Sam Ruffle Coles

Fishing, programming, toy soldiers

Kill Team 2018, 2020 Lockdown

In 2018, when our son was a small baby, I had the great idea to buy the new Kill Team boxed set. It would be a relatively small investment to paint up a squad to play, and painting the ruins would just need a couple of quick drybrushes, right?

It was a while before I could be bothered to do anything but eat dinner and go to bed in the evenings after work, when our son was sleeping much better. By that point, I was on to wanting to paint something new.

Finally during the 2020 lockdown I picked up a paintbrush and painted those ruined buildings.

I’m happy with the decision to go for a very simple paint scheme as I’m a slow painter at the best of times, and it took a whole lot longer than I’d expected to apply paint to all those big surfaces. If I did it again, I’d find a cheaper wash than Agrax earthshade as I used two and a half big pots. To offset this, I have learnt that the 99p matt varnish from Sprayster.com is as good or better than Citadel varnish and will be using it on all my models in future.

My Programming Bookshelf

Until moving to our new house in July 2019, in my office in our flat was a small bookcase full of my programming books. I had convinced myself it was great for reference and that I’d read some of them again, but in part I probably quite vainly enjoyed having them on display (albeit quite a hidden display).

Since moving they’ve been sat in a stack in the spare bedroom and during this Coronavirus lockdown, I’ve finally caved in to my wife’s request to clear them out and put them up on eBay. However, I thought it would be a shame to let them go without any kind of record of having read them.

So below are my very short reviews of all the books I had kept, but am now parting with. By no means a definitive list of everything I read, but anything that’s already been sold was either not that good or tied to a dated technology. You’ll notice no Android Development books for example, despite that having been my career for ten years.

Keep in mind that some of these books were read seven or eight years’ ago. In fact in the first couple of instances, over twenty years’ ago. I’ve made a best guess to put them in the chronological order that I discovered or read them in, often helped by the fact that I read many of them on holidays or during my commutes, so I can visualise the pool and the type of train I was on when I look at the book covers.

Osborne’s Programmer’s Reference: HTML – A friend of my Dad gave me a carrier bag full of books because he’d heard I liked computers. In that bag was this book. I opened notepad and copied out a basic HTML page example from the book. After trying and failing to get this to work, I finally tried saving that file with a .html extension instead of .txt and when opening it in Internet Explorer, I discovered I had created a web page. I began trying different tags, learnt how to put files on geocities via ftp, some css, a little javascript and classic ASP and eventually this all became PC-Gaming.com.

Sam’s Teach Yourself C++ In 21 Days – As is probably quite common for teenage boys, I decided that when I grew up I want to make video games. Discovered GameDev.net and learnt that I needed to learn C++ if I wanted to work on the next Grand Theft Auto or Quake. I did not read this book in 21 days, I actually don’t think I got past the first ten chapters, but that was more than enough to get going. I can remember realising I could create a text-base/console multiple choice adventure game and doing so. I wish I had the source code for this as I’ve no idea what it was about!

Tricks Of The Windows Game Programming Gurus – From memory I remember Win32, GDI, Back Buffers, DirectX and DirectDraw. From this book I drifted into some OpenGL demos via NeHe, and followed the GBA tutorials at The Pern Project. I found the source code for a small pong game I wrote some years back and managed to record it running on an emulator.

Big Java: 2nd Edition – first year University programming textbook, read in 2005. I found discovering how easy it was to make UIs with Swing incredibly exciting. Of course, easy being relative to Win32.

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software – I was first recommended to read this during my internship, I definitely made a start on it then, but it wasn’t until a few years later when I revisited it and read it through. The content could be great, but it truly goes out of its way to make itself the driest read possible. Would love to read a modern, updated version of this book with a writing style like that of Uncle Bob.

Code Complete: 2nd Edition – Another book recommended to me by a colleague during my internship. From memory this book is full of arbitrary advice like having no more than seven variables or methods in a class and skipping vowels in variable names. It probably hasn’t aged that well.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master – My memory of this book is that it was OK. 3/5 type stuff. I read it during my first job after I finished Uni, so perhaps I would benefit from re-reading.

