Saturday, 29 January 2011

Crucian Carp

I guess a lot of anglers would put the carp in the number one spot because it's a great fish, but I've placed it in bronze position.
There is no doubt that the carp is a good looking fish, especially the crucian pictured on the right. Most anglers love the carp because it provides excellent sport, even the little crucian carp can put up a good scrap on light tackle. It's a shame crucian carp don't grow to the same size as tench because they would be hard to beat. In common with other anglers, the biggest fish I've ever caught was a carp, so why doesn't it doesn't rank higher with me.
Well, I've given the matter some thought and believe that it's because the carp is a relatively new fish. It may surprise some younger anglers to know that before the advent of commercial fisheries, the carp was almost a rarity. The common carp below was caught at Baden Hall, near Stafford. It is now one of the largest fisheries in Europe and stuffed with carp of all sizes.

I can't remember when I caught my first carp, but I think it must have been during late seventies. I suppose if I'd grown up with this fish it would be in my number one spot, and if I had to pick my favourite carp it would go to the crucian. Mirrors, commons and leathers may grow much bigger, but they lack the charm of their smaller cousin.

Although I fished a lot of matches when I was younger, I also liked to do a bit of pleasure fishing and crucian carp were often the main quarry. Many a summer's morning was spent fishing a pool that was surrounded by mature oaks. My pals and I would be the only ones fishing in that rural splendor and we would enjoy some great banter whilst catching a succession of crucians. Punched bread, light tackle and crucian carp; oh how I cherish those memories.
Now if the carp can only make it to number three, I bet your wondering what could be in the top two spots. The answer will be reveal in my next fishing post. Meanwhile,If you want to find out more about me or my books, please click here.
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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Melrose and Galashiels

On the next day, of our tour around Scotland, we thought we'd have a change from gardens and take a look at some of the Border towns. We followed the river Tweed downstream and then veered off to Galashiels.
Now at that point I was no stranger to the name, Galashields, because a chap I was once on a management course with, actually worked there for a company called Pringle(wool not crisps). I had listened to the way he talked about Galashields over many a pint, and he convinced me that the place was only one rung down from heaven. With me being a lover of Scotland I didn't take much convincing and,of course, I presumed every word was true.

Anyway, we entered Galshields wearing our rose coloured glasses, but came out with them shattered. We drove through the town and such was our disappointment that we didn't even bother to stop. To be truthful, Galashields wasn't that bad really, especially when you compare it some of the places close to where I live, but on that day it wasn't what we were looking for.
So, having given Galashiels the swerve, we carried onto the next border town of Melrose. This time we drove into the town without the rose coloured glasses and we were very pleasantly surprised. I think that, Ryan, who I was on the course with, was thinking about Melrose when he waxed lyrical about Galashiels.

Melrose, which is well known for its abbey, was small and full of interesting shops. In fact, when we were walking around one of the shops my wife gave me a nudge.
"Can you see who's over there?" she asked.
Well, I looked in the direction she was pointing but couldn't see anything or anyone special.
"It's Julie Felix," she says. you remember her. It was now 2001, and my wife was talking about a folk singer from the sixties, so ever likely I didn't recognise her.
"She sang that awful song, 'Mummy's Taking us to the Zoo Tomorrow, Zoo Tomorrow' if you remember."
Well of course I remembered the song, how could anybody foget it? But a face from over thirty years ago was another matter. I've never been good on faces and, after that many years, my wife was probably just hallucinating.
So, Julie, in the unlikely event that you are reading this post, I'd be grateful if you you let me know if you were shopping in Melrose, in September 2001. It would be nice to know if my wife was right,again.

The other great thing about Melrose is the abbey and museum, which are situated close to the town centre. Having completed our shopping we took a peaceful stroll around this majestic ruin and then went for some lunch.
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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Writing and proofreading

This year I've decided to divide my time between writing and proofreading. I like to have a plan, even if it is very basic, because it will help me to avoid go around in circles. If there's one thing I can't abide it's going around in circles.
When it comes to planning I often recall the words of my tutor from when I was doing a Post Graduate Diploma in management studies. According to him, planning was all about the 5 Ps: Poor Planning, equals Piss Poor Performance and he was right. If ever you find yourself heading for the deep and smelly, a plan is essential. Doing nothing, or hoping for a bit of luck will usually end in disaster. In my experience, only one thing follows bad luck and that's another big dollop of the same.

So, looking at the year a head I have decide to approach it with an attack on two fronts. The author in me wants to write and publish more books, so I guess that is going to occupy a lot of my time. I am currently proofreading my novel, "Bossyboots" and hope to publish it next month. I also have a semi-autobiographical book, with the working title, "A Staffordshire Boy" that is also waiting to go through the proofreading process. Besides these two books I also have a crime novel in progress, but I've decided it would be better to stop writing that and concentrate on publishing the books I'd already written.

So, this year, my target on the writing front is to finish proofreading and publish the two books that I have already written, and if time allows it would be nice to finish writing and publish my crime novel.

