Sunday, April 19, 2009

I must be mad

There's now enough daylight after tea (dinner to the poncey) to get out for a few hours and stand a chance of a fish before dark. With the wind being minimal and having tied a few new pike flies I thought I'd go and chuck them in some water where I might actually be able to watch what they do.

When the level is low it's like fishing on the moon, or what passes for another world on Doctor Who. The bank is littered with stones, shale or slate like, wobbly and uneven stones to boot. It's hard enough walking without falling over but, as I soon discovered, the stones leap up and grab your flyline. Grrrr...

Anyway, most of the flies (they're lures really) looked pretty good. The one exception being a snag resistant bottom hopper I'm trying to perfect. Back to the drawing board on that one.

Pretty as a picture

My casting was complete pants, even with a dinky wee fry pattern on the end of the leader. The lake had flattened off and with the evening sun reddening the far bank my mind was wandering to thoughts of bream, bivvies and a fresh brew by the bedchair while watching the isotopes glowing in the bobbins. That was when I felt the take. Too late I focused my gaze where the fly should have been and saw the white mouth gape and cough the lure out. I covered the fish again but it had had enough. Only a small jack, but it would have been a start back into catching pike on the fly rod.

After an hour my casting started to improve. It was still rubbish, but I was getting the timing right more often than not. I worked my way along a fair bit of bank, but all too soon the light wa going. For the first time this spring the water felt quite warm, and there was very little chill in the air when the sun went down. If I can only get a few hours of an evening I might have a return session. If I can get away for longer I'll be breaming.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Delkims sound in anger

I'd done enough waiting around to last me a long, long time. Friday I was definitely going fishing. However, a total lack of fish since the river's closed was sufficient disincentive to make me roll over and go back to sleep when the alarm clock went off. By the time I managed to crawl out of my pit the motivation had returned. Now indecision was nagging. Was it to be a Friday overnighter into Saturday on Longtail Pit or would it be a an afternoon/evening session on Cottontail? I fancied some rat-free peace and quiet, so it would be Cottontail.

There was just one car in the car park when I arrived and, sure enough, the angler was about to set up in the very swim I had my hopes on fishing. No matter, with a lot still to learn about the pit any swim would do as I have no real clues to work from. The plumbing rod revealed a clean bottom shelving off steadily to fifteen or sixteen feet. I could have cast it further, but with a strong, very strong, north-easterly blowing into my face I'd never have reached the mark with my baits. I settled on an easy cast that I could also catapult out some groundbait to.

One reason for the session was to see which rod of three would be best for chucking method feeders. Truly testing conditions for the comparison! Of course this meant that my set-up looked a complete mess. One of the rods doesn't even have a final coat of varnish on the whippings. Although the reel seat has been glued in place.

No points for presentation

First of all I cast three baits out. Two method feeders, one fishing a 10mm Tutti the other two grains of plastic corn, and a maggot feeder with two plastic casters on the hair. The second job was to mix up the groundbait. I'm not too sure what it consisted of - I found it in a bucket in the garage... With that mixed I wound the method rods in and baited the feeders. Then I set about my third task of spodding out a dry mix of small trout pellets, old maggots, casters (erm, they were casters in with the old maggots actually), fresh maggots and a handful of 10mm Tuttis. With that lot in place the final task was to ball up some of the ground bait and catty it out.

While in the process of balling up the feed a lad and his dad turned up and asked to pick my brains about the pit. This didn't take long as I know little about it except what I have been told - which may or may not be accurate. The dad thanked me, then asked if I minded answering one final question. "No. What is it?" " How do you get all that gear to your swim, do you carry it all in one go?" "Yep, pretty much." "You must go to the gym to work out then!" Laugh? Not half!!!

No need for a work out, carrying your gear keeps you fit

I must admit that it's the groundbait and water for the kettle that adds the weight. Other than that it's not a big deal when my knees and hips work properly. Besides, on this occasion I'd walked less than 200 yards.

When everything was set how I liked it, bait out, rigs on the spot, bobbins hanging with a five inch drop, I sat down and waited. The wind was blooming chilly and I was glad of the fleece and bunny suit. When the wind dropped briefly and the sun shone it was actually quite warm. With the trees greening up nicely there was another sure sign of spring - a fly in my first brew of the day. The summer migrants were in greater evidence too - terns, swallows and martins were all spotted. The frustrations of work (or waiting for stuff to work on) were forgotten and I concentrated on recasting the feeders at intervals.

By all accounts the bream hadn't really woken up on the pit. The water felt pretty cold still, so I thought the deeper water I was fishing might produce the goods. I was actually quite confident. When the light went I had hoped to see signs of rolling bream on a glassy calm surface. The wind refused to abate, it just started to swing more to the east, then back again. The trees had been turned to silhouettes for an hour or so when the sounder box in the top pocket of my fleece bleeped once, the right hand bobbin having risen a couple of inches. Although the bobbin didn't drop back pulling on the line failed to reveal a fish attached. As I was adjusting the bobbin's hang the sounder burbled as the middle bobbin rose to the rod.

