Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Books, writers and writing

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd read Casting at the Sun recently. I also got a copy of My Fishing Days and Fishing Ways by J.W. Martin (The Trent Otter) at the same time. Two reprints from the Medlar Classics series - affordable hardbacks produced in an appealing format. I'm not a book snob and think books are meant to be read not objects to be admired, so the cheap price appeals to me. Paperbacks would have been even more appealing.

It must be me getting old, as I usually prefer books that are instructional rather than intended to invoke the spirit of angling, but the Yates book is a very good read. An evocative tale of his journey through carp fishing to catching the record. But for me it is spoiled by the section relating to the Golden Scale Club.

Nostalgia is fine, but trying to live in a romanticised Enid Blyton world in the modern age makes me spit. If Yates wants to fish with old tackle to catch carp, great. But please leave the silly names and ginger ale out of it. If I get the urge to read the book again I shall be taking a sharp knife to physically excise the offending pages!

The Martin book, on the other hand, is a genuine piece of history, having been written in 1906. For me the sections about the Trent and barbel are the most interesting. The famous Cromwell weir was still at the planning stage, so the river must have been tidal further upstream and somewhat different to what it is today, yet many of the stretches mentioned will be familiar to Trent regulars and are still productive today. I've caught from some of them myself. While tackle and baits have changed in some respects it's interesting to read how little some other things have altered. The fish are still the same, so they still hold in the same sorts of places they did 100 years ago and behave in similar fashion.

Another thing that hasn't changed is anglers moaning that the fishing isn't as good as it was years ago. In Martin's case I can't help thinking that taking most of the catch home, or selling it to pay for the next day's bait, can't have helped. So it's no wonder that a double figure pike was a rare capture, and a twenty pounder an absolute monster, but fourteen pound barbel were still to be had from the Mighty Trent. A good read. I must seek out a (cheap) copy of his barbel book.

You may have noticed a new quote from John Gierach in the sidebar. Not a writer I was familiar with, what with him being an American cane fly rod wafter, but I have seen a number of quotes from his writing on a few sites - notably Pure Piscator. I thought I ought to acquaint myself with his work as he clearly had things to say that were worth saying.

I ordered Death, Taxes, and Leaky Waders, a compendium of essays culled from six of his books. My third angling book purchase in as many weeks that contains no photographs of fish or diagrams of rigs! Gierach's a writer more on the 'why' of angling than the 'how' (although there's some of that slipped in almost incidentally), on anglers and their motivations. It turns out he studied philosophy, and had ambitions to become a 'serious' writer, which no doubt accounts for this. A parallel with Yates, perhaps, who went to art school - which attracts people who don't like the concept of work in the nine-to-five sense of the word, people who look at the world through enquiring eyes.

I have long felt that fishing is akin to the creation of art, be that in paint or prose. Writing, painting, and fishing are all about immersion in the task at hand, about solving problems, finding new ways to do things, avoiding repetition, keeping out of ruts. They are all three intellectual pursuits. The results (the book, the painting, the fish in the net) are not what they are about. They are about the process. While that process can be frustrating, to the point of heartbreak or despair, it is what provides the satisfaction. Gierach knows this. Joseph Conrad knew it too; "They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means". That's stuck with me for nigh on thirty years - which is why the full quote appears at the foot of this page.

Books of essays can be dipped into. Having a mistrust of all things fly-fishing I turned straight to the essay Pike - hoping I might ease myself into the book through a species I have some understanding of and almost immediately found a quotable line; "Skill in fishing is a nebulous thing based largely on seasoned intuition, perhaps informed by a little knowledge, but catching a few fish now and then doesn't mean you have it". The book is by my bedside. I can see it being defaced by my corner foldings and underlinings...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

All's well that ends well

I hadn't planned to fish, but late on I got the urge. The flask and pellet bucket were hastily filled, the brolly removed from the quiver to cut down on weight, and off I went. I headed downstream of where I had fished last time out. Although the river had dropped a foot or so, was still falling and quite clear, I was strangely confident.

I was low on S-Pellets so had thrown in some near two year old Dynamite Oyster and Mussel shelf-life boilies for a change, and one went on the downstream rod with a single 8mm crab Pellet-O on the upstream rod. There was hardly any breeze disturbing the leaves or the few clouds in the blue sky. A great evening to be by the river. All that was needed now was a fish or two.

