Proper anglers never blank do they?

Anglers never write about blank sessions do they? Of all the popular anglers who contribute to the many publications, a dull visit to the bank is never described, yet we all have them, so why not admit it once in a while? Those visits are just as much a part and parcel of fishing as the red letter days…

After hanging up my pike rods last week, I’ve started to think about my spring tench and bream campaign which I enjoy on a Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society estate lake. It’s a tricky water, shallow, silty, full of bloodworm and with only one third of one bank accessible to fish, but it’s a challenge I love, so I rolled the barrow out of the van and slipped silently through the gate to set up in a peg offering a little bit of shelter from a cool wind which skated up the lake.

rode pool

Peg 4 sits surrounded by rhododendron, sheltered by ancient oaks and offers a view of much of the lake, and although it’s pleasant, for some reason, I rarely fish it so decided to kick things of here for a change. I opted for a single rod, opened my box of feeders and selected a cage feeder to spread the bait quickly whilst picking out a size 16 hook on which to mount two red maggots; nothing complicated, and much more fun than waiting for an alarm to warble. I made five quick casts to the clip just to get some bait in and then attached the hooklink and cast out for the first ‘proper’ attempt of the day. The sun was creeping over the trees on the far bank, and the lake was slowly illuminated in the golden glow of morning; perfect!

In the first hour, four casts had been made without so much as a twitch, so I changed the hooklink length and sat for another hour staring at a motionless quivertip. Regular casting helps to build a bed of bait, so every fifteen minutes, the bait was refreshed and returned to the spot, hoping for an indication as fish moved in. As I watched, I noted a pike in the margins, sullenly watching me watching it, and spent a few minutes flicking maggots at it to provoke movement, but to no avail. After two hours, the tip never moved…

sucked maggots

I changed to a method feeder, clamped on some pellets and tried corn on the hook. It went back out to the same spot, landing in a cloud of silt, and I tightened the line and poured some more tea as I mused over the issues of the day. As the hot drink warmed me, over on the far side of the water, I watched a pair of grebe engage in a fantastic mating ritual, rubbing necks and excitedly bobbing heads as they flirted, each trying to impress the other as they paraded before me, but as another hour passed, from the corner of my eye, the tip never moved…

A maggot feeder went up the line next, the method hadn’t bought result, so it was all down to maggots and a smaller size 20 hook. Packed with gentiles, the feeder was lobbed back out and a gentle curve tensioned the tip. I saw nothing to indicate any interest for the next fifteen minutes, so was disappointed to retrieve crushed maggots, obviously the result of a delicate roach which had given no inkling of its presence. I shortened the hook link once more and recast the feeder… I spied a mouse. A furry nose poked out of a hole in the bank and raced across the peg to snaffle some crumbs from spilled groundbait. A pretty little thing, for the next thirty minutes I tried a variety of tactics to get a decent photograph of my little friend, but he was much too wise and quick for me. Despite a remote camera release, he escaped every single frame! Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, the tip never moved…

rp 2

I persisted with maggots, varying the distance between feeder and bait, but still couldn’t illicit a response. Five hours in, and aside from a duo of badly damaged maggots, I hadn’t had a sniff of a fish which was perplexing, as this place usually gives you a chance at least. As I sat with yet more tea beneath my brolly, a blue flash whistled towards me and I heard a fluttering of wings grabbing the air as the kingfisher arrested his flight to alight on the branch just behind my umbrella. I’d seen him in the same area before and suspected a preferred perch, but to be so close was exciting! I couldn’t actually see him though, so quietly picked up my camera, inched forward on my chair and bought the camera up to my eye as he came into view less than six feet away! As the lens whirred and brought the resplendent colours into sharp focus, in that fraction of a second before I could frame him perfectly, he flew off! Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, the tip never moved…


Nine hours in and not a tremble had been seen. I doggedly kept casting to the same spot, earnestly believing that a roach or bream would eventually slip up and drank even more tea. I’d tried the age old anglers trick of having something to eat to instigate a guaranteed bite, my mess tin of beans and sausages bubbled into warmth atop my stove before I’d sat back to savour it beneath the trees, but by now, my chances were slipping away as the daylight faded. Other anglers hadn’t caught either, so my focus was waning too, but my attention was caught by movement behind me, a rustling in the undergrowth which needed further investigation! Crawling quietly forward, I sneaked towards the back of the peg from where the sound came. Pushing aside a few twigs and branches I came to a thicket of dogwood, and saw movement within… I kept looking… As I moved the final branch to one side, I came face to face with a magnificent pheasant, inches away, hunched low in the debris trying to avoid my sight. Once our eyes met however, he instantly exploded aloft in flapping terror, a loud squawk making my heart leap and my loins clench as he escaped me! Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, the rod tip was straight, the line slack… I knew I’d just missed my only bite of the day…

rp 1

Spotted Fin

Stoke on Trent Angling Society

Fishing is ‘self-isolating’ isn’t it?

I’m off fishing today, the constant coronavirus news is getting me down and the Prime Minister says we can still exercise as long as we’re isolated, and it doesn’t get more isolated than fishing does it? A few hours in the great outdoors, fresh air, all my troubles will melt away and I can go home later completely refreshed ready for tomorrow, another day of ‘lockdown’…


So, with that in mind, I get my tackle out of the locked alley; unfortunately, the wheelie bin is in the way, so I’ll move it. It’s bin day today, so I shift it to the front of my house and make it easy for those essential bin men because that’s helping them out. I’ve then locked the alley door, thrown the keys back on the kitchen table as the wife will need them later, loaded the van and set off happy in the thought of getting on the bank. I need a bit of diesel though, so stop off to top up, paying cash to the guy at the till, also remembering to be polite and hold the door open as the old lady squeezes past because that’s good manners.

