Friday, November 28, 2008

Sparkly stuff

Fancying a change of scenery today I headed for a stretch of river I last saw during the summer floods. My how different it looked. The banks were bare and access to the water much easier without the head-high balsam and nettles. In fact there were half a dozen spots that looked to be worth a dabble. Although I had intended to fish upstream I plonked my gear in the penultimate peg at the downstream end of the stretch. I was planning to catch chub so the slacker water appealed to me.

The water temperature was up two degrees from Tuesday, the level up maybe a foot and there was a touch of colour. The day had turned pleasant in the sun and with hardly any breeze. For the first hour I was quite warm after the walk from the car, but when the sun neared the horizon I got the first hint of impending frost.

Just because I could, I cast a pellet rod out to fish the faster water at the tail of the crease, more in desperation than hope, and fished the tip rod upstream with the cheesy paste. Not much happened. Okay, nothing happened. The only indications were from leaves hitting the lines.

I was treated to an air show though. First a Eurofighter roared overhead, then a small single-engined propeller driven 'plane crept southwards just before a microlight slowly hove into view preceding a powered hang glider. I had a horrible feeling that would be my entertainment for the day.

Even when the isotopes were glowing brightly no bites materialised. I was beginning to think that I had made a bad swim choice when I heard an odd noise to my left. It sounded like something had blundered into a branch. When I looked I saw my pellet rod had shifted forty five degrees in the rest. Maybe a bird had flown into the line?

To my amazement there was a fish on the end of the line. A chub had hooked itself. Not a big fish, but welcome nonetheless. Maybe the swim is worth another look sometime after all. For some reason my heart wasn't in it, and I packed up three quarters of an hour later so as to avoid the rush hour traffic.

Crossing the stile there was some sparkly stuff on the step. When I got back to my car there was plenty more of it on the car's roof. It was turning frosty. And it's forecast to stay that way for a few days at least. I might get some maggots tomorrow and see what they produce.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A turnip for the books

If everything went smoothly I'd be on the river by four. I had a couple of rods to pack up and send out today, and a few deliveries were due. I was up with the lark, the lark that gets up late, and had the rods packed and collection arranged before the first brew of the day. By eleven all my deliveries had turned up. The courier would be here by two, I could make some pack-up and fill the flask, then go to the Post Office and top up the petrol tank on my way to the river. By three I was reduced to doing the Hoovering...

When the courier eventually arrived the light was starting to show signs of fading. I did the Post Office and petrol run then thought, 'Sod it'. I knew I'd arrive in the dark but so what? Before I left I checked the 24hr weather forecast. It would go cold after dusk then warm up later. It was certainly getting colder and colder as I neared the river. It was just 2.5c when I got out of the car. I'd wrapped up well with an extra fleece, and I'd dug out my Osama Bin Pikin' balaclava which I pulled down over my ears, then put my usual woolly hat on top. Luckily there was nobody else on the river to see me looking more like a tramp than usual!

I took the water temperature and decided not to bother with a barbel rod. 3.8c isn't exactly barbel friendly conditions. That didn't bother me though, as the reason I wanted to fish was to get the benefit of my early Christmas present to myself that had arrived this morning. A blender. I burnt out the last one a couple of years ago trying to grind down halibut pellets. Now I had need of a new one to make liquidised bread. Eager to try the new toy out I'd liquidised half a loaf, and spiced the results up with some Hemp and Hali Crush. It looked the part. Not only did I want to try the bread out, I wanted to have another play with my new reel. We never grow up, do we?

My new reel with freshly liquidised bread in the background

The first couple of casts were made with a plain lead and a knob of cheese paste. Bites came straight away. After that I switched to a cage feeder and swapped between the paste and bread flake. The bites were quite short and sharp affairs. I've still not got the knack of this quiver-tipping lark. Then one bite was really positive - to the flake - and I landed a fish of about three pounds.

Bread flake - nothing more simple

The sky was clear and there was a very gentle breeze blowing from the west. It was one of those nights when you could hear all sorts of noises. The first were jackdaws disturbed on their roost, closely followed by owls hooting. Then I heard something I hadn't heard on this stretch before. Coming from the wood on the far bank were the unmistakable grumbling grunts of badgers. It all adds to the great experience of being by a river after dark.

