Headlands Farm, Wellow ~ Stu Harris

I’d arranged to meet Rob at Headlands for around midday, one of our favourite places for a social, although it had been far too long since our last one, so this was long overdue. Headlands Farm boasts two lakes, both of which are stunning and hold some incredible fish. Run as a day ticket water it’ll cost you £10 for a day session, £15 for a 24 hour trip and £25 for 48 hours, very reasonable going by a lot of other water’s prices. In the summer it’s where I usually point my bonnet when a prolific day is needed, yet even through the colder months you can enjoy a serious day’s sport if you can find the fish.


The top lake is said to be the specimen one of the two, with the bottom lake being more of a pleasure type affair. The Top holds slightly bigger carp but less of them, and also pike to 20lbs. The bottom lake and my favourite of the two is home to some beautiful carp, really scaly delights with some of them topping mid doubles. No pike live in this one, but perch, and some very big ones to with at least one 4lber coming out that I’m aware of. It is oddly shaped but with its many bays, islands and deep margins it’s a wonderful lake to stalk on a summer’s day.


I arrived early and slow walk around the lakes revealed nothing; the fishing had been slow for those who were angling with just a few fish to one chap at the far end where the strong breeze was heading. This was duly noted and came in handy when selecting an area for us to set up camp. A central area on the bottom pond was where we usually set up, and although there are unsightly and slightly annoying power cables overhead, the swim is plenty big enough for two to fish and commands a great deal of water including a big bay and access to the 3 islands.


I swiftly staked the claim but dumping my gear, put my brolly up, opened my bed-chair up and thought for a minute about climbing in and getting some sleep. It was now 11am and Rob was still an hour away. Instead of sleeping I set up the rods and before making any casts had one more walk around the lake, just to be sure. When I got back to the pitch I looked out over the bay and sotted a carp roll right in the very corner, it was only a very slight sighting, but it was all I’d seen thus cementing my swim choice as a good one. The wind was pushing into this bay quite heavily; I just knew there would be a few carp in there.


With my rods set up and ready to fish I made a start, opting to fish 2 marks within the margins of the bay, one into the far corner and one half way along the right hand side. This involved walking the rods round to the spots, lowering them onto the gravelly shelf and depositing a handful of bait over the top, then with an open bail arm walking them back and tightening up. This avoided noise, meant I was fishing accurately and with a bank stick pushed into the ground next to either spot I could do so all through the night. It’s a tactic I’ve used at Headlands to great effect in the past. End tackle was simple, a lead clip arrangement with a small dumbbell tipped with fake corn. My take anywhere rig.


An hour passed without any action but it was gorgeous sitting outside with the sun beating down on me. Rob arrived shortly after midday, I watched him unload his car, load his barrow and push enough kit for a week or more towards me. I filled him in on what I’d seen since being there, he was pleased we’d secured out usual pitch and immediately began to unload his barrow and set up his section of camp.


Whilst Rob was putting his bivvy up my right hand rod sprang into action, line poured from the reel and about time too. I ran over and struck into what was obviously a carp which followed the bay along the margin, out into open water and towards the island. With 12lb line and Carpathia it should have been fairly plain sailing, but my kit was tested to its limit. That’s the thing I noticed about these Headlands carp, such strong fish, powerful, and with a never give up attitude. Even on the mat they flip and slap, making photos quite tricky.


The fish came straight to the surface from the off, they tend to do that at headlands during the day, yet although it was starting now to come towards me, it was wallowing, nodding this way and that and felt like a decent fish. A few yards off and with Rob at the ready with the net he looked out and spotted the big scales. The main appeal of these Headlands fish are their looks, I’d go as far as to say that almost half of the carp in the lake are scaly wonders, practically all mirrors, many of them linears, some with dark backs and some with a ghost like appearance.


Under the rod tip she dug deep, the line cutting round and round in circular motions and all the time we just wanted to get a closer look at her. Finally she bobbed up and Rob scooped her up first time. A lovely long fish with big apple slice scales, and definitely a double figure fish. It was a superb start. On the mat she did what they all do, flip and flop and try everything to avoid me picking her up. With some gentle coaxing she finally succumbed and I managed to get a few shots. She looked delightful in the sunshine. Warmth, carp and good friends, what more could you ask for?


That fish signalled the beginning of a hectic afternoon. I could go into detailed accounts of yet more epic battles with gorgeous scaly carp but I fear that might get somewhat tedious for the reader. I never counted them, never weighed any either, but it was an afternoon to remember with the bay producing many incredible carp. Between fish we drank tea, ate toasties and caught up on what had been a very long time without angling together. Rob got in on the actions with a couple of fish too, but it was the night shift he was to enjoy the most.


Having done the previous night on a local water and being kept awake with bream all night, I was seriously in need of some rest, especially after the hauling of hard fighting carp all afternoon. Just on dark I wound the rods in and allowed Rob to put one of his into the bay. It didn’t take long for him to start catching and throughout a fairly peaceful night’s sleep I kept seeing his headlamp wander past as yet another fish was hooked, played and the rig walked back out.


After a hectic night for Rob it was time for me to reclaim my spot, but not until tea and toasties were consumed. The morning was slow, much the same as the day previous, but it didn’t matter, we’d had our fill already and it enabled us to enjoy a slow pack down. It was a great session and one of my favourite venues, it really doesn’t get too busy and with two substantial ponds there’s always space for you to pitch up for the day. I’d suggest you give it a go if you’ve never been, the facilities are great, the surroundings wonderful and the carp are absolute pearlers.


Will it be the First Mullet of the Year?

I have a confession to make.  I’m coming out. Yes, I’m a Mullet angler.   We of the faith keep it quiet because we just get funny looks and a wide berth when we normally mention the Grey Ghost. When I add that I catch them off the kayak even those of the faith can sometimes look at me as if I’m some sort of Mullet fishing radical.  To be fair the National Mullet Club have shown an amazing tolerance for my plastic perversion.  They even allowed me to bore them at an AGM to the delights of yak fishing for Mullet.


