Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Oops, I did it again...

Tuesday afternoon was one of times days when I had to go piking. Cool, sunny, and when I got there just the right sort of ripple on the water. With it being so bright I wasn't expecting any action until late on so I took my time setting up - and taking a few snaps of the orange-topped floats against the cerulean sky. Perfect complementary colours in great light.

There were eighteen tufties drifting about in open water, four ducks among the drakes. The mallards were mostly skulking in the reeds. A buzzard flapped its way eastwards. A kingfisher zipped past me making it's high pitched call. The deadbaits weren't doing anything as interesting.

I moved swims on the hour. Five as the last move to a swim I felt I should have been in all the time. It has three or four nice spots to cast to, all of which have produced pike for me. First cast with the lamprey, a long chuck to a bar, and the float came off the line. It was my native laziness that had stopped me swapping the clip that failed last time out. Well it looked okay to me. Now I had a wayward float drifting towards the edge of a particularly wide reed bed. As good fortune had it the wind must have shifted slightly because the float ended up in a place where the distance from dry land to reed edge was at its least. With the wind dropping it would be there in the morning, when I could get back with a longer net handle. I sat it out until dark, which is now arriving after six, for the increasingly inevitable blank.

The highlight of the afternoon came during the last hour when I was able to spend some time watching a barn owl hunting along the banks and in the scrubby land around the lake. If I'd kept a lower profile I would have had a really close encounter with the owl, but it saw me as I made a sudden movement and it veered off over the reeds.

As I began to pack up There was a light frost forming on my luggage, and as I reached the car park a gritter went by flashing its orange lights. Could I face getting up early in the cold to fish out my float? As things turned out I could. There was no other fool around when I got back to the lake this morning. Walking past the float after packing up I made a mental note of where the float was and worked out that I might need something just a bit longer than my longest landing net pole.

I'd come prepared to cobble together a Heath Robinson pike-float rescue tool! Lacking a long enough landing net handle I had gathered together a 13ft pike rod (lacking a butt ring), a roil of narrow gaffer tape, and the kiddy's fishing net I use for skimming duckweed off my pond. I hastened to the spot in the reeds I'd noted and scanned the edge for my float. It wasn't there. The only footprints in the frost were my own. Had a foolish carp swallowed it? I checked the reed edge away from where the float had last been seen. I walked round to look from the other side. No sign of it.

I was about to give in when the sun broke through the early morning cloud. I looked out over the blue surface of the water, ultramarine with a hint of burnt umber. In the middle distance, glowing in the bright slanting light, was an orange blob. It could be only one thing. Best of all it looked like it might be close enough to the bank to reach

I rushed round to the swim it was drifting around in, put the rod together and checked for its reach. It would need another foot or so. The fishing net was taped to the rod top and the float scooped up first try. Happy days!! My next job is to swap the dodgy clip for a new one. I guess it's done all right though. It must have been on the line for four years or so!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Time out

No fishing for me since the last blog post. When I have had some free time I've been photographing poultry and poultry people! Sometimes I think I've caught enough fish to satisfy me. A blogger, Eric Weight, who I have been reading for some years now has recently announced that his fishing blog is to disappear for a number of fishing reasons. One of which the pressure a blog can put on you to catch something worth writing about. I know the feeling all too well. One reason I stopped writing for Pike and Predators was that fishing sometimes felt like it was being done just to get material for articles. It gets to be a chore.

Then there's the menace of repetition. How much is there to say about fishing? Really? Not to mention the risk of being stalked on your productive waters. Do you lie about where you're fishing, or just not say anything? Saying nothing is the easiest and safest way to keep your fishing to yourself. of course that's more of a concern when you are catching big fish, or lots of fish. Thankfully these days I'm not doing either, so no one is stalking me to find out my venues!

Anyway, photography and fishing have a lot in common. There's a lot of time spend not getting any decent photos just to get one good one. I have that with fish too - lots of 'dead' time. But in both cases the buzz when it does come together makes the waiting worthwhile. In terms of satisfying the soul and the intellect fishing and photography fill the same bill for me. I gave up painting after finishing college for just that reason. I made paintings because it exercised my brain and the result was satisfying in the same way that fishing is. One of them had to go and fishing is pointless - so the paint brushes were hung up for good! I doubt I'll hang my rods up permanently until I'm too knackered to use them. I might not use them as often as I have in the past though. Even so, there usually comes a time after a fishing sabatical when the stars and weather align and that urge becomes irresistible. Fishing really does get in the blood.

