Friday, August 29, 2008

Better than watching telly

I've had a couple of e-mails asking about self-take photographs with fish this week. The ones you see on this blog are the best of the ones I take. Some turn out pretty ropey, even with practice, but most work out quite well.

The equipment I use is simple, and idiot proof. Which is just as well! The camera is a Canon S3-IS which has a flip round screen. I have used a camera without a flip round screen, but it is a bit of a bind having to take a test shot (sans fish), walk round the back of the tripod, review the picture, make adjustments, repeat the test shot and so on. With the screen flipped each shot is previewed automatically, so all you have to do is either move your position or the tripod to get the shot framed. I wouldn't consider a camera without a flip round screen these days.

Canon S3-IS

Self timers are okay, but they focus when you set them going. Unless you put something in the same place as you and the fish will be when taking the picture this means the camera focuses on the background. Not too good in a lot of situations. A bulb release and adaptor is what is required.

Camera, adaptor bracket and bulb release

The one shown came from Jessop's, but I don't think they supply them any longer. There is an alternative which seems better made that I bought when the Jessop's one broke. But after mending the bracket by fixing the release mechanism to it all has been well. At least I have a spare!


You can find more about these items, and links to suppliers, on Barbel Now. There is a good article on self take photography on the PAC website. I have found it best to place the bulb under the heel of my foot, rather than trying to use a knee or toes to press it. More weight is transfered more easily, and I don't seem to gurn quite so much. I still usually manage to look gormless. But that's situation normal for me...

I called in at my local tackle shop to top up my stock of crab Pellet-Os yesterday afternoon (using five at a time gets through the handy little tubs quite quickly when you're catching). My mate who works there asked if I was fishing again that evening and I said I didn't think I was. He reckoned he would if he'd had a good catch. After I'd finished my chicken and chips and washed the pots I threw the gear in the car and was on my way. Well, fishing beats watching the TV and surfing the bloomin' internet!

I wasn't keen on fishing the same peg two days running, but I didn't have much option. Within five minutes of casting out I pulled out of a fish. Then it went quiet. As the light faded I landed a barbel of some three pounds on the upstream rod, fishing a five pellet snake. Five minutes later the same rod was away again and I weighed the next fish - two ounces short of nine pounds.

Ten minutes later I was winding in the downstream rod for a recast when the upstreamer started nodding and the baitrunner whirred. It seems like the barbel will give a 'proper' bite if you don't react instantly. However, by the time I picked up the rod everything felt solid. I put the rod back in the rests, the rod tip nodding occasionally, while I rebaited and recast the downstream rod. Returning to the snagged fish I pointed the rod down the line and pulled. The paper clip did its job and released the lead. The fish was another smallish one of five or so pounds - unhooked in the water and slipped straight back like all the little ones.

Two more fish came to the 'snake', and one to the downstream Tuff 1 during the following hour and a half. A couple more also snagged me on the strike. I snagged a few times without getting a bite too. I need to mould up more leads before I run out!

The night was warm again, no fleece required, but it turned damp. Hardly drizzle, more a fine misty-mizzle that hardly warranted erecting the brolly but I put it up anyway. Things seemed to have gone quite when at ten forty the 'snake' rod finally acted like it should when a barbel makes off with the bait. This felt much better, and a bit of a plod upstream gave the game away.

A final self-take tip - don't wear a black sweatshirt for night time photos!

I've been away from the Ribble since I was fishing it three nights a week during the '05-'06 season, catching my last double from it on the foggy Christmas Eve of 2005. It's good to be back. An hour after returning the fish I was on my way home. With a few fish under my belt I think I can face a blank or two after something bigger elsewhere!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trouble comes in twos

With one car in the car park the angler just had to be in the swim I fancied, and he was. Not to worry, he said he'd had a good day and two other anglers had caught a few as well. I headed for my second choice swim. Two baits were out and the first cup of flask-tea half drunk by twenty to eight when the downstream rod signalled a bite. I placed my cup down carefully and landed a lovely small, about 2lb, blank-saving, barbel. When I went to rebait I saw my cup had fallen over. Typical...

