Bob's Blog - June 2008

A New Beginning
I simply love this time of year. Most fish have finished spawning, temperatures are on the rise and the vegetation is just so lush. This year is going to be very special for me.
You probably never realised but I’ve had a full time job ever since I left school, cramming in my fishing at weekends and during holidays. Writing articles was generally something to be done late at night. Well that’s all about to change because I’ve decided to quit the rat race and take early retirement.
By sheer coincidence, and I’m sure you realise it’s a deliberate one, Monday 16th June will be my first Monday as a free man. By ‘free’ I mean free to fish whenever I want. Boy has that changed the way I’ll be planning my fishing!
I shall continue to write my weekly angling column in Sheffield’s sports paper, the Green Un, plus regular monthly features in Improve Your Coarse Fishing and Coarse Fisherman magazines. Hopefully the Sky TV invites will continue and I’ll guest the odd article here and there when it’s appropriate. I’m always keen to write as it’s something I really enjoy, but I’m not one of these guys who fishes once a week and writes 53 articles about it. I prefer to do my articles ‘live’ shooting new pictures on new venues or new targets as I go. Retiring means I’ll be able to work much harder if that makes sense…
Lights, Camera, Action!
Giving up work (ignoring the fact that writing articles actually IS work!) will allow me the freedom to take on new projects, the first of which is going to be a series of DVDs.
Stu Walker, a barbel fanatical who’s travelled the world with me, and I have already begun shooting footage and the first two DVDs and they will be specifically dedicated to barbel fishing. Barbel Days and Ways Volumes 1 & 2 will be available before Christmas and though I realise self praise is hardly what you’d call an independent recommendation, the stuff we have already got in the can is truly remarkable.
Have you ever seen a one-day old barbel? Better still, have you seen one’s heart beating? Ever wondered what tiny barbel fry feed on?
It was all new to me, too, but it’s safely been captured in the kind of detail you will wonder at.
Everyone knows that barbel love hemp but do you know what they do when the river bed is strewn with rocks? You’ll learn that, too. We’re going to challenge a few conceptions about barbel behaviour and about the tackle we all use to catch them as well.
As the summer wears on I’ll reveal more but take it from me, this DVD is going to be pretty special when we’ve finished. Ruddy Rudd
In recent weeks I’ve been chasing rudd and it’s doing my head in. I’ve fished in numerous countries around the world but I’ve yet to catch a single big rudd. I’m determined to change that this year but I’m struggling to come to terms with a new water.
There are big rudd in there, that’s for sure, because the carp anglers keep catching them by accident. Last weekend I worked my socks off trying to catch one but it wasn’t to be. I had loads of quality fish but no top banana, as they say. I flogged the water to foam trying to tease one out on the drop with my light waggler tactics. Meanwhile one of the carpers had something like four over 2lb on great big boilies and 15lb hook links from two different swims on opposite sides and damn near opposite ends of the lake.
Matt Brown was with me and he nicked a cracker out of my swim weighing around a pound and three quarters, float fishing with a blinking boilie. It would have been a PB for me so you’ll understand what I mean when I say I could have strangled him. The cheek of it! But you forgive your mates, don’t you? Had it been a ‘two’, mind, he’d have seen a grown man cry…
I’ll be back for more of the same next weekend when my tactics will require an overhaul and the baiting strategy will get a complete re-think. If you can’t beat ‘em and all that. Mind you I did catch a cracking brace of male tench so it wasn’t exactly a wasted day.
On reflection, I sometimes think we learn more from our failures than our successes. It’s the missing out that drives us on to work harder next time and makes us keener than ever to return.
I’ll be back, as Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said.
Dare I Mention Wembley
I met a guy on holiday who was born in Coventry, lives in Canada and claims to be a Manchester United supporter (armchair variety of course). What’s all that about? I was born in Doncaster and that means I’m a Doncaster Rovers whether I like it or not. Any fool can buy a replica shirt and claim to support Chelsea or Liverpool but it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.
Carp anglers frequently talk about keeping it real but supporting your local football team, no matter how poor they might be, is proper keeping it real for me and the true fans of teams like Rochdale and Exeter will always have my respect.
Brian Skoyles and son Martyn, who compile the editorial content of this web site, both hail from Hull so last weekend was a bit special for us all as Hull City and little old Donny both gained promotion through the play-offs at Wembley. What an occasion it was and worth every penny of the £60 I paid to see Donny Rovers go up. Five years ago we were a Conference side, and there we were, beating the once-famous Leeds United who are resigned to another year at least in the third division.
Carling don’t make football weekends, but if they did…
Have The Roach Returned?
