My left elbow is locked, pushing down heavily on the side of my inflatable boat. My right elbow is on the concrete bank. At least four feet of me is under water. Frigid river water, it may have been the warmest February on record but my testicles cared little for meaningless statistics. I looked across at my boat partner, Andy, at first with a look of horror and then a pleading look, a deep yearning for him to do something to help me. He looked back, his whole body language saying he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the whole debacle.
To compound my situation I was wearing two pairs of cotton tracksuit bottoms, lounge pants. I'd put an extra pair on as it was a bit chilly. Now they were working against me, soaking up the boreal water, gaining in weight and slowly dragging me down. In desperation I looked across at Andy again, he paused. "Get your leg up", he said. A master of stating the bleeding obvious, I was trying, my god I was trying. I was now at maximum saturation. Stuck. Too heavy to lift myself out, the water too deep to push off the bottom. The sheer calamity of the situation washed over me and I started laughing out loud. Andy laughed too, the bastard.
|Andy without a care in the world|
This blog is almost entirely about mine and my friends exploits on Lincolnshire rivers. I'm not Bob Roberts, I largely make a concerted effort to keep this blog opinion free. You're just here to see the fish, I get it. Forgive me then because before we start I just want to have a quiet word. Lincolnshire Police have a Facebook page, for appeals, missing persons, wanted folk and the like. Recently they posted a picture of a dead Otter in an illegal trap. It was by some considerable margin the most shared and commented on post. The comments were mostly from anglers, vicious, ill-informed nonsense. Savage, heartless, psychotic diatribe painting anglers in the worst possible light, it was cringeworthy, embarrassing and shameful. Strange how most of their profile pictures have them proudly holding up Carp. Alright, don't get your panties in a twist, everyone is welcome here. Just one minor point though, if, as many of you self proclaimed river experts really do believe that Otters devastate rivers, leaving them totally devoid of life there really isn't any point reading any further is there?
What a difference a month makes
Myself, Martin, Andy and Dave arranged to meet on the river Nene. A stretch where I had literally got fed up of catching Perch just a month before. After a lot of effort we finally had both boats on the water and eagerly headed to the hot area.
The contrast was stark. Three hours of searching and using a variety of methods produced just a couple of very small Pike. The fish had moved and by our reckoning they had moved a long way. We had split up, both going in different directions. Miles apart before reconvening and abandoning the river altogether.
Martin would hate being described as a local expert so we turned to local expert Martin for a plan B. After a short journey we arrived at his recommended spot. The boats weren't needed and four hardened specimen hunters lined the bank, quiver tipping for Perch with dropshot rods. Not ideal but thanks to local expert Martin we made something of an otherwise poor day. The stamp of fish was remarkable but before I tell you how big just have a look at this picture and think to yourself how easy it would be for some people to over-inflate the weights of their captures, something that irks me and every other honest angler in the country.
Go on, how big? Nope. Most of the fish we had including this one were big two's. None of us had a three pounder but most were over two and half.
|Local expert Martin|
My favourite photo of the day is this one of Andy and Dave. Slightly washed out it has a kind of aged quality to it that wouldn't be out of place in any fishing book of days gone by. Plus it depicts two mates having a ball.....
A lot of anglers find Chub relatively easy to catch. Indeed my default setting is one of supreme confidence in trying to fool what are essentially creatures with tiny brains. Many an hour was spent this winter targeting Chub on a local river. Not the small ones, they are relatively easy to catch. The bigger, ridiculously cagey ones. The ones you wait hours for and you miss the first and only bite. After several of these sessions I pretty much gave up. How's this for sods law? I had arranged to do a feature for Improve Your Coarse Fishing. I wanted to catch Roach but Chub were required for the magazine. So I went over the day before to bait some spots. I couldn't resist having a cast in the last peg I baited. I only had my 14ft float rod so I freelined a bit of cheesepaste. The tip dragged round as a five pounder hooked itself. I immediately stopped fishing, not wanting to ruin the following day. I needn't have, I didn't have a single bite for the cameras, not one.
|A modest 5lb 10oz the only Chub of note this winter|
Can I just take this opportunity to thank fellow big fish angler Brian Hankins. I hardly know him but we very occasionally bump into each other. On one particular day we had both pre-baited the same spot. He very kindly let me fish it. A grand gesture which I did absolutely no justice to angling wise.
Our friend Nate Green came over on Boxing Day. He really wanted a crack at some river Perch and, as ever, I had a few places in mind. First of all we stopped off at an downstream spot I though might give up a Chub fairly readily. Unusually for one of my hunches it proved right and he had one fairly quickly. As Nate was playing it I commented that it would probably be five pounds plus, any smaller and he would be very unlucky. It was a smidge under four pounds. Bugger.
