The TF Gear 60” Brolly

I have written of the TF Gear Poncho, explaining the total-protection nature of its material and design. Now I feel compelled to shout about the TF Gear 60” Brolly having sheltered under my own for more than a few nights this year.

Our weather has, generally, been good for some time – although August was like a mini-winter! Up until that month, and certainly since, the climate has been kind to those of us who willingly shun our beds in favour of a sleeping bag by the river. Fortunately, I have had no need to employ the over-wrap: my nights under the stars have merely been long and damp. I cannot then, in all honesty, sing the praises of the 60” Brolly’s stability or rain-repulsion qualities, though it is clear to anyone who has erected and used this superb refuge that those criteria would be well served.

For me, the TF Gear 60” Brolly provided a roomy yet cosy sanctuary from the damp and the night generally; there was sufficient room for the largest bed-chair (though I chose to sleep on the ground-sheet) and loads of space for one man’s gear, (personally, I prefer to use a brolly over a fishing bivvy because they are easier to transport) but even with active cooking-gear, this brolly would have accommodated and shielded a stove from all but the most awkward, ‘straight-in’ winds – largely thanks to the amply-proportioned wings at either side of the brolly entrance. With the wings (or side-flaps if you prefer!) level to the ground I initially perceived the entrance to be too low, but this was an illusion brought about, I believe, by a lifetime with brollies of standard size.

On entering my ‘cave’ I found little need to bend more than was necessary to effect a stoop – loadsa room! And as for stability, the six good quality pegs and two storm-rods made it patently clear that the TF Gear 60” Brolly would be going nowhere if a gale blew up – it hugged the ground like a limpet! With no centre-pole and an abbreviated rib-boss my 60” Brolly experience was a good one, and I can easily imagine the sheer luxury within once the weather really turns and forces me to use the over-wrap – bring it on!!

Barbel success, with the new Fishing Rod!

Cliff Hatton Barbel

At the beginning of this year I wrote of my enthusiasm for the TF Gear Classic Nan-Tec Barbel rods I’d bought for the coming season, would I “…christen them with a double?” I asked. Well, as it happened, I was unable to get out in June and July as much as I’d have liked but early August saw me doing regular after-work sessions on my local stretch of river. As a rule I use the finer, very sensitive top section for my barbel fishing despite the disconcerting bend it adopts on hurling 4oz of bait-packed feeder to the far bank; but I’ve taken to using the standard tops which are sufficiently tactile to show me when a fish is interested.

And so it was a couple of Mondays ago. Fishing alongside His Wyeness, Geoffrey Maynard of Hay, and sharing a recently acquired Korum Rod River Tripod, my unblinking attention to my rod-tip was rewarded by two or three slow pulls; there was nothing rhythmic about them so I discarded any suspicion that my rig had merely rolled in the current or had picked up a twig or something. My right talon poised for action, I watched the rod-tip bow a fourth time and on this occasion it went over just a fraction further and stayed there! The classic barbel fishing rod was swept back with some enthusiasm, (I assure you!) taking on a pleasing bend just past the perpendicular. At this stage the fish might have been of any size but only a few seconds passed before I was able to state – and I did – that “This is a good fish, Geoff – a big one”

His Wyeness – it must be said – was a little nonchalant and reluctant to look up from his PVA activities. “Tell me if you need the net” he said; his head down in concentration, apparently uninterested in my increasingly lively barbel-battle.

“Well…I’m pretty sure this is a double” I replied as the fish yanked-down the rod and tore ten yards of 8lb mono off the Shimano, but Geoff had seen too many five and six pound ‘doubles’ to stir his complacency.

“Ok…give us a moment”

Normally I would net the fish myself but the bank at this point necessitated the assistance of an extra pair of hands. Not before time, His Wyeness stood and took in the scene: 2lb test curve barbel fishing rod arced and repeatedly stabbing at the water, Shimano issuing short, staccato bursts of complaint, great patches of flattened water and one very excited angler…the penny dropped and he was soon in serious mode, net poised for the job.

