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…

Cycling makes me happy!

Today was college day, almost the end of the first year of my Counselling Diploma (man that has gone quick…), and it was really cool to cycle in.

The afternoon saw me plummet into a tailspin of tiredness and depression, and even though I had a good chat with an old friend that helped, cycling home really lifted my spirits and brought me back from the pits of despair.

I bloody love cycling!

elsa
Elsa – my trusty road bike

 

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

 

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
IMG_4185
Giant weeds – deadly?
Second swim
Second swim

Hooked!

Back from my best solo fishing session yet! I got my first bite, though the fish got away!

I feel so happy and calm right now. I had intended to go down to the canal for two hours tonight, and fish the other side of the bridge, as there seemed to be more fish activity on that side, BUT… I looked over to the side of the canal where I have been fishing for the last few weeks just in time time to catch sight of a mighty splash in line with my usual spot. Game on! I was fishing down there for sure!

Trying to keep calm and quiet after seeing activity in ‘my’ spot, I got down there quick sharp, baited up with sweetcorn, using the water from the tin at the canal’s edge to tempt the fish, got some corn on my hook and cast out… There was lots of activity on the far bank, near the weeds, and a little further from there too. I felt really happy, and proud that my tactic of baiting up this spot seemed to be paying off. The fish were out there, and definitely interested…

I got a little frustrated that I seemed to be casting more into the overhanging tree for a while, and managed to break a float… It was a freebie, but still. I set up a new float and rig with lighter weights, and this seemed to do the trick. Casting out to the other bank, and allowing the mild current of the canal to shift the float and rig a little closer paid off, as the fish were a lot more interested, bubbling up around the float. Time passed without me noticing, as watching the fish draw ever closer was so exciting. I was willing them on to take the bait… then one did!

This was my first proper bite, as I was fishing solo, so it was really exciting. I managed to get the fish out of the water, a small Roach (I think) about six inches long, but it wriggled off the hook and splashed back into the canal with a plop! Miffed, but so happy that I’d got a bite!

roach

Time had passed, and I had planned to head for home, but they were biting now! I stayed on for an extra hour, until the light started fading, enjoying seeing the fish get ever closer to the float, but not quite taking the bait. Plenty of knocks, but no more bites I’m afraid. I cleared up, taking my rubbish home, and walked back with a REALLY big smile on my face. I might not of actually caught and landed my first fish on my own, but I was so close. I’m hooked!

Go for the burn!

Last week I went to the gym. Twice. It’s something I wasn’t sure about, due to the old image of jocks trying to outdo each other, and testosterone flying around…

How wrong was I? I had a two-part assessment, to see where my fitness level is, and what exercise suits me. The first part was on running, stepping and cycling machines, the second on weight/resistance machines. I really enjoyed both sessions, but the resistance training was superb.

My fitness isn’t too bad, with cycling when I can, football with my grandson (usually an hour of ‘training’ as he calls it…), walking our dog, and trying to be active when possible. I like being outdoors and walking, so it comes fairly easily. I would like a little more definition in my stomach area, as my slighter build shows off my little tummy a bit too well for my liking… The resistance machines are great for this, and I will be having another assessment, which will help set up a programme of exercise for me. I need a plan in these areas, as guidance really helps me on this kind of exercise.

Cycling will be going up a notch too. After much deliberation, running is out, and cycling is in. Cycling is much kinder to my poor old knees, and easier for me to build up distances, as I have a decent base from many years of BMX and MTB riding. I’ve planned out three rides a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a big hill in it that I am determined to conquer. Cycling will form the foundation of my fitness, with gym work balancing out the body.

I’m really looking forwards to this!

Elsa - my trusty road bike
Elsa – my trusty road bike

Gone fishing

Hello again folks, I didn’t realise how long it was since I last posted here. Our business has been working really well, and alongside studying counselling (I passed Level 3, and am now on Level 4…), life has got in the way, but in the best of ways…

So, back to the blog. This weekend I’ve been visiting my dear friends and their children in Hampshire. I shared a house with my friend after his partner left him, and my first wife had left me. We had a true bachelor pad, and life was like an episode of  ‘Men Behaving Badly’ at times, but it was a wonderful time, and we looked out for each other.

Fast forward many years, and we’re still best friends, and I go down to Hampshire to visit when I can… it’s nice being back in a place I loved living and was happy (even with a marriage break-up and depression), happy days.

On Friday, we went fishing. My friend had booked 24 hours of carp fishing at Willow Park Fishery, which I was really looking forwards to. We were up at ‘Sparrow’s Fart’, which meant being at the gates just before 7:00am. We got the kit loaded into the ‘Tackle Taxi’, sorted my rod licence for the day, and headed off to our swim, ‘Pig Pen’. First things first, we got the rods and nets set up,then baited our swim, then pitched our bivvy (sort of an open tent…), before getting bacon and coffee on!

