Monday, December 31, 2012

Roundup time

When the fishing bug bites it bites deep. I was out again on Sunday for a few hours up to dark after the roach. Even though I'm not breaking any pots I can't get enough of the challenge. Fishing a different spot that I thought would either be a total waste of time or teach me something. It certainly got the grey matter working when a fish fell off a third of the way to the net and two more bites were missed. Conditions were testing with a very strong wind creating  an undertow that caused the lines to bow into the wind. This all made fishing three rods accurately difficult without getting crossed lines. One good thing was that the rain pretty much held off and I was able to get the brolly up so it sheltered me from  the wind nicely.

With my maggots starting to turn, and diminish in numbers, I thought I'd nip to the local tackle shop for more today ready for another bash at the roach next year. Tomorrow!! Alas I found out that the shop was shut. I didn't waste a journey but my plans altered. Needless to say I was back in the same swim again today. If it had been raining after my early lunch I'd have stayed home. As it was the wind had dropped and it was fair. Until I got the rods out at which point the rain beat down with a vengeance and the wind blew a couple of forces stronger. It wasn't looking good. Oh well.

After an hour the rain stopped, the wind dropped away, and I was happy again. Filling feeders and recasting regularly. The sleeper rod was now rigged with an experimental set up. A hair rigged floating fake maggot with a real maggot on the size 16 itself. I've never done any good with roach using just fake baits, so this seemed like a way to present a bigger, but slow sinking bait.

The magic hour had just ticked over when I had a bite to the right hand rod fishing the maggot feeder. This time the fish was hooked and stayed hooked until I netted it. At which point the hook fell out. My doubts about the rigs' failure yesterday were banished.

The hair rig produced a small perch shortly after. I'm pretty sure it took the bait on the retrieve though. However, half an hour later I had a storming drop-back to the same rod and hooked what felt like a decent roach. The bigger hook seemed to have done the job. Then the bloody fish fell off... Hair tearing time!

One of the close in rods suffered the same fate when I bumped something off to another drop-back. The third slack liner, however, produced a roach. All this within the space of ten minutes. Right at last knockings, while tidying my gear I bumped another fish off to the block end rod. Another session with as many questions as answers. That drawing board is going to be getting some hammer. Or are these missed and bumped fish simply par for the roach fishing course?

With the last session of 2012 over and done with it's as good a time as any to look back over the wettest year since records began - despite the way the year kicked off. I really enjoyed my drain piking last winter and before it became unseasonably warm in the last couple of weeks of the river season I had done well for me on the water. That early warmth was soon forgotten when it turned chilly and decidedly wet. Thoughts of lounging in a bivvy sheltering from the sun only braving the heat to play massive tench, and of catching bream on balmy nights when the bunny suit would serve only as a pillow were soon dashed as lower-than-ever reservoirs rapidly filled to overflowing.

I've know it rain in the past but this year it's seemed almost impossible to get more than two dry days on the trot. My spring fishing got washed out because I couldn't face living in a damp bivvy for three nights at a time, and the summer eel fishing I finally got round to doing after threatening it for years would have been a more concerted effort had the weather not been so changeable. Despite that the eel fishing was fun and I achieved two of my mini-targets - a biggest-by-design eel and a three pounder from my local canal.

With summer over I couldn't settle to anything. I tried piking but it wasn't floating my boat. So I spent more time out with the camera pretending to be a photographer. Then I got the roach bug. Stillwater roach fishing was another road I'd been promising to travel down for a few years with two or three waters on the cards. As it turned out I found somewhere else and have been enjoying trying to get to grips with the unknown quantity. Just like the eel fishing I achieved the mini-target of a biggest-by-design fish and am wondering if something bigger is on the cards.

Both of these 'campaigns' fired my enthusiasm. I'm sure it was because I was having to work out tactics, rigs, baits and location. I learned quite a bit about the eels in the canal. If 2013 has a more 'normal' weather pattern I might put that to good use. Then again I might spread my wings and go looking for eels in other places, where the learning process will start again, no doubt. Or I might not fish for eels at all! If spring is more springlike I could well be tempted to hit the road south in search of tench and bream once more. Another option is to break the mould completely and (shock, horror) try for a PB c*rp by design! There's always a chance that my fishing head might get the wobbles again, or fall off altogether...

Considering how little travelling I've done this year (I don't think I've fished anywhere more than 20 miles from home) I'm happy with the results I've had given how little effort I've put in compared to previous years. These are my modest highlights.
  • Brown goldfish - (did not weigh) PB!
  • Eel - 3-03
  • Pike - 17-08
  • Roach - 1-09
Here's to a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A change of tactics

It was still dark as I paid the milkman when he disturbed me loading the car. Despite my back playing up I was making the most of the dry start to get to the lake before the rain materialised. This time I was going to use the barrow to cart my gear along the bank. By the time I was half a mile from the turning the rain commenced. Damn. It was only light so I wasn't too bothered as I strapped my gear to the barrow and set off. At first all went well, the barrow rolling along nicely and my back feeling no pressure. Then the terrain changed.

Having made an early start, and planning a longer than usual session, I changed my approach. First of all I spodded out some hemp and pellets to a spot I was going to fish two baits over. Then I swapped one of the maggot feeders and the method feeder for small cage feeders. All three rods were now on The Rig meaning I could swap from open end or cage feeder to blockend on each rod as the fancy took me.

My thinking being that a mix of crumb, hemp, pellet and Hemp and Hali Crush might have more drawing power than maggots alone. One cage feeder would be whacked right out then the other two rods would swap over now and then to put down a mix of feed and maggots over the spodded bait. The plan was a dead cert.

There had been another angler unloading his car when I pulled into the car park who I saw heading off when the rain had eased about an hour after I had got settled in. Maybe he got called away on an emergency, or perhaps he'd had enough.

I've been wondering recently what people expect from fishing. One chap I spoke to lately was bemoaning the fact that one club water was a trek for him to get to. It must have been all of ten miles away. I know I'm getting sick of travelling, but that sort of distance is hardly a trek

When it comes to catching 'silvers' I get the impression all 'pleasure anglers' want is for bites to come every five minutes so they end up with a net of 20 or 30lb of small fish. They don't seem to want it to be a challenge of any sort. Set up like they always do, fish like they always do, catch a netful and go home. No wonder the muddy puddle fisheries are thriving. The trouble is the mentality that makes them a success is in danger of driving angling clubs to stock their stillwaters in the same way. There's a danger that if a stillwater isn't a big carp fishery it'll be an overstocked match type water. I guess that's giving people what they want by majority vote. Or catering to the lowest common denominator, depending on your point of view.

As things turned out the rain didn't materialise. The promised strong wind did, though. This didn't bother me as I'd anticipated it and set up so it was blowing off my back. For once I left my brolly up when the rain stopped so as to keep the cool wind off me. I was wishing I hadn't forgotten the photography magazine I'd meant to put in the rucksack when nothing happened for a few hours. That went out of my mind when the right hand alarm sounded accompanied by the zizzing of the baitrunner. I wasn't sure what had given me a run like that to the bait on the long cast. As things turned out it was a roach. A success for the cage feeder. That idea had some merit.

Trying to find a cage feeder to suit my taste had proved problematic. I'd given the ones I use for liquidised bread on the rivers some consideration. They're the right weight but a bit too big (left hand feeder below). A trip to my local tackle shop revealed ones that were either the right weight but too big or too small, or the right size but too heavy or light. I settled for the right size but too heavy (far right below) from Fox's Matrix range. What I wanted was something the same weight and similar size to my favoured maggot feeders (second from right). Although the 40g feeders worked okay I wasn't happy and took a trip to Preston this morning in search of perfection. I didn't find it, but I think I got closer with a Korum job (second from right) that I'll be trying next time out.

