Sunday, February 12, 2023

Beating the jinx

When I was put on the waiting list to have my gall bladder removed in late 2021 I was told it would be a simple keyhole surgery and I'd be back home after no more than 24 hours, and back in action after a couple of weeks or so. The date finally came round in October last year. As the pike fishing where I've been going for the last few years never seems to get going until November I reckoned I'd not be missing much of it. I'd even got a new set of P-3s built up ready after liking the length of the P-4s I used last season but finding them a bit undergunned for the odd time I wanted to punch a half mackerel to the middle of the pit. For playing pike they'd been great but I prefer having rods that will cast anywhere I want but might be a bit overgunned for playing fish than the other way round.

I was surprisingly un-nervous when I went in for the operation. The anesthetist was a Hungarian who, when I mentioned building rods for a living, told how he found the way the death of Benson the carp was hilarious. We both had a laugh about it, as did the nurses sticking cannulas in my veins. When he got to talking about eating pikes I thought it best to keep my gob shut. He'd be keeping me pain free and oblivious to the procedure and it's best not to annoy someone doing that!

The first thing I aksed a nurse when I came round was 'When can I go home'. The answer was not reassuring. 'The surgeon will be round to see you soon.' Then I noticed what looked like aquarium airline coming out of my side to a plastic bag with blood in it. That couldn't be right for a simple procedure. Sure enough when the doctor appeared he told me things hadn't gone to plan and they'd had to open me up. I'd be stopping in for about a week. The next revelation explained why I was finding it uncomfortable and painful to adjust myself in bed. I had a dressing on my belly that was over a foot long!

To cut to the chase there were 30 'staples' holding the wound together. I'd not be able to drive for a fortnight and recovery would take longer than I'd anticipated. After the fortnight was up I was more mobile and drove to a sheep sale. I thought I was 90% back to fitness but after a couple of hours I was feeling a bit knackered. It wasn't until late January that I actually felt up to hoisting a rucksack and rod sling onto my shoulders and tramping round the pit.

When I did just that I headed for the furthest swim on a day that felt promising. The swim felt right too and I did what I rarely do and sat it out in the one place until after dark. I never had a sniff. With three brand new rods I suppose a resounding blank was inevitable. How many blanks would I need to endure before the curse was lifted?

 A fortnight later I was back, this time I had the place to myself and seeing a nice breeze rippling the surface thought it worthwhile setting one rod up to drift a bait.

The first drift almost went to plan until the float started heading to the right where one of my static baits was. It then took me five or six tries to get a second drift to go anywhere at all! eventually, by casting it well out, the float was on its way at a steady pace and heading in the perfect direction. This lead me to stop longer than I'd planned in the swim. I had intended to move twice but when it got to almost four it was definitely time for a move which would be the only one of the day.

The second swim was facing into the wind, which made it feel colder than the nine degrees the car's thermometer had read. as the sun set the wind dropped which actually made it feel warmer even though the temperature was down to four degrees by the time I set off home.

For the last hour of daylight, with sunset coming after five I was going to stop until at least six in order to avoid the rush hour traffic, I cracked three starlights and pushed them into the tops of the foam egg floats I made last year. I actually cracked four starlights but I dropped on in the grass. I found it after dark! The floats work a treat, but the commercially made starlight holders are not a tight fit. I've lost a couple of starlights when casting. The DIY holder I cobbled together is much mor 'grippy' so the floats will be getting modified.

At 5.20 the far right hand float wasn't where it should have been. When I wound down, however, there was no pike attached. A dropped take. I don't get dropped takes! The lamprey head was hardly marked, but they are pretty tough so that wasn't unexpected. Twenty minutes later the far left hand float started heading away from the bank. I was on it like a shot and this time there was definitely something more than a sardine on the hooks. A lily pad and stem. Another dropped take. I never get two dropped takes!! The sardine was lightly toothmarked. It was still castable because not only had I found a good hook hold in the backbone I'd also tied it on with red bait elastic. Still it was pikey activity. I determined to stick it until half six, then head to the chippy.

By now it was dark enough to see the starlights glowing. It's a lovely sight. It's even better when you see one of them wobbling from side to side, which is what the middle one did with just ten minutes to go to home time. A quick strike connected with what was obviously a pike. A small one, but a pike. A pike that decided to grow a bit and put a bend in the P-3. Not a hooping bend, but definitely a bend. In the net it looked like a high single. I got the forceps and weighing kit ready while the pike rested in teh mesh of the net in the margin. The forceps weren't required as the pike had unhooked itself. The scales said I'd under-guesstimated slightly. Being lean, and somewhat tatty, it could weigh more in good nick.

I guess those two dropped takes were enough to clear the hex on the new rods. I put the successful rod away, then slowly packed the rest of my gear and the other two rods. My mojo might not be back to full power, but I'm looking forward to a few more sessions this month and next when I can fit the time in with work commitments. Don't hold your breath for updates as my blogging mojo is weak!

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!.