Thursday, August 29, 2013

Feeder thoughts

In between getting loads of runs from tiny eels, and catching a few of them, I've been trying to catch bream. Quite how big they might grow remains to be seen. Initial results are suggesting that is not as big as I have been lead to believe. It's given me a chance to play around with rigs and think about swimfeeders.

The approach has been pretty simple. Get some feed out and fish simple helicopter rigs over the top of it. The rig is a quick change swivel between two small beads trapped by a Fox briad stop either side. Another quick change swivel is tied to the end of the line to take the feeder and the hooklink attached to the upper swivel by its loop, a tapered sleeve preventing accidental loss.

Picking up where I left off with my breaming the only suitably sized feeders I had were 60g medium Korum cage feeders. These had been used with 2.5lb rods in the past, but as I sold those a while ago, and the range to be cast not great, I was using my trusty 1lb 12oz Interceptors. The loaded feeders could be lob cast on the Interceptors but seemed OTT for the job. I know someone who would have put off fishing until he had the right weight feeders to do the job. Not me though. Needs must and all that stuff. I managed.

The feed was a mix of explosive feeder, hemp and hali crush, mixed pellets and sweetcorn. Hookbaits were the bream's favourite plastic corn, popped up half an inch or so, on one rod and an 8mm crab flavour pellet on the other rod. I started in early afternoon on a broiling hot day by removing the hooklinks and casting one feeder after another in rotation for almost half an hour. I was knackered!

It didn't take long for fish to move in to the swim and I was soon getting liners. Then a positive take to the corn. A bream less than half the weight I would have liked. But a start.

I spent the afternoon and evening watching the dragonflies buzzing over the water and occasionally landing on my rods. It was a quintessentially late summer afternoon in England. The sort we imagine they were always like in the good old days. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds, little wind and the faintest Vaughan William 'hum' in the atmosphere. I heard no larks ascending, only the faintest rattling buzz of dragonfly wings.

Even as the sun lowered below the horizon it remained warm. The bream refused to roll at dusk, although I did land another to go with the first of the day and another slightly larger one. Knowing my approach had something going for it I was keen to get back for another try before the weather finally breaks.

I was determined to get some more suitably weighted feeders for my second session. A trip to my regular tackle shop gave me only one option. Korum's Combi-Feeders (the only feeders you'll ever need). As a groundbait feeder they're identical in size (medium) to the cage feeders I had. At 45g they balanced nicely on the rods once loaded.

The ingenious thing with these feeders is the end caps are both removable, being linked together with powergum to hold them in place when fitted to convert the feeder to a blockend. It's a nice concept, being able to carry one feeder to do two jobs. If it works.

Rigged up with the new feeders I adopted the same approach as before on my next session, making a dawn start for a change. This time I spent rather longer baiting up as I reckoned the more bait I put out the better my chances of holding bream in the swim. Again it didn't take long for the bream to appear. One rolled over the rigs in short order. Liners started, but nothing positive happened.

After a while I thought I'd try one of the feeders in block-end format. It was sort of okay. As a feeder it did the job. Filling the feeder was not quite as simply done as with a dedicated maggot feeder. The caps aren't easily flicked off with the thumb of the hand holding the feeder. You also have to be careful the cap isn't pulled inside the feeder by the powergum. There might well be a knack that can be developed to make filling the feeder a smoother operation given time. My initial impression is that these are good open ended feeders which can be pressed into service as blockends at a pinch. They can't be too bad. I bought a third one today as a spare.

I've never found helicopter rigs to actually helicopter. Braided hooklinks seem to be able to tangle quiet easily, while stiffer mono links are less prone to fouling. This was frustrating me until I remembered the trick of squeezing a dampened PVA foam nugget around the mainline to nick the hook point into.

At least one bream found my baits. The corn was picked up early on. Shortly before I packed up the pellet was picked up. I'm pretty sure it was the same small bream which picked up both baits. If not there are two with identical splits in their anal fins in the water!

When mixing groundbait it's easy to add too much water by dunking the bowl in the lake. Some while back I started using a groundbait flavour bottle with a nozzle to add water gradually to the mix. Recently I have been using a Heinz tomato ketchup bottle. It works a treat.

Next time I have the time for a longer session after the bream I'll adopt a different strategy. A stiffer bait mix will be used, more of it, balled up for faster baiting with a catapult, and used on method feeder rigs.

