Monday, May 30, 2016

Not so scary

Whenever I see a tench roll in front of me when I'm deliberating over where to fish it makes my mind up quickly. This was another 'turn up late' overnight session, but I wasted no time getting the rods out having seen that fish. I plopped the marker float on the spot, cast one rod to it and moved the line marker on that rod used that to set the markers on the other lines. With three baits out (two plastic casters, two grains of fake corn and a 10mm tench scarer) I spodded out some seeds, catapulted out some pellets and finally set up camp for the night. Then the kettle went on.

I was treated to a close view of a black headed gull trying to steal a meal from a common tern just above head height and a couple of rod lengths out. A while later the same tern noisily chased a kestrel across the lake.

It had been a hot day and there was little wind. Even the clear sky didn't cause the cold to rush in after dark. Night time was the cue to swap the casters to a grain of glow corn and the fish scarer to a larger pop-up on a carp rod. It really did feel like summer had arrived. The midges certainly had so I lathered on some midge repellent.

Not a rat was seen. Nor a fish caught. At dawn I went through the usual ritual of a bite to eat and a brew before putting the tench baits back on and spodding out the bulk of the seeds. The plastic baits were fished over the seeds, with small mesh bags of pellets used to protect the hook from bottom debris. The tench scarer got cast away from the baited area, also with a small bag of pellets.

It was quite a shock when the scarer rod was away at ten to five. When I say 'away', there was no line being taken as the baitrunner was pretty tightly set, but the rod was bouncing on the pod! There was one tench that hadn't been frightened! Although the fish had come to the net with some weed attached, that lovely grassy weed that tench seem to favour, there wasn't much being picked up when I wound any of he rigs in.

With a cloudless sky the sunrise wasn't as dramatic as it can be, but its stillness promised another red hot day.

An hour after the first take I had another, to the same rod. This didn't feel like a tench. It didn't feel like much to be honest. It looked a bit strange whatever it was. A bit of carp, a touch of fancy goldfish and maybe a hint of crucian?

More reliable than a train timetable it was exactly an hour later that the tench scarer failed to scare another tench. The third tench was running late, arriving at twenty past eight when the sun was getting high in the sky and a nice ripple was on the water from the light easterly. Then the timetable went to pot. It was twenty to eleven as I waited for the test match to restart when the biggest tench of the day so far picked up the scary bait. By now it was pretty obvious, even to me, that the reason for the bait's previous failure to attract tench was that I'd not put one near any tench. A new moniker for the bait is required!

Fifteen into play at the test the third tench's twin turned up, and forty minutes after that the first small male tench of the season for me. Half an hour after that one another male was in the net.

Come what may I was going to pack up when the players went for their cricketers' lunch. It felt like I could have carried on catching tench on the little round balls all day, but sometimes you have to go. I loaded the barrow and pushed it along the path round the lake. I'd not gone far when I thought about gratuitously running over a dead leaf caught in the grass but it looked a bit odd for a leaf. Avoiding it with the barrow I took a backward glance at the 'leaf' and saw it was actually a pair of mating moths. Despite catching seven tench and something else, spotting these moths made my day. A quick check of their ID on returning home revealed them to be eyed hawk moths. A first for me.

Friday, May 27, 2016


There's an affliction which gets frequent mentions on camera and guitar forums which I've never come across in the angling world, despite anglers exhibiting the very same symptoms. Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) is the craving for shiny new things when you don't really need them. There is no known cure, and while succumbing to temptation is always done on the pretext that the item purchased will fulfil the patients needs for evermore, it never does. As soon as a newer model of the same thing is released to the market the  symptoms return. Without fail.

When it comes to fishing tackle I tend to have my GAS under control. I have all the rods and reels I need for the species I fish for. This is probably why I find myself turning to carp. I don't have much in the way of carp rods and reels so fishing for carp is a good excuse to acquire some new gear! As far as rods go I always justify building myself some new ones on the grounds of R and D. I need to know how rods behave to advise customers what particular rods are suitable for.

I also use my personal builds to experiment with various aesthetic aspects such as handle designs and thread colours. That's why I've recently completed a pair of ten foot 2.75lb Torrix Stalkers for myself! I 'need' them to keep rigged up for short sessions fishing at close range for carp ranging from a pound or two up to a potential of over thirty (an unlikely outcome given my lack of carp catching skills).