Only half an hour in the upstream rod was away. Almost literally! The rod rest hadn't been pushed in too well and toppled forward as the rod headed towards the river. The fish was lively but not too big. As it reached the net the hooklink parted. Cut off near the hook. Damn. Just one of those things and nothing to get too upset about. I was sorting the rig out when the boilie rod signalled a tap-tappy take. This felt like a much better fish. Just as I was planning the photo session everything went slack as a large swirl appeared on the surface of the river. The upper, mono, section of my hooklink had gone at the knot. And I'd checked all my knots before casting out. Double damn.

The rod was thrown up the bank, not in anger but to get it out of the way, and I went back to sorting out the first rod. Not having any small bait rigs tied up I looped on a boilie rig and cast this rod downstream before tying up some new rigs and retackling the rod that was out of action.

I'd not long recast both baits a little further across before that burst of activity, but now I was wondering if the lost fish would have killed the swim. The pva bag stock was topped up. The sky clouded over. Should I move swims? When the upstream rod went again I thought I might stick around. Only a little one, but third time lucky. Twenty five minutes later I was perking up when another gentle take to the small pellet resulted in fish that pulled a fair bit which, once in the net, looked like a scale and potential camera job.

The fish was left in the net while I wetted the sling and zeroed the scales. With the fish on the bank I was confused. I was certain I'd caught it on the pellet rod, but there was a boilie hanging from it's bottom lip. It was the fish I'd lost earlier! Both hooks were removed, lifting my spirits as I felt I was righting a wrong. The Avon's needle stopped short of vertical, but I wasn't disappointed. Ten minutes later another fish was landed on the same rod. Things were picking up.

Hooked twice, landed once!

Cloud cover was breaking up and reforming. Constellations appearing and disappearing. Dew was forming on my tackle box and bucket lids, the grass and my woolly hat. The light from my headlamp was growing dim and flickery. In the even dimmer light from my spare I fitted new batteries. Now I could see much better to slide pellet stops into small hair loops.

This was one of those nights when I was glad of the red filter on the Petzl too. Midges were drawn to the white light and getting up my nose. Not metaphorically up it. Up it! Insects had been a nuisance when playing fish too. One daddy long legs in particular. Fluttering and crawling over my specs. With all this bat food on the wing it was no surprise that Nora and her sisters were out in force. As well as getting the adrenaline flowing by flying into the lines between real bites they were also hitting the line when fish were being played. A disconcerting sensation.

A greedy scampette of about a pound was the next fish to pick up the 15mm boilie. This was followed by a second eight pounder to the same bait. I was beginning to think packing the boilies had been a good move. Five minutes later a fish fell off. Were things going to go to the dogs again? When another nine pounder was landed to the pellet rod at quarter to twelve I put such foolish thoughts to the back of my mind. While the action was continuing I'd stop later than planned. The next fish I landed had already seen the inside of my net this month. It was the kinky one. I'm sure most of these barbel get caught over and over again, only the easily recognisable ones being noted.

I read Casting at the Sun by Chris Yates last week. His wacky ways must have infected me because I found myself thinking that it was some kind of piscatorial karma that was the cause of my upturn in 'luck' since removing that lost hook. Really it was that the barbel were havin' it!

Half an hour without a bite and I was planning my departure. The small flask was emptying fast. My stomach beginning to demand a top up. Another fish came along to the crab Pellet-O. The first chunky looking fish of the season. Most of the fish are still looking a little lean and tatty but not this one. I guessed it would be the third nine of the night, but I was wrong. I popped her in the sack and set up the tripod.

Two test shots to get the framing then do it for real. One shot was fired off and I moved forward to better fill the frame accidentally taking a second shot. Ready for the proper pics and the bulb release failed. I checked it and it was deflated. I removed the bulb from the tube and it filled with air again. Another try and nothing. A squeeze of the bulb revealed a draught coming from it. It had split. The fish was slipped back.


Come what may I'd give it another thirty minutes, but I'd tidy the inessentials away. With the rucksack packed the downstream rod woke up. This fish was more typical in appearance. Quite skinny, but longer than the previous one and only three ounces lighter. I couldn't face messing with the self timer so photographed her by the rod. Was there more to come?