That fish didn't signal a feeding spell. The afternoon blew past quickly. The grey sky bringing dusk earlier than I thought it would. With the light failing the alarm sounded again on the distance rod and again the baitrunner spun. I was back to scratching my head as to why nothing was hooked. The rig went back out and the other cage feeder was wound in, filled, and hurled out alongside the right hand one. Two bites at range, even if they had been hours apart, must mean something. Ten minutes on and the far right bobbin is twitching. This time I felt a fish thump before it fell off. Things were returning to normal! Why is it that carefully planned tactics (spodding out bait and recasting feeders regularly) fail when a randomly cast bait produces all the action? I'll never understand fishing.

The barrow was readied. I took my time tidying my gear and loading the barrow for the journey back to the car. It was well dark when I reluctantly wound the last rod in and bungeed the quiver to the barrow.

No doubt if the winter hadn't been so bloody wet the barrow would have been useful, but given the amount of water in the ground I was struggling to push the damned thing through what seemed like a swamp. I'd had to stop three times before I got to the swim and the return trip was no better. Next time it'll be back to carrying everything, even if it means making two trips. This getting old business is no joke.

Looking on the bright side I thought back to the time Pete Hesketh and I took a short cut round a Cumbrian lake at the start of a pike session. Wearing thigh waders, loaded up with rod holdalls and rucksacks, carrying cool boxes in one hand and (cough) bait buckets in the other we set off through a thick lakeside wood. We'd never taken the route before and it was an hour before dawn on a cold winter's morning. Pete lead the way, or rather his spaniels did, with me carefully following in his footsteps.

The dogs were running ahead then coming back to their master all the time when suddenly Pete shrank. He'd sunk to his knees in some boggy ground. Then the weight of his rucksack pulled him back in slow motion, his rod holdall pinning him down across his chest. I warily approached, not wanting to suffer the same fate.

Pete commenced struggling like an upturned tortoise with a rucksack for a shell. His pathetically flailing arms were comical enough as he lay stranded, but two springers had come to rescue their master by running around and over him. I wanted to offer assistance. Honest I did. But I was now almost as helpless as he was - with laughter!

Eventually Pete was freed from his burdens and was able to struggle to solid ground joined shortly after by one of his waders. I can't recall whether we caught or not. We never did take that route again though...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wet day at Goat Lake

Not being one to hammer a swim I took a chance on fishing in the vicinity of where I'd seen the grebe catch a fish last time out. Sure enough the bird was working the area again yesterday, although without any apparent success. It was a chance on two counts. The weather was supposed to be the reverse of Tuesday's - starting dry and sunny and turning wet - and my chosen swim was facing the oncoming wind.

I'd had a chat with a guy alternating between pole and tip rod who was bemoaning the lack of fish. Ten in a session was his best, mostly small stuff. As I finished setting my gear up I saw him net something. Seemed like a good start for him at least as he hadn't been there long before I arrived and that was his first of the day. I was hopeful.

The rigs and everything were just as I'd left them requiring bait adding to the hooks. Again a method feeder went out as far as I could heave it with the maggot feeders dropping in closer. Although I had the rods set up nice and level my seating arrangement was a bit cramped. If the rain came in I'd be struggling to get the brolly up in a way that would allow me to get at the rods.

It didn't take long for the sun to disappear behind a curtain of grey, the wind swinging westward. I wasn't cold despite the breeze so the rebaiting and recasting went to schedule. The only birdlife of interest, apart from the grebe, was a noisy wren in the reeds and sedge to my right. There were even fewer fish in evidence.

By noon the wind swung to the south and eased up in strength. Although cool it wasn't cooling. With my chair tipped slightly forward I had to get up and stretch my back from time to time. Three days of carrying my burden was making it ache already and sitting in a slightly awkward position was doing it no favours. I could use my barrow at Goat Lake, but I can't be arsed!

Two blokes walking round the asked how I was faring  and I asked them how the other angler was doing. He'd had one roach. That first fish of the day had been a one-off. I had aglance in his direction to see he was packing up. It was growing gloomier and I reckoned he'd timed it right to avoid the rain. Sure enough, the wind picked up a little, but swung round slightly to the east, then around one thirty I saw a couple of raindrops hit the water.

As the wind had shifted to my left I was able to get the brolly up to shelter me and my rucksack while allowing me to reach the rods to recast or strike. Those first few drops were soon followed by many more. The lake's surface had calmed off to a smooth carbon grey pock marked by closely spaced tiny water craters. Although persistent the rain wasn't heavy. Sure it sounded like a thousand mice were scampering over my umbrella, but out from its cover the rain was quite light. It was wet though, especially on my right leg and arm which the awkwardly arranged brolly wasn't covering.

So long as I'm warm I can just about bear fishing in the rain. With the maggots under cover I carried on rebaiting and recasting. Nonetheless I got that dismal feeling of an inevitably impending blank. I'd pack up early around quarter to four. As the leaving time approached the imaginary mice were replaced by feather footed fleas lightly leaping on my brolly. The rain had eased off and the sky looked brighter. Should I stick it out until the bitter end or get away while it was dryish? With the rain all but passed my optimism returned tempting me to hang on. No, I'd pack up, but take a rod for a cast around in another area once I had all my gear in the car. That was the plan, but when the car was loaded the rain came on again and I decided I could have a cast around another day.

The weather for the next few days of my 'holiday' is forecast to be more of the same. Rain, more rain and a little respite in the form of showers. So long as it stays mild enough I think I'll give it another session or two. I'm not sure why the place has fired my enthusiasm the way it has. Probably a mix of the unknown, but also the fact that it is a quiet place to fish and it suits my preference for fishing little and often. I'd much rather do half day sessions every two or three days than full days a couple of times a week. Mind you, I might squeeze a dawn to dusker to give me a chance to do a proper baiting up and see if that works better than my current approach.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Festive fun

Yesterday had been drier than predicted and had me wishing I'd ventured out instead of getting on with my decluttering. Then again if I don't declutter I'll end up burying myself under junk. This is my New Year resolution come early. I can only face it in small doses though. The rain on the windows at dawn made me think I'd another day of tidying. naturally I rose late and began avoidance tactics by listening to the radio and surfing the interwebs. I even packed an order that arrived via the web knowing full well it wouldn't get posted until Thursday.

Then I noticed the sky brightening and looking at my garden pond I saw the rain had ceased. This was either a break in the showers or the day was fairing up for good. Whatever the case it was my cue to get the gear ready and pack my Christmas lunch.

It's funny how catching a few fish brings a renewal in enthusiasm. Not only was I raring to get back after the roach I'd tied up more hooklinks to stock up the rig board yesterday evening.

The roads were quiet as I drove past waterlogged fields before turning into the now familiar hawthorn lined lane to the lake. The obvious place to fish was where I'd caught from last time out. There was a niggling doubt in my mind about this choice. It seemed a bit too obvious. Still, I'd give it a try and fish a different spot next time regardless.

With all the worms gone the third, sleeper, rod was rigged up to fish a 30g method feeder and 10mm boilie. The method mix comprising the remains of the hemp and pellets with some added Hem and Hali Crush. This would also be used to top up the maggot feeders. The sleeper was to be cast out as far as it would go, the maggot feeders to fish the same line as before.

Although I'd made a late start I was still fishing earlier than any of my previous sessions. That meant I had to wait a couple of hours before tucking into my festive pack-up.

