Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sex and death in the rain

Saturday's 'tench' session was doomed from the start by a frothy flask of tea. How I managed to get washing up liquid in it remains a mystery as I only ever rinse it with water. Still the oily bubbles on the brew made it taste foul. One small roach and a little bream were all that took a liking to my pellets before thirst drove me home. Life intervened over the Bank Holiday and early week, but when I awoke at four on Wednesday I decided I might as well get up and wet a line. Even the drizzle didn't deter me. As far as catching fish went I should have stayed home. Again the pellets were what got the action, this time from a couple of slightly bigger small bream - one of which fell off as I was about to net it. The entertainment for the morning was provided by the spawning activities of the resident carp population which I spent some time shooting with my compact camera (not having a gun to hand...). It was interesting to see smaller fish, I suspect roach, swirling and dimpling in the are the carp were spawning in. My guess is they were taking advantage of the protein filled eggs as a springtime bonus food source. I'm not sure, but I think there is a pike strike in one of the clips I've edited together. It would make sense for pike to home in on the roach while they are preoccupied with feasting on spawn. If that is the case we have a whole food chain, and acycle of life and death, all taking place in a few square yards. Fascinating.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nuisance fish

One man's meat is another man's poison. Or maybe one man's fish is another man's pain in the arse! Recently Danny Fairbrass has caused a bit of a furore with his well intentioned plan to protect fisheries from otters. It's not the fencing off of waters that has caused the ripples of dissent, it was his big plan to turn the waters in to carp fisheries by removing the 'nuisance fish'. Those pesky lesser creatures which take carp anglers bait. You know the sort o thing, double figure tench and bream, three pound roach. That kind of pest. Leaving aside the ecological stupidity of creating carp monocultures (why not stick the carp in swimming pools if that's all you want to catch?) it is also condescending to anglers who like catching double figure tench and bream and three pound roach, doing nothing to foster the age old concept of 'brothers of the angle'. Today I was plagued by 'nuisance fish' and now completely understand the carp only mindset!

Arriving when it was just light enough to tie a knot without the illumination of a torch my first task was to put some feed out to a couple of spots within catapult range. This time I had no maggots so the feeder rod was out of the question. Two grains of plastic corn went to the right, an 8mm crab pellet to the left. On the third rod I opted to chance a couple of dendrobenas. It was a risk, but it might have a chance. With everything in place all I had to do was relax and wait for the tench to arrive.

It was a great morning to have got out of bed for. A large bat flew over and round as the sedge warblers and chiffchaffs joined in the dawn chorus. The sun began to poke its head over the horizon sending shafts of light through the trees and mist. Small fish plipped and plopped, larger fish crashed and rolled. But no signs of tench.

I always keep checking the rod tops and less than an hour after settling down I saw the right hand, corn, rod tip twitch a second before the bobbin dropped back flying up followed by the baitrunner and alarm complaining loudly as I headed to the rod. The fish felt like the tench of Monday, only heavier as it plodded through the weed. Then it took off on a subsurface run and raised doubts in my mind. This was either a bloody big tench for the water or it was a nuisance fish. As the fight went on my suspicions were confirmed and I stopped playing it like a tench and really gave it some stick. Once I got it's head out of the water I skimmed it into the net. At least it had a full complement of scales.

I suppose it wasn't a bad looking pest, and it had given the new 11ft 2lb Torrix a good work out, but it had torn up a load of weed and no doubt spooked any tench that might have been present out of the swim. I sorted the rod out, recast and put out more feed.

Twenty minutes later the left hand bobbin started jiggling, signalling a half-poundish roach. They do seem to like those crab pellets. Almost immediately the worm bobbin was doing something similar. The tell-tale writhing on the end of the line when I picked the rod up proved the risk hadn't paid off. A bootlace was swung in only to snap the mono hooklink. Saved me having to unhook the nuisance. That was the end of the worm experiment. Another pellet rig was tied up and the lead dropped in a bag of pellets which I cast out of the baited areas. It took almost two hours before that bobbin dropped back. There was nothing there, so I suspected more roach attention. Another bag was filled and the rig recast. Half an hour on and the left hand pellet was taken by another roach. Another thirty minutes later, after a couple more drop-backs, the other pellet rod produced another roach. This time I dropped it on the far end of the right hand baited patch

With the sun well up in the sky and it hot enough to strip down to my t-shirt the middle pellet rod was in action. The line tight and the reel spinning. Once more I initially hoped for a tench, but another subsurface run gave the game away. This time I took the gloves straight off. Nonetheless the pest cut up more weed and got round the right hand line before I could bundle it into the net. Not quite such a nice looking nuisance this on owing to a raw wound on its right flank.

