Friday, December 31, 2010

The turning of the year

It was the last harsh winter that started the rot. My plans had been for some dace, roach, chub and grayling fishing when winter came. Looking back I see I did manage some roach and dace fishing, but when the snows came my thoughts of travelling for the grayling and chub went west. I didn't fancy getting snowed in down a remote country lane, and motorway madness didn't appeal either.

When the river season came to a close I missed out on a last gasp barbel for the first time in a few years but was already looking forward to some sunny days and lots of tench. That didn't happen. A combination of work preventing me putting the time in and rain (putting me off sheltering in a bivvy for three days at a time) meant I didn't get to do as much as I had hoped. What time I did put in was hard work. Most of the tench anglers I spoke to said the same. The consensus being that the winter had upset the usual patterns of tench behaviour. When I did drop on the tench the big ones evaded me. I was expecting each run to produce an eight pounder and so didn't set up the tripod to get a self take of the sevens. I wish I had now! In fact I don't recall setting up the tripod once in 2010.

The tench activity lasted just one hectic morning, and despite the cold winter the weed growth was prolific. Perhaps it was nature's way of  compensating, but it made fishing tricky and I left the tench alone early for another year.

Back on the river after barbel and the fire to fish for them had gone. I always need to be learning to stay interested in something, and while I might not know everything about catching barbel I know more than enough to catch them consistently on my regular rivers. It was a simple case of rolling up, casting out, and waiting for the rod tip to pull over. I deliberately ignored banker swims and tried other spots, and still caught. For a combination of reasons driving long distances for short sessions had also lost its appeal, so my sessions on more distant barbel rivers got knocked on the head too.

Having got back in to photography earlier in the year that was providing the challenges I need to keep my mind active and stay sane, so I concentrated on taking photos. Even in my most fanatical periods of fishing I've always maintained that it was only something I did to keep my time filled and my mind occupied. Fishing is not compulsory. I got jaded with pike fishing because it had become almost like a job, turning out in order to get topics to write about and photos to accompany the articles. This blog has been in danger of pushing my fishing that way at times. It's been good to take a break from both the fishing and the blogging.

Good too to take up a camera again after almost 30 years away from 'serious' photography. Like fishing, photography makes you think, and when out in the countryside can put you close to sights that 'ordinary people' don't see. If you go looking with the right eyes. Wildlife highlights for me have included having a young kestrel fly towards me and perch a few yards away, watching two other kestrels fighting on the ground and 'squeaking' a barn owl in close one evening. Close encounters with a stoat, fallow deer, and a reed warbler have also livened up my walks with a camera.

The urge to wet a line still comes over me from time to time as I wander around wet places. More and more these days, however, it's not the size of the fish that spurs me on it's the surroundings to fish in and the methods to use that drive me. There's the bream pit I travel to that I really enjoy fishing although the bream aren't monsters, but there's no night fishing allowed making for a lot of driving at daft hours to put in the long summer day sessions. There isn't even anywhere to kip in the car in the locality, so I don't fish it as much as I'd like to.

I've been wanting to do some stillwater roach fishing for a few years. I find long range feeder fishing enjoyable as you are constantly recasting to keep the feed going in - and the fish hook themselves! A suitable water no too far from home is hard to find. The reservoir is nice enough, and while I enjoy the reliable action the fish aren't quite as big as I'd prefer to catch. Size does still matter, a few pound plus fish now and then would be nice.  I did have another couple of waters lined up for a try at roaching this winter (and I was going to chuck some pike baits out) - but the serious cold snap that has rounded off this year put the lid (literally) on those plans for now!

As it has warmed up recently, probably only temporarily, I'm starting to think of fishing again. I've not quite got the photography bug out of my system, but I want to get some more fish caught. What I need is an incentive, a challenge, something new. A possibility of joining a syndicate on a quiet lake has got me thinking of spring. I really must make sure I manage work commitments better this coming spring and put some quality tench time in somewhere or other.

My list of big fish isn't too spectacular this year - a reflection of the lack of effort I've put in, although it's better than I'd remembered and a few years ago I'd have been over the moon with the barbel, bream and tench (the male tench is still a good one by my standards). One can get a bit complacent I guess. However, I still wish I'd weighed more of those dace...
  • Barbel - 9-13
  • Bream - 7-15
  • Dace - 0-08
  • Roach - 1-06
  • Tench - 7-13 (f), 6-14 (m)
No fish photos, but here are a few that aren't of fish.

Roll on spring.

Happy new year!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blast from the past

I've just been given an old, very old, Prowler Plus to refurbish. The rod had been bought second hand and there was a chunk of cork missing. Other than that it was in excellent condition. Below is a picture of it with the replacement cork fitted prior to final sanding.

(Click to enlarge)

The reel seat is an unbranded and rather agricultural trigger grip, but it was finding that Harrison's had a stock of them they had no use for that I started building lure rods for the burgeoning band of multiplier users. I'm guessing that was around 1995, and the Prowler Plus was developed a couple of years after that I think. The supply of those reel seats ran out just at the time that the much nicer Fuji trigger seats became available in the UK as the mid-nineties lure boom took off.

It was also interesting to note that back in those days the plastic buttons I finish the handles off with weren't available with narrow enough stems to fit inside slim blanks, but now they are. Blank technology must have moved on a little, too, since those days.

Friday, October 08, 2010

No need for commercials

A day later than intended I bought those maggots and dusted off the Torrixes. I set the pod up in a favourite swim with a strong wind blowing from an angle behind meaning there wouldn't be too much trouble sinking the lines. The sun was shining, the air was positively warm (no need for a fleece even in the wind), and leaves were falling on the water.

All three rods were rigged up with The Rig. Unfortunately I'd picked up three 50g feeders instead of 30g ones. Not to worry. One rod was baited with two red maggots, one with a single white maggot and the third with a dendrobena. The idea was to leave the worm out in the hope of a better stamp of fish, or something different, while working the other two rods to get some bait out.

As it turned out the bobbins were hardly still from the first cast! I put the initial movements down to line bites until I wound in and found a sucked maggot. The next casts produced skimmers. Silvery, thin, skimmers. It was a bite, and very nearly a fish, a chuck. I gave up counting at ten fish.

After an hour some slightly larger skimmers started to show up. The biggest might have made 12oz, but they were all more like small bream - less silvery, darker backed, more chunky.

A 'better stamp' of skimmer
It was around this time that the pike made their presence known. I had been expecting a skimmer to get heavy at some point when a pike had taken hold, but that wasn't what happened. The pike were more cunning. Lying in wait at the point I have often found productive when lure fishing, the point where you can no longer see the bottom of the lake. What they were doing was waiting for a fish to be returned then appearing like lightning to snatch the fish close to the edge. My guess is that this strategy is used as the prey fish has nowhere to go to flee, being effectively penned by the bank it can only go left or right.

The early pike strikes were energetic and noisy affairs. As the afternoon wore on they became less frantic. I got teh impression the pie were getting full. I got a good look at one pike that seemed to me to be a low double, another I got a bit of a glimpse of when it almost beached itself was a little smaller, and I'm pretty sure there was a smaller pike still judging by the size of the vortices created when it struck.

