Tuesday, December 31, 2013

That's that then

Christmas Day was good for birdwatching if not for pike catching. I'd never seen a pheasant in a hawthorn bush eating berries before. Not the most dainty of feeders, it looked to be in danger of falling out of the bush every time it leant forward to take another berry!

At least the rain held off and the sun shone - which wasn't what was predicted for the rest of the week. A few swim moves and eventually one of the floats moved. I wound down, connected, dropped the landing net in the edge ready for action and the bloody pike spat the bait out. Not that pike do spit baits out. I'd not actually hooked the fish, which was obvious when I checked the bait to see the top treble had folded over and masked the points in the lamprey's head. No matter. It hadn't been a big pike so I was saved the hassle of unhooking it.

Sure enough Boxing Day started dismally with rain. When the sun did eventually break through I couldn't be bothered giving the rods another airing. So it went until today. This morning was bloody awful. The rain was lashing down so hard at one point as I drove in to town it was like driving through thick fog and it seemed like the day was never going to brighten up. It came as a surprise when, just as I started my lunch, I realised the afternoon was looking promising. So it proved. As far as not getting sokaed went.

I had a couple of float legered deadbaits out by one and began work on a cunning plan to present a bait over the silkweed that is still carpeting the bottom in a number of places. As an area I've seen pike striking, and plenty of prey fish topping, it seems like a good idea to get a bait out there. My usual float leger rig just drags the bait into the gunge and a fixed paternoster is likely to cause other problems. Years ago I encountered a similar situation where the paternoster weight would stay put in the bottom weed and pike would drop the bait. A running paternoster sorted that out. So I sat down and cobbled one together. Having left the house in a bit of a rush for this unplanned session I grabbed the nearest tubed float I could find - and coloured over the bright yellow top with a marker pen to turn it into a sunk float!

By tightening up to the rig the overlong lead link is pulled down and the bait hangs close to the top of the weed. When a pike takes the bait the lead stays put and the line runs freely through the snap link. Not that any pike showed up today to put this into practice. Although I remembered this rig is an appalling caster ( the lead goes one way and the bait another) I'd forgotten exactly how awful it is. Some PVA around the snap would cure that ill, I suppose. Instead I'll be trying a different method next time out. Nothing showed any interest in my bottom fished bait either. My fishing year ended on a blank. One that I'd enjoyed and which had made me think a bit. Which has been the hallmark of most of my fishing this year.

I read somewhere that when you start fishing you want to catch the most fish possible. As you progress you want to catch the biggest. As you mature it is the challenge of the most difficult that becomes the driving force. I might not be fishing for the most difficult fish these days, but my current ambition is to catch the biggest fish I can from waters as close to home as possible. Living in the north west of England those fish aren't likely to be particularly large by national standards. Maybe trying to get as close as possible to what might be regarded as a specimen 'down south' is fishing for the hardest fish to catch? By 'close' I mean no more than 20 miles as the crow flies from my house, preferably half that distance, and better still closer than that. This year and last has seen me increase a couple of my 'local bests', but there's plenty of room for improvement.

Customarily I look back at the year that's drawing to a close, and this one's been a strange one. The roach fishing I was doing in January should have been over by mid-March, but the lingering winter - which felt like it dragged on until May - kept me at it into April. Unable to get motivated for bream and tench I went straight into eel fishing. My chosen venue didn't live up to expectations. I'm not sure if that was because I started on it too early and didn't stick with it long enough, or because it wasn't likely to produce the goods. I rather suspect the former to be honest.

Getting things arse about face I left the eels alone in August, during the seemingly endless summer we'd been wishing for for years, to go fish for bream and tench. While this might not have broken any pots for me it did provide local bests in both species.

While spring had been a month or more late and hardly materialised, summer carried on into October and even now it feels more like autumn with reasonably high temperatures and only a few light frost been had so far. My piking was held back by work and weed in October and didn't kick off until over a week into November. It's been okay though, and has kept be from returning to the roach. The roach urge is still there, but when the pike bug gets me it seems to bite the deepest.

This year's list of 'big' fish isn't too impressive, eels to 2lb 8oz, roach 1lb 8oz, bream and tench to five pounds odd and pike to sixteen and a bit won't raise any eyebrows. However, for the first time in a few years I have got close to filling the annual A6 notebook I record my fishing in. This means I've done a lot of fishing, albeit mostly in fairly brief sessions, despite periods of absence from the bank through poor weather or falling over... In turn this means I've been keen to get out - which means that I've been enjoying the fishing. So this year has been particularly successful in that respect. Getting to grips with a new waters, or new species from old waters, has kept me thinking all year - and that's what it's all about for me these days. Doing the same old same old to catch fish without much effort doesn't float my boat.When the piking begins to pall I wonder what I'll fish for next? Here's to more new challenges in the New Year.

The Mug - what will she weigh next time?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I thought it was all over

It was all planned out. Work Monday, catch loads of pike Tuesday, send out the last of the pre-Christmas rod orders Wednesday, catch more pike Thursday and/or Friday. It worked. As far as Monday. Tuesday I intended to fish from dawn but couldn't be bothered getting up early, so I went for an afternoon session. Despite my usual lack of success fishing for pike after lunch I'd been catching enough in the last few hours of daylight recently it seemed like a percentage chance. Things didn't work out that way and I blanked. Someone else had caught in the morning, so maybe the pike had changed their feeding habits. Wednesday went to plan, unlike Thursday and Friday which got scuppered by the promise of deliveries. Sure enough the promises were met - with deliveries after five pm. So that was that.

By now I'd lost the will to fish so I went out with my camera on Saturday. Sunday could easily have headed in the same direction when I awoke to hear rain battering on the window putting paid to an early piking start. Yes. I am getting soft in my old age! The excuse being that fishing mobile in the rain means getting wet, and I didn't fancy sitting it out in one spot all day. After doing some work after breakfast the weather looked to be improving. A check on the interwebs showed that yesterday's forecast for today of rain later in the day had been modified to no rain until after dark. I hastily sorted the gear out and set out.

