Friday, July 26, 2013

General Shufflehouses

If you're a listener to Test Match Special you'll know where this blog's title comes from. If you're not a TMS aficionado, tough!

After using my 12ft 1.75lb Torrixes for roach fishing last winter/spring (did we have a spring?) I decided to make myself a third Chimera Avon and get rid of the Torrixes. As it turned out a mate wanted a pair of Avons, and as he was in a rush for them I did him a deal on my existing pair and ordered up three fresh blanks for my own rods.

I had never been over happy with the experimental handles I'd put on the original pair but did like the handles I'd put on the Torrixes - apart from the blingy stainless bits. Being in an all-matt/all-blackphase at the present I cut down three reel seats to fit my small baitrunners. Going for the ones with the carbon spacers I removed the gloss varnish to match the Ultra Matt blanks. Then I shaped up some Duplon to go fore and aft. A standard slim Duplon butt grip with a black plastic button finished things off.

I almost used metallic aquamarine thread which looks good on woven blanks to tip the handle whippings but changed my mind at the last minute and went for something less obvious when I found a spool of purple deep in one of my boxes of threads.

The lettering is simply 'DLST' on top, between the whippings on teh side-mounted hook keeper, length and test curve underneath behind the reel seat, and numbering dots opposite the 'DLST' and on the tip sections.

Having used lightweight SiC guides (gunsmoke frames) on the Torrixes I considered doing the same on the Avons. However I chose to stick with the all-black theme and went for lightweight Alconites (black frames). As this blank has a very fine tip I fitted single leg guides as the final three. The pattern I used are fly rod guides which sit tight to the blank and I'm not 100% satisfied. They'll function perfectly well, but aesthetically they are less than ideal. That minor niggle apart I'm looking forward to sitting behind them waiting for a bobbin to drop.

With the Avons finished the Torrixes are surplus to requirements. Much as the 12ft 1.75lb Torrix is a lovely blank I just don't have a use for it at the moment as my roach fishing isn't being done at long range, nor am I doing any medium range bream fishing for which they should be ideal. For tench I prefer Interceptors for some reason - even though I have had tench to 7-13 (and a male a pound lighter) on the Torrixes. So, they might as well go.

The build is a bit off-the-wall. First of all the reel seats have been cut down to take small baitrunners (DL, D, OC in the 4000 size. You can just get a standard sized baitrunner in them if you wind the hood as far back as it will go, and then jiggle the reel foot. There are stainless steel butt buttons and collars at the back of the reel seats.

Ring sizes are small - 20mm butt ring to 8mm tip. Ring pattern is Fuji MNSG butt ring, LMNSG intermediates and MNST tip - all SiC. Gloss finish, black thread with metallic auquamarine tipping at the handle.

A new build to this spec would work out at £260 per rod. If anyone's interested, I'm open to offers in the region of £500 (including carriage) for the three.

Another blank that I handled and immediately tried to find a use for is the 11ft 1.75lb Torrix. It feels to have a stiffer tip than the 12ft version and slightly more power overall. I've contemplated a set for tench fishing, and like a fool I built myself one (on a brown blank with a cork handle, 30mm to 10mm BSVOG guides), but it seems a little too beefy to me. If I was in the habit of staking carp in snag-free situations I'd use it for that. It's one of those rods I can't fit into a niche no matter how hard I try. Make me an offer close to £140 and it's yours! SOLD

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summertime blues

The days might well be getting shorter but as far as I'm concerned the middle of July is high summer. Not least in the heatwave we've been wishing for the last couple of years which we are now starting to moan about! It's far too hot to set out until the day is beginning to cool down at the moment. Far to hot even to move through most of the day.

With the test Match finishing late yesterday it as gone seven when I fought my way along an untrampled path to a different water in an attempt to change my eel catching fortunes. After dropping my gear I had a look around, swatting at the biting flies which found my sweating arms attractive.

