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.