Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not quite what I intended, but it'll do

After some study of the 'dace' photograph and a couple of second opinions I came to the conclusion that they were dace. That their size and chunkiness had thrown me. There was only one thing to do. Go back and catch some more to put a weight on them.

Everything was boxed off before noon, sausage rolls scoffed in the car on my way to buy fresh maggots, then leave the barbel rods out of the sling and replace them with a float rod - just in case. Swap the barbel net for a pan net and dig out the keepnet. A keepnet that must be getting on for 35 years old. Flask filled, bunny suit and boots donned and away.

The river looked pretty much as it had on Sunday. level and clarity very similar but the thermometer showed a fall in temperature to 3.8C. There was a wind blowing from somewhere cold in the north. With the gear arranged to my satisfaction in the swim I cast out and awaited action. It was a while coming. Thirty-five minutes and many casts around the swim to be precise. A lovely slack liner that only required me to pick the rod up and wind until I felt a fish on the end.

Upstreaming is a lovely relaxed way to fish. There's no hurry when a bite comes. The fish is hooked (more often than not) and there's plenty of time to put the cup down and attend to the rod. That bite had come after I had decided to leave the rig out for longer seeing as bites weren't coming quickly. The fish that flashed in the margins showed silver and red. A nice roach of twelve ounces. The keepnet was set out and the fish popped in it ready to be joined by its shoalmates.

I'll be fishing matches next!

That was the plan. Two hours later, with cold rain being blown on a wind that had swung to the west but still had some north in it, it looked to have failed. There'd been bites, but not full-blooded ones. Watching a wren dealing with red maggots I threw to it livened up the hiatus.

The hooklink was regularly coming back twisted or tangled round the mainline. I wasn't happy. I was using the same set up as for chubbing last year, but with a maggot feeder in place of the cage feeder and a lighter hooklink with a smaller hook. The hooklink wasn't standing as proud as it should have been for some reason. Even on the previous session I'd not had this problem. How to solve it? It struck me that if I moved the leger stop over the loop in the mainline and pegged it there it might make the shortened loop stiffer. I had nothing to lose so I tried it.

Shortly after the change the second fish of the session hooked itself. It felt bigger and I thought it might be a chub, but again there was silver and red. I took things easy and a fish an ounce over a pound slid into the net. The net could do with being a bit bigger I think. It'll have to do for now, though.

No day can be a bad day when you catch one of these

With the light fading once the church clock chimed four bites came closer together. A third roach, the smallest of the day as it turned out, came a quarter of an hour after the biggest of the day. A poundish chub was next, initially fooling be into thinking I had hooked a roach of the stamp I was hoping to connect with on Sunday. The thick white lips showing in the gloom gave the game away. Darkness, as so often when maggot fishing, saw the bites tail off and me cursing that I had not picked up a loaf on my way to the river.

A cast closer in resulted in an unmistakeable bite and a dace shortly before six. Alas it was a dace sized dace. By now the rain and the wind was making me feel colder than the air temperature should have done. It was getting a bit miserable. My belly was growling too. I set a departure time of six thirty. A couple of finicky knocks on the tip saw the maggot come back with a nipped head. One last cast then take the gear to the car and return to weigh the better fish. I thought the isotopes had moved. I wasn't sure. On winding in to call it a day the maggot was a mere husk. One more last cast? My cold toes said, No.

A funny sort of session. I'd fished for roach on Sunday and caught some nice dace. I return to catch more of the dace and catch roach. Same swim, same rig, same bait. As soon as you think you have something in fishing sussed the fish confound you. I must remember the bread next time, set the float rod up in advance, and try to make an earlier start so I can put a bit more effort in. More angler friendly weather would be a big help. Cold, dry and not quite so windy would be nice. Despite not fishing gas well as I could have done the change to the rig seemed to make a difference, it certainly stopped the tangles. A little more thinking gave me another idea though. Watch this space.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A late start

A pint of red and white maggots was purchased yesterday, and three Interceptors rigged up ready for a roach session in the Land that time Forgot today. I couldn't get off to sleep last night as my mind was thinking out an idea for a website. It was gone two am when I nodded off and almost nine when I managed to crawl out of bed this morning - and it was raining. I pottered on the PC. making a start on the website and wondering if it was a good idea while listening to the radio. When the repeat of Just a Minute came on I snapped. Two slices of toast were slathered in honey and swiftly eaten. My plans had changed.

It was getting on by now, a session on the lake would be short. With this being the first weekend when anglers would be out in numbers, and the lake well filled, there might not be any swims vacant. To the river, still in search of roach. The river rod sling was ready, as always, even my quiver tip rod was set up. All I had to do was swap the stillwater tackle box and feeder bag in the rucksack for my river ones, fill the flask and load the car.

