Avons.

Note And Photo From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Avons.

The old name of Avon has been used across the spectrum, ie a boy’s name, cars, tyres, cosmetics and UK counties.  For me the name Avon is associated with rivers, fishing rods and floats.

 This is not to be a history or open discussion of rods only a few ramblings. I say this because the web is littered with heated debate about one thing or another and this is not the place – only gentle musings of what was, is and perhaps may be.

There have been some notable Avon rods in the past and they start with split cane.

There was the Wallis Wizard, a rod made famous by F.W.K. Wallis. I believe he was the Mayor of Nottingham at one time.  His name has been synonymous with the rod, a particular style of casting, the Hampshire Avon and one time record holder for the barbel. A fish caught from the Royalty fishery at Christchurch, Hampshire, England.

Any discussion of cane rods will usually bring in the Wallis rod and the debate may become heated. There is a spectrum of opinion from the devotees who almost feel that they have discovered the ‘Holy Grail’ of coarse fishing rods. There wil be those who use a glass fibre equivalent of the rod and then there is the efficient, computer designed carbon rod.

Where you sit at the table will be determined by your sensibilities. The old cane avon is a beautiful piece of cane to behold and to use. It feels right as you sit in the reeds on a mild summer evening waiting for the float to disappear. I don’t believe it to be as efficient as some would have you believe. There you go – controversy already.

I have had the pleasure of using the Wallis Wizard rods from both Hardy’s and Allcocks and those used by some noteable anglers, but for me the magic ends when I put the rod down. It is not the thing I seek. Many years ago I enjoyed many fishing trips with an angler that used to fish with Wallis on the Hampshire Avon.

The late Claude Taylor wanted his Wallis rod renovated and I was honoured with the task. He always said he would try the rod again and use his old Hardy Wallis reel. There is a picture of Claude in an excellent book by Peter Wheat, and he gets a mention in John Bailey’s book. Claude, however, was a good technical angler for all species and he gave me many insights into the minds of barbel anglers of the period, in particular, his days with Wallis and tea on the banks of the Avon.

 However, Claude wanted me to use the newer Hardy glass Avon which he regarded as a much better rod for all types of fishing. Often we would sit under some old trees and float fish together for carp using the Hardy Avon and goose quill floats. At that time Claude’s sight was good, but as it failed I modified his floats with big sight bobs so we could still fish.

I digress, such is the tide of memory. Claude taught me the Wallis Cast using the centre-pin reel on the Avon rod and to this day I still use the centre-pin and Avon rod ( albeit in carbon ).

The Wallis Avon was a good rod to use at the time, but in many ways the efficiency improved with the Richard Walker Avon rods. Again they were split cane. The Avon rods were the softer rods of the MK IV stable which gave us a set of serious specimen rods covering carp down to tench, roach and chub etc. The Avon styles heralded the birth of the generation of specimen angling. You can argue whether you agree or disagree, but this is not a forum, only a light hearted mention. The historical perspective can be sort elsewhere, although I welcome anyone who has knowledge that may be put on the site with any pictures that they might like to share. As with all cane rods there were different companies producing the rods, or you could buy the blanks and make up the rod to your style. There was also that breed of skilled artisans who would follow the writings and make their own rods in their sheds. I tried many of these home made rods and the attempts were always a joy to behold.

I think the coming of glass rods spelled the end of an era, although cane is not totally dead, only in the mass market. Maybe that’s a pity. Glass Avon rods were produced at 10′ and 11′ lengths and endorsed by many celebrities. I still have a fondness for both my cane and glass Avons. Mainly because I recall days spent in good company on silent pools or meandering streams in search of fish. Each rod has an associated fish which lingers in the mind.

Fibre glass went through the solid and hollow phase with varying degrees of success, but there was the talk of lighter materials having been developed. Carbon, boron, kevlar etc., were all names in the air.