Back in the van, it’s only a few miles to the waterside, so I’m soon there and parked up on the roadside, pushing myself against the side of the van as a sweating cyclist rides by just inches away, unable to go any further into the road due to passing traffic. Next, I’ve unloading the barrow and made my way across the road to the gate. I hate the lock on this gate, it takes a while to spin the combination, but once it’s finally open, I pass the chain through my hands, and push the top of the gate to swing it open…peace at last! I replace the chain and lock, and head on towards the bank, stopping to run my finger down the laminated list of rules on the notice board, just to check I haven’t bought any banned baits with me…

I’ve been here hours and not caught yet, but it’s a lovely day and I haven’t got a care in the world. Eventually, I’m joined by a friend who has popped by to see how I am, and luckily, he’s bought his own cup which I hold carefully as I pour him a brew from my flask. He sits close by as we discuss tactics and then passes me his phone so I can look at a picture of his latest capture; it’s a beauty, so I shake his hand in congratulations… well done mate! We spend the next hour in friendly chat, but then I’ve had enough; not a single bite today and it’s time to go home…

As I’m leaving, I spy another angler further up the bank, and wonder whether he would appreciate almost a full pint of spare maggots, so I wander over to ask. “Ah, cheers mate, thanks!” he exclaims, passing me his bait box to fill from mine. I return the now full container which he takes gratefully, then I notice a few empty Spam tins and as I’m passing the bin on the way out, I offer to get rid of them for him, so he gives them to me before we part ways. The bin is fairly full though, it will need emptying soon, but it’s not my job, someone else has that responsibility tomorrow, so I perch the tins precariously on top and set about the gate lock for the second time that day… the other two anglers seem to have managed it previously as it’s firmly locked again…

After reloading the van, I’m soon on my way home, stopping briefly to exchange a few coins to get a cold drink from the nearby shop, before continuing on my way. It’s a windy road to get home and as I carefully pick my way along, immediately after a sharp bend I find two police cars, an ambulance and a fire engine, (so many people there!) all attending to a driver trapped in a car which has taken the bend too quickly and is now on it’s roof in the middle of the road. I wind my window down to ask the policeman how long the road will be closed, but he can’t really hear me, so leans in to answer my query, telling me it’ll will be a few minutes to extricate the poor chap in the car, but we should be on the way soon… he continues down the line of stationary traffic, telling four other drivers the same thing… Lucky I wasn’t here a few seconds earlier, it could’ve been me upside down in the road!

As darkness falls, I finally arrive home, and the wife spends a few minutes telling me that she’s heard that one of the neighbours have got a ‘proper cold’ so she put their bins out for them; could I fetch them in please? I do so, then head upstairs for a shower, safe in the knowledge that I haven’t been exposed in any way to that pesky flu bug, nor is there any chance I’ve spread it to anyone else. After all, I’ve been self-isolating all day… I’ve barely seen a soul, so what harm could a bit of fishing do?

Obviously, all of the above is untrue, but posted to raise awareness. During coronavirus, don’t go fishing, stay safe…it’s that simple.


After a very poor run of form, I’ve finally had a fish on the bank this week, but I suffered for it! The weather has improved no end, so with some sunshine finally on the horizon, I set off for one of my Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society waters, Stanley Pool. It’s a thirty odd acre water, with depths to beyond thirty feet, but a quick cast with the Deeper Chirp+ sonar showed plenty of roach, and where there are roach, there are pike, so I set up in a promising spot…

My ‘go to’ bait has always been a roach deadbait, but just recently I’ve been having more success with smelt, so my first cast was to launch a frozen Baitbox offering as far as I could cast to plunge through the roach shoal and rest on the bottom, hopefully in the vicinity of a hungry pike. The second rod held a small smelt, and this too was fired out some distance to offer a variety of food for any peckish predator. Obviously, then it was time for tea, so I sat down to watch the sun creep slowly over the hill and bathe the reservoir in a gorgeous orange glow; I love autumn mornings!

roach deadbait

Back on the bank, and the first couple of hours passed quietly. I was visited by two amiable representatives of the Environment Agency who politely checked my rod licence and stopped by for a chat before wandering off to check other anglers. On their return, a single bleep had me on the rod but nothing developed, so I reset the smelt slightly further out and returned to my tea. Ten minutes later, the alarm bleeped again, the drop off pinged loose, and my braid started to spin away! I hit the fish immediately and played it for a couple of minutes before the line went slack and it spat the hooks. I wasn’t happy, it was the third fish I’d lost in a row, so I changed the trace for a brand new one, replaced the smelt and hurled it back out before tightening up and settling back down. I inspected the replaced trebles but couldn’t see anything wrong so safely discarded them into my rubbish bag and poured another brew; just bad luck I suppose…


Within minutes, the smelt was picked up again and this time the pike was safely landed after a dogged scrap. Once in the net, it was lifted into the cradle to be unhooked, which is where the fun started. I’ve been fishing for pike for years and I’m always careful with them, having everything laid out in preparation, but this one caught me out. Only one treble had engaged, the top one which had two points embedded, the other lay with one point in the net. I don’t mess about, the trace was unclipped, the rod put aside, and the trace snipped between the two trebles; I didn’t want the pike to spin and cause damage to itself, or me, so it was removed from the equation. The remaining treble needed a point snipping off with sidecutters before it fell away, but within perhaps fifteen seconds, everything was safely out of the way and it was time for the catch shot.