Before long, a bulging, glistening net was placed on the grass and parted to reveal what was clearly the best fish of the season from this stretch. On the scales the needle settled at just 2oz short of 12lb – a fine fish indeed.


Tackle Fishing with Good Fishing Tackle

It is almost a year since I started my position with Fishtec, a year in which my knowledge of the fishing tackle market has improved way beyond my expectations. Naturally, my heart belongs to the gear designed and manufactured by TF Gear: it’s great stuff, and it’s priced competitively enough for most anglers to enjoy. I can report our directors’ commitment to great design, good service and total dedication to ‘getting it right’. It can take many months of negotiation and, sometimes, a great deal of frustration before a particular item is deemed good enough to ‘go live’. Such was the case with the tremendously successful TF Gear Juggernaut Barrow. The carpets in our office were pretty worn out when I arrived on the scene in December of last year but endless ‘trial’ runs of the Juggernaut put a noticeable furrow in the canvas backing, I’d swear. But all the brain-ache was worth it: the TF Gear Juggernaut now trundles around countless lakes here and abroad, transporting heaps of tackle to distant swims with minimal effort and fuss. Why nobody thought before of a 3-wheeled barrow I’ll never know, but TF Gear got there first and are now at No.1 in the barrow-selling market.


Look too at the TF Gear Speed-Runner fixed spool reel. It’s a feature-packed, high quality piece of angling wizardry that satisfies the demands of many a renowned angler, including Dave Lane who never goes fishing without them. With smooth, reliable, precision-engineered gears; a strong, well-balanced, high-grade alloy body; micro-adjustable drag and ten (that’s 10) ball-bearings to boost its performance, anyone would reasonably expect to pay twice the current price of £49.99! And here’s the thing: despite their astonishingly low price tag, they perform and look and ARE good enough to grace the classiest rods.

And let’s hear it for the TF Gear Poncho! I suspect I was like many anglers in viewing a Mexican-inspired ‘cover-all’ as a bit naff, but I bought one: at less than ten quid I thought it worth a gamble. First time out with the Poncho it absolutely hassed down but by gathering my gear around and under my low chair and covering the back-rest I rendered myself and my tackle utterly waterproof. Sitting in the thundering rain could hardly be called fun but I experienced a great deal of satisfaction from thwarting the worst Nature could throw at me. When the rain stopped I stood and uncovered my possessions in so doing, and in the midst of a steaming, dripping water-world I found myself and my gear to be bone dry! How’s that for a good tenner’s worth! I now keep a TF Gear Poncho in the car as well and intend buying half a dozen more for friends and family at Christmas.

Under our website-heading ‘Fishing Hats and Caps’ you’ll see the ‘TF Gear Fleece Hat, Gloves and Neck-Warmer Set’. It costs £19.99. I ask you to look at what this very modest sum buys, then to imagine how these items will keep you warm during those rock-solid days of deep mid-winter. The neck-warmer really appeals to me: it does everything a scarf can do but without superfluous, flailing tail-ends getting in the way; you simply pop it over your head and adjust the draw-cord for instant warmth and draft-proofing – things just keep getting better! Here’s further proof, and also evidence of our (necessarily!) unbiased nature at Fishtec Towers…


The Avid Super-Low Chair: at just 2.8kgs and supplied in a good quality canvas bag, you can sling this little beauty over your shoulder and set off for a full day’s roving and stalking. Thanks to Avid, being ‘mobile’ no longer means standing all day or sitting on the ground; now you can be comfortable in every little gap you come across – and very inconspicuous. The Avid Super-Low Chair is extremely well made and ingeniously designed; it folds lengthways and features rounded EVA arms that truly enhance your comfort. It takes up very little room and can be easily stored in a small cupboard, in the boot or at the back of the bivvy for guests.