Clean Code – This is the book I had hoped that Code Complete would be. I first read this in 2013 while on Holiday in Antalya and have re-read it another time since. This book really helps you take what you’re doing to the next level up from just ‘getting it working.’ and is an enjoyable read. I recommend this book to everyone.

The Clean Coder – A worthwhile read, but disappointing if you are expecting something as good Clean Code. This focuses on your soft skills and how you should conduct yourself as a developer. I remember finding some of the stuff culturally objectionable and plain disagreed with other parts. Everyone is in their career for different reasons and has different goals and the ideas in this book aren’t for everyone.

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code – The concepts were good but even when I read it, it was already 14-15 years’ old and a lot of the descriptions of how you go about carrying out the refactoring was outdated by the refactoring options available in modern IDEs. There’s been a recent 20th anniversary edition and I wonder if that’s been brought up to date to take that into account.

Test-Driven Development By Example – Through a couple of simple examples, this book meticulously introduces you to the process of TDD including the mechanical steps and the thinking behind what you are doing.

Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided By Tests – Like TDD By Example but with more real world examples including JUnit and a mocking framework. The latter half of the book is dedicated to the development of an online auction sniper bot using a clunky external web API. Much closer to the kind of thing you might do at work. It’s a ten year old book now but while it’s going to be using outdated tech, I would think it is still well worth reading for the principles.

Working Effectively With Legacy Code – Defines legacy code as code without tests and works from there as for how you can begin to tame the beast.

Effective Java: 2nd Edition – A great book full of edicts for writing good code in Java. While a lot of it is still relevant, I would love to see an equivalent Kotlin book. A more recent 3rd edition has been released that covers language features of Java 7, 8 and 9 that may be worth a look.

The Software Craftsman – Professionalism, Pragmatism, Pride – Very much on the same lines as The Pragmatic Programmer or The Clean Coder, but being released in 2015 it’s a bit more up to date. Worth reading, but my faults with it are the same as those other two books.

Essential Scrum – It’s a scrum manual. 🤷‍♂️

Clean Architecture – A much softer book than Clean Code, and the worser for it. I felt like I got more out watching some of the Uncle Bob presentations on this subject online than I did from the book.

The Glorious 16th, 2018.

On the 15th of June I decided to make a last minute trip out after work. I drove round the M25 to my parents’ house where my gear is still stored with the intention of fishing Spade Oak gravel pit in Marlow. But when I arrived I realised that I really had to change the plan and fish the river. It was the start of the new season after all.

I was deciding between the stretches available to me on the Marlow Angling Club ticket, when I had a change of mind and decided to fish a local weir on the Thames.

Arriving by the weir at 2330 I setup, and at the stroke of midnight placed one rod behind a closed sluice gate on the nearside of the river, and a second rod further downstream alongside overhanging bushes where I’ve enjoyed previous success.

I lay down on my bedchair under the open sky and began to doze off. Waking at around 0400 to the freezing mist I considered packing up, but lacking any extra layers opted to stay under the sleeping bag and wait until the mist cleared when it would be a little warmer.

The next thing I knew it was around 0530 and I had a screaming buzzer from the rod tucked behind the sluice gate. I bolted up and lifted the rod, gently tightening up the loose clutch. I believed I’d hooked the bottom, until the bottom started to move and powered into the stronger flow in front of one of the fully open gates.

A few minutes later I had little doubt as to what I’d hooked, but its first appearance, slapping its tail on the surface as it dove back down deep, confirmed it was a double figure barbel.

A Romanian angler appeared from just upstream above the weir and offered to help net the fish. After a solid ten minute fight I was slowly dragging the fish over the top of the powerful flow and into the net. I was elated.

My new friend helped take a couple of snaps and I weighed the fish at 12lb 12oz, all while repeating the phrase, “Oh wow!” like a parrot. The fish bested my previous PB caught nine years ago by 1lb 4oz.

Just the one fish, but I decided things had peaked and so set off back home to spend the rest of the day with my nine week old son.

12lb 12oz Barbel PB

12lb 12oz Barbel PB

Salmon Trout Fishing In Kent The Yemen

Earlier this summer I was watching Salmon Fishing In The Yemen with my wife when she declared that fly fishing “looks a lot more fun than the kind of fishing you do,” and that she would “like to try it, one day.”

