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Andrew Pilgrim

Back to the old school.

When I was a lad growing up in South Yorkshire in the 60s & 70s (stick with me) things were different in many ways. In my late teenage years it seemed that everyone was a fisherman – at work on a Monday morning the question “Where did you go at the weekend?” invariably received an answer of “Trent”, “Witham”, “Middle Level” etc or even  “16 foot” “20 foot” or “40 foot”      (Drains in Lincolnshire if you don’t know) … Ask the same question to todays youth and you would probably get the reply “Yates” , “Walkabout” or ………… (Insert the name of your local crap generic nightclub here). And the follow up query of “Any luck?” has completely different connotations these days that do not need discussing here, so I shall return to piscatorial matters.

 Like most people it was my Dad that showed me how to catch fish on rod and line, but, for me, it was my Granddad who taught me how to fish.

Back in the 60s as a young nipper I would stay over at my Grandparents house and my Grandad, Sid, and I would head off down to the woods to dig for worms next to the stream, and the evening before fishing would be spent learning knots and sorting tackle, whilst on the stove bubbled away a pan of Wheat, Tares or Hemp. The following morning we would rise at dawn and creep around the house like secret agents gathering our gear together and then leave, gently closing the door behind us. These were magical times for a young lad not yet 10 years old and, 50+ years later, whenever I cook Hemp I am instantly transported back to my childhood and the happy memories are as vivid as ever. We usually caught the bus to local fishing ponds but just occasionally another family member joined us who had a car and this young lad armed with his 6ft rod, Intrepid Black Prince reel and a tiny aluminium bait tin crammed with worms was whisked off, wide eyed in anticipation, to new and exciting ponds, canals and lakes,. Once there I often, awkwardly, caught tiny Perch whilst all the time being in awe of the old man in the next swim catching, what seemed to me at the time, an endless stream of huge Roach. More often than not I would sit with him and listen to his fishy stories. I remember those days fondly.

A young me and my fishing hero.

  My grandad passed away then I was early teens and I never had the opportunity, or took the time, to thank him for planting and nurturing the fishing seed in that young lad. Being a fisherman has taken me to many far off places and I have met some wonderful people, it has changed my life in many ways and helped make me the man I am today, I am eternally grateful to him for that. So Guys, if your Father or Grandad or Uncle or whoever taught you how to fish and they are still around, thank them….. Do it now!

Well that was a bit heavy and you are probably wondering why I brought up, well I mentioned in a previous blog (My Wife is a Tart) that I still had my Grandads old rod and Centerpin reel so I hatched a cunning plan to take it on my next trip and review said 50+ year old tatty length of cane. My plan became even more cunning when I decided that it might be interesting to compare it to my current favourite rod a 25 Year old Shimano Compare Specimen Match, and if that wasn’t enough my cunningness reached new heights when I decided to compare both of them to a brand new top of the range rod, “ What a genius!” I modestly thought, a real time comparison of a 50 year old rod, a 25 year old rod and a brand new rod. My smugness took a sharp dive when I remembered that I don’t possess a top of the range new rod …… Bugger!      But I know someone who does…. Sheena my wife (and Tackle Tart).

 So I asked the question. “Sheena my darling, I don’t suppose I could?….” Well it turns out I could………

I could do the washing up, I could mow the lawn and I could cook tea, but, as they say, fair exchange is no robbery and permission was given on the condition I cherish Sheena’s Drennen Acolyte as if my life depended on it, and to be fair it probably did! So I had the tackle now to decide on a species and venue. 

The criteria I set was thus, I wanted to try and get a good bend into all three rods to fully compare them so a day ‘bit bashing’ would be of no use, likewise I didn’t intend to put too much strain on the old cane rod or, God forbid, Sheena’s cherished Acolyte, so commercial carp fisheries were also out of the equation. I had to be static, walking miles of river carrying three rods was out and to be honest I didn’t fancy the idea of holding a heavy old rod for hours trotting a float. So I needed a Stillwater with a good chance of some nice sized fish but nothing too big. …… .Hmmmmm? Tench? Perfect.

