Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Give 'em enough rope

Spurred on by my success I was eager to see if my new-found eel catching skills would work again. The sun had been shining all afternoon and despite a twinge in my dodgy hip that had made me utter a sharp expletive I put the gear in the car and hit the road for the short drive to the canal passing haymakers cashing in on the dry day with rain forecast for the morning. It had clouded over when I arrived but wasn't threatening rain. The float rod was cast out to the accompaniment of the opening bars of the Archers theme tune.

It proved tricky to get bites this time. A couple of tiny perch were returned, one eel bait roach put in the bait bag and a better roach slipped back. By eight thirty I'd had enough and the eel rods went out. This time I fished one to the far bank on the long lead link and the other in the central channel where I'd had a run last time out following a cast that dropped short and was left. Again I fished the lightweight bobbins on a drop and the baitrunners set as slack as they go.

It was still well light when the bait in the channel was picked up. A few twitches of the bobbin preceded a full blown run. The eel was the smallest so far at an estimated pound. Given my limited ambition I classed that as a result. As has so often been the case one run signalled another, which I missed. This was not to be the start of a hectic feeding spell. After rebaiting the second rod I felt another sharp twinge in my hip. I settled back into my uncomfy chair and watched the world slow down. The haymakers were still at it. The sound of their diesel powered horse replacements drifting on the dying wind.

I'd been serenaded by a male reed bunting on a high hawthorn branch earlier. A tediously repetitive song that I suppose other reed buntings appreciate. The swallows were flying a little higher than last time, but when dusk came they were speeding past me a foot or two over the canal. I thought they were having a final hunting session as they swooped in towards a stand of reed and out again. As I watched as closely as I could in the gathering gloom I realised they were seeking out a roosting place. One by one they swerved in towards the reeds and quietly disappeared.

The eels must have been roosting too. They came out to feed after dark. I say dark but there was a sort of moonglow even though the moon itself was hidden by cloud and not half full. Not enough light to bait up by, but enough to manage most tasks without a light.

The next run again came to the channel bait, and yet again it was a churner preceded by a few twitches. This one was larger than the first fish, but still not big enough to warrant setting up the tripod. As I returned it the left hand rod was away in similar fashion, resulting in a the bait being pinched before I could strike. It does seem (at the moment) that giving the eels some slack line makes them take the bait confidently enough to carry on once they feel the (light) tension of the baitrunner. I'm also pretty sure that not trying to strike immediately helps. This is possible on this length as I'm not fishing where there are deep beds of sparse reeds for the eels to run in to.

By now the hip was aching constantly. While sorting the gear out I had another twinge and thought I ought to get off home while I could still walk. The far bait was picked up and dropped while tidying the gear. When I wound it in it had clearly been clamped on.

I struggled to swing my bag over my shoulder, and bending down to pick up the chair and rod quiver was laborious. Even so I managed to get back to the car without a pause for rest. It did take me quite a while though. Why do I always have to fish as far away from the car park as possible? Driving home they were still making hay while the tractor lights shone.

With the gear tidied away it was time to get the boots off. Sitting on the stairs seemed the best plan  given my inability ot bend down without swearing. I flicked the hall light switch and was entered into a world of darkness as the fuse blew with a pop. Fandabbybloodydozy. I fixed the fuse by the light of my headtorch then crawled up the stairs to bed...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eel catching!

Yesterday was one of those individual days of summer that we are getting this year. Bookended by cool and grey. I took advantage of the sunshine after a trip to Liverpool, and a stop at the tackle shop to pick up a pint of maggots, for a walk along a length of canal I haven't fished since it was dredged and work done on the towpath. Everything was regenerating nicely. Even the alders that had been cut back were a couple of feet high now.

There was a bloke fishing to some far bank reed growth, and while chatting to him a six inch pikelet glided under his pole without a wag of its tail as if being pushed along by the canal's tow. It was propelled by tiny fin movements, though, as it cut across towards the reeds.  Everywhere the surface was alive with small fish, from tiny pin fry up to eel-bait size. It had to be worth returning in the evening if the weather held.

