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Clint Walker - Pike fishing with Deeper Sonar
I went pike fishing again this week, and blanked. I missed a run within the first half an hour, but otherwise, my indicators stubbornly refused to move all day. All was not lost though, as I met two anglers, one of whom was also fishless in his pursuit of predators, and his son, an exceptionally polite and well mannered fourteen year old. After a quick chat with dad, I spent a few minutes with the younger angler, and watched as he flicked a lure up the side of some pontoons in search of perch. We discussed the merits of dropshot and jig fishing, and I was pleased to see him pick off a solitary perch, indicating that it may be an area worth further investigation, so with that in mind, I said my farewells, and resolved to return later in the week… I have only ever fished with bait at this venue but wanted to find out if perch were worth targeting on lures. Determined to kill two birds with one stone, a few days later I was back at the water with the brand new Deeper Sonar™ Christmas package to do some product photography for one of my sponsors, and put the kit to the test. I’ve been using Deeper for a while now, and the new Deeper Pro+ is a real upgrade on the previous incarnation, with connection issues resolved, more features, and a greater casting range achievable. I tend to use it solely to confirm or locate underwater features, rarely utilising the fish finder option, but I wanted to try both for the required images. Whilst deadbaiting the water for pike, I’ve suspected an area of weed amongst a relatively clear lake bed, and this was an ideal opportunity to prove that fish were indeed holed up in cover. The Deeper is so easy to use; simply install the app, drop the sonar into the water (water activated battery) and wait for it to connect. At this point, I should point out that turning off mobile data gives far better connectivity, and within a few seconds, an image will appear on your phone or tablet which clearly depicts the environment below. Once stabilised, the picture will scroll across the screen, so you can pick out features, fish, temperature, depth, and plenty of other variables; it certainly makes mapping a water a far less laborious evolution than constantly casting a marker float. You can also store the information in the form of a GPS accurate map, add your own notes, and even add a photograph of the exact spot where you stand! Brilliant! Camera tripod locked in place, remote control in hand, I set about getting the requisite amount of shots for social media and marketing, including screen shots of actual use, and after an hour of repositioning, deleting, retaking, and viewing of images, was happy I’d got enough to work with; it was time to map some spots. My Deeper is attached to 50lb braid and it was quickly hurled out as far as I could cast it. I’d be lying if I said I could it to the maximum stated range of one hundred metres, (although I have used it to map river swims as it trots downstream) but then I don’t tend to fish deadbaits at that range either, so knew I’d have my spots covered. I waited for the picture to clear, and slowly wound in, pausing every few seconds to let the Deeper hover over areas of interest. I picked out a known snag with ease (pesky thing) and marked it on the GPS, then continued to retrieve over the potential weed patch. It was vegetation, but I was surprised just how far off the lake bed it rose. What I thought was perhaps a thin sheen of silkweed turned out to be substantial growth and a good depth of silt beneath. My baits had perhaps been landing in the silt which spread some distance from the focus of the weed, but at least I could confirm that the obstruction was there; noted for future sessions! I did have the fish finder turned on too and wasn’t surprised to find a good number of fish within cover. Vast areas of the reservoir were completely devoid of fish, a change in the weather had certainly stirred them up and at the base of the shelf, where I’ve caught a good number of pike, there were none! The majority were either in the weed or patrolling in mid-water near a shoal of bait fish, identified as a scatter pattern which was studded with ‘proper’ fish reflections. I spent another hour mapping the whole bank, finding depths to almost thirty feet, the remains of an old dam, another snag, and more fish, before packing away and having a quick fling with the dropshot rod under the floating pontoons. It proved to be slow going, with only a handful of perch caught, but the chill wind put paid to any further fishing, it was just too cold! I moved off to a tiny local river, determined to bank something worthy of a photograph. I’d changed the dropshot set up for a 3g jighead, loaded it with a pink Spro lure, and slid into the cramped swim beneath the trees. I’d seen a fish rise whilst approaching, so was confident of a hit on the lure. The river contains chub, trout, pike and perch, so it’s a real ‘lucky dip’ which is part of the reason I enjoy it so much. I prepared my first cast, carefully checking that my braid wasn’t looped around the end of the rod, my bale arm was open, that the backcast was clear of obstructions, and that the spot I wanted to cast to was accessible. All clear, I fired the lure out and it went straight into a tree which had a single branch hanging down! With 6lb braid and 5lb fluorocarbon, snatching it back in isn’t an option, so by the time I’d gently pulled the branch towards me, I’d made far too much noise to have any chance of a fish from the tiny swim, so scrabbled back up the bank to try the next glide. A classic small river swim, with fast water running into a widening, deep pool, it’s one of two spots here that are ‘guaranteed’. I know every nook and cranny and can tell you at any time of the year where fish are to be found, I’m that confident! The pink shad was twitched across the bottom, repeated several times, but without success. A change to a similar pattern lure in a different colour bought an instant bite, a handsome perch of around half a pound the culprit, and this continued with a number of fish banked. As I watched the rod tip, I noted a splash against the far bank, just a few yards distant, and watched a long dark shape slip by beneath the water. The clear water gave me a good view of the intruder, and I quickly realised that it was a mink, which I watched surface and swim to its home within the roots of a tree. We watched each other for a while, the mink’s pale snout clearly visible in the dark confines beneath the tree, and I have to admit that I was enthralled to see an apex predator up close. I know they are killers, but what an impressive animal, and a real treat to witness! I didn’t want to risk conflict, hooking a fish to be snatched and fought over, so moved upstream to a steady, shallow glide. I could see the river bed clearly, patched with coloured autumn leaves and flicked the lure under the roots of a tree on the near side. I watched it skip across the debris, and then it disappeared. I couldn’t spot it, and then all went solid; snagged! A small amount of pressure was applied to free the hook and suddenly a huge bow wave erupted as a pike leapt clear of the water in a shower of spray! I hadn’t seen it, perfectly camouflaged as it shot out and whacked the lure, and although it was only a jack of about 4lb, it gave a superb account on ultralight tackle as it sped around the confines of the river, desperately trying to dislodge the hook. Safely netted, it was quickly returned sulkily to the river, and that ended my session. An hour on the river had resulted in a number of handsome perch, a close up encounter with a mink, and a finely conditioned pike to finish; it doesn’t get better than that does it? The new Deeper Sonar Christmas package is available from 1st November (rrp £209), and contains the Deeper sonar, spare night fishing cover, smartphone mount, neoprene carry pouch, charging lead, and a bonus Gerber™ multi-tool with twelve handy functions! Check it out!
