First Fish of the Season

Just had the first fish of the new river season, a fighting fit barbel of 8lbs. It was in very good condition and quite a stocky fish – unusual for this early in the season, when the fish are still normally quite lean after spawning.

First barbel of 2014-15 season

First barbel of 2014-15 season


On arrival, my initial plans were scuppered by a notice preventing access along the top section of the fishery, due to collapsed and undercut banks caused by the severe winter flooding. Curiosity got the better of me and I explored along the bank to see what had happened (taking care not to encroach too close to the river’s edge). The damage was quite severe, with a number of long-established trees and bushes having been ripped out, many of which were regular fish-holding features. In  one spot, sandbags had been piled up to prevent the river from flowing into a new course.

So off to the bottom car park it was. The lower end of the fishery didn’t seem to have suffered any great effects from the floods – at least not visibly, there may have been some changes to the gravels on the river bed – and looked in good nick. I chose a spot that I call my “falling-in swim”, because that’s exactly what I did there (fall in that is, not swim) a few years ago, while attempting to prevent a rod being dragged in by a barbel.

I was reasonably confident of a fish or two, but had to wait almost three hours for the first bite. It was worth the wait, though, as it resulted in the fish above. When first hooked, the fish did not put up much resistance, but once it was closer in, it suddenly seemed to realise that it was hooked and proceeded to put up a spirited and strong battle for its freedom. Its efforts were in vain though, as I eventually managed to slip the net under it.

Later, a much smaller barbel, of about a pound and a half, fell to the pellet bait. A lovely, pristine little fish and hopefully a sign that there’s a crop of younger fish coming through.

Despite the forecast of mostly sunshine with a possible quick shower later, some heavy clouds began to gather and thicken, and it started to rain. Lightly at first, but soon becoming heavier. Not having full waterproofs with me, and there being no sign of the “quick shower” moving on anytime soon, I decided to call it a day. A good decision it was too, as I’d barely got a mile up the road before hitting torrential rain that very quickly had the roads running with water, inches deep in places.

Common Cravings

The river season largely fizzled out, with only 2 trips to the banks after the September Wye holiday. The persistent floods put paid to a lot of the fishing. Andy & I had a couple of days on the middle Severn in March, which were somewhat unproductive, with only a couple of barbel and a jack pike to show for our efforts.

There were also a couple of trips attempting to lure a pike or perch from the canal. Apart from one very small pike (and I mean small!), this was a fruitless endeavour.

So, come the spring, and time to set sights on some carp and maybe some tincas. Off to the canal we went, and bloomin’ chilly it was too, with the spring sun yet to make its mark on the countryside. It seemed the fish were waiting for some warmth to bring them to life as Andy managed one carp, but I blanked.

Next on the agenda was an effort to catch a tench. We studied our club cards for a suitable venue and chose one, only to discover it was shut on the day we intended to fish due to a working party. So more research was done, and a second venue was chosen. There were two lakes on the site, but as one had a river running through it, it was shut for the close season. Typically, it looked the better of the two lakes, but the other one certainly looked good.

There's Tincas Out There Somewhere

There’s Tincas Out There Somewhere

Unfortunately the fish refused to come out to play, and our efforts came to nought.

Andy rests his eyes while waiting for the bite alarms to play a happy tune.

Andy rests his eyes while waiting for the bite alarms to play a happy tune.

Next up was a return to the canal in search of the elusive cyprio. The weather was at last showing some spring warmth, with temperatures moving into the low 20’s. Some warm sun on their backs seemed to improve the carps’ appetites, as at last I got some bites. I was keeping an ear on the commentary from the FA Cup Final (why does that have to kick-off at 5 o’clock? What was wrong with a 3 o’clock start?) Somewhere in between Hull’s second goal and Arse’s first, my swim sparked into action, and the bites came faster than those early goals at Wembley. First off, a common of 7lbs. Almost as soon as I’d returned the fish and put the rod out again, it was off, but somehow I failed to connect. Out went the bait again, and within a minute the alarm was bleeping furiously as a small common of about 3lbs tore off.

As with the football, the action slowed a bit after the hectic start. It was another 45 minutes before the next bite, yet another common, this one going around 6lbs and a further 30 minutes before a 5lb-er came to the net. All these bites had come to one rod, using a “Crave” boilie and pop-up, which stinks but the carp seem to like it.

