A NEW BOOK NOW OUT. Targets set and achieved.

My third book, 'Targets set and achieved' is now complete and ready for sale. As the title suggests it reflects the past seven years of my fishing. Twenty different rivers where double figure barbel were caught, crucians and roach to near record size, perch, chub, tench and bream to make the mouth water. All will be in the pages and well illustrated with lots of colour photographs.

There is a 1000 copy print run of the hardback edition and a further 40 leather bound copies for the connoisseur.

Copies available from myself just email phlpsmith9@aol.com or ring 07980 394864 for details

Still a limited number of leathers available.

Alternatively use the web page http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/ where you can order by Paypal or credit/debit card.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Summer days.

I don't like the sun when it shines all day, and the temperatures soar through the roof.  In these conditions I will be walking the river bank looking for the nearest tree in the hope that it will be a little bit more comfortable under the shade it provides.  One big problem with this idea is the fact that in the last week nearly all the swims I fancied did not have a tree near them, then there was the other point that where the trees did provide shade, I didn't fancy the swim next to it.  The result of all this pondering was that I spent a few faily uncomfortable days on the River Trent near Nottingham for very few fish, they just were not playing.  A trip to the Teme did provide some shade though.  That said, I was looking at the bed of the river in places not seen before, the water levers are very low, and I can only hope that we have significant rain before too long.

                                                       Waiting for the bite on the Trent.

I have noticed a significant difference between the written word on nearly all the computor blogs I read, and that read in the weekly and monthly magazines, it seems that anglers do have blank sessions occasionally!  I know there is very little kudos in writing about a blank - what can you say- I blanked!  You can describe the wildlife, the insects and butterflies, birds flying over the scene and crystal waters trickling past your idilic fishing platform, all this, but in the end you blanked!  So I ask myself is there any point in writing about a blank session or period, fair enough I did catch a couple of barbel including a nice fish well over 9lb, and other chub that were just a pest at the time, but why write about it?

                                                                   Beautiful butterflies.

It is often said that "90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the anglers fishing for them."  Add to this my own thoughts that the writers such as myself often provide the dreams and asperations for those up and coming anglers hoping to replicate our results.  Now I have my answer as to why we should write about blank sessions.  If that up and coming angler is reading the monthlies and those anglers never blank, then he may well get disheartened when he is blanking time after time.  He follows the advice and tactics described, uses the brand of bait that the author has promoted, and often he will even know he is fishing the same waters as the author; but while he has blank days, it would appear the author does not.

I am sure you will recognise this situation, I can, from my early days when I did exactly as I described earlier in this blog, I copied the written word to the letter, and blanked on more days than I caught on.  I now know many of those anglers whose name appears with some regularity in the press, either reporting big fish or writing about them.  I am also aware of the hours, days and sometimes weeks of effort that goes behind many of those features and catches.  You watch a vidio and see a few nice fish caught, one after another, you did not see the editing and continuity that took place over the days the filming was done. 

                                                            Nice way to avoid the blank that day.
So, if you reconise part of this blog as applying to your fishing, take heart - all anglers have blanks, only the numbers alter.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Big river barbel and fishing books.

It can be surprising how much time is taken up in producing a book from scratch, the actual writting process is only the very beginning.  You can of course get to the stage of a finished manuscript, and then if one is available that has accepted your work, pass this to a publishing house where they will complete the process.  Often in today's world it is more common to follow the route of self publish where the author takes responsibily, and the cost, of bringing the book to market and then distributing the copies to the reading public.

I've completed the stages of writing the book and having that worked proof read by some-one far better educated in the English language that I.  Then you check it again to ensure that the spirit of your work is still there, though good proof readers do this automatically.  We now arrive at stage that I am currently at, this is where the book is laid out with photographs and text placed on the pages in a readable fashion.  Here again the finished product is required to be proof read yet again, and the Wednesday and Thursday of this week were taken up by my need to do just that on a few of the chapters.  It is strange since I normally read books in a scanning fashion where not all the words are individually read, now I need to take the time to ensure I read what is actually there, almost word by word.  Within the process of laying out the book it seems very easy to either loose words or sections, or alternatively duplicate those already completed.  One big advantage to me is the ability to see what the final product will look like, and in this respect I am very excited.  Mind you, I will have read the whole thing about a dozen times so it can be a little repetitive!

Still, back to fishing.  Yesterday I decided to try the River Trent for the first time this season, a different challenge to that presented by the smaller Teme and Warwickshire Avon that has taken my interest so far.  Rods need to go a bit heavier, though with the rivers a such a low level I decided the 1.75lb test would probably be up to the job.  The swim-feeders were a different matter and the 60 gram weight was increased up to 110 gram and even this was probably at the bottom end of the range to be used.  I decided that my current tactics of pellet on the hair and a pellet mix in the feeders would be ok for this session, so off I set on the 50 odd miles to the river.

