Sunday, December 31, 2017

Annual round up

It's been a funny old year. For one thing it doesn't seem to have stopped raining for more than a day at a time. I know it has. There was even a bit of a heatwave in May and early June when I did some lure fishing. But after that every time I got some enthusiasm to go fishing the rain would come back and put me off. It even scuppered my photography plans to visit country shows when three of them were abandoned at the last minute due to waterlogged fields. The last one of the season I did manage to get to saw me getting my car stuck!

I went for a walk along a small local river this afternoon and that was up, pushing through but dropping, and heavily coloured. It looked quite appealing. So much so that I dug out my ten foot Avon rod when I got home. Then it started to rain yet again and a quick check of the forecast put thoughts of starting the New Year there out of my mind. It's been tipping it down all evening. I hope next year is drier.

Looking back I've not done much fishing at all in 2017. I haven't got half way through the notebook I use as my fishing log book. Most years past they've been at least three quarters filled. I've not even targeted any big fish. Those days are over for me I think. Not least because the few 'bigger' fish I've caught over the last twelve months haven't made much of an impression on me. The roach I caught on barbel gear didn't get weighed, and I didn't bother with a self-take picture of what was my biggest 'by design' eel (because I didn't realise that's what it was at the time...). Despite my winter piking being less successful than in previous years I still managed to catch one good one on a lure. So my fish of the year list is a bit thin this time round. That said, when I was a teenager fish of these sizes would have been unimaginable to me. Strange how our perspectives change.

Barbel - 8lb 15oz
Eel - 3lb 10oz
Pike - 19lb 0oz
Roach - didn't weigh, but should have!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Going through the motions

Other than work, I couoldn't think of anything to do this Christmas day. A few days ago the weather was forecast for the day to be a wash out. Yesterday it looked as if the rain wouldn't arrive until late afternoon. I must have been in half a mind to get out early for a change because I was up and about while it was still dark. For some reason I started some work and had that done before nine.  There was nothing for it. The sun shining must have decided me. The gear was in the car by half eleven and the baits in the water by twelve.

No doubt the southerly wind accounted for the temperature being in double figures. No need for teh bunny suit. No need for the waterproof jacket either as the rain wasn't due until five. Even so I'd put a brolly in the quiver, just in case.

Tucked in by some reeds I was nice and sheltered, the three deadbaits fanned out in spots which had produced in the past. Settle back, crack open the flask and mini pork pies, and wait. Twenty minutes later the brolly was up.

The rain was light and didn't last long before the sun shone once more. Time for a move. In the new swim I took advantage of the wind and after removing the lead from the rig and pinching a couple of extra large swan shot on to the trace drifted a sardine to the far bank. With that done and rain threatening again I was ready for a change of scenery.

The first job was to put the brolly up to keep the chair and rucksack dry. Then the baits went out. All legered again and also to previously productive spots. It was like fishing by numbers. For some reason my confidence level rose. A little. Twice I experienced strange indications. Once to the sardine and once to the bluey tail. The Delkims gave a short trill, the floats lay flat, the baits were unmarked. Odd.

Initially I had intended to move one more time, but a combination of rain and confidence conspired to make me stay in this swim until dark. Shortly after three I saw the furthest float dip and rise. Had I been float-fishing for roach I'd have cursed a missed bit. The float did it again. Then the Delkim gave out a single bleep. By now I was holding the rod and saw the float was definitely on the move. A couple of turns of the reel handle and a pike was hooked. Plainly not a big one, but it would have to do! Although only a tiddler it was well marked, and more yellowy-brown than usual from this water. It also seemed to have a short snout.

The rain was constant by the time a new trace was tied on and a fresh bait hooked up. it wasn't long before the light was starting to go. Time to try my Mk2 night floats. The Mk1s (which I tried out on a fruitless session since my last blog post) proved to be almost invisible thanks to me using tiny starlights... Even before the light had gone I could see the larger starlights glowing. When I wound the final rod in to take the wet walk back to the car the furthest float was easy to see. Whether I'll get much use out of these floats I very much doubt!

I'm beginning to think that my dismal results of late on this water are a consequence of doing the same old same old because it worked in the past instead of thinking about what I should be doing. Probably because I've gone past my usual three seasons fishing a water before I move on. Getting stale. I'll either have to try to break out of the rut or give up altogether!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

At last...

That must have been the longest I've gone without fishing since 1982! A combination of a lack of enthusiasm and the bloody awful weather mostly being responsible for it. With the days getting shorter and the clocks altering I began to think about pike fishing, but every time I felt like getting the rods out something cropped up to prevent it happening. Today almost went the same way as I was in the middle of my lunch with the pike rods assembled ready for rigging up when someone called round to throw money at me.

Then it turned out I had no traces made up, which slowed down the rigging up process. Finally the freezer was almost bare. I like to have three different baits out when I don't know if the pike are showing a preference and apart from two trusted baits all I had were hated sardines. I just don't get on with sardines despite almost every other piker in the land loving them to bits.

Despite the minor setbacks I managed to get three baits out by ten past two. With it being mild I was prepared to stop a little into dark. So I could get over three hours fishing in. Plenty of time for a couple of moves.

Being too lazy to tie the sardine to the trace I stuck the size two treble in its skull and the smaller one down it's back. Hooked this way sardines can be recast a few times without bursting or falling off the hooks.

