Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Long time no fish

Back in November I began my winter pike campaign.  Before I'd got my third bait in the water on my first session the second bait I'd cast out was taken. A lack of practice saw me wind down from an unfavourable angle and not hard enough only to feel the pike (not big) and fail to set the hooks. Not to worry, the conditions were good and the pike were feeding. I'd get a chance or two more before dark. Three swim moves later I packed up having blanked. There ended my piking for 2021...

I hadn't really enjoyed myself. Moving swims was a pain and failing to catch anything even more of a disincentive. I have no patience for blanking these days. In the past I'd happily settle into a swim before dawn and stay there all day regardless of how little action I had, then pack up after dark. Now I get bored if nothing has happened after half an hour. This only seems to be the case with pike fishing though.

Since that November session I've come close to getting the pike rods out again, but something has always seemed like a better option. From going out with a camera or staying home and putting the kettle on again. Today was different. I had vaguely planned to have a pike session when I got up by getting something quick to heat up for tea out of the freezer. Then I went to the Post Office and off to pick some work related stuff up. When I got back it was time for lunch. I nearly didn't bother putting the rods in teh car but I got that autopilot feeling as if something was making me get eth gear sorted. By one thirty I was unlocking the car park gate. The day was fresh and bright. A gently cool wind was rippling the water and I had the place to myself.

I went for Plan B and walked to get the wind off my back. The first bait, a lamprey head, was dropped in the margin to my right where I've had pike from before, the herring head went out to what will be a lily bed come summer. The third rod needed re-rigging before casting another deadbait out to my left. The float stops had perished and fallen off. I have a feeling they were cheap, unbranded, ones I'd bought in bulk rather than the ones I have always used in the past which last for ages. That'll teach me. It was getting on for an hour before I gave in and moved to a swim I'd been looking at across the water. A swim that had been Plan A.

One time this swim did me proud and from one spot. The lamprey head went straight in there. There are a couple of other spots which look like they should produce, but haven't done for me to date. With all three rods fishing and the alarms set I settled back in my low chair, my mind not thinking about fish. I was soaking up the scene. All the leaves were gone from the trees and bushes, and the hawthorn berries which had been abundant in November had disappeared, no doubt down the necks of winter thrushes. They were mostly gone too. I only saw a single fieldfare.

My session in November had been the debut outing for a new winter hat. A peaked affair with faux fur ear and neck flaps. New hats are always a curse so I should have expected to blank. thinking of this made me doubt my choice of headwear. A new woolly hat. While this was it's first fishing trip I had worn it a few times when out with a camera and just going to the Post Office. Maybe that would help?

With these idle thoughts in my head, and despite having gone deaf in one ear recently (I suspect a build-up of wax) I heard the warble of the sounder box. A quick scan of the floats and it was the lamprey on the move. This time I remembered how to 'strike' a pike run. Pint the rod at the fish from as low an angle as you can, then wind down hard. Success! I felt the weight of the fish and a head shake. Then it did a good imitation of a wet sack and was straight in the net. It looked about eight pounds so I left it there while I got the unhooking mat and forceps ready. The forceps live in the same rucksack pocket as my scales and sling. Pulling them out I decided I'd check the weight for the hell of it.

This was one of those fish that saved its fight for being on the bank and gave me a severe case of knuckle rash. It's amazing how much blood spills from the graves across the top of your knuckles.

I got a pleasant surprise when the needle on the Avons did a full sweep and a bit more. Not only out of practice with hooking pike, out of practice at estimating their weights.

Now I was feeling confident. Confident of another take from the same spot. Ordinarily I'd have made one more move before dark but something kept me where I was.

The wind was dropping and the sun dropping lower. I found myself looking at the colours of the reedmace against the sky reflected in the calming lake. Painters' colours. Reed stems of Naples yellow, burnt umber seed heads and pale, Payne's grey water. Wintry but not melancholy. 

As the light faded a robin visited me briefly. I had nothing to tempt it to stay longer. Then it was time to leave myself. Should I have made that last move?

I'd enjoyed this session more than the last. I hadn't gone because I thought I should, I went because I couldn't help myself. That's how I am with fishing these days. It shouldn't be a chore - or a habit. It isn't compulsory.

Happy New Year!

Friday, September 24, 2021

No fishing, just rod and tackle news

Having lost my mojo, yet again, with a few agricultural shows finally taking place over the last month, lots of work to be caught up with and a week of illness I've been away from the water with no great desire to get back to it. This is a period of transition. It's too early for pike on my pit and the river is still short of water. Can I face some back-end eeling, or should I set my stall out for whatever comes along to a set of feeders on the pit? Indecision and lack of enthusiasm has kept me indoors trying to up my game at the product photography job to update my website to show the new look rod fittings from Fuji. This is just a post to put some of them in one place. More will follow as I get more builds done using them.

