John Bailey: When low pressure weather leads to high pressure fishing!

Louis, Mum and Noah with a first tench Picture: John Bailey

Louis, Mum and Noah with a first tench Picture: John Bailey - Credit: Archant

The low pressure of late last week certainly produced winds strong enough to blow you out of your hat and make casting a float a tricky and hazardous job.

I found myself out on an extraordinary crucian pond just as the wind really bared its teeth so my report from that charming venue will have to wait for a calmer day.

Funny thing, wind. Sometimes good, sometimes a killer. Much depends on where it is coming from. Carpers seem to like it from wherever and it can certainly breathe life into a dull as ditch water trout lake sweltering under the high summer sun. Mate Robbie has been doing a lot of bass fishing and he tells me a southerly is no good, a northerly is great, but a north westerly is best. Or a north easterly? One or the other, I can’t remember which because I didn’t wholly understand his fishing physics to be honest. Nor do I understand why an easterly bangs tenching on the head when temperatures are rocketing. This might be explicable in the spring when waters are shivering but not when they are cooking. I fished midweek with a fish biologist who told me I was bonkers. But when did fishing and logic fully coincide?

Through various channels, Ben Seal of British Canoeing read my piece in this paper a couple of weeks ago when I took canoeists to task for trashing fragile, shallow, upper rivers. He was incensed that I hadn’t mentioned how much education the organisation gives its members and that I had tarred all canoeists with the same broad brush. Well, I couldn’t find much mention of ecological concern for my rivers on Ben’s website and whilst the canoeists I meet on the river Wye are pleasant in the main, a lot of hereabouts are definitely not. I think my best mate who had one canoeing gentleman defecate on his riverside lawn would agree with me on that one. The thrust of Ben’s email was that whilst some environmental education might not be a bad thing at all, we have to accept the great British public now have a right to go anywhere they like outdoors and we must all welcome them without reservation. I’d like to take Ben to Lyng Mill on the middle Wensum where a summer of outdoor activities and canoeing have led to the banks and river bed being trashed. Trees have been torn down, railings demolished and the fish sent packing along with the waterfowl and life giving weed.

I am happy to see the storm over the Environment Agency’s plan to deny the historic access of our bream to Hoveton Great Broad is growing. To be honest, every angler I speak to has nothing but contempt for the EA and many have more abuses they add to the list of the authority’s misdemeanours. There have been many last straws in recent years, but this might break the camel’s back. On Friday I saw the Wensum at Great Ryburgh for the first time in perhaps six years. I could barely believe the state it had fallen into. Tragic is the only word I can think of. The only plus I could summon was the thought that cormorants will find it hard to hunt in a river where there is barely any water, but only swathes of weed. I remember looking upstream of the bridge in that pretty village when there were extensive, deep, broad gravels carpeted with dace and roach as far as my eye could see. That was in 1969. Anglers older than me say it was even better in the 1940s and 1950s. It makes you want to weep for what we have lost, seemingly irretrievably.

I had the delight to take Noah (aged 10) and Louis (8) for their first fishing trip before the winds came. Mum Emma helped me out, and thank the fishing gods for that. I might have been a teacher once, but I must have had tenfold more energy in those days. I waved them away from the car park after four hours and felt like I needed a fortnight’s holiday, but hopefully a good time was had by all. The boys had plenty of roach to 12oz and a few rudd, one of which was seized by a pike on the way in. Nature’s redness in tooth and claw was explained to them along with the sad fact that the attacker was unlikely to be a great white shark so far north. After three hours of exhausting activity, Emma and I decided it would be good to chill out, take deep breaths and go for a tench. Impatience was reaching boiling point (after 15 minutes) when the rod tip rattled and we brought a dumbfounded male tench to the net.

Then it was more frenzied roach business before peace reigned, at last. The boys said it had all been grand, but I sensed they were happy to be back with their phones and iPad.

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This is NOT me being an old bloke. This is me just wondering for the fifty thousandth time how you get kids into fishing these days, something that seems to exercise the best brains in the sport.

There appears to be a consensus that instant catching must be achieved or boredom will set in. Perhaps, but I started fishing seriously aged four and it took me three years to catch my first roach and I was 11 when I landed my first tench, from Holkham lake. Mostly, my years of failure were packed with tangles that made me cry endlessly, but I never remember being bored. If the fishing was slow, my mates and I would race maggots, climb trees, chop up worms, light fires, taunt cattle and play with knives. The whole purpose of fishing when I was seven was to get out, to get away and to do my own thing.

Come to think of it, all these decades later, not much has actually changed at all.

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