Thursday, December 31, 2015

Washed out

Either I'm getting soft in my old age or I'm seeing sense. Whichever it is I try not to fish in the rain - unless I have 'that feeling'. The plan for Christmas Day was to go roach fishing in the afternoon and into dark. The weather forecast scuppered that idea by forecasting rain to arrive around eleven and set in for the night and Boxing Day. As my pike gear was still in a reasonably organised state I decided to rise early and have a few hours piking in the morning, then head home to get more work done.

The rising early bit didn't prove a hardship, and I was quite confident. Not confident enough to pack the stove and bacon though. The baits were in position at seven thirty with daylight round the corner. Then the drizzle started and faded away. If it would stay dry I'd have a move around nine, action or no action.

A mate turned up as it was coming light and settled into the next swim to me. It made a change to have someone to talk to, but I was still determined to move at nine. Then the rain returned, lingered, and got heavier. Stuff moving in that.

We had both had enough of the rain and were thinking of heading for home at eleven when I had a dropped run. Despite an emptying flask and no food it might be worth another half hour. Even though it was mild, warm even, the rain got to me and by eleven fifteen I was packing up.

When I got home the rain had stopped. I contemplated a return after that bacon I'd thought of frying on the bank. The blasted rain had other plans and returned with a vengeance. The results of that in the locality on Boxing Day made the national news.

My next Big Idea was to finish the year off with an afternoon session. Roach fishing was out of the question with all the swims on the lake being under water, so piking it would be. Then the weather put paid to that one by being gorgeous in the morning and soaking in the afternoon. Maybe I should switch to morning sessions?

And so another year turns. It's been a funny one has 2015. I mean, I deliberately fished for c*rp. I think that catching c*rp by design is one of the few challenges I have left. I've never been much good at catching the flabby things for some reason. Stick a tench, bream or barbel rod out and the stupid creatures almost queue up to be caught. I've even caught them on deadbaits. But as soon as I let them know I'm on their trail they bugger off!

The tench fishing was another oddity. I fished a new water with tactics I wouldn't ordinarily use and struggled. That said on the one day I fished properly I caught more tench than in the previous two seasons - and to a slightly higher weight! That's something to have another crack at next spring. My roach fishing never got going, either late last winter or this winter. The eels played their usual tricks and avoided me. Although I have to confess to not trying as hard as I should have done. Those pesky c*rp sidetracked me.

Roll on spring!
Next year I expect to be a repeat of this. Pike and roach until May when I'll kick off the tench fishing until they spawn. Then it'll be either c*rp or eels until pike/roach time comes round again. I keep on forgetting about the dace I've been meaning to fish for, and the perch I fancy a rematch with. Then there are the Railway Pond gudgeon!!

These days my fishing is all about catching locally, within half an hour's drive of home, and usually sessions that don't last more than a few hours (overnighters excepted). It gives me local PBs to aim for that might be well short of the biggest fish I've caught but which provide a challenge to keep my enthusiasm going. So long as I enjoy my fishing I'll be happy enough. When I don't enjoy it I'll go home. Like I did on Christmas Day!
  • Pike - 19-07
  • C*rp - 17-04
  • Tench - 5-12
  • Bream - 5-08
  • Eel - 2-08

Monday, December 14, 2015

The hat excels

Although a lot of pike anglers bemoan mild winters I have to say I like them! I've never held to the notion that pike fishing improves after the first frosts and that a cold snap is required to get them feeding. Maybe that's because I did a lot of pike fishing in the spring in summer when I started taking it seriously and noticed a decline in my catches once winter arrived only taking an up-turn as they congregate for spawning.

Having sweated more than expected on my walk to and from the Post Office this morning I got that irresistible urge to get the pike rods out. After a quick lunch the rods were soon in the back of the car and some baits sorted out, rucksack added and off I went.

For once I didn't have much of a plan. Once parked up I had a wander and decided to try a swim I'd never put a pike bait in in anger. There are still a few forlorn looking lily pads hanging around so one bait was dropped next to some of those, another went to a nearby feature on the other side of the swim and the third got blasted out as far as I could get it. The bait went a bit further actually as it came off the hooks. I wound in, hooked on a tougher bait and put it where I wanted it. Then I sat down to make a couple of spare traces as one I was using was getting a bit curly. With that job done I was contemplating cracking open the flask when there was a bleep in my top pocket. I'd only been there twenty minutes and the lamprey head by the pads was falteringly on the move.

