The Urban Fisherman

The Urban Fisherman

Since 2015

A Spring of Pike

May 2017


As some of you are probably aware i (well my wife and i...) have just had a little boy.  I have also moved back home from a posting down in the South West.  Together this has brought a change in my fishing, April saw me predominantly fly fishing on chalk streams, now I'm back at home full time i have put all my efforts to Pike fishing using lures whilst i wait for the rivers to open for coarse.  Why Pike fishing and why with lures only?  For me i am limited for time (previous comment about just having a little boy!) and i am a firm believer in not using dead / live baits for Pike after the close of the season.  Pike are more active in the warmer months and are susceptible to going 'belly up' after a long fight in the warmer oxygenated water, i therefore lure fish as they tend not to swallow the hooks as deep and it is easier to get them back into the water unharmed.


Usually in my blogs i will talk about short events or sessions where i catch one or two fish, in this blog i will be a bit more 'article style' this is because of the sheer number of Pike i have caught over a number of sessions over the last month :) I think i am somewhere near the 35 fish mark!  


Lures - I have chopped and changed a lot over the last month, but to be honest, the lure i have gone back to time and time again has been the Mepps Aglia Number 5, why? well... it just works! i have found that i can catch fish on other lures, the Savage Gear Fat Vibes crank bait for one, but the Mepps just seems to pick up more fish.  I think it is because the Repps is not only visual but also creates a lot of vibration, this i have found especially important as if irritates the Pike, this is important in the short feeding windows that Pike have.  When the Pike are genuinely feeding i find they will take the spinner quite deep, where as when they are simply irrupted and 'swiping' at the spinner out of frustration they will be lip hooked (see picture below).  Where as with a purely visual bait they will often let it pass right infront of them without a bite.


Rod & Reels - Now with Mepps you need to think carefully about your tackle, this is because a large pike spinner has a huge amount of resistance when retrieved.  This means that light action / low casting weight rods are out of the question (these are fine with Numbers 00 - 3, but 4 and upwards a fast action / medium to heavy rod is required), this is because when a number 4 spinner is retrieved the resistance will 'load' a lighter rod, when a pike takes the rod will not have the power to set the hook and risks being over loaded therefore losing the fish.  I therefore have been using a Nash Dwarf 2.25lbs TC 9ft rod with a Penn Fierce 2 4000 reel loaded with 30lbs braid, this has been perfect for medium sized pike as it still has enough play in it to enjoy the fight yet is heavy enough to cope with the drag a number 4 or 5 Repps gives you.  When i want a bit more excitement in my life i will down size to a Fox Warrior 7ft 10 - 30 gr with a Penn Fierce 2 3000 fitted with 20lbs braid, this does the job for numbers 2 - 3 and is a great lighter alternative if you are also looking to bag some Perch.


In sum, my Piking has been very very simple, i have focussed on putting spinners over features (gravel bars, margins, weed / open interfaces etc etc) and i have been very lucky.  Piking, like Carping doesn't have to be hard, if you put the bait in the right place by using water craft it is hard to go wrong!  I will keep plugging away with Pike until June 16th, if i catch a nice double, i will let you know... 

The Trout Season Begins... 

April 2017


Since the end of the coarse river season in March my fishing has centralised around Pike fishing at my local gravel pit and Trout fishing at Sportfish in Reading.  I have been longing for the start of the english Trout season and this week was the time!


I started as i finished last year, in the small chalk stream that feeds into the River Wylye.  When i first arrived last week to recce the stretch i was disappointed to only spot a few lone brownies darting from cover to cover.  I knew the start of the season was going to be tough... i wasn't wrong... On the first session i waded into the bottom of the beat (you can't bank cast as it is a road!!) with my 3wt in hand and a size 16 czech nymph at the end of a 3lb / 5ft leader.  Why a czech nymph? well the Trout were firmly on the bottom, they were not going to take a dry fly.  Why not a pink shrimp? the Trout were not turning and running along the bottom as they do when they are trying to dislodge shrimp.  After a very frustrating hour of slowly walking up the beat and spooking nearly every Trout, i blind cast at length to some cover about 15 feet away, that worked and it brought me the Trout pictured to the left.Not big but stunning early season markings.


That took me to my second session.  I'm lucky enough to have a sister that lives 200m away from the glorious River Wharfe in Yorkshire.  A stunning river that holds some immense coarse fish, it also holds a really good head of Trout, Grayling and even seasonal Salmon.  I fished the day ticket stretch of the river at Boston Spa.  It cost a grand total of £4!! truly living up to my mantra of affordable and accessible fishing for all... Like in Wiltshire the Trout were not taking from the top.  I therefore fished the same method as down south, however, i also used a disposable strike indicator and fished a heavier 5wt rod as the fish in this river are somewhat larger.  Why a strike indicator? the River Wharfe although clean and relatively clear has a brown tinge to it given to it by the local geology, the strike indicator just gave me a better sense of when to strike.  The day was beautiful and with my niece and nephew visiting me as i fished i couldn't have asked for more.  The result was 2 x Grayling (pictured below), not big, not Trout, but welcome.