But where to find a venue with a good head of Tench but none of those pesky 10lb+ Carp waiting to smash your tackle. Then I remembered FOXEARTH FISHERY. Just through Sudbury this venue offers 3 Lakes. A “Big Carp” lake for the weekend camping fraternity, a Pleasure Lake stuffed with assorted Roach, Bream, Perch, Rudd, Tench, and smaller Carp plus a ‘Traditional Lake’. This small lake (Pond?) has a good head of Tench and Crucian Carp, and NO big Carp, perfect. For the record this venue is very well run and has toilets and a snack/drinks machine in site, I highly recommend paying a visit.

Full details can be found here,  https://foxearthfishery.com/

So armed with a veritable Tench banquet of Red maggots, Casters, Hemp and lots of worms I set off on the scenic 40 minute drive to the furthest tip of north Essex. The weather had been settled for the previous few days a little muggy at times but mild and overcast, just how I like it for Tench fishing, and I chose a very comfortable looking swim (they all are) with pads to my right and a gentle breeze from right to left. It took me an hour so set up all my gear in which time the chap who was already fishing on the next peg had 5 Tench so things were looking good. I chose to use my Speedia centerpins as I don’t think there is a better reel for this type of fishing but I was rather annoyed to find I had left my ‘modern’ pin at home so the Acolyte had to make do with a fixed spool.

All three rods were set up with classic lift method float rigs and 2 swims were baited up with Hemp. I decided to start on Sheena’s Acolyte, and I was quickly into a succession of Rudd small Perch and a few nice sized Roach.

An hour or so later I struck into something better, not the Tench I was hoping for but a stunning Crucian Carp. It’s not always easy to find a venue that has a good head of these hard fighting fish but Foxearth is one.

 A short while later the float twitched, lifted then slid away in a classic Tench bite and I was into a fish which bolted straight for the pads to my right but the Acolyte was having none of it and with the drag wound down tight she was soon out into open water and quickly landed, and I have to say that this rod is as good a rod as I have ever used, light yet very powerful.

Then it went quiet…. Very quiet…….The chap next door had stopped catching and even the smaller fish had vanished from my swim. This was not looking good for my side by side test. Around lunchtime I heard a familiar voice “How’s it going my love?” Sheena had made the hour and a half round trip just to see if I was catching, how sweet! But secretly I knew she was only there to keep an eye on her beloved Acolyte. “Very quiet” I replied, here you have a go. So she did, and promptly caught a Crucian,

“It’s nice here, Be careful with that rod” she said handing me back her Acolyte and just like that she was gone leaving me staring at a motionless float for the next couple of hours. Although the bites had dried up I was not too concerned as on my two previous visits I had experienced the same pattern, a few fish early on then a burst of fish late afternoon. I decided to use the quiet time to mix a little groundbait and I laced it with a good quantity chopped of worms and crushed casters thinking that the groundbait will get the worm down to the bottom without being intercepted by the Roach and Perch. At 2.45 with the bright sky clouding over I fed the swim and had my next bite at 3.10pm – another cracking Tench.

Confident of more I switched to the Shimano, my favourite rod and almost instantly realised that it was no longer my favourite. It felt heavy and clumsy compared to the Acolyte. It did however catch me a rather hungry and irritable crayfish that tried to eat my trousers.

Next it was time for the old cane Sealey Rapid Strike to have a go. I will be honest here and say that it has been neglected over the years and the previous evening had been spent re-fixing a guide and applying varnish to the many strands of whipping cotton that were dangling off it so it would be fair to say, at this point, that I was a little nervous about its ability to cope with what I was about to subject it to. Casting was’ interesting’ to say the least due to its weight and ‘unique’ action, more akin to casting a clothes prop ,and after 4 attempts to hit the right area, a mere 2 rod lengths out, I settled for an underhand flick. The float settled and I waited nervously.

