Sunday, 28 July 2013

In My Element

My default for so long now, there had to come a time when sitting on my arse pursuing Rutilus rutilus by way of bread fished hard on the river bed would finally give way to something less static, more mobile, and fluid...

It's been worth the while. I've stocked an immense store of knowledge by doing so. Honing the art to near perfection over thousands of hours of constant practice, thought, experiment, and dare I say some small innovation, I reckon I could now teach even the most experienced roach angler a thing or two they don't already know about finicky redfins, their favourite bait and that trickiest most demanding method of catching them. But, there comes a point where nothing new is learned and this season with the essential core of my entire activity waning I've felt the passion for angling ebb away.

Something had to come. Something had to go. Something had to give...

It was most important that it did. Without a personal centre angling is a nebulous thing prone to vanishing only to be replaced by lesser pursuits, such as golf...

God forbid!

Then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday too — three days on the trot, and the flame of passion was rekindled.

Fishing more intensively and intuitively than I have in years I felt a greater sense of urgency and final achievement each session than I'd have thought possible. 

Yep, 'bread on the lead' is finally put to bed because there's a new love in my life who demands I start from a point of almost zero knowledge and when humbled by mistakes, must swallow my pride and beg a crumb or two myself in the way of instruction from the time-served old masters.

Trotting. Simple in essence, but an art that in any fully-rounded angling career must be learned the hard way or you die wanting. I mean to say — is there a finer angler dead or alive than the one who's nailed it?


It is the very pinnacle of skill. Makes all alternative forms of coarse fishing trashy by comparison.

When the Late Great Terry Lampard flicked a flake of bread into the Dorset Stour and then caught 'that' 3lb roach for the camera, it wasn't the fish you were impressed with but the man's natural flair. Plucked out of thin air, without apparent effort, you and I in his shoes would have failed and we know it. He succeeded, because he'd long fathomed something we haven't...


I don't know how or even why I've avoided it for so long but I wish I hadn't because it's an immensely satisfying thing to practice. Of course I've dallied with it before now but never really put my back into it. It's a wonderfully natural way to fish, though, and especially so when conducted from within the river itself.

Wednesday afternoon that simply wasn't possible in water ten-feet deep but from a couple of pegs hacked out the nettles, Steve Philips and I both managed a fine net of roach, dace and chub from the Warwickshire Avon at Saxon Mill. I even wangled a silver bream! Only my second from the fishery in five years.

As Steve quipped, "Jeff, they'll follow you wherever you go."

Thursday night the venue was a streamy stretch of the same river. After dace I trotted red maggots through a classic glide of smooth water to catch them and succeeded in a way impossible from the bank. Wading up to my waist I was amazed at how effortless it was to fish standing upright with half the weight of the body buoyed up by water.

I was equally amazed by my own ineptness at doing this novel thing!

Water all about changed everything. Nothing solid to rest a thing on, everything had to be either nailed down hard or hung off the bod.

A lightweight landing net handle filled with water, now there's a heavyweight novelty! 

Casting was delightful, control of the float superb, but simple things just defeated me.

I learned the hard way that fish do not require a net to 'land' at any size. But baiting a hook, unhooking a fish, taking a photograph on the fly — it was as if I'd never done either or neither ever before in my life...

When I finally left the water I wasn't nearly so cack-handed as when I first went in, wasn't that pleased with my performance, but had found great pleasure in learning the basics.

As Martin quipped, "I'll have those waders back, Jeff, sooner or very much later..."

Friday. The Wye. And a truly novel experience...

It's a big river viewed from the bank but wading it lowers your sense of perspective. The world looks vaster the further you venture and the deeper you fear to tread, each a step nearer to death should you trip and fall.

That was magical — a heightened awareness of the universe and a diminution of self I haven't felt since my days as a lone ranger bass hunting by night a half-mile distant from land at low ebb tide.

It was unbelievably rocky, uneven and slippery to one newly used to the give and take of mud and loose gravel beneath his feet. As treacherous — but differently so. One minute perched atop a boulder, the next step down to my chest beside it!

I found my feet and my fish, though...

First minnows, then trout parr and salmon smolt too, but later, when most possibilities were exhausted and in the fastest most turbulent water of all, big chub.

Not where I expected them to be, they'd never have been located from the bank no matter what. Too far off, too rocky by half to risk throwing a lead to, only a float could cope and only a maggot long-trotted straight off the tip of the rod traipsing delicately across the smooth rocks would do.

Waders though, They're so bulky! Neoprene is marvelous stuff but weighs a bloody ton when wet. Not a thing you notice in the water of course, but humping them back to the car half a mile you do!

I think I'll not buy a pair when I return the loaned set to Martin but go buy a wetsuit instead. That makes sense to me — you don't have to take it off once you've put it on, can walk easily on dry land, even go to the pub in it without fear of being thrown out again and isn't nearly so perilous in water. Plus, you can get up to your neck in water should you wish to...

Having seen what can be achieved only waist deep,  I do!

As Steve neatly summarised, "Jeff, you're in your element."

He's right. And it is.


  1. "When the Late Great Terry Lampard flicked a flake of bread into the Dorset Stour and then caught 'that' 3lb roach for the camera, it wasn't the fish you were impressed with but the man's natural flair. Plucked out of thin air, without apparent effort, you and I in his shoes would have failed and we know it. He succeeded, because he'd long fathomed something we haven't..."

    Could not agree more. You summed it up perfectly. I've fished the same waters he fished. And failed. It's not a case of just blithely casting into the Stour and Avon and catching 3lb roach and 7lb chub. Granted, he wasn't doing anything particularly special but that's kind of the point, isn't it? It's the WAY he did it that set him apart from most of us.

    Sure, luck has a role to play but I think the old "the more I practice, the luckier I get" maxim comes into play...

    1. I think that is the truth of it, Practice makes luck. I've tried trotting bread before and it's not at all easy to time the strike well. Too soon, too late, just as with ledgered bread there's a critical point that must be hit exactly right. How many three-pounders did Lampard have in his lifetime? One may be a fluke, many can't be. He must have had that timing just so.

  2. Very well said Jeff and I could not agree more, trotting is a wonderful art to witness and even more enjoyable to watch people who seem to be effortless at it, Keith Speer does spring to mind...

    Caught some of the pictures on facebook of yourself and Steve on the Wye, looked like an enjoyable adventure too!

    1. Watching another angler on the Avon may well have been the tipping point, Mark. What he was doing looked so natural and fluent that I just had to do it myself. It is almost as good watching an angler trot a swim as fishing it yourself. It's mesmerising!

      The Wye was an excellent day out. Blog coming up soon...

  3. Couldn't agree more jeff its my favourite method. I love the aesthetics of its like im at one with the river .

    1. Those days of ours at the Itchen last simmer, Simon, they sowed the seed. I began to see a way to improve things up here and in just a few trips I can see how that will pan out already.

      If I can afford a bucket of maggots and half of hemp that is!