Friday, March 25, 2011

Tiddler snatching

Having seen some perch chasing prey fish when I had my sole canal pike session I thought a few morning perch trips would be worth a try. So I ordered some lob worms at my local tackle shop. That was about a month ago... At the second attempt 50 juicy worms arrived last Saturday and this morning was my first chance to take them out. I did some pre-planning and bought half a pint of red maggots yesterday and put my float rod in the quiver too.

The weather has been set fair all week so it was no surprise to see pike patrolling the trailing marginal reeds making swirls every now and then. After a cool night there was a ground frost and a light mist at first light, the sun only burning the mist away by eight o'clock. My first two hours were almost pure frustration trying to stop the floating reeds fouling my lines. By the time the sun broke through I had dragged enough to the bank to stop any more in its tracks and could fish my two leger rods in peace.

The worms were untouched, so I set up the float rod to scratch around for a bite or two using a single red maggot on the size 16 hook. It didn't take long before the float dipped and rose and I struck into nothingness. Two casts later I had saved the day from being a blank!

More bites on the float, many missed because I was too lazy to alter the set up to catch tiny fish, and a couple more small (tiny) bream were caught. I also had two short quick lifts on the bobbins. Possibly from perch, possibly not. As I had things to do I wrapped up at half past nine, glad I hadn't bothered with the bunny suit as the sun was quite warm.

If it hadn't been for the action from the tiddlers I'd have been in the mood to chuck the rods in the cut after the messing around with the floating reeds. As it was I'm contemplating some more maggot drowning over the weekend. Probably not on the canal though.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No mojo Joe

I just managed to squeeze into the car park when I arrived at the river on a lovely spring afternoon. The weather and last day of the river season had brought plenty of anglers out for a final fling and I was one of them. walking upstream reports were not good. The overnight frost was blamed, and the clear sunny sky. The river itself was lowish and falling, but with a hint of colour. When I stuck my thermometer in it there wasn't much more warmth than on Friday.

My choice of swim was a little restricted, but not much. There's plenty of river to go at. I headed for the beach, which I thought would be occupied but wasn't. This spot looks different every time I fish it. Each flood moves the sand, silt, stones and debris around on the bank. No doubt the same occurs underwater. I intended to start out with one rod fishing a maggot feeder upstream and a second rod fishing boilie/s downstream towards the shallower water. Then as darkness approached to swap the maggots to cheese paste, and eventually to S-Pellet. I pretty much stuck to that plan.

Winding in for my first recast with the feeder I found a minnow attached to the hook. I immediately had visions of an endless procession of self-hooked minnows. Thankfully that didn't become reality. Every now and then a minnow would impale itself, or they'd nip the end of the maggot on the hook, but they weren't as much of a pest as they can be.

Apart from a couple of super-fast chub pulls when I replaced the 15mm boilie with two 10mm baits that rod was quiet. Not counting the minnow activity the feeder rod was too. Apart from one positive bite that took me unaware. By the time I reacted the line was angled as far downstream as it had been upstream, and was snagged solid. After walking downstream and some amount of heaving everything came free. To my surprise. The hook was opened out. I'm guessing a barbel had been the culprit.

And that was about it. Time was when I could roll up, cast out, and catch barbel. The back end of this season has seen that change. It feels like I've lost my barbel mojo. But to be honest, I don't enjoy waiting for a barbel rod to hoop over as much as I used to. So I'm probably getting what I deserve. Serves me right.

It wasn't until late in the session that I remembered I'd ended last season blanking on the beach. I'm counting those minnows this time...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Good timing. Bad decisions.

The BBC weather pages seem to be very accurate at forecasting the day's weather, even if they keep changing the predictions for tomorrow. With this in mind I tried to get to the river before the rain was set to arrive around three. I just made it - at quarter to two I had both rods out and the umbrella up as a light rain began to fall.

For some reason I had decided to try for barbel in the area I fished on Sunday., and left the chub gear at home. Within ten minutes of casting out the downstream S-Pellet to the crease, which had moved downstream with the slightly higher level, I had a couple of quick chub knocks. Given that the river was less than a foot up, and falling slowly, was coloured but not much, and hadn't got much warmer the chub gear might have been a better bet.

