Friday, March 30, 2007

Doomed to failure?

I was a bit under prepared for my first perch session. So when I decided not to rest on my laurels and have another go, with a more considered approach, I was convinced that my efforts would go unrewarded.

The plan was to fish red maggots in a feeder, with lob worm on the hook. I had used the feeder tactic to good effect many years ago when fishing small deadbaits for perch so thought it might work. I started out with one rod on the feeder and another on the float, but when the feeder produced a fish early on I soon put a second feeder rod out. It was no trouble getting bites, but hooking them was another matter. The morning saw two fish landed, and about a dozen good bites missed. Hitting the initial twitch of the bobbin didn't work, and letting it hit the butt ring simply saw it falling straight back.

As has often been the case when perch fishing bites would come at intervals. A flurry of activity lasting ten or fifteen minutes would be followed by up to an hour of nothing. A fine example of this was when a mate phoned me up during a lull. As I moaned about my frustration one of the bobbins dropped back sharply and I connected with a fish - as I hastily rang off and threw the phone on the grass! No sooner had I recast than I hooked a decent fish on the other rod, which dropped off half way back. Almost immediately that bait was cast out again it was taken and a two pounder landed. Then it went dead.

Another hectic period in the middle of the afternoon saw the perch pulling the line from my fingers as I tried to set the bobbin, or taking the indicator right up and banging the rod tip - all resulting in hooked fish! As the day drew on their behaviour reverted to that of the morning with me tearing my hair out at unmissable bites that I missed.

At one point I tried a bunch of red maggots popped up with a bit of red rig foam. One fish of a pound or so was caught, but the worm rod was getting more action. So I gave the idea up, despite the fact the perch were eating the maggots as one coughed a few up in the landing net.

The final tally for the day was ten perch - although I must have had three times that many bites. With two of the fish going over three pounds I'd had a good day.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The shortest campaign?

I'd known about this water that was producing plenty of two pound perch for a couple of years but only ever seen it once, on a day it had coloured up over night and with a bitter cold wind blowing.

With the river season over I got word that the perch were coming out but might be about to spawn pretty soon. It also seemed that a few 'threes' were to be had. Having only caught one two pound perch during a previous perch campaign some fifteen years or so ago I decided to have another try before starting tench fishing for the spring and early summer.

So I bought a couple of new reels - one for my perch lure rod and one for my Chimera float rod (which I had built up for the tench) - got some lobworms from Worms Direct and then got up late!

Despite the day starting off sunny it had clouded over nicely by the time I started to set up just after noon. Traditionally perch favour low light levels, so confidence was high. A few minutes were spent lure fishing to see if anything might show itself, but it didn't. The float rod was then rigged up and a lobby hooked up. The tackle was cast out and allowed to drift round on the wind so the worm settled at the foot of the marginal shelf. Then the kettle went on for a brew.

As I sat waiting for the kettle to boil the float dipped and rose. I thought a fish was responsible rather than the wind. It did it again. Definitely a bite. The third time the float dipped it stayed dipped. I lifted the rod and bent into a fish. The jag-jagging told me it was a perch and as it slid over the net I reckoned it was a 'two'. The scales proved me wrong. It weighed 3lb 4oz. I was well chuffed. But I still hadn't had that cup of tea!

I set up a leger rod with a simple three swan running link and a hooklength of about eighteen inches. This was cast out to my left so the float rig would drift away from it, and further out from the shelf to fish slightly deeper. Then the kettle went back on. Yet again it hadn't boiled when the float buried. This time the fish felt heavier, flashed deep down and looked huge! Then it popped up and proved to be a bream! Hi ho.

Eventually I got the tea brewed and settled down. I was rummaging in my rucksack for something when I heard the Delkim bleeping. I turned round just in time to see the light bobbin dropping back. Then it juddered upwards again and I picked the rod up before it got to the top. Initially I was dragging a dead weight and suspected a bream until the jagging started. Another perch. When it eventually showed itself it could easily have been time to panic. When you see a fish far bigger than you expect on the end of your line it is all to easy to 'lose it' and either play it too gently or to bully it. I managed to do neither, all went well and it rolled over the net without mishap. On the scales the needle turned past 3, then past 4 - well past. That was when I started to go into some kind of trance.

Eventually I managed to get back to some semi-normal state and recast. A while later I had another positive bite on the leger and landed a 2-10, that looked pretty small, but would have been a personal best a couple of hours earlier.

I think I gave up trying after that. I wound in the float rod and put out a second leger - it seemed like a good idea as two fish had come to the method, but all that materialised was one fast bite which was missed.

