All posts by Stephen Cullen

This Blog is a record of my love of the countryside, all things in it, especially old tractors, growing good food, drinking good tea and taking time out to enjoy life.

Tomato’s Last Stand

It has been a great year for tomato’s . I think all will actually ripen on the vine, and I won’t even get enough for a chutney. The chillies however, are quite the opposite. It is just as well that I still have loads left over from last season in the freezer and they are all still good.

As usual I do like to plant one or two tomatoes that I am familiar with that I know should give a half decant crop and then plant others that I have not tried before. This year I planted the good old “Moneymaker”, a tomato that always does well, maybe not the tastiest, but will still produce. “Sweet Success” which failed miserably last year, has done well for me this.

Other varieties were “Sungold”, “Sweet Aperitif”, “Rainbow Blend”, “Crimson Crush”, and “Orange Beauty”. The finest of them all this year was Sweet Success, with a taste that was out-of-this-world!

I Just had to return

After the day I had at this lovely lake yesterday, I just had to return today.

I setup in exactly the same swim as yesterday, this time bringing the camera. It was warmer and the sun shone more intently than yesterday. As I looked out onto the water, I could clearly see that yesterday I had been casting my first rod into what looked like thin silk weed. The edges of the weed beds shone clearly in full sun.

A lot of people avoid at all costs fishing in weed, but it has certainly worked for me in the past and it did so yesterday.

I setup both rods exactly the same as previously and settled in the warm sun.

I hadn’t caught anything yesterday from under the over-hanging bush, but today out of the corner of my eye I saw the float zip away and the reel screamed. I thought that I had hooked one of the lakes small Carp but no, as soon as the fish came to the surface it was clear I had hooked one of the Golden Tench. It fought well, but nowhere near the strength of it’s green colleagues. In fact, it fought on the unhooking mat and I struggled to get a quick picture before returning as quickly as I could to the Lake.

I did catch a couple of small Carp later in the afternoon, all around 4-5 lbs. However, later that afternoon the rod on my left sprang into life and I was into an absolute rocket. A fight with a 5lb Tench that was greater than any Carp three times it’s size, what a battle! Although I was using 6lb line it tested all the tackle to the limits. Nearly loosing the fish in lily beds, I simply put the rod down and let out a little slack line. After a minute the fish had freed itself and was off again out into the Lake. I eventually got it under control and landed what was easily the best Tench I have ever caught, not the biggest, but certainly the most memorable.

What a day. The season is well on now, and although it is possible to catch Tench all year, I for one will be packing the Tench gear away now looking forward to next year and even greater battles with the Tinca.

A Visit To A Different Lake

Today I visited a lake that I had not fished in quite some time, I was as usual at this time of year searching for a Tench.

I chose a fantastic double swim enabling me to set-out one rod to my left, and the second float-fished under an overhanging bush to my right.

I cast the first rod to my left out into the middle of the lake and began setting up my second rod. However, no sooner had I started threading the line through the rod rings, my first rod had a solid “knock” resulting in a decent Roach. I re-cast and continued setting up. Again, within a short time the first rod bent over and the reel screamed again landing another nice Roach. I reeled this rod in so I could get the second rod in place under the bush to the right. Eventually the float was in place and I then re-cast the first rod on my left into the Lake. After around half an hour the first rod hooped over and I had a great battle with a good Tench. Unfortunately, I had left my camera in my van so I brought both rods in and walked back to my car to retrieve the camera and a flask of tea.

After the tea and a sandwich were consumed I re-cast both rods and settled down relaxing in the warm afternoon sunshine. I could not believe it when again the rod on my left screamed off, and again I battled with one of the lakes Tench, a good four-pounder at least.

What a cracking day topped-off with a good meal at a local inn followed by a pint to celebrate. I might come back tomorrow if the weather stays fair.

After A Dissapoiting week

Weather-wise it had been really disappointing this week. High pressure lingered, but so did the cloud and a cool breeze to match.

Today I was due to travel home for the weekend, a journey that I do not relish and after checking the state of the traffic there was a crash going one way, and the infamous road into Wessex was at a standstill as usual. I had already packed my fishing gear in my van and at around 13:00 the sun shone through. The temperature rose really quickly until my van dashboard read 24 degrees – time for some Tench fishing!!! I decided to fish for a few hours to let the traffic settle before I made my arduous journey home.