As it turned out, by the time the flask was finally drained, there wasn't. I packed up, again, and tramped my merry way back to the car through damp grass and cowpats. Then home for a slice of toast and a mug of hot chocolate before bed to dream of a large golden fish in a small pond. I blame Chris Yates.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Win some, lose some

It was breezy, from the west, overcast but dry. Boredom had set in so the river beckoned. There was a hint of colour beneath the ruffled surface, a surface maybe eighteen inches up yet dropping. The afternoon had brought out a few more hopeful souls, who had been catching a few. The favoured pegs being occupied I wasn't phased and dropped in between them at seven thirty.

Small taps occurred almost immediately I cast out, but no firm offers. A fish or two were landed either side of me, small barbel. My first fish, a chub of about two pounds fell for an S-Pellet fished downstream shortly before nine. I changed the two 12mm crab Pellet-Os on the upstream rod for a single 8mm version, and straight away I hooked a little scamp of a barbel that shot hither and thither before falling off as it reached the shallows.

The wind died, or maybe swung round to a direction that sheltered me from it, and in the quiet birds of all sorts could be heard singing before roosting. Then the valley fell silent save for the occasional distant vehicle or 'plane as darkness descended.

It was an hour later that the upstream rod produced a small chub, less than a pound. Book at Bedtime had finished on the radio when I decided to have a change of attack. I wound in the upstream rod, rebaited and recast - further across than before. Thinking I might as well put a fresh bait on the other rod I had my back turned to the river when I heard the whiring of a baitrunner.

One of the anglers downstream had passed me by saying he couldn't buy a bite, and I'd said I was in the same boat. As he headed back to his peg I was playing a fish. It felt like a decent one too. As mentioned in previous posts the fish aren't making long runs at the moment. It still pulled hard though. In the light of the Petzl it looked close to tripod size. The scales stopped a few ounces short of the arbitrary mark. A nice fish nonetheless, but still in slightly flabby post-spawn condition.

The recast pellet was taken within minutes by a four pound chub, then by a six pound barbel. I'd found the spot all right. The next cast had also only settled for ten minutes before it was picked up. I was busy filing PVA mesh bags and by the time I had grabbed the rod the rig was snagged. I tried the usual tricks; altering the angle of pull, opening the bale arm, putting the rod in the rest with the baitrunner slackened. After ten or more minutes nothing had happened. Feeding slack line it seemed the fish had gone. Pulling for a break that was what the line did.

I retackled in hope, fairly sure that the loss of a fish would have put an end to sport from that spot. Certainly for as long as I was planning to fish for. Sure enough the upstream rod remained motionless. The final fish of the night was another small chub that took the downstream bait five minutes before midnight. That was my intended departure time, but having had some recent action I stopped a further thirty minutes. Just in case. It was not to be.

As I approached the gate the beam from my headtorch picked out numerous pairs of glowing eyes. The cows were peacefully chewing their cud and, although they turned their heads, ignored me as I wound my way between them. However, a couple that were standing seemed to give me sideways looks. If cows can think I'm sure they were considering me stupid.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bagging up

The test match was over for the day, rod repairs spinning while they dried, my only prospect was some paperwork - so I filled a flask and left the paperwork behind. For a reasonably nice Saturday evening in July the roads were quiet. As I neared the river a barn owl flew across my path. Being out so early it probably has young to feed.

For the first time this season a familiar van was in the car park. I checked the bucket of feeder mix that had been in the back of the car since Tuesday night and was pleased to see it hadn't gone mouldy. So the feeder would be my first line of attack with bags of pellets the back up if the feeder mix ran out.

To my surprise the owner of the van was packing up having caught one barbel from the heavily coloured, but falling, river. I didn't need much encouragement to drop in the swim being vacated as it was the one I fancied fishing anyway. The river had been a lot higher, about four or five feet higher by the looks of things, and the bank below the 'tideline' was quite slippy. Even worse where it had already been trampled. I set my chair up on reasonably safe ground.

It wasn't long before the marauding ducks arrived. They are growing fast and as greedy as ever. Unluckily for them I had no spare bait, but threw them a few crumbs of feeder mix anyway. They were soon rooting around, scrabbling over my landing net pole and bumping into my rods and reels providing an entertaining warm-up act before the top of the bill rattled my rod tips.

