Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When the bug bites

Another five thirty alarm call this morning saw me laying in a little, so I arrived at the drain just as the sun was rising. What made me head for this section, when in all the years I've fished this it I have yet to catch anything of note from it, I don't know. Perhaps I wanted to get it out of my system? Whatever the reason I walked as far as I could be bothered before setting up my three rods. At which point I realised I had put the wrong deadbaits in the cool bag... Manky sardines were there instead of perfect mackerel. Never mind.

The sky was clearing, with a distant misty haze obscuring the lower levels of the distant moors. There was a chill in the light southerly that was blowing insufficiently to ripple the water's surface. I wasn't brim full of confidence, I wasn't despondent. Just the way I like to feel when fishing.

The rods were set up on the Delkims and my lovely new bobbins attached to the lines below the baitrunners. Everything looked 'well pukka'! 

A sardine head was rigged on one of the float-legers, a lamprey tail on the other, both fishing the near margin. The float-paternoster was cast across the drain with a dead rudd mounted head-up the trace. Some people baulk at this presentation, but I don't find the pike care, nor do I have any trouble setting the hooks. The benefits are twofold. Firstly the hook hold is more secure than in a potentially soft tail rood - especially so on small baits, and casts can be made with less fear of the bait being cast off. Secondly, and of minor importance to me, the bait can be retrieved slowly almost as if it were being wobbled.

After three quarters of an hour I retrieved the sardine head for a recast. Or tried to. It had gone. I rarely use sardines. Other people swear by them but I find them more trouble than they are worth. I put a lamprey head on in its place.

A few recasts around the swim with the baits and it was time for a move at nine thirty. Hastened by my well used Nomad chair dumping me on the ground after making  a resounding crack as I sat in it. One of the side frames had split. The chair has been a stout servant but eventually given up the ghost. I must have jinxed it with my previous blog entry about not being able to do without a low chair!

The day was warming to the promised scorcher. The risen sun taking the chill out of the wind and making it balmy. In the second swim I half-heartedly tried to catch a livebait or two. There had been small fish topping when I moved in. They didn't want to play though. An hour and  a half later I moved again.This third swim had a few more visible features. One patch of reeds looked particularly promising to me. I dropped the paternostered rudd by it. The lamprey halves went across, and close in downstream.

By now it was getting warm enough to remove not only the fleece, but the sweatshirt as well. The wildlife had a strange mix of summer and winter about it. A lone chiffchaff briefly visited a small alder, a skein of pinkfoots flew inland, a few swallows passed over, flocks of goldfinch and longtailed tit were progressing along the banks feeding as they went. In the hot sun grasshoppers hopped in the grass. An English autumn often has a few days of Indian Summer to it.

I settled back to eat my final sandwich of the day and pour a brew. Hardly had I started on the tea when the sounder box made a couple of bleeps which turned into the trill of a run. The rudd had been taken. I'd like to report that my bobbins performed flawlessly. They certainly didn't perform badly. They actually didn't perform at all. I'd switched to fishing straight off slackened baitrunners in this swim. I'm not sure why. I just had. It worked well enough. My strike met with more solid resistance than it had on Sunday. The fish punched above its weight and I was surprised to net a jack of maybe three pounds.

An hour and a half later, the flask emptied and the food consumed I was starting to nod off. I never could manage early starts well even in my youth. I don't know how some people manage to do before-work sessions on a regular basis. If I do a morning session the rest of the day is written off for me. I'm not sure how long this pike bug will last but I feel like having another session soon. Being the contrary fool I am, no doubt this phase will last until 'proper piking weather' arrives with the first frosts.

Monday, September 26, 2011


When I was getting ready for my zander trip the other week I couldn't for the life of me find any drop-off indicators. I've made loads over the years, including some with carbon fibre arms and Solar line clips. Where they have got to is anybody's guess. Lost somewhere the the black hole of my not-required-at-the-moment-tackle universe!

My pike session yesterday got me wanting to do some more, and to use my trusty Delkims as audible indicators. I needed three drop-offs. I found three Gardner line clips on some never-used captive backleads. Rooting around in a box of tackle bits I came across three translucent red spheres which I had saved for making bobbins a few years ago and never got round to working out a good way to utilise them.

