at the mo…). After bundling my simple fishing setup into my rucksack, grabbed a single rod, my net and folding stool and headed off for the canal.

I’m experimenting with equipment setups at the mo, seeing how little I can get away with for various activities. For example, I have found that I can go fishing with a rucksack, a single rod, small net and a folding stool. My lovely old rucksack carries a stove, fishing kit in sectioned box, bait, kettle, insulated cup, frying pan, food and most importantly, coffee bags. I have a folding water carrier, notebook and mechanical pencil, and thats about it. It sounds like quite a lot, but it’s quite minimal really.

I don’t want to get too bogged down in kit lists, as I think it’s more important to write about experiences than things, but I’m really enjoying the challenge of exploring without too much stuff getting in the way. Its more fun that way, you enjoy it more if you’re not worrying about having the right knife, cup, rope, whatever.

So, back to fishing. I’ve been reading a lot in Carpology lately about methods, techniques, tips, history and so on. There’s a really interesting article in last month’s issue about baiting up and waiting, sometimes for days. It really resonated with me. Today, I started putting it into action.

Arriving at the canal, I had to wait whilst a narrow boat moved up through the locks that were next to the swim I’m fishing in at the mo.  All good, it gave me time to have breakfast and get a brew on. Once the boat moved on, I baited up, had coffee, more breakfast and waited for almost an hour before I cast out. (It was as long as I can manage at the mo… I am building my patience up again. It’s kind of a zen thing with me and fishing.)

The fish are out there, I saw them this morning, and they were definitely knocking around the bait, as my bite alarm testified, but no bites today. Thats okay. I’m really enjoying being outdoors again, whatever the weather, and the challenge of catching a fish in a natural environment. It may take longer, but that’s what I’m enjoying. Learning about fish, their patterns of behaviour, diet, hooks, line, all that. You never stop learning in this world.

TeethRename

Claw Rig

 

Things don’t always go to plan…

Afternoon! It’s a lovely warm day here, though I think the weather is about to change…

It was lovely and sunny first thing this morning, so Fizz (our German Shepherd) and I gathered some stuff together and headed for The Pond, with the aim of catching some of the bigger fish I’ve seen this week. The fact that I caught my best (size/weight) Roach earlier this week had me keen to catch a bigger fish… It’s what anglers do.

On arrival at The Pond, my usual spot appeared VERY different, as someone else had been fishing there. Now, it’s not my pond, and I have no right to claim it, but I have become a bit territorial about it. It’s my happy place, and I don’t like seeing it in a mess. Whoever had been there clearly camped out, as a large area of grass was flattened, and there was a bonfire – which was still hot – it clearly hadn’t been put out properly. There are trees all around The Pond, and I don’t want to see any damage to them, so I tried to ensure the fire was extinguished. Earlier this week, I found out what had been making lots of odd bird noises in the trees – there’s a family of smaller Birds of Prey (I’ve not seen them clearly enough to identify them) nesting there. It was a beautiful sight to see them swoop down through the trees and head out over the water. Selfish acts like leaving litter, rope, tent pegs and tools lying around really upsets me, but seeing the fire was still live really wound me up. Please think of others when you’re out and about, whatever you’re doing.

Whether this left me unsettled or not, I started getting angry and upset about not catching any fish, and this upset my normal calm time at The Pond. Just being there should be enough, catching a fish of any size is the icing on the cake. As Fizz got a little unsettled, we packed up and headed off home.

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of fishing material this week, learning and growing. There’s a fantastic article in this month’s Carpology about simplifying fishing, and taking it back to basics, amongst other things, and I really like this. Just being out there, watching the water and how the fish are moving, and, hopefully,catching one is what it’s all about. Nothing else.

Thanks for listening.

Let’s go exploring… Chapter 3, the conclusion!

Visiting The Pond has finally paid off! I caught a fish!

I’ve already splashed this across social media, but here’s the bigger story of a little fish that has made me really happy…

After finding The Pond (it looks good with capitals!) three weeks back, it has become my regular fishing spot, with two or three visits a week, time permitting. I got in a lovely early morning session a few weeks back with a pot of coffee, bread and cheese and plenty of bait.