OK, so confession made, now to the point of the blog. The first Mullet were spotted at the end March and started to make their way up the Solent throughout April. Thinlips show first, then the first Thicklips appear just behind them. At this point there is a moderate amount of excitement in the Mullet world, the season is almost upon us.  Bearing in mind Mullet anglers aren’t normally the excitable type this level of hypertension is significant. It wasn’t until early April that the odd fish was being reported caught to great kudos.  Mullet need time to bed into their new surroundings so early Mullet are rarely the biggest but usually the most difficult to catch, making a fish caught before May an event.


My quest this year was to achieve a pre May Thicklip Mullet. I don’t know if you’ve noticed with this fishing lark, life just insists on getting in the way.  I managed an early trip on the Itchen and another a couple weeks later on the Hamble. I saw very few fish and certainly didn’t get close to catching them. The Bass and crabs, however, on the Hamble did seem to have become vegetarian and kept me entertained on bread flake.  The Itchen trip wasn’t a waste either it did allow me to spot a couple of new potential kayak fishing spots. With the month rapidly disappearing however, it looked like my challenge was doomed.


On the 30th of April my fishing pass officer gave permission for one last April recce. This was cutting it close but I decided to explore the new marks on the Itchen. I know the Hamble better but based on that knowledge just had a hunch that the Itchen was more likely to produce.


Tactics on a kayak have to be slightly amended from the norm.  I only like to take 2 rods out. With these I need to be able to ledger, including using a method feeder, crust popped up off the bottom and float fish flake either on the surface or just under.  The way I manage this is by using a Drennan weighted 5g waggler float on one light lure rod. The weights separate from the float. This allows me to use it as a light ledger for the pop up set up as well as the float options.



The method feeder option is on an 8ft spinning rod using a standard freshwater set up.  Rods over 8ft can become unmanageable on a kayak so we tend to adapt suitable boat or spinning rods to the situation we find ourselves in.



I launched under Itchen Bridge and paddled up stream with the tide.  The first new mark was taken up by a swan who had nested right where I needed to tie off. The nest was a right sight to behold. She had made it from rope, polythene and any other bits and pieces she had found in the dock area. She seemed happy though, so nice piece of upcycling. I still tried the area and saw a few small mullet but they really weren’t interested in bread, just swimming right over the beds of crumb I had laid out.


This mark is inaccessible by any other means as you have to paddle under the stern of a large ship to get there. Very Cockleshell Heroes, especially in a camo kayak.


Despite the great location it was time to move on and try another new mark. It was getting close to the top of the tide and clouds were beginning to close in.  I suspected that my window of opportunity might be limited.


Once tied up I dropped the feeder into a quiet corner right up against structure. Set the rod up in the rod holder, made sure the clutch was set light and then concentrated on the float set up.  Nothing was showing on the surface so I concentrated on either suspending bread under the float and letting it drift under some up tide cover or I removed the float and let the crust pop up from the ledgered 5g weight.  Some people believe that you have to wait around doing nothing, just waiting for a bite.  Not true, all this was done with a constant trickle of bread being sunk around the bait. No rest for the wicked. To be honest I could feel another blank coming on when I looked down and saw just under the kayak a Thicklip take a piece of sinking bread.  Once I see them feeding I know I have a chance.


Now I really concentrated on the float rod. I sunk the flake to try to replicate the bread that I had seen the fish feed on, keeping a steady flow of new flake going in just to keep them interested.  Soon enough the float started to bob, the first tentative signs that things were warming up. This continued, never enough to strike but each time the float moved you knew that they had knocked the flake off so a quick re bait was required. This went on for around an hour.  I love this close quarter combat with mullet.  This was happening within a meter of my bow. Game on.


It was during this duel that I felt the kayak give a slight rock. I quickly looked over to the forgotten feeder rod.  It was bent over and straining to escape the rod holder.  Fish On! But was it a Mullet, Bass or plastic bag? I lifted into the fish and got my answer. Line screamed off the reel in a way that only Mullet and maybe Tope will do. It took around 50m of line before it turned round and we started to fight. It stayed under initially, darting and diving.  Short bursts of rod bending runs followed by cagy side to side dashes. I started to gain line but was desperate not to put too much pressure on and get a hook pull. Finally she came to the surface. Water was sent in all directions but I had her and after another brief fight she was in the net. She weighed in at 2lb 14oz, but I didn’t really care that she was the biggest opening fish of the season to date.  She was in the net and just 9 hours before my self imposed deadline.



It had taken 3 trips, 9 loaves and a lot of patience but the stalk and that fight made it all worthwhile. That’s why I Mullet fish and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m out of the closet but please still talk to me!

~ Paul Fennell May 2016

Day Tickets in Hampshire

Wherever you live you can be guaranteed to find a few decent day ticket waters close by, and living down here in southern Hampshire we are spoilt. Portsmouth DAS has a number of very prolific day ticket waters, as well as some a little further afield but well worth the journey. Most of these waters have websites or Facebook pages, so it’s easy to do your homework, work out where you fancy visiting, read up on some recent catch reports and set off for the venue with the right kit and enough knowledge to ensure a bumper day. It can also be a bit of a minefield, so I aim here to give a brief overview of some of the waters I visit regularly.


The PDAS waters offer something for everyone and are easily accessible, tickets are available from Manning’s tackle in Widley as well as a few other locations, check the PDAS website for more details. Starting with Tithe Barn Lower pond in Titchfield, here is a water that has recently seen a lot of improvements. A fairly short time ago this small pool was shrouded with trees which made bank space very limited, so only three or four swims were available. The water was also choked with weed, but it was obvious there were some lovely fish to catch for those who put in the effort. The club have since cleared the banks opening up 14 swims, each with a wooden platform. Weed has been cleared and more fish have been stocked, so with carp, tench, bream, crucians and silvers to keep you busy all day, it’s the venue to head for if its constant action you seek.