Seconds later all hell broke loose

The float slid away and I quickly struck. Well I say struck, I lifted the butt end and the tip eventually followed (Rapid Strike my ar*e). The angry Tench on the other end shot under the pads, I applied as much side strain as I dared and heard an ominous noise only it wasn’t the rod, I soon realised it was me going “eeeeeeeeeeek!”…. “out…OUT!!!!” and out of the pads it came and immediately shot off in the opposite direction. At this point of the story I guess you are expecting me to say how horrible the action was and how it was akin to playing an angry dog on a floppy car ariel. Well, I have to say, I was very surprised, the action was absolutely superb considering the rods age and that the butt was solid cane connected via a large brass ferule to a built cane middle and another brass ferule to the spliced cane (Spanish reed?) tip section. But let’s not forget that men have been making fishing rods from cane for hundreds of years and the experience and craftsmanship built into this rod was very apparent. Again a lovely tip action and progressive power through the middle section. Judge for yourselves.

Sealey Rapid Strike in action

Compare this to the new Drennen Acolyte

It really was a revelation, so much so that I had another cast, and another and caught succession of lovely Tench and the odd Crucian.

and on the final cast of the day was rewarded with this stunning fish.

I never picked up either of the other carbon fibre rods for the rest of the session. Yes the old rod was a bit cumbersome to cast, the name Rapid Strike is somewhat misleading and you had to keep the butt firmly under your forearm when playing a good fish but, without wanting to sound all ‘hippy’, there was something wonderfully organic about the way this rod felt. Maybe it was the natural products used in its construction, maybe it was the centuries of knowledge built into the design or maybe it was just all in my mind, knowing my dear old Grandad had caught many fish on this very rod. Whatever the reason after a dozen Tench I was in love with this battered old bit of history and I shall certainly be giving it another outing soon.  If you have any old rods tucked away at the back of your shed, get them out and give them an airing, you may be pleasantly surprised, as I was.

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Andrew Pilgrim

ALL CHANGE……( A Sea fishing report for Freshwater Anglers)

When you have been hammering away at the same old thing for a while, with the same results often what is needed is a change of technique, location or even species. I put this to Sheena (my wife) and she disagreed vehemently, but when I explained that I was referring to fishing she seemed much happier, and so did my two dogs. So with this in mind I booked a days sea fishing.

At this point most of you freshwater anglers are about to click elsewhere and go and look at videos of dogs or whatever floats your boat, but keep reading, you just may find this more interesting than you think. Now I would point out that first and foremost I consider myself a Freshwater Angler, and when it comes to sea fishing I would say I’m just about competent at best, however there are so many similarities that transferring from one discipline to another is a lot easier than you might have imagined. The tackle is similar albeit quite a bit heavier because of the weight of lead needed to hold bottom in the tide. I use a couple of 9’6” up-tiders which are basically the sea fishing equivalent of heavy duty quivertip rods capable of casting heavy weights of 4-8oz, Reels are Shimano Speedmaster 14000 XTC loaded with 80lb Braid, I use this strength to ensure safety when chucking big leads about but you could just as easily use 20lb mono with a good strong shock leader. Rigs are similar to freshwater too, running ledger, paternoster etc, again just beefed up. I used a running lead rig with a 4ft trace of 25lb mono to a 2/0 hook. Baits too are strait forward, Lug and Rag worms bought from your local tackle shop are great sea bait, but be careful the Rag worms can bite back! Most Charter boats can supply tackle to use, fellow anglers on-board are usually only too happy to give help and advice and you would be amazed at how you can put your freshwater skills to good use out at sea. Carp anglers especially, have a look at some of the more complex sea fishing rigs and consider how they may be adapted to your style of fishing. I would urge any freshwater angler to consider giving it a go.

 My boat of choice was the Sophie Lea out of Brightlingsea.

It’s a 34ft twin engine catamaran which is quick and provides a very stable fishing platform, in addition there is loads of space on-board and today with social distancing in mind  the owner/Skipper Lee had kept the numbers down and at 8am the 7 of us left port. Lee has been doing the job for 30 years so knows his stuff and headed to a mark off Clacton next to the wind farm where he assured us that there had been plenty of Bass caught recently. Now, Bass are like the perch of the sea, often you can get plenty of small ones 1-3lb (schoolies) but a bigger one is a joy to catch (British record is over 20lb) So I started out on one of their favourite baits Ragworm. Twenty minutes in and after a couple of missed bites I had a firm couple of taps on my tip followed by slack line as the fish dislodged the lead from the sea bed. I picked up the rod and wound quickly to take up the slack and lifted into the first fish of the day a very pretty bass of a few pounds which was quickly returned.

