Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shimano 4000D

When Tim Kelly, tackle tart extraordinaire, pointed me to the then forthcoming new range of Shimano Baitrunners, the successors to the bullet-proof B series, I got quite excited. They were hailed as being as robust (designed for saltwater fishing) but with improved spool profiles and line lay. Being a reelaholic I was itching to get my hands on one (or more...) but managed to resist the temptation to order from the USA owing to carriage charges being ridiculous these days. I also wanted to check the spool sizes out. The 4000D seemed to be the replacement for the 3500B but the size numbering used by Shimano has changed over the years and there would be no guarantee that the spool would be any bigger.

From various forums I noted that there were some available on-line in the UK, so I checked out Ted Carter's site and there they were! I needed to visit Staples for some stationary today (I could have managed without but it was a reasonable excuse!) so I called in at Ted's. My first impression was that the reel looked small. In the hand it felt it, and light too. It was not what I was hoping for. Initially I had envisaged myself purchasing two of the 4000Ds for barbelling and three of the smaller DL FA Baitrunners to replace my Ticas - even though the Shimanos have the hateful double handles.

After handling both reels I decided that the 4000D would be perfect to go on my tench rods, and I'd stick with the 3500Bs for my barbel fishing. This is not to say the 4000D isn't a nice reel. It is. It's compact, the drag feels smooth, the Baitrunner has good adjustment and the handle is comfortable. With the reel back home the spool was almost identical in profile to that of the 3507 Tica.

3500B and 4000D compared

However, the Baitrunner lever operates with a satisfying click (going both on and off) in the opposite direction to all previous Shimanos - which shouldn't prove troublesome as I soon got used to that on the horrible Daiwas I had - and the anti-reverse switch is annoyingly small and fiddly, just as it is on the XTEA. I suppose if you always use the drag or always backwind this isn't an issue, but I sometimes do both.

A nice feature is the one-piece bale arm that will allow line to smoothly flow onto the large roller. On the 3500B I find braid has a tendency to stop where the bale arm wire enters the flared piece over the roller - there is noticeable wear on the black anodising at this point. The rest of the bale arm on the 4000D seems a bit thin though, like it may be prone to getting bent.

Spools and line lay compared

I guess Shimano have introduced the 4000D and the other two small front drag Baitrunner series to get into a market that Okuma have cornered. The DL FA and ST FA ranges are competitively priced, good looking and have the Shimano name to them. They'll do well I think. I won't be getting rid of my Epix Pro 30s, but the Ticas' days are numbered.

Now to the rant! Why can't reel manufacturers settle on some universally accepted system for classifying spool sizes? Why do Shimano keep changing theirs? I have 8000 Biomaters that have bigger spools than my 10,000 XTE-As, and 3000 and 4000 spools that are interchangeable! It makes buying new reels sight-unseen impossible. What is required is a system that combines the spool diameter at the lip and the length (from lip to skirt), and even the depth as a guide to capacity. I expect I'm howling at the moon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No time like the right time

That's the PAC Convention out of the way for another year. Getting up at four thirty and driving 126 miles reinforced my dislike of early starts. The only good thing is watching the world appear from darkness - and the relatively quiet motorway system on a Saturday morning. As usual it was a good day to meet people you only see once a year. Being on your feet all day after getting up at daft o'clock takes it out of you, so Sunday was a lazy day of tidying my stock away then having an early tea and heading for the river.

'Interesting' Nev Fickling looks interested...

With the warm dry spell continuing I was expecting to find a few cars in the car park and their occupants fishing where I fancied. Like a lot of anglers they were fishing to office hours and getting ready to pack up when I reached them. All too often these nine-to-fivers tell me I'm arriving at the right time as they put their gear away and head home. Especially when the river is showing its bones. If they know this why are they going home? Ah well, they had baited a couple of swims up for me. As they'd been there all day and caught a few I elected to cast out baits with no PVA bags attached.

The remaining two anglers, fishing the beach, were starting to pack up and I was thinking of moving there as they hadn't caught any barbel but had been putting bait in regularly. Cue the upstream rod hooping over! Two 8mm crab pellets had been picked up by a smallish barbel. Stop where I was for a bit longer.

It was still light when I heard a sound like a herd of heffalumps moving through the wood opposite. Then I heard the cackling of badgers arguing. They really aren't the most stealthy of creatures. I tried to get a glimpse of them but most of the leaves are still clinging to the branches. Just as soon as they had started their racket it stopped.

After twenty minutes more I could feel the beach calling me again. The downstream rod arced and the baitrunner spun. A slightly bigger fish, and a well proportioned one too. I stuck it half an hour longer then went to get grit in my tackle. A chub attacked the boilie almost immediately, without getting hooked, but it was nearly an hour before the upstream rod lurched round on it's rest. The fish was on, then it went solid. I kept the pressure up and it moved, the line grating on something before it came free. A similar sized barbel to the previous one. I checked the line and hooklink for damage before recasting.

For some reason I couldn't settle here, so decided to move again at ten. On winding in the upstream rod it snagged. A good steady pull felt as if the rig was in weed, which seemed unlikely given the depth. Things moved but grudgingly. I found out why when my rig left the water with another hook attached - and some nylon. I freed the hook and commenced to wind the lost line around my hand. There were yards and yards of it. At least as much as it would take to cast across the river. I'm sure that was what the fish had taken me through.

Better out than in

People who have never used braid say it's a menace as it doesn't rot when left in snags, yards of the stuff trailing downstream making the snag worse. My experience is that it doesn't get left in snags as it breaks at, or very near, the hooklink. Yet when I pull rigs out of the river they have nylon attached that hasn't gone at the knot. How you can leave so much line in the river is beyond my comprehension. Although having watched one snagged up angler cut the line at his rod end I'm not too surprised.

My next move was to a swim I hadn't fished before. In the dark it was difficult to get my bearings, not least because the feature I wanted to cast to was now invisible... Whether I fished the right swim or not I'll know next time I visit in daylight!

It was comfy peg to fish from and sheltered from the breeze that had died down after dark. The only disturbance being from the drying balsam pods showering me with their seeds. Clouds parted and reformed. Stars were peeping and hiding. Yet again it was a warm night with only the fleece required. A grand night to have been bivvied up somewhere. While the dry spell is forecast to continue there are frosts predicted for later in the week. After an hour I was getting drowsy. My eyes were shut when I heard a baitrunner and looked up to see the downstream rod bent over. It felt like a barbel for a few seconds before metamorphosing into a chub. Chub always seem to fill out later than barbel and this skinny four pounder was no exception.

The rods were set high as it was a long cast over shallow rocks

Midnight came, the house lights in the valley were going out. I set off back to the car wondering why someone who was never fit in their youth and whose knees and hips are wearing out would be clambering about wild river banks in the middle of the night. Driving along the narrow, high-hedged, lane from the farm I came across one of the reasons. Minding its own business was a roe deer buck that slowly turned and trotted ahead of me. Ten yards further up the road I noticed movement lower to the track. At first I thought it was a rabbit but when I focused properly it was the rear end of a badger leading the deer to the lane. Badgers always look to me like they've forgotten to put their arms in the sleeves of their coats, their fur seeming to be draped over them. At the junction brock turned right and found his way under a fence, the deer turned left and began to panic trying to get through a thick hedge. I stopped the car to let it take its time. At the third attempt it found a spot where it could push its way through. Normal people, and nine-to-five anglers, don't have experiences like that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Was it desperation to reach 100 barbel for the season, a day that had started wet and chilly but turned warm and windy, or having got my work boxed off early that sent me to the river again? Only one way to find out.

I must have had the intention to fish at the back of my mind because in between jobs I'd spooled up some more Tiger Braid. I decant this from the large spools it comes on to smaller ones. Usually I do this by hand but I had the brainwave of sticking the small spool on a spindle clamped in my lathe. This worked well until the spool was almost full at which stage I stopped the lathe forgetting that it spins on for quite some time. There was braid wrapped everywhere along the spindle and spilling from both spools. Another good idea in theory. I spend as long untangling the mess as it would have taken me to wind the line by hand.

What rain there had been had made no impression on the river. It was still painfully low and as clear as it gets. Not even a peaty stain in the margins. I'd just managed to avoid the rush hour traffic and ate a sandwich before setting up. As I'd expected the boss peg was occupied but this didn't worry me. I set up at the start of the run and cast into the channel.