First off my standard bait rod handle.

All these are the new 'black chrome' finish. This is the trigger reel seat I fit to baitcasters.

18mm DPS used on standard cork handles.

And on a set of custom full slim Duplon handles.

I've changed the standard thread colours on Axiom rods to a tricky to photograph dark grey tipped with metallic Pewter. Shown here with the new Gunmetal finish on the SiC rings. It's a bit shinier than the old Gunsmoke.

 In addition to the new trebles I introduced a while back I now have some traditional bronzed ones in bulk packs. Sizes 4 and 6, barbed or semi-barbed, in packs of 25. Available here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The final straw

Regardless of the stream of small eels continuing to pester me I was still keen, although running out of cunning plans, following my post last month. It was on the third session that I finally had enough. If I'd done what I usually do and fished a swim out of sight of anyone else I'd have carried on in blissful ignorance, but I reasoned that the angler tench fishing across the pit would be packing up shortly as I'd arrived late. So why not fish a swim I fancied rather than one which was out of sight?

I got my rod pod set up, baits in position and had settled down on my low chair in what was a reasonably spacious peg, for a change. Then I looked up and saw the tench angler was playing something and having a fair old tussle. He was in a swim I always fancy for eels but which has never thrown anything much up for me.

The tench kept on fighting until it broke surface. That was when it's snake-like head became obvious. Maybe he was just making a meal of it. After a couple of attempts the eel was in the rather too small for it landing net. When it was lifted ashore its size, even from 100 metres (Google maps) away, was obvious. After looking at it for a while the angler removed the hook from the eel and put it back. Unweighed. It looked as big as any I've caught from the pit, maybe bigger. Who's the idiot who said effort equals reward? At least the eels were feeding, I supposed.

Dusk fell and I had the place to myself. And the eels. It was no run fest. I had a few runs and finicky takes before I connected with one. Yet again to the off-bottom worms. It didn't feel all that big. It wasn't. Possibly the smallest eel of the year. But what it lacked in size it made up for in tangling technique. The lead link on my off-bottom rig was over three feet long, but somehow this tiny little bootlace managed to wrap itself up in the link sufficiently to have the lead dangling directly below it';s jaw!

I tired letting the tying untangle itself in the margin. To no avail. I had to resort to cutting the bloody creature free just so I could get my forceps on the hook. A complete re-tackling was called for. I fished on with waning enthusiasm until midnight when I was glad to see the back of the place.

Since then it's been a case of work turning up (at long last blanks are beginning to trickle through) followed by a wet spell which further reduced my eeling drive. I've taken a break and done some photography top revitalise my fishing mojo.

The ring situation caused by the change I've mentioned before is still causing me confusion as to what is available and what isn't. SiC rings being the latest ones to have me baffled. I think I've got that sussed now and should have some back in stock soon.

With the new 'grey' (which is similar to the old gunsmoke) frames on the standard rings I use I'm going to change my standard thread colours on Axiom rods. I've no blanks to build for them at present so can't show a photo of what they'll look like but I have built a couple of X-1s using the thread colours. Shown below with an 'old style' gunsmoke reel seat.

I think the grey thread tipped with metallic pewter looks good along with the grey reel seats and rings on Ultra Matt blanks. It's as near as I've managed to 'invisible' whippings.

In other news I have some new size four and six trebles in stock to replace the Partridge hooks I used to carry. These are a round bend treble with a round eye and a slightly shorter shank than the Partridges. Wire thickness is a bit heavier but not excessively so and the barbs are small and crushable. Available from my webshop - at £4.50 per pack of ten. More sizes might follow later in the year.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Everything merges with the night

After my last blog post I thought the rot had set in when I blanked on yet another evening into night session after eels. I had runs and missed them all. 
A couple of days later and it was back to the familiar sessions of old. Lots of twitchy bites and some runs, this time some I connected with. During this session I was getting far more positive runs than I had on earlier sessions for some reason even though the eels were no bigger. In total five were landed, but nothing over a pound and a quarter. I weighed that one because it had felt double the weight when I was bringing it in and I wanted to get a gauge for future guestimates. It didn't look the heavier weight though. I'd been fooled by teh lad link of the running paternoster dragging a load of weed.

