There’s only one word to describe this winter: waterlogged.
The wettest winter since records began has brought misery to the thousands whose homes have been flooded. For all of us it seems as though the storms have lasted forever. And though spring might be just around the corner, it can’t come quickly enough.
That’s why we invite you to join us as we head to the world’s driest places. Fishing where it’s hot, dusty and bone dry. It’s time to swap your rain lashed bivvy for suntan lotion and a broad brimmed hat.
Let’s go desert fishing.
Land of the saddle weary cowpoke and the dusty gun slinger, New Mexico is the location of choice, for many of our favourite Western movies. It’s also more geographically diverse than it gets credit for. While it’s famous for its rose coloured deserts and barren tablelands, there you’ll also find the forest clad mountain sides and snow capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Southern Rockies.
For the intrepid angler, the fifth largest state in the US offers everything from alpine lakes and desert gorges to lowland rivers and streams; year round fishing for winter weary Brits. And with panfish, trout, bass, catfish, northern pike and walleye on the list of target species, you’ll have more than enough to keep your rod tip quivering.
Anyone travelling to Egypt should check out the Foreign Office website for the latest advice before they go. But assuming you make it, you’ll be rewarded with rich fishing in a climate that will banish your rainy day blues. During the 1960s, President Nasser ordered the construction of the higher Aswan dam, a vast feat of engineering built to control the annual flood of the River Nile.
Fish in the middle of the dramatic desert landscape, as nomadic tribesmen graze their animals on the lakeside vegetation. The waters of lake Nasser offer the opportunity to hook the fish of your life – the Nile Perch. A formidable adversary, this king of fish grows up to 2 m in length and can weigh anything up to 200 kg.
The best time to fish Lake Nasser is October to June – perfect for avoiding the British winter. Choose from one of the many tour operators for a fishing safari of a lifetime on Africa’s biggest lake.
The bushmen call the Atlantic coast of Namibia, the ‘land God made in anger’. Infamous for its treacherous cold water current, constant surf and frequent mists, it’s not surprising so many whales, dolphins and ships have met a watery end here. A most inhospitable coast, the bleached bones littering the shore would have provoked terror in the lost and stranded. And with good reason because the sea is full of sharks and it hardly ever rains.
But if this doesn’t dent your enthusiasm, you’ll be glad to know the fishing on the Skeleton coast is to die for. And there are a number of operators offering fishing safaris in the area. Catch wise you’re looking at Galjoen (black bream), Steenbra, Kolstert (Blacktail) and Bronze Whaler.
If you do go, you might want to pack your bivvy, plenty of water and emergency food rations in case your transport breaks down. You could be waiting a very long time for the next bus…
Australia’s Northernmost tip is home to some of the deadliest creatures on earth. It’s stiflingly hot, full of flies and if you get lost, you’re as good as dead. But don’t let that put you off. There are few language issues, cold beer is in plentiful supply, and there are plenty of tour operators who’ll have you afloat in a tinny before you can bound from your bivvy bag and boil a billy.
And the fishing is great. The Barramundi is a superb game fish that grows up to 1.8 meters long and can top the scales at 60 kg. They make good eating too, great for those long hot evenings beside the barbeque.
One word of caution though – beware the crocs…
Bored by your bivvy? It’s time to get inspired!
We all know a fishing bivvy is supposed to be a purely practical item, created to provide shelter for super keen anglers. But what’s wrong with injecting a little design?
We’ve been on a hunt for the weirdest, wackiest and most wonderful examples of Grand Design Bivvies out there.
Here’s what we found…
This is an undisguised but wholly justified plug for the products available from my employer, Fishtec!
I have written at length over many years about the hardships me and my fishing buddies used to suffer in pursuit of specimen fish, but before launching myself into this unashamed endorsement of fishing tackle I would emphasize the value of our very unsophisticated angling adventures; I really wouldn’t have missed a moment of them and, what’s more, I fundamentally believe that we owe our good health and undiminished zeal to the way we were compelled to fish. Those who entered our wonderful way of life at any time after…say, 1990, will have little or no concept of how their predecessors paved the way for today’s bank-side opulence and convenience products, their view of fishing predicated on the expectation of a dry, warm environment and hot, well-cooked meals around the clock!