I had been hoping to catch roach, but only one showed up around three o'clock. Rather than drop it in the margin I gave it a sporting chance by throwing it further out when I returned it!

Not a skimmer
To make my pint of maggots go further I'd bought a bag of micro trout pellets and a tin of hemp (being too idle to cook a pint in advance). The hemp and pellets were mixed and used to either fill or partly fill the feeders. It's an approach I've used before and seems to work.

Good fun though it is to catch plenty of fish, even small ones, little bream are horribly slimy. The spod mix from my tenching that is still caked on the rods has now been joined by skimmer snot. Nice.

I'm not 'rod proud'!
Despite the fact there were lots of fish in front of me the worm rod produced one skimmer, and one ruffe. The ruffe provoked a particularly violent strike from a pike that showered my legs in lake water!

Tommy ruffe

I had expected a lazy afternoon, picking up a fish or two every now and then, which was why I took my Fancy Dan camera with me to take some shots of the autumnal colours. I didn't get time with all the action! Action that has got me thinking about doing some rather more serious fishing soon. Catching a lot of fish easily is all well and good, but fewer fish of a larger size would feel more of an achievement.

I did manage to use Fancy Dan to  video one of the skimmers' final moments.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

More rod (and other) twaddle

The annual Tackle and Guns trade show is coming up this month and Harrison's are working on some new blanks which I got to waggle yesterday. Probably the nicest, to my mind, were a revamped 11ft Avon and a three piece twelve footer of around 2 to 2.25lb which was through actioned but not sloppy. I also saw a stalker that seemed a little stiff in the butt and a new (cheaper) Torrix carp blank. I hope to get a better look at these, and some others that are in the pipeline, as finished rods at the show.

Since Barbel Fishing World demanded payment or a charitable donation to use their forums I've been staying away on principle - the reason for the charge was to make everyone post under their real name, which I did anyway and so felt disgruntled. Can't say my world has crumbled without the place. I dropped by today to see what little a guest can see and there was the same old obsessing over stuff that doesn't need obsessing about.

One poster was looking for something better than a paperclip for releasing snagged feeders. Good luck in the search! Nothing that can withstand casting a six ounce feeder is going to work every time, but it is worth bearing in mind that using 30lb braid is a big help in releasing snagged feeders. As with pike bite indication you have to look at the whole 'system', and not one item in isolation, to understand how it functions.

Another topic being discussed is the age old question of how to ring a rod. There's no one right answer to this. What was mentioned was that the 1.75lb Torrix felt more like a tip to middle action than a through because of the 'unusual' ring spacing. Er, no. It feels like a tip to middle action because that's what it is, as I discovered when using mine for tench fishing. It errs to the middle, rather than the tip, but it is not through.

Off to buy some maggots now, and use those 1.75lb Torrixes for some roach fishing!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

All fired up

The PAC Convention was a good day out by unanimous agreement. Talking fishing with enthusiasts like Gord Burton has got me back in the mood. Trouble is that I've got too much work on now to get time to hit the water! If all goes well I'll manage to fish somewhere next week. Here are a few characters from the show.

The one and only Gord Burton

Mark Barrett and Denis Moules, book barrons

Bill Palmer tests one of Billy's Backbiters

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's that time again

Less than a week to go to the PAC Convention. I can't believe this will be the 20th convention I'll be showing my rods at. It seems a long time ago I had my first couple of rods on display at Loughborough, and yet it also seems just like yesterday.

After all this time I thought it was time for a change of look for my abbreviated handles. Nothing major, just a slimmer Duplon grip at the butt end and some stainless bits to make them look a bit more 'modern' - but not too radical or 'carpy' (if you get my drift), and my Reduced Graphics option as standard. Everything else is staying the same; same Harrison blanks, same Fuji rings and reel seats, same black whippings.

Here' a taster. More (and better) photos will appear on my website as I phase the build in.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can you handle this?

I've had a spate of custom builds specifying non-standard handles lately. I thought I'd show two that are nearing completion here. The first is a pair of Chimeras in Ultra Matt with full Duplon handles. For some reason I think that cork looks well flared in front of the reel seat, but when done in Duplon it looks tacky, the converse being said for a cone or dome shaped foregrip - although it's hardly large enough to grip! The butt is finished with a slight flare and a plastic button.

 Full Duplon handle (details)

Rather less traditional is the minimalist handle I've been asked to fit on a set of Baitblasters. It's not a handle that is always feasible, much depends on the blank diameter in relation to the reel seat diameter, or aesthetically pleasant for similar reasons. On a relatively thick blank like the BB350 it works and looks well. The butt end is finished with an equally minimal piece of Japanese shrink tube and a stainless steel button. To maintain the pared down look I've used my Reduced Graphics.

DPS-B and not much else!

Japanese Shrink Tube and Stainless Steel

I've some other unusual stuff on the go and will try to post photos of them as they near completion.

[Click the photos to see them larger]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Storm in a teapot

Last night I had a late evening phone call from an angling journalist who is of the school of thought which maintains that information about where to fish should be free to everyone.  Apparently anyone who doesn't like seeing swims named is 'mean spirited'. If so then I'm mean spirited and proud of it.

I'm not alone though, as anyone who has posted on the Pike and Predators forum naming a water and asking for the hotspots will testify. The more polite replies will tell them to go fish the place and find the best swims for themselves. The less polite will slag them off mercilessly. It is called The Bear Pit for good reason! But if the naming of waters is avoided it can be a very helpful place to seek advice. Other forums have a no-naming policy for venues, and some (like Barbel Fishing World) have hidden their river report forums from the public gaze to prevent 'lurkers' getting hard won information for free.

There is good reason for this - there is a finite number of fisheries holding big fish and an expanding number of anglers. It may be 'mean spirited and selfish', but it prevents the locations becoming heavily pressured. This is beneficial for the anglers who have fished them for years (they are less likely to roll up and find their top swims taken), and for the fish (some, such as pike and barbel, can suffer badly from poor handling or repeated captures).

Yet still some people are intent of making venues, and swims, known to all and sundry. I just can't see why. It may seem like a high-minded egalitarian move, but if it buggers up other people's fishing I reckon it's mean spirited and selfish. To twist a cliché, knowledge of fishing spots is not a right, it's a privilege.

It could be a generational thing, but I don't see why people should expect to have fishing spots handed to them on a plate. Big fish should be earned to give real and lasting satisfaction to the captor. Perhaps that's an old fashioned concept. Nonetheless I think giving people part of the answer makes them appreciate the solution more when they work out the missing pieces for themselves. Help them with their rigs, and their understanding of how to locate fish by all means, don't tell them where to put their chair. But this is going over old ground for me and will almost certainly fail to convince those who don't already think that way.

Maybe I was a little harsh (in my initial ire at the feature) on the angler involved who could well have been acting with good intentions. Sad and pathetic were perhaps not the right words, more like naive and misguided.

On the positive side it's been raining. The river should be rising and the barbel feeding hard. If you want to know a good spot to try, don't ask me.... [Insert smiley face here to indicate humour for the benefit of the innately stupid.]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The price of 'fame'

A front cover shot and four page spread in a national fishing weekly. At what price?

Plenty of local anglers will despise you for publicising a stretch and a known fish and the place will get hammered. Those are not guesses, they are facts after the event. The chances are litter will increase and the very worst scenario is dead barbel floating out to sea.