a month ago
Clint Walker - Single Hook Pike Rigs
After targeting carp last week, I’ve done much the same this week, taking a total of ten double figure fish whilst fishing the ‘tip. Why? In truth, I spent plenty of time during the session taking photographs for clients prior to scheduling on social media, and to accompany other forthcoming copy. As a full time angler and writer, I often have to plan weeks (if not months) in advance, and having a library of relevant images is of vital importance. I fished in company with a mate and was pleased to have a proper ‘subject’ for the required images, rather than the usual ‘selfies’! We storyboarded and took a huge number of images, so the trip was an opportunity to get some ‘in the bag’ for when times are hard and I need a specific image! Having the opportunity to get the images was a great help (thanks Andy!) but I couldn’t help but keep an eye on the weather, looking forwards to a predator session just two days later… I think that pike angling has, over the last few years, definitely become my favourite facet of angling, and at this time of year, it’s just an absolute joy to be on the banks. I wanted to continue my exploration of my single hook theory, so was keen to hit the banks at my favourite Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society club water with a cool bag full of deadbaits, and a head full of ideas! I arrived bright and early, and it turned out to be one of those mornings that leaves you simply stunned… I’ve been trying the single hook rig for a number of reasons, the main one being to offer a way for relatively new pike anglers to safely handle and unhook these fine fish without the anxiety of dealing with a pair of trebles. I know that many anglers would like to catch pike, and although information is readily available, it still boils down the fact that some anglers are terrified of being unable to remove deeply embedded trebles, and as a result, sensibly, have never fished for pike. I want to try and remove that fear from the equation, by proving that a single hook can work, that it has the potential to cause less damage, and is much easier to remove. So far, my findings have been encouraging… My first trial run with Kato circle hooks, purchased in Australia on a whim saw me miss my first run through my own fault, but then hit both subsequent takes, bringing a brace of double figure pike to the bank. Both fish were firmly hooked in the scissors, and because the barb had been crushed with long nosed pliers, both were safely unhooked within seconds; a good start. I wondered whether crushing the barb was enough though, whether things could be made even safer and resolved to try a different, barbless hook pattern. I used the same 35lb PikePro wire, twizzled the trace exactly the same way, and used an identical lead arrangement. The hooks to be used however, were not circle hooks, and this had a huge effect! My first four runs with the new hooks all ended in disappointment, with not a single contact felt with any of the protagonists, and each time, the bait was lost. Not only was I missing bites, I was getting through bait at an alarming rate! I don’t expect to re-use baits, but I don’t want to lose them every cast either! I wondered whether the missed takes resulted from smaller fish picking up baits and dropping them, but my deadbaits were only small roach, so considered this unlikely. Reverting back to the circle pattern immediately saw a double figure fish banked which went some way to proving it was the hook, not the bait size at fault. More food for thought, so another session beckoned… The club venue is padlocked, with entry forbidden before 7am, so just after, I unlocked the gates, and drove up to the car park to unload. All was quiet, despite a breeze being forecast, and as I sorted my gear, I looked across the reservoir to see the breaking dawn mirrored in the still dark waters. Every second brought new colours to the tableau before me, and as the sky lightened, a hazy mist was unveiled on the fields and woodlands surrounding the lake. The fog rolled slowly down onto the water until the sky and water became one; it was hauntingly beautiful, and a sight I’m struggling to describe with mere words… I couldn’t concentrate on setting up as the minutes passed and the scene became even more alluring; rarely have I seen such a stunning morning unfold. As the sun rose, the mist became backlit, and everything was coated in a golden glow. I took some simply superb images, none of which required any filters or editing, and they are already in the printers to go up on the wall! Such beauty instantly put me in a wonderfully good mood, and I couldn’t wait to get started again! Within a few minutes, both rods were tackled up, baits mounted on the circle hooks, and deposited into around fourteen feet of still, dark water. My bobbins were set, alarms switched on, and I sat back to absorb the surroundings. I noted a flock of lapwings wheeling together over the far bank, and high above, a buzzard being harassed by crows which sought to protect their nest. Behind me, a Jay paraded on the high wall, cackling, and I watched rabbits disturb the mist as they warmed up in the weak sunlight. It was one of those perfect mornings, and everywhere I looked, I saw something to delight me… Bleep. A single note grabbed my attention and I watched the white head of the indicator twitch upwards as the rod tip shook. I removed the line from the clip, and as it continued to disappear, wound down and lifted the rod, hoping to connect. I’ve found that a ‘strike’ isn’t required with circle hooks, instead I prefer to just tighten up until I feel the fish, but on this occasion, I felt nothing; the bait came back unmarked too, so I was unsure whether the bait had been picked up, or if the pike had just brushed the line. The roach was recast to the same spot, and as I replaced it in the clip, it pinged out of my fingers as the bait was taken again. Once more, I wound down, and failed to engage with the bait stealer. Retrieving the bait, I inspected it for damage, and again could find none; now I was scratching my head! There was obviously a fish down in the depths, but why wasn’t the hook turning into its jaws, and why wasn’t the bait damaged? I discarded the roach, and threaded the hook into the tail of a new one, ensuring that the hook point was free of any scales, and was still sharp. It went back out into the same area, I felt it hit the lake bed, tightened up, and returned to my enjoyment of the morning. As I poured a mug of tea, another bleep preceded the red light of the alarm, and this time the indicator fell away as the fish moved off. Closing the bale arm, I let the fish run against the tension, then wound down to set the hook; fish on! I could feel instantly that it wasn’t a monster fish, but the pike gave a good account of itself before it slid into the net, the circle hook easily visible in the top jaw. The crushed barb had gone through, so rather than try to reverse the hook hold, it was simply exposed, then snipped off with sidecutters so that the hook fell out. Unhooked without getting my fingers anywhere near those teeth or gill rakers, and without causing any harm to the fish; easy! I missed the next couple of takes, then hit two more, leaving me with four missed, three hit which might not be seen by some as a good return. Personally, I’m not too disappointed. Since using circle hooks, in four sessions I’ve had six double figure fish from eleven runs with all of them safely and easily unhooked without damage, and in two of those instances, I’ve missed them through my own fault, so it could be scored as six from nine which is a better tally. The other hook pattern has so far failed miserably, missing four from four, but I’m considering using a hair rigged bait to see if completely barbless hooks offer even greater ease. I’ve suffered no net traumas either, no flying trebles catching in the mesh, and certainly no deep hooked fish nor awkwardly snared pike with a treble in each jaw. The circle HAVE made things much simpler, and in future, it will be only single hook rigs for me from now on. So, there you have it. My investigations thus far lead me to believe circle hooks are effective, are far easier to remove, and have less potential to cause harm to either me or the predators. If you have never tried pike angling because of a healthy disdain for trebles, then why not check out the Pike Anglers Club handling guidelines, find an experienced angler with whom to go, and try my single hook rig? You may be pleasantly surprised!