I thought I'd heard a swift calling as I left the car park, but couldn't see any. Sitting down and looking across the river I realised I hadn't seen any martins or swallows for a while. One or two usually linger until October or later. With the leaves dry and already building up on pavements, and the equinox past, winter will be on us before we know it. By February it will seem to have been here forever.

The wind was chilling, even though the day was warm, so I put the bunny suit on - without being disturbed by a fish. The sky was blue with broken cloud, but after dark the clouds built up, the wind keeping any rain at bay. At half past six a chub saved a blank when I brought in the boilie rod for a recast. It was just there, pretending to be an eel as I wound it in.

Side hooked plastic pellet

With the river so clear I altered my usual pellet rig over to a mono hooklink with a size 12 C-5X and side hooked a 6mm Enterprise Plastic pellet. I've shied away from fake baits on the river solely because of tackle losses. This time I was in the mood to take the chance. At six thirty five, just after a recast, it was taken. The Kinkster made another visit to the bank. Looking chunky and weighing six and a quarter pounds. The next cast with the plastic pellet saw it lost to a snag. By now it was almost dark so I reverted to the usual tactics.

It works!

It was two hours later that the upstream rod was in action. This was a lovely solid fish of nine pounds four. Yet another with marks near its tail. Marks which it's been suggested could have been caused by lamprey. It only seems to be fish on this particular length that are affected though. Or maybe I've not caught enough elsewhere?

The downstream rod was fishing two 8mm crab pellets now, rather than the single pellet I had been favouring most of the season. Not for any well thought out reason but because I'd tied the hairs on a bunch of rigs to suit 10mm boilies - and using a pellet stop extended them just enough to get two 8mm predrilled pellets on with enough of a gap to the bend of the hook. At nine o'clock the double pellets were taken. This felt like a good fish. Number 99 was in the bag. It took line and plodded. Then everything wend solid. No matter what I did I couldn't free the fish. I couldn't even feel it when I fed slack line. The rig came back with a straightened hook. That'll teach me to count my barbel before they're landed.

Twenty minutes later I was shaking an eel free from the same rig. After clearing eel slime from the hooklink I recast and almost straight away was playing a six pounder. I was getting that old wanderlust again. The snagged fish, and lack of much action to the upstream rod, had set me thinking that I might be better off moving down a few yards so what would then be the upstream rod could fish where the downstream rod was now, with a better chance of keeping fish away from whatever the snag was. The other rod could then be cast downstream, possibly to where more fish were holed up. As I considered this the pellets were away again. This was almost a repeat of the first fish that snagged me, except that I could feel the line gradually plucking over things before it all seized up. The difference was that I could feel the fish when I gave it slack. What to do?

Putting the rod on the rest and slacking the baitrunner I started to move the rest of my gear downstream. At one point the fish took some line. I played it back to the snag and moved the rest of my stuff. Returning to the snagged fish there was no sign of life. The rod was picked up, I pulled, fully expecting that locked up feeling, yet something gave. I pulled again. It moved again. Had the hook become attached to the snag and I was dragging it out? The snag pulled back a bit. Could the fish be free? I took it easy, not knowing what state the line might be in. When the fish wanted to take line I let it. However it didn't want to take much and the fight was unspectacular. As soon as I netted the fish I knew I'd reached my century with a top edged six over the slips!

After stripping off my fleece from under the bunny suit, it was warmer now even when not rushing around setting up the camera, I photographed and returned the fish. Then baits were cast out in the new swim and a refreshing brew drunk.

The only time I get the logo in the shot!

A done deal

After half an hour the upstream rod, which had been the downstream rod, was off. Despite my cunning plan I felt the line pinging off something snaggy. Then the fish fell off. So much for that idea. I moved again, to the banker swim, realising that if I had only gone fishing to hit my arbitrary target I'd have packed up there and then rather than move twice in an effort to catch more barbel. The night was a real peach. Overcast, a few stars showing, warm, dry (no precipitation or condensation), and barbel on the feed. It would have been a good night to stop until dawn. The downstream rod was on the boilie now, and one bag of pellets left in the bucket. Off went the boilie. Yet another nicely conditioned fish that I weighed, at 6-14, out of curiosity.

Out with the last PVA mesh bag and give it until midnight. The rods were still, apart from a savage pull to the boilie rod that looked for all the world like it was going to carry on but didn't. When I wound in the pellet rod I saw why it hadn't been moving. The pellets were gone. The boilie rod was snagged - probably after that take - and all the rig was lost. A wasted last half hour. Not to worry though, it had been a good and very enjoyable session. I felt satisfied that I'd made the most of this Indian Summer that has seen the river low and the ground hard and dusty, that I wan't fishing just to attain targets but because I enjoy it and all that being by the water brings. It really is a magnificent obsession.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Too much of a good thing?

The England one-day team had made a right meal of beating the Aussies in the final match of the series, signalling a belated end to summer. With no prospect of cricket on the radio until November and the sun heading rapidly for the horizon I risked the motorway, which was almost empty. Down the lane past a patch of mushrooms, a sure sign that the mellow days of autumn are upon us, and off along the bank with my rucksack on my back. The brolly having been left at home so I could sprint to the swims before it got dark. I was wondering where the occupants of the other car in the car park might be when some crows flew up from the 'beach'. My preferred swim would be free. This time I wanted to fish a little further downstream, although I couldn't tell you why.

Fungi are sprouting everywhere

I hadn't tied up any new rigs, even though I'd opened up a hook on one of them when winding in at the end of my last session. So much for my good intentions. The other rig had managed to tie itself in a knot around the rod and mainline at some point. The rig board was looking bare, but there was one in there with a boilie still attached, so I put that on the rod with the opened out hook and cast it downstream. Then I cut off the other rig and replaced it with one that would take a small pellet and cast it upstream.

There was decided chill in the air, but to save me working up a sweat on the way to the swim I had carried the bunny suit in my chair. Now it was time to put it on - the suit, not the chair. With the river so low and so clear there'd be no action until dark. I'd be safe enough taking my boots off to get the suit on. I was much warmer with the cosy, quilted suit around me but I hadn't laced one boot up when the boilie rod hooped over and the reel spun. I managed to reach the rod without tripping over my feet but the fish cut me off almost immediately. Damn and double damn.

After tying the laces I rigged up again with the original hooklink and bait that had been tangled, and recast. Then I set to tying up a few hooklink before it went dark. It's obvious that I was never a boy scout because I soon ran out of braid, which I had been meaning to replenish for over a week...

I hadn't got the first rig tied when the boilie rod was away again. As soon as I made contact this time I gave the fish no quarter. Mishaps were avoided and a barbel of about seven pounds was unhooked in the net and slid back. It still wasn't dark. I managed to get three rigs on the rig board without further interuption then started bagging pellets. This didn't go undisturbed as the boilie rod was off again. A slightly smaller fish this time. Not yet eight o'clock and three takes.

The frenzy didn't continue. The action was like the night - quiet. Fishing on a sandy/silty bank is nice in as much as there's no slugs to bother you, but the grit gets everywhere. As soon as anything gets wet it's covered in the stuff. Putting reels down has to be done with care so they stay off the ground. Getting the banksticks in securely is a pain too as the silt overlies pebbles. A bit of wiggling around is required to prevent them from toppling over on a take.

The next take didn't come for an hour. I'd been watching the motionless isotopes and decided on a recast. The boilie was missing. No wonder I hadn't had a take. A fresh bait and bag were rigged up and cast out. I went for a stroll along the sand to stretch my legs and had to run back to the rod as the boilie had been taken. The trend is continuing of takes within minutes of casting out. This fish plodded around and even got upstream of me for a while. When netted I thought I'd be needing the camera again. My judgement really has gone to pot. Just under nine pounds, and maybe a little on the thin side.

When the sky cleared it became noticeably cooler. Being a few days after a new moon the stars were bright and there were no features visible amongst the trees on the wooded bank opposite. Then the mist started to rise from the river. As it swirled and thickened my hopes began to fade. Maybe it's a confidence thing, but I don't like mist on the water. A few clouds appeared briefly, the mist clearing, the upstream rod, now fishing two 8mm pellets, tapped. A skinny chub was landed. I hoped the mist would stay away but it came back. I was starting to not enjoy myself. I was starting to be there just to catch those four barbel that would take me to 100 for the season. It was time to pack up before the men in the white coats came to get me. The rods were in the quiver, I spun the rucksack on my back, cast a glance at the water and saw the mist had gone. I resisted the temptation to get a rod out and give it another hour. An early night would do me good.