Carron Row Farm, also in Titchfield, has been a firm favourite of mine for a number of years, it’s one of those venues you can visit in the evening and enjoy some stalking for the carp that reside there. No records will be broken, but a variety of methods work and with ponds 1 & 2 to try your hand on there’s plenty of room. The tench are plentiful in each pond, but its pond 2 that holds fish to over 7lbs, and bumper bags can be had for those who catch it on the right day. Pellets will certainly draw them in close, and bread, sweetcorn and luncheon meat will keep the floats dipping and the quiver tips swinging. The better carp reside in pond 2 also, along with some delightful rudd. Pond 1 is more of an out and out pleasure pond, with the young ones in mind. There are loads of fish present and enough bank space for 8 or 10 anglers around the well maintained banks.


Funtley is next on the list and again is a stone’s throw from the two previously mentioned venues. This ex brick pit is very deep in places and can be snaggy too, so a good lead around is required to make sure you’re not fishing on top of a sunken car or a tree stump. The water can get busy at weekends through the summer but stalking here can be among the best around. The carp, mostly commons, are a good average size with many fish over 20lbs. The road bank swims are mostly day only swims, have deep clear margins and if you’re quiet enough you can have carp feeding right under your feet. Strong tackle is required but the results can be awesome for those who give it a go. Big tench also live here with fish over 9lbs and perhaps even into double figures. Bream also live here so to avoid them avoid feeding loads of pellets.


Last on the list of PDAS Day Ticket waters is Brockhurst Moat in Gosport. This urban moat has 4 sides; however the one with the bridges across is out of bounds. The remaining 3 sections can be weedy in the summer and also under water during spells of prolonged rain, but the fishing can be really good with some wonderful looking carp to over 30lbs real a possibility. The water sees very little angling pressure so a campaign can produce the goods. My own campaign on the moat a couple of years back saw me land some stunning carp to just under 30lbs and ever since I’ve been meaning to return and fishing what I started. Many surprises are to be had with a great deal of mystery, basically nobody really knows what’s in there; it could well be harbouring a veritable monster.


A little further afield and not on the PDAS books is Hambrook near Emsworth. This unique venue has been great for me on a sunny day, as it’s the home of lots of koi carp, some reaching almost 20lbs. They don’t like stalking there but wander around first, find some fish and fish to them from the opposite bank and you can have a memorable day catching fish you never thought you’d catch. Tickets are £10 a day and are available from the office onsite next to the lake. I’d say it’s around 2 – 3 acres so there’s plenty of room, just wait till the summer before giving it a bash, it can be a bit tricky this time of year. Having said that, it also holds perch to over 3lbs, so those might well be worth a bash.


The last on my list today is Longbridge lake near Romsey. I’ve been going to Longbridge for years, taught myself to catch carp there and it holds a special place in my heart. When it underwent a few changes some years back I decided to leave there and fish other venues, too much of something can make it lose its magic. Since being away the venue went through some problems and lost a lot of fish, hearing this saddened me. Recently the wonderful management team at Longbridge have restocked and the place is back on the map. I spent a day there during bleak conditions a few months back and caught 4 lovely carp. I’ve been monitoring the Longbridge Facebook page recently and yet more wonderful fish continue to come from this prolific and special fishery. Get yourself down there; you’ll be glad you did.

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Vale Farm with Stu Harris

Last weekend I continued the search for big perch, only this time it was to be on a lake I’ve fished many times before, but only for the carp. Vale Farm Fishery near Andover is one of my favourite venues when it’s a prolific days angling I want. A day ticket affair that boasts 3 picturesque mature lakes with plenty of hard fighting carp that can be caught on a variety of methods all year round.

Nick, the friendly owner, has been telling me about the big perch, sergeants to over 4lb which have shown up during nettings but nobody ever fishes for. It’s all about the popups and pellets for the vast majority who angle at Vale Farm, and up until last weekend it was pretty much the same for me too. I had spoken with Matt about the prospect and fire myself up for a visit.

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I asked Bill if he fancied a bash at them, and we arranged to meet there on Saturday morning at 7am. We headed for the old trout pool, the left most pool on the complex and reputedly the trickier of the 3. Nick had told me there were perch in all of the pools, so we opted for the one with no one else fishing it. There was some deep water directly under a big willow, the long fronds trailed and a root system made this look the perfect place to start.

We positioned ourselves either side of the tree and began tackling and baiting up. I opted to fish 2 float rods with king prawns and Bill fish one the same and the other on a ledgered worm on the far bank under another overhanging tree. With the rods out we made tea and toasties and waited for the first of the perch to show up. We waited a while too, longer than we’d hoped.

The main reason I thought prawns would be deadly was because I knew the venue to have a healthy population of crayfish. When Nick arrived for his ticket money I quizzed him some and it was revealed that this particular pool held very small amounts of crafts compared to the furthest right hand pool. This made me question our swim choice, but he went on to inform me that fairly recently someone fishing worms had caught some to over 3lbs. Confidence was immediately restored.

After our second pot of tea, Bill’s ledger rod was away. It was clear from the off that it was a carp, but it was some excitement and a beautiful winter common that brightened an otherwise fairly dull morning. We took a few photos and released the carp to those icy waters. With the rod back on its spot we relaxed and continued to enjoy the long overdue catch up and hoped a perch would be along soon.

At 11am Bill had an hour left before he’d have to get going. The swim was dead so we moved to the opposite bank where he’d caught the carp, in the hope of catching something. For the last hour we chatted some more but other than a few dips on the float, no more fish came our way. I walked with Bill back to the car park, and as I bade him farewell I put a few non essentials in my car and now more mobile set off for that right hand pool.