The late spring sun shines on new life

The late spring sun shines on new life

It went quiet for a fair while then, and it wasn’t until the sun had nearly dropped over the horizon, before the next action. This time, it was the other rod that produced. This fish must have a sweet tooth, as it chose a white chocolate and coconut concoction. Finally, just as it got fully dark, the “Crave” rod took off again, but this time, after having played the fish for a couple of minutes, the hook pulled, much to my frustration, although I don’t think it was a particularly big fish.

So at last, the spring fishing has produced a few fish. Not big ones, but some excitement anyway.



6 league games

5 good results

4 wins

3 goals conceded

2 goals scored in each win

1 draw

Title-winning form 🙂


My first visit to the Boleyn Ground

I  recently managed to obtain a copy of the match programme from my very first visit to the Boleyn Ground, way back in 1966 (the year West Ham won the World Cup 🙂 )Ist Match Programme Cover
Not many pages in it, but there’s some history there. The teams, with some famous names on both sides…Ist Match Programme Team 1

Death of Frank Cearns…Ist Match Programme Frank Cearns RIP 1

Appointment of Rob Jenkins and the early days of Remfry’s Records…Ist Match Programme Rob Jenkins 2

Naughty boys!…Ist Match Programme Terrace Trouble 1

Wet Week on the Wye

Late update this one, as it’s about the week on the Wye that Andy and me spent on the Wye back in September, trying to catch a few barbel.

The journey down kinda set the scene for the week, as it rained heavily throughout the journey. Having arrived in Ross, where we were staying for the week, we then spent ages trying to find the tackle shop in order to get info on day ticket waters. Eventually we found it tucked away behind the high street. Options for day ticket waters seemed limited, so we decided on fishing a stretch downstream of Ross. The sat-nav managed to confuse me, and we had a nightmare of a roundabout drive before eventually locating the venue. With the river being very low and clear anyway, this section was sluggish and not very barbel-looking. I suspect it would be better with a foot or two of water on it. We blanked.

Monday’s rain did nothing to add extra water to the river, so once again we had to contend with low, clear conditions on Tuesday. But we switched to a stretch upstream of Ross that we’d seen before, and looked more “barbelly”. Rather stupidly, we decided to ignore the “flyer” that we were aware of and try other swims. Andy found a few small chub, but I had nothing. In the afternoon, I decided it was time to give the flyer a go. This involved a long cast right across the river, and I began bombing a pellet/groundbait feeder out there. After an hour or so, the rod top nodded sharply down, then dropped back as a fish made off with the bait. A few minutes later I had a lively 6 pounder in the net.

6-07 River Wye Mordiford 10-09-13

First Barbel of the Week

This was shortly followed by another barbel, this one being a new Wye PB of 9.09. Strangely, it hardly fought at all, which slightly took the edge of the new PB. A third barbel followed later, this one going around 4lbs, but it did put up a spirited battle. I lost another fish after this to a line break.

New Wye PB, 9.09

New Wye PB, 9.09

Wednesday saw us a little downstream, where we located some interesting looking swims, where the all the flow and depth was in the nearside. Very quickly I was into a barbel, and very quickly I was out of a barbel as the hooklink unexpectedly parted. But at least it showed that the swim choice was good. Or did it? I remained biteless for the rest of the day, as did Andy. Because the main flow was being channelled down the inside, it also pulled a lot of floating weed through the swims, and even though we were fishing no more than a rod length or so out, this weed was a persistent nuisance. In the afternoon, it started to rain and didn’t lay off until after we’d returned to the lodgings, by which time we were nicely soaked.

Wye @ Lucksall

Wye @ Lucksall

On Thursday, we returned to the stretch that we fished on Tuesday. Andy fished in the flyer while I started a bit downstream of him. The morning passed uneventfully, so I switched to another swim in the afternoon. Things began to liven up then, as Andy started to catch. He started off with his first-ever Wye barbel – a feisty fish of 6.11.

Andy Loses His Wye Virginity With a Fish of 6.11

Andy Loses His Wye Virginity With a Fish of 6.11

I’d only just got back from photographic duties when another text arrived informing me that he’d had a much bigger fish. This one went 9.15 on Andy’s scales and 9.10 on mine, so we couldn’t quite make it a “double”, but nevertheless it was a fine fish. Andy said that it had hardly fought, which, given the proximity of weights, made us think it may be the same fish as the one I caught on Tuesday. However, having studied the photos, I think they are different fish. He had two more barbel after that, a 7.01 and an 8.10.

