Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with a whimper

One final attempt to catch a fish, any fish, before the year's end came to nothing despite the river looking great and rising in temperature. Still, it was a more pleasant experience than last time with next to no wind and an overcast sky keeping the air temperature up after dark. Even though I blanked it's made me keen to get out again. Things can only get better!

If 2007 had carried on as well as it started of I'd have had a phenomenal year's fishing. As it was things started to fizzle out around October. Even so I'm not complaining. I beat my bream pb three times, my perch and tench pbs twice, caught a pb barbel and my first ever grayling.

Unlike 2006 I got the springtime perch fishing in, paying off big time, and the tench campaign worked more or less to plan this time round. The double figure bream were also a nice interlude. Again I enjoyed the fishing, especially exploring new-to-me stretches of river in search of barbel. Fishing new and different places - and catching fish doing it - is always enjoyable and enlightening.
  • Tench - 9-04
  • Barbel - 13-09
  • Perch - 4-12
  • Bream - 12-06
  • Roach/Bream Hybrid - 4-11
  • Chub - 5-04
  • Carp - 13
  • Grayling - not very big!
Here's to a great 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A month's a long time

At last I managed to drag myself to the river almost a month since my last session. Now all the leaves were gone from the riverside willows and a flood a few weeks back had cleared away most of the remains of last summer's bankside vegetation. It was truly a bare and wintry scene. But not unappealing. After a couple of days rain I thought the river might be well up and coloured. It was up a little, carrying some colour and just about warm enough to give me hope. Within twenty minutes a chub pinched my luncheon meat. Then things started to go down hill.

The next three quarters of an hour were spent with the bait in a snag. I got the rig back and moved. During the afternoon I fished four more swims without a touch. Although the air temperature was around seven degrees and the sun was shining it felt a lot colder owing to the wind. When a shower came along I risked the brolly and it was quite pleasant sat in its shelter. However I noticed that there was debris starting to accumulate on the line, one or two branches were coming down the river, and it was on the rise.

Walking into the wind to fish a fifth swim was quite a struggle. But once set up again it was fairly cosy with the brolly up. Then the rain set in. This made it all very miserable. The wind also strengthened. This made it extremely unpleasant. Had it not been so wet and windy I'd have stayed later, but I was indeed 'glad when I had had enough'!

So strong was the wind that on the way back to the car I had to stop twice as gusts hit me as I could hardly make any progress against them.

The video clip doesn't do the weather justice.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A change is as good as a rest

I haven't managed to get out fishing for the last three weeks owing to having rods to build and send out for Christmas deadlines, and the dreaded waste of time that is hanging around for parcels to be delivered so that I could fulfil those orders. This gave me spare time sat around while waiting for things to turn up and for glue and varnish to dry. Whether it needed it or not I decided to freshen up my website. All the content is the same but I think it looks a little bit cleaner and brighter. I might make a few more nerdy tweaks to it over the Christmas period. One is never satisfied.

Despite all this keeping me off the rivers when they rose a few weeks back I can't say I've missed sitting out in the cold that hit us a week or so ago. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age. But I don't care!

If I don't post again before Christmas I hope you all (I assume there is more than one of you reads this rubbish) have a good one!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Another target achieved - by accident

With foul weather forecast for the weekend I took advantage of the mildest day of the week for a final attempt at catching a barbel this November. Despite the river being warmer than last week it was carrying less colour, but the afternoon was pleasant as was the evening until the rain set in and the wind picked up.

I'd picked up some maggots on the way to the river to see if I could catch myself a chub or two by design, and to try out the MkII quiver tip section for one of my Interceptors. The rod worked a treat and the glass tip was soon registering a bite. When the second bite came I was ready and hooked something small and wriggly.

One of the targets I had set for myself this season was to catch my first grayling. I hadn't expected to do it on the maggot feeder, but that was what was wriggling on the end of the line. Far from a specimen I suppose it's still another personal best!

Very pretty fish. Even so I was tempted to stick it back out on a set of trebles... If we get another cold spell I might dig out a float rod and have a serious try for some more - although I'll probably catch chub!

After dark the rain arrived, but only stayed for an hour or so. Conditions seemed pretty good, but by ten o'clock not a bite had I had. With more, and worse weather on its way I packed up. Sure enough I drove home through a wave of torrential rain. Sure was glad I missed sitting out in it.

Not a good month for some reason. I have lost touch with where the barbel are. Time to give last winter's haunts a bash to see if I can get another barbel before the year is out.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You gotta smile

After blanking on a trip squeezed in between building rods I sought solace in YouTube.

You can't feel miserable after watching that!

Friday, November 16, 2007

All work and no play...

Christmas looms, so I'm trying to get as much work done in time for the festive season (so I can be miserable and Scrooge-like). This means there'll be no fishing for me this week.

In case any of you give a toss here's a scan of an interview that Anglers Mail cobbled together with me last week. If you're having trouble with insomnia reading it might help...

I don't remember saying half of that...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Temperature's falling

For once the weathermen got it right, and I snatched a couple of days before the temperature dropped. Saturday afternoon saw me, pursued by frisky bullocks, heading for the bend I'd looked at last week. It was late on by the time I had done some depth finding with my Smartcast fish finder and scouted out the glide downstream of the bend. Certainly an area worth more attention, and it did look as pikey as I thought in my last blog post. In fact as I retrieved my 3oz gripper lead from my first exploratory cast to check the depth and feel the bottom make up a pike of four five pounds grabbed it! I'd thrown a few small curly shads and a wire trace in the rucksack in case I fancied trying for perch, but not wishing to miss an opportunity for what was obviously an easy pike I cut off the barbel rig and tied on the trace. After a dozen or so casts the lure got nailed, and after a surprisingly lively fight in the fast flow the fish was in the net.

Small but in good nick, apart from a chunk of its upper tail lobe being missing, it was my first pike by design for almost twelve months!

After returning the pike I put the barbel rods out. The air and water temps were encouraging, but the wind was strong and with more than a hint of the north in it, and a little rain. Definitely brolly weather. Not long before dark the upstream rod started tapping out it's chub message and a three pounder was landed. For whatever reason my heart wasn't in it and I packed up at seven to head for a more sheltered spot. The rain showers got heavier after I settled in to the new swim, but apart from an odd chubby rattle that was my lot. It was still a mild 11 degrees when I got in the sleeping bag at eleven.

The river was up a good few inches on last week and carrying more colour so I was confident of a fish or two early doors on the Sunday. But again they failed to materialise. The cloud cover had broken up and although the clearing sky brought sunshine it was still fairly cool. I jacked it in at eleven and decided to head for home. A few miles down the road I changed my mind and called in for a look somewhere else. It was sheltered from the wind, which was easing off anyway, and quite pleasant. More importantly the river looked to be quite well coloured. A quick bacon sandwich in the car park, to the envy of a couple of dog walkers, and I was off down the bank.

The swim I picked to start off in was a sure fire chub swim, a lovely crease with a good depth under the rod top, but I had caught a barbel from above the bush on the opposite side of the river a few months back so I knew they liked the area. Things looked good. I tried to fish a bait to the bush but there was a lot of weed coming downstream, some big clumps too, so both baits had to come in close. Pretty soon a chub came a knocking, but didn't hook itself. However I knew it wouldn't be long before it made the fatal error. Which it did in good style, really banging the rod tip. It was small. About a pound! But it saved a blank!

I made one more move before dark, but as the light faded and the air temperature started to fall I lost what little confidence I had left. I'd tried to make the best of the conditions before they took a turn for the worse as far as barbel are concerned, but failed. Accepting defeat I headed home watching the air temperature plummet from 4.5 to almost zero by the time I pulled off the motorway.

I can't see me fishing again for over a week now for various reasons. What I'll be fishing for next will be decided by the weather.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Where have all the barbel gone

My last trip of October resulted in one four pound chub. The water temperature was up on the previous session, but I had missed out on the river rising a bit during the week. That's my excuse. That or poor location. Fished four swims, two I hadn't fished before and learned a bit for the future. So not a total waste.

The same can be said of my first trip for November on a stretch I had been meaning to fish all autumn. Walking the length I found four cracking areas, all different in their own ways. Two look like they'd be worth fishing earlier in the season, but the others have slower flow and more depth. One looks particularly pikey.