I picked a spot between two small bushy trees, perfect hiding spots for the perch, and after plumbing the depth began fishing. A chap opposite was having great fun catching lots of carp, after a biteless hour I began to get somewhat envious. But, true to my words I stuck to my plan, I was just slightly bemused as to why the carp didn’t like prawns. They were clearly down there, I’d been scattering a few pellets onto the spots and the float was waving around as the carp fed, they just ignored the prawns.


It was close to 3pm when I finally gave in, I had to catch something, I simply had to get a bend in the old cane. I rummaged through what I had, but the majority of the carp gear I’d put in the car when I downsized my kit for the afternoon session. I did however have bread and cheese. I tried freelinining bread, but every time the float dipped and I struck I failed to connect and the bread came off. This was when I sprinkled some pellets right in close to the bank.

I then chose to freeline a chunk of vintage cheddar, which after a while seemed to do the trick. A slow pull on the rod tip, a strike and a carp hooked and charging around the swim. It felt good, but was short lived and the hook soon popped out. Next cast the same thing happened resulting in another hook pull. Then I noticed some disturbance close in where I’d sprinkled the pellets. Upon closer inspection I saw 3 commons and 2 mirrors upended troughing on the free offerings.


The light was beginning to fade, I gently lowered a piece of hooked cheese among the fish, held the line between my fingers and waited. A minute or so later another slow pull came and another carp was hooked. The fight was great, the cunning fish trying to reach the snags either side of me, but I soon engulfed my prize in the net. I took a quick photo and with the fish released started to pack away and set of home.

The question is, when I return, do I fish for perch, or carp?


Pike Fishing with Simon & Storm Desmond

Once a year just before Christmas I go up and stay in Uttoxeter with a good friend called Simon Everett. It turns into a fishing fest for Pike weather permitting.  OK, we may stray into the odd hostelry that happens to serve real ale, another passion of ours.

As it happened the only available weekend this year coincided with the imminent arrival of Storm Desmond. We have had a few storms since but this was the one that hit the NW particularly hard.

Day 1- Despite 60mph winds we decided after a tot of Sloe Gin that lure fishing the river Derwent would be a good idea. I know, catastrophic falling pressure, flooded river and water the colour of Oxtail soup we should have known better.  To be honest we did but hey a 200 mile drive and the Sloe Gin clouded our judgement.  We started in the club car park and wondered on to the bank.  The wind and rain now decided to put us through our paces.  Yes, leaning into the wind  and questioning our sanity we made a our first casts. Wow, did those lures fly. I make my own lures out of hardwood which cast like a bullet in normal conditions.  Needless to say we both had a snag but we  got the lures back and battled on. Simon made an early cast under a bridge and boom! He got a very nice 2lb Perch to the bank only to see it come off as he reached down for it. Obviously I was very sympathetic and never repeatedly mentioned that a net would have been a good idea. Still, a much unexpected bonus that given the conditions gave a glimmer of a decent session. Yeah!


Fishing Karma is a funny thing. We continued downstream casting at anything that we thought might hold fish. Having taken the Mickey out of Simons Perch exploits I found a great spot that had Perch written all over it. So let’s show him how it’s done. I cast to the far side just as a mega gust hit us.  Off balance and with all the grace of Eddy the Eagle i slid down the bank in the perfect tuck position and ended up in the river up to boot level. Despite being muddy and wet I still managed to get back out the river and back up the bank before Simon could get his camera out.  Phew, but a real comedy moment.

We walked 4 miles in total, spoke to many Barbel anglers that were hiding or sheltering in the bushes and we all shared the same fishing fate – BLANK!  There was another comedy moment when a rather portly Barbel angler got out of his seat only to see his chair get blown down the bank.  In a less than athletic or elegant way he managed to scramble and slide down the bank and just save it before it joined the Derwent flotsam that was now heading for the Trent. Time to re assess our options.  The decision was to go back and sulk over Simon’s real ale collection.  Best decision we made all day.

Day 2 – So we assumed that as the storm was still raging the river Dormant would continue to live up to its new nickname. Simon suggested we give a canal that joins the Derwent and Trent a go.  “I have never blanked there”. My first reaction was “Is there a pub close by”. Lovely stretch to be honest that had fish written all over it.  Although the wind wasn’t as strong as the previous day we were still in a storm. There was a small coarse match taking place and both Waggler and Pole was struggling to find even Roach so we realised we were in for another tough session. I can’t claim to be the world’s greatest Perch angler and all my lures were definitely for the big crocs so I had to watch as Simon landed a 3oz strippey from a closed lock gate.  I have never seen a grown man get so excited over such a small fish but blank avoidance was what it was all about. Well done Simon.  (Through gritted teeth). Me, well I did have some fun with a one eyed Jack (not joking).  He followed the lure repeatedly but would not take it despite changing the presentation and pattern. At least the first signs were there that the fish were beginning to wake up as the storm started to disappear over the North Sea.