It was sunny but cool in the wind so I chose my first swim based on available shelter and past form. There's something bleakly atmospheric on days like this when you're out amongst the reeds with flocks of geese struggling noisily upwind that goes hand in hand with pike fishing.

With an hour and a half of light left I was about to put the rods in the quiver for a final move when rain blew in. Up with the brolly until it passed over. There were two swims I fancied, both were free. However there was another piker in the swim next to one of them. I could have fished my first choice swim without interfering with the other chap but decided to drop in the second choice. Partly because it's a swim I've been meaning to fish for a while.

I rarely use popped up deadbaits, but that doesn't stop me messing about with ways to easily get deads up off the bottom. So far all methods have been less than successful. My latest effort is pretty straightforward. The photo should be self-explanatory. There's a loop crimped into the end of the wire to allow it to be pulled through the bait with a baiting needle of some sort. The pop up float is held in place with a pellet stop. The bait certainly floats vertically on this rig, rather than flopping over as with my last hopeless rig. Not that pike are likely to be bothered!

This bait was dropped in the margin in my final swim while I chopped up a fresh lamprey to use on the other rod. With that baited up I wound the herring in and chucked it further out to the left while the lamprey head section was dropped close in to the right. Things were looking grim given that evenings might have switched off. I sat down and got the flask out. It was warmer in this swim, being sheltered from the strong wind which was blowing from the prevailing direction. The tea was poured and the flask closed. I hadn't taken a sip when I saw the right hand float on the move.

I tip-toed to the rod so as not to disturb the pike and cause it to drop the bait. Then I wound down to feel the weight of the fish. An unspectacular fight ensued with the lamprey hanging from the scissors. In the net the flying treble tangled. It seemed like a good idea to flick the other hook out of the pike while it was still in the net in the edge. It seemed like a good idea.

Somehow the tangled hook caught one of my fingers when the pike woke up. Luckily, or not, the hook ripped out again. I left the still hooked pike in the net while I sorted out the mat, sling and forceps out.

The hook in the pike was easily removed. It actually came free when I tried to pull the lamprey off it to get a better grip on the hook shank. The pike was weighed, then sacked up while I sorted the chaos out and found a plaster for my now bleeding finger as I wanted a photo for comparison purposes as its weight seemed familiar. At this point the other angler arrived and did the photographic honours. After the fish had drifted back whence it came it was time to find a fresh trace. That done it was almost time to pack in but I gave it another fifteen minutes. Maybe the pike haven't switched feeding times after all. That suits my lazy old bones!

With the photos uploaded to my computer it was time to make the comparisons. The tail root area is always reliable for comparing pike markings. It didn't take long to identify a number of matching spots, wiggles and stripes. There were some other markings on the flank which matched too. That's the third time I've caught that fish now, from three different swims. Mug?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More pike

One thing about doing frequent short sessions is that you don't mind the occasional blank. More so when you are on the move all the time. Sitting in one swim from dawn to dusk, especially on a cold winter's day, can be demoralising when nothing is caught. When you move ever hour or less there's fresh hope in each swim. Not only that, but you don't have to bother preparing any food or drink if the session is only to be a couple of hours.

Of course this sort of approach is only viable on local waters which can be reached within a few minutes drive. Round here that limits the expectations of what size fish can be caught where pike are concerned. One reason I have never amassed a huge tally of big pike is partly down to the poor (in relation to other areas of the country) pike fishing available locally, and also because, when I have my fishing head on, I prefer to fish more often than to concentrate fewer sessions on more productive waters.

I could save up my free time and spend one full day a week somewhere where a twenty or bigger is a possibility, but I'd rather pop out for a few hours three or four times a week these days. It's a return to how I fished when I started piking. Only in those days I was forced to fish locally for reasons of cost and lack of transport.

A nice thing about mobile piking is fishing with floats. It does away with the bother of getting two rod rests and a bobbin set up every time I move. A lot of the time the front rests stay in the quiver and the rods lie on the ground, propped up against the reel handle.

There haven't been many cold days so far this winter, but yesterday dawned with a cold south easterly pushing into my preferred swim. A couple of hours was all I could bear before moving to seek shelter. By then the misty haze was burning off and the sun breaking through as restless flocks of fieldfares kept taking to the air.
A float dipped, bobbed, fell flat. Then nothing. The bait was checked and there were small teeth slashes in the sides of the lamprey head. Jack attack. Another move was made and the lamprey recast in the general direction it had been picked up in, the herring dropped to my left in the margin.
Watching floats is a bit like watching a tennis match. Head constantly turning from side to side. Left float, right float, left float, no float, left... Zzzzzzzzzz! The lamprey float's gone and the baitrunner spinning furiously. I'm into the fish straight away as it tries to bury itself in the reeds. Being a little un it doesn't make it. A hook catches in the net and the fish unhooks itself. The lamprey was gone so I stick a joey on the hooks and drop it same spot.

After a cup of flask tea I move the macky further out. Sitting down after the recast I spot the margin float dither briefy then stop. Again the bait is marked by tiny pike teeth. I swing it back out and it's taken more positively within minutes. Another jack hits the net.

The wind seems to have eased, or maybe swung to a less penetrating direction and the sun is warming the day. When two o'clock comes the heat is going out of the sun while I move again. A final unproductive move for the last hour is spent watching the sunset from behind the brolly I'd put up to keep the wind off me. Only my second full day pike session this winter and I'm ready to get back to the short sessions. I'd caught just as much from three moves in two and a half hours on Monday! It might be time for some roach fishing. If the cormorants haven't had them all.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Old workhorses

Writing about my latest piking reels yesterday got me thinking about others I've used over the years. I am a bit of a reel nerd - as will become plain...

When I started pike fishing in earnest in 1982 my reels were the same Mitchell 300s I used for tench fishing and all my other legering needs. I wasn't alone. Most pikers at that time used the same reel, or the faster retrieve 410 - which I also owned, having bought a used one from a lad at school. In common with most pike anglers I was using 10lb mono, and the Mitchells coped well enough. Not least because most of my fishing was done on the local drains and canals where no long casts were required.

