Sunday, March 28, 2010

Close season

I don't hold much store in the close season as such. It's far too arbitrary in its timing for my way of looking at things. Nonetheless I usually take a break once the rivers shut. The nights are still a bit cool for me to want to sleep out, and the tench haven't woken up fully - and certainly not reached their peak weights. Besides, tench fishing is about warm mornings with a mist rolling over a mirror calm lake. Well, something like that. My usual break is a couple of weeks, but this time round I think I'll be waiting until Easter is out of the way before dusting down the bivvy and doss bag. Especially as winter is predicted to make a return this week...

Spring sunshine

There are definite signs of spring now, buds in the hedgerow, birds getting amorous, stuff like that. And the clocks have gone forward ridding me of my winter lethargy brought on by dark evenings. For once I'm putting my time to good use and have done some tidying of my vast estate. I'd let part of the garden go to nettles and have looked at it many a time thinking it needed clearing. What I needed was a reason to do it. Creating somewhere to photograph birds provided it. How long this new-found interest will last is anybody's guess. But it's fun at the moment, and quite like fishing in many ways. You need to understand the birds habits, read their body language and time your 'strike' to get a good shot. It's also as dependent upon the weather as fishing can be. In the case of photography it's all about light.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wimping out with a whimper

Another season draws to a close and I find it hard to believe I never wet a line in the Trent once. I was tempted to make the journey for the final day, but ended up locally trying for one final barbel to round off my best season on the river.

With four cars in the car park there could have been eight anglers on the stretch so I thought it wise to take a walk before dragging my gear along the bank. Within a short distance I could see three fishing, so there's be plenty of room for me to squeeze in somewhere. I retraced my steps and loaded myself up. I'd soon passed three more anglers and the swim I was hopping to fish was free.

It was another fine sunny afternoon, although the north-westerly was cool again - but not as cool as it had been of late, the sun is warming up. If anything the river was a midge's lower than on Friday, it was over a degree warmer at 6.7c. For some reason this rise didn't boost my confidence. Had I been on the Trent with that reading I'd have been well happy with anything over 6, but on the Ribble I prefer a reading over 7 - even though I had caught on Friday with it lower. A strange thing confidence. The fact that the temperature was holding steady did nothing to brighten my mood.

Reasoning that the maggots had produced a couple of bites on friday I cast out a boilie on the upstream rod and rigged the other up to fish a large feeder with four maggots on a size ten to more suitable line for barbel than I had on the tip rod. It's never worked in the past, but you never know!

It'll work one day

Every now and then the wind would appear to drop. I think it was just swinging to a direction where it was deflected by the high bank on the opposite side of the river as I could still hear it roaring through the trees. When it did drop things warmed up in the sun. The rods remained motionless.

On winding in the maggots for a recast one had been nipped. Not a full blooded chub-crush, just the very tip. I shortened the clear mono hooklength from three feet to eighteen inches. On the next recast two maggots had been nipped. I was tempted to break out the quiver tip rod and try for whatever was doing the nipping, but I was there to catch barbel. So I didn't.

Towards dark the wind really did ease off. Only intermittent though. From dusk onwards the breeze would spring up and die off. Cloud cover moved in so it was remaining mild. After darkness proper arrived I swapped the maggot rig, the maggots again having been nipped, for a S-pellet. The rods remained motionless.

A few small fish had topped on dark, and a few more fish splashed in darkness - probably sea trout by the sound of them. It had been a quiet afternoon. Not much in the way of wildlife activity, save for a buzzard being mobbed by three crows. The bankside vegetation didn't seem as far advanced as in years past on the final day of the river season. The nettles and other annuals were just poking their heads through the soil whereas last year they were an inch or two high during the season's final week.

Seeking the sun

By eight I was getting the feeling that it was all over. I moved the pellet rod upstream then admitted defeat with two and a half hours of the season remaining. The first time for a few years the final day has been a blank for me. Not unexpected given the conditions. Barbel had been caught, but not many.

I think it was a case of dropping a bait on a barbel's nose or waiting for one to slowly sidle up to your bait. I'd been leaving my baits in place for at least an hour and keeping the feed (small bags of small pellets) to a minimum. Had I been fishing a smaller river where fish holding spots were tighter then moving and fishing each spot for a half hour would have been an option. On a river where fish holding spots can be large but far apart then I prefer to throw all my egs in one basket and try to work one all session. This time it didn't pay off.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Where there's muck there's brass

Yet again indecision plagued me. In the end I snaffled two sausage rolls for an early lunch and put the tip rod, and a barbel rod in case, in the car along with some hastily gathered bait and tackle - and a third sausage roll. The plan was to stop until half past six then head back and hit the chippy for tea.

Even when I arrived to find just three cars parked up I wasn't sure if I'd made the right decision. The river was painfully low and clear. There was still a trace or two of snow to be seen in the shady gullies of the fells. I feared a chilly river. Nothing ventured, I set off to the bend hoping that the farmer wouldn't return with his muck spreader before I got there - there being a fresh line of muck along the river's edge.