That brings me to my final session which i had this evening back on my Wiltshire chalk stream.  I worked my way up to the top of the beat without joy.  I exited slightly disheartened and thought i would look over a small road bridge right at the top of the beat to see if there were any fish in the pool directly under the bridge.  To my surprise i saw a tail wafting at the top of the pool, i couldn't see if it was Trout or Grayling but i had to have a stab! I entered the water again down stream and slowly waded to the bottom of the pool.  As you can see from the picture below it was a challenging cast, the low bridge infront, the trees overhead... i managed to whip the cast about 20 times to the head of the swim without joy... on the 21st attempt i tweaked the fly in the spot where i thought the fish was (the reflection meant i couldn't sight the fish even with polaroids...) and BANG! the line tweaked down and i struck... after a short fight i brought a stunning 1lb Grayling to the net... The biggest i have had from this stretch and a stunning fish to boot (right hand fish of the 3 below).  So after a week of this years season i have only had 1 x Trout... Im not bothered, some people would class the Grayling i have caught as a nuisance, i don't, i think they are a great by-catch.  I will keep trying for the Trout, if i catch one, i will let you know... 

Red Letter Weekend...

4 February 2017


There are some moments in your life which you will never forget (all sounds very deep!), but catching a PB is certainly one, catching another species PB the next cast is definitely another... and the birth of your first born son on the same weekend takes the biscuit!


Hayward Farm in Reading has come along way since it was taken over and re-branded by Sportfish.  JT (the manager) has committed time, sweat and money to turning the game fishing centre into the market leader arguably in the South of England.  One thing he has done is cater for the growing appetite of game fisherman to catch and release large trout.  For just £25 you can fish all day on a C&R ticket and have the opportunity to catch one of the 40 double figure trout on the 9 acre lake.  I had come close in the past with trout to 8lbs in Lechlade and nearly albs at Sportfish last summer, but conditions on this weekend in February just felt right...


With only 3hrs i knew that i had to go to the areas of the lake in which i had caught trout before, i also knew that with the water still very cold i had to fish deep so it would be intermediate line.  Finally, with such a short period i knew that i would have to cover lots of water and fish with a fly which the trout couldn't miss! my choice was a size 10 nomad cats whisker.  I like the nomad cats whisker in particular because it falls through the water column i a way which means its fishing as soon as it hit the water.


I found myself casting into the usual spots and within minutes of long casts and rolley volley retrieves i was catching small rainbows around 3lbs.  This was great sport and frankly i would have been happy fishing these fish all day, but not having blanked i thought i would mix things up a little.  I began letting the line sink all the way to the bottom, i would then tweak the fly very slowly back to the bank.  On the second cast like this i saw the looming dark shape of a trout the size of a blimp following the fly in!!! sadly i ran out of water but i knew i had to cast over the same spot again.... on this occasion the blimp suddenly flashed white and i struck into what felt like a train! for 20 minutes the backing appeared then i cover it, i saw it again then i saw the fish surface 30 yes out... I knew it was the double i had been waiting for for 20 years... at last it was in my net, 11lbs 8ozs of Brown Trout... the photos were taken and i was over the moon, i even considered packing up and going home, but as a fisherman, and we all know this feeling... i wanted 1 last cast...


That last cast was at a surface feeding Rainbow i had seen to the left as i was fighting the large brown.  I knew it was big as i saw its shoulders looming out of the water every few minutes... i cast the fly 5 yards past and infant of the fish and began immediately to pendulum retrieve the fly in, i had to do so to keep the fly as good as on the surface.  The fish took it! and the result is shown below, a beautiful 8lbs of Rainbow Trout.


The story isn't over though... That night as i was editing the photos from the day ready to put on here my Wife's waters broke and 24hrs after i broke my Trout PB i was holding my own 8lb 13oz baby boy, Rory.  One day i hope to see you all on the bank, and hopefully Rory will be in tow :)

Jacks and Lost Pike

3 February 2017


The last few months have sadly involved too many sessions on the river which have resulted in nothing... Having had enough of this i decided the best way to guarantee a bite or two would be to have a crack at some of the excellent pike fishing found on Whistley Mill, a local gravel pit and a RDAA water.


The weather was perfect, slightly over cast and cold, the cloud cover was enough to till provide enough light for the flash on a lure but dull enough to encourage the predators to fight.  The session was in the afternoon and with a 9 month pregnant wife i only had a few hours, this meant i would target anything rather than targeting specific big fish.  My tactic was to fish a Mepps LUSOX size 2 with a 10gr sink lead.  Why a Mepps? in my mind they are a great lure for a short session, this is because of the mixture of attracting features they have.  Firstly they have a great visual with a large spinning spoon.  Secondly they have an irresistible sound when retrieved.Why a 10gr sink lead? (see photo below) Whistley Mill is deep and i wanted my spinner on the bottom of the lake.  Are there any disadvantages with a Mepps for  Pike? yes, they catch a lot of Jacks (which isn't an issue for me), if you want to target big pike fish with good artificial and target big fish features.


So the results, for 2hrs fishing i caught a small 2 1/2lb Jack, a lovely and very welcome fish following some dry months! For the last hour as i walked back to the car i fished a small savage gear shad jig (blue and white) and dropped into likely swims.  It paid off! i hooked what must have been a 15-20lb Pike close to the margin, sadly i don't think i struck hard enough and just inches from the net she flicked the head and sunk away into the darkness... gutted but optimistic for next time i fish.... if i catch her next time, i will let you know!