The spheres originally housed 'wet wipes' in a coin operated dispenser in a gents toilet at a service station which was en route to a tench water and made a handy break to my journey. Every time I used the gents I eyed up these spheres, which came in many colours, trying to fathom a way to ensure I didn't waste my money on colours I didn't want. I must have got lucky when I decided to buy them! The wipes came in handy, but weren't as wet as they could have been. The spheres were perfect. I never turned them into bobbins before as I couldn't fathom out a good way to do it neatly. It took me most of this morning to work out, after some trial and error, how to make a neat job without ruining at least one of the spheres.

The components are shown above. The spheres come apart easily, clipping back together easily too. The first job was to make a hole in one half of a sphere. I used the pointy part of a wood boring bit to make the hole, centralising it on a moulding mark. By good fortune this worked out just small enough for the threaded part of the Gardner clip to screw into. I tied a length of heavy braid to the clip then worked out how long it needed to be by putting a rod on a rod rest so the bobbin set just below the reel's spool. A loop was tied in at the right place.

Braid is fine as a cord, but being so limp and thin it is tangle prone. I thought that sleeving it in silicone tubing might alleviate that problem. The braid was threaded through the tube with the aid of some 60lb trace wire, folded back to make a threader. This worked a treat. A hole just wide enough to take the tube was made in the second half of the sphere, using the same drill bit, and the sphere reassembled. The loop in the braid was passed through the hole in a Terry Clip, and then threaded on to a small split ring which acts as the retainer.

Fully assembled the bobbins almost look as if they were professionally made!

As is usual with my luck, shortly after I got my three red spheres the vending machine was removed in a revamp of the service station, and I've never seen them anywhere else! A similar construction method could be used to turn a polystyrene ball or some other spheroid into a drop-off bobbin though.

Still in the mood for a spot of pike fishing I decided to spool up three Baitrunners with fresh braid and re-rig my P-5s. I'll probably go back to my ancient Shakespeare reels, they are still smooth after all the years I've had them and they have a good gear ratio and lovely big wooden handle grips, but the Baitrunners have instant-anti-reverse which makes them less likely to throw slack line when in the quiver. More of a problem with braid than mono which stretches and takes up the play in the gearing. Hard to explain in words.

While I was at it I tried to dream up an all-purpose drain pike rig. One that can be quickly swapped from a float-leger to a float-paternoster, or even a free rover. If it works out I'll no doubt explain it here.

The next job was to pare down the rubbish in my pike box. Why on earth was it full of leads? Then I had to sort out the banksticks with the quick change Delkim attachments. I hope everything is sorted now. I'll find out if I have forgotten anything soon enough.

One thing I'd like to do away with is the low chair. It's an encumbrance when trying to be mobile. However, a winter of drain piking in the east when I travelled light with just a camping mat to sit on resulted in a bad back so troublesome I missed most of the end of season fishing as I could hardly walk. So a low chair is an unwelcome essential. I've tried doing away with a rod quiver, banding rods and net together, but all I end up with is a tangled mess. A quiver is light enough, and it also frees one hand to carry the blasted chair! All I have to do now is empty the junk out of my rucksack and I'll be ready to rock.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pastures old

I'm not sure why, but I got the urge to go pike fishing. I fancied a relaxing morning by the drain, tucked away far from the madding crowds. Although the alarm was set for five thirty I awoke long before it sounded. Not through excitement, but because it was a warm night and I was roasting under the duvet. The flask was filled, a mug of tea drunk, two barm cakes buttered and honeyed, tackle and bait gathered and off I set.

The track from main road to drain bank has always seemed interminable. The slow journey along it being livened up by the sight of a barn owl crossing my path at speed, possibly disturbed by the approach of my car, and a couple of hares bounding away across the open fields.

In many ways the drain looked like it had when I first fished it almost thirty years ago, but there were subtle differences. Cattle are no longer grazed on the banks, the authorities lack the funds to carry out grass and weed cutting like they used to. Nature is encroaching. Mouths of ditches that join the main drain which once were clear enough to present baits in are now all but closed over by reeds. Much of the bank is also so overgrown with stands of reed and reedmace that swims have disappeared in places. Finding somewhere where the water was accessible to net fish was quite a problem any distance from the car park. But I managed to after a walk.

Given the state of the bankside vegetation I opted to fish just two of the three rods I had with me. One float legering a lamprey head to the far bank, the other float paternostering a dead rudd close in. Conditions felt good as I set up by the light of my head torch. The air was warm, the sky overcast, the drain still with a touch of colour. I was confident from the get go.

With the baits out it was time for a cup of flask tea. Reed buntings could be heard, unsurprisingly, in the reed beds, and as dawn came slowly along their calls were joined by the song of a robin in the willows behind me. The pink-footed geese have been coming back for the winter for a week or so now and throughout the morning odd straggly skeins of them flew in to the mere from the marshes. Around late morning there was a passage of swallows heading south. With leaves blowing from the trees autumn felt well on the way.