After twenty five minutes I saw the float on the sardine rod wobble and fall flat. Amazing! The fish was doing nothing but kiting in towards the bank to my left making it difficult to judge its size. When it hit the margin it woke up and clearly wasn't huge. It was lightly hooked by the top treble, the other flying free. Safely netted it thrashed about and unhooked itself for me.

My plans for moving swims got thwarted when someone turned up to chuck lures around in the swims I wanted to move to. When he had left at four I made my one move of the afternoon. The light had pretty much gone, in fact I had just put my head torch on my head, when the lamprey set off steadily. This time my strike met no resistance at all. I have a sneaking suspicion the culprit wasn't a pike but an eel. The spot I had cast to is pretty reliable for eel action during the summer and the water was still pretty warm to my touch. Whatever it had been, the bait was unmarked.

Half an hour later I was on my way home thinking of easy ways to make night floats for piking. The mojo might be making a comeback!

Monday, October 09, 2017

A bunny eating a banana?

It doesn't matter why I was looking for a video of a rabbit eating a banana, but when I found it Youtube recommended these three videos for some reason.I'm not a fan of GoPro videos, or fishing videos in general, but these are a bit different. I really enjoyed them. I might have another go for that local sturgeon soon!

Monday, October 02, 2017

Not fishing

After my last barbel session I got to wondering why I was bothering. It's never just been about putting fish in the net for me, there always has to be some challenge or target to achieve. I stopped barbel fishing because I felt like I'd caught enough of them. And that's the way it feels again.

Then I got sidetracked photographing agricultural shows almost every weekend and some week days. I've just got no motivation to fish at the moment but plenty of photographic ideas I would like to get on with.

However, Saturday was the PAC's 40th Anniversary convention and it's got me thinking of pike fishing. Even though I know it's unlikely to really get going for another month on the water I'll be fishing. Perhaps sorting the pike gear out will get me off my lazy behind? While I was at the convention I took a few photos which can be seen here.

It was worth going to the show to get feedback on the lure rod I was playing around with in the spring. I knew it did the job, looked great and felt nice in the hand. What I wasn't sure about was how people would react to the price as it is built on a markedly more expensive blank than even my Axioms.

Nobody flinched when I told them the base price. So it will be getting added to my range as soon as I have a batch of blanks in stock and have worked out the cosmetics. I have some ideas to give the rod a distinctive, but subtle, appearance.

I don't promote my rod building services to carp anglers, but I do build carp rods rods - mostly for the few carpists I know locally. The sort of carp anglers who actually catch fish and don't get off on having to have the blingiest tackle. I'm not well up on what's what in carp rods so just build whatever blanks I'm asked to.

The latest set of three are 13ft Trebuchet Lights, with minimalist shrink tube handle. I'd not put a flare on the end of a shrink tube handle before, but it proved to be quite easy - after one cock up! Despite me usually hating 50mm butt rings they don't look out of place on thirteen footers.

Friday, August 11, 2017

It'll come in handy one day

Loading the car the other day I noticed one of my long banksticks had poked a hole through the base of my Korum quiver. I find it easier to put the sticks, along with my landing net and brolly (when required) in the big pocket of my quiver. The bankstick pocket and the rear mesh pocket are both a bit tight. Anyway, something had to be done.

What I needed was some sort of tough plastic tub of a size to just fit the base of the pocket. Now my garage is full of stuff that normal people would have thrown out years ago. I tried one of the Vitalite tubs, the original round ones which I used to use as impromptu maggot tubs when I was a kid and last week's maggots in the proper bait tub had turned into a buzzing mass of flies! I thought this was a good fit but on the river I realised the reason my landing net pole was sticking out above the rods was because it hadn't gone all the way down. Something else was required.

There on the shelf of ancient tackle, along with two old maggot tubs and my first float rod, was a bucket with some old floats, a swing tip and angled rubbers, a couple of bread punches which had come free with Angling Times or some such and some swimfeeders I'd found years ago. In my teens this had been my worm gathering bucket. It used to have a lid, but that appears to be long gone.

The handle was popped off and the bucket slid inside the quiver. A perfect fit! The downside will be that it will collect water that runs off a wet net, or brolly. I suppose I could make some small drain holes in the base of the bucket, but I'll leave it for now. All quivers ought to have solid bases to the bankstick and brolly pockets. Although then they wouldn't wear out so quickly...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I can see clearly now

This summer really hasn't managed to make its mind up. Which has meant the river going up and down like... You think of an analogy! A week ago it was up and rising as the rain continued to fall. If I wasn't out of touch with its moods and flows I'd have made a better job of things and not moved into a swim I should have started in as the water rose. I have no excuses for blanking. It was incompetence.

Yesterday evening saw me back fishing a river that was falling slowly having dropped and risen since my previous visit. This time my choice was improved. Although I seem to have forgotten some of the lessons I learned years back. Such as where the snags are in a certain swim. After losing a lead, and then a hook and lead when picking up the rod to deal with a take found everything solid, it came back to me that you don't cast upstream from this spot. That take was yet again to the rod fishing three 8mm crab pellets.I was beginning to wonder if the barbel have lost their taste for what used to be my favourite boilie which I was fishing on the other rod. I'd yet to have a take on them.

Fitting new isotopes to my rods at the start of the week had been worthwhile. Even before it was fully dark I could see them glowing brightly. I gave my rod rest heads another spray of white paint while I was at it. Much easier to locate in the dark now.