First Day on a New River

27 November 2016


Last week i joined the Reading and District Angling Association.  For £85 per year i was utterly amazed by how much water you can fish! Stretches of the Thames, Loddon, Kennett as well as dozens of lakes, most exclusive but also large waters such as Sonning Eye.  Im still building my large water Carp kit up after 10 years of more varied specimen fishing so this weekend instead of Carping i decided to try a stretch of the Loddon.


The stretch i fished is near to Whistley Mill, just to the South of Twyford.  It is an a very secluded spot with access controlled via a padlocked gate.  Although i am against exclusive club only fishing as a rule (i feel that a river should be fished not tightly controlled...), i feel that the price that you pay for the amazing fishing that the RDAA provides (immaculate swims!) that this is an exception to my rule.


The river had been high the week before when i had recce'd the location, very high, so i had struggled to get a real sense of what lay beneath.  Today it was different, i light colour to the water and a steady flow; superb winter river fishing conditions.  I new the Barbel would be difficult but had a suspicion that the Chub and maybe Roach would play.  With that in mind i didn't fish huge baits (as i would if i new that Barbel were in the area) as i wanted to keep my options open.  I fished 2x8mm garlic and mussel pellets (see below) wrapped with some hemp and cheese paste.  My rig was as simple as a river ledger rig should be.  Fox 3oz gripper lead on a Fox lead clip, this is important, if you don't use a lead clip on a river then the lead will loose you fish when snagged, fact.  Above the lead i threaded a Drennen float stop, this (4in above the lead clip) serves 2 purposes, firstly it stops your lead shooting up the line on an underarm cast, secondly it acts as a bolt rig when a Barbel runs; most importantly it also will come off if you get snapped.  Under the lead i fished a rubber bead onto a swivel, this stops stress on your knot.  as a leader i fished 2.5ft of 8lb fluro, this sounds over kill but i didn't know the swim and was unsure of snags, i therefore wanted to have the power in my leader to draw the fish away if required.  My hook was a wide gape size 8 tied in a regular hair rig.


I only had 4hrs to fish, in winter this doesn't give you long! I chose my swim for 1 main reason, it had a deep centre channel (1.2m - found with Deeper, an amazing birthday present from my wife!) and a back eddy on the far bank.  This gave me options.  My plan was to fish the steady deep channel for the first 2hrs and if no bites came fish the slacker back eddy to see if any Chub / Barbel were sitting out of the main flow (gathering for winter).  In terms of free bait, limited.  a few dozen pellets upstream to start the session and then half a dozen every 20-40mins, this i felt was enough to attract fish but not to over feed them.


It didn't take long! after 30 mins the rod bounced in a way that all river anglers will know.... Chub! The scale of the bouncing suggested it was going to be a good fish.  On the strike i knew it was a good fish, a steady pull but ultimately not a monster fight.  After 2mins i saw it glide over the net string and into the net.  Chuffed is not the word, it was the widest Chub i have ever had the pleasure of catching.  Landing mat out and scales zeroed it came in at 4lbs 6ozs, a new PB.  The photo was fun, iPhone on timer with a fairly lively Chub, but i hope you agree the results aren't too bad :).


The rest of the session was quiet, but quite frankly i don't mind.  Im definitely on the Loddon again soon, if i catch, i'll let you know... 

French River Fishing on the Dordogne

September 2016


Well I'm back after my Summer holiday in France.  As you may know from my previous blogs i have been fishing in France many many times and each year buy an annual fishing licence.  The French have this absolutely right and live by my mantra! With a French licence you can fish almost any stretch of River or Canal for absolutely nothing! And what's more the fishing is incredible.  I highly recommend giving it a go.  If you do, simply google french fishing licence and you will be able to do everything on line (and in english!).


So back to this trip.  I was camping in the Dordogne on a site called 'Les Soleil Plages' near to the town of Sarlat.  It was amazing, the pitch i was on was 20m from the banks of the River Dordogne! If i was not with the wife i would have spent every living minute on the river, i however was with the wife (who incredibly understandingly) who 'let' me fish for around 2hrs a day.  I mixed my time between spinning for Perch and legering with pellets or cheese for the Barbel and Chub.


I will start with the Perch.  Now I'm used to Perch fishing on relatively small rivers and perhaps on occasions on the Thames.  On the Dordogne it was a very different kettle of fish.  Firstly the river was much bigger than i was used to, secondly it was flowing far faster than i was used to and finally it was crystal clear!  Now this for any angler can be intimidating! I had seen french predator anglers casting into the fast flowing sections of the river and had assumed that they must have been spinning for Trout, however, on day 3 i saw possibly the biggest Perch i have ever seen come out of this faster stretch of the river.  I duel waded in to a section of fast flowing river just before a drop into a deep glide, i cast upstream with a Mepps Thunder Bug (2) and within 3 casts was into my first perch (see below with bug hanging out of the mouth!).  This continued with a few more similar sized Perch.  With this new information and a canoe trip booked the next day i took the trusty 6ft spinning rod along (much to the wife's pleasure!).  A long story short, the result was my PB river Perch (see below), sadly i didn't have scales but i would assume around 1lb, a happy angler and a very diligent photographer of a wife!