I am all too aware of how this piece could blossom into a full-blown Python sketch, with descriptions of long, late-September nights huddled beneath a 36” brolly – a wooden-poled brolly at that! – eking-out the last dregs of lukewarm tea from the flask… I could go on and on and on and on and on about ‘ow toof we ‘ad it in thorz days and, frankly, I’d have every good reason for doing so! You see, everything is relative. (Indeed, we live in an age of relativism brought about by the tyranny of political correctness but that’s another story for a different publication)
If you’ve been smacked across the face with a big, wet cod every day of your life it’d come as a relief – nay, a pleasure – to have that cod replaced by a sprat, wouldn’t it? Think about it…EVERY rotten single day of your life – at around mid-day – you receive a jaw-jarring, eye-watering SMACK! right across your chops from a glistening-wet cod wielded by a big sadistic bruiser; then, one day, he runs out of cod and can only muster little sprats thereafter…you’d be GAGGING for that daily sprat every day for the rest of your life knowing what the alternative could be.
So in that same spirit of relativism it was considered the pinnacle of Hedonistic indulgence the day we learned how to tuck a couple of donkey jackets under the brolly ribs to form a rain and wind-break; well-informed anglers from up the bank would ‘casually’ saunter down to see our creations and briefly experience the joy of the Brollyjacket. Why we didn’t see the possibilities and immediately form the world’s first fishing bivvy company I don’t know, but I suppose it was because the novelty of being only damp and fairly cold was seen as the ultimate pleasure!
And seats! Oh, those seats! It beggars belief that quality-control officers (or whoever made the bloody things) deemed our seats ‘OK – A1’ or whatever they labelled them prior to distribution. Even the luxury longer-legged versions of the things we spent our lives perched upon should, by rights, have been marketed as ‘back destroyers’ – ‘Can also be used as a handy fishing chair!!’ They really were diabolical contraptions comprising a green-painted iron frame and a length of candy-striped nylon. A more torso-friendly tubular seat did become available but the user was compelled to sit high and straight for the duration of the session – which could have been 17 hours of damp and darkness. We did it though…for years we regularly fished around the clock from the relative comfort of these things! Still…we had a 1 pint flask of tea and a pack of sandwiches to sustain ourselves so it wasn’t too bad was it?
The thing was, fishing equipment was never designed by anglers, or so it seemed. Indeed, when good tackle eventually became available it was marketed as being ‘Made by Anglers for Anglers’ so we really do owe a debt of thanks to those guys who put their money where their mouths were. Today the tackle market is quite enormous and there’s very little you can’t buy to enhance the angling-experience. I ask you…PVA bags…twin-skinned bivvies…luxury beds…carp bite alarms…polyphonic alarm receivers…boots that keep your feet warm in sub-zero temperatures! What a bunch of (lucky, warm, well-fed) cissies we’ve become!
Leafing through the latest TF Gear catalogue this morning I came across the Hardwear Pod; at just £19.99 it allows you to fish effectively on ANY surface. Honestly! What was wrong with a small pile of bricks and a couple of milk bottles? I found a – get this – ‘throwing spoon’. Now will somebody tell me what was wrong with the throwing arm? It’s true that I regularly came near to dislocating my shoulder and that I could never hurl a ball of cheese-paste further than 40 yards but I mean…we didn’t need a super-duper, accurate, effort-free throwing spoon for Pete’s sake! And what about this on page 49? A bloody ‘poncho’!! Ok, it’s only £9.99 but why fork out nearly a tenner when you can brave the pouring rain in a pair of denims and a Pacamac? I mean….the Pacamac never tore or split under the arms did it!!! Why would anyone need a good quality, green, hooded, sleeved, all-enveloping, totally waterproof Poncho – for NINE whole pounds and 99 pennies – just for when they’re caught by surprise? And what’s this? Page 34…’Stalking Belt’ Pah!! What was wrong with stuffing a farmhouse loaf down your trousers and filling your jacket with leads, binoculars, scales, camera, chocolate bars, hook-packets, floats and split shot, eh? Nothing at all! But now you can have all your stalking stuff neatly and comfortably worn around your waist in a TFG ‘Stalking Belt’ for heaven’s sake!! Who’d want one!! Ok, it’s only about twenty quid and it does enable you to spend entire summer afternoons exploring the upper river with everything you need – but what was wrong with the way I did it??
