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!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2022

When you're on a roll

Knowing that the weather was set to turn wet for the weekend and that I'd have no time to fish next week I made sure I got a session in this week. Luckily the UPS van turned up nice and early on Thursday so I was able to get a decent length session in. I was going to fish into dark anyway to spin it out so I filled a flask, something I've not bothered doing recently just to keep the weight in the rucksack down. Fred was grateful for my effort.

I wanted to give the drifter another try out, so made my swim selection with that in mind. With a bait out close in to my left and another a bit further out to my right I started drifting. Looking at the chop on the water the float should have headed straight for an ice feature I could have inched it back from. What the wind looks like it'll do to a float rarely turns out to be what it actually does. 


Instead it spent a lot of its time blowing the drifter towards my right hand float. Eventually the wind swung a bit and I got the float just where I wanted it. Then the left hand float dipped and started to move off. When I got to the rod the float stopped moving. I have a suspicion that it was my clod-hopping tread that disturbed the pike. I checked the bait and swung it back out, a little further along the margin this time.

There's been heavy overnight rain which had made the banks muddy and slippy. The more I trudged around the swim the muddier it got and my boots were soon caked in clag.


Not having felt the hooks I had a feeling the pike would still be hanging around and up for a second bit at the lamprey head. For once I was right! This time the float kept moving and I connected. By the time I'd netted, unhooked, weighed and returned the fish the drifter had gone off course and was round the back of my right hand float.
 

It took a while to sort the mess out but at least the wind was taking the drifter out nicely by then. I was pretty confident of more action but none came my way. With an hour and a half of daylight left it was time for a move, and a switch to three static baits to take me into dark. The new swim was quite sheltered from the chilly wind and offered me three nice locations to place baits. It was, however, on a bit of a slope. A bit of a very slippery slope. Moving the rods I felt my feet lose grip and with as much grace as an ice dancing superstar I dropped the rods and pirouetted round to keep myself upright.

After a while I'd worked out where the safest route round the swim was in case I had to leap to the rods to deal with a take. The knowledge only came in handy when it was time to wind the baits in and go home.

I had a lot to do on Friday, but I was still itching to get back for more pike action. And to have another play with some floats I'd made for fishing into dark. Unusually I managed to get my jobs done in good time and was looking for a swim by two. Ideally I wanted the wind behind me but it had swung through almost 180 degrees overnight and I couldn't find a spot that would give me both a good drifting line and let me put bottom baits where I felt confident. One of my jobs had been to buy a clip-lid box to put the drifter in. It did a good job while it languished, unused, in my rucksack.

For some reason the swim I was in, with the wind blowing in to me at a slight angle, felt right. Slowly retrieving the far mackerel head a decent looking pike turned behind it about a rod length out. That made me think that a drifted bait might have scored if all the pike were as active as that chaser.Even so I resisted the urge to move. Instead I took the float and leger weight off the rig and cast the mackerel had around the swim for a few minutes. It looks strange, but I've caught on 'wobbled' half baits before. When the pike didn't reappear I reattached the bomb and float and recast it a bit further out. I'd barely sat down when the float was away.

Winding down I felt the fish. Then it came adrift. Winding the bait in I could see the trace had got round the top treble and the points were facing backwards. Bugger. Never mind, that could have been a different fish. My confidence rose another notch.

It was about an hour later the left hand float, which had been drawn back a few yards from where it had been cast, wobbled over and the line went slack. When I picked the rod up the float was moving away steadily. This one got hooked. Then kited into the reeds. Back in open water it stayed deep then made a run from the net. Time to get the mat, sling and scales out. Laid on the mat for a snap I could see from the patch of what look like regrown scales behind the gill cover that this was a repeat capture of a fish I'd caught last month. It had lost a couple of ounces - although that could be a weighing discrepancy.

Being unable to think of a better swim to move to I decided to break with my usual habit of moving regularly and chose to stick it out in this one until I'd had enough. It seemed like I'd made the right choice when the right hand margin float began to behave oddly. It was just moving away when I got to the rod when... It stopped moving. I'm becoming convinced that when fishing these margin baits a rod length away I am running the risk of spooking pike as I approach the rod. Again my thinking was that the fish hadn't felt steel so might come back. There wasn't enough time to move swims before dark fell anyway.

The sun was low and casting a warm light on the reeds when the right hand float made off more confidently. When I set the hooks I could feel that the pike was somewhere in the submerged willow branches. Once out of that potential tangle area it fought pretty well, but not being a monster was soon laying on the unhooking mat. Not a fish I recognised this time. This rig was the one I'd had the drifter on and instead of my usual quick change lead set up I'd simply attached the bomb to a paper-clip through the top eye of the trace swivel. Coming through the branches the paper-clip had done it's job as a weak link and the lad had gone.

After dark I felt like there might be another chance but after half an hour that feeling had left me, so I left the pike and the pit for home. I've caught a few pike from this place which have required the use of a headtorch for me to see what I'm doing when unhooking them. Stopping into dark hasn't paid off though. Maybe I need to stop more than an hour after sunset? Or maybe the pike don't feed in the dark. Having caught one when eel fishing in the dark I'm not too sure. I might give it another try when I can get back. It would allow me to make later starts and have a decent length session when the UPS van doesn't turn up early.


