PERCH, BROOK FISHING, FOOTBALL (Blog entry 681)

Having taken out a mortgage at the age of 18, by the time I was in my 40s I was free from a big chunk of financial commitment. This was deliberate, and along with starting a family early on, it meant that I was declaring myself as semi-retired when many others were still full-on as far as work commitments are concerned. It wasn’t as if I sat around all day doing nothing though, far from it. It did mean, however, that I could do lots of fishing, so much so that a few years back I ticked my bucket-list desire of casting a line every single day of the year.

Lots and lots of angling sessions were the order of the day, until another big change in my life occurred. For some, meeting a partner throws a spanner in the works, for yours truly though it was a football club that came between me and the love of my life. However let me clarify at this point, becoming involved with The New Saints FC is hardly a burden. Of course it has affected my fishing. Where there’s a will though, there is always a way, and all that I’ve done is become more flexible. The overnighters have mostly been replaced by shorter day sessions, that’s all.

Roach from the canal on drop-shot
Roach from the canal on drop-shot

Often I kill two birds with one stone by doing some fishing on the way to Park Hall, and that was the case in the first angling session of the week. With a drop-shot rod in the boot, I stopped off for half an hour on a canal, prior to then continuing my journey to the home of the current Welsh champions. Fishing a worm it was no surprise that I got among the perch, but following on from my first eel on the method recently, I again added a new species. This time it was a roach that joined a growing list that also includes perch, pike and chub.

Caught by accident, the next roach I banked were by design, as I headed for my first flowing-water session of the new season. Either being away from home or just being very busy proved to be a combination of factors that has limited my angling of late. It was great to get back on the brook, that if you follow my angling adventures regularly, you will know that I ‘discovered’ towards the end of last season. At this time of the year, plus with it not being fished, it is as close to a jungle as you’ll ever get in the UK. Overgrown and dense are the two words that come to mind.

Small and overgrown - welcome to my brook
Small and overgrown – welcome to my brook

It was a struggle through the vegetation and it was good that I was travelling really light. Of course, I eventually made it to the water’s edge, and set up on one of the bends that I fished previously. The brook is just inches deep on the straights with deeper water occurring where it twists and turns, as is the case with all running water. Previously I fished maggot on the hook and caught lots of smaller fish, but this time I upped the bait to a worm on a size 10 hook. I continued to feed loose maggots, the idea of the bigger bait was to tempt the better quality specimens.

It worked, as although I had lots of plucks from smaller fish it was the bigger ones that were landed. Of course, ‘bigger’ is relative. This is a tiny, tiny brook although having said that I did catch a really good roach from there last season. This time round I also banked a big fish, in the form of gudgeon almost seven inches long. That’s quite a monster actually, and it just shows that you never know what’s lurking beneath the surface of venues such as this. Plus it’s fair to say that the fish have never been caught before. It’s quite exciting exploring the place.

It may be tiny but it has some treasures
It may be tiny but it has some treasures

I was back the next day, again for an hour-long session. The downside of the venue is that once you catch a few fish, it goes dead. It’s not quite casting into a goldfish bowl, but the areas I’m fishing are about the size of my small amphibian pond at home. They appear to be absolutely stuffed full of fish, however, as I keep getting surprises pretty much every visit. This time it was just roach that put in an appearance. I thoroughly enjoyed myself though; ever since I’ve been a kid I’ve been attracted to tiny, intimate venues.

My attraction continued for further visits and I continued to catch quality-over-quantity roach. Although the football season proper hasn’t kicked off yet, there are still plenty of matches going on in the form of pre-season friendlies. Following four Champions League commentary games on the bounce, I made my way into the heart of the Black Country to watch Sporting Khalsa entertain Bromsgrove Sporting. I knew it was going to be a sporting game, and indeed it was. It was also a very warm day. Football in the rain is great but in the sun it’s even better.

The battle of the Sportings in Willenhall
The battle of the Sportings in Willenhall

When you’re involved in a game in the form of radio commentary, it’s very different to just being there as a spectator. Of course I enjoy the former but it’s also nice to do the latter as well. At TNS games not only am I focused while the game is on but I’m also busy before and after it, with interviews and other stuff. Now of course, I’m not complaining, far from it. It is nice though to turn up, pay my money, and then go in the stand and watch the game. And I don’t find myself doing commentary in my mind either. I totally switch off and just enjoy it.

The second game of the week was back to work, as TNS entertained FC Oswestry in a friendly. A few weeks back we shared an open-top bus as we celebrated successful respective seasons, this time round we shared a pitch. With nine goals on the night they weren’t shared equally either, as we hit them all. In fairness to Oswestry though, we are a team of full-time professionals and the game did come on the back of four Champions League fixtures. Talking of which, it’s going to be a tough Welsh Premier League next season, but TNS are already 1/4 with the bookies before a ball is even kicked.

Some selfies from Caernarfon
Some selfies from Caernarfon

My third, and final, match of the week and my 11th of the season so far, was on Friday evening (yesterday if you are reading this on publication day) as The New Saints travelled to Caernarfon Town for another pre-season friendly. This was my third visit to The Oval in as many seasons. One of the other trips was also a friendly, but the highlight by far was the Welsh Cup game that had everything. The Cofis raced into a 2-0 lead (TNS won 3-2 in the end) and the home fans got so excited when they scored, that the wall came down as they surged forward.

Let me say at this point though, there was nothing untoward going on. They’re great fans, a very friendly club,  and I hope the team gets into the Welsh Premier League very soon. This time round the game finished 5-0 to The New Saints. On the team bus heading back along the A55 I admired the views across the Menai Straits and Anglesey. I always feel a sadness when I leave Wales behind. Who knows, maybe one day I won’t.  I love football very much and it was another great evening at the game, but I was thinking how nice it would be to have a couple of rods out and spend the night fishing. As I often say, fishing and football, not a bad life is it. (Published July 30 2016)