Sunday, June 30, 2013

A quick comparison

For no particular reason, some photographs comparing the sizes of the 4000D and 6000OC reels and their spools.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


A shining sun coupled with a rainy forecast for the following evening plus a much improved back meant only one thing after two weeks of not fishing. My original idea was to set off after reheating the remains of Tuesday's chilli, but I changed my mind and took the stove and pan with me. Not to mention the kettle and some teabags.

There was a stiff wind blowing from the west. So stiff that while it was t-shirt weather out of it, standing in it's full force it was sweatshirt and fleece weather. I headed for the most sheltered spot I could find. On such a bright afternoon I dithered about casting out the eel baits and nearly left it until I'de started my brew. It seemed daft not to have baits in the water, though, so the rods got set up first.

Last time out I'd had my ProLeader get frayed by an eel's teeth for the first time. The day I fell over and did my back in I'd been to purchase some nylon coated wire to try out. Why nylon coated I'm not sure. I think I had it in mind that I would be able to knot it. As it turned out it could be knotted, but the knots were horribly bulky. I crimped it as best I could, not being able to find my selection of crimps in different sizes. I always find crimps ungainly and hooks and swivels can 'double back' in the loop to get out of line. Probably a confidence thing.

 With my belly full and a mug of proper tea (real milk was used!) in my hand I  began to ponder the sense of starting so early. Bright sun and clear water wasn't my idea of eel fishing conditions. Although as a youth my mates and I used to target eels on the canal using worms, preferring hot sunny afternoons for it. Perhaps we get stuck in believing the lore too much. I've caught a number of eels while pike fishing in summer, and had deadbaits shredded by them.

I got up to stretch my legs and keep my back from stiffening up. I'd barely reached the next swim when there were a couple of bleeps from the sounder box. The bobbins were still in place. Must have been the wind blowing the slightly slack line to the drop-off bobbin. I wandered off again. Surveying the swim next door the sounder box let out a continuous trill. The bobbin was off the legered bait rod. Picking the rod up it bent over and I felt the distinctive writhing throb of an eel. It looked a reasonable one judging by the width of its head and shoulders. It was easily unhooked, maybe hooking itself against the bobbin. The weight was a little disappointing, being a shade over a pound. Not yet six o'clock and an eel on the bank.

Given the conditions I'd cast the legered rudd further from the bank than usual. Not a long way out but past the shelf and, I hoped, past the weedline. Maybe in the bright light the eels would still be feeding in deeper water. The other rod was fishing a Dyson rig. This I had cast closer in, the idea being to have an off-bottom bait dangling either in or over the weed edge.

One thing was for sure, the wire trace hadn't deterred this particular eel. That gave my confidence a boost.

It was a couple more hours before I was disturbed again when the same bobbin twitched. I pulled the line out of the clip and some more was taken fitfully. The strike met with nothing. A fresh bait was cast out and taken almost immediately. Again my strike was futile. The next bait had settled and I was clipping on the bobbin when the line was pulled from my fingers. The baitrunner was on while I was messing about and the spool began to turn slowly. This time I connected with what felt like a better fish.

The rod was hooped over nicely, not being fully tested but seeming like it'll be up to the job when required, and the reel certainly has plenty of smooth cranking power. In the net, I guessed the weight of the eel at a couple of pounds. It fell a few ounces short. Looking at the shape of the fish I realised that, like the first one, it had a broad head and thick shoulders but tapered away quickly. This was what was accounting for my overestimations. Still, two eels out and there was more than a couple of hours of daylight left. I began to rethink my strategy for the future.

The next take, once more to the legered bait, came three quarters of an hour later. This fish had a similar body shape to the first two and fell between them in weight.

With the general confidence of the takes I was getting I switched to fishing off the baitrunner. An hour later the spool on the legered bait rod spun. I expected such a bold eel to be easily hooked. It wasn't. I did feel the fish briefly, a couple of twists and head shakes, before it was gone. The  recast bait wasn't taken immediately, twenty minutes passed before it was picked up. The frustration of eel fishing was back when I missed the run. Another five minute wait saw me fluff a chance once more. By now I was pretty much out of bait and called it a day.