Andy Looks Pleased With His Wye PB, 9.10

Andy Looks Pleased With His Wye PB, 9.10

The Flyer

The Flyer

Meanwhile, my swim switched on in late afternoon, producing a 5 pound barbel, followed by two small chub and finally another barbel of 8.04. Annoyingly, it had started raining again by now, so just when we’d got all our gear dry from the previous day, it all got wet again. But overall the best day of the week, with six barbel between us.

Wye @ Mordiford

Wye @ Mordiford

Friday saw us both in the same swims again, but this time the flyer didn’t produce for Andy, although he did lose one. Once again, my swim didn’t switch on until the afternoon, when I had a couple of chub, and finally a last-cast barbel of 8.09. And just as we’d nicely dried out from the previous afternoon’s rain, it started raining again, so that everything was soaked for the journey home.

Strangely, despite all the rain we’d had, the river remained low and clear all week, which I think didn’t help the fishing. What also didn’t help was the lack of decent venues available on day-tickets without prior booking. I think if we are to go back there for another holiday, we will need to do a bit more research prior to the visit.

Reviving Memories

Been going through my old football programmes recently. Having amassed nearly 40 seasons of them from getting on for 1000 games, and having stopped buying them every game as I used to (I now get them delivered to my phone), I’ve decided that I need to clear out a lot of them, as part of a de-cluttering of the house.

So I’m slowly working my way through them, making a spreadsheet record of all the games (geek moment!), keeping some that have special memories and getting rid of the rest.

Some of the games bring back some great memories, and others bring back some nasty memories – great victories, cup triumphs, horrible defeats, promotions, relegations, first visits to away grounds, great crowd moments and the occasional riot. It’s funny that all I need to see is the score and scorers from a game, and the memories can come flooding back.

Not from every game, certainly – 1000 games is a lot to remember, and these days I sometimes struggle to remember what happened last week, never mind 35 years ago.  🙂 , but there are many that I can recall at least in part – for example, see the scorers from a game, and remember how a particular goal was scored. And many of these were before the days of every goal being on tv, so these memories are really precious as there’s no chance of ever reliving them on-screen.

Here’s the front cover from a game in October 1982. Not a memorable game itself, but the cover pic is a bit special for me – I’m in it! Top centre of the photo.

Programme with me on Cover

Spuds Get Roasted

Spuds – Out-thought, out-fought and ultimately out-played on the pitch. Out-sung off it.

They simply didn’t have answers to our tactics and work-rate. How many times did they find themselves going sideways about 20 yards or so from our goal trying to either pick a pass or get a shot away, but couldn’t because there were always 2-3 or more players blocking the routes to goal?

Yet this wasn’t just a park-the-bus operation. Once possession had been regained, we moved the ball very well. Sometimes knocking it around at the back, sometimes moving it quickly forward. Always giving them problems going forward, as the movement and positional interchanging of the midfield players caused them problems all game that they never figured out how to counter.

At times our football was a delight, with some moments to savour. Demel’s bit of ball-juggling tight to the touchline in the first half, Diame showed some lovely touches all afternoon, culminating in the control and pass to set Rav away for his goal. Downing showed some good touches too, and what about Noble’s interception and drift away from two players followed by a pass with the outside of his foot that put Vaz Te away for the second? Trevor Brooking himself would have been proud of that – and what finer praise can you give?

In the stands, I’ve never known the home stands at WHL to be so quiet. Even while the score was still 0-0, there was little in the way of noise from the Spuds. While in the away section, we maintained a good volume of support throughout the afternoon. It was almost as if right from the start, both sets of supporters could sense that something unusual was about to unfold in front of them, causing tension in the home ends and an increasing sense of expectation in the away end. The exodus of biblical proportions from the home stands after the third goal was a joy to watch, leaving the travelling Irons to celebrate in what had unexpectedly become the promised land.

Irons celebrating (wtih thanks to the original uploader)…

I’m in there somewhere, but it’s not a close enough shot to pick me out unless you know where you’re looking.