As the stock of frozen roach was getting low, and the lobworms had turned to a stinky mush in their tub, I arrived in good time so I could put the float rod to use. With all those small fish about bait snatching would be a cinch. The Archers had just started as I cast out but the closing theme tune had long faded away by the time I got my first bite. They weren't coming thick and fast, but steadily enough to put a few fresh roach in the bag. They were all ideally sized, except for one that would have made a better pike bait. I wasn't greedy and returned a few after I had got enough to last the session on past performances. I carried on with the float until nine o'clock when it got a bit cooler as the sun began to sink.

It was a glorious slow sunset, the light constantly changing. I tried to make something of it with the camera until the sun was below the horizon.

As I'd arrived a flock of swallows and martins were mobbing an unconcerned kestrel heading out over the moss. While I was float fishing there were more swallows showing off their low flying skills over a freshly mown meadow where rabbits grazed and occasionally chased each other in circles. As dusk arrived a barn owl flew behind me totally unconcerned by my presence, returning half an hour later on the same flight path.

With the sky so clear the air was soon cool and a light mist began to rise from the water, spilling over the canal bank and over the fields. This didn't fill me with hope. What do I know? I was fishing off the baitrunner again, and shortly before ten thirty the line in front of the right hand rod twitched and the bobbin jiggled. What made me I pull some slack from the reel I can't say. But that was what I did and it caused the eel to take line. I engaged the reel and struck. This time I connected. The eel writhed its way to the centre of the canal as I cranked it in. Then it dropped off...

This felt like a small victory. I hastily rebaited and recast this time I set the bobbin on a drop, and did the same with the right hand bobbin. The next half hour is a bit of a blur. I know I had another run on the right hand rod which I missed. I know this because just as I had rebaited and cast out the left hand rod was away. This was a good run and again I connected with the eel. The difference being that this eel got to see the inside of my landing net!

Sleepy eel
The fish unhooked itself in the net, partially. The hook had been transferred to the mesh but the trace was threaded through the eel's bottom lip. Because I am using Proleader, which can be knotted, the trace was attached to a quick release swivel by a loop. It was easy to unclip the trace and pull it through. Then I untangled the hook and weighed the eel. Only a couple of ounces bigger than the first of the season it was a tiny step in the right direction. I did the laying it on its back and stroking it's belly trick ready for a photo. While I was doing this the right hand rod was away again. In my haste I missed that one. Another rebait and recast saw my stock of fresh deads diminishing rapidly.

 I had been going to call it a night after returning the eel, but with action still forthcoming I gave the left hand rod the Three Rs treatment - retackle, rebait and recast. The bait was taken almost immediately by a fish which was felt for a second or three before it escaped. I'm not sure how many runs I had but after half an hour it was as if the switch that had been thrown had been flicked back again. I gave it another fifteen minutes then packed up and set off for home, driving through patches of low lying 'Hound of the Baskervilles' mist along the low-lying road.

Whether it was coincidence that I fared better this time, maybe the eels were feeding more confidently, or whether the bobbin on a drop was the key, I'm not sure. I do have a feeling that it helped. It's given me something to consider, and an incentive to have another bash if the weather is conducive. The weather is more for my benefit as I'm sure the eels aren't put off by a drop of rain.

Looks like a large mouthed eel to me

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Despite opportunities to go fishing, and the rivers opening, I haven't been able to get motivated over the last week. The failure to catch eels has dampened my enthusiasm for that, and the rivers will be busy. Arriving at the canal last night reminded me of another factor putting me off. Pollen.

I trudged a quarter of a mile through head high grasses to check out an area only to find it choked with weed for a good few yards from the bank. Not that there were any accesible swims. The stretch looks worth a shot, but it would need some work doing before fishing. So I trudged back whence I came and tried to find a fishable swim nearer the car.

By now my eyes were itchy and my nose starting to stream. There was one swim that wasn't blocked by floating weed. It was a comfy one to get the rods and chair in, and by angling the rods I could fish towards some cover. One bait to the far side and the other dropped just past the weed on the near shelf. The long lead link made positioning the far roach half easy. I sat back to sniff and rub my eyes. Then I remembered I'd forgotten to put a drink in my bag.

As usual there was plenty of warbler activity. Reed warblers were using reed stems as launch pads to fly up and catch insects on the wing. Ducks were dabbling in the reed beds. Fish were topping, some noisily. I had a couple of quick bleeps on one alarm as a warbler brushed the braid as it flew past my swim.