Gradually line strength increased to 15lb (Sylcast sorrel) and the reels still managed well enough at close range. However, a shift to fishing reservoirs saw me using ten pound mainline with a fifteen pound shock leader in order to get the required distance from my three ounce lead and sprat combo. In order to wind down quickly using the stretchy line I bought a fast retrieve Mitchell, the 810. This all served for a couple of years even though I dabbled with a bggger Mitchell 306 thinking that it's wider spool would make for longer casts. However, I found that the increased weight of this monster worked against me for some reason and I gained nothing.

Then everything changed. Shimano hit the UK market with their revolutionary Baitrunners. I saw them at a NASA conference in Reading and Eddie Turner and his flash southern mates were using them. They were out of my price range at the time, but the spools were a little larger than the Mitchell's and the reels quite lightweight thanks to the composite body material.

My regular piking companion at the time, Pete Hesketh, had been using Shakespeare reels ever since I met him. They weren't 'ultra cult' like the Mitchell, and one of them was a metallic blue colour! They did the job though, and the skirted spools on the front drag reels were larger than the Micthell spools. Around the same time the Baitrunner emerged other manufacturers were also switching from cast alloy reel bodies and introducing rear drags. Shakespeare was one of those companies.

Having moved on to Cumbrian lakes and Scottish lochs my main line was now 15lb by default, even when I needed to get a decent range. I was in the market for new reels. I drew up a shortlist that got whitled down to the Baitrunner 4500 and the Shakespeare Sigma Whisker Titan 060. Based on value for money the Shakespeare won out. I reasoned that I didn't need the baitrunnner feature, and saving around a third of the price made more sense. I bought one reel to try out.

In pre-Aero line lay days most reels made an untidy mess of spooling the line. The Shakespeare was no better or worse than any other. The spool was a bit smaller than the 4500 Baitrunner, but a bit larger than the 3500, and larger (physically and in capacity) than the Mitchell too. It wasn't long before I had four of these reels set up on my pike rods.

The gear ratio was just right for cranking baits in and for backwinding. The large wooden handle warm and easy to grip in the cold. The reels weren't too bulky or heavy and balanced nicely on the carbon rods I was just starting to use. And the reels gearing was smooth. Smoother than the Baitrunners.

There were a few novel features on the Whisker Titans. The bale arm had a switch which collapsed it for transport. In the days of three rod holdalls this was handy. The reels left on the rods fitted better in the holdall's pouches, and the fourth reel folded up neatly in the rucksack making it less prone to damage.

I was, and still am, a fan of reels where the handle is loosened for folding by simply turning it backwards rather than loosening a threaded nut on the opposite side. Those nuts can work loose and drop off. I also feel that the handle can be tightened more securely. Not least because it is tightened by winding it forward so should be less likely to work loose when fishing.

As a committed backwinder I found the anti-reverse system on the Whisker Titans most useful. Older reels like the Mitchells had noisy anti-reverses. When engaged the anti-reverse clicked loudly. Annoying. It did, however, alert you to the fact you couldn't backwind, so you could knock the anti-reverse off before a fish flat-rodded you. Baitrunners and other reels coming on stream at the time had silent anti-reverses. Great if you were a clutch user, but dodgy if you weren't. The Sigmas had a three position anti-reverse lever. Off - silent -and audible. The lever was also on top at the back where it was not only visible, but easy to get at. How good the drag system was for giving line I can't say. It did lock up good and tight though!


As I was still having to break one rod down without a reel in the holdall the push button spools were more convenient than the front drags on the Baitrunners. They had another neat feature too. While Shimano and others still supply washers to place under their spools in order to adjust line lay slightly by bunching it towards the back of the spool, the Whisker Titan spools had a 'Skill Cast Control' where the drag knob would have been. By turning it one way or the other the spool was pushed forward or backward on the spindle to perform the same function as washers on other reels. The adjustment wasn't much, but it did make a difference. I doubt it made much difference to casting in reality though.

I can't remember how long my four Whisker Titans were in regular use for. It was a good number of years, and a few of my friends bought and used them too. Hence me writing my name on the reel feet!

Being a reel addict other reels have been attached to my pike rods for various reasons. When the first big pits appeared I got some for my reservoir fishing and the Sigmas took a back seat being used mostly for boat fishing - one reeled in my PB. When I returned to drain piking I had three Aero Baitrunners which I'd bought for tench and carp fishing so I used them. They never felt robust enough to me, nor smooth enough when backwinding, so I dug the Titans out again. By now they were loaded with 50lb Power Pro rather than 15lb Sylcast or Big Game and performed equally flawlessly. Only a couple of winters back they were still in use when I returned to my local drains until I switched first to my Aero Baitrunners and then my Baitrunner Bs.

To be honest the only reason they are in retirement again is because they lack the one feature I find indispensable on a reel that is to be used on rods which are used with braid and broken down and carried in a quiver. Infinite ant-reverse. With mono this lack isn't a problem as rigs are held in tension by the stretch in the line. They don't drop off the rods in transit and attach themselves to bankside trees! With braided line it's difficult to adjust the tension, even by turning the spool against the drag (which always seems to have some play in it), sufficiently to ensure such mishaps never occur. Instant anti-reverse compensates for the lack of stretch.

If the Sigmas had IAR and better line lay they'd be pretty near a perfect pike reel for close to medium range fishing. One thing is for sure. Despite the use and abuse these reels have had over the years (one fell off a rod rest and smashed the plastic part of the bale arm - superglue still holds that together) they are still in excellent working order and at least as smooth as some less-used Aero Baitrunners I have bought more recently.

I can't bring myself to part with these four old workhorses. Not only because of the memories they hold, but because they might have another lease of life yet. You never know!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Interim report

The eel fishing I did with the 6000OCs wasn't much of a test for them, but they have now had a bit of a workout with a handful of mid double figure pike and I love 'em! The reels balance great on my P-5s making a potentially perfect set up for close to medium range piking.

