Saturday, March 29, 2008

A change of plan

The trouble with long Bank Holidays is that they mess up two working weeks. Easter put back a delivery of stock I needed to keep a couple of customers happy by a day, so I had to bring forward my perch session to the Wednesday. Not ideal, but the weather proved to be mild, and for once there was hardly a breath of wind and just light rain showers. Unfortunately the water had coloured up, but I wasn't deterred as was intending to carry on with the lobs and maggot approach. This time I started out by spodding out maggots and chopped worm using a small spod that is easily cast using my single handed lure rod, putting two feeders over the bait with the idea of leaving them out without much recasting in order to reduce disturbance.

Things started off slowly with just a couple of half hearted bites in the first few hours, and continued that way. It was in the afternoon that things perked up a bit, and a couple of twos made an appearance. One of which looked like a fish I had caught the previous week. There's never as many individual fish as you might think - even when it comes to shoal species like perch. I ended the day with just four perch to show for my efforts. But it sure beat working!

The following day the delivery arrived early and I was able to post the orders and nip out to purchase some maggots. One the way home I called in at a spot on a local canal that I had fished once before for perch - in the early 1990's! I had caught one on a small livebait, fished on a float paternoster up to the stick-ups on the far bank. The area looked just as it had done all those years ago, and with the sun shining and the canal sheltered by a bank of trees it looked, and felt, most inviting. Less than an hour later I was back with the perch rods!

With it being such a bright day I was able to fish until gone seven o'clock. But apart from a couple of tiny lifts on the bobbins, and one slightly more positive one that resulted in a bitten worm, nothing much happened. A spot to note down for further opportunistic sessions though.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Beating the cold snap

With the Bank Holiday forecast to be the start of a cold snap I had to squeeze a perch session in on the Thursday - as the Wednesday was forecast to be sunny I preferred the prospect of reasonably mild rain and it's accompanying overcast sky. I got the rain all right, it started shortly after I set up. I hadn't counted on the wind though. I knew it was going to get up from the breeze at dawn, but I hadn't anticipated that it would swing round - or quite how strong it would get.

Bites didn't come straight away, it took about an hour and a half for the first perch to pick up a lobworm, and two more hours for the second bite to be missed. The approach was maggot feeder on both rods, one starting out with lobworm as hookbait and the other a bunch of red maggots. After the first fish both rods were on worm. As the wind was initially coming from my left the brolly was standing up to the wind with ease, even though it wasn't fully pegged down owing to the nature of the swim. When the wind swung round to blow almost straight in my face I had to re-angle the brolly. Again this started out all right, keeping the wind and rain off me.

I kept recasting at intervals, despite the lack of attention the baits were getting, to keep the maggots going in. For once I was trying to be accurate with the line on both reels clipped up to ensure the feed and baits were landing in the same area each time. This was quite important with the strength of the wind hindering casting.

The next fish came at one twenty. The rain had stopped. This was the start of a period of action that lasted until half past three or so. I missed a few bites, but often a bite on one rod was followed by a bite on the other rod. A sign that the perch were moving through the swim in groups, which is common with perch being mobile hunters in my experience. During this hot period I landed six perch. Then the sun tried to break through the cloud and the bites dried up again.

Also during this period the wind really picked up, and I spent much time hanging on to the centre pole of the brolly. When the pole pulled out of the ground while I was playing one of the perch it was time to take the thing down and hope the rain held off. If it set in again I was going to pack up! Luckily it didn't.

It was almost five o'clock when the next fish came along, the sun having gone in again. It was not the signal of another flurry of activity. A bite was missed and a final perch landed just after six. That turned out to be my lot. A day that had started out slow, and fairly miserable crouched under the damp brolly, turned out as rather good. Nine perch landed, averaging over 2lb apiece, the biggest being a three pounder.

I had yet more trouble with the bulb release, this time the adaptor bracket letting me down. It was back to the self timer which is okay at a pinch but not as good as the bulb release which allows you to pick the fish up and get posed before the shutter is released. With the self timer you have x number of seconds to pick up the fish and pose - during which time the fish generally decides to wake up and flap about. Even with the custom timer that takes up to ten shots at ten second intervals things are not perfect. Better than relying on a dog walker though...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Last minute Lumb

Not being able to face a two a.m. start in order to be certain of a peg on a popular day ticket stretch of the Trent I headed elsewhere for the final two days of the river season. I was surprised to find only one other barbel angler out and about when I arrived so walked a stretch I hadn't fished since July and picked four swims to fish during the afternoon and evening. The river was up a touch and carrying a healthy amount of colour to fish well during day light. The first two swims produced nothing but just as I was readying myself for a move to the third one two more barbel anglers arrived, walked past me and dropped in swims three and four.

