Thursday, May 28, 2009

A credit would be nice

I was idly Googling for 'big bream' when up popped one of my photos. Expecting it to link back here I clicked it and got a surprise.

C'est le web!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tench memories

I've not seen a tench so much as roll this year, yet this time last year I was catching loads of them. Or that's how I remember it. Checking my diary I read a different story of blank after blank followed by a few fish then more blanks. We seem to remember the good days more than the bad - until the bad ones become the norm!

To remind myself what they look like I've dug out some tench snaps from my Sywell seasons when I'm sure I never blanked... They were enjoyable days in good company with easy fishing - cast two boilies out and wait for the alarm to sound!

My first eight pounder - 1990(?)

A summer seven - 1991

7lb 10oz - 13/03/92

I didn't visit Sywell again until 2006 when I fished a 24+ hour session having been told boilies were no longer any good and maggot feeder was the method for success. I didn't have a run until I put a 14mm Tutti on one rod for the last couple of hours when I almost immediately hooked and lost a fish, then caught the rather tatty fish below. I should have started out with a Tutti on one rod, a few fish had rolled in front of me so who knows?

8lb 7oz - June 2006

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Planning ahead

The tenching has been more like sitting in the open air staring at rods than fishing so far this year. Either I haven't been able to find them or they just haven't woken up and started exploring yet. The bream, on the other hand, had been going wild down south. I couldn't string the time together to go after them though. It can be a short period of easy fishing and I'd missed out on it last year. Tuesday saw me able to get away. Unsure of the range I'd need to fish at I packed my Interceptors and one of my Ballistas. My plan being that if I needed two long range rods I'd press the marker rod into operation - so I put a spare Baitrunner in the bag. For some reason I threw another spod in the bait bag, to give me a choice of four. It must have been premonition.

The first task was to walk round the lake looking, and asking, for clues. One thing I will say about carp anglers is that when they know you're one of those weirdos who prefers catching bream or tench they are very helpful. A spot where the bream had rolled the previous evening was pointed out to me. It would be a starting point if nothing else, so I wheeled my wheelbarrow round and selected a swim that gave access to open water. Out with the plumbing rod and hard gravel was located almost at the casting limit of my Interceptors - determined by casting a feeder at the marker float. This process revealed that one of the Sporteras was making a grinding noise and felt as rough as a bag of gravel. I put my spare Baitrunner on that rod and swapped the other Baitrunner from the Ballista to the other Interceptor. I prefer to fish with matching reels so that I know where all the knobs and levers are and that they all work in the same way. Essential in the dark, I find.

Tools of the baiting trade

The next task was the spodding of feed. A presoaked mix of pigeon conditioner and groats to which I added a load of mixed pellets. To save my back I stood the spod mix bucket on two other bait buckets. This also speeded the spodding up. Well, it did until the first spod fell apart. I had wondered why the bead was a tight fit under the loop on the MCF spod when it hadn't been on the previous cast. Everything looked okay. Then I cast again and the fins fell off. I had assumed the fins to be an integral part of the moulding, but they are not. They are a separate piece that is glued to the spod body. As the wire loop is attached to the fins and takes the force of the cast inertia did the rest. No matter, I had three more spods.

Spod the difference

I clipped on a bigger spod that I'd modified to release like the MCF, filled it up and let rip. There was a resounding crack as the line parted and the spod flew free. The line had tangled at the reel. Arse! Time was getting on and I had two options. Swap my marker reel to the spod rod (it was clipped up at the correct distance and I had my horizon marks picked out to aim for) or take the float off and use the marker rod. Out with a second MCF spod (because it was smaller) and try the marker rod. It did the job easily, and was less tiring to use than the heavy spod rod. I was soon working to a rhythm and the bait was placed accurately. I think I'll try a lighter rod for spodding again.

With half the spod mix out on the lake bed I set to sorting out my method mix. This consisted of Vitalin, more of the mixed pellets and some Sonu fishmeal and pellet method groundbait. The thinking being that bream like pellets and fishmeal! One rod fished two grains of floating fake corn set about half an inch off bottom and the other rig had a 10mm Tutti Frutti boilie on the hair. With both rods out I set up camp and waited. As if a switch had been thrown bream began rolling at eight o'clock. First of all well out from the baited patch, then closer and all points between the bait and the middle of the lake. Confidence was sky high.