While the line lay isn't up to that on an Aero Baitrunner it's a step up on the old B series. Not that line lay matters as much with braid as it does mono in my experience. To be frank spool diameter and length make more difference than line lay no matter what line is in use. The OC spools are a little longer than the Bs, so that helps. Casting seems smooth enough, and distances achievable are dependent on rig and bait more than the reel's limitations.

As I mentioned a few posts back I'm fishing off the baitrunner at the moment. This is mostly through laziness! As I'm float fishing while being semi-mobile I can get away with lying the rods on the ground and flicking the baitrunner on, turning the spool to tighten the line and cock the float. Much simpler than messing around with line clips and/or two rod rests and bobbins.

Although not particularly loud the OC's baitrunner can be set very slack. Slack enough for a buoyant float to pull line from it. The front drag is equally sensitive. I usually backwind when pike fishing, but I have adjusted the drags the same way I do on my barbel reels - so that line can just be pulled off against them. There's no sticking when a fish takes line, the spool simply ticks slowly and smoothly. I might even leave the anti-reverse on in future and rely solely on the drag!

When backwinding the reels feel really smooth (time and use will tell if they stay this way) and the rotor has no sharp edges, which allows me to brake the rotor with  my forefinger to prevent the rotor over-running if a pike makes a bolt from the net. Let's not forget the sensible single handle with the big grip. Double handles are crap for piking with cold hands. I can really crank smaller pike in with these reels.

The only problem I have with the 6000OCs is having four P-5s and three reels...

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'll eat my hat!

Friday's pitiful performance from the England cricket team got me out of bed early to avoid listening to the commentary and I arrived at my chosen swim in the half light with no lack of confidence, but a definite lack of landing net and chair. I understood leaving the landing net being in the garage where I had propped it up to dry, but why the chair was still in the back of the car was beyond my comprehension. I could only blame a trauma brought about by the cricket. By the time I had driven back home and returned to the car park it was daylight. I picked a different swim. Where I blanked in sunshine and  style.

On Saturday I stocked up on deadbaits and food ready for an early start and a full day session on Sunday. I think the cricket had depressed me so that seeing the heavy frost when I poked my head through the curtains caused me to wrap myself up in the duvet. Not to worry I could get out on Tuesday as there was a delivery due on Monday.

Monday I got up at a civilised hour and did some work after logging on to find the parcel wouldn't be arriving until Tuesday. I did some work, watched the frost melt as the sun rose higher and thought I might as well chance an afternoon session. even though I never catch pike after two o'clock in the winter.

I made sure that I wouldn't be sat in the shade and got blinded by the low sun and it's reflection off the water. I was warm though! By three the heat was going out of the sun. I opted for a move. Moving around when piking always used to be anathema to me, but I've got itchier feet as I've got older. Sometimes it pays off with a pike, sometimes it doesn't, but it always stops me getting bored and packing up early. By the time I had the baits out in the new swim there was just over an hour of daylight left.

Having always fished open bale arms for pike whenever possible this winter I'm fishing off the baitrunner. As I mostly fish with semi-fixed leads these days it seems that the slight resistance from a baitrunner isn't likely to make a pike drop the bait. The Baitrunner 6000OC can be set really slack. A little too slack when there's a bit of a blow on the braid. Time will tell. It's a lot easier to cock the bottom end floats off the 'runner than when using a clip or drop-off.

It was going to be near enough dark by quarter to five, so I got everything stashed by half four. I'd refreeze the lamprey that was on the margin rod and sling the joey in. The latest packet of joeys I bought have been pretty soft. So soft I have to tie them to the trace.

With the light fading fast I switched the remote sounder off. It was dark enough to watch for one of the LEDs on the Delkims to alert me by lighting up. Much to my amazement that was exactly what happened. Pike don't feed at dusk! The margin float was wobbling about and slowly moving away from the bank.

One thing that I have noticed when fishing off the spool is that it's much easier to set the hooks as there is absolutely no slack to take up. Especially so with braid. The rod's already pointed at the fish when I turn the handle to engage the reel and by the time I've done that I have contact and can pull the rod back to finish the job off.

That done the fish plodded around under the rod tip before making a decent run to the right and splashing around on the surface. It was soon in the net where it lay quietly while I unpacked the mat, sling, scales and camera.

I couldn't be bothered setting up the tripod in the dark. A couple of shots on the mat would have to do. The angle of the photo above  makes the fish look quite skinny, which it wasn't. The fish was returned by the light of my head torch, it now being too dark to see the remaining float. I packed up wondering if I ought to rethink my attitude to afternoon piking. You have to be in it to win it, I suppose. Or it could be a case of doing something often enough and occasionally it'll work.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I should have known better

It seems like I have the pike bug again. At least for the time being. With varnish merrily curing and the afternoon warm and dry I gathered the already prepared tackle, threw the right bag of mackerel in the cool bag and headed off for an afternoon session. More in hope tan expectation, but you never know if the pike will break their habits and feed after lunch.

No sooner had I got two floats nicely cocked than the dry afternoon turned damp. What had been an ignorable mizzle turned to a drizzle sufficient to require either the waterproof jacket or the umbrella. I hate wearing loose fitting jackets, so the brolly went up.

Autumn is most definitely turning to winter now. There are few leaves clinking to the branches. Oaks are still clad in crisp, brown leaves as they will be for some time to come, but it is only the sides of the hawthorns and willows which have any leaves on them, or bushes which are in the lee of substantial cover.

 I had spotted a lone fieldfare on Friday, flying high and purposefully to the north. Yesterday I once more heard them before I saw them. This time in greater numbers. Firstly a flock of twenty or so, then a group of six followed by a nervously wheeling flock at twilight. It only seems like last week when I was watching these winter visitors at Goat Lake.

The baits were moved around the swim at intervals for an hour and a half before a move for the last hour of daylight. I fancied my chances of a margin moocher as the light faded. It was not to be.

Starlings zoomed eastward followed by slower moving deliberate jackdaws. A robin sang at twilight, and as dusk fell blackbirds got rowdy before silence came with the darkness and my float tops turned from orange to black.

