Saturday, November 29, 2014

Less roll, more rock

Not much time for fishing the week after my last post due to waiting in for non-arriving parcels and work. I managed a couple of hours up to dark on the Monday for nothing in what felt like good conditions. I put it down to poor swim choice after my Plan A was thwarted by an angler in the peg I fancied. A week and a day later I was at the water a little earlier with the choice of swims wide open. Again conditions felt good. It was still warm, there wasn't too much wind. The only negative factor being the clear water. I much prefer a touch of colour for fishing deadbaits. Undeterred I thought there'd be a chance as the light faded into a remarkably red sunset. It wasn't to be. Strike two. Another blank and it would be time for a change of venue and/or target species.

More work ensued during the week. I've been getting some strange build requests recently. Peculiar handles and stuff. One rod I thought would turn out looking absolutely vile actually looks pretty good - not to mention seasonally festive!. I'd imagined that whipping every ring on a matt blank with metallic red thread would result in a garish monstrosity. It's not exactly subtle, but it's a lot better than I expected!

When Friday came around I got as much work done as I could well before lunch. The forecast was for no rain, and it was positively balmy. I travelled light - no brolly, no waterproof over-trousers, and set up in a swim I'd caught from already this winter. Two float legered deads and one paternostered to cover three features. After half an hour I repositioned them.  After an hour I was on the move.

The same baits went out again. Two in the margins, one further out. The more distant bait, a banker lamprey head, I twitched back at intervals. An hour passed without incident. A small flock of starlings circled in the indecisive way they have before peeling in to their chosen roost. There was still an hour of light left when the flock collapsed into a conifer like sand falling through an hour glass. Should I make a last move?

There was no swim sending out positive vibes to encourage me to up sticks, so I repositioned all teh baits. The margin paternoster got cast a bit further out, the lamprey head was recast, and the bogey-bait (sardine) dropped right in the edge.

As the shortest day draws ever closer darkness can fall early on an overcast day. by four thirty I could barely see the floats. Something had spooked the starlings. They'd left the conifer and scudded low over the water at speed. Where they went, I know not. Owls were starting to hoot in the distance when I saw the margin float wobble. I kept a watch on it and it wobbled again. Then it disappeared heading away from the margin. I picked the rod up, turned the reel handle and connected with a wallowing weight. There were no runs, just a worrying slow, side-to-side head shaking that made me think the hooks would come free at any moment. I needn't have worried as both trebles were doing their job, one at each side of the fish's mouth.

In the light of my head torch the fish had a familiar look. A damaged jaw and the top of the tail missing. Pale and skinny looking it was the same fish I'd kicked the winter off with. I weighed her to check on progress and the scales pulled round half a pound further than last time. A good sign, but this time last year she'd been three pounds heavier. A few leeches and plenty of fish lice round the gills suggested a sickly fish. Hopefully one that's on the mend. As it was now pitch black I wound the other two rods in and walked back to the car to find the temperature in double figures. I was glad I'd removed my fleece from under the bunny suit before driving off as I was still too warm as I stood waiting for the fish to fry at the chippy. That dreaded third strike has been avoided. I can leave the pike rods set up.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On a roll

It wasn't much of a choice to make between supermarket and fishing when the afternoon promised to be mild, dry, not too sunny and not too breezy. The early lunch might have proved to be a good move the way things panned out. For one of those unaccountable reasons I had a last minute change of plan and bypassed the swim I'd had in mind when I left home, and still had in mind when I got the gear out of the car. I ended up dropping a lamprey tail in the right hand margin with the light breeze in my face, followed by a longer chuck with a herring tail. Try as I might the two frozen smelts wouldn't separate easily, they'd need a bit of thawing unless I was to risk snapping the tail off one. I was gently trying to ease them apart when the sounder in my pocket let out a single bleep. A bleep which was followed by a prolonged trilling. The margin float was on the move!

Once more fishing off the baitrunner resulted in the rod hooping over after less than a full turn of the reel handle. You might expect a lively fish hooked at close range to make a bolt for open water, or more likely the remains of the nearby weedbed. This one just bulldogged, hugging the bottom and going round in circles. As it came up in the water the boils it created were encouragingly large. After making sure the net was sunk beyond the floating weed in the edge, and the dead tufty amongst it, I managed to draw the pike into the folds. It would obviously need the scales and sling so I left the fish in the net - secured by a bankstick - while I got the unhooking gear sorted.

With that the fish unhooked and weighed, and with only one bait in the water I sacked the fish to have another practice with the self-take set up. I had the tripod and mat all lined up and was still messing about with the camera when the sounder began a slow burbling. I looked up to see the only float I had in the water wobbling away to the left. Even at slightly longer range the hookset was instant. At first I wasn't able to gauge the weight of the fish but when it got closer I was sure it was another decent fish. I was glad that I'd tidied the first rod away and not left the hooks and rig in the landing net now. Once netted it was a simple matter to hoist the fish on to the unhooking mat, pop the hook out, weigh the fish and take two quick snaps. If it hadn't coughed up a four ounce roach on the way to the net it would have been close to a twin for the first fish.