There was little breeze and as darkness fell it died to nothing. Clouds that reminded me of chub scales drifted slowly inland, lit salmon pink by the light of the set sun. I put my fleece on. I'd taken a pair of fleece mittens too this time. I got them out and took a while to work out why one wouldn't fit my right hand. I have two identical pairs and had picked up both left hand mittens. Ever ingenious I turned one inside-out and made a complete pair.

Just as the light had faded to the point peering into the clear water revealed nothing a yellow lily bud moved under the rods as a fish brushed the stalk. A few seconds later the surface was disturbed among some floating grassy weed. I stood up to try and get a glimpse of whatever was making this gentle disturbance and the surface swirled again. Ever so slightly as from fin movement. It could have been anything. A pike working the margin, a tench or bream perhaps. I had a feeling it was a carp. There was something about the patterns the water made. Maybe seeing that koi the other week has got to me.

Although it was going cooler the little cloud cover there was prevented a mist rising from the water. I was confident, but thirsty. At quarter to eleven, with some light still in the sky just a day or two from the solstice, the right hand bobbin clicked off the line and the alarm sounded. No run developed so I tightened back up and put the baitrunner on.

Five minutes later the same alarm sounded as a few inches of line were taken. I tightened back up. I should have checked teh bait. When I came to pack up half an hour later all that remained of the roach head were the bony bits. I was surprised there had been no action on the close in bait, again. When I used to fish for eels here it produced. In fact I'd drop two baits in under the rod tops.

With the weed getting thicker, and other places available, I think I'll give the eels on the canal a break (not that they need one from me!) and try for something else in another place. I need to get a bend in a rod soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No two days the same

My patriotism has nothing to do with the red white and blue of subservience to an unelected elite as celebrated by so many just recently. It's to do with an instinctive connection with landscape, natural history and weather. Something I feel certain all anglers in this country must understand. Something I experience every time I go fishing, even if only for a couple of hours. Even in that short a time the world can change most markedly. Skies can shift from clear to clouded,  sun can shine and rain fall - sometimes together, winds can turn on a sixpence.

Sunday was hot and still. Perfect for an evening's eel fishing, especially as there was cloud cover to keep the air temperature high. I was settled into my gap in the marginal growth by eight o'clock, baseball cap shading my eyes from the setting sun.

Both rods were fishing to the opposite margin, one with a lobworm and the other with half a roach. With it being bright I didn't expect any action until ten. It was, therefore, a surprise when the half-roach bait was taken at nine thirty. The light had softened but it was by no means dark. As per usual I hooked nothing.

The canal was calm, the midges prolific. It was only a matter of time as I sat there feeling warm in the still air watching the cloud patterns change slowly as the sun set. Oystercatchers continued flying and calling into darkness. A summer darkness that wasn't as dark as it could be. The jackdaws in their roost started their pre-sleep arguments. The half-roach was away again. This time I felt a brief thump before I wound in the baitless hook. I recast. Switching from drop-off to baitrunner. To no avail as it turned out before I left for bed.

Monday had started dreary, but the afternoon saw the clouds break up and sun shine without much heat. This time I headed fifty or so yards further along from Sunday's swim to fish some stick-ups. Given the lack of attention lobworms have been getting I fished two roach sections. One was cast across using the long lead-ink, the other flicked in teh near edge to my left.

There was broken cloud to keep the temperature up, but the wind had a northern chill to it. I had my fleece and woolly hat on from the off. despite the coolness I was heartened to see some bubbles rise near the far bank bait. Probably bream as they came to the surface in a broad patch. Eels bubble too, but their tell tale pattern is a moving string revealing the fish's movement.

As usual the warblers were extremely active and vocal. Not as noisy as they are earlier in the when claiming territories and attracting mates, but still loud for their size. Constantly on the move hunting for food they cause reed stems and leaves to twitch. So too does the wind, and a leaf brushing the line made my alarm sound a single bleep every so often stirring me to action.

Something I couldn't identify rolled briefly. Possibly a bream, maybe a tench. Small fish were topping intermittently. The chilly breeze kept the midges at bay. I wasn't filled with enthusiasm. So it was a real shock when the stick-up bait was taken at ten past ten, five minutes before I was going to have had enough. As per usual the culprit was not hooked. I gave it until half past before admitting defeat.