West Ham Fans Fighting For One Of Their Own

There is a popular website for West Ham fans called Knees Up Mother Brown, better known as KUMB, which has very active discussion forums. One of the regular and most popular contributors to the forum is a guy who goes by the moniker “Cockney Hammer”. His daily news round up is avidly read by Hammers fans around the globe. He has also been running two nostalgia threads, posting hundreds of pictures of West Ham related memorabilia, much of which he has collected himself over several decades of supporting the club. Although he doesn’t get to games much these day, he is one of those who have previously “done the miles” over many seasons of following the club up and down the country.

In recent years, his personal life has been troubled by neighbours who don’t do the word “inconsiderate” justice, with loud music being played at all hours of the day and night. It has had as serious effect on his family and health. Despite pleas to the authorities who should be doing something about it, nothing has been done. Finally things came to a head a few days ago, when CH felt that life was not worth living anymore. Fortunately, the damage was not too bad, and he is now back home recovering. It is a sad world when peoples’ lives are made a living hell and the authorities are not willing to listen or act.

Once the members of KUMB found out about the latest events, they rallied round to offer support, both practical and moral. Many have sent letters or emails to both the mayor of Newham and the local MP. The mayor has responded favourably to these communications, so let us hope that something positive finally comes of a sad situation.

At times like this, I’m proud to be counted as part of the West Ham family.

The story can be read in full here…



Hitting the Ground Running & A True Legend

Back to the Boleyn yesterday for the first game of the season. I didn’t get off to a good start though as an accident (not me!) on the M11 meant that I got to the ground a few minutes after kick-off. It also meant I missed the lifetime achievement award to Billy Bonds before the match, which was frustrating, as I wanted to play my little part in paying tribute to the great man. The term “legend” is bandied about too freely these days, but in sporting terms, then Bonzo certainly would be worthy of that title. You could never, ever accuse him of showing a lack of effort throughout a club record 793 appearances. He was the epitome of “leading by example”. Hard but fair, his tough-tackling reputation often detracted from the fact that he was also a skillful footballer – not in the class of a Brooking or Devonshire for sure, but he had a good touch and could play a pass. You don’t play that many games mostly in the top division, filling roles as right-back, centre-half and midfielder without having more than a bit about you.

Billy Bonds LIfts the FA Cup in 1975 He repeated the feat in 1980.

Billy Bonds LIfts the FA Cup in 1975. He repeated the feat in 1980.

Anyway, back to the present bunch. It was a good solid start to the season yesterday, with an ultimately comfortable win over new-boys Cardiff. Well-taken goals by Cole and Nolan in each half saw us gain a 2-0 win to get us up and running. There were decent performances all over the pitch from our players, with Cole the outstanding one for me. But Stewart Downing’s substitute appearance in for the last 20 minutes nearly stole the show, as he looked threatening every time he got the ball.

In truth, Cardiff had little to offer, and I can’t recall a single on target effort from them. Jussi finger-tipped one effort, but I’m pretty sure that was going over anyway. Even Bellamy looked off the pace and was substituted. On this showing, they are in for a long and difficult season.

While this win was comfortable, we’ll have to step up our game against the better sides to get results. However, I’m looking forward to seeing Carroll’s return and the supply of crosses he’ll get from Downing, as this could be a potent partnership for us. And if Downing is not on form, then there’s Jarvis and Cole to provide the ammunition. With Morrison having had a good pre-season and now on the fringes of the first team, our attacking midfield options are looking strong. However, our strike force is looking thin. Without Carroll, we only have Maiga as a viable alternative and while he did a job yesterday, he is not suited to the lone-striker role. We desperately need to strengthen in this department. The board say we need to sell first – if so, then we need to say goodbye to Vaz Te, Taylor, Diarra and Collison. It would be a shame to move Collison out as he is one of our youth products, but his options are looking limited at the club now – he didn’t even make the bench yesterday.

Finally, it was great to catch up with old friends yesterday.

Signs of Life? Not Really

The arrival of the warmer seems to have done something to the river, as the margins were full of fry on Saturday, the first time I’ve seen that this season, and a welcome sight too. Then, when I cast a line into the water, there were signs of crayfish activity – not normally something I’d welcome, but coupled with the signs that the fish had been breeding I felt hopeful that things were returning to normal after the stuttering start to the season. But either things are not yet all right in the riverine environment, or I’m doing something badly wrong, as I failed to get a single bite. The feedback I’m getting from others on the bank suggests that I’m  not the only one struggling to find the fish, so it seems the problem could well be the river and its inhabitants. Worried 😦

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