When tench fishing with 'bolt' rigs I set the baitrunners and the line tight. The only way the bobbin can go is down and the tight drag helps set the hook and stop it falling out. When I'm fishing for bream I've started fishing the bobbins almost as low as the chains will allow but with just a bit more of a drop possible. The baitrunners are slackened off so if a bream does move away it can take line and give an indication. One or two have actually given decent runs. Too often I've failed to spot a bream take using the tight set up. All that happens is a single bleep and that's it. Either the fish stays where it is or it kites round on the tight line. Ignore the bleep and you end up winding a bream in when you wake up!

The down side to the slacker approach is that you are more aware of line bites, some of which can fool you into thinking they are the real thing. I always give an indication plenty of time before lifting into it. Letting the bobbin go up and stay up, watching the line tighten and the rod tip move, waiting while the bobbin goes up and down for ages, or watching it drop right back. Even so they still manage to fool me now and then. Line bites can occur on a tight line too, and if they result in a slack liner you have to get up and reset the bobbin. I think fishing the bobbin's on a bit of a drop is the best, and most informative option.

Loaded for bream

Once it was dark everything fell into place. Suffice to say that the bream found the feed and my hookbaits, the bobbins jiggled, alarms sounded and the tripod was required! One fish came out in daylight, and after I'd returned it and was sorting the landing net out I found a tiny pikelet. The tiniest pikelet I think I have ever seen.

From acorns...

To give a sense of scale!

The second night followed a similar pattern to the first. Bait was spodded out in readiness for the dark hours and right on cue at eight the bream began rolling. Again it wasn't until the light had gone that the bobbins moved and the scales and camera were required. Despite the problems that beset the start of the session a little forethought in packing extra spods and reels and some improvisation on the rod front had rescued the situation and I'd done okay. As I packed away my bream camp in the morning sunshine it was apparent that my bunny suit and towel would need a good wash!

Many years ago I scoffed at people wanting to fish for bream. It wasn't until I caught my first double that I realised big bream are different to small or medium bream. They're not groundbait devouring slime-balls, they are impressive and majestic beasts.

A male bream rests before release

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nasty mice

A 'mate' of mine sent me this a few years ago. With friends like that...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A bream wind did blow

Saturday was a great day. I had to be in Nottingham (near as dammit) to attend the PAC AMM and stand down as webmaster. Free at last, free at last! To celebrate I spent the afternoon and evening bream fishing. Things got off to a bad start when I loaded the barrow up, pushed it five yards then felt it grind to a halt and topple on its side. Some straps off the rucksack had tangled with the axle and wheel. Reloaded and I was off again. When I neared the spinney where I fished last week the path was blocked by a fallen tree. Should I drop into the swim in the open or muster all my strength and move the tree? I rolled up my sleeves and set to work. After a few minutes the tree (okay, it was couple of large branches snapped from a willow by the recent strong winds, which were still blowing) was shifted and the way ahead was cleared.

The sun was shining on the sheltered gap in the trees and it was a pleasant spot to fish from. The wind was really howling straight into the bay making casting any distance difficult, and catapulting balls of groundbait out with any accuracy nigh on impossible. I opted to fish the feeders on their own. Two method balls, one with the inevitable two grains of fake corn the other with a 10mm Tutti, the third rod fished a maggot heli-feeder rig set up on heavy tubing (more for the hell of it than anything). The hook had a couple of fake casters on the hair so I chucked it to my left close in where I thought tench might patrol.

Once settled I had a rethink. Last week I'd picked up fish on a long chuck in daylight. A loaded blockend feeder would cut across the wind better than a method ball. So the maggot feeder was wound in, the feeder swapped for a heavier one loaded with a backlead and a worm added to the hook. The rig certainly flew.

Add a worm for bream

On with the kettle. Hardly had the brew been poured when the bobbin rose on the worm rod and the spool started spinning. I wasn't too sure what I'd hooked, I think I was fighting the wind on the line as much as the fish - which turned out to be a be-tuberculed five pound bream. That was all a bit unexpected.

A bream with acne

Half an hour later I had a repeat performance. When I lifted into this fish there was a bit of weight then all went slack. For some reason the hooklink had parted. Peculiar. Fifteen minutes later the Tutti rod was in action resulting in a seven pounder, the corn rod producing a fish of about six pounds after another quarter of an hour. Then the liners started.

As six o'clock approached the wind swung around and the white caps disappeared from the water, the surface turning to a gentle ripple. A shower passed over then the sun shone again. The liners dried up. Bream were to be seen rolling all over the place, but the bobbins were static.

