At that time, as a boy of nine, I used to spend all my summer holidays with an Aunt and Uncle on a Shropshire farm mid-way between Shrewsbury and Much Wenlock. Almost fifty years on I cannot remember why, but I was given a fishing rod and reel and made plans to begin a new adventure with a visit to the nearby river Severn.
The rod was a seven foot solid glass spinner equipped with a Lee of Redditch fixed spool reel and an assortment of simple spinners. Armed with this bounty I set off for the river.
About two miles upstream from the village of Cressage was the tiny railway station of Cound Halt, long since the victim of the infamous Beeching Axe, and it was here that I headed knowing that at this point the river swept round a long bend and came within a hundred yards of the road.
I had already practised casting in the field and so, with all the confidence and assurance of a nine-year-old, I started to work my way upstream having a few casts in each place where I could get to the river. |
It was a beautiful day, but although I gave the fishing all of my attention, an hour went by fruitlessly and my very limited threshold of boredom was fast approaching. The confidence had gone and the was waning, nothing had happened.
I think that I was probably close to giving up when I heard a voice with a broad brummy accent, "You ain't got much idea of what you're doing have you?".
I looked around and realised that there was an angler fishing some twenty yards from me but hidden by the dense bankside growth. I climbed out of the hole that I was fishing and walked up to see what he was doing. I was stunned by the array of equipment that he had. He was sitting on a wicker basket and was holding a rod that seemed endless, whilst another rod lay beside him with a landing net and in the water an immensely long keep-net.
"What are you trying to catch?" he asked me and I was dumb-struck, I did not know.
"Seems a nice little rod" he said. "With a spinner like that you should be able to catch a Perch or even a Pike." He pointed to his keep-net. "There's been a pike trying to get at my fish, do you want to have a go for him?".
I was not entirely sure whether or not I was being ridiculed as I found it hard to believe that any fish would try to get into a keep-net, but I climbed down the bank and cast my spinner towards the middle of the river.
My new-found brummy friend was chuckling, "If the fish is under the keep-net why are you chucking that thing out in the middle? Cast downstream and draw it back along the edge," he instructed.
I did as I was told and was stunned when on the second cast a fish took. I was totally unprepared for the power of the creature that I had hooked. The rod curved magnificently and I could feel the fish bucking and fighting at the end of the line.
After a few minutes, and with a great deal of help from my new-found friend and ally he was able to net my first ever fish, a Pike in perfect condition weighing-in at two and a half pounds.
The first piece of the jig-saw was in place.
Early in January l991, on a bitterly cold evening, I was invited to attend a meeting at The Eagle, a real ale pub in Leeds which had became my home town.
I knew that I could not stay long because Manchester United were playing a match that was to be televised, and no matter where you may settle, you never forget your roots. I found myself sitting next to a lady whom I had not met previously and the attraction was obvious and mutual. Within weeks Val and I were close friends and I discovered that she had spent much of her younger life accompanying her three (now grown up) sons on fishing trips and had never lost her love for the sport.
During the spring and summer of 1991 we fished together frequently and I came to realise that her passion for angling was even greater than my own, but she brought into the equation a new factor, she loved to travel.
Up to that time I had been something of a work-a-holic, not caring much for holidays, whereas Val was just the opposite, working to fund as many holidays as she could fit in. I quickly caught the bug.
We were now a passionate pair of anglers with a mutual desire to travel to any place that would offer to us the opportunity to dangle a rod and line. The pattern was complete.
Neither Val nor I are expert anglers and it is not the aim of this series to tell others how best to go about catching specimens or large quantities of fish. However, with our modest skills we have been able to put together some truly memorable fishing holidays, memorable not only for the quality of the fishing but also for the beauty of the places that we have visited, for the occasional stunning views of wildlife, for the magnificent variety of flora that we have seen, but most important of all the interesting, usually friendly and occasionally loveable people that we have had the pleasure of meeting.
