Monday 24 December 2018

Bringing in the green...

It's been a tough few weeks - one of those periods where even stopping to reflect has been difficult. On a dark windy solstice day I decided I needed to take time out to just take stock and listen to the wind as it whispered through the trees.

My favourite local hollow lane, holloway, dark lane or deep lane is just up the road from me. It's short unlike some of its more famous neighbours, but I find it the most atmospheric. Iv'e foraged here, brewed tea, slept, day dreamed and generally switched off, but today I just wanted to take in the air. I see it in all seasons, but like it with its thin winter cloak.

It worked. As soon as I dropped down into it I knew I had done the right thing. The quiet, other than the eery tune of wind above, was just the tonic - I walked, slipped and stumbled its full length before turning back for the steep climb.

I found, or it found me, the perfect yule log which is now drying by the fire for the festive days ahead. Some holly to green the house and all is looking good. Make time to stop. There will hopefully be more opportunities in the dark days ahead, but for now I am content to have heard the sound of the wind on this the shortest of days.  

Friday 21 December 2018

Rude veg

It's juvenile I know, but what with the current craze for wonky veg (you're all light years behind me by the way) I couldn't resist these two recent finds. The carrot was my very own and the butternut squash was in our veggie box - I am sure the box chaps do it on purpose as this is not the first ummm, well you know, appendage, ummm thingummy shaped won't be the last either I bet. 

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Gone, but not forgotten

Elements of the landscape or items that form part of a buildings structure should never be taken for granted. It's easy to do so as these things we have likings for just tend to be in the background giving us comfort as we go about our everyday business.

One such example is my post box - not a local post box for me, but one I have passed, admired and visited often on my travels. I have liked it so much that I reserved it for the posting of my extra special mail. 

I remember the time the bees took over the box - I watched them for a considerable time as no vehicle or pedestrian came down that country lane. It formed part of an old tumbling cob farm out-building. I have a liking for the building as well with its corrugated iron and general untidiness.

I shall post my special post from this box no has gone, but certainly not forgotten. 

Friday 14 December 2018

The social pike

I hadn't been fishing for weeks and weeks. You know how it goes....stuff comes up from all angles and it just doesn't happen. The date had been in the diary for weeks. It was never going to move as it is one of the most eagerly awaited trips of the fishing season - The Christmas Pike Social.

I fish with my pal Jim regularly, but this trip involves another good friend who I sadly only seem to see on this festive social trip and we enjoy the day from the minute we start planning where, what food, what libations and then it stumbles to tactics and weather until the day finally arrives and we greet each other like excited schoolboys.

The Dorset Stour is always our venue of choice and we were lucky after some recent lumpy weather that the river was just fishable for our day. Colour had only just dropped out and the level was down by quite a few feet. We exchange small gifts before we start and then the most social of days begins.

It's not just about the pike. I am pretty sure we three have fishing as an excuse for actually just being there in the landscape, in nature, breathing it, smelling it and seeing it. Each year this trip provides us with pleasure for what we see - otters, egrets, lapwing, water rail, kingfishers galore, sparrow hawk and an amazing rook display at dusk. 

Even though an otter had obviously taken a liking to my pike at some stage during its life I still do get a feeling of complete excitement when I see one on my fishing trips. 

The wind was biting. One of those squally windy days which Simon said "send kids and cats loopy" - it was cold too. They generally are from the east. We would be fine though as the social provides - Kelly Kettle tea, pork pie, mince pies, stollen, whisky and pickled onions.

The fishing was hard as it can be on such days, but the river did grant us a wish to see a fish or two and bring some Christmas cheer. We three, kings of the river for a day reflected on what had been a special day as we trudged across the fields to the twinkling festive lights of the village and home to warm fires and liquid cheer....

Tuesday 2 October 2018

The fruits of a plentiful season

It's been a splendid growing year. One of the best ever. The currants plentiful, apples smaller but sweeter and cucumbers galore. We have just reached the end of the tommies and chili with no green ones for the annual chutney session, but that will not stop me having a big making session in the next few days. The marrows will add the bulk and I am sure I can obtain some tommies from gluts let the chopping commence and the fumes of vinegar and spice be intoxicating. 