Back home I stashed the bait and gear before checking on the rod that was turning as the varnish cured. Disaster. If you ever meet a rod builder who says he never has trouble with epoxy you have met a liar! There are times when no mater how careful you are with the preparation the stuff will fail to cure, form bubbles or pull away in 'fish-eyes'. It just does.  This problem, however, was of my own making. I hadn't secured one section securely enough to the drier and it had slipped. The result was that the varnish had run to one side and 'blobbed'.

Thankfully the bulk of the varnishing I had done in the morning had been thin sealing coats, which don't require turning. So there was only the one section requiring stripping and redoing. If I'd not been so eager to go fishing for the sake of it, knowing full well I'd most likely blank, I'd have kept a check on the section and been saved the extra work. C'est la vie.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shock, horror - pike content!

These last few weeks have seen my spare time dwindle, leaving me with just an hour or two of daylight at the end of the day I don't like for piking. And piking is what I've been wanting to do. Even so when a spare morning has rolled around I've either lost the motivation or the weather's been against me. Earlier in the week I made an effort to get my gear sorted so I can go pike fishing without any fuss. Grab the quiver, throw a handful of frozen baits in the rucksack and hit the road. Today I managed to get out of bed while it was still dark and do just that.

The morning was still and cool with  a film of dew on the car, but not ice, and the dew was soaking the grass and reeds as I walked to my swim in the light from my head torch. Passing through a thicket of hawthorn the smell of autumn was in the air.

It having been over a month since my last session things had changed. The lily beds that were starting to decay back then were almost indiscernible. There were just enough clues as to where they were located, and it was on the edge of a couple of them that I dropped my float legered deadbaits. By the time I had both rods sorted out the headtorch was no longer required. I sat down and poured myself a brew.

There was a mizzle in the air. Just enough to make the rucksack damp so I put the brolly up. To be honest I didn't hold out much hope. I was musing on how, unlike feeder fishing which keeps you recasting at regular intervals to relieve the boredom, all you can do when bait fishing for pike is put cast to the right spots and wait. Then I noticed the right hand rod top twitch. The float bobbed slightly, then set off slowly away from the bank.

Unusually for me I was fishing off the baitrunner - which caused me to mess up. Instead of leaving things alone and allowing the pike to carry on taking line from the turning spool while I put the landing net somewhere convenient, I opened the bale arm. In doing this I must have somehow caused the line to tighten or something. The float stopped moving. When I inspected the bait it looked like a half decent pike had picked it up. Never mind. I recast and sat down again doubting the fish would return.

I sat back to watch the world go by and to decide when it would be time for a move. A flock of jackdaws moved noisily overhead, followed by a silent wave of starlings heading rapidly northwards. I thought I heard a fieldfare. Then I saw the right hand float bob again. Again it set off slowly and steadily and I took my cue from it, not rushing. I carefully placed the net to the left of the rod which I picked up and then wound into the pike. The resistance was solid and reasonably heavy. There was no fight to speak of, just one splashy swirl away from the net which didn't require me to concede any line. Seeing there was a flying treble I made sure the fish slid straight over the net in one go.

A quick look at the fish saw me guess around the fifteen pound mark, so I staked the net out (large weave meshes are great for this a bankstick fits through the holes without damaging the mesh) while I sorted out the forceps, weighing kit and camera.

With everything ready the net was lifted ashore and the hook popped quickly from the scissors, Into the sling. Weight confirmed. In front of the camera. Four quick snaps then back in the water where I watched her gradually melt from sight.

When I got the baits out of the freezer I'd inadvertently picked up a wrong packet. I thought it was a full pack of joeys, but it had been the remains of a mixed 'pike pack' I'd bought to get the one bluey section it had contained. There was just one joey left. I made sure it was tied securely to the trace before casting it out!

It got my thumb!
I reckoned that two runs, most likely from the same fish, would be my lot for that swim. The mizzle had ceased. It was warming up and the sun threatening to break through the overcast. Half an hour and another brew from the flask later I moved to a nearby swim. The baits once more going close to the last remains of lily beds.

Much to my surprise it wasn't long before the left hand float dipped, rose, fell flat and twitched. Then remained motionless. The bait looked to have been chomped by something small.

Now the sun was almost shining and it was getting warm. However, time was running out along with the tea. The baits were repositioned for the last half hour before my self imposed twelve o'clock deadline.

It had been worth sorting the gear out in readiness. That's the practical side of preparing. Catching a pike is the motivational side of it. Now I might feel like dragging my weary bones out for a few hours every so often. If only I could find an afternoon water...

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Camera for sale (SOLD)

Since my last post work, and the short days have kept me from fishing. Just when I thought I'd got on top of everything and would have a day free before some more blanks arrived the phone started ringing with more orders, and the blanks arrived early. I'm not complaining though. If I was a morning person I'd get my pike gear sorted out for some short, pre-work, local sessions. But I'm not a morning person. So I won't!

One thing I am is a camera tart, and I've got the bug for a different 'fishing' camera - partly because one I've fancied since it came out has come down considerably in price. As a result  I'm selling my Panasonic G2. It's a neat, lightweight, interchangeable lens camera with a flip round screen. In addition to the camera and lens there's a spare battery and a wireless remote. There's also the strap, manual, USB lead and battery charger - but no memory card. All this for £200 £150 - which includes postage. SOLD

Full spec and review here.

All the photos in the following link were taken with this camera and lens. http://blog.lumbland.co.uk/2013/06/lazy-summer-day.html 

As was this self take.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What's new?

It's that weekend when I toddle along to the Tackle and Guns annual trade show to see what all the big names have lined up for next season. As usual I bumped into a load of people I haven't seen since last year, and some I saw last week. In fact as I got out of my car the driver of the vehicle parked next to me got out of his and it was one of the Harrison workforce!

One thing that was apparent was the number of manufacturers and distributors of soft lures aimed at the sea fishing market (but applicable to freshwater too, with some thought) and the rods to fish them.