So, the Avid Super-Low is just the job for the rover and the guest, but for the longer-stay angler who needs sustained comfort in a full-size chair there is simply no need to look further than the TF Gear ‘Dave Lane’ range and the Dave Lane Hardcore Armchair in particular. Just looking at the picture on the website brings about a sense of comfort and well-being so just think of how good it actually is to relax in; it might well have been designed by a top osteopath for his much-loved mother…sheer luxury! Truth is, you could ditch the armchairs in your living room in favour of a set of TF Gear Hardcore Armchairs and continue to enjoy a perfectly acceptable standard of living (A much better one in some cases!) I mean…how many G-Plan, Ercol or Parker-Knoll armchairs have adjustable legs and mud-feet back and front? None, I’d wager. Which of them allows you to recline parallel to the floor? And can you simply fold up a glazed-chintz Sanderson fireside chair and sling it single-handedly into the back of your van? You see the advantages of the TF Gear way, don’t you? Allow your mind to race a little…imagine your WHOLE HOUSE furnished with a full range of TF Gear, quality fishing tackle? You could literally fold-up your living-room and bedrooms and have the lot stowed in the pantechnicon in less than three minutes. All of those black plastic bags filled to bursting with duvets and bed-clothes could be replaced by a few nicely compacted TF Gear sleeping bags in their stuff-sacks. At a stroke, moving house would be relegated to about 19th place in the list of life’s most stressful events.

God, I love working here….

How we used to do it!

We ad it at toof

“Well of course, we ‘ad it toof…”

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!

Fishing Bivvy

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?

Do Perch Fight That Hard?

Do perch fight that hard?

Half a century wielding an expensive stick has rewarded me – at one time or another – with most of those delicious sensations a resisting fish can give: with the right rod and fitting line the roach has had me truly worried, 2lb mono cutting fizzy lines through the dross of a chocolate winter flow; tooled-up and less generous of spirit, teeth clenched and knuckles white, I’ve laid into distant carp and felt the awesome bulk move off like a locomotive. Tench, too, have torn me from my chair, their new-found authority still shocking and shaking my expectations of a round or two with a brown sugar bag. Pike? Them too: from the splashiest jack to the un-nerving power of a big fish determined to reach the snags. But perch?? Well, they kick about a bit, don’t they… they put up a ‘spirited tussle’, and even the 2-plussers only thump a few times before they’re in the net.

Last Sunday saw me acting on a telephoned tip-off: a boat-yard somewhere in the County of Norfolk, frequented – in the literal sense – by a notoriously stroppy owner predisposed to saying bugger-off, but I chanced it, and grabbed my fishing tackle, with the prospect of a ‘fat footballer’… a big ‘stripey’ just too tempting to resist. Swinging out a five inch roach under a one inch bob-float, memories of vibrant, bristling scraps with perchlets and the better, livelier bouts with the two-pounders would have occupied my subconscious – experience teaches us what to expect, and in decades as an angler I’d never had a lob provoked by a really plump sergeant; for all his bombast and chutzpah, percia fluviatilis rarely grows big enough to really get the blood pumping…eh?

But today it was live-bait, and within half an hour the float went down, sharply, and with a little splash. Heading for the gloom of a barge’s hull, the float drew to a halt against the tightening line then eased toward the curving rod as the hook took hold. “Pike” said brother, Barry, and I probably thought him right; but on bringing the fish to mid-stream it bashed-out a most unfamiliar tune on my TF Gear Banshee float rods – not quite the theme from ‘Jaws’ but certainly something involving a little light cello and, perhaps, a hint of kettle-drum.

“More like a zander” I eventually replied “It’s certainly not a perch”. My suspicions were confirmed for me after four or five determined lunges brought the tip-eye down to meet the water then compelled the reel to yield a yard or two. On seeing the ripples flatten I just knew a bug-eyed ‘Zed’ was on the cards and I asked Barry to have the forceps handy.

After a long minute and a half, the fish was coaxed to the top of his world, there to reveal his true colours: bars of black on yellow-green, trimmed with scarlet and a crown of thorns!

Three and a half pounds doesn’t put a perch up there in the monster class, I know, and a fair few are caught every week, but this fish of mine ‘did it’ for me! Barry had already landed a couple of ‘twos’ so the morning was, at this precise point, rather ‘sweet’…but then the wholly predictable ‘bitter’ turned-up and read the predictable riot-act: I do wish these people would take a little time to compose something a little more original.

But I couldn’t complain too much: a personal best that had afforded me a brand-new fishing experience – a perch big enough to really fight!