What follows in the coming months is a pot-pourri of incidents and adventures that we have experienced. Rather than relate them chronologically in the form of a journal or diary, I have chosen to present them geographically, with an article devoted to each of the countries that we have visited on fishing expeditions. Some of these countries we have visited an several occasions and consequently the number of incidents recorded may be higher than in those countries that we have visited only once.
If you have the curiosity to read on, it will become apparent that for Val and I good fishing is more than the simple catching of fish. For fishing to be truly great, it must be in peaceful surroundings that are beautiful, interesting and above all, in sunny, warm climes!
For each country that we have visited I have included some notes about travelling, accommodation and things and places that might be of interest to the reader when he or she is not fishing.
Additionally, I have included a few hints/tips (not usually concerning fishing techniques) that should help the reader in planning a more enjoyable and less expensive holiday.
Anglers visiting Denmark from Britain, usually go to sample the wonderful course fishing on the river Guden and in the numerous lakes through which it flows on its journey northwards. Although good fishing is available from well south of Silkeborg all the way north to Randers, this section refers to the area of Silkeborg itself and the five or six miles that the river covers as it flows north out of the town, through the village of Resenbro and on to the small hamlet of Svastrup where Val and I stayed.
Your holiday will start long before you arrive in Denmark, because the easy way to get there is to travel with Scandinavian Seaways on one of their magnificent ferries sailing from Harwich to Esjberg on the west coast of Denmark.
The boats are very well equipped with first rate accommodation, food and entertainment, but a word of warning! Once on board you are a captive audience and the services on board are not cheap.
The actual journey takes about twenty hours and as the boat leaves Harwich in the mid afternoon it arrives in Esjberg around the middle of the following day. This allows plenty of time to make the eighty mile journey to Silkeborg without haste, whilst still arriving in time to make all your fishing arrangments before having dinner on day one. It is worth noting that Danish roads are flat, straight and relatively traffic free, but do not forget your headlights, they must be on at all times!
The town of Silkeborg is built around a series of large lakes through which the river Guden runs and it this area and the six miles of river between Lang so (Lang lake) and Smynge so in which we concentrated our fishing.
When planning your holiday you will find that there are three basic types of accommodation from which you can choose and they differ greatly. The most expensive are the Hotels and Kros (A Kro is a wayside inn). Next there are the farmhouses which normally offer half-board at a cost little higher than the self-catering cottages and chalets that are also available.
Food is not cheap in Denmark and the fishing is both excellent and tiring and so, for these two reasons we opted for a farmhouse holiday.
The guest-house that we chose was a farm called Annexe Garden situated in the hamlet of Svostrup. The holding is a busy, modern farm specialising in the growing of strawberries and belongs to Anders Peter Peterson, but it is his wife Erna who 100ks after up to eleven guests.
Although we only stayed at this one guest-house, our chats with other anglers in the area would seem to confirm that it met with the typica11y high standards set in the locality. The roams were clean and comfortable and the food served by Erna, whilst relatively simple, was first class. The food is traditional farmhouse Danish, and as such is not very different from that served in comparable British establishments. Typica11y breakfast was a two course meal of scrambled eggs and bacon, fo11owed by a help-yourself selection of toast, various breads, jam, cheese and pate, all accompanied by copious quantities of fruit juice and coffee. The evening meal was also two courses with the main course being some form of meat accompanied with potatoes and either vegetables or a salad. As a footnote it is worth mentioning that there is a traditional Danish dish called Frickadellen, which is a kind of burger served with a sauce. If anyone makes better Frickadellen than Erna Peterson then I would truly love to try it! All of the sweets served by Erna would be easily recognised by her British guests, but it will came as no surprise if I tell you that strawberries figure high on the menu.
Annexe Garden, like most of the sites catering for anglers, has a large tackle store complete with bait fridges and more than adequate parking space. For those who are interested Svostrup Kro, with its several bars is only a two minute walk away. Drinks are however, very expensive and we found that evenings spent with other guests sharing a few drinks bought in duty free were most pleasant.
In order to fish in this area it is necessary to have a Danish national rod licence, together with a local Silkeborg Angling Association permit, much the same arrangements as exist in the U.K. Licences can be purchased from the local tourist office, but most Kros and most guest house owners wi11 be happy to make these arrangements on your behalf.
