A Busy October

Where on earth has October gone? The month seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye, probably more to do with the fact that once again I’ve been particularly busy. With trips to the Ebro catfishing, Edinburgh visiting family,  Holland piking, awards dinners with work and actually working thrown into the mix my feet have barely touched the floor.

The first week of the month was spent with Catmaster Tours on the Ebro/Segre river system in Mequinenza Spain. The trip had been planned since February and was to celebrate good friend Ashley Burton turning 40! We arrived at Barcelona airport early afternoon on the Sunday and as arranged the Catmaster guides were awaiting our arrival to drive us and the other 12 anglers the 2 hours to Mequinenza. The drive was filled with stories of monster catfish in excess of 200lbs with fish over 100lbs the norm. The journey was over quickly and like all good Brits abroad we headed straight for the nearest bar for a few beers and to meet our guide for the week, Ashley Scott.

With just me and Ash travelling over to fish we were to be grouped together with another 4 anglers. Now, we were both a little apprehensive as to who we’d be spending the week with as it can be a bit difficult when you have to spend 7 days with complete strangers, we needn’t have worried. There were another 2 groups of 2 so they were in the same boat as us and thankfully were top blokes. There was Matt & Shaun from the West Midlands who ‘by trade’ are match anglers, Malcolm & Gerry from the South West who are Sea Anglers and the specimen boys me & Ash. This opened the door for a healthy rivalry between the 6 of us based on our differing interests in our sport.

Our guide Ashley quickly filled us in on what to expect and headed off to prepare for the week ahead. This left us to have a few beers and get to know our fishing companions. The ice was soon broken and an early night was on the cards as we were to be picked up just before 1st light on the Monday. Ashley was at the front door shortly before 7.30am and we made the short journey to our swims which were to be on the Segre as this is where the majority of fish were holding up. Before long the rods were all in position and we had all chosen which 2 rods we’d start with. Ashley gave us all a quick pep talk on what to do and expect and explained the procedure of rowing the baits out, striking & playing the fish etc. This might be second nature to some but with none of us having ever done this before all the information was gratefully received. It was then time to decide on the fishing system and we could get the baits out. We chose the knockout system, meaning we all start with 2 rods then if for example I get a fish 1st then Ash fishes 4 rods, if he’s next then our rods get split between the other guys and so on until everyone has caught. This kept it as fair as possible and meant no one ended up with a ‘going’ rod whilst others blanked.

We got a quick lesson in the equipment to be used and believe me it makes Tidal Trent floodwater fishing look like pasty bashing on a commercial. 6lb T/C rods, large multiplier reels loaded with 200lb braid (I think), 170lb dyneema hooklengths, 2lbs of lead, 0/8 hooks and 4 x 22mm halibut pellets! This wasn’t fishing for the faint hearted. The only way to get the baits out was to row them across river before dropping them on various ledges & drop offs before tightening down to the huge leads and setting the drag so line could barely be pulled off the reel in the event of a take. All 12 rods were soon in position and the waiting game began. The plan was the same for every day. Baits out by 8am, Ashley fetched breakfast from the local café, rods were reeled in and re-baited early afternoon and again an hour before dark.

The waiting game now began. With temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius and San Miguel in plentiful supply as well as plenty of banter the time soon passed quickly. Before we knew it the rods were being reeled in and baits were refreshed for what we all anticipated to be the best time of day, dusk and the 1st couple of hours of dark (catfishing is limited from 6am midnight so maximum effort is put in leading up to midnight in the hope the catfish come out under the cover of dark to feed). At 9.30 Malcolm’s alarm let out a flurry of beeps and it was fish on! He soon had it under control and after 10 minutes or so Ashley had the fish safely roped up whilst we prepared the unhooking matt, weighing equipment & the obligatory bucket of water (it’s a catmaster custom to get a ‘bucket’ every time you catch a 100lb+ fish). On the bank the fish was unhooked and pulled the Reuben’s down to 170lbs!!! What a start, after smiling for a few snaps she was released to fight another day. After seeing this fish on the bank and seeing how hard it fought I was slightly nervous about catching one and what it would entail. I wasn’t given long to think about this as only 30 minutes later one of my rods was away and it was my turn to see what this Spanish catfishing lark was all about. I initially thought the fish had slipped the hook but I was assured it was coming towards me and to wind as fast as I could, not easy believe me! All of a sudden I was in contact and the fish was no more than 30 yards out and boy did I know about it. For the next 10 minutes I was dragged here there and everywhere right under the rod tip. Ashley took to the boat to try and glove the fish but it was nowhere near ready and dragged his little dinghy from left to right and back again. We finally got the upper hand and the fish was safely roped up while I changed into my spare clothes in preparation for the slime fest that was to follow. The guys all worked together and I was soon wearing a smile as big as the fish I’d caught as I posed for the camera holding 158lbs of freshwater fish! I was given the customary soaking and sat back in the hope that now Ash had 4 rods he’d be next. It wasn’t Ash but Matt who was next into a fish. The same pattern followed and before long he was grinning from ear to ear alongside a mammoth fish of 159lbs. This was all the action we received on day 1 and it was 3 very smelly but happy anglers that headed back to the house that night.