2 months ago
Clint Walker - Looking for dace on the River Trent
On my way back from a session elsewhere, I recently checked out a free stretch of the River Trent, hoping to be able to find some areas in which to cast a line, and absorb a little bit of information from any anglers who were there. The stretch in question isn’t that long, and my investigations revealed only a couple of fishable pegs, but it looked nice, so I decided to have a crack at it later in the week…after all, it looked absolutely perfect for dace on the stick float! A few days later, I returned, and was delighted to find that the peg I really fancied was vacant… in fact there were no other anglers to be seen anywhere, so I spent a good few minutes watching the water, spotting the flash of dace over the gravel, and the dark shadows of chub in the deeper water beneath an overhanging willow. I was itching to get started, having heard tales of gudgeon to 1lb 2oz (I know) and roach to 3lb 15oz (!) in addition to big chevins and other monsters! The reality I surmised would be somewhat different, but as I love small river fishing, I quickly got the float rod out and started to tackle up. As I threaded the line through the guides of my rod, I glanced down at my bag to see an empty space. It took me only a few seconds to realise that my session was about to change drastically; I’d forgotten my floats! Ahhhh! I really didn’t fancy fishing the ‘tip for lightening fast dace, but with no other option, I dragged out the leger rod, set up with a 2oz insert to counter the flow, and put out a bit of groundbait upstream to stir things up. A size 16 hook held a couple of maggots, and with the addition of a small bomb, it was gently lobbed out and left to settle. The tip curved around as the flow created resistance, then it pinged back as the lead moved… and moved again… and again. I’d obviously misjudged the current under the willow, so swapped to a gripper lead to give more surface area and greater friction. The rig went back out, and settled nicely… I always struggle to hit dace on the ‘tip, they are just so fast, finicky, and fleet, so it was a case of waiting for a definite pull before striking. I was so off the pace though and missed so many bites, that if I’d been in a gunfight at the OK corral, I’d have had six holes in me before I’d shot myself in the foot through my holster! Eventually, I got into the swing of it, and managed to hit perhaps two thirds of the dace, with a steady stream of nicely conditioned fish soon on the bank. I’d dropped down to a single maggot on a size 18 hook to get better indication, and for the next couple of hours, caught nothing but dace from the swim amassing a reasonable total of shimmering silvers. I continued to bait the swim every few minutes with a nugget of groundbait, and a pinch of maggots, and whilst expecting yet another dace, was surprised by the ferocity of a take which almost had the rod off the rest! Connecting with something much heavier, the rod hooped over as I tried to steer the fish away from a mid-stream snag. I didn’t get chance, the light hooklink parted within a few seconds, but not before I’d seen the golden flanks of a nice chub as it belted away from me, sadly for good! Although I hadn’t hooked any of the big gudgeon (!) a chub was a welcome distraction, and I have to admit I was less than pleased with the lost fish… With chub in the swim, I stepped up the tackle and put on a heavier link, and a bigger size 14 hook. The tail of a worm was added, and it was cast back out into the darkness beneath the tree. I had to wait almost fifteen minutes for the next bite, another lurching wrap around take, and was pleased with a perch in absolutely pristine condition. A few more followed, although sadly no chub which appeared to have been spooked downstream by my loss, and as I contemplated packing up, a flicker of the tip caught my eye, and I watched as it gently trembled… I lifted the rod and winched in a slender sliver of purple and gold… a gudgeon! Not the monster fish I’d had described to me by a fellow piscator (1lb 2oz indeed!) but nonetheless a joy to behold as it’s delicate cloak of colours glistened in the late afternoon sunlight. After a disastrous pollution incident in recent years, the humble gudgeon was a wonderful indicator of a river on the up, of clean water and good times to come. I had a very pleasant day by the riverside, and I’ll certainly visit again, but I’ll try to remember my floats next time… it’s easier to catch dace that way!
