Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bait Additives

I was clearing out a cupboard in my shed the other day and came across a jar of anchovy paste. I had bought it years ago after reading about how good it was in one of the angling papers. Apparently if you mixed it in with your breadpaste you'd have big roach fighting for the pleasure of getting into your keepnet. The old jar wascovered in dust and I didn't dare to open it so I threw in the bin. It did however send my mind back to the days when I would try all sorts of additives to help give me the edge over my fellow competitors.

Canals without boats is like heaven for anglers

Most of my matches were fished down the cut so we are talking about delicate flavourings here, fine groundbait with fine ingredients. One chap who was reasonably successful always sprinkled some chocolate powder in his groundbait and onto his maggots before every match and he reckoned it worked wonders. Like I said he did get in the frame quite often so it obviously didn't put the fish off. Of course other anglers fishing on the same circuit as us copied him and the effect wore off.
While he was doing well I was doing better. I won for two years in succession, the championship that we both took part in and I never went near the chocolate powder. However, I did have an additive that at the time I swore helped me to lift those two trophies. I didn't tell anybody else what it was either even though there was much speculation about it everytime I turned up for the draw.

It had two names "Red Cap" and the "Sharneyford Secret," you couldn't get it where I lived so I relied on my brother-in-law who is also a keen angler to bring me a couple of jars whenever he visited me from his home in Wigan which is about 60 miles away.

Anyway, I don't know exactly what happened the additive seemed to disappear off the market and his wife's sister divorced me so I never saw him again. (If you read this Steve, drop me an e-mail.)

I won't bore you with the details but after my divorce I stopped match fishing so it didn't matter about not being able to get my favourite additive. I fish only for pleasure now and sad as it might seem, I look forward to having a few minutes peace between catching each fish. I used to count each fish I caught and aimed at a minimum of 1 per minute during the first hour of match, but I don't think I could do it now. My eyesight isn't what it was, I'm having enough trouble trying a 12's never mind a 24's.

What are your thoughts on additives? Do you have a favourite?
Please let me know what you think and if anybody knows what happened to "Red Cap" I'd love to know about that as well.

If you would like to read more about my thoughts on additives I have included some information in my book. More details and a free sample download can me found on my website. Book and download details

Scotland and Writers
Scotland will form a big part of my next blog and I will be talking about others ways that freelance writers can make money, so please watch out for it.

I'll leave you with this beautiful picture that my wife Terry, took of Loch Awe. This was our view across the loch to Ben Cruachan from our holiday chalet in Portsonachan.

Submissions & Explanations

sorry this post is a bit late but I've had one of those weeks. Nothing big happened but my time seeped away like a spring tide.

I hope you like the photo above, it was taken across the river Shin below Lairg. There will be more on Scotland later but for now I'd like to start with some writing advice.

Simultaneous Submissions

This is often the subject of much debate and time wasting. Those who advocate submitting one article at a time and waiting for it to be rejected before sending it elsewhere are living in another world - probably cloud cuckoo land - so ignore them.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending the same submission to several magazines at the same time. You've got to consider that some magazines will hold onto an article for over three months before replying so that isn’t going to help you.

Simultaneous submissions are fine, but you must follow this rule. Keep a list of all magazines that you sent the article to, and if it is accepted by one of them, inform the others and ask them to send back or destroy your submission.

Once an article has been published you are quite at liberty to sell it again but you must inform the magazine that it has already been published, in which magazine and when. To be honest, I’ve never bother submitting the same article to other magazines because they just look upon it as yesterday's news. After all, why would they want to print something that their competitors have already used?

So if you have a good idea for an article, check out the magazines you think it would be suitable for, then write it in an appropriate style. After you've honed it to perfection, you can send it to as many magazines as you see fit. Just make sure you keep a record of those you've sent it to, so that you can take appropriate action.

Don't submit to one magazine at a time unless you want to be collecting your pension before you get published.

More advice on various writing topics will be discussed in my new book which should be ready for publication in April 2010. Please watch this blog or check out my website for more details.