With the mess in the line cut and the rig retied I put the baits back out followed by more bait. My hopes of tench were pretty much gone by now after that disturbance and the morning getting on. When another nuisance fish brushed one of my lines and bolted off spooking another of its ilk I knew it was time to start tidying things away and getting ready to leave. They'd have bullied any tench out of the area and I had no burning desire to catch any more of the pestilential creatures.

I suppose the positive from this session is the proving of the new rods. I have a good idea how much stick I can give fish with them, which is a fair bit, and know when they start to stiffen up. They're not quite in the class of the Interceptors in that respect, but they are way better than the 12ft 2lb Torrix. I think I can live with them. On the other hand I can live without any more nuisance fish. Maybe I should targeting the carp so the nuisances would be bearable!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Carp, carp, carp

In a fit of madness I joined a carp syndicate. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The water is reputed to hold some big eels. Full of enthusiasm I even attended a work party. The youngsters were more suited to doing the work so I watched them and drank tea. It fired me up to get the eel rods out early though, and a few days later, after an early tea, I set up the pod to fish off a horrible platform, while carp cruised around all over the surface and right under the rod tips.

The start of the warm weather must have addled my brain. After a couple of hours I had had enough but stuck it out until dark for one pull to the right hand rod. It might have developed into something if I'd not left my drop-offs at home. then again it could well have been a carp picking up the worms. I didn't enjoy the place much. Too many carp anglers (three) and dog walkers (lots) for my liking! Still, when the tench have spawned then a night or two on the place might be in order.

By Saturday I was thinking of tench again and boiled up some more hemp to lace with the corn I'd stocked up with. Being uncertain of where to fish I set off without the tackle for a look around. As I approached the peg I'd fished last time out a fish bolted from the margins. I crept closer and another swirled while one cruised past the edge of the swim. It looked like a decent tench but without my shades it was hard to say. Further on a group of mid-size carp were milling about near some pads. At least there were fish moving in the area.

What a difference a week makes, though. While there had been bottom weed about between the groups of lilies there was open surface water last time I'd fished. this time the whole place was choked beyond under-arm lobbing distance. Three swims were unfishable without the use of a rake. At least the swim I'd seen fish in was clear enough close in to get three baits out. Casting around with the rigs it was obvious that the clear spots on the bottom were small. It had to be PVA foam on all baits.

The in-line maggot feeder got the floating plastic maggots, the slow sink plastic corn on the helicopter got put on a long hooklink, and the pellet got dropped in the edge on a clear spot. Despite a liberal dose of hemp, corn and mixed pellets over all three baits the bobbins never moved. Few bubbles suggested fish feeding in the area. I fished until it was well dark and not even the rats came out to play. Another angler had caught a tench in a different area, which gave me some hope.

Sunday saw me wandering round the lake with my 'roids on sure of spotting some carp if nowt else. I saw one cruising, and more appeared to be spawning, or getting ready to. Even so I saw enough to make me chance a session in clearer water this morning. If I could drag myself out of bed.

Somehow I managed to get up at four and hit the road. The day was dawning during the drive, with the side window open I was accompanied by the dawn chorus all the way to the lake. There was a light mist hovering in a ban over the fields. An almost full, but waning, moon high in the clear sky. It felt tenchy.

On my way to my anticipated swim I passed an area where carp had gathered to spawn and saw signs of them swirling under the pads. It looked kind of tenchy there, but I knew it was weedy as hell. I wanted some cushy fishing for a change. With pads and weed to my right, open water in front and more pads in the left margin I chucked a feeder round to suss out the weed situation. Clear! That would do for me. I fed right and left with a couple of pints of hemp, corn and pellets before altering the rigs a little. Off with the popped up maggots and back on with the sinking casters, away with the long hooklink for the corn and back to a short one. The pellet rod only needed a fresh bait putting on the hair. With the baits in place I sat back to watch the sun rise, the mist swirl and look out for signs of tench.