A pair of goosander flew up and away as I approached, buzzards mewing in the distance. As I got close to the bend I saw it was occupied by a pike angler, who I know so I could muscle in on him to a degree by fishing my second choice swim. Three months away from the river and it had altered yet again. Not enough to change the fishing but enough to make getting my bearings tricky.

A boilie went upstream and the maggot feeder, still with a size 16 to fine line, and a single red maggot slightly downstream and about two thirds of the way across. Then the thermometer went in. The day was warm, 10c, despite the clouds and a wind with a chill to it. The thermometer showed a river that was fluctuating between 5.7 and 6.1. I put this down to the sensor being in inches of water and that being heated the air and sun when it broke through the clouds. Even so a barbel had been caught upstream. There was hope.

As I sat waiting for a rod top to do something I heard a rustle in the far bank woods. Scanning through the trees I caught a glimpse of movement. Roe deer. A group of them, maybe half a dozen it was hard to say, moving nimbly up and along the steep sandy bank. Tawny owls hooted with hours of daylight remaining.

I was stood behind my chair, just out of reach of my rods, talking to the pike angler when the quiver tip pulled down purposefully. As I reached the rod and made as to pick it up the tip sprang back. We both knew the hook would be gone. It was. Either a barbel or a chub had broken the fine line. I debated whether to step up to a 14 on a 3-06 bottom and fish double red maggots. I did.

When M started to pack up I moved into his swim and put the boilie straight across with the maggot feeder upstream. His parting words were, "All you need now is a chub on the maggot rod and a barbel on the boilie." "Knowing my luck it'll be the other way round," I replied.

The wind was dropping, and the sun came out making the late evening very pleasant indeed. I'd put the thermometer in the new swim and here it was reading 5.7. Quite why I don't know, the sensor was deeper and more shaded. Probably a truer reading. Even so I was confident that the barbel rod would spring into life.

The sausage roll was demolished and washed down with a cup of tea at five. An hour later the quiver tip pulled down slowly and eased back. I leant forward thinking the chance had been missed and it pulled down again. Initially I wasn't sure I'd connected, but soon felt the kick of a fish. Chub. Then it made a run that forced me to backwind. Big chub? A couple more runs, one a long one and I began to realise it was a barbel. Probably not a big one, but a barbel. Three times it found a mid river snag. Three times I managed to get it free. After what was almost certainly the longest I have played a barbel for (excluding ones that have snagged me and forced me to put the rod down until they swam out) I slid the fish over the landing net.

As it was my first barbel for some time, the first of the year, and my biggest on maggot, I weighed it and took it's picture. Not even five pounds it was still most welcome, and had that bright brassy look with the pinkish fins setting off the sheen that barbel get when the water stays clear for a prolonged period. I recast both rods and waited for a chub to pick up my boilie!

Not big, but most welcome

The rig was my heli-feeder rig, and the upper stop had been pushed well up the line - almost certainly when the feeder had snagged. Still, the rig had had a good workout and passed the test.

The isotopes began to glow, but it was still mild as darkness descended. Memories of August evenings flooded back. I can see my thoughts of avoiding the river next summer and fishing for other things might be in vain. I listened to the Archers then began a slow pack up. Winding in the feeder I saw the maggots had been 'chubbed'. Squashed to limp husks. I thought the tip had moved but hadn't been sure. Never mind. Hunger was beginning to gnaw. The boilie had remained untouched.

I switched the Petzl off once I was up the sandy bank on on level ground. Out in the open it's not too difficult to see where you are going and follow a well trodden path in the dark. I switched it back on after I slipped on a lump of 'muck' I'd failed to spot and almost lost my balance. Half way back to the car park I thought a strap on my rucksack was squeaking so I stopped. The noise continued and sounded louder. It was the grunting chatter of badgers arguing back in the woods on the bend. What a great place the river is.

I hadn't expected to be the last off the river, but I was. Just the way I like it. The car's thermometer was reading 7 as I headed back to civilisation. The call of the chip shop fell on deaf ears and I stuck two slices of bread in the toaster when I got home.

Two days of the river season left, and a dry weekend forecast. The banks might be busy. Can I face joining the crowds?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I should have known better

Another free afternoon and not a clue what to do with it. Something made me dig out the pike rods and set off for the drain, to an area that can produce at this time in the season. I think the reason I was attracted to this length was the fact that it's so peaceful. being out on the mere with everything happening in the distance is relaxing.

Nonetheless as soon as I had the baits out, a sardine a smelt and a lamprey head, and I was drinking my first cup of flask tea I was wishing I was doing something else. There are times when you have to do things to remind yourself why you stopped doing them. This was one of those times. To really get the benefit from fishing you have to enjoy the not catching as much as the catching. It seems I no longer enjoy not catching pike.