At ten thirty or so the same rod tip gave a series of short taps. At first I thought the fish was an eel as it felt to be wriggling. Then it felt like it had dropped off. Then it came back! Seeing it in the torchlight, along with a couple of bats flying around the line, I thought it was a small chub but as it slid to hand I realised it wasn't. Three 8mm pellets aren't what I'd set out to catch roach with. If it was a roach and not a roach/chub. I didn't bother weighing it, whatever it was.

As I was slipping the fish back I heard the baitrunner on the downstream rod whirring slowly. The barbel do still like the boilies. Just as well as I have a full bag of them to use up. I am well out of practice at guessing how big barbel are. This one bulldogged and I was sure it was going to be my biggest of the season. It turned out to be the smallest. Just.

The moon began to rise casting an eerie light on the trees and cows behind me. Owls hooted. The placid swan paid me a visit. I think it likes company being the only trumpeter on the river. Firstly it dabbled in the margins under my rods, then it waddled up the bank and began to graze a little, but mostly just stand there. Nice to see it's still around. Unlike mute swans it's not a pesterer.

I had a few chub rattles to both rods, but that was my lot. Lead losses diminished as I got my casting bearings.There was a dew forming on my gear as I packed away at twelve fifteen and set off home. Not long after taking the turning out of the valley my headlights caught a lean fox jumping through a hedge and speeding across the road.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The easy option

After one barbel session I remembered why I found barbel fishing so appealing. It's not just that they are easy to catch and pull hard, they're convenient. There's no need to get up early or stop all night. barbel fishing can be slotted in after tea and still be home in time to get a good night's sleep.

The baits are convenient too. Nice dry pellets and shelf-life boilies. even frozen boilies don't go soggy and drip bodily fluids all over like deadbaits do. Two rods is plenty so no need to carry heavy rod quivers. The only downside are the long walks, but not everywhere requires one.

Then there's the valley and its wildlife and plant life. Not only does the river change with the rain, the surroundings change with the seasons, and with the light. At this time of year the trees are darkened waiting to turn to their autumn colours, yet when the last rays of the setting sun strike their tops they glow as brightly as the new leaves of spring. sinking below the wooded banks the sunset can set the river itself afire.

Even with the river rushing through and well coloured a kingfisher was catching its supper last night. I was hoping that there might be a few barbel in close like the fry. The level dropped while I was there, the marginal flow becoming steadier and less swirly, but apart from two sharp chub raps to a monster bait I had no other indications.

With the light at that point where colours turn monochrome and binoculars start to become ineffective I hard a mallard making a lengthy alarm call. I'd seen a female with a late brood earlier and wondered if she was defending them against an otter. Sure enough I made out a dark snubby head moving out from the bank. A few minutes after the commotion I heard the alarm call again and saw the duck flying upstream. She must have had good night vision because I couldn't make out anything for her to scold. I did see an otter swim rapidly down with the flow in mid river about five minutes after the duck had returned to her family.

My first otter sighting on the river had come a few days earlier on another stretch. Having been away from the river for a few years this was a novelty for me. I had heard that in my time away otters have become a frequent sight for anglers, even during daylight, and are present all along the river. By many accounts the barbel fishing isn't what it was. My limited experience this season suggests that overall numbers are down. Admittedly two sessions in known areas and one on a new-to-me stretch are not much to go by. At least the average size has been reasonable,

The weekend session saw me managing to get the swim I wanted despite there being four other anglers on the length. The level was up a touch when I set up and fell gradually throuh out my few hours fishing. I had put the big leads in my lead bag before setting off, intending to swap over the lighter ones as I settled in to the swim. I emptied the rucksack to no avail. I'd left them behind. Luckily I'd left a box of 'eel' leads in the rucky. Not many and only a couple of ounces, but they'd have to do should I lose the ones already on the rods.

The usual script for this area is to cast as far across river as possible. That's what the other anglers wer doing, dropping their leads close to the far margin. Not wanting to risk my light leads failing to hold and bounce into snags I settled for casting to mid river with one rod and about three rod lengths out with the other. This wasn't as futile a plan as it might seem as I knew from past experience that when carrying extra water, and also after dark, barbel will move into shallower water in this sort of area.

It was a lovely warm night, just right for midges to bite. if it hadn't been for one of the anglers upstream being scared of the dark and shining a powerful torch along the far bank, behind him and in my direction, it would have felt like being miles from anywhere. I didn't let that annoyance affect me and remained confident.

Shortly before eleven the tip of the downstream rod, fishing three 8mm pellets in shallower water sprang back as the lead lifted positively from the river bed. It did it again and I was in no doubt that weed wasn't the culprit. After a dogged fight the barbel was in the net and the guessing game was played. It had felt doubleish in the flow, but looked eightish. It was not-quire-nineish on the scales. The half moon had been bright but disappeared behind cloud when I called it a night an hour later.

Friday, July 07, 2017

An evening out

Despite hearing tales of woe about the barbel population on the river having been eaten by otters I've been getting the urge to pay them a visit recently. A change being as good as a rest I put some gear together after the cricket finished for the day and when the Archers were over I set off for an easy access stretch.

There were signs that the swims had been fished, but no anglers about. The path through the vegetation was well trampled too, but the nettles still managed to sting my bare arms as I wandered the stretch to select a swim. The one I settled into was chosen mainly from a comfort perspective, combined with ease of access to the water should I have to return a fish or two.

There were sand martins feeding their young on the wing, a sign that summer is getting ready to turn. The leaves on the trees are already darkened and meadowsweet in bloom.