The day started foggy but cleared and warmed up. The Trent was plenty warm enough and in the afternoon the chub were active. Only one was caught but I had feared the slower water might be full of the beggars. Just before dark the mist started to rise from the water and hover over the fields. This knocked my confidence as I can't remember catching anything when the river has been shrouded in mist. I fished on until six by which time the landmark I had picked out to use to cut across the field to the gate was invisible! Undeterred I set off to take the long route back following the edge of the river. I hadn't gone far when the mist started to clear and I managed to spot the landmark.

By the time I got to the gate the mist was all but gone, so I dropped in another swim intending to give it a few hours. After less than one the far bank had disappeared from view! So I wrapped up and started the a foggy journey home.

I thought I'd try out the video facility on my pocket digital camera. So here are the edited 'highlights' for your delectation!

Rubbish, innit?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Someone was catching

The river seemed lower than ever, and the water temp was down again. Hopes weren't high, but so long as there's a bait in the water there's a chance. One good thing was that the after-dark air temp stayed up and it was a pleasant evening. But I'm running ahead.

As I was settling in to the swim a kingfisher was active on the far bank. Perching in the willows and diving for fish with more success than I was to have.

With the low, clear water I opted to fish a small hookbait on one rod. In this case a piece of plastic maize. The bags of pellets were kept small, about walnut size, on both rods. Leaves weren't a problem, but there were clumps of weed coming down with the flow which made it difficult to hold a bait on the far side for long. Nonetheless, shortly after a recast the far bank rod top started tapping in the manner symptomatic of a chub that isn't going anywhere. I picked the rod up and struck, connecting with a fish of some sort, and a large lump of weed on the line. This lot then kited across to my side of the river. I could see the weed on the surface and what looked like a gaping chub mouth under the surface a few feet behind the weed. When everything got directly downstream of me the fish woke up. Turned. Slapped its tail on the surface and was gone.

I fished into darkness in that swim, then moved to another spot around seven thirty, where I remained biteless until midnight. The only thing of interest (if you can call it that) was a cow on the other side of the river staring at me for almost an hour. No, it wasn't interesting. But it was strangely unnerving.

Monday, October 22, 2007

From bad, to worse, to flappiness

Wednesday saw me snatching a few hours on a clear river with the air temperature dropping fast after dark. Hopes were not high. I blanked.

Sunday was another bright autumnal day, the Trent had a touch of colour but was still low. Apparently it had risen a foot in the week and dropped straight back down again. I settled on the dreaded burdock swim, and within forty minutes of casting out the expected rod pulled round and I connected with.... Nothing! On recasting I pulled a bit of line from the baitrunner and remembered that I had slackened it off while packing away on Wednesday. I have a horrible feeling that whatever made off with my bait had simply failed to get hooked against any pressure.

As the sun dropped in the sky it became noticeably cooler and I donned the trusty bunny suit. While it was still light the same rod lurched again. This time I felt the fish heading for the snag. then the line went slack. I'd lost the lot, and the lack of any pigtailing on the mono suggested it was not knot failure but a cut off.

Around five hours later, with my scarf pulled up over my nose and my eyes closed I heard something that sounded like a rod falling over and line being taken. Surprisingly it was the upstream rod that was lying on the deck. Connected to it was another 'flappy thing'. As with the last couple of five pound 'flappy things' it went back without a picture.

When I packed up at eleven the air temperature had dropped over ten degrees C from when I arrived to a positively wintry 4!

The most interesting aspect of the session was some strange noises coming from the margins. Three times after dark I heard very loud 'clooping' sounds from close to the bank. One that came from almost directly in front of me was accompanied by ripples. I'm pretty sure that fish were not responsible as the noise was very loud. Strange...

Monday, October 15, 2007

When you're on a roll

Sunday and I'm bored and with overnight frost predicted for later in the week I thought I'd get another session in while I could and while the barbel were feeding. Arriving at the river rather later than I had hoped I walked past an angler on the far bank, two rods out, sat in his comfy chair head buried in a book. I don't know how people can read books when they are fishing. Even when I'm bivvied up for a few days and the fishing is slow I can't concentrate on reading anything that requires my full attention for long periods. There's always too much to see going on around me. Mind you, I know a bloke who goes fishing and has no interest at all in wildlife. He reads books when he's waiting for a bite too...

I continued downstream to a spot I hadn't fished before ,and a boilie went in under the rod end where some overhanging grass provided cover over a clear patch before the streamer weed starts, and a pellet was cast beyond the streamer weed that extends to mid river and wound back to the weed. Then I sat down to bag up some pellets and tie some rigs before it went dark.

Within a few minutes the close in rod showed signs of chub activity. It was an overcast evening so I wasn't too surprised. I was in the middle of tying up a spare pellet rig when the rod arced over and the baitrunner buzzzed like an angry wasp. However, when I leaned into the fish it didn't feel like a barbel heading downstream, more a flappy thing on the end of the line. A bronze flanked chub was soon wallowing in the net.

I then got a premonition that the barbel weren't going to play, but the chub were. After dark I wound one rod in and spent an hour in a swim that I am sure will produce for me eventually. One day I will have to give it more time, or perhaps it needs more water in the river, but it is going to throw fish up. This time it didn't, so I moved to a swim that rarely fails me.

Almost straight away both rods showed chub rattles, and it wasn't long before the downstream rod rattled, and kept on rattling telling of a hooked chub. Another five pounder was quickly returned. Half an hour later there was a repeat performance. My premonition had been right. One more move, to the 'rat hole', to try and get a barbel.

I spent the final hour and a half of the session listening to the scurrying in the undergrowth with just one chub tremor and no fish to show for it.

Time was when to catch three five pound chub would have been a red letter day, but times have changed and such fish are fairly commonplace on many rivers. I didn't even photograph the second two fish. Maybe if I had caught them by design on 'chub tackle' I would have. But I'm not sure. Chub don't do a lot for me - except when they are about the size of my hand and I instantly think of pike for some reason...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hot and bothered

I got 'that feeling' again, and found myself loading the car with the barbel gear without realising what I was doing! I half hoped to find the river with some colour in it, but by the look of things it had risen a couple of inches and fallen back. It was as clear as it had been on Monday with willow leaves visible on the bottom in many places.

The plan had been to head for the length I'd fished on my last two trips but a slow moving truck making the right turn I take to get there decided me to head to the next bridge downstream. When I got there I thought I might as well have a walk and suss out the swims on the bank I had yet to fish on the upstream stretch. It was amazingly warm for early October, yet the damp vegetation had the tangy smell of autumn. Everything looked and felt right, so I went back for the tackle.

As usual the plan was to fish swims for half an hour, working back to the car. As usual that plan lasted for two swims then I settled in to the third for a bit longer while I had something to eat. Then a while longer as I listened to The News Quiz, then the Archers...

As Fallon was getting ready to declare her love for Ed the tip of my upstream boilie rod, positioned in a clear patch between the streamer weed downstream of a bush, pulled down in no uncertain fashion. I couldn't believe it, as I was sure the 10mm pellet fishing above the next trailing willow would have been the banker as it had already produced a bait-size chub.

As I leant into the fish I realised that I hadn't planned how to land a fish from this swim. I also discovered that it was darker than I'd thought and struggled to see where the fish was. After almost losing my footing altogether I managed to net the barbel and hoist it onto the bank. It was bigger than I'd first imagined. Spot on nine pounds. By the time it was returned I was just in time to catch Fallon being rejected by Ed and storming off in tears.

With one fish caught it was worth stopping a little longer. I wasn't able to see where the clear patch was now it was dark, so imagine my surprise when, less than half an hour later, the same rod indicated a few small taps and pulled down again. This felt odd. There was obviously a fish attached but it felt very heavy, and wasn't doing much in the way of pulling back. When it came into sight it was clear why. The lead was festooned with a huge lump of weed. This time the netting process was easier as I knew where to put my feet, but with it being such a warm night the midges were out in force and, attracted by the head torch I had put on, were flying up my nose and in my mouth. Another nine pounder.

I gave it a further hour and a half before moving. The next swim also had a downstream raft to fish to, but was open enough to allow a second bait to be cast out to the far bank bushes. Unfortunately it was too dark to see where I was casting, and having spent a few hours with a bait dangling in mid air a few weeks back I didn't want a repeat performance. So I just cast the pellet out about three quarters of the way across the river, the boilie going downstream to the raft.