It was a beautifully marked fish of perhaps fifteen pounds, full and fat, but feisty with it and as I slipped my left hand under the gill plate and down to the point of the jaw, then adjusted my right hand along its body to lift it securely, the pike twisted onto my left thumb and I felt instant pain! I usually keep things tight, but my thumb had strayed too close to the teeth and both top and bottom gnashers had sliced open my thumb. The pike was quickly returned in the net as blood dripped freely and I set about repairing the damage. I couldn’t see exactly where the teeth had caught me as there was so much blood, but after going through four clean towels, it became apparent that a cut of about an inch in length was leaking badly, but on the underside of my thumb, a series of five or six holes were losing even more! It was one of those instances where you consider whether to it was time to pack up early and get it properly seen too. It was, I couldn’t stop it dripping despite twice applying plaster tape which quickly soaked through, and I couldn’t keep it clean. Fortunately, I wasn’t far from home so chucked everything in the van and drove back to get cleaned up.

liquid plaster

I’ve done lots of first aid in the past, dealing with everything from decapitation, burns, traumatic amputation and crush injuries as a firefighter, so the sight of blood doesn’t bother me, but it was suggested by the wife that a trip to hospital might be in order. Some years ago, I recalled that I’d trapped my hand resulting in broken fingers and tissue damage; I was at sea at the time, and the ‘doc’ (scab lifter) sprayed my hand with plastic skin to stop the bleeding until it could be stitched properly, so instead of hospital, the wife was despatched to the chemist to pick up something similar as my thumb dripped into the sink. Liquid plaster and surgical superglue liberally applied, the bleeding finally stopped, but oh my life, does that stuff sting! Now, it just looks a bit untidy, with a shiny sheen over the top where the adhesives are affixed, but it will heal, and from now on, not only will I keep my mitts out of the way, surgical superglue and liquid plaster will form part of my pike fishing kit…just in case! Next week, I think I’ll fish for chub, it’s a lot less painful!

Chirpy, chirpy, cheat, cheat?

I’ve suffered a difficult week on the banks, with two blank sessions to show for it. Both outings have been at Astbury Mere, a forty acre former sand quarry in Cheshire where I chose to target pike and where one run in a day can be considered a good visit… I did lose a fish during the first trip, a stuttering bite as darkness fell saw me on the rod within seconds as I watched the braid tighten and fall. I hit it and connected with a very large fish with which I scrapped valiantly for five minutes, but as it neared the bank, I reached down to pick up my net, clipped the trees above with my rod tip, the braid slackened, and I promptly lost the lump! It was a good fish too; one I’d estimate at over 25lb! Pah!

The second expedition saw even less action, with only a single fish seen as it followed my dead smelt to the bank as I retrieved it, but it swam in the opposite direction as soon as it saw me…and that was it aside from a solitary bleep on the alarm. I drank lots of tea, ate lots of beans, but caught no fish! Blank sessions do give the opportunity for other things though, so after taking dozens of product shots for my supporters and freelance clients, I remembered that I’d taken delivery of the brand new Deeper Chirp+ the latest evolution from the Deeper sonar stable and decided to get it wet.

chirp 2

The Chirp+ is an update on the hugely successful Deeper Pro+ castable sonar and is sure to be a big hit with those who seek a competitive edge or just enjoy using technology within their own fishing. So, what has changed? Well, for starters, it’s slightly smaller than its predecessor, allowing the weight to be reduced so it can be cast a little easier. It also features a tri-band frequency array giving increased target separation and far more options for seeking either fish or features and it works far better in shallower waters. It has a ‘fast charge’ option too, so you’re not waiting around on the bank for long if you have a portable bankside powerpack and you can get it back in the water quickly to resume searching.

The Chirp+ does continue the bathymetric mapping facility, and if you haven’t taken advantage of this particular feature, then you are missing out. From the bank, you can effectively map your peg within minutes, save it to your smart device, add notes, and even photographs so you can reposition at a later date. The saved maps can be accessed from anywhere, so if you are sitting at home and have a few minutes spare, you can plan your next trip with ease and it even remembers where the fish were on any given day! I was particularly impressed by the split screen recall which enabled me to use a ‘slider bar’ tool to reproduce every single cast made with the Chirp+, the exact position of the sonar during the mapping and precisely what the water depth, surface temperature and lake bed were reflecting at the time. The level of additional detail is astonishing and overall, it really is a discernible improvement on an already excellent piece of technology!

chirp split

But of course, its cheating isn’t it? I hear it so many times from anglers who prefer to use ‘real watercraft’ and a marker float, and I always respect their opinion. I know they are wrong though, it’s no more cheating than using a bait boat, a bite alarm or a bolt rig, but there are always doubters and invariably, those same anglers will eventually slide into my swim for a look and often ask me to visit their swim with my Deeper too. Obviously, it’s only to confirm their superbly accurate calculations during which they have obtained by thrashing the water to a foam with a heavy lead and float, but they just want me to check… The Chirp+ allows the user to accurately map a swim, but if you wanted to be doubly sure, you can always run a marker over the spot too! Just to make sure of course…

