Rod King Cole
I was a very short walk from home. At the back of a small row of shops (a hairdressers, a newsagent etc) was a small yard with two sheds. The end shed was huge, the door propped open and the hum of industrial size fridges ever present. The first shed was smaller, like a normal garden shed. Again the door was propped open. It was a summer morning.
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"
The singing voice was familiar. It was Rod, the owner of the last shop on the row- Soar Valley Tackle. He was riddling caster maggots which he did three or four times a day. By the time he bagged them up his casters were absolutely perfect. The order book would always be full. I used to rib him about them being pre-packed when he took them from the small fridge in the shop. He'd always take offense, quite rightly so considering the amount of work he put into them.
He always sang that song. I never did understand why. Rod was a draughtsman who had been made redundant and along with a friend decided to set up a tackle shop. Luckily for me it was right at the end of my street. Rod was an avid match angler it was often a who's who of match fishing in the shop. Even on the local river Soar one hundred peg matches were common place. He knew them all and they all knew him.
I have a room in my house which is almost a shrine to that shop. All the rods he sold, I have. Most of the reels too. I spent so many hours in that shop, both as a customer and as his assistant. He never had a bad word to say about anyone, not one person. Nobody ever said a bad word about him. He was a lovely man. He was my friend.
Roderick Arthur Hubbard
11th March 1944 - 29th November 2017
After a remarkable run of big fish at the start of the winter things went slightly flat for a while. Winter fishing can be very challenging. They seem to feed less frequently and increasingly I'm beginning to question the effects of air pressure/ snow melt/ road salt etc. That's not the type of angler I am though or even want to be. I go fishing regardless and play out what I'm confronted with. I even had a couple of blanks which, all things considered, were hard to take. I know where there are massive amounts of fish all over the county. Trying to catch a very small percentage of them was the stick in the spokes I reconciled. Too my discredit really early on I did catch a Perch of around three pounds while out on the boat with Benidorm Dave and I released it with barely a second look. "It's not four pounds is it." Dave stated. With the light fading rapidly back it went in my rush to get a bigger one, which never materialised.
An invite from our friend Will Barnard came my way and I jumped at the chance to head down south for a couple of days. The first day was spent on a beautiful part of the river Thames after perch. Typically we both caught lots and lots of perch, sadly no big ones. Will lost a decent fish towards the end of the day, he blamed the American radio station I was listening to. A tenuous excuse. Part of the beauty of angling is that you never stop learning. Sometimes, even if you find fish, the big ones at certain times can be very difficult to catch. On other occasions they can be incredibly easy to fool. Despite trying all sorts of methods and staying till the last minute of daylight we left without our achieving our goals.
The next day I was in for a treat. A real once-in-a-lifetime experience. Will had secured us a day on an exclusive beat of the river Test. Having never caught a grayling this was to be my opportunity to rectify that sad fact. We got to the river quite early in anticipation. Our enthusiasm was soon dented when we realised we had forgotten to put the maggots in the car. "Don't worry, there's a tackle shop around the corner," Will declared. An hour later we returned with bait.......
I'd asked Will the day before about the river. "Any Perch?" I asked. "I've never caught one from there, very few," he replied. Typically his first two fish of the day were, you guessed it, perch. Bigger than any the day before when we'd been pulling out all the stops to catch one......
The rest of the day was a blur. I did indeed catch my first grayling. In face we both had a round thirty of them. Nothing big, mostly around the pound mark. Great fishing though. The very last fish of the day fell to me and despite doing a great impression of a massive grayling it turned out to be a greedy chub. If I lived closer, I'd be there all the time. Lovely surroundings, great fishing and challenging too. My new very modest PB of 1lb 2oz. Thanks Will.
If in doubt, move
Thanks to one of my fantastic friends word reached me of a spot that had been producing a few decent perch. A venue I had never been to before. As ever the anticipation of a new stretch of water rendered my sleep very fitful and I arrived before the sun came up. Even with frost on the ground I was super confident and I made the most of the warmth of the car until I could see properly. I had the chaos twins with me and they hurried ahead, as excited about the new surroundings as their owner.
I settled in a peg I had been told about. A couple of floats were thrown out baited with big lobworms and I sat back expectantly. The amount of predator activity was incredible. Pike and hopefully perch were striking at bait fish all over the river, in all directions, as far as I could see. An amazing sight. Three hours later all I had to show for my efforts were a couple of hybrids and one small perch. I set up a lure rod and had a wander. That produced a couple of perch straight away close to where I had been fishing. It was still bloody freezing and a storm front was moving in. The wind in particular was really howling. I considered just going home but something made me move. I'd like to say it was intuition but the area I went to was a lot shallower and moving so it went against everything I thought I knew.
