Saturday, December 31, 2011

The end is knee

I thought I'd finish the year with another pike session if the weather was anything like clement today. There was no rain falling when I woke and looked out of the window, so piking I would go. One thing I have decided for my current piking 'campaign' is that rain means a stillwater where I can shelter under my brolly in one swim all day, dry means a drain where I can wander a bit. When I shone my head torch onto the water from one of the bridges spanning the drain I knew I'd dropped a clanger. Yesterday's rain had not only sodden the land, it was being pumped down the drain at a rate of knots. Undeterred I set off for a short walk.

The reason for the short walk (more of a limp, actually) was an aching right hip that flared up last time out. The same knee is also making clicking noises and throbbing a bit, and the ankle below is none to happy. If this carries on I can see me having to change my fishing tactics (fish near the car every time) or give up altogether. Long limps are not an exciting prospect. But enough of the moans.

If the weed and debris coming down with the flow wasn't too much I'd be able to hold baits out to both banks without any trouble. Rather than chance a far bank bait in the dark I dropped two in close and waited until it was light, which was slow coming in the mizzle that had set in, before swinging a third bait to the opposite side of the drain.

Warra mess
There was a strong, but warm, wind blowing from the south west, and once settled behind my brolly I was pretty cosy. It wasn't long before the far bank bait was on the move. Weed. And so it went for the rest of the session. Baits being wound in to have the lines cleared of 'washing'. This went on to both close and far bank baits, which I moved around the general area, until I called it quits at three before another of the light showers that had been falling on and off since the day tried to brighten up around nine thirty arrived. Not the best of sessions, but better than sitting at home arguing with people on the interweb!

As the year closes it's time for the traditional round up of notable captures. Except they have been thin on the ground this year. So I'm not bothering! My one capture of note was the longed for double figure tench that I've been trying to catch since the spring before starting this blog back in 2006. Not a specific double figure tench, any double figure tench would do.

I've fished four waters that might have provided me with such a fish. It was, therefore, doubly satisfying that it came from the one which I found all by myself - in as much as I did the research on a water I new held tench, discovered they could well grow to double figures, and sussed out how to catch them. At 10lb 5oz it is probably my most satisfying personal best of all because of the effort I put in over the four springs I've fished the water. Doubly satisfying that, until the day before I caught it, I had only met two other tench anglers fishing there.

Having achieved this target I'm in a bit of a quandary as to what next spring's fishing should be. There's a part of me saying that I should carry on at that water to see if I can catch more doubles from it, even bigger ones. There's another part of me thinking that I should follow up a new lead. A third bit of my confused brain is suggesting that the syndicate water I joined this year ought to be fished. I hate having choices.

The other major development in 2011 has been the return of my pike mojo. I've got the bug for catching them again. I haven't got the urge to go chasing round the country in search of monsters or mammoths, but I have been getting to local waters well before dawn and fishing hard (mostly!). More critically my mind is always thinking about pike fishing and I get irritable if I don't, or can't, go piking every few days! It's been enjoyable too - even today! Should I get lucky and catch any decent pike, however, you'll not be reading about or seeing them on this blog. Not without a great deal of misleading information at any rate! That's pike fishing for you. It's a secret squirrel game. Which is all part of the fun.

Photoshop - the piker's friend!
One thing I do have planned for next summer, and I really do intend to carry the threat out in 2012 (all being well...), is some eel fishing. I need to get my finger out and follow up a lead I got in the Autumn. It should just take a phone call to sort out.

Before spring arrives there are more pike to be caught - ageing joints permitting. Here's hoping we don't get a big freeze in January or February.

May your lines be tight in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Treble troubles

Something that happened yesterday got me thinking about trebles. I got a hook stuck in a fence post while climbing over a stile in the dark. Being a narky git I just pulled until it came free. It wasn't until I came to bait the trace I discovered I'd opened the hook up!

Owner ST-41 opened up with 50lb Power Pro
There is a school of thought that says trebles should be weak enough to be opened out by the tackle being used should they snag up. The reasoning being that this will avoid leaving a baited trace in the water for a pike to pick up and swallow.

Owner ST-36s are often recommended for this. But the next thing you will hear is people moaning that these are so soft they open up when you try to hook them in to a frozen deadbait.

What is forgotten in this is that the wire thickness of trebles increases with the hook size. This means that (I'm going to be make generalisations here, so don't take this as absolute gospel) a 2x strong size four might have the same gauge wire as a 3x size six. You can't really compare sizes when saying one hook pattern is stronger than another.

For example pikers who like the Owner ST-36 and claim never to have had one open up on a fish tend to be those who use size four and upwards, the ones who say the ST-36 is soft tend to use size six and eight. My experience has been just that; size four and upwards is strong enough. Contrarily, there are the anglers who reckon the ST-41 is too strong. They are probably using sizes four and larger.

As I mostly use a size six or four (often making snap tackles up with a 4 as the upper hook and a 6 as the lower) I use the ST-41. When using big baits (a rare occurrence) I'll use larger trebles, in which case I use ST-36s. Not only have I opened one up on a fence post, I have also opened one up on a submerged branch. That, too, was using 50lb (0.36mm) Power Pro. I got the branch out, but one hook point had opened up like the one shown above.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I'd been trying Eagle Claw 974s for bait fishing. I'm still using them. Unfortunately, I haven't hooked anything big enough to really test them out as yet. Where they score over the Owners is in price. Where they lose out is in longevity. If you are someone who doesn't like fishing with rusty hooks the Eagle Claws are not for you! Rusty trebles have never worried me. The Partridge CS9s I used for years were prone to rusting. The rust on hooks is purely superficial and doesn't affect the strength of a hook. Not in my experience at any rate.

Although the Eagle Claws are proving okay so far they can get bent when unhooking fish. They don't seem to take well to being twisted. They are easily resharpened, which Owners are not - although it is possible to touch the points up. What I'm less keen on with regard to the Eagle Claws is the length of the point and the relative width of the gape. Long points are prone to turning over, and I have a preference for wide gapes. The latter factor being, I am sure, a matter of confidence rather than actual performance.

Is there a perfect pike treble? I doubt it. There certainly isn't one that pleases all the pikers all the time! I'd prefer my trebles to have the shape of the ST-36, but the wire gauge of the ST-41. As I value hook strength over shape I'm sticking with the '41s for the time being for most of my piking.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A pike for Christmas

No, this isn't one of those corny seasonal ghost stories. I went pike fishing today! Most of the day was spent in the company of this friendly, but reticent, robin which I kept supplying with a regular sprinkiling of maggots.

Unsurprisingly the roads were all but deserted on my journey to The Land That Time Forgot. So quiet was the usually busy ring road that three early bird blackbirds were squabbling on the tarmac. As I had the lake to myself on arrival, and expected it to stay that way all day, I took my time getting set up. It was light by the time I had all three baits in the water, staggered at different distances from the bank. Then I sat down to pour the first cup of flask tea of Christmas Day. At which point my companion for the day landed on the middle rod butt before coming begging.