Fisherman, he wear daft hat!
Either I had read the forecast wrong or it had been changed, because around eight thirty rain set in. Not heavy rain, but enough to make me wish the umbrella was in my quiver and not my garage. Luckily it eased off before I got depressed by it. The sun even tried to burn its way through the clouds. I'd had what I thought was a dropped run to the rudd, but the bait was unmarked and it's possible that some debris had pulled the line from the clip. The drain had been trickling off on a slow pump for a while. With the rain gone and the clouds thinning I moved downstream at nine. There were some fry dimpling just below a reed bed and it looked a spot worth a try.

It didn't take long before the home-made bottom end slider started to bob on the lamprey rod and slowly head upstream. That was definitely a run. When I connected the fish came easily. It wasn't exactly large. If it had another good meal it might have made three pounds. My first pike by design for some time, nonetheless. It certainly wasn't worth setting the camera up for a self-take! I made do with a close up of its eye.

The day couldn't make its mind up whether to be hot and sunny or just warm and cloudy. I was able to remove my fleece though, and after doing so I made another move. This time to a spot that hadn't changed much over the years. There must be something in the make-up of the land there that has prevented reeds colonising the margin. Years ago it had produced a pike or two for me, but not this time.

I'd set my departure time for noon, so that was when I started to pack everything away. Just as well really, because the flask was now empty and the barm cakes long since eaten.

 Making my way back to the car I saw a familiarly hyperactive figure on the other side of the drain. Sure enough it was Gord, who was surprised to see me. Like a lot of people he thought I had given up piking for good! Well I might have given up full time piking, but a dabble now and then isn't too bad.

In fact this session has almost got me enthused enough to do it again soon. I might just sort the drain gear out and grab a few morning sessions before winter's icy grip takes hold. I really do hope it doesn't take hold like last winter, though. One week of ice and snow is more than enough!

After being delayed in my return for lunch by the effervescent Mr. Burton - who did his best to catch one for the camera - I eventually made it home before hunger made me weak.

Unless a blank order turns up early next week I'll have a couple of days free for fishing before having to sort my stuff out for the PAC Convention at Kettering. Looking back I think I first had a stand at the then PAC Conference (at Loughborough) back in 1991 to launch D.L. Specialist Tackle. No wonder I feel old! See you there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


That seems to have worked! No doubt I'll do more tinkering - like making a new header. The new format gives the added benefit of being able to add stand alone pages, like my newly added Pond Story. I don't know what pages I'll add, but I'm sure some more will materialise. The change of web address will come later.

More changes afoot

I've noticed that the Lumbland archives haven't been working properly, meaning that not all the old posts show up when a link is clicked in the Topics and Species link list. I've been having a play around under the bonnet and think that a change of template will do the trick. This means that the design will be changing, and for a while some of the stuff in the sidebar might disappear. However, when it is all sorted out the blog will be wider, I hope making it easier to read, and the photos will be able to be displayed larger - although that won't be completely retrospective as I can't be bothered going back and altering them all!

Please bear with me while I mess around. I might also manage to get the www.lumbland.co.uk link to start working properly again. But that remains to be seen.

Of course there's always the distinct possibility that everything will go horribly, horribly Pete Tong and Lumbland will disappear altogether! 

Friday, September 02, 2011


It was almost five years to the week since I last went zander fishing. There aren't many of them in my neck of the woods. Quite possibly none at all. So it was trip to a midlands river for an overnighter, followed by a daytime session barbel fishing elsewhere on my way home. That was the plan. I wish I'd come up with a better one now.

Although summer was due to turn to autumn overnight the weather was ideal for fishing as I began to set up in mid-afernoon, warm enough to walk around with nothing over a t-shirt, but not so hot as to be uncomfortably sweaty. The cloud cover was keeping the light level lowish and heralded a warm night ahead. The track to the river was dry and dusty, the fields recently cut stubble. It was great to be out by a river that was running slow and clear with small fish topping al along the length.

I actually started out with barbel baits on the rods as I had no suitable wire traces made up. But when my mate Nige had a finicky take on one of his deadbaits I was quick to swap over myself. There was nothing fancy to the rigs. Simple running legers were the order of the day, wire traces fitted with a couple of size six Eagle Claw trebles completing the set up. Bite indication was provided by the ever reliable Delkims, the line being trapped in an adjustable clip above the reel's spool. In case of a drop-back (unlikely but possible if the lead tangled) a bobbin was hung on the line between butt ring and alarm. All in all it was just like I used to pike fish in the 1980s - apart from the Delkims!