Really…you can peruse this decadent, self-indulgent catalog and find item after item that’s cleverly designed to make your fishing life ‘better’…’easier’…’more successful’! There’s reams of stuff that “…takes out the hard work… “and “catches you more fish” but really? Wouldn’t you rather ‘ave it ‘ard?
Fishing is a hungry business, so what better way to keep yourself topped up than by cooking and eating your catch as it comes in?
Here we’ve come up some fish dishes you can prepare and cook in your bivvy on the river bank or at the beach – from hook to plate in under 20 minutes – delicious fish freshly caught and cooked. What could be better?
Oily fish is best eaten fresh, and what fresher way to enjoy a mackerel than served up raw?
You’ll need: a sharp knife and a clean chopping board.
To get the best from your fish, bonk it on the head, then bleed it by slicing its gills. Next take off the fillets and slice into finger wide strips. You can serve these immediately, sashimi style, with soy sauce and wasabi to taste.
For a little more finesse, come prepared with some sushi rice cooked at home. Push the rice into an ice cube mould and bring it with you in a cool box or bag. When you’re ready to eat, simply squeeze out neat blocks of rice and drape a piece of mackerel over each. Simple, neat and classy food.
Hot Smoked trout
Fresh trout tastes fantastic smoked. While we’re pushing the 20 minute envelope here, we’re sure you’ll appreciate one of the greatest taste sensations ever to grace a bivvy on the riverbank.
You’ll need: salt, clean water, a kitchen towel, your smoker and some oak chips.
First gut, and clean your fish. Rinse it in clean water, then butterfly it. Add two tablespoons salt to two cups of water. Put your fish in the water to soak for 20 minutes while you get back to your fishing.
Now, light your smoker, and deploy your oak chips in line with manufacturer’s recommendations. Retrieve your fish from the brine and pat dry with the paper towel. Smoke your fish for 20 mins, or until cooked. Serve with freshly buttered brown bread, salt and pepper.
For a great taste of the sea cooked right there on the shore, you can’t beat a nice barbequed sea bream.
You’ll need: a lemon, pepper, salt, olive oil, a newspaper, string.
First, gut, clean and scale your fish. Open out your newspaper to the centre fold. Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Scatter a few slices of lemon. Pepper and salt the fish and put it on the paper. Add more slices of lemon. Drizzle with olive oil.
Fold your newspaper so the fish is at the centre of the parcel. Secure with string. Soak briefly in a bucket of sea water. Put the parcel on the barbeque. Cook for about ten minutes a side depending on the size of the fish and the ferocity of the flames.
Foil cooked chilli bass
For something a little more sophisticated, you can’t beat a nice freshly caught bass, cooked in the fire and eaten snug and warm in the bivvy.
You need: sticks, matches, tin foil, a sea bass, spring onion, a fresh chilli (fireyness to suit your taste), ginger, lemon, pepper and salt, olive oil.
First light your fire down wind of your fishing spot and bivvy. Gut, clean and scale your fish. Rip off a length of foil suitable for making a roomy parcel for the fish. Slice lemon, chop onions, ginger and chilli and put them in the cavity and round about. Apply pepper and salt, drizzle with oil. Fold the foil around the fish. Put it in the embers of the fire. Leave for about eight minutes a side.
Herrings in rolled oats
The old ways are the best – herrings rolled in Scotch oats.
You need: herrings, seasoned porridge oats, butter, a frying pan, whisky.
Kill, gut, clean, scale your herring. Light a fire or ignite your camp stove. Cut off a knob of butter, add to the frying pan and set to the heat. Open out your herring and press it into a tub of pre-seasoned oats until both sides are well coated. Fry until cooked.
Repair to your bivvy. Serve with a wee dram.
