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.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Talking of rings

Coincidentally, after me writing about big rings, Steve Harrison posted a video explaining why they fit Kigan rings to the factory built rods.

What Steve says about weight is why I fit them when asked for 50mm butt ring sets. But I don't think they are as nicely finished as Fujis. The edges of the Kigan frames are not rounded over to the same degree, which is only a concern for a rod builder I suppose. Kigans are, however, a lot better than similar looking rings fitted to many off-the-peg rods that I frequently get asked to replace for people, the rings being either bent or the centres missing or cracked.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Big RIngs

A humongous 50mm monstrosity
The debate over ring sizes will probably never be reconciled. I have a loathing of 50mm butt rings and their attendant large intermediates. But some people want them, so I fit them to rods every so often. I'm in the middle of one such build at the moment, hence this pondering.

What I dislike about them is mostly that they are ugly! However I think there are practical drawbacks to them too. The ring feet on large rings fitted to tip sections are often wider than the blanks, which makes them difficult to whip neatly. This doesn't affect performance, of course, but it's a pain and is not aesthetically pleasing.

What the large rings definitely do, however, is add weight. And the place you least want to add weight to a rod, especially a rod intended for long casting as most are with these large rings, is the tip section. I admit that I have yet to go on the field and try casting comparisons, so this could well be hypothesising with no foundation. Even so, there is a noticeable difference in feel between two otherwise identical rods if one has a 30mm butt ring set and the other a 50mm set. The rod with the 50mm set feels decidedly more floppy. Well, the one I'm building right now does.

There may be a way to compromise and get a better feeling rod using a 50mm butt ring. That is if the people who want them can be convinced that they don't also require humongous tip rings to go with them. By stepping down the intermediate rings more abruptly the ones nearer the rod tip would be much lighter, and the feel of the rod restored.

Changing tack, I got my first glimpse of the Fuji 'K' framed rings the other day. Very nice they looked too. I'll be giving them a closer inspection at the Tackle and Guns trade show on Sunday. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

You never can tell

Better than crisps and chocolate biscuits!
The decision had been to set the alarm for five thirty. Which I duly did. So why was it starting to come light when I woke up before hearing the alarm go off? It's a long story involving a broken second hand and a failure to check. Nonetheless I got myself out of bed and had an early breakfast while pondering my next move. It was a dark and dreary morning, so I pottered about doing some small jobs.

Around ten the day started to look brighter. Still very breezy and threatening more rain, but warm enough to tempt me to the bankside. The problem was I had nothing to take for snap. An early lunch would see me able to have baits in the water by noon and survive the afternoon without starvation. And so it proved. Flask filled and some healthy nibbles chucked in to accompany it and I was on my way.

Why I insist on walking as far as I can I really don't know. I passed an inviting swim that had been kind in years gone by and headed into no-man's-land. Given the strength of the wind and the imminent rain I had to set my brolly up to face away from the water. I hate having to fish like this, relying on the alarms, but there was no other option.

The spot I chose gave me no freedom to move easily, and while the idea of staying put until dark didn't appeal it seemed the best line of attack given my late start. I didn't really envisage a second afternoon pike. So it was a case of sitting it out.

As usual both margins were covered with the three baits, which were the same choices as yesterday. Given my restriction I moved them about the area during the afternoon. Why I bothered I don't know. When I did get a run to the float legered lamprey head it had been in the same spot for two hours. Yet again it was a jack of about three pounds. I'm beginning to think there is just one pike in this drain, that it weighs about three pounds and it's stalking me! At least I know my tarty new drop-off bobbins do what they are supposed to. Drop off.

The geese had gone from the mere. Odd skeins passed over, buffeted by the strong wind, pink-pinking as they went. The avian highlight was a peregrine which appeared twice. The first time I saw it it was having a set-to with a pair of crows. The second it was flying high and downwind when it suddenly increased it's speed and entered a low dive. A lapwing took top the air, soon joined by another as the peregrine's attack was aborted. I don't recall seeing peregrines on the mere twenty five years ago. Or is it thirty? They were a rare bird in those days. Buzzards were also unheard of in these parts, but the pair I watched hanging on the wind today are hardly worth a mention, so common are they now. On the negative side I used to watch hen harriers working over the flatlands, but these days they are becoming scarce, unlike marsh harriers which are regular visitors to the coastal marshes and the mere come winter.