I was expecting strong winds so had picked sheltered spot giving good access to the drop into deeper water. At first the wind was light, and with the air temperature just in double figures it again felt more like spring than mid winter. A small fish topped a few yards out as if to reinforce the illusion. I was confident of some pike action during the morning.

Unidentified Flying Fish
The cloud cover kept the light levels low as the wind picked up later in the morning and the clouds began to break up. It got brighter, but not bright. Around eleven something moving across the sky caught my eye and I was that taken aback it had almost disappeared from view before I grabbed my camera and took a few hasty snaps to prove I had seen what I had seen. A flying fish! Well, an inflatable fish flying through the air.

A fluky pike
I'd taken my tip rod with me and although I had a livebait clonking around close in nothing had happened on the pike front. At one I decided to wind the popped-up sardine in and do some serious bait snatching, as much for something to do as to catch another bait or two. Just as the sardine hit the shallows there was a big swirl and a thump on the rod tip. I wasn't sure if the pike had grabbed the bait or not so hastily I opened the bale arm. Line peeled off the spool. I made sure the fish was moving away from me and wound down. A lively but brief scrap ensued and a well fed seven pounder was soon lying in the net.

 With the pike returned I was in two minds whether to bother with the tip rod or not. I did. It took a few casts before I had a bite, resulting in a hand sized skimmer. Unusually that was it. I gave it until half past two before jacking in the feeder fishing, throwing a handful of maggots for the robin, and putting another sardine out.

The last hour and three quarters of the session were as uneventful as most of the day had been. As the sun began to set the clouds decided to break up more than they had all day and the moors behind me lit up with a warm glow. Maybe it was the clearing sky giving an illusion that sunset came later than it has been doing of late. Or maybe it really did now the shortest day is behind us for another year. Whatever the case it lifted my spirits as I drove home into the last of the sun's afterglow anticipating the coming of spring.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lures with character (updated - again)

No fishing today, that's saved for tomorrow. I bought food and more bait to see me through the next few days piking this morning. This afternoon I spent a short while messing around in my 'studio' trying to take portraits of some of my favourite (most successful) lures.

This evening I tried some more lightpainting and thought it worked reasonably well on this Hawg Wobbler.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Great British Weather

Other countries have climates, we get weather. This is markedly so on the west coast where the rain falls first as weather systems move in from the Atlantic. It was no real surprise to find rain lashing against the window when I awoke this morning. I'm no fan of fishing in the rain but I was up for it today. Even so I was tempted to turn the car round and head back home when I arrived at the drain. It was particularly wet and windy.

As yesterday I stayed near the car, wandering around in the darkness to find somewhere to cast out. At first there was no flow at all, but by the time it was light enough to see what was going on the pumps had been switched on. The bait that had been cast across was brought close in. Unusually the wind died away after sunrise, and the rain eased. It was still as mild as yesterday too, so although drencehd I wasn't shivering.

Working on an idea from yesterday's investigation I was quite hopeful of some action. When it came it was still a surprise though. The float over the lamprey shot out from the near margin, but stopped before I could get to the rod. A dropped run? I don't get them. Not a dropped run, but a pinched bait. Somehow the pike had nabbed the lamprey head from the trebles.

I rebaited, recast, and sat it out until a break in the rain, with some accompanying sunshine, decided me to make a move upstream. Within half an hour I had three baits spread around the new swim. Just in time to get the brolly up to take shelter from more rain.

This session was a bit of an experimental one. I've been meaning to give an idea a try out for some time now, and this was my first chance to put it into practice. The first run had come to a bait using it, and when the float on the mackerel rod zipped downstream my idea certainly wasn't acting as a deterrent. This pike didn't pinch my bait and when it felt steel it went airborne. Unfortunately it managed to leap over the line on my downstream rod resulting in a bit of a tangle. Luckily the fish also gave up the fight at this point or the tangle might have been much worse. It still necessitated the cutting of the line the pike was attached to so I could sort everything out with the minimum of fuss.

I left the pike resting in the net while I recast the downstream rod. Then I hoisted the fish ashore and unhooked it, whereupon I noticed it was missing a pectoral fin. That's the second one this season off the drain. Definitely two different fish as this one had a stump and was a slightly larger fish. It was now lunchtime, so I ate my meagre lunch of honey barms after retackling and putting on a fresh half joey mackerel.

The rain eased up again in early afternoon, but the sun didn't shine and a chilly wind sprang up. Around two o'clock the pumping slowed almost to a standstill. Some fry scattered well upstream. A flock of ten or a dozen magpies raucously flew across the drain into a bare willow. Then it began to rain again. By now it was feeling more wintry. I thought this was down to a combination of my waterproofs being wet and the wind-chill factor. When I got back to the car just as a hail squall hit, after packing up when the rain had stopped around three, I discovered that the temperature had dropped from 10 when I had arrived to 6 as I departed.

By the time I was under way the hail had headed east and bright sunshine was streaming through the clouds. I half wished I'd stuck it out until dark. Only half wished though. Gone are the days of fishing from dawn to dusk because that's what the books tell you pikers do. I fish from when I fell like starting until I feel like packing up, because that's what this piker does. Sure I might miss a fish or two. I'll not miss suffering for my 'art' though!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

At last

Not only did I have some free time and the inclination to rise before daybreak, but the forecast was for a dry and warm day. I also had something in mind to give a try. All this fell nicely into place and I was unloading the gear with plenty of time to make the tramp to my intended swim.

With my rucksack on my back I took a look at the water and saw it running off faster than I'd anticipated. My cunning plan might involve a long walk, a few wasted minutes watching baits being dragged out of position, and  a long walk back to the car. As I was only planning on fishing the morning, having no scran with me, I took the executive decision to put the gear back in the car and head for somewhere involving less of a walk. That way, should it prove to be hard work presenting baits, I'd not use up energy unnecessarily. It's not that I'm lazy, just that I don't like putting in effort for no reward.

My decision proved to be the right one. First out was the paternoster fishing slightly downstream 'barbel style' with the rod propped up on one rod rest and the baitrunner engaged. The second rod was baited with a headless joey mackerel and cast into the far bank reeds. On pulling the rig free the bait dropped in the water. Bah.

The trace had kinked, too, so I got the third rod out and baited it with a lamprey head which got where I wanted after a few attempts. In no time at all it was dragging across the drain towards my paternoster float. A quick recast saw it dropping in upstream, a yard or so from the near bank. I settled in to my chair to have a brew and make up a replacement trace. With that done I thought it better to stick to two rods. Three baits in a line along one margin seemed like overkill.

On my way to the drain fieldfares had flown up from a field at the side of the track. Very early birds as it was still dark at the time. Despite these winter migrants being around it felt much more like spring. A tiny ladybird must have thought the same as it took to wandering around my Delkim sounder box. Albeit rather slowly.