Crossing the local river it was much lower than it had been on Friday, meaning the big river should be just about spot on. parking up next to the only other car in the car park I headed straight to the river's edge to check it out. Not high and not low. Not too coloured. Great. The owner of the car had already caught a couple of roach. Things were looking good. Downstream there were more anglers in evidence, and a wander along the bank revealed that fish were being caught - on both float and leger. But no roach. Back upstream to the car, unload my burden and haul it down the slippy bank. There was not much to go on from the surface patterns on the water. There were fish in the area though, so it was worth a shot.

Almost February when the annual end of season desperation starts to kick in and a line not yet wet, no fish landed. Time to put that to rights. There was a light drizzle falling from the grey sky. The clouds that could be seen were coming from a vaguely northern direction as far as I could tell. No wonder the air temperature was below 5C. When I took the water temperature I was pleased to note it was 4.1C - and it rose slowly as the session progressed. The river level dropped. Not bad at all.

The first rod out was speculative 'barbel' rod. I wasn't expecting a barbel to pick up the paste wrapped boilie, but a chub might manage to hang itself. Having that rod out would do no harm, cast as it was downstream. The maggot feeder rig was cast upstream about a quarter of the way across the river. I'd half filled the feeder with maggots then topped it up with a mix of tinned hemp and micro trout pellets. The same combination I'd have used on the lake. The size 16 was loaded with one read and one white maggot.


The appetiser

Quarter to two and plenty of time to fish on into dark for an hour or so. Almost immediately the quiver began to jiggle. I wasn't happy though. There was too great a bend in the tip. I recast farther upstream. That was better but I still wasn't happy. The third cast went about five yards upstream and three rod lengths out. A bow was fed into the line and the tip pulled into a gentle curve pointing downstream. Within minutes the tip sprang back and I was connected to a fish. As I grabbed the landing net the fish fell off.

A repeat performance from the tip signalled a second bite on the next cast. Reasoning that I'd tried to drag the first fish upstream too quickly against the strong flow I took it easy this time. A chub of maybe a pound and a half was netted. The first fish of the year. One goal achieved. Now for a roach.

Up and running

Another chub was lost through another case of ignorance and brute force before I landed what looked like a big dace. I'm not accustomed to catching dace but I do know what a small chub looks like. This definitely wasn't a chub. Something about its appearance was telling me it wasn't a dace either. Dace alwasys seem dainty and delicate to me. The scales were smaller than those of chub, the mouth more refined. But... Not to worry. It was another fish.


A second mystery fish was followed by another chub. All these fish hooked themselves giving stomping slack line bites. Then I started missing bites and bumping fish off. I put on a fresh hook and promptly snagged up and lost the lot. I'd noticed that the last missed bite had seen just the white maggot sucked to a skin. After retackling I put just a single white maggot on the hook.

The next bite was again a classic slack liner coming soon after the feeder settled. When I saw that the fish was a roach I eased off as I drew it carefully upstream of the waiting landing net before dropping the rod tip so the fish slid into it. No monster but a nice fish of around nine ounces (as in eight or ten ounces). There would have been a photo of it here but the camera battery failed on me. Particularly annoying as it had been on charge for at least 16 hours, having been put back in the camera minutes before I left home.

All in all the Olympus 770SW has been a disappointment. It takes reasonable photos, many of the snaps I post on this blog (including all these in this post) are taken with it simply because it's compact and waterproof, but the colours and contrast don't always look right to me. I'll concede that the underwater shots have been good, and the macro facility too, but those are not what I use it for most. Now it looks like the battery is one the blink. It's never lasted too long on a charge to be honest. So there's no pictorial proof of my second target achievement of the day. You'll just have to trust me!

I made a longer cast to the middle of the rive which produced two very dacey looking, and dace sized, dace. A chub that wasn't much bigger fell to the single maggot when I dropped it back on the nearside line, then another definite dace.

The twin Drennan isotopes on the quiver tip didn't start to glow faintly until it had turned five o'clock. Reaching full brightness after another fifteen minutes. The nights will shorten rapidly from now on. I've found maggots to be less effective after dark, or so it seems, and was considering this after rebaiting by the red light of my Petzl when the tip sprang back to signal the final chub of the session taken from mid-river. The air temperature hadn't dropped too much but the flask was almost empty.

A prolonged bout of cabin fever can fool you into believing there are other ways to enjoy your spare time. I'd finally kicked the fishing year off and, although the fish weren't huge, I had enjoyed myself so much I was already working out how to approach another session. I'd come close to losing my senses. That website I started work on can wait. There are more fish to be caught.

I'm sure that if I had taken a keepnet I would have caught more fish. Chub, like perch, don't take kindly to their shoalmates being returned and stop feeding - or disappear. A float rod wouldn't have gone amiss either - if only for the sheer pleasure of watching a float follow the river's flow. Also because there were fish topping occasionally, increasing in intensity as the light faded. There had been a bloke fishing the 'pin upstream on the opposite bank and doing well too.