The rig that had landed the majority of fish last time had got in a sorry state. The lower float stop was no longer gripping. This gave me a chance to try out a revamp of The Rig using new components. Korum have had Ready Heli rigs on the market for some time but I only got round to buying a packet a few weeks back. They make it much easier to put The Rig together as the stops and swivel are all lined up on the one wire loop meaning it's a single operation to get the job done. I'd gone for the version with a quick change swivel and everything slid nicely into place on the powergum. Using the smallest loop tyer I have gives my hoolinks a really neat finish neatly topped off by the tapered sleeve. Even if it wouldn't impress the fish it looked good.

The sky had brightened and it was warm enough not to need my fingerless fleece mittens. A kingfisher zipped over the rod ends and round the margin of the lake. The bobbins remained static. Looking west, from where the light wind was blowing, I could see the horizon was dark. Rain was on its way. Sure enough the first few spots heralded a shower. The brolly went up in good time to keep me and my bait dry. After less than an hour the rain was passing. The sun tried to break through and tiny patches of pale blue appeared between the clouds. The bobbins remained static.

I kept the bait going in, recasting the maggot feeders every fifteen minutes or so. A grebe started to work an area to my left and about fifty yards out. I watched it pondering how rarely I see them actually catch anything when up it popped fish in beak. A roach of a size that made it difficult for the bird to swallow.

This gave me some hope despite the fish being smaller than I was hoping to catch at least there were some fish around. I wound in the sleeper rod and swapped the boilie rig for a short hooklink with an 18 on the end. A red maggot went on the hook and the feeder was leathered out to the line the grebe had caught from. As nothing was happening on the two rigs fishing closer in I slowed down the recasting and left them out for half an hour or more at a time. It made no difference.

It was getting pas three now, the wind had picked up and swung more to the west than the south. It even veered north for a brief while threatening to chill me and bring a dark cloud my way. The brolly had been taken down when the sun shone. It went back up and saved me from the few light spots that fell. Then it was taken down again as the day went back to being bright and dry as the wind swung back west.

It was completely unexpected when an alarm sounded and even more unexpected that it was the right hand alarm with the sleeper rod resting on it. The bobbin had dropped back a couple of inches. I picked the rod up and felt a decent weight which made a couple of surges as I pumped it back before going inert. Close in the fish woke up again, looking like a good one at the first glimpse of silver. As it slid into the net it was obvious that one of its parents hadn't been a roach. It looked 'wrong'. Oh well, it was a fish. Which is always better than a blank.

I find roach/bream hybrids are much easier to tell from true roach than roach/rudd hybrids. Roach/bream look to have too many scales. That's the first thing I notice. Closer inspection reveals the longer anal fin, the more bream-like body shape, the shorter bottom lip and the paler fins. The blue sheen to the back could be deceptive but is accompanied by a brownish tinge in certain lights. Compared to the roach I caught on Sunday (and I'm pretty sure they were roach) this hybrid was also a lot narrower in cross-section. Another bream-like trait.

Despite this slight disappointment I was encouraged that something was feeding. With the light starting to fail my confidence for a last knockings flurry of activity was raised. Only to be dashed as I fished until the head torch was required to pack up.

Maybe it was the clearing sky or the fullish moon that kept it light for longer today. Or maybe being just those few days past the shortest of the year has made a perceptible difference. Whatever the truth I was glad to be packing up later than on my last few sessions and was looking forward to my next assault on the lake. I'm not too happy with the method feeder rig for smallish fish and would really prefer to fish another powergum rig with a cage feeder.  That'll have to wait until the tackle shop opens up again on Thursday as the only cage feeders I have are big heavy ones. or maybe I could take a hacksaw to one of the blockends and use that?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Breaking a golden rule

Last week was a busy one. With Christmas fast approaching and the weather warming up I got up before daybreak three days running in order to get rods finished and packed ready to ship out and leave me with Thursday and Friday to fish. All went to plan until a couple of customers decided they wanted to collect their rods on Thursday. No problem that still left Friday, which went out of the window when a call to Harrison's confirmed I'd be getting a batch of blanks through on that day. The way the rain fell on Friday I didn't complain though. I went and bought some maggots so I could fish Saturday and Sunday. Plan F was hatched when I discovered my local tackle dealer wasn't opening on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, meaning I might run out of bait before Thursday. So, on Saturday I went and got some more maggots.

By now I was on plan Z, or thereabouts. Fish Sunday, potter Monday, fish Christmas Day and maybe Boxing Day. Buy more bait on Thursday. Christmas Day could well be a pike session. But where to fish on Sunday? After three blanks on the roach water my rule says go do something else. There was a niggle though. Having had a bit and bumped a fish off my last session hadn't felt like a blank. I waited to see what the morning brought in the way of weather.

The torrential rain was going to make the drains a washout, and the rivers would be well up being fit only for barbel. With the sun breaking out after breakfast and a hooligan blowing from the south west I through caution to the wind and readied the roach gear. Having had no need for the keepnet on my previous sessions I was tempted to leave it behind. It weighs little and straps to the rucksack neatly, so that got chucked in the car any way.

Arriving at the car park an old chap was heading off. He hadn't bothered getting his gear out as it was so wild, and there was nobody else fishing. It was wild too. For a small water there were white caps were breaking on the waves! I had two choices. Fish where I had the bite last time and brave the gale blowing into my bank. I'd be warmed by the sun but chilled by the wind. Alternatively I could get the wind behind me and put up with some shade as the sun swung westward. I took the coward's approach and tucked myself in to the right of a bush at the upwind end of the lake with the wind blowing across my left shoulder. My reasoning being that if I was comfortable I'd fish better. Feeling happy, if not brimming with confidence, I settled into the swim and got myself cosy.

 As usual a worm was cast out to the right close in, but the two maggot rods were cast to different lines. The right hand rod went out as far as the orange braid marker on the mono left from my previous two sessions. The left hand rod was hurled as far as I could chuck it. Then I sat back for a honey filled barm and  a cup of flask tea. Three refills of the feeders later and the middle bobbin was dancing. This time when I picked the rod up I felt a distinct thump and the weight of a fish. This was no flirter and I wasn't going top let it fall off.

Carefully playing it in I dropped the right hand rod tip off the front rest to sink the line. With the fish close in I couldn't work out where it was until it swirled under the rushes in the right margin. It had kited that way and crossed the line on the worm rod which it picked up as I played it over the landing net. This was obviously going to require the scales. Swiftly unhooked and resting in the landing net I untangled the cat's cradle of lines before wetting the sling, zeroing the scales and smiling as I lifted the fish off the ground.  I was glad I'd brought the keepnet!

When it comes to roach I'm easily pleased. Pound plus fish make me happy. The fish wasn't a monster but I felt I'd earned it, and now I knew for sure there were roach worth catching in the place. Although I have caught roach of similar size before most have been accidental captures. Catching a species by design is always more satisfying, even though I don't think there's any such thing as a nuisance fish. Well, maybe unwanted carp...

With everything sorted out and ship shape again I dropped the distance rod to the same distance as the rod that had produced the fish. This proved to be a good move as ten minutes later I was playing another fish on that rod. This one didn't kite but made a few determined runs from the net. As determined as a roach can get that is. Once netted it was plainly somewhat larger than the first fish.

Larger is a relative term when it comes to weights of fish. Five ounces isn't much bigger on a ten pound pike, but it's over 25% heavier on a pound roach! Although not a personal best it was my biggest roach caught by design. Two targets achieved in ten minutes - a first 'decent' roach off the water and biggest intentionally caught fish. These small milestones are what keep me fishing. I well realise that at 'that place in Scotland' these two fish would get returned unweighed, unphotographed and possibly unloved. The thing is that there you know there's a chance of a three pounder. Where I'm fishing I doubt that's likely, but the ceiling weight is unknown. It's nice to have a little bit of mystery to fishing. All too rare these days.