Saturday, February 05, 2022

Never say never

After my last session I'd been thinking about piking quite a bit, the idea of covering water with an off bottom bait had inspired me to get making prototype drifters (see previous post) and also mess about with some other float ideas that are probably superfluous. I'd even stocked up on deadbaits as my supply in the freezer was limited in both variety and quantity. Reluctantly I'd bought a pack of lamprey halves. I much prefer being able to chop a whole lamprey down to a size I like, and keep the tail sections short enough to discard as they don't fill me with confidence when used on the hooks, But no full lamprey were to be had. So it was Hobson's choice.

 

With a replenished freezer and new floats to try out I couldn't wait to get back to the pit. Ideally that would have been on Thursday when it was dry and warm. With the temperature set to drop for Friday and with showers forecast it wasn't my preferred day. My couriers had other plans, so when they arrived late on Thursday for a collection it was Friday or not at all.

Not only had the temperature dropped, the wind had picked up and was adding a considerable wind chill factor coming from a roughly northerly direction. The rain had gone by lunch time but a shower was predicted around two. Oh well. I took the chance of leaving the brolly at home and after I'd decided where to go left my waterproofs in the car. 

My plan before setting off had been to fish the far end of the pit as that would give me good long drifts to test the float out. I had a short wander before loading my gear on my back and saw that a closer swim might also offer a drifting opportunity. As it's a swim that has been good to me before it seemed like an idea to start there. By quarter past one I had two float legered baits covering the margins and a third drifting about further out.

I hadn't bothered putting my fresh packet of lamprey in my cool bag as I was sure I still had a head section left from before (I put the bag in the freezer complete with contents after every session), but added the pack of small smelts I'd bought to go under the drifter. When I got to my swim I discovered the only bits of lamprey I had left were two tails I'd cut off. One of them got stabbed with my bait knife and the other rod got a decent mackerel head.

The drifter  float did a great job. Alas the smelt wasn't to the pike's liking. I'd forgotten how much work is involved with fishing a drifter. They never go exactly where you want them to, and in a slight cross wind have a tendency to drag in to the bank you are fishing from. As that could have resulted in the float going behind a point it restricted my range. The rain arrived a bit late, at two thirty. It wasn't heavy and by standing behind some shelter I only got damp. When it turned to hail I almost wished I'd put teh brolly in the quiver. After fifteen or twenty minutes the shower had blown past and I was starting to dry in the wind. It was time for a move.

Again I thought of a productive swim that might let me get a drift in and by three I was set up with the left and right margins covered with the bottom baits and the smelt drifting over the site of a lily bed. After twenty minutes the mackerel head rod was in action. Another confident run that, as last time, saw a lightly hooked double in the net after a short but dogged scrap. This time the hooks hadn't come out in the net but the bottom one was only just inside the mouth.

The macky head was replaced with a tail section and I went back to working the drifter around a few features. By four it was time for my final move to a swim where the drifter would be no use. It was wound in and I started to unship the float in readiness to switch to a bottom end cigar float to use with a float legered bait. I was just about to swap the one ounce lead for a two when an alarm sounded. The useless lamprey tail had been taken! This fish was again lightly hooked and just as the first went mad in the net after a more lively fight. It didn't quite make double figures but it did make me consider stopping where I was. I recast the lamprey tail and carried on with my rig change. I'd move regardless.

When I got to the last knockings swim I wasn't sure if I could face an hour or more with that icy wind blowing straight at me. As I had the place to myself it would be an ideal chance to try a swim I'd never caught from, and had only tried briefly once before. It had the added benefit of being nicely sheltered. I retraced my steps and started a slow set up.

In my early piking days I was always in a rush. I'd turn up and head straight for a swim I'd had in mind before I got there. Then I'd sit it out all day. I didn't want to spend any time without a bait in the water. As I got older and (hopefully) more experienced I slowed down and became less concerned with keeping a bait in the water. I now know that spending time thinking about where to fish is usually well spent. Ten minutes in the right spot with one bait is worth more than a full day in the wrong place with four baits.

The new swim had a lot going for it. A marginal bush overhanging the water, like so many swims here, and marginal reeds, like so many swims here! The lamprey tail went by the bush the weight of the mackerel tail was used to cut across the wind to reach some far reeds, and a smelt went to my left close in.

I'd not been there half an hour when the lamprey tail, yet again, was taken at five fifteen. Maybe it's the cold or the time of year but the pike are doing a lot of bulldogging, staying down and shaking their heads. I had no idea how big this one was. When a Pike opens it's mouth during the fight it acts like a drogue and makes for a lot of resistance making the fish feel bigger than it is. This one was another ten pounder. I thought it might have been the same one I had last month as it had a similar look to it's teeth. However, it was chunkier and a comparison of the photos showed differences.

The last lamprey tail got hooked up and cast out to the same spot. By now it was starting to get dark. Not as soon as last week though. At this time of year the speed with which daylight hours lengthen is picking up. I could still just about manage without my head torch when an alarm sounded a warble accompanied by a crackling sound. At first I thought the alarm was playing up again. Seeing a float steaming out from the bank suggested it wasn't! This one had taken the smelt, a bait I have almost as much faith in as lamprey tails. It was obviously the smallest of the session. Again only just hooked, it wasn't going to get weighed but as the sling and scales were out it got the treatment and proved to be heavier than I'd guesstimated.

I put the last smelt on and had a final cast. By six it was too dark to see the farthest float clearly so I wound the rods in and drew a surprisingly successful afternoon session to a close. F\our pike, three on baits I don't rate! An added bonus was that by hanging on the rush hour traffic had thinned and I didn't have to queue at the junction with the main road. Happy days.