Naturally, I jumped on this and had a lesson for us booked within a fortnight.

We went down to Spring Hill Trout Waters and had a couple of hours casting tuition before having a go on the main lake. Unfortunately, it was a particularly warm day, and as I’ve learnt more recently, summer is not optimal for trout on small lakes – so we didn’t catch, but we had fun all the same.

I’ve since bought a couple of cheap Shakespeare Rod+Reel+Line combos for under sixty quid each, in a 9ft 5wt flavour and a 7ft 3wt flavour. The convenience of being able to keep all the gear in the back of the car, and just get in and go, is pretty amazing when you are used to loading the car up to the brim.

My wife has opted not to rejoin me since but is very much enjoying eating the trout I’ve brought home since going back to Spring Hill a couple of times. I also fished the River Teise over the summer and more recently enjoyed a session at Tenterden Trout Waters.

Will hopefully be doing a bit more trout fishing in 2018!

River Teise, Kent

River Teise, Kent

Tenterden Trout Waters

Tenterden Trout Waters

Bass Fishing on Lake Biwa

From late March into early April I visited Japan with my wife. One of my minor regrets about our previous “big holiday” to America, was that in five weeks I didn’t do any bass fishing.

Twenty years ago when I started fishing, I had a bass fishing video game on my PC so it’s always a fish I’ve wanted to catch. I looked into it but decided against because of the price of a guide and a boat for one day, given the length of time we were spending in the US.

As Japan was to be a two week holiday, I decided that a day of fishing should be on the agenda and began to do my research. I considered some sea fishing in Tokyo Bay but realised that I would prefer to fish during our stint in Kyoto.

The first thing I came across on Google was Bass Fishing on Lake Biwa. Bass are non-native to Japan, being originally from the USA, so in some ways are technically not the real deal for a Japanese fishing experience. However, Bass Fishing’s popularity in Japan has made the country the second largest market for bass fishing after the USA, and the joint world record has now been caught on Lake Biwa. At the same time, it would satisfy my previous regret of not doing any bass fishing in the USA.

After more research, I found an English-speaking guide from Truth Fishing Guide Service who you could hire for the day for ¥50,000 (£350 GBP/$450 USD).

Okuma's bass My guide, Okuma, picked me up promptly from my hotel near Omiya station in Kyoto at 6am and drove us under an hour to the marina. On the way, he told me that fishing had recently been difficult as the weather hadn’t yet warmed up enough and the ice from the surrounding mountains was still melting into the lake. However, I remained enthusiastically optimistic.

Okuma fuelled the boat up and shortly after 7am we were out on the water. We tried a few different spots with no success, tearing about the lake on the boat at high speed before Okuma hooked into the first bass of the day. By that point, having not caught anything in the first couple of hours, being incredibly tired from the combination of running around photographing every temple and castle in Kyoto, and waking up at 5:30am, I had become slightly pessimistic about our chances. I took a snap of Okuma’s bass since it was the first one I’d seen outside of a video game, and began fishing again with rekindled enthusiasm.

Not long and Okuma caught another bass. This time it was a much better size of around 5lb. We continued fishing and bam! I was into a fish! Twenty seconds or so into the fight the fish launched itself out of the air – not being experienced with this behaviour I left the rod tip up, and it flung the hook. I wasn’t too disappointed though, I’d actually hooked my first bass and I was ready for the next: now armed with the advice to plunge my rod tip straight down if this happened next time.

The first bass caught by me Okuma caught another bass before I hooked into and landed my first. Not huge, but the smile on my face says it all.

Shortly after, the action died down a bit. Okuma began using the smaller engine on the front of the boat to drift across a particular part of the lake before turning it around and drifting the other way. We both had another couple of bass this way, before heading to a restaurant in a hotel on the lakeside. For lunch, I ate a prawn katsu curry and explained to my Japanese guide that you can order the same curry sauce back in England at the fish and chip shop 😂.

After lunch, we went back out on the water and tried spots Okuma said we were more likely to catch larger fish. Okuma caught at least one more fish that afternoon but the big ones evaded us both. It would have been nice to catch a better size bass, but as we headed back in at 4pm, I was pretty satisfied with my day as I had ticked a species I’ve long wanted to catch off the list.