Just before seven cloud cover started to appear in the west, gradually moving closer and shrouding the stars. It began to warm up and I thought I might as well fish on until nine. More bites came to both baits, but I couldn't connect with them. A few minutes before nine I had a twitch to the paste that bounced the tip back. I'd been trying to fish for slack liners with a bend in the tip but it wasn't panning out right. I decided to leave the tip as it was and see if the extra bow in the line might encourage a hittable bite to develop. Seconds later it did just that. This chub was a plump one and weighed just under four pounds. I'd stop a bit longer and have another try with the slack line.

Again bites came shortly after the feeder hit the deck, but they were quick ones. I put my right hand on the rod and hooked my index finger under the line. I saw the tip twitch, felt a pluck on my finger tip and struck - all at once. The fish was hooked. When I switched my head torch on to land the fish I saw that a light precipitation was falling in the almost still night air. As soon as the fish was returned I called it a night. It had been fun, I felt like I'd made progress, and I'd christened my new reel. Not bad for three and a half hour's fishing.

The last one returned

Back in the car the air temperature had risen, as predicted, and rose even more by the time I arrived home. The forecast being so accurate really was a turn-up for the book. The weather's supposed to warm up a bit over the next few days, but it's going to take a while for the river to be warm enough for a good chance of barbel. I expect I'll be getting more chub fishing practice in next time I'm out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fish, chips and cheese paste

Losing a fish always spurs me on to try again as soon as possible. For once I managed to resist my natural urge to do this in the face of excellent conditions early in the week. There was work that needed completing, which took longer than anticipated. It was Thursday before I headed back to the river on a severely blustery day. It was quite warm for November - the car's thermometer reading an almost tropical 11C. Once outside the wind made it feel much cooler. This meant that I wrapped up warm to roam the banks for an hour or more, and worked up quite a sweat in the process.

The lion wasn't in his den, nor were any of his pride, so I decided to fish the same swim I had fished a week previously. There had been next to no rain since I was last there and the once muddy bank was firm and dry. The river was a little lower and maybe a bit clearer, but a couple of degrees warmer. Ideal. I put the brolly up to keep the wind off me and it was nice to relax as the day faded to night.

By eight o'clock my confidence was waning. The swim wasn't giving me good vibes. I packed up and drove to the spot where I had lost that fish on the Sunday. Things felt much better there. I was sheltered from the worst of the wind by the remains of the nettle beds, and the river looked right. Not boiling or swirly, but steady. With the baits out, I sat back and relaxed. It would only be a matter of time. It was not to be. Two or three savage drop backs to the upstream rod - chub in all likelihood - and that was it.

By eleven I was getting tired, but wishing I'd planned things better and packed my cooking gear and sleeping bag. The thought of driving back the following day in an increasingly strong wind held no appeal for me. With the weather set to turn cold the Friday would probably be my last good chance of a barbel. I'd have to pass.

Friday was spent pottering on some small jobs. It was indeed windy again and I was glad not to be fishing. Strong winds sap my enthusiasm when I'm fishing, even if they are warm. It's the relentless battering that wears me down. When today (Saturday) came around all that was forgotten.

During last week I bought myself a reel to use on my quiver tip rod. Not that there was anything wrong with the Epix Pro I'd had it teamed up with. It's just that I like to have reels dedicated to rods and that one belonged elsewhere. Besides, boys like shiny new toys! Playing with them at home isn't nearly as satisfying as playing with them on the bank. There was only one thing to do.

Off to the tackle shop for some maggots. The guy who served me thought I was mad going fishing. The temperature was down to about 6 and the wind hadn't abated. I was the fifth customer he'd had by ten o'clock. He was anticipating a slow day.

It was no surprise to see just one vehicle in the car park. Even less of a surprise that it belonged to the only other idiot who would be daft enough to be fishing on such a day! EH was in his usual swim, and catching fish as usual. I would have set up further away from him, but the wind was less strong in the lee of the bend. One good thing about these last few days of strong winds is that the trees are almost completely bare now. Leaves should be less of a problem in the river for the rest of the season.

Although my primary aim was to catch chub I still chucked a pellet out for the barbel. With my thermometer reading 6c in the river, which was warmer than the air temperature, there was a chance of one. The chub rod was rigged up with a maggot feeder and two reds on a 16. After an hour the tip hadn't moved and the maggots hadn't been sucked. I'd recast a fair few times but to no avail. EH had caught a couple of nice chub on bread flake. Taking up his offer of a few slices of Warburton's finest and some liquidised bread for the feeder after swapping the blockend to a cage feeder and the 16 to a 10 I eventually got a bite.