Knowing the swim from previous visits I was careful to ensure the leads didn't move as I tightened to them. An old standby bait of Sonu crab Pellet-Os, three on the hair, went on the close in downstream rod and one and a half boilies went on the upstream farther out rod. In my haste I'd picked up a tub of my favourite bream/tench/carp boilies instead of the ones I prefer for barbel. They'd have to do. Not that I think a barbel would turn it's barbules up at them. It was mesh bags of mixed pellets on the hooks. Nothing fancy required.

With the baits out I played a waiting game. No frequent recasting. Sit back, tie up more pellet bags, and wait for the light to fade replacing sand martins with bats.

When it was time for a pre-dusk recast the downstream rod was snagged solid and needed re-rigging. Somehow the hooklink got tangled in the undergrowth and ended up with a knot in t. When I'd cut the knot out and retied it the hooklink was shorter than I'd have liked. It'd do.

The margins were alive with fry and there was a good hatch of flies on. So much so that I thought it was raining. I wonder if the presence of otters thinning out the barbel population will see a resurgence of roach and dace? The reports I've heard suggest this might be the case.I doubt that will draw anglers away from the muddy puddle commercials. people have got used to level banks or platforms and parking behind their swims.

It had gone half ten when the downstream rod stabbed down a couple of times then hooped over. There was one barbel in the river! Although it pulled hard and tried to run across the river it didn't stand a chance as it couldn't manage to pull any line from the drag. The rod spent most of the fight in an inverted 'U' as it absorbed the runs and lunges of what was feeling like a reasonable fish.

I managed to get the fish in the net but failed to tempt the lead to join it. Instead the lead slid down the slackened line and got stuck in the marginal rocks. I had to pull for a break to get the fish ashore! My out-of-practice guess for the barbel's weight was a pound light. A quick snap on the mat and she was slipped into a small slack to recuperate. Then I retackled and recast.

 By the time both rods were fishing again it was dark, the isotopes on my rod tips not glowing as brightly as they used to. Twelve years or so looks like time to replace them. There was broken cloud in the sky passing in front of the full moon and a hint of mist up the valley. It was a mild and still night. That didn't stop the valley's herds of slugs sliming over my unhooking mat and even onto a tub of pellets in my rucksack. Slugs must have  a well developed sense of smell.

As this was just a taster session I was going to pack up at midnight no matter what. When I did I spent a minute or two ridding everything of the slimy pests. They were on the mat, the rucksack, my chair and sling. Two had even got inside the mesh pocket of the sling. I expect that's where they'll end their days.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Double frustration

It's unlike me to rush building rods but this year I've got ahead of myself and made a start on a few builds only for my customers to change their minds. Throw in a cancellation and a cock-up and I have a few fully built rods for sale. The list can be found here: I won't split matching sets, but any rods ordered from the list during July will be carriage paid.

I was concerned that starting my eel fishing early this year might lead me to burn out before high summer arrived. I think it has. My last two sessions have resulted in one small eel and a blank. neither result encouraging me to have another try. Things are so bad I'm almost thinking of having a try for the vermin again! Or maybe I'll get some bream fishing done? Neither option is really filling me with enthusiasm.

With the rod building supply situation as dire as ever I have a stack of blanks sitting idly awaiting either reel seats or rings. Of the dozen I've put some cork on only two can be finished off until something arrives. I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall...

In an attempt to get round this blockage I ordered some rings from the USA. While I was browsing the website I bulked out the order by adding some stuff that isn't available at all in the UK. One of these was a spool of cord sold for wrapping around rod blanks to form grips. I'm not sure if it's an aesthetic that would work on our sort of specimen rods. As an experiment I've tried it as a grip on one of my landing net poles along with a colour combo of thread I quite like.

The first test match starts tomorrow. That might perk me up. Or not...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hot days, short nights

I've never been a hot weather person. And the current hot weather is melting what little drive I have to do anything. My 'can't be arsed' quotient has reached an all time high! The shortest mights of the year haven't helped my enthusiasm for either side of sunset sessions either. No sooner has it got properly dark than it's time to get to bed or risk stopping all night with no sleep. It's no wonder I usually leave the eels alone until July when the nights start to draw in a little.

All that aside the evenings and nights, when it's cooled down somewhat are great to be out in. Even cloudless skies make for atmospheric sunsets that seem to last for hours. What I have noticed on both of my latest eel sessions is that runs are coming later. Not just later by the clock but later by the sun and stars. There has been a little interest in my baits in the half hour before dark, but it's picked up over an hour after the light has gone as much as it will go before dawn. This doesn't help me get home for sleep.

I'd had a few missed and aborted takes before I started to pack up at twelve thirty on the first session, then I foul hooked a small eel, which slimed the leader good and proper. While I was sorting the mess out I had another run which I missed. If I hadn't drained the last of my bottle of pop I might have stopped a bit longer. However I did plan to start and finish later on my next session.

It was nine fifteen when the latest eel session got under way. Apart from making the tramp to the swim a little cooler it also cut out the waiting time to the start of the action. Even around ten there had been carp cruising the surface and apart from some worm nibbling the eels didn't make their presence known until eleven.