After finding a spot where the marginal weed wasn't too thick and a quick plumb around revealed a decent depth without too much in the way of bottom weed I hacked and trampled out enough space for me to set up my stall among the freshly blooming meadowsweet, umbelifers and slowly fading trefoil.

The sickly smell of the cut vegetation permeated the sticky and still air as I cast out two deadbaits. One legered on a decent chuck the other on a Dyson rig close to the marginal weed edge.

Nothing happened while the heat was still in the sun. Bees buzzed and fed on the trefoil. The biting flies bit. Even sitting still listening to the radio I continued to sweat. Once the sun had (technically) set the water levelled right off to a flat calm. Damselflies sought out roosting spots in the reeds. The biting flies retired for the day while the mosquitoes whined in for the night shift. Bats came out and the alarm on the leger rod bleeped. the bobbin failed to drop, didn't even seem to twitch. I settled back. A few minutes later the alarm bleeped again.I checked the bait and dropped it a bit shorter.

By the time it was dark I switched the sounder box off and relied on the LEDs to alert me to takes. The legered bait was the first to be interfered with. Another twitch that could have been eel induced, could have been a liner but probably wasn't given how lightly set I had the bobbin clip. Not long after that the other LED lit up briefly. Nothing, yet again. Then it lit for longer as the bobbin dropped off and the line pulled slowly off the reel. Then it stopped. I clipped back up. That was it. I stuck around until I began to nod off.

Another frustrating eel session. I bet if I set my stall out to catch tench I'd be plagued by he buggers. Given this was on a different water has that been two blanks on the trot or just the one? I have to consider this given my three blanks and move on rule. I'm equally aware that when a dry spell arrives one of the worst things you can do is keep moving waters, or changing target species. Then again a change of species might do me good. Trouble is there's nowt else I feel like fishing for in this heat. Must try harder!

Monday, July 15, 2013


What was needed was to concentrate on the job in hand and not set out in two minds. So Friday evening saw me determined to catch some small fish. Okay, I did have the eel rods with me but I left them in the quiver until I had caught something bait sized. Even then I only put a small bunch of worms out on one of them and carried on fishing with the float rod.

True to form the small fish came along at first to be replaced by perch that were too big as the maggots kept going in. Either they were coming in to the feed or the small fish. One way or the other that is often the pattern. The third regular occurrence is that once the sun gets to a certain height the better roach move in. Which they did. That was my signal to call it a day. I had enough baits to do me for a couple more short eel sessions.

Last week a former colleague of mine from Chorley Anglers asked me to shorten the handles on a couple of rods. He said they were 11ft Harrisons but as soon as I saw them I knew they weren't, and were built on Sportex blanks. I'm not sure if I built the rods, although the colour scheme of the whippings rang a bell. The job was simple enough. To save time and money all that was asked of me was to chop the butt sections down and fit new butt grips.

The butt Duplons pulled off easily enough and sure enough they revealed the Sportex blank codes underneath. I always liked the Sportex design policy. Make the blanks light, but not so light the walls are fragile, and use fastish tapers. They were nice to build on too.

In the end I removed the Duplon cones from the backs of the reel seats, applied Japanese shrink tube to the butts, and with much warm water and soap slid new Duplon cones up to the seats. The original butt grips went back on in similar fashion and new butt plugs were glued in place. I should have taken before and after pictures...

Saturday evening I threw the gear in the back of the car and made a determined effort to catch some more baits. This time I didn't bother with the eel rods. It wasn't quite a bite a chuck, but they came often enough to stop me getting bored. The fish were all of a nice size. Until the perch arrived. Followed by the roach. As per usual. By then, however, I had enough bait now to see me through a few sessions so packing up was no hardship.

