This week, the last of my trip to my UK home has flown past far too quickly. Wednesday, saw a visit to Lechlade Trout Fishery, Gloucestershire to hunt for big trout with my brother and son. Weather was not too bad, overcast and threatening rain without actually precipitating. Difficult conditions for stalking trout but I managed to peer into the murky water and pick out a target. Trout normally have a very specific patrol routes around a certain piece of water, this one was no different as nymphs, hare ears, pheasant tails and stalking bugs were all rejected. Finally a gawdy yellow and white tadpole was strategically placed, attacked and a 10lb 4oz rainbow trout was brought to the bank. Not a brilliant fight if I am honest for a monster like this. We ended up catching 4 fish with two over 5 lb which my son landed and a 9lb 3oz to my brother. The Trout Master cup is over for another year (there maybe another round at Christmas).
We travelled past the Wadworth Brewery in Devizes, Wiltshire which is in these parts is famous for its 6X beer. Found a new beer for me to try – the Wadworth Swordfish, this is a blend of 6X and Pussers Rum. This beer is “a heartwarming salute” to Naval aviation, the crews of the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers in WW2. A dark beer, but not a stout, and I would definitely buy again. Other footnote, a visit to Jamie Oliver’s Bristol restaurant is also recommended.
Manningford trout fishery is situated near the village of Pewsey in Wiltshire. The lake is fed by the chalk stream, river Avon, which runs from nearby Salisbury plain. Salisbury plain is home to a number of military bases and the distant rumbling of artillery guns was very audible in the afternoon. I have fished this lake many times before, it is a picturesque and the water is gin clear. Fishing is not too difficult and it is often a matter of trying not to catch, a good place for a day out and a young fly fisherman.
A walk round the bank, we spotted a pod of rainbow trout, hare’s ear nymph on 8lb tippet and floating line soon had their attention and the fish were charging towards the fly. We pulled fly quickly away, decided we would look for something bigger. Kept walking the bank, plenty of casting practice and we hook up, not a big one but a short fight and 1st fish is on the bank. The ticket we had was to catch a limit of 3 fish, and we ended with the best trout being 3 ½ lb (with two others about 2lb each). All flies seemed to interest the trout, but nymphs, hare’s ears, green damsel and black buzzers were the pick.
That evening visited the Coronation Tap (Cori tap) in Clifton for a couple of jars with my brother. This pub is famous, at least in Bristol, not sure why we had not visited in quite a few years, as it has a great atmosphere and unique range of ciders. Clifton is one of the oldest parts of Bristol with a lot of Georgian and earlier period architecture. This pub dates back to the 1700’s, close to the Down’s (a large common land area in the centre Bristol) and is a favourite with locals and students (Clifton is in the heart of student land) . A venue for bands, Chris Jagger(Mick’s brother) was playing later on, but we were not hanging round. On to the beers, a number of real ales including Bath Gem Ale and good range of ciders, with my favourite’s Thatchers Traditional on tap – described on the board as the 1904 recipe, hazy and uncarbonated. There is also a cider, the Exhibition which is only available at the Cori Tap. The barman told me this cider is also from Thatchers brewery and is sold in half pints as its strength is 8.4%.
A couple of ciders and we each decided to take a couple of pints of Thatchers home, filled from the keg, and for me unique carry out vessels (recycled plastic bottles, but I am not complaining).
Fished Blagdon lake last Monday in showery conditions with younger brother and my son. Winds were from south west with strong squalls of wind and rain keeping it suitably fresh with small interludes of sunshine. The boats at Blagdon have no motors, which means a bit of a workout with the oars, although we noted and cursed some anglers with their own electric motors.
Over to the far side of the lake, we anchored up in Butcombe Bay. It was happy days with the 1st fish coming quickly to me on a Diawl Bach nymph. However that was the last fish I saw for quite a few hours. Brother fished an intermediate line getting the flies down in the water and steadily caught fish on a white marabou lure, myself only having a floating line, the fish were down deep. We moved around Butcombe bay to get out of the wind, closer to the bank, a gold head black buzzer got my flies to the right depth and was to the trouts liking. All of a sudden we started catching fish fairly regularly, all up we caught 14 between us (3 for me, my son had 4 and brother had 7). All the fish were between 2-3lb in weight. We kept a dozen fish which have all been given away to various family friends.