After less than an hour I thought I was barbel fishing as the baitrunner on the paternoster rod spun into life in dramatic fashion. No doubting that take. Alas my strike met with scant resistance. As in none at all. Both the bait and the bait flag were gone. Disconsolately I delved into the bait bag to ponder what to put on the hooks.

Before I could make up my mind the float on the lamprey rod shot downstream sinking out of sight as it went. Going by the speed of the take I'm sure this was the same pike I'd just pulled out of. This time my strike was countered by line peeling from the spool against a slightly too slack drag. With the strong flow and the pressure I was applying I wasn't surprised when the fish kited under the overhanging reeds downstream of me. At this point it gave up the ghost and allowed me to pump it upstream to the waiting net. Not a big fish, but not the usual three pound jack either.

After returning the pike I got both rods back out. Lamprey on one, headless joey mackerel on the other. The day was looking up. I was wishing I'd made the effort to put some pack-up together. After another hour it seemed wise to move upstream a few yards. Once settled in to my new spot the sun came out and the springlike feel to the day increased. It certainly didn't feel anything like the day after the winter solstice.

An hour in this spot and it was time to have another move before packing up and heading to the tackle shop for some deadbaits to see me over the holiday period. By the time I had moved and cast the baits out I was really quite warm. So much so I removed the bunny suit. Although the pumping eased sufficiently for me to present a bait across the drain when I was in my final swim I didn't have the time to make the most of it. I did get a few more ideas for fishing when the drain is pumping hard. So my efforts were not altogether in vain. I packed up rather reluctantly with a rumbling belly. I think I might do it all again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reading matters

I mustn't complain about working I suppose as I need two new carpets that will have to be paid for. But it has been frustrating not being able to sneak a day or two piking recently. From next week that will all change and I'll be back at 'em. No matter what the weather has in store - apart from solid water, of course! Time to stock the freezer with frozen fish I think.

If you like reading about pike fishing - in the UK and Europe - or musky fishing, and are cheap like me, the second issue of EsoxWorld is in production. It's free to subscribe. If you missed issue one it's available to read on-line or download and read at your leisure. Well worth a look, given the number of blog followers in the world people are already tuned in to reading about fishing on their computers and portable devices, so it could well be the future for specialist angling magazines. I recommend the download option as it's an image heavy 'publication'.

If you prefer your reading material to be a physical publication, enjoy a well designed and made book, and are interested in the history of pike fishing then there might still be time to treat yourself to a Christmas present in the form of Graham Booth's A History of Pike Fishing.

This is the first of two volumes on the subject and covers the earliest days, dispelling myths as it goes, up to the beginning of the 20th century when the author considers pike fishing entered a dark age. It is not an easy read, which is not to say that it is written in impenetrable language, far from it, rather that it is a scholarly tome in its construction. It is best read in stages, rather than from cover to cover. Taking time to digest each portion. My first reading will not be my last. I shall return to it and refresh my memory many times.

I found it to sag a little in the middle, spending a lot of time on the history of two major angling clubs which didn't always seem relevant to pike fishing to me. However, I think the reason for this may become apparent when volume two appears as it could have a connection to the schism in angling which is mentioned in this first volume.

Steve Harper is responsible for the design so it is a luxurious as you would expect. Lavishly illustrated with reproductions of photographs, paintings and pages from early books and magazines this book is a desirable object in itself. But it's real value is its illumination of our understanding of the development, and redevelopment, of the sport of pike fishing on the islands of Britain and it's challenging of accepted facts.

This is the first pike fishing book I have looked forward to in many years, and it is not one that has disappointed. A History of Pike Fishing will take its rightful place alongside the previous historical works of Fred Buller on the shelves of many a pike angler. I hope volume two isn't far away.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Playing around

The stormy weather isn't encouraging me to turn out with the rods at the moment - although I will be making the effort next week when the winds abate.

This has enabled me to get to grips with tidying and rearranging my garage/workshop with a view to making my life easier with the addition of a new power tool in the freed up space. More of the space is going to be used as a makeshift photography studio for shooting rod and other product pictures.

I am picking up some lighting equipment tomorrow and need to get some backgrounds sorted out. I'm hoping this will help people better see what the rods look like when browsing

In the spirit of experiment I spent ten minutes this evening trying out some 'light painting' on one of my rods. Early days, but I can see my site looking a bit more flashy professional over the coming months when I get into the swing of this new aspect of photography.

Click the photo to see it in all it's glory!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A burning issue

Using the new heat gun
There I was happily heating up some whippings with my heat gun to soften the varnish ready to strip the butt rings off a set of refurbs when there was clicking sound, a smell of burning and the flicker of flame from within the gun! I hastily switched the thing off at the socket and removed the plug.

That's the third one that's gone up in smoke on me - over a period of almost twenty years, so it's not too bad I suppose. For  a rod builder a heat gun is a handy tool. Not only does the gun get used for stripping varnish and glue, it comes in useful for heating varnish as it thickens up, and makes light work of reducing shrink tube on to handles.

As three reel seats also required removing from the refurbs, and a new set of rods are having Japanese shrink tube applied to them,  heat is the best way to get them shifted, a trip to the heat gun shop was called for.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Stuck indoors

All week I've been stuck here waiting either for parcels to arrive or collections to be made, and until today have been twiddling my thumbs in frustration. All that changed earlier when I set to making a start on turning a batch of blanks that turned up late yesterday into rods.

On top of that I received a long awaited sample of a new mould. I've been nagging my lead mould supplier to produce a swimfeeder mould for anglers wanting to use heavy feeders on snaggy rivers. Plenty of river anglers make their own leads already, and a good few make their own feeders as I have done in the past. The mould I used appears no longer to be available and judging by the enquiries I've had as to a source for moulds there is a market for them.

The new moulds will be available in weights of approximately three, four and five ounces, and the mesh will also be available. Of course you could use other material to form the feeder body. Prices to be determined.

I've yet to try the feeder out, but it looks the part. After all, it's only functions are to hold feed and get lost in snags, so it doesn't need to be anything fancy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The impatient rod builder

You might think that a rod builder would fish with rods that are fitting advertisement for his skills. Not this one! Whenever I do build myself some fancy looking rods they turn out to be ones I don't get on with, and the ones I do like using end up covered in mud, groundbait, deadbait scales and suchlike. Worse still are the rods that start out as prootypes but are so good I never get round to finishing them off.

So it was with the rod I caught my personal best pike with. It was the first P-2 blank I had my hands on and I wasn't sure how it needed fitting out - handle length, ring spacings. So I shoved a rubber butt cap I had in my odds and ends box on the end, found two scraps of Duplon to fit either side of the reel seat, and slid that over rolls of tape making a tight fit so no glue would be required. That meant I could change the handle length without having to scrape glue from the blank or cut the real seat off. The rings where at least whipped to the blank with thread (rather than being bound on with black insulation tape) and the thread was sealed with cellulose dope which is easily cleaned from a blank.