Onto the Barbel and Chub.  This is what i really wanted to catch on the Dordogne, on day 1 i had seen shoals of Barbel cutting around the shallow glide that ran next to my pitch.  I tried in vain for the first 4 or 5 days to catch them but the flow was just too much (at one stage i even resorted to an 8oz gripper lead!!) and there was just too much debris coming down, shame... But all was not lost! i had seen a deeper slightly slower section around 100m upstream and had noticed an overhanging bush which just looked too Barbelly to be ignored (see below).  I fished for 2 days without a touch but baited the swim religiously each morning (to fish in the afternoons).  On the third attempt i had a slamming take with the rod nearly coming off the rest and into the water! the result was a nice 2lb Chub (pictured below).  On the fourth session i had the best fish of the week, small but perfectly proportioned Barbel of 3lbs.  On the final session of the holiday i picked up my second Barbel, again small but a beautiful fish.  Both the Barbel took cheese, i had take Dynamite Marine Halibut Pellets but in the end a 1 euro pack of budget Emmental won the day! well you live and learn...


Needless to say, as we left i booked a week in August next year! i have learnt the lessons which i will carry forward.  Next year I'm also bringing some Salmon lures, allegedly they run up as far as Sarlat... Who knows, if i catch one, i'll let you know....

Fly Fishing the River Test

27 August 2016


As you know i have been talking about this trip for weeks! hours have been spent on the little Chitterne Brook mastering my upstream casting to ensure that my day on the Test would not be wasted!  Many of you will think "is this not against your ethos, surely the Test requires a mortgage?", well most of the time your right.  In fact the Ginger Beer Fishery costs £7'200 pounds a season!!  Luckily for me, my brother in law has access to discounts on the Leckford Estate stretch, no mortgage required on this occasion.


I fished the Broadwater Beat, it is about a third of a mile of single bank fishing.  The rules dictate upstream casting only and nymphs are only to be used from 1 August onwards.  I fished with my Greys GR70 Streamflex plus (9ft 6in 5wt) with my Lamson Liquid 3in reel. My leader was 9ft of Greys 5lb flouro tied directly to a tungsten head pheasant tail nymph (size 10).  I fished a flouro leader as i wanted my fly to sink quickly, why?, the weather was slightly overcast and no hatch was on, the trout were therefore staying down throughout the entirety of my session.


Naturally i started my fishing at the bottom of the swim, this allowed me to stalk up the beat with the fish facing away from me (therefore not spooking them).  The beat was absolutely teeming with fish! A 5-6lb Rainbow was sitting on station on the near bank about 10m upstream and the central flow had about 5/6 1lb+ Grayling darting between the streamer weed.  Naturally i cast first to the Trout and on that first cast on the River Test (i swear!) the 5-6lb Rainbow glided up to my fly and bang! The 10 min fight that followed was outstanding... sadly, weed cutting had happened the day before and one of those clumps glided down the river, onto my leader, down to the trout and.... unhooked it 3ft from the net! Gutted.... What made it worse was the Trout simply returned to its holding position and carried on like nothing had happened! Alas, that is fishing...


A couple of Grayling from that swim (the biggest weighing 1lb 7oz (see below)) and i moved on.  Around 100m upstream was a convergence between two segments of the Test (see picture below), this was a great holding location for both Trout and Grayling (and even a Pike!), i cast upstream about half a dozen times before i hooked into my 2nd Trout of the day.  This time i managed to land it! and it weighed in at 1lb 13oz.  The Leckford Estate fishery has a no return policy so the Trout was swiftly dispatched and placed in the Bass Bag (a must for all Trout fishermen, it prevents the fish fouling as as they do in a plastic bag), the swim was then spooked as you would expect.


The next swim was a carrier, as i stalked up i had noticed 3 trout holding, each was 'side stepping' every few seconds, a sure sign they were feeding.  I cast 3yds upstream of them to allow the nymph to drop to their height, it only took 2 casts before i was into my third Trout, another Brownie, this one weighing 2lbs 2oz.  


2 more Grayling closed off my session.  Without a doubt the best morning fishing i have ever had.  Sight casting to River Test Trout cannot be beaten, the water clarity allows you to spot at distance and stalk into position.  I will be going again! if i do, i will let you know what happens... 

Pink Shrimp & Grayling

10 August 2016


As i sat in work today i looked out the window and knew the conditions were right for Grayling, still and overcast.  Luckily for me i work just 10 mins away from Chiltern Brook, a tributary of the famous River Wylye.  The brook is small, only about 3m wide and at most a foot deep, but it holds plenty of small Trout and Grayling.  In the past i have caught some nice Trout off the top on the dry fly but at this point in the summer with the weather the way it has been i knew that would not be on the cards this evening.  With all that in mind i knew that a size 12 pink shrimp would be the way forward.


As i got to the brook i had a walk up the road (which you can see on the right of the picture) and looked down into some pools.  There were a few trout cutting around as i moved up the beat but at the top, in a swim just before the over hanging tree you can see in the picture there were 20+ Grayling! the majority were around the 3/4 oz mark with a huge Grayling holding centre swim at around 1.5lbs.  In the water i got (at the bottom of the beat) with my trusty thigh waders. In my hand was my trusty shakespeare 7ft 3wt rod and a greys GX300 reel.  My end tackle was a 6ft leader of 3lb fluro and the trusty size 12 pink ship tied on the end.


I moved slowly up the beat until i got into a position to cast into the swim at the top of the beat.  On my first ranging cast, bang! small grayling, second cast... small grayling and third cast... my first ever hat trick with a third grayling! Sadly this spooked the large Grayling.  It was always going to be the case... With so many fish in one swim the smaller 'blocking' fish will always get there first.  I tried casting a larger heavier pink shrimp to get down to the fish before the smaller fish could take the fly but it was too late, she was spooked.