Besides the writing, I will also be providing a proofreading service for others. If you've been following my posts you will know that I like doing courses and last year was no exception. I decided that because proofreading was such a bind when preparing my books for publication, that I'd do a course and learn to do it properly. Well, I started last April and completed the course a week before Christmas. I am now offering my services at special introductory prices and hope that will lead to me getting some real experience. I know that a lot of people may prefer a proofreader who already has a lot of experience, but we've all got to start somewhere. The fact that I am new will mean that I am keen to do a professional job and my clients will also get the benefit of special introductory rates. I think that proofreading and writing make very good partners and no doubt I will be busy one way or the other.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Roach and Tares

Hi all,
Today, I'm going to tell you why the roach, even though it isn't a big fish, manages to take the number 4 spot in my top ten fish. A roach weighing a couple of pounds can be considered quite a specimen and, although I've come very close, I never quite managed to crack the 2lb barrier.

So, what is it that makes the roach so appealing? Well, to start off with, it looks like a proper fish. It's the right shape and colour; it isn't slimy like a bream or tench and doesn't have spikes or teeth.

The fact that the roach is so widespread, also helps it in the popularity stakes. It is caught all over the country and is equally at home, in canals, still waters or rivers. There are few other fish that are truly happy in such a variety of waters.

When it comes to bait, the roach comes up trumps again. It will take almost every bait that the angler can throw at it and even some baits that aren't used for other fish. Here I'm thinking of tares, I've never used this bait for any species other than the roach.

The roach, will also happily feed in the winter, when most other fish are tucked up in the nearest weed bed. And is there another fish that will feed so obligingly at any depth? Tench and bream for example, like their food nailed to the bottom, whereas a rudd likes it higher in the water. Roach don't care, they'll feed at any depth as long as it's wet.

So there we have it. The roach is good looking fish, that will take any bait, in any water, at any depth and that is why it comes in a number 4.

I recently looked back at the fishing sessions I've had over the years and, surprisingly, it wasn't thoughts of the matches I'd won that brought a smile to my face, it was the majical memories of fishing for roach with hemp and tares.

I guess my favourite fishing times were in the late seventies. My fishing pals and I would go on regular outings to the river Trent. The areas around, Shardlow and Long Eaton, were among our favourite spots and there we'd spend eight hours or more fishing the stick.

We'd go armed with a several pints of bronze maggots, a bag of hemp and half a pint of tares. Our method was simple. We'd run our stick floats down the side, about a rod length out, and feed a pinch of maggots and hemp with every cast. Using a maggot on the hook, we'd catch a procession of gudgeon, small roach, chub and perch. In fact, most days it was impossible not to catch a fish with every trot down the river. Every now and again our rods would be put to the test when a big perch or a clonker chub took the bait, but what we were really after were the big roach. These fish averaged about 10oz each and could be caught in quick session if they were feeding right. So, every now and again we'd try a tare on the hook, instead of a maggot, and if the tare was taken we knew we'd have a brilliant day.

It's not possible to convey the feeling that came when fishing the Trent, on a day when the roach were taking hemp and tares, but I'll never forget it. If, Paul Burton, Fred Latocha and Neil Dale are reading this post, I bet they haven't forgotten either.

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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Rosslyn Chapel

Hi all,
Hope you had a good Christmas and the new year brings you equally good health and contentment.

In my last post about Scotland you may recall that an artist at Traquair House, suggested that if we appreciated the work of craftsmen, we ought to visit Rosslyn Chapel. It was September of 2001 and because it was before Dan Brown wrote the Da Vinci code, we hadn't heard of it and I guess most other people hadn't either.

Anyway, we were going through the list of places that we had in mind to visit whilst we were in the borders area and, during a moment of indecision, my wife suggested that we should go and have a look at the Rosslyn Chapel we'd been told about. It seemed like a good idea and we took a very pleasant drive out towards Edinburgh and only stopped once to let our dog stretch his legs. I parked the car in a layby on the side of a quiet lane and my wife and I were both taken in by a large bush that made up part of the hedge.
It was absolutely covered in tear drop shaped, red berries as you can see in the photo on the left. Now, if you've been following my tour of Scotland you will know that my wife and I love to visit gardens and, although we are not experts in all things horticultural, we can recognise most plants we see and know most of them by name.

In fact, boring as it may seem to some people, we always take a few reference books with us on holiday just in case we come across some flora or fauna we don't recognise. Anyway, we inspected the bush and even took a small cutting so that we could check it out in the reference books we'd left in our caravan at Pebbles.

Carrying on with our journey we eventually reached Rosslyn Chapel and found it was just as the man a Traquair House had described. We parked outside and had the place to ourselves, which is something I don't believe is possible since it has become the focus of so many books. I'm pleased that we discovered it before it became famous because it allowed us revel in the unique atmosphere that such places seem to generate.
I'm not particularly religious and neither is my wife, but there is something about churches and chapels that makes one feel very peaceful. Rosslyn Chapel was only small, but it seemed to have more carved stone work than some cathedrals we'd seen. The photo on the right is The Apprentice Pillar, which according to legend, was so well carved by the apprentice, that the master mason murdered him in a fit of jealousy.

Having been stunned by Rosslyn, we spent the afternoon touring the lovely countryside and called in at the little border town of Biggar, before returning to Peebles for the night

Back at the caravan we studied our books, but could not find any reference to the beautiful bush we'd seen. We had worked out that it was a type of berberis,but could not find the type. We would have to wait until we got home and maybe it would prove to be a worthy challenge for the Internet. I will tell you if we found out what it was in my next Scotland post. Meanwhile, if you have any ideas about the bush I'd be pleased to hear you suggestions. If you would just like to find out more about me, my books or writing services, Please click here.