Immediately I lifted into the fish the nod-nodding as I brought the fish in confirmed that I was attached to a bream. Not the world's biggest, it was still my first fish from the water so it got weighed and photographed. Although it wasn't big enough to justify a self-take an eight pounder would do me for starters on a new-to-me water.

Off the mark

Carrying a few leeches suggested that the fish had just begun to get active. When the right hand bobbin lifted and held at the top, twitching slightly, twenty minutes later a second bream was landed. Smaller by a couple of pounds and also carrying a leech or two, plus what looked like a water snail on its dorsal. Both fish were as plump as you might expect at this time of year and quite silvery. The colouration probably being explained by the lack of clarity in the water, which had actually improved slightly from my first visit.

Soon after all that it was time to head home, taking care to avoid the rabbits on the track back to the main road, now filled with enthusiasm to plan a speedy return.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A long, long time ago... I can still remember

I said last time that I was going to start being nice to carp anglers. I was digging back through a load of old photos yesterday and found this one. So I thought I'd ingratiate myself with the carp fraternity by posting it.

Young(er) and (just as) daft

The fish was about fifteen pounds, I think, and caught using a 'proper' carp rod, not one of the casting sticks everyone seems to need these days. The rod was a Z-1 a really versatile rod for all sorts of fish. I've since gone on to catch a 23 on one of these rods while tench fishing.

And there's some young carp anglers who think us old pikers couldn't cope with catching a carp... They ought to stick to polishing their rod pods and lining up their reel handles.

D'oh! I was trying so hard to be nice...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chomping at the bit

It didn't matter where or what for but I had to wet a line today before I went completely round the twist. It was just after eight when I pulled into the car park for what proved to be a short, fishless, fluff flinging session and there was a butty box waiting to be given a new home. I always consider finding something useful to be a good omen. However, closer inspection resulted in it staying where it was...

They weren't biting today

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bank Holiday Blues

I doubt any of you few, you happy few, you band of brothers... Enough already! I doubt if any of you care a toss about the trials and tribulations that have kept me from the water's edge for a week, but I shall inflict them upon you anyway.

Monday to Thursday was spent awaiting callers of one sort or another every day. Some came bearing gifts (gifts as in £s - I like those callers), some failed to show (those I don't like), and some needed a kick up the backside to turn up at all. The latter was a delivery of belated blanks (although not all the ones I was awaiting), which meant that Friday to today (Sunday) has been taken up turning the things into fishing rods so that I can not go fishing again on Tuesday when I shall again be waiting in for a caller (my couriers) to take them away.

Such is the life of a one man rod building outfit. Whole days wasted waiting for something that takes a few minutes to be over and done with - always seeming to happen at a time that makes nipping out for a few hours impossible. Impossible at this time of year when the evenings are still quite short, and there's nowhere local to fish into dark. Once the rivers open the problem disappears.

I know I could get up early and fish for a few hours before starting work, but I lack the discipline. I'd either carry on having 'one more cast', or I'd come home feeling tired and have 'one more brew' before settling down to work - in other words leaving work for another day... It's not that I'm lazy. Just that fishing is more fun than working!

Rod building entails a fair bit of waiting - for glues and varnishes to dry. Today I have used that time to stuff catalogues into envelopes. I put it off for as long as I can as it's so mind numbingly dull. This tedious process revealed that I didn't order quite enough catalogues to go round. So, anyone with a surname beginning with S to Z won't be getting one until I get some more printed.

With all that lot out of the way and (I hope) the last few rods of the weekend spinning merrily on the drier I thought I'd have a look at the web stats for this blog. To my surprise this last month there's been a fair bit of traffic coming from a carp fishing forum. I guess I'll have to stop saying nasty things about carp and carp anglers! In fact I've already been thinking of taking up carp fishing. My reasoning being that carp anglers are always being pestered by big bream. Seeing as I can't catch bream when I fish for them perhaps fishing for carp will lull them into a suicidal feeding frenzy? We shall see - if I ever find the time to try.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Butt ugly

I get some rare old rods to repair. Rare as in odd looking, rather than scarce, that is. The one pictured below has to be up there with the worst. I'm all for making things look different - but there are limits. What gets me is the 1950s nostalgia vibe to it. Grey plastic and rubbery vinyl. I just had to share!

Ugly butt

Monday, April 06, 2009

Bream, flies, and 'mushy peas'

I always think that spring has truly arrived when the blackthorn is in bloom. It's surprising how much further advanced the year is down south. Last weekend I travelled to Northampton and the bushes were white with blossom, yet back home the buds had yet to open.