Yesterday, it was pouring with rain, but I was determined to get down to The Pond and get another session in before the week was out. We have a Japanese student staying with us at present, which is a wonderful experience, but has eaten into my wife and I’s time and energy. So, weather or not, I was going fishing yesterday!

I had already decided to fish in the far corner of The Pond after seeing a decent size fish swimming out of the weeds earlier in the week, so crept into the trees and weeds and baited up with dog food and bread. I first cast out with imitation maggots, but the fish weren’t having any of it. The rain was keeping them in the fringes, and they weren’t coming out! After a couple of casts, I got a really nasty tangle in my line, so lost a lot of time sorting that out. It was better to just cut the bad section out and retie my float section. I was wet and cold, even with coffee to keep me going, so rebaited the water and my hook with bread crust, and cast out again.

The fish liked it! I had two really good knocks, with the float bobbing about, then a really big ‘take’, although the fish managed to slip off the hook as I struck… Mindful of the time, and being soaking wet and cold (my fingers were getting shrivelled!), I decided to try one last bait and cast before I went home. Bingo.

The float dropped like a stone beneath the water, and as I carefully wound in the line, I could see that a beautiful little Roach had taken the bait and was hooked, good and proper. I had caught my first solo fish! It was no bigger than the palm of my hand, but I was so proud of my first catch. Now for the scary bit…

I am a little squeamish of slimy things, especially frogs and toads, which I have been mildly phobic of since early childhood, so having to touch the Roach to unhook it and release it was a big deal. Fish care is paramount to me. I know that hooking a fish hurts it (like a nettle sting), but they wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t want to get caught. I quickly held the line near the fish, took a quick few photos, then very gently held it and slipped the hook out. I was so proud of myself for doing this, as I was worried about harming any fish I caught by being nervous. It was fine. I held it for a second, then moved back to the water to release it… Whoops! I dropped it, but gently scooped it up and made sure it was safely back in the water, watching it swim off safely.

I was buzzing. The months of blanking, trying baits and spots, rigs and hooks had finally paid off. I was soaking wet, cold and muddy, but very, very happy. I quickly packed up my kit and headed back to the car, grinning like the Cheshire Cat and shouting goodbye to the fish.

I called my good buddy Rolf, who has taught me how to fish to pass on the good news. It seemed only proper that he would be the first person I called, even before my wife! He was really pleased, and fought to get a word in, as I was now running on pure adrenaline, whooping and shouting! My first fish!

After a brief chat, I pulled off in the car to pick up a celebratory beer or three, and went home for cheese and biscuits with my lovely wife, who thinks fishing is very odd, but is very happy on how it makes me happy and calm…

Let’s go exploring… Chapter 2

Good evening… ready for chapter 2 of my walking and fishing adventures? Good. Pull up a chair, grab a brew, and I’ll begin…

Last Friday saw me head back further down the Grand Union Canal, headed for the spot I saw on Wednesday night. My bait was prepped, line, floats and weights ready, let’s go! As I was walking down towards the swim, I spotted a gap in the hedgerow next to me, and decided to investigate. There was a bloody pond through there!

I got really excited, as there was lots of activity, with bubbles and ripples coming up all over the place. I was really tempted to stay there and fish, forsaking my other swim, but wasn’t sure about permissions and so on. There weren’t any signs up saying no fishing or anything, and there was no access issues… I made a quick call to my fishing mentor, Rolf, to see what he though about the pond. He wasn’t sure either, and didn’t know whether he’d risk fishing there either, in case of hassles.  I logged the spot for further investigation, and headed to the swim I planned on fishing.

The swim was just past a set of locks and a bridge, and there was a lot of activity there too! I baited up, cast out and waited… As I was watching the water, I could hear the sounds of someone crashing through the weeds on the opposite bank, and generally being pretty noisy. The opposite bank isn’t easily accessible, so the folks must have cut through a field to get to it. Two loud, Eastern Europeans (I didn’t know what they were speaking, but it certainly sounded European) appeared through the weeds, crashing about and clinking bottles of beer, intent on fishing the opposite bank.