Only fit to be seen in silhouette!
A number of years later I was using the P-2 (now fully built with a glued on handle and epoxied whippings) for some drain fishing and finding it wanting. The length was great, and it played fish okay, but it lacked a bit of casting power for the baits I was using. I got hold of the first blank that became the P-5. This time I did glue the handle as I knew where it should go (a couple of inches higher than on the P-2) and the ring spacings were sorted so the thread got a sealing coat of epoxy. The rod performed so well I quickly ordered three more blanks which got build identically. That was in late 2004 and it wasn't until this week that I got round to lettering the blanks and putting the top coat of epoxy on them!

Before and after
The reason for this belated completion is simple. When I've been amusing myself taking photos of my rods while fishing on the local drains I realised that some of the shots would make good backgrounds for adverts - so long as they appeared in silhouette, if there was a close up view they'd look like the tatty things they were! I might have to remove the taped on line clips to make the rods look 'pukka'. To be honest I don't use the clips these days, opting to rely on the baitrunner if fishing 'beachcaster style' with just a front rod rest.

I was finding the lack of a keeper ring a bit of a nuisance when moving swims. The butt ring serves well enough, but it's a little far up on the P-5, so I added keepers while I was carrying out the refurbs. Here's hoping the pike approve.

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's all coming back to me

Back to The Land that Time Forgot today for another session determined to do put in a full day and work harder at it. The plan was to fish the west bank in the morning and move to the east for the afternoon working on a theory that the pike might be following the sun. There was no sun to follow. It was overcast and drizzly - which kicked my plan to fish a rod to catch a livebait or two in to touch. The rain did ease mid morning and the feeder rod got taken out of the quiver - spurred on partly by the lamprey section snagging solid and me having to pull for a break. 

The snagging problem is caused by these Pennine reservoirs having rocks, boulders and lumps of bedrock sticking up on the lake bead at random. There's no telling where they might be and weak lead links don't serve much purpose as I'm sure it's the trebles that get wedged behind them. I've used weak links for years and can't recall one ever breaking when I've snagged up. Where I went wrong today was in twitching the bait back. There's a reason I used not to do it, and that's because it sees you twitching the bait into a snag.

For other reasons than the snagging episode, mainly the lack of bites on the maggot feeder, I moved earlier than I'd intended to. By the time I had got settled into the new swim with a sardine paternostered to my left and a big mackerel head whacked out as far as I could the drizzle had abated. I chucked the feeder out and stuck it on an alarm to fish for itself. The Rig is great for this as the fish hook themselves and all I have to do is pick the rod up and wind them in.

On the second fill of the feeder I heard a single bleep to the rod, followed by a few more as the tip pulled round wildly as the line followed a curve caused by the strong wind. Bingo. I soon had my confidence booster resting in the landing net while I removed the sardine from the paternoster rod. Two more roach were caught, plus a tiny perch, before I wound the feeder rod in and rigged up a popped-up sardine. I've yet to come up with a good way to attach pop-up balls to deadbaits. Livebiats are easy to rig just by tying the pop-up ball to one of the trebles with a length of weak nylon, the stuff I use for paternoster links. Do that with a deadbait and it never seems to sit right and/or the hook pulls out of the bait.

I think I'm getting there now. All I have done is rig a bait flag on to the pop-up link so that it can be snugged down by a braid stop. There's a loop in the end of the link which enables it to be pulled through the bait with a stringer needle. The loop is passed over one point of the end treble which is then stuck in the bait. The flag is snugged down by the braid stop and holds the hook tight to the bait. The sardine stayed rigged nicely until I packed up. The acid test will come when (if...) I get a pike to take the popped-up bait. My concern is that the loop can come free of the hook, so might eject itself. Next time I think I'll tie in a sliding knot (two turn uni-knot) with a long tag for releasing it in place of the loop.

Despite the warm southerly and dull but brightening conditions, and a nice lively bait working away, I had no action at all. And I fished until it was dark enough to require the head torch to see what I was doing as I packed up. It had been a pleasant day in the outdoors, but more things I dislike about pike fishing round here came back to me. Little things like having to climb over dry stone walls, tripping on brambles in the dark, stumbling over loose rocks, and the lack of pike.

At least when I first fished this place it was a good runs water. The chances of a double were slim but the bobbins would drop off more than once a day - often quite a few times more. You need waters like that when the others you fish are headbangers. Round here it seems to be that all the waters are now headbangers. Good fish present, some very good fish, but very few of them in a lot of acres of water. Having pike fished in other parts of the country I got used to expecting to catch every time out. Expecting to catch doubles when I caught, and often catching more than one or two. That kind of fishing doesn't seem to exist locally. If it does people are keeping it very quiet! It was a combination of this situation and the pain of getting up really early to travel to better piking that saw me give up on it and turn to barbeling. I'm enjoying what I'm doing at the moment, but the lack of pike is depressing. I no longer want to be a time bandit and bore the pike into submission. I want to catch fish regularly, but I don't want to do the travelling any longer. If things don't improve soon my return to the piking fold will be over for good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Out with the big guns

After my recent sessions scrabbling about on the banks of the drain I felt like a chillout session sat in one swim on a stillwater. I headed for The Land that Time Forgot, seeing the hilltops shrouded in the usual low cloud of the area's peculiar micro-climate as I approached in the dark. For once this wasn't a prelude to a drenching, in fact the sun got quite warm later on, although there was a hazy mist in the valley. It is a strange place. The bases of all the trees are thick with mosses and lichen in the perpetually damp atmosphere. It's a perfect place for fungi, and there were plenty to be found in the leaf litter. While I waited for something to happen on the pike front I took a few photos of some. I didn't have the right lighting to do them justice though.

I'd left the drain rods at home and rigged up the old faithful P-1s, nigh on 20 years old now but still hard to beat as all round pike rods. Initially I was going to pair them up with the 10,000 Baitrunners I'd recently spooled with fresh mono, but when I came to remove the old Spheros's from the rods I just couldn't do it. The spool sizes are pretty much the same but the Spheros has a nice chunky single handle, a big anti-reverse switch (the new Baitrunners have minute ones), are more compact, lighter and just feel bomb-proof. So I loaded two of them with the new line and put the 10,000s back on the shelf where they have spent most of the time since I bought the bloody things.

Spheros 5000F + P-1 = piking perfection
Before it had come fully light I had three baits out; a joey mackerel legered without its head at medium range, a sardine paternostered close in on a sunk-float rig, and a lamprey head belted to the horizon (well, maybe 60 yards) using a Baitblaster I had fitted a new handle configuration to the other day. The 'Blaster was coupled with a Biomaster 8000 which has seen very little use since I acquired it shortly before leaving large stillwaters alone!

With the weather remaining unseasonably mild I was full of confidence. The hint of easterly in the wind I had taken shelter from should have made me think otherwise.

The Big Guns
It was good to be out and not feel like I ought to be moving every hour or so. Then again if I had had more time I think I would have made a move, but I was using the session as a way to visit a plastic bag factory on my way home, so couldn't fish until dark. I did move the baits around though. Twitching one or two, recasting to new spots, even leapfrogging one over the others. It did me no good. Most of my entertainment came from watching the wind blowing mini tornadoes of rusty leaves through my swim, some hitting the bobbins with enough force to cause the alarms to sound.