These feeders aren't the only gear I've been buying of late. More of which later.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Eeling again

I had a couple of evening eel sessions this week while the temperatures are remaining high and my time limited. It was straight back to the frustration of missed runs.

Armed with a bucket of expensive lobworms the first session on Wednesday saw me fishing a shallow spot with baits cast over carpets of maggots on the weed edge. It didn't take long for the eels to find the worms. And so began a few hours of falling bobbins, peeling line and failed strikes.

One time I did manage to feel an eel on the end of the line when I thought a passing swan had dislodged the bobbin. On taking hold of then line to put it back in the clip I felt a sharp tug and struck. Missed again. The bites were coming thick and fast. So much so that baits were being picked up almost as soon as they settled and I gave up trying to keep count at a dozen. One recast saw me struggling to get the line in the drop-off as an eel tried to make off with the bait.

It was a warm, warm evening with no need for the fleece, and Thursday evening was warmer still with no need for a sweatshirt, even when a shower of rain came over just as the first run commenced. For this session I thought that getting away from the weed and leaving the maggots at home might find me some eels with bigger mouths, more able to manage a big lob.

The baits were both fished in the margins to start with, that first run being hit and a bootlace of maybe half a pound landed. That wasn't the start of such hectic action as the day before. Not until the right hand rod was cast a bit further out did runs started coming  frequently, but at manageable intervals. As the light faded the margin rod began getting attention until it got dark when the action ceased on both rods.

I ended up with three identically sized eels for my efforts - which was an improvement over the first session despite doing nothing differently. As always seems to be the case when fishing for eels, each session throws up at least as many questions as answers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New stuff and roach avoidance

Ball bearing swivels have never been  a big seller for DLST, but there are people who use them. I now have limited initial stocks of the Dual Rotating swivels from Stringease. Unlike many ball bearing swivels these spin at both ends. They have welded rings and stated breaking strains of 38lb and 45lb. Find them in my webshop.

I've been trying some late summer tench fishing, without success, recently. Plastic casters and corn, and real live maggots, have been ignored by the red-eyed demons. But not by other species. Small, three to six ounce, roach took a liking to my 6mm popped up plastic pellets so I thought two 8mm crab Pellet-Os on a hair tied off a size eight would avoid them. They didn't!

The year is starting to slip past quickly now, yet there are still reed warblers and kingfishers to be seen supplying their last brood of the season with food.

While summer clings on midday temperatures are high, and the sun bright, but when it dips low the air chills and a dampness rises from the ground. Although the trees remain green their leaves are becoming brittle. Bankside vegetation is similarly crisping up with seed heads drying. Hips and haws are reddening. The last of the meadowsweet flowers are fading, and when they are gone autumn will be almost upon us.

All of which makes me indecisive as to what to fish for. There's still a chance of tench, bream are a distinct possibility as are eels while the water stays warm. If I could be bothered travelling zander would be an option.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Better fishing photos - 4

Choosing a camera

If you have read the previous articles in this series you should know by now that the camera is the least important thing to consider when aiming to improve your fishing photographs. These days most cameras (even those in phones) are 'good enough' (or can be if used carefully) for most people's purposes - sharing on the internet and making small prints - and even for sending to the weeklies should you so wish.

All that aside, many people want a bit more in a camera, and if you are thinking of using your photos to accompany articles for print based media you might want something more advanced. A discussion on the PAC forum on this subject prompted the following from Eric Edwards:
At the end of the day I'm an angler first and whatever camera I buy has to fit in with that. It has to be light and it has to be compact and I have to be able to do self-takes. They're all essential and I can't compromise on them, the other bits are all negotiable.
All very reasonable requirements, pretty much what any 'serious' angler would want a camera to do.

There is lots of info on the web to do your research on camera specifications, DPReview is the first port of call. You can even compare camera sizes at! I'd still advise taking a look at cameras in the real world as pictures don't give you a true impression of bulk or weight - which can be important considerations if you want to travel light.

So, how do you decide what camera to choose? First of all make a list of the factors which are most important to you, like Eric did. These are likely to include: price, size/weight, ease of use, ability to do self-takes, ruggedness/weatherproofing, picture quality, flexibility, and what you intend doing with the pictures. Put the list in order of importance to you and start your search.

