Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wardrobe Up The River Orne


so much for the glorious then, the tragic dawns of the heath robinsons, where no contraption ever made will bag an underground tench, if that's where they've gone, flushed down sherlock holmes's plot-hole or in a wicker basket round the back of a polish deli. fewer tench under gordon brown, more bolt-riggers on permanent leave to remain. modern britain sucks like a poisson-chat when your tench end up on e-bay instead of in the fucking bay. at least our osterley heroes found survivors who look as if they've been eating each other till food parcels arrived on the 16th.
i launched the wardrobe myself last week, afloat up the gorge, the echo of goat bells and the slap of waves. no more shit-pit tossers on quads or bottle chucking scum-bags. just this:

set up camp under gnarled oaks and sunken houses, baited up the old road home and one beside the bush once at the end of madame birkin's garden, 8 feet of post-war flood over it now.

rying the sausages when i lost the only carp of the trip, a scout patrolling the weeds, must've gone back and told the legion to stay put because i heard them all night feasting in their flood halls, their revel magnified by the sheer escarpments, you could even hear their squawking gills like hot air balloons adjusting ballast. 4 am they moved away, burning the village behind them. in the morning the boat was chin up on mud where the sluices on the dam had generated the microwaved coffee for the haymakers and milkers. second night i ferried over the other side and the bream came, hoardes of pillage and slime, underwater forest of waving tails, stripping the mud of bait and tripping the buzzer lights all night till they'd made mincemeat and gone with the coffee drop. loaded the boat and headed back to the land of bolt-rigs.

it's the only way to fish narnia:

the line, the hitch and the wardrobe on the birdtable


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bustewr Crabbe's Baitdropper


It was too much, the wait for the beginning of the season, the false alarms, the rumours, the pictures of fat birds from France and the people who went over the top too early only to be shot in the back of the head by the baliff or sent to Porton Down to be fed on additives. The rumour doing the rounds on the Heath is that there are no more tench - they are extinct, gone to ground, buried their heads in the mud in disgust at the four ounce leads which keep hitting them on the nut. Come the evening of June 15th the shores of the boating and bathing pond looked like a bad festival, bolt riggers all waiting to be taken up in a spaceship come midnight to Planet Boilie. In defiance since 14th March I have been on the roof building a Thames punt from old mahoghany wardrobes and soon it will be complete. I will drag it across the Heath in the dead of night and set off across the Viaduct in search of just one tench. The lone bubbler, the acqualung exile, spotted in the cabbages one more than one occasion. In the meantime my other close season contraption is all ready to go: Buster Crabbe's Baitdropper, the Bloodknot Dreadnought, an Archway Bomb, and up here the only way to fish.

A large splash in the distance on the birdtable


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pilgrims Progress


that really was me on the speaking tube, live from walker's pitch as carp made weirpools over the baits. the last thing either of us expected, because as you know:

i've never owned a mobile phone
nor never hope to own one
because when i'm away from home
i'm fuckin fish-not-phonin

the nokia baked-bean tin was a mike walker set-up. he says: when d'you last talk to that ja? years ago, i said. he doesn't like phones either. the purepiscator then hands me his communicator which starts yarning me about highgate ponds, and june 16, and i could smell your eight o clock bacon and see the tench bubbles popping round your jr quills. great to hear your ivories so in tune, geared up and counting, pacing your ponds, inspecting the pitch on your daily rounds now you're tench-runner for the hampstead & highgate home piscatorials under captain bellamy. you'll strike gold in that there mud, filling your pot with bamboozled private doctor fish and the hangman's speigals. arcadia the new carptalk. or the best bit of the ham & high. in the 1955 edition of fishing for londoners the ponds are given the hot tip for bags of early morning tench. for 2008, plastic bags i shouldn't wonder. all the tench i caught in victoria park were inside tesco bags i hooked winding in. more natural food in a tesco bag once it's chucked in the water.
close season pilgrims are prone to visions. in 1986 i took a coach from victoria and got off at wisley with rucksack and 3 days supplies to walk the woods and wisley ponds before paying the club dues, sleeping in the future swims, because i'd be fishing by public transport. woken first morning by thundering hooves just in time to see the belly of a horse as it jumped over me, rider dressed as a highwayman. no dream, the hoof prints were fresh with crushed beetles. cuckoo man is a swim stealer, i fear, a low-wayman, fishing over another man's bait.
here it's been mixed fortnights. grey, wet, all four winds in the ring and carp on stop-start rations, either jumping the gun or on hunger strike. by train to walker's pitch, then, french train style too, cheap, punctual, polite and peaceful:

made la morinais by teatime, first cast by evening as the sky looked silt, it overshot the mark and hung in the osiers leaning off the island. a gentle pluck and it fell intact into two feet of brown water. the one that goes in the top corner, the six over the grandstand.

you just know it's going to happen, but it went the full 90 minutes before one beep and the rod inched round a twitch. tug-boat resistence, spuds in a sack, snagged on fallen boughs, but all held tight. 46lbs of monster mash:

fickle as the wind, they fed once more for ten minutes my whole four days. 5 minutes on the wednesday afternoon, 41lbs.8:

and the wind seemed set, the fish all pushing and shoving at the trolley so i hung hooks for tea and narcissism up at the hut, laure's rum fruitcake in that tin for the king of spain you sent me one christmas.