Over an hour went by with no more activity. The shoal had obviously moved on. I swapped the left hand maggot feeder for a cage feeder, filling it with hemp and pellets I found in the freezer, and recast it to range. Then the middle bobbin jiggled. For no accountable reason I failed to connect, but the maggot had gone. I thought about changing the hook but didn't. I swapped the cage feeder back to a blockend and dropped it short again.

Ten minutes passed before teh middle bobbin jiggled again and this time I felt the thump of another decent roach. Same rig, same hook. Makes no sense.

The wind seemed to ease. A buzzard heading west got chased off by two crows. A lonely long tailed tit flitted about in the bush that was giving me shelter. I kept on refilling the feeders every ten or fifteen minutes.

Shortly after three the middle bobbin was moving again. Again a fish was hooked, netted, weighed and slipped in the keepnet. This proved to be the only bite of the day that wasn't swiftly followed by another. The next bite, 35 minutes later was the first of another pair.

Despite the wind the day remained warm as the sun set. I could have stopped on a while after four thirty as there was still some light in the sky. It had been a satisfying enough few hours, so I called it a day, disturbing a flock of roosting wood pigeons as I made my way back to the car under a clump of trees.

What had accounted for the upturn in my success after the run of blanks? I'd fished the swim before so discounted that. The week's rain had put a slight tinge of colour in the water which must also have warmed up since last Sunday when the ice was still melting. Maybe. Then again I had been half filling the feeders with maggots and topping them up with the hemp and pellet mix. That could have been something to do with it. Fact is, I'll never know. Such speculation doesn't get us anywhere in the long run.

Next time out the worm rod will have to fish something else because I've no worms left. I might rig up another feeder and fish it off the main baited area, or I might try something left field like a 10mm boilie. Being able to fish three rods gives scope for such experiments and adds to the interest. Having now caught a few roach I doubt I'll be getting the pike rods out this side of New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Back out

The day after my last session my back was aching. The day after that it was aching more. I still had the urge to go fishing but allowed reason to rule and chose to wait until my back was okay again rather than risk making matters worse lugging my gear along the bank. By the time I had stopped noticing my back (in other words it was no longer bothering me) the weather had turned chilly and places had frozen over. So I'd plan a pike session on one of the drains only for the rain to arrive and put them out of sorts. Then the cold would return but the drains were still running off hard. Then work got in the way.

Today I snapped. A thaw had arrived. I planned ahead and bought half a pint of red maggots yesterday (I already had some whites I'd bought to feed the blackbirds in my garden), crossed my fingers that the lake would be clear, and after the cricket was over for the day I threw the gear in the car and went for it.

The sun was shining bright and low, the winter solstice only days away, with a light southerly blowing. To be on the safe side I walked to the lake without my gear. ICE! Only at the car park end, and thinning. Gulls swimming at the far, deeper, end of the lake gave me some hope.

It was no surprise that I had the place to myself, so I was able to pick a nice comfy swim, with the sun in my face to warm me, and a swim I had seen produce to another angler previously. With the peg being one that had received some attention, and being in the deeper water, I hoped there would be some roach in residence looking for food.

My rigs were as usual, with one white maggot and one red as two of the baits and a worm on the third rod. A preliminary cast had revealed a lack of weed, and the bank was soft enough to allow me to do away with the pod. I settled back and ate my lunch of growlers and energy bar swilled down with a cup of flask tea.

With the lake only just thawing out I recast at longer intervals than usual. Half an hour or more between casts rather than my usual fifteen minutes. Nothing happened.I drank more tea. A flock of long tailed tits announced their arrival in an alder behind me and I wished I'd not forgotten to put my binoculars in the rucksack. They're a bird that always makes me smile so I'd have liked to watch their antics in close-up. A closer look at the goldcrest that was accompanying them would have been nice too.

The sun was swinging to the west and losing heat as it sank towards the horizon. The breeze picked up and swung to the east. Despite the combination the air remained mild but fresh. I was by no means feeling cold. It was good to be on the bank again.

The tea drinking eventually took its toll and I had to relieve the pressure on my bladder. I took the opportunity to stretch my legs behind the swim. This was the cue for something to make the middle bobbin commence an up and down dance signalling a hooked fish. It was jigging upwards when I picked the rod up and pulled into the fish. A fish which promptly unhooked itself. This was ten minutes before I was intending to make an early departure.

Naturally I rebaited and recast all three rods and sat eagerly anticipating a dusk feeding frenzy. An hour later I wound the rods in and set off back to the car park, fishless. By now the lake was pretty much free of ice. A few thin sheets were blowing on the wind, melting as they went. With no frost on the immediate horizon I might be able to fit another session in later in the week after I have all my pre-Christmas work boxed off. I'm determined to catch something half decent from this place and get a fish photo on this blog!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The new tackle curse

My new reels should have got an outing on Sunday, but life got in the way. They weren't going to get used today because I had stuff to do. But the sun was shining and the forecast was for frost, frost and more frost. The stuff could wait.

As I'm still finding my way on the roach water I opted to fish a different swim in a different, shallower area this afternoon. With freshly loaded line on the new reels my first task on setting up was to pick a spot to cast to and mark the lines to ensure accurate recasting so the feed keeps going in the same area. You can buy special 'marker braid' on small spools for silly money or a lifetimes supply of fluorescent braided fly-line backing for not much more. I wonder if they are the same thing?

With one rod cast out and marked I chucked the feeder along the bank and set the second rod alongside it to get that line marked at the same distance. The third, worm, rod I wouldn't mark as it would be fishing around the swim.

Winding one of the feeders back along the bank the line suddenly went slack and the feeder dropped off. I assumed it had popped off the clip at the end of the rig. Turned out the damned thing had snapped. It'll make an in-line feeder. In order to cut the weight of my rucksack down I had not only removed my big camera, I'd also left out the bag of feeders. Not being completely stupid I had put a couple of spares in a side pocket of teh rucky!

Rigs baited and cast out I began the process of recasting frequently. This revealed that the bottom in the shallower water was still covered in weed. That coarse 'pubic hair' weed that masks everything.

In order to keep things as clear as possible I adopted my usual strategy for fishing in weed. Cast to the marker, close the bale arm and put the rod in the rests straight away. Let the feeder sink on a tight line and clip on the bobbin to take out the slack. Then take up the slack carefully, sometimes by turning the spool against the baitrunner so as not to move the rig. It worked. Most times. And when the feeder didn't come back clean there was a chance I'd dragged it into the weed on the retrieve.

The westerly wind had some north in it and was chilly. Good job I decided to fish with it off my back and down a steep bank or I might not have stuck at it until quarter to five with the full moon rising.

The roach weren't playing. Again. One more session and I might leave the place alone until spring. I'll certainly be going doing something else if I blank next time out. Then again, if the cold spell does materialise it might force the fish to move deep and make location a bit easier. It'll certainly make me feel like staying indoors!

The new reels behaved themselves. As I expected. After all, they're just a cheaper version of the 4000Ds I have. The only thing I'm not keen on is the daft double handles. I hate double handles on fixed spool reels for one thing. For another the grips are both small and slippy (when wet).

Driving home I wondered if it was a coincidence that the two sessions when I caught were the ones when I had baited up with hemp and pellets using a spod, and the two resounding blanks were the ones when I'd only fed maggots (and  casters) via the feeders. Next time I might revert to the spod.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Unlucky mascot

I'm getting a bit sick of Fred the Barbel Bunny acting more like a jinx than a mascot. Here he is scaring away the roach.