I'll be attending the PAC Convention this coming Saturday, so I should be getting my act together sorting stuff out for that this week. A rest from the river will do me no harm - if I take one.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time to change down a gear?

Six o'clock sneaked up on my unexpectedly. Time would be tight to get to the river and set up in daylight as I was going to give Buzzard Bend another bash and there's the walk to the swims to take into consideration. I searched for something to eat before setting off but couldn't find anything I fancied. The chippy beckoned. There was a queue. By the time I had wolfed down the chips and sausage it was ten to seven. Still, the roads would be clear. The stretch I was heading for is most easily reached via the motorway so that was the route I took. To be faced with a slow moving tailback. Great.

The traffic kept flowing but when I reached the junction before mine I could see it snarled up well ahead. On to the slip road and put a hastily thought out Plan B into action. Back to the stretch I fished on Thursday and if the car park was full again try a spot I've had my eye on for a while but never seen anyone fish. With the level low it could be worth a dabble. As luck would have it there was just one car and the white van that seems to be a permanent fixture parked up. With the light starting to fade I'd fish a banker swim.

The air was cooling. I'd watched the read out drop three degrees on my journey to the river. With no need to rush I put the bunny suit on for the first time this season in anticipation of the clear sky causing a further drop in temperature later. The upstream swim was free so I dropped in there, just about managing to get set up without the aid of my head torch.

The evening star shone. It grew cooler. Dew began to form. As nine o'clock approached I reached for my fleece. With both arms out of the bunnysuit the upstream rod came alive. As I played the fish the suit slowly slipped down to my knees and beyond. Thank goodness the fish wasn't a big one. Even so it gave a good account of itself and got downstream to catch the other line which set the rod bouncing. Or so I thought. With the fish safely netted I looked to see where the lines were tangled when a baitrunner burst into song. It had been a take, not a tangle!

Hopping to the rod as if in a sack race I wound down, felt the fish, then it all went solid. Phew. The rod was propped against its rest and the reel flicked into free spool. The first fish was safe so I pulled the suit up and got myself mobile again. When the first fish was returned EH arrived on the scene having just packed up and pointed out that the snagged rod was bouncing. Gingerly I picked it up. The fish had come free. It didn't put up any resistance although it was a wee bit bigger than the first fish. EH left and I now had the river to myself. Once the mayhem was sorted out I put the fleece on and then cast out!

I got to thinking how the average size of fish seemed to have dropped recently. Earlier in the season there had been few of the scamps and scampettes showing up. Now they were commonplace. Was this a seasonal movement? Did the bigger fish move out of this stretch or the small ones move in? Or maybe the big fish feed harder early on as they need more building up after spawning and the small fish don't get a look in?

Over the next hour and a half a chub and small barbel came to the party, but it was a dull affair. The best option was to make my excuses and leave in order to gatecrash a more lively bash. I stowed my gear and moved to the swim that EH had vacated. The baits, a 15mm boilie and an 8mm crab pellet, were cast out well apart before I settled down.

In the upstream swim I had felt restless and uncertain, now I was relaxed and confident. It must only have been fifteen minutes before the upstream pellet rod was away. All the recent fish have been pulling well. Perhaps it's the cooling but not cold water, perhaps the clarity, but six pounders have given me the run-around at times. This fish was certainly doing that. It was ticking line off the drag too. I struggled a bit to slide it all over the net but it wasn't until I lifted the frame that I began to get an inkling of it's true size.

Lean 'n' mean

The needle on the Avons spun round a bit further than I had expected. I must be getting blasé. These eleven pounders don't look as big as they used to do. In the sack with the cord well staked out I took my time calming and cooling down and arranging the camera. When the fish was photographed and released peace returned. Only briefly as the boilie rod tore off before I could sit down. The fish was on for a second or two, then gone. I rebaited both rods and cast back out.

By now I was feeling warmer. Glancing skywards the stars had disappeared. Looking round there was complete cloud cover. That would explain it' and why the dew hadn't got any heavier. Then the boilie was off again. Another battling six pounder was released and the rig baited and bagged. Time for another bagging session to the accompaniment of distant dogs barking. Something must have been disturbing them as I haven't heard such constant barking, from many directions, before.

There were six or seven neatly, and untidily, filled mesh bags of pellets in the bucket when I flung it aside to deal with the boilie rod. This fish didn't take much line, hardly any, but was dogged. A plumpster of fish but not too long. Looking down on it I gave it nine, maybe. It was a heavy lift though. For the second time I was out in my guestimate, and for the second time the needle spun well round. A few ounces further this time. So much for the bigger fish having gone or switched off...

With the fish sacked I stripped off my fleece. I was sweating like mad. The camera didn't take much setting up this time as I'd left the bulb release bracket attached. For the second time I put my new camo brolly up as a background - just for the hell of it rather than to hide anything, it being pitch black anyway. Looking at the photos I might as well not have bothered!

Fat 'n' lazy

By now it was midnight. Another hour and if nothing else came along I'd head home. One more six pounder at quarter past was followed by chub knocks. That was the signal to wrap it in. I was rather glad the motorway had been congested and changed my plans for me after that lot! It goes to show that being flexible pays. At least it does for me when it comes to barbel. With pike it never seemed to. Other people would move and drop on fish. I wouldn't. Mates would twitch their deadbaits and get takes. I'd twitch mine and find the only snag on the lake. With barbel I make a change - bait, swim, river even - and fish come along. Not every time, but often enough to make me willing to do it on a regular basis. Funny game, fishing.

The Dutch have their metresnoek, for Americans its 50 inch muskies, when it comes to barbel for us it's ten pounds. It's strange how we set great store by round figures. I have been telling myself that when I got to ten doubles for the season I'd have a change of venue or species. The trouble is that it's difficult to stop when you're catching. Then again, when you're catching maybe that's the best time to try something else before burning out? I suppose the alternative is to stay home and do some work. The garage really could do with a lick of paint. I'll just refill the pellet bucket and tie some more hooklinks, then I'll find the white gloss...

PS - It's that fish again... and that one!

Friday, September 18, 2009

When I hear the word culture...

I was checking out PurePiscator, which verges on romantic and pretentious tw@t territory at times but generally manages to pull back from the brink, when I saw news of an angling book and a link to a site I had visited before - and left screaming.

For me, Caught by the River represents all that is bad about the self-conscious, clever-cleverness of arty types. Worse still this lot think they have something to do with angling and the natural world too. Fishing bums they are not.

Back to the book in question - Powerlines. The title must be a play on fishing and written lines with an implication of quality in the 'power' bit. How clever...

I am wary of literature that sells itself as being "exceptional writing, which just happens to have fishing in it, on it, of it; for readers who crave good contemporary writing of any kind." "In it, on it, of it"? Pass the AK47 - and I don't mean the carp rod.

Does the editor really hope to be taken seriously with the world knowing he "lives in a caravan in Normandy, surviving on organic permaculture, mushroom hunting, rainwater, foraging winter fuel and old birds' nests to decorate the wattle sides of his dry toilet"?

We must resist this insidiously romantic trend at all costs. Grab a copy of Waterlog and a box of matches. To the barricades!!!

I was hoping it would rain

At long last my two new brollies had arrived at the tackle shop. I went to collect them last week, but the suppliers had sent the wrong ones. For some time I've been using a 45" umbrella to save on weight on long riverbank hikes and a 50" job for shorter walks and day sessions after other species when I haven't fancied carting the Aqua brolly around. The 45 incher was starting to fall apart. I'd repaired two of the rib hinges with bent wire and the screw in bit of the pole had a habit of pulling out the brass insert it fits in. The 50 incher just annoyed me as the cover isn't tight and in a wind it flaps irritatingly.

The two I had ordered were a replacement 45 incher and a 50 inch glassfibre ribbed camo patterned one. The idea was to have the small one for the river where swims can be tight and walks long, and the Fibre-lite for lengthy sessions while still keeping the weight down. I'd have preferred the flat back version but it's a grey colour with garish orange writing on it. Okay for matchmen in their fancy dress suits but not my cup of tea.