Stocked up with eel baits I couldn't wait to get out on Sunday after tea. I was guaranteed to catch. Everything looked spot on as I settled into a swim I'd not fished for some time. A female mallard was guarding her brood of eight tiny ducklings, a grebe was hunting successfully for food for its own chicks, the turquoise streak of a kingfisher zipped past my rods. The light breeze softened and the water went mirror calm rippled now and again by the occasional fish topping and clouds of bubbles breaking. A micro light buzzed softly in the distance as the crescent moon appeared to continue it's slow descent in the still-blue sky. Witching hour was approaching. Anticipation was growing. The bobbins remained as still as the surface of the lake.

As the air chilled so a light mist began to drift low over the water. My mind slipped back to all those nights such a mist had killed sport stone dead. I waited for it to be dark enough to require the head torch to pack away and did just that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

No patience

Saturday evening I set out to catch myself some bait. Half an hour fighting drifting weed on the surface without a bite drove me a way from the first port of call. Ten minutes on the  second venue with one small perch bagged and I was fed up! Sunday I took my dwindling supply of baits for an outing and managed one missed run in blazing sunshine around five in the evening. I expected that to herald a hectic session. The bobbins never moved again. This didn't encourage me to bother again until Thursday when I set off after the roller-coaster ride of the second day's play in the first Ashes Test Match of the summer had concluded.

There was a light breeze rippling the water, taking the strength out of the sun, and wafting the aroma of freshly spread manure up my nostrils making it a pleasant evening to be out and about. There was quite a bit of surface activity. Fry were dimpling and bait-sized fish cavorting splashily. All was good. Confident in perch as eel baits now, and with them being tough skinned, I put a tail on one rod and a head on the other. The tail getting legered close in the head going further out. It was only seven o'clock, still bright and warm. The bait in deeper water was most likley to get picked up first.

Eels being eels it was the close in bobbin which dropped off two hours later, the braid flying off the spool and pulling the meniscus behind it as it ran across the water. Unsurprisingly, my strike failed to connect. The tough perch skin did its job and the bait came back in one piece. I like economical baits!

After twenty five more minutes the left hand rod was away. The bait in deeper water was moving off at speed. Strike. Nowt. I really don't get it with eels! After recasting it was off again. Another failed attempt at hooking the culprit. This time I determined to try a 'catfish strike' on the next run - letting the eel take up all the slack before making my attempt to set the hook rather than a 'pike strike' - taking up the slack using the reel. I only had to wait ten minutes before putting the plan into practice. It almost worked. I felt the eel this time. Briefly. Before it fell off!

In the heat of all this action I left the bale arm closed when recasting the head section. The lead cracked off the weak link and the head section exploded! Retackle the lead link and cut a section out of the middle of the last perch in the cool bag. It wasn't long before that bait was picked up. It was dropped quickly. Bugger. Check the bait. Still on the hook. Recast. It wasn't long before it was away again. At last I connected and felt the unmistakeable pull of an eel.

You don't play eels, you try to keep a tight line and them coming towards you. Most of the time they try to swim backwards, but they can take you unaware and slack line you. I kept the pressure on and managed to net the fish at the second attempt.

On the bank it was clearly another of the tapering eels. Big head and shoulders, rapidly thinning body. It was quite well behaved, if not big enough for a self-take. By now it was time to pack up. Baits were low anyway.

Like all good anglers the landing net is the last thing to get packed away. So the usual procedure was followed. Rucksack packed. First rod away. Second rod laid on the deck with the baitrunner on while the alarms and pod are stashed. I was dismantling the pod when I heard the baitrunner turn a little and stop. I felt the line and there was something going on at the other end. Yet again my strike was fruitless. I recast the bait and finished packing the pod away. That was it. wind in the last rod, roll up the net and head for home. I'm going to have to overcome my patience threshold and put in a serious bait snatching session somewhere or there won't be many more eels getting caught.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Glutton for punishment

Undeterred by my complete failure last time out I was determined to give the same swim another try under different conditions. It was a proper summer evening yesterday, sunny, and warm until the sun set. The damselflies were active until late too. There were lots of them about, as many as I've seen in one place round here, flying up from the tangle of plants as I walked to my swim in a iridescent  swarm. Mostly blue-tailed in their various colour forms, but some azures as well.