Things were looking good and I re baited and recast in anticipation. The same rod went again within minutes but this time with just a series of gentle taps and rattles and, as I suspected, I wound in a little whiting, poor thing didn’t have the strength to move the lead. Whiting are like Roach, They don’t grow particularly big and move in big shoals, some days you will catch plenty.

The next hour or so was very quiet for me with only the odd rattle from a whiting however Andy Broom next to me was into a good fighting specimen using Squid tipped with Rag worm. When it got next to the boat it went crackers and after a couple of good runs it was netted and brought on-board. An exquisite Starry Smoothhound. This is one of the many species of Shark that inhabit British waters and they certainly do fight well. (These can go to over 20lb!)

This was quickly followed by more action on the stern when Ben Hearne hit into a good Thornback Ray. He was using quite light gear and had a right old time getting this fish to the boat. (These too go over 20lb)

Every time it seemed that Ben had the upper hand it would surface 20mtrs astern then dive down using its wide body in the tide to take line again. After 15 minutes or so it was finally netted and what a beautiful specimen it was too. Poor Ben was shattered and had to pop a couple of blood pressure pills and take an hour out!

More action on the other side of the boat with Rays and Smoothhounds.

While I, being a thoughtful Angler, distracted all the Dogfish! These are another type of Shark albeit a very small one barely reaching 5lb and to be honest mine were barely reaching 2lb each. Most sea anglers dislike catching Dogfish and consider them a bit of a nuisance fish in the same way freshwater fishermen view small Eels.

As the tide was slowing I had 3 fish in quick succession a second Bass.

And a couple of small Thornback Ray .

At the top of the tide bites dried up totally and Lee decided we should move location for the final couple of hours. Half an hour later we moored to one side of a shallow area where the depth dropped steeply down to 30ft. Still fancying more Bass I stuck with Ragworm on both rods much to the delight of the local Whiting population buy finally my patience was rewarded when a series of small but firm taps resulted in a good ‘drop back’ bite. As I would down it soon became apparent that this was a better fish. My third Bass and the best of the day.

Bass are a superb eating fish but this one was never destined for the table and was swiftly returned with the words “Off you go fella. Go and grow bigger”, much to the surprise of the other anglers on the boat and the delight of the skipper, who I suspect would like to see more fish of breeding size returned to be caught another day.

And why not?…. his future business depends on it!

As we headed back to Brightlingsea I marvelled at the vast array of electronic ‘Gizmos’ at the helm of Lee’s boat though I couldn’t help suspect that he still relies a lot on good old intuition, after all there is no substitute for experience!

If, as a freshwater Angler, you fancy giving this a go, and you should, why not get a couple of mates together and give Lee a ring on 07774 492856. You wont regret it. Meanwhile as I mentioned at the start I’m a Freshwater man at heart so next week I’m off for some old school Tench & Crucian fishing….. Watch this space.

Tight Lines Y’all.

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Andrew Pilgrim

The Painful Truth….. WARNING, Graphic image!

I have never experienced anything like it….. Beyond excruciating…. I blame John Wilson!

It is beyond debate that the late John Wilson was an angler of some repute and did much promote Fishing in this country, and if you are of a certain age, as I am, you may know of other angling legends through-out history starting with Sir Izaak Walton who in 1653 published his seminal book The Compleat Angler. Now if you think that there is nothing to be learned from a book written 370 years ago you are mistaken, as even back then with their simple tackle and pretty basic methods the anglers of the time really knew what they were doing and understood the specific traits of species and how to catch them.  In 1937 E. Marshall-Hardy published Mirror of Angling Vol 1 containing a series of short articles to help anglers outwit their quarry .And there is another book that should be compulsory reading for any young angler, Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing. As a young lad I read this time and time again. First published in 1949 and wonderfully illustrated this book gave me my understanding of watercraft, species and weather conditions. Over the last few centuries angling had changed and the equipment available is mind-blowing, however let’s not forget that the fish have not changed and what was true 200 years ago is still true today. It’s very easy in this commercial world in which we live to become all to obsessed with Carbon Graphite rods, Fluorocarbon lines and the latest hook patterns and rigs, we are all guilty of wanting the latest tackle. My Sheena certainly is (see previous blog “My Wife is a Tart)  