On the rod building front I recently sent out a pair of custom built P-1s to a customer who wanted them to look like Hardy Fibatube rods from the 1970s. Normally I hate doing 'fancy' builds, but this was a bit different. Quite a challenge to source a thread colour which, while not strictly accurate, had the period feel to it. Then there was the handle to make a pastiche of. I thought the result worked out pretty well. Thankfully my customer did too.

In my search for the thread I bought another colour which wasn't suitable, but which looks nice as a very subtle tipping to black. I might have some pictures of that in the hear future. It never ceases to amaze me the range of thread colours I have amassed since I started building rods. And still there are some I have never used!

Thursday, February 11, 2016


It should have been obvious a blank was on the cards when I set off to try out some new forceps. LB from The Pikers Pit had read my blog moaning about my long forceps and recommended the ones Caimore (no affiliation) supply. They looked good and were cheap enough so I ordered a pair of the 8.5 inch scissor forceps and one of the 7 inch heavy duty. Delivery was prompt and they look and feel good.  They both have larger finger holes than my old reliable pair, which can sometimes get stuck behind a knuckle.

Not only did I have two new pairs of forceps with me I'd replaced all the leads on my rigs and put some new spares in a tackle box. My supply of 2oz bombs was almost out so I'd ordered a couple of trade packs of cheap and cheerful leads. One of 'silt' bombs and one of dumpy pears. I prefer them to the 'carp' leads you usually see in the shops because these have the swivel moulded into the lead rather than being on a loop. Which I always think is both unnecessary and tangle prone.

If all this newness wasn't enough I cast two baits out then tied on a fresh trace to the line on the third rod. that baited and cast out I sat down to make up another spare trace. I hadn't got the bottom hook twisted on the wire when I noticed the middle float had disappeared and the line fallen slack. I wound down, and wound down and wound and wound. Nothing. The bait wasn't even marked.  I began to wonder if the float really had sunk and the line gone slack. The bait had thawed out enough to make the hook hold a bit soft so I tied the bait on. Two casts later it was almost where I wanted it and I returned to my trace making.

Although conditions had been alluring while I was at home, they weren't giving me 'that feeling' sat by the water. Great tits were chinking, wrens singing their unbelievably loud song. It was nice not to be battered by the wind for a change and great to be outdoors, but the ripple on the lake wasn't looking pikey to me. I had a fiddle round and repositioned the baits. I went for a long chuck with the lamprey head and the float looked to have flown up the line. The float stop must have perished. When I tightened to the line to the bait the float didn't move. Bugger. It had come off the clip. I left the lamprey where it was and stuck a back rod rest in the ground and clipped on a drop-back bobbin. At least the wind would blow the float into the reeds across the corner and I could go fish it out with the landing net when was set for a move. Then the wind dropped to nothing.

I sat there watching the unattached float going nowhere and plotting my return at first light with a long handled landing net. Hang on. It was coming closer. There was no apparent wind but something was moving the float towards me ever so slowly. By the time I was ready for a move the float was closer still. I packed two rods away them slowly retrieved the third, making sure the line was going over the float. It did the trick and I soon had the float within netting range. I cheered up.

The next stop was a swim that I have yet to catch a pike from. It looks the part and covers similar water to a swim that has been kind to me. Baits were positioned close to pikey looking features where it surely wouldn't take long for one of the floats to rock and fall.

The only downside I have found to keeping mobile is that when I'm not catching I get the niggling doubt that staying put in one spot might have been a wiser choice. In this second swim that doubt played on my mind. I had good intentions of fishing the last hour in an off the wall spot. But doing that without a fish under my belt was a step too far and I ended up stopping until dark in the second swim. I couldn't think of a better choice. When inspiration deserts you it does it in style. I can only hope that I've got the new gear jinx out of the way and next time I'll be catching again.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Rods in stock

Last year I built up three Axiom rods - one of each - for display at the PAC convention. Why they all have short foregrips I can't remember. Anyway, they all have SiC rings and are all available for sale.

 Also available are the rods below, full details of which can be found on my Rods in Stock page.

7ft, 5-30g Harrison VHF two piece spinning rod. SOLD

12ft 1.75lb Chimera. My standard build but with ruby thread and Harrison logo. SOLD

Pair of P-1s with full Duplon handles and SiC rings (7 + tip). SOLD

One P-1 to standard cork handle build but longer foregrip.