When planning a trip to Denmark it should be noted that you wi11 need to take your bait with you, because of this it pays to give some thought as to what you should take with you. As a guide, and for one weeks' fishing I would recommend that you take: Two gallons of maggots. One gallon of casters. Six tubs of worms (brandlings). Twelve pounds of sweetcorn. One sack of crumb. If you are taking ground bait with you it would pay to check on any restrictions that may apply in the area that you intend to fish.
Silkeborg is situated in the central part of Jutland and if, like me, you are intending to take along your wife and/or family, they will find much to interest them. Included in these are Legoland, only a short distance away, the seaside at Randers about an hours drive to the north and the town of Silkeborg itself with a host of tourist atractions and activities.
If you wish to arrange a Danish angling holiday, there are a number of companies who will be happy to accommadate you and you can get details from the holiday pages on this site or from the classified section of the angling press. We made our arrangements through Tim Meadows of Anglers Abroad. In addition to straightforward angling holidays, Tim also organises group trips and if you should get tired of bagging up on a daily basis he will even arrange a round of golf for you.
RUDD, RUDD, GLORIOUS RUDD.
one of the things that persuaded Val and I to go to Denmark was seeing the John Wilson "Go Fishing" programme in which he fished the Guden at Silkeborg. In that programme he was joined at one point by Mr. Polaris, Terry Smith, on a stretch of the river that looked quite magical. After studying the film carefully we were convinced that we could find the swims concerned, noting that a power cable crossed the river in the background. Only one such cable exists in the area and having found it, finding the swims was easy.
The Guden is not a very big river, but although the countryside is flat there is a powerful current for much of its length. At regular intervals there are bank-side slacks and it is the slacks on the far bank that the would-be successful angler must seek out. Along the whole of the left bank runs a public footpath and there is no access to the right bank so fishing to far-side slacks means that you are fishing swims that are rarely disturbed by human beings.
Whilst setting up, I noticed a Black Kite quartering the river and it was not until much later that I found out that this was a rare sighting. Although Kites are rare in Denmark, at the right time of year both Honey and Common Buzzards can be seen in large numbers as they migrate to and from their summer breeding areas. Both Val and I find that the pleasure of fishing is greatly enhanced by the opportunity that it affords for viewing wildlife.
Because of the power of the current at this particular spot I found it necessary to fish a two ounce feeder with my eleven foot rod pointed almost vertica11y.
I started fishing with three grains of corn on a size ten hook tied direct to four pound line and I had not even tightened up on the first cast when the tip of the rod started flapping about insanely. Unfortunately it was just a small Roach of about six ounces but nevertheless a great start to a days' fishing. Roach to twelve ounces and Bream to three pounds came steadily if not spectacularly and after about two hours I had about twenty pounds of fish in the net and it was at this point that I got a really gentle bite. This was so unusual for the Guden that at first I ignored it but the gentle quivering persisted so I struck, and I struck into a good fish!
I was quite convinced that I was into a Bream and from the power that it was exerting on the tackle I thought that it was probably around the five pound mark, certainly bigger than anything that I had caught up to that point. I had tremendous problems getting the fish across the powerful current and on to my side of the river. Immediately downstream of my peg and on my side of the river was a large slack and once I had played the fish into it I knew that I was in control. This is probably the most dangerous moment in any fight because of the tendency to relax and this occasion was no exception. I was still in for one last surprise and it was a surprise that almost cost me the fish.
As it started to tire, I slid the landing net out in preparation and was easing the fish towards it when I saw it for the first time as it rolled over about eight yards out. A great slab of glorious golden fish, the likes of which I had never seen before. I managed to calm down the old ticker and successfully netted the fish, a marvellous Rudd of one pound twelve ounces, nearly three times bigger than any that I had ever caught previously!
That particular day was relatively poor by Guden standards but it was a day that I shall never forget. By the time that we decided to pack up, I had caught three more beautiful Rudd almost identical to the first, four Rudd in all weighing in at seven pounds. The photograph of those four fish is still one of the prides of my collection. I slept well that night!
