Monday, February 21, 2011

A balanced approach

I prefer my lure rods to be tip heavy, but some anglers like theirs to balance in their hand when the reel is fitted so the outfit feels almost weightless. There are a number of ways of achieving this, from unsightly lumps of lead taped to the handle through counterbalancing butt caps to internal weight. As I was asked to balance a rod for a customer I thought I'd illustrate how I went abut it.

The first job was to push a flexible plug into the blank. I used a scrap of Duplon. It needs to be flexible to allow it to be pushed further in as weight is added. Years ago I bought a tub of lead shot from a gun shop. I bought it to weight lures and have never managed to use it all up. It is ideal for balancing rods.

With the plug in place it was a matter of trial and error to add the shot to achieve the required balance. Some shot was added, the butt cap pushed in and the balance tested. As more shot was added so the butt cap pushed it all further into the blank. The Duplon allowing this far more easily than a cork plug would have done. Once satisfied with the balance the butt cap was removed and the shot tipped out.

Then some epoxy was mixed and the shot stirred into it.

To get the mix into the slim Fooler blank I used a plastic spatula that comes with the Araldite Rapid I use for fitting tip rings. I was using a slower setting epoxy for this job as I wasn't sure how much working time would be required, and it's cheaper!

With all the shot in place the butt cap was pushed in and the rod propped up vertically so all the weight and glue would settle towards the cap. Job done.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Boredom, buzzards and blanking

Today was looking like a write off. I had one rod spinning on the drier and my courier's booked to collect. With no work I could get on with I was going to be stuck in all day waiting. I was getting so bored I almost got the tin of white gloss out that I bought three years ago for painting the doors and radiators. I was that bored I had an early lunch. With the cheese on toast  out of the way I was amazed to see a white van pull up the drive. Parcels gone by just after noon. The rest of the day was free!!

Something made me grab the pike rods and some baits from the freezer and head off to a local water I hadn't bait fished for almost thirty years. I was hoping that it still fished to the same pattern of producing on late winter afternoons, and that leapfrogging with paternostered deadbaits fished tight to the stick ups would still do the business.

The sun was shining warmly, the sky was blue, and the day was one of those you can get in February when it feels like spring has arrived. even though you know it will have gone as soon as the sun begins to set and the winter chill will return.

Sure enough, by the time I had reached the point where I wanted to start working my way back to the car from I was sweating under the bunny suit. So much so that by the time all three baits were out, one was a float legered mackerel tail for variety, I had to strip the sweatshirt off. Even so I had gone prepared for dusk by packing a fleece in the rucksack.

If I'm honest, one of the reasons I had been keen to go piking was to try out a little camera trick I'd read about. But the day was peaceful, three buzzards soared and mewed overhead. Perfect buzzard weather, no wind to speak of, clear air and bright sun. Ideal for them to scan the fields for carrion from on high. I settled on my unhooking mat and kept my eyes on the three floats. No alarms required for this semi-mobile approach.

I would move the rods after twenty minutes or so, maybe a little longer in some spots. One thing I had forgotten was how to cast accurately at short range with paternosters. I got the hang of it quickly enough. The trick is to drop the lead where you want the bait to go and the bait will follow. Having the paternoster link tied to the top treble, or to the wire a couple of inches above it, helps to prevent tangles and makes the job easier too. If you try to cast the bait to the target area you end up with the lead, or bait, in the reeds, or way out of position.

In such shallow water I also set the bait depth by the distance it is below the float stop, rather than the length of the paternoster link just like you would if fishing a free rover - the paternoster link is just a tether. Rods are propped up on a single rest, or laid on the reeds, with the line in a Gardner clip taped to the reel seat.

The phototrickery I wanted to try was making daylight shots look like they are taken at dusk or even at night. The first shot in this post was taken at 13.25, the one below at 14.45. Both in bright sunshine. I need to practice this, but I can see how it could be pretty effective with the right background - less sky and more trees perhaps. It just goes to show how the camera can lie.

Gradually I worked my way along the stick-ups. Watching and listening to reed buntings in their natural habitat. The floats didn't stir, save when the canal started to draw off around three thirty, which would have been round high tide at the lock gates by my reckoning. As the run off stopped the floats settled again and I made my final move for the last hour.

The sun had already gone behind a bank of cloud moving in from the south west in a sweeping curve forcing me to put my sweatshirt back on. By the time of my last move it was cold enough for the fleece and the woolly hat. This didn't deter small fish from starting to dimple the surface as the light levels dropped. There were a couple of predatory swirls either side of my rods, one looking suspiciously perch like. I was reasonably confident of a take, but none came. I wound the rods in and trudged back through the mud to the car.