Elphicks Plantation Lake

A combination of our holiday to Sumners Ponds and the fact that I haven’t been able to go fishing as much as I’d like for the last few years has made me reconsider my opinions on commercial fisheries. The convenience is too great with complexes including secure access and on-site cafes, toilet blocks and tackle shops in case you’ve run out of or forgotten anything.

With this in mind I went for a stroll around Elphicks Fishery in Kent on Sunday 15th May and quickly made the decision to book up and return with my gear the following Saturday to fish the Plantation Lake. The fishery is of a much higher class than the typical commercials I’d visited before, with an emphasis on specimen lakes with a challenge to them, rather than featureless muddy holes stuffed with more fish than water.

Throughout the twenty-four hours fish could be seen stirring up muddy clouds on the bottom and feeding all over the lake, a large grass carp cruised around on the top all day and night with both dorsal and tail fin breaking the surface, but sadly no interest was had on the rods. I’ll be back again a couple more times throughout the year though as I’d love to catch my first thirty.

Sumners Ponds

For the first week of May this year, my wife organised a week’s holiday with my parents at Sumners Ponds staying in Moorhen Lodge. This three bedroom lodge borders the main lake which contains carp to 36lb.

View from Moorhen Lodge, Sumners Ponds.

View from Moorhen Lodge

We arrived at a very busy site during the bank holiday weekend – it is worth remembering that first and foremost the place is a campsite and holiday location, and that the fishing seemed to be a secondary attraction for most of the visitors, so there was quite a bit of noise with radios playing and tent pegs being hammered in.

Shortly after arriving on the Saturday Dad caught a small number of bream on the feeder with double maggot on the hook. We then went over to the Cafe By The Lake for a nice dinner with live music. I would recommend a visit to the cafe if you are looking at staying here as the food was very decently cooked.

Fishing on Sunday was more of the same, although I had my first bream of about 2lb which had somehow managed to gut an 18mm boilie and hang itself on a size 8 – it quite struggled to move the 2.5oz lead it was attached to.

Monday morning came and the place cleared out, most left the lake lodges, un-pitched their tents and drove away in their motorhomes. The noise was gone and we had the lake to ourselves. We also experienced the only bad weather of the week, but this combination of peace and quiet and rain saw my rods roaring away in the late afternoon, and in fairly quick succession I caught carp of 15lb, 18lb 8oz and a new PB of 23lb 8oz.

18lb 8oz Mirror Carp

18lb 8oz Mirror Carp

As most bites seemed to be forthcoming in the early evenings, I spent two days with my wife visiting Petworth House (£15), Bramber Castle and Boxgrove Priory (both free). Since it was also close to her birthday, my parents took us out for dinner at the Michelin-starred Tristan in Horsham, which was a fun meal with reasonable prices for such an establishment.

Later in the week as the water warmed up, the carp were out on the top. During the day, Dad and I would sit back from the edge and wait for them to come in close on their patrols before sniping a free-lined dog biscuit over their heads. This resulted in Dad’s first carp of the week, a PB Cyprinus Carpio for him of 18lb 12oz.

18lb 12oz, Dad's PB

18lb 12oz, Dad’s Carp PB

There was a twenty-plus Ghost Carp among these regular visitors but this fish would prove to be the wariest of all, and would reject the bait if it was anything but perfectly presented. I had one solid chance during the week but struck into nothing as the carp sucked the biscuit down. I was absolutely gutted as I really thought it was mine that time.

However, on the Friday morning I had my surface-caught PB of 19lb 8oz – while still barefoot in my pyjamas, so I can’t complain. A number of other carp were caught during the week with a total of nine for me and three for Dad.

19lb 8oz surface caught

19lb 8oz surface-caught

Come Friday afternoon Sumners started to fill up again. The guy pitching his tent to the left of our lodge started casting out some ridiculous fish-finder the size of a tennis ball complete with accompanying phone app – not sure what this was going to achieve, and the man to the right cast over my line – I reeled it in and snapped his off, fortunately.

With tent pegs galore being banged in, the carp on the surface started to drift toward the centre of the lake and no more action was forthcoming. We decided to bring in the rods for our last night and enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine (or ten), instead of persevering with slim odds.