The baits had been out about an hour when the raft rod pulled round. Unfortunately the fish fell off after a couple of lunges and I wound in some weed. I rebaited and checked the hook point. It needed touching up. Don't let anyone tell you that chemically sharpened hooks can't be honed back to sharpness. This one was better than it had been when fresh from the packet!

A further hour passed and I needed to relieve myself. No sooner had I turned away than I heard a baitrunner whirring. The same rod was away again, but this time the fish stayed attached and was easily netted, I'd planned things better in this swim! Rebait and recast. Earlier I had wound in the pellet rod only to find the hook buried in weed, the pellet gone and the loop it had been tied on with opened out. I dug out a nylon boilie rig, attached a boilie and a pellet, hooked on a bag of some new magic beans and chucked it out blindly.

It was getting late now so I started to tidy my gear away, removed my superfluous bunny suit so I wouldn't cook on the walk back to the car and then picked up the midstream rod to wind in. It felt like the rig was stuck in weed. Then the weed shook its head and set off downstream. Most peculiar. After a not particularly arduous fight I netted the fourth nine pounder of the session. A fish that had a tumour like growth on the lower lobe of its tail, but otherwise looked as fit as the other three fish.

Enough was enough. I packed away the other rod and set off back to the car. The water temperature had been 13 degrees C, and when I looked at the thermometer in the car the air temperature was still reading 15.5 degrees at midnight. No wonder I'd been working up a sweat every time I moved swims or landed a fish.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One rod good, two rods better

There are those who would try to tell you that a) you can't fish two rods effectively, and b) that the second rod will always be cast into the less likely spot and as such using two rods doesn't catch more fish than using one rod.

A prime example, two actually, of why this is cobblers happened last night. For one of the few times this season I was fishing a swim that enabled me to put two rods out. To start with the downstream rod fished a bait under a raft of rubbish on the near bank and the second rod went upstream and across to fish in front of an overhanging bush. After dark the far bank chuck, which was tricky in daylight, became impossible so that bait was dropped in closer, on the crease formed by a near-bank willow just upstream of me.

I'd have put money on the downstream rod producing, not least because I had put some feed in that spot while the upstream bait had just the one bag of mixed pellets. I'd have lost the bet because at quarter to nine the 10mm pellet on the upstream rod was taken. A good scrap ensued and a nice fish was netted. Before the bite came I'd been thinking to myself that it was quite amazing that I'd never caught a double on a pellet, and now I was pretty sure I had one lying in the net as I readied the sling, mat and scales.

I gave it an hour longer in the swim, one I'd had my eye on for a while but not previously fished before moving to the banker swim. Once there I put a boilie in the usually productive spot and the pellet went upstream in the main flow beyond a bush where I had never had a sniff before. After just half an hour the pellet was away, but this time everything went solid and I eventually pulled in a load of weed to find the pellet had twisted round on the hair and masked the hook point.

Two chances, both to the 'second string' rod and bait. So much for one rod being all you need.

The evening was warm, and turning misty - which I have never found to be a good thing when barbel fishing. So, at eleven thirty I packed up wondering if the pellet had scored because of it's size, the smaller hook being used or pure chance. I'm leaning towards the latter, but that won't stop me trying the 10mm pellets again next time!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Blue skies, clear water and a Trent hamster

It's October, the sun is shining, the postmen are on strike and I'm free to go fishing. Trouble is the rivers are low and as clear as tap water. Thursday saw me making a late start and not expecting anything until gone dark.

Sure enough nothing did happen in daylight. The river was all but deserted so I planned a bit of swim hopping and was contemplating a move at eight when the downstream rod top pulled round steadily and slowly. Most odd.

There was a fish on, but not doing anything. It continued doing nothing until it got under the rod end. I was hoping it would turn into a lump of a fish at this point but it didn't. What it did do was make one run straight into some trailing branches and get stuck. It then wallowed a few inches below the surface. Pulling on the line did no good, so I slackened off the Baitrunner and left it. The fish took some line which I then wound back on to the reel - and the fish back into the same place it had left. Stalemate. As my landing net wouldn't quite reach the fish I added the spare extension, but it still wasn't quite long enough to get the net under the fish. So I swatted at the branches with the net! While I was doing this I saw the isotope on the rod tip move to point downstream. The fish had come free! Even now it refused to fight and allowed itself to be slid over the net. No leviathan, but a welcome eight pounder under the circumstances.

I had hoped to get a full day in on Friday but again I got sidetracked and arrived at the tidal Trent early in the afternoon, hoping it might have more colour than everywhere else only to find it low, gin clear and with very little flow.

After a couple of hours driving around and walking the banks I decided to get the baits out. I might just as well have come straight home. Feeling decidedly un-hopeful, and having packed an empty gas bottle for my stove, I wrapped in early. I didn't like the company much either.

The postmen won't be back at work until Wednesday so I have a few more days to fill. If only the rivers had some colour in them. Still, if everyone else is staying away because it's a struggle I could be on for a big fish - if I can find one.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Autumn's here

There's a definite tang of autumn in the air, and for a change the leaves are turning colour before December! There'd been some rain over the weekend but I hadn't been able to get to the river owing to catching up with business following the PAC Convention. By the time I was able to get out the river had dropped a bit, and with the full moon I wasn't too confident. At least there was cloud cover which would keep the air temperature up after dark. There were also a few showers around, but nothing major. Even so it's time for a slight change of tactics.

The session started badly when my fifteen minute hike to my chosen area revealed that part of my low chair was missing. With nobody else on the stretch I left my tackle in the swim and retraced my steps - all the way back to the car where there was also no sign of the missing backrest. I eventually set up around five pm, and was planning to move at eight. Two minutes past eight the downstream rod jerked and the reel handle spun backwards. Some idiot had left the anti-reverse off! It was a barbel, but not a monster despite the change of tactics.

As the water temperature starts to fall in autumn I ease up on the freebies and add attractiveness to my hookbaits in the form of paste. The idea is to draw fish to the bait without feeding them too much. One way is to use the boilie sausage - two boilies on the hair with a 'doughnut' of paste wrapped around the hair between the boilies as per the photo.

Around eleven the cloud cover thinned and the moon shone with all it's brightness. Time to go home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Trouble comes in threes

This impromptu session was spurred on by getting 'that feeling', but it started off badly before I got two hundred yards from home. I'd rounded the corner out of the estate when I heard something scrape along the car's roof. Looking in the rear-view mirror I saw my bait tub smashed open and frozen boilies bouncing down the road. D'oh! That was number one.

The second attempt at the journey went swimmingly, I made good time until I was about five miles from the venue, and a mile or so from the usual turning I take from the dual carriageway, when traffic came to a standstill. I sneaked off at the junction before mine to find that where that road came to the usual exit roundabout traffic was being diverted off the dual carriageway and onto the A road to my chosen venue. The flow was slightly faster here until I came to the traffic lights leading through the village to the river where it was again snarled up. So I headed straight on, planning to double back over the next bridge and get to the stretch I intended fishing from that direction. All went well until I came within a hundred yards or so of the car park when the traffic was again crawling along. The journey had taken me almost an hour longer than it looked like it would when I was 'ten minutes' from the river. That was number two.

There's a definite change in the weather now, and even with the sun out the cool breeze demanded a fleece be worn once I was in my chosen swim. With the river really clear and low I wasn't surprised to have the stretch to myself. I settled down for a sandwich and a cup of tea while re-tackling and making up some small bags of pellets. I also threw a handful of pellets in the swim before wandering off for a look around. The plan was to fish three or four spots once it went dark. But in the meantime I cast two rods out, just in case.

Once night fell I moved to the furthest swim, baited with a few pellets, put a walnut sized bag of pellets on the hook and cast out. After an hour I moved to the swim I'd already baited, and repeated the process. To my surprise the rod wrapped round after twenty minutes, but after a few seconds the hook came free. And this was using mono - just one of those things. That was number three.

I rested the swim and went to throw some bait in the next one. On my return I put a second rod out to the far bank, this one fishing two 6mm plastic pellets. Having hooked one fish I thought I'd give the swim a bit longer, but two hours later nothing had happened apart from a couple of sharp taps. I picked up the far bank rod, turned the reel handle and felt a fish on. It wasn't pulling like a barbel and I suspected a chub, but it felt odd. To say I was surprised to see a skinny pike of about five pounds break surface is an understatement!