It was the usual story of twitchy takes, pinched baits, and short aborted runs. Either there are small eels pestering me or my presentation is up the Swanee. I suspect the former. While I was getting action it was sporadic. Either stick it out until late in the hope of a good one or pack in around one and get some shut eye. After missing a proper run I connected with one at twelve thirty. Not big enough to tax my new 50" landing net, or trouble the scales. But it did make me think that later might be better if I can muster the enthusiasm for an overnighter. At one I packed up and sweated my way home.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Unpredictable results

As with election results these days it's almost impossible to predict how an eel session will pan out. A short evening session last week produced one eel but quite a few takes. The next session on Sunday, despite my expectations, resulted in just one run when I was a bout to pack up. And that was missed, at least in part because the rig was tangled. Despite being keen to get an overnight session in the weather was against me. I really don''t fancy spending a night in the rain jumping in and out of the bivvy as I try to hit takes. Election night was set to be dry with some rain in the morning. If the weather forecast was right I'd be able to pack up after sun up and get back home in the dry. So it proved.

I was set up in good time but even the worm was left alone as the sun began to sink.It was quarter to ten when the right hand deadbait absolutely tore off. Eels one, me nil. Over an hour and a half passed without any indications. The signs were that it could be a night of infrequent action but the chance of a big eel. Then the right hand rod was away again. This time I hooked the culprit. and it was doing so little it felt like I'd hooked a soft snag. Something was slowly coming towards me against the pressure of the rod. I threw the landing net in the edge and tried to push it forward to sink the mesh. Damn. It was caught on something. Keeping the rod bent I managed to untangle the mesh with my left hand. The eel was then easily netted. It wasn't as large as I'd hoped. Later I started pulling weed in from the same area and wondered if the eel had wrapped its tail around a clump.

A fresh bait was hooked up and cast out. This was picked up after 25 minutes. Another missed take. And so the usual selection of dropped and missed runs proceeded at very infrequent intervals. So infrequent I managed to nod off a time or two. Even if not for long. A couple of fish were bumped off on the strike. All the action coming to deadbaits, which was unusual.

Although the night wasn't warm it didn't feel cold either despite the heavy dew in the morning. It was a noisy night though. All night reed warblers were warbling their scratchy song, possibly because of the bright full moon, a water rail or two spent a mad ten minutes squealing, and what I took to be a snipe flew by making it's strange whirring sound. Thankfully there were no ratty rustlings in the reeds and the only rodent that made its presence known was a wood mouse. As we approach the solstice the nights are short. The sky to the north hardly got dark at all. Which only gives a few hours of  'eel time'. It was still good to be out after dark on such a night.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

No Sleep Till Breakfast

I was going to put in an overnighter on Monday night, but it started raining when I was going to get me gear sorted out. Tuesday night would do. It rained after I'd got most of the gear in my car. Then the sky brightened and off I went. The temperature had dropped from my previous session but even a north westerly wasn't too chilling. I still fancied having the wind off my back but nowhere like that at Peacock Pool looked inviting. Eventfully I got set up with the brolly at an angle to the rods where I could just about see my rods from the bedchair.

As the sun set the wind died right away and the sky cleared. The crescent moon was so bright that it cast a shadow. The incessant bleeps and blips of the previous session were notably absent. The first take I had, just before ten, to a deadbait, was a proper run. I still failed to connect. This didn't signal the start of more madness. It was fifteen minutes before the next run came. Which was also missed. After another quiet thirty odd minutes I connected with an eel to the off bottom worm. It fell off. The eel that picked up the left hand deadbait at eleven stayed hooked all the way into the net. Not one worth sliming up the weigh sling, but a start.

A combination of the slower pace of activity and the conditions made me think that there was a chance of a better than average fish. When the bootlaces are playing the bigger eels seem to get beaten to the baits.

It was still frustrating. I'd miss a run. Recast. Then sit waiting for action. When I gave up hope I'd curl up under the bedchair cover. The eels seemed to know when I was getting snug and starting to nod off. I'd leap out to the rods and miss another run. Rinse and repeat!

So it went until ten past two when a deadbait on a longer chuck was tearing off. Half way in it began to bulldog. It felt pretty reasonable as I held it on a tight line while I fiddled around trying to switch my headtorch from red to white without it flashing red. Safely netted at the second attempt and the sling and camera were going to be required. I didn't feel like a wrestling contest so I put the fish back after a couple of 'sling shots'.

With a fresh bait out I got an hour's rest before the takes picked up frequency again. By then the sky was showing some light and a sedge warbler woke up. Soon the dawn chorus began in earnest, accompanied by the occasional distant cock crow. The takes became less frequent. Not expecting any action once the sun was in the sky I began to tidy my stuff away. Then I had two runs in quick succession. Which I missed. Of course.  Quarter past five would be home time.

I was well knackered as I pushed my barrow load of gear back to the car. That's the trouble with all night eel fishing. It's often impossible to get any sleep unless you don't bother checking to see if they've pinched your baits when you get a dropped run!

What had been encouraging was that the takes were peeling line from the baitrunners, even with the rod tips at an angle to the baits. Like most fish, I suppose, even eels have days when they aren't bothered by resistance. Or is that a myth?

The sun was rising casting it's beams through the mist swirling off the water promising a warm day to come. It'll be meteorological summer tomorrow. So it'll probably snow.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The maddening eel

After my eel session I determined to get myself some worms before having another go. There were still a few deadbaits and some squid in the freezer but lobs would give me another option on the off-bottom rig. When the worms arrived, on the hottest day of the year so far and with the warmest night promised it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

Even arriving after eight in the evening it was still red hot. There was hardly a breath of wind to ruffle the surface and even in the shade of the lowering sun it was t-shirt warm. I spent a good ten minutes drilling holes for my rear banksticks before casting out a head and a tail and then rigging up the worm rod. The rig was all set up and just needed a bomb to finish it off when I couldn't find a bomb. I was sure there were some in the rucksack, but no. For some reason the eel box had three back leads in it. I pulled the clip off one, tied a uni-knot in the end of the lead link and tightened it down on the backlead's stalk. I was in business!