The bird life was notable by its absence to start with. As the day warmed more feathered creatures showed themselves along with the robin that had found the remains of a another day's angler's maggots. A pied wagtail was the first to appear along the water's edge followed by blue and great tits in the willows. An unusual call alerted me to a movement on a tree trunk where I eventually spied a nuthatch working its way up and down, inspecting crevices as it went. As nimble as a squirrel it ran down the trunk head-first at an alarming rate. Another quick movement made me think I had seen a treecreeper taking flight to the base of an adjacent tree, but I wasn't sure. A few minutes later my intuition was proved correct as I watched one make its way up a tree trunk and along a thick bough.

Birdwatching is fun, but catching fish is better. As I wasn't catching fish I wasn't to bothered to have to leave. I packed up at two and went to buy my plastic bags. Leaving the factory I headed towards my local tackle shop. I've been finding new uses for Braid Stops all the time and am in need of some more. There were other things I wanted so a stop at the tackle emporium would see me prepared for another session soon. The autumnal light and the mist hovering over the Coastal Plain as I descended Parbold Hill made me change my mind. I'd go and give it an hour on the drain before dark. While there's a bait in the water there's always a chance. So some say.

The chance was slim. No chance as it turned out. What heat the sun had soon dissipated as it set. With no shelter the chill from the east was more apparent than it had been earlier in the day. I had my excuse - when the wind's in the east the fish feed least. It hadn't stopped them topping at first light, however, and it didn't stop them at dusk either. What do we know of fish behaviour?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Too old for this game

I'd be on the banks right now if my body could keep up with my desire to catch fish. After yesterday's early start and fishing most of the daylight hours, moving not only swims but stretches, I was completely knackered when I got home.

Despite the 'favourable' moon phase not a pike came out to play. Conditions were good, to my eyes. I fished areas I have caught from recently too. On both lengths there were food fish topping. I was confident and I think I fished well. The drain seems to be returning to its old habits having lulled me into a false sense of change for the better on my first few sessions. Or maybe my 'barbel' reels are the jinx?

Still, the sunset was nice and gave me a chance to play around with my camera.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Something old, something new

Full of enthusiasm I was up and out well before light on Friday and soon had three baits in the water in a popular spot. There was a light mist hazing the distance, even threatening rain, but still warm enough to do without the bunny suit. There was little flow and the water was quite clear. All was good. Indeed it took less than half an hour for something positive to happen. The alarm to the mackerel rod gave out a single bleep which had me standing up to see the float dip and rise in just the same way a float does when a roach sucks at a maggot. Then it keeled over and began to move upstream slowly. I pulled the line free from the clip before the fish could feel any resistance, the float's progress speeded up and then it began to submerge.

It was at this point I made my fatal error. As I wound down to set the hooks I was telling myself I should be close to the water and not stood on the top of the bank. I felt the fish, dragged it halfway across the drain, then watched it spin and rid itself of the hooks. It was only a jack, a better stamp of jack admittedly but still only a jack. I knew I should have got myself closer to the water so the angle of pull was more parallel to the water than vertical. It's a lesson I learned many years ago. yet I didn't bother to follow my own advice... The day was still young and I was still confident.

Around nine or a little after the sun began to break through the mist and warm the day. A sparrowhawk hedgehopped over the far bank reeds and into a copse causing the smaller birds to twitter their alarm calls. The flow increased. I made a move. Then I saw an EA van on the bank. Minutes later I realised why. The weed cutting boat was making its way towards me. Great. Maybe the pike wouldn't have been put off by it's passage, they might even have been put on the feed, but the cut weed would undoubtedly create presentation problems. I packed up just a little dejected.

In my idle moments I'd been thinking again about refining my tackle. I've never really liked Aero Baitrunners for piking and had been considering switching to my old school 3500Bs. The line lay is poor but that doesn't hinder them for casting on the rivers for barbel. They're more compact than the Aeros, and more rugged. Just before they were discontinued I'd picked up two as spares in case my original pair ever wore out. This meant I could rig up  three P-5s I'm using with these reels. The only drawback being that I would have to strip one of the spools of 30lb braid. I didn't really want to do that in case I fancied a barbel session.

I could either try to find a used reel or track down a spare spool. On Thursday I had found a spool on the Ted Carter website and arranged for it to be put aside for me. This would give me two spools with 30lb Power Pro and three with 50lb. Excellent!


A consequence of having regained my pike mojo is that I am planning some sessions on other venues. One in particular has seen me lose a couple of rigs when the braid has been cut. This time round I'd approach them with mono, much as I detest it these days for pike fishing. But which mono? Time was it would have been Berkley Big Game, or latterly Nash Bullet. Big Game is a bit on the wiry side and Bullet is no more. I'd tried ESP Crystal briefly for barbel and in my limited experience found it okay. Good for hooklinks if that takes your fancy. I have no objection to a clear mono, it was always my preference in Big Game, so the Crystal would do me.

New (Diameter is as stated, not thicker to make it seem stronger.)
I was all set to pick up a spool of 15lb Crystal in Burscough Angling Supplies, where I originally bought the 12lb I'd used for the barbel (although I had bought it for bream fishing). They had none. What they did have was another ESP mono - Syncro XT. My usual 'tests' in the shop were passed. It was limp, smooth, fairly resistant to pigtailing when draw over my thumb nail under some pressure. It seemed to be quite abrasion resistant when dragged repeatedly across a rough edge, and it knotted nicely - again without pigtailing. There was also very little stretch. I parted with my cash and now have three reels spooled up with the stuff waiting for an outing.

Unfortunately I somehow managed to get a loop of line sticking out of one spool which would need the entire fill unloading and rewinding. The easiest way would be to walk the line out and back on again. I could have done that on the playing field, but the bank of a drain seemed a better location!

Sunday morning saw thick fog hiding my street when I woke early. I hate driving in fog, even short distances, and hate fishing in it even more. I went back to sleep. When I did leave my pit the fog was lifting. There was still a frost on the grass which didn't encourage me to get the tackle together. I did some work. The urge was too much to resist and an early lunch was had, the flask half filled and the tackle chucked in the car. By quarter to one I was fishing in bright sunshine on a drain that had been pumped down a good six inches.

The 3500Bs looked the part. I took the rod rigged with the dodgy spool of line and cast a 2oz lead as far as I could. Then I walked the other way to reveal the offending loop. I walked a long way. There's far more line on the reel than I'll ever need in any normal piking situation. It's not like I'll be using the reels for distance fishing, I have other reels for that. I made a mental note to mark my spools with some bright orange braid at something like 100yds, or maybe less, so I only top them up with the minimum required in future. When I did reach the loop it turned out not to be a loop at all. It was an untrimmed tag end where I'd joined the fresh line to the old I had left on as backing. I wound the line back on after trimming things as they should have been trimmed in the first place.