Speaking of my website, I have included another short story that you can read at your leisure. It is a Ghost Story and a bit of a departure for me. It isn't a genre I'm comfortable with and it must show in the writing and I think that's why it didn't get published.
Peace in the Valley
Take a look and see what you think, clean comments on it or any of the other stories are welcome.

The photo above was taken near Loch Leathan, in Argyll.
I reckon that with so many pictures of Scotland appearing on this blog that you could be forgiven for thinking that I'm from that neck of the woods. Well I'm not, my father's side of the family are all English although there was some sort of Fench connection way back. My mother came from Finland so there are no links down that side of the family either.

So there isn't any strange back to my roots stuff going on. Scotland is just a beautiful place that also just happens to be more peaceful than England and that is what attracts me to it.

Don't get me wrong about England, I'm proud to be English even though the country seems to be on a downhill spiral. "Things are starting to slide, slide in all directions," are the words of Leonard Cohen and I think they describe England perfectly.

When I give these posts to my wife to proofread, she gets the jitters, because I'm always banging on about the beauty of Scotland, she thinks I have some secret notion to go and live there.

Well I don't and here's the reason why. If I lived there I'd have nowhere to go for my holidays.

I'll leave you with a picture of Loch Etive. Near Oban.

Anglers, my next post will be about fishing and will follow this one shortly.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Courses & Free Stories

Hi, I hope you like the photo above of a small place called Bellanoch, that is beautifully situated on the Crinan Canal in Argyll. It's a shame that it is over 300 miles from my home in Staffordshire, because I'd love to be walking the towpath this morning.

I was looking through my copy of "Writing Magazine," last night and noticed some big averts regarding writing courses. My first thoughts were that it must be worth their while to place these adverts, so the the number of people taking up the writing challenge must be pretty healthy.

I then started to think about whether they were helpful or not. I had taken one of the well known ones when I was starting out as a freelance writer and I don't think it did me any harm. To be honest I think they are very good, because they give you lots of confidence.

I know there are many writers out there who are scribbling away and keeping their tallents hidden from the rest of the world. They are reading their own work and perhaps only letting a loved one have a peek at it. They have no intention of sending it out into the world because they have a fear that submitting work to editors could invite laughter and crtiscism. They need a confidence boost to make them take the plunge and this exactly what a good writing course can do.

I know some of you think that you can get all of the information required to become a freelance writer from free articles on the internet or from books. Well you are partly right, there is information on the internet and one or two books. I'm even writing one myself which will support and give more details on the wrting topics that I've mentioned in these posts. I will give more details about it on this blog and on my website, at the moment the writing is going well and I'm expecting to publish it in April.Cick here to go to my website for book details and freedownloads.

I am a great believer in getting as much help and information from as many sources as possible. So use the internet and buys some books, but there is no reason why you shouldn't do a course at the same time.

Doing a course not only teaches you the basics on how to present your work but you also get friendly feedback from your tutor. You will be given various assignments to complete and these will motivate you to write and make real submissions. It won't take long and you will find yourself full of enthusiasm and confidence.

Free Downloads
Please take a look at the free downloads on my website. I've just posted a new story on there, "Gone Fishing," beware anglers this could happen to you. Please read it and send me you comments. I wrote it a long while agao and it failed to get published perhaps you can tell me why. All I ask is that you keep you comments polite and here to read or download free stories.

Sorry there wasn't much space for stuff about Scotland in this post. I'll leave you with a nice picture of some boats in Kircudbright.
There will be more in my next post for anglers and more photos of paradise.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Pike and canals

This winter seems to be dragging on a bit doesn't it? I've looked out of the window again this morning and we've got yet another covering of snow. I think I've seen more of the cold white stuff this year than I have in the previous twenty.

Still I shouldn't moan, spring is just around the corner and that means holiday time. I know most people go away in July and August and spend a couple of weeks grilling themselves a nice charcoal brown. I've never seen the attraction in doing that, I can get the same effect by standing under the electric fire in my bathroom.

How anybody can sunbathe for more than five minutes without being bored out of their skulls amazes me, still it wouldn't do for us all to be the same would it. In fact I am able to take great advantage of the majorities desire to be baked to a crisp.
I take my holidays in May when it is nice and quite and not only that, I prefer to go north away from the heat of the sun. If there is a more beautiful place on the planet than the north west of Scotland in the spring, please let me know where it is.