Fly Fishing for Wye Salmon

Wye Salmon September

Geoff’s Wye Salmon

It was last Saturday, August 31st 2013, which became a red letter day for His Wyeness, Geoffrey Maynard of Hay. Having secured the fishing rights last year on a kilometre of the River Wye above his home town, he has devoted more time and effort to the pursuit of his first-ever British salmon than some might consider healthy and given the rarity of such migrants I considered his determination admirable at the very least. Depending on the seasons he’s dropped a spinner onto every square foot of the river or sent a large, ornate fly into every likely-looking run but – until last Saturday – had enjoyed little success. Frustratingly, he had hooked two fish in the early months of this year but both had evaded capture for one reason or another (His Wyeness prefers not to talk about it)

But then, on the 31st August and with a blinding sunrise warming my face, I texted His Wyeness and expressed my confidence in his success should he pursue Salmo Rex this day. “See you there” was the simple reply and within 30 minutes we were seated in the hut and waiting for the kettle to boil. It matters not how many cups of tea or coffee are consumed before leaving home – you must start the day with a cuppa in the hut: it’s traditional and it affords the chance for fellow Brothers of the Angle to catch up on each other’s lives.

Although salmon fishing on that morning had been my idea, only His Wyeness possessed the zeal to assemble the appropriate rig; my made-up NanTec Specialists were primed for barbel and I was too idle to break out another rod and reel. And so, 9 o’clock saw me in the hut swim and watching for rod-nods while, unseen by me, His Wyeness was thigh-deep around the bend wielding a 14ft salmon fly rod and great lengths of specialist salmon line

Our stretch of the Wye simply must be one of the very best: it is roughly ‘S’ shaped and features narrow, deep runs; shallow slacks; rippling, musical bends and a large, deep, sullen pool that moves around moodily in search of a fight. It’s almost threatening at times. It’s mean and silent, and on the foreboding days of late autumn when dark winds lift the last leaves from the beeches the lone mid-week angler might feel he is the last person on Earth. Evening falls early and quickly yet the memory of summer is fresh. High winds rush lapwing in search of refuge; they bully the blue-black sky for another to take its place and they bring in the dark solitude known best by anglers and other spiritual types. When these elements coalesce the pool is at its fearsome best, striking from below the surface calm and dragging it down amid the boiling swirl. What is certain death to us is the guarantee of life to those we pursue and it is, perhaps, this fundamental conflict which draws us into the world of those we can never know.

With just twenty minutes and no bites in the can my senses were roused by his Wyeness’s eager phone-call to “come quick with the scales and a camera – I’ve got a salmon!!” Within half a minute two cubes of pink indispensible bounced below a pair of quiver-tips and I was on my way across the meadow, half-walking, half-running and willing myself to the pool that instant. Not old but no longer young, I consciously paced my path to where Geoff would be found breathless and beaming, crouched in the shallows with a genuine Wye Fish  in his net.

And there he was! He raised his head on hearing the crunch of boots on gravel and spanned the banks of the Wye with his grin – he’d done it! All the early mornings, all those evenings, all the days when those wonderful, eco-friendly canoeists had rendered the pursuit of salmon all but useless…they were all behind him now, for here, in this net, just feet from his jubilant chops was a pristine specimen of Salmo Rex, all the way from the Atlantic.

The fish was afforded the care one gives to a new-born; gently lifted from the net only briefly for each shot, admired, then returned to the current. It swam strongly side-on to the flow – evidence of its complete recovery from the fight. We don’t do high-fives. I shook the hand of His Wyeness and, in the authoritative manner of a doctor or trusted butler, I ordered him back to the salmon hut to recover from his experience. He did not argue.

“Go on…” I said, “I’ll bring your rod back. You just go and relax for a while…you’ve had quite a shock” Willingly chastised, His Wyeness floated back across the field in a state of stunned euphoria…

Look after your Fishing Tackle!



Have I learned some lessons this week!!