The final swim had produced nothing after an hour and a half, so I called it a night. But the session had proved what I already knew, even when the river is low and clear and the majority of anglers are leaving it alone fish can be caught - if the bloody hook stays in!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Full circle

Back in the early 1990s when I fished the River Dane on after work sessions with one or two of the staff of the tackle shop the tactic was to bait a few swims in the evening and fish them after dark. Apart from a few small chub and one small barbel my strongest memory is of fighting with a barbed wire fence that my landing net mesh got caught up in. So badly tangled was it that I ended up removing the arms of the net and leaving it. For all I know it's still there. Despite the less than ecstatic memories of this way of fishing I found a stretch of the Trent that looked good for it. Not least because there was no barbed wire in sight!

The plan was to put a few droppers of bait in above and below each overhanging bush, and near any other feature (like marginal rush beds) that appealed. With the bright sunny weather and low, clear water conditions still prevailing now seemed a good time to put the plan into operation. By eight o'clock the baiting was done so I took the tackle I wouldn't be needing back to the car and with the rest of it I then headed for the furthest upstream swim. My initial idea was to give each spot half an hour. The first three produced nothing, save an occasional rod top rattle. Settling into the fourth swim my confidence level rose and I gave it an hour before moving. The fifth swim really did look the part. The bush had a large fallen branch wedged in it providing and additional haven for fish, there was a small back eddy and immediately downstream a length of rush growth started with a reasonable depth in front of it. I'd give this spot longer.

I'd only had a bait out for half an hour when the rod top jagged sharply down twice before slamming right over. As the barbel had headed downstream and out away from the snags there was no need for strong arm tactics and I could enjoy the fight. It was another arm-acher, and when I laid the fish out on the bank I was sure it was a double. A really solid, muscular, golden scaled fish. The scales tried to convince me it was a nine and a half.

I wasn't expecting any more action for a while after that scrap in the shallow water, and with me tramping up and down the bank so close to where my bait was cast, so when half an hour later I saw the tell tale tap, tap, tapping of a chub on the rod tip I was a bit surprised. The size of the chub was also a bit of a surprise. It looked every inch a five pounder. This time the scales got it right, unless it was nearer six pounds than they read!

After an hour and a half or so in this swim I made my final move of the night. I was starting to get pretty sleepy by now, but the rod pulling right round and springing back woke me up, and on the next cast a couple of chub knocks were struck at and a fish hooked. It didn't feel like a chub, nor did it feel like a barbel, but it was. A small one of a couple of pounds or so. "Time for bed", said Zebeddee.

Saturday dawned misty and cool. When I got my head down at 2.30am the car thermometer read 9.5, by dawn it had dropped a further 2 degrees. After a brew I set off to investigate some stretches I hadn't seen before, and it was gone nine, sunny and warm, before I got a bait in the water. Lack of sleep drained my enthusiasm, as did an aching hip which also curtailed my eagerness to walk far with my gear. Even so I fished three swims before having another run round sussing spots out. Time was getting on, a banker swim seemed favourite for my final port of call, and despite a the presence of a couple of cars in the car park the burdock swim was free. Even though I fished well into dark it failed me this time. Definitely time to move on.

Although the day had been a blank in terms of fish caught I'd had a good look round and seen a few nice looking spots to try in the future. Not a complete waste of time. The forecast is for the weather to break this week. There might be colour in the rivers in a few days, but I can't see an opportunity to get out and take advantage of it. However, I'll try to make time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Time to move on

When you find a reliable spot it's difficult to stop yourself fishing it, especially when it offers a challenge. Nonetheless, I had decided to have a try with the lures for the perch I had spotted a while back during the afternoon before setting up for the barbel again.

Even though we are enjoying an Indian Summer and the sun was beating down at two in the afternoon I cast a small curly tail shad into the crease and let it settle into the slack. Immediately I started the retrieve it got hit and ejected. Then hit again, and again. As it came into sight onto the shelf I could see a group of five or six perch all trying to grab it. This was repeated for five consecutive casts, but try as I might I couldn't get a fish to stay hooked - if they were getting hooked at all. Then they faded away. I tried other jigs, and then a couple of crankbaits that did at least elicit follows from a couple of fish, one of which could have been a chub.

I wouldn't have gained anything by continuing in that spot so I headed downstream to my barbel swim, which I thought might also offer a chance of a perch with the tangle of snags, weed raft and slightly slower water close in. First cast with the curly tail and a perch followed it up, overtook it, came back and had another swipe at the lure off the top. Second cast it came in again, grabbed the lure, kicked around for a second and was gone. All these fish had been in the one to two pound range, and probably had never seen a lure before. I'll be giving them another try some time.

As four o'clock approached I broke out the barbel gear, droppered in some seeds and pellets, and slowly got set up. For a change I put a pellet out. I'd always considered pre-drilled pellets to be a bit of a gimmick but since trying them I have to admit that they are pretty handy things. Well worth the price of a kilo bag.

There was still a bit of heat in the sun when the rod pulled round shortly before six and a seven pounder was extracted after getting snagged up - possibly in weed. Half an hour later a more powerful fish found sanctuary and the hook pulled free. Still daylight on a low clear river and two fish hooked. A little more bait went in and I eagerly awaited sunset and the feeding frenzy that was sure to ensue.

The sky remained clear as darkness fell, and as a result the air temperature fell with it. I wound in and went back to the car for the bunny suit. By ten o'clock all that had happened were a few sharp chub bites. I still had not managed more than two bites in a session from this swim! Fifteen minutes later the rod slammed round and the baitrunner spun. This one was as powerful as the fish I had lost earlier, but stayed out of the snags, and felt really heavy as I pumped it upstream. When it came into view it wasn't as big as I'd expected, but still a decent fish. One problem when the air temp is low and the air still is that your breath condenses and forms a foggy cloud in front of your face that reflects the light from your head torch, making it difficult to see where the fish is as you try to net it. This meant I was quite grateful when the fish finally took pity on me and swam into the landing net and lay still!

Despite fishing on until the shipping forecast came on the radio that was my lot for the night. I think I'll be leaving that swim alone for a while and doing some more exploring. There's plenty of river still to look at.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Punning Clan

As I was attending the SAA AGM outside Loughborough on Sunday I thought I'd put a punning clan into operation and throw my barbel gear in the car so I could get a few hours in on the Trent on my way home. The idea being to fish until midnight, but being equipped with enought food and drink to do an overnighter.

The burdock swim was free and I wanted to give it another go. It also has the benefit of being sheltered from the strong wind that was still blowing. Not surprisingly the weather forecast was a bit out on its timings, and the band of rain that was supposed to clear the north Midlands by the afternoon arrived just after I got set up shortly after five and didn't clear until ten o'clock or so. With the river still clear I didn't expect any action until after dark, and sure enough it wasn't until eleven that I latched into a barbel. Unfortunately I didn't lose it to a hook pull, but through the hook length parting - I am assuming from rubbing against something as I yet again felt a grating sensation before the fish departed.

If I had landed that fish I would have called it a night, but I was determined not to be beaten - so I refilled the flask, donned the bunny suit and got back to work. Some four hours later I hooked another barbel, which immediately headed away from the snag. This one was safely netted, weighed and returned. Another nicely conditioned nine pounder. By now I was rather tired but decided to stick at it until dawn, then get my head down for a few hours before chancing the drive home.

An hour after returning the barbel I was in again. This time the fish came up and thrashed on the surface almost immediately, and when I caught sight of it in the light from my Petzl it was clear why. It was another bloomin' carp! This time a mirror of thirteen pounds odd.

By six in the morning I badly needed to get some shut eye. It didn't take long for me to drift off in the back of the car!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Trent Barbel Tour

Continuing my exploration of the Trent's upper reaches I started off on Thursday afternoon on a bend I hadn't seen before. There were plenty of potential fish holding features, nice changes in pace and small fish topping. Water level was down to summer level and running clear. Nonetheless, with a couple of hours of daylight left I decided that the deep water wasn't for me, to mark the area down for future reference, particularly flood water conditions, and move.

Half an hour later I was settling into the burdock peg. At least I felt the snag would offer me a chance of a fish. It wasn't until after dark that the opportunity came. At ten thirty the rod whacked round and something was kiting straight out into the flow after a brief attempt at getting under the tree. A nice eight pounder to start off with.