2 months ago
Clint Walker - Looking for zander
Something different for me this week, and it’s in pursuit of something I’ve thought about getting around to for a while… I love my lure fishing, it’s quick, easy and fun, but despite catching chub, trout, pike and perch with some regularity, the zander has so far eluded me this year, so I was determined to find some! I set out fairly early, keen to miss the morning rush hour to head for a spot which needed a drive of at least an hour. I won’t divulge where, as I know that the zander is still misunderstood by some anglers, blamed (unfairly in my opinion) for a lack of silver fish in venues across the UK, and harvested by the Canal and River Trust for profit. Frankly, I, and many other anglers I know, are constantly appalled by the indiscriminate culling and removal of these fine fish from waterways by the so-called custodians of our sport, and I was even more astonished to find that if they cannot be rehomed, then they are sold for food to top restaurants; not much incentive to look very hard for a new home then is it? Not if there is money involved? What upsets me even more is the fact that these same authoritive bodies make little effort to rid our waters of a true parasite, the Signal Red Crayfish, (amongst others) and refuse to allow others to make inroads on their behalf to dispose of or make use of these voracious predators, but will willingly destroy a true asset to the angling scene…shocking! Anyway, I digress… I arrived at the waterside, had a quick cup of tea in the back of the van whilst I got my thoughts together, then broke out the tackle. I wasn’t sure if pike were present (I suspected they were) so a wire trace was joined to my braided mainline, and a mid-sized lure added. I intended to ‘sanitise’ the area for pike first, then switch to a fluorocarbon trace whilst fishing for zander. An hour of wandering the banks bought nothing from pike, so I returned to my starting point, and tackled up in the hope of a zander. My Sonik Magna rod, twinned with matching reel loaded with 8lb braid, was quickly pieced together, and I tied up a fluorocarbon trace, terminating in a 3g jig head. My contact, who had kindly given me details of the venue (it pays to keep things quiet sometimes, a bit of integrity can unlock some fine spots indeed!) had also advised that the margins were a likely spot to tempt a first zander of the year, so with a small rubber shad affixed, I began to explore the area in front of me. I’d seen some decent perch caught from the swims too, so twitched the lure around in the hope of either species. I’d chosen a white lure to start, hoping that it would show up well in coloured water, especially as I know the zander hunts predominantly by eyesight, but despite an hour of dropping the tempter into likely spots, hadn’t had so much as a follow by anything remotely fishy! Time to change. My next lure was a Fox Microfry; I love the thumping paddletail, and if the fish couldn’t see the bait, perhaps they would be able to feel it as it moved through the water? Another fruitless hour followed, I suspected that I’d missed perhaps a single tentative bite but had nothing solid to connect with… this was proving to be harder than I thought! One of the joys of lure fishing is the ability to travel light and cover a fair bit of distance. After two hours of casting though, I’d got a bit of back ache (arthritis), so retired once more to the van for more tea and to reconsider my options. I’ve done well for perch using the Ecogear Paramax lure in the past, particularly the 3” pink option, so decided to see if the swimming action would prove enough to provoke a reaction as I went back over the same areas. I locked up the van, and went back to work… The 3g jig head was easily heavy enough to reach about 35 yards, so I made a start in covering the water with a series of casts in a fan shape to try and hunt over as much as possible. Changes in retrieve rates, a change of depth, and even allowing the lure to rest on the bottom bought little more than an odd ‘nip’ so I began to cast along the bank, hoping that fish would be laying close in. Wham! Working the lure close in certainly gave a result when a fish slammed into it within a few feet of the bank, and after gently guiding it to the net, I was delighted to find a zander of a couple of pounds safely nestled within! Excellent! I took a few seconds to admire this beautiful creature, the large eye staring balefully back at me, greens and greys shimmering in the sun; how can you not appreciate the zander? It’s a stunning fish, and worthy quarry indeed. After a quick photograph, I moved to a different area and began the pattern again. Thump! A startling strike made me think I’d finally run into a pike, but no, it proved to be a smaller zander which went mad when it felt the hook…great sport. As I returned this fish however, I was shouted at by a gentleman who ponderously jogged towards me. “Zander mate?” I replied it was, and in fine condition too. “Can I have it? I eat every one I catch”. It took me a second or two to register what I was hearing. I had to ask him to repeat his remarks. “I eat them, I fish off my canal boat, and take them when I catch them”. The fish instantly splashed back into the water… He appeared incredulous. “What are you doing?!” I stood up and told him that I would never kill a zander (or any other fish for that matter) and he had no chance of getting one for the table off me. He then launched into a tirade about them being an invasive species (not true if considered established, which they are here) and I was wrong to return it, before describing me in less than complimentary terms. Hearing this from an Englishman of mature years, indeed a pensioner, I was sometime taken aback, so returned some compliments with equal friendliness as I attempted to advise him of his folly. He wouldn’t have it though and stormed off up the bank muttering further sweet nothings as I returned to my fishing. The attitude of some ‘anglers’ towards conservation, protection and indeed the fish they seek to catch astounds me sometimes… Not too disheartened by the encounter, I decided to have a final fling around before the long drive home. Again, the pink Paramax splashed into the margins, and once again a resounding whack saw me engaged in another fish. This one took a little longer to subdue, but eventually, a fine fish of around 4lbs was floundering on the surface ready for the net. Unhooked, it was gently paraded for the camera, admired, then rested until strong enough to slink back into the depths. I’d had three bites, and banked a trio of smashing zander, and aside from a briefly bruising brush with an idiot, I was happy with my tally. I believe that the zander offers real hope to waterways neglected by the authorities, encouraging lure anglers to join clubs in the hope of capturing these handsome fish. Indeed, I joined a club with the promise of such fish, only to find that within a month or two, the waterways had been electro-fished, and the zander removed. They were not rehomed, just left to suffocate in a bucket… do you remember when we used to do that with pike? Because they ate all the roach? Before we realised what an asset they were to keeping a healthy, clean, disease free fishery? Hopefully, attitudes will change, and the zander will be better thought of in years to come… after all they are here to stay!
2 months ago
Clint Walker - Change of plans and somewhere new
