Saturday, December 31, 2011

The end is knee

I thought I'd finish the year with another pike session if the weather was anything like clement today. There was no rain falling when I woke and looked out of the window, so piking I would go. One thing I have decided for my current piking 'campaign' is that rain means a stillwater where I can shelter under my brolly in one swim all day, dry means a drain where I can wander a bit. When I shone my head torch onto the water from one of the bridges spanning the drain I knew I'd dropped a clanger. Yesterday's rain had not only sodden the land, it was being pumped down the drain at a rate of knots. Undeterred I set off for a short walk.

The reason for the short walk (more of a limp, actually) was an aching right hip that flared up last time out. The same knee is also making clicking noises and throbbing a bit, and the ankle below is none to happy. If this carries on I can see me having to change my fishing tactics (fish near the car every time) or give up altogether. Long limps are not an exciting prospect. But enough of the moans.

If the weed and debris coming down with the flow wasn't too much I'd be able to hold baits out to both banks without any trouble. Rather than chance a far bank bait in the dark I dropped two in close and waited until it was light, which was slow coming in the mizzle that had set in, before swinging a third bait to the opposite side of the drain.

Warra mess
There was a strong, but warm, wind blowing from the south west, and once settled behind my brolly I was pretty cosy. It wasn't long before the far bank bait was on the move. Weed. And so it went for the rest of the session. Baits being wound in to have the lines cleared of 'washing'. This went on to both close and far bank baits, which I moved around the general area, until I called it quits at three before another of the light showers that had been falling on and off since the day tried to brighten up around nine thirty arrived. Not the best of sessions, but better than sitting at home arguing with people on the interweb!

As the year closes it's time for the traditional round up of notable captures. Except they have been thin on the ground this year. So I'm not bothering! My one capture of note was the longed for double figure tench that I've been trying to catch since the spring before starting this blog back in 2006. Not a specific double figure tench, any double figure tench would do.

I've fished four waters that might have provided me with such a fish. It was, therefore, doubly satisfying that it came from the one which I found all by myself - in as much as I did the research on a water I new held tench, discovered they could well grow to double figures, and sussed out how to catch them. At 10lb 5oz it is probably my most satisfying personal best of all because of the effort I put in over the four springs I've fished the water. Doubly satisfying that, until the day before I caught it, I had only met two other tench anglers fishing there.

Having achieved this target I'm in a bit of a quandary as to what next spring's fishing should be. There's a part of me saying that I should carry on at that water to see if I can catch more doubles from it, even bigger ones. There's another part of me thinking that I should follow up a new lead. A third bit of my confused brain is suggesting that the syndicate water I joined this year ought to be fished. I hate having choices.

The other major development in 2011 has been the return of my pike mojo. I've got the bug for catching them again. I haven't got the urge to go chasing round the country in search of monsters or mammoths, but I have been getting to local waters well before dawn and fishing hard (mostly!). More critically my mind is always thinking about pike fishing and I get irritable if I don't, or can't, go piking every few days! It's been enjoyable too - even today! Should I get lucky and catch any decent pike, however, you'll not be reading about or seeing them on this blog. Not without a great deal of misleading information at any rate! That's pike fishing for you. It's a secret squirrel game. Which is all part of the fun.

Photoshop - the piker's friend!
One thing I do have planned for next summer, and I really do intend to carry the threat out in 2012 (all being well...), is some eel fishing. I need to get my finger out and follow up a lead I got in the Autumn. It should just take a phone call to sort out.

Before spring arrives there are more pike to be caught - ageing joints permitting. Here's hoping we don't get a big freeze in January or February.

May your lines be tight in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Treble troubles

Something that happened yesterday got me thinking about trebles. I got a hook stuck in a fence post while climbing over a stile in the dark. Being a narky git I just pulled until it came free. It wasn't until I came to bait the trace I discovered I'd opened the hook up!

Owner ST-41 opened up with 50lb Power Pro
There is a school of thought that says trebles should be weak enough to be opened out by the tackle being used should they snag up. The reasoning being that this will avoid leaving a baited trace in the water for a pike to pick up and swallow.