Each time I've gone eeling I've fished a different swim. A week later I was in a swim I'd forgotten had an ant nest in it last time I fished it. Luckily the ants weren't making themseleves known if they were still at home. The eels weren't either. It was a slow session resulting in one more sub-pound eel to the off bottom worms. I got more bites from the mozzies. The following morning my hands and back of my neck were covered in itchy red lumps.

Two days after that, when the itching was easing off, I fished a swim I like a lot, but which has never matched it's initial promise. It did produce though. Four more eels not worth netting, never mind  photographing, fell to worm baits with one bumped to a deadbait. Most of my action has been coming to worms, but I've been putting that down to me fishing two rods with them as bait and only one with a deadbait chunk.

Fancying a change of approach I picked up a packet of squid and settled into a swim I've never fished before for my first session of July. There was a glorious sunset casting a red glow on everything, including the moorhen which seemed to want to join me. I was wondering if I had taken up it's night time resting place, and if it was a young bird because of it's lack of fear of the big ugly creature on the bank.

My landing net must have been propped up in its usual hauling out spot as it  clambered on the bank and tried to walk under the mesh. After drifting about in front of me for ages it got out at the other side of the swim. It wasn't keen there so ambled back to the water, where it eventually gave up, after squawking loudly at me from within the reed beds and making me jump!

The moorhen interlude was the highlight of the session. When I checked the weather forecast before setting off it had looked set fair. However, when I spoke to another angler near the car park he said there was rain forecast to arrive around dusk. The sky did look slightly threatening and it felt muggy. I always have a set of waterproofs in the back of the car so I stuffed them in my folded low chair. It was around ten thirty when the drizzle started. Five minutes later I missed a run to the squid chunk.

That didn't herald the start of a mad feeding spell. At eleven fifteen yet another bootlace snaffled my off bottom worms. With the rain getting heavier I packed up shortly after that. One benefit of finishing early was that I didn't need an afternoon nap the next day!

All these short eel session are starting to merge into one fuzzy session of missed runs and small, slimy knot-tying eels. Without my diary notes I'd never remember what happened on which session, or how many sessions there were! Still, I was back again last night but this time in the first swim I'd fished this year.

This turned out to be another slow session. Proper runs were few and twitchy takes the norm when there was action. The only take I connected with came to a piece of squid fished close in to the edge of a reed bad. It was yet another bootlace which somehow managed to tie the rig and itself in a great slimy tangle when I foolishly netted it. Things were so bad I had to cut the line and the hooklink to get the eel free. I did get the hook out of the eel - somehow. If eels weren't supposedly endangered (there seem to be plenty round here!) I think I'd be sticking these bootlace tangle-masters in the freezer for pike bait!


Despite the frustration having returned I'm sure I'll be back again soon. At least for one more try. If it's another bootlace-fest I might give the eels a break for a week or two and try for something else.

I had intended posting a rod advert on here, but no sooner had I listed it on The Pikers Pit than it sold. Which surprised me as it was an 11ft 1.75lb Torrix more suited to small river barbel or stalking carp.

I'd ordered the blank for myself during my summer of carp fishing but it arrived after the short-lived interest in carp had faded away. Hence I only got round to building it recently. Actually I started it during lockdown one but gave up when paying work started coming in again. As I'm in a lull at present waiting for blanks ordered months ago to turn up I passed a day finishing it off.

It's a shame that Harrison's aren't supplying brown blanks any longer because built up whipped in sand tipped brown they look rather nice. The newish Vortex rings also look good on slim blanks like the lighter Torrixes.

As I spent some time trying to take some vaguely professional looking photos of the rod (shiny things are tricky to photograph) I'll post them anyway - despite the fact I can't replicate the build.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Downhill all the way

Full of new-found enthusiasm I couldn't wait to get back after the eels. Two nights later I was walking round looking for a swim to fish. one problem with this particular place is that most of the swims are made to accommodate someone sat on a seat box fishing a single rod. If set up to fish 'carp style' with self hooking rigs and rods on pods this isn't an issue as the fish hang themselves and sat up on the bank you can still get to the rods without fish dropping the bait. Same for piking really when even an 'instant' strike doesn't have to be as instant as striking  a quick dip on a float from a shy biting rudd.

Eel fishing for me is all about striking takes quickly. I don't seem to get the non-stop runs that I used to. even when I did a smart strike might be required to hook an eel before it found sanctuary. when I first fished the canal for eels I was casting baits tight to far bank reed beds. By the time I could grab a rod the eel would be deep in the reeds and everything was solid. I switched to fishing my baits under the rod tops to give me time to strike before sanctuary could be reached. Even sitting close to the rods some eels still made it all the way over the far side!

