Saturday, May 28, 2011

Don't use shrink tube

Yet again my tenching plans were scuppered this week - and look like being goosed next week now, so more rod nonsense follows.

On the subject of cork another chance I shall take this chance to rant about people leaving the clear shrink tube on their cork handles. DON'T DO IT!!! Water will get under it and at best discolour the cork, at worst cause it to rot. The barbel rods I'm fettling still had some of the shrink tube one and looked a mess (see below). So I've removed it and given the cork a light sanding to get it back how it should be. I hope the customer approves.

Note how the cork has worn away on the upper handle where the rod butt has been placed on the ground when barbel fishing 'beachcaster style'. That's the reason I fit rubber butt caps to barbel rods as standard.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Don't believe the hype

It seems to be repair and rebuild time for some reason. I know some people are starting to get their gear ready for the start of the river season. So it was that I got the job of fitting a new rings to a pair of barbel rods. Even without seeing the rods I suggested double leg rings as they are more robust. Some people might try to tell you otherwise and I think I've mentioned this before, but here's the proof - single leg rod rings are more prone to damage than double legged rings.

As far as I'm concerned these stand-off single foot guides are only fit to be used on rods light enough to require their weight saving, and which might be adversely affected by the stiffening effect of double footed rings. In terms of specialist coarse fishing that means they have no place on any rods! The only other reason for fitting them is to save money and time. I recently built a carp rod with single foot rings (because that was what the customer wanted to match hsi other pair of rods) and they took no time at all to whip and varnish compared to double footed rings.

Just recently I've been getting a few non-standard handle requests. Most have been straightforward things like full Duplon with various reel seat options. One set has been a bit different. Minimalist in the extreme. It's a long, long time since I whipped a Fuji plate seat to a rod. I'm not convinced they are really as suited to the slim blanks used today as they were to the fatter fast taper glass blanks of the 1970s and '80s. But they do have a certain skeletal charm.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mallard madness

After last week went to waste waiting in for stuff that didn't turn up, then some of it arrived in time to keep me occupied over the weekend, I managed to escape. The session was open ended, I had enough grub for three nights. Unfortunately I messed up the maggot buying and ran out after two days. As the tench weren't playing I was happy enough to pack up at two thirty today.

I wasn't surprised to find the Rat Pit low, although being between a foot and eighteen inches lower than normal was more missing water than I'd expected. To be honest I'm not sure if I shouldn't have fished a deeper swim. Then again, I've seen big tench feeding in water so shallow I could wade around it in wellies. I think the fish simply weren't there.

The warm spring had brought the weed growth on early. It wasn't unfishable by any means. I did have to take care on how I approached things though. Any amount of tightening to the rig that dragged it back would see it weeded. So I let the rigs sink on a tight line and clipped the bobbin straight on, then set the baitrunners.

The rigs were the usual in-line feeders on two rods, with short hooklinks and fake casters. A helicopter rig alternated a feeder and live maggots on the hook along with a single floating fake maggot during the day, and a 10mm Tutti pop-up with a plain lead and a bag of boilies during the hours of darkness. The first night produced three single bleeps to the boilie. Could have been bats though...

As the hawthorn flowers were all but gone and the elder starting to blossom the signs are that the tench might be ready to spawn. Whatever the case I think I've left it too late to fish the Rat Pit this year. Damn those Bank Holidays!

Although Tuesday evening had been sunny the night clouded over and the air stayed warm. The cloud brought showers on Wednesday, which cleared away in the afternoon and the sun shone warmly, albeit from behind my bivvy so I didn't feel the benefit. As the sun set the cloudless sky allowed the temperature to fall, so much so that by dawn the lake water felt much, much warmer than that in my particle bucket. Those hemp and groat seeds were decidedly cold as I baited up on Thursday morning.

Despite the lack of fish, seen or hooked, there was plenty of wildlife watching to be done. The highlights for me being masses of swifts hunting over the water, probably a couple of hundred all told, giving a supreme example of flying agility. The ease with which they cover distance with minimal effort made the sand and house martins look like novice fliers. The swifts were in evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday, arriving late morning on the Wednesday and departing well before dusk. I guess they timed their visit to coincide with the flying times of insects which are most active during the brighter part of the day.