I was in two mind how to approach the builds. One the one hand I was tempted to go for a retro look, along the lines of the Hardy pastiche pike rods I built a while back. On the other hand a minimalist look appealed. The latter won out. A butt cap and a reel seat would comprise the handle. I fiddle around with various collars, settling on some plain black Delrin ones. The rings were to be my favourite Fuji BMNAG Alconites which I think offer the best combination of light weight, protection from the wrap-around frame and good looks. But what thread colour?

Black was the obvious choice except I fancied a change. I went for the olive thread I'd used rebuilding a set of carp rods for someone. Before applying the varnish I tried it with a contrasting colour, a brighter olive, as tipping and it looked good. When the varnish was cured the tipping colour was hardly discernible despite both threads being colour preserved. The darker thread seems to have turned out lighter, negating the contrast. Better to find out on my own rods than some for a customer. I'm not sure if I like the thread colour, so there's a possibility the rods might get stripped down and redone at some point. Staring at the rods while the carp ignore my baits will give me time to decide.

If I was suffering a really bad GAS attack I'd be browsing for two reels to go on these rods. OK, I have had a look around... The trouble is that my ideal reels would be Shimano OC Baitrunners in a size between the 4000 and 6000. Which doesn't exist. That's saved me a few bob! This means that it's a toss up between the 3500B Baitrunners currently on my eeling P-2s and some even older Aero 8000 size Baitrunners. At the moment the Aeros are getting rigged up. Partly because they are already spooled with 15lb mono, and also because they don't have shiny spools. They're noticeably lighter too, which is a bonus.

Typically, having got these rods finished off my annual spring slow down came to an end and I have both a stack of blanks to get built into rods already ordered and some new orders to make a start on. Getting a chance to try the rods out had to wait until this afternoon when a short session at the Railway Pond was in order.

The new tackle curse returned in style. Two takes to the new rods resulted in two small carp falling off. I'm sure the one that took the 16mm boilie hadn't actually managed to get the bait in its mouth and was holding on by suction! I'd been confident that a bed of seeds in the margins would have drawn one of the better fish in, but apparently not. The rods remain unblooded, but I think I like the thread colour having seen it out on the bank.

What did go more to plan was my surface fishing. As a rule I don't have the patience for 'bait and wait' fishing. However, having two bottom baits out and the test match on the radio it was no hardship to lie on the unhooking mat firing out pouches of mixers every few minutes on a warm but overcast almost-summer's day, reed warblers and whitethroat making themselves heard and swallows dipping for drinks.

It wasn't long before there were fish taking the mixers, gradually getting closer and increasing in numbers. Out with the old Lure Special rigged with the repaired controller and a plastic bait. The mixers still getting fired out in the vicinity of the bait the frustration began.

The first take came with the rod in the rest while I fiddled in my tackle bag. There was no mistaking it as the baitrunner on the little Okuma was making plenty of noise. It was a bit of a surprise to find one of the skinny chub had been the culprit. But a success for a bit of pink foam! Interestingly, or maybe not, the take came almost as soon as I had changed the foam from a duller colour. This was repeated when I swapped the pink for a piece of beige foam. Almost straight away a common took that.

The same thing happened a bit later when I put on a bit of brown foam, which I pared down to make it sit lower in the water. This seemed to make a difference because I had a flurry of takes, one landed others missed, to the less buoyant bait.

I was rapidly running out of mixers. I put the dark foam out as a sort-of-zig-rig. Another instant take - which was one of the fish that fell off to one of the new rods. At close of play in the Durham test I packed up and headed for the chippy.

In preparation for this short session, and for other snatched sessions, I found a use for those useful boxes. One now holds a few spare leads, the other an assortment of floating stuff. I might have to get myself some more of these boxes. They're really useful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I take it back

Saturday I sneaked a cheeky evening carp session in. Not expecting much away from The Petting Zoo I wasn't disappointed at my complete lack of success. Sunday was reserved for the soaking of pigeon conditioner (and work). Monday was work-filled until tea time. Leaving the timer on the rod drying machine I set out for another late evening lazy set up, this time intending to fish until after lunch.

All went to plan. I'd not forgotten anything. Nothing important at any rate. Just the big brolly was required given the forecast for a dry night and another hot day to follow.

Half the seeds, to which I'd added a tin of corn, got spodded out along with a pint or so of mixed pellets. The maggots could wait until dawn. No point attracting too many bootlace eels with them during the night. The spodding taught me a couple of things about these new-fangled Spombs. Firstly they are rubbish for using at close range. They need to descend almost vertically to open reliably. An under arm swing doesn't cut it. Secondly they don't seem to like pigeon conditioner. The tiny seeds get in the closing mechanism meaning it won't close. Thirdly they hold a lot of water from the particle mix. Next time I'll be throwing a couple of my old spods in for close in baiting just out of catty range. In the meantime the Fox Spombalike is going to get some holes drilled in it to drain my seed mix.