If price is a major concern then it's well worth buying secondhand - particularly if you are considering a more 'advanced' camera. Camera geeks change their gear more often than carp anglers change their rods and reels. As soon as a new model is released there will be people selling off perfectly good (and often lightly used) cameras. (See further down the page for more about buying pre-owned cameras.)

Such is the pace of change in camera technology I'll not be mentioning specific models, but more general types of cameras in this article.The article may also be subject to change over time.

If you need a camera that will withstand the elements then you have two options - a weather, water and shockproof compact, or a top of the range DSLR ( Digital Single Lens Reflex) or compact system camera (CSC). The compact will probably work under water while the other two will be merely weather and water resistant, will require expensive casings to work underwater and won't take too kindly to being dropped! That said, so long as you don't absolutely soak your camera a few drops of rain won't ruin it.

Olympus waterproof compact camera
I used the Olympus on the right as my all-weather camera for a number of years. Even if you have a 'better' camera something small and quick to use like this is handy for keeping in a pocket to snap action shots of your friends or use when the rain is torrential. It's close up facility was handy, and it worked underwater too. The downsides were that it was limited in what it could do other than point and shoot and the flash was particularly useless in the dark. In decent daylight it was an okay camera though.

More versatile compact cameras are available which allow you more control over exposure and focusing. The most popular of these for fishing are the Canon G series. Some of the Canon G cameras have flip out screens, but not all. Check the specifications before purchasing. The G series are almost the same as Canon's bridge cameras. The main differences being the viewfinders and the zoom range. Viewfinders are useful in bright sunlight when screens can be difficult, or impossible, to see clearly.

'Bridge' cameras look a little like DSLRs but are often (not always) smaller and lighter than DSLRs. The viewfinder of a bridge camera is electronic, it's a tiny screen, whereas the viewfinder of a DSLR is optical - all done by mirrors. Both types allow you to see what you are pointing the camera at when the screen on teh back of the camera is overpowered by sunlight.

Bridge cameras don't have interchangeable lenses, but they do have wide ranging zooms. These let you do close up shots and take pictures of distant wildlife without the expense and bulk of extra lenses.

Canon bridge camera
For many years all my photos on this blog and those which appeared in Pike and Predators were taken with the bridge camera on the left. Technology has improved, and today's models offer better resolution and image quality. If you want a flexible camera that is easy to use (it will have an auto setting!) a bridge camera is a good choice. Fuji and Canon are makes I have used and can recommend.

Not much larger than a bridge camera and smaller than a small DSLR, are compact system cameras. CSCs have larger sensors than bridge and compact cameras, interchangeable lenses and some have electronic viewfinders as well as rear screens like bridge cameras do. The larger sensor will make for pictures that are less 'noisy' than those from compacts when light levels are low and flash isn't used. Noise is those speckles of random colour that appear in photos taken in poor light.

There are a few types of CSCs around these days. The most common is the Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four Thirds system which has a smaller sensor than those from Sony (NEX series), Canon (M series) and Samsung which have larger APS size sensors the same as 'consumer' and 'pro-sumer' DSLR cameras, while Nikon's V series has smaller sensor.

Interchangeable lenses are of most benefit when you want to do something specific such as take really close up macro photos or use a fisheye lens. However if you want to get closer than your lens will let you the close up lenses which attach to the front of a lens can be quite useful. They won't be quite as sharp as a dedicated macro lens, but for occasional use they are a cheap option for a camera which doesn't have an inbuilt macro function.

I've found the big advantage CSCs have over bridge cameras are mostly in the sensor - although by swapping the zoom lens for a compact lens of one focal length makes for an even more compact set up. It is the size and weight which gives a CSC the advantage over a DSLR. A CSC with a small lens attached will fit in the pocket of a fishing jacket, a DSLR might - if the pocket is large! Flip out screens are not a feature of many DSLRs, and only some CSCs, bridge and compact cameras. They make self-takes much easier though, so could be a deciding factor in choosing a camera.

Nikon (APS) DSLR  with zoom lens (left) and Panasonic (Micro Four Thirds) CSC with single focal length lens
One very important point, which applies to all camera types, is to carry a spare battery or batteries. This is particularly the case with small cameras which have small batteries that  don't hold a charge for long, and in the cold all batteries run down more quickly than in warm conditions. If it's really cold carry the spare battery inside your clothing to keep it warm.