The other highlight was another display of aerial insect catching. I'd seen a falcon whizz past my swim but been unable to get a definite ID on it. I thought it must have been a hobby as it was too big and dark to be a kestrel, but too small to be a peregrine. One bacon butty and a brew later I saw the bird again, on the other side of the lake, and managed to get the binoculars trained on it this time. Sure enough it was a hobby, flying high over the water and every so often flicking it's feet forward to pass an insect to its beak. Fantastic stuff to watch for ten minutes before it flew out of sight.

More amusing were The Three Stooges. These three mallard drakes took to occupying my peg and more or less begging me to feed them. Like a fool I did. This made one of them very bold and it took to invading my bivvy to look for seconds.

Not only did these ducks hang around to wait for food, they also took to using the peg as a toilet and a bedroom. However the incident that provided the most amusement was when they were joined by a fourth drake. This imposter prompted a fit of mass ducky hysteria. The quacking became so loud I could barely hear my radio. If that wasn't enough they then began to use my bivvy as a roundabout. I was treated to the sight of four insanely quacking ducks passing from left to right past the front of my bivvy, the additional sound of them blundering one after another round the right corner, which was pegged close to a hawthorn giving the birds little room to manoeuvre, the quacks then progressed round behind me before the first duck reappeared at the left of my bivvy with the other three in hot pursuit. This was repeated four times before they dizzily chased each other around the flat patch in front of me reaching a crescendo of quacking as the imposter made his getaway and the noise eventually subsided. Well the quacking died away, I was in fits of laughter by that stage!

Despite the lack of tench seen or caught, sightings on this pit usually mean feeding fish, it was good that the place didn't live up to its name. The only rodent I saw was a wood mouse cleaning up a few seeds just after dark of my second night. Most pleasant not having to sleep with one eye open.

After loading the car for my journey home I had a look in the car park bay. There were some damselflies paired up and laying eggs on the mats of floating weed in the margins. A close look revealed that they were large red-eyed damsels. I'd never seen this species until the other week, and now I've spotted them at a second site. I'd rather have seen some fish with red eyes in my landing net though.

Monday, May 09, 2011

More not catching tench

On Thursday I headed south again after stopping to pick up some maggots and a tub of dendrobenas. If I'd set off half an hour earlier I'd have got the swim I was hoping to fish. As it was a local was setting up in it for the evening when I arrived. With a few hours until dark I had a wander around before selecting my swim. On passing a stand of uncut vegetation I disturbed a cloud of damselflies the like of which I have never encountered before. There were dozens of them in a small area rising upwards like miniature helicopters with shiny translucent rotor bladed glinting in the sun. I've seen numbers of damsels before, but never so many.

With no rain imminent I took my time setting up, getting some bait out and casting the rigs over it before putting up the bivvy. One rod fished two grains of plastic corn, the hemp and groats had a can of corn added to them for my spod mix. The second rod fished a heli-feeder rigwith three red maggots on the hook. In anticipation of perch the third rod was set up with a running in-line feeder and a worm was the hookbait. No sooner had this rig hit the bottom that I was wondering why I couldn't get the bobbin set. A perch had taken the bait! As last time it was the usual not-quite-two-pounds.

The night was mild and my confidence high. All that disturbed my slumbers were numerous 'bat bites'. In the morning the wind had swung from the south to the south east, still more or less off my back, as I spodded out some more feed just after first light and before first brew. All was quiet until eleven fifteen when I bumped a perch off after a couple of head shakes. That to the maggot rod.

During the day I had a few indications that turned into nothing. Possibly liners, possibly small fish playing with the baits - although no maggots came back as skins. The day wasn't uneventful. With the sun beating down there was an alien invasion force in a miniature re-enactment of the D-Day landings. Damselfly nymphs were leaving the water en masse, crossing the dry marginal mud as they headed for stems to cling to while there bodies hardened and cracked open to allow the adult insect to emerge.