Marker or float?
Times change and catching afternoon pike on deadbaits was something I'd never have counted on when I first fished this drain. My rigs have changed too, but only in the fine detail. Bottom end sliders work well in shallow water at close range. The indication of a bait being picked up is the unmistakable falling flat of the float. I'm currently giving a vaned marker float a go as a bottom end slider. It shows up really well.

However, there are times on the drains when a float can be a liability. When there is a lot of floating debris on the surface, usually cut weed and reed either drifting or going with the flow, it can gather at the float and drag a bait out of position. At times like that a straight leger is a better proposition, fished with the rod tip well sunk.

With this in mind I'm trying a set-up that will allow me to swap from the float leger to a straight leger without leaving too much on the line and without having to cut it. In the past I have attached my floats by a small link swivel. But when left on the line they can gather weed. Korum brought out some natty 'Running Clips' a while back which I never found a use for until now. They're a  large eye clip that can be put on and off the line. They work like a large eye swivel with a clip attached, but are neater and, obviously, don't swivel. So long as the float has a swivel in its base there are no worries. Nifty. I have another use for them lined up too. Which if it works will make for a really versatile and useful set-up.

Korum's klever klip
Despite the one fish being caught in mid-afternoon I didn't fancy my chances of more at last knockings. The drain had begun pumping harder and there was some of that debris coming down hitting the paternoster float in particular. With the brolly dry but rain approaching I called it quits and managed to get back to the car just as it hit. At least I'd reacquainted myself with another stretch of the drain.

I know my chances of catching numbers of doubles at a sitting are slim on this water, but that's not the challenge. It's getting to know the place again. It's not just the surroundings that have altered. The pike's preferences seem to have changed too. Four fish on deadbaits in four fairly short sessions was unheard of in 'the old days'. Livebaits were another story, but deads used to give one fish every three or four sessions.

So far I'm enthusiastic about piking again. A couple of blanks or a failure of bigger fish showing up might change that. But for now I was happy to be piking when I knew the river would be in good nick for barbel. On the rise with an air temp of 17C meaning the rain going in would be warm. The river pigs must be on the prod. But these days I want to fish for what I feel like fishing for. And it seems to pay off. It's that old 'confidence breeds success' Zen thing.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

In amongst the pinks

Plan A had been to get up dark and early for a morning session on the drain. Plan B had to be hatched - to get some maggots and go elsewhere on Sunday - when I remembered that I hadn't filled the petrol tank yesterday afternoon as I'd intended.

On the way home from the maggot shop, where I also picked up a pack of joey mackerel, I stopped by the drain to have a look. Given the rain that had fallen recently I was stunned to see the surface was still. No flow at all. Although there was rain in the air it was warm and I know I could be get home, sort the gear and have a bait in the water within an hour, giving me almost three hours fishing time.

I hate fishing in the rain, and never seem to fish well, so I surprised myself with the decision. What I did that was unusual was to throw the chest waders in the car. I reckoned that not only would the neoprenes keep the wind chill down, they'd keep the rain and damp from the grass off me better than a bib and brace or overtrousers. With a jacket on top I reasoned that I'd be able to stay out from under the brolly and fish well. And so it proved.

Being out on the mere at this time of year is something I really enjoy. There's a bleakness and solitude that makes me wonder what it must have been like before it was all drained, and the area was still covered by the largest lake in England. I'm sure that if the lake had never been drained it would now be filled with jet-skis and suchlike. So maybe it isn't such a bad thing the pumps were installed. The most noise I heard came from the huge flocks of pink-footed geese taking to the air every now and then when something disturbed them, and some distant reports from the guns on a pheasant shoot.