As the internet had suggested the rain got heavier. The wind wasn't strong, but chilly, however sat down below the bank top it was starting to feel like spring. Despite the rain it wasn't cold at all. A few celandine were showing and all manner of plants pushing their heads through the soft sandy silt on the bank.

I sat under the brolly listening to another dismal performance by the England one-day team as Bangladesh hammered them. That was about as exciting as the fishing. I really do hate fishing from under an umbrella. I feel cramped, and it constrains my thinking. It's rare I fish well when it rains. Unless bites are coming I can't get motivated to try things out to provoke them. I wasn't helped by running out of PVA mesh, and not having enough pellets bagged to recast frequently to search the swim.

So it was that by the time the rain let up my confidence was at a low ebb as darkness fell. I had expected a few more chub knocks at the very least, but none came. On days like this you have to enjoy being there and despite hearing deer bark, watching a male goldeneye fly upriver accompanying a pair of goosander and seeing a bat flitting around well before dusk my heart wasn't in it. I gave up about an hour into dark wishing I'd stuck to the chub plan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The global marketplace

I was reading an article about carbon-fibre on the BBC website yesterday, and it made me realise why rod blank manufacturers are struggling to get cloth - both here and the Far East. The Boeing 787 is eating it all up. I've been told that one carbon manufacturer has devoted one of their production lines to supplying Boeing for the next year, meaning that line won't be producing any of it's usual cloth - one which is used a lot in fishing rods.

Any student of economics will also realise that prices have gone up following the law of supply and demand.  Boeing need the carbon, there is a limited supply, the price goes up. At the same time supply of other carbons drops, so people will pay more for them, so their prices go up too. What this means is that from April 1st I'll be paying more for my blanks. So get your orders in quick!

I think I'll go fishing to cheer myself up.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A testing session

It being the penultimate Sunday of the river season, a warm and sunny one at that, I expected the river to be busy. It was. With just enough room for one car in the car park I was still hopeful of getting the swim I fancied, as it's not a popular one. Sure enough the anglers fishing were grouped in the expected places and the run below the rapids was free. With the sky as clear as the river I reckoned the deeper water, particularly out by the crease, might be worth a chuck. Not expecting much action until the sun began to drop I left my gear and had a wander. Talking to two anglers who had both just returned their first fish of the day, it was two in the afternoon and they'd arrived around nine in the morning, it seemed like the light needed to fade before the fish would feed well. I wandered back to my swim and took my time setting up. There was no rush.

It's always a pity the river season doesn't last another fortnight. The weather so often starts to turn pleasantly warm around late February and into March. This was one of those days when the bunny suit wasn't really required until later in the day. There was little wind to take the edge off the sun's warmth. By the time I had all my gear arranged round my chair and two baits in the water I was ready for a cup of flask tea.

Despite a mid-week frost and the river having dropped and cleared it had risen in temperature to just shy of 7c. This time out I left the barbel rods and boilies at home. Perhaps I shouldn't have done given the conditions?  Then again I wanted to catch chub, not barbel and to try one of my 1.75lb Torrixes as a chub rod. I had rigged it up to fish a lump of three-year-old cheese paste on a size six hook to a 3lb 6oz Reflo Powerline hooklength. The rig was the same helicopter rig I use for the maggot feeder, but I chose to fish it with a straight lead and let the paste do the attracting. It certainly stank well enough! The other rod fished the same as last time out, a single red maggot on a 16. But this time I had some hemp and pellets to add to the maggots in the feeder.

It took a while for bites to materialise. A couple of hours in fact. During the quiet spell I was surprised to see some small fish in the margins. The minnows don't usually show up at this time of year, and looking at the size of some of the fish they hadn't long hatched. What they were I don't know. They did seem to prefer the maggots I threw to them over the pellets and hemp though. Perhaps they were trout fry?

