Saturday, December 31, 2016

Time for a break?

Another frustrating piking blank the other day has just about finished me off. When I fished with Nige Grassby a lot he had a knack of picking a rod up, giving the bait a twitch and getting a take. If that didn't work a pike would grab the deadbait as he wound it slowly back. Whenever I tried that I would twitch the rig into a snag. I certainly don't remember catching any pike doing it. Yet twice last time out I had baits nailed as they got close to the bank. Had the high pressure got them on the lookout for moving targets? The first time the pike didn't do much, and I think it might have dropped the bait. The second time it was definitely moving off with the lamprey head. I still managed to miss it. The bottom hook was free of the bait when I wound it in. Maybe it had been loose when I struck. I'll never know.

I'll also never know how big these fish were. Pikers often console themselves when they miss a take by saying it must have been a jack. Sometimes it will be. But what about those times the bait looks like a chainsaw victim? Long, deep slices across it. Missed takes aren't always from small pike. Big ones can be picky too.

With frost forming on the rods, net, unhooking mat and everything else close to the ground I packed up in the dark. The main reason I'd gone in the first place was to see if putting reflective tape on a float would make fishing into dark easier without resorting to isotopes or starlights. Not using bobbins as well as floats it's hard to detect takes which don't steam off and take line when the float is hard to see. The reason I got the last take was because I was winding the rig in  few yards at a time to keep it visible in the gathering gloom. The tape worked. I didn't really need to put my head torch on full beam to pick the float out. A camera's flash really picked it out for a photo. I'm not sure I'll be bothering again though. However I did notice that when the sun shone on the tape it stood out well against a dark background. So there might be more mileage in the idea.

On that downer I decided against a final piking trip today. Regardless of my lack of success I just don't feel motivated to fish for pike at the moment. Daft as it seems I still find myself wanting to catch eels! With that in mind, a mind currently preoccupied with photography plans, I think I'll give the fishing a break for a while. Possibly until the weather warms up, the days lengthen, and I can face spending a night or two each week under the stars. Although I'm sure I'll start getting withdrawal symptoms long before April.

This lack of enthusiasm might also be a combination of having I've fished myself out this year and rapidly encroaching old age. Certainly during the summer I seemed to be going a lot, and catching regularly. There aren't many pages left in my little Black n' Red notebook either. I'm certainly not feeling as young as I used to...

While the sizes of fish I've caught haven't been huge they have been acceptable to me, especially considering I haven't left the county to catch any of them. Lancashire isn't exactly a Mecca for specimen hunters.
  • Bream - 7-12
  • Carp -21-08
  • Eel - 4-01
  • Roach -1-10
  • Tench - 6-06
  • Pike -18-10
If I do manage a good long break, those eels had better watch out because I'll be after them every chance I get!

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Getting out of the habit of going fishing is all too easy at this time of year when the night arrives early. These last couple of months I have been as busy with rod building as I can remember. Many's the day when I haven't got everything done in time to snatch a pike session. An hour of daylight isn't much of a window.

Things had got so bad that I was beginning to think that I'd lost all interest in fishing and that the best part of three hundred quid I'd paid out the other week for a syndicate was money down the drain. Today changed all that pessimism. I got up early and had everything I could do done before eleven thirty. The frozen Christmas lunch (pizza) was 'waved and I was on my way. What better than knowing the lake would be deserted and the weather so much more pleasurable than last year when it rained cold rain. Today I didn't even need the bunny suit it was that warm. The wind was pretty strong but from the south meaning that it would be easy to keep out of. There was a threat of rain on dark, so I took the brolly and my waterproofs.

Sure enough, there was nobody else daft enough to be fishing on Christmas Day. After a bit of a wander I decided to fish an area I don't give much attention. The first swim I passed looked tempting enough, so I dropped in to it for an hour. One bait in the left margin, one to my right where there were still decaying remnants of lily pads on the surface, and the third out as far as I could chuck it.

A flock of fieldfares, very flighty birds, kept alternately wheeling around in the wind and perching high on the hawthorns. The sun broke through and all was right with the world.