I was going sea fishing this week… We had a trip booked, I’d bought new tackle, ordered the appropriate bait, and was all set for an early start to travel to Fleetwood in Lancashire to board the boat with some friends, and enjoy a day at sea; lovely. Then it was cancelled. The day before. I know a sea fishing trip is always at the mercy of the weather, but I was especially disappointed to miss out on this one, so disappointed in fact, I went fishing to get over it! In truth, the bad news arrived just as I pulled up at the lake in search of a few carp. I’d just got out of the van when the phone pinged, so was in a foul mood as I barrowed my stuff across to the waterside. In the holdall, I’d got a couple of rods which needed to be photographed, so silently set them up, mixed some groundbait, attached a method feeder and positioned the bait. Still feeling fed up, I set the camera on its tripod, then watched as the bobbin flew up, the alarm squealed, and the first carp of the day was hooked. Good. I could get some ‘rod bending’ shots, then pack up and go home to sulk… A double figure mirror hit the mat, which was quickly followed by a similarly sized common, then another mirror. I decided to stay until I’d used up my bowl of bait, so continued to drop the method feeder in, and pick off fish after fish. With the exception of a couple of bream, I landed nothing but double figure carp. It may be a little presumptuous to say so, but my life… it was boring fishing! I definitely felt as though I had returned to my recent rut, so the following day, I decided to try a completely new club lake. Black Lake is a small secluded pool set amongst farmland. Its quiet, tree lined, and looks ‘right’. I had little idea what may reside within, however I had noted a few bream pictured on social media, so set up a cage feeder, slipped on a pre-tied hooklink with a size 16 hook, and added a couple of maggots. My groundbait was Spotted Fin Carp Super Blend, a general purpose mix which is easy to get right, and to which I added a handful of Catalyst pellets (bream love pellets!) and a small amount of hemp to cover all bases. A few quick casts got some bait in, and I dropped a baited rig on the spot to see what would find it and sat back to enjoy a brew. After an hour, a barely perceptible quiver of my sensitive carbon tip alerted me to my first bite, which proved to be a roach of an ounce or so, not big, but at least it was progress. The weather soon turned from bright and sunny to much colder with a brisk wind rippling the lake, and after overnight rain, I wondered if I was going to catch much else. A second bite saw a perch of matching proportions to the roach, so that was two fish for two ounces… match winner! I kept plugging away, casting every ten minutes to keep the bait going in, and eventually I got a much better bite; the slow pull of a bream, and a fish of around two pounds came to the net. The next cast bought the same result, as did the next half a dozen, as bream after bream tripped up over the hook bait. It was soon time for another brew, and as I reached down to top up my mug, out of the corner of my eye, I noted the ‘tip fly around and the rod was wrenched off the rest! Kicking my tea everywhere, I grabbed the rod, and felt a much better fish. My light 3lb hook link was going to be well stretched during this fight, but luckily, my clutch was set to slip early…just in case! I gently played the carp to the net, and was delighted to find a beautifully dark, plump fish of around six pounds on the mat which had fought far harder than its modest weight might suggest! I sat for about four hours, slowly getting colder as the autumn weather blew wind and rain at me, before a phone call suggested a visit to McDonalds with my grandsons; an infinitely more attractive proposition… I loaded the van, happy with a few nice fish from an unknown water, especially after witnessing another angler turn up, fish for less than an hour without a bite and pack up again, so I gathered I must have been doing something right. I’ll return again I think, as I’ve also heard rumours of pike, but for now, I’m looking forward to a trip abroad again, though without a fishing rod unfortunately, but I need something to cheer me after a cancelled sea fishing trip! I’ll be back soon, so tight lines until then…
3 months ago
Clint Walker - New Anglers
One of the biggest complaints I hear in the angling trade, is that there are not enough new anglers coming into our pastime to sustain sales and keep them buoyant. Why is that? It’s a huge question with some complex answers, but one of the most prominent solutions must surely be down to lack of interested numbers? When I started fishing, over thirty years ago, I pestered my father to take me for a few hours after work. He hated it, I had no other relatives who would help, so eventually my cousin Stephen and I, being of similar age, started to go together. In fairness, I could see that my dad didn’t want to take me to the local water, a cement works where he was actually employed, but I was determined to go fishing… do kids today do the same? Can they be bothered when so much entertainment is available in their hand, flickering monotonously away as Mario and Sonic run riot? Social demographics have changed over the last few years, resulting in many more single parent or ‘step’ families, with busier lifestyles leading to less spare time, and the advent of technology has changed personal interests beyond comprehension. When I started out, the internet didn’t exist, mobile phones cost the earth (and were about the same size) and video games involved two blocks chasing each other around a black and white screen which claimed to be ‘real tennis’. Now, many youngsters spend more time looking at social media, playing games with likeminded opponents on the other side of the world, instead of going outside, or engaging in open air pursuits. What can we do to change it? I’m a member of several different angling clubs, and I’m aware that around the UK, many clubs have tried to encourage new blood in a variety of ways, so I was keen to see just how Fenton and District Angling Club set their stall out to capture new members. A weekend extravaganza was planned, supported by local angling related groups and retailers including the excellent team at Trentside Tackle. Huge marquees were erected, a barbeque offered, and free fishing was available to all who hadn’t tried their hand before. It couldn’t fail surely? The Committee had obviously planned well, worked hard, and helpful staff and anglers were in place to assist all who attended. Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and visitors made their way to the pools to see what the whole ‘fishing’ thing was about. Throughout the day, cut price introductory memberships were sold, resulting in more than eighty new club members, kids had a go at catching fish under an experienced eye, burgers were demolished, and much fun was had by all. On Sunday, a grey sky and intermittent rain dampened things slightly, but certainly not the enthusiasm of the club team, and despite visitor numbers being less, another day of success followed. I spent a couple of hours talking to potential members, or those who had just purchased a club card for the first time and was pleased to pass on the limited knowledge I have of club waters. It didn’t cost me anything, but I could see by their reactions, that some were keen to target the pike, or carp, or bream I’d described, which I enjoyed immensely. I also stopped by to help a couple of youngsters, pointing out a few basic errors which were easily rectified, and after spotting that one lad had forgotten a landing net, I went and spent a fiver at the second hand tackle stall to set him up; that fiver may just be enough to have him hooked for life, and I consider it money well spent… and it went into club coffers, so a real ‘win, win’ result! A weekend of commitment, and the club numbers had been swelled by several dozen ‘newbies’. It’s a great result for the club, bringing in new members and therefore new money, but it will also help the local retailers who will be called upon to supply the new recruits with tackle. Not only that, but the efforts of committee members have given many people a brand new lifelong hobby, something to enjoy, and hopefully pass onto other family members which is important; not only has it generated income, it’s also produced simple, easy, happiness… and in this day and age, where technology is king, that is something to cherish…
3 months ago
Clint Walker - The Joy of Fishing
