Day 1: Like the rest of you, December and January had seen me catch very little and I was more than happy to try something a little bit different. Jeff Kennett had invited me to have a day out on the Thames in his boat and so at the crack of dawn I helped him hitch up the trailer and we set off for the public slipway at Hampton. Our intention was to fish the Sunbury weir and alongside the boats moored on that stretch. Unfortunately the weir was pushing through and after about 30 minutes of fruitless casting we decided to explore the backwater. I have fished the car park area with some success and the Feltham water but I had never seen the upper reaches of this stream or the top weir.
As we motored slowly up the creek we trolled spinnerbaits, and it was not long before Jeff had a take from a very lively and beautifully marked jack of about 4lbs. I was surprised at the length of this stretch of water and equally surprised that this was the only fish we caught.
The top weir is only about 20 yds wide and the water below looked superb, this is also where the River Ash joins the Thames. I quickly set up a livebait rod and cast to the wall on the far side of the weir, my free roaming dace livebait working well against the gentle current. Leaving this to find me a pike, I, along with Jeff, turned my attention to casting lures both into the weir pool and up into the mouth of the Ash. Despite the mouth-watering appearance of the water we failed to even have a take over the next 45 minutes. So, at Jeff's suggestion we up anchored and started to trot livebaits under the overhanging branches of the bankside willow trees.
The baits had barely gone 50 yds when Jeff's float disappeared. After a short fight I unhooked a fish of about 8lbs in the water. Jeff then decided to act as ghillie so that I could concentrate on getting my bait right under the overhanging trees. Over the next 30 to 40 minutes the baits made 9 trips down the stream and every time the float went under. In that magic period I boated six fish, lost one and missed two on strike. Like the first fish, they were all beautifully marked and in tiptop condition. In addition, Jeff had a couple of near misses on his lure rod. Sadly, we had now used up all of our bait fish, so we motored slowly back to the slip way putting our lures into all the likely looking spots along the way. I had a pike snap at my lure but nothing further was hooked.
Day 2: In my diary I had pencilled in a pike match with the Bath Road AC. As it was on a lake I had not fished before I decided to give it a go. However, when I telephoned for details I was told that the venue had been changed to the small lake, just off the M25 at junction 13, known as Kotan Park. This is an almost circular lake, about 100 - 120 yds in diameter. I have walked round it once before but I knew very little about it. I was only expecting two other pikers but when they hadn't arrived 20 mins after the agreed time I decided to choose a swim and wet my baits. There then followed a long blank session relieved only by the late arrival of my two fellow anglers and by the sound of a carp angler having a run. What a pity he was on the other side of the lake at the time. No one will ever know how big a fish moved his boilie over 20 yards.
Day 3: This was the one I had really been looking forward to. I had recently joined the Internet Angling Club and had also signed up to a mailing list for anglers. The IAC arrange trips to a range of venues and this one was a day's grayling fishing on a private stretch of the River Kennett. I had never seen a live grayling, let alone hooked one. That and the possibility of wild brown trout, rainbows and large roach and dace made this a day too good to miss. I was very excited as I set off down the M4 to meet up with the guys at the Theale service station. However, the fates or the Gods had other things in mind. I had not gone 1 mile when the nice lady on the radio announced that a tanker had overturned depositing several thousand gallons of cooking oil all over the west bound carriageway just past junction 10. This led to a slow moving diversion through Reading, a town that I am not too familiar with. I guess it should have come as no surprise when I arrived at J12 instead of J11. The service station is, of course, between J11 and J12 but in the wrong direction. So it was that I ended up 'phoning from Theale BR station to explain why I was over 30 mins late (much as I hate them, I said a little thank-you to the inventor of mobile phones).
We eventually met up just off J14 and headed out through Hungerford to the fishery. In fact, we were not really fishing the Kennett but a series of small backwaters that I can only assume were man made years ago for the wealthy landowner. We tackled up, consulted our fishery maps and headed off to do battle. I settled on a swim where two streams met and formed an 'S' bend. Two trots through showed that I had over estimated the depth and so shallowed up a few inches. The very next run through my float buried and I struck into my first ever grayling. What I hadn't realised was just how hard these fish can fight in fast running water. On fairly light float tackle their sail like dorsal fin catches the current and makes them quite a difficult proposition. It took the best part of 3-4 mins, and seemed a hell of a lot longer, before I slid the fish into the landing net. A beautiful Kennett grayling probably weighing a pound and a half, perhaps slightly more.
Unfortunately there was no one else within sight that I could ask to take my photo with this beautiful creature. So I laid it carefully on my net, positioned my rod and reel alongside to give it scale and snapped away with my camera. Regrettably, this same situation occurred whenever I caught a worthwhile fish. I caught and photographed a rainbow of over 3lbs, a brownie of about 1lb 12ozs and a few other slightly smaller fish. (Honest I did catch them!). But when I had the film developed all of these pics were out of focus, as I had got too close for my compact camera. So, the next time I go out on my own, I will take my SLR camera with me so that I can be certain that my photos will be sharply focused.
Meeting for a drink at the end of the day I discovered that everybody else had had similar success, although one chap had lost a rainbow estimated at over 6lbs. There was a second trip on the Wednesday and an 8lbs rainbow was landed (and returned).