It was less than an hour before the right hand feeder rod top was twitching and the alarm bleeping intermittently. Something small had hooked itself. It turned out to be a roach-bream hybrid of a pound or more. Not quite what I was hoping for, but after five blanks on the bounce it was most welcome. The tubercles on its head and rough feeling scales suggest it might be ready to spawn, or perhaps, like the bream at the carp lake, already spawned.

Something else tried to hang itself on that rig, but got free before I could get to the rod. Bubbles over the feed to the right encouraged me to keep topping the swim up with more hemp. The day and the fish were waking up. For all that's romantically written about tench feeding on still, warm, misty dawns I've found they prefer the sun on the water. Sure enough it hadn't long climbed above the tall willows when the right hand rod, fishing a pellet at right angles to the rod tip, hooped round decisively. So decisively that before I could pick it up it had bounced off the alarm!

The fish had weeded me, but steady pressure got it moving and it plodded to the right and out into the lake. I had a horrible feeling it might be a carp by the way it hugged the bottom and kept going. When it was in front of me and I applied some pressure it gave a tell-tale tench wiggle. I think it might have been balled up in weed to start with, because when I got it coming up in the water a couple of stalks dropped from the line. There wasn't much of a fight and the female tench was easily netted. A small but solid fish, beginning to fill out with spawn.

On with a fresh pellet and top up both swims with more hemp and pellets. Shortly after the tench I had another of those jangly bites that refused to run or drop back. This time to the pellet. Another surprise capture. A half pound roach.

As the morning hotted up, my fleece had been abandoned before six, more patches of bubbles appeared over the right hand baited area. The corn rod tip nodded. There were fish in the swim. A tench had rolled in the weed beyond the pads. Hopes were rising.

It got warmer, a breeze ruffled the water for a few minutes before giving up. A scum of willow pollen and fallen catkins coated the surface, reminding me of days when it had blown onto the lines almost clogging them on other venues. This set me thinking about tench baits. For some reason I'd prefer not to catch them on pellets, but I have to admit there have been waters where the maggot feeder and plastic caster approach hasn't worked for me. It's not fared too well for the tench on this lake so far, but pellets have. It might be time to fish two rods on the pellets and one on corn.

With ten o'clock approaching I packed away most of my gear. The weighsling was almost dry, as was the net. Ten would be my cut-off time. No sooner said than the middle rod got all jangly. A more robust sort of jangly than the roach and the hybrid had managed. The two grains of plastic corn had worked again. Whatever it was felt heavyish. It was plodding like the tench had. However, when it decided to pop to the surface, roll over and surrender it was obviously a bream.

Not a huge bream, but a nicely conditioned, brassy-flanked, six pounder. Another half hour was in order. I could manage that long without food. The last of the bait went out, followed by the rigs.

A couple of newly emerged damselflies fluttered into the hawthorns which are starting to show signs of going over now. The guelder rose is starting to bloom, to be followed by the elder, by which time summer will be upon us.

With no bites coming in the last thirty minutes I packed up, again, and sweated my way back to the car.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chips and no fish

I must have my fishing head on again because late yesterday afternoon I set off to the chippy with my gear in the back of the car. The sun was shining and the wind blowing. Those tench had to have found my feed from the day before and be ready for more. I rushed to the swim and sat down in the lee of a hawthorn to eat my chips. Then I got set up.

The wind was cold in my face but I was able to catapult out a load of pellets to the spots I had cleared. With no maggots or hemp the pellets and bag approach had to be tried. One rod fished a couple of grains of plastic corn on a heli-rig, the other a pellet on an in-line lead. The wind was that chilly I put the brolly up to hide behind.

Once more I sat and waited in vain. At least this was a shorter fruitless session. It wasn't until the wind died away towards dusk that I saw any fish activity. Not the sort I was hoping for. There was no fizzing or bubbling. Small carp were leaping and a better one took something off the surface. A few small fish splashed and got chased by predators of some sort.

It was nice to be out watching a great tit busily hunting for food to take to its nest, and a male whitethroat making his noisy songflight. All around birds were on the hunt for food to supply their hungry broods. If only the tench were as hungry. This is starting to get frustrating. Three blanks on the trot means I ought to do something else. I could scratch around with maggots for anything that comes along I suppose, or it might just be a change of swims. I want to stick to my plan of fishing for tench until they spawn before starting eel fishing, so a change of target species isn't on the cards - yet.