Why you can't buy simple hooks like you used to remains a mystery to me. Drennan used to do a long shank hook which I liked for fishing worms, but long shanked hooks with simple O'Shaughnessy or round bends have all been replaced by 'carp' hooks. The closest to what I'd like that I've found so far are Varivas 'Semi Circle' hooks which I bought late last summer after my eeling was over. The eyes are a bit small, but wire or Kevlar braid will go through even on the size four. As I didn't seem to have any eel traces made up I've put these hooks on my dedbait traces too. The wire of the size fours is a bit finer than I'd like, but the 1/0s are spot on. I hope!

By eight thirty Fred and I were sat watching the rods and listening to the radio as the evening failed to cool down any. We weren't expecting any action until well after nine in any event. Sure enough it was almost ten, still t-shirt warm, when the head section fished to my left tore off. And so the madness began. I didn't keep a note of how many twitchy takes and dropped or missed runs I got. There were lots. As soon as the marginal off-bottom worms were discovered that bobbin was never still until the worms had gone. I ended up fishing just a single lob on that rig with the same result. Almost constant activity but nothing to connect with.

Takes to the deadbaits were more sporadic. The tail section cast well out disappeared from a single bleep. I replaced that with a lobworm and it was pounced on immediately. Every now and then the right hand alarm would signal a positive run. Some were missed, one was connected with until whatever was on the hook came off it a rod length out. Anyone who strikes at the slightest hint of a take this would have ended up in a strait-jacket! Being of a less intense nature I can eventually tune myself to respond only to positive runs.

The run that came to the head section rod at five to midnight was the sort that wasn't going to stop. At last I hooked one. Plainly not pulling back very hard, at least it was an eel. I left it in the landing net while I packed the other rods and everything else away. When I came to lift the net ashore the eel had done the decent thing and unhooked itself.

Back at the car the thermometer was reading 18 degrees. I removed the sweatshirt I'd put on an hour earlier and drove home with the window wound right down on a still and sultry night.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Easing into eeling

After another evening chucking topwaters around, for one small fish and a missed take, I got the urge to rig the eel rods up on Wednesday. While the days have been warm the temperature was soon dropping if there was a clear sky at dusk. I was glad I'd taken a fleece.

Even though I'd intended to arrive around eight impatience got the better of me and I spent two and a half hours before, right on time as the light began to edge towards needing a torch to pack up, the right hand alarm sounded making that tell-tale short burst of sound that accompanies a pinched eel bait.

Typically there were fish topping and bubbling all over the swim I'd selected. I'm sure I'd have caught a few fish if I'd taken non-fishy baits with me. That saw me torn between having another go for eels or taking some pellets and corn and seeing what might be daft enough to pick those up. I hate making decisions. As the eel rods are rigged up and the tench/bream rods aren't it might be an easy choice though.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


My lure fishing comeback tour continued yesterday. In the morning I'd visited the local DIY shop, which also sells household goods, with the intention of purchasing a tupperware type box to take over from the unstable bucket my lures have been rattling around in. I had one lined up but then noticed some storage boxes. Not air/watertight but that isn't a problem. The lidless bucket was hardly that. Best of all the box was large enough to get my unhooking tools in as well as the lures, and half the price of the tupperware type box!

Eager to try out the box I filled it with my junk, put it in the Korum mat/sling thing. And headed out into the warm spring evening. The sun was bright, the sky almost cloudless but there was a chilly north-easterly blowing.  Not ideal, but I do prefer a ripple on the water when I'm surface fishing. Particularly if I can cast downwind and work the lures back over the wavelets. I think the ripple makes a lures artificiality less obvious and it creates more noise from a bait.

My plan was to work my way in the opposite direction to last time. No real reason except I fancied seeing if this time I could nail the fish I'd raised late on. No joy in the first swim so on to the next one. Here the water was in shade, but more rippled with the wind in my face. I cast over the places the takes came from on my previous visit with no success. Then I flicked the Blackpot out to my right. Nothing. Another cast a bit closer to the margin and two thirds of the way back there was a satisfying take. Not the splashy take of a small jack. Not the modest 'boom' of a high single. But a proper ka-boom! The resistance was more than the prototype rod had had to put up with before too.

Even so the fight was similar to all the others, except on a bigger scale. Wallowing and head shaking rather than runs. As I could see that the lure was outside the pike's mouth, just the tail hook connected, I feared the worst. A single point snout hook-up all to often leads to a shake of the head that sends the lure flying free. That was why I reached for the net rather than risk letting the fish tire before hand grabbing it. There had been no need to worry. The hook had taken hold well inside the top jaw, but was easily removed.

The scales I had with me were a little optimistic for pike fishing, reading up to 120lb. Being out of practice with my pike weight guesstimates I was amazed to see where the needle settled. A fair few degrees further round the dial than I'd expected.

A two pounder would have done to save a blank, but this fish meant I could have packed up there and then. I carried on though. Either I've scared all the jacks with the Jackpot, or they weren't up for it, because I didn't raise another fish for over an hour. In fact it was getting close to home time when a rooter in a swim I hadn't worked a lure through last time out went airborne with the bait between its teeth. the same old story, the first or second cast getting any interest there is. Then it was back to fishing what seemed like fishless water.