As the pegs here are all nicely stoned getting individual banksticks in, my preferred way of fishing, it has to be a pod. Some of the pegs aren't even wide enough for that, let alone have room to put up a chair. This all limits my choices. I didn't want to fish the same swim as my first session so ended up dithering between one I've never fished for eels and one I have caught from. The one with previous got the nod.

Conditions were similar to two nights before and I was soon having to replace missing worms. The eels were active again. As predicted my initial success was not to be matched and the average size of the four I landed was well down. I was catching though, which was encouraging. Despite some activity to the deadbait it was the worms getting the majority of the action, both on and off the bottom. By half twelve my stock of worms was getting down to the regs so I packed up satisfied and planning to restock at the earliest opportunity.

That opportunity came on Friday. Get worms in the morning, fish in the evening. Sorted. That was the plan until my car packed up on the way to the tackle shop. Bugger. I was going to change the motor last year but when Covid arrived there wasn't much point as I wouldn't be using it much. Anyway, long story short the car was fixable but the garage had one in that suited my needs and budget. Rather than spend money fixing the Zafira I chopped it in. problem was I couldn't get my hands on the replacement until this Thursday.

A whole week later than planned I was heading back to the lake. Normally I'm not keen on Friday night sessions as it can see carpers setting up for the weekend but as there was a football match of some sort being mentioned all over the internet and news media I thought I might have the place to myself. As it turned out there was one carp angler setting up near a swim I really fancied. I fished my second choice instead.

It was a few degrees cooler than the previous week, but still plenty warm enough as I arranged my gear in one of the more accommodating swims. This one gave me a good choice of features from pads to marginal rush and open water. All easily fishable from a pod.

Baits out by quarter to nine and the bleeps and twitches started soon after. This time it was a night of frustration as even the steady runs were missed. Fishing the off bottom bait close in my strikes almost saw the rig flying out of the water at me a couple of times! Plenty of takes from twitches to runs but no eels landed.

After my first session I'd been rethinking my rigs. In particular my hooklinks. While I like the Kevlar catfish braid I've been using for worm baits it is a bit tangle prone. Rooting in my eel/catfish box I thought it might be worth tying up a couple of hooklinks with the 20lb Mason's Hard Mono I used to use for making pike fly leaders (the bit before the wire leader the flies are attached to before you get the wrong idea...). It's tough, abrasion resistant and stiff. Not easy to knot though. While I was at it I had a change of hook pattern to a shorter shanked more round bend hook. Owner C-5X in fact. Using this hooklink on my leger rig caught me a couple of the small ones on my second session and damage to the mono was negligible. Certainly an option worth persisting with to see if it does significantly reduce tangles.

This is the rig I use for fishing off bottom. The boom is glued into a drilled out John Roberts Paternoster Boom, the end of the boom being flared over after heating to stop it pulling right through. The lead link is heavy and stiff mono for a couple of feet ending in a loop to which I tie a weaker link to take the lead. The length of the hooklink is shorter than the boom to go some way to reducing tangles on the cast. I've been using 70lb Kevlar catfish braid for the hooklinks when using worm baits, but when this does tangle it can be a real bad tangle. I'll be giving 20lb Mason's Hard Mono a try next time out.


Whether the blank session was a result of some change in conditions, the presence of only small eels in the swim or a new tackle curse I'm not sure. Does a 'new' car count as tackle? if not maybe it was the new box I'd got to keep my spare batteries in. It's a neater solution than the box I used to use. takes up less room and stops the batteries rattling about. Although it's designed to hold four PP3 batteries the slots in the rubber insert will take two AAs for my radio and just about three AAAs for my head torch. I was glad of the PP3s when the sounder for my Delkims started making the low battery noise.

Now I'm stocked up with worms I'll be out eeling again soon. I have two swims in mind which I have yet to fish which I think might produce. At least they'll be a change of scenery!

On the rod building front I've had a few unusual builds to keep my interest up and which are options for future consideration.

White painted rod tops are not my thing but I get requests for them on a fairly regular basis. After many years I've got a technique sorted for doing them which I am happy with. It's time consuming but gives a good looking result. I still can't decide if white tips look better with white thread on any rings that go on it or with the same thread colour/s as used on the rest of the rod. This one has two small isotopes added. The customer went with the black/copper thread option.

