From Cradleside to Lakeside

“Life changing” is probably the polite way to describe the past five weeks or so of upheaval. Correct, as most regular readers will have spotted, I am now a dad. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s especially wonderful when you finally get home after an early scare and nearly a fortnight in hospital; I’ll spare you the details to save both you and me. After all, you don’t read this blog for parenting insights, so I’ll get right on to the fishing. Actually, in spite of all the crying and baby puke, I’ve still managed to evade capture for a few stolen hours. Since my last update, I’ve been out with the fly rod as well as doing some guiding and fishing an interesting match out at Lakeside Fishery, Exmoor.

Fishing dad

In short, though, early fatherhood has been all about squeezing the most out of pretty measly windows of opportunity. It’s no easy thing, a new baby. Even for those whose hobby makes them well used to antisocial hours and bad smells, it’s a messy, tiring and stressful business. From the sleepless nights to the endless tide of coochy-cooing visitors and inlaws, the whole baby thing is hard work. So let’s talk fishing instead.

Flying ants… the poor man’s mayfly hatch?

So, back to the bank I’ve been grabbing the fly and lure gear whenever the heck I can. And my goodness has time on the water been precious. Some of you might have seen my breakneck trout fishing mission in this week’s Angling Times. Having rods set up ready and easy-to-get-at water is always a good plan for the time deprived.

Perhaps even better was the fortuitious arrival of lots of flying ants. I say fortuitious, but usually folks just curse this flying peril as they crawl out from patios. As soon as I see them though, I tend to leg it to the canals, where the fish go nuts for them.

flying ant hatch fly patterns roach
One of a dozen nice roach and rudd that fell for a flying ant imitation.

Like a kind of poor man’s mayfly hatch, they never last long so you have to get right on it post haste. In my case, alongside picking up supplies, posting orders and any other stuff you can multitask with. But it only needed a couple of hours on the Grand Western Canal in the end. The fish were bang up for it, although I found that the better ones were still no push over- a really light tippet (0.10mm / 2.5lbs) was the game changer, as I started to get more action than with the heavier, slightly tired bit of leader and tippet I started with. I had a dozen or so roach and rudd anyway- and if anything when the fly got battered and struggled to float properly they were even more responsive. Happy days!

Match fishing at Lakeside Fishery, Exbridge

If theres one thing nappy changes and screeching at ungodly hours teaches an angler, it’s the priceless value of just being out on the bank. The basic pleasure of angling truly begin to stand out: watching a float; watching the swallows messing about; catching up with friends and not having to be anywhere else to be for a few hours. Never again will I take these things for granted.

match fishing little Yeo Tiverton Devon
Besides escaping from parenthood for a few hours, could I repeat my winning bag from the last club match?

I was in high hopes, too, after a great previous match at Gaggs Pool, Little Yeo. That one couldn’t have gone better; I drew a flier peg and felt I fished it just right, with old school pinkie and worm tactics, to win the lake with a very tidy bag of everything from skimmers and crucians to roach, rudd, a tench and even a couple of eels.

I quite fancied the draw. Lakeside can be quite “peggy” so I would have settled for any feature peg. I got 16, which looked decent, with a nice bank of lilies. There was also a little back channel I fancied for a carp- although it did look a bit on the shallow side.

Anyhow, I decided to fish a whip line short, with pinkie, while also feeding worm to the lillies and baiting the backchannel with pellet and corn, to try late in the match. The whistle went and the whip line was tried first. Absolutely dead, unfortunately, although the rest of the lake seemed equally slow. But hey, at least there was no crying baby or bottles to sterilise.

With Gary Butler opposite me catching some tiny bits by the lilies, I decided to try the worm line earlier than planned. A good move, it seemed, because the float buried instantly. It was solid, in fact, albeit with diddy little rudd. The main problem for the forseeable was getting the rig through the little fish in the hope of something better.

It was a bit of a quandry after that. Even bulk shot and a whole dendrabena worm wouldn’t beat the starving hordes off! Meanwhile, if I tried corn or pellet, nothing whatsoever happened. For a time I didn’t care, as I was getting bites. In fact, I switched to a lighter elastic for a while and a pinkie rig, just to catch the tiny rudd more efficiently. But soon enough a couple of others in the section had netted a bream, meaning that I would need more than bits.

Surely better fish had to come sooner or later into our corner of the lake? I had a better rudd hybrid thing of perhaps 10oz, but still nothing bigger. Meanwhile, I couldn’t buy a bite down the back channel, or in open water having also tried a bream line at 13m.