With all that done and the fish released I dried the blood off my hands and got the plasters out before I got the sacked fish ashore and repeated the photo shoot with two quick snaps of each side for future reference.

By now the swim looked like the proverbial bomb had hit it and I had no baits in the water! The first job was to get another half lamprey in the margin. The smelts had softened up so one of those was stuck on a paternoster and lobbed to the right margin. Finally I replaced the trace on the middle rod, baited up with a small herring (or was it a big sprat?) which I bound to the trace with red elastic thread, and put back out where the herring tail had been taken from. Then I sat down for a rest and a brew.

Despite the almost instant success I had the urge to move after an hour more. Only a couple of swims away, but that can be enough at times. Not this time though. Another hour and I was on the move again. Quite a bit further this time to cover completely fresh water. By the time I had packed the gear, walked to the new swim and got the baits out I doubted I'd have time for another move and settled in to fish until dark.

This swim looks the part, with more features to go at than most, but it's one that had yet to produce a pike for me. The sky was not only getting darker, it was getting more cloudy where the wind was coming from. The temptation to pack up was there, especially after having caught a couple of nice doubles. On the basis that if i got wet I had all the next day to dry the gear out I hung on. The light had pretty much gone when I thought I saw the far float wobble. A trick of the fading light? It wobbled again then it moved. It definitely moved. I was on the rod just as the alarm sounded and the float disappeared. There wasn't much of a fight until the fish was in the net. That was the cue for the rain to fall. Resting the mesh of the net on the middle Delkim I went for my jacket and headtorch before starting the unhooking and weighing ritual. Not quite a double it still rounded off the afternoon nicely. Even the rain gave up by the time I had everything packed away ready for the walk back to the car.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Up and running again

Having seen my first fieldfares since spring last Friday, with the air temperature in single figures the low sun and clear sky made it feel like pike time was here at last. With that in mind and work not going to plan I had an early lunch, packed the pike gear in the car and set off to make the most of the afternoon before the rain arrived.

The reeds are in their winter colours, the trees almost completely bare with a strong southerly stripping a few more leaves from their branches. Despite the ripple on the water it had that cold blue look which it takes on through the winter months on days such as this. A blue that makes orange pike floats glow like beacons in the sunlight. All that was missing was a frost to make the ground hard and the grass crisp. That'll come.

I thought that fishing the edges of remaining weed would be a good place to start so two float legered deads and a paternostered sprat were cast to strategic places that matched that profile. It was quarter past one as I settled in with my back to the wind to watch the floats. After an hour I repositioned the lamprey head. Half an hour later I was wondering if a move might be worthwhile. After moving my gear two swims along I put the rods in the second swim along for some reason and moved the rest of the gear to join it.

There wasn't much in the way of weed in this swim but I could cover more water. Two baits were dropped in the margins - left and right - the lamprey got chucked out into no-man's land. I can't say I was feeling any more confident. As so often happens as soon as you stop expecting or hoping for a run one materialises. So it goes. The least likely float was on the move.

The good thing about fishing braid off the baitrunner is that there is no slack and no stretch when you come to set the hooks. There's hardly anything to the 'winding down' part of the hookset. Half a turn of the reel handle and you feel the pike enough to pull the rod back and drive the hooks home. A carefully set clutch can be advantageous in case the pike makes a sudden lung on feeling steel.

This fish made no such lunge. It came in like the proverbial wet sack, only waking up at the net where it did the big-headed gill flare and shake that makes you think you've hooked something much bigger than you have. Obviously a double the headshake looked about eighteen pounds, the length about fourteen, in the net the girth looked nearer ten. Not really big enough for a self-take but I thought I should try out the camera I bought earlier in the year having caught nothing worth setting the tripod up for all spring and summer. I left the pike in the net, after staking the net out with a bankstick just in case the fish got frisky.

Everything went smoothly. I set the mat and forceps out, with the sling and zeroed scales close by, then rigged up the tripod, camera and bulb release. Two quick practice shots to make sure things were lined up and it was time to get the fish out of the water.

Laid on the mat the hooks were easily removed, the rod put out of harms way and the pike weighed. Just over twelve pounds and tatty for the time of year. More like a post spawn fish. Lift for two shots of each side then back into the sling to go back to the water. Easy peasy.

The lamprey head was still dripping blood so back out it went. I put a fresh joey on the other float leger rig and cast it further out to my right adjacent to some dying weed. The sky was getting darker grey from the west and the air temperature dropping.

Was another move in order, or should I put the brolly up to keep the breeze off? The first spots of light rain made up my mind. The brolly went up and I hunkered down on the low chair with another cup of flask tea. There was less than an hour of light left as the rain got a little heavier and the wind dropped. A small flock of starlings circled looking for a roost site. Jackdaws headed east. A kingfisher dashed along the margin clipping my middle line as the light faded to that stage where colours disappear. The rain eased again and I took the chance to pack up before the head torch was required.