About half an hour later the other rod indicated a bite. The usual slamming takes have been notable by their absence lately. The fish are hooking themselves, but only tap-tapping the rod top. I'm not sure why. Anyway, this second fish was a bit bigger, in the six pound bracket and a dark golden colour. It had fallen for a five crab Pellet-O 'snake'.

8mm pellets and a #8 C-4

These long 'snakes' look like they won't be good hookers, but so far they have been okay. I think the fish suck them in like a piece of spaghetti, which is why I use a hook that is about the same gape as the pellets' diameter - to slide in easily after the pellets.

By nine it was dark enough to watch the glowing isotopes on the rod tips, and at ten past the upstream, snake, rod tapped again. I leant forward to the rod and pulled into the fish, but before I could stand up to play it across the river I heard the other Baitrunner screeching as that rod bucked in the rests. It had to happen one day! I netted the first fish, which felt half decent, as quickly as I could, standing on the net pole to prevent the fish swimming off with the net and grabbed the downstream rod. The line was slack but I soon made contact with another weighty fish that soon joined its pal in the landing net.

Next time I have seventeen pounds of barbel in my net I hope there's just the one fish!

Although this was the first time I'd had two barbel on at once I have experienced quite a few instances, with chub too, of baits ten or twenty yards apart being picked up within seconds of each other. If the baits were feet apart I could understand it. Either one fish or a shoal moving through the swim. But spread out baits being taken at the same time is a bit more difficult to explain.

The night carried on in a similar vein with fish falling to both rods at regular intervals until elevenish when things started to go wrong. I managed to find a snag, losing a couple of rigs, then had a couple of bites that turned into snagged rigs. Neither bite seemed to result in a hooked fish, and I got both rigs back - albeit one with a straightened hook - so maybe chub were the culprits.

As soon as I stopped casting near the snag the problems went away and two more fish were landed. One of them coming as soon as the bait had settled. The rod tip bounced before the lead gripped the river bed. There was a pause. Then the tip started bouncing again! The final barbel came just before midnight. Reaching for a made up mesh bag of mixed and crushed pellets I found there were none left, so I cast out the hookbait and started to pack up.

I have a feeling that, like the barbel, I had moved in on bait put in the swim during the day. You won't hear me complaining though! I headed home warm and happy having caught ten barbel in just over four and a half hours and having thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Snakes alive

Yesterday I went for a look at a stretch of the Ribble I hadn't fished before. There were four anglers fishing who had caught a couple of barbel between them. The river level was about normal with the colour well dropped out. After walking the banks I plonked my gear in between the anglers, there was plenty of space, and started a slow setting up.

Not having a clue what I might find in front of me I cast an unbaited rig out to see if it would hold. Three ounces didn't shift, so that was okay. It felt like there was a bit of a channel, so casting to the far bank didn't look like it would be worth the effort. The angler downstream of me was casting just short of mid river, and he landed a fish shortly before dusk. I put my baits out a little further to what looked like a change in the flow pattern - although the upstream wind ruffling the surface might have fooled me.

The chub taps started when it had gone dark. By half past nine the river was just the way I like it - deserted. More chub bites came to the pellet snake. At ten thirty another chub bite developed and kept on developing, turning into a small barbel of four or five pounds when I wound down to it. Five 8mm Crab flavour Pellet-Os fished as a 'snake' did the job.

Success for the 'snake'

The evening turned damp, with light drizzle hissing on the brolly, but it was still mild. The swim was quite comfortable for the Ribble, being grassy and almost flat. My boots soon had it turned into a mud slide though. Still, you can't have everything.