I'd not taken the water temperature at the start of the session, but when I did I found it to be a disappointing 6.2C. With my plan thwarted I made a hasty decision to move venue. After a minor detour I arrived to find one car in the car park. Walking down the bank my fancied swims were vacant. However I walked on for a chat, to discover that one of the anglers had caught an eleven pound barbel, and that they were packing up. Not one to look a gift horse in the chops I went back for my gear and fished the 'going swim'. That was at five o'clock and by half ten I hadn't had a knock! Still, it was a mild night, with the brolly keeping the wind off me, and there is no finer way of spending an evening that fishing while listening to Test Match Special on the wireless. Especially when England are doing well.

I soon nodded off in the back of the car, after wrestling with the broken zip on my sleeping bag - which was undoing itself as I drew the slider up. When I awoke I was surprised to find a light frost. The sunrise was quite something, and the day promised to be less windy than of late and dry.

Settling into the swim I had vacated the previous night it wasn't long before a chub of about three pounds was landed from the far side of the river. There being a crease at either side of the river, which narrows up at this point, gave a few options for bait placement. So I moved the two baits around the area for a few hours. Nothing else came along, so I wound the baits in and went for a wander with the spare rod to do some feature finding. This didn't reveal the deep channel I had expected to find on the outside of a bend, but it did show up a run of deeper and slower water, under the rod end, with shallow gravelly water above and outside it. The bed of the river was also a jumble of rocks in the slower run. A move was in order.

I gave it a couple of hours in that spot, getting attention from chub on the 10mm pellet rod, before moving again to another similar section upstream. This spot was given another couple of hours, during which time I took the water temperature again to find it had risen from the morning's chilly 6.4 to 7.1. This gave my confidence a boost. A funny thing, confidence. With my lack of barbel success I'd been suffering a minor bait crisis. If it hadn't been for occasional chub falling for my usual boilie and paste baits I would have thought there was something wrong with them. Even so, when I moved back into the double crease swim I decided to replace the pellet with a Dynamite Oyster and Mussel boilie - a tub of which had been in my bag for about six months.

About half an hour after dark the rod fishing to the far crease did the repeated spring-back-pull-down thing that indicates a bite when fishing upstream. The result was a five pound chub. Not the barbel I was hoping to end the season with but a reasonable consolation prize.

By eight o'clock I was wondering whether to call it a season or have one more move. The gear was packed and I headed back to the car, knowing there was a banker swim to be passed on the way. Stopping to look at the swim, which was well sheltered, I dropped the gear and carried on to the car for more water to brew up with. I took my time setting my stall out and chose to fish one rod to the snag. For some reason I picked the rod with the O+M boilie on it, put on a fresh bait and a small bag of mixed pellets, then whacked it all out with a six ounce lead attached the twenty or so yards required. Amazingly the lead landed pretty much where I wanted it.

On with the radio, brew made, biscuit half eaten when the rod tip lurched downstream and the baitrunner creaked grudgingly. How I managed to put the biscuit down where it wouldn't fall in the mud I don't know! But I was almost immediately hanging on to the rod as something thrashed on the surface and tried its damnedest to find sanctuary in the tangle of roots and branches. After a few seconds, that some might think of as minutes, I was able to start pumping the fish upstream. I had a horrible feeling that it might be a carp the way it had felt initially, but when a slim, golden shape rolled in the light of my Petzl I knew it was a barbel. "Please don't fall off!"

It had been October when I last hooked a barbel, in the very same swim, and that one had come adrift. This fish was well beaten and slid easily over the net. After weighing and sacking the fish I finished my biscuit and brew, then the trouble started. The usually speedy process of setting up the bulb release on the camera was thwarted. The tube on the release had split where the connector fits, my efforts at cutting back the damaged portion and refitting the connector failing. In part this was due to my increasing frustration at not being able to see what I was doing. Playing the fish and clambering up and down the bank with it had caused me to work up a sweat that was steaming up my glasses. Eventually I had to set up the self timer - when I remembered how it worked.

Photos taken It seemed wise to keep an eye on the fish when returning it. Two swims downstream there was a flat ledge at water level that seemed to be ideal. Carrying the fish in the net I walked quickly down to it and made my way to the water's edge. Only one problem, part of the slope down had crumbled away. Not to worry, I could step across it. I dunked the fish in the water, and holding the net pole found a footing. A footing which promptly gave way. I was now straddling the water with no idea how deep it was below me, one foot on dry land the other slowly sliding deeper. At this point the fish was on its own. I cast the net aside as I struggled to cross the gap.