The headline act made it's entrance after an hour. The upstream rod tip, the bait cast to a long crease, started to bounce slowly. I picked the rod up to feel the line and the bouncing continued. So I wound down and bent into whatever it was. Certainly not a chub. The S-Pellet had scored again - and the 'dodgy' S5 hook. As has been the case most of the time this season the barbel took its time to wake up, being little more than a heavy weight until it neared the net. At this stage I was on slippy ground and not too keen on shifting my feet in case I slid, or fell, into the river. This meant I had to net the now irate fish using the full length of my nine foot landing net pole. So it took a bit longer than normal. Clearly a fish in need of the scales - and a photo next to the scales might be called for. Those scales called for the sack and tripod.

You can't beat a bit of prebaiting...

While taking three quick snaps I saw the downstream rod had pulled over and was pointing well downstream of where the feeder had been cast. After walking downstream a few yards to release the fish from firm ground I picked up the second rod and leant into another dogged weight. This turned out to be a real surprise, and a new river best. Possibly a personal best as I can't recall having caught one with such length and depth before.


With both rods sorted and recast after that burst of activity I needed a brew. Forty minutes later, at nine o'clock, the upstream rod was away again. Another nodding bite rather than a four foot twitch. This fish was into the flow straight away and got carried downstream, so it fought a bit harder than the first barbel had in the initial stages, but once in the slower water it came in easily. As I was going to carry it to the release spot in the weighlsing I clocked it's weight at over eight pounds.

The evening was cloudy but dry. Cloudy enough to keep the stars in bed and make darkness arrive earlier. There was a wind blowing from the west that died after dark so the night was mild enough. At quarter to eleven, after a series of rattles and pulls to both rods, the downstream rod tip imitated the actions of the two bites I'd had on the upstream rod. A barbel that I put at around six pounds was quickly netted - after it had tried to drag me into the river as my feet lost grip in the now very slippy mud at the water's edge. Again I was to carry it to the water for return in the sling, so I weighed it out of curiosity. Seven pounds. When you stop weighing smaller fish you get out of practice with the guestimates I suppose.

Quarter of an hour later I had a repeat bite on the downstream rod. This felt like a smallish barbel on the way in, so I was confused at how slim it was at the net. Hmm. Eel. As I started to tidy my gear prior to a midnight finish a light drizzle made its presence felt. Good timing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blogs, blagging and the infernalweb

Recently I received an e-mail promoting the publication of a facsimile of an angler's journal. It's a bit pretentious for my tastes, being hand-lettered and illustrated by the author, but I'm sure it will appeal to angling book collectors and romantics.

Nice. If you like that sort of thing.

I wonder if today's bloggers used to keep journals, or has the ease of blogging turned them into diarists? In my teens and twenties I kept a detailed diary, sometimes later pasting in photos of memorable fish. Then I gave up with the descriptive bits and simply noted interesting occurrences, times of bites, fish landed, swims fished, conditions and so forth. I still carry a hardback A6 notebook for that purpose and use the notes to write up this blog and articles (when I used to write them, that is). I have a pile of these notebooks going right back t0 the early eighties, and before that I used to note how many fish I had caught in Angling Times diary and an old school exercise book.

Over 25 years of fishing notes

Making notes of what you have caught, as you catch the fish, turns up surprises when you look up red letter days. They often turn out to be a paler red than remembered! If you note down times of capture and baits it can show patterns though. So it is practical, nostalgic and humbling.

No publisher would produce a facsimile of that!

If you are reading this you already know that there are plenty of people writing about their fishing on the infernalweb. I have a few links to some of my favourite blogs in the sidebar, and have added two more today. I'm choosy about the sites I link to though. Some I read occasionally set me ranting - either because of the way they are written or because of the opinions of the blogger. But I reckon that if you like this blog (see Sad Deluded Fools, below right) there's a fair chance you'll like the same sort of blogs and sites I enjoy visiting. In amongst the poorly written, ill informed dross there is good stuff out there. Both informative and entertaining.

I find it particularly encouraging that young anglers are contributing to the web. It shows that there is a continuing desire among anglers to share their experiences and to express the pleasure it brings them. Blogging gives them the freedom to develop their own style and a place to have their say. Breaking into the angling print media is less easy than it used to be for an un-sponsored writer. Pike and Predators and Coarse Angling Today being two of the few magazines that don't feature obviously sponsored anglers contributions as a matter of course.

The tie ups between magazine, advertisers and contributing authors can be quite convoluted. I know for a fact that agreements/arrangements are made between publications and manufacturers that their sponsored anglers will write (sometimes exclusively) for those publications. The fees for the articles making up part of the angler's sponsorship deal. The inclusion of articles heavily featuring the sponsor's logos and products helps keep the advertisers on board. I suppose magazines use these thinly disguised advertorials because they are guaranteed space fillers, because they must know most people can see through the ruse, and many readers detest them.