With the brollies finally back home I thought I'd weigh them, mainly because the new 50 incher felt lighter than the smaller one. It was. A whole pound lighter. I weighed my old 45 inch brolly and found that weighed the same as the new Fibre-lite. Anyone want to buy a heavy 45 inch brolly? Out of curiosity I weighed the old 50 inch umbrella to find that was the heaviest of the lot. Oh well.

Despite no rain being forecast I slipped the new umbrella in the quiver thinking it might keep the damp off me later as I was planning to stop longer than usual. I also threw the bunny suit in the back of the car as the last few sessions had been getting a little cooler. After Monday's blank I was off to a banker stretch and thought I'd have another play with my Torrixes and this time try out my shiny XTE-A reels. I didn't buy them for barbel fishing but was itching to see what they were like in action.

I rolled into the car park before seven to find a load of vehicles parked up and what looked to me like two anglers packing up. I took my time getting the tackle out of the car when I realised they were getting ready to fish.

Back in the 80's when I fished a few really popular pike lakes in the north west it was imperative to arrive early to get the best swims. Even then you might find someone was there before you. My mates and I used to be so organised we could be out of the car, loaded up and away in seconds. We'd drive to the venue wearing our fishing clobber, everything else would be stripped to a minimum so all we had to do was jump out of the car, put rucksack on back, rods over shoulder, lock the car and go. And we'd walk fast. Nobody stood a chance!

Old habits die hard. The car door was locked, the bunny suit left behind (I could go back for it later) and I was off. Once in the meadow I got my bearings and was in the swim I fancied (I knew a couple were likely to be taken already) before the other blokes had reached the water. Job done. I put my gear down and went for a wander to see if I fancied somewhere else! When it turned out I knew the guys I'd beaten to the river I must admit I felt a bit guilty. But those old habits are deeply ingrained. Worms get caught by the early birds.

The Torrixes needed rigging up. I used a length of the mainline for the upper hooklink, and was contemplating using some for the lower too with the river being clear, but time was pressing so I put braided links on. The first rod cast out had a five pellet snake for the first time this season and was cast downstream. I was still tacking up the second rod when I heard a quiet purring sound and looked round to see the rod arched over. This is becoming a habit, a take on the first cast.

Not a big fish but one of the reels christened. The second rod was cast upstream with a 15mm boilie on the hair. At eight fifteen that rod tip indicated a dithery bite. Not like a chub bite, and hard to describe. When I picked the rod up there was nothing to be felt but the lead. When I swung the rig in the lower link and swivel were gone. It looked like knot failure, the line having a curly end. Mysterious.

It was quiet. No chub raps or anything. It was mild though, nay it was warm. The air was still the cloud cover heavy and I didn't need to put my fleece on until nine. Twenty minutes later the downstream XTEA purred again. Everything about these reels is quiet and smooth. The baitrunner lever doesn't click positively into place (which made me uncertain it was engaged), the baitrunner clicker and drag are almost inaudible, the handle turns as if on ice, and the drag is silky. I don't like them! The clicker is so quiet it would never wake you. Perhaps it's people who use these reels who always use bite alarms? You'd need them if you were going to nod off. They'll be ideal for bream fishing though, which is what I bought them for. I prefer something more workmanlike for barbel and pike fishing.

Nice - but not naughty enough for me

I took the opportunity to appraise the Torrixes a little more this time too. They definitely have a suggestion of lock-up in the lower butt. Again not what I like for barbel fishing but ideal for breaming. They'll be put away now until spring I think.

After that second fish, which had been a real baby of a couple of pounds, I started to feel restless. I wanted to move down a swim but the water there was so shallow with the ever dropping riveer level that I'd have had to wade out to net a fish. The peg below it was deeper but more awkward to fish from and a bit further down than I wanted to go. After much staring at the swims I chose to set up in between the two pegs.

I put the landing net at the water's edge in the second swim where netting fish would be easy and put the banksticks on top of the bank. The downstream rod was cast below the landing net, and the upstream one well above it. If I got a fish I would have plenty of room for manoeuvre to walk to the net. Having used my last two mesh bags of pellets I sat down and opened the pellet bucket, got out the bag filler and heard that now familiar purring. The boilie cast downstream had done the business. Another moderately sized barbel was in the net and I was reaching for the forceps. Was that a kitten? No. It was an XTEA! The snake had been taken by a slightly bigger barbel. Yet again takes coming within minutes of casting into new spots.

Twenty minutes later there was a funny indication to the boilie rod. It was a tremulous pulling down of the tip then nothing. This was repeated a time or two before I risked picking the rod up half expecting an eel. It turned out to be the biggest barbel of the night. Around the seven pound mark.

The next bite was an hour in coming and was a typical chub bite that resulted in a typical chub, followed half an hour later by its twin. It had gone midnight but I still hadn't needed to put on my bib and brace for warmth. I gave it until quarter to one then gave up. More barbel might have come along later, but when the chub switch on late it's usually an omen that the barbel have switched off.

The car's thermometer showed the temperature had only dropped three degrees. Still, 12.5 had felt cold on other nights. I can only think that it was the cloud cover and lack of wind that had helped it feel so warm. However, there had been no dampness forming on the rods or tackle box lid. The car was free of dew and the grass quite dry. I must look into the factors that govern the 'dew point'* as it affects mist/fog and I think that has some bearing on catches, so there might be a correlation.

* I've looked. I'm none the wiser!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A step too far, worn joints, and other things

Rather than head back where I'd fished on Sunday, like a sane person would, I headed upriver on Monday for a late session. It's not often that I fish on consecutive days. But the obsessive fire was burning. It was inevitable. As was the outcome.

The river looked to have dropped even more judging by the waterline on the stones and was running very clear. I wanted to try the hemp and pellet attack again. Two tins of hemp and an equal amount of my pellet mix were droppered in, then one boilie cast over it with another upstream. The barbel would soon be queuing up to get caught.

Bats were on the wing well before dark as they are at this time of year. I suppose the cooling nights mean that insect activity reduces as the night wears on, so the bats start feeding earlier. They must need feeding up in readiness for their winter rest. Every now and then one would hit one of the lines and set me leaping to the rod. That was about the limit of the action to be honest.

Although the sky was clear and starry, the evening star shining particularly brightly as it travelled westward, the night was mild at first. Later on a wind sprang up and the air turned cool. For some reason it didn't feel like anything was going to happen. A few chub bites came to the downstream rod in the last hour before I packed up at midnight.

A blank session was long overdue. Here's hoping the next one is as long coming. It did make me wonder if the change of tactics is a good idea. The baiting up doesn't seem to be improving things compared to the PVA bag only approach. I shouldn't have tried mending something that wasn't bust.

I had great plans for the rest of this week. Work would be done by Tuesday and the river would be my home for the next few days. Long overdue blanks arrived on Tuesday and put paid to that. Even post-teatime starts have been scuppered by customers wishing to collect their rods late on. So it's time for more rod building thoughts.

The worn joints of the title aren't my ageing knees and hips but those of my Chimera barbel rods, the tips of which have been snugging down almost to the limit the painted blanks allow for about twelve months. I'd noticed them work loose a time or two recently, so it was time to take remedial action. The solution is simple graphite spray. Most tackle shops catering for match anglers will stock one brand or other.

Look after those joints man

Tape up the part of the rod you don't want the spray to go on with masking tape, then apply an even coat to the male part of the joint. Leave to dry for a couple of hours or longer and away you go. Not only is the joint built up it is lubricated too. A much better cure than getting the hacksaw out and trimming the tip section back.

Recently I had a float rod in to have a new ring fitted to the middle section. This was a good example of the fragility of single leg rings - the missing ring had snapped, and another was bent almost flat to the rod. While float rod rings have very light frames I have seen the same happen with single leg rings on carp rods. Anyone who tells you they don't get bent must molly coddle their tackle.

While I had the rod in I gave it a look over and saw the cork handle still had the clear shrink tube on it. This is only there to keep the handle clean in transit and while on show in the tackle shop. The plastic film is supposed to be removed before the rod is used. I shouldn't have been surprised as I often see anglers fishing with shiny cork handles. If water gets under the tube it soaks into the cork which stays damp and eventually rots. In any case, the whole point of a cork handle is to have the warm feel of the cork. It seems ridiculous to cover it in cold, slippy plastic. The daftest example I have seen was a salmon angler 'stringing up' his new looking Hardy speycaster. Not only was the cork covered in shrink tube, but there was a piece of paper under the shrink. I bet if it had been a fiver he'd have stripped the plastic off pretty quickly!