Darkness is coming around ten fifteen now. The just-past-full moon tempted me to play around with teh camera. I felt pretty sure I'd not be disturbed by any fish even though I'd swapped the fake casters for a grain of useless glow corn and the 10mm fish scarer had been swapped for a larger wafetery thing which I cast well beyond the baited area.

Just one little rat appeared early on, ate some spod spill, then scurried away not to be seen again. That was good. The westerly died away and the lake went mirror calm. Fish of various sorts, including tench, had been showing on the surface before dark, but during the night little disturbance was heard or seen. Late on a mist rose from teh water as the sky cleared. Not for long though.

A few minutes before four I was woken by a stuttering sound from the sounder Velcroed to the brolly shaft. Half asleep and spectacle-less I blundered out and grabbed the left hand rod. A small eel felt like it was wriggling on the end of the line. Once I came to my senses I realised it wasn't an eel but a tench. And to the glow corn too. I take back everything I've ever said about it being rubbish! Not quite in the dark, and probably not glowing much after more than four hours, but a confidence booster for the bait.

With the fish returned it was time for a brew and something to eat to get my energy levels up to cope with the impending non-stop tench action that was sure to occur once I'd put the rest of my bait out. This time I used the catty to get the seeds more or less where I wanted them. The wafter was removed and replaced by the maggot feeder and casters. I stuck with teh single grain of glow corn, and the two yellow grains on teh thrird rod. Three plastic baits. All being fished in full confidence. Strange.

By eight the bunny suit was removed. By nine the fleece was gone and the sweatshirt followed soon after. It was another hot one. The wind had swung to the east then died away to nothing. Willow fluff drifted about on the water, a chaffinch sang its heart out from the topmost branch of a fir, a kingfisher flashed by and a distant yellowhammer could be heard. I even saw my first damselfly of the year. The scent of the hawthorn now in full bloom, making me think it's prime tench time, seemed to be accompanied by the hum of summer. The hum turned out to be an approaching tractor spraying the crop in the field behind the lake...

As the sun arced round to the west my brolly gave me some shade. As the wind picked up again it provided some relief from the heat. Apart from odd single bleeps, which I think were liners from small fish as the bobbins never moved, nothing much was happening. The calm surface wasn't being dimpled or disturbed. It was as if the fish were keeping their heads down. I got mine down too and caught up on some sleep.

Lunch would be had at twelve then I'd think about packing up. Not much thinking was required and I was away at one. Hardly had I set off than the sky clouded over and the temperature began to drop to a more bearable level.

A fish caught and some practical lessons learned. I even got to use my new water container. I'd prefer it not to have a large logo embossed on it, but it's more robust than the two smaller containers I've been using for something like 20 years and which are looking in danger of splitting! The only negative I can think of so far is that I can't see how full it is. The old bottles were translucent, making it easy to judge how many brews I had left. As this one is a litre more than the capacity of the two old containers combined it should suffice for a two night session. With a bit of luck. It stashes nicely in the bag of my barrow, which is handy.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

In the nick of time

Events were conspiring against me once more. In an ideal world I'd have fished Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, but I had to take my car in for its MOT first thing Wednesday. No worries. Wednesday night would do. The forecast was drier too. Except... A parcel that was due to arrive Wednesday was now arriving Thursday. When the fishing madness arrives chances get taken. If I could get back home before ten thirty I should be in time to take the delivery.

Wednesday started wet and ended dry. Not too warm with a bit of north in the westerly, but warm enough once I had the Groundhog up to take the edge off the wind. Overkill for one dry night but on a barrow it doesn't make life any more strenuous than a lighter brolly would. I had plenty of time to get settled in and baited up as this was a proper tench session on a different venue with fewer carp and I wasn't expecting anything until the morning.

With that in mind I got myself cosy and organised before plumbing up, baiting with maggots, seeds and pellets, and then chucking the baits out. Sure enough nothing happened save the occasional single bleep. After dark I swapped the plastic casters for a grain of glow in the dark corn which I have been assured is a guaranteed nocturnal tench magnet. More false propaganda.

One rat made a couple of brief appearances. A fish or two crashed out. At one point I was disturbed by a loud splashy swirl in front of the rods, followed by the sight of an animal swimming away, diving and resurfacing. It wasn't a rat. What it was remains a mystery as I didn't have my specs on and the glipse was all to brief. Probably a mink. I hope.