A combination of bad luck and bad decision making undid me in the end. Gary, on the opposite side of the end bay on peg 16, had an amazing last hour. Fishing worm, like me, he had three bream and two carp, including one real net filler, all in the last hour, while my swim just never kicked off.

Gary Butler match fishing Tiverton Angling Club
An incredible last hour saw Gary Butler win the match by a country mile with around 25lbs in the keepnet!

However, with so many rudd in my swim, I can’t help feeling that my stubborn refusal to give up on the bonus fish perhaps cost me? Had I really knuckled down on the rudd for the whole match, I might have comfortably made six or seven pounds of them, rather than the four pounds that saw me get a meagre section second (by a very large default!). Never mind, the luck evens out in the end and I thoroughly enjoyed just being out there for a day and focussing on something other than baby things.

Fishing Lessons at Goodiford Mill Fishery

It’s going to be a long time yet before I can inflict fishing on my baby daughter, but every summer it’s my great pleasure to teach families to fish. I offer guided “learn to fish” sessions in Devon right through year, but the summer holidays are peak angling time! The Tank family had picked a great day for it at Goodiford Mill, too, sensibly agreeing to set up early to avoid the extreme afternoon heat. Pole fishing close in would be the ideal way to get lots of bites and variety, I hoped.

Fishing lessons for kids Devon Honiton Culompton Exeter
Family fishing at Goodiford Mill- the Silver Pond is a great place to learn to fish in Devon.

I’m always one to try and get kids to make their own decisions and test things out for themselves as quickly as possible. Anyone can babysit- but I want my learners to do as much as possible themselves. One key part of any trip is picking swims, so rather than forcing this choice on my new anglers I like to ask them: “where would you set up? Where do you think the fish might be?”

What a great shout young Nicholas had, too, after seeing an inflow stream and suggesting that the cool water might be a fish magnet on a hot day. He wasn’t wrong. He and brother Julian were quickly into the habit of loosefeeding the swim and striking at bites, which came quickly. The decision to start early was vindicated even more when Nicholas had a fantastic tench!

I like this place for beginners. You don’t need to catch a huge carp on your first outing, but with plenty of silver fish and perch, as well as the odd “net” fish of a skimmer, crucian or tench, the balance seemed ideal. They were quickly counting their totals and competing eagerly, as brothers always do! Pretty soon, there was an elaborate system of rules and regular score updates going on! As the middle one of three brothers myself, it all felt unerringly familiar.

skimmer bream fishing Goodiford Mill silver lake
Fantastic mixed fishing on Goodiford Mill’s “Silver Lake”

Gamesmanship aside, though, it all worked out nicely, as Nicholas got into the action first with some larger fish, before Julian’s swim came alive as the sun got higher, probably because his corner had extra shade. Both had both quantity and quality, too, and I was delighted to see two of my favourite old school species turn up, with lovely plump gudgeon and crucian carp joining the party.

crucian carp fishing Devon Goodiford Mill
Who doesn’t love a summer crucian carp?

By the close of play, it was blinking hot but our brothers had excelled. No longer did they need my help to bait up, use a disgorger or handle fish carefully with wet hands. Miraculously, they hadn’t trashed a single pole rig either! For the sake of brotherly peace, a score draw of sorts also seemed a fitting outcome, with Julian having the greater number of fish, with an absolute stack of perch, but Nicholas catching more different species and perhaps the bigger stamp on average. Indeed, well played to both brothers, who were both very natural anglers. They didn’t want to pack up at the end, which is a good sign, at least for the coach!

Other news and summer thoughts…

That’s about it for now, save for a couple of other quick bits of news and forthcoming things to look out for. First and foremost, the Angling Trust have a new boss on the way, with Jamie Cook, who I had the great pleasure of meeting recently.

Jamie Cook Angling Trust boss Chris Yates

We were in great company too, with Mr Chris Yates present to hand Jamie his new shirt. There’s talk of a special crucian and tench fishing mission to come as well, with Hugh Miles also joining us… watch this space for more.

Finally, don’t forget to grab some summer reading while you can, because there are some exciting book releases on the way! My new title “Hooked On Lure Fishing”, out later this month, is the fruit of over three years of work with Andy Mytton, Jack Perks and Neil Sutherland. It promises a huge amount of fun, innovative content and some amazing images from Jack.
You can see a sneak preview on Amazon already HERE. That said, if you’re patient you can get it signed on my site later this summer.

Best new fishing books 2019

A new “Get Fishing” book is just out, and perfect for young and returning anglers. My photography features throughout alongside Alan Sefton’s words, in what looks like an ideal accessible guide for those starting out. You can order copies HERE


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