THE TALE OF JEMIMA PUDDLEDUCK
(With apologies to Beatrix Potter)
There is a long, thin arm of water that forms part of Lang so. This arm cuts off a spit of land about three quarters of a mile 1ong, but at its widest only a few hundred yards across. Locally this area is a popular beauty spot. It is heavily wooded and a haven for wildlife with a myriad species of birds and a significant population of the ever popular Red Squirrel.
The Island is approached by way of a wooden footbridge and it is a fairly long wa1k to the best pegs which are at the very tip. Here, looking out across the main part of the lake are a number of sandy bays, each surrounded by tall reeds making it necessary to get into the water in order to fish them. It was in one of these bays that we met Jemima Puddleduck.
Jemima was a Mallard duck and she showed no fear of us at all. Because we were wading we had arranged our bait in catering trays and these we had suspended between two banksticks. We were to find out that Jemima had a rea1 taste for the mixture of crumb, casters, maggots and corn! It was relatively easy to keep her at bay when we were just standing, but she quickly 1earned that we were helpless when we were playing a fish.
She continued to try our patience throughout the morning and into the early afternoon when an unusual thing happened. A Mink swam across the bay and into a patch of shrubs that extended into the water. After a short time there was a great commotion in the bushes with much terrified quacking. We were troubled by Jemima Puddleduck no more.
We later found evidence that the Mink had indeed killed a duck, but I hope that it was not our duck that Jemima had just been frightened away.
Almost a year later and in exactly the same place we came upon another, equally precocious Mallard duck. This one we christened LPT. She was in the process of choosing a mate and had chosen a drake, distinctive because he had a white blaise across his breast. We felt like voyeuristic David Attenboroughs as we watched him divide his time between fending off the attentions of other drakes and frequent copulations with the duck!
The following day we fished the same swim and LPT was there, but she was in the company of a different drake. White Blaise was still around but was clearly yesterday's man.
(LPT - loose pantied trollop!)
VALS FIRST 'BAG UP'
When Val and I first met, her only experience of fishing had been helping her three sons as they fished the ponds of Humberside and the river Earne whilst holidaying in Scotland. However she quickly became disenchanted with the hand-me-down tackle that she was using and started to demand quality tackle in order that she could catch quality fish. Every birthday and Christmas the request was the same, more and better tackle, I even gave her a rod as a wedding present!
But things do not work out like that do they? The skills of angling are not quickly learned but slowly, despite a serious handicap (Val has poor eyesight and cannot see to fish with a float) she started to improve and to make significant catches. What she lacks in skill she makes up for with tenacity. Nevertheless, although we fished together in many excel1ent venues, Val would only rarely match or beat my net, until
Although it was only the end of August there was a distinct feel of Autumn in the air as we made our plans for the first days fishing of that particular holiday. Because there had been a severe drop in temperature during the night I had decided that the best idea was to head for deep water and I knew just the place.
For about three quarters of a mile before it runs into Smynge so, the river Guden broadens out and is up to a hundred yards wide. About a hundred yards before it enters the 1ake it narrows again to about thirty yards and this short channel is deep, most swims being between fifteen and twenty feet. There are four good pegs on this short stretch and on their day they are amongst the best on the river. Another advantage is that they are very comfortable in that the fishing is from a flat mini-meadow. If you are fishing every day for eight hours or more comfort can be a very important factor!
Visitors to this area should note that access to the river is down a series of small lanes that run off the main road and that on most of these lanes, vehicular traffic is barred. Because of this the angler must be prepared to walk anything from two hundred yards to the half mile or so that Smynge so is from the main road.
When we arrived at the river a wraith-like mist swirled gently on Smynge so and the river was extra cold. Under the circumstances I could have lost a certain amount of enthusiasm, but this was the first days' fishing of a new holiday and both of us were as keen as mustard to start fishing.
