Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Different day, same result

I got the eel urge again yesterday. A warm day with a sprightly southerly blowing it was over 20 degrees when I arrived at the water. With the lake deserted my swim choice was unlimited. Fancying a change I plumped for one I haven't eel fished very often, the reeds to my left keeping the breeze off me and with a few features to fish to.

The usual rigs and baits were in place by eight fifteen. Two fishing the margins where eels are supposed to be caught, one in open water where I have more success on this venue. No instant action this time. It wasn't until just before the stated time for sunset in my tide table that the first worm snatcher made off with a free meal from the leger rig in no-man's-land. Twenty minutes later the same thing happened to the off-bottom worms in the margin.

It wasn't a case of cast out and an eel homing in straight away. It took half an hour before the suspended bait was nabbed again. This time I connected. With another bootlace. One that did a Houdini in reverse and tangled itself up so badly it became almost rigid. That didn't make it any easier to unhook though. I still had to chop things up and re-tackle after returning the pest.

The air temperature stayed up as the sun set, the wind swung to the west a little before swinging back and maybe easing off. A flock of starlings swirled briefly over what used to be one of their roosting sites. A large conifer which has been chopped down. They must like the location because they dropped behind the tree line in roughly the same place as the tree had stood. There must be another roostable tree or hedge there for them.

The large mallard flock wasn't in evidence, small groups of them were sitting in a couple of swims, heads tucked under wings, beady eyes alert, as I had a look round before choosing my swim. A great crested grebe and it's near grown offspring were cruising a lily bed.  Other than that bird life was quiet. 

While re-tackling the rod that was out of action, I had to tie up a hooklink as I 'd come unprepared in that respect, another worm snatcher attacked the leger rig. Ten minutes later the same rod was in action. For once an actual run that took line and showed no sign of stopping! Result a slightly larger bootlace than the first one, but lip hooked and easily released. It must have hooked itself.

Haws and blackberries were ripening in my swim making me think of autumn. August is a strange month in the turning of the seasons. One the one hand it can be hot and sunny, a time for summer holidays, yet on the other fruits and berries are starting to appear as the leaves begin to darken and grasses turn straw-coloured.

That bootlace was my lot. The bites and twitches, which hadn't been frequent, became more sporadic until they stopped altogether. By eleven I'd given up hope, but as it was still warm I hung on for another half an hour before calling it a wrap. Time for a change of venue or species I think.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

The bobbins never stopped moving and a new rod

Thursday saw my eel fishing going to the opposite extreme. Even while I was setting up the third rod something was chomping on the bunch of worms dangling from my running paternoster. And so the evening progressed. It was one of those sessions when the bootlaces were homing in on worms almost as soon as they settled. In one case before I could get the bobbin clipped on the line.

As usual when eels are in this mood it was a case of scant rewards. I'm pretty sure that the eels were too small to get the whole bunch of worms in their mouths and so a strike only serves to rip the worms and leave an almost bare hook. Out of who knows how many indications I hooked two eels. Both of which were the size I expected. Less than a pound in total weight and far more trouble to unhook than a single eel of three times that weight.

Despite the frustration, enhanced by twice retrieving the legered chunk of bluey to find it missing (soft and cast off?), the evening was enjoyable. I think I was in the hauling out spot for the forty or more mallards drifting about in front of me until it got properly dark, but a kingfisher streaking by shortly after I arrived and dozens of mostly young swallows feeding low to the water lifted my spirits as did the lone swift which fleetingly swooped by.

After getting the foot operated shutter release I treated myself to a new compact tripod. It took a lot of internet searching to find one that was as compact and short at it's highest height which also had a ball head, or allowed one to be fitted. Most of my searches for 'small tripod' resulted in the table top sort which are less than a foot high when fully extended. The rest were 'full size' when extended but compact when collapsed. I was left with two choices and went for the cheapest one.

Folded up it's nice and compact in length, but a little bulky. Because I had one spare I swapped the ballhead for a slightly smaller one. Doing this and folding the legs 'the other way' so they don't cover the ballhead it packs up slimmer and not much longer, still taking up less room than my old tripod and weighing a few grammes less.

As I'm eel fishing at the moment I can't see it getting much use for trophy shots so it'll be used for daft selfies or moon photos like the ones below! 