Carbon fibre finally came and we moved into an emotive age of rod manufacture and use. It seems the old skills had gone and been replaced with the "easily" made carbon rods. This was to deny the great skill and knowledge of the scientists and mathematicians who develop such rods and the engineers who design the actual machines for testing and mass production. There were and are, some excellent rods made with many of these companies engaged in space or tube technologies, even car racing.

As you can see there is great scope for emotive debate on the merits of all these rods. Not here. We only seek to peek through the door. There are sites where the debate rages and you can air your view point. Me, I’ll go fishing and be by the waters edge, sometimes using a rod from each of the stables, and I will be transported back to some English water where I sought a particular fish and the emotion of that time, place and moment will be enough.

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Bewl Water.

Note And Photo From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Bewl Water.

Bewl Water has the distinction of being in "two" places. If you listen to the news from BBC  Kent, the newsreaders  claim Bewl belongs to them. I suppose the confusion arises because it has a post code which is for Lamberhurst, Kent. However, the reservoir is physically in East Sussex.

Bewl Water

It’s a great place to fish for trout, either from a boat or from the bank. I always hoped that one day they might allow fishing for roach. Perhaps a record might be caught there. Once I had the opportunity to see the huge roach which lie under the trout tanks found out on the water. As the feed was thrown in for the trout, huge shapes would appear from out of the gloom – big roach. They were ‘monsters’. I offered to buy a ticket there and then, but my guide around the water way appologised and told me the ticket was only valid for trout. What a shame. I stood looking at a potential record holder only a short distance away. They might just as well have been miles and an eternity away, they would never be mine. Oh how I wish I had worked for Southern Water in Fisheries, still one can always dream.

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A Lake In West Sussex

Note And Photo From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

A Lake In West Sussex.

Whilst in England in April, I was invited to fish a small, day-ticket water in West Sussex. It was a pleasent experience to drive through the lanes of my youth and I was surprised at the lack of traffic. Perhaps it was to early or maybe the threat of a shower had made everyone stay indoors.

I had to stop off at a tackle shop in Pulborough as I didn’t have any floats. Somewhat strange considering the amount of tackle purchased over the years. However it was a simple matter to choose a few bodied wagglers and a small tube to protect the purchase. I even bought some maggots, haven’t done that for years. It was to be a relaxing day with an old friend ( not age wise in case he reads this ). We had planned to fish elsewhere, but the day had taken another direction and for two committed game anglers this was to be different.

There was a breeze which had an uncomfortable side in that the air was damp, but it made a change from 3 months  of temperatures down to -30C so there were no complaints. It is always strange to arrive at a new lake or complex and not know where to start. Worse for me as I’m not used to pay as you go fisheries. In British Columbia & Alberta there are probably over 100,000 lakes of over 10 ha and they are all free. Never mind, a fishing trip is always to be enjoyed.

We chose the pool to fish and settled down. T fished in the next swim to me, pitched at the corner of the lake. I’m sure we made the choice through some deep angling knowledge gained from years of experience, but older bones suggest we may have opted for comfort. T lit his customary cigarette and I tackled up the old John Wilson rod.( that dates me ).

Using a 4lb line and one of the new wagglers, the depth was checked. It was like going back years and memories flooded back of early mornings, tackle assembly, grounbait smells and all those essentials that are hard for the non angler to understand. When all was ready I put on the bait, maggot to start with, and cast out to await the action. For some time nothing grabbed the bait so I changed to corn. A few grains were put out for feed, but still no interest. I  must be losing my touch was an obvious remark from T. You must be getting soft with all that fishing on your door step. Two fingers seemed an appropriate gesture.  T came back with the suggestion that I might have more luck if I embraced the past and changed the JW rod for an old cane Kennet Perfection from B James of Ealing. From his bag he pulled an old rod sock which contained just such a rod.