Fishing on until after midnight I had no further action but resolved to be up and at 'em in the same swim at first light. Sure enough I was, but the hoped for early action didn't happen. As the day got brighter my hopes started to fade when just after eight the rod slammed round and I was holding on while the fish made for the tree. Standing on the bank about six feet above the water level, with nettles and willows either side the rod was being pounded into the undergrowth. There's no option in this swim but to cling on until the rod tires the fish and forces it to head out and upstream. Then it happened, I felt a bit of a grating sensation and all went slack. The line hadn't parted, the hook had come free. This is the second time I've had that happen in this swim. I have a feeling that the brief contact of the line or lead with whatever it is down there is enough to somehow allow the fish to slip the hook. I apply just as much pressure to all the fish I hook, but only seem to suffer 'hook pulls' when there is some contact made with the line by an inanimate object.

By eleven I was getting the urge to move, so wound my rod in and went for a wander downstream. A swim had been opened up under some trees that looked promising, so I moved my gear into it. Deep water, maybe seven feet, close in with a gravel bed, shelving up towards the inside of the bend on the far bank. Trailing branches either side, and a shallow run downstream added to the attraction. Some small fish were topping so I decided to save a blank by putting out a maggot feeder. First chuck in and a chublet was caught, followed by three more before I decided I wasn't happy. It's another swim with potential for future sessions, though.

Part of the reason for my unhappiness was a near spectacles catastrophe. There had been some rain in the air so I'd erected my little roving brolly. Under the trees the main force of the strong wind was absorbed by the branches, so it had remained stable. I was having a look through my binoculars, which involves removing my specs, at an unusual landscape feature when a gust of wind flipped the brolly into the brambles and nettles behind me. This wouldn't normally cause me any concern. Except I'd put my glasses down on top of the umbrella. So there I was myopically struggling to locate the errant glasses in the undergrowth with a sense of mild panic setting in. I was just considering going back for the old pair that I always have in my car when my heart soared as I made out the blurred vision of my glasses under some nettle leaves. What a relief!

I was intending to go back to the burdock swim, but someone had dropped in and had caught a smallish barbel in the couple of hours I'd been away. Not to worry, plan B was the one I really wanted to put into operation anyway.

Within an hour I was a couple of miles downstream with two baits out in the swim I'd had four barbel from last week. With the level down I could see how shallow it was here and as the swim entails fishing close in I knew I would be waiting for darkness to have a chance of a barbel. Even so, during daylight a couple of chub hooked themselves which gave me some hope that the barbel would be along later.

Having only had four hours sleep I didn't intend fishing until too late, half ten would be my cut off point. To be honest the strong wind had been sapping my enthusiasm all day, and by ten I had had enough. The wind wasn't a problem from a technical point of view, and with my bunny suit on I was comfortable enough, but there's something about a continual strong wind that seems to drain my energy and enthusiasm.

Anyway, I'd got my rucksack packed, emptied the maggot box and the remains of my hemp/groats mix, and taken off the bunny suit when the downstream rod did its see-saw imitation on the rod rest with the Baitrunner grudgingly giving line. There was a dead weight on the line when I bent into the fish and I wasn't sure if it had picked up some debris from the weed and flotsam raft I had positioned the bait near. As I pumped the weight upstream it headed out into the flow, then I drew it towards the slack water in front of me almost convinced it was another c*rp. It then powered back out again and turned upstream just below the surface with its dorsal cutting through the water in the light from my head torch. A barbel, no mistake, and what a scrapper! In such shallow water, less than three feet I'd say, when a fish decides to go it has to go away from you, which always makes the fight feel more spectacular.

When I eventually I got it in the net it looked a short but solid fish. Definitely one to weigh. I thought it might have made eleven, but I'm not to a few ounces.

At the start of the season one of my aims was to catch an August double, and with less than three hours of the month left I'd caught my second. I headed for home a happy man eager to return for more.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Almost Autumn

For some unknown reason I ventured forth last Sunday afternoon to fish a river that was as clear as I expected it to be, and the only activity between dusk and midnight was from rats running around my feet. But despite the weather continuing hot and bright I just had to get out on Wednesday, and decided to fish Thursday too. Quite what drove me on I'm not sure, but it was one of those things where I get my gear ready almost in a daze, and there's no stopping me. It was a good moon phase too - first quarter. While I am confident I can catch barbel any day, the fishing around the first and last quarters of the moon might just be a little easier. If I get 'that feeling' and the moon phase is right, I have to go for it.

The Trent seemed to be carrying a touch of colour, enough to give me confidence in daylight, but it was gone five in the evening, with the sun beating down, before I got some feed out and a bait in the water, in the swim that had considered too swirly last time I was down there.

Within half an hour I had my first fish on the bank, a hard scrapping nine pounder. The next time the rod tried to leap off the rest the culprit proved to be a chub of around three pounds, followed by a bream a little larger not long after. All the action was coming to the downstream rod fished just off an overhanging willow, although the upstream bait was positioned on a nice crease it remained untouched.

Around seven the boilie was away again and a barbel of four or five pounds was soon being unhooked in the margins. Three quarters of an hour later I was weighing an eight pounder, but by now the sky had clouded over and the strong northerly wind was making it feel a lot colder than it really was. By nine o'clock I was considering packing up, but erected the brolly instead. With the wind deflected it became bearable and I stuck it out netting a seven pounder at half-nine. At 10.30 I decided I'd had enough and headed or a secluded spot to get my head down in the back of the car.

Although it's not quite the end of August the berries have been on the hawthorn for a while now, and some leaves are starting to turn despite the lack of a midsummer heatwave. When I got up shortly after dawn there was a definite hint of autumn in the air. I boiled up the kettle to refill my flask, ate a Mars bar to give me some energy and was fishing by six in the burdock swim.

Amazingly, only thirty minutes after putting in a mix of hemp, pigeon conditioner, sweetcorn and pellets the boilie on the downstream rod was away and I was hanging on to something that was taking line. I knew I had no option but to clamp down because of the fallen willow. There was a grating sensation then the line went slack. I was convinced the line had parted, but it hadn't. The fish had just come adrift. I checked the hooklink and replaced the damaged upper section. I use a two part hooklink with a swivel a few inches from the hook for this reason - among others. A bit more feed went in and a fresh bait was cast out.

I was not over confident of any immediate action, and sat back to watch the sun rising in the sky warming the day up before the wind from yesterday returned. At five past eight history repeated itself, and on autopilot I found myself standing up holding on to a rod bent right round to its full curve while a barbel took line from the reel. This time the fish kited out into the river away from danger so I was able to ease up on it a bit, and after a bit of a tussle it was resting in the folds of the net's mesh. I took some comfort from the fact that it didn't look huge, as it had fought with the same power as the one I'd lost earlier, meaning I hadn't lost a biggie.

Lifting it up the bank in the net it felt, and looked bigger than I'd first imagined, and the needle went past the ten pound mark on the dial of the scales. Had I missed out on a brace of doubles? Not to worry, it still meant that I had achieved one of my targets for the season, an August double - the one remaining month of the season I had failed to catch a barbel of that weight.

I had a few options open to me now. Stay in the burdock swim until after dark, which might produce but could prove tedious and would teach me nothing about the river, or go look elsewhere. I decided on plan B. Packing the gear away at noon, by which time the wind had picked up again, I went back to the car, made a fresh flask of tea and had something hot for lunch before driving off to look for a new swim.

To be honest I almost went back to the burdock swim as what I found was not all that promising, but I set up above a weed raft and soon started getting a few chub knocks. However, I wasn't happy, and after a while moved below the tree and fished the crease downstream. Albeit with little confidence. Why Trent chub imitate barbel bites and Ribble chub rarely do I haven't a clue, but for a brief moment just before five thirty I thought I had hooked a small barbel. This turned out to be a chub of 4lb 11oz. I also caught a couple more chub on the boilie rod, one of which might have made six ounces, and the other maybe half that again! Come nine o'clock I'd had enough. The swim had no barbel magic and I decided I might as well head home and get a reasonably early night.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The horror. The shame.