This might be the penultimate time the Tica reels get an outing. They were only cheap and looking back it seems I've had them for four years. At the time I bought them the options for small, as opposed to small-spool, baitrunners was limited. Now Shimano have them in a range of pricepoints I've ordered up three of the 4000 size DL-FAs. The same size as my 4000Ds, but cheaper! They should make good replacements for the Ticas. Pity they come with double handles, but I'm sure I'll manage.

Yesterday's afternoon session was biteless. I tried casters in the feeders along with the maggots, and one rod fished a caster on the hook. The worm rod was switched to a running rig (with the bobbin on a drop) and remained as unmolested as the other two. Not a sniff despite recasting both maggot rods every fifteen minutes without fail and sitting it out until ten to five to pack away in the dark. The only action was untangling the worm rig after the worm had crawled into the feeder through one of the holes in the side and back out through one in the lid.

There was one bloke fishing the pole when I arrived who had caught a few fish in the previous hour and bumped one off while I was talking to him. He didn't catch anything while I was there. Fred seems able to jinx everyone! Nonetheless I enjoyed the session. It was dry and almost windless, a goldeneye approach within 20 yards as dusk slowly closed in, which was a nice encounter.

As I sit here at four thirty wit the rain pouring down outside and the electric light burning it's difficult to imagine that 24 hours ago it was still light. That's always the way when you're outside and the sky is clear. It is much brighter out than in. Another month of shortening days to come until the days begin to lengthen and lift my spirits. Another month of fishing for roach, perhaps. I think I can face another couple of blanks before trying something and somewhere else. When those reels turn up I'll feel obliged to stick at it even longer.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The great tea disaster

Although it was Sunday and the sun was shining I went fishing. Back to the new water for an afternoon to find five anglers already merrily blanking. Maybe not merrily. The positive was they had fished the place in the past so I got some background information. I hadn't been aware of the presence of bream but there are some in, which explains why Friday's 'roach' looked a bit breamish.

This time I had taken the dreaded rod pod. Although I had just about managed to get the sticks in last time it had been a struggle, and in the swim I chose yesterday it proved impossible, despite the bank looking to be grass over soil. It was actually grass over a thin layer of soil over something impenetrable. Hemp and pellets were spodded out and two maggot feeders dumped over the feed. Again a worm rod was chucked to the right closer in.

There was a light breeze ruffling the water, but this time I had chosen a sheltered spot which still gave me access to the area I had had action in on Friday. Feeling comfortable and dry I recast every fifteen minutes to get some maggots out. Nothing much happened. There wasn't even much in the way of birdlife to watch.

Fishing on a flat bank covered in grass with my chair level and the gear neatly spread around me I realised how much I like this kind of fishing. Scrabbling up and down muddy river banks, or tripping over boulders on reservoirs, struggling to set a chair up so I don't slide off it are a few of the things that combine to take the pleasure of fishing away even when you're catching. Sitting in a cumfy-cosy swim with nobody to talk to is how I enjoy my fishing most. If it's got cover either side so I can't see any anglers around me so much the better. If there are no other anglers it's better still!

I was relaxing, watching the bobbins, recasting and drinking tea on a dry sunny afternoon. Great stuff. Then it happened. I put the cup from my flask on the bait-bucket lid, spun the stopper to allow the tea to flow and began to pour. With the cup half full the stopper popped out and landed in my maggot box followed by stream of hot tea. I can now confirm that maggots and hot tea do not a great combination make. The maggots reacted in just the same way they do when I pour boiling water on them. They expired. Worse still I lost most of the remaining contents of my flask!

Luckily there were only a few fresh reds in the maggot tub as I'd decanted some into the tub containing the remainder of  the maggots from Friday which I'd set aside to use as feed. I could still find a few fresh ones for hookbaits in amongst them. I was going to have to eke the brews out though.

One of the anglers I'd passed on the way to my swim came for a wander and confirmed it was still grim where he was fishing. Around two thirty he and his friends departed. One or two small fish topped as the sun swung further west and some cloud cover blew in. By half three it was getting chilly. The two remaining anglers packed up, having had just two sucked maggots. As they set off for the car park my middle bobbin dropped. There was something on the hook, but it was small.

The red fins and overall 'look' said it was all roach this time. A couple more fish topped over the feed so I hung on until dark. The bobbins remained stationary. When I wound the worm in half of it had gone. Time to fish the worm on a running rig and the bobbin on a drop.

When the fishing is tough and nobody else is catching much it's difficult to build a picture and work out where you are going wrong. I did spot a few fish topping in one area. That might be worth a try. So far it's the best clue I have to go on. On the bright side I haven't blanked. Yet!

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's a start... I suppose

The warm week came to a halt today. The day I chose to try my new water for the first time. Still, the day was forecast to be dry. With that in mind I left my overtrousers behind and almost took the brolly out of the quiver to lighten the load as I hauled my overweight load along the bank.

Although the morning had been overcast as soon as I left to go fishing the sun came out and I was looking forward to soaking up the sun and watching a repeat of yesterday's lovely sunset. Playing it by the book I set up with the light wind in my face and began spodding out a mix of hemp and micro trout pellets before casting two maggot feeder rigs over the top and a third rod to the margin with a dendrobena on the hook.

The worm rod was a suck-it-and-see job. It might pick up a roach, or anything else. The idea was to give me an idea of what's present. A big perch would be a nice bonus. Every fifteen minutes or so I'd refill the feeders and recast the maggot rods. The worm was left to its own devices.

It didn't take long for the sun to change its mind and go into hiding behind a veil of thin cloud turning the sky to a wintry watercolour wash.

An hour and a half after starting the worm got bitten off the hook. Things started to look up half an hour later when a roach hung itself on one of the baits over the feed. I say a roach, but there was something about it suggestive of bream in its heritage. Or maybe that's my imagination.

Behind me restless flocks of fieldfares were moving from tree top to tree top. As the afternoon wore on the flocks were joined by others and from there being maybe forty or fifty birds there must have been three hundred or more by the time they moved out of the area as dusk approached.

Around three I had a couple of bites to the maggot rods, one being a reel spinner that I connected with feeling a couple of thumps before whatever it was fell off. A few small fish started topping as the light fell. My confidence was rising for a dusk feeding spell. Then the horizon disappeared as the cloud thickened and rain set in. With the wind in my face it was a struggle to get the brolly up so it would keep the rain off me while allowing me to grab a rod. Of course if I'd put my overtrousers on I could have happily sat with my legs out of the brolly's shelter...

With the rain falling I must admit I wasn't rebaiting the feeders as frequently as I should have done. A missed bite to the worm rod managed to spur me on for a last burst of enthusiasm and I recast both of the maggot rods. With the rain looking as if it was in for the night I tidied everything away and packed up a quarter of an hour before dark. One of the maggots had been sucked without any indication on the bobbin. I reckon the hooklink was too long. Something to address before the next session.

By the time I arrived home the rain had stopped.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ups and downs

I did say that things might go slow on here this winter. So have I been piking? Yes, but not much. Have I been catching? Yes, but not enough. My pikey plans got thwarted through idleness brought on by failure and the bloody awful weather. The amount of rain we've had this year I keep expecting to see Noah and his menagerie float by.

Then the other day I remembered how much I hate scrabbling about on rocks while blanking and decided to put the pike rods away again.

There is something new on the horizon that will be getting me on the bank though. A new (to me) water and a new challenge. I took a plumbing rod with me for a look around the place when I had some free time today, but not enough time to wet a line. I liked what I found and the grey cells have been in action. The gear has been readied, and all I need is a window to open so I can start trying to catch what I'm going after. There could be a surprise or two in addition to the target species.