Pathetic. Sad. A sign of the times. I blame reality TV.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fishing for carp

Yesterday a misty morning hinted at the forthcoming arrival of autumn as surely as the berries in the hedgerows. Yet again I was undecided what to do with what was forecast to be the last fine afternoon for the week. Not being able to face the hassle of purchasing maggots and sorting out my trotting gear I shoved some other tackle in the car and went fishing for carp.

I make a distinction between carping, carp fishing, and fishing for carp. Carping is carried out by clones who can't think for themselves or fish without all the latest paraphernalia.  Carp fishing is done by dedicated carp specialists who use whatever tactics are required. Fishing for carp is just that - carp just happen to be the quarry of the day, the fishing is the important bit.

I am really rubbish at catching carp, but I had found a spot where some basked on warm afternoons, and thought they might be easy enough to tempt. Sure enough, they were where I expected them to be. Being a clumsy stalker, and having left my polaroids in the car so failing to spot fish, a couple moved off as I spooked them. They weren't unduly concerned. The one I saw waddle away from the margin was a common that looked as if one of it's parents had been a puffer fish. Out in the weedy corner a couple of backs were breaking the surface like those of tiny whales. There were a few carp around alright.

I'd found this area when out looking for dragonflies, and it wasn't long before a brown hawker was inspecting me. Deciding I wasn't a threat or a meal it set about hawking, and hovering, swooping up and catching insects to be devoured on the wing. This gave me something to watch while I waited for carp to find the floaters I'd scattered in two likely looking places.

Carp materialised, cruising slowly, but failed to home in on my offerings. The rudd were better at that. The Oily Floaters were soon being nibbed at and pushed around, with an occasional swirl being made by a bigger fish that thought it could swallow one of them.

Then I noticed one of the more distant baskers was sticking its lips out and sucking on something in the weed. Pellets were thrown at it and it liked them. Reasoning that there is no point casting in where fish aren't feeding I walked round to get closer and throw the fish some more food. I went back to my original position and watched from afar. There seemed to be at least two carp taking the floaters, possibly three. I dismantled my landing net so it wouldn't catch in the undergrowth and made my way to the spot I'd baited up from.

How I was going to land a fish there was anyone's guess. It wasn't a proper swim, just a slight thinning of the reeds and reedmace with a mat of Canadian pondweed in front of it. If the fish was big enough I'd be willing to get wet, otherwise my plan was to heave and haul to get the fish through the weed. I wasn't confident of a take though, carp seem to know I don't like them much! This is my excuse for not catching them by design. In the past they have picked up my baits intended for tench, barbel and perch, even deadbaits being fished for catfish and pike, yet when I set out to catch carp by design I fail.

This is not a pike float!

I waited until the fish were actively feeding, not exactly avidly, but they were moving about and taking the occasional floater, before casting in. Then the waiting began. Nothing much happened. My usually silent mobile rang, and after I'd finished the call a carp approached my hook bait. All a tremble I stood in the reeds poised for action. At least five times the stupid fish sucked at the bait without taking it. Then it siddled away. Par for my carp fishing course.

On recasting the controller must have landed on a carp's back as there was a huge swirl as a fish bolted out of the swim. With it being quite a confined spot I thought all the carp would have vacated the area, but in just a couple of minutes there were a couple feeding again. Watching on of them I saw it fail to ingest a floater that wasn't attached to a hook. This gave me some consolation that it wasn't my duff presentation that the fish had been wary of, and it probably was just dumb.

The day started to 'go off', as did the carp. So I went off too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New challenge required

Almost since I started barbelling I've been telling people how easy it is. Find a peg, rig up with a boilie or a pellet, attach a PVA mesh bag of pellets to the hook, cast out and wait until the rod is dragged in. That really is it. The hardest part is finding a swim with barbel in, and that's not difficult because they are where you'd expect them to be if you read about barbel fishing. They are also in other places too, so it's probably harder to put a bait in a place a barbel won't find it than in one where it will!

For my first few years the challenge was to catch a bigger barbel. I haven't had that fifteen pounder yet, but that particular goal has become less important. Last season I ended up trying to catch as many doubles as I could, and as many barbel in a season. Having done better than I expected, even allowing for the cold winter that brought my quest to an end, this season has seen my motivation to catch barbel diminished. I've turned up, cast out, and not been surprised to catch barbel. It's become as simple as I tell people it is.

Although I hate blanking and enjoy catching fish I find I need to be learning and/or improving my results to maintain my interest. Which is why I fished a new swim last night. It's a spot I've had my eye on for a couple of years and someone had cleared a nice area to plonk down in, so, despite having a swim I know well available, I gave it a try.

It's quite a long chuck to reach the pacier water on the outside of the bend, and I had no idea what lay between the nearside slack and the faster water. With the river back to summer level but carrying a slight peat stain, not desperately low but low enough, I reckoned the water coming off the shallows above the bend might be better oxygenated and attractive to the barbel. As I set up I discovered that I had no leads with me, only 2oz feeders. I'd removed the leads last time out to lighten my load on the long walk because I was fishing feeders that time. Never mind. The feeders would do the job. They'd have to.

There was hardly any wind and it was warm enough to sit out in a t-shirt until gone eight. The sky had been the blue of a warm summer afternoon when I arrived but was starting to fill with clouds, dark ones out to the west. They approached at a snail's pace. After losing one rig on the downstream rod and a couple of recasts the air chilled. I put on a sweatshirt as a brown hawker dragonfly arrived, circling my swim picking off flies and midges from above the balsam. Then the rain came. I had just go the brolly up as the drizzle began when the upstream rod was a way.

 The first of four similarly sized fish

I played the fish in, a hard scrapping fish of about six pounds - give or take, and netted it as the drizzle stopped. I wasn't too wet. I recast, then the rain set in. It turned into that heavy rain that flattens the river's surface, forms a hazy curtain blurring the trees on the other bank and makes so much noise on the umbrella that the radio is drowned out. It was still pleasantly warm though.


In the next hour I had two repeat performances from the upstream rod, which I had cast much further across after the first fish. The thirds fish coming as the rain eased off around quarter to ten. It's getting quite dark by ten o'clock these days and the stars began to sparkle in the clearing sky. A lone shooting star burned briefly before the downstream rod, which had snagged a second time and been recast well out to try and avoid whatever the snag was, was in action. Another pea-pod fish in the six pound bracket, the first to the S-Pellets rather than the boilie.

I was surprised that the action didn't continue at the same rate. By eleven I'd had no more indications when I noticed a light mist forming over the water which is never a good sign for barbel activity. I decided to leave early, packing away at half past to lose my bearings in the mist on the short walk back to the car.

It had been a fun few hours, but not much of an achievement despite fishing a new swim. The barbel were where I expected them to be, and fell for the usual trick. There is more to fishing than catching fish, and it's not the flowers and dragonflies.

Friday, July 30, 2010


The lure of the river was too much to resist. I was back again last night, choosing to fish beyond the beach, and yet again having to batter down the balsam to make myself comfortable. The river was slower and clearer still. The sky clouded and a stiff breeze blowing from the south west - although the bank behind me provided shelter and the tops of the trees on the wooded bank being my only indication of it.