The forecast had been for rain early, clearing in the afternoon, and I set off for the Trent as the morning showers subsided. Travelling south I passed through a few brief showers, but the sun was soon burning down on dry roads. On arriving I could see the river was up, but not quite as much as I had hoped, maybe a foot, but it was carrying a decent amount of colour. However, it was still high enough to make my first choice swim look a bit too pacey. Going further downstream a swim that had looked a bit dull and uninviting on Sunday now seemed perfect. So I put half a dozen droppers of chilli hemp, garlic luncheon meat and pellets downstream on the crease where it passed some trailing willow branches. Then I sat back debating whether to remove my sweatshirt or not as it was getting pretty warm.

The trouble with reviewing bait is there's no real way of knowing if it makes any difference. But at least I had now thrown all the hemp away and only had two more cans of meat to get rid of! A boilie went upstream on the edge of the crease, and a large piece of meat went on the feed. The plan was to give the swim an hour or two, then move.

I was rebaiting the boilie rod after half an hour when the other one lurched sideways, swivelling on the rod rest, and the line went slack. Drat. I put this down to an over ambitious chub and carried on with the task in hand, from which I was disturbed by the sound of a baitrunner. Maybe there was something in this hemp and meat after all? Unfortunately I failed to hook the fish, I think because the hook was tangled - it certainly was when I wound in. This incident decided me to stick it out. There had to be more fish around, and dusk would be a prime time in a swim like this.

Not long after sorting out the meat rod my musings about removing clothing were decided for me. The sun disappeared, the temperature dropped and rain began to fall. Then it poured down!

The thunder that accompanied this downpour was some of the loudest, and closest, I have ever heard! I was sure a fish would take and force me out from the shelter, such as it was, of my brolly. But it was not to be. It was not to be for some hours that a fish showed any more interest. The rain stopped, the sun shone again and the rest of the afternoon was lovely. I took the opportunity to have a wander round, but nowhere else took my fancy. I'd stick it where I was until after dark.

Around four o'clock the river began to drop. Not quickly, but the nature of the swim was changing. If the level had been falling faster I would have moved, but things were borderline. Eventually the boilie rod, which had been swapped to fish by the willow, was away. I hauled into the fish as the line was going under the branches. It headed out into the river and rolled. Oh, no! It wasn't a barbel...

Whoever said that carp, river carp even, fight harder than barbel (pound for pound) must have been an idiot. I've had a few on barbel tackle now, to fifteen pounds odd, and not one of them has been a match for an eight pound barbel.

That c**p knocked my confidence a bit, the barbely feeling the swim had exuded initially had gone, and it wasn't long before I packed up.

Monday, August 13, 2007

More fishers than anglers

Another exploratory trip to the Trent yesterday. Had a look at a couple of stretches, but didn't find a swim I really, really fancied - although I have lined some up for when the river is in flood. Saw two other anglers, but there were plenty of others out fishing.

Walking along one shallow length I spooked a pair of egrets from a sandbank, later seeing a kingfsher and a mink in a wooded stretch, herons were everywhere. Then at dusk, after I had settled into a swim that was deepish close in, I noticed something moving along the far bank margins. From the sound being made I thought it was a couple of duck I'd seen earlier, but when I got the binoculars trained on it I saw an otter. The first one I have seen in England. I managed to grab a quick snap, but the shutter delay meant the animal had moved by the time the photo was taken, and the low light made for a lot of camera shake. You can just about tell what it is in the 'Sasquatch' type photo!

I started getting chub knocks as the light faded, all on the downstream rod fishing shallower water near a willow, but nothing positive. Then after dark I saw a shooting star - always a good omen. It was then I got a chub rattle that didn't stop, and a small fish was being wound in. Then it fell off!

You can't win them all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Barbel and burdock

I just had to get away from working yesterday. So I loaded up the gear and decided to go check out the upper Trent for a change. It would have been easy to have dropped in the first spot I looked at as it was quite appealing, the second stretch had a couple of even better looking spots but after a while sussing the third length one swim simply had to be fished. Best of all the swim was tucked away in some undergrowth.

Out went a few droppers of Dynamite Frenzied Chilli Hemp (which I was using as I am supposed to be writing a review of it) and some more of mixed pellets.

The dropper rod in the photo is a fairly stiff six foot thing I knocked up specially for the job (built on a prototype lure blank that wasn't quite right) and the reel a robust Shimano with a decent grip on the handle for cranking the biggest dropper back against the flow.

After putting the obligatory boilie and bag of pellets downstream above the overhanging willow I rigged up a second rod with a maggot feeder to fish upstream for a change. Who says I'm not versatile? A size ten Kamasan Animal tied to 20lb braid and crammed with half a dozen maggots being the subtle end rig. On the second cast I had my first upper Trent barbel in my hand.

I hadn't blanked, and I'd caught a barbel! The maggots were getting plenty of attention and if I'd fished more appropriately for them I reckon a decent bag of chub and dace, and maybe more baby barbel, could have been put together. As it was a chublet and a dace managed to get hooked.

When the heat started to go from the sun I swapped the feeder rig over to a straight leger with an 11mm Sonu S-Pellet (also free) on the hair. These pellets have a good oil leakage, are easily hair rigged, but are prone to disappearing from the hook - either for no apparent reason, or because they have been nibbled away by small fish. However I do like the smaller ones for adding to my bags of pellets that go on the hook and would buy them for that purpose if I had to. About a third or a quarter of the bag's contents being S-Pellets and the rest hard pellets. In fact they are the 'magic beans' I was using in PVA bags when I was tench fishing in the spring! Anyway, it wasn't long before something headed downstream with my S-Pellet. A barbel of four or five pounds, actually. But still the downstream rod tip, in the prime spot, remained inactive apart from indicating odd bits of weed and debris brushing the line.

After dark, when the tip stopped being inactive there was no mistaking it. The rod lurched over, the bankstick fell sideways and the Baitrunner screeched! Assuming this was the result of a barbel making off with my boilie I picked up the rod and leaned into the culprit. A short but hectic fight saw a decent fish dive into my waiting net. Leaving the fish there in the water I set up the camera, got the sling and scales ready and then lifted it ashore. Not a double, but a nice fish for a first session on a stretch nonetheless.

The burdock reference? That's the plant that forms my leafy halo!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Review - Owner C-4 (Aya) hooks

It's not often I review products that I sell, but as the C-4 Owners are my first choice for barbel fishing I can't really review any others! I use them in sizes 8 through 2, selecting the hook size to suit the bait. 2s are used for 21mm pellets and double 14mm boilies, 4s for one and a half boilies, 6s for single boilies and 15mm pellets, and 8s for single 10mm pellets.

What I like about the C-4 is the shape. When I tried hooks where the shank curves round more, supposedly a good shape for use with hair rigs, I found that too many fish barbel were dropping off. My thinking is that the point was only getting a shallow hold because of the angle of the point relative to the shank, and tearing out. I prefer the wider gape, and the slightly in turned point does seem to resist damage from hard river beds.

Apart from the overall shape, I like the fact that they are a strong hook. I am of the opinion that you should fish as heavy as you can get away with, so I prefer to use hooks that are thick in the wire which I can't open out when playing fish. However, using 30lb braid I can still open out a size 2 C-4 when it finds its way into a snag.

I also happen to think that hooks with thick wire are less likely to cut their way out of a fish, making them less likely to damage a fish's mouth during the fight, and with the micro barb doing no more damage than a fine wire hook when being removed by the angler.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getting away from the crowds

A few days after the session last blogged I had another go on the stretch I had blanked on, picking a swim that I fancied which had been occupied the first time. The level was down a bit, although still up and slightly coloured. One nice thing about the swim was the nice flat ledge to jump down on to should I need to net a fish. Pellets and hemp were loose fed and droppered above the overhanging bush and a bait swung out into position and I sat back to wait.

The usual knocks were had, but by dark nothing positive had happened. I had my radio in the top pocket of my fleece, and an earpiece in one ear to keep me awake. But just after eleven the old eyelids drooped. Almost immediately they shut the Baitrunner stirred me from my torpor and I was bent into a fish that was determined to get under the downstream bush. I leapt nimbly onto the little ledge, landing with a surprising splash. The level had risen about five inches and I hadn't noticed!

The fish was soon landed, a rather lean nine pounder, and quickly returned. The strange thing was that although I had the earpiece in and the radio on as I played the fish, I didn't notice! Goes to show how focused you get in the heat of the moment. Having got in a bit of a tangle with the hawthorn I was sat under as I brought the fish and rod up the bank I called it a day.