However, this latest burst of enthusiasm was, as I've come to expect, immediately hobbled at its first step by today's arrival of some long-awaited rod components, meaning I've got rods that have been on hold to get finished.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


I got the first prototype blank through for my latest lure rod last winter. Since then I've used it and had it out on loan. I also had it on show at the LAS Lurefair in the spring where it was met with approval. At last I'm happy to offer it for sale. You can find more info here. There's a lighter version in the pipeline too.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I can see clearly now

The last time I went fishing I managed to pick a dry and sunny morning. It did me no good on the pike front as not a run was had. However, I did spend some time watching a female stonechat hunting. Hard to imagine a small robin-like bird hunting, but if it had been a bird of prey that's what its behaviour would be called. The perky little bird was perching high on dead umbellifers, seemingly doing nothing, but all the while it was surveying the area around it for insects and when one was spotted it would swoop up or down then return to its perch or take up another one.

This was all observed through the cheap and cheerful pair of binoculars that has lived in my rucksack for a number of years.  I bought them before I needed to wear glasses full time, so I have to remove my specs to use the binoculars. After trying a friend's expensive Swarowski binoculars and being able to see through them while still wearing my specs I'd been hankering for a new pair for a while.

Watching the stonechat I realised that not only was the eyepiece adjustment on the right side becoming useless, but also if I closed my right eye everything looked orangey-red, while is I shut my left eye the world turned bluey-green! I vowed to spend more than £25 on a replacement pair...

Although the binoculars I ended up with are a little more powerful then my old ones that suits me as I usually want to identify small birds that are far away when I'm fishing. As they focus very close so should prove useful for identifying dragonflies. They are a little bigger and heavier than my old pair. This doesn't bother me much as I can see through them without having to remove my glasses, and the images are much clearer and the colour is better. The eyepiece adjustment ring clicks as it turns so shouldn't slip out of place like the ring on my old bins did. Yippee!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Esoxworld 9

The on-line pike and muskie fishing magazine, Esoxworld, is into it's ninth edition, and it's another good mix of topics.

As usual there's some great photography that puts mine to shame. If you like watching big muskies being caught there's a video from Bob Mehsikomer. That man has been producing big muskies and pike for the camera for a long time now and is a very professional presenter.

There's a nice feature on Serbian piking that looks superb, and Bertus is back with a lavishly illustrated article about the Baltic

More down to earth for UK anglers are Gary Knowles 's piece on slow trolling and Micky Jones's recollections. There's some rambling nonsense from yours truly too.

If you don't already subscribe get over to and sign up. It's free!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A day out

There are two days in the autumn when I can guarantee the sun will shine. The Saturday of the PAC show and the Sunday of the Tackle and Guns trade show. After a foggy start the sun began to burn through today, and true to form it was a glorious, if chilly, autumnal day today as I drove to Stoneleigh. On my way to the motorway I had to stop off to get a snap of the mist dissipating.

As the years go by there's less and less to excite me in the way of tackle, but it's one of those events where I meet people I haven't seen since last year - or last Thursday in a few cases!

There always seems to be something in the car park to amuse me. I saw no daft number plates this time, but this motor stuck out like a sore thumb today. Which is kinda ironic.

Last year one guy distributing some soft plastics had a demo pool set up which attracted some attention. This year Fox had one too, in which Dietmar Isaiasch was giving the Rage lures a hard sell. Thir range of lure rods was pretty big, most of them being for fixed spool use with smallish lures. Obviously the European lure market is what they have their sights set on.

I spotted a couple more high quality soft plastic lure brands being promoted, but the stands didn't look too busy. I'm sure most of this stuff is going to be sought out by sea anglers. Only the dedicated lure-only angler is likely to give them a go in freshwater. Snowbee had some nice looking soft baits, sort of sluggy/sandeely things. As I've made a contact and might be having a crack at some Welsh bass with him some time I'll be keeping an eye out for this kind of thing. The hooks for rigging them are becoming more widely available these days.

The biggest laugh I had was a new bedchair on the Nash stand. With its long legs making it stand as tall as a proper bed it would be perfect for my mate, Geoff, who claims not to be scared of rats but always has his bedchair legs extended as high as he can get them!

The biggest shock was the new Eagle Claw  Lazer TroKar trebles. They look really nice. But at £4.45 for two I can't see many pikers buying them for bait fishing! Or for lure replacement hooks either.

Shimano have a lighter version of the Baitrunner D series which I liked the look of. Three 6000s might be finding their way onto some of my pike rods in due course. Apart from some dinky bobbins on the Korum stand nothing else gave me GAS*.

After three hours I'd been round the show three or four times and had had enough. I'm glad I don't have to spend a whole two days on a stand there trying to sell stuff to tackle dealers. It would drive me nuts.

* Gear Acquisition Syndrome 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Secret squirrels and red herrings

I've never met a pike angler I don't know worth his salt when out fishing who has ever caught anything more than 'a couple of jacks'. Not even when I've watched them from a distance as they landed a good fish or the weigh sling is drying out beside them. Come to think of it I can't recall admitting to much more when quizzed myself!

Keeping quiet about what you are catching is part and parcel of pike fishing because of the nature of the fish. For one thing there are never as many pike per acre of water as there might be other fish. For another they don't all feed every day. You can have a good catch of barbel from a swim and do equally well in it the following day. Try that with pike and it's a case of rapidly diminishing returns. Either the pike move, or they stop feeding.

If you find feeding pike, on a daily basis or over a period of time, it's a good idea to keep it as quiet as you can or someone else will undoubtedly plunder your horde. Some people see this as selfish. I suppose it is. But when you've put time and effort into finding the pike it seems equally selfish for someone to take advantage of your efforts, and catch 'your' fish - thereby preventing you from catching them.

Given the growth of blogging among anglers, and pikers using forums and Facebook there are more prying eyes on the lookout for titbits of information about where's hot for a few pike. That's why some old school pikers who blog post a lot less during the winter months, and why many pikers never post photos of fish (unless they'd photoshopped out the background). As a blogging piker there are two ways to try and preserve your fishing. The simplest is to say nothing at all. The other is to tell the truth, but not the whole truth!

In other words, as I have my pike head back on, there might not be much to read here until spring. And what is posted might need to be taken with a pinch of salt!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Still here

Nothing much of interest happening in Lumbland. I managed to forget the new prototype bait rod when I attended the PAC show in Harrogate. I've not managed to try it out again until today, when yet again it failed to land me any pike while my ancient P-1 landed two. I made sure the new rod had a livebait on it, but it was the half lamprey that got taken twice.

I was struggling to get fish to hang themselves on my usually fail safe bait snatching rig today. I was getting bites, the swim was stuffed with skimmers, some too big for bait. I can only put the poor hook up ratio down to using a different hook pattern. My local shop has had no Kamasan B511 hooks to nylon in since spring, and stocks little in the way of barbed hooks to nylon. I fear small barbed hooks are going out of fashion due to the proliferation of commercial fisheries that prohibit their use. So I bought a packet of some supposedly wide gape tied hooks that had a strange shape - to my eyes. Bloody rubbish they are.

Although it did rain at times, and the water level rose, the sun made reasonably prolonged appearances for a change. This gave me an opportunity to play with my fisheye lens. It makes for an extremely distorted perspective, but has its place for making striking pictures.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Yet another week's plans blown out of the water. On Sunday I had it all sorted out. Three free days to try the new rod out - today through to Friday. Then it all started to go Pete Tong. Monday's quest for tubes to ship rods out was fruitless. The carpet shop had loads of them. Outside and soggy. But they'd have some by Thursday. Oh well, I'd still have two days free after picking them up and shipping rods out. Or so I thought.