It is a bit more expensive than the preceding tribe of Deeper sonars, but if you are serious about your angling, want to make use of the extensive feature suite and save hours of valuable time, then it’s worth the investment. It really is packed with trickery and an in-depth investigation of the many variables will give an unrivalled underwater view to use to your advantage…

I’m unsure however as to exactly how the Chirp+ guarantees a capture as a result of this wizardry as I’ve been told by doubters; it does allow me to see fish if I choose, but I’ve yet to find the ‘hook fish’ feature. As an example, yesterday, I had cast my deadbait out to the base of a marginal shelf, and whilst investigating the depths with my sonar, spotted a fish in what looked a likely pike spot a little closer in. I opted to retrieve the bait to reposition it and as I did so, I spotted the ‘fish’ move out of the sonar picture; as the bait loomed up out of the depths, the pike followed it closely! It still didn’t take the bait though… disappointingly, it may be accurate, but it doesn’t hook them for you! I knew I should have used a marker float…

Find more information at Deeper Chirp+

Return to Rode Pool

A week of ups and downs for me this time, I’ve been ‘man down’ on the bathroom floor for much of the weekend with a stomach bug picked up from grandchildren, but on the upside, I’m now famous and have caught some nice fish too. The less said about the malaise the better, but on the fame front, astonishingly, I’ve been ‘digitised’ and will feature as myself in a video game!

dtg shield

I’ve written for Dovetail Fishing, a gaming platform, for some time, and as a result of that and my association with some well known brands, I was asked to appear in the game which came as a very pleasant surprise! It’s a fishing simulator type game, produced by the same company that devised the fantastically popular (so I’m told) Rail Sim game and is available across PC, Playstation and Xbox formats, meaning that my likeness will be seen by thousands of anglers across the globe! It’s backed by some big names within the angling trade too, such as the mighty Korda, Mainline Baits and others, so it’s nice to be able to sneak in a mention for my sponsors (Spotted Fin, check them out) and see myself immortalised; I just hope they’ve made me a bit taller… and thinner!

As part of my in-game persona, I had to name my favourite water, and it was to Rode Pool on the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society that I returned this week in search of roach. I’d heard on the grapevine that it was throwing up some super silver bags and as I love catching roach, I thought I’d take a single rod, a bit of bait, and enjoy a few hours sitting beneath the trees in search of silvers… I arrived to find that I was the only angler on a beautiful estate water, bedecked in all of its autumnal finery, with golds, russets, greens, browns and almost every other colour slowly becoming visible through the morning mist as the lake stirred after a cold, clear night. It really is a gem of a place and a favourite with very good reason…

rode 1

I’d set out with the intention to target roach at range on the feeder, picking a small cage sample to pack with groundbait and fling out to around sixty yards. I was careful to clip up to ensure I hit my spot with each cast, seeking to build a bed of bait to entice fish in. It can be a difficult venue to get to grips with, but in my opinion, the rewards are certainly there for those who stick around long enough to figure it out, so I was hoping I’d chosen the right approach! My mix was simple; half a kilo of Spotted Fin Classic Corn groundbait, with a splash of Classic Corn syrup added to the lake water which bound it. I added nothing else to start, hoping that the carefully prepared mix would explode from the feeder as it hit the water and get the ever-inquisitive roach searching for something more substantial. On the hook, a single kernel of corn, again glugged in the same syrup just to add a bit more zing; nothing complicated at all…

rode 3

Rode is a shallow pool, and in autumn can be affected by leaves so I wanted the bait out of the feeder before it had time to plough into the detritus where it would be hidden. A dryish mix ensured this and as soon as the feeder whacked into the water, I could see a small cloud of yellowy goodies erupt out to provide interest. Within seconds, a twitch was followed by a positive pull and the first roach, a beautiful thing of perhaps half a pound, came skittering towards me; perfect. Regular casting saw regular bites and between watching the tip and the nearby pheasants and woodland birds I watched strike after strike from pike patrolling the nearby reed line. In truth, I’d never seen so many active predators and fully expected to lose a few roach to itinerant marauders, but for some reason I got away with it as a steady stream of silvers were netted. There were very few fish of less than four ounces with the majority all of double that size, but sadly without any of the much bigger roach which are rumoured to reside within, but I was still happy enjoying the sunshine trying to hit lightening fast bites on the tip…what better way to spend the day?

A couple of hours in, and the swim went quiet. I wasn’t too worried, it’s a regular occurrence here, so I kept up the casting, kept the bait going in, and continued to indulge in my surroundings. I noted a tiny tremble and my hand hovered over the rod ready to strike again when the tip absolutely rocketed around, and I snatched the rod up quickly. My clutch had been set slackly to provide some insurance for a light hooklink and small hook, and I watched as line spilled away and the reel unwound ominously… I considered that I had perhaps hooked a big bream for which the venue is also popular, and as the fish plodded towards the far bank with just an odd thud to accompany it, I was convinced this was indeed the case until the pace quickened suddenly and a long lean shape leapt from the water… a pike…on sweetcorn! I couldn’t believe that my hook had found purchase away from the teeth but after a long five minute scrap, the pike, a fish obviously of double figures, was almost within netting range and I could see the barbless size 16 just in the scissors of its jaws. It was not to be; as I lowered the net into the water, the inevitable happened and the fish rolled over the hook link and it parted, twanging my feeder back into bankside reeds and the fish bolted off back into the lake… I would have loved to have seen that fish on the mat, especially on such light tackle; never mind!