The beer of choice from the local Butcombe brewery was the Adam Henson’s Rare Breed Best Bitter. Adam Henson is a local famer and presenter on the BBC program Country File and Farming Today. This beer is a traditional English bitter beer, had a very strong smell about it similar to some of my home brews of the past whether that is the hops or fuggles. A very distinctive rich hop smell. Easy drinking and very much like a beer that would be served on tap rather than a bottle. The beer was fine but probably one I would have on tap. Not the first Butcombe beer of this trip, a few Butcombe Bitters sampled in a variety of pubs, this fine beer reviewed in a past blog.
Back in the UK, a while since my last blog, the first week back in Bristol was fairly wet, on the first full day there was a month’s worth of rain in a day causing a fair bit flooding, so much for the hoped for Indian summer.
With water levels high in the lakes, fishing was put on the back burner. We had an interview at local school for my middle daughter who wishes to spend a school year here and now starts this Wednesday, all good.
Visit to Tesco, where as usual cheap beers where on offer – picked 3 out for 5 pounds, all local and ones which I have not had before. The first one is Beachcomber from the Teignworthy Brewery, Newton Abbot in Devon. This is a very fruity golden beer, a good one for summer although the current weather is more autumnal. According to the label this beer is made with water from Dartmoor, English aromatic hops with citrus and blackcurrant. Would buy and drink again. Will blog the others shortly and hopefully a few pubs.
Saturday managed the first fishing trip out to Chew Valley with my younger brother. Overcast conditions, wind brisk from the north east, a chilly wind. The advice from Woodford Lodge was to fish around Villice Bay with nymphs. Fishing was hard, water clarity not good from all the rain. Twitching the nymphs on a floating line, managed to eek out 3 rainbows, best about 2 ½ lb, all on red ribbed Diawl Bach nymphs. Hard and frustrating fishing, at dusk water glassed off and fished started on the surface moving but not on to any of our flies. Talking to other anglers, a number struggled, but some did well, so not too bad for first trip out.
Weather is not looking the best for next few days but planning a trip out to the renown Blagdon Lake.
It has been a while since my last BOTF blog and with it being the last weekend of June, it was the final round the 2011/2012 HBFC monthly fishing comp. Opportunities to fish was limited to early Saturday morning and Saturday evening, high tide was 10.45am(1.3m height) and 10.50 pm(1.7m).
Arrived at Curl Curl beach at 6am, it was still dark with the winter solstice/shortest day having only just passed a few days ago. It required three layers of clothes to keep me insulated from the cold, I must be getting soft but there not a sign of anyone else on the beach. The swell was small, maybe 1ft, no wind and it was still a few hours away from high tide.
My first rod was rigged up one up and one down (1 hook above and 1 below a star sinker weight) with half a pillie for bait on both hooks. Was not long before I got my first bite, before I had finished rigging my second rod, a good bite on the rod was converted into a small salmon around 50 cm’s in length. The magical orange glow started to grow as the sun came up. Over the next half hour managed another salmon and a small tailor. Walkers, runners, other fisherman and surfers began invading the beach, the tide was still coming in, and the warming sun was now up but no more fish. Called it a day at 7.30am
The evening fishing session started around 8.30pm at the same spot on Curly beach. Again with three layers of clothes to ward off the cold, there was not another soul on the beach. The swell had picked up a little from the morning, but still small, a light south-westerly breeze, and clear sky. Three rods cast out, including my favourite Zziplex HSM beach caster rod, all rigged one up and one down with half pillies for bait. The catch for night was one salmon and one better than average tailor, with a few bite off’s and a few shooting stars keeping me amused.
At the weigh in not many other anglers had braved the cold weather, quite a few tailor, snapper and trevally were also weighed.
Managed to exchange my catch for a schooner of VB, not bad value for the purchaser, he explained his wife would make fish cakes. On the beer front, the aptly named real ale from the Northern Beaches Brewery “SumFink Fishy” was a bit of a surprise, copper colour and one to try although it might be hard to find.
This is the first belated blog of 2012 for me and the January round of the HB club fishing competition.
Weather that weekend was poor (worse weather than an English summer ? ) – particularly if fishing from a kayak in the middle of Sydney harbour. Easterly winds howling from the SE on Saturday and E/NE on Sunday – the seas where bumpy and skies mainly cloudy.
Having noted the increase in bird activity in the southern end of the harbour when travelling home from work on the ferry, hopes were high for a few fish.
On both Saturday and Sunday launched at Balmoral at around 5.30’ish, as the sun came up was greeted with sporadic splashes of fish activity. Senses were finely tuned scanning the water and listening for that tell tale splash. Once activity was spotted it was a matter of racing over and then slowly creeping up wind of the pod of fish. My favourite tools of the trade 9ft 8#weight fly rod, intermediate line, 10lb fluoro carbon and a small size 8-10 fly.