Despite the feeling that I was doomed to blank being there was good. Again I could feel the sun's strength increasing, so I laid out the unhooking mat and basked upon it like a large green lizard. A lizard wearing boots and a woolly hat. There was distant tractor noise, the fields having dried out after a long period of waterlogging the farmers were working hard, through the faint engine noise bird sounds broke through - the chinking of a great tit, the drumming of a woodpecker, and a miscellany of song in the wood behind me. Every so often a huge flock of wood pigeons would take to the air, swirl around overhead and descend again on the field they were feeding in. Hundreds of them. No wonder the bank was littered with empty shotgun cases, and pigeon feathers.

By four thirty the heat had gone from the sun. I was sat up in my chair wasting my life away, pondering why I didn't pack up and go home when I saw a falcon coming over the mere. I took it for a kestrel at first, but it was too big and bulky. Through the binoculars I could see the distinctive cheek patches of a peregrine. The bird swung round and circled over the fields then made its way west towards woodland. No doubt in search of pigeon for its supper.

By five thirty there was a chill in the light wind. A clear sky and little wind could mean another cold night ahead. It was getting towards home time. I had had more than enough by six. The final cup of tea was drunk when I heard something scuttering across the drain, sounding like a moorhen. Not a moorhen but a water rail that soon disappeared between the reed stems on the far bank. Seeing those two birds were certainly examples of the 'more' that there is to fishing than catching fish. But without fish it's bird watching.

The sun sets over West Lancashire's version of Fenland

Monday, March 08, 2010

I wasn't expecting that

My courier arrived far sooner than expected, and with the evenings starting to draw out I leapt at the chance to take the maggots I'd bought on Saturday for an afternoon out. River or stillwater? I was drawn to a try at some lake roach, so that was where I'd headed. I pulled up by the swim I had in mind. No cars there so it would be free. Straight out of the car and across the lane to peer over the wall and scope out the water. Er, not quite. Scope out the ice, more like! I knew there'd been a frost but hadn't expected it to have been enough to freeze the lake. Still, it is The Land that Time Forgot.

Icy in the shade

On the other bank there was free water , and two anglers occupying the swims I would have plumped for. Only one thing for it, drive round and have a look if the third choice swim was free of anglers and ice. It was. Because the rods were ready rigged up all I had to do was put the sticks in, clip on the feeders, bait up and cast out. I was soon in business and able to sort myself out. The first job was to remove the fleece from under my bunny suit. What a joy it was to fish unencumbered by waterproofs and fleece. If there'd been no ice I'd have been set up in the shade and probably shivering. Here I was getting the full heat of the sun, and with no wind to speak of it was positively balmy.

High pressure, flat calm, tough conditions

The air temperature was around 8.5, the water was somewhat cooler at 3.6. Always a chance of a roach or two though. I'd have three and a half hours or more to attract some to my feeders. I rang the changes on the hooks, one had a single red maggot, one a single white, and the third one red and one white maggot. All three feeders were filled with maggots, hemp and micro trout pellets as usual.

The sun was so bright I needed my baseball cap (without the woolly hat over the top!) and my sunglasses. The quality of the light made me start thinking of summer evenings, oily ripples spreading from dark dorsals of rolling bream breaking a flat calm surface, bobbins indicating line bites before the fish get their head down and they rise and hold in earnest. You know, the sort of stuff you read about but doesn't happen in real life!

Reflecting on the fishing

I didn't recast too frequently. With the cool water I thought it better to let the hemp and pellets do the attracting without over feeding. As I was winding the left hand rod in for another fill of the feeder the middle alarm sounded and the bobbin was dropping slowly. At first I thought I'd caught the line with the other feeder, but when I stopped winding the bobbin twitched upwards a little. When I picked up the middle rod I felt the lively vibrations of something fishy on teh end of the line. 'The Rig' had done its job and the size 18 had found a purchase. The fish was obviously far from large, but it was a fish. It turned out to be a skimmer. It also turned out to be the only fish from the only bite.

A fish in the hand is worth two in the lake

Not the most productive session. However it was good to be out on a lovely day, and with the fleece not being required until twenty to six, and it still being twilight at half past six when I crunched my way back to the car through the dry beech leaves, it really did feel like spring is just around the corner. There'll be another frost tonight (the air temperature was already down to 4.5 when I left) and for the next few, but the season is turning. I might have more time to fish this week than I first thought, but I can't make my mind up where to fish, or what for.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The change is made

It took a bit of fannying around, but Lumbland is now relocated here - at So I guess the blog will continue despite my misgivings. When that will be I'm not sure as I have rods to build and deliveries to wait in for. And with only a week of the river season left I'm not a happy bunny. Neither is Fred - and he really is a bunny.

The original address still works as I have managed to fix it to automatically redirect straight here - so there's no need to update your bookmarks/favourites unless you want to. But if you have a feed subscription or have in your blog list that will need changing.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Dace rig update

I thought a photo might help explain the simple helicopter rig I was using for the dace and roach. Hooklink to the left, mainline (6lb) to the right, and feeder link (5lb) to the bottom. The feeder link is shorter than the hooklink, but all lengths open to modification.

Easy peasy heli-feeder rig