rode 2

The swim switched back on, and yet more roach picked off the corn as it settled, and the tip continued to go around with monotonous regularity. Another wrenching bite saw a single tench of perhaps a couple of pounds netted, and a few skimmer bream got between the roach but overall, my bag consisted of nothing but good sized fish, all immaculate, all silver, and all what I sought and I finished with a hefty bag of prime roach. It was soon time to go however, and after packing up, I spent a pleasant few minutes talking to other anglers about their day before leaving as the bats started to circle; a perfect end to a perfect day on the perfect water… I’ll definitely be back soon as winter is the perfect time to try and pick off a specimen roach, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather do it… Get out there and fish through the winter months, if you hang up the rods now you’ll be missing out on some of the best fishing there is!

Join Stoke on Trent Angling Society here.

Dovetail Fishing game


First pike of the year

I’ve very much been looking forward to pike season, and after returning from Italy, I couldn’t wait to get the deadbaits out to see if I could tempt a toothy opponent, but where to go? Start easy on a small pool with loads of smaller fish, or tough it out on a tricky venue and hope for something bigger?  I opted for the tricky venue on the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society ticket, a crystal clear former sandpit covering almost fifty acres, with depths to over forty feet! What could possibly go wrong?

ast 3

I got there at first light and was concerned to find the car park already had vehicles in; the carp anglers obviously haven’t packed up for winter yet, but I was confident that I could find a suitable peg. I’ve been going to this mere since last winter, specifically during winter to target pike and I’ve learned a small amount of useful information since, namely that casting a bait to the horizon can lead to a fruitless day. The weed cover is extensive due to water clarity, so it’s important to find a clear spot. I do own a Deeper Smart Sonar and have used it in the past to find clear areas, but things change over the seasons, so a quick couple of casts enabled me to find some thinner weed growth and locate some likely spots.

ast 4

I only ever fish two rods when piking, preferring to concentrate on keeping things tidy and well spaced, rather than catch at all costs and risk tangles with three, but it does still give me options. On the first rod, I attached my lead onto one of the new Pikepro mini leger links which has a huge run ring to prevent resistance, added a trace, and nicked the trebles into a nice fresh roach. On the second, a sardine was mounted, and both were gently swung out to settle into about five feet of water just at the edge of the reeds either side of the swim; perfect, time for tea. I intended to give each rod an hour before checking the baits and moving them across the swim, so I sat back to enjoy a customary brew…

An hour passed without so much as a bleep, so both baits were retrieved and I was disappointed to find that despite less weed indicated by my Deeper, both had been buried and invisible to passing fish. The weed appeared to be about eight inches think, so with new Pikepro kit in mind, I threaded the recently received pop up links through each fish bait and tested them in the margins. Both slowly sank down leaving the bait vertical in the water which I thought would allow the baits to settle nicely atop the glutinous silkweed. Another hour passed without any indication, so once again, the baits were withdrawn for inspection. Both were once more lathered in sticky weed, so I replaced the mini boom for a longer leger stem, removed the pop-up links and changed them for pop-up traces with bigger polyballs; I needed to get the baits above the weed!

ast 2

I changed the bait too, a fresh smelt now sat horizontal in the water above the weedy morass and on rod two, another roach was anchored in a clean spot to await a passing predator. The wind continued to hack into the swim, gathering speed across the lake and dragging lumps of weed with it and each time it fouled the mainline, the bobbin twitched upwards causing the alarm to bleep annoyingly. By now, I’d been on the bank for around seven hours, biteless, swimming in tea, and I was beginning to get cold. The lines had been cleared four times, the baits reset, and when it was finally time to go, with rain sweeping the horizon, I began to break down my kit ready to depart. As I pottered about, the right hand rod, armed with a popped up roach, was the one to signal interest. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure it was a fish, uncertain whether a lump of weed had drifted  in again, but something wasn’t right; the rod tip twitched to the side, and that was enough to convince me that something was there, so I swept the rod aloft to set the trebles, and was delighted to feel a solid thump at the other end!

ast 1

Watched by a passing dog walker, I did battle with a fish which insisted on tail walking across the swim as it fought to shed the hooks. To no avail though, within a couple of minutes, a hollow bodied pike lay on the mat. It had a huge tail and good sized head, but unfortunately, not much in the middle! Nonetheless, as I prised open the toothy maw, my new accomplice was in awe of the rows of razor sharp teeth and watched as I delicately flicked the hooks aside. Held aloft, I reckon I may have got a low double figure fish on the scales had it been weighed, so I hope to meet it again later in the season when it has had time to down a few more roach; I think it will be well worth catching again! Quickly photographed, my prize was slipped back into the shallows to recover before sulking away into the depths. Constant revision of rigs and tactics had finally paid off and although it wasn’t the twenty I’d hoped to start the season with, after six pikeless months, I wasn’t too unhappy!

Deeper Sonar

Stoke on Trent Angling Society


Why not try dropshot fishing?