For most of us, a fishing bivvy is just that: a place to hang out while waiting for the fish to bite. But in times past, canvas has played a huge role in the daily life of millions of people.
And nowhere more so than the United States of America.
Here we stray from the river bank to take a look at some of America’s original bivvies – wild west shelters…
Otherwise known as a wigwam, the wikiup is a dome shaped shelter made from flexible spruce boughs or other available wood. It was the preferred means of shelter for nomadic native Americans. The structure could be erected very quickly, occupied for a few days or weeks, then left behind.
The type of covering varied according to the time of year. In winter, it would be covered with thick brush to keep the inhabitants warm. During the summer months, hides or canvas offered lightweight protection from the elements.
While a wikiup might look thin and flimsy, in fact, its dome shape offers incredible wind resistance, and for backwoodsmen out hunting or fishing, they’re still used from time to time.
Synonymous with the tribes of the plains indians, the tipi is iconic. But to the Native Americans who used them, they were simply home. Lightweight, transportable and quick to erect, tipis are warm, dry and perfectly adapted to their environment.
Native Americans followed the food. Their tent villages were part housing estate, part hunting lodge, part fishing bivvy. In summer, the canvas or hide walls could be rolled up for ventilation. In winter, they were lined and insulated.
The central hole is covered by adjustable flaps for optimum draft, allowing smoke to escape. During the harshest winters, the tent could be staked to the ground – with no flat surfaces, it’s almost impossible to knock over.
The arrival of white settlers spelled disaster for the indigenous inhabitants of the land. The settlers believed in ‘manifest destiny’; their God given right to occupy the land, and exploit all its natural resources. From mineral deposits to game and fish, as far as they were concerned – it was all theirs for the taking.
For modern Americans, the archetypal settler’s wagon, the ‘Prairie schooner’, represents the great trundle West in search of opportunity. To native Americans, that same canvas covered wagon serves as reminder of the ruthless extermination of a people.
The wild west was a lawless place populated by people on the make. But while few were the gun toting desperados of movie shoot ‘em ups, all were in search of land, and wealth.
For some that meant settling on the banks of a good salmon river, for others it meant trapping for furs in the far North. For yet others it was the gold fields of Colorado that fired the imagination, for still more, staking out a land claim and tilling the earth was the dream to follow.
With money in short supply, uncertain relations with native neighbours, and the constant temptation to up sticks and try their luck elsewhere, accommodation had to be cheap, easy to erect and portable.
That’s where wall tents came in. A simple pitched roof, with side walls to add height. And they weren’t only used as homes. Many main streets were constructed entirely of wooden facades – behind which lay nothing but a tent.
Tented accommodation is making a comeback in the United States. The land of the free is also the land of the desperate, and never more so than since the property crash of 2008.
Failing banks and staggering levels of foreclosures have turned some areas into ghost towns. But on waste ground and in woodland areas, it’s another story.
Newly destitute people are moving in droves to, ‘tent cities’. Former teachers, factory workers, tradesmen and women – all sections of society are well represented.
When is a fishing bivvy not a fishing bivvy? When it’s your home.
A fishing bivvy or day shelter is designed to fit in with its environment. As well as being practical and functional, it’s often well camouflaged and comfortable too.
Next time you’re sitting in your shelter, wrapped up snug with a flask of tea to hand, just waiting for the fish to bite, spare a thought for the occupants of these daft day shelters.
As far as panoramic views go, this tent is nothing if not a room with a view.
For anglers, it offers the advantage of being able to keep your tackle in view while putting the kettle on. But consider the neighbours – clear walls leave nothing to the imagination.
Just as your day shelter is designed to merge with the greens and browns of the riverbank, this tent is designed for incognito urban adventuring.
It’s intended to look so car-like that nobody would give it a second glance, let alone suspect that someone might be asleep inside. Frankly, we don’t think they’re quite there yet.
The ultimate in waterfront canvas accommodation, this trailer tent combines the design features of the Sydney opera house, with an armadillo.
How well it performs as a tent we don’t know, but for anyone who wants to fade into the background, it’s a dead loss – unless of course you happen to be fishing in Sydney harbour.