After only 30 mins i called it a day, the fish were spooked and with such a small beat there was no more fishing to be done.  I was happy though.  I had read the water well and ended the session with 5 Grayling.  It was also good practice for my session on the Test in just 2 weeks!  I look forward to letting you know how that goes!...

Bread: Off the top & bottom

8 August 2016


Summer is the time to take Carp off the top, but on days like yesterday it can also be incredibly frustrating with wind coming into play.  We have all been there, watched carp slurping from the surface, we tackle up and then.... wind & cloud and the carp go down.  So we change rigs and then the sun comes out and the wind drops! This is when tungsten putty can come into play.


In my case i used Korda Dark Matter, its not cheap at around £7 for a tiny tin (see picture below) but it is very easy to use and is re-useable, it should therefore last for ages.  I started the day deliberately targeting Carp using floating bread.  This method could not be simpler and all it takes is a size 6 or 8 hook (depending on the size of the Carp), in my case i used a barbless wide gape size 8; wide gape is key as it allows you to thread the hook through the crust and mask the point in the soft fluffy segment of the bread (see below).  Tied directly to the 10lb mainline the rig is simple, in the case of Finch Farm 10lb is perfect, if you were fishing on a bigger lake you may wish to a) use heavier line and b) incorporate a clear Controller Float to give you some weight allowing greater casting distance.  The rod, again because of the size of Finch Farm, was a 10ft 40gr spinning rod, short but with enough power to turn fish before entering the weed.


So the session, as soon as i got to the peg i could see 4 or 5 Carp sitting on the surface just feet away, easy choice, net up and rig out.  Within 30 seconds i had hooked a Common Carp of about 4lbs, the hook up with surface fishing is amazing! the little common turned and darted straight for the reeds which surround all the Finch Farm lakes... luckily i turned him just before he got in them.  It is for this reason that you must ensure your drag is as tightly set as it can be for your line strength, if it isn't the fish will be in the reeds without any chance of getting them out, i know this because the second fish just 10 mins later did that exact thing to me...  The second and third fish i landed were Mirrors of about the same size and then bang! the wind and cloud came over.


I wasn't convinced it was going to stay so i thought i would use the Dark Matter.  It allowed me to hold the bottom and tighten the line for bite indication, something feeling restricts you on.  It also gave me the option that if the weather got better i could whip off the putty and fish the surface again in seconds, this freedom is dynamite when fishing those variable days.  For bait i used bread again, but this time i compressed it over the hook (see below) and dipped the bait in Richmond's Tiger Nut additive.  Casting out to where i had seen the fish on the surface prior to the wind, i also through in some 'dough balls' as free offerings.  Within 5 mins i had a screaming run from the little common pictured below, this was followed just minutes later by a fifth fish of the day, another small common.  This brings me onto my last bit of equipment, the reel.  Just by chance i was fishing with a light 5000 series reel which i often use for Barbel fishing, the key feature was the bait runner.  This allowed me to switch to bottom fishing with even greater ease, it gave me the option to set the reel drag tight so that as i struck i could control the fish immediately, something a spool only drag would have restricted me on.  Sadly at that stage it was time to call what had been a short but productive session short.  Lesson of the day for me was always take tungsten putty when surface fishing, it immediately gave me a quick change option to target the fish as they moved through the water column.  On my next trip I'm going to use putty again, this time for rolling bait down stream for Barbel.  I'll let you know how i get on....

Chub on a Dry Fly... That's a First!

26 July 2016


On my last trip to Staines Moor i wrote about the amount of fish which i saw cutting in and out of the streamer weed, this led me to the conclusion that both float fishing and legering would be extremely difficult.  If i hooked into a decent fish it would take me immediately into the weed and i suspect that most of my trots would have ended in a tangled frustration.  What i had learnt though was that many were feeding off the surface so maybe a small dry fly would be the tactic.


I have always enjoyed fly fishing for coarse fish.  It started when i began trying to catch Trout on the Wandle with the fly, inevitably i ended up catching 10 or 20 coarse fish for every Trout.  I started to target the coarse fish by using heavy nymphs to get down to the bigger fish and i even caught 4 Barbel using this technique, a story for another day... 


So back to the session.  I had an evening to myself and without delay jumped in the car and down to Staines Moor.  The great thing about fly fishing is setting up is just two knots so for an evening session this means maximum time fishing during a short period.  I got to the river at about 1730hrs, and as you can see from the picture below the conditions were perfect, overcast but not dim.  Luckily the approach from Moor Lane brings you to the river downstream of where i wanted to fish, why is this good? well it meant that i could stalk upstream meaning the fish wouldn't be disturbed, it also means i can upstream cast, with this technique the fly is seen by the fish long before it could have seen my silhouette walking along the bank.  In the picture below you will see my fly, a nice little (size 14) brown dry fly.  The pattern is great as it doesn't require too much drying between casts so ideal for maximum fishing time!  My rod was my trusty GR70 9ft 5 weight with a Lamson Waterworks reel.