There is one specific place in this area that is absolutely beautiful.
I am talking about the area around the Crinan canal on the north end of the Mull of Kintrye. The short length of canal that is only a few miles long was built as a short cut for boats going from Loch Fyne to the Atlantic ocean.
The canal took more than sixty miles off their journey and was built through some stunning scenery. If you ever find yourself in Argyll around the town of Lochgilphead, take a a trip alongside the canal in your car. It follows the canal almost all the way to the port of Crinan and you can also take in Loch Sween while you are there.
February used to be the time for piking. The thinking behind this was that they were the only big fish that could be caught at this time of year. It was always accepted that carp didn't feed in the winter, so those anglers who had the big tackle switched their attention to the so called fresh water shark. I don't know how it got this name because even in February when it is supposed to be fighting fit, a good sized one could be landed without getting off you basket.

I suppose you've gathered that I'm not a fan of pike. Well that isn't strictly true I just think that they are overrated in terms of being a fishing challenge. They will eat anything regardless of how the bait is presented and like I've already said they could hardly fight their way out of wet paper bag.

On top of that they are a nuisance and have cost me dearly in at least two matches. During one match on the river Trent I was running my stick float fishing down the near side, and wondering why my swim which had been producing well had gone as dead as a dodo. I noticed a big fat pike that was holding station below my keepnet. I kept an eye on him as I continued to fish my swim and saw that he kept swinging in and out of the flow. This carried on for the last hour of the match and I only managed to add another 2 gudgeon to my total.

I had of course during this time thought about sticking a wire trace on my line and catching the pike but much to my regret I didn't. At the weigh in I realised that it was a decision that would cost me dear, I came fourth in the match and was out of the money.

On another occasion I was fishing a club match. It was a hot Saturday afternoon and hardly anybody had caught. I'd had a couple of small skimmers and was doing better than most. By the time we were into the last half an hour a steady stream of anglers passed me by saying they'd had enough and anybody with a couple of pound would skate it. Well I reckoned that my two skimmers would register about a pound so I stuck at it hoping for another. About five minutes from the end I was rewarded when I hooked into another skimmer of a slightly better stamp. This could be the winner I thought and bought it across the surface slowly. It was just about to slip over the rim of my landing net when Percy the Pike turns up and snaffled it down his neck as if he hadn't eaten for a week.

So can you blame me if I haven't got a soft spot for the Pike? Here's a photo of a Pike with a grin like Elvis. This fellow obvoiusly met with a sticky end, I wouldn't wish that on anything even a pike.
If you are interested Pike more tales can be found in my book.
Click here for details
Before I sign off from this post, I'd just like to say that Pike are probably the topic involving most tall stories about fishing. If you have heard any or even have some unbelievable but true stories concerning Pike, I'd love to hear from you. Just use the comment section below.

Writers, I haven't forgotten you. I will be doing a writing post very shortly.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Izaak Walton

I often think about what I'm going to put into these posts when I'm driving and this week as my mind turned to fishing I just happened to be going past Izaak Walton's Cottage. This half timbered building sits beside the river Meece in Shallowford, a small hamlet in Staffordshire. It is a lovely place and would be even better if the main north west railway line didn't pass along the bottom of the garden. Still you can't have everything, and it wouldn't have been there when Izaak was about.

The building is now a shrine to the man who is credited with being the author of the greatest angling book ever written, "The Compleat Angler." The cottage is quaint inside and there are displays of old fishing tackle and stuffed fish. At the time of writing this blog, entry to the building and garden was free so it's well worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.

Most people who pass by the cottage, which can be seen easily from the road, probably assume that Walton lived there and fished in the local river. While it's true that Walton may have spent some time at the cottage, it wasn't his home. He purchased the cottage and rented it out to those not so well off and the money that was taken in rent was used to buy fuel for the poor in the county town where he was born.

A few facts about Walton
He was born in Eastgate Street in the county town of Stafford England in 1593 and was Christened in St May's Church. After leaving school he went to London and set himself up in a drapery business. Where he got the money from is unknown, his father was an inn keeper so he must have come from humble surroundings.