Good for wine bottle stoppers, floor tiles and pin boards, we’re not entirely convinced of cork’s suitability for camping.
But the fact that this tent is constructed almost entirely from cork does offer some advantages for anglers – its natural buoyancy would be useful in a flash flood.
Unsurprisingly, this day shelter is still at the design concept stage.
Full body umbrella
There’s nothing worse than arriving at work soaked to the skin. But for us, this invention goes just a little too far.
How long would it take for the clear PVC to fog – resulting in a mad blunder from pillar to post? Not the best invention ever, and as far as angling goes – utterly useless. How are you supposed to cast?
Today’s bivvies and day shelters are high tech and lightweight, but mobile shelters are certainly nothing new.
Next time you pack your bivvy ready for a fishing trip, spare a thought for these nomadic hunter gatherers past and present, whose shelters took a little more effort.
Temperatures on the Mongolian Steppe can range from 40 C during the daytime to below zero at night. In the winter, the thermometer can dip below -30 C. The traditional way of life for people who live on these harsh, windy plains, is as nomadic or semi nomadic herdsman. In a land of extremes, accommodation has to be warm yet portable.
The yurt is perfectly adapted to the geography and climate of the region in which it evolved. Round and with a conical roof, the finished structure has no flat or concave surfaces to trap the wind, making the tent all but impossible to blow over.
It is also incredibly strong. The downforce generated by the weight of the roof is counteracted by the tension band that runs around the lattice of wood that forms the yurt’s outer rim.
The Mongolian yurt covering is thick felt, warm yet relatively light weight. Here in the West, yurts are increasingly popular alternative dwellings – when constructed from waterproof canvas, they make a surprisingly sturdy and cosy shelter.
A properly constructed igloo can bear the weight of a full grown man standing on the roof. In a land where there are no trees, building materials are in short supply. But there is no lack of snow in the frozen North. And as a building material, it has a lot going for it.
Snow contains a lot of trapped air, making it a superb insulator. It can be -45 C outside, but inside an igloo, body heat and a small oil lamp can raise the temperature to as much as 16 or even 20 C.
We’re used to representations of tiny one or two man igloos, but these were temporary structures erected by hunters on the move. Snow homes can house as many as 20 people sleeping on raised beds of ice covered with caribou skins. Light comes from a single polished block of ice in the wall.
The gypsies first wandered out of India over 1000 years ago. They travelled in extended family groups throughout Europe, with populations in the Middle East and the Americas.
Most people think of Gypsies as living in caravans or ‘vardos’, but this was a relatively modern invention. For far longer, gypsies meandered along traditional routes sleeping under their wagons or in benders.
Take some supple hazel rods, plant in the ground and bend to the middle. Cover with blankets or waterproof cloth and you have a basic bender. For centuries, travelling people lived like this, moving from place to place, practising country crafts like besom broom making, weaving, metal and leatherwork.
No collection of native shelters would be complete without mention of that most famous of bivvies, the teepee or tipi. Until white settlers drove them off the land, the North American plains were peopled by natives whose lives were intimately tied to those of the buffalo they hunted. And as the herds moved, so did the people.
Their teepees are iconic – symbolic of ultimate freedom. Long poles clad with hides made for warm, waterproof accommodation.
Because there were few trees on the prairies of America, poles were in short supply. Whenever camp was struck – tribes could be on the move in under an hour – poles had to be transported.
When the conquistadors brought the horse to the continent, the men of the plains developed a horse culture second to none – and because their tents were now easier than ever to move, so their size grew. Some of the tent poles were as long as 25 ft.
In 1991 after the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein began a ruthless campaign to drain the marshlands of Southern Iraq. This was retribution for a failed Shia uprising and ultimately led to the displacement of all but a few thousand of people.
But with the fall of Saddam and the reflooding of the waterways, this ancient culture survives – just – and along with the last of the marsh arabs, the last of the Mudhifs.
It’s incredible what you can build using nothing but reeds. A Mudhif is a reed house built with bundles of the stuff lashed together with yet more reeds. Walls, ceiling, floor, beds, baskets, fences, boats – all are fashioned from reeds.