We really enjoyed ourselves, but the fish seemed quite disinterested during the weekends while the banks were busy and noisy. Overall, I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Sumners – but skip the weekends and go during term time.

Photos by Lara Ruffle Coles.

Redmire 2013

After a failed attempt to get through on the phone for a session in 2012. In January 2013 I managed to book a 5 night week session for September.

As I arrived, Redmire was nothing like I expected. After a lot of rain all year it was a muddy soup bowl rather than a gin clear weed filled pool. In fact, there was so little weed I couldn’t believe it, though I can’t say I was complaining about that!

All said and done I enjoyed the week immensely. Catching seven carp of 18lb 8oz, 11lb 6oz, 17lb 8oz, 1oz (!), 22lb 2oz, an unknown weight of 2-3lb at 2am, and 16lb 10oz. Comparing this with some peoples’ experiences on the Redmire Pool forums I’d say I did alright! Additionally I had a handful of gudgeon and an eel to complete the Redmire set.

Many thanks to the other chaps I was fishing with that week for helping me out with photos and teaching me a lot about how to hold fish for the camera in the process.

22lb 2oz and a new PB carp!
22lb 2oz and a new PB carp!

16lb 6oz and caught 61 years to the day after Dick Walker’s 44lb record.
16lb 6oz and caught 61 years to the day after Dick Walker’s 44lb record.

Blenheim Palace

Having fished Blenheim Palace on June 16th last year and also this year, a few weeks’ back on June 22nd, I’ve come to the conclusion the fishing there isn’t very good. Particularly for a one off casual day at £36.50.

Last year the weather was pretty awful. Every punt was out and I witnessed only one other catch a couple of fish, myself catching a single tench of about 3lb on red maggot.

This year, aside from a good rain in the morning the weather was much improved. But by about 3pm my Dad and I gave up, having blanked and returned to the boathouse to find that only one other punt was still left out on the lake. Didn’t see anyone else catch.

It’s a lovely lake to row about on, but I won’t be going back any time soon.

Blenheim Palace
22nd June 2013

Blenheim Palace Tench
16th June 2012

Back Again

After my birthday session on the 18th, or rather birthday blank, I just had to get back out to the weir pool again. This time, reacquainted with tying a rig and casting a lead, I felt a lot better prepared. The session was to be from about 4pm until 11pm on Thursday 23rd February.

I opted to fish donkey choker 20mm halibut pellets attached to PVA meshes of smaller 3mm pellets. Along with some halibut hookbait dip for extra attraction. The tidier presentations, the clearer ideas in my mind about what I was doing, and fishing well into the evening rather than a bright morning left me feeling a lot more confident.

Arriving at the nearby car park I noticed a car full of gear next to where I’d parked. Panic set in immediately. Had I been pipped to the post by someone who was checking out the weir pool at this very moment and was going to head back down with his gear just before I could get there? Fortunately, three blokes came round the corner and got into the car ready to drive away. They had been fishing the afternoon for roach and dace on the nearby tributary and my luck was in.

As I caught a first glimpse of the water I noticed it was up an inch or two since the weekend. There had been no real rain to speak of so I can only assume the weirs around the area had been opened up to let more water flow down the Thames. Along with the continuing warm weather I hoped this would all work in my favour.

A couple of hours into the session it dawned on me that I’d not stopped at the shop to purchase a sandwich, but fortunately my Mum and Dad had mentioned they were stopping by to say hello so I sent a quick text to The Mother to ask her to pick me something up. I didn’t anticipate a freshly cooked jacket potato with cheese and sweetcorn, wrapped in foil in a cool bag and delivered to the bank but there you go. Gotta love your Mum. (I was 25 years old last week!!)

Shortly after finishing my dinner I had a take on the rod in the run-off… I lifted into it and connected with a reasonably heavy feeling fish. A few minutes later, my father was slipping the net under what I thought was the most enormous chub I had ever seen. It actually only went 7lb 2oz, which is four ounces short of my PB, but nevertheless I was extremely happy with my third ‘seven’.

No other fish came out to play for the rest of the evening before I had to pack up. However, since I’ll be too busy to get out again for the next couple of weeks, I can’t complain about ending the river season with a fish like this. 🙂

7lb 2oz chub

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