If there’s one thing that blights the world of fishing even in the 21st century, it is the sense of separation between different branches of the sport. As far as we’ve come in the battle to smash down walls, some are carefully rebuilt and maintained by the pedants.
I would guess that the single species, single method anglers are a minority these days- but this doesn’t prevent old attitudes from sticking. To give one example, I was pole fishing for tench on the Tiverton Canal the other morning when a friend called me to see if I was out. “Pole fishing?” he asked, incredulous, as if I had just declared I had been fishing naked or using poison as bait. Ok, so there is an element of banter here between camps, but it also belies a rather tedious old attitude: “My method is the best/ most skilful”.
I am a hopeful soul at heart, but I also keep a measure of stoicism with my expectations with fishing for these sort of reasons. Kayak fishing is another classic example. There are so many lakes and rivers where it would work a treat, but for many Brits there is this weird attitude of “I don’t personally do it, so therefore it should be banned.” How very silly. And how refreshing, therefore, to attend a special access kayak fishing event on Upper Tamar Lake, thanks to John Deprieelle (pictured below playing a nice perch and laughing his northern pants off).
Go to France, Scotland, Finland, or most countries in Europe for that matter, and you can do what the heck you like when it comes to big lakes. Nobody bats an eyelid. I know, odd isn’t it, when we have this idea that Europe=mass bureaucracy. Will our army of health and safety obsessed English jobsworths suddenly disappear with Brexit? I doubt it very much (although a lot of funding for projects like the Westcountry Rivers Trust could easily disappear). And in the meantime, anglers will continue to have to get organised, campaign and fight to get access to waters by kayak and other small craft (even where watersports happen on a daily basis).
So credit to John and SW Lakes Trust for organising a green light here! There was a genuine buzz of excitement about the whole event as we gathered on the banks of the lake. Hilariously, it is slap bang on the border of Devon and Cornwall- but studies reveal there is still a centuries old genetic divide between our two “tribes” almost directly along the border (this keeps us all “special” in our own way).
What an exciting match it was too. We fished in high winds and paid a high price in one or two instances, but also got highly rewarded. For my part, I rued not remembering a drogue because my drifts were rather too rapid when the wind got up. I tried a landing net and even a bucket to slow drifts in the end, with varying levels of embarrassment/ success. Even so, the chance to drift right over areas that are virtually inacessible from the bank was fantastic!
I had a lousy nights sleep previously, after an excellent evening catching “wasps” and drinking beer while camping with John and my long lost mate Adam Moxey. Norbert Darby had called at around midnight, rudely waking me up with his drunken rantings just as I was getting to sleep, before gales hit and it became even harder to sleep.
The match itself was dramatic for quite a few of the wrong reasons. It was punctuated by two fish for me; one that felt massive but came adrift, leaving me feeling wounded, and a second redeeming monster, which to my huge relief hit the net after an epic fight. In keeping with a match where rods, lures and even a set of car keys were lost, my camera lens had got wet so I was indebted to fellow competitor Bruce Elston (you sir, are a legend!) for a trophy pic of this bruiser of 3lbs 7oz!
Other than this, I also ventured back to Cornwall on a weekend break with the wife and a not-so-secret aim of converting her to lure fishing. Actually, LRF fishing is an ideal way to start someone off who isn’t a natural angling nut. You’re always doing something, for one thing, and the tackle is simple, light and fun to use. I gifted Paulina her own rod recently too- a cute red Shimano model (yes, colour can be important!), matched with a cute little reel loaded up with 6lb braid. Not the most romantic gift ever, but so far so good.
Mevagissey was incredibly pretty. The beer and the scenery were delicious and we found a great B&B just yards from the harbour too (Buckingham House– which comes highly recommended). The fishing itself was tough though, as it can be in May. No sign of any wrasse, bass or other better fish. Praise the Lord for blennies then, who at least gave us rattling bites and some cheap thrills. Pretty fish they are too- and after a biteless first foray it was magic to see Paulina’s excitement at catching a fish, accompanied by mad cackling laughter from both of us…
The next fish I saw I am slightly gutted I couldn’t catch, because it made me do an almighty double take: it was a large 15-spined stickleback! A really unusual customer this species- like a miniature sea dragon. Even the size 16 hook and split shot rig I was using were too crude to hit it on the strike sadly.
These creatures, along with other mini beasts, have been something of an obsession lately in fact, as I’ve been back to Dorset recently with Andy Mytton and also Jack Perks to enjoy a whole slew of species and some fascinating discoveries. A boat trip with Dr Mark Everard and co produced lots of bites and some fantastic black bream, while some other shore marks yielded fish in the small-but-fascinating stamp.
In fact, shore fishing spots such as Poole Harbour produced even more diversity. We used dropshot tactics with Isome, plus small jigs and split shot rigs to tempt various species, including one of the biggest sea scorpions I’ve ever seen for Jack!
I don’t want to ruin the surprise too early, but I’ll be working with these two closely for forthcoming articles and content on the world of LRF fishing and species hunting. Jack Perks, whose work has featured on the BBC numerous times, has uncanny skills with underwater photography and footage, while Andy Mytton is about as knowledgeable (some would say obsessive!) as it gets when it comes to the world of light lure fishing. The results have already been delightfully surprising, with several species and discoveries I had never seen before… watch this space for more.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been trying to make hay while the sun shines by getting out for Flyfishing and Fly Tying magazine to cover more of the nation’s best fly fishing clubs. Next up was the Wilton Fly Fishing Club, where I traveled with Neil Keep to sample some fishing on the Wylye with chalkstream expert and fellow author Peter Hayes.
Talk about a classic setting! We were welcomed to a club hut steeped in history, with a day ticket on display from the legendary G.M Skues, alongside vintage flies and meticulously kept records. All fascinating stuff, but the real treasures were on the river. You can’t help but glean brilliant knowhow off an angler like Peter- whose advice was spot on. We fished a mixture of emerging olives and tiny gnats to raise a good number of trout- while it was also hard to avoid the odd grayling. Great fun and a rich future edition of my “Fishing Club of the Month” slot in prospect!
Finally, I am also delighted to announce the release of two new special editions of “Crooked Lines”. These two are true one-offs, beautifully crafted in dyed cod and wolf fish respectively. Massive credit to artist Kari Furre. They won’t be sold for peanuts, as you can imagine, but if you are interested in buying a totally unique fishing collectors item, just drop me a line (easiest by email: email@example.com)