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!