Now, all cane users will understand that this was a definite improvement and the fish would now come dashing to my bait Couldn’t fail. Not quite that easy. I had to get used to slower action and the weight of the rod, but T needed humouring and he was catching fish. In fact the result was strangely positive. The float sailed gracefully out and settled purposefully onto the water, the bait was corn and a few grains were thrown in as encouragement. Disbelief, the float shot under and I had my first fish a Crucian carp. Haven’t seen one of those for years. Throughout the day I continued to catch fish, crucians, bream, roach and even a carp of about 4lb. It seemed like magic, especially when I tried to use my old JW rod and the fish just shunned the bait.

The Kennet Perfection

Kennet Perfection

And here’s the little crucian carp.

Crucian Carp

By lunch time I had amassed a good tally of fish. They were all released as I don’t own a keep net. I travel as light as possible.

Whilst we chatted over tea and sandwiches an angler on the other side of the lake suffered a slight loss. Actually it was possibly expensive. The chap had been fishing with two rods, one leger rod, but the other was a pole. Now all went well for a while, but he hooked a fish on the leger gear and when he went to net the fish he had a bite on the pole tackle. Unfortuneately the pole was sitting loose on the top of his tackle box and balanced on what looked like a large paint roller. We heard the slithering noise as the fish towed a few quids worth of gear into the lake. I expect the fish took it down to show other members of the shoal saying " look what I found lads "

I’m always amazed when this happens and often wonder why we bother to fish with more than one rod. Many old and talented UK anglers have raised such concerns down the years. Some have suggested that we fish better if all concentration and effort are bestowed on one set of gear.  Over the years I tend to lean toward this reasoning.

Well, we fished on into the early afternoon, but the weather became damper and the day started to lose some of it’s urgency so we decided enough was enough, time to head off. As we drove  away we reflected upon the day and compared the experience with days spent on other waters.

I do miss the English countryside and the rivers and lakes of my youth. Anglers understand that there is a distinctive smell and character which greets you as you pass through a gate to get to your fishery and there is an expectation which often fails to be fulfilled but never wains.  Perhaps it dies at the end of the day, but it will resurrect itself tommorrow for the next trip somewhere.

I hope to have a few more trips with T and others in the UK and perhaps I can show them the sturgeon and our fishing over here.

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Bar Fishing For Chinook

Note And Photo From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Bar Fishing For Chinook.

The mighty Fraser river in British Columbia is an extraordinary place to follow a style of fishing which the UK angler would see as beach fishing.

You use a boat to get to most of the marks and those shingle bars, as a result of deposits from the river and the level dropping for the summer, are usually out in mid stream. Obviously there are spots that can be reached from the road, but there is something special about a boat trip to your own little fishing island. The tackle I have seen being used tends to be long rods 11′ to 12′ with level wind reels holding 50 lb braid. The paternoster style lead attachment holds leads which go from 8 oz to 20 oz plus. It’s like throwing a brick out into the water. The leader may be 25 lb fluorocarbon with a large "spin-glow" lure attached.

Bar Fishing For Chinook

Once you have cast out and the splash subsides, you can watch the ripples drift on the current and the rod is placed in the beach rod rest. Now you can sit back and watch the world hurry about it’s business, snooze, have a cup of tea, but always keep an eye on the rod top or listen for the little bell.

There will be the constant passage of guide boats up or down the river, helicopters and small planes. Across the river from this spot there is a log launch with a little boat keeping order, a sight to see. All these  things are part of BC life and a must see experience. However, we all fish for as much as we can get out of the day, so we must not forget the rich wildlfe. There will be ospreys, bald eagles, sometimes a bear or even an inquisitive seal that always seems to surface near your lure.

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Spawning Kokanee

Note And Photo From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Kokanee Spawning.

Many of us are familiar with the spawning salmon. We’ve seen, on TV, those spectacular leaps made by the salmon as they run up the river to spawn and die. The Atlantic salmon in Scotland are always shown, along with glimpses of spectacular scenery and enchanting music. We wish we could be there.