Some lessons learned, and some questions posed. I can understand why people become obsessed with eel fishing. Not only are eels enigmatic, they are contrary and frustrating creatures. They certainly keep you thinking!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Some 'holiday'

It's been quiet in Lumbland. The reorganisation was going well. I was going to manage to wet a line. Then I fell over. For over a week I've been nursing a bad back not feeling like doing much, and not able to lift heavy weights to take rubbish to the tip or put my rucksack on my back. Today I've started feeling like getting the rods out again. This is was obviously the cue for the weather to turn back into summer normality with a temperature drop, strong wind and rain. Oh well. I've another week of my 'holiday' left...

I have seen freshly emerged damselflies round my pond recently, which has done a bit to cheer me up. Seeing one snatched up by a passing sparrow wasn't quite so pleasing! I'm pretty confident that the damsels have emerged from the pond. Fingers crossed for a few more appearing over the summer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

No eels again

It's a good job I've not been catching anything worth setting the camera up for a self-take recently. I looked in my rucksack the other day to show someone my bulb release bracket and the important bit was missing. Later I searched through the entire rucksack, side pockets and all, and failed to find the missing part. I ordered a new one, opting for the larger bracket this time so I could use a larger camera without too much fiddling around.

The new bracket arrived today and it's better than the old one. Gone are the plastic tops to the adjustment screws, replaced by machined metal ones. I was always fearful the plastic would detach from the thread at a critical time, so was wary of over tightening. These seem more robust. My first job has been to glue a bit of shrink tube to the top of the post to try and prevent the block sliding off and getting lost like the other one did. I ought to get the post top threaded to take a locknut to make a permanent job of it.

Lacking any worms the other evening I set out to catch eels using some more deadbaits I'd discovered in my freezer. For a bit of variety I legered one and fished the other on a Dyson rig. It was pleasantly warm, with a strongish easterly blowing. A wind that didn't die down at dusk.

The mozzies were out in force for that period when the light fades but the temperature stays high. Ducks and duckling were stretching their necks to catch flies low over the water while swifts were in evidence catching flies high over the water. In a calm patch a shoal of small fish were feeding off the surface. Although mozzies and midges might be a nuisance, they're an essential pat of the food chain.

Well before dark the legered bait was picked up, but another strike failed to connect. Later on the Dyson fished bait got messed with. The bobbin was twicthing, but even pulling the line out of the clip failed to produce a confident run or a hooked fish. Eel frustration continues. I must make an effort to both stock up on deadbaits and go fish another water I've had on my radar for a few years. That's the thing with eels, big ones can turn up in all sorts of places.

Big natural lakes in Cumbria contain them - although wading through the bootlaces to get at them was a problem thirty years ago when I gave it a try. We set up well before daylight and legered worms to catch eels for pike bait. I thought I'd be clever and fish two rods. I couldn't keep two baits in the water the takes were coming that fast and furious! None of the eels broke the pound mark as I remember. On the same water legered half mackerel would get hollowed out by eels without any indication. At other times a decent eel, two pounds or more (much more if you were lucky, which I wasn't), would pick up and engulf a pike bait - treble hooks and all. I can't work out what makes eels finicky at times and suicidal at others.

Reports of big eels from small commercial fisheries are increasingly common as these places mature, and lots of bait goes in. The problems there are avoiding the blasted carp which will eat anything, restrictive rules, and the popularity of the places. Commercials aren't too bad to fish for perch in winter when the t-shirt brigade are hibernating. I doubt I could face them in summer. I wonder if that neglected pond down the road has any eels in it?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer comes to the pond

With last winter lingering so long it's taken my pond some time to wake up, but now it has it's teeming with life. The tadpoles are doing well, some almost froglets now, and full grown frogs are still popping their heads up. Beetles are busy, waterboatmen and back swimmers are about, pond skaters are feasting.