Around three o'clock a small herd of roe deer strolled through the wood on the far bank, their hooves rustling the dry leaves as they went. Similar noises can be heard in the woods during the summer, but the green leaves hides the animals causing the disturbance. I've seen deer by the river before and always wonder where they lie up during the day.

The bread flake wasn't working wonders so I put on a knob of cheese and garlic paste I had concocted the other week and stuck in the freezer. Some forward planning on Friday had seen this removed from it's icy resting place to thaw out in readiness. Week old Danish Blue, mixed into frozen pastry mix, with a sprinkling of garlic salt. Yummy!

First chuck with the paste and I get a bite. A typical short stab of the tip bringing back all those bad memories of my earlier attempts at chub fishing. I persevered and kept getting bites into darkness. The temperature was starting to fall but the wind showed no signs of joining it. I'd been draining my flask rapidly and as I had only intended fishing until six I had no food with me.

As six o'clock arrived the wind dropped. It was still chilly, but no longer unpleasantly so. Another half hour wouldn't hurt. A few more unhittable bites later I started to pack my gear shortly before half six. With just the rods and net to clear away I noticed the isotope on the quiver bouncing merrily. I picked the rod up and felt a fish thumping and heading downstream. I got the net ready in the water's edge and took my time with the fish. I was pretty sure it was a decent chub. Then the line went slack... As with the lost barbel almost a week ago it could have been knot failure, but this time I think it was a cut-off. Ho hum. Back in the car the thermometer read a positively Arctic 3c - which sank to 1.5c before I reached the chippy.

On the bright side I know my paste works, and the reel seems to be just what I was looking for. On the gloomy side I don't think I can get back to the river until Thursday at the earliest. I expect to be ratty and irritable until then.

Of course things might pan out differently.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Extremes of sweet and sour

Come January 5th 2009 the Specialist Anglers' Alliance will be no more. It will have become part of the Angling Trust - the great hope for a unified voice for angling. I'm sure most anglers couldn't care less, but some do. It was the last ever SAA meeting today. I attended the meeting as I have been doing on a regular basis for nigh on nine years now, and as usually the PAC was well represented. Pike anglers have historically faced more threats to their sport than other specialist, which is probably why they are more politicised. There are two benefits I have gained from attending these meetings. One is the free lunch (which isn't free as I have to pay for my fuel to get to the meetings), but as they have been held the other side of Loughborough and finish around two o'clock I can manage to call in somwhere on my way home for a few hours fishing! That was my plan today.

Driving along side the Trent it looked good. About three feet up and well coloured. I headed for the spot I last fished in July. The floods that I had driven through back in September had made a few changes, and anglers had made a few more. There were now about four new pegs in the area I like to fish. One looked enticing, but more recent floods and rain had made it a bit slippy-slidey at the water's edge. I went back to the car to get my fishing gear on and discovered I had done it again. I'd forgotten to throw my blasted boots in the car...

Not fancying sliding around near deep water in my street boots I jumped back in the car and headed elsewhere. The lion's den would be equally muddy and probably packed out on a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon. Sure enough the car park was brimful, the next access point would have let me fish from less trampled and grassy banks but there were two more cars there than I would have liked to see. The third spot was far less busy, but borderline muddy. There was one peg I could fish from in comfort, only I'd have to chance the mud near the water if I hooked a fish and especially if I had to return one. The grass was wet though and my street boots were already getting damp. Undeterred I got my tackle and set up in the swim. A swim that had a nice pace, a willow at the downstream end and a crease above.

A wintry sunset

With the baits out it was time to take preventative action to stop my feet getting too cold. I have taken to keeping a few cheap carrier bags in my rucksack. They come in handy for putting rubbish or damp slings and sacks in. Amongst other uses. This time they made boot liners! I won't pretend my feet were toasty warm, but at least they didn't feel cold and damp.

Who needs Thinsulate?

The air temperature soon started to drop when the daylight began to fade. The sky was clear. The weather men and women were forecasting a frost. The water, however, was much warmer than I expected at almost 9C. Despite the lack of heavy colour at this venue I wasn't despondent. I'd have been really confident if I'd had my fishing boots and more up for a move or two. I'd stick it in the one swim until eight or nine - or when my feet got cold.