Luckily later in the day the Perch fishing went pretty much to plan. He had some beauties to just under three pounds.....
|Not a familiar river brace in December|
The second day turned into a bit of a disaster as we launched the boat on a very dirty looking river Witham. I was a fruitless day. A real shame because the river can be superb in the right conditions. We had a great time though and I really enjoyed Nate's visit. A super bloke who travelled all the way from Kent to see me. While I still have my dander up about nonsense arguments between anglers on Facebook just take a look at this image. This is what fishing is all about, taken by another of Nate's friends on a Grayling fishing trip......
Dave has been determined to catch a two pound Roach for some time now. He has made many, many trips over to Lincolnshire to achieve that dream. He was even present when I had my second two pounder which spurred him on ever more. Most trips haven't been a total loss. He's had some beauties along the way but not quite the size he so yearns.....
On a blustery day in January we had arranged to meet on the river. The weather was challenging to say the least. The wind ripped my brolly from the ground, pegs and all. A lot of overnight rain was entering the river and it was rising fast. The fish were going mad though and I had caught several Roach to one pound nine ounces. I was keen for Dave to arrive before the river coloured up too much. Soon enough he was trudging down the bank, fighting against the almost gale force wind. The fish in my peg had backed off slightly so I suggested he drop below me.
After about ten minutes popped my head around the brolly to see Dave net a good fish and as he sank back in his chair he raised his hand indicating he might have something special. Sadly not quite the target weight but close enough that it barely mattered......
The wind gradually subsided and it became far more pleasurable to fish. The river was steadily colouring up though and although we took many more Roach between us that remained the biggest of the day. Dave did have a slight fright when he hooked into a rogue Chub. Another arm was raised aloft and I wandered down to see what all the fuss was about. A Chub, good one too.....
It was great to see Dave's elation at that fish. He is incredibly dedicated to improving his PB's. Sometimes you fail to appreciate the journey when you are so concentrated on the destination. His reaction to that Chub was delightful especially when you consider a few weeks before he had a very special fish from another midlands river.....
Back to that windy day in Lincolnshire and while Dave continued chasing Roach I, as usual, got sidetracked and went after Perch. The best was this fish....
All in all a pretty remarkable day. We've been back since, Martin has even joined us. We never reached the heights of that day though. The really big Roach and Chub are there but they don't give themselves up easily. The Perch are very obliging though.....
|Martin with a couple of big two's|
|Brace of 3's. The top one a recapture.|
I was convinced a particular area of another river had some good Perch potential. Martin, Andy and I had all had some good fish to nearly three pounds without actually breaking that strangely meaningful barrier. We kept making the not inconsiderable journey over, setting up the boat and exploring every nook and cranny of the river. With my favourite Martin sadly and unusually busy at work I had to take Andy. I might get in touch with Nuneaton parish council to see if I can get some sort of carers allowance. Anyway the flukey bugger was first to break the deadlock with this fine fish....
Like buses I didn't have to wait long for the next one to come along. Slightly smaller but Andy's couldn't wait to hang itself, mine was far more worthy angling wise....
We caught loads of Perch that day. All on TRD's. A really effective method but incredibly tiresome after a few hours.
Nice to be nice
Regardless of your views and opinions if you've made it this far into my dreary ramblings you're my friend. On that subject and bucking the trend of anglers on social media I struck up a bit of a rapport with a chap called Alfie Naylor. I'd never met him but looked upon his postings with interest. Especially his enthusiasm for Perch. Fishing isn't rocket science, I felt Alfie would catch some big Perch but probably not from the venues he was fishing. I suppose it's a bit like me fishing for Chub or Barbel on the Trent and Alfie walking past. You either help each other out or walk on by.
After a couple of years corresponding sporadically I told Alfie when my typical days off were a few weeks ago and we arranged to meet me at a secret location with a view to getting him nearer to a few bigger specimens.
Keen to give him a day to remember I was there early and had the boat all ready set up and ready to go upon his arrival. We exchanged pleasantries and boarded my modest vessel (not a euphemism). Another of my default settings is I don't know best. I was keen to see how Alfie would fish, maybe selfishly learn something I hadn't thought of before so I kept quiet tactics wise. As we started our first drift I was into a good fish straight away. Alfie was amazed, the place was alive, in contrast to the more accessible and far less productive spots he had been fishing.
|On the water|
As the day continued Alfie swapped and changed, catching fish but at a slightly slower rate than I was. After an hour or so I chucked him a lure, a TRD in New Deal colour with a red shroom head. The very pattern Patrick had given me a few months before and one I have confidence in. After seeing my success and discarding the need for trial and error Alfie set about catching some really fine fish. Then disaster struck. At the end of a drift I spun the boat around and my rod wasn't left where I should have left it and it slipped in, sinking straight away. I wasted about an hour of the day trying to get it back but I was keen for Alfie not to suffer too much so encouraged him to fish on while I grubbed about on the bottom trying to retrieve my rod which I eventually did.