At he other end of a rod, in this case a lure rod for bass fishing, I came up with a way to fit a full shrink tube handle to a slim blank and make a Fuji butt cap fit and look good. Again a bit of a faff but worth it. Putting the shrink over a hard Duplon cone at the back of the reel seat is another neat and functional touch, I think. If I ever rebuild my trusty P-5s I'll be going for something like this for the handles, only with plain rather than X-weave shrink tube.

Finally, don't ask me to build float rods. Not only do I hate fitting all the fiddly little rings while trying not to break the delicate tip sections I can't find a set of rings which meet my aesthetic preferences. Thankfully I only get asked to build one or two a year, so reducing this to none at all, ever, won't be much of a loss!

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

My garage smells of eels

There's no doubt about it. These days I am very much a fair weather angler. If May hadn't been so bloody wet I might have made a start on my eel fishing a while ago, although an early start can see me burned out before the slimy things are really active. With the temperatures risen and settled I made the trip to the tackle shop for a tub of worms on Friday. Even so my long lay off saw me reluctant to make the small effort to fish after the close of play in the first test match of the summer. Monday was different. It was an easy job to load the car, once I'd remembered to swap my pike boxes for my eel box in my rucksack. At the last minute I remembered the pack of deadbaits I'd bought and I was on my way.

Although there's almost a week of June gone by already there are still some hawthorn blossoms to be seen. Most of those remaining are turning pink and ready to carpet the ground below like a sprinkling of untimely snow. A bitter cold April and the wet May has put everything back, but things are catching up fast with the sudden rise to summer temperatures. Other umbellifers are joining the fading cow parsley along the sides of the path round the lake and at its edge, the guelder rose is out too. Would the eels be stirring from their torpor?

A wander round the almost deserted lake didn't offer much in the way of inspiration when it came to swim selection. So after returning to the car for my gear I settled for comfort and previous track record as my starting point for this summer's eel campaign. Although snags and margins are often cited as the places to fish for eels I feel as if I've had more success fishing my baits in open water on this particular venue. When using three rods one bait gets fished close in, close to reeds, pads or overhanging bushes if there are any. But the open water baits are the ones that seem to get picked up more regularly.

My approach was the usual one. An off bottom worm bait, a legered bunch of worms and a legered deadbait. The dead went to my left on the end of a reed spit, the legered worms into no-man's-land, and the off bottom worms towards a lily bed which has thrown up a few eels for me in the past. All three rods were fishing by quarter to nine. I thought it would be an hour or so before I'd get any action. Plenty of time to relax and take in the world.

I'd seen a whitehroat as I left the car park and the chifchaffs were singing their repetitive song. A grebe was cruising and mallards skulking. Small fish topped in the edge as a carp cruised by. while it was bright the sun was mostly behind cloud and the wind from the north west was cool in my face but hardly rippling the water's surface.

After just half an hour chilling out the right hand Delkim went mad. To my utter amazement when I struck I could feel an eel wriggling it's way to my left. Not for long though. Never mind. It was still daylight and that was one more take than I'd had on the last eel session I put in last year. The off bottom bait had worked again.

It wasn't long before I had twitches to the same bait, and a strikeable (but missed) run to the legered worms. All this in daylight. It was still light at ten o'clock when the off bottom bait was off again. Another good run which I connected with. This didn't feel as heavy as the one that had dropped off at first. The closer it came the heavier it seemed and the first sight of it on the surface had me hoping it stayed attached. Which it did. Making a 50 inch landing net has been one of the best eeling moves I've made! Had the girth of the eel's belly carried on to its vent it would have merited a self take, as it was I was happy to record it laid alongside my rod and scales. With an eel like this as the first of the year it can only be downhill from now on!

 For the next hour it was the traditional experience of small twitches to various baits. At eleven fifteen I connected with one to the off bottom bait to find a bootlace eel foul hooked near its tail. Baffling. Ten minutes later things got hectic.

The off bottom rod produced a pounder. Five minutes later, before I had the off bottom bait back out, I was unhooking a smaller eel which had taken the legered worms when line tore off the reel with the deadbait on the hook. I forgot I'd rested the worm rod across the rod pod when I struck and it went flying as I struck. The run was  missed... With the mess of rods sorted out and all three baits back in the water it went quiet again.

At midnight it was decision time. Give it an hour or wrap up for an 'early' night? A trace tangling bootlace to the off bottom worms at half past made the decision for me. I couldn't be bothered making up a new hooklink in the dark. There were other things which needed sorting out before my next session too, so I packed up pondering as I walked back to the car if eels are crepuscular rather than nocturnal. There does often seem to be a peak of activity either side of nightfall tailing off as the night grows darker.