As i lay a few practice casts onto a likely looking swim i Immediately began getting takes, but sadly by fish the size of my thumb!  i landed a few but to say it was a fight would be a lie!  I tried up scaling my dry fly to no avail, these chubbiest are aggressive! I finally spotted a shoal of two or three Chub that looked to be around the 4 or 5oz mark, not a monster but a fish, on the 2nd or third cast the chub pictured above nailed the fly.  I was chuffed, i have never caught a Chub on a dry fly so a first for me! With that bagged i thought i would try a gold headed pheasant tail to try and target some of the larger Chub i had seen in a pool on the last session.  How gutted i was after walking for 5 mins upstream to find the pool empty! never mind... i suspect they were tucked away in a snag somewhere and maybe if i had some bait i could have tempted them out...  I did however spot some small Perch and had a cast at them, before they could snatch it the small Chub pictured below nailed it!


And that was that, one and a half hours done and back in the car.  I love this technique and will be doing it again this summer.  As you can see by my kit below it is easy and takes minutes to kit up!  If i do go back and catch one of the big Chub, i'll let you know...

Finch Farm Catfish

17 & 24 July 2016


My latest obsession in fishing is catching a double figure Catfish! I have been chasing a Catfish (allow in quite a lackadaisical way whilst fishing for Carp...) for as long as i can remember without any success.  Although this is almost certainly because until recently they were relatively rare fish in commercial fisheries.  As you know by this sites mantra i a) like my fishing to be FREE or cheap b) accessible to all and c) i fish light (if i have to make 2 trips to the car i have failed!).  This you would think would make fishing for big species like Catfish difficult, not so. in this case a) Finch Farm in Maidenhead is only £10 a day. b) anyone can come down, the rules are liberal and pleasure anglers are welcome. c) fishing for Cats doesn't mean lots of kit!


So Catfish, they are best fished when the weather is warm.  Luckily for me the two sessions i fished over successive Sunday's were warm and relatively dry.  They also like stink baits (as the Americans call them), so this means pellets, fishmeal / fish based boillies (my choice) or deadbeats.  Any of these can be purchased from the 'Tackle Shack' at Finch Farm. Most importantly they fight hard and are often big, this means solid tackle.  In my case i used my 2.5lb test curve carp rods with baitrunner reels fitted with 15lb line.  My rigs comprised of size 4 barbless, wide gape and short shank hooks on Fox 20lb coated camo braid leader with a mono filament hair for the bait.  This was tied to a size 7 swivel with an anti tangle boom attached (see photo below).  A black rubber bead for shock absorption was fitted before a free running Fox lead clip with a 1.5oz pear lead attached.  The free running aspect to this rig is critical as Catfish will spit baits on the slightest resistance.  Why not free run the lead you ask? well, Finch Farm is a snaggy venture (as you can see from my swim in the photo), if a fish runs into snags i want my lead to eject therefore reducing the chance of loosing the fish.


That snaggy swim was also important.  Catfish are predators and will skulk in deep pools and features in a lake.  In my case i fished both sessions around the lilly pads seen in the picture.  I was fishing the 20mm Halibut Boillie over a bed of 4mm halibut pellets.  To ensure the bed was most dense around my hook bait i put a PVA bag over my hook bait on each cast.


In total i fished for around 10hrs over the two short sessions, on the first session i had only the one 8lb Catfish and on the second session i had a 9lbs fish followed by a missed run.  The runs are not like Carp runs, they are short pulls proceeded by a rhythmic draw on the spools, this i suppose is reflective of their swimming motion.


I will be going back! the allure of the double figure (going up to 40Lbs+!) Catfish at Finch Farm will draw me back.  I will let you know how it goes! 

Roaming on Staines Moor

19 July 2016


What to do on a day off? well option A was head down to Finch Farm, sit in the sun and attempt to catch a Catfish.  I went with option B, roaming around Staines Moor with my trusty 7ft spin rod and a backpack full of lures.


Why option B? The sun was beaming down and quite frankly i fancied walking around Staines Moor when it isn't howling a gale (it is very exposed for those who haven't  fished there before!).  It has also been a while since i fished the FREE stretch of the River Colne just north of Staines (see map below).  I only had an hour and a half so i thought roaming with my spinning rod would be the best use of the limited time.  The kit was nothing special, my 7ft spinner and Cabela's reel (both bought on a recent trip to the states) fitted with 6lb mono.  My lure was a white fox minnow (3in) on a 5 gram jig head.  On this occasion i fitted a short wire trace as i have seen some Pike on the river in the past.  My bag was part of the Chub Vantage range and is the ideal piece of luggage for this kind of fishing, it's 20ltr capacity is ideal for a few lure boxes and most importantly on this trip water!!  My net was a standard 18in Leeda folding net which i could wedge across my back between the ruck sack and my back.


As soon as i got to the river i was amazed by how weeded up it was! however, there were plenty of fish cutting in and out of the streamer weed.  I started by finding small pockets where i could see small fish feeding on the gravel and casting upstream, allowing the jig to hit the bottom and simply tightening up intermittently allowing the jig to bounce up and down along the stream bed.  This looked good to me and was attracting perch, but none were taking.  I had assumed that this action would replicate a wounded minnow (of which there are thousands in the Colne!), sadly i did not have any drop shot rigs which would have work immediately.  Alas, i knew that i would have to find features to fish.