As there was still some feeder mix left from Monday that was to be my approach again. This time I'd left the big feeders behind (along with the umbrella to keep the weight down) and topped up with 2oz Korum cage feeders.

It didn't take long for something to find my baits. The rod tips indicating all manner of twitches and pulls. In the shallow margins small fish were feeding and flashing. Putting the binoculars into action the larger ones looked like small chub, the others could have been minnows. I threw in a couple of boilies and some feeder mix and they homed in on it immediately.

Swifts and martins were soaring high above the trees, two herons flew across the river  towards the next bend upstream. The valley was at peace with itself. The air temperature was a little lower than Monday, and as the sun set the air cooled further. I stood up to wind a rod in for a pre-dark recast and saw two herons on the upstream end of the beach. They must have sneaked up river from behind me. One flew away as soon as it saw me rise above the balsam. The other eyed me with suspicion for a few seconds before doing likewise. Slugs were around in the vegetation as was a caterpillar of some sort.

I had to photograph something to brighten the blog!

This swim is one I've fished before and had a couple of nice fish from, but it's not one I've caught numbers of fish from. The plucks and taps continued after dark. I wasn't too concerned by the lack of barbel action.

As it grew darker so the clouds closed up and the temperature rose again. The fleece I had put on earlier was almost superfluous. At ten to eleven the upstream rod, which was fishing nearer the middle of the river than the far bank in order to avoid the tackle grabbing snags, came alive. As soon as I bent into the fish I had the feeling it was foulhooked. It had that same inert feel the foulhooked fish on Monday gave me. Sure enough, the hook was well outside the mouth. Some years ago I had a spate of this happening, but after adding the intermediate swivel to my hooklinks foulhooked fish had been notable for their non-appearance. Maybe an odd one each season. Without changing my rigs I've had two in two sessions. I can only put this down to the combination of low flows and swimfeeders.

I say this because my rigs have been tangling more frequently, too. Not often enough to worry about, but far more than is normal. What I think is happening is that the hook/bait is settling directly on, or very close to, the feeder. This is likely to cause tangles if the hooklink drops onto the feeder. And it might also cause the hooklink to loop up off the river bed, thereby creating a situation where a barbel could catch the line and drag the hook into a fin. Pure conjecture, but in stronger flows with a bag of pellets on the hook I know that the hooklink straightens out downstream of the lead, because I've watched it doing so in shallow water. If the Ribble wasn't so rocky I could solve the problem by drawing the feeder towards me as it settles. Only doing that has a tendency to drag it into a snag. Back to the bags.

The next hour and a half was spent listening to a tawny owl, and making squeaking noises back at it. The owl responded when I got the sound right. The taps and rattles continued sporadically, with the occasional 'bat bite' in between, but nothing more positive.

I removed my fleece for the walk back to the car after writing off a complete rig when winding in the final bait. Maybe I'd dragged that one back when it settled...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maths and stats

Sometimes I wonder if keeping records helps at all. It certainly doesn't give you any real idea of angling 'success'.

This time last year I'd been on the river nine times and caught 25 barbel with four of them doubles. This year I've been on the river three times, catching 13 barbel with no doubles. So my catch rate per session is up, but my doubles to total ratio is down. I suppose I could work out the average weights for each season, but I can't be bothered!

Going back one more year and I find that I had only fished for barbel once before August, and ended up with a total of 91 by season's end with better than one in ten being doubles. In '06/'07 I didn't start barbelling until the end of August and still did okay and, more importantly, had fun doing it.I reckon that's a better measure of 'success' than numbers and weights!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday night is barbel night

The rain let up but I still took the brolly with me just in case the forecast was wrong. A week on and the river had risen and fallen, almost back to summer level, and was fairly clear with a hint of a peat stain. The wind was minimal and the flow likewise but without the stagnant feel it had during the heatwave. Walking through the field, the grass growing lush again after being mown earlier in the summer, wet feet reminded me that I need new boots. I had, however, put on my waterproof overtrousers which proved a good move when I reached the bend. I had the river to myself again and fancied a shot at the beach. I doubt anyone has fished it all season as there was not a path to be found through the balsam.

When the jungle warfare was over and I reached my destination I found it had changed dramatically since the last day of the season. All the pebbles were now covered in sandy silt and there was amphibious bistort growing near the water's edge and balsam encroaching from the landward side. The more vegetation sprouts, the more silt is deposited and sticks. And so the land builds up on the inside of bends.

With the changes it was hard to get my bearings and I set up in the 'wrong' place. When I noticed the willow sapling that I used to fish by I moved my gear and my confidence level rose. With the water clear I wasn't expecting any action until dusk, though.

Around eight I heard a noise in the balsam behind be and a sea trout angler materialised. It must be great carrying just a rod and a folding net for your fishing. Lugging a heavy rucksack and rod quiver a long way is getting too much like a chore for me. It's a case of loading up, looking at the ground and not stopping for a breather these days. It's the only way to get there without feeling liek it's an endless trudge.

Like me, the sea trout angler wasn't expecting much to happen before dusk so we had a chat while we waited. I'd just said it would be half an hour, at least, before I got a bite when the downstream rod arched over and the baitrunner did it's angry wasp impression! At first the fish felt small, then felt bigger but looked small in the clear water. A nicely conditioned fish that weighed in between my initial guess of nine pounds when netted and eight when lifted in the sling.

Like a fool I had only got my five ounce cage feeders with me. I was half expecting rain so left the PVA and pellets in the car. The feeder mix I'd thrown together was a bit better this time, not too sloppy, not to claggy. Just right with the pellets in it not turning to mush. The feeders were way to heavy for the conditions. I rummaged in my lead bag and found some blockend feeders still there from my end of season chubbing. I attacked two with my trusty penknife. The oval Drennan was easiest to chop the end off, the Korum required more work. I even tried melting the end with the flame from my cigarette lighter. Needless to say I lost the Korum in a snag on the first cast. I couldn't be bothered modifying another and went back to the heavy artillery on the upstream rod with the two S-Pellets.

A kingfisher blazed it's blue way downstream, wrens sang loudly in from the wood opposite in the still air, and the unmistakable song of a grasshopper warbler could be heard as the light began to fail. I was surprised to hear the warbler's incessant trilling this late in the season.

Around ten the downstream rod pulled over with a short zuzz from the baitrunner, followed by another dip of the tip. I pulled into a dead weight and thought I was dragging a branch upstream. Only the branch kept going upstream when I got it close. Then it woke up and I realised I'd either hooked a really big barbel, or a smaller one that was hooked in a fin. It turned out to be the latter, a fish of some seven pounds.

By now the first sea trout angler had been joined by another. The sound of their lines hissing through the rings carrying through the night. One was getting a bit close, not too close for comfort, but close enough when the boilie rod lurched into action. A good scrap ensued and a fish of six or more pounds was netted and released without leaving the water. I turned to re-bait only to be disturbed by the sound of line being pulled from a fly reel. A lot of line. I spun round and grabbed the upstream rod. It had been a baitrunner all along! This fish also fought well and suffered the ignominy of the weighsling. The scales made it a couple of ounces heavier than the first fish of the session.