As usual my rigs were two simple float legers and a float paternoster. I'm quite taken with Fox Braid Stops as float stops at the moment. They seem to do what they are supposed to do. I like to put one below my floats as well as above for setting the depth. The lower stop prevents bottom end sliders from tangling with the trace, and it prevents any slider from sliding off the line if a trace needs changing. I don't like using a snap link as quick change trace links. They're just another thing to tangle in my experience.

I'd walked upstream and spread the baits around the swim. Having only a couple or three hours of light I would be able to move a couple of times and cover some ground. With the rain showers blowing in on the strong westerly I set up the brolly to keep my gear dry and sat back to relax. I cast my mind back to my early days on the drain, and how I'd never had a run on a mackerel. Other seabaits had done reasonably well, herrings being a particular favourite of mine, but the mackerel had been a real dog. Even though I caught on it almost everywhere else.

It's all coming back to me how to position baits when moving swims. The one nearest the 'base camp' goes straight across, the next one goes across and down, the furthest bait goes by the near bank. This way I like to think all the baits are as far away as possible from any disturbance I might cause, while covering a fair amount of water. Sometime the second bait will be placed in the middle of the drain.

After my second move I could sense the light fading. I began to question the sense in making this trip. Afternoons never used to prove very productive on this drain, and last knocking were usually a great disappointment. The horizon had once more been hidden by an approaching rain squall. Time to pack up while there was light enough to see by.  I picked up the rod nearest the brolly, the sounder box in my top pocket giving out a couple of squeaks which became a rapid trill. That was odd, the line wasn't on the Delkim in front of me. I dropped the rod back in the alarm, grabbed the landing net and hastened to the third rod which had a bright red LED glowing beside it. Unbelieveable.  A run at dusk, to a headless joey mackerel! For the third trip in succession my strike met with little resistance. A pike's a pike, however, and this little one put up a good show for its size. By the time I had it unhooked and returned I was in need of the headtorch to finish packing up.

Making my way back to the car the squall arrived. Everything flung in the back and on my way home remembering some of the things I don't like about pike fishing - the smelly deadbaits, the early starts, the driving home in the dark at rush hour. I was also wondering what time to set the alarm for and where I might fish in the morning.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Before and after science*

Looking back through some old blog posts I realised that I have learned a bit about processing digital photographs in the last couple of years. I used to think that they were okay straight out of the camera, but now I know they can be improved.

This one was always a favourite.

Nice enough, but a little 'flat'. A quick adjustment of 'levels', a touch of sharpening and hey presto!

More vibrant, detailed and punchy after less than a minute's work. It's surprising how photos can be improved with a minimum of knowledge and effort!

A few more advanced tweaks and...


*One of my favourite Brian Eno albums.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Snowed under in October

I don't know why, but all of a sudden I'm swamped with rod orders. It's probably because I've got my fishing head back on! I'm not complaining, mind you, just saying that things might take a bit longer than usual on the rod building front at the moment.

And while I'm here I might as well tell you there's a set of rods in the For Sale section - versatile all rounders that have landed me carp to 23lb, tench to well over eight, and an eel and a perch of 3lb plus apiece. Reason for sale - they fall between my 1lb 12oz Interceptors and 2.5lb Torrixes, and therefore aren't getting used.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

PAC Convention 2011

The year passes quickly, and before you can blink it's time for the PAC's annual show, complete with it's regular cast of reprobates. This year there was one of the best turnouts ever, and plenty of book and tackle stands to take money off the people there - including yours truly.

Here are some snapshots of the kind of characters you missed seeing in the flesh!
Pete Haywood has difficulty staying upright, as usual.
Colin Brett wants a closer look at my lens.
Steve Rowley asks Neville Fickling who the strange old man is.
Gord Burton muscles in on Mick Brown's book signing session.
Not only has he a way with pike, Gord has an inimitable way with women too
Eric Edwards tries to look youthful in preparation for a junior coaching session. And fails.
The rarely seen, and empty, Fickling wallet