There is always a failure rate in this process, some emerge with wings damaged or missing doomed to starve lacking the ability to fly and hunt, others don't manage to make it that far. Such are the numbers that try the success rate is sufficient to allow the species to carry on. As far as I could tell there were four species on the wing - including the red-eyed damsel, which I had never seen before. If only I'd had my macro lens with me I could have got some better shots of them while whiling the warm afternoon away undisturbed by fish.

It wasn't until darkness was creeping in that I hooked another perch. I had just switched rigs for the night. The corn rod had been recast with a PVA bag of trout pellets attached to the rig. The running in-line feeder turned to semi-fixed and the hooklink replaced with a braided one terminating in two hair rigged plastic casters. The maggot rod was now fishing as a double heli-rig with maggots on the upper hook and worm on the lower. The perch was hooked on the maggots, and when it neared the side there was a swirl near the perch from a pike. On inspection the rig it seemed that the pike hadn't been attacking the perch but had bitten the worm off!

Fancying a quiet night I lowered the rod tips to the water so the bats would avoid the lines during the night. That worked and it was rain beating down on the bivvy that woke me around two thirty. This was the first of a number of short showers that blew in throughout the day.

To my surprise it was a bright spell between the showers that signalled another bite at half past eleven. This fish felt reasonable, and like a perch. Netted it was a sure fire two pounder. So I carefully zeroed the scales before weighing the fish.  Avons don't lie. The needle settled between 2lb 0oz and 1lb 15oz...

The afternoon progressed as the previous one had done. Fishlessly. There was more rain forecast to arrive during the night. I admitted defeat and packed away well before it arrived. In terms of fish catching the session wasn't up to much. At least it hadn't been a complete blank and near-two-pound perch are nice enough to catch. Even if they're not ten pound tench.

Monday, May 02, 2011

When the wind's in the east

It seemed like a simple plan. Nip down the canal around six in the evening. Sprinkle in a few maggots. Catch a couple of tiny roach. Chop them in half and freeline them in the margins for eels. After all it is May and it's unseasonably warm so both the small fish and the eels should be active. It used to work thirty years ago...

What I didn't factor in to my equation for success was the biting easterly that had been blowing for at least three days. And boy was it strong. The first problem was that it made feeding the maggots tight to the far bank stick ups troublesome. Then there was the small matter of casting a light waggler accurately.

After just a few casts I swapped the slim tipped float for a weighted pellet waggler. Perhaps not the expected choice for canal fishing, but these fat stemmed, dumpy tipped, almost-self-cockers are very similar to a float I made in my teens - one which was designed by some crack canal angler in the days before pole fishing was the only way to tackle canals.

My float was made from a length of pithy peacock quill chopped and pushed into the hollow the 'root' end of the quill - the hollow bit being weighted with dust shot, and the float trimmed until it dotted down with just a couple of number six shot on the line. The plastic pellet wagglers do just the same job. What these floats allow you to do is cast easily, especially when it's windy, but fish with a light end tackle.

It wasn't long after the changeover that I started to get bites. I was missing them because of the bow formed in the line by the wind. When I did connect the hybrid was too big for eel bait.

The next two bites produced fish that were spot on. The fourth resulted in a fish that was too big to risk swinging to hand, but not huge by anyone's measure. So I put the rod down, assembled the landing net, and picked the rod back up!

That fish was my signal to set the eel rods up. I sat back and waited. And grew colder. If the wind had dropped as fast as the sun did below the rise in the ground that acted as the horizon I'm sure I would have felt warmer. As it was I just couldn't face the chill. I'm getting impatient in my old age. If things aren't the way I want them to be I give up. My excuse was that the easterly would have put the eels off...

In its way it had been an enjoyable couple of hours. The simple pleasure of watching a float submerge was enough to make it worthwhile. Summer is certainly on its way. Sedge warblers were making their incessant chatter in the reeds, reed buntings flitting about, swallows swooping in the evening light. If only that wind had abated it would have been idyllic watching the light fade to dark while waiting for the line to peel from the spool at a rate of knots.