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.