Towards the end of last year myself and Kev Parr had to produce a film for issue 18 of Fallon’s Angler. The two previous films we had worked on (one about winter fishing at Aldermaston on the Kennet, the other catching tench on the Sussex Levels) showed that Kev could clearly deliver both informative and engaged narration. So on this occasion I suggested he once again narrated over the film after I had completed the edit. “Keep it poetic” I said, but aside from that it was left to his own devices. A few days later Kev emailed me an mp3 file, I clicked play on the laptop, sat back and listened. Kev had recreated the day in words, words that would have been far from my own reach, subtle, sensitive and certainly brought back the feeling that I had that day on the River Test. So here is the result – a day on the river catching dace, roach and a lovely big perch, caught from the gloaming.
Continuing on with the theme of British craftsmanship in angling, I move from artisan float builders to Jack Luke, the engineer.
Jack Luke was an employee of Hardy’s of Alnwick from 1936-1987, a man dedicated to his job and the reels that he made. Why am I interested in Jack Luke? Well, he built my Altex Mark V No2 fishing reel over fifty years ago, having his initials stamped on the reel would have added a sense of pride to the makers at Hardy, no mass manufactured reel could adhere to this level of craftsmanship.
Why do I like these Hardy reels over more popular reels like the Mitchell 300 or the Young’s Ambidex, although both still excellent reels? The Altex is an engineers reel, the spokes on the clutch control adjuster and the tiny anti-tangle wire bar that is fixed in the bail arm are all finished by hand using soldered parts. Every reel seems to have a ‘signature’ that you don’t get with the mass produced reels. Some find the Altex to be the ugly sister compared to the french curves of the Mitchell but I like the deco looks with its combination of burnished metals.
The question now, is it any good to fish with? Yes, its excellent, despite the spool being quite narrow the Altex can cast a long way with little effort and the line lay is extremely even. The bail arm is automatically closed from an internal pawl, this makes for a very smooth action as it is triggered close to the reels central spindle, needing less inertia to trip the bail arm. And talking of smooth, the Altex clutch is exquisite compared to the Mitchell 300, it is a pleasure to turn using the front four spoked brass adjuster.
Designed originally as a spinning reel for salmon (it was probably considered too expensive for the lowly coarse angler) but it has now become popular with traditional carp anglers mainly due to the fine clutch. I shall be using it with lines from 5lb to 12lb and for a wide range of fish including chub, tench, barbel, carp and pike. This year I’m keeping my angling more simple than ever before using just one fixed spool reel, the Altex and a few centre pins where suitable.
Sometimes the summer slips by too soon or just never seems to really heat up, this year it seems to be a case of both. So when a fellow piscator friend of mine invited me for three days on the Wye, I grabbed the opportunity for a late summer session.
I’m lucky, as the spot on the Wye near Hereford belongs to my friend’s parents. I spent a week there last year so I knew what to expect and more importantly I knew this stretch of the Wye.
A Georgian house sits one hundred meters back from the river, where a large sloping garden meanders down through an orchard and then through some over-grown shrubbery to the river bank. This makes fishing very comfortable, a cast or two for a few hours then back up to the house for diner, a glass of wine (or two) and then returning to the river, grabbing a few plums along the way and back to our quarry, barbel.
Rods were held high using very long bank sticks, bites are so severe that the bend in the rod or a ‘churner’ from the reel is enough to tell you a fish is hooked, at night Starlites were attached to the rod tip. No bite alarms, simple.
Traditionalist look away now! The terminal end consists of PVA bags, hair rigs, pellets, boillies, braided hook links and chemically edged wide gape hooks when presenting a bait. The general technique on the Wye was to use two small 8mm pellets, hair rigged with a PVA mesh bag attached containing 4mm pellets, this was cast out on most occasions.
Traditionalist, you can look back now!
Rod and reel consisted of an Allcocks Carp Superb and a Mitchel 410. Cane rods fit well in a natural environment and performs just how I need them to, soft on the strike but as the cane loads with pressure it comes to a stop and then becomes a powerful tool to land bigger fish, this is certainly true on the Wye and the barbel.
Fishing for three days undisturbed, allows you to approach the whole experience in a different light, as you have time on your side.
Firstly, building up a swim can be done methodically adding ground bait in certain areas, resting them for half a day. The theory is that smaller fish arrive instantly and hoover up the smaller ‘cloud’ of ground bait, the activlty from the smaller fish attract the larger fish which move in and start feeding on the bigger offerings in the ground bait mix. At this point after allowing the swim to ‘rest’ another bombardment of ground bait is delivered along with a hook bait. This baiting technique leaves the barbel competing for food and then it’s just a case of waiting…
Also, a three day session can allow you to really get to know the river as the day progresses, observing patterns with the fauna, a peregrine hovers at dusk over the opposite bank for small mammals or possibly a chance sighting of a fish. Salmon were leaping at night although at times it was hard to distinguish between salmon or a carp, either way the splashes created were immense. On one occasion we saw a salmon leap in the late afternoon, it’s silver and pink flanks defining it’s status.Understanding the feeding patterns of the barbel was our priority and it seemed on this trip the evenings were most productive. At night we had some success with the barbel but generally it did tail off and the chub moved in. Fishing during the day was slower but still resulted in a few barbel including one I had on the last morning, I had a hunch to get up and have a final go and literally on the last cast caught a lovely seven pound specimen, a nice ending to the trip.
Three days resulted in some great fish all in pristine condition and all hard fighting, no rods were lost although it was close on a few occasions. The Wye is a great river to fish, in summer it generally glides past but as the autumn rains start it can quickly become quite a brown torrent of fast flowing water, my return to the Wye will hopefully be in October when the river becomes a little more angry…
This morning the postman came a knocking and delivered me the following…
The Tokoz centrepin reel could be considered to be one of the most badly made centrepin’s of all time but this reel (along with twenty others) has recently been re-discovered in a box in a tackle shop in Cambridgeshire, sourced from my good friends at http://www.thepathbythewater.net/
Why did I buy one? Well firstly it cost £1.50 + the same again for postage and secondly, any thirty year old reel still wrapped in it’s grease proof paper wrapping has to be freed from it’s darkened box for all to see.
In the spirit of the tuesday swim, the Tokoz centrepin gets it’s first airing in thirty years, a monumental day?