Owner ST-36s are often recommended for this. But the next thing you will hear is people moaning that these are so soft they open up when you try to hook them in to a frozen deadbait.

What is forgotten in this is that the wire thickness of trebles increases with the hook size. This means that (I'm going to be make generalisations here, so don't take this as absolute gospel) a 2x strong size four might have the same gauge wire as a 3x size six. You can't really compare sizes when saying one hook pattern is stronger than another.

For example pikers who like the Owner ST-36 and claim never to have had one open up on a fish tend to be those who use size four and upwards, the ones who say the ST-36 is soft tend to use size six and eight. My experience has been just that; size four and upwards is strong enough. Contrarily, there are the anglers who reckon the ST-41 is too strong. They are probably using sizes four and larger.

As I mostly use a size six or four (often making snap tackles up with a 4 as the upper hook and a 6 as the lower) I use the ST-41. When using big baits (a rare occurrence) I'll use larger trebles, in which case I use ST-36s. Not only have I opened one up on a fence post, I have also opened one up on a submerged branch. That, too, was using 50lb (0.36mm) Power Pro. I got the branch out, but one hook point had opened up like the one shown above.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I'd been trying Eagle Claw 974s for bait fishing. I'm still using them. Unfortunately, I haven't hooked anything big enough to really test them out as yet. Where they score over the Owners is in price. Where they lose out is in longevity. If you are someone who doesn't like fishing with rusty hooks the Eagle Claws are not for you! Rusty trebles have never worried me. The Partridge CS9s I used for years were prone to rusting. The rust on hooks is purely superficial and doesn't affect the strength of a hook. Not in my experience at any rate.

Although the Eagle Claws are proving okay so far they can get bent when unhooking fish. They don't seem to take well to being twisted. They are easily resharpened, which Owners are not - although it is possible to touch the points up. What I'm less keen on with regard to the Eagle Claws is the length of the point and the relative width of the gape. Long points are prone to turning over, and I have a preference for wide gapes. The latter factor being, I am sure, a matter of confidence rather than actual performance.

Is there a perfect pike treble? I doubt it. There certainly isn't one that pleases all the pikers all the time! I'd prefer my trebles to have the shape of the ST-36, but the wire gauge of the ST-41. As I value hook strength over shape I'm sticking with the '41s for the time being for most of my piking.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A pike for Christmas

No, this isn't one of those corny seasonal ghost stories. I went pike fishing today! Most of the day was spent in the company of this friendly, but reticent, robin which I kept supplying with a regular sprinkiling of maggots.

Unsurprisingly the roads were all but deserted on my journey to The Land That Time Forgot. So quiet was the usually busy ring road that three early bird blackbirds were squabbling on the tarmac. As I had the lake to myself on arrival, and expected it to stay that way all day, I took my time getting set up. It was light by the time I had all three baits in the water, staggered at different distances from the bank. Then I sat down to pour the first cup of flask tea of Christmas Day. At which point my companion for the day landed on the middle rod butt before coming begging.

I was expecting strong winds so had picked sheltered spot giving good access to the drop into deeper water. At first the wind was light, and with the air temperature just in double figures it again felt more like spring than mid winter. A small fish topped a few yards out as if to reinforce the illusion. I was confident of some pike action during the morning.

Unidentified Flying Fish
The cloud cover kept the light levels low as the wind picked up later in the morning and the clouds began to break up. It got brighter, but not bright. Around eleven something moving across the sky caught my eye and I was that taken aback it had almost disappeared from view before I grabbed my camera and took a few hasty snaps to prove I had seen what I had seen. A flying fish! Well, an inflatable fish flying through the air.

A fluky pike
I'd taken my tip rod with me and although I had a livebait clonking around close in nothing had happened on the pike front. At one I decided to wind the popped-up sardine in and do some serious bait snatching, as much for something to do as to catch another bait or two. Just as the sardine hit the shallows there was a big swirl and a thump on the rod tip. I wasn't sure if the pike had grabbed the bait or not so hastily I opened the bale arm. Line peeled off the spool. I made sure the fish was moving away from me and wound down. A lively but brief scrap ensued and a well fed seven pounder was soon lying in the net.