 Yes, those are plastic flatties - although how you'd rig them for pike I'm not sure!

I suppose if you are fishing in one swim for a fortnight a big bivvy you can stand up in makes some sort of sense.

 However, I'm not sure if the 'thing' below was for real or a joke!

After half an hour or so I'd found everything I wanted to look at. I'll not be bothering with the Korum in-line maggot feeders, but the big flatbeds from Avid looked interesting. Avid (or was it Korum?) had some big pits that looked interesting with push button spools and quick drags on the spools. How well made they are remains to be seen. The Shimano 8000D isn't much bigger than the 6000D, and the Medium Baitrunner failed to impress. After another hour and a half wandering round in circles I'd had enough. Just as every year I spent more time driving than walking.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bad choices

I've been itching to give the pike rods an airing for a few weeks but it's been remaining so warm that other species have still been tempting me. If I'd got my act together on Friday I'd have had enough bait for a bream/tench session on Saturday. Instead I looked in the freezer and found some deadbaits. It would be an early start on Saturday morning.

I must have been keen because I was up well before first light and setting up in a swim I've been eyeing up for weeks as the sun was turning the clouds in the east pink. Five hours later and the only time the floats moved was when I wound them in for a recast.

Even as I walked to the swim I hadn't needed my fleece and it just got warmer and warmer with next to no wind. The flat calm enabled me to watch bream bubbles breaking on the surface from nine o'clock. That decided me to pack up, nip home for some lunch and then go stock up on bream bait. I left the pike gear in the car and called in somewhere on the off chance for the last four hours of daylight. There wasn't much of a view.

Although afternoon pike sessions don't often do me any favours I felt confident. There were plenty of small fish topping, and others sending up bubbles. There had to be a pike or two in the area. Just as in the morning the floats only moved when I wound them in.

After one early start I was a bit late setting up on Sunday on a morning that was a lot cooler with a heavy dew. It felt like a piker's dawn as I carried my load of gear and bait to the swim. I took my time plumbing around and marking the lines for accurate baiting with the feeders. The groundbait mix was boosted by the addition of last weeks maggots which I had scalded.

One rig fished a couple of the pineapple Band'Ums and another two grains of plastic corn. As a fail-safe the third rod fished a rather odd roach rig consisting of a size 18 tied to 7lb mono!  I wanted the thicker line to avoid tangles and to see if roach would put up with it. The hook was baited with a single red maggot. It took less than half an hour to prove that roach would indeed accept this unbalanced presentation.

I worked hard at recasting the rods to get a bed of feed down, having to refill the mixing bowl around noon by which time I had caught a few roach between an ounce or two and maybe six. All to the maggot. By then the day had warmed up and in the sun it was as warm as the Saturday had been despite a stronger breeze.

A few dragonflies were still hawking along the water's edge, two paired up, and a lonely chiffchaff flitted through a hawthorn, it's branches becoming bare and its haws darkening. Leaves are beginning to drop in abundance, some trees already starting to show their underlying matrices. All that's needed to get autumn in full swing is a frost or two and a week of strong winds.

I was starting to flag around lunchtime and tried to get some sleep. The maggot rod kept disturbing me. Eventually it went quiet after a single bleep and I managed an hour of dozing. When I perked up again I found out why the maggot rod had gone quiet. The hook was missing. The line neatly sliced. I guess a roach had hooked itself and then been taken by a pike.

When it came time to pack up, before it got dark as I knew when I was beaten, I'd amassed 25 small to smallish fish. Almost all roach with two or three small skimmers amongst them. every one to maggot and not so much as a liner to the other two rods. If I'd worked harder at the maggot rod I could probably have managed a fair few more, but catching small roach doesn't do much for me.  Unless they're destined to become bait. I really couldn't be bothered putting in the effort to fill a keepnet with four ounce roach. Strange how some people enjoy catching lots of fish irrespective of size while others prefer to get a few larger specimens.

Listening to the weather forecast for the week ahead it seems set to turn cooler. It might be time to concentrate on the pike. I'll have to clear the old bits of bait out of the freezer to make way for new stock.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Now, where was I?

This is the time of year when barbel fishing suits me. If only I could get motivated to give it a go. The trouble is I really like sitting behind three rods on stillwaters these days. Particularly while the weather stays so summerlike. Unfortunately being busy with work and shortening daylight hours makes it difficult to fit in as many sessions as I'd like.

Tuesday saw me doing the carp-style tench/bream thing again. It's not my preferred approach, to fish pellets in conjunction with PVA bags, for tench or bream, but it's one that has been working. Faced with a short session it also makes more sense than trying to build up a swim. It can be a bit hit or miss. Tuesday it was a partial hit with a couple of average size bream landed on a bait I was trying out as an alternative to plastic corn and fishy pellets. Pineapple flavour Sonu Band'ums. They float on their own, but add a hook and they sink. A nice size for tench and bream too. Only time will tell if they are worth using on a regular basis.

Saturday saw me doing the same thing on a positively hot afternoon. It's most pleasant to be able to sit out for the best part of the day in a t-shirt. Once it gets after five the layers go on more rapidly than through the long evenings of high summer though, and there's a definite autumnal chill as the dew begins to form. There are still loads of dragonflies zipping about while the sun shines though.  Hawkers, of some description, with an odd damsel lingering. The fishing was slow. Dead slow in fact. Maybe I ought to have worked a bit harder at it. When I packed up one raod was missing the pellet. How long it had been baitless is anyone's guess.

Sunday saw me on the bank earlier and targeting roach with determination. I'd prepared my groundbait in advance. A mix of hemp and hali crush, method mix and mostly explosive feeder. Some hemp was decanted into the bucket ready to be mixed with the gorundbait and water added to achieve the light consistency I wanted.

The Chimera Avons were in action, rigged up with 30g feeders. I started out with two maggot feeders to get some grubs out, intending to  switch to groundbait feeders after three or four casts with two rods. The third rod was a sleeper fishing a Band'um down the edge.

Before I had got the maggots out I had a storming drop-back on one rod and landed what looked like a hybrid - its head and mouth looking more roachy than breamy to me. Not a bad start.