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Chased by the Harvest Moon

 I love this time of year. The passing of such a glorious summer as we cling on to some warmer days just past the equinox, but these last few nights have been cold and are a reminder of what is to come. The season of plenty is just about hanging on as hedgerow fruits and orchard fair are sweet after a few golden months and my thoughts turn to wood stores and is there enough to see out the harsher, colder days to come.

It's always good to go with an it usually is with the angler who treads his path all the months of the year. He just knows. As it was for me yesterday afternoon. I just knew I had to be by the water, still water as it may very well be my last chance to say farewell to the fish of summer - the crucian and tench. Also, there was the prospect of a Harvest Moon and these occurrences never fail when an angler gets a calling to go fishing. 

I love the old ponds which are hidden in a remote Wiltshire valley. It's a lost landscape in a wealthy corner of the county where the old farming ways and ramshackle out-buildings still harbour the memories of the old days. It won't last forever, nothing ever does, so I enjoy it for the time being knowing full well I am the only one here with just the church bells for company along with the cattle gently grazing the valley slopes. I know the swallows will not be joining me this evening - they are all near the coast feasting, whirling and whorling before they head for warmer days - during the summer you can set the church clock for their arrival to feed and when they arrive and what joy they bring. Not this evening, the pool is eerily silent, covered in a thick paint like blanket weed and algal bloom and no stirring to betray the presence of the creatures beneath.

The breeze drifts along my sheltered path and it brings a chill wind scented with woodsmoke and the spice of trodden ground and herbage...would there be a chance, just one to say farewell to summer?

I travel light, shoulder bag, rod, net, bait and flask of tea but today I am glad I have a warm hat to keep out the chill which is already creeping into the shadier parts of the pond. A few hens egg sized lumps of "special stuff" fizzy ground bait and maggots over the top and I wait.

A few bubbles betray the movings and ploddings of something stirring beneath the weed and it is not long before the first crucian is being admired before being quickly returned. A beautiful smaller bar of gold comes quite soon after the first and just like the swallows they are gone as quickly as they arrive. 

I go for a walk, make tea and as the dew gathers have a wonderful evening catching what will surely be the last tench of the season. These lovely fish, as green as weed, are a joy to catch and for once I am glad I have brought my steely Sowerbutts Roach Master rod which steers these glorious creatures away from weed beds and lily pads. I pack up with a rising Harvest Moon for company and a warm glow as the moon becomes a Hunters Moon seeing me home, chasing me home as I drift from the folds of Wiltshire and into Dorset and the warmth of an early home fire.  


Friday 6 July 2018

Summoned by Bells

Another fishing season begins…June’s Glorious 16th seems to come round quicker these days just as life’s turning does and the way I notice the changing of the seasons and mark each coming and going on the previous years experience – the joy of reaching a significant age maybe? I just seem to notice it more now – once I felt and looked the youngest of our merry band who meet at this time, as we have always done for over thirty years, and now we sort of look similar – musty, creaking like our cane with age but in our hearts we are young and still miss those who had the happy times with us but are no longer here. We toast them each year and laugh heartily as we recount wonderful tales of joy and friendship.

I have been to the place that calls me so often, at all ages, in all weathers, physically, in my dreams, often alone, with my friends, some of my closest friends and we did realise at the time we were living the dream as we cast our baited hooks for myths and legends. These days it’s just the being there that’s enough. Comfortable in each other’s company and comfortable just listening, sitting, watching and noticing. We almost get enveloped by the place and are growing old like its ancient trees that have witnessed so much of us. Boy and man.

I wouldn’t change the way I see in the new season for anything. I missed one year in pursuit of another quarry and my capture became my wife much to the amusement of my pals – back then as I watched the sparkling sea from our small cliff top tent I toasted them and sent good wishes on the wind. It stays with you wherever you are and with the closing of the eyes you can be walking, watching each footfall in front of the other as you creep quietly over centuries of fallen leaves along a fisherman’s path so familiar you could walk it blindfolded.

