Friday 22 June 2012

Let the Train Take the Strain

I've been scratching my noggin recently. Not having use of a car, because I only have a motorcycle license, which made all the sense in the world living in London, but makes no sense whatsoever living and wanting to go fishing in the Midlands, got me thinking about how I could break out of Coventry and go fishing much further afield. After a lot of dead ends and wooly thinking involving this and that and whatever in the way of silly solutions, like actually taking a string of expensive driving lessons and getting a full car license and then us two paying double insurance and sharing our one car, or even buying a cheap moped (though I'd still like one for local fishing) I finally came up with a ball-pein rather than a sledge hammer, with which to crack this tough nut.

You might remember that old British Rail ad slogan? Well, once a month I intend to travel alone, and by train, to far flung destinations in search of specimen fish. Simple. Get cheap rail tickets, go fishing afar. And, surprisingly, it seems to work out very well...

One place I want to fish again is a fishery on the outskirts of London. I'll go there for its enormous tench and bream, fish that run well into double-figures for both species and top out very high indeed. Getting there is easy. I know the route by heart because I'm a Londoner and used to live ten minutes walk from the lakes. It's a 125mph Virgin train from Coventry to London, Euston, then a tube journey to Liverpool Street, a train to Romford, and a short bus journey, or even a brisk walk to the lakes. And the time and the cost? Well, you'd have to pay the taxman through the nose should you do the journey by car, which is a five hour round trip at whatever your petrol consumption is, but you'd probably get small change from fifty quid with the feared M25 in your way at peak traffic, sorry, standing traffic, however by train, and by booking cheap advance tickets, the cost is slashed, the time reduced, and the bother eradicated.

The Virgin tickets to and from Euston can be got as cheap as £6 each way, but are usually £7.50, and the rest of the journey is covered by a single London Transport all zones travelcard at £8.50, and that's a total of just £23.50 all in, or just £20.50 should I secure a couple of the £6 bargains. Add a two rod day ticket and the total is £30.50. The entire journey will take no longer than two hours with very good connections, but only half an hour more with bad ones, because transport in London is brisk and very frequent. By leaving on the earliest train and coming back on the latest, I should get a full twelve hours on the bank, and be there for all the daytime feeding spells including dawn and dusk should I make my journey in the months when the daylight hours are shorter, say September.

Of course the same costs and timings would apply to any London fishery if it's close enough to either a tube station, a rail station, or can be got to by bus. The same travelcard allows you out to the Essex borders, the Kent borders, the Surrey, Middlesex and Hertfordshire borders too, and you can travel on any transport type within the perimeter bounds of urban and suburban London on that ticket, except taxi's and rickshaws. There's a lot to go at, and some great fisheries, just a few hours away.

The prices rise going cross country though, but still, they needn't be prohibitive if you book in advance and travel at off peak times., is one of the best sites to source cheap tickets from. Just type in the particulars, tick the 'return ticket' box (gives you both singles options at once) and go to their 'mixing desk' where you hit buttons and tweak things, and find best prices and times. I recommend it.

Say I wanted to fish Marsh Farm in Surrey for specimen crucians. I could leave at 6.30 in the morning Saturday, get to Milford Station around 9 am, walk a few hundred yards to the fishery, and have a four pounder in my pocket by 9.30. I'd have to leave the fishery for the train home at 7.30pm, get on the train at a quarter to eight, and be home by half ten. The round trip journey is 5 hours or so, and the total cost for the day including a one rod day ticket at £7, is a very reasonable £42, but, if I were to camp out the night in a quiet corner of a field in a tiny duck-down sleeping bag and under a lightweight tarp, and then get the cheaper £12 Sunday evening train back, then two full days fishing would cost me a grand total of £43.50. However, the return journey would be 4 hours rather than 2.5 hours, and I'd get home at 1.30 Monday morning, but, I would then be able to fish till closing time, both days.

Of course none of this makes any sense if you wanted to go down with a mate, because sharing petrol costs would work out a little cheaper almost always, but going solo, it works out cheaper by far, because getting from Cov to Marsh Farm and back would cost you the best part of £50 in juice, and more if your wagon is a thirsty one.

My first arranged trip though, is one I've been wanting to make for ages. Last February whilst fishing  the Dorset Stour with Keith Jobling, I met a lad by the name of Simon Daley. Simon had a big chub that day and I took photos for him, then published a picture of that glorious fish here on IQ. We kept in touch, and I mentioned I'd like to come down by train for a day's fishing on a free stretch of the River Itchen for roach. Simon kindly offered to put me up for the night, so that I could get two days fishing in rather than one. I of course, accepted his kind offer, very gladly.