By now the bats were out and it looked like I was getting a few bat bites on the downstream rod. Just before eleven one of them turned into something more positive and I was attached to a fish that felt a bit bigger than the first one. There was a weight on the end of the line all right, but it wasn't doing much fighting. Straight in the net it was a pleasing fish for a first session on a length of river. A little bit lean, and judging from it's mouth a regular visitor to the bank. The drizzle stopped briefly and I took two quick snaps.

What big hands you have Grandma!

I fished on until just before midnight. The air was dry so I put the brolly away, packed up the rucksack, and then started to get wet as the rain returned. Picking up the 'snake' rod I got an instant reminder of one of the many 'pleasures' of fishing the Ribble. I could feel the writhing of a small 'snake' of another kind. Sure enough there was a bootlace eel, foulhooked in the middle of its back, on the end. Over the years I have foul hooked numerous eels of all sizes on hair rigged baits on the Ribble. Almost always they are just there when you wind in, invariably following a few 'chub bites' and a period of inactivity. I have no idea how they manage to hook themselves half way along their slithery bodies, but they do.

With the slimy mess sorted out the second rod was wound in uneventfully and I headed home with the windscreen wipers on all the way back.

A quick addition having seen a link to the following clip which might be of interest on Barbel Fishing World.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Quote of the day

I believe the solution to any problem - work, love, money, whatever - is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be. - John Gierach

For a regular QOTD and some good reading have a look at Pure Piscator - yes, it can be a bit ''floppy hatted', but there are gems hidden in there.
Friday saw me snatching a few hours on the Trent on my way home from a 'business meeting'. As the car was loaded up with swag I needed to park behind my swim. I decided to call in at a length I had yet to set eyes on, although I had seen the next stretch downstream from the opposite bank about a month ago. From what I saw there the river was fairly shallow, gravel bedded and had luxurious streamer weed.

A hardcore track ran along the edge of the river, but only a couple of swims looked like they had been fished this season. One of which looked worth a shot with a couple of other places looking like they could be turned into fishable swims. Not knowing the river in this area I'm not sure how much extra water it was carrying, but I'd guess maybe two feet. It was certainly a lovely colour.

With slower water close in and the main push hitting the bank downstream of the swim I was pretty confident. After about an hour I had a typical chub bite and struck into nothing. For some reason bites only came to a Hali Hooker pellet. I was alternating these with the Monster Crab pellets on each cast with he downstream rod, but the Monster Crab ones remained untouched. I had a pellet 'snake' on the upstream rod, which was fishing the edge of the faster water. This was also ignored. Eventually a chub of some four pounds hooked itself on the Hali Hooker. Then the bites ceased. Was there just the one fish in the swim?

The first flappy thing of the season

At dusk fish started topping, not in great numbers, and there were fry in the margin - along with something that viewed them as food. Although it was a pleasant evening after the cool wind had dropped, by half past ten I'd had enough. It didn't feel like anything was going to happen.

Trent sunset

I stopped on my way back to the road to have a mooch around. I still found no well beaten swims even though the river looked interesting (from what I could see in the dark with my headtorch on!), with bends and narrows to alter the flow. I suppose that unless a stretch gets a reputation for producing big barbel to attract people most won't go looking for fish, and there aren't many anglers who want to fish rivers for anything else these days with their steep, overgrown banks and lack of burger vans. Not to mention the water moving...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Return to the valley of the slugs

Tuesday saw the gasman decide to inform me that he wouldn't be turning up - half an hour before the last time he was scheduled to call. If I'd known sooner I could have gone fishing earlier. As it was I managed to get down to the Ribble by eight o'clock to find it about three feet up and carrying a nice amount of colour. I spent some time walking the stretch to find a fishable swim, this being a length I hadn't fished in these conditions before, and chose one that looked to have the right pace close in. I elected to fish just one rod as the swim was quite tight, and the amount of grass and weed coming down on the current would have made fishing two rods a bit tricky.