There wasn't much flow to contend with so fishing the far margin was easily done. As has become my habit I moved the baits around, moved back towards the car, and generally tried to make something happen. It turned more than pleasant when the light but cool breeze abated. The sky was cloudless and the sun bright. I got the binoculars out and watched four species of finch feeding on alder seeds. One bird was a greenfinch. Previously common they are in a noticeable decline around here. I haven't seen one in my garden for months while they used to be the primary devourers of the hempseed I put in one of my feeders.

I had a spot in mind to spend the last hour in, and the paternostered smelt was positioned more or less directly across from where I was sitting the two float legered baits to my right. I'd not been in place more than twenty-five minutes when the bobbin on the paternoster rod dropped back slightly and commenced twitching. There was no wind so it had to be a fish. I like to place my chair back from the edge so as to reduce the chances of me sky-lining and spooking fish in the shallow water. This means I can't always see my floats if the flat bank is above the water level. This was such and instance. When I stood up I saw the float had moved out from the bank and was coming towards me. I grabbed the landing net and pulled the line free from the clip when I got to the rod.

Remembering my cock-up last time out I made sure I would get a good angle on the fish before winding down. I tried to be as stealthy as possible getting down the ban at such close proximity to the fish in and readied myself to make the strike. At which point the bait was dropped. Maybe I'd been too clumsy and the pike had sensed my presence. The bait was only lightly marked, so I'm telling myself it was one of the multitude of three pounders. What had surprised me was that the smelt had been taken at all. It was far from cucumber smelling. I've never done much on smelts but they have worked better for me when smelling strongly of cucumber. You never can tell. By now the sun had set and the air temperature taken a rapid tumble. I fished on until dark without further action materialising.

The trudge back to my car was less than comfortable. Having got fed up of my leaky boots I'd remembered the Baffin's I bought a couple of cold winters ago. They'd keep my feet dry and warm. I'd forgotten how little support they give my ankles. The walk out had been bad enough, but on the way back my ankles were aching from the time spent moving rods and swims, and worse still one of my socks was migrating off my foot. I'm sure the Baffin boots are great for keeping feet warm for  people sat on skidoos in the Canadian Arctic. They're bloody useless if you want to walk any distance in them. I'm going to have to find some decent boots soon. Why is it that when something perfect comes on the market, like those Chiruca Canada boots, it gets discontinued and replaced by something inferior? It drives me nuts.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


This time I managed to get up before daylight. In fact I got up well before daylight. I had almost an hour of blundering around in the dark. Note to self: It's coming light later than you thought... When I left home there were stars in the sky but by the time I'd parked up they were obscured by clouds blown in on the cool wind. The grass was wet from the rain early in the night and all too soon my feet were wet too. Another note to self: Buy a new pair of boots.

There was little flow on the drain so baits were positioned to both margins. The same three bait species as last time. Apart from the ever-useless smelt the other two are catching so I'm sticking with them for now. When the sun finally began to poke its head up I got the camera and flash gun out for something to do. I'll be honest, trying to make some decent fishing photos is as much the spur for turning out as catching fish at the moment.

Over-dramatic dawn
Dawn reflections
One of these days I'm going to put in a full day in one swim, but not today as I walked as far as I could be bothered so I could work my way back towards the car. I spent rather longer than intended in the first swim, moving baits around - swapping their positions with each other. Around dawn the pumps had stepped up a gear so I put all three baits on the near side. An hour later the float on the mackerel rod began to slide upstream makin ga small wake as it went. Regular readers will know what had picked up the bait. A jack of about three pounds! There are definitely two of them as this one had a full compliment of fins. Although small I still managed to graze my knuckles while unhooking the blighter. Another forgotten 'joy' of pike fishing.

Raker rash
And so the moving commenced after a couple of hours. Every hour and a half or so I'd up sticks and relocate some thirty yards closer to the car. During my time in each swim the baits would be repositioned. Around ten the wind dropped and the air felt warmer. The pumping also dropped to a trickle so the lamprey went across to the far bank. On the second move I had an absolutely screaming run to that bait. The line was a blur and as soon as I closed the bale arm the line tightened to the reel. My strike met with nothing. The bait appeared to be unmarked, although it was bent back on itself and covered in weed. I have a sneaking suspicion an unseasonable eel may have been the culprit.

While it was still dark I could hear lapwings in the field opposite. When it was light they began to wheel in a loose flock, calling as they did. It's hard to believe that only a month or so ago there were grashoppers in abundance. Winter is drawing closer. The family groups of whopper swans that flighted over, and the masss of pink-footed geese in the stubble, being two more signs of that. Yet by noon when the sun came out and the wind picked up again, from a more southerly direction, it felt positively warm. Warm enough to remove the fleece mittens and woolly hat.

When making a recast I noticed the marker float I had been using on one rod was not as it should be. It was coming apart. Luckily I had made a couple of 'old school' bottom end sliders last week. One inch balsa dowel cut to a length of four and a half inches. The ends rounded over and a split pin with a swivel attached pushed into the bottom end. Painted up half-and-half orange and black then varnished. The same design as I used to use all the time on the drains, except my old floats are 3/4 inch diameter and three inches long. I prefer this more stumpy shape to the usual 'pencil' floats recommended for use with float-legered deadbaits as I find they are both more visible and less prone to dragging under. I've also used them on paternoster rigs with live and deadbaits. 

The end of the marker float
The geese had taken enough of being disturbed by vehicles on the estate roads and had flown off in a 'wink-winking' mass meaning I was able to make a few more moves without the risk of disturbing them during the early afternoon. However, buy two o'clock my early start was beginning to catch up with me. The clocks going back hadn't helped matters - it was feeling like it was later than my watch was telling me. The eyelids were drooping. I began a slow pack up and set off to the car. I paused briefly to check out two birds perched on a wire. The first was a lone fieldfare, the second a sparrowhawk which I had seen flying low to the ground earlier in the day.

Work beckons next week. I've a bit of catching up to do. The trouble I have when my fishing Mojo returns is that all I want to do is fish. This means I sit around trying not to go fishing, but not doing any work either. I shall knuckle down to it. I shall. Then I'll be able to get to the water more often. In theory

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rod photos

I'm working on an advert for a new web-based pike fishing magazine. An advert that isn't going to look like my usual dull list of products and prices! I needed a couple of photos for it. Today my pond was chosen to provide the backdrop.

First shot is of a couple of ultra-matt rods with cork handles, keeper rings and stainless steel collars.

The second shot was of a dusty rod ring!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A late start, and a late finish

I woke before the alarm sounded at five thirty. I had two places in mind to head for and one demanded an early start. Undecided as ever I lay there pondering which route to take, which swim to head for, what to do when there. I must have nodded off because the next thing I knew it was past eight. oh, well, I'd do some work that needed sorting. That didn't take as long as expected and by the time I was eating the sandwiches I'd prepared the night before to take fishing the day had turned out warm and sunny. If nothing else I might as well head to the local water and play with my camera, having a new remote release to get to grips with. The baits could be in the water by two. And so they were.