An overcast dawn arrived slowly. I made a brew then got up and wound the rods in, cast the marker back out and baited up again. After that the rods were recast, the glow in the dark pellet reverting to the tried and tested plastic asters on an in-line feeder rig. The sinking corn was swapped to popped up grains and the fish scarer stayed as it was.

After a threat of rain passed over the day warmed up. The wind had dropped considerably and there were signs of roach or rudd topping, and a few patches of bubbles appearing beyond my baited patch. The fish scarer was wound in to have a small mesh bag of pellets attached to the hook before getting cast somewhere close to where the bubbles were popping.

I was expecting action at any minute. Even so my attention wandered to watch the birdlife. A kingfisher was zipping about. It's surprising how vivid a bird can be in flight yet be difficult to spot when perching. A pair of chaffinches seemed to be busy. They kept flitting into a spot in amid the hawthorn blossom. Maybe they have nestlings to keep fed.

As I was still getting single bleeps and there were roach topping again I chanced removing the corn and fishing three live maggots on a heli-feeder. In no time at all I had a positive take on that rod. It shouldn't have been a surprise to find a bootlace had hooked itself. The maggot idea was shelved and the corn put back out again.

My cut-off time was nine thirty. When it arrived I'd still had no tench interest and started a slow tidy up. As I was loading my bedchair on the barrow the sounder box woke up at last. The tip of the corn rod was pulling round and the reel spool spinning. A decent scrap ensued before a solid female tench was in the net. Typical. The day was warm enough to remove my fleece, a tench had been netted, and I had to leave.

Walking off I spotted a deceased tench in the margin. The second one I've seen on this water this spring. I wasn't going to poke it to inspect for causes of death as it was pretty far gone. Fingers crossed it was natural causes and not murder.

Back home there was no note telling me a delivery had been attempted and the test match hadn't started. I'd just managed a tench and got home in plenty of time. No fishing for a while now as there's work to be done. Oh well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Retail therapy

At the moment I'm having a lot of fun snatching short sessions of a couple of hours on the Railway Pond - and less successfully on other places. Saturday was a case in point when I got the daft carp up on floaters again and might have caught some if my controller hadn't broken. Admittedly the swivel has been in danger of snapping ever since I bought the thing some time in the 1990s! I've affected a repair, and cut the weight down a bit so it sits a bit higher in the water. But I think buying a spare might be wise. A handful of suicidal pasties fell for a 10mm boilie fished in the margin to save me from a complete blank.

With these short sessions in mind I wanted to put together a bag that would contain everything I needed. Just a few bits and bats to cover unexpected losses like broken floats. I had the bag, a Korum Bait and Bits bag that will hold a bucket of mixers or pellets, tubs of bait, camera, bottle of pop, weighsling scales and sundry other stuff. Rather than keep swapping the major stuff from bag to rucksack -with the inevitable memory lapse resulting in a longer session being undertaken without a weighsling or some other essential - I decided to double up on stuff.

I have a set of scales, Super Samson spring balance, lying idle but no suitable sling. As I'm still using an original ET weigh sling for bigger fish I popped onto Ted's website and ordered one of the latest versions in the not-too-big size. It's not quite as deep as my original but it's going to be fine for anything I'm likely to put in it. Best of all it comes in a carry bag. As a rule I leave carry bags in the garage but this one will take my scales and a pair of forceps, and even the small tackle boxes I've put the rig bits in.

Rummaging in my tackle cupboard I'd found a box that  was big enough to hold a spool of hooklink material, scissors, hook packets and some back leads. I still needed something to put the smaller rig bits in. A visit to a tackle shop to buy two shortish banksticks (not carp angler short) found me that box when I wasn't looking for it. A neat little clamshell job. It looked like there had been equal quantities of black and green boxes on the shelf, with more green ones left. Black might be hip, but I know from past experience it's hard to see black swivels and so on in a black box, so I bought a green one.

It's always a good idea to carry a cigarette lighter or two in the tackle bag. So when I spotted some with fish motifs on them in the same shop I went for one with a picture of a pike. The carp ones, unsurprisingly, had sold out.

While I was on the ET website I spotted some small boxes that looked really useful. I like really useful boxes so ordered a couple. As yet I haven't found a use for them. But they will be really useful one day, I'm sure! They look more robust than the clamshell box.