Selecting a camera to take fishing is a matter of compromise. Listed below are some pros and cons of the various camera types. Please bear in mind that as technology improves the gaps between the various cameras continue blur and close, and that the gap between the top of one range and the bottom of the next will not be as great as that between the top of a range and the top of the next range.

Some Pros.
Compact Cameras:
  • Small and light.
  • Simple controls.
  • Often good for close ups.
  • Some are shock and waterproof.
Bridge Cameras:
  • Reasonably small and light.
  • Electronic viewfinders.
  • Good image quality.
  • Often good for close ups.
  • Many have wide range zoom lenses.
  • Some use AA batteries.
Compact System Cameras:
  • Reasonably small and light.
  • Some have electronic viewfinders - or have one available as an accessory.
  • Good image quality.
  • Reasonable performance in low light.
  • Interchangeable lenses.
  • Flexibility of controls.

DSLR Cameras:
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Good low light performance without flash.
  • Excellent viewfinders.
  • Interchangeable lenses.
  • Flexibility of controls.
  • Long battery life.

Some Cons.
Compact Cameras:
  • Limited in low light.
  • Limited zoom range.
  • Flash power often weak.
  • Control options limited.
  • Often lack viewfinders.
  • Battery life is short.
Bridge Cameras:
  • Limited in low light.
  • Battery life can be limited.
Compact System Cameras:
  • Poor to middling battery life.
DSLR Cameras:
  • Size and weight.
  • Price.
Tips for buying camera gear
If you have a camera shop locally that deals in used gear that would be the first place to look. You'll get to handle the camera and also be able to ask advice. My local camera shop, Wilkinson's, also sells on-line. If you know for sure what you want in a used camera then on-line shopping is an option, but I'd recommend dealing with a retailer as you will get a limited warranty and the items may well be in better condition than described. Two shops I have dealt with for purchasing used gear on-line are Ffordes and MPB.

If you are going to buy new it is worth shopping around. A good price comparison site is Camera Price Buster. There is also the option of importing - but bear in mind customs duty and VAT might bump the price up from that advertised, and warranties might be void on imported items.

Thanks to Wilkinson's for allowing me to take photos for this article in their Southport branch.

NB Camera models and designs change rapidly these days, so this page will quickly become deficient in that respect. Also as time passes, and as technology improves, the gaps between each camera type's image quality and performance narrows.  So if this is being read a couple of years after being written the pros and cons might not be so marked!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Time for a change

I got to thinking about all those missed runs and whether tiny eels were the culprits. I was also pondering if a different bait might work for the bigger fish. Eels love maggots so I decided to give them a try, even though my attempts with single maggots for 'bait' had proved fruitless on the venue. But how to fish the little red wrigglers?

To provide a big enough mouthful to interest a decent sized eel I went for a maggot clip. I'm sure there is a packet lurking somewhere in one of my tackle boxes but as I was passing the tackle shop I popped in and bought another one. Waiting to pay for the clips I wondered if they might have other uses. I think they could....

Back home I tied a rig up using 25lb Quicksilver. I'd have preferred heavier but couldn't find it in the clutter of tackle boxes and junk! That done I threw a third rod in the quiver to tackle up when I got to the water. Two deadbaits went out as usual before I rigged up the third rod with a simple feeder rig and the maggot clip. This was lobbed out just beyond the weed edge.

Barely fifteen minutes had passed when the bobbin was off the maggot rod, the line flying from the spool and I was bundling a small eel into the landing net.

As the evening wore on the maggot rod was almost constantly in action. Almost as soon as the feeder hit the bottom something would pounce on the bait. Not all the takes were like the first one though.

I was getting twitches, short aborted runs, fliers which were missed. The lot. I did land two more eels. Both bootlaces. I reckon I'd answered my question. There are a lot of small eels in this water. It was peculiar how the last time I fished the feeder with a single maggot on a size 20 I had one bite in a few hours, yet a big bunch of reds was getting pestered all the time.

When the light faded the action switched to the left hand deadbait rod. It was the same old story of dropped and missed takes and pinched baits. My stash of deads was dwindling so I resorted to cutting even the smallest baits in half. Eventually I landed one to the deadbait rod, another small one. Later on after a particularly finicky take which was almost a tug of war with me and the fish (it taking line and dropping the bait, me taking up the slack, the fish picking up the bait again...) I wound in thinking the bait was covered in weed only to see another smallish eel spin and let go of the bait in the margin. Unusually the deadbait fished further out only got picked up and dropped the once.