Sometimes, I think that I lose sight of what angling is all about… a few hours of relaxation, outdoors in pleasant surroundings, with a few fish for company. Instead, I end up taking everything (including the kitchen sink) loading the barrow until my back can’t take any more, and trudging off across the fields to set up photography shots for social media clients, sponsors or whatever, so this week, I went back to my childhood in an attempt to find some joy again, to try and remind myself exactly why I go fishing… I picked up a small two wheel trolley recently, after spotting it going cheap (free in fact) and was determined to thin out my tackle to fit. A bucket doubled up as a seat, I took a zip up unhooking mat with scales, tripod and landing net within, and a small rucksack, which were all bungy-corded to the frame, and I carried my rod bag over my shoulder to travel as light as I could and still get the required images for later in the week. With everything secure, I locked the van, crossed the busy road, and walked off across the meadow to the local canal. I usually take a lure rod and bag of lure kit when I hit the cut, but for the first time in many a year, I wanted to fish it properly, with maggots and everything! The trolley made navigating the meadow easy, and within a few minutes, I’d arrived at my destination, a boat turning area, to find I was the only angler in sight; perfect. Quickly spying a grassed area off the towpath, and therefore out of the way of speedy lycra-clad fitness freaks on wheels and nosey dogs, I parked the trolley, and removed my 11’ float rod, which was quickly twinned with a 3000 series reel, both from the Sonik stable. Whilst preparing, I threw in a handful of maggots and a small nugget of groundbait, before selecting a canal dart float, and tackling up, attaching a size 16 hook to nylon. A plummet was slipped over the hook and lowered into the track to see just how deep it was. I found about 3’ of water, shallowing off quickly little more than a couple of rod lengths from the bank, and a pronounced hole where boatowners obviously gunned their engine to swing the boats around before retracing their steps. The extra power had stirred a clearly defined depression, so I was keen to target a definite feature as canals can often be devoid of anything to attract fish in certain areas! I plumbed up an inch or so over depth and added a number 8 shot to drag the bottom and keep the float still; otherwise, it was dotted down to show less than an inch of bright red tip. A pair of maggots were nicked onto the hook, and the rig was swung out, line sunk, and I sat on my bucket like a chubby garden gnome to see what was within the swim. I had less than a minute to wait, the float lurching as a fish picked up the bait before sliding away. Surprised by the speed of response, I missed it, so dropped the float back in and watched as it failed to settle. I deduced that the maggots had been taken on the drop and was pleased to feel a small fish hooked when I lifted the rod. A plump silvery roach of a few ounces was the result, and I was pleased with that! After an hour, during which I’d continually flicked in odd maggots and yet more groundbait, a trio of boats had added colour to the swim and I’d picked off a steady number of fish as the float repeatedly slipped under. Most were roach, some as tiny as an ounce, others almost half a pound, before I hooked into the first of series of chunky hybrids all over the pound mark. After two hours, my total bag stood at around fifteen pounds, maybe more, and I then started to pick up perch, obviously attracted by prey fish in the swim. I had noted perch striking at fish elsewhere in the swim but had only caught tiny sergeants before the first of a better stamp of fish appeared. I spent three hours at the bank side, sharing it with a swimming grass snake, a constantly darting kingfisher, and a gaggle of elderly walkers who wanted to watch for a while, and do you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it! A short session haul of perhaps 25lb from any canal is not to be sniffed at, and I was very surprised to find out that plenty of the fish were of some quality too, and it helped me see that fishing IS about fun, not Facebook ‘likes’ or constantly bombarding other anglers with social media posts, but instead is about nature, solitude, and a bit of time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sometimes, I think it fair to say that many anglers forget that, and sometimes lose their focus… I know I do, but now when I feel a bit jaded, I think a trip to the canal, with a pint of maggots and some floats will refresh my mind… just like when I was a kid!
3 months ago
Clint Walker - Trying out a pellet waggler
Having tried a method I dislike immensely last week, zig rigs, I’ve tried another one this week that I enjoy just as little… the pellet waggler! I’ve had a couple of the new Sonik Sports SKSC commercial fishery rods sent down to me, an 11’ feeder and matching pellet waggler rod, so thought I’d better get out and give the float rod an outing on a local club lake. I wasn’t looking forward to a day of arm aching, constant casting and catapulting, as I much prefer a more sedate day on the bank, but sponsors needs must… Until last week, I didn’t even own a suitable float for pellet waggler fishing, instead having a tube full of stick floats, bodied wagglers and crystal quills, so after putting in an order with Premier Floats, I was delighted to receive a set of four floats of differing weights which would be suitable. In truth, the delivery wasn’t exactly what I’d ordered, but a quick phone call rectified the issue, and I thought I’d mention their excellent customer service as it deserves praise; if you are looking for a great company to deal with, give them a call! I wanted to fish at around fifty yards, so selected a loaded float of 10g, slipped on a couple of float stops, and attached a pre-tied mono hook link terminating in a size 10 barbless hook with a pellet band. As soon as I’d arrived, I started flicking a few pellets every thirty seconds or so, hoping to see a swirl as hungry carp answered the dinner bell, and after fifteen minutes, I noted the first bow wave as carp moved in… I opted to use Spotted Fin 8mm Premium Coarse pellets, available in a 3kg pouch, which have a uniform sink rate, and fast breakdown. I didn’t particularly want carp grubbing around on the bottom, so these pellets fit the bill perfectly, and a single pellet was banded to the hook then cast out beyond the baited area. I quickly fired out a few more freebies, and wound the float back into the target area. Pre-loaded, it cocked immediately, and then just as quickly shot out of sight; first bite! I struck to set the hook, and the new rod picked up the line quickly to connect with the first double figure carp of the day; easy! I was able to quickly shift the fish away from the other carp seeking the falling pellets, and swiftly got it to the net, lifted it onto the mat, removed the hook and returned it after a quick snap, all within a minute; pellet waggler fishing is fast and furious! I commenced the regular (monotonous) cycle of catapult, cast, catapult, and within ninety minutes, had banked five double figure carp, and lost one to a hook pull, which wasn’t a bad return. Of the five carp landed, a couple of them already had pellet hooks embedded in their mouth, indicating that anglers weren’t really prepared for double figure carp. It’s well known that the fish in this particular lake go to around 20lb, so if you are fishing for similar specimens on your lake, then please gear up for them. I was using 10lb line straight through to an 8lb hook link, which in a water with few in any snags was safe, so why do anglers still insist on using flimsy hook links and mainlines which obviously won’t cope? Beggars belief really. Personally, I’d rather a few carp shy off the bait than hook them, and then be snapped to leave fish trailing line. In fact, on a later session, I even had a carp in my swim trailing not only the hook link, but also the mainline and pellet float! Very poor angling by someone… After two hours, I’d had enough. Pellet waggler isn’t really my style, I find it a bit labour intensive, and when I’m trying to relax, I prefer something a little more relaxing. I’d caught enough fish to prove the rod, and if you are a match or pleasure angler looking for a pellet waggler rod that won’t break the bank, then the new SKSC range, coming in at just £39.99 should surely be on your check list. Match it with an SKSC reel too, and for less than £75 you have a functional, good quality set up for your session. They do the job well, provide fun fishing, and easily handle double figure carp; what more can you ask for?