Getting back up the bank was a muddy struggle. Two trips with the tackle seemed advisable. A couple of times I thought I might tumble down the slope into the river. By the time I was on level ground and heading for the car I felt a good inch taller due to the mud on my boot soles. What does a bit of dirt matter on the car floor?

By the way, Fred Bunny accompanied me today. He's been lucky so far!

Friday, January 22, 2010

In search of fishable water

Yet another week (the fifth) has gone by without me wetting a line. Mainly because it's been all go, to be honest. Running around on work related errands on Monday and Tuesday, a high powered (not!) business meeting on Wednesday, rods to send out and more to build on Thursday with a late trip to my local tackle shop to pass an hour or two - during which I purchased some rig bits for tench fishing. If you can't fish you might as well buy tackle!

That left today for an afternoon's jaunt which hasn't exactly inspired me to get the tackle ready. The first water I saw was my local river, where it's tidal - but a good couple of hours before high water. It was up to the flood bank, looking like liquid mud and churning merrily. Lovely.

Thence to the Land that Time Forgot. A duckpond I passed was ice free, but a flooded patch of land was still iced over. Sure enough the lake was in it's own micro-climate. The valley was filled with a thick mist, the water's surface was invisible from the road as I drove past. I'd stretch my legs and go check it out. There were gulls to be heard mewing from the direction of the water as I walked through the copse of tall, bare beech trees. It turned out they were standing on the half (or more) of the lake that was still frozen. There was a piker starting to pack up who hadn't had a sniff. Cross that one off the list of options.

I took a circuitous route home, not entirely by design... Some roadside waters I passed by were clear, others not. All the rivers and streams were belting through and looking like sludge. At least the local canal, which was still frozen when I looked at it yesterday, appeared clear where I crossed it if nowhere else. Sod it.

Wherever, and whenever, I do get out again I have a new fishing buddy. I ordered some batteries yesterday and they arrived bright and early this morning with an unexpected free gift. A 'Magnetic Duracell Bunny'. I hope the little pink bugger is lucky because he's not very magnetic!

Don't look at me like that!

For those who missed the brazen plug on my site I'll repeat here that Derek Macdonald can be seen using a P-3 or two on the Sky Sports website. I'm going back into hibernation.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mice plans

Yesterday I bought some maggots and walked a stretch of a local river. It looked pretty good, fairly clear and not a raging torrent. The afternoon was fresh and the ground firm with a little snow remaining in the shaded furrows of the fields. A lapwing called and wheeled, a hare sprang up and ran away, a small flock of duck on the river seemed to comprise of a couple of pairs of mallard and a few more pairs of teal. It was hard to tell as they flew up and round just out of easy viewing distance without binoculars.

I was up for an afternoon session roving with the float rod today. Then morning came and our usual winter weather had returned. Rain and wind. I was expecting a couple of deliveries too, and when they turned up I decided to work on my webshop uploading the new product details (which will go live on Sunday) rather than visit the river. With some of that done I headed to Liverpool to collect some blanks and on my way home I crossed another small river that was well up and charging through in a muddy torrent. I doubt I'd missed much. How long it will take for the rivers to get back into fettle is hard to say, and will depend on how speedily they rise and fall anyway. If it stays fine and mildish, it hit 7C today, I'll take the maggots for an afternoon out over the weekend. Once I've finished updating the webshop and whipping some rods.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Slipping and sliding

The shack nasties are starting to kick in as the stillwaters, canals and drains round here are topped off with a layer of that cold solid stuff. I'd venture to the river but I really don't fancy sliding down the hills, or being stuck at in the valley unable to drive out at the end of the session. Not that it's looking too good - looky-linky. While the sun makes the days bearable it isn't high enough for long enough for my liking, and it soon gets really chilly once you are out of the sun.

So I've been amusing myself birdwatching from the comfort of my home. I'm fortunate that there's a field beyond my back fence which, before the snow fell, was a magnet for redwings, fieldfares and starlings. Other birds too. This week I've seen over 20 different species either in the field or the garden, the two 'best' spots being a pair of snipe and a couple of meadow pipits. It's enjoyable, but it's not the same as fishing.

Nonetheless there's a tiny sliver of what's to come each evening as the sun sets further to the west and the daylight hours lengthen. This has prompted me to scan some more slides from the past, slides of summer fishing. Maybe this year I really will get round to doing some serious eel fishing again. These photos are from the year I gave up carp fishing on an expensive syndicate lake and put the worm rods out. 1991 I think it was. I still use the same rods, reels, storm poles (now my barbel sticks) kettle and water bottle. Buy good quality gear and if it ain't broke, and all that!

The first brew of the evening

The first eel I managed to calm down for a self take.
 An earlier attempt at eel wrestling!