A bigger surprise was that the first proper bite, I'd had a few plucks to the maggot, was to the paste. The rod tip bounced continuously and I lifted into a decent feeling fish that woke up half way in. So much for waiting for the light to go. I'd had the choice of fishing to the right of a bush with a nice clean margin of sloping sand, or to its left with a jumble of sunken branches at my feet. Like a fool I chose the latter, so as I dropped my landing net in the edge it drifted with the eddy straight into the wood and got tangled. I managed to keep a tight line to the fish and free the net. But it was touch and go.

The Torrix did its job well, although I think it would be even better if it was a tad lighter in test curve, and maybe a little softer in the butt. Even so I never felt like the hooklength was in danger or parting.

Safely netted it was time to unhook the chub. At first glance I saw my hooklength had snapped. Closer inspection revealed that the broken line was considerably thicker than what I'd been using, and my hooklength hadn't parted at all. How a chub of four and a half pounds had bust off someone fishing with what looked like ten pound mono I don't know. The hook was deep but easily retrieved and had the remains of two white maggots on it. It was also a fairly heavy gauge hook that had partially opened out. Maybe the chub had picked up a snagged rig?

Having forgotten my keepnet last time out I was better prepared, so the chub was slipped safely into the net read to be joined by a host of it's shoalmates.

Next cast in the maggot rod signalled a positive bite. A wriggling, writhing fish suggested a trout, but no. It was a small grayling which I returned immediately. A repeat performance ten minutes later the maggot rod was in action again, this time it was a trout, and another followed another ten minutes after. That was the biggest trout of the day. And as it turned out the final fish too.

I continued to get plucks to the maggot rod as the light faded, but nothing positive save for one that broke the hooklink. The paste rod was also in action, but again nothing that I managed to connect with. I think I should have cast it further upstream after dark to improve the chances of fish hooking themselves. I had neglected to fit the rod with an isotope so seeing the bites was a bit of a problem. A problem touch legering would have solved I suppose.

Having become spoiled by the quality of photos that my DSLR produces compared to my flip-screen camera I used this opportunity to try the DSLR for a self-take or two. I had made a device to allow me to operate my radio remote release with a knee or foot and it had worked fine in the house. On the bank it didn't work at all! I was, therefore, reduced to holding it in my right hand while holding the fish. Which actually worked quite well. A bracket adaptor to take a bulb release like I have for my smaller camera would work better though, and not depend on batteries to function. Framing is a a bit troublesome without a flip-screen, but not insurmountable. I managed well enough with my previous fishing camera, and the larger sensor of the DSLR allows cropping while maintaining better image quality than my flip-screen camera at full frame. Out of four shots one was pretty good. With more practice, and shifting the camera off auto, I'll get better results.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

No pressure

These last two weeks or so I've been in enforced idleness, and I still am - waiting for cork to materialise from somewhere overseas. It's been a case of promises, promises. Mostly I've been occupying my time with the camera, but after two consecutive afternoons on a windswept beach shooting thrill seeking kite boarders I needed a day of rest.

 The idea of some chub fishing was appealing. More so after a pre-lunch call from a friend who had caught a couple of clonkers a few days earlier. A quick check of the river level on the internet and it was a hasty snack followed by a hectic gathering of tackle and bait. With the car loaded I headed away from the river to buy a pint of red maggots with a sprinkling of whites followed by a U-turn to the motorway.

The morning had seen a frost lightly covering the lawn but by the time I arrived at the river the day felt warmer than it was. The strong wind that had the kiters out in force over the weekend had subsided and birdsong could be heard coming from the woods over the river. There was one white van parked up and it  was no surprise to me to see who the owner was, making a brew in the back of it. As he headed back to the river I loaded myself up and followed.

The idea of a social session, fishing close to Eric appealed, but the big crease was a stronger draw. After all, I'd come to catch fish. The water temp was a shade over 5C so my hopes of a barbel on the boilie rod were low. It was cast out slightly downstream and left to fish for itself.