As soon as I connected with the pike it pulled back hard then did a dolphin impersonation, launching itself out of the water. I was expecting an epic battle but that was it. Yet another wet sack of a pike slid over the net. Where it immediately went berserk! It might be warm but these pike are neither wolfing baits down nor fighting like tigers. All rather odd. Broad across the back and slightly skinny it weighed the same as the last pike I caught. I'm pretty sure it was a different fish though.

Those traces I'd made came in handy because the pike had trashed one. I swapped traces, put on a fresh bait, recast and had that cup of tea I'd been going to pour. Then I reused the trebles from the kinky trace to make another replacement.

There was a light breeze that wasn't enough to cause a wind chill. I was glad that I'd left the bunny suit at home and just put on a bib and brace to keep me clean and dry as I had to remove the woolly hat after the hectic few minutes the fish caused. For some reason all the mallards were skulking under the trailing bankside branches with their heads tucked under their wings. A lone grebe was working the water in front of me, a few roach topped. It seemed like there were prey fish in the vicinity. Maybe there'd be a few more pike around too.

After another hour it was decision time. Stay where i was or have a move for the last hour or so. The swim opposite looked inviting. I went for it but wasn't convinced. Leaving my gear in the second swim I had a wander to see if anywhere else appealed. It didn't really. Seeing something swirl in front of where my gear was sealed the deal. Three rods were cast out, the net assembled and before I could sit down the small herring had been picked up. It seemed that I'd made the right decision.

It was like deja vu. The strike met the solid resistance of another wet sack. When I got a glimpse of the fish it looked about seven pounds. As it slid over the net cord it seemed to double in size. Sure enough it proved to be my heaviest fish of the winter so far. It was slightly chunkier fish too, which was encouraging.

The little herring had got well and truly mangled as I pulled it from the treble so I could see what I was doing to dislodge it from the scissors. I had no more little herrings so I put the tail of a larger one on and lobbed it back in the same spot.

I'd checked the weather forecast before setting out and it had predicted rain after dark. Not only was the bunny suit at home so was the brolly. When the rain, thankfully light, arrived earlier than expected I put my jacket on and hoped for the best. It proved to be little more than drizzle which meant the rucksack and quiver weren't going to get soaked. The wind had dropped as the rain arrived and the light was fading.

The only other angler on the water stopped for a chat on his way back to the car park just as it was getting difficult to see my farthest float and it was he who noticed the margin float dip. As I looked at it the float sped up and disappeared. A positive take rather than tentative ones I was getting accustomed to.  This time my strike was met with slightly more tenacious resistance. But not much more. Looking in the net by the light of my head torch this pike had length behind its big head. It felt heavy too as I lifted it ashore. That previous fish hadn't remained my heaviest of the winter for long. I handed my camera to the other guy and a couple of quick snaps were taken.

Caught mid-blink!
With the pike returned farewells were bade and I set about packing up. Not a bad three hours fishing. Proving once more that some things I never put much store in in the past really can pay off: fishing in the afternoon, moving swims and hanging on until it's too dark to see a float. If only I could get this approach to work on other waters with bigger pike!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The hat fails

It's that pre-Christmas period when work needs to be got out of the way. Hence a lack of time to wet a line. Thursday afternoon was clear and the weather dry and mild out of the wind. I thought I'd try somewhere closer to home than usual. The canal. Three rods and work my way back to the car for the last two and a half hours of daylight. I must have been mad. It didn't take long for the first dog to appear, barking it's head off while it's owner feebly tried to call it under control. The second one was on the hunt for food in my deadbait bag. Then there was the herd of retired cagoulibeest that swept far from majestically along the towpath. What they needed maps and ski-sticks for I have no idea. Perhaps the sticks were in case they couldn't read the maps and wandered up a mountain by mistake.

I've never had much success with deadbaits on the bottom of the canal - although others do. Which is why I made sure one was paternostered. It did me no good. Pretty much as I expected. Maybe the way to fish deads is to sit it out in one swim all day. I'll not be doing that in a hurry. Not unless I find a portable electric fence to keep the dogs away.