I arrived to find it at as low a level as I had ever seen, streamer weedbeds could be seen where they would not have been visible before, and in many areas the river bed was exposed as the water levels had dropped by such a large amount.   It is one thing to see the effect of low water conditions on the upper reaches of rivers like the Teme but when the middle section of the Trent is suffering it makes one wonder where that could lead to in years to come.  Still, the fish are still there so I set about trying to catch one of the barbel that were my prime target.  The sight of those streamer weedbeds gave me an advantage in that I could drop my bait more accurately in the clear channels that could now be seen, far better that the chuck and chance that normally goes within the section I was now fishing.  A angler I knew, fishing up river from my position could be seen playing a fish, I came to the conclusion that it was a good one, so having reeled my baits back in I made my way up to his position where I found that he had indeed caught one of the better specimens.  At 13lb-11oz it equalled my best for this river, but for this angler who fishes the Trent on a very regular basis, it was still some way from his best. 

Returning to my swim with a little tinge of green in my eyes I thought that at least it was an indication that the fish were feeding, also that the barbel would be interesting to catch later in the season when it could easily gain a pound or two in weight.  Unfortunately the hours passed and it seemed I would return home with a blank results pad, but then with dusk just decending, the rod came to life and I was playing an obvious barbel.  Even with the low water conditions there was still a quite powerful flow on the river and this fish took full advantage of it.  It came to the net, and when weighed it showed a pleasing 8lb-7oz, a good start to my season on this exciting venue.

                                                             8lb-7oz Trent Specimen Barbel

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Reality check

Looking through this blog one could be under the impression that I go out and catch big fish every time I fish, unfortunately that is far from the truth.   I have often said, 'You need the bad days so you know when you have had a good one,' well I've had a few of those bad days of late.

My last three fishing trips went like this-  
I still want to catch one of those silver bream that seem to be swimming in our canals and getting to a respectable size.  I will not do extended fishing sessions for them, but the occasional evening after the boat traffic dies down, that will be just the ticket.  As I arrived about 5:30pm I had seen two boats moving further up the canal and heading for a lock, they were to prove to be the last barges of the day and the water eventually settled down to almost lake like qualities.  I fed the swim with a couple of balls of a mix of micro pellet and ground Vitalin, this had been dampened just enough to hold until it reached the surface of the water where it broke up, then slowly settled down to the bed of the canal.  A few maggots followed this and then the float with two maggot on a size 18 hook was placed over the baited area.  The first bite did not take too long in appearing and I struck into fish that had it been a silver bream would have met my target, unfortunately it was a bronze and so was another of similar size that followed later on.  Two pretty rudd of a 8oz each, a similar size perch and a daddy ruff completed the evenings sport.  Failier?  Well yes in that I did not catch the target fish, but all the time I thought the next dip of the float could be 'it', that's the nature of fishing and I left not feeling too disappointed.

The next trip was to Coombe Lake in an attempt to get a zander, it's been a long time since I got a fish that was even worth weighing, so maybe this season I'll put that little extra effort on both Coombe and the River Severn, in an attempt to correct that oversight.  One rod was float fished using a dead roach, while the other legered a short section of lamprey, both got the same response of not being touched by fishy teeth in the hours I was fishing, maybe next time.

                                                    The last big zander I caught at 14lb-10oz.

The third trip was yesterday along with three friends who had travelled up from the south of the country to stay in a caravan near Worcester.  They fancied a day barbel fishing on the Warwickshire Avon.  I suggested a venue with the warning it would probably be one fish between us representing success, but that one barbel might well be a big one.  You guessed the out-come, we all blanked, although one of the three travelling anglers had the audacity to claim top rod status with a gudgeon.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Different river but another double.

The River Teme has been treating me very well with no blanks suffered so far this season.  On the other hand the Warwickshire Avon has given me a kick where it hurts on the last two trips to try for one of her gems, that pain has gone so time to try yet again, therefore plans for an afternoon into evening session were made.

With the pellet and open-ended feeder method working well on the Teme I saw no reason to change from that since it has given me so much success.  Caster over hemp is a better method where there are a number of barbel to catch, but I feel the days where you have numbers of barbel in front of you are few and far between on the Avon today.

