Thursday, 26 February 2015


In days of yore in order to prove yourself you were challenged to slay a dragon, rescue a maiden from a castle tower or undergo some dangerous initiation ceremony like running through fire blindfolded!  These days the challenges are equally taxing but they take a different form.  So when my daughter threw down the gauntlet with the dreaded IKEA CHALLENGE I felt I had to rise to the occasion to prove myself.  Her particular challenge was to assemble an IKEA sofa bed aided only by the infamous IKEA cartoon picture book.  (I am convinced that IKEA's target market is people who cannot read!)

So I called on reinforcements in the form of my wife Rosalind as she is good at Suduko and crosswords and would have helped the war effort at Bletchley Park had she been born earlier.

Confronted with three large cardboard boxes with no indication of which to open first, where the instructions were and whether there should have been four boxes, we drew swords and commenced battle. Eventually we had opened everything and completely blocked the hallway, and our only means of escape with acres of cardboard. 

Finally we discovered the instructions hidden inside the blanket box item and managed to work out that there were two set of instructions and which you used depended on whether you were going for the right handed or left handed configuration. It was a relief to know you only had to work your way through 10 pages and not all 20.  

There is no point in having someone help you unless you put them to work, so I assigned Rosalind the complicated task of fitting the loose fabric to the appropriate blanket box side using the Velcro provided.  This she achieved perfectly on the second attempt.

I undertook the more challenging engineering tasks such as trying to make sense of the diagrams and screwing components together using the tool named after me (they spell it wrong).  I then entrusted Rosalind to screw the feet on, something she did with poise.
 Things were starting to take shape big time and we even managed to work out how the "goes under" goes under!

 As there were health and safety issues at stake I bravely checked out the integrity of the assembly by lowering my full body weight on it.  There is no truth in the rumor that I actually dozed off.
 Rosalind then decided that she ought to read the instructions to make sure we had done it right.
 Rachel having arrived home from work, announced that she ought to check it out from a horizontal position and fortunately gave it ten out of ten!

So survived the IKEA challenge and in the future I hope to sleep well on the bed after a day's fishing on the chalk streams.

Monday, 23 February 2015


We had planned to fish on Monday so when the weather man said 5 degrees C, strong winds and the risk of showers we did hesitate!  But then you can wrap up, don fancy head gear, break out the finger-less mitts and wear two pairs of thick socks and if all else fails skin is waterproof!
In the end we had wind and sun, cloud and a 10 minute snow shower but we survived and we even caught.
Malcolm was the first to catch but Richard (pictured above and below) had only been fishing the Wood Lodge Pool for 15 minutes when he caught on a blood worm with long rubber legs. 

 Later we moved down to Mill House Lake and found some fish deep by the monk.  I caught on a gold head daddy with rubber legs.

 The monk (seen below) is the name given to the outflow structure one side of which features a series of wooden slats.  The level of the lake is controlled by the height of the slats.  When the lake is to be drained the slats are removed and the water flows into the structure and down a pipe at the bottom.  The monk is always at the deep end of the lake, where fish may hang out in very cold or very warm weather. 
 Malcolm (below), well wrapped up, survived the snow shower but missed his fingerless mitts.

So we all came away with a brace each.  The fish were all 2lb plus and one was a 3, all in perfect fighting condition.

I noticed on the Albury web site that there was an aerial video of the lakes we had been fishing. You can see it at

Monday, 9 February 2015

Fencing Fun With Recycled Pallets

I had mentioned that one of the things keeping me from fishing and posting was my fencing project.  I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of the techniques I used and the how I had been able to recycle old pallets into pretty neat picket fencing.

Now in my back garden (called a back yard by my American friends) the fence on one side is my responsibility (as detailed on the house deeds). The fence is about 120 feet long.  The existing fence is a low one not the usual 6 feet solid type.  This we like because it means that we can enjoy our neighbor's flowers and shrubs and they can enjoy ours. However, bear in mind that the following photos were taken in January so don't expect to see flowers. The picture below shows the new fencing bordering the top part of the garden where I have put purchased trellis work between posts.  Along the base of the trellis I had set paving slabs on their edge in concrete. Once everything has grown this fencing tends to be hidden by the plants.  So there was nothing clever about that fence.