On Saturday I spent the ante-meridian hours pleasantly laid-back, just slothing around and ‘recovering’ from the previous five days at work. My job is not physically demanding but it does require concentration and much attention to detail, so by Friday evening – like most of us, I suppose – I was looking forward to an extra hour in bed and a morning of nothing in particular.

By afternoon the urge to wet a line had taken hold of me, so with the river just minutes away from my back garden gate I assembled a few odds and sods and decided to walk to my favoured swim. But I’ve got lazy. I loaded my fine fishing tackle into the car with my two precious 10ft custom-built light leger rods fully made up; that is, fully assembled with their tips protruding out of the passenger window and resting between the wing-mirror and the body. I kid myself with increasing frequency that it’s not laziness that compels me to drive the few hundred yards with my tackle raring to go, but a pragmatic expedience that simply saves time…

I found the small riverside car-park struggling to contain the vehicles of so many visitors this beautifully sunny afternoon, three or four nudging the hedgerow of the approach lane and another obstructing a field entrance. I did, however, spy a small gapette and hurriedly clunked my Vectra into reverse…in it went without a hitch! Into neutral, hand-brake on, engine off…windows up.

I’d done it a thousand thousand times before but never with four hundred quid’s worth of fishing rods sticking out of the window! With half a second before the deftest decapitation I saw my mistake and desperately fumbled for the reverse button but all I managed to do was centrally lock the whole vehicle and alter the angle of the driver’s wing mirror, then…. SNIP! I froze in disbelief with my eyes fixed on the two twelve inch sections of carbon dangling from limp 8lb line on the other side of the glass. I looked away either to confirm that I wasn’t dreaming or merely to blot out the horror of my stupidity – I’m not sure which – but the fact was I’d just beheaded the rods bequeathed to me by one of this country’s finest anglers. Forcing myself to take a diverting interest in the movements of sheep I half-prayed to the god I’ve always denied for a miracle or for the realization that I was still in bed and suffering a nightmare, but no… Closing my eyes and turning my head before opening them again produced nothing less than a vision of abject misery: a pair of formerly proud purpose-built, close range tench rods cut off in their prime… two nine foot sections of finest Roger Hurst neatly divested of their heads by Madame Guillotine!

Upgrading dated Coarse Fishing Tackle

Much water has rushed beneath my personal bridge these past few months: I turned a certain age for a start; then I upped my Essex sticks and started afresh less than two hundred yards from a river blessed with barbel and chav’s – not to mention the odd migrant and some hefty pike. The icing on this idyllic cake is employment within a well-organized jungle of fishing gear – TF Gear to be precise – and my new role has kindly compelled me to re-think my lot as an angler: it’s brought me up to date. Fishing is a field in which I might be described as conservative – not averse to change but reluctant to dump the learning of decades. I still enjoy watching a bobbin and deciding for myself when the hook should go in, but some species and methods don’t lend themselves to such niceties and I ain’t arguing – long may those Whiskered Ones continue to wallop the carbon!

What’s changed is my will to experiment with new coarse fishing tackle, while they’re still new – not two years down the line when everyone’s had their fill of fish and the novelty’s worn off. I do, however, have some catching-up to do so, this season, I’ll be swapping the PVA bags for in-line mesh-sticks: better for casting, better for baiting-up – and you can use the dispenser to splint a broken finger if necessary! I shall stock-pile my sticks before fishing to keep the faff-factor to a minimum; I’ll deliver them more comfortably too, thanks to my nice new Nan-Tec Classic 2lb barbel rods. These beauties have full cork handles and dependable, well made screw-fittings…I wonder if I’ll christen them with a double?