This was not as easy as i initially thought.  The Colne runs through the moor where there are very few trees to create either obstacles following a tree fall or roots, so a lot of walking was called for!  As i walked i saw a carp of at least 5lbs which  was in water no deeper than its own size! its always amazing what you see on these small rivers...  Eventually i found a cracking pool which was alongside one of the few features on the Moor.  In it i saw at least 3 Chub of over 3lbs, this was an opportunity i could not miss as Chub love a well presented lure.  I crept past the swim and reproached from the downstream side, if i have learnt anything from Trout fishing small streams it is always approach fish on rivers from the downstream angle.  I cast and retrieved in what was a relatively slack water pool, the Chub turned and chased as the lure swam past, mouth open and.... nip the tail.... no Chub on the lure today.  There was however some particularly Perchy margins which i flicked a series of casts into, on the third or fourth a flash struck the lure less than a second after it hit the water, the result was a beautiful summer coloured 1lb Perch shown in the photo below.  That was time up and i headed home to pick up the wife!


I will be going back to the Colne in the next couple of weeks, it is stacked with fish but it takes some watercraft to find the fish in the places you can fish them, i think i will take down a small legering rod and free line / touch lever worms, i will let you know how it goes! 

Brownies on the Chiltterne Brook

June 2016


Now, as i hope you already know, i always aim to fish for free.  And why not? we pay our licence fee annually and what do we get? very little in my mind... Rant over.  I am pleased to say that with a little research anything is possible.  


Recently i researched the brooks that feed the (very expensive!) River Wylye in Wiltshire.  I found that the Chilterne Brook was big enough to hold fish, i went down to walk the river with polaroids and it was brimming with Trout and Grayling!  But, could i fish it?  Having come from London i assumed yes, no signs associating the stretch to an angling association.  I was wrong, fortunately the farmer who owned the stretch saw me stalking fish (without a rod), he approached me and asked whether i would like to fish his stretch! i clearly answered in the affirmative! 


The next day with Shakespeare Agility 7ft 3 weight in hand with a Greys GX300 fitted (less than £70 of gear) i waded into the brook.  Less than a foot deep and clear as gin i had an amazing evening upstream casting with a size 14 nymph.  The biggest fish (left) was about a lb.  Great great fun!


So the lesson.  Always look for the brooks which feed famous rivers, they hold the same fish, often smaller but equally as fun. BUT ensure you research who owns the stretch, if you find them, they will no doubt let you fish, just be polite and the world is your oyster!

Hayward Farm Fishery

May 2016


So the Trout season for me continues to be the best i have ever had!  On this particular occasion i decided to go fishing on the way home from work on a Friday evening, why? well i had sat all day listening to my phone buzz with the tell tale sign that people were catching fish and posting their catches on FishBrain, this wet my appetite!


Fourtunately for me i always keep my fly kit in the boot of the car at this time of year, why wouldn't you? it doesn't take up much room and means you can cash in on an evening session when the weather is right!


As i arrived i knew it was going to be a good session.  The weather for the past few days has been calm with very little wind, this meant the water was amazingly clear, even clearer then normal! I saw this Rainbow cruising up and down a marginal shelf, i assume hitting small fry as they strayed too far over!  With this in mind i put on a black damsel with a gold head and stripped it accordingly.  In less than 2 mins i was in.  More than 15 mins later this 6lb 8oz beauty was gliding into the net.  I was desperate to return it, i had bought a catch and release ticket as the freezer is already full! but sadly this one would not go back, it must of been 20mins of trying.  Now i know some of you will think, "no wonder, you took the fish out the water to photograph!", well sadly this was taken after she had given up the ghost.  Sometimes it happens, i understand they say 10% of Trout will die on capture due to exhaustion.


In line with my mantra, she was eaten that night (as you can see below), my advice is you gut, tail, fin and take the head of the fish off.  Cut lateral cuts in the flanks.  Smother with olive oil with garlic and chilli. Wrap in foil then bang in the oven at 180 degrees, delicious!

The Wandle Revisited & Chub on the Fly...

May 2016


The Wandle is not only a fantastic coarse river, it also holds some amazing Trout.  With the river coarse season closed the only method possible is with the trusty fly rod.  With that in mind i made the pilgrimage along the M4 back into London and specifically the Sainsbury's car park in Merton.


Fly rod set up, thigh waders on i set off (with some very strange looks from the locals...) into the river!  Within the first 10 mins i had had 2 Chublets... not what i was there for... Alas, i move to another swim, Chub... another swim... Roach... The final swim and this cracking 1lb 2oz hit the nymph.


Can i complain? not at all, but considering all those fish are out of season i felt bad and left for the day, Troutless but not a blanker.


So what did i learn, well although there is a good head of Trout in the Wandle, there is a bigger head of coarse fish.  So, with the seasons in mind i think that this may be my last trip for trout on the Wandle in May.  

A Lump @ Lechlade

April 2016


As a man who has set up a site committed to low cost fishing, this is somewhat against what I'm here for! But... when i was near Lechlade in Gloucestershire i thought there is no excuse but to call in at the world famous trout fishery.  Situated next to the equally famous Horseshoe Coarse Fishery, it is spring fed with (usually) crystal clear water.  The idea was to go for an evening session stalking for my first ever double figure Trout, unfortunately following a week of torrential rain the lake was like tea!  However, i had travelled there and the £40 half day ticket fell into my pocket...


So, stalking and target casting was out of the question... But with an average size of 8lbs i felt that a fan casting approach (into likely swims) would bring me a fish and therefore a PB Trout.  After 2hrs it did, considering my PB was the 5lb + Trout reported last week, this felt considerably bigger! After 10 mins it showed, it looked huge! Sadly on the scales it didn't top the 10lbs mark but i was happy with 8lbs 6oz.  That sadly was the only fish that day...