Day 3 – My final morning before I had to head back down the M1.  I couldn’t blank 3 days on the trot could I? Simon suggested a club Trout Lake that had a decent head of Pike. It was at least dry and the high wind was no longer constant, just the odd gust blowing through. When we arrived the Trout Lake looked OK but the Coarse lake just over the way looked even better. I subtly suggested we focused there but Simon wanted to hit the Trout water. “I’ve never caught anything in the Coarse Lake” he said.   So we headed off to bombard the Pike and scare the Trout.  When Simon wasn’t looking I couldn’t resist sneaking off to the Coarse lake.  I felt like a naughty school boy but it wasn’t long before he joined me. The lake was a really well kept lake with platforms every 10m. Lots of trees on all the banks and reeds on the downwind side.  Finally conditions and a location that I was getting excited about. Each of us took up station on a platform and armed with Smiler lures hit the water hard from the middle of the lake to the margins. The lake isn’t that deep so we used floating divers in a Perch and Jazz pattern. We just leapfrogged each other making our way down to the reed beds. Simon was the first to get some interest.  Bang! He suddenly had a very pretty 5lb Rainbow to the bank….nice. Great scrap on a lure and light rod. He then moved on to another platform. He had multiple follows but couldn’t get a nice Jack to take the lure.  He gave up and moved on to the next platform and had a nice 4lb Jack on the Perch pattern again. He and that Perch lure was on fire. Nice. Time for me to rethink.  I had been using my most successful Jazz pattern with no interest.  Time for a change.  On went my larger Perch Smiler. I moved to the swim that had the Jack that didn’t strike.  My theory was that maybe the first lure just wasn’t big enough to justify its effort. So I cast out, let the water settle and started a very slow retrieve. This dives the lures down to no more than a couple of feet and produces a very strong, injured action. It was good enough. The Jack couldn’t resist and hit it hard almost under my feet. He fought well but I managed to get him on to the bank. At around 8lb he wasn’t my biggest Pike but certainly one of my most appreciated. Weekend blank avoided.


So came to an end a difficult but really fun weekend with many a great memory.  That’s what fishing is all about. Here’s to next year and whatever else nature wants to through at us.

If you want to find out more about Smiler lures then please join us on Facebook www.facebook.com/smilerlures. They are a bit different but very effective.

~ Paul Fennell

Perch Season Begins…

Last winter my perch fishing started with a bang, and I never doubted this year one bit, although it did have me worried there for a while. With two false starts under my belt and still no cold snap, I was beginning to think about other species, but deep down I really wanted that big December perch. A tip off from a friend alerted me to the whereabouts of some stripeys that seemed partial to a float fished prawn, just my sort of venue.


It was an early start for me, up at 5am, dressed and out without waking the girls, and then to a deserted Tesco for a couple of bags of king prawns to go with a pint of maggots I’d obtained from Manning’s the day previous, the recipe for a good day’s perch angling. The wind blew hard on the way to the venue, a drive which spanned just over an hour, and all the way I could feel the car shudder as the strengthening gusts ripped towards me.


I arrived to find a few carp anglers in place already; they were either there all night or arrived at first light. A quick walk located an empty bank with some marginal features, there were also some high trees behind me making it feel far less windy than the rest of the lake. In no time at all I had the brolly up and two rods fixed up with some of my home made quills and size 6 hooks. The lake was deep, and the closer in you fished, the deeper it was. I’d say it was around 5 feet or so just a couple of rod lengths out.


After casting both rods out I sprinkled some broken prawns and maggots in the area, mostly to attract small bait fish which, in turn, would bring in the perch. That was the plan, and it seemed to work rather quickly too. The float on the right hand rod disappeared, I watched as with the bow in the lines and the strong gusts, the floats were frequently pulled under. After a few seconds it never surfaced so I wound down, struck and felt a wonderful kicking sensation. The Andrew Davis All-rounder with its Avon tip performed beautifully, and soon I was posing with my first big perch of the season.


That fish went 2lb 8oz, the perfect start and things only got better too. Only around 20 minutes after returning that first fish the float on the left hand rod dipped a couple of times then sank for good. After another spirited but short battle, this time on the Chapman 500, the hook unfortunately fell out before I caught a glimpse of the culprit. I cast back to the spot quickly in case the fish was still lurking, and either that same fish or one of its brothers almost instantly hit the prawn and soon found its way in the bottom of my net.


At 2lb 10oz it was another pearler, the day simply couldn’t have started any better. A little warming swig from the flask of Oxo and I was ready to go again. One thing I will mention here is that all the time I was weighing and photographing the perch, the other rod was wound in. It’s quite important that you hit these bites quickly to avoid deep hooking. An unattended rod can mean a dead perch, and these fish are too incredible to harm.


The final bite of the morning was somewhat after breakfast, yet again on the Chapman and this one really pulled and had me back-winding like mad on a few occasions, I could tell it was a better fish. As it slid into the net I punched the air, a proper warrior of a perch and a fat one too. With the other rod wound in and the fish resting in the net I readied the scales and the camera. A weight of just over 2lb 15oz was recorded and the photos taken. I held the fish gently in the margins until it kicked strongly away. A truly memorable fish.


The rain began and things went very quiet, the floats sat untouched, being dragged under briefly only when the wind blew the line. It was a delightful afternoon though, watching the carp anglers land a few fish, tucking into my lunch (yep, Christmas Ham sandwiches again), and observing the beautiful birds that visited me, notably some long tailed tits, a pair of goldcrests and a very friendly robin. It wasn’t until almost 3pm that the action returned, and this brought warmth to my bones as I’d started to get quite cold just sat.


The first bite resulted in a dropped fish soon after the strike, and the next 2 bites produced perch of 12oz and 1lb 2oz respectively. The next time the quill sank I found myself connected to something obviously larger than the previous pair, and soon enough I had a beautiful sergeant of 2lb 6oz posing for the camera. It was another character of a perch; each one was different and had its own charm. Some had tatty find, some had fins of bold crimson, but they were all marvellous.


The final bite of the day coincided with the rain becoming more persistent. Another big perch weighing 2lb 1oz meant no less than 5 over the magic 2lb mark; a truly great day’s angling in anyone’s book. Soon after releasing that final fish I began packing the things away under the cover of my brolly, wiped the reels and rods down and hurried to the car before I got too drenched. I drove home happy after what had been a memorable day, my winter perch campaign finally under way, and on fine style.


New Horizons – Stu Harris


Well what a rotten old spell of weather we’re having. Damp, windy, and in no way shape or form what we should be experiencing in December. That, combined with the busy schedule I usually get lumbered with at this time of year, have meant no angling for me this weekend. I have, however, been making provisions for later, namely the traditional closed season. This is usually a time when I try my best to observe the old close and switch my attention to sea angling around our local shores, creeks and piers. This next coming close though will see me having a dabble in the rivers nearby, I’ll explain.