I only caught my first carp last summer, and it was a fantastic buzz. I’m a bit squeamish about handling fish and slimy stuff, but that will change. Back to the weekend… I learnt so much. How to bait a rig, cast long and short, which baits work, how to tie rigs…

The last few weeks have been quite stressful with work and studying, so spending time with friends at the lakes was a wonderful way to unwind. Being in a beautiful setting with good weather was so calming, even with an A road behind us (partially obscured by trees and fences). The sound of heavy traffic was quickly tuned out, as I simply lost myself in being outdoors, relaxing and seeing if we would catch anything. All of the pressure and worries of the last few weeks evaporated, and I was just being. I was completely in the moment. Such a beautiful feeling.

Later, my friend’s wife and kids came to visit us (after school…), which was lovely, as he had not long caught his first fish of the weekend, a beautiful 19lb 7oz carp, so we could all celebrate together. Our fellow angler also joined us after finishing work for the week, and we could relax again, crack open a beer or two and order pizza! (Luxury fishing, I tell you!) As the gates were locked at 7:00pm, a lovely hush descended upon the lakes, and we settled in for the night, hoping for another catch, but it was not to be… Good company, food and conversation made up for it though. I think we all crashed out around 10:00pm, bivvy doors open to the elements, rod alarm lights twinkling in the night. Bliss.

The following morning was bright and breezy. We were up early, and I got breakfast on, plenty of bacon, sausages and eggs on the stove in a BIG pan, whilst I went off to get my rod licence for the day. Walking around the lakes in the early morning was so good. Quiet, peaceful and relaxing, just being around nature. The morning passed peacefully until it was time to pack up. The rods are always the last thing to get packed, and as my friend was bringing his rods in, a swan caught his line around its leg. The swan was distressed but uninjured, as my friend cares for the wildlife above and below the water, and we didn’t leave the lake until we knew the swan was okay. It was funny seeing folks on the other bank run to get their rods out as the swan cruised around!

We wended our weary way home, but returned a little later as we still had some time left on our day tickets. We headed for the small lake so I could practice short casting and hopefully catch a carp before I went home! We had just baited up with sweetcorn and put some feed out to attract the fish, when I got my first bite! It was great learning how to bring the fish in safely, and the feeling was fantastic as I saw my friend net my first carp of the day, such a buzz. I didn’t get a photo of my first catch, as it was quite small, but I was so proud of myself for catching it. Amazingly, I had literally recast when I got another bite, this carp being much bigger. Again, my friend netted the fish for me, and gently unhooked it, checking it was okay before I took a photo. Beautiful fish, around 8lbs. We slipped it back into the water, and off it swam… Lovely.

I had a seriously funny turn then, feeling like I was drunk. My friend said it was an adrenaline rush after catching two carp so closely together. I definitely felt weird, and had to sit down with his daughter for a while, until I felt more myself… Composure regained, I cast out once more, as I had seen some carp under the deck near the bank, and I was determined to catch one more. They eluded me on one side, so I switched over to the next deck, casting under a tree… Success! My third catch in two hours, another beautiful carp around the 8lb mark. I had a hat trick, and was so happy.

Before I came home yesterday, my friend very kindly gave me some of his much older rods, reels, hooks and weights. We stripped the reels and rewound them with new line. I was very touched by this incredibly kind gesture, as my friend knows of our current financial position, and always helps out when I visit them, be it a takeaway, day tickets or, on one occasion, some fresh coffee to take home. I feel truly blessed to have such a good friend.

I never really thought I’d get into fishing, as it seemed a bit alien to me, but after this weekend, I am hooked (!). The sense of peace at the lakes, allowing me to remove myself from everything is wonderful. Catching fish is a wonderful way to unwind, and I look forwards to learning more about this relaxing past time, and the beautiful creatures at the heart of it.

Carp number 3
Carp number 3
Carp number 2
Carp number 2

Do you know how amazing you are?

The last week or so has been incredible. My head has been buzzing with so many plans, plots and schemes that I haven’t known where to turn or what to do first…

I finished six months of personal development last week. It seems unbelievable to me that I’ve been working on this for six months, but the strength and confidence I have now is amazing. Which brings me to the last couple of weeks. The whole head buzzing, whirling, not knowing where to start thing had reached a point, and I was paralysed by starting the next step on the journey. It wasn’t until my counselling class two weeks back that I realised what was happening…

My tutor in the afternoon that takes us for the process part of our course (practical skills), made an observation on my counselling session where I had said that I felt as though I was in the centre of a tornado, like in the ‘Wizard of Oz’, with everything whirling around me out of control. It was fear that was sending me into a spin, fear of the unknown, and that’s what my tutor commented on.

For a long time I’ve held very set, black and white views on how some things should be, like work, and now with all this amazing confidence, assertiveness and positivity, that view has been blown apart. I don’t have to fit into a set pattern of behaviour, attitude or appearance any more, as I thought I had to before. My mind is finally free of constraint allowing me to do as I wish, not as others do. I am in charge of my own future and am moving forwards at a rate of knots with nothing to hold me back. It’s amazing and I’m really happy.

All of you are amazing too and capable of so many incredible things. Take the leap.