 With the pike returned I was in two minds whether to bother with the tip rod or not. I did. It took a few casts before I had a bite, resulting in a hand sized skimmer. Unusually that was it. I gave it until half past two before jacking in the feeder fishing, throwing a handful of maggots for the robin, and putting another sardine out.

The last hour and three quarters of the session were as uneventful as most of the day had been. As the sun began to set the clouds decided to break up more than they had all day and the moors behind me lit up with a warm glow. Maybe it was the clearing sky giving an illusion that sunset came later than it has been doing of late. Or maybe it really did now the shortest day is behind us for another year. Whatever the case it lifted my spirits as I drove home into the last of the sun's afterglow anticipating the coming of spring.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lures with character (updated - again)

No fishing today, that's saved for tomorrow. I bought food and more bait to see me through the next few days piking this morning. This afternoon I spent a short while messing around in my 'studio' trying to take portraits of some of my favourite (most successful) lures.

This evening I tried some more lightpainting and thought it worked reasonably well on this Hawg Wobbler.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Great British Weather

Other countries have climates, we get weather. This is markedly so on the west coast where the rain falls first as weather systems move in from the Atlantic. It was no real surprise to find rain lashing against the window when I awoke this morning. I'm no fan of fishing in the rain but I was up for it today. Even so I was tempted to turn the car round and head back home when I arrived at the drain. It was particularly wet and windy.

As yesterday I stayed near the car, wandering around in the darkness to find somewhere to cast out. At first there was no flow at all, but by the time it was light enough to see what was going on the pumps had been switched on. The bait that had been cast across was brought close in. Unusually the wind died away after sunrise, and the rain eased. It was still as mild as yesterday too, so although drencehd I wasn't shivering.

Working on an idea from yesterday's investigation I was quite hopeful of some action. When it came it was still a surprise though. The float over the lamprey shot out from the near margin, but stopped before I could get to the rod. A dropped run? I don't get them. Not a dropped run, but a pinched bait. Somehow the pike had nabbed the lamprey head from the trebles.

I rebaited, recast, and sat it out until a break in the rain, with some accompanying sunshine, decided me to make a move upstream. Within half an hour I had three baits spread around the new swim. Just in time to get the brolly up to take shelter from more rain.

This session was a bit of an experimental one. I've been meaning to give an idea a try out for some time now, and this was my first chance to put it into practice. The first run had come to a bait using it, and when the float on the mackerel rod zipped downstream my idea certainly wasn't acting as a deterrent. This pike didn't pinch my bait and when it felt steel it went airborne. Unfortunately it managed to leap over the line on my downstream rod resulting in a bit of a tangle. Luckily the fish also gave up the fight at this point or the tangle might have been much worse. It still necessitated the cutting of the line the pike was attached to so I could sort everything out with the minimum of fuss.

I left the pike resting in the net while I recast the downstream rod. Then I hoisted the fish ashore and unhooked it, whereupon I noticed it was missing a pectoral fin. That's the second one this season off the drain. Definitely two different fish as this one had a stump and was a slightly larger fish. It was now lunchtime, so I ate my meagre lunch of honey barms after retackling and putting on a fresh half joey mackerel.

The rain eased up again in early afternoon, but the sun didn't shine and a chilly wind sprang up. Around two o'clock the pumping slowed almost to a standstill. Some fry scattered well upstream. A flock of ten or a dozen magpies raucously flew across the drain into a bare willow. Then it began to rain again. By now it was feeling more wintry. I thought this was down to a combination of my waterproofs being wet and the wind-chill factor. When I got back to the car just as a hail squall hit, after packing up when the rain had stopped around three, I discovered that the temperature had dropped from 10 when I had arrived to 6 as I departed.