After dark a fish crashed out on the far side of the river and downstream. This buoyed my hopes. What the fish was I haven't a clue, but it sounded to be a reasonable size. I'd been watching The Plough slowly falling behind an almost leafless alder since darkness fell when I noticed clouds extinguishing the stars. The air seemed a tad warmer too. The two baits had been in for almost two hours at this point when the upstream rod tip sprang straight, then slowly pulled down a touch. I picked the rod up and took up the slack to feel a fish charging downstream. When I got my act together and applied some pressure it thrashed on the surface in midstream and carried on down with the flow. I was gingerly making my way down the bank, keeping just enough pressure on the fish when I felt a discernible 'ping' as the weight went from the line and the bend from the rod.

The hooklink had parted, seemingly at the knot. I have no explanation for this. The rig was tied the same way as always. The braid has landed me two PB's this season. It must have been a poorly tied knot, unless it was a cut-off. Either way I reckoned that was it. I'd blown it.

An hour later the tip of the downstream rod pulled down a little, bounced, bounced again. At first I thought it was a small barbel. Then it gave up and I knew it was a chub. A long and lean specimen that I weighed out of curiosity. An ounce short of four pounds I'm sure it could have weighed nearer five had it been as chubby (pun intended) as some I have caught.

Consolation prize

When I pulled my forceps from the rubber band I secure them under on my net float to unhook the fish there was something wrong. I had one finger in a handle ring but the thumb was groping vainly about. When I looked it was because the damned thing had snapped! I had my 'lucky' forceps (which must be 30 years old and have been lost, and found, twice in their time) in a side pocket of my rucksack so I didn't struggle to unhook the fish. One more item for the shopping list, though.

Buy cheap, buy twice.

I'd forgotten my boots, lost a fish through tackle failure and my forceps had snapped. What more could go wrong? Only the batteries in my radio dying before I could listen to The Archers!

Inspired by the arrival of the chub I fished on until the church clock struck nine. Then I packed up and headed to the car where I removed my improvised boot liners and looked forward to the heater blasting my feet with warm air on the drive home - which it did while the thermometer reading fell from 6 to 3.

There's probably still going to be chance of barbel early in the week before the frosts arrive. Unfortunately for me I don't think I can get to a river before Wednesday. That smelly cheesepaste I concocted last week might be getting an outing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Into the lion's den

It's something I've been avoiding for over twelve months. Fishing a stretch of river that gets hammered but holds some very big barbel. I don't like having anglers on either side of me when fishing close in. I'm also not a fan of dog walkers with large, unrestrained hounds. A time or two I have set off intending to brave the stretch and bottled it. This session nearly went the same way.

Setting off after doing some work in the morning and eating a bag of chips for lunch I was in a relaxed mood as I arrived at the riverside car park. Having driven through showers, with more forecast, I thought I'd park up, check the river level then throw the thermometer in the water while I put my fishing togs on. As another shower had arrived the waterproofs were required.

The river wasn't quite as high as I'd anticipated, maybe a foot or more on. There was a touch of colour but clarity was good enough to see the leaves going downstream six to ten inches below the surface. With well over three hours before dark I had a wander along the river. I've not fished near the car park before and saw a few spots that looked like they'd be worth dropping a bait in. It was quite a temptation as little walking would be involved, but I'd set off to fish the other stretch. Back in the car and ten minutes later I was pulling up by a couple more cars. Expecting to see a few anglers in the hot swims I decided to go have a look and if they were occupied go elsewhere. To my amazement given the warm day and the state of the river, which was 7.4C by the way, the swims were empty - although well trampled, and muddied by the recent rain. I retraced my steps, grabbed my tackle and headed back to the river.

One valuable lesson that barbel fishing has taught me is to take my time picking a swim. A couple of them looked okay. One was a bit swirly for my liking, and the other had just a little too much pace. The problem of the leaves also had to be considered and after much deliberation I chose a swim that had a current deflection which I hoped would send the majority of the leaves out from the bank allowing my margin fished baits to remain in place for a decent length of time. I reckon if barbel are pressured that leaving your baits alone once cast out is a good idea.

I took my time tackling up and retied both rigs. One went a few yards upstream, the other about fifteen yards downstream. With the baits out I settled down to a brew and a bite to eat. A sparrowhawk swooped along the bank behind me, a dabchick scuttled across the river when it spotted me then worked its way slowly up the far margin, and a kingfisher zipped over the water in a streak of vivid turquoise.