Despite all this planning and organising I took my rucksack with me yesterday for an evening session. And a brolly with the forecast being for rain arriving at nine and leaving at eleven. As it turned out the rain came and went half an hour earlier. Which was good as I got away in the dry.

This was to be my last session with carp rods for a while. My intention being to use tench rods for tench somewhere carp won't be such a possibility. Quite when that will be remains to be seen.

I wasn't sure where to fish when I arrived, but seeing a dark pointy fin break surface in the swim I'd dumped my tackle in before going for a wander made my mind up. I'd be happy catching anything. So it was that a fish scarer got lowered in teh margin, a pop-up cast out with a bag of pellets to another margin swim, and Lucky the Pellet cast to where the bream had rolled.

The wind was from the west for a change, warm and not very strong. It was quite muggy too. The trees are almost in full leaf and the hawthorn in bloom - hence me wanting to concentrate on tench until they spawn. It felt like a fishy evening.

It wasn't long before I had what seemed like a liner to the fish scarer. Then another. A longer gap and another liner. I was beginning to wonder if a bream had hung itself on the three ounce lead. Eventually one of these liners pulled the tip round and my suspicions were confirmed. I think the bream had been hooked for some time! You can tell I'm not a carp angler because I netted the bream, put it on my mat, weighed it - and took a photo of it's tubercle covered head.

Even though I sat it out until eleven, still confident, nothing else happened of interest on the fish front. A barn owl made a brief appearance in the gloom of dusk, but it didn't hang around. The resident grebes continued to squabble. There'll soon be young ones which might make the adults even more quarrelsome. Judging by the small fish topping they'll all be well fed.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Short session

One rod, net, some bits and a mat to sit on. Had fish in front of me but nothing to report, just liked this photo.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Not so cr*p?

More than half the battle when it comes to catching fish is location. No matter what the species, you can only catch them if you have a bait in front of them.I was going to take advantage of the drier evening no matter what, but if the swim I'd seen produce a couple of carp on Tuesday was free there'd be no way I'd fish elsewhere. I'm not completely stupid! As it turned out the lake was deserted...

There are two spots that are obvious places to place baits so they got scattered with pellets and the baits dropped over them. The closest rod started out with plastic corn on the hook but I swapped it to a 10mm fish scarer on the off chance. Some more fish scarers were scattered around it. Well I might as well throw them in a lake as a bin. The third rod got a boilie type thing put on the hair and chucked out randomly on its own. I couldn't even be bothered putting a bag of pellets on the rig.

The grebes were milling around again, this time the courting couple made a half-hearted attempt at some weed waving. It wasn't quite as windy as the evening before, warmer too but not sunny. Birdsong was prolific and once more I bemoaned my lack of identification skills in this area.

I've been using my lucky sweetcorn for some years now, carefully removing it from a rig when the hook gets blunt and putting it on a freshly tied rig. It's very economical. I think I might have a lucky plastic pellet now. Around ten to eight something picked it up. At first it felt like another bream, then it might have been a carp, but finally it got all jaggy and I knew it was a tench. Judging by the bend in the 3lb Torrix it might be a decent one too. In the net it had me guessing again. Unlike the mug from last week it was rounded out and clean looking. Not the biggest I've caught, and from other waters only worth a mat shot. I might not even have bothered with a self-take as it was, but one of the carp fanatics had turned up a few minutes earlier so I got a 'grip and don't grin' shot for a change.

Check the rig, put on another bag of pellets and out again. Forty minutes later Lucky the Pellet was picked up by something a bit heavier. Twice as heavy in fact, although sadly not a tench. A rather sick looking common was soon in the net. It had red blobs lifting some of its scales and a dull grey sort of film over its body and eyes. As if it was wrapped in opaque plastic. It seemed fit enough though.

Lucky the Pellet
Check hook, add bag, recast. Sit back and relax. I pondered over the success of the new reels and wondered why the usual jinx wasn't working. Two reels christened in two days with two local PBs. Something wasn't right!

Earlier in the day I'd been thinking about my locally caught specimen challenge and how it wasn't going too badly. Nothing large by national standards, and not much prospect for that with the possible exception of a big eel, but compared to what I'd have been overjoyed with in my teens, pretty pleasing.

At nine o'clock the fish scarer failed to live up to its reputation and the third reel got its head wetted. After a decent scrap for a carp, which included the swimming round in circles under the rod tip ritual, I had another common in the net and another local best increased. On the mat and panic set in. The hair was bare. I'd lost my lucky sweetcorn. I looked around the swim for it before remembering I'd swapped it for a fish scarer. Phew!!! Quite a nice looking fish apart from an absence of pelvic fins. Again the other angler obliged with the camera - after insulting my unhooking mat for being too small... The cheek.

