Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back in the groove

My recent return to the photographic world has reminded me that going out looking for photographs is a lot like going fishing. You set out with good intentions but the elements and other factors mean there is no guarantee of success. Saturday morning saw me up and out bright and early hoping to make good use of the promised sunshine to get some pixels organised. The sun came along, but not for long. I did have a cunning plan though...

A tree yesterday

I'd gone for a walk along the river, it would have risen on Friday and it might have warmed too so it was worth investigating. Accompanying my camera gear on the walk was my thermometer. The first stop at the edge of a nicely coloured and dropping river was to throw the thermometer in the water. It didn't take long for me to decide not to return with the rods for a while. 2.9C was far from encouraging, and the distant fells still had a faint covering of snow that would be entering the river some time soon.

When the sun went into hiding, to be replaced by light rain, I was on my way home and thence to the tackle shop where the talk was of torrential rain and gale force winds for today. The consensus was that I was mad to be buying maggots to use for roach. My intention was to wait and see what the morning brought and either head to the river if it looked set fair or to a stillwater if it bode ill.

As things turned out the foul weather was in the south (hurrah!!!) so I could get a couple of small glueing jobs done, make some sarnies and pack my gear in the car to arrive after the turn of the tide. Two cars were parked up with only one angler in sight. He'd caught a couple of chub and told me he didn't fish maggots on this stretch because the dace did his head in.

After arranging my gear in the claggy clay I cast out a single white maggot on a 16 and my usual feeder rig, the feeder being filled with old maggots, their attendant casters, and micro trout pellets. Then I ate my first salami bun and recast. As I was pouring the first flask-tea of the day the quiver tip commenced a-dancing. A nicely conditioned roach of about six or eight ounces. I was fishing a close in line to start with. If I start catching from there and then bites dry up casting further out usually brings renewed action. I prefer to do it that way than start in mid river and come closer. I'm not sure why.

Eye. Aye.

The rig I was using had been trouble free when used with a heavier hooklink for chubbing. While it was tangle-free initially with a light hooklength it had soon started to twist around the lead link and tangle on previous sessions. From there on it spiralled (pun intended) downhill. Tying on a fresh hooklink would sort it temporarily but it was a pain. Why I hadn't switched to a helicopter variantI can only put down to pig-headedness or laziness. This time I made the switch.

It was so simple. A small swivel trapped between two Drennan Grippa Stops on the main line. Another swivel tied to the end of the mainline and the feeder attached to that via a link of slightly weaker mono. The hooklink is looped to the rotating swivel, after having a cut down large Korum rig sleeve (the small ones are too small) slid on to it. The rig sleeve is pushed over the rotating swivel and makes a bit of a boom. It works. Talk about kicking myself.

It was almost an hour later before another fish came along. A dace that didn't looks as big as the ones I'd neglected to weigh last month, so I weighed it. 5.5oz. Or thereabouts. A second dace was weighed at an ounce more. That one didn't look as big as the unweighed ones either. Then I hooked something that tore off downstream, hung in the flow and came adrift as I applied too much pressure trying to pull it upstream. I reckoned it was a chub until I hooked another fish that did something similar. This time I took it easy and allowed the fish to make its own way upstream. It turned out to be a pound-plus roach, and hadn't felt as heavy as the lost fish. A smaller roach was followed by another heavy feeling fish that I took my time with. This one was a chub, of about a pound and a half. I hadn't a clue what I'd lost.

Fred keeps an eye on the rod tip while I eat my sarnies

By now I was fishing further out, about a third of the way across. Bites came with increasing regularity as the afternoon wore on. Mostly dace, two of which looked more like the ones from last month and weighed eight ounces and a fraction less. The bigger fish upped my PB - the first of the year. It still didn't quite seem as big as one I had returned unweighed. Maybe there wasn't much in it, but enough.

The top of a Ruckbag makes a good unhooking mat for small species

Despite a bitterly cold wind I wasn't feeling uncomfortable. I only noticed my toes starting to numb when I thought about them! Getting plenty of bites is a great way to get back into the swing of fishing. In among the dace and dropped fish was another roach of some six ounces. Had I remembered my keepnet I'd have amassed quite a netful. The sky had been grey but cloudy until the sun began to set. For the first time in ages there was a colourful sunset during which fish began to top all along the river.

A disgorger behind the ear is a sure sign of plenty of action

My flask was all but drained, the food long gone. Bites were still coming so my departure time kept getting put back. At five to six, with still enough light to allow the Petzl to stay in the Ruckbag, I hooked something heavy again. I took my time wondering if it was a roach or a chub. the grey dorsal that sliced through the water's surface gave the game away. Only about a pound, but on light tackle with a small hook there's no way to bully these fish in a strong flow. I'd tidied most of the gear away so the recast would be the last.

Hardly had the feeder settled when the tip bounced the upstream self-hooked fish bounce. A shoal of chub must have moved in as a fish that felt just like the previous one got itself in the flow downstream a rod length out. There was still enough colour in the river to make it difficult to see fish until they were almost at the surface. When this one boiled I was sure there was a flash of red, but the light was fading fast. I eased off a little, just in case. When I did catch a definite sight of the roach I was starting to consider prayer.

Not the biggest roach in the world, not even big by some people's standards, it was the best of the day and a great way to end my first session in what seems like ages. I'd finished with 22 fish after a slow start - two chub, five roach and the rest dace. My head was well and truly done in!

Homage to Vincent

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Layabout, legend and mild-mannered maverick

Those are some of the terms (along with dosser and curmudgeon) used about me by Alan Barnes in the interview he wrote up for The Angling Star - a Sheffield based monthly angling paper. It made me titter.