In other news I have added a new rod to my predator range, a rather niche rod. The P-6 has come about after being asked to make a beefed up P-5 by one customer to fish big natural baits for pike. When a second customer asked me for an eleven foot rod to troll large artificial baits on Irish loughs I thought of the big bait rod, which I had been using as a spod rod to pair with my 11ft tench and carp rods a few years back. I reckon it could also make a useful UK catfish rod.

The action is similar to that of the P-5 so it will bend if you have something big enough on the end of your line that you aren't afraid to give some stick. Anyone who thinks the Loch Tamer is a broom handle not only needs to tighten their drag but also avoid The Beast like the plague!Price and spec can be found on the Predator Rods page of my DLST website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The bobbins hung motionless

A blank was guaranteed for my first eel session of the year. Three new rods rigged up with three new reels was enough to enforce the new tackle hex, but a new foot pedal release for my camera to make self-takes easier was the cherry on the cursed cake.

It being a Monday I had the place to myself when I rocked up around eight fifteen on a warm evening with sunshine between the clouds being blown in on a moderate westerly. I was going to set up where I'd left off my pike fishing but the lilies had encroached and made the swim a bit tight so after a wander around I settled slowly into the swim next to it.

There was plenty of time before I expected the eels to start showing any interest in my baits, the usual offerings of legered and off-bottom worms, plus a trial run for a chunk of bluey on the leger with the wire trace. Once the rods were out I started playing around with my camera. It took me an age to get the flash gun working with the remote trigger for some 'arty' shots.

Being just a week after the Summer Solstice it felt like it would never get dark. Fiddling with the camera gave me something to do. Around nine there was a bit of action on the bluey rod but only a couple of bleeps from the Delkim. The bait was still intact.

With nothing happening I thought I could spend a while trying out the foot pedal. Better to get to know how best to set it up before trying a self-take with a monster eel. As if that is ever likely for the world's worst eel angler!
It's just 'plug and play' really, much less fiddling around than with the bulb release and bracket system I've been using for years. A boring 'sat by the rods looking vacant' picture was the result.

Available from Rhino Tech (no affiliation) the pedal costs £25 and is available to suit a range of cameras - for those who haven't abandoned cameras in favour of the convenience of a smart phone... I had tried making something similar myself some time ago and it didn't last long! So I consider this one money well spent. A Velcro type cable tidy seemed like a good idea, and I found an old camera pouch which the pedal fits in to prevent it getting tangled up with the rest of the junk in my rucksack.

When the light did eventually begin to fade the eel action hotted up. I had the legered bunch of worms stolen following a couple of bleeps, then an hour later another few bleeps and squawks saw the worms come back unmolested. That was my lot. It's great to be back eeling...

Monday, May 09, 2022

Handle options

I've been off the water again, waiting for this month to maybe do some tenching. But that's not happened yet! I've been busy working, when I've not been ill, and doing some unusual custom handles.

First up is a set of rods I'm building myself as eel rods. 10ft 3lb Torrix to replace my current 2.75lb versions. Nothing wrong with the ones I've been using for a few seasons now, I just wanted to try the 3lb ones out for piking last winter and felt they might work for eels. I've gone for the same minimalist handle as my current rods, butthought I'd giove the American Tackle woven carbon reel seat a try. I have to say it compliments the Torrix blank well. They do add £20 to the price of a rod though.

Next up is my revised way of doing a full length shrink tube handle, with the shrink over the rear Duplon cone. It's a more pleasing finish in my opinion. This one has a rubber butt cap at the end, just pushed over the shrink to make a practical handle configuration. Another option is to have a Duplon butt grip with the shrink over it and a button (stainless, Delrin or nylon) in the end.

Finally a custom abbreviated Duplon handle on an Axiom. I almost like this! But couldn't fish with it myself.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

The Upside Down Pike Float

Making my foamy drifter got me wondering what other floats I could make from the orange eggs. The obvious one would be a tubed 'bung' shaped slider, but I don't use those much these days preferring bottom end floats for still water piking from the bank. My fat cigar balsa floats have done me proud for a long time now. However they have been in need of a touch of varnish here and there, and I also wanted floats I could stick starlights in for fishing after dark. I'd made some before but I like tinkering. When I saw starlight adapters at Keith's Fishing Tackle I ordered a bag of 100.

I wanted my new floats to show up better than a 'bung', which sits low in the water. So I flipped the eggs to have the pointy end up. Not being sure if this would work I made a prototype from an old polystyrene bung and gave it a try. It did work. Now to get the foamy ones made.