This place must be stuffed with carp if I'm catching them, and on my crap rigs. I'd better not tell anyone my hooklink material cost about a tenner for 100 yards, and that kilo bag of fish scarers will probably last me until winter. I'm not mean, just economical with my bait and gear. One thing seems to be working. Using carp gear catches tench, and it means I don't wreck a swim when I do hook a carp as used to happen with smaller fish than I've been catching of late. A nine pounder could wipe out a margin swim using my two test rods but carp twice that size get landed faster on heavier gear.

A pity there are so many carp in the place. The more distant carp waters I've tench fished were bigger and had lower stock levels so the carp were less of a nuisance. Then again those tench were keener on the traditional tench approach than this lot appear to be. Maybe I'll try plastic casters on one rod next time. I've yet to catch a carp on those. Famous last words?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cr*p c*rper

Summer had definitely arrived on Monday. With the air temperature over 20 degrees and even a strong easterly warm enough to sit out in a t-shirt in there had to be carp on the surface. The Railway Pond seemed like a good bet for a duffer like me to snatch an easy sucker off the top.

I travelled light with one rod, an original Chorley Anglers Lure Special which I revamped a few years ago, a bucket of mixers, a bag of bits, landing net and unhooking mat to sit on.

The up-wind swims were taken by pleasure anglers so I dropped in the windward bank to see a few smallish carp cruising around. The wind was too strong to fish a controller so I anchored a surface bait in a long hooklink. A couple of carp had a look at it. One was too small to have enough suction to drag the bait down! That's the trouble in this 'non-commercial'. It's full of carp that are two small to be called pasties. They're more the size of party sausage rolls!

I worked my way along the far bank until the other anglers had departed and I could get the wind behind me. Even with my useless skills I soon had plenty of fish swirling away in front of me. The controller back in action and drifting towards the fish. But as usual, despite a couple of takes from fish with larger mouths, I caught nowt. Back home via the chippy and it was time to search the internet for bow-fishing gear...

Tuesday and summer had gone on holiday. Cloudy but warmish. Then, after I collected my new 'carp' reels, loaded them with line and rigged them up on the rods I was itching to give them a try out. As much to get the line bedded in (and make sure I'd put enough on over the backing line..) as to try to catch a fish. That was the cue for the rain to arrive. I went anyway. New tackle has to be played with.

The rain was light as I set up so the brolly waited until everything was in place. Two grains of plastic corn and a plastic pellet in the margins over sprinklings of the respective real baits, and a pop-up chucked out mindlessly. Under the brolly, sat on my low chair at its lowest setting, I discovered my leak repair hadn't been 100% successful. At least it wasn't icy cold water dripping on my leg.

 There wasn't much variety of birdlife to watch, but with nine great crested grebes on the lake, one sitting on eggs, there was plenty of activity. One pair were engaging in their head shaking courtship ritual, but with no weed gathering. The others were milling around, diving, and adopting threat postures before chasing each other. Why there were so many grebes on a comparatively small water I don't know. There were lots of tiny and small fish topping and leaping towards dusk though. So I'm assuming the grebes are there because the food is plentiful.

With carp rods and carp reels in use I felt certain a tench or two would make a mistake as they patrolled the edges and found my loose feed. When a take came it wasn't a screamer. All that happened was the left hand bobbin dropped a bit, went up a bit, dropped a bit, went up a bit... There was something on the end of the line when I picked the rod up. A plastic bag by the feel of it. Under the rod tip it got a bit heavier and felt vaguely alive. I'd forgotten that I'd tried to catch the bream in the lake last year, so it was a bit of a surprise when a dark old-looking bream rolled on the surface before sliding over the net. A fish that was round-bellied with spawn.

Not much of a test for the new reels. It made a change for the new tackle curse to fail though! One thing was for certain; the new reels are smoother than my old baitrunners, a couple of which are making peculiar noises when I'm winding in. Although the old reels are likely to go on my eel rods now as they are not completely worn out.

The last of the particles went in and the plastic corn back out over the top of it. Despite being an unexpected species my confidence increased. Not least because it was not yet dark. Surely a tench, carp, or even another bream would be along soon?

Of course my confidence was misplaced. The rain eased off as I thought about packing up. Returned as I wound the first rod in, but was kind by blowing over as I set off back to the car. Then it came back on the drive home. Another pleasant change.