No such thing as bad publicity!

It was positively warm yesterday, just about into double figures for a while but cooling fast when the sun began to set. All being well I'll be back on the bank somewhere this weekend.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old and soft

I have to confess that the weather since Christmas has really put me off fishing. Had the roads not been so awful with the snow I would have ventured to a river or two, and probably done the grayling fishing I promised myself but the thought of getting stuck somewhere far from home didn't appeal. Then with the stillwaters frozen solid thoughts of pike or roach were scuppered. In a 'normal' winter such weather lasts maybe two weeks then we're back to the usual not-too-cold dampness with occasional frosts. Weather that is bearable. This winter seems never ending. It's coming up to the last week of February and it's snowing again. What I hear from people who have ventured out recently hasn't made me want to grab the rods and join them.

Frozen again

Some say that this lack of enthusiasm is the result of getting older and seeing sense. I certainly hope so! But then if we were 'sensible' when we were young we wouldn't do or learn much. I guess what you do learn is when you are likely to waste your time, and as time starts running out it's better to use it doing something you enjoy or get something out of. Sitting outdoors feeling my toes growing increasingly cold while not catching fish isn't the 'pleasure' it once was. I've still been getting out in the fresh air and stretching my legs, and my imagination, by taking a camera for a walk. I'm not sure it provides the same satisfaction as fishing can, but it's best done when the sun shines, I keep on the move and stay warm, and I don't have to stay out too long if I don't want to!

There are signs that spring is on the way, though. Even if feeble. I keep reminding myself that last season conditions were poor until the final week, that it only takes a day or two of mild weather to get the rivers back in barbel fettle, and only one bite to crown a season. I'm biding my time. How's that for optimism?

Snowdrops before the snow dropped again

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Self-Takes Part 2

Since my original bulb release split, the mechanism being permanently fixed to my adaptor bracket, I have been using a second bracket which I bought when I thought I'd lost part of the first one. Having used it for a good few months now (although not recently...) I think it's better than the first one as it locks more securely in all places and being aluminium and steel construction the thread the release screws into shouldn't strip like the plastic block did.

The part that screws into the camera's base is also less likely to be lost as it is captive in the channel of the bracket. I've slipped some aquarium tube over the ends of the posts to stop them slipping out in transit. The only thing to watch out for is a thumbscrew working loose and getting lost.

Camera attached to bracket and tripod quick-release plate

The bracket (and the replacement bulb release) were bought from SRB-Griturn who have since proved very helpful with other orders for photographic accessories. To be safe order the angled version which will accommodate any angle of shutter button. A larger version for SLR cameras is also available.

More on self-takes here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Still wintry

Blackbirds are singing before daybreak, the days are lengthening, the light is more springlike and buds are showing on the trees. It's still bloody cold though! With no rain predicted and the sun shining I set off to try for the roach and dace again. On arriving there was a strong wind blowing straight downstream, coming from the north, with a touch of east for good measure. Like a fool I had left the umbrella behind. Not to worry. I was well wrapped up with Baffin boots, two fleeces, bunny suit and all. Topped off with balaclava and woolly hat.

Some reeds today

This time the swim was not a muddy morass, it was hard as concrete. Frozen solid. The river was running clear and I was able to hold easily with a 30g feeder filled with the usual hemp, micro trout pellets and maggots. Two hours later the tip hadn't moved, no maggots had been sucked, and the wind was chilling my bones. However the water temperature was rising fast. At the start of the session it was reading 2.2C, by the time I moved upstream to get some shelter from the wind (and to try a deeper spot), it had risen to 2.6C. The water temp carried on rising, peaking at 2.9C. The air temperature didn't follow the same trend, and after three o'clock it started to drop.

A couple of half-hearted flurries of sleet blew in. The wind did ease off after I moved. The only activity was from the birdlife. A couple of robins seemed glad of the maggots I threw them, and a skittish pied wagtail flitted from side to side of the swim. By half four I reckoned there might be a chance of a chub towards dusk, and the roach might switch on too. The clear water was all I could think of that was putting the fish off, so lower light levels might make them more amenable.

I swapped the size sixteen for a ten and pinched some bread on the hook. I left the maggots out of the feeder. First put in and the tip moved. A tentative spring back. Nothing. By half four my feet, even in the toasty boots, were telling me to go home. With it still a way off dusk I packed up at five. I guess I should have made a later start so I'd have been more willing to stick at it until dark. I don't think next time will be tomorrow though.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Two posts in one day!

I was checking through some blogs I look at now and then and saw that a customer of mine has his new Game Fishing Instruction website up and running. Chris is a nice bloke who knows his stuff, so if you're a would-be fluff-chucker or fly tier take a look.

Changes ahead

I've been made aware that is changing the way I publish Lumbland sometime this month. There may well be a time when it disappears. I hope this will be temporary, but if things go wrong it might be permanent!

As I type this it's snowing. The weather people say it's going to warm up from tomorrow - so the snow will melt into the rivers. Fandabbydossie.This really has been a frustrating winter. No wonder I had to cheer myself up with some retail therapy. Not fishing tackle, but a digital SLR camera. I'd not used an SLR in anger for a long time and it was great to get out and take as many shots as I like without having to worry about processing costs and being able to review each shot immediately.

There's pike in that thar ditch

It must be a pretty good bit of kit because I managed to catch Ray at Burscough Angling Supplies smiling!

This is not Photoshop trickery!

Roll on spring.