While routing through some old hard drives I discovered a folder labelled ‘East London.’ Being distracted by anything rather than my actual task of finding some new work I went through the images recalling the journey I took on a still, misty spring day in 2007. For those who remember this area before the Olympics will recognise the route I took from where the main Olympic stadium now stands, to the old Lesney Matchbox factory, sadly demolished. Although I have nothing against the Olympic park I do look back with fondness for the more industrial and run down feel of the place, the shear lack of people, where I once fished undisturbed.
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 though 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 akin to 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, I had forgotten about the piggy scene!
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.
Saturday morning started with torrential rain that lasted for a few hours, when it subsided I walked out into the garden to find that it was very warm, almost humid, it felt very carpy. Using my transcendental water crafting skills I surmised that the Lea Navigation was finally going to offer up a carp for me. It was midday when I decided to embark on a reconnaissance trip on the bicycle with Polaroids, a catapult and some bait. Within fifteen minutes I was cycling back home with some haste, I had spotted for the second time this week a group of carp feeding, all congregating next to a natural looking stretch of the canal with reeds, lilies and over-grown bank-side vegetation. Once home I gathered my rucksack, Mark IV and net, downed some lunch, spooled up some new 12lb line and then returned to the canal, making sure I kept calm, too much excitement can cause mistakes.
I prefer to fish the canal early morning or late in the evening to avoid the flotsam and jetsam on the towpath so being early afternoon I was visited by the usual mix of cyclists, joggers, walkers, continuous cruisers and loners escaping the city. To be honest this part of the canal is relatively quiet so I quickly got settled with my fishing and started to trickle in the bait and try to get the carp to feed with confidence.
Within and hour I had a carp take a floating bait in the clear water which resulted in a terrific powerful run straight down the middle of the canal, I could see its flanks quite clearly, a linear mirror of around 15 to 20 lbs, my clutch was set right, the rod was well sprung but after the first initial run the hook pulled! Inspecting the damage I discovered that the knot has failed, it was a classic school boy error! Even now I am unsure why I was so slack on tying this knot, it was a blood knot of four turns (I usually use a palomar) and now looking back I’m thinking I didn’t even tuck the knot, mistakes like this were done in the 1980’s, my mind was not focused and I had lost a great fish.
A re-tied hook using a palomar knot was cast out but there were still two knots in my rig that had not been looked over, despite being annoyed with myself I carried on fishing, carp fever had taken over and once again I had another run. This time the carp ran in the other direction, the fish was on for a good minute until again it came off under a lot of pressure. During the fight a man rocked up in his tracksuit and witnessed the battle and the parting carp. With a Polish accent he said “you downt haver the right equipment, my friend?” Right now I didn’t need this interloper but I looked at him and said “I had 12lb line and the gear was fine” I had nothing else to add. As I reeled in the line to inspect the catastrophic failure for the second time I found that another knot has failed on the rig, another blood knot! The man came close and looked at the curly end of my line, “you down’t know how to tie ze knots!” “F**k off ” was my only thought but in truth he was right, I had ballsed up big time and now this cock-sure tosser was swaggering off down the towpath pointing at the water and calling out “hey, my friend, I can zee your big fishy swimming away”.
I had to re-group, start again with new knots, take off the last fifteen feet of line just to be extra safe and as it states on the side of my mug that sits on my desk ‘Keep Calm and Go Fishing’. While I re-tackled I put out more bait and after a good wait the carp came in to feed. With only a few minutes before I had to get home I had my third run. Again the carp ran down the middle of the canal, the clear water showing its flanks, everything seem to be holding tight. The carp came in close and ran along side the towpath, as this happened another carp of a similar weight chased after it thinking it was in a amorous mood, but it wasn’t it was angry and fighting with real power. These canal carp really do fight so hard, at first they don’t know they are hooked but once they sense a problem they go berserk. After a few more minutes of playing the carp I very carefully netted it and bought it up and onto the towpath.
Although I have not put too many hours into catching a canal carp, it has taken a good five years doing the short stints to finally get one on the bank. In the past all my carp have come from the River Lea, so this was a special fish.
As an experiment this season I don’t take scales with me, I would rather spend time getting fish back in the water than fiddling around with weigh slings and sticking a number on it. For me it has added a new element to my fishing, to appreciate rather than record it. But for those who insist on a number it was probably around 17-19lbs, the carp was long and wide, the photos below don’t really do any justice to the shear size and length but it does show the wonderful dark colouration on the top and the scale pattern. After her return she sat on the canal bottom and sulked for about two minutes, something that I was quite akin to doing after my costly mistakes, thankfully this carp put me in a considerably better mood.
Confession over, expletives made, and now the canal carp curse of ‘BB’ has been lifted. If you want to read any of my previous close encounters with London canal carp please click here.
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 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.
After the gale force winds earlier this morning, the Lower Lea took on the colour and pace that resembled the middle stretches of Wye in January. I was quite surprised to find that by the afternoon most of the fallen trees had been moved off the main paths around the Hackney Marshes, some of these trees were quite sizeable. This efficiency from Hackney council is akin to my own dear father who at the age of 82 was repairing his own fallen fence as the tail of the storm was still passing by at eleven o’clock this morning!
Along the Lea a few fallen trees were exposed and shattered, a recent reminder of their sudden and violent demise, while giants still stand alone on the Marsh undeterred by the passing storm.