By the time I was under way the hail had headed east and bright sunshine was streaming through the clouds. I half wished I'd stuck it out until dark. Only half wished though. Gone are the days of fishing from dawn to dusk because that's what the books tell you pikers do. I fish from when I fell like starting until I feel like packing up, because that's what this piker does. Sure I might miss a fish or two. I'll not miss suffering for my 'art' though!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

At last

Not only did I have some free time and the inclination to rise before daybreak, but the forecast was for a dry and warm day. I also had something in mind to give a try. All this fell nicely into place and I was unloading the gear with plenty of time to make the tramp to my intended swim.

With my rucksack on my back I took a look at the water and saw it running off faster than I'd anticipated. My cunning plan might involve a long walk, a few wasted minutes watching baits being dragged out of position, and  a long walk back to the car. As I was only planning on fishing the morning, having no scran with me, I took the executive decision to put the gear back in the car and head for somewhere involving less of a walk. That way, should it prove to be hard work presenting baits, I'd not use up energy unnecessarily. It's not that I'm lazy, just that I don't like putting in effort for no reward.

My decision proved to be the right one. First out was the paternoster fishing slightly downstream 'barbel style' with the rod propped up on one rod rest and the baitrunner engaged. The second rod was baited with a headless joey mackerel and cast into the far bank reeds. On pulling the rig free the bait dropped in the water. Bah.

The trace had kinked, too, so I got the third rod out and baited it with a lamprey head which got where I wanted after a few attempts. In no time at all it was dragging across the drain towards my paternoster float. A quick recast saw it dropping in upstream, a yard or so from the near bank. I settled in to my chair to have a brew and make up a replacement trace. With that done I thought it better to stick to two rods. Three baits in a line along one margin seemed like overkill.

On my way to the drain fieldfares had flown up from a field at the side of the track. Very early birds as it was still dark at the time. Despite these winter migrants being around it felt much more like spring. A tiny ladybird must have thought the same as it took to wandering around my Delkim sounder box. Albeit rather slowly.

After less than an hour I thought I was barbel fishing as the baitrunner on the paternoster rod spun into life in dramatic fashion. No doubting that take. Alas my strike met with scant resistance. As in none at all. Both the bait and the bait flag were gone. Disconsolately I delved into the bait bag to ponder what to put on the hooks.

Before I could make up my mind the float on the lamprey rod shot downstream sinking out of sight as it went. Going by the speed of the take I'm sure this was the same pike I'd just pulled out of. This time my strike was countered by line peeling from the spool against a slightly too slack drag. With the strong flow and the pressure I was applying I wasn't surprised when the fish kited under the overhanging reeds downstream of me. At this point it gave up the ghost and allowed me to pump it upstream to the waiting net. Not a big fish, but not the usual three pound jack either.

After returning the pike I got both rods back out. Lamprey on one, headless joey mackerel on the other. The day was looking up. I was wishing I'd made the effort to put some pack-up together. After another hour it seemed wise to move upstream a few yards. Once settled in to my new spot the sun came out and the springlike feel to the day increased. It certainly didn't feel anything like the day after the winter solstice.

An hour in this spot and it was time to have another move before packing up and heading to the tackle shop for some deadbaits to see me over the holiday period. By the time I had moved and cast the baits out I was really quite warm. So much so I removed the bunny suit. Although the pumping eased sufficiently for me to present a bait across the drain when I was in my final swim I didn't have the time to make the most of it. I did get a few more ideas for fishing when the drain is pumping hard. So my efforts were not altogether in vain. I packed up rather reluctantly with a rumbling belly. I think I might do it all again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reading matters

I mustn't complain about working I suppose as I need two new carpets that will have to be paid for. But it has been frustrating not being able to sneak a day or two piking recently. From next week that will all change and I'll be back at 'em. No matter what the weather has in store - apart from solid water, of course! Time to stock the freezer with frozen fish I think.