As soon as I picked up one of the Korum cage feeders I realised it had cracked. In fact it had split along its length. The plastic these cage feeders are moulded from feels more brittle than the material used for the standard open end feeders. I could have used the broken feeder without much problem but decided to try a Fox feeder of the same weight, but slightly larger, on one rod and a Korum feeder, with opened up holes, on the other. I was soon catching roach at regular intervals on both rods. All small, though. In the two to six ounce bracket.

Around four thirty things quietened off for a while. I think I should have been recasting to keep the feed going in because when I realised my mistake the bites picked up again. Around six the roach switched off for good and the next two bites were from bream, only small ones though, and an expected flurry of slabs before dark failed to materialise.

One thing that I will have to rethink about my roach rigs is hooklinks. Even two inch ones are tangle prone when tied with 2lb or 3lb line. I'll give some heavier stuff a go next time. If that doesn't work I'll have to look out for something stiffer. I'm sure the fish won't care.

I ended up having landed twenty fish for my trouble. Which was fun in a keeping busy sort of way, but a bit of an anti-climax in another. I can't seem to find that happy medium between catching nothing or lots of small fish. A handful of biggish fish, or one big fish, per session would be nice. Even if it wasn't every session. At least Fred had a smile on his face as he watched the bobbins dancing!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Last week was taken up almost entirely by sorting stuff out for the PAC show, leaving next to no time for fishing. I eventually snapped on Friday afternoon and took the maggots, which were by then half casters, I'd bought on the Monday for a few hours roach fishing.

This went quite well. I started out with one maggot and one groundbait feeder fishing mini-helicopter rigs with single red maggots on the hooks. The third rod fished a groundbait feeder on a similar rig but with a pellet on the hair.

It soon became apparent that, as last winter, the groundbait feeder produced more bites than the blockend. This was duly noted for future sessions as this was just a short preliminary trip to blow the cobwebs out.

There were plenty of bites to be had but many were abortive, a few fish were bumped. All were either a couple of ounces or twice that - as if there were two shoals mooching over the bait.

I'd planned to leave well before dark in order to finish getting stuff ready for the early start on Saturday. With the pellet rod packed away I hooked a better fish on the left hand maggot rod, a roach of maybe half a pound, when then other rod was in action. This was back to the smaller fish. With that I packed up completely and headed for home with the sun still (just) above the horizon.

I'd made the change to the clips on my Fox bobbins prior to this session. The old style clips are much easier to attach to fine lines. The short chains hamper clipping the bobbins on though, so longer ones will have to be acquired.

Preparing well in advance for the show (for a change) made a difference and setting up went smoothly. As ever the day seems to be as much about catching up with people you only see once a year. I managed to sell a couple of the rods I'd built up for the show in addition to taking orders that will keep me busy next week. Typical that there's some fine weather holding for the next few days! The other rods I'd got ready will be listed on my website in due course.

Here's three PAC stalwarts coincidentally sporting red.

Peter Green

Mark Barrett

Pete Haywood
As the late blackberries suggest, autumn is well under way now. The willow leaves are starting to carpet the banks, the evening air is chillier even when it's t-shirt weather through the middle of the day, and the PAC show is over for another year. It might soon be time to get the pike rods out again. If I'm not distracted by roach like I was last winter.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Busy, busy

The annual PAC show will be upon us sooner than we realise - a week on Saturday in fact! For once I've managed to throw together sufficient rods in time to let people see what they look like before they've been dragged through mud and undergrowth for a few years - as I usually end up showing my own rods. All on show will be available to buy on the day. The X-1 WILL be on show this year after I managed to forget the first prototype last year... There'll also be something built up with my new 'stealth' handle configuration. Most of my usual bits and bats will be available too.

In between getting that lot sorted and building rods for customers I've managed to catch a few fish. Still nothing to shout about, but the blanks are becoming less common. I'm adopting two approaches.

The three rod, session, tactic is for when I have half a day or longer to spend in a swim fishing swimfeeders over bait, during which I fish with my Interceptors and in open water.

The two rod approach is for short sessions fishing near weed when I adopt light carp gear - just in case a carp picks up a bait - baiting lightly with PVA bags on the rigs. With plastic corn on one rod and a 12mm pellet on the other a carp an outside possibility. I'd not want to lose one. Mainly to wind the struggling carp anglers up!

So far the carp rods and bags are proving more successful for the tench. I've been sticking with my faithful in-line maggot feeders and plastic casters one rod every time I've fished three rods with little to show for it. One bream and a hybrid if I recall correctly. Tip the hook with a couple of live maggots and I get roach - or eels. Fish maggots on their own and the result is the same. With one perfectly formed roach of a pound falling for plastic corn I might give the full on maggot feeder attack when it gets colder and the eels are less active.

This lack of success to the casters is perplexing and got me thinking that I've done best on them fishing over gravel, while the corn, which I invariably fish popped up, has scored as well over clay type bottoms as it has over gravel. Perhaps I should be popping the casters up? Then again, the pellets have been catching and they are lying on the deck. It's a head-scratcher.

It feels strange fishing for tench at this time of year. Watching swallows feeding up in preparation for their long migration rather than watching out for the first one of the year to arrive, while surrounded by hawthorn boughs drooping under the weight of bright red berries rather than draped with snow-white blossom. While the days remain warm I'll stick with the tench. It'll not be long before the pike rods are dusted off again. I have my third 6000OC to load with braid ready for the winter. After a couple of years away from them, I am starting to have thoughts of barbel again now the nights are really drawing in. Just call me indecisive.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

New toys

I mentioned in an earlier post that there'd be some product appraisals appearing soon, and here they are. These are only my initial impressions of the gear as a few weeks isn't any way to pass judgement on fishing tackle. It hasn't been unknown to find stuff falls apart or otherwise ceases to function correctly after a season or two, sometimes less.