Before I get accused of hypocrisy, I know I mention Korum and Sonubaits a bit on here. Well, I happen to know someone who works for the Preston Innovations empire so I get given gear and bait from time to time - on the understanding I mention or review the stuff I like. John knows full well that I won't praise something just because I've been given it. As I said to him when I was filling my car with bait one time, "I won't use crap bait just because it's free!" Being naturally 'careful' I do my best to blag, or negotiate a discount or deal, on any tackle I really want. If that fails then I'll pay full whack. In fact, there have been times when I have bought bait or gear that I could have blagged because I wanted it in a hurry. Strange, but true!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feeling deflated

For once I did some forward planning and had a bag of my hemp/pellet feeder mix thawing in the afternoon sunshine ready to try out some big cage feeders I had acquired. It had softened up nicely and I was contemplating getting the gear together when the sky darkened, rain fell, thunder cracked and lightning flashed. Sod it. I'd stay home.

Now that's what I call a swimfeeder!

As quickly as it had arrived the storm passed over. Reasoning that it was heading towards the river, at a good speed, the flask was filled and the car loaded. If I timed it right I'd arrive at the river with the grass wet but the sun shining. I set off and immediately detected a rhythmical low thumping sound coming from the rear of the car, the faster I drove the faster the thumping beat. Keep going and see what happens. I was close to the exit from the motorway when I heard a clattering under the car and the thumping stopped. Must have been a stone in the tread of a tyre. On to the dual carriageway and they thumping returned growing stronger and stronger. Puncture.

I was a short distance from a turning into a lane so slowing own I made the turn and parked up. Ten minutes later I had cleaned the dirt off my hands with some freshly mown grass and was on my way again. When I arrived at the river the swim I fancied was occupied by a rather damp looking angler who had got caught in the downpour I had cleverly avoided. The river had fallen a foot or so from Sunday and the colour was dropping out. I set up above the peg I had fished last time as that was a bit of a slippy-slidey mess.

Once set up with two feeders cast out my feathered friends came to see me. Again I had half a pint or so of old casters and maggots with me and having decided most of them were floaters and not worth putting in the feeders I let the ducklings have a few. The rod tips were pretty stationary. A very occasional twitch, but nothing even remotely strikeable. The feathery critters were getting brave. More pecking of boots and clambering over rod butts. Then one discovered the maggot box. You'd have thought it hadn't eaten for a week the way it attacked the casters! It didn't take long before there were five little beaks pecking away in the box and the casters all gone! I guess the bran must have been a bit dry as the ducklings were quick to the water for a drink.

When dusk arrived the rod tips came to life. Eel pulls, chub knocks and rattles. Still nothing conclusive. I think the angler upstream landed a fish of some sort, but he was gone before it was fully dark. Even now there is still a trace of blue in the sky around eleven when the stars are visible. If it hadn't been so cloudy, there'd been a couple of showers, it would have stayed light quite late.

To be honest I had half expected a return to the one-chance all evening situation when I realised how clear the river was. And true to form it came shortly after eleven. A proper barbel bite that set the reel spinning. It came after I had swapped the rods around and cast the double 12mm Pellet-O rig upstream and the 11mm S-Pellet downstream. This one had taken the crab Pellet-Os. A fish of some six pounds that was unhooked in the net without being weighed.

The sky had cleared and darkened when I packed up at midnight, the feeders having got a seal of approval. The only drawback to them is that being so large you soon get through a lot of feed. Half-filling them is the answer to that one.

Monday, July 13, 2009

That's more like it

What a refreshing change it makes for the England cricket team's tail to wag. Okay, it shouldn't have needed to wag, but for once they didn't do their domino trick and collapse one after an other. Another refreshing change was made to the river by the heavy rain on Saturday night. The water was quite heavily coloured, up about a foot but obviously on its way down, and still flowing at a manageable pace where the barbel live. The sky was blue with clouds, it wasn't hot but pleasantly warm and no more rain was forecast. Great!

I was setting up, having had the pick of the pegs, around eight brimful of confidence of a fish before dark. The usual rods were back in play, reels filled with the usual 30lb Power Pro. The downstream rod fished a single 8mm crab Pellet-O as a banker bait, the upstream rod had an 11mm S-Pellet Tuff-1 as a change bait. So far it's been the crab all the way this season, but it's early days.