Treble lashed to tail root with elasticated thread
I've seen plenty of doubles and a few twenties caught on smelt over the years, but my success with them has been dismal. I guess it's the one big fish I have caught that keeps my buying them every now and then. In the hope another twenty nine might snaffle one out of sympathy for me throwing money away on them! The smelt I had bought were small ones which I chose deliberately for use on the paternoster rod. As with all soft baits I tied them to the trace with red elastic thread. The colour doesn't matter, although I knew a guy who used to swear by red wool for tying his deadbaits to the trace.

I had no sooner sat in my number two chair (which is sufficing until I either get the Nomad repaired or find a replacement) than the bobbin dropped off the line on the lamprey rod. The result being, as has become customary, a pike of around three pounds! I hadn't blanked and yet another afternoon fish had been landed. This pike was unusual in that it was missing it's right pectoral fin. This looked like a birth defect to my untrained eye. Pike seem to cope quite well with missing fins. I've seen a few with missing pelvic fins.

It was less than an hour later when the middle alarm sounded as the bobbin dropped off and the float started moving. This was unheard of. Two runs on deadbaits in the afternoon? When I wound down to the fish I knew it wasn't the three pounder again. Not only id it have weight, it didn't want to go in the net. More than once it did that thing that only pike seem to do of surging away just beneath the surface, pushing a big wave ahead of them while giving the impression they might go airborne at any moment. Great stuff. when she was eventually in the net I left here there while I readied the scales. Once weighed she was sacked while I set up the camera. As chance had it I had been attaching the remote when the alarm made me look up. So getting that all working didn't take long. Four or five quick shots and back went my first double since March 2008. Not a big fish, but one that has whetted my appetite for catching a few more this winter. For the first time in ages I remembered what appealed to me about pike.

The lack of a flip-round screen isn't much of a loss for self-takes. I frame the shot using the unhooking mat as a guide. Take a shot of me pretending to hold a fish, check composition, reframe and recheck if needs be. Using a hand-held release as I did still doesn't sit well with me though. This is mainly because I can't hold a fish properly when one hand has finger and thumb gripping the release. A lot of people seem to manage okay with this arrangement, but it's not for me. I feel like I will have no control over the fish if it gets lively which is why I prefer to operate the release with my foot. I'll have to rig something up to make the release foot operable.

By now I was in a fluster so I had a brew before tidying the chaos up and rebaiting. When I came to rebait I found, not for the first time, that one of the Eagle Claw trebles was mangled. This hasn't been caused by playing the fish, but by twisting the hook free from a tough hold. I'm sure the hooks aren't going to let me down, but if they get knackered by unhooking then I'll be going back to strong Owners.

A fresh joey was put on a fresh trace and recast to where the second run had come from and I settled back to listen to England getting hammered in the final one day match in India. Even with alarms and bobbins I scan the floats when they are being used. The mackerel had been out for fifteen minutes when I saw the float start to move a split second before the alarm bleeped and the bobbin dropped. This was silly. Alas the resistance was minimal when I wound into the fish and a small jack was soon skimmed across the surface, unhooked (without damage to the trebles) and returned. The last joey in the pack was cast out and the other baits moved around the area.

I'm beginning to wonder if these afternoon fish are afternoon fish at all. I have long held to a theory that pike can be caught outside their expected feeding spells simply by putting a bait in front of them. What can be considered 'morning waters' might not be. It might just be that by starting fishing in the morning all the pike in a swim get caught before noon leaving none to be caught later on. I'm not sure this is always the case. Things aren't always as we think they are -even when the obvious answer is usually the best one. If it does have any merit then it would explain my recent afternoon catches from what I have always thought of as a 'morning water'. I remember convincing myself two other waters were 'afternoon waters' - even though I never fished them in the morning!

Despite high hopes of a dusk pike I had no more runs before packing up in near dark. Hunger was gnawing and I wanted to get home to my sausage and mash. Pulling into the drive I thought about sorting the gear out after tea, but the baits needed to go in the freezer so I unloaded the car straight away. The sling and sack were hung on the washing line then I went to get the net from the quiver so it too would dry out. Net? What net? Bugger, I'd left it behind...

There'd be nobody around after dark so I hastily cooked and ate my sausages before jumping back in the car armed with fresh batteries in my head torch and traipsing to the swim, where I found the net at the first attempt, and heading back home for the second time. If that had happened when I was younger I'd have done it differently. I'd have set the alarm for four and gone in search of my net armed with rods and bait. Given the morning's performance with the alarm I doubt it would have worked.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boring wobbling video experiment

I thought I'd set my camera up to shoot some video and see what the output looks like on the blog. Nothing happens. ..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just like old times

Drain dawn
Arriving at the drain as the sun was rising did me a favour. There was enough light to see that the pumps were switched on and the water running off quite fast, bring down plenty of floating weed. This would have made my preferred fishing position difficult to fish as I would like. So, as it got lighter I took my time looking around. In the old days I'd just have plonked in anywhere in order to get the baits in the water as soon as possible, but I've learned the valuable lesson of picking a spot even when it means missing out on half an hour's fishing time.

As it turned out this time was wasted in terms of catching fish because I blanked. Not a sniff to the three deadbaits. However, around nine o'clock a tractor type thing with a large mowing attachment on the front went past me on the opposite bank. Crossed the bridge and proceeded to mow the bank where I had planned on fishing. So I'd been saved the aggravation that would have caused me.

Autumn is in full swing now. The hawthorns are bare of leaves on the windward side, lichen covered branches exposed, the berries darkening while on the leeward side there remain a few leaves still. All morning a robin serenaded me from the hawthorns while other birds visited the hedgerow to feed. The most autumnal of them being the first flock of fieldfares I've seen since summer ended and one or two bullfinches. I was also pleased to see a water vole crossing the drain, diving in surprise at spotting me. I have seen a few voles on the ditches which connect to the main drain system, but this is the first one I've seen on the drain proper for almost a couple of decades. Perhaps the mink have been thinned out.

Drippy hawthorn
I spread the baits out covering both margins after the pumping stopped at noon. Moving them around in the hope of dropping one near a pike. For this session I stuck to one fishing position - I'm reluctant to call it a swim. Although there was no wind until the afternoon showers were a feature of the morning, and they kept me from moving back towards the car. As did the arrival of another piker who covered the water I would have fished.

Having to pack up before two, by which time my hopes of any action had faded to zero, I had remembered a few more of the things that used to frustrate me on this drain - the pumping, the floating weed, the fact nothing much ever happened after lunchtime. All that and it seemed like the pike had stopped picking up deadbaits again. It was just like the old days when I'd roll up, cast the baits out, sit around for a few hours, wind the rods in and go home. I'll not be giving up just yet, though. Well, I'll be back as soon as I find some footwear that doesn't result in damp feet from walking through wet grass which is what my year old and expensive boots are doing. It might have to be the chest waders again.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blast from the past

Currently on my rebuild list are a pair of Armalites built by Chorley Anglers, by the looks of it before I started work there in 1990 or thereabouts. As can be seen here they've had some stick and are looking their age. Stripping them down one appears to have been whipped with silk varnished with polyeurathane and the other whipped in nylon varnished with epoxy. Which is strange. It's a minimal rebuild job, leaving the reel seat in place, fitting new fore and butt grips and new rings. The result might not be 'as new', but they'll look a lot better than they did before!