I sorted out the chaos and settled back. The night was warm enough for me to leave the fleece in the rucksack and just pull on a sweatshirt. The cloud cover began to break up and a lone star shone. After an hour of inactivity, with both sea trout chasers already gone, I packed it in for the night. Somehow I managed to find the path I had made through the balsam and followed it without tripping or stumbling. Then I got my head down again for the slog back to the car.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Weather or not

After a lot of chasing insects around with my camera I went for a run out on Friday afternoon to chase after some birds. The location I was heading for also offered me an opportunity to look at a water that is known to produce some rather nicely sized rudd. On pulling into the car park overlooking the 'lake' I was dismayed. Not so much a mature gravel pit, it's been there a goodly while, more a water-filled crater. There was no bankside vegetation except grass - and that neatly trimmed. I didn't even walk to the water's edge before leaving. The rudd would have to be of record proportions for me to fish the place.

The birds were obliging, although I didn't get any photos worth bragging about. There was one mildly amusing one of a young starling and an oblivious sheep.

It's like the Serengeti

After Friday the prolonged heatwave broke and the weather returned to our usual summer pattern of rain, followed by more rain, no doubt provoked by the recent hosepipe ban. This meant that photographing wildlife was not going to be much of an option. I always like Sunday nights on the river, so that was what I geared up for. Until I checked the on-line forecast that is. Torrential rain was predicted from 10pm onwards. I don't mind rain in summer, but torrential rain when I'm packing up and making a long walk back to the car isn't my idea of fun. I changed my mind and stayed home.

Popping my head out of the back door while waiting for the kettle to boil around ten I felt a few spots of rain. I guessed that was the start of the deluge and felt quite smug. When I went to bed a couple of hours later the pavement was still dry. I felt disgruntled. More so when I looked out again around 4am and the street was still dry. Bloody weathermen.

Monday morning was damp, however, but the skies brightened around noon and I nipped out to photograph some butterflies I'd found on a day too windy to get any good shots. As soon as I parked up the heavens opened again. There was no respite. The wind was light and the clouds slow moving. I went back home. Within an hour the sky's were clearing again and the urge came upon me. Sod the rain that was forecast. An early tea was eaten, I let the rush hour traffic subside, and at six I was on my way to a river I hoped would be in fine summer flood form.

Conditions looked perfect as I left my car alone in the car park. There was around two feet extra, or a little more, of of perfectly tinged warm water in the river. The rain was nothing more than an occasional spot, the air was warm, the wind non-existent. Superb.

Although I dropped my rods, chair and bait bucket by a swim I knew quite well I then carried on for a look further upstream. I came to a swim I had yet to fish, and it looked inviting. Not only was the bank quite cosy to fish, surrounded by balsam and reasonably flat, there was a small slack by the bank and a lovely crease angling away from the swim. I dropped my rucksack on the damp ground and made to return for the rest of my gear.

It's funny how when you spend time doing something you get attuned to the reactions it requires. Lately I've been photographing damselflies, which are actually difficult to spot when they are roosting despite their vivid colours. As I bent down to roll my rucksack over I saw a male blue damselfly  on a stalk. I'd obliviously disturbed it. With the damp it was roosting low down. It was so lethargic that I was able to encourage it to climb briefly onto one of my fingers as it repositioned itself. The rain had got snails and slugs on the move,and there were brightly coloured bugs around too. Not having my SLR with me an abundance of bugs was to be expected...

Because of the rain I was using swimfeeders rather than PVA mesh. I'd tipped a load of Sonubaits crushed halibut pellets, Hemp and Hali Crush and Tuna Spod Mix in a bucket to use as feed. Dunking this in the river I rather overdid the water content. Some was drained out and the sloppy mess allowed to thicken up by absorption. By the time I had the rods sorted out it was almost perfect, with a bit of a squeeze to compress it in the feeder.

The rigs were the same as last time out, and I didn't even bother putting on fresh baits as the rain had arrived and I wanted to get the brolly up and make myself comfortable. I could change the baits when I'd had a brew from the flask and cooled down from the walk. As it turned out I forgot to change the baits.

 Like the Amazon rainforest...

Not that it mattered. After one recast and forty minutes the downstream rod, fishing the banker spot where the flow picks up at the tail of the eddy, began to pull down and spring back slowly. A dull fight ensued, the fish playing doggo and only occasionally wagging its tail. I guessed the fish at sevenish pounds but weighed it as it looked chunky. A typically pale floodwater barbel of 8lb 11oz. That was easy!

Back goes the blank saver

At eight thirty the same rod was almost dragged off the rest by a fish that pulled much harder, heading upstream at one point and leading me to imagine something much larger than the five-ish pounder that was netted. Time for a change of bait. Disaster! There was no baiting needle in my tackle box. There was one on the dashboard back in the car park. One I'd meant to put in the box. Damn. I was about to wind the upstream rod in and make the walk back when I remembered there should be a stringer needle somewhere in the box. There was. Phew. Two more boilies, a large one and a small one, were put on the downstream rig, and the S-Pellets were replaced on the upstream rod.

It was an hour before the next bite. A typical upstream bouncer. Again a good scrap ensued as another small fish was played to the net. When fishing for barbel in coloured water the only clue you get to their size is when they roll on the surface. They really can fool you with their power in the extra flow.

The fourth fish came to the downstream rod and felt a better fish. It took a fair bit of line and had a dogged power. In the net it looked as good as it had felt. No fooling here. The scales denied me a double, but there's more to enjoying your fishing than putting notches on a rod handle. I was surprised to see a few fish lice on this fish. Perhaps the recent low levels and slow flows have benefited them.

Lice by the pectorals

At times the rain had been heavy enough to make bubbles on the calm surface of the river and enough noise on the umbrella to drown out the radio, at others it was so light it was barely noticeable. On a warm summer evening it wasn't unpleasant.

When darkness set in the chub bites started first, fast jabs that amounted to nothing, then the bat 'bites', tremors that set the rods sacking from side to side. at twenty-five past ten the pellets were taken by a fish that steamed off into mid river. Another scrappy five pounder. Twenty minutes later it was the turn of the downstream rod. This was another eight pounder. Or possibly the same one I'd caught earlier as it looked sort of familiar, having a slightly glazed right eye.

I've often found that as midnight approaches barbel bites tail off. After a biteless hour I took advantage of another dry spell to pack the gear away and leave.

Monday, July 05, 2010

On the night shift

What little rain there had been wouldn't have made much impact on the Ribble. Apart from the fact it hadn't lasted too long and the river rises and falls quickly, the ground will be so dry most of the rain will get soaked into the earth like a huge sponge. Even so I was itching to catch a barbel. So much so that I set off earlier than planned, which meant I spent about an hour longer twiddling my thumbs waiting for dusk than I need have done. This wasn't all bad as it gave me time to remember what a special place the valley is.

I had been surprised to find one vehicle parked up when I arrived. Judging from the personalised numberplate on the fancy looking 4x4 I was expecting a game angler to be on the bank. It turned out to be two guys float fishing with two cheap looking telescopic rods. It seems strange to me that people who aren't short of a bob or two and obviously like nice things, judging by their motor, fish with cheap and nasty tackle. Not that cheap and nasty gear stops you catching, but quality gear does two things; provides an aesthetic pleasure to the practical aspects of angling, and means you can't blame your tackle for your failures!