Fish torpedoing across the top water and with bait fishing flying out in all directions, a quick cast in, strip the line back fairly quickly and bang you were on. Line screams off the reel and now for a 20-30 minute fight (well it seems like a long time). Not every time did the fish make it successfully to the net, a couple of pulled hooks, a broken leader and plenty of cursing my luck.
All sounds easy? Not really, the fish were finicky. My mate fishing conventional lures on a spinning rod caught nothing on Sunday. Along with boats flying around the harbour putting the fish down, or fish going down as I approached a school or just being plain fussy. My favourite pattern, a gold headed white marabou fly accounted for a few and others caught a similar fly with a clear silicon body. Final score 5 bonitos and 1 trevally making a wet bum worthwhile. Other fish caught of note in the club comp – a 13kg mahi mahi with interestingly a cookie cutter shark bite on the side. Never seen a cookie cutter shark but worth looking up in wiki, looked to me like a lamprey bite.
Now for the cider, I could not believe my luck when on holiday in Forster, I wandered into a BWS store to find a bottle of Thatchers cider on the shelf. The Thatchers farm is on the outskirts of Bristol, renown in the West Country and is my favourite brand of cider. This particular one – Green Goblin – could have been designed for those a bit more upmarket (compared to a pint of rough) was very smooth and sweet and unfortunately I have no more left .
First up was the Lloyds No 1 bar at the V-Shed on the waterfront, owned by Wetherspoons. This chain of pubs is renowned for value for money. The pub was not crowded, the beer was cheap, unfortunately forgotten what brand I was drinking (it was real ale and they were on special). Few patrons on the dance floor, one in particular thought he was John Travolta …definitely an older crowd, could even make you feel a bit young (yes I know ….. but it is all relative).
Second pub was a tried and tested old favourite, the Shakespeare pub in Prince Street (there are a few pubs called the Shakespeare). This pub is an old Georgian house which dates back to the 1700’s. I can quite imagine when Bristol was the major port in England that this would have been the home of a very rich merchant. The pub had a good variety of beers on tap, 2 bars – both quite small and a very homely, traditional feeling all round (this used to be the starting point for a few of us to meet up before going out on the lash up down King Street before hitting the night clubs). I went for a beer I have had not had before .. Holt Maplemoon Tantallion Sunset from somewhere around Manchester, looked good, drank well, the palate though had been dulled a little bit though from previous beers .. A few patrons in the bar and couple who had stayed too long and were given their marching orders. A great pub though.
The last pub, we frequented was in King Street (quite few old pubs along the cobbled street , the infamous Naval Volunteer (the volly). This pub also goes back to the 1700’s, two long rooms, plenty of snugs and two street entrances. Easy to imagine sailors and pirates drinking here, and easy to imagine ‘volunteers’ accepting the King’s shilling (a coin dropped in your ale) and waking up on the way to some far off land. Another regular haunt for me, although as in its past history, it could be a bit willing … as for beers, I went for a Doombar …. I have had this before in Australia (Perth), not sure if it is on the list. Funny as I finish this blog off I am on the Bristol to London National Express … and on to the big bird to Oz. Brissul forever …. a few other scoundrels may have said.
Penultimate blog on this UK trip .. will do a wrap up on do and don’ts when back in Oz.
ps. Please excuse the nostalgia factor in some of these posts …
Down at Tesco’s they had an offer on of 3 real ale beers for 4 pounds, seems to be the way in tight austere times. So thought would go for a few from the West Country, picked out Jail Ale (Devon), Admiral’s Ale (Cornwall) and Summer Lightning (Hampshire). Note not all consumed in 1 sitting but over the last few days.
First off was the Jail Ale from the Dartmoor Brewery. This is a dark brown beer, bitter but not sharp and not too foamy. The label states is the “pride of the West Country”, I would rate as a pretty good beer but there also plenty other candidates up for this crown, although noted it has won many awards. Made with Dartmoor water it is a good strength at 4.8%. Dartmoor is famous for its maximum security prison, which houses many notorious murders (and I guess hence the name).
Second beer was Hopback Brewery Summer Lightning, this beer hails from Salisbury, Hampshire (although not strictly West Country). This one was recommended to me by one of the staff at Tesco, who commented that it was her old man’s favourite. First observation was that this is a very golden, straw coloured beer, with a very summery label, quite unusual. It is for me summery beer, quite fruity and not as heavy as some of the darker beers I like to drink. It had a bit of a fruity aroma and about the standard strength of 5%. Another multi award winning beer, a good one for summer. Salisbury, famous for the white horse, the plain, river Itchen, cathedral has the tallest spire in England and Hopback brewery?