Well, I got back in touch with Simon a few days ago having done my research and found the cheapest possible tickets down to Southampton and back, and without me asking for it, he offered to put me up for two nights, which means I can get three full fishing days in! Blimey. I don't know if I can trot a float for that duration...

Or even if Simon can stand me that long!

The cost of the round trip to Southampton Airport Station (half-mile walk to the fishery) and back is £39, but to get those cheapest possible tickets I have to leave Coventry 6.30 am Saturday morning to arrive at 8.30 am at the airport, and leave for home again 8.30 pm Monday evening to arrive back home at 10.30 pm. Oddly, what's bad for commuters and weekend trippers leaving comfortably late and coming home comfortably early and paying through the nose for it (£106 for the same) turns out to be ideal for anglers, who habitually leave uncomfortably early and have to be prised off the fishery with a crowbar in the evening!

So, I'll be down the Itchen one weekend in July, and having a great time !

Only thing that bothers me is what I can offer Simon in return should he wish to come up to Cov for a few days, and he is very welcome to. Smallish canal zander perhaps, specimen spring silver bream who might not turn up at all, or anything else that I cannot think of right now, that he can't get down there, but can up here, which isn't very much by comparison with Hampshire seven pound chub, pound plus dace, salmon, sea trout, monster grayling, and three pound roach, I'm afraid...

I will rack my brains though.

It used to be that blokes always went fishing by train in the old days. It was common practice to rise early, get the train, fish all day long, and come back knackered by midnight. I've never seen an angler on a train though, not once in my life, so the practice lapsed sometime in the seventies. I doubt if commuters have ever seen the like either, so I wonder what they'll make of me in my wellies and waxed jacket, hat cocked, beard untrimmed, and laden down with rod bag, nets and rucksack, not to mention, maggots...

I can't bloody wait to find out!



  1. That is dedication bordering on madness Jeff. A proper fishing mission, you can certainly say that you would deserve everything you caught doing that kind of trip.

  2. Ah, fishing by train. I used the trains exclusively to get to my fishing venues of choice while I was in London. On the whole it was quite fun; travelling light off peak with a coffee and a bit of time to watch the world go by or tie a few rigs was very pleasant.

    A friend and I used to go down to the Hampshire Avon at Britford from Waterloo fairly regularly and going down by train meant we could stop off in one of Salisbury’s lovely old pubs on the way back to the station and perhaps even grab a few cans for the journey back into London.

    But travelling the Northern line on a Friday night covered with fish slime and with all your gear is not a great experience. And I wont even start on the story of some escaped maggots and a packed District line carriage…

    Enjoy, Jeff!

  3. I used the Underground, District line down to Richmond.Bus to Twickenham both to fish the Thames and the BR to Broxbourne to fish the Lea...Then I learned to drive( at 41)Me and me boy used to get the 277 to Vicky park in Bow to fish the lake.

    It makes it very different

    Question do you take the trusty hound at the moment, do she go in a sidecar?

  4. You've finally lost it my good friend. You deserve a bloody medal for undertaking that lot never mind a fish. See you down there then......

  5. I also wonder what the commuters on the crowded trains will say as you return home, covered in very smelly bream and tench slime, and stinking of garlic meat and halibut pellets? ;-)

  6. Steve in Colorado24 June 2012 at 03:12

    ...and if they question the maggots, just mumble something about 'bloody BR food...' ;-)

  7. Tell you what Jeff,I used to do that a lot from Harold Hill, often trips out to Hampton Court or the sticks of Suffolk. never seemed to bother anybody...I'm sure.

    My aim in two years is to be doing much the same,I'll be moving west,up here a bus let alone a train is about as rare as.... well you know.
    Good luck

  8. Glad some think I'm mad! And those that don't, have done it before, and them Londoners. I think londoners get so used to traveling by excellent, cheap, public transport that it's taken for granted.

    Up here? Not so good. I looked into going to the Kingsbury pits by bus and train the other day. Kingsbury is a town that looks to have a population of 2-3000, and it has a rail line running straight through it.

    Does it have a Station? Nope. Does it have buses running in and out? Haven't a clue, must have, but couldn't find out anywhere if it did.

    So, a journey to Kingsbury, just 12 miles distant would take more time and cost as much as a journey to a London venue. Hah! That's warped...