When I brought the baits in they felt decidedly cold. At the end of the heatwave they had been coming in parboiled. I think I'll give the eel blanking a miss until things get hot again. The rivers will be open on Saturday. There's something I want to try out on one. No doubt I'll catch eels by accident.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Yesterday morning I left a handle to set and went for a stroll along a part of the canal I haven't fished for many years. The sun had gone in when I set off so the fleece was required. By the time I had gone as far as I felt like going the fleece had to be removed. It was a glorious June morning. The air was still, the canal calm and fish were basking. Small roach were cruising about slowly just under the surface and every now and then I'd disturb something larger from the margins where the lily pads are starting to reach the surface.

One of these margin baskers revealed itself. To my great surprise it was a koi carp of around five pounds. I've been convinced that there are carp in this canal for quite a while. I've seen swirls and other surface activity which has been ever so carpy over the years, and as they have been in the main canal for a long time there's no reason why some couldn't have found their way through the locks. One koi isn't proof positive, but it makes me think there might well be more.

I retraced my steps, checking out likely eel swims and watching the wildlife. There were a few damsels brought out of hiding by the sun. Not very active as they were still warming up after the cool overnight rain. Common blues and blue-tailed. Passing through an overgrown part of the path with ash and alder on either side I first heard then spotted a female blackcap. A couple of buzzards had been soaring on high earlier on. With sunshine, blue skies and fluffy clouds I couldn't wait for evening to get the eel rods out again.

Back home the glue had set so the rings where whipped on before lunch, and the first coat of varnish applied after I had eaten. Then it was time to sort the gear out again and re-rig the eel rods. The decision had been made to go with braid this time. I'd also been browsing eel rigs on the internet and come up with an idea.

There isn't much info about eel fishing to be found. Only a few rigs seem to get used, and they all seem to involve far too much clutter. Rather like a lot of carp anglers, eel fishers seem to spend a lot of time not catching anything. They use this time to think up new ways to incorporate as much junk into their rigs as possible!

Although I have always disliked the Dyson rig for pike fishing it gets good press from eel anglers. I could see it's value for fishing later in the season when the bottom weed gets thicker. Rather than thinking of it as a paternoster variant, I now look at it as an off-bottom leger rig. Looking at one of the rig diagrams I found gave me another idea though.

The evening was starting to cool when I arrived at my chosen swim. The float rod was set up. Quickly done thanks to it being a two piece carp waggler rod I keep rigged with my trusty old Abu 501.

A few casts close in over some maggots produced nothing, but the first chuck across, tight to the reeds, saw the float bob and dip then slide away. The first baiter was swung to hand and popped in the landing net serving as a keepnet.

It didn't take me long to add three more so I put the float rod away and got out the eel rods at half eight. One fished a roach head and was cast across to where the water starts to deepen. The second rod put my new idea into practice.

The lead was removed from the run ring and tied to a length of nylon about two and a half feet long. A loop was tied in the other end of this link and clipped to the run ring. This rig was baited with a single lob worm. My thinking is that I can now cast the lead into the far bank reeds (where they are quite sparse) without fear of the hook snagging a stem while presenting a bait close to the outer edge of the reeds. Obviously I'll not be casting the lead deep into the reeds, but if I do overcast slightly I can easily pull it towards me, again without fear of the hook catching. I didn't find out if the plan was successful.

An hour after casting the eel baits out a mist began to form over the canal. Dew was condensing on the rods and banksticks. It was getting chilly and damp. I was glad I'd put my waterproof overtrousers on and remembered my woolly hat. Jackdaws croaked their way to roost in loose flocks. Sedge warblers sang their evening song accompanied by blackbirds staking out their territories for the night. The light faded, celebratory jubilee fireworks boomed and sparkled in the distance, the moon rose full and low in the clear sky. It was getting chillier still.

Really eely
Ten o'clock is the magic hour at the moment and true to form the right hand bobbin dropped off and the braid peeled from the spool at five minutes to. Not for the first time my strike was fruitless. This has been the story of all my eel fishing over the years. I can get eels to take my baits, but connecting with them is a hit and miss affair. I recast hoping that the eel, or another, would return.

By ten thirty I was not only chilly, but also wishing I'd fetched a flask. Mist over the water on a moonlit night is the sort of image you see in fishing books as presaging a memorable catch. It's all lies. Cold and thirsty I packed up. Roll on the muggy evenings of high summer.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

More not catching eels

Wednesday saw a few showers in the cooler air. It was still warm so I braved a break in the wet and headed for the canal armed with some lobworms and the last of my maggots and a frozen roach. If nothing else I could fish two lobs as the eeling hour approached should my bait bashing fail.