Over the last 40 years or so angling in this country has changed dramatically from the 70s & 80s with its emphasis on match fishing for big weights of Roach and Bream to the 90s with the sudden growth and popularity of Carp fishing and recently we have the explosion of Barbel Hunters on the rivers across the country, however over the last 20 years I have noticed a worrying amount of “instant Anglers” appearing on the banks. We have all seen them the “All the Gear, No Idea” brigade. They spend a couple of hundred quid on a full set of Carp gear from Go Outdoors (other purveyors of crap fishing tackle are available) and off they trot with their mates for a weekends fishing (camping) with 24Kilos of bait to be thrown in the water and 48 cans of lager to be chucked in the nearest bush. Now please don’t think I am anti Carp anglers, I most certainly am not, and if you are reading this blog I’m guessing you are a reasonably well informed and well behaved angler, but you have to admit that these “instant fishermen” do the reputation of our sport no good at all.

What I am trying to get across is this …… The things you can’t buy from your local tackle shop are very important, Watercraft, Experience and all round knowledge. You can however stock up on these by reading the books I mentioned above and watching some of the newer videos and TV shows, A Passion for Angling featuring Chris Yates and Bob James, Anything with Mat Hayes and of course the Go Fishing series with John Wilson, who I personally blame for my painful ordeal with a tropical Catfish!

Back in the mid-1990s I watched one of his TV programs where he was fishing in Africa, The Gambia to be precise. And I thought…… “Oooo!, I fancy a bit of that, so I rang the travel agent and in November 1998 I was on a plane heading to the tropics with some fishing gear. The Gambia is a remarkable country with stunning beaches.

 Within a couple of days I was in paradise with a beach to myself, a stunning sunset,a cool-box stuffed with Big Shrimp and an old 3lb TC carp rod & rugged old Mitchell 300. I set up a running ledger rid with a 2oz lead and No2 hook direct to 15lb line. A gentle lob of 30-40 metres got me just over the surf line and I waited. In fairness I didn’t have to wait long a firm rattle on the rod tip resulted in a small Bass like fish (Casava) which was followed in quick succession by another and then a variety of assorted tropical beauties all in the half to 2lb range. Then just as the sun was beginning to set I had a slow definite pull, “Bloody Crabs” I muttered and lifted the rod. Well I have to say that this particular “Crab” was quite feisty and proceeded to make its way out to mid-Atlantic at an alarming rate and it was at this point I realised that I had seriously miss judged not only the strength of tackle required but more specifically the amount of line needed on the reel.

I never did know what I was connected to that day, although in the years since then I have caught many fish from that same beach, Travelley, Snappers, Captain Fish and Big Casava to 20lb+ but nothing went like that fish. I vowed to return to The Gambia suitably armed and I did, many times over the next 20 years. So thanks to John Wilson I had discovered my fishing Utopia.But I also cursed him for a rather unpleasant and very painful experience.

A couple of years ago Sheena and I were in our little boat fishing in the maze of mangrove creeks close to the coast. We call it our happy place and you can see why.

As I recall it was a nice enough day with a few fish being caught, including a very beautiful African Sicklefish.

 So all was good with the world until I caught a little Catfish. Now I have encountered hundreds of these little blighters over the years and I am well aware of the spikes on the Dorsal and Pectoral fins so I always handle them with great care.