Do I give the perch another bash before starting tenching, or would it be an anti climax? I'll see how I feel in a couple of days. I can't think of anything else to fish for though.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New lucky hat

Not much fishing done following the previous blog. Two short evening sessions on my local River Ribble with one small chub (which is harder to achieve than a big chub on the Ribble) and a lost fish of undetermined species that cut me off as soon as it took the bait. So it was all the eggs in one basket for a final three day trip to the Trent. Given the cold snaps that had arrived just in time to kibosh the end of the previous two river seasons things were looking good. I wasn't going to freeze or get soaked by rain either - which is always a bonus when sleeping at 'Hotel Astra'.

The river had been well up the previous week but was only a couple of foot up, if that, and clearing. The air temp was around 13c and the water over 8c. Arriving at half one I called in at the stretch I had been having most success on and was surprised how few were fishing. Only three cars parked up, maybe I should have fished but I wanted to check out a couple more stretches with a view to next season. At the second one I decided to fish the evening. Losing a lead on the second plumbing cast should have been an omen, but like a fool I fished the swim anyway.

I was soon losing a lead a cast on the upstream rod, while the downstream rod was coming in clean, and getting knocks and rattles. So I dropped down a peg to ensure that I'd have enough leads to get me through to the last day of the season! Eventually the upstream rod produced a fish. Not that it had much to beat the 6lb bream was still a personal best. A four pound chub to the downstream rod followed, but despite bites continuing I called it a night early as I was still losing an occasional lead.

The following morning I was on the stretch that had been good to me this season, and lost two fish almost immediately - one to a cut hooklink and the other just fell off. It wasn't long before the pegs were filling up with anglers - which has the benefit of showing you where the fish are stacked up. Sure enough there were two anglers doing better than the rest in terms of hooking fish if nothing else. One in particular was getting plenty of takes and losing the fish in a snag. The angler below him had a few, including the biggest of the day at 11-12*.

I did better than the rest, not losing any more fish and ending up with three four pound plus chub and barbel of sixish, eight and a half, and nine pounds nine. Despite the air temperature the day had been quite cool thanks to the wind chill factor. The river was dropping initially, then rose an inch in the afternoon, which was odd, but a confidence inspiring 8.5c.

Plan A had been to spend the third day on a new stretch - which is a bit of a wild card to play but I had caught a March barbel at last and that had been my primary aim for the trip. Plan B was hatched - get in the hot swim and try not to lose any fish! Plan C was to play it by ear, and if the fishing was poor go look at the 'new' area for the last few hours into dark.

Old piking habits of getting to the water well before light die hard, so I got the swim I wanted. History repeated itself and I promptly lost a fish to a cut hooklink, and then had one fall off! Surprisingly few anglers turned up for the final day of the season. I know one bloke who fished elsewhere because he expected it to be rammed out where I was - I guess a lot of people thought the same.

What a change the lack of wind made. With the sun out it was just like spring, but as the breeze picked up in the afternoon it cooled a bit, but was still pleasantly mild, and the water temperature was on the rise.

The first fish was a small chub, which proved to be the first of eight in the three to four pound range that I caught. The second fish was a barbel which I didn't weigh that looked about seven pounds - until I weighed the next fish that was seven and a half and smaller than the first one! The fish were coming fairly steadily, but (as is often the case) in bursts through the day. Get one and another might come shortly after.

At a few minutes past four I landed a barbel of 7lb 10oz , rebaited and recast, tried to sit down and got a chub. I returned that, rebaited and recast and the same thing happened. The next cast stayed put for long enough for me to start on a pork pie before the rod tip started bouncing as another member of the chub shoal started dragging the big lead downstream. Only this time the chub pulled back and got heavier when it hit the mid river flow. Obviously it was a barbel. And when it swam upstream of me as I got it close in I thought it might be a good one. Despite the colour clearing from the water visibility was not great, so it was only when the fish rolled that I knew I wanted it in the net quickly. I'm always impressed by the 'shoulders' that barbel develop as they get bigger, and the width of the belly you see when they roll ready for the net. A definite double it felt heavier than I expected when I broke the landing net pole down to carry it up the bank.

Thinking in terms of twelve pounds or so, I was pleasantly surprised to see the needle spin round past thirteen on the dial, and on some seven ounces past my previous biggest barbel's weight. No doubt the fish had graced a few other lucky anglers nets in the past*, but it had never seen the inside of mine before so I wasn't complaining!

Apart from a few chub I think there was only one other barbel caught on the length. How come? I think the fish must have been packed fairly tight and I was on them. It did seem quite critical where my rig landed. Despite fishing on into dark the only other two bites resulted in another cut off hook length, and another of the chub. Time to call it a season. A season that had ended with a bang rather than the expected whimper.

It's not often a new hat isn't a jinx - maybe my ploy of carrying it in the rucksack for a few weeks with the old one allowed some luck to rub off on it?

* It turns out the 11-12 caught on the 13th is the same fish that I caught at 10-10 back in February. Goes to show that careful handling and release pays off.