I arrived about 2:00pm, and found that as usual that I was the only angler on the banks, again a sign of the new era of recession, high fuel cost, and harder fishing on the rivers.  The swim was a fast water glide flashing past my position over luscious beds of streamer weed.  With the good clarity of water I could easily see the clear channels running through these beds, and the two baits were cast to land in one of these on either side of the river.  Now it was just a case of occasionally recasting to put out more pellet mix in the feeder, and to ensure the ever present chub had not pinched the pellets off the size 8 hook in use.

When Keith arrived about 5:30pm following his day at work, I was still waiting for my first barbel bite, there had been a number of knocks, but I was convinced these were from chub, the real thing still was yet to come.   Thirty minutes later it did, but not the usual wrap round that I expect, just a good positive sign that the fish was there, then nothing?   I waited a moment but then thought I should check what was going on and sure enough the barbel had just gone to ground in the nearby weedbed.  Now he got angry and went off on the expected run.  I had become use to the fight given by those Teme fish, so when this one came to the net following a very moderate fight I was quite surprised at its size, it was big!   It really did show, at least to me, just how much harder those Teme Tigers fight, this Avon barbel had been landed with far less effort, but did that matter, not in the slightest.  A lot deeper in the body and on first inspection looking imaculate, I watched as Keith agreed a weight of 12lb-1oz, very pleasing and the biggest so far this season.

                                                       12lb-1oz Warwickshire Avon beauty.

Following that, I just had further knocks from chub and a surprising rudd of over 1lb with a large hole in its back, evidence I imagine of a recent cormorant attack.  As previously mentioned, no fish of whatever size is safe in our waters today, and I fear the immediate future does not look good.  Still, there are big fish to be caught so I'll try again this afternoon!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Battling barbel

Having recovered from last weeks session on Orchid, I set out for an afternoon/evening try for barbel on the Teme.  I have tickets for various rivers, Warkwick Avon, Derwent, Trent and Arrow, Severn and Lea, along with day ticket waters on others that I fish, but currently the Teme is my choice.  Up to this season I had only caught one double off this river at 10lb-4oz, so far I've added two more to that total at 10lb-2oz and a new best of 10lb-7oz, I'm hoping to put it up above 11lb then I'll move on.

                                                               The river disappears
It was hot and muggy with a possibility of showers forecast, not good with a one mile walk required to get where I fish, but in due course I did it, and by 2:00pm the rods were fishing with baits in two different areas of the swim.  I am still using the pellet on the hook and the hemp/pellet mix in the feeder -this had been working well over the previous weeks so I'll keep with it.   Two swans came to check me out, along with a strange looking duck, I checked and it was a teal, not a bird I was familier with but now it is logged in on my bird watching list.   Keeping the recasting to about 20 minute intervals I got the first fish after an hour, a nice barbel of around 6lb that went quite well in the flow.  There followed a small chub and I wondered if I was in for a repeat of that previous day when over 20 of them disturbed the swim, but it was the only one caught during the whole session.  At regular intervals after that, the rod would bend over and I could enjoy the fighting qualities of the the barbel.  They definately think they are bigger than what they weigh, being long and lean, they real do battle right to the net.


I took a fish of 7lb-2oz and that was followed by a superb barbel of 8lb-11oz, a very pleasing fish from any venue, but with the lower average of the Teme, even more so from this river.  It was 8:30pm when I struck into a barbel that shot downstream giving me the hope that it would be a better fish, it proved to be so and when I finally managed to net it I had another double.  At 10lb-3oz, and a different fish to either of the two caught previously, it certainly makes the 50 mile journey worth while.  With six battlers caught, the 50 mile trip back home passed quite quickly and I look foreward to the next trip with anticipation.

                                                                          10lb-3oz Battler

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A catfish with a difference.

As mentioned in the last feature I was going after a sturgeon on a short session last Wednesday, as with so many these plans in did not follow my expectations.  Merv caught a nice sturgeon of just under 16lb whilst dodging the rain showers, but my bite produced a carp, a nice carp at 18lb-10oz, but still a carp.  That's the last two visits now where Merv caught the target and I took the runner up prize with carp.

                                                           18lb-10oz consolation prize

Thursday afternoon I picked up Curtis, Merv's grandson, following his day at school, all his tackle was already in the van as I wanted an early departure in order to beat the traffic on the A34 as it goes past Oxford.   With his teacher on a training day on the friday it gave us an ideal chance to go to Orchid Lakes in an attempt to get him a catfish, it also gave a chance for me to improve mine since there were three definate different 50lb cats in the Club Lake waiting to be caught.