I usually net them as I don’t like spiky fish being swung about in a boat. So it was easily netted and into the boat and as I laid it down a tiny bit of mesh got caught on the end of a pectoral fin. I instinctively went to lift it off and the fish flicked embedding its spike into my middle finger, well it wasn’t so much as in but through my finger and into the adjoining digit ‘Nailing’ them together. So there I was holding the leader with one hand and my other was impaled on a rather angry fish! “Pliers” I screamed at Sheena, “Pass me the bloody PLIERS !!!!” A quick snip and the fish was off leaving my fingers still painfully joined, I eased them apart and luckily the tip had only just penetrated the second one. Now the spines on a catfish are barbed and the only way to safely remove one without it breaking off inside of you is to pull it through not back the way it went in. I gripped the pointy end with the pliers closed my eyes and pulled. “Oh Heck”, “Flipping Nora”, and “Oh dearie me that is quite painful” were some of the choice phrases I recall uttering.  As if the barbed spines on the Catfish weren’t bad enough they are also coated with slime whilst not being poisonous it is a very powerful irritant and an anticoagulant. So, I was now a few miles up a remote mangrove creek, with my fingers, dripping with blood, it felt like someone was ironing them, I myself was feeling quite woozy so Sheena took the helm and quickly got us back to the mooring where we explained to the locals what had happened. Lots of screwed up faces and shaking of heads followed by helpful comments like “That will be painful” “Mind the spines” and “Don’t touch Catfish” Thanks guys! Two weeks of antibiotics and although the pain had gone my fingers remained swollen and remained so for a couple of months.

So an all-round unpleasant experience, and to this day I blame John Wilson.

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Andrew Pilgrim

It’s a funny old game…. (Pt2)

My quest for a 6lb Chub from the Chelmer was proving to be a real challenge as not only was I out 2/3 nights every week fishing from dusk to well into darkness I had also been asked to join an Essex Match fishing team and the commitment this involved – most weekends coupled with my midweek Chub hunting – was not totally appreciated by my wife (now ex-wife, don’t know why?)
The years passed and many Chub were caught. 2lb fish became a rarity and the average stamp was between 31/2 to 41/2lb I lost count of the upper 4lb fish but it seemed impossible to break the 5lb barrier never mind capture the elusive 6lb. Never the less I was enjoying fishing my local stretch and year after year it continued to produce some astounding fish……specimen Dace to 1lb, a 15lb Carp and some fantastic nets of winter Roach to over 1lb including one as long as my forearm ( I’d forgotten my scales but it was by far the biggest Roach I’ve ever had) Now at this point I am sure some folk will be asking themselves where all the pictures are of these stunning fish, well these were the days before mobile phones and I’ve never been one for photographing fish, the few photos I did take are still with my ex-wife, or by now probably in landfill !!!!
The year 2006 and a phone call out of the blue from my old fishing buddy Richard. He was coming down to visit and should he bring some tackle?…. Hell yes!… lets have a days fishing.
Now Richard is a quality angler and someone I have fished with from childhood so I was looking forward to having his company. Pike was to be the target for the day, he does like his Pike fishing. As my usual stretch of river is not noted for big Pike we fished downstream a little where the river is wider. A couple of early runs resulted in one fish on the bank, low double, then nothing for the rest of the day. During our endless chat I recounted the tale of the huge Roach I had caught some weeks earlier from the section further upstream, He fancied a go so with the light starting to fade we packed up, shot home for the castors left over from the previous weekends match, grabbed a couple of float rods and headed back.
Richard fished waggler on the drop but I fancied trying for one or two fishing very shallow, 12”, in 5ft of water and trickle feeding free offerings. This approach had worked well in the past.
I steadily fed castors at the rate of half a dozen every 30 seconds or so and waited….. and waited…. After about 20 minutes in the darkening light I saw the merest hint of a swirl on the surface, 5 minutes later another, then another this time a definite fish just under the surface. I reached round and picked up my rod, Shimano Specimen Match, Centerpin 4lb mainline through to a size 16, baited up with a nice dark castor and very gently flicked iy out to where I had seen the Roach swirl.
BANG!….The float shot away and the rod arched right over and within seconds I was attached to the reeds on the far bank (anyone know how fish do that?) “Well that was no Roach Richard” I said.
Resisting the temptation to recast I continued feeding and soon I was seeing the gentle swirls in my swim. Time for attempt two. Same procedure, slowly pick up the rod and ease it out over the water so as not to spook any fish, a gentle slow flick and BANG!!… In again and it bolted for the far bank but this time I clamped down hard with my thumb, the fish turned and was soon landed. 3lb 14oz of beautiful Chub. “I thought we were supposed to be fishing for Roach?” Richard quipped, “Sorry I forgot” I replied. “strangely I’ve never caught a Chub in this swim before”
“That’s a good one to finish on, Shall we call it a day?” I asked
“Let’s give it 10 mins” Replied Richard, so I rebaited and fed in preparation of one last cast.
By this time it was dark but the wall lights on the building opposite were reflecting off the still water. Same procedure ‘bait & wait’ ….. there’s a swirl, slowly pick up the rod, gentle flick, and yet again BANG !!! as expected this fish made for the far bank I clamped my thumb down hard on the old centerpin and it turned, I slowly played it to the middle of the river and was about to reach for the landing net and it turned and ran again, no way was I stopping this run but luckily for me it ploughed straight down the middle of the river, “This is a better one Rich!” I exclaimed but he knew and was already coming to join me. After a few more runs I felt the fish was finished and I slid it over the rim of the net. We both clambered up the bank and laid the net in the damp grass.
“Jeez that’s a gud un!” Richard muttered, I said nothing…. not a word.. I couldn’t. There lay in my net the most fin perfect Chub, all 6lb 1oz of it as it turned out.
Back at home I smiled at the thought of 18 years hard Chub fishing and I finally get my goal whilst fishing castor for Roach, and I’ve still never caught a 5lb Chub from the Chelmer and I honestly believe that my 6lb fish was not as big as the one I saw from the bridge
We shared a beer or two and we both agreed “It’s a funny old game this fishing!”
Footnote. .. If you are planning to do a fishing blog in 20 years or so from now,,, take plenty of 3D Holographic pictures.
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Andrew Pilgrim