Despite a long lay off from surface fishing my little ruses are coming back to me. Making the lure walk around pads with hard taps followed by gentle ones so it doesn't come along a straight line. Dropping the lure short on a downwind cast and letting it drift up to the pads or reeds. Constantly shifting my position to alter the direction of the retrieve slightly to manoeuvre the lure. breaking up the metronomic taps with pauses. Sometimes these things work. Mostly they keep me thinking. Next time out, if I have the patience, I might start out with a surface crawler.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Boom, boom, boom, boom!

I've never considered myself to be obsessive, but when doing something takes my fancy I to tend to get focussed on it for a period. That's why I was back with the lures, specifically the topwaters, yesterday. Even when pike miss a surface lure it gets the adrenalin flowing!

It was straight in with the 'Blackpot' and after my previous experience I wasn't going to spend much time in each spot. Takes had come to the first few casts. If there was a pike in the swim it would probably have a go early rather than late. Had I been turning bigger fish I would have used a surface lure to wake the pike up and strike or not followed that with something more subtle fished subsurface.

Sure enough the pattern was repeated. Nothing in the first swim, move. The second spot let me cover some of the same water plus some more. First cast to a new area and boom! At first I thought the pike had missed as the take was early in the retrieve on a long line and I didn't feel anything. As I tried to regain contact with the bait something pulled back. Not very hard, but it pulled back. Another jack.

A few more casts to spots I hadn't covered and move again. Nothing in three more swims then a corner swim. It might not have been the first cast through some pads but it was second or third. The easterly was making long accurate casts tricky. As the lure came in to open water it was hit. One headshake and the pike was gone. A few more chucks and move again. Nothing. Two more likely looking spots produced nothing so into another one.

First chuck and a jack tried to eat the lure just as I was going to lift it out of the water. This one was determined, if inaccurate! Three more failed strikes followed over the next few minutes before I let the lure rest on a short line at the end of a retrieve. With the lure static the pike's radar served it better! No monster for sure,and as skinny as a snake.

On my way to the next swim I disturbed a roosting tawny owl. The birdy highlight of the evening, with a family of a dozen small mallards in second place. Sedge warblers and whitethroats noisily noticeable, temperatures rising and hawthorn starting to bloom means spring is here at last.

Yet again the first cast stirred a pike into action. This one got hold briefly before dropping off. Possibly the biggest raised of the evening. Two more pikey looking spots produced nothing so I tried another which had a number of interesting looking places to work a lure past. Sure enough one saw a two pounder launch itself at the lure on its firts pass. And its second. Then again a few minutes later after I'd given it a rest. A long cast to another spot and straight away a pike of fur or five pounds cartwheeled behind the bait.

The light was starting to fade as I dropped into the final spot for the evening. First cast, you guessed it. As the lure came into open water it got hit. A couple of headshakes and it was gone. Not to return. They rarely do once they've felt steel. That was it. Another short, fun session. My usual reaction to this kind of fishing is to start taking more lures and gear, and more often than not getting worse results. I do need a better container for the lures though. I'd ditched the bucket for a lidless storage box which I thought would stand up better in my mat/sling when its strap was slung over my shoulder. It didn't. A couple of times I had lures all over the mat.Whatever container I end up using I will not be putting any more lures in it. None.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Out of retirement

Daylight hours must be a trigger for me getting the urge to wet a line because after tea yesterday I picked up a bucket of lures, some unhooking tools, a rod, net and unhooking mat and set of to throw the lures in some water. It was the first time I'd felt like fishing since early February and my longest break since the close season was abolished.

Two Burts, one floater one slow riser, a spinnerbait, and in-line spinner and a jackpot would cover most eventualities for a couple of hours on a shallow venue.

The main reason for the session was to play with a new lure rod. The reel I put on it hadn't been un a rod for a loooong time. So long that it must have got a bit dried out. The drag was stuck and there was a hideous screeching noise on every cast which the usual dunking in the water didn't shut up. After half an hour or so everything settled down and peace was restored though.

The weighted Burt and in-line spinner were ignored in the first two spots I tried but half way through the first cast the Burt was smoked by a fish that didn't test the rod, or the drag, at all. It was a start though. A couple more casts then on with the topwater. A dozen feet out on the first retrieve and a fish a little larger than the one I'd landed blew up behind the lure. It didn't have a second try.

It's a long time since I've cast a lure in anger but it didn't take long to start remembering the little tricks and techniques. Things like casting long so the lure is well under control as it comes to the place you think will be the strike zone.

Nothing to either lure in the second spot. I'd decided that a silhouette bait was the best bet in the overcast conditions and abandoned the bladed lures.

I bypassed another swim which looked a bit barren in favour of a more featured one. That proved fruitless so I backtracked. A long first cast to some pads and something hit the topwater lure as it came into open water. It felt like I'd hooked a couple of the pads the resistance was so slight. It turned out I'd foulhooked a jack of about a pound, which I consider letting swim around for a few minutes to see if one of its big sisters might be hungry!

Another long cast to get the line laid better on the spool and as the bait came past a bankside bush a better fish did a spinning dolphin impersonation behind it before finishing off with a belly flop. It's a long time since I had so much surface lure action and had forgotten what fun it can be.

A shorter cast, more in hope than expectation, and when the lure reached the same spot the pike made a better job of things and nailed it. Still no test for the rod it was a fish that might have made double figures pre-spawn.

Time was getting on by now so I made one last move to a swim where I could cover a few features. It was to no avail. Two hours fishing, five strikes and two fish. Travelling light with minimal gear and a camera in my pocket. Not a bad way to spend a spring evening with the trees greening up and the chiffchaffs on repeat. I might do it again!