Following a good run down where the only problem was a lorry having run off the M40 causing one lane to close.  We arrive at the lake about 5:00pm giving plenty of time to get set up and hopefully we could miss the rain showers that were promised.  In good time both camps were set up and we were ready to go, baits cast out and curtis kept a fairly constant shower of halibut pellets going in the region of the one bait cast under a tree on the opposite side of the lake.  We had a wide range of baits available and would ring the changes over the time up to sunday morning, pellets, boilies, meat and worms, all we needed was a fish ready to pick one of them up.

                                                        Camp set up on Club Lake.

The first night came and went but for us it was without result, a lad fishing round the corner from us took a pb catfish for himself at 25lb odd and it gave us hope that at least the cats were feeding.  Friday past as all fishing days do in expectation, but the only break was at around 6:00pm when another lad fishing toward the airator at the one end of the lake took a nice cat of 38lb-13oz, getting better.  Going into dusk, just after 10:00pm, my right hand alarm signal interest and following a good fight I landed a very nice starter for the session at 31lb-3oz.  A good fish, but the rest of the night let us down as only the constant attention of bream, tench and carp nudged the baits in an attempt to take them kept us alert and ready for action.  Daybreak came and a check of other anglers results showed no further cats had been taken, although there were a good number of carp to those that had targeted them.

                                                                   31lb-3oz Moggy

One of the reasons for coming down to Orchid, beside trying to catch catfish, was to celebrate Marsh Pratley's 60th birthday.  He had laid on quite a 'do' and expected anywhere between 40 and 60 people to attend.  This was to start about 6:00pm and I had arranged to go round at 5:00pm in order we could both wash and brush up afer two days on the bank.  Generally I think of cats as night feeders although plenty do get caught in the day, yesterday's 38 being an example, still I am not really thinking of it happening in daylight.  About 11:00am, I was actually taking the photograph of the camps when the alarm signalled yet another bite by yelling out as the line stripped out from the reel.  The initial strike did not suggest a big fish and I was playing it quite casually thinking it was similar to last nights example, then it went down the lake but still only comparable with what that the other cat had done.  Now I pulled to bring it back, the last cat had obeyed the pull but this one refused.  I pulled harder and the rod bent round further but the fish did not move, stalemate!  I tried to pump it back, but as I let the rod go foreward it straightend a little but before I could reel the line onto the spool it bent back round again.  I did comment to the angler in the next swim, who had moved across to watch, that it was bigger then I first thought.  Now it came down to a pulling match and for most of the next 20 minutes the fish won hands down and I became convinced that I had hooked one of the lakes bigger residents.  At last, with a maturity well beyond his 12 years, Curtis slipped the 50 inch net under my prize and made him safe in the edge.  By now there were several angers watching the fight and I asked two of them for help in the weighing, my arms are not what they used to be.  I watched as the digitals finally settled on 55lb-9oz a new lake record though only by two ounces, but that generally is the way of new records when the same fish is concerned.  An English pb and one that gives great satisfaction, topping off many visits to this lake over the years.

                                                                  55lb-9oz lake record.

Marsh's 'do' went very well and the following hours until we left passed in an instant with me hoping that Curtis could break his duck, the answer unfortunately was no, and we left vowing to return in the near future to put that right.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Chub - too much of a good thing?

                                                  Loads of chub here on the Teme

I decided on a trip to the Teme for the afternoon and evening, thought about the maggots for bait, but decided on pellets.  I've been having considerable success with small pellets on the hair-rig used in combination with an open-ended feeder loaded with mixed pellet just dampened with hemp.  You do not need extra fluid as the hemp leaks into the pellets and you get the required mix no problem.  Too damp and you end up with a stodge, with leak away in the flow but I do not think it will be as effective.  you can always add a little damp but once in the mix it is difficult to get it right if you added too much.

It was quite hot, and I was grateful for the shade of the overhanging tree as the afternoon past, but I did not get a chance to relax in the shade.  My first fish was a barbel of about 5lb and I thought "well at least I will not blank" but that was not going to be a problem.  Over the next several hours I was landing fish with pleasing regularity - chub mostly, but enough barbel to make the day a good session.

                                                         One of the better chub caught.
That said, you can have too much of a good thing, and by the time I was landing my twentieth chub I was getting a little fed up with them.  The problem for me is that I fish for big fish of the different species.  Quite pleased to catch smaller specimens on the way to a 'biggie' but that is the aim.   On the Teme the chub run between 1lb and 5lb with that bigger size quite rare, not what I'm after, and I feel they are reducing my chance of the big barbel.   Far better if I can cast out the bait and leave it in place for the cautious specimen barbel to make up his mind to take it.

In actual fact I did finish with 6 barbel, with a couple over 7lb, and one over 8lb, so not too bad.  What was very noticable was that all the chub came on one rod, all the barbel came on the other, the same tackle and bait but cast to different spots in the swim.  Makes you think, if you are only using one rod move it about to try and find the golden spot in the swim, catching a chub just might mean you have got it wrong if barbel are your target!