They proceeded to make lots more noise smashing down weeds to get access to the water. I’m happy for other folks to fish a spot, but the noise and apparent bad manners made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve heard horror stories recently from older anglers about Eastern Europeans turning up and ‘fishing out’ a spot, often cooking fish by the banks… I didn’t want to assume these two were intending on doing this, but I felt unwelcome in a public space. I managed to shake this feeling and carried on fishing for a while, getting plenty of knocks, but no bites. After a while, I decided to leave the others to it, and head back to the pond for a short while…

By the time I got back to the pond, the light was going, so I baited up near the bank, and cast short near the edges. Bingo! I got the best bite I’ve had so far, proper full on tugs, two of them! I was grinning like an idiot, happy with the action. The light was gone, so it was time to be homeward bound, but a return visit to the pond was definitely on the cards!

Second swim
Left bank of the pond
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Giant weeds – deadly?
Second swim
Second swim

Double whammy…

I’ve been fishing twice today… and made my own bait!

After talking to my good buddy Rolf yesterday, who was also canal fishing last night, I was determined to get bank side as early as possible, and try own my home made bait! (I cooked up some sweetcorn with sesame oil, sugar and spices yesterday afternoon…) I prepped everything last night, packed my bag, and managed to be set up next to the canal bridge just after 5:00 this morning.

It was lovely being outside before anyone else was about on the tow path, There was still a little mist rolling off the water as I baited up, as there was plenty of activity under the water. Casting out nearer the bridge was much better, as there are less trees overhanging on this bank. Great for practising my casting, and getting my accuracy better.

The new bait worked well, as fish were definitely into it. As soon as I got some out into the water, the bubbles were up, and feeding was instant! Sadly, even though the fish clearly liked the bait, they were only knocking, not biting in the morning. Mind you, I found out some interesting info about the canal later in the day…

I was a little upset about not catching anything in the morning, so planned to try another stretch of the canal later in the day, and some different bait. Ham.

After lunch and a lovely walk with my wife and our dog, I had a really nice walk over the old canal tunnel (about half a mile long and was built in 1797), to try out a different stretch of water. After letting a canal barge and a canoe through, I baited up with the sweetcorn mix, then baited my hook with small strips of ham. (My reckoning was that they’d look a bit like worms…) There were definite fish signs, but rain stopped play, making it very difficult to see what was bubbles from fish, or bubbles from the rain.

Back to the info about the canal… Whilst I was fishing, a lovely old chap stopped to see how I was getting on. He was an angler too. I was chatting about fishing the Fleckney end of the canal in the morning, and not catching anything. It turns out that a local farmer had released slurry into the canal last year, killing over 20,000 fish, leading to our stretch of the canal needing to be seriously restocked, even though many fish were saved. (The farmer did it again too…) No wonder there’s not many fish around, nor are they biting. Neither, for that matter, have I seen any other anglers over the last month. The old chap was telling me about fish that used to be in the canal, tench, bream and carp. All at good weights and size too.

We chatted for a while longer, and I was getting some really nice knocks, which we were both commenting on. He was kind enough to offer advice on water depth and line length, which definitely made a difference to the rest of my session. Oh yeah, the ham didn’t work, but the fish liked the sweetcorn.

So, I didn’t catch anything yet again today, but I had a really nice time learning and growing as an angler. I walked home through the canal fields really happy that I’d learnt more about fishing and enjoyed what nature has to offer. Thanks for reading…

Over the tunnel
Overgrown and overground…
Early morning
Early morning at the Fleckney end…
Fleckney tunnel
Saddington end of the tunnel
Saddington end
Opposite stretch after the rain…

Lovely evening…

It’s so nice spending time at the canal in my favourite fishing spot. Such a sense of calm and tranquillity, sitting under the shade of a tree with nature providing the soundtrack and light show.

Switching up my baits (luncheon meat and sweetcorn) and rigs tonight certainly got the fish really interested, as they were right on top of my rig, but they still didn’t bite. It didn’t matter to me that I didn’t catch anything, as learning more about what baits and rigs the fish like is a wonderful part of the game. Fishing solo is such a lovely thing to do. I really want to catch a fish, but the whole experience is what makes it. Your senses are working overtime… watching the water, listening for fish movement; touching the line and reel – playing the float into place. But your brain is so calm and quiet. Nothing exists except the moment, everything else fades away.

So I blanked again, but the buzz of seeing fish near my float was superb, a wonderful vindication of what I am learning. The only problem was the mystery tangle of line coming off my reel, which I’ll sort on the morrow, as it was getting too dark to sort bank-side.

Happy fisherman…