No fish at the end of the rainbow

I expected more action when the darkness drew on, but although the rolling continued and a few liners materialised dusk was quiet. Into proper darkness and it went completely dead. A final bream, the smallest of the day, came along to the worm/caster combo. Then nothing again.

I can only assume that it was the wind that got the bream feeding. Or maybe if I'd put some bait out when the wind dropped they might have settled on that late on. Anyway, it was a good day to be out and a great way to enjoy my freedom!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Three deserved bream

A man can only take so much frustration and last week had been mighty frustrating. Even so, when I woke the rain was hammering on the window and I very nearly rolled over and went back to sleep. However the BBC on-line weather forecasts have proved to be pretty accurate when it comes to the 24hr predictions and this rain had been foretold to clear. Sure enough it began to ease, so I got up and loaded the car.

I'd been studying the pit I was heading for on Flash Earth* and there appeared to be a shallow bar off a point that faced the prevailing wind. It had to be worth a look if the spot was free. Being almost as far from the car park as you can get it was free, despite my late arrival for a Sunday session. The barrow proved it's worth in getting a heavy load of bait round to the swim. The tackle I can manage, but a bucket of pre-soaked Vitalin and groats weighs a ton, plus there was dry groundbait and pellets adding to the load.

Out with the plumbing rod and there it was. At a couple or three feet it was rather shallower than I'd anticipated, but with twelve feet of water just beyond and to the left of the bar it had to be worth a shot. With the marker float in place in ten feet I set about catapulting out balls of Vitalin laced with groats and a mix of smallish pellets of various types. There were some groats remaining in the big bucket after I had tipped the mix into my groundbait bowl for balling up. Dry pellets were tipped in and water added. Once the catty had done its job the spod rod was used to put out the remaining pellets and groats over the top.

Some of the Vitalin mix was held back and half a bag of Sonu Carp Method Mix added to make a smoother mix to use on the two method feeders. One feeder was baited with a 10mm Tutti and the other with two grains of floating fake corn with a shot attached a quarter of an inch from the hook eye. The third rod was to fish a 15mm fishmeal boilie on a simple helicopter rig, with a PVA bag of crumbled boilies.

The helicopter rig consists of a quick change swivel trapped between two Grippa Stops and Hiro Rollsnap (any snap link swivel will do) being tied to the end of the mainline. The hooklink has a rig sleeve on it to slide over the loop that slips into the quick change swivel. No tubing, no lead core. Dead simple.

It don't get much more basic

As the Ballistas I built up for breaming last year haven't sold I decided to take them for an outing. They did a good job of casting the method feeders. At 2.5lb test so they should! I'd prefer a rod with a slightly softer butt section though.

Posing as a carper

The day had brightened up and sheltered from the strong wind I was nice and warm. It still being spring the temperature soon dropped when a cloud obscured the sun though. With the wind blowing into the bay I expected bream to be in residence. Action wasn't anticipated until the sun started to sink. So I settled back on my bedchair to read a barbel book.

At five to two I was disturbed by the right hand bobbin lifting and holding. I gave it time to drop back in case it was a liner, but it stayed up. I lifted the rod, felt a weight then it was gone. Must have been a liner after all.

The next four hours were spend reading, listening to the wireless and being bemused by carp anglers. I think some carp anglers mustn't own an umbrella as they erect a bivvy for day sessions. And what's all this about facing away from the water? I know fishing into the wind can be unpleasant, but you can always manage to get the brolly (or whatever) arranged so you have at least a side on view of the rods. And if it isn't raining just wrap up warm!

For some reason I thought I'd recast the big boilie rod further out, maybe twenty yards more. I must have forgotten to switch the Delkim back on because twenty minutes later I heard a short, sharp buzz from a baitrunner. The bobbin on the big boilie rod was up at the top. This time when I lifted the rod the fish stayed attached. Fairly hooked it was a modest bream of some six pounds.

15mm bream mouth

Around seven thirty the wind dropped, a cuckoo called, I had a liner, and a couple of bream rolled beyond my bait. An hour later the big boilie rod was in action again. The result being a slightly bigger bream which I weighed to see if my guesstimate was correct. It was. A shade over seven pounds. Another hour later with the light pretty much gone the liners started to increase in frequency. Most were gentle lifts and falls of the bobbin, but one whacked it up so hard the clip hit the rod butt and I was convinced it was the start of a carp run until it immediately dropped back! I now had the baits staggered with one beyond, one on, and one short of, the baited area. The bream were rolling with a vengeance, and the liners were coming constantly. At ten o'clock all three bobbins were in motion at once, Delkim lights flashing and buzzers tweeting quietly. One stayed up at the top longer than usual and the final, and smallest, bream of the session was landed.

