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June the 16th. The opening day of the season. The Glorious 16th. A day recognised by all - or at least those in the fishing 'know' - as having almost mythological significance.

Maybe not.

When I went to pick up the maggots for today's session (it's got to be maggots on the 16th, got to guarantee you catch something) yesterday, one of the three lads who were smirking behind the counter in the tackle shop, backs to the customers waiting for the England game to start on a battered old portable telly, asked me what the date was.

"It's the 15th."
"You sure?"
"Of course I'm sure. Tomorow's the 16th."
"What's tomorrow then?"
"The opening of the coarse fishing season."
"That what you want the maggots for, then?"

Even at 7.00am it was already hot. There was a solitary car parked up by the bridge, but Ray swung round into the lane. We intended to head downstream, away from our usual haunts, in search of something different. Ray settled into a swim just downstream of a large tree, while I crept into the next field. No, I was not stalking chub. I was trying not to attract the attention of a pair of large swans who were looking after a couple of cygnets and looking at me very suspiciously. Further into the field were - oh, oh - thirteen bullocks.

They were so sweet. They followed me round as I peered into this swim and that. If I stood still with my back to them, they would get close enough so I could feel their breath on my neck. If I turned, they scattered and then pounded away to the other side of the field before re-grouping and trotting back. Eventually I confused them by nipping over a stile and standing very still on a bridge. They ambled right past me and into the next field so I was able to creep back out without being spotted.

The fishing was fun but hot. First cast came this nice little perch, the first of three. I also caught plenty of small roach and rudd - oh and a tiny chub. At one point the swim went dead and I thought 'I wonder if there's a little pike in the swim?' Next cast I was reeling in a tiny roach when the line zig-zagged off into the lilies. I got him out - a pikeling of about half a pound, but those little teeth sheared through the line before I could get him to the net. Ray caught two of them.

We packed up about 12.30pm by which time I was pink and very hot.

Happy birthday, Dad.


No flies on me

First trip for a while, so obviously maggots are the order of the day. The cheese paste still lurks in the fridge waiting for its time, but on this local river, I feel there's more chance of a result with something that wriggles.

I fished with the centrepin and a 15' rod, close in most of the time, but occasionally letting the float drift down in the main current. It was pretty much a bite a cast, though some of the fish were so small, that the float only ticked as if struck by a minute electric shock. Still I did well enough to catch some small roach, a dace and a nice little perch. Ray, fishing downstream, almost under his own bank, celebrated his birthday with a collection of nice perch and we both enjoyed the unseasonable sunshine and high temperatures. I took the first photo of Ray landing his biggest perch and the other one - well, obviously there was at least one fly on me...



It's been a while.

I'd intended to spend the day on a river in Surrey, fishing for barbel in the morning and evening and then trotting during the quiet parts of the day for whatever came along. I was on the road by 5.30am and at the car park an hour later. The plan was to walk to the end of the beat and then work my way back swim by swim but on the way I decided instead to have a look at the top end of the river, the first fishable swim. It looked too tempting to pass up so I tackled with a 12ft rod, Mitchell reel, 6lb line (too light, I know) a link leger and the old faithful - cheese paste.

First cast, I got a cracking bite which missed. Second and third casts came two chub, both about 2lbs, fourth cast came a bream. Then the swim went dead. I persevered for an hour, then gathered my stuff and began to walk downstream.

It was a nightmare. The banks were so overgrown that there were few places where you could actually get down to the river and when you did, many of the old swims had disappeared. Either that or the bank was so high that my landing net handle wouldn't reach the water properly and I'd struggle to land anything substantial.

After a fruitless 45 minutes slogging up and down I returned to the original swim and tried again. I'd seen no other anglers until then, when a guy appeared on the opposite bank, looking at swims. Eventually he slid down the bank almost opposite me, but slightly downstream. Then cast, almost over my line. I coughed loudly and he bent over, peering across the water. He shouted an apology. I was pleased he hadn't seen me. "Any good?" I told him. "My mate's just had a perch downstream, but no barbel yet." Me neither mate, not with all this shouting going on. He reeled in and wandered off downstream. The rod knocked, then there was a gently pull. I struck and it felt like nothing, some crap off the bottom maybe. Then it moved inexorably upstream, going deeper and deeper. I couldn't get it up. I applied as much pressure as I dared and the hook came out, clean as a whistle. Boll-ocks.

I switched to luncheon meat and started to fish the slack water under my own bank about 20 feet downstream. Nothing happened for about half an hour and then I had a cartoon bite which almost tore the rod from the rest. I reeled in and the line had just parted. A jack pike maybe? I've hooked them before on luncheon meat here.

I switch to the centrepin and trotted for a few hours - small roach, bleak, a gudgeon or two and a chub even smaller than the gudgeon. Then I packed up, walked back to the car, dropped off the gear and went to the pub for lunch. I'd decided to let fate guide me. If the swim was free when I returned, I'd stick to the original plan. If not, I'd think again.

Of course it wasn't free. A guy had got there minutes before, and was just settling into his chair having cast in. We had a chat and I slogged back to the car again.

Rather than try another stretch I decided to head back to Sussex and fish a local river - I'd always wanted to try casters there. I arrived during the only rain of the day. Sat it out in the car. Then got the gear again, walked across the field to a bend in the river and started fishing. I caught a few roach - bigger than the Surrey ones, actually - and then there was a commotion in the water downstream. Round the rushes came a mink, swimming in the water. It came almost to my feet before it spotted me. It had a good look and then just turned round and swam back. Not really bothered at all.

I moved swims a few more times and ended up with this nice little perch. Knackered though.


Losing streak

This was surely a banker. Overcast, warm, settled weather (with perhaps the promise of rain to liven things up) a lovely little lake - and this swim, which virtually guaranteed tench and carp. I mean, look at those lily pads....

So, although I claimed to be after roach, I tackled up with 6lb line and a pretty stout rod, just on the off chance that something larger might pass by. In front of the lilies you see, is a slightly deeper channel where larger fish are likely to cruise up and down.

As it turns out, having plumbed it, the deep water is mostly in the left of the picture, between the two sets of pads - after that it shallows off to the right.

Anyway, cheese paste, corn and luncheon meat. Pellets for ground bait (and some sticky smelly nightmarish stuff that my host kindly provided - couldn't get it into the water fast enough) and off we went, about 5.00pm.

It was a good session. Lots of roach and rudd to about half a pound, first on float, later on leger. I lost a couple of decent ones too - they certainly knew all about those lilies.

Only one interruption really, when my fellow angler pitched up a little breathlessly carrying his landing net inside which was the biggest perch I've ever seen. Now I reckon I've caught a perch of one and three quarters and I thought that was big. This was 3lbs 10oz - a perchosaurus! Massive shoulders, huge mouth and when he released it, it swam off like a pike, fast and pissed off.

Last cast as light was fading I got a good solid take on corn. Struck and a large fish moved left into the lilies at speed. I managed to coax it back out into the open water in front of me. It circled for a bit as if sizing up the situation. Once it broke the surface. It was a double figure fish, I'm sure of that now. But things were OK. Six pound line, a stout rod, a bit of open tore off like a train, heading straight for the pads in front of me. I simply couldn't stop it. The reel screamed, the line broke and I packed up.

This means war.


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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