Last season's favoured peg looked well trampled. There was a strong wind blowing up river and I'd left my brolly at home. The air was warm, but the wind still had a cooling effect so I set up a little upstream where I could get tucked down the bank and get some shelter. In a normal year the balsam would have been towering over me in this spot, but this year it's well behind everywhere I have seen it.

The rods were still rigged up from teh final day of last season. I did replace the baits before casting out though! One rod fished two 14mm boilies downstream and the other one an 11mm S-Pellet upstream - both with the ubiquitous PVA mesh bag of mixed pellets and Hemp and Hali Crush. The H+H Crush was added to the bucket by mistake, but it seems to stay in the bags well enough.

Despite the broken cloud cover, which congealed after dark, darkness was slow coming. The isotopes didn't start to glow until well after 10.45pm. Just before ten the downstream rod had rattled in the rests leading me to expect an eel. The wriggling creature on the end of the line reinforced that suspicion. However it turned out to be a chub of a couple of pounds. I hadn't blanked and the river season was under way.

The wind eased, as it so often does, as the light faded meaning that the air temperature stayed up, more so as there wasn't a star to be seen through the clouds. No need for the bunnysuit, which was just as well because I hadn't packed it.

At eleven thirty the downstream rod was in action again. This time I was alerted to the take by the sound of a Baitrunner and the sight of the spool spinning as the rod bowed over. The fish pulled well for its weight. Not quite seven pounds it was a fine example of the attraction of barbel fishing. Feisty fish that are easy to catch! I hadn't been too happy with two 14mm boilies on that rig, the gap between bait and hook wasn't long enough for my liking - even though the chub had been nicely hooked. I was now using one 14mm and one 10mm boilie which looked better to me. I'd also added a second pellet to the other rig for the opposite reason - the gap looked a touch too long.

It wasn't quite an hour later when the same rod was off again. A similar sized fish which fought equally as well as the first. Should I stop out until dawn and see how many more would turn up? I only had a flask with me. Some grub would have been a good idea to get me through the short summer night. The next take looked like it could have been caused by an eel. A slack liner that did no more than remove the tension from the braid. Sure enough it was an eel. Bah.

 Second of the season

The upstream rod bent over more determinedly as the spool spun fifteen minutes after the eel had disturbed it. This was no eel, and it felt more powerful than the other two barbel had. It proved to be an ounce shy of nine pounds, I was weighing the fish to get me back in the swing of guessing their weights after a long time without seeing a barbel. I slid the fish back and it did the lying motionless in the shallows trick.


I kept an eye on it as I rebaited and recast, and afterwards, to make sure it was okay. Until the time I looked and it had gone. There was no flow to speak of in the edge, so it hadn't rolled over and been washed away. It had simply recovered its composure and sidled off.

One o'clock came and went, as did two. It seemed pointless leaving then, I might as well stick around and wait to watch the sun rise over the fells. As it turned out there wasn't a sunrise as such. Light slowly came to the sky, starting with vague hints around three when pale objects like the sleeping swans appeared a little more visible. The sky was still cloudy and the morning twilight lasted for about an hour before the head-torch was redundant. During this period, before the dawn chorus began but after oystercatchers and curlew had called, the upstream rod had twitched. Not a full-blooded take, the bait had been thrown well upstream, but a slack liner of sorts. This was another eight pounder, and another good puller. Unlike it's predecessor it powered off on release.

By four, in dull morning light, I called it a night and set off for bed. The drive home saw me pass the usual crows and magpies cleaning up the night's road-kill. The highlight of the journey being a tawny owl perched round shouldered on a high street lamp. It looks like the pellet bucket and low chair are back in residence in the back of the car.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nature doesn't stand still

Those tench last week made me eager to get back for another session. In the two previous season on the water once they have moved into this area they have hung around and a repeat performance has been on the cards. My hopes were high.

The hot spell continued and conditions were similar to last week, with the exception of the wind direction. Whether that was the deciding factor I'm not sure (I should look back at my records and see if good catches in this area have coincided with a particular wind direction) but the first day followed the same pattern as last week - no tench seen and no bites had. Carp looked to be spawning by the distant reed beds, big bow waves and tail thrashing was watched through binoculars and poorly videoed with my camera.

If anything the water level was down somewhat, there were emergent weedbeds in various places, and the previously clear gravel where I had caught from had some pondweed beginning to sprout. Nature's constant cycle may vary in its timing, but it carries on turning.

Undeterred by the lack of tench activity I baited up in readiness for a second dawn. After all, the previous session had started slowly. It was promised to be an overcast day, perfect for tench, but didn't turn out that way. On either count. By noon I had had enough. The feeling I had was one of wasting my time. The barrow was loaded, pushed back to the car and I headed for another pit for a recce.

 Spod and marker rods at the ready

This remote pit was deserted, the banks more overgrown than last year, and the crystal clear water had rafts of floating weed and algae drifting on the strong breeze. I thought I might as well sit in the sun behind the rods as sit in the car baking on the motorway. The barrow was loaded again and I set up on the bank off which the wind was blowing so any drifting weed would drift away from my lines.

After finding a clear spot with the marker rod I spodded out the last of my seed mix, marked my lines and cast out the baits. Hardly had I eaten my late lunch than the wind swung round 90 degrees to my left and the weed rafts appeared like a scummy green Armada. I endured a frustrating afternoon in the hope that the wind would drop as evening came on and I could fish in peace with the chance of a bream or two.

It was not to be. The wind changed after my evening bacon butties alright. It swung round a few more degrees and blew the weed straight at me. When Roland appeared a couple of hours before dark I started thinking of home. The heat had been draining and a comfy bed was just too appealing. England had the Aussies well under the thumb so I wasn't going to miss out on an exciting finish. By half past nine I retreated - just as a couple of fish topped over my bait.

The trip hadn't been a complete disaster. I got some nice damselfly photos from the grass behind my swim on the second pit and saw plenty of birdlife, some at the really close range that anglers often enjoy. At the second pit, which I knew was rife with butterflies (four species seen during this session), there were a few dragonflies seen along with a multitude of damsels and other photogenic insects, so much so that I might take a run back with just the camera gear to see if I can digitise any. Well, there might just be a couple of rods stashed in the car too...

Seven spotted ladybird

Female banded demoiselle

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A heli-tench rig

I made up another variation on the helicopter rig the other day  to enable me to swap from a straight lead and boilie combo to a feeder and plastic caster set-up. I would have simply used an in-line lead to make the change if I'd not left them at home - retying one knot is no hardship for me, and keeps the knots fresh, which I think is essential when using mono.

Here's the rig. In order of addition to the main line it goes as follows:
Fox braid float stop, 5mm plastic bead, quick change swivel, 5mm plastic bead, 6mm rubber bead, tail rubber, hooked snap. The hooklink has a loop tied on the end and a rig sleeve threaded over it. I guess the rubber bead could be optional, or maybe the tail rubber (one or the other, not both) if greater simplicity was desired.

It works...