Down at the bottom part of the garden the fence borders my vegetable plot and historically it was pretty basic plastic fencing as the next photo shows.
It was whilst looking at a fencing suppliers website that I noticed an advert on the page mentioning recycling pallets as fencing.  That sounded interesting so I gave it a click and watched a video of an American chap cutting up pallets and turning them into fencing.  So I decided to give it a go.  Now previously I had tried to take pallets apart and I knew that, because they were manufactured using ridged nails fired in with a nail gun, you could destroy the wood trying to take them apart.  However, there was a section of fencing (behind my compost bins) where some of the pallets could be used complete if they were just cut to the right length. 

In the picture below you can see cutting the pointed fence tops with my pull saw. Incidentally, I had never seen a pull saw until my son Dan had one and gave it to me when he moved to the States. It is my favourite saw as it always cuts easy and clean.
This section of fencing is substantial because it is made of whole pallets but it is attractive. To finish it off I had to fit narrow battens between the wide verticals. Then before putting them into position I painted the wood with a preservative (I want this fencing to see me out)! I also had to fit two extra posts in concrete between the pallets. I will elaborate on how I did that later.
My remaining pallets were less substantial so I decided to dismantle them completely to get the timber for the picket fence verticals.  The way I did this without doing any serious damage to the wood is as follows:-
  1. Stand the pallet upright on concrete and using a bolster (a wide chisel for cutting masonry) and a hammer open up a crack between the two pieces of wood.  Then insert a hacksaw blade and cut through the nails. 
  2. If the nails are of softer material sometimes you can cut through them by just repeatedly hitting the bolster.
  3. Because the bolster has a wide blade you reduce the risk of breaking or splitting the wood.
  4. It is not a quick process but practice speeds thing up.
  5. Make sure you wear thick gloves to protect your hands (especially the one holding the bolster) and don't leave any nails sticking out.
The bolster is in the middle.

I decided to buy arris rails (long horizontal triangular sections of treated timber) to fix the ex-pallet verticals to, as that would be neater than using the heavier sections from the pallets and I also decided to use the metal arris rail brackets.  All the fixing I did with screws as I did not want to damage the wood or loosen the fence supports by hammering.  Cordless drills are so adept at drilling pilot holes and powering in screws that they speed up the process.

The end product looked pretty neat and I followed the UK tradition of having the best side facing my neighbour's property as the picture below shows.

My side looked pretty good too!
The little gate in the middle is so I can get my lawn mower in her garden to cut her grass.  Dark brown wood preserver finished it off nicely.

So now for the long awaited mention of the new supporting posts.  Where I needed additional supports (because of the length of the span between existing supports) I used those pictured below.

My dodge was to drive them into the ground and carefully line them up, then to dig around them to enable me to give them a concrete collar as part of laying the base slabs.  This made them a lot more stable.

My final dodge was for mixing the concrete mix without making a lot of mess.  I learnt this from Brian my daughter's neighbour when we were replacing her garden fence.  You mix the ballast (small stones and sand) with the cement in a wheel barrow, having first lined the barrow with some heavy duty plastic.  I used part of an old shower curtain.  Then you do the mixing, not with a spade or trowel, but just by lifting first one side of the plastic and then the other side, alternately. This way you mix the contents just like a cement mixer would.  As my ballast was pretty damp I didn't add any water which made it a lot easier to handle the mix and put it where I wanted it.  After a couple of days the end product was rock solid.

I enjoyed building the fence and keep walking down the garden to view my efforts.  I hope this might prove useful to you.

Monday, 26 January 2015

I had the whole of Bewl Water all to myself fly fishing.

I finished all I could do on my garden fencing project around noon so I decided to treat myself to a bit of piscatorial R & R! None of my pals could make it so was free to choose between Albury or Bewl.  I was pretty sure to catch at Albury but Bewl won because it would be more challenging and a bit cheaper. When I arrived the weather was good, overcast but dry, south westerly breeze and air temperature around 10 C.  Vince Brook, one of the fishery staff kindly stopped for a chat and suggested Bramble Point?  So off I set on  the ten minute walk and arrived to find the water crystal clear with a nice ripple.  Resisting the temptation to wade I kept well back and started casting with a single black woolly bugger gold head fly presented using a 7 weight forward floating line with a twelve foot leader.  On my third cast I was rewarded with a lovely pull that signalled good fish on!  It had hit the fly round two rod lengths off of the rod tip so it was in quite close and I would probably have spooked it if I had been in the water.