All very simple. One egg, a length of float cane or skewer, a swivel, some glue filled shrink tube, the optional starlight adapter, glue and the paint marker I used to colour the drifter body. The photos should explain the construction. 

The large eye swivel was used because I have a lot of them. They have proved easier to get on and off the clips I use to attach them to the rig though. I think that's mostly down to the gauge of wire used for the eye than its size. Although they are a bit easier to grip with cold, wet fingers.

Two things became apparent with this float. Firstly it sits higher in the water than I'd expected so it would be more visible with a bit less black. Or no black at all - but floats don't look right in one colour! Secondly the starlight holders are a bit finicky. At least with the starlights I used one end is a tighter fit than the other. The slack fit can be too slack.

My previous starlight floats had used the clear tube which comes with the starlights to attach them. That was always a snug fit. Gluing a tube to a dead starlight seemed an easy way to do things. For maximum light emission I left the tube standing proud after gluing the assembly into the top of a foam egg.

This worked just great. It was a bit untidy though. For the Mk2 I pushed it all the way in to sit flush, and painted a lower waterline.

For increased visibility, which I don't really need where I've been fishing, I stuck a dead starlight in a small foam ball. It was just something to play with if I'm honest! It has got me thinking about push-in vanes for a drifter though!

I think that's the end of my foamy egg float experiments. For now... It's a pity the orange ones aren't available in more sizes like the green ones are. Watch this space for green foamy ball and egg adventures!.  

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The last rolls of the dice

It's always the same, I get my fishing head on and 'life' intervenes. For reasons I can't recall now, but I think involved rain, wind and work related issues, I didn't manage to keep rolling after the session outlined in my previous post. Eventually I snapped and thought, "Stuff work", and in autopilot headed for the swim I'd caught from last time out. Even though conditions told me I should have fished a different swim where I could have put the drifter to work, and knowing lightning doesn't strike twice, I fished it anyway.

After an hour of inaction I moved to fish the opposite bank. It was a grand day to be out, sunny and breezy and almost mild. The move had done me no good after another hour so it was off to a last knocking swim for the last of the daylight and a while into dark. I'd made some new floats which take Starlights just for this dusk to dark period. Why I bother carrying on once the light has gone completely I really don't know. The last half hour of daylight often produces a take, but nothing has yet happened any later. Still, on a mild late winter/early spring evening it's no hardship to stop around.

True to form the failing light did the trick. I had one bait on a spot that has been good to me in the past, another in the wilderness and a third in a spot that has always looked worthwhile but never thrown up a pike.Until this time! I sprang down the bank like a gazelle when the sounder alerted me to the take. A gazelle whose left knee gave way as it reached the rod. I was trying to stop myself toppling into the water as I picked the rod up and wound into the pike.

Like many of the other pike I'd hooked this winter this one just tried to hug the bottom, only coming to life on the surface then lying in the net while I limped up the bank to sort out the scales, sling and mat. Lifting the net from the water the fish did what others had also done this winter. Spun itself madly, this one spinning itself out of the net...

Somehow I managed to haul it safely to the mat where I saw it had unhooked itself. After unrolling it from the mesh I slid it into the sling which I hoisted up on the Avons. As the needle flickered between 13 and 14 the sounder box went ape again. The middle rod fishing the bait in no-mans-land was away. down the bank, dunk the pike out of the sling and wind down. To nothing. The bait had definitely been moved. in the half-light I could see where the lit float was when I retrieved it, but the bait looked unmarked.

After recasting the dropped bait I sorted out the chaos which had been created by the spinning pike and the second take. And prevented me taking a photo for comparison with other captures. That rod got recast and I was expecting more action despite it now being completely dark. I should have known better. Stop at the chippy on the way home to celebrate.

After that hectic few minutes I was itching to get back. yet again reality bit and I simply couldn't manage it. I had it all planned the following week. I'd go Tuesday. It was a nice enough day but blowing a gale. No worries. Thursday would be calmer. That would have worked out great if the UPS van had turned up on the Wednesday. As it didn't the collection was rearranged for Thursday. That would be OK if it turned up nice and early. By four it still hadn't shown up. I was told it could arrive up until six. It didn't. Bang went that week.