By the time that Val was ready to start, I had already caught two fine Roach and the fish just kept coming. I was probably out-catching Val by two to one, and so it continued for about two hours. At this point I probably had about twenty pounds of fish whilst Val was struggling for ten, but then everything changed. My bites started to dry up and at the same time Val started to catch good Bream, mainly in the two to three pound category and she was catching a fish every ten minutes or so. This went on from mid-morning until mid-afternoon.
When we are on a fishing holiday, Val and I tend to fish nearly every day and because of this we do not fish from dawn until dusk. We aim to be at the water between eight and eight-thirty with the intention of fishing until about four, so allowing plenty of time to get back to our lodgings, put away the gear, shower, change and still have time for a walk and a couple of drinks before dinner, but this day was to be different.
At about four I walked across to Val and suggested that we should think about packing up, but I was met with a stern 1ook. 'Let's give it another hour" she said and unusually for me I thought it best not to argue. By the time that the additional hour had passed I was starting to get bored so I once more suggested that we pack up but once again got short shrift. This time I did argue, but was surprised when she told me that she had been keeping a mental tally of her fish and that she thought that she was very close to the magic one hundred pounds!
I offered to pack away all the gear with the exception of the tackle that she was using, on the understanding that when I had finished we would weigh in. By five-thirty I had finished and we were joined by our two friends Albert and Nell (more of them later) for the big moment.
It was almost impossible to lift the net from the water but eventually the task was achieved and the weigh-in started - it finished at a grand total of one hundred and two pounds, Val had finally bagged-up.
And my net? let's just say it was smaller.
It is only a little over four hundred miles from northern Holland to Silkeborg, so it is not surprising that many of the anglers that we have met in Denmark have been Dutch, indeed I think that we have probably met and fished with more Dutch anglers than those on holiday from the United Kingdom.
In total we have visited Denmark three times and Albert and Nell, to whom I have already referred, have had a part to play in all three holidays.
During our first holiday we were fishing the river Guden at the place where it flows out of Smynge so, incidentally one of the few places where you can park your car right by the river. We were approached by a couple who were clearly interested in the techniques that we were employing, but after chatting for half an hour or so they moved on and we thought no more of it. When we made our second trip we bumped into Albert and Nell once again and were surprised that everybody remembered everybody else. It turned out that Albert and Nell came from a small town called Ouderwater, coincidentally the only town in Holland that Val and I had fished from, an even greater coincidence was that they lived in the very next street to the one in which we lodged and that they knew our landlady, M'Frau Van Barren.
We became good friends during that holiday and arranged to co-ordinate our visit to Denmark, planned for the following year. It was fun to fish with them, not least because we do not run across too many other middle-aged couples, both of whom are keen anglers!
Willem and Karl were a completely different kettle of fish. Karl was an inn-keeper from Arnhem and Willem was one of his customers. Karl had a heart attack some months earlier and his friends and family had persuaded him to take a break fishing. Willem had offered to accompany him and to do the driving, this despite the fact that neither of them were anglers. Unfortunately our holidays were not co-terminous and we only had the pleasure of their company for four days, but they were four extremely enjoyable and humourous days. By the way, never let anyone tell you that the Dutch do not have a sense of humour.
The last group that I want to recall in this way were four young men in their late twenties and early thirties. These four 1ads were really set up, wonderful tackle, all the techniques and best of all their luggage and clothing was all matched. Now at this point I have to admit that when we are fishing Val and I can be just a little bit scruffy, and when we first met these four lads we were just that.
Fortunately our appearance did not put off our new-found, sartorially elegant friends and we spent three days fishing with them, fishing mini-matches on two of those days. The difference between fishing with these lads and fishing alone was that our matches had to end by three p.m. Although they were there principally for the fishing, Silkeborg has many other delights to offer four young men on holiday and they were not about to miss out.
An amusing incident occurred on the last day that we fished together. One of them caught a fish and there was considerable perplexity amongst them. They came over to me dangling a wonderful four inch specimen, but they had no idea what it was - a few trips to fish on our Yorkshire rivers would have made them expert at catching Pope, or Tommy Ruffe as we call them in Yorkshire.