The rain had stopped some time before so I had left the umbrella at home and spent a pleasant evening watching the rod tip. At about ten o'clock it pulled down and sprang back a couple of times as the six ounce lead was dislodged by something other than weed. Sure enough there was a barbel on the end making the most of the flow to take longer than normal to land. Don't let anyone tell you that six ounce leads stop barbel scrapping well. I guessed the fish at around eight pounds while playing it, and stuck to that estimate once it was netted. The scales decided to knock an ounce off though. A nice way to get back into the Ribble barbel after a couple of seasons away from them.

I was less impressed to reacquaint myself with the masses of slugs that inhabit the valley. Not just the big black ones, they come in all hues and sizes. Small white ones, medium grey ones, brown ones. Nice. Not!

Luvverly sluggerly

Wednesday evening I was back, an hour earlier this time, to discover the river had dropped a couple of feet. Such is the way with spate rivers. The colour still looked good, but a change of swims would be in order. Although I was confident the rod tips were stationary until the bats appeared - the light level that gets them on the wing being the same that spurs chub to start feeding. Both the pellet 'snake' and the Tuff 1 were attacked by chub during the hour either side of nightfall. None were hooked though.

This time I had put the brolly in the quiver. Just as well because there were a couple of showers and I needed to tie up some more PVA bags of pellets. The extra dampness had really got the slugs on the move. They must have a really good sense of smell the way they home in on bait. At one point I reached into my rucksack to pick up a tub of pellets to find a big black slug on the tub. Yak! What they were looking for on the inside of the brolly is a mystery. I removed one while I was fishing, two more and a snail when I packed up, fishless, at quarter past midnight.

On arriving home I emptied the car, dumping my rucksack in the hall, then removed my boots and socks before making a nice mug of drinking chocolate to take to bed. Stepping out of the kitchen I felt something cold and sticky between two of my toes. A slug, which was swiftly condemned to a salty end in the bin. This morning there was a silvery trail on the kitchen floor. There's another one on the loose...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back on the braid beat

There were rods that needed fettling prior to despatch, but as they wouldn't be finished in time to ship on Thursday, and I never ship on a Friday, I left them and headed back to the river.

Why I insist on walking to the furthest swims on the stretch when the ones closest to the access point seem to produce the biggest fish I suppose must be down to cussedness, the fact that it is more peaceful away from the crowds, or maybe I want to prove to myself that I can catch barbel by finding them through watercraft rather than looking for other people's bankstick holes.

I stopped half way to the swims I had in mind on the pretext of throwing some pellets in the swim where I had lost that fish on Tuesday, but in reality it was because I couldn't walk much further! Indeed, I considered plonking down in the next swim downstream to spend a relaxing few hours soaking up the sun and chilling. I didn't, I carried on.

On reaching the swim I fancied, a steady glide below a crease, with grass, nettles and balsam hanging over the margin, I sprinkled in some mixed pellets in the edge a couple of yards below where I set up my chair. Then I went and threw some more in a semi-slack under some trees at the end of the stretch ready for a move towards dark.

I soon had one rod out fishing a Tuff 1 off the rod end and began tying up some spare hooklinks. Then rain began to fall. I'd almost left the weighty brolly behind, but was glad I hadn't as I sat there in my T-shirt tying rigs and then filling PVA mesh bags with pellets. The rain stopped and I cast out a second rod, upstream and slightly across, with a four pellet snake as bait.

It was great to be sat looking across the river at a sheepy meadow bordered by willows with a church spire lit by the sun against the big, Constable-cloudy sky. Life felt good as I listened to the Archers. The programme was reaching a saucy climax when the idyll was shattered by the close in rod top puling savagely down towards the water and the baitrunner screeching like a mad thing. I think a barbel was involved too!

That split second between the take registering in the brain and starting to play the fish are a mystery. Do I pick the rod up then stand, or is it the other way round? I have no idea how I come to be holding on to a bending rod once that tip moves!