It was raining again when I woke up and for a fleeting few seconds, I considered ringing my daughters to offer to take the grandkids to school so they didn’t get soaked whilst walking. Thankfully, I quickly regained my senses and after remembering that I’d chucked a dropshot rod and small tackle bag in the van the night before, I fairly leapt out of bed to enjoy a couple of hours on the bank; hopefully, the kids wouldn’t get too wet…


If, as this week, I only have a few hours to spare, then it’s got to be dropshot fishing. Dropshot is a simple, effective way to catch fish quickly; it’s a lot of fun, perfect for newcomers to angling, and relatively inexpensive to get started, but most importantly, you don’t need piles of tackle to fish with, so it’s convenient and easy to do. As the main target species is often the humble perch, it means that almost every water in the UK will produce fish using this simple method. I’ve caught chub, pike, perch, zander, bream, trout, grayling and even carp on dropshot, but predominantly, I use it to try and find perch which usually oblige in any weather!

I arrived at my first venue, a small lake, as the rain teemed down, so sat in the van with a brew until the skies cleared. I wanted to fish for an hour, walking around the water’s edge and dropping my bait into the reed lined margins. I could bore you with my set up, trying to make it sound far more complex than it is, or befuddle you with the reasoning behind my choice of ‘my sponsors’ perfect lure, but the truth is, I use 6lb braid, a 5lb fluorocarbon leader, a small hook, and a dropshot weight; that’s it, simplicity at it’s best. I may select a small piece of rubber to try and entice the fish, but when you have a tub of lobworms with you, why bother?

As the clock counted down my hour, I had a couple of ‘drops’ into each swim, working my way around to an area I know is a perchy hotspot, and on reaching it, I plundered around fifteen more fish in the remaining ten minutes before chucking the rod back in the van and driving to my next venue, a local canal. So far, one hour had produced about twenty five fish, all under half a pound, but I wasn’t really after specimen fish, just fun! Ten minutes later, I parked right by the canal, hooked up the torn tail of another lobworm, lowered it under the bridge and BAM; another fish within fifteen seconds! I managed to swing in three more perch before a procession of boat traffic coloured the water too much to fish effectively, so my five minute, four fish session came to an end and I moved on…

I love fishing at Rudyard Lake, it’s a fair expanse of water at over one hundred and fifty acres, and I like to sit on the floating jetties and drop my baits straight into fifteen feet of water. The jetties rocked gently in the swell produced by a gorgeously warm wind as I dropped my unhooking mat on the timbers and sat down to enjoy the sunshine. Despite changeable conditions, I enjoyed an hour or two of glorious sunshine as I chatted to other water users, explained the vagaries of ‘Whistle Cam’ to a fellow angler, (you really should install it for fishing ‘selfies’, it makes things very easy) and caught fish regularly. I didn’t even open my little lure box, instead using tiny pieces of broken worm on the hook and landed almost seventy fish, a mixture of feisty ruffe and perch, locating ‘nests’ of fish beneath the woodwork, some on the lake bed, others just beneath me and I alternated between the two to keep fish coming.

Once again, I caught nothing of notable size, but enjoyed the time immensely as I lost myself in the beautiful surroundings. Overall, I’d landed perhaps a hundred fish, each one a tiddler by anyone’s standards, but my total must surely have been almost twenty pounds, and if I’d been match fishing, I’d have turned in a respectable tally of at approximately ten metres. It was a great way to spend a snatched few hours by the water, and if you haven’t tried dropshot yet, there is no better time than now! Give it a go, you won’t regret it!

A return to the Moorlands…

I’ve not wanted to get out on the bank as much as usual, but this week I was determined to go fishing, even if only for a few hours, so took advantage of an ‘end of season’ ticket concession to join a new club. I had visited the water previously, but only to film a ‘where to fish’ video for Angler’s Mail magazine, so was looking forward to actually wetting a line to find out what had changed since my last view of the lake…


It’s a picturesque water, nestled high up on the moors and surrounded by peaceful farmland. As I opened the lock on the gate, I spied another car already in the car park, so after parking alongside, I wandered up the bank to find out the latest details from an angler already fishing to see if I could get some idea of how to approach the water. My advisor was float fishing, struggling to keep the black tip of his float in one place against a gusting wind, but as I watched, he missed his first bite before informing me that he hadn’t yet caught, although his brother had landed a single carp thus far. We chatted amiably for a few minutes, he gave me some pointers and I wandered off to circumnavigate the pool before deciding upon a likely spot.

Sited so high up, the water was chopped by a blustery breeze which was pushing towards the other end of the venue but despite spending some time watching the water, I hadn’t seen any indication of feeding fish. As a result, I opted for a sheltered peg looking out over a good expanse of open water, yet still within range of a central island feature. I was intent on nothing more than an exploratory visit, so tackled up a method feeder, added a small wafter bait, loaded the feeder and fired it out; nothing complicated, but I was relying on good quality Spotted Fin bait to give me an edge!