When I got a hospital appointment for last Tuesday I knew the day would be pretty much a write off (and I certainly couldn't book any dubious UPS collections) , so planned to fish that afternoon/evening. Even so a still, sunny and unseasonably warm afternoon didn't feel particularly pikey. Time was getting on and I almost ditched the idea. Then around four I got the urge. It was so last minute I forgot to take the pack-up I'd got ready! By now it was stopping light until almost seven, so getting a bait in the water by five fifteen still gave me a couple of hours. One thing moving swims regularly teaches you is that one hour in the right spot can be plenty. I could fish two swims in close proximity to a likely springtime feature.

This winter I've been enjoying using three P-4 rods. 10 feet is plenty long enough for small water piking, and they are well capable of playing and landing any pike that swims. For casting sardine-size baits and swinging larger baits into the margin they are fine, but there are a few spots where I like to punch a decent lump of mackerel out a fair way. This is where my P-5s performed better. Always a sucker for trying blanks out I eschewed the option of using a P-3 (which I knew would do the job) and got myself a 1ft 3lb Torrix blank to try. Last week I'd thrown some rings on it and fitted (but not glued) on a reel seat. It wasn't rigged up but I'd put it in the quiver with an old Shakespeare Sigma reel attached.

In the first swim I'd cut the trace off one of the P-4s and rigged up the Torrix. With the head half of a decent sized mackerel on the hooks it felt like it should cast it well. It did. A season or two back I'd tried a 1ft 3.25lb Torrix and didn't like it. It felt a bit 'dead' to me. The 2.75lb ten footers I use for eeling feel much more lively, but the tips are much softer than on my P-4s and they aren't up to piking in my opinion. Better suited to casting leads and worms - or boilies - than lumps of frozen fish.

In the second swim the Torrix was used to swing the macky head to the same spot I'd unexpectedly caught from on my previous visit. A smelt and a lamprey head were fishing close in to the reeds I thought pike would be lurking near at this time of year. But at twenty to seven it was the float on the Torrix that started steaming away from the bank. After a fortnight my knee was more sturdy and I had no fear of a soaking.
From the off this fish felt heavy. It was doing the bottom-hugging thing and took some hauling to lift it up in the water. This gave me a good chance to take a look at the fighting curve of the rod, which felt more 'lively' than its heavier sibling, and it looked fine. More tippy than a P-3 or P4, but not too 'carp roddy'.

When then pike did surface it was broad across the shoulders and long looking. Could this be the monster of the pit? Coming towards the sunk net it woke up, shook its head and thrashed about, tried to make a run for it, but was turned easily enough to slide quietly over the net cord. resting in the edge it looked big enough for me. This time I wound the other two baits in and hung them from their respective Delkims. I didn't want a repeat of the fiasco I'd endured a couple of weeks earlier.

Unusually there was no wild spinning and tangling from this pike as I lifted it from the water and laid it on the mat. On dry land I could see that it was looking a little ragged, and quite lean. I reckoned it had spawned. Looking in its mouth as I quickly removed the trebles it appeared to have been hooked before. Maybe it was the pit's monster. The scales told the tale. Two weeks and two pounds too late. I wasn't complaining. It was still a pike worth catching, and it's not as if I haven't caught a twenty pounder before - even if it is a long time since I last had one in my weigh sling. After a couple of snaps of the pike on the mat, with the new rod and old reel next to it I slipped her back and watched her power off into the gloomy depths with a couple of sweeps of her tail.

I was tempted to pack up there and then, but it was almost seven by the time I'd recast all three rods, so I might as well listen to The Archers until quarter past and leave then. Which was just what I did.

Two hours fishing and the biggest pike of my winter caught. Not a bad result. When I got home I totted up my stats for my piking since the start of the year when I got the bug again. Only eight sessions, all fairly short, were managed despite wanting to put more time in. Only one was a blank, which was pleasing and I had a dropped take on that one. After the previous two winters which hadn't fired me with enthusiasm, and had me worrying the pike had gone to the otter feast in the sky, it was good to have the average size up too. With the two smallest pike I caught weighing eight and nine pounds the average size was over ten. Nine doubles from eight short sessions also made it succesful in terms effort for reward. All that without getting up early or travelling very far suits a lazy old git like me.
Time to leave the pike alone now. But what to fish for before I start eeling? I really don't know. I might be reduced to fishing for... No! Someone stop me, please!!!