The going was tough on the float-fishing front. One tiny, tiny perch was hooked and released before I gave up and put out the eels rods. A lob close in over maggots and half a roach to the far side. It was tough on the eel front with no signs at all until gone ten o'clock when I had a couple of clip-outs to the worm rod. The drop-offs were in use this time, but not enough happened to give me any suggestions as to their effectiveness.

By Friday things had dried off and it was sunny again. Maggots were bought and, although I hadn't planned to, I put the gear in the car and headed for the canal again in the evening. Friday is not my favourite day for fishing. Especially on warm evenings when there are liable to be people walking the canal with their mutts. Not to mention all manner of other annoying human activity. I should have know better and stayed at home.

The float rod was out first and it didn't take me long to get a bite and hook a fish. This turned out to be a nice roach of maybe four ounces. Too big for eel bait in my book. I Looked for the disgorger I was sure I'd put in my bag a few hours earlier and couldn't find it. I pressed a peacock waggler into service in its place. With the roach returned I had another search, finding the disgorger in a different pocket in the bag. There are only two pockets to choose from and I put it in the empty one, not the one with my float tackle...

Very small fish were topping all around giving me hope of a bait or two. By casting to various spots in the swim I managed to catch three bait-sized fish, two roach and a hybrid by the look of it.

Among the small fish flipping about was a pike the size of a matchstickwhich flipped itself onto a lily pad. I've seen them do this before over the years. I've no idea why it happens. They always manage to flap and flip enough to get themselves back in the water. Tiny wee things, but still with the predatory glare of their larger sisters.

All was going well until the resident ducks had a mad fit. Four or five drakes and one female started a cacophony of quacking, followed by a mad pattering of webbed feet and the noisy flapping of wings. They were heading straight for me. Instinctively I ducked (sorry!) as they flew through the gap between the willows my swim was in. I felt my line tighten and the rod pull round in my hand. One of the dumb creatures had flown into my line which parted with the proverbial resounding crack.

Luckily I could see the float bobbing away in the middle of the canal, so it wasn't attached to a duck. Out with the eel rods. The first one set up I thought I'd swing the rig out under the left hand willow branches and see if I could either snag or drag my float back. Did I say "under the willow branches"? Somehow it went in them and got well and truly tangled. After much heaving there was another resounding crack followed by a loud plop as the lead entered the canal. This was not auspicious.

The other eel rod was got out of the quiver, baited with a lobworm and cast out to the far side. The late evening boat traffic had died away so I'd to have to worry about that. As I retackled the first rod I was increasingly beginning to regret my decision to fish on a Friday. The birdsong was being drowned out by loud music in that annoying way distant music has of being mostly beat with teasing snatches of vocals making it difficult to tell if it's the kind of music you might enjoy. Only once did I recognise a tune, and that by it's distinctive opening bars which managed to carry on the still air. Oasis's Wonderwall would have been bearable if it hadn't turned into audio-mush before the first verse ended.

The ducks returned, waddling up onto the tarmac to sleep. I suppose tarmac is warmer and drier than grass. With a bit of luck they'd stay out of my way now. A couple of woodpigeons seemed to be making the willow on my right their roosting place. Sedge warblers had been making their usual noises, hard to think of it as a song, all evening.

When the light was fading I was surprised to see my first blackcap of the year, a male, fly into the pigeon tree and work its way up and through the branches. One of the drakes took its head from under its wing, stood up, evacuated it's bowels with a noisy squirt, took two paces forward and sat back down again. The bats came out. My bobbins didn't move. Eventually the music subsided to be replaced by people on the moored barges shouting to each other. I'd had enough. Time for a brew, bed, and a rethink.

Today was dull and dreary. I couldn't face going bait snatching to stock the freezer for some reason, so I did a bit of work. One job was to rectify a niggle on one of the rods. At some point I think I must have 'borrowed' a ring from one of them to do something to another rod because the two rods didn't match. I removed two rings, moved one up and replaced the missing one from the set. I also added some whippings to the handles. The rods still won't look like a rod builder made them because, like too many of my own rods, they've never had their second coat of varnish!