Day 4: Wednesday arrived and I found myself, with Paul Smith, on the banks of a Club water near to Weybridge in Surrey. We arrived early and set out along the railway bank. We were expecting to be joined by Ron Parker later in the morning. By about 11 o'clock we had moved swims a couple of times and had not had a touch. We now found ourselves on the bank opposite to where we started and had been joined by Ron. A further move saw Ron and I fishing three swims apart with Paul a further two swims beyond me. At 2.25pm I had a run and was very pleased to see a nice double figure fish glide over the edge of the net. First blood to me at 14lbs 5ozs. Just twenty minutes later I just heard Ron shout that he had a fish on. I wandered along to help and quickly realised that Ron had hooked a biggy. Just how big didn't become clear for a couple of minutes and both of our jaws dropped as I netted a very big fish. Paul joined us and we set about unhooking her, a job that proved to be very easy as the hooks were now in the net rather than in her jaws. The scales slammed down to 28lbs exactly, more than 4.5lbs heavier than Ron's previous PB. She was 41" long with a girth of 22". An excited photo session followed and both Paul and I shook hands with Ron as the fish swam strongly away. What a fish!!
We all returned to our swims and at 3-15 I had a second run, which resulted in my landing a second double, this time a fish of 15lbs 8ozs. A very satisfying catch, as it was my first fish to be caught on lamprey, a further bonus was that the lamprey was still on the hooks and so was immediately cast out to drip more blood into the lake. Barely another 20 mins had passed when the lamprey was gobbled up again. My first words to Paul were that it looked like I had hooked a third double (the first time I had caught three 10lbs fish in a single session). The fish made one powerful run and then came in fairly quietly. To our astonishment we realised that it was the same fish that Ron had landed barely 50 minutes earlier. Again photos were taken and the big girl set off with a flourish - soaking me as she made a powerful surge for the middle of the lake.
Amazingly, Ron and I had banked over 85lbs of fish in just one hour and 10 mins. In addition, I had missed a fish on the strike, Paul had lost a fish and whilst I was helping Ron with the '28', I had what was probably a lucky escape, when a fish picked up my bait but the braid stuck in the clip and didn't register a drop back. Luckily for all concerned the fish dropped the bait.
Day 5: A non-fishing friend of mine has a son who is fishing mad. Sadly, because his dad doesn’t fish, Gavin doesn't get the chance to fish very often. So, whenever I go to visit I always take Gavin out for the day. We usually fish a lake near to his home but as a treat I thought that a day in a boat at Bury Hill would be a nice change. We were both fishing what I call 'one and one'. In other words, one specimen rod (for pike and zander) and one rod for maggot drowning. After an hour I had my first bite and netted a skimmer bream of about a pound. Over the next thirty minutes I landed three more, each slightly bigger than the one before, with the biggest being about 3 lbs. Gavin managed a 6" perch which took his maggot when he wasn't looking. Whilst I think I could have caught more bream, I felt it was time to move. After all what's the point of being in a boat and not moving, particularly when we wanted to catch something with teeth. To cut a long story short we met up with one boat that had caught a pike but despite several changes of position and using deadbaits and lures neither of us caught pike that day, nor did we hear or see anyone else catch.
Day 6: Finally, I was to end the week by joining the Walton PAC Region on the banks and waters of Ardingly Reservoir. As I had been away for 3 days I wasn't too sure as to who was fishing. After a short wait I was joined first by Cec and Jason and then by Dave Field and John Archer. These four paid their fees and set off, Cec and Jason for the far end of the reservoir whilst Dave and John went afloat in a hired boat. A further 20 mins passed before the arrival of Ron and Chris, who were going to fish from Chris's new boat. We hung around chatting for a while and it started to dawn on me that no one else was coming. So it looked like I was going to fish on my own (Cock-up No 1). Cock-up No 2 followed shortly after when I realised that I had left my livebait pump at home and trout are not really suited to being carried a fair distance in a bucket. Cock-up No 3, I had also forgotten my livebait net, so throughout the day I had to keep swapping them between the bucket and my landing net to keep them alive. I eventually settled in a swim at the end of the bank opposite the clubhouse. Oh sh**, Cock-up No 4, my buzz-bars are miles away in the boot of my car, so the rods were propped up in the bank side reeds. The trout livebaits were huge and so I assumed that when my float disappeared a few minutes later, that the trout had found sound weed and had dived deep. However, after a few seconds I decided to check it out and was delighted to find a pike of about 4-5 lbs attached. Cock-up No 5, it came off about 5 yards from the net (but at least I got the livebait back). By now the wind had started to get up and what had been a mirror like surface was now looking very different. After another hour or so I decided to move further along and after a long walk set up in the middle of the 'willows'. I sat it out here until about 2-30pm and then decided to call it a day. So ended an amazing week. Four personal bests, two species I had never caught before and three brain numbing, boring, bloody awful days. It's what fishing's all about.
This story was first published in DropBack, the official magazine of the
Walton on Thames Pike Anglers Club. For more stories and information about
Walton PAC, have a look at their web site - http://members.aol.com/waltonpac