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.