The clips are the current Gardners. In the 'old days' these were much better. The clips are just as good, but the adjustment nuts are too slack on the thread and seem to have a less fine adjustment than they used to. You can get them tight, but setting them to just hold the line can be a bit tricky. When you do get it right they sem to loosen after the line pulls from the clip. The nuts are also prone to working loose in transit and falling off. I'm going to try a small section of silicone tube pushed over the thread to see if that helps.

Setting up camp for the night had gone smoothly. I'd remembered to take the storm poles for the bivvy from my stillwater quiver. That went up smoothly and the swim was flat enough for the bedchair legs to remain unextended. The only problem was that I keep my bivvy pegs in a my stillwater bait bag and I'd brought my river bag with me. No pegs. Not to worry, there's always three or four in a side pocket of my rucksack. Oh no there aren't! There  was one and a pair of forceps. These got pressed into service to peg the front out. The ground was soft. A little too soft for the pegs to be really secure. As long as the wind didn't get up I'd be okay. The soft ground would allow me to improves on the peg front, however. I went in search of suitable slim willow branches and, with the help of Nige's hand folding saw (doesn't everyone take a saw fishing?), soon had four custom made wooden bivvy pegs in place.

During daylight we both got a few indications. they might have been zander picking the baits up or they could have been line bites. It wasn't until darkness fell that these bites became more positive, but still failed to result in fish on the bank. Even when the line was running out nicely a strike would meet no resistance. Sometimes the bait would be gone, but if not it would be barely marked. No tell-tale stab marks to suggest zander, no slashes to suggest pike, no ripped bellies to place the blame on eels.Mysterious and frustrating.

It was so frustrating that as I slept under the bedchair cover, it being warm enough to manage  without getting into my sleeping bag or donning my bunny suit, I dreamt of finicky takes and missed runs between having to deal with them in the real world!

Shortly after daybreak NIge connected with one of his runs, and so I was able to at least photograph a zander. A nicely conditioned fish that was guestimated at some six or seven pounds before being returned.

Nige was on holiday and had promised to be on his way home by seven so he could have a day out with his partner. It was gone eight thirty before the dust cloud followed his van along the track back to civilisation! It was already warm enough to strip down to the t-shirt and promising to be a sunny day, and although I quite fancied another night in the swim I wasn't keen on lying around all day waiting for the sun to set, so half an hour later another dust cloud headed away from the river.

Some fifty miles later, after a detour I seem to remember taking once before when the road signs mislead me, my car was throwing up another dust cloud along another farm track taking me a mile from habitation. There was one other car in the car park when I got to where I was going. I think it's two years since I last parked there and the place had changed dramatically. Some of the upstream swims were now inaccessible as a jungle of head high balsam and nettles had sprung up. No doubt a big flood would clear the way, but there was only one barely discernible path which lead to an overgrown swim.

Downstream was different, but the swims clearly hadn't seen too much use in recent months as they were not trampled to bare earth. I chose the swim nearest the car, partly for convenience, partly because the flow would offer me some protection from the clumps of weed which were floating down river. Having fished this swim before I knew it was a sun trap, facing south as it does, and sheltered from any wind other than one blowing directly into it by dint of it being cut into the willows. I also knew that there might be a chance of a carp cruising the shallow slack water a few rod lengths out. So my plan became one of plonking a couple of baits out close in, then lying back and dozing in the sun.

This plan worked well. I dozed on and off, my waking moments being spent watching brown and migrant hawkers zipping around the willows and bankside reeds and over my head, zooming across the river, catching insects and occasionally clashing with each other, and in the case of the migrants sunning themselves briefly on the marginal reeds. banded demoiselles fluttered around, a few of them in my swim, but most over on the far side of the river in a rush bed. There was a light breeze ruffling the river's surface and scudding thistledown upstream. In many ways an archetypical English late summer day with wood pigeon cooing high in the trees behind me, and un-English maize growing tall in the field bordering the river opposite me.

By five o'clock the shadows were beginning to lengthen, the amber sunlight skimming the tops of the maize. The air cooling as the willows shaded my swim. I was growing tired and, frankly, my heart wasn't in the fishing. I was wishing I was back in the zander swim. I slowly loaded the car and pointed it at the red disc sliding towards the western horizon.