Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring has sprung

Out and about last week photographing birds I spied some rudd cruising in a small pond. They were only tiny but fired me up to venture forth after tench again - especially as the nights were warming up.

Look closely and there are rudd in the pic

Finding the time to get away for two nights, to make the fuel costs more bearable, wasn't easy and I decided to chance a Sunday evening to Tuesday morning stint. On arriving at the lake the area I fancied was occupied but there was plenty more to go at with the rest of the lake vacant.

It was more than springlike as I pushed the laden barrow round to the west bank where I plumped to fish a cosy little suntrap which had produced tench for me in the past. Unusually my first job was to but the bivvy up, as much to get my gear under it and make space for me to move while plumbing and baiting up. Ordinarily setting up the bivvy is the last thing I do (unless it's raining), but seeing as I have yet to have a bite after dark my efforts were geared to activity the following morning.

The night was mild. No bunny suit required in the sleeping bag. To my great surprise, and greater pleasure, I wasn't troubled by rats during the night. A real bonus. However, I still had a fitful night having 'done my back in' once I had baited up and cast the rods out for the night. What caused this malady I don't know, but every time I moved I got a twinge.

As day slowly broke to the glorious cacophony of the dawn chorus I made a cup of tea before struggling out into the day to rebait the feeders and spod out some more hemp, groats and dead maggots. As the sun rose higher the sky cleared and well before noon it was t-shirt weather again. A light south-westerly wasn't enough to hide fish movements, but there were none to be seen.

Looking the part

The recent 'heatwave' had brought on a carpet of blanket weed, or filamentous algae, bright green stuff covering the lake bed whatever it is. A change of tactics was called for. The distant in-line maggot feeder was to be swapped to a heli-chod rig. I had to improvise by trapping an in-line feeder on a length of mono between two swivels as I had no standard feeders with me. [Note to self:  put some weighted black caps in the bag.]. The close in maggot feeder rig, at catapult range, had the bait swapped from three sinking plastic casters to three floating plastic maggots - in the hope they would hover above the green gunk, a tactic that has succeeded in similar conditions in the past.

My back was not improving and I contemplated packing in early while I could still walk without pain. Last year's bream session ended that way with me struggling to get out of the car and straighten up when I stopped for a break at the motorway services.

Evening calmed off but still now fish showed themselves -either on the surface or the end of one of my lines. There had been a couple of indications during the afternoon when a coot discovered my bed of bait and the bright orange tutti frutti pop up on the method feeder rig.

I idly amused myself as the almost-full moon rose by watching the clouds of midges forming into vertical columns. Odd how people wax lyrical about the whirling formations of starlings yet never mention midges doing similar things in the air.

Marvellous midges

The second night was calm and bright - and pleasantly ratless. With no cloud cover the temperature fell, but still not enough to warrant the bunny suit. A hot water bottle might have helped as my back got worse as I feared it would. In the morning I really did struggle to get myself upright. Once I had I dutifully rebaited and recast I slumped back in my pit and fell asleep again. Fishing like that, casting out and waiting, doesn't seem to work for me with tench. But I simply couldn't face the effort of continual feeder filling and recasting. I was hardly fishing at all, just waiting until the day had dried out the condensation inside the bivvy.

At ten I started to tidy the gear away. Doing so must have loosened something up as my back began to feel freer and the painful twinges abated. By the time I had barrowed everything back to the car I almost had a spring in my step. Almost... Such is life when you aren't as young as you think you are I suppose.

I doubt I'll find the time for another two-nighter for a week or more. So Plan B will have to swing into action. A plan that doesn't involve tench!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Still a chill

Sunshine, birdsong, catkins. Yet when the clouds hid the sun the touch too much of north and east in the wind made it plain that summer was still a way away. It was still a lovely day to be by the water, hoping for a tench to  show up, but great to be out and being refreshed by some angling therapy. This was my first session of the spring, the one where I go as much to see what I've forgotten as to catch some tench. In truth I don't find the tench fishing really kicks off until the hawthorn is in bloom, and even driving south it isn't yet in full leaf.

 A sign of spring

I also had three new rods, three new reels and  a new pod to try out. One item of new tackle is the kiss of death for a successful session, so all that lot meant I was destined to blank. Doomed, in fact, as I had forgotten what is possibly my most important piece of kit - my lucky spoon. Never am I as disheartened as when I leave my lucky spoon behind when taking the stove to brew up on. It's nothing special. It's just been with me for years and years. Not quite as long as my lucky forceps (which I no longer use but always have in my rucksack) which I've had since the 1970s and have left on the bank, and found the following day,  twice.

Multiple new-tackle-jinx

Although the rods and reels weren't tested by fish they did the casting and retrieving things well. The 4000D Baitrunners are lovely and smooth. I thought I might not get on with the baitrunner lever operating the opposite way to all my other baitrunners, but it was not a problem. The anti-reverse lever is rather small, and that will take more acclimatisation for me to be able to knock it off to backwind.

The 1.75lb Torrixes coped with the 50g maggot feeder and the method feeder, even with the crosswind blowing. I have a niggling suspicion they might be just a tad too stiff in the butt for my taste for playing tench. But the only way to prove a rod is with a decent fish on the end of the line, so that test is yet to come.

I'm not generally a fan of Fox tackle, although they do have some well designed products which are sometimes let down by the construction, falling apart easily. I hope the pod proves to be one of their robust items. The design suits me really well. It's easy to set up and get level, and (although not designed this way) I can fit it with Korum banksticks to enable me to raise the rod butts high enough to get the tips close to the water when fishing from a raised platform. My fear is that the cams which lock the uprights flap around when there is no stick on the slot for transportation. Not a problem for tackle tarts who have special pod bags, but for lazy gits like me who stuff their pod in the rod sling it might lead to accidental damage.

The fishing was slow. Nothing happened. A carp, maybe two, head and shouldered well out. That was it as far as fish activity went. The rest of my time was spent watching bees and trying to identify distant, and elusive, birds - probably warblers. Warblers always confuse me.

By the time the sun started to set I was wishing I'd packed the bunny suit. That chill makes me think I'll leave the tench alone for at least another week. I have got my fishing head back on though.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Broadland dredging

I have never fished the Norfolk Broads, and probably never will, however it has a long history in pike fishing and has in the past been an inspiration to me. For decades it has been blighted by fish kills brought on by outbreaks of prymnesium, which releases toxins fatal to fish when it dies, and massive fish kills have resulted. Seemingly pike are more susceptible than other species and pike stocks have collapsed after each outbreak.

There is a threat of another, man-induced, outbreak in the near future. I urge you all to read the excellent appraisal of the situation in Michael Hasting's latest blog post. This appears to be a prime example of fish and anglers taking low priorities to other wildlife and recreational interests, with neither the country's main conservation body (Natural England) nor the Broads Authority listening to any of the anglers warnings. If fish die it doesn't matter because nobody sees them. It'll be a different story when the rotting corpses are floating around.