First up are my new bobbins. Being idle I don't like swapping alarms and indicators between pod and stick set ups in different quivers. As two of the isotopes in my old bobbins were smashed I fancied some which isotopes would actually fit inside rather than being stuck in an external slot. The old lightweight Gardner bobbins I use as drop-offs for eeling are like that and they have been great so far. Fox's relatively new Black Label bobbins looked like they'd fit the bill.

My local tackle emporium only had them in red. Which suited me as I prefer either red or yellow bobbins. Unfortunately when I slipped an isotope in one and looked at it in the dark it was all but invisible. I guess I'll either have to find some brighter isotopes or see if the green bobbins are any clearer.

That aside, as they come the bobbins are lightweight. I was hoping that my existing weights would fit them, but while the thread for the clip seems to be standard that for the chain/weights is not. I'll have to get some dedicated weights - which come in packs of two...

The clip option I bought is a fancy new one - which doesn't do anything other clips can't do. I find them better suited to heavier (carp) lines and quite tricky to set light enough for six pound mono. I might swap them out for some old clips when roach time comes around.

The chains are short as supplied, which is fine for fishing as shown above, or on a bit of a drop - which I do if expecting liners that might otherwise move the rig if the line was tight to the reel - but won't do for perch fishing, which being light the bobbins should be good for. Longer chains, and Dacron cords, are available along with other accessories. All part of a modular system - and a marketing strategy! If I was buying again I'd get the cheaper version with an old school clip and longer Dacron cord, putting the money saved towards some weights. Despite the niggles the bobbins work well enough, allowing the line to run freely through the clips to show drop-backs, lifts and runs.

On my non-pike bank sticks I have been using some Maver alarms which, although cheap, have lasted me well through quite a bit of abuse over a few years now. While they have a remote sounder they have two annoying features. The head volume cannot be turned off, and when switched off the settings revert to default - which is high volume. This means that setting up the alarms means either noise, or if the head is switched off more noise when switched back on as the volumes are cycled through - default is not the lowest.

When I saw Wychwood Signature alarms for £19.99, and that they retained settings when switched off, they had to be worth a punt. As the photo shows, they are tiny!

Only a couple of sessions so far, but they've done what they are supposed to and slip easily into the pocket on my quiver. They can be switched to be silent, handy after dark when you can watch for the bright LED lighting up. There's also a jack socket which I'll have to investigate - not having bothered with the boxes for the alarms I don't know how it serves as an output!

Finally, for now, line. When Nash discontinued my favourite mono I was stuck for a replacement for tench/bream fishing in 0.30mm. I spooled up this year with green Fox Warrior XT. It's a bog standard mono, and it's cheap. I've had it on the reels a while now and it's behaving itself. Like all nylons it can spring off the spool now and again, but it's more supple than some I have used (Daiwa Sensor for one) and knots well with my usual four turn Uni-Knot. It's a pity it isn't available in finer diameters as I'd like to use it for roach/perch/chub fishing too. Such is the modern way that these 'specimen' lines are only available in 'carp' breaking strains of 10lb and up. Springy Sensor will have to continue to do for that. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Lucky numbers

Not enough time for blogging last month. Plenty for fishing though. Checking my diary I fished more than I thought I had. When the bug bites and I think there are some big fish to be caught it bites hard. Funnily enough when the fever is on me I get through a lot of work in the time between fishing sessions. It's Parkinson's Law at play. If I have all week to get through my work it'll take all week. If I want to go fishing four of the days I'll get it done in three - sometimes two! Even so I still can't manage to make an early start, fish half a day and then do some work. If I don't stay out fishing for longer than planned I just want to slob out when I get home. I'm much better suited to getting up early to work and going fishing when it's done.

Ever since I caught my first double figure pike on the 28th of February 1982 (28/2/82) I've had this irrational favouring of dates which can be read the same backwards as forwards (if written in a certain way). Naturally when I arrived later than intended on Saturday (31/8/13) I was still confident.

I was setting my stall out for tench (having worked out the method to catch bream) and rigged up with an in-line maggot feeder on one rod with the other two helicopter rigs being fitted with leads in place of feeders and bags of pellets used to supply feed. To eliminate tangles the hooks were nicked into the bags. Rather than repeatedly recasting the rigs they'd be left out for longer periods.

It was only half an hour or so after getting settled in that the right hand fake corn rod was in action. This proved to be the first of seven bream I banked in around four hours fishing. All of them, and the two I bumped off, taking either the corn or pellet. When it became obvious that I was 'on' bream I swapped the lead on the pellet rod over to a feeder which I packed with a mush of hemp, pellets and corn. The same mix I'd spread over the tenchy looking spot I'd dropped the maggot feeder on. That rod was inactive for the entire session.

So much for having sussed the pile-it-in-and-fish-feeders-over-the-top method for bream. I guess it's more a case of putting a bait in front of feeding fish. But then I know that's always the secret to success - not the latest rig or bait as the tackle and bait firms would have you believe.

Despite a stiff breeze the day and evening were warm in the late summer sun. Quite the opposite of the following day when I was back in place a little earlier with a another change of tactics. One rod fished a lobworm in the edge in the hope of an eel while the other two were rigged with in-line leads. Again I was using PVA bags but with both lead and bait popped in them. Two grains of popped up plastic corn will catch tench just as well as they will bream or carp, and I thought a 12mm pellet might do the same. In the back of my mind I was targeting tench (on carp gear just in case), but anything would do. Launching the corn to the same spot I'd had the bream from it could only be a matter of minutes before one hit my net and save a blank. If only fishing was that simple...

Although I moved the corn around the general area I'd caught from the bream must have moved on. After seeing a fish of some sort roll I recast the pellet in that vicinity and left it. It still came as a surprise when something picked it up. For some reason I was half expecting to be connected to a carp when I picked the rod up, but it proved to be a tench which got weeded a couple of times. Like the bream it was far from being a monster. The bream could do with another eight pounds apiece, and four more on the tench wouldn't go amiss. I've put some time in, caught some fish, done some digging around, and am getting the distinct impression the geese I'm chasing are wild. I thought it all sounded too good to be true. The fever is cooling off. Time to move on methinks.