On 0.30mm mono I think the braid stops work better than the Drennan Grippa Stops, but for neatness on dace or roach rigs the Grippas win out.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The urge

I've always taken the view that if you don't feel like doing something you shouldn't do it just because you think you ought to. Which is why the tench fishing hasn't been as intense this spring as in previous years. My few sessions have been gruellers which haven't even felt like I was in with a chance. So the photography has been more appealing. Last weekend something changed. The forecast was for settled dry weather and my long lens was out of commission. That alone shouldn't have made me need to get the tench rods out. It must have been something else.

Monday came around and I prevaricated. Tuesday was different. With the decks cleared by late afternoon I gobbled down an early tea and hastily packed the car hoping I had enough food and bait to see me through. The session would be open-ended. When food, bait or water ran out I'd come home! Lunch time on Friday was the latest I could realistically fish until as I wanted to call in at the Harrison factory on my way home.

I still left it a bit late to set off, but with the summer solstice closing in there'd be plenty of light to find a swim and get settled in. Finding just a couple of anglers on 30 or 40 acres gave me too much swim choice. Plan A had been to move if nothing showed up, so I picked the swim I'd blanked in last time.

Tucked up in bed by ten thirty, I'd been up early with the camera and was dog tired, the left hand Delkim disturbed me after fifteen minutes as a little line was taken, the bobbin hitting the deck by the time I had my boots on. A 10mm Tutti Frutti pop-up had been taken. The new-tackle-jinx was broken!

From the way the fish was behaving I wasn't sure what I was connected to. It being dark, and me not having my specs on, I couldn't tell for sure even when it came into the beam from my Petzl. I thought it was a deep bodied tench, but a bream slid into the net. Out of practice at the guessing game I thought it might be a double, but it was almost two pounds shy. A clean, bronze, chubby fish and a welcome start.

Clear-water bream

I woke before the alarm, made a brew and listened to the distant, incessant, chattering of sedge warblers mingling with the rest of the dawn chorus - still loud and varied for early summer. I spodded out some more seed mix (hemp, groats and corn) and swapped the boilie for two grains of plastic corn. This rig was cast a way out to the spod line, as was an in-line maggot feeder. A second feeder went closer in to my right, just within catapult range where I sprinkled some seeds and some red maggots. As usual the feeder rigs were baited with two hair-rigged plastic casters. Someone on an internet forum had suggested the reason for my lack of tench so far was my plastic baits, and that live maggots work much better. I almost believed them, but my motto is "if your rigs worked in the past, the reason you are blanking is a lack of fish in the swim". I stuck with the plastic.

A clear sky heralded a hot and sunny day. Most of it was spent watching the birdlife in the bushes around me and over the lake or sleeping. Mallards visited me, the friendly female from last year still bold and nosey. Tufties visited my baits. No fish showed either on the surface or on my hooks. There wasn't much recasting done. Around tea time I did some more baiting up, changing distant feeder to a helicopter rig and a 15mm Tutti for the night.

I was hoping the bream might show up again after dark and settle on the bait. It didn't happen. Only two other bream have come my way on this pit. Both in the middle of hot, bright sunny days, and completely out of the blue. I've yet to see a bream roll or land more than one in a session. In fact that bream on the first night is the only fish I have taken at night, from my only nocturnal bite. Most odd.

The second dawn was a repeat of the first. Almost. This time I saw some oily swirls that weren't caused by fowl. What they were caused by was hard to say. No fins broke the surface. They could have been carp. Yeuk! After a light baiting the boilie was swapped back to a feeder and caster set-up.

It was at ten to seven that I was disturbed by the unexpected sound of a Delkim, and the unusual sight (this spring) of a rod tip pulling round. The fish was covered in weed, bright pale green soft weed, of which there was little to be found, and as a result didn't scrap much until the weed dropped free. A tench at last! One of the smallest I've had from the pit but one of the most welcome at a few ounces over five pounds. As immaculate as most of her sorority in the lake. While playing this fish there was another oily swirl a few yards out. A good sign in my book. Sure enough, thirty five minutes later it happened again. This time the fish was a bit bigger. Great stuff. The rest of the day was spent nature watching. Again!

 First 'proper' tench of the year

By the time I had finished off my evening meal of a tin of beans and sausage, washed down with a mug of tea, I was starting to consider my next move. The maggots were turning rapidly, and dwindling after the baiting up and feeder filling. I should have bought three pints instead of two. Should I call it quits and pack up at dark, or give it one more night and morning? Around eight I reached for the stove to make a brew and found the gas bottle surprisingly light. I shook it and it was worryingly quiet. It didn't seem to me like I'd get a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie out of what was left. Home looked a good bet. Yet something made me stay. I had plenty of water left, half a bottle of pop for variety, and four slices of bread. I could drink water and pop and save two slices for a late breakfast bacon butty, eating the other two slices of bread if I got peckish. I might just struggle on until lunch time. The best way to overcome hunger is to sleep. I put a boilie out again for the night and hit the hay.

Friday morning dawned overcast. This meant it felt warmer than the previous two dawns. In fact it was quite muggy. The lake was flat calm. There were more of the oily, finless swirls. Some almost over my close in baited patch. There wasn't much left in the seed bucket, so I eked it out with three or four spods to the far off spot where the plastic corn was recast. Seeing the swirls I decided to drop the distant feeder on the same line as the right hand one - but straight in front of the rod pod. This spot then received a sprinkling of seeds and maggots/casters as did the right hand spot. I then went back to bed in order to put breakfast back as far as I could.

Breakfast time was just after seven. The gas died just as the bacon fat started to crisp. Two rashers between the last two slices of bread was the most welcome butty I can remember in a long time! An hour later the plastic casters on the rig straight out were picked up by a tench that came in easy, belying its size. Not a monster, but a seven pounder ought to pull a bit harder than that one did. I recast both feeder rods, sprayed out more feed, and had a repeat performance twenty minutes later from a fish two pounds lighter that fought like a demon!

And so the morning progressed. At almost half hourly intervals one of the feeder rods would be in action. So much for plastic casters cutting down my catches! By five past eleven I'd netted eight perfectly proportioned tench. The biggest female going 7lb 13oz, the lone male (a really hard scrapper) 6lb 14oz. At ten past eleven the rod fishing the feeder straight out was off again. As I made for the rod the daft mallards which were by the rods took flight, and as I pulled into the hard running fish the female landed in the line of my right hand rod. Distracted by the now entangled duck I felt the line go slack and the fish was gone. At this point the duck also came free and I cursed her loudly.

 Still a little bit of room to fill out some more

The maggots were sparse in the bucket, my stomach was rumbling, the sky was darkening almost imperceptibly. Another hour without a take and I'd break camp and seek sustenance. The next hour was indeed fishless. I pushed my laden barrow back to the car I thinking to myself how it had been worth stopping that extra night rather than taking the easy option. Then I swilled more water, loaded up the Astra and pointed the bonnet at a chippy. As I pulled up outside the fried fish emporium I felt spots of rain. By the time I was parked in a lay-by eating the fish and chips it was raining that warm summer rain that doesn't seem to soak.