Blackthorn in flower and the bream should be on the move

Using natures signs from the land can give you clues as to what the fish will be doing and I think that bream are a worthwhile option when the blackthorn is out, but tench become more viable when the hawthorn is in flower. So, on my way home from Northampton I called in at a pit for a few hours in search of bream. I hadn't fished the pit before so didn't expect much. I wasn't disappointed. I blanked. Although I did have a worm bitten in two.

Yesterday I intended to make the trek south again and give the place a more serious assault. However I rose late. Having nothing better to do I set off anyway, arriving after noon but still with plenty of time to put some bait out and fish a few hours into dark. The plan was to spod out a load of pellets, mixed with some sloppy green groundbait to hold them in the spod.

Mushy pea spod mix

With the bait out to a marker float two method feeders were cast out on top of this into about eleven feet of water. The third rod fished a maggot feeder to a gravelly spot at the bottom of the marginal shelf just in case any tench were moving about. Sitting back in the sun with the light dancing on the ripples alternatively watching the water for signs of fish and the bobbins for signs of movement it was most relaxing. Far more so than the fly flinging I'd been indulging in on the local canal during the week.

All set up and ready for action

The concept of fly fishing, for trout as well as pike, has a theoretical and aesthetic appeal. The thought of carrying just a rod, net and light bag is enticing when you have carried five rods, a rucksack and chair plus what felt like a ton of bait half way round a 20 acre pit. And the collecting, or creating, or 'flies' is an added bonus. I had bought some Alien Hair from Alex at Zoota Lures and done some messing about. Nice stuff to work with once you get the hang of it.

Crudely tied pike 'flies'

As I said in another post there is a pleasure in the casting of a fly line, but sitting in the sun waiting for an alarm to sound is more my style these days. Especially when I'm blanking. Which is what I did on the bream pit. I was full of anticipation when the wind dropped towards dusk. I expected to see numerous dark rolling backs over my baited area and the bobbins dropping back like glowing yellow stones. It didn't happen. Just as it had got dark enough for the head torch to be required I had two 'bites'. One to a method feeder one to the maggot feeder. But they were only lifts of the bobbin that dropped straight back. Liners I suspect.

I missed out on some good bream fishing last April because I couldn't string together three days to fit in a two-nighter. With Easter weekend approaching it looks like this year might follow the same pattern. Once the weather has warmed up enough to get the tench moving in earnest then day sessions become a viable option for decent fish - provided you can get up early enough to hit the water at dawn. The very thought of it makes me quail!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

On the dark(ish) side

I spent over an hour and a half walking along a stretch of my local canal bringing back happy memories of my teenage fishing years. The spot I caught my first pike on a deadbait from, the bend where I caught a net-full of small perch and the next bend that seemed a mile away where I caught a perch of a pound that got my name in Angling Times and a Kingfisher Guild certificate!

I was also reminded why the place now drives me mad. Drifting mats of reeds broken up from the margins and rafts of dead reeds, both of which drift around with attendant outriders of single stalks hanging subsurface in order to catch your line when you are lure fishing. Or in my case today, fishing with a fly rod.

The bane of mobile canal fishing

Some six or eight years ago I gave pike fly fishing a whirl, even built a rod for the job but I was never really happy with it and stopped selling it. I wasn't too sure that pike could be landed quickly enough on fly gear. Having been assured that they can, by people whose judgement I trust, I'm getting the urge to give it another go. So I rustled up a blank I thought might be suitable and dug out my fly lines and 'flies'. The rod certainly casts a 10 or 11 weight well enough - even better in an experienced caster's hands. The canal is always a banker for a jack or two, especially on a warm and sunny spring day like today when something sparkly usually does the trick. So that's why I was there having a walk. Trying to find a fish to put a bend in the rod.

I tried lots of spots, each one should have had an eager jack lurking in the side waiting to nip out and grab a lure. But not today. It was a grand day to be out though, a buzzard mewed and soared overhead, lapwings and shellduck were in the ploughed and harrowed field at my back, frogs croaking in the reeds, blue skies and fresh green leaves on the hawthorn. I could have easily stopped out all afternoon, but I had somewhere to go and someone to meet.

Something sparkly

It always makes me laugh that pike flies are tied to look nice when they are dry, when what matters is what they look like when wet. That tinselly lure looks like nowt when it's bedraggled, but in the water it comes alive. Fished on a floating line it's weighted head gives it a pulsating rise'n'dive action. One that jacks can't resist. But not today!

Something sparkly in the water

I think I can see the appeal that fly fishing has for some people. There are lots of gadgets, gizmos and gunks to collect, not to mention the flies themselves, and there is a pleasure in the casting itself. In some ways it's like golf, though - a good walk spoiled! It's certainly an inefficient way of catching fish. Why put all that effort into repeatedly casting when a juicy maggot will catch trout for fun? Some people obviously like to make their leisure hours more like hard work...

Anyway, the good news is that my knee appears to be working properly. So, sod all that rod wafting, it's time to sit behind the buzzers again!