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Previously on River Running...

Hmm, I appear to have let things slip again, so this time around I'm going to introduce a new feature into the blog - the multiple entry. This will allow me to squeeze the last four trips into a single, coherent whole thus saving you the reader and me, the author time and effort. Everybody wins...

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I'm a giver, me...

It's nights like these that I feel extremely fortunate to be living here and now. There's enough wrong with England in the 21st century - this spiteful government for starters - that it's easy to forget places like this still exist, pretty much on your doorstep...

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Spit or swallow?

It's good to be fishing with Ray again, even if we don't arrive at the same time and don't even sit together, and it feels to get re-acquainted here, at the little lake where we started fishing at this club all those years ago. June the 16th it was...

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On Golden Pond

Now, I'm no great fan of 'tidying away' where people sort out Nature to make it more palatable and easier to handle, but variety is the spice of you-know-what, so I took it into my head to visit a small local pond which had been 'improved' by keen angling club members...

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Questions, questions...

So why do we do it? Back at Blenheim Palace lake again after a break of a few years, it's 2.00pm on a day that can't make up its mind. Later on it will actually rain out of what appears to be a clear blue sky. Twice. I haven't had a bite since that solitary dip just before 9.00am...

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Take 2

Fortunately, we don't have to repeat the rigmarole of the previous entry with its seemingly endless list of preparations, building up to the 'gag' whereby I've left the landing net behind. Instead, we can press straight on to the fishing.

It's the next day and the weather's not so much changed as shifted so that it's colder and more overcast. As I arrive at the lakes another club member is leaving. He's cheerful enough but reports one skimmer all day - and he's been there since 10.00am. Ouch.

"I'm fishing the little lake," I say.

"Same there," he replies.

Ouch.

I walk over the path between the two lakes and someone's in my swim. This is the first time in living memory I haven't been able to fish in the corner and I don't like it. Instead, I settle into Ray's preferred spot under the tree and cut up some tiny chunks of luncheon meat before lobbing them in as loose feed. It starts to rain. The bloke opposite packs up after a couple of drops. I guess he's been looking for any excuse to go home. The guy in my swim gets his brolly out. He's here for the duration.

I tackle up and rummage for a float before discovering some strange new additions to the tackle box. Then I remember that Sam gave me some floats when we came here last year, working on the assumption that he'd never use them in his sea fishing. I pop one on, plumb the depth (wow, that's shallow) and then shot the float. It cocks perfectly first time. So here we go. No bites all day. Could be a long evening.

The float barely settles in the water before it meanders off in the kind of bite that not even I can miss. It's a nice bream. The first of four as it turns out - three the same size as the one shown here (about 3llbs or so) and one slightly smaller. Along the way I catch a nice 6oz rudd and last cast, just as I'm thinking there won't be any more bites, a lovely tench of about 3lbs.

I miss a carp. It's the centrepin. I hit the bite fine, the contact's strong, and the fish pulls hard towards the reeds. Then it comes out in front of me, lifts in the water and - oh crap, I should have seen this coming - tears off straight into the middle of the lake. I can't stop it. I try and control the run with my other hand and the spinning handles of the 'pin nearly rip my thumbnail off. By the time I've recovered, the fish is off and my nail is slowly turning an interesting shade of deepest blue.

Ouch.
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The two Sams

It was an hour into the trip - more of a quick raid really - that I realised I'd been fishing with someone called Sam before. I took my nephew Sam fishing a few years back and we both froze to death on the shores of a bleak Sussex day ticket water while all around us caught fish. It was a difficult day to explain.


This occasion sees me with an older Sam who's been on at me to take him coarse fishing. He's a sea angler and during the course of the afternoon will repeatedly point up the contrast between the two styles of fishing, finding each mis-match more hilarious than the last. He says he can barely see the hook, let alone put bait on it.

Still, the important thing was history did not repeat itself and not only did we get a few bites, but we both caught fish. The pond is incredibly reliable during the spring and summer but around October something happens and the fish become pernickity. Sometimes they don't show up at all. I thought this was going to be one of those afternoons, despite the fact that it's extraordinarly warm for November, and with only about half an hour of daylight left, there was still nothing happening. Then Sam caught a rudd, and then I caught a tench and a bigger rudd. We both got a few more bites and then then sun set - for about 20 minutes it looked at though the sky was on fire. Fantastic.

The return is already being planned. A 14' beachcaster, line as thick as my wrist, and apparently I'll definitely be able to see the hook...
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Rubbish


Sometimes when you go fishing, you're in the zone. Focussed, concentrated, knowing exactly what you're about - in tune with the fishing. Other times, you're not. Last night I thought I was, but turned out to be tuned only to static.

I arrived at the river late - about 7.00pm. This was by design. The day had been another hot one, and the fish would be sluggish. Because of the weed on the bottom I was going to float fish and try and trip the bait just above the weeds. Cheese paste again. Sigh. When am I going to give up on this dog's backside of a bait? I added flour to try and stiffen it up but by the time I got to the waterside it was soggy again and the first knock was taking it off the hook. I persevered. Kneaded it until I thought it had a better consistency. Made no difference.

Lots of bites then, but nothing very definite and tossing tiny portions into the swim showed small roach coming up from mid water to knock the bait back and forth. Too small to even take a size 16.

But I carried on. The temperature dropped and things became more comfortable, but nothing felt right. I was making basic mistakes, getting tangled up with my centrepin, not controlling the float properly. A kingfisher flashed by about 8.30pm and I decided to move. First cast in a new swim produced the best bite of the evening - a tiny chub about the length of my finger. I have small fingers.

Eventually I retired to the pool below the bridge where earlier I'd seen the shapes of both roach and chub, but I'd left it too late and couldn't see the float properly. As I said, I was rubbish.

So here's a photo of someone who wasn't rubbish. Who fished, in fact, rather well, and was rewarded with this - a tench of about 4lbs, almost black, and in near perfect condition. I left Ray where I had first seen him, hunkered down into the bank, almost invisible from the field, peering at his quiver tip.


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First casts

Given that last season was pretty much a washout for me thanks to a major knee problem, I approach this morning with some trepidation. Now there's a good word for June the 16th. I needn't have worried.


The fact that our club no longer properly observes the close season meant that instead of the lake being like Picadilly Circus, packed with excited anglers keen to re-discover their piscatorial skills after an enforced absence, it was empty. Not a soul. I parked up and limped round to the smaller of the two lakes and settled into my favourite corner swim. Tackle was as simple as could be. An old 12 foot split cane rod, centrepin reel, 4lb line, a small float, a couple of shot and a size 12. Bait - small cubes of luncheon meat. As I tackled up, I could a carp crashing around under the tree in front of me.

First cast, and I caught a small perch. Then a bream, then a roach, and then the first of five tench. My total haul included a lovely 3/4lb perch, and a nice tench, just over 2lbs. All of them were in beautiful condition, none were badly hooked - even the perch! - and all swam off in good health.

What was pleasing though was that I fished like a fisherman again, even after six months away from the water. Tangles were negotiated, I managed to cast well enough with the pin and I didn't fall over.

It was a short session - I was back in the car and going home before 9.00am - but a rewarding one. As I drove back up the field, I looked in the rear mirror for a last look at the lake and saw a hawk pinned to the sky above the trees.

This, my friends, is the real world.
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