In Canada it is the Pacific salmon and David Attenborough gives us a dialogue exploring the drama as the salmon run the rivers and sometimes leap into the mouths of waiting grizzlies. It is all very atmospheric and creates the picture of the epic struggle for these fish. They may travel hundreds of miles from the sea to spawn. Once the job is done they die. They are, however, dying as soon as they hit fresh water. Do they know this ?. Perhaps that’s why they are so driven.

There are the stars such as the big Atlantic salmon and the Pacific Chinook salmon. There are also the fish we know of in cans, the Sockeye. From the Pacific there is also the aggresssive Chum salmon which seem to make shorter runs up river, the numerous Pinks and the beautiful Coho.

Now spare a thought for the little guys, the Kokanee. A land locked salmon, related to the Sockeye. Kokanee are small, about 1lb on average, and their struggle is every bit as great as the "lords" of the sea. Some Kokanee are driven by the urge to climb rivers and small streams which enter a large lake, while others will spawn along the lake shore.

The picture shows Kokanee waiting for the moment when they will "jump" the little weir. Migratory salmon in miniature.

Kokanee Spawning

It’s a wonderful spectacle to watch and is every bit as dramatic as the performance of larger salmon. The Kokanee wait and slip up into the next section to find a spot to lay eggs, but the end result is always the same. Death comes to these little fish as their bodies change from the beautiful silver of lake life to a bright orange and then the decay after breeding.

[flickr video=4053699188]

The cycle is inevitable as much of the stream life needs the nutrients that the fish provide. " Dust to dust "  that is really seen in action here. The ducks dig up the redds and get the eggs, the bears sit in the pools and eat the fish, while out in the lake, ospreys, bald eagles, sea gulls, otters and any other fish eating creatures wait their turn.

Some fish may grow bigger. I have seen a kokanee of 4lb and the record I think is about 9 lb. I have never seen fish of that size in the stream, perhaps they come from the lake shore variety and perhaps they have an easier life than their stream relatives.

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An Ambitious Duck

Note And Photo From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

An Ambitious Duck.

It was a reasonably early start and the weather was slightly overcast with a promise of rain. I’d set up the trolling gear and was calmly motoring along at about 2 mph. From out of nowhere a duck dropped onto the water. She was intent on following us. I thought at one point she was going to leap on to the side, but she seemed happier to swim along just below the rod holder. Every so often she would drop back 50m and then fly back to her postion beside the boat. As she paddled closer I thought she might be in danger from the prop, but no, she had measured the distance accurately and stayed safe.

Ambitious Duck

The duck stayed with me for about 30mins before she spotted something out on the lake and left.

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1968

Note And Photo From:- KelownaTrout Angler.

1968

1968 was a great period in the lives of many. We had pop music and the world was changing. That’s a discussion for elsewhere, along with the price of petrol and how many gallons we could get for a pound.

I went to Arundel Castle in West Sussex and spent a lazy afternoon drifting in a boat on Swanbourne Lake. It was a glorious day and the water in the lake behind the castle was crystal clear. As an angler I was captivated by the ducks diving for weed and chasing eels. It was so easy to let the boat drift and watch the show.

Arundel Eels

Arundel Eels

On another outing to view more water for fishing I spent some time walking around the lakes of Sheffield Park, West Sussex. This swan seemed to follow me everywhere. It would paddle along the bank without any sign of aggression and did not want to take any bits of bread from passing strangers. Somehow I had found the only ‘canine’ swan in existence.

Sheffield Park

Sheffield Park Swan

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Nice Day For A Swim

Note And Photo From:- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Nice Day For A Swim.

We were heading up the stream when this fellow dropped into the water for a swim. Must be made of tougher stuff than me.  I love swimming, but the water temperature was about 8 C. I was glad to be in a boat and not fishing on the shore. Cold comfort really and a tribute to the sometimes placid nature of bears.