The two marvellous stretches of river PDAS have to offer, the Hamble and Wallington, have recently seen their close season fishing ban lifted, and now members can fly fish (ONLY) for the trout during this period. Fly fishing and me have never seen eye to eye, a branch of the sport that has never appealed to me, the same can be said for pike fishing. Don’t ask me why, they just don’t float my boat. Up till now that is. JuDSC_0047 (1).JPGst recently I’ve been feeling a strong urge to have a go, and I’m so pleased to say I’m beginning to gather the equipment for this new adventure.


Some good friends of mine fly fished for the trout last close season, and the results were wonderful. The river in what is probably its most amazing state, the surroundings waking up from their winter rest, springtime taking a firm grip on the land, so what better time to be out enjoying it all and witnessing the birth of a new year. Along with the fascinating wild trout that take residence in both rivers, there are chub that have been known to snatch a fly intended for something else, and on the Hamble you can add grayling also. Of course these fish are out of season so it’s best they get back to the river as quickly and as hassle free as possible.


Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like better than feeling for a twitch when touch ledgering, or watching a brightly painted float tip disappear, then to wonder just what it was and how big it’ll be. But I think that having a strong love of floater fishing for carp meant that sooner or later I was always going to have at least a decent try at fly fishing. That rise in the water, watching as the bait gets taken, the strike, the leap, the fight, as you can tell, I’m really getting quite excited by the prospect.


So for the kit. As you’ll know, I’m a stickler for the older items of tackle available. But the kit should be the same for both the new and the old ways. A brook rod, some 6 – 7 feet in length would be about right, with a weight of 3 or 4 being ideal for the size of fish you’ll be encountering. Both rivers are small, little more than streams in places, so long rods are certainly not required and will make things rather difficult. A small reel will match the aforementioned rod, the smaller the better I think, it’s not as if we need lots of line here, long casting won’t be necessary. A smallish folding net will just about complete the set up, all that’s left to do then is source some flies.


Oh, and that’s where the fun comes in. I’m extremely new to this, so forgive me if my knowledge is somewhat lacking, but I believe it to be called entomology. The study of the aquatic life in and around the river. The trout will, at certain times of year, be feeding on certain insects, and by studying what goes on down by the river you can do something called ‘Matching the hatch’, to mimic the trout’s prey, use a fly that looks like their dinner and you should be successful.


Me being me, I’ve obviously gone for more aesthetically pleasing kit, or to the younger members reading this, tatty old antique gear. The rod I’ve sourced is an old split cane number, a rod of 7 feet with a weight of 5. I’ve gone for a slightly higher weight due to old cane being much floppier than newer materials, so hopefully that will compensate. The reel is a little 2.5 inch brass jobbie, which really does look quite delightful and should, in turn, counter the weight of the cane and make for a very balanced outfit. I haven’t yet got a net, but will probably go for one of those tennis racket type ones.


The flies will be the difficult bit, it’s far too early yet to get studying them, but having spoken to a few friends, it appears that variations of the mayfly should see me through the early part of spring, flies such as the Adams, CDC Olive and the Griffiths Gnat. From there I can keep em peeled and work out the rest for myself. I will then, hopefully, be in a position to begin tying my own flies. Much in the same stable as refurbishing my rods, making my own floats, even rolling your own boilies, to catch on something you made yourself knocks spots of anything else.


So there you have it. Plans are afoot for the coming months, preparations underway and hopefully a great and magical spring can be achieved. Next weekend I have a day’s trotting for grayling on that uber famous chalk-stream, The Itchen. A gathering of like minded souls with a little fishing mixed with some serious cake munching and tea drinking. I did manage to get out last weekend for a brief few hours, and a plentiful few hours it was too, with some of the wonderful trout I’ve been telling you about, along with some tremendous gudgeon, roach, perch, dace and minnows.


Thanks for reading.


Winter Flounder Kayak Fishing – Paul Fennell



Winter in the UK is always a difficult time for sea fishing kayak anglers but we are a dedicated bunch and are always looking out for a window of opportunity when the weather allows.  One such chance came up between 2 storm fronts recently.  Because the weather couldn’t be guaranteed and the last minute nature of getting the session organised we decided to keep it simple and go for the first Flounder session of the year on the river Itchen. “We” were an eclectic threesome of local Shirley Sea Angling Club member (Big ) Dave Neil who was to provide the local knowledge; midlander, kayak fishing fanatic and journalist Simon (can I stay at yours) Everett and myself who if nothing else would provide the other 2 with plenty of banter opportunities.

The loaded van was frost covered when we set off for the launch so it was lots of layers, full dry suit, warm beenies and the obligatory flask of “special” coffee.  The good news was the northerly wind was no more than a gentle breeze so the wind chill wasn’t a factor.

We knew with the limited daylight, the less than perfect tides and large amount of freshwater in the system thanks to the recent storm that it wasn’t going to be easy. As the saying goes however, “ a bad day on the water is better than a good day at work”  so with VHF radios on and cold weather gear donned we set off.

It wasn’t just us yakkers, the kayaks on show were also a crazy cross section.  I was using my favourite close quarter fishing kayak the Ocean Kayak Trident 11.  I use this for freshwater lure and estuary fishing for the likes of Mullet.   It’s short, dry and manoeuvrable with good upfront storage that makes it ideal for fishing around rocks and moorings.  The downside is it’s also pretty slow when compared to the 2 sea boats that were used by Big Dave and Simon. Big Dave was in a 15ft Ocean Kayak Prowler 15 perfect for a guy of his stature, high volume but long and slim enough to make it a great all round sea boat.  It also suits his preferred side saddle fishing position.  I’m sure he hasn’t got blood in his veins, he can sit all day with his legs over the side and not feel the cold.  Simon was paddling the thoroughbred Kaskhazi  Marlin.  This fibreglass sea boat is sleek, fast and light making it perfect for offshore serious sea fishing but not the best for tight corners or around sharp rocks and obstructions.  There is no one kayak to suit all circumstances but there are some that are good jack of trades.