An e-mail arrived after my tube hunt saying a rod would be arriving on Wednesday for a refurb. Scratch Wednesday. With the PAC show looming larger I used the waiting around to get stuff sorted in advance. A first in 20 years! I could sneak a session in on Friday. Or so I thought.

A phone call was answered today to let me know a delivery due for Thursday would be delayed until Friday. B-U-G-G-E-R. I hate it when I have the fishing bug and am trapped by waiting around wastes of time.

Soooo... I have one of those plans that is cunning. Although I doubt it'll get carried out as it involves getting up early!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shop local

In this day and age it's always tempting to take the easy, and usually cheap, way out when you need some new electrical product. So it was I checked out printer prices when mine packed up last week. It was only a cheapish print/scan/copy machine but I needed it replacing urgently for work. Google revealed my local camera shop stocked the one I wanted but it was £15 more than I could get it on-line. However I could have it that day rather than wait, or pay some £7 for next day delivery.

The week before the printer packed up I'd bought a couple of ink cartridges as two colours were getting low. I buy them from the camera shop for convenience and because they are reasonably priced. Of course a new, but very similar, printer has new, but similar, ink cartridges. I'd be stuck with two useless plastic containers full of expensive ink.

Cheekily, I asked if I could swap my unopened inks for the ones to fit my new machine. To my delight this was accepted. Yay! Taking into account the cost of the cartridges and the next day delivery I would have had to pay for I ended up saving money. Which I always like!

Although this is about photographic shopping the same applies to tackle shops. Support local businesses whenever you can - especially independent ones.

So by way of a thank you I shall point you to the photographic extravaganza Wilkinson's are holding next month. It's a camera show called Digital Splash 2012 with talks and demos being held on Sunday 14th October at UCLAN in Preston.

Unfortunately I can't make it as I have a trade show to attend in the Midlands on that day. A shame as I'm sure it will be a great day out.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

All work and no play

With the PAC show coming up on Saturday I'm trying to not leave everything to the last minute this year! Hence much working and running around as I try to get rods finished for customers in time to allow me a day or two's rod testing (fishing) before the event.

One set of rods has allowed me to try a handle I've thought about for some time, and if you like full Duplon handles it looks pretty good. Kinda stealthy. Full Duplon is growing on me. I'm not ready to commit to it for any of my own rods just yet, though!

As well as my two new rods I'll have some other new and newish stuff on display and for sale at the show. It should be a good day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Field testing

Not that I went anywhere near a field with the new rod, but it's had a bit of a testing. Emphasis on 'a bit'.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I can't wait

This weeks plans were scuppered by the demise of my printer. Everything's got pushed back a couple of days otherwise the prototype rod would have been in use today. It might get an outing on Thursday... or Friday. With the weather turning colder and wetter the eel sessions have been abandoned. This may be temporary if things dry out and warm up again before the end of the month.

I had a play around in my 'studio' this evening doing a little light painting on the prototype. I need more practice with the technique! I cant guarantee this is how the final spec will look.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The greener grass

The fishing will always be better round the next bend of a river, on the other side of the lake, or in the spot with the No Fishing sign. That was why I tramped past the spot I fished on Friday to get to eel Nirvana. The grassy bank perfect or setting up on, rods poking through a wide clearing in the reeds with just enough height to provide some cover. The overhanging trees providing the eels with a sense of security. Just the right kind of weed for prey fish to find attractive but not thick enough to prevent good bait presentation. It would be worth the walk, especially as I had slipped the brolly in the quiver to combat the rain that was due, and starting to fall as I arrived.

What I found was a jungle. Almost impenetrable, but not quite. I found a couple of spots where I could poke a rod or two over the water. One was ideal, apart from the mat of blanket weed extending a rod length or more out from the edge, and more of the stuff further out rising up in clumps. I looked at another which seemed clearer. Rather than set up I had a few casts around with an unbaited rig. The bottom was covered in blanket weed. The dark green, hairy stuff that clocks up run rings and festoons the hooks and bait. Only one thing for it. retrace my steps and fish the same swim as last time.

When I'd packed away on Friday I couldn't find my forceps anywhere. I took it as a good omen when they were there in full view when I got to the swim. I still have a pair of forceps that I left near that spot when I was about sixteen, returning the next day to find them where I'd unhooked a jack. Definitely auspicious. The baits went out to the same spots as before, this time over sprinklings of small trout pellets as I had no maggots.

There was a warm south-westerly blowing, ruffling the surface but not causing a chill. It was quite a breeze and the flag leaves would occasionally brush a line and make the alarm sound. Not much in the way of bird life showed itself. I'd seen a solitary reed warbler on my previous session, but there was no sign of it. Not even a reed bunting, a bird that's around all year but seems more a part of autumn and winter when the reeds die back, fading to the same colours as the bird's plumage.

When the light had faded to the point where colours begin to disappear a slack handful of swallows zipped past at low level. Shortly after a single young bird alighted briefly on the flag to my right, leaving almost instantly either disturbed by a sudden movement I'd made or the swaying of the leaf in the wind. It then returned to land on my right hand rod where it perched looking a little lost and bewildered for long enough to allow me to get a camera out of my bag and take a very rough photograph. I wondered if it had been a part of the small flock that had flown by just before it appeared.

There was no sign of the wind dying down, if anything it was strengthening. The intermittent bleeps from the alarms became more frequent. what I'd taken to be a wind bite developed. The right hand bobbin was moving upwards in fitful jerks. I struck and hooked another eel of a size that was less than encouraging. As soon as it was in the net and I lifted the mesh from the water the wind caught it and blew it into the reeds and flag! Iwasn't sure if the eel was still in the net, but it was.

With a fresh bait recast I tidied the swim, propping the landing net back in the reeds to my left. The lost-and-found forceps were on my chair, so I picked them up to clip them back on the mesh of the net where they reside. At which they snapped. They don't make forceps like they used to! Should I have landed another eel there was still a spare pair in the ruckbag.

The clouds heading my way thickened in the south. I felt drizzle. Probably a passing shower, but for some reason I'd had enough. With the gear packed and on my back I set off into the wind. The drizzle got heavier and I almost wished I'd put my waterproof jacket on. The drizzle abated. When I arrived home the clouds were breaking up.

I had the rest of this week all planned nicely. Then my printer packed up. Yes I have tried switching it off and back on again... I have also tried the other potential cure - hitting it. A lack of a printer wasn't a pressing problem, until I realised this morning that I need it to print labels to send parcels out. So I'm off on a printer safari. If it fails I'll have to resort to ordering on-line and wasting a day that was to be spent fishing waiting for the bloody thing to turn up.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Big enough

I nearly didn't get to fish yesterday as there was no space in the designated parking area, so I had to be creative. It got worse when I discovered the swim I fancied was inaccessible. Such are the joys of trying pastures new without doing a recce beforehand. I managed to find a spot that looked eely though and soon had two baits out, both fishing over a scattering of maggots and casters.

There was a light breeze blowing, but it was warm. The sky was overcast so the temperature would stay up when the sun went down. As a faint red glow appeared below the cloud base the wind dropped, but nothing else happened. No fish topped, no birds flew to roost, no bites materialised. It was looking grim. I was already titling this post 'All quiet on the eeling front'.

The take took me unaware when it came. I was in daydreamland and the fish managed to find weed, but steady pressure got it free. As last time I imagined it to be larger than it looked once netted, but it was still bigger than the average.