An angler and his daughter had come own the river for a walk and we were chatting and watching the cheeky ducklings when he told me the upstream rod was away. The tip was doing the upstream-drop-back dance and I pulled into a fish of about six pounds with red sores on its left side near the tail root. Not a bad start. A fresh S-Pellet was attached to the hair and another scruffy bag of mixed pellets twisted onto the hook. It had been in place for less than a quarter of an hour when the process was repeated. This second fish fought a bit harder and had me fooled until it slipped into the net. A similar sized fish also with red sores near its tail. There were two that looked like bite marks. Was it the same fish? I hadn't paid too much attention to the marks on the first fish so I wasn't certain.

On winding in the downstream rod for a recast to get some more bait out I found the rig to be snagged. A walk downstream and some heaving got it free. Unfortunately the hook was slightly opened up. Not having a rig that was a direct replacement I put on one that took two 12mm Pellet-Os and cast that out.

The young lass was getting cold and bored so my companions headed for home and I had the river to myself. The lowering sun was shining gold on the tops of the far bank trees, the day falling quiet. A few minutes after nine the upstream rod signalled a chub bite. I picked the rod up and felt a tapping but the fish was going nowhere. I 'struck', felt the fish then it went solid. Damn. Steady pressure and something pinged free, then something else and I was in. No chub either. A heavy weight was pulled across the river until it hit shallower water and woke up. Maybe it's the warm water or low oxygen levels but the barbel aren't pulling hard, just holding station or cruising slowly. When the big head and broad shoulders came into sight as I drew her over the net I knew the scales would be needed. As I was arranging the net in such a way the fish was okay and unable to escape I saw the downstream rod come alive. As soon as I connected with the culprit I realised it was an eel. It had taken the two Pellet-Os and was neatly lip hooked so easily released.


With the scales zeroed on the wet sling the net was lifted ashore and felt satisfyingly heavy. A quick lift of the Avons showed I'd landed my third largest Ribble barbel. Hastily sacked I set up the camera after ensuring the fish was upright. Back on the bank I unzipped the sack and was surprised to see a length of braid coming out of the fish's mouth. Closer inspection revealed the braid was attached to a swivel and some mono. Forceps wouldn't reach the hook, nor would my large disgorger, so I cut the braid as short as I could. My guess is that rig had been lost and the fish had swallowed the bait rather than having been hooked and lost. Barbel don't usually take baits that deep. As usual the fish needed no nursing on returning to her natural habitat. Time to rebait both rods and get back at them.

What a big head you've got

It was now that I realised all three fish had been hooked, and landed, on a size 8 Korum S5 hook. The pattern I had cursed last time out. Oh well. Half an hour later the same hook landed another smallish barbel which again had red marks near the tail on the left flank. This definitely wasn't a recapture of the second fish of the session as I'd looked carefully at the marks on that one and one appeared to be an incision, but was it the first one? I'll never know. Nor will I know what had caused the marks.

Ten minutes later my trusty Owner C-4 on the downstream rod hooked a barbel that was taking some getting upstream - when it came adrift. Four fish on the 'dodgy' hook and one lost on the 'never-fail' pattern? There's no making sense of it - if they are going to fall off, they'll fall off!

Nearly an hour later, by now well into darkness, the downstream rod was away again. A five-ish pounder being swiftly unhooked in the edge, likewise a similar sized fish just before eleven. Odd that the daylight fish had come to the upstream rod, those after dark to the downstreamer. The next hour was undisturbed by fish so I packed up at midnight, the grass and my gear damp with dew under the clear and starry sky.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Experimentation for experimentation's sake

Yesterday's brainwave was to take two of my SS12-204s down the river, complete with Korum S5s on the end of the rigs. I wanted to try the rods out, although I know they'll handle the fish and leads up to four ounces. The only spare reels I had were loaded with mono and I've been told the hooks are good for barbel - despite them being similar in shape to a pattern I had bumped off/pulled out of too many barbel with back in 2004.

The river was nicely coloured, had been up a foot or more and was dropping. Not much flow though, but hardly any debris or weed coming down either. Three other anglers were on the stretch but a good peg was free. Arriving after seven I took my time rigging the rods up, and as I did so the resident family of mallards arrived. I'd taken my old maggots-turned-to-casters from last week with me, so I threw a couple of hands full in the margin which they eagerly devoured. Like feathery locusts they were! To try and get the ducks away from me I scattered the rest of the maggots in the next peg and left them to it.