After two springs the yellow flag have decided to flower, the bog bean and water mint are spreading nicely and some bistort I planted last autumn has taken hold along with some pondweed.

A few weeks ago I spotted the first newt in my pond which was pleasing. The  species is uncertain as it was the briefest of glimpses and the blanket weed made any further sightings difficult. After the mallards descended last year and ate most of my snails it's nice to see them making a comeback. It might only be a small pond, but it's always changing. Yesterday I spotted a couple of caddis larvae dragging their homes around. The only disappointment is the level keeps dropping. I fear the pond has sprung a leak.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Lazy summer day

Despite my 'holiday' I managed to find some work to occupy me in the morning. The ODI cricket kept me interested until their wickets tumbled while I was making an early evening meal. I was at the waterside earlier than intended, looking for some gullible roach to turn into eel baits. Fish always do a vanishing act when you think you know where they'll be. Just as well I'd found one more bag of rudd in the freezer.

It was another hot, sunny afternoon with just a light breeze wafting the daisies and grasses. I spent some time just wandering around looking at the water and the world, there being no rush to get the eel baits out. At long last damselflies are emerging and numerous blue and blue tailed damsels were on the wing or paired up. I even spotted an emerald damsel, a first for me in this spot. Again my lack of botanical knowledge let me down as I noted a variety of flowers amongst the grasses and plantains.

Fish were less in evidence, so I chose my swim on the basis of comfort. It hadn't been fished for some time and the marginal reeds were closing it up a bit. I've been carting a Seymo weed cutter around for years now only using it a couple of times. Out it came to screw onto my landing net pole. Except I couldn't get the spreader block off. Out with a bankstick and remove the Delkim. This did the job. Only one problem. I'd bent the bankstick. Then another problem arose. The Delkim has one of their quick release things attached. Unscrewing this from the stick meant it had to be reattached using an Allen key. Two slight problems with that. I couldn't get the release off the Delk, and even if I could have done I didn't have an Allen key with me - it's in my roach/bream/tench box, which was at home. Thankfully, and unusually, I had a spare Delkim in my bag.

Problems overcome, if not solved, I was soon set up and it was time to put the new catapult pouch to use. As predicted it was useless - or my technique is. The first couple of attempts saw as many maggots bouncing back at me as entering the water, and those that did go the right way scattered far and wide. I threw some in by hand...

I'd forgotten all about the cricket. When I got round to switching the radio on it was, as I expected, all over. Roll on the Ashes! With the hot weather I'd not bothered with a flask and cracked open a bottle of pop while I sat back to watch the mayflies dance over the reeds, fend off the blundering crane flies and pick maggots out of my rucksack.

It was a complete surprise when, at half past seven in bright sunshine, the right hand bobbin dropped off. Looking at the line I saw a reed stem was brushing it near the rod tip. I guessed that had blown around and dislodged the line from the lightly set clip. I picked the rod up and flicked the line free. The line was moving out. A quick strike and I felt the unmistakable twisting and turning of an eel - one of my new reels was christened. Maybe not the leviathan I was hoping for, it was still nice to see it writhing up in the clear water.

After returning the eel I noticed the hooklink was frayed. Up until now I'd had no problems with the ProLeader. I've used it for pike in the past with only an occasional minor fraying of the steel outer and no trouble at all with eels last year. I had heard of other people having a lot of trouble with the stuff with both predatory species. Once bitten (or frayed in this case) twice shy. I'll be using 'proper' wire from now on.

The rudd tail was replaced with the same fish's head and cast out. I swapped the worm rig to a Dyson to fish it off bottom. Dropping it in the clear margins I could see it would do its job. As last year worms are proving less successful than deadbaits so far.

For almost three hours the alarms remained silent. Around ten fifteen I had a couple of single bleeps to the deadbait. There was nothing there. Not even the bait. A whole rudd went out. A few minutes later I had another bleep which I ignored. When I packed up that bait had gone too. It wasn't quite bunny-suit-cold, but there was a chill in the air which made me pack up early. I'd learned a bit more and there were things that needed sorting. Bankstick, Delkim, wire. I couldn't settle with those whirring round in my head. I need to be chilled to fish well.