The paddle to the mark was probably less than a mile but it was enough to show the speed difference between the yaks and I found myself working hard to keep up but Simon is always keen to stop and take photos so I was able to stay in touch. The location was a classic Flounder muddy gently sloping bank. We anchored up and started to fished the last of the less than perfect ebb.  One thing that makes Flounder fishing fun is the variations you find in the traces.  Most have attractors, including blades, spoons and beads.  We had a fine collection on show.  I was able to fish 3 rods, one had a simple set of multi coloured beads to sit on the bottom; another looked like a piece of modern art with beads, silver blades and 2 floating beads to keep the bait off the bottom.   The final rod was the classic silver Flounder spoon.  All were baited with Ragworm.  Big Dave and Simon fished with various variations on the bead theme.  Not sure how but Simon found some local Mussels to tip off his Ragworm.

As the tide turned we repeatedly changed positions over Big Dave’s Flounder hotspot. Never more than 30 yards separating the 3 boats.  Although the flood tide started the water direction never changed just highlighting how much freshwater was flowing out of the Itchen.  The weather went from cold and cloudy to bright and sunny and back again.  As the afternoon progressed the temperature started to swing back towards freezing, the cold weather gear and “special” coffee was definitely a good choice.

We used the fish finders to find the shallow gullies and features highlighting possible holding areas in an area about the size of half a football pitch. Simon was the first to find a Flattie.  Not the biggest but they all count when the day quickly became about blank avoidance.  We were all using light 6-8ft boat/spinning rods and with this gear the Flounders can put up a good scrap.  Big Dave was then into one of a more decent size on a simple trace with no attractors and followed that with a Bass.  I missed what was probably a medium sized Bass on the Spoon rig. It took line but came off, never to reappear.  We fished hard for 6 hours, only Simon found another Flounder, again with a simple rig with Big Dave getting another consolation Bass.  They were rightly very happy with this given the conditions.

You have probably worked it out that I was on a big fat Blank. Apart from the one run all I could do was keep the Crabs occupied. They nailed every bait I put down including the floating rig set up. It must have been the Crab Olympics down there.  By now I am desperate for a fish if only to keep the increasing banter at bay. Isn’t it amazing how good other anglers become when you haven’t caught but they have? All in good humour and I will get my revenge but as the saying goes I couldn’t catch a cold.

The fading light put paid to my chances and the paddle back was done without incident.  We landed just as other boats were turning on their navigation lights.  Well done to Big Dave and Simon, that will be the last time I invite them out to play.  Joking apart despite some hard fishing it was great to get back out on the water with friends. Most of the pictures were taken by Simon so many thanks for those.

Next session will hopefully be on freshwater chasing Pike – unless there is another weather window.


~ Paul Fennell

The 3rd Wallington Invitational Gudgeon Gala


The tiny River Wallington, running its course from Waterlooville and spilling into the sea at Fareham is one of my favourite places to fish, especially at this time of the year.  Although this marvellous little journey doesn’t span the lengths of most of the rivers in England, and even though you can almost step across it at most parts, it is a haven for wildlife and one of the most prolific fisheries you could wish to angle at. I’ve been lucky enough to have been fishing it for a handful of seasons now, and year after year I keep coming back for more.

Many species thrive among its flowing waters, fish such as dazzling dace, ruby finned roach, territorial chub and perch, and even the mini species such as the humble minnow and the gudgeon are special in their own little w12295735_10154111374630839_1344904570_oay. Look past their size and muscle power and appreciate their wonderful features and you soon come to realise that you’ve tapped into a veritable gold mine, and a wealth of superb angling, all for yourself. You see, not many folk fish this little stream, hardly anyone knows it’s there, which is a bonus for those who do. Some carp, bream and tench make up the majority of the other fishes one could hope to capture, along with trout of course, loads of them.

For the past two years a group of died in the wool Wallington anglers, affectionately known as The Wallyboys, have gathered along its banks in search of the gudgeon, but not just any gudgeon, they pursue the king of gudgeon. WIGG (Wallington Invitational Gudgeon Gala) was this year to see its third year. Each year the group of eight or so fisherman battle it out for the Urn, a trophy the one who catches the longest gudgeon gets to take home and show off for a year. I was hoping that this year it could be me, after being so close last year where a three way tie resulted in Daz taking home the trophy after a coin flipping event.


It was set to be a damp day, with rain forecast throughout the day, but spirits were never dampened, challenge and tradition both as strong as ever. We met up on Portsdown Hill, Mick’s Monster Burger Van for breakfast. It was as damp as we all thought it would be and for the best part of an hour or more we ate, chatted, bantered and got well and truly wet. There were the odd moment of weakness, conditions were enough to test anyone’s resolve, but by 10:30 we set off to our favourite spots along the river and began the tournament.


I headed to Cheeseman’s Bridge, an area I’ve done well at previously and a stretch that has thrown up its fair share of monster gudgeon. I was thrilled to find I was the first one there, and after nipping home to grab my waterproofs too, so I felt if anyone else was heading there, they’d have been there and set up by now. So feeling rather smug I got everything into position and prepared for that magical first cast. Just as I did so I heard a car, looked up and spotted Daz. He parked up and crept down the bank opposite me. It was a fait cop, there was plenty of room for two of us, I just didn’t fancy sharing my big gudgeon with anyone, just in case they caught the big one.

 The fish started coming from the off, roach to begin with, but then after a perch for Daz the gudgeon arrived. They were perfect, stunning examples of a fish often overlooked. These fish were by no means specimens; they seemed to average between 4 and 5 inches. The good ones are the 6 inch fish, with a 7 being a real contender. Some trout were landed, along with one or two more roach, another perch and a dace for Daz. Then it happened, it seems that just as the wind and rain increased we both 12290567_10154111375415839_609131534_ohad a good fish apiece quite close to each other.