Now a look at how things have changed over the last couple of decades. Another refurb job I have to do is on a NorthWestern glass-fibre pike rod. I think it's an SS6 - 11ft, 2.5lb. In it's day a highly desirable rod to own. I had the 3lb PK3, which I guess was rolled on the same mandrel. Putting the SS6 alongside a Harrison blank of similar length and test curve the difference is remarkable. The butt section of the carbon rod is about the same diameter as the tip of the glass rod! And the actions... The SS6 was considered a pokerish fast action rod. It feels terribly floppy now.

Spot the glass rod

It's odd how fashions come and go in fishing rods. The SS6 has nine rings plus the tip, which was pretty much standard. Today an eleven footer would probably have five or six if it was being built for piking, or eight if it was a barbel/specimen rod. Fashion again, probably to do with the perception that pike rods need fewer, larger, rings in order to cast greater distances than barbel rods do.

There is no one 'correct' way to ring a rod, but the aim is always to place the butt ring where line flows freely from the reel (be it fixed spool, multiplier or centrepin) and then follows the curve of the rod, compromise being made in the number of rings which give long casting, smooth line flow when trotting a float or whatever the rod is intended to do. In the case of a rod to be used with a multiplier the rings must be spaced to keep the line away from the blank, as it must on afloat rod to be used with light lines that might stick to the blank when wet. All these ringing patterns consider the rod as it is when fishing - in one piece.

So when Neville Fickling someone says the 'correct' way to ring a pike rod is so the rod folds neatly in two when broken down rigged up with the tip ring next to the butt cap (what I call Rover Ringing) he is demonstrably wrong. It's certainly convenient for the mobile angler, I like my rods made that way too, but it is not correct.

'Rover Ringing'

Here endeth the sermon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dodgy Scousers

There's a feature about Steve Harrison's development of Harrison Advanced Rods at Sky News, and a video of him talking about the business while his staff do some work. It can't have been pension day or they'd have been down the Post Office mugging old ladies.

Mike, Steve, Dave, Andy and Kev - the missing link is, well, missing!

Oh the joys of humorous stereotyping!

In reality they're a great bunch who always greet my with a cheery smile. Last time I was there it was, "We thought you were dead. We've had a whip round for some flowers." Like I said, a great bunch...

Monday, September 14, 2009

One more time for luck

With the weather holding I simply couldn't resist another barbel session. Getting to the river after tea with enough daylight left to sort myself out in is becoming a tighter call every day. It won't be long before I'm having to pack some grub along with the flask so I can set off before the rush hour traffic builds up. Sundays aren't so bad and I left home around six to arrive in time to get some bait in the water around seven. This time it was pellets I spodded out to the deep run I had almost moved into last time out.

The sun was bright and low, my shadow long across the field as I walked up river. The leaves are really starting to turn to their russet and earth colours now. A few martins were feeding high above the tree tops. It won't be long before they are gone and it'll be time to start looking out for redwings and fieldfares.

Autumn's under way

The feed was put out directly in front of my fishing position. Then I took my time arranging things so I'd be comfortable and able to reach the rods easily. One rod, with a 15mm boilie and a bag, was cast upstream of the baited area. A smaller boilie went just downstream. I missed the first five minutes of the Archers while baiting up, but I sat down and poured the first cup of flask-tea of the evening to listen to the rest of it before the bag filling ritual was carried out.

My chill-out period was disturbed by an angry baitrunner and a well bent rod. The big bait had only been in the water for ten minutes! The level was down on Friday, the flow minimal. In clear water it's hard to judge the size of fish - they can look a lot smaller than they are in actuality. This 'five pounder' was giving a good account of itself. Hardly surprising as when netted it would obviously require a mugshot. A solid, but not fat, barbel in prime autumn condition. Looking just the way they should.

After unhooking and weighing the fish it was dunked back in the river, the net safely staked. It would be the first time out with my new bulb release bracket. After a bit of fiddling around I had it all sorted, took a test shot to ensure everything worked fine, then lifted a lively fish back onto the mat. Three snaps then in the sling to be carried upstream to a spot where I could safely release her. It was only as she swam away I noticed the slight two-tone colouration

That's supposed to be a smile...

Convinced I was on for a beano with the feed I'd put in I concentrated my attention on the downstream rod, which was now fishing the old faithful 8mm crab Pellet-O. It was nine o'clock before anything happened other than a few chub raps at dusk. The upstream rod had stabbed down repeatedly but everything was solid when I picked the rod up. Feeling the line I could tell there was no fish attached. I could feel the lead bumping up and down on the river bed when I pulled on the line and released it, but everything was lost when I pulled for a break. Over an hour later the bite was repeated. This time there was neither fish nor snag attached. I recast and the culprit was captured. A chub that was probably five pounds long, only four pounds heavy.

Eat more pellets

The sky had clouded over and the night was almost warm. One of those nights I could easily have stayed right through to dawn. As there wasn't much happening I wondered if I should pack in early. I was still there an hour later, still wondering when to leave. The downstream rod, which had been fishing a variety of baits and was now on a 10mm Oyster and Mussel boilie cast well down from where the bait had gone in, came alive. This was a five pound barbel, although it pulled well for its size. I'd definitely pack in at midnight. With five minutes to go the same rod began doing a chub dance. Only a smallish one. That rod was packed away and the other one followed. I battled my way through the balsam, being showered with seeds as I did so, then set off across the fields to the deserted car park.

Although the moon wasn't visible and there was cloud cover it was a light night. I stood and looked back through the trees, over the hedge at the fields and woods, wondering what I must have looked like had an 'ordinary' person seen me tramping in the dark laden with tackle, only using the head torch to negotiate ruts and stiles. It's not a 'normal' thing to do in this day and age. There were few lights on in the houses I drove past on my way home. Fewer people or cars out and about. Even the motorway that had been choked on Friday was almost deserted. Which suits me fine.

The problem I have is that when the fishing is going well I find it addictive, and I'm weak. Oh so weak.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Modern times

After doing some work in the morning I couldn't make my mind up what to do next. Having wasted too much time in deliberation I decided to go barbel fishing (just once more!) and chance a long walk to Buzzard Bend. I'd been listening Farming Today in the morning and the terrible issue of noise pollution in the countryside. People, who claimed to be country folk, were complaining about shooting, bird scarers, church bells and big tractors. It made me wonder what they expect from the world. These sounds are all part of the ambience of the countryside for me. Just like blanking makes catching more pleasureable they make the silence that follows them all the more intense.

Walking upstream the first field that had been lush grass and clover last week, was shorn and yellow. The second was still being worked, the rural idyll hideously shattered by two enormous tractors collecting silage making the most of the continuing Indian Summer. There should be a law against it...

The bend is deep, snaggy, and an easy cast. I leaded around then spodded out some two pints of pellets and the contents of a tin of hemp. Fear not, I hadn't bought the tinned seed. It had been acquired in exchange for some leads and pellets. With the appetisers laid I cast out the main course. A 15mm boilie on one rod and a 10mm boilie on the other, both with their attendant bags of pellets. The ritual bag filling then commenced.

Since seeing the Korum PVA mesh sold in watertight pots I have been keeping mine in a screw top container. The one shown below will hold 20m of mesh, and being clear I can see how much I have left. I leave half an inch of the mesh hanging out when I put the lid on so I can find the end easily.

PVA container

It was quarter to five by the time the baits were out, the sun still shining warm and bright. A kingfisher was having success on the far bank. There are plenty of small fish in the margins at the moment. The silage was gathered in and a natural 'silence' descended once more on the valley. A buzzard mewed, a blackbird chattered its alarm call and flew across the river to disappear into the thick canopy of the wooded bank opposite. The leaves are now showing definite signs of autumn. The air was still, I watched a leaf detach from a branch and flutter slowly to the water's surface and drift equally slowly downstream. Fish were rising noisily.