4 months ago
Clint Walker: Tench and Bream at Rode Pool
The weather conditions continue to upset my fishing plans, I’m itching to get back onto the river banks, but can’t justify barbel fishing when the water is so low. As a result, I headed back to one of my favourite waters, Rode Pool, on the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society card in search of tench and bream, but with an eye out for an opportunity to bag my first carp from this very tricky water… I arrived just as the sun started to fleck the horizon with pinks but was dismayed to find that I’d already been beaten to my intended spot! One other angler on the lake, and he was sitting where I wanted to be; typical! We had a brief chat, before I retired to the other end of the lake, choosing peg 1, one of my least favourite areas, but the wind was pushing hard into the other end of the lake, and taking a huge amount of algal bloom with it, coating the water is a paint-like green slick which I didn’t fancy cleaning off my gear later! It’s a two-rod only water, so I set up a pair of 3lb test curve rods, twinned them with the huge spools of my trusty Sonik Tournos 10000’s, and prepared myself to launch a cast about 140 yards to where I could see carp cruising. I won’t lie, my cast fell about 35 yards short, a mix of average casting technique and a crosswind, and I felt the lead plug solidly into silt; not ideal. I tightened up, and pulled to release the lead, before winding in to try again. Again, I fell way short, but this time the lead seemed to settle on good ground, so I left it in situ as I realised I was never going to get near the intended spot. Baited with a Spotted Fin Smokey Jack bottom bait, and tipped with a small yellow wafter, I was confident that if carp were hungry, they would find it. A few freebies were sticked out over the top, and I went about my second rod. I know The Method works extremely well here, so the usual tri-lobe feeder was slid up the line, wrapped in Spotted Fin Classic Corn groundbait, studded with 2mm pellets, and an 8mm wafter banded onto the hook. This went out into open water near a submerged bar, and I sat back to wait. On the hour, every hour, the method feeder was retrieved and reloaded, but after 5 hours, I hadn’t had a single indication on either rod! Earlier activity had quietened down, with fish no longer to be seen rolling on the surface, and it appeared that they had indeed followed the wind. Eventually, a bleep and a typically stuttering run saw a bream of around 4lb banked, then another, and then I lost a slightly bigger fish, and that was it; nothing further all day, still no carp, and it was soon time to pack up. I found out subsequently that despite my misgivings, I was the only angler of six to have caught… scant consolation for such a poor day, but at least it wasn’t a blank! I returned a couple of days later, determined to fish better and catch more. Both rods were set up with a method feeder, but this time crammed with Spotted Fin Super Sweet Blend groundbait, one with a tiny wafter hook bait, the other with two grains of corn on the hair. Both were lobbed out quickly and left to settle. Once more, I intended to recast every hour, but I didn’t really get chance. After a quiet first hour, in which I identified another bar to the right hand side of the swim, I moved the rods slightly left, and started to get interest straight away in an area devoid of silt or leaf debris. My first fish tripped up over the corn, as did my second, then the third picked up the wafter to give me a total of 3 big bream on the bank. A fourth fish fell to the corn, so I swapped the other rod over to yellow grains, and from then on rarely had them out together for more than 20 minutes! It went a bit mad, and by mid-afternoon, I’d tallied 16 bream and a trio chubby tench, as well as losing 3 more due to having (unheard of on this water) double takes! Usually, the wafters out perform any other bait on this particular lake, but just for once, after ringing the changes, I opted to fish the humble grain and it paid off. I’ve got absolute belief in the groundbait too, the sweetness proving a definite attractor for the hefty bream which reside within, and flecked through with 2mm Smokey Jack pellets, it makes an irresistible mix which seems to work consistently. Once more, I caught more than anyone else on the lake, and I think I know why; confidence in your bait is much of the battle on tricky waters, and I’ve got complete confidence in mine! Get on the Fin!
4 months ago
Clint Walker - Trying Out The Sonik SKSC Range
I’ve taken delivery of some of the brand new SKSC commercial fishery range from Sonik Sports recently, so decided to take the 11’ feeder rod and 5000 series reel out for a session to see how it performed. It’s realistically priced to provide a viable option for those anglers who hate to part with big money for kit, with rods and reels coming in at under £40 each. There is a good selection to choose from too, with a trio of both float and feeder rods at 9’, 10’ and 11’, three reels, and a couple of landing nets too; there are even barbel rods to be had, so the new range is certainly worth checking out… I arrived at my local club venue, and despite seeing a few carp on the top, opted to use a small flatbed method feeder, which I intended to fish close in at the base of the marginal shelf. I know that carp congregate in this area as I’ve run my Deeper ™ sonar over it, so was confident of a bite or two to put some pressure on the rod and reel. I usually fish a 12’ rod, so was looking forward to trying something different to see if had much effect on the way I played the fish or affected my casting. The feeder was quickly loaded with Spotted Fin Classic Corn feeder mix (try it, you won’t be disappointed!) an 8mm matching wafter banded on, and the rig gently cast out around twenty yards. I fired a few sinking pellets over the top hoping to sound the ‘dinner bell’, then tightened the line to put a gentle curve in the 2oz tip and sat back to wait. The rod is supplied with both a 1oz and 2oz push in tip, and I’d chosen the stiffer tip purely as I was using the method feeder… there is not much subtlety required when fishing the method, so I didn’t expect to have to decipher the delicate trembles and flickers associated with ‘normal’ feeder fishing, instead waiting for the rod to hoop around when a fish picked up the bait. I love to watch the bites develop on the method as fish demolish the bait ball before finding the target bait within, and so the session started; a minute of gentle pulls as the fish moved in, then WHAM! The tip shot around as my first carp of the day was hooked! I’d set the clutch so I didn’t get smashed up immediately, and was pleased to see the SKSC reel spool off line steadily as the clutch gently tempered the first angry run. The carp moved out into open water where I was happy to let the rod do all of the work as the fish charged around trying to shed the hook. The 11’ rod is ringed very well, and fighting pressure put a pleasing curve in the rod as the carp fought on. Obviously, I couldn’t put as much pressure on my opponent as I would have been able to with a 2.75lb test curve rod, but lighter tackle always makes the battle more fun, and eventually, my first carp tired and slid over the waiting net. At around 12lb, it wasn’t a huge fish, but not unexpected on a commercial fishery, and the new tackle performed admirably! I’d already noticed that the titanium oxide rod rings on the SKSC feeder rod were easy to thread. All too often, I find that guides are so small at the tip that it often difficult to thread the line through (especially once your eyesight starts to ‘age’) but the SKSC was easy to tackle up and get to work with reel lines in the 5-8lb bracket. It also features a screw down reel seat, and EVA/cork handle which always looks great, is easy to handle when wet and cold, and features muted graphics which appeal to many anglers. The reel is supplied with both deep and shallow aluminium spools, and I was happy to note great line lay without having to mess about with washers or similar; for the money, both products offer great value! Throughout the day, I landed a total of thirteen carp to about 14lb, and twenty one bream, all around 3-4lb, then added a dozen small barbel, with the new SKSC kit taming them all with ease. I’ve yet to try the pellet waggler rod, but if it performs as well as the feeder kit (and I fully expect it too) then Sonik have a very popular, affordable range of quality coarse fishing kit, ideal for both the match and pleasure angler, who wants good kit at great prices which will do ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. Check out the full range at []