As the ‘tip settled into a slight curve, I catapulted out a couple of pouches of pellets over the top which I hoped would get fish grubbing about, then sat back to open my flask. As I relaxed with a mug of sweetened tea, I looked around me and noted lapwings in the fields, dragonflies buzzing over the sedges and a kestrel quivering on thermals as it hunted for prey… the silence was absolute, the wind warm and the sun shone down brightly as I enjoyed my brew; perfect! I kept an eye on the other anglers, watching as my guide landed a small carp, his first of the day, and deployed his keepnet to safeguard his capture. As I observed, my rod tip flew around and I also lifted into my first carp of the day which promptly fell off within a few seconds! Never mind, at least my tea was still warm…

Over the course of the next hour, I struggled to connect with any bigger specimens, the rod tip trembled constantly as fish rattled the feeder but I didn’t register a proper bite, so I deduced that the wafter (or hook) was perhaps too big and required a change. My size 10 was replaced with a size 18 tied to 5lb line, a tiny pellet of meat punched out and hair rigged, the feeder reloaded with Spotted Fin Method Ready pellets (so easy to use!) and it was hurled back out to the baited patch to see if it worked. My compatriots still hadn’t really caught much, but I didn’t know if the fish weren’t feeding, or we just hadn’t got it right between us so the wait began again…


Ten minutes passed, and I hooked a second carp, a feisty scrapper of around 5lb which eventually gave up and slipped into the waiting net. I was fishing fairly light tackle to keep things fun, so had to be careful to tire the fish in open water before drawing it back to the weed lined margins, but at least I was off the mark! A second carp followed ten minutes later, as did a third fifteen minutes after that; the hook and bait change seemed to have worked, and for the next two hours, I netted a carp roughly every ten minutes as other anglers looked on forlornly…they still weren’t catching much.


I continued to fire pellets out over the top, two small pouches after each fish and the bites just kept coming. I dropped a couple of fish which sent the swim quiet, then hooked a larger carp which gave the run around for a few minutes before it approached the net. As I pulled the rod tip higher to allow me to land the fish, the hook slipped out and a feeder full of pellets rocketed back towards my head at considerable speed! Fortunately, my spider senses were tingling, and as I watched the feeder shoot back at the point between my eyes, I blocked it with an outstretched palm… those childhood hours watching Karate Kid hadn’t been wasted! Wax on, wax off! With bait still attached, the missile weighed a good couple of ounces and smacked into the base of my thumb with a sickening thud. Thankfully, the hook didn’t go into my hand, but the feeder left a bright red weal which quickly developed into an even darker bruise… I was very lucky!


Injury notwithstanding, I finished my short visit with around fifteen carp, all between three and five pounds which had given a good account on light tackle. I had been blessed with peace and tranquillity for a few hours, admired and enjoyed the resident birdlife, and it hadn’t rained! I think I’ve got a bit of mojo back after a blip, so I’m looking forward to getting out on the club waters again. I know they have a stretch of river with some tremendous grayling, trout and chub, so I think I’ll try that next! Tight lines…

Spotted Fin

“He could catch on a bare hook him!”

I’ve done something this week that I don’t think I’ve done before; caught on a bare hook! I turned up bright and early after noticing a break forecast in the recent hot weather, expecting to enjoy a cooler day and hoping that the fish would ‘switch on’. The venue I opted for has a history of being very tricky after atmospheric changes, with either a red letter day or blank on the cards; I hoped for the former as I set up in a roomy peg…

sf pellets

As always, I tossed in a few of my favourite Spotted Fin Catalyst pellets, choosing a mixture of sizes to get fish rooting in the swim and hopefully confound them when it came to identifying the hook bait. I was astonished to see fish barrel in immediately, responding to the sound of the pellets hitting the water and quickly tackled up a pellet waggler whilst also feeding the margins in front of the peg. The pellet waggler is not a method I enjoy; I go fishing to relax, not spend every second constantly firing out freebies or casting a float, but I fancied a change so selected a small loaded float and slipped it between rubber stops. A size 12 hook with 8mm wafter banded on was set to slowly sink through the first couple of feet of water as I continued to ping out pellets. After casting and drawing the float back towards the baited area, I missed the first bite, mesmerised as fish boiled on the surface, but hit the second which resulted in a bream of around 3lb.

fin catalyst pellet

My next bite saw a similar fish banked and I quickly realised that the majority of fish splashing about were bream, not my intended target, but as I glanced into the margins, I noted carp with their tails up; time to change tactics. A crystal waggler replaced the bigger float and after plumbing up I shotted the float before swinging it in to see if it cocked correctly. The float started to settle before sliding away and I thought I’d put too much weight on. I wound down to retrieve it but was amazed to find solid resistance at the other end and wondered if I’d foul hooked one of the carp as it charged off! A few minutes of tense scrapping saw the carp over the threshold, and I was surprised to see that it had indeed been hooked fair and square in the mouth, having obviously decided that the small latex pellet band warranted further investigation. It wasn’t a bad fish either, at around 10lb, but of course I couldn’t count that amongst the eventual total could I?

jcb carp1

Over the next hour, I added four more double figure carp to my tally, a mixture of commons and scaly mirrors to well over 16lb. I’d been feeding pellets religiously, a pinch every minute or so, and by now the swim was packed with carp; had I fallen in, I would’ve remained dry! I was in danger of foul hooking fish, so opted to change tactics once more, sliding on a lead and adding a four inch hook link. I was still using the same Spotted Fin 8mm wafters, although the much darker bloodworm variety was picking up more bites as the score continued to rise. Four hours into the session and I could feel a bruise rising on my inner thigh where the rod butt was held during the ongoing battles, but I kept feeding and kept catching…

jcb carp3

Either side of me, other anglers picked off odd fish which strayed out of my swim, but it was an uneven contest. Every time they caught a carp, I caught three or four and by the end of the session, a mere eight hours, I’d landed over thirty double figure carp and a brace of bream for a total weight estimated at over 375lb! I could do no wrong, whatever I did caught fish and it was an astonishing session which I’m not likely to repeat soon and all I’d used was approximately three kilos of feed pellets and half a pot of hookbaits. I eventually left because I’d had enough; it was back breaking work on a warm day and although it was fun, the novelty soon wore off as carp after carp crawled up the bank; after the first two bream, everything else was a carp! Every single carp had been caught less than a rod length from the bank too, and during a day when I’d noticed other anglers casting as far as they could to find fish, I’d stacked them up under my feet by constant feeding of quality bait and kept them interested all day as they rooted through the mix of pellets. It just goes to show that a change of a few degrees, a bit of cloud cover and a bit of thoughtful bait application can result in a bumper day, so if you are sitting at home thinking about fishing, get out there and do it whilst the conditions are so good; you won’t catch sitting at home!