With the rods broken down I took the opportunity to tidy up my rigs. The leger beads have been replaced with run rings. That's all. I replenished my little tackle box so I'll have enough bits to re-tackle should I cast into another tree. Last night I had to manufacture a buffer bead by cutting down a tail rubber. I'm nothing if not improvisational. I'm also indecisive. My latest dilemma is choosing whether to rig the rods up with braid, or stick with mono.

Eel rig components

Eel rig - rigged.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Better fishing photos - 2

Improving the photo

For the first eight years of my digital camera use all I ever did was download the files and then either stick them on a website or this blog when it came a long, or e-mailed them to an editor. No processing on the computer or anything. Since I got a digital SLR camera and more into making pictures I've learned a bit about improving on what the camera throws out. I blogged a little about this earlier, but here I'm going to try and explain (in simple terms) how to make your pictures look better - both on the screen and as prints.

Despite modern digital cameras being so reliable and giving flawless exposures every time there can be occasions when they're electronic brains are fooled. More likely it will be a case of user error that results in a less than perfect photo! Unlike the colour slide film which I used for many years, digital files are quite easily improved when you do mess up. provided it's not a complete fail!

In this article I'm going to deal with a few controls that are available in photo editing software. I guess most people use Photoshop Elements as it is widely known. I'm a cheapskate and use GIMP, which is a free download and does all I need and much more. The two controls which are of most use are Levels, and Unsharp Mask.
But first you have to decide where you will be showing the photos. If you are going to be making prints then you should work on the full size image from the camera in order to retain as much information as possible. If you are going to show the picture on the internet you can reduce it in size. I usually make my photos 800 pixels wide for internet use (although this blog reduces them further to fit the format they can bee seen at 800px by clicking on them). Whatever you are going to use the picture for make a copy of the original file, save it to a new folder and do all your processing on that file. Never save a modified file as the original.

Having made your copy open it with your editing software and find the Levels controls. This provides you with sliders to control the brightness of the light, mid and dark tones which is a reasonably sophisticated, but simple, means of controlling brightness and contrast.

This first picture is a flash shot and there is not much detail in the background. By moving the light and mid sliders around the detail in the shadows can be revealed.

The version below shows how the use of the Levels sliders has made the lighting more balanced and revealed the detail in the background.

The fish still lacks definition. Using Unsharp Mask will give it some punch. Careful use of Unsharp Mask has brought out the detail in the fish's scales and increased contrast a little.

It is better to err on the side of caution when sharpening pictures or the effect will become unnatural looking.That said, when sharpening a picture which is going to be printed out you can go a little further than when sharpening for display on a screen.

There is a third control which can come in handy when photos look a bit 'flat'. Like sharpening it is easy to overdo, but the Saturation slider will make colours brighter. The picture below has had a further tweak to the levels and the saturation boosted to bring out the colours in the wet leaves.

Once you are happy with the result save it as the copy- not the original!

That was a photo which was too dark. I struggled to find one which was too light in my files, so this tench photo will have to do.

It's another flash shot, but this time taken on an overcast day. The sky is too bright and has no detail in it at all, so no matter what I did it could not be darkened. There is a point where no detail can be found in a photo which is very over or under exposed. All you can do is make the most of what is reasonably exposed. In this case it's the important bits - the fish and me.

A fiddle with the Levels sliders, and a touch of the Unsharp Mask filter turned the above shot into the one below. The difference is quite subtle in this case. It's always better to under-do things than go too far and make the photo look unnatural.

Sometimes Levels adjustments can boost colours unnaturally. The solution is to use the Saturation slider to reduce the saturation. Selecting to alter just the red saturation makes the skin tone more natural.

It's not often I need to mess with the saturation, to be honest. Mostly Levels does the job just fine. For a technophobe the Levels and Unsharp Mask controls will make the biggest improvements for the least hassle. There is probably only a handful of photos on this blog since 2010 that haven't had the levels adjusted and some sharpening done to them.

All the above photos were taken as JPEGs (as were all my digital pictures used in Pike and Predators over the years and the majority of those on this blog) and processed as such. However, it's well worth shooting in raw format if your camera allows it. There is much more leeway for exposure, and far more control over the tones available. The same principles apply, though. You are still adjusting tone, sharpness and colour. Messing with anything else isn't really necessary for most purposes.