i shouldn't have lingered, should've just downloaded the tea and not the photos. back at the lake for evening it was a scene to cause a riot at the baitmaker's gate, the curse of la morinais, all the wind stumped, all bites cancelled:

thursday morning a paper-boat breeze scimmed over to the island; upped sticks in a rush and put two in the windlane off the island point, then blew a hat trick at dinnertime when a forty came off at the net as the other rod screamed blue murder and a junior mirror showed off with a lot of flashy tricks then fell to the simplest of tackles. walker's pitch glorious but true to form: gone with the wind, only when it rains, never on a sunday, this side of midnight.
back home again with grass to cut and slugs to gather, my rows of french beans looking like the woods at ypres, cabbages like stained glass windows, the anatomy of a leaf. by tuesday the garden was tidy enough to neglect again and it was time to test the poach-hole on the bluewater pit. they were under the rod tops, coming in on a northerly, everyone a wild twenty that came on a duck's leg, no bloated triploids this time:

wed,thur, fri, just popping down for the coup de soir, half-seven till just on dark:

come friday they were twanging the line like the strings section at swan lake, piccicatto till sunset without a run. the wind was in my face. huge fish on the timpany at a 100 yards. the rods were bending double from the plucking. you sit on your hands and face the music when that happens. they were closer than where i'd slung my hook, down a deep shelf at ten yards. i pulled the right hand lead back and it jagged in weed at 5 yards out. wound in, plopped it back, sat down, rod went double in ten seconds and the line took off this time with water music and screaming reels. a loony tuna. no carpark scrap this, no thumping in the distance. a wild fish making for the trees, thinking of evolving just to walk up the bank and smack me one. 70 yards of smoking pulley and it nearly made it. tom brown hooks flashman. it bottomed the scales at 50, weighed in the unhooking mat. anywhere between
48 and 52 is my guess:

relics on the birdtable


Tuesday, June 3, 2008



Have you really been down at Walker's Pitch or was that phone call from closer to home, a sweetcorn can on string from the top of the Heath? Good to hear your dulcets. Last week John Richardson and I took the close season pilgrimage to the Creel where the lost Leneys of Frensham stared down from glass cases and Fran reminisced about fishing in Finsbury Park boating lake before she left London to head to Aldershot. A shop where you can still buy goose quills on a street where people leave notes on the door saying back in 10 minutes and you know they'll be gone for the rest of the day. From there we went to the Tarn over on Seale Sands another Leney water sculpted by Humphry Repton, a succession of lakes drawn by BB and cutting their way through the oak and the ash woods. The trees on the dam grown up where Chris Ball caught his first ever carp off the back of a Vespa in the 60's and Kay Steuart fished a pair of MK IV's in a Pucci dress and sawn off waders. Pre bivvy, pre boilie, post modern. Through the trees the Warren, a water beyond the reach of every rod and line back then but opened up in recent years like a door that Huxley left open for us to wander through and never return. The source of many of a 10 minute note, eel-like, snaking away into the distance into the very heart of darkness. And in the trees the sound of a cuckoo telling us it was still May. Down the road we went to the River Wey at Broomfield, even more remote, thunderstruck oaks and then the sound of the cuckoo again, close at hand. We turned and saw him in the distance, running down the track cut for the powerlines, the figure of a man dressed as a cuckoo. The sound of his call still echoing through the woods.

Spooky Tooth back on the birdtable


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taught By The River


once more you stalk the concrete brooks, shadow fishing, casting at the moon. is that the thrift shop where i used to get my breeches and elliot symack knitware? in my day there was a tackleshop in kentish town. john's tackle? for close season junkies, sundries for the vulnerable, beside a petrol garage after a crescent of low-rise, today's gun turrets for your boy gangstas. has it gone under too? a tackle shop where the maggots came in ectoplasm, reel boxes so bleached by sun in the window there was no writing left. celephane hook packets disintegrated in your fingers. run by a limping biker and his old man in leather jackets. they still had agate rings in the wooden drawer. there are no tackle shops in france. just warehouse sheds on out of town shopping centres, chains without dignity or tradition, or a few shelves in a supermarket, chineese trash with blood on its hands. tackle for dystopia.
i've left the carpark lakes alone this week and humbled down with rod and float to black-eyed pools in thunderstorms.

where viking carp make for the ribs of armoured longboats wrecked ten feet down, where they snap floats in two and fight like beurwolf (who never could spell his own phucking name).