Not only had I broken the new tackle jinx I'd got to give the 1.75lb Torrixes and the Baitrunner Ds a good test. The only worry I'd had about the reels was the small ant-reverse lever, but in practice I had no trouble flicking it off to allow me to backwind. They're nice and smooth for that. Initially I was concerned that the butts of the Torrixes were a little too stiff. The rods certainly didn't seem to bend as deeply as the Interceptors. However, when I hooked the runaway male and had to apply full sidestrain to get it out from under the bankside willows I had no trouble at all. I think I might get to really like these rods. They certainly make much nicer tench rods than the 2lb version I used a few years back. When I called at Harrison's on my way home I discovered there is a softer butt available. It's a temptation. If it proves a touch too soft for tench it might make the rods spot on for long range roach fishing.

  Torrix testing tench

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some bird photos

During the quiet times on my latest three-night tench session there was lots to watch, some of which I caught on camera - not always at the highest quality.

Something I've seen at this venue before were long tailed birds flying out from the willows taking flies above the water, and even off the surface. This time I identified them as pied wagtails. Not a bird usually associated with perching, but at least one was using a dead branch as a lookout post.

In the willows and hawthorns around the swim there was a lot of bird activity. Young long tailed tits made a prolonged appearance twittering away, and allowing me to get reasonably close with the 70-300.

A blackcap paid a short visit - so the photo was a hasty one.

The longest photo-shoot was of a common tern that decided to feed in my swim early on the final morning. Given better light stunning shots of this bird would have been a cinch.

The tench turned up too. I'll try and blog about the fishing over the weekend.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Streamside damsels

Back in July 2007 I took a picture of a damselfly eating another insect. It wasn't a great shot. yesterday Mark Houghton blogged a picture of a banded demoiselle - the same speices of damsel. As I knew there were plenty to be found along a stream near the dragonfly pond I nipped out after boxing off what work I had to do by lunch time.

The lure of the pond was hard to resist and I took up the challenge of shooting a dragonfly on the wing. I left defeated - for now. It's a task that requires a concerted effort. On reaching the stream I was wondering where to start my search for the iridescent beasts when two males flew up before me. Starting the theme for the afternoon they steadfastly refused to settle anywhere where they were unobscured, or if they did they were at an inconvenient angle. Rather than hang around waiting for a good opportunity I went in search of more demoiselles.

Although country parks and local nature reserves are a public amenity, and often habituated by errant canines and children, they do have the advantage over more 'serious' nature reserves in that you can wander off the hard paths and are not restricted to looking at the wildlife through hide windows. So it was that I followed a lightly trampled path along the stream's grassy bank.

More damsels flew up and I soon learned to tread more carefully. In some spots there were many damsels to be seen. One was sure to land and pose nicely. It didn't. I managed a few half decent pics, but in most the damsels were partly out of focus because of the angle of their bodies, or there was a leaf partially hiding them. The sun had also disappeared, although the light was still good. Not that that mattered as I was shooting using flash. After a brief bee interlude I wended my way back along the stream.

Female banded demoiselle

On reaching the bridge where the path back to the car leaves the stream I took one last look at the spot I'd started in, but from the opposite bank. Two male banded demoiselles appeared and one landed in a perfect pose. I took a few shots from afar then moved in closer. It stayed put and I was able to get in as close as the lens would allow. Knowing I had at least one good shot I bid the poser a fond farewell and called it a day after a last look at the pond. The chippy beckoned.

 Male banded demoiselle

Birds and a dog

After an early tea I set off to a country park because the rain had eased up and the sun was looking like it might appear for the first time yesterday. When I got there the rain had beaten me to it. Not wet enough to put me off I sheltered the camera under my jacket to keep the drizzle off it.

The first top spot of the day was another Lost Ball! A lucky one because it had been washed downstream by the time I returned. The rainfall hadn't been much, but these upland streams don't need much to pick up pace and colour.

Lost ball 19

The dampness was keeping the smaller birds under cover, which was fine as my big lens is at the lens hospital, the waterfowl were mostly laying on the bank with their heads tucked under their wings. That made them easy to approach and photograph, particularly the bedraggled cygnets.

Ugly ducklings

I haven't visited the park for a lot of years, and it's more manicured than I remembered it, but still wild in places. Parts of it reveal it's industrial heritage, although nature is reclaiming it in the less visited areas. Of course dog walkers abound. Which can be fun when the dog is a lively five month old bearded collie!


The rain had stopped by the time I'd completed my circuit so I headed for the hills of the Land that Time Forgot. Of course it's micro-climate was in operation and the world was misty and wet there. After climbing up the side of a stream that had been almost dry a week ago I descended and tried some arty shots of water droplets on bracken fronds. Nice idea. Poor execution.

Looking down the formerly-industrialised upland stream


Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunny afternoon

Mucho worko catching up with my backlog meant I needed a little R&R this afternoon. So I popped back to the dragonfly pond. And aptly named it is on a warm sunny afternoon in June. There were dragonflies and damsels flitting about all over the pond and in the vegetation around it. This made it difficult to photograph them as they were constantly on the move. One four spotted chaser did behave and took to posing for long periods allowing me to get close too. Even so it's a whole new skill-set I'm needing to acquire to get nice sharp photos with the flash and ambient light well balanced for a natural look. I'm in deperate need of a flash diffuser too - I have one on order.

Working from a RAW file meant I could balance out the exposure on the shot above, but the shot below was beyond redemption.

While I was at the pond I had an interesting chat with one of the park rangers. Apparently they had tried electro-fishing the pond to remove all the nasty fish that have the temerity to eat the dragonfly larvae. He seemed to be of the opinion that fish were of little use - so I said they were quite useful in a pond for fishing in. I'm not sure he was too impressed. Although he was pleasant and informed, I got the impression he may have been a bit of a conservation zealot.

With rush hour approaching I thought I'd go looking for dragonflies and damsels at the warbler pit, after looking in on some nearby woodland. There were young tits noisily following their parents through the trees, and chiffchaffs singing their repetitive song. A couple of butterflies were also seen - a red admiral and a speckled wood.

At the warbler pit I was saddened to see a dead female mallard floating in the marginal weed, out of reach from the bank. An equally appalled carp angler appeared, and proceeded to tell me that there had been two 'anglers' in the swim last night shooting anything that moved. He reckoned they had shot and cooked another duck and there were dead starlings found this morning when they had left. The place is uncontrolled for the fishing, and while there are some who respect the palce and take their, and other's,  litter home there is a faction who treat it like a tip. It's a great shame because the place abounds with wildlife.

Leaving the car parking area I wandered off through the meadow. I'm useless on flower identification, although I did note orchids of some sort among the varied blooms. Into the reeds and my ears were immediately assailed by the songs (if you can call them that) of sedge and reed warblers. The birds were soon spotted. They were gathering food for their better hidden young, as were a few reed buntings. I spent quite a while watching the birds, including a chiffchaff, among the reeds and surrounding willow scrub. Back in the car I saw, too late to get a chance for a photo, a kestrel hovering unusually low over the landward edge of a small heavily reeded pool.

It's a surprisingly wild place, but the easy access means that it's frequented by what one tries not to refer to as 'lowlife scum'. But when you have read that two men set a lurcher on a pregnant roe in the area it's hard not to make such rabid generalisations. There seems to me to be a need to make something more of the largely untended land. But then there'd be a danger of it becoming rather too well groomed, like the park the dragonfly pond is in.