Would i go again?.... honestly.... No.  It is a great lake with some big fish, but quite frankly they are pellet pigs which don't taste very good.  Is that important? well yes, it is a kill only lake and my mantra is if you kill it you eat it, best it tastes nice!  As you can also see when you compare the pictures of the French alpine 5lber and the Lechlade 8lber, the 5lber is a much more natural looking fish, a far nicer specimen to fish for.   

Easter in the Alps, Warm Springs Pay!
April 2016


As i set off to Samoens in the French Alps i was initially quite annoyed, the weather has been too warm recently for any really decent skiing, but just before i left i had packed my fly fishing kit, so all wasn't too bad!


In France there is far more free fishing than in Blighty, with a national fishing permit (which costs around £75) most stretches of rivers are free and most communes have municipal fishing lakes! Something i can't help but feel should be followed in the UK...

In Samoens there is the Lac Aux Dame, a crystal clear river fed pond of about 7 acres.  It is stocked but by fish like the one pictured, lean fighting fish rather than the pellet pigs you so often get in the UK.

This was the biggest of my trip at 5lb 2ozs, it was stunning.  The fight lasted almost 15 mins and yet the fish was returned without any difficulty, that just shows the health of it!

If your ever travelling to France, pack a rod!  You can get your licence online before travelling (Link).

End of the River Season = Trout Fishing
March 2016


Every year it's the same, the River Season closes and i just can't face sitting in the early spring chill at a commercial coarse fishery.  I dig out the Fly rods and head to the Trout Fisheries to get some practice in for the fortnight before the River Trout Season starts!  This year i gave the re-vamped Hayward's Farm a go.


It has just been taken over by the Sportfish store on site (Link) and does both a catch and return or (as seen in the photo) kill tickets.

It is an amazing little fishery, the lake is 9 acres of River Kennet fed crystal clear water!  This means stalking and casting to chosen fish, much more fun than casting into a muddy pond!  On my first trip these two +-3lb Rainbows eat very nicely.

There are Brownies in the lake and fish well into double figures.  For less than £30 this is a good option for the budding fly fisherman and i understand they are planning on opening up the second lake on site for coarse fly fishing, that will definitely be worth a cast!

Billy Big Mouth in Kansas

March 2016


For any American's this is an everyday fish, the Big Mouth Bass.  Well i was away with work in March 2016 and the start of the Bass season, an opportunity i couldn't turn down!


It all started when i drove past Carbela's, they greatest fishing / outdoor shop in the world.... a dedicated river running through the store with 5lb + Rainbows in says it all...


Either way, $100 later i had kitted myself out with cam clothing, rod, reel and a pocket full of Rapalas ($4 each...).


The result, a 1lb (generous) Billy Big Mouth, happy with that!

Drop Shotting @ Sonning Lock
January 2016


So as the winter draws on my attention switches from Barbel to predator fishing.  Unfortunately the River Wandle has very few predators other than the Trout.  Alas to find a free spot i ventured further afar.  


Sonning is located about 2 miles East of Reading and is located on the River Thames.  Fishing is free upstream of lock on the tow-path to old power station discharge point, just beyond island in river, fishing available throughout season.  Downstream from lock to Sonning Road Bridge on towpath side, fishing is from 1st November to 14th March only.

So the session... The river was high, fast and cloudy! but having driven there i was fishing no matter what!  I found some slack water upstream of the lock. 4 Perch and this little Jack Pike was the tally.  Will i go back? Definitely, i have just moved to Maidenhead and this will be one of my local free stretches!

The Wandle Days and the Launch...


Between 2013 and 2015 I lived in Wandsworth, London.  I was blessed to live next to The Wandle, an amazing chalk stream running from South London and into the Thames at Wandsworth.  The fishing was free and quite frankly amazing! PB Barbel at 8lb 12ozs, PB Brown Trout at 4lb 8ozs, Roach over 1lb etc etc.


So why launch a site called the Urban Fisherman? I was looking for information on fishing on other rivers and canals near me that were free with my EA License or accessible on a day ticket, amazingly i could find very little... many of the blogs were made up of anglers who although helpful were often unwilling to share information.  Perhaps worried about hoards of anglers stealing their favourite swims? each to their own i guess.

So this site (i hope) will, in my own way, explain where i have found to fish for, mon raison d'être, free (rivers) or at affordable prices.

If you can help me, please do! I'd love to hear from anyone who has got this far into my site and shares my belief that with an EA Licence you should be able to fish more water! 

Rainbows in the River Wandle

July 2015


On the 21st of July 2015 whilst fishing for Brown Trout on the River Wandle i caught this 3lb 2oz Rainbow Trout.  Im sure you will agree i was slightly surprised!  I immediately emailed the Wild Trout Trust to report the Catch, they could not have been more helpful.


There are 3 theories:


1) The Rainbow Trout has run from a river stocked with Rainbows into the channel and subsequently up the Thames and into the Wandle.


2) The Rainbow Trout has escaped from a trout fishery on or near the Thames and has subsequently found its way up the Wandle.


3) (And least likely) During the 'Trout in the Classroom' project (conducted by the Wandle Piscators) a stray Rainbow egg has mixed itself up amongst the Brown eggs introduced.


So what are your thoughts? Have you caught a Rainbow where it shouldn't be? Please contact me and let me know.