I didn't get taken on at Chorley Anglers as a rod builder, just a lowly part time shop assistant. But as I built my own rods, and Frank Thompson the owner approved of them, I started fitting a few handles - lathing down Duplon to make cone foregrips in the days before they were available off the peg. After a while I got let loose on the whipping and varnishing when it was taken in house. If it hadn't been for the start I got there I might be stuck with a nine-to-five job now!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bits and bobs

Sunday saw my annual pilgrimage to the Tackle and Guns trade show where a lot of the major manufacturers, and some smaller firms, display their wares. It's where next year's new products get show to the retail trade. This year it all seemed a bit flat. Lure fishing for sea fish seems to be the growth market, and bivvies seem to have been revamped even if it's hard to tell. Everyone seems to be making the same products at a slightly different price in a slightly different colour.

If I'm honest I go along as much to meet people I only see once a year. So as a social event it was good to catch up, but there was less new to look at than in previous years. From what I hear China is losing it's cost benefits for the large firms. This will mean that, until another cheap global manufacturing base is found, stuff that is made in the UK is going to look like better value. Which is good for a firm like Harrison's. Who just happened to have three new, ultra slim blanks on show. 

The blanks are  Torrix based with a more progressive action. In test curves of 2.5lb, 2.75lb and 3lb. They're Torrix prices too, so the two heavier ones will probably not appeal to cheapskate pikers. The 2.5lb feels like it will make a decent big river barbel rod. I'll no doubt indulge myself and try one out. Three of those could replace my Chimera 3s and 2.5lb Torrixes if they are as good as they might be. Although I'm sentimentally attached to my Chimeras.

A few weeks ago I helped Chris Hammond set up a blog for him to run as a sort of free on-line fishing magazine. The concept is to put a steady flow of fishing articles on the blog, written largely by members of The Pike Pit forum. The 'magazine' is known as The Pike Pool (even though it's not just going to be pike fishing articles) and was quietly added to my blog links in the sidebar a few days ago. It'll be interesting to see how this community based project progresses.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All wibbly-wobbly

Ready to wobble
That getting up at daft o'clock thing still isn't happening. The alarm clock goes off okay now, but I roll over and go back to sleep. When I wake up and see the sun is shining I wish I'd got up with the alarm. Still, I did have some tasks to attend to. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! After lunch I was itching to go and try some things out on the drain. More exploratory than really trying to catch fish.

For the fifth time I set off to check out a stretch I hadn't seen for years. This one really had changed, above the water at least. Now there are bushes growing on the bank. If nothing else this provides something to hide behind. It's an otherwise open stretch and easy to 'skyline'. With the sun at my back I was also conscious of casting a shadow over the water. I have no idea if this really does spook pike, but it's best to try and avoid it. The sky was clear and the sun warm. The water was trickling out with the same touch of colour as last time. Unless there's heavy rain it'll be like that most of the winter. 

Initially I had thought of taking just the one rod and covering water wobbling the dead roach I'd found in my freezer. Well, they would be dead having been in the freezer for years. They wouldn't have been my first choice as static baits, but for wobbling they'd be okay. The rod is an old favourite. I've yet to find anything exactly like it. It's a Century carbon-Kevlar blank, nine feet long with a really soft tip and a progressive action. I love it for wobbling baits. The rig I use is simplicity itself. It's the same two treble snap tackle I use for static bait fishing. 

As the photograph on the right shows I've used a bait flag to keep the bait on the hooks - the top treble being passed in through the nose area and out through the centre of the bottom jaw. I used to use squares of cycle inner tube but these bait flags have been in my pike box for years unused. They're not quite as good as the inner tube, but they look prettier.

It only took me fifteen minutes to lose patience with the wobbling. So it was a good thing I'd taken another rod along in preparation! This one was float legering a decapitated joey mackerel in the near margin.

As I was only to be fishing for three hours or so I'd chucked the basics in my Korum 'shopping bag' (aka Bait and Bits Bag). This open topped carryall thing is ideal for short roving sessions. Everything gets slung in it, the landing net and rod rests go across the top and the strap over the shoulder. Rods in one hand, chair (if taken) in the other and away I go. I wished I chucked something to drink in it though.

It's a funny thing returning to a venue you used to fish a lot but haven't fished for years. In some ways it's like starting on a new water. This is especially so when you haven't fished for the target species for a long time too. Which is good. It means I'm approaching these sessions with an open mind, and with the benefit of experience fishing for other things. It's certainly got the few little grey cells I have working again. Another slight change I've made is to pare down the stuff I take with me. I don't need to go equipped to pike fish anywhere, I only need the essentials. In fact I only need them most places.

With this in mind I got myself some new tackle boxes. Actually they are food containers. Larger versions of the one I put my nuts and dried fruit in. The brand is Lock&Lock, although I'm sure there are others. They have sealed lids that clip securely, but best of all the ones I have put my pike tackle in also have dividers in the form of lift out trays. One box takes everything I need to make up traces, plus a few ready made up traces. The other box contains all the stuff I use for making up rigs. I even have a smaller box with a packet of hooks to nylon and a few swimfeeders to throw in the pike bag if I feel like trying to snatch some fresh fish! If I was still into boat fishing these sealed boxes would be ideal for keeping stuff dry. Did I mention I have a larger box still that takes my camera, flash gun and bulb release?

Click the pic for a closer look

I made a few moves, wobbling the roach around the static bait before settling in to one swim for the last three quarters of an hour. Here I took advantage of the Korum clips I mentioned a few post back to swap the wobbling rig to a running leger.

Above the trace I have a 6mm rubber bead, which doesn't affect presentation or the pike, and above that the clip can be added. I still have one more use for these clips that I'm playing around with. I like 'em!

Ready to leger
As can also be seen I have taken to adding rig sleeves to cover the twists on my traces. I'd given up sleeving the turns of wire a few years ago, but after using an unsleeved trace for wobbling last week, and having the braid tangle in the twists, the tapered sleeves seemed like a good idea.

Sunset was due around six thirty, and as it approached the air temperature began to drop. Some of the trees now have lattice silhouettes, others are still in the earth colours of autumn. With a thin veil of mist hanging low over the mere it felt like the first frost might be getting nearer. The drop in light level was a trigger for surface activity from small fish. Some dimpling, others swirling and one or two leaping. All this in the area my baits were in. But no pike decided to put in an appearance this time.

This is an odd stretch of water. It always looks pikey as all get out. Yet it has rarely lived up to its promise for me. Strange because if I go the other way along the drain when I leave the car I'm on water that has produced the goods more than once. That might be where I head next time.