My Wife is a Tart….

If like me you are fortunate to have a fishing mad partner it can throw up some strange problems….. Let me explain.

I, like many, am a bit of a tackle collector. Not the vintage museum exhibit type, more along the lines of slowly accumulating rods and reels and never parting with any. Now for you young whipper snappers having half a dozen rods in your armoury is a good thing, light and heavy float, tip rod, heavy feeder, a pole and maybe a whip, Sorted!. But my first fishing trip was 57 years ago next month and I still have, and use, my late fathers Speedia centerpin I used on that day, and the cane rod it was attached to and I dare say there are a couple of floats somewhere in my collection dating back to the 60s. On a recent “sort out” of my workshop I counted 27  assorted rods, Sea, Fly and Course, which should be enough for even the most dedicated piscatorial tackle hoarder… or maybe not!

My current wife (no not the one mentioned in a previous Blog) got into fishing 7 years ago. When we met she was one of the “I can’t see the point of catching a fish if you aren’t going to eat it” brigade. Obviously she needed educating and a few trips later she was hooked. Now if you have ever done it you will know teaching a complete novice how to fish can be hard work, yet immensely rewarding. Over the years I have taught my brother and my son and various friends and family members the basics of our noble pastime and enjoyed every minute. The wife, who I shall henceforth refer to as Sheena for, as she has just been pointed out to me, that is her name.  Anyhow Sheena quickly reached the stage where she no longer wanted to sit next to me and share my gear, she wanted her own set up, so on my next trip to the local tackle shop I very thoughtfully purchased her a nice beginners 11ft float rod. When I got home I proudly presented her with the rod and she smiled sweetly as she eagerly unpacked it and set it up, as she stood there holding the gift I had bought her her face changed and the smile slowly faded, she looked at the rod, looked at me, then back at the rod. She gave it a little wriggle and then politely informed me that as much as she appreciated the gift of a fishing rod maybe I could have given a little more thought as to the quality of the product and questioned as to whether my love for her should be measured by the amount spent on the gift (£39.99). Sheena actually used considerably fewer words than this, three to be precise, the first two being “This is…” but I’m sure you get my drift .It had never occurred to me that she had become used to using my Shimano and Greys rods! Anyway, she promptly took my hand and had me drive her back to the tackle shop where the offending “piece of…” as she so sweetly described it to the owner was returned and after testing what seemed like every Rod in the shop she walked out with a brand new 12ft Drennan Acolyte rod and a Diawa Legalis reel.