Friday, May 06, 2016

I'd forget my head...

Whenever you swap your gear from one bag to another don't double check you've put everything in, triple check. That was the second of my trips back home as I set out for my second overnighter of the year. I had only got as far as the village when I realised I had left the milk in the fridge. If I hadn't bought it specifically in the morning I'd have picked up another pinta from the Spar shop. Only a few minutes wasted of my early start. The original plan had been to have my tea, listen to the archers then go fishing. I was targeting tench this time and the overnight stay was mainly to save me from having to get up at daft o'clock. As long as I was in place and organised before dark it would be okay. Just as well really.

There was one carp angler leaving when I pulled up and the lake was my own. Barrow loaded I pushed it round to the far side and took my time looking at swims and plumbing around. Then there was another niggle in my brain. Bivvy pegs. I couldn't visualise them anywhere. Open the  rucksack, take everything out of it. No pegs. Not to worry. It wasn't going to be windy or wet, the two pegs I always carry for brolly use would suffice. Wait a minute. I had brought my Aqua brolly, not the Groundhog. The brolly has a centre pole and the screw in boss that replaces it lives in the peg bag. Centre pole plus bedchair equals waste of time. A. R. S. E.

If there'd been another angler on for the night I'd have left the loaded barrow in his care. I thought of stashing it somewhere but despite the locked gates I didn't want to chance it. Only one thing for it. Back to the car, unload the barrow, load the car, go home, get the peg bag, back to the lake, load the barrow, walk to the swim. Thankfully nobody had turned up and nicked my swim when I got back, just in time to miss the Archers. Looking at things in a positive light, had I adopted plan A and left at seven thirty I'd still have forgotten the pegs, and probably the milk. I reckon by the time I'd got organised I'd have given up.

Set up - eventually!
 A tench plan involves fishing two rods to an area baited with hemp, pellets, corn and maggots. In this case with a sprinkling of 10mm fish scarers. I left the maggots out of the equation for my initial pre-dark baiting in case they attracted hordes of tiny wriggly things. Two grains of fake corn and a fish scarer went over that bed of bait for the night and a popped up plastic pellet went along the margin over a sprnkling of mixed pellets.

The light wind died away to nothing as night set in and it was pleasantly mild under the bedchair cover. A few single bleeps, suggesting the presence of fish of some sort, were all that attracted my attention. At five I was up and at 'em. More bait was put out, the rigs checked and the fish scarer swapped over to an in-line maggot feeder with the inevitable pair of plastic casters. Half a pint of maggots got cattied out over the swim too.

Evening had seen a tern and some swifts flying around. Dusk brought the bats out. Grebes were pairing up and fighting - there are three pairs on the lake, at least one of which now has eggs. Morning saw a kingfisher zipping past, dodging my rods in surprise. Rats there had been no sign of. Unless you count one which looked like it had had it's tail tied to a sunken branch. As the morning grew warm there was a strange oily slick emanating from the bloated corpse.

After a quiet period I started to get more single bleeps and blips. The margin rod had been a bit of a bet-hedger and was one of my three test Torrixes. When the pellet got picked up and the rod pulled round I was expecting a carp. It wasn't. With a bigger, stronger hook than I'd used with the corn on Monday I gave the tinca a bit of stick. Despite the rod it pulled back a bit, made some impressive looking swirls on the  surface, and almost got me excited. Netted it shrank a bit. On the mat it looked like a five. It also looked a bit familiar. On carefully zeroed Avons it made five pounds exactly. Not surprising really. Close comparison of the photo I took with that of Monday's fish proved my hunch to be correct.

On Monday it had picked up a bait at fifty yards or so, today it was in the edge. Tench are wanderers. Given a lack of features they seem to follow no set patterns. When I've watched them feeding they have been completely random in their browsing. Or apparently so. Far from following a path they are quite likely to double back on themselves or go off at an angle. I think that's partly why my equally random recasting approach used to succeed at Sywell back in the Stone Age. If I thought they was a similar density of tench in this place I'd try it again, but this recapture has got me wondering about the tench stocks.

The carp, on the other hand, appear to be more numerous than I'd imagined. Almost as if they are being magicked into the lake. When the sun had worked up a head of steam and a light ripple was on the water there were carp cruising all over the place. Two drifted down wind just beyond my baited area. Four spooked when a couple of wood pigeons swooped low over the water. There were lazy bow waves to left and right. I couldn't be bothered trying to catch any of them though.