A pound plus eel is no test for a heavy duty reel, but I'm liking the way the 6000OCs  handle. The Baitrunner mechanism can't be set super slack, but I think it goes slack enough to try for eels. I'm also liking the anti-reverse switch, which is larger than on some and almost as easy to flick to the off position as on the original and D series reels. The switch on the XTEAs I had was fiddly and easy to miss, and the one on the smaller reels is also a bit fiddly. Not a problem if you area drag user, but I sometimes use the drag and sometimes backwind - it depends one what I'm fishing for and if I'm using braid or mono. It's just a shame they have so many 'silvery' bits on them. It might be time to get the spray paint and black tape out!

I've not tried any long chucks with the reels but many years ago I did some comparisons and concluded that it's spool diameter and length that affects how far a reel will cast more than the neatness of its line lay system. I'm pretty sure they'll be fine for any distance I want to cast that doesn't require a big pit reel.

I followed my usual packing up ritual of loading the rucksack first, folding up the chair and finally putting the rods in the sling after the banksticks - leaving the rods lying on the ground with the baitrunner on, just in case. It was almost dark by the time everything was packed away so it was a good job I had my headtorch on or I might have stood on the dark lump that had appeared by the rucksack. LED light revealed it to be a foraging hedge pig. Another sign that summer is well under way at long last.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Forgive me my sins

It goes without saying that I caught no carp!

I honestly don't know why I bother even trying to catch carp when I stumble on them in unexpected places. When I find some they either disappear when I return with a rod or they simply ignore my bait.

Then again I don't have the patience required to bait and wait. Nor the driving urge to actually catch carp. The end result of the challenge isn't interesting enough. Maybe if I stumble on a really big carp in an unexpected place I might see things differently, but the chances of that are slim to none.

Truth be told I'd mostly gone out to play with a rod. I'd found an 11ft 1.75lb Torrix blank that I hadn't remembered ordering and as it's a blank I'd love to find a use for -it feels just right - I built it up intending to give it a whirl for bream or tench but haven't got round to it. When I blundered into these carp, which aren't big, I thought the rod would be ideal for some stalking - although blundering is a much more apt description of my approach!

With summer in full swing the carp were cruising about just under the almost flat surface. A couple of fish actually came up and took a floater. That was before I could get them feeding confidently - and before my catapult broke. Not your simple snapped elastic which I could have sorted by cutting it back a bit, but something less instantly bodgeable. One of the plastic bits that connects elastic to pouch snapped. I tried chucking some bait out by hand but it dropped short. The ducks seemed happy about that.

Today I had to buy both elastic and pouch because the plastic bits weren't available. Elastic and pouch wasn't much more than elastic alone, either. It's one of those moulded pouches from which I find my bait falls before I can fire it out. No doubt that's my poor technique. I also bought some maggots so I can do some proper fishing. The Torrix can stay home with the bloody floaters and the carp can please themselves.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

I didn't want to do that

Yesterday's session didn't get off to a good start when I managed to bash my float rod into something while walking to my swim. Although it was folded in two in my quiver with the tip 'protected' in the pocket it must have bent back on itself sufficiently to snap an inch or so down. That's only the third rod I've broken in over forty years, so compared to some people I've been lucky given the lack of care I give my rods.

The first rod I broke was a hollow glass pike rod which snapped about six inches from the tip when I tried casting out an over-ambitious livebait. I was miffed at the time as it was the rod I'd used to catch my first twenty and it had fond memories attached. The repair was successful and it carried on catching pike after that as if nothing had happened. I still have that rod it being the only glass pike rod I didn't sell when I 'went carbon'. The second rod I broke was an Interceptor with a solid spliced quiver tip. I never liked the tip, so its removal and replacement with a glass one was going to happen anyway. It was much improved.