By now the rain had eased off, but I left the brolly up to keep the breeze off me. Two dog walkers passed me by, their animals mercifully leaving me alone. Still no anglers arrived and it was getting dark. The baits stayed put.

After the light had gone the silhouette of a tackle laden angler headed downstream on the far bank. I was listening to the radio, taking in the world's affairs of the day and thinking to myself that fishing makes a lot more sense than worrying about collapsing economies when I heard the zuzzzz of a baitrunner. With both rods being fished horizontally on two rests, rather than beachcaster style on one, it took a second or two to realise which reel was spinning. The single 8mm pellet had been picked up after almost two hours. Whatever had picked it up felt heavy.

Some people claim that they enjoy catching five and six pound barbel more than bigger ones because they give you a better scrap. Well they do charge around the swim like fish possessed. Changing direction many times and with speed. But for me the heavy plod of a bigger fish is what gets my adrenaline flowing and induces a feeling of anxiety not knowing how big the fish might be, or if it will stay attached long enough to put it in the net. When a big barbel makes a run it does so with a steady certainty and power that a five pounder could only match if grabbed by a twenty pound pike!

This fish came grudgingly upstream, pulled a bit of line on a short run into the flow, then popped up and slid towards the net. Almost there it woke up, turning, diving and running back into the flow with a single splash of its tail. Back up on the surface, after a couple more short runs upstream, I had most of it in the net. Fishing with a bit of a drop to the water always makes netting fish tricky. I thought the fish was going to swim over the net frame, but it didn't. A lift and the whole of it's body was in the mesh. Phew!

Sticking a bankstick through the V of the spreader block the barbel could rest in the water without any chance of escape while I wetted the weighsling and readied unhooking mat and camera. The batteries in the camera were flat, so the spares were pressed into service. While I was sorting everything out I managed to step on the bulb release a couple of times and take pictures of nothing...

Take one

Eventually, after just five minutes or so, I lifted the net to the mat, popped the hook free and squeezed the fish into my sling. I managed to hold the scales steady enough without additional support from the landing net pole to read off a very satisfying figure. Another notch on the rod butt! I carried the fish in the weighsling to the next swim downstream where I could get to the water's edge to release it. As usual no nursing was required and she slid into the remains of the marginal reeds and out of sight. By now I was covered in slimy mud, sweating but satisfied.

Take two

Slowly, I sorted out the devastation in my swim, rebaited both rods and recast. It was a great night to be out. Warm, dry and quiet. Even the rats I'd expected to be disturbed by were keeping a low profile. I heard a noise behind me and turned to see an angler. He'd just turned up for an after-work session. After a chat he wandered off, came back and set up a couple of pegs upstream. A while later I saw a headtorch coming towards me from downstream. Odd, nobody else had walked past me that way. This bloke, it turned out, had used a downstream access point. He was blanking, trying to fish across the river and struggling to hold out because of the leaves. The silhouette walked back up the far bank, my flask began to grow cold. I packed up. The upstream angler hadn't had anything and we both agreed that the river was picking up a little pace.

To be honest I hadn't expected to catch on my first venture into the lion's den. While it hadn't been one of the 'lumps' that inhabit the stretch the fish has given me the confidence that my rigs will work on the stretch for the supposedly cagey barbel that live there. I'll be fishing there again, but whether I can face it when it's busy is another matter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back to the grindstone

Rather belatedly here's a pic of the Eustace rods I was working on with their shiny new reel seats and silky smooth cork.



Something else I'm doing at the moment is assembling a fly rod kit for a customer. It's an expensive Sage blank which was supplied with (to my mind) some rather average fittings. I've swapped the stripper guides for a couple I think are smoother, the tip ring was a slack fit and the fighting butt and pre-shaped handle somewhat ugly. So it has become a bit more than a straightforward assembly job. The blank and the Struble reel seat (covered in tape for protection while I was lathing the cork) are nice though!

Work in progress

Next on the 'odd job' list is the strip and complete rebuild of three Armalites - including a fettling job on badly worn spigots. Joy...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

You never can tell

The overnight rain had cleared and the day turned sunny but breezy. With havy rain and gales forecast I thought I'd get an afternoon/evening session in. The river looked bob on, up a little on Tuesday with a hint more colour, but much warmer at 8.5C.

I dropped in to the big slack and put a barbel bait in the deep channel and fished a maggot feeder downstream. A half-moon appeared long before dark, wagtails worked the far bank perching on stones and singing. The high bank kept the wind from chilling me. After three-quarters of an hour the bites started coming to the maggot rod. When I dropped the feeder slightly further down the swim they increased in frequency. Delicate bites that pulled the tip down slowly and were all missed when I struck, the maggots either sucked or missing.