With the 3 remaining anglers having 4 rods each on day 2 there was double the chance of a fish for them. The day followed the same pattern as the day before and with the daylight hours giving up no fish confidence was high for the hours of darkness. Sean was next into a fish and at 22.40 it was leaving it late. He soon had it on the bank and what a monster fish, 183lbs!! Ash now had 6 rods and I was praying he’d break his duck that night. At 23.20 my prayers were answered when one of Ash’ rods roared off and the rod was soon bent double with an angry catfish on the end. This fish really gave him the run around and he did well to keep it out of a snag that was close in. After what seemed an age the fish was just about ready when Gerry shouted he was also into a fish! Quickly working to get Ash’ fish weighed at a very healthy 172lbs and photographed we went to give Gerry a hand. He had it under control and it registered 129lbs on the scales. What a great 2 days. We’d all caught fish with 5 over 150lbs!!

After this the fishing slowed up a little and nothing was caught on the Wednesday. To fill a little time we organised a bleak fishing match. With each angler limited to 20 minutes each on the float rod the idea was to catch as many as possible and the pair with the most won. We paired off in a match vs sea vs specimen boy’s competition and the battle commenced. With Matt being an out and out match angler his competitive edge soon came out and when it emerged the specimen boys were leading the mood soon turned 😉 unfortunately the match and sea boys took a bit of a wooping and the speci boys came out on top! (It’s all in the feeding pattern boys).

The next couple of days followed an almost identical pattern to the 1st 2. First up was Gerry with a huge fish of 175lbs. Next up was Sean with a truly huge fish of 190lbs and the grin on his face told the story. Half an hour later it was my turn with a fish that gave me a real beating and had me on the verge of getting someone to take over from me. At 184lbs it punched well above its weight and with a length of 8 feet would normally be pushing 200lbs. Next up was Ash with a great fish of 189lbs that again at 8 feet 3 inches would have normally been over 200lbs at that particular time of year. Matt was next to be into a fish & when it pulled the scales round to 191lbs it proved to be the biggest fish of the week. It gave him the chance to brag he’d beat the speci boys at their own game after we beat him at the match fishing but it takes a little more skill to catch 40 odd bleak in 20 mins, eh Matty boy! lol. Last but not least was Malcolm with a nice brace of cats coming in at 128lbs and 75lbs. A great way to round off a fantastic week.

We flew back home on the Sunday night very happy with our week with Catmaster tours and if anyones thinking of a trip all I can say is don’t go with anyone else. These guys really know their stuff and for the money it costs it’s worth every penny.

Next up was a quick Monday –Wednesday trip up to Edinburgh with my girlfriend Eva to visit my younger sister who had recently relocated up to bonnie Scotland with her boyfriend due to his work commitments. It was a great whirlwind trip to a lovely city and is somewhere I’ll be going back to, sooner rather than later I hope.

I was soon home but before I knew I was once again packing my bags and heading off to Holland for a few days pike fishing. Those that have read some of my other blogs will know this is something I do a couple of times a year if I can. This time though I was really pushing the limits. I’d invited good friend Paul Garner along with me and with him really having the pike bug the last few years he didn’t need much persuading. Our flight was out of Stanstead at the early hour of 7am meaning an even earlier start of 2.30 am for me to pick Paul up and drive down there. We met up with my good friend Thijs and his news wasn’t good. Heavy rain and gale force winds faced us for the whole trip! Undeterred we got to Thijs’ house, hitched the boat to his car and started the 2 hour journey to the venue. Despite the conditions confidence was high and it wasn’t long before we were afloat and thrashing the water to a foam with an assortment of lures. We fished extremely hard for the whole trip and tried different approaches and venues but unfortunately the conditons beat us and we only managed a few jacks each for our efforts. The fish are most definitely there but with the venue being quite shallow (mostly 6 feet) and made up of a sandy bottom it didn’t take long for the wind to cause the water to colour and with so many sand particles in the water it was no surprise the big fish were absent. I arrived back home at 11.30pm and was due back at work the following morning, what a whirlwind 2 weeks!

 Several weeks earlier back in September my place of work were informed we had been shortlisted as 1 of 3 to win pub of the year for Warwickshire & Worcestershire Life magazines. The awards dinner was to be held at the West Midlands Safari Park on the 18th of October and in the month previously we had been anonymously judged by mystery diners. Now, this is my 1st Head Chef position so just to be shortlisted was an achievement as far as I was concerned & considering the quality of places we were up against we’d do well to win. Well to cut a long story short we did indeed win!! So I’m proud to say the Granville@Barford is for the next 12 months at least Pub of the Year for Warwickshire and Worcestershire. A huge thank you is owed to my kitchen staff and the front of house team who without their hard work any success isn’t possible.



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