I'd class a 2lb plus eel rather like a ten pound pike or eight pound barbel. Nothing to get excited about once you've had a few bigger ones, but big enough to keep the interest up. They're of a size that tells you you are doing the right things to catch the bigger specimens. Larger than average fish can be caught  mixed in with the small ones, but mostly they aren't. If all that come along are bootlaces, jacks or splashers you get the feeling that perhaps you are using the wrong tactics, in the wrong place, or there are no bigger fish to be caught. Of course, the latter only applies if you are fishing somewhere on a hunch and not following the herd to waters with track records. Doubt sets in. Confidence falls. You start changing things for the sake of it.

While I was engaged with the eel on the bank the other bobbin twitched a few times without developing into a run. I cast out a fresh bait on the left hand rod and scattered the last of the maggots over it, then checked the right hand bait. It had been clamped on. The cut end of it was squashed. Back it went. Both bobbins set I sat down only to have to leap up and strike a run on the left hand rod. I missed it.

I pondered, yet again, why eel activity often comes in flurries like this. As I packed up after everything went back to being quiet I also wondered why my two latest sessions had produced eels big enough to keep me interested. Is it the nearing equinox stirring them to feed up for winter or migration? Have the little ones had their fill? More to the point is it likely to continue? I'm starting to wish I didn't have that new pike rod to try out. I suppose I could always rig it up for eel fishing...

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The good bit

I think I mentioned a while back that designing new rods is one of the big buzzes in what I do for a living. The two piece swimbait rod came out of something I'd wanted for a while. A baitcaster that would handle my most used lures and be kept in the back of the car.

Another rod I've been thinking about for quite some time is a twelve foot bait rod to fill the gap between the P-1 and the Baitblaster. The P-1 is perfect for most livebaiting purposes and close range deadbaiting. The BB350 is brilliant for blasting deadbaits out.

When fishing four rods life was simple. Two P-1s and two BB350s had me covered from under the rod tip to as far as I could cast. These days I usually use three rods for bank fishing, so I have to decide which rods to double up on. A rod in between the two would mean I could have three different rods with the middle one being able to fish a livey close in or a heavier deadbait than a P-1 would like to chuck.

It's taken a bit of messing around, but I think I now have a blank that's going to do the job. The first working prototype fell into my eager mitts this afternoon. It didn't take me long to tape some rings on and give it a bend! Don't be put off by the handle in the photo. That's just what I threw on to start with.

Tomorrow I'll redo the handle and fix things more securely. Then it'll be time for the fun to begin and take it to look for some pike!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Great minds

Over on his entertaining Norfolk 'N Good blog, Chris Bishop has recently reported on his newly aquired Korum 5 rod quiver. I've been using one since they were introduced and liked it so much I got another. Although the original one is starting to look the worse for wear it has had a lot of stick. I used it during my barbel mania phase, so it was in use three times a week, often moving swims a few times each session.

My only minor gripe with the thing is that the main compartment is a bit tight for shoving a fibreglass brolly in. Well, it is when you are like me and don't roll it up tightly, and then shove the landing net (wrapped around its pole) head first alongside the brolly. A cheap nylon covered brolly is no bother though.

The mesh pocket on the back is useless for it's intended purpose. It's supposed to be for putting a wet net in - the pocket is next to your body and the water from the net runs down your legs, which is why my net goes in the main compartment. However, during my recent eel sessions I have taken to stuffing my front banksticks, complete with Delks, in this pocket. I can get at them when I arrive at a swim without having to remove a couple of rods like I do if they go in one of the front pockets. For mobile sessions this quiver is the dog's dangly bits.

If you have rods rigged up with paternoster or long leger links, drop the leads in one of the side pockets after packing the quiver. It helps stop them swinging about and getting tangled up - either with the rods or the undergrowth. Running or semi-fixed legers can be left to slide down to the rod tips and nestle in the pockets the butts go in. That's assuming you are sensible and fold your rods tip-to-butt. If you fold them joint-to-butt the female part of the joint goes in the pocket. And the pockets invariably fill with soil, gravel and suchlike abrasives. These get in the joint and cause it to wear the rod, or the joint to jam.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Last blast

Only one short session in the last fortnight. A session at a new location which was aborted early by the arrival of rodents. I can put up with rats when they are a few yards away and in clear view. But when they are scurrying in the undergrowth a few feet from my chair, and jumping in my swim I prefer to be elsewhere. It's not a fear of them as such, it's the way they surprise you. The night is still and quiet, I'm chilling out and relaxed when the silence is disturbed by a sudden loud rustling that makes me jump. If rats are in plain sight wandering around they can be interesting to watch. It's their propensity for unexpected rapid movements that sets me on edge.

Yesterday had been one of an Indian summer so it seemed like a good plan to have one last fling for an eel or two before sorting out the pike tackle. The evening looked set to be warm so I was quite enthusiastic as I got the eel gear together in that switched off way that I have when I know I'm not going to think twice about fishing. I even set off earlier than I'd intended.

Yet again my intended swim was occupied by a bloomin' barge so I settled in a spot I've fished before. My swim choices were limited by great clumps of uprooted reeds. I think the boat traffic disturbs the reed beds and causes them to drift around. When there's a tow on the canal, or a wind blowing along it, these 'islands' of reed can be most frustrating as they drift through a swim. At other times they blow into swims and block them, until they get moved on by more boat traffic.

The rods were cast out, one close in to my left, one straight across. Both deadbaits going over a scattering of red and white maggots. I sat back to listen to the radio and watch the clouds change colour while swallows twittered high in the sky.

Nothing much happened. There was no wind. The distant turbines which spin slowly on the slightest breeze were still. The chatter of reed warblers which had been an accompaniment to my eel sessions all year was absent. I'm sure there will still be some of the active little birds around for a while yet, but I neither saw nor heard any. A jogger made his sweaty way home along the towpath, small fish dimpled in the margins. Although the air cooled it was by no means cold. I only put my woolly hat on out of habit.

A single bleep to the right hand rod almost got me excited until I saw the drifting weed that had fouled the line. With no wind the canal was flowing ever so slowly. I wound in and recast. There were a couple of similar indications to the left hand rod with no sign of weed, but as I wasn't fully happy with the way the line was running through the leaves of some water plants in the edge I decided to reposition the bait just off the shelf, even though there was not long until my planned departure time.

I tidied my rucksack and sat back. The air seemed warmer despite my fleece feeling damp to the touch. The barn owl that frequents the area flew towards me, almost over the rods as it crossed the canal. It's legs dangled as it hovered briefly some twenty feet from me before heading to better hunting grounds.

Looking at my watch I saw home time was nigh. Then the left hand Delkim bleeped twice. The bobbin inched upwards as it sounded again and I found myself by the rod. As the bobbin reached the butt ring I picked up the rod and struck. Not into thin air. There was an eel pulling back. Yet again an Anguillan mind reader had done its magic trick and picked up a bait just as I was about to leave.

It was clear that this wasn't another run of the cut eel. At one point it seemed to get very heavy indeed and I wondered if it had weeded me. After much merriment I managed to get it in the net. Snaking on the surface I had guessed it to be somewhat larger than it looked in the net. Making the net secure I packed away the other rod and all the banksticks before readying the scales and camera.

Unlike my last eel this one didn't escape before going in the sling. In fact it was very well behaved. Not quite big enough to warrant messing around with a self-take I settled for snapping a few close ups before slipping it back. I like to return eels from the sling by putting just their head in the water. The way they slide sinuously from a dry to a wet environment is fascinating.

The rod was put away along with the landing net and I headed back to the car, uncertain if that had been my last eel session of the year. There's supposed to be a week or so of September sunshine, so maybe there'll be a few more eels too.