This was no four pounder, and it was no eight pounder either. The rod bent to its limit throughout the fight and the clutch ticked a few times too. I'd ditched the mono, and my 'small river' eleven footers, after Tuesday's fiasco and was using my trusty, go-anywhere, Chimera 3s and 30lb Power Pro. The fish was history! Sure enough, after a decent but brief scrap, it was pretty soon in the net and shortly after in the sling and being hoisted by the scales. The first double of the season, chunky, golden flanked in the August light, and a new river PB.

If I don't promote DLST nobody will...

After the photos I started to regain my composure, throwing some more pellets in the downstream swim, before recasting and settling down again. There was a chance of another fish from the same spot before dark. It was not to be. So at nine o'clock I wound the rods in and had a tidy away ready for a move back upstream. The next step was to take one rod, banksticks, landing net and pellet bucket to the end peg for an hour. The Tuff 1 was cast out, about four feet from the bank, at the tail of the eddy, with a big bag of pellets on the hook over another sprinkling of the same mix.

This swim is in amongst a load of nettles, surely the residence of Roland and his pals, which was why I'd left the chair behind and elected to stand by the rod. Sure enough, as the light faded the rustling and scrabbling began. The local owls I had heard waking up, barn and tawny by the sound of it, must be well fed. I experienced a few 'bat bites' in between shooing the rodents away. Funny how I like bats, but detest rats, when the only difference is one letter...

Every so often I'd throw a handful of pellets out over the bait - or at least in it's general direction. Through the leaves of the stand of big old willows behind me I saw the moon, full, as if Atkinson Grimshaw had painted the scene. Full moon + barbel = kiss of death. In clear water conditions and a cool night possibly so, but it was warm and the river was more coloured than it had been on Tuesday. That day's rain having worked through the system the level was up a little too.

I glanced at my watch and there were three minutes to go until ten when I was scheduled to vacate the swim no matter what. The isotope on the rod tip moved down and back, slowly a couple of times. There was something there, but I was still going to leave at ten. Time seemed to slow right down because when I next looked at the white hands of my watch in the moonlight the big one still hadn't reached the twelve. My eyes went back to the rod in time to see the whole top section curve right round. Again I found myself hanging on to the rod, without knowing how, as something barbely tried to head downstream. I'll not describe the tussle in detail, suffice to say it had all the elements you'd expect (powerful surges for cover, ponderous plodding upstream, thrashing on the surface, and the dogged refusal to give up) of a fight with a good barbel. Once netted I realised that I had finally managed to catch two doubles in a session after many near misses.

I staked the landing net to the bank and went back for the scales, sling, mat and sack. Lifting the net ashore the fish didn't look too big. Short it might have been, but it felt heavy. Sure enough my river PB from earlier hadn't lasted long and I had added a third river to my list that I have caught thirteen pounders from. The fish was sacked, checked to be upright, and left while I set up the camera. Once back out on the mat the fish was fit as a fiddle. A few self takes and I popped her in the net to make sure she was okay. No worries. Upright and trying to escape the mesh, I dropped the net cord and she glided back into the dark.

Two fine sets of whiskers!

With a bit of a sweat on I thought it best to rest in the first swim for a while before trekking to my next swim. Although I didn't honestly expect a take I cast a bait in the edge while I supped a cup of flask tea and calmed down.

Half an hour later, and an hour after hooking that last fish, I was on my way to the swim where I had lost a fish on Tuesday. Unfortunately I spied an isotope wafting about on the far bank a few yards upstream, so retraced my steps some twenty yards and dropped the gear in a cosy little peg surrounded by balsam. Two baits went out, one close in and one a few yards out and upstream. The night was starting to turn cool. The rods were matted by a film of condensation, and my wooly hat was damp on top. My intention had been to stay on until two am, but an hour early I called it a night with no complaints.