Undeterred by the mishap I removed the tip ring from my line, retackled and started fishing for bait. Needless to say the first fish I hooked was a too big skimmer. The second one was a slightly bigger skimmer that came off when the line went slack as I tried to untangle it from the broken tip. After an hour of this, I was getting bites which I expected were from more of the same judging by the bubbles coming up from where I was trickling in maggots, I gave up. Enjoyable as it is to float fish on a warm summer's evening it's not as relaxing when you are constantly watching for line wrapping round the tip of a busted rod.

Knowing that I can never catch bait when I want it I'd put some worms and the remaining frozen rudd in the rucksack - just in case.  When I got to the Moth Pit I set up the eel rods, complete with new eel reels, and chucked out a whole rudd on one and a couple of worms on the other, both  over a carpet of red maggots.

It seems like spring passed us by without making much fuss and summer is suddenly here. Weed is showing in the clear margins, growing up in quite a depth. Flowers are beginning to bloom. The choking scent of hawthorn is in the air. Best of all the bunny suit that was only just keeping me warm a week or so ago can be left at home.

As the longest day approaches twilight lingers longer. It's difficult to determine quite when night has actually fallen. There's a brief period at dusk when the hawthorn is in flower when clouds of mosquitoes rise and fall around them in buzzing clouds. Some break free of the group and mount raids on unsuspecting anglers. Once the sun sets and its heat is gone the insects disappear. The bats and moths don't.There's always something to watch when you're fishing.

Before darkness had closed in the drop-off on the deadbait rod did its job. Braid was trickling over the Delkim, the sounder murmuring in my fleece pocket. I closed the bale arm and struck into nothing. Pretty much as I expected.

A few minutes later the other bobbin twitched, then fell away. This strike met with slightly more resistance provided by a bootlace that hardly counts as a fish to christen a new reel. Still, it was a fish. And it took worms. It's much easier to collect or buy worms than catch deadbaits of the right size! With the tiny snig returned I packed up for the second time.

This morning I repaired the float rod, glueing the ring straight onto the fractured tip. I've got to find somewhere to use it to catch myself some eel baits. I have a tip-off on a place that's full of small fish. So easy to catch are they that you get bored after an hour. Knowing my luck there'll be one monster carp in the place and I'll hook it, play it for a while as it ruins the swim then lose it. I feel like I should be going tench fishing now the weather is right, but I can't face getting up early to do it locally, and the thought of driving any distance to spend a couple of nights bivvied up has lost its charm. Then again I might change my mind tomorrow!

Monday, June 03, 2013

New toys

New rods need new reels or they don't feel like new rods! That's why I ordered another pair of Baitrunners the other week. My rationalisation being that the reels I was using didn't have instant anti-reverses, which makes folding rods up rigged with braid more prone to slack line and tangles in transit. As if I needed an excuse!

I had considered trying to track down two more 3500Bs. Good solid reels which are just the right size for close in fishing with 12-15lb mono or 30-50lb braid. On the heavy side, but built to last. Then it crossed my mind that there was the new OC series which looks on paper to be a slightly less featured version of the D series. Lacking the waterproof drag and not much else. Not quite so 'blingy' either with a silver rather than gold spool. Knowing the 4000 size would be too small and unable to get my hands on one of the next size up I took a chance that my guess would be right. The reels turned up at my local tackle shop and I'd got it spot on.

As soon as I held one of the reels and turned its handle it felt reassuringly solid. Compared to the flimsy bale arm on the 4000D the 6000OC has a less refined but stronger looking one. The roller is chunky and seems to do its job.

Loaded with braid a 6000OC weighs the same as a similarly loaded 3500B and is pretty much the same overall size. The spools are the same diameter at the back, the lip on the OC slightly wider, but the OC spool is a touch longer (front to back). The line lay isn't great, slightly improved on the 3500B, but not much. Not that it matters at close range and matters even less with braid than mono in my experience.

The only negative comment I have to make before fishing with the reels is that the Baitrunner doesn't go as slack as some others. Not a problem on a big river barbel reel, but if fishing off the 'runner for predators it might be. I guess I'll have to go eel fishing to find out.