Arriving at this little pond I was immediately disappointed to see three cars there and one van. I do like to fish this pond by myself. Thankfully, these vehicles belonged to a renovation company refurbishing a local house, so I did have the ponds to myself after all.

It was around five o’clock and fishing what is now my favourite swim; sport was quiet. I began casting around towards the back of the baited area and found what was obviously a shoal of fish. Piranha-like, I seemed to have a bite every cast of which 99% were missed.

I fished on until around eight o’clock when the owls now start their calls. A lovely warm evening spent at this lovely little pool.

A Bank Holiday Trip

I don’t like being on the roads on a Bank Holiday, never mind fishing, it is always so busy, but I have got to take every opportunity that I can at the moment, so today I travelled to my favourite little pond in Wessex.

I fished again in my favourite swim having a big lilly bed to the right, and a smaller lilly bed to the left. The boss has put some bark chippings here too which is great keeping things un-muddy. I baited up heavily and as neatly as I could to the right, and only very lightly to my left with the intention of alternately fishing them both. The weather had cooled a lot since the Sunday and I was not that hopeful for a Tench, but it was still nice being here. I had a good Roach really quickly from the right hand swim and I thought, here we go it’s going to be Roach all day now, but no. Everything went quiet. I had arrived about two-ish, and now at three o’clock with overcast skies I thought even I should be catching by now, but nothing. Time went on and I cast around looking for a bite. There were not many signs of feeding either. There’s a little weed to the left but this can be seen when the sun comes out. Here I cast and slowly reeled my float in as close as I dare the the left hand lilies. Boom!!!! the float zipped away resulting in a little Crucian which I was enthralled at. The wind whipped round from all directions and the rod remained straight for some time. I retired to the van and collected my kettle.

After my tea things changed. fishing in the right hand swim as close as I dare to the lilies I started to catch. Oddly enough, I never caught a single fish from the centre heavily baited spot, but as I cast just beyond it, or to the sides of it, I began to catch. After catching in the right hand swim I would leave it alone and cast to the left, returning after 20-30 minutes. Later I found a sweet spot just beyond my baited area, it was a little far for my poor Wallis casting skills, but I got there in the end and missed most bites but caught a number of Crucians (maybe 10+) until the Owls were heard and the bats emerged.

A Temporary Resident

Due to my work, I find myself a temporary resident of Wessex. This does mean that I am almost in casting distance of my favourite pool.

As I arrived this warm overcast evening I met the manager who was there in preparation of a friendly get-together he had planned for the following day.

After a chat, I aimed for a swim that I had not fished in absolutely ages, and watched fish roll as I was tackling up.

I hastily cast out and tried to relax with a cup of tea as my float kept being knocked all the time. Line bites I thought, or something small having-a-go as I was using a larger hook and a good sized bait aiming for a Tench.

Nothing happened! I let the situation carry on for about two hours, I then reeled in and dropped a hook size which led to almost instant action.

Firstly, I landed a small Roach and then the Crucian’s appeared. Although I was hoping for a Tench, it was lovely to see Crucian after Crucian. I missed most bites. There were definitely Tench in my swim as now and then I would get a clonking bite and the pin sang for a brief second. These bites never materialised as I’d dropped to a smallish hook. Not to mind, I had a cracking evening. One note, I didn’t land a single Perch, which was the total opposite of my previous visit to this pool.

A Day I Had Looked Forward To

It has been quite some time since I have been at this lovely little pool, certainly more than one year and I had been looking forward to fishing here.

The pool looked in great condition thanks too all the work parties that had carried out works throughout the seasons.

I had brought with me my trustee Floatcaster “De-Luxe”, not my favourite Floatcaster in my collection, but it has the added backbone to tame a Tench, which is what I was looking for today.

I had setup in a swim that I do not normally fish on the opposite bank. Really nice and level with a little cover, although slightly hazardous casting. It did not take long before the float moved and Roach after Roach crossed the net. This only changed when the Perch began to prowl and I landed perhaps five; but no Tench.

As the afternoon moved onto evening I was sure that weed had begun to drift into my swim, bites became thin on the ground until finally the float dipped under and I landed a whopped of a Tench, totally out-gunned by a large Hardy Altex reel and the Floatcaster. This was quickly followed by a whopping Crucian too.

Apart from last year, I always seem to be fishing on midsummers day and now I try to always make an effort to be out fishing. This evening however was not midsummer-ish at all. The temperature dropped so much that I could see my breath in the air, and it became so cold my head hurt. Never mind, tomorrow would be the Strawberry Supermoon to look forward to.