On the way back to the car I knew there was a pothole I had to avoid with the barrow. I reached the place where it was, thought I had negotiated it, then promptly pushed the barrow into it. It was the perfect size to trap a wheelbarrow wheel. Bugger. Much heaving and cursing later I extricated the barrow and carried on. Stopping briefly to rebalance the load that had shifted during the mishap. Still, it was better than trying to carry the load back to the car.

No monsters caught, but I put some thought and effort in and didn't blank. Now I can face the workbench again. For a day or two at any rate.

* You didn't think that link would actually go to a view of the pit, did you?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

It don't half hum

After my struggles to cast the pike flies last time out I thought I'd get some practice in without a dead budgie on the end of the line. I still went to the canal to do this of course, and took some flies with me. Despite the Bank Holiday boat traffic the water had a bit of clarity to it. It wasn't long before a small, and I mean small, jacklet hit the fly. I doubt it was much bigger than it's intended meal.

I carried on round the bend where all the floating mats of reeds had collected and started fishing again. Last time out I had spied what looked like the bloated corpse of a small pike in the reeds on the far bank. I have a feeling that it had got washed out from the margins and blown round the bend because in one peg there was a very dead jack that appeared to have been dragged out of the water. How it had met its end is anybody's guess. Thankfully this is a far rarer sight on the canal than when I first fished it over 35 years ago when the cause of death was always a blow to the head.

Esox stinkius

After walking downwind of the carcass I took the fly off the leader and started casting across the grass. It surprised me how much further the line went, and how much more easily, without the budgie on the end. After a quarter of an hour I was almost impressing myself with the ease with which I was casting. Then it all went to pot. So I packed up and came home to get my bream gear sorted out!

Friday, May 01, 2009

A deserved blank

When you watch a coot swimming out to your baited patch, diving down, popping back up with a tasty morsel in its beak, swimming back to its chick and repeating the process, all day, it should tell you something. Slow on the uptake it took me almost two days to work out that there were either no fish in the swim or the coots had devoured all the bait. That was last week and it was nice to be out in the sun, but that's not the same as catching fish.

Coot food

What was surprising was that the coot (or coots as I suppose the pair might have been taking turns) rarely picked up my baits. The fake casters were never touched, the fake corn occasionally and the boilies only after they had been recast. A bait was never picked up a second time. I also noted that when there was a hatch of flies in the evening the coot(s) stopped nicking my bait and made the most of the meat that had come available. Once the hatch was over they went back to the pellets and stuff. There'll be some well fed cootlets swimming about soon.

A coot snack

On the way home I collected my latest batch of blanks which have kept me occupied since my return. I'd be more occupied with them if I wasn't still waiting for a few rod fittings. Par for the course though for a European distributor to be out of stock...

A few rebuilds and refurbs have materialised this week. As usual they show varying levels of craftsmanship. The professionally built rods just need tidying up even though they are fourteen years old. They do have ridiculously long handles though. The 'home made' rods are a different matter. One of the reel seats on one pair is fitted off centre. I wouldn't actually know how to achieve that if I wanted to! Other than that they are a simple rewhip and varnish job that is almost complete. The third pair of rods are a full strip and rebuild.

One of the reel seats was loose. When pulled off it was apparent why. Whoever had built the rod failed to run epoxy round the outer edges of the rolls of masking tape under the seat. This allows water to get in and soften, and eventually rot, the masking tape. The reel seat then works loose.

Rotten tape

The blanks are Tri-Cast Arrowlites which are nice blanks, but like all woven carbon/Kevlar blanks frustrating to refurb. Strip the clear coat off and the Kevlar strands stick up. Being bullet proof they are impossible to shave off with a blade. Apply varnish over them and you have sticky-up bits. These can be trimmed away for a second coat. But it's all a right pain.

With no time to get away I snatched a couple of fly fishing sessions. One a blank on the ressy, one on the canal that resulted in a jack attacking a 'fly' three times before getting fed up. Pleasant evenings but, as with the tench/bream session, I'd have preferred to catch something. At least I put some effort and thought in so didn't feel like kicking myself.

With warblers arriving the cuckoos won't be far away. The trees are leafed up nicely, hawthorn buds starting to show (even elder buds) and the reeds are starting to turn from straw to green as their shoots reach up through the water.

New shoots

It all makes you want to get out and fish. Then another Bank Holiday approaches to spoil it all.