So where do I start for my overview of the year. I suppose the best place would probably be at the start. It’s been a bit of a year of ups and downs for me. After fishing really hard the year before, I had planned to take things a bit easier this year and fish a little bit less. However, looking back I have probably fished the same number of sessions, just maybe not quite so many nights as last year.

So, to the start of 2015 and my years fishing.

January was spent, as usual, mainly chasing predators. I had a target in my mind, to try and catch 100 pike over the winter. Although I finally ended up with 113, they were predominantly jacks, with the biggest being just over 18lb. In hindsight I think I definitely jeopardised my chances of the bigger fish by targeting them with lures only rather than baits, but either way it was still great fun.

As we moved into February, I attended the annual get together of the Osprey Specimen Group on the banks of the River Itchen. Having been a member of the Ospreys since its inception, many years ago, I was very pleased to have finally won their award for ’Specimen Angler of the Year’ that was presented as is customary on the banks of the river.

Normally I spend the day on this lovely little stretch of river targeting the roach and grayling, but this year I fancied doing something slightly different and having a go for the barbel that reside in there. Having never had one on the float before, I thought this would be the ideal venue as it is perfect for trotting. Settling into a swim at the bottom end of the fishery I started off by using a bait dropper to put in some hemp and maggots. Then, over the next hour or so I continued to regularly top up the swim without running a rig through. I wanted to build up the confidence of the fish. After about 3 or 4 hours of constantly running my float through the swim and regularly bait droppering in more hemp and maggots my float finally slid under.

I would have been happy with any barbel, irrespective of size, so was over the moon when I finally managed to draw the fish up to the net. On the scales I was amazed to see she actually went 12lb 3oz, a very big barbel for the Itchen. The capture was all the more impressive considering I’d used a 4lb Mirage hooklink and a little size 14 hook! That was about it for February as far as big fish went, I did have a few more trips locally, but nothing of any note was caught.

March was a bit of a wash out as well. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Martin Whitmarsh Trophy for the biggest bream of 2014; my 17lb 10oz one just pipping a couple of close runners, and I received the trophy that now sits proudly (in pieces) on my desk at work. I also had a bit of a social trip to France with some mates, and although they caught some nice carp up to just shy of 50lb, all I managed was a couple of low 20’s. It was a great week though, so much so we have now booked up to return every March and October. I can’t wait to get back out there again in a couple of months, who knows I might even catch one of the better fish this time.

April is hardly worth mentioning, so I shall just skip straight to May!

Every winter I say to myself, “this spring I shall seriously target tench”, and every year before I realise it, I’ve missed spring and it the summer! This year I was determined to actually make time for them.

A new water had just become available on one of my existing tickets, and I knew this would be the one to target as it had produced some great specimens in the past. On my first trip, which coincided nicely with a bank holiday, I located a lovely gravel bar at range (special thanks Dave and Neil for the help – it’s always appreciated chaps) and I baited it with a mixture of maggots, hemp and micro pellets; and then I sat back and waited, and waited, and waited…

By the third morning, despite seeing fish rolling I still hadn’t had a touch and the doubts were definitely starting to creep in; when out the blue I had a slow twitchy drop back. This resulted in a lovely tench of bang on 8lb, a very nice fish to start my campaign. This was soon followed an hour later by another one of 7lb 8oz.

Later that afternoon, just as a tropical monsoon of a rainstorm had passed, I had an absolute screamer of a take. Straight away I thought it was a carp, and not wanting it to trash the swim, I bullied it in a bit harder than I would have done if I had known it was a tench. I was shocked when I saw a big thick green flank rise up from the depths with a tiny size 14 hook just nicked in the edge of its bottom lip. Thankfully, it held firm and I slid the net under a new PB! I had been after a ‘double’ for many years, and now I had finally managed it with a beautiful example of 11lb 8oz. Happy didn’t even start to describe how I felt.

I then moved over to a bit of my crucian fishing, as I do every year. Having had some amazing success over the last few years, it was still nice to be able to break my PB again and push my best up to a clonking 4lb 3.5oz. I also was also fortunate to catch what was probably one of the best crucian hauls in history! Over the course of a weekend I banked an astonishing 63 crucian carp between 2lb 6oz and 3lb 14oz. These were backed up with a load of tench to mid 7’s, some cracking big rudd and a couple of rogue carp. All in all probably over 300lb of fish in one session!

But the icing on the cake for my crucian fishing this year was witnessing my good friend Steve Frapwell break the British record with a colossal fish of 4lb 10oz. I’ve had 7 or 8 crucians over 4lb now, but this fish was just in a different league, it was an absolute beast of a fish and so nice to have witnessed such a momentous capture.

June, July and August are always a bit of an anticlimax for me fishing wise, as being the pale, slightly chubby, very strange pasty coloured ginge that I am, I don’t tend to cope with the heat in the warmer sunnier months. I did manage a few trips between ‘melting’ and was really pleased to get a PB equalling chub of 5lb 11oz on my first river trip of the new season.

I also had another trip to France, and although the fishing was slow I managed to winkle out a couple of carp, the biggest of which was a new foreign PB of 39lb 4oz. Incidentally it was a fish that the bailiff said hadn’t been caught for a couple of years. Strangely though, the last time it was out was when I caught it on my previous visit from exactly the same spot, in the same swim, at the same time of night. Who says fish aren’t creatures of habit.

From then on I didn’t have much to report until October, when I revisited a swim on my local river where I’d lost a couple of big perch the previous year. Fishing a deep hole in a slack on the far bank, tucked nicely behind a big half sunken tree, I had my float fished gudgeon wolfed down by yet another new PB! This time I beat one of my longest standing records with a stunning perch of 4lb 9oz. It was an amazingly long, hump shouldered fish and still very empty. It’s definitely a specimen that I would like to find again at the end of the season, as I think she could be pushing the magical 5lb mark.

After that I had a pretty uneventful trip to Llandegfed Reservoir in Wales for the pike, just managing to get a few scatty trout. The trip was combined with a social on the River Severn with a couple of mates. Having never fished the river before, and as we had our predator gear with us, we targeted the zander. Although we only had a couple of small ones between us, we planned to go back to have another go.

On my first return trip, the zander weren’t really feeding, and as I don’t like fishing for predators when I’m asleep, I dug out an ancient stick of Pepperami and chucked out a couple of little chunks in the vain hope of mugging a rogue passing chub. Soon after casting out the rod was pulled round so savagely by a take that had I been sitting closer, I think the rod butt would have hit me on the chin.

Clearly this was not a chub, and after a short powerful fight I soon saw a nice barbel in the net. Up onto the scales for the obligatory weighing, I saw the needle bounce round to a pleasing 11lb 4oz. Not bad for my first Severn barbel. This was soon followed by an even bigger one at 13lb 6oz. The night went quiet until just before dawn when I had another barbel of 10lb 8oz. Three double figure barbel on my first night on a new venue! That’ll do.

Well, that pretty much brings me up to date. I’ve had a few more perch trips and although I haven’t caught anything of note on the perch front, I did have a fun session on a local ‘commercial’ where my little 3” roach livebaits were taken by carp. Not the intended species, but mirrors of 8lb, 18lb 4oz and 26lb made the session a bit more enjoyable than a blank. The battles on light gear once again showing just how tough and durable the 5lb Target Specimen Fluorocarbon is when put under pressure.

And that’s it for 2015. Hopefully I shall get out a few times over the Christmas holidays, and I am planning another session on the Severn over the New Year to round it out.
Tight lines everyone, and hope you have a fish filled 2016.