An hour was enough in that swim. It didn't feel right. The next swim was another I've had no pike success in, but plenty of eel action during the warmer months. Again the baits were spread out with two close and one far. After ten minutes I wasn't happy with the far bait's position and recast it a bit further. Tucked behind a tall stand of reeds the wind chill was nil. Now the clouds had close over and there looked to be rain out to the west. Maybe the wind would keep the wet at bay. I looked up and the far float was laying flat,  the line hanging slack. Holding the rod the float didn't seem to be moving. I wound down anyway and felt a weight, briefly, before the bare hooks came back. Damn. On with the other half of the bluey and try again.

For some reason I felt sure I'd get another chance in this swim. I resisted the urge to move. At four the right hand close range rod lurched in the rest. Once more the float just bobbed on the waves. There was nothing there when I wound down, and the bait was unmarked. Liner? I'll never know.

The sun began to set and the light to fail. there was an avian commotion high behind me. I turned to see a sparrowhawk making off with its Christmas dinner. It looked like there'd be one less fieldfare roosting in the flock tonight.

With the light all but gone from the sky I had to call it a day. Despite ending the day pikeless it had been good to recharge the fishing batteries, though. Sunset will be noticeably later in a week and soon it'll be easier to get those late afternoon sessions in. By the time spring is here and the eels have woken up that syndicate money won't have been wasted after all.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Icy margins

Mostly thanks to non-arrival of materials I had time to wet a line on Sunday. I waited until the frost had cleared and my lunch had settled before venturing forth into a bright, sunny and reasonably warm (in the bunny suit) afternoon. The frost must have been a hard one over the two previous nights as there was a covering of ice in one corner. I had a walk around to see if there was ice elsewhere and a swim I don't usually fancy took my eye. I returned to it with the gear and plopped three deadbaits around it. It has to be said that the main attraction of the swim was being in the sun and sheltered from the light, slightly from the east, wind!

The low sun was causing a bit of a problem by not only being directly in my face, but reflecting off the water right where I had cast the bluey head. I couldn't see my float. I could see the line and if that had gone slack I'd have spotted it. A straight run would have sounded the alarm. I wriggled free of the top of my bunny suit and tied the arms around my waist to cool off. Then I sat back and soaked up the sunshine. It wasn't long before a very friendly robin came to see me hoping to be thrown something edible but I had nothing to offer it.

The sun moves quickly across the sky as we get close to the winter solstice and I was soon able to see the furthest float, not moving. An hour of inactivity and my feet were itching. Time for a move. The bunny suit was put back on properly and the gear transferred to a swim I have caught from before. Here the sun was to my left, making all floats easy to see.

Quite what inspired (?) me to make the Lumbbell Float on the left I really don't know. I don't think it offers much, if any, advantage over a piece of balsa wood! It was easy to make and it performed as hoped. Not in anger, unfortunately. It was highly visible, and when the line was made slack the lower polyball did pop to the surface to show the line was slack. Without that the float wouldn't have appeared any different if a fish moved towards the rod. I doubt I'll persevere with the concept.

Shortly after settling into the swim a fish had moved the reeds to my right in a manner suggestive of a small pike striking at prey. Half an hour later it happened again. This time the nearby float fell over too. Had the pike which had picked up my lamprey head spooked a jack? I don't know but I do know the float began to move off and the pike I connected with stayed deep.

After some head thrashing, when it was apparent there was a free flying treble, I bustled the pike over the net and lifted. It looked like it would require the scales so I pinned the net down with the bankstick the rod had been propped up on while I got everything sorted out. On the mat my first job was to get the flying hook out of the mesh, by which time the other hook had come free and all I had to do was pull the bait out to finish the unhooking. I noticed just a few leeches on the pike's plumping up belly. Into the sling, a quick lift on the scales and back to the water.

By now the heat was gone from the sun requiring me to zip up the bunny suit and don the woolly hat. It wasn't long before the water on the mat was turning solid and slippy. One more move before dark.

This time I was tucked up between some high reeds and watched as a small flock of long tailed tits foraged before going to roost. Water rails sharmed on the far bank and numbers of fieldfare flew around in a seemingly random manner as the western horizon turned magenta.

A mere handful of starlings flew in and straight down to the reeds without any preliminary circling. In the dying light a sparrowhawk glided across the lake as it often does at this hour. Perhaps to take advantage of birds beginning to roost.

This time there had been a lot more bird activity, on and off the water, than my previous two trips. Coots and moorhens were in evidence, and the mallard were back in numbers. With one pike caught I felt there was a chance right until the light had gone, but it was not to be.