Having had the satisfaction of catching a couple of decent fish doing things my way perhaps it's time to join the throng where the really big fish are supposed to live? Now the fish have lost their flabby, post-spawn condition and are in great nick I think I can safely say I've got my barbel head back on. You can always tell when that's the case - by the bucket of pellets that lives in the back of the car!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Accentuate the positive

After yesterday's session I feel like the England cricket team trying to find hope for the future at the end of another series defeat. What started badly got worse - with a glimmer of hope (like a Flintoff century) in the middle.

The day started decidedly wet, so I went foraging in the supermarket in order to fend off impending starvation. While eating my lunch, after restocking the freezer, the rain eased and the day warmed up. This triggered a barbel fishing response in me. I packed my gear and hit the road. Driving through heavy showers I feared a damp session, but on arriving at the river August was behaving itself with sun shining on the ripe wheat fields, from a blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.

With showers forecast I'd packed my brolly, making the trudge downstream hot and tiring with the extra weight and the burning (well, fairly warm) sun beating down on me. Beyond the obvious swims near the road those further down the river looked like they had seen few anglers in recent weeks, some from last season were completely overgrown and hidden by head high Himalayan balsam. On my way to the peg I fancied I threw a few pellets in a couple of the ones that were easily fishable.

On arrival it too hadn't seen many anglers' boots lately. The swim is underneath a willow and quite cramped, so I pushed in the rod rests, positioned my chair and set up the rods on the bank behind the swim. Once ready I cast one rod close in downstream, fishing a Tuff 1 on the hook. The second rod was to be cast across the river close to a bankside bush. That was the intention, but lead, bait and attached bag of pellets went in the branches. I managed to yank them straight back out and they ended up more or less where I wanted them.

I had just started on my second pork pie when the left hand rod, fishing across the river, started bouncing as something dragged the rig out of position. By the time I'd stuffed the remains of the pie in my mouth the debris was well downstream. and as I wound it in it continued kiting towards my other line. The culprit was an uprooted balsam plant. I removed it from both lines, cast out the near bank bait again and rebaited the other rod.

The next cast across the river dropped short. A new bag was attached for the recast which was heading straight for the bush until I stopped it with a jerk that caused the lead to eject from the paper clip. Somehow the hooklink parted too. After retackling I played safe, opting to drop the rig upstream, close in on a crease that had produced a fish for me last year. The underarm swing went well, but the line caught a trailing branch. No problem. Give the line a flick and it will come free. Or get more tangled...

The hook ended up buried in the branch, out of landing net reach, so I had to pull and see what would happen. Now, everywhere else I fish I use 30lb Power Pro as my mainline for barbel. On this small river I have been using mono for some unaccountable reason. Last season it didn't let me down, but I had respooled with slightly lighter line the other day. Nonetheless, 14lb should be enough to cope with any barbel that swims. Of course, I knew that pulling for a break would see the mainline to swivel knot being the weakest link if the hook wouldn't come free. Sure enough another lead went to a watery grave when the line did snap.

Retackling, yet again, the next cast was dropped short of the branch, very close in, and to my surprise a couple of line bites materialised. By now the rain had set in. I was sat in my waterproofs, under the willow, with my recently waterproofed brolly up the bank keeping my rucksack and stuff dry. The session had not started well.

Around seven thirty the rain stopped, signalling time for a move. The gear was soon in place in one of the swims I had baited, a swim that had been kind to me on a few occasions last season. Within fifteen minutes the upstream rod tap-tapped as if a chub was interested in the three pellet 'snake', then the baitrunner sprang into life as the tip pulled right down. A feisty little barbel then charged about under the rod end until it dived into the net. After rebaiting and recasting that rod I checked the downstream bait, only to find it attached to a waterlogged branch.

The pellet 'snake'

About ten o'clock I felt it was time for a final move to another baited swim. I picked up the upstream rod and it was snagged solid. The mono had no chance. I'd retackle when I got to the next swim. On picking up the downstream rod I found myself in a time warp. I thought it better to retackle both rods where I was to save unwanted flashing around of the head torch in the new swim. It was quarter to eleven when I eventually reached the last swim of the night, with midnight being my designated home time.