Nice Day For A Swim

The grizzzly had been sleeping in the sun, but what prompted him to go for a swim who knows.

Minutes later the bear walked along the bank and came within 50m of the boat.

That water Was Cold

This is the bear missed by the camera crew in an earlier post. As he wandered up the bank he suddenly froze and sniffed the air. In front of him and sleeping in the sun was another huge male. Eventually this bear charged the sleeping male. A stupid move but the bigger bear took flight and ran along the beach at about 30 mph until the adrenalin of flight subsided and bigger bear took stock of why he was running from the smaller bear. He stopped suddenly and turned to face the smaller bear who read the signs and gave up the chase, deciding a slow retreat was the best option. I’ve seen this on TV, but to actually see bears in the wild challenge each other was a privilege.

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Salmon And Sturgeon Fishing.

Note And Photo From:- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Salmon And Sturgeon Fishing.

In this post I’m going to indulge myself.

I have a passion for angling in all forms and last year I took the plunge to explore the Fraser Valley, BC, Canada, for sturgeon and salmon. It’s not an easy task as you stand on the shore of a river which must be flowing at about 4 mph.

The first problem seems to be access. How do you get to the water? Certainly you can see the river from the highway, but it’s down a steep ( 300ft ) bank or across the rugged valley floor. When you get to the shore the edges are covered in shingle and appear to be shallow. Yet wading would not be advisable for the unwary. The depth can drop suddenly to 35 ft. In other areas the banks are tree lined and the water drops to maybe 6ft. It’s a river of great contrasts. That said, there are people who beach fish in the English style ( except you might be using 20 ozs of lead ). If you spend some time talking with the beach anglers you quickly realise that skill levels are not perfect amongst most. However the enjoyment and camping pleasure seems high and why not?

I studied articles and went into the library, but I’m not sure I gained as much information as I would have expected. So the most sensible plan had to be – find a guide. Again this wasn’t easy when you have no experience of choosing a guide. Many suggestions and several phone calls were made. The level of service and help varied greatly, but most did not feel right for the approach of a dedicated English angler. I wanted to learn and catch good sized fish.

I came across Steve Kaye and I include his websites:-

http://www.salmonhunter.com

http://www.sturgeonhunter.com/

He was a mine of information and the styles he discussed were very reminiscent of legering or trotting on the Wye or Hampshire Avon in England. I booked a day and waited in anticipation. We managed to get a day at the beginning of September and an early start had been suggested ( well, early for me ). Steve said 6am. I thought he had to be joking, but everyone starts early in Canada. We met in the hotel foyer.

Those early mornings often see a mist rising from damp ground and this was indeed the sight which greeted us and followed us to the boat launch. Loaded and ready to go, we climbed aboard and were off into what seemed to be a cloud, which had dropped off the mountain. For those who have never been aboard a 21 ft jet boat, here’s a picture as we left the channel and headed into the main body of the Fraser river.

Jet Boat

The scenery was stunning, even if it appeared clouded in mist. There were spots of clear air as we raced along the river surface and saw the tops of mountains risng above the mist. Once  anchored and tackles etc were cast, we had time to settle and have a cup of tea. The mist began to rise and the surroundings became apparent.

This was the upstream view.

Upstream

And downstream.

Downstream

Waiting for a bite.

Waiting For A Bite

It took some time, but eventually the right hand rod tip slammed down to the water and the first Chinook salmon was on. A great fight ensued while Steve hurried to remove tackle we didn’t need and make ready for the netting.

Getting Ready

In fact, the intensity of the fight meant that Steve had to start the engine and follow the fish. Constant strain needs to be applied and no slack line must be given or the barbless hook will allow an escape. In the UK, when in the pub, you know what your right arm is for. With this fish all that right arm practice was certainly needed. I wound the reel handle as fast as possible just to keep pace with the high speed lunch on the end of the line. Bear in mind the fish will be swimming against a 4 mph current and all the strain the rod can apply. It can still win the battle.