Shortly a matching Acolyte tip rod & Shimano Reel was added and a Preston On Box complete with high back seat and all the attachments completed her set up.

So if you happen to see a tall blonde sat fishing with all the latest gear, please do mention to her how nice the Acolyte rods are, Sheena is very proud of them,

To be honest she has become a bit of a tackle Tart!

But I digress;  The point of this Blog was to write a little review of MY new rod.

Now, I haven’t bought one for years as I am very happy with my 20 year old Shimano Specimen Match rod and my Diawa Harrier Tip rod but I fancied a shorter tip rod for stalking Perch on my local River Colne around Colchester, something sensitive but capable of dealing with any large Chub that I may encounter, so I headed down the tackle shop and returned with?….. Yup you guessed.                 a Drennan Acolyte 9ft Ultra Tip rod. Once Sheena had stopped teasing me for trying to keep up with her I stocked up on bait from the wormery and headed off for a couple of hours on the river.          The recent rain had put some flow in the river and the “Duck weed” was on the move, most of it had settled in my favourite swims !!!

So to the rod…. Super light, thinner than my little finger at the butt end it’s like holding a fly rod. Build quality is absolutely top notch as you would expect, and the curve is soft and progressive but still retaining power in the mid-section should you encounter a ‘lump’. It’s called a 9ft feeder but I certainly wouldn’t fancy launching a 3oz cage feeder into the weir at Cromwell on the Trent but I’m guessing this rod would work well for lighter feeder fishing for skimmers where a stiffer rod may result in bumped fish.

 So how did it do for Perch? Brilliant!…. The lightness and soft tip meant flicking a worm out with a single SSG was an absolute joy and though no monsters on my 3 hour session It was very enjoyable to use when hooked up to a steady stream of fish up to 6oz and I am looking forward to getting a full bend on it in the near future.

 If you are in the market for a quality shorter tip rod you should check these out, in fact have a look at the whole Acolyte range, they really are superb. Just don’t let your fishing wife get hold of them!

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Andrew Pilgrim

It’s a funny old game….. (Pt1)

… fishing that is.

Rewind to 1988 and yours truly made the move from Gods own Country down to sunny Essex.  Now while Essex has some outstanding stillwaters it would be fair to say that it is not blessed with big, fast flowing rivers such as the Trent which was my old stomping ground. Luckily the River Chelmer was just a 10 minute walk from my new house.

One of the key things with Chub fishing is location, after all if they aren’t there you won’t catch them. So I embarked on a month long reconnaissance mission ahead of the rivers opening on the glorious 16th June. The Chub were there alright, and one or two sizeable ones too, but the river looked challenging and in places was barely fishable due to weed beds and overhanging /fallen trees, but to a Chub fisherman it was utopia. That first season I set my target for a 4lb fish.

June 16th finally arrived…..Now as any dedicated Chub angler will tell you just because you can see Chub does not mean you will catch Chub and the first session on floating bread did not quite go to plan as I was smashed up by a Carp which was well into double figures, this River obviously had a lot more going for it than I had thought. Autumn, and despite my best efforts I had only managed a dozen or so Chub over 2lb – a rethink was called for. With the nights drawing in I switched to shorter evening sessions after work, fishing well into dark and with the extra flow that the autumnal rains brought a change of bait was called for. Lob worms, luncheon meat and cheese were my choice. Fishing once, twice or three times weekly my knowledge of the river was starting to pay off and pretty soon I had my fish – 4lb 10oz of pristine Chub caught at 10pm in late October.

Mission accomplished…. But what now?

A couple of weeks later I was having a walk along the river a mile or so upstream from where I had been fishing, and as I was stood on a footbridge I spotted a Carp slap bang in the middle of the river about a foot or so deep, slowly meandering upstream towards me. It wasn’t a monster, not even double figures but a reasonable fish never the less. As it approached I suddenly did a double take….and the big white lips came in to view.

 That’s no Carp it’s a ******* CHUB!

 And a very VERY big one at that.

It was time to re-evaluate my target.

A 6lb Chub from the Chelmer? … Why not?