jcb carp2

Spotted Fin



A little bit of bliss…

After an enforced break from the bank, I’ve been back at it this week on a thoroughly enjoyable session to a tiny river on the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society ticket. The River Sow runs through Great Bridgeford near Stafford, and it’s the kind of river where fighting your way through brambles, stinging nettles and more is required to just get down to the bank in places, but the swim I chose is a bubbling pool with easier access, but it did come with uninvited guests!


I arrived early, quickly unloading the van, dumping my seatbox, an unhooking mat and nets onto my little two wheeled trolley before grabbing the rod bag and starting the short walk down the road to the style where it was all quickly humped over into the field next to the river. The early morning mist rose off the tiny stream as I carefully picked my way between slippery, smelly bovine booby traps, and I soon reached the head of the pool where crystal clear waters tumbled over the remains of a broken millrace before emptying downstream. I’ve fished it a few times previously, often with light lure gear, but I’ve always wanted to stand at the head of the pool and watch a float twirl downstream before sailing away. For once, I’d remembered my waders, so slipped them on before tackling up a float rod and centrepin reel; perfect!


I still use some of the old Ivan Marks stick floats which I managed to find at a car boot sale some time ago, so selected a red tipped 3BB version, slid it between the rubbers and carefully plumbed up so my bait would just trip the riverbed. A quick splash of water into my Spotted Fin Dark Superblend groundbait gave a good stiff mix and I added a good number of maggots to provide substance. I opted for the darker mix as the water was clear, and this particular groundbait has little food content, so would act merely as a carrier for the maggots which I wanted on the bottom. Two tiny nuggets of bait were introduced, and I nicked on a pair of maggots before lowering the float in and allowing it to spiral gently downstream…

perch river

The red tip tumbled along nicely, held straight by barely applied tension on the spool of the centrepin and it meandered gently away from me towards overhanging trees. Just before it got there, it disappeared, and the first fish of the day, a trusty perch, was soon kicking back towards me. It skittered over the surface, was quickly unhooked and returned before a pinch of maggots and the float were gently dropped back in. After an hour or so of catching perch and odd roach, I decided that I fancied a different approach, so moved around the pool and set up a delicate link leger with just enough weight to hold bottom. I’d been steadily building the bait in the swim, but I thought that fish may have been waiting behind the overhanging tree rather than in front so need to change my angle of attack.

ssg link leger

I felt a feeder or bomb would have been too intrusive on such a tight venue where stealth was required to avoid clearing the swim of all fish, so a few SSG were pinched onto a short length of hooklink, looped onto a link swivel and stopped by a shot. It’s perhaps one of the most simple ways to construct a leger rig, but I rarely see it used for some reason. I have no idea why, it’s subtle, easy, unobtrusive and if it gets snagged, can be pulled until the trapped shot slides off the line to release without needing to tackle up again… ideal for small river fishing.

river roach

It was flicked out to settle behind the tree, the rod tip rested high on the rest to avoid surface weed and flow and I sat back to wait. A pouch of maggots was catapulted upstream and as I set the ‘pult down, the bites started. First out was another perch, a feisty opponent of around six ounces, palm sized and full of fight, followed by another, then another as they fought over the maggots fluttering downstream. I missed a superfast bite, the ‘tip trembling quickly before a fourth perch muscled in and picked up the bait, but my next cast saw a pristine roach of almost half a pound knock the ‘tip around and come struggling ashore. I was having fun (isn’t that what fishing should be about?) as I watched squirrels chase through overhead branches above me, and glimpsed the flash of cobalt as a kingfisher flitted downstream to my left whilst the rod tip continued to twitch and flex as fish after fish tripped up. A little bit more groundbait topped things up, and a much more positive bite saw the first of a few bonus chub pushing in, before normal service was resumed and a steady stream of pretty roach and perch kept me busy. A couple of hours into the session and the heavens opened so I hid beneath my brolly, trying to keep out of the worst of it.


As I stared at the quivertip, I hadn’t noticed intruders lurking, so almost jumped out of my skin when a loud snort sent a spray of lukewarm drizzle down my neck from point blank range! I’d been so intent on the fishing that I’d failed to notice that the field was inhabited by eight heifers whose inquisitiveness had seen them surround me behind the umbrella until one stuck it’s nose beneath the nylon to sniff at me where it sneezed covering me in sticky snot! Luckily, I have no fear of cattle and after I’d recovered, scratched a few noses until they got bored and wandered off leaving me to pack up in the rain. It was time to go. In a little over four hours, I’d plundered the swim of roach, perch and chub, catching noting over a pound in weight, but I’ll tell you this… it was great fun and lovely to get back to basics on a beautiful little river… You should try it too!


Spotted Fin Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society