Later I did go into the water as there was no more action from the shore, I also tried an intermediate line with the woolly bugger, then a cats whisker and finally a blue flash damsel. I fished for 2 hours, only had the one fish but I loved every minute of it! The sky, the breeze and the water lapping at my waders told me I was very lucky to be there, still able to cast a line and still able to land a fish, the first of 2015.  And to top it all I had the whole of Bewl Water all to myself!
I am pleased to see that I can still pull them out!

Vince had warned me that they lock the exit gates at 4pm this time of year which is why I only fished for 2 hours.  However, as I was leaving Rob Barden told me that if you park down by the Outdoor Centre you can exit from there whenever you like.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Fly Fisherman gets distracted helping job seekers!

I am feeling guilty for not having posted recently, especially to those of you who follow my posts and who have driven the views to over 29,000. Two years ago when I started I was amazed when I registered 100 views.  Well it is true that I was distracted a bit by Christmas and I have been replacing some fencing in the garden, but the main reason is my new (honorary, that means I do it for free) assignment in the church which involves helping people (church members and non members) find work, improve their employment or decide what career path to follow.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an excellent web site for job and career seekers.  The rather long name of the church is often abbreviated to LDS so the web site is called ldsjobs. So if you are interested and would like to take a look here is what to do:-

1      Use your internet browser to find

If    If you are a member of the LDS Church and registered on the church's web system press “Sign In” in the top right hand corner or register.  If you are not a member go straight to the Complete Your Profile box and click on it. You will be able to register as a Friend.  When you have completed the above you will be able to explore the site and take advantage of its resources. There is information and helpful advice for job seekers, students and those wanting to be self employed. The section on writing CVs lists four different types of CV and discusses their various merits.

Networking is a fancy term that just means you tell everyone you know (well, nearly everyone, maybe not your current boss and work colleagues) that you are looking for a job as a “such and such” and do they know of any openings or (and this is equally important) do they know of anyone else who might know of job openings!  Doing this you can build a large “network” of people looking for you.  However, it is no good just asking them once.  You have to gently remind them on a regular basis that you are still looking.  Go to click on Article Index and then click on Successful Networking.

When you get the chance of an interview you must not spoil it by being poorly prepared.  Feel free to ask a friend for a “practice interview”, it can give you a realistic experience which can improve your performance at a real interview.  Running practice interviews is one of my roles in the church's programme. For further information and certainly prior to a mock or real interview go to click on Article Index and then click on Interviewing and read the articles.

On the employment web site you can find where the church has Employment Centres.  My wife Rosalind and I help out at the centre in the Hyde Park Chapel, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London on Tuesdays.

If you know of employment opportunities please let us know?

Monday, 15 December 2014

More Fly Fishing Fun at Albury and another big trout

My pal Malcolm has made so much progress with his casting of the fly that I decided to take him to the lakes at Albury Estates, near Guildford.  I also wanted him to see what a real fly fishing shop was like so we visited Peter Cockwill's Albury Game Angling tackle shop.  I need some fly tying materials and I wanted to make sure Malcolm invested in some blue flash damsel nymphs as they are deadly on the lakes.
Peter Cockwill is a splendid instructor, guide, author, lecturer and tackle shop proprietor. He has been guiding trips to Alaska every year since 1988. 
Peter's shop has everything you need to fly fish and fly tie.

We started fishing at Weston on the main lake, with me wanting to sight fish, but the fish were staying out of sight so we had a go at the Wood Lodge Pool where we could see fish, especially where the water flows in through the feeder pipe.  Malcolm caught on the blue flash and I blanked so after a sandwich we drove the mile or so to Vale End and fished the river pool. Malcolm positioned himself adjacent the tail of the pool (I hadn't told him that was where a couple of years ago our mutual friend Ashok had caught a 10lb fish).  I positioned myself at the side of a large tree, hoping to use it as cover because the water was fairly clear.  Whilst I was pulling a bit of debris from my fly Malcolm called out and pointed to the far side of the lake. I looked round the tree trunk and saw a very large ring rapidly expanding on the water about 25 yards away.  I quickly worked out some line, false casting like crazy and double hauling dropped the fly at the center of the ring.  Reckoning that the fish was probably still high in the water I started tweaking the fly in immediately and was rewarded with a firm snatch.  The fish splashed and Malcolm gave me one of his "I don't believe it looks"!  Ten minutes later having been taken back onto the reel, and having steered the fish out of reeds on both sides of the lake I managed to get it on the bank. It was in perfect condition with a lovely full tail. It weighed in at 4lb 8oz.