First cast was a beauty. Tight to the far bank in two feet of water. The float moved along steadily before that magical moment when it dips slightly and then disappears totally. It was a perch and a good one too. I had to put the camera behind some thick vegetation to shield it from the near gale force wind. 3lb 2oz.......
I slipped it into the keepnet and coaxed the float down the far bank again. Sure enough it went under in exactly the same place. Another belter........
On the next run through hooked a pike which bit me off but not before charging all over the peg. Undeterred I carried on and sure enough the float just kept going under. I was sure I had another perch on but it was just a little too dogged towards the end which had me wondering. Sure enough a tench popped up. A bloody tench, in November, trotting worms. It was only a couple of pounds so went straight back. Next up another Pike and another hook replaced. Fishing 6lb double strength straight through on one of my no-lock float rods I can exert a massive amount of pressure if needed. Sure enough I fluked one in the scissors next cast. A bit of a beast too.....
With the pike released further downstream I set after the perch again. I was pretty sure there were more to be had before the weather forced me off. The float travelled further than before but with the same result, a small indication and then sailing away. I hit into a good fish. A perch again, great. That is until a big paddle tail appeared. Another tench. This was crazy.
And so it continued......
|6lb 4oz Male|
The male Tench went absolutely nuts. One of the hardest fighting river fish I've ever caught. I also had another smaller one in among them. Five tench from a river in November, in a gale, after a frost. Quite unbelievable. The three biggest were all PB's. I've had four and maybe even five pound fish in matches before but never really targeted them. I still haven't.
I had a couple of emails last month. Jez and Chris share my passion for one local venue in particular. They were happy to share stories and I'm very grateful that they are so friendly. I even met Jez down there recently. It's never far from from my thoughts and there aren't many weeks I'm not walking the banks, sometimes not even fishing, just being nosy. Seems the resident Otter has developed a taste for perch.......
I've been finding stuff like this for five years now. I have to admit though this one hurt. It was in an area I had been fishing. I know the river as well as anyone and the Perch had holed up in a place I'd not known them to be before. It took me ages to find them too. Looks like Tarka beat me to one of the real big ones. I lifted it to throw back in, at least maybe a Pike could benefit from the rest I thought, the shear weight shocked me. I daren't weigh it. Would it have been four pounds alive? Well, that's a size eleven shoe. Make your own mind up.
Anyway. I had my gear with me so I had a go. Right into dark. I heard the Otter come through my peg. He didn't expect to see me sat there. Tough. I ended up with five to 2lb 12oz. All caught really tight to some cover. Hiding probably......
I'm no expert but Perch of that size will have reproduced many times. It's the Cormorants taking the small ones that I really worry about. There is a gang of twenty or more that roost by another river nearby and they cause havoc locally. I never thought I'd say this but they need managing somehow. The Otters, I can live with. More than that, I'm really proud of the fact they have recovered. How it happened is largely irrelevant.
I've been back a few times. I can't beat 2lb 12oz but they are stunning fish. Really special.....
2017 Round up
It's been a great year for me. Five years now a specimen hunter and I've had over ten PB's this year. Barbel, Tench, Bream, Grayling, Perch, Brown Trout, Thornback Ray, Gilthead Bream, Wrasse, Carp, Catfish and Salmon. In true Desert Island Discs fashion if I had to choose one it would be the Gilthead Bream. It wasn't even very big but the story behind it and the build-up made it personally satisfying. From a conversation in a tackle shop a seed was sown and we set about making the myth a reality. We couldn't park, we were wet, hungry and four hundred miles from home. One fish made it all worthwhile. Shame on every single person that feels the need to kill them. There's a fucking Tesco across the road if you're that desperate for some protein.
That tackle shop in Cornwall provided us with all the information we needed. I buy stuff online, of course I do but I also try and support my local shops and they offer unrivalled service. Big Catch Tackle in Chapel St Leonards are always very nice to me. They have everything you could possibly want. They also have a great mail order service and shop on amazon. Horncastle Angling are also great to me. Again they have a great stock. Lastly W.A.G's Angling in Skegness. Much like Rod, owners Geoff and Gary are match anglers. If you need good bait, they are your men.
All my friends at SHUK (Specimen Hunting UK).
Benidorm Dave, Paul Coulthurst.
John, Steve and Xavier at Big Catch Tackle.
Last but not least....
You. Thanks for reading.
|3lb 13oz river PB at the time. One of over twenty 3lb+ Perch in 2017.|
|Improve Your Course Fishing|
|Angling Times. Included 20 Roach over a pound|
|3lb 10oz Wrasse|
|PB Carp 20lb 4oz|
|Best Smoothound year yet. Only two Doubles though|
|Not all about the big guys. First Tope.|
|Everybody loves Raymond|
|3lb 15oz River Perch PB|
Till next time...............