5 months ago
Clint Walker - Rainy Day of Fishing
I’ve been back to Rode Pool again this week, a jewel on the card of Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society, to continue my pursuit of carp from this tricky mere. A cold wind had sprung up overnight, a chill breeze from the east, whipping across the lake in the opposite direction to the usual prevailing winds, and I opted to set up on the back of it, hoping that the fish would be huddled in slightly warmer, calmer water at the top of the lake. Once again, I chose to fish with tiny pva bags and popped up baits, but instead of the boilies I’d used last week, this time I tied up walnut sized bags of Spotted Fin particle mix, added my hook baits, and fired both out to the edge of marginal reed cover on the far bank. On the first, an 8mm wafter was pinched into a bait band against the hook, on the other, a 15mm Smokey Jack pop up was attached to the rig ring, and both were quickly settled, lines sunk, and rods placed gently on the rests as I sat back to listen to the woods wake up… I enjoy sitting in the woods at Rode Pool. Cushioned from any traffic noise by ancient oak trees which provide a shady canopy, the bankside cover always has something to see, and the water is home to a multitude of waterfowl. I love to watch flitting visitors that I rarely see elsewhere, little egret and oystercatchers amongst them, and it really is a place to just sink in, relax, and enjoy fishing purely for its own sake. Even with other anglers on the bank, I can still find solitude amongst beautiful surroundings, and despite it’s tricky reputation, I still keep coming back! For the first time this year, I noted swifts and swallows skipping across the surface, snatching midges, indicating a possible recent bloodworm hatch. Rode has vast beds of bloodworm, on which I suspect that resident fish can become preoccupied, so I made sure my baits were in the midst of them! Despite my considerations and deductions, nothing happened all day. I had no indications, no bites, and saw no fish. I’d obviously got my tactics completely wrong, and having heard that at least four tench had been caught in the teeth of the wind much further down the lake, I can only write it up my notes, learn from it, and try not to make the same mistake again… A day later, and I sat in the car park at a different club lake, and watched the rain hammer the windscreen as I sat huddled over the heater. It was cold again, a sudden downturn in overnight temperatures had seen another weather system passing over the UK, and I really gave serious thought to turning around, going home, and climbing back into bed! Rain was forecast for much of the day, meaning I’d have to set up, and pack away in it… not something I ever enjoy. My phone bleeped. A message from fishing chum Andy confirming that he was still on his way. That decided it, I was going to have to get out into the rain and get sorted. At the back of the van, I stepped out of my trainers, slid my leg into my salopettes, and reached for my boots. I stumbled (I’ve never been very well balanced) and my besocked foot landed squarely in a large, muddy puddle. A great start which certainly didn’t improve my mood! However, barrow loaded, I squelched off to find my peg, and after walking a few hundred yards in the teeming downpour, pitched up beside an area of bushes which would at least give some modicum of shelter. Only one rod is allowed here, so it was quickly pieced together, the same rig left on from the previous day, which was rebaited with a fresh Smokey Jack pop up, re-armed with a tiny bag of matching pellets, and fired out to where I’d seen fish rising. The brolly was up and pegged down, and I sat miserably beneath it as the rain dripped onto my boots, and I waited for the first action of the day. I was the only angler on the bank, and I watched carp sipping at midges on the surface, smashed out of the air by raindrops, as yet more swifts and swallows darted speedily over the water enjoying a feast of flies. Andy arrived with his young son Liam, and they set up in their favourite peg next to me, quickly hiding under a canopy of nylon as the rain continued. Other anglers ventured onto the far bank, which made seven of us on the water, then another further up ‘our’ bank, and a further hardy soul in the distance made nine; all looking dejected, and after a few hours, all of us biteless. I’d had a single line bite, but nothing else, Andy and Liam’s alarms were silent, and we hadn’t seen anyone catch on the far side either, so it became obvious that it was going to be a struggle all day… Eventually, a twitchy run had me by the rod, and although the alarm had stopped, the rod tip continued to flex, so I picked it up and connected with the first fish of the day. After a few minutes, a lean double figure common lay in the folds of the net. It was quickly unhooked, treated, photographed and returned, and then the bait repositioned, before I sent the picture to the swim next door to gloat… Hours passed, and nothing else had happened until I noted a gracefully curving rod tip over the brambles between us; Liam was into a fish, and as my bait was currently on the bank being changed, I wandered over to see him land a beautifully dark mirror well into double figures. Elsewhere, no-one else had caught anything… Through the binoculars, I saw a bream netted on the far bank as others continued to struggle for bites. I had another tentative run, missed it and recast. A third run saw a low double figure mirror quickly released, a fourth saw me lose a fish, and a fifth resulted in another common on the mat. Andy and Liam hadn’t had anything else, so it looked like I was the only one seeing any results. Earlier, I’d changed my bait, moving from the red of the Smokey Jack to the yellow of the Classic Corn pop up, twinned it with a bag of Catalyst pellets, sprayed it with pineapple and N-Butyric booster, and also increased the length of my fluorocarbon hook link to move things away from the lead, which I was convinced they could see in the clear water. It looked like it was paying off… Andy and Liam departed, as did all but one angler on the far bank. My chums had seen no more fish, and I was just having ‘one last cast’ before disappearing myself. As Andy opened the gate to the car park, I had a further fish, another double figure mirror bringing my tally to four and two missed, before I too packed up in the rain and set off for the warmth of the van. Only two other carp came out, both after I’d gone home, so overall, I was pleased with my haul during miserable conditions. Little changes had made a big difference; both Andy and I know the water well, and often fish similar tactics, but on the day, it just wasn’t working, so I’m glad I tweaked things to keep the fish guessing. Next week, the forecast promises Mediterranean sunshine, so no doubt the behaviour of the fish will change again, but I know that at some point, I’ll be stealthily ensconced beneath those ancient oaks, hoping for an elusive Rode Pool carp, and I’ll have another session too somewhere else, just to keep me interested. Hopefully, summer is now well on the way, and before long, the floater kit can come out, but until then, I’ll dry off my sodden socks, shake out the brolly, and keep plugging away whatever the weather! []
10 months ago
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