This swim is one I have had my eye on since last season, but never fished before. It looks good though with marginal cover and weed to mid-river. The pellet 'snake' was dropped in the margin downstream, and one and a half Tuff 1s cast out beyond the now invisible weedbed. I dragged the lead back across the gravel until it felt spongy, letting the bait, aided by the pellet bag, drift downstream and across towards me. The idea being to get the bait placed right by the outer edge of the weed fronds.

Another rain shower rolled in around eleven forty-five. A quick glance round the back of the brolly showed clearer skies not far away. I'd hang on until it faired off then pack up. Spot on midnight the mid-river rod top pulled over in a positive manner and I was leaning into a fish before the baitrunner had a chance to do its job. This felt a better fish, not powerful like a big fish, but certainly not a four pounder. With no snags to worry about I slackened off the drag a tad as the fish headed downstream under light pressure from the rod. So I have no idea why the line parted at that moment.

That was it. I'd had enough. What a nightmare. Bags packed and off home.

The odd thing is that I hadn't enjoyed my previous two barbel sessions of the season, and started out feeling pretty much the same about this one, but that lost fish has got me fired up to wreak revenge on the whiskery gits!

The negative of the session is that I had been a fool for using mono. I very nearly spooled up with braid, but thought I'd give mono another go - most other anglers seem to use it. They must be idiots...

The positives are rather straw like, in that I'm clutching at them as England do when a batsman makes fifty runs after a run of low scores but they still lose the match. I'd reproofed my brolly with Thompsons Waterseal a few weeks back, and it kept me dry. That was good. I'd tried the 'snake'. That worked. Most importantly I'd found another spot where barbel could be hooked, and there are a few more similar spots on the stretch - including a couple that I don't think see many baits.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The saga of the rings

It started back in June when I thought I'd build myself three rods for long range bream fishing. They still sit unfinished, awaiting one ring each. I have just phoned to ask if there is any sign of the missing rings. Only to be told that there isn't, and (as I expected) there is no telling when they might arrive.

An internet trip to the US of A was in order - and hang the shipping expense. The only problem is that I spied some fancy wooden reel seats while I was looking through the Mudhole site (which means building myself some new rods to put them on) - but at least I might get the bream rods finished this year!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thinning the herd

Having just about convinced myself that the Interceptor 2 is my favourite close to medium tench/bream rod I have decided to offload my set of three 2lb Torrixes as I have three SS12-204 two-and-a-quarters if I need to fish at longer range or with heavier line. So the Torrixes are surplus to requirements.

They are built on matt brown blanks, fitted with Alconite rings and have had just one spring's fishing in 2007. They appeared a few times in my blog during that period.

A 2lb Torrix last year

New the rods would have sold for £205 each. There is a set of three (each tip and butt being marked with identifying dots) which I'm parting with for £390.00 including p&p. Sorry, but they must go as a set.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Egrets. I've seen a few.

What an appalling blog title. Please don't blame me. They were making awful egret puns on Today on Radio Four the other week! However, I have seen a few white egrets over the last few years when I have been fishing the Trent, in both the upper and lower reaches. Until last night I had never seen one locally (in the North West), but just before dark one flew in to roost in the trees of the steep bank on the far side of the Ribble. I was spending three evenings a week on the Ribble a couple of years back and never saw an egret then. I tried to get a picture of the bird, but by the time I had sorted the camera to get a fast enough shutter speed it had gone deeper into the wood.

An egret yesterday

This was my first session back on the Ribble for almost two years, and it brought back to me what is great, and awful, about the river. The good points are the wildlife and the location. It is a nice place to be once you get higher up the valley. The bad points are that most of the swims involve a fair old hike, and when you get to them the banks are bloody awful. If it's not pebbly, it's sandy (the grit gets into everything), and all too often the bank slopes in such a way that getting a chair level is nigh on impossible. Flat grassy banks are something of a rarity. At least where there are fish to be caught. But that is all part and parcel of the topography of a spate river.