Time and pressure eventually won and the fish was netted. A bright 19 lb Chinook. At first I had been reluctant to see the death of the fish, but English coarse angling sentiments gave way when you realise the number of fish that pass along the Fraser and that strict controls mean that one fish for the table becomes a legitimate reward.

Another fish came along, but it put on a tremendous spurt of power before the boat could accomodate the change and the loose line meant the fish could shake it’s head and it was gone.

As the sun rose above the mountains and the air temperature climbed the mist cleared and the late summer heat began to take it’s toll. Inactivity became the order of the day. Everything was still and the rod sat quietly in the rest with the tip bouncing gently to the rhythm of the water.

Lonely Rod

It was time to go after the sturgeon. We made  an upstream run which gave us a welcome breeze until we stopped at the junction of two arms of the Fraser as it separated around an island.

Away Again

Tackle for the sturgeon was considerably stronger. Slightly shorter rods with 130 lb braided mainline and big hooks. Bait was a recently deceased coarse fish of about 1/2 lb. Three  rods were used,and the bite came almost immediately om one of them. The tip vibrated as the fish picked up the bait and then it slammed to the water as the sturgeon took off for Vancouver. The fun had begun. Steve wound in the spare rods, stowed any loose gear and provided the rod belt. Arms were now starting to ache as you felt you might be attached to some primaeval monster over which you have no control. The fish was in charge. Now that everything had been made safe Steve started the engine, unhooked the anchor rope from the indicator buoy and we were off in pursuit.

The strain was incrediable as the fish made a series of very long runs. You gain line, the fish takes it back. Twenty minutes later and it seemed stalemate was going to be the deal. It’s hard to get serious when your energy levels are getting low and every time you pull up the fish it then has it’s turn and so takes back your gains plus a bit more.

After about 40 minutes the battle felt as if it was drawing to a close. The sturgeon started to rise, but it was pulling the back end of the boat round in the current. Surely this wasn’t sensible. “Ok”, says Steve, “I think you might be winning, hold it steady and I will try to get to the bank”. “Why? was my obvious question. “Simple” came the reply, “That fish is about 140 lbs, over 6 ft  and we can’t get it in the boat. So here’s the drill. Oh and by the way when we get the fish watch out for the tail”. The excitement was tremendous.

If you would like to see pictures I’ll direct you again to Steve’s web site where you can see a gallery of great fish.

I  suggest to anyone who wants to experience great salmon or sturgeon fishing, give Steve a call.

PS The sturgeon was carefully returned and lives to fight another day, as I am sure it will.

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The River Wye

Note And Photo From:- Kelowna Trout Angler.

The River Wye.

The river Wye in England rises in Wales and flows through Hereforshire. It is a river of contrasts, with shallows, rapid runs and deeps. Much loved by the salmon angler and the home of monster coarse fish.

I have trotted the float along margins and taken many barbel whilst I have watched the antics of drunken revellers coming out of pubs and climbing into canoes. A quick " swim " does wonders for  those that  are worse for wear.

Salmon were in decline, as they seem to be suffering everywhere. It’s probably netting at sea, but walkers, tourists and boaters must accept some blame as they stand in shallows where the salmon eggs may be. Likewise the dog owner who gets great joy from stick throwing and the dog runs back and forth across the redds.

 Ducks and little grebe are also a problem when salmon come to spawn. These feathered opportunists will often dive, disturb the gravel and grab the eggs. Nature is a hard master and life is meant to be a struggle.

A more optomistic note is being sung and commercial netsman of the lower reaches are gone ( or so I’m told ). The Salmon and Trout Association, along with local clubs and volounteers, have also added to the efforts of the many that have sought to restore the character of this beautiful stretch of water.

The River Wye

It was on a warm April evening that I sat for a meal at this riverside pub and watched the shadow creep from right to left of the river.

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