and on to where the even humbler river runs through buttercup plain, you wade through lakes of buttercups like i've never seen before, on to where long abandoned fishing huts and crumbling pontoons haven't seen a bamboo pole since 1968:

stephane was downstream fishing the silt under fallen trees with spuds and chickpeas, all for a brace of chub on the chick pea, one a fat half-pay territorial but not the plunder we were hoping to find. i was fishing hard baits on hard gravel, one along the reeds, the other roving every half hour. i pulled the rover back just off the middle late evening, and ten minutes later it took off in a battle cry, body-building in the current, punching twice above its weight, half barbel this carp with its underslung pucker:

we glugged it with a 2000 savenniers blanc which cost s. a tenner from leclerc. angler's mass for a holy lesson by the river. spoling for a fight now i swung the lead at penelope pit thursday evening where there was post-spawn convalescent laze, a moth or mayfly running the pharangyal gauntlet but nothing solid till one beep before dark had me using up a week's worth of spinach. i must get a bigger tripod for the camera - i'm hiding a 28 behind that grass stalk.:

friday was poaching night, an overgrown NO FISHING pit with no swims either except the back gardens of four houses along the roadside. a hampstead pond in normandy without brick or privilage, just beige bungalows, the 4-car scum who leave a rod outside with a livebait 12 months a year to fish for itself. there's a bramble scrub by the last house where i could get the vehicle in unseen and just before dusk i set to work with a hand saw and took out two willows and a few bushes, enough to poke two rods through, swing a lead 20 yards if lucky. i even chopped the cuttings up and stashed them under brambles and in thicket. no one would notice any different. everything invisible from four sides:

nothing got a hook in it but they came, fat walloping carp intrigued by bait, very big fish stumbling into the line and having me hitting line-bites. neither of us used to this and the carp got bored and moved out. this is the view of it from my hide:

back on the train tomorrow, land rover in for a service, going light, 3 rods and a rucksack, 5 days bait, heading west to mike walker's lake where every fish is billy bunter. comfort feeders, like their tuck in wind and rain, and it's a glutten's forecast with a 50 on the cards...i'll let you know.

a tenner on the birdtable for leclerc


Tuesday, May 20, 2008



whilst you were perfecting the art of the drive-by, french style, i was out wandering the old english close season, the only map the one i was making up as i walked along. leaving the heath behind i headed down the hill past the ghost site of fields tackle shop on highgate road the place made famous by their roach pole maker who took a holiday in australia and got eaten by a great white. about as ironic a feat as emigrating to normandy and spending your days fighting them in the car parks. beyond the closed doors of fields lies kentish town proper not a place you'd recognise any more, wholly changed since your last century sojourn in north london. i found your memory half way to camden standing under the sign for angler's lane, a road to nowhere if ever there was one. on the corner where the anglers pub used to be and flat caps used to talk about the spiegels in highgate and the tench in vale of health and drink in memory of roach pole is a branch of nando's where they serve the meal of choice for every gib wielding gun toting under 16 gangsta in greater london - drive-by chicken - the tastiest dish for miles around. and opposite the perilous parlour of peri-peri a thrift shop whose bookshelf revealed a piece of hidden treasure. casting at the sun as written by shane meadows. elliott symak's diary of a lincolnshire redmire which he kept secret for ten years throughout the seventies. a two acre bloodstain on the ordnance survey map populated by mahoghany monsters and fished by h block lookalikes. the particle chronicles, a broken bedchair confessional which is more aa than bb, and either way a classic, ' my thoughts plummet back to earth as a chilling yell escapes from the spinney to my rear. the vixen - perhaps attracting her mate, or gloating over the steaming corpse of a luckless rabbit. so too do the owls screech, sending the iciness of death into the heart of an innocuous shrew. and all the time the stars watch down on us in stony silence; atomic furnaces from which we will never feel the heat but of which i always dream'.

close season confessions of a carp fisher on the birdtable


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mowing Days Are Here Again


since your last glimpse of the winter underworld on the heath, the green fuse blew. from squelcher to scorcher in a week of spawning bream. grass growing under your feet as you mow, the oaks beat the poplars into leaf and there's cuckoo spit on the willows. spring like a rapid deployment force in realtree. yesterday's carp are over the spawning grounds and the villages are under the yellow siege of rapeseed:

last week i was squelched up to the nines, no sign of the fritz speigals here, flash floods and window fishing:

cast and run at penelope pit as the storm hit car rolling mood and even the land rover turned land lubber as i pitched in a swell with a face gone solihull green. three hours trapped in the cab, like the dug out's caved in and the drowning rats cling to your hair. i suppose the rods stayed upright on the buzzers the way a butterfly survives a downpour.
a week later the patrol boat comes by:

no roaring forties, just a pit becalmed and a common under the rod top:

carp spies the other side had binocculars on me and mustered into the freelander, reaching me as i was mid-photo. oh, the tosser said, a little common. we know it well. your first fish is it? he squeels off in a cloud of dust, back to the day bivvy in the six-car swim. they packed up and went home at eight, back to their nintendos. they're just hired rods, enduro fodder, fucking spodnicks with bent hook rigs and fin clippers in their 300 litre rucksacks. and they are everywhere and taking over. they want roads round all lakes and carparks and bait-boats and the right to fish under lights, compulsory enduros and margin fishing banned, swim booking agencies and no fishing unless accompanied by another arsehole to help throw the rubbish in the bushes. society probably says it's better they're fishing than hanging round carparks. well it's not. society is better off if they're knifing each other where they belong because the carp lake is now the carpark and it's lone opportunists like me who are caught in the headlamps.

the writings on the birdtable