One thing that I’ll be keen to find out this summer is whether the Trent roach are back. Last year I enjoyed a few days of fishing on the tidal river, the like of which I never thought I’d experience again.
The cormorant plague has had a massive impact on the Trent and if you combine this with the new clarity, catching roach became all but impossible in many areas. Suddenly they were back. Pristine specimens averaging 3 to 6oz with an odd bigger fish thrown in for good measure. It was like I’d died and gone to heaven and I can’t wait to see what happens this summer.
Whether it was the higher water levels, the extra colour and flow or it was just a case that the fish being packed into tight areas I’ll not know until I give it a go in a few weeks time. Last summer I didn’t have enough time to spare to find out. This year I do.
Was it a flash in the pan? I really hope not. I love catching barbel and chub, and for that matter anything else that swims, but there’s something quite special about catching roach on the float from running water, be it with a stick float or on the waggler.
If they are back I’ll have no difficulty amusing myself, unless the price of fuel continues to rise the way it has done lately. Anyone Fancy A Curry?
Plans have been made, flights booked, money has changed hands and I’m heading out to India again this autumn. The old mahseer bug has bitten deep and I can’t seem to shake it off. Last September I fished for salmon and sturgeon on Canada’s Fraser River and caught so many fish that my arms were practically dropping off. Stu Walker and I had fish to over 400lb and ended up getting so much action we were returning hundred pounders without even photographing them. It was the kind of fishing trip that you’ll never forget yet I’ve little desire to go back again.
I’m swapping 4-star hotels, wholesome food, draught beer and nailed on fishing to kip in a tent in the Himalayas fishing for a species that we might  not even see never mind catch. It’ll be my fourth trip to India in as many years jumping around from the Mahakali to the Cauvery, the Giri to the Gangees. We’ve suffered low water conditions, high water from dam releases, snow melt, and the odd heat wave. We’ve trekked, abseiled and white water rafted to get to remote spots. We’ve done long journeys by jeep and on trains. We’ve fished with lures, flies and good old ragi paste with top guides and enthusiastic helpers and for all that time and effort we’ve caught precious little to write home about.
The tales of monsters get fewer every year. It’s a far, far cry from the TV programmes made by John Wilson and John Bailey. They were shot a long time ago and the amount of netting, dynamiting and angling pressure has taken its toll.
But we’re going back. To the remote border country between India and Nepal, hoping against hope that we get our timing right. We’re cutting it fine, aiming to catch the end of the monsoon season. If we do so, then we will stand a chance of catching fish at the various confluence pools as they drop down from spawning in the tributaries.
Get it wrong and the Kali will be completely unfishable. We aim to raft a fair way downriver during our stay and fish places made famous in the golden days of the Raj like Pancheshwar and Chukka but if the river’s high, even that may out of the question and we’ll just have to sit it out and wait until its time to come home.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but there’s a special magic about the place that draws you back. Keep your fingers crossed for me because I’ll need all the luck I can get on this one.
Commercial Break
If you’ve followed my articles in the various magazines I’ve contributed to over the years you’ll be well aware that I do enjoy a bit of variety in my fishing. I’m certainly not a snob and I’m equally as keen to catch all species in aany kind of water. Some specialist anglers regard commercial fisheries as if they’re something they’ve trodden in. I don’t. In fact I rather enjoy fishing them because they offer endless opportunities to catch fish in decent numbers. In the worst of conditions you can turn up at a commercial with a reasonable expectation of getting a few bites.
Last winter I shot a feature for Improve Your Coarse Fishing where I caught an absolute shed full of silver fish at the Straight Mile Fishery, near Brampton. The place was frozen solid just a couple of days earlier and it was still bitter. Early frosts gave way to an easterly wind that was so lazy it cut through you rather than bothering to go round. Even so I fed 4 pints of maggots and had a bite a chuck all day.
You could never have done that in pre-commercials days.
Last month I shot another feature for the same magazine on a new fishery called Wold View, at Claxby, near Market Rasen. I say ‘new’ but the fishery has been in existence for a few years, it’s just that the owner has been keeping it for himself and a few mates.
Boy, what a place. Bryn Isley has spent £98,000 on trees alone and it’s like driving into a golf course when you get there. I set up one feeder rod rigged with one of the new Dinsmore Pellet Scoops and caught fish on it all day long. By mid-afternoon I could barely lift my keepnet out of the water.
And you know what? When the magazine’s cameras left having got a great feature in the bag, I stayed on for a bit longer because I was still catching fish. The day I lose that kind of enthusiasm is the day I’ll take up golf.