The maggot experiment had proved valuable. If I persevere on this water I think it will be with bigger than usual deadbaits. That might deter the bootlaces, even if it means more blank sessions. Alternatively I could go fish elsewhere, maybe for something else. But where? And for what?

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Out of hiding

When fishing blogs go quiet it can be for a few reasons. The blogger hasn't been fishing. The blogger has been fishing but can't, or doesn't want to, say where or what has been caught. The blogger has been fishing but has caught bugger all. This blog has been quiet for all three reasons over the years. The latest hiatus has been a result of reason number three - a lack of results!

There are only so many ways you can make 'I turned up, cast baits out, hung around for a few hours, packed up and went home' vaguely interesting. So I didn't bother trying.

One session was a complete and utter blank. Not a twitch. The next provided a twitch. So I tried roach fishing using my new Avons. Nowt. Then things improved - marginally - with another of those frustrating eel sessions. I had seven runs, one of which was dropped, five of which were missed completely and one where the eel had swum towards me and when I eventually felt it's weight fully the strike brought back half a bait.

I tried all sorts to connect with the runs, which were all positive. Open bale arm with drop off, light bobbin on a drop and the baitrunner set as lack as possible both saw the line flying off the reel. Instant strikes failed, as did leaving the runs. Winding down to the fish failed, as did letting the fish take up the slack. Hook in the tail or lips of a half bait didn't work. Threading the hook through the bait wasn't successful. Even a tiny section of fish, tried to see if tiny eels were the culprits, produced a run that was missed.

After the fact I pondered other approaches. When I've had accidental eel captures on boilies, pellets and fake corn they've all bee hair rigged with the baitrunner set tight. Would that work? How about fixed leads that work so well for pike? I'd have one more try and if that was a blank I'd either give these wacky ideas a try or go bream fishing....

It was yet another hot and sticky evening when I set up the usual gear around seven. A lip hooked perch head went out to the right, a slightly larger than usual roach tail was threaded on and cast out to the left.

I've never been a one for reading books when I'm fishing as I like to watch the water for signs of fish. The only clues eels ever seem to give are trails of bubbles. On this water there are bubbles coming up all the time all over the place. Most aren't fishy bubbles, so casting to them is a waste of time. Occasionally I have taken reading material with me when there's been something I had started and wanted to finish quickly. This time I took a book I had just started to distract me from the impending lack of action.

How Keith Richards has managed to survive as long as he has must be a result of some sort of internal pickling process. One thing's for sure his life has been a full one. I've only got as far as the Stones signing their first record deal, but the book's holding my attention. Or it was until the line pulled out if the right hand bobbin with a thwack and the line coiled off the spool. There was no sign of this one stopping so I made the decision to close the bale arm and let the line tighten. As it did so there were a couple of tugs and I swept the rod back. It hadn't got far when everything went solid and the unmistakeable writhing of an eel was felt.

As the bait had been cast quite close in I soon had the eel on the surface trying to tie itself and the line in knots. Balled up like that it was easily netted, when it looked to be retain its girth further towards its vent than previous eels have done this season.

With the hook lodged in the bottom jaw the fish was quickly unhooked and weighed. Not big enough to warrant a wrestling contest for a self-take, it was still the biggest of the year so far.

All that twisting and turning had spun the lead link round the hook trace. Not the first time this has happened. As I'd been using that set up for a specific purpose last year, which doesn't obtain on this water, I finally abandoned it.

A fresh bait was put on the hook and after recasting I settled back to reading. Even when engrossed the high pitched call of a kingfisher kept disturbing me as it flew past taking fry to its offspring, as did the annoying continuous peeping of a great crested grebe chick begging for food.

The light had not long faded too much to continue reading when the right hand bobbin started pulling tight and going slack. I gave the eel a helping hand to pull the line from the recently tightened clip. I left this no longer than the previous take but the poundish eel that was landed had taken the hook deeper. Another indication a short while later appeared to have been dropped. The baitless hook I saw when I packed up suggested the bait might have been pinched. I really can't get to grips with the way eels take baits. One of the reasons I keep fishing for them I suppose. Time to stock up with more baits to carry on eeling.