One Sledge-Hammer 66M in brown with chestnut thread and rubberised cork butt end. SOLD

Click the pictures to enlarge them.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

That's more like it

It's been a funny old winter. Very barber's cat-ish - wet and windy. So when the wind dropped from gale force to merely strong and the sun shone it seemed rude not to squeeze in a three hour session up to dark once work was boxed off for the day. A quick check of the weather forecast saw me able to leave the repaired brolly behind with the expectation of remaining dry. Unlike last week there was just one vehicle in the car park, and the angler was nowhere near the area I fancied fishing.

I've known warm February days over the years. Warm until the sun begins to sink towards dusk that is. But I can't remember elder leaves bursting forth on the third of the month. Elsewhere hawthorn have been coming into leaf for a couple of weeks. All very odd.

Casting pike baits out at three in the afternoon and expecting to catch is not something I'd have done with much hope in years gone by. even fishing for a couple or three hours didn't seem like 'real' pike fishing, but thee days I'm more than happy to do just that provided I feel like a pike or two is on the cards. There's nothing like being confident. Something else I wouldn't have done is move my baits every fifteen minutes. Yet that was what I ended up doing in the first swim I chose. One with the north-westerly blowing straight into it.

Although chilly, the wind was putting just the right amount of ripple on the water to make it look pikey. I was moving the baits because I wasn't happy with where the floats were. It was a few minutes after recasting a mackerel tail further along a reed bed that the float began to move.

At the risk of repeating myself the fish did the usual thing of not pulling back and imitating a sack of spuds as I dragged it towards the net. It even lay reasonably peacefully in the net while I got the mat, sling and scales sorted out. Like the fish I caught last week there were leeches on its head.

When I delved into the rucksack I realised that my retention sack was at home, so I left the pike in the net and set up the tripod for a selfie. It was the first for a while that was worth the effort. I ended up rushing the pics as I'd struggled to remove the hooks. Not because it was badly hooked but because it took me a while to realise that the treble wasn't twisting free as it should have done because the bloody forceps were twisting. As soon as I got my trusty ancient, seven inch, forceps on the job the hook popped free. the bendy forceps were slung into the distance. I'd used them quite a few times without trouble so I'm not sure why they failed me this time. There must be some decent ones available.

After the chaos that the fish had caused, even though I released it in the next door swim, it felt like time for  a move.That's something else I wouldn't have done in the past. move immediately after catching a decent pike. I just seem to have itchy feet these days.

This time I was happy with where I'd placed the baits so I settled in to listen to the not-too-riveting one day match from South Africa and left the rods alone. The right hand Delkim didn't make a sound when I saw the margin float fall flat and set off away from the bank. A quick strike connected with a fish that didn't feel like a sack of spuds, but which actually pulled back! It wasn't a monster but it was a game little beggar. If the bigger fish had been fighting like this one they'd have been a lot more fun. I slid it into the sling just to make sure it wasn't a double. It wasn't quite. Not quite two hours fishing and a couple of pike banked. Happy days.

Over in the calm water small fish had been topping since I arrived. A kingfisher had flown by a couple of times. Birds were singing. It was as if all the wild creatures had woken up from a winter torpor. The whole place felt more alive than it had for months.

Another move was on the cards but something made me stay put and reposition the baits. It turned out to be a wise decision. Half an hour after the second fish, at quarter past five, I saw the far off float wobble and topple. I grabbed the landing net and promptly kicked the rod connected to the bait the fish had picked up, tangling the line round the antenna of the Delk. When I'd got the mess sorted out I was sure the fish would have felt something was amiss and dropped the bait. To my amazement the float was still on the move.

This time the strike was met by a writhing sensation. I'd heard of a few eels being caught from this place during the winter and wondered if that was what had picked up the macky tail. As I bent into it I realised that it would be a bloomin' big eel if it was. The fight turned into a cross between the potato sack and a pike. Eventually a pike that took a bit longer to slide over the net cord than the first of the afternoon was resting in the net.

Although it was clearly a bigger fish I couldn't be bothered setting up the tripod as the light was fading fast. If it was big enough for a selfie I'd put it back in the net, wind the other rods in and take my time. As it turned out, although it had the head and shoulders to be a red letter fish it was a bit on the lean side. It was big enough for me to break the net down and use the pole to steady the scales. Why people need a designated weighing bar when you can use the spreader block of a landing net head is something I don't understand. I guess some people like having loads of unnecessary junk to cart around with them.

The fish was in good nick, though it was another carrying a few leeches. I was in two minds as to packing up or sticking it out until darkness fell. In the end I hung on. My luck had run out, but at least I'd cooled down after working up a sweat. I must have been warmed up because it didn't feel as cold as the five and a half degrees the car's thermometer was showing when I got back to it.