Towards dusk fish started topping in the swim and around it. Dace sized fish. The bites grew more sporadic. I reckon it was dace giving me the bites and they had moved up in the water. When I looked at the swim and the flow rate I thought it would be a good place to run a float through. Pity I'd left the float rod at home.

By five thirty the sky had clouded over enough to obscure the moon. I moved to a banker barbel swim which was also well sheltered and put two barbel rods out. It was eight thirty when I packed up in the predicted rain, the wind rushing through the half-bare branches of the trees on the far bank. Some of the gusts were uprooting the brolly and I had had just a few tentative chub pulls. Shining the beam of my head torch into the margins it seemed like the river was colouring up.

I'd have put money on catching a fish or two under the conditions. It just goes to show, you never can tell. And Emmylou agrees.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chub by design - and by accident

Fired up by my new-found ability to catch chub I was back on the river on Monday fishing a new swim. I'd also packed my float rod as I fancied trotting a maggot with the water so clear. This proved to be a frustrating move. I'd loaded the old 501 with fresh line and couldn't make a decent cast with even a four BB Loafer. Like a fool I'd put the whole of a hundred yard spool on the reel. By the time I'd realised the solution the light was starting to go. I fancied a move. The gear was packed away and I headed to my usual spot to find the two favoured pegs occupied. The first two casts with the feeder rod saw crushed maggots from a spot mid way between the two 'hot' pegs.

Because the river had been warming on Sunday and was getting warmer still I had put two barbel rods in the quiver. I was falling between two stools really and not fishing either the tip or barbel rod well. On darkness the angler fishing upstream left for home so I dropped in his peg and concentrated on the tip rod. It took a while for bites to materialise, but they did eventually. The idea I had for improving my feeder rig worked to a degree, but needs modification. I caught three chub, two small ones and one about three pounds before I called it a night at half past eight. I had to be up early to go and steward a pike match - of all things.

I set the alarm on my phone for 6.00 and my bedside alarm clock for the same time. The phone went off first and after shutting it up I checked the clock which read five. I was confused. Then I realised I hadn't changed the time on the phone when the clocks altered! Back to sleep. I awoke again, before the alarm and looked at the time. Five past five. The blooming clock must have stopped or something. Digging my watch out it read five to seven. Damn. Then I put my glasses on and had another look. Five past five. I'd had the watch the wrong way round. When the alarm finally did go off it was at six o'clock...

The match was to be fished with deadbaits and lures only. I didn't expect much to be caught so my plan was to sit by my car sorting out my chub tackle; removing line from the 501, tying up PVA bags of pellets, making another adaptation to my feeder rig and so on. Within seconds of the 'all in' there was a shout for a pike to be weighed. Off I set with the scales and Steve, my co-steward, with the clipboard. Before we'd logged the first tiny pike another two shouts had gone up! This set the scene for the day. We hardly got any rest having to dash round the lake, about fifteen acres and a good fifteen minutes walk to do the full circuit, at all too frequent intervals.

I did get to sort the tackle out eventually, but every operation was interrupted by a call to weigh a fish. In the end we logged sixteen or seventeen pike - my weigh sling had more pike in it in one day than it had in the last four years!

I'm no fan of pike matches, but this one (which I have helped steward in the past) is well run. The fish are retained in the angler's landing net until a steward arrives when it is weighed and returned. Most of the participants know what they are doing and those who are less experienced are willing to take advice. It's also a match run as much as a social event with teams travelling from around the country - the same old faces every year by all accounts - and they are there as much for the get-together in the bar the nights before and after the match. There's not a lot at stake financially so runs aren't left to ensure the pike are hooked.

A monster is returned to the lake

Once the 'all out' was called I was in my car and off to the river, arriving just after dark. There was one angler on the bottom peg and as I knew who it was from the van in the car park I went for a chat with him before setting up. He'd had a few barbel and said I could drop in his swim as he was due for packing up. He landed a barbel as I was talking to him, a fish of six or seven pounds - his best of the session.

With his rod out of the water I stated arranging my gear in the swim while he packed his away. Then I cast the first rod out with an 8mm crab Pellet-O. Before Eric had sorted all his gear out or I had got my second bait in the water a chub of three or four pounds had hooked itself! Once I was alone I put the thermometer in and noted the river was even warmer than Monday.