|Typical stamp of fish early on|
|Alfie soon began to like the TRD's just as I had a few weeks earlier.|
We had a short break for a coffee, keen to reboot and have a discussion how we might get into the really big fish I knew were there. Our tactics were working although I set up a float rig to fish worms which proved to be fairly ineffective as the afternoon drew on. I sacked that off and went back on the lures. As we drifted by one particular feature I lost two good fish, one after another. I motored back around and asked Alfie to drop the anchor. He cast his lure in and almost immediately it was taken. Initially we both thought it could be a Pike but it surfaced quite quickly, it was a Perch, a big one too. It kicked back down and kited agonisingly close to the anchor rope. Alfie kept his cool in a tremendously tense battle and eventually I netted what was surely a new PB for my guest.....
Alfie was in shock. That capture rates right up there with the best I have witnessed. The biggest perch any of us have caught there and just an absolute joy to see. Especially considering the narrative, Alfie wanted a three pounder, he got one. He fished on in a bit of a daze. He had another good fish and was made up with that as well which speaks volumes for his enthusiasm and attitude.
We've arranged to go out again soon, I'll let you know how we get on.
Both Andy and I are fairly sure somewhere among all many many features that there will be a really massive fish. I went back with this in mind, this time with my old mate Leo. The day started off at a hectic pace. A fish every cast before slowing somewhat. Leo's fresh eyes on the venue gave me a different perspective and it became clear the fish were tucked under cover after initially being out in the open. My best of the day didn't quite reach three pounds....
Leo fared considerably better with this lovely example from an area we hadn't had a big fish from before....
Out and about
Another friend, James Truscott wanted to improve his PB Perch. I selected a venue I hadn't been to for a while and it proved to be incredibly hard. The conditions weren't great and we struggled to find any Perch. The numerous Pike in the area were also very active. James will have to wait a little longer for his PB. I did eventually find some and encouraged him to have a cast in my peg. Sadly as soon as they arrived they left, retreating to a spot out of reach.
|Plagued by Pike, even on worms|
Bringing you right up to date I visited the secret river for the first time this year a couple of days ago. It was great fun and nice to see a few fish still there.
|Bottomed my 12lb scales out|
|Nate with a 5 15 Chub|
|He made the cover!|
|Martin in the same magazine|
|I did my Roach feature after all|
|Nate with a 21lb 5oz Pike|
|Martin with a 1lb 15oz Roach|
|James Aris with a 3lb 5oz Perch|
|Jamie Potts with a 13lb Canal Zander|
|Andy Wilson with a 3lb 5oz Perch|
All of the guys here are part of Specimen Hunting Uk. A collective of like minded individuals. Sadly I couldn't make the annual lure match but eighteen of me turned up!
|Not one of them is the real me!|
SHUK also had a five year anniversary get together at Makins fishery. The fishing was terrible but we had a great time and raised £300 for various charities close to some of the guys hearts.....
|Andy Wilson telling Dai Gribble everything he knows (it didn't take long)|
Thanks to all.
Korum Aeronium Chair
There wasn't much wrong with my old Korum roving chair but I'd had it a couple of years and Santa dropped this new model down my chimney. It's about a pound lighter than the old chair, barely noticeable. Overall it's been brilliant. Plenty of adjustment and on steep slopes you can leave the back legs up. As I usually end up fishing about ten pegs most days the lack of weight is the main attraction. Highly recommended.
Here's a bit of a curve ball for you. What could I possibly want with a Boilie crusher? Well, when fishing for Roach and you need to feed it'll mangle a slice of bread up just nicely. Handy for impromptu sessions or when you run out of feed. Match anglers would probably cringe at this but I'm not fishing for a hundred blades, I'm after a few big fish. The feed doesn't need to be super-fine. It has definitely come in handy this winter on quite a few occasions.
I'm by no means a pioneer but I have seemingly sparked a bit of interest in inflatable boat fishing. They can get you into virtually unfished areas but please be mindful of the fact you are pushing boundaries. Places where people aren't used to seeing anglers. Marinas are especially sacred. If I'd paid thousands of pounds for a mooring I wouldn't tolerate lures bouncing off my boat or listening to anglers swearing and cursing all day. Be nice, be ambassadors for your pastime. This isn't social media, this is real life. Not giving a toss might make you feel more manly but it has consequences. Consequences that effect everyone else. Of course, I'm preaching to the choir. As you were.
|My head umbrella, a must for boat going glasses wearers|
|Post dip, I fished on for two hours wrapped in a dog blanket|
|Dave and the chaos twins|
|Leo at Makins|
Till next time........