A lazy, hazy day

The river was low and clear, with it's usually light peaty stain. I was expecting kick-off time to be around eight. I wound the baits in and went for a wander up river. There was a tempting looking run with far bank snags. Not tempting enough for me to move after putting the bait in on the bend. Back in my chosen swim I dropped my rig in the margin to see how obtrusive the braided hooklink was - and took an underwater photo. The hook looks more obvious than the braid to me.

What the fishes see

The baits were recast, but I swapped the big bait rig over to clear nylon. An experiment to see if it would bring me a bite in daylight when the 'highly visible' braid might not. I sat down and swigged from my bottle of pop. Hearing a rustling in the balsam I turned round to be greeted by a fellow angler who enquired how this swim fished as he hadn't tried it. I replied that I hadn't got a clue. "This is the first time I've..." ZZZZzzzzzzz. The small boilie had been swapped for an 8mm crab pellet and a barbel had approved of the change.

Barbel fight differently in deeper water than they do in the shallows. In the shallows they use their power to cover distance at speed, in deeper water they use it to bulldog. This one was bulldogging like a good un. With the river being clear it had glistening brassy flanks. It also looked like it had swum into a big rock as a small fry. A chunky fish even so.

Son of parrot

So much for the braid putting the barbel off. Half an hour later the big boilie was taken. One all to the two rigs in daylight. There was some light cloud overhead, the evening was staying warm. A couple of days earlier I was wrapped up in fleece long before dark. This time I was in my t-shirt until eight.

Sunset in the valley

By the time the next bite came, again to the pellet, I was fleeced-up but by no means cold. The fingerless mittens were still in the rucksack and dew wasn't forming heavily. This third fish gave an unusual bite. A short zuzz on the baitrunner followed by a tapping rod tip. The initial impression when I leaned into it was of a chub. Until it started to take line. At a couple of ounces over nine pounds it was the best, and last, barbel of the session.

As the evening wore on it felt more and more like nothing else would happen. It didn't. I have a hunch that if I had put more bait in from the off, or topped it up as the session progressed, I might have caught a few more. There's no way to prove it though. I packed up at half past eleven and began the fifteen minute trudge back to the car. As I was loading the gear in the car I saw a bright green cricket on the window of the rear door. Prehistoric looking, and larger than I had imagined crickets to be.

I have two choices of route home. The short one through town and suburbs, the long one along motorway and through the flatlands. I opted for the motorway. This was a bad move with a capital 'B'. Before I had reached the end of the slip road I ground to a halt in what was obviously a lengthy tailback. It's less than two miles to the next junction. It took me an hour to get there and turn off - the tailback went on for as far as I could see. The cause was 'workforce in carriageway', four lanes being reduced to one.

Every light in town was on red, reminding me why I take the motorway. At one set I noticed movement at the bottom left of the windscreen. The cricket. It must have crawled along the side of the car. As my journey home continued the cricket carried on creeping. By the time it was in front of me I'd got quite fond of it and didn't want to drive too fast in case it got swept away by the airflow. I entered a 50 zone and it turned head on to become more streamlined. As I hit the dual carriage way I saw it brace its legs. If it had knuckles I'm sure they would have been white. Turning in to the village it started to crawl on to a windscreen wiper. By the time I parked up it had descended the other side. I thought it had an air of relief about it!

The fastest cricket in the west

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Foggy dew

Every so often the weathermen and women get it right. The Indian Summer arrived on Wednesday morning. By noon it was red hot. So Wednesday evening saw me braving the rush hour traffic to deliver the fettled rods from Sunday. There was plenty of room on the stretch and the gear was (not so amazingly) in the back of the car. What the hell?

The drawback to Indian Summers is that the nights are long and the sun low in the sky. While midday temperatures can be high they soon fall once night falls, and they are slow rising again in the morning. By the time I had my gear in place the bank was shading me and I needed my fleece. For a change I used a spod to put some pellets out. The bait dropper would have been a pig to cast the required distance and could easily have snagged up. The baits were cast out and I began bagging chore.

I wasn't happy. After filling enough bags with pellets to keep me going for a few hours I moved. Only a few yards downstream. Just far enough for my downstream rod to be come my upstream rod and the upstream rod to be leapfrogged to fish further down the swim.

Things were quiet, even after dark. The sky was clear and a bright moon began to rise. I amused myself by bracing my head against the back of my chair and watching the moon's progress behind the leaves and branches of a tree on the far bank. It moves surprisingly quickly. After a few recasts the upstream rod began to bounce. A good scrap was had from what proved to be the largest fish of the night at an ounce under eight pounds. Ten minutes later a five-ish pounder was landed to the downstream rod followed by a repeat performance another ten minutes after that. Then there was a lull before two more fish came along after ten, and another lull before two more were caught within minutes just before eleven.

With the sky so clear there was soon a heavy dew forming on the grass, the rods, and anything else that didn't move. I expected a mist to roll over the water at some point, and it did. It wasn't heavy or constant. There was a breeze that kept it dispersed most of the time. The thermometer had fallen from 17 when I had parked up to 8.5 when I loaded the car. By the time I set off for home at midnight there was a heavier, but patchy, mist in the valley.

On the drive home I began to ponder The Abolitionist Project and its aim of ridding the world of all suffering by chemical and genetic means. If all the world was permanently blissed out on MDMA there would be no highs and lows. Life would be dull. It would be more like purgatory. Imagine being forced to fish somewhere you got a bite every cast and landed every fish, each identical to the next. There'd be no misery of lost fish, but there'd be no elation of landing a whopper. My mind wandered.

    "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same...

    "Rudyard (after a lake) Kipling (not after a maker of exceedingly good cakes)

It sounds clever at first, but it's a load of old tosh when you think about it. How can anyone treat blanking the same as catching? And why should you?

Triumphs in fishing are made all the sweeter by the inevitable failures and disasters. If you catch all the time without really trying it can become a bit boring. As I have still only had two blank barbel sessions this season, and having hooked and lost a barbel on one of those, the appeal is starting to pall. It's still difficult to resist 'just one more session'. So after my next barbel session I'm going to have a change. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More Torrix thoughts

A few weeks ago I built a 1lb 12oz Torrix for a customer. I didn't have time to give it my usual back garden workout, and I didn't want to damage the blank either. So I restricted myself to putting a reel on it and running some line through the rings once it was completed. With the line tied to the padlock on the garage door I gave the rod a bend. It felt rather nice. The rod had to be sent out so that was as far as I got. I did add another of the blanks to my next order though...

The blank arrived in the shipment I received on Monday. With most of the blanks almost built, and in the interests of increasing my product knowledge, I subjected the Torrix blank to my usual rough and ready tests and comparisons. None of my procedure is scientific, most of it relies on 'feel', but as it is always done in the same way I find out what I want to know. Engineers and sticklers for micrometer precision look away now!

After the usual poking the tip against the ceiling test, the first job was to put a reel seat on the rod. In this case I trapped an NPS between two rolls of masking tape. So what if it spun round the blank? I wasn't intending to fish with it. Then a set of rings was taped on, the tip ring being secured with hot melt glue. With a reel on the rod the line was threaded and tied to the garage door. Then I walked back a few yards and gave the rod a bend. Backwinding at first, then using the drag, I simulated playing a fish - sort of!

The 'rod' felt rather nice. I've built up five of the 12ft Torrix blanks now; 1lb 4oz, 1lb 12oz, 2lb, 2lb 8oz and 2lb 12oz. They are not similar in action. The 2 and 2.75 are more tippy than the others - the 2lb being too tippy for my liking in a rod of that tc, the 2.75lb feeling more 'medium' actioned and likely to make a good pike rod. The best of the bunch, for me, are the 2.5lb and this 1.75lb. There is a new 12ft 1lb 8oz Torrix that I have yet to see.

When I had 'played' the garage for a few minutes and decided that the blank might well make up into a nice close to medium range tench/bream rod it was time to compare it to a 1lb 12oz Interceptor which is my current choice for that role. This rod was already rigged up so the line was tied next to that from the Torrix. The two rods were compared one at a time, then one in each hand. As I had suspected the Torrix was a midge's softer in the tip than the Interceptor, but still bent nicely into the lower regions with an equal feeling of power - unlike it's 2lb tc counterpart that stiffens up quickly.

To confirm my suspicions the final test was carried out. The two rods were rested on the top of the wheelie bins, a brick placed on the butts to stop them tipping over, and a six ounce lead hung from each tip ring. This is rather crude way of measuring the tip deflection and getting an idea of a rod's action in the top third. The rod with the masking tape on the rings is the Torrix.