                                             8lb + Teme beauty, bit of concentration there.

Friday, 1 July 2011

sturgeon and bream

Tried the canal for one of those silver bream yesterday with Merv.  Saw more than one barge go through with all those holiday craft cruising about, still, we caught two bream apiece but they were all bronze.  Better luck next time.

Today a visit to the osteopath was followed by a quick visit to the local sturgeon lake.  Merv and his grandson, Curtis, were already fishing and Curtis had increased his pb for the species to 25lb-9oz.

                                                            Curtis Welch with 25lb-9oz pb.

Merv took a sturgeon of 17lb odd and I had a mirror carp of about 14lb on a slice of salmon, not the target species but better than a blank.   Back to barbel tomorrow - let you know the result.

Just like buses

When I packed up yesterday I was quite pleased with the result, and thought to return next week.  I got home through all that rain, deciding I had finished at the right time, it was in for the night.   Sitting at home Saturday morning, I decided that the river would have to be in better trim with the extra water going in, a slight colour tinge, and rise in level could put it spot on, I had to go back to try again.

Arriving early afternoon I found the river had indeed risen slightly, and there was definately more colour.  I had watched the chub drifting round yesterday, today there would be no chance of that.  I stopped to chat with a couple of the anglers already fishing and it seemed the sport was in fact quite slow, surprised, but I'm here now so let's find a swim.

Those of you who have fished the Teme will know the first difficulty of the river, those steep banks that make finding any swim a challenge.  You can see the features that would be a delight to try, but shear drops leave no possbility of getting down to the bottom.  Even the spots that are available are all too often quite uncomfortable.  Small, still difficult to access, generally on a slope, and in the rain dangerous, but other than that no problem!

Arriving late on a Saturday and the general lack of swims meant it was probably the best part of three quarters of a mile before I dropped into one that I fancied.  This early in the season many swims have not been opened and after fishing for a couples of hours without result I made a move, this time I took a little chap of maybe 3lb that thought he was much bigger.  The sun was now blazing down and although this does not normally affect sport I decided to do a little exploring.  For the last several years I have been on the self imposed Barbel Challenge of attempting to get doubles off different rivers.  I've now reached 20 and although I'll still go for others it will be with far less intensity.  Previously I was always looking at rivers where I had not got the double and others rivers took second place.  This had meant that the Teme did not get the attention it deserved, a fact I intend to correct this year.  That exploring involved going along the bank and into each available track to see what was there, many other anglers had previously done the same and found, as I did, that most were a dead end at the top of a sheer drop into the river.  Others were definately out of my ability to nagotiate, twenty years ago I might of been able to scramble down, and with more difficulty, back up the slope from the swim, but not now.  Probably half the swims fell into this group and it limited my choices quite badly.  Still, I'm not going to get any more agile than I am today so it was a case of finding the swims I could access, then looking at a selection that looked worth-while for the time to be spent in them.  One swim seemed very nice, the river had narrowed slightly, snags opposite, both upstream and downstream, I decided on yet another move.

I was using the normal arrangement of two rods where the swim allowed, here I put one behind the snag upstream, and the other on the outside edge of the downstream obstruction.  Both end tackles were the same, pellet for bait and a swimfeeder loaded with pellets just dampened with the addition of hemp seed.  No addition water was needed, since the hemp gave out enough to make the pellet hold in the feeder for the time it took to cast out.  Now I was back into the waiting game, how many hours, days, weeks and even years have I spent doing just that, I dread to think!

                                                                 10lb-7oz Teme Tiger.
I had been getting small knocks that I put down to chub, thinking of those mopping up the feed I had been casting out out quite often to top up the swim with particle hoping that when the barbel arrived he would stay for dinner.  At last, some hours later, one of my hoped for guests arrived and signaled that arrival with the door bell, well not really the door bell but the rod top slamed round and it had the same effect- I knew who had called.  The Teme fish have the nick name of 'Teme Tigers' and this one lived up to the reputation, and following quite a scrap I landed a new personal best for the river of 10lb-7oz.  Bit of fun trying to weigh and photograph the fish in that small swim, whilst looking after its well being in the higher temperatures of the day, but I got there and cast the rod out again.   No sooner done than the other rod sprang to life with another calling card, again an obvious big fish that was to prove to be a second double of 10lb-2oz, amazing!   All those years and trips to the Teme for just one double, and now just like the proverbial buses, two came along together.

                                                      2nd double of the day 10lb-2oz.