A New Bed Of Strawberries

I had probably around 40 strawberry plants last year. A lot of these plants had been grown on from runners. These really had not performed well even the previous year, so I made the bold decision last year to take them all out and start again.

With funds from my birthday last November, I purchased four new varieties. All of which develop at different times in the season. Recently arriving through the post, it is now time to get these in the ground.

I also have a completely different area for the strawbs now. They are actually in the bed where the old Gooseberries were. It is in full sun. With a lot of manure including fish, blood and bone meal, I secured black teram over the bed last year in November in order to try and keep weeds down, and to keep the soil warm. Planting through the teram I hope to keep moisture in the soil while cutting down on weeds and hopefully, as the plants grow bigger, they will sit on top of the teram keeping the berries off the soil. I will still have to keep a check on the slugs and snails though.

Tis’ the year of the Don

I already have a couple of really good gardening books in my collection written by Mr Don; Santa has been very good to me this year and kindly gifted me four more. I have began one of them, and I am thoroughly enjoying the read. There is probably one more that I seek, and is hard to find these days entitled “The Prickotty Bush” so I am keeping an eye out for that one to add to the heaving book shelf.

Autumn Cast

I had to think back to the last time that I was able to cast a line. My initial thoughts were the final days of the course fishing season back in mid-March. After looking through my own blog, I remember that I did manage a short fishing trip at the end of June – what a poor fishing year!

This particular local pond used to be full of Roach, which is what I was fishing for today. Waiting for a bite, sipping tea, I cast my mind back to the last time that I was out fishing on my birthday? I deduced that it was actually eleven years ago. At the time, I had purchased my very first split cane fishing rod, and have never opened the rod bag full of my carp fishing “carbons” since. I have added a few lovely split cane rods to the collection over the years too. One of my favourites I was using today, an old Mark IV, with one of my favourite ‘pins’, an Allcocks Aerial.

With the black death (Cormorant) circling above every hour or so, it was clear that this lovely pond had been targeted. This was confirmed when speaking with another angler there. A lot of the small fish are no longer. So I did not catch on my birthday. The wind was storm-force at times, float fishing wasn’t the best idea, making casting somewhat tricky (fishing excuses out of the way). I had a great day non-the-less. I am sure I used to class November as Winter, but today was overcast, dry and warm on this pleasantly mild Autumn day.

A Final Haul

I never thought id ever been picking tomatoes in November and here is the last of them.

Planting everything late this year has extended the season somewhat, but the cold weather has now put pay to the plants themselves, and they have given up for this year.

These too are the final onions. They have just not stored as well as they ought to but they will still get used. and the chillies just keep coming. There are a number remaining on the final plants in the greenhouse. Il wash and freeze these now and use them straight from the freezer.

Chilli Bonanza

My tomato crop this season has been very poor. Although I am still picking a few toms each day, it is nothing like previous years crops. I think that I have a: planted too many plants in the greenhouse, 28 this year where I normally grow about 18-20 plants, and b: planted them too late at the season.

However, I have a great number of Cayenne chillies this season, and more than enough to last me a full year. I’m picking a good handful each week. Used straight from the freezer they will last for ages.

An early clear up

With work so scarce at the moment, I have had the opportunity to keep on top of the allotment more so this year.

I usually don’t have a clear out until the winter, but there were a few jobs that I had just kept putting off. The decision to get rid of all my strawberry plants and start afresh was one that I had not relished. Although I had split them each year, the plants just had not produced anywhere near what they used to; so they are now part of the compost heap. The same applied to my one remaining gooseberry bush. It simply outgrew it’s location and didn’t really produce last season, or this. So the gooseberry bush is no longer either.

I have also removed the whole row of early raspberries (Malling Minerva) which have not performed for years, I should have replaced them some time ago.

So this coming winter I will put planting a new strawberry bed, a whole new row of early raspberries, and will also add six new canes to my main crop raspberries (Glen Ample), along with two new gooseberry bushes in a different raised bed next year.

Back at the little pond

Today, I managed to break away and get a few hours at this little pond. The weather has been just too warm to contemplate fishing, and today the forecast was for thunder and rain.

I arrived at the pond to a cloud-filled sky, and it was still very warm. I chose the same swim that I had fished previously as I was sure that there would be fish taking shelter, (and better oxygen levels) in the bed of lillies. The pond has also a lot of weed growth now aided by the hot weather we have had.