When the last two bacon butties had settled I had a slow pack away pondering my next move.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Undecided - as usual

A week on and some sunshine fooled me into another evening session. Bank Holiday Monday saw the weekenders departed and the lake deserted. While the sun was high in the sky the wind that still had a bit of north in it was bearable. An hour after my late start I bumped off a small-feeling fish to two grains of fake corn fished in conjunction with a bag of pellets cast into nowhere. I go to the trouble of carefully marking one line and casting the bait over a sprinkling of pellets and putting another bait close in in similar fashion and the randomly chucked out bait gets taken. On with another bag and on the cast the rig spins and drops short. Sod it, it would do.

Once the heat went from the sun the wind was icy. Two fleeces and the waterproof jacket just about stopped me shivering as I sat behind three carp rods. This time the wind did as it was told and dropped with the sun. Things were looking up, especially as there was a short drop back to the marked rod. Even if it was just a liner there were fish moving over the baited area. I wasnt the only one who thought summer was getting closer. There was a swift, my first spot of the year, flying overhead at one point. Plenty of bats both high and low once it was dark, too.

It stayed bearable until tennish when it picked up again. Once more I decided to cut the session short and pack up at half past. Stuff was tidied away when I checked to see just a few minutes left until home time. Then the unexpected happened. The random corn was off again on a steady run. obviously not a carp I took it easy as I wound the tench in. Near the net it woke up. Three test rods are far from ideal for playing tench. Not wanting to tear the size 14 free I had to play the fish off the reel. On a lighter rod I could have put a bend in the rod and netted the fish quicker. A tench in the dark was a turn up, though. Maybe if I let them think I'm after carp I'll catch more tench in the night like carp anglers do? And maybe like carp anglers manage they'll all be over seven pounds too!

On the mat it looked like it would make five pounds, but being skinny it fell short by an ounce. My tench guestimates are getting better.

Still waiting around for blanks to arrive I couldn't face any more boredom on Tuesday and headed to the railway pond for some guaranteed small carp action. The idea being to see if the 10mm boilies I'd bought, and tried a couple of times, would actually appeal to fish. I only went for a couple of hours, which turned in to two and a half fishing the usual margin approach with baits over pellets. I threw a couple of the boilies to a cheeky mallard. Ducks eat anything. Anything except these boilies. It picked on up, played with it and spat it out. Great...

Around five the boilie attached to a hook was picked up by a fish and not dropped. The fish, however, fell off. It only felt bucket sized, but at least something had picked up one of the baits!

Wednesday was another day of frustration spent waiting for Mr UPS. Who didn't bother turning up. More in anger than anything I put some gear together and went to sit in the last of the sun. This time behind three tench rods. Like a pillock I picked the only swim on the bank which was shaded from the sun. Apart form numerous single bleeps, which could have been liners or small fish playing with the baits, nothing else happened.

After dark plenty of roach-like fish were topping and what sounded like a couple of carp had crashed out. Something bubbled away to my left. But positive action I had none. Something gave me the feeling it wasn't worth hanging on too long, so didn't regret packing up before eleven.

I just wish I could decide whether to fish for tench or carp. Trying to do both doesn't really work. The trouble is I'm not sure the tench in the lake are interesting enough to me. And the carp are only interesting as a target to achieve. As fish they are (mostly) horrible ugly things that don't excite me. Time to get the eel baits out, perhaps?

Sunday, May 01, 2016


A trend I've noticed is anglers swinging away from abbreviated handles and towards either full cork or full Duplon. Pike anglers have been keen on full cork for a long time but carp anglers have been asking me to cork their rods for the last couple of years. I wonder if they are realising how impractical those shrink tubed butt grips are? Far too skinny to get a good hold on for a powerful cast in my opinion. And the tiny metal butt buttons are painful to stick in your groin when giving a fish some stick. Possibly why that stupid habit of poking a finger under the rod half way to the butt ring has become common place.

Since the start of this year I have been asked to build new rods with full Duplon handles and to retro-fit them to a fair few sets of existing rods. I've never been too keen on full Duplon handles myself, but seeing them fitted to more rods is almost convincing me to give them another try. At least I'd be able to fit a Fuji butt cap, which is always my preference but which never seems to look quite right with a short butt grip.

There are the usual choices for reel seat with Duplon. I think the DNPS with stainless collars looks sleekest.

Some people prefer the all black and more traditional looking DPS with front flare.

Despite this my next pair of rods are going to be built completely against this grain in ultra-minimalist style. They'll probably look as ugly as sin, but they'll be practical for what I want to do with them. Watch this space!