With the baits cast out I set to tying up some more hooklinks using the S5s. A few taps and pulls came to the downstream rod. Nothing positive. Probably eels or chub. As I couldn't be bothered filling a flask I'd taken the stove and kettle along and was soon relaxing enjoying a brew and watching the swallows flying high over the river and the wood on the far bank.One of the anglers upstream landed a small barbel. Another guy lost one - his 'strong' 8lb hooklink having parted.

Then they returned. Not content with dabbling in the edge of the river they were on the march towards me!

The marauding horde advances

I suppose it was the innocence of youth, but the ducklings knew no fear. I threw them some pellets and they were clambering over each other to get at them. Once the pellets were devoured they came closer. One pecked at my boot, the others surrounded me. Some spilled pellets under my chair stood no chance. Even the flash from my camera didn't scare them off. I was terrified!

Mum stands guard as the horde regroups

True to form it was a one take night, and that take came just before eleven. Not having isotopes on the rod tips I was relying on the baitrunner for indication, but there was just enough light for me to see the tip of the downstream rod pull down slowly and steadily before the baitrunner started to creak. A single 8mm crab Pellet-O had done the trick again. As soon as I bent into the fish I could feel the horrible springiness of the mono. It didn't feel like a monster, but it was a decent one. Half way back it woke up and peeled some line against the clutch. Then it was gone. At first I suspected a cut-off, but no. The hook had come free. I checked the point for sharpness, rebaited and recast. Maybe it's just one of those things, but the S5s will be consigned to the bream/tench box. I have found them good hookers for those species but they had lived up to my suspicions about their shape for barbel. Give me a short shank/wide gape with a slightly curved in point every time.

It wasn't long before the same rod pulled over again and some line was taken before I picked up the rod. I knew straight away that the culprit was an eel. A bit bigger than usual at around a pound, and lip hooked so easily released.

The next time the tip pulled down something pulled back briefly, then everything went solid. After a long walk downstream to alter the angle of pull and much heaving against the stretchy mono something eventually gave. The hooklength had parted, but the stop-swivel had pulled through the rubber bead and large eye swivel in the process. Had I been on braid all that would have been a lot easier. Every time I fish for barbel with mono I wonder why I do it. I can't see any advantage it has over braid.

Retackled and rebaited the rod was cast out again. By now it was gone half past midnight, the almost-full moon starting to shine through the gaps in the trees. I doubted the barbel would show up again. One more brew and I was heading back home. Knowing that one take, two if you're lucky, with maybe the chance of a low double is probably why I took different tackle with me to make the session a little more interesting. Time for a change I think.

Monday, July 06, 2009

All night long

Sunday evening and again the river was all but deserted. A rainbow greeted me as I descended into the valley. Rain greeted me as I got out of the car. That set the pattern for the night. Showers of light rain that took ages to pass over with the lack of wind. It was warm rain though, so not dispiriting.

Arriving around seven fifteen I took my time selecting a swim. I was going to be there for the whole night so wanted somewhere comfy to set up camp. I know it's not the way it should be done... The swim I eventually chose was reasonably flat and grassy, with just enough depth of water in front of me to make netting any fish I might catch easy. It's a swim I have caught from before, so it wasn't purely selected with comfort in mind.

The baits were out by eight and left there for over an hour before rebaiting. The water was still clear so it would be after dark when I expected action to commence. Even with the cloud cover it remained surprisingly light until after ten thirty. Another couple of weeks and we'll start to notice the nights drawing in though. This midsummer period of long evenings is short and should be savoured - preferably by going fishing!

I thought I'd noticed the river level beginning to rise before it went dark. If it was on the up it was a slow rise. It gave me a confidence boost, nonetheless. At twenty past eleven that confidence was rewarded when the red lights started flashing and the bite alarm sounded. As I was doing an overnighter I thought there was a good chance of me nodding off at some point, so the alarms had been brought into action.

It wasn't long before a seven pounder was being returned. Rebaiting the 8mm crab Pellet-O took a while sat huddled under my brolly, but ten minutes later the rig was back in place. I'd hardly got settled in my chair when the same rod was away again. This time the barbel was a couple of pounds smaller. I was now anticipating a feeding frenzy. Needless to say I was mistaken.

