Burgate again

It’s been two years since I was last at Burgate. That was a November, it was cold, the river was high and coloured, and I didn’t see a single fish, let alone catch one, and it was a couple of years before that I last had a barbel on the bank. This year I managed to get away for a week in October. The top stretch of the river was low, clear and weedless, and I didn’t expect it to be easy. After a few fishless days, I finally spotted two barbel way down at the bottom of the stretch where the water was deeper and there was still plenty of ranunculus to give them a bit of cover. I fed a swim under an ash, and sat watching them through its trailing branches, but I could not get either of them to take a bait. A couple of days before I had met another angler fishing the top stretch – the one I had discounted as being too shallow and not affording any cover. Walking back from an early morning session I stopped for a quick chat and asked him how he’d been getting on, upon which he broke into a cheesy grin and showed me a barbel of nine pounds recovering in his landing net. As soon as he released it, it swam right across the river to a narrow band of weed and disappeared under it.

And so it was, the following day found me in a swim opposite the same bank of weed perched high on the river-bank overlooking a ragged-tailed barbel of seven or eight pounds which several times mouthed the bait before shying away. I was feeding small handfuls of hemp just upstream which it kept coming back to regularly over a couple of hours, but it was clear it was just too canny to take the bait. After another hour or so it appeared again, inching up the swim, clouds of silt billowing from its gill covers, creeping towards the bait, when another fish appeared from absolutely nowhere and barrelled up the swim literally shoulder-barging ragged-tail out of the way. I had only had a quick glimpse of it and had no idea of its size until its first run ended about twenty yards downstream, and three-quarters of the way across the river on its way back to the weed-bed. I played it hard, with hindsight probably a bit too hard, but even so I could not get it back upstream for a good ten minutes, and three times when I thought it was beat it surged away from the net again and just hung immoveable about ten feet from the bank, angling itself away from me with the flow of the river. Finally, at the fourth attempt, it slipped over the lip of the net. It was only when I tried to lift it up the steepness of the bank that I realised just how big it was. Fourteen pounds exactly of utterly perfect, pristine Hampshire Avon barbel. It was worth the four year wait.

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RSPB Snettisham

It was an early start yesterday morning, and this morning, when I finally got my arse out of bed and down the road to see the pink footed geese and waders at Snettisham. It’s only a ten minute drive from my house, but I’m ashamed to say I’ve never actually been down there to see the spectacle of the geese and the waders.

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Yesterday and today were very high tides. Unfortunately yesterday it was a flat calm and the tide just didn’t come up high enough to push the waders off the mud, and I was too late for the geese. So I went back again today. There was a nice onshore breeze, and I was about half an hour earlier. You can see the geese far out on the flats, and you can hear them too. They sound excited, as if they’re all discussing the coming day’s adventures, and then the noise rises to fever pitch as they begin to lift into the air. I always think it’s interesting to think about the very first goose that leaps into the air. There’s no way of seeing it because the rest are after it in an instant and before you know it several thousand of them form a black morass moving skyward. Once they get into their stride so to speak they begin to form the characteristic v-shaped skeins streaming across the sky. This morning there were three separate launches, each with maybe five to eight thousand individuals. It is a sight that, unless you see and hear in person, can’t be imagined.

The geese were the highlight for me, the waders were pretty impressive, but not in the same league as the geese.

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As I write it’s dusk, and over the football results I can hear the geese passing over my house; in a straight line it’s only a mile or so to their roosts out on the mud flats. I turn the TV and the lights off and sit and listen to their curious high-pitched two-tone squeal as they return from their feeding grounds inland.

Different strokes

Mmm… it’s been almost a year since I wrote anything on this blog. I’ve had a busy Summer, and unfortunately fishing, and the other good things in life, have been pushed aside by work. Last week I went to Hampshire for my occasional once-or-twice-yearly-barbel-fishing-fix. The barbel were sadly lacking, but on my first walk along the river Avon for two years I bumped in to another angler who recognised me from this very blog which was nice, and as a result I feel the need to begin writing again.

This entry may have begun on the banks of the Hampshire Avon at Burgate, but it is now winging its way across the Atlantic to that jewel of an island that straddles the gulf stream: Cuba. I’m not a big fan of flying but because we’re now so busy in Summer we decided to get away to warmer climes after Christmas, and after some discussions Michelle and I decided on Cuba. Cuba has sun, sand, beautiful clear caribbean waters, but also fantastic culture and history and, of course, Cuba has fishing.

I like to mix things up when it comes to fishing and this was certainly a fantastic new experience. There are some photographs below, but other than that I’m not going to go in to too much detail here because I’m hoping that my Cuban exploits will be published in the second edition of new fishing magazine Fallon’s Angler, which you can find details about here: Fallon’s Angler – Caught by the River and purchase here: Fallons Angler.

I’m not sure how much fishing there’s going to be over the next few months, but definitely some, and in February I’m returning to Cuba. This time I’ll have a fly rod in hand, and bonefish and permit on my mind, and that is very exciting.

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