He is also a very keen angler, having come back to the sport five years ago following a break of several years. In this regular column he will tell us about his progress as an angler – his thoughts about the sport, what he learns, the fishing trips he makes, the anguish, the humour, in fact everything he experiences as his angling career develops.
Pilgrim’s Progress will now be a weekly feature. Read it every Thursday!
‘Things that go bump in the night’
I guess we all have our own favourite time of the day (or night) to fish. Without a doubt, mine is the witching hour. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about fishing after dark that really attracts me. As I look back over my fishing records, I notice that the hours of darkness have produced most of my personal best fish. Mind you, having said that, it is true that most of my fishing is done between the three hours before sunset and the three hours after sunrise.
I must confess though that in the early days of night fishing, it was a little hard. Even though I’m 6ft 2in and 16 1/2 stone (and 38 years of age!), I did get a bit spooked at times.
It’s amazing how my mind went back to all those Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing black and white movies I saw as a kid, hiding behind the sofa. I don’t know whether it was my fertile imagination, but I was certainly kept on my toes. I did have garlic sandwiches though in my rucksack, and as for a cross and holy water – say no more!
In my defence, I must add that most of the places I fish are a little off the beaten track. They can be a little lonely at night, and I’m sure that most of us have been spooked from time to time. I’m just brave enough to admit it! But they say the best way to fight your phobia (although it wasn’t quite that bad) is to hit it head on. And that’s what happened. Without there being a defining moment, one day I realised that I actually enjoyed being out in the dark. Now I’m a regular night-owler.
To many anglers, night fishing is pitching your bivvy in summer and spending a night or two (or more) beside a lake. Now, that is one facet of night fishing, but there is a lot more to it than that. I certainly enjoy erecting my bivvy, setting up the rods on the pod and waiting with great anticipation for the beep..beeep..beeeeep of the buzzer. I do a number of sessions like that in the year, mainly in summer.
The great advantage of that type of night fishing approach is that one gets to cover the most prolific fish-feeding periods – dawn, dusk, and of course, the time in between. And certainly at the height of summer, this can be extremely productive. I think for most anglers there is at least an awareness that night fishing offers good sport. The peace and quiet of the banks means that fish will come close in. Indeed the margins can be the best place to fish at night, as the fish enjoy their ‘eat as much as you like’ buffet, courtesy of the departing day anglers throwing in their left-over bait. And, of course, the onset of low light conditions leading to darkness induces confidence in fish. Some places, such as canals and busy navigable rivers, are really only fishable during the hours of darkness when the boat traffic stops.
But I’ve ‘discovered’ another exciting aspect to night fishing – winter darkness angling. I use inverted commas around the word ‘discovered’, because it’s not really an invention of mine, discerning anglers have been doing it long before I even took up the sport. First coming across the concept of winter darkness fishing, my natural mind told me that it didn’t make sense. Surely the best time to fish in winter is during the middle of the day when the temperature is maybe 10 degrees, not when it drops to two and the resulting frost that comes with it, which is true for many species. But for me, winter darkness fishing has come to mean one thing – Mr Chub!
Call me crazy, but even during the summer I look forward to the onset of winter so that I can begin the cold weather chub campaign. My favourite waters are the small rivers, almost streams really, where you can literally jump across to the far bank in places. There are rivers like this that criss-cross the country, but often due to their size, they are ignored by many anglers. But what they lack in size, they more than make up for in quality. In fact, many of these rivers only truly come into their own during the hours of darkness.
My favourite winter chub tactic is to arrive at the water two to three hours before dark. The first thing I do is mix up the groundbait. Then, after choosing three or four swims, put the groundbait in, all in one go. I will then get the rod set up, have a drink of tea and proceed to fish swim number one. Because the rivers are so small, it’s often a case of catching one decent fish and then moving on to swim number two. During the course of an evening session, I may criss-cross the swims a number of times, which of course, has the added attraction of helping one to keep warm.
Most of my fishing is legering and at night I add an isotope to the rod tip by way of an isotope holder. I also have a headlamp, which is essential for baiting up and rig work. But apart from the fiddly jobs, it’s amazing how well your eyes adjust to darkness and most tasks are manageable without any extra light. I do have a candle lamp, which is quite useful when static, but for roving, the headlamp is fine.
This coming winter I am going to ‘field test’ a paste that I’ve designed. I’ve had a dabble during the summer just gone, and the initial results are encouraging. The paste is fishmeal based and blue cheese flavoured. I’ll also use a dip for the hook bait itself. When the groundbait is initially put into the river, a few hook-size morsels are added. After fishing each swim, and before moving to the next, a number of freebies can be thrown in, for when one returns later that session.
The only down side of night fishing as far as I’m concerned, is that when I do a short session into dark, the price to be paid is the gear that gets left behind. If you want to increase your fishing tackle collection, at no cost to yourself, find out where I’ve been fishing the night before and turn up the next day!
Things that go bump in the night? That’s just me knocking my tackle over. I’m clumsy enough in the day, so when it comes to darkness I really come into my own !!