The rod is one that looks nice with it's woven finish but I'm not sure adds anything other than that to the ones already in my range. I did find it really nice for fishing the Jackpot though. There's enough 'weight' to let the drop of the rod tip do most of the work for walking the dog, and it's stiff enough for working the floating Burt too. I'll be leaving it rigged up with the bucket beside it and grabbing a few more short sessions I think.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New challenge?

I still can't be arsed to go fishing. Mostly because I've been concentrating on a photographic project. However, a syndicate ticket has come through and with work returning to manageable levels I've had time to build myself some new, as in prototype MkII, rods to use there. Just got to get them rigged up, make a new landing net to go with them, and wait for the weather to warm up.

Also soon to be new on the scene is a magazine aimed at serious specialist anglers. Catch Cult will be a high production value, limited edition magazine with a difference. The promo vid might give a hint as to what can be expected. More info as it becomes available.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

In need of a challenge

Almost the end of February and I've only managed one depressing pike session way back on the third. Time I put something on this blog! It being my fourth blank on the bounce I decided to retire from fishing until the eels wake up. I think I've hit that wall which usually pops up around the third year fishing a water. For whatever reason it begins to get predictable, and boring looking at the same scenery every trip. There's a chance I might catch a twenty, but the odds are it'll be a fish that's been caught before, and possibly one I've already caught at a lower weight.

When I look back at the waters I've fished for various species over the years the pattern has been fairly consistent. The sequence goes like this. First year all is new and challenging trying to suss out swims, methods, fish movements. Second year put into action the lessons learned and catch consistently. Third year repeat the second year but start finding it all a bit predictable. Fourth year get bored going through the motions.

As I've got a 'new' water lined up for eels, and possibly tench, this year I'm more focused on that than my piking. I want those two species to start moving, more so the eels, to provide me with the challenge I need to get myself fishing again..

Mind you, work has only just begun to return to 'normal' levels, which has curtailed my opportunities to wet a line. The free time I have had midweek has often come at less than optimal times for fishing given that I'd rather fish early or late. It's OK for photography though, so I've been snatching an hour or two here and there to pursue a project which has become a bit of an obsession.

Most of the rod building has been run of the mill stuff, or horrible rebuilds. But one alternative handle which I thought might look a bit rubbish turned out rather nicely. Cork with a soft touch reel seat and black anodised aluminium butt cap with rubber button. I don't recommend the soft touch reel seats from a practical point of view, the coating can scrape off and I've known it turn sticky. But it looks nice to start with.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Colours and measures

Given my innate dislike of work when I have a lot of it to get done my motivation to go fishing tends to desert me for some reason. That's my current excuse for staying away from the water for most of this month. When I have had a spare couple of hours I've been spending them taking photographs for one of my projects.

In among the drudge work of standard builds there have been one or two custom jobs to keep me interested. I like playing around with colour combinations so when I was asked to whip up a set of rods using an olive thread and told to use my imagination for a choice of tipping colour to go above the handle I did just that. I wanted a contrast, but a subtle one. I think it worked out OK.

Football is something I don't understand, so it was a mystery to me why anyone would want a rod whipped up in a football team's colours. That they were green and white could have been a problem if I hadn't got myself a spool of white thread sometime last year on a whim. I'm sure I had a plan for it, but that can't have worked out! It is an option for colouring the tip on a barbel rod, but paint is easier. Putting marks on a marker rod is another use I've tried it for. Which it does well enough. Although I was sceptical of the green and white colour scheme it looks a lot better than I thought it might.

I've long been a sucker for stationery supplies. A weird fascination to have, but not an unusual one. There's something satisfying about pens and notebooks. Tapes fall into a similar category. I buy these sort of things and then try to find a use for them. After purchasing some black gaffer tape to wrap around a garish camera strap I discovered the stuff comes in a range of colours, including cammo and dayglo ones. I couldn't resist the temptation.

The cammo tape went on a bait bucket that didn't really need it, but it looks nice. Initially I had no use for the bright tapes. However, after using the white I had also bought to make labels for my boxes of stock and various other things I started using it to mark the sections of blanks when I'm building rods.

I'd used masking tape for this for years, writing details on it with marker pens. But despite it's removeability masking tape can leave a sticky residue which needs cleaning up. Gaffer tape, the proper stuff rather than duct tape, is pretty much residue free. And it tears easily. By using different colours on different sets of blanks I can quickly determine which sections are which. It looks kinda pretty too. I'm finding other labelling uses for dayglo tapes too. You can have hours of browsing fun at if you are a tapeaholic!

Every so often I have a customer who wants a rod building to match one or more they already have. In an ideal world I would build the new rod along side the existing one to make sure everything lines up the same. That's not always possible so I ask for measurements. The problem is that everyone seems to measure the placement of fittings in different ways. None of which ever coincides with my system!

The way I do things is to work from fixed points. On two-piece rods these are the tip and the butt. That way any slight variation in section length in the manufacturing process is eliminated. The joints of the old and new rods might not match up, but so long as the overall lengths are the same all the fittings will align.

Reel seat placement is measured from the butt cap to the back of the reel seat (A), as is butt ring position (B). If there are two rings on the butt section the second one can also be measured from the butt cap. The  rings on the top section are measured from the tip ring (C). All quite straightforward. Three piece rods are a bit more trouble. What I do is put the middle section on the butt treat it as a single section. Similarly with four piece rods I put the two top sections together and treat them as one. The key is to use the fixed points.