Another thing I’ll be using for the first time this season is a feeder mould – something I’ve always passed off as unnecessary because, well…it is! You really don’t need one to fish effectively, but how much simpler and neater it is to push out a nice firm cake containing your hook-bait? It’s got to be done, eh? And anti-tangle rubbers! I’ll never present an untidy rig again, I promise. For the sake of a near-weightless piece of rubber we can all now streamline our rigs – be they light or heavy – and fish with that bit more confidence.  It’s the semi-rigid nature of the anti-tangle sleeves that I like; it converts the rubber into a very effective miniature boom that prevents squabbles between end-tackle components (and there’s another good argument for in-line stick-fishing…)

I’ll be using my own very successful tench bait in the early weeks of the season, but for barbus…will it be as effective? An old pal took at least two doubles on it from the Hampshire Avon and I was with him for the first capture made from the Sandy Balls stretch in mid-November. Talk about the madness of anglers! Mick would pick me up in Chelmsford, Essex at around 2pm and we’d arrive in the New Forest shortly before dark; by the time we’d settled in and got a fishing rod out it was pitch black down there in the wooded gorge and after just six or seven hours of serious fishing in total darkness we’d pack up and make our way back to Essex, arriving home at 04.30 – 05.00hrs. I still think that was crazy, but then mild insanity was fairly normal within the angling fraternity at that time.

So, the capture of two barbel on my concoction proved nothing about its efficacy as a river-bait and Mick doesn’t live close enough to a decent river where he might test it out – but the signs are good. For tench it’s a superb bait so let’s hope their whiskered cousins have similar tastes.

So…June 16th will see the smartest, best-equipped dude in the West sitting in his Dave Lane Hardcore chair and tending to his Nan-Tec Classics. Bait will be my precious creation – plus a nice, firmly packed mesh-stick to draw them in..

Cliff Hatton tench 9lb

Cliff Hatton tench 9lb


Bite Alarming!

I can barely believe it myself but I’m old enough to have witnessed the evolution of the electric bite alarm, though I came onto the scene shortly after the commercial production of Richard Walker’s famous ‘Heron’. As a kid, the very sight of this piece of fishing-wizardry – safely encased within a glass cabinet in my local tackle store – would have me near-salivating in anticipation of owning one when I got older and, hopefully, richer – they weren’t cheap for a lad dependent on pocket-money.

Heron Bite Alarms
With little prospect of securing a Heron for myself, I took to making my own carp bite alarm; an all-consuming and most enjoyable exercise for an 11 year old blessed with few technical skills but bags and bags of enthusiasm. It comprised a plastic darts-case, two 4” lengths of tin pallet-banding and black plastic tape to insulate them from each other, a standard torch bulb…and that was it, apart from the wiring. I don’t remember how I secured my creation to the bank-stick but I do recall – with a smile – the patience, the frustration and the light touch necessary to keep the contacts apart with 8lb PDQ monofil. Thing was, it worked – rather well at that! And unlike the Heron’s sound-box which lit-up intermittently with the uncertainty of a cagey take, MY alarm remained illuminated, allowing me to keep an eye on the dangling cylinder of Baco-foil. Of course, from that point on, bite detection was effectively manual (i.e. visual) and unaided by the bite-alarm, but it had done its job of alerting me to the cyprinoid-enquiry.

Not to be outdone by his youngest, irksome little boy, Dad determined to construct his own bite alarms and locked himself in the garden shed for the whole weekend. Sawing and banging was occasionally heard so it was a fair bet his invention would be wood-based; indeed, being an accomplished amateur carpenter it was a foregone assumption. Now my father was never one to do things by halves; he took pride in doing things ‘as though you mean it’, and even recommended this policy as a way of thwarting school bullies: “Try to avoid trouble, boys” he’d tell me and my elder brother, “but if you can’t, stand your ground, make a tight fist and bop him square on the nose…do it like you mean it, ok? Bang!” We’d recoil at the mock blow and with good cause! The ol’ man could bring his fist to a welcome halt a fag-paper’s width from your nose. We took his advice as gospel and it proved to be a winner on a good few occasions during our school years – and once or twice since.

Anyway, come Sunday evening, Dad was ready to exhibit his rival bite-alarm to the world, a world consisting of me, my brother, Mum and the budgie. It had the appearance of a converted bird-box and I remember my brother’s joyful observation that it was big enough for a pair of tits. Mum frowned, but her displeasure was halted by Dad’s request to help him ‘launch’ his creation. We could clearly see the large red bulb-cover on the front of the box and naively assumed the alarm would be ‘light-only’ like those I’d made in previous weeks but, like I said, Dad didn’t do things half-heartedly. Handing the experimental length of PDQ to Mum, Dad proudly stepped back and ordered his wife to tug it from the grip of the two contacts…she did so, and all Hell broke loose! The bell could have woken the dead or, at the very least, have signalled a break-out from Wormwood Scrubs, and the warning-light flashed red and angry. The budgie panicked and lost half his feathers frantically flailing around his cage; Mum shielded her ears with the oven-glove and me and my brother pleaded with Dad to turn the ruddy thing off. Very much in his own time, Dad brought the mayhem to a halt with a click of the large chrome switch on the back of the Tit Box, as we later dubbed it.