The chub rod was fishing the same rig I'd last used on the river, down to the size 16 hook. The colour was dropping out of the river as the level continued to fall and I reasoned a fine approach might be best for a bite or two. When rummaging in the freezer for my ancient ball of cheese paste I found two carrier bags of what I hoped were liquidised bread and crushed pellets. It turned out one was pellet and hemp mush, which I didn't want, and the other was crushed halibut pellets, which would have to do. Some of the lumps were too big to pass through the holes in the feeder, so not ideal, but they'd still give off a flavour/scent trail. The 30g feeder was heavy enough to hold and was half filled with the crushed pellets before being topped up with maggots.

Within a quarter of an hour of starting out the frequent recasting started to work and a few tentative taps registered on the quiver tip. From previous experience I have found that when double maggot produces enquiries a single maggot can produce bites. And so it proved. The first blank saving fish of the day was a brownie of half a pound or so that came along after an hour and a  quarter. I had had one really positive bite before hand that had smashed my light hooklink and after which the bites dried up. Possibly a barbel, perhaps a decent chub, maybe even an energetic trout.

Around three quarters of an hour later, at twenty-five past four, still in broad daylight now that spring is approaching rapidly, while talking to Eric who had come up for a chat, I lifted into another positive bite and felt something a bit heavier on the end. It wasn't powering away as a barbel would have done, nor was it charging about like a stupid trout. I'd hooked what I'd come for. Once on the shallows I got a glimpse of the fish and it looked quite small, three pounds or less. It wasn't until I lifted the net that I realised why it had taken so long to get in. A stocky and scale perfect chub that surprised us both by spinning the needle to 4lb 13oz. Not a monster, but my biggest fish of the year so far! Eric obliged with the camera, and I even cracked a smile - of sorts!

Half an hour after the chub a sea trout came along, of a similar size to it's brown cousin I had caught earlier. It's that time of year when the river sees the salmon trying to make their way back to the sea. I guess some manage it, but the majority we notice are in a sorry state. If not already dead they are gasping fungus clad specimens clearly destined to become carrion. As one creature dies so others are born. Such is nature's way. Lambs bleating upstream and the constant chinking and trilling of birds in the wood a sure sign the cycle continues.
The sky was cloudy but bright for most of the afternoon, clearing briefly towards sunset when the tops of the far bank trees glowed warmly in the light, the trunks in contrasting shade.

The ruddy glow picked out a stone barn on the other side of the river and I couldn't resist taking a few shots with my fishing camera. I wished I'd packed the DSLR when I reviewed the photos at home, they don't come close to doing the views justice.

In the fading light the tip sprang back once more and after playing the fish gently, as I couldn't remember how strong (or weak) my hooklink was, I landed another chub. A rather tatty-tailed and missing-scaled fish of four pounds-six which I returned without a photograph. It was then I wondered if I should have taken my keepnet along.  Unlike barbel, which can return to a shoal without ill effect on sport, a returning chub appears to spook the rest of the fish in the swim. I always take the keepnet when after roach or dace for the same reason.

My original intention had been to fish until six thirty to avoid teh rush hour traffic on my way home, but when 'Just a Minute' came on the radio I decided to stick it for anther forty-five minutes until 'The Archers' ended. They proved to be forty-five biteless minutes. It was a surprise that I didn't start feeling cold once the light had gone. The air temperature had dropped some four degrees from my arrival, yet it felt quite pleasant. I guess two days in a biting wind must have hardened me up!

Even so it was nice to pack the gear away and head for home. I'd gone a long time with just a flask of tea and one Nutrigrain bar. I needed refueling.

This session drove home to me how much more enjoyable it is to do something when you really want to do it, with nothing to prove, than to do it because you think you should or because you are trying to hit a target. There was no pressure on me, self-imposed or otherwise, to catch anything. No feeling that I had to be there doing what I was doing. I was fishing for chub because I felt like fishing for chub. And it was fun. So much so that I might be going back today as the sun is shining as I write this. Unfortunately my back is aching like mad. Carrying even a light load a short distance and then sitting in a low chair for a few hours doesn't sound like fun today. That's growing old for you. I hope that cork arrives so I can do some work for a rest.