Action wasn't hectic but in a little under three hours I landed another chub of a similar size to the first one, an eel and three barbel - the biggest just on eight pounds, the smallest of maybe two pounds trying to drag the rod in as I was packing up completely tired out and ready for my bed. All that walking round the lake was more exercise than I'm used to these days.

When I got home I found an interesting slug on the garage wall.

Interesting if you like slugs

A batch of rod blanks has just been delivered. I'll not be fishing for a few days now. Probably just as well as I need the rest.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Chub by design

Chub are a fish I have always struggled to catch intentionally. Decent sized ones at any rate. I have fished for chub I could see and they have always ignored my baits. I have quivertipped and touch legered for them without consistent success. The only way I have managed to catch them has been by fishing water slack enough to allow the use of a light bobbin indicator. However, I did catch my first five pounder after thinking it out. I'd been getting chub bite after chub bite when barbelling one night on the Ribble and I determined to return the following night with my irresistible chub paste and hit every sharp rap I saw. It worked, but it was difficult. Since then I have been threatening to fish for chub 'properly' when the river is low, cold and clear. Today I actually got round to doing it.

The river was indeed low, cool and clear. It was borderline barbel friendly at 5.7C when I set up. A barbel rod was cast out - just in case. Then it was out with the tip rod. This started life as an Interceptor with a spliced in carbon quiver. The solid tip was way too stiff and last winter I removed it and spliced in a glass quiver which is much more like it, and still gives a fairly progressive bend into the rod tip proper.

I still had some maggots left over from Friday's failed roach session, and I had bought a fresh half pint yesterday to use as hookbaits. As soon as I hit the road I realised I had forgotten the loaf I had also picked up for bait. I stopped at the Spar shop and rectified that error, buying a Twix and a Mars bar to sustain me as I hadn't packed any food, only a flask, and was intending to be home early enough to cook something hot.

It was three by the time I got to the river and there was nobody about. The swim I fancied had a new feature since I was last there. A huge branch had been deposited right by the water's edge where you fish from. The banks also had a fresh layer of sandy silt. Each flood changes the river a little, or a lot.

It felt a bit odd to be fishing the river with five pound line, four and a bit pound hook and lead links and a size fourteen hook. Two red maggots and a 1.5oz feeder completed the set up and resulted in a sharp bite on the very first cast. Eat your heart out Stef Horak! The second cast was less successful resulting in a snagged, and lost, feeder. Third cast lucky. A more positive bite materialised but was still missed. It looked like I still couldn't master the quivertip.

After about three quarters of an hour an angler who had been fishing upriver stopped to have a chat. I refilled the feeder and recast. The bait had hardly settled when I struck and felt resistance. Not massive resistance but a fish had definitely been hooked. It was a chub of about two and a half pounds. Success! Two casts later and there was a pluck. I left it. The tip pulled down again and this time there was more resistance and I backwound a turn or two. Once netted the chub looked like it might make four. I nearly didn't bother weighing it though. When I lifted it into the sling I realised how chunky and solid it was.


I've caught bigger chub, but catching that one by design was more satisfying than any of the others. It was also nice to have to play the fish on suitable tackle and not merely wind it in on barbel gear. Having someone on hand I took the risk of passing him my camera for a couple of snaps. When I slipped the chub back it gave a cough, if fish can cough, and expelled a cloud of red maggots. It had been on the bait all right.

Things went quiet, my spectator headed home for tea, darkness fell, and the rain arrived. Only light showers, thankfully. The night was staying warm, and the river temperature was rising slowly.

Another chub of a couple of pounds or thereabouts came along, followed by an unseaonal eel. I was starting to feel peckish and considered a half-six finish. Then thought better of it as another shower passed over. At twenty to seven I got a dithery bite, struck and connected with something small. In the light of the head torch it looked like a chublet so I swung it to hand where I realised it was a dace. I thought I'd weigh it out of curiosity - not being a good guesser of dace weights. Far from a large fish it didn't quite make half a pound. But as I'd never seen a dace that big before it was still a personal best!

They don't have to be big to be the biggest

Half an hour later my stomach told me it was time for home. A pity because I was enjoying myself and the river had just reached 6C - barbel temperature. Still it had been a successful few hours. I'd caught a new PB, and got the urge to catch more chub by design. I already have an idea to improve my rig...