A short film about specimen angler Bob Hornegold who has spent a lifetime fishing the Lea system, a river close to me, a complicated river that has been changed by man for thousands of years. Today the river still shines with some remarkable fishing available just fifteen miles from central London.
After a few weeks away in both the French and English Riviera I find myself back in London with a twelve-year-old to keep entertained for a few days after the devastating news that his laptop has fallen foul of a hardware failure. Next week I have a two-week stretch looking after my two-year old daughter, a much more daunting task, this week I thought a digital free two days with my stepson could manifest itself as a mini boy’s own adventure.
In my basement along with a collection of fishing tackle, pots of paint and various tools is a canoe suspended from the rafters that has for the last two years hung dormant, today seemed the right day to get her out (I think one speaks of a boat in a female context?) and take her down the River Lea. This particular canoe has taken me into the drink on a few occasions, she seems to sense a nervous pilot just like a horse. The canoe twitches from side to side until the rower relaxes or the nervousness results in a dunking! Once settled though, a serene calm takes over and the river is experienced from a completely new perspective. To sit low down in the water is really quite interesting for an angler who normally spends so much time looking at the river as it passes by, in a canoe you become an integral part of the rivers ebb and flow. The Lea was looking splendid though, the water was clear and fairly high for the height of summer, the banks over-grown and looking quite wild. Not much fishing goes on here, well perhaps a little bit?
By lunchtime the clouds were gathering and a darkness came over the river that suggested it was time to set off for home.
Once home I thought it was time to put on a ‘proper’ film!
For our second day we were to go in search of The Lost Pond in Epping Forest, travel light and catch ourselves a mid-summer crucian. The Lost Pond or Blackweir as it is also know is set in the forest away from any road which involves a short walk, this I like, it keeps the lazy anglers away. After passing by Baldwins pond and walking through ancient woodland which was just starting to turn to gold, The Lost Pond appears in a small clearing, surrounded mainly in reeds broken by six gravel banked swims.
With us both fishing, our first three casts resulted in three tiny golden crucians and then nothing, not a nibble! We only stayed for about an hour and a half, trying every swim but nothing would bite, one or two missed chances but not a fish, very strange. Then on my last cast a slight movement to the float resulted in what looked like a rudd/crucian hybrid, in its imperfections it was a perfect end to a two-day, non-digital, 3D adventure.
Of all of the months in the year, August is probably my least favourite month to fish. By August the rivers are low and I’m in a perpetual state of apathy, my mind is wandering towards September and October. With summer stalking for carp pretty much over (even the carp seem to get lazy in August?) I spend more time just watching. Yesterday the Old River Lea in Hackney looked at its finest with gin clear water running through the sun dappled trees and above I could hear a bird of prey, most likely a kestrel.
It makes me wonder that a small silver fish stocking programme would really make this river complete again and encourage the Lea fishermen of old back to some familiar haunts and show their grandchildren how to fish. With next to no tidal variation on this stretch, platforms could be built on the harder to reach swims while low banked runs like the stretch below would be the perfect place to nurture a new passion for angling. With the nearby Middlesex Filter Beds now flooded, this whole area is really becoming an interesting area for conservation and the natural world.
Today my ride to work took a slight deviation so I could experience a two to three mile section of the Tour de France, that will take place later on this afternoon. Starting from Cambridge and eventually coming down the Lea Bridge Road, the machine that is the Tour de France will cross the Old River Lea, enter the Queen Elizabeth Park and end up on The Mall.
A breakaway group of three large carp were spotted under the A102 road bridge at around 9.20am but so far no riders…
A river on a summers evening is a magical place, and tonight I was on the Lea in search of a lone dark one. By the time I had hooked a carp it was almost nightfall and when I managed to finally scoop the carp into a fully extended landing net, darkness was all around me. My swim (one of the secret swims) was so small that no space was free to take any decent photos as I disentangled the rod, the net, the line and the hook from one another. The carp was a lovely dark old fish of around fifteen pounds that was quickly released back into the inky blackness.