Spate rivers also go up and down like nobody's business. It takes very little rain on the fells for the river to start rising. It can rise rapidly too, a foot an hour is not uncommon, but it can drop just as quickly. Getting the timing spot on can make a big difference to success.

Last night the river looked in good form and was carrying some colour. The day had been sunny and it was a pleasant evening to be out. I didn't get set up until nine though,but had chub knocks immediately. Nothing major, but there were fish around. I wasn't happy with my swim choice, so after an hour I moved. The same thing happened, and with a few minutes of casting out a couple of Tuff1s, with a PVA stocking bag of dampened Hemp and Hali Crush on the hook, I got a typically fast chub bite. As is usual on the Ribble it didn't hook itself. Some days they do, but mostly they don't. This went on for every cast until the mist arrived.

The clear, starry, sky was ominous and sure enough mist was soon rising across the fields, over the water and along the valley. When it's like this the chances of barbel are reduced in my experience. I sat it out until quarter to one, but the loss of the second lead of the session made my mind up. I tramped back to the car glad that I had put my waterproof overtrousers on as the dew was thick on the vegetation.

The session got my barbel head firmly screwed back on, and I'd like to say that it was good to be back on the Ribble, but I'm not sure it was. The valley is a great place, and the river is somewhere to fish for a short session with the chance of a good fish, but my mind kept drifting to other rivers - with shorter walks and more comfortable swims!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Review - Okuma Epix Pro EPB30 Baitfeeder

You may have seen a small black reel in a few of my perch fishing posts. That is the Epix Pro EPB30.

What really bugs me about some reel manufacturers is their insistence on using one reel body for three or more different 'sizes' of reel. I put 'sizes' in inverted commas because all they do is change the rotor and spool. I realise this is done on economic grounds, but if I want a reel with a small spool it is to use with fine lines on a light rod. So I don't want a large and heavy reel!

Okuma have understood that a reel should match the sort of rod it is to be used with and the 30 size Epix Pro Baitfeeder is perfectly proportioned. Even if you don't need the 'baitfeeder' feature this is a superb little reel for fishing with lines up to 0.25mm/8lb. I guess you could go heavier, the gearing and drag is up to the task of playing large fish, but the spool size is too small for smooth casting with a thicker line in my opinion. I have two of these reels loaded with 0.20/5lb mono and find long (comparatively) casting is a doddle. I've even used one for a spot of float fishing.

The reel is supplied with two graphite spools, one of which is a shallow 'match' spool, and one a deep aluminium spool. The line lay is possibly not as good as on some reels, but is perfectly adequate. Not only do you get three spools, there are two handles supplied as well - a double and a single (my preference).

Internally there are some ten bearings, and it feels like there are, being as smooth as silk to wind and reassuringly 'solid'. Everything operates as it should and the clutch is smooth enough for anyone - although I still prefer to backwind when using light mono.

Initially I was a little sceptical about some of the plastic parts, but they have proved tough enough (although some of the chrome has worn off) as have the reels overall. For some reason line can, very occasionally, wrap around the drag knob on the front of the spool. But that is my only, very minor, niggle.

I like these reels so much that after a couple of seasons' use I have added a third EPB30 to my collection. Given the current price is well under £60 they are excellent value for money.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Work in progress

Every now and then I get asked to do a custom build that looks better than I thought it would. A case in point are two sets of three rods with cork handles, silver hooded reel seats and stainless steel winding checks. Three are Chimera Avons and three are P-1s. Here they are awaiting the varnish.

I'd be quite happy to use those myself - unlike some custom jobs I've done in my time!

The way things are going I'll not get my 'bream' rods finished in time to use them this year. Still no sign of those missing rings - despite prodding the suppliers last week...