The weekend saw a change in the weather and summer finally arrived. I had to get another session in before the river got low and clear. My first chance was yesterday, and it was a scorcher (compared to what has passed for summer so far at any rate). I decided to seek out some of the other access points first, and maybe fish a different stretch. This proved easier said than done. After an hour of being stuck behind a flock of sheep being herded by a man on a bicycle, driving down farm tracks that seemed to lead nowhere, and going round in circles without even seeing the river I gave up and headed back to the length where I had caught my last fish.

In my head there were three swims I wanted to try, but my timing was out by minutes and they were all occupied by anglers starting to tackle up. Dumping my gear behind one of them I went for a look around. One swim looked fairly promising, a nice crease close in, so I moved my gear into it and threw in a few handfuls of pellets. But I wasn't over confident. My itchy feet took me off downstream and eventually I found four nice looking swims well away from the popular pegs. One in particular was especially inviting. A gap between two bushes at the tail of a shallow run with a crease on the near bank with deeper water under the rod end.

Despite the heat and the fact that I had walked up and down half the stretch twice I went back to gather my tackle and make the move. I had a fair old sweat on by the time I made it, so after feeding a few pellets into the first two swims I settled back for a drink and a rest. Slowly I got tackled up, retying the mainline knot and putting on fresh bait. More loose pellets plus a few droppers of hemp and pellets went into both swims before I put a bait out with a nice bag of assorted pellets on the hook. I know that a lot of people swear by tight baiting patterns, but I'm not so sure. Maybe if your casting is accurate enough to drop the hookbait right on the money. However, I like to think that a controlled scatter-gun approach to baiting has some merit in that it might get fish moving around more. That's my excuse anyway... By now it was almost five pm. Time for food and a brew.

I was sat on the top of the bank soaking up the sun slowly dehydrating, screened from the water by nettles and balsam, with a cut out ledge above the water level. Odd knocks, raps and taps were showing on the rod top. Some being those savage chub pulls that make you think are the start of a barbel bite, one or two being definite liners. Something was down there in the slacker water on the inside of the crease. I'd been baiting close in, with the rig directly in front of me, as the downstream willow had submerged branches and roots in evidence. The plan was to draw fish upstream and keep them out of trouble when they bolted back with the flow.

Just after seven as the heat was going out of the sun the rod top stabbed sharply down twice and sprang back then slammed over and stayed there. I had hold of the rod before the Baitrunner came alive and hung on. Then it all went solid and that horrible grating sensation could be felt through the rod. It was in the willow. I tried all the usual tricks, changing the angle of pull, feeding slack line. Leaving the Baitrunner on very slack while I had a cup of tea. All to no avail. Eventually it became clear that the fish had gone, feeding slack line only resulting in slack line, and I had no option but to pull for a break.

More in hope than expectation I fed more pellets, then sat down to get tackled back up. The shredded line was stripped off, about six yards of it, and a fresh rig set up. The hooklength hadn't seen water since last March, so I touched up the hook point with a diamond file before baiting up, attaching a PVA bag of pellets, and casting back out. Amazingly I got movement on the tip almost immediately. In fact it was hardly still for a minute!

As I sat watching the rod I got to thinking how that fish had found the snag as I hadn't given it more than a few inches of line. Then it dawned on me that the act of stepping forward and down onto the ledge must have allowed it to drift down and kite into the bank on the tight line. If I got another take I'd adopt a different strategy. Haul into the fish from the top of the bank until I had it in front of me then, and only then, would I move towards the ledge. Within half an hour the plan was in operation as I gave another fish some serious stick. The plan worked and it came kicking and (figuratively) screaming over the net. Phew! A lean fish that went over ten, but what a dorsal. I've never seen one like it, like an enormous great sail it was!

After returning the fish the swim went quiet. The taps and raps all but dried up. Then out of the blue an hour or so after dark the rod slammed over again. This one came in easily enough as it was only a baby. Time to get back to the car, drain the remains of my flask and hit the road. It was nice to catch a couple from a swim away from, and out of sight of, the crowds.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Technology in the wrong hands

It's taking a bit of getting used to, fishing swims for a short time then moving. I'll get used to it eventually. Mind you, I'd have thought I'd have got used to taking photos of myself with fish by now, but I still manage to make some basic mistakes...

Always pop the flash up when taking pictures in the dark! Obviously I spotted the non-glaring error and corrected it for the next shot. Even so, playing with the image this morning demonstrates how much more can be salvaged from a digital underexposure than one on film.

Not the biggest barbel, but another baby-step on a new venue.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pastures new

At least I know that there are barbel where I have started fishing, and not a population of red herings. The river was a couple of feet up when I first set eyes on it, which actually made it easy to read as all I had to do was look for slower water at the tail of a nearside eddy and drop a bait in the right place. For a change this summer the sun also shone, so the insect life was plentiful, and when they weren't eating each other they were trying to eat me.

The first spot really looked the business, and I'm sure that had I stopped in it until dark I would have had barbel. However, that wouldn't speed the learning process, so a move was called for.

In the third swim back to the car park I decided to fish it for a little longer - partly because of the thunderstorm and accompanying rain shower. Although I was fishing right under the rod tip the first bite was a sort of slack liner that went nowhere. It was intuition that made me pick the rod up, it just 'looked' like a bite rather than more weed. On tightening down there was a weight, one that suddenly flew off downstream!

By no means the biggest fish in the river, but the first hurdle on tackling the new venue had been cleared - a fish on the bank. Shortly after dark the rod pulled down in a slightly more decisive manner and another fish of a similar size was landed.

As I was travelling light with one rod I had chosen to give the new rod a try out for barbel. As I suspected, it wasn't my kind of barbel rod as it didn't give me the control I have come to appreciate from the Chimera 3 - not even over the smallish fish I caught!

For the second session I headed for another stretch, armed with the heavier rods. Again the sun was shining, and the river still up and coloured. Although I managed a few abortive chub bites no barbel showed any interest. Not a wasted trip though as I had a good look along the length. Slowly the picture will come into focus.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Review - Daiwa Infinity Duo

Although I prefer using braid for some of my fishing there are situations where I don't think it gives any real advantage over nylon mono. For stillwater legering I am more than happy to use mono, for example. In the past I have used Sylcast, Berkley Big Game and Daiwa Sensor with confidence. All cheap and reliable, but also all a bit on the 'wiry' side. Using braid a lot does let you see the benefit of a limp line's handling properties.

When a customer brought a rigged up rod along for me to look at with regard a rebuild I noticed the line on his reel was a nice pale green colour and very limp. It was Infinity Duo, which actually has a two tone green/black effect to it. At the first opportunity I bought a spool of the same diameter as the Sensor I had been using for tench fishing last year - 0.31mm.

I know I keep harping on about buying line by diameter, but Duo is IGFA rated - which means it is guaranteed to break at less than the breaking strain stated on the spool. This means that the 0.31 is rated at 14lb compared to 0.31 Sensor which is rated at 10lb. IGFA rated lines will not break above that strain stated on the spool, whereas other lines might do.

After a couple of sessions I decided to re-spool with the next diameter down, 0.285mm rated at 12lb. Still plenty strong enough for tench and bream, but more supple still owing to the finer diameter compared to the 0.33mm line.

Despite having seen reports that Duo is prone to line twist I really cannot say that it has been any worse than any other mono I have used. There may be some truth in the story that line twist in Duo appears worse than other lines because of its split colouring making the twist more visually obvious. In practice I haven't had as many problems with line wrapping round rod tips or curling up on itself when allowed to go slack as I had with Sensor in the past.

In use I have found Duo to be easy to knot, to cast well off the spool and, although not used in the most testing of environments, to be reasonably abrasion resistant having stood up to fishing in weedy tench swims. Not as cheap as Sensor, but a nicer line to use, and reliable.

PS - 23/08/08
While this line in the 0.285mm didn't let me down in 2007 I have experienced some unexplained knot failures in 2008 with the 0.26mm which I had been using for tench fishing with no problems (landing some nice fish). Out of the blue I lost two fish on the stuff while applying very little pressure. Spooling up with the 0.285mm I had no further problems. It has been known for some lines to suddenly become unreliable, maybe Duo is one of them. Or possibly more line needs cutting back at the start of each session than I had been doing.

PPS - 22/03/09
I have since heard of other people having similar unexplained failures with this line. Fine when new, but untrustworthy after some use.