We both went on to have another fish each and ended a very pleasant winters day so glad we had gone fishing.

I tend to fillet larger fish as it is less trouble than gutting them, but note the filleting glove under the filleting knife.

Thought for the day: Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught a large fish goes home through an alley!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Lots happening on the fishing and other fronts!

Well I finally got all of my children (all 7) together for my mother's memorial service. The pictures in the background are of my mum.
Then I managed to take my son Daniel (the tallest at 6' 10" who had flown in from the States) fishing in a boat at Bewl. He even managed to land a big one, with a bit of help, whilst wearing gloves!
My pal Malcolm was in the boat with us spinning!  I am pleased to report I caught 50% more fish on the fly than he did spinning.  Well, OK he got 2 and I got 3!
Then I slipped down to the Salisbury and District waters to tackle the grayling. The fishery manager, Andreas recommended I try the Laverstock Fishery on the River Bourne and as I had never fished there I decided to give it a go.  In spite of the recent rains it was running beautifully clear, so clear, I kept spooking the fish.  Also I had failed to bring my box of size 18 grayling flies with me so I was fishing nymph that were too big. The net result, well there weren't any "net" results as I blanked.  However, I did get to wade the river and to find the official access by the bridge (the map in the Year Book is a bit misleading).  In the afternoon I fished the Avon at West Amesbury.  There was a lot of coloured water coming down and I blanked there as well.  On the positive side I did see all the work the river keepers had been doing.  I particularly appreciated the plastic matting covering the boggy patches.  Well done!
I made up for my disappointing fishing yesterday when I took my American pal Bryant to Albury Estates Western Fishery.  We met up with the fishery manager at the lake at Western and had a pleasant chat and he suggested we try Western.  The water was crystal clear and I soon realised that I could, if I looked hard, see the fish cruising 2 to 4 rod lengths out.  It was the dark reflection of the trees on the opposite bank that enabled me to see in the water.  So I was fishing with my back to the road.  I got my first fish fairly quickly.  Then I spotted a fish and cast my blue flash damsel fly to try to get it a couple of metres in front of him/her.  The cast went wrong and the fly dropped behind the fish.  Hearing and feeling the sound, the fish turned and hit the fly. We had a 5 minute tussle and just at the net the fish came off.  I tried several other areas with no luck so I returned to where I could see the fishing.  I found that having spotted one, if I took my eyes off it, even for a second or two, I would lose it visually.  So I tried to retrieve and cast all the time, keeping my eyes on the fish.  The next encounter was pure text book stuff.  I saw, I cast it took and I caught, but not quite!!!.  When it saw the net the fish took off and surprise, surprise the hook broke on the bend.  Meanwhile I kept an eye on Bryant, occasionally offering tips on how he could improve his casting.
Then I spotted a large fish well out from the bank. Knowing I had to extend my back cast in order to get the distance on the forward cast I checked out the trees behind me and positioned myself to take advantage of a gap.  Double hauling like crazy I deliberately cast well behind the fish as I was just gauging the line length required.  Having adjusted to get that right I went for the big one landing the fly about 3 metres in front of it.  I then lost sight of the fish and gently retrieved using a slow figure of eight.  My arm was wrenched forward and I was on.  The fish quickly took me back onto the reel and the rod bent through 90 degrees.  I recovered line as it ran towards me and then it made for the protection of branches that hung in the water.  I tightened the clutch and managed to turn it back into open water.  Some minutes later it was in the net and on the bank.  It was a cracker and I was chuffed.
It was exactly 5lb in weight and perfect

Just to prove it was me who caught it.
Whether river or lake, sight targeting fly fishing gives me the most satisfaction.  Well done Albury Estates, we had a great time.