Almost an hour later the same rod came alive, but my strike met with feeble resistance and a strangely eel-like spinning sensation was transmitted up the line. Luckily the culprit was a small, but scale perfect, chub of about a pound. At one o'clock the upstream rod, fishing an S-Pellet was in action with a tapp-tapping bite. This also felt like an eel, but a bit bigger than the usual bootlaces. Then it fell off. The slime all over the rig told me it had been an eel. I'd been saved the trouble of wrestling with it by torchlight, thank goodness.

My eyelids grew heavy. The alarms didn't disturb my slumber and I awoke as darkness was ever so slightly beginning to retreat. I'd been asleep for some time so I rebaited both rods. Just before four, with the dawn chorus in full flow, I was thinking that this period of half-light might be the last chance when the downstream rod slammed over. This had to be a barbel. It wasn't. It was another chub. Again scale perfect, but somewhat bigger at a shade under three pounds. Half an hour later, with the rain well and truly gone, I packed up. The river had risen, but only three or four inches at the most. It will take three or four feet to really get the barbel going at the moment I think

The drive home was along deserted roads. Deserted apart from magpies and wood pigeons. What the attraction of tarmac is for these birds I don't know, but there they were, dozens of them. The magpies hopping and the woodies waddling. If they weren't on the road they were perched on the street lights. Not everyone's favourite birds, but both have remarkable plumage when you look closely. I could see the sun in my mirrors, breaking out from behind fluffy clouds. A great time to be out and about.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Don't think badly of me

I went carp fishing yesterday. I know. It's shameful. But that secluded pool and it's wildies proved too much to resist. The thing is I don't really hate carp, I just dislike bloated mirrors and leathers. I don't understand how carp anglers can get excited about the looks of carp lacking a full covering of scales and with a sagging belly. To me they look like what they are - genetically engineered food.

Anyway, the journey to the pool was a long drawn out affair, taking twice as long as it should have done thanks to delays on the motorway, so I arrived after two o'clock. This meant that the rain had passed over by the time I was walking round looking for signs of fish. With the heatwave over it was warm but not sultry, the rain had freshened things up too. There were carp showing all over so I chose a comfy swim to fish and got my gear.

One down the margin, one in open water

My tench rods were already rigged up with 10lb line which would be ideal for the size of carp likely to be encountered, so they were what I used. I'd also packed my float rod. My rigs were kept simple. The margin rod fished a helicopter rig and two grains of fake corn. I kept sprinkling real corn and maggots over the top of it all afternoon. The rod cast further out to open water, where I'd seen signs of carp, fished a simple running rig with a couple of Sonu tutti frutti Boilie Pellets on the hair. A few free boilie pellets were catapulted around the hookbait.

No need for fancy rigs

It didn't take long for me to notice that every time I threw a handful of maggots over the margin bait the surface would come alive with small swirls. Just to guarantee I wouldn't blank I set up the float rod with a loaded pellet waggler set at about two and a half feet with no weight down the line. Bait was a single red maggot on a sixteen - barbless as the rules dictate.

The margin rod was removed temporarily while I dabbled with the float rod. It was a bite a cast. Mostly small roach, but a couple of small perch too. I think I dropped a rudd off as well. The trouble with barbless hooks is that small fish do wriggle themselves free, sometimes before you can swing them to hand, often while in the air. I can understand why match anglers fishing barbless net every fish.

While I was amusing myself float fishing, and pondering how to tempt some better fish, I heard the baitrunner on the other rod go. As I was sitting next to the rods I didn't see the need to switch the alarms on. No line was being taken when I picked the rod up, but the fish was on. A short but lively fight, particularly in the margins where the float rig was inevitably picked up, ensued. A small, carpy-looking, carp was netted.

If they all looked like this I'd fish for carp more often

That was my first intentionally caught carp for over seventeen years. It was also the smallest carp I have ever caught! The float rod was packed away and the margin bait swung back out. It was a couple of hours before the next run. This time it was a proper run, again to the more distant bait, and a second common, this time a little bigger, was landed and returned. Although I fished on until dark I had no more action apart from two or three liners.

I'm sure that with a bit more thought and effort I could have caught more, but that wasn't really the purpose of the exercise. Apart from when three anglers walked round the pool, one who seemed unable to speak without shouting, it had been a relaxing afternoon and evening in quiet and shady surroundings. The batteries are recharged.