Daz’s fish was damn close to 6 inches, as was mine. We photographed them alongside the rulers and continued fishing, hopefully that leviathan might just be lurking. The weather turned worse, previously it had begun to brighten somewhat, after leaving the burger van it appeared that the day might not be so bad after all, but it was back with a vengeance. After another half an hour and a handful more small gudgeon we left the pool and headed for our lunchtime meeting point, a subway down river where we could brew up and have some lunch out of the elements.12281922_10154111374465839_577389588_o

It  was great to meet up with the others and share out experiences, and after hearing the stories it appeared that Daz and I had been spoilt, for nobody else had so much as a sniff of a gudgeon. A few trout had been landed, but not too much else. It was looking good for us. Lunch was awesome, with loads of banter flying around, as well as savouries, cakes, loads of tea and the customary midget gem fight, which almost resulted in a broken nose, but that’s a story for another time. With our bellies full and ribs aching from all the laughing we each headed off for the final part of the tournament, and new spots were in order.

Originally I’d planned to head back to Cheeseman’s, but to enter the field and fish the pools down river. I drove past but saw there were already four cars in position, so I kept driving and pulled over at Southwick Pool, here there were no other anglers and a spot that looked like it might just do a fish or two. The river here is much deeper that were I’d been, around five feet and was just downstream of the weirpool from a large estate lake. This means that in the floods one or two carp get washed down, so there was always the chance of an epic battle or two.

 The bites were slow to start, but then the roach moved in, some of which were a decent hand size.  One or two perch made an appearance too, wonderfully marked river perch, those are the best ones. They were active too, with lots of small roach fry leaping clear of the water frequently. It ended with just roach and perch being caught, the winds became quite fierce almost turning my brolly inside out, and at 4pm when it was time to pack away and head to the pub, I was thankful of some respite.

In the pub the banter carried on much as it had finished at the subway. A couple of other gudgeon were caught, but nothing the size of Daz’s and my fish. And after close examination, it was decided that I would be taking the trophy home this time around. I was clearly made up, although obviously I played it down a touch. The river had once again been kind to us, its jewels on show for all of us and yet another hugely successful event. I shall be visiting the river a few more times over the coming months. I never pay the river as much attention as I really should, perhaps something I’ll get to remedy this winter coming. But for sure, if it’s a delightful days angling you seek, among some of the prettiest surroundings, then look no further.

~ Stu Harris

Mannings Blogger – Paul Fennell


Paul Fennell and Sean Manning go back many years to when they both met in Cyprus over 25 years ago. It wasn’t until deposed northerner Paul left the Army and settled near Winchester that he took up angling in 1995. In the early days Paul could be found on the beaches learning to enjoy the pleasures of cold winter nights, bird nests and Pout sprinkled in with some pretty average fishing.  “I wasn’t the greatest shore angler” Paul admits but it was where he cut his fishing teeth and got the bug.  Soon he was fishing 4 seasons and could be found hanging off various south coast rock marks searching for Conger and Bass.  For 10 years he learnt through the school of hard knocks and some very helpful friends but he was always looking for a bit more adventure. It’s probably an Army thing.

That’s when it happened.  In 2005 he was searching the mysterious beast known as the worldwide web when he came across something called a Forum.  It was about some crazy activity that was exploding in Australia and the USA.  Kayak Fishing hit him right where it hurt, mostly the pocket. Now this was the perfect fit, kayaks (he was an ex military instructor); fishing and an excuse to buy lots of new gear.  Perfect!

Since his early days as one of the first few he has become one of only 2 Level 2 Angling  instructors specialising in the sport; assisted the RNLI in training and advising on kayak angling safety; run dozens of safety courses; helped establish several of the kayak angling competitions such as Swanage and the national Grand Slam Series, winning a few on the way.  He also founded the kayak fishing charity in the UK called Heroes On The Water which helps injured service personnel.   As you can see he really is a kayak angler through and through.  He has four kayaks, apparently it’s just like rods, you can never have enough.

Paul no longer shouts about his exploits beyond his private Facebook Page but is looking forward to just posting on the Mannings Blog. Once sponsored he has stepped away from the bright lights and has got back to just enjoying his fishing.   “Although my sponsors were great and very relaxed its easy to lose the reason, objectivity and passion that drives all anglers when you are obligated to wear a brand. Pro staffing isn’t for me”.


No longer interested in sponsorship he is now free to focus on his passions; Kayak, Mullet, Pike, lure and float fishing.  All come together nicely from the kayak.  Secretly he still does some rock fishing but if you ask him about shore fishing don’t be surprised if his answer is something like “Do people still do that?”  tinged with dry northern humour and a wry smile.

Apart from his own handmade Smiler lures he loves float fishing from the “Yak”.  Kayak catches include 23lb Pike, 40lbTope, 45lb Conger (at night!), Cod and Stingray.  He has also kayak fished in the Channel Islands, Canada and US where he proved that the float (Bobber) was highly effective at catching specimen Red Fish.  His float box is pretty unique.  It ranges from 4g Drennan wagglers for the Mullet all the way up to specially adapted 8oz monsters for deepwater Tope and Conger fishing.  “Only one thing beats watching a float disappear at night with an angry Conger on the end and that’s using light tackle and being spun round by a 4lb Thick Lipped Mullet that refuses to give up.  Tope are OK too.” He says with typical Yorkshire understatement.

Paul will be sharing his freshwater and sea fishing exploits plus also writing pieces on tackle and his techniques used off the kayak.  Don’t expect anything without humour or articles that just conform to the norm. ……………..Oh dear, what have we done.

He is always happy to discuss any aspect of kayak fishing so don’t be afraid to get in contact.