My first cast was met with a lovely little Rudd. There was a lot of fish activity all over the pond and it was difficult to decide where to cast initially, but I stuck to my guns and baited up a small area just beyond the bed of lillies in front of me.

I managed to catch the first Tench of this year’s course fishing season and it was the gentlest of bites, as was the second Tench; both times the float simply slowly dipping. I did miss a few, but a light strike set the hook twice for me today. I also had a slab of a Bream that did not like the camera one little bit and would not sit still for a snap shot; ending upside down in this.

A Different Start This Year

The start of this year’s course fishing season is somewhat different. Due to this Covid 19 pandemic, travel and certainly accommodation are still very much affected; meaning that I was not starting the season as I normally do on the banks of the lovely hidden pools of Wessex.

However, I have found a lovely little pool not too far from where I live, and this is where I resided today. This pond is tiny and some of the fish I have seen here you would really not expect with sizable Carp and Tench cruising the shallows.

I did not land my first Tench of the season today, loosing two great runs being broken each time. Although I did land a nice Perch and a lovely little Rudd.

I’ll be back here again one day for that elusive Tench.

Residents In My Rhubarb

I had no idea as I am visiting my allotment so infrequently at the moment, but a fellow allotmenteer told me that I had Blackbird that had set a nest in my Rhubarb. I did indeed have a Blackbird in my Rhubarb, and she was sitting on four eggs. I left them alone for over a week and have been today to see that the nest is now empty. Hopefully, all four and the parents are doing ok and I look forward to the extra members of the choir when I’m listening to the Blackbirds singing.

First Earlies

I’m sure that I am planting potatoes early this year. I think I will have to look back in my diaries at some point to search for previous years’ plantings. The weather (apart from yesterday’s sleet) has been really mild, and as the sun shone today, the earth was dry – perfect time to get some spuds in.

As every season I am growing “Arran Pilot” again. They have chitted nicely. With a helping of organic fertiliser in the bottom of each trench they are now planted and earthed-up.

This particular raised bed is not quite wide enough to take three rows of potatoes but I managed to get all the remaining onions sets into the remaining space, which was nice.

It is nice to get the hands into soil again.

 

Spring has Sprung!

It has been a very mild and wet winter, it is always great to see the first ‘greens’ of spring.

There are currently restrictions on personal travel, movements and a ban on all social gatherings due to “Corvid-19” or The Corona virus. However, one is allowed one exercise per day;  taking advantage of this unusually warm weather it is time to start planting, getting out into the garden and the allotment. The Rhubarb is shooting away again, as it has every year. I will take a couple of stalks shortly to try in a pie. (That is, unless there is a total lock-down and everyone is not allowed out of their houses).

I had purchased my onion sets for this year some time ago and had left them in trays in the greenhouse. This year I am trying a couple of varieties for the first time – A white onion called “Snowball” and a coloured onion called “Pink Panther” both of which I cannot wait to see how they get on. I have also planted the usual “Sturon” and “Red Barron”. I have most sets in the ground now with only about one hundred remaining to plant.

Potatoes this year are “Aran Pilot”, which I grow every year. To me it is the finest First Early, but my second early and main I have not tried before, they are “Cara” and “Charlotte” both of which I am looking forward to getting in the ground very shortly.

No more rain please

Well, yet again the rain gods frowned upon the last day of this course fishing season. Again, I spent the final days in Wessex. After a couple of days without rain, the river had fallen back into it’s banks and although still flowing quite fast, I ventured forth to give it a try.

What a fool! As I strode from the car in brilliant warm sunshine I wondered why no other anglers were to be seen? It was not long until I found out. I first setup with a float but the current was just too fast, so I re-tackled the rod with a feeder. As I was re-baiting the hook I heard what I thought was the wind really getting stronger through the trees. However, as I looked up I was met with quite literally a wall of white! sleet, and it was really heavy. This was accompanied by a couple of loud rumbles of thunder. It did not take long before I was soaked – no I had not brought a coat or umbrella as the weather was so nice at the start of the day. The only thing I caught today was the beginning of a bad cold.

The next day was spent at a pond, and although I was treated to the first real Blackbird song of the day (full verse and chorus) I did not catch a thing.

As my cold developed on final day of the course fishing season I just had to drive home, sneezing all the way.

Never mind, there is always June 16th to look forward to.