The grebe chicks I first saw last week had grown considerably. One stripey head resting on each of the parents' shoulders as they drifted about.

Two eel baits were out by seven. I was sticking with perch on one rod and giving a lamprey chunk a try on the other. I've known eels get caught on lamprey when piking, so why not. If it works one lamprey will provide multiple baits. This time both rigs were fished on the bottom.

It only took twenty minutes for the bobbin to drop off on the perch tail rod and the line to peel steadily from the spool. Nothing. Another run in daylight when the sun was bright. Odd how last time when it was dull and wet I had no action at all during daylight - or dusk for that matter. I'm beginning to think this water might be worth fishing earlier in the day. A couple of hours later I had a repeat performance. Eels are damned frustratiing!

The westerly that had been blowing began to die down and a couple of fish topped. The place looked perfect. Insects were hatching, making tiny circles on the water, martins were picking them off. Midge clouds hovered over the hawthorns. Woodpigeons roosted ad the light began to fade.

I was hoping it would be third time lucky when the same bobbin fell away and the line snaked out into the lake again. It was! My strike met a firm resistance, the writhing eel that emerged from the depths looked a bit bigger than the rest I'd managed so far this season. So the scales proved. Not much bigger but a step in the right direction.

Getting action on the perch bait was a confidence raiser. Just as well as I've got more in the freezer. I cut a 'steak' out of the remaining half of the perch I'd used the tail from and cast that out. Half an hour later the bobbin dropped off again but the bait seemed to have been dropped. I took up the slack and felt a tug. I tugged back. Something began to take line. This time the strike met a very different resistance. Nothing more than a faint wriggling sensation was transmitted up the line. A bootlace of maybe half a pound seemed to have the bait wedged in its throat.

I'd been putting the repeated missed runs down to big eels being missed and coming back a few times until I hook one. Now I'm wondering if they are caused by small fish picking up the baits. Every step forward seems to be met by more questions with this eel fishing lark.

I was trying a different way of lighting photographs this time out. It didn't work. Which is why I converted the eel picture to black and white...

Monday, July 01, 2013

Risk averse

Saturday saw me trying to stock up on eel baits while sweating and sniffling in the dry heat of early afternoon. I managed to catch a few, but they were mostly perch. Pike eat dead perch, so I'm sure eels do to. The intention had been to use them that evening until I changed my mind. Sunday would do just as well.

Before loading the car with the tackle I checked the internet for a weather forecast. There was rain due around nine but it would pass over before dark. Would it be heavy enough to warrant me carting the brolly to the swim I had in mind, or could I chance sitting it out in my waterproofs? I opted to risk the burden. I was glad I did.

The eel rods were out before seven, with a maggot feeder rod in the middle of them. It seemed a good idea to try to fool some small fish into hooking themselves to supplement my sparse deadbait supply.

Not much happened. One single bleep to the legered deadbait early on, which I put down to the strong westerly which was blowing once more. The resident pair of grebes swam around accompanied by their two still tiny offspring. A sparrowhawk flew along the margins, right over my rods causing uproar in the willows. I saw the distant woods in the west turn hazy as the rain moved in an hour earlier than predicted. The brolly went up in the nick of time.

After an hour the rain eased and a weak glow from the almost set sun kissed the tops of the willows, too low and weak to dry anything out before darkness arrived.

I wound in the leger rod to find the bait gone. Pinched by an eel when the alarm had sounded or dragged off in the weed on the retrieve was impossible to decide. I rebaited and recast, checked the off-bottom bait and put that back out beyond the weed edge then packed the feeder rod away.

Unlike last time out when there had been plenty of eel activity this session ended as a resounding blank. The place didn't feel awake. The midges weren't in evidence and the birdlife had been subdued. One of those days when a blank was almost expected. Equally one of those days when a big fish might have turned up out of the blue. But didn't!