Day shelters and bivvies may not seem all that rock and roll, but just like Mick Jagger, you’ll be crying out ‘Gimme Shelter’ if you don’t have one this summer – and not just for those lazy days on the river bank.
Here’s why a day shelter is for life, and not just for fishing.
Whether you’re heading off to Glastonbury this year, taking the family to Womad or just kicking back at your local outdoor music event, one thing you’ll definitely need is a tent.
Why not make use of your bivvy or day shelter? For overnight stays a tent is essential, but even if you’re just out for the day – a shelter will keep you dry if the weather turns. On a sunny day, a bivvy is great for keeping young children protected from the burning rays.
When the party is over, many thousands of festival goers simply leave their tent behind – the large majority of which end up in landfill. When a two man tent costs as little as £15, there’s little incentive to take it home, particularly if the festival season is wet and muddy. And charities can’t make use of flimsy supermarket tents either. A decent fishing bivvy is worth looking after, so sponge it off and reuse. That way your party in the park will be a green one.
Kids fishing trip
What better way to bond with your children than to take them for a summer fishing trip? Pack the fishing rods, a bivvy and some supplies and head off into the great outdoors. Kids love to fish but soon get bored if the trout don’t bite.
Youngsters get a real thrill out of being under canvas – your day shelter will be an excellent distraction for them, so you can carry on fishing. Best of all, you’ll be giving them ‘quality time’ and happy memories to pass on to their own children.
From the highlands of Scotland to the beaches of Cornwall, there are literally thousands of campsites to choose from, and many fisheries also offer camping. The UK Campsite directory has listings for campsites with angling. Whether you’re looking for a family site with a pool, bar and entertainment, or a quiet spot in the hills to revel in nature – with some fly fishing thrown in, you’re sure to find something to suit your needs and budget.
We live in a tricky financial climate and for many it simply won’t be possible to go away on a camping holiday this year. But that doesn’t mean kids can’t enjoy the excitement of camp life. Simply pitch your fishing bivvy in the garden and let your kids sleep out. Just make sure you remember to leave the door unlocked at night so they can come inside when they get scared!
You could encourage your kids to join the scouts or guides. Modern scouting is a far cry from the days of knot tying and ‘bob a job’. There are over 400,000 scouts in the UK and 60,000 of them are girls, with a mixture of male and female leaders.
Perhaps you can help your son or daughter to take their ‘Angler Activity Badge’, passing on your knowledge and love of fishing. And what better way to give children a taste for adventure than by introducing them to a wonderful organisation – now headed by Chief Scout, Bear Grylls and with none other than David Beckham as a former member.
Do your bit
Even if you’re not thinking of taking up camping – you can still do your bit to help families in disaster areas around the world – donate a tent.
Shelterbox UK is a charity that provides a unique service to people suffering the after effects of earthquakes, landslides, and forest fires, as well as war and conflict. The contents of each green, plastic ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, groundsheets, water storage and filtration equipment, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.
Shelterbox aim to help 50,000 families every year by providing them the shelter and the basics of survival they so desperately need. In the 12 years since the charity was set up, Shelterbox has operated in over 90 countries and has helped an estimated one million people. Now that’s one good use for a bivvy.
Who knew that just having a brew could tell you all you need to know about the forthcoming weather? Did you ever think a warm milky coffee could have saved you a soaking on the bank or a day stuck on a boat in the middle of a flat calm lake?
Whether you’re looking for that perfect opportunity to break out your fishing tackle or any old excuse to get on the bank, try this nifty little tip to predict the weather for your next fishing trip.
Make a cup of coffee or tea, mixing it with cream or milk seems to make picking out the bubbles easier but a black coffee, tea or hot chocolate will also work fine.
Pour your coffee or tea into the cup and watch which way the bubbles head, if they move to the edge of the cup rather quickly make sure to take your sun tan lotion, peaked caps and cool bags! The theory behind this method is that high pressure will push the bubbles to the edge of the cup, which indicates a period of calm weather and clear skies.
On the opposite end of the scales, if the bubbles cling to the centre of the cup, low pressure is expected which typically brings unsettled weather, the type where you need to don your wet weather gear and hide in the bivvy!