1lb 12oz Interceptor v Torrix

The overall deflection is the same (lower photo shows this best), but it's clear to see that the curve of the two rods is not the same (upper photo). The Torrix is slightly softer at the very tip. In theory this means it will be less good for casting method feeders than the Interceptor, but it's so small a difference I doubt it will be noticeable in practice.

Out of curiosity I then did the deflection comparison with the 1.25lb and the 1.75lb. As can be seen below the 1.25lb deflects more than the 1.75lb as you'd expect.

1lb 4oz Torrix v 1lb 12oz Torrix

However, when I carried out the garage door test with all three rods (Interceptor 1.75, Torrix 1.25 and 1.75) it was hard to tell any difference between any of them in terms of overall 'feel'. Both Torrixes felt like they were starting to lock up in the butt, the Interceptor didn't. There was definitely more cushioning in the butt of Interceptor. The heavier Torrix was the softest of the three in the extreme of its tip. All this was very subtle and putting them into a full curve next to each other the differences were imperceptible - particularly between the lighter Torrix and the Interceptor. Which all goes to show that you can't rely on stated test curves, or even deflection tests, to tell the whole story of rod action and power.

I really like my 1lb 12oz Interceptors. They 'feel' the nicest of the three rods to be honest. I know exactly what they are capable of, and love the well used look they have with the caked on mud, groundbait and maggot skins. Even though I don't need them, I have ideas for building up three 1lb 12oz Torrixes with some SiC guides I spotted in the Mudhole catalogue, and the metallic thread I used on my 2.5lb Torrixes looks really smart on the woven blank. If only I could decide on a handle that would compliment the blanks as it seems a shame to cover up the weave on the butt with cork. Then again Mudhole have some cork accessories that would add a touch of bling...

Oh well, back to the everyday grind. Another Chimera 3 needs its handle fitting.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A good move

I managed to mow the 'wild flower meadow' before the rain set in, taking the top off an ant nest in the process. What busy little fools they are. I hope I'm not reincarnated as an ant. All that scurrying around working. I suppose ants know no different though. I had been quite antlike in the morning, whipping some rods, packing a couple of orders and repairing my small brolly for the umpteenth time. I was intending to take a long hike to fish so that would cut down on the weight.

Plan B came into play when I arranged to meet someone to get his approval on a refurb I was doing. As I got out of the car the rain that had eased off returned. There being four other cars parked up I left my gear and took the refurbs to the river. I hadn't expected the level to be quite so high, maybe 12-18 inches up on NSL, stained but not muddy. The air temperature was 14.5, the rain light. With my instructions for how to proceed sorted out I had to decide whether to squeeze in where I could or go elsewhere. Having got the ants out of my pants I took the easy option and hoped I was far enough upstream of an unseen snag.

It wasn't long before the rod tips stared tapping. And not much longer before I was retackling the downstream rod after I'd lost the lot. Then the indications stopped. After an hour and a half of inactivity and bad vibes - by which time the rain had stopped, I went for a wander and discovered the downstream anglers had gone. A move was in order. I didn't want to fish the swim they had vacated, but one a few yards upstream. By half past nine I was sorted. It started to rain again. This was the pattern for the night. Light fleeting showers, with bright moonlight in the breaks.

It was an hour before the downstream rod tip pulled down. The fish wasn't on long before it fell off. This is getting to be an annoying habit. Rebait with another boilie. Recast. Sit down. The same rod tip pulled down again. The bank here was only a gentle slope so when I had skidded down it I stayed upright with any easy grace, feeling more like a kid sliding on snow in the school-yard than a pillock falling an his bum. Not that there was anyone to witness it. No mishap this time and an eight pounder was in the net.

I hate wearing a waterproof jacket so whenever the rain stopped I took it off. This left me a little chilly so I put my fleece on. The trouble was that when a shower came in I would put my jacket back on and get too warm. There was no happy medium.

At twenty past eleven the upstream rod, on which I had been chopping and changing baits, was in action. This time it was fishing two S-Pellets. It was only five minutes before the boilie rod was away. Two seven pounders in five minutes. A feeding spell!

I had no set time for my departure. So it would probably be when the flask was empty. I hadn't had a knock since that last fish so around midnight I decided on a recast. The boilie rod had been wound in and rebaited and cast back out and I hadn't wound the pellet all the way in when the boilie was taken. I dropped the pellet rod and took control of the other one. The fish didn't feel anything special. It looked to be the biggest of the night though. Holding the scales as steady as I could the needle wouldn't make up it's mind. I wedged the handle of the Avons between the arms of my landing net and used the pole as a unipod. The needle settled at last. One division short of vertical. As the photo shows it was a bit of a lean looking fish.

A barbel and a set of Avons...

I have caught a number of fish with these red marks near the anal fin from this stretch since June. They appeared to be healing on the two that had them this time. But what caused them remains a mystery.

When I eventually called it a night, an hour later, I wound the boilie rod in to find it baitless. Bugger. For some reason the river level didn't look to have altered while I'd been there, the fish might well have fed all night. I was tempted to rebait and give it another half an hour. The spirit was willing, but the tea was cold. Back at the car the thermometer showed the same figure as when I'd arrived. It had been a grand night out.

The weather forecast is for an Indian Summer this week. The work forecast is more grim. A wave of blanks is predicted to sweep in from the south any day now and prevent me putting in the two night session on a pit I've been wanting to do as soon as the weather improved. It'll have to be evening sessions on the river instead.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Rolling and tumbling

My fishing seasons don't quite follow the ones that go by the equinoxes and solstices. September the 1st is the start of autumn for me just as March 1st is the start of spring. So it was with the first one day match against the Australians having started with 'summer' over I headed to a river I knew would be up and coloured for my first session of autumn. The most enjoyable time to fish a river that's in flood is when the rain that caused it to rise has stopped falling. It might not be the most productive time, as I think that is the period just before and as it starts to rise. But it's usually peeing down then and I hate fishing in the rain!

The river was indeed up, about a foot higher than it had been when I arrived on Monday. Judging from the dried silt on the leaves of the bankside plants it had been a good four feet higher at it's peak. I had a look at two spots that could have been worth a try. Nothing stirred me to fish them though. The swim I fished on Monday looked good, but I wanted a change. Upstream of that swim there seemed to be a nice crease with the water by the bank flowing slowly upstream. As the better fish had both come on the upstream rod last time it seemed like a good plan to fish upstream a little way too. There was one problem. Although there was the hint of a path down the steep bank it was overgrown and no 'peg' could be seen. Climbing down through the balsam I was able to beat out a space to fish from, so I dragged the gear into place.

I followed the same line of attack as last time, leading around, baiting up with the dropper and casting one rod to the feed and one upstream then settling down to fill some PVA stocking bags. Less than a week on and summer really had turned to autumn. The upstream wind was strong and bouncing the rods in the rests. There was no sitting out in a t-shirt, it was autumnal fleece wearing weather all right, even though the scudding clouds revealed a bright and low sun that made me put on my new sunglasses for the first time since June. Most of the pods having popped and scattered their seeds by now there were swarms of pollen-backed wasps making the most of the few remaining balsam flowers.

It took a while for the first barbel to arrive. It picked up a 10mm Tuna Wrap fished over the feed at twenty to five, almost an hour and half after I had set up. I had a short, sharp 'chub' bite that I thought was suspicious. A few minutes later the reel spun. The hook pulled. It was my own fault. I was using a rig tied for a drilled 8mm pellet which set the boilie too close to the hook. I swapped the bait.

Unexpectedly the other rod was away next. A typical upstream, bounce, bounce, bounce bite that didn't set the reel in motion. A seven pounder was netted and I noticed some red spots, the colour of red Biro ink, on its belly and chin. There was another lull as the river slowly dropped. I heard the plaintive mewing of a buzzard and climbed up the bank for a look. There was a pair of them wheeling overhead, spiralling down wind calling to each other. When they had passed out of sight beyond the trees on the far bank I turned to go back to my rods.

I took a step forward, then one of my feet caught under a bramble. I overbalanced and my world went into slow motion as I tumbled downwards. I did a full forward roll and as my head came up I saw the back of my chair looming towards me. Before I could do anything to fold it down my head hit its frame and I came to a halt with an ache below my left ear. I felt for blood but there was none. Then I kicked the chair! In a week when an angler had drowned on a local drain I counted myself lucky. A small bruise and a graze. It could have been much worse.