I fished last night at another place I hold dearly and have written of fondly in my anglers journal – it was so peaceful and quiet – a sense of quiet I had not experienced for a while. It felt like I was the only person alive, but perhaps not. The hum of insects and fizzing of fish were the only indication that this scene was moving and not still.

My mind wandered to friends who I have shared such days with before and are now fishing more celestial waters – are they here on the light warm breeze? Do they see the float as I do? I like to think so. As the kettle finally boiled and smoke drifted across my pond the wind brought with it the sound of church bells as soft as a hand on my shoulder. It felt reassuring.The float twitched and slid away as floats sometimes have a liking to do on a summer evening…   


Thursday 3 May 2018

Friday 20 April 2018

One for the pot?

John Northcote Nash, younger brother of Paul Nash and in many ways long overshadowed by his older brother - but what we do know about JN was his love of nature and in particular fishing - pike fishing.

This picture was taken by Anthea Sieveking some time in the 1960's - the rather gruesome way of holding the deceased fish makes me think it was either for the pot or sadly the compost heap as so many found themselves in less informed and conservation minded times.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

It must be getting better?

Minor victories day by day now. The butter is spreadable and we are having what must be one of the best wild primrose displays in recent years, the birds are louder each day although our gull population do drive me a bit crackers with their incessant chuntering and "goings on" - the joy that is banty eggs, my first this year and a most welcome gift. Small and bursting with flavour. What shall it be? Scrambled on buttery toast? Happy golden days.

Friday 13 April 2018

Best farming practice? We have always done it this way....

The new trout season started on the first of April - I must admit that this season has seen me more excited than ever at actually getting out and casting a fly for our local wild brown trout. The majority of my local fishing is opportunistic and free, so I not only treasure it, but try to keep more than a lazy eye on what's happening within the river corridor.

Needless to say I haven't been fishing yet. It's the usual thing. Rivers have been up and down like a yo-yo, it has rained endlessly and on the rare occasion and I mean rare that the conditions have been sort of OK I haven't been able to go - so there you are.

The forecast is looking better for next week, so with that in mind I had a quick whizz round some local haunts the other evening. The river was out of sorts and it was no surprise as it had been pouring down all day with more on the horizon. 

I'm no farmer, but I do take an interest in agricultural practices and the farming way of life as live in a rich farming area and I have friends and family who farm. But, some things really do piss me off and it just shouldn't be that way - even by my reckoning as I watched the muck spreader make even more of a mess on a sopping wet field I couldn't help but think what a pathetic waste of time - the whole lot of shit destined at some stage to percolate into the watercourse. The mess that the tractor was making would take an age to put right, talk about looking after your assets!

Just pray for no more rain......

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Rings of apple

The joy of the improving weather is not just about the butter being spreadable for the first time in months, oh no, the pottering and bimbling goes up a gear especially in the garden. I have had a few good pruning sessions this winter and now have enough kindling or starting wood to last a few seasons.

The larger boughs need more effort, so it was a joy to finally saw through the pile and add to the drying pile - as all wood obsessives know, you can never have enough and it will be added to with foraged and found wood over the coming months.

There is also something quite pleasing about the piles of sawdust - the different shades of each species with apple and plum my almost has an orange tinge which is pleasing coupled with its tangy fragrance - I have bags and tins of it - it causes amusement that I keep it, but I do really like it mixed with my maggots when the coarse fishing season begins in June. It takes me back to childhood when all maggots came with sawdust and tackle shops smelt of sawdust, oil, varnish and canvas...heady happy days.  

Monday 15 January 2018

Pike & Nash

John Nash, pike fishing by Kurt Hutton (1958) 
As I am on a bit of John Nash thread I thought it worth sharing the wonderful picture of JN fishing for pike. This was taken by Kurt Hutton and the bromide print was formerly in the ownership of Ronald Blythe who then passed it on to the National Portrait Gallery.

The wonderful illustration, below, is by Nash and was also from 1958 - a magnificent study which he was commissioned to deliver for a calendar (Benhams of Colchester - printers & publishers). I make no apologies - I have previously shown the picture on the blog.....I am sure you will forgive me for sharing it again, it's an absolute smasher! 

John Nash, Pike, 1958