Friday, July 13, 2007

One last try

Despite the barbel bug biting I had a new blank I wanted to try out for casting method feeders. I also got the impression the tench hadn't spawned the last time I fished for them and there would be a slim chance that, given the weather since then, they might still be carrying spawn. So it was that I got my work for the week out of the way and was getting down to sorting the gear out for a final tench session when the phone rang. It was an invite back to the gravel pit to try for the bream, doubles had been coming out hand over fist. Why not? The gear would be the same, I'd still get a chance to try the new blank out and even though the tench would have spawned on the pit an eight or two might be on the cards.

The carp fishing had been slow by all accounts and I got the pick of the swims - so I settled in on the gravel bar that had been producing the bream. A few casts with the plumbing rod soon found the bar, but there were large patches of bubbles coming to the right of the bar in what felt like a weed free area. One rod on the bar, one where the bubbles were rising. As I was targeting the bream I'd added some Vitalin and brown crumb to my hemp/molases meal/pellet/pv1 mix, saving some back for catapulting out in balls.

It didn't take long before the indicator on the new rod cast to the bar was telling the line bite tale. I knew I'd get a fish when the stars came out. Sure enough around ten thirty the left hand, bar rod, indicator rose and held steady. The typical dead weight and occasional thump confirmed the presence of a bream on the end of the line. It was a dead ringer (bar two ounces) for the two I caught last time, again picking up the trusty double plastic corn bait.

I didn't get much sleep as liners kept the bobbins moving at regular intervals but didn't get another fish. As it came light I switched the method rod on the bar to a maggot feeder/fake caster rig which produced a surprisingly plump tench just after eight am. They hadn't spawned. July 11th and the tench hadn't spawned. Most odd. But I wasn't complaining when a bigger one, proving to be a new personal best, and the next step on the big tench ladder climbed, took the corn fished off the bar. It's not often that a new rod proves lucky, but this one did just what I wanted it to - cast method balls well, and play big fish nicely. Although the tip is stiffer than the Torrixes I have been using all spring, and so casts heavy method balls better, the playing action comes further down the blank with no hint of lock-up.

Despite a few tench rolling and tail-slapping no more were caught during the day, although three more bream came along followed by another at half eleven. A fake pop-up pellet on a method rig produced one of them, the others all taking corn. The rest of the night was quiet and I got a few hours kip. The following morning produced another three bream, to the corn, before I packed up and headed for the water I had been concentrating most of my efforts on this spring/summer. It had been a successful session, eight bream (six over ten pounds), and a couple of tench. Just as well given what was to follow...

On arrival the water looked a picture, yet it was all but devoid of anglers. Just one was fishing despite it being a Thursday. A month ago would have seen it a struggle to find a free swim between Wednesday afternoon and Sunday evening. This meant that I could set up where I'd succeeded a fortnight ago. This time I got more than a few hours undisturbed sleep... The opening of the rivers and the way the water had been fishing had combined to create an exodus to pastures new, and that's where I'll be heading next time!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wild goose season

I'm beginning to think the fish I have been trying to catch since the last blog are red and herring shaped.

However, I have had the place to myself with hares springing up from under my feet as I trek to the swims, curlews flying low overhead as I tuck myself away in the Himalayan balsam - and friendly rats scurrying around in the undergrowth at dusk.

They say "there's more to fishing than catching fish".

What a load of old tosh. I'm going somewhere else next time!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Review - Reflo Powerline

To fill in the gaps between fishing session reports (which may become a bit thin on the ground for a while) I thought I'd start reviewing tackle and other stuff that I've been impressed with. So here goes.

I was first told about Reflo Powerline from Preston Innovations last year when I was tench fishing, but didn't get round to trying it out for myself. That was why I used it for the first time during my brief perch fishing campaign and liked it. Since then I have been using it for tench and bream and been well suited with it.

It knots well with the knotless knot, four turn Uni-knot and even with a figure of eight loop (which is the knot I use for making up hooklinks when the length needs to be carefully controlled). What I like about Reflo Powerline is that it is clear and limp. Frankly I don't know what all the fuss is about fluorocarbons - I can't see Reflo any easier than fluoros when I drop a rig in the margins, so given its ease of use and reliability I'll be sticking with it.

For the perch I used it in 0.15mm for worm and maggot fishing, in the 0.19mm for fake casters on a #16 hook for tench and the 0.21mm for tench and bream with a #14 or larger. It's a pity it isn't available in thicker gauges still as I would be tempted to try it for barbel if it was.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Barbel Time

Playing with a new mould I knocked up some big feeders for the Trent recently, and decided to put an article about DIY Swimfeeders together for Barbel Now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Make your mind up

I'd been debating whether to have another tench session for most of the week, mainly because the weather forecast was for rain, more rain, and a little more rain. I put it off until the forecast had worsened then decided to go anyway. As I arrived on the Sunday afternoon conditions were grand, light wind from the south west, sunshine and warm. I pretty much had the choice of swims and headed for the shallows, even though the the track was a bit slippy and the car didn't always go the way it was supposed to. While setting the rods up a few spots of drizzle fell so up went the brolly, but the shower soon passed and two method feeders were out and a boilie rig with a bag of pellets - all at staggered ranges. The dreaded maggot feeder having been abandoned.

Things looked good, and a couple of fish rolled. As so often has been the case, conditions that appeared perfect failed to result in any fish. After dark it started to rain, as per the forecast but not as heavy as expected. During the night the wind swung round forcing me to reposition the brolly twice. Apart from hooking a small bream which fell off close in those were the only disturbances during the night. The morning dawned dry, but the wind decided to swing round yet again, and blow straight into the brolly, so I had to turn it round again. Soon after more rain came along.

The first fish of the day came around 6.30, a bream of five or six pounds that fell to the method rod fishing a 10mm boilie with a grain of fake corn.

A little over an hour later a proper run to the other method rod with the two grains of corn resulted in a tench of just under eight pounds. Result. Both method rods soon had corn on them.

The rain faded away and the day turned out warm when the sun broke through the constantly changing cloudscape. Meanwhile on the radio I was hearing tales of serious flooding in other parts of the country. It seemed unbelievable with the weather I was experiencing as I reeled in a succession of bream in the three to five pound range. You can only take so many small bream, so I started to drop the second feeder a bit closer in, which did the trick of avoiding the bream.

Late in the afternoon the wind swung round yet again. Would it never make up its mind and settle into coming from one direction? With the brolly moved, I settled down to make something to eat. The wind strengthened, forming white caps on the waves. I have found that this kind of a blow has often brought the tench on the feed, and as I finished off a tin of Irish stew a tench decided it fancied two 10mm boilies for its tea. Fighting a big six with the rod, and the wind with the landing net was quite a tricky job. But I managed it. Forty minutes later the boilie rod was away again, this turned out to be fantastic looking big seven - the pictures failing to do it justice.

I was expecting another tench at any moment, but a small bream to one of the method rods was the final fish before the heavens opened - and the wind changed up a gear. By now the alarms were bleeping all the time, the rods arced round, and when I wound one rod in the line was festooned with weed. It was starting to get silly. The rigs wouldn't be fishing effectively, and the weed gathering on the line would have posed problems had a fish been hooked.

When the brolly tried to change shape it was decision time again. During the day the track had dried out nicely and would have been easy to drive down, but the rain over the last couple of hours had turned it to slime again. Option one: wind the rods in, batten down the hatches, sleep through the storm and fish again in the morning when it had all calmed down. Option two: pack up immediately and make a run for it - keeping fingers and toes crossed that the car wouldn't get bogged down.

Deciding that I was supposed to be enjoying myself I hastily, and roughly, packed the gear away as the rain lashed down, slinging the gear in the back of the car anywhere it would fit. Now for the fun bit - don't stop the forward motion once the car is moving! It started off easily enough on firm ground, then came the rutted dip. Down into it was easy, then the wheels began to spin faster than they were moving forward. Slowly the car came up the other side, painfully made progress up the next slope, then it was downhill all the way. So long as I didn't collide with a sheep I'd made it!

Was I relieved to make it to the gate? You bet! I guess I should have been more decisive earlier in the week and fished sooner to avoid the bad weather I knew was due. But hey ho, it had worked out okay in the end. Now, shall I have another crack at the tench or start barbel fishing? I'm not sure...