Blue sky before the fall

When the throbbing had subsided I was rewarded by the upstream rod bouncing again. I'd cast both baits slightly further out as the level had dropped, just as I had done on Monday - never forget a trick that works. A smaller fish this time but also with red spots on its belly. I left the fish in the net in the edge and turned to get my camera. As I did so I heard a buzzing that wasn't a wasp. Spinning round I grabbed the downstream rod and a slightly bigger fish joined the first one in the net. Then it all went very quiet. No taps or twitches.

Two up

Red 'Biro' marks

I had been engrossed by the cricket otherwise I'd probably have moved swims before darkness arrived bringing rain. Heavy rain that pounded on the brolly and the river. The shower lasted twenty minutes or so. Five minutes after it had faired up the upstream rod pulled down savagely a couple of times and I found myself playing a big-headed fish that was quite short and lean. I thought it might have made nine pounds, but it didn't manage eight and a half. Not that I was disappointed, more surprised.

There are people who try to tell you that when fishing two rods one is always in the preferred spot and the other is a waste of time as it will be in no-man's land. That's twice on the trot that the rod fished away from the baited area, which should do the business, has produced the better fish, and/or more fish. It makes little sense. It's good justification for fishing two rods though.

By now the river was quite a bit lower, almost a foot, and I was wondering if the swim had lost it's charm for the barbel. The bright full moon that appeared when the clouds broke wasn't encouraging. Two eels to the downstream pellet made my mind up to go, although I listened to a programme on the radio for another half an hour before packing up and braving the climb to level ground.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Walking the dog down memory lane

The cupboards were bare, the sun was shining and the lawn needed scything. It was time to get my priorities right. Time to go fishing. Carrying on with this season's policy of pioneering. Well, fishing away from the banker swims, I headed for the scene of the capture of my longest standing (albeit unweighed) personal best. I have a very good visual memory but the lane to the river looked different to how I remembered it from what must have been thirty-five years ago (give or take). The dwellings were far more gentrified. However the hedge line angling to the gate, although more manicured, was just the same. The metal gate, though, was gone.

I'm sure the island was further upstream in the 1970s

It was hard to figure out exactly where I had sat on my wicker basket and trotted my float all those years ago. Partly because the river was carrying at least two feet of strong-tea-with-a-dash-of-milk coloured water. I think I found the tree that had shaded me. What was that PB? It was gudgeon. And it was a gudgeon, not a baby barbel. Barbel, even when small, have an aggressive look about them. Gudgeon are friendly, almost cuddly. Not unlike the border collie that greeted me as I stepped out of the car.

The sky had clouded over but it was still warm and muggy despite the wind. I donned my fishing boots and in t-shirt order set off upstream. My new found companion leading the way, stick in mouth. There were two anglers on the bank and they had both caught barbel. Not surprising as the conditions looked ideal. They said the river was falling. That should mean less weed coming down. Now to find a swim to fish.


Being unfamiliar with this part of the river I walked well upstream. Sweating as I went. Stooping to pick up my pal's stick now and then. It's hard to judge a length of river when it's carrying extra water, but a few spots looked worth a dabble. Those further up river would have to wait for another time. I wasn't carting all my gear back up there after my exertions. I turned round and retraced my steps, this time ignoring the stick bearer's pleading eyes. There were two places I really fancied, I might fish one then move into the other. Rain was forecast, however, and that might scupper the plan. As might the falling level which could make one, or both, of the swims a waste of time.

At the car I had a breather. Swigged some pop (unlike some I couldn't run down to the river for a drink on my way back) and had a couple of bites of a Lion Bar - watched droolingly by you-know-who.

My new best mate - for a while

As I did my Sherpa impression through the field I was glad to have shaken off a chest infection that had been slowing me down for over a month. I wasn't out of breath by the time I carted my tackle down the bank between the rank balsam. The furry one had bounded off ahead and was being stroked by one of the other anglers when I passed him by. How fickle dogs are. They'll be anyone's best buddy for a bit of attention. I never saw her again.

My first task was to clip a lead to the snap link on my new dropper rod and have a feel about. The depth seemed acceptable judging by the time it took for the lead to settle. It wasn't pulling out of position when I held the rod steady - it was only 3oz - and the bottom seemed snag free.

I'd selected the swim because the flow was almost a crease. I say almost because there was no defined crease line, but there was a definite increase in pace further out. A rod length and a half from the bank was where I intended placing my baits. That's where I put in five droppers of pellets. The new rod doing just what I hoped it would.

Banksticks were set up, rigs baited, pellet bags added and out they went. An 8mm crab Pellet-O downstream, the feed having gone in slightly downstream of my fishing position, and an Oyster and Mussel boilie upstream away from the feed. After making my camp comfortable I filled some more mesh bags with pellets. After half an hour, just as a light rain began to fall at quarter to four, the downstream rod hooped over and the baitrunner purred its sweet sound. That was a good start. A smallish barbel was quickly returned and the rod recast. I'd managed to get the brolly up just before the fish came along, which was a good move as the rain soon got heavier.

Fifteen minutes later I was in again on the same rod. This time the hook came free. It was quicker to wind the upstream rod in and cast it where the two bites had come from than to rebait and recast because I thought a shoal might have moved in. Then the pellet was cast upstream. The rain had stopped but I left the umbrella up as more was forecast to arrive in the evening.

I was now pretty confident of non-stop action. It was over half an hour later when the upstream rod took off - shortly after I had swapped the two rods round again. A more dogged fish that hung motionless under the rod top at one stage. The extra flow was assisting the fish making them feel bigger than they turned out to be. A nice eight and half pounder, even so.

It was quarter past seven before I had another bite. This time to an S-Pellet on the upstream rod. Another dogged fish, in the seven-plus bracketBy now the rain had arrived in earnest. It was already starting to look like dusk. By eight thirty it was pretty well dark. The river was noticeably lower by then. It had been dropping about an inche an hour. I thought I'd try casting the baits a little further out. At ten past nine the upstream rod, by now back on a boilie, was off again as I was resting my eyes! Moving the bait seemed to have done the trick.

The rain was persistent and heavy. At times it looked like the artificial rain you see in movies as it swept across the river in vertical bands. It was making listening to the radio difficult too! Just before ten, after I'd swapped the pellet for a 10mm Tuna Wrap (I have more confidence in them now), the downstream rod was in action again. Another little scampette.

I was starting to get a bit fed up of the swim now the rain had turned the soil to grease. My tramplings weren't helping matters. It was becoming a bit of a quagmire. Despite the rain it was still quite enjoyable. Apart from the mud. I started to tidy up the rucksack. Almost everything was zipped away when I was disturbed by the unmistakable sound of a barbel making off with a Tuna Wrap. I was able to grab my rods without leaving my chair, so I did just that. I then engaged the gears and pulled into the fish. As I stood up my feet were lubricated by the slimy mud beneath them and I slid down the bank onto my arse. I was on my back like an overturned beetle, being rained on and holding a rod with it's tip bent towards the river as a barbel thrashed maniacally on the end of the line.

Somehow I managed to gain an upright position and regain control of the fish, and my senses. It was another wee one that had used the flow to it's advantage. I think a double might have dragged me in! I put the bait back out while I packed everything else away, then wound in and trudged my way to the car park. The rain had all but stopped, of course.

Quite a pleasing session. Six barbel landed on a first visit. No monsters, but I never turn my nose up at an eight pound barbel or two. Four different baits had caught, further reinforcing my belief that bait is not the most important issue to consider in barbel fishing. No doubt with all that rain the river will be on the way up again, and with the weather predicted to be unsettled that might be the pattern for the rest of the week.

The drive out of the valley was like so many in previous years, along shiny wet tarmac littered with leaves and twigs blown from the trees by the autumnal winds. And yet it was still August. Is this climate change at play?

Before the rain arrived I had a mess around with the video facility of my compact camera. I tried to get footage of me playing a barbel, but failed. I had to settle for some badly framed unhooking and weighing action before the memory card filled up. I don't think Bob and Stu have much to fear. At least not until I get a proper video camera...

I'm sure the barbel police won't like the video. Well, they know what they can do with their truncheons!