He married Rachel Floud in 1626 and during their 14 year marriage they had 7 children, 6 of which died before she did. The last surviving child lived two years longer then too passed away in 1642. He married again in 1647 and had another 3 children all of which did much better than those from his previous marriage. Walton was interested in the Anglican church and started to write biographies of some of the important religious men of that time. It was while chronicling the life of one of these figures in 1651 that he was introduced to the gentle art of fishing.

Walton was a late comer to angling and didn't take up the sport until he was well into his fifties. In fact by the time he'd written and published his most famous work he was 60 years old.

It is shame that little is known about this remarkable man. He lived to be 90 years old and this was through some of the most troubled times in British history. He was a staunch Royalist in the times of the civil war so he did well to survive that episode. He also managed to survive the great fire of London although one of his houses succumbed to the blaze.

A part of my life and Walton's, appear to have run along similar tracks, well at least for some of the journey so far.

After marring my first wife I lived in flat in Eastgate Street Stafford only a couple of doors away from where Izaak was Born. Then when we started a family we moved to the little village of Norton Bridge which is only half a mile from Walton's cottage. Following that I moved to an area in Staffordshire called Walton.

Perhaps it isn't so strange then that the first book I had published was about fishing, and written when I had entered my late fifties. This wasn't planned, it just happened and I never even realised the connection until I came to write this post.

If my book sells only fraction of the numbers that Izaak Walton sold I'll be a happy man. His book has been published in more than 120 editions and is one of the best selling books of all time. I have read it and I loved it. For those of you who haven't, please give it a go. It isn't a dry old book about how to catch fish, it is about a gentleman and pleasure he found in fishing.

There are many versions of Walton's book on the market, just go to and you'll see what I mean.

If you want to find out more about my book,it might not be as good as Walton's classic but I like to think it's just as entertaining. Click here

That's it for today, I hope you've enjoyed that little bit of history and the photos.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Free Story & Cards

Writing short stories for womens' magazines might on the face of it seem like a good money spinner for the freelance writer. For those writers amongst us who have a little bit of imagination it's just got to be a doddle hasn't it?
Well the answer to that is a resounding no. There are many writers out there who have tried unsuccessfully to grab a piece of this market and I'm one of them. I, like many others thought that writing short fiction would be easier than writing articles because no research was required. One only had to think of a plot, bung in a few characters and knock out a couple of thousand words or even less and the job's done.

There was no end to my enthusiasm and when one magazine rejected my efforts I would rewrite it and send it to another. I even kept a spreadsheet so that I could track the comings and goings of all my manuscripts.

I wasn't deterred even when I read about other writers giving it up as a bad job. "It's a market that can't be cracked," they said and this just spurred me on even more. Anyway I stuck at the task like an alcoholic in denial. I had a new ploy too, that was to write them faster than they could reject them, I'd have to win in the end. I studied the stories that were in print and emulated their style but still I didn't manage to find out the secret.

Actually I did manage to get a couple of stories printed and even won first prize in a "Writers News" competition with one of my efforts.

Eventually though I realised that the short story market wasn't for me. I'd spent a year flogging that particular horse and didn't have much to show for it. Well actually that isn't strictly true because I learned a lot about writing friction. I learned about dialogue, plotting, and character development. So much so in fact that I decided that I would be better off writing longer pieces of work so I set myself a couple of challenges.
The first was to write a none fiction book and have it published. The second was to write a full length novel and have that published as well.

I've achieved the first challenge and my book

"Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales" is available on and, where you can also buy a kindle version if required.
For more info about the book and free sample download click here
Below you will find a link to the first short story that I sent out to one of the womens' magazines. It isn't the most exciting story in the world, but I think it was a good start. It would be nice if you could let me know what you think, especially if you have any ideas about why it wasn't chosen for publication. I will include any comments in a future post so that we can all share the information. Please keep your comments clean I'm sure bad language won't be requred even after you've read it.
To download free PDF of "Ray of Hope" click here.
On a completely separate note I've been very busy this month and every spare minute has gone into setting up a website. My wife is a very creative person and she is always painting or making something. She decorates boxes beautifully and has recently taken to making hand made cards. Yes I know you've seen hand made cards before and you know that the only person who is impressed by them is the person who made them. A piece of stamped card with a couple of twigs and a pebble stuck on front isn't exactly classy is it. Anyway my wife's cards are different and unique, I haven't seen anything like them anywhere.
Here are a few samples.