If you like reading about pike fishing - in the UK and Europe - or musky fishing, and are cheap like me, the second issue of EsoxWorld is in production. It's free to subscribe. If you missed issue one it's available to read on-line or download and read at your leisure. Well worth a look, given the number of blog followers in the world people are already tuned in to reading about fishing on their computers and portable devices, so it could well be the future for specialist angling magazines. I recommend the download option as it's an image heavy 'publication'.

If you prefer your reading material to be a physical publication, enjoy a well designed and made book, and are interested in the history of pike fishing then there might still be time to treat yourself to a Christmas present in the form of Graham Booth's A History of Pike Fishing.

This is the first of two volumes on the subject and covers the earliest days, dispelling myths as it goes, up to the beginning of the 20th century when the author considers pike fishing entered a dark age. It is not an easy read, which is not to say that it is written in impenetrable language, far from it, rather that it is a scholarly tome in its construction. It is best read in stages, rather than from cover to cover. Taking time to digest each portion. My first reading will not be my last. I shall return to it and refresh my memory many times.

I found it to sag a little in the middle, spending a lot of time on the history of two major angling clubs which didn't always seem relevant to pike fishing to me. However, I think the reason for this may become apparent when volume two appears as it could have a connection to the schism in angling which is mentioned in this first volume.

Steve Harper is responsible for the design so it is a luxurious as you would expect. Lavishly illustrated with reproductions of photographs, paintings and pages from early books and magazines this book is a desirable object in itself. But it's real value is its illumination of our understanding of the development, and redevelopment, of the sport of pike fishing on the islands of Britain and it's challenging of accepted facts.

This is the first pike fishing book I have looked forward to in many years, and it is not one that has disappointed. A History of Pike Fishing will take its rightful place alongside the previous historical works of Fred Buller on the shelves of many a pike angler. I hope volume two isn't far away.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Playing around

The stormy weather isn't encouraging me to turn out with the rods at the moment - although I will be making the effort next week when the winds abate.

This has enabled me to get to grips with tidying and rearranging my garage/workshop with a view to making my life easier with the addition of a new power tool in the freed up space. More of the space is going to be used as a makeshift photography studio for shooting rod and other product pictures.

I am picking up some lighting equipment tomorrow and need to get some backgrounds sorted out. I'm hoping this will help people better see what the rods look like when browsing

In the spirit of experiment I spent ten minutes this evening trying out some 'light painting' on one of my rods. Early days, but I can see my site looking a bit more flashy professional over the coming months when I get into the swing of this new aspect of photography.

Click the photo to see it in all it's glory!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A burning issue

Using the new heat gun
There I was happily heating up some whippings with my heat gun to soften the varnish ready to strip the butt rings off a set of refurbs when there was clicking sound, a smell of burning and the flicker of flame from within the gun! I hastily switched the thing off at the socket and removed the plug.

That's the third one that's gone up in smoke on me - over a period of almost twenty years, so it's not too bad I suppose. For  a rod builder a heat gun is a handy tool. Not only does the gun get used for stripping varnish and glue, it comes in useful for heating varnish as it thickens up, and makes light work of reducing shrink tube on to handles.

As three reel seats also required removing from the refurbs, and a new set of rods are having Japanese shrink tube applied to them,  heat is the best way to get them shifted, a trip to the heat gun shop was called for.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Stuck indoors

All week I've been stuck here waiting either for parcels to arrive or collections to be made, and until today have been twiddling my thumbs in frustration. All that changed earlier when I set to making a start on turning a batch of blanks that turned up late yesterday into rods.

On top of that I received a long awaited sample of a new mould. I've been nagging my lead mould supplier to produce a swimfeeder mould for anglers wanting to use heavy feeders on snaggy rivers. Plenty of river anglers make their own leads already, and a good few make their own feeders as I have done in the past. The mould I used appears no longer to be available and judging by the enquiries I've had as to a source for moulds there is a market for them.

The new moulds will be available in weights of approximately three, four and five ounces, and the mesh will also be available. Of course you could use other material to form the feeder body. Prices to be determined.

I've yet to try the feeder out, but it looks the part. After all, it's only functions are to hold feed and get lost in snags, so it doesn't need to be anything fancy!