Last of the three, is the Admiral’s Ale from St. Austell, Cornwall. Back to a darker bronze beer, definitely more suited for warming you up on a cold winter day. This beer was is heavier strong roasted hop aroma and a strong bitter. Like the others has won many awards, again 5% strength . Amusing label, “I see no ships” and one to buy.
So all up 3 good beers and if pushed to select – Admiral’s ale for winter and Summer Lightning as the name suggests.
A bit of a backlog of blogs and beers – the George and Dragon in Pensford can be added to the list of venues – good pub with dartboard. This is probably one of the last blogs from the UK, out tonight with boys, maybe a couple more blogs .
After all the travelling, back to some more familiar surroundings and couple of pubs to add to the BOTF list.
I took the kids down to Staunton Drew on the River Chew (unsurprisingly for some I have spent many hours fishing this river). Staunton Drew is the home of a number of prehistoric stone circles. There are around 30 stones (megaliths), covering a decent area (over a 100m in diameter) and possibly as a big an area as Stone Henge. Obviously of significant importance in Stone Age times, and in recent times an attraction for a few cider drinking fishing druids. Apart from a Friesian cow and 3 calves we had the field with stones to our self to explore (never have seen many people here … would be a good venue for the summer solstice as the stones are supposed to aligned to the solar and lunar calendars).
In the village is the public house, the Druid Arms. We went in for a snack and a drink. Not many patrons but a warm welcome and relaxed atmosphere. Usual beers and ciders on tap – selected a favourite, Butcombe bitter, which have previously reviewed on the blog. There is a lot of interesting memorabilia inside the pub to peruse, with lots of historical pictures on the walls mainly relating to rural or sea faring themes of the West Country. Not sure how old this pub is but noted on a list of previous inn keepers, one started in 1842. Also the home for the Druids darts team, who play in the Chew Valley league (roughly a dozen or so local pubs). The darts board kept me and the kids amused for hour or so (even managed to win a game !). For anyone visiting would recommend a visit to the stone circles and the Druid Arms.
In the afternoon travelled up to Laycock to visit my farmer brother. Laycock is a picturesque village, thatched houses, a famous abbey and has many films such as Harry Potter filmed in its streets. A lot of the village dates back to the 15th century and the pub we chose to visit, the George is circa 1361. This pub has recently changed from being a free house to a local brewery from Devizes, Wadworth’s. The beer I had was a 6X which have also previously reviewed on the blog. However, I would say both Butcombe and 6X are very good beers. Inside the Red Lion it was fairly quiet (at least until we got in there), a decent fire going in the large fireplace, hunting/rural prints on the wall plus some photo’s of the recent film sets. We thought about eating here, the food is good but not the sort of stuff the kids like … so we went from here to a Hungry Horse in Melksham (Hungry Horse is a chain of pubs) which are more targeted for kids (burgers and ice cream). This pub (and the village which is largely owned by the National Trust) is worth a visit.
We caught the train from Brunel’s Bristol Temple Meads on the Great Western Line. It was a short trip of about 40 minutes under the Bristol Channel and over the border to Wales…. needless to say we had a bit of rain.
Cardiff has a lot of shops, malls and arcades all within easy walking distance off Cardiff Central. After plenty of tramping round the shops we decided to go for a pub lunch.
We picked out the pub the Owain Glyndwr, not far from Cardiff Castle. A picture on wall depicted men of Harlech. Looking up Owain on the net, he lived around the 13/1400’s, was last Welsh Prince of Wales and instigated a number of Welsh revolts, and part of the Harlech castle siege by Henry V. Owain in recent years apparently was voted as 23rd of the 100 Great Britons( Churchill is number one and Brunel is number two …..). Also noted on wiki the famous “Men of Harlech” is the regimental march music for two Aussie Army reserve units.
Back to the pub, a good variety of beers on tap, usual lagers, a few ciders and a number of cask ales. A good menu and the food was good. On the beer front, I went for a Welsh beer that the barman recommended, Cwrw Dewi. This beer is from Barry in Cardiff Bay, the Vale of Glamorgan. A very dark beer, has a bit of a malty tang and a bit of an edge. It was fairly potent at 5% and a couple was more than enough. Never seen this side of the Bridge, but would drink again. I also sampled it stable mate Grog Y Vog (a more of amber ale type). Don’t ask me how to pronounce.
Also of note in this bar … if you drank 7 real ales you would get your 8th for free (sorry was not up for this). This is part of a cask ale (Great British ales and ciders) festival running throughout October.
Back to a few west country beer blogs to come shortly.