Each year around this time, the 16th June to be precise I get the urge to buy a machete and cross the Hackney plains and down onto the River Lea to clear a few swims from the giant hogweed and stingers. After much deliberation I fear that this plan could result in my body being riddled with holes from the rozzer, the machete plan is put aside for yet another year.
Thankfully this plan is never put into action as another fisher of the Lea cuts out three or four swims in a very discrete manner along a run I like to fish. From the path no one would know you are there, a passer-by would not notice these clearings or the small space created for someone to stand and cast a line. I am also impressed that I have never seen anyone fishing these swims which makes me think I have either a guardian angel watching over me (Izaak?) or more likely this fisher is a night stalker. One of my first ever posts on The Tuesday Swim was called Night Stalker on the Lea Navigation, about a young carp fisher I came across one night on the Lea Navigation, perhaps it is he? Thinking it could be the later, its good to know that someone out there shares the same desires to fish the harder places.
After many months I spotted my first carp on the Lea Navigation just a few days back, a single common carp of around twenty pounds. I watched it for a few minutes casually cruising along side the canals near bank.
Yesterday I saw a huge shoal of bream in the same place all around the five pound mark cavorting amongst one another, dancing a spring time jig. How these huge flocks of bream keep themselves so well hidden throughout the year is a ghostly trick, but I must have seen at least fifty or so preparing to spawn.
For now my sights are on the Sussex tench but this weekend is far too windy for my first proper expedition, hopefully the weekend after will be a little more inviting. Yes, after my last post The Syndicate my renewal came through that very same afternoon, so I have promised myself not to just dream but to actually go and fish this great old millpond.
In the meantime I shall meet with friends and talk of fishing instead…
After returning from a walk this afternoon across Leyton Marshes and onto the Lower Lea it is quite apparent how much it has rained in England this winter. Last Friday the Lea was at its highest level I have witnessed in many years, today it was still very high but had dropped about a metre, the marsh was flooded but that is usual for this time of year. The simple truth is global warming has changed the British weather and this is going to affect our rivers especially if our current selection of politicians make the final environmental decisions.
I did promise to myself not to get political here so I will refrain but I will say one thing, our stand-in Flood Minister Eric Pickles is a misinformed fool and I fear that he will cause so much environmental damage to our rivers that it could take a generation before they are rectified, long after Mr Pickles has left his post. ‘Dredging’ is a word that has been thrown about over the last couple of months as the answer to the flooding problems, is it? I’m really not convinced and nor are the true experts out there, dredging seems a nice quick solution and makes the government look like they are doing something, great but I believe it is the wrong action to take?
Now the science bit. I’m no expert but using the River Parrett as an example, if you dredge the whole length the silt would equate to 2-3% in volume of the amount of standing water in the locally affected area, so you would still have 97-98% of the water left. So dredging must be more about flow and not volume? If this is the case then the entire length of the river (37miles) would have to be dredged to avoid bottle necks down stream and the potential flooding of towns like Bridgewater and Dunball. I imagine dredging 37 miles of river would cost millions and be devastating to the landscape. Finally, would this not cause a fast flowing and dangerous relief channel?
As I said at the start, there are dark days ahead for our rivers and their inhabitants which will last long after the current rabble of politicians have gone. It is a very depressing thought and I can’t see dredging is the answer unless someone can explain to me the science rather than simply expressing the frustration.
In the meantime a flooded landscape in its splendour…
Update: Thanks to a certain Mole I came across this and discovered two things, one there appears to be a hydrological community and two, they seem to know what they are talking about, see here
After a crisp cold start this morning I finally managed to get out for a walk in the afternoon with my daughter over the Leyton Marshes. Once on the Lea at the Middlesex Filter Beds I spotted a rare bird, a firecrest skipping from branch to branch just ten feet away on the banks of the river Lea. I’m afraid even the capabilities of the IPhone could not record this tiny bird but dutifully I managed to record the walk. Winter is fast becoming my favourite season.