Despite the new hat there was a lack of pike. Pretty much what I'd expected if I'm honest. It was still a nice enough afternoon to be out, brightened by the sight of a kingfisher whizzing along the far bank reeds. I've met people who have walked along the canal for years without seeing that flash of brilliant blue, yet I have seen plenty when I've been fishing. I guess staying in one place gives you the chance for you to notice them as they fly by, while being on the move you probably spook any that are perching and they fly away from you. In my teenage years when I mostly fished for bits on the cut I had kingfishers land on my Fibatube float rod as it sat in the rests.

 Back in the real world I got a set of Ballistas finished off. Two were complete strip and start again jobs, the third a new build to match. Cork handles with stainless trimmings were the order of the day and Kigan rings whipped in an unobtrusive colour. The request had been for grey to match the matted blanks, but I've yet to find a (supposedly) grey thread that comes close. They all end up looking darker or lighter than the blank. I therefore suggested a colour I'd found which, although more a pale olive, had a similar tone to the grey of the carbon. It turned out rather pleasingly to my eyes. And more importantly to the eyes of my customer.

More unusual builds are on the go at the moment. There's a six foot stalking rod, complete with isotope at the tip, to match one I built back in 2008, and a two piece rod in similar vein. Baitblasters with K-series guides, X-1s with woven reel seats, and a green Duellist are also on the to-do list. That should keep me from fishing much before Santa arrives.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The hat works

I forgot to mention last time that I had worn my new hat and didn't blank. Always a relief. Since that damp session it seems to have hardly stopped raining. So when today started off dry and there was no suggestion of precipitation I thought I might sneak out for the last few hours of daylight. When I got distracted talking to anglers on the canal taking the scenic route back from the Post Office I was running late. I almost decided to stay home, but the day, despite being windy, was too good to let pass without wetting a line.If I could get the baits out by two I'd be in with a chance.

Finding the car park deserted was a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one. A short walk and I did indeed have three baits out and the first cup of tea poured by two o'clock. The sun was shining sporadically as the strong wind blew clouds over. Once more it was warm enough to leave the bunny suit at home and not wish I hadn't. It took only half an hour for a pike to pick up the margin fished smelt.

Hat from Hats by Lou
The float had gone and the line was streaming through the water. Some fool must have forgotten to engage the anti-reverse because the reel handle was spinning too! Any loops of line that might have tangled round the reel were avoided as I picked the rod up and wound into the fish. Once more it was fish that didn't do much other than wriggle as I drew it over the net.

Once more that was where it woke up and managed to thrash the flying treble into the leg of my bib and brace. Great. I managed to rip the treble out of the cloth to free myself from the landing net and pike and start getting the other hook out of the fish. It looked like it might scrape double figures, but I doubted it would as it was another skinny fish. Not quite, but another fish to the new hat. The trace was trashed after all that messing about so I set about reusing the trebles on a fresh bit of wire.

The wind wasn't cold, but it was annoying even though the water was calm in front of me. I was in two minds about a move. I had thought of trying a swim I'd yet to catch from that looks the part. At three fifteen I tidied the gear and set off. As I passed one swim it felt the proverbial overcoat warmer. It was lovely and calm. However that was another swim I've yet to catch from, in an area I've never had a run from. I stuck with plan A. I knew the wind would be barrelling in to that swim, but I would be able to shelter behind some bushes and still keep an eye on the floats.

The rods were back out by half three and I sat back to drink another cup of tea and photograph some oddly green toadstools I'd placed my chair besides. The brew hadn't been finished when the right hand margin rod was away. The float wasn't steaming off this time, just slowly waddling away. When I connected with the pike it felt heavier than the first fish. Hugging bottom it did that gill flaring head shaking thing as it came up in the water that always makes me think the hooks are going to come free. It also makes the pike look to have a bigger head than it really has. Both these factors get the adrenaline going.

However the resistance was yet again just head shaking and the fish slid over the net in no time at all. Despite the warm weather the pike don't seem to be wolfing the baits down and there was a free flying treble. They also don't seem to be packing weight on because this was another pike that could have weighed more. My guesstimate was close to what the scales told me.

Strong winds tend to keep birdlife out of sight. There were a few mallards and a couple of tufties on the lake. A grebe had dived down as I'd approached the first swim. Other than that all I saw was a kestrel being buffeted as it hovered and a pheasant blown at high speed across the sky as dusk approached.

I thought there might be an outside chance of a second fish from the same spot. That was all that kept me from packing up and heading home for an early tea. By four fifteen that hope was fading and I was gone by half past with still a bit of light left.