At one point I was clinging to the vegetation on the sheer bank behind me, with one foot in the water over my boot top, the other foot slipping around in mud. After a minute or so I had my right foot firmly across the gap and managed to pull my left foot, which was stuck below the water in mud, out. I was safe. Now I could reach across and get hold of the landing net pole and recover the fish. The ledge I was to release the fish from was narrower than I remembered it, so I had to be careful not to topple in the river. After all that messing around the fish needed no nursing and was fighting to get out of the net! I watched her swim off, then mounted my assault on the bank to get out. The things we do to make sure fish go back okay...

I needed another brew and a rest after all that! Another bait was cast out, although more out of a sense of duty than expectation. By ten o'clock I had recuperated, and it was time to end the season as I was starting to nod and there was a long drive home. It had been a pleasant two days - coming good at a point I could so easily have given up.

The weight of the barbel? It was yet another of my nine pound plussers, well it was a couple of ounces over ten to be exact!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

They call it stormy Monday

Sunday was a day of work - not much work, mind - ready for the all out attack this week. Then the weather intervened. Monday was supposed to be stormy (as in the old blues song title) causing a change of plans. But it wasn't stormy up here. In fact it was a glorious day. So I went to the supermarket...

Tuesday dawned not too windy and amazingly dry. So I made a late start to Laxative armed with some maggots and a plan. Having watched a bloke bagging livebait sized silver fish on the Friday I was sure that my livebait snatching rig would soon have a couple lined up to use as bait. With this plan in mind I had packed a rod set up with a drifter.

Although I arrived after daybreak I was confident, and a lamprey head went out on a leger and a smelt on the sunk float paternoster, then the feeder was flung. On the second cast the feeder produced a fish. The smallest Tommy ruffe I have ever seen. Aren't they slimy? Yack.

I was sheltered from the full force of the wind, but it was creating quite a tow on the lake, pulling the line out of the clip on the leger rod. Around ten o'clock the line pulled out again, and as I tried to put it back in the clip it was snatched from my fingers! I was soon landing another fat pike watched by a pleasure angler who had turned up and urged me to 'Knock it on the head!' He was only jesting and told me the fish was a regular visitor to the bank. The weight he put on it was a little optimistic - but not by much.

Eventually I managed to catch a bait sized roach which promptly replaced the smelt. Not quite so promptly it was taken by a fat little jack. The rain arrived next, encouraging an early finish to the session at noon. The intention being to get the barbel gear sorted for today. As you might guess, that plan changed when I was kept awake last night be the howling of the wind. It's been a stormy Wednesday all right.

Two days left of the river season and my plans are all up in the air. Bah...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

That was a week that was

Not much of a week though. Sunday saw an unexpected barbel blank on a river that was warm and coloured. At least I got away for home before the rain set in, the roving approach having proved as unsuccessful as the pick-a-swim-and-sit-it-out approach of last week.

Thursday saw me snatch an hour and a half ostensibly lure fishing for perch on my local canal. The upside was that the canal seems to be recovering from the removal of weed beds and bankside trees a few years ago when it was tidied up by the British Waterways Board. The bushes on the towpath side that provided cover for pike have all gone but there is some marginal growth in evidence. It didn't take long for me to remember how much I have grown to hate lure fishing. After a quarter of an hour of nothing other than removing dead leaves, twigs and weed from my lures I was fed up with the process. Using a small 'coffee grinder' didn't help matters either.

It took about as long before I gave up on the perch and started twitching a small minnow bait, a guaranteed jack catcher. Sure enough a small one hit the lure in mid retrieve and briefly imitated a perch. I'd bought myself a small rubberised pan net for this venture (one I had intended to repeat during the close season) as my previous attempts at hand landing perch have always seen them drop off. I thought that the rubberised mesh would be fairly hook-proof so rather than grab the little scamp I netted it. Mistake! It went berserk in the net and the hooks tangled so badly I had to resort to the knife.

I'm not too sure what caused the gash on the jack's flank, there didn't appear to be matching marks on the other side to suggest a pike attack. But you never know. I fished on and an even smaller pike grabbed the lure but fell off. That was it. I'd had more than enough. Lure fishing's okay - so long as you are getting instant action. If it's slow I prefer to sit behind the rods these days, waiting for an alarm to wake me up!

I was stuck for ideas on what to do on Friday, so I returned to Laxative Lake for a pike session. The weather was windy, but not gale force and the rain held off making it pleasant so long as I stayed behind the brolly. Four runs; one dropped, two jacks, and a pinched bait. I'm pretty sure the first jack had been responsible for the dropped run, but how a bait that was tied to the trace got pinched I haven't a clue.

On Saturday I returned for a morning session in another area of the lake. The wind had swung from the west to the south, and there were showers. Again the brolly made life bearable. A bobbin dropped off twice, neither time being the result of pike activity but wind and undertow.

So that was a week. I hope next week is the week.