The thing is she doesn't make them for profit she makes them because she enjoys it.

I always think that you can tell when somebody enjoys doing something because they put that little bit extra into making things special. Anyway, over the last twelve months she's been making these cards and sticking them in boxes and to be honest we are running out of spaces to put them in. So I suggested we set up a website to sell a few and she said, "If that's what you want to do, then you can get on with it." Well I've finally finished and I'm quite proud of my efforts, if you want to see more, here is a link that will take you to the Card Lady website. I hope you enjoy looking at them.
Click here to visit Card Lady
Anglers, please don't think I've forgotten you. My next post which should follow soon, will be totally focused on fishing and will include a lot of information about the great Izaak Walton.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Crayfish & Letters

In the fishing world there is often a monster lurking around the corner. Something that is going to come along and ruin it for us all.Over the last few decades we've had the anti bloods sports brigade threatening us. We had the lead shot ban to get over and we were all going to see our fish stocks eaten by shoals of zander. According to the experts these fish were going to spread like wildfire, they would wipe out all our fisheries and if we wanted to carry on fishing we'd all have to buy some piker's tackle because there would be nothing else left to fish for.
Now we have another threat, the signal crayfish. It came from North America in the 1970s and is set to wipe out our own crayfish and anything else it can find to eat including our fish. During last summer I caught a crayfish a nice little fellow he was too. It took a single grain jolly green giant on a number 14, so it must've been hungry. Here is picture I took of him before I put him back.

I am assuming it is a signal crayfish because of the red claw and it was a big specimen. In the olden days they reckoned our native cray fish were a good bait for chub. Well no chub was going to get it gums around this little beast I can tell you.
Whether or not the crayfish does as much damage as the doom and gloom Johnnies predict is left to be seen.
I can only go back to the threat of the dreaded zander. That was thirty odd years ago and I still haven't caught one. By the way if anybody is having trouble with signal crayfish let me know. There's a company in Oxford who are looking to find supplies. They will come and net your pool and get rid of most of them for you. Apparently signal crayfish are good to eat and this company supplies a number of restaurants with them. Strange old world ain't it, some folk will put anything in their mouths.
In my last post about writing I talked about the best way to get yourself published by writing letters to newspapers. Writing letters is easy but you need to follow certain rules. There are a number of these but two of the most important I have listed below.
1 Make sure you understand the political persuasion of the paper. Your chances of getting a letter supporting labour policy in Tory biased paper are extremely thin. It is easy to work out which political party they support by reading a few articles and the editorial. Most papers don't just make it clear who they would like to see running the country they also make a point of trying to influence the rest of us to see it their way.
2 Make sure your letter is the right size. Count the number of words in the longest and the shortest letters on the page of a current copy and make sure your word count comes to a total between the two. Also count the number of words used in the sentences. Some you will find like short sentences while others like them to be longer or mixed. It is up to you to follow the same style if you want to see one of your letters in print. I am currently researching and writing a book about freelance writing and it should be available in the spring. If you are interested please let me know and I'll keep you informed of publication dates.

In my next post I'm going to give out details of where you can download one of my earlier short stories. It wasn't published, perhaps it wasn't good enough but I thought I'd share it with readers of this blog and welcome any comments. By doing so we might all learn a thing or two about improving our writing.

I'll leave you with another canal picture. This one was taken in Stone, Staffordshire and shows the back of the old Joule's brewery. When I first took to the drink, Joule's ale was 1 shilling and 8 pence a pint or about 9p in new money. I guess I'm giving my age away now, but it would be nice to hear from anybody who can remember the distinct flavour of Joules Ale.

Finally here's a reminder that a sample of my book, Fishing: Learn from the Tips & Laugh at the Tales" can be downloaded completely free of charge if you follow the link below which will take you to my writing website.
Click here