Friday, May 09, 2014


With the tench playing hard to get I have been considering the easier option of bream fishing just to put a bend in a rod. That's a daft idea when the prime time for tench, in theory, is coming up. I should be concentrating on them in order to be in peak tenching condition when they're at their heaviest. With that in mind, given that bream can be fished for at any time, I stocked up on hemp determined to do things properly.

After a shaky start to the week I managed to succumb to a lull in the rain yesterday when the afternoon threatened to by still, warm and dry. With two buckets of hempseed at the ready three pints were pressure-cooked and laced with some corn. After selecting my swim I took my time raking a couple of clear patches. No need to rush. There was plenty of time.

Then it started to rain. Light drizzle that surreptitiously soaked you with the air being so warm. Rather belatedly I swapped my fleece for a waterproof jacket and carried on raking until my back told me to stop.  There was still no hurry to scatter the seeds over the cleared patches and get the rods in place.

I'd already put the brolly up to cover the rucksack, so all I had to do was reposition everything so I could relax on the low chair. With no wind I didn't have to worry about which way the brolly faced. Despite being damp I was quite content and confident.

Unlike my last session there was no sign of bubbling fish. That could either be a good sign, or a bad one. The longer the bobbins stayed motionless the more it looked like a bad one.

The session turned into one of those where I was passing time until I could pack up at dark. The rain stopped at six and some signs of fizzing were seen well off the baited spots. A carp rolled on the edge of the pads to my right and went straight down to bubble. The only sign of fish in my swim came when I'd wound the left hand rod in for a recast. As I turned back to face the water after clearing the rig of weed picked up on the retrieve a large patch of bubbles erupted precisely where the bait had been a few seconds earlier.

It was only about an hour before the rain returned, this time accompanied by a cooling wind blowing straight into my bank forcing me to reposition the brolly. By now it was getting miserable and my confidence was waning with the light. Roland and his mate were undeterred and sat in the swim nibbling on spilt hemp, only scooting away if I made a sudden move and returning almost immediately.

Thankfully the skies cleared before dark and the rain blew over allowing the brolly to dry out and me to pack up without getting soaked. I've been frustrated by tench in the past. Whenever I do it by the book they refuse to play. I don't want to resort to PVA and pellets, but it's looking like that might be my best move. Well, it's a move if nothing else.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The bubbles of doom

It all started so well. The hawthorn is in flower, the day was overcast and warm, as I chatted to a mate on the lake tench were fizzing in his swim. All I had to do was find a couple of spots to scatter hemp, corn and maggots then drop the rigs over them and wait. It all went to plan too. The spots were baited the rigs placed and the bubbles arrived. I waited. And waited. And...

There was no mistaking the bubbles. Big clouds of small fizz rather than trails or clumps of coin-sized bubbles that carp and bream produce. There were tench over my bait. Three or four times the right hand, maggot feeder, rod bounced as something brushed the line.

Swallows swooped low, dipping into the water's surface to take a drink, always as they headed upwind into the light westerly. Lapwings wheeled and called overhead. Any minute now a tench will hook itself to confirm that spring is in full swing.

The more bubbles I saw without a tench making itself known to my landing net got me thinking. I haven't seen so much bubbling since the days when I first fished for tench on the canal. The tench in waters I have fished since then rarely fizzed. Odd patches would appear, but nothing consistent. In those canal days I could plot the approach of tench to my baits as they patrolled along the far margins.

There was one notable feature though. I never got a bite when the bubbles were actually over the bait. They'd first appear to one side of the bed of sweetcorn I'd laid out, then over the top of it, then to the other side carrying on along the cut. Only when the bubbles were coming up beyond the baits would a washing-up liquid bottle-top fly up to the butt ring.

So it was yesterday evening. The bubbling had died down around six thirty and the ruffle on the water become a glassy calm. I was still confident of some action because the line bites were becoming more frequent. Not that I had a lot of them.

It wasn't until eight twenty that the right hand bobbin dropped back, then rose again as I leaned forward to pick up the rod. Rather than the expected pull from a fish I lifted into nothing. Had it been another liner? The hook point buried in one of the plastic maggots suggested not. There was still time for another chance. With my usual luck that chance didn't come. I packed away in the dark with Roland rustling in the brambles.