“You’re never going to use that thing over the pit, are you Dad?” I suggested

“Of course! And why not?” he asked

“Think of my reputation!” I cried, “I’M the one who’s always running around the pit telling people to keep quiet…I’ll never be able to show my face again!”

The argument continued for a minute or two before Dad returned to the shed and deposited his own personal Prometheus on his work bench. It was largely forgotten until we decided some days later to do a night session for the wildies of the Main Pool in South Ockendon, Essex. Barry and I knew that Dad was carrying the Tit Box but, I fancy, the full horror of its manifestation had diminished in our minds; we believed, I think, that what had been deafening within the confines of the kitchen would be all but lost in the great outdoors.

At some time in the wee, small hours, a humble grey-pink wild carp of around 3lbs picked up a tasty ball of Canadian Cheddar and caused a riot in so doing. Torches flashed across the lake, shouts went up and the sickening sounds of wellies kicking Thermos flasks to death filled the night air…there’d been a break-out! Barry and I were mortified: fanatical carpers both, reared on stealth and cunning, we adopted the foetal position and gritted our teeth until Dad had landed, unhooked and returned his fish to the lake some months later.

Next morning we faced a Court of Inquiry but avoided a ducking from our fellow Brothers of the Angle by concocting some cock-and-bull story about the “late arrivals” just up from our swim…we’d sent them packing with their bloody alarm and told them never to return!

In the years to come, further attempts at constructing cheap, effective bite alarms were made, though I have particularly fond memories of the Heath Robinson contraptions we made from bits and pieces found on the adjacent land-fill site: innovative? I think me and my fishing pals invented the word!

I’d truly love to see other readers’ accounts of their alarming ways.

Fishing Tackle Constructed in the Garden Shed

You know, I could have retired a wealthy man long ago had I acted upon my initiatives as a council estate teenager and bonkers angler. Readers here will be unaware and equally unconcerned that it was I who invented the bivvy – among other standard fishing tackle items which we all take for granted today.

Actually, there were thousands of us around the country, I’m sure, all inventing odds n sods and making innovations at that time of commercial innocence.

How many of us, years ago, sat fishing in a freezing winter side-wind and hit upon the idea of tucking a ground-sheet into the brolly ribs? Many, I bet, and some of us would have recognised the commercial implications but were just too young to do anything about it. I developed the brolli-camp idea for myself by purloining a huge area of green-camouflaged sacking from the back of a carnival float; next trip out, I used it to form a truly cavernous tent with my umbrella as the supportive centre-piece, but that night it rained stair-rods – and it hadn’t occurred to me that the camo might only be powder-paint! Next morning I found myself in what the Beatles called The Sea of Green… green sandwich box, green flask, green bait, green everything! A young Martin Gay turned up that morning and couldn’t stop laughing at what he’d found; decades later he still got enormous pleasure at reminding me of my blunder!

The monkey-climber, of course, started life – literally – as a stick-in-the-mud; the Fox-type wind-beating bobbin system grew out of an aluminium rod and Terry-Clip affair (you clipped it to the rod and the hinged 9” ‘swinger’ weighed down your line) and the run-clip was born as an elastic band and matchstick (It was equally effective!)

I used to make my own: ‘Vic Bellars’ tandem pike-hooks – one small and one large black-japanned eel hook whipped shank to shank; cigar tube pike floats, including leaded self-cockers; high protein bait – Whiskas and PYM, and loads of other stuff I can’t remember right now. So help me, please… what fishing tackle did you concoct in the garden shed?

pocket sized fishing tackle